Author's Note: Hey all! Hope you like this one. A big thank you to htbthomas for the beta!

Disclaimer: I do not own Superman and I am not making any money off this story.

Passwords

"Love is like war: easy to begin, hard to end." -- Proverb

Lois Lane was furious.

Each day since the last sighting of Superman had only doubled her rage until now, three weeks later, she was ready to kill somebody. Poor Jimmy Olsen cringed every time she strode angrily into the bullpen, and even Perry had stopped yelling at her.

Lois wished Clark was still around. He'd let her rant and rave, give her a pillow to beat, make sure her coffee was always topped off – just generally take care of her and act as a buffer between her and the rest of the world. But as luck would have it, Clark had left just before Superman had, trekking off to a bunch of foreign, backwater countries where cell phones didn't work. She knew that for a fact; she'd tried to reach him dozens of times, only for a bland female voice to inform her that he wasn't available.

On a whim, she tried again.

"We're sorry, the customer you have dialed is currently out of the service range . . ."

Lois slammed the phone down. Two desks away, Jimmy jumped and glanced at her fearfully.

She ignored him. Where the hell was Clark? The Arctic?

She fought back the frustrated growl building up in her throat and let her head fall to the desk, hands tangled in fistfuls of hair.

Three desks to her left, a couple of her colleagues were talking about Perry's nephew, who would be starting work at the Planet after the weekend. Personally, Lois had no real interest in the subject. The guy was probably stupid and overweight, with a lazy eye and a lisp who lived in his mother's basement and played video games in his spare time, a slacker who couldn't even get a job without help from the family.

She dragged herself upright again, jaw clenched, and glared at her computer screen. As much as she would love to throw a very destructive tantrum, that wasn't what she was being paid to do. Unfortunately.

She booted up the computer, fingers going to the keyboard as the password request flashed across the screen. She typed Superman into the bar and hit enter.

As a green ACCESS GRANTED flashed and her files loaded, she suddenly realized just what her password was.

"No!"

Heads turned to look at her, conversations stopping abruptly. She lifted her head and glared at the room in general. "What?"

People turned away, and she knew she was the new topic of gossip. She snarled silently, but turned her attention back to the task at hand.

Which was to change her password.

She opened the application, deleted Superman with an angry jab of her finger (her middle finger, just to make a point), then leaned over the keyboard to type in her new password--

--and came up blank.

She sat back in her chair, trying to think of a new password. Something, anything . . .

She typed Clark into the bar, then backspaced. She was angry at Clark, too, for leaving her at a time like this. She'd show both Clark and Superman, though, that she didn't need either of them. At all. Not even as a password.

She discarded her parents' names, mulled over her sister's before deciding against it, and nearly used Jimmy's out of sheer exasperation before mentally smacking herself back to her senses.

She looked around the bullpen, desperate for inspiration.

Perry?

No.

Metropolis?

No.

Chair?

Definitely not.

Finally, she chose Annie, the name of her first pet dog. Not very original, but that was okay. At least it wasn't Superman.

She fumed. The bastard hadn't even said goodbye!

Grabbing a notepad, she wrote a title in bold, heavy lines – Why The World Doesn't Need Superman.

Maybe if she listed all his faults, she'd feel better.


Monday morning, Lois marched through the bullpen and headed straight for her desk. She turned on her computer, typed in her password, and dug in her purse for the list she'd finished over the weekend.

She was going to turn that list into an article. She doubted it would ever go to print – Superman had too many fans for that – but it made her feel better to work on it. It was almost as good as a pack of cigarettes as a coping mechanism.

She found the list, then reached for her mouse to open a new document--

--only to freeze at the sight of the red ACCESS DENIED blinking at her from the screen.

Had she typed it in wrong? She tried again.

ACCESS DENIED.

And again.

ACCESS DENIED.

She frowned and pecked carefully at the keyboard, spelling the word in her head as she did so.

S-U-P-E-R-M-A-N.

ACCESS DENIED.

"Why?!" she yelled at the screen.

The bullpen went silent.

Lois glowered. Didn't people have better things to do at work than eavesdrop on her?

"Jimmy!" she yelled.

The young photographer looked up at her, terrified. "Yes, Ms. Lane?" he answered timidly.

"Why is my computer rejecting my password?" she demanded.

Jimmy's eyes widened even further than they already had. Lois half-wished they'd pop out of his skull. That would cheer her up.

"I, uh, really, wouldn't know, Ms--"

"A wild guess, then. Please." Lois's tone, far less polite than her words, promised she would make his life miserable if he didn't comply.

Jimmy swallowed nervously. "Maybe you, um, changed your password?" he suggested meekly.

"Why the hell would I--" she began, then broke off as her memory returned, eyes going wide.

"Oh . . . oh, shit. What the hell did I change it to?"

"I really wouldn't know--" Jimmy began to repeat.

"Then get over here and help me figure it out!" she snapped.

Jimmy scurried over to her side. "You realize, Ms. Lane, that I'm not Mr. Kent; I don't know--"

Lois laughed mirthlessly. "I do realize that, Jimmy. Believe me, I do. However, Clark is not here, in case you haven't noticed, and you are. So you'll have to do. Now smarten up and help me out here!"

He gulped. "Yes, Ms. Lane."

"Good boy. Now. Suggestions?"

"Um . . ." He looked around helplessly. "Superman?"

She gave him a withering look that made him shrink back. "Or not. Uh, is it someone's name?"

"If I knew that," Lois hissed from between clenched teeth, "we would not be having this conversation."

"Oh . . . right." He looked around for inspiration, and his eyes fell on the notepad that the outline for Why The World Doesn't Need Superman was written on. "Oh, hey, Ms. Lane, there's no E in saviour, if you have a pen I'll change it for you--"

Lois promptly burst into tears.

Jimmy looked at her, alarmed. "Ms. Lane?"

"Sorry," she sniffed, wiping at her eyes and cheeks with both hands. "It's just, Clark always did my proofreading and now he's gone and I don't -- I don't--" She bit her lip as a fresh set of tears threatened to spill over.

"It's okay," Jimmy said, slightly confused, as her patted her shoulder in an awkward attempt to comfort her. "It's okay . . ."

"Moody much?" someone muttered from behind her, probably under the mistaken assumption that she couldn't hear the remark.

"PMS," someone else said knowingly.

"I don't know about you, but I've never seen PMS that bad."

"Pregnant, then?"

"Pregnant? Lois Lane? You've been a gossip columnist for far too long . . ."

Lois turned to glare, and the two women immediately shut up.

"And this is Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen . . ."

Lois whirled around again. She hadn't even heard Perry enter.

Standing at Perry's shoulder was a handsome man about Lois's age. The trail of dreamy-eyed women clearly marked his path from the elevator.

"And you started working over here when, Olsen?" Perry asked Jimmy, who immediately ducked his head and slunk away.

Lois narrowed her eyes at her boss. "I was talking to him, Chief."

"Not until the paper's out, Lane. And don't call me Chief."

Lois's back tensed. "What do you want, Chief?"

Her tone was so poisonous that Perry reared back and blinked at her for a moment before regathering his thoughts. "This," he said, jerking a thumb over his shoulder at the man standing there, "is my nephew, Richard."

"Hi," Richard said, holding out a hand for her to shake and smiling charmingly.

She simply stared at him, jaw set.

He withdrew his hand, smile fading.

"Right," Perry muttered. "You'll have to excuse her, her partner just left--"

"But my hearing is as perfect as ever," Lois interrupted waspishly. "And I work alone. I don't need anyone."

"Of course not," Perry muttered sarcastically as he dragged Richard away from her desk.

"Is she always like that?" Lois heard the younger man ask with curiosity. He glanced back at her, and she made sure to stare stonily ahead. So what if he wasn't what she had expected? It didn't change anything.

"Not another one," Perry muttered, noting his nephew's interest in his star reporter.

Richard looked back at him. "Not another what?"

Perry shook his head. "Never mind. Just remember that we call her Mad Dog Lane for a reason."

"That's it!" Lois shrieked.

Once again, the bullpen grew quiet, but Lois, happily typing her childhood's dog's name into the password bar, didn't even bother to glare or yell at them.


Perry called her into his office just before she was about to leave for the day. "Lane, I've got to say I'm worried about you--" he began.

"Don't be," she replied quickly, and handed him her completed editorial.

He skimmed over it. "It's good, Lane," he told her, letting her change the subject. "Damned good, in fact." He sighed and sat back in his chair. "However, I don't think the world is ready for it."

"I was ready for it, Chief; that's why I wrote it. I don't expect you to print it, really."

Perry's eyebrows shot up. "Well, well, aren't we rational." He looked back down at the article. "I will print it – sometime. I'm going to put is away for a rainy day, emotionally speaking. There are too many people out there who still expect him to return at any moment with a tan and a Mickey Mouse hat."

Lois snorted. "I really hate optimists," she said with feeling.

Perry eyed her. Clark Kent, optimist of the century, had been Lois's best friend. Yet the amount of venom in her voice told him that this was no off-hand comment. Just how angry was she that he had left?

But then, Superman was an optimist, too, and a much more likely target for Lois's anger. At least Clark had mentioned that he was leaving . . .

"Go home, Lane," he told her wearily. "And try to be civil to Richard in the future."

Lois gave a wry smile and swept out the door.


After leaving Perry's office, Lois went to collect her purse and coat and turn off her computer. Her fingers hovered over the mouse for a moment before she opened the password application and changed it back to Superman.

"This doesn't mean I need you, or anything," she told the absent superhero softly. "It just means – well, you're a damn good password, that's all."

She turned off the computer and headed for home.

End