By Judith Tylke <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted May 1999
Summary: Lois figures out what Clark has been hiding, and suddenly he's on the receiving end of her anger. Can he smooth things over?
This is a short 'venting' story. I tend to work out my pet peeves with the direction some of the writers took the show in my stories one way or another. When I first watched TOGOM, I remember grumbling that Clark was stupid for not going to Lois, and then of course complaining bitterly that Clark fell asleep (g). Then I got to wondering how it might have changed their relationship had Lois discovered his deception. How would Clark feel if she left him behind? This is what I wound up with, I hope you enjoy it.
Thanks to Dawn, alpha readers don't have it easy reading unedited pieces, and to Laurie whose patience has been mighty, editors have it even harder (g). Ray Reynolds, the Martha and Jonathan scene is for you, I switched it remembering your correction; you were right.
Comments welcomed, email@example.com
It was late, even for Metropolis; those two hours of dead time from three to five when in the predawn hours the entire city seems to sleep.
Lois Lane sat surrounded by papers on the sofa in her living room, a half empty bottle of wine sat at her feet, an empty glass in her hand and a strange expression on her face. Slowly she reached down and picked up the wine bottle, refilled her glass to the brim, nearly emptying the wine bottle in the process.
Raising the glass to her lips Lois drank its contents in one long swallow. Taking a shuddering breath she put the glass down, went to the window, opened it and began to scream.
Clark Kent had had a difficult day. Lois had not been herself for the last several days and he had been unable to either break through to find out what was wrong or tease her out of it. Today had been particularly bad; she had alternately ignored him and snapped at him. Eventually he had given up, and when the day ended he had not been unhappy to see her go. He found it hard to be around Lois when she was like this; part of him wanted to grab her and shake whatever was wrong with her out of her, and another wanted to wrap her in his arms and kiss her fears away. Unfortunately, the part of him that wanted to kiss her was far stronger than the part that wanted to shake her, and that was out of bounds in their current relationship. Partners and best friends did not grab each other and do the things that Clark wanted to do.
He had gone on patrol as usual after dinner and had wound up sorting out a thirty car pile up on the interstate, caused by foggy conditions and the slowed reflexes of a football team and their entourage who had celebrated their win against a long time rival rather too well.
When he got home, Clark had showered and gone straight to bed exhausted. It had only been a week since they had caught Al Capone and his gang, and between being resurrected and Superman, he'd had a long week. He was deep in dreamland when the one cry that would always send panic straight through his heart echoed through him.
He was up, out of bed, and in the air before he was even fully awake. A sonic boom accompanied his arrival and the papers which had littered the coffee table and couch fluttered around the room in a whirlwind.
He searched wildly around the room for the source of the danger, "Lois?" he questioned bewildered. "What's happening? What's wrong?"
"I needed to talk to you," Lois was proud of how calm her voice was, though unaware that it had a dangerously flat tone.
Clark froze. Something was terribly wrong. He thought he'd seen Lois in just about every possible mood. He took in her appearance. She stood in front of him seemingly at ease, but the look of in her eyes belied her relaxed stance. She was angrier than Clark had ever seen her and she was coldly, carefully controlled. She scared the hell out of him.
"OK," he said uneasily, unconsciously crossing his arms in his Superman stance, "I'm here."
"Do you remember when I asked you yesterday how Superman had managed to speed up the process when he revived you after you'd been shot?"
"Lois, I didn't…" Her eyes flashed at him and he stopped in mid-sentence. Oh-oh.
"Clark Kent, if you have ever had a genuine emotion for me in your entire life, YOU WILL NOT FINISH THAT SENTENCE."
The Man of Steele felt his stomach plummet and his toes curl as her words echoed through his suddenly empty mind. She knew, she knew, she knew… The panic he felt must have shown on his face for Lois gave a slight, almost feral smile.
"I ran into Dr. Hamilton the other day; he was at the court house and we had lunch together. It was very enlightening. He was wondering how Superman had managed to accelerate the clone growth process since it normally took three days for the new body to reach maturity and he had somehow managed to do it in one. He wanted me to get in touch with Superman for him and ask him if he'd share his methods because he was worried that there might be detrimental effects on Clark Kent."
"At first I was frightened. I thought I was going to lose you again. But I didn't want to worry you, so I did some investigating. It wasn't till I realized that the Doctor was right; there was no way for Superman to have speeded up the process that I started looking for other explanations. When I asked you about it I knew you were lying so I decided to find out what exactly you were lying about. I'm almost sorry that I figured it out. I didn't know it was possible to feel this betrayed."
Clark's head jerked back as if he had been slapped.
Lois looked at him critically. "You'll have to talk to the good Doctor and assuage his fears; it's not fair to let him go on worrying. I'm sure you won't have any trouble making up something that maintains your secret. You must be quite expert at that by now."
"Lois, please let me explain," Clark begged, stretching out a hand and stepping toward her.
She danced back out of his reach and hissed, "Don't touch me." Pain moved across her features and then the mask dropped back in place and Clark found himself once again looking at a stranger. "I won't be held responsible, Clark, I really won't. Don't touch me."
Clark felt his chest tighten as she began to speak again, her words a lash made harsher by the coldness of tone. Nothing in his experience had ever hurt this badly.
"I thought I knew you, Clark. I thought you were honest and honorable and I told you things I never thought I would tell another human being. I trusted you with my life. When I thought that you had died trying to protect me I wanted to die. I felt like part of me had. I can't believe that even then you didn't tell me the truth — that you would let me go on thinking that you were dead rather than let me in on your secret. But it occurs to me that you were prepared to let me marry someone you knew to be a monster to protect your secret, so why not? Funny, I never realized that you needed protection from me but then I never really knew you at all, did I?"
Clark opened his mouth to speak but was forestalled by a raised hand. "Clark, you are going to listen to me and then you are going to leave me alone. I'm going out of town tomorrow and I want you to know why I'm leaving so that you will not come looking for me. I don't want to have to worry about being followed. Get it?"
Clark nodded, the tightness in his chest growing to the point that he doubted he could speak.
"I didn't marry Lex because of you, did you know that? Of course the fact that I wouldn't have been with Lex if you had been honest with me is beside the point. Oh, and not just because of my 'crush' on Superman. If I'd known, then 'Clark' would have been in a position to tell me the things that only 'Superman' knew about who Lex really was." She shook her head. "I walked up that altar and it wasn't you standing there and it just felt wrong. I tried to tell you that first day back at the Planet — then you told me you didn't really love me. When you said that, you confused the hell out of me — not that I wasn't already confused! I couldn't understand why I seemed to be in love with two guys at the same time." She gave a small laugh that had no humor in it. "Makes perfect sense now."
"Lois, please, it wasn't like that," Clark protested, his voice echoing strangely in his ears.
"The worse part is I still love you, " she continued as if he hadn't spoken. "God help me, I probably always will. But I don't think I can bear to look at you right now — it makes me want to hurt something. "
"Lois," her name was half prayer, half plea. "I love you. I always have."
Pain filled her eyes as she drew a deep breath and responded, "I believe you, Clark, but right now that only makes it hurt worse. Go away, Clark, please. Stay away from me."
Unaware of the tears coursing down his cheeks, Clark reached once again to touch her but stopped when she shuddered and whispered, "Get Out."
"All right, Lois," he said sadly, "I'll leave you alone."
Clark turned and stepped up to the window. He felt like he was walking on glass. Each step tore at him. "If you need me, will you please call?" he asked softly without turning around.
"If you hear me shout 'Help Superman!', by all means come looking for me," she said coldly. Then he heard her turn and walk into her bedroom and close the door.
He flew home in a daze and it wasn't until he had closed the door behind him that he gave free reign to his pain. He sank to the floor, buried his face in his hands and cried.
That had been almost two weeks ago, and except for a message on his answering machine telling him to feed her fish and water her plants while she was gone, (although the door was locked, she was sure that he would manage a way in) he had heard nothing from her. He had played the message a dozen times just to hear the sound of her voice.
He felt incredibly guilty. He had known that when he told Lois his secret she would be hurt but he had been unprepared for the depths of her pain. There had been much truth in what she had said, and because of it he also felt shame.
It had been pride that had stopped him from revealing himself during the Lex Luthor affair, and it had been pride that had caused him to lie to her about loving her. Crossed fingers or not, he had lied, and in doing so he'd missed an opportunity to hear Lois's true feelings for him.
He'd justified his secrecy by telling himself that he was protecting her, but now he wasn't so sure that it wasn't himself he'd been protecting. In many ways he was just as scared of opening up as she was.
During the Al Capone madness he had been so focused on his own pain and misery that he had failed to account for hers. If he hadn't found a way to bring back Clark Kent, would he really have been able to stay away from her as Superman? Honesty forced him to admit that he would have eventually gone to her. She was life's blood to him and the prospect of a life without her — knowing that she loved him — was almost more than he could bear.
Perry had informed Clark of Lois' s 'vacation' with a gruff voice and a searching stare. When Clark responded morosely that he already knew she was gone, Perry had said, "I thought you might know what upset her so badly that she took off like a scalded cat."
"I don't know what's going on and from the look on your face, I don't want to know." Perry continued when he saw Clark wasn't going to answer him. "But I'm telling you son, you better find a way of working this one out. I've never heard Lois like that before. You've done something to hurt her, and when I talked to her last night I wasn't so sure she meant to come back. Make sure she does." Taking pity on the anguished face before him Perry added, "I don't think either one of us wants to do without her, do we?"
Clark found it hard to be in the newsroom. Beyond the sympathetic looks of Jimmy and the rest of the staff, Lois's empty desk was a constant reminder of the hole in his life, and heart, and made it difficult for him to lose himself in journalism. His Superman duties afforded him some measure of peace but he still felt empty.
He had gone to her apartment to care for her fish and plants. Looking at the mess she had left in the living room, he had begun to pick up and sort the papers and had been astounded by what he'd found.
Lois had gone back to the first stories that they had worked on, wherever Superman had been involved, and had correlated all the stories about him with where Clark Kent had said he had been at the time of the event. In some cases she had even made a note of the excuse he had given and more then once he winced at the lameness of some of his off the cuff excuses while being impressed with both her memory and her thoroughness. That's my Lois, leave no stone unturned, he thought with a sigh.
It must have taken her hours to do all this, Clark reflected sorrowfully. In spite of telling himself he wasn't going to do it, he looked into her closet to reassure himself that she hadn't taken all of her clothes and looked for something that would tell him where she had gone. He found nothing. He found himself spending more and more time at her apartment at night after his patrols. Once he woke in her bed with her pillow wrapped in his arms and tears on his cheeks.
After that he spent as little time as possible there, often doing the simple chores at superspeed, the emptiness of the place a rebuke.
His parents had been supportive, although they had both agreed with Lois on some points. "After all, son, telling her that you didn't really love her… I thought at the time that you'd made a mistake. I can see why she's hurt," Jonathan had told him.
His mother had hugged him and told him that it would work out, "After all, son, Lois loves you and no matter how angry she was, she'll be back and you two will work this out."
"Yes, Clark," Jonathan had agreed. "She did ask you to feed her fish, didn't she?"
"Only because she said it was my fault that she was so angry she forgot to take care of them when she left," he'd replied with a sigh.
Martha had laughed and told him to cheer up. She was sure that he would hear from Lois soon.
Tonight when he arrived home from work, he found a message from Lois on the answering machine. It was short and to the point, and brought tears of relief to his eyes.
"Clark, I'm down in the Keys at a place called Marina Key. I think we need to talk. If you could find the time to come down, I've rented a beach house on the west side of the island. I'll be here or on the beach." She paused for a heartbeat. Then, "I've missed you."
For the first time since that night, he felt his heart lighten. It took only seconds for him to change into the suit and gather gear more suitable for beach wear into his backpack. Calling Perry at the office where he was putting the paper to bed, Clark told him he'd heard from Lois and that he was on his way to see her now. "I'll call you when I get back Chief," he promised, cutting short what looked to be a long rendition of how Elvis had won back Pricilla after a major fight.
Taking to the sky, Clark flew straight to the Florida Keys. Finding the island was no difficulty; he'd committed as many maps as he could to memory, knowing that he might be called to perform rescues anywhere natural disasters strike with regularity.
Hovering high above the island, he located Lois's heartbeat seconds before his eyes found her. She was sitting on a stretch of beach filled with sandcastles, and she looked tan and relaxed with her arms outstretched behind her. She'd never looked more lovely to him and he felt the butterflies in his stomach begin to dance faster. Don't blow this Kent, he counseled himself as he located a place where he could land inconspicuously.
After changing and then stashing his backpack where it wouldn't be found, he walked quietly down the beach to where Lois sat. Her back was to him but some instinct made her turn at his approach. Her eyes were hidden behind sunglasses but her face and voice were friendly enough. "Hello, Clark. You're just in time to see who won the contest."
For the first time he noticed that Lois was not alone. Two boys, the first about ten and the second about seven, looked up at him critically. The two pairs of blue eyes looked at him for a moment before the oldest turned to Lois and asked, "Is that him?"
"Yup, looks like you owe me two marshmallows, and don't burn them this time."
"We had a bet that you would get here before the first bastion was breached," Lois explained somewhat obliquely.
"First bastion?" Clark asked, confused as he settled onto the sand next to her.
"Of the castles, of course," the youngest of the two informed him in a disgusted tone of voice, gesturing to one of several elaborate sand castles some 10 feet down the beach.
"Are you sure he's OK?" the oldest asked Lois suspiciously. "I don't think we should let him into the game." Clark detected a note of jealousy in the boy's tone. Don't blame you for that kid, he thought kindly as he looked at Lois.
"Oh, Clark's OK," she said with a smile, "but you may be right about letting him into the game, he'll probably beat us all at building sand castles."
Clark smiled at her, his heart lightening further at the note of gentle teasing in her voice. "I'm kind of out of practice, but I'd like to try. Do you think I could play?" he asked, sounding unconsciously wistful.
"What do you think, guys, should we let him play?" At their somewhat reluctant nods she'd performed the introductions, "David, Daniel, meet Clark. Clark, meet my fellow pirates, David and Daniel."
Clark solemnly shook each boy's hand and earned another smile from Lois.
"We have bets on the time it takes for the castle to be stormed," David informed him with a gap tooth grin. "I won last night but Lois has won the most often."
Clark laughed, feeling himself relax further. Lois wasn't mad at him anymore; at least he thought she wasn't, and he was content to simply be with her. The talk they had to have could wait for a little longer.
They watched the castles slowly disappear beneath the waves with the boys hooting and cheering as each level and tower dissolved. Afterward, the boys ran back to the beach house they were staying at, promising to return for the bonfire later.
"Bonfire?" Clark asked.
"We have one every night, " Lois told him, suddenly shy now that the boys had gone. "It's when we pay up on the marshmallows we've won during the day. David cooks a mean marshmallow but Daniel tends to burn them pretty badly. And of course you can't make a decent 'smore with a carbon marshmallow." She was in full babble mode.
Clark smiled that heartbreaking smile that always warmed her. "I've missed you too."
They smiled at each other for a moment, neither of them willing to break the fragile harmony.
"Want to help me look for the driftwood for the fire?" Lois asked, standing up and reaching out a hand to him.
Standing, Clark reached for her hand and laced his fingers through her. "I'd follow you anywhere," he said, his voice husky.
Lois looked at their intertwined fingers and then up at him. She loved this man, and the love in his eyes made her catch her breath. No matter what happened, she would fight to be with him. Even if she was fighting herself.
"Sorry it took so long for me to call you. It took me longer than I thought to calm down," she offered softly, the firewood forgotten.
He shook his head and gently tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. "I'm the one who's sorry, Lois, you were right about a lot of what you said. I should have told you a long time ago. But I wanted you to love Clark, and I wouldn't let go of my pride enough to see what I was doing to you. I'm so sorry." He cupped her face in his hand. "I love you, and if you'll let me, I'll spend the rest of my life making it up to you. I never meant to hurt you, Lois. Please believe that."
She smiled mistily at him. "I know, Clark, and I was wrong too, about a lot of things. But I still don't understand how you could expect me to love just one part of you. The real Clark is both Superman and Clark — how could you expect me to love or even recognize that you were only showing me half of you?" That she still felt hurt was evident in the break in her voice, though she tried to cover it.
Clark sighed. "Because I'm an idiot, because I fell in love with you the first time I saw you, and until that moment I thought that never falling in love was the price I paid for being different. I never knew what it was to need someone, Lois, what it was to want someone so badly you ached with it. Then I met you and all the things I thought I'd figured out in life flew right out of the window. " He shook his head and gently wiped away the tears which had overflowed with his words. "I can't lose you, Lois, not when it took so long to find you."
"We're a part of each other, Clark, no matter how mad or hurt I might get, or how hard I am to live with, I'm afraid you're stuck with me." She spoke wryly but smiled at him, the full force of her love shining in her eyes.
He kissed her gently before enveloping her in his arms. They stood with their arms around each other for a long time without speaking, content to simply hold each other.
Without moving — he was loath to let her go — Clark asked her, "How did you wind up in the Keys?"
"I got on a road and headed south. This is where I ran out of road." She leaned back in his arms to look at him, laughter in her eyes. "I decided to become a beach bum but it didn't take."
He smiled and raised a hand to cup her jaw, his fingers sliding through her hair. Raising a brow, he asked quizzically, "Sand castles and pirates?"
She laughed aloud. "The boys arrived about a week after I did. Their grandmother lives here. They made fun of one of my sandcastles the first morning, so of course I had to challenge them. The rest is 'smore history. They lost six the first night. Speaking of which," she kissed his palm softly before taking his hand in both of hers and tugging him along the beach. "We better get the firewood or I won't be able to collect on my chocolate."
He smiled and allowed himself to be pulled along. Then he pulled her to a stop and when she turned to look at him inquiringly, he asked hesitantly, "Lois, will you promise me you won't run away like that again?"
She looked at him searchingly for a moment before asking softly, "Were you afraid I wasn't coming back?"
"Yes." He sighed and shrugged. "But that's not why. I'm not sure I know how to say this exactly… I got a good taste of what you must have gone through when you thought I was dead. I knew you were alive but I thought that I'd lost you through my own selfishness. I felt so empty. No matter what problems we have, Lois, we've got to be together to solve them."
She looked at him for a moment, then said soberly, "I can't promise that I won't get angry again, Clark — I've got a pretty lousy temper." She shrugged in painful self knowledge. "Usually it just helps me keep people at a safe distance - out of the parts of myself or my life I'm trying to protect. But when I lose control, Clark, I use it as a weapon. I end up saying things I don't mean, that aren't necessarily true, just to hurt the person. You can't take it back once you've said it and I end up hating myself afterward. When I do it to the people I love, I end up hurting myself as much as them, sometimes more."
She looked down at their entwined fingers, "When I left Metropolis, I was barely in control." She drew a deep breath, remembering that terrible feeling that if she didn't get away before she exploded, that she would tear her life apart beyond repair or apology — she had hurt so badly. Days later, when emotional and physical exhaustion had been salved with sleep, she'd looked into herself, and admitted the price she'd paid — and exacted from others — for her 'emotional protection'.
When she looked up at him there were shadows in her eyes, and Clark swore to himself that he would never again be the cause of that look, the hurt that she let him see.
"I can't promise I won't walk away when I need to, but I will promise not to stay away. As long as you promise me that there will be no more lies, no more secrets. If you've got any more, you better tell me now."
"That was my only secret, and the only lies I ever told you were when I hid the fact that I'm Superman. I promise Lois, I will never hide the truth from you again."
"You hid yourself from me, Clark. Half the things I thought I knew about you weren't true. You can't ask me to love someone who isn't real. If you want me to love the real you, then you can't hide that person. And I can't — won't — accept an illusion anymore."
"I know, and I promise you that no matter what I tell the public — or even our friends — I will always be myself with you. I won't hide my life from you anymore. It's not an easy life, Lois. Being Superman takes over sometimes and even I'm not sure who I am. But I realize that I can't ask you to live that life with me without knowing what it involves. No more secrets, not with you."
She looked up at him, searching his expression. Gradually the shadows cleared and she smiled the crooked smile that entranced him from the first. "Then I guess I won't be running away any more."
He smiled and would have kissed her but the sound of the boys shouting for Lois made her turn. She waved at the boys, then remembered the bonfire with a start.
"Clark, we didn't get the driftwood." She turned back to him and blinked in surprise. He was standing next to her with his arms full of driftwood.
"Did you win enough 'smores to share?" He asked her and grinned at the look on her face, love and laughter in his eyes.
Lois stared at him a moment then began giggling and was still smiling and shaking her head in amusement when the boys reached them.
"How come you didn't get the bonfire going yet?" Daniel asked. "It's going to take forever to get the fire hot enough for toasting marshmallows." He looked at Clark with disfavor. "Lois always had the fire going by now."
"It musta taken them awhile 'ta get that much wood," David observed around a mouth full of chocolate.
"I'm sorry it took so long." Clark smiled easily at the boys. "It won't take me long at all to get the fire going. I'm pretty good at it."
Daniel looked at him for a moment challengingly. "My Gran is going to call us in a hour, and if I don't get to collect on all of my 'smores you're going to owe me double tomorrow night."
"I'm fast so I don't think you have to worry. You won't miss any 'smores. But if you do I'll double them tomorrow, OK?"
"OK, deal." David put out his hand solemnly and shook hands with Clark.
Clark was aware of Lois's amusement. She'd been biting her lip throughout the exchange trying not to laugh aloud. She didn't want to offend David; he wouldn't understand that she wasn't laughing at him but rather from the joy which filled her. That wonderful feeling which made her simply happy to be alive, to love and know that she was loved in return. At the last exchange, however, her control left her and she sank to the sand. Raising her legs and wrapping her arms around her knees, she dropped her face into the hollow she'd created and her shoulders shook with silent laughter.
Clark grinned at the picture she made, and David looked at her in dismay. "She's not crying, is she?"
"Laughing," Clark told him with a shrug and a smile, "she's happy."
"Oh." He sounded dubious and eyed her warily for a moment to insure that Clark was in fact right. She raised her head to look at them, tears of laughter streaming down her cheeks and her shoulders heaving slightly as she steadied herself once again. Satisfied, he turned to Clark and added, guy to guy, "Lois is pretty cool most of the time, but sometimes she turns back into a girl." He shook his head sorrowfully; it just proved that even the coolest of girls couldn't be trusted. "They always do."
Hiding his own desire to laugh, Clark replied, "I know it's hard to imagine, but one day you'll appreciate it when they do."
David threw him a 'yeah right' look.
This was more than Lois could take and she dissolved into laughter once more, falling backwards onto the sand.
David looked at her askance. "When is she going to stop?"
Daniel moved over to where Lois was laying in the sand and hunkered down next to her, "She's OK," he reassured his brother. "All she needs is some chocolate. That always fixes everything," he added knowledgeably as he stretched out a grubby hand to offer her the uneaten portion of the one he'd been snacking on.
"Why don't you guys wait for Lois to recover and I'll get the fire started. By the time you get back we'll be able to make those 'smores," Clark suggested with a grin for Daniel. "You're brother's right," he told David as he started down the beach, "Lois always does better when she has chocolate."
Moving quickly back down the beach, he heard David ask Lois if that was true and he laughed with joy when he heard her answer, "When you're already the luckiest person in the world, there's not much that chocolate can't fix."
He wondered for a moment what Al Capone would say if he was told that 'killing' Clark was the best thing he could have done for him. Floating a few inches off the ground with a silly grin on his face — and totally unaware of either — he planned all that he would share with the woman he loved in the future which belonged to them.