By LaraMoon <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: April 2008
Summary: What if Lois had spoken to Superman first -- instead of Clark -- after Lex had proposed to her?
~ For Jessi, Sue and Brucie -- for being my best buddy, my hero and a really kick-butt type friend.
This takes place during Barbarians at The Planet. The difference, as you'll no doubt notice, is that Lois never met with Clark in the park that afternoon -- she met with Superman first.
Great big thank you to Jenn and Sue for the beta and the comments that totally made my day. Thanks also to Brucie and Jessi for helping me find a title (and listening to me whine for hours that the original one I had was really, really bad).
The atmosphere in the small luxury jet turned from lighthearted to serious as Lex Luthor pulled a small velvet box from his coat pocket.
"Lois," he started, in a most solemn manner, "will you marry me?"
Lois's heart skipped a beat. She hadn't seen this coming at all; hadn't expected Lex to *propose* to her. They'd been seeing each other for a few weeks, but she wasn't certain this could even be considered *dating*. And yet here he was, the third-richest man in the world, kneeling before her and asking her to be his wife. It seemed so unreal.
"I don't know what to say..." she answered slowly, almost dazedly.
"There are only three possible choices," he told her. "Yes. No. Maybe."
"It's not that simple. What about my life at The Daily Planet?" she inquired. He wouldn't ask her to quit her job, would he? This wasn't something she did solely to pay her bills and put food on the table -- that *job* was her *life*. And she'd worked pretty damn hard to get this far in her career. Not to mention, The Planet was were all her friends were. "Clark, Perry, and Jimmy are like family. I..."
"I believe in families," he assured her with a smile. "Large ones."
"The past few weeks have been wonderful, but... I hardly know you," she rationalized.
"The only thing you need to know about me is that I love you." Lex had never sounded so sincere. "Is there something else? Some other hesitation?"
Lois opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out. She just didn't know how to respond to his marriage proposal.
After witnessing the complete breakdown of her parents' marriage, and living through its aftermath, she wasn't exactly ready to jump into matrimony. Besides, deep down, Lois knew that she didn't love Lex. She respected him, she enjoyed his company, but she would likely never be in love with him.
Especially not while her heart belonged to someone else...
"Would it have anything to do with Superman?" Lex asked, pulling her out of her musings. His tone was gentle, but it had a certain degree of disdain to it.
"I... this is a lot to take in," she replied with an apologetic smile.
After Lois assured Lex that she would give it some serious thought, and that she would provide him with an answer shortly, they spent the last few minutes of the flight back to Metropolis in quiet contemplation.
Lois sat alone in the darkness of her living room, trying to make sense of everything that had happened over the last couple of days. If she'd believed that Lex Luthor's proposal was a lot to take in at the time, that was saying nothing of the events that had followed. It seemed as though Lois's entire world had suddenly come crashing down around her.
First they'd found out that The Daily Planet's financial situation was so precarious that major cutbacks had to be made, including letting go of several employees. Lex had remedied the situation, saving Metropolis's oldest and most illustrious news publication by immediately taking ownership of the paper.
There was barely time enough to rejoice and welcome the new owner, however. The very next morning, the building had gone up in flames, following an explosion in the printing room. It no longer mattered that Luthor had saved it -- all that was left of The Daily Planet now was a pile of smoldering ashes.
The blame for this tragedy had been cast on Jack, the young homeless boy that Clark had taken under his wing a few weeks prior, and helped steer away from a life of crime. Inexplicably, and though he denied having put it there, the explosive device had been found in his lunch pail.
And if that wasn't already enough, they'd been told that The Planet wouldn't be rebuilt. That the paper hadn't been insured sufficiently in order to guarantee its survival, should it fall victim to such a cataclysm.
No more paper meant that Lois was permanently out of a job, but also that she was losing all of her friends. Already, Perry had announced that he was taking an early retirement and moving down to Florida. Jimmy was talking about moving to New York. Cat Grant was already long gone; not that it really mattered that much to Lois. And there was no telling just exactly what Clark would do now.
The bottom line was that, in the blink of an eye, Lois had lost her job, her friends, everything and everyone that mattered to her. All she had left was Lex Luthor's marriage proposal. One she wasn't entirely certain she would accept -- one she wasn't entirely certain she *could* accept.
Clark had repeatedly tried to warn her not to trust Lex. He wouldn't offer any proof of his convictions though, insisting only that he knew things that she didn't. That he had access to certain information that led him to think that, contrary to popular belief, Luthor wasn't a respectable philanthropist, but rather a criminal mastermind, if not the very root of all evil in Metropolis.
At first, Lois had refused to believe that any of this could possibly be true. After all, Lex gave millions to all manners of charitable organizations, every year. He was well-mannered, educated, sophisticated and even charming. Yet Clark was adamant that all of that was just a facade.
Something in her wanted to believe him. No doubt the same part that was convinced that marrying Lex would be a mistake. But since Clark was unable to provide her with anything tangible, no fact that she could base her judgment on or that would allow her to see things the same way he obviously saw them, a good measure of incertitude still resided in her mind. No matter how strongly he insisted, she could not simply take Clark's word for it. And despite what he thought, it wasn't a matter of trust at all -- it was just a matter of logic.
Faced with some hard choices to make, but without anything solid to base her decisions on, Lois decided to do the one thing that seemed the most judicious: speak to Superman. Perhaps *he* could tell her the things that Clark could not.
She turned on the light and picked up the phone, then dialed Clark's number. There was a first ring, then another and a third, and then his answering machine picked up. Lois hung up with a sigh. It was just as well.
She got up from her loveseat and headed to the window, pulling the drapes open and lifting the pane up before tentatively sticking her head out.
Lois cleared her throat, feeling suddenly absolutely ridiculous for doing this.
"Superman?" she said, barely louder than her normal speaking voice. "It's, uh, it's Lois. I hope you can hear me. I- ah, there's no emergency, I just... you know... need to talk to you? If you're not busy, I mean. Or- or if you take a break? Do you ever take breaks? Anyway, um, if you could. Please?"
She rolled her eyes at herself and went back to sit in her living room, convinced that this was a stupid idea, that she was wasting her time trying, and that couldn't possibly have heard her. Sure, he had super-hearing, but it was the cries for help that the man was tuned in to hear -- not the pathetic pleas of his reporter friend.
Suddenly, there was a gust of wind. Lois opened her eyes, shivering from the cold. She turned her head towards the window to find Superman standing there.
"I- I'm sorry, I didn't mean to wake you," he said, slightly embarrassed. He'd seen the light on and the window open, so he'd come right in, expecting that she'd still be up.
"No, no, it's fine," she assured him immediately. "It's fine. I was... I was waiting for you. Sort of. I didn't know if you'd heard me, but..."
"I always hear when you call me, Lois," he told her, smiling warmly as he took a few steps forward. "I'm sorry I couldn't make it here any faster, there was a fire. In Suicide Slum. And, I--"
"There's no need to apologize. I didn't expect you'd come rushing the second I called." She gave him a shy smile, then stood up and walked over to him. "This isn't really all that important. Well, it's important to *me*, but, I mean, it's not a national emergency or anything. I just, uh, I need you to, uh..." She looked at him nervously before averting her eyes and shaking her head.
"What is it, Lois?" His voice was soft and full of concern, and it hit her right then how much he really cared for her.
"I need you to tell me about Lex Luthor," she explained. "Clark won't elaborate on the reasons why he suspects that Luthor isn't exactly who he seems to be. I hoped maybe *you* would."
"There isn't that much more to explain," Superman said, apologetically. "I've witnessed things, I... know things... but I can't provide you with any written documents or recorded proof."
"Then tell me what you've seen. Please, I- I *really* need to know." On his inquisitive look, she added, "I'll explain later. Please, just... humor me?"
"And that's about it, in a nutshell." Superman shrugged. He wasn't sure how any of this would help convince Lois of the things he suspected. If she couldn't trust him as Clark and take his word for it, then she probably wouldn't trust him enough as Superman either.
"If I asked, uh, if I asked you to help me prove all of this... Would you?"
He frowned. "Well, yes -- of course. But... why the sudden interest?" he asked, surprised. "Up until now you seemed to have blinders on when it came to Luthor -- no offense. So why the change of heart?"
"There's something else I need to ask you before I can answer that."
"Okay," he replied hesitantly. Where was she going with all these questions? And why wouldn't she just explain things to him? Something was up, he just knew it, but he couldn't figure out what it was.
Lois started fidgeting, wringing her hands together nervously. Finally, she took a deep breath and spoke. "Is there any hope for us? You and me?" She looked away for a moment, a blush appearing on her cheeks.
"Lois, I do care for you," he started, bowing his head in regret. If only things were simpler, he thought. If only Lois loved him -- *Clark* -- instead of this fantasy of him, this disguise, this version of him which wasn't truly him at all.
"Lex asked me to marry him," Lois blurted out, interrupting him.
Superman's head snapped up. He looked at her, eyes wide with shock. "He...?" Panic rose in his chest as he understood just exactly why she'd asked him these questions before. "You... haven't said *yes*, have you? Lois, you can't marry this man. Please, no," he begged, his heart slowly shattering into a million pieces.
"I haven't given him a response yet," she told him, shaking her head. "I had to talk to you first. I couldn't do anything else without... knowing... Because, he's all I've got left now. The Planet is gone and my friends are all going away, there'll be nothing left for me. Except, maybe you? I- I'm so completely in love with you, and--"
"Then don't marry him, Lois," he said without hesitation. And before he could think the better of it, he blurted out, in a completely uncharacteristic fashion, "Marry me, instead."
She sucked in a sharp breath, then she shook her head sadly, frowned and sighed.
Clark had never before proposed to a woman, and while he was quite certain that this was probably the worst possible way to go about it, he was pretty sure that a sigh wasn't the traditional answer. He looked down to his feet, dejectedly.
"You have no idea how much I dreamt of this, how much I've wanted this," Lois said, hesitantly.
He looked up. "But..." he added, sensing there was definitely one coming.
"Couldn't..." Lois sighed again. "Did you *have* to do it as Superman, Clark?"
Okay, okay, not the end! ;) This is what comes next -- because SOME people send out crazy, spiky-pole wielding wild-dudes when they don't get their fluff, first thing in the morning... *giggles*
"You... you *know*?" he stammered, completely taken aback. "How... When..."
"Of course I know," she said and she stroked his cheek tenderly. "Did you really think you could fool me with just a pair of glasses?"
"I... ah... but..."
"Oh, don't worry, Clark, your secret is perfectly safe," she told him, reassuringly. "And I doubt anyone else has figured it out. But, really, think of the amount of time we spend together... Did you honestly believe I'd never look at you closely enough not to notice?"
"How long have you known?"
"A few days. A week at most. What's the difference?"
"And you're not--" He cleared his throat. "... angry?"
"With you?" Lois shook her head, smiling at him. "Why would I? Because you thought it better to keep your secret a *secret*? I was angry with myself for not seeing it right away. But I could never be angry with you."
"So, um, let me get this straight... what you're saying is--"
"What I'm saying is I'm in love with you," she explained. "I have been for some time. Surely you had to know that." She held up her hand to indicate she wasn't done when he opened his mouth to answer her. "And I don't mean you the celebrity or you the superhero. I mean *you*, the man underneath all that. The *real* man. So, when I let myself imagine that perhaps there might be -- could be -- a future for you and me, I wasn't thinking of it being with *Superman*. Or at least, not solely with Superman."
"I guess I screwed this up pretty bad then, didn't I?" he asked, a self-deprecating smile on his lips.
"Well, no," she said, in a soft, gentle tone, "I wouldn't say that exactly. Just, well, maybe you should try again as Clark sometime. You know, when you're not wearing *that* and you're just being you."
"You think *he*'d stand a better chance?" He had a twinkle in his eye. "Of not getting a sigh for an answer?"
Lois shrugged. "I guess he'll just have to find out for himself."
Immediately, the man before her turned into a blur of red and blue. A second and a half later, Clark Kent -- complete with glasses and one of his signature loud ties -- stood in the same spot where Superman had been.
Lois stared at him, mouth gaping open, as if she'd just witnessed something utterly impossible. Clark gave her a shy smile, then he took her hand in his and brought it to his lips, pressing a soft kiss on her skin.
"Marry me, Lois," he said, his gaze firmly locked with hers.
She flashed him an almost-teasing smile. "I thought you'd never ask."
(for real this time!)