Summary: Fireworks are beautiful, but they can be deadly, especially when they are tampered with...
Disclaimer: I neither own, nor make, anything. All Lois and Clark characters, plot points, and lines of dialogue belong to DC Comics, Warner Brothers, December 3rd Productions, and anyone else with a stake in the Superman franchise. As always, I'm just playing with my toys again.
Author's Note: This story was inspired by watching my town's firework display while at a friend's house. It fit very nicely with the Summer 2012 ficathon challenge issued by MrsMosley on the Lois and Clark FanFic Message Boards. The idea was to take one prompt and turn it into a fanfic. My prompt was "discovery," though it also pulled some inspiration from "art of fireworks."
Also, for the purposes of this story, Lois is not dating, nor has she ever dated, Lex Luthor.
"Beautiful, isn't it, Asabi?" Lex Luthor asked, turning to his faithful man-servant. He put his back to the large window in his office that afforded him a stunning view of the bustling city of Metropolis.
"What is it?" the man asked, moving in closer, in order to examine the cylinder in the billionaire's hand.
"One simple firework," Lex replied, smiling at the brightly colored paper of the tube.
"A firework, sir?"
Lex nodded. "Yes." He paused for a split second only before posing a question to the man. "Did you, know, Asabi, that the Chinese first used fireworks not to inflict harm or to celebrate, but to chase away evil spirits?"
Asabi shook his head. "I was unaware."
"Yes, it's true," Lex said, nodding absently, still examining the item in his hand. "It was only after the discovery of gunpowder that the simple bamboo tubes were used to inflict damage against their enemies. In both cases, it was a weapon against those that would otherwise seek to harm them."
"I see, sir."
"It wasn't until the Renaissance that fireworks became an art form," Lex continued, as though Asabi had never spoken. "It's fascinating, isn't it?"
"Yes, sir," Asabi said, nodding, though his eyes still spoke of his mystification at the sudden history lesson.
"Fireworks. Like any weapon, they are so beautiful. Like this sword, for instance," Lex said, sweeping his hand in the direction of his collection of swords, daggers, spears, and other weapons. "Precisely made. Every embellishment heightening the beauty and serving some purpose. And, like that sword, in the wrong hands, they can so deadly."
"Yes, they are a lot alike," Asabi agreed, attempting to follow his boss' train of thought.
"Beautiful. Deadly. And so varied," Lex said, twisting the tube in his hands. "Different shapes. Different colors. Some that seem to linger and shimmer, others that disappear almost as soon as they explode."
Asabi nodded, starting to figure out where Lex was going with his little speech. "I assume that is no ordinary firework." He gestured to the tube in Lex's hands.
Lex smiled, an evil light in his eyes. "Very good, Asabi. No, it's not. It's not ordinary at all."
"You have a job for me?" Asabi asked knowingly.
Lex chuckled. "You know me far too well, Asabi. Yes. I want you to take this, and plant it at tonight's firework display in Metropolis Park. Make sure it's mixed in with those to be shot off during the grand finale."
"What does it do?" Asabi asked, peering at the object a little more closely as Lex put it into his hands.
"Nothing. It's a firework. It just happens to have the ability to kill Superman."
"How's that?" the man asked, a little wide-eyed.
"Just you wait and see," Lex said as a slow, evil grin overtook his face. "Tonight, Asabi, I shall finally be free of my greatest rival."
"Clark! Over here!" Lois called out, waving her arm above her head, apparently hoping her friend could spot her over the sea of picnicking families.
Clark waved back and carefully threaded his way through the mass of outspread blankets. He was juggling a tray of food and drinks in one hand, the other hand busy shading his eyes against the nearly vertical shafts of light from the departing sun. But even if the sun truly could fully blind him, he'd still be able to find Lois anywhere, the unique sound of her heartbeat a siren call to him. A minute later he sidestepped a squealing toddler who was trying to escape her father, then arrived at the blanket he and Lois were sharing.
It was the perfect summer evening. For the past two weekends, it had rained, delaying the Annual Metropolis 4th of July Carnival and Fireworks. But now it was finally sunny and dry. It wasn't too hot and the nearly cloudless sky was the perfect canvas for the firework display that was coming. Lois and Clark had spent the entire day together at the carnival, riding the rides, browsing at the merchant stalls, and playing games of skill. Clark had won Lois a few new fish for her tank, and had offered to drop them off at her place before the fireworks could start. He had flown there, introduced the colorful fish to their new tank-mates, then flown back, stopping only to thwart one bumbling carjacker on the way.
"Hey," Clark said, reaching the blanket and sitting down. "Here are your keys."
"Where'd you park?"
"I never moved the car. I, uh, saw a cab when I was leaving the park. It was just letting off a couple of college-aged guys when I got there." It was a true enough statement. He actually had seen such a taxi as he'd left the park, in search of a place to spin into the suit, away from prying eyes.
Lois' eyes widened in awe. "Nice timing!" Then she looked at her watch. "Didn't take you long at all."
Clark smiled. "I didn't hit any traffic. In any case, your scaly new friends are enjoying their new home. I dropped some food flakes in the tank too. I figured the poor little guys haven't eaten all day."
"Thanks, Clark. You're the best. Rocco was starting to look a little...well...not well."
Clark's eyebrows crawled up towards his hairline. "Rocco?"
Lois nodded. "The little silver one with the red stripe."
"You name your fish?"
Lois crossed her arms before her chest, but couldn't hide her amusement. "What? Don't tell me you never named your fish as a kid. But then again, you're pretty traditional, so you probably just named them all Goldie. Am I right?"
"Nope," Clark grinned. "Never kept any fish."
"That's just sad," Lois commented. "Poor, deprived little Clark."
"Deprived? I hardly think so," Clark snorted in mock indignation. "I did have a dog named Bongo when I was really young. And a barn cat named Ambush."
Lois giggled and arched an eyebrow. "Ambush?"
Clark laughed at the memory. "Yeah. That cat's favorite activity was laying in wait for unsuspecting passersby and attacking them."
"Bet he was a good mouser."
"Oddly enough, no. That cat couldn't have caught a dead mouse if you dropped it right in front of his face." He shook his head. "Anyway, here. I got you a cream soda on my way back."
"Thanks," Lois said, taking the proffered cup. She took a sip, then set it down to one side. "So this fried dough is for both of us, right?" She flashed him a brilliant smile, the one Clark had absolutely no defenses against.
"Of course," he said, nodding.
In truth, the portion size could have easily fed a family of four, the paper plate sagging beneath the weight of golden, steaming dough and sweet confectioner's sugar. But more than that, Clark loved sharing his food with Lois. He loved sharing everything with her.
Clark reclined on the blanket, laying on his side and propping himself up on one elbow. He tore off a chunk of the sugary treat and chewed it almost thoughtfully. Across from him, Lois mirrored his movements. Clark loved moments like this, when Mad Dog Lane vanished, leaving behind plain old Lois, his best friend. It was times like this when he got to see her relaxed, even playful, side. It was a part of her he had gradually come to see more and more of. And the more of it he saw, the more it made Clark love her. That, in turn, only made his heart ache all the greater. Lois regarded him as a partner at work and as a friend, but nothing more.
But, he thought, maybe, just maybe they had reached a place where he could try to be so much more to her. After all, they had known each other for a long time now. September would be a year. The best year of Clark's life, to be exact.
"Lois," he said, speaking slowly and choosing his words carefully. "I've been doing some thinking lately. We've known each other a while now."
Lois nodded. "Almost a year. I still can't believe you've put up with me for this long."
Clark nodded in return, ignoring Lois' self-jab. "It's been an amazing year, knowing you. When I first came to Metropolis, I had no idea what I would find waiting for me. I'm so thankfully that what I found was you. And I was wondering..." He fumbled for words for a moment before continuing. "You're my best friend, Lois. As I've gotten to know you, more and more, I've come to realize something. You are...exactly...that is...I have wanted...it's been so hard to...uh...I think we..."
Lois laughed a little. "Clark?"
"You're babbling. Only I'm allowed to do that."
Clark laughed, and that seemed to relax him a little, seemed to bleed a little of the tension from him. "Sorry to intrude on sacred ground," he teased. "What I meant to say was...I'd like to go out with you sometime."
"We're out now, Clark," Lois said, though he could see the dawn of recognition in her eyes.
"I don't mean as friends. I mean on a date. If you're interested, of course."
"Clark, you know you're my best friend. And...I think...I've known for a while, that you were interested in me like that."
Lois gave him a playfully superior look. "Well, I'm not a three time Kerth winner because I'm blind as a bat to little details, Clark. Besides, I think most of Metropolis knows that you're interested in me."
Clark chuckled again. "Fair enough. So...do you think you might be interested?"
Lois sighed. "You know, I figured this was coming. I just wasn't sure when. And I've given it a lot of thought. I mean, a lot of thought."
"And?" Clark prompted, when Lois fell silent.
Lois struggled for a moment before speaking again. "I want to, Clark. I'm just...afraid."
"Well," Lois said, shrugging, "of what might happen. What if things don't go well for us? I can't lose you, Clark. I can't lose the best friend I've ever had."
Clark gave her a reassuring smile. "Hey, if it makes you feel any better, I've thought about that too."
"You have?" Lois asked, perking up a little.
"Well, sure. You're my best friend too, Lois. And if there's one thing I'm sure of, it's this. No matter what happens, if we were to try dating, you'll never lose me. I can't imagine my life without you in it, without the bond of friendship we share."
"Really." He put all his conviction in that single word, trying to will Lois into knowing the truth of it.
"When you put it that way, who could resist? Yes, I think I would like to go out with you."
Clark's face lit up with a thousand watt smile. "Great! How about dinner tomorrow night?"
"Sounds wonderful. What'd you have in mind?"
"Well, I thought I'd take you someplace amazing. Someplace not quite exotic, but rare in its own right. Someplace that will make all your friends green with jealousy."
"Geez, you make it sound like you're renting a plane to take us to Tuscany or something."
"Close, but not quite."
Lois' eyebrow arched again. "Okay, now you've done it. I need to know. Where is this mysterious place?"
"Antonio's," Clark said, letting his eyes sparkle with satisfaction as Lois' mouth gaped open.
"Antonio's? Clark, you need to make reservations six months in advance for that place. It's the most exclusive restaurant in the entire city."
"I know," Clark said, giving her a grin that told her he knew something she didn't.
"Okay, what it is? What strings do you have that you're going to pull?"
"I think I told you enough for now."
"Uh uh. No way. Tell me."
"Lois, can't you just enjoy it without having to unravel a mystery?"
Lois didn't hesitate to respond. "No. I'm a reporter. Unraveling mysteries is what I do."
Clark hesitated for a moment, until he saw that look come into Lois' eyes - the one that assured him that she would not rest until she unearthed the secret he was hiding.
"Okay, okay," he finally said, putting his hands up in a gesture of pacification. "The executive chef? I went to college with him. We played ball together. He just moved to the city about two months ago and got in touch with me. He said he could get me in at any time, all I have to do is give him a call."
Lois grinned at him, then tore off a section of the fried dough. They ate in silence for a while, just enjoying having the other there, and wondering what it would be like once they officially entered the realm of dating. Clark sipped from his soda, gazing at Lois in between casual glances around at the rest of the happy couples and families in the park, wondering if Lois' acceptance of a date would turn out the way he'd always hoped. He was already in love with her. Could she ever feel the same way towards him? Would they ever be one of the happy couples - or, better yet, happy families - sitting in the park one day?
"Nice night," he commented after a while. "After two cancellations, I half feared the city would just forget about it this year."
"Nah. Metropolis would never skip out on this, even if they had to push it to October."
Clark chuckled. "Well, in either case, I'm glad it didn't get cancelled."
"Me too," Lois agreed. "Me too."
A couple of short hours later, it was fully dark. The sky above was dotted with innumerable stars. The night air chilled around them. Lois shivered a little and rubbed her bare arms, her thin shirt doing nothing to keep her warm. Clark moved closer to her and drew her into his arms. He was a little uncertain of how forward he should be, but Lois didn't protest. She only sighed lightly and rested against his chest. It set Clark's heart to soaring to be so intimately positioned with the woman of his dreams.
At 9:30, music began to pump from the strategically placed speakers in the park. A mix of patriotic and pop songs blared over the gathered crowd as the fireworks began to light up the sky. Every heavy thump of the canons meant another bright, shimmering firework. Every screech of the rockets as they soared into the heavens meant the birth of another design in the night. Children and adults alike gaped and gasped as one after another, firework after firework bloomed overhead, shimmering for an instant before dying into nothingness once more.
"Look! A smiley face!" Lois said, pointing, as she leaned even further into Clark's embrace.
Clark grinned. "A butterfly!" he said, pointing at a different one just before it faded.
"Wow, they're so beautiful this year," Lois commented.
"They really are," Clark agreed, though he hadn't been in Metropolis the year before, and therefore had no frame of comparison.
"I'm really glad you're here this year to enjoy them," Lois said after a moment, as if she could read Clark's thoughts.
"Me too, Lois. And thank you, for being the one to share them with me."
For half an hour, the night sky erupted into thundering booms and artful fireworks. Dogs barked at every explosion. Children squealed with delight. The chosen music gave the affair an added depth of showmanship. Finally, the single - or at most, double - fireworks became many. It was time for the grand finale.
Clark enjoyed it as multiple rockets exploded into the night, first reds, then yellows, then blues, purples, and greens, then back to reds again to repeat the ever changing light show. Around him, people murmured to one another in obvious approval. He was about to bend his head to whisper in Lois' ear when the cycle came back around to green.
That's when everything went wrong.
A single rocket from that cluster faltered in the air as it raced upwards. As if it had a mind of its own, it fell back to Earth. And yet, it did not fall straight down into the small lake where the fireworks were being shot from an unmanned boat. Instead, it arced over the crowd, heading for the thick of the gathered families.
What had been shouts of delight and approval instantly turned to shrieks of panic and fear. Parents grabbed up their children and ran, holding them close to their chests. Couples broke their embraces and bolted for the park's exit. Even the dogs seemed to sense the impending disaster. Leashes strained as the animals tried to flee, barking in alarm.
"Lois! Run!" Clark instructed her, standing up on the blanket. "I'll be right behind you."
For once, Lois listened to him without comment. She broke into a run, her body merging with the mass of terrified citizens. Satisfied, Clark turned, headed towards the public restrooms, ducked behind the building, and spun into his Superman suit. In the next instant, he was flying towards the renegade rocket. He caught the firework in his arms like a football, just before it could impact the ground where an elderly man was attempting to make his slow escape. The man muttered his thanks to Clark, too in shock to speak clearly. Clark merely nodded and flew back over the lake, intending to let the explosive go off above the water, or at the least, to drop it beneath the waves so that it was no longer a threat.
Clark was just above the middle of the lake when the firework went off. Green sparks spewed forth from the rocket, a heartbeat after Clark let go of the object. The scorching sparks sprayed his entire body and Clark let out a cry of pain. Weakness enveloped his body. He faltered in his flight, coughing. Then he dropped like a stone, his powers utterly abandoning him.
He realized as he tried to fight gravity what had happened.
The firework had been laced with Kryptonite.