By Anna Botsakou <email@example.com>
Submitted: September 2004
Summary: Lois, devastated by Clark's death, decides to buy a pet. A "That Old Gang of Mine" rewrite and a response to the "Can You Guess the Writer?" challenge.
This is my first TOGOM rewrite, written for the Can You Guess The Writer? contest at www.lcficmbs.com . Thankies go to Lynn for the idea and organization of the challenge, to all the participants and to the people that commented on this story. Comments and criticism of any kind are very welcome.
Lois timidly stepped inside the pet shop and glanced around. Cages, cages, cages everywhere, with animals of all sorts and sizes in them.
The clerk, a red-headed teenage girl, approached her. "Can I help you?"
"Yes…" Lois mumbled. "I would like a cat."
A couple of months earlier, a series of unpleasant events had begun taking place, one that had immensely affected Lois and made her see things she had been overlooking until now.
It began with her almost-wedding to Lex Luthor — or, rather, with his proposal. Then, Clark's declaration of love, Superman's rejection, the wedding fiasco, and… Clark telling her that he'd lied; that he had just said he loved her in order to prevent her from marrying Luthor. This was the first time she lost him.
Then, Mayson Drake's arrival. This was the second time.
And yesterday… the third and final time. Clark was shot. He died to protect her.
She had no doubt now; he did love her. More than his own life.
And what about her? It had taken her a year to admit to herself she loved him more than a friend; more even than a brother. And yet, even after she had, she had lost him three times. It had been her own stupidity all along — if she had done things just a little bit differently, he'd be alive now… and they'd be… together…
Now it was all over.
So this was why she was here, intending to buy a cat. Although the idea of turning to an old maid with half a dozen cats was far from an appealing scenario for her, she needed a company she could find nowhere else. Maybe a pet could ease the pain of loss.
"Sure," the young girl replied with a smile. "We have a wide selection of cats to choose from."
'Very professional,' Lois automatically thought and hid a frown. Every day more people became like her; cold and professional, despite the polite smile.
She followed the girl to the cat cages.
"Here, we have…" The girl began describing every cat's merits, but Lois was not paying any attention to her. She'd go with her gut, as always.
A silver-haired, furry animal drew her attention. "Is this a Persian cat?" The girl, abruptly cut in mid-sentence, turned to see. "Yes. This is one of the most beautiful cats you can find."
Lois gazed at the cat's blue eyes for a moment. The animal looked miserable. They'd make a nice couple.
"How much is it?" she finally asked.
She entered her apartment and dropped down everything she was holding, panting heavily. Going to the fifth floor when the elevator was broken down wasn't all that bad, but when you were also carrying a cat cage and three heavy bags it was unbearable.
The cat mewed complainingly at the rough landing.
"Sorry, Lisa," Lois puffed, locking the door. That was the name she had come up with, while buying cat-food at the supermarket. She had never been fond of names like Queen or Snow White or Beauty. She wanted something casual; the animal was supposed to be a friend, not an exhibit.
She grabbed the bag with the cat-food cans and emptied it in one of the kitchen cabinets. The other two bags contained a red velvet pillow, a pink plastic plate and an elegant cat cradle with its pillows and sheets. The pillow was put near the loveseats, the cradle in the bedroom and the plate, temporarily empty, on the kitchen table.
'Time to free the poor animal,' Lois thought. She opened the cage and the cat gratefully ran right inside her arms. She rubbed its back and it purred in satisfaction.
Tears sparkled in Lois's eyes. Opening a door was all it took to make this animal a friend. Something so painless had earned her something so precious. She should've realized it earlier that this was the way it always worked.
This was the way Clark had reached so deep inside her heart, too. By doing little, simple things, such as telling her good morning or bringing her coffee. That was all it took.
Lois sniffed and stared at Lisa for a moment. Her new friend.
Then, she gently put her on her pillow and went to serve her some food.
Clark had been patrolling over the city for hours. It wasn't like there was much else to do; his Clark self was now dead.
He couldn't tell if he regretted it or not. Unless he'd stepped in front of that gun, Lois would now be dead. But maybe he could had found something else to do… just pushed Lois away, or pulled her near him, or… something else…
Well, now it was done and couldn't be undone. The good thing was that he was still alive. It wouldn't be easy to figure a way out, but, if all else failed, there was still Superman.
As he flew around, he noticed Lois's window; it was still lighted. She was still up. Maybe he should pay her a visit. Just seeing her for a minute would be enough to make him feel better.
Lois had tried to go to bed early, but the thoughts spinning inside her head prevented her from even closing her eyes. So she had preferred listening to music. Lying on her loveseat — it was uncomfortable, but who cared? — she had spent hours listening to Love Songs Vol. 1, 2 and now 3. Lisa lay on the opposite loveseat, awake too. She was the perfect company for Lois, who didn't need to talk now; Lisa could just be a friendly face near her, someone who was there for her.
The music wasn't loud enough to cover the gentle tap on the window. Lois turned the stereo off and went to open the window.
"Hi," Superman said.
"I saw you were awake and thought to stop by, if that's okay…"
"Sure. Come in," she said laconically and went to sink on the loveseat.
Clark bit his lip. "Are you sure you want me…"
"Yes, yes," she assured him.
It was only when he joined her on the couch that he noticed Lisa. "I didn't know you had a cat."
"I bought her today.
Her dry replies concerned him and he wondered whether it was about Clark's — *his* — death. Seeing her in that state, absently fiddling with her fingers, making absolutely no effort to talk, upset him. "Are you okay, Lois?"
"Yeah. I'm fine."
"Is it…" He took a deep breath. "Is it because of Clark?"
Lois didn't stop fiddling, but he noticed that her face began getting red. "Of course not," she said naturally. "It's not Clark's fault he died. I'm sure he didn't mean to."
"Lois…" He reached out for her hand, but she ignored him.
"I'm sure he didn't. I know he'd rather be here now…" She swallowed a lump. "Here…"
She fell on Superman's arms, letting her tears flow freely. "Oh, Superman… I miss him so much…"
Clark was torn. He had no idea his death would hurt Lois so much. He tried to see the positive side of the story, that now he knew how deeply she cared for him, but it was impossible. All he could see was the woman he loved, crying because she thought she had lost him.
He could spare her the pain. One word was all it took. One word, and she'd stop crying…
Would she start yelling? Accusing him of lying to her? Of not trusting her with something so important?
Knowing Lois, it was possible. Heck, he felt guilty himself for lying to her for so long.
Yet, she had to know. "Lois…"
She didn't pay attention to him.
"Lois…" he repeated, more intensely.
She wiped her tears and sat back. "What?"
"Don't cry. Clark's not dead."
She gave him a questioning look.
"It's me. I'm Clark."
She wondered what he was trying to achieve by talking nonsense. The questioning look didn't leave her face.
"It's me," he insisted. "Look."
He rose and spun into his normal clothes. Lois stared at him, slack- jawed. "You…" she stammered, helplessly pointing at him.
It was him! It was him all along! She had thought he was dead, and he was out there! He let *her*, his best friend, believe he was dead!
The finger now pointed accusingly at him. "You," she repeated angrily. Her mouth opened in disbelief. "You let me think you were dead!"
"I know, but…"
"And you have the nerve to come here?"
"What?" she said loudly. "What are you going to tell me? What could you tell me, after making me spend the worst day of my life?"
"I spent the whole day worrying over you." She approached him, fury flashing in her eyes. "Crying for you. And you were out there, and didn't think for a moment to come and tell me you were alive!"
"I did now!"
"No, you didn't," she said bitterly. "I'm sure it only occurred to you now. Otherwise you would've told me the moment you came."
Clark lowered his head as a wave of embarrassment overflowed him. She was right. Much as he'd thought about her all day, telling her the truth hadn't even crossed his mind.
"Now what?" she spoke again. "What are you waiting for?"
"Lois…" He looked up. "Forgive me."
"Forgive you?" She fell on the loveseat, refusing to look at him. After what he had done, how could she forgive him? How could she pretend nothing had happened, when this day had been a nightmare coming true? She'd spent twenty-four hours mourning, grieving over his death, and he could only come *now*? All that guilt she'd felt over his death was pointless?
He had seen her cry earlier. The moment he was shot. And he didn't care, then? Now, now that it was all safe, only now did he dare tell her?
And she thought he loved her! No wonder he'd stepped between her and the bullet. Because he knew he was safe. All he had to do was stumble and fall down. And when they dumped him away, all he had to do was stand up and… fly!!
No, he didn't deserve one single tear. He, the man she thought she had loved, yet another liar. What a pattern.
Clark watched her silently. He could only imagine what she was thinking, what a shock that must had been. The strange part, though, was that she seemed to be worried more about why he let her think he was dead, instead of why he hadn't told her he was Superman. This was certainly not something he had expected.
Lois had buried her face in her palms, oblivious to Clark's presence, when she felt something soft on her lap. Lisa had climbed on her.
"Lisa…" she sobbed, taking the cat in her hands and bringing their faces to the same level. "Look what he did to me."
Lisa stared back at her, with a look Lois found sympathetic.
And, suddenly, her own thoughts returned to her, like a mirror.
'Little, simple things… that was all it took. This was the way it always worked.'
Lisa mewed, as if she was trying to get Lois to understand.
One little, simple thing. Just like… forgiving him?
And what would come next?
Lisa mewed again. Lois let her sit on her lap, trying to gather all the courage she had. If one little, simple thing was all it took, she wouldn't go there unless she was sure it was worth it.
"Clark…" she said, without looking up to him.
"Yes?" He knelt beside her.
She gazed at the door absent-mindedly. "Do you love me?"
Clark was taken aback. "Of course I…"
"The truth," she harshly cut him.
He grabbed her hands. "Yes, I love you, Lois. More than anything."
"More than your life?" she asked, mocking her own thought from a few hours before. Her face was reddening again.
"More than my life."
She didn't speak. It was all so hard to believe anymore… "Lois, look at me," Clark pleaded.
Lois turned to him, still speechless.
"Do you believe I don't love you?" he asked, hurt in his voice.
She gazed into his chocolate-brown eyes. She was surprised to discover the glimpse of tears in them as he stared back at her.
The expression on his face was something she'd never seen before. She had seen him worried, sad, disappointed, hurt… but this was something new. As if her answer would determine his fate; his life, or his death.
And just seeing that expression was enough to make her realize what she wanted his fate to be.
"No, I don't," she smiled.
Clark's face shone. Lois thought with a chuckle that she had never seen an expression of such an unspoken happiness on his face either. She lowered her head and their foreheads touched.
"I love you, Lois," Clark repeated.
"I love you too, Clark."
"Yes, I do."
He cupped her cheek with his hand and their lips joined in a soulful kiss, as their mutual love brought them closer for the first time.
Lisa, wanting to grant them some privacy, headed to Lois's bedroom and tucked under her cradle sheets. It was bedtime, and she knew that the muffled voices from the living room wouldn't disturb her sleep.