By Crystal Wimmer <JCWimmer@aol.com>
Submitted February 2, 1998
Summary: In planning a surprise for Clark, Lois gets some information about his past that she wasn't expecting. As she reacts, it brings up some emotional issues for the couple.
Author's note: This story would take place around the late 5th or early 6th season. It doesn't have a villain, just some of the standard domestic-type stuff that I missed seeing in the series. Please note: it breaks slightly from series continuity in that there is no reference to the baby in Family Hour.
Thanks so much to Erin Klinger … "I couldn't have done this without you!" This one was headed for the circular file until Erin read it, fixed it, and ordered me to finish it!! We all need someone like this to help us over the rough parts.
Thanks also to Kathy Brown … hope you like your scene <g>.
As usual, the characters are not mine, I just like to use them.
Lois ducked her head as Clark entered the city room of the Daily Planet. She was working behind his back, and by unspoken agreement that was something they simply didn't do. Clark wouldn't be concerned with the reasoning behind her secrecy, he would be angry. That was something she wasn't ready for. His sense of truth and honesty could be a bore on occasion.
Clark saw Lois duck. 'Odd', he thought, but not unusual. She must be working on a story that he wasn't supposed to see. He chuckled quietly to himself and headed for the coffee pot. It would be easier to confront her if he had a reason. Filling her cup and his own, he carried the two cups to her desk.
"Lose something?" Clark asked.
"No … no … just looking for something, I think. Is that coffee?" Lois babbled the worst when she was nervous, and she was that. If he found out, she would be in trouble. She truly believed that this was for a good cause, but he wouldn't understand. If she had learned nothing in two years of marriage, it was that Clark was impossible to surprise. This time, she would do it. The one time he'd had a successful surprise party, she'd had little to do with it. In fact, she had been more shocked than he had when they had walked into a party. This time, she would get it right!
Clark handed over the coffee and watched Lois raise her head from beneath her desk. He glanced over the top of his glasses and scanned beneath the desk. Nothing there, but Lois was entirely too uncomfortable for his own comfort. She was hiding something, and it was his responsibility as husband to find out what it was.
Lois sipped her coffee and tried to think of a way out of the situation. She clutched a small handwritten list in her hand, and kept it crumpled so that Clark could not see it. She could remember most of the information, which eliminated the need for extensive notes, but telephone numbers were beyond her. As she attempted to squirm out of the encounter, fate handed her a gift …
"Clark," Perry bellowed.
"The Mayor is holding a press conference, and I need you there. Get a move on!" Perry strode back into his office, leaving no room for argument.
Clark barely managed a quick "Yes, Chief," before Perry was gone. He glanced at Lois, who was breathing a sigh of relief.
"So, go," she said quickly. Standing, she placed a kiss on his cheek before whispering a quiet "be careful."
Lois smiled, "If anyone find more trouble than me at a simple press conference, I would be you."
Clark was puzzled. He was also intrigued. He would get to the bottom of this later. For now, he intended to keep his job, and to do that he needed to get going. He returned Lois's peck with a more substantial kiss and an "I love you," then he was gone.
Lois waited until the elevator doors had closed and then waited a few more minutes to ensure that Clark was most likely otherwise occupied before she picked up her phone and uncrumpled the paper in her hand. Dialing quickly, she tapped her foot impatiently while she waited for an answer.
"This is Lois. It's a go."
"Does he suspect anything?"
Lois sighed, "Probably, he is pretty suspicious. I think we can get away with it, though."
"I'll pick you up in ten minutes. Will Perry keep him out of there long enough?"
"Definitely. He sent him to a press conference, and he has already agreed to let me have the day off. If Clark asks, Perry will cover for me by saying it's work. As quiet as things have been here, it makes sense that they would pick up. See you in ten." Lois hung the phone up and quickly gathered her coat and purse. She needed to work fast, and there was so much to do …
Dan Arbright landed the small airplane with Lois beside him in a small field just north of Smallville. Wayne Irig met them there in his pickup, and transported the two of them to the Kent's farm.
While Jonathan showed Dan the farm, Lois explained to Martha about the party she wanted to throw for Clark. She wanted it to be a surprise, but more than that. She wanted to bring in friends from his childhood to make the time even more special, and she wanted the friends to be extra special. This was to make for a night he would always remember.
"Martha, I really appreciate this," Lois said as she sat down in the small living room in Smallville.
"I don't know how much help I can be, but I'll do my best."
"Well, I need everything. A list of his closest friends, foods that he loves that only you can make, and all the other details. The catch is, I may not have much time. He is impossible to hide from, and I really want this to be a surprise."
Martha was quiet for a moment, and had a near-frown on her face. This was the hard part, and she would have to face it. Lois truly wanted to do something special for her son, and while every mother wanted what was best for her child, she had doubts as to whether or not this was it."
"Is there a problem, Mom?" Martha was too quiet, and Lois was becoming concerned.
"Not really, honey." Martha paused, and tried to carefully word what must come next. She didn't want to hurt Lois's feelings, but she really didn't want Clark hurt. "The foods are no problem, you know that. The rest may be … harder."
"I don't understand."
"I know, honey. Clark … he was a happy child. We loved him, you know that. But … well … he really didn't have any special friends." There, she had said it.
"He had friends. You've met Rachel, and Wayne's kids. He played baseball, and most sports. He really loved football. He hung out with the other athletes, but he was never really close to anyone." That sounded better, Martha thought. "As for girls, he really wasn't interested. He just wasn't."
"I know about Lana," Lois interrupted. "Surely there were other girlfriends, too."
"Honey, Lana was more … I don't know … an idolizing thing. They dated, but nothing really serious. Lana wasn't serious about much of anything, least of all Clark, and I'm sure he felt that."
Lois was stunned. Clark was the most wonderful man she had ever met, and his parents were wonderful. It just wasn't possible that he had been that lonely as a child. Lois hurt for him in a way she had not expected. She had always envied Clark his childhood with loving parents and she had assumed that it had been ideal. It was hard for her to realize that every child suffered some imperfection growing up.
"Mom, Clark is like a magnet. People are drawn to him, they trust him. Surely he was the same way as a child. He must have played with others, gone on sleep-overs, all the 'kid' stuff that little boys do." The look on Martha's face wasn't encouraging. Lois was beginning to doubt. "Didn't he?"
Martha sighed, and reached for her tea. She drank a bit before continuing. "Lois, I need to tell you a story. It isn't all happy, or all sad, and I am quite sure Clark doesn't want it told. You're his wife, and I know you will never use this to hurt him, but it is one area that has always been a sore spot with him."
"Please, Mom, I need to know."
"Clark was a good boy. He listened, and related well with adults from an early age. Jonathan and I were not young parents, and being on a working farm we had very little time to socialize with people who would have children Clark's age. He played well alone, that was never a problem, but I think he was lonely.
"It got better for awhile when he started school. But, it didn't last. Imagine a child who could run faster, play longer, and think better than any of the other children. We never taught him to hold back, at least not at first, and he lost a lot of friends before had a chance to make them. Even though his strength didn't really develop until he was a little older, he was always such a good boy. I think the other kids resented him for that very goodness. He couldn't tolerate lying, or stealing. The worst thing he ever did was play hooky from school, and then he asked my permission.
"As he got older, it was worse. He always had to be on guard, for fear someone would see his increasing abilities. By the time he was eight, he was hiding most of what he could do. He wasn't just strong and fast, he was remarkable. He became more and more withdrawn. Sometimes he would just sit in the tree house for hours. He would read, and talk to his dad, but he hurt. We could see it, but parents can't fix everything, even with love.
"High school was torture. He barely dated, and never went out with the groups. Even the prom was a mess. He was so afraid that he would slip up, that he prevented it by spending no time with his peers." Martha chuckled sadly at the thought of Clark *having* peers. "He probably wouldn't have gone if Rachel hadn't pushed him. She had such a crush on him, but he just wasn't interested.. He was a master at casual relationships, and he even stayed in touch with may of his college friends, but he never really got close to others."
Lois had been quiet since the beginning of Martha's confession. In fact, she was more quiet than Martha had ever seen her. Tears were in her eyes as she thought of the loneliness Clark must have endured for so long. Her Clark had so much love to give. Maybe that was why she felt his love so intensely: he gave it only to his parents and to her.
"Oh, dear," Martha reached for a tissue from the box on the end table. "I didn't mean to hurt you, just explain. I can't give you a list, because I'm not sure there is one. I can list the neighbors, and their kids, but no one was really, really special."
Lois wiped the tears from her eyes. "I had no idea." Lois began crying in earnest, crushed at the though that the sweetest boy in the world had been all alone. Martha wrapped her arms around the younger woman and said a silent prayer of thanks that Clark had found her.
Rapidly, Lois became embarrassed by her outburst. Standing quickly, she told Martha, "I need to go."
As if on cue, Jonathan returned with Dan Arbright. Dan was a pilot that owed his license to an expository report Lois had written before she had ever met Clark. He had owed her this favor for years, and she had called it in so that she could get to Smallville without Clark's knowledge.
"You ready, Lois?"
"Yes, Dan. Mom, start cooking! I haven't got all the details, but I need to make this great. Your cooking is one thing I know Clark will appreciate. I swear I could burn ice, and Clark deserves the best." Lois' voice was cracking by the time she finished, but she refused to continue crying. She kissed Martha and Jonathan, then left with Dan.
"You told her everything?" Jonathan asked.
"Yes." Martha placed the tissue box back on the table.
"Is she okay?" he asked as he put his arm around his wife's shoulders.
"She loves him." Martha answered.
"They'll be fine," Jonathan said firmly. "They'll be fine."
Lois was still awake. She tried to lie quietly so as not to disturb Clark, but it was difficult. She gazed at him in the darkness of their bedroom and wondered how he seemed so content. He was sleeping, for now, but he could be dashing out at any moment. He always did. It amazed her that he was always able to hear the calls for help, even in his sleep. She wondered if he ever had any peace.
Clark stirred, then rolled over to face her. "What's wrong, Hon?"
Lois smiled sadly, "Nothing."
Clark wasn't fooled for a moment. The darkness didn't limit his vision in the least, and he could see her clearly. She wasn't happy, or even indifferent. He wasn't sure he had ever seen her with this expression, before. He didn't like it: somewhere between sad and hurt. They had been through so much, but he had a feeling that this would be different. She had been different for the past few days, and he had tried to ignore the nagging feeling that something was wrong. He could ignore it no longer.
"Talk to me, Lois." Clark placed his palm on Lois's cheek and threaded his fingers through her hair in the gesture that had become so familiar to them.
Lois sighed. "I don't know what to say."
Clark felt that said more than words. He sat up slightly, taking her in his arms. She nestled her head into the hollow of his shoulder, and lifted her leg up over his, snuggling.
Clark relaxed some. It was hard to worry when she so obviously needed to be close to him. He was just calming enough to return to sleep when he felt the heat on his chest. Wet heat. Tears.
"Honey, you have to talk to me," Clark pleaded.
Lois took a moment to compose herself. She should have realized that she would cry. For years she had held her emotions in check with little difficulty, but she had no barriers with Clark.
"I just … I don't even know. It's all so stupid, and in the past. It's not like I can change it, and it doesn't even really seem to bother you. I know it did, it had to, but now you're fine and I should be too, but I just found out. I know I shouldn't have gone, but I really wanted it to be special and I thought I could surprise you. Martha said she would help, and Dan flew me so it was all set until she blew it out of the water. And now I don't know what to do." She finally ran out of steam.
Clark was somewhere between relieved and confused. He was glad she was back to babbling. It was normal, at least normal for her. Unfortunately he had absolutely no idea what she had said, or meant, or needed. She had been unusually quiet when he got in from his nightly patrol over the city. He hadn't seen her at work Tuesday so he assumed she had too much on her mind regarding the story she must be working on. She had remained quiet since then, and he had continued to believe that the problem was work. Now, he wasn't so sure. He started with the words that had hit the hardest, and decided to work his way from there.
"Did you say 'Dan', as in Scardino?"
"No, as in Arbright. He's a friend. He took me out to see your mom. I figured you'd find out if I used the phone, here or at the office."
Clark was back to relieved. While running into Scardino was sort of a given when you worked as a reporter, he really didn't want Lois spending time with him. Okay, he was insecure, and he was fine with that. "Why did you need to see my mom?"
Lois sighed, again. There was no hope of keeping this quiet when she had let so much out already. "To plan a surprise birthday party for you."
"I just wanted this year to be special. I tried to do it last year, but we both know how it ended up. You've done it for me, and I loved it." She looked up to face him, to see his eyes. "I love you."
"I love you, too, Lois. So what's the problem with this party? I'm sure my mom would bake the cake." Clark was grinning. This explained so much! The secrecy, the unusual quietness, even her uncharacteristic evasiveness of late. But it didn't explain the tears.
Lois began to cry harder, burying her face back in his chest. She sobbed for a long time, long enough for Clark to get worried. He held her because she seemed to need it, but he had no idea what was causing it. Lois cried and cried. Eventually, she fell into an exhausted sleep, holding Clark tightly. It was some time later that her grip eased enough for him to slip out of the bed.
He had planned on patrolling the city once more. It was nearly four, and he had only made one pass earlier. He decided against it in case she woke. He didn't want her alone. He slipped a robe on then walked downstairs to the living room. He kept his hearing tuned into her heartbeat, assuring himself that she was quietly sleeping, as he picked up the phone. It was early, even in Kansas, but he had to know what was going on.
The phone rang only once. "Hello?"
"Clark, what's wrong." Martha sat up in bed and patted Jonathan on the shoulder to wake him.
"I don't know, mom. I thought you might."
Jonathan picked up the cordless phone from the night stand at his wife's pointing cue. "Son?"
"Is it Lois, honey?" Martha prompted.
"Yes. She just cried herself to sleep. It was something about a party you were all planning for me, but it doesn't explain why she was so upset. I can't figure it out."
"Son, your mother said that Lois had a specific type of party in mind," Jonathon told him.
"So she's upset I found out? That doesn't make sense! She's the one who told me."
"Honey, she can't have the party she wanted," Jonathan explained.
"What did she want?" Clark asked, fiddling with the belt of his robe.
"Well," Martha thought quickly, "a kind of 'this is your life' party."
"So what's the problem?" Clark had to work to keep his voice quiet, but he didn't chance waking Lois. "Mom, you have no idea how upset she was. She cried for over an hour, really cried, and she couldn't stop. Mom, she was *shaking*. This is more than Lois not getting her way."
"Son, she wanted to get all your best friends together. She wanted to remind you of your childhood," Jonathan said as gently as possible.
Clark thought for a moment. "Dad, I didn't really have friends." He said it as fact; it really didn't bother him any more.
"Honey, she didn't know that," Martha interrupted.
His mother's words finally penetrated the confusion that Lois's crying had initiated. She didn't know. "How did she take it, there?"
"Fine, honey. She was surprised, but she just told me to get cooking so this would be your best party, ever. I don't think it had sunk in yet."
"I guess not. Thanks Mom, Dad. Sorry to wake you."
"We have a farm to run, we would have been up in the next few minutes anyway," Jonathan assured him.
"I can't think of a better way to wake up than to your voice," Martha added.
"Thanks. I love you two."
"We love you," they answered together, then hung up.
Clark hung up quietly. He had no idea why this should upset Lois to this extent. He tuned in to her heartbeat again, slow and steady. She should sleep for awhile more, but he still didn't want to leave her. He went into the kitchen and mixed up a cup of cocoa with extra chocolate. He would heat it when she awoke. He carried it upstairs and left it on his night stand. Then, he removed his robe and slid back into bed beside his wife. It gave him a great deal of pleasure when she snuggled up next to him and relaxed back into sleep. He settled in for what was left of the night, or morning, and just held Lois.
Clark hadn't considered his lack of friends in quite some time. He had certainly felt the need for friends when he was growing up, just as he had felt their absence. As he had grown, Clark had realized that acquaintances would have to do if he intended to maintain his privacy and keep himself out of a petri dish. Lois had changed his perception as to the necessity of friendship. He hadn't really thought about it much since then.
Lois had needed a friend. Clark had realized that fact long before she had. He had set about the task of becoming her friend from the moment he had been assigned as her partner. He had never seen anyone so deliberately isolated before. While he had maintained his distance from relationships through polite withdrawal, Lois had suppressed relationships with active hostility. At one point, he had actually asked her what he had done to earn her animosity.
Lois had lacked the ability to trust. She had been hurt by too many people, too many times. Her hostility had provided a great intellectual stimulant to Clark. The old saying, "you're beautiful when youíre angry" could have been developed with her in mind. Her anger, her fire, was never more obvious than when she was on the offensive. Clark had set about earning her trust, first as a reporter, and then as a man. He had slowly managed to gain her trust as a partner, and finally as a friend. That friendship had become the foundation that their love was built on.
It hadn't been easy, that much was certain. The events with Lex had pushed their friendship to the limit, just as her involvement with Dan had placed a strain on their relationship. While Lois couldn't deal with dishonesty, Clark couldn't deal with hurt. It was ironic that the same fire that so impressed him could also wound him. It had made for some interesting moments in the friendship, but they had stayed friends regardless of the challenges. Now, he found it impossible to imagine life without her friendship.
In addition, Lois's friendship had opened a door to others that he had not imagined. It was as though being close to her allowed him to let others into his world as well. She was his best friend, but he also valued Perry, Jimmy, and even Dr. Klein. As he had learned to let her into his life, he had allowed these others in as well, and he was grateful for their involvement in his life.
Clark glanced down at the beautiful woman sleeping in his arms. She was his best friend, and regardless of whether or not his childhood bothered him, it was causing her pain. He knew that the one thing he could not tolerate was having his wife in pain. Unfortunately, he had no idea what to do about it.
"Hey, C.K., I've got that research you wanted. It's on your desk." James Olson threw the last sentence over his shoulder as he trotted down the hallway to deliver someone else's paperwork.
"Thanks, Jimmy." Clark started back to his desk with two coffee cups, one in each hand. He passed by Lois's desk and placed in front of her with a peck on the cheek. He would have taken time for more, but she was obviously involved in the telephone conversation. While she wasn't talking at the moment, she was furiously nodding and taking notes.
Lois acknowledged her husband with a wry smile and rolled her eyes before going back to the task at hand. Privately, she was glad that she had been busy for most of the morning. Clark had let her sleep in, making their time together before work a rush, and her source had been trickling information to her throughout the rest of the morning. She knew she would have to face the big emotional scene from last night, but she didn't want to do it here.
Clark was glad to see humor in Lois's eyes as she resumed taking notes and arguing with Bobby about the price of the restaurant he had chosen. She had seemed normal this morning, less secretive, and cheerful even though they had rushed. He would have to get her to talk about last night, but not here. The last time they had tried the "personal discussion" thing at work had been when Dr. Klein had pronounced him infertile. He had vowed then never to pressure her into an important discussion at work. It embarrassed her, and he wanted to protect their privacy. Still, they would have to talk.
Lois finished her call and stood up. She stretched briefly, her muscles protesting the tension of the night and her inactivity this morning. She glanced over and caught Clark giving her an appreciative look as she moved. It was no secret in the Daily Planet that the best reporting team available had the hots for one another, still Lois flushed slightly at his clear look of interest in front of their colleagues.
"Looking for something?" she quipped.
"Nope. Looking at someone." Clark smiled. "You are so gorgeous!"
Lois's flush turned into a full-out blush. He loved doing that to her, she knew. Surprising her with an off-the-wall compliment or an unexpected look just to see her blush. Her composure had been near legend around her colleagues for years, but since Clark had breached the barrier, he reveled in showing her friends and coworkers that she was indeed quite human. She silently vowed to get him back for this particular tease, but she would do it later. For now, she was seeing a familiar look in his eye that had little to do with their game.
"Yeah. A problem at the docks. It could get out of hand." Clark was reluctant to go. He had wanted to spend time with his wife, not settle the problems of the world.
"So, go!!" Lois pushed.
"Meet me for dinner?" The look in his eye pleaded with her.
"Martinello's. Around seven, okay?" He knew she couldn't resist Italian.
"You got it. Be careful." Lois kissed him briefly, but thoroughly. Clark responded in kind, and then left the room quickly, one hand on his tie.
Lois and Clark were stuffed. Martinello's had once again lived up to its reputation as the finest Italian food in Metropolis. Clark sat back and sighed audibly as Lois did the same. Their timing made Lois smile. The soft lightning and quiet music had relaxed them both, allowing for a pleasant meal even though they both knew the evening must end with a serious discussion.
"That good, huh?"
Clark returned Lois's smile. "As always. I love it here. It's quiet and the food is almost as good as my mom's."
The reminder of his mother's cooking brought a sad expression to Lois' face. Clark noticed immediately. He looked at her, the question on his face, until she was ready to answer.
"I had this really good party planned," she began. "I was going to have your mom fix all of your favorites and then we would roast you, but good. I planned to have all your oldest and closest friends show up as a surprise, and make you guess who they were." Lois looked sadder by the moment. "Pretty stupid idea."
"I think it's sweet."
"It would have been." Lois finally could hold it all in no longer. The tears were spent, but she needed to talk. "Clark, I had no idea that you were so alone growing up. I assumed that you had friends and playmates. I didn't know you were alone, and it kills me to think about it." Lois said the last with a quiet break in her voice.
Clark reached for Lois's hand. He had been rehearsing in his mind what he needed to say to her since he had spoken with his mother that morning. "Lois, I need you to hear me." He paused a moment, gathering his thoughts, then he forged on. "I was not unhappy as a child, not exactly. I had few friends, that's true, but I was never alone. My parents were wonderful. They loved and supported me in a way that other kids never could. Later, being alone was mostly my choice."
"Mostly?" Why would anyone choose to be alone, she wondered?
"Mostly. Partly. I didn't feel like I could be close to someone without honesty. You know how dishonest I felt keeping the secret from you. But, I just couldn't risk it. It was my choice to keep that to myself, to keep *me* to myself. The rest was that I hadn't met you." He said it simply, but the complexity of the revelation was enormous.
"You were alone because of me?" Lois was confused.
Clark smiled. "Sort of. It was my choice to be alone, but that choice was possible because I hadn't met you. Once I saw you, it was like you were the other half of me. The choice wasn't mine anymore … "
Clark broke off as the waiter arrived.
After checking with Lois they determined that the rich chocolate cannelloni, Lois's favorite, would be better enjoyed at home. Clark paid the bill, and the waiter returned a few moments later with a small box containing the sinful dessert.
There was no discussion on the way home. Lois drove the Cherokee skillfully through Metropolis' busy streets. Even at nine-thirty there was substantial traffic, and it required a good deal of her concentration. She still preferred to drive, even this long into her marriage. She supposed most couples expected the man to drive, but it was her jeep. Clark was content to remain a passenger as it gave him the opportunity to people-watch, and Lois-watch, while she drove. There was little he enjoyed doing more. He allowed himself to relax, preparing himself for the rest of the difficult discussion they had begun.
Lois snuggled her back into Clark's chest as they sat together on the couch. She was situated between his legs and his arms were around her waist. They had been home long enough to open a bottle of wine and relax for a few minutes. Lois looked sleepy to Clark, and he debated whether or not to continue the earlier discussion. Finally, curiosity won and he began again.
"Lois, why does it bother you that twenty years ago I didn't have many friends?"
Ouch! That made it seem like it was Lois's problem, and she didn't like it one bit. She raised up to face Clark, prepared for a battle, until she saw his face. He wasn't glaring, he was concerned. She immediately sought to soothe the worry on his face.
"I don't know," she began. At his unusual look she elaborated: "Okay, I do know. It's just an awful lot to be responsible for. I know I'm important to you, you tell me a thousand ways every day. I guess I didn't realize *how* important our relationship was until I found out that it was essentially the only one you had ever had."
"Why does that scare you?"
Lois tried to find a way to put complex feelings into simple words. The entire issue confused her, and she wasn't sure she could relay it coherently. "My parents were happy, once. They must have been, they had Lucy and I. When they split up, they each had other options. Dad had his girlfriends, and Mother had us. She was bitter, but it didn't destroy her."
"Are you planning on leaving?" Clark said it as a joke, to break the tension, but Lois didn't take it that way.
"Plans don't have much to do with this life. Stuff happens. We have been through so much, and at any time we could have lost each other. My life wasn't great before you, but I managed. I had Lucy and Mother, and even Daddy on occasion. I lived for my work. It wasn't a bad life, not complete, but not bad." Lois hoped she had explained herself, but she doubted that was the case.
"Lois, I won't lose you."
"Not by choice," Lois replied. "Clark, we know you will probably live a good deal longer than me. That is fact. I don't want the responsibility of knowing that I'm all you have. Your parents are getting older, and I'm always into one mess or another. Clark," she said desperately, "I don't want you ever to be alone!"
Clark turned Lois in his arms and held her tightly. She was afraid, yes, but not for herself. Finally he understood her concerns. He held her for a long time. She wasn't crying, or shaking, as she had the night before. She was quiet in his arms, clinging. After a very long time she loosened her grip enough for him to lift her chin. He raised her face so that she had no choice but to meet his eyes.
"I love you, Lois."
"I know. I love you, too."
"I wish I could promise you that we would always be together, like we are now. I wish that I knew we would both grow old and have great-grandchildren, but I don't. But, I do know this: I will *never* be alone. You are a part of me, now, and always. Even if I lose your body, I will always have your heart. That will have to be enough." Clark tried his best to convey the certainty he felt.
"You have so much love to give. You should never have to be alone." Lois's voice was quiet, but it did not break.
"I've already given it to you. That's enough for a thousand lifetimes. I'm complete, now. I really don't need any more. Maybe that's why I never made many close friends. I was waiting for you."
"How can you be so sure?"
Clark sighed, looking deeply into the huge brown eyes of his wife. "I just am."
Lois laid her head back onto his chest. She didn't really understand, but they had said enough for now. The concerns had been raised; the issues could be addressed over a lifetime.
It was late when Lois and Clark finally got to their bedroom. Before they were even settled in, Clark heard a siren and had to leave for his nightly patrol of Metropolis. As he was leaving, he suggested that Lois just get some sleep, rather than waiting up for him. She looked tired, and she had him worried. He didn't know if she was really over the emotional episode of the night before.
Lois had no desire to sleep, although she did indeed feel quite tired. She fully intended to wait up for Clark's return and she would use the time effectively. She settled into their bed, nestled among several pillows, and flipped open her laptop computer to work on her novel. Wanda Detroit managed to get into almost as much trouble as she did, and Lois fully intended to get the character out of the villain's evil clutches before Clark returned.
Clark managed to finish his patrol rather quickly. After ensuring that the fire truck had a small blaze under control, he found no additional crises requiring Superman's assistance. He arrived back at home an hour or so after leaving.
As he stepped down from the window ledge into his bedroom, thoroughly annoyed with Lois for leaving the window unlocked once more, he had to smile. He quietly removed the small computer from his wife's hands and entered a few commands to save the document (being VERY careful not to read what was on the screen). Then he turned the laptop off and set it aside.
With a quick spin, he removed the blue suit and proceeded to return it to the hidden compartment downstairs. Wearing red and green plaid sleeping shorts, he climbed into bed next to Lois and gathered her into his arms. Lois murmured in her sleep as she curled her body against his. He nestled her head into the hollow of his shoulder, and tangled his legs with hers before falling asleep.
They were awakened hours later by a loud and rapid knocking at their front door. Clark was up and into his robe first, so he went toward the stairs to greet the intruder. Lois looked at the alarm clock and realized that it would have gone off in ten minutes anyway, so she stumbled into the bathroom and began to brush her teeth.
Clark peeked through the front door before putting on his glasses, and made a soft sound of surprise. Quickly, he opened the door.
"Lucy! What are you doing here?"
"Hey, big brother!" she said as she returned his hug. "I'm sorry I'm so early, but I wanted to see Lois before she left for work."
Lois, hearing her sister's voice and not quite believing it, ran down the stairs with her toothbrush still in her mouth. Clark took this opportunity to politely excuse himself and return upstairs for a shower and some clothing.
Lois was mumbling around the toothbrush while hugging her laughing sister. She briefly released Lucy, just long enough to run into the kitchen and spit, then attacked the younger woman with questions. She was in full reporter mode at the moment.
"Why are you here? I didn't know you were even in Metropolis! Does Mother know you're here? Have you called Daddy? Will you be able to stay with me? You look so good! It's been so long since I've seen you. What have you been doing? Why didn't you call?"
After their initial hug, Lucy just smiled and waited for Lois to run out of steam. *And she thinks I'm the flaky one!* She wore a quiet business suit with slacks in a charcoal gray and a white blouse. Her hair was tame for once, and pulled into a neat knot. Her makeup was even conservative. She looked absolutely beautiful, yet not at all like Lois remembered. Also, her manner was so quiet and considering, that after a moment more of babbling, Lois stopped herself in her tracks.
Grateful for the silence, Lucy began to explain. "I'm just in town until Friday. I didn't call because the trip was an emergency and I didn't have enough time."
"What's wrong?" Concerned, Lois took Lucy's hand and led her to sit on the couch.
"Well, Alan Reynolds died on Tuesday, and I came for the funeral."
While Lois had not been close to the Reynolds, she had met them at their wedding when Lucy had been maid of honor. "Bekky's husband?"
"But, he's so young!" Lois was amazed.
"True, but I'm afraid it really wasn't a surprise. He has had cancer for the last couple of years, and I guess they tried everything. He had chemo, radiation, the works. Bekky called me last week and warned me that it would have to be soon. She wanted to make sure I had time to make arrangements at work." Suddenly, Lucy seemed very sad. "I'm supposed to pick up Alecia and keep her until Friday morning. Bekky didn't want her there for all of the arrangements."
"I forgot they had a child," Lois commented, quietly. That made it seem even worse to her, somehow.
"Alecia is almost seven. I think she'd be better off with her mother, but Bekky was adamant."
"What will you do with a seven year old?"
"I got the week off, so I was planning on letting her decide what she wanted to do. Maybe we'll go to the zoo or museum. If all else fails, there's always the mall. I just want to get her mind off of all this for awhile, a mini vacation so to speak, and Bekky needs a break." Lucy tried not to think of her own doubts on this subject. She had made her best friend a promise, and she would keep it.
Just then Clark descended the stairway wearing his favorite gray suit and a maroon and gray abstract patterned tie. "Bathroom's free!"
Lois turned and greeted her husband with a smile. "I'm next! Clark, would you mind finding something for breakfast while I get ready for work?" She held up her still wet toothbrush for emphasis.
"Sure, Lois." Lois kissed him as she ascended the stairs. Clark returned the kiss before going down to the kitchen.
Lucy followed Clark into the kitchen to watch him prepare the food. He made polite conversation while he prepared omelets and toast for them all. He was hoping that he could encourage Lois to eat more than her usual pastry and coffee this morning.
As they talked, Clark learned that Lucy had graduated from high school with Bekky, and that Bekky had married Alan in that same week. They had one child, and she was a darling. Apparently, Lucy had remained in touch with Bekky even though she lived and worked outside Metropolis. They appeared to be close, as Lucy seemed deeply affected by the loss of her best friend's husband. While Clark was sorry to hear that Alan had suffered during his long illness, he couldn't help but feel a bit grateful that it had not been an accident or death by foul play. He felt an acute responsibility to the citizens of Metropolis, and he took it personally when he was unable to save one. Clark was also surprised with Lucy: She was not her usual, rather scattered, self.
"I'm sorry for your loss. It must be painful."
"Yes, but in a way it's a relief." She paused, then continued, "I know that sounds awful, but this has been so hard on Bekky. I just hope I can do some good while I'm here. I feel so helpless."
Clark considered this for a moment as he placed a plate of food before Lucy. "You've grown up, Little Sister," he thought aloud.
Lucy considered taking offense at the remark, then smiled. "I guess it happens to the best of us. Nothing like a regular job and the loss of a friend to speed the process along."
Just then, Lois came into the kitchen, pulling on her suit jacket as she walked. "What did I miss?"
Lucy and Clark glanced at one another with raised eyebrows, wondering how to explain the change in relationship that had just taken place. Clark could hardly tell Lois that he finally was developing respect for her sister. Lucy couldn't explain the events of the past years that had finally forced her to accept responsibility for her own life. Finally, Lucy and Clark began to laugh, realizing that Lois would come to understand all they could not say in time.
"Not much, Hon," Clark told his wife. "I was just realizing that you just might be related to this woman after all."
With the distinct feeling that she was missing something, and a confusing desire not to press the issue, Lois took her plate from Clark and stood at the kitchen island to eat.
Lucy was unable to spend a great deal of time with Lois and Clark, despite staying in their guest room. Lucy stayed busy with Alecia and Lois and Clark were kept busy at work. On Friday morning, before the funeral, Bekky came by to pick up her daughter. Because Lucy was still in the shower, Lois and Clark were able to spend some time with the young widow.
"Thank you so much for letting her stay here with Lucy. It really did help."
"It wasn't a bother, really." Lois assured her.
"We actually enjoyed having a child around," Clark added. "She was so polite, and quiet. Are you sure she was raised in Metropolis?" Clark asked the question with raised eyebrows, glancing at his wife.
Lois caught the joke, but she was surprised when Bekky laughed, too. She hadn't expected Bekky to have much of a sense of humor under the circumstances.
When Bekky saw Lois's expression, she smiled softly. "I suppose I shouldn't laugh today, but Alan would have loved that joke. He was raised in the country, and he never appreciated a forceful woman." Seeing Lois's concern she continued, "I love my husband. I'll miss him. We've known that this was going to happen. In a way, I'm just glad his pain is over. I don't think he would want me to grieve. I will anyway, but he wouldn't want me unhappy, even for him."
Lois didn't bother to consider how appropriate her next question might be. As a reporter, she just seemed to jump right in: "How will you manage, alone?"
"I'm never alone." Bekky smiled, "He's with me with every breath, every thought. After eight years together I think more like him than like myself! Everything I do is governed by his thought process. It's kind of spooky, really. And, last night, the weirdest thing happened: I couldn't sleep. I hugged his pillow and cried for hours. Then, this is so weird, it's like I could hear his heartbeat. I guess after sleeping with my head on his chest for eight years, my memory knew what I needed and my imagination supplied the rest.
Clark had a shocked expression on his face. Lois's heartbeat was his lifeline. He had no idea that others had the same experience. He had become so resigned to being different, that similarities often surprised him.
As Alecia came running down the stairs and into her mother's arms, Clark felt a familiar pang of regret that he and Lois could not be parents. While he had been encouraging about the possibilities, Dr. Klein had been right too many times to discount his diagnosis.
Lois smiled at the tender moment between Bekky and her daughter. She accepted Bekky's thanks again, as well as a whispered "thank you" from Alecia, and let them out the front door.
She had been surprised by Bekky's resilience. Granted, there was most likely a certain level of shock involved, but the young widow appeared to be moving on.
When Lucy came downstairs, she was sorry that she had missed her friend. She left a packed suitcase by the door, explaining that she could have the taxi come by there so she could pick it up before she was taken to the airport. Clark offered to drive her to the airport, but Lucy insisted that she would rather spend the time alone after the funeral.
With hugs and promises to stay in better touch, Lucy left the townhouse to wait for her cab. Lois and Clark were left to ponder the changes that had taken place in Lucy since they had last seen her.
"She seems so different," Lois offered. "More controlled than before."
"Did you say she had a new job?"
"Yes. She seems pretty secretive about it, but it must be good for her. She has grown up so much. She seems more responsible."
"She does. It's … a lot easier having her around than it used to be."
"Cute," Lois smiled as she punched her husband lightly on the arm.
"I just mean that she used to get on my nerves. Now she can carry on a conversation without making me dizzy!"
Lois smiled again, silently agreeing with Clark. She wondered for a moment what had caused the dramatic change in her sister, then she shrugged and went on with her daily routine for getting ready for work.
Clark fixed a quick breakfast for Lois: an egg and cheese on an English muffin, and handed her a cup of coffee.
"Are you trying to fatten me up?"
"Nope. I just thought a little more to eat might help get rid of that 'tired' feeling that you've been complaining about." Clark really was becoming concerned. His little "tornado" seemed to be losing speed.
Lois accepted both the concern and the breakfast with her usual humor. "Okay, Farm-boy, but when I can't fit into my clothes you're paying for the shopping spree!"
"Deal!" He looked at her a moment more, then quietly said, "I love you."
Lois wrapped her arms around his waist and laid her head on his chest. "I love you, too, Clark. I love you too."
The Planet was unusually quiet for a Friday afternoon. The evening addition, as well as Saturday morning's edition, was set to go except for a few minor additions. Even Perry was in an amicable mood, humming "Viva Las Vegas" under his breath.
Lois was just collecting her purse and briefcase to go to dinner when Clark's head snapped up with a terrified look in his eyes. Lois walked over to touch his arm, and waited to see what the problem was. This wasn't just the usual "I've gotta be Superman" look, but pure terror. Clark closed his eyes to steady himself as the screams became audible following the deafening "boom". It amazed him that the entire news room had not heard it. It sounded like hundreds of voices calling out to him.
"I have to go! It's an explosion, maybe a bomb. People are hurt."
"I'll meet you there," Lois said as she put her purse strap over her shoulder.
"NO! Lois please," he pleaded, reduced to begging. He didn't care, "Lois, don't make me worry about you, too. There are so many people. I can't do this unless I KNOW you are safe. I'll cover it for the paper, but you just can't go!"
Lois drew herself up and prepared for battle. Clark's desire to protect her had been a point of contention since they had become partners, and it had only become worse when they married. She would not allow him to stifle her as a reporter. "Clark," she began. She raised her eyes to his and the terror there finally got through to her. She knew this was more than the same stale argument. Something was different. She could not change his mind this time, and she had the feeling she shouldn't try. Lives were at stake with each moment that she kept him here.
She kissed him on the lips, quickly. "I'll send Ralph. Just go!"
Clark returned her kiss quickly and gratefully, and then reached for his tie. "I love you."
"GO!" She yelled, oblivious to the heads that turned towards her in the newsroom. "Be careful," was said in a quieter voice she was still sure he heard, followed by a whispered, "I love you, too."
Lois immediately got on the phone. Her source confirmed by his police scanner that there had indeed been an explosion at a local apartment complex. The fire department was calling it a four-alarm blaze, and all units were in route. Lois was briefly tempted to violate her promise to Clark, but instead she went barging in to Perry's office. She was tired, hungry, and had no desire to see the mass casualties that would be present at such a scene without Clark to lean on. He would be busy, and his heart was so soft that he would need to be able to share with her, not yell at her, when it was over.
She informed Perry of the situation, and told him that Clark had gone to cover the story's humanitarian aspects. She suggested that Ralph be assigned for the sensationalism that only he could deliver. Perry gave her a strange look, more surprised that she wasn't diving in herself than at her excellent editorial judgment, and agreed to her idea. She gave the reason that "Clark worries", and that he didn't want her in danger. It was the truth. Also, she hadn't eaten since breakfast, and she was beginning to feel light headed.
Perry nodded, then bellowed for Ralph. Lois finally grabbed her briefcase and took the elevator down to her Jeep. She drove the Cherokee home by way of her favorite Chinese restaurant. She had eaten Chinese the day before, but she never seemed to tire of it.
Lois carefully avoided her television and radio when she arrived at the townhouse to reduce the temptation to go back on her word by checking up on Ralph. Although she could smell the smoke of the fire, it was now too dark to see the smoke in the sky. After finishing her meal, she changed into her nightgown and went to bed early. She thought about reading, or even working on her novel, but she was really too tired. She turned out her light and snuggled with Clark's pillow. She was asleep within minutes.
The heat from the fire was incredible. Clark attempted to remove the majority of the smoke from rooms as he entered them, but it was impossible. There was just too much. He rushed from room to room in the immense apartment complex answering cries for help. He removed the victims to the fresh air, or what there was of it, outside the complex as quickly as he could navigate through the maze of closed doors.
After more than an hour of exhausting rescues, Clark was unable to hear any other heartbeats in the inferno. While the fire department had the blaze well under control, the cleanup would take weeks. Clark made several more passes through the building listening for life, then he proceeded with the gruesome task of removing the bodies. It would be hours, even with the help of his super breath, before the building would be clear of smoke and heat.
Clark had learned the hard way not to exhaust his body at night when there was no life to be saved by the process. Without the sun to restore his body, it became dangerous to overexert himself. He removed dozens of bodies from the area to spare the firefighters the danger of entering the unstable building. After some time, the emotional burden became too great for even a "super" man. He stopped in a quiet area of the building and concentrated on blocking out the numerous sounds around him. Finally he located the faintest butterfly of sound that was the heartbeat of the woman he loved. It amazed him that he could be so attuned to Lois that he could find her heartbeat with such certainty, sometimes from miles away. Occasionally, he felt that it was his imagination creating the sound out of stress, but at times like this he knew that it was simply the intense familiarity he had with this important sound of life that allowed him to focus on it above all else.
He allowed himself the luxury of listening for several minutes. It assured him that while the lives here were in turmoil, his life was whole and sleeping quietly a few miles away. Calmed beyond reason by the time spent listening to her, he wiped his face on his sleeve to remove his own tears and resumed the task of removing bodies from the rubble.
It was in the wee hours of the morning when he was finally finished. Thirty-four people had died in the night: Men, women, and children. Hearing a commotion, Clark turned to see a young man charging through the barricades that the fire department had set up. With tears streaming down his face the man rushed toward Superman and removed his wallet.
"My wife? My son? Are they here?" The man held a small photo of a beautiful red haired woman holding a child of about three. "Did you see them?"
Clark knew the faces, although they had looked much different hen he had taken them to the holding area that the coroner had set up behind the building.
"I'm sorry," Clark told the man, "I'm so sorry. They were … " He trailed off before adding, "I'm so very sorry."
Clark watched all the light leave the man's eyes. The person before him lost all hope and life. Clark caught him as he crumpled, as still as his family had been in death. He carried the man to a nearby ambulance, and turned him over to the paramedics. With the instructions that the man was most likely in shock, he put himself on autopilot and flew straight up into the air.
Clark circled the globe, absorbing the necessary sunlight on the opposite side of the Earth. He had flown around the globe four times before he calmed enough to go back to the townhouse. Stepping down off the ledge to the window that Lois had once again left open for him, he glanced at the sleeping figure in his bed. His wife. He longed to hold her, to feel her body against his, but there was only a couple of hours until she would heed to be at work. He decided not to wake her. She would be angry enough that Ralph was covering the apartment fire, he didn't want to deal with it now.
He spun from the suit and dropped it into the washing machine, grateful that his mom had reinforced all of the seams to make hand washing less of a necessity. He added detergent and a color safe bleach to the cold water, and set the lid down carefully so as not to close it completely. This way, the machine would fill and agitate, then soak until he could finish with it.
He stepped into the shower and washed the soot from his body and hair, then he dried himself on the way back to bed. He thought briefly that his shorts were in the top drawer as he fell into the bed and curled into the fetal position, already asleep.
Lois awoke five minutes before her alarm clock was to ring. She slid the lever over to the "off" position so it would not disturb Clark. She wasn't sure when he had gotten in last night, but she knew that it had been late. Glancing over at his body, she realized that he was more than tense, he was closed off. She wished that Clark had not been so adamant about her not going to the fire, but she had been too tired to argue with him at the time.
Clark was turned away from her, naked, and curled into a tight ball. The tension was coming off him in waves. She ran her hand down his back, gently, and she felt him begin to uncurl even as he slept. She continued stroking his back lightly, trying not to wake him, but to relax him. As he gradually stretched out on his back with a sigh, she expanded the exploration of her hand.
Lois stroked his legs and thighs, arms and chest. Slowly she relaxed his body. His muscles were always as hard as steel, but she could feel his relaxation as an adjustment in posture. She could tell he enjoyed her caress, so she decided to continue as much for her own pleasure as for his.
Her hands knew his body. They caressed his face and stroked his legs with a familiar sensual enjoyment. She left the bed briefly to retrieve a bottle of lotion from the bathroom, then returned to stroking her husband. She rubbed the lotion into his body, taking her time as she worked. She had learned long ago not to bother kneading deeply, as this only caused her hands to cramp. Instead, she merely stroked his body and allowed him to release all tension on his own, rather than trying to work it out. She continued to rub for nearly an hour, making sure each of his muscles had relaxed somewhat before she finished. Once finished, she left the bed to wash the lotion from her hands. She paused for a moment to wonder if he would wake up, and was relieved to see his relaxed body was curling back onto it's side to sleep more deeply. The tension in him was gone, and she was sure that he would sleep more comfortably.
With a soft smile, she left the bed and headed for the shower. Setting the water to a comfortable temperature, she showered quickly. She would most likely be late to work, but she was sure Perry would understand. After dressing, she grabbed a bagel downstairs and left Clark a note telling him that she expected an article when he woke up that contained several quotes from Superman. She put the note on the refrigerator with a magnet and left the townhouse, locking the door behind her.
Clark awoke hours later, feeling relaxed and rested. He had fully expected to wake up alone and miserable, and he was vaguely surprised that he did feel so good. He had the general all-over feeling that he normally experienced after an extremely satisfying night with his wife. He had planned to tackle Lois when her alarm went off, but she had managed to leave without waking him.
He decided to take advantage of his good fortune and go into work, despite the brilliant excuse that he was sure his wife had formulated. As he entered the bathroom, he saw where she had left the still open lotion bottle. He was pleasantly surprised to realize just why he'd had such wonderful dreams last night following such a horrible experience.
His memories of the night before were mixed. While there had been elation and gratitude for the lives that he had saved, at least thirty or forty, there was so much sorrow for the ones he could not save. Granted, many were dead before he had arrived on the scene, some from the initial gas explosion that had instigated the blaze. His feeling of responsibility was not lessened by this fact.
As he showered, shaved, and dressed he continually saw the face of the grief stricken man at the complex. How would the man live without his family? How would Clark handle it when he had to go on without Lois? She was correct, in all likelihood he would outlive her. Even if she lived to be quite old, Dr. Klein felt that his molecular structure would allow him to live well beyond a normal lifetime. Perhaps Lois was right to be concerned about the future They were resigned to the issue of not having children, at least not in their immediate future. He would someday be alone, really alone. While he had lived before without the comfort of Lois, he had never been without the support of his parents.
Maybe he was too dependent on Lois. This morning was a perfect example of that. It was her heartbeat that calmed him, her hands that soothed him and brought him peace. How would he go on without her?
Lois was the other half of his soul. He required her to be complete. He was vividly aware of the hole in him that she had filled so completely, the hole that had been a part of him for most of his life.
He had told Lois that she would always be a part of him. That was true, as far as it went. He remembered meeting the Clark that H.G. Wells had brought to help out during the time of his imprisonment by Tempus in that shrinking cube. This Clark had been different. Without the grounding forces of his parents, Clark had been a shadow. There was a loneliness, but also an uncertainty that surrounded him. Clark had recognized the difference then, realizing how lucky he really was.
On the other hand, Clark *had* experienced continued love from his family. Who he was would not necessarily change if he lost them. There would be sadness, but he would always feel their presence. Just as he often reflected on his parents' influence raising him, he knew that the would carry Lois's ideals within him for the rest of his life. He did not want to live without her, and upon reflection he most likely never would … not entirely. As Bekky had said regarding her husband, it was a matter of familiarity.
With a somewhat lighter heart, Clark picked up his suit coat and left the townhouse with Lois' note in his hand. If he hurried, he could pick up some Chinese food and write the follow up story over lunch with his wife.
Clark was surprised that Lois was not at her desk at The Planet when he arrived. Perry told him that Lois had requested time to run some errands and had promised to check with the Fire Chief regarding the reasons for the explosion that caused the fire.
Clark settled in at his desk and quickly wrote the follow-up story for the paper's later edition. It was after four when Lois returned to The Planet. She smiled when she saw Clark and kissed him on the cheek.
"I didn't expect to see you here today. I told Perry you'd e-mail us the story but that you would stay home to rest."
Clark gave Lois a kiss on the cheek and whispered in her ear, "for some reason I slept so well that I felt like coming in."
Lois blushed, remembering just why he had slept so well.
Clark enjoyed the color in her cheeks and grinned broadly as he asked about her errands.
"I dropped by Dr. Evans at the Clinic. He drew some blood to find out why I've been so tired."
"Do I need to worry?" Clark inquired.
"No. He says I'm probably just run down. He gave me a vitamin supplement and some iron tablets to take every day, but other than that I'm just supposed to eat better." Spying the takeout box he had placed on her desk she smiled, "I think I'll do that now."
Clark divided his attention between the article he was polishing and watching his wife devour a quart of spicy pork. When she got to the fortune cookie, she broke it in half and walked over to feed half to him while munching on the rest and grumbling about the uselessness of the fortune inside.
"How's the story going?" she asked as she seated herself on the corner of his desk.
With a deep sigh Clark sat back in his chair and allowed her to lean past him to read the computer monitor. Tears came to Lois's eyes as she felt the impact of the devastation he had witnessed. She had read Ralph's poorly written but technically accurate description of the fire, but Clark's point of view changed the feel of the story immensely. She could feel the flames and hear the cries as she scrolled through his writing. When she had finished the story, she swallowed several times to clear her throat before looking up to meet her husband's eyes.
"I'm so sorry, Sweetheart," she told him as she cupped his cheek with her palm. "I knew it was bad, but I had no idea how hard it was for you."
"There was so much death," he told her. "I couldn't help them all at once. I felt like I had to play God, choosing who should live or die." He placed his hand over hers, trapping it against his face. "There were children, Lois. One man lost his wife and child." He closed his eyes and turned his face to kiss the hand he held, "It could have been me."
Lois allowed Clark time to gather himself. He took several deep breaths to regain control, then looked up into her eyes. "I love you," she told him, as soon as his gaze met hers.
"I love you, too."
It was with some trepidation that Lois went about her plans for Clark's birthday party. He was still not fully recovered, at least not emotionally, from the apartment fire, but she was hoping that the party would help him to regain his normal spirits.
Lois planned quickly and carefully, and soon she had an impressive list of people who had promised to attend. While her theme for the party had shifted slightly, the group coming would most likely mean much more to Clark. She had enlisted Perry's help to decorate the City room when the list began to exceed what the townhouse could accommodate. Perry was thrilled to allow balloons and streamers to occupy every aerial location, and Martinelli's would cater the main party, while Martha would cook all Clark's favorite foods for dinner afterwards. Lois just couldn't place this level of cooking on Martha, and Italian food had long been a favorite of Clark's.
The party was scheduled for four in the afternoon on Friday. Lois had two days to complete her plans and keep the preparations as quiet as possible. Martha and Jonathan were flying into Metropolis Airport this evening, and her own parents would be coming in to the same airport tomorrow morning. Lucy was trying to arrange the trip back to Metropolis, but she hadn't given a definite answer because she had so recently used vacation time. Dr. Klein would be bringing some newly concocted drinks, designed to intoxicate slightly without incapacitating, and Sgt. Henderson would be arranging for his off-duty staff to provide transportation for those that chose to drink traditional alcohol. In all, the plans were coming together beautifully, and yet there was still a feeling of melancholy surrounding the party.
Lois supposed that it was because her initial idea for the party had been to make it a surprise. Clark was a kid at heart, and just as Christmas brought out his natural childishness, so did a good surprise. He was always thrilled with the unexpected, in a way that Lois frankly didn't understand. There was no way for him to be surprised, this time. Lois reluctantly let go of her desire to make this party special in that way, but she refused to give up on it being special.
The one problem that still plagued her was what to get her husband as a present. She had originally planned for the party itself to be her gift to Clark, but she didn't wish to give him what she considered to be a consolation gift. She studied through catalogs and browsed through stores, but soon became frustrated with her lack of inspiration.
It was the evening before the party that Clark's perfect surprise gift arrived. In the form of a phone call, Lois received a gift that she could share with Clark for his birthday. Suddenly, the party took on a whole new meaning as she scrambled to make final preparations. She wanted so much to tell Martha and Jonathan about the present, but she decided to wait until the party and allow everyone to be surprised at once.
Lois was able to keep her own parents busy with final party arrangements, and she had several small stories that needed to be tied up before the party so she stayed quite busy as well. By noon on Friday, guests began to slowly arrive, bringing with them stories, smiles, and lots of laughter. While the party was not intended to begin until four, the music was in full swing well before that. Perry quietly checked with each of the staff to conclude final input into the evening edition, and he was able to mingle with the guests as he did so.
Clark arrived at the Planet after completing a few errands, and was surprised to see the size of the party before him. The food was arriving, and the building smelled wonderful. Desks had been rearranged to allow a semblance of a dance floor, and couples were already putting it to use. Martha had made an enormous chocolate cake that sat on Clark's desk and he noted gratefully that she had declined to use candles. He had known that Lois wanted to give him a party, but the size of the occasion had really taken him off guard.
Clark had been feeling slightly down since the night of the fire. One of his errands today had cheered him immensely. On an impulse, he had attended the funeral of a beautiful red haired woman and her small child. While the occasion should have been morose, he had been relieved to see a grieving husband and father surrounded by dozens of caring relatives. Clark had stood in the background and watched one person after another tell wonderful stories about the young woman who had meant so much to each of them. Gradually, the public funeral had become a private celebration of a life that had been valued, and would be missed. Clark had left the building feeling somewhat better, and able to cope with the grief of not being able to do enough. In addition, he had enough material for an excellent follow up piece on the fire, and it was one that would touch the hearts of his readers.
Now, as Clark searched the crowd for his own wife, he marveled at the eclectic group she had assembled. He spoke with many of them as he looked for Lois, and received many pats on the back and well wishes. He passed by lawyers and criminals, police officers and firemen, truck drivers and businessmen. He recognized faces and placed names, and he gradually realized that each and every one of the people present had played a roll in shaping his life. Clark smiled as Jimmy handed him a beer, and then laughed at the Elvis impression that Perry was demonstrating.
Lois watched her husband walk through the party with a sense of awe. He was not a lonely man, after all. His heart might be tied to her, but his friends and family surrounded him even when she wasn't present. Regardless of her gift, she knew that Clark would never lack for friendship, at least not as long as he chose to share himself with people like these. Lois met Clark's eyes across the room as his gaze finally found her. He smiled and lifted his drink in a silent thank you that she received loud and clear.
Lois left the doorway of Perry's office where she had been standing, and walked into the middle of the improvised dance floor. When Jimmy saw where she was, and that she intended to address the group, he quickly turned off the music. All attention found it's way to Lois when she reached out for Clark's hand as he approached.
"First of all," she began, "I want to thank all of you for coming. We have plenty of food and drinks, and the Birthday Boy even decided to show up, so this should be a fun evening."
Lois waited for the laughter and applause to die down before she continued. "Second, I would like to take this opportunity, while we are all fairly sober, to give Clark his birthday gift." Immediately there was a great deal of speculation as to what the gift might be, and the guests became rather loud.
Clark smiled softly at her as she turned to face him. The room quieted quickly, sensing that something more than a traditional gift presentation was taking place. When the room was silent, Lois looked into Clark's eyes and smiled. "What am I supposed to get for the man who has given me everything? I looked everywhere, and nothing seemed right. I planned a party, but that didn't feel like enough." She clasped his hands tightly in hers as she continued, "Yesterday, I found you the perfect gift, and I'll bet it's even a surprise."
Lois waited once more for the laughter in the room to die down before she leaned forward and whispered into Clark's ear, "You've got about seven months to figure out how to be a daddy. I'm pregnant."
Clark's shout could be heard on three floors in the Daily Planet building. He lifted Lois straight up into the air and kissed her as he lowered her feet to the ground. Because the gift had been whispered, the room remained deadly silent as they waited to be let in on the joke. For several moments, Clark merely looked at Lois and forgot that they were surrounded by so many people, but finally Clark's ingrained good manners required that he acknowledge his guests. He turned to face towards his parents while he made the announcement.
"We're having a baby," he said simply. And with those words, the circle completed itself, and Clark found himself surrounded by life.
Lois and Clark snuggled with one another in the darkness of their bedroom, discussing the events of the day. Clark had repeatedly thanked Lois for the party throughout the evening. It had been late when they had finally made it back to the townhouse, and Martha had prepared a wonderful light meal for them. Ellen had even been gracious about Martha's cooking, and had quizzed her about the recipes. It had been a wonderful night that had crept into the morning, and Lois was very glad that they both had Saturday off. The Kents would be staying until Monday, and the Lanes would be flying out Saturday night. Lois was pleased that she would have the extra time with Martha. It wasn't that she didn't love her mother, just that Martha was so much easier to talk with.
Clark held his wife and allowed his hand to stray down to her still flat tummy. He imagined the possibilities for their child. Perhaps she would have Lois's chin or his eyes. Maybe he would have Lois's delicate ears or his nose. The possibilities were limitless, and he couldn't wait to have them realized.
"Are you happy?" Lois asked him.
Clark smiled against her soft hair. "You have no idea. I didn't know I could be this happy. I didn't know I could love you any more than I already did, but I do."
Lois snuggled deeper into his hug and sighed softly. Tomorrow, there would be time to worry about prenatal vitamins and stretch marks. Tomorrow she would wonder about daycare and the cost of children's clothing. Tonight, she would just enjoy the moment. "Happy birthday, Sweetheart. I love you, too."
And with that, they went to sleep in one another's arms … a family.