Clark didn’t come back to the newsroom right away, and Lois hoped it was because he was checking up on what was going on with Oliver. In the meantime, Lois repeatedly tried Oliver’s many different phone lines, but failed to reach him, making her concerns grow. She was also certain that if Chloe couldn’t tell her the fact that Oliver was missing, it was because something worse had happened to him than just a weekend bender.
She looked around, feeling helpless, wondering what she could do with her temporary power to help locate Oliver. Her eyes darted to the elevator and she smirked as she got an idea. It would be interesting to hear what Tess has to say about all of this… If something shady with Oliver is going on, then Lois figured Tess would be the most likely candidate to know something.
Lois headed to Tess’ office, preparing for her typical of battle of wills with the redhead. Lois could never tell if Tess just hated her, or simply liked to challenge her. Maybe now she’d find out.
“Lois,” Tess said, shuffling through some files. “What a surprise. Haven’t seen you here in-- weeks,” she said coolly, finally deigning after a long moment to look up from her desk. I thought maybe the Kandorians had done you in… You get yourself into more messes than Oliver, and yet you always manage to float back to the surface.
“Well, let’s just say that I took a much-needed vacation,” Lois answered with a tight smile.
Tess gave her a measured look, but decided not to bite. Vacation my ass… “So, what brings you here?” Has your boyfriend in flannel wandered off again? Hoping to get a clue from me as to what he’s really up to? Some reporter you are, Lane. Don’t even know Clark’s the Blur.
Lois tried to hold back her reaction to this glimpse inside Tess, surprised and a little hurt that even she knew Clark’s secret. She went to the heart of the matter instead. “Oliver is missing,” Lois said succinctly, gratified to see interest register in Tess’ sharp green eyes, no matter how briefly.
Tess looked away, half ignoring Lois, as she typed something into the computer and then murmured, “And how is that news?” He’s probably drowning in a bottle of tequila down in Mexico. That boy does love to run when the tough gets going…
“He’s not answering his phone. I went by his apartment, and they haven’t seen him in three days. And his jet and cars are all still in Metropolis,” Lois catalogued, exaggerating her visit to Ollie’s penthouse. It had been only a phone call to his valet, but still.
Tess looked concerned for a moment, but turned back to her computer to hide it. The only people that could be after Oliver is Checkmate… but Green Arrow isn’t on their list anymore… Who else?
Tess sighed and crossed her arms, looking tired as she leaned back in her chair. “Lois, I’m sure Oliver is just off being a playboy somewhere—had a lost weekend, I don’t know. I am not the man’s keeper.” Only once, long ago, when I foolish enough to still believe in love did I hope to be more to him…
Lois’ hard glare softened a bit on Tess, hearing her weakness. For a moment, she actually felt sorry for Tess. She understood her a bit more too, could even see how they were a little alike. They were both very tough on the outside, but had vulnerabilities underneath. However, no matter how tough Lois would appear to the world, she could never be as ruthless as she knew Tess could be on occasion. Lois wondered what had happened to her in her life to get that way.
“So, besides that pat answer, which you should know, has already crossed my mind--you really have no clue what could have happened to Oliver?” Lois asked again, pointedly, hoping that Tess’ thoughts would reveal more than she was saying.
Not unless the VRA has started to pick up steam…
“The VRA?” Lois asked quietly, glancing up quickly to see if Tess had heard her.
Tess peered at Lois, a puzzled frown on her face. How the hell did our intrepid reporter get wind of the VRA, I wonder? It’s barely made its way off of obscure blogs and a handful of Senator’s desks.
“Lois, let it drop. Oliver can take care of himself,” Tess said pointedly. “Be careful… I might start to think you still have feelings for him,” she said with a snide smile. “I’m sure Clark wouldn’t be too happy to learn that.”
“My personal life is none of your business, Tess. And if you still had a heart in you, you’d be worried about Ollie as well.”
I can’t afford to have a heart, Lois.
Lois turned to go, lest Tess see the pity she felt for her in her eyes.
“Oh Lois?” Tess called, stopping her exit. “ Keep in touch next time you decide to go AWOL. The Planet might not be so friendly about handing you your job back a third time.” Even if you do rake in the top stories.
Lois covered her smile at Tess’ hidden remark. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
Lois spent some time researching what she could about the VRA, which after some searching on the internet she learned stood for ‘Vigilante Registration Act.’ She found an online presence that amounted to a fringe minority of people who bought into the notion that vigilantes were dangerous and bad for America.
The VRA was designed to bring vigilantes like the Blur out of the shadows, by forcing them to declare their true identities to the world. She felt a shiver of fear up her spine, seeing the Blur’s symbol with an anti slash through it on one of the hero hater blogs. Lois shook her head in dismay at what she was reading, especially the distrusting vitriol she read on some sites. She hoped Clark hadn’t seen any of this; the VRA was the last thing he needed to worry about.
The distrust of heroes was fomented by some fringe military, who were trying to organize some lawmakers in Washington to write up a formal VRA bill. It was all just ideas at the moment, but Lois wondered what would happen if those ideas got into the right hands. If the government started getting involved in stopping ‘vigilantes’, Oliver getting mixed up in this could just be the beginning.
She remembered doing a story about some other heroes who had been prosecuted a generation ago. She had uncovered the truth about the JSA, the Justice Society of America, and how those citizen heroes had been imprisoned by the government under false pretenses. She wondered if the VRA wasn’t a trumped up version of more of the same, and if Oliver was involved, he might be in more trouble than she had originally thought.
If she could find a connection between the JSA and the VRA, she might be able to figure out who was holding Oliver. Lois dug out her files on the JSA, but she wondered if she could find more answers by going back to the JSA Museum—or even talking to one of them herself, see if there was a connection to how they were all originally arrested. Maybe they would have a clue as to who could be after Oliver now.
“Hello?” Lois walked in the open door, entering the musty JSA museum. It seemed they still hadn’t fixed the place up, even though her article had brought some local attention to the old team of heroes.
It was late afternoon, and though she wasn’t surprised the place wasn’t hopping, she was curious as to why the front door had been left open with no one in sight.
Cautiously she made her way through the main hallway, calling now and then to see if anyone would answer.
Suddenly, she saw a flash of yellow light coming from a doorway down the darkened hall. Lois rushed over, seeing Chloe knocked out on the floor with a golden helmet lying next to her. Lois recognized the helmet from her encounter with one of the members of the JSA a few months ago—it had been worn by the same strange man who had told her all those cryptic things about her future. “You are the one he will need. He is the one you will need… The savior… the sentient power.”
Clark. He had meant Clark, she realized, feeling a sense of déjà vu as she made the connection, her spine tingling with the implications.
Then, as if to conjure him from air, she heard a whoosh, and there he was—her sentient power, standing over Chloe.
It was the first time Lois had seen Clark dressed as the Blur up close, his black jacket swooshing around him dramatically as he knelt beside his friend, carefully lifting her into his arms. Lois held her breath, wondering if he would sense she was there. But he seemed too wrapped up in worrying about her cousin to be concerned with who else might be lurking around the museum.
Lois stood outside the room, Clark’s back to her. She closed her eyes and concentrated, to see if she could hear his thoughts.
“Chloe,” he said in a strained voice. What were you doing here? You know the Helmet is dangerous. Why didn’t you come to me? “Chloe? Chloe, are you okay?” he asked gently as she stirred awake.
When she saw who was holding her, she wrapped her arms around him, breathing in a sigh of relief. “The Helmet was right! You’re alive!” she cried into his shoulder. I thought you were gone forever with the Kandorians! Whatever it was that brought you back, I’m just glad you are still here! The world needs you Clark Kent. I need you…
“I’m here, Chloe,” he said soothingly, holding his friend close. I don’t know who or what brought me back—but I know I have more to accomplish here—people to protect.
Lois felt like an intruder on the scene, but she knew better than to feel jealous. She understood. Chloe had been there for Clark for years—and who knew how long she has lived with his secret. And even though she may have carried a torch for Clark in the past, Lois knew that Chloe loved Oliver. Clark—well, he seemed to have a special place in many of people’s hearts. And Lois couldn’t begrudge her cousin that.
“But why did you come here, Chloe? That helmet—“ he began.
“I’m—fine, Clark,” What had I seen… What did the Helmet of Nabu show me about Oliver? Everything would be okay—but I have to—“My head hurts, that’s all,” Chloe said, her hand moving to her forehead.
“Chloe, what were you doing with the Helmet?” Whatever your concern is of the future, Chloe, you have to know I’ll do all I can to protect you.
“Nothing… I just—had to know some things,” she said vaguely, trying to shift out of Clark’s arms. I needed answers—about Oliver… I know what I have to do. The VRA has him. If I can convince them to take me instead---
Lois wanted to cry out a protest then and there, fearful of what Chloe was getting herself into. But she couldn’t make her presence known. She was frozen to the spot, hidden in the dark hallway, separated from both of them by each other’s secrets and lies.
“I—I’m fine,” Chloe said, coming unsteadily to her feet with Clark’s help. I need to get back to Watchtower and see if I can talk to someone at Checkmate… Negotiate with them. I have to save Oliver. I can’t involve Clark. If Checkmate gets a hold of the Blur---
Negotiate with Checkmate? Lois thought wildly, recalling that was the same organization Tess had mentioned earlier.
“Let’s get you out of here,” Clark said, pulling Chloe to him before whooshing away.
Lois stepped into the room after they had left, thinking. She had to somehow stop Chloe from dealing with forces larger than herself, and she knew the only way to do that was to tell Clark what she knew…
With a sigh, Lois squatted down to pick up the strange golden helmet, contemplating what she should do.
“You are the key, Lois Lane,” the helmet said, making her jump as it began to glow in her hands. “Yet you do not seek knowledge of the future?”
She carefully set the helmet back in its case as she laughed ruefully, “I think I’ve had enough glimpses of the future to last me the rest of my life. I just need to take care of the present.” She closed the door, her eyes still fastened on the golden helmet that had softened to a duller sheen. She turned to leave, whispering to the helmet, “The future will take care of itself.”
At least, she hoped so.
It was almost six o’clock, almost time for her dinner date with Clark. She only had about an hour and a half left of daylight—left to use her power.
Lois paced the ladies room at the Planet, wondering what she could do to stop Chloe from making a huge mistake. Somehow, Lois had to tell Clark what was really going on, without letting him know that she knew the truth about him or that she had learned what she knew thanks to a temporary superpower thanks to his ice fortress dad.
She sighed, leaning against the cool tile wall and glancing at herself in the mirror. I almost want to go back to the days when I simply worried if I would even get to go on a date with Smallville.
She felt like a nervous wreck, after hearing people’s thoughts all day, yet she had been powerless to do much to help anyone. Well, almost powerless. It had made her keenly aware of what people really thought of her. Most considered her pushy and slightly obnoxious… though almost everyone around the Planet respected her. And she had made a few people genuinely happy and surprised when she was able to offer a few extra kindnesses here and there.
But there was nothing she could do for Todd in the City Section whose partner just found out he has AIDS.
There was nothing she could do for Janet, whose mom is in the last stages of a vicious cancer.
Or Amy whose brother died in a car wreck four months ago…
Yet all of these people plastered smiles on their faces, said a cheery hello and suffered in silence.
People kept their most tragic secrets close to their chest, and though Lois promised herself she’d be nicer to the people around her, try to be there for them when they’d let her, there was no way to save the lives of any of their loved ones.
It was a lot to take.
It was why she had hidden herself in the restroom. To get a moment’s reprieve from her front row seat view of everyone’s lives. She needed to focus. Oliver was in trouble. Chloe was soon to follow—and Clark—
Did she understand him any better? Had this little—experiment taught her anything about Clark?
She felt her heart constrict, thinking how many times today she heard him beat himself up for one thing or another. And she knew he could hear things from far away---how many distress calls did he have to ignore in a day in order to take care of something more important? How did he do it? And how much more impressive was it that he did save as many people as he could? Even as he beat himself up for the littlest mistakes? She just wanted to take away all his pain, all his guilt, to just tell him that she was there for him, no matter what.
She sighed again, preparing to leave, as she straightened her jacket and faced her reflection in the mirror. I can still tell him that and not let on that I know the truth about him. But how do I explain what I know about Chloe and Oliver?
Lois pulled out her cell phone and sent a quick text to Chloe, hoping to forestall any rash plans she hoped to enact tonight.
Really need to talk to you. At the Talon later, say 10?
Lois hit send and said a prayer that she’d have enough time.
Lois beat Clark to Alessandro’s.
She had a moment’s panic, thinking that she had misjudged, that he wasn’t going to show, but the host told her there was a reservation on the books for ‘Kent’ at seven, and she breathed a little easier.
Yet as she sat down at the table, she couldn’t help but feel the anxiety in her stomach, worrying about Oliver and Chloe, and knowing that she would only have a limited time left where she could peel back the stony curtain that was so often Clark Kent and get him to understand what was going on. She had checked sunset time for the evening, and she had exactly 42 minutes before her power would disappear.
Not that she would mind… the burden of hearing everyone’s littlest concerns and idiosyncrasies was starting to weigh on her. Already, the fog of mumbled thoughts in the tiny restaurant was encroaching on her mind. She rubbed her forehead, hoping it would all just go away—
And then it did, as all her thoughts turned to focus on that one voice.
She looked up and smiled as Clark sat down by her. “Sorry I am late,” he said with a warm smile. There was an oil fire on the docks… and the rescue crews couldn’t get there in time.
She smiled brighter, glad he had been able to save the day. She just hoped he could manage to save their day as well.
“Don’t sweat it, Smallvile,” she said lightly, picking up her menu.
There was a long pause, and then Clark suddenly sighed, “Wow, I didn’t think this day would come, did you? You and I—on an actual date?”
She could hear the smile in his voice, and she set the menu aside. “It is unprecedented,” she said, though worry was underlying her tone. She couldn’t shake her concern for Oliver and Chloe.
Clark reached a hand across the table, his smile fading into concern as his blue eyes met her brown ones. “Lois, what is it?” Have I done something wrong?
She reached out for his hand to reassure him. “It—it’s Oliver. I know he’s in trouble.”
Why is she still so concerned about Oliver? Does she miss him so much?
She winced a little, as she realized she did sound a little like her old self in her Ollie-loving days. She had to make Clark understand. “Clark, I wouldn’t bring it up except I know he’s in real danger. But—please don’t ask how I know,” she murmured, her eyes shifting away from his. ”And I think Chloe wants to intervene,” she added, still hesitant.
“Lois, what do you mean, Chloe wants to intervene?” he asked, puzzled. [i[She’s back at Watchtower… I left her and she seemed fine.[/i]
“She’s not fine, Clark,” she slipped, the pressure of the day wearing on her. The secrets, the inner lives of all those around her, when the only life she really wanted to understand was sitting right across from her.
“Lois, what’s going on?” I haven’t seen you look so scared since your first trip to the future...
“Clark, I really wanted this evening to be about us. About seeing how an ‘us’ might actually work,” she said, her eyes searching his. If he only knew what I’ve seen…that there has to be an us… but first we must trust each other, she thought, thinking of Superman, of that confident Clark in the future that made her believe they were meant to be together.
She sighed, thinking, unsure what to do next. She looked across the table at the man she loved, and who she knew loved her, but they were still separated by their secrets. She thought of Superman, and his encouraging words: “Lois, when you go back to your own time and talk to the man I was, just remember, that you—just being you—helped make me the man that I am today.”
She breathed in a sigh, taking courage from the fact that just being herself would be enough, that maybe all Clark needed was for her to offer her trust.
She reached in her purse, changing tactics, as she pulled out the Legion ring, wrapped in a handkerchief. She had carried it with her since she came back from the future, uncertain how or when she would give it to him. But maybe giving him the ring would be a symbol of trust, maybe he would begin to understand that she knew who he was and he’d finally tell her the truth himself. “I have to give this back to the one person who understands its power. I have to give it to the one man who I know can stop Chloe from making a huge mistake---who can save Oliver. Not to change the future---but perhaps to save the present.”
She studied it a moment, and then glanced up at Clark. She squinted her eyes in concentration, not hearing his thoughts, and she realized he was simply focused on what she was saying. She looked over his shoulder, seeing that only a few minutes of daylight remained and sighed.
“I used to think that the Blur was simply an unseeable force, but one who wanted to do good in the world,” she began quietly, playing with the edges of the handkerchief. “Then, when I started talking to him, I realized he was a man, with feelings and flaws. But he tries so hard to do what is right,” she said, her eyes glancing up at him.
Does she realize she can see into my heart, into my soul?
She cleared her throat, finding it tight with tears. “I realized he was an extraordinary man, but a man nonetheless. With fears, doubts—and I just want to say that no matter who he really is---I just want to be there for him,” she finished softly, setting the ring in its handkerchief down on the table closer to Clark.
What is she trying to tell me? What did the ring show her this time?
“This belongs to the Blur,” she said, looking at him steadily, though her voice was a little shaky. “I—I know you can get it back to him. And when you see him—“I just want to tell you that I love you. But the words would not come. She cleared her throat again, her emotions jostling for position. She knew more of her heart confessions would have to wait. What was important was saving Oliver and Chloe. “Please, Clark, y--he has to stop Chloe,” she said, a little desperately.
Is she in love with the Blur? Why should I blame her? I’ve struggled to keep it all hidden from her…
“Clark—“ she admonished softly, looking at him, the truth written on her face if only he’d see it. The words to tell him that she knew he was the Blur, to tell him she loved him no matter what, froze in her mouth. Her fear of forcing the truth from him paralyzed her.
Her confession to Superman came back to her: “I want you to trust me enough to tell me the truth yourself,” she said quietly. “I don’t want to force it out of you.”
Her eyes pleaded with Clark’s as she struggled with what to say. But she felt a confession of her feelings might lead to more truths that she wasn’t sure they were ready for. And besides, they didn’t have time… She had to stop Chloe from giving herself to the VRA in order to save Oliver.
She pulled herself together as much as she could, held her tears at bay. She glanced out the window—the sun was setting. Her glimpse into the lives around her would be gone within seconds. “Clark, you have to go stop Chloe. She is going to trade herself for Oliver. The VRA has him,” she whispered. “Don’t worry about me. Please.”
She didn’t hear anything and she looked up at him, the window dark behind him. Her power was gone. And now she worried that he thought she loved the Blur. He didn’t know that she knew the truth and she loved him –Clark Kent--because of who he was, not what he did.
“I have to go, Lois,” he said, his voice cool. He picked the ring up, glancing at it in his hand and then again at her. “I’ll give this to the Blur. And somehow, he’ll save Chloe.”
“I know,” she said, pouring as much meaning as she could into those two words.
She felt a cool breeze, and turned, seeing the door of the tiny restaurant was open. But when she glanced back at where Clark had been sitting, he was gone.
She thought back, reaching for comfort in her memories of the future—
“I want you to trust me enough to tell me the truth yourself. I don’t want to force it out of you.”
“Then don’t. I’ll tell you, Lois. If you can wait for me… “
“I would wait for you all my life.”
And she would… she would wait for him to understand that she loved him.
She would wait for him to trust her with the truth.
Only, she wished the waiting didn’t make her feel so lonely.
“I love you,” she whispered, and at last, let the tears fall.
Clark: ...You know, there are times when I think you don't know me at all, and others where I think you know me better than anyone.
Lois: That's what I'm here for, Smallville – one save at a time.