Yet another story centering around the theme of "What if Superman and Clark Kent had stayed separated after the For Tomorrow story arc?" I tried to stay true to the characters as I see them. There will probably be a follow-up to this, but I'm not in the mood write it yet. Comments and criticisms would be appreciated!
Superman landed gently on the roof of the apartment building and began walking slowly towards a pacing Lois Lane-Kent. She stopped pacing when she saw him. She looked very uncomfortable and her eyes wouldn't meet his. That alone told him what her decision was, but he wanted her to tell him in words. He was pretty nervous himself. Depending on what she decided, this meeting could wind up to be a disaster.
He and Clark had already made their own decision about this after a lot of talking. The decision regarding Lois was simple really. It was how to break it to her that took up most of their talk. It was an odd situation and neither man nor Superman wanted to hurt her. They both loved her, but only one of them was still IN love with her.
Since she was so nervous, he surmised that Lois hadn't talked to Clark yet. It was up to Superman to tell her and he still wasn't exactly sure how to go about it. It seemed best to let her speak first. Maybe then he wouldn't have to explain anything.
Head lowered, Lois took a deep breath before finally lifting her head to look the Man of Steel in the eye.
"I..." she began, but lost her words for a moment. "This is really difficult, you know." He almost smiled, but thought better of it.
"This isn't really fair that I have to choose."
"I know, Lois."
"Well, I did choose once before, didn't I? Before I knew that you were really Clark and that he was really you."
Another deep breath.
I chose Clark the first time and I'm choosing him again this time. I'm so sorry, Cla-- Superman. I don't know what else to say. I just wish..." Tears began to fill her eyes. Whether from sadness or frustration, she wasn't sure.
He put a hand on her shoulder. "It's alright, Lois. Really. Clark and I understand that this is harder for you than for either of us. And you're right, you fell in love with and married Clark. Your decision is the right one."
Lois wasn't sure if he was just saying that or he really meant it. Staring into his eyes, she could see that he truly did mean it. She felt she might faint from relief.
"Can we... I mean... Are we still friends? I don't want you to just fly away and out of our lives altogether. I'm sure Clark feels the same."
"As far as I'm concerned, we are all still friends. I don't see how it would be much different than the relationship you had with me before you knew my other identity."
She thought that over for a moment, then nodded to herself. It would take time to get used to this but she felt she could do it. She hoped that Superman and Clark could too.
"So, what will you do now, Superman?"
"Well, I'll do what I've always done, Lois. Earth is my home and I won't stop fighting to protect it."
"No, I mean...well, you can tell me if it's none of my business, but what about the times you aren't saving the planet? You must have some idea of what you'd like to do with your private time." At least she had the grace to blush.
Superman laughed and Lois joined in. "I know, it's nosy of me", she said, "but I do care about you. I may not be in love with you, but I still love you."
"While I'm not in love with you either, Lois, I still love you, too."
He bent down and kissed her forehead. "Now, you have a life to get back to, Mrs. Kent, and I've got a Justice League meeting to attend. As he prepared to leap into the sky, he added "Tell Clark I said hello and I'll be seeing him around." He gave her a mischievous grin. "You two will have to fight over who gets exclusives from me from now on." She just smiled and and gave him an exaggerated roll of her eyes.
"Don't be a stranger, Superman."
She turned and began walking back to her apartment thinking "Well, that wasn't too hard. I think it'll be much easier telling Clark." Her hands only shook a little as she reached for the elevator button.
"Well, that wasn't too hard" thought Superman. It was just what Clark and he had decided earlier. There was no reason to tell Lois about it, though. It was better that she came to the decision on her own. He only felt relief that it was over. He'd been dreading this for days. Now he felt lighter than the air he was flying through. His hands only shook a little.
Entering the watchtower conference room, he found himself the last of the members to arrive. There weren't many heroes there, but that was to be expected. This particular meeting was for senior members only.
From the guilty looks on their faces, it seems that they had just been discussing him. No surprise, really. He hadn't seen any of them since "the Split". They were wary of him now. They weren't quite sure who he was anymore. Not long ago he felt the same way about himself.
Looking around the room for a moment, he tried to read his friends' expressions as they all stood in front of their chairs.
Batman was unreadable, of course. He always was. But having known and worked with him for years Superman was sure he knew what he was thinking. He was thinking "Be prepared for the worst" and "Let Superman speak first. Give nothing away." Superman smiled brightly at him. That would give Bruce something else to consider.
Flash, by contrast, was a merry-go-round of emotions. Hopeful, then wary, then relieved...around and around he went, all his emotions plain on his face.
J'onn J'onzz the Martian Manhunter. By his expression he just felt relieved. J'onn didn't really enjoy leading the League in his absence and it was plain that he was glad to step down. Superman felt something brush against his mind. Evidently J'onn was tempted probed his friend's mind to see what he was thinking. At the last second, he decided not to.
Aquaman was almost as expressionless as Batman. He didn't attend as many meetings as he used to, but this was expected to be a most interesting gathering. He, too, had a 'wait and see' attitude.
Judging by how many of the other heroes had lined the corridors leading to the conference room, everyone expected something momentous to happen. Superman had no idea what that could be.
Finally, he looked to Wonder Woman. She looked...hopeful? That didn't make sense. But then, she always confused him. Confused him as much as Lois ever did. Superman had always had strong feelings for Diana, even when he was still with Lois. Now, though... Neither Diana nor Clark knew, but she was the main reason that Superman and Clark Kent agreed so readily about themselves and Lois. Mentally, he shook himself. No time for that now. I have a meeting to chair, and I'd better clear the air first.
All except for Superman took their seats.
"Everyone is here, but before we get this meeting started I'd like to clarify what has been going on with me. I know that we don't normally discuss personal issues here, but this affects all of you and I'd like to share what I can."
Still standing, he continued. "At some point during the 'vanishing' my alter ego and I were...how can I say this...separated. After that vanishing was corrected, we found that we were still separated. Talking it over, we found that we had no idea how to re-integrate ourselves and decided not to pursue such a 'cure'. We ultimately decided to go our own ways."
He gave them all a moment to mull over the implications of that.
"Now, having given you that background, I'll get to what you've all been wondering. Yes, I'm still Superman. Yes, I have all my memories. No, there aren't two 'Supermen' wandering around. I am what I always have been. The only difference being that now there is another being on earth who shares my memories, but without the powers. I don't know how clear an explanation that is, but it's all that I have. Are there any questions?"
Superman could see that they had all relaxed a bit after his explanation, but no one said anything for a moment. There was still some strained emotions in the room, however.
Flash finally raised his hand. "Did anyone happen to order a pizza? I'm starving!" That was enough to break the tension. Even Batman almost smiled. For most of them, nothing would be different and their relief was palpable. Then there was that strange expression from Diana again. He hoped that it meant what he thought it did. He needed to speak to her after the meeting. Hopefully she wouldn't just teleport out right away. He stared at her, trying to will that thought into her mind. She seemed to understand because she nodded her head at him.
The rest of the meeting was uneventful. There was no new business and no new threats to deal with. After they were adjourned, the rest of the heroes gathered around their leader. Everyone except Aquaman, who had some royal duties to perform in his underwater kingdom, and Flash who had a date back home. Both of them clapped Superman on the back as they left to let him know they were glad he had returned.
J'onn left the room soon after, leaving Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman to themselves. Diana said nothing, but was looking at Superman intensely. His attention at the moment, however, was directed at Batman, who was making his own explanations.
"You understand that it was our duty to try and stop you from using that machine, don't you? We didn't believe we could afford to have you vanish too."
"Yes, I do understand, Bruce. I would have done the same in your place." Superman knew that Diana would not even attempt an explanation. She knew he understood and that was enough.
Between the three of them, they could use their real names. They all knew each other's secret identities. Except that Superman no longer had one.
"How is Clark dealing with this? Is he adjusting as well as you seem to be?"
"I think he'll be fine, Bruce. It will take some time for both of us to get used to it, but I think it will work out fine. He and Lois will be able to work it out together."
"Are you sure you don't want to pursue a possible re-integration? I'm sure that with all the technology at our disposal--"
Superman held up a hand to Bruce, but stared into Diana's eyes as he said "No. No re-integration. Clark and I go our separate ways and that's all."
Batman looked at his friend staring at Wonder Woman and smiled faintly. "Ah, I see... Well, if you two will excuse me, I have some business in Gotham to take care of. Until next time." Batman was careful to close the door behind him.
Superman and Wonder Woman both watched the Dark Knight go. When the door closed, they faced each other again. Diana spoke first.
"So how is Lois doing, Kal? Have the three of you made your decisions?" Diana wasn't normally so direct. Not about things that didn't affect her, anyway. But this affected her very much and both of them knew it.
"Lois is fine, and so is Clark." He couldn't tear his eyes away from her then even if the watchtower exploded. She didn't seem to want to avert her gaze either.
"Lois decided on her own what Clark and I decided. She fell in love with Clark and Clark is who she's staying with. That's what she wants and that's what Clark wants."
"What about what YOU want? You left that part out."
"It doesn't matter what I want--"
"It matters to me" she said softly. "It matters very much to me."
At that instant, he knew what he wanted. He knew that she wanted it too. What she didn't want was for him to still be torn between her and Lois. It was time for him to be direct.
"This is what I wanted too, Diana. Our memories didn't change, but it looks as if our emotions did. At least, mine did. I wasn't in love with Lois. Clark Kent was. It doesn't make any sense to me either, but that's the way it is.
He could see it in her eyes. Hope and desire. He could also see the reflection of his own eyes. Eyes that showed the very same things.
Still staring into his eyes and speaking softly, she repeated "And what do you want, Kal?"
Lost in her eyes, he absently reached for her hands and held them. "I want to take you to out to dinner." For a second that felt like a year, he watched her expression and waited.
Finally, with a throaty laugh, she dragged him towards the door by his hand. "I thought you'd never ask!"