Something I Don't Already Know

by Livia


This story was originally published in the Winter Wonderland e-zine.
http://www.loony-archivist.com/winter/


This story was originally published in the Winter Wonderland e-zine. http://www.loony-archivist.com/winter/

*

why don't you go and tell me something i don't already know
give me something to remember you by
when you go
~ ani difranco, names and dates and times

*

Now, normally I'm an excellent swimmer. Normally, though, I haven't just been punched in the head, or cooped up in a freezing cold car on a stakeout for two days. Not to mention it's the middle of December and the river's so cold it's like a hammer smashing me flat the minute I hit. I'm sinking, can't even move to kick my sneakers off-- and then there's an arm around my waist, the water's rushing past in the other direction and hey! Flying underwater feels just like the regular kind of flying.

It occurs to me, as Superman sets me down on the wet concrete and zips off after the bad guys, that when your personal definition of "the regular kind of flying" involves an extraterrestrial instead of a plane, well, then your life is officially strange.

Not that I worry. Normal is boring. Being the first reporter on the planet to ever get an exclusive with the aforementioned extraterrestrial intelligence is strange, but I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Of course, story of my life, the guy only shows up when I'm in the middle of a stakeout, greasy-haired and dressed down, hair and makeup by Cat in a Sack. I'm kind of wobbly so I sit down, leaning against a crate, and watch while Superman does that thing he does with the bullets and the punching and the zipping around. Sigh. I'd call Jimmy to get down here, or Turpin over at the police station, but my cellphone is in my purse which is a couple of blocks down the street, and I'm just really tired. And wet. And cold.

I close my eyes, and the sounds slowly die away into a buzz, and the next thing I hear is a concerned voice calling my name. "Miss Lane?" A warm hand brushes a wet strand of hair away from my forehead. "Lois? Lois, open your eyes."

I think this is the first time he's ever called me Lois. It sounds strange. I may still have water in my ears. "I'm awake. I'm good." I let him help me to my feet. I'm not too unsteady. "You-- took care of everything?"

He nods. "The police are on their way." The van's on its side. The slushy rain that was making my stakeout so miserable has turned to snow, tiny flakes flurrying and swirling in the wind. They hiss as they hit the doors of the van, which are still hot from being welded shut. There's some half-hearted thumping coming from inside, and I can hear sirens in the distance too. I look over at Superman, expecting him to do the old up-up-and-away routine. But I guess I look pretty pathetic, because instead of leaving he holds out a hand and says "Need a lift, Miss Lane?"

"In this wind? You'd turn me into a Pulitzer-winning popsicle." I shouldn't be so touchy. I'm shaking like a leaf on methadone and my nose is running like the drippy faucets in Clark Kent's apartment-- it's not like he's being pushy about it. "My car's just a couple streets away."

He walks me to my car, and he's looking at me like he wants to put his arm around my shoulders, but he doesn't. If I were just a smidge less proud, I'd grab his cape and wrap it around me. That sucker cuts the wind like nobody's business. When we finally get to the car, it takes me three tries to get my keys out of my purse, and when I do, Superman reaches over, takes them out of my hand, unlocks the car and slides into the drivers' seat.

I look at him for a second, and then I head around for the passenger side. "You can drive?"

Superman looks over at me, cape kind of crumpled between his body and the seat. "Why not?"

"Yeah, okay." I lean back in my seat and close my eyes. He cranks up the heat, and pulls out onto the street. Neither one of us says anything for a while. He's always quiet-- that's just how he is. It takes an effort, but I'm quiet, too. The best way to get him to take off is to start interrogating him-- believe me, I know. He's trapped in the car with me now, so I could just pelt him with questions, but I'm tired, and he's being weirdly nice. So I just sit and bask in the warm little glow of virtuous restraint.

As he slows the car to a stop in front of my apartment, I decide virtue is for suckers. He's already stayed longer than he usually does, so maybe he's in the mood to talk. And if he's not, he was probably just about to leave anyway, so I'm not losing anything by asking, right? I rub my hands together, not looking at him, and he reaches out, all of a sudden, and takes my hands in his own. He looks at them for a second, and all of a sudden they're tingling, warmer, and I laugh in delight. Superman smiles at me, a little shyly-- I think this is the first time he's touched me that wasn't, you know, business. "You always show up when I'm in trouble, don't you." The words come out before I can stop them, and he pulls his hands away. "How do you know? I mean, not that I'm complaining. Just seems like we've got ourselves a little routine, here."

When I look up-- shit, he doesn't look pissed, or even tolerantly amused, the way he gets when I start spouting questions we both know he's not going to answer. He looks scared, and hurt. "I..."

He reaches hurriedly for the doorhandle and gets out. I flinch away from the blast of cold. Icy, scouring bits of snow are blowing across the parking lot, and the temperature outside is shocking after the warmth of the car. Superman comes around to my side to let me out and shield me from the wind.

"Superman?" I ask, but he doesn't look at me, just takes my arm and walks me through the parking lot, up to the lighted awning in front of my building. I guess when Superman decides to be a gentleman he gives it the whole nine yards. Even if the lady he's escorting isn't exactly being a lady.

My doorman Franco is all Metropolis attitude, seen-it-all and unshakable, and he doesn't even raise an eyebrow, when I walk up soaking-wet with Superman on my arm. He keeps his eyes front, even when I tell Superman, "Thanks for the ride."

Superman looks at me and I can tell-- he wants to say, "Be more careful." I know this beyond a shadow of a doubt. Not because I'm good at reading Superman's expressions-- it's more because I've been getting that same advice from just about everyone I've ever met since I was eight years old. But all he says is "Goodnight, Miss Lane."

I'm about to say 'What happened to Lois?' but then I sneeze, and Superman's gone before I open my eyes.

*

A couple of hours later, after extensive shower and nap therapy plus an intense session at Franco's for hair and nails work, I was hanging out on the patio outside the eighty-seventh floor of LexCorp towers, having a peaceful smoke. Below me, on the eighty-sixth floor, I could hear the party going on, voices and laughter and music from a string quartet. Above me there was only one more floor, the penthouse, and Luthor was down at the party by now. So it was almost like being alone in the night sky. Almost like flying, and that was enough to make me smile a little.

The door clicked open behind me. I wondered if it was my parter come looking for me. He was usually late-- kind of flaky that way-- but it didn't matter yet. Nobody interesting was going to get to Lex's bash for at least half an hour. It wasn't him, though; it was a blonde I didn't know. I'd noticed her downstairs when she came in. Most of the women in the room, myself included, had gone with the classic Little Black Dress, but she was wearing this red crushed-velvet sheath with a fringed wrap. Mix-and-match gypsy vintage, including the jewelry, but she managed to make it look classy enough for a Luthor bash.

"Mind if I join you?" she said.

"Free country," I said.

She leaned against the rail, looking down and laughing nervously. "Guess you're not scared of falling."

"Yeah, yeah, 'Superman's Girlfriend,' get the fuck over it, Metropolis." Okay, so maybe the nap therapy hadn't been quite intensive enough. The blonde blinked at me, eyes wide.

"Hey, you are! I mean, you're Lois Lane. I, ah. I didn't recognize you."

Oh, god. "Oh. Sorry. Um."

She grinned and stuck her hand out. "Chloe Sullivan, assistant to the head of local news at LexComm. Really, don't worry about it, it's probably my karma. I used to have a picture of you in my office that I'd throw darts at in between, you know, fetching coffee or interviewing the baby otters at the zoo."

"Ah, so you're that bitch who scooped the baby otters!" I said, stubbing out my cigarette and flicking it into space. Mentally I slapped myself in the head-- I'd already been peevish once in a five-minute period, I could at least try to reign in the so-called Lane wit. But she just laughed out loud as I shook her hand.

"Yeah," Chloe said, "all we need is that dipstick who writes 'Dear Darlene,' and we've got ourselves a regular Metropolis Journalism Girls' Club meeting."

I grinned. "So is there a reason I was subjected to the slings and arrows of Chloe Sullivan?"

"Superman," she said, slanting her mouth in a mocking pout. The thought leaped into my head that Chloe's dress went with her face: mix-and-match. Pretty, but more interesting than pretty. Saying that kind of thing out loud is why I had to get a nose job my sophomore year in college. Wasn't vanity, no matter what the Inquisitor says. It was Mindy Macready and a definite misunderstanding about the bonds of friendship, caring and forgiveness between sorority sisters. Still, there was something about Chloe that I liked already, though I couldn't quite put my finger on it.

"Yeah," I said, lighting another cigarette. "Sorry about the, you know. It's been kind of a long day, and, well..." She raised her eyebrows, and I continued. "It's not all perks, you know? I did the big interview, and people see him show up when I'm in trouble, so they just assume that I take dumb risks because I've got my big, strong boyfriend to take care of me."

Chloe nodded. "Whereas, the reality of the situation is, you'd just pull these stupid stunts anyway?"

I stuck my tongue in my cheek. Okay, I knew now why I liked Chloe. She reminded me of me. After I finished my cigarette, we headed back down to the party together, and I found a waiter with a tray of champagne glasses, tipped him a twenty and stole the bottle. "'Three be the things I shall never attain-- '"

"'Envy, content and sufficient champagne,'" Chloe finished, raising her glass to me with a grin.

"I love a girl who knows her Parker," I said.

"Yeah, well, thanks to you I've got the envy and the champagne down," she said as we ducked behind a row of ferns. Lounging on an out-of-the-way divan, killing the bottle, it didn't take much to get her started on her life story. Journalists are all just a bunch of attention-hungry storytellers, anyway. The night wore on, we got tipsy, and I got the lowdown. Chloe was four years younger than me, and her father had worked for LexCorp when it was still the poetically named Fertilizer Plant Number Three.

Thanks to her father, she'd actually gotten an interview with the scion himself for the school paper, and I made a mental note to look that up. Being interviewed by a cute little blonde for an amateur puff piece-- who knows what kind of things he'd said? And Chloe didn't seem like the type to let things get by. Luthor must have thought the interview was memorable, anyway, because as soon as Sullivan graduated from Met U, she got offered a job at LexComm. "So wait," I asked, "you're actually from Smallville?"

"God, no. I'm from Metropolis," Chloe said, waving her hand. I figured. She didn't talk or dress like a Smallville expatriate, unlike some people I happen to know. "I spent some time there, but I don't remember much about the place-- you know how it is, everything's the same with nothing to do. Have you ever been out that way?"

I shook my head. "My partner's from there. He keeps wanting to drag me out for some rustic corn-themed function, but somehow I always manage to have plans."

"Awww, too bad," Chloe said. "Though it's probably good that you waited. They only got a Starbucks last year."

"Good god," I said, and she nodded.

"So what's your partner's name? Maybe I've met him," Chloe said.

"Oh, Kent, Clark Kent. Big guy, dark hair. Doesn't talk about high school much, but I have the sneaking suspicion he was either chess club or a major band geek."

"No, doesn't ring a bell. I guess he wasn't a student journalist anyway, or I'd remember him," Chloe said. "But anyway. Like I said, I wasn't there for that long, and really, the town wasn't that small. Guess our paths just didn't cross."

*

Clark finally showed up about two hours late, with his tie tied so badly it hurt to look at. I used to think no one could achieve such incredible levels of dork without putting intense effort into it, but tonight the tie was the worst of it, really. He'd even combed his hair somewhat decently. He was wandering around the ballroom, probably looking for me. I sighed and patted Chloe on the arm. "Duty calls. That's Kent over there in the bad suit."

"Huh," she said, then looked over at me from under her eyelashes. "You said he was single, right?"

I snorted. "The dateless wonder? Perpetually."

She glanced at me. "Seriously? What's his fatal flaw?"

I shrugged. "Shy, I guess. Although now that I think about it, could be it's just Metropolis women who intimidate him. What do you remember about male/female relationships from Smallville?"

"Pickup trucks were important, the bigger the better, which personally led me to theorize-- never mind."

"Clark drives an Audi," I reassured her. "Want me to introduce you?"

She brushed her hand back over her hair, and giggled. "Sure!"

I walked ahead of Chloe as we approached Clark, stepping in front of him and straightening his tie before he could turn around. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. "Clark, glad you could make it. This is Chloe Sullivan."

He turned, and his eyes went wide. He pushed his glasses up his nose and fiddled with them till I had to dig an elbow into his side to get him to take his hand down and shake hers. She just laughed, smiling up at him. "And you're Clark! Lois has told me all about you."

He looked at her, and then he looked at me and blinked. "Lois, have you been drinking?" I raised my eyebrows, and he backtracked. "I just mean-- didn't you just get knocked in the river? You don't want to push it, you could make yourself sick."

"I'm fine, Clark," I said, maybe a little snappishly, and he frowned at me.

"Let me drive you home, okay?"

I sighed and shot an apologetic glance at Chloe. She just smiled, obviously finding Clark's mother-hen routine charming rather than extremely freaking annoying. Meanwhile, I went to the file on Clark in my head, crossed out 'shy' and wrote in 'clueless.' "Fine," I said, "let me get my coat."

*

There was a thin layer of snow coating the city, and black ice on some of the streets. I closed my eyes, determined to enjoy as much of my champagne buzz as possible, and trusted Clark to get me home without killing me. When we got back to my place, he actually walked with me the entire way, riding up with me in the elevator and walking me to my apartment door. Overdoing the big-protective-man routine just a bit, but I was too buzzed to really mind, which meant it probably wasn't such a bad idea. Oh, and when we got to my door? Unlike Superman, he actually said it. "Take care of yourself, okay?"

He looked a little nervous afterwards, like he thought I was going to smack him for it, but like I said, I'm used to it. "Chloe's single, you know," I said, and he looked away. "She thought you were cute."

"Oh, um... oh. I don't know, Lois." I could see him trying to act casual. Clark was a really pathetic liar. "I'm just really busy these days. You know how work gets, and..."

I smiled. "Hey, it's okay. She's nice, but if she's not your type, whatever. Just tell me if I should be setting you up with guys instead. You know my friend Isaac at the D.A.'s office? He's-- "

"No-- Lois, I-- " He laughed, then bit his lip. "I'm just-- not right now."

"Okay, jeez, I just thought I'd do you a favor!" I waved a hand, sweeping the whole idea away, then lowered my voice. "I just never see you with anybody, Clark. I don't want you to be lonely."

Clark's eyes widened, and he looked at me like I'd just admitted that I regularly donated half my yearly income to a home for indigent puppies and kittens. Stupid champagne. Makes me sentimental. Not my fault at all. Clark smiled at me, one of those movie-star smiles he occasionally comes out with, and took a step back. "Goodnight, Lois."

I watched him walk away. "Goodnight."

*

I'm so tired. I let myself into my apartment, leaving the lights off; my pupils are so dilated I can see almost as clearly as I need to by the moonlight alone. It's bright tonight, reflecting off all the snow. I wander over to the window and lean close, my cheek almost touching the glass. The chill feels good. The city looks so different tonight. It's just snow, and not even a lot of it, but the gloss makes Metropolis look totally different, totally alien, like a totally different city, and wow, I am drunk if I've just said totally three times, even in my head.

Behind me, someone clears his throat and I'm hoisting the inch-thick crystal vase that I usually keep on the table near the window before he holds out a hand and I see who it is. The moonlight gleams off his shoulders and his cape, and I put the vase down. "How'd you get in here?"

He glances past me, out the window, then back into my eyes. He swallows. This look, I know. He looked like this all through our first interview. He has something to say, and he doesn't want to get side-tracked, because he's only about to say it once.

I can barely see him in the shadows. He opens his mouth to say something, then doesn't. I lean against the cold window, the ghostly city behind me, and there's no louder sound than the wind. "Mom... my mom used to shop around every rummage sale in the county," he finally says. "We had this game, 'Let's Not Break As Many Teacups As We Did Last Time.'" He laughs, softly. "By the time I realized not everybody had to play that game, we didn't need to anymore."

Wow. I think that's the most words he's ever said to me that weren't on the lines of 'Tell the world I come in peace' or else instructions for defusing a bomb.

"I learned to control my speed through trial and error. The first time I tried to run till I got tired... I ended up lost." He smiles a little, and I laugh, because I can't really picture it. Superman as a kid. Bet he was cute. "Wandered around for hours somewhere in the next county before I found a cop who could drive me home. I blew up a lot of stuff before I got the trick of heat vision..."

I wait, listening to the wind, and finally prompt him. "What about flying?"

He raises his head, a dark silhouette limned in moonlight, like the city in the snow. "Dreams. I would... I'd dream I was flying and wake up doing it."

"Bet your girlfriends were wild about that."

He shifts, then glances towards my front door. Damn it. I've said the wrong thing again. "It's late," he says, "and I didn't mean to bother you. I should go."

"Hey, wait!" I reach out, catching his arm. He's warm, but hard as marble. "You were going to tell me something." He just looks at me, and I shake my head at him. "I asked you a question. Earlier. You never answered me. How do you know when I need you?"

He flinches, but his mouth has a little quirk to it, and I have to smile. Sneaky bastard! Distracting me with baby stories.

"You kissed me," he says, and I make a face and take my hand off his arm. Oh God. It was after the interview, the first one he ever gave anybody. He took me flying and it was such a rush, I was so high. Like breathing pure oxygen, not to mention the thrill of being the first person to ever interview an alien. So he got me back to my balcony and I stuck my tongue down his throat, and he froze up like I'd just stripped naked and yelled 'I want to bear your alien hybrid babies.' There was stammering, apologizing, blushing and that was all just him-- let's not dwell.

"Oh." I lick my lips. "We never really-- talked about that. Sorry. I mean-- "

"No." He reaches over like he wants to touch my arm, but he doesn't. "It was nice. And it's not that I didn't want to..."

"Holy shit, you can read my mind." It comes out of my mouth the same millisecond my brain puts it together. "I kissed you and now you can-- what?-- it's like Jimmy's fucking signal watch idea, except it works? Or-- "

"It's not like that! It-- it doesn't work like that." God, he looks twice as freaked out now as he did just after I kissed him. "It doesn't work all the time, just when you're in danger. Just when you need help. And I never-- I don't know what you're thinking."

I stare into his eyes, thinking about the hottest, dirtiest sex things I can think of, and he just blinks at me, so I guess he can't really read my mind.

He lets out a breath, and I didn't realize how tense he was until just now, all wound up and practically shaking with it. "I didn't do it on purpose, Miss Lane. It just-- I know you want people respect your work, I know you don't want them to think of you as my girlfriend. But I know when you're in trouble, and I... what am I supposed to do?"

I cross my arms, lean back against the window and sigh. So. Now I know. I have some kind of psychic bond with an alien life form. Go me. I guess on the whole it's better than my other theory, which was that he was totally in love, obsessed with me and super-stalking me all the time.

"I'm not mad," I offer. Can't really be, thinking of the kid he was, the one who tried so hard not to break all those teacups and then moved on to accidentally blowing up stuff with his eyes.

Superman sighs a little, the tension slipping away. "Thank you, Miss Lane."

I shrug. "I guess I'll see you around."

He nods, and turns to leave. He gets two steps away, almost to the door, and the words are leaving my mouth before they've even fully formed in my head.

"What happened to her?"

It gets him right between the shoulder-blades. I can hear him suck in a breath like he's been punched, except he doesn't even sound like that when he gets shot.

I didn't mean to do that, didn't mean to ambush him, but the question just came to me. Killer instinct. It's what makes me good.

It's why I don't have many friends.

"Nothing," he says, and I've never heard him sound like that.

And maybe if I were smarter I'd just shut the hell up, but I'm not. There had to have been someone before me. "No. Something happened, something that made you scared to get close. What happened to her?"

He still hasn't turned around. All I can see is the back of his neck, his bent head, the cape falling down from his shoulders. "She loved me. She didn't... I don't think she wanted... It hurt her. She said she'd have been happier if she'd never." He takes a staggered breath. "I kissed her. And after that... She didn't know me at all."

There's a swift cold wind and my front door slams. I'm alone.

I shiver, and step away from the window, and go to bed. Christ, I wish I were drunker than this. I don't want to remember this.

But of course I do.

*

Clark's pretty quiet all the next morning at work. Which is good, because my internal monologue mostly consists of 'Fucking champagne hangover. Fucking sore throat. Fucking Clark, being right about the fucking sore throat...'

It's snowing harder today, big clumps of it whacking against the office windows. The sound is just uneven enough to irritate the hell out of me. I can't block it out. It makes me want to scoot my desk into the supply closet and stuff paper under the door to block the sound. For a while I consider making Clark do it for me.

For a while I wonder what else Superman could make me forget. That affair with my Art History teacher in college, maybe. Except then of course you've got your eternal dilemma where if you forget your painful experiences, you also forget the lessons you learned from them-- and if I forgot the lessons I learned from Professor Williams about my "issues" with paternal authority figures, there'd be nothing to keep me from doing the same exact thing again. Well, except the fact that Perry's happily married...

...and now I want to forget I ever had that thought. Ack.

"Clark, if you could forget one thing, what would you forget?"

He looks up at me, startled. "What?"

"If you could wipe one thing out of your memory. Theoretically. What would you want to forget?"

"If I could..." He blinks behind his glasses. "I'd rather be able to wipe something out of history. I mean... okay, maybe I want to forget something embarrassing. Or something I shouldn't have done. It still happened. People were still affected by it."

"Forgetting is pointless?" I think about that. In my case it wouldn't be. I don't want what they say about me to be true. I want to be Lois Lane, not Superman's girlfriend, and he could do that for me. Make me forget he'll always be there, so I don't start doing what everyone thinks I'm already doing. Depending on him. Shaping my life around the knowledge that I'll always have someone to get me out of trouble. I mean, how do I know I'm not already doing that, subconsciously? I don't think I am, but how do I know? I do know that I'm going to make myself neurotic over this. And it's all my fault. That stupid kiss.

Stupid, stupid.

I reach across the desk and take a long drink of Clark's coffee.

"Hey!"

I stand up. "You might want to get a fresh mug. I have germs."

"Where are you going?"

"Up. Down. I don't... never mind."

*

Now, normally, I don't jump off buildings. But I've had a really bad forty-eight hours and if Superman's telling the truth, then I should be fine, right? Right. I lick my lips, tasting Clark's coffee, kick my shoes off and and put my foot up on the rail. It's slippery with snow. My toes don't even have time to curl from the cold before there's a hard arm around my waist, and Superman pushes me back up against the metal door. His face is almost as pale as the white sky behind him.

"What are you doing?" he demands.

"Isn't it obvious?"

He takes a breath, moving back. Snow blows between us. It melts when it hits his shoulders, his hair. "What-- what do you need?"

"Practice on me."

"What?"

"You never kissed anybody again, did you. After you made that girl forget."

He's shaking his head, little panic lines appearing under his eyes. "No, of course not. I couldn't risk it. Lois-- "

"You said it yourself. You learned to do what you do by practicing. Everything else you do... you have so much control. You can fly faster than the speed of sound, but you can stop on a dime. With your eyes-- you can melt a glacier or you can warm up my hands. I bet if you practiced-- " I grab his cape as he turns away. "Superman, maybe eventually you could give her those memories back."

He stares at me with something like hope. Fear and hope and hunger. "It could be dangerous..."

"You remember that I'm Lois Lane, right? Danger is my middle name."

He smiles at me, a weirdly fond smile. "Joanne is your middle name."

"Lois Joanne Danger Lane." I grab the other side of his cape with my other hand and pull myself a little closer, blinking snow out of my eyelashes. "Kiss me."

He looks away for a long moment. This close, he's really warm. He doesn't smell like anything but snow. "You want to forget that I'll always be around when you need me. She wanted to forget because I wasn't ever around for her."

"Yeah, women are strange. Try it. Kiss me." I grin. What a rush. "I'll be thinking of the time I let Nicky Roberts cheat off my math test in sixth grade because he said he liked me."

"But-- "

"Believe me, I have more than enough humiliating experiences with men to make up for losing that one. Come on. Try it."

He puts his arms around me suddenly, pulling me into a warm hug, and after a second I realize that he's scared, that he's asking me to tell him everything will be okay. I reach up to wrap my arms around my shoulders, and I hold him tight. This close, I'm not cold at all. "Are you sure?"

"I trust you."

He smiles at me, wryly, and then he pulls back. His eyes are dark, and scared, and alien like everybody's eyes are alien except the ones in the mirror, and sometimes those too.

He leans in very slowly, and his lips brush across mine. Only our mouths are touching, but I get that same tingly warm feeling. And I hear a girl laughing, a strangely familiar voice. There's a picture in my head that wasn't there before, a movie projected on the inside of my skull. A girl that I know, standing on the front steps of a familiar house I've never seen before, hands clasped around the strap of a backpack over her shoulder. There's a clunky bracelet around her wrist and I have to stare at it instead of looking her in the face because I can't stand to see her crying. I feel so much. So much. Guilt, and love, and the need to make things better, and her eyes are bright with tears, and I remember kissing her, this same feeling, this liquid silver connection--

Superman breaks away from me, breathing hard. "I tried... Did you..."

I touch my mouth. "I. I saw her. She had a bracelet. Kanji on it. She was crying."

Superman's face lights up and he kisses me again, this time quickly, and I get a flash of pure joy that fills me up so quick and so bright I wonder if I've suddenly turned blonde. Like I ought to have wild spiky hair like Chloe Sullivan's. Wouldn't she be jealous if I ever told her about this? I'd have to give her a fresh headshot. I laugh, and Superman blinks at me. "What are you thinking?"

"Nothing. Random things. Doesn't matter. Hey, I'm going to try thinking of that math test again."

"Right." He nods, and his eyes flicker to my mouth, and then he jerks his head up, a familiar gesture, one that I've seen a million times. Something far away. A job for Superman. "I have to-- Can I-- "

I nod, encouragingly. "Drop by any time."

He's gone before I can reach out to smudge my lipstick off the corner of his mouth. I just hope there aren't any reporters from the Inquisitor wherever he's headed.

I re-apply my smeared lipstick in the stairwell, smiling to myself. Wonderful. I am a force for good in the universe, a benevolent goddess. My strength is the strength of ten, because I kick fucking ass-- this is going to be better than therapy ever was. I'm going to put in a full day's work today even though I've got a champagne hangover and am probably dying because I've got horrible chemical poisoning from my dip in the river. I'm even going to go that extra mile and not even be that mean to Clark. In fact, I think that'll be my next project. I'll give him some time, but just as soon as I'm done helping Superman develop his powers so he can make things right with that old girlfriend of his-- I'm going start setting Clark up with every single person I know.

Starting off with Chloe Sullivan, because... I don't know why.

Just because.



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