By Crystal Wimmer <JCWimmer@aol.com>
Submitted: August 2001
Summary: Something is wrong with Lois. But this illness isn't what you'd normally expect, and the decisions she makes will affect the rest of her life. Will Clark stand by her through even this?
This fic is gratefully dedicated to Marns… for her wonderful listening ear, her willingness to talk when I'm in the worst of moods, and being a friend when I was hurting… and really needed one. Without her, I think I would have climbed the walls during LAFF rather than writing a fic!
Lois took a deep breath and looked at the pills. She hated them. God, she hated them, but she hated hiding them more. It had all begun so innocently, so simply. She hadn't realized it was going to get out of hand so quickly. Somewhere along the line though, she had lost something that she needed to manage her life, and the medication gave it back. She had never meant for it all to happen…
"Lois, are you okay?"
She looked up at her husband and put on her brightest smile. "Of course I'm okay. I'm just fine." Sarcasm crept into her voice as she continued, "I'm married to Superman, I can't have kids, and I'm behind on three deadlines with no stories to be found. Yeah, I'm great."
"Perry understands," Clark told her softly. "There are times that news is slow. That's actually a good thing."
"Good for the world, yes, but not for the Planet," she replied. "If sales drop any lower Perry's going to have to start laying off reporters."
"You honestly think he'd fire you due to lack of news?" Clark inquired with a grin.
She turned on him, rising from her desk as she did so and nearly screaming. "Of course not, but we aren't the only reporters in this building!"
Clark looked taken aback, and she didn't blame him. "I'm going to run a patrol," he told her softly.
She didn't even look at him as he left. She couldn't. Now she had anger, sadness, and guilt. One more emotion was not what she was ready for. Lois put her face in her hands and did her best not to cry. She couldn't understand this! She was Mad-Dog Lane, the Planet's best reporter, and she was coming apart at the seams. This wasn't the confusion and insecurity that she'd felt when she and Clark had been dating, but something deeper. God, she wished that she understood it.
There wasn't anything wrong. Work was fine, if quiet. Her marriage was wonderful, and she loved spending time with her in- laws. She was healthy, had plenty of ideas for filler-stories that she could run with, and Perry wasn't as upset with the news lull as she was.
So why was she coming apart?
In the last three months she'd lost almost ten pounds. Clothes that she'd worn for years were now falling off her. She was so small that even those few pounds made a huge difference, and she hated it. If she didn't do something, Clark would notice. It wasn't as though he didn't spend as much time as possible looking at her body. She didn't even resent that; she was flattered. Still, missing a meal here and a meal there was starting to add up, and she couldn't seem to get her appetite back on track.
She wasn't sleeping well, either. Well, that wasn't exactly right. She slept. She slept deeply, never seeming to dream, but she just never felt rested. Last weekend she'd slept for almost ten hours, and then she'd woken up exhausted. It was frustrating as hell. She seemed to be dragging through every day, and she didn't know what to do about it.
Eating and sleeping were basic functions to human survival, and she didn't seem to be able to accomplish either one effectively. What was worse, she always seemed to be on the verge of tears, or ready to tear someone apart. Her moods swung back and forth with no rhyme or reason, and it made her more tired than anything else. She was mad at the world, upset at everyone, and yet felt guilty because no one had done anything to really provoke her wrath.
She was just tired of it. Grabbing her day planner, she glanced through the address book until she found her physician's number. This had to be some kind of nutritional imbalance, she reasoned. She'd get a check-up, find out what was wrong, and then she'd fix it. Enough was enough.
"Your H&H is a little low," Dr. Deerfield commented. "Not anemic, but still close to the line. I'm going to prescribe a vitamin and iron supplement just to be on the safe side. The CBC doesn't show any signs of infection or illness."
"That's good, right?" Lois asked.
The doctor smiled, and then sat down at her desk as Lois pulled at her sweater. She always seemed to be cold lately; most likely because of the weight she'd lost. Lois waited patiently as the doctor looked back through the chart, made a few notes, and then faced her.
"How long have you been feeling tired, Lois?" she asked softly.
Lois shrugged. "A month or two," she said slowly. "Maybe longer. I don't know."
"Is the fatigue enough to limit your daily activity?"
Lois shook her head. "I still do everything. Actually, once I get moving I'm okay. It's just really hard to get started. I do better at work, actually. If I'm home, I just lay around."
"I run two or three times a week," Lois admitted. "I used to run almost every day, and do aerobics, but I don't have the energy for it."
"Well, that might be part of your problem," Dr. Deerfield reasoned. "Decreasing your exercise would certainly decrease your appetite, and eventually your energy level. You could try to gradually work up to where you've been in the past and see if it helps. There's no medical reason evident for your fatigue."
"So it's all in my head?" Lois asked sheepishly. Suddenly she was near tears again. She had hoped this would solve the problem. She'd wanted an easy answer.
"Actually, I'm starting to wonder," the doctor admitted. Dr. Deerfield laid the chart down and looked at her patient. "How are your moods? Have you experienced any sadness or depression to go along with the fatigue?"
Lois shrugged. "I'm not really sad," she hedged.
"But do you feel like yourself?" she continued. "Or do you feel a little different? Maybe, have trouble keeping things in perspective, overreact to situations, or get upset when there doesn't appear to be a reason?"
Lois shrugged again, but with less certainty. "I'm just tired," she explained, and could have cursed when she felt the tears welling in her eyes. "There's nothing wrong. I don't have a reason to be upset about anything."
Dr. Deerfield took a moment to open a fresh box of Kleenex and pass a tissue to her. Lois mopped up tears gratefully, and then gave the older woman a completely lost look. She was out of ideas. She didn't know what to do, and she hated it.
"There is one disorder we haven't ruled out," she explained. "It's one that can cause mood swings, weight loss, erratic behavior, and a general malaise. Frankly, you show a great deal of the symptoms."
"What is it?" Lois asked softly.
"Clinical depression is quite common in women your age," the doctor continued. "It usually begins gradually, and then when it's left untreated it progresses until it begins to cause health disorders." She looked up at her patient and smiled. "It's sad, really, because the disorder is normally very easy to treat. You see, in many women the brain becomes very active in absorbing a certain chemical it makes called Serotonin. Now, this is the chemical responsible for controlling appetite, sexual interest, activity level, and mood. When the brain absorbs this chemical before it can be used, the resulting lack can cause the symptoms we've been discussing. All we need to do is keep the brain from reabsorbing the chemical before it can do what it's there for."
Lois didn't like the idea of depression, but she liked how she was feeling even less. "How do you do that?"
"There are a number of medications available. The most well known is Prozac, but it's really only one of a whole family of SSRI medications."
"I'm sorry," she apologized. "For all my training not to, I still fall into acronyms. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor. Specifically, it's a medication to prevent your brain from absorbing that chemical. That's all it does. It simply makes sure your body doesn't reabsorb the Serotonin it makes."
"But, depression…" Lois trailed off. She really didn't know anything about it, except that it sounded like a weakness.
"Is an illness," Dr. Deerfield continued softly. "Have you ever heard of diabetes?" she asked suddenly.
Lois looked confused. "Of course," she answered. "We have a diabetic at the Planet. She can't eat donuts, and she needs shots."
"That's correct. Insulin is the body's chemical for digesting sugars. Without that chemical, a person can't process sweet foods, or any foods really. We use medications to improve the way their bodies utilize what little insulin they make, and if that isn't enough we have to give them insulin by injection."
"What does that have to do with me?" Lois asked, still not seeing the connection.
"The body requires certain chemicals to function," the doctor explained. "Without them, illness begins, and if left untreated the results can be deadly. A diabetic can go into shock without insulin in the system, and that's followed by coma and death."
"So, you're saying I could die if my brain doesn't have this seri-stuff?"
Dr. Deerfield smiled softly. "Unfortunately, one of the worst side-effects of depression is death. Oh, there are many ways that happens, from eating disorders to suicide, but it does happen. The worst part is: it's totally unnecessary."
"So, how do you find out if I'm depressed?"
"Well," the doctor said briskly. "Unlike diabetes, it doesn't require blood tests. What we do is start you on a medication to treat the illness, and if we see improvement we know we were right. The medications have very few serious side effects, so there isn't a great deal of risk regarding the treatment. There are a lot of risks to the illness, however. We consider it in medicine to be a justifiable risk."
Lois sighed and nodded her understanding. "So, I take a 'happy pill'?"
"No," the doctor said with a grin, reaching for a prescription pad. "What you take is a medication to balance your body chemicals. It's not a 'happy pill'. In fact, it's very much the opposite. If this is indeed the appropriate treatment, it will take almost two weeks to have a significant effect. You have to take it every day, even if you feel fine, and even continue for months after the depression goes into remission."
"Remission?" Lois asked. "Like cancer?"
"Actually, that's a fairly appropriate analogy. Just as cancer eats away at the body, depression can eat away at the mind."
"That's a picturesque image," Lois grumbled.
"It is that," the doctor said with a smile. "But there's more. This is the first step: the medical one. Take one pill from these samples — that's ten milligrams of the medication — every morning with your breakfast. And yes, you need to eat breakfast, even if it's just a glass of milk or a piece of toast. Your body needs food to function. In one week, you start taking the actual prescription I've written. That's twenty milligrams of the Prozac. It's a low dosage, but it should be effective."
"That doesn't sound hard," Lois admitted as she took the small box and the piece of paper. "One pill, once a day."
"That's the first step," the doctor explained. "The second is much more difficult. I want to refer you to a colleague of mine. She's a psychologist."
Lois bristled. "I've seen psychiatrists before," she began, but the doctor didn't give her an opportunity to continue.
"The medical end I can handle," she interrupted. "Even as a general practitioner, I'm qualified to diagnose and treat the physical symptoms. Unfortunately, depression usually has an underlying cause. Sometimes it's stress, other times it's a biological predisposition, but it's always rooted in something. You need to address whatever that something is before you can prevent recurrence. I don't want to put you on a medication for the rest of your life, so we need to get at the cause. Dr. Evans is a psychologist, as well as a practicing physician. She wanted to do more than Psychiatry, but that's her story to tell. I want you to make an appointment to talk with her."
"Just talk?" Lois asked. "No group therapy or extended rambling sessions?" She had no desire to have a repeat of Dr. Friskin's reflecting sessions. They'd made her feel stupid that she couldn't sort her life out on her own.
"That's up to you," Dr. Deerfield answered with a smile. "But I want you to meet with her in the next forty-eight hours. It's important. I'd like her to confirm my diagnoses, and make any additional recommendations for treatment."
"So, you're not positive?" Lois asked. "That I'm depressed, I mean."
"I'm certain that you meet the diagnostic criterion for clinical depression," the doctor explained. "And that the medication is appropriate. What I'm not sure of is whether or not the medication is enough."
Lois nodded, then slipped the prescription and sample box into her purse. "Thanks," she said simply, standing to walk to the door.
"You're welcome, Lois," she replied. "Feel better."
Clark checked his watch and almost groaned. Superman had been in demand today, and he was exhausted. Lois had asked him to meet her at the house. They were going to have dinner early, and then she had something to tell him. He could only hope that the something would relieve the worry that had been plaguing him for the last several weeks.
Granted, the last month had been better. She was still a little high-strung, but she hadn't been swinging so radically from screaming to tears. She was still a little too independent, a little reluctant to let her guard down around him, but she was clearly better. Okay, their sex life had been essentially absent, but a marriage wasn't about sex. He'd gone without it for over thirty years, so a week or two of just cuddling wasn't a horrible thing. He missed the closeness, sure, but it was almost worth it to have his wife back in his arms.
Lois hadn't been Lois in a very long time. She'd always been his little tornado, but lately she'd been spinning in every direction at once, rather than in her usual direct path. The result was just as destructive as her namesake. He'd actually been grateful when the news had dropped to a standstill, thinking that all she needed was some rest to recover from whatever was going on within her, but it had only made matters worse. With nothing specific to focus on, Lois seemed to be spinning in circles — frantic — and he wasn't sure what to do about it.
He'd spoken with his mother several times over the last couple of months, as Lois' behavior seemed more and more unusual, but she'd just reminded him that Lois had always been all or nothing. Mom was right. Lois had never done anything half way, and she was always moving ahead full-speed. Now, with nothing specific to move towards, it made sense that she would flounder a bit. That didn't make him worry any less, but it certainly explained things.
Lois wanted to talk to him. He hoped that was good news. He hoped that she was finally going to tell him what was wrong; what was bothering her. Unfortunately, he was supposed to have met her an hour ago, and he still had two stories to get written and delivered to Perry before he could get out of here.
Taking a seat and looking around, Clark set about getting his work finished as quickly as possible so that he could meet his wife. The earlier he got there, the less likely she would be to go completely off on him when he arrived. She'd done that a lot, lately; more than a lot. Shaking his head at his distraction, he once more applied himself to the story. Supertyping with distraction was a good way to destroy a keyboard.
Even working, he couldn't keep his mind completely off his wife. Back in the corner, his thoughts were still on her, and on the situation. He'd known he was out of his depth almost a month before, when Lois' had gotten completely out of control. He'd honestly thought she was going to leave him. Even now, he held himself carefully in check so as not to upset her, but that night had frightened him terribly.
Clark sighed and waited for the tirade to end.
"…And if you think I was going to let him get away with that, you'd better think again! I swear, you'd think it was the middle ages! Just because I'm a woman, he gets this stupid high-and- mighty protectiveness that he knows has no place. If anyone should understand the importance of a story, you'd think it would be him, but no…"
"Lois, he cares about you," Clark interrupted in his most gentle voice. He'd learned to walk softly around his wife, and he rarely interrupted her. It purely wasn't worth the effort. Still, he couldn't stand to hear her berate Perry so badly.
"I've been doing this long enough to take care of myself," she argued. She tossed another sweater aside and continued her search for the one she wanted. Clothes were heaped up on the bed from where she'd discarded them, and he spared a moment to wonder who would be cleaning up the mess. No contest, he decided wryly. Superspeed was a necessity when keeping up with Lois' destructive moods.
"It's not unreasonable that he wants you to take someone to a contact," Clark commented, wondering how upset she'd be if he began folding the clothes she was tossing across the room. Very, he concluded. It was better to wait.
"Don't you start," she said in a deadly quiet voice. "I don't need to be guarded by Superman to do my job!"
Clark took a deep breath and did his best to control his rising temper. He'd let her get to him before, and it wasn't worth the guilt afterwards. "I'm not talking about a blue and red guard; I'm talking about your partner accompanying you to meet a source."
Lois jerked a black sweater over her black turtleneck and then reached for her black jeans. The middle of the night, down by the docks, dressed in black… and she didn't want him to go along. Absently, he wondered why he hadn't just agreed with her and then flown a high patrol to keep an eye on her. God, it would have been so much easier than reasoning with her.
"I'm going," she announced.
"I know you are."
He didn't think his voice had been sarcastic, but she turned on him anyway. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and counted backwards from ten. In Romanian. "I won't apologize for worrying about my wife," he said calmly. "I know you worry about me. It's part of the package… you love someone, so you worry."
Lois turned quickly from where she'd gone to the door, and he saw tears well up in her eyes. "I do love you," she said, her voice barely above a whisper. "You know I love you more than anything."
The crash. He'd known it was coming. He stepped forward and tugged her into his arms. She clung to him, her arms almost frantic in their disconnected movements. "I know, Sweetheart," he told her softly. "Are you sure you don't want some company tonight," he offered, hoping her emotions would let him in while the defenses were at a low.
"I can do this," she declared swiftly, wiping away tears with no evidence of embarrassment. "I'll be home early. This shouldn't take any longer than an hour."
"Should I bother to tell you to be careful?" he asked, hoping his smile would make the question into a joke.
"I'm always careful," she told him with a grin. If it weren't for the red blotches under her eyes, he wouldn't have been able to tell that five minutes ago she'd been screaming, and one minute ago she'd been crying.
With a wink, she was gone. Clark listened carefully, heard her walking down the steps to the sidewalk, and then heard the door to the Jeep open. Standing and spinning quickly, he changed into his suit to keep a high lookout on her. She was just too volatile, he decided. She shouldn't be out there alone.
With all his heart, he prayed that she wouldn't get into trouble tonight. If he had to explain what he was doing keeping an eye on her, she would probably kill him.
"I told you there wouldn't be a problem," Lois announced triumphantly. "Information attained, and not a bad-guy in sight."
Clark smiled at that. If she'd only known that he'd taken out two near-riots within half a mile of where she'd been, she would have been a lot less cocky. "I'm just glad you're home," he offered. "We have more important things to do than to pump sources for information."
Clark eased his arms around his wife, taking comfort in her nearness, in her safety.
"Mmm," she mumbled in agreement. "That's for sure." Her lips met his in an avid kiss, and for a few moments he was able to forget that she'd been on edge for the last several weeks, that she was as volatile as dynamite when confronted over anything. He let her kiss him, kissed her back, and let himself begin to relax.
Well, he tried to relax. Relaxation didn't seem to be what Lois had in mind. She was normally aggressive — or at least assertive — when they made love, but this was unusual even for her. Her lips ground into his, her hands groped almost desperately, and her body nearly flattened his own as she pressed ever closer.
"Hey, slow down," he requested with a smile. "I want to take some time to enjoy this. You keep up at this rate and we'll be done before we get to the bed."
"Got a problem with that?" she asked, matching his grin.
"Not a bit," he replied, lifting her as she nearly climbed up into his arms. Her legs went around his waist and her kisses became — if possible — more ardent.
Resigning himself to a less than leisurely session of making love, he allowed her to take the lead. She had his shirt off, and her own, in record time. Kisses trailed down his chest and around his neck even as her heels dug into the small of his back. It didn't hurt, not really, but it wasn't as comfortable as he would have liked to be.
"Let's go to bed," he suggested softly, his lips against her right ear. "I want to do this right."
Without warning, she pushed away from him and released her legs. If he hadn't been so quick, she might have fallen in her haste to back away from him. "What's wrong with the way we are doing this?" she asked, her voice just shy of a scream.
Clark was stunned — lost — and trying desperately to find his bearings. "Nothing," he said in confusion. "I just wanted to slow down."
"Better idea," she suggested. "How about we stop."
"I'm sick of you telling me how to do things," she declared. "You tell me when I can meet a source, what stories I can write, and even how I can write them. I'm an adult, and I'm tired of it!"
"Pointing out a grammatical error is hardly running your life," he reasoned, but it was automatic. Placating her had become a full time job, and he was beginning to do it unconsciously.
"Don't give me that," she growled. "I put up with you bossing me around at work, and editing my copy when I haven't even asked you to, but I'll be damned if I let you tell me how to make love."
"I wasn't telling you…"
"Don't you argue with me!" she said, cutting him off. "I know what you were doing! You wanted it your way, and that's the end of it. Well, I'm sick of it!"
"Okay, let's take a step back," he suggested, his voice a forced calm. "One minute you're all over me, and then I make a request and you're having a tantrum. Making love is for both of us, so we each get an opinion. I don't get it. What is the matter with you?" He hadn't intended to ask it quite that baldly, but he wasn't sorry he had. She wasn't herself, and this was more than a heavy case of PMS. She was erratic, unreasonable, and he wanted to know why.
"What's the matter with me?" she asked incredulously. "What's the matter with you?"
"Overprotective, unreasonable, and totally unfair. Hell, for all I know you didn't even let me go to that interview on my own. You were probably overhead the whole damn time, as I'm apparently incapable of doing anything myself!"
His eyes gave him away. Honest to a fault, he couldn't deny it. Still, as erratic as she had been, he hadn't expected the fallout to be quite so bad.
"You did," she accused softly, daring him to deny it. "You followed me! After I expressly told you not to, you followed me anyway!"
"I had to take care of something in the area," he hedged. It wasn't a lie — he had dealt with some nearby rioting — but it evaded the fact that he had been in the area because he wanted to be within calling distance if anything had gone wrong on the interview.
"Yeah, right," she muttered. "Like I believe that."
Clark watched as she yanked on her turtleneck, and then her sweater. She didn't even bother to reach for the black bra that had been discarded during her earlier frenzy. God, why had he said anything? Why hadn't he just gone along? No, he didn't particularly like it rough, but it wasn't like she could hurt him. He was still standing there, reliving how he could have done things differently, when she reached for her purse.
"Where are you going?" he asked, the worry clear in his voice.
"Lois, it's the middle of the night," he reasoned.
"It doesn't matter," she said, and abruptly her face crumbled. "You don't trust me," she said on a sob. "I can't stay with you if you don't trust me."
"Lois, I do trust you," he said softly. "It's the rest of Metropolis I worry about, especially down at the riverfront."
"Why can't you just trust me?" she asked, her voice watery. "If you loved me, you'd trust me."
"Lois, I do love you, and I do trust you," he said gently, feeling that he was on eggshells at the moment. She'd been hasty in the past, but this was an entirely new level of fear for him. She was poised to leave, her hand on the door, and he had to make her stop. He didn't know why it was so essential, but he knew that it was in a way he couldn't question. He reached out a hand, gently touched her cheek, and whispered softly, "Please, let's talk about his."
She shook her head firmly, sending tears flying. His fingertips were wet from where he'd touched her cheek, and her sorrow was tearing him apart. "I need some time alone," she said, and at least she sounded reasonable.
"Stay here," he begged. "Please." She was shaking her head again when he continued. "I'll spend the night with my parents, or with Jimmy. Hell, I'll fly patrol if you want. Just, please, don't make me worry about you in a motel somewhere."
"You don't have to worry," she told him, but at least she wasn't refusing flatly.
"I know I don't have to," he whispered. "But I do. You're my life, and if I lost you I'd die. You know that, Lois. You know what you are to me." Never had that knowledge frightened him as it did this moment.
She just stood there, thinking. He would have done anything to be able to take her in his arms, but he didn't dare. She'd asked for time, for space, and he could give her that. He couldn't understand her, couldn't reason with her, but he could give her room to settle down. Something told him that if she walked out the door, she wouldn't be back. He couldn't live with that.
"It'll just take me a second to get my suit," he told her gently. "Just one second. Please."
She finally nodded her assent. He dashed to the secret compartment, grabbed a clean suit, and changed with a spin. Uniform in place, he moved towards the door, where she was blocking his way. It didn't matter, he decided. He'd use the back doors, over the balcony.
"I love you," he told her softly. "I'll see you in the morning."
She nodded, but didn't say a word. He couldn't think of anything else to say either. He wanted to kiss her, to hold her… something. Instead, he turned and walked to the glass doors leading to the balcony, and then took off for the stars. He prayed she'd be feeling better in the morning.
Lois sighed as she looked at her watch once more. He was late. She took a certain amount of satisfaction in the fact that this same situation would have sent her off the deep end a month before, and now it merely annoyed her. Well, annoyed and concerned… she knew that Clark was punctual if all was well in the world, and the fact that he was running late made her wonder why he was late.
She supposed that was progress, albeit minimal. She was still shaky, and she still tended to react first and think later, but at least the mood swings were manageable. She got the feeling that everyone was still tiptoeing around her, but then she was still early in the treatment. Frankly, she was just relieved that the doctors had been right — that it was simple depression — and that she wasn't going insane. For a while, she had wondered.
The medication hadn't worked instantly. Even the desired "placebo effect" that she'd wanted had missed her entirely. After two weeks on the lower dosage, the physician had recommended doubling it, and then it was two weeks more before she'd begun to feel normal. Well, she didn't really feel normal, but she felt less volatile, and that was a start. The last two weeks had been tolerable, and for now that was enough.
She sat down at the table and picked at the remains of her dinner. Sweet and Sour Pork wasn't worth reheating, as the sauce seemed to gel into a disgusting lump, so she'd gone ahead and eaten. It hadn't been bad, but Clark could always find better.
She was just glad that her husband was tolerating her. In retrospect, she could see how miserable she'd made his life for the last few months. He'd been unfailingly sweet, constantly supportive, and that fact left her with a good deal of guilt. It wasn't that she expected him to be horrible, but given no explanation she would have understood it.
She'd thought of telling him. She really had. At first, she had avoided it because she didn't believe the diagnosis. After all, moderate depression seemed a little mild to justify the insane behavior she'd been displaying. Then, as the medications began to work and she gained some perspective, she'd been embarrassed by both her behavior and the illness. Finally as she had begun to recover, the side effects of the medications had begun to upset her more than the initial illness.
She did feel better. She felt a little more stable, and a lot more in-control. She was able to smile, and able to laugh. She felt almost like a person, if not quite like Lois Lane. What she didn't feel was sexual interest. None. Not at all.
Not even for Clark.
It was quite a revelation to her. They'd only been married two years, and she'd honestly believed that the "honeymoon" would continue indefinitely. After all, her husband was super in bed, and neither of them had had enough sex for it to be routine. Again, she realized how tolerant Clark had been, and she felt more guilt. A phone call to Dr. Evans had assured her that this was a common side-effect of Prozac, and also that there were dozens of alternatives to the most commonly used medication, but she still felt that it was something about her.
She was also afraid to change medications. As much as she hated the side effects, she at least realized that it was working. What if the new medication didn't relieve the depression? What if it had it's own side effects? What if the problem wasn't the medication at all, but just her: Lois Lane, effectively frigid.
Clark had waited his whole life to give himself to her, and now she had no interest. It just didn't seem fair. Even as she considered that, she realized that it had to be the medication. She loved her husband — was in love with her husband — and she was interested in him sexually. She loved his body, enjoyed his touch, but simply had no desire to do anything herself. She'd even done her best to take care of his needs as much as she could, but she knew it wasn't enough for him. He needed to know that she was satisfied, and without that he was miserable.
He deserved to know about the medication.
Lois sighed as she waited for Clark to return. He was taking a minute to wash up, and she was taking that time to get herself back together.
She wouldn't cry. She would not cry. She would not cry!
Tears slipped sideways down her face, falling onto her pillow. Great. Another night with a soggy pillow, and there was nothing she could do about it. Life was not fair. She'd spent more time crying in the last six months than she ever had in her life, and she didn't like it at all.
"Honey, are you okay," Clark asked softly. She felt his weight depress the bed, and then he tugged her into his arms. "I'm sorry, Sweetheart," he muttered.
"It's not you," she said with a sniffle. "It's me. And, it's okay. It's not that big of a deal."
He didn't say anything to that. There really wasn't anything to say. "I could try…"
"No, Clark," she interrupted. "I'm sore."
It was exactly the wrong thing to say. Clark sighed deeply, and moved to turn away from her. She didn't let him go. Twisting herself in his arms, she settled onto his chest so he couldn't get away. "I didn't mean it that way," she said softly. "You didn't hurt me, it's just that after a while I get tender."
He nodded, still not speaking. A while. That was an understatement. It had been one of the first times in a month that she'd really felt amorous, and she took full responsibility for seducing her husband. He hadn't seemed to mind, and had been more than happy to make love with her. It had even started out beautifully, with holding and touching, kissing and smiling. She'd really enjoyed it. At first.
They were familiar with marathon bed sessions. Since their first time, they hadn't seemed to be able to get enough of one another. Despite the differences in their anatomical design, they seemed fairly compatible in bed. No, they didn't stay together every single time, but it had been known to happen. Lois actually preferred that they do so separately, so that she could enjoy his release without being clouded by her own, but tonight she would have settled for anything.
The teasing caresses had progressed into raw sexual need. She had wanted him, and she had been so close when he had come to her. Or so she'd thought. He had loved her for minutes, and then more, and then still more. It had gone on and on, and yet the harder she had tried to reach completion, the farther away it had seemed to be.
"I love you," she told him softly, once they had finally given up and were merely lying together.
His grip tightened slightly. "I love you too," he said. "I just wish…"
"Look, it's probably hormonal," she hedged. "Maybe it's the wrong time of the month, or whatever. It isn't you, though. You did everything that I love." She was telling the truth. Her libido did seem to cycle with her menses, so it wasn't an unrealistic conclusion. She knew it was wrong, but there was no reason he would, and she felt a need to absolve him of any guilt. This was her fault; not his.
"Clark, trust me," she assured him, wishing that she could tell him the truth about her body's hormones. "It's nothing with you. Sometimes women have a harder time than others when it comes to sex. And I still enjoyed it."
"You're sure?" he asked, and her heart broke at the uncertainty that was in his voice. Even after two years of making love, his ego could be incredibly fragile. He had no one else to compare her to, so what she said was law. It was an awesome responsibility some nights, and this was one of them.
"I'm positive," she answered, when she was anything but. "And now I get the best part of making love. I get to snuggle with you."
He raised his eyebrows at her. "That's the best part?"
"Sometimes," she answered. "There are times when just being in your arms is better than anything else."
"I love to hold you," he admitted. "But lately, that seems to be all that you want. Which is okay," he rushed to add. "But it's just… different."
"I know. I'm sorry. I guess I'm more tired than I thought I was."
"Get some sleep, then," he suggested. "I love you."
"I love you too, Clark."
She'd lain awake long after his breathing evened out and signaled sleep. She'd wiggled a little, still uncomfortable with the tension in her body that hadn't been released. She had no clue what to do about it, what it meant, but she vowed to find out. She loved her husband, and he deserved better than this. She decided then and there that she would find out exactly what was wrong with her, and she would do something to fix it. Sex wasn't everything in a relationship, but it was something that she and Clark very much enjoyed. She wasn't going to let this illness rob her of her sex life. She couldn't.
By the time Clark landed on the balcony, he was nearly three hours late. The stories had taken more time than he would have liked because he'd been so distracted, and then Superman had been called to the scene of a fire. He hadn't done much, only checked out the building for survivors so that the fireman wouldn't have to take the risk. It was a small thing, but it made him feel good to know that he'd eliminated at least some risk for the men who did so much for Metropolis.
Unfortunately, the experience had left him covered with ash and smelling of smoke. As he eased himself through the glass doors, he knew that he would need a shower before he did anything else.
It took him only a moment to discard the uniform, dropping it in the hamper as he walked towards the bathroom. He made a quick pass through the townhouse with his vision, and when he caught sight of Lois downstairs he stopped suddenly.
She was sitting in the dining room, her head down on her arms and something in her hand. He didn't bother to look at what it was. That was her business. Still, something about her posture warned him that this wasn't something casual, and he began once more to worry.
"Lois," he called out. "I'll be down in just a sec. I need to grab a shower."
"That's fine," she said softly. Very softly. If it hadn't been for his hearing he would have missed it.
He showered quickly, although the limits of the water pressure prevented a truly "super" shower. He'd tried it in the past, and never managed to get the soap off himself if he didn't take at least a few minutes to get clean. He did manage to get out of the stall in record time, and he didn't bother with dressing. He grabbed his robe from the hook on the back of the bathroom door and headed immediately for the stairs.
She was still sitting there when he reached her, her head still down and her hand still clutching something.
"I'm sorry I'm late," he said quickly. "There was a fire in the warehouse district, and…"
"It's fine," she told him, her voice strangely without expression. "But I'm afraid your dinner got cold."
"I'm not hungry," he admitted. "Lois?"
She finally looked up and seemed to try to smile. It fell flat. "We need to talk."
Clark took a deep breath and knelt down next to her. A thousand scenarios were spinning through his mind. Was she sick? Was she leaving him? Was she having an affair? Was she sick of juggling marriage with a superhero? He didn't know what it could be, but he couldn't think of a single time in his life when those words — 'we need to talk' — had been a good thing. "I'm listening."
Lois shifted her hands to her lap, and then met his gaze. "I've been trying to think of a way to say this for weeks," she admitted. "Now I'm starting to understand why you took so long to tell me about the tights."
"Whatever it is," he promised. "We can work it out together."
She smiled faintly at that. Very faintly. "At first I didn't say anything because I didn't know," she told him. "And then I didn't think it was important; not really. And then it was just embarrassing, and I was so afraid you'd be angry."
"And you have a right to be," she added. "I know how you feel about honesty, and I really do feel the same way. I swear I never meant it to be a lie."
"What are you talking about?" he asked, fear clear in his voice.
"I know I've been a bitch for the last few months," she offered. He couldn't smile at her self-recrimination. He was too afraid. "But it turns out that there was a reason. I went to see Dr. Deerfield, and…" Her head lowered as she trailed off.
"Oh, God," he said softly. "You said you just needed vitamins. That's what she said, right? That you were tired?"
"That was part of it." Her eyes were wide and filled with tears as she opened them again to meet his gaze once more.
"Lois?" he begged. No, there couldn't be anything wrong. But she'd lost so much weight, and she was always tired. Thoughts of cancer and heart disease raced through his mind before he could halt them, brain tumors and leukemia, AIDS and other incurable illnesses.
She held her hand out to him, displaying a small brown pharmacy bottle. Clark took it from her, turning it so that he could see more than the capsules inside. "Prozac?" he asked in confusion.
"I've been taking them since I went to see her," she said, her voice breaking. He didn't have to look up from the bottle to know she was crying. "She said it was moderate depression. Not really serious, but something that needed to be treated."
"Depression?" he asked, his mind still rallying from the thoughts of her dying a horrible death.
"There's this long explanation about brain chemicals and body reactions, but I can't remember all of it. Basically this stuff is supposed to balance out my brain chemicals so that I'm a little more reasonable." She gave a self-depreciating smile. "I don't know how well it's working."
"How long?" he asked faintly, his eyes still on the bottle of drugs.
"About six weeks," she told him. "At first the dosage was too low, though, and it didn't help very much. I only kept taking it because I didn't know what else to do. About three weeks ago they moved the dosage up, and I've been doing better since then. I still cry too much." She wiped away tears as if to illustrate the point. "But I'm not yelling as much."
"Why didn't you tell me?" he asked softly.
She'd already told him, but she answered again. "I didn't believe it at first," she explained. "I didn't feel sad, I just felt out of control; like I didn't know what I was going to do next. I didn't want to worry you if it turned out the doctor was wrong. I guess I wasn't thinking very clearly at the time. And later, half of it was being embarrassed that I had to take it, and the rest was worrying about what you'd think. I knew you'd be angry that I lied about it, and I just didn't want to face it. Then it had been longer, and I knew it would be worse, and so I just kept putting it off."
Clark finally stood from the kneeling position he'd assumed before her, and walked into the living room to sit on the couch. He was still looking at the bottle, and he finally opened it and poured the green and white capsules out into his palm.
It explained a lot. It explained the erratic behavior, as well as the improvement over the last couple of weeks. It explained her reluctance to talk to him as well. If she was hiding something — anything — she would be uncomfortable around him.
Remembering a time when her anger had destroyed his world, he kept his emotions carefully in check as he considered her reasoning. No, it didn't make a lot of sense, but then she hadn't been exactly rational when it had all started. He also knew her feelings about psychiatrists and councilors, so it followed that she would consider the illness as a weakness. Finally, she seemed genuinely sorry, and he had to take that into account.
Yes, he was angry. Hurt as well, but he knew that would become worse when he started getting though the anger. They had a relationship based on love and trust, and the fact that she hadn't come to him was tearing him apart. She was his life, and he hadn't even understood what was going on when hers started falling apart. Yes, she should have told him, but he should have seen it as well. A good deal of his anger was self-directed.
Clark heard her voice. He didn't respond immediately, deciding instead to continue to process what was going on. He would not blow up. He couldn't. She needed him to hold himself together for the moment, and he could sense it. He heard Lois walk across the room to sit next to him, but he still didn't acknowledge her. He avoided her by putting the medication back in its bottle, then tightening the lid and setting it carefully on the coffee table.
He was relieved. For all the scenarios he could have pictured, this was probably the least gruesome. She wasn't dying, and she wasn't leaving him. He wasn't losing her. Simply the fact that she'd come to him, albeit later than he might have liked, was proof that she loved him and trusted him with her life. She wanted to make it work. She really did. So yes, he was relieved.
On the heels of that feeling, almost simultaneously, was anger. Again. Why had she worried him this way? He remembered one of the rare times he'd gotten away from his parents at a Smallville Corn Festival. He'd only been five or so at the time, but he remembered his parent's expressions when they'd found him after almost an hour-long search. They hadn't known whether to hug him or spank him. At the moment, he felt the same towards Lois: unsure of whether to comfort her or storm out of the room. There was no contest of course; he would always comfort first. That was his nature.
Still, it didn't take away the anger. It only delayed the moment when his feelings would finally make themselves known. He made himself a silent promise that he would allow the anger to surface slowly, rather than in an explosion. He remembered what damage explosions could do — words that couldn't be taken back, and hearts that couldn't be mended. The anger would have to come out gradually, like steam from a kettle, or like that kettle the lid would blow off.
He finally looked up at her, not at all surprised to see tears on her face. Her eyes were puffy from crying, as they had been all too often lately. Where had his mind been? Why hadn't he seen? People died from this, and he had been totally clueless. Nearly as clueless as she'd been while she sat there waiting for his response.
"Just thinking," he hedged, trying to buy some time.
"I know," she said, a faint smile on her face, but it was gone quickly. "I've spent a lot of time doing that, too. I just… need you to know how sorry I am. I love you more than anything, and I never wanted to hide anything from you. It just sort of… happened."
"Why now?" he asked softly. "I'm glad you told me, but what made you choose now?"
She took a deep breath, and then another. He could almost feel her steadying herself, preparing for her answer. He knew then that he wasn't going to like it. "Because of last night," she finally said.
Last night. Two words shouldn't carry so much feeling, but they certainly did. It had been an emotional roller coaster for him, from surprise to arousal to disappointment, and he would be a long time getting over it. In retrospect, it made a lot more sense now than it had. At least he could understand her recent lack of libido. That was part of depression too, he thought.
When he didn't comment, she continued. "I didn't want you to think it was your fault," she explained. "It's a hormonal thing, really. It has to do with the medication and how it works on the brain. Not being able to… finish… is a side-effect of the drug."
"At least you're not ready to leave me," he said with a shrug and a brief attempt at a smile. The humor fell flat. The subject was purely too serious to try to joke around.
He had been hurt the night before. It wasn't just the fact that he hadn't been able to satisfy Lois — regardless of the fact that she had been the one to initiate their lovemaking — but instead it had been a feeling that she was no longer interested in him sexually. In the last few months they had made love infrequently, and for her to tune-out during one of those rare sessions had been nothing short of painful for him. What was worse was that given the irregularity of their bedroom activities lately, he had no clue when he would be able to try again.
"I should have told you last night," she said softly. "But I was so upset that I didn't know how. You just seemed so…"
"Hurt," he supplied, when she didn't finish the sentence. Angry, too, but she didn't need to know that just now.
"Only married two years, and I couldn't turn my wife on," he said softly. "Yeah, it hurt."
"I know," she admitted. "I'm so sorry."
"Stop apologizing," he told her, far more sharply than he intended. "I feel bad enough about this as it is." The anger was seeping through. He wished that he could control it, but he had a feeling that he was going to say something that he would regret. He hoped that Lois would be as forgiving as she was asking him to be. He hoped he didn't make things worse.
"I'm…" Thankfully, she didn't finish the sentence.
"Lois, I know a little bit about depression," he explained. "When I did the writeup on the homeless problem, that was one thing that kept coming up over and over. I learned more about it than I wanted to know. I saw what it did to people. It stripped them of their families, their homes, and sometimes their lives. This could have killed you, and I wouldn't have even known what happened."
"It didn't get that bad," she reasoned. "I never was suicidal. Not really."
He grasped that last sentence, feeling the chill as it worked its way through his mind. "Not really?"
With a look of resignation, she continued. "I guess I thought about ending it — when I was really low — but it seemed like too much trouble. I wanted to make my life better, not end what there was of it."
"Thank God for that much," he said. He wasn't sure if he intended it sarcastically or not. He was thankful it hadn't been that bad, but he was terrified by how bad it had been.
"I love you," Lois said suddenly. He felt her hand on his, and then felt it move to his forearm. It was only then that he realized he was still sitting there in only his robe. "And, I want you. I need you, too."
He lifted a hand to her face, brushing away tears as he did so. He wondered how she could have tears left after all the crying she'd done. "I love you, too," he said softly. "There's nothing you could do to make me stop loving you. I'm angry, yes. And I wish you had told me sooner."
"I know," she said, her voice breaking once more. "I'm…"
He stopped her with a thumb across her lips. "You apologized," he told her. "I accepted. That's the end of it."
He watched her eyes gratefully close, and then he finally gave into the temptation that was always at the surface when she was near. "Let me hold you?" he asked, his voice turning the command into a question.
She nodded, coming closer and into his arms. He tightened his grip on her, resting his chin on the top of her head as he felt her arms slip inside the robe to clutch at bare skin. Her hands were cold, her body tense, and he wondered if anything else was going on in her mind. He would have asked. He probably should have, but he was afraid he wasn't ready for any other answers.
Trust had taken a beating, and it needed some time to heal. At this point, he was just glad that they had the time to let it happen.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Kent."
Clark shook hands with the physician as she introduced herself. Dr. Evans was almost as tall as he was, with eyes that were hidden beneath thick glasses and wavy blond hair that was pulled back with a barrette. "You, too," he responded automatically.
The doctor took a moment to seat them next to one another in front of her desk, and then took her own seat behind the huge polished desk. It was a typical doctor's office, with framed diplomas from Duke University Medical Center. He was surprised to see a nursing degree posted as well, along with a family counseling certificate. Apparently, this was one general practitioner who hadn't taken the direct route to MD. As Lois had told him, she seemed to be uniquely qualified.
"So, how've you been feeling this week, Lois?" The doctor didn't mess around, but went straight for the matter at hand. Clark had to respect that.
"Better," Lois answered, looking to him for confirmation. He nodded and she continued. "Not so much yelling, but I still spend a lot of time in tears."
"More or less than the last couple of months?" she asked efficiently, opening the file before her.
"Maybe less," Lois said uncertainly. She looked back at Clark, seeking his opinion.
"I suppose she doesn't cry as often. She's a lot easier to reassure, though. I've seen that difference. A few weeks ago I didn't dare say anything, because she'd start screaming if you asked what was wrong."
The doctor smiled at that. "Definite progress, I'd say." She made a few notes, and then faced Lois again. "How about appetite? Better or worse?"
"About the same, really," she admitted. "I eat anyway, though. Not a lot, but I don't skip any meals."
"Very good. Sleep?"
"Definitely better," Lois said with enthusiasm. "And I'm not nearly so drained. I'm running again, and I'm back to an aerobics class twice a week now."
"Excellent." The doctor removed her glasses to reveal a set of startlingly blue eyes. "Are you seeing any side-effects from the medication? Headaches, nausea, dizziness, sexual problems?"
Lois looked at Clark. He looked back, gave a nod of encouragement, and waited. This was her appointment, and her body. He had to leave this part up to her.
"The headaches stopped, but I'm having another problem since the dosage went up." Lois paused, seemingly uncertain how to continue.
"Sexual?" Dr. Evans asked. She was perceptive; he had to give her that. Maybe he'd wind up liking this doctor after all.
"Yes," Lois admitted. She shifted around in her seat, looking uncomfortable. "I mean, I'm interested again, and that's better," she explained. "But once we get started, I…" She trailed off again.
The doctor gave her a moment to finish, but Lois didn't seem to be able to find the words. Clark was just considering explaining the problem — at least as much as he understood from what Lois had told him — when the doctor began speaking once more. "One of the major problems we see with Prozac is that it makes it difficult for some people to achieve orgasm. Regardless of stimulation, or interest, the body just isn't able to reach that neurological state of release." She noted the relief apparent on Lois' face. "That must be it," she said with a smile.
The doctor revealed a wide smile. "I'm a doctor," she reminded Lois. "There isn't much you could say that would shock me. You need to be honest if you want me to be able to help you." She laughed softly before she continued. "Back in residency, I was rotating through OB/GYN. I had a woman come into the clinic and she absolutely refused to undress for the examination. I finally called the primary physician in to help me. He looked her in the eye and said, 'lady, you can't expect me to fix the engine if I don't lift the hood.'"
Clark laughed at that. He knew how he hated examinations, but he hadn't really thought about how woman would take them. He'd always assumed that it was his fear that a doctor would notice something different. But even with Dr. Klein, he wasn't comfortable. There was just something about being on display that didn't appeal to him.
"My point is," the doctor continued once he and Lois had stopped laughing. "You can't expect me to solve the problems you're having with the medication if I don't know about them. This time I made a lucky guess. Next time, you may need to give me the words."
"I understand," Lois admitted. She was still blushing slightly, but she was looking the doctor in the eye now. Good girl, he thought silently. There's nothing in the world that they could do which should be embarrassing. They were married, consenting adults, and they didn't need to apologize for their sex life.
"In this case, it's not a difficult fix," the doctor was saying. "There are a number of medications that can treat this type of depression. Actually, we were very lucky to find one that worked so well for you in the first place. Now, it's just a matter of finding one with a similar method of action, which doesn't have the same side-effects.
"I'd like to keep you on something as chemically similar to Prozac as possible. The once-daily dosing is convenient, and we already see some improvement. Celexa is a similar medication, just a bit newer, and it shouldn't have the same problem. I'll give you a dosage that is equivalent to what you're taking now, because that seems to be adequate. You'll notice that the milligrams are lower, but that's just because it's a more potent medication and you'll need less of it." She finished writing the prescription, and then tore it off the pad to hand it to Lois.
Lois looked at the prescription for a moment, and then back up at the doctor. "How long before I can see some improvement in the… side-effects."
"At least a week," Dr. Evans told her, regret clear in her voice. "More likely it will be closer to two. Also, you may not see an improvement, in which case you need to come back. This isn't just an irritant; it's an unnecessary stress for marriages. It's hard enough dealing with depression without the treatment impugning on your sex life."
"I'll second that," Lois said softly.
"In the meantime," the doctor advised, changing her attention to take in both of them, rather than just Lois. "The inability to achieve orgasm doesn't have to limit your sexual activity. As long as both of you are willing, there are a lot of ways to bring one another pleasure without necessarily achieving an orgasm. Touching, backrubs, warm baths… anything that feels right will make this waiting period a bit easier." She turned her attention to Clark. "And just because she has difficulty with orgasm, it doesn't mean that you should limit yourself. Again, whatever the two of you are comfortable with is what's best for you. Talk to one another, and listen to one another. This is an illness, and it can cause a lot of marital problems if you aren't upfront with one another."
Lois looked over at her husband and smiled. "I think we found that out."
Clark glanced at his wife, and let her small smile put him at ease. He'd been desperately fighting the blush that the physician's words had caused. He didn't have any problems with sex, but discussing his private life with another woman — or having that woman lecture him on acceptable activities — was uncomfortable. It was reassuring in an odd way, and he needed the information, but it was still embarrassing.
"Anything else?" The doctor finally asked. She focused on Lois until she shook her head, and then focused on Clark.
"Actually, yes," he said after a moment of thought. He didn't look at Lois, afraid she might object to the question, but he had to know. "I don't want to make anything worse, or put Lois under any additional stress," he explained. "Is there anything I should or shouldn't do?"
The doctor smiled, turning her gaze to Lois. "Let's find out," she said. "Lois, what would you like your husband to do? What do you need?"
Lois considered that for a while. "I don't want you to always give in," she told Clark. "I love that you're there for me, but I don't want you to treat me like I'm an invalid. I'm getting better, and I can still hold my own in an argument, so you don't have to step so carefully around me."
Clark reached out and took her hand in his. So, she had noticed how gently he'd been treading around her uncertain moods. "I think I can mange that," he admitted.
"And tell me when I'm out of line," she asked of him. "You always have in the past, and I think I need that perspective even more now."
Clark only nodded.
"That sounds like a good plan," the doctor advised. "Just talk to one another, and be honest about it. You'll do fine as long as you keep those lines of communication open."
Clark set his chin on Lois' head and looked over her at the monitor. "Who."
She turned back to look at him curiously.
"Who," he said again, pointing. "The police officer who was at the scene. You can't use 'that' in the sentence, because the officer is a person rather than an object."
"That's a matter of opinion," she argued. "You didn't talk to the guy."
Clark just grinned at her. He had to know if she was serious about acting as they always had, and this seemed as innocuous a way as possible to find out for sure. She had always hated making her own corrections, insisting that editors should have to earn their pay.
"Always editing my copy," she mumbled, making the change in the story. Thankfully, there was no heat in her voice, but rather the playful banter he was accustomed to.
"Always have," he told her, kneeling down to peer at the remainder of the story. He gave a sideways glance, and then reached over to her mouse and scrolled the document down. He didn't see any other errors. "Looks good," he finally concluded.
Lois leaned her head sideways, resting it against his while she sent the story to Perry. "Thanks," she said softly. "And not just for the story."
He shrugged one shoulder and turned to face her. "It's what I'm here for," he assured her. When she just looked at him, a soft smile on her lips and her brown eyes wide and trusting, he leaned forward and kissed her gently.
"Mmm," she murmured. "Nice."
"I've missed you," he said softly.
"I missed me, too."
He brushed his cheek against hers, and then stood. With a last smile he carried the folder in his hand towards Perry's office. He was only half way there when Jimmy cornered him.
"How's it going, C.K.?"
Clark looked back at his wife, now working intently. "Pretty good," he answered with a smile.
"No claw marks today," Jimmy remarked, giving Clark a grin.
His smile fell at that. "She's had a hard time the last couple of months," Clark admitted. "But we all do that, sometimes. Give her a break."
"Half the time I'm afraid she's going to break me," Jimmy admitted wryly, and then caught the serious expression on the older man's face. "Is she okay?"
"Yeah, Jimmy," he said, patting him on the arm. "She's just fine."
Jimmy nodded, accepting Clark's reassurance. "That for Perry?" he asked.
"Yeah, it's the preliminary report from our source at the Pentagon. He wanted a look at it to verify some of the facts. Apparently, he's been seeing some contradictions in the reports, and he wants to eliminate those before we move forward."
"He doesn't want Washington breathing down our necks?" Jimmy asked with a grin. "Gee, he's just no fun anymore. You want me to take that in for him? I'm going anyway."
"That would be great," he allowed, handing over the folder. "I'd like to get out of here on time today, and I know that folder's at least three Elvis stories worth."
Jimmy laughed again. "Have a good night, C. K."
"I plan to," Clark said with a glance back at his wife. "I really do.
It wasn't as easy as he had hoped. Clark knew that Lois was making every effort, but the second medication had been worse than the first. Not only had it caused the same side effects, but it caused her to be so jumpy that she was a nervous wreck. By the time they finally gave up hope and went back to the physician, Lois had been fighting the new medication for seven weeks and Clark was considering his own form of insanity. Those at the Planet seemed to be equally cautious of his wife, and even Ralph had stopped coming by her desk.
The next month had been spent on Welbutrin. Clark had been both relieved and happy when his wife's libido returned to normal, but he hadn't been prepared for the return of her mood swings and erratic crying jags. Four weeks into that medication — because they'd learned that waiting served no purpose — they returned to Dr. Evans for an increased dosage. Gradually, her moods stabilized once more, and Clark was able to breathe again.
Medication wasn't an exact science, and every body chemistry was different. This was what the doctor told him, but it didn't make living with Lois any easier. She became almost frantic about her medication — fearful that if she missed a dose it would start all over again. Clark tried to be understanding, but he got tired of making flights to the house to retrieve her pill bottle. He got tired of being patient. He got tired of catering to an illness that neither of them had asked for, and neither of them wanted. For the most part, he just got tired.
The counseling sessions weren't much more beneficial. Yes, her mother was an alcoholic. Yes, her sister was flighty, perhaps to the point of manic depression — now called bipolar disorder. Yes, her father was a workaholic. Yes, she had a family history of mental instability in one form or another. Clark understood all the reasons behind the illness, but what he wanted to know was how to fix it. This wasn't the woman he had married, and while he'd promised to love her in sickness and in health, he was damn tired of the sickness. She'd been pulling him in every direction for more than six months, and he was exhausted.
For her part, Lois was doing everything possible to get better. She never missed a pill — even when he had to fetch it for her — she ate every meal whether she was hungry or not, and she never missed a therapy session. The problem was, he couldn't do it for her. He wanted desperately to fix the problem, and there was nothing that even a Kryptonian could do to improve the situation. His power meant nothing in the face of her difficulties, and even super-patience wasn't enough to put up with tiny bits of progress she was making.
He attended every other session with her. Part of the reason was so that he could understand what was going on, and the rest was so that he could provide her with what little support there was. Most of the time his presence seemed pointless, as he only sat in the corner and listened rather than contributing. Lois was now a little more confident in answering for herself, so she looked to him less and less for confirmation. He wasn't sure if that made him feel better or worse. While it was a sign that her condition was improving, it also made him feel even more useless than he already had.
They could only give the counselor an edited version of Lois' life. They couldn't mention his second job, or the pressures that entailed. They could discuss the helplessness of their infertility, but they couldn't give the reason for it. They could discuss her being alone a great number of evenings, but they couldn't go into details about the stress she faced during those times. Clark eventually began to feel that the secretive nature of their lives might be the true cause of her depression, and that didn't help his mood at all.
So, they endured. Lois took her pills and talked to her doctor. Clark kept his rescues to absolute emergencies, and to hell with writing decent stories or helping the world. He couldn't even help his wife, so saving the Earth seemed to be more than he should worry about. Jimmy kept his distance and Perry expressed continued concern. And Clark finally reached a point where he didn't know what to do anymore. He couldn't take it out on Lois — she was unstable enough — but he couldn't hold it in either.
The result of all the pressure was a flight to Smallville. When he arrived, his mother had an apple pie and a glass of buttermilk waiting on the table, and his father had plenty of work that he needed help with. The work didn't surprise Clark much, because there was always work to be done on the farm. The buttermilk did.
"How did you know?" he asked softly.
Martha Kent just smiled, and then filled the glass once more. "Mom's know," she finally admitted. "It's part of the job."
Clark smiled at that, and then the smile slipped. There were some things that even his mother's buttermilk couldn't fix. "I don't know what to do," he admitted.
"About Lois?" she asked gently, taking the seat next to him and stealing his fork. "Or about you?"
Clark watched as his mother nibbled a couple of bites of his pie and then handed the fork back. "Both," he admitted. "I want to help her, but half the time I think I'm just making it worse."
"Because of Superman?" she asked.
"Partly. The rest is me."
Martha looked at him a moment, considering. "I don't understand."
"It seems like everything that's a problem in her life comes right back to me," he said softly. "We can't have kids because of me. She's alone a lot, because of me. She deals with all kinds of stressful situations, and mostly that's because of me. She has to lie to everyone just to protect my secrets." He looked at his mother and sighed. "I feel like I did this to her."
"Clark," she said softly. "Where do you think she'd be today without you?"
"I haven't thought about it," he admitted. "I'm too busy looking at what her life is because of me."
"I'll tell you," Martha said firmly. "She'd be alone. She'd be either dead, or she'd be lonely and miserable. You know what her life was before you met her — how unsafe and uncertain it was. Do you think she would have survived that for very much longer?"
Clark shrugged. He hadn't considered it at all. At the very least, he'd tried not to.
"She was always in dangerous situations," his mother continued. "She didn't worry about dying because the story was all she had to live for. She didn't have anyone to talk to, anyone to trust, or anyone to love. And if it hadn't been for you, I don't think anyone would have bothered battering down her defenses to get in. Anyone less that what you are couldn't have managed it."
"Mom, I appreciate that, but I'm not as strong as you think I am."
"You're stronger than you think," she said with a wry smile. "Just the fact that you came home instead of flying off proves that. You want to get through this, so you will. It's that simple."
"I'm glad you think so," he said.
"Lois loves you," Martha said carefully. "And yes, right now she needs you. You've been putting up with a really bad situation for over six months, and you have a right to be tired." She reached out and took his hands in hers, then waited until he met her eyes. "But Honey, she put up with a bad situation — with your lying to her — for two years. She managed to get through it, and then she forgave you. It wasn't easy, but love can accomplish miracles when you let it."
Love could accomplish miracles.
Clark knew that. He'd always known it. From the time an older couple had taken a baby with no past and made him their own, he'd felt the power of what love could do. Suddenly, instead of feeling weak he felt incredibly guilty. Here he was, worried about how he was handling her illness, when Lois was doing everything in her power just to stay sane.
"How did you get so smart?" he asked softly.
"I see both sides," she admitted. "I've been on Lois' end of the situation. Oh, we didn't call it depression back then; I think they called it melancholy. They certainly didn't do anything about it. Anyway, it's what happens when you want something so badly and can't have it. Your father and I tried for years to have a baby, and after awhile it started to wear on both of us. If it hadn't been for your father's support, I don't know what I would have done. I felt so worthless because I couldn't give him a son, and there were times I really thought he'd be better off without me."
"I didn't know it was that bad," Clark admitted.
"It could have been. But your father never gave up. Oh, we both gave up on children; that was inevitable. But he never gave up on me. He told me every day how important I was to him, and how much he loved me. He only let me get so far down, because when I started to get too low he pulled me back up. Kind of like Lois has done for you."
Clark didn't say anything, but the question was in his expression.
"How long do you think you could see death and destruction before you gave up?" she asked gently. "How long do you think you could clear disasters, see the lowest side of people, and still be able to go back out there and do it all over again. After awhile, there just wouldn't be any reason to keep it up, would there?"
"But there's Lois," he realized. "And you and Dad of course…"
"But Lois is what gives you your strength," Martha said with a smile. "Right now she just needs some of that understanding and love back. I know you've been doing that, but you don't get to stop just because you're tired. You agreed to be with her through everything, and if you back out now you'll just make things that much worse."
"Till death do us part," he recited.
"Exactly," she agreed, her smile growing. "And you two have a lot of years before that will be an issue."
"Did you ever blame Dad," he asked carefully. "Because you couldn't have children, I mean."
Martha thought a moment, and then shook her head. "I blamed myself, mostly," she told him. "And I blamed him some as well. Back then we didn't have infertility testing or anything, so we never knew why. After we adjusted to it, we realized it didn't matter. We couldn't have them because it wasn't meant to be, and it was no one's fault. It was just us."
"But this is because of me," he added. "Most of her stress is because of me."
"No," Martha corrected. "It's because of circumstance. If it weren't you, it would be knocking herself out for a story, or not having anyone to love. If the predisposition for depression is there, it's going to happen regardless of what life hands you. Think about it — she became depressed even though she loves her job, adores her husband, and has a really interesting and exciting life. She has far more going for her than against."
Clark smiled softly at that. "So it's really not my fault?"
"It's your fault that you're pouting," Martha said firmly. "You need to choose whether you want to help her get better, or just leave her out there on her own. She can't manage this for the both of you."
Clark glanced over his mother's shoulder at the clock on the kitchen wall. "I'd better go get that fence fixed," he said absently. "I want to have time to pick up some Chinese food on the way home."
"Taiwan isn't on the way," Martha said with a smile. "But it is the best."
"Yeah, it is," Clark agreed. "Even if the fortune cookies frustrate Lois."
"She'll handle it," Martha said simply. "She has you to read them to her."
Dinner was a little late, regardless of Clark's rushing. He had wound up saving a couple of stranded boaters who had lost their craft, and that had taken time. Then he'd had to go back and pick up another dinner, because he'd ditched the first in the ocean. There was no help for it. He couldn't leave two people floating on the pacific in an emergency craft, and he certainly couldn't ask them to hold his dinner while he flew them to shore. Sometimes being able to help wasn't convenient.
Lois wasn't waiting, but had fixed herself a bowl of cereal and was curled up on the couch. When he saw her sitting there, his hearing easily catching the hitch in her breathing, he knew that he was in for it. He was late. He hadn't told her where he was going. She had every right to be upset. The question then became whether she would react with anger or tears.
As he rounded the edge of the couch, he got his answer. Her eyes were puffy, her nose was running, and salty trails were evident on her cheeks regardless of the pile of used Kleenex sitting beside her. Credits were rolling on the television screen.
"I'm sorry, Sweetheart…" he began.
"That's okay," she said with a watery sniffle.
He sighed. "I didn't mean to worry you," he started again.
"You didn't," she assured him. "I just wanted to watch a good movie. It's been a while."
Clark looked at her a moment longer, confusion on his face. She actually didn't seem upset, but her face told another story. She wasn't sobbing, wasn't screaming, but clearly something had upset her.
"Then what's wrong, Honey?" he asked gently.
She gave him the watery grin again. "I'm fine," she said once more. "Really."
Still floundering somewhere out in left field, he wandered over to the television and picked up the box to the video. With concern he read the title, and then burst out laughing.
"It's a classic," she said with another sniffle.
Clark laughed long and hard, grateful to do so. It had been too long since something had struck him as hysterical, since something had actually seemed normal and silly and not a big deal.
"You know I love you?" he asked softly, wiping away a couple of tears of his own.
"Yeah," she told him, her smile more sure than he had been of anything in months. "I know you do."
He looked at her for a moment, just enjoying her, and then indicated the table where he'd left his dinner offering. "I picked up Chinese," he suggested.
"Sounds good," she told him. "We can eat, and you can tell me how your folks are."
Clark glanced over at his wife again, startled. "How did you know?" he asked, turning from his task of reaching for the plates.
"I just know," she said with a sly grin.
Clark laughed at that as well, thinking he would never understand the workings of the female mind, and deciding that wasn't necessarily a bad thing.
The road to wellness was never easy. Lois figured that out somewhere close to a year into therapy. Despite extended sessions, and even some of the group therapy that she had dreaded, she still needed a small dosage of the antidepressant to keep her equilibrium. Dr. Evans told her that she might always require it — that her own body might never be able to keep enough Serotonin available for use without help — but that bothered her less than it once had.
She had her dosage down to once a day, three hundred milligrams a dose, and it seemed to work well enough. She kept the bottle on the kitchen table so she never missed it, and kept another bottle in her purse — just in case. She was managing it.
Lois never did realize when she went into remission. It wasn't a sudden thing — today you're sick, tomorrow you're not — but rather a gradual diminishing of the troublesome symptoms. She never realized when Clark settled in either, but she had a feeling it was soon after his flight to Smallville. Truthfully, she wondered why he had waited so long. Perhaps if he'd spoken to his folks earlier, he wouldn't have been so damn careful with her at first.
Little by little, the world began to revolve on its axis once more, rather than revolving around Lois. Perry began trusting her with the decent stories, and Clark began leaving her alone for more than ten minutes at a time. The horrible lack of control ebbed as well, and once more she was able to get mad, to be sad, or to just argue for the sport of it without feeling as though she would lose herself in the tirade.
She never thought she'd be relieved when Clark yelled at her, but that was the final stroke of healing. He didn't see her as fragile any longer — because she wasn't.
"It was a stupid thing to do!" he ranted, hands on his hips in full Superman pose.
Lois looked up at her husband and scowled. "It was not stupid!" she corrected. "It was my job! If I plan to keep that job I have to do my best."
"Your best does not mean getting yourself killed," he said angrily.
Lois brushed her dripping bangs out of her face with hands that were just as wet, before answering with a forced calm. "I did not get killed," she reminded him.
"Because I was here!"
She shrugged. "I know you're there when I need you," she reasoned.
"No," he said quietly. Far too quietly.
"I know it was a risk," she admitted. "But I got the pictures."
"Leave that to a photographer," he said bitterly.
"So you can fish them out of the river?" she asked incredulously. "Would that be better?"
"It sure as hell couldn't be worse!"
"I'm fine!" she said again, brushing wet hair back out of her face once more. "A little wet, but otherwise just dandy."
"If I had been a minute later…" he began.
"I would have treaded water," she said flatly. "They wouldn't have seen me up under the dock, and I'm perfectly capable of swimming until they got out of the area."
"It was an unnecessary risk," he muttered, but the heat was diminishing.
"Define unnecessary?" she said gently. "How about having that slime out on the street when we could give these pictures to Henderson and have him behind bars."
"You could have told me," he pouted. "I could have watched you, and made sure you were safe."
"You weren't there to tell," she clarified.
His anger began anew. "Then how did you know I'd get to you in time?" he asked fiercely. "What if I hadn't heard you call for help."
"I would have dog-paddled," she said, shaking her head. "They weren't shooting at me, after all. I only jumped in because I was afraid they'd see me."
"You jumped thirty feet into the river!"
"Well, yeah," she admitted more warily. "Maybe not one of my brighter moves, but it worked out okay." She shifted the bundle she still held in her hand. "The camera survived," she added with a grin.
"Great," he admitted. "You have a wet camera of…?"
"Emmings passing the money," she grinned. "Clearly. There was no one in my way, either. He isn't even supposed to be in town this week, and I have him passing laundered money."
"Unless the police can prove…"
"They can! You know they can! Henderson had already nailed Batting, the guy that took the cash. He just needed the source, and that's Emmings."
Clark took a deep breath and relaxed his posture slightly. "And you're okay?" he asked again.
Lois' eyes softened. Her husband was coming back, she realized. The sweet one. The one that had pulled her out and hugged her fiercely before he'd broken into a hysterical yell. The one that used to argue with her all the time, and made up so well that it was worth the argument. "Feel better," she asked.
He nodded, looking slightly abashed. His looked changed to one of irritation when she grinned at him. "What?"
"You yelled at me," she said through the smile.
"You deserved to be yelled at."
"No," she corrected. "You yelled at me because I did something foolish, and because that's what you do."
"When was the last time you let me have it?" she asked softly.
Clark watched her for a moment, and she could almost see the gears turning. Clark hadn't so much as raised his voice to her in months. He hadn't trusted her to react within reason. Today, he hadn't thought about it at all, and that was almost worth the reaming out she had taken.
"I love you," he told her simply.
She grinned again. "Then get me home so I can get you out of that wet suit," she suggested.
"What?" she asked in confusion.
"Police station first," he corrected. "We need to drop off that film you took a swim for. Then we'll go home."
"Promise?" she asked suggestively, barely restraining herself from hugging her husband in public while he was wearing the red and blue.
"Absolutely," he agreed.
It had happened more and more since then, but that had really been the first time he'd reacted without thinking. He'd reacted as himself, instead of acting as though she needed to be packed in cotton. She knew he needed that freedom as well. Just as she needed to know that she could blow up at him and he wouldn't overreact, so he needed to blow up at her occasionally. Yes, he'd even had a reason, but that was irrelevant as far as she was concerned.
Lois turned to the sound of her husband's grumble. "What?"
"They finished the trial," he told her as he pulled out his notebook and tossed it on his desk. "The slime only got eighteen months."
"I thought they convicted him on drug charges, as well as the money laundering?" she asked, reaching past him to snag the notebook from his desk. She scanned his notes, her face bearing the fury she felt at the injustice.
"Henderson said it was plea bargained," Clark explained. "They convicted on personal usage rather than intent to sell, and in return he passed on a few names of the upper echelons of the money ring."
"That's lousy," she complained, tossing the book down again.
Clark shrugged as though he'd expected it. "Money buys the best lawyers," he reasoned. "But at least we don't have to worry about him trying it again."
"Why's that?" she asked, smiling slyly at his expression.
"Superman had a little talk with him," Clark admitted, a small grin slipping through. "Something about watching every move he made whether he was in prison or not," he told her as he slipped his arms around her waist, tugging her nearer to him. "The poor guy almost wet his pants, he was so scared."
"That's awful," Lois said with a laugh, slapping her husband's chest in mock reproach. "What about truth, justice, and the American way?"
"I'm rapidly learning that the 'American way' includes threats," Clark admitted. "If the law won't help you out, you just have to use what you have."
"Mmm," she agreed, leaning up into a kiss. Clark returned it easily, his arms tightening ever so slightly.
"So," he began. "Mmm. How was your day?"
"Good," she admitted.
"Appointment go okay?" he asked.
"Yeah," she told him. "It really did. This was the last private session, unless I start having problems. Oh, and a med-check in six months."
"No more therapy?" he asked softly.
"Not direct," she clarified. "I still have to go to the weekly stress management meeting, and Dr. Evans said to call her at the first sign of symptoms if they should recur. She doesn't think they will, though."
"You're all better?" he asked gently.
She shrugged at that. "It's not something that goes away completely," she admitted. "But I know the signs now, and I know what to do about them. The medication keeps the chemical balance right, and the stress management techniques should keep me from getting overwhelmed."
"Sounds good," he admitted, kissing her gently on the forehead.
"I also have you," she told him carefully.
"Always," he agreed with a grin. "But in this case I'm not sure what that means."
"Just that you might see those trouble signs earlier than I do," she explained. "And if you do, I need you to point them out. I don't want it to get bad again."
"I can do that," he promised.
She hugged him securely, listening to his heartbeat for a few moments before releasing him and backing away. "So, how long will it take you to finish that write-up for Perry?" she asked, her voice not betraying the emotion she was feeling.
"Ten minutes, tops," he told her. "Then you want to celebrate?"
"Dinner," she said with a grin. "I'm feeling like cheesecake."
"That's not dinner," he corrected. "That's dessert."
"Okay, how about dinner in LA," she requested. "And then dessert."
She shrugged. "Beautiful sunsets," she suggested.
Clark laughed gently. "You earned it," he told her. "LA it is."
"I love you, Clark," she told him softly.
"I know," he replied with a grin. "I love you, too."
She watched him a moment more, as he seated himself and began to type out the story just a little faster than most people would be able to. In a few minutes he'd finish, and then they'd have dinner and return to the townhouse to make love. Maybe, if she wasn't too anxious to get back, she'd talk him into taking her out to see one of the local bands while they were on the West Coast.
Clark glanced up, smiling. She watched lashes lower as he moved his attention back to the computer screen, and saw the gorgeous frown as he studied what he'd written intently. He was beautiful to look at, she reminded herself. Even more wonderful to touch.
Then again, maybe they'd skip dinner and just head straight home.