By Kathy Brown <email@example.com>
Submitted October 1999
Summary: Returning home in the middle of the night after a rescue, Clark reflects on what a true partnership means in his relationship with Lois. A vignette set several weeks after Lois and Clark's engagement.
Written October 1996
Edited and released September 1999
Feedback: All feedback welcome and appreciated.
Clark floated above Lois's apartment building, debating with himself. His cape rustled in the slight breeze, breaking the otherwise quiet night air. He really did want to go in and say goodnight, to kiss her sweetly before heading home to his own bed. But it was three in the morning and he felt guilty about waking her. They had been at his apartment, watching one of Lois's favorite sitcoms on television when the news report broke in: a mudslide in California, people were trapped in their homes… He'd been in the suit before the report was over.
But that had been over five hours ago.
Lois hadn't asked him to come back and say goodnight. She didn't have to; it was now one of their unspoken rules. He closed his eyes and thought back to their argument a few weeks ago.
They'd been at her apartment, both tired after a long day, neither in a very good mood. Lois was still upset over his leaving in the middle of dinner the previous night. "I can understand your need to run off in the middle of the evening, Clark. But I can't handle not knowing when or even if you've come back." Lois was pacing, exasperated. "What if something happens to you? I'm supposed to just wait and find out on the TV news like everyone else? I guess once we're married, I'll know when you come home, but right now I'm going nuts."
Clark rolled his eyes. "Lois, a lot of the time I get back really late. I never know how long a job is going to take. If it's still early, I always come back. You know that." He was starting to get frustrated; they'd had this argument before.
"But I want you to come by no matter what time it is. I don't care if it's two in the morning or even six," Lois retorted, her voice rising. "You can wake me up, say goodnight and leave if that's what you want to do."
"You're being ridiculous, Lois," he said, his tone matching hers. "You need more sleep than I do. I don't want to wake you up in the middle of the night. Besides, what if I go out patrolling after we've already said goodnight? Am I supposed to call you to let you know I'm going out? And again when I come back? I don't need another mother, Lois, I already have one!"
Clark cringed as he remembered his words. It had been such a mean thing to say, but they were both starting to yell and he'd just got caught up in his anger. Of course, the fight had just escalated from there, turning into one of the worst they'd ever had. She'd accused him of not trusting her, of not wanting a true partner. He'd accused her of not understanding his life. It went on and on. They'd both ended up in tears, hurt and emotionally drained.
But that confrontation had marked a milestone in their relationship. It was the first time that they had both stayed to finish a fight, instead of one or the other running away and sulking alone. It had been exhausting for both of them. But eventually they had worked through the problem together, and in the end it had brought them closer.
Clark smiled slightly as he remembered how they had discussed what they each needed from the other as it related to his alter-ego. 'Setting ground-rules' as Lois had called it. They'd agreed that Clark should be able to leave whenever he felt he had to, even if they were in the middle of something. Lois might feel bad, but she would try not to make him feel guilty about it. She also wouldn't question his judgment on the severity of a situation and its need for Superman, provided he didn't abuse her trust by using Superman as an excuse for running off when it wasn't absolutely necessary. They just had to trust each other. But, as they said to each other at the time, that's what a true partnership was.
Clark had also agreed to make Lois more aware of his comings and goings in the late night hours. She said she didn't need to know about his routine patrols, but if the two of them had been together, whether on a fancy date or just hanging out, he was supposed to come over to say goodnight when he was finished 'saving the world'.
'And this,' he thought, bringing himself back to the present, 'is why I'm floating above her apartment building at three o'clock in the morning.'
It was actually a relief to have an excuse to see her again tonight. He longed to hold her sleepy body, to breathe in the wonderful smell of her hair. The mudslide hadn't been too taxing, no lives had been lost, just a lot of property. He felt sorry for the residents who had lost their homes, but he had to set priorities for himself — as much as he might like to, he couldn't spend weeks rebuilding houses. On the way home, however, he'd come across a serious car accident. On a highway on the outskirts of Metropolis, a drunk driver had come too close to the car in the next lane. The other car had been forced into the ditch, rolling over several times. The innocent driver, a man about Clark's age, had only superficial wounds, but his wife was more seriously hurt. Clark had flown her directly to the hospital, while the man followed with the police.
Once at the hospital, Superman had waited to be sure the woman was going to be all right. On his way out, however, the woman's husband had stopped him. With tears in his eyes, he shook Clark's hand, thanking him profusely. "Superman, thank you so much for saving my wife. We were just married this past summer. I don't know what I would do if I lost her." Although Clark had reacted in his typical 'no need to thank me, that's what superheroes are for' manner, he was actually quite shaken by the whole incident. The woman was around Lois's age; she even had a similar hairstyle. When Clark found out the two were newlyweds, like he and Lois would be soon, he couldn't help but draw parallels to his own situation. What would he do if he ever lost Lois?
Still emotional from the memory, Superman scanned Lois's bedroom as he lowered himself towards her window. 'Maybe I'll stay tonight,' he thought. Lois had asked him to stay the night a few of the times he'd woken her late. He'd always refused, saying she needed her sleep and he would just keep her up talking. What he hadn't told her was that he didn't completely trust himself just to hold her, not to pressure her to go further. They had agreed to wait until their wedding night, although he sometimes wondered if they'd only agreed because they each thought it was what the other wanted. 'If she only knew,' he thought with a rueful smile. 'If she only knew.'
As his eyes failed to find her inside, however, Clark pulled up sharply in the air. Quickly, he scanned the rest of her apartment, his heart beginning to pound as he realized she wasn't there.
'Where could she be at this hour?' He had left her on his couch at 9:45. Lois had said she was going to watch the rest of the show, then go to bed. 'OK, Clark, get a grip. You left her at your apartment. She probably just fell asleep on the couch.' Relaxing slightly, but still on guard, he flew at top speed towards his neighborhood.
As Clark entered his living room through the balcony door, he could hear Lois's heart beating, calm and steady. He breathed a deep sigh of relief as he started towards the couch. Surprised at not finding her there, he wandered into the bedroom.
Sure enough, Lois was asleep in his bed. She was still wearing the sweatpants she had come over in, but had changed into one of his t-shirts. She was lying on her side under the covers, hugging his pillow close to her body. Clark simply stood there watching her for several seconds, waves of love and relief washing over him.
He briefly considered spending the night on the couch, but he realized that Lois was sending him a message by falling asleep in his bed. Lois was inviting him to hold her, to fall asleep in her arms the way he had dreamed of doing so many times. It was a wonderful gift, and one he had no intention of refusing.
Clark grabbed a pair of shorts from the pile of clean laundry that he hadn't yet gotten around to folding, and headed into the bathroom to wash up. As he splashed water on his face, he noticed Lois's travel toothbrush resting on the counter next to a rumpled hand towel. As Clark dried his face with the towel, he could detect the faint smell of her perfume. He inhaled deeply, amazed at how tranquil he felt. It was so nice to see her things in his bathroom; it felt so *right*.
As he replaced his wet toothbrush in the holder, Clark noticed Lois's sweatshirt folded neatly near his feet. 'Better move that out of the way before I step on it,' he thought. As one hand picked up the sweatshirt, the other reached over to catch whatever it was that threatened to fall out from between the folds.
Clark paused as his hand touched satin and lace. Gently fingering the garment, he couldn't help but smile, his mind wandering to the future. 'Is this what my life will be like next year?' he wondered. 'Washing up in the bathroom, knowing my wife is waiting for me in the bedroom?' Clark didn't even try to suppress the smile that was forming. Finding lingerie in the bathroom, fighting for closet space, folding laundry, making the bed, grocery shopping… it all sounded wonderful to him.
Quickly changing into his shorts, Clark padded into the bedroom. Quietly, so as not to wake his fiancee, he slipped between the covers. He spooned her, her back to his front, and gently wrapped his right arm around her waist. Smiling sleepily when Lois simply sighed and snuggled closer to him, Clark closed his eyes.
A true partnership … he finally had just what he'd always wanted.
All feedback welcome and appreciated.
Kathy Brown <firstname.lastname@example.org>