By Tank Wilson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: June 2003
Summary: Clark gets advice from a surprising source in this new twist on an old theme.
Notes: Those of us who have visited the episode That Old Gang of Mine a few times in the world of fanfiction are always trying to think of a different slant to put on it. We all tend to focus on the one major scene, or aspect of the story, the 'death' of Clark Kent and how it affects Lois. But that's what makes it so much fun to try and come up with yet another angle. A while back I thought of this little twist and posted it to the new message boards (http://www.lcficmbs.com/). Now, I humbly submit it to the archives for whatever posterity there might be.
As always; all characters are trademarked and copyrighted to their respective owners. Any and all feedback welcome at TankW1@aol.com
"Oh, thank you, Superman! I don't know what I would have done if I'd lost my little Butchie."
Superman smiled at the woman as he handed her back her tiny Chihuahua, which he'd just rescued from disappearing down an open sewer grate. "That's quite all right, ma'am. Just make sure you keep an eye on Butchie in the future."
He was just about to launch himself into the sky when the clearing of a throat caught his attention.
"Ah, Superman, a moment of your time?"
The voice was very familiar, and after turning toward the sound, Superman was able to see why. "Mr. White?" He walked closer to the Planet's editor-in-chief, who was leaning against the nearby building. "What can I do for you?"
Perry White motioned Superman to follow him farther into the alley, most likely so they'd be out of general earshot. He followed the esteemed editor until they were about halfway down the alley. The buildings on both sides provided an adequate measure of security.
"I was wondering," Perry began. "Just what you intended to do about Clark?"
"Excuse me?" Superman was baffled by Perry's question.
Perry sighed, then frowned before speaking again. "There's a wonderful young woman sitting in my newsroom tearing herself up over the murder of her partner — and best friend. She's grieving terribly, but worse is the fact that she's being eaten up by guilt."
Superman shook his head sadly and looked away from his former boss's face. "I'm sorry. There was nothing I could do. I can't be everywhere you know." He allowed himself a sigh of his own. "Lois has no reason to feel guilty. From what I understand, the blame lies squarely with Clyde Barrow. He was the one who pulled the trigger."
Perry nodded. "That's true, but you know Lois. It's her fault because she dragged Clark there against his wishes, and he died protecting her from Dillinger." The Daily Planet's patriarch of news narrowed his eyes and placed his hand on Superman's arm. "I don't think she deserves that… do you?"
"No, she doesn't. But she'll have to come to that realization herself. There's nothing I can do now." Superman stared at his boots.
He looked at Perry suspiciously. "What do you mean?"
White's face took on a stern look. "Now, son, we both know that Clark isn't really dead… don't we?"
One look in his editor's eyes convinced Clark that there would be no backtracking from this one. "So, you know?"
"Yes, I know." Perry waved off Clark's next comments. "Oh, it doesn't matter how or when I found out, just accept that I know. Normally, I wouldn't be sticking my nose into your business. Hell, man, I can see the need to keep your two identities secret and separate. But not in this case. I think you owe it to Lois to tell her. Ease the poor woman's suffering. Tell her she didn't get her best friend killed."
Clark's mouth drew itself into a tight line. "I can't."
Perry's eyebrows shot up. "You can't? I guess I was wrong about you. I thought you loved her."
Clark was only momentarily startled by his words. He turned his back on Perry. "I do love her. More than I can put into words."
"So what's the big problem? Don't tell me you don't trust her?"
Superman turned back to face Perry. "Of course not. I trust her with my life. But can't you see that it doesn't matter anymore? It's better that Lois thinks Clark Kent is dead. It will hurt for a while, but she'll come to accept the situation and move on with her life."
Perry threw up his hands and shook his head in confusion. "You've lost me now, son. Why is Lois thinking you're dead, when you're not, for the best?"
Clark looked to the sky and took a deep breath, then shifted his gaze back down. "Perry, I wasn't killed the other day at Georgie Hairdo's place, but Clark Kent was. A room full of witnesses saw Clyde Barrow put two shots, at close range, into the chest of Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent. Then they all, including Lois, watched as his lifeless body was dragged away." He ran an agitated hand through his hair. "What am I supposed to do? You tell me! There's no way I'm going to tell the world that I'm not really dead because Clark Kent is actually Superman. I can't do that to my parents', or Lois, or you and Jimmy. Any of my friends and loved ones would become instant targets of the multitude of villains and crazies I've dealt with over the years."
Perry was silent for several moments. Then he patted Clark on the arm. "I know things look bad, and I agree that exposing yourself to the world is not the answer. But that doesn't change my concern for Lois. You have to tell her."
It was as if Superman was being deflated right in front of White. "You don't think I've wanted to tell her? Right from the moment I hit the floor I wanted to whisper in her ear that I was really all right. But I couldn't." He began to pace. "Which is more cruel? Telling Lois that her partner and best friend isn't really dead because he's Superman, but she'll never be able to have that relationship with him ever again because, to the world, Clark Kent would still be dead… or just let her go through the normal grieving process, so she can then move on with her life. Maybe she can find solace and contentment with another partner someday?
Perry rubbed his eyes as he collected his thoughts. "Look, Clark, I understand where you're coming from, I really do, but in this case I can't agree with you. You haven't seen her. I don't know if she ever will recover fully from this." Perry shook his head. "I know Lois is tough, and resilient, but it's like something inside of her died along with Clark the other night." He clenched his fists. "I don't like to make threats, but I don't make them lightly." He took another deep breath. "I'll give you till tomorrow's start of a new work day to tell her the truth. If you don't… I will." Perry didn't wait for an answer. He just turned and walked away from the stunned Man of Steel.
Superman hovered over Lois' apartment, using his special vision to check up on her. She'd arrived at her apartment a couple of hours ago, by his estimation, but she hadn't stirred from her seat at the kitchen table since she'd come home. She just sat there staring off into space, her fingertip aimlessly doodling on the formica table top. She wasn't crying, but the evidence still visible on her face said that she done more than her share in the past twenty- four hours.
Clark frowned as his heart twisted at the listlessness he saw in Lois. There was no spark, no fire in those beautiful eyes. It was like that special light that used to shine through had been dimmed. He didn't like Perry telling him what he should do when it came to his Superman persona, but in this case the older man was probably right. Clark couldn't believe how much Lois seemed to be suffering. Had he misjudged their relationship that badly? Or was Lois always this broken up about losing a 'friend'?
He had been high outside her apartment for quite some time, arguing with himself over the best way to broach the coming argument with Lois, and make no doubt, there would be an argument. Before this night was over Lois may well wish that Clark was dead. He winced at the thought. Lois was hurting, and he was probably going to hurt her more.
He'd been debating whether to approach as Superman, or as Clark. He was sure that she most likely held some emotional resentment toward Superman at the current time. After all, Superman was always there to save her when she was in trouble, so where was he when their mutual friend was being gunned down?
No, it was going to be hard enough to get through her feelings of hurt and betrayal of trust without having to deal with an initial resentment against Superman's failure to aid his friend. Having made up his mind, he took a deep breath and allowed himself to drift down into the alley next to her building.
Lois knew that she should move, get up, make herself some supper, anything except just sit there like a lump. It was just, she didn't feel like doing… anything.
A knock on her front door caused her to frown. If that was another sleazy tabloid reporter looking for a quote from the grieving partner she'd rip them a new one. Didn't they have any respect for the feelings of others?
She finally managed to pry herself out of her chair and slowly, with great dread, moved toward her front door. At first, she thought of not answering. Then she figured she'd just shout through the door.
"Go away, I don't want to see anyone right now."
"Lois, let me in. I need to talk to you."
Lois swore her heart stopped beating when she heard the familiar voice. She quickly peered through the door's peephole to see who it was that would play such a cruel joke on her. Her eyes grew wide at the sight that greeted them. She flung the door open.
Her hands flew to her mouth. "Omigod, no. It can't be. I've cracked up. That has to be the explanation." She backed away from the door, and the ghost of her beloved partner, who slowly entered her apartment.
His smile was sad, but oh so familiar. "Lois, it's me."
Lois began to shake. "Clark?" Her voice was barely above a whisper, but he heard it anyway because he nodded. "Clark!" She closed the distance between them in a flying leap that would have done Superman proud. Fresh tears poured down her face in torrents. "How? How? How?"
Clark just held her tight against his chest. She reveled in the feel of those rock hard pecs and the smooth firmness of his back as her fingers ran up and down, not daring to believe what her hands were telling her. He was back. He was back, and he was here with her… now.
She leaned her head back so she could look up, once again, into those soft brown eyes. Eyes she'd never thought she'd see again. Her own vision was blurred by her tears, but she managed a smile as his thumb came up to wipe at her cheeks.
"Lois, we need to talk. I think you'd better sit down."
Need to talk! That was the understatement of the decade, but she held her tongue. He was clearly here to tell what had happened, how it was he was still alive, so she allowed herself to be led over to the couch. She sat, looking up at him, expectantly, as he paced in front of her.
Running a nervous hand through his hair one last time, Clark sighed, then sat in the chair opposite Lois. "As you can see, I'm not dead. I was never dead. But before I explain that to you, I want you to know that I never meant to hurt you. Hurting you is the last thing I want to do. And it's not because I don't trust you, I do, Lois, really I do. Things just got so complicated. I wanted to tell you but it never seemed the right time."
Clark took another deep breath, then plunged ahead. "At first, it didn't make sense, we didn't know each other that well, and frankly, we weren't on that great of terms. But then, we started to become friends and I thought that maybe, just maybe I could tell you. Of course, you're infatuation with Superman caused me to wonder if it would be a good idea to tell you. Then you started seeing Luthor, and I knew I couldn't tell you, even though I still trusted you. I just couldn't take the chance. But lately I was again beginning to think that maybe… then this stupid thing at the club the other night happened…"
"Clark!" Lois reached out and grabbed Clark's flailing hands. She was dazed and confused. She had no idea what he was talking about. "Clark, you're not making sense. Tell me what? And what does something you couldn't tell me when we met have to do with your not being… still being alive?"
Clark pulled his hands from Lois' and slowly undid the buttons on his shirt. Lois watched, her puzzlement still evident. As he pulled his shirt apart in front of his chest Lois could see a familiar red and gold shield on a blue spandex tunic come into view. Her eyes widened but her confusion didn't abate.
"I don't understand," she said. "Are you saying that you were wearing Superman's shirt and that stopped the bullets? Is it the costume that makes him invulnerable?"
Clark had to smile, but quickly schooled his features. "No, Lois. I'm wearing Superman's shirt because… I'm Superman."
Lois mouth dropped open. The memories of every strange incident, flimsy excuse, and intimate conversation came crashing into her mind all at once. She found she was having a hard time catching her breath. Her hands closed into fists, then opened. New tears began to sneak from the corners of her eyes. She held up both hands to stop Clark from saying anything.
"Wait. Give me a minute here." With an effort Lois was able to steady her breathing. "There is a lot to digest here, a lot. But first and foremost I'm still so glad that you're not dead that I can let all the baggage of the past year slide — for now. Believe me, there will be a reckoning for that, but not right now."
Lois was feeling closed in. She had to move. She rose and began to pace around the room. She looked over at Clark and could see the concern for her in his eyes, but she just shook her head and continued pacing. Finally, she was able to calm herself enough to speak.
"Let me get this straight in my mind. You're Superman?" Clark nodded. "And for the last two days, you let me think you were dead?" Lois began to shake again.
Clark jumped up and put his arms around her. "Lois, I'm sorry I didn't realize how much you'd be affected by that."
She pulled away, angrily. "You didn't realize! Clark, I thought you were dead. I thought I'd gotten you killed. Do you have any idea how I felt?"
Clark couldn't look her in the face. "Apparently not. I assumed you'd be upset, but in time, you'd get over it."
Lois was dumbfounded. Was he serious? He assumed she'd get over it? Lois was just about to launch into an attack when her words to Perry White the other morning came back to her. Clark didn't know. He'd died without her ever telling him. He didn't know that she… she loved him.
Lois slowly moved back to the couch and sat down heavily. She raked her hands through her lank, dirty hair. She hadn't bothered to wash it since that night. She was shaking her head back and forth and she chewed on her lower lip. After several moments she looked up at Clark. Was that fear she saw in his face?
"So, if you thought I'd *get over it*, why come to me now?"
Clark, at least, had the decency to look shamefaced. "It was pointed out to me how much you were hurting. I was being selfish. I was so wrapped up in my own self-pity that I didn't really understand how much you'd be hurt by this."
Lois rolled her eyes. "I'm not going to argue that now, but the gist of this conversation is that *somebody else* suggested you should tell me that you're Superman? You hadn't planned on telling me yourself?"
"No, I mean, yes. I was planning on telling you everything, soon. But once this happened there no longer seemed any need. I thought it best if you didn't know."
Lois found herself clenching and unclenching her fists again. "You thought it best that I continue to believe that my best friend was dead? That all the pain and suffering I was experiencing was no big deal? That it would be best if I didn't know that I hadn't killed him?"
"Lois, you know that you had nothing to do with what happened. Clark Kent was shot by Clyde Barrow, a regenerated gangster who shouldn't even have been alive in our time." Lois was upset, but not so much that she missed what he'd said. "Clark Kent was shot, not I was shot? Hasn't this whole night been about how Clark is Superman, and because of that, you're still alive?"
"No, it's not. I was told that Clark's murder had hurt you badly. More than I'd realized it would, and that I should confess to you because it would help ease your suffering. I'm not convinced that is true." Clark's face suddenly seemed very hard. His expression was one that Lois, for the first time, couldn't read. "Lois, it doesn't matter if this body wasn't injured by Clyde's bullets. Clark Kent is still dead. A room full of witnesses saw him gunned down at close range and his body dragged out of the room."
A sudden icy chill crawled up Lois' spine. He couldn't be saying what she thought he was saying, could he? "But, but you're Clark Kent. And you are alive."
Clark flopped down in the chair across from the couch. A few tears were visible on his cheek. "Yes, Clark Kent is who I… was. I was raised to be Clark Kent by two loving parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent. Clark Kent had a great job, friends… and a partner he adored." Lois felt a lump forming in her throat. "Superman was only a character that I created to be able to openly help people, while still protecting who I really was. Clark Kent." Once again his hand dragged itself through his hair. "But Clark Kent was murdered. Only Superman is left." Lois knew that the tears in his eyes were mirrored by her own. "You have no partner, Lois. Your best friend — is — gone."
Lois was biting her lip so hard she nearly drew blood as she shook her head back and forth. "No! I won't accept that. Not now. Not now that I know it's Clark Kent that I want."
Lois fell off the couch and landed on her knees in front of Clark. She grabbed his hands in hers. "Dammit, you lunkhead, why do you think I've been tearing myself apart these last couple of days? I've finally been able to admit to myself that it's Clark Kent that I want. That it's Clark Kent that I need. It's Clark Kent… that I love." A half- choked sob escaped from her lips. "I can't give you up now, now that I know you're alive. I can't — I won't accept that. We will find away to bring Clark back."
Clark placed his palm against Lois' tear-smeared cheek. "Lois, how that can be? Don't make this worse for yourself."
Lois fiercely shook her head in denial. "No. I don't know how yet, but we will find a way." Her arms began to flail about. "We can say that the bullets hit a cigarette case you had in your pocket, or you were wearing a bulletproof vest, or… I don't care. We can make up a story about Superman finding your body and using Prof. Hamilton's process to regenerate your body. If he can bring back several long-dead gangsters, what's one recently-deceased reporter? It doesn't matter, I — we aren't giving up."
Lois saw Clark's face suddenly begin to light up with one of his patented mega-watt smiles. The kind that made her go all mushy inside. "You know, Lois, with you behind this, it just might work."
"You bet it will." She arched her back until her face was level with Clark's. He leaned forward and their lips met. For the first time in two days Lois didn't hurt.