By Christy2 <SuperJack88@cs.com>
Submitted: October 2001
Summary: After Clark breaks up with Lois for "her own good," Lois decides that she does not want to see him. What will it take for them to realize that they still love each other?
This story is based on the song "Austin," by Blake Shelton, so thanks to it for inspiration. Also, I would like to thank Tricia for her wonderful editing and motivating skills, Bethy for all her help, and all those on Zoomway's boards who commented.
Lois slowly pushed open her door, juggling her keys, her laptop, her large bottle of cream soda, and her tub of chocolate ice cream. She entered the dark apartment, then nudged her shoulder against the light switch. Even as the small room that she stood in was bathed in light, she wryly thought that it still seemed eerily dark. She headed into the kitchen to deposit her load.
She unceremoniously dropped her laptop onto her small kitchen table, and then winced slightly at the loud crashing sound it made. She peered down at the machine, fearfully wondering if she had broken it. Then, with a slight shake of her head, she turned away. Oh well, it wasn't as though the computer was the first thing she had broken.
She continued to drop her keys, but was more careful with the cream soda, not wanting to shake it up in case she was to open it. Then, she stumbled on her high heels across the kitchen to the freezer. She opened the door and stood in front of the freezer, allowing the icy air to race over her. She still held the ice cream, and she contemplated whether she should put it away or not. Then, clutching the small carton to her breast protectively, she let the door close over the cold recesses of the freezer. Tonight seemed like a very good night to keep the ice cream close at hand.
After carefully setting the chocolate on the countertop for use in the near future, she kicked off her high heels in the direction of her bedroom. Then, stripping off her dress as she went, she followed her shoes into her room. She headed to her dresser and opened the top drawer. She swallowed the hard lump that was lodged in her throat as she gazed at the drawer's contents. There, standing out as if mocking her, lay the old Midwestern U sweatshirt. In a kind of trance, she reached down and picked the shirt up. She stared at it blankly for a moment, in another time, another world, before with a burst of anger she threw it onto her floor, and settled instead for a T-shirt of her own. She pulled it on over her head, relieved by the feeling of normalcy that it brought her. The T-shirt held no lingering smells, no lingering memories.
After putting on a pair of comfortable running shorts, she headed back into her living room. She slumped down on to the couch, and it was after doing so that she realized she had forgotten the chocolate ice cream.
<Forgotten it, or lost it forever? > that annoying voice nagged bitterly. It was the same voice that she had heard for the past month. The voice of anger, the voice of cynicism, but mostly, the voice of regret.
She shuddered at her thoughts. It had been a full month to the day. A whole month since she had walked away. She huddled down into the fleece blanket that adorned her couch, as if hiding under the comfort of the throw would dash all her thoughts away. However, the blanket did nothing for her, it only reminded her of the emptiness that ate ravenously at her. It couldn't save her. It hadn't saved her the countless other nights that she sat in this very same way, and it wouldn't save her now.
She reached for her television remote control, but stilled when she decided that watching television wouldn't help anything. If she tried to concentrate on something else, the thoughts would haunt her even more, gnawing at the back of her mind like some demon. So then, what was she to do? She was left with the same circular problem, the one with no end. She would think back, try desperately to find where things went wrong and what in the world had possessed her to act so extremely.
It truly felt so much longer than just a month, yet she still remembered the occurrence so well. As she curled up tightly under the blanket, her mind traveled back to the night.
She had finally realized, or at least, finally been ready to admit, that she loved him for who he really was, Kansas farmboy, top-notch reporter, and superhero, more than anything else in the world, and that she couldn't live without him. She had been ready to accept his proposal, and therefore accept him in her life forever.
And then, in some crazed streak of nobleness, he had sapped all the joy out of her life, just as quickly as he had previously filled it. That night, the night that he had dumped her for 'her own good', as he claimed, had been the worst night of her life. Never before had she been so badly burned, because never before had she put all of her trust in one man's hands. And when that trust, and her heart, had been thrown onto the ground and crushed.
The grief that she felt had been forced to subside when her anger had pushed forward above all other emotions. As it had always been in her life, hiding beneath her anger was the safest way of going about things, and so she did. As soon as she could think, however unclearly, she decided that if Clark didn't want to see her, she didn't want to see him.
The next day when he came to see how she was doing after her concussion, she told her mother not to allow him entrance into her apartment. She knew it would hurt him, but she didn't care. Rather, she felt a strange send of pleasure, which she realized with surprise, was some sort of revenge. She could make him feel as hurt as he had made her feel.
When he called her, she refused to answer the phone, time and time again. She didn't even understand why he was trying to talk to her. He had dumped her! He had made it clear that he no longer wanted to be seen with her, so why did he keep trying to contact her?
When she was finally able to return to work, she called Perry and requested more time off, but her editor had obviously known what was happening between his two star reporters. He had pleaded for her to return to the Planet, telling her that her partner was falling away from world, but she had firmly refused. Even her mother had urged her to return, saying she didn't want her daughter's relationships to end up the same way hers had. The whole matter had gone beyond anger by that point, though, and it had been her stubbornness and pride that had kept her from running back into the arms of her love and begging him to take her back.
After a week had gone by since she last saw him, she received an envelope in the mail with no return address, but his hand had clearly written her name. She contemplated whether or not she should open it, and finally decided that it would be okay if she did, because he would never know she had. As she read the contents of the letter, tears began to form in her eyes.
If you're reading this, I assume you decided to open my letter. In this past week since we've been apart, I've realized what a mistake my actions were that night, and I'm truly sorry about what happened. I never wanted things to be carried this far, but I can understand your reaction. I've gone back to Smallville for a while. I'm not sure when I'll be back. If you want to call, you know the number.
P.S. I still love you.'
After reading the letter, Lois had been devastated. She never would have guessed that he would go to such extreme measures as leaving Metropolis. If she had known he would, she would have returned to his loving embrace so much sooner. She had just wanted him to respect her, and be there for her, but instead, she had managed to completely obscure their perfect lives.
Lois had practically ran to his apartment that day clutching his letter in one fist, hoping against hope that he hadn't left yet, but he had. The apartment had been empty, and after letting herself in with the key he had lent her long ago, she found that many of his belongings were missing. She had staggered around him home blindly, horrified that he had actually run away. She sank down into the couch, and as she read and reread his letter over and over again, her tears smeared his words.
She had returned to the Planet the next day and Perry had been surprisingly sympathetic to her, though she knew he was angry that Clark had left. Much to her disappointment, though, Jimmy had been extremely cool towards her, and even now he wasn't the same boisterous young man that had once been one of her good friends. Not that she was too surprised though, she had always known that Jimmy was much closer to Clark than to her, so it wasn't unexpected when he believed that she had been the one to drive Clark away. Neither Perry nor Jimmy knew the whole story behind the fight, but they were right. She had driven him away. Despite this, she had gotten back into the groove of things quickly, and had buried her pain. She spent nearly all her waking hours at the Planet. However, her writing talent was at a standstill, and her days as a star reporter were slowly diminishing. She had been well aware of it, too, but she just couldn't work as well partnerless, and friendless.
Now, a month after Clark left, she was doing little better. She was still the empty corpse that crawled mechanically through life, day after endless day, waiting for that one thing to return her soul to her. However, it had never happened. Now, all she had to cling on to were memories that were slowly fading away.
She could remember the nights when she and Clark would spend a late night at one of their apartments, working on a story, sharing dinner, or just spending time together watching a movie. She remembered their first date, their first kiss, the night Clark asked her to marry him. Why had she been so dumb? How she longed to go back to that night and change everything.
A tear trickled its way down her cheek, following the course of hundreds before it. She impassively wiped it away. It wasn't as if she was afraid of crying, or even that she didn't want to. It was just that there was hardly any tears left to cry.
She had been staring blankly into space, but when she dully focused her eyes, they landed on the cordless telephone that sat upright on the coffee table. Trance-like, she felt her hand reach for it. She picked it up, and then gazed at it. She could call him. He had given her permission. She could call him, and she would no longer be alone.
She shook her head slightly at her thoughts. She shouldn't call him. She had thought about this a thousand times, and she always came up with the same excuses. He was probably too busy to want to talk to her. He was probably involved with someone else by now. She shuddered at that thought. She couldn't imagine seeing anyone else right now or any time in the future, but then, she had been the one to push him away.
She knew that he had technically been the one to start the entire ordeal, she had been the one to urge it along until it was way out of her hands. Clark had no reason to cling to her memory. Calling him would just cause her more pain. But he was her best friend. She had every right to call him.
But she also had no right to call him. He had been the one hurt; he wouldn't want to talk to her.
That was why she should call. To apologize. It was her place.
She inwardly whimpered at her conflicting thoughts. How could she decide what to do? But then, she felt her trembling fingers dial the three numbers to contact information.
A pleasant voice answered the phone. "City and state that you wish to call?"
Lois was silent for a moment, utterly unable to speak. Finally, she whispered hoarsely, "Smallville, Kansas."
There was a pause. Then the voice continued, "Listing?"
Lois closed her eyes tightly. "Clark Kent."
There was another small pause, and then the voice was back and reeling off a series of numbers. Lois listened to the number, but she had no paper or pencil to write it down. It wasn't the Kents' phone number, so Clark must be living somewhere else. Knowing that she wouldn't remember the number took a great weight off her shoulders, since it really wouldn't be her fault that she wasn't contacting him. She just wouldn't know the number.
But then, the annoyingly happy voice continued, "Would you like me to connect you?"
Lois froze in horror. She hadn't expected this. She needed time to sort out what she would say when Clark answered. She had no idea what she would say to him right now.
But her words betrayed her mind. "Yes."
There was another, longer pause, and then Lois heard a ringing.
Oh God, what was she doing? She couldn't be calling Clark. She hadn't talked to him in so long, and she knew he wouldn't want to talk to her any longer. But she couldn't hang up either. The ringing mesmerized her, rendering her unable to move. She longed to hear his voice so much, but she also was afraid to hear it.
The phone rang four times, and finally there was a small click as an answering machine was activated. Lois let out her breath. He wasn't home. She wouldn't have to talk to him. A wave of relief washed over her.
"Hi, this is Clark Kent." She hadn't been prepared to handle how good his voice would sound to her after so long, and a small moan formed in the back of her throat. "I'm going down to the lake for the weekend. If there's an emergency at the paper, call me on my cell phone." He left no number, so obviously he assumed whoever would call him would know it. "Otherwise, just leave a message and I'll call you Sunday night when I get back." She firmly convinced herself that she wouldn't leave a message. She just didn't feel right talking to a machine when she had so much that she needed to say. She prepared to hang up, when Clark's voice continued. "By the way, if this is Lois, I still love you."
The tone sounded, but Lois was completely oblivious to it. She felt the phone slip from her grasp as his words fell upon her ears. She couldn't move, couldn't even breathe. She was utterly paralyzed. Then, a sob escaped through her lips. She hadn't just heard what she thought she had heard, had she? There was no way. There was no way he could have held on this long. But she knew that the voice had been real, and not just her imagination. She had never realized he could still love her so much that he would be waiting for her.
"Oh Clark," she sobbed as tears now steadily coursed down her cheeks. She loved him so much. Why hadn't she been able to get over her own selfishness long enough to realize that before he left?
She now knew more than ever before that there was more than just wanting him back. She needed him. Those four words — "I still love you" — had been all that was needed for her to realize this. She longed to see his bright smile again, and his dark eyes that would gaze at her with so much caring, and gentleness, and…love.
Wiping fiercely at her tears, she retrieved the phone from where it had fallen on the floor. She tapped the 'off' button to stop the annoying beeping sound that came from the dead line, and then clicked it on again. With a sense of determination, she repeated her call to information and again had them connect her to Clark.
Holding her breath in anticipation, she waited through the four rings until the answering machine again clicked on. Clark's mellifluous voice again resonated through her mind, and then those words made her breath catch in her throat. "By the way, if this is Lois, I still love you."
The beep urged her to speak, to say anything at all. She swallowed several times, noticing how dry her mouth suddenly seemed. "H…Hi," she croaked, and she cleared her throat nervously. "Hi, Clark. It's…me." She panicked then when she could think of nothing to say, and she hastily pulled the phone away from her ear and punched the 'off' button.
It was done. There was no taking it back. Now she could only hope Clark wouldn't be angry that she had called, or worse, she had to hope he wouldn't ignore her. She wouldn't be able to stand it. She looked down at the date on her watch. He would be home in two days. She had two days to wait.
Clark followed his father into the farmhouse carrying his sleeping bag, backpack, and fishing rod in his arms. It had been an enjoyable weekend, he mused as he deposited his belongings onto the couch in his living room. At least, as enjoyable as anything was these days. He, his father, and a couple of other guys had all hiked down to the lake several miles outside of the town of Smallville for a weekend fishing trip. It had gone smoothly, and at times had actually been fun.
The sound of footsteps above caught his hearing, and then his mother was hurrying down the stairs towards them. She first stopped to quickly kiss Jonathan on the cheek, then she moved to Clark. As she wrapped her arms around his shoulders, she joked lightly about his fishy scent. He lifted one corner of his mouth in a crooked smile. Martha gave his shoulders an extra squeeze, then she pulled away. He declined her offer to help him unpack his gear, and then headed up the stairs towards his old bedroom. He heard his parents talking together behind him, but he didn't bother to activate his superhearing.
He started to put his gear up, but then decided that before he did anything else, he needed a shower. There was something about swiping away at fish guts that just made a guy feel a little dirty. He headed through the hallway to his bathroom, spun out of the soiled jeans and plaid shirt, and stepped into the shower. He quickly washed the dirt away from his body. He didn't have time to enjoy the warm water that beat down on him; he still had to go down to the paper and make sure things had gone on without mishap there.
When he left Metropolis, he had returned to Smallville to find that the Smallville Post was in need of a temporary co-editor. The man that had been running the paper was nearly getting too old to successfully lead it any longer, and the new editor was traveling to Smallville from elsewhere in Kansas and, because he had to tie up some loose ends at his old job, he wouldn't arrive for a few months. With his experience at the Daily Planet, Clark had immediately been offered the job.
At first, he hadn't wanted to take it. Outwardly, he told others that he just wasn't interested in the newspaper business at all. Inwardly, though, he knew that he still loved journalism. He didn't want to take the job because of the memories that it would stir up that he just couldn't bear to think of.
His parents had known this, too, but once they realized he had no intention of returning to Metropolis anytime soon, they had urged him to take the job. They seemed to think that he was spending too much time thinking, and that he needed the job to take his mind off other things. So, a bit reluctantly, Clark had agreed to become Co-Editor of the Smallville Post.
It was actually a fairly easy job; since there wasn't much going on in Smallville, there wasn't too much that needed to be done. He worked a reasonable amount of hours each week, and in return was paid a reasonable amount of money. He found that there was a huge difference in putting out the small local paper and putting out the Daily Planet, but he was thankful for this. Even after he moved away from Metropolis, he still had to spend a lot of time there, as Superman. Afraid that someone might make the connection between him and Superman, he tried not to bring the hero to Smallville. When he could, he just handled problems as Clark.
He stepped out of the shower, spun around a few times to dry off, and then crossed the hall to his bedroom. Since today wasn't really a normal workday, he didn't have to worry about dressing correctly, so he just pulled on a plain black T-shirt and a pair of jeans.
He moved slowly over to his dresser and picked up his glasses, and then placed them on his face. He turned to walk away when something else caught his eye. He reached down to pick it up, and he set it in his palm to look at it. The gold caught the light from the setting sun that shone in from his bedroom window, and it glinted brightly. That familiar twisting in the pit of his stomach returned in full force as he gently closed his hand over the engagement ring.
He smiled sadly as he opened his hand again. It was no secret around Smallville that he was still in love with the woman who no longer cared for him. Of course, no one except for himself and his parents knew the whole story behind what had happened, but, he thought bitterly, they always seemed to be ready to give him advice. 'Forget about her', or 'She's not worth it'. But he would just shake his head. They didn't know. They didn't know that he could never forget her. They didn't know that she was worth everything in the world. They didn't know he would give up all he owned, his whole life, to get her back.
So then, why hadn't he? It was a question he asked himself every day. At first, he had dodged the answer, or made up a false one. He kept telling himself over and over that he needed to give Lois her space, let her decide when she would except him again. In his heart, however, he knew what the true answer was all along. He was afraid. He was afraid to crawl back and then be shunned still. He was afraid of getting his heart crushed again.
He knew he was in the wrong; if he hadn't pulled that arrogant act of breaking up with Lois, they would still be together in Metropolis. He should never have broken off their relationship unless he was a hundred percent sure that that's what he wanted to do, and the truth was, he had been no where near a hundred percent. His head had been arguing with his heart that in order to keep Lois safe, he had to stay away from her. His heart, however, insisted that neither of them would be able to survive without the other. His head had won the battle at the time, but after a few days without her, he realized that his heart had been right all along. He knew Lois well enough to know that she would get herself into trouble whether or not Superman was involved. In fact, with him watching over her, she was undoubtedly safer than without him.
And perhaps, if he had stayed in Metropolis, they would even be engaged by now, he thought wistfully as he placed the ring back into its small box, and then in turn placed the box back beside the picture frame on his dresser. The picture frame held one of his favorite pictures of Lois and himself. It had been taken at his first Kerth Awards' ceremony, and they were both grinning. After having done hours of doing nothing but studying the picture, he had realized that they weren't just smiling for the sake of the picture; their smiles were genuine. They had been happy together.
He reluctantly shook himself out of his thoughts and turned away from his dresser. He had work to do today; there was no time for daydreaming. He retrieved his sneakers from his closet and then sat down on the edge of his bed. In doing so, he noticed the light on his answering machine blinking. When he had taken the job at the paper, he had insisted on getting his own phone line so as not to tie up his parents'. With one hand pulling his shoe on, he reached towards the bedside table with the other hand and clumsily slapped the button to hear the messages.
The first message was activated with a beep. "What about me Clark? Ya still love me, too?" a very male voice asked, and then laughed heartily. Clark rolled his eyes towards the machine and sighed. The guys at work were constantly teasing him about the message on his answering machine. By the voice, Clark could tell that this particular message had been left by Ray, one of the reporters.
After the laughing subsided, the message continued.
"Anyway, just wanted to tell ya that you should probably try to make it down here Sunday night, because Mr. Warren's sick and he's supposed to stay in bed for a few days." The voice paused for a beat, then continued, "Of course, that don't mean he's goin' to. See ya around, Clark." The answering machine beeped again to signal the end of the message. Clark furrowed his brows in concern at the information that Mr. Warren, his Co- Editor, was sick. The man was old, probably well past the normal retirement age, so any sickness could be serious.
The machine beeped again, beckoning for Clark's attention. The next message was just a hang-up, and so was the next one. Clark turned back to the task of putting on his other sneaker as the fourth message began. There was a long pause, and he was beginning to think that it was going to turn out to be yet another hang-up, when he heard a short breath of air. Before he had time to recognize it, the caller began to speak.
Clark's heart stopped beating. All other thoughts weighing on his mind fled in an instant.
"Hi, Clark. It's me."
Oh, God. It was Lois.
Lois had called him.
He suddenly remembered to breathe, and he let out a gasp of air. She had called him!
That meant she still wanted to talk.
That meant she still wanted to see him.
That meant she still… loved him?
He gripped the edge of the bed tightly with both hands to keep himself upright. He had been waiting for this day for what seemed like an eternity. And finally, *finally*, it had come. She had taken the initiative, she had been brave enough to call. He loved her so much.
He sprang up suddenly off his bed and sped to his window, all of his other responsibilities forgotten. He stopped as he pushed open the window, cocked his head to the side in silent thought, and then turned around and sped out his room and down into the kitchen where his parents sat at the table. He stopped in front of them, his face pulled up into a broad smile that he couldn't hold back.
"She called me!" he announced, and then he was out the back door before Martha or Jonathan could reply. A gust of air swept through the kitchen with his exit. The two elder Kents turned to each other. Smiles alighted both of their faces.
"Well, it was about time," Martha said with a grin. Jonathan nodded his agreement.
Lois lay curled up under her blanket, too anxious to be tired. Actually, she had been having trouble sleeping for the past two nights. In the quiet of the night, she had nothing to do but chase her thoughts around until she was dizzy. The conclusion she kept making was that she should never have left a message on Clark's answering machine. How dumb he must think she is! She knew she had sounded afraid when she had called; he was probably sitting at his house laughing at her right now. She pulled her legs up tighter to her chest.
She had already tried going to sleep once tonight, so that if Clark happened to call to taunt her, perhaps she'd be asleep and she would have an excuse for missing the call. However, the other part of her mind, the hopeful part, had kept her awake until she ran out of sheep to count.
She reached for the television remote and turned on some cheesy romance movie with the volume low. She narrowed her eyes at the characters on the screen. They thought *they* had it bad. Her life would make the worst soap opera ever. Her boyfriend had left on bad terms with her, and moved to a state halfway across the country, over a month ago. They hadn't talked since, except when she called him, she found his answering machine message ended with declaring his undying love for her. Now, she was trying to fall asleep because she was afraid to talk to him. Yep, sounded like first-rate soap material to her.
She rolled over and reached up to switch off her bedside light when she heard a slight tapping on her window. She froze, and then slowly moved only her eyes towards the sound.
He had been floating in front of the window for an indeterminate time, watching her. He hadn't seen her this close in a month. While they had been apart, he had always kept his eye on her as Superman, but had never been close enough to actually see her. It took his breath away.
Now he moved closer to the window, and his cape snapped in the wind. He winced at the sound, and watched Lois carefully to see if she had heard it. He didn't want to surprise her. This was quite an insane act on his part, and he hoped to handle it as carefully as he could. He brought his fist up to glass, all his uncertainties suddenly flying through his head. He ignored them as best he could though, took a deep breath, and rapped softly on the glass.
He watched as Lois's head moved towards the window. Their eyes met, and Clark's heart leaped up into his throat. This was it. Would she ignore him, or not?
But then, when she pushed the blanket off her and swung her legs slowly over the side of the bed, he knew he had made the right choice. His breath caught in his throat, and he couldn't tear his eyes away from hers as she walked over to the window. Their gaze never broke as she unlocked the window and let it swing open. She nodded her head ever so slightly, as if giving him permission, and he floated down until he landed on the carpet in front of her.
There was a long pause when all that could be heard was their breathing, as they stood face to face uncomfortably. The faint smell of Lois's perfume reached his nostrils, and he swallowed carefully.
"You don't keep your window unlocked anymore," he whispered, his voice hoarse.
"Oh, Clark!" Lois suddenly gasped, and she threw her arms around his shoulders, all awkwardness suddenly gone. He wrapped his arms softly around her waist and kissed her head gently.
"I've missed you so much," he said softly into her hair.
"Me too, me too," Lois whispered, and her lips brushed against his cheek. He closed his eyes as they embraced, savoring the feel of her in his arms. Why hadn't he done this so much sooner? He loved her so much. He took a deep breath.
"I love you," he said almost hesitantly, voicing his thoughts.
"Oh, I love you too," she answered instantly, and then she pulled away slightly from his body. Their eyes met again, and then never moved. As Lois leaned forward closer and closer until their noses were nearly touching, their eyes never strayed. As they felt each other's hot breath against their lips, the contact never shifted. Only at the last possible moment before their lips made contact did Clark close his eyes. Then their lips met, and all those lonely nights, all those regrets, melded together then disappeared completely. Clark enfolded his arms tighter around her as their lips moved slowly, rhythmically together, and he moved one hand up to wrap around her shoulders.
The month that they had been apart faded away into nothing as they reacquainted themselves with the other. When they finally broke apart, it was as if they had been together forever.
"I'll never leave you again," Clark promised huskily against Lois's lips.
"I hope not," Lois replied. She met his eyes mischievously. "I still love you."
"And I will always love you."