Meant to Be
Characters: Chloe Sullivan, Clark Kent, Lois Lane & others.
Summary: Life is unfair, they say — but they never explain what it means.
Warnings: Character death.
Meant to Be
Life is sometimes unfair, they say. Sometimes.
My life is always unfair.
My cousin Lois sits at the desk opposite me. Right now, her feet are kicked up on the edge, and she is leaning back in her chair. She is the picture of laziness.
You wouldn't know that she was being considered for a Pulitzer, the way she just sits there, gazing into space, self-satisfied smirk on her face. And you might ask yourself how someone like that would be put up for such a prestigious award.
My cousin, Lois Lane, slacker extraordinaire, wrote an exposé on Luthorcorp, bringing to light crimes against humanity which have long been buried. My exposé. My Pulitzer.
No, she didn't steal the copy from my computer — and I saw it, it was filled with spelling mistakes when she turned it in — but that story was mine. I was the cousin who was more involved with the Luthors: I was the one Lionel Luthor had tried to kill, wasn't I? How could Lois swoop in when I had spent seven years sitting on this story and just publish it like that?
I was the one who had wanted a Pulitzer since I was a little girl, and Lois just took that chance from me. And you know what else?
I'm fairly sure she nominated herself.
Life is unfair.
My best friend Clark works for the Daily Planet now. I spent seven years trying to convince him he wanted to be a journalist, and Perry White partnered him up with Lois.
They flirt all the time and think I don't notice — even now, right in front of me. She is joking that her coffee isn't warm enough, and he is making those pathetic puppy-dog eyes at her. He even winks at me, before clandestinely using his heat vision to warm it up — our secret.
I pretend not to notice. I have more important things to do than joke around while we're supposed to be working.
I just sip at my own luke-warm coffee, and write up my story: a piece about the vandalism of a bench in Centennial Park. I think it was a memorial to someone or other — but who cares? It's just a bench.
How does someone like Lois get all the good stories anyway?
She's still flirting with Clark when I glance over the edge of my computer monitor. I just grit my teeth and say, "Perry's looking." And he was: smiling benevolently over, as if he didn't care that they were wasting all of our time.
Clark just looks up at me, and then Lois says: "Chloe, are you OK?"
"I'm fine," I say, tapping away at my keyboard, not looking at what I'm writing. "I'd just hate for you two to get in trouble, that's all."
They exchange a glance — they think I don't see — and then Clark nods meekly at me. "I'd better hit the street," he says, "I'll see you later." He stands up, and they look at each other for a moment, and then he leaves. I glance at Lois over the rim of my monitor, and she presses her lips together. She stands up, awkwardly, and walks around the desk to where I am still typing.
Delete, delete, delete.
"So, what're you working on?" she asks, a little too nonchalantly, and leans over to look at my computer screen.
"Lois —" I begin to tell her I'm busy, and that she should leave me alone, but she starts talking over the top of me anyway.
"Hey," she says, squinting at the first line of text on my page, "wasn't that the Dark Thursday memorial?"
She's distracting me. "I think so," I say, shooting a look at her.
She hesitates, shifting the weight on her feet. "I'm just saying," she said, "you might want to include that in the lede."
Now she's patronising me as well: my drop-out cousin actually thinks she knows more about journalism than I do. "Thank you," I say icily, "it's only a first draft."
"Yeah," she says, and licks her lips nervously. "Look, Chloe." She sits on the edge of my desk, disrupting my papers. "There's something I've been wanting to talk to you about." She pauses, and then glances sidelong at me. "It's sort of important, actually."
I raise my eyebrows. "Can it wait?" I ask. "I'm kind of, you know —" I pause to yank a sheet of paper out from under her ass, "— swamped."
She jumps up, as if I have burned her. "Oh," she says, a little sheepishly. "Sorry. I'll, uh, get back to work."
As if she ever did a day of it in her life.
- - -
Life is unfair, they say, but they never really explain what it means.
Nobody ever laid out the ways in which my cousin would take everything I ever wanted: nobody ever said.
Nobody ever told me I would walk in on her macking on the man of my dreams in the supply closet, her fingers in his hair — twisted, twisting — his hand on her back, his glasses half falling off his face.
As they jump apart, I see the look on her face: desperate — did I see? Did I see?
I slam the door on them, toner forgotten, hands shaking. Like she didn't plan this.
I can't breathe. She's taking everything I ever wanted, everything I deserved, everything I worked so fucking hard for all these years.
"Chloe!" she shouts, as I push through the doors at the entrance to the building. A blast of cold air hits me in the face. "Chloe, I tried to tell you."
I turn around and, oh god, she looks so pathetic in that pencil skirt: playing dress-up as a journalist with "fuck me" shoes and a fitted shirt. Did she let him his hand up that skirt? Would clumsy fingers have ripped the shirt open if I hadn't been there?
Is that how she got him?
"You just had to take him, didn't you?" I say, and now my eyes are stinging, my voice shaking. "You couldn't leave me one thing."
"Chloe," she says, shaking her head, as if she were sad, "this isn't about you."
As if it could be about anything else.
"You knew how I felt about Clark," I say, and my face was cracking. "He just got over Lana."
"I thought you were over him," she says, uselessly.
- - -
I don't speak to either of them for days. Lois sometimes comes in from the bathroom with bloodshot eyes: as if she could shed something other than crocodile tears. Manipulative bitch.
Clark almost seems angry at me sometimes. I want to tell him it's not his fault he fell for her, but then I am angry he fell for her — I am angry he would stoop so low.
"I just think that you could do better," I say one day when we are the only people in the cafeteria. I don't look at him.
"Chloe —" he begins, his voice a warning.
"I mean Lois isn't really the intellectual type, you know? She'd rather stand in the crowd at a rock concert than discuss the finer points of Hemingway." I raise my eyebrows and look over at him.
"Chloe," he says, "I don't even like Hemingway."
"That's not the point," I say, flippantly, and he cuts across me.
"You know, Lois has actually loaned me some really good books."
I'm trying to smile now, "Oh yeah? By who? Dr Seuss?" He looks away, and the smile fades: he isn't playing along this time.
"Vonnegut," he says. "Heller. Didion."
I press my lips together, and then quirk an eyebrow. "Has she read them?" I ask with a slight smirk.
He doesn't answer that, and I am angry with him again.
- - -
We barely speak again, until Perry sends Clark with Jimmy on assignment in Afghanistan. I don't go to the airport to see them off: don't give Lois the chance to turn to me when they are gone, and ask if we can share a cab back.
She has tried to apologise — but only apologise. She wouldn't leave Clark alone if I asked her, and I won't ask her. I just wish he could see how she has maneuvered him into this since the day they met.
Can you believe she would argue with Perry on this?
Let Smallville stay, send me instead. Send me with him. He's just a small-town kid: it's not safe.
The only thing that really concerns her is the thought that he might come to his senses if she leaves him on his own for too long. Well, he just thought it was funny: that twitch of the lips at the thought of Lois trying to 'protect' him.
- - -
Something happened today.
I decided to take back all the things which should have been mine to begin with, one by one.
Lois wouldn't know what to do with this story anyway: she doesn't understand journalism, she wouldn't do it justice. She might even get someone killed. It doesn't matter who the tip-off was for — when great injustices are exposed it doesn't matter to the people you've saved whose name is on the byline.
And I would write this story better than Lois.
It was so natural, the way I did it — like it was meant to be.
Lois was out of the office, and I was cooling my heels, and the phone rang.
"I need to speak to Lois Lane!"
It's amazing the way people think that name stands for something, but they do.
It stands for everything I could live up to.
So I just said it: "Um, I'm Lois Lane."
- - -
The address is in the heart of Suicide Slum: an abandoned building which is falling over itself. I push any thoughts of danger out of my mind, because I am fearless — intrepid — and you don't win Pulitzers sitting on your ass.
At least, you shouldn't.
The air inside the building is musty, and I think nobody has been in here for years. I see myself as an explorer: uncovering the long-buried ruins of Suicide Slum, and all its nasty, untold stories. This will make me, I think. This is the first step towards getting everything I deserve.
My source is late, and I am impatient.
And I hardly see it coming.
- - -
I hardly feel the pain in the back of my head until I open my eyes: a dark, dank, skull-splitting ache. My arms are bound behind my back to the old lead piping along the wall.
I feel my head dropping, and I am losing consciousness when I am yanked back by the hair.
I think that was my strangled cry.
I blink, once or twice, and my vision comes into focus. At first I don't understand the face swimming in front of me, then my brain begins to process the image and I realise its owner is wearing a balaclava.
"You're awake," he says, and it is a he. "Good to have you with us, Miss Lane."
Ugh, trust Lois to get me into a situation like this.
It's hard to bring my vision into focus when he releases my hair, my head suddenly a rag doll's.
"You did a silly thing coming here tonight," he says. I hear it over the ringing in my ears, and try to look up at him. When I see him fingering the knife in his hands, I take a panicked breath, and my fumbling hands strain against the knots in my rope.
"But then," he continues, as my little finger brushes up against something cool and metallic behind me, "you're a very silly girl, aren't you?"
"What's that supposed to mean?" I say, stalling for time, stretching my fingers out behind me, and I can't keep the insipid shake from my voice.
He crouches down in front of me again, and I am so tense that I am trembling. "It means," he says, and his voice is low, "that little girls shouldn't shoot their mouths off about things they don't understand."
I can't keep the crease from my brow when I realise that it's my phone I'm pulling back towards me, closing my hands over — did he just leave my things where they fell?
When the ringing starts in synchronicity, I think my heart is about to stop, until he takes out a phone of his own.
He retreats into the next room to answer the call, and my breath comes out all shuddering and out of control. I can just hear the murmur of his voice through cracked walls but — this might be my only chance. I mash down on the keypad, and close my eyes shut.
"Chloe?" comes the unsure reply.
I want to cry.
"OK," Lois says, after a moment, "maybe you don't want to talk, but Chloe —"
"Lois, shut up," I hiss, as loud as I dare. I breathe in, just as shudderingly. "I've been kidnapped," I say, and my voice is desperate, "I'm in some kind of — in Suicide Slum, some run-down old —" I can't speak coherently, maybe she can't even hear me. "Just —"
I look up, sensing a shadow cast over me, and all goes black again.
- - -
"Look, just let her go. It's me your boss wants."
It's Lois's voice which brings me to again.
And as it comes into focus, I can't help but feel sick: trust Lois to show off, even now.
My neck feels as if it is made of lead, and I can't lift my head. There is a ringing in my ears, splitting my skull in two. I strain to look up, and open my eyes again.
Lois: high heels, short skirt, low cut top. Gun pointed at my assailant, gun pointed at her.
I can't breathe. How can she be so calm when my life is at stake?
She moves her hand very slowly, and unclips her press badge, throwing it over to him. It lands on the floor at his feet.
"You see," she says, her voice like cool steel. "You have the wrong girl."
She starts to move now, edging closer to me, gun still on him. "Just let me untie her at least," she says, "you don't need her."
I am shaking now, as much with anger as with fear. God, Lois must get a kick out of helping me, like she's never been reckless, like I didn't save her when she got herself stabbed in the gut like the halfwit she is.
This is different. This happened because they thought I was her. Because she stuck her nose where it didn't belong and someone decided to get payback. These ropes and bruises should belong to her.
"Pissed off some old boyfriends?" I sneer as she tries to untie me.
Her head snaps to me in surprise: she hadn't known I was awake. Tears are rolling down her face and I see that her hand is shaking. "Chloe..." she starts.
And then —
Her blood is all over my new shirt.
- - -
She hit the floor facing me, half her brains spilling out of her skull.
I felt myself screaming, the blood gurgling up from my stomach, into my throat — so loud I almost passed out again, so loud I didn't know what was happening.
When I woke up again, she was gone.
The police had stormed the building. Lois had — I don't know, but I found myself in the hospital — my head held together with bandages, my wrists burning from the rope.
- - -
And Lois is dead.
- - -
Perry's back is to me, as I blink open my eyes. His spine is crooked, and his hands are in his pockets.
"Chief?" I say.
I hear his breath hitch, and then he turns to me, and I see there are bags under his eyes. He nods, and then shakes his head. "Maybe," he says, quietly, "maybe you could not call me that." His gaze slips away as he says, "please — that's... what Lois calls me."
'Called,' I want to say, but I just press my lips together as he scrapes a chair along the floor to sit by my bed. There is a weighted pause.
"I still haven't been able to get in touch with Kent," he says, after a moment. He shakes his head, "Not sure what I'm gonna tell him when I do."
"He'll be back soon anyway," I say, and he lets his head drop a little.
He chuckles a little: dry, mirthless. "I wish I'd let her go with him," he says. "You know what she said? 'You'll get him killed'." He closes his eyes, his fists, "God damn it."
'That's not why she wanted to go,' I want to say, feeling my hands shake in anger beneath the sheets.
"Anyway," he says, "it's good that you're going to be OK. That's something."
Something about the way he says it makes me wonder: would he prefer it if I had died, and Lois had lived? That's what would have happened if she had gone with Clark.
I'm sorry Lois is dead. It's horrible. She shouldn't have died — but it had still been her fault. She'd never had the mind or the sense for journalism. She chewed off more than she could handle. She should have left the job to real reporters who knew what they were doing.
Still. It's a shame.
"You know what I keep thinking?" he says, bowing his great head. "How pissed she would be, if she knew — well." He sighs, and looks up at me. "I guess I can tell you."
"Tell me what?" I say.
He sighs again, a great rumbling exhalation. "Lois was working with a source inside Luthorcorp about a follow-up on that exposé she published. He was twitchy: wouldn't talk to anyone else, wouldn't even meet her face to face. Now the story's probably going to fall through."
He gets up from his seat and walks over to the window, laying a hand on the ledge. "I just keep thinking — Lois. She'd be pissed with me for letting it go."
I'm thinking fast: the story. I could take it — for Lois's sake, for the sake of the people being exploited by Luthorcorp.
She took one of mine.
"Perry," I say, and he looks at me. "There's something I have to tell you about Lois."
- - -
He listened to my story with the same gravitas I have come to expect of a great leader like Perry White: I let Lois publish my story, because Lex's people were watching me. It was easier for an unknown like her, for someone Lex considered a non-threat.
It was true enough: Lois did publish my story. I charitably left out the part where she stole it. She did try to save my life, after all. I supposed that should count for something.
"I could take her name," I said decisively. I was willing to make that sacrifice. "For the story — for Lois. This source hasn't met her, and well, it wouldn't be a lie." I looked at him, "I'm the person everyone really thinks Lois Lane is."
"Please," I said, "let me do this for her. She was like a sister to me."
- - -
I finally have my story.
As far as the public are concerned, I am the only person who has ever published under the name "Lois Lane". And the office —
- - -
"It's strange," Clark says to me as we are sitting in the cafeteria his first day back to work, "how easily everyone has believed it." He is not looking at me. "Almost as if they wanted to, as if they'd been waiting for it."
I can't read him. I set my own coffee down on the table, and say, "The truth is never hard to believe, Clark."
He doesn't look at me. "No," he says, "I suppose it isn't."
Clark is so hard to understand sometimes. I put my hand on his shoulder. "Clark," I say. "You're my best friend, and — I know all this is hard for you." He looks sidelong at me, and I smile weakly. "You don't have to hold it in."
He looks away, adjusts his glasses. "You don't think this makes it seem like L-l—" he pauses, and looks down. His lower lip is trembling, but he takes a deep breath, steadies himself. "You don't think it's like she never existed?"
"This is what she would want," I say with certainty. "I'm doing this for her, for her memory." I press my lips together, and run my fingertip around the rim of my cup, "this is what she would want."
He breathes out: a shuddering breath. "You're sure?"
I nod, closing my eyes. "I knew Lois better than anyone."
- - -
It's been three months, and he still comes into the office with red rims around his eyes.
"Leave him," I say to Jimmy near-constantly. "You don't know him like I do." Clark doesn't need people bothering him all the time. He has my shoulder to cry on.
I've always been there for him, and he knows it: from the beginning. It's only a matter of time now before he comes to me, and I will put my arms around him, and tell him it's OK. I'm all Clark needs to get through this.
- - -
I am at Clark's apartment. He hasn't asked me to be here, but I came.
I always come for him, and I always will.
I know what he needs, now, and I'm a little nervous. I'm nervous, but I can't help but feel that things will go right for me this time — for us. I'll make things right.
We've come so far from that first kiss. We're all grown up. Clark's all grown up, finally. He's not the little boy he was five years ago, when I poured my heart out to him in a letter: he's a man, and I think he's ready to fly back to me. He's been ready for a while.
And now, there are no more sirens to lead him astray.
"Chloe," he says, when he opens the door at last. His apartment is like a pit: the lights are off.
I flip the switch as I walk in, and cross the floor to close his open window. Then I turn, and smile weakly back at him. He is still standing in the doorway, the door open, his hand on the doorknob.
"Hey," I say finally — I can feel my heart pounding.
"How're you... doing?" he says, as he turns his back to me and slowly closes the door.
"I'm good," I say. I nod, almost to myself, and add, "You know, holding up."
"Yeah," he says, and then adds, before I can ask, "Yeah, me too." I smile at him again, and he crosses the room to sit down on the couch.
I sit next to him, and gently put my hand on his. "I came," I say softly, "to make sure you weren't just brooding, you know?" He says nothing, and I continue: "I know you're you, and that's how you deal with things but — you have to start moving on sometime."
His hand twitches under mine. "She was your cousin," he says, without looking up.
"Yeah," I say. "Well, don't worry about me." I crane my neck to look at his face. "It's you I'm worried about, Clark."
He looks at me, briefly, and then gets up and walks over to the window I closed. "You shouldn't," he says, quietly. "In fact, I am moving on." He pauses, laying his hand on the window sill. "I've been offered a job with the Washington Post."
I feel suddenly panicked. "What?"
"There's nothing left for me here, Chloe," he says. "Just memories."
"And me," I say, getting up to join him at the window. "Clark, what'll you do in Washington on your own? And what will Metropolis do without you?"
He bows his head, as if to study his knuckles. "Chloe," he says, "there are people in trouble wherever I go. My mom's in Washington. I won't be alone."
"You won't be with me," I say. I put my hand on his shoulder, "Clark you may not want to hear this, but you need me. Martha doesn't have time to look after you now that she's a senator, and you need someone who can be there for you all the time: someone who has been there for you."
"You have been a good friend," he says. "I'm sorry that I can't be a better one for you. It's just that —" his hands are trembling, "now that Lois is — dead —"
Is he crying?
I see the tear hit the window sill by his hand, and suddenly his whole body is shaking.
And I know what he needs. I know what I have to do.
I put my hand on his cheek, brush his tears away with my fingers, and pull him towards me — and I kiss him. It's wet, and he is shaking, but this is not about me.
And he kisses me back. He kisses me back, and I will kiss his pain away. He needs this.
"Chloe," he says, pulling back, but I lay my hand flat against his chest.
"Don't fight it," I say. "Lois would want this."
If Lois were half the woman people think she was, she would have wanted this: would have wanted us to be happy. I can make Clark happy, and he's all I've ever wanted.
His whole body shakes as I gently steer him towards the couch. His cheeks are wet. I know: this has been a long time coming — but it's OK.
"It's OK," I say. I whisper it in his ear. "It's all OK now. I'm here."
And when he calls out "Lois", that's when I know: I really am Lois Lane now, forever.
- - -
I didn't really want Lois to die.
In a way, she never did. It seems only a handful of people now remember that there ever was a Chloe Sullivan.
I am almost grateful to Lois, for ensuring that I toiled in obscurity. It made it easier for me to assume this new name, and for people to mean me when they say it.
I am almost grateful — but if she hadn't, I wouldn't have had to take her name. If it hadn't been for her reckless greed, she would still be here. I am almost grateful, but inside I'm still angry with her.
I catch Clark's eye from across my desk, and he gives me a smile. He calls me Lois, like everyone else, but he's the only one who doesn't really mean me when he says it: I see it in his eyes, but it doesn't matter. I can wait.
My coffee is still luke-warm, but it's only a matter of time now. I have everything I've ever wanted, finally. I have everything I deserve.
This is how things were meant to be.
Thanks to Melissa.