By Missy Gallant <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: November, 2003
Summary: In the aftermath of Mayson's death, Lois assumes the faded rose on Clark's bedside table was a gift from the deceased woman. But on confronting Clark about it, Lois learns the rose is the one she, herself, gave to Superman.
This story is my response to the rose challenge that was issued on Zoomway's boards about a year ago. This is also dedicated to two ladies in honor of their birthdays, Wendy Richards and Meredith Knight. Thanks for all the brainstorming, BRing, nagging and friendship through the years. You guys are the best!
Once again, Lois woke up in the middle of the night. Sleep hadn't been coming very easy to her the past couple of nights. Her growing concern for her budding relationship with Clark had been gnawing at her. After their wonderful date and kiss, Clark had become withdrawn and wasn't talking about it at all. Things had changed between them the moment Mayson Drake had died in the explosion.
What disturbed her the most was Clark's obvious reaction to Mayson's death. Mayson had apparently meant more to him then she, Lois, had first realized. Just like the time she had thought Clark had been killed after being shot by one of Dillinger's gangsters, he probably found the loss of Mayson too unbearable to contemplate.
Her partner had arrived at her apartment earlier, armed with books and research materials. Even after attempting to cook for him and trying to discuss her feelings, Clark was still avoiding her. He hadn't so much as acknowledged her attempt at making a meal. All he had done was choke on his food and tell her something was burning.
She rolled over and punched her pillow. At any other time, she'd let him have a piece of her mind, and it was killing her to stuff this anger away. But getting mad at him wasn't going to solve anything. If Clark hadn't come back so soon after he died, she would have probably buried herself in her work too, just as he was doing now to avoid dealing with the grief of having lost Mayson.
He was grieving, but what hurt the most was that he wasn't confiding in her all about his feelings. He had dismissed her — their changing relationship and their friendship — like yesterday's news. He was so indifferent to her attempts to remind him of the romance that had taken place between them during their date. It was like it had never happened.
Unless being around her was too distressing. They had been sharing their first kiss when the bomb had gone off, so she was probably a painful reminder of Mayson's death.
Poor Clark! If only there was something she could do! If only she could make him confide in her and share his grief. She couldn't bear to think that he wasn't able to stand being around her. Not after all that they had been through to get to this point in their relationship.
She clicked on the light on her nightstand and sat up in bed. She couldn't take it! She had to see if she could get him to open up and talk. Even if it hurt her to hear him talk about Mayson and his revelation about losing the one true love of his life, she had to buck up and deal with it.
Two-in-the-morning walks through Metropolis were not for the faint-hearted. Lois traveled at a determined pace, careful not to glare at anyone directly. At last, she reached Clark's door and knocked hard.
Nothing. Not a peep was coming from his apartment. She rattled the doorknob and waited.
"Clark? Are you awake? It's Lois," she spoke as loud as she dared. The last thing Clark needed were angry neighbors adding to his grief.
After a long minute, the knob turned beneath her hand and a very sleepy Clark, dressed in an opened flannel shirt, stood before her.
"Lois?" he asked drowsily. "What are you doing here?"
Although he looked quite scrumptious in that shirt, he didn't appear to be very happy to see her. It was true! Her heart sunk to the vicinity of her stomach. He couldn't stand to be around her. Maybe she should borrow a cup of sugar and leave.
"Sugar. I'm baking… a chocolate souffl‚ and I need sugar." She pushed past him and charged into the living room. "Do you have a measuring cup? I don't own one."
Clark stared blankly at her.
"So I see you can't sleep either. Wanna hang out?"
"Lois, it's two in the morning, and since when do you bake?"
"Okay, you caught me. I couldn't sleep."
"I gathered that." Clark motioned for her to sit down. "I'll make us some tea."
Lois watched the strong frame of her partner as he performed the simple task of boiling water and placing teabags in a couple of mugs. He was so good at that sort of thing — domestic stuff — he even made making tea look easy.
She wished he would turn around; in her haste to get her foot in his apartment, she barely had the opportunity to pay homage to his wonderful chest, but wait a minute! She needed to focus. She wasn't here to stare at his body — she was here to see if there was ever going to *be* a chance to gawk at it. If Clark couldn't get over Mayson's death, then the perfection of his pecs wouldn't matter much, to her at least.
Clark finished making the tea and returned to sit next to Lois.
"So were you sleeping? I think I had too much coffee."
"I was dozing, but not for long."
"Got something on your mind?" Lois noticed he hadn't made direct eye contact yet. There still was something the matter; he always had a ready smile for her.
Liar. He was lying to her again. He had that same distant expression on his face as always when he was about to run off with another pathetic excuse. But she was here to help, not rail on him for being flighty.
"Clark, I think I understand what's going on. I can take a hint." She slumped back against the cushions and sighed.
"Take what hint?"
"The ones that you've been sending me for days now. Believe me, I know what it's like to lose someone and then realize how much they meant to you. Not that you ever knew how I felt until just recently, but even then we hadn't talked about where we were going with our relationship. That's a mute point now, I suppose…"
"Lois, you're babbling. What are you talking about?"
"I know you loved Mayson, Clark," Lois said as her bottom lip quivered ever so slightly.
"Lois, I…" His gaze shifted away from her and he shook his head in frustration. "I can't stay. Got to go."
Clark jumped to his feet and practically bolted out of the door. Lois watched in shock as she realized he had left her in mid-conversation once again — this time in his own apartment.
This was worse than she thought. The man she'd finally begun to love couldn't stand to be in her company. It was true. Just the mere mention of Mayson's name had sent him packing. At least she knew now before she had totally spilled her heart out. There was a chance to leave with a scrap of dignity and disappear out of his life for good.
She closed her eyes and let the familiar feel of his couch surround her — for perhaps, the last time. He wouldn't want her around any longer — not as a sorrowful remembrance that he had been with her when Mayson died.
Omigod! Did he think that their first date had blocked any chance of him and Mayson getting together sooner? Was she the reason that Clark hadn't recognized Mayson as the one he truly cared for?
Lex had done the same thing to her. With him, and even Superman, standing in the way of her and Clark, she had chosen the billionaire over Clark, her best friend. It had taken Clark's 'death' to fully open her eyes to her true feelings.
Feeling distressed and restless, she rose from the couch and wandered to the kitchen. She smiled wistfully in remembrance of all the moments they'd shared here — the dozens of cups of coffee and meals prepared…
She ran her hand along the top of the kitchen counter, remembering how she'd felt earlier as she watched Clark make their tea. She hadn't felt that kind of desire for a man since… ever.
It was typical of her love life. Find a man that you can put up with and it ends up as the biggest federal disaster in her life. He couldn't tolerate her any more. She was history in his eyes.
Around the corner, she saw the rumpled sheets of his bed and was automatically drawn towards it. She walked into his bedroom and stared at it, imagining him tossing and turning as he slept, unable to get Mayson out of his mind.
Suddenly, an old dried up rose caught her attention on the nightstand. She sat down on the bed and picked it up gently. It wasn't fully dried out yet — a faint fragrance still could be detected.
There was no other explanation. She hadn't known of any roses he'd received recently. And it obviously had been fresh in the past few weeks — right about the time that Mayson arrived.
Maybe she'd given it to him the night she'd caught them kissing here in his apartment. No wonder he couldn't stand to be here — too many bittersweet memories. Of course it had to be from Mayson — Clark had been pining for her and had to have a tangible reminder of her next to him.
She lowered the rose onto her lap. She didn't even have the right to think any mean thoughts about Mayson — she was dead. She could only leave Clark to his grief, and he was better off without her constant reminder to him that Mayson was gone.
A few minutes. She had a few minutes to say her goodbyes and then leave.
Her fist tightened around the rose stem and she felt the sharp prick of thorns in her hand. It didn't matter though; the pain was nothing to what was building in her heart.
One of her tears startled her as it landed on a dark, dry petal, the moisture staining it a deep crimson as it spread out along the tiny veins of the bud. It didn't matter; it was her final signature on their relationship.
She heard a noise and looked up to see Clark staring down at her, his face clouded with concern.
"Lois?" He was immediately seated next to her. His gentle hand was on her face and turning it towards him.
"You don't have to do this, Clark," she whispered. "I think I'll go now."
"Go? Lois, what's wrong?"
"You don't have to pretend to care. I understand."
"Pretend to care? Lois, what is this all about?"
She held up the rose. "You loved Mayson and now you can't stand to be around me. I understand. I know I repulse you."
Clark stared at the crestfallen face of his partner and love. All the emotions he'd been feeling since Mayson had been killed had to come to a head now, and he had to deal with this very alive and real person sitting next to him.
It had hit him hard when Mayson had died in his arms. He *had* cared for her; not in the way he loved Lois, but as a friend. But what had set him for a loop was that Mayson had found out his secret. Even in her death, she had known that he was Superman before Lois and it disturbed him.
He felt a bit resentful that Mayson had uncovered the truth; Lois should have been the first person to know about Superman other than his parents. It startled him to think of the repercussions that might have occurred if she had lived. Mayson had disliked Superman from the start and he didn't know her well enough to predict what she would have done with that information.
His dilemma had been about what to do with his secret concerning Lois. Mayson had found out without him wanting her to, and he didn't want Lois to find out on her own. He'd been taking some time over the last few days trying to decide if the time had come to tell her.
Now, Lois crying on his bed was his wake up call. He had hurt her, unknowingly in his contemplative attempt to sort things out. As he held her face in his hand, he could at last see how confused and hurt she was by his behavior- she thought he was pretending to care! And worse, that she thought he was repulsed by her!
"Oh, Lois…" His hand threaded its way through her hair to rest on the back of her head and tightened ever so slightly. "How could you think that?"
The memories of their first wonderful kiss came flooding back and erased any caution he felt. He knew he had to wipe away any doubt in her eyes. In one swift move, he gathered her in his arms and was soon kissing her thoroughly.
As soon as Lois felt Clark's lips on hers, she felt nothing but the overload of emotions that came from being in his embrace again. The rose dropped to the floor as she wrapped her arms around his body and pressed close to him.
After a few moments, Clark lifted his face from hers and smiled questioningly at her. "Was that convincing enough?"
"Just *who* were you kissing, Clark?" Lois tried to catch her breath. "Was it me, or Mayson?"
Clark looked puzzled for a moment, then frowned. "It was you, Lois. It's always been you."
"That's news to me, Clark," she sniffed, remembering the distress she was feeling a few moments ago. "You've been shutting me out ever since *she* died."
"I'm sorry," he sighed. "So much has happened and I never meant to hurt you."
He reached for her hand and held it gently.
Lois felt something sticky as his hand closed around hers. Turning it over, she exclaimed, "Clark, your hand is bleeding!"
"That's impossible!" Clark took a closer look at her hand. "Lois, it's you. You're bleeding."
He touched her wound gently and pulled back when she winced. "There's still something in there. Let me see."
Clark held it under the lamplight and examined it. Lois tried to tug her hand away but relaxed reluctantly when she saw how concerned he was.
"Ouch!" she exclaimed, as he pulled the object from her palm.
"It's a thorn! Lois?" He shot her another curious look as he reached for a tissue on his nightstand. He wiped the droplets of blood from her palm and pressed against the wound gently to stop the flow of blood.
"What's going on, Lois?" He picked up the rose from the floor and set next to the tissue box. The stem was bent from her grasp.
"Guess that rose means a lot to you," she sighed, avoiding his question.
"Yeah, it sure does."
"Somebody give it to you?"
"Yeah," Clark answered cautiously. "Someone very special."
Lois dropped her head and gazed at their hands. He was still rubbing her palm gently with his thumb and it felt so right, but it was obvious that he was thinking of someone else — Mayson.
She swallowed hard and continued on the path she'd chosen in pulling the truth out of Clark.
"I guess you really loved the person that gave you the rose. I mean, it was here out in the open."
"Yes, I do, Lois."
"Do? Isn't it from Mayson?" Lois blurted, then immediately regretted it. Why did she always have to push Clark so hard and end up with her foot in her mouth? You'd think she would have learned her lesson from the last time she'd mention Mayson's name.
"It's not from Mayson, Lois."
Huh? Who could it be from? What other woman had her claws into Clark?
"It's from you," he answered quietly.
"I never," she blurted, frantically searching her memory for any time she'd given Clark a rose, and at the same time processing the information that he had just admitted he loved her.
"I know you didn't," Clark assured her. He was trying to be calm in spite of the realization that he couldn't get around the truth that he was Superman. But first he had to get to the bottom of Lois' feelings before he said anymore about his alter ego.
"Lois, first of all, as I tried to say a minute ago, I owe you a huge apology," He paused, then hesitantly continued, "I've acted like an idiot."
"No, Clark. I expected too much from you. I should have known that what we started was too good to be true. Don't try to make me feel better. I know that's why you kissed me." It had to be the reason; otherwise she was setting herself up for another disappointment.
Clark raked his hand through his hair and sighed. It appeared Lois had grabbed hold of the idea that he didn't have feelings for her, and she wasn't about to let them go. Probably better to plow forward and hope that something would stick to that stubborn brain of hers.
"When Mayson died, it took me by surprise. The death of someone you know can do that to you, but there's more." He took a quick breath and continued before Lois could interrupt again. "Let me make one thing *very* clear to you, Lois."
He took hold of her hand again and squeezed it gently. "You are the woman I love. Not Mayson. You."
He leaned forward and kissed her again, reverently, but sweetly, on her lips. She whimpered a bit when he pulled away.
"Mayson found out something about me before she died. The reason I've been so distant from you is because it was something I didn't want anyone to know. Not even you — yet."
She sucked in her breath and started to speak, but Clark held up his hand and shot a firm glance at her.
"That's why I've been so quiet the past few days since Mayson died." His voice rose in intensity as he continued. "Yes, Lois! Mayson. See! It doesn't devastate me to say her name because I'm not in love with her. The woman I love is sitting right in front of me and doesn't know the most important aspect of my life."
"What aspect, Clark?"
The muscle in his jaw was twitching and his eyes were blazing. But then they softened as they came to rest on hers. He turned from her and picked up the rose from the table.
"You gave me this rose, Lois. Not as Clark, but as another person. I have another identity."
"Another identity? Are you in the witness protection program or an undercover cop or something? What are you talking about?"
"The night of the Kerths, I gave you a dozen roses. Lois, I was so happy you consented to be my date. After it was all over, you gave away one of the roses. Do you remember who you gave it too?"
She wracked her brain trying to go over the details of the night. Clark had won a Kerth and had dropped her off at her door — very platonically — and then she had gone to bed.
No, wait a minute! Superman had come to visit and had asked about her awards.
The roses!! Clark had given her roses when he had picked her up. White ones. Superman had asked her about her award and then she had given him one.
Omigod! She looked up at Clark and he was taking his glasses off.
She lifted a hand up to touch his face. "Clark. Superman." Her fingers were all over his face and her mind was far away — remembering and putting all the pieces together.
"Yes, Lois. I'm Superman," Clark answered matter-of-factly.
Lois looked into his eyes and saw the same distant, sad expression that he'd been wearing the past few days.
"Mayson found out I was Superman. Her last dying thoughts were of disappointment and betrayal. I failed her, Lois. I'd strung her along and let Mayson think I was something that I wasn't. She hated Superman and I disappointed her."
"Oh, I see."
Clark noticed her brow furrowing together and could sense her mind was in full gear as she processed the information. "You may think that could be reason enough for me to act the way I have been, but there's more. It opened my eyes to the fact that we," he pointed to her and himself, "had started dating and you still were in the dark about my identity. I didn't want you to find out on your own."
"So if Mayson hadn't died, when were you planning on telling me? After we'd slept together, or I had ripped your clothes off in a bout of passion and found the suit?"
Clark blushed fiercely at those images in his mind. "No, I've been thinking about it for a while now. Ever since the day I first laid eyes on you in Perry's office. It's always been in the back of my mind. I wanted you to be the first to know."
"Then what were you waiting for?"
"For you to love me as Clark instead of Superman. You see, Mayson cared for Clark and disliked Superman, but you always had plenty of attention for Superman. I wanted you to care for Clark the same way. After our spectacular date…"
"Did you really think it was spectacular?"
Clark had to smile at her question. Trust Lois to doubt how he felt about that night and to need reassurance. "Every minute of every hour that we're together. Lois, being with you, in any capacity, makes me feel so complete."
"Then why couldn't you let me see the complete you, Clark?" She looked at the ruffled hair of Clark and the face without glasses that belonged to Superman. "I don't recognize this you now."
She pulled her hand from his and stuck it stubbornly in her lap.
"I'm still the same old partner you like to tease and beat at checkers; the same old superhero who loves to take you flying, only now we're all rolled up into one. I don't have to pretend to be two people to you now. Being both could have its advantages."
He grabbed her hand again and turned it over exposing her palm. "See. This is what Clark can do." He raised her palm to his lips and placed tiny butterfly kisses on it, sending shivery sensations up her arm. She closed her eyes briefly, then opened them to see Clark regarding her curiously.
"Same love, only Superman can do this…" Instead of kissing her palm again, he blew against it gently with his cooled breath, traveling up the underside of her arm, then back down again. Using his heat vision now, he concentrated a small bit of heat on her thorn wound, sealing the open edges.
"I can see where being both Clark and Superman can have its advantages," she gulped breathlessly.
"Any disadvantages?" Clark asked hesitantly, mentally crossing his fingers.
"Only if this isn't the end of the lying and poor excuses!" She eyed him warily, wanting to give in but still not quite sure she was ready yet.
"Lois, other than protecting my identity, I've never lied to you. Now that you know the truth, I promise I will always be truthful with you."
She regarded his almost pathetic, but sincere expression and felt her heart give way to her earlier feelings. Yes, this was the same man she'd fallen in love with — just with a few extras.
"So. You never were in love with Mayson?"
"Never. Not even a twinge," Clark said. "But I never dreamed she would die so young."
"Oh, Clark! I'm sorry Mayson died, too!" Lois reached out her hand and touched his face. "Even though she was very blatant about her feelings for you, I *might* have liked her under different circumstances."
Clark leaned into her hand and said, "Thanks, I think she could have liked you too."
"I can't believe I'm saying this, but would you like to visit her grave tomorrow? Just the two of us? If she were alive, I think we could let bygones be bygones. She'd like to hear about how we're going to get the scum that killed her."
"Yeah. She'd like that."
"Oh, Clark! And Mayson never could have been disappointed in you, even if she knew you were Superman. But I'm so glad the rose was mine."
"There was never any doubt in my mind." He covered the hand on his face and traced the path up her arm to hers. Rubbing the pad of his thumb across her cheek, he sighed.
"Are we okay?
"More than okay." She leaned towards him and closed her eyes.
It wasn't Clark or Superman who kissed her lips. It was a wonderful combination of both men — her best friend, fantasy and partner all rolled up in one. In short, it was the man she loved.