Submitted August 2002
Summary: One horrifying experience causes Clark to rethink everything he's come to know about himself. Will he be able to overcome the obstacles facing him and find his way back to the only woman he's ever loved?
WARNING: This story has been rated PG13 for violence and sexual content.
The idea for this story came about several months ago. I felt, at the time, that it was too serious to write. It deals with some very mature subject matter and is not for the faint at heart. For that reason, it took me forever to start writing it. Without the encouragement of my beta-reader, this would have never seen the light of day. Thanks Jenni, for all your hard work. You're the reason this story will be read by anyone other than you and me. And a big thank you to my wonderful GE, for her quick work and ego-boosting words. Thanks, Erin!
I have to include a serious warning on this story. There is violence and a major WHAM. One of the main characters faces a serious act of violence and the rest of the story is based on how that's handled. So if anyone doesn't like to see our favorite couple suffer, DON'T read this.
All usual disclaimers apply. None of the characters are mine, except in passing. I also have to thank Bruce Robison for the lyrics to a beautiful song. I used several lines in a conversation between L&C. Other than that, any similarities to any other story, event, or anything else is purely coincidental.
Feedback is welcome.
"Oh, you're just too much," Lois told Clark.
Exchanging friendly banter with her husband was something she had come to not only look forward to, but also need. They had finished with their latest story on a string of burglaries, which had been taking place all over the south side of Metropolis. The assailants hadn't been apprehended because evidence was seldom left at the scene. Lois and Clark's own investigation was proving to be frustrating as well. None of their usual sources were panning out and Clark thought she needed to laugh a little so he told her a joke he'd heard.
His eyes crinkled when he laughed, making his whole face light up. Lois loved to hear Clark laugh. After the last year, it was something they both needed.
"How would my wife like to go out to dinner tonight?"
"With anyone I know?" she bit back.
"Maybe." Clark reached out to trail a finger down the front of her blouse.
She watched him as his finger stopped at the top of her waistband on her skirt. His fingers hooked in the material and tugged her in for a kiss. Lois was thrown by his forceful display of affection, knowing he was usually more reserved. But she hooked her arms around his neck and enjoyed her little gift.
"Hey, hey, hey! What is this?" Perry tried to sound angry and was failing miserably.
Lois and Clark looked sheepishly at each other. "Sorry, Chief," Lois told him. "He's just so darned irresistible." She patted Clark's chest, receiving another bright smile and a look that promised more later.
"If you can manage to keep yourselves away from each other long enough, how about getting me those pieces on the education conference I asked for?"
"On it, Chief," Clark said in full business mode. He gave Lois one last regretful look and headed for his desk, but stopped suddenly as he heard a call for help.
Lois saw that familiar look come over her husband and was thankful Perry hadn't stayed around to dawdle. "What is it?" she whispered as she came up behind Clark.
"Fire. Large one." His hand was already working at the knot in his tie. "Love you," he shot at Lois as he backed away.
"I love you. Be careful."
"Always," he mouthed just before he disappeared around the corner.
Lois doubted she'd ever get used to this. She knew he was Superman and would never want him not to be. She just never expected to worry about him the way she did when he went out on a rescue. Letting a long breath escape, she sank into her chair. Feeling complete with a man had always been such a foreign thought for Lois. Since marrying Clark, it was like the air she breathed. She was not complete without her husband and wouldn't have it any other way. She sent out a silent wish for him to hurry back to her.
Clark had been fighting the fire that threatened the apartment building next to it for nearly an hour. A warehouse had been burning uncontrollably, but he thought he finally had the flames under control. It had obviously been arson. He just couldn't imagine why anyone would set fire to an empty warehouse. Figuring it was most likely an insurance job, he flew back into the building to check for hot spots. That was his mistake.
He heard it just a second before it happened: a thunderous explosion. With his mind whirling in absolute shock, he plummeted to the floor. Clark grasped his stomach and rolled across the cement. He was in excruciating pain. The foul gas coming from the explosion was laced with Kryptonite. He had to get away from it before he lost all his powers. He slowly managed to get to his feet, stumbling for the closest exit.
He filled his lungs with the clean air outside the building. The pain began to subside, but it was too late. He had lost all his powers. Clark grimaced as he saw a few fire fighters coming his way.
The fire fighters had quickly understood the need to contain the gases escaping from what was left of the burnt out warehouse. They listened as Superman told them he thought it could be dangerous. Large blowers were hooked up to direct the potentially deadly haze away from the residents next to the ruined building. Their work kept them busy enough not to notice the 'Man in Blue' enter an alley and exit a few minutes later as Clark Kent.
Figuring he'd make the most of a bad situation, Clark got the story for the Planet. After a few comments from fire fighters and witnesses, he was on his way back to the office.
Lois knew the moment he came in he wasn't feeling his normal self. She crossed the room, took his arm, and pulled him into the conference room. "What's wrong?" she asked as soon as the door was closed.
"There was Kryptonite in the warehouse fire."
A soft gasp left her lips as her hands reached to hold Clark's face. "Honey, are you okay?"
"Yeah. No powers, but I don't feel sick." He shrugged at her knowing glare. "Okay. I'm weak and sore. I fell quite a few feet to the floor."
"Why don't you go home?"
He thought to argue with her, but changed his mind. He did feel awful. A hot shower and a quick rest may just be what the doctor ordered. "You know, I think that might be a good idea. Here." He reached into his pocket and took out his notebook. "Notes on the fire."
"Don't worry. I'll write it up for you."
Lois leaned forward and kissed his forehead. "You get some rest. I won't be late. I promise."
"Good. I could use a little TLC tonight."
Lois smiled and took him into an embrace. With a nudge, she sent him out the door to go home. She would tell Perry he was chasing down another lead, write up the story, and join him in an hour.
Clark was grateful Lois suggested he come home. Now that he was unlocking the door, he was really glad to be here. His exposure had been so unexpected and had taken its toll more than he would have liked. That shower sounded better by the minute.
Clark pulled his key from the lock and pushed the door open. He stopped and stared wide eyed at the mess that was supposed to be his home. It had been turned upside down. Furniture was everywhere. His eyes fell to the television set still sitting in its place. He'd thought at first they'd been hit by the South-side Burglars, but nothing appeared to be missing. He wondered if the rest of the house had faired as well.
Pushing the door shut, he made his way through the mess in the living room. The dining room was just as bad. Carefully avoiding disrupting anything that might identify the suspects, Clark gently sidestepped the mess to push the door open to the kitchen. It appeared to be untouched. He would call the police from in here.
The gentle swoosh of the door closing covered the sound of the man standing behind it. Seconds later, a well-placed blow from a bat laid his unsuspecting victim out on the cold vinyl of the kitchen floor.
For the second time today, Clark's mind whirled in disbelief. Trying to catch his breath, he struggled to his back. His vision blurred in and out as he watched the man being joined by his accomplice. The men were both fairly large, and to a man who wasn't able to focus clearly, they seemed very menacing and frightening.
One was speaking now. Through his haze Clark made out part of what he said. Was his hearing playing tricks on him? Did he just say they were going to…?
<No!> his mind screamed as their intentions became obviously clear. One man leered obscenely at Clark. Two against one or not, he was not going to let that happen to him. He fought with what little energy he had left. He managed to connect a fist to one of the men's face. This only angered the attacker more. Clark felt the cold metal of the bat again as it made contact with his back. He landed on his stomach on the floor. His tormentors were just too strong. They managed to secure his hands behind his back, his face mashed into the floor. Still Clark fought, trying desperately to squirm away from them. His breath left him a second time when one of the men crushed a knee into the middle of his back. Knowing his efforts were hopeless, he closed his eyes as he felt hands at his belt buckle, the sound of their laughter being etched permanently into mind. He bit his lip and prayed for unconsciousness to overtake him.
Police cars covered the block, making it impossible to get to her brownstone. "Right here," Lois told the cabbie as they stopped a good block from her house. She'd been forced to take a cab because Clark had taken the jeep earlier. Passing the fare across the seat, she exited to walk the rest of the way to her door. It quickly became apparent that all the commotion *was* at her place. Lois broke into a sprint when she saw the medics taking a stretcher through the front door.
"I live here," she told the officer who put out his hand to stop her entry into the building.
"Detective Henderson, this lady says she lives here," the young man called to another man inside. Obviously, he received the okay to let her in because he stepped aside.
Lois' thoughts were running rampant as she stepped into her house. It was destroyed. Henderson met her before she could enter the dining room.
"Lois, you need to wait here. They'll have him out in a minute."
"Him? Clark? What's wrong with him?!" She was really scared now. Theoretically, she knew the stretcher could have only been for one person, but hearing it was so final.
The officer averted his eyes from her and led her by the arm to the bottom of the stairs. "We think Clark interrupted the South-side Burglars. Even though attacking someone hasn't been their M.O.—"
"Oh God!" Lois' eyes darted around the room. She was near panic now. "How is he?"
"Lois, they roughed him up pretty good. Hit him over the head with a bat, broke some ribs, broke his nose, and…" He dropped his gaze from hers. He'd felt horrible to see his friend the way they'd found him. It was something he'd never forget. "Lois, they…raped him."
She could only stare at Henderson. Surely, he hadn't said what she thought he'd just said.
"They tore him up pretty bad."
"H…how did you find him?"
Henderson was a little thrown by her question, but figured it was her way of grasping what had happened. "He called us. He didn't want you to find him like this."
Lois nodded as she tried to process what was going on. Just then the medics wheeled Clark through the room. For a brief moment she couldn't move. She stared at her husband with wide eyes. What was she doing? He needed her and here she stood, trying to find a…difference in him? This was crazy. Clark was her husband and needed her by his side.
In a second she was lifting his hand. "Clark, honey, I'm here."
He turned to look at her over the oxygen mask he wore, but no words would come, just the tears that rolled down his face.
"Oh, honey," she whispered as she saw his reaction. Her hand was stroking his hair back from his face.
"I'm sorry, ma'am, but we need to get him to the hospital. You can ride in the front."
She looked up at the medic, nodded her head, then looked back down at Clark with regret. "I have to let you go now. I won't be far. Okay?"
Clark closed his eyes, squeezing out even more tears. He gave Lois' hand a quick squeeze just before she let go of his. He reclosed his eyes, trying desperately to shut out the images that were constantly replaying themselves over and over again in his mind.
Lois could only watch as the one person she loved most in the world was loaded into the back of the ambulance. Detective Henderson told her he'd come down to the hospital when the investigation was finished in the brownstone. Numbly, she climbed into the front of the vehicle. She was unable to organize a single thought as they raced across the city to Metro General. The doors opening in the back alerted her to the fact that they had arrived. She made her way to the back and watched helplessly as her husband was wheeled into the emergency room.
The hospital staff made Lois wait outside the trauma area while they assessed her husband. She was vaguely jealous of the two officers that kept coming and going at will. She knew they were only doing their job, but felt she should have been allowed to be with Clark.
Pacing the floor for the fiftieth time, she tried to process what was happening. Could Clark have really been…? It was just so horrible to imagine, let alone say. This was something that happened to women. She and Clark both saw it every day. Sure, they had seen one or two male rape cases. It was just something that happened to someone else, not them. Clark was Superman, for crying out loud!
<Not today, Lois. He's just a man.> Her thoughts reminded her of the poisoning he'd received at the hands of some madman. She would find out what evil force wanted her husband neutralized just as soon as she could. Right now her husband was hurt. He needed her.
Clark gave up the hope that he could shut out the images if he just closed his eyes. He stared hopelessly into the bright light above him. He was so humiliated he couldn't manage more than just one word answers to the doctor's questions. They took his clothes for evidence, taped his ribs, set his nose, and collected samples. All he wanted was a hot shower. Maybe the water would help wash away the filth he felt he was drowning in.
It took over an hour for them to give him the okay to take a shower. By then Clark felt like he'd been raped again. He had been poked and prodded a hundred times. And he would have to wait another few minutes for his room.
<Damn! These people were slow.> To top it off, an officer was on his way in to question him.
Lois met the doctor when he came out the room. "Well?"
"He's going to be okay. His nose set right back into place. His ribs were only cracked. The knock to the head doesn't seem to have caused a concussion. We want to keep him overnight, but he's refusing. So we compromised on a few hours for observation."
"And the other? Is he…okay?"
"Yes. No permanent damage. Just a little tissue tearing. He lost a minor amount of blood and that's already stopped. The physical damage isn't the only worry. Ms. Lane, Clark suffered a very emotional and disturbing act of violence tonight. The scars may not be apparent for a while."
"I know. How can I help him?"
"Just be there for him. Let him set the pace. Let him direct the situation. He *can* heal, but it won't be any time soon." Lois nodded sadly. "We're moving him to a room. He wants to shower."
Lois eyes fell on her husband helplessly as he was wheeled down the hall to the elevator. He failed to meet her gaze as he passed her. It struck her that his eyes were dull and unresponsive. She steeled her nerves and followed the gurney close behind.
Clark waited until the nurse was gone before he attempted to get up. Lois watched as his face drew into a tight line of pain. She went to his side to help him off the bed.
Clark flinched at Lois' touch. "Please…don't."
He still couldn't look at her, and Lois was confused by his attitude toward her. She only wanted to help. "Sorry," she said in a defeated tone and stepped back to allow him room to get up.
He still couldn't look at her. This wasn't her fault, and Lois was the one person he should be clinging to now. He just couldn't help himself. Clark didn't want anyone to touch him. He felt disgusted and ashamed. He was Superman! He wasn't supposed to be held down like a child while…
Behind the closed bathroom door, Clark slowly shed the gown he'd been put in. He turned on the water as hot as he could get it, remembering that he was still vulnerable. And how well did he remember that. Those two guys earlier reminded him painfully just how vulnerable he was.
Clark closed his eyes as the water cascaded over his body. He could see the horrible scene play out again, hear both men's horrible laughter. Most of all he could feel the agonizing pain tear not only at his body but also at his soul. How was he ever going to face anyone again? He sank to the floor, wrapping his arms around his drawn-up knees, and cried.
Lois was getting worried about Clark. He had been in the shower for well over thirty minutes. She supposed that was to be expected. He was…
"Oh God!" she gasped as the realization of exactly what had happened to her husband sank in. How would they deal with this? How did a man heal after something this horrible? She had interviewed enough women to know how traumatic rape was. Lois couldn't even imagine how a man must feel after being at the mercy of another man. And to have him invade your body in such a repulsive, inhuman way…
Lois swiped at the tears that were streaming down her cheeks. She was angry with those men. They had committed a horrible act of violence against the most gentle man she'd ever known. She knew first hand how seeing tragedies as Superman affected Clark. This would devastate him. Those monsters took away something precious to both herself and Clark. They took away his security. No man ever thinks he could become the victim of such a crime. To have it happen, and in your own home, would have to constitute the ultimate breach of security. How would her gentle husband heal from this? And most importantly, how was she going to help him?
Her thoughts were interrupted when Clark opened the door to the bathroom. He was dressed in one of the hospital gowns and had obviously been crying. Lois had only witnessed him do that once when he failed to rescue a small baby from a fire right after they found out they couldn't have children. She wanted to just hold him and make all the pain go away.
Clark headed straight for the bed, pulled the cover off, and wrapped it around his body. He pulled the chair over to the window and curled up in it like a small child.
"Clark?" Lois took a tentative step toward him. Her hand hovered just above his shoulder. She wanted so desperately to touch him, be sure he was there and okay. "Do…do you want anything?"
"Some water," he replied softly.
"Okay." Lois went out to the nurses' station to get him some water. She returned and kneeled before him to offer the drink.
Clark slipped a shaky hand from under the blanket to take the cup. His hand made contact with Lois', causing him to raise his eyes to hers for the first time since they were in the apartment. He expected to see disgust, disappointment, and uncertainty. Instead he saw love and compassion. His eyes filled with tears again.
Lois' heart wrenched when she saw the pain in his eyes. He was like a lost child in an unfamiliar world. When she saw the tears, she nearly died. The cup of water was sat on the floor so she could pull her husband into her embrace. He came willingly, burying his face against her chest. Lois held him with strong arms as his body wracked with sobs. Silent tears of her own fell down her cheeks.
Lois held Clark while he cried. Long minutes later, he turned his head and rested his cheek against her breast. She used one end of the blanket to wipe his face, then smoothed his hair back to look at him.
"I'm so sorry, honey," she whispered.
"What for? You didn't do anything."
"I wasn't there for you. When we got married, we promised to protect each other."
Clark pulled his arms from under the blanket and wrapped them around Lois' waist. "I'm glad you weren't there. They would have done this to you." He mashed his face into her chest even more. "Hold me tight," he whispered.
"I will, honey. I will." She tightened her grip on his body, thankful he was allowing her to touch him.
Lois held Clark for what seemed like hours. She reluctantly let him go when the doctor entered.
"Mr. Kent," the doctor said after he checked his vitals. "We took blood to run tests for diseases. The results will be ready in twenty-four hours. We will also test the samples of the perpetrators. If those come back clean, we may be able to discontinue all the tests but the one for HIV. That one has an incubation period of several years." He looked over at Lois. "You will have to be tested for that one as well."
"Only after you have intercourse with your husband," the doctor told her. "I would advise you to take extreme precautions for a while." He pushed his pen into his pocket. "I'm really sorry, Mr. Kent. There's an officer here to speak with you. Once he's done, you're free to go."
He vaguely heard what he said after the mention of having intercourse with his wife. How could he ever do that again? He wanted to die and was fairly certain any type of intimacy would never appeal to him again.
The officer came in a second after the doctor left.
"Mr. Kent, I'm Detective Green." Clark acknowledged his presence with a nod of his head. "I need you to tell me everything you can remember so that we can nail these bastards."
Clark looked up into the eyes of the young officer. He was sure the man would display a reaction of disgust or disinterest. He knew the road ahead would be riddled with men looking down their noses at him. They would have that question in the backs of their minds as to whether he'd done something to provoke what happened to him or if he secretly enjoyed it. Others would wonder just how a grown man could be held down and sexually assaulted.
Those thoughts had crossed his mind in the minutes following his attack and had almost made him decide not to call the police. But his thoughts drifted to Lois. He couldn't let her walk in and find him the way they had left him. He was in a great deal of pain. It took him a few minutes, but he had managed to get his hands untied to call for help. And of course, his incredible need to keep this thing from happening to someone else helped in his decision.
He knew there would be questions. Though he still hadn't really processed exactly what had happened to him, it was time to answer those inquiries. Clark pulled the cover around him a little more securely and took a deep breath.
"I…I went home earlier because I wasn't feeling well. I opened the door to find the house destroyed. My first reaction was that the South-side Burglars had been and gone. It didn't appear anyone was there. When I looked closer, there didn't seem to be anything missing either. I thought maybe we'd been ransacked. In our line of work, that sometimes happens." Clark kept his eyes cast on the floor.
"I went through the dining room to check for more damage, then into the kitchen." Clark stopped and glanced over at Lois.
"Mr. Kent, would you like for your wife to step out?" When Clark didn't answer, the young man turned to Lois. "Ms. Lane, would you mind? Often victims have a tough time talking about their ordeal in front of their spouses."
Lois' eyes went from the detective to Clark. He was still staring at the floor. He looked as defeated as Lois had ever seen him. As badly as she wanted to be here for him, she wanted him to get some kind of handle on this situation as well. She nodded and exited the room.
Henderson found Lois standing against the wall outside Clark's room. "Lois, the doctor says Clark's going to be okay."
"I wish I felt the same way."
The man put a hand on her shoulder. He'd worked with and against the infamous reporting team of Lane and Kent for several years now. In that time he'd come to think of them as his friends.
"I know this is difficult, but Detective Green is one of the best. He's handled a great number of male sexual assault cases. That's why I sent him."
"The investigation's not what I'm worried about."
"I know, Lois. But Clark is a strong man, where it counts. It may take a while, but he'll get through this. And so will you." Lois met his eyes. "I promise I'll do everything I can to make sure these guys are caught."
"Here." Henderson pulled out a card and handed it to Lois. "This is the number for a group. They're survivors of sexual assault. More precisely, the relatives of survivors. They can answer the questions you're going to have over the next few weeks."
Lois looked down at the card. "Thanks," was all she could manage. The shock was still a little too much.
Detective Green had taken down as much as Clark could remember. They now had a description of the perpetrators to go on. Clark's account was as detailed as any the young officer could remember considering the enormity of the situation. He took out a card and extended it to Clark.
"Mr. Kent, this is the number of a support group. There are other men who've been through what happened to you."
Clark looked at the piece of paper for a long moment before he reached to take it. He had no plans to go sit with strangers and tell them what had happened to him, but he took the card to humour the detective.
"If you think of anything else that may be relative, give me a call. If we hear anything, we'll let you know." A slight nod was the only response the man got before he turned and left the room
Henderson and Lois looked up when the officer came out.
"He gave me a good deal to go on, including a description."
"Get back to the station and see what you can dig up."
"Yes sir." Detective Green said a polite good-bye to Lois and started for the elevator. "Sometimes I really hate this job," he mumbled as he waited for the car.
Lois re-entered the room to find Clark still sitting in the same position he was in when she went out. A nurse brought in a wheelchair to take him out so he could go home. He pulled the blanket up around his chin as he was wheeled to the exit. He kept his head lowered, not making eye contact with anyone. He felt that everyone was looking at him.
The ride home in the cab was made in silence. Clark allowed Lois to hold his hand. Her grip was strong and sure, conveying to him her understanding.
The cab stopped in front of the brownstone. Clark's eyes were glued to the door. Lois failed to notice he hadn't moved until she was on the sidewalk. She leaned back into the cab.
"Clark?" He was trembling now and not making eye contact with her. "Clark, we don't have to go in. We can get a room tonight."
He finally seemed to register what she'd said. "No. This is our home." With more conviction than he felt, Clark slowly emerged from the cab. His feet were heavy as he lifted them to walk the distance to the front door. He waited as Lois unlocked the outer door. Once in the foyer, he felt a little more confident. When Lois had the inner door open, he was sure he'd be okay.
The living room was still a mess. Clark stood just inside the door as he remembered seeing this scene earlier in the evening. He started to shake again. He was reliving those horrible moments, vaguely aware Lois was talking.
"… a cleaning company tomorrow." She turned to face Clark. The color had faded from his face and he was starting to breathe heavily. He was trembling and the tears were filling his eyes again. "Clark?"
His scared eyes met Lois'. Suddenly, his stomach was churning overtime. He dropped the blanket he'd been holding and rushed up the stairs.
"Clark?" Lois followed to find him in the guest bathroom vomiting. She quickly wet a cloth and went to his side.
When he was finished, Lois placed the cloth over his face. He leaned back against her body, giving her control. She wrapped her arms around him again, content to just hold him.
Finally, Clark started to struggle to get up. "I need to brush my teeth," he said absently.
"Sure." She watched in agony as he made his way down the hall into their room. Lois decided to give him a little space, so she went to fix him some soup and get him that much needed water.
It was Lois' turn to cry as she stood in the doorway of their kitchen. Although it was not a mess like the other rooms, it did hold the evidence of her husband's terrible experience, telling her that Clark had suffered greatly in this room, that he'd been used as a target. Her heart broke for what her husband had most certainly faced. At the same time, she knew anything she could imagine would never come close to what he'd been through.
Lois' anger surfaced again. She wiped hastily at the tears on her face and made her way to the sink. Those monsters wouldn't win. She wouldn't give them the satisfaction.
Taking her frustrations out on the counters, she scrubbed at them, hot tears falling as she continued to clean the room. She didn't want Clark to have to see this room in this shape. She continued to clean until there was nothing that she felt could visually remind him that he'd been attacked in his own kitchen.
With the kitchen cleaned up, she turned her attention to making Clark something to eat. She took a deep breath and started preparing a tray for him.
Lois found Clark curled up in a ball in the middle of their bed. He had the covers pulled up to his chin. She thought he was asleep until he coughed.
"Clark, I brought you something to eat and drink."
He slowly rolled over onto his back and sat up. "I'm not hungry, but I could use that drink."
Lois sat the tray on the nightstand and picked up the water. She handed it to Clark and watched as he emptied it in a few gulps. "More?" He nodded.
He took the second glass, consuming nearly half. "Thank you," he told her as he handed her the glass.
"You're welcome. Now, won't you try to eat something?"
"No. I still feel a little sick."
"Okay." Lois noticed he'd changed into a sweat suit while she was downstairs.
Clark settled back down on the bed again, dragging the covers tightly around him. Lois kicked off her shoes and eased up on the bed beside Clark. She pulled him into her arms to hold him once more. He came willingly, thankful for the comfort. He clung to her arm, fighting the images that were still threatening to overwhelm him. It was a long while later when the trembling gave way to a fitful sleep.
Lois watched Clark as he slept. She had wakened in the wee hours of the morning with nightmares of her own. Unable and unwilling to close her eyes and see the horrible images she had been envisioning, she got up. Settling in the chair in front of the French doors, she just looked at Clark.
He was still fighting unknown demons as he slept, often kicking and crying out. The cold sweats were still waking him about every two hours. Calming him with her closeness was something she could definitely do. But what did she do from there? How could she possibly help him through this?
Some of the horror stories she'd read about women after they were raped had made the hair on her neck stand on end. How does a man possibly cope with such a traumatic violation? And Clark… How would he cope with the things that had been done to him?
Lois shivered as she thought about the emptiness she saw in his eyes. She prayed he wasn't reliving the whole terrifying experience each time he closed his eyes. And the pain…she could see the pain in those dark pools and it tore through her. She could feel that pain. It was true what they said about marriage—when one hurts, both hurt. She was slowly gathering a better understanding of why Clark worried about her safety the way he did. In the early morning light, Lois made a promise not to give him such a hard time about his over protectiveness anymore.
Clark stirred again. He was having another nightmare. The covers were pushed off his chest, his arms waving as he fought his attackers. Lois went to him. When she reached to pull him into her arms, his eyes shot wide open.
"Don't!" His voice was loud and you could hear the fear. He sat up and edged across the bed away from Lois. "Don't touch me!"
Lois' heart was aching for him. That last dream must have been awful. He didn't even recognize her. "Clark, honey, it's me." She watched as he searched her face for recognition.
Finally, he came back to his senses. "Lois?"
"Yeah." She held up her hand to him. "I'm not going to hurt you. I just want to hold you."
Clark's eyes darted from her face to her hand and back. Instead of easing toward her, he threw the cover back and slung his legs over the side of the bed.
He didn't answer; he was making a dash for the bathroom. A second later, Lois knew why. He was sick again.
'How can he possibly be sick? He hasn't eaten a thing,' Lois mumbled as she got up to help him.
"No! Leave me alone," he told her when she stepped into the bathroom to check on him.
"Clark, let me help you."
"Lois, please. Just leave me alone for a while."
Although she was hurt, she understood he was probably humiliated. She conceded defeat and slowly turned to leave him to his solitude. "I'm sorry," was softly whispered behind her. Suddenly, all her own hurt dissolved. This had to be killing him. What she was going through was nothing compared to his pain.
Clark wiped his face with the cool cloth, then settled against the cabinet where he still sat on the floor. Closing his eyes only brought back images of the attack. Wishing it away was fruitless. It had happened and now it was threatening to kill him. He looked up at the ceiling, trying to stop the tears that were filling his eyes.
As he sat there, his thoughts drifted to Lois. He'd hurt her when he told her to leave him alone. He just couldn't help it. Hovering over the toilet bowl, emptying the contents of his stomach was not something he wanted her to see. The fact that she had to live through this whole experience with him was bad enough.
Clark silently cursed himself. Who was he kidding? He was just too humiliated to let her near. He was Superman, for goodness sake. He wasn't supposed to yell out in pain as…as… He wasn't supposed to cry like a baby because he couldn't stop it. But he had.
Clark swiped at the tears on his cheeks angrily. Those bastards had taken away a part of his soul. They had humiliated him and subjected him to things no one should have to endure. Worst yet, his wife would have to pay just as much as he would. And to make things worse, he was pushing her away. His heart told him that he should let her in, let her help him. His mind, however, screamed for everyone and anyone to just stay away.
"What am I going to do?" he asked out loud, then just let his head drop as more tears fell. When he'd cried himself out, he pushed up from the cold bathroom tile and made his way back into the bedroom. It was time to get ready for work, but today that would have to wait. He rummaged through his dresser drawer to find another sweatshirt. The one he had on was soaked with sweat.
When Clark pulled off the wet shirt, he caught sight of himself in the mirror. His chest and stomach were bruised and several cuts marred the surface. He hesitantly brought a hand up to cover his navel, remembering the blow that had taken away his breath. If those monsters had just beaten him, he could have dealt with that. But they went beyond that. They held him down and…
Clark shook his head. He didn't want to see those images again right now. He pulled on the clean sweatshirt and buried himself underneath the covers again. This is where he'd stay today. Maybe forever.
"Clark?" When he didn't answer, Lois sat the tray she was carrying down to leave him to his sleep. He needed it.
"Lois?" His voice stopped her at the door.
Clark rolled over and extended his hand to her. "Come here."
She went to him, reaching to take his hand. Lois settled on the bed to look down at him. He appeared to be more in control than he was earlier, but he still reminded her of a little lost child.
"Lois, I'm sorry…about earlier."
"Oh, Clark, you don't have to apologize."
"Yes, I do. I know I hurt your feelings. I didn't mean to. It's just…"
"Clark, you've been through a terrible ordeal. It's understandable not to want me near."
"It's not that I don't *want* you near, it's just… I don't know. It's hard for me to deal with."
"I know, sweetie," she told him and gripped his hand between both of hers.
"So, forgive me?"
"There's nothing to forgive."
"Lois," he said, but stopped. He had averted his gaze; the pain in her eyes was more than he could take. He spoke without looking at her. "I wish I could tell you that was the only time I'd hurt you over this."
"Clark, honey, I know this is not going to be easy." She reached down and turned his head back to her. "We will get through this together."
"I hope so," he whispered.
Lois forced a smile through her tears before looking over at the tray. "Hey, can you do me a favor?"
"Can you try to eat a little something?"
Clark smiled a little this time. He felt his love for Lois swell within him. Whether or not he made it through this thing, she would definitely be there encouraging him. He pushed himself up and leaned back against the headboard. Lois sat the tray across his legs, and with her help, Clark managed to eat a little breakfast.
Clark told Lois he really didn't feel like facing anyone so he was planning on staying at home for the day. Lois, wanting to help, called Perry and told him they were taking the day off. Clark had nearly panicked until Lois assured him she wouldn't tell Perry what had happened to him. Satisfied for the time being, Clark settled back under the covers and drifted off to sleep.
Lois, not completely willing to sit idle, went straight for the computer. She was determined to find those beasts who'd attacked her husband.
Lois could distract herself with work, and though he tried, Clark couldn't manage to find solace, even in his sleep. Nearing noon, he grew tired of fighting the demons and got up. He found Lois in the middle of a pile of research notes, files, and other printouts in the dining room. She looked up when he stepped off the last step.
"Hey, you. You're probably ready for lunch. I'm sorry I let time get away from me. I'll get it for you."
"No, Lois. It's okay. I'll get something in a bit." He sifted through a couple of the papers on the table. "They don't stand a chance, do they?"
"Mad Dog Lane is on the trail."
Lois grinned over at him. "I just needed to do something."
"Lois, it's okay. I want them caught. I don't want them to hurt anyone else the way they hurt me."
Lois touched his arm tentatively. "We'll get them, Clark."
"Yeah." He was intent on the papers in front of him. "May I help?"
"Are you sure you want to?"
He looked up at Lois. "They violated my body, not my mind." His voice was a little more harsh than he intended it to be. Lois took a step back from him. Clark mentally kicked himself and reached for Lois' arm. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean that. The last thing I should be doing is getting short with you. You didn't do anything."
Lois stepped back to him and held out her arms. "It's okay."
Clark looked at her arms a moment before walking into her embrace. It was short and forced on his part. For some reason he was feeling a little apprehensive about getting near Lois. He drew back and smiled at her. "Let's get to work."
"Okay, partner." They settled at the table and Lois brought Clark up to speed on the burglaries.
The focus working the story gave Clark back some of his control. Spending the afternoon working was what he needed. The time had allowed him to feel human again. Although they were working on the burglaries, he had not thought about his ordeal for the last hour or so. Until him, the thieves had not attacked anyone else.
"Well, I think we at least have a direction to go in," Lois announced as she rose to go fix some dinner.
"Yeah. We'll run down that list of suspects tomorrow."
Lois stopped at the doors to the kitchen. "You're working tomorrow?"
"I don't see why not."
"Are you sure you feel up to it?"
"Lois, I feel fine. The bruises are fading and if anyone asks I'll tell them I was mugged. People get mugged all the time in Metropolis."
Lois was about to say something else, but she thought better of it and closed her mouth. "I'm going to fix something to eat."
Clark nodded his head in approval as he continued to gather up their files. When he was done, he stood to join Lois in the kitchen. Suddenly, his very sore body reminded him of what he'd been trying desperately to forget. The previous day rushed back with unforgiving force. He gripped the table to catch his breath. The images continued to rage behind his eyes. Not being able to stand it any longer, he grabbed the table and overturned it.
His yell and the table hitting the wall brought Lois running through the door. "Clark?!"
She stopped short when she saw him standing there. He was heaving deep breaths, his fists clenched, his eyes blazing with all the anger he was feeling. For the first time since she'd known him, Lois was scared of Clark.
His eyes shot between Lois and the toppled table. Realizing he didn't have a grasp on his control, he fled the room.
Lois covered her mouth as more tears fell for her husband. How would they ever get through this?
Lois found Clark trembling uncontrollably in the middle of the bed with the covers pulled over his head. "Clark?"
His words were choked out through a sob. Until this Lois had never known Clark could cry so much. She'd seen tears of pain and fear in his eyes before, but this was more than even she could bear. As much as Clark needed her right now, he also needed to come to terms with what had happened to him. She slowly backed out of the room, leaving him to the torture raging in his mind.
The sobs racked Clark's body for several minutes. He was growing more ashamed of himself by the second. He was a grown man. He wasn't supposed to shake in fear or cry like a baby. He had to get a grip on his emotions.
With a new confidence, he pushed his assault to the back of his mind, ordering it to stay there. Slowly, he allowed the tension to drain from his body as sleep overtook him.
Not wanting to confront Clark again, Lois had slept in the guest room. She'd looked in on him a couple times. Other than the change in position on the bed, you would have never known he was alive. He didn't leave that bed once all night.
To say she was surprised when he walked into the kitchen, fully dressed and ready for work, was an understatement. She looked up at him from her coffee. "Hi."
"Hi," he answered without looking at her. His mind refused to register the fear that rushed through him when he entered the room where he'd been beaten and abused. When he'd poured himself a cup of coffee, he scooped up the paper from the counter. He finished his coffee in silence while he read the paper. He finished his reading, then turned to leave.
"I'm driving," he shot over his shoulder to Lois, not waiting for her to answer.
Figuring she'd best get in gear when she heard the keys jingle, she snatched up all her things and ran after him. He was already behind the wheel with the motor running when she made it to the jeep.
"Geez, give a girl a break, would you?" Her teasing comment would usually have gotten her one in return. Today she got nothing. Instead Clark checked the right of way and pulled into the street. Seeing any conversation was a losing battle, she contented herself to sit in silence during the drive.
Clark didn't wait on her when he put the jeep in park once they'd reached the garage. He was entering the elevator when she ran in behind him.
"Clark, I would appreciate a little help here." He appeared not to hear her. She had never seen him like this. He was operating on autopilot. When the elevator doors slid open, he started for his desk without a backwards glance.
"Hey, CK, enjoy your day off?" Jimmy belted out as he saw Clark coming down the ramp. He got a shrug in reply. Just then Jimmy noticed the fading bruises on his face. "Man, that's a nasty welt there, CK. What happened?"
"None of your damn business," was the harsh reply.
Jimmy stopped dead in his tracks. By now he'd been joined by Lois. Both stood in shocked silence at Clark's remark. The man in question, however, was booting up his computer and sifting through his mail as if nothing was wrong.
"Sorry about that, Jimmy."
"No, no. It's okay. I understand that people have bad days and SHIRK their FRIENDS whenever they feel like it." Jimmy pointedly raised his voice to annoy Clark, but it failed to have the desired effect. Clark was intent on some task as he sat behind his desk. Jimmy turned and patted Lois' shoulder before disappearing.
Lois heaved a deep breath. This was going to be a long day.
A long day didn't even begin to describe what happened the rest of the day. Clark had transformed into someone Lois did not know. He was cold and brash with everyone. He hardly spoke to her unless it was about a story and refused to look anyone in the eyes.
Lois couldn't help but wonder what kinds of things he told himself during the night as she watched Clark go to pour himself a cup of coffee.
Clark took a sip of the coffee he'd just poured, then turned to stand face to face with Ralph.
"Hey, Kent. Damn! What happened to you?" Clark answered with an angry glare. "Guess that feisty little wife of yours finally got tired of your hovering, huh? Or did you say something she didn't like? Oh I know…you failed to please her, if you know what I mean." He jabbed Clark's ribs with his elbow. "I think it's a hoot myself. Big, ole strapping boy like you letting the 'little woman' smack you around like that." Clark had sat his coffee down next to the machine and his hands were drawn into tight fists.
"Why don't you do everyone a favor, Ralph, and take a long walk on a short pier?"
"Easy Kent. Sheez. Can't a guy have a little fun?" Ralph shrugged and walked to the vending machine. "So what did happen, Kent? You should hear the speculation. Everything from you got mugged to Lois really did smack you around." He picked up the drink he'd just paid for. "Come on, you can tell me. Did Lois really hit you?"
Clark had had enough. He shoved Ralph back against the railing separating the vending area from the bullpen. "What happened is nobody's damn business but my own."
Shocked a little at Clark's reaction, Ralph gathered himself back to a standing position. When Clark's words were spoken, he drew a smile. "It is true. She whipped your…"
He never finished his sentence because Clark punched him across the rail. He landed flat his back with a loud thump on the newsroom floor.
Lois rushed up to Clark. He was glaring down at Ralph with his hands in tight fists. He was breathing heavily and the muscles in his jaw were clenched as he fought to gain control of himself.
"Clark!" Lois was about to reach for his arm, but flinched back when he turned glowing eyes to her. He didn't say a word as he stormed past the small crowd that had gathered. She watched his back disappear into the stairwell. Yep. Long was not an accurate definition of this day.
Perry looked up from his position over Ralph. "He's out cold. Somebody get me some smelling salts." When the reporter was finally revived, he was led into the conference room.
It took Perry the better part of an hour to calm Ralph down. When he went back out into the newsroom, he sought Lois.
"Lois! My office! Now!"
She scrambled to get in the editor's office before things could get worse than they already were.
"What the hell is going on?"
"Perry, Clark was…mugged night before last and beaten pretty bad. He just feels a little helpless and out of control right now."
"Judas Priest, you should have told me this yesterday."
"Clark didn't want anyone to know."
"Yeah, yeah. Well, mugged or not, he can't go around slugging my reporters. It took a lot of smooth talking to convince Ralph not to file charges against Clark for assault."
Lois shuddered at that last word. She'd heard it so many times since the attack.
"Look, I need to talk to Clark about this. Do you know where he's…" Perry trailed off as he caught sight of Clark sitting back down at his desk. He stepped to the door and yelled for the man to join them.
Clark entered the room with much less anger showing in his eyes than before. He was far from under control but he was a long way from out of it either.
"Ah, son, Lois told me what happened."
Clark shot an angry glare at Lois. "What did you do?"
"Relax. I just told him about the mugging." Her eyes pleaded with him to play along.
He softened a little, relieved that she hadn't told anyone what really happened.
"Anyway," Perry continued. "Son, I know having the crap beat out of you is a scary thing. But I can't let you tear my newsroom apart."
"I know, Perry. I'm really sorry about losing it out there. It won't happen again."
"Damn right, it won't. I talked Ralph out of pressing charges, but I think maybe you owe him an apology."
Clark took a deep breath and nodded his head. "Is that all?"
Perry stared at him for a long moment. He'd never known Clark to be this distant before. He knew there was a lot more going on than he was being told. "Yeah." He shuffled some papers as Lois and Clark's cue to leave. They took it.
Clark went straight to Ralph's desk. The man covered his mouth and shrank back away from Clark.
"Ralph, I apologize for hitting you." That was all he said. He turned and went back to his desk. Clark settled back into work as if nothing had happened, the same way he did when he'd yelled at Jimmy that morning.
Lois sighed and headed for the ladies' room. She needed to splash some cold water on her face. This was proving to be more difficult than she ever imagined.
The next week was just as difficult. Clark spoke only when spoken to. He spent most of his time alone, constantly made sarcastic remarks to people, and refused to be in the same room with Lois alone for more than two seconds. Lois had tossed around the idea of moving her things into the guest room permanently.
With her patience growing thin, Lois approached Clark one afternoon at work.
"Hey," he said, not looking up from his computer.
"Could I speak to you a second?"
"Shoot." He still hadn't looked up.
This time he met her gaze. She didn't wait on a reply and started to the conference room. He followed reluctantly.
When the door was shut, she turned to him. "Clark, what's going on?"
"Nothing. Trying to get some work done."
"That's not what I mean." She stepped a little closer, but stopped when she saw him visibly flinch. "That's what I mean. You have withdrawn from everybody. You won't let me near you, you're biting everybody's head off, and you refuse to talk about what happened."
"And your point is…?"
"My point is you need some help. You can't do this alone."
"Look, this is really hard for me to deal with. I'm Superman, for god's sake! Do you have any idea how humiliating all of this was for me? No. You don't. So why don't you just back off and leave me alone?!"
"Excuse me?! I have left you alone…for over a week now. I haven't pushed when I saw you weren't ready to talk. I haven't complained about you wanting to sleep alone. Not touching is even understandable, along with the biting heads off and not talking. But you will not shut me out! I'm your wife."
"And *I* was the one raped!"
"Clark, I know that. And I know you're hurting. I just want to help. And so does everyone else. Your parents have been wanting to talk to you for the past two days…"
"You didn't tell them, did you?"
"No. I felt that was your place. But I'm not going to be able to dodge them much longer."
"Lois, don't you dare tell them what happened!"
His glare and the tone of his voice actually frightened Lois. And when Lois was frightened, she got angry. "Or what?" she challenged him by getting in his face.
"Don't push me on this one," he gritted through clenched teeth.
"Don't you threaten me," she gave right back.
They stood face to face, glaring at each other for several moments. Finally, Clark turned and stalked from the room. Lois was left in utter bewilderment. If Clark didn't soon get some help, he was going to fall apart. She didn't want to be caught in the aftermath.
Clark didn't stop until he reached the roof. He leaned against the closed door, breathing heavily. He was ashamed of himself. For a split second, he wanted to strike Lois. He'd wanted to just lash out, make her see that he was not playing around. He'd had to leave because the thought of hurting Lois made him sick.
He sank to the ground in agony. How was he supposed to heal from the horrible ordeal he'd been through? It was driving him crazy. It was all he thought about. It was all he saw when he closed his eyes. Lashing out at people kept them shied away from him, giving him much needed breathing space.
And Superman was another issue altogether. He'd never been without his powers this long following a bout with Kryptonite. He assumed it had a lot to do with the fact that he really wasn't up to the task of saving others when he didn't know how to save himself at the moment.
Clark knew the way he'd been acting was wrong. He knew he was hurting everyone he came in contact with. He just couldn't help it. He didn't want anyone near him. He didn't want them to know what happened. It was bad enough Lois knew. He felt humiliated enough as it was. If people knew, he would feel absolutely awful. He didn't want them staring at him, feeling sorry for him.
Then there was the whole sexual issue. Men would look down their noses at him. Clark wasn't sure what he'd do if one actually got brave enough to ask if he'd secretly enjoyed it. He knew they'd wonder even if they wouldn't ask. Some of the women would probably pity him. Others would wonder as the men did about his sexuality.
He just didn't want to deal with it all. He wanted to crawl in a hole somewhere and forget any of it ever happened. Only he couldn't. He was too strong to let this take over his life. Most importantly, he didn't want it to take over. He wanted to get through this and live again. He owed it to everyone around him. He owed it to himself. And he owed it to Lois.
Lois… That was definitely the hardest part of all of this. When the doctors told them they should both be tested for a while for various diseases, the reality of what happened hit Clark full force. Though it was true his invulnerability would protect him from anything actually infecting him, if said invulnerability manifested itself again, was he able to be a carrier and pass it on to Lois? It seemed unlikely. But to pass it to her, he'd have to be intimate with her again. That was something he did not want now. With a snort, he wondered if he'd ever want that again. He just felt so horrible, so dirty. How could he expect Lois to want to make love to him after this?
But right now he needed to start trying to piece his life back together. He pushed up from his position on the roof, squared his shoulders, and went back downstairs.
Clark found Lois at her desk, typing up their latest story. His personal thoughts may have been jumbled around in his head, but his work was not suffering a bit. In fact, in the last week he'd attacked a story he and Lois had been stuck on for weeks. It made the front page just the day before. At least he had a partial grip on his life.
She looked up from her screen. The glare she gave him made him almost walk away. He had to remind himself none of this was Lois' fault. He owed her an apology.
"May I speak with you?"
She didn't answer, just rose and led the way to the conference room. She turned to see a very humiliated expression on her husband's face. She wasn't about to let that sway her still stinging ego, though.
"Lois, I'm so sorry. I don't know what came over me. You were just trying to help. I had no reason to take things out on you. Please, please know that I would never hurt you. I'd rather die first."
"But you did hurt me, Clark. You're still hurting me. You won't let me in. We're in this together. And yes, they assaulted your body, but they assaulted me as well. *You* are part of me. What they did to you, they did to me. Can't you see that?"
Clark hung his head as the shame he felt reddened his face. It wasn't enough he felt bad about what happened, now he felt worse because he was causing Lois pain.
"I don't want to shut you out any more." He met her gaze with tear filled eyes. "Help me with this."
"Oh, honey." Lois immediately took him into her arms. He clung to her as if she were his lifeline. "Shhh. I'm here and I'm going to help…no matter how much you push me away."
"Thank you." She tightened her grip and held him in silence for a long while before he lifted his head to speak. "I'm ready to call my folks."
"Okay. Let me tell Perry we need to go chase down some leads."
He nodded his agreement and went to finish their story while Lois talked to Perry. Fifteen minutes later, they were on their way home.
"Martha? Are you still there?" Clark hadn't quite been able to bring himself to tell his parents. He asked Lois to do it instead. It took nearly ten minutes to choke out the awful words. And nearly as long had passed without a sound from either Kent. "Jonathan?"
Lois heard Martha gasp back a sob. Jonathan cleared his obviously thick throat before he spoke. "We, ah, well, we're not exactly sure how we should…answer here, Lois. You just told us… My God…" His voice trailed off again.
"I know. It's hard to imagine, but it happened. It was horrible for him. Now he needs us to be strong for him. He needs us to help, not criticize or condemn."
"Oh, honey, we would never do that." This time it was Martha that was speaking. "It's just that this is such a shock."
"How do you speak to your son…after this?" Jonathan was on the verge of tears. The click of the receiver being replaced could be heard as he exited the conversation.
"Just give him some time. He won't let his feelings show to Clark."
"I know, Martha. I guess it would be harder on him."
"Now tell me, how is Clark? Really?"
"Not good, Martha. He's in denial. He just wants to put it behind him and forget it happened."
"Don't push him. It may make him lash out more."
"I know. I've been reading a little about attack victims. There are a lot more men raped than you would think. I believe Clark would benefit to talk to men who've been through this before. He told me he didn't want anyone looking at him like he was filth."
"I know. I promise I won't push. I just want him to get well enough to realize this was not his fault."
"Well, you know that's asking a lot more from Clark. All his life he's depended on his strength. I think now we'll see just how strong he really is."
"Yeah. How do you tell Superman that he's a super man without a single power?"
"Speaking of Superman… Has Clark recovered from the Kryptonite exposure?"
"I think so, but… I think he's blocking a lot of things out, including his powers."
"Is that possible?"
"Apparently. When I ask him about it, he just tells me he hasn't recovered. I think he just can't face being Superman right now either."
"I can't say I blame him. Just love him, honey. He'll come around."
"I will, Martha. I will. But could you guys do me a favor? Don't come out right now. If he feels someone is taking pity on him, I think he'll shut everybody out."
"Okay. Just tell him when he's ready to talk to call us. And if either of you need us, we'll be on the next plane."
"I will. Thank you. We'll talk to you soon."
"Take care…both of you."
Lois hung up the phone and went to look for Clark. He'd gone out onto the patio to keep from overhearing any of the conversation Lois had with his parents. He just didn't feel like an instant replay right now. He turned to face her.
"They were understandably devastated." He dropped his head in more shame. Now he'd caused his parents pain. "No, Clark, don't you do it."
"I can't help it, Lois. This is hurting everyone I care about."
"Yes, it does hurt. Only because we love you so much. What hurts you, hurts us. And don't say you're not hurting. I know this is ripping you apart."
"Yes. This is killing me. No one, *no one* should have to live through that kind if humiliation and pain. I'm a man. How could I have let something like this happen?"
"Clark, they beat you and they tied you up. There were two of them and you were already weak from the Kryptonite poisoning. This was *not* your fault!"
"Why does it feel that way?"
His voice was a whisper and it tugged at Lois' heart. "Oh, Clark." She approached him to take him in her arms, but Clark pushed her away. She couldn't hide the hurt and disappointment his action caused.
"See, I just did it again." He threw up his hands in frustration. "Lois," he started as he reached to touch her arm. "I don't want to push you away. I just can't help it. This is really hard on me. The things they did to me…I don't know how to deal with that. I just need time."
Lois caved in when she saw the sadness and pain in his expression. "Clark, don't apologize. It's me who should do that. I can't possibly imagine what you're going through. I shouldn't let every little thing bother me. I realize you need time. And I promise, from now on, we'll do this your way. However long you need, I'll be here. Okay?"
"I don't deserve you," he whispered as he pulled her to him. Lois gratefully offered her earlier rejected comfort. "Honey, I want you to sleep in the bed with me from now on. I need you to hold me."
Lois leaned back and looked at him. "No more being alone?"
"Not at night. I want you to help chase away the demons."
"Always, Flyboy." She offered him a smile. Instead of returning it, he pulled her in for another short embrace.
"We should get back to work," he said as he withdrew from the hug.
Lois recognized his withdrawal at once. But she had told him they would do this his way. She would stand by that. "Let's go catch a bad guy, big guy."
Clark extended his hand in indication that she should precede him back inside the house. Satisfying Lois was only temporary, both knew. Right now that was the best he could offer.
Lois went back to their bed that night. Clark slept in sweats, just like he'd done since the assault. He still pulled the covers up to his chin, but he allowed Lois to wrap her arm around him from her spooned position behind his back. She was just glad he wasn't pushing her completely away.
Clark stopped biting people's head off, but he still refused to talk about what happened. He and Lois talked mostly about work and worked most of the time. When they weren't working at the office, Clark was on the computer at home. He reminded Lois of the way she used to be before marriage changed her priorities. She didn't push, as promised. She allowed him to slowly begin to deal with things.
After nearly four weeks, Clark had still not spoken with his parents and was still not talking to Lois, nor had Superman made an appearance anywhere in the world. Clark had published a few articles telling the public that Superman was working on some things in other parts of the world, choosing to stay very low profile. That seemed to satisfy the readers. When Lois would ask about his responsibility as the infamous superhero, he'd say he wasn't back up to speed and a vacation was well deserved. Her patience was growing thin. The promise she made not to push was teetering over the edge of frustration. How could she go on like this? How could Clark?
In Clark's mind a strange thing took place. Though he often saw his attack repeated when he closed his eyes, he'd convinced himself that he was over it. He let his energies be redirected to his work, taking on some very high profile stories. The only one he seemed to have lost interest in was the burglaries.
"Lois!" Perry's bellow thundered through the newsroom.
"Coming." She was standing in front of his desk before he could become annoyed.
"I need you to high tail it down the 53rd precinct. I hear they've bagged one of the South-side Burglars."
Lois' breath caught in her throat. Perry wanted her to go get a story that could result in her coming face to face with one of husband's attackers. Sure, she'd been trying to discover who was behind the thefts and the attack, but that was a far cry from actually seeing either of them. Her eyes automatically fell to her husband outside the office.
One look in his eyes told Lois he'd heard what Perry said. The fear and the pain was dancing fiercely in their dark depths. Suddenly, he was on his feet, running for the stairwell.
"Clark!" Lois raced after him but it was too late. A loud sonic boom announced the return of Metropolis' crime fighter. She wasted no time snatching up her bag and dashing for the elevator.
An utterly confused Perry White was left in the wake of his star reporters' disappearing acts. "What in the name of Memphis is going on here?"
Lois arrived at the precinct to find an angry Detective Henderson squaring off with the Man of Steel.
"Superman, I know you and Kent are good friends. I still can't let you in there. You'd kill that man as mad as you are."
Superman clenched his fists in tight balls as he struggled to breathe.
Lois had to do something or he'd blow his cover. "Superman!"
He failed to acknowledge her presence, but didn't miss the commotion when a man was brought out of the interrogation room in handcuffs.
Clark stilled when the man was escorted from the room. He was sure he was about to look into the eyes of one of the men who'd torn his life apart. Instead he was looking at a man he'd never seen before. The relief he felt when he realized this was not one of the men responsible for his attack was something he shouldn't feel. He wanted them caught. Didn't he? Of course he did. So why was he glad not to have to be facing one of those men now?
He felt his emotions soar out of control. He turned and disappeared in a flash of blue and red.
Lois let go of a breath she'd been holding. Clark had obviously come here to confront the suspect. His leaving was surprising, but she was relieved. She would have never been able to explain why Superman attacked someone else, even it if that person had done unspeakable things to him. The world didn't know that and never would.
Henderson was calling her name so she went to get his statement so she could get out of there and find her husband.
Lois found Clark sitting against the wall in the kitchen. He was starring at the spot on the floor where he'd been attacked. She eased down beside him without saying a word.
They must have stayed that way for half an hour before Clark spoke. "It wasn't him…either of them."
"I know," she replied softly. "Henderson said he was a copycat. Thought he could blame a few heists on them."
Clark looked down at his hands where they rested in his lap. Slowly, he drew his legs up and wrapped his arms around them.
"So, is Superman going back into service?"
Clark wrung his hands several times. "No."
Lois looked over at him. "No?"
"No. I surprised myself when I heard Perry. At the mention of one those monsters, I just reacted. Lois, I was angry, angrier than I've ever been. That's something I just can't be. I could seriously hurt someone."
"But you wouldn't do that."
"I wish I could agree. If I'd gotten my hands on that man…" Clark swiped a hand through his hair. "I wanted to hurt him. I would have if it had been one of them."
"Clark." Lois reached to place a hand on his arm.
He jerked his eyes around to her. "I'm afraid of myself."
"Oh, honey." She did touch him this time. Her hand squeezed lightly, conveying her understanding.
Clark lifted his hand and covered hers on his arm. "Lois, I think I'm ready to talk to someone."
She couldn't suppress the tears from filling her eyes. "Okay. Do you want to go to one of those meetings?"
"I'm not that ready."
"I know just the person." She rose and went to the telephone. A few minutes later she'd secured an appointment for Clark with Barb Friskin, her one time therapist, the following morning.
He allowed her to lead him into the living room. Together they sat down on the sofa where she pulled his head down onto her lap. Lois stroked his hair in an effort to give him some much-needed comfort. Perry, stories, and the world would have to wait on them. Clark needed a little security and he couldn't get it running around the city.
Clark paced the small office of Dr. Friskin. She'd told him to take a moment to gather his thoughts. Finally, he turned to her and said simply, "I was raped."
Dr. Friskin blinked in recognition. "Could you elaborate on that a little?"
"Well," Clark started as he eased to the sofa.
Twenty minutes later, Barb extended another tissue out to Clark. He took it without looking at her.
"Guess you think I'm a big baby," he said softly.
"Not at all. I think you're very humiliated and extremely compassionate. The fact that you're here proves you're not trying to claim to be a 'big' man. Clark, what happened to you is horrible. Right now it seems like you will never get past it, but I assure you that you will."
"How? How do I do that?"
"Well, you've taken the first very huge step. You've admitted that you need help."
"Where do I go from here?"
"I'm afraid it's going to be a long, hard climb, but the only way is up the small steps that lay ahead of you. You have to keep talking about this. You have to get your fears out in the open so you can face them. And you have to let everyone in so they can help you as well."
"That's just it, letting people in is one of my fears."
"Why is that?"
"I don't want them pitying me or looking at me like I'm filth."
"Clark, I'm sure your loved ones would never treat you like anything other than what you are."
"Problem is…I just don't know who that is anymore."
Dr. Friskin placed a hand over one of Clark's. He was a very frightened young man. He was also hurt, humiliated, and completely unsure of whom he was. His was a tough road if he was to get well. If the things she'd heard from Lois were true, she knew that Clark would make that journey and arrive at the end in better shape than he'd been before this happened to him.
Clark continued to see Dr. Friskin twice a week over the next few weeks. He had to admit that she was helping him come to terms with what happened. She asked some really tough questions, none of which he had an answer for. He was just happy to be able to put some focus on his raging thoughts.
Lois was thrilled to have Clark talking to someone about what happened. She could see the difference his sessions seemed to be making. At the same time, she couldn't stop her frustration with him from surfacing. He remained withdrawn from her. An occasional hug in addition to the holding at night was the only contact between them. Conversation was just as stilted and reserved as it had been since the attack. He was letting someone in and she was glad. But she was also human and his wife. She couldn't stop herself from feeling neglected and hurt with his rejections of her.
Lois and Clark's day off fell on a Sunday. Lois had risen early, allowing Clark to sleep in, something he did a lot of now. It had been over three months since Clark had been assaulted and he was still not letting her in. Frustrated beyond belief with how to deal with Clark, she finally decided to call Martha.
Clark eased himself out of bed. He had tossed and turned most of the night before. His thoughts had drifted to Lois, just as they had been doing a lot lately. He'd confessed to Dr. Friskin that he was tired of hurting her and pushing her away. With the doctor's help, Clark had realized the reason for his rejection of Lois was because of his construed notions of his sexuality now. He felt like he was no longer a man. Being raped had made him question if he could ever be intimate with Lois again, not to mention doubt if she'd ever want to be.
He took a deep breath. It was time to talk to his wife. Dr. Friskin told him weeks ago that he should have been doing that all along. He just couldn't work up the courage to face her. He loved Lois and knew she loved him, yet there were all these new questions and new doubts that were threatening to make him crazy all over again.
Clark descended the stairs in search of his wife. He caught the tail end of her phone conversation when he came down. What he heard sent him into a fury.
"I have to, Martha. If he won't talk to me, I have to talk to someone."
Clark snatched the phone from Lois' hand and slammed the receiver down. "You better not tell anybody else about this!" he yelled at her.
"Fine! How about I tell you?" She met his angry stance with one of her own. "Your silence is destroying us! You can't bottle this up forever. I know your sessions with Dr. Friskin are helping you deal with this, but what about us? You've shut me out."
"I haven't shut you out. I just don't know how to deal with this…thing that happened to me."
"No, Clark, this thing that happened to us!"
For some reason what she said dug into him with such force he responded in anger. "Oh really? Were you here? Did your head catch that baseball bat? Did you have your face mashed into the tile while some…bastard did things to you that was so painful you couldn't breathe? My God, Lois. Do you have any idea what that was like?"
"No. But I do know what it feels like to be in so much pain you want to die."
Her soft voice brought Clark's rage to a halt. His expression changed and he dropped his head. "I want to."
"Honey, don't you think I know that?" She stepped up and placed a hand on his cheek. "Talk to me, Clark. I'm your wife. They did this to me, too. I want to help you, hold you, kiss away the pain." Her other hand went up to his other cheek. "Clark, do you realize you haven't even told me you love me since this happened?" She'd told him, though. At night when she'd hold him while he drifted to sleep, she'd tell him she loved him and that she would be here for him.
"I know," was whispered with his head still down. "I do." He lifted his eyes to her. "I just don't see how you can stand to look at me."
"The things they did to me… How can you not be disgusted?"
Suddenly, a lot of Clark's behavior made sense. He was suffering now with doubts about his sexuality and whether Lois would ever want to make love to him again. She lifted his head to see his face.
"Clark, I am disgusted with the things they did to you, but I am not disgusted *with you*. You did nothing wrong. They did."
"But Lois, a *man*…*two* men…they…they…"
"Shhh. Clark, what they did to you has nothing to do with who you are."
"Don't you see? It has everything to with it. Lois, last night when I woke up in a cold sweat, it wasn't because I was dreaming about the…rape. It was because…" He looked away again. "I was dreaming about us making love."
He jerked his head to meet her gaze. "No, not good. Lois, I dreamed of making love to you…while I…" His breathing increased and he pulled away from Lois. "Lois, in the dream I was…rough with you. It excited me." There he'd said it. He'd been thinking it for weeks. When he'd started to question his sexuality, he'd begun to have fantasies. Some of which were forcing his wife to have sex. He felt more ashamed of himself than he ever had.
"Clark, I think those dreams are natural."
"Is it natural for it to be such a turn on that…" Clark broke off with a wave of his hand, indicating he had enjoyed his dreams in some perverse way.
Lois' closed her open mouth. How did she answer this question? Truth was she just didn't know enough about what he was going through to even start to help him. Her research about assault victims told her they often feel doubtful about their abilities afterward. Some had fantasies of abusing other people themselves, while others wondered about their sexuality. The spectrum was vast. And with Clark refusing to talk to her, she had no idea what was going through his mind.
"I've never felt so unsure of myself before."
"Why? You're still Clark."
"No. If I were still Clark, I would never dream of forcing my wife to have sex. Let alone have to…to…" He turned away from her and walked up to the back door.
"Clark, is that the only time you've thought about…making love?"
"No. I've been thinking about it a lot lately. I want to so badly. I miss you, but how can I be intimate with you after…?" He came back to Lois again. "I love you. I want you. And at the same time I feel like everything I know about being a sexual being has been challenged."
"Are you saying you're questioning your sexuality?"
"Well, not exactly." He looked away, then back again. "Yes. I wonder a lot."
"Clark, you are not gay. Just because you were assaulted does not mean—"
"Then why can't I make love to you? Look at you. You're the sexiest woman I've ever seen. But I look right past you. I can't even bring myself to kiss you."
"Clark, you suffered a very traumatic experience. You have to let yourself deal with that."
"I don't want to deal with it. I want to throw you down on the floor and prove to myself that I'm still a man!"
His exasperated voice was just below a yell. Until today, Lois had no idea that he could actually be questioning his sexuality. He may have been shy and reserved when they married because he'd been a virgin, but on their wedding night Clark had proven that he was completely confident in who he was sexually. Suddenly, all she wanted to do was prove to him that he was indeed a man. She closed the distance to him and ground her mouth into his.
Clark was stunned at first, but quickly he felt his body respond. Instinct took over and he returned her kiss hungrily.
That initial lovemaking had been hurried, quickly over. They lay in the aftermath for several long moments before Clark lifted her into his arms and carried her upstairs. A second, slightly slower episode followed in their bed. A third wasn't far behind.
Clark made love to Lois in as many ways as he possibly could. She had been all too eager to prove to him he was indeed a man and that she could never be disgusted by him. By the time they finished their shower, she knew something was very wrong with what they were doing.
Clark hadn't said very much throughout their love making sessions. He would occasionally tell her she was beautiful or that something felt good. It wasn't until he started that final encounter that she realized he hadn't once told her he loved her or even smiled. He was on a mission, driven by pure need. He was desperate to prove he was whole, that he hadn't been permanently damaged in that act of violence. When she yelled out in pain at his violent actions, it seemed to fuel his resolve. What had devastated her was when he immediately got up afterwards without even looking at her. He locked himself in the bathroom and left Lois to grieve for all they had lost.
Clark found Lois sitting in the living room, nursing a cup of coffee, staring at the fire. He stopped just behind her. "Lois?"
"I am so sorry. I know I hurt you. I think I owe it to you to tell you that at the time, I…really didn't care." Clark heaved a deep breath. "I can't do this to you anymore."
Her head jerked to face him. That's when she saw the bag in his hand. "Going somewhere?"
"Lois, I hurt you tonight. I can't promise it won't happen again. And I hurt you every day that I keep things inside. I'm just…tired. I've never been so tired in my life." Clark closed his eyes and willed away the tears that threatened to spill from his eyes. "I need to get away."
"Don't you think that will hurt me just as badly?"
"I know it'll hurt, but the pain will lessen. I won't be here to constantly remind you that I won't let you help me. Please. If you love me, you'll try to understand."
"If I love you, I'll understand?" Her voice rose as she did. "All I understand is that you're running away from this…from us."
"Yes." His answer was soft and low. "Guess I'm not such a super man after all."
"And what about him? You can't just *not* be Superman any more. I can't write stories to cover up for you forever."
"You won't have to. I'll take care of it."
Lois was silent as she watched the emotions play across his face.
"Lois, I do love you."
"You're leaving me because you love me?" she asked sarcastically.
"The reasons I can't stay don't have a thing to do with being in love. Loving a man shouldn't have to be this rough… Lois, I'm not that old, but since this happened I feel a whole lot older every day. I don't know how to deal with this. It's too late to keep from going crazy. I've got to get away."
Lois was stunned. She hardly knew this man before her anymore. He was distant; his eyes cold and unloving. Maybe he did need a little time away. "How long will you be gone?"
"I don't know." Clark took a breath and looked away a minute. "When…this thing happened, my whole identity was taken away from me. How can I stay, not knowing who I am? I could never be me again. I could never be Clark again and I certainly could never be your husband. I fear that I may hurt you one day. I would die if that happened. Just for once in your life, don't make this any harder than it has to be."
Lois saw red at his comment. How dare he say this wasn't hard on her? "Well, excuse me, Mr. Kent. My mistake believing a woman should get upset because her husband just told her he was leaving her."
"I'm not leaving you. I'm leaving to find me again, if that's possible."
"Isn't that the same difference?" When he didn't answer, she continued. "What happens if you can't find yourself?"
Clark's gaze dropped away. "I'm really sorry." He turned and started to the door.
Lois was hot on his heels. "You never intend to come back, do you?" When he didn't answer, she snatched him around by his arm. "Answer me!"
Clark placed his hand on her cheek one last time. "I'll miss you, my little tornado," he whispered, then disappeared through the doors.
Lois was left in shocked silence. Clark had just walked out on her. He chose to run instead of facing his fears. It was a long time later before she let that sink in. Refusing to admit it was true, she told herself that he would be back in a day or two; a week at the most. He just needed to vent and get some of the fear and pain out of his system.
She drew up her resolve and reluctantly went up to bed. If he felt this is what he needed, she could give it to him. She loved him that much.
Lois was further shocked the next morning when she got to work. Clark had phoned Perry, as well as Mr. Stern. It seemed Superman had released a statement to the media that he would be travelling overseas to see if he could help rebuild some of the war torn Middle East. Clark had asked if he could travel with Superman to report on the happenings first hand. Of course the Daily Planet couldn't let such accounts slip through their fingers. They quickly agreed. Lois, not wanting to appear to have not been consulted by her own husband, had to pretend to be aware of the whole situation. That night she dashed home to call Clark's parents. If anyone could tell her what to do, it would be them.
Martha and Jonathan told her the same thing she'd rationalized for herself. Clark was venting and would be home in a few days. Everyone assured each other that he just had to find a way to deal with what was happening to him. Inside, they were all in knots.
Unfortunately, everyone's guess had been wrong. A week passed without so much as a word from Clark. He did submit several incredible pieces of writing about Superman, though. The superhero was spending long hours working nothing short of miracles in some of the most economically devastated countries in the world. He rebuilt entire villages, ended border conflicts, and was slowly giving people a hope they thought didn't exist.
Lois was torn between confusion over what he'd done and pride in the difference he was making. Clark may not want to be with her, but he was still her husband. The things he was doing as Superman only made her love him more. The fact that he was gone and refused to contact her angered her just as much.
When one week gave way to two, then slowly drifted into three, Lois was terrified. Clark seemed to be making good on his unspoken threat not to come back. She would give him another week, then she was going to find him whether he wanted to be found or not.
"Once again, you have heard correctly. At three-fifteen Eastern Standard Time, Clark Kent contacted the LNN stations in the Middle East with the horrible news that our beloved superhero has succumbed to unknown causes. Superman has died this tragic night. We will keep you updated as more information becomes available."
Lois' mouth had dropped wide open. She couldn't believe what she'd just heard. What in the hell was Clark up to?
"Lois! My office, now!"
Perry's bellow interrupted her very confused thoughts. She was in a trance as she walked through the door. Perry was waiting and closed it behind her. When she was seated, he eased down into his own chair.
"I guess there's no easy way to say this. I don't know what that boy's doing, but it's obvious there's a lot more going on than either one of you have let on lately. Care to tell me what it is?"
Lois opened her mouth to deny the fact that things were horribly wrong in her life. She closed it when something he said registered. "What do you mean, you don't know what he's up to? Who?"
"Clark. Look, honey, I know who Clark is."
"I know Clark is Superman."
Lois knew she should deny it, but she just wanted—no needed—to talk to someone about this. "How long have you known?" she asked in defeat.
"Oh, almost from the beginning."
"What? And you never said anything?"
"I knew he had a good reason for keeping this to himself. Then you married him and it was even more important to keep it secret. Me knowing is not the point. What is he up to?"
"Perry, I have no idea. I haven't talked to Clark in over three weeks."
"What?!" This time it was Perry who was shocked.
"Perry, Clark…left me."
"Ah, ah, honey, what in the King's name happened?"
"A little over six weeks ago, Clark left early one night after work to go home because he was feeling bad from a bout of Kryptonite poisoning."
"That big fire?"
"Yeah. Anyway, when he got home, the house had been hit by the South- side Burglars."
"What? You never mentioned this. Was anything taken?"
"Yeah," Lois said on a choked sob. "They took Clark's spirit." She hung her head and tried to gain control. When she had, she moved on. "They were still in the house."
"Oh God! The bruises. They attacked Clark."
"That wasn't the worst part. They…they…raped Clark, Perry."
The color drained from Perry's face as he leaned forward to rest his elbows on his desk. No wonder that boy had been so short with everyone. No wonder he'd been attacking his work like something possessed. "I take it this thing just ate away at him until he felt he had no choice but to leave?"
"Yeah. Oh, Perry, I tried to help him, but he refused to talk to me. He was seeing a therapist, but he shut himself off from me, his folks. He just existed. He was so cold. The pain was too much, even for me." She rose and paced around the room. "Perry, I was so angry with him. I realized how horrible this must have been on him, yet at the same time I don't understand at all why he feels he's alone in this. I just want to shake him until he comes to his senses."
"Lois, I don't know what to tell you. Looking at this from a man's perspective, I can understand Clark feeling so helpless. To have another man do something like that to you… He must be devastated."
"He is. He started questioning his sexuality. Perry, he doubts even being a man anymore."
"He probably doubts being a 'whole' man. This must have taken away everything he ever knew to be associated with being a man. I mean, damn! All his life he's had to deal with being from another planet. No doubt he's worked hard to feel comfortable in that aspect. Then, when he thinks his powers are the one thing he can count on, this happens. He must be in shock."
"Do you think he killed off Superman because he just couldn't handle all the pressure?"
"I wish I knew. He told me several times before he left that he just needed a break. I didn't think he meant permanently."
"Well, traumatic experiences can cause you to do crazy things. This may be his way of trying to shut out the pain and humiliation."
"Yeah. I figured that. I just don't know how to help him."
"Lois, as much as you don't want to hear this, you might not be able to help with this one." Perry rose from his desk and went around to place a hand on Lois' shoulder. "Something like this, this…horrible invasion of his…his intimacy, his privacy, his sexuality… Lois, this kind of thing tends to change people. And a man, well, I'd say it would change a man drastically…even a super man. Clark may never be the same again."
"I know, Perry. I know." She dropped her head as tears filled her eyes. Perry immediately drew her into a hug. It would be a while before she would leave his office.
Lois stood at the door leading to her small backyard. It seemed like ages since she'd been happy here. She could clearly remember nights spent on the patio with her husband, sharing wine or dinner over conversation or the latest story they were working on. She could even recall the night they made up after their first big fight. Those times seemed like years ago now.
So much had happened in the last few years. Finding out Clark was Superman, which was a good thing since she was in love with both men. She didn't have to give up her fantasy because she'd chosen to have a life with her best friend. They'd taken forever to get married, over a year. This brownstone was their first home. It held many memories, some good, some bad. It was here they shared passionate nights together. It was here they found out they couldn't have children. It was here she remained when Clark walked out of her life. And it was also here where she found out Dr. Klein's fertility tests were wrong. Kryptonians were indeed compatible with Earthlings. At least Clark was compatible with Lois. She was rubbing the proof in her very pregnant belly.
Lois would deliver hers and Clark's baby in three short months. She would also raise that baby alone. Clark had made it clear that he could not, or more to the point, would not be part of the baby's life. In fact, he'd told her to abort it. She had slapped his face hard for that one. She could still remember that painful night so well.
>>>>> a few months earlier <<<<<
Lois felt more anxious than she'd ever felt before. Clark had been gone nearly ten weeks. Why he felt he couldn't help himself with her was something she just couldn't understand. But he'd decided, alone, to end his marriage. He'd never consulted her at all. They had made love, fiercely and passionately, over and over. Somewhere in all that he decided he was a monster and had to leave. He packed his bags and walked out. That was it. No calls, no letter, nothing. He'd written about the things he had done as Superman for a few weeks before effectively killing him off. He only wrote for the Planet a week or so after that. Then he just disappeared.
The following week was hard on Lois. She barely made it through her days. The nights were excruciating. She cried to her in-laws nearly daily. They, too, were dying inside. Another week passed and she received the most overwhelming news of all. She was pregnant. Their forced lovemaking that day had created another life. Lois held out a little hope that this would be the news that would bring Clark home again.
That's why she was so nervous. It had taken a week to find him. He had found some obscure ranch in the middle of nowhere Montana. She felt she owed it to Clark to tell him that he would soon be a father.
The cab pulled to a stop in front of the large house and she got out. A few minutes later she was headed around the corner to the small cabins in the back that housed the hired hands.
Lois steeled her nerves and raised her hand to knock on the door. When it opened, she didn't even recognize the man before her.
Clark's lack of expression or emotion angered Lois. "Don't knock yourself out, Clark. 'Hi' would have been just fine."
She didn't wait for him to ask her in, just pushed past him. The small cabin reminded her nothing of the man she'd once known. It was dirty, littered with clothes and dishes.
"Entertaining?" she quipped. When Clark simply shrugged, Lois stopped a moment to look at him. He had aged years in the past few weeks. He had grown a full beard and his hair hadn't been cut and was nearing his collar. His clothes were dirty, his hands hard, his skin pale from lack of sun.
"Why are you here, Lois?"
"Thanks for such a warm welcome." Clark turned his head, clearly exasperated with her presence. "Have you found yourself yet?" Her voice was dripping with sarcasm.
His expression cleared and he walked to the counter, pulling open a drawer. He turned and extended some papers to Lois. "I had these drawn up."
"What are they?" Lois asked as she took them. She read a second then flashed angry eyes at him. "Divorce papers? You want a divorce?"
"Just seems the thing to do."
"Look, Lois, I'm not coming back. It's only right I let you go."
"Let me go?! What am I? A piece of property? I'm your wife! If you wanted a divorce, don't you think we should have talked about it?"
"I don't care one way or another. Sign 'em if you want or don't. I don't care." He strode into the kitchen and leaned against the counter, his arms crossed defiantly across his chest.
"When did you start living like a slob?" When he didn't answer, she changed the subject. "I take it you killed off Superman so you wouldn't have to face those responsibilities again?" No answer. "You know, I would have thought better of you than killing off half of who you are."
"Did you come here to lecture me or was there a reason for this visit?"
Lois took a step back at his hostility. She never expected Clark to be like this. What had those monsters done to him? Deciding she should just tell him about the baby, she took a deep breath. "Clark, I'm pregnant."
Clark slowly met Lois' gaze. His eyes held the complete and total shock he felt. He recovered a second later. "That's not possible… At least not by me."
She reached out and snatched him back around as he started to turn from her. "You bastard! How dare you accuse me of anything like that! This is *your* baby. I'm nearly ten weeks pregnant. The day we spent proving you were a man was successful. You are definitely a man. I have the proof growing in me. I don't give a damn what Dr. Klein's research showed. *We* made a baby!"
Clark snatched away from her. "Whatever." He turned away, dropping his head momentarily. When he turned back, his eyes held a new cold resolve Lois had never seen before. "I don't want to be anyone's father. And I'm not going to be. I just want to be left alone. Just go."
"And the baby? What about the baby? It didn't ask to be brought into this world."
Lois let her mouth drop in shock. For a long moment she couldn't speak. Finally, she managed a very unsteady, "What?"
"Lois, it might be a good idea if you just abort."
Lois saw red. She pulled back and slapped Clark as hard as she could across his face. "Go to hell," she breathed, then turned and left.
<<<<< present >>>>>
That had been three and a half months ago. Lois left Clark there and didn't look back. He didn't try to come after her and hadn't contacted her once.
She had still been holding the divorce papers when she got back in her cab that day. Those papers were tucked into her file cabinet. Lois hadn't signed them although she'd thought about it more than once in the past months.
But Clark wasn't what was important now. This baby was. Lois was determined to give this baby all the love and passion she and Clark had ever felt for each other. He may not want this baby, but she felt otherwise. This baby represented a time when she had been happy. Her love for Clark was wrapped up in this tiny form. It had never occurred to her not to bring this child into the world. She would have it and together they would build a new life.
Martha and Jonathan had suggested Lois move to Smallville when she told them she was lonelier than she ever thought possible. She wouldn't agree, telling them her work was still important and now that she was alone, she had to work. When investigating lost its appeal, she lost her edge. She sought the help off that support group Henderson had told her about along with weekly sessions with Dr. Friskin. Slowly, she gained some control again. A weekly column took the place of all night stakeouts and dangerous investigations. It wasn't long before she discovered that she could write human-interest pieces as well as her husband once had. Although missing his star reporter, Perry was glad to have Lois working and able to focus on something other than Clark's absence.
The past few months had also seen the activities of the South-side Burglars decline. It was believed that the men had simply lost interest in what they were doing or were laying low until some of the heat died down. However, that wasn't the case. Just the month before they'd struck again. This time they surprised a woman whose house they'd broken in to. She was beaten and assaulted just as Clark had been. Their actions brought 'Mad Dog Lane' back into action with a vengeance. Within a week she had a list of suspects and was starting to rule out those that couldn't possibly be responsible. When Clark had given detailed descriptions to the police, it seemed they would make short work of the assailants' identities. That wasn't the case though. It seemed the pair just didn't exist. But this time she would get them. They would pay for everything they'd done to her husband, to that poor woman who had been beaten so badly she was too terrified to speak out, and to her unborn child. Because of them, Baby Kent would grow up without a father.
Lois smiled as the baby in her belly kicked. "We'll be okay, kiddo. I promise."
Clark stepped onto the little front porch of his cabin and held his hand up to the bright sunshine. It had been nearly two weeks since he'd been outside. He never thought recovering from such a deep depression would be so draining.
He took a breath, trying to put his thoughts into perspective. For the life of him he would never understand how he'd allowed himself to end up here, in this place, in this frame of mind.
It had seemed like a good idea at the time. He was in so much pain. Every time he closed his eyes he saw his attackers. He could hear their voices and the evil, satisfied laughs. The doubts began to run rampant, right along with the paranoia. Then came the sexuality issues. Even the time with the therapist had failed to help.
Clark felt less than a man after the attack. Making love with Lois that night had seemed like the thing to prove his manhood. It only proved what he feared; he had become a monster, just like the two who had attacked him.
Running away had been easier than dealing with it. The pain, the shame, and all the questions had been pushed aside as he stepped through the doors of the brownstone on Hyperion Avenue that had been his home. The man he'd become was someone he neither respected nor needed. He'd spent the last few months trying desperately to bury that man.
Clark had almost immediately decided that Superman would die. He'd spent a few weeks setting that up. He was extremely proud of his work on that one. With Superman dead, Clark could disappear. And he did. At least until that day.
That day was the day Lois found him. He should never have doubted that she could. Jimmy probably tracked him in less than an hour. He was surprised to see her, but not overly so. He thanked God for his dampened mood that day. He wasn't up to sparring with Mad Dog Lane. The last thing he expected was what she had told him. He had grieved for the children he would never have. How could she be pregnant?
The suppressed pain had made him say the comment about her not being pregnant by him. Clark knew Lois better than that. He knew she'd never betray the commitment they'd made to each other, even if they weren't together. That was more than he could say for himself.
There had been several nights he'd picked up one woman or another at the local bar or one of the bigger ones in Missoula. Though he'd spent time kissing and involved in some heavy petting, there was a part of him that could never bring himself to go all the way with any of them. He chalked it up to the change in him since the attack. He'd even begun to think that he'd never want to experience physical intimacy again.
Everything he'd done here was an attempt to forget that he had ever existed as Clark Kent from Smallville, Kansas. Here, he was just Clark Kent, drifter. He was glad no one knew him. It meant no one would be hounding him to do this or do that. There was no one who needed him or no one that depended on him for their survival. Here he couldn't disappoint. He could hurt and be angry in peace. And no one knew about what happened to him. That meant he wouldn't feel obligated to have to talk about something he would rather forget ever happened.
Yet, none of that failed to stop his thoughts. Images of Lois flooded his mind almost daily. Pain clouded his vision. He ached for his wife, his marriage. He hurt for his parents and the many others who'd depended on him. He was actually ill when he thought of the baby Lois now carried, his baby.
That baby was better off without him. What kind of father could he be? The child deserved better than some confused, tainted excuse for a man. The baby needed strength and guidance, not pity and failure. Lois could give him or her that. She was so strong, always had been. Clark envied her that strength now. He'd allowed himself to give up, and a failure had no place raising a child.
The more he thought about the life he was running from, the more he tried to bury it. But nothing worked. It had been a fight with one of the other workers a month ago that had started to put things into perspective for Clark. The argument had been over how bitter and angry Clark seemed to be all the time. The man told him he thought his spare time would be better spent trying to be happy for what he did have. Clark told him it was none of his business. The man said it was when it involved his fields. (He was the foreman, and Clark's attitude had been carried over into his work more than once.) Clark told him one man couldn't possibly make a difference. The foreman replied that one man *could* make a difference. Clark remembered that Lois had told his alternate self that once, effectively helping create Superman in that universe. That creation had changed that world. It was true, one man could make a difference.
What difference had he made? It only took a moment to answer that. Look at Lois. She was once bitter and withdrawn, hard as nails. Before the attack Clark clearly remembered her as warm and open, sharing with him her very soul. Then his conscience reminded him of his parents. Their world had been lonely and childless. One small child had changed that on a warm night in May so long ago. And there was Superman. You could list the changes his work had brought about for days and still not scratch the surface. The list went on and on, none of which Clark wanted to admit.
There were also the changes he had made since his attack. His marriage was no longer happy and intact. He had no relationship with his parents. He had no job at the Daily Planet, no friends or co-workers. Clark didn't even have a reason to go on, at least not as far as he was concerned. Yet deep down there was part of him that refused to lie down and die. That part wanted to live. That part wanted to laugh again, cry, and find out that whatever it is that takes away a man's desire to be whole can also give him the strength to overcome. It was that part that sent him back into his cabin to call his old home number just to hear Lois' voice.
Clark sat shell-shocked when he heard her speak again. Her voice was just as he remembered. She sounded tired, though. He figured that was from the pregnancy. As soon as that thought registered, he'd slammed the phone down. What had he been doing? He was calling Lois, the woman he walked out on and implied he'd never come back to. And thinking of the baby only made him feel worse. He'd told Lois to kill that baby. His baby. Her baby. Their baby.
How could he possibly expect her to want to hear his voice, let alone see his face? He'd committed the cardinal sin. He wanted his own child dead. Clark dropped his head to his hands and cried.
It was a very different man that lifted his head. He'd told Lois the day after the attack that those men may have abused his body, but they hadn't abused his mind. He'd forgotten that. He'd let them set the pace of the rest of his life. By giving in to his fears and insecurities, they had essentially won. He was giving them the ultimate prize: his life.
With a renewed sprit, he pushed up from his chair and left to see if he could find himself again.
Clark went to the library in Missoula in search of information on male rape. By closing time, he'd read tons of material. He hadn't realized so many victims of sexual assault each year were men. A large percentage of them suffered just as he had. They doubted themselves and gave into their fears. Some left their spouses; some grew even closer. There were those that questioned their sexuality and those who were never intimate again. He read accounts of those that had given up and had eventually taken their own lives. Others fought back. They formed support groups, lobbied for awareness in Congress, and helped take down their tormentors. And yes, there was an overwhelming number that had healed, had families, and were doing well to the day.
Feeling more in control of himself than he had in months, Clark rose to leave the library. As he passed one of the tables, he noticed it held several different newspapers. He stopped as his eyes fell on a copy of the Daily Planet. Soon he was reading a front-page exclusive that held the by-lines of Lois Lane and Perry White.
"Perry?" Clark asked himself as he continued to read. He soon learned the reason Perry had written the article with Lois.
Clark was stunned. She had done it. Lois had helped nail the South-side Burglars. But as usual she'd gotten herself right into the thick of things. And she'd been hurt. Lois was in the hospital, suffering from blows to the face and head sustained from sparring with one of the burglars. She was listed in critical condition because her twenty-six week pregnancy was being threatened by possible premature delivery.
Clark dropped the paper. The fear that rushed in on him was almost unbearable. Without further thought, he was airborne and headed for Metropolis.
Clark landed in the shadows behind Metropolis General Hospital. His years of hiding his secret were so ingrained in him that the thought of Superman not existing any longer never entered his mind. He even still wore his glasses. Some habits were just too hard to break.
The only thought he had during his short flight was needing to see if Lois was okay. Now that he was rounding the corner of the hospital, other thoughts entered his head. Would she be awake? And if so, did she really want to see him? And the baby… He'd asked her to kill the baby. Would she tell him what happened now was none of his business? Would she tell him to leave?
How did he feel? Clark stopped a short distance from the entrance to the hospital. He felt…so many things. He was ashamed of what he'd said to Lois the last time he'd seen her. He knew, even then, that she could only be pregnant with one man's baby—his. And he may not have wanted to be a father, but he didn't want that child dead. The pain and fear had spoken those horrible words that day. As unforgivable as they were, they were so untrue. Even if he could never see Lois again, he didn't want her to abort the life they'd made.
And she hadn't. She carried that baby. She'd moved on without him because she had to. He'd forced her to have to. Lois was carrying a brand new life that would come into this world soon. Whether he wanted to be a father or not, Lois had chosen to be a mother. She was going to do so without him. Now she was lying in hospital bed, fighting for the life of that baby because she'd chased down the bastards that violated him all those months ago.
As if a light came on in Clark's head, he understood for the first time that he hadn't been the only one violated that day. Lois had been, too. She'd felt just as betrayed and uncertain as he had. She had wanted nothing more than what he'd wanted—to heal. At the time he didn't know how, and she couldn't help because he wouldn't even let her try. When she came to him with the news of her pregnancy, she was offering up an ultimate comfort. And he'd thrown it back in her face.
She must have been so hurt and angry. She must have been devastated. Would that innocent baby have to pay the price for the things that had happened? For the things he'd let happen?
Clark fought the apprehension he was beginning to feel as his feet took him closer to the doors of the hospital. His mind was telling him he should leave. He'd caused them enough pain already. They didn't need more. But his heart was desperate to find out if they'd be okay.
The automatic doors swished open and he stepped through. The older woman at the reception desk greeted him with a smile.
"May I help you?"
"Ah, I'm here to check on a patient."
"I may not be able to give too much information, but I'll try. What's the name?"
The lady tapped a few keys on her computer before looking back up at Clark. "Ms. Lane's in the Women's Care Center in ICU. Only immediate family is allowed in there."
Clark nodded numbly. "Can you tell me if she's delivered her baby?"
The woman was about to tell him that she couldn't, but his sad eyes were more than she could take. She read over the information on her screen a moment. "It appears she's an OB patient. I'm sure if she'd delivered she'd be listed as post-natal."
Clark lifted his hand to his head. He wanted to see for himself if she was okay. Yet he didn't feel he should use his official title as husband to do it. A brief battle ensued in his mind before his mouth won. "I'm her husband."
The woman seemed a little surprised. She thought he should have said something about that first. "Your name?" She wanted to be certain he was telling her the truth. There was a husband listed.
The woman smiled. That was the name in Ms. Lane's registration. "She's on the fifth floor, down the hall. Take the elevator around the corner and it'll take you to the Women's Center."
Clark began to walk the distance of the hall to the elevator that would take him to see the one person he thought he never would again. Suddenly, the fear was coming over him in waves. However, his feet refused to listen when his brain told him to go. Before he knew it, he was standing in front a large door that led into the intensive care unit. To Clark, that door led back to life he'd given up.
A hand reached up and rested on the door. His head touched the cold metal beside his hand as everything that had happened came rushing back. Involuntary, tears rolled down his cheeks. What happened behind this door would set the pace for the rest of his life. Was he ready to face the challenge he knew lay ahead? Were the people on the other side ready for him to invade what they'd been forced to call a new life?
It was a long time later when Clark wiped at his face and took a final look at the door. He'd once again listened to his mind instead of his heart.
"I hope you'll be happy…both of you. I'm so sorry…for everything."
He turned to walk away, but stopped dead in his tracks when his eyes met his dad's.
Jonathan was surprised to see Clark. He was no longer the son he once knew. This man was a stranger. Months of hurt, frustration, and pent up disappointment surfaced. Jonathan drew back and punched Clark, catching him off guard and knocking him to the floor.
Clark held a hand to his mouth and looked up at the disappointment on his dad's face. He couldn't be surprised the older man had done that. He fully deserved it.
Jonathan was shaking in anger… Or was it shame? He leaned over and pointed a finger at Clark. "I never thought I'd be so ashamed of you."
"I'm ashamed of me, too," Clark replied.
"You should be. You threw away precious months that you can never get back. I raised you better than that."
"I know." Clark hung his head, unable to stand the look in his father's eyes any longer.
"If you've come to rip her apart again, just get up and go. She deserves better. And so does your mother. Damn, Clark, you've nearly killed us all." Clark looked up at his dad with tears streaming down his face. The old man's heart broke; his son was in pain. He reached down a hand to help him up.
"Thank you…for the belt in the mouth. I needed it. I wish you'd done it a long time ago."
"Me, too." Jonathan watched Clark for several moments. The man before him was defeated and at the end of his rope. "Why didn't you just get some help?"
Clark stared at a spot on the floor, hands shoved in his pockets. "I was a coward. I just wanted it all to go away."
"Did you ever stop to think how your actions were going to affect others?"
"No," he admitted. And he hadn't thought about anything or anyone but himself when he made the decision to leave. He just wanted the pain and disgust to go away. "The way I was feeling, I was so ashamed and just plain sick. The things that happened to me, I didn't want to tell anyone. I didn't want to remember. I just wanted it all to go away."
Jonathan listened as the broken man spoke. He could almost feel his pain. It would be a long road back, if Clark would even attempt to make it.
Clark finally looked back up at his dad. "I should go. I don't want to cause any more trouble. I just wanted to see if Lois…" He lowered his head, shoved his hands in his pockets, and sighed. "… and the baby were okay," he finished softly.
Jonathan placed a hand on his arm. "You can't come here just to turn and leave again."
"I don't have the right to be here anymore. I walked away from them, from all of you."
"Clark, you're family and you're hurting. Why don't you let us help?"
"Why would you want to?" he whispered as more tears filled his eyes.
That was too much for Jonathan. He pulled his son into his embrace, his own tears threatening. "Because we love you, boy," Jonathan whispered back.
Clark lay against his father only a second before his arms closed around him. "I'm so sorry, Daddy," Clark sobbed into his dad's shoulder.
"I know, son. I know." Jonathan kissed his son's face.
Clark reluctantly pulled back. "I don't deserve your help."
"Whether you deserve it or not is irrelevant. You *need* it."
"How can I ask you or Mom…or Lois…to help me after all I've done?" Clark shook his head and turned to look back at the door.
His father felt another tug at his heart for the man in front of him. Clark had really suffered, much more so than any of them ever could. They never had to battle their own thoughts the way he had. Their minds didn't tell them what horrible people they were. They never looked at themselves and felt ashamed or disgusted. No. Frustration was nothing compared to the self-deprecation Clark had inflicted upon himself.
Jonathan wanted nothing more than to take away all the fear and confusion his son had ever felt. He also knew that only Clark could make the decision to start the healing process. He figured he'd made a good start. By coming to see if Lois and the baby were okay, he'd placed someone else's needs before his own. That was a sign that he wasn't thinking of just himself anymore.
"Why don't you go in and see how she's doing for yourself?"
"I…I…" Clark shut his mouth and fought the tears once again threatening to spill from his eyes. "She doesn't want to see me."
Jonathan smiled. Lois must have asked a hundred times if they thought Clark would come if he knew she and the baby were in trouble. Those two were so much in love it was scary. He threw an arm around Clark's shoulders and turned them to the door. "I think you'd be surprised."
"I don't know, Dad." Clark stopped as Jonathan swung the door open.
"I do. Now come on." Jonathan pulled Clark through the door and to the left toward one of the small rooms, casting a smile at the nurses standing at the desk.
Martha looked up when the door to Lois' room opened. Her mouth fell open when she saw who was on the other side. She rose, almost in slow motion. "Clark," she breathed.
"Mom," he whispered, unable to move further into the room. The older woman closed the distance and lifted a hand to his bearded face to see if he was real. Clark's hand automatically came up to cover hers. He closed his eyes, fighting his emotions again, and inhaled the scent of her perfume.
Her other hand brushed across his shoulder as she wrapped her arms around his neck. Clark circled her waist and he held on for dear life. It had been so long since he'd received a hug from his mother. And until this moment, he hadn't known he needed it as much as he did.
Martha tightened her grip when she felt her son's body shake. Her hand came up to stroke the back of his head while he cried into her shoulder.
When Clark calmed, he turned his head and kissed her neck. "I'm sorry, Momma," he whispered.
"Shhh… There'll be time for all that later." She drew back and helped him wipe his face.
Clark's gaze lifted to the woman lying in the bed. Lois was sleeping, looking for all the world as healthy as the last time he'd seen her.
Martha noticed she'd lost his attention. "She's going to be okay. She's pretty tough."
"Yeah. She has to be," he said absently, his meaning clearly apparent that he meant she'd have to be after all he'd done to her.
Martha nudged him in the direction of the bed before reaching out for Jonathan's hand. They stood, watching the young man as he struggled to close the distance to the person he'd tried so hard to run from.
When Clark reached the bed, his hands were shaking so badly he had to shove them into his pockets in an effort to calm himself. He looked down at Lois. She was just as beautiful as he remembered. The small bandage on her temple and a bruise on her check bone were the only evidence that she had been hurt. As if it had a mind of its own, his right hand came up to lightly touch her hair.
The first touch was overwhelming. Clark let his palm drift to her forehead, seeking the warmth of her skin on his again. "Oh, Lois," he said softly. "What have I done?"
He stood there for several minutes just looking at her. Soon his eyes trailed down her body, over the small mound at her middle. His eyes lifted to his parents standing in the door. "The baby?"
"Is okay…for now," Martha answered.
"They stopped the labor, but Lois will need complete bed rest for the rest of the pregnancy if she's going to deliver at forty weeks. The doctors feel any strain at all may cause her to go into labor. The next time they won't be able to stop it."
Clark looked back down at Lois. He did some quick figuring in his head. If the baby were born now, that would mean it would be fourteen weeks premature. Even a super baby might not survive that kind of stress. "How much luck do you think anyone will have keeping Lois Lane calm for that long?" he asked more to himself than anyone.
Martha had approached his side. Her hand came to rest on his arm. "You'd be surprised. Lois is devoted to this baby." She chuckled softly. "She told me right after she told you about the pregnancy that she was going to have this baby to spite you."
Clark turned tortured eyes to his mother. "Mom, you have to know that I didn't mean what I said about…her…doing that."
"Oh, honey, I know. And so does Lois. The remark hurt at the time, but she knew the only reason you said it was because you were hurting and confused. Clark, it's been so hard for her not to come to you. She wanted to help you so badly. But at the same time, she knew you had to *want* to heal again. If it hadn't been for the baby, she would have probably been just as withdrawn as you. She's changed. We all have."
"Because of me," he said in a defeated tone.
"Not just because of you…because of circumstances…because of the promise of a new baby…and because of the hope of a better tomorrow."
Clark's lips spread into the first smile he'd had in weeks. "I've missed you."
"And we've missed you, all of us." She rubbed his arm, then gestured with her head to the bed. "Why don't you sit with her so your father and I can go get some rest."
"Oh, Mom, I didn't even think about that. How long have you guys been here?"
"Since we got in yesterday. We couldn't let our daughter and grandbaby be alone."
Clark smiled again. Having Lois yell at him when she awoke would be worth it. His folks needed to rest. "Get!" He pushed Martha in the direction of the door.
The couple waved and backed out the room, closing the door behind them.
Clark pulled the chair closer to the bed and sat down. At first he stared at Lois, unsure of what to do. His thoughts were raging. So much had happened and it seemed so much more was going to happen. How did he come full circle back to the place he'd run from? That was easy to answer—Lois.
Lois. Everything he'd ever done before the attack was about her. Always about her. Before they ever met, the things he'd done, the choices he'd made, were to get him to her. When they'd met, he'd known instantly that she was the woman that he'd waited all his life for. Having HG Wells confirm that fact when he declared them soul mates only solidified it in Clark's mind. Lois was his other half. She soon became his reason for living.
When she started to return his love, the bond between them deepened. It became apparent that there was a connection between them that was so strong they could communicate without ever saying a word. They had even done so telepathically once. Clark realized he was attuned to Lois. He could always tell when she walked into a room even if he hadn't seen her. Soon she could do the same where he was concerned. They'd shared so much. They celebrated the joys of being husband and wife when they were finally married. They shared the success of their careers. They had even mourned the news that they would never be able to recreate such a powerful love.
Yet, they had. Clark's eyes fell on the swell of Lois' belly. The things he'd told her when they found out they couldn't conceive came back to him.
'Lois, we have been through *so* much… If conceiving is what we want, that has to be possible for us.'
And they had. They had created life.
Clark closed his eyes as he remembered the night that life had been created. He had been on a mission to prove he was still a man. Being so thoroughly violated had caused him to question everything he'd ever known about what makes a man. The way he responded to that violation was nowhere close to the real meaning. Shutting everyone out, leaving Lois, the intervening months, were all acts of suppressed anger, fear, confusion, and a desire to forget.
Clark knew now he couldn't pretend that nothing had ever happened. He couldn't forget and he couldn't run. He was stronger than that. Not just on the outside but where it counts. He could beat those demons that invaded his mind worse than those men could have ever invaded his body. He was too blind to see that before. It took the little fireball of a woman lying before him to make him realize that.
He leaned forward and took her hand in his. "Do you know how much I depend on you to just breathe? Even when I left, every thought was of you: what you were doing, what you were thinking." He watched as his thumb rubbed the back of her hand. "I ached to have my life back…the life we had before the attack. But we can't go back. I just didn't know how to go forward." Clark smiled at her sleeping form. "I think I know now." He leaned over and rested his chin on their joined hands, content to watch her sleep. For the first time in six and half months, he let his thoughts drift to happier times.
Lois began to wake from her sleep with a vague feeling that one of her hands wouldn't move. It felt as if it were being confined. She moved her fingers experimentally to discover said hand was being held in another, larger, very warm hand. Her eyes flew open as she immediately recognized the soft skin as that of her…
His head snapped up when she spoke his name. "Lois?"
Her eyes filled with tears as she brought her other hand around to his face. "You came."
"I came," he confirmed softly. He squeezed her hand and tried to memorize the sensations the touch of hand on his cheek was creating inside him.
Lois let the emotions she was feeling flood her body: relief, joy, concern, hope, and anger. Her tears dried almost instantly. She sat up and shoved Clark backwards. "I'm mad as hell at you."
Clark couldn't suppress the smile that spread across his lips. This was his Lois all right. "I know."
"You tore me apart. You tore *us* apart."
"You asked me to…kill our baby."
Clark's chin fell to his chest. The pain in Lois' voice was almost unbearable. "I know."
"Can't you say anything besides 'I know'?!"
His tone, the tension in his body, and the sight of him just being here, in the same room she was in…it was all too much. Everything that had been said about loving somebody so much that their happiness, their well-being, and their pain coming before your own was true. Lois reached out to lift his head until her gaze locked with his.
She almost drew away from Clark when she saw the incredible sorrow behind the dark pools of his eyes. She'd never known Clark could suffer the way his eyes told her he had. The past few months seemed irrelevant. "I know," she echoed his earlier words. And she did. She could see it just behind the pain. He knew what he'd done to her had caused her to suffer. That was something not even the coldest Clark Kent could stand for very long. The man she'd met at the cabin that day was being pushed away by the gentle, compassionate man that was once her husband.
Clark could never describe what he felt when Lois said those two simple words. The weight of the last few months had been lifted off his heart. Released from its prison, it screamed for comfort. But right now, there was someone else, two someone elses, a little more important.
"How do you feel? Do you need anything?"
Lois smiled this time. This was the Clark she remembered. "I'm okay. Hungry, but okay."
"Good." Clark glanced at her stomach, something she didn't miss.
"The baby's okay, too."
His eyes met hers, uncertainty waging war in his mind again. "Should I…go?"
"Yeah." Lois didn't miss the fear and disappointment that shot across Clark's features. "Go get me something to drink. I'm thirsty."
There it was again: that indescribable feeling of relief. He managed another smile. "Okay." He rose to find her that drink. A few moments later he returned with water and three different kinds of juices.
"Geez, Clark, I said thirsty, not dehydrated."
He chuckled softly as he poured her a cup of water and sat the other drinks on her tray and moved them closer to give her the final choice. Despite her remark she drank the water and two of the juices before she stopped.
"Don't say a word," she told him when she lowered the carton of the apple juice she'd just finished.
"Not a word," he assured her.
They were sharing a laugh when a doctor came in. The man looked up at Clark. "Hello. I'm Dr. McCartney," he said, extending his hand.
Clark took his hand with a strong grip. "Clark Kent."
"Mr. Kent? Ms. Lane's husband?"
Clark shot a glace at Lois, unsure of how to answer. She spoke for him.
"Yes. He flew in last night."
"Good. Glad to hear that." The doctor flipped through Lois' chart, then began checking her vitals. "Is it okay that he stays while I check the baby?"
Lois looked over at Clark. She felt he needed to be here. She wanted him to see her stomach where their baby was growing. She wanted him to hear the little heartbeat she felt had the power to heal him when nothing else had.
"I want Clark here," Lois replied with a smile.
The doctor nodded and lifted her gown, exposing her swollen torso.
Clark had nearly left when the doctor said he was going to check the baby. Lois' words rooted him to the spot he was standing in. He gasped at the first sight of her belly, but stepped closer to the bed involuntarily. He watched in rapt attention as the doctor measured the size of the swell. Lois winced when fingers were pressed into the bottom of her stomach. Clark's hand automatically reached out for hers.
Lois gripped the hand that took hers. Clark's eyes were fixed on the doctor's actions. When the small monitor was placed on her skin, Clark leaned up against the bed.
"Yeah. That's the heartbeat," Lois answered him.
"Wow," he whispered. All his attention was fixed on the little life growing inside Lois. He didn't lift his head when the doctor lowered Lois' gown and started to speak.
"Looks good. We'll get a sonogram later this morning. If everything checks out, you can go home."
"Good. I feel so ridiculous here."
"But Lois, I can't stress how important it is for you stay in bed. You can ease around the house, but most of the time I want you resting with your feet up."
"I understand. And don't worry." Her hand covered her stomach. "This baby means the world to me. I'll do anything it takes to get him or her here healthy."
"Glad to hear it. I'll get that test ordered. Hopefully by dinner time, you'll have been home most of the afternoon." The doctor smiled at the couple and exited the room.
For the first time Lois realized Clark hadn't moved. He was still staring at her belly. But now he was crying. "Clark?"
He squeezed her hand. "I can't believe I said I wanted you to kill…"
"Clark, no. Don't do that. You didn't mean that."
He focused on her. "I didn't. God knows I didn't."
"Clark," she said as she shook his hand. "I know. I know."
Clark held her gaze for another moment before he lifted his other hand to cup her cheek. "I don't deserve to be here, you know?"
"Yes. You do." Lois sat up and patted the bed for him to sit. When he had, she took both his hands in hers. "Clark, I would be lying if I said I wasn't still…upset with you. But deeper than that, I'm hurt…was hurt. I was hurt that you felt you couldn't talk to me, let me help you. I was hurt that you felt you had to leave. I was hurt when you didn't come back. And I was devastated when you said what you did when I told you about the baby." She looked down at their joined hands. "I wanted to stay mad at you. I wanted you to feel the pain I was feeling." She met his eyes again. "I realized that you did. You were already hurting and in so much pain you felt you had no choice but to leave behind your life…to say you wanted our baby to cease to exist. Your pain took precedence to anything I could ever feel.
"It would have been so easy to just lash out at you for the way I was feeling. It would have been easy to forget that you were hurt first. But I couldn't. *You* meant…you *mean* much more to me than my own feelings."
"That's what it means love someone with all your heart and soul. I don't know how *not* to love you."
Lois… She was absolutely incredible. Everything he'd ever known about her came full circle. He lifted her hands to his lips and kissed them lightly. "You *are* too good to be true."
Lois grinned mischievously. "Yeah, well, you may change you mind."
"Nah," Clark shot right back through a grin of his own.
Laughing is how Jonathan and Martha found them a few minutes later. "Hey, you two," Martha said.
"Hey." Lois smiled and reluctantly released Clark's hand as he rose to greet his parents. They may have a lot to talk about, but right now she was just glad he was here.
Martha smiled at Lois as she sat down on the bed to face her. Jonathan and Clark had gone down to the cafeteria so Clark could grab some coffee. Since they were alone, the older woman wanted to take advantage of the time to talk to her daughter-in-law. "So?"
"So…I'm glad he's here." Lois didn't even begin to act like she didn't know what her mother-in-law was talking about.
"But…I'm not pretending that everything's wonderful and that there's not tons of things to talk about and work through. I know Clark hasn't said what his intentions are. Will he stay? Will he leave again? He hasn't said if he's ready to heal or that he even wants to get back the life he once had. Does he want to try? I don't know where I stand with him. And I can't say I'm fine with him just waltzing back in. He has a lot to work through. I want to help, but he has to want me to. Does he even want me to? Does he want to be a father? Will he be here for the birth? Or did he just come to make sure me and the baby's okay before he disappears again?" She stopped to take a breath, amazed that she could babble like that about something as important as her marriage to Clark. "And…and…" She looked away from Martha. "I love him, Martha. I love him so much it hurts."
"I know, honey. And he loves you. The fact that he's here proves that."
"I would just really like to hear him say it. Is that selfish? Should I want that after all he's been through? After all *we've* been through?"
"No. It's not selfish. You just want to know he's still the man you know is hiding under that hard shell he's wrapped himself in. But Lois, he may not be ready for such a huge step. Clark feels he's done some unforgivable things. He's going to have to work through his guilt on top of trying to deal with what happened to him. It may be a long time before he can say he loves you or think you want to hear it. Talk to him. Let him know how you feel. Let him know you're uncertain and unsure about things. Let him know that you love him. Just don't let him think that means you think what he's done is okay."
"I'm sure I can handle that," Lois said through a smile.
"No doubt. No doubt in my mind." Martha pulled Lois into a hug. She drew back and held Lois at arms' length. "Lois, Clark does have a lot to work through."
"I know. If he'll let me, I'll be right beside him. And this time, I won't let him push me away."
"I think that boy of mine may have his hands full." Their laughter echoed around the room as the possibility of Clark giving Lois the chance to fill his large hands invaded their minds.
Jonathan looked across the table at his son. It had only been a few months since he'd seen him, but the time had not been kind to the young man. The lines around his eyes were far more defined than they once were. The shine that had always radiated from his spirit no longer existed. There was no sparkle behind his brown eyes. The elder Kent ached to see just a glimpse of his son.
Clark's head had remained lowered since they sat down. However, he could feel his father's eyes boring into him. He'd tried to maintain an idle conversation, but was failing miserably. When he couldn't stand it any longer, he looked up at his dad.
"Please tell me what you're thinking."
"I'm thinking," Jonathan began and leaned up on the table, "about your first football game."
Clark was clearly surprised. He scrunched up his face and leaned forward to listen to his father. It was clear he had more to say.
"September 1980. I was so worried about you playing because you were only a freshman. But at the same time I was so proud that you had been chosen to go up against those big boys. My boy, barely five and half feet tall, going toe to toe with boys that could make two of you. Oh, I knew you were stronger and faster. The real pride was knowing that you were smarter. You never used your abilities to dominate, not even then." Jonathan took a long sip of his coffee, a large smile gracing his face. "And that first touchdown…now *that* was something. You couldn't have told me anything that night."
Clark chuckled softly as he ran a finger around the top of his cup.
Jonathan laughed softly. "I've always felt that sort of pride where you're concerned."
Clark's smile faded. "Except these past few months," he reminded his father.
"You're wrong. Yes, I was disappointed that you felt you couldn't turn to your family for help. But there's never been a day that I haven't felt pride for you in one form or another. Clark, you could have taken your frustrations out in a negative way. While I wished you'd stayed, I feel leaving was a better alternative than bashing in somebody's head. Look at the things you did when you first left. There are several countries that will forever be changed because of the work you did. And your writing…well, that was some of the best work I've ever read by you."
"I had to vent. Since I've never been violent, that was the next best thing."
"I think you should vent some more if you write that way. Have you considered writing a book about what happened?"
Clark looked up his dad. For an instant he felt a little terror run through him. If he wrote a book, people would know what happened. But hadn't he decided it was time to quit running? Talking about the attack was the first step down a very long, difficult road. Maybe writing a book wouldn't be such a bad idea.
"You know, Dad, that might be a good idea."
"I think it would be a fine idea." The older man patted Clark's hand. "Tell me, are you planning on living out on that ranch for the rest of your life?"
"No. I want to come back to Metropolis. It's time I pick up the pieces that used to be my life and put them back together again."
Jonathan's face lit up. "I'm glad to hear that."
"I'm glad to be able to say it."
"That's my boy. Now, what do you say we go see what those women have been saying about us behind our backs?"
Clark smiled and pushed up from the table. "Okay." He had to admit that he felt better with each passing minute.
Jonathan and Clark found the women sorting through a large pile of mail. Lois was furiously jotting down information in a notebook.
"What's all this? Fan mail?" Clark asked with raised eyebrows.
"You don't know, do you?" Martha lowered the letter she was reading. "Lois writes a column for the Planet now."
"Yep. It's a riot, too. Listen to this one," Lois said. "Dear Lois, I'm eighteen years old and considering a career in journalism. What do you think?"
"Don't answer that one. It could take you days to write your opinion."
Lois snickered at Martha's comment. "Guess I could."
Clark couldn't hide the surprise on his face when Lois hadn't jumped into his mom's response about her chosen profession. He was just as surprised that she was writing an…advice column?
"You write an advice column?"
Lois laughed softly at Clark's expression. "Yeah. Ironic huh?"
"How did you talk Perry into something like that?"
Lois opened her mouth to respond, but closed it again. "I don't really know. I lost my edge and I guess Perry couldn't bear the thought of me leaving the Planet altogether."
"That story I read on the burglaries didn't seem as if you've lost anything."
"Thank you. I still manage to get my feet wet on some of the bigger things."
Clark waved his hand around the room. "Lois, this is not getting your feet wet. This is going for a swim."
"What can I say? I haven't learned to check the water before I jump in."
Clark smiled at that. He knew all too well she liked the thrill of the jump.
"Want to read some?" Lois extended a stack of letters out to Clark.
"Are you sure?"
"I could use the help."
"What am I looking for?" he asked as he picked up the mail.
"Anything I'd like to sink my teeth into."
"Ah… Food for Mad Dog."
"Very funny." She laughed along with the other adults. That was the first smart comment Clark had made since the attack. They were all glad he felt like saying it.
It was nearly noon before the technician came in to perform Lois' sonogram. The young woman asked the other adults to leave the room so it wouldn't be so cramped.
Clark stopped at the door. "Yeah?"
"I want you to stay."
"Are you sure?"
"This is your baby, too."
He stood in the doorway, unsure of that last statement. Was this his baby? Biologically, yes. But he felt he had a lot to make up for before he could say that.
His eyes met Lois'. She wanted him to stay. For all he'd done, he owed her this. He let the door shut and approached the side of the bed. Lois smiled victoriously. He still couldn't say no to her.
The technician turned the lights off when the machine was ready. Soon the monitor held the image of Baby Kent.
Clark's eyes widened the moment he was able to make out some of the blotches as the spine and head of the baby growing inside Lois. The wand was stopped over the beating heart. Clark's own heart felt as if it would jump from his chest as the little black spot pounded with life. Once again his hand found one of Lois'.
"Here's the spine," the technician told them. "And…the head." She moved the wand again. "The face."
"Oh, wow," Clark said absently. He was almost fully engrossed in the tiny images now. "Is that…?"
"It appears to be."
"What?" Lois was lost. She couldn't make out what they were seeing.
"Lois, it's a boy," Clark told her.
"What?" She strained to look at what they saw.
The tech pointed out what was almost unmistakable. "See, Ms. Lane, this is one leg. This is two. No child has three."
"Oh, oh… That's…wow!" Her hand tightened around Clark's.
The rest of the sonogram was performed in silence, the amazed parents soaking up their newfound knowledge. The young woman handed them a few pictures and wheeled the machine out the door.
Lois couldn't take her eyes off the small image she held. Clark lifted his hand and trailed a finger around her ear. "Pretty amazing, huh?"
"Yeah." She took another look before she turned to Clark. "Thank you."
"What?" His finger stopped its journey.
"For him. For our son."
Clark touched the paper lightly. "I just hope one day he'll be able to forgive me for asking you to end his life."
"That's it!" Lois shoved Clark for the second time that day. She was rising to her feet, her eyes flashing red. "I didn't say a whole lot before you left. I didn't know what to say. But I know what to say now. What happened, happened. We can't change it and we can't go back. But we can move on. We can get past this and on with the rest of our lives. But only if we choose to. We've already established that you didn't mean what you said. *I* know you didn't mean it. So, let it go." Her voice softened and she was on the verge of tears. "You have to quit beating yourself up. Clark, you've suffered enough. It's time to start healing."
Clark had been stunned when she pushed him. He couldn't help but shrink back when she rose to her feet and squared off against him. His back had found the wall while she told him what was on her mind. At the sight of her tears, he released his guilt. He reached out for her hand.
"Please don't cry, Lois. I'll let it go. I won't say it again."
"You have to let it go here, too." Her hand rested over his heart.
Clark sighed. "Would you settle for me not mentioning it right now? The rest may take a while."
"That's all I've ever wanted."
"I know." His hand wrapped around the one on his chest. "I wasn't ready before. I wasn't strong enough."
"And you are now?"
"Ready—yes. Strong enough…I'm working on it." He smiled, the first bright one in months. "Now, would you please sit back down?" He spoke as he pushed her to the bed. "Better?"
"A little." She pouted with him the way she always did when he was right about something. She had to be more careful. Her baby's life depended on it.
With that thought, she smiled. "A son. Cool."
Clark grinned at her. He loved how she could change subjects at the drop of a dime. "Yeah. Cool," he agreed. Deciding it was time to put his life back together may have been the best thing he'd ever done.
It took a couple hours for Lois to get all her instructions and her release papers so she could go home. Martha and Jonathan would both be staying to care for her over the next week. Martha would stay on for another two weeks, but Jonathan would have to return to Kansas to tend to the farm.
No one wanted to ask Clark what his intentions were. They were scared that if they did, he'd change his mind and disappear again. He'd been there when Lois wanted him to be most. That was enough for the time being.
Lois was wheeled down to the exit. Clark stood on the walk while his mother made sure her precious cargo was tucked into the jeep.
Clark didn't quite know what to do. He wanted to ask if he could come to the house to look in on Lois, but felt he should wait until she offered.
Martha turned to him. "Clark, do you need anything?"
"No, mom. I'm okay. I need to fly out to Montana and tie up loose ends there."
"When will you be back?" Lois asked from the open window of the jeep.
"You are coming back?"
"Yes, Lois. At least back to Metropolis."
"Come to the house. We need to talk about something."
"Okay." He smiled down at her, then focused on his parents. "I guess I'll see you guys tomorrow."
Martha hugged him. "I'm glad you're here." He smiled as she got into the jeep.
Jonathan pulled him close. "Thank you…for busting my mouth," Clark told him in his ear. "I may need you to do it again."
Jonathan leaned back. "Let's hope not." He clapped Clark's shoulder, then went around to get into the jeep. Clark watched until they were out of sight. As long as he lived, he'd never understand how he got lucky enough to have these people in his life.
Clark flew back out to the ranch in Montana to gather up his things. Since he'd only taken a small bag with him, that was all he had to get. He was a little grateful he'd spent most of his time in his room. It made leaving easier.
The foreman was quite surprised when Clark told him he was going back to Metropolis. Clark had been a good worker but was bitter and withdrawn. He wished the one-time journalist well, hoping he'd find what he'd left behind.
When Clark made it back to Metropolis the next day, he realized he would have to find a place to stay and get a job. He may be wanting to get his life back, but he wasn't about to make assumptions where Lois was concerned. He'd caused her enough grieve. It was time to help her smile a little.
Martha came downstairs to find Jonathan in deep conversation with his son. "Clark. I didn't know you were here."
"Just got in a few minutes ago."
She kissed his cheek before turning to head in the direction of the kitchen. "Lois wants you to come up."
"Okay." He took a deep breath, peered up the stairs, then willed his legs to move. The trip to the master bedroom had never taken him so long. He was nervous all of a sudden. Lois had told him they needed to talk. He knew that, as well. Now that it was time, he wanted nothing more than to just skip it.
He raised a hand and knocked on the bedroom door. When Lois gave him permission to enter, he pushed the door open.
"I was hoping it was you. Come here." She held up a piece of paper to him. "Read this."
Clark read a letter from someone asking if Lois knew what happened to Superman. He read between the lines though. Lois had jumped right in for the kill. She wanted some answers.
He lowered the paper and pulled the chair next to the French doors closer to the bed. When he was settled, he took a deep breath. "I decided almost immediately that Superman would die. On top of everything else that was running around in my head, I just couldn't handle the pressures that came along with him. I knew to make his death believable, I would have to have him visible. That's why I did those things in those countries. A rockslide provided the means to an end. I added suspicions of the existence of Kryptonite, effectively ending Superman's life."
"No kidding. You wrote a fantastic story, though."
"I just did what I had to do. Or what I *thought* I had to do."
Lois shuffled through a few letters, clearly trying to decide what to say next. "What do you think you need to do now?"
"Well, I made an appointment with Dr. Friskin for tomorrow. And I will attend my first support group meeting on Friday."
"Good." She held out a few more letters to him. "Perry likes me to write mood pieces when I find something worth the space in these things. The pay is decent. Could help pay for a lot of diapers."
Clark smiled as he took the letters. "I take it you're offering me a job."
"Actually, I'm making the offer with Perry's approval."
Clark's brows shot into his hair. "Really?"
"Yeah. I remember at one time you were good with this kind of work."
"How about we see if I still am?" Clark placed the stack of papers on the bed so he could shed his coat. It wasn't long before he and Lois were immersed in the questions contained in the mail.
Working with Lois allowed Clark precious time to just feel useful. He never thought he'd want to feel like that again. It felt wonderful. His mind wasn't tainted. It was as strong and as clear as it had always been. By the time he realized it had gotten late, he'd written three mood pieces and helped Lois with four days worth of her column.
Clark laid down the stack of letters he held and stretched his muscles. "It's pretty late," he said as he rose from the chair. "I guess I better get out of here so you can rest."
"Where will you stay tonight?"
"I'll get a room."
"Oh, Clark, that's ridiculous. Why don't you move into the other spare room?"
"Lois, maybe that's a little too much, way too fast."
"Please…it's a room down the hall. Your parents are sleeping next door. It's not like we've never been alone."
"I know that. Lois, I just don't want to come in here like I never left. There are a lot of things that need to be dealt with."
"I know that. It's just a room. It is still technically your house."
"On paper maybe."
She shot him a warning glare that dared him to go back on his guilt trip. Clark pushed a hand through his hair. He wanted desperately to stay here with Lois so he'd know she was okay, but at the same time he felt unworthy.
"Clark." Lois reached out for his hand. "Stay."
He met her eyes. If he'd ever doubted her love for him, her dark pools just told him he was a fool. Lois felt as much for him now as she had all those months ago.
He let his lips spread into a smile. "Okay, Lois. I'll stay."
"Good. I needed somebody to paint in there. Can't have this little guy coming home without his nursery ready." Her eyes held every bit of the humor she was seeking to break the tension in the room.
Clark must have seen it. He threw his head back and let out a hearty laugh.
Lois was stunned. That was the first time she'd heard him laugh since that day in the newsroom when he'd told her a joke. She soon found herself laughing with him. Whatever lay ahead would have to wait. Right now, they needed this to start the healing process.
Clark stayed in the extra room that night and would continue to stay because he feared Lois more than any demons that could haunt him. The next morning he went to his appointment with Dr. Friskin and began the long journey ahead of him. Over the next few days he set up a routine. He helped Lois during the day, content with writing the mood pieces for the time being. At night he wrote about the things that had been happening to him before, lying awake into the wee hours of the morning and trying to work through his guilt.
Being around his parents felt good. They offered the silent support he'd deprived himself of by leaving.
Lois was another story. She was hard to talk to unless it was about work. Why that was, Clark couldn't say. Before his attack, Clark had been able to share with her everything that was on his mind. Now, it felt strained to be near her for long periods. He ached to just take her in his arms and hold her. He wanted to say the things he felt, but didn't want to hear her tell him she didn't want to listen to it. So he distanced himself from her.
As Friday approached, Clark realized most of his anxiety over Lois had to do with the fact that he'd not yet resolved his assault. He still felt disgust and shame over what happened. How could he possibly expect Lois to want him to touch her or be close?
Then there was the baby. A son. Lois carried that miracle in her body. Clark often let his gaze drift to her pregnant stomach. It was amazing to know he'd had something to do with the life growing below her heart. He'd told Lois he would let his guilt over what he'd said about the baby go. Though he hadn't dwelt on those words, he hadn't forgot them either.
But for the most part, the man he'd once been was fighting to get back to the surface. The man he was would continue to clear the way.
Clark was so nervous as he sat and listened to the various men speak. The support group consisted of six other men, all of whom had been sexually assaulted at the hands of one or more men.
Jonathan sat silent next to his son. He hadn't waited for Clark to ask him to come. He'd simply grabbed his jacket and followed the young man to the cab. He offered silent support from his position at Clark's side.
One week drifted into two. Jonathan went home, leaving Clark and the women. Martha went shopping at some point so she could spend a whole day making some of Lois' favorite meals to put in the freezer for after she had to go back home. That day found Clark helping her in the kitchen, the same one he no longer felt threatened in. He was healing whether he wanted to or not.
"Clark, would you like to speak?" one of the men asked him.
Clark was at the support group meeting for the third time. Up to this point he'd chosen to listen. Some of the things he heard were a whole lot more horrible than what he'd been through. If these men could make it, so could he.
He pushed up from the chair and took a long, deep breath. "My name is Clark Kent. Seven months ago I surprised the South-side Burglars. They attacked me in my own home. I was beaten and…raped."
If it had been a beating…or maybe just one attacker… But no. He'd been violated twice. The images flooded through Clark's mind in a heart- stopping nightmare. Just as the last blow of the bat connected with his head, Clark sat straight up in bed.
He was heaving to catch his breath. He'd been dreaming about the attack. Only hours ago he stood before his small support group and announced he'd been raped. He'd thought it was going to be intense. Once he'd gotten the first paragraph out, it became fairly easy to talk. He'd given a rough account of the hours that changed his life so completely. Expecting snickers from the group, he was surprised when all he received was support.
He learned that one reason he was so apprehensive about his relationship with Lois was because he hadn't told her about the attack. The others said he needed to tell her the details that would only be known to him. He should share his thoughts, his feelings, and his expectations. He wasn't sure he had any of those, but he had thoughts that went on for days.
He slung his legs over the edge of his bed and sat up. "Now if I can just work up the nerve," he said to himself. A quick glance at the clock told him it was nearly five-thirty. He may as well get up.
Clark padded out his room, into the upstairs bathroom, then down to the kitchen in search of something to drink.
"Mom?" Martha was wrapping another dish to put it in the freezer.
She turned to him with a smile. "Hi, honey. What are doing up so early?"
"I couldn't sleep." Clark went to the refrigerator and took out the milk.
Martha picked up her dish and pushed it into the freezer. "That's done. You and Lois should have plenty to eat until I can get back to prepare more dishes."
Clark sat the milk carton on the counter and picked up the glass he'd just poured some of the liquid in. "You don't have to cook so much. I do still remember how to do it."
"I know you do. I just thought I would take off a little pressure." She rubbed his arm. "Honey, you're doing great."
"Yeah." He took another gulp of his drink and made his way over to the table.
Martha watched him sit, knowing instantly there was something bothering him. She finished her clean up and took the seat opposite him. "What is it, Clark?"
"I had some bad dreams tonight."
"About the assault?"
"Uh-hum. Mom, I do know the images will fade. Someday the dreams will come less and less often. But when you're having them, it doesn't help."
"I know. I can't even imagine how you feel. When we first found out what happened, I prayed so hard that you wouldn't let this tear you apart."
"I must have disappointed you so badly when I left."
"I can't say no. But Clark, more than anything I was hurting for you. I wanted to just take you in my arms and hold you like I used to when you were a boy." She looked down at her hands. "I almost came to you a few times. I told myself that whether you wanted me to or not, I'd hold you close. I was determined that no matter how much you fought I wouldn't let go. If it took days, I wouldn't give up until you knew you were safe and loved."
Clark got up from his seat and knelt beside his mother. "Is it too late to ask you to do that?"
Martha wiped the tear from his face before she pulled him to her breast. Cradled in his mother's embrace, Clark let even more of his pain go.
"Are you're sure you'll be okay here with Lois? Alone?" Martha asked Clark. She had been with the couple for two weeks and it was time for her to go home. Jonathan and the farm needed her.
"I think we'll be okay." Clark smiled and took the bag from her hand.
"Honey," she said with a hand placed on his arm.
Clark sighed and turned back to her. "Okay. I'm scared as hell. I know she says she wants me here, but I don't want her to feel that way out of…pity, or because she thinks she has to, or…"
Clark's surprised eyes jerked up to Lois' soft, brown ones. He dropped Martha's bag and rushed up the stairs to Lois' side. "Lois, you're not supposed to come down the stairs without help."
"Relax. I'm not dead." She patted his arm and descended the stairs to Martha. The older woman accepted the offered hug. "I had to say good-bye one last time."
Martha pulled her back. "I'm going to miss you."
"And I'm going to miss you." She placed a kiss on her mother-in-law's cheek. "Thank you…for everything."
"Honey, where else would I have been?" She turned to Clark, who'd made it back down the stairs. "Give your momma a hug."
Clark took her into his arms. "I love you," he whispered in her ear.
"And I you." She drew back, smiled, then turned to take up her bag.
"Mom, are you sure you don't want me to fly you out?"
"I'm sure. Besides, my ticket's already paid for." She opened the front door. "Call if you need me."
"We will," Lois assured her as they watched her leave. She pushed the door shut, then turned to make her way to one of the sofas.
"Shouldn't you go back up to bed?"
"The doctor said I could ease around the house. And I'm putting my feet up." She demonstrated by stretching her feet out across the sofa.
Clark chuckled and sat on the opposite sofa.
Lois positioned herself to face him. "Clark, I meant what I said earlier. I don't feel that way."
Clark lowered his eyes to the floor. He'd been putting off talking to Lois for the past two weeks.
"I don't pity you or feel some kind of obligation to you because we're still married."
Clark met her gaze again. "Are you sure?"
"I have never been more sure of anything in my life." She eased to a sitting position so she could tell him what was on her mind. "I want you here because this is your home."
Clark let his eyes travel around the room. This had once been his home, and a happy one. He wanted nothing more than for it to be again. His head snapped back around when Lois took his hands. She had gotten up and came to sit next to him.
"Clark, do you *want* to be here?"
"Yes," he answered softly.
She smiled tenderly and gave his hands a squeeze. "Then I don't want to hear another word."
"May I ask you something?"
"Why is this still my home?"
There it was. The question Lois knew he'd eventually ask. He may have said something about this being his home but what he was really asking was how she felt about him.
"You walked out on me, not the other way around. I have always been here. And I always will."
She may not have said the words, but Clark knew what she meant. He took a deep breath. "Lois, I want my life back. All of it."
She felt his emotions raging through his large body. For the last few months she'd wanted to hear him say those words. Clark ripped her heart apart when he'd pushed her away, but that hadn't stopped her from loving him or wanting him well. That's what he'd taught her about love. Being loved by this man had shown her that when you love and love completely, it doesn't stop because one has been hurt. Love doesn't stop because one acts like an ass and turns their back on those that should be pulled closer. Love doesn't stop when one walks away or stays gone for months. If anything, it grows stronger.
But years of building walls to protect her heart were hard for Lois to forget. She pulled her hands from Clark's and got up.
"I didn't say that to pressure you in any way. I know I hurt you, and I have a lot to prove. All I'm saying is that I want to be Clark Kent again. I don't expect you to just open up your arms and welcome me back as if nothing's happened." Clark rose and went to stand behind her. "As much as I'd love to have my marriage back, I want my best friend back more."
That was Lois' undoing. She turned to him with tears in her eyes. "Oh, Clark. I want my best friend back, too."
He smiled as he lifted a hand to her cheek. "So, we'll work on that."
"Yeah," she agreed with an equally large smile.
Clark took one last look before wrapping an arm around her shoulders. "As your best friend, I have to take care of you." He led her back to the sofa. "You may not have to go back upstairs, but you do have to put your feet up."
"Yes sir," she mumbled as he lifted her feet to the cushions. She took the offered television remote with a pout. "I'm not dead."
"No," he agreed as he placed a throw over her legs. "I'll fix us some lunch. We can share it in here while we watch the basketball game."
"Do you want me to go back upstairs?"
"No. I want to argue with you about the point of grown men throwing a ball at a net and calling it a job."
Lois giggled and tossed a pillow at his retreating back. If he wanted an argument, she'd give him one.
Lois stared out at the bright sunshine greeting another day in the big city. She had been in her bed for nearly six weeks, with eight to go. She wasn't sure she'd make it. She was bored stiff. There was only so much work you could do.
A forceful kick from inside her swollen stomach reminded her of why she *had* to make it through the next few weeks.
She ran her hands lovingly over the moving mound. "Don't worry, little guy. I'm going to get you here safe and sound."
"How do I look?"
Lois turned to see Clark standing in the doorway. She nearly fell over. He'd shaved and cut his hair. The gray suit he was wearing fit him perfectly. What really took her by surprise was the brilliant smile that graced his lips. She hadn't seen him smile like that in so long.
"You look great."
"Thanks. I'm trying to impress the boss." Clark smoothed his hands over his pants. He was starting back at the Planet this morning. For the past four weeks he had come far enough in his healing process that he felt he needed to investigate again. Lois had agreed with him.
"Now, I don't want you out that bed if it's not necessary. I'll fly back to check on you as often as I can." He was placing the phone, her laptop, and anything else he felt she may want close enough for her to reach. "I have my cell phone if you need me."
"Yes, Daddy," she said sarcastically.
He smiled and headed for the door.
"Yeah?" He stopped at the door to look back at her.
"I'm proud of you."
"Thank you. I'm proud of myself."
"You should be. Go get Perry a front page."
"Yes ma'am." He shot her another brilliant smile and was gone.
Lois snuggled into her pillows, unable to wipe her own smile off her lips. She was very proud of Clark. He'd made remarkable progress since he'd been back. He went to see Dr. Friskin, attended his support group, and was growing more comfortable with her. The mood pieces he'd been writing were first rate. Perry had hounded him until he took his job back at the paper. He was also writing about everything that had happened to him, including an article about male assault victims and how they survive.
He was also using his powers more than he did at first. Lois had noticed him using his abilities to help him out in the kitchen. She'd also heard him take a few three second showers. And lately it only took him about five seconds to clean the house. She would also swear she'd seen him using his special vision to look at the baby a time or two.
That brought her thoughts back to things she'd been thinking about lately. Lois and Clark had grown closer after their talk in the living room. They were closer as friends, something they both wanted. Lois couldn't be happier, yet she'd started to wonder if friends were all they'd ever be. Clark was comfortable as long as they were in a situation that didn't get too intimate. She could move a little closer to him or say something about the baby and he'd bolt. His actions had been understandable at first, but it had finally gotten to Lois. She felt she would soon be forced to say something.
Thinking about Clark had eventually led Lois to a restful sleep. Unfortunately, the phone ripped her from it.
"Lois, it's Jimmy. Listen, Perry wanted me to give you a shout and warn you."
"Warn me? About what?"
"Clark was subpoenaed today. I don't know what it was about, but he was really upset. He left about an hour ago and hasn't been back."
"Okay. Thanks, Jimmy."
"No problem. Tell CK I hope he feels better."
"I will." She replaced the receiver and sat up. Clark had certainly been served with the notice to appear in court against the burglars. He was probably reliving that day somewhere. She wanted him to come home. He could shut himself up in his room. At least she'd know where he was.
Lois couldn't stand not knowing what was going on. She dialed Clark's phone without getting an answer. She called his parents next only to be told they hadn't seen him. Cursing her inability to leave the house, she made her way down to the kitchen. She'd just have to wait on him and hope for the best.
Clark landed as quietly as he could on the floor of his bedroom. When he'd read the papers requiring him to appear in court against his attackers, he'd freaked. The room had got smaller and he couldn't breathe, so he'd left. He'd flown to the section of the Artic he'd gone to the night Lois accepted Luthor's marriage proposal. At long last he'd allowed himself to take out his frustrations. He pounded several helpless icebergs into heaps of crushed masses. Healthy or not, when he was done, he felt better.
He'd settled on a cliff to gather his thoughts. What he discovered surprised him. With a renewed spirit, he headed home.
Clark spun out his wet clothes and into sleep shorts and a T-shirt. He wanted to kick himself for not thinking about Lois sooner. A quick check with his vision just before he entered the house, told him she was sleeping. He'd probably caused her to worry by disappearing the way he had. He would make it up to her…somehow.
He turned from his position sitting on the bed to see Lois standing in his door. "I thought you were asleep."
"I heard you come in. Feel like talking?"
"Sure." He reached out and flipped on the light.
Lois sat down next to him. "I heard about the subpoena."
"Yeah. Lois, I'm sorry about today. I just had to clear my head."
"I know. I was worried, but I'm glad you came back."
"Oh God. I didn't stop to think you might believe I'd left again."
"Well, I…ah…it crossed my mind."
"I'm not leaving again. I've come too far."
She rubbed his arm. "I'm so glad to hear you say that."
"Lois, I flew up to the artic."
"What did you do?"
"I beat the heck out of some helpless blocks of ice."
Lois smiled at his expression. "Do you feel better?"
"A lot." He smoothed his hands over his thighs. "I got a lot cleared up in my head."
"Like…the fact that I want these guys to go to prison for a very long time."
"Me, too. So you'll be able to testify?"
"Mmm…I'm actually looking forward to it." He pushed a hand through his hair. "Ah, will you, will you come to the trial?"
"Do you want me to be there?"
He met her eyes with ones that were clearer than they'd been in months. "Yes."
She placed a hand over his. "I'll be there."
Clark released the breath he hadn't known he was holding. "How are you? Any problems today?"
"No. I'm fine. I have to say I'm a lot better now."
"I really am sorry. I think maybe I'm finished running."
"I'm glad because there's something I want to ask you about."
He turned more fully to her. "Shoot."
"Clark, how do you feel about this baby?"
He was a little surprised by her question. But then he shouldn't have been. Lois rarely missed things. She'd have been blind not to see his uneasiness where she and the baby were concerned. Clark pushed up from the bed and went to stare out the window into the darkness.
Lois took his reaction as a negative. Her heart shattered into millions of pieces. She was about to pick them up and carry them back into her room when he spoke.
"That was another thing I thought about today. Over the last few months I've been so wrapped up in myself, I haven't been able to see what I've been doing to anyone else. When I was gone, I thought about you and the baby constantly. But I still let my guilt seep back through. You told me to let it go. I'd be lying if I said I had."
"So you…don't want this baby?"
Clark almost ran back to Lois. "No, no." He took her hands as he kneeled in front of her. "Not 'no, I don't want the baby.' No, you're wrong. I do want this baby. I didn't realize just how much until today. What I was going to say is that I feel horrible about saying what I did. I may always feel bad about that. But it's time to put it where I'm going to put the rest of my insecurities…behind me. It's time to move on."
"You still haven't answered the question."
"Lois, I *love* this baby."
"Then why don't you ever want to talk about him or…touch him?"
Clark squeezed her hands. "I know I've led you to believe all kinds of things, but I promise you from now on things will be different. And…" His eyes drifted to her stomach. "…to touch him, I'd have to touch you."
"Clark," she said as she placed his hands on her belly. "It's okay."
His heart began to race as his hands made contact with her body. Before he could dwell on that, the life beneath his palms danced vigorously. His eyes widened in surprise. They shot up to Lois'.
"Guess he knows his father's touch." She smiled and rubbed the top of one his hands.
Clark looked back down to watch the action even as he felt it. After a moment, the baby grew still. His face drew into a frown. "Maybe he's sleepy."
"Move your hands. He likes to be rubbed."
Clark began to smooth the sides of Lois' stomach. It was enough to start the dancing again. "Oh, wow! This is great."
Lois smiled at the child-like enthusiasm of the proud papa as he continued to move his hands over her belly. She couldn't have been happier with how he was acting. He didn't need to say more. His face said it all.
All too soon, Clark realized it was getting late. He looked back up at Lois without taking his hands off her. "Thank you."
"Clark, this is your baby, too."
"I know. I also know it's your body."
"I want you to touch him."
"Do you want me to touch you?" That question had jumped out there before he could stop it. He'd been thinking it for a while. Those painful insecurities kept telling him that Lois couldn't want him near her because of what had happened.
"I know what you're asking. I've read the pamphlets. I know what goes through victims' heads. And you're wrong. I've never thought of you that way."
"How could you not? Lois, another man was… He touched me. He…"
"Clark, no! You told me just a few minutes ago that you were putting this aside so you could move on. You are not to blame for what they did to you. You couldn't stop it. And you are not dirty or any less a man." She covered his hands on her stomach again. "Don't you remember the night we made him? You touched me and I touched you."
"That night was a joke."
"I don't feel our son would agree."
As if to answer her question, the baby moved again. Clark let his eyes fall to where his hands rested and Lois' hands covered them.
She saw where he was looking and smiled. "You're touching me now. And I'm touching you."
"Clark." She was not going to let him slip back into that crazy thinking again. "Here." She lifted his hand to her face. "You're touching me here."
He cupped her cheek in a gesture that had once been so familiar to them. His thumb smoothed the soft skin under her eye. "You are so beautiful," he whispered.
Lois gasped at his comment. She hadn't expected that, or for it to sound so breathless. Her hand came up to cup his opposite cheek. "So are you."
Clark lost all coherent thought. The electricity danced between them. His eyes drifted to her lips just before he leaned in to kiss her. She didn't seem shocked or surprised. She'd wanted him to do that as much as he'd wanted to. But suddenly it was too much. Clark drew back with a look of horror on his face. He rose to his feet and backed away.
Lois' mind was telling her that Clark was just scared and that his withdrawal had nothing to do with her. But her heart screamed rejection. She sprang up from the bed and ran out the room.
"Lois." Clark was behind her. The slamming of her door shut him out. His hand drifted down the door and his forehead leaned forward. "I'm sorry."
He could hear her crying softly and it tore a hole in his heart. "Lois, please don't cry. It wasn't you. It was me. I just got scared. I wanted that so much. I've wanted to kiss you since day one. You have to know that. It's just that…it's been so long and I…I…" He sighed heavily. "I'm sorry."
He turned and walked the distance back to his room. He figured if he said more right now it may make it worse. That was something he didn't want.
Clark felt horrible about once again causing Lois pain. He'd wanted to kiss her. In fact, he'd felt an unbelievable rush of desire run through him the moment their lips met. He'd actually been turned on. While the fact that he could feel that kind of desire for his wife again made him feel wonderful, he couldn't stop the demons that told him he wasn't supposed to want her. It had panicked him. He pulled away, and by doing that, she felt rejected. He had to talk to her and he had to do it soon.
But Lois did what she'd always done to hide her hurt. She hid behind her impenetrable wall that she'd built to shield her heart from being broken. After the third attempt to broach the topic the following morning, Clark finally gave up. If she didn't want to talk he couldn't make her. After all, he was doing the same thing to her.
They settled back into the friendly routine they'd created, though severely stilted now. Clark dove into his work as a way to keep from thinking about Lois and the fact that at the end of the week, he'd have to face his attackers.
"Clark, you're making me nervous," Lois told him outside the courtroom.
"I can't help it." He paced the floor again. "Lois, I'm terrified." He landed hard on the bench beside Lois. "That's ridiculous, huh? *Me*, scared of telling the court what those…'men' did to me."
"Why, Clark? Because you're 'Superman'?" she whispered.
"Was, Lois. Was Superman."
She turned and was about to say something when the doors opened and Clark was called in. He'd thought he would be entering a full room of people, but it was empty. He was led through a door on the other end and into the judge's chambers. Lois followed close behind to be ready to offer whatever support she could.
"Mr. Kent," the judge said as he rose. "I'm Judge Davis. You know Henderson and District Attorney Parnell."
Clark nodded at the other men. "What happened? I thought they were being tried."
"Mr. Kent, the suspects cut a deal."
"What kind of deal?" Lois had spoken. She was all too aware that cut deals usually meant the bad guys were back on the streets in a matter of months.
"Relax, Ms. Lane. When we apprehended the perpetrators, we discovered they had numerous other charges pending against them under different names…including murder. As in Mr. Kent's case, they left conclusive DNA evidence. When faced with that information and the knowledge that a conviction could mean the death penalty, they bargained for their lives. They chose life in prison without the possibility of parole."
"It's over?" Lois' eyes met Detective Henderson's.
"It's over," he told her.
She let out the breath she'd been holding. Relief flooded her body as she cast her eyes on Clark. He was shaking and staring straight ahead.
"Mr. Kent, are you okay?" the judge asked him.
Clark turned and fled the room.
"Clark!" Lois didn't stop until she was standing in the door of the bathroom stall where he'd retreated. She'd received several strange looks from a couple men when she went in right behind her husband.
Clark had felt so much relief wash over him when he heard his attackers would spend the rest of their lives in prison. It rushed over him in such a powerful wave, it left him feeling sick. He'd just made it to the bathroom.
Lois' hand came up to spread over his back in an offer of silent comfort. For the first time since his whole nightmare had begun, he let himself feel the support. When he was done, he leaned back against the wall. Lois wiped his face with her handkerchief.
"Thank you," he told her.
She fought the tears threatening to spill from her eyes, moved that one little piece of unruly hair off his forehead, and smiled.
"Let's go home," he said as he rose to his feet. She nodded, and with only a moment's hesitation, reached up and took his arm. Clark smiled, and together they left the courthouse.
When they stepped through the door of that bathroom, Clark put his attack behind a wall where it would be just out of reach. He needed to get on with his life and the only way to do that was to let go.
"CK, line two. It's Lois."
"Thanks, Jimmy." Clark picked up his receiver. "Lois?"
"Clark, the baby…"
"I'm on my way." That was all she'd had to say. He could hear the pain in her voice. He raced for the stairwell and shot through the air at a speed too fast to be seen. Seconds later, he landed in the living room of the brownstone. Lois was sitting on the couch, holding her stomach. Clark was by her side instantly.
"Lois, what's wrong?"
"The baby's coming."
"It's not time."
"I can't help it!" The words were yelled as another contraction racked her body.
"Okay, okay." He leaned over and scooped her up. "We'll take the jeep."
"I AM! Ohhh!"
Clark picked up his pace to the jeep. Lois was settled and belted in. "We're going."
Lois latched onto his coat. "Have you got your cell phone?"
"We need to AHHH!… call our PARENTS!" She turned her head and screamed.
Clark jumped into overdrive. Something seemed wrong. Lois was much closer to her due date, only three weeks away, but she was having contractions almost constantly. The thought crossed his mind that there may be something wrong with this baby because of him being half Kryptonian. The doctors had seen no apparent differences and Lois' pregnancy had progressed normally. Still, there was that slight doubt.
Crushing those thoughts, he dialed his parents as he jumped behind the wheel. Lois' mother was phoned on the way to the hospital.
Clark had taken the time it took to get Lois settled into a labor room to fly to Kansas for his folks. He would worry about explaining their sudden appearance later. Right now he wanted them to be at the birth of their first grandchild.
He rushed back into the room where Lois was as soon as he got back from Kansas, having left his parents in the waiting room. Lois was yelling at the doctor over the possible side effects of drugs during labor.
Clark went to her side and picked up her hand. "Lois, calm down."
"I AM CALM!"
He chuckled and reached up to smooth her hair back off her head.
"What are you laughing at? This is your fault, you know!"
"I know." He couldn't hide his smile as she yelled again. But Lois was Lois, and she refused to take any kind of medication.
The labor had progressed relatively fast, but pushing was proving to be a nightmare. Lois had been pushing for nearly two hours. Each time the baby's head appeared it would slip right back out of sight. And the expectant mother was tired.
"I can't," Lois wined.
"You can. You're doing great." Clark reached behind her to hold her up for another push.
Clark leaned his head against her temple. "Come on, honey. You can do this."
"I HATE YOU!" she yelled through gritted teeth.
"I know," Clark replied as he held her up. "That's it. That's it." He watched with ever widening eyes as a tiny head emerged from Lois' body. "Oh God, Lois. There's his head." A moment later, the baby was held up for his mother to see. "Look at him, honey. He's perfect."
Lois flopped back on the pillows. She was exhausted.
Clark wiped her sweaty head. "You were amazing."
"It's an act," she said.
Clark laughed and leaned forward to kiss her softly. "I love you, Lois."
The world stood still as Lois' eyes locked on Clark's. She'd waited so long to hear him say those words. Her hand came up to his face. "I love you."
Clark's lips touched hers again, their tears mixing together. Clark had turned a corner in his journey down the path to healing.
She pushed him up. "Go check on him."
"Okay." Clark kissed her nose and moved to hover over his new son.
A very healthy Jordan Jerome Kent was brought home two days later by two proud parents. His name was chosen in honor of the grandfather that he'd never meet and the father that had helped create him. Clark had been overwhelmed that Lois wanted a reference to his real father, but had argued that being named after him wasn't a good idea. In the end, Lois won just as she always did.
Jordan filled his parents with more joy than either had ever thought imaginable. Lois had never considered she would be happy being someone's mother. Until Clark, she'd made up her mind that no innocent child would have to live with the possible damage she may cause if she were a parent. When the couple was told that Clark wasn't compatible with an earth woman for reproduction, she'd taken it hard. That's when she knew she wanted more than anything to have a baby with Clark. The first couple of weeks she often stood and watched her son sleep.
The transformation she saw in Clark was remarkable, as well. She had been right. Jordan was what Clark needed to continue his healing. He spent nearly all his time at home taking care of the baby. Lois enjoyed watching him rush home after work and the smile that had been permanently glued to his face. Being a father really suited him.
Things had also changed for them. He spent time alone with her in complete ease. He no longer seemed nervous or withdrawn. He continued to sleep in the spare room, but was honest with Lois as to why. He told her that he just wasn't ready. She had been a little hurt at first, thinking maybe he didn't want to be anything more than they were. He was quick to assure her that he was still very much in love with her and wanted nothing more than to have his wife back. It would just take him a little while longer. Lois accepted that and settled for having her best friend back.
Lois had stayed home with Jordan for the entire six weeks her leave allowed her. She returned to the Planet with a vengeance. She and Clark wrote three front-page articles the first week, along with the daily column and the weekly mood pieces. The team of Lane and Kent was just as hot as they'd ever been.
Lois searched the newsroom for the man in her thoughts. It had been five months since Clark had come back into her life. Jordan would soon be two months old. And in a little over a month, it would have been a year since he was attacked…a year since he'd been changed forever. Although things had been a lot better the last few weeks, Lois still ached to have her husband back—all of him.
Her eyes fell on him when he exited the copy room. He was reading some papers he held as he walked back to his desk. She watched him stop and tilt his head. It was a gesture she'd seen many times after she learned his secret and one she'd noticed him doing since shortly after Jordan's birth. He was hearing something with his super hearing. But just like he always did, he lowered his head back to his reading and continued on to his desk. That was it. Lois had had enough. She wanted her husband back and she was going after him.
She pushed up and went to Clark's desk. He looked at her with a smile.
"Hey yourself, " she replied. "Ah, listen. I was wondering if you had any plans for tonight."
He furrowed his brows at her. "No. Just spending time with my son."
Lois nodded her head. "Would you…would you like to go out? With me?"
"Go out? As in…a date?"
"Yeah. Something like that."
Clark smiled brighter. "Yeah. I think I'd like that."
"Good. Meet me at home around seven. Wear something comfortable."
"Okay." She twirled around and went back to her desk.
Clark leaned back and rubbed his chin. What was she up to? He didn't Know, but was looking forward to finding out.
"Lois?" Clark called for her as he entered the house. It was quiet. A quick scan told him that Jordan wasn't in his room. He found him and Lois in her room. He ran up the stairs and knocked on the door softly.
He opened the door to see Lois putting some things in Jordan's diaper bag. "Hi."
Clark had moved to the bed beside his son. Jordan's little eyes lit up when he saw Clark. "Is he coming with us?"
"Where we going?"
"Yeah." She gathered up the last of what she needed and handed the bag to Clark. "Zip this out there. Your parents are waiting."
Clark's eyes were questioning as he took the bag. He shrugged and left the room in a blur. His parents were indeed waiting. He greeted them briefly before flying back to get Lois and the baby.
"Lois, are sure this is okay for him?"
"Flying? Of course. You're not planning on dropping us are you?"
"Then let's go. No, no. Go change into a pair of jeans first."
"Just do it."
"Geez, aren't we bossy tonight?"
"And you like it," she called after him as he went through the door.
Half an hour later, they handed Jordan over to his grandparents and climbed into Jonathan's truck. Lois was taking Clark to a Smallville High basketball game. That had surprised him to no end. He told her they could have seen a game at home. She said it wouldn't have been the same.
And it wouldn't have been. At the gym, Clark was greeted by dozens of people that knew him. They congratulated him on his writing, his son, and his beautiful wife. By the end of the evening, he was nearly glowing. He'd needed the ego boost that being back among people that had known the man he once was gave him.
When they parked the truck near Culver's Canyon to walk in the moonlight, the reasons Lois had chosen Smallville were apparent again.
Clark walked next to the woman at his side. For the life of him he'd never figure out why Lois Lane had chosen to spend her life with him. She had, though, and he felt very blessed.
He also felt it was time to come home.
He stopped her with a light hand on her arm. "I love you."
"I love you, too, Clark."
"I'm ready to come home."
Lois smiled as she cupped his face. "I'm ready for you to come home."
"You may change your mind."
"What?" Her hand fell back to her side.
Clark took her hand and led her over to a boulder. When they were settled, he turned to her. "When I first started going to the support meetings, I learned that the reason I was so uncomfortable with you was because I'd never told you about the attack."
"Clark, you don't have to."
"Yes. I do. I have to tell you or I'll never be able to get on with my life. That's why we've been playing house. That's why I still shy away from intimacy. I guess deep inside there's part of me that feels like once you hear everything that happened, you won't want to be with me."
"That's never going to happen. I'm here. I'll always be here."
"What if I told you that when I was gone I saw other women?"
Lois struggled to keep that from upsetting her too badly. She faltered slightly. Clark noticed and reached for her hands.
"Lois, I swear nothing happened beyond kissing. Nothing."
"How many? How many women?"
"Why? Were they women you knew? Did you intend to have something more happen?"
"No. I didn't know them. I just picked them up in a bar. I'd be lying if I said that I hadn't wanted more to happen than did. And I guess I did it because I thought I could prove I was…"
"A man. Yeah, I know. We did that. Remember? We proved it until I was pregnant."
"I know. I was just so confused, and hurting so much I didn't know what to do."
"So you thought strangers could help you when your wife couldn't?"
"I thought I could forget for a little while. You don't know how much this thing has taken away from me."
"Yes, Clark. I do. You forget I was here, too. It took you away from me. It took my husband. And if I don't know how you suffered it's because you wouldn't let me in."
Clark felt his heart tighten. She did know. She'd suffered just like he had. "That's why I need you to listen to me tell you about it."
Lois looked into his eyes. He was ready to make the last leg of his journey. She was upset about the other women, but she needed to do this as much as he did. She needed the closure. "Why don't we go home?"
Jordan was tucked into Lois' warm embrace so Clark could fly them home. He was put to bed so his parents could talk.
Clark built a fire in the fireplace and shut off all the lights in the room. He didn't want to be able to see Lois' face when he talked in case there was something there that he couldn't bear. She found him sitting on the floor, poking at the burning logs.
Lois recognized the significance in the lack of lighting. Clark was scared she'd find him lacking as he told her about that day. She eased down next to him, and without a word, she pulled him back against her. His head rested on her shoulder as she wrapped her arms around his shoulders.
"I thought maybe it would be easier if you told me like this. That way you'd know I'm not going anywhere."
Clark's hand came up to her arm. "You always know what I need." He took a long breath and started talking.
Lois' arms tightened on his body several times as he relived every agonizing minute of that day. She cried as he told her how he felt and the thoughts that were racing through his head. She rocked him as he sobbed over the guilt he'd placed on himself. When he was done, she leaned over and placed her mouth at his ear.
"I'm still here and I still love you," she whispered.
Clark turned in her arms and buried his face against her neck. Together, both cried for what that had day cost them.
Clark let Lois talk him into sleeping with her that night. She held him while he drifted to sleep.
Jordan's soft cry brought Clark from his sleep. At first he couldn't figure out why he felt so energized. He hadn't felt this good in a long time. His eyes soon fell on the reason why. She was still fast asleep. They had the day off, so Clark would care for the baby and allow her to sleep.
He placed a kiss on her head before he rose to go to his son.
Lois felt him when he got out of bed and smiled when he left the room. Her husband was back.
She found Clark an hour later in Jordan's room. He held a naked baby against his bare chest while he sang to him softly. Not wanting this moment to be lost, she tiptoed back into her room to get her camera. Father and son were captured for eternity as she clicked off several shots.
Clark lifted his head to see Lois lower the camera from her face. "I couldn't resist feeling his soft skin against mine."
"I couldn't resist catching it on film."
He smiled, placed a final kiss on Jordan's head, and lowered him to the changing table to dress him. He placed Jordan in his crib before approaching Lois in the doorway. She'd remained there to keep from breaking the spell that seemed to have been cast in the room.
"Good morning," Clark told her when he stopped in front of her.
He held her gaze for a long moment. Slowly, his smile faded and he leaned in to kiss her softly. Clark brought his hands up to frame her face as the kiss deepened. It had been nearly a year since he'd tasted his wife like he was doing now. The sensations were overwhelming him. He pushed his tongue between her teeth and moaned as it made contact with hers.
Needing air, Lois broke the kiss. "Wow," was all she could say.
Clark was breathing heavily as his eyes darkened with desire. "Make love to me, Lois."
His words nearly floored her. Clark had only said that to her a few times. It was usually her saying it to him. She took his hand and led him to their room. In the early morning sunshine that fell across the bed, Clark completed the last leg of his journey back to the man he once was.
Clark held Lois against him as they lay in a spooned position in the afterglow of their lovemaking. This time had been nothing like the night they made Jordan. It had been sensual, tender, and very loving. Lois was assertive and took her time showing Clark that, to her, he was very much a man.
"I want to be Superman again."
She rolled over and smiled up at him. "You already are."
Clark was about to open his mouth to explain, but realized she knew exactly what she said. She also knew it was time for him to be the Man of Steel again.
His hand came up to cup her cheek. "I love you."
"I love you."
She murmured, "Welcome home," against his mouth as his lips met hers in another kiss.
One year to the day that Clark Kent had been forever changed by a horrible act of violence, Superman made his reappearance. A riveting tale of how the superhero was incapacitated in the events he'd suffered from was splashed across the front page of every major newspaper in the world. It was told that he'd fell into a severe depression due to injuries he'd sustained but had been rescued by a very caring and compassionate person. Little did the public know how true the things in the story really were.
The world rejoiced in his comeback. And the story had been told under the Lane and Kent by-lines. The reputations of the top reporters kept the questions at bay. People were just happy to have their superhero back and saving the day.
And what a comeback it was. Superman saved three children from drowning in a flood, diverted a tornado from ripping apart downtown Wichita, and stopped a teenager from shooting apart his school. His only reply following his first save was, "I'm back."
While his super side was presented to the public, his private side was presented to his wife. Clark gave Lois a copy of the things he'd been writing about the assault and what he'd been through. She laughed, she cried, and she came away from reading his words with a better understanding of what it took to make a man. It took patience, hard work, a support system, lots of focus, and energy. But Clark Kent was no ordinary man. He was a super man without the first power. And to make that man, it took only one thing…Lois Lane.