By Annie M <email@example.com>
Submitted: August 2003
Summary: When Lois cleans out her closets in preparation for her move into Lex's penthouse, she stumbles across some childhood treasures that lead her to a life-changing epiphany.
Lois captured a renegade lock of hair — an escapee from her ponytail — and tucked it behind her ear. She was dressed in her oldest, most comfortable jeans and an oversized t-shirt, ready to get down to the business of cleaning out her hall closet. She had been meaning to cut down on some of the excess clutter in her apartment for years, but she'd never managed to find the time. Now that she was working at LNN, she found she had a lot more free time than she'd ever had when she was working at The Daily Planet, and it wasn't like she was spending her extra time with her friends. She saw Lex frequently of course, but even still, she often found herself pacing her apartment, looking for ways to burn off her nervous energy.
Besides, it looked as though she were going to be moving soon. She'd be living with Lex once they were married, and there was no use hauling useless junk from one apartment to another, even if she would have considerably more room there.
Married. To Lex. Lois sighed, trying to comprehend the full meaning of those words. She hadn't accepted his proposal yet, but at this point it seemed merely a technicality. The only thing that would have really dissuaded her would have been if Superman had given her some indication that a relationship would be possible at some point in the future. But last night he had made it all too clear that they could never be anything more than friends. That conversation had been one of the most humiliating moments of her life. She had stood in front of him, pleading with him to love her, and he had looked at her with barely constrained contempt. Yet he had also looked hurt, as if it pained him to tell her that. She couldn't understand it.
Yanking the closet door open, she pried her mind off the events of the previous evening. She was nearly engaged. This should be the happiest time of her life.
But it wasn't of course, she thought as she began pulling coats out of the closet and separating them by how often she actually wore them. She wasn't happy at all. She was about to marry a man she wasn't in love with. She had told herself a million times that it was better this way. At least she wasn't convinced she was in love with him, only to be disappointed when their life together did not turn out to be as perfect as she had imagined it. Two thirds of all marriages were ending in divorce these days. Clearly love was not the best criterion to use when choosing a spouse.
Something prickled inside her even as she thought that. What had happened to her? When had she become so cynical? Was it after her parents' divorce? No, even after that she'd believed herself in love with Paul. And that disaster didn't stop her from throwing herself headlong into a passionate affair with Claude. Perhaps it was just all of those things combined. Each taken by itself she could have survived, her ideals intact, but taken together they had brutalized her dreams leaving her bitter and distrusting.
Lois re-hung the coats she'd decided to keep and tossed the others in a pile to give to Goodwill. Enough of this craziness, she told herself firmly. She needed to think about something else. She crouched down and reached into the closet again. Her hand brushed against something soft, and she pulled out a faded Midwest U. sweatshirt. Clark had given it to her to wear a few weeks earlier when she'd been cold, and she'd accidentally worn it home. She kept meaning to return it to him, but somehow she'd never got around to it. Impulsively, she lifted the soft material to her face and inhaled. The clean, fresh scent she always associated with Clark assaulted her, creating a lump in her throat and a sick, twisting feeling in her stomach. She missed him so much, but she had no way of knowing if they could ever be friends again. The last time she'd seen him, he'd looked so devastated.
She hated herself now for asking him to contact Superman for her only moments after he'd laid his heart at her feet. She'd been unthinking and callow, but she wasn't sure now how she could ever repair their relationship. Clark hated Lex for reasons she didn't quite understand. She knew it was due partially to jealousy, but somehow it seemed more complicated than that. In any case, she didn't imagine he relished the idea of rekindling a friendship with the woman who turned him down for his sworn enemy.
A deep sigh escaped her lips. How had everything become so jumbled? Her life would be so much easier if she could just be in love with Clark. He was a good man and a wonderful friend. There was no doubt in her mind that he would make a wonderful boyfriend and husband someday. And he loved her. Really, honestly loved her. While a confession of love from anyone else would have made her suspicious or uncomfortable, from Clark it had seemed just right. She must have known subconsciously for a long time that he was in love with her. As soon as the words were vocalized, everything made so much sense. Ironically, her first reaction upon realizing Clark's feelings was not to protect herself from him. For the first time in her life, she'd found a man who loved her and whom she honestly believed she could trust. There was no hidden agenda behind his declaration, just honest devotion.
If only she felt the same way.
But she didn't. The fact was, she didn't think she could ever feel that way for anyone. The closest she'd come to feeling that great connection with her one true love — the spark immortalized by romance novels and classic movies — was with Superman. But now she realized that was a dream. He'd told her last night that she didn't really know him, and though she'd protested at the time, she realized now that he was right. She didn't really know him. He'd just been a fantasy. Safe.
She would not let herself fall into that trap again. She would marry Lex. Neither she nor Lex was under any great delusion that their match was a truly passionate partnering. They each served a purpose for the other. They were a good match. Compatible.
That settled, she forced herself to put Clark's sweatshirt aside and turned her attention to the closet once again. Her brow furrowed as she strained to pull out the dust-covered cardboard box sitting in the center of the floor. It had been so long since she'd opened it; she wasn't even sure what was in it.
Prying open the flaps, she unveiled a collection of children's books she hadn't read in years. A slow smile spread across her face as she remembered her reluctance and ultimate refusal to leave them behind when she moved out of her mother's apartment. These books had been like friends to her, seeing her through her rocky childhood. When her parents' fighting had seemed intolerable, she'd escaped to the world of Narnia with Peter and Lucy or discovered a Wrinkle in Time with Meg.
Digging through the books, she quickly had her target in hand. The battered covers and dog- eared pages paid tribute to her love for the Anne of Green Gables series. From the first time she'd labored through the stories at seven years old, she'd known Anne was her kindred spirit. Although Lois' life seemed vastly different from the little red-headed orphan's, they shared both a hunger for knowledge and a tendency toward impulsive behavior. And she'd shared Anne's loneliness as well. Through the years, Anne's world was the one Lois had visited most frequently. She'd been not only a friend, but also an inspiration, one of Lois' first role models as a writer.
Before she knew what was happening, Lois had abandoned all pretense of cleaning and she was sitting cross legged on the floor poring over the books. The writing that had once seemed complicated to her young eyes now read easily, sliding over her like a well-memorized song. She skimmed quickly at times, then stopped to read favorite passages, submerging herself in them for a time. The world around her ceased to exist as she was transported back to Prince Edward Island at the turn of the century. She laughed sympathetically as Anne cracked her slate over Gilbert Blythe's head, ruining her first day of school. She'd hated him so much in the beginning, vowing never to forgive him for calling her 'carrots'. Later Lois felt tears well in her eyes when Matthew, the only father Anne had ever known, died of a heart attack. The kind, gentle man who'd sacrificed his pride to appear in the local general store and request a dress with 'puffed sleeves' had seemed the perfect father figure to Lois, whose own father would never have dreamed of taking the time to select a gift for her personally. That's what secretaries were for.
She raced through the books in order, cheering silently when Anne received a scholarship to attend college. By that time she was speaking to Gilbert, and they'd even managed to forge a rather tenuous friendship. Once Gilbert broke down Anne's defenses though, he'd quickly become her confidant and close friend. Though she often snapped at him, it was clear that Anne couldn't imagine a life without him.
Her friendship hadn't been enough for Gilbert though. Lois skimmed the scene where Gilbert started to propose and Anne stopped him, not wanting to have to turn him down. The scene hit too close to home, and Lois skipped ahead. Anne went away to school and nearly married someone else. It was only when she returned home and found that Gilbert was near death that she realized her feelings for him had changed. Crouched beside his bed she'd showed him her first published book, the memoirs he'd inspired with his advice that she write what she knew, rather than concocting fantastical romances. She hadn't received his advice well at first, and he'd incurred her wrath. But after some thought, she'd realized he was correct. He was good for her, mellowing her and bringing her back to reality. Taking his advice, she'd written her first published book and dedicated it to him.
Gilbert had survived the scarlet fever, but his bout with mortality had shaken Anne, and she'd wanted to see him as soon as he was well enough to go for a walk. Lois read slowly now, savoring this sweet scene. Anne had been so blind, unable to see what was right in front of her. She'd been looking for moonlight and roses, when what she'd needed was her best friend.
Suddenly Lois' heart leapt in her chest and she let out a strangled cry as she read the next paragraph.
"Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one's life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one's side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart it's pages betrayed the rhythm and the music; perhaps… perhaps… love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath."
~ Anne of the Island
The book fell from her hands, resting haphazardly in her lap. How had she missed it? It was all right there in front of her. It had been her favorite story of all time, a plot she'd known so well she could quote it in her sleep, and yet she hadn't seen it. She had to make it right. She had to fix things before it was too late. Closing her eyes for a moment and trying to calm her pounding heart, she prayed that it wasn't too late already.
She stood quickly, the book falling from her lap to the floor. She raced for the phone, then stopped, her hand paused above the receiver. This wasn't something she could do over the phone. She grabbed a coat from the Goodwill pile and threw it on over her raggedy outfit. A part of her lamented her dishabille, but this was too important a mission to delay for vanity's sake.
She sped through the streets of Metropolis, darting around cars that she judged too slow and skidded into a parking spot across the street from Clark's apartment. She was on his doorstep before she knew it, her hand raised to knock. The nerves hit then, making her second guess herself. What if Clark wanted nothing to do with her? What if she'd truly blown it this time?
Taking a deep breath, she knocked loudly before she could chicken out. When there was no reply, she tried the door knob and, finding it unlocked, barreled through the front door and down the steps. Clark stopped dead in his tracks on the way to answer the door, no doubt. His mouth hung open and his eyes betrayed his incredulousness as Lois began to speak.
"Oh, Clark. I'm so sorry. I've been such an idiot. What was I thinking? Obviously I wasn't. I just wasn't thinking. That's the only way to explain this. How could I have ever thought I could marry Lex? How could I have ever thought I could have something with Superman that I didn't have with you? I was so blind."
During her speech, they had been drawn together, pulled as if by magnets. They stood face to face only inches apart.
"What are you saying, Lois?" Clark asked, his throat tight.
"I'm saying that I love you," she answered quietly, terrified of his response. "I have for a long time, I just didn't know it. I don't know how I missed it. I should have known. I'm so sorry."
She could see the hesitation in Clark's eyes. He wanted desperately to believe her, but she could tell that a part of him thought this was too good to be true.
"I know I've been a horrible friend," she continued. "I've been unthinking and uncaring. I'd give anything if I could go back and do this all over again, but I can't. Please, Clark…" Her plea went unfinished. There was so much to ask him for. So much to ask him to forgive.
Her eyes held his gaze, and she could see him processing this new information, melding it with the truths he'd held until only a few moments ago.
"Clark?" she whispered.
Then his lips were on hers, covering them and tasting her. He was timid at first, but he grew bolder by the second, claiming her lips with his, burning the moment onto her memory.
He pulled away suddenly and she felt bereft without him, her lips still tingling from where they'd touched his. His hand came up to cup her cheek, his thumb rubbing lightly against her sensitive skin.
"Are you sure? This is what you really want?"
"So sure," she replied, her heart racing as she silently pleaded with him to believe her. She drew his face down to hers for another sweet kiss before pulling away just long enough to whisper, "I don't want sunbursts or marble halls… I just want you."