By Wendy Richards <w.m.Richards@hrm.keele.ac.uk>
Submitted September 1999
Summary: Lois is in mourning after she watched Clark killed in "That Old Gang Of Mine" … but a knock on her door gives her the surprise of her life.
Lois sat slumped on her sofa, tears still streaming down her face. It was three hours since that dreadful, paralysing moment at the club, but her grief and pain had not even begun to abate. Perry had offered to take her home with him; Jimmy had offered to stay with her, but Lois had refused both offers. She wanted to be alone with her own thoughts and memories.
Clark was dead.
Clark, her best friend, the man who, she was only beginning to realise, meant more to her than anyone else in her life, had been shot at point-blank range, right in front of her. He had looked taken aback as he'd been faced with the gun, but had still placed his body in front of hers, shielding her from any danger.
One shot had rung out; one shot had been all it had taken to fell her best friend to the ground.
Clark had crumpled and fallen to the floor in front of her, and had lain still, so still. Even as she had been weeping over his body, Capone had ordered his thugs to get rid of Clark; he hadn't wanted no 'stiffs' littering up the place.
Lois choked back another sob as she recognised that if she hadn't insisted on going to the club in the first instance, Clark would still be alive. But she had; and he was now dead as a result. She would never again hear him call her 'Lo-isss' in that way he had when he was trying to tell her he was irritated at something (but he wasn't really); she would never be able to call him late at night when she couldn't sleep and needed someone to talk to; she couldn't just drive over to his place and watch movies with him for hours; she would never again be able to bounce story ideas off him. And she would never again glance up and catch him watching her with that wistful little smile on his face; that smile which seemed to say that he cared for her more than he ever dared tell her.
Had he really been in love with her? Lois wasn't sure. Once, she would have said 'yes' without hesitation, but that had been before he had stood in front of the Planet and told her that he wasn't in love with her, that he had lied, that he only saw her as a friend. Since then, it had been much more difficult to interpret his feelings for her. He cared about her very much - *had* cared, she reminded herself - that was obvious. He had been there for her through all those long weeks after her abortive wedding and the horrible discovery that Lex had been a criminal; he had held her when she cried, and had listened to her for long hours when she'd needed to talk. He had protected her when she'd been in danger - and tonight he had secured her safety with his own life.
Yes, she mused with a renewed spate of tears, Clark had loved her. And, what was more, no-one else had ever loved her in the way he had; and she had a sneaking suspicion that she would never again be loved so thoroughly, so unselfishly. Even Superman, who she believed cared about her, didn't love her like that. He didn't value her happiness over his own. He liked being with her - and he also would ensure her safety whenever he was required - but he didn't want her, didn't need her.
Superman! Lois stilled suddenly. Had anyone told him that Clark was dead?
Why hadn't he been there to prevent it? He'd saved so many other people's lives, people who deserved it less than Clark. Why had he not saved Clark?
Lois shook her head and forced herself to get up; padding into the kitchen, she made herself a hot milky drink. Perry was right. She should get to bed. Things would seem better in the morning…
No, they wouldn't! She felt like throwing the milk-carton across the room. How could things ever be better again? Clark was dead.
Her attention was caught by a framed picture standing on her display cabinet; in a daze, she walked over and picked it up. It was of Clark and herself, at that year's Kerth Award ceremony. She had been furious that he had been nominated and she had not, but his gentle persuasion had overcome her resistance and she had gone as his date. She had done her best to act like a proper date too, forgetting her hurt pride at not having been nominated, and when he had won the award she had been the one cheering the loudest on his behalf.
She gazed at the photo. She had never told Clark just how handsome he looked in his tuxedo, although he had complimented her on her evening dress and the way she had styled her hair for the occasion. Yet he'd looked. incredible. As if he should have been featured on the Planet's society page rather than writing for its news section. Clark was - had been - a very good-looking man.
And he had also been kind, and generous, and thoughtful, and humorous, and affectionate.. She remembered all the times when he had offered her a hug, when she had accepted the strength and comfort of his open arms and broad chest. He had been her safest, most secure port in the storm.
The thought struck her as a little odd; surely that would be Superman? But no, she corrected herself. Sure, Superman rescued her, made sure she was safe, but then he flew off. Clark always stayed around to ensure that she was comforted. When Kyle Griffin had been after her, although Superman had called briefly to her apartment to assure her that he would be looking out for her, she had only really felt safe when she'd gone over to Clark's place. When he'd said that he 'would not let that happen' after she'd told him she was terrified of being killed, she had believed him and felt confident in his ability to keep her safe and whole.
But he hadn't been able to protect himself.. With a renewed sob, she replaced the photo on its shelf and stood, wrapping her arms around herself.
A rap on the door disturbed her concentration. She ignored it. It came again. Slowly, she padded to the door and looked through her spy-hole. A figure stood outside, clad in a voluminous hooded cloak.
"Who is it?" she demanded sharply.
The voice which came back was muffled. "A friend."
"Who are you?"
A pause. Then the voice replied, "I have some information about Clark Kent's shooting."
With shaking hands Lois opened the door and mutely invited the stranger in. Something about the way he walked seemed familiar, but she couldn't put her finger on what it was.
She turned to face him, but his face was shaded by the hood and so she was unable to see his expression. "You'd better tell me whatever it is you know, then go," she said tonelessly.
"If that's what you want," the stranger's voice replied softly. Lois started; it couldn't be..
The hood was thrown back, and Clark stood in front of her.
She ran to him, pushing aside the cloak. He stood there dressed in jeans and a shirt, the familiar Clark she knew and loved.
Loved? She pushed that thought aside to deal with later.
"Clark? But how?" she stammered helplessly.
He smiled at her, a beautiful, warm, delighted smile. Then his arms enfolded her and she was held tightly against his chest. She nestled into his arms as if she never wanted to let go of him again.
After a few minutes he put a little distance between them, still holding her. He gazed down at her and she saw him frown. His index finger came up and trailed gently down her cheek.
"Clark. I thought you were dead!" she sobbed. "I, oh, God, I missed you so much, I thought I'd never see you again, I thought…"
She saw a shadow cross his face before he shook his head. "I'm fine, Lois. I'm sorry I scared you. But I had to pretend, let them think I was dead, so that they would concentrate on getting rid of me and ignore you. And now, you know, we have something we can pin on Barrow and get him put away."
Lois reached up and stroked his face, the face which was now very dear to her. "Clark. you can't believe how happy I am to see you alive. But- but *how*? You were shot at point-blank range. you *had* to be dead!"
She saw him frown again. "Ummm. well, Lois, there's something I have to tell you. And I know I should have told you before now - it wasn't fair of me to deceive you the way I did. And the way this worked out, you had to suffer needlessly, all because I never told you." His voice was soft, apologetic, regretful. He held her closer to him again briefly, then loosened his grasp so that he could brush a kiss across her forehead.
After a moment, he spoke again. "Lois. the reason I wasn't killed tonight is because that bullet couldn't have killed me." He sighed heavily, as if afraid that she would be angry when he finally told her. "Lois, I- I was wearing a bullet-proof vest."
:P (ducking <g>)
Wendy Richards email@example.com