By Zoomway (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Summary: It's Lois and Clark's engagement party, and nothing can mar their happiness with each other … except perhaps the news that Lex Luthor is not only out of prison but reinstated on his throne of power.
The purpose of this story, is to re-set Lex Luthor's glory. (sorry, I love a rhyming intro)
Lois and Clark's engagement party was in full swing at the Daily Planet. It was quite a turnout considering it was taking place after business hours, and no one 'had' to be there. Lois was being held captive in a corner by Carl from travel, who took glassy-eyed pleasure in pointing out the various places that she and Clark should consider for their honeymoon. Lois would look over at Clark periodically, and he would smile sympathetically, but had no intention of being caught up in Carl's wanderlust. Clark simply continued to sip champagne, and listen to Perry White, who, due to the combination of drink, and the occasion, had become quite nostalgic and sentimental.
"Son, I admire your courage. Proposing to Alice was the single most terrifying event in my life, so I know exactly what you went through."
"Actually," Clark said thoughtfully. "Asking Lois out on our first date was the scariest thing I—"
"Yep, that one knee moment of terror. It's the same with all men, son. The only thing worse is the wedding itself." Perry took another sip of champagne. "Good lord, every man who's walked down the aisle is braver than Superman." Perry tipped his head to the side. "Speaking of Superman, is he going to be your best man?"
"Well, I guess I hadn't thought that far ahead, I mean—"
Perry's face reddened. "I'm sorry, Clark. I didn't mean to step on a sore toe. I forgot about how Lois and Superman used to be…close."
"'Used to be' is right, Perry." Lois thankfully interrupted. She leaned heavily against Clark's back and folded her arms around his neck. "Superman knows how much I love Clark," she said, and reached down and retrieved Clark's champagne glass. "And best of all, he's happy for both of us."
"Great!" Perry smiled. "Then he 'will' be Clark's best man."
Lois spewed her mouthful of champagne. "Best man?" She then noticed the bubbly beverage dripping from her fiance's hair. "Oh, Clark, I'm sorry!"
Clark rose from his chair, leaning his head forward. "That's okay, Lois. I've seen some beautiful champagne fountains in my travels." He looked up at her and flashed that mega- watt smile, and wiped a dribble of champagne from her chin. "But even the one made of solid gold I saw in Moscow can't compare with you."
Lois blushed and put a hand on his chest. "You'd better get cleaned up, partner."
"I guess so," he said, and started to leave, but then turned on his heel and looked at Lois a long moment. "I'm sensing a pattern here, Lois."
"Shortly after I asked you out on our first date, you spilled champagne on me, and now, right after you agreed to marry me, you did it again." He folded his arms, and almost managed his 'Superman' facial expression. "Do you intend to christen me after every milestone in our relationship?"
Lois smiled wickedly. "Just don't look in the bathtub of the honeymoon suite, or you'll spoil my surprise."
"Deal!" He laughed, and glanced at Perry. "Be back in a second, Chief."
Perry turned his attention to Lois. "Well, honey, you want to tell me why the thought of Superman being Clark's best man at the wedding caused Old Faithful to erupt?"
"Well I…um, I'd kind of like the wedding to be just a simple family and friends affair. Superman attending would draw the media into the whole thing…besides, Superman might be called away at any moment, and then where would we be?"
"Is that…the only reason, honey?"
"Perry," Lois said, in that soft, but serious tone of hers. "I love Clark. I love him more than any man I've ever known, or ever 'will' know. Believe me, there's nothing Superman has, that Clark doesn't have." She smiled her crooked, irresistible smile. "At least nothing that counts."
Perry, as always, caved-in. He wrapped his arms around a woman who in essence represented the daughter he never had. A daughter who, unlike his own 'real' sons, wanted to follow in her father's footsteps. He loved his boys, and supported their life choices. But since those choices led them far away from newsprint and deadlines, there was a void between Perry and his sons, and only Lois seemed to span that chasm of like mindedness that kept him vital and enthusiastic by allowing him to see a replay of his life through her young eyes. "Well, darlin'," he sighed. "If I could have hand-picked a man for you, I couldn't have picked a better man than Clark Kent."
"Thanks, Perry," she whispered, and kissed his cheek.
"Chief! Chief!" Jimmy shouted as he thundered past the tender moment. "Check this out! You won't believe it!" He said, and turned on the news room television. An attractive woman holding an LNN microphone stood before a crowd of onlookers at a hastily assembled press conference. In fact, it appeared to be a very exclusive conference since LNN seemed to be the only news organization providing coverage. "…and we're told that both of them will make an appearance in just a few…" The woman pressed a finger against her ear mike, concentrated, and then nodded. "They are coming on now."
The camera quickly panned from the woman, to a small stage and dais. A police officer walked onto the stage, one arm guiding Lex Luthor. Lex's wrists and ankles were fettered, and both sets of manacles seemed to be affixed to a belly chain. The bald man, dressed in prison overalls, stared vacantly into the crowd of onlookers. Lois gasped audibly at the cold emptiness of his eyes. No sooner had she gotten over this unexpected image, than another, more disturbing one took its place.
"What in the Sam Hill…?"
"Oh, my God!"
"This is wild!"
Clark re-entered the news room. "What's going on?" He followed their rapt expressions, and stared at the television. "I don't believe it," he whispered. How could anyone believe seeing two Lex Luthors. "What is this?"
Perry placed his index finger to his lips, and then pointed to the television. Clark shook his head, and glanced back at the screen. The second Lex Luthor, dressed in an expensive hand-made suit, and sporting his slightly unruly thatch of curly hair, stepped up to the dais. "Ladies and gentleman," his cultured voice crooned. "Ms. Diega of LNN is correct, I am the 'real' Lex Luthor." He gave a theatrical pause while the murmur in the crowd subsided. "The impostor in chains you see before you, usurped my name, position, property, and most grievously destroyed my reputation. It is my intention to undo as much of the damage caused by my impostor as humanly possible." The crowd applauded. Lex raised his hands to silence them. "I have already repaid Franklyn Stern the money it cost him to rebuild the Daily Planet, which my impostor saw fit to destroy. There is no way I can repay Lois Lane of the Daily Planet for the indignities she suffered at his hands, but I will give her the exclusive story of my ordeal. I know that is not much, but I hope it will make a small amends."
Clark swallowed and glanced at Lois. A film of tears glazed her eyes. Even from the distance between them, he could tell her heart was beating extremely fast. Clark's heart sank in response. There was now unfinished business between Lois and Lex that he had never counted on. Would knowing that the man she almost married, and who had destroyed the Planet, was an impostor, rekindle the admiration and warmth for the genuine article she had always possessed? Clark knew Lex Luthor's hands were dirty long before any impostor showed up on the scene, but he had no way of proving that, and Lois had never believed him. Clark had to know. Was this the real Lex, or was it just one more in a series of plots Lex had contrived over the years.
Clark felt deceitful ducking out on the engagement party, but now he felt driven. However, on this occasion, it was fear, and not conviction, driving him. It was a cold, lifeless fear. A fear of losing Lois, the one person who gave him love, joy, acceptance, and most of all, the sense of belonging that had eluded him all of his life. Did Lex still hold that kind of sway over Lois? Even Clark, who never knew hatred until he had met Lex Luthor, could feel his magnetism. How strong was his pull with Lois?
Clark drifted down onto a rooftop opposite the press conference. He x-rayed both men, and much to his disappointment, found his answer. The man claiming to be the genuine Lex Luthor had a scar on his chest, which the impostor did not. Clark knew all too well where and how Lex had gotten that scar. Clark remembered being held hostage at the Planet by a gang of well financed hoods who wanted to dig up an old stash hidden under the floor of Perry's office. Lex had been a hostage too, and tried to play hero that night, and had been shot for his trouble. Clark had saved Luthor's life by cauterizing the wound, and Lois had thanked him for doing so. Just the memory of that night triggered a feeling of loss. He needed to talk.
"Son," Jonathan said, waving away a plate of non-fat cookies Martha had offered him. "Lois made her choice. She loves you, not Superman, not Scardino, and certainly not Lex Luthor."
"She almost married Lex, Dad! If it had been the real Lex, maybe she would have gone through with it."
"Honey," Martha soothed. "Lois only turned to Lex when you—" Martha cut herself off, and covered her mouth. She had never meant to bring up that painful memory.
Clark's lips tightened, and he glanced down at the table. "I know, Mom. Lois would never have turned to Lex if I hadn't turned her away as Superman." He pushed himself from the table and began to pace. "I've gone over that night a thousand times in my mind. I can't believe I let my personal feelings get in the way of her safety."
"Son, you may be from Krypton, but your emotions are human, and nobody can take responsibility for someone else's actions."
"Dad," Clark sighed. "What I did was almost as bad as letting Lois get in a car with no brakes, and just stand there watching her drive away!"
"That's enough, Clark," his father said, in an uncharacteristically stern tone. "If you go over it one million times, it won't change a thing. You both took turns hurting each other, but that's over. I don't need a guide dog and a cane to see how much that girl loves you, but if you really think she's that fickle—"
"No, of course I don't, Dad. I just—"
"Honey," Martha interrupted. "Forget the 'I just', and concentrate on the 'I do' you have coming up. Lois' heart is in a place that Lex can never reach, but if you keep on doubting her like this, she'll know it, and she'll be hurt. You either trust her, Clark, or you don't. Which is it?"
Clark embraced his mother. "I trust her, Mom. I guess Luthor has always found a way to make me doubt myself, and feel insecure. 'Especially' where Lois is concerned."
Martha pulled from the embrace and smiled. "Then I'd say it's just about time you let Mr. Luthor know what insecurity feels like."
Lois walked into her apartment, tossed her purse into a chair, dropped herself heavily on the sofa, and kicked off her shoes. She was exhausted. Between the engagement party, Clark's disappearance, and the return of Lex, she was physically, and emotionally drained. She had just closed her eyes when she heard the familiar 'whoosh'. "Clark? What kept you so long? I was running out of excuses."
"Sorry," he said, and moved to the back of the sofa. He leaned over and kissed her. The positioning was awkward, but somehow all the more pleasing because of the view it accorded him. Lois eyed him warily, and tugged her blazer closed. Clark laughed, more through his nose than his mouth, and walked around the sofa. He gratefully let her encircle him in her arms, and savored the warm kiss. After a moment, he said, "He's the real Luthor."
Lois closed her eyes and leaned her head back. "I knew that's what you were up to, Clark," she said softly. "Thanks for being honest."
Clark shifted uncomfortably. She was beginning to know him so well. "I just—"
"No." Clark lied. "I was just curious whether this was just another one of Luthor's game plans."
Lois opened her eyes, and regarded Clark a moment. "Aren't you mixing up the real Lex, with the impostor?"
Clark sighed loudly. "The real Lex was just as bad as the phony, Lois." He felt that insecurity he had denied, beginning to surge.
"You know, Clark, you always said that, but you never had a shred of evidence to back up your statements," she said thoughtfully, as if recounting every incident in her memory.
Clark became defensive. "That's because he was good at it, Lois! He covered his tracks, got others to take the fall for him, and even committed murder if all else failed!"
Lois sat up, "Murder? Who?"
"I'm sure he was behind the deaths of Baines, Platt, and Lattimer at EPRAD."
"What evidence, Clark? Baines and Lattimer's deaths were officially listed as accidents, and Platt's as—"
"A suicide, yes, I know, Lois," he said, agitation creeping into his tone. "But you know the shuttle was sabotaged."
"Yes, Clark, I remember that quite well. You swallowed the bomb, remember? But why do you think this points to Lex?"
"Who stood to profit from the failure of the mission? Who had a back-up space laboratory all ready if another 'mishap' occurred?" He emphasized the word 'mishap' by crooking his fingers to indicate quotation marks.
"Clark," Lois said gently. She knew Clark was starting to enter dangerous waters, and it was particularly incongruous when he took this decidedly Clarkish tone while dressed as Superman. "Lex was putting up his own private resources to finance Luthor One, so even if he was the only one to profit from its research, it would take years just to recoup his initial investment, and that's assuming—"
"It was never about money, Lois!" Clark finally exploded. "It was about power and control. He bought respectability because he got some perverted pleasure out of doing any sick thing his heart desired while his disguise of altruism protected him."
Lois felt too tired to fight the good fight. "Why don't we just drop this until I have my interview with Lex."
Clark, unfortunately, was too angry to notice Lois' fatigue. He folded his arms. "So you're going through with the Luthor interview?"
Lois, now propelled into an argument she had tried to avoid, rose menacingly from the sofa. "Don't you pull that Superman-stance-of-defiance bull with me, Clark Kent! I'm a reporter, and Lex is, and always has been, news. I have no intention of passing up the interview of the year."
Clark swept his arms out to his sides, and bowed. "Forgive me, Ms. Lane," he said sarcastically. "I forgot that being a reporter has to come first with you, and everything, and 'everyone' else has to be penciled into your award-winning schedule."
Lois narrowed her eyes. "That's good, Clark, that's really good coming from a man who never knows where he's going to be any given moment of the day, and can't promise to even sit through a one hour lunch date!"
"You said you understood that about my life, Lois."
Lois walked over to the window, and pushed it open. "And I thought you understood mine."
The invitation was all too clear. Clark tensed his jaw, started to speak, but decided he'd end up just tasting his boot again. He drifted silently up into the night sky. His parents had warned him, but he could not seem to help himself. His old feelings for Lex were still there. What he didn't know was…were Lois'?
"Anything else, sir?"
Lex placed his cigar in a large marble ashtray. "Just one thing, Asabi. What exactly has Ms. Lane been up to in my absence?"
The servant hesitated. "She has…become engaged to her partner."
Lex's brows nearly meshed with amusement. "Kent?"
"Perhaps my clone tainted her as far as the illustrious Superman was concerned."
"I do not know, sir."
Lex tipped his head to the side. "Tell me, Asabi; why did you remain loyal to me? I'm sure Nigel offered you a fortune to betray me." Lex raised a cautionary finger. "And please don't say loyalty is in your nature. I know better. But I am curious how you could turn down such wealth and power."
Asabi managed a pale imitation of a smile. "By working for you, Mr. Luthor, I have wealth and power. I am surrounded by all manner of grand things, and enough money to make my private life comfortable. I have all of this, but none of the responsibility, nor any hungry dogs waiting to take my place."
"A splendidly honest answer, Asabi, and no doubt the only reason you are alive, while the dear departed Nigel feeds the low end of the food chain."
Asabi cast his gaze to a light flickering above the study door. "You have a visitor, sir. Ms. Lane, perhaps."
"No doubt. Please show her in, Asabi."
"You're an idiot, Clark." The young man chided himself as he sat on a rooftop across from Luthor's penthouse. "You just couldn't give her the benefit of the doubt. You had to push." He felt a pang in his stomach as Lois entered Luthor's study, and Lex greeted her warmly with an embrace, and kiss on the cheek. Clark sighed, and decided to leave. He had tried to justify his spying as a simple act of 'watching out' for Lois, but he knew that was not the reason, and admitting it to himself meant he could not stay.
He drifted back to Lois' apartment. He had a lot of fence mending to do, and felt this was the best place to start. He looked through her cabinets and refrigerator and managed to scare up the necessary ingredients for a couple of omelets. He had finished chopping up all the ingredients, and was just beginning to saute the onions and bell pepper when he heard Lois' keys in the door. A million thoughts rushed through Clark's mind at super speed. He was relieved she was home, but he also knew that she had not been gone nearly long enough to do an interview. In fact, she must have done nothing more than greet Luthor, and then head back home.
Lois watched Clark approach as he dried his hands on a dish cloth. She half smiled. "Smells good."
"I thought I'd fry up an apology."
Lois regained her full smile, and placed her hands on his chest. "I owe you an apology too, but you can be thankful it won't be coming from a frying pan." She slid her arms up his chest and around his neck. The kiss was brief, but the passion lingered. Clark regarded her deep, soft eyes. "You didn't owe me an apology, but I enjoyed it."
Lois broke his gaze and sighed. "I did, Clark. We both forgot some important things."
Clark shrugged. "I don't understand."
"Well, you forgot that I love you, and want to be your wife, and that Lex Luthor, Dan Scardino, or even Mel Gibson could never take me away from you."
Clark lifted her chin, and smiled playfully. "You're sure about Mel?"
Lois laughed and pushed his hand away. "I said 'love', not 'lust'." Clark folded his arms around her. "And what did 'you' forget?"
Lois sighed against his chest. "I forgot you'd never lie to me about Lex, no matter how much you dislike him, And," she said, and looked up at him wistfully, "I forgot you were my partner, and that I should have insisted Lex agree to both of us interviewing him, or there would be no interview."
Clark kissed the top of her head. "That's why you're home. You insisted, and he refused."
"Lois," Clark sighed, "You shouldn't—"
Lois put her finger over his lips. "I let Lex control my very first interview with him, and it was important for me to show him that I'm not the same star struck little girl he remembers. I wanted him to know that his concept, and my concept of 'exclusive' were two different things."
"Too bad, I was all ready to dust off a new spot for your Kerth award right after I finished the omelets." He leaned forward, and brought his lips very near hers, and then drew back. "Omelets!"
Asabi rushed into the study, and then froze in place. Lex was raking all manner of expensive ornaments and trinkets to the floor in some kind of mindless rage. Items that would not break, were used as hammers to assail items that would. He looked up a moment, perspiration causing strands of stray hair to stick to his forehead, his black eyes blazed with fury. "Get out!"
"I'm sorry, sir. I heard noises—"
Lex, almost as if returned by the demons who claimed him, pushed the errant hair from his forehead. "That's quite all right, Asabi. I appreciate your concern." He took a deep, calming breath, and straightened his jacket. "I need you to do some research for me."
"Of course, sir."
"I want you to dig up every fact you can on Lois Lane's fiance."
A momentary flash of that fury crossed Lex's face, but faded quickly. "Unless Ms. Lane has more than one fiance, yes, I mean Mr. Kent."
"Right away, sir." The servant bowed, and gratefully departed.
Lex walked over to a piece of statuary left untouched by his rampage. He stroked it lovingly. It represented his first acquisition by conquest. He sighed briefly, still feeling minor regret at having killed his mother, but then it was her own fault of course for trying to stop him from strangling his father. He smiled with one side of his face at the memory. He learned a lifetime of useful facts from those murders. He learned justice was a matter of money, and practiced acting skills. He had thought, at first, that he would be charged with the double homicide, but he had studied, even at the tender age of thirteen, and discovered that certain crimes were forgiven if the victim was accused of something so vile, and repulsive, that the victim actually ended up being put on trial. Lex was a bit disappointed that the police had believed his alibi, and that he did not get a chance to cry on the stand about how his father had sexually abused him. It was not true of course, but still, he felt it was a missed opportunity to make a mockery of justice.
Lex then retrieved the only other object in the room that did not find its way to the floor. He studied the framed photograph of Lois Lane. She was more dangerous than any adversary he had ever known, and had his clone not been so presumptuous in his attempt to win her, Lex might have met a similar fate. He felt helpless against whatever that nameless power was she held over him. "Lois," he whispered. "Why Kent? I could understand Superman, the most powerful being on the planet, surely a worthy match for you, but not Kent. What is there in that grain-fed, milk swilling poster boy for bucolic clean living that makes you so strong, and turns you away from me?" He set the photo back in place. "Don't worry, my love. I'll find out."
Lois sighed contentedly in Clark's arms. She could not recall a more satisfying…omelet. "How bad 'is' Lex, Clark," she said, finally breaking the silence.
"I don't know, Lois. Sometimes I think I don't want to know. I don't mean that to sound evasive, but—"
"He's good at it."
"Exactly, and now he's back on his throne overlooking his kingdom as if nothing has changed."
Lois leaned back against Clark's chest, and pulled his arms tighter around her. "One thing's changed. There's now a new member of the anti-monarchy society of Metropolis."
"Ah," Clark nodded. "You'll have to learn the official song."
"In the Jailhouse Now? Jailhouse Rock? Chain gang? Folsom Prison Bl—"
Clark slipped a hand over her mouth, and with the other handed her a wine glass. "Let's just toast the official motto."
Clark tapped his glass against hers. "Sic semper tyrannis."
Lois took a sip. "Ever so to tyrants."
"Mm," Clark smiled, remembering a date not so long ago. "In vino veritas."
THE END…for now