By Round Robin Writers
Rated PG 13
Submitted October 2002
Summary: Finally, the most beautiful day of her life has arrived, for she is to marry the man of her dreams. But is her husband-to-be really suited for her? After all, Lex Luthor might not take rejection so kindly.
By Elena <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Chiara Prato <email@example.com>, Wendy Richards <Wendy@lcfanfic.com>, Kaethel <Kaethel@wanadoo.fr> & Sarah Luddy <firstname.lastname@example.org>
You should never allow evil authors to spend a week's holiday together in the Italian Alps if you provide them with laptops and an Internet connection. It's amazing the possibilities that come out of those twisted minds when they combine their efforts… and count on a fifth evil one to fix the mess they set for her.
So without further ado, let's see who's to blame for this story.
Cortina Gang's share of the blame: This is of course all Elena's fault, but then you guessed that. It was her idea; all the rest of us did was help her to write it. They don't call her Evil-El for nothing. We decided to issue Sarah with this (very waffy and romantic and not evil at all) challenge because she appears to be the only transatlantic match for El's evilness. Did she confirm our suspicions that she's the evilest one out there? Read (at your own risk <g>) and find out!
Sarah's response: Me evil? Hey, I'm the one who fixed it! Or tried to. I called the Cortina gang while they were on vacation to say hi, and what do I hear? I'd better check the boards as soon as I can. With much trepidation I went to see what Evil-El times four they'd come up with. I think I can safely say this is the hardest challenge I've ever had to deal with (okay, okay, so I haven't ever been challenged before, but still, this one was very very evil, don't let them convince you otherwise). Took me over a week to come up with something. On the bright side, at least they sent me a postcard from Italy. :)
Thanks go to the readers on the message boards and to our very helpful GE, Julie Gibson. :)
"And do you, Lois, take this man to be your wedded husband from this day forward, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do you part?"
/Until death does us part./
Death. In a long time. A very long time. She was only twenty-seven, and they were asking her to plan her entire life ahead and sign a contract that she would have to bear for the next sixty years or so! How was that for nuts? She would be Lex Luthor's wife in a few seconds' time, and there would be no turning back. She was tempted to dart a quick glance at the congregation behind her and search one more time for the person whose support she really needed at the moment. She'd kept hoping, as days passed and the ceremony approached, that Clark would attend the wedding. She knew it was unfair to expect him to be by her side when he was still hurting from her rejection. She knew their friendship had been seriously damaged over the past few weeks, but she'd never given up on it.
She was agreeing to marry Lex Luthor just when the most solid friendship she'd ever had in her life was falling apart; when the one relationship she'd thought would be forever was on its way to a miserable end.
Marry Lex. And forever, at that. Because there would be no divorce; she'd suffered enough during her childhood, thrown about between parents who wouldn't communicate. There would be no divorce, especially if kids were involved. An insidious pain lurched in the pit of her stomach as she remembered the talk she'd had with Lex over the issue of offspring. When she'd accepted his proposal, pregnancy had been the furthest thing from her mind. In fact, she'd avoided the subject altogether; her few experience with children could be pretty much summed up with one word: disaster.
Lex, though, had dismissed the fears she'd started to voice. He was adamant that she'd be just fine. And anyway, she would just have to carry them for nine months, after which he could get someone to take care of them. She'd been appalled by the thought at first, and even more so because she'd felt a certain relief wash over her at the possibility. How could she even consider having kids if she let someone else take care of them entirely? But Lex hadn't given her any opportunity to pursue the conversation, for he'd been called away on some business matter and had left her to mull over the idea.
Deep down, she knew that Lex would be the absent father. He was already so busy that he didn't spend much time with her. In any case, their engagement was quite different from anything she'd ever imagined. Sure, he treated her to dinner in Milan and Shakespeare plays in Stratford upon Avon, but could the ability to go anywhere at any time be the sole basis of a strong and happy marriage? Besides, she was no fool; she was well aware that Lex's main purpose was to impress her. He used his money and power to show her what kind of life he could offer her, and…
…and it worked.
She had been impressed. Not that she'd agreed to marry him for his money — she wasn't that shallow! — but she'd seen the advantages of life in the fast lane.
Probably just like a relationship with Superman would have been. Her head lowered as she remembered the superhero's rejection, and she chased the painful image from her mind. It was no use yearning for something that would never happen. Superman had made his feelings clear: he cared for her, but he didn't want to have any kind of a relationship with her. She held back a snort. Could you get any more stupid?
Marriage to Lex could offer the same excitement as a relationship with the superhero.
With the tiny little difference that Superman would want to share special pleasures with her, whereas she suspected that Lex did it mostly to dazzle her. For the latter, the bigger the expense, the more enjoyable the moment became. For the superhero gifted with abilities that he never ever used for his own benefit, what mattered was the beauty of the moment, whether that was the perfect sunrise or sunbeams glinting over the ripples of a waterfall in the unspoiled depths of the Amazon.
Lex had the money. Superman had the soul.
And, of course, she had been — and still was — in love with Superman. As she'd told Clark, she had feelings for Lex, but they couldn't be characterised in the same way. She liked him a lot; whether she could ever love him, she didn't know. Couldn't know. And the period of their engagement had been too short for her feelings to evolve into more than attraction. And admiration.
She couldn't prevent a cold shiver from running down her spine. Marrying Lex Luthor made her feel small and weak. She wasn't his equal. She would never be his equal…
…whereas Clark had never made her feel as if she couldn't hold her own with him. She respected him; she even admired him. But she didn't feel threatened around him. She didn't need to struggle to be the strong, independent woman she'd fought so hard to be. Much as it would have hurt her to admit it at the beginning of their partnership, they were equal on every level. They even completed each other most of the time, without either one of them behaving as a weakling.
She could remember every single moment they'd spent together, and there wasn't one minute of that incredible relationship that she could regret. Even their fights never left her with the bitter taste that progressively destroyed any friendship. They had always made up…except, of course, this time. The past few weeks without him had been horrible…all right, maybe not precisely that bad. Lex, after all, kept her entertained and she enjoyed his company quite a lot. But she missed Clark. She missed him so much that she'd called him a few nights ago, without any purpose other than to hear the sound of his voice. And once he'd hung up, cutting short a conversation that was awkward at best, she'd cried herself to sleep as she contemplated the ruins of their friendship.
And now she was on her way to marry another man. To seal her destiny to him for the rest of her life, and definitively turn her back on that wonderful year she'd spent at Clark's side. It felt like letting a lover go, and she knew she shouldn't let her sadness take her away from what was right.
And what was right was to clear her thoughts of anything but the man standing next to her, his eyes fixated on her as he waited for her answer.
Waiting. He was waiting. And had obviously been for enough time to frown in concern at her lack of reaction. She didn't know how much time had passed since she'd heard the archbishop's dreadful question, but if the murmurs behind her were anything to go by, she'd definitely failed to look like the eager bride.
She *wasn't* an eager bride. In fact, she was anything but eager. Why had she let Lex bully her into marriage so quickly? They barely knew each other; sure, they'd gone on a few dates, spent a few evenings together, but how could it be enough? How could she say "I do" to a man she barely knew at all?
A terrifying thought crossed her mind, and she tried to chase away the image of Clark Kent standing beside her and holding her hand in a firm, reassuring grip. Clark wasn't here. Clark would never be here again. Lex was the one squeezing her fingers, urging her on, pressuring her into this life-changing step. Her heart was thundering so fast against her breast that she was certain that her husband-to-be could hear it — that everyone in the Chapel could hear it.
The archbishop repeated his question in the same monotone as the first time, looking as bored as ever, and she felt moisture gather in her eyes as she realised this was anything but the type of wedding she'd dreamed of. She'd always wanted a marriage based on friendship as well as romance, and Lex had never been a friend to her. An acquaintance, yes. A date, yes. But a friend? Who did she run to when she felt scared or depressed? Who took her in his arms and held her cradled in his strong embrace? Who would drop anything to be with her, for every minute of every single day? Who *loved* her enough to let her go despite the incredible hurt she must have inflicted upon him?
She was making a mistake.
She was in danger of making the biggest mistake of her life.
Standing here, contemplating saying the words which would bind her to Lex irrevocably, inseparably, for the rest of her life in what would be a catastrophic error. How could she ever have accepted his proposal?
/How could I ever have rejected Clark…?/
/It's not too late to change your mind/
Her mother's words, spoken as Lois had unaccountably started crying while dressing and preparing for the marriage ceremony, came flooding back into her mind. It *wasn't* too late. Even though she was standing here in front of Metropolis's high society, and the Archbishop, no less, it wasn't too late.
This was all wrong. She should have known all along that it was wrong. Why was she here at this mockery of a ceremony, without a single one of her friends to support her and reassure her that she was doing the right thing? Why had even her mother reminded her that it wasn't too late to change her mind?
I do. Two such tiny words. And yet they were perhaps the most significant words she had ever been asked to say in her life.
No. Even shorter… but would it be any easier to say?
She couldn't delay any longer. Lex's expression was shifting from concerned to angry. His grip on her arm was tightening She had to say *something*.
She opened her mouth, barely knowing which of the words she'd been rehearsing inside her head would emerge. And, finally, she heard herself say, "I…I can't."
And, as both Lex and the archbishop stared at her in amazement, the doors opened with a loud crash and Perry, Jimmy, Jack, Inspector Henderson and several police officers stormed into the room.
Clark felt a wave of dizziness wash over him. He'd never felt so weak in his entire life. Even his first encounter with Kryptonite hadn't left him so excruciatingly sore. He was aching all over. His skin felt as if it was burning, his head was throbbing with a splitting headache and dark spots were dancing in front of his eyes. Right now all he wanted was the chance to lie down curled in the foetal position.
But he had to escape from the wine cellar. Luthor would certainly come back to finish Superman. There was no doubt about it. And Clark knew he had to stop the wedding. He sighed at how unlikely that sounded; there was probably no wedding to stop any more. Luthor and Lois had said their "I do"s and driven off in one of the groom's numerous limos. And it gave him some respite; maybe Luthor expected him to expire from simple Kryptonite exposure, or maybe he was so full of himself that he didn't believe for one second that Superman would have a chance to escape. The knowledge should make him feel victorious, but moving, and getting out of here, was impossible right now. He couldn't feel his fingers and toes any more, and his breath was coming in short gasps as he struggled against the pain engulfing his lungs with every gulp of air.
Luthor was most certainly revelling in having brought his arch-nemesis to his knees. He'd made that clear enough on his last visit to the cellar, when he'd been singing and practically dancing in his delight. Of course, for Luthor it was a double victory; not only had he conquered Superman, but he had won the hand of Lois Lane.
But not the heart, Clark told himself. Never her heart. He could never have imagined that he'd be grateful for Lois's crush on his alter ego, but right now he was glad of it. For it meant that she couldn't possibly be in love with Lex Luthor.
He had always known Luthor was pure evil, but his wounded feelings had somehow numbed his judgement; when Luthor had requested his visit, he hadn't thought for one second that the man was planning anything against him. He'd been stupid and naive. There was no doubt that nothing good would come of it. But he'd had to go. He couldn't let Luthor think he was beaten. No, the great Superman, the super-powered being that stood for all that was good in this world, had to face his most hated enemy. Ha! What a stupid, careless action! As if he couldn't have guessed that Luthor was up to something. He'd imagined there would be some definite taunting, but Luthor had never actually confronted him face to face. Even when he'd been testing Superman's abilities, he'd still hidden behind the urbane facade that he displayed for the public view.
So he hadn't been on his guard when he had answered Luthor's summons. To be honest, he'd behaved in such an over-confident way that it was hardly surprising he'd ended up locked in that cage. He'd been hurt by Lois' attitude. He had opened his heart to her; he had finally revealed his love, his devotion, his passion. But she had rejected him.
Maybe it would have been bearable if she hadn't thrown herself into Superman's arms the very same day.
Or maybe not.
The right thing to do would have been to tell her, as Superman, all he knew of Luthor's plots. There were enough of them to persuade Lois he was not the right man to marry.
Moreover, he had treated her with contempt, with scorn. He would never forget how her look had shadowed after he had uttered that gratuitous remark about her robe. Her "not lead-lined" robe. In the same night, he'd lost her trust as Clark and her respect as Superman.
And after having lost the love of his life, he had almost lost his own life too.
"Stop the wedding!" Perry White hollered as he barged into the small chapel created specially for the occasion in the hall of the LexCorp building. "Lois, you can't marry this man!"
Lex Luthor would have retorted to the foolish former editor of the Planet quite easily if it wasn't for his surprise at hearing those words of rejection coming from Lois's mouth. Whatever had got through her mind not to say "I do"? What kind of woman turned down her fiance at the altar, in front of the cream of society? The people gathered here were, for the most part, his most senior employees, business associates and the city's top politicians. They all respected him, admired him, looked up to him. A man in his position couldn't allow himself to be humiliated in public by a *mere* woman, a nobody whom he'd done the supreme honour of asking to be his wife!
"What, is there an echo in here? I just said that." Lois promptly retorted with a touch of sarcasm.
Did she really have to repeat that? Was she just making sure that even the people sitting at the back of the room knew what her answer was? He should have realised that Lois Lane was a volatile woman who wouldn't slide into the role of Lex Luthor's wife quite that easily. Maybe he'd underestimated her. Maybe she was still too independent to be kept under tight control. He'd promised Superman that he would take care of that, but he should probably have been more careful during their engagement. He'd been too busy with other plans to observe her closely enough; she'd seemed a bit subdued every now and then, and she'd asked a couple of suspicious questions on a few occasions, but he'd been skilful at convincing her that Clark Kent's motives stemmed from a nonsensical hostility towards him.
He'd always thought that the one person who could pull Lois away from him was Superman. It hadn't actually occurred to him that Clark Kent or Perry White could represent any kind of danger. On the other hand, he suspected that White barging into their wedding ceremony in such an…*unceremonious* way was more for dramatic effect than for a real, serious purpose. There was no way they could know anything about him beyond what he let appear, so there had to be a misunderstanding.
He turned to the newcomers, an annoyed frown creasing his forehead. "What is the meaning of this?" he demanded authoritatively.
Perry White didn't lower his gaze, much to Lex's dismay. "The meaning, Luthor, is that you're through. We have all the evidence against you we need."
"Evidence? Evidence of what?" Lois intervened.
Well, at least for once they were in sync. What type of evidence could they have? Not that it mattered! Whatever it was, he'd be able to dismiss it in no time. It couldn't possibly be that serious. White must have lost his mind — maybe Lois had been right; maybe retirement hadn't been the best of ideas for him. Oh, well…
Henderson — what was that pathetic, insignificant, NYPD-Blue-type of detective wannabe doing here anyway? Unaware of the ridicule he was exposing himself to, he stepped to the centre of the crowd that had risen from their seats, holding up a piece of paper. "I have a warrant here charging you with arson and other crimes too numerous to mention."
Arson? Other crimes? What was that all about? And which arson anyway? "You are out of your minds! All of you!"
Apparently unperturbed, Henderson went on with the same laconic tone. "You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney…"
The situation was escaping his control. If he didn't interrupt this man right now, he could easily end up handcuffed and manhandled to the nearest precinct. It would be unacceptable. "Will you stop that! I can afford a thousand attorneys. I'll have your head…badge for this. Someone get the Governor on the phone! Wait, make it the President, make it…"
He trailed off as Mrs Cox appeared in the doorway, her hands gripped in tight cuffs and her arms in the grasp of two police officers. That changed things. The situation was a lot more critical than he'd suspected, and a legal way out would be harder to obtain this time. Even Sheldon Bender wasn't good enough to get the charges that would be held against him dismissed; after all, Henderson wouldn't bring the troops along if he didn't have enough evidence that something was going on. Accusing Lex Luthor without evidence could destroy his entire career…
Was Henderson foolish enough to take such a chance?
The certainty displayed on the detective's face made it extremely unlikely.
For the first time in his life, Lex Luthor felt sorely tempted to swear, but he held back the curse and grasped for the small gun hidden in his red cummerbund. He didn't care if it worsened his case; the destruction of the Daily Planet was enough to send him straight to prison for a very long time, and he would never live in jail and share his shower with petty criminals who had no more style than they had brains.
His hand snaked around his bride's waist and he violently pulled her to him, using her body as a shield. He pointed the gun at her temple.
"Don't move!" he roared threateningly. The faces gaping at him and the few gasps of terror heard in the congregation were a small victory. Fuelled by renewed power, he kept a tight hold on Lois and reached the side door of the chapel.
Thankfully, Lois seemed too shocked to offer much resistance. Not that he wouldn't have been able to deal with it. As skilful as she usually seemed with martial arts, she was probably aware than any wrong move could make him pull the trigger. The human instinct for self-preservation was extremely strong, after all. She was rather docile as he dragged her to the secret elevator he'd set for emergencies. He'd never thought he'd have to use it, but at this moment he couldn't regret the investment.
What he hadn't expected, though, was to see police officers crowding his office as he entered what he called his sanctuary. These people had no respect whatsoever for a man's privacy! Some of them were already looking through his files! Ha! As if they could find anything in there! Who did they think he was? A brainless rookie?
"It's over, Luthor," Henderson said as he stepped into the room.
Why hadn't he thought of shutting down the other elevators? Stupid, stupid, stupid!
"Let Ms Lane go and give yourself up," the detective demanded.
Was he actually expecting him to cooperate? They were so deluded that it was becoming quite pathetic. Or it would be, if he wasn't in such a complicated situation. Deep down, he knew there was no solution. Deep down, he knew he couldn't save himself from what was waiting for him downstairs in the lobby. Searching his memory for any mistake he might have made in the covering of his tracks was useless.
Henderson stepped forward, extending a hand towards him, and he instinctively tightened his hold on his prisoner, eliciting a low moan of pain from her. It didn't matter. He hadn't wanted to physically hurt her, but it wasn't as if he had a choice. What he didn't want, though, was to see her go back to her former life and let himself stew in a dark and dank cell. What he didn't want was to be stuck in a dark and dank cell.
Reaching the only decision that could save him from a destiny that definitely contradicted his own plans, Lex stepped over to the balcony and climbed onto the ledge, heedless of Lois's howl of terror. He turned to Henderson and fixed him with a harsh stare.
"Lex Luthor will not live in a cage!" he declared loudly, gripping Lois tightly as he held her in front of him as a shield.
Then, switching his attention to the woman holding herself stiffly in his arms, he trailed a soft caress along her jawline with the barrel of his gun. "If I can't have you, my dear…no one else will," he whispered in her ear.
He gave one last glance to the pathetically helpless policemen observing him from afar, savouring his one last victory before he gripped Lois's body harder to his and jumped over the edge with her.
Lois screamed in terror and tried to free herself from Lex's grasp as he flung them over the ledge, but he was holding her too tight.
"Stop struggling," he hissed in her ear, just barely getting the words out before they hit the ground.
Or, rather, not the ground, because they bounced lightly. Besides, Lois would have thought it would have taken a lot longer to reach the ground, not to mention hurt a lot more.
Struggling free of Lex's arms, Lois tried to stand up, and immediately collapsed back to her side. They appeared to be in some sort of flimsy net, hanging dozens of stories above the ground far, far below. She felt a wave of vertigo churn through her stomach as she realized how thin and transparent the net was that caught them.
"Are you all right, darling?" Lex asked anxiously. "I'm sorry that we had to fall a little ways before the net caught us, but I needed to make sure that if anyone was watching us we appeared to fall over the ledge and disappear from sight. I never thought it would come to this, but I set it up just in case I ever needed to 'disappear' long enough to let me escape."
"I think I'm okay," Lois said, gingerly testing her limbs. They all seemed to be shaky and a little numb, but that seemed to be reasonable, considering.
"We have to hurry," Lex urged. The net was slowly lowering itself, she realized when her stomach turned over again. It carefully aligned itself with a window, where three men dressed all in black were waiting. They grabbed Lois by the arms, and without being very careful, hoisted her in. Lex followed.
Lois stumbled on the floor, and one of the men in black caught her. He flipped the ski mask off his face and revealed himself as Nigel. She quickly pushed him away with a look of revulsion, and grabbed the windowsill for support.
Before she could even get a handle on what was going on, Nigel had opened a panel in the wall and was revealing what appeared to be a secret elevator.
"Where are we going?" Lois asked in a slightly panicked voice.
Lex smiled at her and smoothed a bit of imaginary hair away from her face. "My dear, a few things I've done have come out. Nothing to worry about, but I think we'd better head somewhere else for a while to be safe. How do you feel about the Caribbean?"
Lois stared at him blankly. "Lex, I think I'm going to be…"
Before she could finish her sentence, Nigel pulled a suspicious-looking needle from his jacket and held it in the air. Nigel stuck her with it while she was still mid- gasp.
"Lex," was the last thing she managed to murmur before she blacked out.
Three days later, Lex and Lois were safely ensconced in a small villa in the Caribbean. Lex still had access to all his funds, thanks to some quick and intelligent transferring by Sheldon Bender, who was given a handsome bonus accordingly. Lex was still managing his interests from afar. But he still found plenty of time to spend with his Lois, and both were developing attractive tans from much time spent on the beach.
"Lex," Lois said, as she allowed him to gently massage suntan lotion into her back.
"Yes, Lois?" he asked.
Lois sat up and eyed him through her sunglasses. "Darling, I have a small request."
He smiled fondly at her and wiped his hands on the towel lying across the back of her chair. "Anything for you, dearest."
"I was thinking," she said slowly, "I'd rather that you didn't call me Lois any more."
If anything, his smile grew broader. "Ready to make a complete parting from your old life, my dear?" he asked. "I couldn't be happier. What name would you like to go by now?"
She smiled gratefully at him. "I'd like to go by…Clois."
His expression resembled nothing quite so much as a fish suddenly finding himself on dry land and rapidly attempting to calculate how long it would take lungs to evolve.
"Close your mouth, Lex," Clois warned. "You'll let in flies."
~*~ Back at the time of the wedding ~*~
Lois could hardly see the police officers through her tears as they burst into the room. She could only think of one thing — getting back to Clark and telling him how much she loved him, how she'd been wrong about Lex. Without even thinking about it, Lois ran through the side door of the room and out into the hallway. She half-saw someone standing by the doorway and staring at Lois in astonishment, but her mind was halfway across the city at 344 Clinton. She had to get to Clark before he found out about this from someone else.
But what if Lex came after her? If he'd seen her run out, he might. She had to hide. She dashed down the hallway and into his office.
No, this wasn't a good place to hide. She could hear voices coming towards her. She frantically looked around for a place to hide, but saw nothing except…what was that in the wall? She hurriedly ran to it and pushed the button. It was an elevator! She only just managed to get into the elevator and close the door when the office door opened. Fortunately, the elevator wasn't in plain view of the doorway, and they didn't appear to see the closing door. Just before she was closed off from view, though, she saw that the men were police officers who immediately hurried towards Lex's desk.
Lois quickly hit the bottommost button without thinking about it. When she realized she'd hit the belowground level, she hit her head with her hand. It was street-level she wanted, not basement.
On the other hand, the basement might have a way to get to street level without being seen running away from her wedding to the most powerful man in the world. When the elevator hit the basement floor, Lois was shoving the doors open before they had time to slide open on their own. She sprinted down the hallway that opened before her.
At the end of the hallway, Lois could see stairs leading up to what appeared to be a back door out to the street. Light shone in, leaving a square of bright light on the otherwise dark floor and illuminating the hallway.
Lois was almost to the door when she heard a faint moan. "Hello?" she called cautiously.
It appeared to be coming from a room on the right side of the hallway. The wine cellar, a room Lois had a vague memory of entering once to sample Lex's wine. Just outside the doorway, an axe hung on the wall next to the glass box for a fire alarm. Lois had never quite understood why, if there was a fire, one was expected to use an axe to chop through glass to reach the alarm. But it could come in useful now. She hefted the axe from the wall and walked over to the moaning door. Very cautiously, she pushed open the unlocked door and stepped in.
A green glow was coming from the center of the room, and once Lois's eyes adjusted to the brightness to realize that it was a green, glowing cage, she gasped. For inside the cage, lying on his side and groaning, was Superman.
"Superman!" she gasped, running towards him, axe still in hand. Superman flinched when he looked up and saw her with the axe, but she ran to the cage and swung the axe with a mighty heave, slamming it into the bars. It rebounded, sending a jolt of pain through her arms. She ignored the pain and swung again, almost missing the cage entirely this time.
"Lois!" Superman called weakly.
"I'm coming, Superman," she said, swinging the axe again. This time it connected solidly with the bars, but it still bounced off. "What in the world are these bars made of?" she asked, incredulous.
"Kryptonite," Superman whispered. "At least, they're laced with it."
Lois swung again and again, growing more and more frantic as the bars refused to break.
"Lois, listen to me," Superman said.
"Let me get you out first, while I still have all this adrenaline," she said, gasping for breath between swings, "then we can talk."
"But Lois," Superman said, wincing as a particularly hard swing made Lois drop the axe. "Lois, the key's on that barrel over there."
She stopped. "Oh." After a moment's pause, she grabbed the key and fitted it to the lock. Superman crawled out, and Lois bent to hug him.
"Please, Lois," he said softly. "I need to get out of this room."
"Of course. We're near the exit, come on! I'll help you." She slung her arm around his waist to help support him enough to stand, then together they limped out the door.
Once they'd reached the hallway, Superman's breathing grew noticeably stronger. He didn't even trip when they clambered up the steps and out into the sunlight.
"Come on," Lois said, tugging him. Superman seemed content to bask in the sunlight now that they were outdoors, but they couldn't stay here. As concerned as she was for Superman, Lois was still desperate to reach Clark as quickly as she could.
"Where should I take you?" Lois asked, curiosity overtaking her. Just where *did* Superman go to recover when he was hurt? Did he have a place of his own somewhere?
"Uh, Clark's place will be fine."
Lois's eyes widened. "That's actually where I'm going. I need to talk to Clark." Not that she wanted to deprive Superman of help, but she and Clark did kind of need privacy for their conversation. "Actually, Clark and I need to have a…talk. Would you mind if we maybe slipped out or something?"
Superman stared at her, which was awkward as she still had her arm around his waist to help him. "About what?"
Lois turned bright red. "I'd rather not say. We had this talk the other day in a park, and…I just want to tell him I was wrong about something."
Superman suddenly stumbled and would have fallen into the street if Lois hadn't caught him. "Are you okay?" she asked.
He nodded, not appearing to trust his mouth to form words properly.
Lois held up a hand and a cab halted as if an invisible string had been attached to the cab and to her finger. Even Superman looked impressed.
"Come on," she said, leading him in. "I bet you've never ridden a cab before. This is the driver. We pay him to take us around the city, since parking is too expensive." Lois glanced at the driver and suddenly realized how this must look.
"Uh, Superman's taking a walking tour around the city so he can be a little more familiar with, uh, public transportation."
The cabbie guffawed. "Whatever you say, lady. But this ain't no free service."
Lois rolled her eyes and waved a twenty in the air. The cabbie immediately turned face front and slowly pulled into traffic.
"Don't worry," she whispered loudly. "Your invulnerability comes in pretty handy for riding in city cabs."
She could swear she heard the cabbie actually growl, and she grinned to herself.
"We're almost there," she said as the cab turned onto Clinton Street. Superman glanced up and down the street worriedly before trotting towards Clark's apartment behind Lois.
"Don't worry," she assured him. "Clark won't think you're imposing. He's a good friend of yours too, right?"
Superman nodded mutely. They walked up the steps to the front door. Lois fitted a key to the lock.
"You have a key?" Superman asked.
"Yeah, Clark gave it to me when he was away for the weekend once. He wanted me to feed his…uh, water his…uh, check on the place."
Superman gave her a doubtful look. She sighed. "Okay, so once I might have just borrowed the spare key from the hook in the kitchen and had it duplicated. It's really just a precaution, you know, just in case."
Superman laughed, startling Lois. "It's okay, Lois."
"I guess I should have just asked Clark, huh? I just wasn't really sure if he'd, you know, trust me."
"He would," Superman said, his dark brown eyes serious as they pushed their way into Clark's apartment.
"Where is he?" Lois said, startled. The apartment seemed dark and quiet.
"I think he said that he was going out during the wedding. He'll probably be back in a few. Maybe I should just go check."
Before Lois could respond, Superman quickly dashed out the door. She sighed as she waited impatiently at the table.
After ten minutes, the front door opened again. Lois nervously stood up as Clark walked in. For a long moment, neither spoke. Their eyes connected across the room, silently communicating…something.
"Clark," Lois said finally.
All the words she'd been desperate to say all day finally came to the forefront, and Lois felt as if she'd explode if she didn't get them all out instantly.
"Clark, I know I told you I didn't feel that way about you, you know, the way you said you felt about me at the park, and I really did believe it then, but then at the wedding when I was getting ready all I could think was Lois Lane Kent not Lois Lane Luthor, and the towels monogrammed LL just sounded ridiculous and then I was walking down the aisle and all I could think of wasn't Lex, but you. All the times you'd been my friend over the past year, and all the times I'd looked at you and remembered it's 9am you said you'd be naked I mean ready, and I couldn't go through with it so I told Lex I can't."
She finished on a burst of breath, not entirely sure if she'd managed to give Clark one clear piece of information. Her eyes were burning with her attempt to hold back the tears that desperately wanted to show Clark how much she was feeling.
Clark started to cross the room towards Lois, but he forgot that there were stairs just inside his door. He stumbled just as Lois reached him, and they fell into each other's arms.
"Lois," he whispered, "Do you mean it?"
"More than I've ever meant anything in my life," Lois said.
"I love you."
"And I love you."
Almost as if he was sure that Lois would break away at the last moment, telling him that she hadn't meant what she'd said, that she meant to append "as a friend," Clark lowered his face very tentatively to hers.
Lois took the initiative and went up to tiptoe to reach Clark's lips with hers. She pressed her lips to his, not quite knowing what to expect. But Clark let out the breath he'd been holding in a soft burst, and as their breath mingled, Lois felt as if something in her chest loosened. Ever since she'd left Lex at the altar, she'd felt a tenseness in her chest that made every action feel not-quite-real, as if she was sleepwalking. Until she'd reached Clark's arms, and she knew, without a doubt, that she was very much awake and glad of it.
Clark deepened the kiss, and it was Lois's turn to gasp. "Where'd you learn that one?" she asked him softly. "Behind the Dairy Queen?"
Clark flushed slightly. "Actually I've been daydreaming about it since the moment I met you," he admitted. "It's almost as good as having had a year of practice."
Lois was flattered. She hid her reaction by kissing him again, letting her hands begin to roam on his body as his explored hers.
Minutes were lost in their delight in each other, as standing went to blindly feeling their way to the sofa to sit down, and then to lying down, rolling back and forth so often it was a wonder they hadn't fallen off the couch.
Clark suddenly went still, and he gently pushed Lois away from him.
"Clark?" Lois asked, concerned, "What's wrong?" She gently kissed Clark's collarbone, and he sighed deep in his throat.
"I just…we shouldn't…it's just that if we don't stop here, I don't think I'm going to be able to stop at all," he explained with a flush.
"Is that so bad?" Lois asked with a small smile.
He smiled back. "I just want us both to be going in with our eyes open."
Lois giggled at the mental picture that gave her, and once Clark realized what she was thinking, he laughed. "That wasn't what I meant…"
"You're just digging yourself a deeper hole, farmboy," she said. "Anyway, I think I'm ready if you are."
The look that crossed Clark's face would have been equally at home on a delighted puppy who'd just been handed his first bone.
"Me, too," he admitted softly. "But the thing is…there's something I really should tell you before we let this go too far."
Lois held up a hand. "Not now. You can tell me later."
Clark shook his head. "Really, Lois, this is something…well, you'll kill me if I make love to you without telling you."
"Clark, honestly," Lois said, "even if it's that you've been…" she tried to think of the farthest out-there thing she could "…been masquerading as a superhero for the past year and flying around in tights, I don't care. It can wait."
A strange look crossed his face. "All right," he said, grinning slightly.
"Just give me one minute, okay?" Lois asked.
Clark nodded, and Lois took herself off to the bathroom. She took her compact from her purse and opened it. A frog stared out at her, blinking with fright in the bright bathroom light.
Lois held the compact up towards her face, smiling at the frog with pleasure. "Hello, little guy," she said, taking him gently from the compact. "Say good-bye now."
She held him in her hand for a moment, then reached over to open Clark's bathroom window and let the frog escape into the great outdoors. "Find a tree somewhere," she whispered. Fortunately Clark lived near the park. Hopefully the frog would find a home there.
"I'm ready," she said with a smile, re-entering the living room where Clark stood waiting.
Clois relaxed cheerfully on her beach chair as she watched Lex frantically typing on his laptop. Not a bad fate for a clone who was merely created just in case Lois Lane didn't march along to Lex's drum quite as readily as he'd intended. From what she could gather, Lex had intended to attempt to woo Lois, and if it didn't work, to replace Clois for Lois and keep Lois locked away in his suite. Nigel had been certain that Lois Lane would never fall for Lex. Little did he know. Any woman would be lucky to have Lex's love, and Lois Lane had realized that.
And so did Clois. Born knowing that she was created as a diversion, not even a real human, Clois had felt despair for her first few days as she struggled to find meaning in her short existence. Until Nigel, her creator, had shown her to Lex.
From the first time she'd seen Lex, she'd known love, and her life had known purpose. All she knew was that she, not Lois Lane, had to marry Lex and earn his love. Her entire existence depended on it.
Of course, Lex hadn't quite seen things her way. He'd practically ignored her, only paying the slightest attention to her as a possible substitute for Lois. The day of the wedding, Clois had been pacing her room angrily, shaking with the knowledge that the love of her life was about to marry someone else.
Unlike Lois, Clois wouldn't be walking into a wedding with Lex with her eyes closed. Clois knew who he was. The great philanthropist, but the man who didn't hesitate to kill, to blackmail, to rig votes, whatever he needed to stay on top. He was the most powerful man in the world, and she loved him for it.
And so, she had stopped pacing. When she'd first heard of the wedding plans, she'd ordered a copy of Lois's wedding gown for herself. Whenever Nigel and Lex weren't watching her, she would slip into Lex's office late one night to look at the dressmaker's plans for Lois's gown, the orders for the banquet, the booking for the reception hall, and the plans for the mansion Lois and Lex were to build together. Clois had ordered herself an exact duplicate of Lois's wedding dress, and she wore it every night before she went to bed. The dress was stained with tears.
Clois struggled into the dress without help, then stood in front of the mirror. She smiled at herself. It wasn't a pretty smile…but then, Clois had no delusions about her own character. If there was just some way she could lure Lois away before the wedding and make the switch. Once Lex married her instead of Lois, it would be legal and he couldn't dissolve it, right? She wasn't too sure about the finer points of such laws.
She reached the side door of the room where the wedding was to take place just in time to hear the priest ask Lex if he would take Lois as his wife. Drat! Too late to switch before the wedding. But it must be possible to switch after the wedding, maybe during the reception, right?
Before she could really work out the details, Lois Lane suddenly burst through the side door right next to Clois and took off running down the hallway. Clois stared at her in astonishment, then hurried into the room.
Lex was arguing with the police, and all eyes were on their exchange. Nobody had noticed Lois run out. And even if a police officer had seen Lois leave the room, he'd assume she'd simply thought better of it and come back to face things.
Clois smiled to herself. It had worked perfectly. Lex, instead of taking Lois away with him, had taken her instead, and had no way to switch them back. Surely he'd enjoy her as much as Lois once he got used to it. More so, because she would be accepting of those facets of his personality that would probably frighten or offend Lois.
And, if she was right, Lex was just now checking the online version of the Daily Planet. Clois waited with bated breath, hoping that Lex would at least glance at the society column. She'd sneaked a peek at the news this morning before Lex woke up, and had been delighted with her reward.
Lex suddenly dropped his laptop and yelled loud enough that Clois could see even the people on the public beach around the corner looking around curiously.
"What is it, dear?" she asked, feigning ignorance.
"Reporters Lane and Kent marry," Lex said through his gritted teeth as he read the headline.
"Oh, how nice," Clois said with a bright smile. "Do you think we should send them flowers?"
"We never did quite make it to the bed, did we?" Lois said, glancing around the room ruefully at the clothes distributed fairly evenly through the floor of Clark's apartment.
Clark grinned. "There's a first time for everything."
Lois giggled slightly and buried her head into Clark's chest, kissing him lightly. Suddenly, she sat up.
"Clark, does it occur to you that Superman's been gone an awfully long time?" she asked, clutching the only piece of clothing she could easily reach, a woefully inadequate sock, to her chest.
Clark blushed. "Well, I told you that there was something I had to tell you," he started. He sat up and faced her, figuring that it probably wasn't safe to make this revelation in quite such a vulnerable position.
Lois giggled. "It's okay, Clark," she said. "I already know."
"You do?" he asked, his face betraying his shock.
"Yes. It's okay, Clark. It's not that unusual. Lots of men prefer to make love with their glasses on."
Before Clark could respond, Lois pulled him down to her to kiss her again.
By Sarah Luddy (we couldn't resist <eg>)
Lois screamed as she and Lex plummeted together over the ledge. "Superman!" she managed to gasp out. But there was no response.
For one breathless moment, they fell straight down, Lex's chuckle filling her ears and pounding through her head.
But before they had fallen more than a few dozen feet, there was a sudden snap as the bungee cord Lex had somehow managed to attach to his foot reached the end and caught him, pulling him to safety.
Unfortunately, Lex hadn't calculated how heavy Lois would seem, given the force of gravity on her. The bungee cord allowed him to bounce back up safely, but his grip on Lois slipped.
"Lex!" Lois screamed as she felt herself once again freefalling towards the pavement many, many stories below. She could see Lex clambering into a lower window and staring back at her, stunned, before she fell too far to glimpse him any longer.
It suddenly occurred to Lois that the last word she'd uttered was her almost-husband's name. Definitely not the final word she wanted on her lips before her death. Her death, because she somehow knew that this time, Superman would not be coming to her aid.
She started to call out "Superman," but somehow her lips wouldn't form the word. "Clark," she whispered. The pressure forced all the air out of her lungs and the pain in her chest grew as she neared the ground. "Clark."
~ The (evil <g>) End ~
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