By Tank Wilson and Wendy Richards
Submitted July 2000
Summary: They're dating, he thinks they're in love, so Clark decides it's finally the perfect time to tell Lois the truth about himself. Unfortunately, this is Lois he's dealing with, and events take a turn he could never have imagined…
By Tank Wilson <TankW1@aol.com> (I get to be first because I started it) and Wendy Richards <firstname.lastname@example.org >
Tank — A bit of an explanation is in order. I originally wrote this little revelation story for Zoomway's boards. After posting it, a few individuals (well, nearly everyone) thought that the story shouldn't be left where I left it, that it was in some way, unfinished. I felt that I had told the story I had intended to, a revelation story. But others didn't agree… enter Wendy Richards…
Wendy — Yes, well, when Tank finished his vignette where he did, I couldn't help myself. I was itching to undo the tangle his characters had got themselves in, and I foolishly challenged myself — publicly — to do it in one part. The rest is history, or perhaps infamy… :)
All characters are trademarked and copyrighted to their respective owners. Any and all feedback welcome at the addresses listed below.
Lois Lane fussed in front of the mirror over her dresser as she checked her makeup for the third time. She didn't use much when it came to makeup, but what she had on she wanted to be flawless. She had to suppress a giggle as she allowed herself to realize how foolish she was being. She was acting like a schoolgirl on her first date with her big crush. She was just going over to Clark's for dinner, something she has done umpteen times before. But there was something special about tonight. Clark had seemed to have something on his mind.
There was something on Lois' mind too. She and Clark had been sort of dating each other for a short time now and after some confusion caused by outside influences like Dan, Mayson, and Superman, she thought she knew where she stood — and what she was going to do about it. A lot of things had happened over the recent months and it had taken Lois a while to sort things out, but she had finally decided that it was time to stop denying how she felt. It was time for her to be the one to make the move. Whatever the reason Clark had for continually running away whenever talk between the two them got serious didn't matter. All that mattered was how Lois felt about Clark, and tonight she was going to tell him.
The first time she had allowed herself to think that maybe that sweet, caring, partner of hers might be more than just her best friend was at her aborted wedding to Lex. It was her own need to come to grips with those feelings that had led her to stop the wedding *before* the police intervened. What a disaster that whole episode had been. Between Lex's vile machinations and her own pig headed pride, she had almost thrown away the best thing that had ever happened to her. Then to top it all, Clark had gone and taken back his claims of love for her, just before she was going to say that maybe there was something more for them than friendship!
It had confused her for a while, but in hindsight, Lois felt that Clark was either stalling to give himself some more time now that Luthor was out of the picture, or he was trying to save face for her. It would be just like Clark to say something like he just wanted to be friends, so she wouldn't feel awkward around him in the future. His actions of the last couple of months sure seemed like someone who wanted to be more than 'just friends'. His jealousy over her flirtations with Dan, and his inability to respond to Mayson's obvious infatuation, showed Lois more than words that Clark cared deeply for her.
The final epiphany for Lois had been about Superman. She cared deeply about the man, but she had finally realized how ridiculous her love for him was. She was understandably impressed by all the wondrous things he could do, as was everyone else in the world. She admired his selflessness and his compassion, and he was easy on the eyes, especially in that spandex suit. But for all that she could love *about* the man, she knew that she really couldn't love *the* man. He was larger than life, he was a god who walked like a man. He was not someone any normal person could share a relationship with. He belonged to the world. Even if he didn't spend all his time in the suit doing heroic deeds, he sure as heck didn't have time to enter into any sort of romantic entanglements.
Lois was glad that she had been able to finally let go of her superficial fantasies about Superman. It had allowed her to see just how great Clark really was. He was every bit as kind and compassionate a person as Superman could ever be. Lois didn't doubt, that if he had the powers, that Clark would do just as Superman did. Clark had always been there for her when she needed him. He'd always backed her up, whether he believed she was right or not. But more than that, he was not intimidated by her. She respected that. Too many men in her past had either been intimidated by an attractive woman with a brain and some ambition, or had lost interest once they found they couldn't control her.
Maybe she let herself be swept away by Lex because she thought he was someone she wouldn't overshadow. Of course, she now knew that Lex was more interested in the challenge and the 'prize' she had represented, than her, the actual person. Clark wasn't like that at all. He was funny, and caring, and it was clear that he respected her as a reporter, and as a person. Clearly, Clark was a special person in his own right. He was every bit her equal as a reporter, but she'd never tell him that, no sense in giving the lad a big head. He was confident without arrogance, and brave without any bravado. He also was a very good-looking man. Any woman in her right mind would love to be involved with a man like Clark Kent, actually any woman in her right mind would love to be involved *with* Clark Kent. She was glad he had waited until she came to her senses.
More than anything, the incident with Capone and his resurrected gangsters had caused Lois to begin to examine her true feelings for Clark. The thought that she had lost him forever had devastated her. The ache it caused in her heart, and the hole it left in her life were almost more than she could bear. Even through the confusion and misunderstandings they had after that, the abiding fact that Clark was still there had kept her going.
She wasn't sure what Clark had in mind for tonight, but she got the impression that he wanted her to come over for something special. The one thing that kept coming to mind she quickly dismissed. It really was too early for that yet. Besides, he was still uncertain about her feelings for him. Well, tonight that would end, tonight she was going to tell him straight out that she loved him. Her mouth curved into a sardonic smile as that thought crossed her mind. Let's see if he comes up with any videos that need returning when she laid that little nugget on him.
Lois couldn't help giving her hair one last finger fluff before she grabbed her wrap and, humming a cheery tune, left her apartment.
Clark Kent fussed over the salad he was tossing, continually picking out any lettuce leaves that looked the least bit brown around the edges, and making sure there were no pieces larger than bite size. The lettuce didn't actually have any brown around the edges since it was fresh, as were the tomatoes. He'd gotten them right from the farmer just a few hours ago. He gave the veal parmesan, still in the oven, a quick peek with his 'special' vision. It should be done in about a half an hour. Just enough time for he and Lois to have a casual drink before dinner. The wine was chilling, and the desert was appropriately chocolate. Clark wanted everything to be just perfect for tonight. Tonight was going to be the night.
No more running off leaving a lame excuse in his wake. No more deceptions, no more secrets from Lois. Tonight he was going to tell her. Even after the confusion of the last couple of months, Clark sensed that Lois was finally seeing her partner in a different light. Clark felt that the progress they had made recently, Lois coming to appreciate Clark for Clark, would let him let her in on the secret. He was no longer afraid that she favored the flashy Superman persona over her 'normal guy' partner. Clark shook his head. If fact, it seemed like Lois had been purposely distancing herself from Superman, which was a switch. Usually he was the one who had to remind himself to keep the professional public image intact around her. Lately, Lois had been friendly, but very businesslike in her dealings with the Man of Steel.
Clark wasn't kidding himself into thinking that there weren't going to be some problems with this little revelation tonight. Lois would probably be very angry. She would feel hurt and betrayed that he hadn't trusted her sooner. Clark clenched his fist when he thought of all the times in the past that she might believe that he was playing both identities against her for his own amusement or advantage. She wouldn't be entirely wrong either. That was one of the worst things. He had said and done inexcusable things, considering his privileged position. His main hope was that after a nice dinner and some conversation, she would hang around long enough to let him fully explain himself, and allow them to talk through the situation. Of course, Clark figured, Lois would also beat herself up for not figuring it out after all this time together.
Clark musings were interrupted by a soft knock at the door. Instinctively adjusting his glasses as he went, Clark hopped up the three steps to his front door. Upon opening it, he was greeted with a sight that never failed to take his breath away or cause his heart to skip a beat. Lois stood out on the front stoop, a shy smile on her face. She was dressed casually in a light blue sleeveless turtleneck, and a pair of white slacks. Her hair was brushed to such a glossy shine that her lighter auburn highlights glinted in the early evening sun. Clark's eyes locked onto hers with such an intensity that she had to look away for a moment.
She cleared her throat. "Um, hi — are you going to invite me in?"
Her voice startled Clark out of his trance-like state. "Oh, ah, sure — come on in." He stepped aside to allow her to enter. His face felt hot from his blush. "Dinner will be ready soon. I thought we could relax with a glass of wine before eating."
She gave him a dazzling smile as she made her way toward the living area. "Sounds good. Something smells wonderful — you are going to make someone a terrific wife someday." She giggled as she sat on the couch.
"Someday," he said as he handed her a glass of rose'. "So, what do you think of… er, this weather?"
Clark could have kicked himself for acting like a tongue-tied high- schooler. What was wrong with him? This was Lois, his partner, and his best friend. They talked to each other all the time. Why was it so hard now? He knew the answer of course. This wasn't just anytime. This was the night he confessed everything to her — his love, and his other self.
Lois found herself giggling at Clark's discomfort. She knew that he'd had something on his mind when he asked her over tonight, but it was so cute to see him this way.
"Well, the weather has been just beautiful the last couple of days, but, you know, I didn't come over to talk about the weather."
Lois wondered if she should spill her guts now, or wait till after dinner. At least she should wait till after Clark had gotten whatever it was that he needed to say off his chest first. Oh no, she thought, the last time I let him go first he just confused me with that retraction of his earlier pledge of love for her. This time she was going to have her say first.
"Clark, I've been doing a lot of thinking over these last few months and… Clark?" Lois noticed 'that look' in Clark's eyes again. Oh no, she silently wailed, not now.
Clark focused on Lois with a panicky look on his face. "Lois, ah, I'm sorry but I just remembered that I forgot — to pick up some bread sticks." He stood and looked to the door. "Just relax, the bakery is just down the street. I'll be back before you know it." He eased his way to the door. "If the oven timer should go off, just pull the dish out and set it up top to cool. I'll be back shortly, sorry." And he was gone.
Lois got up off the couch and walked over to the table that had been already set. The candles hadn't been lit yet, but the table settings were all out, as was a cloth covered basket which, when Lois peered under the cloth revealed several bread sticks, still warm as if they had just come from the oven mere minutes ago. She sighed as she let the cloth drop and stared at the front door.
True to his word, Clark was gone for only a few minutes. He arrived back at the apartment just as the oven timer went off. He quickly set to the final preparations for the dinner. Lois didn't even ask why he hadn't brought back any bread sticks with him. Except for some initial comments on how good everything tasted, the two partners ate in relative silence through the early portion of the meal. Clark had placed some soft music on the stereo, and both pretended to be listening to that.
As the meal progressed the tension eased and they began to exchange small talk. Lois gave Clark a run down on her last call to Lucy, and Clark told Lois how things were going with his folks after she had asked about them. By the time the chocolate mousse came out for desert, they were joking and laughing over Ralph's latest attempt at seducing the new gal in personals.
Lois felt like she was waddling as she made her way over to the couch, dropping down into the soft cushions with an audible sigh. "Dinner was great, Clark, but I don't think I'll be able to move for a least a week." She grinned. "If I keep hanging around you I'm going to weigh two hundred pounds."
"Somehow, I don't think so." Clark handed her a glass of sparkling water as he sat at the other end of the couch. "Lois, as much as I love it when you come over, I did have a special reason for asking you over tonight."
Uh-oh, Lois thought, here it comes. If it's anything like she thought it might be, she wanted to get her say in first.
"I guessed as much, Clark, but before you say anything I have something to say myself." She saw that he was going to protest so she cut him off. "No, Clark, me first. If I read things correctly, the last time I let you go first, you set back the progress of this partnership by several months and helped fuel a lot of confusion about things between us."
Clark raised his hands in a gesture of surrender, not entirely displeased to postpone his own little speech. "Okay, you first."
Lois turned to look Clark directly in the face. "First you need to know that the confusion of the last few months was just that, confusion. Dan never really meant anything to me. You were sending me these conflicting signals and Dan was handy. Mayson's death was tragic, but I don't think she really needs to be a part of this discussion." Lois took a deep breath. "What it boils down to is: Clark Kent, and Superman." She saw a wary look in his eye.
"I know that you have been uncomfortable with my publicly-expressed feelings for Superman over the last year. I had always just chalked it up to jealousy, and I suppose some of it could be. But things have happened over these last few months that have caused me to open my eyes and see things in a different light." Lois reached out and grabbed Clark's hand. "At that farce of a wedding to Lex, I wasn't thinking about my upcoming life with Lex, nor was I thinking about Superman's rejection of me. I was thinking about you, and how much I missed you." Lois let herself sigh. "And that day I spent thinking you were dead was the worst day of my life. The thought of not having you in my life anymore was almost more than I could bear." Lois shook her head sadly. "I hate to think what would have happened to me if I had lost you for good." She smiled at Clark.
"But that didn't answer my feelings for Superman. That just took time. Time for logic to come and assert itself on my poor overwhelmed brain." Lois chuckled. "Like everyone else I was enchanted by this larger-than-life superhero. I was lucky to be close enough to him to realize what a special, caring person he was, and I couldn't help but be drawn to such a person. He was powerful, good looking, and he cared about others. But I finally realized that I couldn't love him."
Clark was clearly confused. "Lois, I don't understand."
"Clark, Superman belongs to the world. He can't commit to one person. And I know that I'm too selfish to share him with four billion other people. It was that realization that gave me the clarity to see you for who you are. You are every bit as caring and compassionate as Superman." Lois cocked her head and gave Clark a crooked smile. "And once I really allowed myself to look, you are every bit as good-looking too." She laughed at his blush. "Clark, you are funny, and you are there for me when I need you. You put up with those occasional times when I might be out of sorts… don't give me that look." She frowned at him, but her frown quickly turned into another smile. "See," she said. "No one else could get away with that with me." She gave both of his hands a squeeze. "What I'm trying to say is, Clark Kent, I'm in love with you, and you alone."
"Lois, I'm not sure how to answer that." Clark clenched and unclenched his hands.
"Tell me that you truly do love me too." Her eyes pleaded with the hesitant man sitting in front of her.
"Lois, I do love you. I have from the moment I saw you in Perry's office that day. There was just something about you that touched something in me that has never been touched before." Clark ran his hand through his hair, a gesture Lois knew well.
"But there is something I have to tell you. Something you have to know before we can go any further in our relationship." Clark fidgeted with his hands and stared at the couch cushion in front of him. "In light of what you have told me tonight, I'm afraid you are going to be more upset than I originally suspected." He looked up and met her eyes. "Lois…"
Lois felt a hand begin to tighten around her heart. She was suddenly afraid of what Clark was going to say. It was obvious that it wasn't going to be what she thought it was.
Her voice was soft with the hint of a tear in it. "Just say it."
Clark took one deep breath. "I'm Superman."
Lois wasn't sure she heard him correctly. Her brain had suddenly ceased to function. Whatever possibilities that had passed through her mind before this moment, whatever she thought Clark might be going to say, what she thought she heard certainly wasn't it.
"What?" There was a quaver in her voice.
"I'm sorry, Lois, I know I should have told you sooner. You have to believe me when I tell you how much I wanted to tell you before this, but I just didn't know when it would be the right time."
"You're Superman?" Lois was still dealing with the original pronouncement.
Clark nodded once and levitated a couple of feet off the seat of the couch. Lois' hands flew to her mouth as tears flooded her eyes. Clark reached for her but she pulled back and scrambled off the couch. Her hands left her mouth to clench hard at her sides, her teeth finding her bottom lip as her tears fell in earnest.
"Lois, I'm sorry. I know you are upset. Please allow me to explain. I know you are probably mad because I didn't tell you sooner. You probably don't think I trust you, but believe me I do. It just has been so hard recently with all the confusion in our relationship and everything. If you and I could just… what?"
Lois was just holding up her hand and shaking her head in denial. "You don't understand. This is the worst thing you could have told me."
Clark looked bewildered. "I know that you had some problems resolving your feelings between me and Superman, and I apologize for the complications I may have caused but," he tried a weak grin, "at least now you can have both?"
Lois' mind was a mad jumble of past images and incidents. All the times he ran off with some lame excuse. The times that one of them would seem to know things that she had told the other. The fact that she never actually saw them together. It all made a terrible sense. She should have seen it, but she'd been blind to it. At first, she wouldn't want to admit that her icon of male perfection would pull a prank, or argue with her over edits to her copy. Later she wouldn't want to know that the man she had decided was the one she wanted would turn out to be the one she had decided she didn't. Lois felt her heart breaking as she realized that the hopes she had been building up for her and Clark were now irrevocably shattered. The dreams of a future together as more than just friends were now crumbled to dust.
Clark tried to break through Lois' preoccupation with her despair. "Lois, talk to me. I know you're mad. Let it out, we can talk it out."
Lois shook her head as she wiped at her tears with the back of her hand. "No, I'm not mad." Lois stopped as she examined those feelings. "I take that back, I am mad, and I am upset. But those are feelings I will get over in time. What I am, mostly, is sick at heart. I really had hopes that you and I could build a real relationship based on our love for each other, but now that's gone."
"Lois, it doesn't have to be. I know you feel betrayed by this, but I never meant to hurt you, I do trust you, and I do love you. You have to believe that."
Lois sniffled and wiped her face again. "No, it's gone now. Clark, you are missing the point. I want a man that I can go to sleep with at night, and wake up in his arms the next morning. Will you be able to do that, or will you be called away in the middle of the night time and time again?" She took a shuddering deep breath. "Will I be forced to be the one who has to make the lame excuses every time you have to run out on an engagement, or an event we are attending? Clark, you weren't even able to be here for this entire dinner date! I assume the 'going out for bread sticks' which, by the way, you already had sitting on the table, was a call for Superman." He didn't speak, but the look on his face told her she was right.
"Clark, I told you that I wasn't about to share Superman with four billion other people, and I'm still not. The revelation that you are Superman doesn't change how I feel about him, or that situation. What it does do is destroy any chance we had at a life together as more than just friends." Lois shook her fists at her sides. "I'm sorry." She turned and headed for the door.
Clark quickly jumped off the couch and followed. "Lois, wait! We can work this out, I can…"
Lois pinned him to his spot with her hard stare, the tears still glistening in the light from the overhead lamp. "You can what? Give up being Superman? Even if I thought you could, I wouldn't let you. I don't want that on my conscious. You'd begin to resent me for forcing you into that choice." Lois sighed weakly. "Besides, the world needs Superman. Not only for the things he does, but for the hope he gives people everywhere. I told you that once, and I still believe it."
Lois came back and placed her hands on either side of his face. She pulled him down to her and kissed him as if her life depended on it. It was a kiss full of unfulfilled desire and love. It was goodbye.
Lois forced herself to smile at Clark. "Clark, you are still my partner, you are still my best friend, and I will always love you, but I can no longer *be* in love with you. I won't do that to myself — or you. A part time romance is no romance at all." She turned back to the door and pulled on the handle. "Please tell Perry I need to take a couple of days off. I'll see you around." Lois quickly slipped into the night.
Clark stood, rooted to the spot, gazing at the space where Lois had stood a bare two minutes before, her parting words echoing in his head.
<You are still my best friend, and I will always love you, but I can no longer *be* in love with you…>
She loved him, but she'd just dumped him!
He shook his head slowly in disbelief, as if he could somehow deny the reality of what had happened. Lois had told him she *loved* him, words he had waited so long to hear. And yet she'd walked out, rejecting what they could have together — rejecting his love for her. How had it all gone wrong?
Because of Superman, he acknowledged bitterly. Superman… the non- existent caricature who'd made his life a misery for over a year because Lois had fallen for the man in tights instead of her partner. She'd chased Superman down for months, ostensibly for stories but in reality because she was infatuated with him. She'd even rejected Clark for Superman, on the previous occasion on which he'd told her he loved her.
But things had got better, and she had been *dating* him for the past couple of months. They had shared a number of kisses, from which she had seemed to gain as much pleasure as he had. And although nothing had ever been said between them, he'd suspected that she was every bit as attracted to him as he was to her, that she had been equally tempted, on several occasions, to throw caution to the wind and make love with him. He even suspected that seduction might have been on her mind for tonight: she'd worn more make-up than usual, though in a very elegant and understated manner; although she'd been dressed fairly casually, he'd suspected that her blue top was new — he certainly hadn't seen it before; and there had just been something about her manner, about the way she'd looked at him, the way she'd touched him from time to time. Lois was a very tactile person anyway, but this had been different. This hadn't been the touch of a good friend; these were caresses. And over dinner, she had smiled at him over the rim of her wine-glass, and the love she'd later told him she felt for him had been clearly visible in her eyes.
That was what had given him hope that everything was going to be all right. Lois loved him; he knew she loved Superman, or at least cared for him as a friend and respected everything he stood for. So why shouldn't she be happy to discover that the two were one and the same? He'd come to suspect, after all, that some of Lois's skittishness about dating him in the first place related to feeling torn between her partner and her Super-hero. Of course, a lot of it was also due to the other men who had played a major role in her life, but he felt sure that he hadn't helped by confusing her with his two identities.
So why hadn't everything gone to plan?
He could have understood if she'd been angry, or hurt, or both, about his lying to her. He could have dealt with that. He could also have accepted it if she'd simply said that she needed time to get used to knowing that Clark and Superman were one and the same. That would have been understandable. After all, it had to be a shock.
But that hadn't been her reason. No. She didn't want Superman.
What had she said about Superman? 'He can't commit to one person. And I know that I'm too selfish to share him with four billion other people.'
Clark shook his head dazedly. Did she have the first clue of what she was talking about? Of course he could commit! He was committed to his parents. He was committed to her! There was no question of his commitment to the relationship which they could have. How could she doubt him like that?
But he paused, removing his glasses and pinching the bridge of his nose as he forced himself to think this through. When Lois had said that, she hadn't known he was Superman. What had she said once he'd told her?
Her words came flying back to him, hitting him with a force greater than when she'd first said them — at the time, after all, he'd still been reeling from her statement that his confession had been the worst thing he could possibly have told her. <I want a man that I can go to sleep with at night and wake up in his arms the next morning. Will you be able to do that, or will you be called away in the middle of the night time and time again?>
Well, could he give her *that* sort of commitment? Sighing, he had to admit to himself that he probably couldn't.
And if that was the case, and this was what Lois wanted, then he had no right expecting her to be in love with him, to marry him. She was right to reject him.
And in that case, he couldn't stay. There was just no way he could carry on working next to Lois, day after day, still in love with her and knowing she had feelings for him, and yet having to pretend that they were just partners and fr…
No. They weren't friends any more — how could they be? He knew of people who were ex-lovers and who had managed to turn their relationship into that of friends, but how could he do that with Lois? They'd never even been lovers. She'd rejected him for the reason he'd always secretly feared rejection: because he was alien.
<No, that's not fair> his conscience objected. Lois had never had a problem with Superman being alien; she'd even wanted a relationship with Superman at one point. It wasn't the fact that he was alien; it was the fact that he had an extra-curricular activity which would take him away from her from time to time.
<And isn't that pretty damned shallow and selfish of her?!> he demanded silently.
<But how would you feel, if your positions were reversed?> his conscience pointed out.
So maybe he should just go; pack up, post a letter to Perry handing in his notice, and leave. He could start again somewhere else — or perhaps just become Superman full-time. That might be better: that way he wouldn't be in a position to get too close to people again. He wouldn't have his heart broken again… if it ever repaired itself from this break.
Half-way into his bedroom to begin packing, Clark stopped dead. No. He wasn't going to leave. Leaving solved nothing. He'd had too much of packing up and moving on in his life as it was. And anyway…
And anyway, this was *crazy*! Lois loved him — she'd told him so! So how could she just walk away and by doing so deny each other something incredibly special?
She couldn't. He knew Lois — who knew her better than him now? Lois never let anything go. She simply wasn't capable of it — even after their first date, when she'd run scared and slammed the door in his face, she hadn't backed out of their possible relationship. No; she'd confessed to him that she'd been scared, and she'd allowed him to move on. He'd kissed her, she'd kissed him — he didn't even know which of them had made the first move.
If Lois had been the kind of person who could just walk away, she'd have left the Planet after Claude; she would have been too ashamed to come back to the Planet after the Luthor fiasco. She'd have dropped countless investigations which had suddenly become too hot to handle. But Lois wasn't like that. She was tenacious, stubborn, and very, very loyal.
He wasn't sure. But what he did know was that he wasn't about to give up on them just yet. Not without making at least one good try at winning her back.
Lois hadn't gone far from Clark's apartment before a surge of reaction hit her. Realizing she was shaking, she pulled the Jeep over to the side of the road and cut the engine, knowing she was in no fit state to drive.
<I'm Superman> Two words she had never imagined she'd hear from Clark.
She'd gone over to his apartment with such high hopes. She'd known it was a special evening, and she'd fully expected him to tell her he loved her; she'd thought she was being so trusting of him, so open about her feelings, by insisting on going first. She'd even thought it was the right thing to do, given the previous occasion on which he'd told her he loved her and she'd slapped him down. This time, she'd thought, she would tell him first, to let him know he didn't have to worry about being rejected.
And then he'd dropped his bombshell.
Clark. Superman. Clark *was* Superman… and she'd just told Clark that she could never have a relationship with Superman because she couldn't share him with the world.
Well, yes, that was the conclusion she had reached. And she'd reached it for good reasons, too: Superman was always busy, always flying off somewhere to help someone. He rarely stayed around long enough to finish a conversation. How could she have a relationship with someone like that?
But she'd never known he was Clark before. And Clark did stay around — okay, not always; he did make stupid excuses sometimes and disappear for a time. He'd even done it tonight. But there were plenty of times when he didn't run off. Look at the night she'd been terrified that Kyle Griffin was going to kill her: he'd been at his apartment, had welcomed her in and had taken care of her. He'd put her to bed on his couch, and… well, it was possible that he could have left during the night to be Superman, but she knew Clark. She would bet serious money that he'd stayed in his apartment all night, guarding her.
She couldn't deny that whenever she needed a friend, Clark was there for her.
He also held down a full-time job, with her as his partner. So… just how much of his time did he spend being Superman?
But that wasn't the point, she reminded herself quickly, dashing away a stray tear with a vicious sweep of the back of her hand. He *could* be called on to be Superman at any time. Which meant that she could never be certain that he'd be around when she needed him; they would never be able to make plans and be sure that he'd be able to see them through. And that just wasn't the kind of relationship she needed.
After all, she reminded herself, she'd seen her mother go through the same uncertainty year after year, never knowing whether her father would be there for birthdays, special holidays, school plays and sports days, or just to spend time with his wife. And so, having seen her parents' example, Lois had always determined that she wasn't going to settle for the kind of relationship where she was her partner's second priority. She wanted to be the most important thing in his life, and she wasn't willing to settle for less.
<But Clark's not like Daddy… Daddy had affairs. His work was only an excuse…>
Maybe so, she reminded the tiny voice of her conscience. But it's still something which will keep taking Clark away from me, even if it is his job.
<And don't you know what it's like to be so committed to your job that the rest of the world just has to take a back seat sometimes?> her conscience pointed out.
That was true, Lois acknowledged, but it wasn't really Clark's *job* which would take him away from her either. The job wouldn't be a problem, since they worked together: anything which kept him busy there would also take up her time. This was an extracurricular activity.
He was *Superman*. And what she'd said to him in his apartment was still true: she would never want to stop him being Superman, doing what he could to help people in trouble.
But since she couldn't bear to be the kind of girlfriend who had to sit around and wait for her boyfriend to return from saving the world, she'd had to walk away. Even though she loved him — as *much* as she loved him — she couldn't settle for anything less than complete commitment from him.
And yet she still loved Clark, loved him more than she could ever love anyone else.
She'd made the right decision, she knew that. So why did it feel like someone had stuck a knife straight into her heart and was twisting it around and around?
Why couldn't she rid herself of the idea that she'd made a horrible mistake?
A tiny voice inside her head was screaming at her to turn the car around and drive back to Clark's apartment. They could at least try to talk this through, the voice was insisting. There had to be a way; some sort of compromise, some means whereby they could be together. She loved him so much; she just couldn't throw that away, surely?
<No-one said breaking up was easy> she told herself. And sometimes breaking up, no matter how much it hurts, was the right thing to do. And anyway, after what she'd just done, there was no way he'd even want to look at her, let along talk to her. Leave well enough alone. It was over.
She took a deep breath in an attempt to calm herself. She'd told Clark to tell Perry she was taking a couple of days off; that was a good idea. She should get away, maybe go to a hotel upstate, or fly down to California to see Lucy. She needed some space and some time away from Clark. Maybe once she'd thought everything through and reassured herself that she'd made the right decision, coming back to work alongside him wouldn't be so impossible to contemplate.
<I love him… I'll always love him…>
She turned the key in the ignition, intending to drive home. But even though the engine started first time, the Jeep wouldn't move. Puzzled, she pressed the accelerator harder; still nothing happened. Then she caught sight of something in the driving mirror — a flash of a very familiar shade of blue.
Clark hadn't taken no for an answer after all.
She rolled down her window and leaned out, not bothering to raise her voice since she knew he could hear her. "Clark, go home. Leave me alone."
Suddenly he'd come around to stand by the side of her car, and he was pulling her door open. "Sorry, Lois, I can't do that."
She tried to take advantage of the fact that he was no longer restraining the Jeep to hit the accelerator again, but he was too fast for her. In less than the blink of an eye he held her keys in his hand. Glaring at him, she yelled, "Why can't you just leave me alone?"
"Because I can't, Lois," he replied quietly, his tone intense. "Don't ever ask me to walk away from you. I just can't do it."
That was nearly her undoing. Blinking away tears again, she deliberately averted her gaze from him. "Please. Let me go," she muttered.
But suddenly she was being scooped up in a pair of strong arms, and before she could even protest he was locking the Jeep door and drifting upwards with her held close to his chest. Hammering against his hard body with her fists, she protested vehemently, but he ignored her until they were well above the roofs of nearby buildings.
"Stop hitting me, Lois. I barely feel it, and you'll only hurt yourself," he advised her.
"You… you can't just abduct me like this!" she flung at him angrily.
"Who's going to stop me?" he answered in an irritatingly superior voice. "Are you? You going to call the police?"
Lois could barely believe Clark was doing this. Clark had never really exhibited any macho tendencies in the two years she'd known him — well, apart from the time he'd thrown her out of that nightclub when they'd been investigating the Toasters, and then she'd concluded that he'd been playing a role to go with his cover. Other than that, apart from his over-developed protective streak Clark was a pretty decent, unassertive guy.
He'd certainly never gone around kidnapping anyone before.
But Superman, on the other hand… yes, Lois could imagine Superman turning masterful if things didn't go precisely as he wanted them. And Clark *was* Superman, so did that mean she didn't really know Clark?
It didn't stop her loving him…
And from what he'd said to her — 'don't ever ask me to walk away from you' — it seemed that what she'd done hadn't stopped him loving her, either.
But she still refused to share him. So where did they go from here?
Clark was doing his best to avoid looking at Lois; he couldn't bear the thought of glancing in her direction only to see her regarding him with hatred or disgust. He simply concentrated on flying, on reaching their destination as quickly as possible bearing in mind the need to protect Lois against vaporisation.
This could very possibly turn out to be the most stupid thing he'd ever done. But the way he'd seen it, he had no choice. If he did nothing, he would lose Lois. If he did this, what was the worst that could happen? She could decide she hated him and didn't even want to be his friend any more. But since he knew he couldn't bear to remain in Metropolis without Lois as his girlfriend, as someone special in his life, that was hardly a worse outcome than if he did nothing.
And, this way, there was always the faint possibility that she might actually listen to him.
He saw their destination ahead and began to lower their altitude; a couple of minutes later he was depositing her gently on the coarse grass of a deserted mountainside. He wasn't remotely surprised when she immediately stepped back from him and glared in his direction.
"What's this all about, Clark?" she demanded; to his surprise, her tone was resigned, not angry.
"I wanted to talk to you, somewhere where you couldn't just walk out on me at any moment," he explained. Realizing how controlling that sounded, he added quickly, "Of course, if you don't want to talk, or you've had enough, all you have to do is say so and I'll fly you home." She didn't comment, though her expression remained watchful. Grimacing, he added, "Lois, please, I just think we should talk about this. I can't just let it end. You might be able to walk away from us, but I can't."
She shook her head in rejection. "Clark… Superman… oh, I can't talk to you like this!" she muttered impatiently.
He spun, and in under a second was standing in front of her dressed as Clark. He noticed with some satisfaction that her jaw had dropped, but she quickly composed herself and returned to defending her position. "Clark, I told you. I won't share you. I want a relationship with someone who will always put me first. You just can't give me that."
He stared at her in disbelief. "Lois, if you don't know by now that you are the most important person in my life… I *would* give up Superman for you, if you asked me to, you know."
"Yeah, and like I said, I wouldn't want that on my conscience," she threw back at him.
"I know. And that's why you won't ask me," he agreed. Fixing her with an earnest expression, he continued, "Lois, I could tell you any number of things, make you all sorts of promises — like cutting back on the kind of things I do, for a start. I could do that, you know — I help out at a lot of incidents where the police or emergency services could manage without me, but I go because I can. Because there isn't really anything else important I should be doing. That can change. But, you see, Lois, I know that no matter how many promises of that kind I made you here, it wouldn't change anything for you."
"You do?" She looked surprised, as if she hadn't expected him to see her perspective so easily.
"Yeah, I understand that. Lois, the only thing that's going to convince you that I'm committed to you is time. I'm asking you to give me that time — give us time to be together as a couple, dating seriously. You know where I go now when I run off — you know it's not because I'm afraid of commitment. Give me some time to show you that I can be there for you when you need me."
She was watching him warily, scepticism in her expression. At that last plea, however, she interrupted. "Clark, you just can't do that! If we're going somewhere special for the evening and there's a newsflash to say that there's an earthquake in Tokyo, you're going to go, aren't you?"
"Probably," he answered, inclining his head. "But, Lois, not every incident is an earthquake, or even life-threatening. I don't have to go to everything. And I won't."
"Clark…" Her voice almost cracked on his name. "I want to believe you, but I'm afraid…"
He took the few steps which separated them and pulled her into his arms; she resisted briefly but then allowed him to hold her close to him. "Lois, I know you're afraid. But I'm not your father. I'm not Claude. I love you, and I'm not going to abandon you."
"But you always run off," she protested, her voice now thick with tears.
"And I'll always come back," he assured her softly, all his love for her in his voice. "Lois, you mean more to me than anything or anyone else. You're the reason I'm still in Metropolis — before, I could never stay anywhere longer than a few months or a year. You gave me the incentive to become Superman in the first place, and you gave me the courage to carry on being him when it got tough. You're the only person I have *ever* told about me, and you're the only woman I've ever told I love her. Now do you see why I'll do just about anything possible to make this relationship work?"
She was silent for a few moments, and he wondered whether he had failed after all. Was she about to tell him that she could never accept his dual role and that she wanted him to leave her alone?
When she pulled away from him, he was convinced that she was about to dash his hopes permanently. Tears streamed down her pale cheeks, and her eyes, blurred by further tears, stared up at him bleakly.
"Clark… I just don't know if I can do it," she whispered.
His hands dropped to her shoulders, holding her in a reassuring grip. "Lois, I know you can do it. *We* can do it together."
"What makes you so sure?" she asked, her voice still unsteady. "Clark — all of my relationships have been federal disasters. I hoped that with you… but how do I know we wouldn't end up exactly the same way? I know I'd get jealous and angry, and I'd take it out on you, and I'd make your life miserable. It just wouldn't work."
"It will work, Lois," Clark told her insistently, holding her gaze with his.
"How do you know?"
"Because it has to. You and me together is too important for this not to work," he said huskily. "I will do whatever I have to, to make sure you're happy."
She ducked her head, remaining silent, and he simply continued to hold her, hoping that his words were sinking in and that she'd accept that he was right. After a while, she raised her gaze again to meet his. "Clark — why are you so sure? Why did you come after me, after what I said to you?"
He smiled; it had all become very simple, once he'd allowed himself to think clearly back at his apartment. "It was what you said, Lois. You told me that you loved me, but that you could no longer be *in* love with me." He paused, releasing his hold on her with one hand in order to trail his index finger along her cheek. "You can't just turn love on and off like a tap, Lois. You don't just decide not to love someone any more. You told me you loved me — that you were *in* love with me — before you knew I'm Superman. You still love me, no matter how much you tell yourself now that you don't want to be in love with me. That's why I'm sure."
Again, she was silent in response to his argument. He knew he was on firm ground here; once he had started thinking straight, he'd realized that in spite of her words she did love him. And, that being so, there had to be hope for them. But at the same time, Lois was entirely unpredictable; she might still decide to reject his plea.
But she leaned into him, seeking the comfort of his embrace again. "Clark… how come you can take my words and tell me what I really meant, and just make so much sense?"
He shrugged, pausing to drop a soft kiss on the top of her head. "Because I love you… because you're too important to me for me to let you go without trying to convince you… because I just can't imagine my life without you… because when something is as essential to you as breathing, you don't just walk away and accept that you don't have it any more." His words were murmured against her hair, interspersed with gentle kisses against the soft tresses.
"Clark…" She pulled back a little way again so that she could see him. "I do love you. I *am* in love with you. But… you really threw me a curveball, you know? I… got scared."
"I know. And you want to know something, Lois?" he asked her ruefully. "I'm scared too. Terrified of losing you, that one day you'll tell me you can't deal with me being Superman any more. But I'm willing to take the risk, because I figure that even if it does go wrong, at least I'll have had you for a time first."
"Whereas if I'd had my way, we'd never even have known what we could have," she whispered, staring up at him."
"Yeah, I guess so," he answered. "Lois… what do you want from me?"
Her arms around him tightened. "I want you — I want you never to let me go, to always tell me you love me, and I want you always to come back."
"I love you," he answered immediately. "And I'll never willingly walk away from you. You'd have to tell me to go — and even then I'll probably do something like this again and come after you."
"You better!" she pronounced. "Clark… okay, I was unbelievably stupid, and I should have trusted what I feel for you — what I know you feel for me. Can we start again? Pretend you've just told me you're Superman?"
Relieved beyond belief, since it was clear that she wasn't planning on dumping him after all, he smiled widely. They had a future after all. Maybe there wouldn't be wedding bells in the near future, but once he'd shown her that he did intend to keep his word, that Superman could cut back, and that even when he couldn't Lois was still the most important person in his life, perhaps then she would trust him enough to plan a future with him.
"Lois, there's something I need to tell you…"