Chapter 12: Uncovering the Truth
“Remind me what we’re doing here again?” Clark gave her one of his ridiculous ineffectual looks.
She tried desperately not to roll her eyes at him. “We need to find evidence that Luthor is somehow linked to this operation, right?” He nodded shortly. “So. We’re going to use that super-speed scanning talent of yours to search for it. See if his name is referenced anywhere in the documents.”
“And I’m going to do it all from here.” The two of them were perched on the edge of the rooftop opposite the main office of L & V Construction, but hidden behind the brick ledge. She absently rubbed at her kneecap, which had been scraped in clambering up the fire escape. Clark had offered to give her a ‘lift’… but she had refused. She knew that being in his arms would be too much to deal with right now.
“Well, you know I can’t set foot in there. Security will be on the lookout for me after last night’s fiasco.” Thanks again for not being there, by the way, she thought again with irritation. “And besides – this is much more efficient. No fuss. No muss.”
He arched a questioning eyebrow at her. The more time he spent in her presence today, the more he unconsciously shed the bumbling façade, showing her what she was beginning to suspect was his true personality. How he juggled it all… she dismissed the thought.
“Come on, Clark. You can’t tell me that you haven’t ever used your x-ray vision to spy on someone?” Clark shifted uncomfortably under her disbelieving gaze.
His reaction was all the proof she needed. She gestured impatiently across the street.
He tried arguing once more. “Even if I find something, without hard evidence, there’s no way any of our suppositions will hold water.”
“We’ll worry about getting the ‘hard evidence’ as soon as we know there’s something to get. Why waste time searching for something that isn’t there? This will save us hours… and you know it.”
Clark’s lips quirked upward just a tad. He nodded in acquiescence, and turned his gaze toward the office.
She studied him quietly as his clear blue eyes rapidly shifted back and forth behind the lenses of his glasses. With his attention all on his task, she had a chance to really observe him for the first time since she’d discovered his secret. Re-discovered, she amended mentally.
Even behind the glasses and old-fashioned suit, he had an air of power and confidence as he worked. Man, he must have really done a number on her memory if she hadn’t seen through him immediately on his return. It was so obvious to her now…
He broke into her thoughts. “Lois,” he said seriously, turning his face fully toward her. “I see absolutely no sign of Luthor’s name anywhere in the files.” She took a breath to ask him another question… “And before you bother asking – no, Vanderworth’s name isn’t anywhere to be found either.”
Crap. She had been so sure earlier that they’d hit on some shady scheme of Luthor’s… She knew she was grasping at straws, but she tried another tactic. “Well, who is listed on the charter, then?”
He got a far off look in his eyes as he read. “Philip Mitchener… Chuck Eldridge… Ellen Pharis… Shirley Corcoran…” He turned back to her again. “Those are the main names there. I also see a list of the board of directors, do you want that as well?”
Something wasn’t making sense here. “Hang on… Why is the company called ‘L & V’ if none of the owners’ first or last names begin with those letters?”
“I can’t tell, Lois. There’s nothing there that explains the company’s name… it doesn’t seem to be the names, it’s not in the mission statement…” He shrugged, effortlessly returning to his Clark persona. But then he froze, holding up a hand to keep her silent. He surreptitiously cut his eyes downward, to the alleyway between the buildings. She poked her head up over the ledge for a brief moment. A pair of security guards came around the corner, talking. One of them stopped to lean against the brick wall. Her eyes widened in shocked recognition. By his paunch and shock of grizzled hair, she knew immediately that this was the guy she had felled in her hasty exit from the building yesterday.
He lit a cigarette, and puffed lazily on it. The two began to shoot the breeze, the younger of the men looking impressed at the story the older one was telling. Beside her, Clark hastily stifled a chuckle.
“What?” she whispered as low as possible, ducking back below the ledge.
“Just how many pairs of heels have you lost in the line of duty?” he asked her quietly, unable to resist a small smile.
She punched him lightly on the shoulder, but grinned herself. Of course, he could hear their conversation as easily as breathing. Her smile faded… no matter that she was asking him to use his abilities during their investigation, it was still a reminder that he had been keeping them from her for so long. “Are they saying anything important?”
“No… but by the sound of it, the older guard’s story may go on for some time.”
The implications of his statement hit her suddenly. “How are we going to get down then?” The fire escape, the way they had accessed the roof, was in full view of the two men. Lois looked at her watch. She and Clark had taken the long way here, through snarling traffic, Lois refusing to travel any other way. It was now nearly noon, and her planned lunch with Richard only minutes away…
Mariah Carey’s soulful voice rang out from the cell phone in her purse. Richard must be calling to see if she was coming. Lois and Clark looked at each other in panic.
“Hey!” a voice shouted from down below. “Is someone up there?”
Clark gave her a soul-searching look. There was only one way to get off this roof without being caught. She squeezed her eyes shut, and nodded abruptly. Without warning, she felt strong arms lift her, and a rush of wind through her hair, all without opening her eyes. She somehow knew that seeing him as they flew together would be a terrible reminder of everything that had gone before.
A minute later, and he was gently setting her down. She shrugged out of his arms roughly, and then opened her eyes. They were on another rooftop, some distance away from the harbor. He stood there, wind billowing his red cape, eyes sad. Amazing. He must have changed clothing in an instant, as quickly as he had sped them away… she glanced down to see a neat bundle of clothing beside his red boots.
And finally, that simple sight was the final straw. “Superman,” she said curtly. Her fists clenched in suppressed anger, and she spun away from him.
“Lois.” He placed a warm hand on her upper arm, but she shook it off forcefully.
She walked a few steps to the edge of the roof, and focused on the panorama of tall buildings before her. “Were you ever going to tell me?”
“I…” his voice faltered, an odd sound coming from the superhero side of him, “I wanted to, so many times…”
She whirled on him and spoke in a steely tone. “And why didn’t you? The mother of your child? Afraid I couldn’t handle it?” She asked the last question almost mockingly, daring him to admit what he had done.
If he caught the inflection, he ignored it. “I know it sounds clichéd, but I wanted to protect you. This—”
She couldn’t let that go by. “Protect me? What am I? A hothouse flower? One exposure to the harsh realities of life and I would wilt away?” She stalked up close to him. “This is Lois Lane you’re talking about here! Superman and Clark Kent should both know better!”
“I was afraid you’d get hurt, Lois,” he pleaded. “Not just physically… emotionally as well. I have a responsibility to the world that will always come first, and no matter how we tried to make it work… I knew it never would.”
“And you didn’t think I would be hurt when you left?” Her voice trembled, pain mixing with the anger, and she stepped closer to his charismatic presence with each sentence. “Oh, I know we’ve been over this, and I know that you had no idea that I was pregnant with Jason… hell, I didn’t either until you’d been gone a few months.” A thought suddenly intruded into her tirade. Now inches from his face, she looked up into his eyes with puzzled hazel ones. “But why… if you knew it would never work… why, after returning to Earth, did you come right back to me?”
His eyes filled with sadness and longing. “Because I couldn’t stay away… because even if I couldn’t have you… I needed to have you in my life.”
A bubble of unresolved sadness and desire rose from inside her chest, and settled in her throat, making it difficult to talk. She wanted to shout accusations at him, tell him that she knew what he had taken away from her, from them… and at the same time she wanted to cry for those lost years.
She turned away again, trying to master her emotions, and felt his hand again on her shoulder. “No!” she bit out, twisting from his grip. “Can’t I be upset without you trying to fix it?”
“I’m sorry, I just wanted to…”
“Wanted to what? Take the pain away? Wipe the slate clean?” The words were out of her mouth before she could take them back. She shifted slowly to look at his reaction, and saw him standing rigidly, face frozen in shock. “Clark… I…”
He opened his mouth, an expression of guilt rushing to his features. He looked as if he were about to respond… and then he stiffened again. “Oh, no…”
He didn’t seem to hear her at all, acting as if he were listening to a sound many thousands of miles away. “They need me, so many people…”
She did not hesitate. “Go. We can finish this later. We will finish this later.”
He shot her a grateful look, and nodded. Without a sound, he rose gracefully into the air, and then rocketed away with a rush of wind.
And then a hero comes along… She snatched her purse up from the ground where she had laid it. I’ve got to change that ringtone, she thought, irritated, and flipped open the phone. “Richard?”
“Honey, I’m here at the café. Are you going to be able to make it? I called earlier, but there was no answer…”
She stared into the sky, no longer able to see even a speck in the distance. “Yes, I’m coming,” she said distractedly. “Give me ten or fifteen minutes. We were right in the middle of something.”
“Oh, well, don’t worry… if you’re still busy…”
“No, it’s fine now. Clark went off on an… errand. We’re going to meet up again later. I’ll be there as soon as I can.” As she closed the phone and headed for the roof access door, Superman’s words rang in her mind: ‘I needed to have you in my life.’
“I do, too,” she whispered, and turned the knob.
Next: Chapter 13: Secrets