Submitted July 1999
Summary: Lois receives a surprise visitor three years after Clark disappears in space. A story set in the comics continuity but with a Lois we know well.
I wrote this story a few years ago in response to what I thought was the short shrift I felt Lois Lane was getting in the comic books. Even though this is set firmly in the comic book continuity in some not too distant future, I borrowed heavily from the TV show in my portrayal of Lois. I'm sure many FoLCs out there will recognize some of Lois' words as coming from some of their favorite episodes. After reading so many good fanfics in the archives and on other sites, I thought it only fair to toss out one of my efforts for your perusal. Hope you find it enjoyable. Any comments, critiques, or feedback is most welcome. As always all characters are copywritten to their owners.
Lois Lane pushed the bowl of cold cereal away from her. She couldn't remember the last time she'd actually taken the time and effort to fix herself a hot meal. A couple of tear drops spotted the back of her hand as she glanced up at the calendar which hung next to the clock on the wall. It was okay to cry today. She allowed herself to cry on the anniversary. It had been three years ago today that she had last seen Clark.
That morning was burned into her memory. She had been cooking breakfast, a real Norman Rockwell painting come to life. Clark was at the table checking out the morning edition. It crossed her mind that that morning might have been the last time she used the stove. No, she must've used it since then, hadn't she? The phone had rung and Clark had answered it. She never knew who was on the other end; she assumed it must have been whoever was on monitor duty that day. Anyway, it was a major Justice League of America crisis, one where they had to fly off into space to fight some galactic threat. He promised he'd be back as soon as he could, but, of course, he had to go. Two weeks later the JLA returned from space. Some were badly hurt, but they all came back. All except Clark, that is. No one seemed to know what had happened to him. Superman had gotten separated from the rest, taking on some cosmic bad guy, while the others had concerned themselves with his minions. After their victory it was time to return via their borrowed mother box boom tube, whatever the hell that was, but there was no sign of Clark or his opponent. The League had stayed an extra couple of days looking for them, but neither was ever found. No bodies, no signs of any kind, nothing. Reluctantly they came home and broke the news to the world.
Before he'd left she and Clark had cooked up a story about him needing to take an emergency trip to Smallville to help out his father who'd had an accident. As the time dragged on with no Clark she'd had to keep embellishing on the story. Crop failure, trouble with bank loans, and so on. Through Lois, Clark had applied for an extended leave. That had worked for a while but as the months dragged on Lois realized her story wouldn't hold up. She finally told everyone that she had made the whole thing up and that actually she and Clark had separated and Clark had decided to Leave Metropolis and go back to Smallville.
None of this would have worked without the help of Clark's folks. Jonathan and Martha had been great over the entire time. She kept them informed as to the latest stories and they backed her up all the way. Martha had been a little put off by the separation story but finally agreed that it was the best way to keep people from constantly questioning Lois about Clark's absence and when he might be coming back. Like Lois, they both firmly believed that since the League had not found his body that Clark was alive and would come back to them just as soon as he could. They were sure he was merely lost in space, so to speak, and was doing everything in his power to get back. Considering all the things they'd suffered through together, including Clark's apparent death, it was not unreasonable to hold onto hope. Martha was especially a rock. That woman was the most positive and upbeat person Lois had ever met and she used Martha as her anchor. Lois doubted she would have been able to get through this far without Martha to lean on. Lois had originally intended to give Jon and Martha a call tonight but decided against it. It was her night to indulge herself, to wrap herself up in the longing and heartache she only allowed herself this one day every year. Letting go of her normal steely resolve, she let the sobs of cleansing tears wrack her body until she cried herself into exhaustion and finally allowed sleep to overcome her.
Lois dragged herself out of bed to the obscene ringing of her alarm, and grabbing her robe she stumbled into the bathroom. She faced her reflection in the mirror trying to focus through eyes still partially gummed shut from sleep. Her face was still red and puffy from a night of crying, but hopefully a hot shower and some judicious make-up would hide the worst of it. She stared at the tangled mass that topped her head and made a mental note to get in to see her hairdresser, soon! She turned, peeled off her robe, and turned on the shower. It was time to get on with it. She had indulged her fears and despair the night before, but today was a new day and it was time to face the real world once again.
Having dressed, Lois sat at the kitchen table idly munching a two day old bagel that no amount of cream cheese could save. It was going to be a busy day, and a long one, for tonight was Perry's retirement party. Perry White had been semi-retired for a couple of years now, but come the end of the month it would become official. Lois had been helping Perry out, taking up the slack that he wasn't able to handle. She welcomed the extra workload. It helped keep her mind off Clark. A little over a year ago she had accepted the position of managing editor of the Daily Planet. She had been doing the job pretty much already; she might as well get paid for it. Her only condition had been that she be allowed to tackle a big juicy story now and again. She didn't want to lose her reporter's edge. Work had become her whole life once again, work, and waiting, and hoping. She grabbed her coat as she went out the front door.
It was late when Lois finally made it home. The party had been nice. She had been able to just enjoy being with her friends and colleagues in a pleasant surrounding. Of course, Clark's absence from the event seemed to amplify her loss, but she felt she dealt with it well. Nobody noticed anything out of the ordinary. Well, almost nobody. Perry had pulled her aside and asked if she and Clark had gotten over this foolish separation thing yet and 'mended the fences,' as he put it. She had to put on a brave face and tell him not yet. Perry had harrumphed in his gruff manner and told her if that wool-headed fool couldn't see what he was missing, he, Perry, might just have to get a hold of Mr. Kent and set him straight on a few things. Lois had thanked Perry for his concern but told him that Clark was presently out of the country and she hadn't spoken to him in months.
Lois tossed her coat over the chair near the front door and froze. There was someone else in the apartment! To her credit she didn't show any outward sign that she had become aware of the intruder. No need to give them any more advantage than they already had. She had been through too much in her life to be spooked by some prowler.
"Do you mind if I turn on a light?" she asked of the darkness.
"If you like."
The voice was a deep, rich baritone, though a bit chilling in tone. She reached behind her, fumbling at the wall switch which operated a pole lamp near the front door. Lois wasn't sure what she expected, but having the Batman standing in the middle of her living room in the middle of the night would not have been near the top of her list.
"Long way from Gotham."
"Not really that far."
They stared at each other for a few seconds. Lois began to feel uneasy.
"Mind if I sit down?" Not waiting for a reply, Lois deposited herself in the armchair nearest her. "To what do I owe this honor?" She tried to keep her tone light and even.
"I needed to speak to you."
A hundred thoughts quickly flashed through her mind as Lois tried to imagine why the Batman would need to speak to her. One idea kept pushing its way to the forefront of her consciousness. There's been news about Clark! The JLA found out something and Batman was here to relay the news. Was it good? Was it bad? She was almost afraid to find out.
Batman surprised her by sitting in the chair across the coffee table from her. He seemed a bit pensive, almost ill at ease. That didn't jibe with the picture she had of the caped crusader. Lois hadn't had extensive contact with Batman over the years but Clark often mentioned how he would marvel at Batman's calm determination and unusual courage and brilliance in the face of daunting odds. True, Clark didn't always hold with some of Batman's methods, but he respected the man above anyone else outside his immediate family.
Batman stared at the floor for a few seconds as if gathering his thoughts and words. "Lois, you know I've long known that Clark was Superman and that he knew who I am."
"It's tough to have secrets from a man with x-ray vision." Lois thought she almost saw the hint of a smile at her remark, but it was quickly gone. He reached up and pulled back his cowl. "No! You don't have to … Bruce Wayne!" She stared at the handsome face of one of the nation's most eligible, successful, and envied men. Lois was amazed that she wasn't more surprised by the revelation. It was like when Clark revealed himself to her. She had never put two and two together but in retrospect it made sense. A lot of little mysteries became clear. She had never thought much of it, but given their respective backgrounds, it was a bit unusual that millionaire playboy/mogul Bruce Wayne would be, if not good friends exactly, on very friendly terms with a former Kansas farmboy turned reporter living in a totally different city. And, of course, whenever Bruce Wayne happened to be in Metropolis Batman would eventually hook up with Superman — a fact that Lois may have had an inside track on since Batman tended to work outside the limelight and his visits were rarely noted to the public at large. So, really, it wasn't such a shock to find out Bruce Wayne was Batman. Just as with Clark, she wondered why she hadn't put it together sooner. She couldn't imagine why he'd be coming to see her now and tell her who he was. She spread her hands in the classic gesture which conveyed her total lack of understanding.
"Why? And why now?" she asked, more than somewhat bewildered.
"I've been asking myself that over and over again ever since I set out from Gotham, and the only answer I come up with is that it seemed like the right time." Bruce held up his hand to forestall the obvious questions on Lois' lips. "Let me backtrack a bit; perhaps it will make things clearer." Lois leaned back in her chair, waiting. "Clark and I have been friends for quite some time now. We may not always have agreed with each other's methods but we saw past our differences. Clark and I represent the two ends of this hero spectrum. While Superman was the light, honesty, and integrity, I was darkness, intrigue, and, if necessary, not afraid to get my hands dirty to accomplish a just end. Nevertheless we saw past that, right to the core of our individual beings, and to tell the truth we weren't really all that different. Our belief in what we were doing, our will to succeed at our chosen tasks even in the face of injury or death, stood above all."
"You don't need to do a selling job on me, Bruce." Lois got up and crossed over to the chair next to the one Batman sat in. "Clark told me many times how much he respects you. He always said, all their individual powers not with standing, you were the one JLA member he'd most want on his side in a conflict. I know he gave you Luthor's kryptonite ring. He trusted you with his life."
"I'm sure there might have been others, like …"
"No, he told me he trusted no one else to do what was necessary if it ever came to pass that a superman would have to be stopped. Bruce, Clark considered you the single most dangerous man on earth and was damned glad you were on our side."
Batman was struck silent for a few moments but quickly recovered his purpose. "That may very well be, but Clark always had an advantage over someone like me: he had you."
Now it was Lois' turn to be struck silent. She waved her hands about while ineffectually trying to gather her thoughts.
Before she was ready to speak, Bruce placed his finger to her lips. "Superman was a god who walked among men, but Clark Kent was one of the finest human beings I've ever known. For that he has his parents to thank, and you. Lois, you were his anchor, his lifeline to reality. You know he loved you from the very first moment he saw you, don't you?" Lois nodded dumbly as a tear started to roll down her cheek. "I've always envied Clark his dual life, the fact that he had someone to share a normal existence with between crises. Ever since I put on the cape and cowl, Batman is who I am. Bruce Wayne has become just another part I play to fool the public. Another two dimensional mask."
"Don't be. It was a conscious choice. Being Batman was more important, though over the past few years I've begun to question that single- mindedness. More so now that Robin is with the Titans and Alfred has passed on."
Lois didn't speak but she could imagine what a loyal retainer such as Alfred would've meant to a Bruce Wayne/Batman. If she remembered correctly, Clark had mentioned that Bruce had been virtually raised by Alfred after his parents were murdered while he was still a young boy. Bruce fidgeted with his hands a bit. This was quite a revelation. She doubted anyone, except Alfred or Robin, had ever seen the Batman this unsure of himself.
"What I'm trying to say Lois is, well, Clark is gone and I know what it's like to be alone. I want you to know that whatever you need I'll be there for you."
Lois was stunned. She stood and began pacing about the room.
"Thank you, I think, but I'm not sure what you are offering. Are you saying that if I'm ever in a jam, or need a hand, that I can call on you, as a friend?"
"If that's what you wish."
"Or are you saying that you will fill my emotional and physical needs. That you will step in for my long lost husband and, and replace those things he gave me that helped make my life complete?" Tears were streaming down Lois' face. "Is that what you are saying?!"
Bruce stood up, reached out and grabbed Lois' flailing hands. He pressed them beneath his own.
"What I'm saying is that you are a terrific and very special person, Lois. You are extremely intelligent, beautiful, and caring, but I know what such a loss can do, the hole it leaves in the pit in your being. I held out hope for Clark's return, but there comes a time when one must face the awful truth. Clark is not coming back. I don't pretend that I could take Clark's place in your life. I wouldn't want to, but perhaps I could fill part of that emptiness that now exists. Maybe I could help a day or two go by without the constant ache in her heart. And if you could see your way clear to, perhaps you could help fill some of the emptiness in me."
Lois pulled her hands free and turned her back to Bruce. She wiped haphazardly at her eyes with the backs of her hands. Her voice started out soft but quickly gained in strength.
"I'm flattered, Bruce, I really am, but what you are offering, and asking in return are impossible for me. For chrissake, Bruce, I was — am — married to Superman! But even more important is that I'm married to Clark Kent, the kindest, gentlest, most compassionate man I've ever known. When Superman first appeared on the scene I'll admit that I had a huge crush on him. He was so impressive, and Clark was just the nice guy I worked with. But in time I realized that Superman was a fantasy, and I needed, and wanted, the reality that was Clark Kent. As it turned out I got both. The best of both worlds." Lois continued to pace, all the time wiping at the tears which flowed freely down her cheeks. Bruce looked like he was going to say something but she waved him off. "Please let me finish." This time it was Lois who grabbed Bruce's hands in hers. "Most people might agree with you, that it is time for me to get on with my life. Yes, my heart aches every day with the fear and the loneliness, but do you know what else is in there? Hope. Hope still burns brightly in my heart and in my soul. I know that Clark will come back to me. He always has. He's been lost in space before. He's been lost in time. Hell, Bruce, I held him in my arms and watched him die! But he came back to me!" Her tears started to cloud her vision but she gave up trying to wipe them off. She dropped his hands. "If I'd been a resident of Gotham City and had met you first who knows what might have happened, but I didn't. I don't know; sometimes I think Clark and I were fated to be together, forever. He could come flying through that window in the next two minutes, or it might take him twenty years, but I know in my heart that he's doing everything in his power to get back. Back to me, and I plan to be here waiting when he does."
"Lois … I …" Bruce was interrupted by a faint beeping sound in the cowl resting on the back of his neck. Lois smiled sadly.
"You're being paged."
Bruce pulled the cowl back over his face and underwent an instant transformation. Bruce Wayne disappeared and in his place a composed and confident Batman stood. He pressed a stud on the hidden earpiece and listened intently for a few moments.
"It's the Joker; he's escaped again." A frown tugged at the corners of Batman's mouth.
Lois' reporter instincts surged forth. "Is there a story in it for me?"
"No. Not yet, anyway. Reports conflict. Some say he's headed for New York, some say the west coast, even one says he might be headed for Metropolis. My guess would be that he's holed up in Gotham somewhere hatching his latest mad scheme. I have to go."
"Believe me, I understand."
"Lois, I respect your decisions, but remember, if you ever do need me for anything, even just to scare off a masher, please feel you can call on me."
"I will, and, Bruce, thanks."
Lois reached back to pick up the coat she had left draped across the chair by the door. When she turned back, Batman was gone. She slowly walked to the closet and hung up the disheveled coat. Closing the closet door, Lois turned, peered out the open window, and glanced up into the deepening night sky.
"Clark, come home soon, please," she said to the star-studded darkness, and then she turned to go to bed.