By Nan Smith <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: April, 2007
Summary: The sequel to "The Way It Should Have Been," that I wrote in 1999. After saving Martha and Jonathan from Jason Mazik and Nigel St. John (and bagging the story) Lois and Clark go to Lois's apartment to talk.
This is the sequel to a story I wrote seven years ago. At the time, someone asked me for a sequel. I didn't know what to write back then, and whoever it was might not even be here anymore. But I reread the "The Way It Should Have Been" recently, and at long last came up with some ideas for what came next. It isn't particularly original; there aren't any villains for them to overcome, but it seemed like what could have happened if the other story had taken place the way it was written. It begins about five minutes after the end of "The Way It Should Have Been." Anyone wishing to refresh their memory of what happened in that one, it's only about 40 K. Basically, Clark made an uncharacteristically smart decision after his parents were kidnapped by Mazik and St. John and events changed from there. The link for The Way It Should Have Been is here: http://lcfanfic.com/stories2/wayitsho.txt
Lois Lane ducked through the entrance to her apartment building. Clark was a split second behind her and as he came through the door the skies opened and a deluge of water poured from the heavens.
"Wow!" Clark said, glancing back at the rain pounding on the steps outside. "That was close!"
"I told you it looked like rain," Lois said.
"Well, you didn't hear me arguing," Clark said. He pulled the door closed behind him as he spoke. Lois turned her head as Mr. Tracewski, the building's manager, emerged from a doorway, a mop in one hand and a plastic bucket in the other. He glanced at the entrance where a puddle of water was leaking under the door.
"Lots of rain," he remarked. "I need to fix that door." Without further comment, he began to swab at the floor.
Lois led the way down the hallway toward the elevator, thinking hard. The sight of Mr. Tracewski brought to mind one of the many things that she hadn't had the time to consider over the last couple of days. The kidnapping of Martha and Jonathan Kent by Jason Mazik and Nigel St. John, and all the other things that had attended the incident, had kind of taken precedence in her thoughts. But hundreds of questions had been circulating behind the scenes in her mind ever since Clark's breathtaking revelation two nights ago in her apartment.
When Sebastian Finn had targeted her, she hadn't believed at first that she was in danger. In truth, she wouldn't *let* herself believe it, and her partner's attempts to protect her had offended her on some level, while on another she had been insensibly glad that he had refused to listen to her objections. Clark had been worried about the whole situation and insisted on walking her home that evening. They'd arrived at her apartment, and from somewhere a motorcycle had backfired. Clark vehemently declared that someone had shot at her. She hadn't believed him, or hadn't wanted to, and she'd been angry because he'd pushed her down onto the steps of her apartment at the sound of the backfires and then appeared to be holding something behind his back. He'd shown her empty hands, and she hadn't seen him drop anything, but it had been a very odd incident.
The elevator doors were just opening as they approached. Little Mrs. Taft exited, smiling at them and Clark let Lois enter the car ahead of him. He always did that, she thought. It had never occurred to her before that he and Superman had exactly the same good manners. And she had been completely blind, even though he'd been dropping clues all over the place.
The doors closed, leaving them temporarily in private. "You saved my life, didn't you?" she said.
"Huh?" The question had obviously come completely out of left field as far as Clark was concerned. Come to think of it, he frequently got that expression at something she said. "Which time?"
"The time in front of my apartment when Sebastian Finn was trying to kill me. I thought it was a motorcycle backfiring — but he really was shooting at me, wasn't he? You caught the bullets, didn't you?"
"Oh, that time. Yeah." He looked even more confused. "What brought that up?"
"Mr. Tracewski reminded me. I guess I have to say thank you for saving my life a lot more often than I thought."
"Well, people seem to try to kill you a lot," Clark said.
"Yeah," she said. "You said that before."
The look was back, she noted. "When Griffin pushed me off the edge of the penthouse balcony."
"Oh — yeah. That time."
"Aren't you supposed to be the one with the photographic memory?"
"Well, yeah, but I don't make a point of cataloguing the times I've saved you. Besides, you've saved me, too."
"Yeah, but nowhere near as many times."
"You'd be surprised."
Now it was her turn to be confused. "Huh?"
"Let's just say that if it weren't for you, Superman would have quit the superhero business in the first few weeks after he appeared, and leave it at that. I haven't been keeping score, but I think I owe you more than you owe me."
The elevator came to a stop as he finished speaking and the doors slid open. Lois exited first and made her way toward her apartment, trying to figure out what he was talking about. Clark followed, saying nothing.
Once in her apartment, she shut and locked the door, still thinking. When she fastened the last lock she turned, frowning slightly. "What are you talking about? Yeah, I helped you when Dr. Leit blinded you, and with the Prankster, and with this last thing — but I can't think of anything else. Certainly not right after Superman appeared. The only thing I remember about that was you saving the shuttle — and me," she added.
Clark smiled wryly. "You don't give yourself nearly enough credit, you know. A couple of weeks later, someone put Superman through a bunch of tests. Remember?"
"Do you always talk about yourself in the third person?" she asked irrelevantly.
He chuckled. "You sound like my mom. She's always after me because of it. I have to talk about Superman that way, and think about him as a separate person, so I don't make a mistake. I nearly made a bad one the time we were held prisoner in the Planet. Actually, I did slip up, but you and everyone else thought the stress was getting to me, or something, and didn't connect the dots. I'd tried to make a point of talking about Superman as another person before that, but afterwards I really got serious. If anyone ever figures it out, it will ruin my life, and my parents' lives, and the lives of a lot of my friends. Can you see the media, or the government, or anyone else leaving any of us alone if the truth comes out?"
Lois shook her head. "No. Everyone with an agenda of any kind would be after you. Every tabloid reporter — and representatives of every news service on Earth — would be parked on your parents' doorstep."
"And every criminal organization on the planet would know that to control Superman, all they had to do would be to threaten my family or friends. That's why 'Superman' is someone else, and has to stay that way." He was frowning a little. "Anyway, do you remember the tests of Superman, and how he disappeared for several days, a couple of weeks after he appeared?"
She nodded. "Now I do. Everybody was crazy to get an interview with you, especially me, and —" She stopped, suddenly aghast. "No *wonder* you sent me to the Sewage Reclamation Facility!" she said. "I stole your Superman story! *Superman's* Superman story!"
"Well — yeah," Clark admitted, a little sheepishly. "Anyway, those so-called attempted suicides were part of the tests. There were several others, too, that you didn't know about. Luthor basically told Superman that the tests would continue unless Superman went away, and would keep putting people's lives at risk. I didn't know what else to do but disappear. You made me realize that I had to come back. You saved Superman."
"You mean *Lex* was behind the tests?"
He nodded but said nothing.
"Oh my god." Lois sat down hard on the nearest sofa. "And I accused you of jealousy. That was how you knew about him — why you distrusted him."
"Well, partly." Clark took the chair across from her. "There were other reasons, too. A lot of things were happening that I couldn't prove at the time. The point was, though, that it was you who saved me and there have been plenty of other times, too. Just because I didn't say anything doesn't mean I wasn't grateful."
Lois sprang back to her feet in her agitation, not really sure what she intended to do. She'd been wondering why it had taken him so long to get around to telling her about Superman. Now she thought she knew why. The way she'd gone crazy and thrown every scruple to the wind in her single-minded pursuit of the Superman story must have made him think that he couldn't trust her. And really, back then, if she'd found out that Superman and Clark Kent were one and the same, she'd probably have published the story on page one, she thought disgustedly. No wonder he'd sent her to the sewage plant. In his place, she'd probably have done worse! How could he possibly even trust her now? He seemed to, but she had trouble understanding it. "Why don't I order us some pizza, like I was going to," she said nervously. "The beer is in the fridge. You can get one for both of us and then you can answer the questions I was going to ask."
"Okay," Clark said, with obvious caution He glanced at the rain that was falling outside the window and got to his feet. The thunderous downpour, Lois saw, had lessened to a light sprinkle, but water was still dotting the glass. "One thing, though — why don't you order the pizza and I'll go get it. It'll be faster than having them deliver it and it won't get wet."
"Okay," she said quickly. The revelations of the last few minutes had thoroughly shaken her. Clark had a lot more questions to answer now than he'd had a few minutes ago, but going on in this way was just getting her upset and confused. She had to organize this thing — kind of like an interview, she thought. Besides, if she wanted the whole story, they were going to have to stop going off on tangents. She had plenty of time to find out about the hundreds of puzzling little things that had happened to her in the past two years — things that made a lot more sense now that she knew about Clark's real relationship to Superman.
"Lois," Clark said, getting her attention, "all that stuff — Luthor, and the tests, the way the press went crazy after Superman first appeared — all of it is water under the bridge. Things happened and, between us, we handled them. Hashing out who was at fault for this or that mistake isn't worth the time."
She found that her eyes were tearing up and brushed the water away with an unsteady hand. Clark was right. He didn't blame her for what she hadn't known, and he didn't hold grudges — at least, not often. "I wish I'd known," she said. "What you must think of me —"
"What I think of you," Clark said, "is something that we'll go into a little later, but you don't have to worry. I might have sent you to the sewage plant but I felt bad about it afterwards. I even tried to warn you after you showed me why Superman couldn't disappear — but you didn't listen."
She gave a shaky laugh. "That figures. I don't blame you for interviewing Superman yourself instead of giving the story to me," she added, surprising herself. "You couldn't have been too happy with me."
"Well, let's say I did it to get your attention," Clark said. "I was a little irritated and I wanted to show you that the Hack from Nowheresville wasn't as much of a hack as you thought. It worked, didn't it?"
She nodded. "I guess it did," she admitted. "I think that was when I really started to respect you — when I realized I couldn't push you around without expecting to pay for it. Nobody else ever dared to push back except Perry, and he's in a kind of special position."
Clark chuckled. "It really does figure," he said. "It took Superman to stand up to Lois Lane — and half the time I'm still fighting to keep up. Why don't I make some coffee for us while you order the pizza?"
"Don't you like beer?"
"Sure," he said. "It's just the taste, though. Alcohol doesn't affect me any more than any other toxin, and I'd rather have coffee after dinner. And then, after we've had something to eat, you can ask your other questions."
"Do you mind if I ask some *while* we're eating?"
"Not at all," Clark said quietly. "Ask anything you want."
"I will. One thing, though —" Lois took a long breath, gathering her nerve.
Clark simply waited.
"Our relationship. Did you mean it about being ready to take the next step?"
Clark met her eyes and she swallowed at the expression in them. "I meant every word."
"Oh," Lois said. "In that case, do you mind if I take back what I told Superman, that day in the courthouse? That thing about just being friends?"
His lips moved in the ghost of a smile. "Superman is sure hoping you will."
She smiled tremulously. "In that case, I take it back."
"Good, because Superman doesn't want to be just friends," Clark said. He took both her hands in his. "We'll take things a little at a time, but once everything has settled down a bit more, I have a question I'd like to ask you."
Perry White looked up from his computer screen to glance through the clear glass of his office walls into the newsroom. The Hottest Team in Town was arguing amicably about something. Whatever it was didn't really matter. The two of them never ceased to amaze him. First the Jason Mazik story of two days ago, where the brother of the owner of Mazik's Jewelers and Lex Luthor's butler had apparently killed each other over the stolen diamonds from the jewelry store. Today, he had booted up his computer a few minutes ago, only to discover that they had sent him an exclusive interview with Superman.
The Man of Steel had answered questions that people had wondered about since the day he'd appeared, two years ago. The super man from Krypton was a refugee from a destroyed world, Perry thought in amazement, sent to Earth in some kind of frozen sleep, or something, to save his life and he'd vowed to earn his place among the people of his adopted world by using his great powers for the good of humanity. He lived in a hidden Fortress somewhere near the South Pole, surrounded by the artifacts of his lost planet. Two to one, there would be a dozen search teams headed for Antarctica within a week.
Perry shook his head. Lane and Kent had bagged another great story for the Planet. He'd had a feeling about Kent the day he had interviewed. Well, now that Lane and Kent were really hitting their stride, maybe they could figure out this new situation involving Bill Church and the Church Group that was stopping crime in Metropolis. If things continued as they had begun in the last twenty-four hours, it looked as if the cops wouldn't have much to do beyond patronizing the donut shops all over town.
"Honestly," Clark was muttering into Lois's ear. "Don't you think you laid it on a bit thick? A hidden fortress at the South Pole? That one's got to be cornier than a field of my dad's crops!"
"If they waste their time looking for a Fortress of Solitude in Antarctica, no one's going to go looking in Kansas," Lois replied, serenely. "After that diary, and everything else that's happened, I'm not taking any chances. I've got a source to protect, after all."
Clark shook his head. Trust Lois to come up with a story like that. Still, it wasn't such a bad idea, even if the whole freeze-dried thing left him slightly mind-boggled. Lois had always fought on his team as well as she could. Now she was doing so with new knowledge of who and what Superman really was. That couldn't be a bad thing, could it?
Shelving the idea of his fictional high-tech Fortress in Antarctica, Clark rose from the corner of Lois's desk. "It's already past eight-thirty. Bobby called last night and left me a message on my answering machine. He's got some information for us about this Church Group thing. I called and arranged to meet him at nine. We'd better go."
Lois snatched up her notepad and a pencil. "Lead the way," she commanded.
Together, they headed for the elevator.