By Kat Picson <firstname.lastname@example.org> or <email@example.com>
Rated: G Submitted October 11, 1997
Summary: An alternative take on the resolution of the Season 3 cliffhanger: what might have happened if Clark had been gone not for a few days, but a few years?
"Clark, I never want to let you go," Lois said, sobbing in his arms. The two fell to the floor, the wind billowing the curtains softly.
Clark held her tightly, as tight as he dared. He looked out her window, the star he would come to know as his "home" planet teasing him incessantly. Lois continued to sob, and Clark held her the entire night. He didn't need to make love to her, or kiss her, or do anything but keep his arms around her. It was all either of them could do; it was all either of them needed: each other. And they both knew it would be the last time for a very long time … perhaps forever.
*** FOUR YEARS LATER ***
Clark Kent stood before the exit on the spacecraft he had returned to Earth in. It felt good to be dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt after four years of the boring black battlesuit and tunics he wore on New Krypton. He turned to Lady Zara, the recently named sole ruler of New Krypton. It had taken four Earth years, but they had finally done it. Lieutenant Ching's life had been a costly casualty, but he had died honorably at the hands of Lord Nor, whom Zara later killed with her own two hands, avenging her true love's death. With the backing of grateful New Kryptonians, Lord Kal-El was allowed to return to Earth, and Lady Zara became the first female sole ruler of a Kryptonian society.
"Lord Kal-El …" Zara started to say something, but she started again. "Clark. I want to thank you for all you have done for Kryptonian society. You could have chosen to stay on Earth. I know what you sacrificed for our planet and our people. What you have done … we will never be able to repay you." Zara's eyes dropped to the floor in admiration and respect.
"Zara …" Clark reached out to her in a hug. "It was my responsibility. I'm passing that responsibility to you, and I know you will do a great job doing what you have been born to do - rule over New Krypton."
Zara nodded. Clark knew it would be hard on her, especially now that she was alone. But she had a loyal following, and a strong one at that.
The two said their farewells, and Clark ventured out into the street from the same alley that they had hidden the spacecraft in four years ago. He was back on Earth. First order of business: Lois Lane.
It was four o'clock on a Tuesday afternoon. Clark knew that Lois had to be at work. He remembered the story he and Lois had conjured up: Clark had mysteriously disappeared while covering the reaction to Superman's departure. Clark thought it was incredibly obvious, but Lois knew that keeping it simple would be most effective. Besides, they didn't know how long he would be away, and a mysterious disappearance would also explain a mysterious reappearance.
Clark pushed the familiar elevator button. People were in a rush to get home, and most ignored Clark. He glanced around. Some things looked different, but most remained the same. He was alone when he boarded the elevator.
"Ding!" The elevator indifferently announced his arrival on the city room floor. He took in the familiar sights of the newsroom, vaguely noticing the paint job since he had last been there four years ago. By instinct he glanced at Lois' desk. It was empty at the moment and cluttered as usual, but memories of his goodbye at the Planet flooded to the front of Clark's mind. He remembered her tears, his parents, Perry and Jimmy. He remembered all the lonely nights he had spent, eyes closed tightly, allowing only the lonely tear to escape, a tight fist around Lois' wedding ring. He told her, in his thoughts, how much he loved her. And hoped that the message was received, even light years away.
He noticed his old desk was occupied by an unfamiliar blonde with long legs and a short skirt. He headed straight for Perry White's office.
"Clark? Clark Kent?" Perry stood up from behind the familiar desk. He walked around to take Clark into a fatherly hug. "Son, we all thought you'd gone to meet your Maker by now! You don't know how happy I am to see you alive!" Perry had a huge smile on his face as he took a step back to look at Clark. "What the Sam Hill happened to you? It's been four years! I haven't been this worried about a reporter since Lois got tangled in that gun-smuggling fiasco in the Congo!"
"Uh …" Darn! Clark knew he had forgotten something. Stall, he told himself. "Uh … well, it's a long story. Meanwhile …"
Perry understood. "You want to see Lois, don't you?" Perry sighed and looked at Clark carefully. "A lot of things have changed since you've been gone, son."
Clark frowned, trying to decipher Perry's cryptic comment. He shrugged it off.
"Where is she?"
"She's not here. She only works in the mornings nowadays."
"Mornings?" Clark was confused. That didn't sound like Lois, the workaholic who insisted on coming in early and being the last to leave.
"I think she better explain things to you," Perry said, sitting back down. The telephone rang. Perry looked at Clark closely. "You get some rest, and don't even think about coming to work until you're a hundred percent again. You look like you've been to hell and back." He picked up the phone. Clark reentered the newsroom.
He learned that Jimmy had been promoted to a full-fledged photographer job and was in Switzerland covering the International Peace Prize convention, and the woman who occupied Clark's old desk had replaced him four years ago on the city beat. Her name was Carrie Kinney, and she had transferred from a Daily Planet affiliate in Gotham City. She had left to cover a story by the time Clark emerged from Perry's office. Clark was glad; for some odd reason he didn't want to meet her.
His next stop: Lois' apartment. His superpowers had not returned yet, so he couldn't peer in the third-story windows. He rang the doorbell and waited patiently. After ringing the doorbell three times and waiting over three minutes, he realized Lois was not at home. He looked at his watch. It was only four-thirty. He headed back to his own apartment.
Jonathan and Martha Kent had kept his apartment intact. They paid the monthly rent and stayed there on their frequent visits to Metropolis. That was the agreement they had decided on, since Clark's absence was indefinite. Clark withdrew his key from his pocket and stuck it in the lock.
The familiar sights and scents greeted him when he walked in. The green plants, the faint smell of incense that he used to burn, the aftershave Lois had bought him for Christmas the last time … His plants were dutifully watered, and the furniture had about a week's worth of dust on it. Clark picked up the phone and dialed the familiar Kansas area code and phone number.
"Hi, you've reached Jonathan and Martha. We can't answer the phone right now, but if you need to get a hold of us quickly, page Jonathan at 555-1900, or Martha at …" Clark hung up and paged his father, adding a 911 at the end of his numeric message. He dusted his furniture impatiently while waiting for the phone to ring.
After five minutes, the telephone rang. Clark jumped, but he grabbed it immediately. "Lois? Is something wrong?" Jonathan's alarmed voice came through on a static-y signal.
"Dad, it's not Lois," Clark said. It felt good to hear his father's voice. "Why did you think it would be Lois calling from here?"
"Clark! Martha, Clark's on the phone!" Clark could hear his father's relief and joy as he spoke. Tears flowed down Jonathan's face.
"Are you okay, son? When did you get home?"
"Fine, Dad. I just got back -" Clark consulted his watch "- an hour ago. Dad, I can't find Lois."
"Well, you know Lois," Jonathan said uncomfortably. "Listen, your mother wants to speak to you, and we're calling from the cell phone here in town, so you'll have to make it quick."
"Clark! Dad and I are flying in tonight on the next flight to Metropolis. Are you okay? Did you get hurt over there?"
Despite Martha's constant worrying, Clark smiled. It certainly was nice to hear his mother's voice again. "A few cuts and bruises that have healed," he replied. "Zara told me I probably won't have my powers for another couple weeks or so. That's how long it took for her to develop her powers when she first came here."
"Have you talked to Lois?" Martha asked carefully.
"No, she wasn't home when I passed by," Clark said, frowning. He noticed how everyone seemed to be acting strangely when they were talking about her. "Mom, what's wrong with Lois? Is she hurt? Where is she?"
"Clark honey, calm down. She's fine. But I think you should talk to her as soon as you can. What time is it over there, Clark?"
"Good. Lois should be home in about a half-hour. We'll take a cab from the airport, don't worry about having us picked up."
Before Clark could ask another question, Martha had hung up.
Clark sighed. He was tired. The trip had taken three Earth days, and most of those seventy-two hours he had spent in his bunk, staring at the ring around his neck.
Clark resolved to take a nap. He changed into sweats and collapsed on his bed, dreaming the same dream, of Lois Lane, in his arms, forever …
"Clark?" Martha gently shook her son awake. She sat down on the bed gingerly.
"Let him sleep, Martha," Jonathan whispered. "I'm sure he's had a long day."
Clark opened his eyes. "It's OK, Dad." He sat up and took a good, hard look at his parents before engulfing them both in a tight hug. The tears started, and then the laughter.
The reunited Kent family spent a few minutes asking Clark questions. He told them about New Krypton, his war against the Nor clan and their final defeat, and his avoidance of consummation with Zara. He told them sadly of Ching's death, and the shift of all ruling power to Lady Zara.
"I'm sorry, Mom, Dad," Clark said, finally standing up. "I really love being here and talking to you, but I'm kind of worried about Lois. Do you think she's home right now?"
"It's about nine," Martha said, glancing at her watch. "You've been asleep a long time. Why don't you walk over there?"
"Good idea," Clark said. He got up, showered quickly, and headed for the door.
"Wait, Clark," Martha scurried to catch him with a sandwich in her hand. "I'm sure you're hungry. Eat this on the way." Martha handed him the sandwich with a smile and a quick peck on the cheek.
Clark smiled and took a hearty bite of the sandwich. Mm, peanut butter and jelly. It was refreshing change from the weird blue liquid, which passed as the only nourishment for Kryptonians, that he had been drinking for the past four years.
"Do you think we should have said something, Jonathan?" Martha asked worriedly as soon as Clark was out of earshot.
Jonathan shook his head. "No. This is between Lois and Clark. She should tell him herself."
The warm autumn winds swept by Clark as he walked the familiar route to Lois' apartment. He thought of everyone's strange reactions every time he mentioned her name. What was wrong? Was she sick? Was she dying? Had she fallen in love with someone new? Clark put the nasty thoughts out of his mind. Of course not. Lois would never fall in love with anyone else. But the quietness of the Metropolis streets forced him to listen to the signals everyone was sending out. What was wrong?
Clark rounded the familiar corner toward Lois' apartment for the second time. His heart skipped a beat when he saw Lois' silver Jeep parked outside. His step quickened, and so did his heartbeat. He would see her, at last. He had lived these past four years for this moment.
Something he saw made him stop in his tracks two buildings away. Lois was outside, on the steps. She was embracing a man, a tall 30ish man with blond hair wearing a black leather jacket and jeans. Next to her stood a little girl of about three. She had wavy brown hair, sparkling brown eyes, and pouty pink lips … just like Lois.
"Bye," the little girl said as the blond man picked her up. She gave him a kiss on the nose.
"I'll see you next week," the man said, holding her close. "I'll see you next week too, Lois."
Lois smiled. "Yeah. Take care in Chicago."
The man waved and boarded an awaiting cab. The little girl waved until the cab disappeared around the corner.
"Lois? …" Clark's voice trailed off.
Lois turned, and as she did, she saw Clark. "Clark …" she whispered. "Clark …" She was speechless, but his name rolled off her tongue effortlessly. It was an instinct reaction.
Clark looked at Lois and saw the love in her eyes. But the situation betrayed her. Clark knew what he saw. And what he saw was that Lois had a new life, one that had no room for Clark Kent.
Lois took a step towards him, imploring with her eyes, but Clark stepped back. "No," he said. "It's OK."
"Who's he, Mommy?" the little girl interrupted, unaware of the silent conflict she was causing between Lois and Clark.
Lois looked down at the child who had proclaimed her as the mother. "Clark, no," Lois said, tears springing to her eyes. "It's not what you think … I can explain … She's not — it's not what you think …" Lois searched the sky for the words to explain. They gave her no help.
"It's OK, Lois," Clark repeated. "I think I understand." He turned on his heel and walked away briskly, into the night shadows.
Clark started to walk home, but he realized his parents would be there. And they would want to know what happened. He didn't feel like explaining or hearing anyone's useless words of advice. Nothing would make him feel better. He wondered why they hadn't warned him. All they had done was avoid the truth. He changed directions and found himself in front of Centennial Park.
The park was empty, save for the occasional homeless person. He sat down at the fountain and thought back to that moment so many years ago. When he had realized that Lois was the most important part of his life, and that evening in the rain when she had sat down at this very spot, and he had proposed. And then a few weeks later, she had proposed to him.
How could everything so right go so wrong? Clark asked himself the question over and over, but could not find an answer. He belonged nowhere now — not on Earth, and certainly not on New Krypton. The only place he had felt he belonged was with Lois. But now … she belonged somewhere else, with someone else. He turned to look at the fountain, which was now turned off and drained of water. How ironic, he thought to himself.
He let the tears fall.
During the four years he had been on New Krypton, he had refused to cry. Being Lord Kal-El meant he couldn't show emotion, let alone fear. It was this facade that had allowed him to escape the wrath of Nor and his cohorts. He thought that being with his own kind would allow his true self to emerge, but it didn't. It only forced him into a persona that he was not. Only Lois Lane, the beautiful, brilliant, vivacious woman whose heart he had won so completely five years ago, brought out his heart, his mind, and his true being.
The phone rang in Clark's apartment, and Jonathan, who was sitting next to it, picked it up.
"Oh, Jonathan, thank God. Is Clark back?" Lois sounded hysterical.
"No, Lois, I thought he went to see you."
"Oh my God. He was here. He was standing there on the street. He saw Clare and Roger, and he thought … I tried to explain, but I couldn't … and he walked away. Oh Jonathan, I don't know what to do." Lois burst into tears again.
"Lois, calm down. Here's Martha."
Lois repeated her disjointed babbling to Martha. "Don't worry, honey. Clark will be just fine. Just give him time. When he's ready to speak to you, he'll come back."
Lois was still worried, and she would have gone over to Clark's apartment to see the Kents, but Clare was sleeping and there was no babysitter to call this late. Lois tried desperately to sleep, but ended up tossing and turning all night. Clark was in the few dreams that she caught. In that sense, it was no different than any other night.
Clark continued to sit at the fountain. He didn't do much, but he could feel his powers returning. He cried his eyes out for an hour, but then he started hearing noises from far away and seeing through walls. A kitten in an alley two blocks away, a television across the way, a couple in the closest apartment building cooking a late dinner.
He remembered the time he and Lois were cooking in his kitchen, right before the New Kryptonians came. She had burned the lasagna, but they drank the wine to wash the burnt taste away.
He sighed. Everything reminded him of Lois. He picked up a signal from the radio station, and listened to the song. He missed Earth music … Kryptonians hardly paid attention to the arts, especially during a civil war. He couldn't even bring his Walkman because alkaline batteries reacted strangely to the red sun in the Kryptonian atmosphere, and of course there were no electrical outlets like the ones on Earth. He sighed again, and let the words absorb into his tired body and heart.
I see your eyes, drifting, drifting I'm really not that naive You wear a smile, but it's drifting, drifting While I wear my heart on my sleeve I feel your coldness against my skin I know what follows the autumn wind And though you say your heart isn't drifting, drifting, The words simply don't ring true You're drifting and I'm losing you …*
He checked his watch. It was past midnight. He was sure his parents had probably gone to bed. He reluctantly stood up and began the walk home.
Lois began her day an hour earlier than usual. She showered and dressed for work, then awoke Clare. "I wanna sleep more, Mommy," Clare whined.
Lois threw the covers off her daughter and lifted her out of her bed. "To the bathroom, young lady." That was that. After Clare had used the bathroom and brushed her teeth, Lois sat her down to breakfast.
"Mommy, who was that man outside yesterday?" Clare shoveled a mouthful of Cocoa Puffs into her mouth and chewed thoughtfully as she watched Lois wash dishes.
Lois opened her mouth to speak, but before she could say anything, Clare stood and picked up a picture on the end table by the couch. It was one of Lois and Clark at work, before they had gotten engaged. He was sitting on a chair, and she on the table behind him, and she was resting her chin on his head. Jimmy had taken it one Saturday. They were both smiling. Lois looked at it often, but never knew that Clare had ever noticed it. It was the only picture of Clark that she kept around, besides the wallet-size of Superman that she kept in the back of her wallet out of habit.
"Is this him, Mom?" For a three-year-old, Clare was precocious. Lois hadn't expected her to remember Clark's face from last night, especially since Clare had been sleeping before Roger had left, and fell immediately asleep again when they got back inside.
"Yes, that's him. His name is Mr. Kent." Lois didn't know how else Clare could call him. Or if she would ever be given a chance to call him anything.
"He was crying yesterday, Mom," Clare said solemnly. "What did you you do to him?"
Lois nodded. She looked at her daughter's eyes, silently searching the photograph. Lois' own eyes almost filled with tears. "We just had a misunderstanding, honey," Lois said quietly, blinking the tears away.
"I think you should say sorry," Clare advised.
"I'll talk to him before I go to work," Lois promised.
"Is that why we're going to Grandma Alice's early today?" Clare said. She was so perceptive, Lois thought. Alice White, Perry's wife, had been taking care of Clare every morning, and sometimes even into the afternoons if there was a big story.
"Yes. Now, finish your breakfast while I call Grandma Alice." Lois picked up the phone and cleared the arrangement with Alice. Alice handed off the phone to Perry, who was on his way out. He told Lois to take her time getting to work. He didn't have to say it: she and Clark had a lot to talk about. Clare had lapped up the last of the chocolate-y milk from her cereal bowl.
"All done, Mommy," she announced, wiping her lips delicately.
Clark awoke before dawn. He estimated only three hours of sleep. He had been on the couch since his parents had taken his bed. He tiptoed to the kitchen and poured himself some milk. He could feel himself getting stronger already. He tried to levitate, and could only sustain a floating position for a few minutes. It was coming back faster than Zara had estimated. She had said that it had taken almost two weeks for her and Ching to develop full powers. However, she thought that Clark's powers might come back faster because he had previously been exposed to the yellow sun.
He checked in on his parents. They were sound asleep. He dressed in jeans and a T-shirt and checked his cupboards and fridge. Peanut butter, jelly, bread, orange juice, milk, eggs, and butter. His mother had probably gone shopping. Clark made himself toast and scrambled eggs and sat down to eat his breakfast as the sun came up through his kitchen window. He ate slowly and thoughtfully. Perry had told him not to come in to work, so he had nothing planned today. Maybe he would stay with his parents. Maybe they could go to the zoo, or to the Metropolis Museum of Art, or …
His thoughts were interrupted by a soft knock at the door. In fact, it was so soft he wondered if someone actually was at the door. He tried his X-ray vision and had enough power to make out an unmistakable silhouette: Lois.
Clark opened the door. The sight of her was breathtaking, especially in the early morning light. Her hair was swept back softly, and she was wearing casual grey slacks, a white blouse and a grey sweater. Clark had to remind himself of the scene outside her apartment yesterday to keep from taking her into his arms. He crossed his arms in front of him and made no move to let her inside.
"Morning," Lois tried, searching his face for a sign of what he was feeling. Nothing.
"Morning," Clark said flatly. "What are you doing here? Don't you have to go to work?"
"Yes … but I need to speak to you."
"Clark, please …"
Clark stepped outside wordlessly and closed the door softly behind him. "So talk."
Lois stared at him for a moment, still searching for a recognition of the Clark Kent she once knew. His eyes were hardened by the sight of violence and war; his skin was toughened by weather and age, but she knew the Clark she once knew lurked somewhere behind those dark, coffee-colored eyes. She longed to hold his hand, to kiss his lips and make him remember exactly where they had left off four years ago. But she couldn't, not yet. Not until he understood everything.
"Clark …" Lois began, but she didn't know where to start. So much had happened so fast after he had gone.
Lois searched his eyes again and then looked away. She sat down on the stoop. "You never left my mind all this time, Clark," she said.
"I see," Clark said noncommittally. "Is that meant to be an explanation?" He made no effort to sit beside her.
Lois looked up at him. "Please. Listen to me. Talk *to* me. Don't talk *at* me. I really need for you to understand what I'm saying."
Clark gave up after looking into Lois' sad brown eyes. He sat down next to Lois and said quietly, "OK."
"You weren't the only one hurting, Clark," Lois began. "I was hurting too. Things only got worse when Lucy came back to Metropolis pregnant, and her boyfriend … well, he left her without a trace." Clark's brow furrowed, as he realized where this story was going.
"She had complications with her pregnancy," Lois continued dully, as if she was reciting it for the umpteenth time. "She had Clare three months premature, then Lucy … passed away not long after." She looked up at Clark. "She's not my daughter in that I bore her from my own body, but she fills a void in my life, Clark. A void I thought would never be filled again after you left."
"So …" Clark was trying to figure out the scene he had witnessed yesterday. "Who was the blond guy?"
"Roger Waltman. He's Clare's social worker. He stops by from time to time to check up on us. He and his wife left for Chicago yesterday for a convention, and he dropped by to say good-bye." Lois attempted a weak smile.
Lois let the information sink in, and then continued. "We even named her after you … her full name is Clare Lucie Lane. It was the closest to 'Clark' that any of us could come up with. I suppose in my own strange way Clare was a way of keeping you and Lucy close to me." Lois paused. "She calls Martha 'Grandma Kent' and Jonathan 'Grandpa Kent.' She calls Perry and Alice 'Grandma' and 'Grandpa' too." Lois attempted another weak smile, but Clark didn't see. He was staring into the distance.
They sat in silence, still scared to touch each other, scared that perhaps the other would object, that it was too soon. Finally, Lois' hand drifted over Clark's. Instinctively, Clark pulled away.
"Lois …" He didn't know how to react. His heart and head were telling him a million things at once.
Lois stood up quickly. "No, it's OK. You need time." She began to walk away.
Clark turned to go back inside, but something inside stopped him. "Lois!"
Lois turned around at the forceful voice that came from such a gentle soul.
She saw him standing there, her wedding ring that he had worn on a chain around his neck held between his thumb and forefinger and a mischievous smile on his lips.
"If you don't have plans … how about you and Clare meeting me in front of City Hall at one?"
A smile grew slowly on Lois' lips, and she practically ran into his outstretched arms. "I think I can swing that," she said, burrowing her face in his chest.
"So it's a date?" Clark asked, still holding the ring.
Lois looked at him, then at the ring. She slid her left ring finger into it. "I'll be the one in white," she said, smiling, putting her arms around his neck.
Clark touched Lois' chin with his fingertip, guiding her face to his. They looked into each other's eyes for what could have been an eternity. They stared into each other's souls, finding no boundaries, but never getting lost. They knew they belonged with each other, in any time or place. Lois Lane and Clark Kent belonged with each other, and nowhere else.
When their lips finally met, four years melted away into nothing, and the lovers met again in the Here and Now. When their lips parted again, Clark took Lois in his arms like he did that final night on Earth. And vowed to himself that he would never let her go again.
"Hold Me" ** (male)I'll hold you, and touch you, make you my woman I'll give you my love in sweet surrender Tonight our hearts will beat as one And I will hold you, touch you, make you my woman … tonight
(female) There's something in your eyes I see A pure and simple honesty
* CHORUS * (both) Hold me in your arms tonight Fill my life with pleasure Let's not waste this precious time This moment's ours to treasure Hold me in your arms tonight We'll make it last forever When the morning sun appears We'll find our way together
(female) I believe you when you say that you love me Know that I won't take you for granted Tonight the magic has begun So won't you hold me, touch me, make me your woman … tonight
(male) There's something in your eyes I see I won't betray your trust in me
*** REPEAT CHORUS TO FADE ***
(or is it? ;-) —
* "Drifting" performed by Harry Connick, Jr. on the "We Are In Love" CD.
** "Hold Me" performed by Whitney Houston and Teddy Pendergrass on the "Whitney Houston" CD.