Author's note: Giving credit where credit is due, this story is loosely based on Superman #654, by Kurt Busiek. I imported it to the SR universe, and adapted it, inspired in part by the video "In Time" by ScoobyCookies on YouTube. I first came up with the idea for this story after noticing the "Flowers" Valentine's Day prompt at the 12 Days of Clois website had gone unclaimed, but given how long it takes me to write anything, I knew there was no way I could finish in time for that contest, so please consider this my thank you for the many wonderful stories that regularly come out of that community. A special thanks also to the people at Bluetights' The Planet forums (in particular Brdwaybebe and Ex Libris!) for taking an early look at this story. As always, I don't own Clark, Lois, Jason, Richard, Jimmy, Cat, or any of the other characters mentioned, but I promise I'll return them in good or better condition when I'm finished with them.
Eleven Pink Roses
"Mommy's birthday isn't until August, and Valentine's Day was in February. Why are you getting her flowers?" Jason asked.
Clark rearranged a flower in the vase he was leaving on her desk. "I guess you could call it an anniversary of sorts."
"Like Daddy did for the day that he and Mommy got engaged? "
"Something like that." Clark propped the card up against the vase and studied the effect.
"CP says that his dad always sends his mom flowers on the anniversary of the day they got married. He says his dad says that it's a reminder of when they were in love."
Clark would never have figured his old high school buddy would be such a romantic. Especially about an ex-wife who had still had feelings for someone else even when they were married. He moved the vase closer to Lois' keyboard. "Flowers *are* a good reminder to someone of how much you love them," he hedged to his son.
"But Dad," Jason protested. "Daddy always said that it's *red* roses that mean that you love someone. Why are these ones *pink*?"
Clark quickly glanced at his watch. "Wow! Would you look at the time? You're going to be late to school!"
The interview with the school bus driver in last week's hostage crisis had taken longer than Lois had expected, but it had been worth it. Lois was sure that she had another front-page story. Walking into the newsroom, she was greeted with a live image of Superman stopping a three-story-tall Katie Kewpie doll from stomping down Bessolo Boulevard, which explained why traffic had been so bad getting back from her interview.
She smiled at the screen. Just another day in Metropolis.
Then, again, maybe not, she realized, noticing the vase placed prominently on her desk.
"So, what's the occasion?" Jimmy's voice startled her. He and Cat were hovering, with half the newsroom probably determinedly eavesdropping. He nodded towards the flowers. "Clark apologizing for something?"
"No," Lois said, brushing a flower with her fingertip, and sniffing them. "It's kind of an anniversary."
"Anniversary of what?" Jimmy asked.
"First date? First kiss? First time you two..." Cat let her voice trail off suggestively before continuing, "...shared a byline?"
Lois glared at her. "Don't you have some *actual* gossip to chase? Bruce Wayne's latest jaunt down to Santa Prisca, maybe, or those rumors about the head of Ferris Air and one of her test pilots?"
Cat grinned, Cheshire-like "Oh, but interoffice gossip is *much* more interesting."
Lois folded her arms over her chest. "Remind me again, why Perry rehired you."
Cat laughed. "Because, Lois, like you, I'm the best at what I do."
The two of them were squaring off, so Jimmy stepped into the breach. "You going to open the card?" he asked.
Not with everyone hanging around, she wasn't. She moved the vase and card away from the keyboard. "Later. I had a lot of good stuff in that interview and want to get the story down before anything else." She turned on her computer, and waited for people to lose interest. Cat, either sensing that she wouldn't get anything more out of Lois, or else bored with needling her, floated back over to her own desk and the latest celebrity scandals. Jimmy, however, hung around for another minute.
"You need something?" Lois asked, busily typing in her password.
"Uh, Ms. Lane? I didn't want to mention this in front of Ms. Grant, but I think Clark got ripped off. There are only 11 roses." Jimmy said in a low voice.
"You counted them?" Lois shook her head. That was almost as bad as Cat's, well, cattiness.
Jimmy hedged, "Umm, they were just sitting there."
Annoying or not, at least he meant well, and she tried to temper her response accordingly. "It's fine, Jimmy."
"It's the thought that counts?"
"Yup." She pulled out her notes and began typing. "Was there anything else?"
She made sure he was engrossed in going over photos back at his desk before opening the card: The outside was simple: a picture of the moon and a night sky. On the inside was a handwritten note: "Tonight at eight--your place. I'll bring dinner." It was signed simply, "A friend".
*He remembered,* she thought with a pang. Unbidden, her eyes went to the *other* article she'd written about him, framed and hanging on the newsroom wall. Eleven roses--eleven years since she'd "Spent the Night With Superman". She didn't think anyone else had noticed the date--eleventh anniversaries weren't usually marked for any special celebrations. Unlike last year, on the tenth anniversary when the Planet had rerun the old interview, even with her wretched "fifth year anniversary of his disappearance" editorial already generating Pulitzer talk.
First interview, first date, first flight together. Of course he remembered. He always remembered. Even after he'd left, that first year he'd been gone, she'd gotten a delivery of flowers on this day, with a note saying, "Keeping the memory of that night in my heart, always." And now, on his first year back, of course he'd want to celebrate it that much more to make up for lost time.
He couldn't know what her own feelings about this day were, now. After all, he hadn't been here--which was the whole problem, of course. But he'd sincerely apologized for leaving, and she'd forgiven him. The sense of guilt that slammed into her at the sight of the flowers was *her* problem. Wasn't it? Right. So she'd just keep it those feelings to herself. No need to dredge up old memories that would only hurt him and were irrelevant now, anyway. He was back, and celebrating the day with roses and dinner.
Pink roses. She smiled, in spite of herself. Turning back to the television, she murmured, "I'll pick up champagne."
On the screen, Superman, putting down the car the oversized doll had just tossed at the crowd, looked at the camera, smiled and nodded shortly.
It was definitely one of those days, Clark decided. He came back to the Planet after the Kewpie doll incident to find Lois had gone out to cover a news conference the mayor had called on "the Intergang situation". Then he'd barely had time to file the preliminary Kewpie doll story, before having to go out and pick up some hikers who'd gotten lost climbing Mount Everest. Then, while that was going on, the police called a press conference on the morning's Kewpie doll attack. *That* one he'd walked in on late, although he'd been listening to the whole thing and he didn't think anyone noticed when "Clark Kent" quietly appeared in the back. Getting back to the Planet, *again*, Lois had come and gone, this time out to the businesses in Suicide Slum to try and get quotes about how the mayor's new approach to stopping Intergang was going to affect them. He added the information from the police press conference to his story, sent it back off to Perry, and picked Jason up from school, only to have to duck out again, to keep a volcano in Chile from wiping out a nearby village. Thank goodness his fellow Planet staffers were happy to keep an eye on Jason in a pinch, and he could hear Lois finishing up the interviews, so she should be back soon.
Hear her--and see her, too, when he used his x-ray vision, but he hadn't had a chance to talk with her all day, he thought, pausing a moment to study the river of lava he'd just diverted to see if it was going to creep back to its destructive path. Not that he was complaining, really. It came with the job--both of the jobs. But that didn't make it one bit less frustrating at times like this.
At least he'd managed to put Jason off on the "pink" question. He hoped. "The flowers are from Superman," he'd told their overly curious son--definitely a trait he'd inherited from both his parents. "And Superman isn't dating Lois Lane--Clark Kent is." All true enough, but something of moot point since the early morning staffers at the Planet had seen *Clark Kent* leaving the flowers on Lois' desk. "And she does like pink." He'd realized he was starting to over-explain, and stopped there, but Jason had seemed to accept the excuse of needing to keep his different identities secret. Clark was sure they'd be revisiting the topic later on, but, with any luck, it would be a few more years. On a day like today, negotiating one difficult parenting challenge definitely counted in the "success" column.
And then a new rush of lava poured out from the volcano, sending the stream towards the village again. He sighed and went back to work.
The last interview had proved to be another gold mine, and ran later than Lois had expected. She had enough information for a sidebar, plus the seeds of another story on how crime affected families in Suicide Slum. Clark might be able to help out there, since his apartment was nearby. Maybe a human interest-type story for the Sunday Edition...
She already had both stories half composed in her head when she got off the elevator to the newsroom. As it was, she'd barely make deadline.
First of all, though, her eyes searched the room for her son. Clark had left a message on her cell telling her he was going out, but that Jimmy and Gil had promised to keep an eye on Jason. And not that she didn't trust Jimmy or Gil, she still breathed a sigh of relief when she saw him comfortably ensconced at Clark's desk.
"Hi honey!" she said, giving him a hug. "How was school?"
"Hi Mommy," he hugged her back. "School was good. We watched a movie today, about a car that gets lost in a small town."
"That's great, honey. Can you tell me all about it on the way home? I have to finish up a couple of articles before we can go."
"OK. Jimmy said he hadn't seen it, so I'm drawing a picture for him."
Which more than made up for any comments Jimmy might have made that morning. She shot Jimmy a thankful look, and sat back down at her desk, sparing another glance up at the television monitors, where the news ticker was reporting that Superman was stopping a volcano in South America. It looked like everyone was running late today.
Two and a half stories and one argument with Perry, later, she shut her computer down. "Ready to go, Jason?"
"Yes, Mom." He finished a few last lines on his drawing and stuffed it in his backpack.
"I thought that was for Jimmy," she said as they headed back towards the elevators.
"I already gave him his drawing. This one's for Grandma."
Lois checked her watch, and managed to keep the word she thought from actually escaping her lips. It was a *lot* later than she thought. At least the day was done, though. Almost done. Just one more thing left to get through. "So tell me about the movie you saw today."
Jason's cheerful description of the movie, recess, and what his friends had brought for lunch occupied the stop at the store for champagne, and the drive home. He broke off from describing one friend's ketchup and refried bean sandwiches to announce, "I'm hungry. When do we eat?" as they walked in the door.
"Go wash up, kiddo, and I'll see what's going on with dinner."
While he clattered up the stairs, she went out to the terrace, unsure what she'd find. Superman had still been dealing with the volcano when they'd left. He might not have come back, yet.
There, on the picnic table was a veritable feast of dishes she recognized from her favorite French restaurant, with the vase of roses from work as a centerpiece.
"Good evening, Miss Lane," said a warm voice, and Superman gently landed in front of her, holding a single pink rose.
"Good evening." She held up the bottle. "I, ah, brought the champagne."
"Perfect." He took it from her and gently blew on it, freezing it. "We'll let it chill for a few minutes." He held out the rose.
She took the flower, and twirled it between her fingers. Trying for a light tone, she asked, "So, the twelfth rose? Are we celebrating early for next year?"
His rich laughter flowed over her, "Not really. It's easier to get a dozen roses than it is to get just eleven, and I didn't want to just throw it away."
She winced at his words, hoping he didn't notice.
No such luck. He frowned. "Lois? Is something wrong?"
And suddenly, all the emotions she'd been bottling away all day spilled over. She sighed. "That first year, after you left? When you sent me flowers?"
She set the rose down on the table and closed her eyes, remembering. "No one knew where you'd gone; if you'd gone off on your own, or if you'd died. I didn't think you'd been killed--it was the sort of thing criminals would boast about--and some *did*, just not convincingly, but I couldn't be sure. Then your flowers came, and I knew that you must have sent them before you disappeared, which meant that you'd planned to leave, and you simply hadn't told me."
She took a deep breath and continued, "Richard was out of town that day. Everyone just assumed the flowers were from him. I tossed them in the trash before he could see them. And then when he asked me to marry him a month later, I said yes." She hesitantly checked to see his reaction.
As always, he surprised her. "I guess... I'm glad."
"Glad?" she repeated, confused.
"Glad that you were able to find someone else who loved you and Jason so much. To be there for you when I wasn't. If my flowers helped you do that, how can I not be glad?"
Superman never lied, but she searched his face anyway. "You're serious."
She shook her head wonderingly. "I'll never know what I did to deserve two of you."
"I prefer to think of it as your good taste." Picking the rose up off the table and handing to her again, he continued, "And now, would you care to dance?"
She slipped off her shoes and stepped onto his feet. "I'd love to."
His arms slid around her waist, and the ground gently dropped away from them, the winds swirling his cape around them both. From his window, Jason leaned out and waved at them. Lois waved back, and then leaned into Superman's warm chest, relaxing, for the first time since seeing the flowers on her desk this morning.
"Long day at work?" he asked lightly. She looked up at him.
"You know it. You?"
He smiled that smile more radiant than a thousand suns. "Getting better all the time."
"Yeah," she murmured, "Me, too."
"You know," she continued as they floated higher. "I checked to see what gift you're supposed to give on the eleventh anniversary."
"Apparently, it's steel."
"I guess this means I get to keep you."
"Always, Lois," he said, his voice burning with as much intensity as sincerity. "Always."
They stared into one another's eyes for a long, wonderful moment, the lights of the city twinkling below them.
"Thank you, Clark. I love you," she said softly.
"I love you, too, Lois. Happy anniversary."