By Tank Wilson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: September, 2003
Summary: Lois starts her new life in another alt-dimension. But can she effortlessly take over this Lois's life while everyone around her (including her past life) is so different?
Okay, you know by now how this goes. As I mentioned in the beginning of A Future Rerouted, I had never really intended to tell this story and had only done it to 'entertain' a certain super secret mystery beta reader. Of course, once I'd been persuaded to post the vignette 'officially' I was lost. The gentle readers can be a voracious bunch and, naturally, they wanted more. They weren't content with the idea that Lois had actually survived and had a new life being laid out in front of her. No, they had to see Lois and that new life as it began to play out for her. So, this is the next step in Lois' new adventures. Hope the gentle readers have some fun with it as Lois grapples with this new world and the twists it throws at her.
As always, all characters are trademarked and copyrighted to their respective owners. Any and all additional feedback is welcome at TankW1@aol.com.
Lois raked a hand through her long tangled locks. It was hot, and the poor excuse for a hotel room she was cooped up in didn't exactly put air-conditioning at the top of their priority list. Of course, neither did they place much importance on clean sheets, hot water, or pest control. She shook her head as a distant memory of picking Clark up at his first hotel room, shortly after he'd arrived in Metropolis, came unbidden to her mind. She smiled as she remembered the squalid room he'd taken at the Apollo. It wasn't much of a place but he was trying to be frugal while he was getting himself situated in the big city. It was a place a lot like the one Lois found herself in now.
Lois couldn't actually compare the two places since she didn't really remember much about his place. Her attention had been distracted by the sight of her fledgling partner in just a towel. It was the first time she truly noticed Clark's great physical attributes, but it definitely wasn't the last time. A lump began to form in her throat and she angrily shook her head at herself.
Don't do this to yourself, Lois, she admonished her wandering mind. The past is past. Keep it as a cherished memory, but don't dwell on what you've lost. It's time to map out the future and figure out what it may hold for you now.
H.G. Wells had dropped her into this alternate dimension a little over two weeks ago. He had given her a moderate sum of money so she could survive until she had worked out what she was going to do. She had spent the time learning as much as she could about the counterparts of her friends in this world, and who exactly Lois Lane had been. Unfortunately, it wasn't a lot.
She had spent many hours in the local library going through the microfiche files on old Daily Planet news stories. Using her own career as a timetable she was able to track down quite a few stories she'd written back then. She recognized the style immediately. She was relieved to know that, at least, the Lois Lane of this world had been a decent writer.
At the time Lois' thoughts had turned to the Congo, and the story that had killed this Lois, and almost killed the one from the dimension she'd spent the last several years in. She couldn't help but wonder how things might have turned out if she'd had any decent leads to follow on her own gun running story. Leads that would have compelled her to take her own trip to the Congo… possibly to die. Was that story a major crisis point in the collective lives of Lois Lanes across the dimensions? How many Lois Lanes had died, and as a result never got to have their lives completed by meeting their own Clark Kent? She was grateful that she'd had the chance to know her world's Clark, even if he was no longer hers.
Upon going through those archived stories, the thing that surprised her most was that many of them were written with a shared byline. She apparently had been partnered up early in her career. And her partner had been Perry White! It was strange to see 'by Perry White and Lois Lane' credited to many of the bigger stories she remembered from that time.
This caused her to note that the Editor-in- chief listed on the masthead back then was someone named George Taylor. Perry must not have been editor then, but he was now. A quick check of the current issues of the Daily Planet had confirmed that. She'd also taken the opportunity to peruse some of the stories written by this world's Clark Kent. She was embarrassed by how amateurish they were.
They weren't terrible, and they did show a lot of potential, but they were no where the caliber of her Clark's writing when he'd first come to town. He'd gone and wrote that mood piece on the old theater razing which impressed Perry enough to hire him. This boy definitely needed her help.
The current editions of the Planet gave rise to several names that she recognized, including Cat Grant, but no Jimmy. Of course, that could easily be just a factor that Jimmy still wasn't a reporter. The thought that Jimmy had stayed a photographer had crossed Lois' mind and after an exhaustive search she finally found a photo credited to J. Olsen. She had breathed a sigh of relief. At least there would be a couple of familiar faces for her to anchor herself to.
She'd then spent several days just watching cable news channels. LNN was the prime news network in this world, as it had been in hers. She tried to familiarize herself with the major players in the world of politics, government, and business. Some were names of people who had been up and comers when she'd known them, and many others were new to her. Considering how long she'd been held captive in that alternate dimension, the same could probably be said about her home world. Lex Luthor's name was prominent, but not quite to the extent that it was back home. The most glaring omissions were stories about Superman. There weren't any. There was no Superman. She sighed as she contemplated the main reason she had been brought here. To create another Superman, as she had in that alternate dimension. But then Tempus had managed to blow Clark's secret identity within the first couple of days. She hoped she would do a better job of that here.
Lois looked down at her bathroom sink and the ever growing pile of shorn hair that was quickly filling the small bowl. She then looked up at her reflection in the mirror there. What ever made her think that she could cut her own hair?
Lois had finally decided to make her appearance at the Daily Planet as herself. Well, not exactly herself, but as Lois Lane. It had been nearly ten years since the Lois of this world had disappeared in the Congo. Wells had told her that this Lois had succumbed to a jungle fever and had died shortly after arrival, but no one here ever knew what had happened to her. So she wasn't sure if it would be better to try and step into that life after a ten year absence, or come in fresh as someone completely new. The clincher was that she liked being Lois Lane. She had an affection for the name and what it had represented, both in her home world and in the others that she'd been able to research. She hoped the long time absence would cover any minor mistakes she might make in dealing with people who knew Lois before.
She had spent more than she'd intended to get herself a decent wardrobe in which to make her 'reappearance' so she didn't want to spend a lot of money on a stylist to get her hair in shape. She figured that she would be able to give herself the simple shoulder length trim she'd worn for many years with little trouble. That way she could save that money for shoes.
Unfortunately, it proved to be a little more difficult than she'd originally anticipated. She'd gone ahead and hacked off the majority of the overly long locks quickly, and without concern. She hated really long hair. Ages ago she had decided, once she'd entered the working world, that she wasn't going to be spending a lot of time every morning getting a lot of hair looking good. She didn't care how much 'the boys' liked it. It was her head and she'd wear her hair the way she wanted to.
The next step was where she was having the problem. Every time she thought she'd gotten it trimmed out nicely, she could see in the bathroom mirror that it wasn't even. So she'd have to trim a little more off the longer side to match the shorter side, only to find out that she had taken too much off that side. She had to repeat the process several times and now had a situation where one side hung just below her chin level, and the other just above. She was afraid to cut any more. Lois sighed as she resigned herself to a visit to Super Cuts before she made an appearance at the Daily Planet.
Lois did one last check in the mirrored wall of the Daily Planet's elevator as it neared its destination, the newsroom. Her clothes were professional yet not too formal, or stuffy. Her makeup was lightly done, but her pale face had some color to it. And, thankfully, her hair looked good. She had been leery, at first, when she entered the Super Cuts shop; and even more so when the very young stylist, with the spiky hairdo, had introduced herself as 'Marci — with an i'. But Lois had to grudgingly admit that the young woman had done an excellent job.
Her own inexpert efforts had guaranteed the loss of any page-like style which she'd originally thought to adopt. It had been the style that the Lois Lane of this world had worn in the last pictures of her she'd been able to find. Now she wore a shorter, feathered, head hugging style much like she'd had when she and Clark had gotten married.
A quick, sharp pain lanced her heart at the thought of her marriage and the lost life she had to leave behind. She quickly composed herself as the elevator bell signaled her arrival at her destination. The doors opened.
Lois' steps were hesitant as she exited the elevator car and onto the newsroom floor. It was almost like coming home. The hubbub and the bustle was so familiar. She had to fight off a threatened tear. It had been so long.
It looked like her Daily Planet. The layout was the same, as was the general architecture. The same interesting contrast of the older desks with new, up to date, computers resting on the well-worn wooden surfaces. The bullpen was the obvious site of the most activity as she saw the reporters hard at it. Several were at their terminals busily pounding away at whatever story they were covering while others were in groups of two or three discussing their latest leads. A nostalgic smile found its way onto her face.
"Can I help you, ma'am?"
A young red-headed woman had come up to Lois. She had her arms full of folders and a ready smile on her face. For some reason, Lois thought immediately of Jimmy. She had the same general coloring and a sprinkle of freckles across her nose and upper cheeks, just like Jimmy had.
Lois took a deep breath before answering. It was now or never. "Yes, could you please direct me to Perry White?"
The young woman's smile turned into a grin. "Of course, all the good looking ones want to see Perry." Her laugh was pleasant. "I think the chief is in his office." She pointed to where Lois knew she would. "It's right over there."
Lois forced away the last bit of apprehension and walked purposely toward the editor-in- chief's office. The door was open so Lois stopped in the doorway and rapped on the door jam. "Ah, Mr. White — Perry?"
He looked up from the work on his desk and locked eyes with her. Lois audibly gasped when she saw the man behind the desk looking back at her. It wasn't Perry! It was, but it wasn't. He looked like her Perry, or more accurately, like her Perry looked like in his younger days. The rakishly handsome man staring open mouthed at her couldn't be more than five or six years older than she was.
She walked a little way into the office as he stood up on somewhat shaky legs. His eyes never left hers. "Lois? Oh good lord, tell me I'm not dreamin'. Is it you, darlin'? Are you real, or just a mirage sent to torment me?"
Lois smiled, a bit uncertainly. "Nope, I'm as real as I can be, I guess."
Lois was ready for some sort of show of emotion on Perry's part. Obviously he and Lois had been reasonably close. They had been partnered on many of the stories she'd researched after all. They must have been pretty good friends. Still, Lois was a bit startled by the depth of the emotion she saw in his face.
With a sob, the not so familiar Perry White rushed forward and drew Lois into a crushing bear hug, then, to her total astonishment, he crushed his lips onto hers in a fierce kiss of longing and desire. Lois' eyes widened as he deepened the kiss. What was going on?
Finally able to disentangle herself from the arms of the man who should be a father figure to her, Lois stepped back and took a breath. "Um, that was quite a welcome back, Perry."
White led Lois over to the couch and they sat, facing each other. "What did you expect, Lois? It's been nearly ten years. We'd all given you up for dead. You have no idea how many times I cursed the accident that laid me up and prevented me from accompanying you to the Congo. Taylor made inquiries, even sent over a couple of private detectives, but the trail had gone cold. You'd disappeared." Perry shook his head; the memory clearly brought back some intense feelings. "Truthfully, Lois, I wasn't sure I'd be able to survive your loss. It was very rough for quite some time." He took a deep breath as he shook his head, as if to clear away the old memories. "But that doesn't matter now. All that matters is that you're here. But by god, how? What happened to you?"
"Wellll…" Lois took a breath before she launched into the carefully prepared story she'd come up with. "Shortly after I arrived in the Congo I was ambushed by the gun runners. Apparently they'd found out I was on their trail. I barely managed to get away but I was hurt pretty bad. Not only was I wounded, but in my stumbling escape I fell over an embankment and into a river." Lois took another breath. "The next thing I remember was waking up in some remote missionary hospital."
Perry shook his head in disbelief. "That's pretty incredible, Lois, but ten years? Where have you been? Why didn't you contact anyone?"
Lois took another breath. This was the crux of her story. She needed to sell this part. She shrugged. "Amnesia."
"Amnesia?" Perry was clearly off balance, which was good.
"Yep." Lois nodded. "I didn't remember who I was or why I was there. The sisters of the mission were very kind to me so I stayed and helped them in their ministrations to the local villagers. Over time, bits and pieces of my memory began to come back. It was only recently that I remembered who I was. I still don't remember everything. My past is full of holes. But I knew who I was, and that I belonged in Metropolis. So here I am." Lois spread her hands in a gesture of offering.
Perry was shaking his head back and forth. "Incredible. So, just how much do you remember?"
"As I said, bits and pieces. I know I'm Lois Lane, I was a reporter for the Daily Planet…"
"Yes, yes," Perry interrupted. "But what do you remember about — us?"
Lois looked at the stranger in front of her. A man who reminded her of her old boss, and mentor, but was very different also. "We — were — partners?"
Perry ran his hand through his thick brown hair. "Is that all? That we were just — partners? A reporting duo?"
Lois felt very uneasy. She wasn't sure where this was going, but she had the feeling that it wasn't what she had been expecting. "We were friends? Good friends?"
Perry's laugh betrayed a great deal of pain. He rose and walked over to his desk. Opening a bottom drawer, he reached deep into it and pulled out a small velvet covered box. He brought it back over to the couch. He set in on the cushion between them. Lois bit her lip as she recognized the box for what it was.
"When you got back from Africa I was planning on giving you this." He opened the little box.
As she knew it would be, it was a diamond ring. It wasn't gaudy or ostentatious in any way. She knew the kind of money reporters made, but it was beautiful nonetheless. She couldn't stop a single tear from sneaking out of the corner of one eye. She forced herself to meet Perry's hopeful eyes.
"I'm sorry, " she said. "But I don't remember — us… like that."
"Omigod! I'm seeing a ghost!"
The awkward moment between Lois and Perry was suddenly interrupted by a familiar voice. Lois turned in time to see Cat Grant come rushing into the office. Cat stopped in front of her and reached out a tentative hand. She touched Lois on the cheek. "Oh my goodness, it is you, isn't it? After all these years you've come back?"
Lois took a moment to study the uncharacteristically emotional woman. At least this Cat Grant looked like she was supposed to. Well, almost like she was supposed to. Her age was about right, but there were differences too. Most, Lois assumed, could be attributed to a bit of maturing with age. Things like the shorter, shoulder length hair, and a more appropriate office wardrobe. The thing that Lois couldn't get over were the tears in the woman's eyes. It was as if she was genuinely happy to see her.
While Lois and Cat had never actually been enemies, per se, it was safe to say that they were never exactly friends either. More like rivals for the spot of queen of the newsroom. Lois had the prestige and Cat had the glamour. Neither wished to acknowledge the talents of the other, so, instead they spent their time belittling each others perceived faults. Lois had the breath nearly knocked out of her as Cat wrapped Lois up in a desperate hug of her own. This sure was a hugging bunch, Lois thought, somewhat perplexed.
"Lois, I'm so happy to see you, to know that you're still alive!" Cat wiped away the tears as she remembered where she was and who the other person in the room was. She gave Perry a sheepish grin. "Sorry to bust in like this." She turned to Lois. "As soon as you're done here." She cocked a brow at Perry who just glared at her. "Come get me, we'll do lunch and then you can fill me in on everything that's happened to you all these years." Cat stood up and turned to go, but before she left the room she gave Lois a grin and a wink. "I love the hair." She left.
Lois felt like someone drowning in quicksand. Every time she thought she had a hold of something safe and stable, it slipped away and she found herself foundering that much more. Obviously this Lois' relationships with her co- workers was quite different than what she'd experienced in her own Daily Planet. She had hoped her amnesia story would cover for all the mistakes and miscues she was going to commit over the next several days, but now she wasn't so sure how it could. Perry's voice brought her out of her daze.
"Look, I know how close you and Cat were, so I won't hold you up much longer." The young Perry ran an agitated hand through his hair again. "Even if you don't remember — us — you are still very precious to me and I'm just damn glad to have you back." He shrugged. "I suppose the first thing we need to take care of is getting you a job again."
Perry rose from the couch and went back to his desk. His demeanor visibly changed. Suddenly, the boss was back. She smiled at him. "That would be nice."
Perry picked up a pencil and began to tap on the desk top. "Things aren't quite the same as they were when you and I were the top team at this paper. We don't normally team people up any more, but I think it would be good if you were paired up with one of the current group. At least until you've had a chance to get familiar with the way we do things now." Perry gave Lois an apologetic smile. "No offense, but I need to see what you can do. It has been ten years, Lois. You're bound to be rusty." He sighed. "I could pair you up with Cat as she's currently our best reporter, but she really does work better alone. I don't know how she's able to get some of the information she does, and frankly, I don't want to know."
In for a penny, in for a pound, Lois figured. "Um, I don't mean to tell you your job, Perry, but why not pair me up with that Kent fellow." Lois allowed her voice to take on a bit of a sardonic edge to it. "I think it might be good for both of us."
Perry chuckled. "Oh, I see you've read his writing." He laughed again at her grimace. "He's not that bad, Lois. He's got good instincts, and a lot of potential. He just needs some seasoning, and perhaps a little guidance."
Perry stood up. "I think that's a great idea. It should do both of you some good." Perry glanced out at the bullpen. "Since Kent doesn't seem to be here at the moment, why don't you run off and catch up with Cat. I've got to clear hiring you with the brass upstairs. I'll introduce you to Kent when you get back."
Lois stood up and gave Perry a warm smile. "Thanks. Thanks for everything." Her face clouded over. "Perry, I'm really sorry I don't…"
He waved her concern off with a quick hand gesture. "Don't give it a second thought. You're here, and you're alive. I'm not a greedy man, Lois. That's enough for now." He pointed to the door. "Now scoot, I've still got a newspaper to get out and it won't get done if we stand around jawing all day."
She grinned. "Thanks." Turning quickly, Lois exited Perry's office.
"Wow! That's some story, Lois." Cat shook her head slowly back and forth. She was obviously having trouble coming to terms with the story Lois had told her. "Amnesia, huh?"
"Yep. I didn't remember a thing for years. I only just recently remembered who I was. Things are still pretty sketchy." Lois ducked her head. For some reason she found Cat's measured gaze disconcerting.
A strange smile twitched the corners of Cat's mouth, as she toyed with her drink for a time. Lois found herself biting at her lower lip. Why was this lunch date so strange? It seemed that the Lois Lane of this world and Cat Grant were much closer than she'd ever been with her counterpart on her own world. Perry had said as much. So, that probably meant that they'd been friends, but how close of friends exactly?
"So, where are you staying?" The question surprised Lois, seeming to come out of left field as it did.
"Ah, I'm at the Mercury Motel… down on Third and Swan."
Cat nodded. "I know the place. It's a dump." She took another sip of her tonic. "Give me a couple of days to ditch my current roommate, then you can move back in."
Lois was shell shocked. "What? No, I wouldn't want you to do something like that."
Cat shrugged. "It's no big deal. We weren't getting along all that well anymore anyway. I was ready for a change, but this is much better. Grant and Lane back together again."
Lois was swimming upstream again. Her and Cat — roommates? How could that be? They were nothing alike. Even though this Cat Grant seemed less flamboyant than the one she'd known, there was something else about her. Something just a bit more devious. Yet it seemed clear that Lois and Cat had a past together as friends and roommates.
Lois shook her head. This was getting in too deep, too fast. "No, I can't ask that of you."
"I don't remember hearing you ask? I offered." Cat leaned forward. "Look, Lois, I know that you obviously don't have a lot of money right now. I can't imagine what your life has been like all these years, but it can't have been all that pleasant."
Lois couldn't help but flash back to her imprisonment of the last few years. She had almost given up hope. No, calling it unpleasant was an understatement. But then neither Cat, nor Perry, knew about that. They just thought that she had spent all that time working with a small group of missionaries.
Cat chuckled. "Actually, knowing you like I do, I would think that it had to have been a living hell. Imagine, Lois Lane, a good little nun-in-training. That more than anything else makes me believe that you must have had amnesia."
Cat's words made Lois uneasy. She made it sound as if helping others was not in Lois Lane's nature. Okay, in her early days, Lois had to admit that she tended to be focused on her career, and anyone who stood in her way was not someone she tolerated. But that didn't mean that she had no compassion for others. She was a crusader, not only for the truth, but to right those wrongs that needed righting. That was what a good reporter did.
"You make me sound like I'm some sort of selfish witch," Lois responded somewhat petulantly.
Cat's brow just raised, but she didn't speak for several moments. She reached down and took a sip of her drink. From the look on her face, the ice must have melted enough to have noticeably watered it down. "So tell me," she began once she'd set her drink back down. "That scene in Perry's office that I walked in on. It seemed pretty intense." She got that crooked little smile on her face again. "Perry swearing his undying love again?"
Lois gasped at the woman perceptiveness. "How'd you know?"
Cat laughed. "Come on, Lois, anyone who was around back then knew that Perry was totally smitten with you. That was what you wanted at the time, wasn't it?" She had to chuckle again. "Though from the look on his face when I came in, I'd say that you'd finally gotten around to shutting the poor boy down."
Lois was really confused now. "I'm not sure what you mean by that? I told him that I didn't remember us — in that way."
Cat's laughter was now rich and full-throated. "Oh, that's priceless. What a perfect dodge. I wish I would have thought of the amnesia bit a few times in the past."
"But," Lois frowned, clearly not on the same wavelength as Cat. "I really don't remember any romantic relationship with Perry."
Cat slapped the table. She was really enjoying this. "Oh, that's even better. No guilt. Though I'd hardly have called it a romantic relationship."
Lois' eyes narrowed, suspiciously. "What do you mean?"
It was Cat's turn to look puzzled. "You really don't remember?" Lois shook her head. "Lois, Perry White was the Planet's top reporter at the time. You were just using him to advance your career. Just like you used Claude to get the job in the first place. Your first Kerth was for that story that you stole from Claude, and your second was the Messenger disaster that you covered with Perry." Cat's brow furrowed. "I always meant to ask you. Did it bother you to have to share the Kerth with Perry?"
Lois was stunned. She sat at the table just staring at her hands. What kind of person had this Lois Lane been? She finally raised her eyes up to see the amused look on Cat's face. "I never had any real feelings for Perry?"
Cat snorted. "Oh, I'm sure you could stretch the definition and say you were friends, in your own way. But romantic notions? We both know how ridiculous that idea is."
She stared at Lois as if she couldn't believe she'd just said what she had. "Are you serious?" Lois shrugged helplessly. "Geez… I guess amnesia can make you forget who you are, but I never would have thought it could make you forget *what* you are."
Lois held her hands out in front of her in a gesture of surrender. She had no idea what Cat was talking about. Cat frowned at Lois, appearing to study her quite closely. Finally, she shrugged, as if giving up.
"Lois — you're gay."
Lois sat there, mouth agape. She couldn't speak. To say her mind was in turmoil would be a gross understatement. She was finding simple acts like breathing hard to do as her brain was so conflicted with startling and confusing thoughts that inconsequential things like remembering to breathe were forgotten.
How was she supposed to deal with all this? The Lois Lane of this world was an opportunistic, conscienceless, unfeeling witch with apparently no ethical standards. Lois, personally, never held any bias against homosexuality, but she was pretty sure that this society wasn't any more enlightened than the one she came from, and so it would just prove to be another complication she'd have to deal with. She resolved to kill H. G. Wells the next time she saw him, but considering what he'd dumped her into the middle of, she doubted she'd see him anytime soon. That left her with one major problem. What was she going to do about it?
The idea of moving in with Cat Grant, from a logical standpoint, made good sense. From what little she'd been able to gather so far. No one seemed to know Lois Lane better than Cat. That meant that no one could probably tell her more about who this Lois used to be than Cat. But exactly how far did the relationship go? And how far would Lois be willing to go to continue in the role of this dimension's deceased reporter?
Lois swallowed and forced her vocal cords out of their shocked paralysis. "So, we were roommates — before?" Cat nodded, a wry smile on her lips. "Does that mean — you're gay — also?" Lois' question came out haltingly.
Cat grinned. "No, not really. I take my sexual pleasures wherever I choose. Be they man, woman, or cute, cuddly farm animals."
Cat's laughter was rich and playful. "Just kidding. God, Lois, you are still so easy."
Lois frowned. "So, tell me. Did we ever… I mean, were we ever…?"
Cat wiped a tear of laughter from her eye and favored Lois with a look of compassion. "Intimate? Yes, we were." Cat raised a brow at the look of horror on Lois' face. "But were we lovers? No, we weren't." Cat reached out and took Lois' hand in hers. "Lois, it's obvious that you've lost a lot of who you were. Let me try to explain a few things."
Cat shifted in her chair and took another hit off her drink before she continued. "We played around at love a little bit in the beginning but it was clear right from the earliest times that we were never meant to be lovers. We were best friends, and that became much more important than any fleeting physical gratification that we might have experienced. Hell, Lois, you were probably the only real friend that I had. You convinced Taylor to take me off the society beat and give me a shot as a real investigative reporter. For that alone I'll always be indebted to you."
Lois bit at her lip. "So, I actually did do something nice for someone else? I'm not the totally selfish bi — person you've told me about, at least, not all the time?"
Cat shook her head and smiled sadly across the small table at her. "Lois, you are not a bad person. Not really. I'd think that your volunteering to stay and help those missionaries for all those years would tell you that. It's just that…" Cat had to pause and grope for her words. "You have — issues, when it comes to men. Something happened to you a long time ago. Exactly what, I don't know. You never shared that part of your past. Even with me. But it scarred you. It scarred you badly. It became your mantra, to do unto them before they could do it to you." Cat sighed. "I'm just as confused by this seemingly new person in front of me, as you seemed to be confused by the person that I've told you you used to be. All I know is, the past is past, and this is now. It's ten years later, the best friend I ever had is back from the dead, and I just want us to be friends again." Cat's smile was warm, and a tear snuck out of the corner of her eye. "Do you think we could do that?"
Lois found her own eyes beginning to mist. "Yeah, I think I'd like that. Maybe together we can create a whole new Lois that everybody will like."
A short bark of laughter erupted from Cat. "Well, let's not get carried away." She stood and grabbed the check sitting in the middle of their table. Lois didn't remember seeing the waiter drop it off. "We'd better get back, or Perry will be sending out the dogs looking for us."
Lois rose to follow the enigmatic woman. The mention of Perry brought a frown onto her face. That was just another problem that would have to be dealt with, and sooner rather than later.
As the two women exited the elevator, Cat gave Lois' hand a quick squeeze and promised to get back to her before the day was over. Then, Ms. Grant hurried off in the opposite direction, apparently having things of her own to deal with.
"Ah, Lois, good, you're back. Come on down here. There's someone I'd like you to meet." Lois' attention was drawn to the familiar voice, coming from the not quite so familiar editor-in-chief. She smiled at Perry and began to move toward the ramp down into the bullpen. When she saw who was standing next to Perry she stopped in her tracks.
That was Clark? Lois had to blink a couple of times to make sure she was seeing correctly. Yes, she could tell that the man standing next to Perry White was definitely Clark Kent, but he was not like any Clark Kent she'd ever met. Of course, she'd only met two. Still, it was a bit of a shock to see the young man standing next to Perry and think of the two handsome men she'd known. He wasn't wearing any glasses, but she'd recognize those gorgeous features anywhere. His hair was longer than she'd been used to seeing Clark wear it. It was probably just a bit longer than when she first met her own Clark. But the really distracting thing was not the length of his hair, it was the color. This Clark was blonde!
Lois finally made herself move and soon found herself standing next to Perry, being introduced to a man who was supposed to be this world's counterpart to her husband. She purposefully blanked her mind and let the introductions happen. She couldn't afford to prejudge this Clark based on her experiences with her past best friend and lover. Thoughts of her Clark instantly brought on a melancholy that she'd been trying hard to suppress. It took Perry's voice to shake her out of her doleful musings.
"Lois, I'd like you to meet our newest reporter, well, technically you're going to be our newest reporter… again," Perry shook his head. "You know what I mean."
Perry's momentary babble caused Lois to smile. She took Clark's hand and shook it. "You must be Clark Kent. Hi, I'm Lois Lane."
The smile was the same. It was just the friendly 'glad to meet you' smile that Clark used for meeting new people, but it still had the effect of lighting up a room and causing women to breath just a little quicker. Even his blonde surfer look couldn't disguise that smile; it was pure Clark Kent.
"Hello, Ms. Lane. Mr. White was just telling me a little about you. I can't believe I'm actually getting a chance to meet you. You're practically a legend around here. The older reporters are constantly telling stories about 'Mad Dog Lane'."
"Well, you can't believe everything you hear." Suddenly she was struck by what he'd said. The 'older' reporters? She felt an unexpected chill as she abruptly realized something. This Clark was quite a bit younger than she was. Probably by several years. Maybe about the same age as her Clark was when he first came to the Planet. The only difference now was her. She was older. Several years older. Oh yeah, Wells was definitely a dead man if she ever saw him again.
Perry clapped both of them on the shoulders. "So, since you two are going to be partners for a while. Kent, why don't you take Lois into the conference room and get her up to speed on whatever it is you're currently working on."
Lois couldn't be sure, but she thought she detected just a hint of annoyance on Clark's face when Perry mentioned the partner thing. He quickly smoothed his features and plastered a smile back on his face. It wasn't quite the same smile he'd had earlier. He gave her a half bow, and with a sweep of his hand, indicated that Lois should precede him. She rolled her eyes, shrugged, then moved off toward the conference room.
Once they were both in the conference room, Clark closed the door behind them, and sat down in one of the chairs. Lois had already seated herself. "So, what's the problem?" she asked. "Don't want to be tied down by some old fogy reporter who's been gone for a decade?"
Clark's look was instantly surprised, and embarrassed. "I'm sorry. I didn't think you'd noticed that." The young man didn't look at her directly. "It's just that I thought Perry was beginning to trust me, my instincts. Now…"
"Now, Perry trusts your instincts just fine. In fact he has a higher opinion of your writing than I do." Lois figured the best way to proceed was head on.
Clark slumped in his chair. "Gee, thanks a lot."
Lois snorted. "Don't get all sulky on me. Look, I've read your stuff. It's not bad, and it does show a lot of potential. I can definitely see you have the makings of a fine writer. But you're not there yet." Lois leaned back in her chair and studied the young man for a few moments. "You know, I was a pretty good reporter before I… er, left. And both Perry and I think you can learn some things from me."
Clark shrugged, still not mollified. "Sure, maybe, but no offense, Ms. Lane, you haven't written a news story in nearly ten years."
Lois stood up and began to pace. She did her best thinking on her feet. "I think if we *are* going to be partners for a time, we'd best dispense with the formalities. I'm Lois, and I hope you don't mind if I call you Clark."
"Well, most of the people around here call me CK."
Lois smiled. "I think I'll stick with Clark. I've always liked the name." Lois paused and looked him in the eye. "You're right I haven't written a news story in nearly ten years. But I did manage a couple of Kerth awards in my time under the gun, so maybe I might just know some things that you don't?"
"I heard about how you got that first Kerth," Clark muttered under his breath.
Lois heard anyway, and had to fight back some rising anger. "Let's get one thing straight, Clark. I have never… " Lois suddenly remembered Cat's little story about how the Lois of this world had seduced Claude and stolen his story in order to get her job at the Daily Planet. She turned away and shook her head. Taking a moment to get herself back under control she turned back to him. "Okay, maybe this wasn't such a good idea. Maybe you're right. Maybe I should just go and tell Perry that his idea to pair us up wasn't a good one. I certainly don't want to force myself on someone who doesn't want my help."
Clark frowned. "This was Perry's idea?"
Lois bit her lip. "For the most part."
Clark suddenly found his fingers quite fascinating. "Well, I guess it wouldn't hurt for me to be partnered up with someone of your past background." Clark's voice became stronger, and more positive. "Actually, now that I think about it, it will probably do me a lot of good. There are some things I have trouble with. Like interviewing people and recognizing when they are telling me the truth."
Lois was able to put a smile back on her face. "That's good, because I'd really like this to be a benefit to both of us. You were right. I have been away a long time, and I will need time, and help, to get back into the swing of things. Knowing what to do, and still being able to do it are often very different things." Lois patted Clark's hand. "Besides, I've been severely out of touch for too many years. I'm going to need help just becoming familiar with the world again." Lois sat down again. "So, what are you working on now?"
Clark dropped his head, and looked a bit embarrassed. "Well, it's not really all that much. In fact, I'm beginning to think the guy is nothing but a crackpot."
"What guy? What's his story?"
Clark sighed. "Well, okay. I heard out on the street a few days ago about this guy, name of Hamilton, claimed he could raise the dead…"
Lois sucked in a breath. "Hamilton? Professor Emil Hamilton?"
Clark eyed Lois suspiciously. "Yeah, how did you know?"
Lois suddenly felt like a little child caught with her hand in the cookie jar. "Ah, I'm not sure. Maybe I read something about him somewhere." She grinned sheepishly. "Lucky guess?"
She could tell that Clark wasn't buying what she was selling, but he continued. "Anyway, the word is that he's perfected a process in which he can clone the dead. Literally bring the dead back to life."
Lois found herself beginning to slip back into painful memories. Those two days that she'd thought Clark was dead, after being shot by the resurrected Clyde Barrow. One of the gangsters that Emil Hamilton had brought back to life. It had been the worst two days of her life. She couldn't remember when she'd cried that much before — or since. Then her relief when she'd seen Clark walking toward her that night. He told her that Superman had found his body and had used Hamilton's notes to bring him back. Of course, he hadn't really been dead at all. He was Superman.
He — hadn't — been — dead… Lois' brain suddenly seized on something that she hadn't really thought about, all these years. Clark was Superman, so he'd never really been shot. He'd never really been dead. He hadn't even been hurt.
Lois found a strange combination of hurt and anger rising in her. Clark hadn't even suffered a scratch from the bullets from Clyde's gun, yet he had allowed her to think he was dead for two whole days!
Now that she thought of it, how could he have done such a thing? He claimed to love her, yet he'd let her suffer through some of the worst moments she'd ever had to endure. Sure, he had to play dead to protect his secret. But why hadn't he told her? And even stranger, why was she only just realizing this now?
She was snapped back to reality by Clark's puzzled call out. "Mmm, what? I'm sorry, did you say something?"
Clark shook his head in wonder. "I said, I think this guy is probably a nut case, but I suppose it wouldn't hurt to talk to him." Clark finally grinned, again. "Man, you really zoned out on me. Where were you?"
Lois blushed. "No where, really. I, ah, was just remembering something."
Lois tried to dismiss the issue with the wave of her hand, but she could see that Clark was truly interested. Maybe this was a chance for them to connect on a more informal level. It might give her a chance to see how this Clark's mind worked.
"Oh, it was just something that happened a long time ago. Your mention of Hamilton claiming to be able to bring back the dead brought back the memory."
"I guess you'd call it a prank, or something. I was with someone at a club and it appeared that he was shot dead right in front of me. He was never actually hurt, but it was two days before he told me he was alive."
Clark frowned. "That sounds awfully cruel. Who was this guy? Someone you knew well?"
Lois pursed her lips. "You might say that. At the time we considered each other best friends."
Clark's frown was deeper, causing his brow to furrow in concentration. "That doesn't sound like something a best friend would do. Was there some other reason he might have done it? I mean, beyond just playing a cruel joke on you? If you were best friends, I'd think he'd have to have a pretty good excuse for doing it, and for not telling you sooner that it was all a gag."
Lois shrugged. "I'm sure he thought so."
Clark reached out and touched Lois' hand. "Lois? This wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that people thought you were dead for the past ten years, would it?"
Lois' head snapped to. She shook it violently. "No!" she said with quiet vehemence. "I never tried to fool anyone, and… now that I think of it, I'm sure my friend did have good reasons for not telling me. I guess I was just too close to it to understand?"
Clark frowned. "I don't know. Did he ever tell you why he did it? Are you still friends?"
Lois sucked in a breath. She shouldn't have said anything. Now Clark's natural inquisitiveness was taking him places where she didn't want to go. Not yet, anyway.
"It's all water under the bridge now. I guess you could say we are still friends though, obviously, we haven't seen each other for quite some time." Even though what Lois said wasn't really a lie, she allowed Clark to make his own assumption based on what he thought had happened to her.
"Do you know where he is now?"
Lois shrugged. "He's… he's with someone else." She waved off the immediate look of compassion on Clark's face. "That doesn't matter now. I should have never brought it up. Let's forget about that and concentrate on this story." Lois put her business face on. "So, when is this interview and what background information do you have on this guy?"
Clark looked sheepishly at Lois. "Well I haven't actually set up the interview yet. I only just heard about him a couple of days ago."
Lois frowned. "A couple of days ago? And you haven't contacted him yet? Where's he work? What's he a professor of? Where does he live? Does he have any partners, or assistants, anyone who can corroborate his findings?"
Clark blushed furiously. "Ah, I haven't gotten around to checking that out yet. I'd hoped to be able to do some of that today."
Lois stared at the young man for several moments. He clearly didn't have the same work habits she was familiar with. That was something that would have to change. She could see that she'd have her work cut out for her with this Clark Kent. She'd have to teach him how to be Clark Kent before she could consider turning him into a Superman. She was no more certain than ever that H.G. Wells had no plans to show his face back here for a long time. Not unless the man had a death wish.
"Well, I think then that we have some work ahead of us. By the end of the day we need to have all the background on this Hamilton that we can possibly find, and have a plan of attack mapped out." She said it all in one breath.
Clark looked slightly stunned. "A plan of attack? Lois, you make this sound like you're planning some military strategy for a war, not merely a news story."
Lois grinned, as the memory came rushing back. "That's your problem, Clark. You think there's a difference."
He chuckled as he rose and the two of them headed for the conference room door. Before they reached it Lois laid a hand on his arm. He stopped and turned to her. She blushed in embarrassment, but she had to know.
A bit hesitantly, she asked. "I'm sorry if I'm being rude here, but I have to know. I never imagined you as a blond. Is it natural?"
This time Clark blushed in embarrassment. He shook his head. "No, It's not. My normal hair color is a lot like yours. I did this for my girlfriend. She thought it would look sexy."
Girlfriend! Lois, unobtrusively put a hand on the table to steady her. It just kept getting better and better in this dimension. Just what she needed, some clinging girlfriend to get in the way of her teaching Clark what he'd need to know. Visions of the first alternate Clark and his fiancee, Lana, came rushing back. She hoped, for Clark's sake, that this woman, whoever she was, had a better understanding of who, and what Clark was than Lana had.
A sudden knock on the conference room door pulled Lois back. The cute redhead she saw earlier poked her head into the room. Lois was again reminded of Jimmy. Her hair, which was quite long, hanging past her shoulders to the middle of her back, was the same color as Jimmy's. Even her face seemed to remind her of Jimmy. She wondered if she was just getting homesick.
"Hey, lover," she called out as she winked at Clark. "Are we still on for that late lunch?"
Clark pursed his lips, then looked at Lois. She microscopically shook her head. He turned back to the energetic young woman. "I'm afraid not, Jenny. Ms. Lane and I will be working right through lunch. I've got a lot of research to do on this Hamilton guy I told you about."
The young woman affected a girlish pout. "Oh, poo." She reached out and put her arm, somewhat possessively around Clark's waist.
Clark gave her a squeeze. "Jenny, I'd like you to meet my new partner, Lois Lane. Lois, this is my girlfriend, Jenny Olsen."
Lois' eyes widened at the mention of the woman's name. Than a crooked little smile found its way onto her lips. So that was the reason why she reminded her of Jimmy so much. This world's Jimmy Olsen was a woman. Lois reached out her hand.
"We met briefly but were never introduced. Good to finally know you, Jenny."
Lois could see that Jenny was sizing her up. Checking out this 'old' woman who was going to be spending so much time with her boyfriend. After a few moments pause, Jenny finally accepted Lois' extended hand. "Good to meet you too, Ms. Lane."
"Oh, please, call me Lois."
Jenny just gave Lois a wary smile. She turned to Clark. "I'm not too happy about missing our lunch date." She turned and gave Lois a calculating look. "But as long as it's for work, I guess I'll have to be understanding."
Clark smiled down at the young redhead. "I'm hoping Lois can teach me a lot."
Jenny's look toward Lois became one of warning. "Just so long as she confines her teaching to news reporting."
"Jenny!" Clark admonished.
She continued as if he hadn't spoken. "After all, you have me to teach you everything else you need to know."
With that she pulled his head down and gave him a deep and demanding kiss. One which Lois could see he readily returned. After releasing him, Jenny turned and gave Lois an insincere smile, then left the room. She didn't normally go in for hyperbole, but if she'd ever seen anyone flounce out of a room before, that was what Jenny Olsen had done.
Lois mind turned again to H. G. Wells and what he'd gotten her into. Only now, his death wouldn't satisfy her. Long drawn out torture and suffering were definitely called for.
It had been a long and eventful day for Lois. From her initial shock during her interview with Perry, continuing with her eye-opening lunch with Cat, right through her strange meeting with Clark… and Jenny. Then she and Clark had spent the afternoon digging up what information they could about Professor Emil Hamilton. Remembering some of the things from her own previous encounter with the eccentric mad professor, Lois was able to steer the research into more quickly productive areas.
This Hamilton seemed similar to the one she'd run into so many years ago. Information she'd found painted the same picture of a real science nerd. Someone who spent twenty four hours a day in his laboratory doing research. No apparent family or friends to vie for his attention. All his resources went into his research. It was the same research that Lois feared. The research that had caused her such pain so many years ago.
Clark, like her Clark had before, found the article written by Hamilton which explained his theories on DNA modification. How he felt he could restructure a person's DNA and short- circuit aggressive behavior. He hoped that his research would allow him to eliminate all anti- social behavior in man. He even mentioned that in his cloning process he'd found a way to accelerate the maturation process of the embryo. And, of course, he felt the perfect people to experiment on would be criminals, or more accurately, deceased criminals. Lois just hoped that they'd have a chance to talk to this Hamilton before it was too late.
Lois dropped her bag on one of the threadbare chairs near the front door and walked the few steps into the kitchenette area of the seedy hotel room. Pulling open the tiny refrigerator, she grimaced at the paucity of edible foodstuffs lying therein. What was left of the luncheon meat seemed to have turned green. She knew she should have found a way to wrap it up better, but she hadn't bothered to purchase any storage baggies or aluminum foil on that one trip to the grocery that she'd made since she'd arrived. She grabbed the carton of milk and, not bothering with a glass, took a large swig. She quickly ran to the sink to spit out the sour liquid. She sighed as she poured the rest of the carton down the drain.
She glanced to the small countertop and checked the few slices of bread left in the bag sitting there. It looked okay, just a few spots of mold, which she could tear out. Too bad she didn't have a toaster. She could be satisfied with a few slices of buttered toast right about then. Of course, that would necessitate her having any butter.
She was thankful that she now had a job and a steady paycheck, but it would be a couple of weeks before she'd start seeing that money. In the meantime her financial situation was a bit on the desperate side. There really wasn't much money for things like milk and bread, let alone such niceties as good, filling take out.
Lois' debate with herself over whether or not to spend some of her precious remaining funds for food, or just go without, was interrupted by a sharp knock on her door. She was surprised by it since she couldn't think of anyone who'd be knocking, unless it was that sleazy manager trying to come onto her again. No, it couldn't be him, she'd made it more than abundantly clear the last time that she wasn't interested in anything he had to offer. She had stressed 'anything'.
Shrugging, she moved over to the door. "Who is it?"
"Hey, Lois, it's Cat, let me in. I brought food."
Lois couldn't get the door unlatched fast enough. Throwing the creaky, wooden door open she was greeted by a grinning Cat Grant. "I figured that you might be a little tight for cash at the moment and wouldn't mind if I brought over some Chinese take-out from our old favorite, Ralph's Pagoda."
Lois felt a quick queasy feeling in her stomach when Cat mentioned the restaurant's name but couldn't quite figure out why. Maybe she was just more hungry than she thought. "Come in. I appreciate your bringing over some food, not that I didn't have it covered well enough."
Cat raised a brow. "Really, what did you have planned?"
"Well, I already drank the sour milk so I can't offer you any of that, but I still have the moldy bread I was planning to eat." Lois waved Cat toward the small kitchenette table.
Cat nodded knowingly. "I suppose I could just leave. Take my food and go. I wouldn't want to infringe on your own dinner plans."
Lois grabbed Cat and steered to a seat at the table. "No, that's quite all right. I'm more than happy to put aside my own plans… for a friend." She looked at Cat just a little hesitantly.
Cat smiled. "Good. I've got a varied sampling here, so dig in." She set the paper cartons down on the table as Lois found the meager supply of plates and silverware and brought them to the table. Within moments Lois found herself eating the best take out she'd had in years. It was like heaven.
Cat smiled at her ravenous friend, and allowed Lois to eat in silence for several minutes. Finally, after Lois seemed to be slowing somewhat, Cat thought Lois might be able to carry on a conversation between mouthfuls. "I see you met our resident super-hunk today."
Lois nearly dropped her fork. "Wh — who?"
"Kent," she replied. "I see you met Clark today. I know that you're not interested, but you have to admit that he's a real cutie."
Lois found it a bit hard to swallow her last mouthful. "Ah, sure, I guess you could say that he's attractive."
"Yeah," Cat said, just a bit dreamily. Too bad Jenny got her hooks into him so quickly. He's a bit young, and probably naive as they come, but it might have been fun." Cat leaned forward. Her chin resting on her hand. "So what was the deal with you two?"
Lois took a swig from her glass of water, that being all she had to offer them to drink, then pushed her plate back. "Ummm, Perry has teamed us up. He thinks that it will do us both some good. You know, I've been away for a time and will need a little help to get back into the swing of things. And he thinks that working with me, my experience can help Kent become a better reporter, and writer."
Cat nodded. "Makes sense, but I wish he'd paired you up with me. We could have had some fun."
Lois shrugged. "Perry said something about not tying down his best reporter." She waved her hand aimlessly. "He also said that you definitely worked best alone." Lois cocked a brow. "I think he's afraid to know how you get some of your stories."
Cat roared with laughter. "I'll bet he is."
Suddenly a high-pitched beeping intruded on the conversation. Cat reached into her pant's pocket and pulled out a cell phone. She placed it to her ear and listened for a few moments. Finally she thanked whoever was on the other end and thumbed off the phone.
"Who was that?" Lois asked.
"That was Bobby Bigmouth, one of my best sources." She answered as she slid the phone back into her pocket. "Though I'm not so sure about this little gem of information he gave me. It sounds pretty ridiculous."
So, Bobby was Cat's source in this dimension. Lois was curious as to how Cat and Bobby got hooked up. But that could wait for another time. For now her overriding interest was the information he'd shared with her.
"Really? What did he say?"
Cat chuckled and shook her head. "Get this. He said that the midtown bank was just robbed by a group of old time gangsters. And do you know who the members of that gang were supposed to be?" Lois shook her head even though she had a good idea who they might be. "Bonnie and Clyde, and John Dillinger."
"What, no Al Capone?"
Cat laughed. "Really." Her laughter died as she watched Lois' face become grim. "What is it? What do you know?"
Lois groaned. "It was a possible story Clark, and now I, am working on. Some mad scientist type has the notion that he can modify a person's DNA and eliminate their anti-social tendencies. His process involves some sort of cloning operation." Lois sighed. "Apparently he decided that raising some old gangsters was the best way to test his theories."
"Are you trying to tell me that Bonnie and Clyde, and John Dillinger are really running around in Metropolis robbing banks?" Cat was more than a bit skeptical.
"It's possible that, at least, their clones are."
Cat threw her hands in the air. "Whatever! Anyway, it sounds like you and Clark are already on this story, and you'll have your work cut out for you starting tomorrow morning." Cat suddenly turned pensive. "But bringing you some dinner wasn't the only reason I came over tonight, Lois."
Lois was suddenly wary of the woman across the small table from her. "Oh, was there something else you wanted to… talk about?"
Cat dropped her head so that her eyes didn't meet Lois'. She seemed to be fumbling for the right words. "Lois," she finally said. "Have you tried to contact your parents since you've been back?"
Lois was suddenly put on guard by Cat's question. Had Cat been talking to Lois' parents? Did they know she was 'alive' again? She hadn't really thought about them, being too busy just trying to find out who Lois Lane was. She had found out that her parents were indeed Sam and Ellen Lane, and that she had a sister Lucy, but hadn't probed any deeper. She figured that this Lois, like she had been, wasn't that close to her parents and there'd be time to cross that bridge once she had a better handle on who she was supposed to be.
"Ah, no. I've been too caught up in my own problems. You know, all the holes in my memory and such. I thought it would be better if I got settled, so to speak, before I contacted them." Lois tried to look contrite. "I know that sounds selfish. I'm sure they'd want to know that their daughter had survived, but I just wasn't thinking about anyone else, except me just yet." Lois allowed herself a rueful smile. "I guess that's in character, huh?"
Cat smiled at Lois' quip, but it was a sad smile. She had something to say, and Lois' unease grew as the silence stretched. Cat reached out to squeeze Lois' hand. "Lois, I didn't think of this earlier, during our lunch, because it has been a long time, but it came to me a few hours ago. You wouldn't know. It all happened while you were gone."
Lois' nervousness vied with confusion. "Cat, what are you talking about?"
Cat took a deep breath. "Lois, I'm so sorry, but your parents… are dead."
"Oh." A slight chill ran through Lois' body. She wasn't sure how she was supposed to react. Of course, she was saddened to hear that the Sam and Ellen Lane of this world were dead. But they weren't her parents. They would have been total strangers, sort of. The problem was, Cat thought they were her parents, so she supposed she should try and show some real grief.
Before Lois could react, Cat plunged on. "Look I know that you weren't exactly on the best terms with your folks, but they were your parents."
Lois schooled her features to show no emotion. She guessed that would be the best. "What happened?"
Cat played with her own fingers, not looking Lois in the face. "Your Dad was killed first. I think it was seven or eight years ago. It was a pretty tawdry situation. An angry husband caught him in bed with his wife and killed them both. It was quite the scandal for a short time."
Lois bit on her lip and stared at her own hands. She had to fight back a sardonic laugh. It was so ironic. There but by the grace of god could have gone her own father. His infidelities could just have easily ended in such a sad and pathetic way. Suddenly a tear found itself slipping from her eye as she remembered her last conversation with Perry, her Perry, on her final visit to her own world.
Her own father was dead also. Killed by someone who was trying to revenge himself on her. The sick irony there was, it wasn't even her that Jefferson Cole was tormenting. She could now understand how the alternate Lois must have felt when she heard about Sam Lane's death. A Sam Lane she never knew.
At least her tears over her own father helped give legitimacy to her supposed feelings over the revelation of this Sam Lane's death. "And my mother?" Lois asked quietly.
Cat ran her hand through her hair, tangling it and catching her nail, before she could free it. "Ouch!" Cat pulled the few strands of hair from her fingernail, then looked back to Lois. "You know, I can understand your mother being a drunk while Sam was off running around on her. But even after his death she continued to drink. She never seemed interested in getting better." Cat sighed. "I suppose the numbness was preferable to the pain. The pain of betrayal by her husband, but also the pain of loss. The loss of her husband… and her eldest daughter."
Lois' voice was quiet, and almost timid in nature. "So — she drank herself to death?"
Cat shook her head, her hair moving slowly back and forth. "Not exactly. About three years ago she was in a terrible auto accident. Her blood alcohol level was .20. She was killed instantly." Cat finally met Lois' eyes. "I'm sure she didn't suffer."
More tears leaked from Lois' eyes. It was scary how much this could have been her own parents. She wiped at her eyes with the back of her hand. She was almost afraid to ask the next question. "What about Lucy? How is she?"
Cat shook her head and shrugged. "I don't really know. Shortly after your mom died she hooked up with this guy." Cat paused, obviously searching her memory. "I think his name was Johnny Corbin. They went off together and I haven't seen nor heard from her since."
Lois closed her eyes and let her head fall against the back of the chair. Johnny Corbin? She prayed that the Johnny Corbin of this world was nothing like the two bit punk from her world. A street-wise con artist who was used and abused unto death by the slimeball Rollie Valle. Lois made a silent vow to herself. Once she had gotten herself reasonably settled in, she was going to try and find her 'sister', just for her own piece of mind.
Lois forced herself to, once again, look at Cat. She was almost afraid to ask anything else. "Is there… is there anything else?"
Cat reached out and patted the back of Lois' hand in a gesture of friendship and support. She then reached into her pocket and pulled out a small key. She laid it on the table before them. "Just this."
Lois picked up the small gold colored key. "What's it for?"
"It's the key to a small storage facility on Clinton Street. It's where I put your stuff after — after you didn't come back."
"You stored my stuff for me? After all these years?" Lois was astounded. She might have done something similar for a friend for a year or two, but ten? She was just beginning to realize what kind of friend Cat Grant had been to Lois Lane. "I don't know what to say? This is terrific. I can't believe you didn't just take what you wanted and toss the rest of the stuff out."
Cat chuckled. "Oh, I wasn't quite as altruistic as it may look. I did confiscate your burgundy sheath dress, and the pin-striped suit. And I have to admit that I threw out most of your clothes. They really were quite awful. I still don't know how you stood it; dressing like a repressed nun." Lois rolled her eyes. "But most of your more personal belongings are there."
Lois smiled at the thoughtful woman. "Thank you."
"Don't mention it." Cat's eyes began to mist. "It really is great to have you back, Lois."
For the first time since she'd arrived, Lois felt like maybe, just maybe, she might be able to make a go of it there. Her heartache over the loss of her husband was still present, and it always would be. But now, something else had been added to the equation. Something she hadn't really acknowledged as possible before. Now, there was a faint glimmer of hope.
"It's great to be back."
As if to put the maudlin displays behind them, Cat quickly stood up and began ease her way toward the door. "Well, I guess I'd best be going. It looks like both of us are going to have busy days tomorrow." She winked at Lois. "I don't think Perry would take too kindly to his newest reporter showing up late for her first full day of work." Cat cocked her brow. "Especially since it looks like her possible story has developed into something quite remarkable."
Lois grinned. "It will be good to get back into the action again." Lois' smile turned grateful. "Thanks again for coming over. The food and the company was much appreciated. Thanks, too, for the information about my folks. It's better to hear such things from a friend." Suddenly Lois was struck by a thought. Something she probably should have asked much sooner. "Cat, I feel a little awkward having to ask this, but do you know where my folks are buried?"
Cat just shook her head. "You have no reason to feel awkward. Even if your memory was whole, your family was never big on any particular church, so how would you know? They're buried at St. Luke's."
Lois nodded. She could find where that was easy enough. "I guess I should go and visit them sometime soon." She looked up at her friend and smiled. "Thanks again, Cat, you've been a lifesaver today."
Cat had her hand on the door. "Not a problem." She opened the door and stepped out into the hall. After a couple of steps, she stopped, and turned to look back at Lois who was leaning against her door jam. "Oh, and lest you forget. I think we can have you out of this dive and back at my place, where you belong, by the end of the week." A sudden look of uncertainty clouded her eyes. "That is, if you want to."
Lois put her hand to her chin and play acted like she was having a hard time thinking it over. She broke out in a laugh when Cat glared at her. Getting herself under control, Lois gave Cat a warm smile. "I think I'd like that."
Cat returned the smile. "Did I mention, I really like the hair?" Then with a laugh she turned and walked away.
Lois gently closed the door to her crappy little hotel room and, leaning against it, began to plan her tomorrow. Obviously, whoever was on the police beat overnight would have the story of the bank robbery in the morning's edition. But that was all it would be. A story of a bank robbery. One that was a little unusual because it was pulled off by some gangster look-a-likes. Only she, and by tomorrow, Clark knew the real story and they would be the ones to turn it into a front page award winner.
She had no doubt that she could convince Clark that Hamilton was behind these reconstituted gangsters, but Perry was another matter. If this Perry White was anything like his older counterpart, he was going to want some proof. Fortunately, she had some ideas along those lines also.
Lois was into the office bright and early the next morning, but as she expected, Perry was already there. She wondered if she should wait for Clark before approaching Perry about Hamilton. She had read the story of the bank robbery in the morning edition of the Planet. It had been a pedestrianly written piece, giving out what facts were available and only using a couple of quotes from some of the people at the bank. The only conclusion that the reporter had included was a wisecrack about it being a 'little early for Halloween'.
Lois sat down at her desk and booted up her computer. She had decided that it would probably be best if she waited for Clark. Presenting a united front and coming into the editor's office as 'partners' would send Perry the best message.
When her screen popped up she noticed she had a new email. Curious as to who might already know she was back at the Planet, Lois clicked on her envelop icon. It turned out to be a dirty joke from Cat. Lois couldn't help the smile that crossed her face. The Catherine Grant she knew back home was never anything like this one. But then how could she know that for sure? She had never bothered to try and get to know the Cat of her own world. They had started right out as rivals and neither ever made the attempt to get to know the other. Lois couldn't help but wonder what might have been if she'd just made the effort.
"What's so funny?"
Lois was startled by the voice suddenly coming from behind her. "Uh, what?" She turned and saw the Clark had come up behind her. He must have noticed her smile as he had approached. "Nothing." she answered innocently while she quickly deleted her email before Clark could read it over her shoulder.
He chuckled. "Fine." He seated himself on the corner of her desk. Seeing him there, in such a familiar pose, brought a lump to her throat. If it wasn't for the differences in their general appearances Lois could have fooled herself into thinking that she was home and everything was back the way it should be. She took a moment to gain control of her wayward emotions. You'd think she'd have gotten used to her new circumstances by now. It wasn't a perfect life. She'd left any chance of that behind when she agreed not to go back to her home world. But it wasn't a bad life. Considering her alternative had been imprisonment, followed by being alone and set adrift in a war-torn world full of strangers struggling to heal itself. This wasn't all that bad.
"So, what's on tap for today?" he asked, his tone bordering on excitement.
She still had her copy of the Planet folded over to the story of the robbery. She shoved the paper over toward him, pointing at the headline.
He shrugged. "Yeah, I heard about that. You think there's something there beyond a simple robbery?"
"Think about it," Lois began. "We have witnesses who claim the robbers looked and acted exactly like 30's era gangsters. Most specifically, John Dillinger, and Bonnie and Clyde. We have a mad scientist who claims he can restructure DNA and the best subjects for his experiments would be clones of dead criminals." Lois shrugged. "What do you think?"
Clark frowned. He didn't have the advantage of having already lived through such a thing to help him. Lois remembered how much trouble everyone had in believing that Clyde Barrow, Bonnie Parker, and John Dillinger had come back to life back in her own world. She wondered if there was going to be an Al Capone, too.
"It seems a little far-fetched, but I suppose it is possible. Though why Hamilton would let them run around robbing banks, I don't see."
"Maybe he's not in control of the experiment anymore." This was going to be easier than she thought.
Clark shrugged again. "Maybe, or maybe it just was some guys — and a gal, who dressed up like old gangsters just to confuse any witnesses as to their real identity." Before Lois could offer up any more argument, Clark spread his hands wide. "But, I suppose it wouldn't hurt to check it out. Who knows? If it is true, it's going to be one heck of a story."
She grinned. "I agree."
Clark stood up. "I suppose the first thing we have to do is find Professor Hamilton."
Lois also rose. "Nope, the first thing we have to do is see Perry."
Clark's face fell. "Oh, yeah, I guess that's right."
"Come on." She reached back and grabbed his hand. "It won't be so bad."
She was wrong. Their meeting with Perry White had been arduous. At first he stared at them like they had both gone off the deep end without any life preservers. Perry had been astounded at how Lois and Clark had gone from doing some background searches on an eccentric professor who claimed to be able to dabble in genetic manipulation to cloned dead gangsters. A skill and technology, which to his knowledge, no credible scientist had yet been able to make more than the most primitive strides toward. Not only did his newest reporting team believe that this crazed professor had been able to regenerate several long dead criminals, but notorious ones to boot. Gangsters who were currently running around Metropolis robbing banks.
It had taken all of Lois' powers of persuasion to convince Perry that there was a story there. If only to confirm or deny the street rumors as to Hamilton's research. Whether or not Hamilton had any connection to the gangster look-a-likes would come out eventually, but only if she and Clark were allowed to follow up on the story. They needed to find out if Hamilton could indeed do what was being claimed, and they needed to investigate these so-called gangster bank robbers. They needed to find out who they really were, whether it be impersonators, or the regenerated real thing. The upshot was: if they were connected it would be one big time, front page story, if not, it would still be two interesting, if somewhat less sensational, stories for the paper.
Satisfied once she'd finally gotten the okay to continue with their investigation, she and Clark turned to leave.
"Ah, Lois, could you stay for a couple of minutes? There are some things I need to talk to you about." Perry's voice had lost its 'editor-in-chief' tone.
She stopped, looked at Clark and shrugged. He gave her a wink and a smile. "I'll be at my desk going through our findings from yesterday. See if I can come up with a likely address for Hamilton."
"Okay, great, I'll be out in a few minutes."
She turned back to Perry and sat in the chair that he waved her to. "Lois," he began, somewhat hesitantly. "Ah… how are you doing?"
Lois' radar instantly came up and put her on alert. Perry had something on his mind, and she would just bet that it had nothing to do with the story. "I'm doing okay. As well as can be expected, so far." Lois began to fiddle with her hands. "Cat came by and filled me in about my parents."
Perry looked stricken. "Oh, honey, I'm sorry. I should have realized that you didn't know and told you myself."
Lois looked away for a moment. "It's okay. I don't really remember them too well. I do hope to track down Lucy someday."
He nodded. "Yeah, you probably should. So — where are you staying?"
Alarm bells were going off in Lois' head. "I'm staying at the Mercury." She noted his immediate look of distaste. "It's all I could afford after I got back to town, but I'm moving in a few days. I'm moving in with Cat."
Perry frowned. "Cat again, huh? Do you really think it's such a good idea for you to be doing that? I've seen how you two have gravitated back to each other. And you mentioned that she visited you last night?"
Lois nodded, warily. "Yeah, so?"
Perry fixed her with a stern look. "Lois, you have to know that the talk will start again. The rumors will fly, and it will be like it was back then."
"The talk?" Lois' brow arched. "What sort of rumors?"
Perry looked decidedly uncomfortable. "Look, Lois, I'm not going to tell you who you should or shouldn't have as a friend. But you, and Cat, well, I'm just trying to think of your reputation."
Lois wasn't slow. She knew what Perry was hinting at, especially after what Cat had told her previously. But she couldn't stop her anger from growing. She didn't understand where Perry was coming from. Was he a bigot? Did he really care whether or not she was gay?
Wait, what was she thinking? Weren't Lois and Perry supposedly involved before Lois was lost in the Congo? Isn't that what Cat had told her; that Lois was just using Perry to further her career? But he wouldn't know that. She was a bit confused, so she decided to go on the offensive.
"Are you thinking of my reputation… or yours?" Lois allowed a little more anger into her speech. "Look, I don't remember a lot about what did and didn't go on here ten years ago, but I find it hard to believe that a man intelligent enough to run the nation's finest newspaper would be petty enough to hold a person's sexual preference against them."
Perry paled. "Are you saying… are you saying that you *are* gay? That everything we shared was just… just a sham?" He clenched his fists. "I can't believe it, I can't believe you would have done that to me."
"Perry!" Lois had to stop his rant before things got too far. "I don't want to believe that whatever we shared back then was a lie. But I can't deny it for you either because I just don't know."
Lois wasn't sure how she was going to get out of this mess but she knew that what she did here, what she and Perry worked out would go a long way toward establishing the conditions of her new life in this world.
She softened her tone. "I'm sorry, but I really don't know who Lois Lane was ten years ago. I remember very little of that time. I'm just trying to restart some sort of life here, now." Lois paused for a deep breath. "I can honestly say that I have no sexual feelings for Cat, but she has been a real friend to me in just the single day that I've known her — again. She's been like a life line thrown out to me as I flounder in this vast ocean of who I was. If my becoming friends with Cat, and living with her again causes a few tongues to wag, let 'em. Frankly, I don't care about the opinions of small minded people." Lois let out a deep sigh. "I had just never figured you would be one of them."
Perry looked chastised. "I'm sorry, Lois. I never meant to be accusing you of anything. And you're right. Normally I wouldn't give a rat's patoot over anyone's race, religion, or sexual choices." He ran a hand through his thick brown hair. "You're probably correct. I was thinking of myself. It hurt me ten years ago to hear the tasteless jokes and the snide innuendoes. *I* knew differently, but anything I would say was just greeted with a shake of the head and a look of pity."
Lois had lost all her anger now. Instead she was feeling some fear. How was she going to she going to make this right with Perry. How was she going to make it possible for her to be able to work for the man.
She had to ask. "So, what are you expecting from me?"
He leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers in front of his mouth. "I'm not sure. I'll admit that the first moment I saw you walk into my office, all the old feelings came rushing back. And I am more than a little hurt that you seemed to be able to slide back into your connection with Cat, but not with me." His eyes seemed to plead with her. "You have to know that I would, and will do anything I can for you, Lois. I love you."
Lois felt her stomach begin to knot. There it was, the declaration she'd been dreading to hear. "Perry, the last thing I want to do it hurt you, but it appears that I have anyway. I told you yesterday that I didn't remember us, romantically. The awful truth is, the more I'm here, the more I'm finding out that I know hardly anything of my previous life." Lois couldn't stop a tear from sneaking out. "I'll tell you the one thing that I do know. Perry White is a decent, and honorable man. If we did share something special ten years ago, then I was the lucky one. But it's different now, if for no other reason than — you're the boss."
Lois took a deep breath; this was it, this was the big moment. Either this could work out between them, or she'd have to move on. "Perry, I think it would be for the best if you tried to forget the past, as I, unfortunately, seemed to have done. I'm a different person than I was back then. I'm not the same person you knew, and you are not someone I remember either." She leveled her gaze with his, capturing his steel gray eyes with her own. "Let's start all over. Clean slate. You're my boss, I respect you and hope that, in time, I can earn your respect — and your friendship. After that, we'll just have to take it as it comes." She knew her own look was expectant, and apprehensive. "Do you think we could do that?"
She bit on her lower lip as he studied her for a long time. Lois was getting more nervous as each moment passed. What if he couldn't accept what she'd said? What if he decided that he couldn't work with her under those conditions?
A soft chuckle escaped from Perry's mouth as he shook his head in bemused wonderment. "Lois, you are amazing. I should feel betrayed, or at least some form of anger, but I don't. You've essentially been lost for nearly ten years, and in many regards you still are. Yet here you are, apologizing to me, and worrying about how I feel." His smile was sincere if just a bit sad. "Lois, it would be my honor to get to know you all over again. And who knows?" He spread his hands out. "Maybe the magic will return, or maybe we'll just become good friends. Either way, I know my life is going to be enriched just because you are back into it."
Lois couldn't help it. Several tears tracked across her cheeks. How could the Lois Lane of this world not fallen for this kind and wonderful man. Had she really been that much of a manipulative witch? Well, one thing was for sure. It didn't matter who Lois Lane had been ten years ago, because there was a new Lois in town, and things were going to be different from now on.
She used the back of her hand to wipe her face. "Thanks, Perry." She jumped up from her seat. "Well, I'd best get back at it, or we won't have any chance to get to know each other. I'll be fired for not doing my job."
Perry chuckled. "Somehow I doubt that will ever happen." His voice suddenly shifted back into editor mode. "But speaking of that story. That's still the dangdest thing I've ever heard of. Do you really have any solid leads?"
Lois grinned and gave Perry a wink. "Maybe. Tell me, you ever heard of an underground gambling joint called — Georgie Hairdo's."
Lois found herself sitting at a slot machine, pumping nickels through the one-armed bandit as she looked around hoping to see some indication that any of the gangsters had shown. She had to reach up and push the strap of her dress back onto her shoulder. It was a flashy red number, but it didn't quite fit right. She had nothing to wear so Cat had loaned her this dress. But Lois, after years spent on minimal rations in a cell, had lost quite a bit of her weight and hadn't gained it all back yet. She knew that the length would be a bit off since Cat was a couple of inches taller than she was, but the dress hung somewhat loosely on her body. Still, it was the best she could do under the circumstances. She didn't have the time nor the money to purchase something of her own. Besides, it must not look too bad because Clark had given her a appreciative look when he came by to pick her up.
She hadn't yet been able to secure her own transportation, but luckily this Clark owned a car. It wasn't much of one, an older model blue sedan. But at least it ran. It told Lois something about how Clark viewed his powers. She had been watching him during these last two days and couldn't, for sure, notice any time when he might have used his powers, surreptiously, to give him a bit of an advantage. Of course, the tip off with the glasses didn't apply here since this Clark didn't wear any. In fact, tonight was the only time she would have been sure that he even had any powers. He had to have used his enhanced hearing to overhear the password in order to get into the club. The ironic thing was, that the password here hadn't been the one she remembered from her previous experience years ago. This one had been swordfish. Go figure.
After leaving Perry's office that morning, she'd gone to Cat and asked her to check with Bobby as to the existence of the underground gambling club. She was relieved to find out that it did exist in this world also. Then she and Clark had spent the rest of the day trying to track down the whereabouts of Prof. Hamilton. They came up empty. They had found his residence, but it was obvious that he hadn't been there in several days. Where his current lab might be was anybody's guess. If she could only remember the address where she found Hamilton in her world. But for some reason it just stayed tantalizingly out of her grasp.
She was worried that maybe the gangsters wouldn't show up at the club tonight. Cat told Lois that Bobby had heard that someone was putting some pressure on Georgie Hairdo, but couldn't be sure if it was the regenerated gangsters. Things weren't progressing quite the way it had back home. To date there had only been one appearance by the cloned criminals, so she couldn't be sure that they'd show up. She hoped they would. A lot depended on them being here tonight. But, so far, she hadn't seen anyone she recognized.
"Guess what?" Lois nearly jumped out of her skin as Clark put his hand on her shoulder.
"Geez, you startled me. Make a little noise next time, okay?"
He grinned sheepishly. "Sorry. Anyway, I just had a run in with a blonde lady who could have been Bonnie Parker."
Lois raised her brow. "A run in?"
Clark shrugged. "She was hitting on me, until this surly fellow came up and pulled her away. I can't be sure, but this woman sure looked like the pictures we studied."
Lois nodded. "I'll bet the guy was Clyde. If I remember right he was a hot-headed jerk."
Clark gave Lois a quizzical look. "If you remember right? You've met Clyde Barrow?" He let a big smile pull on his lips. "You must be a *lot* older than you look."
"Real funny, Kent." Lois rolled her eyes. "What I meant was, I think I remember reading that he was a hot-head. Tends to act before he thinks. Easily angered and prone to violence."
"Really? That also sounds a lot like a reporter that I'd heard used to work for the Daily Planet. Her colleagues used to call her… Mad Dog?" Lois glared at Clark, but his grin was so infectious that she had to give in. She just shook her head to hide the smile that she couldn't stop.
Suddenly Lois' eye was caught by a passing man. He was a large fellow, with an unusual hairstyle. She jumped up from her chair and, leaving confused Clark in her wake, rushed up to the fellow.
"Excuse me, Mr. Hairdo?"
He gave Lois a strange look. "What?"
"You are Georgie Hairdo, aren't you?" Lois already knew the answer.
"Do I look like a dead, bald guy to you?"
Lois patted the large fellow on the arm. "Thanks, that's all I needed to know."
She hurried back to Clark. "I think we can expect our gangsters to show up any time now. I just found out that Georgie Hairdo is dead."
The look on Clark's face was almost comical. "How do you do all this stuff?"
Lois frowned. "What do you mean?"
Clark spread his hands in a gesture of helplessness. "I mean, you always know just where to look to find the information you need. You never waste time talking to a lot of people, you always know just who to approach. And to top it off, you magically know just where we need to be, and when, to have our story fall into our lap." Clark shook his head in awe. "What's your secret, and can I have it?"
Lois bit her lip to keep from laughing out loud. If he only knew. Instead she patted him on the chest and gave him a smile. "Instincts. Stick with me, kid, and maybe you'll develop some too someday."
The duo's pleasant conversation was abruptly interrupted by the sound of gunfire. Both Lois and Clark's attention was quickly drawn to the disturbance. Standing just inside the front doors were several armed men. They were then joined by a couple that Lois knew were Bonnie and Clyde. All were dressed in suits long gone out of style, and carried what looked to be Thompson sub-machine guns. A man stepped out of the center of the group. He was a stocky man, with a prevalent scar down the left side of his face. He was holding a thick cigar and had a look on his face that bespoke an arrogant confidence. A sly smile tugged at the corner of Lois' mouth. Al Capone had shown his ugly face at last.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he began. "I have an announcement to make. Georgie Hairdo has graciously decided to retire from the hospitality business. This joint now belongs to me — Al Capone."
Lois was so intent on Capone that she almost missed Dillinger approaching her. Oh no, she thought, not him again. She tried to step back but bumped into Clark. Dillinger stepped up to her.
"Hey Al, how about we make this little cutie our head hostess." He reached his hand out and touched her cheek. "I always had a thing for a woman in red."
Lois couldn't believe it. It was happening all over again. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Clark begin to move forward. No! Her internal voice shouted. This was not going to happen now. It would ruin everything.
Clark slapped Dillinger's hand away. "Leave her alone."
Dillinger gave Clark a shove, causing him to stumble back a few steps. "What are you, her little brother?"
The whole tableau began to play out in slow motion for Lois. She could feel Clark beginning to charge back. At the same time,peripherally, she saw Clyde pulling his revolver from his jacket holster. Not this time, Lois whispered to herself.
Just as Clark moved beside her, she gave him a sharp bump with her hip and stuck her foot in front of his. Surprised, and knocked off balance, Clark went sprawling head first as the shots from Clyde's gun echoed through the room.
Lois didn't have time to congratulate herself on her cleverness as she suddenly felt the hot hammer blow of a bullet as it struck her in the shoulder. The force of the impact spun her around and she crashed to the floor in an undignified heap.
How could she have been so stupid? Sure, she had succeeded in knocking Clark out of the way. This negated any need for him to have to pretend to be dead, as had happened all those years ago. But, in doing so, she had inadvertently strayed into the path of one of the bullets herself. It was by no means a mortal wound, but dammit, it hurt. Clark was quickly by her side. He drew her upper body into his lap.
"Lois, Lois, are you all right?" He noticed the blood contrasting garishly with the red of her dress. "Omigod, you've been shot! We've got to get you some help."
Lois clenched her jaw against the pain, then strained to speak. "Give it a few more seconds."
All of a sudden the front doors crashed open and several of Metropolis' finest came rushing into the room. "All right, everybody freeze. Stay right where you are."
Despite the pain, Lois had a grin on her face. Reliving old incidents from your past did have its advantages. Especially when you could know ahead of time to tip off the police as to where they would find the regenerated gangsters. This time there was no homicide for them to try and solve, but an attempted murder rap should do nicely enough to put that gang of bygone bad guys away for a long time.
Clark looked at Lois, his face clearly showing his puzzlement, and just a bit of awe. "Lois, how did you know?"
Lois reached up with her uninjured arm and used her free hand to pat Clark on the cheek. "Simple, silly — I called them."
Lois leaned back into the oversized, fluffed up pillows that provided the cushion between her and the heavy wooden headboard on the queen- sized bed she was lying in. It was a great bed. Probably the most comfortable bed she'd been in since… well, a long while.
It had been two weeks since her injury at Georgie Hairdo's, and the police raid which brought the Capone gang redux to justice. It had been a great front page headline story. Perry had been very pleased. He told her it was a sure Kerth winner, but she'd just smiled and told him that he hadn't seen anything yet. It was nice to see the Lane and Kent byline in a Daily Planet again.
After a short stay in the hospital, Cat, Perry, and Clark had all helped her move into Cat's apartment. It was a very nice, very large two bedroom affair near downtown. Not too far from the Planet. She could easily walk to work, but she was determined, one day, to get herself another Jeep.
She was still on mandatory bed rest, but that didn't stop her from going into work for at least part of the day, three or four times a week. After all, she still had Clark Kent, boy reporter, to hone into shape. She'd worry about Superman after she was sure that the man could function as a top notch reporter.
Their story had been a surprise to Lois. He actually did have good instincts about things. His input into the story was very helpful, and added a lot of color to the piece. They seemed to work well together. Lois grinned. Big surprise there. Her first impression, that Kent was a bit lazy about his work was mistaken. He was just insecure. He was beginning to blossom under Lois' careful tutelage.
He… and Jenny, had volunteered to go to the storage locker that Cat had rented for her all those years ago. It turned out it was just down the block from his apartment. Lois wasn't surprised to find out that he lived at 314 Clinton, but she was just a bit shocked to discover that Jenny, unofficially, lived there too.
Clark and Jenny had just left, leaving Lois alone with two large boxes that contained some of the past of the person she was trying to replace. Lois was grateful that Cat had gone out for the night. Cat had really become a great friend these last few weeks, but Lois wanted to be alone when she shifted through the memories of a ghost.
She carefully opened the first box. Inside it were a couple of other boxes. One held a bunch of awards and certificates that Lois had obviously won over the years. Many were from high school and college. Awards of recognition and merit for various academic activities. Several were student journalism awards. Lois couldn't help but smile as she fingered some of the ribbons and gazed at the yellowed certificates that she recognized from her own youth.
The other box held a diverse collection of jewelry. She took quite some time going through the pieces contained therein. There were pieces that clearly had belonged to a much younger Lois. Probably back in high school or early college. But there were also some very beautiful pieces that Lois really loved. Several sets of earrings and matching necklaces showed that the Lois of this world had a taste for such things that greatly matched her own.
Setting aside that box for a later time, she picked up the other box. It was quite heavy, and once she had it open she knew why. It was full of books. It was a varied collection. There were a few textbooks that Lois had obviously thought were important to keep, several dog-eared paperback romance novels, and two yearbooks. One from college, and one from her high school days.
Lois flipped through the two books and was shocked to find no signings from any of her classmates in the book. You always had your friends, at least, sign their pictures, if not write some silly comments about 'being such great friends', and 'always staying in touch'. Things that you may have believed back then, but never came to be. But Lois' yearbooks, both of them, were as clean and pristine as the day they came off the press. Curiosity forced her to check out the pictures of Lois in each book. She was mildly surprised at the sameness of the two photographs. The age difference was apparent, but little else changed from one picture to the next. She wore the same shoulder length page style in each. Apparently the woman had never gone through her Charlie's Angels phase back in high school. Also, both versions of the young woman wore the same bland, unsmiling expression. They looked positively bored, and irritated to have to have their pictures taken. Lois could only shake her head as she put the two yearbooks away.
Surprisingly there were no collections of photos of family or friends. Cat had told her that Lois was gay, yet there were no pictures or mementos of anyone who might have been a lover, or just a really close friend. She knew there was a picture of Lois and Cat on the mantle sitting next to Lois' Kerth award. It had obviously been taken the day of the ceremony because Lois had the statue in her hand. But that was the only picture of them in the entire apartment. In the box she was only able to find one old partial photo. It was of Lucy, but it had obviously been tore off a larger picture. Lois could guess who the other people in the missing part of the photo had been.
There was a scrap book that held newspaper clippings of Lois' stories. From her high school days all the way to her front page headlines in the Daily Planet. Lois couldn't help it, but she found herself reading the stories of her alternate self. Many of them were ones that she'd come across in her earlier research, but some were new to her. She had to admit that the woman could write. She wrote a lot like Lois did in her earlier days. Full of passion and fire, but not terribly interested in the touchy-feely aspects of the story. She was after the facts and exposing the bad guys. Righting wrongs and fighting injustice were the hallmark of Lois Lane. It wasn't until she'd been paired with Clark, for a time, that she realized there were always stories behind the stories. He showed her that there were human costs that weren't always obvious. It had made her a better writer, just like knowing Clark had made her a better person.
As she was about to put the scrap book back, she noticed a small object tucked under some textbooks. She pulled it out. A slight shiver of anticipation ran through her once she recognized what she held. It was a child's diary.
Opening the pages, she immediately recognized the neat, precise handwriting that had been her own as a young child. Her heart went out to the young girl behind the words as she read the child's versions of the fights between her parents that she'd had to witness. It brought back familiar images from her own memory.
Wanting to find out more about this world's Lois Lane, she began to quickly skim the pages looking for something that might lead her to understand how this Lois had become the bitter, calculating woman that had been described to her. Most of the early entries were not unlike the ones Lois had written in her own diary as a child. When she was about half way through the little book Lois' hand froze over an entry. From the date, Lois would have been about ten years old. A chill came over her as she began to read.
"Dear Diary, today Daddy and I played this new game. I didn't like it very much. Mommy had fallen asleep on the sofa, and Lucy was asleep in our room so Daddy took me into his and momma's room. He said it would be like playing with my dolls, only I would be his little doll. He undressed me then told me to jump up on the bed with him. He began to touch me and hold me in strange ways. I didn't understand. I never played with my dolls that way. It wasn't any fun. I hope we don't play it anymore."
Lois closed the little book, tears streaming down her face. She'd been horrified once she'd recognized what the poor child was experiencing. Steeling her resolution, Lois opened the book back up and once again began to skim over later entries. She was sickened by what she saw there. It was clear that Sam Lane had periodically engaged in the sexual abuse of his own daughter. The indications were that the violations continued for a few years, then the entries just stopped.
The last entry had been on Lois' fourteenth birthday. It had described a 'special' birthday present that her father had given her. Lois felt her stomach lurching as she read the confused and terrified words of a young girl being abused and betrayed in the worst way imaginable. How could a father even consider doing something like that to his own flesh and blood. It was unthinkable. And what must that have done to the psyche of the poor child.
Hot tears streamed down her cheeks as she clutched the diary in a white knuckle grip. Lois' own dysfunctional upbringing looked positively serene when compared to what the Lois of this world had had to endure. It was no wonder that the woman had turned out to be a man-hating, manipulative shrew. How was Lois ever supposed to step into the shoes of someone with that much baggage?
She clutched the little diary as she shook her head back and forth. "I don't know if I can do this!"
"Don't know if you can do what, Lois?" Cat poked her head into Lois' room, Seeing the tears, she rushed over to her bedside. "What is it? What's wrong?"
Lois looked up at the concern etched on her new roommates face. "I don't know if I can be her." Lois spread her hands in a gesture of helplessness.
A frown furrowed Cat's brow. "Can be who? Lois, what are you talking about?"
Lois pushed the little diary over to Cat. The woman picked it up, a confused look on her face, and opened it. She quickly skimmed through the first half of the book, her questions obviously not being answered by what she read there. Suddenly she came upon the same entries that had grabbed Lois and caused her to feel such pain for the long dead reporter.
As had Lois, Cat took several minutes going through those turbulent entries that described the years of abuse that Lois Lane had suffered at the hands of her father. Her own eyes filled with tears as she finally closed the little diary and laid it back on Lois' lap.
"Oh, honey, I never knew. You never shared this with me before." Cat clasped Lois' hand in hers and rubbed in with her thumb. "It must have been horrible for you."
Lois, by this time, had managed to regain her composure and nodded back at Cat. "I'm sure it was horrible. Too horrible to even imagine. But that wasn't me." She pointed at the diary. "I was never that little girl."
Cat shook her head, clearly perplexed by what Lois was saying. "What do you mean? Are you saying that your amnesia has wiped that part of your past away, so you don't carry those feelings of shame and betrayal anymore?"
Lois bit her lip and shook her head. "No, I'm saying I was never that Lois Lane." Lois took a deep breath. She questioned what she was about to do, but hoped it would work out. She needed an ally in this world. Someone she could be herself with. Someone who knew the truth. The Lois of this world was one terribly screwed-up woman, and taking her place was going to be a lot harder than she'd ever realized. She needed someone she could talk to, confide in. She needed one person she could be totally honest with.
At first, Lois thought that, eventually, she'd be able to confide in Clark. But now she wasn't so sure. It wasn't even a given that she and Clark could ever be close friends. She'd always had a good relationship with Perry. It had been kind of father/daughter, or mentor/student in practice. But this situation was more complex. There were too many unresolved issues between this Perry and his Lois for her to be able to confide in him. Since there was no Jimmy Olsen, merely a feminine version who spent her time monopolizing Clark's free time, that wasn't even an option. Besides, Lois wasn't even sure she was going to be able to like Jenny. There was just something about the young woman that rubbed her the wrong way. Lois hoped that it just wasn't a transferred jealousy over Clark. She really had no claim on this Clark Kent, nor was she sure she'd ever want one. That left Cat.
The Cat Grant sitting at her bedside had proved to be an unexpected friend. The difference between this Cat and her own was like night and day. There was no rivalry, no petty jealousies, just open friendship. Lois had never really had a 'girlfriend' like that. She and Lucy had been close for a time, but even that faded as they got older and their lives drifted apart. No, the only person she'd ever had that 'special' friendship with had been Clark. Could Cat become Lois' best friend in this universe? Could she be the one person who Lois could be completely honest with; no secrets, no lies? Lois hoped so. She really didn't have any other options.
"Cat," Lois began, somewhat hesitantly. "I'm not the person you think I am. The Lois Lane who worked at this Daily Planet, who was your good friend… I'm sorry, but that woman died nearly ten years ago." She took another deep breath. "The reason I don't have any memory of all those things that happened in the past is because they didn't happen to me."
Cat reached out a trembling hand to touch Lois' cheek. "If you're not Lois, then who are you? Are you some actress playing the part? Why? For what reason? You really look just like her."
"Cat, I am Lois Lane, just not your Lois Lane. I am *a* Lois Lane, but I'm not from this world originally."
Cat's brow rose up into her hairline. "I think you're going to have to explain that one to me. Are you some sort of little green ma— er woman from Mars or something?"
Lois sighed. "Not exactly. I don't know what your views are on the probabilities of things normally reserved for science fiction becoming science fact. But there is a theory that suggests an infinite number of multiple realities all existing at the same time, but seperated by some sort of dimensional barriers."
Cat nodded slowly. "I've heard of such things, and have probably seen a movie or book that used the premise. Your taking about alternate dimensions where everything is the same, but not quite. The Cat Grant of one dimension may be a stunning auburn-haired beauty, whereas in a different dimension she could be a ravishing red head."
Lois couldn't help but grin. "Something like that."
"So." Cat's brow raised itself even higher. "Are you trying to tell me that you're from some other dimension? That you dropped in here and decided to take up our poor Lois' life because she didn't need it anymore?"
"It's a little more complicated than that, and I know I'm asking a lot for you to even listen to my story, let alone believe it, but I need someone to know the truth. I need someone that I can talk to."
Cat shrugged. "Okay, I don't know what the game is here, and I can't promise you anything, but I will listen. Whether you're my old friend, suffering a breakdown, or some actress trying to weasel her way into Lois' old life for some reason, or even if you are some other dimensional doppleganger… I'll listen."
Lois smiled shyly at the woman who now had her arms crossed over her chest and an expectant look on her face. "Thanks," she said, then launched into her story.
It took Lois over an hour to tell her story. Cat, for the most part, just sat there silently, only interrupting on a couple of occasions. Lois gave her a capsule version of her entire life. Starting with a quick review of her own childhood, just so she could contrast it with what they'd both read in the young Lois' diary, through her school years, into her life at the Daily Planet and up to the present time. The only thing she left out was the fact that Clark Kent was Superman. She didn't feel that was her secret to give away. Lois knew that Cat was, at best, highly skeptical, and more likely wondering when she would need to call in the men with the nets for this raving lunatic who had so recently moved into her apartment.
"So let me get this straight." Cat was trying to distill what she'd just heard into something she could get her mind around. "In a nutshell, you are an award-winning reporter for the Daily Planet in your own world. You are married to Clark Kent, who is your own age, and there exists a Superman there who can fly and has all sorts of amazing powers." Lois nodded as Cat took a breath. "You and this Superman went to a different dimension, not this one, to help out that world's Superman against some sort of invasion of other super-powered beings."
"Other Kryptonians, yes," Lois added.
Cat waved her comments off. "Don't interrupt. So in this other dimension you were *killed* yet you were brought back to life… and imprisoned for nearly five years." Cat took another breath. "After the bad super people were defeated you were released and later found by the same fellow who brought you over there in the first place. And he told you that our Lois had died in the Congo of a jungle fever but no one ever knew what happened to her. Then he brought you here." Cat shook her head in obvious confusion. "Why would I have any trouble believing that?" Cat grinned to show that she wasn't being mean. "I do have a couple of questions, though. Why not take you back to your own world? Where was your husband during all this?"
Lois dropped her head for a moment as she could feel tears beginning to burn at the corner of her eyes. She ignored them as she let her gaze fall back on Cat's face. "Clark thought I'd been killed. He had moved on with his life… with another woman. So as not to disrupt the happiness he'd been able to find — without me, I agreed to come here and step in for the Lois who'd been lost so many years ago."
"Did you love him — Clark?"
Lois nodded as the tears began to fall. "Yes, very much. More than I ever thought I could love anyone."
Cat shook her head again. "So why give him up? Why not fight for your man? Why step aside for this other woman? Don't you think Clark would have wanted to see you again?"
Lois swiped at the tears with the back of her hand. "It's a bit more complicated than that. The woman he wound up with… was the Lois Lane from the other world. She had lost her world, and her Clark. My Clark had lost his wife. I know it sounds weird, but the two of them were essentially lost souls who were able to find themselves again, and be healed because of each other. I just couldn't destroy what they'd managed to build, just to soothe my own pain of loss."
Cat frowned. "I don't know what to make of this story of yours. To say it's fantastic is completely inadequate. I'm not going to say I believe everything you're telling me, and I get the impression that you are holding something back, but I'm not going to dismiss it out of hand either. The sheer unbelievability of it actually works in your favor. No one in her right mind would concoct such a tale if they wished to be believed." Cat brushed her hair out of her face. "If there is anything that compels me to believe in what you say, it's that last part. About you loving Clark enough to leave him. The Lois I knew would never have done that. Not in a million years."
Lois bit at her lip. "So, you believe me?"
Cat threw up her hands. "I don't know what to believe." She pointed at Lois. "There, stuff like that. Your biting your lip like that. That is so Lois it's easy to believe she's back. Then I think on all that you've said and done over these past few weeks and I have to scratch my head, because so much of it is so unlike the Lois I knew that I can easily believe you are another person."
"So, where does that leave us?" Lois knew that this would be difficult for Cat to take in, but prayed that she hadn't made a mistake.
Cat stared at Lois for several moments. Not saying anything, just studying the face of the woman on the bed, as if trying to read her mind through her anxious expression.
"I guess this leaves us right where we are." Cat smiled at Lois. "Even if you are some raving looney from who knows where, you seem to be a very nice raving looney, and I've grown rather fond of you these past couple of weeks." Lois was about to say something when Cat put up a hand to stop her. "I'm not saying I completely buy into this alternate dimension stuff you're selling me, and the part about a flying man, well, perhaps you do need shock treatment or something. All I know is that you seem like a Lois Lane I'd like to be friends with. You're obviously a good reporter, and we need more of them at the Planet. You've done wonders with Clark in the short time you've been mentoring him." Cat suddenly put her hand to her mouth. "Omigod, you said you were married to Clark Kent in your world." Her look suddenly turned coy. "Should I be feeling sorry for Jenny?"
Lois rolled her eyes. "It's not the same, believe me."
"Uh huh," Cat grinned. "Anyway, to finish my thought. Whoever you are, I think I would be great if we could continue to build on the friendship we've started. And if those men with the nets, from where ever it was you escaped from, come sniffing around here, I'll just tell them you left last week… for the Congo."
Lois reached out and grabbed Cat's hands. She gave them a squeeze and held on. "Thanks, I know I'm going to need a good friend if I'm going to survive here."
The two women sat silently, for several moments. Neither seemed to know what to say next. Finally a little smirk turned up the corners of Cat's mouth. She leaned a little closer to Lois and in a conspiratorial whisper asked.
"So, tell me, how *good* was your Clark."
Lois had to stifle a giggle. She tried to match Cat's tone with her answer. "The truth? He was… super."