Author's note: I wrote most of this shortly after seeing Dawn of Justice for the first time, but when I heard they were doing a Wonder Woman movie, I decided to put it on hold until after I knew the movieverse Diana Prince a bit better. My patience was richly rewarded, and I hope you enjoy the results! Picks up in the aftermath of the battle with Doomsday.
Lois couldn't think, couldn't feel, couldn't look away from the gaping hole in the S. It's not an S. On my world, it means hope. But Earth was his world. He'd made it his, had loved it, had loved her. It meant hope wherever he was. And now hope was...
"We have to move you two away from here," the brunette with the superpowers said. "Both Superman and the beast are probably still radioactive."
Lois knew what each word meant, but she couldn't focus enough to make sense of them when put together. She only knew one truth. "I'm not leaving him behind."
The woman sighed but Batman said, "Wait here."
Lois was focused on Clark, on searching for any sign of a heartbeat or breath, and time meant nothing. It could have been seconds or it could have been hours later that a dark brown delivery van pulled up beside them. Batman hopped out and opened the back doors. "Come on, in here."
The brunette stooped to gather Clark in her arms, and a sob caught in Lois' throat despite herself.
"You may come with us, of course," the stranger said to her, unexpected compassion in her eyes.
Again, Lois couldn't make the words work together into something coherent, but as long as they didn't try to make her leave him, she would do what they said.
The brunette stretched Clark out on the van floor, and Lois cradled his head on her lap. The brunette shut the doors and a moment later the van lurched forward. Lois kept caressing his face, his hair, holding on to hope, holding on to him because he'd worked miracle after miracle during the decades he'd walked this Earth so why shouldn't she expect a miracle now?
Batman and the brunette were talking - something about evading news helicopters - but Lois wasn't paying attention. She rested her hand on his shoulder, but the warmth was fading from his body, and already he was colder to her touch than she'd ever felt. She'd walked through snow, flown through storms with him, and his skin was warmer then than it was now.
Lois felt tears streaming down her cheeks. She couldn't bring herself to let go of him long enough to wipe them away. She couldn't ask him to come back to her, either. The hole in his chest made that impossible, and the words died in her throat. So she kept coming back to the one thing she knew, the one thing she wanted him to know. "I love you, Clark," she whispered. "You reduce me to some silly fangirl every time you kiss me, every time you smile. And I don't hate myself for it. You made me fall so head-over-heels in love with you that I don't even care how ridiculous I am. I love you!"
The van slowed to a stop and the woman with superpowers joined her in the cargo area. "Lois? Lois, I need you to focus."
She looked up at the brunette, who said, "His mother is out there speaking to a police officer. Can you convince her to come with us?"
Martha. Lois' heart broke even more at the thought of bringing her here, but the others were right. She needed to know. Looking again at the gaping hole in Clark's chest, she said, "I can't leave him alone."
"I'll stay here with him," the stranger assured her.
Drawing a shaky breath, Lois climbed into the passenger seat. She did a double-take when she saw that Batman had removed his headgear. Of course, it would make him less conspicuous as he drove, but the rest of the suit would be visible if he got out. She numbly realized that's why they needed her to go get Martha.
It took a surprising amount of willpower for her to open the door and climb out of the van. Fortunately, Martha noticed her right away and came running. "Lois, are you okay?"
She wanted to answer "no" but knew that would only upset Martha more.
"There's blood all over you," Martha continued, examining Lois' shirtsleeve. "Did you take a knock on the head?"
The older woman froze, but all Lois could think to say was, "I need you to come with me."
Lois led her to the back door of the van and opened it. Martha covered her mouth in shock when she saw Clark. The brunette beckoned them in, and Lois let Martha cradle Clark's head this time. Batman fired up the engine again, and the stranger shut the back doors. Wordlessly, she made her way back up to the passenger seat, giving Martha and Lois some space.
Time seem suspended except for the occasional jostle from a sharp turn, but eventually Lois heard Batman dial someone and say, "We're coming in, Alfred, but I'm going to need you to open the back door for us."
His words stirred something in Martha. "The sun's coming up soon," she said, looking with wild eyes toward the driver's seat. "Please, he needs the sun's radiation."
The van angled down a steep incline, but Batman didn't answer. A moment later, they slowed to a stop and both Batman and the stranger climbed out. When the cargo doors opened, his head was still bare, and Lois finally recognized him in the bright indoor lighting: Bruce Wayne. Bruce Wayne was Batman. The knowledge should have been exciting, but it fell dull and flat into her mind like pebbles into dust.
Bruce helped first Lois and then Martha out of the cargo area but the brunette placed a gentle hand on Martha's shoulder. "He has died honorably."
Martha shook it off. "I don't know who you are, young lady, but clearly you don't know anything about my son." She turned to Bruce Wayne instead. "Please, I'm begging you. A south-facing window. Something."
He sighed heavily. "The solarium. We'll bring him there."
As he grabbed a rolling desk chair nearby, the woman (who Lois was liking less and less) asked, "For how long?"
Bruce glanced at Martha and then back at the brunette. "For now. For however long she needs."
The woman frowned slightly, then helped lift Clark into the chair. They rolled him quickly to an elevator and then up into what turned out to be a mansion.
They were met by an older man whose attire and whole demeanor said butler. His jaw dropped slightly when he saw the wound in Clark's chest.
"Alfred," Bruce said, "this is Superman's mother. She wants him taken to the solarium."
"Of course," Alfred said, composing himself and leading the way.
Dawn was breaking, the first beams of sunlight striking the roof of the glass room as they entered. It smelled like oranges and springtime, Lois absently noted, but she didn't pay attention to the potted plants around them. Martha instructed them to lay Clark out on the tile floor and then she looked up at Lois. "We need to take the Suit off him."
Lois looked pointedly at the brunette, Bruce, and Alfred, and Alfred at least realized why. He coughed politely. "I'll be out in the hall, should you need anything."
Bruce and the other woman caught on, too, and followed him out. When they closed the door, Martha said, "I'm sorry if I embarrassed you, but I've never seen him put it on or take it off."
Lois smiled sadly. "No worries. I have." It was an alien suit, and so it wasn't held together with zippers or buttons. There was a little clasp with a single loop of thread on it just under the collar at the base of his throat. Her fingers found it, loosed it, and tugged gently, and the cloth split to his waist. Some of the blood had apparently pooled in his suit because it started leaking out as Martha and Lois pulled his arms from the sleeves, staining the white tile. Without the pattern of the S to distract her eyes, the wound in Clark's chest yawned even wider and more terrible.
The sun's rays slowly crept down the walls, lower and lower, and Martha grumbled something under her breath about December.
"What?" Lois asked.
Martha didn't look up from Clark's face cradled in her lap. "Of course this would happen in the wintertime, when the days are short and the sun is weakest."
Lois doubted it would have made a difference if it had been mid-June and Clark had a day and a half solid of sunlight. Something should be moving in that hole - his heart, his lungs - but he was perfectly still. What could possibly heal death?
Still she waited anxiously at Martha's side, and she felt something other than mere denial stir in her heart when the sun's rays reached her face, warming it. Maybe. Maybe now. Maybe this was what he needed - time in the sun. He'd survived a nuke - just maybe he would survive this, too. Ever so slowly the fingers of sunlight crept down her arms to where she clung to his cold hand.
It wasn't until she started to feel faint that she realized she was holding her breath, and she forced herself to inhale deeply. The light crossed from her skin to his.
Clark was dead. Hope was dead. The knowledge crashed over her, startling and bitter cold. Lois dropped the corpse's hand and looked at her own hands with horror. Martha was holding her son's dead body.
"It'll be okay, you'll see," Martha softly said, not looking up.
"I...I need some air," Lois said, and it wasn't a lie. Her heart was racing, her breath coming in quick gusts. She had to get out of there. Rising to her feet, she fled to the hallway and shut the door behind her. Anger welled up in her - anger at herself for being so gullible, anger at Clark for dying, anger at Martha for still clinging to false hope.
She was being irrational, she recognized, but she still wanted to punch something. She closed her eyes and leaned against the door, breathing deeply. Fight or flight - that's what she was feeling, and that would also explain the free-floating sense of panic. Giving name to her emotions helped, and her heart-rate gradually slowed. She knew anger was one stage of grieving, but she hadn't expected it to be like this.
As her fury ebbed, sorrow flowed in to take its place, and tears again spilled down her face. She felt her knees start to give and lurched forward. She had to keep moving, keep thinking, or that yawning hole in Clark's chest would swallow her, too.
She wandered aimlessly for a while, but the sound of voices drew her toward an elegant room with ceiling-to-floor bookshelves and a huge TV mounted on the wall. The TV was tuned to CNN and the voices were coming from it. Bruce was there in street clothes, standing near an oak desk and reading something on a tablet. There was a leather couch facing the TV, and the stranger (who had also changed out of her superhero costume) was sitting there watching the news. Lois drifted to a stop by the couch. Seeing her, the brunette muted the TV and rose to her feet.
Remembering how she had fought at his side, Lois swallowed her mild dislike of the woman and extended her hand. "Thank you for standing with Clark."
Again the warrior-woman's expression shifted to compassion, and she warmly shook Lois' hand. "Of course."
"That was his name?" Bruce asked, surprised.
The past-tense wording was a slap to the face, and Lois glared at him, remembering again how he'd nearly killed Clark just hours before. "Yes. Clark Kent. He was raised here on Earth, and all his life all he ever wanted was to help other people. He's a good man - the best that I've ever known. He works at the Planet with me. He and I…" Again the hole in his chest loomed large, swallowing the present they'd shared, the tomorrow they'd always thought would be there. He'd never kiss her again.
"Yes?" the brunette asked.
Lois shook her head, trying to clear it. Finally focusing on the stranger, she mumbled, "I don't even know your name."
A wistful smile flickered on her face. "Diana. You may call me Diana Prince." Glancing toward the door Lois had entered through, she added, "What about his mother? Martha?"
Lois huffed, though it came out more like a croak, and sat down heavily in a corner of the couch. "She's a fool."
"I don't understand," Diana said.
"He gets his powers from the sun," Lois explained, squeezing her eyelids tight against the tears. "She's hoping that with enough sunlight he'll come back to life."
After a long silence, the couch shifted, and she opened her eyes again.
Diana was sitting in the other corner, her head tilted curiously. "And you don't share her hope?"
Lois struggled for a moment to find the words. "The S meant hope on Krypton. It meant hope here. And now it's gone."
Understanding lit Diana's eyes and she nodded slightly.
Alfred entered just then, carrying a tea service, and set it on the desk next to Bruce.
Lois was still too frustrated with him and looked away. Motion on the TV caught her eye, and she noticed that the talking head was at Heroes Park downtown where crowds were starting to gather in mourning. "It makes me so angry," she almost growled through her tears. "He was good. Genuinely, unfathomably good! They were burning him in effigy yesterday and now they're flocking to his memory."
Diana sounded actually sad when she said, "Your modern world thinks too much and feels too little."
Lois looked at her sharply. "What is that supposed to mean?"
Diana seemed lost in thought, though. "I saw the news coverage after the incident in Nairomi. There was so much fear because he was so powerful. They debated for days what they knew in their hearts was true. Good deeds do not alone make a person good."
Lois glared at her, trembling with a jumble of emotions she couldn't even begin to label. "Then what on Earth does?"
Diana's expression softened as she looked toward the sun room where Martha kept vigil. "Sacrifice. Anciently we approached the Gods with sacrifice, and there is no sacrifice more potent than one's own blood. No living human being can ever be as good as one who has sacrificed his life for another." A sad smile tugged at her lips. "Even if he be a smuggler, a murderer, and a liar."
Sobs wracked Lois, the choking roar of pain and grief that denial and anger had held at bay. If Clark sacrificing himself for Earth was what it took to make him a good man, then Lois rejected the label of 'good' entirely.
To her shock, Diana wrapped her arms around her, holding her and steadying her, and Lois felt a tendril of gratitude creep into her broken heart.
"They're arresting Luthor," Bruce quietly said. "Why now?"
Lois' eyes squeezed more tightly shut, and she buried her face in Diana's shoulder.
"That would be my doing," Alfred said. "I discreetly relayed his role in this to our contacts at the Gotham City PD."
"Thank you," Bruce answered, and even Lois could hear that he was holding back some kind of strong emotion in those two simple words.
"The world will understand now," Diana said. "In their minds, Luthor will be the villain, and Superman's sacrifice will purify him in their memories."
"I don't care," Lois snarled as she shook.
"His sacrifice purifies us as well," Diana continued as if Lois hadn't spoken. "Such a sacrifice is born of love, and that love…that love lives forever. It makes us wiser, stronger, better."
It finally occurred to Lois that Diana probably wasn't talking in the abstract. "Who did you lose?" she whispered.
After a long pause, Diana said, "Everyone, eventually."
Lois leaned back and looked at the super-heroine with new eyes, her own raw grief amplifying a sudden swell of compassion. "I'm so sorry. What happened?"
"It's a long story…"
When it became clear to Lois that she wasn't going to say more than that, Bruce added, "Since at least World War I," and Diana gave him an exasperated look.
"What am I missing here?" Lois asked.
Diana looked back to her. "My point is that we Amazons..."
"You're an Amazon?" Bruce interrupted, his eyes wide.
She paused, hung her head, and a small smile played on her lips. Looking up again, she said to Bruce, "Nice catch, little boy." She was more somber when she looked back to Lois. "You are the only humans alive who know this."
"How old are you?" Lois wondered.
Diana's smile turned coy. "Such a rude question to ask a woman."
Lois sat in stunned silence - this was just one thing too many for her grief-stricken mind to comprehend.
Diana seemed to understand, though, and she took one of Lois' hands in hers, her expression earnest. "Many of us have cause to grieve, Lois Lane, and we do one of two things."
Lois searched her timeless face. "What's that?"
"We fade into a shadow of our former selves - or we rise up and change the world." Again a small, sad smile tugged at her lips. "There is no going back to what once was. Take the time to grieve, but when you are faced with that choice, do what you know in your heart would honor Clark Kent the most. Change the world."