By Terry Leatherwood <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: August, 2008
This story occurs between "We Have A Lot To Talk About" and "Ordinary People."
Thanks to Ann (TOC) for the inspiration for this piece.
It was a slow Tuesday morning. Nothing was going on. No bank robberies, no kidnappings, no crazed geniuses trying to rule the world, no dog shows, no nothing.
Lois was bored.
She checked her story notes, pulled up the tickler file on her computer, queried her e-mail, flipped through her Rolodex, checked her voicemail, and found -- nothing.
It was an unusual combination of a slow news day and a happy editor. Everything she'd been assigned was done. Her next story wasn't due until Friday, three entire days away, and she'd already outlined the mayor's Thursday evening press conference on the new city budget and lined up her questions. The only other thing she could have done would be to break into the mayor's office for an advance look at the information, but since Bobby Bigmouth had already supplied her with a copy of the proposed budget and some juicy tidbits on how the final numbers came to be, it wouldn't have gained her anything.
And because the Planet's circulation was up again this month, because the headlines were gripping and the stories were complete and in depth, because expenses were down and Perry had gotten a personal 'attaboy' from Mr. Stern, the editor's face wore an unaccustomed smile. The entire reporting staff seemed to have been infected by the spirit. Every person Lois could see from her desk was smiling or working hard but not desperate to beat a deadline. Even Jimmy sprinted around the newsroom in a slightly casual manner.
It should have been a good day, a smooth day, an easy day. It should have been a time to relax, a time to reorganize her desk drawer, a time to defragment her hard drive, maybe even a time to back up her files.
But it wasn't that kind of day.
Lois was bored.
That was a dangerous situation, one which had to be resolved quickly. What usually happened when Lois was bored was that she chased obscure leads which got her into difficult situations which might require Superman's assistance so she could file her story instead of attending her own funeral, which was an event she wanted to postpone as long as possible.
She wasn't sure she wanted to see Superman at the moment. She wasn't sure she wanted to see Clark, either, although his proposal had certainly been heartfelt and sincere, and she'd thought she'd explained her reason for turning him down. She needed time to get to know him again, time to integrate the two aspects of his life into one, time to make the mental adjustments needed to be at ease with him again.
He didn't understand. The lunkhead. Why couldn't he just accept that she wasn't rejecting him? Either part of him? She only wanted time to reconcile his two selves into one self in her mind. She only wanted to defer their marriage, not refuse to marry him. She still wanted to marry him.
She took a deep breath and told herself, yes, she wanted to marry him, but not yet. Not until she'd learned to trust him again. Not until she'd made the adjustments she needed to make.
Including an adjustment to his insufferable attitude. Just as soon as she could find a big enough stick.
And avoiding him wouldn't work. She'd already figured out that if she didn't talk to him, he'd never understand what she was thinking. He was so powerful, so strong, so absolutely confident about so many things, yet he was just about clueless in relation to anything regarding Lois's feelings and needs. So she needed to talk to him, and not at work. And not about work, either. They needed to do something recreational, something relaxing, something totally non-confrontational.
So she stood and wandered to Perry's office and stuck her head in. "Hey, Chief? How's about you giving Clark and me the afternoon off?"
Perry's smile thinned. "I'm sorry, Lois, but I think my hearing is going bad. I could have sworn I heard you ask for the afternoon off."
She lifted one eyebrow. "You did. Neither of us has anything pressing today, the paper is full, it's a slow news day, and I promise you we'll come back tomorrow morning just bursting with reporting energy."
Perry fought the returning smile, but not very hard. "Okay, Lois. You two have been through a lot lately, what with Clark's parents being kidnapped and that Jason Mazik case and Nigel St. John being killed. Y'all go ahead and take the afternoon."
"Thanks, Perry! You're a great guy!"
He abruptly pointed the first two fingers of his right hand at her with thumb raised menacingly. "And you'd better mean it about coming back tomorrow ready to work hard or you won't think I'm such a great guy!"
She saluted and spun around to find Clark. There, at his desk, doing much the same as she'd been doing all morning -- wondering what to do with the rest of his day. Of course, Clark wouldn't need to defragment his hard drive or back up his files. Those were daily tasks for him.
The anal-retentive lunkhead.
Clark saw her coming out of the corner of his eye. Typical Lois, on a mission of some kind, one surely destined to drive another stake into his heart. She couldn't leave well enough alone, she had to push him to help her and be around her and why couldn't she see that it was sheer torture for him?
They'd defused the bomb set by Intergang at the museum as a team. Neither of them separately could have done the job, but they'd overcome their relationship difficulties long enough to learn some things about themselves and each other. Things were better than they had been after Lois had refused his proposal, but they weren't right yet. There were still things they needed to talk over and things they needed to settle. She kept saying that she needed time to get used to his "other job," and he was still having trouble getting past the word "no" coming out of her mouth. The tension was stronger at some times than at others, but it wasn't going away any time soon.
Lois was still headed towards him as if she were a radar guided missile. But although her gait was vintage Mad Dog, her smile was not. Neither was the playful glint in her eye as she stopped at the corner of his desk, wiggled her index finger at him in a 'come here now' motion -- as if he were her personal canine -- and said, "We have the afternoon off. Let's go play some golf."
His mind didn't process her statement at first. She might as well have been speaking Esperanto, one of the few languages he didn't know. But then he replayed her comment in his mind and realized what she'd said.
Which is not to say that he immediately jumped up and trailed after her with panting chest and drooling tongue. "Golf, Lois? I didn't know you played the game."
She shrugged. "I don't play very often, it's a slow game, but this is Tuesday so the courses won't be filled with doctors and besides you'll have to tee off from the men's boxes and I'll use the women's and what's your handicap anyway?"
By superhuman effort, he kept a poker face. "My handicap is that my arms are too muscular."
She lifted a playful eyebrow. "Then you'll have to use weak clubs. Come on, slowpoke! Go home and get changed and meet me at the Metro Links in thirty-five minutes. You can rent shoes and clubs if you don't have any."
He slowly unfolded and rose to an upright position. "Won't Perry be upset if we just leave?"
She tilted her head. "I guess you really weren't listening in. Perry's given us the afternoon off, since we're all caught up on our assignments, and since I promised him some good stuff tomorrow morning."
He nodded slowly. "Okay. That actually sounds like it might be a fun idea. Metro Links, you said?"
"In thirty-five -- no, thirty-four minutes. And you might want to wear a hat so people don't wonder why you never get sunburned."
He smiled and nodded. "See you there."
Clark hefted the bag of clubs and shook his head. They'd given him one of the less desirable sets of clubs, probably because he'd acted so goofy about golf in general. He was sure the two iron was bent near the club head, sure evidence that the previous user hadn't understood that golf was supposed to relax the participants, not enrage them.
He set the round soft-brimmed hat on his head and stepped onto the grass to wait for Lois. He didn't want to blunt the spikes on his ill-fitting rental shoes, and he'd already gotten some pitying looks from the staff.
"Hi, Clark! You ready to start?"
He turned. Lois was the embodiment of an LPGA billboard, an attractive young athletic woman with a bag of clubs slung easily over her shoulder and a brilliant smile on her face. She wore a sleeveless golf dress that came to mid-thigh, and topped it all off with a Daily Planet sun visor. Even her gloves matched the rest of her outfit. Lois Lane rarely, if ever, did anything halfway.
He wondered how much of her good cheer was genuine and how much was her trying to cheer him up.
It didn't matter. They were together for a leisure activity, and he'd sit at the bottom of a water hazard before he'd wipe that smile away.
"You're not taking a cart?"
"No reason to. It's not too hot, there's a fresh breeze, and I don't carry fifty clubs like some amateurs do. I'll be fine. Are you ready?"
He smiled back. "Ready as I'll ever be. You want to tee off first?"
She lifted her scorecard as she passed him. "No, you go first. I asked the guys at the desk how crowded they were today, and they said they had two foursomes on the front nine and several pairs. Nobody seems to want the back nine today, so I thought we'd just shoot that."
"Good idea." He turned to follow. "So, you want to make this interesting?"
She stopped and threw a glare over her shoulder at him. "It will only be interesting if you can refrain from playing a heroic brand of golf."
He lowered his voice. "I promise. No powers. Nothing but normal human levels of effort."
She opened her mouth to say something, then apparently thought better of it. "Fine. You tee off on ten and I'll follow."
Clark hooked his tee shot on ten and landed in the rough, then three-putted the par four hole for a seven. Lois skipped past him and sang, "Triple bogey for Clark, triple bogey for Clark."
He shook his head. "You didn't make par, either."
"No, but I stayed out of the rough and sank a nineteen-foot putt. You missed one from five feet."
"It lipped the hole."
"Still missed. You want to use the women's tee box this time?"
Her teasing -- which did not sound good-natured and friendly -- was starting to get under his skin. If this was her idea of a relaxing activity, he just might sneak in some super-powered shots after all. "I'm fine from here. Now be quiet so I can tee off."
She giggled. "Okay. This is a par four hole. Two hundred seventy yards, slight dogleg to the left at two hundred fifteen yards, sand traps above the dogleg and beyond the green. Should I get the rake ready?"
He glowered at her, then addressed the ball, determined to play within normal human limits. The three wood smacked the ball into a beautiful arc. The ball drew slightly to the left, and when it stopped it was about fifty-five yards from the hole on the right side of the fairway with a clean look at the green.
Lois nodded and walked to the women's box. "Nice shot." She hit her own three-wood about ten feet behind Clark's ball but almost in the center of the fairway.
They picked up their bags. "Lois, have you been meeting Bobby Bigmouth at the driving range?"
She laughed. "No. But I have been hitting a bucket or two on a weekly basis for the past year or so. It's less intense than martial arts and I don't get thrown to the ground nearly as often."
"I sure hope not. Your shot. I'd use a six iron."
Lois shaded her eyes and peered at the green. "Me too."
Her shot arched up and landed on the green, but rolled off the back edge and stopped between the fringe and a deep sand trap. "Great," she muttered. "So much for that Golf Channel special about putting backspin on your approach shots."
Clark hit a six iron that arched up much as Lois's shot had, but his hit the green beyond the hole and bounced backwards about twelve feet. "You mean like that, Lois?"
She shot a glare at him. "That's not fair, Clark! You said no powers!"
He lifted his hands. "Wait a minute! That was just a good shot! I'm not --"
"Okay!" she hissed. "Just make sure you don't -- you know."
Clark lifted the pin as Lois putted from the fringe. Her ball stopped two feet from the hole and she took the pin from Clark as he lined up his putt, which he dropped in with little drama. Lois tapped in and saved par.
Clark hefted his clubs and almost sang, "I got a birdie, I got a birdie --"
"Shut up, Clark."
He stopped as she stalked past him. The word 'competitive' still didn't describe her attitude. She was on the verge of being extremely rude.
Clark laid his bag down after pulling out his driver. "How about this hole?"
"Par five, four hundred forty-eight yards, narrow fairway, elevated oblong green with the pin at the far right. Watch for the trees on the left, and for the creek just below the approach to the green."
"How far is the creek?"
She refolded the paper in her hands. "Don't you have those range-finder eyes?"
He sighed. "Not today I don't. Remember the conditions you laid out?"
She sniffed and pulled out the course description folder again as Clark teed up. "The creek is about two hundred seventy-five yards from the men's tee. Most of the people on this course don't hit it that far from the tee, so it's not that much of a hazard."
"And watch out for the wildlife."
He stopped and backed away from the tee. "What's that supposed to mean?"
She gave him her best 'hooded-eye' look. "I'm just reading the brochure. It says here, 'Watch out for wildlife.' I guess that means you're supposed to be careful and not kill any rabbits or chipmunks on this hole."
He frowned and addressed the ball again, then swung. The ball made a meaty "thwack" and launched itself down the fairway. It bounced twice and then seemed to disappear several yards in front of the creek Lois had mentioned.
Lois shaded her eyes. "I don't see where the ball ended up. It must have hit a soft spot in the fairway and gotten stuck."
"Well, at least I'm not in the water. Your shot."
Lois's tee shot settled well short of the creek on the right side of the fairway with a good view of the pin. They picked up their bags again and set out to find Clark's ball, even though both were sure it was closer to the green than Lois's was. After a minute or so of fruitless searching, Clark suggested that Lois go ahead and take her second shot. Her two iron settled easily on the green, about twenty yards from the pin.
Then they began hunting for Clark's ball in earnest, but it seemed to have vanished. After almost five minutes, Lois stopped and sat down on the ground. "Clark, just take the two-stroke penalty and drop another ball! You're not going to find that one." Clark walked back to where she sat and put his hands on his hips as he scanned the ground between them and the creek once again. "Just let me take a super-look at -- ah-ha! There it is!"
She shook her head and got up to follow him. He suddenly knelt down and pulled a large tuft of grass to one side. "Look. The ball must have kicked into this old rabbit hole. See, you can just make it out, about two feet down."
She stood. "Well, then, now you'll have to take a drop. There's no way you can hit that ball. It's what the rule book calls an 'unplayable lie'."
He laughed. "That's ridiculous, Lois. There's no such thing as an unplayable lie for Superman."
He knew he was in serious trouble as soon as he heard her startled gasp.
-- no such thing as an unplayable lie for Superman --
Lois gasped. Could he possibly mean what she thought he'd said? Did he really think like that? Did he really believe that the rules of normal human society didn't apply to him? Did he really think that Superman could lie and get away with it?
Her vision refocused and she saw his face staring up at her. "Lois?" he called. "Are you okay?"
She dropped her clubs and stepped back. "Y-yes. I'm -- I'm fine."
He stood and stepped closer. "You don't look fine. In fact, you look pale all of a sudden. Is the heat getting to you? Do you want to go back to the clubhouse?"
"No! Clark, I'm fine. Now let's shoot some golf."
"Wait." He put his hand on her arm as she tried to walk past him. "I'd like to know what's wrong."
She didn't meet his gaze. "Nothing's wrong! Now let go of me!"
He pulled his hand back. "You're lying to me, Lois."
She turned on him and cocked her arm as if to slap him, but held herself back. "Don't you -- " she hissed. She slowly lowered her hand. "Okay. I just lied to you. So what? You're used to lying to me. It shouldn't bother you if I lie to you."
He dropped the hand he'd lifted to block her swing and stepped back. "I see. We're back to that again."
Her color began returning. "Yeah, we're back to that, okay?"
"No. It isn't okay."
She clenched her fists and hissed, "You don't get to call the shots with me, Superman! You don't get to decide how I feel! You don't get to use two different sets of rules, one for you and one for me! It's all the same for both of us or it's worth nothing!"
He frowned. "So when was I supposed to tell you? While you were dating Lex Luthor? While you were trying to decide how to deal with me? While you --"
"That's not fair!"
"How about when you told Superman you'd love him even if he were an ordinary man with no powers?"
She sucked in a breath as if she'd been punched in the stomach. That was totally a cheap shot! It wasn't fair! There was no comparison between what he'd done and what she'd done! Besides, she'd only said that to Superman because he'd done such a marvelous job convincing her that Superman and Clark Kent were two completely different individuals!
He crossed his arms in a heroic Superman pose and stood there. "Well?" she barked. "Don't you have anything to say?"
"To what? You didn't say anything."
She suddenly realized that it was true. She'd thought all those things but she hadn't spoken them. Why not?
Tears filled her eyes and her voice quivered with anguish. "I -- you're not being fair!"
It wasn't like Lois Lane to cry. He'd seen her shed tears before, but it was usually either during or immediately after a life-threatening situation. Since he'd met her, she'd never cried just to give herself an advantage in any situation. She just didn't work that way.
So these tears were real. And she obviously wasn't over his deception. She hadn't forgiven him, not yet.
And it really bothered him. Didn't she love him? She'd told him that she did. She'd insisted that all she needed was time to adjust, time to get her mind completely around the truth about his "other job." And she'd told him she'd forgiven him.
He understood that she'd need some time to adjust, even if it meant he was left twisting in the wind. He didn't like it a bit, but he'd live through it. He had to. He had Lois waiting for him on the other side of all this drama.
Or did he? Was she going to let her hurt and mistrust come between them? Was their relationship doomed by his mistake?
He had to get through to her. "Lois. I know that I lied to you. I had what I thought were valid reasons, but that doesn't mean that you think they were valid. I get that, I really do. But you told me you'd forgiven me for it and what I had to do now was to earn back your trust."
She sniffed and wiped her nose with her hand. He dug out a handkerchief and offered it to her, which item she accepted after a momentary hesitation. "Th-thank you."
He waited while she wiped her eyes and blew her nose. When she tried to return it, he shook his head. "You keep it. You might need it again."
She looked at him with doe eyes. "What does that mean?"
"It means that we need to get this out in the open, not sneak around it hoping it'll go away on its own. This is the elephant in the room with us, Lois, and it's not going anywhere."
She sighed and dropped her gaze. "No, I suppose it isn't."
"Me first, okay?" He waited until she nodded. "I thought you'd forgiven me. Yes, I left out some things about myself that made you think I was lying --"
"Left out some things? Don't you think --"
"Hey!" he burst out. "My turn to talk."
She leaned backwards as if surprised, then straightened up and nodded slowly. "Lois, when I met you, I fell in love with you. Ever since then I've wanted to get closer to you to see if there was any chance -- even the slightest, most insignificant chance -- that you might feel anywhere close to the same way towards me. But you kept backing away, teasing me without quite realizing you were doing it, torturing me with your flirtations and your disparaging remarks. You took so long to let me know that there might be something there, some depth of feeling for me that you didn't want to release, that until you told me -- the Clark Kent part of me -- that you loved me and wanted to marry me, I wasn't sure that you wouldn't marry me just because I was Superman."
He stopped and took a breath, then let it out, unsure whether or not to continue. But Lois's glacial tone when she said, "Is that it?" convinced him.
"No. That is not 'it.' You told me forgave me, right?"
She hesitated, then admitted, "Well, yeah, I did."
"Do you know what forgiveness means?"
"Are you going to pull that 'forgive and forget' garbage on me? Because if you are --"
"No." He held up his hand to stop her. "I know that I hurt you. And I know that I have to earn back your trust. I don't have a problem with that. But I do have a problem with your anger. Lois, when you forgive someone, you don't forget the offense, but you do let go of the responsibility of righting that wrong. If you've forgiven me, that doesn't mean you act like nothing happened, but it does mean that you shouldn't hold it over my head." He grasped her shoulders with both hands. "You have to let it go."
The anger in Lois's heart threatened to burst forth once again. "Let it go? Just like that? After what you did to me?"
He dropped his hands away from her shoulders. "Yes. That's exactly what I mean."
She turned and began pacing back and forth. "How can I just let this go? How can I be sure you won't pull something like this again?"
He sighed deeply. "Honestly? You can't."
She drew up short and almost fell. "What? I can't -- I can't trust you? Is that what you're saying?"
He frowned. "No! You're asking for guarantees, Lois. You're looking for a perfect relationship. But you know what? I'm not perfect. I make mistakes. I goof up for perfectly legitimate reasons and I do things with the best of intentions which blow up in my face later on."
"You got that right, mister!"
He looked almost desperate. "Lois, all I can do is say the right things and do the right things. I promise you, the last secret I will ever keep from you is my dual identity."
Her anger was bubbling back down, not forgotten, but no longer near eruption. "And how will I know? You're pretty good at keeping secrets."
"So are you. And you're even better at ferreting them out. It's one of the skills that makes you a great investigative reporter."
Suddenly the effort of keeping the anger burbling became too much for her to maintain. It dropped away, leaving an acidic lining of despair behind. "But I don't want to spend the rest of my life investigating you, Clark! I want to be able to trust my husband without having to interrogate him! I don't want to have to check up on you, to follow you around and take notes, to send detectives after you! I just want to love you."
He started to step forward, but hesitated. The poor super-baby, she thought. Maybe he does get it after all.
She closed the gap between them and pulled herself close to his chest. "I love you, Clark. And I do want to marry you someday. It's just --"
"You have to learn to trust me all over again."
"Well -- yeah, that too."
He leaned back and kissed her on the forehead. "What else?"
Her eyes bored into his. "I need to know that you take me seriously. I need to know that you don't dismiss my feelings even if you think they're unreasonable. I need to know that you won't treat my heart lightly."
He nodded. "I think I understand." He pulled her close again. "All I can do is make an honest and sincere effort and trust you to let me know when I'm not doing my job well enough."
She almost chuckled. "That'll have to do for now, I guess."
They stood there on the fairway, enjoying the mutual embrace, when a man's voice called out, "Hey! Can we play through or do you two need some more time?"
They laughed and drew apart. Clark called out, "We'll be done in a minute. I have to take a drop. I got caught in an unplayable lie."
He didn't look at her, but she looked at him and smiled softly. It was a start.