Cupid's Drop Box

By LaraMoon <laramoon@mac.com>

Rated: G

Submitted: March 2008

Summary: Sometimes, you have to focus on something else to see what's right in front of you. A Valentine's Day story assignment leads Lois to the Internet and to some surprising discoveries about herself -- and Clark.

Author's Notes:

Saskia made me do it! I blame her for this. *giggles* Can't blame my muse... he abandoned me weeks ago -- I expect he's probably living it up with a shapely brunette somewhere in the sun.

Of course, I couldn't possibly have gotten this completed without some help. I owe a great deal of gratitude to Jenn and Jessi for the suggestions and the thumbs up when I needed them. And a million thanks (at the very least) to Sue for being the best darn beta ever.

This is set in Season 2. That's about all you need to know. Oh, and if you guessed by the title that this is a Valentine's Day story, you're right. This is just pure, unadulterated fluff.

***

Lois looked away from her computer monitor and glanced at the clock. The digital display read 7:04. She blinked and read it again, surprised to find that it was already so late.

She looked around the newsroom quickly. The cleaning crew was busy emptying wastebaskets and sweeping the floor. There were very few other people around besides them.

One of the guys from research was flirting with a cute intern who was giggling and blushing like a schoolgirl. The new gossip columnist was busy chatting on the phone, feet propped up on her desk, fanning herself with a file folder. Clark was there, too, a pencil in his mouth, typing furiously.

"I'm almost done for today, what about you?" Lois called out to him.

He looked up, a little startled. "Mmm?" He took the pencil out of his mouth.

"Are you about ready to go?" she asked again. "It's a little past seven."

"Already?" He shrugged. "I've got a bit more work to do on this one."

"I'll wait for you," she suggested. "I was thinking we could grab a quick bite when you're done, maybe catch a movie?" On his surprised look, she added, "Come on, Clark, it's Friday night."

He frowned and flipped a few pages of his notebook back and forth. "I'm not sure how much longer I'll be," he told her. "You'll just be wasting time, hanging around here."

He wasn't anywhere near done, and while super speed might have helped, there was no way he could risk using his ability right now -- not with Lois around.

"Well, then, can I help?" Lois asked, getting up and heading towards his desk. "What are you working on?"

"Some fluff piece you wouldn't like," he replied, looking slightly embarrassed. He moved his notebook to the other side of his keyboard.

"Oh, come on, what are you hiding?" she asked, her curiosity piqued.

Lois reached for the notebook, but Clark moved it again, out of her reach.

"I told you. It's just a fluff piece." He sighed, seeing her raised eyebrows. "For Valentine's Day," he admitted.

"Not that silly message board thing?" Lois asked, skeptical.

"Yeah, that," he replied, dropping his notebook in a drawer and closing it in one swift motion.

"Ouch! You got yourself in Perry's doghouse, didn't you?"

"No. Why would you think that?"

"Come on, Clark, candy hearts don't exactly win Kerths," she commented, giving him a disbelieving look.

"Well, I just thought it would be fun to do." He shrugged, though he had a fairly embarrassed expression on his face.

"Now why doesn't that surprise me at all?" Lois sat on the edge of his desk. "Okay, so what d'you have so far? Someone opened up a message board where people can go and post notes for Valentine's Day. What's the story there? How can I help?"

"You're serious?" He frowned at her. Was she really offering to help? On a fluff piece that she normally wouldn't get within twenty feet of? Who was this woman and what had she done with the real Lois Lane?

"Sure. If I give you a hand, we can still make the late showing. Come on, Clark. What's your angle?"

***

Over the next fifteen minutes, Lois read a total of thirty-nine posts on the message board, looking for a hidden gem that could be quoted in the story. She'd lost count of the number of times she had rolled her eyes, shook her head and just plain laughed at the entries and their replies.

"How many of these do you think are fake?" she asked Clark.

He stopped typing barely long enough to give her a surprised look. "Fake? Why would any of them be fake?"

"Well, some of the anonymous ones are just way too... out there," she explained. "You know?"

"Doesn't mean they're not real, Lois," he offered.

"What do you make of this one, then? From Romeo to Juliet?" She almost snorted. "It's written in prose!"

"So they're using nicknames. It doesn't make it fake."

Lois couldn't help but smile. Of course he'd think they were real. Clark was optimistic to the point of being na´ve sometimes. It was one of his most endearing qualities.

She skipped to the next folder: messages addressed to people whose name started with K or L. Foolishly, Lois found herself hoping perhaps she'd find a note there for her. She pushed the thought out of mind as quickly as it had come. Who would leave a message for her, anyway?

She glanced at Clark, all of a sudden. Nah, of course he wasn't going to leave her a Valentine's Day message. What a silly thought! They hadn't even gone out on a real date yet, only an 'almost' first date.

After reading a few posts, several of which she could easily have convinced herself might have been written for her, Lois decided it would be better for her sanity to read notes from a different folder. One where she couldn't jump to silly conclusions from reading love notes. One where reading posts wouldn't leave her feeling strangely lonely and heartbroken.

She looked over at Clark again. He was still typing furiously. All that work and he still wasn't done? What could possibly require so much typing? Unless he was writing something else? No, no, that didn't make sense. He wouldn't have her sitting there, sorting through sickeningly sweet love letters, while he was doing something entirely different.

Lois picked another folder to look into: messages addressed to people whose name started with an S. For some reason, this one contained more than twice as many posts as any of the others. That was strange, Lois thought. She hadn't realized that there could be so many people with S for an initial.

Her jaw dropped when she realized that most of the posts in this folder were actually addressed to the same person. Superman. And if that wasn't surprising enough, it appeared as though every single one had been answered -- and judging by the replies, Lois was just about convinced that they could only have been posted by one person, and one person alone.

"Have you seen this?" she said, pointing to her screen, then turning to Clark.

"Seen what? I can't read your screen from all the way over here, you know."

"There are dozens and dozens of messages for Superman," Lois explained.

"Oh, that. I saw them earlier, yeah." Clark shrugged. "He's a popular figure, so of course he was likely to get some mail. Besides, posting there makes sense. I mean, he doesn't exactly have a mailing address where people would know to send him letters."

"Yeah, I guess, but... did you also notice he's been answering them?"

Clark shrugged again. "As far as I know, he always answers all his mail personally. The letters that come through the Superman Foundation, for instance. And the ones the post office keeps around for him." Seeing the look of surprise on Lois's face, he added, "I pick them up for him sometimes."

"Oh, right. I should have guessed," she mumbled to herself, going back to her screen.

Lois scrolled through a couple pages worth of posts, all addressed to Superman. That's when she realized that a lot of his replies had been posted that same evening.

She blushed as the thought popped into her head that, should she post a thank you note -- for all the times he'd saved her life, for instance -- that he would actually see it. Possibly tonight.

Quickly, Lois browsed to the very last page of notes. All but the last three messages had been answered. And just a few minutes ago, even. This meant that that Superman was out somewhere in Metropolis right now, reading messages that people were leaving for him. And answering them, too.

Just then, something occurred to her that she hadn't noticed before. Oddly, the timestamp between each reply was a minute or two apart. Wouldn't he have been using his super speed to answer these? What possible reason would he have to spend an entire evening reading and writing messages at the same speed as everyone else, when he had the ability to do it a million times faster? Well, that didn't make much sense at all, she realized.

"You haven't found anything that could be quoted, have you?" Clark asked, pulling her out of her thoughts.

"I'll scan through a couple more pages quickly..." she suggested, looking away from her screen.

"Ah, don't bother," he said. "I can do without one, I guess. It would have been a good idea, but... well, it doesn't matter. I'm pretty much done otherwise, anyway."

"Oh? Okay, then, if you're sure."

When Lois turned her eyes back to the screen, she realized that a new reply had been posted, no more than thirty seconds ago. That would make it just about the same time that...

No. No, it couldn't be. That made zero sense. Clark was not answering someone else's messages, let alone Superman's. He would never do that! Unless...

No. No, that was even more ridiculous. He wasn't. He couldn't be.

It would explain so many things, however, Lois realized. The reason why she'd never, ever, seen Clark and Superman together, even though they claimed to be close friends. Why Clark had felt an urgent need to leave Metropolis during the heat wave last year. How he'd suffered memory loss inexplicably when Superman had gone missing after colliding with the Nightfall asteroid. And it would so easily explain why he kept walking out on her, abandoning her in the middle of a conversation sometimes, with the worst possible excuses known to man.

Lois turned to look at Clark. She frowned as she studied his features carefully. The resemblance was quite striking, really. The same muscular build, the same hair color, the same almond-shaped eyes, the same...

Wait a second! There was no way two different men could possibly have the exact same freckle, just above the lip. Not unless they were identical twins, and Lois knew for a fact that Clark was an only child.

That meant... Oh, god. It was him, wasn't it?

Lois shook her head and returned her eyes to her screen. She was stunned. She was beyond stunned. In all of two minutes, her entire world had just been turned completely upside down.

Clark was Superman.

It was almost impossible for her to imagine him, moonlighting in blue tights and a red cape, saving people from all sorts of dangers and world-ending catastrophes.

Clark, her mild-mannered partner, the guy who brought her coffee in the morning, listened to her whenever she went off on some crazy tangent... The guy who walked her home when she left the Planet late at night, the guy who held her when she cried after some lunatic tried to kill her -- again.

Of course he was Superman. He couldn't *not* be.

Lois glanced in his direction once more. He was still typing and didn't notice her looking. She looked at the message board again and concluded that he was probably answering the very last post that was there. That meant he'd finish typing up his article very soon, perhaps take a quick last look at the board, just in case, and call it a night. That wouldn't give her much time, she knew, but if she hurried...

She hit the link marked "add a new post" and started typing:

***

Remember when I told you that I would love you even if you were just an ordinary man, leading an ordinary life? I believed it then -- heart and soul -- even though you didn't.

Well, I was wrong that night, my reasoning was flawed. There is nothing, not a single thing, that is ordinary about you. There can never be. It's in everything you say, everything you do. You are, and always will be, extraordinary.

Somehow, there was a part of you that I'd managed not to see before. It was always there, right under my nose, but I never noticed it until just now. I guess you could say that I was blind, but now, I see.

If I could turn back time, start over again, I wouldn't push you away like I did that afternoon in the park. I'd tell you that I love you, right then and there. For everything that you are. No ifs. No buts.

I'll wait until you're ready to tell me what I already know. I could be wrong -- I hope I'm not.

Please tell me that I'm right, and that it's really you.

***

Lois hit "post" the second she got done writing her note.

When the message appeared on her screen and she saw it there, displayed publicly, for all to see, she immediately wondered what could possibly have possessed her to do this.

This was bad. This was really bad. This was the worst idea she had ever had. This was not the right way to tell him that she knew! And this was not the right way to tell him... to say...

There was no way she could delete -- or even edit -- the message now. She'd posted it anonymously, there was nothing she could do, but... brace for impact.

What had she done? Oh, what had she done?

Heart pounding in her chest, her cheeks burning, Lois got up from her chair and headed for the ladies' room, stumbling as she went.

"Are you okay?" Clark called after her.

"Mmm? Yes, I'm fine," she answered, a bit flustered.

"Lois?" He didn't sound entirely convinced.

"I'm fine," she told him. "I, uh, got up too fast."

She turned a corner and stopped, leaning back against the wall, eyes closed and heart still pounding in her chest.

What had she done? How was she going to get out of this? There was no way he wouldn't know exactly who had written that -- he was way too smart not to. How could she have thought that this was a good idea?

She remained there for a minute or so, berating herself for what she believed was the worst mistake she'd made in a very, very long time.

This wasn't going to make things right. He wasn't going to like this one bit. It would ruin everything.

Knowing that she couldn't spend the rest of her natural life hiding here, against the wall, Lois took a deep breath and turned towards the ladies' room. A mere second later, she felt a presence; there was someone behind her. She froze in place, eyes shut and breath caught in her chest.

There was no need to turn and see who that was. She knew.

"Lois?" came his voice, barely above a whisper.

She couldn't turn, she couldn't speak. She just stood there, heart pounding, feet rooted in place.

"You're right," he said, against her ear. "And I love you, too."

THE END

Bottom Dweller's Notes:

There was a community on LiveJournal, called Cupid's Drop Box, where people could post Valentine's Day messages for others. While I was browsing through posts there, I came across these two:

http://community.livejournal.com/021408/4527.html?thread=449199#t449199 http://community.livejournal.com/021408/6845.html?thread=510653#t510653

And suddenly, out of my big mouth came the words, "There's a fic in there somewhere, I can just see it."

The rest, as they say, is history. Or rather... a story. Hehehe!