By Shayne Terry <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: October 2006
Summary: In a world where Lex Luthor was born as a woman, many things are different, even though some things stay the same.
The sound of the door closing was like a thunderclap. Outraged, Lois stared at the door. This was supposed to be her story, her exclusive interview with the most powerful person in Metropolis. Instead, it was the rookie who'd somehow gotten it, the farm boy, the hack.
The good-looking hack.
Alexis Luthor was known for having an eye for attractive men. She'd been married five times, and every time to a beautiful, talented man.
Kent had the looks, but he didn't have the talent, not to play in Alexis's sandbox. The man was a hick from nowhere, a rube.
The closed door was infuriating.
"I think it's disgusting how some people use sex to get a story," Lois said, finally breaking her silence. She'd given him the silent treatment for two days, but he'd hardly noticed, seeming preoccupied.
"You should give Cat a break," Clark said. "She's really not that bad of a person if you get to know her."
"I wasn't talking about Cat," Lois said furiously. "I was talking about…"
"Delivery for Mr. Kent."
The workman nodded, businesslike, as Clark signed the invoice. He gestured to his colleagues, who began to carry in baskets and baskets of flowers.
Lois snatched up the tag on the first before Clark could reach it. The perfume was familiar, Alexis's own scent, custom designed. The inscription was simple. "Saturday. Love, Alexis."
"I guess the interview went well," Lois said acidly.
Clark had the grace to look embarrassed.
'Embarrassed' wasn't even the word for it. Lois blessed the moment of memory loss before it all came flooding back. She'd dropped every last veil, and he'd refused her.
If he wasn't dating Alexis Luthor, she'd have thought he was gay.
All seven veils. How she was going to look him in the face, she didn't know. She was lucky that he had that head cold, or they might both have done something they'd regret.
That a small part of her wondered what it might have been like wasn't to be thought about.
Of course, he hadn't sounded sick. Still, the alternative, that he really wasn't attracted, was unthinkable.
A girl had her standards, after all. If she couldn't attract a nobody like Clark, then she'd hang up her womanhood for good.
He was still straightening his tie when she grabbed him by the sleeve and said, "We're getting to the bottom of this."
Whoever had done this to her was going to pay.
"Pay up," Clark said. "I told you it was the boxers."
"There's something behind all this, Clark. Miranda worked for Luthorcorp, and the money for this thing…"
"Half the companies in Metropolis do at least some work for Luthorcorp, and the rest work for one of those companies. Alexis promised to look into it, but I doubt there's anything…"
"What if she's involved?"
"Alexis? She's the last person who'd be involved in a scheme like this. She can have anyone she wanted. Why would she need pheromones?"
Why the whole subject gave Lois indigestion, she wasn't sure. She'd keep looking. If Alexis had any dirty laundry, Lois would find it. It was the least she could do for her partner.
Why she seemed to be more focused on Clark these days than Superman, she wasn't sure.
The auction was in full swing. Lois had meant to bid for Superman, but she couldn't help but be distracted. Alexis Luthor was in the room, and Clark was nowhere to be found.
It quickly became clear that Lois was out of the bidding. When it looked like an elderly woman in the back was going to get the bid, Alexis Luthor called out, "Fifty thousand dollars."
When Clark slipped in next to her a few minutes later, Lois couldn't help but fume.
"She wants to set up a Superman foundation…use all this hype for a good purpose." Clark's voice held an enthusiasm that irritated Lois. "All the merchandising, posters, books…the money can all go to help people."
"And Superman buys into all of this," Lois asked skeptically.
"Why wouldn't he?" Clark asked. "It's a great idea. It means that even when the cape is off, he still gets to do some good."
"The cape comes off?" Lois asked. Once it would have been a real question. Now, her heart wasn't in it. Somehow, this problem with her partner was taking up more and more of her time, time that should have been devoted to hero worshipping an unattainable idol.
Instead, she was obsessing over an unattainable real man, possibly the last good man in Metropolis, and somehow that made it all feel worse.
She found herself wondering more and more often what would have happened if she'd accepted that first offer of a date, before everything got complicated.
'Complicated' wasn't the word for it. The terrorists were outside, and they were all trapped inside like rats. Out of all of them, she'd have expected Alexis to try to be the leader, but somehow, it was Clark who was making the plans.
It was a side of him she rarely saw. Usually he was willing to defer to her, was almost passive. Now, however, he had an aura of authority. He acted as though he knew what to do.
She felt safe with him, the sort of safe that she'd previously only felt with Superman. Clark wasn't just a good man and a good reporter…he was a hero.
Lois felt a twinge of something within her, as what had been a simple obsession began to change.
Unusually, she found herself working with Alexis instead of against her. As the older woman waited to step up into the roofing tiles, she turned to Lois and smiled slightly. "Clark's been through this sort of thing before…in Africa. We'll be fine."
Clark was her best friend. It burned that this woman knew more about him than she did.
All she could do was stare at the burning remnants of her life.
There was nothing left of the Planet but shattered fragments, bits and pieces, flames burning everywhere.
She was responsible for this. Lois knew it deep in her gut. Whatever it took, she was going to find the proof. If she could get Superman to help…but he'd been just as stubborn as Clark. The Superman Foundation thing had really turned his head.
She'd have to rely on old-fashioned investigative reporting. She'd worked alone for most of her career. She didn't actually need Clark, no matter how much he made everything better.
She'd get Jimmy and Perry to help. It wasn't as though they had anything else to do.
The feeling of emptiness inside her was growing, and Lois had to keep busy.
The empty office was directly below Alexis's penthouse. Lois checked her disguise one more time, then slipped inside.
She'd done the fake moustache thing before, but it had been easier recently to let Clark take the male roles. At least she was almost invisible as a janitor.
She fiddled with the pen. Its range was limited, which was why she'd had to risk getting so close.
There was a moment of static, then the voices came through loud and clear.
"-your secret. This isn't a bad thing, darling."
Clark's voice sounded shocked, defeated, tired. "I never told you…"
"With my resources, you didn't think I would find out?" Alexis's voice held a trace of that smug superiority that Lois had come to hate.
"So…what are you going to do now that you know?"
He actually sounded afraid. Lois closed her eyes for a moment. Whatever his secret was, it was significant enough for Alexis to have a hold on him.
"The same thing I was going to do before I found out." There was a pause, then silence for a moment.
"Married?" Clark said. "It's all so sudden."
Lois's heart dropped.
"You need me. If this comes out, who's going to protect your parents? I have the resources to do it. And as your wife, I can't be forced to reveal anything."
The threat was palpable even through the staticky connection.
The silence went on for more than a minute.
"Okay." For some reason, Clark's voice didn't sound any happier than Lois felt.
Grimly, Lois turned. This wasn't going to happen. If she had to beat the secret out of Clark, she was going to help him get out of this.
The bitch wasn't going to have him.
She never even saw the arms that grabbed her, or felt the needle going into the side of her neck.
"Did you know he was Superman?"
Lois hadn't realized just how much Alexis liked gloating. The shock she was feeling was obvious, and she could see the pleasure in Alexis's eyes at the sight.
"You can scream all you like, by the way. This place is soundproof, even from him. There are a lot of places in the tower just like it; how do you think I kept him in the dark?"
"He'll come looking for me," Lois said. "He always does."
Alexis smiled cruelly. She held up a tape recorder.
"Beeep. Clark…I won't be coming to the wedding. I've got an offer from the Washington Post and I have to be there tomorrow. Besides…I think it's better that we make a clean split. You've got your life…I've got to make mine."
The voice sounded exactly like hers.
"What's going to happen?" Lois asked, still groggy from the drug.
"In twenty minutes, I'm going upstairs and I'm going to get married. In thirty minutes, Superman is going to do a favor to his good friend and his new bride and fly us both to the Alps. In forty five minutes, I'll be relieving Clark of his troublesome virginity."
Lois blinked. She'd assumed…
"Clark's an old-fashioned man. I have a great deal to teach him. In the meantime, you will sit here in the dark, waiting and wondering. Tomorrow, I'll have workers brick up the door. I don't know how long you'll last, but I'll enjoy everything a little more knowing that you are thinking of me."
With that, Alexis Luthor stepped out of Lois's life, and the lights went out.
She was as alone as she had ever been.
The sounds of metal bending woke her, and she blinked into the blinding light. She wasn't sure how long it had been, but she'd finally succumbed to exhaustion.
All she knew was that now she was wrapped in a familiar pair of arms, being rocked back and forth, and once more she felt safe.
"Clark…" Lois asked, despite the fact that he was in the Costume.
"Did you…" Her throat was dry and parched, and Lois wished for a moment that she could have had a sultry voice. Instead she sounded like a frog.
He shook his head. "I told her I couldn't. I was in love with somebody else."
"She's a criminal, Clark. You have to watch your back." Lois hesitated. "Your parents…"
He put his finger to her lips. "She's gone. She tried to stop me with kryptonite, and when the police came she jumped out the window.
They held each other tightly, and Lois began to cry.
After quite some time, Lois finally said, "I told you so."
Clark sighed. "I'm going to be hearing that for a long time, aren't I?"
"You'd better believe it." Lois hesitated. "When you said you were in love…"
Clark kissed her.
Like a thunderclap, doors began to open.
For the first time that Lois could remember, she wasn't alone.
He was a hick and a hero, and most importantly, he was hers.