Expecting the Worst: A T&W Challenge Fic

By Wendy Richards <wendy@lcfanfic.com> and Tank Wilson <TankW1@aol.com>

Rated: PG

Submitted: August 2002

Summary: In this Wendy and Tank challenge, Lois gets the opportunity to go first at the end of the episode "The House Of Luthor." Their relationship is developing nicely until…

Comments more than welcome at either or both of the addresses below! All characters are copyright their respective rights-holders, and no infringement is intended by their use in this story. Thanks to Tricia, our Archive GE, for her swift and, as always, much appreciated work in editing this story.

Minor editoral comment: for any eagle-eyed readers who notice spelling differences between Tank's part and Wendy's, that's because he writes in US English and she writes in UK English. And since there was (intentionally) no collaboration in writing this story, we have decided not to harmonise our spellings.

Authors' Notes

Wendy: Well, I'd been racking my brain for weeks to try to come up with a suitably evil challenge for Tank after the last one he pulled on me. Tank seems to have a knack, not only for providing me with very sneaky challenges, but also for writing his own way out of situations which seem on the surface to be extremely difficult. And this one is no exception. I played to what I know to be his weak points (read and find out… <g>), but, as ever, he didn't do the obvious. Instead, in a piece of lateral thinking which would do Edward de Bono proud, he came up with a conclusion which amazed and delighted us all. And now, of course, I know what's in store for me…

Tank: Once again, Wendy has proven to be the truly evil one in this partnership. In our last challenge what did I give her? Lois in a happy relationship. What does she give me here? Well, you'll just have to take a look, but believe me, I'm not sure I could think of anything more perverse or horrible. I used to have a reputation for being a bit dastardly and mildly evil. I'm totally out of my league now. I only hope that my humble solution to Wendy's particularly nasty set-up will work for the gentle readers. As for what might be next? Well, let's just wait and see, shall we?


"I've never seen anything more beautiful in my life."

Clark's gaze shifted from the truck bearing the Planet's globe, focusing instead on the woman standing in front of him. The nightmarish time of the past few weeks, during which he'd believed that she was lost to him for ever, was over at last. And Lois had never looked more lovely to him than she did right now. He smiled at her, knowing that he would do anything, say anything, just to ensure that he'd never lose her again. "Me either."

They needed to talk, he knew; still fresh in his mind was the memory of that painful day when he'd poured his heart out to her and she'd rejected him. He loved her still, but he knew that she didn't feel the same way. He could live with that, though. The most important thing was that she hadn't married Luthor. She was free. And it looked as if their lives were going to get back to normal. The Planet would re-open, and Lane and Kent would be back in business.

As partners.

But could they rebuild their friendship as if nothing had happened? Clark knew that he could put the past few weeks behind him and get back to normal. But could Lois? Sure, she'd looked for him outside Luthor's building, after her interrupted wedding. She'd thrown herself into his arms, seeking the comfort she'd known that he would offer. But that had been when she was over-wrought and not thinking clearly. Now, she'd had time to consider things more carefully.

What if she decided that she couldn't work with, or be friends with, someone who was in love with her? Would the memory of his declaration lie between them, casting a shadow over their relationship? Would she feel awkward or embarrassed with him, behaving differently in case something she said or did gave him the wrong impression? He didn't want Lois to feel uncomfortable with him. He didn't want her to feel that she needed to guard her words, or to catch herself in the act of patting him on the chest as she so often did, just in case he might believe there was more to the innocent gesture than she intended.

He needed to set her mind at rest. And if that meant telling a little white lie… well, it would be worth it for the sake of their friendship. For the sake of having Lois back in his life, the way things were before.

And, he was very sure, she needed him too. He was well aware that the discovery of Lex Luthor's true nature had come as a huge shock to her. He'd seen her staring in appalled disbelief at the evidence he and Perry and the others had amassed. He'd caught the expression in her eyes which had told him that she'd been questioning her own ability as a reporter, asking herself just how she'd managed to blind herself to the truth. He knew that she'd spent the past couple of days beating herself up for what she'd convinced herself was her own stupidity and naivete. He knew, too, that she wished that she'd listened to him instead of writing off his warnings as stemming from jealousy.

Lois needed her friends now. And for that reason, more than any other, he would lie.

"Lois — "

"Clark — "

At any other time, he would behave like the gentleman his parents had brought him up to be; he would let her go first. But this was different. He knew that expression on her face; it meant that she wanted to raise something personal, possibly even embarrassing. And there were only a couple of things it could be. Maybe she wanted to apologise again for not believing him about Luthor. He didn't want her to humiliate herself any further about that, though. Or, and this was more likely, she also thought that they needed to clear the air about his feelings for her. And he couldn't let her start this conversation — he needed to be the one in control of it.

"No, this time let me go — " he began, but Lois cut across him.

"No, Clark, I need to say this," she said urgently. "Before I lose my nerve or you manage to talk me out of it because I'm still upset or whatever other excuse you want to use. I know I've behaved dreadfully to you. I know I treated you like you weren't even important. I refused to listen to you when you tried to warn me, and I was cruel to you when you told me how you felt about me."

"Lois, please," Clark tried again, desperately wanting to stop her so that he could put her at her ease.

"Clark, I have to tell you this," she insisted. "Even though I can't think of any reason at all why you'd even want to know now, after all I put you through. But… well, you've forgiven me before when I treated you badly, and even though this is worse I'm just hoping…"

She paused, swallowing, and this time Clark couldn't bear to interrupt her just to lie to her. Instead, he just wrapped his arm around her shoulders, hugging her lightly. "Lois, I'll always be your friend," he insisted softly. "There's nothing to forgive."

"Yes, there is!" Lois said adamantly. "You're my best friend, Clark, and I was horrible to you!"

He shrugged awkwardly. "Really, it's okay. I think, if we're honest, neither of us behaved very well. But what matters is that we can put it behind us and get back to the way things were."

"Yeah," Lois murmured abstractedly. "Clark… I'm not sure that we can just get back to the way things were."

Of course they couldn't, he agreed silently. That was why he needed to retract his declaration… "Lois, I — "

But Lois interrupted him again. "Clark, I've been doing a lot of thinking over the past couple of days. Well, I've had a lot of time to think, and to realise how stupid I was, and how blind… how I just never saw what was under my nose the whole time."

"Lex Luthor fooled just about everyone, Lois," Clark said quickly. "You can't blame yourself for not seeing it."

"You did," she countered immediately. "But that's not what I meant. I was talking about you."

"Me?" He stared at her, uncomprehending.

"Yeah. Uh… can we walk?" she suggested.

"Sure." He offered her his arm and gestured down the street. "So… what about me?"

She didn't answer his question immediately. "Did you know that I'd already stopped the wedding before Perry arrived with Henderson and the arrest warrant?"

"No!" he exclaimed. "You did? Why?"

"I said no," she told him, her tone slow and reflective. "I knew that I couldn't marry Lex. I'd never been sure all along, even when I accepted his proposal… but I didn't have anyone I could talk about it with and I just didn't know what to do. Lex was… safe. He was offering me security and the ability to do all sorts of things I'd only ever dreamed about. And he was there, when everything else in my life was such a mess. So I said yes… but I never stopped having doubts. And then I was getting dressed for the ceremony, and I couldn't stop thinking about you."

"Me?" Clark barely recognised his own voice in the squeak which emerged from his lips.

"You. Everything about you, and about us — the way we worked together, the way you teased me and put up with my bad tempers, the things we'd done together… times when we had fun just doing silly things. And I remembered how I felt that time you left the Planet and I thought you'd gone for good. And I remembered… you kissing me," she finished, her voice softening to a choked whisper. "And I just knew that I couldn't marry Lex when I was already half-way in love with you."

"You were… *what*?" Clark gasped, unable to believe that he'd heard her accurately. He stopped walking and turned to face her.

"I… I realised when I was standing there at the altar beside Lex that I love you, Clark," Lois said, her voice still hesitant but her expression telling him that she meant every word. "I don't know how I never saw it before. I guess I must have been fooling myself, or probably wishing for the moon — you know what a fool I made of myself over Superman," she added, now sounding embarrassed.

He'd hurt her as Superman, Clark remembered. But this wasn't the time to set that record straight. "Lois, you mean it?" he asked her, his heart in his mouth. "You love me? Not… just as a brother?"

Lois shook her head. "I'm not sure that was even true when I said it, Clark. So… what I wanted to ask was, is it too late?"

"Too late?" he echoed, feeling foolish at his inability to do more than repeat her words.

"Too late for us. I mean, I rejected you," she added in a rush. "I told you that I didn't feel that way about you. I… I wouldn't blame you if you told me that you didn't love me any more."

"Lois." Now his voice was firm, confident. He knew exactly what he wanted to say to her. "Lois, I never stopped loving you. And I *will* never stop loving you. Never."

She gazed up at him, and he could see tears shimmering in her eyes. "I don't want to be just friends any more, Clark."

"Neither do I," he whispered, reaching for her to pull her close. Her lips parted as he lowered his head, and as his mouth covered hers, he knew that all his dreams had come true.


Hours later, Lois lay in bed, feeling happier than she had in weeks. In fact, she wasn't sure that she'd ever been happier. For the first time in her life, she was in love and she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was loved in return.

Clark was nothing like any of the other men in her life. There was something about him which just seemed to speak directly to her soul… she knew that he wouldn't lie to her, and he would never dump her just because he'd got tired of her. He was an old-fashioned guy in a number of ways, and faithfulness was just one of the character traits which made him unique.

She'd never felt so secure in a man's love before. It wasn't just that his kisses had the power to set her on fire with need — though that was true. It wasn't just that he hadn't, unlike any other man she'd been involved with, pushed for any more than kisses. It was that she knew that she could trust him; with her love, with her heart, and with her future.

They'd agreed to take it slowly. Clark, Lois knew, was worried that she might be falling for him on the rebound, looking for a safe haven after her disastrous engagement. She knew that was far from being the case, but she could understand his fears. She, on the other hand, had no desire to rush headlong into another serious relationship. It was far too soon. While she had no doubts about her feelings for Clark, she knew that it would be best not to get too serious too soon.

So they'd agreed to date occasionally, and share kisses every now and then. But they would also continue to do all the things they'd done as friends, both alone and with other people. They would have fun, with no pressure. And they could take their time to see where the relationship was going.

Closing her eyes, Lois fell into the most peaceful sleep she'd had in weeks, and dreamed of chocolate eyes and dizzying kisses.


Two weeks later, Clark returned to his apartment after a morning patrol, immediately putting some coffee on to brew. The Planet was re-opening today, and Lois was coming over for breakfast to celebrate before they went into work together. Lane and Kent were going to be back in business professionally as well as privately, at last.

He sang tunelessly to himself as he showered, anticipating being back in the newsroom with Lois. They'd decided to ask Perry for desks opposite one another, so that they could confer more easily as they worked. Though secretly Clark knew that he would need all his concentration to focus on work when each time he raised his head he'd see the beautiful face of his partner.

His girlfriend.

It was still almost impossible to believe, and yet it was true. He and Lois had been dating officially since the day Franklin Stern had bought the Planet. Sure, they'd only been on four actual dates, but that was just details. They were together, an exclusive item. And their kisses got better and better every time.

He could barely wait to see her — they hadn't seen each other at all the previous day, and although he'd called her during the day to see whether she wanted to watch a movie that evening, she hadn't been around. Still, they had agreed to take things slowly, so he shouldn't expect to spend time with her every day.

They'd agreed not to say anything to anyone at work for the time being, although Clark privately doubted that Perry White would be fooled for long. He knew, though, that Lois felt self-conscious about their relationship, given that only just over a couple of weeks earlier she'd been due to marry another man. Her concern was understandable, even though Clark knew that none of their friends would think that Lois was fickle for transferring her affections so quickly. After all, none of them had wanted her to marry Lex Luthor anyway.

Dressed and shaved, he prepared breakfast: Lois's favourite French pastries, which he'd picked up on a quick flight across the Atlantic. That was something they needed to talk about, he mused as he set the table; he wanted Lois to know about Superman. Though that wouldn't be an easy conversation, given Lois's last encounter with the Super- hero. Still, it had to be done. He'd find an opportunity, sooner or later.

A knock at the door then signalled Lois's arrival, and Clark hurried to let her in. To his shock, the woman on the doorstep looked nothing like the vibrant, happy Lois he'd escorted home two nights ago. She looked haggard, her face pale and dark shadows under her eyes, as if she hadn't slept. She was a picture of complete misery.

His heart constricted at the sight of her, and he ached to take the pain away from her. He wanted to promise her that he would never let her be hurt again. This was Lois, the woman he loved, and if someone had caused her a second's pain, then that person would regret it…

"Lois?" he exclaimed, ushering her inside. "What's happened? You look… Has somebody died?"

She shook her head, evading his touch as he tried to wrap her in his arms. "Clark… it's the worst possible thing. I can hardly bear to tell you… you're going to hate me," she finished miserably.

"Lois, I could never hate you!" he exclaimed, appalled to see her in such a state, and completely at a loss to imagine what the problem could be. He only knew that nothing was so bad that they couldn't get through it together. And he would move heaven and earth to help her, no matter what she needed. "Come here," he urged again, trying to pull her into his embrace. "I love you, Lois. Please, let me help."

She allowed him to hold her, but remained passive in his arms. "Lois, you're scaring me!" he exclaimed. "Please, tell me what it is."

Pulling away from him, she took a shuddering breath. Tears were streaming down her cheeks as Clark stared at her, agonised, wanting to help her but having no idea what to do.

"I… I swear it only happened once, Clark," she choked out semi-coherently. "But it happened, that's the important thing. I… I didn't even enjoy it. Not that that matters, not now…"

"Lois, hold on," Clark interrupted, desperately worried about her. "I really have no idea what you're talking about! What happened? What's wrong?"

She raised her head, meeting his gaze with tear-filled eyes containing so much pain that he wanted to cry for her. "Clark, I'm pregnant. With Lex's baby."


Lois stood stock still, risking only the smallest of breaths. She couldn't believe she'd actually said it. All the time she had spent rehearsing what she was going to say and how she was going to say it, and all the arguments she'd had with herself concerning this on her way over to Clark's, she still hadn't been convinced she was going to go through with it until she heard the words come out of her mouth. Now it was out. She had said the words. She sniffed and turned back toward Clark. She waited for his response.


*12 Hours Ago*

"All I'm saying, Lois, is that it seems a little strange that you take up with some reporter so soon after the tragedy of your aborted wedding to Lex." Ellen Lane's voice was typically judgmental.

"Mother! It's not just some reporter, it's my partner and best friend, Clark. You know Clark. And the wedding to Lex being aborted was not a tragedy, it was a blessing. The man was the biggest criminal in Metropolis and you act like it was a shame that I'm not married to the crook!" Lois' grip on the phone receiver tightened reflexively.

"No, of course not, but it's just my luck that the best prospect my eldest daughter has ever had turned out to be a criminal." Ellen's long-suffering sigh was clearly audible.

"Just your luck!" Lois had to stifle her next comment. She knew it would be lost on her mother. "Mother, you should be happy that I've found someone who loves me, and that I can love."

"Oh pish tosh, what's love got to do with it? I was in love with your father and look what that got me. If I'm not mistaken, this Kent fellow doesn't even make as much money as you do."

Lois bit back a silent scream as she let her eyes focus on the ceiling. "You know there is more to a relationship than money, Mother. Daddy made a lot of money and it didn't help you two any."

Ellen's retort was sharp. "At least it meant I could have some creature comforts while being denied my sexual needs." Ellen's tone changed to one of an interrogator. "Besides, how do you know that this Kent person really loves you as you say?"

Lois took a deep breath and held it for a moment before speaking. "Because he told me."

"Oh, and you've never been lied to by a man?" Ellen said derisively.

Lois bristled. "Mother, Clark is not like that. He wouldn't lie to me."

"Right," Ellen said sarcastically. "I suppose Mr. Clark Kent, has never done anything the least bit irregular, or questionable? He must be *perfect*."

Lois' mind involuntarily flashed back to her last date with Clark. It had started out really great. On a whim, she had gotten her hair cut. She had wanted to try something new, sort of in celebration of the new life she felt was opening up for her. It was definitely something new for her, much shorter than she'd ever worn her hair before. She liked the finished cut but had been nervous as to Clark's reaction. He'd assured her that he liked it. He liked it a lot. Some nonsense about the sexiness of her neck or something. She was just relieved that he didn't hate it.

They'd just gone to a movie but it was a fun one and both of them had left the theater in good spirits. After that they had gone back to her place with some Chinese take out. Lois had anticipated some pleasant shop talk over dinner, then perhaps the talking would be set aside for some serious kissing and cuddling. That was what Lois had thought was going to happen.

Instead, during the middle of their meal Clark had gotten that 'look'. The one he got when he suddenly remembered something that he'd forgotten to do and just had to rush off and take care of. It didn't matter where he was, when it was, or what he was doing. When he got that look, it was over, and Lois knew it. This time it had been late videos that needed to be returned.

Lois had been angry, but the next morning he'd been so sweet in his apology that she just couldn't stay mad. But now that her mother's words had triggered the memories, all the other times that Clark had used some flimsy or ridiculous excuse to run out on her suddenly came rushing back. Surprisingly, now that she thought about it, Clark's ditching of her had been going on since the very beginning. She just hadn't thought about it early on in their partnership because, truthfully, at the time, she hadn't really cared. But now, it seemed to her to be a disturbing pattern. Not at all the actions of someone who claimed to have been in love with her since the moment he first saw her.

"Lois? Are you still there?" Ellen was puzzled by her daughter's silence.

Lois sighed. "Yes, Mom, I'm still here."

Ellen, sensing that something had changed in Lois' defense of her partner, pounced. "So, I take it that 'Mr. Perfect' might not have always been so attentive and dependable?"

Lois tried to cover her obvious uneasiness. "No, he's always been there for me when I needed him… well, most of the time."


Lois was annoyed by her mother's tone. "It's just that Clark can be… forgetful sometimes." Lois could tell that Ellen's silence was inviting an explanation. "You know, he forgets appointments, and things that he needs to do and he often remembers them at… inconvenient times. He has had to leave to take care of… stuff at times when I wish he could have stayed." Lois tried to make it sound nonchalant but knew she hadn't fooled her mother.

"I see, " said Ellen with a hint of triumph in her voice. "I don't suppose any of those times Mr. Kent had to leave would have been during conversations of a more… personal nature?"

"No… well… maybe, a few times." Lois bit her lip.

"Ah hah!" Ellen practically crowed. "I think your *partner* has a fear of commitment, Lois."

"Clark does not have a fear of commitment."

Lois had instantly come to the defense of her partner, but in another part of her mind Ellen's words registered quite deeply… and made sense. Lois couldn't help but think that her mother might just have hit on something. Many, if not most, of the excuses Clark would come up with before dashing off and leaving her were flimsy at best. Some were downright insulting… Cheese of the Month Club? A twelve year old could come up with a better excuse than that. So the question remained, why was Clark inexplicably running off sometimes, and yet other times he'd stay and they'd have a wonderful evening together? Could her mother actually be right?

Ellen's voice intruded on Lois' thoughts. "You don't sound quite so convinced. I struck a chord, didn't I?"

Lois sighed. "Not that I think you're right on this, but if, and I do mean an extremely unlikely *if*, Clark did have a small amount of fear of commitment, it's just something that we'll have to work out — together."

"There is a way to find out for sure, you know." Ellen's tone had taken on a conspiratorial aspect.

Lois rolled her eyes. She knew she was going to regret asking this. "Okay, mother, how do I find out for sure?"

"You test him."

"What! Test him?" Lois' voice mirrored her exasperation and confusion. "What on earth are you talking about?"

The smugness in Ellen's voice was apparent. "Simple; you just present your *boyfriend* with a situation that would make most men run, and see what his reaction is. The one that seems to work best is being pregnant." Ellen acted as if she were imparting some important family secret handed down from mother to daughter through the years. "Tell the boy you're pregnant and see what he does. Does he understand and comfort you? Or does he run like the rabbit that most men are?"

Lois couldn't believe what she'd just heard. "Mother, that's horrible! It would be a cruel thing to do. Besides, Clark and I haven't slept together so it wouldn't work."

"Who says the child has to be Clark's?" Ellen said coyly.

This time Lois' sigh was more angry. "Mother, the only other man I've been with in the last few months has been Lex, and we didn't sleep together either."

"Really?" Ellen sounded surprised. "You were engaged to the man. I assume you were in love with him… or at least the man you thought he was."

Lois was glad that her mother was only on the phone and couldn't see her deep blush. "Well, that's a complicated issue. Let's just say that I, er, we decided that it would be best to wait for our wedding night before we crossed that bridge in our relationship."

Ellen's tone was skeptical. "Interesting… too bad you didn't think that way before you jumped into bed with that *other* reporter. What was his name? Clyde?"

Lois' flush grew deeper and angrier. "It was Claude, and how did you know about that? I never told you about him."

"Oh, I guess your sister told me," Ellen said dismissively.

"That little… " Lois took a deep breath but it didn't help. "Just so you know, Mother, the next time I see that sister of mine… I become an only child."

"Whatever." Ellen ignored Lois' outburst. "Answer me this, Lois, does your *partner*, Kent, know about Clyde?"

"That's Claude, and yes, he does, so what?"

"Well, it just means that he knows that you're not exactly virginal anymore."

"And?" Lois' tone was wary.

"Well, Lois, it's simple, really. Just because you didn't sleep with Lex doesn't mean that you couldn't or wouldn't have. Kent doesn't know, so I'm sure he would believe you if you told him you were carrying Lex's baby," Ellen concluded matter-of-factly.

It took all Lois' self-control to not throw the phone to the floor. "Mother, that's the sickest thing I've ever heard. I could never do that to Clark."

"Well, if you don't want to know for sure." Ellen's tone was condescending. "I guess if *you're* comfortable with his actions, who am I to interfere? I'm just trying to help my daughter from making another mistake."

Lois did a slow ten count before she felt she could respond. "Thanks so much for your *help*, Mother." The sarcasm was thick in Lois' voice. "But I'm afraid I'll have to cut this delightful conversation short. I've still some things that I have to finish up tonight before bed. Goodbye." Lois hung up before her mother could get another word in.

Lois stared at the phone for several moments. She knew that she wouldn't be getting any sleep that night. For all that she felt that her mother's suggestion was sick and a cruel thing to do, she couldn't help but wonder. Were Clark's sudden, and incomprehensible, leave-takings a sign of problems in their relationship? For all that he professed to love her, was he really afraid of a deeper commitment? It was easier to claim to love her when he thought she was in love with someone else, whether it be Lex, or Superman. It was safe. But now that she had told him that she returned his feelings, perhaps it scared him. Did Clark really have a fear of commitment? Or was it something else? Something more mysterious… or even… sinister?

Lois shook her head in disgust. How could she let herself consider such thoughts? The next she knew she'd be accusing Clark of some sort of secret conspiracy… or of having a criminal past or something. Sighing, Lois forced thoughts of Clark and her mother's words from her mind. She still had a story to research for tomorrow and it wouldn't get done if she just sat around the rest of the night worrying about something she couldn't know the answer to.


*The Present*

The internal arguments Lois had indulged in all the way over to Clark's that morning had been legion. For every good solid reason she came up with not to lower herself to her mother's little 'test', she could only come up with one reason to do it. But it came up every time. She needed to know. She needed to know why Clark would continually run out on her when he claimed to be in love with her.

She'd asked him, point blank, on a couple of occasions in the past, why he'd decided on that particular moment to return a library book, or video. He'd given her some weak excuse about being frugal and not wanting to incur late fees or fines. She hadn't believed his answers at the time, but never felt strongly enough to push it. She did now. She was uncomfortable with what she'd just done, but if it brought her the answer to her question, well, then maybe it was worth it.

Her tears, as she faced Clark, were quite real. They were tears of fear. Fear of the unknown, of what he was going to say. She could admit to herself, now, that if Clark turned away from her it would devastate her. She had gotten used to having Clark be a part of her life and she could no longer imagine what it would be like without him. Still, if what her mother suspected turned out to be true, then maybe it was best to find out now, before things went any further.

Lois' heart was in her throat as she watched for some sign of his feelings on Clark's face. He stood there looking at her for the longest time, his features unreadable as he digested what she'd told him. Lois was just about to break down and tell him it was all a big mistake, a cruel joke, when he finally spoke.

"Marry me." Clark's attitude was calm, yet serious.

Lois was stunned. "What?"

Of all the things Lois had imagined Clark would say to her, a marriage proposal hadn't been any of them. Even in her most optimistic scenario, of which there were few, Clark had been angry, but had eventually been understanding and willing to 'talk' about it. Asking her to marry him had thrown her for the proverbial loop.

Clark closed the distance between them and took her hand in his. "I said, marry me. If you are going to have a child, then that child will need a mother and a father. If you'll have me, I'd love the chance to be that father, and your husband."

Lois' head was swimming. He must have heard her wrong. "Didn't you hear what I said? I said I was pregnant with Lex's baby."

Clark cocked his head to one side and allowed a small smile to turn up the corners of his mouth. "I heard you. But now you need to hear me. It doesn't matter if Lex is the biological father. This child is a part of you, and that means it will be very special. Children aren't born evil. If the little person you're carrying is raised in a loving and caring environment, he or she will turn out to be a loving and caring individual." Clark allowed his smile to grow a bit. "After all, I wasn't raised by my biological parents and I think I turned out pretty good."

Fresh torrents of tears poured down Lois' cheeks as she pulled away from Clark's grasp. The color drained from her face as the magnitude of what she had done came crashing in on her.

"Omigod, Clark, I'm so sorry."

There had been times in the past where Lois had felt ashamed of things she'd done, but never more than she felt at that moment. What had she done? Her self-loathing was like a living thing, growing larger and stronger by the moment. In her stupid attempt to find out if Clark really loved her, she had probably thrown away the best thing she'd ever had. He would have to hate her now. How could he not? Why hadn't she seen that this could happen? She knew how he felt about children, and family. How could she expect him to forgive her for such a cruel trick, when she would never be able to forgive herself?

Clark quickly came over to her and put his arms around her. "What is it? What's wrong?"

"Oh, Clark, I've made a terrible mistake. I've done a horrible thing."


"I listened to my mother. After all these years, why would I listen to her now? I've never listened to anything she told me, even if it was supposed to be for my own good. Why now? Why would I give credence to anything she has to say? I've ruined everything."

"Lois!" Clark extended his arms and captured Lois' attention with his eyes. "Just tell me."

So between sobs, Lois told Clark about the conversation she'd had with her mother the night before and how it had lead her to this morning's actions. How she had told Clark she was pregnant with Lex's child even though she and Lex had never slept together.

"Lois, please don't cry. It's all right. Granted, it was a cruel trick, but I forgive you." Clark was trying to console the inconsolable Lois. "You had reason to doubt me. It's all right."

Lois pulled away from Clark's embrace and backed toward the other end of the room. "But, don't you see? It's not all right. I doubted you. I doubted your feelings for me. There is no excuse for what I did. It was horrible and unfair." Lois brushed at fresh tears. "I should have never let my mother put such a ridiculous idea into my head. I should have just come right out and asked you for an explanation. If there is one thing I do know about you, it's that you wouldn't lie to me." She sniffed loudly. "Clark Kent, my partner, and my best friend, may be the last honest man on this planet." Lois was suddenly puzzled by the definite look of discomfort that had appeared on Clark's face. "Clark?"

Clark scrubbed his hand through his hair as a sheepish look came over him. "Ah, Lois, I think you'd better sit down. We need to talk."