Submitted: November 2001
Summary: Certain circumstances work against our favorite couple, but time can't change destiny.
I must warn you this is mostly fluff. I tend to lean toward the feel good stuff. This is probably my tenth fanfic. I wrote it back in July on paper first. My sister-in-law encouraged me to put it on my hard drive, then worried me to death until I submitted it. The setting is second season, but before any kind of revelation (at least it starts that way). From there it goes in a new direction. If you like fluff, you'll like this. If you don't, stop reading.
All standard disclaimers apply. I own none of these characters. I would also like to thank my proof-reader, Merry Truitt. She didn't waste any time getting it back to me. Thanks for your help. And please, send feedback. I had a wonderful time reading your e-mails on my first story.
Lois slammed the door to her apartment, venting from yet another fight with Clark. She wondered why she even bothered. His running off, his lame excuses and his mixed signals: she'd finally had enough. She picked up the phone and dialed.
"Dan? This is Lois."
Clark had watched Lois with Dan for over a month. She refused to talk to him or even listen. Conceding defeat, along with not being able to stand the sheer pain he and Lois were causing each other, Clark convinced Perry to transfer him to one of their international offices. Perry secured him a position as a foreign correspondent. He would travel to different locations covering government and other political stories.
Clark had spent most of the morning wrapping up his unfinished stories. He cleared out some things on his hard drive, then began taking care of some personal affairs. He was relieved Lois was out of the office on a story. The solace was far better than the tension. He was leaving in a few days and had decided a letter would be his good-bye to Lois. Cowardly? Yeah. But he rationalized it as being better for her and Dan.
Reporting on foreign affairs would be a lot like the life he'd led before coming to the Planet. A time or two Clark found himself looking forward to leaving. He would retain the lease on his apartment, at his parent's urging. As for Superman, he'd held a press conference nearly two weeks ago stating that he would be traveling to poverty stricken areas, and those of mass devastation, high crime, and war around the world. He said he felt now was the time to help in greater proportions. The world cheered. Metropolis felt abandoned. Everyone would have to adjust.
Just as Clark was shutting down his computer, sirens caught his attention. Since Superman's press conference he was lying low, not wanting anyone to make any connections when Clark left. When LNN reported that a massive chemical leak was threatening an entire section of the riverfront, Superman had no choice but to go.
Lois wiped his face for the tenth time in the last half an hour. Superman was on fire. He had inhaled poisonous gas to save the people on the waterfront, to find out he was the only one for whom it was poisonous. Now he struggled for his life.
Lois had found him in the warehouse, near death. He made her promise not to take him to a hospital. So, somehow she'd managed to get him to her apartment. Helping him from his suit and into bed had been the last time he was conscious. That was over twelve hours ago. He was sweating again, so Lois kept his face wiped. In minutes he would be shivering, too cold to stay still.
As each hour rolled by, Superman's condition seemed to be getting better. The sweats came less often and the cold was almost bearable for him. The night sky loomed over Metropolis as the strongest being on earth fought his demons.
Lois sat in the chair by the bed, watching this mythic hero. If the world knew the devastation Intergang had caused, there would be hell to pay. Lois thought about the man behind the suit. Who was he? Would she ever really know? Would anyone? She'd thought her fascination with him was over, but now she found herself drawn to him.
She immediately came to the bed when he began to stir.
"W..Where am I?"
"At my place. You've been really sick."
Superman watched her in the pale light of the moon for what seemed like forever. His hand found her face. "You're always there when I need you."
"Always. You mean a great deal to me."
"What will I do without you when I leave?"
"Simple, don't go." Lois held his hand.
"I have to. I 'need' to do this…Now."
"I know." She placed her hand on his face. "Just promise you'll be careful and not forget me."
He placed his hand over hers and held it to his face. "I could never forget you, Lois." He gently kissed the palm of her hand.
An instant later, Lois placed a tender kiss on his lips. She leaned back to stare into his dark eyes. Both seemed to be waiting for something. It was Clark who spoke. "Show me, Lois," he whispered.
She needed no explanation; she knew exactly what he meant. She did show him. Lois showed him every emotion she'd ever had for him, along with everything in her that cried out to be loved and accepted. He, in turn, returned her every emotion with his own. In that moment, in that place, he was finally allowed to love and be loved by Lois Lane.
As the sun dragged him from his sleep, Clark realized he actually had a headache. Wearily he sat up to unfamiliar surroundings. To save his life he couldn't figure out where he was. He was alone and barely aware he was naked. He found his suit, and, twenty minutes later, he found his apartment. The bed became his ultimate goal. He collapsed, suit and all.
Lois returned from a lead on Intergang's attempt on Superman's life to find the apartment empty. A silent tear found a path down her face. She realized last night was both a result of the high fever and a bitter sweet good- bye. Her hero would leave with her unsure if he even knew what they had done. Although she knew, had accepted some time ago, that Superman could never have a relationship with anyone, it hadn't mattered. Last night she'd found her one and only chance to fulfill every fantasy. In the solitude of reality, she found the strength to go on.
"Gone? He can not be gone?" Lois was furious. Jimmy had just told her Clark was gone. Worse even was finding out he'd been gone for three days. Lois slammed her case down to look at Jimmy.
He threw up his hands in mock defeat. "Hey, don't kill the messenger."
"Sorry, Jimmy. It's been one of those year's."
"Don't sweat it. See 'ya."
Lois slumped down in her chair, unsure how to proceed. Eventually, she turned on her computer to check her e-mail. There was a message from Clark.
I can't tell you how much it pains me not to be able to tell you good-bye in person. I knew if I tried, I'd never succeed. I'm leaving to put an end, hopefully, to the bitterness and tension between us. Meeting you has shown me a glimpse of what it really means to live. My cowardice has kept me from continuing. You were right; there are things about me I couldn't bring myself to tell you. For that I now pay the ultimate price. Although I will regret my decisions for the rest of my life, please know that I will never regret a moment of my time with you. I found you at a time I needed to most. I'm leaving now because it's the right thing to do. Watching you hurt and suffer has never been an option. I never intended to be one of those men who let you down. I am truly sorry. Lois, I will miss my best friend dearly, and I will always love you.
Lois simply stared at the screen. He *was* gone. What had she done? Yes, she had been mad, furious with Clark, but she never expected him to leave. She jumped up and stormed into Perry's office.
"Where the hell is Clark?"
"Ah, am I sensing a little…tension here?"
"Perry, this is no time for twenty questions. Where is Clark?"
"Well, honey, he's gone."
"I know that. Gone where?"
"Overseas. He's the Planet's new foreign affairs reporter. Lois, he asked for this. He felt you would be more satisfied."
Lois paced, waving her hands in the air. "More satisfied?! Why would I be more satisfied?"
"Well, ah, you had quit working with him and talking to him. Then there's Dan."
"Dan? What about Dan?"
Perry leaned back and sighed. "Lois, everyone knows Clark was crazy about you. He just didn't want to watch you with someone else."
"But Perry, we always worked things out."
"Did you, Lois?" She stared at him. "'You' always worked things out. Clark would wait for you to calm down, then he'd work his way back into your good graces. Maybe Clark just got tired of waiting for you to vent this time."
Lois plopped down on Perry's couch. "Oh god, Perry, you're right. Trouble is, I've been a bitch so long, I think it's all I am."
"Ah, honey." Perry joined her on the couch and hugged her close.
Finally, she sat up. "So, what do I do about Clark?"
"Nothing right now. He needs to do this. I give him a month. He'll be back. And when he does, you talk to him. Most importantly, you listen. I have a feeling you'll be surprised at what he has to say."
But Clark didn't come back in a month. Or even two. It turned out to be many months before he came back… The first weeks traveling again were difficult for him. The work he could almost do in his sleep, but the loneliness threatened to kill him. Even frequent visits to cry on his parents' shoulders didn't help. Being Superman in some of the worst places on earth turned out to be his saving grace.
As Superman, he gave people back their lives, gave them back hope. Their gratitude and kindness slowly began to recharge Clark's spirits. He rebuilt entire villages, exposed massive crime rings, and worked side by side with the people to create new lives for themselves. Watching their despair turn to hope left him with the realization that his world wasn't so bad after all, just his.
The effect time and circumstances had on Clark became apparent in his writing. The world read as Clark Kent transformed into one of the best writers in the world. His reports on foreign affairs began to be noticed by everyone. They were in depth and probing, cutting to the heart of things. He told the real stories, forcing people to look again and to take action to change things. Political feuds, government indecencies, and even wars were avoided because of his writing.
After a while, he began to write on the things Superman did also. The Planet and Clark decided this could be played out as if he were traveling with Superman to record his actions for the world. The reports became a successful column, picked up by papers all over the world. The good Superman was doing was transported into the lives of people all over the world. Seeing that, along with Clark's other writing, began to shift the course of history. The world seemed to be headed for that utopia H.G. Wells had described.
When Lois Lane was mad, she worked. When she was hurt, she worked. When she worked, she was the best. The anger toward Clark drifted into hurt as that first month went by. Then came the pain and the terrible loneliness. Her answer was to work. And by the end of that second month, she had accomplished what every journalist in the world dreams of. She had written a Pulitzer Prize winning story.
She had exposed Intergang. The Churches would finally answer to everything they had ever done. Lois, however, couldn't help but feel that something was missing. After that story, she lost her edge.
It was a very shocked, very distressed Lois Lane who left for California the next month. She had been given the worst possible news at the worst possible time. Lois was pregnant. Her night with Superman had left her with a permanent reminder. Too humiliated to explain and too tired to want to, she'd made the decision to leave. No one knew about the baby except Lucy. With her was where she would stay.
Lois had rolled the news around in her mind for a month. Deciding against abortion had been easy. Where to go from there was the problem. Fearing the baby might be different, she also decided against adoption. Once that decision was made, she made up her mind quickly to get out of Metropolis. Lucy finally had a good job and Lois knew she wouldn't ask questions. With a transfer to the Planet's Los Angeles office, Lois set out to start a new life.
Adjusting to pregnancy turned out to be easier than adjusting to her new job. Lois eventually settled into a public affairs column, deciding it was safer than investigative work. Her new boss didn't mind because it quickly became a huge hit. Lois wrote about every subject under the sun as it pertained to the fast changing world. It had been difficult when she realized she would have to start writing about the things her ex-partner and Superman were doing, but she let her emotions lead her writing and it took on a life of its own. Her straight forward approach and honesty quickly earned her the respect she deserved.
With work under control, Lois tried to focus on her baby. Nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary. She hoped that, with the baby being only half Kryptonian, it would probably not fly upon birth. Lucy's enthusiasm for her soon to be niece or nephew began to excite Lois. By the end of her pregnancy, she was psyched to become a mother. The first time she laid eyes on her son, Lois was completely and hopelessly in love.
Christopher had transformed Lois from the stony ice princess she once was to a sensitive, caring and extremely loving woman. He began to fill a void that had been left so long ago by constant pain and loss. The fear of letting people in was replaced by a mother's joy. And the change was remarkable.
Lois had waited until she was several months pregnant before telling her parents or even Perry. She deflected questions of who the baby's father was by telling them it was simply none of their business. They assumed it was Dan's. He and Lois had stopped seeing each other shortly after Clark left. He had been hurt to find out about Lois pregnancy, but eventually they became friends. They remained friends and saw each other as often as his job took him to LA He had even been present when Chris was born. Naturally, everyone figured Dan was his father. They assumed he and Lois had an arrangement and left it at that. Both Lois and Dan were content to do so.
What had surprised everyone was Lois' choice of names for her son. His full name was Christopher Clark Lane. It had been no snap decision. Clark was chosen because he had been one of the most important people in Lois' life and always would be. Lois never heard from Clark, just an occasional note from his parents asking how she was. She had even written them in return. They never volunteered information on Clark, but would answer if she asked. They had told her they heard from him often at first, but that he had eventually started writing and calling less often. She didn't tell them about Chris until he was born. For some reason she felt like it was betraying them to have this baby. But they had cried when she told them his name, and they had told her Clark had not contacted them in weeks.
Lois felt the presence of her best friend through his writing. She had even toyed with the idea of contacting him, but decided against opening up wounds that had begun to heal. As for Superman, she refused to watch television to avoid even seeing him. Lois had long ago concluded that he probably didn't remember the night they shared. Believing it best to leave it that way, he would not be told about this pregnancy. A hero's life would not afford him the luxury of being anyone's father. And Christopher would be better off without having to live to watch his father leaving him.
All in all, after over a year of trying, Lois was starting to get a grip back on her life. She couldn't help but remember the passion and caring she and Superman had shared every time she looked at Chris. However, it was a very mature and extremely different Lois who finally admitted she had never really loved him, only the idea he represented.
That same new Lois Lane also admitted that she'd made serious mistakes as far as Clark was concerned. She did love him and probably always would. Clark had been her friend when she needed one most. Her arrogance had cost her that friendship and a whole lot more. Now they would both pay the price for her mistakes for a lifetime.
Clark had spent months drowning his sorrows in his abilities to help others. With each month the pain eased a little more even though nothing would ever take away the regret and longing. Another dream about Lois had kept his mind filled with lost memories for days. This became a distraction that cost him dearly.
For weeks Superman had been dousing the efforts of one of the largest drug organizations in South America. On one particular raid, he had failed to inspect things before flying in. He woke up two days later in the middle of the jungle, with no powers. It had taken some time, but amazingly he made it back to some semblance of civilization. The events that followed were a blur. The world was led to believe that Superman could no longer be as high profile as before. He would continue his work undercover, with the help of his friend Clark Kent. Without super powers, Clark did manage to topple the ring. Deciding Superman had earned a vacation, the world was content to let him rest.
Clark had been relieved that the world had accepted the briefing he'd given, telling the world Superman would be taking care of himself for awhile. The ripple effect his actions had caused would be enough to keep people sated. Clark hoped by the time the natives became restless that his powers would have returned. Being just a regular man might not have be such a wonderful dream after all.
Clark contented himself with his work. His writing was as hot as ever. His expose about the drug ring was the story that brought world acclaim. The events took on a life of their own. To say Clark was shocked when he was nominated for a Pulitzer was an understatement. He was humbled completely, but did not plan to attend the ceremony. Perry White had other plans though. Somehow he managed to pull strings with the Planet and had Clark on a plane to the ceremony in Metropolis two days before the event.
Clark walked through the door on Clinton Avenue slowly. It was the first time he'd been here in fifteen months. He didn't need super powers to smell the familiar scents of a life long gone. The furniture was covered with dust cloths, evidence that no one had been there in quite a while. Memories poured into Clark's very being. He had been happy here. He had been Clark Kent here. Now it seemed he was only a piece of writing as it pertained to a world in which he only existed. He closed his eyes and inhaled what used to be. He reopened them to what was.
Clark only uncovered what was absolutely necessary to stay the three days he needed to. He would leave again the day after the ceremony. He found the coffee maker and decided he needed to go to the store. He grabbed his keys and headed for the door. When Clark opened it, he stood face to face with his parents.
Martha stood gazing into the two most beautiful eyes she'd ever seen. She took a step and embraced her son. They held each other as their tears fell. It had been nearly six months since he'd last spoken to them and nearly a year since he'd seen them. Until this moment, he hadn't known he'd missed them so much. As he released his mom and embraced his dad, he realized he desperately needed them.
His mom touched his face. He'd aged considerably. The spark he once had in his eyes was gone and his smile was labored. He was heavier and a beard covered his once beautiful boyish face. His hands showed the wear of years of hard labor. A very different man now stood before her. But he was still her son. In an instant, she resolved to find the person he once was, but knowing there was probably only one person that could.
"It's good to see you, son," she said softly.
Clark took her face in his hand now. "It's good to see you, too, Mom… I love you."
She took him into her arms again. "I love you."
"Mom?" Clark said, muffled against her neck. "I'm so sorry. I never meant to hurt you guys…I..I…"
"Hush now," she cut him off. "You're here. We're here. That's all that matters." Clark let go of a year's worth of pent up hurt and frustration. As he sobbed against his mom's shoulder, the healing finally began.
By nightfall, Clark had told his parents about his last year. He told them about the raid and losing his powers, how they remained unseen after four months. They related that they followed his writing carefully to keep some kind of hold on him. He constantly apologized for not staying in touch.
"Some times a man just has to find his way alone. Our only hope is that along the way you find yourself again." His father's words were a hopeful assumption. Clark just hoped to one day find his way again, knowing there was only one way to find himself.
Until he'd talked to his parents again, Clark hadn't realized how much he missed being Clark Kent. He missed his life; living here, on Clinton Avenue, in Metropolis; working at the Planet; his parents; his friends. He missed being Superman. Most of all, he missed Lois.
His parents hadn't said anything about her and he couldn't ask. He knew he would probably see her in the morning when he went to see Perry. Clark found a picture of her that still sat in its place on the side table. Memories of the best days of his life filled his head as he drifted to sleep.
Clark stepped from the elevator into the newsroom of the greatest paper in the world. Instantly, his life flashed back to his time here. For the first time in months, he actually felt good. Intent on his surroundings, Clark bumped into a young man.
"Excuse me. I guess I was…" Jimmy's voice trailed off as he recognized Clark. "CK?"
"How are you, Jimmy?" Clark extended his hand with a smile.
Jimmy looked down at his hand, then pulled him into a hug. "Damn CK. It's good to see you." Jimmy leaned back to look at his friend. "You're a sight for sore eyes. How are 'you'?"
"I'm…good. Getting better by the minute."
Jimmy looked into his eyes, trying to find the man who had left so long ago. Clark was different, hardened, but he was still his friend. "Congrats on that nomination. You're a shoe in to win it. The competition isn't even close."
"Thanks, Jimmy. Too bad you're not on the board of judges."
"Nope. No boards. But you are looking at the Planet's newest Kerth award winning photojournalist."
"Wow! Jimmy, that's great."
"Yeah. I'm lovin' being me right now… So, how are your folks?"
"They're great. In fact, they came out for the ceremony."
"Yeah. Perry's idea… Ah, Jack's got my old job." Jimmy chuckled. "He's better than me."
"Is that possible?" The men were sharing a laugh when a familiar voice bellowed behind them.
"Well, in the name of all that's Memphis. Clark Kent?! How are you, son?" Perry bear hugged Clark.
When he was released, he said, "I'm good, Chief. You?"
"Ah, well, you know me. Damn, son, it's good to see you."
"Chief, if I'm not mistaken, I believe you had something to do with that."
"Ah, yeah…well… Come on. Let me show you around. Things have changed since you've been gone."
Clark had to admit it felt good to be back at the Planet, even if it was for a visit. The newsroom looked the same. The only major change was the archives on the loft floor had been moved to another floor altogether. The loft held four cubicle offices. Perry stopped and waved his hand at the new addition.
"This is my newest baby. I hope to have it realized soon. These desks will host the best people in the business. Jimmy Olsen will sit over there." He pointed to the desk in the front corner." His job will be to put this paper into the next millennium. Aside from photographing major world events, he will oversee the online section of the Planet. Jack will sit here." He slapped the desk they stood by. "Jimmy's right hand man. The best damn researcher since Olsen wet his toes."
Clark smiled as he recalled the young man he'd helped so long ago. He sure had come a long way. "So, what about the other two?"
"Ah, yeah, well, I hope to fill those with the future. People want change, they want something different. I want the Planet to give it to them. I'm envisioning a new supplement to the Planet, host to a nationally syndicated public affairs column and a world humanitarian column."
Clark lifted his eyebrows and nodded his head. "Sounds like you're moving with the flow of the world."
"Yeah, well, I have to. What, with the work you and Superman have done, most news these days is good news. I figure…play it to the hilt. Work with what you're given. So, if we can't get good news, we'll make it." Perry watched Clark closely for a moment. "I was, ah, hoping you would consider writing that humanitarian column."
Clark looked up at Perry in shock. "What?"
"Now just hear me, Clark. I know this would be a change from the stuff you've been doing. But don't you think it's time for a change? You made a change when you left. It worked for you professionally. Personally, it drained the life right out of you. The fire in your eyes is gone. Unlike Lois, your fire had never burned for the story. It burned for life, just simply living. I watched it start to die down before you left. I thank God I didn't have to watch either fire die."
"Yeah, yours and Lois'. Hers is gone, too. Well, let's just say it changed drastically. See, Clark, Lois left two months after you did. Said she lost her desire for the story. Moved out west. Became a hermit. But she's finally getting it back together. It's time you did, too."
"Perry…" Clark started to protest.
"Now, son, just think about it. This job could be good for you. In fact, I think it's exactly what you need… And it carries one hell of a paycheck… Look, just say you'll think about it."
Clark caved to the hopeful look on Perry's face. "Okay. I'll *think* about it."
"That's all I ask." Perry threw an arm around Clark's shoulder. "Damn, it sure is good to see you."
The next afternoon Lois looked out the window of the jet that was quickly descending to the city she hadn't seen in fifteen months. Against her better judgement, she let Perry talk her into presenting the Pulitzer to this year's winner. As last year's winner, the offer to present was asked of her first. She had not even attended the ceremony last year. Ironic, considering that prize had been her driving goal most of her life. At the time, the Pulitzer just didn't seem to fit into her life. As the plane eased to a stop, Lois smiled down at her sleeping son.
"Come on, big guy. Let's go see Metropolis."
Clark sat on his balcony, staring out at the blue sky. For a brief moment, he wished he could just soar into those clouds and leave his life behind. But this was his life. Seeing Perry, and talking to his parents again last night and today, had made him realize he desperately wanted to live again. He couldn't run anymore. He wanted, no 'needed', to be Clark Kent again.
"Son, do you want me to tie your tie?" Martha asked from the doorway.
Clark smiled over at his mom and this time she saw a tiny spark. "Sure, Mom." Martha came to tie his tie. The tuxedo did wonders for his appearance. He had trimmed his beard and gotten a hair cut. He almost looked like himself again.
When Martha was finished, Clark trailed his fingers over her cheek. "I'm ready to come home, Mom."
Martha smiled through tear filled eyes. "I know, son. I know."
The large banquet hall was filled with some of the best journalists in the country. Clark almost felt happy to be here. It was an enormous honor to be considered one of the best writers in the world. By the time the ceremony started Clark felt like he had shaken hands with every person in the room. Various speakers talked about some of the writers' contributions to the world. Slides showed some of the most poignant photographic moments over the past year. Videos had captured some of the most sensational news events in history.
Martha squeezed Clark's hand as he watched coverage of Superman play across the large screens. A longing was evident on his face. Perry beamed as the spotlight hit the stage for the big moment.
A large, stately man stepped up to the podium. "Good evening, ladies and gentleman. I'm not one for a lot of talk. So, I'll get to it. As you know, this year's group was small. When asked who I thought was the best journalist in the world, only three names came to mind this year. Dan Colairo earned his place in this sensational group by exposing one of the biggest black market baby rings in history. Because of his efforts, over two hundred babies were returned to their homes.
Bobby Dell received the spotlight when papers all over the eastern seaboard picked up his story on illegal cargo shipping. A multi billion dollar industry was brought down.
And last, but certainly not least, Clark Kent sealed his claim as one of the best in the world, when he helped Superman shut down the single largest drug cartel in the world. That piece of writing rocked every major newspaper in the world, and because of his efforts, thousands of lives yet to come will be saved."
Lois paced back and forth in the little room off the stage. When she agreed to come do this, she had no idea who the nominees were. She had just been told the winner was none other than her ex-partner and friend. The award committee had divulged the information when they realized that last year's winner and this year's winner were once the hottest team in the business. They felt her knowing would add to the spectacle that would follow. After all, this was the business of sensationalism.
The man droned on about the nominees while Lois tried to figure out how to handle this. Clark was here. She couldn't leave. And in a few short moments, she would see him again. What was she supposed to say? When she handed him the award, what was she supposed to do? Yes, she had long ago decided she would like to see him again. With that about to be a reality, she was terrified.
"As you know, we ask the winner from the previous year to present this award. We also ask that this person remain backstage until the presentation, so as not to take away from the present nominees. This year's presenter was not able to be here to receive this award last year. The significance of her presence this year will soon be apparent.
So, without further ado, ladies and gentleman, last year's Pulitzer Prize winner for outstanding achievement in investigative journalism, and the best public affairs columnist in the country… Lois Lane."
Clark's breath caught when he heard her name. Lois was here and would present this award. She'd won her coveted Pulitzer. She was a public affairs columnist. <A what?>
Before he could answer that thought, she was walking across the stage. My god, she still took his breath away. She was small, graceful. Her perfectly tailored suit left little doubt that she was a professional. Pants and a jacket took the place of everyone's choice of evening gowns. She was more confident than Clark remembered. He was instantly in awe of this magnificent woman.
Lois stepped up to the podium, trembling nervously. She was about to come face to face with the man who was partly responsible for changing her forever. She took a deep breath, then began.
"Good evening. I had this wonderful speech prepared; now it just wouldn't be appropriate… All my life, I knew three things. I would become the best journalist in the world, win the Pulitzer, and never look back. Winning this coveted award became my life's ambition. For all my effort and mistakes, I did not win it until I learned that some things cannot be forced. A little over the last year of my life has been spent tracking and commenting on some of the best writing in the world. What I've realized is that I 'am not' the best journalist in the world and never will be. Being the best takes something I've never had, compassion. The best is not made. The best is born. I know because I've worked with the best. And yes, I've looked back. Every time I read a piece of his writing, I look back. I also see 'why ' he is the best… I'm very pleased to present the Pulitzer Prize for Excellence in Investigative Journalism to… Clark Kent."
The name rolled off Lois' lips. She scanned the room to watch for him to stand. She had not been able to spot him for the light shining in her eyes (and trying desperately to simply speak). She gasped when the lone figure rose about half way into the room. She held her breath as she watched him approach.
Clark had been holding his breath as Lois spoke. Her words etched into his mind, the meaning painfully obvious. As she said his name again, who he was came rushing back. Slowly, he rose, trying to control his shaking legs as he stepped toward the stage and toward the one person who could heal his soul.
Clark stepped onto the stage, stopping several feet from where Lois stood with his trophy. She stared at the man before her. The beard, his build, his stature, and the lost expression in his eyes was not the Clark who had left here. But deeper in those dark pools, behind those familiar glasses, she saw a tiny spark of the man she once knew. They stood there staring at each other, unaware of the clapping around them. The hurt she saw tore at her heart. <My god, what have I done to you?>
That first look into Lois' eyes was sweet. Clark had longed to see those beautiful eyes again. Lois was the same, but different. She commanded an air of confidence she never had before. She was mature. The lines around her eyes said she still managed to laugh. In an instant Clark could tell that although she was obviously happy, she was still missing something. He saw her eyes fill with tears and, as always, his heart wrenched. He closed the distance to her and she immediately took him in her arms.
Clark held on to the women before him as if she were his only life line to the world. He squeezed eyes shut as every emotion he'd ever had for her coursed through his body. Lois Lane still had the power to move him like nothing on earth.
They were oblivious to the flashing bulbs around them and the standing ovation. "I'm so glad to see you," Lois whispered in his ear, causing him to pull her closer. They were brought back to their surroundings by a gentle hand on Lois' shoulder. She reluctantly released him and handed him his trophy, standing aside for him to speak.
Clark took the trophy and smiled at Lois before stepping up to the podium. "Thank you… When I got the call that I had been considered for this award, I was both shocked and deeply humbled. For one person to recognize your work is an honor, but for a whole world to recognize it is indescribable… I, ah, I did not plan to attend tonight. The changes my work has started is more than I could hope for. This award is very nice. However, the lessons I've learned getting to this point are worth more than I could ever have hoped. I've learned humility, grace, and style. I've learned life will never be easy, family and friends are priceless, and no one is invulnerable. The choices I've made have cost me my identity. And until tonight, I never even realized that my choices could also give me back that identity." He glanced at Lois. "Please know receiving this award means a great deal to me. Not because people think my writing is the best, but because I received it from a very dear friend." Clark waved to the crowd as he stepped back from the podium. Lois reached for his hand and together they were led from the stage.
Backstage they ducked into the small room Lois had been in earlier. With the door closed behind them, Lois hugged Clark again.
"It really is good to see you," she said as she pulled back.
"It's good to see you, too, Lois."
They stood in silence until Lois spoke again. "I'm so happy for you. You deserved this award."
"I meant what I said… The best part of getting it was getting it from you."
Lois touched his face. "Oh, Clark. I have missed you so much."
"I've missed *you*… Not a day went by that you weren't in my thoughts."
"And you in mine." Lois smiled tenderly at him. This time when he smiled back, it reached his eyes. Further conversation was interrupted as the door opened. They were escorted out, to become the night's media event.
The next few hours were spent with a camera constantly flashing in their faces. They refused to be separated, each scared of not being able to find the other if they were. Finally, the night began to wind down. Clark was notified that his parents had already left.
"May I… take you home?" He asked Lois.
"Yes. I'd like that very much." She slipped her arm through his in a gesture that had once been second nature, and together they left the hall.
Since the hall was only a few blocks from Ellen Lane's apartment, where Lois was staying, they walked. After a long silence, Clark spoke.
"So, did I hear right?… You're a public affairs columnist?"
"Mmm… 'Fraid so. Investigative journalism just kind of lost its appeal. But with you… wow! You have really taken off. Your writing has always been great. Now it's outstanding."
Clark smiled down at her. "My work wrote itself. It was… therapy." Lois drooped her head. "Lois, please, I didn't mean that the way it sounded."
"No, Clark. I know I'm the reason you left."
Clark stopped her and looked her in the eyes. "Leaving was *my* choice. Just like it was my choice not to stay and talk to you about my… insecurities. I'll be the first to admit that I've made a lot of mistakes, but I intend to start correcting them. Starting with asking you to forgive me for leaving."
"Clark, there's nothing to forgive. You did what you thought was best. Maybe at the time it was. We learned a lot of important lessons." She laughed wryly. "It's bittersweet really. If you hadn't left, things in the world would not be changing the way they are."
Clark trailed his fingers through Lois' now shoulder length hair. "Lois, I'd trade it all not to have ever hurt you."
Lois saw the truth in that statement in his expression. At once everything she'd ever felt for Clark came rushing back. Trying to control her trembling legs, she retook his arm as she led him down the street again. Nothing was said until they stopped at the bottom of the stairs to her mother's building. "So… how long are you staying in Metropolis?"
Clark smiled sadly. "I was planning on leaving tomorrow, but… suddenly I have an urge to see if I can make a difference here again."
"Yeah. Perry offered me a new position at the Planet."
"Don't tell me… humanitarian columnist?"
Clark looked at her closely. "Public affairs columnist?" They laughed together. "I have to hand it to Perry, he never gives up."
"No, he doesn't. So… are you taking it?"
"Yeah. I think I am… You?"
"Well, when he first mentioned it, I thought he'd hurt himself."
Lois paced a couple steps away. "There are a few things I need to work out, but… if all goes well…" She turned back to him. "There are some things I'd like to talk to you about."
"O..kay… Is it me? I completely understand if you don't want to work with me again."
Lois walked back up to him. "No, it's not that… It's, well…" She placed a hand on his chest. "How about I take you to lunch tomorrow? We'll talk then."
Clark relented to the tender look in her eyes. "I'd like that."
"Good. I'll pick you up. Where are you staying?"
"My apartment." At her puzzled look, he continued. "My parents insisted that I keep it. They never thought I'd be gone this long."
"Okay. Noon, your place." He smiled at her again. She reached up and kissed his cheek. "Goodnight, Clark."
"Goodnight, Lois." He stood, with his hands shoved in his pockets, and watched her go. Once the door was closed, he turned toward Clinton Avenue. He wished he could fly right now. Seeing Lois had been wonderful. She missed him; she thought about him; she wanted to see him again. He was on cloud nine. Whatever she wanted to talk about was fine by him if it might be possible for them to work together again. The healing appeared to be mutual.
Clark had spent the morning cleaning his apartment. Lois had called that morning and asked if they could talk at his place. She said what she needed to say should be said in privacy. Now as he cleaned, he was almost apprehensive about this lunch. His parents had made themselves scarce. It would be just him and Lois.
Lois stepped up to the familiar door that she hadn't been to in months. With butterflies in her stomach, she drew in a breath and knocked.
"Hi," Clark said as his smile met Lois' when he opened the door.
"Hey yourself. You look more like Clark today. That monkey suit was really great, but nothing says hello like Levi's."
Clark laughed at her compliment. Lois had never been one for direct ones. He glanced down at himself. "Yeah, well, I don't even own a suit anymore. Not much need for them in third world countries."
"Please don't tell me you got rid of your ties."
"I thought you hated my ties?"
"They kind of… grow on you after a while."
Clark chuckled. "No, I didn't get rid of my ties. I don't think anyone else could appreciate them." Lois laughed then. "Come in." He stepped aside for her to enter.
Lois noticed that the apartment looked exactly the same. Even her pictures still sat in their places. She stopped at the bookshelf to look at a picture of Clark with a group of kids.
"An orphanage in a village in South America. I, ah, was hurt during that drug story. They took care of me."
"I didn't know you were hurt." Clark nodded. "Is that why you've…" She waved her hands around.
"Gotten… heavier?" Lois exhaled. "Actually, I'm bigger, more defined. Two months of hard work tends to bulk you up."
"Impossible!" she whispered, staring at him.
"Clark, you were as big as a house before."
Clark's face turned red with her words. "So, now I'm big as a small mansion." He laughed when he met her amused gaze.
"God, I've missed you."
"I've missed you, too." They held eye contact for a moment. "So, how 'bout some lunch?"
Lois nodded furiously, then followed him to the kitchen. "You know, I could have brought some take out."
"I know. But I haven't cooked in an actual kitchen for a while. I wanted to."
Lois watched him as he worked. She had noticed a little more spark behind his eyes today, hoping she had a little to do with that… He was right. He had bulked up. The muscles rippled through his tight shirt. Lois found herself regretting never giving in to those erotic fantasies she used to have of him.
He turned with a platter and a smile. "Ready?"
"Do you think you'll miss it when you come back?" Lois asked Clark of his stories.
"To tell you the truth, I really didn't care for many of the places I went to. Most of them I'd seen before. I just went to get the story."
"And what stories you got. I always knew there was a fantastic writer in there, but I had no idea you were that good." Clark blushed at her words. "I didn't mean to embarrass you."
"No. It's just… you never complimented me like that before."
"I should have." Lois reached for his hand. "I should have done a lot of things."
"Lois, let's don't do this. Looking back only…"
"Gets you a bump on the head when you run into the wall." Lois' words cut Clark off.
"I guess maybe it does." He placed his hand over hers. They both looked down at them at the same time. Lois pulled away, stood up, and paced to the living room. Clark quickly followed. "Lois, did I do something wrong?"
"No." Lois turned to face him. "I need to tell you something. I need you to listen, really listen. This is… well, it's… there's no easy way to say it." Lois looked at the confusion in Clark's eyes. "The night before you left… I spent it with a friend, a male friend… We… slept together."
Clark took in Lois' words. It hurt to know she went to someone other than him, but he also knew she had being seeing Dan. And at the time he had no claim on her. She quickly moved on.
"I got more that night than I ever expected." Lois turned her head. She actually felt guilty for having her son. Slowly, she turned back to him. "Clark, I have a son."
Lois' words were so low Clark was unsure if he'd heard them. A deeper look at her eyes said he had. "Lois…"
"I know you probably think I'm terrible. Telling you I cared about you, seeing Dan, then sleeping with someone else."
"The baby's not Dan's?"
"No, he's not. And before you ask, I'm not gonna tell you… It's not that I'm trying to hide anything. I've never told anyone, not even him. The thing is… it's complicated, it's done, he's here… and I love him very much." Lois watched as Clark seemed to struggle with this news. "Clark, you 'did' mean a lot to me at the time. You were my best friend. I just wanted you to know… that night had nothing to do with us. I didn't do it to get back at you or hurt you in any way. It… happened. And when I look at my son, I can't regret it."
Clark looked at Lois carefully. Yes, it hurt that she'd had someone else's baby, but he also saw that love for her son. "And now?"
"You said I meant a lot to you then. What do I mean to you now?"
Lois' eyes filled with tears. "You mean more to me than I realized until just now." Lois closed the distance between them and put a hand on his chest. "Clark, I would really like to come back to Metropolis and us get to know each other again."
"Lois," Clark said as he tucked her hair behind her ear. "I would like that very much."
She smiled brightly. "Really?"
"Yes, really… on one condition."
Lois shot a speculative eye at Clark. "And that would be…?"
"If you let me meet your son."
Lois smiled brightly at Clark. "Really? You're okay with this?"
"Why wouldn't I be okay? I lost the right a long time ago to get… upset at you. I walked out on you when I should have been here. And that was before I left Metropolis. If we're going to get to know each other again, I think that includes your son… I can see it in your eyes that he means a lot to you."
"Then… he means a lot to me."
Lois was crying now as she grabbed Clark around the neck. "How did I ever let you go?"
Clark squeezed her to him. "Let's just not ever do it again."
Lois leaned back, wiping tears. "Not a chance, Farmboy."
Clark laughed softly. "You're the only person who's ever called me that." He reached to wipe Lois' face. "So, I'm assuming he has a name."
"Your son. His name…"
"Oh, yeah. It's Christopher. Sometimes I call him Chris."
"Christopher… He's… here?… In Metropolis?"
Clark frowned a little. "And… why not here?"
"Clark… I had to talk to you first."
"So… now I know." He grabbed Lois' hand and pulled her toward the door.
Lois pulled back. "Where are we going?"
"To get Christopher. I'm sure an hour with Ellen is all even he can stand."
"Are you sure?"
"Lois, I can't meet him if he's not here." He softened at the look on her face. He turned and held her face. "I want to know you. 'He's' part of you."
She pressed a quick kiss to his lips. "You'll love him."
"If he's anything like his mother, I have no doubt." She smiled brightly at him, then they turned to go.
"Mother?!" Lois called as she and Clark entered the apartment.
"Right here, Lois," Ellen said as she came into the living room. She stopped short when she saw Lois' guest. "Clark?"
"Mrs. Lane, how are you?"
"I'm fine, son. How are you? And congratulations. I love your work."
"Thank you. …I'm good."
"You're more… handsome then I remember."
Clark blushed appropriately. "Thank you. You're not so bad yourself."
Ellen waggled a finger at him. "Still the charmer, I see."
"Mother," Lois started. "Where's Chris?"
"Ah, in his little play thingy. Lois, he won't eat." Ellen turned to smile at Clark because Lois had already left the room.
A minute later, she returned carrying Chris. "Clark, this is Chris."
Clark had watched her enter with the baby. He had to admit he was the most beautiful baby he'd ever seen. He closed the distance between them. "Look at you. You're gorgeous." Clark was rewarded with a drooling smile. "Wow!" He took Chris' hand in his large fingers only to have him fall toward him, wanting to be taken. Clark chuckled as he took him into his arms. He carefully cradled him in an upright position to get a good look.
"That's incredible," Lois said.
"He never goes to strangers. He still cries when my mother takes him."
"I heard that," Ellen yelled from the other room.
Clark made a funny face at Chris. "He probably likes my beard. Right, Chris?" The baby was gurgling happily and swatting at Clark's face.
"I don't know, Clark. Lucy's boyfriend has a beard and he doesn't like him."
"Tell Mommy I'm a likeable person." Clark leaned forward to nudge Chris' face with his own. Chris cackled out. "Oh wow! You're amazing!" Clark nudged him again, exciting another laugh. He made a few faces at him before he turned to Lois. "He's great, Lois."
Just then Ellen walked in. "Lois…" She stopped short when she saw Clark with Chris.
"Mother? Are you okay?"
"Ah… yeah…" She walked closer to the trio.
"Lois, you don't see it?"
"Chris… and Clark." Ellen cut her eyes at the pair. By now Clark was getting nervous.
"Yes, mother, Clark is holding Chris."
"No, Lois. Chris… l..looks like Clark."
"What?" Lois turned to look at a now very nervous Clark and content Chris. She gasped when she looked closely. "My god, he does."
"You two are making me nervous." Clark looked very uncomfortable.
"Seriously, he does," Lois said. "Guess it's true what they say about everyone having a twin."
Ellen laughed heartily. "Didn't think yours would be six months old, did you?"
Clark eased a little. "No. I guess not." He refocused his attention on the baby. "So, kiddo, how 'bout a walk?"
A couple minutes later, Clark stepped through the door with the baby. Ellen grabbed Lois' arm. "No, mother," she said before Ellen could ask.
"I had to ask."
Lois and Clark walked in the afternoon sun, Clark holding Chris against his chest. The baby chewed on his little fist as his bright eyes searched his surroundings. Clark would stroke his hair and place kisses on his head.
"I have a stroller, you know," Lois said.
"Yeah… I like toting him." Clark looked down at Chris. "I wish I'd known about him. I hate it that you were alone."
"I almost tried to find you… every month." Her last words were low, but Clark had still heard them. He smiled to himself. They walked on in silence for a while. "So… is there room in your life for a difficult lady and her son?"
"Well… maybe her son," Clark joked.
Lois stopped to look at him, suddenly very serious. Clark had stopped as well. "I'd much rather for you to like him than me."
"That's a single mother's worst fear… to meet Mister Right and find out he hates her kids."
"Lois, I like Chris… a lot. He's great… And so is his mother."
She smiled and rubbed Chris' head. "Thanks. I'm glad… that you like him."
They resumed their walk. A block later, Clark looked over at Lois. "Have you found him?"
Lois grinned at the question. She should have known he'd catch that. "Maybe."
Lois looked in the rear view mirror at Chris. It was past his bedtime, but his little eyes refused to shut. The hat Clark had insisted on buying him was turned around backwards. He sucked happily on his pacifier. She and Chris had taken Clark to dinner in the country, an experience she had enjoyed. Clark had to feed Chris, and to Lois' surprise he ate happily. The little faces made between the two were priceless. She was elated that her best friend liked her son so much.
Clark kept turning to look at Chris from the front seat. He had blown Clark away. Instantly he felt drawn to the little guy. Now Clark couldn't get enough. So what if he was someone else's baby. He was Lois', part of her. That was enough for Clark.
Lois pulled the car to the curb in front of Clark's apartment. "Well…"
"Thank you… for dinner." Clark turned with a smile.
Lois noticed, even in the dim light, his eyes now held a slight twinkle. "You're welcome."
Clark turned and reached over the seat to Chris. "See 'ya later, kiddo." Chris immediately spit out his pacifier, primped up, and started to cry. "Oh ho ho. Don't do that. I'll see you tomorrow." He cried harder.
"He'll be okay. He's sleepy. Ready to nurse."
"I don't blame him," Clark mumbled.
"Excuse me?" Lois knew exactly what he'd said. She was very flattered. It had been a really long time since anyone had thought of her like a woman, let alone a desirable woman.
"Ahh… being sleepy. He's had a big day." He looked back at the crying infant. "Come on, Chris. Don't cry." Clark reached out to stroke his tiny arm, which seemed to satisfy him. "See, all better." He pulled his hand back, starting the crying again. Clark turned to Lois. "I better go. He's breaking my heart." He cast Chris one last look. "Goodnight, Lois."
Clark exited the car, but stopped to look at the tiny baby. His big eyes welled with tears, his two tiny bottom teeth shining. He quickly reached for the back door. "I can't listen to him cry," he told Lois, who watched him in surprise. Clark undid his seat, retrieved his pacifier, and pulled him out the car. Chris stopped crying. "There now, isn't that better?" He kissed his small head. "I know I am."
Lois laughed from inside the car. "Do you plan to stand here all night to keep him from crying?"
"If I have to." He kissed Chris again. "Come on. You can nurse him, then I'll rock him to sleep. Maybe you can take him home then."
Lois smiled and followed Clark back to his apartment.
A note from Clark's parents said they had gone to Aunt Opal's and wouldn't be back till morning. Lois took Chris, who once again started crying, then settled on the couch. Clark turned to go to the kitchen.
"I'll give you some privacy, make some tea."
"Ah, come on Clark. Don't tell me a nursing woman offends you," Lois called after him.
"Lois, in the past year I've seen women nurse in some of the most unusual places imaginable."
Chris continued to wail and wouldn't settle down. "Come on, sweetie." Lois kept trying unsuccessfully to get him to nurse. "Ah, Clark. How about coming back in here? You seem to have a calming affect on him."
Clark took a deep breath, not wanting this innocent situation to stir not so innocent thoughts like it was threatening. He sat down on the couch next to Lois and rubbed the baby's head. "Hey kiddo, I think you're making Mommy nervous." He placed a soft kiss on his head. Chris found his eyes and started to calm. "See, it's not so bad. I may not know much, but a man should never pass up an opportunity like this." His eyes sparkled as he talked to Chris.
Lois giggled at him. "Typical male response."
"Chris, tell Mommy we might be typical, but we're not crazy." Chris smiled at Clark, then he settled to nurse. Clark moved to get up.
Lois grabbed his hand. "Don't you go anywhere. You started this."
Clark feigned a hurt expression. "You know, most men hope they can bring women to tears. I bring babies to tears." Lois laughed softly at him. Clark sat back and played with Chris' hair. He looked up at Lois. "I never pictured you as anyone's mommy."
"Me either… Believe me, I don't think I ever planned to be." She looked down at Chris. "But he's the best thing that happened to me."
"Yeah… Last night, the time I saw you, I knew there was something … different. You're more confident, sure of yourself."
"Only where he's concerned. Chris was definitely a surprise, but I've never regretted having him. He gave me meaning when I had none. He gave me focus." She looked down again. "He made missing you easier."
Clark's heart wrenched at her tender expression. He trailed his fingers through her hair. The lost contact with Chris started a frenzy, his searching for Clark. Clark noticed and leaned to kiss his head. Holding his face at his ear, he spoke. "I'm still here," he whispered.
Chris calmed again. "I guess I named him well," Lois said as Clark sat up, careful to keep a hand on the baby.
"I said I named him well." Clark looked at her with a questioning expression. "His full name is Christopher Clark."
Clark was taken aback. At first he was shocked. He didn't know whether having another man's baby named after him was a good thing or an insult. He glanced between Lois and the baby.
Lois sensed his dilemma. "I was missing *you* so much. I thought, 'If you name him Clark, every now and then you can call him that.' I wanted that connection to you."
Clark's eyes began to water. He never figured Lois would miss him that much. He leaned back over to Chris. "I think your Mommy is about the most remarkable woman in the world," he said softly.
"You're not so bad either, Farmboy." Clark smiled at her. Lois noticed the spark was getting brighter still in his eyes. They sat in silence while Chris finished nursing. Clark took him when he was done. After a changing, he settled with him on the balcony in the rocker. Lois watched from the doorway as the large man tenderly spoke to the tiny baby while he rocked him to sleep. This was a picture she had wanted to see for so long. <Oh, Clark. I wish he was your baby.>
Clark lay on his bed staring up at the ceiling in the darkness. Sleep just wouldn't come. His thoughts were filled with Lois and Chris. Chris… wow. He was great. Clark had felt a pang of guilt on the way to Ellen's apartment that day. He was apprehensive toward the baby for being someone else's, maybe even a little jealous. All those thoughts flew right out the window when he saw him.
The day had been great. Being with Lois was exhilarating. Chris made it special. Clark smiled as he thought about how the baby wanted him to hold him constantly. When he had held him and rocked him to sleep tonight he'd told him he didn't care how he got here or who his dad was. He was part of Lois, the best part. And that meant he was now part of him. The little guy drifted to sleep holding Clark's large finger.
Shortly after, Clark put Chris in his seat and said goodnight to Lois. They were seeing each other again tomorrow and Clark wanted the morning to come quickly. For so long he'd hurt and ached to see Lois again. Now he couldn't get enough. She had missed him, too. The thought pained Clark. Causing Lois pain was something he never wanted to do again. That's why he toyed with the idea of not telling her about being Superman. Without his powers, he was just Clark. Telling her would only cause her more pain. As he decided to let dead dogs lie, someone began knocking on the door.
Clark put his glasses on and headed for the door. A very anxious Lois and a screaming Chris were on the other side. "Lois?! Are you okay?"
"Clark, he's been crying for two hours. He won't stop. He's never done this before." Her tears fell down her cheeks. "He doesn't have a fever, not throwing up. Just crying."
"Here." Clark reached for Chris. "Let me." He pulled Chris to him. "Hey, kiddo. Shhh." He bounced him a little, then reached for Lois. "Come on." He guided her into the apartment. By the time they reached the couch, Chris was only whimpering.
Lois flopped backwards. "I should have known that's what he wanted." She wiped her face with the back of her hand.
Clark stroked Chris' head. "Better?" He asked him. The baby was calming more.
Lois just stared up in surprise. "Absolutely amazing," she said with a shocked expression. "He usually cries to get away from people. Crying to get to somebody is new."
"Like mother, like son," Clark said with a gleam in his eyes.
Lois caught the tease immediately. "I said I missed you. I never said I cried over you."
"Aren't we full of ourselves tonight?"
"This morning. It's three o'clock."
"Oh god, Clark. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have bothered you. It's just I didn't know what to do. And when I used to have a problem in the middle of the night, I'd come here. So, when he wouldn't hush, I thought about you. You always make me feel better. And…" She stopped short to see Clark grinning at her. "What?"
"I'm glad to see you haven't stopped babbling. I always loved it when you did that."
She ducked her head sheepishly. "Chris is the only one that hears me when I do that now. When I get frustrated, I pace back and fourth babbling. He just looks at me with this cute little expression that says, 'Geez, this woman babbles more than me.'"
Clark looked at a now calm Chris. "And both of you are so *cute* when you do it." He smiled down at Lois, then back to Chris. "You know, Chris. When I can't sleep, I like to take a bath. What do you say? We'll let Mommy go lie down and we'll take a bath."
"You don't have to do that."
"I *want* to. Gimme his bag. You go… Tell Mommy night, night." Clark reached for the diaper bag and took Chris to the kitchen. "I don't have a bathtub, so we'll have to use the sink. Okay?" Clark chattered on happily as he took Chris to retrieve supplies from the bathroom to bathe him.
Lois smiled and reluctantly went to lie down. She 'was' exhausted. It had been quite a day, emotionally. She eased onto the cool sheets, inhaling Clark's scent. Listening to her two favorite people in the world from the other room, she drifted to sleep.
Clark was in heaven. Lois was here, in his house, in his bed. And he was bathing her son. God, this felt right. Slowly he undressed Chris. For the first time, he noticed a small birth mark on the lower part of his stomach, near his groin. "Wow! I have one in the same place," he said as he rubbed it. "Umph. How weird is that?" He lowered Chris into the water, exciting a squeal. "You know, my mom used to put me in the sink when I was little. See, back then we didn't have those little bathtubs. Mom said standing at the sink was easier than leaning over the tub." Chris splashed the water, wetting Clark.
"You like that, huh? How 'bout this?" He squeezed the rag over Chris' head. A spitting frenzy ensued. Clark chuckled at his reaction. "Ahh… you're great." He kissed the baby's head.
Lois' eyes fluttered as she felt a little hand pat her cheek. She opened them to see a very happy Chris sitting beside her, a smiling Clark kneeling beside the bed holding him.
"Good morning. Sleep well?"
She rolled onto her side. "Mmm… yes. Very." She rubbed Chris' head. "I'm sorry about last night. I never meant to leave you with him."
"I'm not sorry. We had a great time. Didn't we Chris?" he asked while he ruffled his hair. Chris stuck his tongue out and blew. "I agree. Ask her?" Chris blew again. "He wants to know if you want breakfast."
Lois giggled at them. "That would be good."
"Okay. You get up and we'll…" he heaved Chris above his head as he stood. "…get breakfast."
She watched as Clark carried Chris into the kitchen, pretending he was an airplane, noises and all. How had she ever got along without either of them?
Several minutes later she joined them at the table. Chris was sitting in Clark's lap as he read him the paper. "Somehow I don't think he really appreciates that," she said as she sat down.
"It's not what you read, it's how you read it," Clark replied in a very soft rumble.
She had to admit it seemed to satisfy Chris. "So, how did you feed him? Somehow I don't think you'd look good nursing."
Clark chuckled softly. "What?… You've never seen me nurse?" They laughed happily. "Seriously, he hasn't had any milk. But he did have oatmeal and juice."
"You got him to drink from a cup?"
"We cheated. We used a straw."
"What? You're kidding?" Clark shook his head. "Wow! I've been trying to get him to do that forever."
Clark laid Chris' wild hair down. "Guess he was just thirsty."
"I don't know, Clark. I think you have a new best friend."
Clark picked Chris up to look at him, then pulled him into a hug. "I hope so."
"Anybody home?" Martha called from the front door.
Chris perked up at the sound. "Who's that?" Clark asked him with a smile. "In here, Mom."
"Well…" She stopped short to look at the people at the table. "Hi, Lois, sweetie. It's so good to see you." She was covering Lois with a hug.
"It's good to see you, too, Martha. Where's Jonathon?"
"He's helping Opal with a few things." She turned to Clark and Chris. "Well, this must be Chris." She leaned in to see him. When he turned to look at her, she had to grab the table to keep from falling.
"Mom?" Clark reached out to grab her arm.
"Oh god." Martha reached to touch Chris' face. Both Lois and Clark looked at her as if she were crazy. She reached in and took him. She just stared wide-eyed at the bright eyes looking back at her.
"Mom, is something wrong?"
Martha slowly walked into the living room as if she hadn't heard him. Lois and Clark exchanged puzzled looks, then quickly followed her. She had pulled a small photo album from her purse. She held it out to Lois. "Look at the first picture."
Lois opened the book to see a picture of Chris. "I didn't realize I'd sent you a picture."
"You didn't." Lois looked up at her. "That's a picture of Clark."
Lois' eyes shot open, along with her mouth. "It… it… can't be. This looks exactly like Chris."
Clark looked over at the picture, one he'd seen many times, but now it was Chris staring back at him. As Lois flipped through the album, seeing more pictures that looked like her son, memories flashed through Clark's head. <She spent the night with a friend who wasn't Dan. The night before I left.> Clark stumbled back. The night before he left he couldn't remember where he'd been. The day before he'd been at the river. The smoke. He'd blacked out. Came to in a strange place, naked. The unfamiliar place flashed behind his eyes. This time he recognized it. It was Lois' place. Clark looked at Chris, tears welling in his eyes.
He turned to Lois. "Is Superman Chris' daddy?"
Lois jerked her head to Clark. The tears in his eyes threw her. "Y..Yes."
Clark closed his eyes and took a deep breath. When he opened them, he took off his glasses. "I didn't remember. If I had…"
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"Lois, look at me. Chris looks like me for a reason."
Lois stared at him in disbelief. She shook her head as if to shake away his words. "Clark, I just told you who his father is."
"And *I* just told *you*." He watched the realization take place behind Lois dark eyes. "I am *so* sorry."
Lois pulled her hand to her face; her tears now fell. She turned to look at Chris, then lowered herself down to the chair behind her. "No wonder I always felt your presence with him." Clark kneeled beside her. "He knew. He knew who you were from the beginning. The crying, not wanting to be away from you. He knew… Wow!"
"Lois, I swear, I didn't remember."
"I didn't think you did. You were sick, ran a high fever. When you woke up… we talked about you leaving. I tried to talk you out of going. You said you had to. I asked you to be careful and not forget me. You said you could never forget me… We just looked at each other for a while. Then… you said…"
"'Show me'." Clark finished her words.
"Just that. That phrase has been rolling around in my head since I left. It's nearly driven me crazy not to know what it meant… I'm sorry."
"For what? We made Chris that night. I'll never be sorry for that." She smiled tenderly and placed a hand on his chest. "That's what you were running from then. You were scared I'd be mad and not want to be with you." Clark dropped his head. "I guess we've gotten our signals pretty mixed up, huh?"
Clark looked back up at her. "How I felt… feel… about you… that is not mixed up." Clark trailed his fingers through her hair. "I've loved you from the moment I met you. That's never changed. If I hadn't been such a coward… If I had just stayed."
Lois rubbed his face. "If this, if that… Clark, if things had been different, Chris may not be here."
Clark looked around at Chris. Martha had sat down on the couch with him. They were both very happy, oblivious to the fact they weren't alone. He looked back at Lois with fresh tears in his eyes. Unsure of what to do, he pulled her into his arms. Both cried quietly while they held each other.
When Lois pulled back, she kissed him softly. "I love you. I should have told you then. I should have come after you." She stroked his face. "One thing's for sure, you're not leaving me again."
He held her hand on his face as he kissed it. "Never. I'm home."
"Mommy, this little guy's hungry," Martha chimed.
Lois and Clark laughed out as they turned to look at them. Lois leaned over and whispered in Clark's ear. "I can't believe we just had that conversation in front of your mom."
Clark kissed her cheek. "Don't worry. My mom has a… selective memory."
"I heard that."
Clark watched Lois nurse Chris. This time it was very different. He was looking at the woman he loved, who loved him, feeding his son, their son. He stroked his head gently. "I can't believe he's mine."
"I didn't mean it like that. Last night, when you were rocking him to sleep, I kept thinking how much I wished he was yours. I guess wishes do come true."
"Mmm. I'm *really* glad this one did." He leaned over and kissed Chris' head. "When I was rocking him, all I could see was you. Then you left and I thought my heart was breaking." Clark laughed. "I knew I'd see you two today, but I actually pouted. I wasn't asleep when you came back because I was sulking. I was very glad to see you… When I was bathing Chris, I kept thinking how right that felt. He slept on my chest. And I just lay there, feeling his heart beat against mine. I kept telling myself it was crazy to be so totally in love with him. I was jealous of his dad." Clark chuckled again. "I was jealous of me."
"Well, now you don't have to be jealous."
"I know. It's great." He sat and watched Chris. After a while his gaze met Lois'.
"A nursing mother takes on new meaning now. It was just a basic necessity, so natural. Even last night, I… ah… let's just say I could watch you all day."
"It's pretty amazing, huh?"
Clark nodded as he trailed his fingers across Chris' tiny face. "And pretty erotic, too." Clark looked Lois in the eyes when he realized his thought had been whispered. Before he could speak, she leaned forward and kissed him. Clark moaned as she slid her tongue between his lips. He reached to hold her arms. When he pulled back, he placed a kiss on Chris' face.
Lois looked down at Chris then back to Clark. "Sorry, Farmboy. You're not helping him out."
Clark's face turned bright red at her words, but he picked up the ball. "Ahh, pleaseee!!"
She laughed at his pouting, then gave him another kiss. She patted his face with a smile. "Tell you what, you shave this…" she said, rubbing his beard. "…and you just might get lucky."
Clark's eyebrows rose in surprise. "Mmm… Really? How lucky?"
"Shave it and find out… or maybe you can't handle it," she challenged.
Clark's expression darkened. "You tell me."
Lois' smile faded when she noticed he was serious. "What?" Clark looked away from her. She turned his head back. "Clark?… It's not your fault you can't remember… And I assure you, you 'can' handle it." He half smiled at her, hurt in his eyes. "You didn't hurt me and you were tender and gentle, compassionate, generous." He turned his head again. "Clark, was that night your first time?"
Clark took a deep breath and nodded his head. "Ironic, huh? I finally got what I'd always wanted, and I can't even remember it."
Lois pulled Chris up, fixed her clothes, then put him in Clark's arms. She rubbed Clark's face. "I don't think he's going to let us forget that night."
"I know what you meant. Look at me." He turned slowly to her. "I'll help you remember. Just think of it this way, the next time we make love, it will be like the first time. It will be the first time, with the real you."
"Lois, I'm not Superman anymore." She stared at him. "Last night, I said I was hurt. I really was, four months ago. I haven't had my powers since."
"Oh, Clark. I'm so sorry. I know how important being able to help is to you."
"Well, that night you told me being Superman recharged your spirits. You must be going crazy." She ran her hand up and down his arm.
"Not so much as at first, but I do miss being… me. All my life all I wanted was just to be normal. Now I am, and I miss being super."
"Being super is normal for you. Do you think they'll come back?"
Clark shrugged. "I don't know. I do feel a little stronger every day."
"May…be…" She leaned forward to kiss him again. " …you just need a jump start."
Clark pulled her head in for another kiss. "Only one way to find out." This time he was challenging her.
"Is that a challenge?"
"What's-a-matter, Ms. Lane? Can't handle it?" He echoed her words from earlier.
"Clark, Kryptonite has got *nothing* on me."
Clark pulled Chris closer to him to keep from dropping him. The images Lois was creating definitely made him weak. "Ooo, god. This sounds like a bad time not to be Superman."
Lois laughed loudly at him, then wiped the beads of sweat from his top lip. "It's nice to know I can make you sweat. But this wouldn't be so bad without all this hair. What possessed you to grow it?"
"Lack of caring mainly." He rubbed his face. "You don't like it?"
"Well, it's… okay. But the baby face is sexy."
"I do not have a baby face."
"Yes, you do. Look." She pointed at Chris.
Clark grinned brightly. "Point taken." He leaned over and kissed him.
"Besides," Lois leaned close to Clark's ear, her breath sending ripples through his body, "when I snuggle, I like to get *really* close. Cheek to cheek. Skin to skin."
Clark swallowed hard as her words caused his body to throb. "Here." He handed her the baby. "Hold him. I'll be right back."
"Where are you going?" she asked as he stood up.
"To shave," he replied, not looking back.
Lois shook her head and laughed. "Chris, I think Mommy just upset your Daddy." Chris blew a wet response.
Lois stood against the door frame of the bedroom watching Clark and Chris sleep. A nap for baby turned into a nap for daddy, too. Chris lay on Clark's chest, his little hands grasping his dad's shirt. Clark's baby face held a slight grin.
"Jonathon used to sleep with Clark like that. Said he liked to feel his heart beat against his."
Lois turned to look at Martha. "Clark said the same thing."
Martha took Lois' hand and patted it. "Lois, you've given Clark back a reason to want to be him again. I don't mean Chris or telling him you love him. Just telling him that you missed him was enough. When he left, he hurt more because he thought you were hurting. He figured you would forget him and move on. After a while he didn't want to be Clark any more. I wanted so many times to tell him we talked to you. But I knew this was something you two had to do. I only wish I'd known I had a grandbaby."
"Martha, if I'd known I would have told you… and Clark."
"I know, honey."
"You are just as amazing as your son."
"And my daughter."
Lois stared at Martha for a second, then quickly took her in her arms. She often wondered why things happened the way they did. Why had a baby been sent across galaxies to this plant?… To meet Martha Kent. Lois smiled as they both turned to look at father and son again. Her pain from the past fifteen months was almost gone. She knew she would heal completely now. And so would he.
Around the large dining room table sat Lois, Clark, their family and friends. Perry had decided that, with his vision being fulfilled and his star staff assembled, there should be a celebration. He wanted a big elaborate affair, but Lois and Clark settled for something more intimate and personal. So, now they all sat in the dining room of Lois and Clark's new brownstone.
When the star reporters decided that they were both going back to work at the Planet, and since they were in love (with a baby), they also decided they would live together. That was two weeks ago. Clark had started his new position immediately, but Lois had to give notice and move her things from California. With no Superman to help, Lucy took up the slack. She hired the movers, while Clark had found them a place in Metropolis. He'd acquired the help of Jimmy to make a video of the apartment to send it to Lois for approval. Once she did, the necessary papers were signed and Hyperion Avenue became their new home.
What had surprised and pleased Clark was Lois insisting that Chris stay with him while she went back to wrap things up in California. Clark was apprehensive at first, even scared to death. Lois quickly abated his fears, assuring him that he was the best daddy in the world. His mom stayed to help him the first week, and Ellen Lane surprised everyone by helping the next. Clark worked until early evening, then hurried home to his new role as someone's dad. It felt incredibly natural 'and' wonderful. Chris also seemed to be in heaven. He didn't even mind taking his mother's breast milk from a bottle. And with Clark's long overdue attentions, he hardly missed her.
Her return had been exceptionally sweet though. Father and son picked her up from the airport only the day before. Clark held a bouquet of red roses while Chris' tiny hand clutched a teddy bear. Upon seeing his mother, he lost all interest in Clark for several minutes. He clung to her as she did him. Clark watched with admiration as his *family* reunited. After paying her attentions to her son, she pulled Clark into the most passionate kiss they had shared since finding each other again.
Last night had been their home coming. Lois cried as Clark carried both her and Chris over the threshold. He had worked very hard to have their place ready for her. She loved it. With dinner, playing with Chris, then putting him to bed behind them, they made their way to a spot in front of the fireplace. There they shared a night they had both been wanting for so long. Clark had cried tenderly as their love making brought back the memories of the night their son was conceived. Lois held him in her arms, completely in awe of this beautiful man. The healing nearly complete, both had come home.
Perry insisted the next morning that a party was called for. So now, everyone was here. The Kents had flown in earlier. The Lanes, even Sam and Lucy, were here. The Whites, Jimmy, Jack and his little brother, were all enjoying themselves. Chris, of course, was the hit of the party.
Clark's only thoughts tonight were of Lois. He cornered her in the kitchen once with a kiss that had almost made them abandon the party. Now Lois sat, with her chin in her propped up hand, watching Clark. She smiled as she thought about how incredibly lucky she really was. He was the best man and most special person she'd ever met.
She ached for him not to be what he had been born to be. He'd agreed with her to see Dr. Klein a week ago. Tests had been run and it was discovered that Superman had Kryptonite poisoning, but of a type Star Labs had never seen. A treatment plan took shape in the form of a type of dialysis. However, the recovery could take a year or longer. Once Lois and Clark made the decision to go ahead, talking late into the night, Clark told Lois he was going to work from home a lot because the treatments would make him weak at first. They had explained *everything* to Perry, only to find out he already knew Clark was Superman and had known from nearly the beginning. Perry was great.
So, Clark would work a lot at home. This would give him a chance to spend more time with his gorgeous son 'and' to finish his book. His book was sort of a diary about his past fifteen months. It told of Clark's time with Superman. Entitled 'My Year With Superman', it was already proving to be a best seller. The rough over view had generated more than a dozen offers from publishing companies; and they had only received it last week.
Lois smiled as the lines around Clark's eyes wrinkled with another laugh. The people in the room were all talking and laughing happily; they'd probably already had too much wine. Lois sighed and took Clark's hand. "I love you, honey."
"I love you, too, Lois." Clark smiled at her and turned back to his conversation with Jimmy about the 'big' game on Sunday. Jimmy smiled at the endearment and exchange.
"I'm really happy, Clark."
"Me, too, sweetie." This time he didn't look around.
"Will you marry me?"
Immediately the whole room became quiet. Clark turned to Lois. She was boring her gaze into him and he knew she was completely serious. They hadn't really talked much more about getting married. Both knew they wanted to, but figured they would after they got to know each other a while.
Lois watched the emotions play across Clark's face. She saw surprise, shock, complete awe, passion, desire, and total love. Clark was her soul mate. She knew that now. She also knew that she would spend the rest of her life with him. Why wait?
"I love you. I want to share everything with you; my work, my life, my home, my heart, my soul, my body…" She paused to let Clark get the full effect. "We already share a son, why not share a name?" Strange, she always figured if she got married, she would keep her own name. Lois reached out to rub Clark's face. "Let's not think about it or rationalize it. Let's just do it… Will you marry me?"
A single tear ran down Clark's cheek. "Yes," he whispered.
The smile eased across her lips, her tears filling her eyes. She leaned over to meet his lips in a tender kiss. Until now they had been oblivious to the fact that they had an audience. Everyone had watched the exchange with held breaths. Now they were clapping and laughing happily.
"I think we have an audience," Clark said against Lois' lips.
"Oh who cares?" Lois threw her arms around his neck and deepened the kiss. Clark shifted and pulled her into his lap.
"Alright, CK!!" Jimmy whooped loudly.
This seemed to break their spell. Clark pulled back to smile at an equally happy Lois. He placed his head against hers, sharing a soft laugh before turning to their company.
Clark paced back and forth in the kitchen. Sunday's *big* game had been replaced by his *big* event. Lois' 'just do it' was taking place only four days later. The other night, after she proposed, he'd given her the engagement ring he bought over a year and half ago. He'd worn it on a chain around his neck since he left, unable to part with that piece of a precious dream that now was beginning to come true.
"Nervous, boy?" his dad asked.
"Yes. We didn't write wedding vows. We decided to just say what we feel."
"Well, that shouldn't be a problem."
"It's not when I'm alone with Lois. But in front of everybody…"
"Clark, the words will come." His dad gave him a big hug just before Jimmy stuck his head in to tell them it was time.
Clark stood in his place in front of the fireplace and the pastor. He smiled at Chris in his mother's arms nearby. Then she was there. Lois stood at the top of the first landing of the stairs. Her dark hair was pulled up on top of her head. The white, silk dress clung to all the right curves. Her neck displayed a mother's necklace, a gift from her parents. She held a bouquet of roses.
As she slowly walked to him, Clark had to swallow hard. Although not overly revealing, the simple dress left him weak. Each step sparked another flame. He sighed, thinking there was something to be said for breastfeeding other than being healthy for the baby.
Lois had gasped at the sight of Clark. He'd been shopping for work clothes this week, but she couldn't remember him looking this good in his suits. Today's was charcoal and for some reason Clark had chosen a black silk shirt and a matching tie. Lois had doubted the choice of all black, but Clark's large frame gave the ensemble new meaning. His hair had been cut and not a hair was out of place. His clean shaven baby face lacked its usual smile. The desire she saw in his eyes was evidence as to why. She felt the same way.
She stepped off the last step and took her father's arm to walk the short distance to her future husband. Clark shook Sam's hand, then took Lois' in his. He leaned in and whispered, "You look absolutely beautiful." The first well was opened as Lois' eyes began to water.
She and Clark listened as the pastor rambled through the opening of the service, standing with hands clasped and their gazes locked. In those few moments they shared every thought, feeling, or pain either had ever had.
"The couple will now exchange their vows. They've chosen to say their own." The pastor stepped back and waved a hand at Clark to start.
Clark held Lois' hands in his. He looked into her beautiful brown eyes, finding her very soul. "Lois… today I'm asked to tell you how I feel and vow to love you for the rest of my life. I don't know if I can do that… Loving you is like breathing… You have a fire and a strength that leaves me in awe. You have a confidence and style that leaves me in wonder…" He traced her jaw with his fingers. "You're the mother of my son, my soul mate, my lover… I've loved you from the moment I saw you. Your drive, your desire, your brilliance… I was born the first time we kissed… Now, every time we kiss, it's creation… of a wonderful life to come. A life in which you can feel secure in knowing that I live for you…" He pulled her hands to his lips, then held them to his chest. "You fill me with life."
Lois, along with everyone in the room, had tear streaked cheeks. She moved her hands out of his, then grasped them again. "Clark, I never knew anyone could feel the way I do about you. I didn't have a best friend until you. You taught me to care. You gave my life a meaning it had been missing. With your silent strength and gentle grace, you taught me how to love… Everything I am or ever will be is because of you… I can't believe the first time I looked in your eyes I didn't see that you were the man I was born to love. From this day, I will be your partner, your best friend, your wife… I will be the one to hold you and love you. And you, too, can feel secure in knowing that I live for you." She repeated his earlier gesture by kissing his hands and pulling them to her chest. "My heart, my soul, my life… *is* you."
The pastor looked up from the couple who were still staring into each other's eyes. He motioned to the best man, a very emotional Jonathon Kent. He took the offered wedding band and nudged Clark to give it to him.
Clark took the ring. He held it up, clasping Lois' left hand with his own. "This ring is a symbol of a lifetime of love. My grandfather put it on his wife's hand where it remained for sixty years. She took it off before she slipped from this world, with the desire for her first grandchild to have it." He held the ring just on Lois' finger. "This ring holds sixty years of laughs, cries, joys, and pains. It also holds sixty years of love." He pushed the ring onto Lois' finger. "Now it waits for another lifetime of love… Wear this ring and know my life I give to you." He bent and kissed the ring on her finger.
Lois stared at Clark with wide eyes. His words completely blew her away. His talents were definitely not wasted in his writing. She took his band from Lucy. She took Clark's hand and eased the band on slightly. "Every time you look at this I hope you feel my love for you. When other people look at it, I hope they see that love… This ring could never tell the whole story. It will never capture the full meaning, but just as mine will, it can remind you that never again will you ever be alone." She pushed the ring on all the way. "I give you *my* life." She couldn't repeat his gesture of a kiss to seal the pact for the tears in her eyes. Clark squeezed her hand as his own tears spilled from his eyes.
"With the exchanging of vows and the giving and receiving of rings, Lois and Clark have consented to become one. By the powers of this state and under the authority of God, they are now husband and wife. You may kiss…" The pastor's last words fell on deaf ears as Clark already held his wife to him in an passionate kiss… "…your bride."
Their world melted in that kiss. Their life had truly begun. Lois knew she'd finally found the only man alive who could love only her. He would never leave her, never betray her, and would always love her. Clark had traveled galaxies to get to this moment. No more loneliness. He'd found trust and hope. She'd given their son his last name as a wedding present. Yet another way she took his breath away.
Long minutes later, with their foreheads resting against the other's, exchanging beautiful smiles, at the same time, they both said: "Welcome home, baby."
No more hurting, no more yearning, no more pain. This time no one's signals had been mixed… And the healing was complete.
(Never! A good story, just like a true love, will never end.)