By Sue S. <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: November, 2006
Summary: What's in a name? Lois learns more about the Man of Steel in this Sequel to the author's "Proof." This is set during the first season shortly after the episode "Foundling."
Many thanks, as always to DJ and alcyone for catching my mistakes and for just generally making my world a happier place to live.
"Does your editor know you read that tabloid?"
Startled, Lois looked up from the 'National Whisper' to see Superman outside her open window.
"What? No! It was, uh, I mean I was just…"
She set the paper aside, a blush beginning to stain her cheeks at the realization that he no doubt knew exactly which article had caught her eye.
"May I come in?" he asked politely.
She nodded mutely, still burning with embarrassment. Superman came over and sat next to her on the sofa, picking up the paper she had discarded. He held it out so that the lurid headline on the front page was unavoidable.
'I Spent The Night In Superman's Love Nest!'
Beneath the words was a badly doctored picture of Superman with a buxom blonde in his arms.
"Is she a friend of yours?" Lois asked, trying to sound conversational.
"I don't think I've ever even met her," Clark said, shaking his head as he looked at the picture.
"So there's no love nest? No incriminating photos of you out there?" There was a twinkle in her eyes as she realized he was blushing just as much as she was.
"No. No love nest." He set the tabloid aside and half-turned to face her. "And you're the only person I know with incriminating photos of me."
She looked away, suddenly flustered by the memory of how he had allowed her to unzip his suit. "I, uh, the camera opened and the film was exposed."
The corners of his eyes crinkled as his smile widened. "I hope you didn't lose your bet."
She shrugged. "It doesn't matter." She wanted to add, "I'd much rather you trusted me," but it didn't seem necessary. "Can I ask you another question?"
Why didn't he just say, "It's me - Clark."?
Clark was so surprised by the request that he simply stared at her for a moment. "Sure," he finally said.
"What does the 'S' stand for? Does your real name start with an 'S'?"
"My real name?"
"Surely you have one. You didn't just fall from the sky on the day you showed up at EPRAD, did you?"
His eyebrows furrowed as he tried to weigh how best to answer. "No," he said quietly. "I didn't just fall from the sky on that day."
"So you were already here?" She leaned forward, eager to hear his answer.
"Yes." It was barely above a whisper.
"Do you have a family? A wife? Is there anyone who knows your real name?"
He leaned forward and braced his elbows on his knees as he ducked his head. "I have a family - my parents - but that's all."
"Are your parents like you? Can they fly and do all the same things you do?"
"No." He shook his head. "They adopted me when I was a baby."
"A baby," she softly repeated as the implications sank in. "So you do have another name, don't you? You grew up here, on Earth, as someone else."
He didn't say anything but she could see how tense he had become.
"Obviously we've never met then. I know I would recognize you."
He almost smiled. "You think?"
"No disguise could be that good."
This time he did smile. "I guess not."
She looked at his profile in assessment. "So have we met?"
He let out a long sigh and then nodded. "Yes, we have," he whispered, so low she could barely hear him.
Lois blinked. They had met? He certainly seemed to be friends with Clark - had she been with Clark when they met? "Does Clark know your real name?"
"Clark?" he repeated blankly, his mind reeling from just how close to the truth she was now. His stomach twisted at the thought of actually telling her. What would she do? How angry would she be? Especially now, when he was sure she would think he had been taunting her by not saying anything.
"Does he?" she persisted.
"Kal-El," he told her after another moment's hesitation. "My name is Kal-El."
"That's your name? It's… unusual."
"It's Kryptonian." Why hadn't he just told her? Why didn't he just say, "It's me - Clark."?
"But you said you were adopted, right? How did your adoptive parents know to give you a Kryptonian name?"
"They didn't. They gave me another name."
"You do realize *that* was the name I was after? Right?"
"I know that." He laughed weakly, relieved that she was dropping the line of questioning that included any mention of the name she was really after.
"But you're not going to tell me, are you?"
"No." He looked over at her window and told himself that he should go now before the situation spiraled entirely beyond his control. "Not tonight."
"Would I recognize it? Your real name? If you told me right now would I remember where I'd met you before?"
He sat very still for a few seconds and then he nodded. "Yes, I think you would." He was about to stand up when her hand touched his arm. Did she have any idea at all what her touch did to him? Not a night passed that he didn't lie awake recalling the feel of her lips on his back and the way her eyelashes had left a butterfly kiss on his skin.
"Wait," she whispered. "Kal-El, please don't leave just yet. At least tell me where we met."
He couldn't move - especially not while she was still touching him. And especially not when she had just said his name in that soft tone. Not since the first time he had heard Jor-El speak the name had it held such significance for him.
"It had to be somewhere crowded. That has to be why I don't remember you. So was it at a party? Were there lots of other people around? Did we talk?" Lois watched his face as she spoke but his expression gave nothing away.
"We have talked at a party before. Yes, there were lots of other people around. And it was before you met me as Superman."
Lois smiled, finding a small measure of comfort in the fact that she hadn't known him yet - hadn't known to watch for this man. "What did we talk about?" she asked, hoping to jog her memory.
"Talk about? We didn't really talk. You were more determined to talk to Lex that night."
"The White Orchid Ball? You were there?" She frowned, trying to remember who she had talked to that night. "Did Lex invite you?"
"No. I was there as someone's date." He shifted uncomfortably. She was coming too close to the truth again.
"Oh." She felt like all the air had just left her lungs. "So you are seeing someone?" She pulled her hand away from his arm, embarrassed to have been so bold with him.
"Actually 'date' is the wrong word. I'm not dating her."
"Are you attracted to her?" She felt a little anxious knot begin to twist in her stomach.
"Yes," he admitted, his eyes warm with a remembrance that she didn't want to know about.
"Does she know?" Lois asked, envious that she had never inspired that same look in anyone, let alone him.
"Know?" He tilted his head, confused by the question.
"That you're Superman. Does she know?"
"No." He shook his head and wished he had never started this conversation. There was no way he could tell her now. There was no way he could tell her later either.
"Why not?" Lois tilted her head, intrigued that he looked so disconcerted.
"It's not as easy as you might think. Things are… complicated between us." Clark looked at her hands, remembering the way they had felt unzipping his suit and pulling the fabric to the side.
"Does she know that you're in love with her?" Lois waited for his answer, hoping he would deny it.
"That I'm what?"
"You're in love with her, aren't you? I can tell by the way you look when you talk about her."
He closed his eyes and Lois thought she saw a flicker of sad frustration cross his features. "She doesn't know." His eyes opened and sought hers out. "I'm not sure I can tell her."
"Like I said, it's complicated."
"Just go up to her and tell her the truth. How complicated could it be?" She felt a flicker of irritation on behalf of her rival. Men were just as difficult and irrational as they liked to complain that women were.
"You make it sound easy, but she's going to be angry with me."
"She'll say I've misled her." He lifted the edge of his cape. "She'll be angry that I hid this from her."
"Well, if she doesn't want you, I do," Lois blurted out the words before she could stop herself. She bit her lip, waiting to see his reaction.
"I may hold you to that," he told her with a grin. "So how would you recommend that I tell her?"
"Just tell her. And then, if she's petty enough to be angry with you, fly back over here and tell me."
He stood and held his hand out to help her up. "I'll do that."
"Promise?" she asked as she took his hand, her heart heavy at the thought that he was about to leave and tell someone else the words she had dreamed of hearing. "You do realize that if she'd reject you so easily, she's probably not worth…"
"She's worth it," he interrupted, giving her hand a small squeeze. "I promise you, she's worth it." Their eyes met for a moment and he fought the impulse to lean down and kiss her. "Thank you, Lois."
"For what?" she asked, feeling utterly miserable. He was in love with someone else - someone who obviously didn't deserve him. Life was beyond unfair.
"For everything. For giving me hope."
"Definitely. Lots of hope." He let go of her hand and strode towards the window.
"Were you really there?" she asked, wishing she could stop him from leaving. "At the White Orchid Ball?"
He turned around and smiled at her. "Yes, I really was."
He looked at her for a moment as he considered what to say. "You had your hair pulled back into some kind of French twist. But there was one strand that came loose. Every time I looked at you I just wanted to brush it back. It was very sexy."
"Sexy? You thought I was sexy?" She felt the faintest surge of hope that she might stand a chance with him after all.
"Very," he replied with a smile.
And then he was gone. Lois sank back down onto the sofa, bitter tears at the back of her eyelids. Of course there was someone else. Someone he had met before her. What if she had met him first? Before this mystery woman whom she hoped with all her heart *would* reject him. It was petty and it was mean but it was the truth.
"It's not over til it's over," she told herself in reassurance. And, she added in her mind, when it came to Superman, it was *never* going to be over.