By Pam Jernigan <email@example.com>
Submitted: August 2001
Summary: A sequel to "The Transfer" by Tank Wilson. Lois and Clark have cleared one hurdle… but now they have another little matter to deal with, and it might just ruin everything.
A continuation to "The Transfer" by Tank Wilson. The original was a terrific vignette, and stands very well on its own … but I couldn't resist this little addition, and Tank very kindly granted permission for me to post this.
Clark stood, dazed, in the middle of Mazik's Jewelers. Lois was browsing engagement rings with determined enthusiasm, but he couldn't concentrate.
It had been an exceptionally crazy week, even for him. First he'd "died", which had made him first despondent, then frantic to get the main part of his life back. Thankfully, he'd been able to fake that. But then Perry had announced that he was to be transferred to Paris! He might just as well have stayed dead, had been his bitter thought.
Lois's dismayed reaction had come as a surprise, and her sudden declaration of an engagement had shocked him. He'd been even more amazed when she'd revealed that she had serious feelings for him. It was the culmination of all his dreams, and yet, and yet… it wasn't real. Sure, she said she had feelings for him, had even said that she didn't mind marrying him, although he wasn't entirely sure he believed her on that. But the bottom line was, they weren't a happy couple, blissfully in love; they were just allies in a desperate attempt to beat the system. Much as he wanted to make it real, this engagement was merely a ploy.
He hadn't wanted to interfere with her plan, especially considering that it had worked; the transfer had been cancelled. He had nothing against the Paris bureau, but his life — and Superman — was firmly rooted in Metropolis.
Only utter amazement had kept him from laughing when Lois had confessed to some sort of feelings for him, and had asked if he could ever return them.
If she only knew! He hadn't felt up to that conversation, so he'd just agreed it was worth a try. He had dreamed of marrying Lois… but not like this. He didn't want a temporary relationship, a fake engagement. He wanted it to be real. And right now, it wasn't real, because Lois didn't know everything she needed to know about him.
It was beginning to dawn on him that he was in a sticky and dangerous position. He was awed and grateful that Lois was willing to take a chance on him, but she had a right to know everything. And she was going to kill him when she found out.
Abruptly, a diamond ring was thrust into his field of vision. "What do you think about this one?"
"Uh, it's very nice," he replied perfunctorily.
She peered at him, uncertainty starting to show through her businesslike demeanor.
"Look, Lois, we've got to talk," he said, glancing around the lightly-populated store. "But we can't do it here."
Her eyes narrowed, in defense against anticipated pain. "Hey, if you don't want to go through with this—"
"No, no, it's not that, really. But there's something I need to tell you, and I can't do it here."
"Uh-huh. Fine." She handed the ring back to the saleslady and led the way out of the store.
About halfway to the Jeep, she stopped dead in her tracks, turning to face him. "Clark, you're okay, aren't you? I mean, Professor Hamilton is sort of your stereotypical mad scientist — did he do a good job putting you back together? Well, I mean, I know Superman did it really, and I trust him, but he used Hamilton's notes, and I'd hate to think—"
Clark reminded himself that this ability of hers to talk nonstop was one of the many things he loved about Lois. "No, trust me, I'm fine." At least until you get through with me, at which point I'll probably be toast. "But can we wait 'til we get someplace private to discuss it?"
"Oh. Yeah, we can. My place or yours?"
"How about yours?" he suggested. That way, if — when — things ended badly, she'd already be home.
"Fine." She unlocked the Jeep for them and climbed in.
It was a short, tense ride, and Clark found himself fidgeting. So much was at stake — his whole life, really. Deep down, he treasured the knowledge that Lois wanted him — Clark! — in her life, but the joy was eaten up by guilt. If he were truly this important to her, he had hurt her deeply.
The cowardly side of him argued that he should wait for a better time for this discussion, perhaps when they were both less emotional, or when they were safely married. But what a disaster that would be. Besides, with his luck, Lois would catch him before then, and be even angrier. Much as he dreaded this conversation, it could only get worse if postponed.
"Okay, we're here," Lois announced, locking her apartment door behind her. "Look, Clark, if you're worried about commitment … I know we have to pretend to be engaged, but really, it's only for another eight months or so, because after you've been employed for two years, they can't transfer you without your permission. Lots of couples are engaged for a year, or even longer. I mean, if you don't want to, we wouldn't have to actually get married—"
She kept her tone light, but Clark could see the insecurity shining through with every word, and knew he'd have to derail this train of thought. "Lois, believe me, I am not afraid of commitment, and I think marrying you… " He paused, tempted to match her light tone. But no, for this to work, honesty was the only way. "I think marrying you would be pretty wonderful."
She moved forward to meet him, looping her arms around his waist. "You think so?" she asked, almost shyly.
"Yeah, I do." He couldn't resist her nearness; after all, this might be his last chance. He dipped his head and kissed her. She kissed back, hesitantly at first, then with growing enthusiasm. Clark broke the kiss when he felt her hands start to wander from his waist. If things went too far at this stage, she'd definitely kill him later.
"Lois," he said quietly, "there's something I need to tell you, and something I need to apologize for. Let's sit down, okay?"
With a wary glance, she nodded, and they sat down on one white couch. "Okay, we're in private, we're sitting down… would you like to stall any further, or can we talk now?"
He smiled briefly. "This is hard for me to say, and I don't think you're going to like hearing it, but please, please… " He met her eyes for emphasis. She was watching him closely. "Just hear me out, okay?"
"Okay, now talk, already." She was looking equal parts nervous and annoyed.
"Right." Clark took a deep breath, then plunged in. "First, I have to confess that I love you. I've been in love with you since about five seconds after we met, last year."
Her eyes narrowed slightly. "So when you said you lied about that?"
"I crossed my fingers," he offered weakly. "I just figured you really needed a friend at that point, and that it would be easier if we kept things simple."
"Hmm. Next time, I'd prefer to be consulted before you make decisions for me."
He couldn't help it; he grinned. "You mean like you consulted me today, before announcing our engagement?"
She waved that off as irrelevant. "That's not the same thing, and you know it."
"Whatever you say, Lois."
She glared at him. "Okay, that was the first thing; what's the second thing?"
"The second thing is… more complicated." He sighed, now regretting that bit of teasing. "I think I did something — well, really, it's something I didn't do, that I should have — that hurt you. And I feel awful about it now that I know … well, that you have feelings for me. See, I knew we were friends, good friends, but I honestly didn't think it was anything more than that. Not that I was really thinking much at all, if you want the truth."
"Clark, what on earth are you talking about?"
Definitely an increase in that annoyance factor. Clark winced. "I'm talking about when I got shot."
She reached out to hold his hand. "Clark, that wasn't your fault! It about killed me to see you… " Her voice broke, sending another stab of guilt into Clark's soul. "But you couldn't help it!"
"That's not exactly what I meant." Clark took a deep breath; here went nothing. "Clark Kent was shot and killed — lost all his friends, his job, his life… " A shiver went through him, remembering the desolation he'd faced — and that he now faced again. "But I wasn't."
She glared at him in angry bafflement. "What, you're not Clark? You're not making any sense here! Did Professor Hamilton scramble your brains or something?"
"I am Clark, I have been for all my life, almost thirty years. But Clark isn't all that I am. I'm also Superman." Saying that had been surprisingly easy, at least compared to the next sentence. "I was never really dead."
Lois looked stunned, with tears of hurt and betrayal beginning to shimmer in her eyes.
Clark hurried on, hoping to get as much explanation in as he could before she exploded. "I should have told you — I should have let you know, but I didn't think — I was pretty stuck in self-pity at first, actually."
"You let me think—" Her voice was thin and ragged, and she cleared her throat before continuing. "I cried myself to sleep over you, Clark, and you didn't think I cared?"
"I knew you cared, Lois," he protested miserably. "I just didn't know how much. I know I should have told you. I'm sorry."
There was a brief silence. Lois was fighting tears, and Clark ached to hold her in his arms, but didn't quite dare.
"I just wanted you to know," he finally said. "I really appreciate what you did today, but I couldn't go through with the announcement tomorrow without you knowing this. I've been wanting to tell you about Superman for a while now … I guess that doesn't matter."
Still she was silent, which scared him. He'd expected an eruption of temper; if he lived through the blast there would be hope for a later reconciliation. He didn't know what to make of this self- containment. "Uh, Lois?"
"I'm thinking," she said distantly. "So, what happens to Superman, if Clark moves to Paris?"
"Uh, I don't know," he said, somewhat startled by the question. "I can fly back and forth, but it'd be harder to manage. I hadn't really thought about it." It would probably be simplest if he quit the Planet altogether; whether he could manage to stay in Metropolis as Clark was another, more complicated, question. If things went badly with Lois, there might be no point.
She stood up. "You know, this is an awful lot to think about, between 'I love you, but I lied about it' and 'oh by the way, I'm Superman'."
"Thank you for hearing me out," he said humbly.
"And now, I need to think about it," she stated.
Clark stood up, too. "And the annouuncement tomorrow?" he asked,knowing he was pushing his luck.
"I'll talk to you before I announce anything," she told him, "but first I need to think — without you in the way."
"Okay, I'll go." He supposed it was the best he could hope for. She moved towards the door, and he was seized by a desire to show off, just a little.
She turned, weariness clear in her eyes. "Clark, please."
He held up one finger, then spun into his Superman suit. "I've always wanted to do that in front of you."
Her eyes widened. "Wow."
He opened the window, and floated slightly upward. "Goodnight, Lois."
As he left, he heard her whisper, "Goodnight, Clark."
Lois entered her bedroom in a daze. It had been an exceptionally crazy week, even for her. First, she'd lost Clark, then gotten him back, then stood to lose him again… and to top it off it seemed that she had never really known him at all, and that he'd lied to her. Repeatedly. She wasn't sure how much more punishment her poor heart could take.
It was a long night, as the arguments raged back and forth. She spent a satisfying half-hour working out her anger by lining up the few pictures she had of herself and Clark, and then knocking them down from across the room, using the small black-and-white bear he'd given her as a missile. She was so angry she wanted to kill him… but she still remembered all too clearly how much it had hurt, the last time he'd been "killed". She couldn't quite bring herself to want him gone completely, and that only annoyed her further. Damn him, anyway, for making her care even now.
Eventually she calmed down enough to sort her thoughts out a little. There were several related issues here, and she determined to go through them, one by one.
He had lied to her when he'd retracted his declaration of love. With good intentions, he claimed, and she supposed that she could grant him that. Her own emotions had been in such turmoil that it had been a relief, in a way, to go back to an uncomplicated friendship. She was furious at him for making decisions on her behalf — no matter what his motivation, he had no right to manipulate her! They'd gone through this before, though, over the Metro Club incident, and he had seemed to improve afterward, so there was probably hope for him. This might have been stupid of him, she concluded, but not malicious.
He'd lied to her any number of times, really, she realized, thinking back to all the times he'd dashed away on some pretext or other, right before Superman came flying in. Memories of her unthinking gullibility made her squirm. She had thought him so honest… what an idiot she had been, and what a fool he'd made of her. Had he enjoyed laughing at her? The bear took another trip towards the nearest wall, where it hit with a soft whump and bounced to the floor.
After a moment, though, she got up and retrieved it, carrying it back to bed with her. It had looked so pathetic, just lying there… it reminded her of how Clark had pleaded for her to listen. The sight of his beautiful eyes, brimming over with emotion, had been all that stood between her and a screaming fit, and it had been touch and go when he had taken his time about leaving.
He had been honest tonight, she admitted, when he didn't have to be. When it went totally against his own interests, in fact. She had risked a lot, this afternoon, in asking him to consider a relationship with her. He had risked a lot tonight, in telling her the truth. That probably said something about the value he placed on truth. Not to mention justice and the American Way, she thought with a mental snort.
Clark was Superman! It was inconceivable, and yet… the pieces fit. In a bizarre sort of way, it made perfect sense. He'd said he loved her, which was wonderful and scary all at once. And that brought her to the worst problem.
He had let her think that he was dead. That hurt, tremendously so. How could he possibly have thought that she didn't care? She had been devastated… but, she reluctantly admitted, she herself had been surprised by the depths of her reaction. It was his "death" that had finally made her realize how necessary Clark was to her happiness. If she hadn't known it, how could she expect Clark to guess? It was still stupid of him — the least he could have done was check on her, as a friend. He had hurt her, but not on purpose. If he ever did something that stupid again, she *would* kill him, but if she let him live this time, there was a possibility of improvement.
He had groveled well, anyway. It was hard to stay angry at someone who accepted blame so freely.
This really came down to two choices. She could go back on their supposed engagement, and let him be transferred a continent away… or she could keep up the pretense, and keep him in her life. Her earlier, vague romantic notions about marriages of convenience that turned to love had been firmly banished, but after all, they didn't have to get married.
And then there was Superman. She hated to even think about him leaving Metropolis; it almost seemed like her patriotic duty to keep him in the country. But no, Clark didn't have to move to Paris; it would not be her fault if Superman left. And she'd been realizing for some time that Superman was a fantasy. To find that he came attached to a real man was startling.
Even after all that, she still couldn't reach any conclusion. She didn't know if she loved him or not … she didn't even properly know who he was anymore. She just had to decide if she wanted the chance to find out.
Clark didn't sleep much, and finally gave up in favor of going into work early.
As the newsroom filled up, he caught a couple of curious looks and overheard a few whispered comments. The office grapevine had picked up news of his supposed engagement to Lois, and rumors and speculation were running rampant. Many inferred correctly that it was all a scam to avoid transfer, but a disturbing number of staffers claimed that they'd expected it for months. Had his feelings for Lois been so obvious?
Between hearing the rumors fly, and checking every time the elevator dinged, Clark's nerves were strung tight by mid-morning. He'd just about convinced himself to stop x-raying every approaching elevator car when he saw her.
She looked tired as she stepped into the newsroom, but when she saw him she smiled, and pointed towards the conference room. Clark made a quick trip to the coffee machine, then followed her, trying hard not to look as deathly nervous as he felt. At least she had smiled, but he couldn't put too much faith in that. Lois held his future — his entire life — in her hands. But then, she always had; the only difference now was that she was aware of it.
"You look tired," he said, offering her the coffee. "Are you okay?"
She accepted the cup. "Thanks. And I'm a little tired, yeah, but I'll be fine. Are you okay?" She searched his face. "You don't mind me knowing about, um, you?"
"Lois, I love that you know. I've hated lying to you, and now I won't have to, ever again. Whether I stay here or not, I'm still glad you know."
She nodded slightly, seeming pleased. "I'd like you to stay. I don't know exactly what our relationship is… but I want a chance to find out."
Clark smiled, as this sunk in. "Really? You mean it?" Doubt struck. "Engagement and all?"
"Well, it is the only way," she said reasonably. "Don't think I won't make you pay for — and learn from — your mistakes," she warned. "But in the end… " She hesitated, then smiled almost helplessly. "I lost you once this week. I can't lose you again."
"Yeah," he agreed huskily. "Thank you, Lois. I don't know if you can learn to love me the way I love you—"
"Well, neither do I. But we'll never know 'til we try." Moving quickly, she reached up and kissed him. For a moment, all doubts melted away; on this level, at least, they fit together perfectly. Surely in time, they could bring the rest of their lives into line. Clark was very grateful he'd been given the chance to explore the possibilities.
Lois broke the kiss, and smiled at him, looking happier than she had in days. "Come on, partner. We have an engagement to announce."