By Tank (TankW1@aol.com)
Submitted August 2001
Summary: The title says it all, really! <g>
Okay, we all know that That Old Gang of Mine is probably the most rewritten episode in the history of L&C fanfic. I, myself have written a few versions. It is a story concept that seems to inspire huge amounts of angst and emotional turmoil. Recently, on Zoom's boards, during the posting of another new version of TOGOM I issued the challenge for someone (actually Hazel) to write an angst free version of TOGOM. Since she didn't seem inclined to do so, I took up the challenge myself.
Now, I realize that it is impossible to write a storyline where a friend is thought killed without any angst, but I did try to come up the scenario which might minimize it. What could Clark have done (short of exposing his identity to the world) that would lessen Lois' suffering to the greatest degree? I hope that I've succeeded in your humble estimations. Perhaps this should have been titled — TOGOM: With Minimum Angst.
All characters trademarked and copyrighted to their respective owners. Any and all feedback welcome at TankW1@aol.com
Zombie-like, Lois Lane approached her front door. She was numb; her mind was fogged over by the events of the last few hours. Everything was such a jumble that she hadn't really had a chance to take it all in and let herself feel. Her mind was only able to grasp one fact. Clark Kent, her partner and her best friend, was dead.
She had insisted that they go to that illegal gambling club in an effort to catch Capone and his mob there. Well, they'd got that, and a lot more. Those reincarnated gangsters had shown up all right. How Lois now wished that they hadn't. It had happened in the proverbial blink of an eye. One second Clark was interposing himself between her and Dillinger, who'd gotten fresh with her, and the next shots had rung out and she was watching her best friend fall slowly to the floor. Clyde Barrow had shot Clark at close range. As she had watched, stunned and horrified by what had just happened, Capone had his goons drag Clark out of the club. She would never see him again.
The police had arrived within minutes of Clark being dragged off. Lois had gone from shocked immobility to being hustled down to the police station to give her statements. Her mind had shut down as she placed herself on autopilot for three hours while she answered the same questions over and over to the various officers who purportedly were 'on the case'. Then she stoically had to repeat everything that had happened for Perry's sake. He'd been contacted once the police knew who she was, and who Clark… had been. He'd tried to comfort her but she wasn't feeling anything right then. She needed to be alone for that. She'd politely refused Perry's offer for her to come home with him. She'd told him she would be fine. She'd lied.
Lois had to stop briefly, and take a deep breath as she fumbled with her keys. She knew she had to hold it together for just a few moments longer. Once she was in her apartment — home, behind closed and locked doors, then she could allow herself to fall apart. She needed to let her anguish and pain have an outlet. Once inside she would be able to collapse into the body-shaking sobs as she finally let the awful reality of what had happened wash over her. She needed to break down, but first she had to get into her apartment.
Eventually the lock and her keys managed to make the necessary connection and the large wood-paneled door swung open. Sighing, she tossed her keys and her bag in the general direction of the kitchen table as she swung the door shut behind her. She froze as she instantly sensed that someone else was in the room. The place was dark, and she could only make out the shadowy form of a man standing in the middle of her living room. Her heart raced as she tried to work out who the mysterious figure might be. Had the gangsters recognized her and followed her back to her apartment, she wondered. Had they decided to finish the job they'd failed to at the club?
"Who's there?" Her voice surprised her as it was stronger than she thought it would be.
The answering voice was hesitant, and barely above a whisper. "It's me."
Lois jabbed at the light switch, not daring to believe what her ears had told her. Once the room was illuminated her eyes were able to confirm what her mind couldn't hope to grasp. But it *was* true! She didn't know how, but standing in her living room, looking despondent and just a bit sheepish, was…
"Clark!" She immediately launched herself across the room, covering the space between them without seeming to touch the floor. In an instant she was in his arms.
Clark appeared somewhat surprised by the ferocity of Lois' embrace. She hugged him with all her strength, almost as if she were afraid that he might disappear if she didn't hold on so tight. Tears of surprise and joy rolled down Lois' cheeks as she murmured thanks to the various fates that brought her friend and partner back to her. It seemed that Lois would hang onto Clark forever, but after several moments she finally eased up on her grip and pulled back far enough to look up at him. Her eyes shone brightly through her tears, her voice full of wonder.
"How…? It doesn't matter how, I'm just so glad you're all right… but how?" Lois reached up and hesitantly stroked Clark's cheek with her fingertips. It was like she still wasn't sure he was there. "I saw you die. Clyde shot you, at close range. He couldn't have missed… could he? Did he?" Lois found herself pawing Clark's chest. His shirt, and coat were soiled, but there were no bullet holes.
Clark shook his head sadly. "No, Lois, he didn't miss."
"But…" Lois couldn't stop touching Clark. "You're here. You're alive!"
Clark carefully disentangled Lois' clinging hands and stepped back a couple of paces. Suddenly he became a whirlwind as he began to spin around. Lois couldn't see anything beyond a blur of changing colors. From the browns and grays of Clark's coat and pants to a bright splash of red and blue. Within seconds the chromatic tornado that had been Clark stopped and in his place stood — Superman.
Lois gasped, and her mouth hung open as the import of what she had just seen sank in. "Omigod, you're him — I mean he and you — I mean…" Lois stumbled back a few steps until she was next to the sofa. She allowed herself to slowly slide back onto the comforting cushion. "You're Superman!"
Clark's mouth was drawn in a tight line across his face. "Yes, Lois, I'm Superman. So you see, Clyde's bullets couldn't hurt me, let alone kill me. I just had to pretend."
Lois looked up. There were fresh tears in her eyes. "Why?" Her voice was a whisper.
Clark's expression softened as he saw Lois' apparent pain and confusion. "Lois, there were too many people around who saw Clyde shoot me. I had to pretend to be killed, to preserve my secret."
Lois wiped the tears away with the back of her hand. She shook her head. "No," she said, her voice getting stronger as she waved off Clark's explanation with a hand gesture.
Clark, as Superman, dropped his head. "Oh, you mean…"
Lois knew she should be angry. Angry and hurt by Clark's actions. He'd lied to her about himself and that should have triggered all her hot buttons on trust and betrayal. But she just couldn't bring herself to be angry — not now. She was still too grateful that he was alive. It didn't matter why he was alive. That he still *was* alive was what mattered.
Calmly, Lois began the cross-examination of Clark, and of herself. "Why didn't you tell me? I thought we were friends — best friends?" She shook her head in irritation, her hair swinging alternately in and out of her face. "How did I not notice? I'm supposed to be a top investigative reporter yet I worked beside you for over a year and never knew."
"Lois, how could you know?" Clark took a step toward her but stopped when she glared up at him. "Why would you think that 'good ol' Clark', farmboy from Kansas would masquerade as a gaudily-clad super hero in his spare time?" Clark ignored Lois' look and came forward to kneel in front of her so he could look directly into her eyes. "Lois, why would you think that Superman had another identity in the first place?"
Lois gave Clark a half-hearted grin. "Oh, I've always suspected that Superman led some other life on the side."
Clark looked surprised. "Really?"
Lois nodded. "It only made sense. Where did he go when he wasn't out saving everyone? No one could do what he did 24/7; even a Superman would need a break from time to time. If he ever craved any privacy, he had to have something, or in this case, someone else to fall back on, just to keep his sanity."
Clark shook his head in wonder. "Lois, I'm continually amazed by your brilliance. That's it exactly."
Lois allowed herself a slight chuckle. "Oh, don't think you're off the hook with a bit of flattery, flyboy." Lois poked her finger into his chest. "I should be furious with you. You've lied to me, and betrayed the trust I thought we shared. I should be terribly hurt by this, but the only emotions I have room for right now are the relief and gratitude that I feel knowing that you are still alive." Lois' finger began to move around Clark's chest, outlining his shield. "I may be a bit confused as to who you really are, but I know that my partner is not dead and that satisfies me for the time being. The yelling and the crying may come later, but for now — can you just tell me why? Why didn't you feel you could share your secret with me?"
Clark stood up and spun back into a pair of jeans and a black T shirt. He didn't bother with his glasses. Lois had to gasp again as she witnessed what could only be described as magic. She made a mental note to ask him how he did that, after all this was over.
Clark knelt back down in front of Lois, and took her hands in his. "First off, Lois, I want you to know that for quite some time, I've wanted to tell you — about me and Superman. I've hated lying to you about this, and I had made up my mind to tell you."
"But?" Lois cocked an eyebrow at him.
"But the timing never seemed to be right."
Lois' other brow went up, questioningly. "Explain."
For the next several minutes Clark poured his heart out to Lois. He told her of his hopes and fears. He explained how hard it was when she ignored him early on, and later even as friends how her infatuation with Superman, a made up character, made him feel like the real him wasn't that important to her. He told her of his fears for his folks and her, if anyone knew he was Superman. Then he went on to point out that by the time he was comfortable with the idea of telling her, she'd started dating Luthor, which really messed things up. At that point Lois had the decency to blush, embarrassed. He finished up by admitting that his fear of what her reaction would be also contributed to his finding 'excuses' to not tell her.
To her credit, Lois had sat quietly all through his little speech. There were several times when she wanted to protest, or interject some comment, but she hadn't. She let Clark finish. His reasons for the most part were sound and logical, but she knew that there was more behind his motivations than just logic. Superman might appear to the public as a stoic and logical individual, but she knew that Clark Kent was a compassionate and highly emotional person.
Lois nodded slightly and raised her eyes to meet Clark's. "Supposing I accept all your arguments. And I do mean supposing. There are still several instances that need to be more closely examined, but they can wait. For now, let's just say that I understand your reasons for not telling me." Lois pulled her hands out from his. "Why now — why are you coming to me now? I would think that my reaction to Clark Kent's apparent death would really help in covering up your alter ego."
Clark reached back and took one of Lois' hands in his. "That may be true, but I couldn't let you think I'd been killed. Lois, I know you don't feel about me the same way I feel about you, but I do know we are friends, and I do know that you care about me." Clark sighed as he gave her hand a little squeeze. "I saw the expression on your face when I fell to the ground pretending to be shot. I heard your cries as I was being dragged out of that club. It tore at my heart to think what you might be going through, thinking you just saw your friend and partner shot and killed."
Clark got up off the floor and moved over to sit next to Lois on the couch. "By the time I had been dumped by Capone and his goons you were already with the police. I didn't know how else to contact you, so I just came over here and waited for you to come home."
Lois cocked her head at an angle and looked closely at Clark. "How did you know I would come home? I could have accepted Perry's invitation to stay over with him and Alice tonight."
Clark rolled his eyes briefly. "Lo-is."
Lois couldn't help but grin. "Okay, so I'm not all that good at sharing my troubles with others." She suddenly became serious. "At least not until I met you, Clark."
Lois sat back on the couch and stared off, unseeing, into space. It had just hit her, like a bolt out of the blue. It didn't matter whether he was Clark, or Superman, or as she suspected now, some amalgam to the two. She wasn't angry with him because she was too glad that he was alive. And she was too glad that he was alive because she realized that she couldn't imagine her life without him. Clark, her partner and her best friend, had somehow insinuated himself into her life, and she liked the idea.
Did she love him? That was a question that was too scary to think about just yet. It was safer to just admit that she had grown to depend on him being there for her, and she wasn't too proud to say that Lois Lane's life was definitely better when Clark Kent was a part of it. She needed him, and thanks to a secret well kept from the rest of the world, to which she was now privy, she hadn't had to lose him.
She turned back to Clark, her face a shy smile. "I know we'll talk more about this Superman thing, but just let me say that I'm really glad that you're still alive. I think I'd miss you too much if you were really gone."
Lois noticed Clark's pensive expression. "Clark, what's wrong? I'm not angry, really I'm not."
"No, Lois, it's not that." He scrubbed his hand through his hair. "It's just that several people saw Clyde Barrow gun down Clark Kent at that club. You've even had to testify to the police as to that fact. So, unless I'm willing to go public about being Superman, Clark Kent is, for all practical purposes, dead!"
Lois' eyes widened as the implication of Clark's words hit home. She bit her lip as a frown creased her brow. Suddenly she perked up and patted Clark on the cheek.
"I've got it, " she said reassuringly. "We'll just say that Superman found your body and froze you with his super breath to — you know."
"Preserve the tissue?"
"Yeah, that's it, to preserve the tissue. Then he took you to Professor Hamilton's lab, and using the notes he found there, he used the professor's process to bring you back to life!"
Clark frowned at Lois. "I dunno, Lois, that sounds awfully farfetched. Who'd ever believe it?"
Lois placed her fists at her waist in a familiar gesture of impatience. "Do you want to stay dead?"
"No." Clark hung his head.
"Good, because I don't want you to be either." Lois placed her hand alongside Clark's jaw. "Trust me, Clark, people will be so happy just to know that you're alive. They won't think to question how."
Clark shrugged. "If you think so."
Lois nodded once emphatically. "I think so." She stood up and grabbed his hand. "Now, come on, let's make some coffee and plan out your miraculous return from the dead." Lois couldn't help but grin. "I'm sure there'll be a Kerth in this for me somewhere."