By Pam Jernigan <ChiefPam@nc.rr.com>
Submitted November 1999
Summary: What determines a person's identity? Their body … or their soul? When Lex and Asabi succeed in their plan to put Lex and "Wanda" in new bodies (from the episode "Seconds"), Lois finds out, firsthand. Now all that remains is to convince Clark. (part 1 of 2; the sequel is "Being Lois Lane")
This is a dark little tale, but not a deathfic. It's my firm belief that Lois and Clark will end up together no matter what, but it won't always be easy. It will be helpful to the reader if he or she has seen the 3rd season non-wedding arc (I Now Pronounce You/Double Jeopardy/ Seconds) but I tried to provide enough backstory to tell you everything you need to know. I only ever saw DJ/Seconds one time each, and I wasn't about to watch them again, not even for research.
I began this story over two years ago. It would never have been finished without the encouragement of the regulars on Zoomway's fanfic boards, who bullied me to finish this part and inspired me to write the sequel. I owe an extra debt to my volunteer editors: Chris, Wendy, Marnie, Joy, Julie, and Merry. Thank you all.
For all three of you who will notice <g> I used different symbols to break up scenes: three asteisks indicate a scene change; # indicates a POV shift within a scene. Comments always welcome, good, bad, or indifferent.
She woke up knowing something was wrong. She wasn't overly concerned at first; she could handle trouble. Only she couldn't pinpoint what, exactly, was troubling her — a vague feeling of dread haunted her stomach, but her mind was strangely clouded. Warily, she opened her eyes to find she was in a sunny, cheerful, unfamiliar hotel room. She waited, lying still on the bed, but could detect no other presence in the room. Carefully, she sat up, looking around for any clues to jog her failing memory.
As she explored the contents of the room, the details began trickling back to her. Of course, she was in Italy, with Kent, on their way to his place in Switzerland. He was having some sort of trouble with the arrangements, which had infuriated him but only amused her, and so they had been traveling far slower than he'd intended.
But that didn't feel right either; it had a strange aura of true/not true that puzzled her … her mental picture of 'Kent' in particular felt wrong; he shouldn't be quite so young, or so blond, but older, with dark hair … and glasses… For some reason she was suddenly afraid.
Alright, she told herself, calm down. Start with what you know. My name is … Wanda? Wanda Detroit, I'm a singer … no … that's not right.
I'm not Wanda.
My name is Lois Lane.
With that one thought reality came crashing in on her, flooding over her like a tidal wave, and involuntarily, she whimpered. Memories of her family, her job, her friends hit her with stunning force, too quickly to be immediately comprehended. To survive the onslaught, she grabbed onto one face from the crowd, one person who could be her anchor — Clark. Her partner, her husband… She remembered teasing him at work, marrying him … being kidnapped away from him at the reception.
She remembered Lex, then, as well, taunting her when she was kidnapped — he'd even tried to make her believe that she'd been kidnapped before the wedding, and replaced by a clone. Had they told Clark the same lie? She'd tried to get back to him, but then had hit her head. That must have been why she'd thought she was Wanda.
Lex had taken advantage of that. Somehow, he'd known about her novel, and had set himself up as her love … she remembered him kissing her, and the gorge rose in her throat. She stumbled into the private bath, fearing she was going to retch. She had to get out of here, needed to get back to Clark, but even Superman wouldn't be able to hear her scream from another continent. 'Calm down,' she told herself, firmly suppressing her imminent panic. 'You'll just have to use your wits — you're not an investigative reporter for nothing.' She splashed some cool water on her face, determined not to lose control, but when she'd dried her eyes and put down the towel she received yet another shock.
The face in the mirror wasn't her face. The woman looking back at her was blond, with blue eyes, high cheekbones, thin lips — an attractive face … but most definitely not the face of Lois Lane, Ace Reporter. Not even plastic surgery could do this, could it? And a quick pull verified that she was wearing no wig. So this must be … the clone.
Stunned, she sat on the edge of the tub. Yes, she remembered now. Lex had been afraid of pursuit, and Asabi had given him the answer — soul transfers to new bodies for both him and her. As the jaded Wanda, she'd been amused by the idea — "Just like that, I'm a blonde?" — and had agreed to participate. The transfers had gone smoothly, and now she was permanently changed — Lois on the inside, a stranger on the outside. She fought the temptation to cry.
Another piece of the puzzle came into focus — Lex's new body was the reason they'd been having such problems with travel arrangements. Lex held large cash reserves, and a network of contacts and flunkies, but he'd found it difficult to prove his new identity; no one wanted to risk angering the great Lex Luthor by believing this young blond upstart. And a good thing, too, Lois grimly acknowledged, or else they'd have been in Switzerland by now, and she would have had a great deal tougher time escaping.
And escape she must. Lex may have destroyed her old life, but she'd rather start from scratch than live out her days with him. He was evil, and crazy … and smart, which would make things difficult.
She put aside her emotions for a moment and forced herself to think logically. Lex had people watching her, she knew, but they didn't expect her to try anything, so slipping away should be easy. Staying away would be a great deal harder. Lex had connections throughout Europe, and she couldn't afford to assume that he'd be unable to use all of them. She knew where he kept his cash, so she could take that; it should be enough to lay some false trails as well as get her where she was going.
Where *was* she going? Lex would expect her to head for Metropolis, so she shouldn't … and yet she knew that was where she needed to be. She knew the city, from top to bottom, but more importantly, she knew Clark. If she could only get to Clark, he would help her.
Even if he had no idea who she was.
—two weeks later—
A frantic knocking on his door drew Clark Kent out of a deep and troubled sleep. He hadn't slept well for weeks, in fact, not since he'd found his fiancee's body in that underground lair that Lex had been using. Whenever he closed his eyes, he saw Lois lying lifeless on the cold ground, next to Lex. No one had been able to determine the cause of death, but that medical curiosity had hardly interested Clark, sunk so deeply in his grief.
As he stumbled towards the door, straining to wake up, he checked the clock — it was three in the morning. What could anyone want with him at this hour? Superman had been patrolling for days on end, until finally even he had been forced to rest — and now whomever this was had disturbed that. He squinted towards the door before donning his glasses; his visitor was a woman he'd never seen before, and she looked agitated.
He opened the door, irritated but trying to control it. "Yes, how can I help you?"
She didn't answer at first, but instead flung herself against him, half hugging him, half pushing him back. After a brief moment, she released him, and turned wide, frightened eyes up at him. "God, Clark, close the door, I don't know how close they are behind me."
Clearly she had lost her wits, whoever she was, but his mother's training stood fast. He closed the door, and turned back to her. "Would you care to … sit down?" The question trailed away as he saw that she'd already made a beeline for his refrigerator.
"I have just been dying for a cream soda," she announced, dragging out the one remaining can of the beverage. "Although that's a bad choice of words. Anyway, champagne is more in Lex's style." She carried the can over to his sofa and curled herself into a corner, proceeding to pop the can open and take a long swig.
Clark sat in a chair opposite her, watching her drink. She was fair-haired, with blue eyes and shoulder-length hair. He was quite certain he'd never seen her before, but somehow she still seemed familiar. She was looking a little ragged, too, he gauged — a bit undernourished and overstressed. She was still shivering a bit from the chilly night air.
She sighed, half the drink gone, and glanced over at him. "I am so glad I caught you in tonight. I was afraid you'd be out, you know, and obviously I don't have my key anymore."
She sketched a gesture in the air, and it took him a second to realize that it was the same motion he and Lois had used to reference his flying. He ignored that sally, uncertain how to deal with it. "Uh, miss, I'm not exactly sure what you're talking about, but—"
She laughed, a little hysterical, then took a deep breath. "That's one of the things I love about you, Clark. You're so polite, even when you think a person's absolutely nuts."
He frowned at her mention of love. "Who *are* you?"
"Right, time to tell the story. Clark, you're not going to believe this." She looked him straight in the eye, setting down the can. "I'm Lois Lane. Lex kidnapped me right after the wedding, and I don't know what all happened to you, but obviously a lot has happened to me."
His stomach felt cold. "You are not Lois Lane."
She seemed prepared for his instinctive denial. "Not physically, no. But mentally, I am. Lex has a servant, back from when he was respectable — you know, when I was dating him, before you and Perry busted up the wedding — and boy, do I have bad luck with weddings, if the third time isn't the charm, I should just live in sin … um," she stopped herself, took another deep breath, and tried to get back on track. "Anyway, he has this servant, a guy named Asabi. He's some kind of Far East mystic, and he had some way to do a soul transfer, or at least that's what they called it. While I still thought I was Wanda, he transferred Lex and me to these new bodies — clones — that they'd — we'd — stolen from STAR labs. Remind me to apologize to Dr. Klein for shooting him — at least I think I shot him, my memory of that time is fuzzy."
Clark sat back, dazed by this improbable tale. "No, that can't be true… You must be a plant, an agent of Luthor's — even after his death he wants to torture me. Why are you doing this to me?"
She shook her head gently. "Lex isn't dead, and neither am I. Changed, yes, but not *dead*. C'mon, Clark, we've thought Lex was dead before, and we were wrong. You thought *I* was dead, not too long ago, and you were wrong then, too."
He glared at her suspiciously. "What do you mean?"
She sighed wearily, losing some of the nervous energy that had been driving her, and resettled herself on the sofa. "Tim and Amber Lake, Clark. They set it up so that everyone thought Bad Brain had killed me, but instead, they put me in a cage, and used me to trap you."
"The Lakes used you to trap Superman," he corrected her. She could have read that much in the newspaper.
"Yes, and you are Superman. Not that you ever told me that, but I figured it out. And hey, that was another time I was presumed dead; back when you froze me to fool Jason Mazik. God, it's always something with us, isn't it?" Her eyes drooped shut.
He still wasn't — couldn't be — convinced. Possibly it was some perverse scheme of Luthor's making — the man had intended for him to believe that his wife had died soon after the wedding, after all, when the clone of Lois had … expired. Or maybe this woman was just delusional, and had convinced herself of this absurd story. But whatever else she was, she was also utterly exhausted, in a way that couldn't be faked. And he needed rest, himself. She seemed to have fallen asleep right there on the couch; maybe she could stay there the rest of the night. He stood, intending to tip-toe his way back to the bedroom.
That slight movement startled her awake. "Clark?" It was the plaintive, scared wail of a child, an instinctive appeal for reassurance.
He held out a soothing hand, feeling a certain tenderness towards her in spite of himself. "It's all right. Get some sleep, okay? I won't let anything happen to you."
She relaxed fractionally at that guarantee. "Thanks, Clark … we can talk more in the morning, right? What day is it, anyway, do you have to go to work tomorrow?" At his head shake, she smiled tentatively. "Good night then … I love you…"
He flinched from that declaration, and her smile disappeared, leaving them frozen awkwardly in place until he finally turned and walked to the bedroom.
Lois Lane watched the love of her life leave the room and mourned silently for all she'd lost. Was there even a chance of regaining some portions of her former life? Her job, her family, her fish … she could survive without any of them, but without Clark she would be utterly lost, and she knew it.
The past few weeks had been nightmarish, from the moment when she'd woken up and remembered, for the first time, that she was Lois, not Wanda. In love with Clark, not with Lex. In the wrong city, with the wrong man, on the wrong continent. Escaping Lex had been difficult; he had been complacent about his victory, but he was still a very intelligent and observant man. Luckily for her, he seemed to expect her to be a little uncertain about things.
When her chance had come, a day later, she'd taken it. Armed only with her new passport and several thousand dollars she'd stolen from Lex's travel fund, she had made her way back towards Metropolis. Uncertain of the extent of Lex's connections in Europe, she'd feared to take direct routes, and yet she longed with every fiber of her new body to be back home — back in Clark's arms.
It had been a nerve-wracking progress. Several times, she'd been aware of the hunters behind her, and Lex himself had nearly caught up with her in London, at Heathrow. The LexCorp employee there, however, had seen no reason to believe that the young man in front of him was *really* Lex Luthor, and had withheld his cooperation pending proof of identity. By the time that had been obtained, Lois had been safely aboard one of the many departing planes — but not one of the several headed for Metropolis.
Things had gone somewhat easier back in the United States, where her passport could no longer be tracked, but her funds had dwindled perilously low before she'd made it to Clinton Street. And yet her struggle was only begun. He didn't believe her. She could hardly blame him for that; she wouldn't have believed it herself, but part of her had foolishly hoped that he would somehow instantly sense her presence.
The next day dawned brighter than it had any right to, Clark decided irritably. Not that the sunlight would have awakened him if he'd been sleeping. He hadn't been able to relax, not when the woman in the other room claimed to be his fiancee. It was ridiculous, of course. Although there was something about her. Something about the look in her eyes…
Abruptly, he scowled. He loved Lois, so he had no right to even think about other women, no matter what nonsense she spouted. He'd just have to send this woman on her way as soon as possible. She'd seemed scared of someone. That was probably a problem he could fix.
A muted clang from the direction of the kitchen startled him out of his musing. Still wearing the t-shirt and boxers he'd slept in, he swung his legs out of bed and headed around the brick wall that set his bedroom off from the rest of the apartment.
She was standing before the stove, frowning at the contents of his largest metal pot. Judging from the mess on the counter, she'd been up and about for some time, and he was surprised that he hadn't realized earlier that she was stirring. Normally he was hypersensitive to the presence of strangers in his home; he must have been more tired — or preoccupied — than he'd thought.
When she saw him, she smiled nervously, unable to conceal the flash of longing in her eyes. "I was, uh, well, I thought I'd try to cook breakfast. Only I don't really know how to cook anything but oatmeal … and I tried to be quiet about it, although I don't know why I bothered, considering that you…" her voice trailed off as he advanced toward the stove. She backed off, giving him access to the pot.
He pulled out a spoonful of her oatmeal, and let it drip messily back into the pot. His lips twitched involuntarily. "You never did know how to cook oatmeal."
"I did so!" she replied, indignant, before latching on to his choice of pronouns. "You mean you believe that I'm Lois?"
His smile vanished. "No, I don't. I can't."
She reached out to touch his arm. "Clark, you have to believe me. I am Lois Lane, your partner, your wife, your little tornado…" She held his gaze, searching for some shred of recognition or acceptance. "After all the things we've been through — perfume that makes people fall in love, Metallo (at least I'm completely organic!), ancient Druid powers, *full body* transplants — can you deny that what I've told you is possible?"
"I don't know, okay?" The words seemed wrung from him. "All I know is I *saw* her body. There was no way it was a trick; as much as I wanted to, there was nothing I could do to get her back." He turned away from her, pacing back toward the small balcony.
"Clark, you *can* get me back." She followed him, standing at his side. "All you have to do is look me in the eyes, and let yourself believe what you see…"
He shook his head blindly. He didn't know what her game was, but he refused to play it. He'd been hurt too badly. "I'm going out," he announced, turning away from her once more. He grabbed some clothing from his dresser and was out the door almost at superspeed.
Lois watched him go, unable to gather enough energy to protest. He wasn't even giving her a chance. What was she going to do? She wearily crossed to his sofa and huddled into one corner. Okay, this was going to take a while. She could handle it. She was one tough cookie. She'd been up against lots of challenges before, but she'd always survived, somehow. Even without Superman's help, she could survive this. And the first thing she'd need would be a place to stay, since her old apartment was obviously out of the question, and it would be too painful to stay with Clark, even if he'd let her. She needed a job, though. Even if she could persuade Perry to hire her, she didn't dare go to the Planet; it would be the second place Lex would look for her. Which was another reason she couldn't stay here.
Clark was barely out the door before he took off straight up. He didn't slow his ascent until the air was significantly thinner. He had to think. He hovered for a moment, breathing the cold air deeply, and found himself turning north and west. There was this clearing, in the Canadian Rockies … he'd be undisturbed there.
He forced himself to consider the possibility of a soul transfer. It hardly seemed feasible, and yet, he had to admit she'd been right; it was by no means the strangest thing he'd ever encountered. Did people have souls? He had always supposed that they had, when he'd thought about it at all. Certainly there was something to make people different from one another, something that made people react differently to similar circumstances. He knew that everyone had unique brain wave patterns — he could ask Dr. Klein to take a reading of this woman's brain … but no one had ever taken a reading from Lois, so that wouldn't prove a thing.
All right, suppose it was possible, in a theoretical sense. It was just the sort of thing Lex Luthor would take advantage of, he decided; Lex never missed a trick. (When Lex's empire had fallen, and his records were examined, even Clark had been shocked by the range and extent of the man's duplicity). If it *were* possible, then could this woman really be Lois?
She knew a lot of things, things that hadn't made it into the paper, things that no one but he and Lois should know. She even seemed to know about Superman — and strangest of all, he didn't mind her knowing.
That was odd, now that he thought about it. Even though his conscious mind had been in turmoil, on a deeper level he'd been disturbingly comfortable with her presence. She shouldn't have been able to turn over on the sofa without him being aware of it, and yet she'd gotten up and made a mess of his kitchen without disturbing him. And he should have been worried sick about her knowledge of his secret. Either he was too tired and heart-sick to care … or some part of him trusted her.
Finally, there was the shock of recognition that he'd felt, both last night and again this morning. It was visceral, affecting him on a level so deep that he could barely feel it, and he'd only experienced it once before in his lifetime. Three years ago, at the Planet, when he'd first met Lois.
He fought against accepting the notion. And yet, what made Lois unique was her personality, her character — her soul. Her sense of humor, her fierce dedication to her profession, her stubborn determination to make the world a better place no matter what. All the things, he realized, that had been missing in her clone. He had, in effect, seen Lois' body with someone else's soul. Might he now have met her soul in another body?
He was overwhelmed with longing to believe it … to have Lois back with him, against all odds. He missed her with every fiber of his being, with an almost physical ache — and yet, he couldn't allow himself to accept this fantastic story on faith. If he let himself believe, and later learned otherwise… it would be like losing her all over again, and he didn't think he could handle that.
Clearly, the thing to do was to investigate … find out what her story was. Surely, if she were lying, it would quickly become obvious. Yes, he thought with some relief, that would work. He could be detached, professional, and objective. Just as if the outcome wouldn't have a profound effect on his life.
Lois entered the dingy photo shop and looked around for the owner. All she saw was one greasy assistant. "Hey, is Hector here?"
"In the back," the assistant answered, eyeing her lazily.
"Well, I need to see him — one of his special jobs."
The counterman raised an eyebrow at that, but merely slipped out of his seat and disappeared into the back. In a moment, he reappeared. "C'mere."
She submitted to a pat-down to prove that she was unwired and unarmed, then strode into the back room. "Hey, Hector," she greeted him. He was a swarthy little man who was basically decent, despite his various less-than-legal specialties.
"Who are you?"
"Friend of Lois Lane's," she replied smoothly. She'd known him for some years, actually, and he'd occasionally given her some good information. In return for which, she hadn't ever mentioned his illegal activities to the police.
He shrugged. "That's nice for you, but I meant what's your name?"
"You tell me. I need a new identity — social security number, birth certificate, the works." Hector could do fake ID's, but for more money, he could fix you up with legitimate records whose original owners had died in childhood. If one avoided certain background checks, that sort of identity could hold up for a long time.
Hector squinted at her. "How old are ya?"
"Low twenties will do." She was briefly amused at the idea of turning 25 again.
He scratched his chin thoughtfully. "Gotta check my files."
Lois nodded, and found a relatively clean place to sit as she watched Hector rummage through his battered file cabinets. After a few minutes, he returned to the desk, several files in hand. "Pick one. For an extra fifty, I can get ya a driver's license."
She inspected the folders, none of which contained much information. She hardly knew how to pick a new name for herself, although she supposed anything would be better than Wanda. But to make it easier, she only had a few choices. Marissa Secrist … no, too frilly. Paula Bainbridge, well, it was okay. Caroline Ward … that was nice. Dignified. But there was something not quite … ah, she had it. She smiled grimly. She didn't like how it went with Kent. In that case, there was only one choice. "I'll be Paula Bainbridge, thanks." But not for long, she swore to herself. Before too much time had passed, she'd be Paula Kent. She refused to contemplate any other possibility.
When Clark returned to the apartment, she was gone. His immediate reaction was undiluted panic that he'd lost her (again, insisted some small part of his brain). That scared him more than anything else, that he might be falling for her act, her deception … falling for her, period. He quickly banished the thought. This woman was most likely a nutcase, he told himself brutally. At best she was part of one of Lex's twisted schemes. If he felt anything at all for her, it was just a concern for her well-being. No different than the concern he had for any other Metropolis citizen. And yet… Shaking his head at his own folly, he took off again, trying to locate one woman in a city of millions.
An hour later, Lois wearily trudged up to Clark's apartment door, realizing belatedly that she didn't have a key. Swell. She was pondering her options when the door was yanked open from the inside.
"Where have you been?" demanded an agitated Clark. "I've been fl— looking for you everywhere."
Taken aback, she stared at him. "You worried about me?" Hope began to stir within her.
"I—" he stopped, his face working through an unreadable combination of emotions. "I wanted to keep an eye on you, you said you were in danger."
"Oh, yeah," she replied flatly, lowering her face to try to conceal the pain she knew was written there. She brushed past him into the apartment. "That. I was out trying to get a job."
"You didn't go to the Planet?" He closed the door behind her.
"No. I can't, yet. Perry doesn't know who I am, and Lex would find me. I just need something so I can get a place to stay." Just until I can convince you that I'm me, she didn't add aloud.
"Ah," he replied. "Have you … eaten anything? I can get takeout."
She forced a social smile. "No, actually, so that sounds great." She sank down onto the couch, and politely pretended not to notice when he zipped out of the apartment and reappeared a minute later with two large bags of food.
They spent a few companionable moments apportioning out lunch. Lois broke the silence. "So … you've got to have questions."
He nodded. "Yeah. How did … this … happen?" he asked, gesturing towards her new face and body.
"I'm not entirely sure," she confessed. "I don't think I understood it at the time, and my memory is kinda patchy. It was something Asabi came up with — he called it a soul transfer. We had these clone bodies — one for Lex, and one for me." She shivered. "They were kinda creepy, just lying there — they were alive, but … empty. Anyway, Asabi did this ceremony, and we were supposed to close our eyes and meditate. I smelled some … incense, or something … and then there was a wave of dizziness, and then I heard someone telling me to wake up. When I opened my eyes … I was like this." She felt tears prickle her eyelids. "I saw my body, lying there. Asabi said that our old bodies would just stop functioning, without our spirits in them Do you know what happened…?" She glanced hesitantly at him.
A muscle was jumping in his jaw, but other than that his face was a mask of calm. "We buried Lois two days after we found the body. The autopsy called it heart failure, but by the time we found her … I don't know how much they could have found."
Lois shivered again, and took a deep breath and hurried on with her story. "After that, we just walked out, and left the country. We had false papers and no one recognized our faces, so there weren't any problems. Except," she added, with a trace of dark humor, "that Lex had trouble convincing people who he was. That slowed us up in a number of places. It made him furious. I just laughed…" Her humor drained away. "I guess I'm paying for that now."
She twisted her napkin in her lap. "Anyway, I finally realized who I was in Italy, and ran away from him. Took me over a week to get back to the States, and a couple more days to sneak into Metropolis. I don't think he knows I'm here yet — I thought I saw one of his bully boys last night, but maybe I was imagining it. He'll be looking for me sooner or later. He has to know I'd come back here. That's why I'm staying away from the Planet, and my family, but Clark, I *know* this city. This morning, I got a new identity — I'm now Paula Bainbridge, by the way — and this afternoon I'll have to find a job of some sort. I don't know what, yet, but I'll find something." She vented a humorless laugh. "If nothing else, I know how to type."
She looked up then, and found that he was watching her intently, his emotions hidden behind a bland surface. It unnerved her.
"If you know Lex will be looking for you, why did you come here?"
His facade of indifference was too much for her. "Because I *need* you, Clark! Not just to help me out with this, but in my life! I can deal with the rest of this mess but not without you…" She rose and approached him, holding out a hand, aching to touch him, to hold him and be held. "Clark, can't you tell that this is me here? Can't you just *feel* it? Please, try—"
"No!" he interrupted roughly, his face twisting in sudden fury. "Look, whoever you are — my fiancee died five weeks ago — three days after we were supposed to have gotten married. She was kidnapped right out of the church, and I didn't even *know* about it for two days!" The words flowed out of him in an angry torrent, and he began to pace the floor, restlessly gesturing his hurt and frustration.
Lois shrank into herself, letting him pour out his tension, reluctantly compelled to learn what he had experienced once she had been taken away.
"She was replaced by a clone, you know. Looked just like her. On my wedding night, the night that was supposed to be the most perfect night of my life, it all started going wrong. She was tired, she was busy, she wanted Superman. I tried everything I knew, and nothing was working, nothing felt right.
"Then I figured out why," he laughed darkly at his own foolishness. "It was because this woman wasn't my wife at all — my Lois, the love of my life, the woman no one can ever replace," he emphasized with an angry look at his visitor, "had been stolen from me, and I didn't even know about it for two whole days!"
Lois flinched at the rage in his voice. He was dangerously close to losing control.
"And you know the real bitch of the matter?" He stared belligerently at her, and she hesitantly shook her head.
"The thing is, I found her. She was … confused, I think. She didn't know who she was, or who I was, although she pretended she did…" he frowned, still not quite sure what had transpired. "But it was her. I had her right there…" He pounded his fist on the back of a chair, not even pausing when it collapsed from the blow, his eyes closed in anguish, his hands reaching out in vain to change the past.
When he finally spoke again, his voice was subdued, all passion drained away.
"She didn't want to come with me. That killed me. For a moment, I almost believed … and she got away again. The next time I saw her, she was dead." He stumbled backwards and sat down on the step, burying his face in his hands.
Lois drew in a long, shaky breath, fighting tears. This ordeal had been hard on her, but it had been no easier on him. "Oh, Clark," she murmured sorrowfully.
He looked up, startled by the reminder of her presence, and she was chilled by the rejection she saw in his eyes.
"Go." One word, implacable.
"I'm going," she replied, willing to give him the time and space to recover from this outburst, knowing that he could not yet accept comfort from her. "I'll let you know where to find me."
He watched, silent and unmoving, as she let herself out of the apartment.
After she'd gone, Clark remained still, staring at nothing. Finally, he moved, retreating to the bedroom. Sitting on the side of the bed, he reached for the picture that was lying face down on the headboard. It was one of the few pictures to survive the clone's destructive fit of jealousy; a shot of Lois smiling proudly. He studied it for a long time before speaking.
"I don't know how to live without you, Lois," he admitted softly. "I can't work, I can't eat. Superman is on autopilot and frankly, he's starting not to care. Without you … what's the point?"
He stared at the picture, hoping for an answer, but none came, just fragments of memories of their time together. Fragments that seemed to blur in his mind, as his eyes grew heavy. He laid back on the bed, holding the picture against his chest, a poor substitute for the real thing. But the emotional outburst, on top of his previous exhaustion, had worn him out, and before he knew it, he was deeply asleep.
Late that afternoon, Lois left the temporary services' office with a new appreciation for the problems of the homeless. She couldn't get a job without an address … but she couldn't get a place to stay without money. Luckily, she had a little money left — enough to pay for a week's stay at the Apollo Hotel, anyway, but it didn't leave her much cash left over to eat, or buy a change of clothes. She sighed, and set off walking towards the hotel. Somehow, she'd manage to make it long enough to convince Clark — she just wished she knew how long that was going to be.
She wasn't sure what more she could do to prove herself to him. She'd already mentioned a number of things that no one else should know about, but it was obvious that he was in no mood to listen. At this point, she thought to herself with grim humor, he probably wouldn't accept a signed affidavit from God. Until that changed, she would just have to survive as best as she could.
Not for the first time, she wondered if she should have gone to Smallville instead of Metropolis. Her own parents would never believe her, and this was undoubtedly beyond Jonathan's realm of experience, but Martha might be able to deal with it. It was too late to travel there now, but perhaps she could call them from Clark's apartment. Apart from his stubborn refusal to believe her, he was being very kind. Assuming that last outburst hadn't changed his mind … worried, she changed course and headed towards Clinton Street.
As she threaded her way through the early evening crowd of pedestrians, her thoughts turned to the problem of clothes. She had one pair of jeans and two shirts … and the woman at the temp agency had strongly hinted that jeans were not appropriate office attire. Maybe Clark still had some of her old clothes. Not that they'd fit very well; her new body was somewhat taller, and differently proportioned, but—
Her musings were abruptly interrupted when a hand gripped her elbow. A familiar, hated voice hissed, "Ah, there you are, my dear. I've been looking all over for you."
Clark woke up slowly, savoring the remnants of a pleasant dream. He'd have to tell Lois — abruptly, he remembered that she was gone. He waited, resigned, for the crushing load of guilt and grief to descend, but … it didn't. In its place, he felt a strange sense of peace.
A number of people had told him that time healed all wounds, and perhaps they were right. Or maybe by finally venting his feelings, he was now better able to deal with them. Whatever the cause, he was grateful that his heartache had eased and his head had cleared.
Actually, the heartache had started to improve late last night — when the woman calling herself Lois had barreled into his life. Now that his mind was calmer, he was more able to evaluate her story. Dispassionately, he reviewed everything she'd said — the things no one else could have known. Without the distracting storm of emotion, her story was not only plausible, it looked pretty convincing. He felt hope rising within him — might he be able to get Lois back?
Her body was gone, of course, and he was going to miss it … but the new one had its good points, too. And the real reason he loved her had nothing to do with the external, anyway. The only important thing about a body was that it be healthy.
He worried for a moment, remembering how the clone of Lois had just — stopped functioning, shortly after leading them to Lex's underground hideout. Would this new clone body also wear out that quickly? If she died again, so soon, it would be even worse than discovering that she was a fake. But no, she'd said that Lex Luthor was also in a clone body; he wouldn't sentence himself to death like that.
His relief was abruptly overshadowed by fear. Lois had said that Lex was hunting her … and she was out there, alone, unprotected. As fast as thought, he was dressed as Superman and heading out over the city. He had to find her.
"Get your hands off me," Lois spat, turning to face Lex and wrenching her arm free of his grasp. She cursed herself for having let down her guard, but the adrenaline coursing through her veins gave her courage.
He stepped back, a look of mock surprise on his face. "Aren't you happy to see me?" His expression hardened. "You've led me a pretty dance, my dear, but it's over now. Klaus, grab her." He nodded to his companion, a burly young man, who moved towards her.
Lois stepped back, and laughed aloud. She had few options, she knew, but a bold gamble might yet pay off. "I'm not going anywhere with you," she stated loudly. "What are you going to do, kidnap me off the street? It's daylight in a respectable neighborhood, you idiot."
Lex frowned at the passers-by, and motioned for Klaus to desist, which he did with poorly suppressed relief.
"Is he all the muscle you have, 'Kent'?" Lois asked, taunting him with the name he'd given her.
He scowled. "Don't call me that. Kent is a nobody. I know you've regained your memory, Lois, so let's not pretend anymore."
"Fine by me," she retorted. "But for the record, Clark Kent is three times the man you'll ever be. You're not worthy to shine his shoes."
Lex's scowl deepened. "Don't do this, Lois. Just come with me quietly, and no one will get hurt."
She shook her head. "You don't get it, do you? You managed to mess up my life pretty thoroughly, but I'd rather die than go with you."
"That can be arranged," he answered quietly, reaching into his coat's inside pocket to produce a small handgun, pointed right at her.
Lois felt her heart rate accelerate, but stood her ground. If she went with him, she was as good as dead anyway — worse than dead. "You really want to shoot me in public, Lex? You're going to shoot me yourself? How sloppy. How very … inelegant. People have noticed you harassing me. The police are probably already on their way. There will be *witnesses*," she emphasized with a manic gleam in her eye, enjoying this in a crazy way. "And those witnesses will *testify* against you. You're not the man you used to be. You haven't got the social status you once had. You're going to go to a very common prison for *very* stupid criminals. Goodbye, Lex. I am never going anywhere with you again." She turned, still high on adrenaline, and began walking away, her head held high.
"Don't make me do this, Lois," he pleaded softly, a note of real agony in his voice.
She knew what was coming, but kept walking. Sometimes there were no good choices. Then she heard the gun fire.
Clark poured on an extra burst of speed, grateful for a break in the flow of people walking, and caught the bullet microseconds before it hit Lois square between the shoulderblades. He soared sharply upwards, to avoid hitting any of the cars in the busy street, then controlled his flight enough to swoop downwards once more, snatching the gun before it could be fired again. Then he slowed, and descended, his arms crossed and his face as menacing as he could make it.
A thin blond man stood gaping at his empty hand, then looked upwards, his eyes narrowing in fury. "You! You'll pay for this, you interfering blockhead!"
"The lady doesn't want to go with you," Clark replied with forced mildness. He had located Lois by hearing her tirade, and part of him had enjoyed it very much, even as the rest of him had feared for her life.
"Do you know who I am?" Lex demanded, his calm facade crumbling.
"Yes," Clark replied, noting that Lois was now standing next to him, facing her nemesis. "You're a pathetic old man who can't take no for an answer." He looked up as a siren blared briefly, announcing the arrival of a pair of police officers.
They jumped out of their squad car and approached quickly, hailing him with friendly waves. "Superman, what's going on?"
Clark smiled grimly. "Hello, officers, I'm glad you're here. This man just attempted a murder. She's the intended victim."
The larger of the two officers got a grip on Lex, and his partner turned to Lois. "Do you know him, ma'am?"
She looked at Lex for a long moment, then smiled maliciously. "Never seen him before. He tried to mug me, but he wasn't very good at it. Then he pulled out a gun."
Superman presented the gun, and the policeman wrapped it in cloth as evidence. "Well, I'm sure we can get a few witnesses, and with Superman's testimony, it should be a pretty easy conviction."
Lex had listened thus far in seething silence, but this was too much for him. "Convict me? You morons, you can't do this to me. I am Lex Luthor, and I will not be going back to prison!"
The officer holding him tightened his grip. "Uh-huh, sure you are. And I'm Kate Winslet." He looked over at his partner. "Maybe you'd better call Bellevue, and tell them we've got one incoming."
"A psychiatric hospital?" Lex raved, all control disintegrated. "You wouldn't dare. Klaus—" he looked around wildly, but Klaus seemed to have disappeared. "I will *not* be imprisoned!" With a fierce burst of strength, he broke free from the policeman's grip, and dashed away, into the street.
Clark sighed. Would people never learn? He exchanged a long-suffering look with the officers, then turned … just in time to see Lex run in front of a bus. Neither he nor the bus driver had a chance to prevent the inevitable, and Lex disappeared underneath the wheels with a sickening thud.
Next to him, Clark sensed more than saw Lois start to wobble, and he extended a steady arm. She grabbed it, gratefully, and looked across the street, wide-eyed. "Oh, my…"
The police officers crossed the street, stopping traffic as they went, and inspected the body. The officer who'd previously talked to Lois returned. "He's gone, ma'am. I'll need your address for my accidental death report."
Clark spoke up, "She's staying with Clark Kent," and rattled off his address. "What's going to happen next?"
The officer shrugged. "We'll try to identify him, see if any relatives want to claim the body. If not … there's a common grave down in the Hobbs Bay area. He'll probably get dumped there. Saves us court costs, I guess. You're free to go, ma'am. We'll call you if we need you, but I doubt we will. Thanks for the help, Superman." Tipping his hat, the officer walked back across the street to deal with the legalities of death.
Clark tried to feel sadness or regret at his arch-enemy's death, but couldn't quite manage it. He felt Lois sway, once more, and turned to see her face contorted as she struggled to control herself. "Are you okay?" he asked quietly.
She nodded violently. "I'm fine, it's just…" a half-hysterical giggle slipped out, followed by a hiccuping sob. She clasped a hand over her mouth to try to contain her reactions. "Get me out of here," she hissed, on the verge of losing it altogether.
Obviously, the stress of the last few days — weeks — was catching up to her. Add in a near-death experience and the sudden shock of her tormentor's death … Clark had seen stronger people go to pieces with less reason. He scooped her up and took off; she clung tightly to him, burying her face in his shoulder, shaking in his arms.
He headed straight for his apartment, letting go of her only long enough to change into a more comfortable outfit. Lois stood in the living room, sniffling, wiping her eyes, and trying valiantly to pull herself together. He gathered her into a hug and carried her to the sofa. "It's okay, Lois, let it all out," he murmured, rubbing her back.
"I don't know what's the matter," she whispered, holding herself stiffly in his arms. "It's just that he was going to — and then, a *bus* — and—"
"I know. It's all right. You're safe now."
At last, she relaxed, her sobs returning. She burrowed into his embrace, pouring out the tension of the past few weeks. Gradually, her sobs quieted as she fell asleep. Clark held her, and grieved with her, and was quietly thankful that somehow, despite it all, they were together again.
He didn't quite know how they would face the future, or if they could ever return to even a semblance of their previous lives. At least he had her back — and he would sacrifice anything he had to, in order to keep her. The most important thing was that they were together once more. Next to that, nothing mattered.
but there is a sequel — "Being Lois Lane" :-)