Notes: Spoilers for "Man of Steel." This is technically the third story in my "Adaptation" series, a series that crosses over Batman (Nolan verse), Avengers and Man of Steel. This one can be read as a standalone, however, set primarily in the Superman verse. It's after "The Devil is in the Details" and "Access and Recommend." And obviously, my first two fics in the series was written before this movie came out, and therefore based on Superman speculation that might contradict "Man of Steel" canon. I don't think it's too bad? Anyway, the next fic in this series will have more obvious interaction between all the superheroes. I just got the hinkering to write Lois/Clark after watching the movie and had to immediately publish.
What? Like you've never written 5k in five hours after coming home from the theatre? Don't lie. You've totally had that urge.
All things told, Lois has highs and lows like everyone else, but mostly she finds her footing real quick. Good old reporter instincts, useful in her line of work since she has to adapt to changing circumstances in a pinch or in a firefight. People with skittish nerves don't last long or they just end up moving on to the things like the Entertainment Section. (They tried to rope her into that, actually, at the beginning. When she was young and fiesty, and they thought the best place for a petit woman in investigative journalism was covering celebrity gossip. She'd disabused them of the idea fairly quickly.) By age thirty-two, she feels like she's seen it all – or at least she's seen enough of the world that not much of it could take her by surprise anymore.
The twist, of course, comes when she's lying half-bleeding on the icy floor of some twenty thousand year old hollow in the middle of Canada, and she's starting to get the itch that her savior might just be from another world.
Even she can't find her footing with that, investigative integrity be damned.
"I'm cold," she offers, pale-faced and voice echoing in the empty space surrounding them. "Is that because of shock, or that I'm injured in an ice cave?"
"Probably a little of both," he answers, with a sympathetic smile.
It's an honest smile, she finds.
Even delirious and in pain, she can't stop the questioning. "Who are you?"
He avoids her gaze, looking down at her cauterized wound like he's expecting it to spring leaks again. "A friend. And someone that would appreciate your discretion."
"I may be suffering from blood loss, but I'm still a reporter. Discretion isn't the better part of our valor. What was your name again? John? Joe?"
"Lois, please. You save a girl's life, that gives you first name benefits."
"I'm going to lift you up now. I need to move you to someplace where the others can find you."
"Out there in the snow? What's wrong with staying right here until someone finds us."
But she already knows the answer to that. Finding us is clearly the last thing the guy wants. Instead of answering, he lifts her up like she weighs a penny, and her arm slides around his broad shoulder for support. She swallows a painful moan as he carries her across the icy tunnel in silence, and she distracts herself by staring up at his profile, memorizing every detail that she can. A couple of minutes later when they reach a clearing, she's still not ready to let go. She would undoubtedly be slipping into unconsciousness if she weren't certain this was a defining moment in her life. She's dizzy, not just from the adrenaline or the near-death experience, or the pain of a gut-wound, or how alarmed she should be right now by everything, given the circumstances. She's also dizzy in a near giddy type of way. By the fact that this guy is solid and real, and she can't get over that. He's impossible, and he's real.
He cradles her with a gentleness that belies his strength, and even when he sets her down, he tangles a hand through the ends of her hair and sooths her pain with a soft murmur.
"You'll be fine," he promises.
"Yeah, I'm going to hold you to that."
After several months of leads, over fifty percent of which are dead ends that led to pointless trips to all corners of the country, Lois finally hits pay dirt in a town called Smallville of all places. She's good at shifting through stories, sniffing out the fabricated from the genuine, but there's something so fantastically otherworldly about this story that she can't rely on her normal bullshit compass to guide her anymore. So she finds herself chasing down stories of a superhuman hero, a superhero; it's a quest that she knows can get her dethroned as a world-class journalist, Pulitzer Prize winner or not. She gets how this looks. Lois is the farthest thing from naïve imaginable because this job thickened her skin right quick. No one made it easy for her. She's been called a bitch, a fraud, a whore, a hag, a dyke, fat, ugly, stupid, a feminist (in a way meant to be insulting, apparently), and a range of other obscenities too numerous to name. The comment sections of her online journal articles are often delightful.
And now here she is, putting her name on the line over a story that Perry calls radioactive.
But with a guy that can bench-press a submarine, her sense of disbelief can't afford to stay on an even keel. There's something here. She's got the scar to prove it. It's a story meant to be told, and she knows she's the woman to tell it. Nothing and no one will get in her way.
Then she finds Clark Kent in a cemetery – or, more precisely, he finds her.
It figures, of course. She gets in her own way.
Afterwards, he takes her across the cemetery to a diner along the back roads. As the waitress seats them in a corner booth, he shrugs off his faded baseball cap and tosses it onto the sticky pleather seats before sliding in after it. While his back is turned, the young waitress, blond-haired and green-eyed, stares at Clark in pure appreciation. Lois isn't one to judge. It's hard not to notice that Clark is easy on the eyes. She's been looking for a defect for months now, in the stories she's been told and the one summoned from her recollection. Because he's too good to be true, right? A man of steel, a heart of gold. But there's not a blemish on his skin nor a flaw in his character that she can find. It's amusing, but she might have found something more outrageous in him than the idea of an alien, and that's the concept of a perfect man.
Of course, he's literally going to be one of a kind and out of this world.
"So just how strong are you?" she finds herself asking.
He lifts an eyebrow. "I don't really know, to tell you the truth. I've never actually reached my limits."
"How about speed? How fast can you go?"
"Fast," he tells her, guileless.
Her sharp gaze doesn't waver. "Oh, c'mon. Give me something. Faster than a train? A speeding bullet? What? Are we talking the speed of light or—"
"Not that fast," he stops her, amused.
"A limitation, then. You've got strength and speed, and if the stories are true, you can walk through fire. I know you've got something in your eyes, some heat-vision or something. What else is there?"
"Is this still an interview? Because it feels like an interview."
"I told you already, I'm not writing the story. This is all off the record."
"So the twenty questions is—"
"Professional curiosity aside, it's not everyday a girl meets a guy as extraordinary as you. Humor me."
He looks away, a tad bashfully. She even suspects he's flushing red a little, and all she can think is he really must be from a place called Smallville, because she's not even trying to get him to blush.
"If I tell you my story," he says, "or as much as I know of it myself, you promise it'll stay between us?"
"Clark, you don't know me that well, but when I give my word about something, I stick to it. I'm not going to print anything about you, not until the day you're ready."
"What if I'm never ready?"
"From what you've told me, your father believed you would be one day. Just not yet."
"My father," he begins, somberly, then falters. He restarts with a smile, switching gears, "He would have liked you."
"That's not what you were going to say."
He shrugs. "It's still the truth."
It occurs to her that she doesn't know which father he's talking about.
It never occurs to her that he might mean both.
When the prison guard tells her she has a visitor, she isn't expecting it to be Clark, but she isn't entirely surprised by it either. She walks into a cold, sterile room. And there he is, sitting across the table, handcuffed, wearing a suit that makes her blink twice.
She sits down without a word, and he says, "I'm sorry for getting you involved in this."
"You didn't," she tells him, "I involved myself, remember?"
"They're going to let you go. I've made a deal. I turn myself in, and you go free."
She stiffens. "You don't have to do that. Not for me."
"Of course I do."
He says it so simply, so plainly.
She sits back in her chair, sighing. "And there it is, a simple and earnest declaration that essentially lays waste to my cynical little world where everyone is self-serving."
She glances at the two-way mirror pointedly, resentful that they're being watched, but then grateful too. Let them see the man they've placed in handcuffs. Let them see how good he is. It's an opportunity, and she knows how to use it.
"You could have told them who I was," he says, and she jerks her attention back to Clark.
"I told you," she says quickly, "I would never divulge your secrets." And he stares at her with this look. Half-amused, half-knowing. When she realizes what he's done, how she's proven her own point, she says, "I walked right into that one, didn't I?"
"You're not as cynical as you claim, Lois."
No, maybe not. Not anymore. Not since he entered the picture.
She thinks to herself, Damn, Lois. What have you gotten yourself into now?
A familiar and all-encompassing phrase, often uttered by many others, sometimes by herself to herself, and never, ever more appropriate than in this moment. The strange thing is she isn't even talking about the military custody or the alien invasion. It all pales in comparison to the man sitting in front of her, and what he's come to mean to her.
"So," she says, leaning forward, "you have a captive audience. Tell them your story."
Over the course of the next seven hours, she's in a hurtling alien mothership, a falling lifepod, and a crashed chopper – things just can't keep in the air today, it seems. She flies out for a Hail Mary to save the Earth or, more likely, pick up the bodies left strewn about. Jor-El had been explicit in his instructions.
When you frequently cover the worst acts of humanity, you learn to be able to take care of yourself. First aid training, monthly sessions at the firing range, some basic self-defense classes – go for the eyes, the solar plexus, the instep, that kind of stuff – but none of that could possibly prepare her for this.
"If you do not succeed, all of Earth will fall."
She's half way in love with him already, and she's pretty sure the other half just hasn't had the time to process the revelation yet. She cradles him in the ruble of the Metropolis train station, over the broken body of Zod, and the entire time she thinks this could destroy him. A heavy feeling settles over her, the type when she's at odds with herself, the constancy of her breath warring to keep composure after every exhale. She takes in a large inhale of dust and smoke, adjusting her position on his shoulders, hands poised protectively over a man that, to any normal judgment, might in fact be immortal. The walls are all still crumbling around them and the nearby family of four have long since fled in fear.
It actually takes her by surprise for a second, and she nearly starts sobbing by the heavy weight of the moment. He is good, she knows. The type of good that defies her street smarts and worldly experience, and taking a man's life, even a monster's like Zod, it's a mark worse than death for Clark. She knows what he has sacrificed for Earth. Jor-El told her exactly what was at stake – the Kryptonian future, the rebirth of a civilization.
She decides it's his turn to be protected, now.
She gets him to stand, and then walk. How, she doesn't know. After a few moments of heart-wrenching silence, she prods and he trusts her enough to follow. She doesn't have a destination in mind. Outside, Metropolis looks like the ruins of some alien world and she thinks of Krypton; was this what it looked like before the end? She keeps them moving.
He remains in a state of devastation for two blocks until he hears someone crying for help. Then it's like a switch flips, the gears shifting, his vision clearing. He squares his shoulders, back going ramrod straight.
"Go," she tells him, knowingly.
Before he takes off to save more civilians, he gives her this look, probing and deep. It's a look that tells her she's not the only one half-way in love.
Not by a long shot.
She doesn't hear from him for two whole months.
It isn't surprising in the least when the government sends another team to detain her, this time led by a man in a crisp black suit by the name of Coulson. He tells her he's from the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division, and she knows enough by now to be concerned by the name and not amused.
"S.H.I.E.L.D.?" she declares, knowingly. "Is this the part where I disappear into a black hole and no one ever hears from me again? Because I've already been threatened with that, and I didn't budge. You can imagine if my resolve has only strengthened since then, due to certain circumstances like the near end of the world. The only reason we're still here is because of Superman."
"We are aware of that fact."
"I'm not telling you who he is."
"I can appreciate your loyalty," Coulson says, steadfast. "I understand that more than you think. I think it's you that's misinterpreting our intentions. We're not in the business of eliminating resources. We've just… Earth has had a few tough years. New York, Gotham City, and now Metropolis - they've been devastated in light of recent events. We're trying to sort out the chaos and we'd just like a word with men like him."
"There are no men like him."
Coulson nods. "We'll agree to disagree, Miss Lane. We'd really just like a word with him."
"You and me, both," she says.
It's easy to maintain her resistance and stubbornness when the interrogation continues, but mostly she thinks it's because Coulson is going easy on her. They don't keep her detained for longer than a few hours, and she doesn't even have to threaten to utilize her newfound celebrity status to keep from being silenced and absconded away to some secret military base for the rest of her life.
Over the next few weeks, she reports from fifteen cities in four different continents, doing her best to spread the word that Superman is not like General Zod and his ilk; she carries out the news junket as both a reporter and a first-hand witness. "It's not the suit," she tells people, "it's not even the powers. It's something most people never have: character. He cares about this planet and its people. He cares about it more than he cares about himself. That's why I call him Superman."
But the days begin to wear her thin. The entire time she feels a bit aimless, a little too much like she's untethered and drifting in sea after a storm. She hasn't been sleeping because of persistent nightmares, and even though she's seen plenty of bodies in her time, crimes against humanity that could curdle blood, this time it's different. It's maybe even too much.
On the Friday before her 33rd birthday, she requests a temporary leave of absence and Perry grants it to her almost before she's even finished speaking the sentence. She ends up borrowing his car, too, in order to slip her military shadow. Jenny even helps as a decoy, impersonating Lois in three-inch heels and a bad wig.
Lois heads north to the Canadian border of Quebec. She keeps driving past sunset, through the night, and well into dawn. She stops waiting for Clark to drop out of the sky and starts enjoying the ride instead, driving swiftly through the forest at inattentive speeds. It's a gorgeous morning, and at a half past nine, she stops the car and pulls over to the dirt shoulder of the road. The breeze is cool without being frosty and the sunlight filtering down through the canopy is a golden-green haze.
"Hello, Lois," a familiar voice calls out from behind.
She doesn't turn around, at first. "You don't call, you don't write."
He steps up beside her, and she stares out at the point where the skyline meets the horizon, acutely aware that his attention is riveted on her instead. It makes her feel like he was just waiting for her here in this exact spot all along, all these months, wearing his best scruffy civilian gear—a beat up leather jacket, old shirt and denim trousers, worn workboots. They call him Superman now, in the papers. She almost wants to take credit for that, because that name had been on the tip of her tongue and in the first of her headlines, but it doesn't really matter. She thinks it's more special that she's one of a few that gets to see him like this. Of two, really. She hasn't spoken to Martha Kent in months, a necessity since the military has taken to tracking Lois' movements, but there's something special about this secret that she wants to share with no new person on this planet.
"They're tracking you by satellite," he observes, looking skyward with a frown. "I'll take care of that later. Right now, we need to move quickly to beat the satellite range."
She raises an eyebrow in response. "Well, then. What are you waiting for?"
He gives her a smile.
When he lifts her and jets off to some unknown corner of the world, she almost screams. She almost wants to kiss him, too, amidst the clouds, but her small hands are clenched on his stomach, cloying at the fabric of his t-shirt. She feels safe in the cocoon of his arms, but there's something about being up at thousands of feet in the air that throws her; the concentration on his face, the elegance of the moment keeps her immobile in his arms, until he touches down on ice-packed earth.
He flies her to a remote cabin somewhere in the snow-covered woods. She doesn't think it's nearby to where she parked; it's probably somewhere across the continent in the province of British Columbia. The cabin is small, but well-kept. He gives her the dime tour and she can tell he's been staying here for a while, probably the full last few months.
Their first day there is uninterrupted leisure. He spends the afternoon cooking in the kitchen, which is good he knows how because she's three hundred miles from the nearest Chinese take-out and it's never a good idea to let a Lane in the kitchen. He lights the living room fireplace with his eyes to keep her warm, and the manic-pixie in her forces her to reorganize the place in between cursing her inability to access the internet. The outside world can wait for a while, though. A strange new peace settles between them. She works to fill him in on what he's been missing these last few months, telling him about all the people that look up to him, as a symbol and as a man of inspiration. He's serving his family crest with justice.
She even starts sketching out ideas on how best to handle his reemergence into society. "You need to maintain your private life, though. Clark Kent has to be separate from Superman."
"But I need to be in places where I can keep an ear to the ground," he counters. "I've been a drifter for too long. I don't think I can do that anymore."
She looks up, recognizing the distant look in his eyes as ones she's seen in soldiers returning from war, those with post-traumatic stress, even. It's going to take years, probably, before he'll let go of the guilt of Zod. Maybe not even then.
"Hey," she says, reaching across to hold his hand. "Then we'll find a place for Clark Kent. Not in the shadows. One thing I've learned in my line of work, it's as much about perception as it is about the truth. We'll find a place for Clark Kent."
After dinner, he gives her his own room and insists on taking the couch. She kisses him goodnight, and they've been frequently touching like the thirst for contact is something constant and implicit. Clark holds himself back, though. She isn't surprised with that; she isn't satisfied either. She understands, though. Not that she could explain it in words, even to herself.
But that night, the nightmares return. She sees Metropolis burning again, she sees the world ending, and she sees Clark's body lying broken in that same building where Zod died. Sweat-soaked and gasping, she awakens to darkness in an unfamiliar environment. The digital clock on the nightstand tells her it's a quarter past three. She runs a hand shakily though her hair, attempting to calm herself, but her breath is erratic and so is her heartbeat.
It's the sound of Clark's muffled voice from the other room that brings her fully back to reality, though. She slips out of bed, crossing the hall to find Clark in the midst of his own nightmare. He's sweating bullets, tossing and turning on the scratchy couch. She crosses the span of the room in a blink, reaching out a hand to rouse him, but she isn't even halfway there before his eyes snap open and a burst of heat shoots out from his eyes, scorching the ceiling.
She jumps back, hand over her chest, heart pounding, while Clark comes back to himself slowly – and then all at once. "God, Lois, are you okay? I'm sorry—"
"I'm fine, I'm fine," she exhales, roughly, even while realizing that negotiating a nightlife with him might be more complex than she first imagined – and that's saying something, considering how much time her imagination has spent on the thought. "You didn't even singe my hair," she jokes, lamely.
His face is a sheen of sweat and recrimination, though. "You shouldn't be here. This isn't right. It's not safe—"
He's so open and naked with shame, haunted by his dreams and his waking nightmare, that it almost physically hurts her. The look clinches it for her. Lois pushes him back so that he lays back, an act that works only because he lets her. She pulls back his covers and without fanfare or permission, proceeds to tuck herself against him, curling up against his side like both of them have agreed to these sleeping arrangements. He looks startled for a moment, but he doesn't protest. After a beat, his arms go around her, and Lois feels something dislodge in her throat, like a breath she hadn't realized that she was holding in. As she nestles against him on the couch, he feels warm like a fever and she wonders if she should even bother with the blanket. He's warm enough for the both of them.
"Lois," he whispers, just once, softly before she drifts to sleep.
"Yeah?" she murmurs.
She's too far-gone to respond, already asleep and for the first time in months, peacefully. She doesn't know if he gets any rest because in the morning, she awakes alone, but Clark is in the kitchen making breakfast and he looks refreshed. He mentions nothing of the previous night and she follows his lead, bantering a bit over bacon and eggs. Lois could do this flirting thing with him all day long, because it's easy and yet energizing. To be fair, Clark is exceptionally good at drawing a reaction out of her whenever he locks eyes with her. It's hardly getting blood from stone.
Then, on the second evening, it hits her like a bolt of lightning. "I know what you can do, Clark. I know how you can live two lives. Join the Daily Planet."
He looks adorably confused, at first. "What?"
"Think about it. You need to be in places that are in trouble, but you can't stick out like a sore thumb either. As a reporter, I get access to some of the most war-torn regions on Earth. I can get unfretted access to places government officials can't even go. You could join the Planet. You could work alongside me."
He pauses. "Lois—"
But she's already tossing out all the ideas firing rapidly through her head, excited over the prospect and the train of thought that moves like a locomotive in its wake. A few changes to his wardrobe, a disguise of some type to mask his rugged features, and with luck and a bit of her knowhow, she'd have the whole world convinced that Clark Kent was just some mild-mannered reporter, always in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"Lois," comes his voice, hesitant, a little stilted and when she lifts her eyes to meet his, he's standing stiffly. "It's a good idea, but think it through. What you're suggesting… they'll be no separation between you and me anymore. Your work, your life – I would constantly jeopardize everything. I've already asked too much of you."
She stares at him, incredulous. "Clark—"
"You can still walk away from this. It's still possible. I don't want you agreeing to something that could potentially take over your entire existence."
"You don't get it, do you?"
"I get the enormity of what you're suggesting," he counters. "I'm lead weight, Lois. I don't know if I'll ever be able to give you everything you deserve, but I—"
She crosses the expanse between them in three long strides, slips her hand into his hair and drags him into a kiss. He follows her lead with a grunt of surprise. She likes surprising him. It's the easiest thing in the world to do, apparently. There's nothing sweet and subtle about this kiss. It's all firm and demanding, an insistence on things progressing instead of relapsing.
"How about you let me decide what I deserve?" she tells him.
"Lois," he mutters, between sips of heavy exhales. "Are you sure—"
And she cuts that one off too with a hard press of her lips to his, drawing that thick bottom lip into her mouth. "Clark," she breathes back, "For the savior of the world, sometimes you can be a complete idiot."
Her mouth finds the hard line of his jaw, and then the soft flesh where his neck rises to meet it. She kisses his pulse point. His heart is beating fast, fast for a human. Is that fast for a Kryptonian, too? Lois still feels like he's holding back a little, for an engraved invitation or something, when all she wants to do is be with him. She missed him these last few months, to a degree that's scary considering how new and novel he is to her life. So she takes the lead, tugging him in the general direction of his bedroom. He stumbles once when he realizes where she's taking him.
She insists on helping him unfasten his shirt, at first slow and indulgent — but then faster and more pressing. There are no words spoken. The truth is, they've never really needed any.
It isn't fast. It isn't frenzied.
He uses a remarkable amount of restraint the entire time, she realizes. His fingers curl possessively around her waist, but never hard enough to bruise. She feels a little delirious, losing time as he lays her back on a cot barely big enough for one. He presses her down with the weight of his body, full of hard lines and muscles, and she squirms a little, hair already bed-tousled and eyes heavy-lidded. His mouth, his hands, his skin – it scorches. She wants all of it.
They're mindful of their limited space, shifting together until he's lying on top of her, his legs on either side of her body. Soon she pulls him in, deeper even as he keeps thrusting in, moving with long hard strokes. She is acutely aware of her efforts to keep her voice strangled. When her body tightens and throbs for release, she whimpers a little, sharp small noises from the back of her throat that make Clark's eyes slide open.
She lifts her chin and his eyes connect with hers like promises. In that moment, the idea of him not being a constant in her life is truly the most indecent thought she could have. She runs her hands all over him, luxuriating in the flex of his well-toned muscles, reveling in the feel of finally being able to touch him. His hands on her are infinitely more reverent.
When she comes, Clark tangles a hand in her hair and kisses her to silence a sob. She feels herself go stiff and then undone beneath him, her chest gasping for air and then collapsing. He doesn't move for a beat; he's holding his breath. So she hitches both her legs over the line of his back, wrapping her arms around his neck, and pushes up insistently with her body; he slams his eyes shut, drives into her five, six, a dozen more times, then shudders and gasps her name as he comes.
Afterwards, when they're comfortable and chilled from cooling sweat, he runs a hand up her exposed back, faint and caressing, and she lies still under his touches. She meets his gaze, stares at the stubble forming on his strong jawline, the sharp cheekbones, his parted lips.
"I love you," he tells her.
And like always, she believes him completely.
"Hi. Lois Lane," she greets, straight faced as she can manage. "Welcome to the Planet."
His face registers the double entendre, amusement lightening his eyes. He restrains a smile when he answers, "Glad to be here, Lois."