By Nan Smith
Disclaimer: The familiar characters and settings in this story are not mine. They belong to DC Comics, Warner Bros., December 3rd Productions and whoever else may have any legal right to claim them, nor am I profiting by their use. The story is based on the Lois and Clark script "House of Luthor" and all parts and ideas taken from that script are hereby credited to the writers of the show. Any new characters, settings, and any changes in the story belong to me.
This is the sequel to Wedding Day.
Perry's car slid to a stop and Clark Kent disengaged one arm from his former partner to open the door. Lois didn't make the slightest attempt to remove her arms from around his neck or her face from the hollow of his shoulder. She had clung to him with a hint of desperation ever since he had hustled her into their boss's car to remove her from the scene of her new husband's suicide.
"... Sorry ... so wrong ... knew it the minute it was done ... so glad you came ..."
The disjointed sentence was still echoing in his mind. Perry and Henderson had been too late to stop the wedding, and Lois's inability to admit that she'd made a mistake had carried her through with it. He'd known for some time that his partner had great difficulty admitting that she was ever wrong, and he'd realized after their last argument that his disapproval of what she intended to do had made it almost impossible. Then, once the deed was done, in typical Lois fashion reality must have crashed down on her and she must have realized that this time she had made an irretrievable mistake. Well, almost irretrievable. If Luthor hadn't jumped from the penthouse ballroom of the Lexor, and if Superman's powers hadn't been completely wiped out by the hours of exposure to Kryptonite, then she would have been tied to a monster for the rest of her life. Luthor would never have willingly let her go free, and he could very well imagine that the man's power would have extended from his prison cell to keep Lois from ever getting a divorce.
"Come on, Lois," he said. "We're at my place. Let's get inside before anyone sees you."
For of course he was well aware that the press would be all over the story. Perry had first driven past her place, and, as expected, they had seen that her apartment was already being staked out by a crowd of reporters waiting like a school of piranha for her to come home. Lois hadn't lifted her face from his shoulder, and he hadn't tried to make her. Between them, he and Perry had decided that his apartment was the best place for her to hide until some of the frenzy died down. She would have to face them eventually, but now wasn't the time.
In the end he had to carry her, since she refused to take her face from its place of safety in his shoulder. Perry opened doors for him and shut them behind him, and between them, he and his boss managed to get Lois into the apartment with a minimum of fuss. Clark got her seated on his sofa and sat next to her. Perry gave him a one-sided smile. "I'll just go back and collect Jimmy and Jack -- and have a word with Henderson. We'll be back about dinner time if that's okay."
He nodded. "That'll be fine, Chief. I think Lois has had all she can take for now."
"Can't say I blame her. I'll see you later, son. Take good care of her."
"I will, Perry."
When the door closed behind Perry, Clark stayed silent, holding his partner, not certain of what to do. Lois continued to cling to him, and he suspected that if he didn't try to change it, the situation might remain this way for some time.
"Lois," he said. "It's okay. We're at my place. Look at me."
She shook her head.
"Come on, Lois." He stroked her hair under the bridal train. "There's no one here but you and me."
"Oh Clark, I've been such an idiot." The broken voice hardly sounded like Lois, and she still didn't lift her head. Appalled, he felt the wetness of tears trickling down the inside of his collar. Was she crying over what had happened to Luthor? It wouldn't be surprising. She had gone from a bride, to a wife, to a widow all in the space of an hour. It would be enough to shake up anyone.
Her arms tightened around his neck and he could feel the tiny shudders wracking her body. He debated briefly the wisdom of prying her loose, but decided against it. Long minutes passed and at last he heard her sigh very faintly.
"Lois?" he said softly.
"As soon as the archbishop pronounced us man and wife, I realized what I'd done." The words were an almost inaudible mumble. "I married a man I didn't love all because I couldn't admit I was wrong ..." She took a long, uneven breath. "I didn't know what to do, and you weren't there to help ..."
"I'm sorry, Lois. I came as soon as I could."
"Clark, I'm so sorry." Her voice was muffled in his shirt and the occasional shudder still shook her. "You were right all along. I should have listened ... should have known you wouldn't make that up about anyone. I just didn't want to admit it." Suddenly the shuddering turned into almost desperate sobs. "I thought I'd never see you again." The words emerged, almost unintelligible between gulps and hiccups. "I couldn't live without you."
"It's all right," he whispered, amazed at what he was hearing. The independent Lois Lane who was his partner seemed to have vanished to be replaced by this new and very shaken Lois. He had always known that she had plenty of insecurities, but she had always hidden them beneath the abrasive image of Lois Lane, Career Woman. Luthor had played on each one of them unerringly in his campaign to acquire her as his wife. He had planned to erode her independence and self-confidence after they were married, as he had told the captive Superman, and it seemed as if he'd already made a good start. Clark couldn't rejoice that a man had died, but if he could come close to that emotion with anyone, it would be Lex Luthor. "You'll never have to live without me, Lois. Not unless you want to."
She shook her head again. "I'll never marry anyone. Never. Not if I have to give you up. Oh Clark, I'm so sorry I said what I did. I didn't know ... I didn't realize ... I didn't know who I really loved."
"Lois, you're in shock. Don't talk now. Wait until ..."
She pulled her head away from his shoulder suddenly and violently. Her face was blotchy from crying and streaked with tears. "No, Clark! All the time I was walking down the aisle the only person I could think of was you! I think I knew it was wrong, even then, but there was nobody who could see who I was thinking about and it seemed like I couldn't back out!" She drew a trembling breath, wiping the tears angrily away with the back of her hand. "I said I do to Lex, and then it was too late, and all I could think about was how I couldn't live without seeing you every day! God, Clark, what an idiot I was! What a fool! I threw away my best friend for a man a barely knew! How can you even stand to look at me?"
Suddenly she was on her feet and the tears had changed to frenzied anger. She strode back and forth, gesticulating wildly as she made her points. "I treated you so horribly, you -- the best man I've ever known! I had to have either Superman or Lex; not the wonderful man who was right under my nose the whole time!" She yanked the bridal veil from her head and hurled it to the floor. "Well Superman turned me down, and I can't blame him! He knew I was willing to marry a man I didn't love if he didn't want me! He was disgusted and I deserved every bit of it! I was selling myself to the highest bidder, and I threw away the best thing that ever happened to me for the sake of security! Clark I'm so sorry! I'm so ashamed of myself! If you never want to see me again, I won't blame you!"
"Lois, it's all right. I understand." He got to his feet. Somehow he had to stop this desperate self-recrimination. "Lois, don't!" He caught her and held her against him. "Honey, you're not making sense. Of course I want to see you again. I want to see you again every day of my life! Do you think I would have moved heaven and earth to try to prove what Luthor was if I didn't?"
For a second she struggled, but he held on tightly, and at last she subsided, her head against his chest. They stood that way for uncounted minutes and he felt the tension leaching out of her body. Gently he guided her back to the sofa again.
For some time he simply sat there, holding her against him. Luthor had manipulated her from the start. He had systematically destroyed her support structure and undermined her self-confidence so that in the end she would have no one to turn to except him. He, Clark, hadn't helped at all when he had been so cruel to her as Superman. Of course, he'd been hurt and jealous, and he hadn't acted very rationally either. In his own way, he had helped the process along.
Lois stirred finally and took a long breath. "It was you," she said.
"You. You never gave up, did you Clark?"
"I couldn't," he said. "I was fighting for the most precious thing in my life."
"Me," she said. She gave a bitter laugh. "Though why on Earth you still think so, I'll never understand. I don't think I've ever met -- will ever meet -- anyone quite like you."
"No," she said quietly. "Let me finish, Clark. Please."
"Lois -- "
"Clark, I nearly made the worst mistake of my life. No, I did make the worst mistake of my life."
"Lois, it's over now. Luthor is gone."
"No," she said. "Marrying Lex was the second worst mistake. The worst one was telling you that I didn't love you. Looking back at it now, I can't believe I said anything so stupid."
She ignored him. "I don't expect you to forgive me soon, or maybe ever, Clark. But if you think you could ... do you think that ... maybe we could try again? I meant it when I said I'll never marry if I have to give you up. Having you -- even as just a best friend -- is worth much more to me than marriage. There will never be any man that I could care for more than you."
He stared at her, unbelievingly. "Do you really mean that?"
"Of course I do!" she said with a touch of the old Lois. "I don't make the same mistake twice!"
He had been going to tell her that he didn't love her, that he had only been trying to save her from Luthor -- but now the words wouldn't come. It was much too soon to declare his love for her again. She had barely begun to recover from the hideous events of the day, her new husband's suicide, and all the emotional upset that she had endured. There would be the complications of the police investigation and the settlement of any of Luthor's legitimate assets. There would be the news stories and the less complimentary articles in the tabloids. There would be legal wrangles, and there was also the fact that she was now an extremely wealthy widow. And, of course, there was still the matter of Superman. All that had to be dealt with. But ...
He pulled her back against his chest again. "I'll remember that. Later, when all of this mess is behind us ..."
He felt her nod and ran a hand gently over her hair. "And when it is," he continued softly, "maybe we could see where it leads."
"I'd like that," she whispered. She snuggled more tightly against his chest and closed her eyes.
When Perry, Jimmy and Jack returned to Clark's apartment four hours later, bearing three boxes of extra-large pizza, two six-packs of soda and one of beer, they found Clark sitting on the couch with Lois's head resting on his chest. He lifted a finger to his lips.
Perry nodded and together he, Jimmy and Jack tiptoed quietly into the kitchen.