Never Too Late?

By Tank Wilson <Tank>

Rated: PG13

Submitted: May, 2002

Summary: It's been over 20 years since Lex Luthor destroyed the Daily Planet and persuaded Lois Lane to marry him. Now a divorced Lois is Editor-in-Chief of a rebuilt Plant, Lex is getting out of prison, and Clark Kent is arriving in Metropolis for the very first time. Are some things meant to be, no matter how long the wait?

Writer's notes: Not much to say about this one. It's pretty self-explanatory. As with all my fics, this was posted on Zoom's message boards a while back.

All characters are trademarked and copyrighted to their respective owners. Any and all feedback is welcome at


The ringing of the phone irritated her for she was pretty sure she knew what the caller wanted. She picked it up anyway. "Lois Lane."

"Ms. Lane, this is Peter Caffrey from NewsNet, and I was wondering if you would consider giving us a statement?"

Lois sighed. "About what?"

The gentleman at the other end paused; his surprise at her response was evident to Lois even though she couldn't see him. "You are aware that Lex Luthor is being paroled from prison today?"

Lois rolled her eyes toward the ceiling. "I *was* at the parole hearing."

"Well… I mean, I just thought… you would have some comment on that considering you're his wife."

"Ex-wife, I divorced him right after the trial, which you should know if you did your research. I'm sorry Mr. Caffrey but I'm a busy woman and I don't have anything to say on the subject. Goodbye."

Lois hung up the phone, then quickly switched on her intercom. "Delores, please answer all my calls for the rest of the day and don't bother me with anything that isn't urgent, or from someone you know I'll want to talk to."

Lois closed her eyes and rubbed her temples with her fingertips. She had known it would be like this once Lex was released. She only hoped that it would die down soon, and Lex would be bright enough to leave Metropolis and disappear.

Where had the time gone? Had it really been twenty years since her testimony sent Lex to prison. A lot of people had the mistaken notion that a wife couldn't testify against her husband. That wasn't true. A wife couldn't be 'forced' to testify against her husband. She could volunteer, and that's exactly what Lois had done once it became obvious to her what an amoral criminal her husband really was.

On a list of 'federal disasters' when it came to her relationships with men, Lois' marriage to Lex was at the top. It was her greatest shame that she had been fooled by the suave, cultured facade that Lex had presented to the outside world. It had taken nearly two years of a loveless marriage, that quickly became one of convenience, before she began to suspect that Lex was not exactly what he purported to be.

Her embarrassment over not seeing through him sooner had led her to launch the fiercest investigation she had ever undertaken. It had been tricky, and very dangerous. She nearly lost her life on three different occasions, but in the end she had emerged triumphant. The hard evidence she had managed to uncover, most of it detailing Lex's part in the coerced sale and eventual destruction of the Daily Planet, had been just what she needed to get the retribution she had needed. Lois knew that Lex had many more skeletons in his closet. She was just grateful to have uncovered enough to send him away for twenty years. Only now those twenty years had passed, and Lex was free once more.

Once Lex had been convicted, the courts readily granted Lois a divorce. The government seized Lex's holdings, and, after much scrutiny, either sold them off, or allowed them to continue to function under newly appointed board members. Lois was granted a small monetary settlement, which she promptly donated to charity, and she set out to start her life over.

Her sudden fame, and notoriety, gained from the highly public exposure and trial of Lex Luthor, gave Lois the necessary leverage to allow her access to the cream of Metropolis' financial circle. She was able to convince several of these business tycoons to invest in a new, rebuilt Daily Planet. However, each of them insisted on a codicil in the agreement that required her to be prominently associated with this new Daily Planet. That was how she became the youngest ever editor-in-chief of the nation's greatest newspaper. A job she had now held for nearly twenty years.

Of course the first thing she did was track down Perry White and offer him a job as managing editor. She knew she had to be the editor-in-chief figurehead to keep the investors happy, but she also knew she was out of her depth. She needed Perry White, especially if she wanted the newly revived Daily Planet to have a chance at survival.

Perry had graciously agreed to come on board and in reality, if not on paper, became the editor-in-chief once again. She diligently studied and learned under his masterful tutelage, but also took advantage of his being there to occasionally take on a particularly juicy investigation and give it the old Lois Lane touch. Her stories in the first few years won her three more Kerth awards, something her investors, and the board of directors, had no trouble with.

The other thing she had immediately done was find Jimmy and get him back where he belonged. Only this time she brought him back as a full fledged reporter. Jimmy was thrilled, and the Three Musketeers of the Daily Planet were united once again.

For several years things had been great. Lois had been so deeply immersed in her new role as the driving force behind the revival of the Daily Planet that she was able to forget, or at least ignore, her time wasted with Lex. She had her work, she had her two best friends, and even occasionally she had her sister's visits. She was satisfied, maybe even happy. But like every other time things had gone well in Lois' life, it couldn't last.

First, Jimmy had been killed when he'd gotten mixed up in some secret government agency power struggle. It turned out that Jimmy's dad was in reality a secret agent for some highly secret arm of the government. Jimmy hadn't known until then what his father had really done for a living, but the knowledge had wound up costing him, and Jack Olsen their lives. Lois, had barely escaped herself, but had been lucky and had been able to bring down the terrible plot before it had come to complete fruition.

Then, she had lost Perry. It was a slower process, but the loss of Jimmy, Whom he'd always treated like a son, had weighed heavily on Perry. Within months his health began to fail, and he had to prematurely retire from the paper. He and Alice had moved down to Florida in the hopes that the sunshine, and lack of constant stress would allow him to regain his normal fitness. Such was not to be and Perry died a couple of years later. Lois was alone.

For the last ten or so years the paper had been Lois' sole reason to get up every morning. It had become her reason for being. She came in early, and stayed late. Her position as the boss made it nearly impossible for her to make 'friends' with any of her employees. She wrapped herself up in her work and thickened the protective shell around her emotions as a defense mechanism. Her dawn to dusk and beyond work routine had become so ingrained that she could never find time for Lucy, and her family when they would occasionally visit from California. After a while they just quit coming to visit. Now the only time the sisters ever got together was for family funerals, and an occasional Christmas.

It had been a lonely existence, but it had been her choice. She still garnered a fierce satisfaction over the fact that the Daily Planet, under her direction, maintained its position as the leading newspaper in the country. It didn't fill the emptiness of her solitary evenings, but it was something.

Lois leaned back, sighing in disgust. She rubbed her temples with her fingers as she tried to rid herself of her morbid musings on the past. She had been doing that more and more lately and it had to stop. She knew that it was Lex's release that had triggered the latest bout of internal nostalgia, but it was a practice that she had been allowing herself to indulge in even before that. It served no purpose. She had to focus on the present. And right now that meant she had to focus on getting this paper ready to hit the streets.

She thumbed her intercom button again. "Delores, could you ask Ralph to come in and see me?"


Lois was still looking over the requests from advertising for space in this Sunday's special edition when she was startled by a tentative knock on her office door. It was late, and Delores had gone home hours ago. It wasn't unusual for Lois to be working quite late, but it was unusual for others to be working. She looked up and saw a handsome middle-aged man standing at her door, a chagrined look on his face.

Normally, Lois would be wary seeing a stranger at her door at this time of night, but something about this good- looking fellow seemed very non-threatening. Actually, it was just the opposite. He seemed solid and… comfortable? She stuck the pencil behind her ear and leaned back in her chair.

"Can I help you?"

His smile was apologetic. "Ms. Lane, I'm Clark Kent. I had an interview with you this afternoon. I'm terribly sorry I'm late, but I ran into some unexpected troubles."

Lois nodded to herself, then used her hand to indicate that Mr. Kent should come in and sit down. "Mr. Kent was it?" He nodded meekly as she shuffled through some papers on her desk. "Oh yes, here it is." Lois was silent as she read through the single sheet resume. "I knew your name seemed familiar. I've read a couple of your books. I liked them very much."

"Thank you."

Lois set the sheet down. "So, Mr. Kent, what can I do for you? What does a best selling author want with the Daily Planet?"

Kent looked a little surprised at her question. "Didn't my cover letter explain? I'm looking for a job as a reporter."

It was Lois' turn to look surprised. "Seriously? I would have thought that was just some ploy to get your foot in the door. Research for a new novel would be a more logical reason for you to be here."

Clark shook his head. "Nope, I've always wanted to be a newspaperman. I majored in journalism in college."

Lois pulled the pencil from behind her ear and began to lightly tap it on the desktop as she pondered this man. "A little late to be starting a career as a reporter now, isn't it? I'd guess from your resume that you're probably about my age." Though he sure doesn't look it, Lois thought to herself. "Why'd you wait so long?" Clark shrugged. "Well, after college I traveled the world for a time. You know, wanting to get a feel for other people and their cultures. Anyway, I was just getting ready to come home and try my hand at a career in journalism. I had originally thought to come to Metropolis and apply at the Daily Planet, but then there was all that trouble which shut down the paper for awhile… oh, I'm sorry." Clark blushed over what he thought was a gaffe in etiquette.

Lois waved her hand. "That's all right. It's ancient history now. Go on, why didn't you try another paper?"

Clark's smile turned inward as it was apparent he was accessing a very personal memory. "I had to go home and help on the farm. My father took ill and needed my help."

Lois could sense a deeply ingrained loss in Clark. "He didn't get better?"

Clark shook his head. "No, it took several years but he eventually succumbed."

"And your mother depended on you to keep the farm going?" He nodded. Lois could guess what was next but asked anyway. "And now?"

"Well, she passed a few months ago." Clark acknowledged Lois' automatic condolences with a nod. "So, I figured I might as well give my dream a shot. Nothing ventured."

Lois chuckled. "Well, I have to give you credit for guts. Not many people would try to chase a twenty to thirty year old dream, especially in this day and age of instant virtual gratification." Lois studied the man with the earnest look on his face and couldn't help but admire his conviction. "As I've said, I've read a couple of your books, and I have to admit that you are a good writer, but there is a big difference between writing a news story and a novel." Lois looked at Clark pointedly. "Like deadlines for instance. You don't have the leisure of writing when the mood strikes. You have to write when the story is hot, not when your muse is co-operative. You have to be on the clock at all times." Lois' lips cracked a slight grin. "Coming to your own interview late doesn't make points. Just why were you late?"

Clark fiddled with his hands, staring at them before looking up at Lois. "I got lost."

"What?" Lois asked shocked. "Any cabbie in Metropolis could get you to the front door of the Daily Planet in his sleep."

Clark sighed, obviously embarrassed. "I know, but I was trying to save some money so I took the subway and got on the wrong train."

Lois rolled her eyes and was going to question Kent on his priorities when the night editor Kate Clancy stuck her head in the door of Lois' office.

"Lois, check out the news." Kate pointed to the dark television sitting in the corner of her office.

Lois quickly found the remote under a stack of papers and switched on the screen. A stylishly garbed, Barbie doll- like reporter for the news station was standing in front of a scene of chaos. She was clearly in one of the subway stations on a main platform. Behind her a large amount of rubble was visible. It appeared as if the ceiling of the tunnel had collapsed. Not that Lois was surprised. She had written an editorial blasting the poor maintenance of the ancient subway tunnels beneath Metropolis. She claimed they were a tragedy just waiting to happen. Apparently it finally had. She thumbed the volume upward.

"… and so to repeat. Just a short time ago the tunnel roof of the fifth street station gave way allowing several tons of stone and earth to come crashing onto the tracks in front the main platform." The woman moved to allow the camera to follow where she was pointing. "But the most amazing thing was that no one was hurt, even though the E train was fast approaching the site of the collapse mere minutes after it happened."

The engine and first few cars of the train could be seen behind the woman. Lois was so engrossed in the report that she forgot that Clark was even in her office. The woman walked over to a man in a Metropolis Lines uniform. He was obviously still shaken up.

"This is engineer Carlos Riveria. Tell me, Mr. Riveria, how were you able to stop the train before colliding with this avalanche of masonery and earth?"

She stuck the microphone in his face. "I didn't. There was no time. There was no way I could stop the train in time, though Lord knows I tried."

The Barbiesque reporter looked puzzled as she pulled her microphone back. "So how did you stop in time?"

The engineer shrugged helplessly. "It was him, the mystery man. I swear I saw a guy jump down onto the track and with his bare hands stop the train, then suddenly he was gone." The shaken man crossed himself. "I don't know who he was but I thank God that he was there."

"Uh huh." The television reporter couldn't hide the skepticism in her voice. "There you have it Dan. A mystery man comes out of nowhere to stop a speeding subway train then disappears before anyone can even thank him."

Lois flipped off the television. "I sure hope that Metro Lines gives that engineer a breathalizer, or drug test. A mystery man stopped the train with his bare hands… really, what is it with some people?" Lois looked up at Clark, finally realizing that she wasn't alone. It almost looked like he was blushing. "Too bad I didn't have someone there though. It would have made a good story for tomorrow's morning edition."

Clark nervously cleared his throat. "Well I told you I got lost in the subways? I just happened to be in that station just after the roof collapse and I managed to take… some…notes?" He pulled a somewhat tattered notebook from his jacket pocket and slid it across the desk toward Lois.

Lois gave it a quick once over. "I see you don't mention any 'mystery man' but you have some nice quotes and you seem to have expressed the incident in human terms, reactions and fears, that sort of thing." Lois caught Clark's eyes with her stare. "You up for a challenge?"

Clark was wary. "What do you mean?"

Lois smiled, like a cat eying a particularly plump canary. "You say you want a job? Well why don't I set you up at one of our empty desks, right now, and you can write this story up. If it's good, I'll give you a provisional tryout." Lois leaned back in her chair, her grin a bit wider. "What do you say, Mr. Kent, are you game?"

Clark's smile was as widens hers. "Just try me."

"Okay, let's get to it."

Lois led Clark out to the bullpen and quickly found him a currently vacant desk. She booted up the computer and showed him how to access the various features and how to lan it to her desk once he was done. She gave him an encouraging smile as she turned to go. She couldn't stop the quiet chuckle as she took in the earnest look on Kent's face as he began to attack the keyboard.

Lois halted as she came to the open door of her office. It wasn't empty. "What are you doing here?" She slowly came into the room and stood in front of her desk facing the man who now sat in her chair.

"Why, Lois, is that anyway to greet your husband after all these years?"

"That's ex-husband, Lex. We've been divorced for twenty years." Lois frowned at the oily ex-con sitting in her chair smiling that phony barracuda smile of his.

Lex Luthor shook his head in mock dismay. "That was never my desire, dear Lois. I was terribly wounded by your betrayal of me." Lex expelled an exaggerated sigh. "Did our vows mean so little to you, Lois?"

Lois rolled her eyes toward the ceiling. "Again, I'll ask you. What are you doing here, Lex?"

"I came to gaze upon the lovely countenance of my beloved once again. I've been… away for a while." He made a point of leering at Lois as he let his eyes roam over her body. "You are still remarkably lovely, you've hardly aged a day, let alone twenty years." Lex allowed his brow to furrow in a slight frown. "You've cut your hair. I have to say that I preferred it longer, the way you used to wear it."

Lois gave Lex an insincere smile. "That's why I cut it. Now if you are through bothering me, I have work to do."

"Tut, tut, all work and no play, Lois."

"Pays the bills." Lois sat on the corner of her desk and gave Lex a hard stare. "You know Lex, I thought you were smarter than to come back here." Lois shook her head in disgust. "Now if you would please just leave peaceably, we can both forget this visit ever happened, just like I've forgotten those two miserable years I wasted as your wife."

Lex stood up and, placing his hands on the desk, leaned toward her, his face darkening in a growing rage. "I don't think I like the tone of your voice, my dear."

Sarcasm dripped from Lois' voice. "Oh, gee, isn't that just too damn bad. Now get the hell out of my office before I call security to have you thrown out."

"You forget yourself Lois." His tone was low and ominous. He came around the desk and grabbed her arm. "You are mine, Lois. You always were, and you always will be."

Suddenly Lex's hand was forcibly removed from Lois' arm, and he found himself being held off by a fist twisted into the front of his shirt. He struggled against Clark's iron grip but couldn't break free. Lex was like an unruly child being restrained by an angered parent.

"Is this man bothering you, Ms. Lane."

A sardonic smile spread over Lois' lips. "He was, but he doesn't seem to be anymore, does he?"

Clark gave Lex a look that immediately stilled the angry ex-husband's struggling. "What would you like me to do with this… person?"

Lois cocked an eyebrow at Lex, helpless in Clark's grasp. "I don't suppose you'd throw him out the window for me?"

Clark was momentarily startled. "We're ten stories up." The light seemed to go on in Clark's brain. "But if you say so…" He began to walk toward the large office window, dragging Lex along.

Lois giggled, then put her hand on his arm. "No, as much as I appreciate your help, and as much as I'd like nothing better than to see if Lex could learn to fly, I don't suppose it would be a good idea." She winked at Clark. "Some innocent bystander might get hurt when he hit the sidewalk."

Lois fixed Lex with an icy glare. "Besides, Mr. Luthor was just leaving… weren't you Lex."

Clark shoved Luthor toward the door of the office, releasing his grip on the front of the man's shirt as he did so. Lex tried to regain some of his lost dignity as he smoothed the front of his shirt and straightened the front of his rumpled jacket.

Lex looked daggers at Lois. "This isn't over, Lois."

Clark took one step toward Lex and captured Lex's eyes in a cold-steel stare that transmitted an intensity that Lex had never seen before. "Yes it is."

Lex scowled, turned and left without another word.

Lois turned her attention to the rigid Clark Kent who was standing, staring intently at the retreating form of Lex Luthor. She was a bit surprised by the degree of anger that Kent seemed to be barely holding in check. He had seemed like such an easy going guy. She laid her hand on his arm.

"Thanks, are you all right?"

Clark allowed his anger to dissipate quickly. "Shouldn't I be asking you that?" He grinned.

Lois smiled as she went back to her chair. "I'm fine. It will take more than some idle threats by a loser like Lex Luthor to bother me." She sat down and booted up her computer. "Now let's see what you've written."

Lois quickly scanned the impromptu article, then went back and read it again slowly. She was impressed. She leaned back in her chair and cocked her brow at the attractive man across the desk from her.

"Well, I have to admit that it's pretty good, in a touchy- feely sort of way. You downplayed the actual physical incident itself but brought your reader in with the reactions by those involved and those who witnessed it." She studied the smiling man for a few moments. "I like how you used the comments and fears of the near victims to point out the dangers that exist in those old tunnels and the heightened anxiety on the part of the commuters needing to take those trains." Lois nodded, then frowned. "I did notice that you avoided most of the accounts of the so- called mystery man."

Clark shrugged. "Well, I can't say I actually saw him, and I didn't want this to sound like a National Whisper article."

Lois held her hand up. "No, that was the right thing to do. I hardly think that the average Planet reader is going to believe that a man can stop a runaway subway train with his bare hands." She barked a short laugh. "Why he'd have to be some sort of superman."

"I guess." Clark just answered her laugh with a chuckle of his own.

Lois reached her hand across the desk and, grasping Clark's hand in hers, shook it firmly. "Well, Mr. Kent, you are now officially a provisional employee of the Daily Planet. You'll be able to read your byline in tomorrow's edition."

"Thank you. In celebration, may I take you out to dinner?"

Alarm bells went off in Lois' brain as she studied the face of the handsome man across from her. His expressive brown eyes seemed to stare right into her soul. It made her uncomfortable.

"That would be nice," she temporized. "But I still have a lot of work to do. I was planning on just ordering in some Chinese take-out and working late…again."

"Well, how about I go and get us that take out. I know a place, won't take long. After we eat I promise to leave you in peace."

Lois frowned at the persistant fellow. "You've only been in town a few hours and you already know a place to get Chinese take out?"

Clark stood up and gave Lois a grin. "Trust me." The funny thing was, as she watched him head toward the elevator, she did.

"Aren't you even going to ask me what I want?" She shouted at the closing elevator doors.

"I'll get an assort…" The door closed on Kent's reply.


Lois was just finishing up the best take-out she'd ever eaten. She had lived in Metropolis all her life and didn't know any place that served food like this. When she tried to wheedle the name of the restaurant out of the coy Mr. Kent, he just claimed that a guy had to have some secrets from his boss.

Lois frowned as she opened her fortune cookie and took out the little slip of paper. "It's in Chinese." Clark reached over and took it from her. "Oh don't tell me you read…"

"A good horse is like a member of the family." He grinned at her as he handed back the tiny scrap of paper.

"I hate that. That is not a fortune."

Clark chuckled, then turned his smile toward Lois. Dang, there were those eyes again, she thought. This guy was definitely not like any of the men she'd known… ever.

"You are a strange one, Clark Kent."

His smile widened. "Am I?"

"Yeah, but I think I got you figured out." She really had no clue about this guy, but she'd never admit that to him.


"Mmm hmm."

"It didn't take you very long."

"Well, it's my business, looking beyond the external. I didn't get to be the editor of the most prominent newspaper in the free world because I can yodel." Lois shot him a smug look. "Though I can."

The silence stretched out for several uncomfortable moments. Lois found herself unable to tear her gaze away from those soft brown eyes. He was giving her 'that look'. The one she'd seen too many times in the past. The one that always lead to federal disasters. It was time to nip such thoughts in the bud.

"Don't fall for me Farmboy, I don't have time for it, and at my age the only thing I'm willing to offer a man, any man, is friendship." Lois once again leaned back in her chair. "Now, those are the rules. Can you live with them Mr. Kent?"

Clark held his hands out in a symbol of surrender. "Whatever you say, Ms. Lane, whatever you say." He still had that damned smile on his face.

"Okay, so go out and find me a story."

Clark stood. "Gotcha, Chief." He calmly exited her office.

Lois watched him push the elevator button, then step in when the car arrived. "And don't call me, Chief."