By Christine Carr <email@example.com>
Submitted April 1999
Summary: In this beautiful vignette, Clark reflects on his love for Lois, reeling at the thought that "she had asked him to marry her!"
Continuity-wise, this takes place the morning after Ultra Woman. No plot, no angst, just unmitigated fluff. This is not my usual kind of tale at all, but half the fun of writing it was simply to see if I could…
Thanks to those kind FoLCs (Irene, Joy and Liz) who volunteered to read it before I posted it to the fiction list, and who encouraged me to share it with a wider audience. And thanks to those people who took time to say that they liked it.
The characters aren't mine, and I mean no harm by their use. The ideas probably aren't very new, either. However, I chose the words and the metaphors, so I hope that I can take some credit for that, at least.
Feedback is gratefully received at
COUNTING THE WAYS
A Lois and Clark vignette
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight For the ends of being and ideal grace.
(Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 1806-61)
It had not been an easy road to travel, but somehow Lois and Clark had reached their destination, a place called Happiness. Their souls cried out with the joy of being together. Having found one another, they defied any force to split them asunder.
In other words, they loved each other very much.
A smile played around the corners of Clark Kent's mouth as he surreptitiously watched his fiancée work.
Fiancée, he thought. It was a beautiful word, perhaps the most beautiful word in the English language. It was almost as beautiful as she was.
Lois had the telephone balanced precariously between her shoulder and ear as she scribbled notes rapidly with one hand and gesticulated madly with the other. Amused and delighted, he noticed a pattern to her movements. Her gestures could not be accounted for solely by the excitement engendered by her story. Rather, she was playing, ensuring that her new ring was being shown off to its best advantage, moving her hand so that the diamond glittered in the light of her desk lamp. It gratified him to know that seeing the ring on her finger gave her as much pleasure as it did him.
Still, she was not letting her joy distract her completely from the task in hand. Her face was alive with excitement as she badgered her source for more information. Even if Clark had not been able to eavesdrop on her conversation, her body language would have told him that she had stumbled upon a major story. She was, he could tell, enjoying herself.
He loved that about her. Her tenaciousness, her zeal and her enthusiasm. They had been some of the first things he had noticed about her, back when they had met.
His smile broadened at a memory. In his mind's eye he saw her burst uninvited into Perry's office as he was being interviewed. She had barely seen him then, much less noticed him, so caught up was she in her story. But he had seen her, and that had been enough.
Was that when he had fallen in love with her? Certainly the attraction had been instantaneous, and he had been intrigued by the small dynamo with whom he had subsequently been assigned to work.
As she jabbed at the telephone's cradle to clear the line for her next call, she glanced across at him and mouthed, low enough that no-one else would guess that she was talking to him, but loud enough that he could hear, "Quit staring at me and get on with your work, Kent!" and she laughed at him as she looked away again.
He picked up his own phone and tried to do as she commanded, but he found it impossible to concentrate. Over and over again his mind replayed the scene from last night when she had asked him to marry her.
She had asked him to marry her!
It was the final proof, if any had been needed, that she had managed to reconcile both halves of his personality, the superhero and the reporter, Kal-El of Krypton and Clark Kent of Kansas. He was more grateful for that than any words could ever express.
He thought back over the last few years. There had been a time when, if he had been asked, he would have said that he had loved her right from the moment he first set eyes on her. But he had recently come to realise that what he had felt at that time was but a pale imitation of the deep soul-bonding love he now knew.
When had his feelings for her begun to deepen, to broaden, to consume him?
He guessed the process had started in the early days, just after he had created Superman, though it had happened so gradually that he could pinpoint no one time or event and say, it happened then. That was the moment.
In the earliest weeks of their acquaintance, her obsession with the hero had been galling, but it had been intoxicating, too. Clark had spent most of his life fearing discovery, worrying about how others would react to his differences, trying as best he could to blend in. Through Lois, however, he had discovered a confidence he had never known. She had embraced his alienness in a way that he had never before dreamed possible.
Moreover, she had given him the strength to continue in his role as Superman when he had most needed it. When he had doubted himself, Lois had offered encouragement, not knowing to whom she was speaking. She had saved Superman on more than one occasion, through both her words and deeds, her belief in the hero remaining unshakeable when others wavered and turned away from him. How could he not love her for that?
He had wanted her to love Clark Kent, though, not some mysterious creation who barely existed beyond his own imagination. It was, he had feared, Lois's fantasies that had imbued the hero with a life of his own in her mind. After all, she did not really know him. It was not fair - it was not right - that Lois should love the hero and not the man, when they were one and the same. When, in the midst of the whole fiasco with Luthor, she had told Superman that she would have loved him if he were an ordinary man, he had not believed her.
He had not wanted her to have feelings for Superman, only for Clark.
It was, surprisingly, Mayson Drake who had made him wonder whether he was wrong to want that so very much. Mayson had loved him as he wanted Lois to love him, for the person he was in his every day life. However, it had not felt right, not merely because Mayson was not the woman for him, but because she did not love all of him, and he knew that she never would. Lois, he had realised then, could love the alien inside of him, if only he had the courage to let her know that it was there.
Finding the courage to tell her, though… That was hard. Maybe he would have told her sooner if he had not let his feelings of guilt over Mayson's death get in the way of their deepening relationship, or if Lois had not shown an interest in Agent Scardino. Clark's insecurities had prevented him from seeing that it was his double life that was driving a wedge between them, and that, in her eyes, Scardino was but a poor substitute for himself. He had not felt able to take the chance of confiding in Lois if she did not love him enough to be with him, but it was the very confidence he was withholding that held the key to unlocking the love he sought.
It was Lois who had finally resolved the impasse that their relationship then reached. Coward that he was, he would have run away, but she had gathered up all her courage and told him it was Clark that she wanted to be with, and not Dan, or Superman. There was no doubt left in his mind then: he would have tell her about Superman, but he had put off the inevitable, preferring to revel in the sweetness of his triumph, for at least a little while.
He had tried to tell her his secret subsequently, but somehow he had always failed to get the words out, scared of how she might react. No longer worrying about his otherness, he instead fretted about how she would react to the realisation that he had lied to her for nigh on two years.
Ruefully, he reflected that he had been right to be worried.
He had almost told her about himself when she had chosen to risk her life to save the lives of his parents. With hindsight, he wished that he had.
Instead, she had guessed his secret on her own, and had felt betrayed that he had asked her to marry him, without giving her the chance to get to know who he really was first. Her anger and sense of betrayal was, he realised now, understandable, but, at the time, all he had felt was hurt at her rejection of his proposal.
It took time, but they began to sort things out. Then, just when they had almost recovered the ground that they had lost, he had wounded her again. He shied away from the painful memory. What had he been thinking of, telling her that he loved her too much for them to be together? It had damaged her faith in him, and had only served to hurt them both.
All those arguments.
All those misunderstandings.
Yet, somehow, they had managed to reach this moment.
Precious things could take root and flourish in the most unlikely places, he thought, like flowers growing on bombsites, or carpeting barren land after rain. He thought about flying over the Sonoran Desert in the spring, when the ground was transformed by the ephemerals into a riot of colour and beauty.
Perhaps that was what their love was like - something rare and precious, yet with the strength to not merely endure, but to flourish in the harshest of conditions. It had, after all, triumphed and grown, despite all the obstacles they had placed in its way. He promised himself that, if the metaphor had any value, he would keep the desert well irrigated from now on. The fruits of their love would not be allowed to fall and rest unseen in the dry earth.
One day, he promised himself, he would take Lois to see the desert bloom.
Lois, who had been put on hold, glanced across at him, waggling her eyebrows, comically conveying her exasperation at her current lack of progress. They smiled at each other as, for a moment, their eyes locked and the world around them ceased to exist.
He loved her, body and soul. He loved the way she filled his senses, the way her hair moved, the faint scent of her, the whisper of her skin as she brushed her hands together as she continued to toy with the ring, the sound of her heartbeat…
He could not begin to count the ways he loved her.
He watched as she twiddled with her ring, posing her hand under the lamp to admire it better. As the light reflected off the individual facets of the diamond, so did his love reflect off the many facets of her personality, a jewel that was to him a million times more perfect than any mere rock he could have bought her.
How had he got so lucky, he wondered, as to have her by his side?
An alarm and several frantic cries for help intruded on his thoughts. Abruptly torn from his contemplation of beauty personified, Clark's head lifted in a move that Lois had once likened to a bird on the alert. And, just like a startled bird, his action would almost inevitably be followed by flight.
Attuned to him, Lois somehow sensed his movement without needing to see it. She looked at him, her face a silent question.
He glanced around nervously, checking that nobody was watching, then made a discreet gesture with his hand.
She understood, of course. She nodded an acknowledgement and mouthed, "I'll cover."
As he rose from his chair, his hand reaching for the knot of his tie, he wondered for the umpteenth time about her readiness to lie for him. Even after all the hurt his excuses had caused her, she was willing to protect him with her own. Was this, he wondered, simply a contradiction in Lois's complex personality, or was this the ultimate form of forgiveness for his past actions.
He did not know.
All he knew was that he loved that about her, too.