By Tank Wilson <TankW1@aol.com> and Wendy Richards <email@example.com>
Submitted: May 2001
Summary: In this latest of the Tank and Wendy challenges, Tank calls this rewrite of TOGOM ("This Old Gang of Mine") "another slight twist to the most rewritten episode ever."
Tank: I had intended to use this little challenge as a sort of farewell to Zoom's old message boards. Being easily considered the queen of the TOGOM rewrites I thought it might be fun to present Wendy with yet another slight twist to the most rewritten episode ever. I was a bit unfair to Wendy on this one. I sprung it on her knowing that she had just been out of town for several days, was still in the middle of one of her own epic fics, and was also collaborating with Phil on another soon-to-be classic. You'd think that under those circumstances, it might give her cause for pause. Nope, not only did she crank out an excellent resolution in just a couple of days, but she managed to slip in a full blown fake ending installment (which actually could have stood on its own). I despair over ever being able to trip up Wendy, so maybe it's time to stop trying. Unless…
Wendy: Well, I should have guessed that something like this was coming when, just after he'd finished Serial Vengeance, Tank just happened to mention that he had a somewhat evil plot idea in mind. Then I came back from a conference to see the first half of this posted on the message boards! In typical Tank style, he'd come up with a seemingly intractable situation. So I figured that maybe it was time to surrender to the inevitable; thus I wrote a fake ending which actually didn't get the characters out of the dilemma Tank had put them in. (The fake ending is at the end of this story file). But for some strange reason the readers on the boards didn't seem too happy with that ending… <g> I have to admit that it's getting more and more difficult for me to come up with solutions to Tank's little problems, and just once in a while I'd like to be able to give *him* a tough time! Maybe I've managed it with the next story in this challenge series, who knows? ;)
As with our previous collaborations, there are both US and UK spellings in this story. This is because Tank is in the US and Wendy in the UK; each writes in their own 'language' and, since the story is written in two separate halves, it is appropriate to leave each author's spelling as it is.
All rights in the characters in this story belong to DC Comics and Warner Brothers.
R. I. P. Lois Lane; Another TOGOM variation. The latest Wendy and Tank Challenge.
Pushing her way through the crowd in the illegal gambling club, Lois Lane grabbed her partner Clark Kent by the arm. "Clark, I just found out that Georgie Hairdo is dead," she exclaimed in a single breathless rush.
Clark frowned as he nodded at her. "Bonnie and Clyde are both here. We've got to call the police, come on." Clark reached for his partner's arm.
Lois pulled away. "You go," she said, a pout on her face. "I've got to find a grey-haired lady with a bucket of my nickels."
Suddenly, the noise of the large crowd was shocked into silence by an ear-shattering burst of machine gun fire. Lois and Clark quickly turned toward the source of the disturbance. What they saw looked like a scene from a bad late night gangster feature. Several men had entered, all nattily dressed in twenties style clothes and fedoras. One of the men, with a prominent scar on his face, stepped forward.
"My apologies, ladies and gentlemen, for this little intrusion. I just dropped by to inform you that Georgie Hairdo has wisely decided to retire from the hospitality business." He waved his cigar about. "So, from this day forward, this joint is owned by Al Capone."
A taller man stepped out from behind Capone. Both Lois and Clark recognized him from the earlier bank robbery. It was the reincarnated John Dillinger. He approached them with a smirk on his face.
Hey Al, maybe we can make this little cutie our head hostess." Dillinger leered at Lois. "I was always partial to a lady in red."
He reached for Lois' cheek. She flinched away as Clark stepped forward and pushed Dillinger's arm away.
"Leave her alone." Clark glared at the gangster.
Dillinger snarled at Clark. "Who are you, her big brother?" With that he gave Clark a shove that caused him to stumble backwards a few steps.
"I don't need anyone to protect me," Lois barked as she aimed her pointy shoe at the unprotected groin of the unfortunate criminal. He went to his knees with a piteous groan.
Clark quickly came up and grabbed Lois' shoulders. "Lois, are you crazy? Dillinger is a killer!"
Lois' sharply indrawn breath caused Clark to turn his head in the direction of her gaze. His heart skipped a beat as in a micro-second he saw the gun in Dillinger's hand, the smoking barrel, and the sound of three bullets being fired.
Too fast for anyone to see, Clark plucked the bullets out of the air, while at the same time he thumped Lois in the chest with his thumb. The impact caused her to stumble backwards. Clark had his arm around her and as he gently lowered her to the floor he leaned over her and whispered in her ear.
"Lois, play dead."
Pasting a look of anguish on his face, Clark continued to hold Lois. Hamming it up, Lois emitted a plaintive moan and slumped limply in Clark's arms.
"You moron, what did you do that for?" Capone said in disgust. "Now we gotta get out of here." He waved at one of his goons. "Joey, pick up the stiff — I can't be linked to a murder."
Clark protested weakly, then allowed himself to be pushed aside as a couple of the muscle boys grabbed Lois by the arms and dragged her off. Clark winced when he saw Lois' head thump once on the stairs leading to the entrance and out the door.
Once the gangsters had taken their leave, the place broke out in pandemonium. People rushed about, not knowing what to do. Many looked for exits, but Clark knew that most would still be trapped here by the time the police arrived. Using his super- hearing, he heard the faraway sirens approaching even then. Someone must have called them once Capone and his men had arrived. Clark knew that it was time for him to leave. He needed to follow after Lois.
Once in the back alley, Clark quickly spun into Superman and headed for the skies. It only took him a couple of minutes to locate the speeding getaway car the gangsters were using. He followed them until the vehicle screeched to a halt in dingy back street down by the docks. The rear door of the car opened and Lois was unceremoniously dumped out, to roll into a collection of abandoned and unemptied garbage cans. Superman only waited long enough for the car to have gone out of sight around the corner of the next block before swooping down to land next to Lois.
"Lois, are you hurt?" He helped her to her feet.
Lois tried to wipe the grime and refuse from her classy red dress. "I've got a headache from when I was dragged over some steps, and I think this dress is ruined." She looked up at Superman. "But I think I'll survive, thanks to Clark." Suddenly a confused look came over Lois' face. "Wait a minute." She stared at Superman, as if seeing him for the first time. "How…?"
Superman didn't wait for Lois to finish her thought; he just scooped her up and flew off with her. After a short flight, he entered Clark's apartment through the handy balcony door, which he had left unlatched. He set Lois down next to the couch. She refused to sit. Instead she just stared at him.
"Why are…?" She continued to stare. "Why didn't…?" She slowly allowed herself to slump into the soft cushions of the couch. She placed her head in her hands. "Omigod." She looked up and met his eyes, seeing a familiar concern in them. "You're Clark, aren't you?"
Superman dropped his head. "Yes."
Lois shook her head slowly back and forth. A single tear slipped from the corner of her eye. "I can't believe it."
Superman shrugged. "Lois, look I know this is hard to believe. It's a lot to take in…"
Lois continued to shake her head. "I can't believe you lied to me. I thought you were my friend, the last honest man in this cynical, rotten world, and what do I find? That you've been lying to me since day one." Lois flopped back against the back of the couch. A short laugh, just on the edge of hysterical, escaped from her mouth. "I sure know how to pick 'em, don't I?"
"No, don't use that tone with me. God, how you must have laughed at me all those times when I thought I was confiding my feelings about you to Clark." Lois looked up at him through a misty sheen that covered her eyes. "I really thought you were different. I thought you were the first man I could really trust. But you're just like the others, aren't you. You're just like every other *man*." Lois began to sink into her own wallow of self-pity.
"Lois!" Clark's voice was like a whip crack. He stunned Lois into silence. "I'm not going to apologize for doing what I thought was best for me and my folks over this last year and some months. I *am* sorry you had to find out this way. It's not the way I wanted to have you find out."
"Oh? You actually intended to tell me?" Her anger allowed her to find her voice again. "When? When our kids started flying around the room? On our golden anniversary?"
Clark was stunned by Lois' babble. "What?"
Lois waved her hands in disgust. "Never mind, I don't know what I'm saying anymore. I thought we were at least best friends. But now I guess I don't know anything." Lois pointed at the suit. "I can't think straight while you're wearing that suit."
Superman spun into a pair of jeans and a pullover shirt. Noting that Lois' reaction to his spin had startled her into silence, he used the opportunity to get a word in edgewise. "Lois, think. We've known each other for a little over a year. When would have been a good time to tell you? When *should* I have told you?"
Lois frowned at her partner. "What do you mean?"
Clark began to pace in front of her. "Should I have told you right from the start? When you thought I was some hack from nowhere who you'd been saddled with?"
"Well, no, I was pretty mean to you back then, but I didn't keep that up very long."
"No, that's true. You tolerated me, while you continued to throw yourself at Superman." Clark held his hands out in a gesture of helplessness. "Can you imagine how it feels to be virtually ignored while seeing you act like some giddy school girl with a crush on the BMOC?"
Lois shook her head. "But you *are* Superman."
Clark sighed. "Yes, technically, I am Superman. But he really doesn't exist. He's a part I play." Clark closed his eyes briefly while gathering his thoughts. "Lois, I came to earth as a small child, I was raised by two wonderful Kansas farmers, and grew up as Clark Kent, their son. My powers didn't develop until I reached my teen years, and then they came upon me gradually." Clark shook his head. "I can tell you that I was one scared young man when I found out that I could start something on fire just by staring at it."
Lois' frown softened. "I suppose it was pretty hard."
"Yes, it was. And it was drilled into my head ever since my powers manifested that I needed to keep them a secret. My folks weren't sure where I had actually come from, but my father was sure that if I was found out, I'd be spirited away to some secret lab and dissected, like a frog in a biology lab."
Lois spread her hands in confusion. "So, why *are* you Superman?"
Clark stopped pacing and ran his hand through his hair. "Because I got tired of moving around, of leaving a place whenever I did something that might throw some suspicion on me. Metropolis is where I wanted to stay but I couldn't stand by and see people hurt when I could do something to help."
Lois nodded her head slowly. "So, you created Superman so you could help but still maintain your privacy as Clark Kent."
Clark nodded. "Exactly. I can't imagine what kind of circus I'd be living in if everyone knew that Superman and Clark Kent were the same person. I know that I'd have nothing resembling a normal life. No ball games with Jimmy. No Saturday night poker games with Perry and the guys…" Clark saw the look Lois gave him. "…And you." Clark took a deep breath. "Lois, Superman doesn't sit with his best friend watching old videos and eating pizza."
"I suppose not."
"Superman is merely a disguise. Also, if it were known that Superman had parents, and close friends, they'd be in danger from criminals trying to get back at him, or even be used as leverage against him." Clark threw up his hands. "It's already happened with you anyway. Your infatuation with Superman, and the fact that I have a hard time hiding how I feel about you has led some to use you against me."
Lois could understand what Clark was telling her but she wasn't willing to give in quite so quickly. "I can understand why you'd want to keep the secret from the general public, but we've been best friends for quite some time. Why couldn't you share with me?" Lois had trouble keeping the hurt out of her voice. "Clark, I've told you things that I've never told another soul. You know me better than I probably even know myself, and I thought I knew you. But now it looks like I don't really know you."
"Lois." Clark sat down next to her. "You know me better than you think. And if things had been different we might have had this conversation a while back."
Lois gave Clark a bewildered look. "What do you mean, if things had been different?"
Clark chuckled sadly. "Lois, even though we were becoming better friends, you were becoming involved with Luthor."
Lois dropped her head. She hated to have those memories brought back up. She couldn't believe how wrong she had been about someone; well, maybe now she could see why she had missed on seeing Clark was Superman. She might be a top-notch investigative reporter, but when it came to people, she must be as gullible as they came.
She looked up at Clark, and a tear rolled down her cheek. "You could have stopped all that if you'd just told me then. I poured my heart out to Superman, and you rejected me!"
Clark's face became a mask as he hid the hurt that episode had caused him. "And Clark Kent poured his heart out to you, and you rejected him."
Lois shook her head in confused denial. "But you're…"
Suddenly, his words came back to her: how he had told her that there were things that she didn't know about him, that she might never know. She had gone on to assure him that she loved him, that she would love him even if he were just a normal man. More tears slipped down Lois' cheek as she relived the memory. Hours earlier, she had just rejected him as that normal man. No wonder he hadn't believed her.
She forced herself to look up at Clark again. "Okay, I understand some of what happened now, but if you were so concerned about my marrying Luthor, why didn't you say something?"
Clark had to turn away, embarrassed, this time. "Call it stubbornness, call it false pride, the truth was I wanted you to love me for who I thought I really was, Clark Kent, not for some costumed hero with flashy powers and a mysterious past."
Lois was still confused. "But you told me your declaration of love was just something you said to try and keep me from marrying Luthor. That you only thought of me as a good friend."
Clark bit his lip as he blushed. "I thought that's what you would want to hear. I didn't want it to be awkward between us — after what had happened. I knew you didn't feel for me the same way I felt about you, so I decided to be satisfied with what you were willing to give me."
Lois turned away from Clark, but he could see her shoulders shaking as if she were crying. His heart ached to see her like that. He reached out and turned her back toward him.
"Lois, are you all right?" he said, the concern evident in his voice. He was shocked to see that she was laughing.
"Omigod, what idiots we are." Lois wiped the tears from her face. "Clark, do you know why I didn't marry Luthor?"
"Well, yeah, Perry and Henderson burst in to arrest him."
Lois shook her head; her smile was ironic. "No, I actually stopped the wedding before that happened." Her smile got wider as she noted Clark's look of astonishment. "I realized that I couldn't go through with it, so I said no."
Lois reached over and placed her hand on Clark's chest. "Because all the way up the aisle all I could think about was you, and us. My mind kept flashing back to all the wonderful times we had together, all the times that we shared danger, and triumph." Lois captured Clark's eyes with her own. "It took walking to the brink of disaster for me to realize that I was about to make a commitment to the wrong man."
Clark was dumbfounded. "Lois, why didn't you say something?"
She chuckled again. "Because, before I could, someone else *had* to go first that time." Lois shrugged. "After you told me that you didn't really love me, that it was all an act, what was I supposed to say? I had my pride too, you know."
"Yeah, if only." Lois slowly rose to her feet. "Well, it has definitely been one eventful evening, but this little reporter is dead on her feet and needs to go home for some sleep." She patted Clark on the arm. "We still have a lot to talk about, but I think… what is it?" Lois noted the look of horror on Clark's face.
"Oh god, Lois, I'm so sorry." Clark sprang up and grabbed hold of her hands. "When I saw Dillinger fire those shots at you, I didn't know what else to do, so I plucked the bullets out of the air and told you to play dead."
Lois nodded. "Yeah, and it worked. Oh, you don't think anyone saw you grab those bullets, do you?"
Clark shook his head. "No, my hand moved too fast for anyone to see."
Lois patted Clark on the chest. "Good, your secret is still safe, and you saved my life. I *do* appreciate it."
Clark scrubbed his hand through his hair in agitation. "But I didn't, don't you see?"
Lois was clearly puzzled. "Don't I see what?"
Clark took a deep breath and recaptured Lois' hands. "Lois, a roomful of people saw John Dillinger shoot you at point blank range. He couldn't have missed. They saw your body dragged out of the room." Clark eyes pleaded with Lois for forgiveness. "The police were almost there when I ducked out. I'm afraid by the time the papers hit the stands this morning all of Metropolis will know that Lois Lane has been killed." Clark gave her hands a sympathetic squeeze. "Lois, you're dead!"
Lois blinked, then stared at Clark in disbelief. "Dead?!" she echoed, stunned.
He nodded, his expression bleak. "I'm sorry, I couldn't think what else to do. There simply wasn't time to leave and come back as Superman, and if I'd pushed you out of the way someone else could have been killed." Under a second, he thought bleakly. In under a second, their lives had been changed utterly, and permanently.
"And so… everyone thinks I'm dead?" she choked out.
"I guess so. Someone called the police, so they'll know by now," Clark said awkwardly. "And I guess, if you were identified, they'd have contacted Perry or your parents."
"Oh god…" Lois exclaimed on a shuddering sigh. "What am I going to do?"
As she stared at him, she saw Clark take a deep breath. Then a resigned but determined look came over his face, and he said, "The answer's obvious. I'll simply tell the truth."
"That I'm Superman, and that's how I was able to save you." He got up and started to pace around the room. "That's the only way out of this. We can write the story for the Planet, and you'll have your life back."
"No!" Lois jumped to her feet and ran to grab his arm. "No, I won't let you do that, Clark! You've just finished telling me how important it is for you to keep your secret. I won't let you give it all up just for me!"
He turned to look at her, his expression anguished. "It's not just for you, Lois. It's for *us*. I've just told you that I love you — I want to be with you, and if you're believed dead then how can I do that? I mean, what other choice do we have?"
"I don't know," she admitted in a small voice. "If I'm supposed to be dead, then I can't be Lois Lane any more… I guess I'd have to move away and start again somewhere else, get a new identity or something…"
"You can't do that!" Clark protested. "It wouldn't be fair — you'd have to cut yourself off from all your family and friends and never have any contact with them ever again!"
That wouldn't be much of a loss in respect of her family, Lois thought sardonically. But she would miss Perry, and Jimmy, and one or two other people… and Clark. Most of all, she'd miss Clark.
"What else can I do?" she asked rhetorically. "Clark, there is no other option."
"Yes, there is. I go public," he repeated stubbornly.
"And you think we could be together if you did that?" she challenged him. "Think about it, Clark! Would you get any peace if everyone knew you were Superman? And what would happen if I was known to be your girlfriend?"
He ran his hand through his hair. "I don't know, Lois, but you moving away wouldn't help either, unless I went with you." He paused, then added, "I guess we could both start again somewhere. I'm not going to let you go without me!"
"But Superman belongs to Metropolis," Lois objected, though she was amazed and overjoyed that Clark's immediate reaction was to go with her. She wasn't used to men making sacrifices for her.
"You mean more to me than anything," he said softly. "More than Metropolis, the Planet, Superman… if I can't be with you, none of that matters any more."
"Oh, Clark…" Lois leaned against him, taking comfort in a few moments of closeness. He wrapped his arms around her, holding her tightly against his lean body, and rested his cheek against hers.
"We'll sort this out," he murmured, stroking her back. "I promise, we'll find a way."
She drew back a little, gazing up into the face she knew so well, noticing the similarities she should have recognised long before: the firm jawline, the soft brown eyes she could drown in, the beautiful dark hair, the concern radiating from his expression. This was Superman, and he was also Clark. She should have realised.
"I love you, Clark," she said suddenly, unable to hold the words back.
"And I love you." The words sounded like a vow. She leaned towards Clark, and he reciprocated; their lips met in their first real kiss.
Lois had been kissed before. She'd kissed men before. She'd even kissed *Clark* before, though those occasions had been with the aim of distracting someone else. She had been pretty sure, from those experiences, that he was a good kisser. But none of her previous experience of kissing had prepared her for this.
The first touch of his lips on hers was breathtakingly sensual. He teased, caressed and loved her with his mouth, and took the kiss to new depths when she parted her lips beneath his. She heard a soft moan coming from somewhere, then realised that she had emitted it.
Her senses still swimming, she wasn't aware that he'd ended the kiss until she felt him gazing down at her with a dazed expression on his face.
She reached up to caress his face; he caught her hand in his and held it against him. "You know we have to be together," he said huskily.
Lois nodded. "I never thought… never believed I could love someone as much as I love you. Or believe that someone loved me… You make me want to trust you absolutely, Clark, and I never thought I'd be able to trust a man again."
"Believe me, I love you," he said strongly. "And I promise you, you can trust me. You now know things about me that I could never tell anyone else — and that's because I trust you with that knowledge." His eyes were suspiciously bright as he looked down at her. "Lois, I can't lose you! I couldn't stand by and see you killed in Georgie Hairdo's club, and I can't lose you now either. I don't care what we do — whether I come clean as Superman, or we start again somewhere else; we're going to be together for the rest of our lives."
Lois really wished she could believe that.
It would be so easy to accept what Clark was saying to her. But she knew that it could never be as simple as that. Dozens of people had seen her shot at point-blank range; therefore she was dead. Had to be dead. Lois Lane, therefore, had no life. But that didn't — shouldn't — mean that Clark had to give up everything too!
She couldn't let him reveal himself as Superman to the world. There were so many reasons why that would be dangerous and the wrong thing to do. And while it was heart-warming to know that he was prepared to give up everything and move to the other side of the world with her, she couldn't let him do that.
She was probably going to have to do something like that herself — change identity, at any rate. That wouldn't be too difficult, if she could get access to her contacts or make some new contacts. A change of hairstyle, dress, maybe something else to alter her facial features, and she could start again in a different city. Okay, she'd have to work her way up all over again, but talent would always be recognised.
With Clark, though, it would be that much harder. No-one would pay much attention to a woman of average height and looks, and she could get away with staying in the US if she wanted. And she'd meet new people, make new friends. But if Clark was with her, then they would be more noticeable: he was tall, and very handsome, and his eyes and skin colour were too dark for any change of hair colour to look natural. And while Lois's writing style might escape notice, if the two of them were together there would be more to be recognised. And, ultimately, Clark's secret would be out anyway.
Lois let her head fall forward against Clark's chest as she acknowledged that she would have to lose the one man she'd fallen completely in love with. It was just so *unfair*, she thought bleakly. Clark had managed to sneak under her guard, so subtly she hadn't even realised that he was doing it. And she'd been foolish enough not to do anything about it — even more foolish to turn him down, and then later to accept his lie. And now she'd simply run out of time.
She and Clark had no future. They only had this moment, here and now. By morning, she thought, she'd have to be far away from Metropolis.
The situation was simple, and unarguable. She was supposedly dead, and so she couldn't be seen alive. Too many questions would be asked. So she would have to get on a train — to anywhere — some time before dawn. Once away from Metropolis, she could take whatever steps were necessary to obtain a new identity.
Of course she could ask Clark to fly her wherever she wanted to go, but that was a non-starter. She simply couldn't let Clark know what she was planning — he'd never let her do it. So she would have to sneak out when he was asleep.
Which meant that she only had a few hours of being with Clark, before she would have to say goodbye to him for ever.
And those few hours would have to last a lifetime.
She tugged at Clark's hand suddenly. He gave her an enquiring look. "Lois?"
"We can't do anything tonight," she said softly. "Let's just go to bed."
"Oh!" He seemed taken aback by her suggestion. "I guess… I suppose I thought you'd want us to make a decision."
"Not now." She pulled at his hand again.
"Okay." He looped his arm around her shoulders and set off in the direction of the bedroom. "If you give me a minute to collect a pillow and blanket, I'll leave you to it."
"No, you don't understand," she told him earnestly. "I want to go to bed *with* you, Clark." At his very surprised expression, she added, "I want to make love with you."
He hesitated, then said, "Are you sure? I mean… we have the rest of our lives, Lois. We don't have to rush into anything. I mean… well, I'd love to make love with you, of course I would! But I don't want you to feel you have to, um, before you're ready or anything like that…"
Lois stopped him by dint of sliding her arms around him and reaching up to kiss him frantically.
Clark suddenly found himself holding a frenzied woman in his arms, being kissed almost hysterically by her. He didn't object, precisely… but his intuition told him that something was very wrong here.
Although, he recognised immediately, of course something was wrong. Lois had just been told that, to all intents and purposes, she was dead. Naturally she was upset!
And she wanted to make love with him… While a major part of his instinct screamed at him simply to get on with it, since making love to Lois Lane was something he'd wanted ever since the first moment he'd set eyes on her, something was still telling him that this wasn't right.
Not that it wasn't right that they should make love. Clark's ethics were perfectly satisfied on that point: Lois loved him and he loved her, and she knew that he was Superman, and therefore that he was from another planet. And although any kind of permanency had yet to be mentioned, he had every intention of proposing to her at the first convenient moment.
But there was something… and at last, as Lois pressed her body even more closely against his, thus almost destroying his thought processes, he realised what it was.
Lois wouldn't give herself to a man lightly. He knew something of her relationship and sexual history, because she'd told him. She'd been hurt badly by men who'd professed to love her, one of whom had abandoned her the morning after he'd managed to talk her into bed. He couldn't see the Lois he knew rushing to sleep with anyone after that kind of experience.
No, if anything, Lois would want to take it slowly, to be very sure of the man in her life before she was ready to take their relationship to an intimate level. And although she'd told him she loved him, Clark felt very sure that making love at this point would be too soon for her, under normal circumstances.
But these weren't normal circumstances. She was no doubt traumatised. She needed comfort.
He could give her comfort in other ways, and she knew it. He would have been happy to hold her in his arms all night, if the closeness of someone who cared about her was what she needed. Lois knew him well enough to be aware of that — it was only about a month since she'd run to him at his apartment when the Prankster had been after her, and she'd fallen asleep in his arms then, on his couch.
This was different. She was kissing him, holding him to her, as if her life depended on it. Or, he realised, as if it would be her only chance…
Gently, he gripped her around her waist and pushed her a little way from him, breaking the kiss at the same time. She stared up at him, looking hurt and forlorn.
"Clark… don't you want…?" she began tremulously, sending a stabbing dart of pain into his heart. He'd hurt her, made her think he was rejecting her.
"Lois, we need to talk," he said immediately, quietly. "Come and sit down."
She let him lead her to the bed, and sat hunched over beside him, avoiding his gaze. He reached for her hand, drawing it over to his own lap and holding it tightly.
"First… Lois, you gotta know that I want to make love with you so much I can barely think straight!" he exclaimed. "You have to know that!"
"Then why…?" she whispered.
He squeezed her hand gently. "You were acting like we were never going to get another chance to be together! Lois, I am not going to leave you — and I'm not going to let you leave me either."
Clark had added that final comment on impulse; now, as he watched Lois avoid his gaze, he knew that he'd stumbled on exactly her intention. She had planned to leave him, and so — to her, at any rate — this would have been their only opportunity to make love.
She intended to leave him… Something inside him almost died at that realisation. But then Lois looked in his direction and he saw the pain in her eyes, and he knew that, whatever else she intended, she didn't want to leave him. She didn't think she had any other choice.
And, he admitted, if their positions were reversed it was probably the kind of thing he would do. He'd see it as being noble, no doubt, he thought, but now that he was the one who could be left behind he could see that it was no such thing. Walking away from someone you love was rarely a sensible solution.
"Lois, we have the rest of our lives," he said emphatically. "I told you. Whatever we decide, we're going to be together."
"But we can't!" she exclaimed, upset. "You can't just give up everything… and I can't live some sort of half-life hiding out in your apartment, or taking some new identity and pretending to be your new girlfriend that no-one knows!"
"Did I suggest that?" Clark asked pointedly, before shaking his head. "Lois, you know we'll find a way. We love each other, and we're in this together. That's non-negotiable, as far as I'm concerned."
"But… I just don't see how…" Lois trailed off, and Clark heard her sigh. He'd never seen Lois Lane at such a loss before, and he felt helpless in the face of her air of defeat. All he knew was that they *would* find a way to be together; it really didn't matter to him whether they had to assume new identities in some other country. He'd done that before, after all. But it was clear that Lois hated the idea.
He wrapped his arm around her shoulders again; at least he could give her the comfort of his embrace.
She sat up suddenly. "Clark!"
"I was just thinking…" Now she was staring at him, her eyes bright. "I was sort of thinking that if I'd actually been shot it would've been easier, because although I'd have been wounded I'd still have my life — "
Clark interrupted her, barely able to believe what she was saying to him. "You'd have preferred me to *let* you be shot?!"
But she shook her head immediately. "No! I'd have been killed, at that range! No," she added quickly. "I meant that if a bullet had hit me somewhere non-life-threatening… Anyway," she went on, "I wondered whether I could pretend to have been shot — you know, wrap myself up in bandages and so on…"
"It'd never work!" Clark objected. "If you'd been shot, you'd have had to go to the hospital, have X-rays, all the rest of it…"
"I know, and that's when I thought of it!" she exclaimed. "You could make it look as if I'd been shot!"
"I could?" Now Clark was baffled. "How?!"
"With your heat vision. You could burn a couple of holes in me, make them look like bullet holes," she said, gesticulating rapidly.
Clark jumped to his feet. "Are you *crazy*? Do you seriously think I'd risk your safety — your *life* — like that? Have you any idea what heat vision burns could do to you? Because I don't! And even if I knew that it was 100% safe apart from the burn itself, do you seriously think I could ever make myself hurt you?!"
"Even if I want you to?" she asked in a small voice? "Even if it would get me my life back?"
Did she mean that he owed it to her, since it was by his actions that she'd lost her life in the first place? But Clark dismissed that thought; he doubted very much that Lois saw it that way. She'd been very grateful to him for saving her.
"Lois, no," he said emphatically. "And anyway, you know it wouldn't work. I seriously doubt that any qualified medical person would mistake a heat-vision burn for a bullet-hole — and what about the bullets? Unless there was an exit wound as well, they should still be inside you."
Lois fell silent, and she looked away. Clark raked his hand through his hair, wishing he didn't feel as if he'd failed her.
If only he'd insisted that they shouldn't go inside the club, he thought bitterly. He'd said it could be dangerous. But Lois had insisted that they wouldn't be recognised -
Wait a minute!
He took a shuddering intake of breath. Surely it couldn't be as simple as that?
But perhaps it could.
He knelt in front of Lois, taking both her hands in his. "Lois, sweetheart, would you mind if I left you for a minute? I won't be long, I promise. Less than a minute, if I can manage it."
She raised her head and looked at him, her gaze bleak. "Okay."
He kissed her swiftly, then stepped back and spun into his Suit again. "Back soon," he promised, then disappeared.
Maybe she should take advantage of Clark's absence to slip away quietly, Lois thought. It was clear that he'd never let her go willingly, but what other choice did she have?
Slowly, she dragged herself off the bed and made her way towards the arch. But before she took more than a few steps she heard a >whoosh<. Clark was back.
He strode into the bedroom, and — to her amazement — he was smiling. Not just smiling, grinning broadly.
"What…?" she began, confused.
"It's okay. Everything's okay!" he told her, still grinning. "We can get your life back!"
"How?" She stared at him in disbelief.
"Give me your dress," he ordered.
"Huh?!" She looked down at herself, at the red dress which was now dusty and a little torn.
"Oh, sorry," Clark said quickly, and went to rummage in a drawer. He handed her a bundle, adding, "There's a T-shirt and some shorts there; they'll do until we can get you some proper clothes. But I need your dress. You never wore that before tonight, did you? I never saw you in it before."
"No, it's new," she said automatically. "But I don't know what you think we can do…"
"Get changed," he urged. "I'll wait in the other room."
She did so, walking through to the living-room a few minutes later still completely in the dark as to the nature of Clark's plan.
"It's simple," he said with a smile, taking the dress from her. He held it up in front of her, then turned away and looked intently at the front of the fabric. "There, instant bullet holes," he explained. And right there, in the front of the dress, were three ragged holes.
"No-one knew who we were!" he explained. "I just realised that, and that's why I went out — I wanted to find out whether the police were investigating the shooting of Lois Lane, or a Jane Doe shooting. And I discovered that all they know is that someone was shot, and there's a body missing. They have a description, which includes this dress, but no-one's IDed you."
"So… what? You're going to find the body of some woman who looks like me, and put the dress on her?" Lois still couldn't quite see Clark's plan.
"No. Too difficult. I thought I'd just leave this floating in Hobb's Bay," he explained. "If I rip up the back, then it'll look as if Dillinger and company tore it off you, or just ripped it somehow."
"And when they dumped the body in the bay, the dress floated off and the body sank!" Lois exclaimed. "That's brilliant, Clark! If you leave it far enough downriver, then there's no way any body could be found."
"That's what I thought." He was grinning again. "I still have the crushed bullets, so I can rub them over the holes for Forensics to pick up." As he spoke, he reached into the pocket of his jacket, which was lying over the side of the couch, and did as he'd proposed.
"We need blood," Lois said suddenly. Then she looked crestfallen. "Blood can identify a victim…"
"If the police use DNA, sure," Clark agreed. "But what if the DNA strand isn't on record? Then they've nothing to match it against."
"You're right," Lois agreed slowly. "So we need some blood from me?"
None too happy with that idea, Clark had to acknowledge that they had little choice. "We can't use mine — if anyone analysed it, they could figure out that it's not human."
Lois nodded. "That's okay. Just get me a knife or something."
Clark winced, hoping she didn't expect him to use it on her. Hesitating because he thought there had to be a less painful way, he was pushed aside as Lois made for the kitchen herself. She instructed him to lay her dress on the table, then as he watched, she gritted her teeth, held her left hand over the dress, and stabbed herself in her third finger. Blood seeped out as she held the wound over the 'bullet-holes' Clark had created.
"We really need more than that," she commented after a couple of minutes. "I mean, if I'd been shot the dress would be soaked in blood!"
Clark grimaced, hoping that she wasn't going to propose stabbing herself somewhere else. "I don't know — if I drop it in the river, the blood would get diluted with water and some of it would be washed off… we might be okay with this."
But she ignored him and stabbed at her finger again, wincing as the knife cut into her.
"Okay, that's enough," he told her firmly a minute later; she was looking pale and unsteady. He grasped the knife by its blade, taking it from her, and pushed her into a chair; then he examined the cuts on her finger. "They're not deep enough to need stitching," he pronounced, then gently sealed them with his heat vision.
"I'm sorry you had to do that," he told her softly.
But she smiled up at him. "I'm okay, really. And it's worth it if it means I'm not dead!"
"Yeah, I know." He returned her smile, knowing exactly how she felt; he'd felt that same relief as soon as he'd worked out his plan and proved that it could work. Lois Lane was alive and well. They didn't need to give up everything and start again somewhere else under assumed names. He didn't have to tell the world he was Superman.
And, best of all, Lois loved him and they could be together.
He reached out and caressed her face briefly. "I have to go and dump this," he said, gesturing towards the dress. "Then I'll be back, and I'll fly you home."
But she looked up at him, shaking her head. "You don't need to take me home, Clark."
"It's no trouble," he protested. "And it's late, and you need to sleep."
"No, Clark," she insisted. "You don't need to take me home, because I am home. My home is where you are."
He stilled. "And mine is with you. I love you, Lois Lane."
"And I love you. Hurry home, Clark."
Her beautiful smile warmed his heart as he picked up her red dress and went to lay the trail which would give Lois back her life. Their future had indeed changed utterly in the course of a few short hours, he thought. Lane and Kent; partners in life, for the rest of their lives.
*Since Tank mentioned it, I thought I'd slip in the fake- out ending here, just so those who haven't already read it can see it:*
*From the end of Tank's section:*
Clark scrubbed his hand through his hair in agitation. "But I didn't, don't you see?"
Lois was clearly puzzled. "Don't I see what?"
Clark took a deep breath and recaptured Lois' hands. "Lois, a roomful of people saw John Dillinger shoot you at point blank range. He couldn't have missed. They saw your body dragged out of the room." Clark eyes pleaded with Lois for forgiveness. "The police were almost there when I ducked out. I'm afraid by the time the papers hit the stands this morning all of Metropolis with know that Lois Lane has been killed." Clark gave her hands a sympathetic squeeze. "Lois, you're dead!"
Swallowing back guilt, Clark embraced Ellen Lane and shook hands with Sam Lane, murmuring what he felt were hypocritical platitudes in place of genuine condolences. He'd just sat through one of the worst experiences of his life: a memorial service for the woman he loved, a woman who *he* knew wasn't dead, but the rest of the world believed dead.
After all, Inspector Henderson had told him, judging by the witness statements, no-one could have escaped alive from the impact of those three bullets. And, since the bullets hadn't been found, they had to have entered Lois's body and have remained there. True, no-one had seen her body since it had been dragged off by Dillinger and the others, but there was no way that she could have survived.
Clark had also been interviewed by Henderson, but he'd managed to get away with saying very little, claiming shock and not actually having seen much of what happened as an excuse. Since the other witnesses had all agreed on what had happened — that Lois Lane had been shot in the chest at point-blank range — Henderson hadn't pressed Clark for more. He, like all the rest of Clark's acquaintances, had assumed the reporter to be grief-stricken at the loss of his partner, best friend, and the woman most of them had guessed him to be in love with.
Moving away from the Lanes, and trying to avoid the tear- streaked gaze of Lucy Lane, Clark almost walked into Perry White.
"Careful there, son," Perry said quietly. "I know this is tough on you too, but you just need to hold it together a little longer." He caught Clark's arm before the younger man could move away. "You want to come home with Alice and me for a while? Jimmy's coming — give us all a chance to talk and remember Lois."
<Oh, god, no!> Clark thought in horror. There was no way that he could continue this pretence in front of his closest friends. The only way he'd managed it so far was to avoid being alone with Perry or Jimmy, or Lucy, over the past few days. He felt like such a hypocrite, pretending to share in their grief and loss while all the time he knew that Lois was alive.
Alive… but dead in every way which mattered.
They'd had long arguments about what to do since the night it had happened, the moment when he'd had to tell her the brutal truth. She'd been shocked at first, too traumatised to take it in, and he hadn't insisted on discussing it there and then. Instead, he'd simply suggested that she get some sleep, and they could talk in the morning. Already feeling like a fraud, he'd called Perry White, only to discover that the editor had already been contacted by the police and told that Lois was missing, believed dead. So he'd had to spend the rest of the night down at the Planet, with one trip to the police precinct to give his dishonest statement.
Knowing that Lois's body wouldn't be found gave him hope, in that there was time, he thought, to come up with some sort of explanation for her survival. But no matter how hard he tried, he hadn't been able to think of anything. He'd arrived home in the early hours of the morning to find Lois in his kitchen, dressed in his bathrobe and drinking coffee. She'd turned a haunted face to his, and he knew that reality had sunk in.
"What are we going to do, Clark?" she'd asked him, sounding horrified.
He'd sighed. "I don't know. But there has to be a way around this!"
She'd got up and gone into his arms. "Just hold me, Clark. We can talk about this later — I just need you to hold me."
He'd done that, barely able to concentrate on the beautiful, slender body in his arms as he wracked his brain looking for a way out. After a few moments, he'd told her to go back to bed; to his surprise, she'd insisted that he come with her. He'd intended to sleep on the couch, or not sleep at all, but he'd allowed her to persuade him, and they'd spent the remainder of the night in each other's arms. Just holding each other, no more; the comfort of each other's presence was all they'd wanted.
Then, the next day, he'd made her coffee and come to sit on the side of the bed beside her. "I've decided, Lois. I'm going to tell the truth," he'd told her soberly.
"The truth? About what?" she'd asked, puzzled.
"That I'm Superman, and I saved you," he'd told her quietly. "That way you don't have a problem."
"I might not, but you would!" she'd exclaimed immediately. "What about all that stuff you told me last night? About your parents, and being worried about what would happen to them if your secret got out? You *can't* tell people that you're Superman! I won't let you."
"Not even if it's the only way you can get your life back?" he'd asked her sadly.
She'd shaken her head vehemently. "No. Not even then."
That argument had been repeated several times, with the same outcome. Clark would have ignored Lois's views and simply called a press conference, or given Perry an exclusive interview, if not for the knowledge that Lois wouldn't forgive him if he over-rode her views in that way. Now that she knew his secret, she had the right to have her opinion taken into account; he knew that. And if Clark Kent was to be publicly known to be Superman, then Lois — as Clark's friend, and probably girlfriend — would be at risk.
And, in those horrible intervening days, neither of them had been able to come up with an alternative solution.
So Lois had stayed hidden at Clark's apartment, although he'd wanted to take her to his parents' farm where he knew she would be safe and would at least have some freedom to move around. She'd insisted that she wanted to stay with him, telling him that she'd lost everything else and didn't want to lose him as well. And so in some ways those were the best times of Clark's life, since they became lovers as well as friends. Lois had insisted, saying that they were in love, and that if she had her life back they'd be planning on moving in together at least, if not more.
"Lois, if we could, I'd want us to get married," he'd told her softly in response. "I love you. You're the only woman I've ever felt this way about. I'd ask you to marry me right now if I thought we could find a way of bringing you back to life properly."But they hadn't found a solution. And so, now, five days later, Clark was pretending to his friends and Lois's family that he was as grief-stricken and devastated as they were, and feeling a complete fraud in the process.
He shook his head, declining Perry's invitation. "I'm sorry, I can't. My folks are here — " he waved in the vague direction of where he'd last seen his parents, " — and I need to take them back to the airport."
Perry nodded in understanding. "Okay, son. Look, if you need to take another day or two off, you know I'll understand, don't you? I know what she meant to you."
Clark nodded, unable to speak; he felt horrendously guilty about deceiving Perry. Lois had been the daughter the gruff editor never had; he knew that Perry was distraught about Lois's supposed death.
But since they'd agreed that he couldn't tell the truth, there was nothing he could do.
Lois heard the door of Clark's apartment open, but she stayed in the bedroom; she couldn't risk the possibility that it could be someone else, or that Clark could have someone with him. But he called out to her a moment later, so she emerged and went to greet him.
His expression was drawn, and he looked very upset. She drew her hand through his arm and did her best to paste a smile on her face. "Come on, honey — you *know* I'm okay! Don't look so glum."
His arm came tightly around her. "I know, Lois, but it's not that. It's having to pretend to everyone — even your parents and Perry…"
She rested her head against his shoulder. "That's why we're doing the right thing. You mailed the letter to Perry?"
He nodded. "Yeah. On the way home."
"Your parents get back to Smallville okay?"
"Yeah, I flew them back as soon as we left. I told them we'd come and visit soon."
"Then we're ready to go," Lois said heavily. They'd discussed this, and agreed that since Lois Lane was officially dead and gone, this was the only solution, the only way they could be together.
She took a final, long look around Clark's apartment, bare now of all personal possessions — he'd flown them out bit by bit to Smallville over the day or so since they'd agreed on this course of action. He'd also managed to acquire a few of her possessions as well, by asking her parents for them as keepsakes; one look at his expression when he'd come back with them had told her how difficult that pretence had been, as well.
And so they now had a couple of bags packed with essentials, and they were ready to depart. Their new identity documents were laid out ready to hand: Lois was now Louise Land and Clark was Calvin Kane; staying close to their old identities would, they thought, be easier than trying to become accustomed to completely different names. And they were ready to start new lives on the other side of the world.
Clark gazed at her, love and acceptance in his eyes. "You're sure, Lois?"
"Louise," she corrected him softly. "I'm ready. But are you *sure* you want to give everything up and come with me? Even Superman?"
"Lois — Louise — without you, there's nothing here for me," he said huskily. "Wherever you go, I want to be with you. And as for Superman…? Well, who knows. I doubt I'll be able to stop helping. But being with you is more important than anything else."
"I love you, Cal," she told him, using the abbreviated form of his new name deliberately; its similarity to his birth-name was why they'd chosen it, after all. "Let's go and start over together."
He released her, going to get their bags; then he spun into his Suit and came back, scooping her into his arms. He walked out to the balcony with her, then paused briefly to kiss her.
"Australia, here we come," he said, then drifted upwards.