By Saskia <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: July 2004
Summary: As Lois and Clark try to resume their friendship after the episode the House of Luthor, they get into a big fight, where they both say some harsh things. Can it be solved in time for the soul mates?
Author's notes: This story is dedicated to Kaethel for her birthday, which was a few months ago. I've come to know her as very friendly and helpful (and evil as well <g>), and we seem to share the same tastes in music. She has introduced me to some excellent artists, like Delta Goodrem.
The title of this story comes from one of Delta Goodrem's songs, so that's nothing clever by me. ;) I just love the song and ever since I heard it, it screamed 'Lois and Clark' to me. So I turned it into a story I hope you'll like as well.
There are a few people I like to thank here. Without them, I would *never* have been able to finish this. To Shelley, who always had time for me and my silly questions, who brainstormed with me and who BR this. To Sara, who became my super nagging BR with a constant faith in me. To Qex, for her excellent skills in BRing and putting up with my irregular writing times. To Jana, who helped me out even though she was extremely busy and who constantly made me laugh with her comments. To Carole, who read this before I posted and offered good insights. To Cristina, who read parts of this and gave me some very flattering comments while calling me evil. *shrug* To Roger, who made me realize something, made me write a whole new section and has been very helpful for the rest. To Wendy, who spotted one huge mistake I'd made and graciously came up with the solution. And finally to Tricia, who was my very helpful GE. I couldn't have done it without you guys!
The story takes place around HoL (big surprise if you know Kaethel <g>). I've played a bit with the timelines. Everything here happens within a week, where it took the series a few months. This fitted my idea better.
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, nor has this story been written for profit. All rights belong to DC Comics and Warner Bros. No infringement is intended with this story.
Lost Without You by Delta Goodrem
*I know I can be a little stubborn sometimes
A little righteous and too proud
I just want to find a way to compromise
Cos I believe that we can work things out*
*I thought I had all the answers never giving in
But baby since you've gone I admit that I was wrong*
*All I know is I'm lost without you
I'm not gonna lie
How my going to be strong without you
I need you by my side *
Lois Lane stared at the new Daily Planet globe. It seemed like everything had turned out fine in the end. It was a close call, but better late then never, she supposed. In less than twenty- four hours, her whole world had crumbled around her.
Just the other day, she was getting ready to marry Lex Luthor. All in all, she hadn't been looking forward to that prospect. In front of the mirror she had practiced her new name, and in the end, the only name she liked and cared for had been Kent. Lois Lane Kent. Not Lois Luthor. And that hadn't been the only thing; while she'd walked to the altar, the only man she could think about was Clark. They had shared so many good times since the year they'd met; a couple of kisses, late night chatting over dinner and a movie, good natured arguments and all the wonderful moments as partners at work.
So when the moment of truth had come, she had said no to Lex. How could she possibly marry him if she kept thinking about another man? Not to mention that she had never loved Lex at all. He was available to her *and* he made her feel flattered. But she didn't really know him, and that thought had been a bit frightening. Lex had seemed like a safe bet for the rest of her life; no love, no hurt feelings and no disappointments.
Oh, how wrong she'd been. Clark had proven he'd been right all along. Lex Luthor was evil and had wanted to destroy Superman. She couldn't believe she hadn't seen the real face of Lex through his facade; Lois Lane was and always would be an investigative reporter. This was just her first mistake, and she'd make sure it was her last, too!
After her denial to marry Luthor, everything had moved so fast. She remembered Perry and Inspector Henderson entering and accusing Luthor. Next thing she knew, she was standing in front of the LexCorp building. Luthor was about to jump, and all she'd felt was an overwhelming sense of loneliness. None of her friends were there to comfort her. Everything she had ever cared for was gone.
The feeling had only lasted for a short time. Clark had come rushing to her and he'd gently gathered her in his strong arms for a much-needed hug. His presence had made her very aware of how much she had actually missed him and how much she still needed him. So she'd clung to him, putting her arms around his neck while letting her head rest on his shoulder.
She had expected Clark to welcome her back gladly. But instead, she had felt coldness and something else radiating from him. When she'd looked at his face she'd seen fear in his eyes. He'd quickly covered it, but she'd noticed it.
Why would Clark be afraid of her? It didn't make sense. She hadn't married Luthor, so he, of all people, should be relieved.
There was definitely something wrong with Clark.
Even now he avoided her. He just stood there, eyes locked on the pavement in front of him as if some miracle was happening down there. This just had to end. Not too long ago they'd been best friends; surely they could talk about this. He should know why she had refused Lex and how she really felt about him.
Before she lost her courage, she crossed the several feet to where Clark was standing.
Clark Kent stared at Lois. She seemed very lost in her thoughts. He wondered what was on her mind. Maybe the same thing he'd been obsessing about recently.
Both their lives had changed so much over the past couple of weeks. It wasn't that long ago they'd been partners and friends, and Clark had secretly hoped for more. Ever since she'd stormed in Perry's office during his interview, she had a special place in his heart. Only when it was too late, he'd realized it was true love.
He loved Lois Lane with all his heart.
The problem was that he'd never stood a chance with her. None at all. And there was nothing he could do about it. Lois had made a decision and he just had to accept that somehow. For weeks he had hoped for some tiny little miracle, but since yesterday, that chance was completely gone.
Lois had thrown it all away.
She was now Mrs. Lex Luthor.
Clark involuntarily shuddered as he focused on the street in front of him. He was so lost; he didn't even dare to look at Lois any longer. All his hopes of making Lois his wife someday were gone. Her choice was obvious. She'd rather spend her life with a man she barely knew instead of her best friend.
With his behavior on their last encounters, Clark just knew he'd messed up every chance of restoring even their friendship.
He sighed. If only he'd said something, done something. *Anything* better than this.
Clark turned his attention back to Lois. God, how much he loved her! Knowing she'd never be his hurt even more than the hours he'd spent in Luthor's Kryptonite cage.
Movements around him made him conscious of his surroundings again. They were still in front of the Daily Planet. The best paper in the world, in his opinion, would return. He had a job again; and Lois would be there too. At least he'd see her as a colleague every day. Perhaps they'd even work as partners again, too.
That thought made him feel slightly better, though only for a small fleeting moment. Just looking at her made him feel awkward again. Not only because she knew how he felt, but also for what she'd done yesterday. She had married the man who had made him suffer physically, the man who was his enemy, the man who had nearly succeeded in murdering him.
Not that Lois exactly knew about that part. He'd told her about Superman's suffering. But as of yet, she still didn't know he was her favorite hero. Not that he had any intention of ever letting her in on that secret! Especially not with her married status.
He'd been such a fool. He still couldn't believe how he'd been able to trust Luthor enough to descend into his basement with him. The result was still noticeable on his body and his powers. Countless hours locked inside a cage, with bars sickly glowing Kryptonite green. He'd been lucky that after his last, and first, encounter with the stuff his body could take a bit more of it. It had hurt all right, but he hadn't fainted. And his powers hadn't left him at once either. That had resulted in him getting hold of that key and escaping.
The effects of the Kryptonite weren't as bad as some months ago. Most of his powers had disappeared, but they were slowly returning. His super breath was still with him, invulnerability was back, his hearing was fading in and out, and earlier, he'd crushed his coffee cup at home. So things were definitely looking good; just a few more hours and he'd be completely back flying the skies.
His musings were suddenly interrupted when he spotted Lois walking toward him.
His optimistic thoughts about his powers were immediately replaced by his gloomy mood from earlier. All his hurt was back, stronger than ever.
He couldn't forget that Lois was married now. It didn't matter the police had charged Luthor right after the ceremony, or that he had jumped to his death.
It simply didn't change the facts.
Lois had said yes to the biggest criminal in human history.
There simply was no way he could ever forget that.
What also still puzzled him was how she had failed to see through Luthor's facade until it was too late. She claimed to be such a good investigative reporter, but yet she failed to see what was right in front of her. And quite frankly, she didn't look all that upset about the turn of events!
Could that mean… No, he couldn't let himself think that. It would only make him suffer more. She must have feelings for the man. Why else would she have married Luthor? And if she did love him, he didn't see any reason to be friends again. Sure, he'd miss her. But knowing she loved someone else, having his money at her disposal, he just couldn't take it. How could he even pretend to be her friend if he disagreed so much about her choice?
After all, he had to uphold his reputation as Superman. He couldn't take any risks; if anyone ever found out how closely involved the flying God was with the closest thing on Earth that looked like the devil, it would ruin his reputation. And all because of a woman? Okay, she even was the only woman he would ever love, but would that be worth everything?
The answer came right away: yes, it was worth everything. He loved Lois too much. He just couldn't let her walk out of his life. Sure, it would take a long time before he could forgive and forget this dark period. But all the pain would be worth it in the end. Right?
Why did he always have to make such difficult choices in his already complicated life?
Only one solution was possible here. He had to talk to Lois. The single most thing he dreaded at the moment. He was still too upset with her, and he feared the fight that might occur if he tried to talk to her.
What to do now?
Lois stood a few inches away from Clark. A few minutes had passed already. He didn't seem to acknowledge her. Okay, that wasn't true. She had noticed a few quick glances he'd cast her way. He just chose to ignore her.
It had to mean something was up. Something utterly wrong. Given the past few weeks and knowing how Clark thought — or, more to the point, obsessed — Lois feared their upcoming conversation.
Yes, even though she didn't look forward to it, they just had to talk. Get things in the open. They had the perfect spot to do so. It was a familiar place to both of them, public and yet quiet. No one around to overhear them, so all topics could be discussed.
Then why didn't she say something?
She took a deep breath and mentally prepared herself. Her eyes focused on his head. His gorgeous head: eyes to drown in, a firm jaw line, some locks of hair casually on his forehead and lips ready to be kissed by her. How could she have ever denied loving this man?
Having finally gathered enough guts, she opened her mouth to speak.
"Clark?" She softly called his name, hoping to attract his attention.
When no response came, she repeated his name, a little louder now. Clark still didn't look up or say anything.
Lois took a step closer to him and tentatively laid her hand on his arm. That seemed to do the trick. His eyes flew to her face for a moment before they caught sight of her hand on his arm. An alarmed look crossed his face and he hurriedly shied away from her, and then turned his back to her.
Horrified, Lois looked at Clark's slumping back. Her best friend couldn't stand to have her around.
It was simply all her fault.
She'd driven Clark away by accepting Luthor's proposal. Her assumption of jealousy in earlier weeks wasn't true at all. She now knew that Clark had been right all along about Luthor. It was all so clear now. Clark despised her almost-to-be-husband. And even with her reporting skills, she'd failed to see what was right in front of her. She could slam her head against a wall; she'd been so stupid! It was obvious Clark blamed her for that and even made her pay right now.
Could this be the end of their friendship?
No, she simply refused to believe that. Not when she'd finally realized how much she loved him. Yes, Lois Lane loved Clark Kent. How she'd been able to deny it for so long was a riddle to even herself.
She wasn't ready to give Clark up. Love meant fighting for that other person and that was exactly what she was going to do.
She was going to try it softly one more time. If he still refused to talk to her, she was going to make him talk. After all, she was Lois Lane, star reporter, investigative journalist. She didn't have her nickname 'Mad Dog Lane' for nothing.
With her mind made up and a strengthened feeling of victory, she walked around Clark so she could look him in the eyes again.
"Clark, I know this is far from comfortable, but can we please talk about it?"
She must have called his name a few times before touching him. He was so lost in his thoughts, he hadn't even heard her. Even his super hearing had failed him. So when he felt the warmth of her hand on his arm, he had merely panicked.
He had to keep her at a distance for now. It would be the best for both of them if they took slow steps to resolve their friendship.
His reaction wouldn't help a lot at that, he thought ironically. He was only driving them further apart.
His shoulders fell in a moment of defeat. He could only hope she hadn't walked away from his egoistical behavior yet. He knew he was suffering, but he could only guess at what Lois was going through. He was still her friend, so the least he could do was hear her out. Maybe she was upset and needed comfort. Or she was hurt. Disappointed. Whatever it was, talking couldn't hurt.
Even if it meant a fight to resolve things between them. It had worked that way before. They usually disagreed, fought and got along again in the end. Even with the physical distance between them, it could work. It was worth a shot.
Straightening his back again, he forced his lips to form a smile. When he looked up, Lois was moving around him. So she hadn't gone yet; that had to be a good sign. And she was even speaking to him again!
Yes, they should talk. But it didn't feel right to do it here. Too many memories, painful even. A stroll would be better.
"Let's go for a walk, Lois."
They walked next to each other, not touching. Clark felt the natural desire to wrap his arm around her shoulders, a gesture he'd done many times before. His head intercepted before he could lift his arm. A tiny voice told him it wouldn't be a smart move.
Lois still held the status of Mrs. Luthor. It didn't only seem weird, but it made him feel uncomfortable as well. Here he was, walking with a widow. Where had this world gone to? How had his life been shattered so quickly?
He let out another sigh. It was something he'd done many times lately. Actually, the habit had increased ever since Lois had told him about Luthor's proposal.
He shouldn't think about that now. Lois, he reminded himself. Lois was here and they needed to talk.
He turned his head a bit and looked to his left. Lois looked as beautiful as ever. Yet he could see that she was troubled, too. She had taken the initiative earlier, and he had suggested the walk, so it was his turn to speak up.
With another sigh he gathered some courage. "So, Lois, you wanted to talk?" The coldness in his voice surprised even him. He wanted to talk. But apparently the hurt deep inside him was stronger than he'd anticipated.
Glancing back at Lois, he saw her flinch at the frost in his voice. She didn't even look up when she responded.
"Yes, Clark. I know we've been through a very difficult period. And I've missed you very much. But you seem so distant and unsure around me now. What's the matter? What did I do wrong?"
Her eyes focused on a point on the street just before her feet and her voice turned softer with each word she spoke. He had to listen very carefully to hear her. Without some super hearing he might not even have heard her.
So she realized he was mad at her. How well she knew him. Maybe it was only fair if he told her the whole truth then.
On second thought, that might not help them very much. Well, he had to start somewhere; he would just see where it would take them and decide then how much to tell her. Some things were just better left unsaid. She knew him well enough to guess those things, hopefully. It seemed best to ignore her last question; he wasn't even supposed to have heard it anyway.
"All right. You're right, there's a lot wrong. I don't know for sure where to start. Let's just say it all started when you seriously considered *his* proposal. I can't believe you trusted him enough to even accept him rather than listen to me. I was supposed to be your best friend, Lois! But you choose to ignore me, and my warnings. How do you think that made me feel?"
Clark stopped abruptly and turned to look at Lois. He tried so hard to remain calm, but it was simply impossible. Her actions still made his blood boil. He realized the tone of his voice was quite scary; Lois must be ready to run away for good.
"I'm sorry, Clark. I never meant to hurt you. It's just all so complicated."
With a deep breath, he tried to steady his voice before speaking again. "I know. I just don't understand what you ever saw in that creep. And I feel really bad that you didn't trust my judgment. Maybe I should have told you what I knew, even if it wasn't solid proof, but it might have changed a lot and then we wouldn't be having this conversation right now."
"You're darn right about that! Why didn't you ever tell me about that? We shared everything else. And you made me believe I could trust you while your actions showed I couldn't. Don't you see that's why I couldn't talk to you about all this?"
Clark saw a little spark back in her eyes. She was clearly over the passive part and was ready to kick some sense into him again. Well, two could play that game!
"No, I don't! You knew me! And you also knew I could put aside my own feelings to discuss something. Since you already knew how I felt, we didn't even have to discuss it. But you never even bothered to ask *why* I felt that way!" Clark spat out. Her actions and decisions simply didn't make sense. Even now she seemed inclined to believe her judgment several weeks ago was still for the best.
"Why should I? Yesterday you said you didn't have the proof until recently. And you know I wouldn't have believed it without that proof! I think you're still acting on jealousy! Lex offered me what you never could."
Her voice sounded so shrill and with every word he could feel her anger building up. They were in their biggest fight ever. And right now, it felt like the last one they'd ever have. Their points of view were so far apart, their experiences of the same events so different, he thought they couldn't overcome this.
Her last words suddenly connected with his brain, and he stared at her, shocked by her words. A slight blush crept up her face, as if she regretted what she'd just said. It didn't matter how she felt about it; she had said it out loud, clearly for him to hear. Her message was very clear as well.
Lois compared him to her late husband, and she thought Luthor was better.
Luthor was better than him. How was that possible? Not that long ago she'd offered Superman her love. And now she thought her hero was below the standards of a murdering criminal mastermind? She was even *aware* of the evil her spouse had done.
Anger welled up in him like he'd never felt before. With his blood boiling and his eyes narrowed in anger, he turned to Lois to give her a piece of his mind.
"What the…" Clark started, but he was rudely interrupted.
"Never mind that, Clark. We've got more important things to talk about than Lex himself."
Clark wasn't so easily stopped, though. "Never mind? Lois, you just accused me of being worse than Luthor and now you want me to just forget about that? Luthor's the entire point of this conversation. What were you even insinuating with that comment?" Harshness was allowed now, and he didn't hide his fury and pain one bit.
"He just… I mean… what I was trying to say…" she started. "Oh, never mind. It's not important. I didn't really mean it. Not the way you think I did!"
"Then what did you mean?"
"I don't know! Just forget I ever said it, okay?" She was still mad, but she sounded a bit politer as if she, too, realized this was going the wrong way.
"How can I forget? You think it's a compliment to be compared to that monster, Luthor, and be found wanting?"
This was going nowhere. They both needed to calm down or they'd never speak again. Clark decided to resume walking so he could regain his composure.
Her comment hurt, deeply. Even more since she couldn't explain it. Yet, she had said it. Clark was somewhat proud that he hadn't just walked away but faced the problem. Their problem wasn't solved so far, but they were still talking. Okay, yelling was more accurate, he admitted. But it was a good sign. They just needed to calm down and talk about it rationally. Maybe he could get the answers he wanted then, since this was proving to be a dead end.
With large, quick steps he walked on. After a moment, he heard Lois jogging up behind him.
"What are you doing? Don't walk away from me now, farmboy!"
Clark stopped dead in his tracks. The hurt and anger in her voice triggered his own fury once more. Not that it had really been away yet, but he had been calming down and relaxing. He spun on his heels and he faced her once again. "Whoever said I was doing that?"
"Oh, don't get me started, Clark. Every time we're having a serious conversation about some deeper personal issues, you run out on me with one of your lame excuses. And it looks like you're doing it again! Let me tell you this, buster, if you run away from me now, don't think of ever coming back!"
She said the words so fast that he had trouble following her. At least the topic wasn't Luthor anymore, which Clark supposed was a good thing. To give her words some more strength, she hammered her fist on his chest. Luckily he had his invulnerability back, for her actions scared him. She was withdrawing further and further away. Any minute now, they would become complete strangers to each other, ignoring the friendship they'd once shared.
He grabbed her arm and ushered her to walk beside him. Some pedestrians were looking oddly at them.
"I'm not running away," he hissed at her. "There are just things about me you don't know, and which you'll probably never know."
"Then tell me, Clark. If this is where the bottom of our problems lies, then tell me."
She sounded so sincere, and a lot calmer than before.
"I'm sorry, Lois. I can't tell you. You wouldn't understand. And it isn't going to do this," he moved a hand between them, aiming at an invisible line, "any good."
"*I* wouldn't understand? Try me, Clark!"
He could never leave her challenges unanswered, so the words left his mouth before he could think about them. "Fine, but don't blame me if this backfires on you."
Both of them continued the stroll, neither was looking at the other.
Clark thought really hard about what to say. He could be such a lunkhead. Caught up in the moment of the fight, he had actually promised her to tell her about Superman. While earlier he'd already came to the conclusion not to mention that for a long time to come. Now what?
He wasn't about to return to his earlier decision and tell her, after all. She already was mad at him, but if there was a chance — how small even that might seem right now, to become friends again — he wanted to fight for that. She meant too much to him to give up so easily.
Suddenly his hearing kicked in. At first, all he could hear was Lois's racing heartbeat, which meant she was still very upset. But then he started to hear a lot of other things, including a scream for help. He had no choice; he had to go and help. His conscience would beat him up for the next several days if he didn't at least try to help. And that would be a lot worse than having to leave Lois right now. She couldn't get madder than she already was, right? Now all he had to do was come up with a good excuse, one that wouldn't sound lame.
"I'm really sorry, Lois, but can we finish this conversation another time?"
"I ehh… I have to go to ehm…pick up my lucky pen from the dry cleaners since I left it in my pants. I only just remembered it. Sorry, Lois!"
Before Lois had the chance to reply, Clark dashed off. Turning around the first corner, Clark noticed his speed increasing. Perhaps more of his powers had returned. To be sure, he ducked into the first alley he spotted and made sure to be out of sight. While his hands worked on the buttons of his shirt, Clark started spinning, faster and faster until he was nothing more than a blur of red and blue. One second later, Superman stood in the deserted alley, surprised by the fast return of his powers. There was only one thing left. One test later and Clark flew away to help where he was needed.
Lois stood nailed to the ground. She had been so sure they were going to fix everything. No more lying, just the truth. He had even promised her to tell why he was always leaving in the middle of their emotional conversations. It had been bugging her a lot, more than she dared to admit. So what did he do? He left yet again!
How dare he!
Leaving her, Lois Lane, alone.
What was it he had said again? Oh yeah, lucky pen… could it get any lamer?
In all those weeks with Luthor she'd missed Clark a lot. To the point of feeling hurt. His abandoning her now hurt more than she had ever imagined, even if it was quite predictable. What was she going to do with him?
No, she wasn't going to do anything with him except ignore him and then forget she had ever known him! He wasn't worth her time. Lying was something she simply didn't accept. Previous men in her life had hurt her badly with their lies, and she wouldn't let it happen again.
Besides, he was the one who had accused *her.* She hadn't done anything wrong. It was her life, so she had the right to do with it as it pleased her. Still feeling angry about Cl… no, about the man she didn't know anymore, she resumed walking.
Admittedly, she had made a slip as well. She knew very well Lex hadn't anything to offer that he couldn't. In fact, Clark had far more appealing qualities. Except for that lunkheadedness of his and the ability to disappear whenever he felt like it. She was so fed up with that! When would he learn that talking things out, or merely agreeing with her, worked better?
If he had only told her the whole truth to start with, she would never have accepted Luthor's proposal. And they could have nailed her ex-fiance together. It could have been the Pulitzer she dreamt of. He wouldn't even get rewarded for all his research since he didn't have a paper to print the story in! That was stupid, and so not worth her professional standards. She was right; it was the best thing not to see him anymore.
As she looked up when she made that decision, she saw she had reached the entrance of the park. Spying an ice cream cart, she walked into the park and bought herself some ice-cream with a lot of chocolate in it. It was lovely spring weather; all around her she saw butterflies. She had to suppress a giggle as she thought about how long ago it was since she had enjoyed the sight of butterflies. Lois found an empty bench and settled down on it to enjoy the taste of the rich dark brown chocolate, in the hope it would make her feel better.
Anything would be better than thinking about her former partner. He was history! Just history!
While taking another bite and savoring the wonderful taste, she heard a familiar sound nearby. One look at the sky confirmed her suspicion. Superman was back! He had survived the Kryptonite cage and had his powers back. Her anger slowly disappeared as she thought of her super hero.
Until their last encounter came to her mind.
He had rejected her!
He had humiliated her!
She sighed in resignation. Obviously, all men she felt attracted to were scum. Well, she could do without them! She had done without them for years; it couldn't be so hard now.
Lois stood in front of the mirror in her small bathroom. All she had left to do before returning to work was to apply her make up and fix her hair, and she still had some time left for that. She grabbed her brush and started to untangle her hair while thinking of what lay ahead for the day.
After Franklin Stern had announced, just a couple of days ago, that the Daily Planet would return, everything had happened incredibly fast. It was still going to take a while for the building to be ready, but there had been found a place to print the paper. So today, the 'new' staff would have their first meeting, and hopefully, the Daily Planet would hit the streets once more the next day.
Lois wondered who would be returning. She knew Perry and Jimmy were loyal to the Planet. Jack was back to school with the promise he'd always be welcome with them. Cat had moved on to Los Angeles, where there was always something to gossip about. She was pretty sure about some others: Bill from Sports, Amy from Travel, Janet in Finance… they'd be back as well. Ross and Michael would probably enjoy an early retirement. A few new faces would join their team. With a wry smile Lois suddenly remembered Ralph. She hoped he had found another job, but she guessed that would be too much good fortune.
For now, the Daily Planet would be back in business with just a few pages. Staff was still small. The important thing was that the best paper in town returned with major scoops. Metropolis deserved to know what was going on, and not just the rubbish the Star talked about lately. Many of their stories about Lex couldn't be true. Like he was Superman's father. Or had a harem somewhere. Or that there were Luthor clones. But today's story topped it all: 'Luthor and Elvis alive in Brisbane.'
Her reflection in the mirror showed her how stupid she looked with her hair completely flat. Frantically, she pulled some hairs over to create another parting. If only it were *his* fingers threading through her hair…
Him, the person she hadn't mentioned yet. The one person she shouldn't be thinking about. The man who didn't deserve her attention.
Her former partner.
Once her best friend.
Still the man she loved.
He'd been pushed to the back of her mind while rebuilding her life after her 'wedding'; he was the last thing she needed. Luckily, she hadn't heard from or seen him since that awful fight. It was only a couple of days ago, but every time she closed her eyes, she saw Clark running away from her. The images haunted her, even now.
No matter what she did, he was always on her mind. And it wasn't because she hadn't tried her best to hate him and forget he existed. His behavior had been so appalling and upsetting that in her mind she was ready to send him to the moon and back.
It was just her heart that kept standing in the way. Everything in her apartment reminded her of him. He'd sat on her couch. He'd been in her kitchen. He had watched TV with her. He had stood in front of her window, staring outside. She even had stuff from him! Like the teddy bear he'd won for her at the Smallville Corn Festival. So everywhere she looked, she imagined him there. Smiling at her. Hugging her. Even kissing her! She was just totally in love with him.
But his behavior was unforgivable. He had lied to her. He had kept walking away from her. And he had even refused to tell her what was going on. She really had to do better and forget about him.
She was finally satisfied about the way her hair looked. Quickly, she grabbed her mascara. Would he think she looked good today? The thought just entered her mind and scared her so much that her cheek now looked black.
Grabbing a towel she tried to rub it away. The result was only worse. Everything was black and red from the scrubbing now. It was the last thing she needed if she wanted to arrive at the meeting on time. With a heavy sigh, she bent down and looked in her cabinet for the make up remover. This was all his fault too!
The next few minutes she spent carefully reapplying her make up. When it came to lipstick, she wondered what color to use. She didn't like dark, striking colors like fire red. On the other hand… Clark might like it.
With a little bow, that lipstick ended in the waste paper basket. She would not wear anything to impress him. Instead, she chose a nice soft pink color.
When she surveyed her entire look in the mirror, she was satisfied with what she saw. Professional, cool and yet very feminine. Yes, she, Lois Lane, was back in action and the entire world would know!
Even Clark Kent, a tiny voice in her head said.
Dangit! Couldn't she do anything without *thinking* of that man?
Maybe it was time she admitted it to herself. Without him, she was simply lost. After all, who was she thinking of when walking down the aisle to marry Lex? Only one answer: Clark. She had stopped the wedding because of him.
Maybe she should give him another chance, but he sure would have to pay for it first! No one made a fool out of Lois Lane; most certainly not Clark Kent, a hick from Nowheresville. Groveling was what he should do, begging her for forgiveness. So she would play it cool and distant and act as if she was still mad.
Of *course* she was still mad. He had said some unforgivable things and she expected a huge apology for that.
<Luthor offered me what you never could.>
She couldn't believe she had said that. He would expect an explanation for that too. It would help if she knew *why* she'd said it. There was simply nothing Luthor could offer her that Clark hadn't already given to her. She hadn't wanted Luthor for his money or power. The only thing Luthor had wanted to do was take away her independence and make her a house slave. Something to hang on his arm and display.
What had been appealing about Luthor was the chance to see the world and all the unopened doors suddenly opening for her. Yes, he had offered her the world.
And that was something Clark never could.
Superman could. That tiny voice in her head was back and she got a dreamy look on her face with the mention of that name. Her hero.
Wait a minute… he had humiliated her too, the last time she spoke to him!
Men, they just couldn't do any good!
She glanced and the clock and couldn't believe how much time had passed already. Quickly, she grabbed her purse and jacket and flew out the door. If traffic wasn't too busy, she could still make it on time…
All thought on Clark and Superman forgotten, she ran down the stairs toward her car. Even her good intentions regarding Clark flew out the window. Mad Dog Lane was back and the world could read all about it in the next edition of the Daily Planet!
Lois arrived at Denny's a little later than planned. The meeting had already started. Obviously, they hadn't wanted to wait for her. How could they start the meeting without her? She was the best reporter the Planet had at the moment, and Perry knew it as well as the others. So why start? She was only fifteen minutes late!
It wasn't even her fault!
She'd left on time, granted, only barely. But then she got stuck in traffic. First, there was the accident she had to bypass. Those two cars had blocked the entire intersection. The police led everyone via Madison Avenue and West Street back to Fifth Avenue. Every fool knew that they were extremely busy streets at this hour. So it had taken her ten extra minutes. Then, some guy thought it was funny to let his car break down at the traffic lights! Of course in the same lane she was in. Before she could go around in it, twenty minutes went by. So she was fifteen minutes late. So what?
Better late than never, she figured. She approached the group silently. They didn't *have* to know she was late.
Before she grabbed a chair, she listened to what was going on.
"So that's how things will be for the next few weeks. We'll be back at the Planet in about three weeks. On to the normal scheduled meeting."
See, she hadn't missed anything yet. Perry had just explained what was going on with the Planet. One of those rookies could get her up to date later.
"We have a paper to fill. So what do you have, Clark?"
Why did he start with Clark? Was he going in order of importance? Not that Clark would have much anyway, barring maybe something about Superman. He seemed to be so good at that.
"Luthor is still the hottest subject in town, so I think we have to follow that one up," Clark stated.
Of course. Duh! What did he think she was going to do?
"There's still a lot that hasn't been published anywhere yet, so I'm on that. And as more dirt is coming up, there's always news on him. If needs be, I can also write an analysis or op-ed piece on him."
He what? How could he steal her story? She'd better get that out of his head right this instant.
"As a matter of fact, that's my story, Kent," Lois said while she walked to the still vacant seat.
If he was playing it like that, she wasn't going to give him an inch. Forget about her earlier resolutions. They could wait. This was far more important!
"Ah, so you finally decided to join us, Lois," Perry greeted her.
"Yes, and not a minute too late, I see," she exclaimed. "Luthor's my story. So back off, Kent!" She slammed with her flat hand on the table for effect and the noise resounded around the room.
"Your story, Lois? When were you ever *on* it?" Clark replied. The expression on his face told her he was serious and he wouldn't give up without a fight.
"Have you suddenly forgotten who had all the insights? Who was close to him? Who knew him better than anyone here?" She knew those weren't the best arguments she could have come up with, but she figured this would shut him up. Her former partner didn't argue with her when it came to a story! He always let her win, let her have her way. The best way.
Since they weren't partners any longer, they were now competitors. Both fighting for the same story. The scoop of the century, in this case. And Lois Lane would get it and finally win that Pulitzer!
He already seemed taken aback, remaining silent. Although, shocked was more the word to describe Clark now.
"Are you implying that since you married the man and never even saw all the evil that he was, you know what's for the best here? For all we know, you were in on it with him," Clark finally replied, eyeing her skeptically.
She closed her eyes a bit before retorting. "How dare you accuse me of such a thing?" She stood up to yell something back at him. All of her earlier resolutions forgotten, Lois was now furious with Clark. That was twice he was accusing her of things in one week. What had ever happened to the mild mannered reporter she had grown to like over the past year? He was supposed to accept what she said and either turn the other way or work with her. Not *against* her.
And what was all his talking about her being married? He had hinted at that during their fight, too. She was as single as possible. To whom did he think she was married then? Wait a minute… surely he didn't think she was married to Lex, right? How could he think so? It had been all over the media; surely he must know she had said no! Or was he being deliberately insulting to hurt her more?
She really… wait, was that someone calling her name? Turning her head, she tried to locate the person daring to use her name. Oops. Perry. Questioningly, she looked him in the eye, daring him to let her down. He always backed her up, so why would he do otherwise now?
"Great, I've finally got your attention, Lois. Now, as I understand it, I'm still the Editor here, which means I make the calls. Sit down and…"
"Sit down, Lois and we'll discuss the subject of Luthor later. For the rest of you, all ideas regarding the former philanthropist are off topic for the time being. Understood?"
Perry's voice of authority left her no other option than to sit down. She took a chair as far away from Clark as possible. Out of the corner of her eye she could observe him a bit now, while still pretending to listen to Perry.
Clark didn't look at her once; he kept his eyes stubbornly on Perry. If she didn't know him any better, she'd think he only cared for *his* story; but did she really know him after all? Ever since she had accepted Lex's proposal, he had acted weird, defensive and downright hostile. Could he really be that different from the man he had shown her? The man she had started to love?
Lois couldn't show any signs of weakness, she realized suddenly. She had come in here, acting like nothing at all had happened; as if she was still Mad Dog Lane, the best Planet reporter who never made any mistakes and always saw through facades. She had better keep up that pretence for the rest of her coworkers. So she turned her head to Perry, trying to pay at least some attention. Maybe she could give some snippy comments here and there.
The meeting went by without any further incidents. There was enough to write about in Metropolis, especially with reporters who were all eager to show their best. Perry hadn't asked either Clark or her for their news. That didn't bode well. One of them would get a stupid story like a dog show. Lois would make sure it wasn't her! Lex was her story; she had all the inside information and contacts. Perry couldn't get past that.
The smell of coffee made its way over to her. Everyone around her had a cup in front of them. She could use some coffee as well. Too bad the coffee pot was too far away from her, she didn't dare to draw the attention to herself if she got up to just get coffee. How much longer now? The meeting was going too slow for her liking — especially with the lack of coffee.
Finally, it was time for the last reporter to tell about his plans. Unfortunately, it had to be Ralph. Of course, who else, Lois groaned inwardly.
"So Ralph, what do you have?" Perry asked.
"One of my sources told me yesterday the mayor is having an affair."
That got some attention; all heads turned to the speaker. Ralph had an arrogant grin on his face, smug with the sudden interest.
"Tell me more, Ralph. It's not the first time you've claimed something that."
"Okay. So this source of mine, who will stay anonymous, called me last night. He said he heard from a friend who saw the mayor at a 'massage parlor'. It happened a few days ago, but he said he had heard it before. The fellow really looks like the mayor, so it has to be him. And with his campaign to clean the city from the sex industry, I think there's a story here." He broke off, looking around him and then glanced back at Perry, adding "I always knew the mayor was into this stuff," as an afterthought.
"Is this like all the previous times you've been proved wrong, Ralph?" One of the colleagues joked, followed by laughter all around.
"I want facts. *Facts*, Ralph. Unless you can give me hard proof, this will not be printed. So go get me the evidence. And while you're at it, go cover the bird show in the Met Centre. I expect a decent story by the end of the day. Got it?" Perry barked.
With a nod and an angry look he agreed. Lois had to stifle a giggle. She had never liked the fellow and it always amused her to see him humiliated by Perry. Why he still worked for the Planet was beyond her.
The important part was about to start now. An excited Lois shifted in her seat, waiting for Perry to finally address her.
"Everybody except Lane and Kent knows what to do now, correct?"
A general murmur rose from the group of reporters. Lois detected anticipation on some of the faces. They were all expecting an argument, and not a small one even. They were right; Lois wasn't going to give up without a huge fight. The story was hers, and hers alone!
"Good." Perry looked to both reporters currently without a story, slowly observing them while leaving an uncomfortable silence. Lois didn't like it and slipped down in her chair, mentally preparing for what was to come. Perry must have a plan, and it looked like something she wouldn't agree with.
"Except Lane and Kent," Perry addressed everyone, "is there anyone who has something to write about Lex Luthor?" Lois looked around and saw with satisfaction that no one looked at Perry or indicated they wanted to start an argument. One point for Lois!
Clark had remained silent during the entire staff meeting so far, except to answer Perry's question and Lois's accusations. She had put his mind to work; she had come in late without any explanation to her delay, and immediately, she had started an argument with him.
He had noticed her entering; there was no way he couldn't pick up her heartbeat, even among all his colleagues and friends. So he had given her a quick glance. Her appearance had shocked him. She looked sad, but determined. The clothes she wore looked okay, but he knew she had other clothes that suited her far better. Her hair seemed to have been done in a hurry, or had she done it in the car again? Her cheeks looked quite red, like it was cold outside. He knew that wasn't true, it was May in Metropolis, with normal temperatures. You could wear shorts if you wanted to, but for Clark, that was still a bit early. Why would Lois look flushed then? She hadn't been crying, had she?
His heart cringed at the thought of that. He couldn't stand it if she cried. To make matters worse, this time he hadn't been there to comfort her.
Although… she might have been mourning her late husband. There was a lot he was prepared to do for her, but that was one step too far.
Ever since she had accepted that proposal, he had been in a state of devastation. With barely enough strength, he had managed to keep going, to keep fighting. But it had all been too late. Not enough. He had failed. He hadn't just lost Lois, but also an essential part of himself. The past couple of days he had been out of the loop. Not even capable of saving the day and rescuing people in need.
Sure, Superman was back, but he simply couldn't show the world what a fool he was and how horrible he looked.
Who would have ever expected that the Man of Steel needed comfort?
The staying home had slowly driven him mad. There wasn't anything he could do. And there were only so many times he could clean his apartment from top to bottom. He had been lost in his wallowing over Lois. Later, his conscience had made him feel guilty about not being out there as Superman then.
But he hadn't. He just couldn't.
It was always Lois.
He had lost her.
Without her, he had no idea what his life was worth or what he would do. His life was quite meaningless without her.
Luckily, the winds had changed and brought her back to him. So what did he do? He blew his second chance with her as well. She was *never* going to see him the way he wanted her to. Their last conversation proved so.
It had been an ugly fight. They had both said a lot of nasty stuff. On top of it all, he had left in the middle of it. The pain in Lois's voice still haunted him. He had really hurt her then. And he had been sure for days they would never speak to each other again. Except maybe the occasional exchange at work.
He hadn't liked the way his thoughts had turned, so finally, he had left for Smallville. He had complained, whined and talked. Mostly, he had talked. Martha and Jonathan had been listening and had silently given him the support he needed. Of course, his mother had given him some advice. He hadn't expected anything else from her.
So, according to her, he was a lunkhead who forgot to see the real situation. Not everything was Lois's fault. He was no saint either, with his appalling behavior. And didn't he still love her?
Right. She had a point. No matter what, he loved Lois Lane.
So last night, he had made some decisions.
As he loved Lois, he couldn't bear to lose her, not even as a friend. He simply cared too much about her. It would break his already fragile heart if he lost Lois completely.
He still didn't understand why she had married Luthor. Not to mention all the things she had accused him of. There had to have been an explanation for her behavior. He had finally come to the conclusion she was not herself. A result from marrying and almost instantly becoming a widow. And she had pulled him with her, unconsciously.
In order to get her to talk to him again, he had to apologize. He really wanted to. He did regret some of his hurtful comments in her direction. A lot of them had been born in his state of fury. It was just that the courage to call her or knock on her door had failed him. So he had decided to wait till this day. She *had* to come. With other people around, it would be easier to talk.
He hadn't dared to go to her as Superman either. Their last talk had been awkward and full of high-charged emotions and pain. It had been rather embarrassing. Besides, he wasn't sure what to tell her. That he was sorry? No, that didn't sound right. It would look weird for Superman to do so. The correct policy of superheroes wasn't fully known to him yet. He had to see about it when the time was right.
The fact that he had lied to her was more worrisome. He loved her. He wanted a relationship with her. But it all seemed so far away now… Not that he thought dating Lois as Superman was helpful. He figured she'd sooner die in the hands of some criminals than endure his presence.
Maybe he had to tell Lois about it as Clark?
No! Definitively not a good idea. That would include revealing his secret. He wasn't ready for that. And the timing was totally wrong for that. Mrs. Luthor who knew the secret? He wouldn't give Luthor that satisfaction.
He just had to talk to her and work things out.
So here he was today, facing Lois. And what happened? He was immediately back to fighting with her. Okay, so this time it wasn't completely his fault. She wanted what was rightfully his.
He had spent weeks on gathering evidence against Luthor. Due to a collaboration with Perry, Jimmy and Jack, he had brought Luthor down. Too bad his arch-nemesis had jumped to his death. He deserved to spend the rest of his life rotting away in a low, filthy, cold, out of the way prison. Preferably on the moon.
Much of the evidence he had gathered hadn't been published anywhere. Perry wanted him to write that down for the Planet. It would make a nice lead story on the front page. 'Luthor responsible for last year's attacks.' Or 'The crime life of Lex Luthor.' He could always dig up more information now. The access was easier since the man wasn't there to protect it any longer.
So how could Lois see this as her story? Only because she was Luthor's widow and might have some nice inside sources? Pretty ridiculous if you asked him. Not objective enough for the Planet.
So what was she going for?
She hadn't opened her mouth once during the rest of the meeting. She had just looked stiffly at Perry, not paying much attention. The jokes at Ralph's expense had lit up her face, but only temporarily. She was as defensive as the first few weeks he'd known her.
Well, he was about to go find out what she had in mind. He'd better prepare to fight for his story, because knowing Lois, she wasn't about to give up easily. Weird; as colleagues, they shouldn't have to do this. But Lois just brought his competitive side out. The part his mom called a lunkhead.
This was strictly business. Their talk would come later. They *were* going to solve their personal mess! In the mean time, all he had to do was *not* lose his temper again.
"Then I end the meeting here. Have fun today and bring the best stories you've got!" Perry told the entire group, breaking through Clark's thoughts.
Clark stared at him in surprise. Surely this couldn't be the end? Not without having discussed Luthor and who got the story!
"Lois, Clark, please wait just a minute," Perry addressed them, then.
After the room had cleared out, it was suddenly very silent. Clark wondered what Perry's plan was. At least it all happened in private now, so whatever was said or discussed wouldn't be the next topic for all the gossipers.
"No need to have a fight over this. I'm assuming you'll both behave." When they both said nothing, Perry continued. "Lois, tell me what you have, then."
Perry let Lois go first. It was only natural; the Chief was already aware of Clark's plans since they had been working together the last few weeks.
"Thank you," she said with what looked like a smug smile.
Clark watched Lois as she glanced around her with a fixated look on her face. When her eyes met his, Clark could swear that if looks could kill, he wouldn't be alive any longer. He looked back at her, not being all that friendly either.
"I have been thinking about this the last couple of days," Lois started. "Most of the news about Luthor's jump to death and the fall of his empire has been written."
Both Perry and Clark nodded, even though it was still unclear where Lois was headed.
"But an investigation into the sudden disappearance of Luthor's corpse from the morgue is something I haven't seen yet."
"Yeah, but…" Clark interfered, wanting some participation.
"Let her finish, Clark." Perry fixed him with a stern glare. His boss must have something in mind. "After Lois is done, you can respond."
Lois gave Perry an appreciative smile before continuing. "So that's something I want to look into. Next, it's time to start talking to some of Luthor's business associates. I'm curious to hear what they think of it all and if they ever suspected anything."
Clark was about to interrupt again, but thought the better of it. He'd tell Lois what he thought of that idea later. Even though she had some good suggestions, she was not the person to work on this problem! Stay calm, he reminded himself, just stay calm. "I was also hoping to run into Superman and ask about his opinion. He had to have known. So why did he remain silent? Why didn't he tell anyone, not even the cops, about his suspicions?"
"Lois, what do you even know about Superman? What makes you think he *could* tell anyone? Even if he had suspicions in the first place!" Clark said, immediately jumping to defense. He couldn't believe what she'd just said! What did Superman have to do with this? And how on Earth had she come to such a ridiculous conclusion?
Maybe it wasn't so ridiculous. After all, he had often reached the point of talking to Lois, in his Superman guise, about everything he knew, only to get scared and reconsider at the last moment. It still didn't make her accusations right, though!
"Hold your horses right there, Kent. I said to let Lois finish!" Perry slammed his fist on the table to put more emphasis behind his already roaring voice.
"Fine," he replied sheepishly before crossing his arms in front of his chest and slumping back in his chair.
Perry turned back to Lois. "Was that all, or is there more?"
"I think that'll do for now, Perry. It should keep me busy for a few days."
"You're right about that. Now, Clark, what are your plans about this topic?"
"About the same," he started to explain.
"Ha!" Of course, that was Lois, who was immediately silenced by Perry.
Clark sat up straight again and laid his hands down on the table, ready to stand up if he needed to.
"Except that I'm not interested in Superman's response," he continued. "However, I do want to find out everything that can be nailed to Luthor's coffin. So far, we know of the Planet's bombing, space station Prometheus, the heat-wave and the Toasters. I have strong leads that say Luthor's responsible for Mentamide 5, Miranda's pheromone and that Superman clone. I suspect there's a whole lot more and I'm ready to go uncover it," he ended his speech.
He glanced back at Lois, waiting for a sharp reply. She looked shocked, however. Didn't she know? Quite possibly, he suddenly thought. She was Luthor's wife after all. He couldn't imagine what sort of dirt had been published about her. He hadn't read a paper or watched TV in order to avoid that. He didn't want to remember how he had lost her. How much that had hurt him. So if he had avoided it, he figured, so could she.
He shrugged and returned his attention to the conversation. Now was not the moment to miss important information or possible jibes at his expense.
Lois seemed to quickly recover and started asking questions. "What proof do you have for that? And why do you want to let Superman off the hook? Do you have something to hide?"
Hide? What in the world could he be hiding?
"I'm not hiding anything. And I have a lot of proof back at my apartment." He stood up abruptly and let his chair fall to the ground. "I have *investigated* Luthor already. Remember? That's how the police was able to storm your wedding — with evidence I'd collected." His voice just dripped with sarcasm, exposing his rapidly building anger.
<Calm! Stay calm!>
He tried; he really tried to listen to reason and not start barking again. But she was accusing him and doubting his integrity as a reporter. She should know better. Just as she should know she was too close to the subject to be objective.
<How close or objective are you then?>
Darn that subconscious of his! Clark ignored the voice in his head and focused on Lois again. They had both marched up to Perry and were only separated by a table now.
"But you weren't there. Why was that? Were you scared?" She looked triumphant with her hands on her hips.
"What?!?" Clark blinked. What was she trying to do here?
"You heard me."
"I am not and never was scared of that man! You can't blame me, just because you couldn't see what Luthor was really after!"
For a moment, she looked taken aback, but she quickly recovered. "How could I? No one told me about it! He had everyone fooled, Kent!"
"And you call yourself Metropolis's best investigative reporter?"
"That's enough!" Perry barked. "Stop it right there, you two."
Perry's commanding voice brought Clark back to the present. His boss looked gobsmacked — rightly so, even. This was so unlike him; he couldn't remember ever having been so involved in a discussion and getting so low. What was going on with him?
He was arguing with Lois — again. This time it wasn't even a professional fight. What was he thinking? Why had he lost his temper again while he knew he had to stay calm? Could he really be so upset that she had chosen a criminal over her best friend?
Then there were also all the hurtful comments he'd just flung at her. Now they were *never* going to make up. He didn't deserve her if he was going to act like such a jerk around her. Maybe it was for the best she was tied to another man — even if that man was dead.
He walked back to his place and glanced back at Lois. She looked even more flushed than when she'd entered. This time, though, it came from their heated argument. She looked a bit startled, too; as if she was somewhat disorientated.
They had both just focused on the other and had completely forgotten about Perry. This was not how his mother had raised him! Clark just couldn't believe what was happening to him. He loved her, after all! Maybe that was the entire point of it…
He turned his head to Perry. If it hadn't been for him, he'd still have been yelling at Lois.
"Thank you for acknowledging me," Perry said sarcastically without leaving room for replies. "I like the ideas the both of you have. I expect to see some stories by the end of the day!"
"End of the day? But…" Lois sputtered.
"Yes, end of the day. I expect you to work as partners again. One way or the other, you two will have to find a way to do that. I don't care how. I just want the copies by 10pm tonight!"
"But Perry!" Lois and Clark spoke at once.
Surely he didn't expect them to actually work together? Clark was certain that would be a disaster. Right now, they couldn't even agree on anything. They took every chance they had to argue.
"Last time I checked, I still gave the orders around here. Now, it looks to me like you two have some personal issues. I want you both to behave like professionals and work together. Like you used to. Do I make myself clear?"
There was no arguing with Perry. Even Lois looked defeated. She was mad as well. Well, so was he! This wasn't his decision. They just had to make the best of it.
Perry stood up and without a word, he left the room to Lois and Clark. Lois had walked over to the coffee table and was busy pouring herself a cup.
Clark grabbed his stuff — two pens, some scattered around pages Perry had handed out, and his notebook — and pushed it in his old leather bag. He took a few deep breaths and prepared himself mentally to confront Lois up close again, this time staying calm and friendly.
Getting up slowly, he had to practically drag himself to the coffee table. Lois acknowledged his presence with an angry glare.
Between a few gulps of coffee, she said, "Let's take this private so we can discuss," the last word was said with sarcasm, "it and figure out where to go next."
"Suits me," he replied. "Your place or mine?" he offered as a temporary peace.
"Mine, since I'm driving."
"Fine," Clark answered. He let her go first while he followed her out of the restaurant to where she had left her Jeep.
Lois turned off the engine as she parked her jeep in front of her apartment building.
During the entire ride, there had been an uncomfortable silence. She really didn't want to speak to Clark, but on the other hand, she did. Right now, she didn't even know what to say to him, let alone know why she had invited him here after everything that had happened.
Okay, she did know why they were at her apartment. They needed to talk, seriously, about a lot of things. Especially if after that they also wanted to get work done and get Perry his front page article.
Right now, though, they had to focus on their differences. She knew he had a wrong idea about her, so if he just knew the truth, she hoped they could talk about the rest. She knew about his feelings regarding Luthor, so in a way, she knew why he was so resentful to her. It just had to end.
Clark had changed during the last couple of months, however. Ever since she had accepted Luthor's proposal, he had refused to work with her and talk to her. Despite her resolutions in the morning, she had acted hostile toward him again. She really couldn't help it!
They just didn't seem to be able to talk without stabbing and hurting. Well, she would try to do better now! If they didn't manage to talk things out now, she was afraid she'd lose him forever. That just couldn't happen. Not now! Now when she had finally figured out who she really loved.
They just needed to talk. About a lot of things. Surely they could work it out? Like they always used to? They'd had fights before. None of them had been as serious as this, but Lois was determined to make it work.
It just had to!
What would happen if he refused to talk? She couldn't let herself think about that option. It would kill her if Clark refused to talk to her now. Especially after she had said no to Lex in front of the altar and then minutes later her former fiance jumped of the highest building in Metropolis.
She needed Clark now. To get over that disaster. To restore their friendship. To restore her faith in humankind. To be loved.
She really needed Clark's love and support now.
Never in her life had she been loved before. Sure, her parents loved her. They just had a weird way of showing it. And she knew Lucy loved her, but her sister was off in California chasing boys. That sort of love wasn't what she was looking for, though. She wanted to love and be loved by the opposite sex. The unconditional sort of love; no matter what she did, the man would stay with her. While she had been involved with men before, she had never loved them. Not even Lex. Especially not Lex!
Lex was just there, a chance to see what her life could be like. Since her heart wasn't involved, it was safe. She couldn't be hurt. Well, that wasn't really true. She was in pain now — emotional pain. But that was all because of Clark and their issues.
The man who was following her to her apartment right now.
The man she was supposed to work with.
The man who refused to talk to her.
The man who had lied to her.
The man she was hopelessly in love with.
*That* Clark Kent.
All she needed to do was to stay calm.
<Don't get angry again,> she told herself sharply. <It won't help and it will probably be the final straw to pull him from you.>
At least she was in a friendly environment. In her apartment, she felt safe. She knew the way around and there would be ways to escape temporarily if she did threaten to end up getting angry again. No, not angry again; she would stay *calm* and she wouldn't *yell*.
They had arrived at her apartment. Lois reached in her bag for the keys. "Where did they go?" she muttered under her breath.
"Try the pocket of your jacket," she heard Clark say.
Giving him a quick glance — he stood against the other wall, hands in the pockets of his trousers, one foot resting on the wall, and the other on the floor with his eyes focused on the floor — she checked her pocket and indeed found the keys there.
She could swear she hadn't put the keys in there when she'd left the apartment earlier. How had they ended up in there, then? Maybe she had been too pre-occupied and too focused on getting to the meeting on time to have noticed.
The three locks were opened quickly, and the door swung wide open, revealing her living room. It was good fortune now that Lois had cleaned her place a bit the other day. At least it was presentable now, well, at least good enough for Clark to see. He had seen her place worse than this, so that shouldn't be a problem.
Why was she suddenly worrying about small things like that? Half an hour ago they had been arguing! Arguing about what probably was the most important subject in their life.
She didn't have much time to think it through any more. Clark walked past her and she closed the door behind him. She followed him into her living room.
Panic suddenly kicked in. Now what were they supposed to do and say? Should she offer him some coffee? Should they just get down to business?
Maybe something to drink first.
Yeah, that sounded like a plan. It would give her some extra time anyhow.
"Do you want something to drink?" she asked.
"No, thanks. Maybe later."
So nothing to drink and no extra time for her. At least Clark sounded more relaxed and open. That had to be an improvement. Now what should she say?
Clark walked to her sofa and sat down with his back to her bedroom. He faced her directly.
"Yeah, do sit down," Lois muttered under her breath while she made a wave with her right hand.
Clark looked up sharply. Had he heard her? No, it wasn't possible, was it? She hadn't really said that loud enough for him to hear.
Lois approached a chair — the one she had bought the other day on impulse to do something else besides thinking of her failed wedding or Clark; the one she could sit on without being uncomfortable. She leaned back on it and stared at the handsome but depressed-looking man in front of her.
"Let's just get down to business, Lois. The sooner we're done here, the sooner I'm out of your sight again," Clark said.
"Who said I didn't want you around me?" Lois asked surprised.
"Are you saying you want me around?" Clark sounded even more astonished than she felt. Where had he got that impression?
So she had been hostile and rude and whatever more. But she needed Clark, of that she was sure.
"Yes, Clark, I need you," she replied. To add in a whisper, "Now more than ever."
"How? How could you possibly need me?" The sharpness and defense were back.
"I missed you, Clark. Terribly," she admitted.
"*You* missed *me*?"
"Yes. Is that so hard to believe?"
"Hard to believe? Lois, you never gave me any clues that made me think so. You ignored all my warnings, you refused to listen to me and you chose not to see what was right in front of you. Where in all that was the evidence that you did, indeed, need me?" At that point he stood up and started to pace around the coffee table. "Instead, you chose Luthor. The man who killed many innocent people, who didn't think twice about destroying the Planet because it fit with his plans and who never even cared about you. That was your choice. So how on Earth can you say you have missed me? You put me off. If you did miss me, you could have called me more often or visited me, but you didn't."
Lois noticed the change in his voice. He had started out quite normally, but the more he said, the more bitter he sounded.
Clark suddenly stopped in front of her and looked into her eyes. She saw the pain in there; he didn't even try to hide it. She had really hurt him with her actions. How had she ever let it come this far? Before she could find out, Clark continued.
"You made your decision and that was very clear to me. I just want to know where I stand now, Mrs. Luthor," he finished in an ice-cold voice.
Lois blinked. Mrs. Luthor? Where ever had he got that idea from? Didn't he know she had never married Lex? That she had actually said no to him?
"Never mind, Lois. I've figured it out. We'll work together now, but after that, we'll just have to convince Perry to let us work separately."
"It's okay. I know it's what you want and I'll deal with it." He sounded so lost and full of pain; she had to fix this!
"Clark! Listen to me! That's not what I want at all. And I am *not* Mrs. Luthor!"
"I never married him. When it was time for me to say 'I do', I couldn't go through with it. That's what I told Lex. He knew it. How could I marry him when I loved someone else?"
Clark stared at her in disbelief. She knew it must be hard for him to believe what she'd just admitted, but surely he must be relieved about it as well.
He just stood there and stared at her. It was driving her nuts. Had he lost his voice?
After what seemed like an eternity, she walked around the chair and laid a hand on his shoulder. "Clark?" she asked tentatively, not sure if he was still with her.
He blinked with his eyes at the same time he quickly shook his head a few times.
"I'm sorry, Lois. It's just hard to believe what you just said." His voice sounded softer and far friendlier than before. Maybe there was hope after all. "You're really not married to him?" he asked incredulous.
"It's true," she told him while tilting her head to look at his face. "I stopped the wedding at the last minute. I simply couldn't marry him."
All of the sudden, Clark's face lit up with one of his huge smiles. His arms came around her, and he enveloped her in hug. Lois immediately hugged him back, enjoying the warmth and loving feelings she got from him. It had been a long time since they had had such a contact, and Lois realized she had missed it as well as everything else about Clark.
After a few moments, Clark broke the contact. He stared at her and she couldn't interpret what he was feeling.
"I'm sorry, Lois, I…" he started.
She gave him an encouraging smile while she cut him short. "It's okay, Clark. I'm glad you took the initiative."
"You are?" he asked surprised.
Lois nodded while grabbing his arm. She pulled him with her to the sofa and sat down. "I think we should talk. Really talk."
"Yeah. Maybe you can start by telling why you didn't marry Luthor," Clark started gently.
"Okay." Lois took a breath before she continued. "In the weeks leading up to the wedding, I missed you. Terribly!" She turned a bit to look at Clark and his reaction, but he just nodded and smiled. "Then, on the wedding day, I started to think. And I realized it wasn't Luthor I loved, but still I continued. I mean, I didn't want to stop the wedding at such a moment just because I had cold feet. It's normal." She stopped for a moment again. Now came the crucial part and she grabbed Clark's hand for support. "When I walked down the aisle, images popped in my head. I remembered all the fun moments and good times we had shared. Only then did I realize who I really wanted to be with. So I said no to Lex."
As she ended her story of that day, she looked hopefully at Clark. She was so honest and open now; if only Clark would understand it and hopefully, feel the same way about her.
"You did all that because of me?" Clark asked incredulous.
"Yeah," she replied in a small voice, afraid to get hurt.
"So you don't want a life with the third richest man in the world, who could offer anything you ever wanted and open doors that normally would remain closed for you?"
"No, Clark. I'm not looking for that."
"Okay, so what do you want?"
A silence fell. Lois hadn't let go of his hand, and she felt him squeeze a bit for reassurance.
"You," she said, barely louder than a whisper. Trying again, this time a bit louder, "It's you I want."
His arms came around her again and she rested her head on his shoulder.
From far away, she could hear Clark say something. "Oh, Lois, you have no idea what it means to me to hear you say that." A kiss landed on top of her head, she could feel it clearly. The skin there burned with pleasant feelings. "I love you, Lois," Clark exclaimed.
"You do? I mean, of course you do, and you just told me for the second time. So of course! But, oh, I mean…" Lois stammered, nearly ready to launch in one of her babbles. His mood swing was very sudden, but she didn't mind. He loved her! It was such a relief, that she nearly forgot to respond. "I love you, too," she finished in a whisper. Shyly she looked at Clark from under her eyelashes.
Their mouths drew together as if there was a special bond in the air. Lois could feel Clark's breath passing by her just before their lips touched. He tasted wonderful — there was just a small hint of coffee left. She lost herself in the wonderful sensations he created inside her. Arms flew through the air to pull the other closer, but never did they break the intimate contact. She could feel Clark's hand caress her hair while she moved her hands around his back.
All of the sudden, the magic broke and the moment was over. Clark was standing next to the couch, looking very apologetic.
"Lois, I'm *so* sorry, but I eh… I need to meet with a source I totally forgot about. I'll be right back!"
Before she could react or say something, Clark was out the door.
What had just happened?
Was it something she had done or said?
She quickly walked the distance to the door, checked the hallway, but saw no sign of Clark. She threw the door shut and sank against it with her knees pulled to her chest.
What had just happened?
It had all seemed to go so well. They were finally talking, open and completely honest. She had told him the truth, she really loved him.
He had said it, too. Before her, even. So was it just a lie? A way to manipulate her? Didn't he really love her? The kiss they had just shared had been wonderful, better than she had ever expected a kiss could be.
Absentmindedly she trailed her tongue over her lips, still tasting Clark. A tear fell down her face.
What had happened? Why had he run away?
She had so many questions and no answers at all.
She couldn't stand to lose Clark. Not now, when it finally seemed there was a chance for them after all. Yet he kept running away from her and he hadn't told her his point of view on the entire Luthor issue either.
She had really lost him, she suddenly realized. There was no other way!
Her arms hugged her legs while she rested her head on her knees and let the tears come freely.
Clark, as Superman, raced through the skies with Metropolis just below him. He had heard a news report on the neighbor's radio about a quickly expanding fire in Hobbs Bay and people were still trapped inside the buildings.
He had no other choice than go to help. He knew he wouldn't be able to live with himself if people died just because he chose to ignore them.
His reason for letting the fire department deal with the fire was tempting, but he just had to go.
The choice between working things out with Lois and possibly starting a relationship versus saving people who really needed him was simple. Although it was very likely Lois was never going to speak to him again.
His mind clouded at the mere thought of what he'd just done to her. It was unforgivable and he really couldn't blame her if she refused to ever see him again. He knew he would find it hard to forgive himself, so what must she be facing?
Maybe this was why he shouldn't start a relationship… with anyone. His running away at the most inopportune times was hard enough to deal with, let alone the constant danger he would put his girlfriend in. So maybe it was for the best…
The next pang of pain surged through his chest. He loved Lois too much to just give her up. He cared too much about her well-being and happiness. It would hurt him only more if he just gave up now. Being without her the last couple of weeks had been hell; how could he even think of doing that for the rest of his life?
If it was her choice, he would accept it. That was his own fault.
<His own fault.>
The words resounded in his head and he increased his speed, eager to get this all over with so he could return to Lois.
Just after leaving, he had heard her footsteps running to the door and a little later, he had heard her cry. It broke his heart to hear her cry and especially this time because it was his own fault. He had caused her pain. Only short moments after they had shared something special.
She was never going to talk to him again!
Those people at the fire had better really need Superman, for he had just thrown away his reason to live for them.
He sped up, not wanting to delay this any longer. He wanted to get back to Lois as soon as possible to see what was left for him to salvage; to see how bad he had screwed up; to see what was to become of him.
The disaster suddenly came into sight. Huge black whisps of smoke drifted into the air, polluting the environment and clouding even his vision somewhat. The flames already shot up high from at least three buildings. Clark activated his enhanced vision and checked for trapped people.
Three human beings still in there… and a baby!
The surrounding houses seemed to be okay. The firemen were busy helping those people outside and the fire on those sides was under control. But those other people, and especially that child, needed his help right away.
The baby needed his help first; those little lungs couldn't take that much smoke well. He'd choke much sooner than his parents. There wasn't really a safe way out, so Clark quickly dived in, picked up the little bundle and wrapped it in his cape. There, that should keep the kid safe, Clark figured while he flew away from the flames.
The paramedics had just arrived, so Clark handed them his precious cargo.
He had to be fast or it would be too late for those other three people. Speeding back, he picked up the two on the balcony that were most likely the baby's parents. They still seemed okay, so he landed them a few feet from the paramedics.
That last person would be harder to deal with. While just a few moments ago, the woman was sitting on the floor with a handkerchief in front of her mouth, that same woman now lay sprawled on the floor. She must have passed out while he rescued the parents.
The woman was inside the middle burning house, on the ground floor, surrounded by the flames. The fire must have started in that house, somewhere on the top and was only now finding its way below. With all the wood incorporated in the old houses at Hobbs Bay it was no wonder what was going on.
Clark quickly flew inside; the fire didn't hurt him after all. He landed next to the woman and checked for a pulse. Her heart still beat, but very irregular; her breath came in extremely slow gasps due to all the inhaled smoke. Gently but fast, Clark lifted her up and hovered above the floor. How would he leave again? He had to fly *through* the flames with the woman. That was pretty dangerous, she could get hurt, even more so then she already was. He just had to hope his aura would protect her as well.
Holding her as close to him as he could without crushing her, Clark flew as fast as he dared. He had chosen the shortest route, and within a few seconds he was outside again. Landing besides the paramedics once more, he laid his cargo down on a stretcher. "Hurry, she needs help right away. I found her unconscious. She's barely breathing anymore and her heartbeat is very unsteady. She may have some burns as well," Clark told the paramedic.
Suddenly, a team of medical professionals surrounded the woman, checking for her heartbeat and putting her on clean oxygen. Trusting she was in good hands, Clark flew back to the fire to help put it out before any more damage was done or more victims were made.
After a quick talk with the fireman in chief, Clark knew where he could help. Half an hour later, the fire was out. Those three houses were completely burned down and everything in them was lost. Luckily, the fire hadn't extended to the adjacent houses.
His job here was nearly done. He didn't feel like talking to the gathered press, so he just ignored them. The police kept them away from the scene anyhow, so they didn't even get a chance to ask him any questions.
Clark's path led back to the medical services. He wanted to know how the victims were doing, especially that woman.
"Hi, Superman," one of the men addressed him.
"Hi, how are the victims doing?"
"They are doing fine. For as far as we can tell now, the baby hasn't suffered anything and the parents are fine as well. Just to be sure, we'll take them to the hospital for a thorough exam. I'm confident they'll be able to leave soon, though."
"That's good," Clark replied with a small smile. "What about that other woman?"
The face of the doctor clouded. "I'm sorry, there was nothing we could do for her. She died on the way to the hospital."
"Oh no!" It couldn't be true! He knew he should have saved her first. Now look at what had happened. He had failed to save a life. A woman had counted on him and he had let her down. "Oh, God, no!"
"Superman, you can't blame yourself. There was nothing more you could have done. She was in poor health, even if you had saved her a few minutes earlier, she probably wouldn't have survived."
"Yeah, but maybe she would have."
"Don't beat yourself up on what ifs. I'm sure she can look back on a wonderful life. Look on the bright side of this. You have saved three other people who are very grateful to you."
"Thank you. I better get going now." He just managed to stay polite to the paramedic before flying off into his escape.
He soared through the skies, higher and higher, until he was far above the clouds in that place where no one besides him came; where the stars and moon were visible; were he could still breathe; where he could aimlessly drift and wallow.
His life had turned upside down during the last week. Professionally, everything had seemed to go fine again. He had his job back, the Daily Planet would return and he would have his partner back. Most of that was still true, but it wasn't going as smooth as he had hoped for. If he wasn't careful, he wouldn't even be able to hand Perry the required story in time. *Not* if he didn't find a way to talk to Lois.
Oh God, Lois!
He came to a stop midair — his body had involuntarily lost altitude. The mere thought of the love of his life was making him ache inside. He had hurt her, time and time again, and to top it all, he had lost her now with his appalling behavior.
He should forget about her for the moment. Immediately, her image was replaced by the woman he had failed to save.
Ever since his stay in Luthor's Kryptonite cage, he had only made one rescue. It had been a simple rescue. An elderly lady had been mugged and threatened, so he had caught the guy and handed him over to the police. The lady had been shaken, but hadn't suffered any harm or injuries.
How different this rescue had been. A woman had died because of him. If only he had checked the situation better; if only he had saved her first; if only…
What if he had done it differently?
Then the infant would have died…
So no matter what, someone would have died.
That realization didn't change anything about his guilty feelings. He hadn't saved a life. She was dead because he had arrived too late.
Could he have been there any earlier then?
He had left right after he had picked up the news.
<In the middle of a kiss.>
It was always Lois.
Just when their relationship finally showed some signs of improvement, he ended any chance they might have had.
The day had started terrible with yet another fight where they'd both let go of the pent-up anger and frustrations.
As soon as he'd taken a seat in her Jeep, all that anger had left him. Sure, he still didn't understand why she'd done what she had, but for some reason he was no longer mad. He had felt empty inside with some degree of resentfulness.
The ride to her apartment had been completely silent. Clark hadn't minded; he didn't know what to say anyhow. The twenty minute drive had had one advantage: he'd had time to *think*. He knew he was losing her if he kept acting like he had. That was not his goal. Neither did he like himself like that; in the end, he would only feel guilty. So he had to stay calm and reasonable. He could do that.
Mostly, he had succeeded with that goal. Since Lois had invited him in, he had let her take the lead. She had been hard to read; she had kept him at a distance — physical and mental — but she had seemed more open and relaxed.
She had been more open indeed. To say she needed him was something he hadn't expected. Not that he'd believed her right away. His near-rant had showed so. Just in time he'd recovered to give Lois a chance to respond. And boy, had she said something surprising…
<She hadn't married Luthor!>
His heart made a happy jump again. He still couldn't believe he hadn't known that. That he had missed such an important fact. That because of his not knowing, all this trouble had started in the first place. He knew he had some major groveling to do to make up for all the horrible things he'd accused her of.
After he had calmed down, their conversation had been somewhat awkward. Especially with that hug he'd initiated. She hadn't minded though, so he had let her talk. Which had been a really good idea! She'd told him she needed him. For real. And she never had wanted Luthor. In the spur of the moment, he had even told her he loved her.
He'd been overjoyed when she'd responded positive to his declaration of love.
<She loved him too!>
He still wasn't sure if he could believe her, if it wasn't some sort of game she was playing. It all was really soon after her engagement had ended. But she was so unsure and sincere, he just *had* to believer her. So he'd kissed her. And she'd kissed him back!
That moment was the most precious one in his life. Overwhelming. Earth shattering. Heartbreaking. Wonderful. Sweet. Tender. Nothing that could beat the feeling.
Clark closed his eyes and he could feel all those emotions again while tasting Lois's lips, breathing in her scent… Yeah, there was nothing that could beat that pure moment of simple happiness and bliss.
He could only hope Lois had enjoyed it as much and that she would once allow him to do it again.
The fear of really having lost her was too much. Knowing it was his — or rather, Superman's — fault was even worse. If he wanted to make it up to her, he had to tell her the truth. The entire truth.
And wasn't that what he'd promised her only a few days ago? He had said he'd tell her that day when they walked away from the Planet, even if he hadn't really meant it. But it was only fair. She had opened up to him so much already, it was time he told her. Besides, Clark figured she was angry at him now, after he told her she would be furious. If he could get her to listen to him, she might forgive him. Maybe he could get her to tell what she'd meant with that comment as well.
<Luthor offered me what you never could.>
It had bugged him ever since she'd said it. What could Luthor have that he didn't? Granted, she didn't know then about his alter ego, but still. At that point she knew Luthor was a murdering criminal and he knew now she hadn't loved the crook, so what could she have possibly meant? It had been dismissed so soon then, he had focused on other things, but he couldn't forget about it. There just was something with the way she'd said it…
And he owed her an apology. A *huge* apology. He had told her so many things, things that he now knew weren't true. He had deliberately hurt her. Despite having really believed that she had married him, he had had no right to yell at her and accuse her.
Having made up his mind, Clark flew back to Metropolis, determined to see and talk to Lois. She wasn't in her apartment. Another x-ray while he hovered in front of her fifth story window still didn't show a trace of her at all.
Where could she have gone?
Was she out to get the story? If that was the case, he had to find her and help her. It was *their* story after all.
But first, he would grab a shower and some clean clothes. The smell of smoke was all around him and his suit showed some traces of the fire as well.
Changing his direction to his own place, he tried to think of ways to tell her. Should he just flat out tell her? Or lead gently up to it? Maybe do a spin? Or hover about the floor? Or some other super thing while she was watching him? Or let her figure it out?
Before he could make up his mind, however, Clark had arrived home. A small colorful bundle was hanging around the floor by his door. The bundle was making sounds that resembled sobs.
She was at his place!
What was she doing there?
Not waiting one moment longer, he landed in front of her. He reached out for her while kneeling down. With a soft, caring voice he asked, "Lois?"
When Clark didn't answer her consistent knocking, she once again sat down on the floor and let her back rest against the door.
After what had seemed like an eternity, she had stopped crying. The tears simply hadn't wanted to come anymore. The hurt had still been there, as well as the humiliation, but there was also determination.
She had just shared a wonderful *something* with Clark and she also thought that she knew him pretty well. Yes, Clark disappeared at the most inopportune times, but he always came back. He wouldn't have confessed his love for her and kissed her like that if it didn't mean something to him.
So here she was now, waiting on his doorsteps for him to come home or open that door.
Could he be inside, refusing to let her in?
Didn't he care for her, after all?
Had she really misjudged his character?
All of the sudden, the tears were back again. Not as bad as earlier, but she let out a sob now and then, wallowing in her own despair.
When she heard someone gently calling her name, she looked up. Two chocolate brown eyes looked worriedly at her. She knew those eyes, and that voice as well. He was back!
The tears stopped coming of their own volition. "Clark," she called out while she abruptly stood up. "You're ba -"
The man who sat in front of her wasn't Clark at all. It was… Superman. But how? She could swear she had heard Clark call out for her. And those eyes, they were definitely Clark's as well.
She didn't understand it at all. What was Superman doing here anyway?
His eyes were fixed on her. Was something wrong?
Of course something was wrong! It just wasn't any business for Superman this time. What had he been up to anyway? He smelled badly of smoke and he had some horrible stains on his suit. Obviously, he had been busy.
So what brought him to her now without even a shower?
"Let's go inside," he said, interrupting her thoughts.
Inside? What were they going to do inside *Clark's* apartment?
Her mind was really spinning now with all this new information and these strange senses she was getting. It was like a puzzle she needed to solve, but she didn't have all the pieces yet. Maybe she should talk to Superman.
In a way, she did need to talk to him as well. He needed to know she had made up her mind. She also needed to tell him she was sorry about that night so many weeks ago.
"How were you planning to get into Clark's apartment?" she asked curiously.
He walked past her and opened the door with a key.
A *key*? Why did Superman have a key to Clark's place? Yes, there was definitely something fishy going on and no one had bothered to let her in on what that something was.
She walked past the hero into the living room and flopped down on the couch. She was tired. Tired from all the emotions this day had churned up; tired from the unresolved puzzle; but most of all, tired from running away.
Superman took a seat in Clark's comfy chair. She knew Clark liked to sit there if he was alone. She also knew she was staring at him. She just couldn't help it. Her eyes wandered around his face and chest, looking for clues. He looked a bit uncomfortable under her scrutinizing gaze.
"Ehm, Lois, I think we should talk."
"Yes?" She tried to sound as nonchalant and innocent as possible.
"Earlier?" What was he talking about? The last time she'd seen and talked to him had been months ago!
"Yeah, earlier, back in your apaaaaa-," he trailed off, mouth gaping wide open.
In her apartment? "What?" She said louder than intended.
The puzzle pieces suddenly all fell together. The only one who'd been at her apartment the past week was Clark. He'd been there just a few hours ago. And she'd just thought outside that Superman really looked and sounded like…
"Oh my God." She stared at him, unable to believe her own conclusion. It couldn't be true… but still. He really looked like him. They had the same eyes, the same nose, the same mouth, the same smile… the same hair color, and if he had floppy hair, the picture was complete. "Oh God."
"Lois, are you all right?"
All right? How could he ask her that?
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have let you know like that. Really, I had planned to tell you, but not like this. It's just that the rescue went terrible and the way I'd left you… I guess I just forgot for a moment who I was. And then you were just sitting there, crying. It was too much for me and I just forgot for a moment. I'm sorry you found out like this."
"No, I mean… Clark?" she asked again, still having trouble to believe everything. It felt like the roof was collapsing on her; new information flowed through her mind. Of all the things she had expected to happen, this was certainly not one of them. Clark was Superman? How?
"Yeah, it's me, Lois." Before she knew what was happening, he stood up, walked to the center of the living room and started to spin… until all that was left was Clark — in the clothes she'd seen him wear earlier.
Fresh tears welled up again and this time, she let them come without holding back. She'd felt so many emotions this day, and she wasn't even sure what to feel now. Relief for knowing why Clark always ran away? Anger for having been betrayed and lied to? Happiness since he might love her after all? Confusion over dual identities? Shock about the discovery? Joy? Resentment? Hurt?
Yes, she definitely felt hurt in many ways. In fact, it described very accurately what she felt. She was pleased with the knowledge, though. Now she understood so many things from the past year. Clark's disappearing acts, his behavior in both guises, his presumed jealousy of Lex and his behavior this last week all made sense now. But it didn't change the fact he had lied to her, deceived her and betrayed her. He'd even used her!
He kneeled in front of her again, with a very concerned look on his face. She figured she didn't look remotely attractive right now. Feeling a bit ashamed, she focused her eyes on the folded hands in her lap.
"Are you… okay?" he asked tentatively. "I mean, considering the circumstances?"
Lois looked up at him with tears still glistering in her eyes. "I don't know. I really don't know." She managed to say before another sob escaped her.
Before she even knew it, Clark sat next to her and cradled her in his arms. "Shh, it's okay."
It felt really good to be in his arms again. It was safe; she was home. She knew it then; everything would be okay again, despite the bumps that would be on their road. There were even a few bumps they needed to discuss right now.
After she calmed down again, she looked Clark in his eyes. What she saw there was love — endless love for her. Yes, they'd be okay in the long run.
A weak smile worked its way to her face. "Clark?"
"I think it's time you explain yourself."
"Yeah, you deserve that much."
He'd really hurt her. But she was here. She'd even made it to his apartment on her own free will. And now that she'd found out the truth about him, she wanted him to talk. She wasn't running away!
She could still do that after she knew the entire story, but at least she'd know everything.
Clark started to talk about how his parents had found him in Schuster's Field and had taken him in, about how his powers had developed during his teens and the lonely feelings that had brought up in him, about his world travels and the not fitting in anywhere. Finally, he came to the most important chapter in his life: Metropolis. So he continued on about how he fell in love with her the first second he laid eyes on her and that his love only grew as the months went by. A natural conclusion then was to turn to Luthor.
"Of course I was jealous of him, Lois. He was dating the woman of my dreams. What made matters worse, is that I also knew pretty much from the start how evil Luthor was. There was just no way I could tell you, though. I had no proof whatsoever, and you wouldn't have believed me if I'd told you what I suspected him of."
Lois just nodded. In fact, she hadn't said anything since he'd started talking. All she had done was nod, make agreeing sounds, and squeeze his hand now and then.
"Superman didn't have the proof either, and I just didn't want to use him to get to you. It was so awkward, already. You ignored me in favor of another part of me. All I wanted you to see was *me*. The real me, not the man with superpowers. He only exists so I can help people. I, Clark, am real. I was just so afraid you'd fall for me when I told you I'm Superman and that you'd only want me because of him…" He trailed off.
"But you are him, Clark," Lois gently said. "And I love you both." After a short silence, she continued. "I fell in love with Superman the moment I saw him and I haven't even tried to hide it."
Clark just looked at her, but let her have her turn now.
"I also fell in love with you. That feeling was so unexpected and with my previous experiences fresh in mind, I thought you could only hurt me. So I ignored that feeling, Clark. Even more so when I realized I was in love with two men. I just focused on Superman. After all, even I knew he wasn't real and mostly unattainable. I only realized it was you I wanted on my wedding day."
Her eyes were cast on the floor again, and her voice had turned low at the mention of her wedding.
Wait, had she just said what he thought she'd said?
She still wanted *him*? After everything he'd done?
"I understand, Lois. It's not like I made it any easier for you. I guess I should have told you earlier. I just hope you can forgive me one day," he said apologetically.
"I think that's possible. Not right now, but maybe in a week or a month."
He let his face fall. That was a long time, and knowing Lois, she would put him through some hard times as well.
"Hey, don't worry, we'll be fine in the end. It's just a lot to take in right now. There's a whole new side of you I need to get familiar with."
"Okay, I can see your point, but it still doesn't excuse all the terrible things I said to you."
The shocking revelation was slowly sinking in.
Clark was Superman. Superman was Clark. One man, two personas. One good man, one superhero.
Well, she could do worse. She could have been married to a criminal by now… She closed her eyes, blocking the images of her ex-fiance. He was out of her mind; she couldn't think about him now!
Focusing back on Clark, she realized he was waiting for a response. What was it that he'd said again? Oh right, all the terrible things he'd accused her of. She knew she wasn't a saint either.
"I said some horrible stuff too, Clark. You must hate me for what I said last week!"
"Hate you? I don't think it's possible for me to feel like that. I love you, nothing can change that."
"I love you, too, Clark."
How it happened, she didn't know, but suddenly she was in his arms again. After a few moments, she let go of him.
"But you still can't deny I told you Luthor was better than you."
She saw him cringing by the memory of those words.
"Yeah, that one hurt. I still can't figure that one out," he replied.
"I'll try to explain it then. But you have to remember at that point I still thought you were two different people."
"I was mad at you, and as you should have noticed by now, I sometimes say some crazy things. That was one of them. The only things Luthor could offer me you can't were things I don't care about." She stood up and started to pace. "Money, status and a boring life. With you, I get so much more. Friendship, a smart partner, my soul mate. And now, it seems I also get the flying part." A small giggle escaped her mouth as she though about all the fun they'd have flying. That part about having Superman definitely didn't hurt! "But with Luthor's power, he could offer me the world." She paused again, thinking about how best to explain this. "Clark, do you remember that night on your balcony when we discussed whether we'd rather be invisible or fly?"
"Yes." He gave her one of his dazzling smiles.
"I said I wanted to be invisible and find out what's behind those closed doors. Luthor showed me that. The truth is, I don't want to know what's there. If I need to know it, I'll investigate. I don't like that world."
"So what you're saying is that he offered you the world, a world that's not mine, and you didn't like it."
"I think so." Now that she'd got that off her chest, she went to sit next to Clark again, anxiously awaiting his response. He looked at her with a small smile and a twinkle in his eyes. What was he thinking of?
Clark slowly nodded his head. "Now you know I can offer you the world as well. What about that?"
"That's… different." She carefully chose her words. "You can fly me around the world, show me wonderful places, and let me meet interesting people. At the same time, you're just as normal as most people. But most importantly, you can make a difference. You help people when they need it. You don't use them for your own benefit. Clark, that's what I love about you. Your generosity, your compassion and even your stubbornness."
A slight blush crept on his face. "I'm glad you appreciate that. And that you *chose* me."
He lowered his head to hers. "Clark, wait!" she shrieked.
Startled, he just stared at her.
"It's not that I don't… you know. But there's something else."
"What more is there?"
"Well, I still don't understand why you'd let me marry Lex with everything you knew."
"Oh, I see." He sounded somewhat defeated.
"I can forgive you a lot. I mean, I do understand why you never told me about Superman. But you could have at least said something to stop my wedding to Lex since you knew I was going to marry a murderer."
"I'm sorry, Lois. I guess I should have told you. But as Clark, I'd told you several times and you didn't do anything with that. Why should you have believed Superman? You threw yourself at him, I didn't want to go through that again."
"You really thought… Oh no!"
"I'm so sorry!"
"Sorry? Why should you be sorry?" Genuine surprise resounded in his voice.
"For leading you on, for ignoring you, for not trusting you. You were right all along and I never once listened or cared. You were my best friend and I simply didn't believe you!"
"Don't remind me," he said bitterly. "I think we're about even. I'm ready to forgive and forget, how about you?"
He cast a hopeful look her way.
"I guess so. There's still a lot I want to know, but it can wait. We've wasted so much time fighting and arguing already; it's time for something more productive."
She pulled his head down and their lips met in a sweet kiss. Too soon, Clark retreated again, only to lift her off the couch onto his lap and he claimed her lips once again.
After what seemed like hours, they broke off, still clinging together.
"Did anybody ever tell you that you are a wonderful kisser, Mr. Kent?"
"I might have heard that somewhere," he said with a sheepish grin, which earned him a poke in the chest.
"Ouch!" he exclaimed.
"Don't pretend that hurt, Flyboy."
He kissed her on top of her head. "You're not bad yourself either, Ms. Lane."
They sat together, arms around their waists and mouths exploring for some time, until Lois suddenly jumped up.
"What time is it?"
He looked around his place and focused on the alarm clock in his bedroom. "It's nearly 4pm," he informed her.
"Four! We better get to work then! We promised Perry a story in six hours…"
"Right. Well, I have some notes hanging around. Why don't I go type them while you order dinner in a few? By the time dinner arrives, we will have two headlines."
Suddenly it dawned on her what he meant. Having Clark around could prove very useful, she figured.
"So what more can you do with those powers of yours?" she asked innocent.
"Come here and I'll show you." With that, he pulled her to him again in another breath taking kiss. Soon, all time was forgotten again while they hovered above the sofa.
(c) Saskia, April 2004