"No," she said softly. "You're not wrong."
She pressed her lips gently against his. Though the kiss was brief, the effect lingered. Without opening his eyes, Clark pulled Lois back into a tender embrace. "I love you, Lois."
Lois was suddenly standing in a hole she had dug for herself, the shovel still in her hands. The best she could do now was try and minimize the damage she had started in a vulnerable moment.
"I love you too, Clark," she said and then pulled away. "But this is all pretty new between us."
To Lois' surprise Clark smiled. "That's why you waited until we were alone to tell me? The people at the Daily Planet don't know?"
Lois laughed. "That's for sure. I guarantee no one at the Daily Planet knows," she said and took his hand. "You try and get some sleep."
"Okay," he nodded and escorted her to the door.
Lois kissed his cheek. "Good night."
"Good night, Lois ... and thank you."
"You don't have to thank me. I was happy to help you."
"No, I don't mean for helping me-- well I do, but ..." He sighed in exasperation. "It's just that until you told me you loved me, I was starting to believe that maybe I'd lost my mind along with my memory."
Lois put a reassuring hand on his arm. "Clark --"
"No, I'm serious, Lois. I kept having this *feeling* every single time you were near me. But," he shrugged. "Everyone, including you, kept acting like there was nothing there. Even when Ms. Grant told me that she and I had a relationship, I didn't believe her. I *couldn't* believe her. That feeling wasn't there."
"Hold it," Lois interrupted. "Cat told you that she was in a relationship with you?"
Clark nodded. "And that we were keeping it a secret ... especially from you."
"Incredible." Lois shook her head. "Of all the colossal gall. Taking advantage of a man who's lost his memory. She should go into business with Max Deter. I can see it now," Lois ranted. "They could put up a billboard. 'For the best in amnesia abuse ...' "
"Who's Max Deter?"
"Cat Grant with a diploma."
"Nothing." She smiled. "The important thing is that you didn't fall for her lie."
Their eyes locked a moment and once again Lois' heart melted. "I have a feeling you're not really sleepy, are you?"
Clark grinned. "No, not really."
"C'mon," she said, and took his hand. "In that case you can help me find Superman."
Clark's grin widened as they left his apartment. "Sounds good to me."
* * * * *
It was nearly midnight when Lois unlocked the door to her apartment. She and Clark had spent hours interviewing everyone from scientists and scholars to drug dealers and prostitutes hoping for a lead on Superman's whereabouts. It had all been as fruitless as it had been years ago when she made that same circuit by herself, but this time, with Clark ... it was nice.
Lois smiled and headed to the bedroom. She knew that things really couldn't have been too different between them back in those days because neither one of them was really "ready." Still, she conceded, it was pleasant walking near the waterfront with Clark, holding his hand and commenting on their hopes of finding Superman, refusing to dwell on the negative, and pausing for a moment to notice how beautiful the moon's reflection was as it glinted on the surface of the bay.
She sighed as she pulled back the covers on her bed. Something dangerous was happening. Lois was falling in love with Clark all over again. She missed him. She missed touching him, holding him, making love with him, and just the simple pleasure of Sunday mornings spent lounging in bed for as long as the world could do without Superman.
Lois put on a sweatshirt and shorts and slipped under the covers. She hated sleeping alone most of all. How incomprehensible her feelings would be to her counterpart of this era. The Lois who belonged here would have laughed in the face of anyone who dared suggest that one day Clark Kent would become the center of her world, love of her life and the father of her child. She closed her eyes, exhaustion finally setting in. How much longer would this last?
* * * * *
Lois had scarcely finished brushing her hair when she heard knocking at the door. She tossed down the brush, picked up her blazer and headed for the door. She peered through the peep hole and smiled.
"Come in, Clark," she said, and stepped back as she started putting on her blazer.
"Morning," he said cheerfully as he entered, and as was his custom, even in this time, helped Lois on with her jacket. However, unlike the Clark of this era, he kissed her. It was soft and brief, but very welcome.
Lois, who if truly of this era would have handed Clark his head on a platter for that, returned the kiss. "Morning," she said as she grabbed her purse. "Did you remember how to get to my apartment, or look it up in the book?"
"It's strange," Clark said, and opened the door wider. "I felt like I knew where I was going until I got here. For some reason I ended up in the alley facing your window."
Lois laughed nervously. "Really?"
He nodded. "It's like, in my mind, that's where the entrance to your apartment should be."
"Well," she said airily as they headed for the street, "I think your memory is coming back. It's just a little ... off."
They decided to walk to the Planet and Lois was grateful. It afforded her some 'thinking time' on the way. She couldn't figure out why she hadn't "leaped" yet. She'd already accelerated her relationship with this Clark far beyond what had been years ago, and yet she was still here, and the Nightfall asteroid was still coming.
"Oh, no," she whispered. Was she to tell Clark about his secret identity?
"What's wrong?" Clark asked, having overheard her whispered concern. He looked up and noticed the Planet. "Oh, right," he said, and removed his arm from her shoulder. "You said the staff doesn't know we're dating."
Lois smiled and took Clark's hand. "Maybe it's time they found out."
* * * * * *
Klein glanced up from a stack of paperwork. "Yes?"
"I'm Joey," the handsome young man said as he extended his hand.
Klein rose and shook his hand, but then rotated it slightly. "Is that a tattoo?"
Joey smiled sheepishly as he released his grip. "You know how it is," he said and pulled his sleeve down over his wrist. "I was assigned here to help with some file transfers."
"Wonderful," Klein smiled. "I'm fairly new here, but I seem to have arrived during a major computer upgrade."
"No problem," Joey said confidently.
"Great. You can start with the personnel files."
"Well," Joey shrugged. "I was thinking about the inventory files. After all, the personnel know who they are, but they'll be needing those inventory files."
Klein smiled. "True. I was just trying to start you out with something less complicated. The inventory files need to be recoded before being transferred."
"The more complex, the better, Dr. Klein," he said cheerfully. "Can't wait to get started."
* * * * * *
The news room seemed almost business as usual as Lois and Clark exited the elevator. There was still a feeling of high tension in the air, but with EPRAD planning an attempt to destroy the remnant of the asteroid, there was also a feeling of guarded optimism.
"I could use some coffee," Lois said, her hand still clasping Clark's.
Clark stopped, a puzzled expression on his face.
He nodded. "I think so. You never take real cream or real sugar in your coffee."
"Very good," she said, and laughed. "Since you remember so well, I'll let you get my coffee."
"Happy to," he said, but then turned back, "Do I like coffee?"
"Oh, Clark," she said softly and smoothed down his necktie. "Your memory will come back, but I have to admit it's kind of sweet that you remember how I like my coffee even though you can't remember if you like it at all."
Clark gazed down at her with that adoring expression. That look that could de-ice every snowbound plane at JFK in the middle of January. An apt analogy, Lois conceded, because he certainly melted her heart, and back in those days her heart was rumored to contain enough ice to sink the Titanic three times over.
"Did we like each other right away? You and me?"
Lois remembered that question and her answer from years ago, but now she felt maybe Clark would be more comforted by the truth, or at least part of it. "Would you believe me if I said you fell in love with me about two minutes after you met me?"
"It took me that long?" Clark grinned. "How long before you fell in love with me?"
"Well ... I ... uh --"
"Message for you, Lois," a woman said, handing off a note to Lois as she passed by.
"It's from Lex Luthor." Lois paused and looked up at Clark. His face was a blank. The name meant nothing to him. "He's the most connected man in Metropolis," Lois said flatly, with none of the naive enthusiasm she had expressed the first time.
Clark shrugged. "Then maybe he's heard something that might help locate Superman."
Lois slipped her arm around Clark's waist. "I doubt it, but I guess there's no harm in finding out what he wants, partner."
Clark reflexively wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "I'm afraid I'm still not much of a partner yet."
"You'll get there, Clark."
"Well, well. What is this? Jack and Jill: The Motion Picture?"
Lois sighed. "And good morning to you too, Cat."
"Ms. Grant," Clark said, dipping his head slightly in acknowledgment.
"So what's the gag here? Why the Siamese twin act?"
Clark's eyebrows raised slightly. "Sorry?"
"You and Lois," Cat said with a sweeping hand motion. "You look like you just got back from one of those cheap honeymoon junkets to Florida ... not that Lois would be any fun, but ..."
"Cat," Lois sighed, tiring of the exchange. "It's not very complicated. Clark and I love each other."
Oh, that felt good! Lois hadn't expected to feel that way, not after so long. But there was definitely no denying she felt a slight vengeful glee at telling Cat that she and Clark were in love.
Cat placed her hands on her hips as her narrowed eyes darted from Lois to Clark. She was a cheetah sizing up her prey. Which would she pull down? Who would get it in the neck?
To Lois' surprise, Cat didn't pounce. She laughed, or rather what passed for a laugh from Cat. A kind of humming in the throat. A purr of amusement. "I get it," she finally said. "The stakeout at the Lexor Hotel last week."
Cat clucked her tongue sympathetically as she patted Clark's cheek. "Poor baby. Trapped for three days and two nights with Dry Ice Lane."
Lois folded her arms. "Dry ice?"
"All smoke and no heat," Cat said and turned to leave. She slowly smoothed the undercupping of her skirt and then looked back over her shoulder at Clark. "When you're ready for a forest fire, I have the gasoline."
Lois and Clark watched her slink away, their mouths both slightly gaping. When they turned to look at each other and noticed their expressions matched, they both laughed.
Clark shook his head. "She's kind of blatant, isn't she?"
"Blatant? Try shameless," Lois countered. "The only present she ever thanked me for was a set of knee pads that were supposed to be for Jimmy to go with the Rollerblades Perry gave him."
"At the very least," Lois agreed and tugged his arm. "Ready to take on Lex Luthor?"
"Sure," he smiled and took her hand.
They had almost reached the elevator when Jimmy came barreling up. "CK," he puffed. "Just the man I want to see."
"Yeah," the young man nodded and brandished the charred remnant of Superman's 'S' emblem.
Clark took the cloth gingerly and examined it. Lois could tell he was experiencing another one of those moments. The feeling of waking from a dream, but not quite remembering the details. Clark glanced at Lois. "What is this?"
His question was so earnest. Somehow he *knew* Lois could tell him what he needed to know. She took the cloth from Clark and then pressed it against his chest. "Superman," she said, her eyes locked with his. "Always shows up in the nick of time."
"Exactly," Jimmy agreed. "And since my last hunch paid off, the chief is giving me another chance. I figured we could go to this psychic and give her the ...."
"Uh, you know what, Jimmy," Clark interrupted and blinked a couple of times as he emerged from his waking slumber. "I just remembered my parents have been trying to reach me and I have to ... uh ...." He searched Lois' eyes.
"Check your phone messages."
"Right," Clark smiled and quickly disappeared into the elevator.
Jimmy scratched the back of his neck. "I think CK's memory is coming back."
Lois swallowed nervously. "What makes you say that?"
"CK always used to run off like that...well, before he bumped his head."
Lois shrugged innocently. "I guess I never noticed."
* * * * * *
Lois felt a crushing disappointment as the leaping effect took over. She wanted to be there for him when he returned, but she would go where she was sent. It wasn't like she had a choice in the matter anyway.
She found her counterpart reading a book. The words on the page were familiar, but she couldn't connect a specific time in her life when she'd read that novel. She was trapped reading and couldn't check out her surroundings. However, after several minutes had passed, Lois realized it had been a while since a page had been turned. She finally had control of the body.
Lois glanced up and noticed she was in her apartment and dressed for bed, but .... A breeze stirred her hair. She turned around and saw Superman standing by the window, his expression stern and implacable.
"I heard you wanted to see me." There was anger and hurt in his voice. It was so much easier to hear it now, looking back, than it had been when he had originally spoken that simple sentence years ago.
No! Not *here*! Why? What could she do? This had been a low and painful point in her life. Clark had confessed his love for her, and though Lois had loved him as a friend back then, she didn't love him romantically. Of course not. That was saved for Superman in those days, and there he stood, all primed to break her heart in exchange for the one she had broken.
Lois set her jaw. There was no time to formulate a plan. She'd have to create something on the fly.
"Superman," she said as she tossed the book on the sofa and approached the man of stone. "I'm so glad you got the message. I need your help."
[end part 4]