By Nicole Sullivan <email@example.com>
Submitted: October, 2005
Summary: What do you do when the man of your dreams dies before you realize he's the man of your dreams? And what if you are that man… and you're not really dead? A TOGOM ("That Old Gang of Mine") story.
"Clear the front page. We have a new story to write," Perry White said, walking through the newsroom and toward his office, not looking at anyone, but merely addressing anyone who was listening. "I want the headline to read 'Reporter Killed in Line of Duty,' and the rest… the story of how Clark was… murdered…"
He quickly shook his head, trying to shake away the magnitude of what he'd just said, trying to return to Chief-mode. But it wasn't easy. Not at all… "I'll, uh… I'll write this one," Perry said, his face pale, his voice cracking.
"I'll write it, Chief," a voice said. A voice he knew, but at the moment didn't recognize at all.
He turned to see her standing there, pale, trembling… and breaking a sad gaze that had been fixed on her partner's her former partner's desk, to look at him, she showed a strength in her eyes that was really more desperation.
She had been the strongest woman he had ever met.
One look and he knew.
She was broken.
The cold, harsh rain fell on Lois Lane's bare shoulders as she walked out of the club. She hadn't remembered a mention of rain in the forecast… but then again… no part of the night had ended up being predictable or routine or anything she could have planned for.
She wasn't prepared for rain, in her slinky red, sexy dress, with nothing to cover her up. Just like she wasn't prepared for what had happened earlier in the night.
Just as she wasn't prepared now to face the world… without him.
"Lane, I'm driving you home. And what happened to that coat I gave you?" Henderson asked, cutting through her thoughts like a sharp knife.
"I took it off," she said, staring ahead, numbly. Talking to him, but not looking at him. Not looking at anything except the horrifying images that played themselves out before her eyes over and over again. Breaking her.
Rain hit her in splashes on her face and eye lids. Her face was completely wet. The cause now: the rain. Before, it had been wet because… because she'd been crying. Quite a lot.
"Why did you take it off?" Henderson asked. "Jake, get the coat again for Miss Lane. She's gonna catch a cold."
"Yes sir," Lois heard a man say.
She didn't want a coat. Why should she have one? Her partner, her best friend… *Clark*… was probably lying somewhere alone no one who loved him knowing his whereabouts in the freezing cold, bleeding, rain hitting him. Soaking him. His cheek probably pressed roughly against concrete. His body possibly twisted at an awkward angle. Or maybe he was floating in some disgusting body of water…
Why wasn't anyone worrying about that? Why were they wasting their time worrying about her catching a cold?
When the coat was thrown over her shoulders, though, she did not resist. She did not want to hear anyone talk about how she shouldn't catch a cold. She just wanted to be left alone. Henderson, however, was making this difficult.
He kept finding her. Kept… insisting.
Something on the ground some feet away caught her eyes in her miserable state. Something glimmering.
She walked over. With each step, she could see clearer and clearer what it was she was walking towards. Something was tearing at her insides and she felt sick. The closer she got, the sicker she felt. With each step a noise boomed in her ears.
She fell to her knees and picked up Clark's glasses. The glass was cracked, but there was no mistaking that they were his. They were by the door to the club… the door he had been dragged out of a half an hour before.
She started shaking violently as the tears came again. She had never before cried with such energy that it took over her whole body. It was scary, how hard she was crying. But at the same time, she didn't care.
"Lois? Lois, can you hear me?"
Henderson he was on his knees, pulling at her.
And somehow through the fogginess and the sound of gunshots and sobbing and gasping and screaming, she could. Hear him. Every word.
"Let's go. Let's get you home, Lane. You can get into warm clothes. Out of the rain. It'll be okay," he said again, sounding emotional himself.
"His glasses fell off. He needs his glasses!" she said, her voice sounding lost and sort of pathetic. Foreign, even to her own ears.
"It's okay. He… he'll be okay without them," Henderson said carefully. "I'm going to need those for evidence," he said, like he hated to bring that up, but had to.
"No. No, you have all the evidence you need in there. They touched EVERYTHING… you can get their prints on wine glasses and on craps tables and even on me. These are Clark's. I need to get them fixed. He needs them. He always wears them," she said, rocking back and forth. "They already took everything from him. These are his. These are Clark's. He needs them. He needs them!"
"Come on, Lois. I need to get you home," Henderson said.
"I can't leave without him. We came here together. We're leaving together!" she cried.
She knew she sounded crazy, but it didn't matter. Nothing mattered.
"Clark's… gone," Henderson said softly.
Lois looked at him, her eyes wide.
It was then that she screamed. Louder than she'd ever screamed before. Louder than when she screamed from the jaws of death inside which she frequently found herself.
It was a long scream, the veins in her neck and forehead coming out, blood vessels in her eyes, which were dripping tears as quickly as the sky was dripping rain, turning red, red, red… like her dress. She instinctively leaned her body forward lowering her chest onto her knees, and pulling at her hair as she screamed. She screamed until her face was inches from the ground.
The ground… she could still see Clark on the ground.
Beautiful eyes… closed. His body… still. His heartbeat under her hand… no… no heartbeat…
She could hear the gunshots… over and over, over and over, over and over, over and over…
She just kept crying.
And Henderson was sure the whole world must have heard that scream.
Clark had been sitting up in the clouds practically on the opposite side of the world, wondering frantically what he would do about this mess, when he heard it.
In seconds he was there.
And nothing could have prepared him for the sight that greeted him.
Lois… huddled on the ground of a dirty city street, her stockings looking ripped at the knees, rain and dirt on her legs and on her dress… her beautiful red dress. She had looked so put together and stunning just an hour earlier in that dress. Now… she looked like a child who had just been abandoned. Huddled. Wet. The rain just hit her, but she didn't seem to notice. Her head was bent, her hands covered her face. She rocked back and forth. The large coat that covered her was soaking wet, barely doing anything for her.
She sat there, on the street behind the club…
And just cried. Endlessly.
He met Henderson's gaze and realized the Inspector seemed at a loss. He was clearly trying to console Lois, but it wasn't working. She was… gone.
"Lois?" Clark said, landing in front of her.
Her head shot up quickly, hope in her gaze. He immediately realized why and silently chided himself. She had heard Clark's voice. But the moment her eyes fell on Superman, that light of hope was extinguished.
She quickly got to her feet and ran toward him, a desperate look in her eyes.
"Superman. You have to do something. You have to… to… to save the day! You *always* save the day! You have to! Go get him! Save him! Get Clark! Bring Clark back!" she cried, tears falling from her eyes as she pounded her fists into his chest. She looked like she didn't even see that someone was standing before her.
"Lois, I'm sorry…" he said gently, trying to calm her down. Holding her fists in his hands.
He finally got her to look at him.
"There *has* to be something you can do! You always find a way, Superman. You always have. Every time. Can't you fly into space and go really fast, and turn the world back! Turn it back to that moment! Make it go differently. Fly in and save him. Or make us duck! Or have us decide not to go to the club! Or change the password so we can't get in! Or, dammit let *me* take those bullets!"
She was bawling now. Completely hysterical.
Clark had never seen Lois like this. Beyond reason. Beyond logic. Talking nonsensically about things like using his powers to turn back time. But what floored him was the last thing she said. Something caught in his throat at her words…and the look in her eyes that said that she meant it.
"Lois, don't say that. Don't ever say that. If you'd… if anything had happened to you " he started, but then closed his mouth, not trusting himself to continue without revealing his secret.
"Something's already happened to me!" she cried. "Clark… Clark… I need Clark. I need him! Where is he? Superman, find him! I…I need him!" she cried, continuing to sob as she allowed him to pull her into his arms.
"I'll take her home, Inspector," Clark said to Henderson.
"Good. She could really use a friend right now. And if you find… uh, find out… *anything*… just let us know."
"I will," he said, and then turned his attention back to Lois.
She was sobbing so hard she seemed short of breath. She was panting and hiccupping, and still the crying would not stop.
He had no idea her feelings were this strong. He knew he was her best friend, and she'd be devastated to lose him tonight like that. He could still hear her voice calling out his name in panic and question, after he'd fallen to the ground. He could still feel her hands roaming over him, grabbing at him, looking for some sign of life. He could still feel her tears, falling onto him, and hear her breath catching as the truth began to sink in.
But she was beyond normal grief right now. She was hysterical, illogical, talking about wishing she had died instead. These feelings… they were intense. More intense than he ever could have imagined her feelings for him to be.
Looking at her, it looked like it was over. Him, her, them, life, just… everything. He could see his life being over, in her eyes, and in them, it looked like hers was over too. It was heart-wrenching. And it scared him.
"Lois. Lois, shhh… I've never seen you like this. Are you okay? Tell me you're okay," he said, realizing he, himself, was starting to tremble. He was actually afraid. Afraid for her. For the state she was in. He'd never seen her in this condition, and it scared the hell out of him.
"He's not gone. He… he can't be," she said, quiet and shaking. "How could I let this happen?" she said, so quietly he wouldn't have heard her if he weren't, well, him.
"Let it happen? Lois, you didn't let anything happen. This was out of your control. You didn't know what they'd do."
"I made us come here. Always chasing the story, always wanting to win and be the best. Not caring about danger. But Superman, I only didn't care when it was ME in danger. If I'd known that Clark could be… that something could happen to… to HIM…" She stopped for a moment to catch her breath, and looked down at something in her hands.
When they'd taken him out of the club, they'd turned him so they could throw him in the car, and his glasses had fallen off. And one of Capone's thugs had stepped on them. He had heard the glass crack as he was dragged and thrown into their car. They'd broken his glasses a harsh reminder of the life he was losing. A symbolic gesture from the heartless thugs to follow their violent, horrible act.
He looked down at Lois, pushing his own grief aside to be there for her. Her breathing was quick and she sounded like she was choking on her tears. She was in more pain than he had ever seen her.
She looked up, her eyes searching his, but not finding what they were seeking. They were lost. So lost.
"I would never put him in danger knowingly. I'd never have even gone there if I knew, if I somehow KNEW, that it would be like that, and that he could be hurt or k… or… " she trailed off, unable to finish, as the tears and sobs took over her voice.
"Lois, I know that. Clark does too… I mean, Clark did too," he corrected himself quickly. He noticed her wince and shake her head at his correction. "You were his best friend. Someone he loved. He knew you'd never put him or any of your other friends in danger if it could be helped. If you knew. Lois, unless you were holding that gun yourself, I don't see how—"
"He was *protecting* me!" she cried, looking up at him in a way that made him ache inside. "Don't you see? He put himself in front of me. He put himself there so I would be okay. He *always* made sure I was okay. Always. In every way! And he… he gave up his *life*… for me! He didn't even think twice! He d… di…" She hiccupped still from the tears. "He was protecting me."
She dropped her head and shook it slowly.
"He loved me." She looked up at him. "Did you know that?"
"Yes," he said, feeling more horrible about his secret just then than he ever had before.
"You've got to do something, Superman!"
"I'm going to take you home," he said, scooping her up.
She fell limply against him without resistance, simply wetting his neck with her tears.
He was upset to realize that he was still shuddering from seeing her like this. Seeing Lois… his Lois…
Jimmy Olsen rolled over in bed, groaning. He'd been on a date with Jenny Fields, the new intern from Metropolis University in his dream, of course when all of a sudden her voice sounded exactly like a ringing phone.
He looked at his bedside clock and wondered immediately who could be calling at 2:23 am.
Unless it was 2:23 pm and he'd overslept.
Frantically, he sat up in his bed and grabbed at the phone on what must have been its fifth ring.
"Hello?" he asked, trying to will himself awake and alert by shaking his head and trying to clear his confused, sleepy mind.
He recognized the voice immediately.
"Chief? Don't be mad. I guess I overslept. My alarm must've "
"No, Jimmy," Perry said, his voice cracking.
Suddenly Jimmy was wide awake.
"What's going on, Chief?" he asked, his heart beating faster and faster.
"Uh… Al Capone and those guys… and… Lois and Clark were…"
"Yeah, they were going to that illegal gambling place tonight. Did they get the story? Should I come in and help them while they write it?" he asked, feeling deep down that that was not why his boss and friend was waking him up.
"Something happened…" he trailed off, sounding choked up.
Lois. Jimmy knew it. Something happened to Lois. She put herself in danger for the last time. He knew one day it would get her… hurt? Killed? Something. He'd never said anything because she never would have listened to him.
He suddenly felt sick to his stomach.
"What happened to her?" he asked.
"Her?" Perry barked.
"Lois… what happened to her?" Jimmy asked, tears stinging in his eyes, but not daring to fall.
His father had once told him boys should never cry. No matter what. He never did. But he wasn't sure he'd be able to hold his tears in much longer. His heart felt ready to leap from his chest as he waited to hear what Perry had to say.
"Lois… Lois is fine. Things got out of control and…" Perry started, sounding about ready to break down. "They shot… Clark. They…"
Jimmy waited. He could hear his heart beating in the silence and darkness. His mouth fell open. Perry had stopped talking, but Jimmy could hear him breathing on the other end.
"Is he okay?" he asked.
Oh, no. Jimmy's mind was moving a million miles a second and he felt light headed. Clark… CK…
Jimmy couldn't help what he did next, which was defy his father's orders.
Perry stood at the window in his office, which overlooked the newsroom. He watched her.
She wanted to write this story.
She said she'd write it.
He watched her, his hands in his pockets, as she stared, slumped in her chair, at that unoccupied desk.
He waited a few moments before walking out into the newsroom for what seemed like the hundredth time, to see if she was okay and wanted to talk. To see if he could write the story instead and relieve her of at least that one burden. The memory in her mind was more burden than anyone should ever have to carry in a whole lifetime, he thought as he approached her desk.
"Lois… Lois, honey, let me take you home. You don't have to be here," he said, placing a hand on her shoulder.
"I'm sorry, Perry," she said, still staring at Clark's desk. "I know I said I'd write it. It's just… every time I write a sentence, I think about him… remember him… I remember it… and then I… I…" she started, her voice quivering.
"You don't have to explain, honey. And you don't have to write this."
"Yes, I do. My last story will be about Clark, and it will be the best tribute to him that I can possibly manage to put into words. Although nothing could ever capture…"
"Last story?" Perry interrupted.
"Yeah. I'm done." She looked up at him for a moment, before resuming her post staring at Clark's empty desk. "There was a time when I thought reporting was important enough to risk everything for it. To die for it even. But this headline, the new front page for tomorrow's edition… I can't get it out of my head. Reporter Ki Killed in the Line of Duty. It shouldn't have happened. It just should not have happened. But it did. It happened to the best person I've ever known. He… died," she said, spitting that word out with disgust and grief, "because of how important I thought this job was. This 'line of duty'. Well… I'm done. And this will be my last story."
Perry stared down at her, unsure of what to say. He'd lost one of his reporters and good friends tonight forever… and now it looked as if he was losing another. Just… in a different way.
"We've lost our boy, Martha," Jonathan Kent said somberly, sipping his tea as he took a seat at the kitchen table.
"Jonathan, don't be silly. We're lucky. Think of all the people that love Clark who think he's really dead. We are lucky. We know it's not true. That he's okay and alive."
"Knowing he's alive is great, Martha, I know that. But… we've lost him all the same," he said, staring ahead.
"What are you talking about?"
Martha sat next to Jonathan and took his hand, urging him to explain.
"Next week, we were supposed to go to a baseball game. Clark got me those season tickets for Christmas. We've had such good times at those games. We can't do that anymore. I certainly can't go to those games with Superman. Clark's alive, Martha… but he's gone. He can't openly visit us ever again. Walk around Smallville with us when he's home, like he used to. And Superman can't talk with us openly ever. Why would he? If we want to protect this secret, we can't ever REALLY see him again. He can visit here, sure, but just to hide. That's what it would be."
"It'll be hard, but we've hidden for twenty-seven years, Jonathan. We're pretty damn good at it now."
"Not like this. Look at this kitchen, Martha. Windows everywhere. Wayne Irig and the Harrises and the Martins, they visit randomly all the time. How could we ever have dinner with Clark again? Our friends will find it strange if we are constantly drawing the blinds in our home for no good reason."
"Honey, just remember. We need to be grateful right now. If our son were an ordinary boy, we'd have lost him tonight. He would have died. We were given something other parents pray for in these circumstances," Martha said, stroking Jonathan's hand.
"Believe me, Martha, I feel selfish complaining like this at all. But this secret is like a double-edged sword. Don't tell me it's not. In many, many ways, we did lose our son tonight. He's alive. No one can know that. And we're sacrificing something for this secret, yet again. He's alive… but lost to us. And I am ordinary… human. And this is how I feel."
Jonathan left the kitchen, as Martha stared sadly after him.
She sighed. Their lives would never be the same again if they couldn't figure a way out of this.
Lois stared at her computer screen, not seeing the screen at all. The only thing she saw, she tried so hard not to think about. She tried to get back to reporter mode.
"Write the story. It's just a story," her mind told her. It was just a story. Just another story, she reasoned with herself. She just needed to hurry up and write it.
And then she could leave. Run. Go somewhere. Away from this. This place that had taken him from her. She would never have to face it again.
Just as soon as she finished the story. When she finished the story, her nightmare could really begin.
It was already there, in her mind. Numbing her. *Hurting* her.
But if pushed it back, it couldn't harm her. Not yet, anyway.
Soon enough, she would face it and see…
And, she realized, she'd probably never wake up.
Clark sat on his bed in the room he grew up in. He looked around, wondering if this would be where he would live for the rest of his life. If this would be what his life would be like from this night on. Superman full-time and then a secret journey back to Smallville. Land in a deserted field, and travel at super speed into the house he hadn't really lived in since he graduated from college.
He couldn't start a new life for himself anywhere. It would be too much work. And more importantly… he wouldn't want to.
He was Clark Kent.
And Clark Kent was dead now.
He looked around the room. It seemed so much smaller now than when he'd been a boy, growing up there. He always loved sitting in his old room now that he was all grown up. A city man. When life seemed too complicated, it was a place he could go that made everything seem a little simpler.
He didn't want to live there again! He had moved out of his parents' house. He was living on his own. In an apartment he loved. In Metropolis. He had his own place, his own job, his own friends, his own life…
But that was no longer the case.
All he had now was Superman.
Thinking of his alter ego just now immediately made him think of what he had been doing two hours ago.
He had been Superman. And he'd been consoling Lois.
He tried not to think about her just now. It scared him to think of her that way. The way he'd seen her tonight a way he'd never seen her before.
He'd flown her into her window…
"Lois?… Lois?" Clark asked, placing her gently on her couch.
Her body instinctively moved forward, her hands covering her face. She was still shaking.
"What can I get you? Can I make you tea? Give you something that will help you sleep?… Lois?"
She looked up at him, a smile that held no joy on her face. "Clark would say I need Oolong Tea right now. And then he'd tell me about some voodoo tribe of Indians or something that showed him how to make it, and he'd make it for me." Her voice was shaking as the words came out. "I'd protest and say I'd rather have coffee. But it would work. It would relax me. Or maybe it was just his presence. Maybe a mixture of both. I don't know. He always knew what to do. In every situation. He knew how to handle it… handle me. He knew how to make me feel the best I could feel in any given situation. And if I was going to remain feeling crummy, he knew it, but would at least calm my nerves with one of those cups of tea or something! He did… little things. He…"
Clark looked at her, concern overwhelming him. "Lois, I think you are in shock."
"I'm not in shock," she said, still visibly shaking. She hiccupped from the tears and then looked at him, her eyes wide and full of realization… looking like even she knew better. She was in shock. As it continued to dawn on her about what she had lost, she was in great shock.
"Lois, you haven't stopped shaking since Georgie Hairdo "
He trailed off as he noticed the look that passed over her features as he said the name of the dreaded club that he'd been killed in. "Lois," he said, kneeling in front of her. "Let me take you to the hospital. I really think you're in shock," he said, trying not to sound as if he, himself, was also in shock. "They can give you something that will relax you and calm you down," he said.
She looked at him, controlling her emotions for the first time since he'd seen her. "No." She looked right at him, seeming to see him for the first time all night. "No," she repeated.
And then she crumbled. "Oh, Superman," she said, shaking her head. "What am I going to do?" she cried. She was sobbing more gently than she'd been outside the club. But crying all the same and still looking completely heartbroken.
He'd always known her to be this woman who didn't need anyone. He was glad to know that she needed him as much as he'd always needed her… but he'd have preferred to learn that any other way than this. Her voice, her tears, her hanging shoulders… it was all tearing him up inside.
"I can't wrap my mind around this. It… it didn't happen… did it?" She looked up at him and the expression on his face must have crushed her desperate hopes. "Oh, god, it did. It…"
"Lois," he started. And then he stopped. What could he say, he wondered. Nothing. Nothing could change the fact that tonight Clark Kent HAD been killed.
"Why didn't I see it coming?" she asked, as if unaware of Superman's presence or the fact that he'd spoken. She talked to herself mostly, it seemed. "Clark saw the gun, and he selflessly stood in front of it… I saw it too and I panicked. I froze. By the time it registered to do something, it was too late to do anything. He… he was…" she broke off, shaking her head as more tears silently fell.
"It's not fair," she said, quietly, after a moment. "It's not fair that I was alive and sitting over him and he was… he wasn't. He wasn't there anymore. He wasn't moving, I mean. He wasn't moving," she repeated, as if trying to grasp it.
"I can't be here anymore," she finally said, breaking her gaze from the nothingness before her which seemed to have been playing a movie for her… a horrible, painful movie and looked at Superman. The only side to him that still existed. "I'm going to change and then I want to go to the Planet."
"Lois, I really don't think you should do that. You've been through something awful and you need to calm down. If you're not going to go to a hospital, then you really must stay here, Lois. Relax. Sleep," he said, lamely.
She looked him in the eye, her face hard and determined and absolutely wretched. "I need to go to the Planet."
Perry approved the copy. It had taken him so much longer to read through than any other story in his career… so much longer to approve. But it was flawless. Kerth-worthy, even.
She had done it. He'd known she would. He'd known it the minute he saw her break the sad gaze from Clark's desk with a resolute expression on her otherwise expressionless face that seemed to say she would write the story without pause. And less than an hour later it was on his desk. Facts. Cold, hard facts. Layered in pain and emotion. The perfect dance of news and emotions and suspense and words. The perfect combination of things that the Kerth committee was always looking for when sorting through the thousands of writers and stories each year. He knew that she would get nominated for this story. Her last story. And he knew for a fact that she would not care. He didn't care either. What they both wanted they could never have. They could never have him back. And an award sure as hell wouldn't make up for that.
As soon as the story was off his desk, he rested his head in his hands, tiredly, his job as editor-in-chief for the moment done.
Lois couldn't go home. She'd been there earlier. With Superman. And it hadn't been good. All she had thought about was Clark. He was everywhere. He'd sat on the very couch Superman had placed her on, countless times. She could see him sitting there, beside her. A ghost of him. A carbon copy, smiling at her, working with her, joking with her, talking with her, listening to her, teasing her.
Superman had stood in her kitchen, asking if he could make her tea. Tea. She could see him. She could see Clark. He had always made her tea when things got too stressful with a case, or when she got herself worked up over something, or sometimes as a trick when she wanted her eighth cup of coffee for the day.
Everywhere she looked in her apartment, he was there.
It wasn't that remembering him was bad. Quite the opposite. Thinking of his face was her only comfort just now. It wasn't surprising, since he'd always been a comfort when she was upset. Unfortunately this time, he couldn't help her pain abate. And she knew it never would. Not really. The pain could never go away because Clark was gone. And as long as Clark was gone, there would be an emptiness inside of her. There would be no fire in her soul or light in her eyes anymore. If she ever smiled again, the smile would never again be evident in her eyes. She knew with certainty this was true. Something was gone from her. Something intangible that separated her physical existence from her life. She knew now that Clark was the reason she had been living really living for the past year and a half. And the moment his life ended, she had begun to only exist.
Sitting in Centennial Park, she found herself thinking about it again. Her mind just kept going to that awful moment so quickly. Without warning. Without invitation.
She could see Dillinger pawing at her and Clark's arm go up. He had stopped Dillinger from doing anything more than touch her cheek for a split second. He had noticed her discomfort, of course. And he couldn't stand idly by while she was being mauled by some creep. He never could.
She immediately had shot a look of relief and appreciation in Clark's direction after Dillinger's hand was shot down. How she wished she could have said to him, instead of giving him that look, "thanks, now back off, they have guns," or "don't do anything stupid, Clark" or shot him a warning look that implied all that. Anything. But she hadn't done any of it.
Clark's hand had come to her defense for not the first time in their relationship, and this one time, she initially *had* felt genuine relief. Not annoyance, as she had sometimes felt when he'd tried to defend her. Not anger because she was well-aware she could take care of herself and thought he ought to know that as well. This one time, with these creepy 1920s gangsters, she'd felt relief at his interference. She didn't know what Dillinger might have had in store for her, and she really had not wanted to find out.
She hadn't warned him. And by the time she could have tried to pull him off his white horse, he'd already been knocked off of it. Shot off of it, she corrected herself, shuddering at that thought that she couldn't escape, no matter how hard she'd tried.
It had been a few hours and her mind's eye had played the scene out before her hundreds of times. Thousands. Millions. She wasn't sure anymore. But each time was more painful and awful.
Clark had been pushed back. She had known then that they were in danger that the situation had suddenly become more serious than just the threats Al Capone had been rolling off moments before. It had become dangerous. And Clark was right in the middle of that danger. The target.
"Reporter Killed in the Line of…"
The sound of a gunshot had shaken her and she had instinctively turned to him. She could see the fear in her eyes mirrored in his.
One shot. Two. Three. Realizing immediately that she wasn't being shot so he must be, her mind was screaming "stop!" She couldn't believe it. A nightmare. There were shots being fired. One. Two. Three. It seemed to never end. One shot was not enough for Clyde Barrow. One, two, three… to ensure that Clark wasn't just hurt, but… killed. "Clark!" "No!" "No, stop!" her mind had screamed, and when the noise had stopped, she had stepped forward and grabbed onto him, just in time to see one last look from him before his eyes closed for the last time. Just as he had fallen to the ground.
She had pleaded for it to not be true. She had called to him desperately, realizing it was no use. Realizing he was gone. "Breathe!" her mind had screamed. It was too late. He'd been taken from her. Laying beside her, he was no longer with her, and when that awful truth set in, a huge part of her left. A huge part of who she was who she had become since he'd entered her life died.
Even Superman couldn't do anything to help. To save the day. Before tonight, Superman could do anything, in her eyes. But not the one thing she needed him to do now. He wasn't a magician, after all. Or a miracle worker. He was a superhero and bringing people back from the dead was not one of his powers.
She realized she was cold. In the park, dressed in a large gray sweater she had borrowed from Clark some night long ago a night that she couldn't remember, but wished so badly she could find in her millions of memories of him and warm sweatpants, she was so cold. Tears were falling unchecked down her cheeks as the wind blew gently, making her shiver even more than she was already. She was so cold.
She looked around. She was sitting on a bench that held a painful memory from long ago.
As the tears continued to fall, she closed her eyes and imagined a sunny, spring day. She heard the voice of her best friend telling her sweetly and selflessly that he loved her. That he'd loved her for a long time.
"I love you, too," she whispered, her voice shaking. "I love you, too," she cried, burying her head in her hands, letting the sobs come and take over. Letting her body be controlled, once again this evening, by the forceful tears.
"He loved me," she had cried to Superman earlier in the evening. Superman had agreed. He'd known. Oh, everyone had probably known! Somewhere, deep down, she had known it too. But what she hadn't admitted to anyone, especially to herself until this moment was that she loved him too. She had loved him all along. And he would never know.
Clark's apartment was empty and quiet and his things were scattered around as if nothing had happened. Everything was just waiting to be put away and tidied up. The couch waited to be sat on. The television waited to be watched. The apartment waited, patiently, for a night like most others.
But this night was different. The world had changed.
Lois walked through the apartment, bombarded by memories. She thought herself insane. It had been too hard to be at her own place, but his place she could handle? She just wanted to be as close to him as she could be. He haunted her at her own place, but somehow comforted her at his, with his overwhelming presence.
She noticed a work shirt that was thrown on his ironing board, which was set up behind his couch. She sighed sadly, realizing he had probably intended to wear it to work tomorrow, and had ironed it before they'd left for the club.
She started crying again, realizing there would never again be a tomorrow for him. She cried, knowing that he had left his apartment earlier in the evening, expecting a routine night. He had expected to find something out… and then to come back here. To go to sleep. And start it all again… she cried more… tomorrow.
She knew he was aware of the dangers of their job. She had made him aware early on in their relationship and partnership. She sighed, realizing he never really thought their job was too dangerous. She never thought that either.
They both thought they were immortal. There was nothing they couldn't handle.
She looked again at the shirt on the ironing board. She remembered what she had been doing before they'd left for the club, and her cheeks burned with shame and guilt…
"Where is it!?" she'd said, throwing more clothes into an ever- growing pile of colors by her bed.
She was searching for her red dress. The one she had bought a month ago. The one that the saleslady had said would cause a heart attack to her poor, hapless victim, or any man that saw her in it, for that matter.
She wanted to wear it tonight, hopefully to get the attention of one of the gangsters and get information from him for the story.
"Aha!" she'd said, finding the slinky red material dangling weakly from a hanger, in between two broader, thicker, darker outfits, that were blocking the sexy, small number. She yanked it off the hanger and held it up in front of her in the mirror.
She still had her bathrobe on and hot curlers in her hair. But she could see that the red dress was going to stand out. It was a hot dress. She'd known that.
She had smiled at her reflection and said, merely, "This'll do."
She picked his work shirt up off the ironing board and brought it to her face, inhaling his scent and closing her eyes.
"What is this?" Clark had said, when he'd come to pick her up.
"Oh, just thought I'd get dressed up for the occasion. We have to blend in, you know. This *is* an undercover assignment," she'd said, throwing a shawl on.
"I know," he'd said, his voice deeper than usual.
"Well, Clark, the people that hang out at Georgie Hairdo's aren't exactly the toast of the town. They are sleazy and trampy. And *we* have to fit in." She looked at his suit. "I guess that'll do," she'd teased.
He had smiled back. "Well, Lois, if that was your goal, then you failed. Big time," he had said, as they walked out of her apartment.
She had looked at him, her eyebrows raised, as if insulted.
"You don't look trampy or sleazy, for one thing. You couldn't if you tried," he had said smoothly. "And there's no way you're going to blend in. All eyes will be on you," he had finished, looking like he had genuinely meant it.
She had given him a playful look, and turned away, ignoring the feeling of secret pleasure that had filled her when he'd complimented her…
She put the shirt back down and looked around his empty apartment.
The silence intensified the emptiness, and she felt it all around her and deep inside of her, as she thought, somberly, about her actions earlier. She had dressed to kill… and it had worked, ironically, only too well. She knew she would forever regret the methods to which she had stooped to get her story. She had dressed herself on this fateful night with every intention of using her sexuality to get close to the story. To get the facts and go home so she could write what she knew and be closer to solving the absurd mystery surrounding this particular story.
It wasn't the first time she had done that on a story. Hell, she had done it only a month before, when trying to prove that Lenny Stoke was the Sound Man. It had always been harmless. A quick way into the circle the villain moved in. A weakness to that person. A way to get the inside angle to better the story. She had used this method before. And it had never cost her a thing.
Tonight it had cost her everything.
Oddly enough, what she had wanted to happen had happened. She'd attracted the attention of John Dillinger. But when he'd commented to everyone about the "lady in red" while looking at her in that way and then touched her cheek, she had recoiled and felt dirty, just wanting him to stop. And that moment, right there how she had chosen to react to his pass was her fatal mistake.
Fatal for Clark.
Or maybe she should have just left when he had suggested. But she had *needed* to stick around on account of some stupid nickels!
Oh, the fates had conspired against her in numerous ways, which all added up to the very worst moment of her entire life.
She collapsed, finally, on his couch. She didn't think she could cry anymore.
But everywhere she turned, scenes from his apartment danced through her memory. Those scenes happy memories that warmed her soul were intertwined with one scene from earlier in the night a loud scene, filled with gunshots and the sound of her own voice pleading for her best friend not to be dead and to come back, not to leave her that chilled her to the core.
And finally, when it was too much to bear, she cried and cried and cried and, at some point, fell asleep.
"Anything, Jimmy?" Perry asked.
"She's still not there," Jimmy answered, quietly.
Jimmy was checking Lois's apartment daily to see if she was there. He and Perry were desperate to know she was safe. That she was just okay. They had no idea.
"Dammit!" Perry said, after a moment. "When she refused my offer to stay at my house that night, I should have insisted. I should have forced her. She needed me. But by the time I finished reading her story, she was gone."
And she hadn't been back ever since.
Jimmy was going nuts. The last time he saw Lois, she was with Clark and they were planning their night. The night they'd crack the case on Al Capone and the other resurrected gangsters.
He looked at Perry, realizing that he seemed so much older in the week since Clark had been killed. He looked like someone else. Not the old news hound who was really more like a loving father and good friend. He looked tired and awful and just so sad.
He, himself, felt different. Nothing seemed good anymore. Looking around the busy newsroom, it looked empty. Vacant. Without Lois and Clark there, it seemed quiet and everything seemed unimportant. And his own heart felt heavy with sadness over the loss of his good friend.
He wished at the very least that he and Perry could find Lois so the three of them could console each other. Right now, the only thing he and Perry could focus on was worrying about Lois and finding her. And so far, they were at a dead end.
He just wished everything could go back to normal. That the ding of the elevator could reveal behind its doors Lois and Clark, walking into the newsroom, theorizing about the latest breakthrough in their current story. He wished he could see them talking and laughing and arguing and hugging and fighting their feelings for each other. Everything that he knew had been wiped out so quickly that he hadn't even had a chance to say goodbye or reconcile himself to the change.
Nothing could ever be normal again. And every time he saw their desks, which he was supposed to clean out one of these days, he felt tears prick the corners of his eyes.
Nothing was as it should be. And his life, which had seemed pretty darn good the week before, held absolutely no joy anymore.
Lois threw the paper on the floor, next to the coffee table in disgust. She hadn't read the paper since the day her last story was published. The one with the awful headline that played in her head like a tape on auto-repeat. It just played over and over until she wanted to scream. The headline and the gunshots. She couldn't escape it. She refused to read the paper at all after that story was published.
Until today. One week later. She came out of hiding and grabbed the paper that was at his doorstep.
There was an extensive story about how Superman had apprehended Al Capone, John Dillinger, Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker quite simply, the day after the worst day of her life, and it went on to describe their indictments regarding their numerous crimes including armed robbery and murder.
The murder of Clark Kent.
She wanted not to think about him, but it was pretty difficult considering she was staying at his apartment.
When she'd gone there the night of his murder, she had only meant to sit for awhile, finding comfort in the familiarity of the place, and his presence there. But whenever she tried to leave, she couldn't do it. The closest she could ever feel to him again was there, in his apartment. It was warm and safe and he was everywhere. His life was spread around the apartment in photos and clothing and funny little items.
As the days stretched on, she grew sadder being there, realizing he never would be again. Before this, she had actually never been to his apartment without him there too. Being at his apartment, seeing as the days went on that he was not coming home, made everything so much more real. She understood logically that he was gone and wouldn't be walking through the door at the end of a long day of work ever again. But being there, experiencing that fact, made the truth sink in in a completely gut-wrenching, emotionally draining way.
She looked down at the newspaper and groaned, as fresh tears welled in her eyes, threatening to fall. Why… *why*… couldn't Superman have apprehended those… monsters… the day before they took Clark from her? If it was so easy for him to find them once they'd committed something so serious as murder, why couldn't he have found them before? Before her best friend had been gunned down, while trying to protect her? It wasn't as if now that they were caught things could just go back to normal, the way they did in the past when Superman apprehended a bad guy. Nothing could go back to normal again. Normal was working with Clark on a story. Normal was Superman putting the bad guy away. And normal was working on the next story with Clark.
"You're only as good as you're next story," she heard her own voice saying to Clark. Long ago. A voice that sounded like anything in the world was possible and tomorrow would be a great day to see what might happen. It was her voice, but it was no longer *her*.
Her heart grew especially heavy as she realized that this *should* have been a normal story. It was just like so many of their other stories! It was peculiar. There were bad guys. It was like a fantasy dead people coming back to life that would make a great story. Just as most of their other stories had started out! This one should not have changed their lives at all! It was not *so* special! They should be working on their next story now! Not… not… not this.
Lois hung her head as the weight of "this" continued to sink in.
And with the already long list of regrets that trailed along with its meaning, new ones continued to appear and taunt her, adding themselves to the list. She felt something twist in her stomach, as a new one pushed itself to the front of her mind. His last moments in life, she wasn't even with him! Not really. He'd been working and she had been… playing games. She had been gambling… and moments later, sitting over him, not believing her eyes. Not believing fate. Not believing any of it.
She threw the newspaper down on the coffee table and stood up.
She remembered the day Clark Kent had come into her life. She recalled him holding his hand out to shake hers in kind introduction. She had looked at it, mumbled a "nicetomeetyou" and then continued talking to Perry as if he were no more than a paperboy come to drop off his quarters.
But her crass dismissal of him hadn't caused him to be rude to her or avoid her. He had always treated her with respect. No matter what putdowns she had shot his way and there had been many, in those first few weeks especially he had always acted toward her as if they were great friends and ultimately had practically forced his way into her heart making it so that they eventually really were great friends. Best friends.
She walked into his kitchen, dressed in a pair of his sweatpants and his Smallville University sweatshirt, which she'd pulled from his closet. She imagined they were dating and that was why she was wearing his sweats. They were so in love and comfortable together that she could just go and change into something of his that was more comfortable when she visited.
She opened a cabinet, and released a small gasp at her sudden fantasy. Dating Clark? Wearing his clothes? She pulled a can of soup out of the cabinet and took a seat on the countertop, letting the thoughts process.
She smiled sadly.
It would have been nice to have dated him, she realized. To have sat with him, in big, comfy clothes, on his couch. Cuddling. Talking quietly. Watching movies. Kissing.
He would have been a wonderful boyfriend, she thought, as a tear rolled down her cheek. A week ago, she realized reproachfully, she would have looked at someone who suggested such a thing to her like they'd fallen off the turnip truck. She never would have thought about him like that a week ago.
Consciously, that is.
On some level, though, she almost always thought of him that way. He was her first choice for a date to any event. The best way to spend a Saturday night was in his company, whether they played board games or watched movies or just talked.
She would see him for such long hours all week long, yet she still looked forward to spending her free time with him a notion which was unbelievable to her. She was just so comfortable with him… comfortable enough to just be herself. To let down her guards and allow him to see the person that she allowed no one else ever to see. She was comfortable to open up to him and know that no matter what she ever told him, he would never judge her.
She smiled, remembering him. She loved when she could remember the way he was without thinking about the way he had died.
When she could focus on *him*, everything seemed okay. Everything just seemed like it was going to be okay.
She pictured him at work. He had always made work more fun. From messing around or joking around with her when things were slow, to arguing over the whodunit in a case, he brought something completely new and… completely wonderful… to her experience at the Planet. He could make her laugh like a giddy teenager and a moment later make her think like a rocket scientist. Well, almost anyway. It had seemed that way. When he would challenge her and when she would challenge him, they were both just challenging each other to be even better than they thought they could be. And the end result in their stories, in turn, was so much more amazing. So much more amazing than they had thought it could be in the beginning.
That defined their relationship, really.
So much better than she ever could have thought it would be at the beginning.
She loved how he could have fun at work. Loosen up. Laugh with Jimmy. Sometimes at her expense. But always in good fun!
Oh, that laugh! That smile! Such a joy for life. Such good nature. Contentment with the person he was. Contentment to be there. With them.
Just to be alive…
He could laugh like that so easily. And make her laugh, too. But it was not a problem for him to put jokes and laughing aside for a story or for something more serious.
He would sit on the edge of her desk, sometimes, looking at her with all the concern in the world, while she poured her heart out about something or other. He would look at her and she would know he was listening completely. Wanting to be there for her, not even having to try. Just being… naturally… such a good friend.
He would not have ever broken her confidences. Or anyone's, for that matter. He was above all that. Looking at the photographs laying all around his apartment, she got the sense that he was always above all of that. Never one for gossip. It wasn't him.
A tightening in her stomach reminded her of the one thing she always tried to forget.
That man that good, fun, man, with that smile had been killed. Shot to death before her horrified eyes. Because he'd been that. Good. Too damn good.
"God, why can't I stop thinking about him?" she said, sniffling.
She hopped off the counter and started to make the soup.
When she was at her own apartment, cooking even just opening a can and heating it on the stove was not a part of her reality. She just didn't cook. Eating out or ordering in just seemed so much easier. But at his place, she could do it. The stove was an okay place to be. She felt comfortable trying to cook. It didn't mean she was some domesticated 1950s housewife or anything like that. It didn't even mean that she was any good at it. It just meant…
She looked around his place…
It just meant she was home.
"Clark, come home, please," Martha said, holding the phone tightly. "You've been all around the world this week, not resting for a second. You've been everywhere except two places. Smallville and Metropolis!"
"I know, Mom," Clark said, standing in a phone booth in Phuket, Thailand. "I'm sorry. I'm just… I'm trying to get used to this. You know… my new life."
"Clark, you never even tried to find a way out of this mess so you could salvage your old one."
"Mom, I thought of everything! You think I want this? I've hurt everyone I love the most. You and dad," he started.
"Honey, no "
"You aren't admitting it, but you are both beside yourselves with the realization that your son is gone, and that the only part of him that still exists, you can't, logically, know. You can't talk to me openly ever again. I can't go to those games with Dad. I know he's upset about that. I briefly saw Perry and Jimmy at the police station when I caught Al Capone and company. The looks in their eyes…"
Martha looked at the ceiling. She could hear the pain in his voice, but she couldn't get him to come back. She couldn't get him to believe that together they might be able to figure something out. It was as if all his hope had been shot out of him when those bullets hit.
"And Lois," he started.
Martha could hear something change in his voice, talking about Lois.
"I've never seen her that way. I… I can't ever see her that way again. It's better if I start my new life as just Superman so she can start to move on."
"Don't you want to go to Metropolis and see how she's doing at least?"
"Of course I want to see her, Mom. But I can't. The last time I saw her, she was at the Planet. Perry was watching over her and I'm sure he and Lois and Jimmy are taking care of each other. I don't want to see what my… *lie*… is doing to her! To all of them!"
"Then Clark, please. Just… come home. Your father and I really want to see you."
"I'm not moving back, Mom. You have to understand. I can't move back. Not like this. Not when so much has changed and I can't even be me anymore. I promise I'll check in with you just as soon as…"
Martha waited. "As what, Clark?" she finally begged.
"…as soon as I've got my new life worked out."
"What does that mean, Clark?"
"Honestly? I don't know," he said sadly. "I have no idea."
Clark hung up the phone and stepped out of the phone booth. He looked around the strange land he was in for the moment. He'd been there before on Superman duty. He remembered thinking it was lovely and unique. Standing on that city street just then, though, with foreign customs going on busily around him, he hated it and wished he was anywhere else. He'd never felt more wretched and alone.
He sat down on the curb and stared at his hands.
He missed his old life so much.
He missed waking up, knowing he was going to the Daily Planet, where he would see Perry and Jimmy and Lois and do the one thing he loved to do report the news. With Lois.
He missed her the most.
She haunted him every second of every day. He could hear her laugh and see her soft, sultry brown eyes. He could see that wonderful expression she would wear when he would tease her. The expression that always made his smile even bigger. He could feel her lips on his from the times they'd kissed. He'd always hoped that someday he would be able to kiss her all the time, not because of a story, but because they were together. That she was as in love with him as he was with her. He'd hoped all the time.
Thoughts of Lois always ended the same awful way, though. With her calling out his name, sounding scared and alone and lost. Her eyes that night when they had looked into his, begging him to do something. Everything she had said that night and the way her sobs had wracked her body.
He hadn't slept all week. He just kept thinking about everything. How Clark Kent was gone and what it meant for him. He just kept thinking about the hopes and dreams those professional and those romantic and personal that had been dashed when those three bullets had hit him.
He missed everything so much! His apartment
He missed his apartment. It was his. His place in Metropolis. It was the only place he ever had that was *his*. Not a room in the house he grew up in, not a motel room… but his own apartment. A place where *he* belonged. Where people visited him. Where he relaxed after a long day.
As feelings of loneliness and longing began really to swell within him on that foreign street in Thailand, he realized what he needed right now. What he really needed was to be at home.
He wasn't ready to go to Smallville and face his parents yet.
But there was another home waiting for him where he didn't have to face anything but the past he'd lost.
It smelled like Chicken Soup.
Clark took his coat off and looked around the apartment suspiciously, wondering why it would smell like anything when he hadn't been in it in a week. He shook his head, thinking he must just be crazy. Or overtired.
In fact, his eyes stung with exhaustion. He realized why it was catching up with him now. Whenever he'd had a long day before, he would never realize it until he'd walked through his front door. Being home, being near his own bed, his body would finally realize how tired it was.
He'd been running around… running away, really… all week, barely sleeping a wink. And once again, walking into his apartment flying onto the balcony actually brought his pent up exhaustion to the surface.
"It probably smells like Chicken Soup because when you think of home, you think of Chicken Soup. And I am finally home," he rationalized to himself, while yawning a big yawn. Tiredness was washing over him in waves now.
He had only wanted to stay for a moment.
But he found himself heading for the bedroom on automatic pilot.
The room was dark and quiet. So quiet, with a beautiful rhythm lulling him, that he wouldn't dare turn on a light and break the silent rhythm.
He changed quietly at super speed into boxers and climbed into bed, falling fast asleep to the beautiful, vaguely familiar, soft rhythm.
The harsh sunlight begged Lois awake. She turned to the bedside clock. It was the same time that she woke up every day. 7:07.
She sat back against the pillows, wondering why she felt so much more different than every other morning she woke up in Clark's apartment. Then it hit her.
She hadn't had the nightmare last night. The one at the club. With the gangsters and the gunshots. The one of his face… his beautiful face…
…she hadn't had it.
"Finally," she said, under her breath. She tried to remember what she had dreamed about. She was sure she'd dreamed about something. But it wasn't clear.
But she knew with a certainty that she hadn't had that horrible nightmare, which a week ago was an awful reality.
That, at least, was something.
For the first time since catching the resurrected gangsters, Superman flew above the Metropolis skies again!
He made a few appearances, but mostly took to the skies to think. Thinking was always easier in familiar skies. So he flew around Metropolis, his thoughts scattered in a million places.
When he'd been running around the world, Lois had been haunting him, preventing him from falling asleep. And when, finally, he went home and was able to get some sleep, she haunted his dreams. She taunted him with a love she had never offered to him when he was alive. A love he sure as hell could never have now.
He'd woken up in the early hours of the morning in tears, sweating. Lois. He'd been dreaming about Lois. Being in his own apartment again, finally, had brought thoughts of her streaming out of his subconscious, and he'd awoken trembling and sad, thinking about how much he loved her and how hard it was going to be never seeing her again the way he used to. Never hoping again for the future he used to hope for every single day.
The only way he could ever be with her was in dreams. Dreams like the one he'd had from the night before… which he couldn't quite recall… but had provided him with nothing but comfort and thoughts of her.
He left his apartment as quickly as he'd entered it, not bothering to even look around and commit it to memory, in case he never saw it again.
He needed to get out of there. Away from memories of her.
Unfortunately, flying around Metropolis did nothing but bring him memories of Lois. He'd flown with her all over the city, and he'd walked with her on every city street. It was the city where their history was.
His hearing picked up a newsflash about a flood in the Philippines. With a sigh of relief, he zoomed off, out of Metropolis, trying to forget what it felt like to be there again.
"Jimmy," Perry said, looking drawn and pale. "Call Henderson. We need to find Lois and we need to pull out all the stops. And if you see Superman… if you see him at all, tell him too."
Jimmy nodded, looking perturbed, as well. It had been too long and Lois had been in too bad of shape when she'd been last seen by Perry. They had to make new moves to find her.
They were terribly worried about her. Desperate, at this point, just to find her.
When Jimmy walked away to carry out this order, Perry looked at the vacant desks of his two best reporters, missing them.
He missed them so much.
He could never have Clark back and he knew that. But Lois was somewhere and he needed her. And he was sure she needed him too.
Clark's parents had called a few days back, wanting to see how he and Jimmy and Lois were. He'd talked to them and given his condolences and they had returned the sentiment in kind. But he hadn't told them that Lois was missing. He had just said that she wasn't herself and was taking it really hard.
He shook his head. These two people had lost their only son. There was no need to worry them over Lois. Not yet. He knew they cared for her. He could see it when they visited. And he could hear it in their voices when they asked about her. They had always held out the same hope that he did, where Lois and Clark were concerned. And now there was no hope. They sounded like their world was forever changed. And he didn't want to add to that.
Finding Lois was *his* priority. Something he needed to focus on. Then, he could tell her that they had called, wanting to know she was alright. That they were there for her, too.
His first logical step had been to contact her sister, Lucy. Her number was in his rolodex from when she used to work in Metropolis. And Lois had updated it when she had moved to California.
Lucy had shared his concerns over Lois's well-being, but also alleviated them a bit by saying she had called, sounding "like *death*, to say she was okay," a few days earlier.
Wherever she was, she was at least okay. But Perry shook his head. Knowing she was just okay was not enough.
He needed to find Lois. To get her back. He had to make sure he didn't lose her, too.
Lois had finally left Clark's apartment. She had to, if she didn't want to die from starvation. She'd used up all of his food, and needed to take a trip to the grocery store.
She hadn't been eating much all week. She'd been too depressed to eat much. But she had been eating. And now his food was gone.
Dressed in his large sweats and wearing a baseball cap, she hoped she wouldn't be recognized on the quick trip into the neighborhood. One thing that had made the past week bearable at all was that she hadn't had to talk to anyone about it. She hadn't had to relive the worst night of her life with anyone who "wanted to be there for her." She couldn't talk about the horror of that night. Not yet, anyway. The pain was too fresh. The thoughts alone made her cry. To put those thoughts into words would probably kill her, she thought.
She could vaguely remember talking to Superman about everything immediately after it had happened. She couldn't remember what she had said. But she remembered that he had looked scared. She'd been out of control, inconsolable… and clearly beside herself with grief and pain. If she tried to talk to someone now, it would be like a repeat performance of that night. And if she'd managed to scare *Superman*, she shuddered to think of what Perry might do.
After that first horrible night, she'd had other moments many of them just like the ones she'd had that night. She'd had those same intense reactions when Clark's death would again sink in. When it would hit her. She would be fine and then something as small as seeing a tie of his that she remembered making fun of would trigger an attack. That was the only word she could think to describe the fits. Attacks. Her feelings were attacking her. Her love was attacking her. Her grief, her guilt, her shame, her sadness, her cowardice ATTACKED her.
It would happen sometimes in the morning. Sometimes it would wake her from a sound sleep. Sometimes it would happen in the middle of a movie on television.
And she found, flipping through the channels, that any time someone on television got shot, for entertainment value, to pack a movie with action, she just could not watch. The noise would immediately push her backward in time to when that noise had been all too real. And the ramifications were not at all entertaining.
She couldn't watch those kinds of movies.
Or romance movies, which brought on the tears, as her many regrets would surface at the sight of happy couples in love.
Many things brought her emotions which she was constantly trying to suppress and control rushing to the surface.
She couldn't control the attacks. But in the week since his death, they hadn't stopped happening. Her last one had been just before she'd stepped out for the grocery store. When she realized she'd used up all of his food. Just the idea that his food was gone, like him, brought on the intense feelings.
So running into someone she knew who might want to talk was just out of the question. She just… she wasn't ready.
"Hey, Chief, I just had a thought about where Lois might be," Jimmy said. When Perry looked up, but said nothing, he took it as a sign to continue. "Maybe she went to Clark's apartment. You know to…"
"Torture herself? I doubt it," he said. "That place has probably been cleaned out. There may even be someone new there." After a moment, he looked up from the paperwork on his desk. "But good thinking. Why don't you head over there and check anyway," Perry said. "I mean, if you don't mind, that is. If it's too hard for you, son, then…"
"No, Chief, I can do it," Jimmy said.
Which was how he found himself picking the lock at Clark's place fifteen minutes later.
When the door finally opened, he gasped when he saw the inside. It was Clark's apartment… and another reminder of what had happened.
It was a lot messier than he had ever seen Clark's apartment in the past. But it made sense… he had been pretty busy in the days that led up to his… murder.
Standing on the landing, he closed his eyes, briefly. Even just in thought he could barely trudge over that word. Murder. Death. Killed. Shot. Any of those words. His thoughts would stop dead in their tracks when talking about Clark in the same sentence as those words. Clark was young and healthy and alive… To him, he always would be. So to think of him in that context…
He looked around the apartment, realizing he hadn't been there in awhile. Months, really. He and Clark occasionally went out for a slice of pizza or something after work. Sometimes, Clark invited him over to hang out and watch a game or something. He'd refused on occasion because of a date and on occasion because of another obligation and once because it was just going to be him, Clark and Lois, and he'd been waiting for them to finally get together and didn't want to prolong it with his presence. Just now, though, he wished he had said yes to those invitations a little more often.
It was quiet and still at Clark's place. A quick walk around, while trying to just keep his emotions intact revealed what he'd assumed and, in a way, feared. Lois was not there. Which brought him back to square one. Lois was missing.
He quickly let himself back out, looking once more at the apartment and trying to commit it to memory.
Lois arrived at the grocery store and quickly grabbed everything she'd come for. Milk, bananas, chicken soup, bread, tuna fish… everything she'd used at Clark's place. She didn't pick up anything new. She wanted to keep the place his, and if she'd bought anything that she would keep at home, like cookies or macaroni-and-cheese, it wouldn't have been Clark's place anymore. Not really. The cabinets had to contain what they had contained when she'd shown up at his place the night of his… the night…
"Cash or credit?" the cashier inquired, when her price flashed on the screen.
"Credit card," she said, keeping her head down. She'd have preferred to pay with cash, but she didn't have any on her. She handed the card to the woman and watched as it was swiped.
"I'll need your signature here, Miss… Lois Lane…" the woman said, reading the card. "Hey, aren't you that reporter? I thought I saw something last week about you, some hot news or gossip or…"
"Here you go," Lois said, signing the receipt and handing it to the woman. "Thanks," she said, not sounding grateful in the least.
She walked away, angry at herself for not having stopped at an ATM and just gotten a little cash out. She hadn't been recognized, but her name had, and somehow it was just as bad. To this woman, Clark's death *was* a hot piece of gossip.
Lois realized, with a shudder, that when she read about murders, she was always intrigued and wanted to know every morbid detail. She thought it was maybe human nature or just the inquisitor and reporter in her. She also realized that she'd have reacted just like that woman if it had been some person she'd never met.
But this hot piece of gossip for some people was the worst thing that had ever happened to her. It was her nightmare from which she couldn't wake up. It wasn't removed, so it could never be gossip. It hit close to home too close it hit her heart and it was all too real.
She walked quickly back to Clark's, her head bowed, wondering how she could have been so stupid to have left at all.
"It's been over a month and we haven't seen him," Jonathan said, sitting down at the kitchen table, looking drawn.
"Two weeks since he last checked in," Martha added.
They looked at each other, seeing their sadness and exhaustion reflected in each other's eyes.
"What do we do about this, this time?" he asked, holding up an envelope.
Martha looked at it. It was addressed to Clark's landlord.
She sighed. "Pay it," she said.
"Martha, he isn't even checking in with us anymore. He's given up and he's running around the world, throwing himself into being just Superman. He is trying to show us… and show himself… that Clark Kent is dead. So he doesn't even call anymore or stop by. It's becoming real, Martha. It's becoming real that our boy is gone. Just as he would be if he'd been a human being at that club that night. We can't keep paying his rent! He won't be back there. He's given up. He's declared that side of himself gone. Dead!"
Jonathan took a deep breath, and looked at his wife. She was near tears and he was too.
"He can't get paying work as Superman and he isn't trying to get any kind of a life, whether it be his old one or a new one. When do you think he's going to pay us back?" he asked, sounding resigned and defeated.
"Sometime soon, Jonathan, he's going to come back here to see us. He misses us and it will eventually become too much and he'll be too lonely. He'll come here. And he'll be so lost that he'll do anything to get that life that he lost back. Even tell Lois his secret. And when the two of them figure out how to get his life back because I know if they worked on it together they *could* figure it out he's going to need a place to live. And he sure liked that place of his. Enough that he gave us money to pay for his rent the night after this all started. He hadn't wanted to lose it then. He had said he wasn't ready. He made us call the landlord just to be sure that he knew the rent was coming and not to do anything to the apartment. I doubt he wants to lose it now either. We'll tell his landlord, again, that we just like that place and want to keep it for awhile," she said.
Jonathan nodded blankly.
"Jonathan, all we can do right now is wait for him to come back here to see us. And then support him and put things in perspective even if it means I have to give him the spanking of his life so he can snap out of this! In the meantime, we have to do what we have to do."
Jonathan sighed. "I know. I knew… I just… this is hard."
This was the hardest obstacle they'd come up to yet, since creating Superman. And both Jonathan and Martha were constantly feeling grateful that they had each other to lighten the load.
He was kissing her again. His fingers were laced with hers, his intensity matched by hers, with tears running down their cheeks, their lips memorized each other. Reaching out. Holding each other. Feeling it all… together.
He woke up, sweating, and groaned when he realized it had just been a dream. The same dream he'd been having since he'd visited Metropolis. Metropolis… where he had been surrounded by memories of her.
He put his head back on his pillow and closed his eyes. He was out of Metropolis now. On the other side of the world. In a hotel that didn't have memories of Lois, where her scent and presence didn't follow him and haunt him. *Why* couldn't he forget her and stop thinking about what he could never have? Why couldn't he leave the life he'd left behind… behind?
He felt completely overwhelmed. Bombarded by emotions. He wasn't one to break down or cry, but lately it seemed like all he could do when his feelings assaulted him so strongly. Cry for his life and cry for her.
"Lois, I love you!" his thoughts screamed out.
And then there was trembling and he felt like a lost child.
"So you love her," he said to himself. "WHAT GOOD DOES IT DO?! YOU ARE DEAD!… And she's lost to you," his thoughts finished.
He still had no idea where to go or what to do. He was in a hotel on the opposite side of the world in Auckland, New Zealand and the only thing he thought he might be able to do was write under a pen name. Write a novel or something.
It just wasn't happening though. His heart wasn't in it. His heart… was back in Metropolis.
Lois's head shot up.
It took her a moment to steady her breathing. She placed one hand on her forehead and tried to wake herself up. She'd drifted off while reading a book. She looked at the time. It was a Sunday in the mid-afternoon.
And Clark's voice had once again woken her from a sound sleep. She could hear him calling to her. Needing her. Sounding lost and sad.
She blinked a few times, willing the tears sitting in her eyes to just go away.
She stood up and walked over to his window, missing her old life. She missed Clark more than she ever could have thought she'd miss anyone. She knew she would miss him for the rest of her life.
As the weeks went on, she was also starting to miss her job. She still believed in why she quit and she had no desire to go back there, knowing it was that job and how strongly she'd cared for that job that ultimately had gotten Clark killed. But she missed it all the same. It had kept her busy, for one thing. And it was in her very heart and soul to report the news… to make a difference. She'd always wanted to do it. And she'd always been happy doing it. Especially with Clark.
When she'd seen how hard writing that story about him… and without him… was going to be on that night so long ago she knew she could never do it again. It could never be the same. And she told herself that if he couldn't be by her side doing it with her, she didn't deserve to do it either. It was the only way she knew how to deal with his murder at the time.
But now… she did feel alone a lot of the time. Sometimes she felt that Clark was near her somehow… kissing her in dreams and telling her he loved her… and sometimes she could hear his voice in her head like he was just a breath away. But other times, a void grew inside of her and she felt very alone. Even in his warm and comforting apartment.
She looked around at the apartment.
She really had made it hers in the past month. She'd tried to leave many times. But… it was always the same. She just never could actually do it. She had no desire to do it. She didn't want to be in her own apartment. She didn't want to be anywhere period, except exactly where she was.
She'd finally called Perry and Jimmy and her mother, a few weeks after that night, and explained that she'd just needed to be alone and still needed to lay low. She had talked to Lucy briefly in that first, awful week, knowing her family was probably worried. Everyone had seemed to understand, but they still encouraged her to come and see them, so they could all be there for each other.
She'd said she would call them sometime. She'd promised.
She stared out Clark's picture window sadly at the world outside that had gone on without her this past month… and without him as well.
When she turned and looked at the apartment, she gasped, an image flickering into her mind, practically stealing her breath away. She could almost see a ghost of her best friend, standing there, in his apartment, smiling… and in that instant, she knew he wouldn't want her life to end just because his had. She knew it as certainly as she knew he had loved her so much that he would die, just to keep her safe.
She walked slowly into the living room and picked up the phone and dialed a number she knew well.
A tear slipped down her cheek. Her breath caught when she heard the familiar voice. She hadn't been so happy to hear someone's voice in a long time. "Perry?"
Clark hadn't seen Lois since that fateful night a month and a half ago. The night his life had changed forever.
On that night she'd looked lost and wretched.
Seeing her now, she looked… about the same.
Still beautiful, he noticed, of course. Her silky black hair was just the smallest bit longer than it had been then. It still looked so soft and he could almost feel his fingers going through it as they kissed. The same mind-blowing kiss that he dreamt of almost every night. Her eyes still shone, brown and bright, full of endless possibilities.
She looked pale, though. He frowned, realizing she'd worn the same hopeless, lost expression on her face that night. Like her world had crashed down on her and she'd been helpless to do anything about it. She looked nothing like the woman he'd met over a year ago when he interviewed at the Planet. That woman had controlled her own world and had built such a strong foundation for herself that it would never crash down on her.
And then he'd entered her life. He'd made her let him in and trust her. They'd become best friends.
He sighed. He did this to her. That tore him up more than anything.
"Lois?" he said, walking over to her.
She turned quickly, her breath catching, and he once again chastised himself for sneaking up on her. He'd made her think he was back… that Clark was back. For an infinitesimal moment, she had hope in her eyes again. But as soon as her eyes rested on the superhero in the suit, that look went away. As if it had never been there to begin with.
It was Superman. Of course it was Superman. Who else would it be, calling her name? Who else could it have been?
But for one wonderful breath, someone else had called her name. He'd come back to her and her world had once again had color. The colors were bright and beautiful. But once she saw the red and the blue and the yellow, everything went once again to the gray that had become her existence.
She bowed her head and regained her composure. She looked back up.
"Hi, Superman," she said.
She realized she hadn't seen him since that night. She couldn't even really recall what had happened the last time she'd seen him. It was all a blur and she preferred not to remember anyway.
"How are you?" he asked, carefully.
"I've been better," she said, her tone sharp as a knife, her emotions coming through, even though she told herself to keep them intact. She knew, the moment she'd spoken, why she hadn't wanted to see anyone for so long.
Talking hurt. Thinking about anything hurt.
Alone she had the power to control her emotions, at least most of the time.
Maybe it had been a mistake to agree to meet up with Perry today. And of course, going to see him in the middle of the city meant she'd probably see Superman too. She hadn't thought of that. She might not have ventured out of her safe place had she thought of it.
She felt sad, seeing him just now. He still looked handsome, of course. Although he did seem a little wan and haggard. He probably felt guilty over Clark's death, too, she mused. They had, after all, been good friends. If she felt guilt, then he most certainly shouldered some of that as well.
The reason, however, she felt sad seeing him, was because she could look at him now now that everything was all messed up and see that he wasn't real. He was a superhero. In red and yellow and blue. An 'S' on his chest. Standing for truth, justice and the American way. Here to make a difference. And he certainly had! And she loved him. She had always loved him. But she now knew that he was not very real. She didn't know him well enough for him to be real or three-dimensional. Her love was real because he was her friend… but not her best friend. She didn't know him that well. Not as well as…
It didn't matter, though. That was what saddened her the most. The realization. She had ignored Clark for so long because of him. And how blind she'd been! She knew now. She knew now how blind she'd been. She had kept Clark at arms' length because she had thought herself in love with someone whose name she didn't even know.
He was handsome and dazzling and when he was in action, saving the day, you could almost forget everything else. Including that nagging voice in the back of your mind that told you over and over to just *look* at that partner, that best friend, of yours and see. See what was really there. What it meant. Really see him.
She knew now. She knew all too well now.
And it made her sick.
"Lois, are you okay?"
She looked up at him.
"I'm sorry. I just… I was thinking about… Clark," she said, her voice dropping to a barely audible pitch at the name. She hadn't said the name in so long. In her mind, she said it constantly. But out loud, she never dared. She bit her bottom lip and begged the tears to just go away. She couldn't cry in front of Superman. Not again.
"I see," he said, sounding distracted.
Had he, she wondered, been upset she was still thinking about Clark? It seemed that way. But didn't he know Clark had been her very best friend? The only person she had ever and could ever work with? Hadn't he known the depth of their relationship? Did he expect her to look at him and be swept away and dazzled like she'd been before? Didn't he realize that everything had changed one fateful night long ago? Changed forever…
"I think about him all the time," she said, assuring him of her thoughts, in case he was being as callous or self-centered as she was accusing him of being in her mind. "God, everything is such a mess," she said, harshly wiping at a tear that had dared to fall, despite her best efforts to keep it in the wells in her eyes. "And I know it'll never be good again. Any good that was in this world… is gone," she said, her voice sounding cold, even to her own ears.
She immediately started to realize that she should not have chosen this day to come out of hiding and face the world. She clearly was not ready.
"Lois, that's not true. There's still good in the world. Just… look at you. You're forever good," he said, kind of wistfully. He looked at her again, a determined expression on his handsome face. "He didn't take it with him," he said, like he was reasoning with a child.
He still looked upset. Distracted.
She laughed a humorless laugh. "Look around, Superman. He took it with him. There's no good in the world. There is certainly no good in my world. If I ever wanted to see it, all I had to do was look right next to me. There it was. There he was. And now… he's gone. Just… like… that. In one lousy second," she added, her voice growing angrier.
"Lois, have you thought about… talking to someone about this?" he asked.
"I'm talking to you, aren't I?" she asked, coolly.
He lowered his eyes and sighed. For a moment, she even felt bad. He was just trying to help. Trying to help… so she could go back to the way she was.
Healthy Lois fawned all over him. Healthy Lois never thought of another man over him.
He clearly needed *that* woman back.
She shook her head. "No!" she said to herself. Superman was not like that. He was just concerned. He was her friend.
Everything was such a mess, she didn't know what to think.
"Look, I'm sorry, Superman. I'm not myself. And I don't think I should talk to you anymore right now. I'm taking my anger out on you and that's not right. I shouldn't. I'm just… I'm upset. I'm angry. Please, just… go away."
It wasn't his fault that she had ignored Clark for so long because of her infatuation with him. It wasn't his fault that Clark had died without ever knowing she'd loved him. Been in love with him. It wasn't Superman's fault. She knew that. Clark had been the most amazing person to ever come into her life. She'd known it, but hadn't acknowledged it to herself, let alone to him. She hadn't told him. And he'd died. She shouldn't take *that* out on Superman.
She was breathing heavily, her thoughts overwhelming her, her regrets almost breaking her, her face contorted with the pain she was feeling. She tried to hide it. She couldn't hide it.
"What's wrong, Lois… tell me, please," he said.
She didn't know how he couldn't know. It was only too clear what was wrong.
"It just hurts sometimes," she said.
He lifted his head and looked beyond her for a moment, his air of bold indifference crumbling… and she could actually see his feelings. He looked… beyond concerned. Beyond upset. Kind of…
"Lois, I really hate seeing you like this. You…" he started, but then stopped. He took a deep breath. "You have everything. You have Perry and Jimmy and Lucy. Friends. Family. You have a great job. A dream job, really. And you are amazing at it. You have *everything*," he repeated. "Don't get lost in all of this and forget that. Please," he said.
She could see in his eyes… his familiar eyes … that he meant that. That he was begging her to get herself out. To be okay again.
She smiled in appreciation, a sad, sympathetic smile. "Thanks, Superman."
She turned and continued on her walk to the restaurant to meet Perry. His words rang in her ears. And she heard them. She did. But hearing them only brought one fact to the forefront of her mind.
She had nothing.
He hadn't expected to see her like that. Like… like nothing had changed since that night. Like it might never change.
It was not that he thought she would be running around giddily, happily getting on with her life. But he had expected to see her looking… healed. Or in the process, anyway. Moving on. Getting there.
But what he had seen was a pale imitation of the vibrant woman who had stormed into his life ages ago when he'd sat in an office, a small-town boy in a big city, riding solely on hopes and dreams. That woman had glowed, as if from the inside out. Her work ignited her. And that fire was in her heart. Her soul. Her eyes.
She was so alive and vibrant. Such a presence that one could not do anything but notice it and fixate on it and want to be near it just to experience something of its kind.
He shook his head and kicked some hay off of the second story of the barn. He sighed.
She'd looked invisible.
Not to him, of course.
Oh, she still had the power to captivate him just by looking at him. He, Superman, was rendered speechless, tongue-tied… and completely vulnerable at the mere sight of her.
No, she hadn't looked invisible to him. But she'd looked like she wanted to be invisible to the world. And the worst part was — it seemed to be working. Her energetic aura, her vibrancy, her light… it all seemed to be missing.
He couldn't take it anymore. He needed to finally *do* something about this mess his lie had caused.
That was how he found himself at the barn outside the house he grew up in.
When he'd arrived back in Smallville, it had looked so comfortingly the same as when he left it… and the same as when he was a boy. His farmhouse in Smallville never changed, and that always made everything seem simpler, somehow. Especially at a time like this when everything else he knew had changed and had become so complicated.
He wanted to sit in the barn, as he had done as a boy when he needed to think or when he felt a bit alone. He needed to collect his thoughts before he went to them.
When he walked into the house, many minutes later, they were sitting in the kitchen. In a heartbeat, they'd pulled him into a hug… and he nearly collapsed with the relief one feels when he's been lost and gone and finally comes home.
"I guess I was running."
"We know you were running," Martha said, waving a hand nonchalantly, as if she had just declared it was raining outside. "We're just glad you're home now. We don't expect or want any apologies. Not now."
"Okay. But I am sorry," Clark said, looking down at his hands, which rested on the kitchen table by a now-empty glass of buttermilk. "It's just… my lie has always been there for the three of us. We have it. We protect it. Simple. We know we have to do that. It's never harmed anyone before. Sure, sometimes we all hate lying. Me especially, because *I* have to live that lie. But what kept it going was that it really was in everyone's best interest and it *never* hurt anyone. This was the first time my lie hurt people. The people I love. All of them. Everyone in the world that is precious to me was tormented by what happened. I never thought that I would hurt you two, or Perry and Jimmy… or Lois. Never in a million years. But you both were rattled and changed by this. You were so clearly upset. And you two were the lucky ones! Their eyes. Her eyes… the pain I caused," he trailed off.
"Clark, we understand that," Jonathan said. "But you didn't hurt anyone. Everyone just loves you."
"I think we can all agree that if we could find some way to get you back, life would be a lot better all around," Martha joked.
"I'll figure something out, Mom. There's something I have to do, first," he said.
"Does it involve Lois?" Martha asked, coyly, looking at Jonathan.
"I should have told her that night. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Isn't that what you've always said?" he asked his parents.
"Yes," Jonathan said.
"I've put this off for too long. I think it is high time she knew the truth."
Martha let out a breath she didn't even realize she was holding. Finally. They could start to fix their shattered lives.
Both of them.
All of them.
"This was nice, Perry," Lois said, looking down at her empty plate.
She hadn't eaten such a meal in a long time.
"You really enjoyed it, honey? Because you look kind of… pale," Perry said, carefully.
"I loved it, I promise. I've just been holed up somewhere with a lot of expired food. It's been making me sick lately, to tell you the truth. I needed this. To get out. To eat real, *good* food. To see you…" she said, lowering her lids and blushing. "I'm sorry it took me so long, Perry," she finally said.
"Honey, you think I came here for an apology? I understand. Clark was… your partner. And your best friend…"
She inhaled slowly and then exhaled equally slowly. A deep and long, controlled breath. To hear Clark talked about in the past tense it took all of her effort not to break down right there. She fought the feeling for the thousandth time since she'd met up with Perry, and finally looked up at him.
"You sure you don't want to come back, Lois? I understand that you couldn't be there after… well, after everything. I understand you needed to sort it all out. But it's been over a month since it happened. And of course your job is still waiting for you for whenever you want to come back," he said.
"I miss it. I miss being there and working. Digging and searching. Writing. Seeing our… uh, my… byline," she said, her voice catching at her slip. "I do miss it, Perry."
"I know it'll be hard now. But I do think it would "
"I can't " she said, her eyes conveying her pain at the very idea of working without him. "Yet," she corrected, more softly, realizing how she had sounded. "I just… can't be there and see someone else at his desk and "
" so we'll change the layout of the desks. You'll never know which one was his "
" and work without him. Investigate without him. Write without him. I can't be without him… not there," she said, her voice an emotional whisper.
"Then where?" Perry asked after a long moment.
"I don't know," she cried. "There are lots of other papers," she said quietly, not looking at him anymore. Tears filled her eyes as everything came crashing to the surface. The thought of working anywhere but the Planet made her feel physically sick. But the thought of working there without Clark made her feel worse.
She stood up and ran into the restaurant. Past all the waiters and the confused glances from happy customers. Into the bathroom.
Her emotions had surfaced… and had made her sick. Actually, physically sick.
Perry stood outside the restroom, waiting for Lois. He had known she was going to be sick. She'd looked almost green all throughout the meal.
He was happy to see her, but worried all the same.
She didn't look right.
And he knew it was more than her nerves that had made her sick just now.
Clark landed on his balcony and entered his apartment. Quickly and quietly. Through the back. In hiding. Something he'd become quite accustomed to in his life… especially in the past month and a half.
It looked different than he remembered it from a month ago, when he'd slept there.
He looked around, sunlight cascading over his place, highlighting all the things he had been missing.
He supposed when he'd been there that night, he hadn't noticed much. It was nighttime. It was dark. He hadn't turned a light on. He had been completely drained. And he'd been there just to be there. Not to look around or to notice anything.
And in the morning he'd left quickly.
He took a step in. One red boot. The next.
He furrowed his eyebrows and looked around at the kitchen and the living room. He knew one thing for sure.
This was not the way he'd left his apartment the night he'd been killed.
"Perry, I'm sorry I worried you. I already said that. But honest, it was just my emotions combined with bad expiration dates from stale and old food. I've been feeling pretty queasy all week. I need to go grocery shopping," Lois explained, walking with Perry, who had insisted she do so because he said she looked like she really needed some fresh air.
"Lois, you could have malnutrition. Or at the very least, a stomach bug. The stomach flu. Something," he said, his hands in his pockets, looking at her sideways. Studying her without being obvious.
A good reporter at heart.
Undercover and concerned. Acting casual.
"Perry, I really don't think so. I think…" she trailed off. "I don't know what I think," she said, finding her thoughts moving at a dizzying pace that even she couldn't get into her own head and make sense out of things.
"Your color looks a little better right now, but you still look a little green around the gills, honey."
"I still feel a little nauseous, Perry, but it's not unusual. I told you, I've been feeling like this all week. And this was the only time I got sick. I think I was just a little overwhelmed. You know I don't like to even think about working anywhere else, don't you?"
"I know, honey. I don't like to think about it either. But I also don't think your talent should be wasted or that you should spend the rest of your life holed up somewhere grieving. It's a waste. I want you writing. Working. When you're ready, that is. And wherever it is that you need to be, I'll support it. As long as you stay…"
"… stay…" Lois said, urging him to continue.
"… in touch," he finished, emotionally.
"Of course! I really am sorry I disappeared like that."
"We were worried. We missed you. We wanted to help you. Lois, I think of you as mine. Like a daughter, I mean," he said, looking at the pavement, stopping.
"Oh, Perry," Lois said, tears falling for the first time in over a month for a reason besides the loss she felt so deeply. "You're like a father to me, too. And you'll always be one of my best friends. I will keep in good touch no matter where I go," she promised. "I don't think that'll be anytime soon, though, so don't worry."
Lois looked away from Perry when she realized where they were.
She looked back at Perry, wondering if he had intended them to go there. One look into his eyes and she knew. He did.
"Perry, I am not going to the hospital," she said, almost laughing. She dried her cheeks with her sleeves. "I'm okay," she said.
He did not look convinced.
"Lois, honey, please."
She looked at him, prepared to protest again. But when she saw the concern in his eyes and thought about how she had worried him for so many weeks and had not been a good friend to him in that time, she sighed and gave in.
Lois. He could sense her there. Smell her distinct fragrance. See her fingerprints all over the place.
Without a doubt he could tell she had been there.
He looked around and saw how messy the place was. It didn't seem as if she'd stopped by for a minute or two. It looked like she'd *been* there. Like she… well, almost like she lived there.
She had clearly made herself pretty comfortable. Had she, he wondered, stayed there overnight a few times? Gone there to be close to him in her own way?
He sat down on the couch and put a hand through his hair, sighing. No wonder she wasn't moving on or getting better. She kept going there. Trapping herself in him. In memories of him and of that time in her life in which they knew each other and were best friends.
She couldn't begin to get over it if she was trapped like that.
He thought, for a moment, that maybe she had gone there at first, but hadn't been back in awhile. But he immediately shook his head.
He could tell… could *sense*… that she'd been there recently. This morning, even.
And he'd seen her earlier. That look on her face.
It all made sense now.
She was trapped. It was written all over her face. She was wrapping herself tightly in memories to the point where she was draining any life that was left in her out.
She needed to know the truth. He was only too upset to realize things had come this far already without her knowing.
"Why didn't I tell you?" he wondered as he headed into the bedroom to lie down for a moment. To wait for her to return.
"Tell me what?" Lois asked.
"What?" Perry asked, as if breaking himself out of a trance he'd been in.
Lois looked around the waiting room. She saw a man standing nearby, talking to someone.
"Nothing. I think I overheard someone else talking. I thought they were talking to me. Momentary confusion. I'm here. I'm fine," she said nervously to Perry, who looked at her like she had ten heads.
That voice, though… it shook Lois to the core. She hadn't overheard anyone; that much she knew. And she'd known, the moment she had instinctively answered Perry, that it had not been Perry's voice.
It had been Clark's.
She knew it.
His voice was in her head.
Ever since his death, his voice had been in her head constantly. She could remember exactly what it sounded like and thought of it often, never wanting to forget.
But sometimes, it felt closer to her than those other times. Sometimes it felt like he was whispering in her ear in a quiet, quiet room. And sometimes the message didn't make any sense, which made her think it was more than her subconscious at work.
She didn't know what was going on. It rattled her completely. And it soothed her at the same time.
"Lois Lane?" a woman's voice called.
"Okay, Perry. A full exam, as promised, and then you'll believe me that I am okay?"
"I'll believe you then," he promised, as she walked away.
Lois. She was everywhere. He could sense her and feel her and smell her everywhere. She had been sleeping in his bed. He knew that.
The moment he had lain down, he had realized it.
She had been sleeping there a lot.
He turned and saw the pillow next to the one he was lying on. A small dent in the pillow. The sheets flipped from when she had gotten out of bed.
Lying there, he felt sort of strange. Like he could feel something pricking at the corners of his subconscious.
Something like déjà vu… only something more than that.
He looked at the ceiling, feeling tired.
But the moment he decided to rest and he closed his eyes, they shot wide open again.
And he remembered what it was he'd been forgetting.
"So doctor, can you please explain to Perry White that I don't have the stomach flu or a stomach bug or malnutrition?" Lois said, sitting up, since the exam was over.
She had used the opportunity to have a complete exam, since she had been due for one soon anyway. And the doctor had declared a moment ago that she did *not* have any of those things Perry had been worried about.
"I'll definitely tell him that," Dr. Morgan said, putting a strand of her chin-length gray hair behind her ear, smiling. "Just as soon as I tell you what you do have."
Lois felt nervous for a moment. If the doctor was going to tell her she had something horrible, something fatal, like cancer or something, she didn't know what she'd do! She would WISH she had the stomach bug, for sure. As soon as her worries surfaced, though, they vanished a little. The doctor was smiling, after all. And doctors do not tend to smile before breaking something like that to someone. Unless they were trying to lessen the blow or something… make you think it's nothing to worry about…
And the nerves were back, full force.
"What is it?" Lois asked, using every fiber in her body to restrain herself from grabbing the woman's neck.
Dr. Morgan's smile grew wider. "Why, you're pregnant," she said.
Oh god. Oh god. Oh god. Oh god…
Clark was pacing around his living room. Only one thing was clear to him, and because of that one thing, he could only say, over and over, one thing.
They had made love.
He was sure of it.
That night. The night he had gone to sleep at his apartment.
She'd been there!
Every night after that night he had thought about it. But he had thought it a dream.
Hell, he had been dreaming even as it happened! Or he'd thought he'd been dreaming…
He hadn't slept at all, pretty much, the week before, and had been beyond exhausted when he'd climbed into that bed.
How hadn't he noticed her when he climbed into the bed?!
He started to tremble as it all came back.
In the recurring 'dream' he had every night after that night, he had been lying there, darkness all around. He had reached instinctively for her, knowing, somehow, even in his sleepy state, she would be there, and she had come to him and rested in his arms. And then she'd whimpered and said his name.
And they'd kissed…
Lois closed her mouth, once she realized she'd been openly gaping at the woman, and took a deep breath, pulling herself together long enough to get one thing straight.
"Where did you get your medical license? Ronald McDonald University? Listen lady… I cannot possibly be pregnant. I haven't had sex in… a *long* time," she said, her cheeks burning.
"Who does this woman think she *is*?" Lois thought angrily, seething at all of this, finding this woman's stupidity a complete inconvenience for her. She had better things she could be doing.
"I promise you. I am right. I mean, look at the facts. You haven't been eating any differently than you normally do you said. You said maybe you had even been eating less than normal. But you've gained weight."
"Or *you* have a faulty scale. I said that before and I'll say it again!"
"And you have been nauseous and today you got sick. You can expect more of that, by the way, for the next couple of months."
Lois tried to keep herself in check. But then she burst. "You're nuts!" She felt like she had just stepped through the looking-glass.
"I have been at this a long time. Long enough to have possibly informed your mother that she was pregnant with you. And I have never… been… wrong," she said, proudly.
"Well, doc, you're wrong today," Lois said. When the doctor didn't look convinced, Lois sat forward. "I honestly have not had sex in almost two years," she said, in a hushed voice, blushing all over because of the nature of the conversation.
"Well let me get my pen and paper," Dr. Morgan said, dryly.
Lois raised her eyebrows and looked at the woman expectantly.
"To start writing the Third Testament," the doctor explained, like she was serious.
Lois didn't smile and tears filled her eyes. The doctor took notice and walked over.
"Okay, how about I do the exam once more?"
Clark flew to Lois's apartment and looked in her window for any signs of her. He knocked incessantly for a few minutes, but ultimately decided she was not there.
From the looks of it, she hadn't been there in awhile.
"Dammit!" he said, flying away from her window.
He needed to find her. He needed to talk to her. He had left everything unsaid for far too long. She needed to know everything. Absolutely everything.
He reluctantly flew away from her apartment and headed to the place where he figured she *must* be.
The Daily Planet.
"So there's nothing wrong with her? It really was just a little nausea?" Perry asked the doctor.
Lois stared at the clock on the wall, growing impatient as the two of them talked.
"There is *nothing* wrong with her. I promise you that," the doctor said.
Dr. Morgan had promised Lois she would not say anything of what she *had* discovered to Perry. After being reassured a few times about doctor/patient confidentiality by the doctor, Lois had allowed the woman to come out and at least dispel Perry's fears that Lois was in danger of having an exploding appendix on the way or something.
"Well, okay then," Perry said, smiling.
He turned to Lois.
"Uh, Perry? I have to go. There's something I have to do," Lois said quickly.
"What's wrong?" Perry asked.
"Oh, you know me. Trapped in all that grief and stuff. Well, see you!" she said, kissing his cheek abruptly. "Bye!"
It was only when she was out in the street that she allowed herself to think about everything.
She turned into a side-street and leaned against the building, breathing heavily. She was sure that if the building were not there to support her, she would have just fallen to the ground.
Two exams had confirmed one thing which she knew to be impossible.
She crouched down and tried to control her breathing, while she reasoned with herself.
"It's just a nightmare. All of this is some horrible nightmare. That he died. That you're… that you're… oh god, I can't even say it. I just need to wake up. Wake up… wake up…it's all some horrible nightmare."
He hadn't been in the newsroom in a really long time. The moment he walked in, his emotions started surfacing, and he was almost tempted to turn and leave. He missed it so much!
But he snapped himself out of it, remembering what was more important just now. And that was finding Lois and taking her somewhere where they could talk and he could tell her everything. About himself. And… about them.
A quick scan of the newsroom revealed what he'd feared. She was nowhere in sight. In fact, he couldn't even spot her desk.
They must have moved the desks around or she had wanted a new desk because the desk Lois used to occupy had a middle-aged man sitting there now, typing quickly. Unaware of the presence of the superhero amongst the goings on around him.
He turned to see Jimmy, walking over to him, looking curious, but sort of excited to see him. Seeing him now was much less painful than the last time he had seen him. At the police station.
"Hi, Jimmy. How are you?"
"Okay, I guess. So…"
"I'm looking for Lois, actually," he said, reading Jimmy's inquiring expression.
"Didn't you know?" Jimmy started.
Clark suddenly felt very nervous. Had something happened to her? His heart started beating faster and faster. "Know what?"
"She doesn't work here anymore."
His expression fell. He hadn't expected that. He was relieved that nothing had happened to her. But riding alongside that relief was complete confusion. *Lois* no longer worked for the Daily Planet? *Lois Lane*?
And why hadn't he known? Or noticed…
"What?" he finally managed. "She doesn't work here anymore? Why… when…"
He wasn't making sense, but Jimmy stepped in to clear it all up.
"She quit the night CK was murdered," he said quietly, looking down.
He felt as if the air was leaving the room. And he felt horrible. Guilty. He'd been running away so thoroughly and so quickly, that he'd been completely blind to everything else. He'd been stupid. And selfish.
He should have known. He should have done something long ago.
Lois shouldn't have quit the job she had loved so much. And he should have told her, when she had been falling apart before his eyes, the truth. It would have saved them both so much heartbreak. It would have kept her working. And it would have prevented her from looking… he shuddered, remembering… the way she had looked earlier today.
He should *not* have let her world fall apart. He should have been there! Not in Thailand and New Zealand and everywhere else! He should have been *with* her. There for her. He should have been her best friend.
"Superman, are you okay?" Jimmy asked, sort of timidly.
"I just… I didn't know she had quit. I wish I had been more aware of what was going on here. She's my friend. And… I feel horribly that I couldn't have been more supportive of her during that time," he said quietly, after having fumbled for something to say. But meaning every word.
"We weren't really there for her, either. Well, not that we could have been. That night, she disappeared, and we didn't hear from her for awhile."
"She disappeared?" Clark asked, his feelings of guilt and shame intensifying.
"Yeah. All we wanted the chief and I, I mean was for the three of us to be able to help each other. To feel it together and console each other. But she slipped out of here that night, after telling Perry she was done, and we didn't see her again. She wasn't at her place. We didn't know where she'd gone. She called a few weeks later, so we knew she was okay. But before that, it was insane. We were really worried."
"I'll bet you were," he said, trying to control his emotions in front of Jimmy.
"But she called Perry the other day and now they're out having lunch. So that's a good thing, anyway," he said.
"Yes, it is," Clark agreed, trying to seem positive.
He looked up and saw the expression on Jimmy's face. He looked like he was trying to be strong. For everyone. For Lois. For Perry. For Superman. But he looked like a kid that desperately wanted to just openly feel whatever it was he was feeling. Not wanting to hide it anymore.
And Clark understood that feeling all too well.
"Jimmy," he said. "I wasn't a very good friend to you, either. Or to P … uh, Mr. White. I really am sorry. I know this has been hard for you. I wish I had been there more for all of you."
Jimmy looked up at him, in awe.
"Superman, you don't have to apologize "
"Yes, I do," he said, not breaking eye-contact with the young man. A young man who had always been like a kid brother to him. "I consider you a friend. I'm going to try to make everything right again, Jimmy."
"I can't say. But, I *am* going to try."
Lois was surprised not to see an eviction notice on her door. But then again, she mused, her landlord had never paid much attention to anything. She knew Lois always got the money to her sooner or later and in one way or another.
The moment her door was closed behind her, she looked around the apartment. It felt cold, somehow. Probably, she realized, because she had been at Clark's place for so long. And his place was anything but cold. It was cozy and warm and… and she couldn't think about that right now. And she couldn't go back there.
She had to figure out what was going on.
She *needed* to know what was going on. Or she'd go mad, she was sure.
Her apartment was the place to be for that, she realized. She couldn't get distracted there. It seemed so clean, almost sterile. It was so much more impersonal than the place she had just been living. This was a place where she could sit down and think about everything and figure out what on earth was happening to her.
She took a deep breath.
She was pregnant.
How had she not noticed?
She had only realized in the doctor's office that she had been late. How had she not noticed that over a month had gone by?
Or that she'd gained a little weight?
Well, she had been wearing Clark's sweats mostly, so she couldn't have known that. She wasn't far enough along that it would have been obvious.
Assuming this was true and not some strange nightmare, that is.
She was reeling.
She was pregnant…
She might have assumed she'd been abducted by aliens or been kidnapped and knocked out and then impregnated… or something crazy… if she had been working regularly all these weeks. But she had to rule all those things out.
She had spent her entire pregnancy one month and one week, the doctor said at Clark's apartment, holed up like a hermit on Prozac. No aliens or criminals were responsible for this. Well… it seemed highly unlikely, anyway. "Although nothing is impossible," she said to herself, softly.
She shuddered at the thought that some person could have come into the apartment, while she was out cold and done something like that to her. While she was sleeping, practically!
That thought immediately spurred another one.
The only time she had done anything even remotely resembling making love to someone had been in a dream she could barely remember at first. It had been in her mind.
Every day pieces had come to her. In dreams.
In dreams, she would remember the dream from that night… the night her nightmares had stopped.
She sat down on the couch, her thoughts moving in overdrive.
Usually pieces of the dream would come to her creep up on her without her having invited them. But sitting down just now, thinking about the dream on purpose, she realized… it was all very clear in her mind.
She had dreamed about kissing Clark.
He was holding her.
She told him *finally* that she loved him. And he whispered it back.
Her dreams now or rather recollections from the dream from that night were in flashes, mostly. And in darkness. Just… feelings.
She could remember how she felt inside at every breath… every movement… every touch. How she felt in her heart and her soul… and in her body.
She remembered so clearly…
… She was touching his chest, which was healthy and whole. No bullet wounds. Smooth. Soft. Hard. It felt so nice…
… "I love you, Clark," her voice had said, sounding dreamy and tired, but meaning it oh-so-much…
… His fingers in her hair… her fingers in his hair. On his back…
… The kisses growing hungrier…
She could remember what it felt like to touch him. What his skin felt like beneath her fingers. What her skin felt like beneath his fingers. Like it was on fire…
… Exploring each other more and more and more and more…
… Bodies moving as one. Together. And then…
Her eyes opened wide.
She had made love with Clark, in a *dream*… around the same time the doctor had mentioned.
"It was just a dream," she said quietly.
A dream that she had remembered or re-dreamed many times since that night. It was so vivid. This dream had not gone away, as so many dreams do. It had dug itself deeper and deeper in her. Ingrained itself. Burned itself into her memory.
She had thought that was because it was Clark in her dream, and she hadn't wanted to forget it. She had made things right with him, in the dream, and told him how she felt about him. Shown him. She figured she had forced herself to remember the dream because she needed to remember it. Because it was special. Because it was Clark.
But something about this didn't make any sense.
Had it not been a dream?
No. She immediately dismissed the idea that a ghost of Clark had come and made love to her and it had resulted in pregnancy.
After meeting Superman, she believed in the unbelievable. But this was ridiculous! And she refused to entertain the thought at all.
A ghost getting her pregnant!
She shook her head.
But she had woken up naked that morning, the t-shirt she had worn to bed on the floor beside her. She hadn't considered it strange at the time she had merely thought she'd removed it in the night… possibly during the dream, she added, her cheeks burning for the thousandth time in the past hour.
It had just been a dream. It hadn't been real.
"Clark is dead!" she said loudly. Angrily. Trying to make sense of her dizzying thoughts.
She touched her stomach as a tear slipped down her cheek. What was going on? If she *was* pregnant and this wasn't a nightmare, then she was… scared. Something happened and she didn't know what it was.
"What's happening to me?" she cried, standing up.
She walked toward her window. She hadn't been there in so long that the window immediately made her think of Superman. That was where he entered when he visited her. Or when he had visited her, before all this. When she had thought herself foolishly in love with him. Losing all chances of telling another man how she really felt.
Looking at that window at that particular moment, while thinking about that dream so many tiny pieces and questions in her mind became clear.
She looked up her eyes still wet with tears just as the truth came crashing down.
He had finally found her.
He followed her from a distance, flying overhead, to see where it was she was going. He was relieved when he realized her destination.
He landed on the balcony and was about to enter, but stopped. Without thinking twice about it, he reached a hand up and messed up his hair.
It felt good for his hair to fall loosely where it was going to fall. Free. A curl grazed his forehead and he smiled.
He had really missed being Clark. He'd missed being himself. He hadn't realized until just now how much he depended on being Clark. Superman saved the day and saw horrible things sometimes because of it. Returning to *his* life, after being that savior, was his sanity. Clark saved Superman. In many ways. Without that life to return to, everything was unbearable. And no one he loved could be there to lighten that load.
He put a hand through his hair his free-falling hair and he smiled. Because, even wearing the Superman suit just now, he felt like himself. Mostly, anyway. More like himself than he had in a really long, painful time.
He went to walk in and stopped himself again.
She was in the kitchen. She filled a pot with water and turned the stove on. She placed the pot on the stove and added some salt. She then walked to his cabinet and pulled out some pasta.
She was cooking!
And… she looked like she even knew what she was doing.
He smiled, feeling something swell inside of him. Something pull at his heartstrings.
He loved her so much. And if they could figure a way out of this mess together, he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her, proving that love to her. He just hoped that when he told her what he was going to tell her, she would feel that way, too.
And he feared.
After another moment watching her, he walked in, quietly.
"Lois?" he said softly, not wanting to scare her.
But she jumped anyway.
"I know that voice," she said, softly, before turning around and looking at him.
She looked at him. Really looked at him. Took him in.
She'd known the truth before. But her proof was standing just a few feet away right now.
Part of her wanted to rush at him instantly and wrap her arms around him — he was alive! But that part of her wrestled with the other part of her that wanted to rush at him and slap him across the face for what he'd done.
He was in the suit. He was Superman. Although…
She turned around and turned the stove off, slowly. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, steadying herself before facing him again.
She took a step forward, closer to him.
He stood there, not saying a word. He looked like a deer caught in the headlights. A look she knew well. She'd seen it a lot with him… with Clark.
His gaze stayed on her. Intently. He was watching her. Trying to see what she was thinking. What she knew. In short, he had never looked more petrified.
She looked up at his hair and then back into his eyes, unbelieving of how simple his disguise had been. In awe of the tiny details that separated the two men in awe of her own inability to have figured it out in the year plus that she'd known them. Known him.
"You wanted me to figure it out just now, didn't you," she accused, her arms dropping to her sides.
He nodded blankly. Confusedly.
She walked over to his coffee table and picked something up that she'd brought over from her own apartment.
One glass cracked.
Just the way he'd left them.
She handed them to him. "Here. I believe these belong to you," she said, her voice shaking, and her hands shaking, despite her concentration on staying calm. But the glasses… when she had seen them as she was leaving to come here…
They reminded her of that night. Of the raw emotions she had experienced that night. The pain. The brutality she had witnessed and what she had thought it had meant for her. And for him. The pain that these glasses the only part of him that had been left behind for her evoked.
A pain which he had witnessed.
She thought it only right to give them back to him, so that he could remember too. And hopefully feel horrible about not having told her the truth the simple truth the night she'd nearly died herself from grief.
He took them and stared at them for a moment. In a flash they were in the trashcan and he stood before her again. He looked at her. "I have other pairs," he said lamely.
She stared at him, an unreadable expression on her face, reminding herself to stay calm. To be strong right now. She just stared into his eyes, unblinkingly. Her resolve strong. Her emotions suppressed to her liking.
Finally, he released a long breath, breaking his gaze and looking down. "I'm so sorry, Lois. I should have told you a long time ago," he said, and then finally looked at her again.
She nodded a little and crossed her arms, still trying to keep her emotions in check for now. "Um… why didn't you?" she asked, trying to sound casual.
"I don't know, Lois. I always knew I wanted to tell you. But when this happened, there didn't seem to be a point "
" except that you witnessed me fall apart… break down. You saw me going nuts. I was a mess. I was beside myself," she stopped and collected herself. "Why didn't you tell me that night?"
"I know now that I should have. I just… I should have. And there is no way around that. I mean, I thought it was pointless because I *was* dead. To the world, that life really was gone. Only Superman was left. I didn't think telling you I was alive only to go away forever was the best thing for you. And I never thought you'd quit your job or that you'd disappear from everyone. Or that you'd live here, trapped in your grief. Unable to move on. I thought "
" that I just needed time and I'd get over it, right?" she asked, in a tone so sugary sweet it was chilling, even to her own ears.
He sighed and looked down.
"That's weak and you know it," she said.
He looked at her again. "I know."
"You saw me that night. You knew how I felt. I felt… well, the same way you might have felt if the tables had been turned," she said.
"If the tables had been turned," he repeated, looking horrified at the concept of that happening. But then she could see he understood *exactly* why he should have told her… and from her own point of view.
"I know," he said softly. "I've made such a mess of everything. And… the only way I can make you understand why I've been so horrible is because of that. I did see you that night, Lois. I saw you and it broke my heart. I have never felt so awful about this secret in my entire life. I would *never* hurt you. Not on purpose. Never. You have to know that. And then this happens and… and I've never seen you hurting so badly. I couldn't bear to see you that way."
"Oh, well, if you couldn't *bear* it," she said, her tone biting and sarcastic.
"I know it was selfish. I felt horrible, Lois. To see you like you were that night, knowing *I* and I alone was responsible for it… no one has ever hurt you that badly. And then I do. Your best friend! I took one long look into your eyes that night and thought that the closest I ever deserved to be to you again was the other side of the world. Which is where I've been spending much of my time," he added, looking down.
She raised her eyebrows at him, her expression still giving nothing away.
"I am so sorry," he said again, looking beyond sorry. "If you never forgive me for running away, like I did, and being so… *selfish*… I won't blame you. I just should have told you. There is no excuse… And since I didn't tell you, I should have at least been here for you!" he added, looking disgusted with himself. "I wasn't here for you even as Superman when you were… grieving," he finally said. "I am supposed to be your best friend and from the night that I was killed until now, I might as well have been your number one enemy."
"I wouldn't go that far," she finally said, not looking at him.
"I've done everything wrong," he said. "You were in clear pain and I felt so guilty knowing that it was because of me. So I ran away. I've been everywhere in this world except the one place I needed to be. I ran away. That was how *I* dealt with everything. And that is not fair."
She looked at him for a moment, processing what he was saying.
"Why are you telling me now?" she asked, after a moment, realizing she had no idea why he would decide out the blue to come out and tell her, when he'd held it back for so long.
Before he'd shown up, she had been trying to think of how she would get his attention and let him know that she knew. She hadn't thought of anything. She'd gone to his place to clean it up so she could leave. She had freed herself from his apartment, mentally, emotionally, physically, and was prepared to finally go back out into the world again. To start rebuilding her life. She just needed a plan.
But then she'd heard that voice call her name, while she was cooking her last dinner there something she decided to do when she'd realized in her tidying that she had barely eaten all day, which wasn't the best course for a pregnant woman and her plan had flown Superman-style out the window.
"Nothing ventured, nothing gained," he said, quietly. At her confused expression, he continued on. "My parents used to say that to me, growing up. If I didn't tell you, then we would both continue to be miserable. And if I did tell you, it just seemed that only something good could come from it. That we would be together again. You would at least realize your best friend hadn't died. You could free yourself from your demons… and I could too. Plus, I realized that I had to tell you. You deserved to know. I've known that all along, really. But when I saw you today…"
She nodded, understanding. She had looked awful, probably. If, that is, she had looked how she had felt.
"And I know you're probably mad, Lois," he said quickly sort of nervously. "You're probably furious "
"That's the thing," she said, her annoyance with herself surfacing. "I'm not," she cut in, her tone light. "Not really, I mean. I wish I were furious. I think you could stand to be on the receiving end of some pretty intense Lois Lane rage right about now. And I am withholding the right to be mad later, so remember that… but…" she trailed off, looking down.
Tears filled her eyes.
The silence in the room grew thick.
"But…what?" he whispered after a moment, taking a step closer to her.
"… I was given a second chance," she said, looking into his eyes again. "Sure it's masked in deception," she said lightly, which made him smile a little. She took a deep breath and continued, her voice unsteady. "But in the darkness, it was more than nothing, which was what I had. It was a second chance, whether I was ready to accept what that meant or not. And… despite the fact that you've lied to me and that I went through hell for over a *month* for nothing okay maybe I am a little mad " she added, noticing the pitch of her voice rising with each word.
"And you have more than enough reason to be "
"I thought to myself, when I realized the truth, 'I should hate him right now.' But I just couldn't. I wanted to be mad! And I tried. But here it is; the simple truth from *me*; I won't make you wait over a month for it, either," she said, which made him flinch. "I don't hate you. I can't… When I tried to find that hate within me, I couldn't. It all came down to one thing. To the same thing. Every time… This lie means only one thing to me. You… are alive. And I… have my second chance. I realized long ago that I'd have died myself, in one form or another, if I'd never gotten it," she finished, tears beginning to fall.
"Lois," he started. But she cut him off.
"Please," she said, her eyes begging. "It's been… could you…" she stopped, biting her lip. She was beginning to get overcome with emotions. She wiped a tear from her cheek and rested her hand on her chest.
"Could I… what?"
"I haven't seen *you*… in a really long time," she whispered, fighting the sobs that she could feel building up.
She watched in awe as he… *spun*… out of Superman… and into
"Clark!" she cried, a hand rushing to cover her mouth, to try and prevent the tears from coming. "Oh, Clark." It didn't work. The tears came all at once. She covered her face with both hands and began lowering herself to the ground, shaking. Crying.
The one thing she would have died just to see for so long was there. In front of her. He was there! He stood a foot away from her. In all of his beauty and warmth. The very image she had dreamt about for so long and thought lost to her forever.
In a breath, he was on the floor, too holding her. She clung to him, allowing herself to let it all out. Not to pretend to be strong. Not to hide. Not to hold it all in or to live a lie.
He didn't try to quiet her with sweet shushes, or whisper that it was going to be okay. He didn't even reassure her that he was there and that he wasn't going anywhere.
He didn't have to.
He pulled her into his arms and placed one hand on the back of her head. Curled up on his lap, her face buried in his neck, she clung tightly to him. She touched his hair and his glasses and his shirt and his face. His beautiful face. Alive once more… in her mind. And in reality…
After a long while, she calmed down a little and looked at him.
"… I thought I'd never see you again," she said, her voice a husky, tear-dripped whisper, touching his face. Proving he was real.
He touched her face, slowly, carefully. Clearly hoping it was alright for him to do so.
"I'm sorry I put you through all of this, Lois."
"I can't get over it," she said, looking at him at every inch of him *studying* him. "You're here. You're back." She pressed her hand against his chest… the very place where she had seen three bullets enter… as if trying to prove to herself once more that her worst nightmare had been only that. A nightmare.
"You look like you're back, too," he said, a small smile on his face, as he wiped away tears from her cheeks.
She smiled through her tears. "I think I may be," she said.
She placed her hands at the base of his neck and moved her head slowly forward until her forehead was resting against his. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "Clark. Please, don't leave me again."
"Because if you do, I will find a piece of Kryptonite and "
" I got it," he said, rubbing her back. "And thank you."
"For what?" she asked.
"For not hating me. I am not sure how it's even possible that you don't," he admitted, quietly.
"It's hard to hate someone that you get back after thinking you've lost him forever," she said. "Especially not when you feel this way," she added, her breathing more heavy.
Lois wasn't sure how long they stayed like that. It could have been an hour. Or just a few minutes. But in that time, they held each other, holding onto what they had both lost and been away from. What they finally had back.
They just sat there, not rushing the moment away.
Two hearts beating.
"Lois…" Clark said, softly, finally breaking the sweet silence. "I know this may not be the best time to ask this, but… I'm just curious. How did you find out about me?"
"Oh," she said, pulling back to look at him. The rest of her day suddenly caught back up with her. She remembered that important detail from a few hours ago, which she had then thought another nightmare.
Clark being dead had been a nightmare. But this was not. In fact, it was not a nightmare, she realized, at all.
"Well, on the topic of revelations, we have a few other things to discuss."
Wiping tears from her eyes, Clark couldn't help but smile. Her eyes which had seemed so tormented just hours earlier seemed hopeful again. And Clark knew this was meant to be. Lois was always meant to share this with him. He was always meant to tell her. Oh, he'd known that all along.
But now that she was there, in his arms, embracing him, and she'd *known*, he felt free to be himself. Confident. Uninhibited.
"What other things?" he asked, only being able to focus on the amazing woman in front of him. Losing all coherent thoughts.
"Well, um…I don't know. Were you here, say, one month and one week ago?" she asked quickly. Almost nervously.
His smile faded as he remembered.
She knew. She knew and if she wasn't so relieved to see him just now, she'd hate him for that too. Or maybe she already hated him for it.
Not for his lie, because, like she had said, within that lie was her second chance. And she had been happy to know he had never died, of course.
She probably realized what had happened and thought him some monster. Some sexual predator. Who would take advantage of his best friend…
"Clark?" she asked, sounding even more nervous than she had before.
"Yes, Lois. I was," he said, lowering his eyes.
He looked up and hoped he wouldn't see hate in her beautiful eyes. Hate for him.
He let out a breath when he saw them. He didn't see hate at all.
But… confusion. And possibly nervousness.
He just had to tell her everything. Everything he knew about that night. And he knew, somehow, looking into those eyes, that she would believe him. She would believe the truth.
"I didn't know you were there," he started, his voice soft. "I, uh… I came here because I missed this place. I missed my life. I missed living in Metropolis. I came here to feel something of what I felt I was missing. It didn't help of course. Because you weren't here. Well, I didn't think you were, anyway. And it was you that I missed the most," he said.
She sat there silently, her hand resting on his shoulder, looking at him. Waiting for him to continue whenever he was ready to.
"I should have known you were here. I can usually pick up your heartbeat anywhere. I always know where you are. How far away you are from me. I used to know when you were about to get off the elevator at work. Or when you would come up behind me at my desk. I know that heartbeat…"
He took a deep breath. "I remember hearing it that night, when I was falling asleep. It was like a beautiful rhythm that just relaxed me. Made everything seem okay. I didn't realize what it was… I just… I guess, I wasn't thinking."
"You wouldn't have expected me to be at your place," she offered.
"But Lois, I'm Superman. I should have known you were here. I should have seen you, if I wasn't picking up on your heartbeat. Which I should have," he added under his breath. "I guess… I was exhausted. I hadn't slept much the week before. But there that is not an excuse either! I don't need that much sleep. I shouldn't have just gone to bed like that, without turning on a light or looking around. Without wondering what that… *beautiful* rhythm was. On some level, I must have known. But…" He sighed. "I don't know. I am so sorry."
She nodded and looked at him sympathetically. "Clark. You were tired. Even *you* are allowed to surrender to exhaustion. Especially if you hadn't been sleeping in the week leading up to that night. And something tells me that if you were that tired, that you weren't. Sleeping, I mean. And again you would not have expected *me* to be here. You had no idea."
"I should have woken up when…" he trailed off, breaking eye- contact.
How should he broach this subject? What if she didn't know all of what had transpired between them that night?
"You know, then?" she asked. And he could hear the anxiety in her voice.
He decided to start at the beginning. To tell her how he had come to realize what had happened.
"I had thought it was just a "
" dream?" she finished, with him. "Me too."
He sighed. "Lois, I am so sorry. I never should have… it shouldn't have…I should have…"
He groaned. He had no idea what to say. He would never be able to apologize enough for this. This was unforgivable. He had taken advantage of her! Even if he hadn't been aware of what he was doing. He couldn't forgive himself. How could he expect her to understand… and to forgive him?
"I thought I was dreaming," he said, staring down, his cheeks burning with shame and guilt and embarrassment, as he barreled on. "It wouldn't have been the first time I had dreamed about you Lois. About something… kind of… *like* that, I mean. I am sure you know that I am in love with you. I always have been," he said.
He looked up when he heard an intake of breath come from her.
"You love me? As… as more than a friend?" she asked.
"Of course I do."
"But that day… outside the Planet…"
"I was just trying to shift things so they could be like they were before. I knew you didn't feel the same way I did and I "
" I had felt the same way," she cut in.
And then she looked down, as if realizing she had said that out loud, and hadn't exactly meant to.
"What?" he asked, slowly moving to take her hands in his.
"Clark. If you had just let me talk first…" she said, her attempt at humor to ease the tension in the room.
"… You can talk first from here on in," he said, feeling something soaring inside of him. She loved him! She had loved him for a long time. He couldn't believe it. He… *really* could not believe it.
"You love… *me*?" he asked, a little doubt in his voice. Or… uncertainty. Insecurity. Self-deprecation. From years of assuming and fearing that he would always be alone. That Lois would never feel that way about him.
"Yeah," she said, still looking down. "I didn't get married because of you," she said.
Her head was still bent, but he could see a tear slip down her cheek. He gently placed a finger beneath her chin and lifted her head slowly, so she was looking at him.
"I knew all that time and I never got up the courage to tell you," she cried. "And you had died…" she stopped herself, and breathed deeply a few times. "…without ever knowing," she finished, her eyes conveying the torture of this one major demon, in case he couldn't hear the pain in her tone and in her words.
But he could hear it. And he could see it.
"Oh, Lois," he said, pulling her into another hug. Placing her head on his shoulder, rubbing her back. "What you've been going through because I was too weak and too upset to do what was right, what I should have done without a question. I was just so wrapped up in self-pity. Lois, can you ever forgive me?"
"Surprisingly, I can," she said genuinely. "If you can forgive me for pushing you away. And for being so blind. Thinking I loved Superman. All the while ignoring you!"
"I understood," he said.
She looked up. "Then you're too understanding. I was stupid, Clark. Some instinct told me long ago that there was something about *you* that I wasn't letting myself see. And I ignored it. I waited a little too long. And then you were gone."
"But I'm back now. And you've told me. Second chances, remember?"
She smiled. "Yes." She looked at him for a moment, like she was studying him. Thinking about something. "You know, I only loved him because he was you. I just never understood it."
He let out a small breath and felt something in his heart constricting. He wanted to lean down and kiss her… but he didn't want to take advantage of the moment either. She was incredibly vulnerable right now. They both were. And they had so much to talk about yet. He didn't know how she felt about being in a relationship with him. He didn't know how she felt about any of this, really.
So he just fought the urge and smiled genuinely.
She wiped her eyes and collected herself. After a moment, she said, "now, before we started getting into the mushy stuff, I believe we were talking about a certain night a few weeks ago…"
She blushed as soon as the words were out of her mouth.
He did too.
They may have admitted they had been in love with each other all along. She may have been sitting on his lap. They may have both been fully aware that they had shared something intimate and special with one another. Made love. But that did not change the fact that they were discussing it all. And it was new to them. While it needed to be said, it was unfamiliar and deeply personal, all the same.
"Well," he started again. "I had thought it was a dream. And that made sense to me. I missed you. And I was in love with you. I thought we could never be together, after what had happened. I thought we would never… make love. It seemed like something I might dream about…" he said. He looked at her. "But the dream never went away. I thought of it more and more as time went on. And I could recall more than I had ever recalled in dreams before. I could recall how I felt. How I felt each step of the way. How you felt," he continued, his voice deeper now. And more emotional. "I could feel your lips on mine," he said.
"And you knew then that it had to have happened?" she asked, hurriedly, embarrassed. "In reality?"
"No. It, uh… it wasn't until today, actually. I came here earlier today. I could tell immediately that you'd been living here. And I went into the bedroom and laid down for a moment. Your scent on the pillow… and all around. I don't know. It just came to me. I knew. It hadn't been a dream. I knew you had obviously been living here the night I had come. And we had…"
"Yeah," she said, quietly, looking down.
Seeing her look down, a serious expression painted on her face a look of shame or remorse… or disgust, he wasn't sure brought all of his feelings of disgust with himself rushing to the surface.
"I don't know how I could possibly have not woken up at some point. Even if I *had* woken up and thought I was dreaming… why didn't I know in the morning? It was still kind of dark when I left, because it was early. But still… I didn't even look around. I should have looked around. If I was too tired for my senses to pick you up the night before, they should have picked you up in the morning. I should have known you were there. I should have known what I'd done. Lois," he stopped. He looked her in the eye. "I feel like I took advantage of you. I might not have been in full control, but I should have been," he said intently.
He looked at his hands, feelings of guilt taking the place of the wonderful feelings he'd experienced only moments ago when she told him she had loved him for a long time.
"What about me?" she asked.
He looked up, startled by the force in her voice.
"I was there too, you know. I thought it was a dream. Clark the man I loved and lost was there. So I thought I was dreaming. But… you were there. That's all I knew. And I needed to… take advantage of the fact that you were there with me again," she said. She bit her lip self-consciously. "All I knew was that if I was dreaming, it was wonderful because you were there and you were alive. I could tell you what I'd never told you. I initiated much of it. That much I can definitely remember," she said, blushing more than she had before. "I *wanted* to… to make love to you," she said, her voice quieter. Deeper. "I wanted to show you I loved you. And to tell you *finally* what I should have told you long ago. I *needed* to hold you. And feel you," she said. "To prove you were real." She looked at him, her eyes seeming to search his. "That is what I remember."
"But it wasn't fair, Lois. If you'd known about me; if I had just *told* you "
" I wouldn't have been at your place and this wouldn't have happened," she added. "Sure. I know that," she said, shrugging. "And I know you should have told me the truth the night you were killed. And I do actually even understand why you thought it a lost cause," she finished. "I understand all of this, Clark."
"I am just so sorry, Lois."
"I'm… not," she said, an expression on her face that he didn't quite recognize. It looked a little embarrassed. And a little shy. And somewhat liberated. "Aside from feeling like you took advantage of me, or failed to do what you think you should have done… why are you sorry?" she asked. Not accusingly. Just wonderingly.
He drew a blank. The experience had been beautiful. Every moment. He was not sorry for that. His silence conveyed his thoughts.
"Clark… when I thought that was a dream, I thought it was a beautiful dream. It was perfect. It stopped the nightmares I had been having every night before that. And every night after, I didn't have them either. And the whole experience… well… I remember that it was wonderful. Did you, um, feel that way? At all?" she asked.
Looking at her, he was appalled to see that she had no idea. No idea how he felt about that night. About being with her.
"Lois… believe me. It was perfect. I couldn't have… nothing has ever…" he trailed off. "It was beautiful," he finally said.
"Think about it, Clark. Neither of us knew the other one was there. Some instinct some feeling deep down moved us together. We were driven by that instinct, by "
" love," he said, quietly.
"Exactly," she said, her voice soft and sweet.
He released a long breath. "Oh, Lois," he whispered, pulling her to him, holding her like he never wanted to let go.
He felt her tense, after a moment, and pulled back to look at her.
"Well, there is one more thing," she said.
"How *I* figured out that the dream was not a dream after all."
She couldn't believe it. He loved her. After everything after the way she had chosen Superman and even Lex over him and pushed him away and even after what he had told her outside of the Planet so many months ago he loved her. Had always loved her.
And he'd thought that night some dream because of that love for her. He'd thought of it as a dream like others he'd had. Oh, she just burned deep down, thinking about that. He'd said, in so many words, that he had thought of her that way before. Hoped for things to head in that direction. Dreamed about her in exactly that capacity.
It didn't frighten her. She would have thought that it would. But it excited her instead. It intensified her already overwhelming feelings for him.
She wasn't sure how he would handle the news that that night had not been and gone that simply… that it had resulted in something big. Colossal, actually, considering what she now knew about him. About who he really was.
"Lois?" he asked.
She took a deep breath and steadied herself. She just had to do it. She just had to tell him.
"Lois? You were going to tell me how you knew the dream hadn't been a dream," he said, softly. "Are you okay?"
She could hear the concern in his voice. The love. And that gave her the strength to finally tell him everything.
"You asked me how I knew about you," she said. "About you being Superman. I never really answered you. But the way I figured that out has to do with the way I figured out that the dream was not a dream." She stopped and laughed, looking down. "God, this shouldn't be that hard. I mean, I just had the most personal conversation of my life with you. This should not be hard to say. I guess… I guess I'm still coming to terms with it myself," she finished.
He placed a hand on her arm, rubbing her gently, letting her know he was close by. He was there. But not saying a word.
"I went to the doctor's today. Perry made me go because he thought I was sick," she started.
"Oh god," he said, fear in his voice.
She looked up and saw the terror on his face. Oh no. He knew and he… was horrified at the concept. Maybe he never wanted to have a family, she thought. Or maybe he just didn't want a family with her. He did say he loved her, though, she mused.
His voice broke through her thoughts, and only after he'd spoken the words did she realize how horrible he looked. How he was torturing himself.
"I hurt you?"
His voice cracked. His fear and remorse were visible and without thinking about it, she grabbed his hand.
"No. No, Clark. You didn't hurt me."
He released a long sigh of relief. "Are you sure? You're okay?"
"I'm fine," she assured him.
After a few moments, and seeming to feel that she was being honest, he asked, "why did you go to a doctor? Are you sick?"
He still seemed nervous.
"When I left the doctor's," she started, taking a circuitous route to her revelation, since that was easier, "I went home and thought about that dream night. I thought, somehow it must have happened. It must have *really* happened. But for that to have happened, you would have to be alive. And when I thought hard enough, I figured out why you were alive. Your big secret. It all came together. And then I knew that the doctor hadn't been a complete kook, like I'd thought. I knew she'd been right."
"Right about what?" he asked.
She took a deep breath.
"About me being pregnant."
Clark stared at her, gaping, as the meaning behind her words sunk in. She was *pregnant*!
He was speechless. He didn't know what to say. His thoughts were moving in a million different directions, so formulating a sentence was not in his near future.
She had learned he was Superman because their night together had resulted in pregnancy? Now he felt more than ever that he had done something horrible to her. Taken advantage of her. Violated her!
But at the same time that thought formed itself, other thoughts took its place.
He was *capable* of getting her pregnant? He was completely elated by that. He had always wanted a family. And from the moment he had met her, he had wanted that family with her and only her.
He was completely terrified at the same time. He was going to be a father.
He was Superman. He had so many enemies. Would the child ever be in danger?
Would he be able to be a good father? Being Superman, it might be hard…
But he would work at it.
But… would Lois want him around? Or would she want to do it on her own? Would he only be allowed to visit… in a manner of joint custody?
He wasn't sure how she felt about marriage.
Or about babies.
That brought his thoughts in a whole new direction.
How did Lois feel about this?
He had gotten her pregnant!
She was a career woman. If she was open to the idea of starting a family, she probably didn't intend to do it yet. She was completely dedicated to her job. This would change everything! She wasn't planning on having a child yet. They hadn't even dated yet. And she hadn't been aware of what was happening when it had happened. She would have done something to prevent it! He would have done something!
She was in a situation she most likely did not want to be in… for a few years yet… because of *him*!
He felt like such an idiot.
He put his head in his hands and groaned.
He looked up and saw her, concern in her eyes, bending over him, talking to him.
"I'm so sorry, Lois," he said. "I…" He tried to steady his breathing. "I got you pregnant?"
"I had something to do with it," she joked.
"But that is the thing, Lois. You didn't! You didn't know what you were doing! I *should* have. I… I feel awful. How you must feel…"
"You have no idea how I feel."
"What a monster you must have thought me when you figured out that you could only be pregnant because I am Superman and I slept with you while you were… sleeping," he finished, his face conveying his feelings of revulsion with himself, as he spit out that last word.
"I have never thought you were a monster, Clark. In case you didn't hear me before, I recall that night. And what I recall was beautiful. It was… how I could only imagine being with *you* could be," she said, taking his hands. "Stop saying that you are some monster. Stop thinking it. We already agreed that it happened because of how much we missed each other. There was instinct involved. And love," she said, her voice gentle and soothing. "You said that," she finished.
"Of course there was love, Lois. I love you. But I feel like you are stuck in a really bad situation because I was careless."
Her face fell at his words and she looked down. "A really bad situation?" she asked quietly.
The expression on her face and the sound of her voice made his heart feel like it had fallen to his stomach. "Lois. Lois, no," he said. "Not like that. I've always wanted to have a family with you. It's been a dream of mine for a really long time. I would marry you in a heartbeat, not because of this, but because I love you more than anything. Because I can't live without you. Because you are you, Lois Lane, and you are *everything* to me," he said, his emotions threatening to break him. "But Lois… when this happened, we weren't even dating. We haven't ever dated, for that matter. And now…" he trailed off, noticing her expression had not changed. She still looked completely wounded. "Please, Lois, look at me."
After a few moments, she did. She looked like she wanted to break down, but was holding herself together. Just barely.
"I know how you feel about starting a family. I mean, I don't know exactly. But I assume it is not something you want in the immediate future, if you ever wanted it at all. I know you are focused on your career right now. And I know this doesn't exactly fit into what you had planned for yourself."
"No, it doesn't. But things happen. And they can't un-happen. And plans can change. You can lose someone so dear to you in one horrible moment… and that world, which you had created for yourself, which had once held all of your joy, can fall off its axis. And you realize that it didn't hold all of your joy anyway. That it hadn't for awhile. You realize that that had to do with that precious thing you had lost. Clark… don't you understand? When you died… when you were lying on that floor, not moving, not breathing… and I knew that you were *gone*… I realized, so quickly, how much I loved you. How I'd been lying to myself for so long. You were far more important to me than anything else in this world. That's why I couldn't do anything. That's why I came here. That's why I couldn't get over it. That's why I quit my job! That job was once the most important thing to me. You know that! And don't get me wrong. I missed it the whole time. I have every intention of going back there and working again. With you. I have every intention of continuing to work there, even with a family. I always knew that if I had a child someday, I would want to continue working. I always wanted to make it work, if a child was in my cards. And I actually think I can. I think *we* can make it work," she said. She ran her fingers over the smooth skin of his hand.
"But that job that I missed, that I want to return to… is no longer the most important thing to me. I knew it when the noise from that gun *finally* stopped and I realized that I had lost *you*. So quickly things changed. So quickly, I realized everything, too late. You have always been more important than a byline or a front page story or a fancy award. Always." She took a deep breath. "I know that if you're with me, Clark, everything in life is good… and it can all work out," she said, wiping a tear.
"Having a family wasn't something I had thought about before. I won't lie. I hadn't really given that part of my future much thought. While I was here, looking at your things, every day… I would see pictures of you and your parents. Happy, smiling. I knew you probably had wanted a family. I wished so badly that we could have had the chance… that *we* could have had a family. I finally thought about that part of my future, and it was too sad to think about because I knew I only wanted a family and that future with you! And aside from that, I felt you had died before you had ever even lived. So yes, Clark, this changes things. And no, Clark, this was not in my plan. Neither was losing you like that," she said softly, her voice dropping to almost a whisper. "So what's so great about plans?"
He smiled and shook his head. She was so wonderful and he felt, under the circumstances, that he did not deserve this. That he never would.
"This is unexpected, yes," she continued. "It's even unbelievable. But I never for a second thought of it as some threat to what I want in life. I mean, I wasn't sure how I felt about it at first, when the pieces had finally come together. But then… so quickly… I knew exactly how I felt about it. And that feeling was not grief for the life I could never have now. I don't know exactly how any of this is going to work or turn out. But… I'm not afraid to find out."
"I'm not either," he said.
"This clearly wasn't meant for later in life. This was meant to happen like this. Now. In the wake of a realization of love that actually didn't come too late. And somehow, I already love this baby. I don't want it to ever feel that for a second, its very existence was… I don't know, regretted," she finished.
"I don't want that either," Clark said. He looked at her for a long moment. "Lois, you never cease to amaze me. I mean… you are looking at the positive side of this. I assumed that you would be enraged and definitely thrown, this happening the way it did."
"Clark, you taught me that. You taught me to find the rainbow, so to say. And in this situation, I didn't even have to look for it. It's strange, Clark. All of my instincts are telling me this is right. I know, as well as you do, that normally I would be in full-blown panic mode right about now, having my plan pulled from under me like this. But, I guess, when it comes to you… I am different. Especially since the existence of this baby proved the most amazing thing for me."
He looked up at her and met her intense gaze.
"It meant that I hadn't lost you."
And finally, he smiled. "Is it bad that I'm happy about this?" he said, after a heartfelt moment.
"God, Clark, no!" she laughed. "I was so afraid when I saw your reaction before that you were mad about it. Not at me, obviously, because of the situation. But just… mad *at* the situation, I guess."
"I still feel horrible about what happened that night. And about not telling you about me the night I was killed. And about how you eventually learned the truth. I feel so guilty about all of that."
"But, Clark "
" I know, Lois. And I heard you. I did. I even understand what you mean. Part of me even agrees with it. But… I don't think I'll feel better about it any time soon."
He took a deep breath and reached a hand up to touch her cheek with the backs of his fingers. He looked into her eyes memorized them with all the love in the world. "Having a baby with you, though… is the best thing I could ever imagine."
She smiled and turned her face into his hand, which he had turned to cup her cheek.
Placing his other hand on her other cheek gently, he pulled her toward him slowly. Wanting to make sure she was okay with this, he looked into her eyes, just before his lips touched hers. She closed her eyes and slowly finished what he had started, closing the distance between them.
It was the kiss she had been waiting her whole life for. When she had believed her chance of ever having this kiss was forever lost gone she had ached for a chance to have it.
She had thought she'd gotten it in a dream. That the dream would have to last her. Get her through. That it would have to be enough.
But that didn't really count.
Neither of them had known exactly what was going on. That night their two broken hearts had sought each other in the dark and clung desperately to what they had lost.
It had been heart-wrenching and beautiful.
But it hadn't been this…
She was fully aware that she was *really* kissing him. Kissing Clark. He was here. He was okay. He wasn't dead. She'd woken up from that nightmare from what seemed like ages ago. Finally!
And he loved her. And she loved him…
And they were kissing.
The kiss was sweet and soft… warm and gentle… but emotionally charged and a little bit desperate.
And in it she could feel his love. She could feel it like it was something actually tangible. Something she could touch. Something she could hold with her hands, or touch with her lips… her tongue…
Something she could hear… like a beating heart… or an intake of breath as a kiss deepened. Or the sound of her name, breathed between a kiss. A whisper. A feeling in her heart and soul.
The kiss heightened all of her senses. Her loneliness from having been without him for so long danced alongside her passion and love for him and their clear attraction for each other.
It took all of her energy to pull away from it. But there was something she had to do.
"Clark," she said, dazedly. Her lips were raw and chapped from the kiss… swollen in the most delightful way.
He stared at her lips for a moment, his breathing heavy, before he looked into her eyes.
"We have to get you back," she said.
He didn't appear to know what she meant.
She placed her hand over his hand, which was cupping her cheek. "We have to bring you back, I mean. From the dead."
"Oh," he said.
He looked down for a moment. "I was hoping together we could think of something. Or, well, that you could know. I've tried to think of a way, Lois. Believe me. I'm out of options. But you… you always have the answers, Lois. Even when things seem hopeless."
"I tried to think of things earlier today, when I realized you were alive but that no one obviously could know the truth about why that was. I couldn't think of anything."
He sighed. "It's hopeless, isn't it?"
"That doesn't sound like something that the Clark Kent I know would ever say," she said.
She took his hand in hers.
"I did think of one thing just before you came. But it barely registered, until a moment ago. When you were kissing me. You know, every night after you died, I had prayed that Superman did have the power to bring people back from the dead. I had promised whoever was listening to me that I would trade all my days of flying with him for that power. He had always saved the day before. I just wished for a way to make it possible for him to somehow still save the worst day of my life. But I knew. Superman has many amazing powers. But he does not bring people back from the dead. It's ridiculous!"
Clark looked at her, his mouth falling open a bit, as he realized where she was going with this.
"I just never really thought about it before," she said. "I don't know how I didn't think of it when I was desperate to get you back. But we do know *someone* who brings people back from the dead. Hell, it's what started this whole mess," she said, sounding like she used to when she would crack a case wide open.
He smiled at her.
"I can't believe I didn't think of that," he said, shaking his head. "It was right there the most obvious solution, right under our noses." He looked at her again. "But Lois… it's been over a month."
"Capone, Dillinger, Bonnie, Clyde… they were all dead for a lot longer than a month, Clark."
"But won't it seem… I don't know…"
"Clark," she cut in. "Have you even *looked* at Hamilton's notes about all of this?"
Not looking exactly at her, he shook his head. Taking it all in.
"Nothing ventured, nothing gained," she said. "Didn't your parents tell you that?" she said, knowingly.
He smiled. "But do you think anyone will believe it?"
"They'll believe Superman."
"Chief, you wanted to see me?"
Perry looked up as Jimmy walked into the room.
"Yeah, uh, sit down, son," he said. "There's something I've been putting off for a long time. And I wanted to talk about it with you, first," he said, putting his hands in his pockets and walking around to the front of the desk.
"What is it?" Jimmy asked.
"The Planet party. We've held it off for too long now. I think we need to just get it over with. It won't be quite the celebration it would have been back… well, it won't be a happy celebration or anything. But we are still a paper. We can't forget it. And we can't let everyone that works here forget that either. The Planet is more than just paper and ink. We have to honor what it stands for. Clark. He represented what it's all about. This paper is good and it's pure, driven by integrity and ethics and hard work, passion and commitment. And boy was that him all over. Lois, too. And you, too, Jimmy. We have to have this party before everyone here forgets why we're here and what it means. I'd like to do it tomorrow."
With tears in his eyes, Jimmy nodded at his boss, in complete agreement.
It was high time everyone stopped ignoring what had happened and did something to celebrate life. And honor the man who had given his up.
He stood up. "I'll talk to Ralph, Chief. We'll get this going. I think it's a great idea," he said.
Perry walked over to him and placed a hand on his shoulder. Jimmy could see the tears in his eyes, somewhere deep in their depths. Perry had never looked more like a father to him than he did at that moment.
"It's, uh… it's six, Chief. Are you having dinner with Alice again tonight?" he asked, breaking the moment that had fallen over the two men, and trying to regain some composure.
He was curious to know, also, if Perry was still keen on this new idea he had of going home and seeing his wife whenever he could. He had said that something he had learned from Clark's early departure from this life was to make the most of his own.
"You only live once, right?" Perry asked, trying to snap out of the mood he had just been in as well.
"Yeah," Jimmy said.
"Why don't you come, too."
Jimmy smiled. "As soon as I let Ralph know that the party is on."
They hadn't wanted to make a big deal about his return, but when the invitation had come to her apartment, she'd known that there was only one way, given the situation, for Clark to rightly return to his life.
And that was in the ultimate way. At the very party that was honoring the paper… and him.
And so, for the first time in over a month and a half, the team of Lane and Kent once dubbed the hottest team in town walked through the doors of the Daily Planet together, a world of tomorrows ahead of them.
Lois looked up at him in awe. She had never thought she would have the honor of being inside the Daily Planet with her partner again. The last time she had been there, when she'd thought about that fact, it had torn her up. She had realized that she'd never appreciated the luxury of just having him there, healthy and whole, every day. To work with. And to just be with. As friends.
But here he was… dressed as Superman, but even so. He was there. With her.
Looking down at her with a kind of sparkle in his eyes.
"You look beautiful," he said, quietly, obviously not wanting to be overheard, since he was dressed as his alter ego. "I love you in that color. Any color really. But this one… it brings out your eyes. And you just… you look amazing," he said, looking down, smiling.
She felt her cheeks burning at his compliments and smiled up at him.
"Well, you look like you always do in the suit," she joked. "I'll return the compliments later, I promise," she said, smiling.
She had seen him in his dress suit when he had gone to pick her up and he had looked she closed her eyes, the image of him filling her mind, making her breathing quicken a bit absolutely gorgeous. At the sight of him, she wondered for the millionth time what had been wrong with her that she had never noticed *how* gorgeous he was before all of this had started.
She had always been incredibly attracted to him. But looking at him now, in the Superman suit, she knew he was so much more gorgeous in his own clothes, whether it be a tux or a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt. With his hair falling loosely where it wanted to, and with his glasses sitting innocently on his face. He was so boyishly handsome, yet utterly, staggeringly sexy. She couldn't believe that she had preferred the alter ego for so long.
But she'd forgiven herself already for that blindness. And he'd forgiven her, in a way, saying there was nothing to forgive.
And they'd moved on.
"Okay," he said, breaking through her musings. "You go upstairs first, and I'll be up in a moment," he said.
"I can't believe I'm nervous about heading into the newsroom at the Daily Planet," she said, her musings heading in a whole new direction. "I mean, I know Perry will give me my job back in a heartbeat. But I just feel so awful the way I went away and worried him and Jimmy. They'll probably never want to get close to me personally again."
"You'll feel better once you've talked to them about everything. You'll be great, don't worry," he said, reassuringly. "Now, back to the plan."
The party was nice.
As Perry looked around at the faces of his many employees, he knew it was missing *something*, though.
It wasn't that the party wasn't a huge celebration. He had known that would be the case, due to the recent circumstances. He'd been prepared for an overall subdued get-together.
He realized it, as he looked at the people all around him, though. The party and the paper was missing its heart and soul.
There were no two reporters that Perry knew save Jimmy, who wasn't actually a reporter better than Lois and Clark. He'd known what they were like at work and personally. He'd known their likes and dislikes, their quirks and idiosyncrasies, their writing styles, their strengths and their shortcomings. He had loved them both so much for everything that made them who they were.
He didn't know anyone at the paper that way now. Not anymore. He felt as if he were standing in a room full of strangers.
He knew the names of everyone who he laid eyes on. But he didn't know their stories. What drove them. What drove them nuts. He didn't know what kind of person Jim Murray really was. Or what Lisha Mayer did when she left at five-thirty every day. All he knew was what they turned in.
Stories. Stories that he assigned.
And there was nothing in those stories that spoke to him about the person writing them.
And he didn't care, more importantly. He was not in the business of making friends. Especially if he was to have the respect a boss ought to have.
With Lois, Jimmy and eventually Clark those friendships had just happened. Naturally.
The paper he had molded and shaped had had a heart and soul driving it for a long time. A core team that cared as much as he did about it. Core friendships that lit it up and made it amazing. He had people whom he cared about so deeply, who cared about him so deeply… and that made everything the long hours and crazy cases, the solid walls that stood in the way of truth and justice completely worth it. Bearable.
He took a sip of his champagne, counting the minutes until this party was over this reminder, yet again, of all that had changed and gone wrong recently and he could go home. Forget about it all. Ignore it.
He knew that voice. And it actually sounded the way it had once before. The way it used to…
He turned around and he saw her standing there. Looking stunning…
"Finally," he thought to himself… she no longer looked broken.
Words were not needed to convey their feelings and in a heartbeat, after a heartfelt exchange of the eyes, she was in his arms, not wanting to let go.
She began to cry… happily. Hugging Perry, she realized how much she had missed him. Missed the Planet.
He was like a father to her. Her own father was fine and even unique, and she was grateful to him because she was the woman she was because of the way he had been.
She reached a hand up to her face to wipe away the tears, not loosening her hold on him even a little.
Perry was as good as it got. The most inspiring boss and colleague. A moving and caring mentor. And a solid and unwavering friend. True. Genuine. Compassionate.
And he loved her like a daughter. She had always known that.
"Perry, I am so sorry!" she cried.
"No, Lois. No," he said.
Holding her arms firmly and strongly in his hands, he pulled back and studied her intently.
"Lois… you look… well, you look… just about…"
"Happy?" she asked, laughing, her eyes shining with both happiness and moistness.
"To say the least," he said.
"Perry… I know I apologized the other day to you for disappearing and for worrying you. But it wasn't enough. You care about me more than most people in this world. And you'll never know how much that means to me. I never meant to hurt you or run like that. I had no idea I would react like that to everything."
"You loved him," Perry said gently.
"How did you know?"
She hadn't admitted it to anyone even herself! before Clark's seeming death. And Clark had never been aware of her feelings until she had told him. Laughter cut through her thoughts and she looked at Perry. Perry… he was laughing!
"Lois, I knew you loved him all along. I knew it long before you were engaged to Lex. So I knew it *long* before"
"Well why didn't you *tell* me?" she joked, cutting him off before he could utter the horrible words that were no longer even true.
He smiled, the laughter subsiding.
"Oh, I wish he had known it. And I wish more than you can ever imagine that you two had gotten your chance," he said, shaking his head.
"Well, Perry "
Lois turned to see Jimmy running toward her, a big smile on his face. She immediately stepped forward into a hug with him, holding him tightly.
"You are a sight for sore eyes," he said, sounding a little choked up.
"Funny, I was just thinking the same thing!" she said.
Finally he pulled back and looked at her.
"Lois, I've looked everywhere for you! Where have you been?" he asked.
"Hiding. From the world. And Jimmy… I know I worried you and that I should have let the both of you in. I am so sorry for that. On top of what you were already going through, you had me to worry about. I really… I am so sorry for that," she said, looking down.
"Lois, we just wanted to be there for you. To know you were alright. You're like family to me! And Clark… I know he was your best friend. We all loved him, but no one was closer to him than you…" Jimmy trailed off.
"I appreciate that you understand, Jimmy. But I apologize all the same," she said softly.
"There's no reason for that. I'm just glad to see you!" he said, smiling ear-to-ear.
She wiped a tear that traced a path down her cheek. "I am so glad to see you both!"
She looked at the faces of her two loving friends, smiling at her. She felt she didn't deserve it. She had run from them when they had been such caring friends, trying to reach out. She had regressed back to being the Lois Lane who didn't need anyone and wouldn't let anyone get close or help her. And in doing that, she had deserted them. But looking at them, she could see that they not only understood, but they didn't care about it at all. They just cared about this moment. Being together again. She promised herself, silently and solemnly, that in the future, no matter what, she would never shut them out like that again. No matter what.
"I have some news," she said, after a warm moment shared with these friends. "What would you say if I told you that everything could be perfect again?"
"I'd say that it *is* looking better now that you're here… but that it could never be perfect. I mean, it couldn't be like it was before, anyway," Jimmy said. "Not after…" he trailed off, nodding his head suggestively to imply the meaning of his unspoken words.
"Lois what are you talking about? Are you… are you coming back?" Perry asked.
"Well, yes, that… if you'll have me," she amended.
"Oh, honey, you know you don't have to ask!" he said, unable to hide his joy.
Lois smiled brightly. "I was hoping you'd say that! I just… I have one request. One condition," she said.
"I want my partner back, too," she said.
Perry and Jimmy exchanged worried glances, clearly thinking that Lois had lost touch with all sense of reality.
"Uh, Lois, honey… Clark's "
" right here."
Three heads turned to see what they had all once believed to be a vision they had never thought they'd see again.
He was back!
He'd never thought it could happen. But there he was. Standing in the newsroom at the Daily Planet… as *Clark Kent*.
He still had to get through his explanation of how, which he still thought was incredibly thin and strewn with holes and potential complications.
But all the same. He was there.
Back in Metropolis. Back with his three closest friends two of which were clutching at him, holding him tightly.
He could tell they were disbelieving that it was possible and had no idea what was going on. But they didn't seem to care at the moment.
He didn't care either.
Hugging his friends who he had missed so much more than he'd thought, he realized now, being with them again he didn't care about much. He was just too happy.
"Clark, what " Perry started, pulling back eventually.
"CK! How is this possible?" Jimmy asked, finally pulling back from the hug as well.
Clark opened his mouth to say something, but then looked around and noticed that the other members of the Planet were also staring at him, their mouths hanging open, hushed wonders rolling off their tongues.
He looked back at Lois, Perry and Jimmy.
"It's a long story," he warned.
Lois stared at Clark as the four of them headed into Perry's office telling the other Planet staffers that all would be explained to them shortly her eyebrows raised. He was supposed to enter the Planet as Superman and explain everything! Or at least get the ball rolling before entering as himself so no one had heart failure at seeing him alive! This… this was not in the plan.
He met her gaze and shrugged, looking more like an overgrown boy scout than ever. A handsome boy scout…
She shook her head as she closed the door behind her, reminding herself that this was not the time to reflect on his good looks.
"Okay, Clark," Perry started, his voice shaking as he said his name. "How in Elvis's name are you… here?" Perry finally asked, sitting down, trying to look and sound calm, but showing more emotion than she had ever seen from her boss and friend.
Jimmy was just staring, unblinkingly, at Clark, his mouth agape.
Clark stood there, his hands in his pockets and took a deep breath. She could see it all over him; he hated this. Hated lying.
He had lied to her for so long by not telling her about himself and when he had, he'd beaten himself up over it. Quite rightly, she added, under the circumstances and all. But she could see now that he was preparing to tell Jimmy and Perry the story that they had worked out what his life was like. There was a lot of necessary lying involved. And he was a decent and good man. Lying was not in his nature. She knew that he was aware he had to do it. He had to protect himself and everyone close to him. But that didn't change the fact that he hated it.
"Superman found my body after Capone and the others dumped me. He said I was barely alive. That I would have died in a few seconds more. He said at a hospital, I wouldn't have made it," he started. He looked at Lois, finding the motivation in her gaze to continue the story their joint fabrication. "He and I are good friends. We've talked about all sorts of things before. Including alternative medicines and medical practices. He knew how I felt about it. That I was open to it. So he did something very alternative with me. He froze me with his superbreath right before I would have died and followed some procedures in Dr. Hamilton's manuscript. The same manuscript that outlined his procedure that brought those gangsters to life," he explained.
"Are you a clone or something?" Jimmy asked, incredulously.
"No… no, Jimmy, I'm not a clone. I'm me. But Dr. Hamilton's notes were helpful because he also wrote in there of a theory about freezing the tissue, preventing permanent damage. And, well, it wasn't that simple, but Superman removed the bullets and repaired everything as best he could and then unfroze me. After that, it was just a matter of time, to see if it would work and I would live. And you have to understand; it was a one in a million chance that I survived this. It had to do with the exact places the bullets hit and the fact that I had managed to stay alive that long I had been unconscious; I mean, even Lois thought I was dead, there at the club. But in fact, I was alive when he found me. But *just* barely. This has to be understood… neither Superman nor I want people running around thinking they can get shot and Superman can bring them back. I, first of all, was not dead. Almost but not completely at that point. And second of all, he tells me it was mostly luck. It was luck that he found me. And that he knew how I felt about the procedure. And he knew there was a high chance it wouldn't do a thing to save me. The luck was also in where I had been hit. It just… it worked out. But if a retraction of my death is printed in the Planet, Chief, I do want it to be clear "
" of course," Perry said, still looking like he was wrapping his mind around it. "We won't have a careless city on our hands. People thinking they can die and it won't matter because Superman can perform miracles now. We all take him for granted already, as it is. I mean, look at Lois," he said.
Lois narrowed her eyes at him and turned the same look on Clark, realizing he was laughing slightly at that.
"Oh, Lois, you wouldn't put yourself in nearly as much danger if you didn't think Superman was there in case you needed him," Perry said.
"I don't do that," she said, pouting.
"Well you are right about one thing, Clark," Perry continued, ignoring Lois. "You are a lucky man! It sounds like if the situation were any different, the repercussions of that night would still be as awful as we'd thought them. You are also lucky that… well, that Superman is a friend of yours. I'm sure he worked twice as hard to make sure he did everything he could "
Lois noticed Clark's face fall, at that. And she knew. He had worried from the moment they had started creating their little story about people thinking that Superman would try harder to save a friend than a stranger. That the only reason that Clark Kent *didn't* die was because of Superman's friendship with him.
" No, Chief. Superman doesn't think of any life as more worthy than another one " he started, but Perry waved a hand and cut him off.
"I think the world would like to think that, Clark. But Superman is a man. And he has feelings. I'm sure he was torn up knowing that you had gotten shot and he hadn't been there to stop it," Perry started. "I always figured that *you* were his best friend. He depends on you for a lot, it seems. He seems to confide in you a lot, as well. Lois too, to an extent. It's natural that he would feel this deeply and try to save you with everything he's got. Superman doesn't have any family on this planet, Clark, so you're probably family to him. And I'm… well, I am beyond grateful to him right now," Perry finished, sounding incredibly emotional just then.
"Me too," Jimmy said. "Wow," he said after a moment. "That's an incredible story, CK! But… where have you been all month? And why didn't Superman tell us what he was up to?"
"Well, Superman will definitely get an earful next time *I* see him," Lois said.
Clark looked at her and she winked at him.
"He could have told us he was trying to save you," she finished. "It would have saved us all a lot of grief."
"I guess he didn't want to get anyone's hopes up, since there was a good chance it would not have worked," he explained, a little pathetically. "He didn't know that any of this was truly successful until… well, until yesterday."
"So for the whole month, have you been breathing? Have you been in a coma? Or have you been in a state of suspension, so to say? Did you only start to breathe before you woke up yesterday?" Perry asked.
Lois looked at Clark, seeing his eyebrows raised as Perry threw question after question at him. She knew he had no answers to those questions. He had brought them up himself the day before and in the end they had hoped no one would ask. But Clark had said then that Perry was too quick and would ask them. But she could see now that he was overwhelmed. He hadn't prepared answers to those questions. To the hard questions. The ones that would reveal that it was all a big lie. A cover-up to a remarkable truth that just couldn't be known. Ever.
"You know, Chief, I'm not sure," he eventually said. "I could ask Superman the next time I see him. He would know more than me. I, uh… I don't remember much," he finished in a low voice, shrugging.
Perry nodded. "Well of course you don't. Oh, I don't care! I cannot believe you're back! So you woke up yesterday? This is amazing!"
Watching him work his way through this lie, Lois felt bad, but she also had to try not to laugh. She didn't know how she hadn't known all along all throughout their relationship that he was lying all the time. He had a completely lost look on his face when telling a lie. And he looked incredibly guilty as it poured out of him. He just fumbled around for answers he didn't have and even though he looked like he didn't believe what he was saying, everyone around him embraced it as the truth. She had done that countless times in the past. Thinking about it now, she knew it was because of his nature.
If you put aside that one *tiny* detail about him that he was Superman he really was not a liar. He was the most honest man she had ever met, she mused. He was honest and decent. Someone who genuinely cared about everyone. But he had to protect himself. He had been doing it all his life.
And now, she would protect him too. With everything she had.
"… and then he dropped me off at Lois's apartment."
Lois looked up, realizing Clark was talking again.
" and that explains why Lois finally looks alive again, herself," Perry said. "Listen, Kent, next time you are in a situation with Lois and the bad guys have guns, don't provoke them," he said.
"I know now. And in a situation like that in the future, I won't be so…" he trailed off looking for the right word.
"Pig headed? Macho? Bull-brained?" Lois offered.
Clark cut her off with a playful look, but then smiled. "Well, yeah, basically." He turned back to Perry, continuing. "I will react much better," Clark said, seriously. And Lois knew that he meant those words. In every way. That was not a lie.
"Okay, so how about we leave Superman out of this altogether?" Perry finally said.
Clark met Lois's gaze and they both looked at Perry, confused.
"How would we do that?" Clark asked.
"You never really died. The only person who saw you close up was Lois. She could say she had thought you were dead, but didn't realize you were only unconscious. That is the truth, isn't it? Then those men took your identification, and you were found somewhere outside of town and brought to a hospital. And you just woke up the other day," Perry said.
"But Chief," Lois started. "Clark has been missing for over a month. And Henderson and the rest of the force were looking for him and most likely looking into all John Does who'd been shot and turned up at a nearby hospital."
"So we'll make it a little further away than nearby," Perry said. "And Henderson has been keeping his ears open and eyes peeled for a corpse. Well, either way… Lois do you have any idea how many people wind up in the hospital with gunshot wounds and no identification?"
"A lot," Clark said so quietly, she wasn't sure anyone except her heard him.
She looked at him, seeing that he *knew* that fact for a reason. He knew it because he took many of them there. He had witnessed things in his life that she probably couldn't even imagine. She squeezed his hand and he looked at her, a kind smile on his face.
"Chief, Superman is okay with the Planet printing the official story," Clark said, after a moment.
"I'm sure he is," Perry said. "But you're right. No matter how we spin it and what we write, there will be some reaction to him saving you and the looming possibility of others expecting the same thing to happen if they or their loved ones get shot. No… we'll go with the other story," he said, resolutely.
"Chief… thank you," Clark said after staring at Perry for a long, quiet moment. "I'm sure Superman would be incredibly touched that you're protecting him like that," he finished.
"Well, he protects us all," Perry said.
Lois watched as Perry stood up and walked over to Clark. He put a hand on his shoulder and looked at him intently.
"It sure hasn't been the same around here without you," he said. "Both of you," he added, looking at Lois, too. "And it's good to have you back," he said.
"I second that," Jimmy said.
"Well, Clark, we're all in agreement. The votes are in. It's unanimous. Don't you ever go anywhere again," Lois said, lacing her arm through his.
He smiled at her and then at all of them.
"I won't. I promise."
The party turned out to be the happy celebration it was originally intended as.
Perry looked around, seeing all the Planet-staffers rejoicing that Clark had not been killed. That the team of Lane and Kent were back for good. The paper had its heart and soul back. He had his friends back. His award-winning team. He finally felt that feeling that he believed had died with Clark, of being at the paper and being home. His family surrounded him and it all felt so… right. And what had been missing what he had yearned for was finally back.
Everyone was cheering and champagne was being consumed by the bottle. Everyone was having a festive, good time. He noticed that Lois was not drinking any champagne and eventually ran into the bathroom, just as she had two days ago when they'd been out to lunch.
Clark followed her to the door and ended up entering after a moment. The ladies room! After a minute, they exited together, talking quietly.
"Now what in Sam Hill are those two up to?" he asked himself, wondering exactly where their relationship had gotten to before Clark had been shot. Wondering exactly how much he had been unaware of. And how it was even possible that he had been unaware of it. With those two, he had always watched and waited, read between the lines, known exactly what was going on, known the state of both of their hearts and minds, probably before they themselves knew. If something major had happened between them, how could he have possibly missed it?
Despite his confusion, he smiled as his Chief-intuition told him that there were some very interesting days ahead.
He turned to see Alice, clad in a pretty dark gray dress, her red hair which was now laced with some strands of silver tied up loosely, standing beside him.
"You said this party was going to be horrible and that I should come to save you!" she said, laughing.
He kissed her on the cheek.
"I guess it turned out a lot better than I thought it would be," he said. "And I'm glad you came."
"Well, I'm so used to seeing you every night now; I kind of missed you."
"Alice, you know what they say. Absence makes the heart grow fonder."
"Well then I am *very* fond of you! I have years of fondness built up! I'm quite fond enough!" she laughed.
"How about some champagne?" he asked her, holding out a hand to his wife of thirty plus years, feeling finally like the two of them were again newlyweds. Just come back from their honeymoon. Like they were just getting to know one another. And in a way, they were. This past month they had been reintroduced, recognizing that as time had passed, they had changed so much from who they were when they'd gotten married, and because of time apart, neither one knew too well who the other person had become. Until now.
She put her hand in his. "What's the occasion?"
He closed his hand warmly over hers and smiled. "Life."
"So when do we tell everyone about me being pregnant?" Lois asked quietly, looking up at Clark, as they exited the Daily Planet together.
He wrapped an arm around her. "You mean when do we tell the people who don't already know?" he asked.
"What are you talking about? I didn't tell anyone."
"You didn't have to. You weren't drinking champagne and you got sick. And when we left the bathroom, Perry gave me a look that I can only call 'knowing'."
"He gave you a knowing look?" she asked, skeptically. "Based on *that*?" Then she thought about it for a moment. "And the fact that he didn't become editor in chief of a major metropolitan newspaper because he knows how to yodel," she added.
Clark laughed and pulled her closer to him, rubbing his hands up and down her arms as the wind blew gently, creating a light chill in the air.
"How are we going to explain that one? I mean we can't exactly tell them that we made love during that sketchy, shady period in which you were in limbo chatting it up with Elvis," she said, slickly.
"No, although Perry would enjoy hearing about that time, assuming I tell him that I put in a good word for him with the king." They shared a quiet laugh and he looked down at her. "I guess we were so focused on bringing me back, we haven't really discussed how to bring this part up yet. But, Lois, don't worry about that now. One shocker at a time," he said, which made her smile.
"It's easy to say 'don't worry', Clark."
"It was one week after I'd been killed that you and I made love. So… it'll probably end up being a story about you and I realizing our feelings for each other *before* that night in the club," he said. "Right before," he added. "One week really is not a big deal. Not like one month."
"True… *Or*… maybe I'll say someone else was the father! Someone big too, like Mel Gibson! Then they'll just think that I spent the month in Hollywood. They've been wondering where I went all that time. We'll kill two birds with one stone," she said, looking up at him, trying not to smile and to seem genuine.
He looked down at her and stopped walking, staring into her eyes. He bent down and kissed her, lightly, causing her heart to beat just a little bit faster and her body to feel just a little bit more alive.
Easing into a relationship with Clark was just about the most natural thing in the world, to her. It didn't take adjustment or getting used to. It just… it was right. It was the way it was meant to be for them, always.
"You know, I was never one for killing animals," he said, pulling back. "So I say we leave our stones on the ground, let the birds live and go with the other option," he finished.
"If you say so. It was a good idea, though," she said, pouting again.
"And very believable," he added.
Pouting and playful… a way she had not been since before all of this had started. Teasing and joking around were parts of her nature that Clark had brought out in her. Things were just more fun when he was around. More alive. More colorful and wonderful and perfect.
She could relish in his fun, feeling as giddy as a girl, and then kiss him a moment later feeling, well… quite grown up. And quite loved.
They began walking again, and a question that had been in her head all throughout the party came back.
"Clark, why did you enter as yourself? I thought we agreed that you'd come as Superman and explain everything and then show up as you. You know, so no one would have a heart attack or anything," she added.
"I just thought, in the end… they deserved to hear it from me. It was almost a copout to tell them with the suit on. They deserved to hear it from their friend," he said.
"It was a good decision," she said, looking up at him. "That was nice of Perry to think of that cover story to print."
He looked down at her, and she could see how touched he was, that Perry had done that. "He protected me. More than the juicy story or even the truth, he looked out for my best interest. I mean, he's my friend and I guess it shouldn't surprise me, but "
" But you are used to people wanting the juicy story. Not giving a hoot about the best interest of those involved. This is Perry, though, Clark. And he wasn't just protecting Superman, either. Do you think he wants everyone thinking that you didn't deserve to be saved? That story we created walked a fine line and a lot of the people reading it might have been bitter about what happened. And that man thinks of you like you're one of his own. It surprised me what he said but only at first. In the end, I understood exactly why he did it."
"I'm starting to think Perry wouldn't be a bad person to be in the know," he said. "Assuming he doesn't already know, that is," he added.
"What do you mean?"
"I don't know… I just… Perry would never knowingly print a lie. We both know that. And our story was pretty weak, plus, it could have led to what he called 'a careless city'. I don't know if I was just being crazy, but I could have sworn…"
"Something in the way he looked at me, before he worked that story out. He looked like he does when he's on the cusp of figuring something out on one of our stories. Or like the way he looked when we came out of the bathroom before. I could be wrong. But… Perry White is a smart guy… and I'm not sure, but if he does know; I don't mind. I trust him. And I know now that he would protect his friends under all circumstances and… it means a lot," he finished. "Now if he doesn't know and I am just paranoid, then I might think about telling him. I never realized how much I could trust him… until tonight," he said, touching her cheek, smiling.
"Clark I have a question," she said, as they continued walking on.
"Why didn't *we* think of that story?"
They both laughed at that.
"We are clearly amateurs."
"Clark, I can be classified as an amateur. That's fair. But *you*! You've been lying your entire life! You're just really bad at it!"
She laughed. "Henderson sounded happy to hear the news when we called him," she said, after her laughter subsided.
"I know. You know, I didn't think he cared *that* much about me. I know he was worried about you and glad to hear that you were alright now. But… he sees murders all the time. I guess… I didn't realize that he considered me a friend."
"Clark… you've had an impact on more lives than you could ever imagine. We're all glad to have you back," she said, rubbing his arm.
He smiled at that and they continued in silence for a moment, walking arm in arm down the streets of Metropolis.
Clark looked at her and laughed.
"What are you thinking?" he asked.
"Nothing," she said, shrugging.
"I saw the look on your face… like you were obsessing… or mentally attacking someone. What is it?" he asked, smiling.
"Oh, nothing… it's just…"
"It's not fair! Everyone at the party kept telling you how much they loved you and missed you and were so glad to have you back. Do you know what people kept saying to me? 'Oh, Lois, I am so sorry for all the awful things I used to think about you. I really *am* glad you're back now.' Apparently, people thought I was some kind of reporting automaton. Until I reacted the way I did to your death, they didn't even think I had a heart!"
Clark laughed. "Well, Lois, then they never *really* looked at you. You've got just about the biggest heart I've ever seen. And I love you for that," he said. "And I also love you for your tendency sometimes to be a little reporting automaton," he said, smiling again.
She smiled reluctantly at him.
"It was cute how Jimmy kept saying that he would see us tomorrow," Lois said eventually, smiling up at him.
"Yeah. Tomorrow. A wonderful concept," he said.
"I didn't think it wise to tell Jimmy that tomorrow was Saturday," Lois laughed, "since he was so excited and all."
Clark smiled. "Speaking of tomorrow… I was thinking about going to Smallville. To tell my parents that it's all worked out and… uh… would you like to come?" he asked. She could see that he was hoping she would, but didn't want to presume.
"I'd love to," she said. "Besides, I wouldn't miss this for the world. How exactly are you going to tell them their first grandchild came to exist?"
"Well, I am sure they know all about the birds and the bees, Lois. We don't really have to get into it," he said, giving her a look.
She smiled. "You know what I mean."
"I know. And I don't know. I guess we'll just play it by ear," he said. "They're going to be so excited, Lois. Not just because of the baby, but… because of you."
She smiled. Having Jonathan and Martha Kent as grandparents to her baby as *family* to her would be a dream come true. She was elated at the thought.
"You know, I never realized how much I had before all of this," Clark said, breaking into her thoughts. "I always had this secret, and it made my life complicated sometimes. But when this part of my life was taken away, I felt stupid that I ever got stressed about situations I'd been in before."
"Well, I'm sure at the time they warranted your stress," she pointed out.
"Yeah. But I've learned a lesson here, Lois. *I* may be invulnerable. But, when I created Superman, he took that part of my life over. When I'm *me*, I have to put it away. I have to push it back. Clark Kent is a man, and in that, he can be killed. Besides, this part of my life is the only thing that makes the other part of my life bearable at times. I will not be so foolish as to let it go like that again. I don't think I can count on a miracle recovery twice."
"That is true. And to assist you in this goal, I'll try not to get myself into a situation that puts you in that macho, bull- brained frame of mind."
He looked at her like he knew better.
She smiled. Oh, perhaps he did.
But… she was having a baby now, she mused. And she had Clark. Clark, who she loved so much… so dearly. And one night long ago, everything changed. *She* changed. Life and the very idea of life had become so much more real to her and she knew what it was she was risking by being careless. And she *would* think twice before jumping in without checking the water level first. Heck, she'd even think three times…
She looked at the man standing beside her, his quiet strength emanating from him as he held her close. It was in the way he walked and talked and looked at her. Looked at the world. Loved her…
…Some things were more important.
"So," he said quietly. "Have you given any thought to…" he trailed off, sounding a little embarrassed.
"To…" she urged.
He looked at her, a look on his face that told her he had no idea if she was comfortable discussing this with him.
She knew… he still felt horrible about the way everything had happened. While he was as happy as she was about being together and having a baby together, he was treading very lightly on the subject. Not sure where he stood with her on it.
"I've thought about it," she admitted, slowly grinning. "Maybe Alexander or Rose," she said.
He looked down, not saying anything and she laughed.
"What?" he said, looking back at her, a blank, but amused expression on his face.
"You don't like those names," she accused.
"No… no, it's not that…" he started, but she looked at him knowingly. "Okay, I just didn't picture those names. They're fine names. I guess they wouldn't be my first choice. But "
" no buts, Clark. They're off the list. I hadn't gotten completely attached to them anyway. I mean, I'm sure the list will keep changing. And we'll just have to keep discussing it."
"We will?" he asked.
She smiled. He could be so cute and clueless sometimes.
"Well, Clark, of course. It's a big deal. You go through life with the wrong name, and it could really mess everything up."
She squeezed his arm lightly. "Clark… we're in this together."
"I know, Lois. I will be here for anything. Everything. I just… I wasn't exactly sure how much you wanted me there for. With the baby, I mean. And… I know you love me. I just wasn't sure exactly where we stood on this… everything you've ever known has changed so fast."
"Clark… this baby is yours and mine. Ours. Okay? And I want you around for it all. I mean it. When you're not cleaning up after an earthquake and swallowing bombs, I want you changing diapers!"
"You know, the names Jake and Maggie came to me earlier today," he said casually.
She smiled. "That's… nice," she said, trying to sound positive.
"You don't like them," he said, wrapping his arm around her more protectively, talking to her closely, intimately.
"I just didn't picture those names. They're fine names," she said, enjoying this. Enjoying discussing this with him.
"Okay, so those names are off the list," he said, a big smile on his face.
"There's one other thing," he said after a moment. At her look, he continued. "I told you yesterday that I would marry you in a heartbeat, Lois. And not because we're having a baby. Just because I love you more than you could ever imagine. And you're pregnant right now, and I'm not sure if you've thought about it or wanted to "
" I have thought about it," she admitted. "Why… are you… *proposing*?" she asked.
"No. But I will. Someday. You must know that," he said.
"I guess I do know," she said, wistfully. "And I guess you know what I'll say."
He smiled, a soft, quiet and caring smile.
"But, Clark, there's no rush to make it happen before the baby is born. I want to enjoy all of this with you. If you're asking if I feel uncomfortable being pregnant and unmarried, the answer is 'no'. I love being on this adventure with you, and I don't have to explain it to anyone. I want to marry you, Clark Kent. When it's right. Not because you are the father. But because I love *you* more than you could ever imagine. And it could be tomorrow, or in a year… but I just want… need… to be with you. Always. That's all I care about."
Before his lips closed over hers, she saw it. The look. Like he was about to cry, he was so happy. Like he loved her so much and was grateful beyond measure that she felt the same way.
After a few *heavenly* moments, they continued walking, hand in hand, in a warm, companionable silence.
"What are we doing here?" Lois asked, when they finally approached her apartment.
"I said I would walk you home," Clark said.
At his confused look, she looked down. "Right. I guess I should be here. I mean, I know I should be here…"
He bent down, catching her eyes with his, and smiled that smile that made her aware that she could tell him anything in the world. That he was her best friend and always would be. That he loved her more than anything.
"It's just… when you said you'd walk me home, this wasn't the place I pictured," she admitted, kind of shyly, glancing quickly at the building. "I guess I haven't really considered this place home in awhile."
"Oh," he said. "You want to go to my place? You know you are always welcome."
"No, not your place. I mean, not necessarily," she added.
"Oh. I'm sorry, Lois. I'm not following."
"Me?" he asked. He was clearly still not following.
"You know how they say 'home is where the heart is'? Oh, I know it sounds stupid," she explained in a rush, seeing a look of realization finally flicker over his features. And a look that melted her heart. "It's just… wherever *you* are, Clark. When you were gone, it was your place because it was as close as I could get to you. But now… I guess it doesn't matter where it is," she said, shrugging. "You probably think I'm crazy right about now," she said, laughing, tears in her eyes.
"I know exactly what you mean, actually," he said.
She looked up at him, curiously.
"I used to run around the world, Lois. Before you ever knew me. Kind of like I did for these past weeks. I'd run. Run away. Hide. I kind of figured my life would be like that forever, because there were things about me that I didn't want anyone to know. And if it got too close, I had to keep going. I liked Metropolis when I came here. I liked it right away. I liked the Daily Planet and Perry. But when I met you," he said, his voice dropping suddenly to a whisper, as his gaze penetrated hers, "I knew I was home. I just had to find a way to stay. All I knew was that wherever you were, that was where I had to be."
She went to him wordlessly, resting her head against his chest, listening to his heart beat. He wrapped his strong arms around her, pulling his coat around her as well, until she was encompassed by it… blanketed in his warmth.
She couldn't bear to be away from him. Since he'd returned the day before, they'd been together the whole time. They talked. Mostly she would ask him questions about past events, knowing now that many events in her past took on a new light due to his secret. And they shared. She would let him in on how she had felt while he was gone. About her many realizations where he was concerned. About how she had known she would miss him for the rest of her life. How it was unbearable. And he would tell her how lost he was without his life… Because being without his life, he was without her. They kissed. And eventually, late that night, she fell asleep in the comfort of his arms.
She couldn't let him go. It just couldn't be like it was before; him seeing her home and then the two of them going their separate ways. She couldn't just turn and enter her apartment.
In his arms…
He bent his head and placed a gentle kiss on her forehead. She smiled warmly and snuggled closer to him.
… It was where she belonged.
"Come with me," he whispered, suddenly.
Not breaking their contact, he placed his hand in hers and pulled her with him, around the corner from her apartment building and into an alley. He looked around very cautiously and then spun into Superman.
"Where are we going?" she asked.
From the time he learned as a teen to fly, Clark realized that flying frequently took on different meanings for him in his life. It often meant loneliness; the sky was a lonely place to be, especially for a man so different from everyone else. At times it meant freedom. There were no limitations in those lonely skies. No boundaries. There was no judgment. And there was a sense that a man so different from the world was special because he could fly… And nothing could beat that feeling that only *he* could really feel. At times it meant escape. If something was too hard to deal with or if he saw something he just wanted to forget, he could take to the skies and escape to a place where he could think. Or forget. Or hide.
He could see a deserted island.
He could fly away in the dark of night and still find a sunset somewhere that he could watch… and see the beauty of the world again.
He could see an exotic land.
Or a place so essentially different from everything he knew that he could distract himself from all of it. From all he knew. From all that was sometimes too hard to think about.
But on this night his return to life holding in his arms the woman he loved more than life itself… it meant home.
For both of them.
It was a quiet, intimate thing only they could share together; which brought with it feelings that could never be put into words.
It was acceptance.
She accepted him for everything he was. For everything he had once been so afraid he would never be accepted.
It was love.
Her arms wrapped around his neck, pressed tightly against him, while looking in awe at the beauty below, he could feel her heart beating. His heart beat in rhythm with it… And it brought back memories from the last time their hearts had joined in a sweet dance and rhythm together.
She had been right when she'd said they had been drawn together that night by instinct. By love. Listening to their hearts beat now, he recalled with complete clarity that feeling. That moment. That beat. In the dark of night, their hearts had seen what they could not.
Flying with Lois… being with Lois… *Lois*…
And he felt something in his heart something *wonderful* as he realized that she felt the same way about him. She had said so. And… he could feel it.
"This is beautiful," she said, quietly.
He agreed, but said nothing, just listening to the wind and their hearts.
He finally allowed himself to feel happy elated about his life. Their lives! He had been happy about the baby immediately. But he had still felt guilt about the way it had been conceived. About what he had put her through and how she had learned the truth. But as she opened her heart to him more and more everyday and he *saw* her feelings… he realized it was okay. He wasn't a monster. He was in love with her. And she was just as in love with him. This was all a dream come true.
She was flying with *him*, and they were in love and having a baby.
He looked down at her, in his arms, her trust in him, holding him tightly and warmly, her body pressed against his… and he wanted to make love to her again. To be aware of it each step of the way and do it right. Properly. To show her and to tell her everything… And to hold her forever.
She finally looked at him. "I've flown in your arms before, but… knowing that it's *you*, Clark, now… I can't describe it," she said.
"You don't have to," he said, knowing exactly how she felt.
"Clark… " she said, her voice unsteady. Emotional. Her breathing became a little heavier, her heart beating a little faster, her eyes searching his. "Do you feel the way I feel? Right now, I mean?" she asked, searching his eyes for the answer.
He realized she must have found the answer there in his eyes, because before he could assure her that if what she felt was a pure, unconditional, beautiful love, then they felt exactly the same way, her lips found his.
He had never kissed anyone while flying and was afraid, given the feelings he was experiencing, that he would drop them both down from the heavens they were in, crashing them back to reality. But, one look and he realized that he was instinctively taking them back… taking them home. To his home. No he thought to *their* home now.
When they landed on the balcony, Lois pulled back from him and looked around.
Worried for a moment that she would misread what he'd done, he smiled at her. "I will hold you all night, like last night. We can do that forever, Lois. I just want to be with you."
And he meant that. He knew how he felt. And that he desperately wanted to act on those feelings. But he wasn't sure how she felt. He was not sure what she was ready for yet. And he would not act on anything until he was sure. He knew she was incredibly comfortable with him and didn't want to risk losing that for anything in the world.
She looked around. "No one's around. Quick. Change back," she whispered.
Granting her wish, he became Clark again, clad in his dress suit from the party.
She stared at him, her mouth falling open a little, her eyes seeming just a little darker. She took a step forward, towards him.
"I don't know if I told you how amazing you looked tonight," she said, placing a hand on his chest, her voice still unsteady. Heavy with emotion and… something else.
She slowly stood on her toes and kissed him again, wrapping her arms around his neck.
Scooping her up, he entered the apartment, closing the door behind him swiftly, not breaking the kiss for a moment.
Seconds later, he was laying her down on the bed, carefully, continuing to kiss her passionately, but so gently.
"Make love to me, Clark," she whispered, as he kissed her throat. Her ear. Her cheeks. And then he found her mouth again.
"Are you sure?" he asked, finally, forcing himself to pull back for a moment to ask.
"I want to remember everything this time. I want to see you. I want to know it's real in the moment. That you're real. That I'm real. I want… to love you, Clark. I've never been more sure of anything," she said, pulling him slowly back to her.
He began to kiss her again, needing no more invitation.
For all he wanted, too… was just to love her.
Lois awoke in the same bed she had been waking up in for almost two months and what seemed like a lifetime.
The prior morning she had awoken in the arms of the man she loved. She'd fallen asleep in those arms. And he'd been there in the morning.
She looked around the bedroom.
Gone. He was gone.
And suddenly she felt panicked.
Had it all been a dream? Had he never been there to begin with?
She put on a bathrobe, trying to remain calm. But the more she thought about it, the more she feared it was all a dream. That he had come back. That they were starting a family together. That they had made beautiful, sweet love the night before… and it had felt so real her body could still feel everything now, just thinking about it…
"Oh no, oh no, oh no," she started, looking around. "Clark?"
"Right here," a voice said, sweetly.
The most wonderful voice in the world.
He peeked into the bedroom and smiled at her.
She saw that he was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. He looked so comfortable and so perfect.
"Sorry, I had to go out early this morning. You know," he explained, making a quick flying motion with his hand.
She smiled, feeling silly for having feared the worst.
"Oh! I actually have to run out again, can you believe it? Hey, would you mind making the bed?" he asked, before disappearing again.
"Guess I'll have to get used to this," she thought to herself.
She found it strange that he wanted her to make the bed. Normally, he didn't care about things like that. He'd never normally ask her to clean up anything at his place. She also found it strange, she thought, as she walked toward the bed, that he hadn't come in to give her a kiss.
"Well, he might've if he hadn't been called away," she reasoned with herself.
She picked up her pillow, preparing to throw it on the ground so she could start making the bed, when she saw it.
A tiny box made of black velvet.
She felt something wonderful tighten in her stomach, as tears formed in her eyes. She picked up the box and turned around, knowing…
And there he was. Standing in the doorway. The sweetest smile on his face.
He walked in until he stood before her.
"*Now* I'm proposing," he said, his voice a deep whisper.
He took the box out of her hand, and bent down onto one knee.
She smiled, tears falling from her eyes.
He opened the box, which held in it the most beautiful ring she had ever seen.
"Lois Lane, will you "
" marry me…"
In a moment, he was standing again, kissing her intensely, wrapping her tightly in his arms.
"I love you."
"I love you."
It was all either of them could seem to say between passion- filled kisses.
Finally Lois pulled back.
"How did you… I mean it's only seven in the morning! How did you buy a ring so early?"
"It's not this early everywhere," he said, blushing.
She smiled and touched his face. "If this is a dream, I hope I never wake up."
He kissed her again and carried her to the bed, laying her down.
"It's real, Lois," he said, placing the ring on her finger, as she looked up at him.
He kissed her hand, his lips brushing the ring the symbol of their love for each other.
"You know… I was just going to make this bed," she said, a sly smile on her face.
He kissed her. "Why don't we wait…" He kissed her again. "And we'll make it together…" He kissed her once more. "… later."
And then he kissed her again. And didn't stop.
And she knew… this was better… it was *all* better… than any dream could ever be.