By Tank Wilson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: September, 2007
Summary: Lois knows a secret. Clark Kent is… not dead. They need to talk.
Lois closed her apartment door and walked slowly into her kitchen. She was beat. It had already been a long night, and it was only going to get longer. She reached into her refrigerator and pulled out a cream soda. Setting the can on the counter, she pulled a paper towel off the roll and wiped her face. She wetted the towel, then wiped her face again. It felt good to get the dried tear tracks and mascara runs off her cheeks. She pulled the tab on her soda and took a long swig. It tasted good going down, but it also made her realize how hungry she was. It had been a long time since lunch; dinner having been missed entirely.
"Clark?" There was no answer.
Lois sat down on one of the kitchen chairs and took another sip of her soda. What a mess they were in. It would literally take a miracle for them to get out of this predicament. A small sigh escaped. What were they going to do now?
Any good investigative reporter also had to be a good actor. That's what undercover work was all about. Still, tonight had taxed her skills to their limits. Three hours spent at the police station playing the role of the grief-stricken partner had taken a lot out of her. In order to keep the tears flowing she had had to constantly conjure up images of things too horrible to imagine. Things like, 'What if Clark really had been shot dead trying to defend her from the likes of John Dillinger?'
Of course, her rational mind had to keep reminding her that Clark wasn't really dead. Bullets didn't have much effect on Superman. That wasn't to say that they didn't have a big problem looming. Too many people had seen Clark shot down, and his supposedly lifeless body dragged off by the reanimated gangsters. The shots had been fired at point-blank range and Clark had played his part quite well, even though there hadn't been any blood. If she hadn't known better, she would have been convinced of his 'death'. So, now the problem was: how does Clark make a miraculous recovery?
She took one last gulp from her can of soda, then set it down on the table. Since it was clear that Clark couldn't go home to his own apartment, and he obviously hadn't come to her place like she'd hoped he would, it stood to reason that he'd gone home to Smallville. She got up from the chair. Now where had she put that phone number?
She knew it was late, but it was two hours earlier in Kansas, so she figured that the Kents would still be up, especially if Clark was there. The phone only rang twice before it was answered.
"Mrs. Kent? It's Lois; could I speak to Clark, please?"
There was a hesitation at the other end of the phone. "Ah, Lois, what makes you think that Clark is here?"
Lois frowned. This would have been so much easier if Clark had just trusted her with his secret so that he'd know that she knew. "I assume that you've been informed about the incident that happened at the illegal gambling club tonight. If Clark hasn't told you, then I would think that the Metropolis Police Department would have contacted you by now. Since Clark can't go back to his apartment, and he didn't come here, it's my guess that he went home. Is he there?"
"But, Lois, honey…"
"I'm sorry, Mrs. Kent… Martha, I should have told you right off. I know."
"What is it you know, Lois?"
"That your son, Clark, is Superman, and therefore he wasn't killed tonight when Clyde Barrow fired three bullets at his chest. I was there; no blood."
She could hear some sort of commotion in the background. "Lois?"
It was Clark. "Clark, good, I'm glad I found you. If you've had time to fill your parents in on what happened tonight, I need you back here. This is quite a mess we've gotten ourselves into this time, and right now I'm not sure how we're going to get out of it."
"Lois, I… I never meant to…"
"Not now, Clark. Tell you what. I've had a pretty rough night and I really need to take a soothing hot shower. Give me about twenty minutes to shower and change into some different clothes. Can you be here by then?"
"Lois, ah… sure, I'll be there."
"Good. I'll unlock the window. Just come in."
Lois, with one towel wrapped around her, and her hair wrapped up in another, stepped out of her bathroom. She was startled to see Clark sitting on her sofa. She hadn't heard him come in. He was still dressed as Superman.
"Hey, you're here already. I didn't hear you come in." She continued into her bedroom. "I'll be out in a minute. I just have to throw something on."
Lois quickly donned a comfortable sweatshirt and a pair of shorts. It wasn't until she had come out into the living room that she realized that she'd put on the Smallville High sweatshirt that Clark had loaned her months ago. She could see the misery on his face. She wasn't sure if it was because he was upset over what had happened, or he was feeling guilty that she knew he was actually Superman. She guessed it was probably a mixture of both. She certainly hoped he wasn't upset that she knew he wasn't dead.
She sat down next to him. "So, do you have any ideas?"
At first he seemed confused by her question, then he sighed. "I don't know if there is anything I can do."
She frowned at his choice of pronoun, but she let it slide. "Well, I'm sure we can think of something. That's why I asked you to come over. The longer we let this go, the harder it's going to be to fix."
Clark stared down at his hands for several moments. "Lois, I'm sorry you had to find out this way."
"If you're talking about you being Superman, I've known for several months, and could you change back into Clark? It's a little intimidating talking to 'the suit'."
He looked up at her in surprise. "Then… why…"
"Then why didn't I say something?" He nodded, then stood up and spun into his Clark persona. It took Lois a moment to regain her composure. She stared at her own hands as Clark sat back down next to her. "Clark, it wasn't my decision to make. I'd really hoped that you'd tell me yourself, but I guess that you didn't feel I needed to know."
"It's not that. I've wanted to tell you for so long, but it… it never seemed like the right time."
"The right time? What does that mean?"
"It means that I had some issues to deal with before I could tell you." He looked at her and she knew that her confusion was clearly written on her face. "I was afraid at how you'd react, that you'd be mad at me for not telling you. Are you mad?"
Lois shook her head. "What do you think? Of course, I was mad when I first figured it out. But I got over that fairly quickly. What I am is hurt. I'm hurt that you didn't feel that you could trust me with your secret."
"Lois, it wasn't that I didn't trust you."
"Then what was it?"
"It was… me. My insecurities got in the way of doing what was right."
"Superman has insecurities?"
Clark frowned. He stood up and began to pace in front of her. "That's just it, Lois. I don't see myself as Superman. Superman is a character I created in order to help people openly. So I can use my gifts without giving up my life. My life as Clark Kent. Clark Kent is who I really am, and you never seemed that interested in him. At least not as much as you did in the spandex-clad hero."
"Are you serious? Clark, you are Superman."
"No, Lois, Superman is what I can do. Clark is who I am."
She found herself staring at her partner with a new understanding. "You really believe that."
"Yes, Lois, I do, and that is why it's been so hard for me to really open up to you about who I am and how I feel about you. You seemed to prefer the suit over the man."
"Omigod, you poor deluded dolt." Clark seemed taken aback by the words, but her amused smile took away the sting. "I don't think you realize what a good job you did in making Superman real to everyone. And I don't just mean the powers and all the splashy rescues and such. Your compassion for people and your innate goodness just came shining through. To the world at large, Superman was, and is, this wonderful visitor from another world who has come to our planet to help." She shook her head as she sighed. "Why do you think that no one, myself included, ever thought to look for some other secret identity? To everyone, Superman was exactly who he appeared to be, and there was no reason to look for anything else."
Clark returned to the couch, but didn't look at her. "I know you're not a shallow person, Lois, but you really didn't know all that much about Superman. I was pretty careful not to get too close to anyone. So how could you prefer him to me, once we got to know each other better, if not because of the powers?"
"You're speaking about yourself in the third person again."
He smiled. "Yeah, my mom always tells me that."
She reached over and took his hand. "The answer to your question is really quite simple. Superman needed me more than Clark Kent did."
"If you think about it, Clark, it makes sense. First, we have to ignore the first few weeks. I was annoyed with Perry for foisting some greenhorn on me, and thus I was annoyed with you. And, like everyone else, I was awed by the miraculous powers that Superman exhibited. I got over both reactions fairly quickly. It didn't take me long to realize that you were a good reporter and that I could actually trust you. With Superman… I didn't have as much contact with him, but I did have enough to realize that there was a man behind the super. A man who was very alone. I could see it in his rigid stances and the stilted, formal way he always spoke. He knew that for all the good that his powers allowed him to do, they also isolated him. They pointed out that he was different, that he wasn't one of us. He was afraid of rejection. He needed to know that he was appreciated, that someone cared about him, and it didn't matter if he was different."
She gave his hand a squeeze and she got up from the couch. "Do you want a soda? I could make some coffee."
"No thanks; I'm good."
She went over to the refrigerator and pulled another cream soda out of it. She didn't feel like making any coffee. She came back and sat down. "As for Clark Kent, here was a guy who was pretty confident in his abilities as a reporter, even if he was pretty green. He'd traveled the world. He was personable, and made friends easily. He even stood up for himself against Mad Dog Lane. He didn't need me. In fact, he seemed to be exactly the kind of guy who had hurt me in the past. So I was wary and kept him at arms length. Even so, you managed to break down my defenses and worm your way into my life as my best friend. At least, that's all I would allow myself to think about you."
"Let me get this straight. You fell in love with Superman because he was more needy than Clark Kent?"
Lois shrugged as she smiled at him. "Not exactly, but it was a factor. I had growing feelings for both of you, and let me tell you it was driving me crazy. But with Superman I realized early on that he wasn't free to acknowledge his own feelings for someone. He had to 'belong to the world'. That made it easier for me to be honest with my feelings for him. He was safe. He was the defender of truth, justice, and the American way. He wouldn't hurt me."
She reached over and took a sip of her soda. "On the other hand, Clark Kent was someone who could hurt me very much. He was a regular guy. A handsome man who'd probably had women swooning over him since high school. I didn't want to be another notch on his bedpost, no matter how good looking he was. I played that role before and I never want to do that again."
"Lois, I would never…"
She waved off his protest. "Oh, I know that now, Clark, but back then I had to protect myself. I'd been burned badly before."
The two partners stared at each other for several moments. Clark appeared to be thinking things over as he leaned back and stared up at the ceiling. After what seemed like minutes, but was probably only about twenty seconds, he turned back to Lois' expectant gaze. "What about Luthor?"
She suddenly felt uncomfortable. It was the question she'd been dreading. How could she explain her actions back then to Clark when she'd never been able to make sense of them herself?
Her smile was rueful. "I guess I shouldn't be surprised that you'd ask that question. Especially in hindsight." This time it was Lois who ran a hand through her hair. "My only defense for the way I acted was that I was scared."
"Clark, you have to realize that the Daily Planet had been my whole life. Suddenly it was gone. I had no foundation; my life was virtually in turmoil. I didn't know what I was going to do. I was drowning and Lex offered me a life preserver." She saw the look of disapproval on his face. "Clark, you didn't help matters any, either. I didn't know what you knew about Luthor back then. All I could see was my best friend acting like a jealous jerk. When I needed your support all you could do was place barriers between us."
"But I confessed my love for you."
Lois' bark of sardonic laughter startled Clark. "Talk about your bad timing. Clark, I wasn't really looking for love, I was looking for security. Yet here was my jobless partner professing his devotion to me. What was I supposed to think? Earlier that day we'd had our umpteenth argument about Lex, and now there you were talking love. It didn't make any sense. You also have to include the fact that Clark Kent was the one man I was most afraid of when it came to matters of the heart. There was no way I was going to admit to having any feelings deeper than friendship, because I couldn't admit them to myself. That would have given you too much power over me."
Clark was clearly confused. "But what about Luthor? Didn't he tell you he loved you? After all, you agreed to marry him. Did you love him?"
Lois chewed on her lower lip. How could she make Clark understand when she wasn't sure she ever really did? "Lex may have told me he loved me, but I was under no delusion as to what that meant. He was never what you'd call a romantic. I did believe that he respected me, and actually felt some affection for me, as I did him. But did I love him? No, I don't think I could say that I loved him."
"So, why marry him?"
"Because I didn't know what else to do. As I said, he was that life preserver in the ocean of chaos that my life had become."
Clark shook his head in denial. "No, it still doesn't make sense. If it was only about stability and security, then why ask to talk to Superman?"
"I didn't actually think that Superman was going to go down on one knee and offer to take me away from it all, but can you blame a girl for taking a shot at her fantasy? One chance at the fairy tale ending with her Prince Charming." Lois looked away as she wrung her hands. "You know, I'm not sure I would have said yes to Lex, even if Superman had turned me down, if he hadn't hurt me that night. Of course, I didn't know then that I had just hurt him earlier in the day when I declined your offer of love. I can understand his actions now, but then his snide remark and hostile attitude really surprised me. I felt like I had lost my last connection to my old life. What choice did I have left?"
"We always have choices."
Lois sucked in a breath. "Look, Clark, I'm not asking you to accept, or even understand, what I did. I don't really understand it myself. It was like I was watching someone else running around in my body. The truth was, for the first time in her life, Lois Lane let fear rule her actions. My only hope has always been that you could eventually forgive me."
"There is nothing to forgive. You did what you felt you had to do at the time. I'm just glad that Perry and Henderson were able to stop the wedding in time."
"Is that what you think?" Lois' voice gave away her surprise. "Is that what everyone thinks?"
Now it was Clark who looked surprised. "Well, yeah."
"Clark, I stopped the wedding before Henderson and his men broke in. I told him no."
"Why? Because it turned out you were right all along. I couldn't marry a man I didn't love. The whole time I was walking up the aisle, my mind was feeding me images that I couldn't stop. Were those images scenes of Lex and I starting a wonderful new life together? No, they were memories. Memories of you and me, and all the special times we'd shared over the past year. On what was supposed to be the happiest day of my life, my only thoughts were of how much I was going to miss you."
Clark could only shake his head. "Lois, I didn't know."
Lois rolled her eyes. "Obviously."
Clark stared at the floor, not saying a word for several heartbeats before he turned back to capture Lois' gaze. "So, you say you've known about my being Superman for some time. Exactly when did you figure it out, and how? Did I give myself away somehow?"
Lois bit on her lip. "Let me ask you one question first. Why weren't you there with Perry and Henderson? Where were you?"
She watched his eyes as he seemed to be accessing his memories from then. Was that pain she saw there? "I was trapped down in Luthor's wine cellar. He'd somehow found out about kryptonite and had constructed a cage whose bars were coated with it. He lured me there, as Superman, under the deception of asking me to convince Clark that he should come to the wedding. I was too caught up in venting my personal enmity for the man to realize that I had walked right into his trap. A secret lever released the cage and it fell over me. I spent the better part of a day and night in that cage. For all the pain that I endured, the worst torture was imagining you and him together. Especially after the way he taunted me by telling me how he'd have to break you of your unfortunate independent streak."
Lois looked stricken, and felt ill. "Omigod, I never knew." She shook her head in disgust. "But it makes sense. Clearly, you did manage to escape, but when you finally appeared, you looked tired, and weak."
"I had just escaped. My powers were gone. It took nearly two days for them to come back."
Lois jumped back up and began to pace. "You know, it's sort of funny. I didn't recognize it for what it was at the time, but that afternoon is when I began to put the puzzle together." She stopped and faced Clark. "When you were holding me, you know, when Lex jumped from his penthouse balcony. I could feel you moving against me. It was like you were trying to leap into the air. I remember thinking that it felt very much like how Superman would make a lunge upward just before he flew. Then I heard you say 'I can't.' I didn't understand it at the time, but it did set the stage for me to start thinking about you, and Superman, and what you meant to me."
"I probably should have told you then, but I was just happy to have you free of Luthor's clutches."
Lois waved off his comment and resumed her pacing. "All that night, and the next day, all I could think of was my times with you, as Clark, and my times with Superman. Slowly the pieces began to fit together. All the unusual behavior, your need to run off at the weirdest times, suddenly made sense. Also, I was finally able to see the similarities between the two of you instead of the differences. There could only be one explanation. Clark Kent and Superman were the same person."
Clark gave her a slight smile. "So the glasses didn't fool you anymore?"
"Do go there, Kent." She did grin back at him as she came back over and sat down. "You don't know how relieved I was to find out that the two men who had the power to drive me to distraction were actually the same guy. I wasn't some shallow, indecisive woman who thought she was in love with two different men at the same time."
She reached over and took both his hands in hers. "Yes, love. Do you remember that morning when we all gathered at the Planet, to say our goodbyes; when Franklin Stern surprised us all with his announcement that he was going to revive the Planet?" Clark nodded, but didn't speak. "Well, I was just about to tell you how I really felt when you interrupted me and told me that you really didn't love me." A tear slipped out from the corner of her eye. "I have to say that it hurt me quite a lot. Here I was just about to let go all my defenses and admit to you — and myself — that I loved you, too. But as it turned out, you didn't really feel the same way, and now here we are."
"Shhh." She placed her finger against his lips. "It doesn't matter. Even if we can't be more than friends, as long as we can continue to be friends, I can accept it. I've gotten used to having you be a part of my life, Clark, and I don't want to have to give that up… ever."
She watched the play of emotions on his face. At first, it appeared like he was going to say something, but then he closed his mouth. His brow furrowed and he frowned as he turned away from her gaze and stared at the floor. After several more moments, he sighed, then turned back to look at her.
"But we can't be friends anymore, Lois."
Another tear found its way onto her cheek. "But… why?"
"Because Clark Kent is dead."
Lois stood, and moved until she was directly in front of him. Then she knelt down, reached out, and placed her hand on his cheek. "That's why you're here now, Clark. I can't accept my best friend being dead. I won't allow it. We have to come up with a way to bring you back among the living."
Clark grabbed her hand and pressed a kiss into her palm. "I appreciate the sentiment, Lois. Truthfully, I'd like nothing better than to not be… dead. But what can we do? Too many people saw Clark Kent shot at point-blank range, and his dead body dragged out of the club. Who's going to believe I didn't die?"
"Everyone." She leaned close and gave him a quick, shy kiss on the lips. "We just have to come up with a good story, that's all."
The next couple of hours were desperately frenetic as the two of them tossed out idea after idea. Each idea one of them came up with was quickly shot down by the other. They proposed and shot down the more obvious ones. The bullets missed? No chance; the shots had been fired at too close a range. The bullet was stopped by a tape recorder in Clark's pocket? There had been three bullets fired; not all of them would have hit the recorder.
Lois started glumly over at Clark. She was getting worried. She knew he had already resigned himself to the fact that his life as Clark Kent was over. She refused to do so. The more hopeless it seemed to get, the more frantic Lois began to feel. It had always been there, deep down she knew it had, but she just had not let herself see it clearly. The knowledge that Clark and Superman were one and the same had been like a heavy weight being lifted off her. It allowed her to see her partner and best friend as he truly was, to see the whole person. Still, they were just friends, but this night had been the final epiphany for Lois. She not only loved Clark… she was in love with Clark. None of that 'like a brother' crap she'd laid on him so long ago. She was feeling flat out, toe-curling, spine-tingling, fireworks blasting, romantic love.
Even though Clark didn't feel the same way about her, she still wasn't willing to let him step out of her life. As long as they stayed friends and working partners, there was always a chance she could change his mind and they could explore 'something more' in their relationship. Of course, to be able to pursue that dream, Clark would have to live again.
"I don't suppose you would be willing to go public with the fact that you are Superman?" The look he gave her was almost comical. She waved her hand in the air. "No, forget I said that. I know that isn't an option. It would be too dangerous to your parents and we couldn't really have a relationship together if everyone knew."
"I'm sorry, Lois. I don't want to lose my life as Clark, but I can't risk the potential danger to my friends and loved ones if it became known that I'm also Superman." He shrugged. "Maybe I could just wait a period of time, then come back to Metropolis as someone else. I could wear a wig, or moustache, and become a long-lost cousin, or something, who comes to the big city."
Lois frowned. She didn't like that idea at all. It was enough to deal with the two of them; she didn't want to have to add a third.
Suddenly she slapped herself in the head. "I'm an idiot." She looked up at Clark, hope shining on her face. "We're both idiots."
Clark looked at the newly animated Lois warily. "O-kay?"
"No, think about it, Clark. We've been looking for a way to bring you back from the dead, and all along we've had the answer staring us right in the face." She paused, waiting for Clark to respond. When he didn't, she rushed on. "Professor Hamilton! Up until a few days ago, Clyde, Dillinger, and Capone were all what? Dead, right?"
She could see that Clark's face light up as his enthusiasm kicked in. "Yeah, we could say that Superman found my body and, ah, froze it with his breath. Then he took it to Hamilton's lab, where he used the professor's notes to replicate the process and bring Clark back… like he was never dead in the first place."
"Yes!" Lois jumped into Clark's arms, overbalancing him, and causing the couch to tip over backwards.
Amidst the tangled bodies and the laughter, the two friends soon found themselves face to face, with Lois lying on top of Clark. Her fingers sought out and traced the hard planes of his chest. The joy she felt at the 'resurrection' of Clark Kent nearly matched the longing in her heart.
She used her fingertip to trace the outline of his smile. "Now that you're back, maybe I'll be able to convince you that we could be something more than just partners, and best friends."
"Ah, Lois, I have another confession to make."
What she saw mirrored in his eyes almost took her breath away. "Really." Her smile stretched even further. There was no mistaking the look on his face. She captured his lips with hers. Life was good, but life with Clark was going to be better… much better.