Written by Deborah Joy Levine
INTERPRETED BY SARAH WOOD, submitted to the L&C board by carolm.
Special thanks to Genevieve Clemens, Kathy Brown, Donna Hafner, and Georgia Walden for their invaluable comments and opinions.
Superman Day! Metropolis was ringing with a carnival atmosphere for the celebration of its adopted hero. The barricaded streets were filled with surging crowds, and red, yellow and blue were the colors of the day; on balloons floating overhead and pennants fluttering in the breeze. "Get your Superman tee shirts here!" hawkers cried from the booths displaying Superman paraphernalia of every kind; dolls and caps, posters and coffee mugs. People posed for photographs with life-sized cutouts of the Man of Steel, wore imitations of the now famous costume, and carried Superman shopping bags filled with the vendors' wares.
A stage, festooned with red, white and blue bunting, was set up with a microphone and amplifiers and assorted dignitaries. As the time designated for Superman's arrival approached, the crowd moved towards it, surrounding it, abuzz with excited and hopeful chatter. Eagerly they scanned the sky, hoping for a glimpse of the hero they had come to honor, perhaps even to meet. Cameras and autograph books were held at the ready.
The Daily Planet staff were there in full force to cover the event. Investigative reporter Lois Lane was hoping to get a scoop from the hero who had saved her life; society columnist Cat Grant wondered if she could find out who had designed his costume; copy boy -- and would-be photographer -- Jimmy Olsen hoped to get a perfect front page picture in sharp focus; and editor-in-chief Perry White just enjoyed participating in the holiday.
At the appointed time, Superman appeared far above. Slowly he glided down, feet first, to alight gently on the stage. The cheering crowd pressed even closer to get a better look; requesting autographs; straining to touch the hero, shake his hand, or feel his cape; holding their cameras above their heads in an attempt to get a photograph of him. Pushed back by the tide, Lois elbowed people and squirmed closer to the front. "Superman! Superman!" she called to him, her voice lost in the tumult. "It's me! Lois Lane!" she cried in vain.
Clark stood alongside one of the city's most distinguished citizens -- Lex Luthor -- feeling self-conscious and uncomfortable. He folded his arms across his chest, smiling around uneasily at the sea of faces. Overwhelmed by the crowd and camera lenses and lights, he neither saw nor heard Lois Lane.
Lois' face fell in disappointment when the hero failed to respond to her call, but she clapped with the rest of the crowd.
Lex Luthor clasped Superman's hand in welcome, his charming smile never faltering. No one in the assembled crowd would imagine that the two were enemies. "Ladies and gentleman, good citizens of Metropolis, let's really welcome Superman to our fair city," he said into the microphone, and the applause reached an even higher crescendo. "He came to us a stranger, but his good deeds have not gone unnoticed. As last year's recipient of the Key to the City it is my honor to pass it on to our newfound friend. Madame Deputy Mayor, if you please," he finished, removing the large key on a ribbon from around his neck and giving it to the city official without a trace of the reluctance and revulsion he felt inside.
The deputy mayor stepped up to Superman and the microphone. "We take pride in proclaiming this day Superman Day, and offering you a Key to the City." She hung the ribbon around Clark's neck and shook his hand. "Welcome to Metropolis. It is wonderful to have you here."
Clark shook the hands of the assembled dignitaries, saying, "Thank you," repeatedly and keeping a smile on his face, but the celebration was distasteful to him. Lex Luthor, a man he knew to be a criminal, was here on stage. The deputy mayor acted as though she was making a campaign appearance; she sounded sincere, but then, politicians were adept at that. The people seemed genuinely pleased to bestow him with an honor, but their enthusiasm was overwhelming, and dozens of them were making money off of his fame, hawking souvenirs for outrageous sums.
He hadn't expected this kind of hoopla, and yet he hadn't been able to refuse an honor from the mayor's office. He steeled himself with the memory of words Lois Lane had said to him not long ago: "Metropolis needs Superman... Someone to believe in, someone to build a few hopes around..."
"Come and say a few words," Lex insisted with a nasty gleam in his eyes. He could see how uncomfortable the young hero was with the attention and hoped to see him falter and make a fool of himself.
"Thank you, Mr. Luthor," Clark was obliged to say as he reluctantly approached the microphone. "Uh... I..." He felt almost assaulted by the crowd as they cheered frantically, waving their Superman pennants and gigantic placards at him. His vision blurred into a kaleidoscope of Superman images. "You've all made me feel very welcome here," he said awkwardly at last.
The crowd started chanting, "Superman, Superman!" over and over, louder and louder.
"Thank you," he ended abruptly. The crowd cheered him again, not minding a short speech in the slightest, and as the band began to play again they swarmed forward, trying to reach him, to touch him, to shake his hand. The television cameras were held aloft to capture the moment to share with the rest of the world, and all manner of cameras were thrust in his face.
* * *
Lex Luthor donned his shades and headed straight for his waiting limousine. He had played his role in this ridiculous ceremony with all the benevolent charm he could muster, and finally he could leave. Asabi opened the door for him, but Lex paused to look with distaste at the crowd fawning over the hero. "His time will come soon enough."
"To the penthouse, sir?" Asabi asked politely.
"No, Asabi, to the airport. I'm in the mood for a little sport," Lex decided, feeling the need to release his pent-up anger in some manner.
"Kenya, the leopards perhaps?"
"No, something a bit more... cold-blooded."
"The Everglades," Asabi suggested knowingly.
"Perfect. Just what the bootmaker ordered!" Lex said, cheering up as he climbed into the car.
* * *
Clark was relieved to slip away from the noisy crowd. He turned down the dead-end alley and breathed a sigh of relief. How did celebrities put up with that sort of attention? He shook his head. This was a part of Superman that he hadn't anticipated, this adulation, the "fans" requesting autographs, the kids dressed up like miniature versions of him. Who would have thought that a flying man in a home-made costume could set all this in motion? And what was he going to do about it?
Just then his relief was punctured. He began backing further into the dark alley, horrified. They had found him! He tried to run, but it was as if he could only move in slow motion; he glanced over his shoulder and saw that they were gaining on him, getting closer!
A screaming crowd of girls ran to him, arms outstretched, banners and pennants waving. He was pinned against the wall at the back of the alley, there was no way to escape, and they surrounded him. Hands stroked him, pulled at him; mouths gaped open in squeals of excitement.
Superman was trapped!
* * *
Lois and Clark sat side by side in the conference room, waiting for their editor-in-chief to arrive. Clark looked through a book of newspaper clippings, wishing he'd gotten more sleep the previous night. He had been tormented by nightmares about the Superman Day festivities, ranging from the screaming throng of female admirers cornering him in a dead-end alley, to bizarre visions of his costume eating him alive.
Lois stared into space, lost in her private thoughts about Superman. She was depressed that he hadn't even glanced at her at the festival, when she had been hoping for a wink, or a special smile, or a searing look that spoke of his attraction to her. She felt foolish for harboring such romantic notions, and yet she couldn't help herself.
Eduardo Friaz was also in the conference room, patiently waiting for the meeting to begin and idly wondering if anything was going on between Lois and Clark, sitting next to each other but having no contact. The newsroom grapevine had it that Kent was falling for the mercurial Lane -- Heaven help the man!
Cat Grant slid onto Clark's lap and startled him by planting a long, hard kiss on his lips. "Morning, hot cakes!" she greeted as she rose with a wicked smile and took her seat at the table. Friaz raised his eyebrows, amused. It seemed that Cat had sunk her claws into new prey!
Jimmy entered, and as he passed Clark he said, "CK, about that book you lent me on Robert Cappa... CK?" he repeated, but Clark wasn't able to answer just then. He had given Cat a look of irritation and was using his handkerchief to try to remove her lipstick, and the feel of her kiss, from his mouth.
"What's the matter, Cat got your tongue?" Lois asked him sarcastically.
"Okay, kids, let's get started," Perry said as he came in, forestalling Clark's response. "Clark?"
"Right here, sir."
"Oh, Kent, I didn't see you. I take it that you and Lois are on that 'Superman gets the Key to the City' story?"
"Yeah, on it," Lois confirmed in a lackluster way.
"Great," Perry said, turning his attention to other matters.
"What's the matter, Lois, bored with Superman already?" Clark asked teasingly. Usually the mention of her hero's name brought a dance of happiness to her eyes.
"I was standing right in front of him, he didn't even notice me," she said glumly.
"What's to notice?" Cat asked slyly.
As Clark grinned at the already-familiar byplay between Cat and Lois, he noticed a small airplane through the window. It was diving towards the ground, black smoke billowing from it. He had to help, but he needed to get out of the conference room first! He dropped his pen on the floor. "Oops, my lucky pen!" He ducked down under the table to retrieve it, and crawled super fast across the newsroom, dodging chairs, garbage cans, and legs, hoping that no one would notice anything.
The meeting continued. Perry asked, "Cat, now, anything new on Councilman Addis' arrest last night?"
"I'm on my way to the house of ill repute to interview the, uh, 'lady' in question." Cat replied.
"Aren't those also known as Cat Houses?" Lois asked, feigning innocence.
"Lois made a joke!" Cat said in mock amazement.
"Hey, anybody get a load of today's National Whisper?" Jimmy asked with a grin. He held the issue up. The headline read, 'Invisible man strikes again.'
"Oh come on, Jimmy! Don't bring that trash in here. Sorry excuse for a newspaper," Perry grumbled, as Lois took the paper for a closer look.
Jimmy was still exuberant. "Chief, it's really smooth. This invisible guy breaks into the safe of the city's most notorious slum lord, takes the cash, and then he hands it out to the tenants in one of his buildings."
Lois looked at the cover and made a face. "Did you happen to notice the headline right next to it? 'Benjamin Franklin Is Alive And Living In My Electric Blender,'" she read with a contemptuous smile. Friaz smiled as he looked through his notes.
"Aw, come on kids, come on, let's settle down now," Perry wheedled, throwing the offending paper away.
"Clark?" Lois looked around, thinking that he had been gone a long time. She ducked her head under the table, half suspicious that he and Cat were doing something naughty, but he wasn't there. Wondering where on earth he could have gone, she looked around the room again. There was Clark, over by the doorway, holding up his pen with a smile. For some unknown reason he had grubby black smudges on his face!
Clark looked out the window and saw the little plane flying away safely. He grinned. Disaster averted, secret safe.
Perry tried to get the meeting underway. "All right, let's see, Friaz, are you doing a follow-up on the escape of that armed robber from the state penitentiary, uh, what's his name..."
"Barnes. Big man-hunt started last night, they think he may be headed for Metropolis. These wanted posters go up today." Friaz handed one to Perry, with Henry Barnes's picture on it.
* * *
An energetic man in a very loud checkered jacket, and an equally loud tie, came out of the elevator into the newsroom. He saw Lois walking past in her usual rapid stride, and tried to block her path. "Lois Lane? I'm Murray Brown, Galactic Talent Agency. I'm here to see the big guy, you know, the Superman. I figured 'cause you wrote those articles about him, you might know where I could find him."
Lois grimaced. "Well, you figured wrong," she told him flatly, continuing towards her desk, making him hurry to keep up with her.
"Well look, here's my card just in case." He handed his business card to her.
She looked at it, then at him, in disbelief. "You're a talent agent?"
"Oh no," he said with a little laugh. "Artists' Representative," he corrected with a dramatic flair.
"You want to represent Superman?" Her disgust in the fuss made over her hero showed on her face. Everyone was trying to get a hold on him!
Murray was enthusiastic. "Listen to me, cookie. Those buns of steel, they're worth money in the bank!"
"Lois, CK!" Jimmy called from the television monitor. "Check this out!"
Lois tried to think of something to say to Mr. Brown that would make him see that Superman wasn't an artist who needed an agent, but she realized that nothing she could say was likely to have any effect on this man's scheme to make a fortune off of Superman. With a sound of frustration she just waved him away as she walked off to join Jimmy and Clark. Murray Brown stood there, frustrated but not thwarted.
Linda Montoya was reporting from the news desk. "If you're not seeing what I'm not seeing, then you may be witnessing a miracle. Captured earlier today on home video, a catering truck loaded with fancy treats for a political fund-raiser was hijacked by an invisible man." The video showed the driver of the truck being flung from his seat onto the pavement, although there was no sign of anyone else. The apparently driverless truck then drove off. "Yes, an invisible man. That truck ended up at the Fourth Street Shelter in downtown Metropolis..."
A large red-haired woman, soft and round in appearance, came up to Lois. "Excuse me, Miss Lane?" she asked in a gentle southern voice.
Lois didn't even glance at her. "One second."
"... where homeless families feasted on goose liver pate and cold lobster salad... many thanks to the invisible man. No one as yet has any clue to this unexplained phenomenon. Is it real? Is it an illusion? We'll all just have to wait and see. Up next..."
Lois turned to the woman waiting to speak with her. "Yes, can I help you?"
"You spoke at my women's group last October. 'The Weaker Sex: Fact Or Fiction'. It was a terrific speech."
Lois smiled. "Well thank you, I'm really glad that you liked it." She began to walk away.
The woman and Clark both followed her. "I need to speak to you about my husband, he's disappeared," the sweet-faced woman said. Lois rolled her eyes. Clark looked concerned, immediately wanting to help.
"Uh, first floor, try missing persons," Lois suggested dismissively.
"No, no! He's really disappeared!" Lois and Clark both stared at her. "I'm the invisible man's wife," the woman explained.
Clark raised his eyebrows. The invisible man was married? He turned to Lois to see what her response was.
Lois couldn't believe it! She covered up her annoyance at being bothered by loonies, and smiled politely. "Ah, could you just wait over there for just a moment? Jimmy?" She guided the woman towards Jimmy with a gentle push.
Unlike Lois, Clark was intrigued, and it surprised him that she wasn't going to follow up on the woman's story. "Come on, let's talk to her," he urged.
"Why are you so interested in this?"
"I'm fascinated by the paranormal."
She rolled her eyes. "Ugh! Why doesn't that surprise me?"
"Oh come on!"
She gave in and linked her arm through his to lead him toward the woman. "Who knows. Maybe she'll introduce us to Casper the Friendly Ghost," she joked. Clark laughed.
* * *
Helene Morris, after telling them a bit more of her story, took them to her house and showed them down to the laboratory in the basement where her husband worked. "But I'm telling you the truth, my husband is invisible! Watch your step."
The laboratory was crowded with all manner of scientific equipment and supplies, complete with unidentifiable liquids bubbling through spiraling glass tubes. "So, what makes you think that your husband is invisible?" Lois asked as she looked around, not believing it for a moment.
"Because I saw him... or rather, I didn't see him, leave."
"When is the last time you did see him?" Clark asked. Lois idly picked up a wedding picture. Helene and Alan Morris looked like regular people. She couldn't imagine them embroiled in a story about invisibility!
"In the flesh?" Helene asked. Clark nodded. "Monday a week ago, I think."
"You don't remember?" Lois asked.
"Well to be perfectly honest, we don't see much of each other anyway. For the past several years he's practically lived down here. He'd come upstairs late, and I'd just leave his dinner in the oven on warm. You know how it is." While Helene tried to explain her disintegrating marriage, Clark began to wander around, looking at all of the equipment and experiments in the lab, letting Lois take charge of the interview.
"So, you and your husband were having marital difficulties?" Lois clarified, thinking that this explained his 'disappearance'.
"No, not really. I mean, we never fought, we just sort of stopped talking to one another. Slipped into a pattern. I guess he just lost interest in me. We've been married twenty-something years."
"What happened the night that he left?"
"Well, he hadn't touched his dinner so I came down here looking for him and... well, he wasn't here, but then that door suddenly opened and I heard him say, 'Goodbye, Helene, see you around'. And then he walked out." Her voice grew tearful. "The door closed behind him." She began to cry in earnest, and Lois hesitatingly stepped forward to put her arms around the woman in an awkward hug for a moment.
"What is it that you would like us to do?" she asked Helene.
"I want you to write an article about him. I want you to find out if he's ever coming home. I want you to tell him that I miss him." She sobbed miserably.
As Lois and Clark left the house, Lois said, "Poor woman. Her husband's probably got something going on the side, he walks out on her, she thinks he's turned invisible."
"Well how do you know he isn't?" Clark challenged.
"Are you serious? We're talking about a figment of somebody's overactive imagination."
"Does everything in life have to have a perfectly reasonable explanation?"
"Everything," she told him with a superior smile.
"All grounded in clear scientific reason?" he asked.
"Of course," she replied confidently, not seeing that she was being set up for a fall.
"No magic left in the universe?"
"There's no werewolves or vampires loose in the city either," she assured him sarcastically.
"What about Superman?" Clark asked triumphantly, playing his trump card.
"There's a man living somewhere in Metropolis who flies, Lois!" Clark reminded her, enjoying himself. It wasn't easy to score a point off of Lois, but that made it all the sweeter when he did!
Lois conveniently found a way to change the subject, saving herself from conceding his point. "Oh no, not him again!" she exclaimed, seeing a plane in the sky. It was sky-writing a message: 'Superman, call M. Brown, 555-I-REP-YOU.'
"Who?" Clark asked, confused for a moment. He knew she couldn't be talking about Superman! He followed her gaze upward.
"He is unbelievable!" Lois exclaimed.
"Well, he's persistent," Clark said with a shrug, somewhat amused.
"He is a smarmy, money-grabbing opportunist! They all are! Everyone wants a piece of Superman. Keys to the city, telethons, benefits... What's next, a guest shot on A.M. Metropolis!" She sighed heavily as she gazed at the words Superman couldn't help but see. "When is this all going to end?"
"Are you worried this is all going to go to Superman's head?"
"No. I'm worried he'll forget about me," she grumbled with a pathetic pout. Clark smiled wryly as he watched her walk away, both amused and annoyed by her Superman fixation.
* * *
"How'd it go?" Jimmy asked when they returned to the newsroom.
"Dead end," Lois informed him.
"I don't think so," he told her, gesturing to the television. Helene was speaking to a group of reporters from the front of her house.
"He worked very hard to make himself invisible," she was saying, "and I guess he finally figured out how. He was in that laboratory day and night. All I really want to say is... Alan, if you're listening, please come home."
A man in a trenchcoat, with a hat pulled low over his face, hiding his features, was watching Helene on his television set.
"Her nosy next door neighbor sold the story to the wire services," Jimmy said.
"It doesn't matter, there's no story anyway," Lois said firmly. "There is no such thing as an invisible man." She walked off, leaving Clark standing there, amazed at her close-minded attitude.
* * *
The little jewelry store was busy. A man perused bracelets to select a gift for someone special, and a woman was showing her young daughter some items. The door opened and closed, although no one entered. The store clerk turned at the sound, and was astonished to see a gun brandished in mid-air.
"Okay, everybody, down on the ground," a disembodied voice commanded. "You, lady, I said get down!" The woman felt was knocked to the floor. She frantically called to her daughter, terrified for her safety. The clerk reached under the counter, but before he could accomplish anything the floating gun then hit him across the jaw, knocking him to the ground as well.
The customers dropped to the floor, mystified and terrified. The gun smashed into jewelry cases, shattering the glass, and pieces of jewelry floated out of them.
"Tell them the invisible man was here," the voice said, and a hearty laugh disappeared out the door.
* * *
Lois and Clark wasted no time getting to the crime scene when they heard about the robbery. Detective Burke, munching on a donut, told them what little the police had learned, and finished by saying, "Well that just about does it for me. No prints, no leads, no nothing."
"Witnesses?" Lois asked.
"To what? An invisible man? You'll forgive me if I don't call in our sketch artist!" Burke said sarcastically. "We've got a warrant out for this Morris guy. I don't know how we're going to find him." He walked off to confer with his officers.
"Has everyone in the city lost their mind? There is no such thing as an invisible man!"
"At what point are you going to start believing in this, Lois?" Clark asked, a bit exasperated.
"When I don't see it with my own two eyes," she returned with a smirk. Just then a police officer handed her a message. She thanked him and read it, a little sound of interest escaping her lips. Helene Morris wanted to meet with them! She briefly showed it to Clark, then led the way out of the store.
* * *
Lois and Clark went to the Morrises' house, where Helene led them, once again, down into the basement laboratory. It was a shambles. Papers had been strewn about, equipment knocked over and broken, wreckage littering the floor.
"Helene! When did this happen?" Lois asked, shocked.
"Several hours after the news vans left," Helene said. "I came downstairs and he hit me on the head. I haven't called the police yet." She looked very anxious.
"Has your husband ever been violent with you before?"
Clark let Lois ask the questions while he snooped around. He saw a piece of shiny, silvery material, and unobtrusively pocketed it.
"You think it was Alan? No never never never, he wouldn't do this, really he wouldn't!" Helene defended her husband vehemently. "I mean he wouldn't even hurt a fly! If there's a fly in my kitchen he'll catch it and spend a half an hour before he sets it free."
Lois tried to refrain from rolling her eyes. This kept getting more outrageous! "So what you're trying to say is another invisible man --"
"-- is impersonating my invisible man!"
Clark looked at the woman's sincere face; she really believed what she was saying. He felt uneasy about this. How was Superman going to find an invisible robber? Lightning flashed, illuminating his worried expression. How could he capture a man he couldn't see?
* * *
"She's still defending him!" Lois said in disbelief as Clark drove the Daily Planet van through the rainy night.
"She said it wasn't him."
"He bashes her on the head --"
Clark, always one for seeing the good in a person, tried to put Alan Morris in a better light. "Just because he's a little eccentric --"
"Eccentric? Try a taco short of a combo!" Lois shot back, pulling down the visor to examine her reflection.
"He doesn't sound like the guy who's been terrorizing the city," Clark said. "I want to emphasize that in the story."
"That is slanted." She carefully applied more lipstick.
"But there's no evidence to suggest that Alan Morris is an armed robber! The man was giving money away, why is he now stealing it?"
"Fine, we write the story. But admit it, Helene could be wrong. After all, nobody really knows anybody," she said cynically, folding the visor back up and putting her lipstick back in her satchel.
"That's not true."
"We like to think we do, but we all wear disguises, don't you?"
"Well --" he began uncomfortably, but Lois wasn't expecting an answer, and she steam-rollered ahead.
"I mean in order to let somebody really know you, you have to let them see you as you really are."
She continued at a rapid-fire rate. "So as soon as you let them see you as you really are they wind up using it against you."
Finally Clark got to speak a whole sentence. "But marriage is about sharing everything you have, even when you don't feel like it."
"So is divorce; ask my mother," Lois retorted with finality, then stared moodily out the windshield. That brought the exchange to a sudden halt, and for a moment the only sound was the swish of the windshield wipers.
Clark couldn't comprehend such a cynical view of marriage. His parents had a partnership, and he hoped with all his heart that he would be so lucky as to find what his parents had: someone who could make him feel complete, who could accept him for what he was and love him with all the compassion, humor, and understanding that his parents gave one another.
What had Lois' family life been like, that she had such a diametrically opposing vision? he wondered.
"So where are we off to?" he asked.
"Home. I have to get dressed."
"Uh-huh," she confirmed with a smug smile.
"Superman," she said happily, looking at him to see what his reaction was. Clark's eyebrows quirked. He was fairly positive Superman didn't know anything about this 'hot date'!
* * *
The charity auction was a glittering affair, with the cream of Metropolis society dressed in their finery. Waiters circulated with trays of hors d'oeuvres and tall flutes of champagne.
"You're looking lethal," Lex whispered to a skinny brunette as he passed by. She was wearing a low-cut designer black and white cocktail dress, with her neck and throat covered in an ostentatious diamond necklace, and long diamond pendants dangling from her ears. Her hair was piled high on her head, in the artless fashion that could only be created by skilled hands. She gave him an amused smile.
"Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention?" asked the matriarch who was conducting the auction.
Lex passed by another acquaintance on his way to the stage. "Hello Ed, nice to see you, hope you brought your checkbook."
"Always, for a worthy cause," the man replied, pleased to have been singled out by Mr. Luthor.
"Our wonderful evening continues," the auctioneer said into the microphone as Lex stepped up onto the stage and took his place at her side, looking elegant and handsome. "And here for the ladies, the most eligible bachelor in Metropolis and the fourth richest man --"
"Third," Lex corrected quietly beneath his smile.
"-- third richest man in the world, Mr. Lex Luthor!"
Lex took center stage, acknowledging the applause that he felt was his due. "Thank you, and welcome!" He toasted the room, smugly raising his champagne glass to the crowd, supremely confident in his status and desirability.
Cat Grant sidled over to stand beside Lois. She wore a skimpy gold dress that barely clung to her body, defying gravity.
"Dining and dancing next Friday night. Now, shall we start the bidding at five hundred dollars?"
"Five hundred!" a middle-aged woman bid immediately.
"One thousand," another woman immediately offered, and the bidding war began.
Lois lost interest in following the bidding, and glanced at Cat's outfit while she waited for Superman to show up. She rolled her eyes at the amount of skin left uncovered by the garment. "Couldn't you afford a whole dress?" she asked scathingly.
"Less is more, darling," Cat replied sweetly. Then she looked pointedly at Lois' figure, which was nowhere near as curvaceous as her own. Lois was wearing a rather simple black gown, covering far more flesh than Cat's clothing ever did. "Sometimes," Cat finished pettily. Lois made an infuriated expression.
"We have seventy-five hundred, are there any other bids? Going once..."
"Ten thousand!" the middle-aged woman called loudly.
"Sold! For ten thousand dollars!" The crowd cheered at such a large sum, and Lex came down from the stage to greet the woman he would take on a date, his legendary charm in full force.
"Estelle, I'm flattered!" he said smoothly, raising her hand to kiss the back of it.
"It's my pleasure," she responded, looking flushed.
Just then Lex's moment in the spotlight was stolen as Superman was sighted landing on the balcony. The crowd turned to stare, murmuring and whispering in excitement. "And now..." The harp played a dramatic scale, and a blinding spotlight was suddenly turned on Clark, making him shy back for a moment. Lois and Cat both caught their breath and smiled, excited. The moment they had been waiting for had arrived!
"Something very special, a super date!" the announcer declared. All eyes were on Clark as he walked towards the stage, uncomfortable with all the applause but trying not to show it. He passed by Lex Luthor, and the two exchanged hard stares. "A Sunday picnic in the clouds. So ladies, what will you give me for the Man of Steel?"
"A thousand dollars!" a blonde said, waving her pocketbook.
"Fifteen hundred," Lois said immediately, a determined look in her eyes.
"Two thousand," Cat bid.
Lois shot a glare at her co-worker, then turned back to the auctioneer. "Twenty-five hundred."
"Five thousand!" the blonde offered enthusiastically.
"Six," Cat said cheerfully.
"All right, you've made your point," Lois hissed at her in panic. "Now butt out!"
"What's the matter, Lois, too rich for your blood?"
"Seventy-five hundred," an excited elderly woman offered.
"Eight thousand dollars," the blonde woman said.
"Nine," Cat said firmly. Lois looked utterly depressed, for she didn't have enough money to compete with these women.
"Nine thousand going once... nine thousand going twice..." Cat gave Lois a smug, victorious smile.
"Fifty thousand dollars," a cool voice offered in a casual manner. It was the skinny brunette Lex had greeted. Lois and Cat both turned, Lois to gape and Cat to glare at the woman in frustration, then they simultaneously looked away in disappointment.
There was a gasp from the crowd. "Fifty thousand dollars going once... twice... sold for fifty thousand dollars!" the auctioneer said rapidly, banging the gavel to seal the deal before the offer could be retracted. The applause was almost an ovation. Lex Luthor, while furious that Superman had gone for so much more money than he had, nonetheless raised his champagne glass in a silent, smiling salute to the brunette.
Clark dutifully went to thank his 'date' for her generous donation to the charity, walking past Lois. He couldn't stop to speak to her now, but perhaps he would get a chance later.
Lois opened her mouth to greet Superman as he approached, but he didn't even meet her eyes. He walked straight past her to the socialite. The smile melted from her face.
Clark's extreme discomfort on stage, his embarrassment that ladies were bidding to go on a date with him, had passed. His participation in this event had given fifty thousand dollars to a very worthy cause! He wasn't attracted to the woman he would take on a date, but he felt a surge of warmth towards her for her generosity. She greeted him with a kiss on his cheek, which made him feel rather uncomfortable, but then others came over to introduce themselves to him, and he was able to play the role of Superman and relax.
Lois watched Superman receive a kiss on the cheek from that overdressed barracuda, and her heart plummeted. He looked so handsome, his smile was so bright, and that woman was positively fawning over him! Women were gathering in a group around him. He had walked right past her without even looking at her! Depressed, on the verge of tears, she went over to the bar.
Also disappointed, Cat Grant took a glass of champagne from a passing waiter and downed it in one go. As society columnist, she should stay until the end of the auction, but instead she left, empty-handed.
Lex's sharp eyes caught the whole thing, and he politely excused himself from Estelle's side to join Lois at the bar, where she was pouring herself a glass of champagne. "Hello, Lois, a pleasure to see you," he said, making a show of polishing his new crocodile-skin boots. He hadn't enjoyed seeing Lois bid on his rival without once bidding for him, but he could tell that she was smarting from Superman's apparent lack of interest in her, and it was a perfect opportunity.
She looked at his boots curiously, for they were a strange choice to accompany his perfectly-tailored tuxedo. "And you, Lex. I'm sorry that I had to cancel our lunch. It's just that Superman was such a big draw."
"Yes, and apparently not only for you." He looked pointedly over at the superhero and his date, laughing together. Lois followed his gaze, and her spirits sank even lower. "I thought you might like to reschedule," he suggested in a neutral voice.
Lois felt unutterably miserable, watching as Superman left with another woman. Why had she ever thought he was interested in her? What did she have that could possibly compete against that rich lady he was smiling at? And here was Lex Luthor, a debonaire, cultured, sought-after man, who wanted to see her. She was a fool, chasing a dream. If she wallowed in misery over a man who didn't even notice her, and let a man like Lex slip away, she could end up regretting it for the rest of her life. "Yes," she decided in a determinedly pleasant voice. "I'd like that, very much."
"So would I," he said softly, feeling victorious but careful to keep his voice even. He returned to Estelle, a bubble of happiness held deep inside him, like a secret too good to share.
Lois stared around the room, then sat down at the bar with a sigh.
* * *
"Good night," Clark said to the brunette, hovering alongside the balcony. She gave him another kiss on the cheek, and he gave her a gallant smile before turning to fly away. He had only gotten a few meters away, however, when a man in a loud plaid suit came running out onto the balcony, waving to him.
"Superman, wait! It's Murray!" The man waved more vehemently. "Murray Brown!"
Clark recognized the name from the skywriting. "Look, Mr. Brown," he began in a weary voice, turning to face him and put a stop to this harassment. Raising money for charity was one thing, but having an agent was ridiculous!
"Supes!" the man cajoled. "You can call me Murray. Arnold does!" Clark drifted closer. "Listen, do you want to keep tramping around this jungle without somebody to carry your loin cloth? Now you may be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but here in La-la land, you're just a little guppy in a Great White tank."
"I'm sorry, but --"
"Geez, you're really squeezing me, you know pal? Look, I wasn't going to mention this 'til after you sign with me, but... We got ourselves an offer!"
"An offer," Clark repeated warily.
"On the table."
"The Cleveland Browns?" Clark asked.
"No, Cleveland the city! They want you real bad! Look, Metropolis doesn't have an exclusive on you, you know that."
"Murray, I'm sorry, I'm not interested," Clark told him, wondering how to convince the man that he meant it. "Please, I'm not for sale. Just leave me alone." Clark turned away and started to fly off.
"All right, forget about Cleveland. I'll give you three little words. Rio de Janeiro!" Murray shouted after him, waving his arms in a wild dance-like gesture, his expression hopeful.
* * *
Clark entered the charity auction dressed in his suit and tie again, and found Lois sitting alone at the bar, morosely sipping her champagne and getting rather drunk. "Date with Superman, huh?" he asked with a grin, as he sat on the seat next to her.
"What're you doing here?" Lois asked dispiritedly. "Barn dance let out early?" She was too depressed to inject her usual scorn into the insult.
Clark eyed the champagne bottle on the bar, and her glass, wondering how much she'd had to drink "I filed the Morris story, you're very welcome." When no words of thanks were forthcoming, he contented himself looking around the ballroom. When he had entered as Superman there hadn't been much of an opportunity to study the people around him, for they had all been studying him. The relative anonymity of being Clark was a pleasant relief, but only for a moment. Lois' next words reminded him that anonymity wasn't always a good thing.
"I was saving for Tahiti," she said slowly. Clark listened intently. "But a date with Superman... that would've been a real adventure," she said dreamily. Then her hopes changed to despair. "Oh, Clark! He doesn't even know I'm alive. Maybe it was stupid of me to think that he... cared." Her voice choked up with self-pity.
The unhappy look on her face touched him, and even though he didn't want to encourage her fantasies about Superman, he wanted to make her feel better. "It's not so stupid, Lois," he said gently, gazing at her longingly. "Did you ever think that maybe Superman was afraid to reveal himself? His... true feelings?"
She mulled that idea over, but it didn't cheer her up.
"Come on, I'll put you in a cab," he offered, laying his hands on her shoulders and helping her up off her stool.
* * *
The House of Rare Coins was closed for the night, although the door wasn't locked. Only an old man remained there, lost in the pleasure he got from his job, oblivious to the storm raging outside.
"Beautiful!" he said appreciatively, as he examined a valuable rare coin. He heard the creak of the door opening. "Hello?" He looked around, wondering who would come in from the street at this late hour, but saw nobody. The door, however, closed.
"Call it, Gramps. Heads I win, tails you lose." A coin was suddenly flipped through the air in front of him, he couldn't imagine how. The voice came from nearby again, laughing wickedly.
"Please! Who's there?" the old man asked, terrified, seeing nothing. Suddenly he felt something -- someone -- grab him by the neck.
The invisible man squeezed, choking the old-timer until he fell unconscious on the floor, then began sweeping the precious coins into a bag, laughing triumphantly.
* * *
"Another robbery last night," Jimmy reported to Lois in the newsroom the next morning as he passed by her, carrying an empty box towards the elevator.
"The invisible man?" she asked, following him eagerly. This 'invisible man' story was getting more and more interesting!
"You got it, House of Rare Coins. Owner's in the hospital; crushed windpipe."
"Where're you going?"
"I gotta go to the Hall of Records to pick up some stuff for Clark, I'll catch you later." Jimmy dashed into the elevator.
Just then Clark came in, carrying his coat over one arm and some files in his hand. He had just returned from STAR Labs, where he had taken the silvery scrap of material from Alan Morris' lab to be analyzed. "Lois, what'd you get?" he asked.
She walked with him down the steps towards his desk. "Oh, I talked to Morris' boss, he knew what desk he worked at but that's about it."
"He worked there for almost twenty years!"
"You should've seen this place! A hundred lab techs and these tiny little cubicles, it was so impersonal! When he didn't show up for work they didn't even bother to call him, they just replaced him. What'd you find out at STAR Labs?"
"Oh, it was incredible. They said the material found at Alan's lab is a type of fiber optic. It's designed to reflect visible light as ultra violet." Clark tossed his coat onto his seat and took out the fabric sample to show it to her.
"Come again," she said, not understanding that.
"Ultra-violet light is an invisible part of the spectrum," he explained.
"Are you saying that it's possible for somebody to be invisible?"
"Think of it as the next stage of stealth technology. If you wore a suit made out of this kind of material you could appear invisible."
Lois smiled triumphantly. "Well that makes sense! The appearance of invisibility is completely different from real invisibility," she argued with some semblance of logic.
"You know, Lois, it must be tough being right all the time," he said, giving up in amusement.
"Yes, it is." She giggled and bounded back to her desk. Clark followed with a smile, enjoying seeing her so happy after her misery the night before.
* * *
"Working late again, eh kid?" Perry observed, passing Jimmy on his way home for the evening. "That's the spirit!"
"Yeah, night Chief," Jimmy said, not feeling terribly happy about it. He took the heavy box to Lois. "All the armed robberies that occurred in the last ten years," he told her as he set it down. "And Lois, that story you and Clark wrote, asking the invisible man to turn himself in to you, really paid off." He looked pointedly at a man wearing a trench coat, hat, and sunglasses, with bandages covering what little remained of his face.
"Another one?" She groaned in disgust.
"I am the invisible man!" he said in a ridiculous, B-grade movie voice, followed by a sinister laugh.
She ripped part of the bandages off his nose, and he yelped in pain. "Sorry, buddy, try central casting," she told him, extremely annoyed. She returned to her desk. Nearby, on a bench, were three more identical 'invisible men'. She sighed. "That's it, I'm going home." She grabbed her coat and satchel and stalked out of the newsroom.
"Good night, Lois!" Clark called, but she didn't seem to hear him.
* * *
Working late, Clark was typing busily at his computer in a trenchcoat. He looked up and saw Lois sitting at her desk, also wearing a trenchcoat, tapping away at her keyboard in an unnatural manner. "Lois?" he called uncertainly. When had she come back to the newsroom?
She turned and looked at him, then stood up and began to giggle in a squeaky, irritating voice. Beyond her were Perry, Jimmy, and Cat, and all four of them wore trenchcoats closed up to their necks, all laughing at him inanely. Lightning cast a surreal, greenish light over their features.
"Lois? Mr. White?" Clark asked, wondering what was going on. They all removed their coats to reveal variations on the Superman costume. Perry and Jimmy wore red boxers, Lois wore a blue mini-skirt over the tights, and Cat wore a red bikini over hers. They all continued to laugh, as Cat wiggled obscenely in her skimpy outfit. "Lois, what's going on?" he asked frantically.
"It's Super time!" she cried in a ridiculous, little-girl voice, sticking her fingers in her cheeks as though making dimples, looking and sounding like a doll. She turned away.
Clark's eyes opened wide in shock. "Wait, Lois, where're you going?"
She began to float up across the newsroom. "For my flying lesson, of course!" As she floated away, Perry, Jimmy and Cat kept laughing uproariously at his confusion.
Clark sat bolt upright in bed with a gasp. A flash of lightning illuminated his bedroom. A dream! He rubbed his eyes, relieved, and then looked down. He was floating about three feet above his bed! Startled, he fell down and landed with a bounce on his mattress. His heart still racing from the dream, he laid back on the pillows and stared at the ceiling.
Superman! Everyone wanted him, everyone thought they could have him, they could buy him! What had begun as a disguise to enable him to help people in need was being twisted and perverted into a money-making opportunity, had turned him into a public figure that people swarmed around, idolized, fantasized about. It was all growing beyond his control, beyond his understanding, and he felt utterly trapped.
* * *
Slowly Lois became aware of the sound of knocking through the crashes of thunder. Disoriented, she discovered that she had fallen asleep on her bed while reading through the robbery reports, still wearing her robe. "Coming!" she called as the noise was repeated again. "All right already, I'm coming!" She stifled a yawn, stumbling sleepily towards the door. Annoyingly, the knocking came again before she could reach it. She unlocked all but the security chain, and peered out. "Who is it?"
There was no one there. She undid the chain and stepped out into the hallway, but there was no sign of anyone. Irritated, she went back into her apartment and locked the door once more.
She headed towards the refrigerator and withdrew the milk carton, taking a gulp from it, when she was startled by a man's nervous voice with a southern accent, coming from within her apartment! "Lois Lane?" it asked meekly.
She froze, looking around her darkened apartment. "Who's there?" she demanded, putting the milk down on the counter and groping behind her back for something to defend herself with. "I've got a --" She glanced at the spatula in her hands, and finished, "-- weapon."
She flipped on the light switch, but still couldn't see anyone in her apartment. She moved forward cautiously, brandishing the spatula. "Jimmy? Where are you? If this is your idea of a joke, it is not funny!"
"No, it's no joke, it... it... it's just me." Suddenly a head became visible, suspended in mid-air; a head that had no body! It was a man's face, pleasant and apologetic with a disarming smile. "I'm the invisible man," he said.
Lois screamed, and fainted.
* * *
A short while later, Alan Morris sat on Lois' sofa, fully visible now, holding his suit of invisibility on his lap. He was small and polite, with a gentle southern accent and a rather timid way about him. Clark was there too, having arrived very quickly after Lois called him and told him that the invisible man was at her apartment. Alan was declaring his innocence in the two most recent robberies. "I was the invisible Robin Hood, but I'm not the one doing these bad things. There's another invisible man out there."
Lois sighed deeply. She felt far too tired for this kind of conversation. "Alan, let's just start at the beginning. Why?"
"It's very simple, Miss Lane. I became invisible to become visible again," he explained cryptically.
"I'm not following," she said.
"At some point, I don't remember exactly when, years ago, I just disappeared. I went to work every day, did the same thing... I drifted apart from my friends, Helene and I stopped talking... I guess she just lost interest in me. I became so invisible in my own life I decided to do it for real. So I started experimenting."
"Where'd you get the idea for the suit?" Clark asked.
"From a fluorescent light bulb," Alan told them, his eyes brightening as he spoke of his invention. "A fluorescent light bulb turns invisible light into visible light. I reversed the process. It took me fifteen years to build this suit." He looked down at it, an odd glittery silver material.
"But, how come I can see it?" Lois asked.
"Because it isn't activated," he explained. "It has switches in the interior lining. Here, try on the hood." He offered it to her.
Lois accepted it skeptically, and placed it over her head. She depressed the switch, knowing this was all nonsense. Clark's eyebrows shot up as her head became invisible. Only her eyes could be seen, through the opening in the front of the hood.
"I told you it wouldn't work!" she said, and Clark and Alan both chuckled. She turned the switch off and removed the hood.
Alan seemed glad that he had someone to confide in now. "Somebody must have stolen my other suits, I made several back-ups."
"Well someone did break into the basement," Lois told him.
He looked worried. "Is Helene --"
"Oh don't worry, she's fine," she reassured him quickly.
"Will you help me stop whoever's doing these things?" Alan asked hopefully.
"Well it's not going to be easy. Invisibility is an incredible advantage," Clark pointed out.
"And the person who could really help, Superman, is probably off signing a deal to star in his own television series by now," Lois said, her cynicism a mask to cover up her fears.
"Superman on TV?" Clark asked her doubtfully. Maybe he couldn't control the dolls and the pajamas, but this was something he could control! "I don't think so! Look, Alan, maybe you'd better stay at my place until this whole thing is resolved."
"Well, I'll see you guys in the morning," Lois said, getting up to see them to the door. Clark turned at the doorway to say good-night, and saw that her robe had opened slightly. Underneath it she wore a pair of Superman pajamas!
"Lois, not you too," he groaned, making a face of absolute disgust. Lois looked sheepish as she tightened her robe. Clark gave a heavy sigh as he went out the door.
* * *
At that same moment, a man wearing a trenchcoat and a hat pulled low over his face walked along the deserted street in the pouring rain. He stopped by a lamp post to look up at the building before him. The sign clearly identified it: The Metropolis Penitentiary.
On the lamp post was one of the wanted posters that had been put up around the city, with a picture of Henry Barnes illuminated by a flash of lightning. It was the man in the trenchcoat.
* * *
Back at his apartment, Clark changed out of his sodden shirt into a dry one.
"I know what you must think of me," Alan said. "Some crackpot."
"Not at all," Clark assured him.
"You have no idea what it's like. People pass you by and... look right through you. They never see the part of you that you want them to see," Alan bemoaned.
"You'd be surprised, Alan," Clark said sympathetically, sharing his frustration. "I'll bet a lot of people know what that's like. I have to go out for a little while, will you be okay here?"
"Oh, sure, don't worry about me. If anything happens I'll just... fade into the background." Alan gave a small laugh.
Clark gave a weak laugh in return, then went up the stairs to the door. Alan glumly sat back to wait, alone.
* * *
In Martha and Jonathan Kent's home in Kansas, a Jack-in-the-box was playing a familiar song. A wind-up Superman figure walked across the dining room table past two other Superman figurines, and Martha was examining a larger Superman doll.
Clark, feeling irritable, was pacing the room. "Can you believe this stuff? It's all over Metropolis!"
"And not just Metropolis, but at gas stations, and Harley even has a section at the feed store," Jonathan told him, thinking that it was funny that none of the toys really looked like Clark. They had been given square jaws, a macho expression, a formidable appearance -- someone's idea of what a superhero should look like.
"Although I do think the doll is cute," Martha put in with a smile.
"Mom, they're buying and selling Superman on street corners!" Clark exploded. "Lois has a pair of Superman pajamas!"
His parents stared at him, wide-eyed. "You saw Lois in her pajamas?" his mother asked in amazement.
"No! Well... yes, but it was an accident, when her robe came undone."
His parents looked at him expectantly, wanting to hear more about how he came to see Lois' robe, but Clark shook his head impatiently. "The point is, they're selling Superman off like a piece of meat!"
"Fifty thousand dollars to help blind children, there's nothing wrong with that!" Martha pointed out.
"Mom, I know it's for a good cause, and I want to help, but... Superman has become this super star, and I don't know if he can keep it up."
She stared at him incredulously. "What do you mean 'he'? You speak as though Superman were someone else! You are Superman, Clark!"
Clark picked up a Superman action figure and looked at it. Was this supposed to be him? Were kids playing with dolls of him? No one had asked him if he wanted to be turned into a toy, it had just happened! "I guess I just feel like I'm losing myself to the man in the red, yellow, and blue suit," he said, dejected.
"Son, it's the man beneath the suit that we care about," his dad said sympathetically, but Clark didn't feel cheered. He knew his parents cared about him, but no one else did. Not even Lois, for all that she worshiped Superman. She didn't see beyond the colorful costume; she didn't want to.
The Jack-in-the-box finished playing its music, and Superman popped up from it. Clark shook his head slightly and sighed.
* * *
The next morning at the Daily Planet newsroom, Clark, Cat, Jimmy, Lois, and Perry were all gathered in front of the television set, watching Linda Montoya's breaking story.
"The city is gripped with fear this morning after last night's breakout at the Metropolis Penitentiary. The invisible man freed an entire cell block of some of the nation's most vicious criminals. The Police Commissioner is urging the people of Metropolis to remain calm, but he has ordered a 10:00pm curfew for tonight. He is also urging all citizens to lock their doors and windows securely."
"Great shades of Elvis!" Perry exclaimed. "An army of invisible criminals!"
"Something even Superman can't fight," Lois added, turning away in depression. Even if Superman could fight these invisible criminals, where was he?
Clark stared after her and sighed, wondering what to do.
* * *
Henry Barnes surveyed the team of men he had broken out of jail the night before. They had gathered in his secret hide-out, checking their weapons and trying out the invisible suits, making their plans.
"With these suits there's nothing we can't do, no place we can't get into." He fingered the strange suit. "All my life I've dreamed of gold, and now it's ours for the taking. We're going back to the source, and this time we're going to pull it off." He tossed the suit to one of his gang, his eyes alight with greed. "A billion dollars worth! And afterwards, we just disappear." He laughed.
* * *
Lois and Clark had dug through the files in search of any clues to the identity of the invisible thief, and Lois was feeling frustrated as they each took an armful of folders back to their desks. "This is impossible. Even after eliminating all the armed robbers still in jail or accounted for somewhere else there're still over a hundred suspects!"
Clark, always the more patient one of the two, said calmly, "Let's go over it again. First of all he robbed a jewelry store, then he robs a rare coin store."
"Jewels, collectors items, precious metals," Lois guessed.
"Yeah, but not all precious metals."
Lois checked the list of items stolen from the jewelry store. "Gold rings, diamond stone, gold chains, gold brooch..."
"Gold!" Clark said. "He steals gold!"
"Jimmy!" Lois hollered, an excited gleam in her eyes.
* * *
"Golden Boy Barnes and his gang all went down for the last job they pulled," Jimmy reported. The desk before him was covered with newspaper clippings he had dug up on Henry Barnes's arrest and trial. "Several of them were in the bust-out they had the other day."
"We got 'em!" Lois said triumphantly.
"Yeah, but how do we find them?" Clark asked.
"Well he's bound to strike again," Jimmy said.
"I know exactly where," Lois said confidently as she spied a particular clipping. She held it up and showed them. It was the article Jimmy had found about Barnes's arrest. The headline read, "Robbery At The Metropolis Gold Repository Foiled -- Golden Boy Barnes and His Gang to Serve Time."
* * *
That night Lois and Clark went together to Clark's apartment to tell Alan Morris the happy news, that they knew the identity of the dangerous thief using his suit, but he was fast asleep on the sofa. "Sh," Clark warned, putting a finger against his lips as he quietly close the door behind them. "Poor guy hasn't slept in a week," he murmured sympathetically as they came down the stairs.
"We'll let him be then, wait a while. I don't know if he can help, anyway."
"I'll make some tea," Clark suggested. When it was ready, they took their cups out onto the balcony so as not to disturb Alan.
"Nice," she said, after having a sip.
"Lapsang souchang," he told her. "My mother used to make me tea and raisin scones when I was feeling bad. Years later I had them for tea at the London Savoy, but they never tasted as good."
She smiled along with him. "When I was a kid, Lucy and I used to play this game. We'd ask each other, what would you rather be able to do, fly or be invisible."
"And you chose...?" he prompted.
She sighed. "Invisible. I wished I could walk through all those closed doors. I guess I still do."
"And what do you think you'd find there, behind all those closed doors?"
"Hmm, I don't know. Something different... wonderful... something I don't have, can't have." Intrigued, she asked, "So what about you?"
"What?" he asked, lost in her wistful words.
"Invisible or fly?" she asked, and laughed.
"Fly," he said with certainty.
She turned to him, a friendly smile on her face. "You know, I never thought I would say this, Clark, but you and I have something in common."
"What's that?" he asked, daring to hope.
"Superman," she said on a sigh. "You want to fly like him, and I want to fly with him." She gazed dreamily up into the sky, leaned her head against Clark's shoulder, and let out a wistful sigh.
Clark could only gaze up at the sky with her, the yearning in his heart so clear to see on his face and in his warm brown eyes, if only she would look at him.
* * *
Lois had fallen asleep during the night, curled up on the floor near the sofa, with her arms and head resting on the coffee table. She woke when the morning sunlight came in through the immense windows of Clark's apartment and fell on Alan's sleeping form on the sofa. She was rumpled from sleeping in her clothes, and felt awfully stiff from being in such an uncomfortable position for so long.
She turned her head sleepily, and saw Superman standing there, watching her. Her eyes lit up in surprise. "Superman!"
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to wake you," Clark said, thinking that she looked so cute when she woke up. "I ran into Clark at the court house, and he said --"
"Clark?" She looked around blearily. "Did he leave? What's he doing at the court house?" She got up, trying to straighten out the wrinkles in her suit. Why did Superman have to catch her when she was unprepared? She wanted to look her best, to compare to that scrawny rich brunette he had gone on the charity date with.
"The Hall of Records. He said something about researching the past activities of Barnes's gang. He said you could use my help."
"Oh, we can," she assured him with a soft smile.
Clark loved that radiant smile she reserved for her hero. He moved a little closer to her, wanting to reassure her that he wasn't ignoring her, that she was special to him, and his voice dropped to a more intimate level. "You don't need to... bid for my attention, Lois."
She blushed, but looked thrilled. "You saw me there. I didn't think that you noticed, I thought that I was just another face in the crowd."
"You will always be special to me, Lois," he said, his voice soft and filled with emotion. Unable to help himself, he reached out and gently caressed her cheek.
"I will?" she asked quietly, her eyes shining.
"You're the first woman who ever..." He saw the hopeful look blossoming on her face, and it brought him to his senses. He stopped himself, and searched for a different way to end that sentence. "... interviewed me," he finished carefully, putting a distance between them. He wanted to say so much more to her, pour out his heart and tell her that he had fallen in love with her, but he couldn't. Not as Superman, for if he did, he would live the rest of his life never knowing whether she cared about him, Clark, or only about the hero she fantasized about. Nor could he tell her how he felt as Clark, because she had eyes only for her hero. How had he gotten himself into this situation? And why did he keep Making matters worse by coming to her in the costume and feeding her fantasies?
He knew the answer. It was because only now, in the costume, could he be this close to her. Only when he was standing before her as Superman would she open herself to him, let down her defenses and allow the real Lois Lane to shine through, without sarcasm or condescending humor to shield her.
He could only hope that, if she so admired his sterling qualities when he was in the costume, perhaps one day she would discover them in plain old Clark.
"I can't believe my eyes," Alan Morris intervened, waking up and staring at the red-caped figure in wonder. "Is that really Superman?"
Lois grinned at Alan's amazement.
Clark, too, smiled at the gentle little man. "Good morning, Alan. I need some information from you."
"Anything!" he replied, awed that the superhero was asking for his help!
Just then the phone rang. Clark picked it up automatically. "Hello?" Just then he realized that he was in the costume. "Oh, yes, Clark," he said awkwardly, looking at Lois, "it's Clark Kent." He turned his attention back to the phone. "Yes, they're both here. Yeah, they're fine. Okay, I'll tell them. Thank you."
Martha Kent, on the other end of the line, stared at the receiver blankly as the call was terminated. What on earth was that all about?
While he was distracted, Lois grabbed her purse and dug inside frantically for her breath spray. She surreptitiously squirted it in her mouth, scrubbed her teeth quickly with one finger, and slipped it back in her bag, hoping he hadn't noticed.
"What did he want?" Lois asked, when he'd hung up the phone.
"He said he'll... be a while," Clark replied, thinking fast.
"Good! I mean..." She tried to cover up her desire to have Superman all to herself. "Good that he'd take his time."
The trio moved to the living room. Lois and Alan sat on the couch as Clark paced behind them, planning their next move.
"Clark filled me in about Barnes and the Gold Repository," Clark said. "My problem is even if they show up, I still can't see them."
"Even with your X-ray vision?" she asked.
"No, because I still need visible light. Now Alan, is there anything else you can tell us that might help?"
"I don't think so."
"Well you got the idea the idea from a fluorescent light bulb," Lois prodded.
"Yes, but I never really thought about making an invisible suit visible!"
"There must be a way," she said hopefully.
"Yes there is," Clark realized suddenly, walking to the balcony with a purposeful stride.
"Where're you going?"
"To turn on the lights," he said cryptically. Lois watched him leave, feeling frustrated. It just wasn't in her nature to sit back and let someone else handle things. If Superman had a plan to thwart the robbery she just knew Barnes and his gang would be pulling at the Gold Repository, she had to be there to get the story! With a gleam in her eyes, she picked up the invisible suit.
"Oh no, not without me you don't!" Alan said.
"Do you have a spare?" Lois asked quickly.
"Sure! One size fits all!" He had to hurry to keep up with her.
* * *
The door to the Gold Repository opened slowly, seemingly of its own accord, and Lois and Alan sneaked inside. "Psst! Lois!" Alan whispered.
"What?" she whispered back.
"Where are you?" he asked, scared.
"I'm right here. Take my hand," she suggested. Easier said than done when the hand was invisible, but with some luck and a lot of groping, Alan managed to grasp Lois' hand and hang on for security. The door closed quietly behind them.
"Oh," he moaned. "I don't know about this, Miss Lane. This could be very dangerous."
"Danger is my business, Alan," she whispered back, unafraid. Reaching a large plant, she peered through its branches. Barnes and his men were busy loading gold bars onto a dolly, unhurriedly emptying the massive vault. Two security guards were nearby, unconscious.
* * *
Clark hoped he hadn't flown too far. Learning to judge his speed and the distance he was covering, and learning to identify landmarks on the ground far below him, were still a challenge. He flew over miles of forest, all of it looking the same. At last he saw his destination, and he put on an extra burst of speed. Jackson Phosphorous was the closest place to get what he needed.
* * *
Henry Barnes had taken his hood off. He glanced frequently at his watch as he paced back and forth, keeping an eye on the door. He took notice of a plant moving slightly, but kept pacing, making his observations seem casual.
"Let's get out of here," Lois whispered to Alan after watching for a while longer. She let the branches move back into place and began moving towards the exit. "We've got to call the police. And would you get your hand off my thigh?"
"Thigh?" he squawked. "My hand isn't on your thigh!"
"Uh-oh!" she whispered.
* * *
The men rolled the last of the gold out of the vault, putting the still-unconscious security guards, the nosy reporter, and the timid inventor inside. Alan sat on the wide shelf, small and scared, but Lois stood brazenly before Barnes, her arms crossed over her chest in an unconscious imitation of Superman. No matter how hard her heart was thumping, she wasn't going to show any fear.
Barnes was smug. "This should work out perfectly. I can just see tomorrow's headline: 'Invisible man found dead, along with hostages, Daily Planet star reporter'." He turned to leave, but couldn't resist a parting shot. "Oh by the way, did you know this room is airtight? With the door shut I'd guess there's about two minutes' air here, so if I were you, I'd say my prayers."
"I'll say one for you, but it won't help," Lois said defiantly.
"I'll be seeing you," Barnes said cheerfully before slamming the door shut with a laugh. Lois rushed to it, but there was no way to open it from within. They were trapped.
* * *
The police surrounded Fort Metropolis with a dozen squad cars. A SWAT team had already arrived, and the snipers were scoping out nearby buildings to find good positions. Another SWAT team truck was just coming. Detective Burke coordinated the placement of vehicles and officers to create a cordon around the Repository.
* * *
Lois grunted as she realized it was futile to waste any more effort on the door. "'Danger is my business'," she quoted herself, disgusted. When would she learn to look before she leaped? Acting on instinct and impulse had its merits, but it sure got her into a lot of tricky situations.
* * *
One of the front doors of Fort Metropolis opened. "Look! The door's opening!" an officer cried out. No one was visible, but an overzealous officer began shooting nonetheless.
"Hold your fire!" Detective Burke ordered furiously. "They may have hostages!" The door closed, with still no sight of any of the thieves.
Suddenly the police were under fire! They leapt for cover behind squad cars, and Burke pulled his service revolver out. They took a few return shots at the front of the building, but there was no target to aim for.
* * *
Inside the vault, Lois was feeling very light-headed as the oxygen grew thin. "Superman," she gasped desperately, her plea for help so faint that she was afraid he'd never hear her.
* * *
Clark flew back to Metropolis carefully, not wanting his airspeed to damage the bag he was carrying. He honed in on Fort Metropolis and descended slowly, feet first. The police were still behind cover as sporadic gunfire continued from the front steps of the Repository. He landed on a wide ledge by the decorative carvings over the front edifice, and began spilling the powdery contents of the bag on the steps below.
Barnes and his men slowly became visible as the phosphorous countered the suit's ability to conceal them. The police were cheered by their invisible opponents losing that advantage, and took charge of the situation.
"Drop your weapons, don't move!" Burke commanded. Barnes, however, had no intention of returning to prison. He abandoned the hood of his now useless suit and made a run for it. He didn't make it very far, however, before he was confronted with the imposing figure in blue and red.
"Nice to see you, Barnes," Clark said with a grin. Barnes desperately raised his gun and fired at him point blank. Clark glanced down at the spot where the bullet had ricocheted off his chest, and looked up with a pleasant smile, as though inviting the man to give it another try. Barnes shot twice more, but the bullets merely bounced off that blue-clad chest.
Deciding that something or someone could be damaged by those deflected bullets, Clark reached out and grabbed the gun from Barnes. With a cocky expression, he mangled it to a twisted wreck in his hands, throwing it down on the ground. Then he grasped Barnes firmly, turned him around, and marched him over to the police.
"Where's Lois Lane?" Clark asked, knowing that she would be here, getting the scoop for the Daily Planet.
Burke, however, replied, "Lois? Is she here?"
Clark was instantly worried. He knew Lois; she had come here, he was positive. But if the police hadn't seen her... He listened hard, tuning out the sounds of the police and the crowds outside the building, concentrating on hearing Lois' voice in a city full of voices.
* * *
The air in the vault had grown thin and stale, and Lois knew she wouldn't remain conscious for much longer, but she tried to hold out for Superman. She knew he would come and save her, she just knew it! "Superman... where are you?" she moaned. As if responding to a cue, her hero crashed through the immense wall of the vault, sending concrete flying and dust swirling through the air, followed by police officers.
Clark hurried to Lois just as she wavered on her feet. He caught her with one arm around her back, his other hand cradling her head gently, terribly worried. Had he gotten to her in time?
Lois felt the fresher air on her face, filling her lungs, and the light-headedness began to fade. She gratefully leaned against Superman's strong, supportive body, slipping her arms around his neck. He had come!
Clark hugged her tightly, enjoying the feel of her slender arms around him, her lithe body against him, relieved beyond words that he had found her in time. When she released him, he gently scooped her into his arms. She weakly rested her head on his shoulder as he carried her out of the vault.
As they emerged into the sunshine, and Lois breathed in deeply, she focused back on the story. "How did you know how to make them visible?" she asked Superman.
Clark knew then that she was feeling fine. "Fluorescent light. In a fluorescent light bulb, invisible light becomes visible when passing it through a coating of phosphorus." He set her on her feet on the sidewalk in front of Fort Metropolis.
"That's the second time you've saved my life," she told him gratefully, her hands resting on his chest.
"Glad to be of service," he said with a smile, brushing a stray lock of hair back from her face with one gentle finger.
He was just about to take off when he was accosted by Murray Brown.
"Supe! You were terrific!" the man called enthusiastically. "You want it in writing, okay, here's the evidence." Clark listened with a grin as Murray rattled things off at a mile-a-minute pace, but Lois glare indignantly at the agent on his behalf. "We got world-wide merchandising rights. Now I'm talking movies, I'm talking mini-series, I'm talking music videos, comic books, action figures! But you call all the shots. Quality control, that's Murray Brown's middle name. If you don't like it, kid, we don't do it. Now how can you turn down a deal like that?" he finished with a broad smile.
"I can't," Clark agreed with a smile. He had realized that this Superman frenzy wasn't going to go away. He could let it overwhelm him, or he could accept it and take control of it, using his unexpected fame to do some good.
"You can't?" Lois asked, shocked. How could he be saying this? How could Superman be selling out?
"But all proceeds go to charity," Clark finished telling Murray Brown.
"Great touch!" Murray enthused.
Clark took off and began to fly away. Lois smiled as she watched, wondering how she could have doubted his integrity for even a second.
"That doesn't include my commission, right?" Murray called after him, the beaming smile still in place despite the anxiety in his voice.
* * *
Lois and Clark visited Alan and Helene Morris later for a follow-up to their exclusive scoop on the invisible man. The Morrises were both so happy and light-hearted now, coming to talk with the two reporters outside the front of their house. "I destroyed the suits, all my notes..." Alan told them.
"Are you going back to your job?" Clark asked him.
Alan's face lit up with enthusiasm. "No, no! I got a new one, something very exciting. Vice President, Research and Development, for Luthor Technologies!"
Clark felt as though his stomach had dropped. Alan Morris working for Lex Luthor? He could just imagine all the things that might lead to! Alan had such an excited, hopeful face, though, that he knew he had to say something kind. "Congratulations."
Lois smiled at the couple, pleased that everything had worked out for them. "We are so happy the two of you are back together," she said sincerely, for the shy and gentle man had grown on her.
Helene beamed and whispered something in Lois' ear, and the two women giggled.
"You did?" Lois asked her.
"Yes! Alan's his old self again." Helene grew more serious, then. "Thank you for bringing him home to me." She moved to her husband's side, and they gave each other a loving kiss.
"I guess I don't have to be invisible to be visible any more," Alan said contentedly.
"You never did, Alan," Clark told him gently. "It was the man under the suit that Helene cared about." He glanced at Lois, and wished that he could say the same for himself.
Lois looked at Clark, moved by his words and admiring his understanding of people. Together, they watched the Morrises go back inside, both smiling, pleased to have been able to help such nice people.
* * *
A few hours later, back at the newsroom, Lois finished going over their story. She took the pages to Clark. "I think we should lead with this," she said, handing them to him and perching on the edge of his desk.
Clark looked them over, and his eyebrows went up. She had done a very good job, and he was impressed. He smiled up at her. "Nice work!"
She beamed, pleased by the compliment. Then her face took on a teasing look. "You know, Clark, not that I'm one of those people that revel in saying 'I told you so'..."
"Uh-huh," he said with a grin, not believing that for a second.
"But, I hope you learned your lesson. There's no such thing as an invisible man," she reiterated, a smug look on her face as she walked back to her desk.
Clark gazed after her, his smile fading. He thought of her passionate responses to him when he wore the costume, her warmth and humor, the glow that brightened her eyes when she gazed at Superman. Why couldn't she see that the hero she admired and adored was sitting across the room from her right now?
That now-familiar yearning sensation made him ache inside again. "Yes there is, Lois," he said softly, watching her get back to work with a wistful expression on his face. "Yes there is."
World of Lois & Clark Home
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