Fandom: Superman Returns
Pairing: Clark/Lois, Richard/Lois
Word count: 3496
Summary: In which Lois falls in and out of love (but probably not in the ways you'd think).
Notes: For zauberer_sirin, for being my partner in Clark/Lois squee. Unbetaed.
When Clark comes back to the Planet, Lois barely notices. There's so much craziness going on with Superman being back and her Superman issues (that are always there, no matter what she tells Richard).
But when things even out again, somewhat, and everything's back to sort-of normal, she gets a chance to appreciate Clark coming back. She's always liked him, in an almost indulgent sort of way. It's not his fault, really, that he's a dork.
So one day, she invites him out to breakfast after an all-nighter, and it's cute, the way he blushes and stammers, "Um, are you sure this is all right? With Richard?"
She laughs and takes him by the arm, because he's Clark, and he's safe in a way that's unshakable and solid. "Of course," she says.
And the smile that spreads his across his face is pretty cute, too.
"Clark Kent has a crush on you," Mary from two desks down tells Lois, one day, as she's packing it in for the afternoon (She needs to pick Jason up from school, even though there's something odd going on between the senator and the mayor and the docks).
It's not really a surprise, that he's done that. Clark's almost a puppy dog in that sort of way. You feed him once, let him follow you home, and he's yours forever. "I know," she says, "but he knows that I'm with Richard, and it's not like I'm leading him on."
Mary gives her a pitying look that almost makes Lois want to smack her. "You can tell yourself that, dear."
Lois leaves without saying another word.
Clark's smile, Lois has decided, is everything middle America wishes it were. Bright, clean, honest, and innocent. And the most surefire way to see it is to compliment him on inane things, the tie he's wearing that day, a new haircut, his shoes.
So she does it a lot, because she likes Clark, and if she can make him smile, then she should do that. She's his friend, after all. And he's always a better reporter after a friendly compliment (which makes her job easier for her).
Richard always looks a little uneasy when she does that, though. "It's fine," she always tells him. "Clark's just a friend, that's all. He'll find the girl for him, one day. Until then, he just needs some cheering up."
Richard never looks convinced.
Perry assigns Clark to be her partner, and so they end up spending even more time together. Late-night research sessions, debates over the relative validity of another crazy theory, press conferences and interviews.
Richard isn't too happy about it, though he doesn't say anything.
"What is it exactly that bothers you about it?" she asks him one night after sex.
Richard sighs and rubs his face. "It's just, that with Superman, I know I can't compete." That surprises her, and she opens her mouth to insist that it wasn't true, but Richard holds up a finger, and so she closes it again. "With Clark," he says, "it's different. He's human. If I lose you to him, it's not because he can fly or that he saves the world. It's because I wasn't good enough."
She straddles his waist and kisses him deeply. "You're not going to lose me."
She wishes she knew that she was telling the truth.
One day, she covers Superman's handling of a fire in a downtown complex (she was supposed to go with Clark, but for some reason, she couldn't get a hold of him).
He's no less charming, no less handsome, but for some reason, she doesn't get the same rush, just from being in his presence.
She gets a few quotes for her story, and he looks a little confused when she keeps glancing over her shoulder.
"Sorry, I left, like, a million messages on my partner's cell phone, and he's still not here," she tells him apologetically.
Superman smiles at that, and his smile reminds her, strangely, of Clark's. That fact brings back a warm, familiar glow to her heart.
It's in that moment, that she realizes that she's completely fucked.
She tries to cut back on the late nights, using Jason as a convenient excuse, but Clark occasionally insists on coming over. He likes seeing Jason, and Jason likes seeing him.
He and Richard get along well enough. They respect each other as reporters and as people, and they both know her choice (at the moment, anyway), which makes things a little easier all around.
She's sure as hell not going to be the one to change that anytime soon, because she loves Richard, and she chose him, and anything else would be giving up.
Lois has never been one for the status quo. It's the sort of thing that keeps dirty politicians in office, keeps corporations in the business of screwing people over, keeps people from knowing the truth. But in this particular case, she's beginning to see the appeal.
One day, Richard tells her he's leaving for a four month tour as a foreign correspondent to Israel.
"Why?" she asks.
"I want to," he says. "I want to see it for myself, and let the whole know world what I see. I want to be the kind of journalist who sees things up close." She can see the real desire there, the real passion, and she can't stop him from loving his work, wouldn't even want to try.
"What about Jason?"
"He's getting old enough that he can go for a little time without me."
She sees him off at the airport, and he kisses her on the forehead. "You have space now. Figure out things with Clark, okay?" he says.
She nods mutely at him.
Clark comes over most nights, while Richard's gone. Jason really likes him, and even Lois must admit that Clark would make an amazing father one day. There's a tenderness to him around Jason that warms the maternal part of Lois that Lois never knew she had before Jason.
They're closer than ever, mostly because Clark can cook, and Lois can't, which makes things much better when he's over. He also tells the greatest stories about growing up in a small town, and she tells him her misadventures growing up as a city girl. It's friendly.
Nothing happens, ever, because Clark respects her, respects Richard, respects Jason, but that doesn't mean Lois doesn't feel guilty every single time she lets him in.
"Are you sure Richard's okay with this?" Clark asked the first time she invited him over, and it was hard to miss the anxious, desperate look in his eyes.
"I don't know," she told him.
Clark looked away, his eyes distant. "Do you love him?"
"Yes," she said, because she did love Richard (his gentle hands, his bright laugh), regardless of her long-held Superman issues and her recently-developed Clark issues.
Something resolved itself on Clark's face. He nodded. "Good," he said, before walking inside.
When Richard calls, he mostly talks to Jason (she can hear the happiness in her son's voice as they talk), listens to her talk about the Planet (Perry, Jimmy, the bits of gossip even she hears), tells her about what it's like for him there.
Sometimes he asks how Clark is. She usually says "fine."
Sometimes she tells him that she misses him. When she does, she always means it.
She gets pushed out another window, and Superman catches her (like he always used to).
"Haven't done that in a while," he tells her, bright smile flashing across his face. "You've been more carefully lately."
Lois shrugs, as best she can while in someone's arms as they're flying. It's not that his presence doesn't make her heart race anymore or that his touch doesn't make her melt a little. It's that the feelings are amputated somehow, missing parts of themselves.
She knows that she can't know him the way she knows Richard, the way she knows Clark, even if he told her everything about himself. He's too distant, too far away, too alien, and even if that intrigued her once, she's not so young anymore. Superman belongs to the world, and she's selfish enough to want a bit of him that could belong only to her. "Figured you had better things to do than to catch me all the time," she says. She still hasn't told him about Jason, but she bets he knows, somehow.
His face softens into something gentler, something almost wistful. "I'll always be there to catch you," he says with firm resolve.
She believes him.
Clark asks her about Superman once, over dinner (Chinese take-out, because they were both feeling lazy, and Jason had already been put to bed). "Do you love him?" His eyes are half-closed under his glasses.
"I did once. Now I'm not sure," she looks out the window, into the dark, wondering if he's watching at that exact moment.
Clark tilts his head to the side the way he does in interviews occasionally. "Why's that?"
"He's Superman," she says, hoping her voice doesn't crack too much. She wishes they'd gotten the wine out. A little alcohol would do the trick. "Mortals were never meant to fall in love with gods."
Something flashes across Clark's face, and she thinks he wants to say more, but he doesn't.
When Richard calls the next time, she tells him everything, about how Clark's been staying over, how Jason likes him, how she thinks she's falling out of love with Superman, how she still loves him, even though he's on the other side of the world. She tells him that Jason isn't really his, and that she didn't know that herself until a few months ago.
She tells him that she doesn't know what she wants.
He waits a beat before responding. "I'm going to ask Uncle Perry to make this a permanent assignment."
She opens her mouth to say something, but no sound comes out.
"You don't have to give back the ring," he says before hanging up.
Even though she made sure to wash her face before coming into work, Clark somehow knows she's been crying. Of course, the news of her and Richard's breakup is old news in the bullpen by the time she gets there, but Clark hovers, bordering on being annoying.
"I'm sorry," he says.
"It's not your fault," she says, and she's only half-lying, because it's her fault too, isn't it?
"Is there anything I can do?"
Lois thinks of telling him to fuck off, but thinks better of it. Richard had been a lot of things to her, her boyfriend of five years, the father of her child (in every way that mattered), her friend, her lover, but she would never give him the power to break her (no matter how close to the edge she felt). Her rage has better uses. She sets her shoulders forward and schools her face into a fierce expression. "You can get me someone to harass."
The mayor was probably not very happy to be their target, but Lois felt much better when she managed to get him to confess to taking bribes in return for city contracts.
When she tells Jason that Daddy's not going to be coming home as planned, he asks why, and she doesn't really have an answer for him.
Instead, she hugs him tightly to her chest, and tells him that she loves him very much.
Clark seems to be in a state of worried panic. It's not a good look on him.
"Clark, I'm fine," she tells him.
His eyes are wide and earnest. "Are you sure?" he asks.
She downs another cup of coffee and glares at him. It pisses her off that his overprotective streak can be strangely attractive at times. "I'm fine."
Clark still looks worried, but he leaves her alone.
Jimmy's the next one to ask, hands fidgeting over his camera like this is the most awkward things he's ever done. It probably is. She tells him to get lost. He does.
Perry calls her into his office the day after, tells her that things will work themselves out in the end. She nods, mutely.
When she ends up interviewing Superman (after he helped take care of a collapsed building), he gives her a concerned look. "Are you okay, Ms. Lane? You seem a little on edge."
She smiles at him, puts on her "Look at me, I'm brave!" face. "I'm fine," she says.
Superman does not look convinced either.
She finds herself crying in a back office, and part of her hates herself for it. She should be stronger than this. She should be out there kicking ass. She should be out there winning Pulitzers for her editorials about "Why the World Doesn't Need Richard Fucking White."
Clark finds her crying in the back office, too, and she thinks he's going say something incredibly, painfully earnest and piss her off or maybe just generally interfere with her private breakdown.
Instead, he remains silent and sits down beside her.
When she sobs into his shoulder and chest, it's the best she's felt since before Superman came back.
She goes up to the roof to clear her head after staring at bank records for too long. She almost lights a cigarette, but that's too cutesy, even for her these days. That doesn't mean she doesn't want it, though.
Superman meets her there, anyway.
"Jason's your son," she says to him him. "I needed to tell you that."
The lack of surprise on his face answers one question at least. She wonders how long he's known. Almost as long as he's been back, she figures.
"But that's not the only reason I'm here. I want to ask you a favor," she says, still really wanting that cigarette.
She holds out the engagement ring. "Can you give this back to Richard? I was going to mail it, but that doesn't seem right." It might seem a little cruel, having Superman be the one to deliver it, but she thinks Richard knows her better than that.
Superman takes it. "I'm sorry that it didn't work out between you two," he says, and despite everything that had happened, despite them, she knows he really means it.
She watches as he flies off.
"When are you going to make a move?" Mary asks her a few weeks later.
Lois is flipping through old newspaper clippings when she asks, and that throws her off. "What?"
"On Clark," she says like it's the most obvious thing in the entire world. Lois glances at him. He's on the other side of the room, trying to get the electric pencil sharpener to work.
Lois' first reaction is to tell Mary it's none of her business. Her second reaction is to tell Mary that she's with Richard, thank you very much.
But then she remembers that she's not with Richard anymore.
She gives Mary the look she gives the slimy society types who seriously underestimate her. "Right now's as a good time as any," she says as she makes her way across the room.
"Uh, hey, Lois," Clark says when she reaches him. He holds up a mutilated pencil with a look of confusion on his face. "I don't think it's supposed to do that."
She ignores his comment. "Are you free tomorrow night?" she asks.
The look of confusion worsens. "I think so. I mean, we're still going over the Howard evidence, right?"
"Screw it. You're taking me out to dinner. I'll get a babysitter for Jason."
Clark just stares at her, his mouth hanging half-open.
"Pick me up at eight," she tells him, grabbing the pencil out of his hand and placing it on the table. She doesn't want him poking his eye out.
Dinner's good. Clark looks a little shell shocked the entire time, but it's good food, and it's good company, and they talk shop the entire time. Lois doesn't mind, though. She likes talking shop with him.
Clark walks her graciously back to the door, ever the gentleman. He asks her if she had a good time, and she tells him that it wasn't bad, but that they'd have to do better next time. His eyes shine from behind the dorky glasses when she says "next time."
He turns, ready to leave, but she grabs him by the tie and pulls his lips to hers. The kiss is surprisingly soft and familiar, and when Lois pulls away, Clark's smiling, practically radiating joy.
She thinks she's probably radiating a little herself.
Richard comes back for a visit the month later. He's gotten a little worn around the edges, but there's something vibrant to him that Lois doesn't remember seeing in a while. He loves his job, and Lois knows that feeling.
Their meeting is a little awkward, a lot of looking at feet and at walls, but not so awkward that things will never heal between them. Lois likes that.
"You're dating Clark," he says. It's not an accusation.
"Yeah, for about a month." It's been a good month. Clark's a good guy.
"You look happy."
"So do you." She resists the urge to chew on a lip.
"I'm glad he makes you happy." He smiles a small, giving smile, but she catches the flash of hurt in his eyes.
They lapse into silence.
"Did Superman..." she begins.
"Yeah, he did," Richard says. "Tried to convince me to come back, too."
"He's like that."
"That he is." He stares out the window at the Metropolis skyline. "Can I see Jason?"
It surprises Lois that he thinks he even needs to ask. "Of course."
Jason's thrilled to see him, and she leans back to give them a little space. Let them have this reunion together. Richard looks so happy with Jason, that she's tempted to ask for another chance, but then she catches sight of one of Clark's mugs left behind on the kitchen counter, and she remembers why it didn't work then, and why it wouldn't work now. She thinks Richard understood that better than she ever did.
Right when Richard's about to leave, they straighten out all the messy details. The house (she's going to move back into the city), Jason (he'll stay with her, go to the same school, but Richard can visit whenever he wants), the stuff they'd bought together (she gets the coffee maker, he gets the refrigerator). They'd grown too much together for it to be a completely clean break, but it could have been more painful than it was.
"I'm sorry I couldn't be what you wanted," he tells her.
Lois thinks of Clark's, warm, goofy, small town charm and the surprising clarity of Richard's eyes. "I'm sorry, too," she says.
She knocks on Clark's door at five, yet another month later.
Things had straightened out again. Richard still called all the time to talk to her, talk to Jason. Things were comfortable and friendly between them again, something she wasn't sure she'd ever get back.
She and Clark fit in all sorts of surprising ways. They balanced each other, his restraint to her recklessness, his mildness to her sharpness, his good cop to her bad cop, and he was growing as a reporter, more sure, more confident. He would be amazing one day (not as amazing as her, surely, but pretty damn amazing himself).
Jason seemed happier, too. His asthma was getting better, and he looked forward to the trips he took with Clark to the zoo and park ("Guys' day out," Clark liked to say, and Jason would nod enthusiastically in agreement).
Superman was, well, Superman, still saving her life on a regular basis, still someone she could love (and she still sort of did). But if he felt any resentment toward Clark for taking over fathering duties, he didn't show it (not that she thinks he would), and she wouldn't ask.
She taps her foot impatiently as she waits for Clark to open the door. He'd said that it was important, something about a secret of his, that he needed to show her something privately. Lois doesn't have any idea of what it's about (and that's not a frequent occurence).
She thinks about taking off, getting back to apartment to see Jason. Knowing Clark, this secret of his probably isn't all that important.