Author's Note: although this story deals with the Returns versions of the characters, it is set in a world where Lois and Clark's relationship history is closer to the comics as opposed to the movies. Ms Lang, on the other hand, is neither strictly movieverse or comicsverse, or any other verse for that matter. She just is. This is a fluffy little one-shot- please, just roll with me :). Hope you enjoy.
Disclaimer: until my hostile takeover of Time Warner goes through, I do not own, nor claim any rights to, their subsidiaries, or the subsidiaries of their subsidiaries.
'Buckshot' Billy Winfield had two sparkling green eyes, a well-kept ash gray beard that was streaked with white, and a trans-tibial prosthetic leg. His left one. He also had fantastic balance and his party trick was to suddenly detach the leg and use it in place of a bow during the middle eight section of 'Flop Eared Mule'. Lois was inspecting the leg now. She turned it over in her hands. It was carbon fiber, jet black in color, and it gleamed as it caught the disco lights flashing above them. It was brand new. Lois ran one finger up a finely turned calf. It was a thing of beauty, really. On the opposite side of the table Billy was rubbing his thumb at the underside of his chin, lamenting the passing of his trusty, old, wooden leg. On the bench beside Lois her six year old son was leaning heavily against her arm, trying, and failing, to stave off sleep.
Lois set the leg back down in the middle of the table. She rested her right arm around her son's shoulders and put her hand to his head, snuggling him in, idly weaving her fingers into his hair while she moved her eyes over the five corners of the large entertainment tent. Speaking up so she could be heard over the guitar band on stage, she said, "Maybe it's the acoustics?"
Billy shook his head. "No, it's the leg, alright." He turned his hand and with his knuckles he knocked it on the shin. "It's the resin they use to coat the thing- there's not enough friction." A mournful little sigh escaped him, "Totally different sound on the strings."
Lois's eyes shined in sympathy, "Gee, Bill. I don't know what to say?" After a moment she frowned. "Maybe you could still use the old leg?"
"I thought about that." Billy grimaced in frustration and opened his hand, "But it ruins the whole bit, don't you think?"
Lois cocked her head to the side. It probably did.
Looking out toward the middle of the floor Billy spotted someone making their way through the crowd. He brightened, "There he is!"
Lois looked and caught sight of Clark carefully navigating a course past people dancing, and carrying beer trays, and otherwise not looking where they were going. When he saw Lois had company, Clark extended his arm.
"Hey Bill! Good to see you." They shook hands and then Billy braced himself against the tabletop so that he could lever himself up and give Clark his seat back.
Clark stopped him. "Don't get up." He easily lifted Jason out of the way, slid in next to Lois and plopped the little boy back onto his lap.
"Everything okay?" Two green eyes and a beard inquired.
Clark looked expectantly back at Billy.
Billy shucked a thumb in the direction of outside, "Lois said you stepped out because you couldn't get a signal in here."
"To call your mom," Lois supplied, running her hand along Clark's forearm. "About leaving us a key." They held each other's gaze.
"Right!" Clark agreed without missing a beat. "Yes. Everything's fine, thankyou." He tilted and from his jeans pocket he removed his handset, nodding before placing the phone in front of him, "My coverage is terrible." His attention focused on the larger object occupying the table. "So, this is the new leg, huh?"
There was a dark grumble of assent as Billy took the leg back and swivelled halfway round so he could lean over and reattach it to his knee. Over on the other side of the table Lois tried her best to wordlessly communicate to Clark that this was a touchy subject.
After clicking the prosthetic back into place Billy gestured behind him to the stage, "I better get ready, I'm on after these guys." He turned the rest of the way and pulled himself to his feet. "It was nice catching up." He reached across to ruffle Jason's hair and shake Clark's hand again. Then, grandly, Billy lifted Lois's hand and bent low to kiss it. He nodded, "Mrs Kent." He made to go, then leaned back in, his eyebrows forming one whiskery white line, "You're staying, right?"
Lois and Clark looked to each other with opened mouths, reading each other's thoughts.
"Maybe one song," they nodded together. Lois added, "We just flew in this morning. It's been a long day."
Billy nodded. He placed a large, callused hand on Clark's shoulder and dropped his voice to solicit, "Take care of her, now."
Clark smiled. Equally seriously, he replied, "I will."
Billy grinned broadly back at them. They could tell because his eyes became crescents and the whiskers of his beard moved. He winked, "See you next year." He picked up his fiddle and bow from the floor beside him, and they watched him go.
Lois leaned in to Clark without taking her eyes off the room. All together, he'd been gone about an hour, "Everything okay?"
With his fingertips Clark turned his beer glass in a circle. "Do me a favor? Next time I go running off because there's a chemical spillage at a cosmetics factory, just stop me."
She patted the top of his hand affectionately, "Will do, honey."
"Five helicopters, two hazmat teams, thirty-six metric tons of iodine solution forming an entirely new compound with a vat of surgical lubricant, and all of it," he searched for the right word, "...seeping into three stories of underground storage compartments." He looked a little haunted, "I took a shower but the suit is a mess."
There was a wince of commiseration. Then Lois looked puzzled. A question formed on her lips, "So, how-"
He stopped her, "-You don't want to know."
They stayed until Billy played Flop Eared Mule. Lois roused Jason so that they could give the leg solo an extra supportive cheer. There was a short break in the set a couple of songs later so they decided to go.
With Jason in Clark's arms and Lois carrying a balloon and the plastic golf set Jason had won earlier in the day following just behind, it took them a further fifteen minutes just to get past the dance floor area. Familiar faces and old friends of Clark's parents kept stopping them to grab a quick word. By increments, they neared the exit and Lois could feel the welcome breeze of an August night against her face as the crowd thinned and they got a clear run at it.
Suddenly, from behind, there was a shout, "Hey! Where are you guys sneaking off to?" They turned to be confronted by a lady of Lois's build and age, but with striking, flowing, auburn-colored hair.
"Lana." Lois said, unable to match the other woman's bright-eyed tone of enthusiasm.
"We're just getting started!" Lana said, holding up four dark glass bottles, two in each hand. "It's my home brewed sarsaparilla!"
Lois was apologetic, "We're heading home." She smiled tiredly, "We've had a pretty long day."
Clark hitched Jason to a more comfortable position, "We want this one back before he turns into a pumpkin." There was a muffled noise of protest from Jason nominally meant to convey that he was wide-awake and ready to party, but he ended his interruption by puttering weakly into his father's shoulder.
Lana bunched the bottles onto the nearest available surface so that she could put her hands to her hips. "Well, you two are just no fun."
Clark heard the edge creep into his wife's voice. "We like to pace ourselves."
Lana tried another tack, "What about Buckshot Billy?"
Looking past her to the stage and then giving her a warm smile, Clark assured her, "We said our goodbyes."
With a pained expression, Lana seemed to accept defeat. She gave a big sigh then held out her hands, "Give my love to your mom for me." She kissed them both on the cheek.
Clark nodded, "We will."
"I guess I'll see you next year?"
Lois smiled. "Can't wait."
The drive home involved a straight road several miles long and then a right turn which led up to the farm. There was no traffic, but the surface was often uneven and the ride was a little bumpy. Lois turned to look at Jason, strapped in on the back seat, fast asleep, his head lolling to his chest in time with the pickup. She looked back across at Clark. Both his hands were on the wheel. He had the sleeves of his shirt rolled up to the elbow and it left her able to admire the sexiness of his bare forearms.
She smiled to herself before rolling down her window a couple of inches. She reached behind her neck to gather her hair and tie it up. Stray wisps were pulled loose by the rush of air. The road ahead remained empty. In the darkness of the country, only the two pools of yellow headlamps cast any light.
When they got to the farm, even though it was not yet midnight, Clark flicked off the lights and killed the engine, rolling the truck to a stop so that they would not disturb Martha.
While Clark locked up Lois carried Jason upstairs. She sat him down on the bed and with expert precision she gently lifted arms and legs to get him dressed in his pajamas. He murmured softly when she lent him against her shoulder in order to pull the sheets away and slowly lowered him back down to tuck him in. When his head touched the pillow he snuggled himself further under the blankets. For a few minutes she sat on the edge of the bed listening to him breathe, using her fingertips to smooth his hair from his face. He had caught the sun today. The forelocks of his fringe kept slipping, curling back over his brow. She grinned. Finally, unable to help herself, she bent over and pressed a kiss and then another into his hair. Then she reached to turn out his bedside light and got up.
Clark was leaning in the doorway, waiting for her. He had brought up the golf set and propped it just inside the door. She beamed at him as she looked to go past. He found her hand, stopping her. She looked up into his eyes.
Underneath the gable beams of the old barn they sat side by side, leaning back on their hands, legs stretched out in front of them. The window hatch up here no longer had a door and before them, stretching to the horizon then melting into the dark, lay miles and miles of wheat fields, a flat sea of cornflower blue.
Lois breathed it all in, completely at peace. Her eyes moved upwards. "I will never get tired of this view. It's just beautiful."
The moon hadn't yet risen and the night was clear. She remembered the first time Clark had brought her to the farm. In her life, she had never seen a sky like it.
"'Silently, one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven, blossomed the lovely stars'," Clark gazed at her, "'the forget-me-nots of the angels'."
She cracked a wide smile. She sighed and hummed, "I love this place."
Clark raised an eyebrow to her, "The hay loft?"
Lois clicked her tongue at him. She flicked her hand out to the fields, "Smallville." She gave him a sidelong look, considering him. She told him, "It agrees with you."
Clark was thoughtful. "It's home."
"Why did you leave?"
Clark was surprised at the question. "Smallville?" He frowned, "I grew up."
"After that though," Lois said. She waved her hand as she spoke, "After the Fortress, and college, and everything else." She eyed him again, "Do you ever wish you'd come back?" She let the question air and settle before she added, "Chosen another life?"
Quickly, Clark followed the implications. "A life without Superman?"
Lois was noncommittal. "Not necessarily."
Clark was quiet for a few seconds more. Then, a definitive, "No."
Lois looked away, back out to the fields. Matter-of-factly, she said, "I think Lana wishes you'd stayed."
Clark watched her. This again. "Why does she get to you so much?"
Lois snorted. "Shall we go through the list?"
Her husband treated her to a disapproving look, which she ignored.
"She's pretty, she's kind, she's good with animals and small children-" it took Clark by surprise that Lois looked a little hurt, "even Jason likes her. She bakes." Exasperation colored Lois's tone as she fluttered a hand, "She makes homemade sarsaparilla." Lois shifted, "She's everything I'm not."
"But mostly, Clark? Mostly?" She faced him, "I think it's the look of undisguised, unadulterated lust she directs at you every time you're in a room together."
He opened his mouth, wanting to argue the point- but, honestly, there was no foundation for doing so.
"She has absolutely no sense of the sisterhood," Lois continued. "I think it's because she was prom queen." Her fingers waggled in the air, "I have a theory that it fosters an unhealthy superiority complex over other women."
Reasonably, Clark said, "She was never prom queen, Lois."
"Head cheerleader, then."
"She was never that, either."
She gave a shrug of whatever, squinting, "Class president."
"Voted 'Comeliest Smile'."
She stopped him, "Will you allow me my unfounded prejudices, please?"
They were quiet while Clark gazed at the toes of his boots. "Women lust after Superman. All the time." He looked at her, "You don't let that bother you?"
"That's different," Lois said. "Superman is different. I see the real you." She sighed, dissatisfied. "She's the only other woman that's ever been the closest to that..." Lois raised her shoulders, "and she's attracted to it." Her bottom jaw moved, "And it gets on my nerves."
Clark touched his lips together. "In high school she was attracted to it."
Lois gave him a withering look. "She still is Clark. There's regret in her eyes when she talks to you. She's wistful."
He was trying to take her seriously. "So she's both lustful and wistful?"
Ignoring him, Lois said, "She thinks you're her one-that-got-away."
This time Clark was earnest, "Well, you're my one."
Lois shrugged, looked away again. "I think you would've made a cute couple." Her little finger scratched the side of her mouth. "In another life."
Clark was silent.
"I can picture it now," Lois said. She gave him a quick glance. "You, out in the fields all day, on the tractor." Their eyes met. "Lana, in town, teaching her first graders their ABCs. At the end of the day, back to the homestead." Clark saw that Lois's eyes were sparkling, but she was not being sarcastic. Instead, she looked expectant.
He returned her gaze steadily. "I promise you. In another life," he paused, "I would never have married Lana Lang."
Lois insisted, "I know you, Clark. You would have married her and you would have been happy."
"That's not true."
"How can you say that?" she smiled. "If you had stayed- how can you say that?"
"Because," Clark said. "She was a teenage crush." He shrugged, "I wasn't in love with her."
"But you say that now from the perspective of being in love with me."
He frowned, his eyes darting between hers, "Yes."
"And I'm saying what if we had never met?"
"I would never have married Lana. I would never have married anybody." His gaze burned into hers. "Until I met you."
"But I'M saying what if we'd never met," Lois emphasized again.
"There's no way we would've ever not met," Clark countered.
Lois exhaled a short, sharp breath of frustration through her nose.
But Clark was not being intentionally difficult. He explained, "It's a simple question of math. The Laws of Probability." His gaze travelled outwards again. "Okay, so fine. Here am I, out here, doing... whatever, working on the farm." He looked back to her. "You're back in Metropolis. Ace reporter for the Daily Planet. You would find some exciting and well-publicized way to risk your life eventually."
Lois blinked at him.
"Forced into action to save you, we would've met." His shoulders rippled. Satisfied that their imaginary other selves were back on track, Clark looked beatific. "We would've fallen in love."
She regarded him levelly. "That's what your counting on? My tendency to attract mortal danger?"
He flashed her a cocky smile, "It worked this time around."
She swatted away his alternative scenario. "Okay, but I'm saying what if you were already involved with," she hesitated, "...another person? A long term, committed relationship. With, say ...a red headed person." Her shoulders wiggled, one eyelid flickering, "Say, you were married." She cut off his protests and wiggled her shoulders again. "- Hypothetically."
Clark just sighed. "Hypothetically," he began, "IF I was involved with someone else,"
"IF I was involved with someone else, and had then met you, I would've quickly realized I had made a terrible mistake, I would've been totally honest and ended the relationship at the earliest possible moment, and then I would've set about winning your hand." Perfectly serious, he raised his eyebrows to her.
Her eyes were dancing. "Just like that?"
He closed his eyes in a blink, "Just like that. Face it, Lane. Me and you? In this life, in another life, in any life." He fixed her with a look that made the nape of her neck tingle, "It's meant to be."
"Fate," Clark echoed. "Destiny. Kismet. Bowing to the inevitable. Sic erat in fatis." He glanced up, gestured with his hand, "Written in the stars."
Enjoying him, she leaned in closer. "I thought you said it was math?"
Coolly, he replied, "I don't believe the concepts are necessarily exclusive." He told her, "My planet blew up. Fifty light years away. I travelled through space, into orbits, across galaxies." His eyes narrowed, "Unimaginable distances. I landed here, in Smallville, right about the same time that Ella Lane, all the way over there, on an airforce base on another continent, gave birth to a little girl." His gaze tracked her face, "I grew up, and the little girl grew up, and then we found each other." He was lightly shaking his head, "The numbers, the statistical permutations, the chances? Of all that happening?" His eyebrows lifted, his eyes gleaming, "Literally astronomical."
Lois sucked in a breath. Mischievously, she lamented, "The planets are aligning for us and here I am bitching about an old girlfriend."
"Don't you believe in destiny?"
"I believe in free will, free choices, volition, determination." Gently, she put her hand to the button line of his shirt and tugged it, "I believe in us."
A smile played at his lips. "The other us."
Lois cringed and squinted one eye. She hummed, "Well, I don't know about that."
His face fell. "What do you mean?"
"The other you of the other us," she replied. "You just cast aside one woman," she gesticulated with her hand like a fishtail, "run off with another?" She chucked her cheek. "That seems kind of flaky." She looked sad, weighing it all up, baiting him, "I don't know if the other me'd be interested in that."
Clark let it all sink in. He bent his knee and turned his body to her, "Then I'd make you interested," he said. "I'd make you understand." They were up close, his eyes darted between hers, "I'd tell you I didn't know what love was until I met you. I'd tell you you had my heart the second I laid eyes on you." He moved closer, picked up her right hand with his and Lois watched him entwining their fingers together. "I'd take you in my arms knowing I was a better man with you than without you. I'd hold you close and promise you that I'd never let you go." He spoke slowly, his eyebrow twitched, "I'd make sure that you understood that there was no man on this earth that could possibly love you more deeply, more fiercely, more desperately, and that I'd spend the rest of my life," he lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it, "proving it." He kissed it again.
"Wow," Lois breathed without taking her eyes off his. "I guess the other me would kind of like that."
He nudged even nearer and angled his head so that his lips were brushing the underside of her jaw. She heard him murmur, "Then, I'd fly you high, up above the city."
Her voice caught in her throat, "What would we do up there?"
Very deliberately he whispered into her ear.
The color rose on Lois's cheeks and her voice dropped, "I know the other me would definitely like that."
Without notice Clark dropped her arm and withdrew back into an upright position, taking his warmth and his sweet nothings with him; "And that's when the other me would tell the other you you have to come back with me and live on a farm in Kansas." He smiled.
"You'd drop the F-bomb? Just out of the blue? With no warning?" Lois looked incredulous.
"But honey," she chuckled, blinking quickly, "What about the Daily Planet?"
Flatly, Clark said, "What about it?"
Her hand spread on her chest, "The other me is a respected, world renowned, no doubt multiple Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist; what about my career?"
Clark only quirked his head, "This hay isn't going to bale itself, sugarbean. No one said there wouldn't be sacrifices."
She tilted her chin, "Ah." Her head bobbed along in thought. Sweetly, amused, she asked, "What would be your sacrifices?"
Clark's lips rolled inwards. After a moment he declared, "No more Smallville Fair." Nodding, and with narrowed eyes, he elaborated, "Can't risk running into my insanely jealous ex in the entertainment tent."
"A-ha!" Lois pounced. She stubbed a triumphant finger at him. "You admit it! She IS insane and she IS jealous!"
He touched his thumb and forefinger together to illustrate the distinction, "Insane-ly jealous." He wiggled the finger in the air, "And it's the other her that's jealous. And of course she is." His shoulders lifted to his ears, "I dumped the hypothetical her to marry the hypothetical you!"
Lois relaxed back to lean on both her hands again. "The hypothetical her can kiss my hypothetical me's hypothetical ass." She nudged a shoulder. "Hypothetically."
They let quiet settle for a few moments. A bat swooped across their line of vision. Outside, below them, they could hear the low buzz of the cicadas.
"Hypothetically or not," Clark swiped his palm over his knee, "you're totally wrong anyway, by the way."
They looked at each other.
"That list of reasons you mentioned about Lana being everything you're not."
"What was I wrong about?"
He looked cocky. "Everything."
She played along. "What, specifically?"
He returned her gaze. "You said that she's pretty."
"She is pretty."
He nodded, "She is pretty." He breathed in and exhaled a slow breath. "And you are the most beautiful woman I've ever met." His eyes were burning away at her again, "and it takes my breath away, everyday, that I get to wake up to you."
Her head dipped head and she kind of waggled her foot.
"You said that she's kind," Clark reminded her. "And she is kind, and polite, and sweet," he agreed. He frowned and touched his lips together, "I'm just not sure how you can measure that against the daily commitment you make by lending your husband to the entire world." He pressed on, "You said that she's good with animals, and small children, and that she bakes." Easily, dismissively, he decided, "I guess that's all true." He paused, "But I didn't fall in love with you because you have a special rapport with kittens and puppies, and I especially didn't fall in love with you because of your passion for cookery." At her smile, softly, he said, "And there's only one small child that I really care about- and he happens to be a big fan of yours."
Quietly, seriously, Lois asked, "What about the homemade sarsaparilla?"
"What about it?"
"Wouldn't you like it if I... did that kind of stuff?"
"Made homemade sarsaparilla?"
"Jams, breads," Lois offered, eyes twinkling, "pastries?"
After a series of blinks, Clark rolled his lips. "I'm not sure what part of our domestic life could possibly be improved upon by either one of us making jams."
"The part where I successfully juggle the demands of a high-flying career with that of motherhood and get to feel like a smug have-it-all housewife?"
There was a beat. "Do you want to feel like a smug have-it-all housewife?"
"Not really." The corners of her eyes creased. "Sometimes."
"'Cause." He tilted his body into her and reached to brush a wave of hair away from her face with his thumb, "I kind of like you exactly the way you are."
Their eyes locked again, and the air inside the loft was filled only with the sound of their breathing.
Until Clark was interrupted by a thought that creased the middle of his forehead, "Unless, you know, home brewing is a new hobby you want to try out?" He looked adorably concerned that he might have hamfistedly squashed down a hidden dream that Lois had just let out into the light, "We could do it together?"
He was so sweet and so serious that for a few seconds Lois mulled it over... She could imagine them in matching aprons and the idea was unexpectedly appealing... "No, I pretty much just want a shortcut to the smugness."
He grinned, "Ah."
She nudged in a little, returned her hand to his shirt to play with the buttons. "And I kind of like me exactly the way I am, too."
"Well, I'm glad we agree about that."
She swallowed, dropping her gaze to the floor, "So, I guess what you're really saying is that I best Lana in all ways, in all areas?" She flicked her eyes back up to him, licking the back of her teeth with her tongue, gently swaying her head.
"I don't think those were my exact words."
She scrunched her nose that it was okay, "I'm reading in-between the lines."
She still had her hand gently fidgeting with his shirt and they remained that way, just staring at each other, enjoying themselves, until a puckish look crossed Clark's face.
Lois's expression focused. "What?"
"Well." His lips moved before he spoke. "There was one area we didn't mention."
"One area where it would be quite easy to make a quick, and fair, comparison. For comparison's sake."
Lois drawled, "Oh yeah?"
Mischief glinted in his eyes. "She was a pretty good kisser."
Lois fought the smile off her face. "Lana?"
"Is that right?"
Doing his best to look innocent, he nodded.
Dipping her head, she chuckled to herself before looking him in the eye again, "You see, the sweet thing is, you think by being obvious, you're being subtle."
There was a beat. "Is it working?"
"A blatant swipe like that? Right at my competitive instincts?"
She rose up onto her knees. Without taking her eyes off his she put her hands to his shoulders and climbed on top of him to settle herself astride his lap. Then, slowly, she began unbuttoning her shirt. "What do you think?"
The boards creaked underneath them as Clark helped her out of the shirt and she gently pushed him back to the floor. Lois was careful to keep her lips out of range of his, and with straight arms she held herself over him.
He let go of her waist and dragged his middle fingers up over her back and the straps of her bra to circle her shoulder blades, and then followed the same route back down again. "I think this is my favorite part of our domestic life."
"Good kisser," Lois scoffed under her breath. "Let me tell you something. When I'm done with you, those stars out there are not the only ones you're going to be seeing." Her eyes were dark and full of promise as she lowered herself to him. She whispered, "If you know what I mean."
"I think I do."
Finally she moved her lips close enough to kiss. "Now come here."