By Tank Wilson
Submitted: July 2003
Summary: In this latest installment of the author's "Future" series, Lois decides to secretly look in on her husband, and meets up with an old friend as she does.
Notes: A long time ago I wrote a trilogy of stories that got labeled 'The Future Series.' It was a story idea that I thought I could deal with in one short story posted to the boards some years ago. I was wrong. The gentle readers bugged me to continue the story (and give them backstory too!). So, the short became a series with two additional long stories to flesh it out. Some might consider it my seminal work in L&C fan fiction.
This particular short is the sequel I never intended to write. The story itself was written as sort of a joke for my super-secret, mystery beta reader who was foolish enough to tell me they enjoyed the Future stories. I hadn't really intended to 'put it out there,' but was convinced I should do so. So…here it is.
A familiarity with the previous stories of the Future series is recommended. The choice is yours. As always, all characters are trademarked and copyrighted to their respective owners. Any and all feedback and comments are welcome at TankW1@aol.com
"Look, I know that this isn't a good idea, that things have changed and they can't go back to the way they were. But I have to see him! I have to be able to see him…one last time."
Lois Lane had grabbed the arm of the small dapper Englishman. His clothing was neat and stylish, but hopelessly out of date. His face was grim. He obviously didn't want to do as she wanted. She didn't care. She hadn't seen Clark in nearly five years. Five long, horribly lonely years. And it didn't matter what Mr. H.G. Wells said, she was going to see Clark.
Lois wasn't stupid. She knew that Clark thought she had died back in that alternate dimension all those years ago. She also knew that Clark had managed to move on with his life. Wells had gone on at great length about that. He had told her how the New Kryptonians had forced Clark to abandon that alternate dimension and how he had brought the Lois Lane from that dimension back with him.
"I really wish you'd reconsider this, Ms. Lane." The small, nervous man placed his hand on Lois' arm.
Lois quickly scouted out the alleyway that they had materialized into, then brushed Well's hand away. "Get a grip, Herb. I told you I wasn't going to go rushing into the Daily Planet and throw my arms around him. I won't even talk to him." Lois drew in a shaky breath. "I just need to see him again. Just one more time. Even if it's from a distance. Can't you understand that?"
Wells shook his head sadly. "I understand that you miss him terribly, but I believe this will only make it harder for you to leave — as you must."
"I need to see him."
"But what if he sees you, and recognizes you? It took him a long time to come to terms with your death, but he's happy now. Do you want to destroy that for him?"
Lois jerked her head, and fire was visible in her eyes. "Are you saying that knowing I'm not dead would make him unhappy?"
Wells gave her a look like a father who knew his daughter was purposely being difficult. "Now, Lois, you know exactly what I mean. Of course Clark would be thrilled to know that you survived the ordeal on the alternate earth. But you also know what having you suddenly show up again now would do. Not only to Clark's life but to others' as well."
Herb sighed. "Yes, her. She has made a life for herself here now. And there are others who had to deal with your death, like your sister Lucy, and Perry White."
"Lucy and Perry know?" she asked, her voice suddenly becoming more subdued.
Lois shook her head, but then let forth a heavy sigh of her own. "It doesn't matter. I just want to see him. I promise I'll be careful." She grabbed a handful of her nearly waist-length hair and shook it at the small man. "Good heavens, Herb, look at me. I haven't had a decent haircut in five years. My clothes are more like those of a refugee than a reporter. And I've got these." Lois pulled out a large pair of dark glasses and put them on. "I could probably bump into him on the sidewalk and he wouldn't give me a second glance."
Herbert George Wells shook his head in defeat. "All right. I think this is a bad idea, but I won't fight you any more on this. Just please remember what's at stake here."
"I guess my happiness doesn't count." Lois noted that Wells didn't respond to that.
The little man pointed to the sidewalk cafe across the street from the Daily Planet. "You can set up your surveillance over there. If you sit at one of the far tables you should be safe from accidental discovery. Clark and…"
"Lois. You can say her name."
"Right, well, Clark and Lois often go over there for a quick lunch when working on something that keeps them at the Planet."
Lois eyed the former fantasy writer, who seemed quite nervous. "I know. Clark and I used to go there a lot, also. I take it you aren't going to be joining me?"
Wells nearly jumped out of his skin at the mention. "Heavens no! Clark would recognize me instantly. And, unfortunately, I'm not exactly his favorite person these days. If he saw me it would ruin everything."
Lois favored the diminutive Englishman with a sardonic smile. "You were never one of mine, either." She left him in the alley sputtering to himself as she quickly crossed the street and took a seat at the far end of the cafe's outdoor patio.
She ordered some coffee and a salad, then sat back to watch the entrance of the building that used to be more a home to her than anyplace she had lived prior to meeting Clark. She couldn't hold back the sigh that escaped as her mind involuntarily slipped back to the glorious days at the Daily Planet. The hustle and bustle of the newsroom. Her and Clark locked into a potential page one story. It had been heaven, and she missed it.
She hadn't spent more than a few minutes wallowing in her memories when her attention was drawn back to the front of the Planet building. A cab had just pulled up and was in the process of letting out its passengers. Lois instinctively knew that this is what she was waiting for. She knew that the passenger was going to be Clark.
The few seconds it took for the occupants of the cab to disembark seemed like hours to Lois. Finally a head of dark, carelessly styled hair poked up from behind the cab. It was Clark! Lois held her breath as she gazed at her husband for the first time in nearly five years.
It was like it had only been yesterday. He hadn't changed at all. He was still wearing his conservatively cut suits, with a white shirt. She smiled. His ties were still totally outrageous, and he was still gorgeous. She watched as Clark stepped away from the cab and extended his hand to help someone else out. Her heart skipped a couple of beats as she saw his face light up in a smile. A smile that used to be reserved for her, but now belonged to someone else.
Lois drew a shaky breath of anticipation. She knew who that other passenger would be. Clark's smile widened as he helped guide a slender young woman out of the cab. Lois couldn't see the woman's face but she was certain, from the look on Clark's face, that the woman was Lois. But what was it with her hair? It was short, which Lois expected, since she knew that Clark liked it short. But the color? The woman's hair was a bright red. Red! What on earth had possessed that woman to dye her hair red?
Lois kept her eyes glued to the couple as they moved toward the front entrance of the Planet. She could see how comfortable they were with each other. Their talk was animated, punctuated with laughter from both of them. He had his hand on the small of the woman's back, unconsciously guiding her just like he used to do with her. Just before they entered the front foyer, the pair of reporters stopped and kissed. It wasn't a quick peck, nor was it a long, smoldering kiss of passion. It was a kiss of familiarity and love. Then they vanished through the front doors. Suddenly, there seemed to be something in Lois' eye.
Lois spent the next several minutes getting a grip on her runaway emotions. Outwardly there was little sign of her distress. She had learned, long ago, to internalize her feelings. Even her time with Clark, a time when most people considered Lois the most open and honest with her feelings, she had her moments. Too often she had to hide her true feelings about things that were happening because they involved Superman, and only she, and his parents, knew who that really was. Unfortunately, over the last few years she'd had plenty of time — and reason — to once again erect those protective walls around her emotions. But she had survived those awful years, and the fates willing, she'd survive this also…somehow.
Suddenly, a shadow appeared on the top of her table. She glanced up sharply and before she could stop herself, gasped. "Omigod, Perry!" It was no more than a whisper, but the older man standing next to her table clearly heard her.
"I'm sorry, Miss, but do I know you?" he asked. "I came over because I thought you looked familiar, but I was sure I was mistaken. But you seem to know my name. Have we met?" He stood over her, a puzzled look on his face.
Lois bent her head down, letting her long hair fall over her face, and quickly adjusted her dark glasses, making sure they covered her eyes and as much of the rest of her face as possible. "I'm sorry, you startled me. You must have mistaken me for someone else," Lois responded, consciously lowering the pitch of her voice. "As for knowing your name? Perry White, the editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet is well known in this town." Lois continued to stare at her hands, not daring to make eye contact with the only other man who knew her well enough to possibly see through her disguise. "I didn't mean to be rude."
Lois felt a painful tightness growing in her chest. Please, she prayed, just let him excuse himself and go away. Of course, that wasn't what happened. Perry sat down in the small chair opposite her and silently studied her for several moments. Lois continued to look anywhere but at her former mentor, and so she missed seeing his hand reaching out. Before she could react, he'd taken off her oversized, dark sunglasses. That caused her to look up at him and their eyes met.
"Great Shades of Elvis, it is you!" His voice was a hoarse whisper. He swallowed and took a second to regain his normal voice. "I thought I was seeing things. But it is you…isn't it? Lois, honey, where have you been? We thought you had died."
Lois grabbed her glasses back but didn't put them on. She stared at Perry for several long moments. Finally, she sighed and responded, "Well, I guess you could say I did. I don't know what happened after that New Kryptonian thug threw me against the wall and I felt myself slip away. I only know that I woke up in some sort of laboratory. I later found out that it had been six days since *my death* but Kryptonian science had somehow brought me back. Whatever that neaderthal had broke, they fixed."
Perry ran his hand through his thinning, graying hair. "I don't mean this the way it's going to sound, honey, but why? Why would they care? Why keep you alive?"
Lois kept a tight rein on her emotions. Talking about that time was hard. "The best I can figure is that I was an insurance hostage. If Superman ever went back on his vow of non-interference they could trot me out there to use against him."
Perry nodded. "That, at least, makes some sense."
Lois shrugged. "Yeah, well, that was the start of a lot of years of captivity. I can't honestly say that I was horribly mistreated. I was mostly ignored." Lois sighed at the painful memory. "I was locked in a cell and forgotten. Someone came around a couple of times a day to give me something that passed for food and that was about it for contact with the outside world for nearly four years."
"That must have been tough, Lois, but at least you weren't tortured or physically abused."
A very unladylike snort of sarcastic laughter escaped from Lois. "I'll tell you the truth, there were many occasions when I would have welcomed torture. Just for something to do." She bit her lip as she fought the images from the past that threatened to once again overwhelm her. "Perry, I was so bored! I thought I'd go mad. The only thing that held me together were my memories. Memories of my life here, at the Planet…and with Clark." She gave him a sad smile when she saw the grim look on his face. "Well, at least I finally finished my novel. Three of them actually."
Perry patted Lois' hand as he chuckled. "That's my Lois." Perry's face immediately became serious again. "So, how did you…"
"Escape?" She smiled when she saw his eager nod. "I didn't. One day I heard the sound of fighting in the upper floors of the building. Then someone I never saw before came and set me free. I was told that the resistance had finally overcome the last vestige of the New Kryptonians and that the planet was once more in the hands of its rightful occupants. I was free to go." Lois' eyes took on a faraway look as she relived that moment again. "Only problem was, I had nowhere to go. I had lost my ride home a long time ago."
Perry was shaking his head and muttering. "It must have been terrible for you. You didn't know anyone, had no idea where to go. What did you do?"
Lois shrugged. "You know me, Perry. I'm a survivor. I knocked around for a time, keeping a low profile, since I really didn't know these people. Most of the ones that were counterparts to people I knew here were either dead, or totally different. I didn't know who I could trust, so I trusted no one."
"Sounds like you. So, how did you get back?"
"It's not important because I'm not really back. Let's just say that through some incredible dumb luck I happened to run into the one man who could facilitate my getting back here, if only for a short time."
Perry grabbed Lois hand and gave it a squeeze. "What do you mean, you're not really back?"
Lois leaned back in her chair and studied her mentor carefully. She wondered if some of the same concerns that Herb kept harping on were passing through his mind.
"Tell me, Perry, how did you find out that I'd been killed in the alternate dimension?"
Lois could see by the look on Perry's face that he was reliving some memories of his own. "Lois told me — I mean, the other Lois."
She laughed good-naturedly at his discomfort. "It's all right, Perry. You can call her Lois. I think I'll know who you mean."
"Yeah, well, it hurt me to see how things were going for her after the divorce…"
"That's right, you wouldn't know." Perry sighed as he gathered his thoughts. "You see, everyone thought she was you, even me. But something wasn't right. It was obvious that something had happened to the Daily Planet's resident love birds." Lois blushed. "It was right after the Jefferson Cole thing, I think."
"Jefferson Cole? He came back?"
Perry sucked in a breath as he realized that Lois wouldn't have any knowledge of what had happened to her counterpart and Clark while she was away. "I'm sorry, Lois, but Cole staged an auto accident that killed your father. He was out to avenge himself on you."
Lois bit her lip and closed her eyes for a few moments as she let the impact of hearing about the death of her father wash over her. She'd never been close to her dad. He was one of the reasons she had developed an inability to trust men. It had taken a super man like Clark to rescue her from her own failures and insecurities in that regard. Even if, in life she didn't particularly like her father, he *was* her father, and it was a shock to hear that he was dead.
"Cole was like a man possessed. He used that hologram projector device of his to cause your mother to have a breakdown." Perry held up his hand when he saw Lois' expression. "But she's okay now. She lives in Florida with her sister, I think Lois said. Of course, things got really crazy when he shot Lucy."
"What?" An icy chill went through Lois' entire body. Not Lucy too! Dear god, hadn't she suffered enough?
Perry quickly held up his hands. "It's all right. She recovered. In fact, Lucy Lane is a city councilwoman now."
Lois shook her head in disbelief. "Lucy? In politics?" What had happened? She's gone for a few years and the whole world gets turned upside down. "So, about this divorce?"
"Well, it was right after all that had happened that suddenly, out of the blue, Lois and Clark announced they were getting a divorce. As I said, everyone knew that something wasn't right between the two of them, but it was still a shock."
A tear snuck out of the corner of one of Perry's eyes. "The office gossip was vicious, and it was all aimed at Lois. But she sucked it up and ignored most of the rumors and said nothing. She just did her job, and she did it well. She's as good a reporter as you were, Lois."
Lois noted the use of past tense in Perry's speech, but that was to be expected. She hadn't been a reporter in five years. "So, where was Clark during all this? I can't imagine him just abandoning her."
Perry frowned as he shook his head. "I didn't realize it at the time, but Clark was having a hard time dealing with your loss. We all just thought that the divorce had hit him hard. He took a leave of absence and went home for a few weeks. Shortly after he came back, I sent him to Paris to help out the International Bureau fill some temporary vacancies. I think the time alone did him some good because he wasn't quite so haunted when he came back, and he and Lois began to be able to work together when they had to."
"So, what was the scenario that allowed you to find out what really happened?"
"Well, I could see that the two of them were still miserable, you know, separate. I thought I knew the real reason for the divorce so I invited Lois into my office for…a talk."
Lois rolled her eyes to the sky. "I can just imagine."
Perry ignored the sarcasm in her voice. "I had figured that you, er, Lois had not been able to resolve the problems of being married to her friend and lover, Clark, and Superman, the hero of billions."
Lois' eyes got wide. "Omigod, you knew? Of course you knew." Lois mentally chided herself. "Only the city's top investigative reporter would have been so galactically stupid as to not see through such a *fantastically clever* disguise. A pair of glasses and some hair gel."
Perry cocked a brow and pointed a finger at her. "I wouldn't be getting all critical about someone else's disguise, Lois."
Lois frowned but held her silence at Perry's dig at her own disguise — or lack of one.
"So, anyway," he continued. "When I confronted her with what I knew, she felt backed into a corner. She broke down and told me everything." Another tear stole its way out of Perry's eye. "I have to tell you, it hit me hard. To find out that the Lois Lane that I knew and loved all those years, the woman who was like a daughter to me, wasn't sitting in the chair across the desk from me. She was dead. She'd died in some stupid conflict that didn't even have to concern her."
Tears also flowed from Lois eyes. She knew how Perry felt about her. How else had he put up with her shenanigans all those years? She felt the same way about him. He was more a father to her than Sam Lane ever had been. She could well imagine that he was hurt to hear that she had died in some other dimension that he could barely believe in. It wouldn't make any sense to him. He only knew that his protege and surrogate daughter was dead.
"So," Lois began carefully, trying to not let the touch of hope she was feeling creep into her voice. "Clark and Lois are divorced?"
Perry shook his head. "Not anymore. They remarried a couple of years ago."
"Yeah, I'm sure that Lois had fallen in love with Clark earlier on, but it took Clark a bit longer to move on with his life and realize that there was room in his life — and his heart — for another love." Perry eyed Lois carefully. "I think almost losing her to that ancient Kryptonian techno-vampire Vad Or made him face up to his feelings for her."
Lois was stunned. "Kryptonian vampire? What in the world…?" Lois held her hands up in front of her. "No, I don't want to know. I don't think I could take it in right now."
Perry folded his hands in front of him and stared down at them for several moments before he raised his eyes to meet those of Lois'. Both sets of eyes sparkled in the reflected sunlight through the mist of their tears. "Lois, I am so happy that you are alive and relatively well, but…"
"What am I going to do now?" Perry nodded in response to her question which she knew was his question. "I'm not really sure, but don't worry." She reached out and took his hands in hers. "I'm not going to wreck the happiness that Clark seems to have found with Lois. I love him too much for that." She smiled, even though she could taste the salt of her tears as they struck the corners of her mouth. "He has moved on; I guess I'll have to do the same. You know me, I'm a survivor." She was barely able to choke out her last words.
It nearly broke Lois' heart to hear the concern and worry in Perry's voice. "But what about your happiness, honey? You deserve to have it all, too."
"I'm glad someone thinks so." Lois spoke in a soft whisper that was missed by Perry. She pasted a smile onto her face. "Perry, I came here to just see Clark one last time, but I'm really glad that I ran into you. I saw him, and it's obvious that he's happy, and that makes me happy." She gave the hands she was still holding a squeeze. "Please don't tell him you saw me. Don't tell anyone. It's better if they don't know."
Perry snuffled loudly, then nodded sadly. "I hate to say it, but I think you're right." The two of them stood up. Perry leaned in and gave Lois a kiss on the cheek. "You go and have a good life, Lois. And if it's at all possible, if you can, come see me again."
Lois wiped at her tears with the back of her hand. "I'd like that, and I will — if I can." She threw herself into his embrace. "Thank you for always being there for me, Perry. I love you."
He momentarily tightened their hug. "I love you too, darlin'."
"Don't forget me?"
Perry pulled away and held her at arms length. He smiled at her. "Could never happen." He dropped his hands. "Goodbye, Lois." "Goodbye, Perry."
He turned to go, but she placed her hand on his arm, stopping him. "Oh, and could you try to convince Lois to lose that red hair? It looks ghastly."
Perry chuckled. "I'll see what I can do." He turned and walked toward the Daily Planet. He never looked back.
Lois picked the dark glasses off the table and placed them on her nose, covering much of her tear-streaked face. She reached in her pocket and threw a few bills down on the table to cover the cost of her coffee and salad. With a nod to the venerable old building across the street, she left her table and headed for the alley in which the dimension hopping writer waited impatiently for her.
He was surprised to see her so quickly. "I saw you talking to Perry White. Is everything all right?"
Lois raised her brow at the small man. "Do you mean, is he going to let the cat out of the bag? No, he promised to keep my visit — and my miraculous resurrection — a secret."
"Good." Wells nodded, more to himself than to Lois. He looked back to her face. "I saw Clark and Lois arrive. I thought you were going to wait and see if they came over to that cafe for lunch?"
"I saw enough." Lois didn't offer any more of an explanation.
"So, are you ready to go?"
Lois shrugged. "Sure, I guess so. But go where?"
Lois followed after the long-deceased writer as he began to wander deeper into the alley.
"I've been thinking. There's this nice alternate dimension I happened upon a short time back. Kind of sad though. The Lois Lane of that dimension was also lost in the Congo several years ago, but that poor woman succumbed to a jungle fever before she could get back to civilization."
Lois stopped and eyed Wells suspiciously. "And is there a Clark Kent in this alternate dimension of yours?"
"Oh yes. An eager, young lad, if somewhat green. He wandered about the world a little later than the Clarks you knew did, but he arrived in Metropolis a few months ago and is currently a probationary city beat reporter for the Daily Planet, a great metropolitan newspaper."
Lois shook her head as she stopped and leaned against a dusty brick wall. "Look, Herb, I know what you're trying to do. I appreciate the gesture, but it's not going to work. You can't just introduce me to another Clark Kent and expect me to fall in love with him. It's not going to happen."
The small writer cocked a brow at his reluctant charge. "Is that what I'm trying to do?"
Lois snorted derisively. "You know it is."
Wells nodded. "I see. So you have no interest in investigating this other world and, perhaps, seeing if you can find some sort of life for yourself there?"
Lois rolled her eyes at him. "It's not that. It's just I have to warn you that throwing me and another Clark together isn't going to automatically lead to some sort of fairy tale ending." Lois sighed as her eyes involuntarily drifted back toward the Planet building. "Just because Clark was able to forget me and find someone else to love doesn't mean that I can…or even want to."
The look on Wells' face became somewhat angry. "Is that what you think? That Clark forgot you?"
Lois shifted her gaze to the ground and blushed. "Well…"
His tone was that of a parent scolding a defiant child. "Lois Lane, that thought is unworthy of you, and you know it. Clark suffered greatly over your loss, and don't for a moment think that he's ever forgotten you, or that he still doesn't hold a cherished love for you in his heart. But life does go on, Lois, and Clark was lucky. He found someone else to share his life with. Someone else to love. Not instead of, but also." Wells moderated his tone as he took one of Lois' hands in his. "The heart is an amazing organ, my dear. It can not only hold onto cherished memories of a love that was very special, but it can make room for another such love if it must. Don't blame Clark for finally finding some measure of happiness again."
Lois had to bite her lip as fresh tears rolled down her cheek. "Oh, Herb, I don't. It may not sound like it, but I am happy that Clark was able to find someone else so that he wouldn't have to be alone again. If I didn't love him so much, I wouldn't be able to walk away like this, would I?"
Wells stared at the tearful former reporter for several moments. "But?"
Lois shrugged. "Clark thinks I'm dead. I know he's still alive. There's a difference." She took off the glasses and wiped at her eyes with the back of her hand as she pushed herself away from the wall. "Look, I'll go to this Loisless dimension with you. I'll even help mentor this greenhorn Clark Kent. Who knows, maybe, if he's anything like the other Clarks I've known, we might even be able to become friends." Lois stopped and took a deep breath. "But that's all I can give. I don't have it in me to love like that again. I just don't." She looked Wells in the eye. "If you can accept those conditions, then let's go."
He nodded and fought off the slightest twitch of a smile from giving him away. "Very well, Ms. Lane, a most reasonable offer. I do accept." Wells started moving toward the deeper part of the alley, where their departure would be less likely viewed by anyone.
Lois reached out and placed her hand on his shoulder, stopping him. "Just one more thing. What about…Superman?"
Wells expelled an overly dramatic sigh and shook his head sadly. "Alas, the lad has all the powers but it has been drilled into him all his life that he must hide those powers. Never let people know what he can do."
Lois ran her hand through her hair, then tucked an unruly strand behind her ear. "So, what you're telling me is…that I'll have to *create* another Superman?"
Wells turned to Lois and gave her a wide smile and a wink. "It is something that you are good at, my dear."