Back to Work
“Okay,” Lana replied. Jeans…over there in front of the TV, Henley…draped on the back of the sofa, bra…dangling from a blade of the ceiling fan. Crap, how’d that get up there? Lana stretched up on her toes to snag a strap and slide the bra off of the fan. At least my socks and shoes are sitting on the floor where they should be.
Now that Lana had her clothes located she quickly pulled them on and headed for Clark’s kitchen. She found some bagels on the counter and looked into the fridge to see if there was any butter or cream cheese while she waited for Clark to dress. She found a plastic tub of Philadelphia Cream Cheese and a half gallon of whole milk, and also saw little bit of the leftover Thai from their dinner the other night.
Whole milk. All that fat is a clogged artery just waiting to happen. Who drinks that stuff any more? Lana wondered. Obviously, Clark does. It must be nice to be able to eat as much of whatever you want and feel no ill effects from it. I’ve gotta be careful about what I eat and then workout, or else I’ll blow up like a balloon. Which reminds me, I need to ask Clark if we can go by the gym on the way home tonight so I can sign up.
Not wanting to drink water with her bagel and cream cheese, and not wanting to take the time to brew a cup of coffee, Lana sighed and reluctantly poured herself a small glass of the milk. She was just licking the last crumbs off her fingertips when a freshly showered and shaved Clark Kent came out into the living room, nattily attired in a crisp bronze-colored suit.
He was so beautiful. All Lana could do was stare and hope to God she wasn’t drooling. It wasn’t until Clark walked right up to her and asked where her coat was, that she was able to tear her eyes away from him.
Lana tapped her lower lip with the tip of a forefinger as she thought for a second before remembering that she hadn’t worn a coat when she came over here last night. “I, uh, didn’t wear one,” she admitted.
“I was in such a hurry to beat some sense into you, that when I left my place last night, I rushed right out the door and down to the lobby without putting on my coat.”
“Huh. I never even noticed that when you came over.”
“Yeah,” Lana said, chuckling slightly, “that would explain the funny look that Bill kept giving me down in the lobby while I was waiting for the cab he called for me.”
“Well…let me see. I might have something that will do for a short flight.” Clark disappeared into his bedroom and came out seconds later with a royal blue sweatshirt. He handed it to Lana and she pulled it on, pushing the voluminous sleeves back up her arms until her small hands popped out of the cuffs. The hem of the sweatshirt hung halfway between her waist and her knees, and the sweatshirt was baggy enough that two or three of her could have fit inside it at the same time.
As Lana pulled her lengthy hair out of the sweatshirt’s crew-neck collar, Clark couldn’t help but think of how adorable she looked. Her bed hair and sleep-damaged makeup didn’t affect that in the least. He thought he could easily spend the rest of his life waking up with her.
Lana saw his goofy smile, and uncertain of what it meant, she asked, “You aren’t laughing at me, are you? Because I know this fits me like a circus tent.”
“Not laughing. Admiring.” Clark stepped forward and tucked a stray couple of strands of hair behind one of her ears. “Just a few minutes ago, you showed me how sexy you are. Now, I’m admiring how cute you are. It’s rare for a woman to be both. That’s just one reason among many that I’m so lucky to be the guy you’ve chosen to be with.”
Lana was in a hurry to get home, but that had to wait just a minute longer because she couldn’t wait another second to give Clark a kiss.
You name it, Lana’s kiss did it. When she finally let Clark go, his eyes were glassy and unfocused, and his breaths were ragged and uneven. His only halfway coherent thought was, Lana Lang and Kryptonite: the two things that bring me to my knees.
As Clark regained his mental balance, that last thought made him realize there was a lot of things about himself he hadn’t told Lana yet, his Kryptonite weakness being chief among them.
Escorting Lana toward the door, Clark said, “We definitely have to talk tonight once we get home.”
“There are a few more things about me that you need to know about.”
“Okay,” Lana said, “I love learning things about you.”
“Just remember you said that.” When Lana quirked an eyebrow at him, Clark explained. “What I have to say may not be easy for you to hear.”
Lana stopped right in front of the door and said, “It’ll be okay, Clark. If I can handle learning you’re a super-powered alien, I think I can handle anything.”
“Okay. Let’s see if you can handle this then: wait for me on the balcony. I’ve gotta go downstairs and find either a vacant alley or an empty rooftop where I can change clothes and then take off. I should be on the balcony in two or three minutes to get you since I plan on super-speeding down the stairs.”
Lana pulled the door open for Clark, as she said, “Oh, by the way, I’d like to stop by your health club to sign up for a membership after work. Is that okay with you?”
“Sure. Though I’ll have to fly you back here as Superman and then I can go with you as Clark.”
“How come?” Lana asked. She thought she knew the answer, but making sure never hurt.
“Even though I don’t look or sound like Superman, I try hard to make sure that Superman doesn’t go places where Clark Kent is well known, and vice-versa. Someone might notice how similarly-sized we are, or maybe they’d pick up on the fact that we have similar mannerisms, and that could start them wondering, which is something you and I don’t want.”
Clark dipped into the hall closet for his wool-lined overcoat before leaving. True to his word, he was on the balcony three minutes after Lana closed and locked the door behind him. He was Superman once more, and asked, with a special twinkle in his eye, “Are you ready?”
“Yeah, I hope I’ll get the chance to enjoy flying this time. Yesterday was a bit hectic.”
Superman scooped Lana into his arms and launched them into the air. Lana’s building wasn’t too far, so it only took them three to four minutes to cover the distance. Once securely on her balcony, Lana unlocked the door and waited while Superman…no, while Clark, searched her condo to make sure there weren’t any nasty surprises.
Lana refused to think of Clark and Superman as being two different people any longer. As far as she was concerned, Clark was a man who just happened to have two jobs. One was as an award-winning newspaper reporter for the Daily Planet, and the other was as Superman.
Once he gave her the all-clear, she raced inside for an abbreviated version of her morning toilette. She was ready to go in near-record time, with her still-damp hair in a loosely-knotted bun, a full fifteen minutes before she was scheduled to be at work.
Clark didn’t like the idea of flying Lana through the sub-freezing winter air with her head being wet, so he rustled up a towel and a brush from Lana’s master bathroom and after freeing her hair from the bun, began using small, rapid hand movements with the towel to dry her hair a section at a time. Then, he picked up the brush and carefully worked each section to keep it from snarling on her. Every time the towel became too damp, Clark used a light application of his heat vision to both dry and warm the towel so he could get back to her hair.
Once again, Lana got to enjoy Clark’s personal attention to her hair. Once he finished drying and brushing, she quickly wound her hair back into a messy knot which she intended to neaten up once she got to her office. Only ten minutes remained when they stepped out onto the balcony and Lana locked her door.
“Come on, Lana, let’s get you to work.”
This time Lana had on a proper, full-length winter coat along with gloves and a wool scarf. She had wisely chosen to wear thick sweatpants under her skirt to keep any high-altitude drafts from freezing her to death.
Soaring over the majestic skyline of Metropolis, Lana marveled at the view. The people on the streets below looked microscopic and the cars and trucks looked like they were Hot Wheels. But the thing that struck her most forcefully was how quiet it was up there. She was used to the din of honking horns, swearing cab drivers, the out-gassing of air brakes on city buses, and street vendors hawking their wares. Up here, the only sound was the hammering of her heart.
They didn’t say much on the flight to the Siegel Center as Lana spent her time drinking in the sights, while Clark split his time between watching where he was going and watching Lana.
As he watched, he thought the trauma of yesterday morning looked to be far behind her, but he knew it would return full-force as soon as she reached work. As a member of the media, he knew there would be a huge crowd of reporters waiting for her. The fact that she was involved in a high-profile case and had just survived an assassination attempt would draw nationwide coverage. Add in her beauty and poise, and she’d make the perfect subject for a highly sympathetic story.
Lana was about to become a minor national celebrity.
They finally landed on the roof at almost the exact spot where Lana accidentally pulled off Clark’s mask and set in motion everything else that happened yesterday. Still in his Superman suit, Clark led Lana into the building where she immediately stripped off the sweatpants and asked Clark to hold them for her in his N-space box.
Once he had the sweats put away and the box back in place on his belt, the two of them walked down a couple of floors and then waited for an elevator down to the tenth floor. While they waited, Clark decided to make sure Lana knew what was going to be waiting for her once she got to work.
“Umm…Lana?” Clark asked, with Superman’s powerful voice.
“Yes?” Lana was already having to be careful about what name she used when she talked to Clark. She had to make sure she never called him Clark when he was in red and blue and never called him Superman when he was in a business suit.
“You do know you’re about to step into a full-blown media circus when you get to work today…right?”
“You mean, every news outlet in town is going to be after my story about yesterday?”
“In town?” Clark asked. Suddenly sure she had no idea what she was in for, Clark waited until they got into the elevator and started to move. He then disabled the security camera, hit the red emergency stop button, and said, “Not just in town. Every news organization in Kansas that has any kind of an out-of-town budget will have someone here, and all of the national news organizations will be here, too.”
Clark could see Lana getting paler by the moment, which made him glad he had stopped the elevator. She would need a minute or two to recalibrate her thinking.
“The good thing is,” Clark said, as he went on, “I think they'll be waiting to jump you in the lobby, so we’re outflanking them by coming in this way.”
“Maybe I can get a cup of coffee and organize my thoughts for a bit before I have to face them.”
Clark looked into Lana’s eyes, and asked, “Would you like for me to be there? As Superman? That way, I might be able to divert some of their attention away from you.”
“Really? You’d do that for me?”
“Of course! What wouldn’t I do for you?”
“But…what about work?”
“I’ve got an untold number of unused personal days. Looks like it’s time for me to finally take one.”
Clark pulled out his N-space box and rummaged around in it until he located his cell phone. He then scrolled down his list of numbers and called Perry’s office directly.
“Hi, Perry. It’s Clark Kent…well, what I want is to take a personal day off…Lana is still dealing with the aftermath of yesterday’s assassination attempt…don’t worry, Chief, I’ll only give my side of the story to Chloe. It ought to give her an extra angle no one else has…Yeah, I’ll see you tomorrow, Chief.”
As Clark closed down his cell phone, he saw another name on his list of numbers and remembered he needed to call in some extra help. Mostly, he needed someone to watch over Metropolis while he watched over Lana. His big fear right now, which he had yet to voice to Lana, was that the thugs trying to kill her would now try to pull him away from her by staging serious incidents all over town, so they could then move in for the kill.
Clark restarted the elevator and handed the cell phone to Lana so anyone who saw them would think it was hers. When the elevator stopped on the tenth floor, Lana squeezed Clark’s hand once before the door slid open, revealing a mostly empty lobby. Clark checked the room quickly with his x-ray vision before leading Lana over to the high-security entrance to the D.A.’s office complex.
The guards were relieved to see Miss Lang unharmed and being closely guarded by Superman. Ever since yesterday’s attack, no one had been able to reach her, and some had started fearing she had been shot after all. They didn’t know that Lana, just like the man next to her, had had her phone turned off all day long and hadn’t even thought about checking her messages.
Clark chuckled as they scanned Superman for weapons as he followed Lana inside, since the only guns he carried were stuffed inside the sleeves of his red and blue suit. Once in side the office, Lana had to deal with her co-workers as they uniformly expressed their concern about what happened and their pleasure at her safe return.
It wasn’t until she made it passed Maria and was safely ensconced in her office that Lana could relax. Clark used his x-ray vision to check that no one was coming in behind them and then he locked the door. Lana handed his cell phone back and then set her briefcase down on her desk before moving to the small cabinet in the corner where her personal coffee maker was already brewing its first pot of the day.
Good, old Maria, Lana thought. She always knows just how I like it.
While Lana waited for the coffee to finish brewing, Clark reluctantly made the call. He knew it was only 6 a.m. out on the left coast, but this was the only call he could make. Even though he would take a ribbing for having to admit he needed some help, this was too important for him to let his ego get in the way.
After six rings, a groggy voice answered. “Wha? Who the frack is callin’ me at 6 in the blessed a.m.? This had better be good.”
“If you’d ease up on the late nights, Kara, you’d be awake enough to remember to read your caller ID. Then you’d know it’s me, Clark.”
“Oh shizz, Coz,” Kara said. If Clark didn’t know any better, he’d think his cousin was drunk, or at least hung over, but Kryptonian biochemistry didn’t work that way. “There had better be a mess of escapees from the PZ to deal with if you’re gonna wake me up this early.”
She was joking. She knew Clark never called on her for help. She thought he had a little bit too much stiff-necked pride for his own good when it came to that, so what he said next came as a complete shock, waking her up as effectively as a bucket of ice-cold water.
“Kara, I need your help.”
A gasp, and then, “The hell you say! You must be Bizarro, ‘cause the Clark Kent I know would never ask for help.”
“You know I’m not Bizarro, Kara, my syntax is too good.” All he got was a humph of agreement, but that was enough. “Just please meet me on the roof of the Siegel Center in ten minutes.”
Kara may have been tired, but she had seen C.N.N. and heard about her cousin’s dramatic rescue of the new Metropolis Deputy D.A. From the publicity shot of her that had been shown on screen, Kara knew the woman was exceptionally beautiful. She thought back and realized that the emphasis that Clark had just placed on the word ‘please’ hadn’t been him asking for her help, it had been him begging for it.
Kara couldn’t wait to meet this Deputy D.A. She must be a real piece of work, because she had turned the Man of Steel into a puddle of molten goo. “Okay, Coz, I’ll be there, but make it fifteen minutes. I need a shower.”