By Sarah Luddy <meerkat_comments AT aslandia DOT net>
Submitted: April 2002
Summary: Lois doesn't understand why Clark is pulling away from their friendship, even if she is marrying Lex. Is there any way she can keep his friendship? And what's this about him being…Superman?
Author's Note: This was written as a birthday present for Kaethel, in case you can't tell from reading it. *wink* Oh, and, apparently in this world Top Copy happened during Season 1. We can, uh, pretend that I intended that, right? That's what I get for not being careful enough about my episode references.
"Superman," Lex said, smiling when he saw the superhero land softly on his balcony. "So nice to see you. Do come in for a nightcap."
"Cut the frivolities, Luthor," Superman said sharply. "You told me you had to speak to me about something concerning Lois."
Luthor held a cigar out towards Superman. At Superman's astounded shake of the head, Luthor shrugged and clenched the cigar in his teeth. He meticulously lit it and took a deep breath before turning again to the man in blue.
"I'm aware, you know, that Lois asked to see you before she accepted my proposal, and that she propositioned you." He chuckled slightly. "I was glad to see you pass up your chance by insulting her. Very grateful to you for clearing the way for my suit. You know, of course, that she's accepted me."
Superman took an angry step forward, and Luthor let out a short, barking laugh.
"So the alien does have a temper. So…human of you. But it won't matter after tonight." He carefully walked over to an ashtray and set his cigar down, still smoldering. "You see, I have something of Lois's to show you. I think you'll be surprised." He stepped through his balcony doors and into his study, beckoning for Superman to follow. Superman did so reluctantly.
Luthor walked to his desk and opened his drawer. He removed a sheath of papers and held it out to Superman. As Superman reached for the papers, he gasped when he felt a sharp pain hit his chest, and too late he noticed the telltale glow of the mineral Luthor had exposed from within the desk drawer.
Luthor laughed as he approached him. "I'd planned on waiting until the wedding, then luring you downstairs to a cage of kryptonite. But then I got to thinking, why put things off? Here I had this lovely chunk of kryptonite, and the perfect chance to get you out of the wedding plans entirely before Lois could change her mind. With you gone, presumably avoiding Lois after your rejection of her, she would have little chance to change her mind."
He took a step around the desk and towards Superman, who backed away, groaning and almost doubled over. Superman stumbled through the balcony doors, retreating before Luthor's unstoppable approach.
"Lois is a brilliant, beautiful woman. The perfect wife to have by my side. Of course, she's just a little too independent, don't you think? That will have to be changed once we're married. I don't tolerate disobedience in a wife."
Superman gasped and lunged for him, but his strength was almost gone. Luthor pushed him back easily, laughing slightly.
"To think, I have the Man of Steel humbled before me, fallen to his knees with the mere use of a little green rock. Here we stand, on the penthouse of the tallest building in Metropolis. And here you'll die, above all the city, without a soul knowing it's your last moment."
At that, Superman made a quick movement as if to dive for Luthor again, but instead spun and dove over the edge of the building.
"Ah, well," Luthor said as he listened to the wind of Superman's descent, "perhaps a fitting death for a man who spent far too much time in the skies above me."
Lois trailed behind Perry, Jimmy, and Clark as they left the club. Perry, leaning on Jimmy's shoulder, was still singing "Lonely Teardrops." She wasn't quite sure why the song was having such an effect on her emotions, especially given that Perry's singing was rather off-key and his words were slurred. She shook her head to clear the tears that wanted to form at Clark's harsh words to her during the party.
"Get in bed with the devil," he'd snapped. At the time, she'd merely offered some lame retort. But now that her mind had had time to roll over and digest the words, something inside was breaking. Was that how Clark saw her? Could Clark, her best friend, really care so little for her and her happiness?
She snapped out of it when Jimmy addressed her. He'd already put Perry inside the limo, but leaned out for a moment to whisper sarcastically, "Must be nice, having a free car and driver at your beck and call."
It took all her willpower not to burst into tears at his words. Were all her friends that ready to think the worst of her, just because she was getting married to Lex? Jimmy hadn't stopped taunting her about her approaching wealth, as if he thought her a fortune hunter.
And Clark was quick to jump in. "The word 'free' is not in Luthor's vocabulary. With him, you always pay."
Exactly how *did* Clark think she was 'paying' for the limo? "Will you stop?" she demanded angrily.
Clark started to walk away. Stunned, Lois watched for a moment, then called after him, "Aren't you coming?"
"I'd rather walk," he said back, without even deigning to turn to face her.
"Suit yourself," she said. She started to climb into the limo, but just before she closed the door, she thought better of it and leaped back out. "Drive on," she said before closing the door.
The limo drove off as Lois hurried after Clark. "Clark, please wait!" she called, trying to run in her high heels. "Clark!"
But he didn't stop, and even picked up the pace. She stared after him, stunned. It always seemed like Lois who went off in a huff and wouldn't look back. For Clark to ignore her when she was honestly trying to make amends…
Then she noticed the tight set of his shoulders and his hunched stance. He looked upset, and for a moment she considered letting him go. Letting their friendship continue to fade into nothingness.
She couldn't let things end like this. Frustrated, she paused for a moment to pull her shoes off, then took off at a run after him. Her pantyhose would undoubtedly be ruined, which was probably best, before she got frustrated enough to try to strangle him with them. Pantyhose were nothing when compared to a friendship.
Clark started to jog. He was certainly determined to avoid her tonight, wasn't he? Well, he wasn't about to get away with it. He'd run out enough times when she'd wanted to talk to him, but no more.
She carefully aimed one of the shoes she was holding at him, then let loose. The shoe sailed through the air in a perfect arc that would have made her middle school softball coach proud, and slammed into the back of his head. It had its intended effect of making Clark stop. Unfortunately, it also had the unintended effect of making him fall forward and crash into the ground with a very ominous thud.
"Clark?" she said worriedly, hurrying to his side. "Clark?"
He rolled over and sat up, rubbing his head.
Lois breathed a sigh of relief, which quickly turned into anger. "You idiot! You wouldn't stop! I could have killed you!"
He looked up at her wryly. "Exactly. You could have killed me. Whatever possessed you to throw a shoe at me?"
"Well, it worked, didn't it?" she retorted, wondering if she sounded as defensive to his ears as to hers.
Clark cautiously stood up and rubbed his head. "Depends on how you define 'worked.' If you mean it almost knocked me out, along with destroying a bunch of brain cells, and making me even angrier at you than I was before, then I'd say…it didn't."
"I wasn't really aiming for you, just…wanted to get your attention. Clark just…please, can we talk?" She studied his face intently. He wouldn't meet her eye, but she could have sworn that he'd been crying, or close to it. Maybe that was why he hadn't been willing to turn around and face her.
"I think we said everything we needed to during Perry's party."
"No, we didn't!" she burst out in exasperation. "Clark, we need to talk reasonably."
He shrugged and started down the road. "I don't think we do that very well anymore."
Desperate times… "So you're just going to leave me to walk home alone in the dark now?"
Clark glanced back at her, stuffing his hands in his pockets. "You've walked home alone before."
She sighed. Where was the overly protective gentleman when she needed him? "Yes, but never this late. And this isn't the nicest part of the city, after all. Think of all those people who I put in jail who might have grudges against me. Just lurking in wait. I mean, I know Tae Kwon Do, but that isn't enough if I run into a whole group of people who've sworn vengeance on me."
He rolled his eyes, but she could see she was getting to him. He looked nervously down the sidewalk behind them and sighed. "All right, Lois, I'll walk you home."
Victory!!! She fought to contain her triumphant smile. And she'd always thought that helpless female line wasn't good for anything. Just went to show you.
Clark fell into step beside Lois, mentally debating the possibilities of either strangling her with her pantyhose, kissing her senseless, or dropping to his knees and begging her not to marry Luthor.
In the end, despite the temptation of getting the pantyhose off her, he opted to walk along silently next to her.
She was obviously determined to sort things out and renew their friendship. But was he capable of continuing a friendship with her if she married Luthor?
The mere thought of her marrying Luthor brought a pain almost worse than the kryptonite he'd been exposed to the previous night. Could he call himself a friend and let her marry a man he knew for a villain? If he set aside his pain from her rejection, could he, as a superhero, allow her to destroy her life?
Why was he even asking himself this? He'd let his own hurt feelings come close to endangering Lois's life. He knew what Luthor had said about what he'd do to Lois once he married her. He knew it was true, and he knew that Lois would, with her investigative skills, one day discover what Luthor was. When that day arrived, and Lois confronted her husband, did he truly think Luthor would let her live?
He stopped, and watched Lois take a few steps before she realized Clark was no longer at her side. She turned to face him, puzzlement clear in her expression. "What's wrong?" she asked.
The only way to tell her the truth about Luthor was to tell her the truth about himself and let her know how he'd found out about Luthor's evildoings. Besides, it was probably selfish for him to want her to love him before she knew his secret. Either way, it was time to tell her.
"Lois, I have something important to tell you," he said, taking one of her hands in his, as much for his comfort as hers.
"What is it?" she asked, looking worried. Then her expression cleared. "Oh, Clark, you already told me you loved me—in the park, remember? You must have forgotten with the head injury and all, but we don't need to go through it again."
"No, Lois, that's not it," he said quickly. "Lois, there's no easy way to tell you this, so I should just blurt it out. Lois, I'm Superman."
She stared at him for a long moment, then burst out laughing.
"No, really, I am."
"Sure," she gasped out between spurts of laughter. "So that's why my hitting you on the head with a shoe almost knocked you out?" She looked down suddenly at the hand she was holding and frowned. "Your hands are all scraped. Do you really expect me to believe you're Superman when you aren't invulnerable?"
"Well, Luthor lured me into his penthouse last night, and attacked me with kryptonite. I only just managed to survive by throwing myself over the edge of the balcony. I had enough of my super-strength to grab hold of a flagpole to catch my fall, then to grab various window ledges and such for momentary support as I dropped to the ground. I landed pretty hard in a dumpster, but survived."
She snorted and started walking again.
"Lois, honest, I'm telling you the truth!" he shouted after her.
"Clark, if you can't be honest with me," she said, suddenly turning to face him with eyes filled with tears, "then maybe we *can't* be friends after all. You're Superman, sure, only you *conveniently* forgot to tell me in the past year we've known each other, and you *conveniently* lost your powers last night so you can't demonstrate your powers. Sure, Clark, sounds very realistic. I'd say you were delusional, but since you just hit your head, I'll give you some slack. Go home, Kent, sleep it off, and tell me whatever you were going to say tomorrow."
"Lois, please believe me," he said, grabbing her arm. "I didn't hit my head that hard, I'm perfectly lucid, and I'm telling you the truth."
"The next thing you're going to tell me is that you're inviting a Superman from an alternate dimension to take over the superhero duties while you're convalescing, and that he is already married to the Lois of his dimension. Just leave me alone!"
Clark watched, stunned, as Lois walked the remaining hundred feet to her apartment and let herself in. He waited for a few minutes, but she showed no signs of coming out, or of falling from her apartment and hanging from a flagpole or anything equally dramatic in an attempt to force him to rescue her.
Finally, he turned and walked away.
When the four locks were fastened safely behind her, Lois took a deep breath and collapsed onto her couch in a fit of sobs. The night couldn't have gone worse. Not only had she knocked Clark unconscious, but she'd emotionally blackmailed Clark into walking her home in the hopes of regaining his friendship. Of course, she still didn't think her actions warranted him making fun of her by claiming to be Superman. Superman, the man she loved.
Or at least, she liked to think so. Deep down inside, Lois knew it wasn't love she felt for Superman. But it was convenient to love someone so unattainable. It kept her from having to think too much about people who were much closer to her.
What had Clark meant by trying to tell her that he was Superman? Had he meant in a metaphorical way? He was a super man, and she should turn to him? Or maybe he'd meant that he was the man she loved, or the man she could love. Just how philosophical was that mind?
It hadn't sounded like that, though. It had sounded as if he was telling her that he had a separate persona, that he was also Superman.
But that was ridiculous. He was injured; Superman was invulnerable. Except to kryptonite, which Clark claimed to have been exposed to. But that was ridiculous. Maybe they bore a *slight* resemblance, but then, so did Jimmy! Dark hair, etc. She tried to picture Clark without his glasses. Come to think of it, she'd never see him with them off, not even for a minute. Would he make love with his glasses on?
Now where had *that* thought come from?
The same place that liked to relive a certain meeting almost a year ago, when she'd blurted out "It's 9am. I thought you'd be naked!"
He did have the physique of a Superman. She liked to think that Superman had muscles like Clark's under that tight- fitting outfit. It looked like he did, but she'd never gotten to see him without his blue suit.
This was pointless. They weren't the same person. After all, both had appeared to refute Diana Stride a long time ago. If they were the same person, Superman and Clark could hardly have appeared in the same place then.
She pulled out a tape and popped it into her VCR, fast- forwarding to the press conference. There Clark stood at the podium. There Superman hovered above him.
Did Superman's image flicker? She rewound to be sure. It might have, but maybe it was just an error in the film. Though why didn't Superman land and walk over to the podium, maybe speak into the microphones there? Why didn't they shake hands or something?
This was foolish. She was letting a man who had a head injury convince her that he was a superhero. Wouldn't Superman get a laugh when she told him what Clark had claimed?
Suddenly, a thought came to her. What if Clark really did think he was Superman? If he had a superhero complex or something, he could fall out of the window and kill himself!
Lois grabbed her purse and her coat, locked her apartment, and flew down the streets towards Clark's house, heedless of the same danger that she'd joked about to Clark before.
Clark leaned back on the sofa and idly watched the basketball game. It was the NCAA tournament championship, a game he'd looked forward to watching for weeks, until the Planet had been destroyed and Lois had accepted Luthor's proposal. The tournament no longer seemed so important when his love was in danger.
He sighed and stared at the screen, spinning a basketball and occasionally smiling when the team from the East Coast scored. Metropolis hadn't made it this year.
A knock on the door startled Clark from his thoughts, and he jumped up and put on his glasses. A quick scan through the door let him know that it was Lois, and he almost groaned aloud.
"Lois, I don't want company," he said.
"Let me in," she said insistently. "I want to make sure you're okay."
What crazy idea had she gotten into her head this time? "I'm fine."
"I want to make sure you don't jump out of the window or something."
He glanced at the window. "It's a long way down," he called back. "No present plans for suicide, if you really think unrequited love would drive me that far."
"That's not what I meant." She sounded frustrated. Good. It was her turn. "You said you were Superman. I was worried that you'd think you really were and try flying or something."
Ah-hah. That made sense. But Lois? Act completely altruistic? "You just want another chance to talk me into being friends."
The door suddenly burst open, and Lois stepped in, looking for all the world like a cat who'd just found an infinite supply of canaries.
"What did you do?" he asked, looking at his door to see if the hinges were still attached.
"Just picked your lock. You really should be more careful, you know, living in the city and all."
"Usually I don't need to. I'm—"
"Superman, I know, I know. But even Superman can't always be around to protect his apartment, can he?"
Uneasily, he thought of the theft of his globe a few months ago. "I guess not."
She sat down on his couch. "So, got anything to eat?"
He raised an eyebrow, and she sighed. "Look, Clark, we really need to talk," she said. "Won't you give me a few minutes of your time? Isn't our friendship worth that much?"
Well, telling her he was Superman had obviously backfired. But maybe she was finally ready to listen to his protestations over her marriage as a friend.
"Lois," he started haltingly. "In the park, I told you that I loved you."
"It was all true," he said, unable to keep his voice from growing husky. "I've loved you since the beginning, and always hoped that you'd come to feel the same for me. I can't bear to stand by and watch you marry Luthor. But it's not just jealousy from being unable to accept you finding happiness with someone else. Because of my—well, because of Superman, I know a great deal about Luthor. I know that he's a terrible person, a monster, and I can't bear to see you marry him when I could try to stop it."
She touched his arm gently. "You really do believe that, don't you?" she said, her eyes wide. "You really believe you're protecting me?"
Clark nodded again.
Lois leaned close and rested her head on his shoulder, snuggling up against his body. He relaxed and allowed her close, even as he realized he was damning himself.
"You know," she whispered, "if things hadn't happened as they did, maybe they would have worked out differently between us. I do love you very much as a friend. And I think that's pretty special, isn't it?"
He stroked her hair, uncertain of how to reply. For a moment she'd seemed to hint of something more, but then there it was, he was right back at friendship again. Things would never change. He told himself to stop stroking her hair, to let her up, but he couldn't seem to make his fingers agree.
"Can I at least kiss you, just once, for good-bye?" he heard himself asking.
He felt her stiffen against his shoulder, then relax. "I guess so," she said softly, turning to meet his eyes.
A tentative hand lifted her chin so that her face met his. Ever so slowly, Clark leaned in closer, afraid that she'd bolt if he moved too fast. But she didn't bolt, and just before their lips meant, her eyes fluttered closed.
Clark had dreamed of kissing her for months. He'd kissed her before, but never without the watchful eyes of a villain they were trying to trick, and never when they were alone. If he could only express to her, in a language without words, how much he loved her and wanted her, and wanted to protect her from Luthor.
His lips touched hers, gently at first, but soon caressing with pleasure. Hers were soft and pliant, and after a hesitant moment, she was eagerly kissing him back.
A shock went through Lois's body when Clark kissed her, and after a moment she couldn't resist. How could she suddenly feel such passion for a man who had been her best friend for months? Dropping all pretense of shyness, she ardently kissed him back, exploring his soft lips and firm mouth with her own. When he, with typical Kansas tentativeness, touched his tongue to her mouth, she eagerly opened her mouth and welcomed his entrance. His tongue was hot and delicious, tickling her and making her want more. A tingling sensation that she tried to ignore started washing over her, and she realized that her body, of its own free will, was pressing closer and closer to his, almost as if it wanted to be joined as one with his. With a shock, it occurred to her that that was all too close to what she wanted.
"Clark," she gasped, breaking away. "I—"
But her words were cut off by a sudden sound at the door. They broke apart to see Luthor standing in the open doorway glaring at them. In his right hand, he held a gun carefully trained on them.
"Get up, both of you," he hissed. "Lois, stand away from him." He frowned at her. "To think, when you didn't turn up after the party, I assumed you were just spending some extra time with your friends. I can see now that I was right to have you followed."
Numb with shock, Lois took a few steps away from Clark, trying to keep the couch between her and Lex. "Lex, please don't do this," she begged.
"Shut up," he said, turning the gun on her. "Perhaps I should shoot you first. You were, after all, cheating on me with this hack from Nowheresville."
"Smallville," Lois offered helpfully.
"How about I'll give you the choice?" he said. "You no longer have the option of becoming my wife. Either you can come with me and be my mistress, or you can die, here and now. Which do you choose?"
"I'd sooner die than leave with you," she said, glancing nervously at Clark.
"Very well then. Pity that I should have to mar such beauty," Lex said, taking aim.
"No!" Clark shouted, throwing himself at Lois just as Lex fired. There was a long silence, then Lois gasped. "Clark, you're flattening my lungs!"
He quickly stood up and ran to Lex, who lay in an unconscious heap on the floor. Lex's arm and face were blackened, the gun smoldering. "My powers seem to be coming gradually back," Clark said with surprise. "I was using my heat vision on the gun while he was aiming at you. I didn't think it was working, but I must have melted the barrel just enough to make it misfire when he tried to shoot it."
Lois dropped to her knees in front of Lex and stayed frozen, staring at him.
"Are you okay?" Clark asked gently, moving towards her.
"I-I— How could I have been so wrong?" she murmured. "Clark, I'm an award-winning journalist, and I didn't even notice that my fianc‚ was a criminal! What does that say about me?"
Clark blanched, and for a moment Lois wondered if she'd said something wrong. But he put an arm around her and held her close.
"Lois, sometimes we're blind to the people closest to us. Brings a whole new meaning to the phrase, 'blinded by love.'"
"I never did love him, though," she said. "I blamed you for being jealous, and never gave you the courtesy of believing you might be telling me the truth." She stroked his cheek gently, then suddenly gasped.
"Lois, what's wrong?" Clark asked.
"You…you could have been killed if he'd fired," she stuttered. "You dove in front of the gun to save me."
"I couldn't let him hurt you," Clark said.
"I don't think anyone's ever loved me enough to be willing to risk his life for me," she said. "I never really believed that kind of love existed. Until I met you."
"I love you, Lois," he said, taking a step towards her. "I'd do anything to protect you."
"I believe you would," she said. "Maybe…we could try that good-bye kiss again."
"That desperate to get rid of me?" Clark asked, smiling.
"Watch it, mister," she said with a mischievous grin. "I still have those shoes around here somewhere."
He bent his head and kissed her deeply, sharing his relief that she was safe, and his delight in knowing that she was his.
Lois's arms wrapped around his neck and pulled him close, and for several sweet moments of heaven, they lost themselves in each other's embrace.
They were startled into awareness, though, when Clark bumped his head on the ceiling. Even Lois felt the jar.
"What happened?" Lois said, staring around in confusion. "Why do things seem different?"
"Because we're floating," Clark explained patiently. He gently lowered them to the floor and waited as she worked the revelation through her mind.
"You mean you really are—"
"Yes," he said, floating them upwards again.
She closed her eyes as he spun her around the room. "I think," she said slowly and carefully, "that this is a little too much to deal with in one night. Perhaps we should go to sleep, and it will make more sense tomorrow morning?"
Clark tried not to show his disappointment. "I suppose I should take Luthor down to the police station," he said, glancing down at the still unconscious criminal.
"And come back here afterwards?" she said, lifting an eyebrow.
She wanted him to come back? He couldn't keep the smile from his face. "If you like."
"After all, you can't do that," she said, sidling even closer.
She ran a finger across his chin and up his jawbone. "Kiss me like you did and then say good-bye. It violates the laws of dating decency." The finger paused momentarily at his sideburn, then delicately stroked the outside shell of his ear.
"Are we dating then?" He tried not to let his heart race at the thought, but with everything so near his grasp, it suddenly seemed as if the least move could set everything awry.
Lois turned suddenly shy, and she dropped her roaming finger. "I thought we were. Aren't we?"
Did she actually think he'd say no? "I think so," he said tenderly. "If you want to."
She beamed at him, and her finger resumed its ministrations. "Then we are."
"There's just one more thing," Clark said between kisses.
"Happy birthday, Helene!"