By Andrea Dunham
Summary: Clark continues to "run out" on Lois even after she knows his secret, and neither one is sure exactly why. A story that occurs after the episode "Ordinary People," assuming "Contact" never happened.
Continuity: This falls after Ordinary People, and assumes that Contact never happened.
Author's Note: Way before Contact I was already thinking that Clark would have to be facing up to the reality of life and death on the planet Earth fairly soon after getting involved with Lois. I wrote this a few weeks ago during a lunch break. I agree with the episode Contact, in that I think that Clark might try to distance himself, but a. I don't think he would have done so physically, and b. I don't think it would have happened so soon after revealing himself to Lois and proposing.
Send Comments/criticism to : Andrea.Dunham@fmr.com
When Lois walked into the office everyone could see that she was more than just a little upset. Jimmy, who had been walking over to her desk with some companion photos for one of her stories, quickly did an about face and went to warn Perry of Lois' foul mood.
When Clark walked in ten minutes later, carrying red roses, the temperature in the office went from icy to frigid. Lois cast him only a sidelong glance and then proceeded to ignore him. Mustering up his courage, and using the roses as a shield, Clark made his way to Lois' desk. He held out his offering and she took it and lay it down on top of her monitor without so much as looking at it.
"You can't buy me off with flowers, Clark, and the fact that you tried to only makes things worse. I had hoped that we were beyond such childish substitutes for apologies."
Lois' eyes remained glued to her screen and Clark went to his desk and sat down. Maybe Lois was right. Maybe he was acting like a child. He had certainly acted like a child the previous night, flying off when Lois began asking the tough questions.
He hadn't thought that his late night flight to save a number of passengers trapped in an overturned bus was such a big deal, but Lois had seen things differently. She was sitting up in bed waiting for him when he arrived back at her place sometime after three in the morning. At first she seemed happy to see him, wrapping her arms around his neck and whispering his name softly, but then she abruptly pulled away.
"What are you doing up so late?" he asked.
"I woke up and you were gone."
"I didn't want to wake you. There was some trouble with a busload of people coming back from a religious retreat."
"I suppose you weren't going to tell me about it. I suppose you were just going to slip back between the sheets and then write it up for the afternoon edition," Lois said.
"I told you, Lois, I just didn't want to wake you."
"Well I'd rather be woken and know where you're going than wake up and worry myself half to death wondering where you are, and whether or not you're ever coming back."
"I'm sorry, I didn't know how worried you'd be…"
"Clark, it's not like this is the first time this has happened. At first I didn't say anything when you dashed off without telling me. I thought, 'he's still getting used to the fact that he doesn't have to hide from me', but it's been almost six months since you told me your secret, and you're still running out on me with no explanation beforehand and no explanation when you reappear. I'm beginning to think that you like keeping secrets from me."
"Lois, don't be ridiculous. You know how much I wanted to tell you I was Superman, but you were so infatuated—"
"Ah, here we go again. So it's all my fault, eh? It's my fault that even after you knew I loved you, and not your alter ego, you still proposed to me without telling me the truth. If I hadn't started to get suspicious, who knows how long it would have been before you told me…if you ever did."
"Lois, that's not fair and you know it."
"Not fair? And I suppose that lying and sneaking is fair?"
"You knew what you were getting into when you said yes to my proposal. You knew that I was Superman and that Superman occasionally has to run off."
"Clark, I know that, but why can't you ever just tell me face to face what's going on. You hardly even mention the fact that you're Superman in your off hours. You never tell me when you're on patrol. It's as if you wish I didn't know the truth. It's as if you don't trust me with the truth."
"No, Clark, hear me out. I can understand that you were wary of telling me because you didn't know what my reaction would be, but I've known the truth for six months now. I haven't betrayed your trust. I haven't told anyone what I know. Don't you think you could start to trust me a little more?"
"Lois, if you don't think I trust you then I don't know what I can do to change your mind." he turned and walked out onto her balcony. "Maybe I'd just better leave."
"Clark, if you leave without finishing this…"
Before Lois could finish her sentence Clark had bolted into the sky and was soon gone from sight. ***
Clark was jerked back the present when Jimmy accidentally bumped into his chair in passing. Clark shook his head to clear his thoughts but he kept remembering the hurt look on Lois' face. She wasn't angry, she was hurt. He had hurt her.
He looked across at her as she stared intently at her monitor, obviously attempting to divert all her attention to her work. Clark tried to think about why he had kept running out on her even after she knew the truth. For so long he had wanted nothing more than to know that she knew his secret and that she accepted it, but now…now he didn't know what was the matter with him.
He took out a pad of paper and a pen and started to make a list. On the top of the page he wrote BENEFITS and at the middle of the page he wrote DRAWBACKS.
"Well," he thought, "the benefits are that I don't have to sneak around any more—even though I still do. I can be myself around her and I don't have to watch every move I make. We can save on airfare to my parents' because I don't have to pretend to need an airplane."
He paused in thought. "I know that she loves all of me."
He continued down the page to DRAWBACKS. He had to think about that one for a minute.
"Hmmm. If we ever break up she can certainly get back at me."
He looked over at her again and a surge of love swept like a wave from his stomach to the top of his head. Nothing could break them up. Except death.
The ugly thought crept into his brain and he looked away. He tried to push the thought of Lois dying far to the back of his mind. She was everything to him. She was the only one outside his family who knew the truth. She was the only one he could really be himself around. If anything ever happened to her he would be alone. He would lose everything. He would have to go back to being on guard twenty-four hours a day unless he was on the tiny farm fifteen miles outside Smallville.
Clark stood up quickly and rushed to Lois' side. He took her right hand in both of his and nearly pulled her to her feet. She flashed him a questioning look and opened her mouth to speak but he stopped her.
"Just come with me," he said.
She could sense the urgency in his manner and voice and let him lead her out of the office and up the service stairs to the roof. He didn't even bother changing into costume before taking her into his arms and soaring up into the air. Lois decided not to say anything although the surprise of Clark's actions was making her incredibly curious.
They landed ten minutes later in the frozen snow of the north pole.
"Clark, I'm freezing!" Lois exclaimed as she wrapped her arms around herself in a futile attempt to keep warm.
In an instant Clark burrowed into the snow and created a snug cave of ice. He blew warm air inside and motioned Lois inside. She was surprised by how warm it was, yet the ice didn't show any signs of melting.
"Let me guess, you spent some time with the Eskimos," she quipped.
Clark pulled off his jacket and spread it on the ground for Lois to sit on and then he sat down himself.
"So…" Lois began.
"I guess I should tell you why I brought you here, huh?"
"I wanted us to be alone and away from everything. This is the most barren place I know. This is where I came after I saw you accept Luthor's proposal."
Lois winced at the mention of her ex-fiance's name. She knew that the whole Luthor debacle had hurt Clark as much as it had hurt her.
"I wanted to talk about what you said last night."
Lois thought back to her accusations. "I'm sorry I was so pushy Clark, but you know how I can get, and I meant what I said, although I suppose I could have been a little more tactful about bringing it up."
"No Lois, you were right to tell me what was on your mind. You were right about a lot of things. I know that I've been acting strangely…well, more strangely lately."
Lois grinned at his reference to her calling him 'a strange one'.
"It's not that I don't trust you though. I don't want you to think that about what I do. The only thing is, I haven't wanted to admit that I trust you."
"But why?" Lois asked. She could see that this was actually very hard for him and she instinctively took hold of his hands.
"Because trusting you, letting myself get comfortable with you, it gives me everything."
"I don't think I understand."
"It gives me everything, but it also means that if anything should…happen…I would lose everything. I would lose the ability to be myself, the ability to feel secure, all the things that I can feel myself becoming because I don't have to hide from you any more. I just don't think that I could stand to lose what I have now, so I've been pretending I don't have anything. I haven't been letting myself act any differently or feel any differently."
"Oh Clark!" Lois buried her head in his shoulder. "You're not going to lose me. I'll be here for you…"
Clark held her at arms length. "Until you die." he finished her sentence. "And then…"
Lois was struck by the enormity of what he was saying. She didn't like to think about her own mortality any more than the next person, but he was right. So far he had aged at a normal rate, but all that could stop. Maybe he would stop aging when he reached his peak of power. Maybe he would keep aging but at a slower rate. Maybe he would live to an incredibly old age, like the people in the old testament, having children at 800 and finally dying at age 987. They didn't even know if he would die.
She looked up into his face and the vulnerability there frightened her. It frightened her that she obviously meant so much to him. She had never thought that anyone would be able to love her so completely, and the knowledge that she had such power over a man whom she herself had always thought was invulnerable…it was awesome in the true sense of the word. As powerful as he was, he was still like a little child in some ways, wanting his parents to promise that they weren't going to be going anywhere for a very long time, but she couldn't promise him that, at least not in his terms. A very long time to him could be a hundred years, or it could be a thousand.
"Clark— I don't know what to say to you. Someday I will die. I hope that day will be a long, long time from now, but it will come eventually. I know how much that day will hurt you, but you can't put off living the rest of your life, simply because you're dreading one day. It's not right. I want you to live with me in the here and now, not always wondering what the future will bring. Believe me, we'll find out soon enough."
"I know that you're right, Lois, but just the idea of being alone again. I'm afraid that it's more than even I can take."
"And how do you think I feel, knowing that any crackpot with some money seems to be able to get his hands on kryptonite? You could die tomorrow for all we know. That's one of the risks every couple has to take, and it's one that I'm willing to take in order to have a relationship with you. I'm willing to give myself to you despite the fact that I know that neither of us knows what the future holds. I guess I just need to know if you're willing to do the same."
She looked at him expectantly and with a small amount of fear in her eyes. She wasn't sure if Clark would back away as he had done before when he thought it would be for 'her own good'.
He cupped her face in his hands and looked deeply into her fathomless brown eyes.
"Lois, I want to be with you. You're right…I've been dwelling on what might be, instead of treasuring what we have right now. I'm so sorry. I've been inviting you in and then shutting you out."
"Well I admit that it's been a little confusing…I thought maybe you'd changed your mind about getting married."
She looked up at him sheepishly.
"Of course not! Lois, I want you as my wife more than anything."
She snuggled into his embrace and rested her head on his chest.
"In that case, now that we have everything out in the open, I think I can give you a definite answer," she paused and he looked down at the top of her head where it seemed to fit so perfectly into the space below his collarbone. "I want you as my husband more than anything."
Lois felt him hold her even closer.
"How does May sound for a rough wedding date?" he whispered into her ear.