By Sarah Wood (Sarah4LC@aol.com)
Summary: A continuation of the episode "And the Answer Is…" in which Lois reveals she has done a little investigating on her own. feedback appreciated
PROLOGUE (from ATAI)
Clark steered Lois to the park bench by the fountain and she sat down expectantly. He was just about to speak when the night was shattered with brilliant flashes of lightning, a peal of thunder rumbled overhead, and rain began to pour down on the couple. Clark stood there, raised his face to the sky, and had to laugh. "Come on!" he cried out. "Give me a break!" Every time he was about to tell Lois something important, *something* happened.
Lois laughed with him. "Do you want to go back?" she asked.
He looked down at her, his face softening, giving her another one of those looks that made her melt inside. "If the earth opened up at my feet," he declared, "I wouldn't move until I'd said this." He took a deep breath to calm his nerves, let it out in a sigh, and gracefully sank to one knee before her. "Lois," he began, and her lips parted slightly in breathless anticipation. He reached into his pocket and brought out a jewelry box, opened it, and held it out towards her.
She looked down at the ring, her eyes widening, and slowly looked up at his face, her eyes shining and her expression one of rapture. Clark gazed at her with the love in his heart plain to see.
"Will you marry me?" He waited with bated breath.
Lois could hardly believe she was hearing those magic words, and was on the verge of accepting his proposal, but she remembered that there was something else that had to be said first. She looked at him closely, tipping her head slightly to one side, and said "Clark …"
To Clark, it sounded horribly like the beginning of an objection.
"No, wait," he said somewhat desperately before she could destroy his hopes completely. "Don't answer that!"
Lois couldn't help but smile. "Don't tell me, it's a rhetorical question, right?"
He shook his head. "There's something I have to tell you first. And this time, nothing will stop me." He suddenly prayed that it would be true, for if he broke his word to Lois again, while still on one knee and with the jewelry box clutched tightly in his hand, she would probably never forgive him. If only there were some way to shut his ears!
"Well, you'd better hurry then, before you … before you're late for another appointment."
"I … I didn't have an appointment." Clark peered through his rain-spattered glasses trying to gauge her reaction. "That was just an excuse, Lois."
Her eyes widened even as a little smile played over her lips. "Clark Kent, do you mean to tell me that there was no Cheese of the Month?"
Clark grasped one of her hands abruptly, firmly, his soft brown eyes serious. "Lois, please, I'm trying to tell you something very important, something I've wanted to tell you for a long time, and it isn't easy for me. Please, don't make jokes now, I need you to listen to me."
"No, why don't you listen to me," she suggested, tugging gently on his hand to encourage him to sit beside her, her expression sober now as she faced him. "Waiting for you to get up the nerve to tell me your secret, your explanation for all those urgent disappearances, was driving me nuts, so I started wondering what it could be. I went through a whole gallon of Rocky Road because of you," she added, poking his chest for emphasis.
"I'm sorry, I never meant to make this so hard for you," Clark told her sincerely.
"Well, it doesn't matter now, because I know." She gave him a triumphant grin. Investigative Reporter Lois Lane had done it again!
"You … you do?" He gulped, even more nervous now, if that was possible.
"I don't know why it took me so long, because once I realized it, it was so obvious!" She jumped up and began to pace back and forth as she spoke. "It explained everything. Not just the sudden rushing off, even when we were in the middle of something important, but other little things. Now I know why Superman so often showed up when I needed him, why he seemed to know what kind of day I'd had, and why you seemed to know things you couldn't have known. I used to think you two talked about me behind my back," she grinned. "Compared notes or something."
Clark could only watch her, spellbound.
"I was blind, for a long time. Now that I know, I can see what a fool I've been." She stood still long enough to glare at him. "I don't like feeling stupid."
"You're not stupid," he said, not quite knowing what else to say.
"Well, not anymore." She resumed her pacing. "When your parents were held hostage by that … that skunk, and he wanted you to kill me, I asked you to tell Superman to come to my apartment. I knew you'd never agree to my plan, but I also knew it was the only chance your parents had, and I couldn't let you sacrifice them, just as you couldn't sacrifice me."
Clark felt anew the anguish, the wrenching fear and desperation, that he had gone through. Either his parents would die or Lois would die, and his powers were of no help to him. He had been utterly helpless, for perhaps the first time in his life.
"I told Superman my plan to save your parents," Lois continued. "If he froze me with his breath, I would appear dead. Your parents would be okay, and Superman could warm me up again. He didn't want to, he knew there was a good chance I'd die, or suffer brain damage, but I had to help your parents, and you. I begged him," she remembered, her voice growing softer as she vividly recalled that moment. She stood motionless near the fountain, no longer aware of the rain, closing her eyes and feeling again the frightened determination, the love for Clark that made her heart ache. She couldn't stand by and let his parents die, do nothing but comfort him afterwards, and yet she had been so horribly afraid. She loved Clark, she wasn't ready to die, she wanted them to be together, to feel his arms around her, to kiss him once again.
"He … he understood. He understood that I had to do this, and he knew he had to help me. It was probably the hardest choice he ever made," Lois realized, her voice dropping almost to a whisper.
Clark felt the tears spring to his eyes. Hearing her, he was suddenly back in her apartment, listening to her persuasive reasoning, seeing her courage shining through her fear, hearing her true feelings for him as Clark but unable to feel any joy, only an agonizing pain that clutched at his chest and squeezed like a vise. The woman he loved — the only woman he would ever love — was asking him to take her to death's door. If he refused, his parents would die. If he agreed, Lois might die. How could anyone make a choice like that? But then, it wasn't really a choice. Lois had made up her mind, he could see that, and she knew the risks, and she was afraid. Her face was pale, her eyes luminous with unshed tears, but she was as stubborn and determined in this as in everything else.
And when she pleaded with him, he was powerless to say no. He could deny her nothing, not even her noble death, even though it was tearing him apart. And standing before her as Superman, listening to her declaration of love for Clark, he wasn't even able to take her in his arms one last time. He wanted to, with all his heart. The urge to kiss her, to offer her his strength and love, was overwhelming, but as Superman he couldn't do that. The most he could do was touch her face, feel her warmth for perhaps the last time, and try to offer her some support.
"I knew I was hurting him," Lois continued. "I could see it in his eyes, he couldn't bear to do what I was asking of him, but he couldn't change my mind." She laughed shakily. "You know how stubborn I can be!" She sank beside him on the park bench. Reliving the memories was emotionally exhausting. "He touched my face, just as I was thinking of you, Clark, of how much I love you, of how desperately I hoped it would work, so your parents would be safe and we could finally be together. And his touch was just like yours, as warm and gentle and loving, and for a moment it was almost as if you were there. And then when I commented on it, he suddenly backed away and told me to close my eyes."
Clark nodded, swallowing hard to try to get rid of the lump in his throat. She had stood there, trembling slightly, her eyes closed, trusting in him, putting her life in his hands, waiting with incredible courage for him to freeze her, perhaps kill her, and it had taken more will power than he knew he had to go through with it. A piece of his soul had died at that moment.
Lois went on, her voice ragged with emotion. "I heard your voice, calling to me from a long way away, begging me to open my eyes, to come back to you, and it gave me strength. I was so cold, so weak, but I wanted so much to see you again. I came back for you, Clark." She slipped her hand into his and squeezed gently. "I came back because I love you, more than I ever knew. But when I opened my eyes, it was Superman leaning over me, holding me, crying with relief."
The tears slipped down Clark's cheeks; no super power could have held them back any longer. He had been deathly afraid, sure he had lost her — no, sure he had killed her — and then she had opened her eyes. He had thought before that his heart would break with grief, and then at that moment he thought it would break with joy, for he couldn't imagine a life without her, he couldn't have lived with the knowledge that he had killed her.
Letting the velvet box drop into his lap, Clark pulled Lois into his arms, crushing her to his chest. "I was so afraid, Lois, I thought you were dead, I thought I'd never hold you again." He kissed the top of her head, stroked her wet hair away from her face, and kissed the tears from her cheeks with a gentleness that made Lois melt. They looked into each others' eyes, and Lois smiled.
"Take your glasses off," she said softly. Clark hesitated; he had spent two years trying to make sure Lois never saw him without his glasses, two long years keeping his secret from her, and it was a hard habit to change. With a sudden sense of relief he knew that he had nothing to hide from her anymore, that he could relax and let his guard down. He removed his glasses, slipping them into his pocket.
For the first time, Lois and Clark looked at each with nothing standing between them.
"I love you, Clark," she whispered.
"And I love you," he replied. "Lois, I have to know, will you marry me?"
He was beautiful, she thought with a sigh. Not just his face, or his body, because those were fleeting beauties that couldn't stand the test of time. No, it was his inner beauty that touched her soul. The nobility in his heart, the courage he showed when his super powers were unable to help him, and the tenderness with which he loved her.
"Yes," she answered, her voice clear and sweet and filled with love.
She laughed, the joy building inside her until it overflowed and bubbled out. She put her arms around his neck, slipping her fingers into his luxuriously thick hair. "Yes, Clark, yes, Superman, I'll marry you!"
Relief and excitement and love swelled in his heart as she pulled him closer. Her lips were soft and pliant beneath his, her small body fit snugly against him, and her hands stroked the back of his neck and feathered his hair. Although the sensations were still new to him, Clark knew it felt right.
It felt like … home