If You Can't Beat 'em (Joe's Story)

By Zoomway

Summary: A what-if story that explores what might have happened if Superman, not Clark, had first pursued a relationship with Lois.

Story suggested by the amazing Joaquin Dawis

Any of you from the listserv are probably familiar with Joe Dawis' desire for Lois to seriously be involved with Superman long before she even dates Clark. I told Joe I'd try and write a story promoting that idea. A lot of what is here about how Lois sees Superman and Clark as two separate people is ground I'd already covered in another story, but this time the confession is on the other foot<g>


Lois heard the bed squeak and opened her eyes just a fraction. "Trouble?"

"Afraid so," Clark said, as he changed into his Superman costume. "I'm picking up a silent alarm in the business district." He walked around to her side of the bed and kissed her. "Go back to sleep, baby. I won't be long."

Lois grabbed his hand as he turned to leave. "Be careful, Kal- El"

"Always, Lois." He smiled, and leaped out the window.

Clark's smile remained in place as he flew toward the business district. His life was good—not ideal, but certainly very good. Lois was deeply in love with him, and though for it to be ideal, he had always felt she should love him as Clark Kent, but for now, she did love him as the person she called Kal-El, and that was enough.

It had never occurred to Clark that Lois saw something more than the costume and powers when she first laid eyes on Superman. Actually, that may have been all she had seen at first, but Clark never realized that a personality, different form Clark Kent, was evolving underneath the costume. Why had it taken him so long to see that he had made Superman into a person, and that person was not entirely Clark Kent?

Clark hovered over the business district sweeping the area with his x-ray vision. He spotted a man bolting from the back of a small, basement floor S&L. He then spotted a police officer running around the back as his partner covered the front. The suspect ducked down next to the dumpster with his gun drawn. As the officer rounded the corner, the gunman opened fire. Clark, notorious for being faster than a speeding bullet, was able to interpose his body in front of the police officer and shield him.

The officer, a bit ashen from the experience, patted Clark on the shoulder. "Thanks, Superman. When I saw his gun, I froze for a moment. I wasn't really scared, but all I could think was that I'd never see my wife and kids again."

"I was glad to help, and I understand about fearing for your family."

The officer looked surprised. "Really, Superman? I guess most of us don't think of you as having a family." The officer paused a moment. "Do you have a wife, Superman? I'm not prying, and I sure wouldn't ask her name, but—"

Clark hesitated. "I have someone I love very much, and she's always the first and last person I think of when things get out of hand. I'm not in as much danger as you, but I'm away a lot more often."

The officer walked the cuffed suspect around to his partner. The partner took over, and began reading him his rights. "She must be some woman," the officer said admiringly.

Clark smiled and placed a hand on the officer's shoulder. "She's astounding!" He said, and then levitated into the sky. He drifted higher, watching the police car pull away. He decided to take a seat on the roof of the Newstime building and ponder his situation with Lois. The police officer had hit an unintentional nerve, and though Clark wanted to spend his life with Lois, he knew he could not marry her as Superman or Kal-El. For either of them to have any privacy, it would have to be Clark Kent at the altar. How did she feel about Clark?

Clark shook his head. He was thinking of himself in the third person again, but this time he was thinking of Clark in that manner. He had fooled himself into thinking that Clark Kent was all he was, and that Superman was a costume he put on to protect his private life while helping those who needed his special talents. As time passed, however, he learned this simply was not true. Superman was a person, and Superman was also a representative of his Kryptonian self. The day this all came to Clark, was as vivid as the day he had learned to fly.


That day, like all others, Clark had put on his suit over his Superman outfit, and gone to the Daily Planet. He had not been there long when he chanced to bump his knee on his desk. This was not the first time he had done so, but this was definitely the first time it hurt! Clark felt panicky, and Lois noticed the strange expression on his face. "You look like you've seen a ghost, Clark."

"I … I don't feel well."

Lois approached him with an amused expression. "It wouldn't be that you're trying to duck out on this rotten assignment Perry stuck us—" Lois cut off her sentence once she placed her palm on Clark's forehead. "God, Clark, you're burning up! I'm sorry, you really are sick."

"I guess I finally get to test out my medical benefits." He said, and tried to sound nonchalant, but the worry he felt crept into his voice.

"Do you want me to drive you to the doctor."

"No, it's just a little fever, besides, I take cabs remember?"

She smiled, but still looked worried. "Well, if you're sure."

"I'm sure, but thanks anyway. If it's something catching, I wouldn't want to give it to you." He said, and hurried from the Planet. He did take a cab, but he took it to Lois' apartment building. He still had a spare key to Lois' apartment from the time they were pulling all-nighters trying to tie up loose ends on the Intergang story. She had never asked for the key to be returned, and Clark had never offered to do so.

Upon entering the apartment, he removed his suit and tie, and placed them in a garbage bag which he hid under the stairwell just outside her apartment. He then waited the long afternoon for Lois to show up. He had been tempted to phone his parents, but he did not want to worry them needlessly. What could they do, besides worry? Nothing, Clark concluded, and therefore he did not phone. After what seemed an eternity, he heard keys in the lock, and hopped up onto the ledge of Lois' open window, and waited. The moment she had locked the door behind her, he hopped down to the floor.


"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you, Lois."

"Oh," she smiled that adoring smile reserved only for Superman. "You didn't startle me…well, maybe a little."

"Lois, I need your help. You and Clark are the only people I know very well, and Clark seems to be…sick"

"Yes, he was running a high fever," she said, and then looked into his troubled eyes. "What's wrong, Superman?"

Clark, uncomfortable under her gaze, got up and began to pace. "Lois, it took every last ounce of my strength to fly up here." He turned and faced her. "My powers are gone."

Lois' eyes widened. "Kryptonite?"

Had Clark not been so confused and upset by what was happening to him, he might have smiled. He was glad that Lois shared his secret about Kryptonite. Her silence on this issue had told him a lot about how deeply she could be trusted with his secrets. She had even kept the secret from Clark Kent, which did make him smile. "If it is Kryptonite, I'm not having my usual reaction to it," he sighed. "There was no pain or dizziness like before, but the power drain is definitely familiar."

"We should take you to someone. Have you checked—"

"Lois, I can't go to a doctor, and quite frankly I can't imagine a doctor being able to do me much good."

She placed a hand on his chest. He loved being touched by her, no matter how casually. "I don't mean a doctor, Superman. I mean someone like professor Hamilton."

"I guess so," Clark nodded, and sat back down on the sofa. "If he can't help, I guess that's the end of Superman. I'm not much without my power."

Lois looked at him and her expression seemed to change rapidly from shock to anger. She grabbed his cape, and pulled it out slightly. "Is this all you think you are, Superman? A costume? A bag of tricks?"

Clark felt his anger rising as well. That was exactly how he had viewed Superman, and it galled him that Lois pretended to see some other significance. "All right, Lois. You tell me. What am I without my power?"

"Not 'what', Superman—'who'! Without the costume and the power you're still a decent man, a good person." She shook her head. "I've always cared about the man underneath the costume, Superman."

This had angered Clark even more. Lois was coming perilously close to her 'I'd love you even if you were an ordinary' man speech from last year. "Okay, Lois. What kind of person am I?" He had asked this question in hopes she would more or less describe her partner Clark Kent, and then he would derive great pleasure in revealing to her—that is precisely who he was, and had always been. With his powers gone, he felt he had nothing to lose in making the revelation because his life as Superman would be effectively over.

Lois placed one hand on the back of the sofa, and the other on her hip. It was a rather striking prosecuting attorney pose. "If the costume and the power define you, then let's hypothetically give them to someone else."

"Give them to—"

"Lex Luthor, for example."

"That's not a fair example, Lois." Clark shook his head. "He abused power even when it was just in human terms. What about the decent people I know? Perry, Jimmy, you…Clark."

"Okay, Perry then. I can tell you right now, Perry White would hate having your power and responsibility. He loves the Planet, but just like you, he's a decent guy and would go out and try to do the right thing, but he'd be miserable. You've never seen Perry when he's on to the 'big' story. He's like a kid, Superman, and the idea that he'd be constantly dragged away from that—"

"Jimmy then."

Lois Laughed. "Poor, Jimmy. He's at an age where he wants to prove himself, but doesn't quite have the experience to pull it off. He wants to make Perry proud, and at the same time make women fall at his feet. If he got your power he'd have all that overnight. As much as I like Jimmy, he'd probably become pretty obnoxious." Lois shuddered. "He'd probably try and make your costume look cooler too, like wearing a leather jacket instead of a cape."

Clark smiled. She was right about Jimmy. "And Lois Lane?"

Lois dropped onto the sofa. "She'd be the worst. She'd probably be resentful of people always needing her help. She'd probably have cards printed up saying 'get a life' and leave one with anybody she saved."

Clark laughed. "I don't think you'd be that bad, Lois."

"No, but I'd be close. I wouldn't want your job."

"That just leaves—"

"Clark." Lois smiled. "He'd come the closest to filling your shoes…well, your boots. I'm just afraid he'd be too sweet and compassionate to be truly affective."


"Now don't get upset, Superman. You're sweet and compassionate too, it's just that I think Clark would go overboard a little." Lois thought for a moment. "Superman, do you remember what you said to Baby Rage after you restrained him for the police?"

"Not precisely."

"You said, 'I hope you enjoy showering in groups'."

Clark winced. He had said that, and it did sound a bit mean- spirited. "I guess I did."

"Clark would 'never' have said anything like that," she smiled. "In fact, knowing Clark, he probably would have talked to Baby Rage for two hours trying to get his life back on a positive track. Heck," she shrugged. "He even got a job for a kid named Jack who had burglarized his apartment! That's just the kind of guy Clark is."

Oh, my God! Clark thought. She's right. He did act differently as Clark and Superman. He had not realized that the suit was a lot more than fabric his mother had stitched together. It was a uniform that represented what he stood for and a job he had taken upon himself to carry out. That job, as much as the outfit, had created another individual, and it was this individual that Lois had fallen in love with.

Lois noticed Clark's perplexed expression. "I didn't mean to make it sound like Clark has compassion and you don't, Superman. It's just that you deal with the Baby Rage type on a day to day basis, and you've learned where to draw the line."

"Maybe Clark would too, if he had to take over my job."

Lois smiled. "Maybe, but you and Clark are different in a private sense, and not just a public sense."

Clark was now fascinated. "How are we different privately?"

"Well, Clark is quick with a joke, and to butt into my private affairs…I mean my private life," she said, and smoothed her hair back. "Not to mention the fact that he's always tampering with my copy."


"Okay, maybe not tampering, but he's always correcting me, and I resent it some times."

Clark nodded. "I guess it could get annoying."

"Just a little. But you," she said, and placed a hand on his shoulder. "You seem to be more accepting of the way I am. You've never said any of my ideas are crazy, the way Clark has, in fact, you've even thanked me for my 'crazy' ideas. You seem to trust me."

This really surprised Clark. "You don't think Clark trusts you?"

"It's not that exactly, Superman, but when I've wanted complete faith from Clark, he's let me down."

Clark swallowed. "When?"

She sighed. "I guess the worst example was when I had to work under cover at the Metro Club. That was my story, Superman! I had laid all the groundwork, gotten accepted into the club, and did it all without anyone's help." She crossed her arms angrily. "Then Clark shows up because he thinks I'm incompetent, blows my cover, tosses me in a dumpster, while his cover stayed conveniently in tact. He sold me out!"

"Lois, I'm sure Clark didn't think of you as incompetent."

"Oh, really? Suppose little Resplendent Man had followed you around telling you all the time that you were doing this wrong or that wrong even though you'd been a superhero long before he ever showed up?" Lois said. "You might see it as helpful at first, but when it goes on and on, you start to get the feeling he's saying you're no good at your job."

Clark closed his eyes for a moment. Though he had showed up at the Metro Club because he feared for her safety, he could see how she would have misinterpreted his motives. Not to mention that Clark had actually followed Resplendent Man around trying to impose his views on him, and now wondered if he really had the right to do so. "I see your point."

"Don't get me wrong, Superman. Clark is wonderful, they don't make guys like him anymore, and I truly value our friendship, but some times—"

"There's strings attached?"

"Exactly! I know I'm far from being perfect, but Clark knew how I was the day he met me. If he considers me his best friend, then why is he always trying to change me?"

"I don't have an answer for that, Lois," he said, and moved a bit closer. "What about me?"

"You?" Lois asked, and was embarrassed by the nervousness in her voice.

"Yes. If I were Clark right now, what would be different."

Lois laughed faintly, the nervousness was still obvious. "Well, we'd probably be talking about our current assignment, and I'd throw out an idea, and Clark would tell me it was crazy or dangerous, and then I'd get mad and ask Clark if he had a better idea, and of course he wouldn't," she smiled smugly. "Then he'd probably tell me what I'm doing wrong in my life—"

"Like what?"

"Well, like the time we were working on that story about the terrorist on the military base. It was around the time you found me hanging from that flag pole, if you remember?"

"How could I forget," he smiled. "You were very brave, but I must admit that I found you—distracting."


He nodded. "Your skirt was so short that the only place I could put my left hand, was on your thigh."

Lois felt a surge of heat rush from he chest to her face. "Well, the next time I get tossed out a window, I'll wear something sensible."

"I'm Sorry," Clark laughed. "Go on. You were talking about how Clark was telling you what you were doing wrong in your life."

"Huh?" She blinked a couple of times. "Clark? Right, Clark! He seemed to have catalogued everything I did that day. Now normally that might sound like he was being attentive, but it turns out he was just looking for something he could use against me," she sighed. "He rehashed my day's activities to point out that I hadn't interacted with another human being."

"Had you?"

"Well, no, but I'm a reporter, Superman. Most of what I do involves other people, and some times it's a relief not to have to deal with anybody for short, blissful periods," she sighed out of frustration. "But Clark is definitely a people person, and he likes to interact all the time. I like that about him though, I just wish he could accept me for the way I am." She chewed her lip as she thought about what she had said. "Maybe it's just because I see Clark a lot more than I see you…maybe you'd be like Clark and want to change me too."

Clark had his answer. He was different as Superman. Not just with Lois either. He interacted differently with everyone when he wore the outfit. He used to believe that it was everyone else treating him differently when he was Superman, but now he realized it worked both ways. "I'd never try to change you, Lois," he whispered, and slid his hand along her cheek. He rubbed his thumb against her ear, and curled his fingers at the back of her neck. He tugged her forward. She did not resist. As he placed his mouth against hers, he also realized that this was the first time as Superman that he had initiated the kiss. It had always been Lois before, and he had always more or less gone along for the ride never putting much back into it, not wanting to encourage her. Now, however, he gave freely and enthusiastically to Lois. She did love him as a person and not as a costume. He was in her arms, and he was without his powers, but she loved him still.

The kissing had left them both breathless. Neither of them had expected to be so overwhelmed by a simple kiss, but then they both knew how long the other had waited. Clark searched her eyes. "I love you Lois."

Lois smiled. He had said it. It was real this time. "I love you too, Superman."

Clark shook his head gently. "My name is…Kal-El, Lois."

"I love you, Kal-El," she said, and did so as if she had always known the other name.

Clark, for reasons he found impossible to grasp, was aroused by the sound of Lois whispering his Kryptonian name. Their kissing resumed, intensified, and escalated. It was not long before Lois had the answer to a question she had pondered a long time ago. The Superman outfit did indeed 'come off'.


Clark smiled as his thoughts drifted back to the present. Remembering the first time they had made love created a familiar longing in him. Their love-making had also been fortuitous that night. Once out of the costume, Clark felt his strength begin to return, and though he would have loved to attribute the return of his super powers to the luscious Ms. Lane, he realized that the loss of his strength had something to do with that one, particular Superman outfit. With Lois now in his corner, he asked her to take the costume to Professor Emil Hamilton to be examined. His suspicions proved correct.

That one costume he had not worn since the night Lois almost married Lex. Luthor had imprisoned him in a Kryptonite cage, and apparently some residue from the Kryptonite had become imbedded in the fibers of his outfit. Since the costume had also suffered several stains, and other damage, given that his aura could no long protect it, his mother had spent a great deal of time fixing it up again, and had only recently returned it to him. Clark instructed Lois to place the costume in a package lined with lead foil, and he would send it somewhere to be disposed of. He of course had sent it to his parents, and they burned the costume.

Clark pushed himself away from the Newstime building and headed back to Lois' apartment. Clark now spent his weekends with Lois, and though that was wonderful, he wanted more. He wanted her as a permanent part of his life. His 'whole' life, and that meant she would have to love Clark Kent. Could she love her partner? Could he risk what he had now on what he hoped to gain? He hopped quietly in the window, but his caution was unnecessary, Lois was still awake.

She wrapped her arms around him and gave him the kiss he always enjoyed flying home to. "How'd it go?"

He smiled and drifted with her to the ceiling. "There is now a new resident in the city lock-up."

"Anything newsworthy about it? Should Clark and I do a follow up?"

"About Clark, Lois," he said, and felt her heart rate increase. "What exactly are your feelings for him?"

Due to the awkward wording of Clark's question, Lois believed that Superman was jealous, or at the very least suspicious of her friendship with Clark. "He's my best friend, Kal-El…well, you're my best friend…he's a good friend…uh…for a partner. Partners should be friends—"

"Calm down, Lois," Clark said, as he began to descend. "I didn't mean to upset you."

"I'm not upset!"

"Okay, you're not upset."

"Did Clark say something to you about me?"

"Of course not, Lois. I was just curious, that's all."

Lois folded her arms. "Then why all the suspicious questions?"

"All? Suspicious?" Clark grabbed her shoulders gently. "I only asked one question, Lois."

"Yes, but it's the 'way' you asked it, Kal-El." Lois became increasingly agitated. "I can't sum up my relationsh…friendship with Clark in ten words or less."

"I'm not asking you to, Lois. I guess I just wanted to know if, well—" Clark cleared his throat. "If you think that something more might have come of your friendship with Clark if I hadn't entered the picture."

Lois turned and faced the window. She had to. The alternative would have been to lie to Superman's face, and she knew if she tried, the lie would stick in her throat. "Kal-El, even if I had never met you, a romance between me and Clark would probably never happen."

Clark noted her heart was still racing, but whether it was due to lying, or being genuinely upset, he could not tell. He approached her, and put his arms around her waist. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "Let's just drop the subject."

Lois turned around. "I'm in love with you, Kal-El. You don't have to ever worry about me and any other man, and especially not Clark. Neither one of us would betray you."

Clark lifted her chin and leaned forward. "I know, honey," he said, his mouth nearly touching hers. Her lips parted and he placed his mouth over hers. Clark knew he would have to tell her, but as the kiss became deeper and hungrier, he decided it could wait until morning—or the end of the weekend at the latest.