Her Choice

By SarahC. <gondorian_steel_lily@yahoo.com>

Rated PG

Submitted October 2006

Summary: The murder of Mayson Drake leads to Lois finding out the big secret Clark's been hiding from her, and the revelation just might mean the end of their fragile new romantic relationship. A rewrite of the end of the episodes "Lucky Leon" and "Resurrection."


Part One: Truth and Lies

Clark clasped Mayson in his arms, helplessly watching as her life ebbed out of her.

He'd been too late. He'd been too late. The words repeated over and over in his head. He'd been too late. If only he had come a little earlier, if only his brain had registered the ticking sound he heard for the bomb it was just a few seconds sooner… But he hadn't. His mind had been sluggish, dazed, drifting on a sea of bliss, only thinking of Lois, of the feeling of her lips on his, and the one word of finally, echoing in his mind. Finally… he was kissing Lois, Lois was kissing him, she had admitted, tacitly, just how much she cared about him…

Mayson gasped for breath softly, her hand coming up to rest on his chest and then her fingers slipped in the rip on his shirt, torn from the force of the blast, and fingered the Superman suit. He inwardly flinched at the look in her eyes when she looked up at him, the shock, the hurt, the betrayal. "Clark, so that's what you've been hiding…"

Oh God… She knew; she'd found out… And now she was hurt, dying, because he hadn't been quick enough…

Her head fell back again and he tightened his grip on her. "Mayson!" His thoughts whirled around crazily with all that he wanted to say, to tell her. That he was sorry, that he did like her, that he hadn't meant to hurt her…

Mayson gave another small gasp and forced her eyes open again, pulling herself in with the last of her ebbing energy.

He felt the wisp of her breath on his skin and heard her whisper, so softly he almost needed to use his super-hearing to catch it, "Resurrection."

And then, she was gone.

Her head fell back, her arms going limp, as he stared, his eyes pricking with tears and his chest twisting painfully with guilt and sorrow.


He heard as well as sensed Lois come up behind him and heard her gasp of horror. "Oh my God, no…"

Gently, he lowered Mayson's still body to the ground and felt Lois kneel beside him, her hand on his shoulder with a gentle pressure, as if to remind him that he wasn't alone. "I- I couldn't save her," he mumbled. "I was too late."

Lois flinched at the self-reproachful tone of Clark's words, realizing with a shock that Clark blamed himself, although why he would she couldn't understand. Her head was spinning, her thoughts a confused mass after the whirlwind of emotions she'd felt in the space of the last few minutes, from the quiet euphoria of Clark's kiss, to the brief moment of doubt before she'd quelled it firmly and kissed him again, to the haze of desire which had ignited inside her the moment his lips touched hers, to the disorientation when his lips had left hers and she'd opened her eyes to find him running away from her, to the shocked confusion and dismay of seeing the explosion and Clark still running towards the burning car… She had no clear memory of running over to where Clark was kneeling on the ground holding Mayson in his arms. And now, Mayson was dead.

Lois felt a wave of sympathy and remorse and sorrow. She hadn't particularly liked Mayson; something about the blonde woman had just annoyed her and it didn't help that Mayson had made her more-than-friendly interest in Clark obvious. But she had never wanted Mayson to be injured, let alone killed…

She wanted to say something, to comfort Clark, to tell him it wasn't his fault, but she couldn't think of anything to say. She had never been comfortable with the emotions she termed the "touchy-feely stuff", had taken to scoffing at them in order to disguise her discomfort with them. It was rarely, usually when she had one of her not-infrequent moments of fearing for her life, when she felt her defenses weaken but she always rebuilt them. She had to; it was her best defense mechanism to keep from being hurt the way some people—like Claude—had hurt her. And she never knew what to say when something tragic happened, always ended up merely feeling inadequate at best or cold- hearted at worst.

But this was Clark and she couldn't *not* try to comfort him; she cared about him too much… He was- he was… the most important person in her life, she thought.

She shifted closer to him, her hand moving down from where it rested on his back to his arm in something like a caress. "Clark…" she began softly, her voice gentle, as she studied him…

And then she saw something that made her stiffen in shock and forget all about her need to comfort him.

A flash of red and blue under the tattered front of his shirt.

Her hand moved without conscious direction, to push aside the torn pieces of his shirt to reveal… the unmistakable and very familiar stylized "S" of Superman's suit.

Clark was wearing Superman's suit under his clothing.

It was a sign of just how confused her thoughts were at that time that she didn't immediately register the significance of the discovery, but then she heard his slight intake of breath and saw him look up at her.

And the expression in his face as he met her eyes made the truth come crashing down on her.

Clark was Superman.

She gaped at him, too shocked to think of any words to say or express her confused emotions. She wasn't even sure what she was feeling.

"Clark," she gasped out. "I…"

"Lois," he began but then stopped, his head lifting. He looked back at her with a resigned expression. "The police are coming and will be here in a minute. We'll talk later, I promise."

"How do you-" she began and then stopped, remembering. Of course. He was Superman; he could hear them.

He was Superman!

All this time and he hadn't told her…

"Count on it," she said grimly and saw a flicker of some emotion she couldn't identify in his eyes.

The police cars raced around the corner, sirens blaring, as Clark stood up, pulling his jacket closed over his torn shirt.

An officer both Lois and Clark recognized as being Officer Templeton ran out of the car. "What happened here?" He glanced down at the body of Mayson and then the burnt car. "Oh God, it's Mayson Drake. Kent, what happened?"

"There was a bomb," Clark began. "I think it was activated when she unlocked her car or something, judging from the timing of it. I- I was too late to stop it."

Officer Templeton gave Clark a look. "How could you have stopped it?"

"I- er- Lois and I were supposed to meet with Mayson and we were delayed. I thought if we had gotten here earlier, we might- um- have been able to stop her from getting into her car."

Lois studied Clark for a moment, suddenly recognizing the same expression he always got when concocting one of his strange and usually ridiculous excuses for running off. Well, now, she knew where he ran off to.

The thought was a forceful reminder of all the hundreds of lies he had told her since the day they'd met and she stiffened as a wave of anger went through her. Oh he had a *lot* of explaining to do!

"Okay, I'll need to talk to both of you later for statements but I think you had better leave so we can begin our investigation."

"We'll start investigating too," Lois inserted before Clark could and caught his grateful glance.

Officer Templeton looked irritated. "Just don't get in our way, then, Lane."


"Come on, let's go, Lois," Clark said, putting his hand on Lois's back.

She shook off his hand and stalked forward alone. He had lied to her! He'd been lying to her for months!

Clark winced at her rejection of his touch and quickened his pace to catch up with her. "Lois, I'm sorry for not telling you," he began quietly. "I- I've wanted to for a long time and I've been planning to tell you but it just got complicated…"

Lois threw him a glare. "You expect me to believe you when you say you've been meaning to tell you? You've had a year and half, Clark! I thought we were friends; I thought you trusted me! How could you—why didn't you tell me?"

Clark sighed. "Lois, you have to understand. I've never told anyone about what I can do; I've gotten used to hiding and, yes, lying when I needed to. My father always said that if anyone found out, they'd lock me up in a lab and dissect me."

"Oh fine, so you didn't have to tell the world but why didn't you tell me? You didn't think I would—"

"No, it's—I wanted you to learn to like me as *me* and not as Superman. I didn't want you to—"

Lois cut him off. "Don't be ridiculous! You *are* Superman!" she hissed in a low voice, mindful that they were on a public street.

Clark sighed again, softly, in frustration. "Lois, no, you don't understand," he began but she interrupted him again.

"Don't patronize me, Clark! What I understand is that the man I thought I knew isn't who I thought he was—in either of your incarnations! How can I ever trust you when I know you've been lying to me since the day we met?"

"Lois, I haven't lied to you; I just omitted to mention a few facts."

"A lie by any other name," Lois snapped.

She sucked in her breath sharply, stopping in her tracks to stare at him, as another thought surfaced. Pain lanced through her heart, mixed with anger—and of its own volition, her hand whipped up and cracked across his face.

She winced, holding her aching hand with her other one, and glared at him. "You- you let me think you were dead! How *could* you… Do you have any idea how I felt, what I went through those two days when I thought you were dead and it was all my fault and…" her voice cracked in remembered pain as she relived those most painful days of her life—and it had been for nothing! Because he hadn't been dead; he'd never been dead! He hadn't even been hurt at all!

He flinched at the hurt in her tone. "Lois, I'm sorry. You have no idea how sorry I am and my only excuse is that I panicked. That was the last thing I expected to have happen, that Clark Kent would be shot in front of so many witnesses, and I just didn't know what to do. I didn't know how to go on without telling everyone that I'm Superman. But I promise you that the moment I found a way, in reading Professor Hamilton's book, you were the first person I thought of, the first person I wanted to see…"

"You should have told me the truth! You say you've wanted to tell me but you've had so many chances, so many times when you could have told me, and you didn't. You always lied."

He opened his mouth but suddenly, Lois didn't want to hear it. She didn't want to hear any more excuses from this man who suddenly seemed like a stranger to her. She'd thought she could trust Clark, that he was the one man she could trust—and now to find out just when she'd begun to think she could trust him with her heart that he wasn't at all who she'd thought he was. And just who *was* he—farmboy from Kansas, Kryptonian super-hero? Both? Neither? Everything she'd thought she'd known had been turned on its head and she just couldn't deal with it. Not then.

"Don't!" she said sharply, holding up one hand in an unmistakable gesture. "I don't want to listen to this anymore. I- I feel like I don't know who you are anymore and I don't know how I can ever trust you again." She hesitated and then added in a lower voice, "I need to get away from you. I can't—I think we should take a break from, well, whatever-this-is between us."

Clark sucked in a sharp breath, his face going white. "Lois, please, don't do this. I *love* you and I'm so sorry you had to find out this way but you have to believe that I *never* meant to hurt you in any way." He hesitated and then repeated, very quietly and with such obvious sincerity that Lois couldn't help but be reminded of that day in Centennial Park so many months ago when he'd first declared his love, "I love you, Lois."

"Clark, don't. I- I just don't know right now—about us, if I can do this." Lois inwardly flinched at the naked hurt on Clark's expression and in his eyes, wondering how she could be so angry at him and yet still hate to see him hurt.

"I'm not saying forever," Lois relented almost in spite of herself. "I just mean, for now. And we'll still have to work together to investigate Mayson's murder."

"You just want to be work partners and nothing else," Clark said tonelessly and somehow the very tonelessness of his voice managed to convey even more pain than a cry would have.

"Yes," she sighed and then forcibly stopped herself from reaching out to him at the bleak look in his eyes. "At least for now. I- I need to readjust all of what I thought I knew about you—and about Superman. I just need some time…"


Just work partners.

The words sounded like a death knell to all his dearest hopes and dreams.

Clark stared helplessly at Lois, taking in the vulnerability mixed in with the anger and the hurt and the betrayal he could see in her dark eyes. He should have told her, he knew. He should have told her the moment he'd decided to ask her out, should have told her months ago even. He should have told her if it hadn't been for his own stupid pride and his desperate need to know that Lois cared for him as Clark and not as Superman—and it was only now he realized how unfair to her he was being, wanting her to love only the side of him he chose when the truth was that he was both Clark and Superman and if they were going to have a real relationship, she would have to accept and love both of them.

*Why* hadn't he told her?

Clark wanted to flagellate himself for his own stupidity.

And now he might have lost Lois forever because of his lack of trust and his stubbornness. Worse, he knew he had hurt her by not telling her, by having her find out like this.

It was worse now than it might have been before, too, worse because now he didn't know if he could just treat Lois like only a work partner and not even his best friend. Worse because now he knew a little of what it would be like to go out with Lois, knew what it felt like to kiss her, as himself, with no pretenses this time… Worse because he knew that Lois had begun to care about him as Clark; she had run back into a nuclear blast for him! And now…

He might have lost her, perhaps forever…

Clark flinched at the pain he felt; it felt as if a hard hand had reached into his chest and was squeezing his heart.

He grasped at the strands of hope her words about just needing some time offered him— but the hope felt feeble, almost forced.

Some time—but some time could easily stretch into longer and longer, until it just became impossible to go back to the way they'd been.

And what if- what if Lois decided she really couldn't deal with having to share him with the rest of the world? What if she decided she didn't want to date someone who'd been lying to her for almost two years now? What if…

She was angry, deservedly angry, and hurt too.

What if she decided she never wanted to speak to him again?

He tried to imagine the devastation he would feel if he lost Lois and flinched involuntarily. He would be lost… He needed her, needed her faith in him, needed her cleverness and her energy and her courage, needed her way of treating Superman like a human being, unlike almost everyone else who was too much in awe of him to treat him normally…

It was ironic, bitterly so, he reflected suddenly, that his earlier guilt and grief over Mayson's death had been entirely subsumed and pushed aside in this much greater, all-consuming fear that he might have lost Lois, in his much deeper hurt…

He *couldn't* lose Lois.

And yet—he knew he couldn't force her to forgive him or to have a relationship with him. He couldn't do anything; he could only wait for her decision as to what to do about their relationship now that she knew the truth; he could only wait for her forgiveness, if she ever could forgive him…

He could only wait…


Part Two: Listening to Her Heart

Lois sat back in satisfaction as she looked at the mock-up of the Planet's front page and the article which she and Clark had written on Stanley Gables and his Resurrection pill and Mayson's murder.

Lane and Kent had done it again.

And proven they were professionals in managing to work together despite the uncertainty of their personal relationship.

It had been- awkward- to say the least, to work with Clark on this investigation but they had managed to keep any other feelings hidden for the most part as they worked, falling back into their old, familiar pattern of working together. And, Lois had to admit, it had been eye-opening to watch Clark and recognize all the times he surreptitiously used his powers—or forcibly refrained from doing something to reveal what he could do, such as when he'd let Agent Scardino tie them up in Mayson's office. And to see him as Superman deal with the bomb planted in the porch of Sean McCarthy's mother had been almost surreal.

That was *Clark* who had disappeared in a blur and then returned as Superman, holding the bomb…

She had nearly choked on air when Mrs. McCarthy had referred to "that sexy Superman" and hadn't been able to help casting an amused, even teasing, glance at Clark to see the faint tinge of color in his cheeks—and then the uncertainty in his dark eyes had forcibly reminded her of the unsettled nature of their relationship and she'd turned away, blushing, at her lapse into their old, comfortable friendship.

All those times Clark had disappeared only to have Superman show up a minute later… Lois found herself wavering between an odd mixture of amusement and amazement— and anger at both him and herself for never having recognized it before. It seemed so obvious, the resemblance between them so clear—how could she have missed the fact that Clark and Superman never showed up together?

She glanced up to find Clark watching her—as she had at various times over the last few days, whenever they weren't actively working on something. And, as always, she felt herself color at the restrained intensity and suppressed emotions in his eyes as he looked at her. Every time she had caught him looking at her like that, she'd had to catch her breath as the air between them suddenly seemed to thicken and positively crackle with tension and unspoken feelings and desires—and every time, she'd had to fight to remind herself that he had lied to her repeatedly and she still couldn't find it in herself to trust him completely, still found herself going over all her memories of both Clark and Superman and re-evaluating them for some understanding of the real man.

Their eyes met and held, Clark's feelings for once unhidden and clear to be seen in his expression and his eyes— and suddenly she found herself remembering Dan quoting from Mayson's diary describing Clark's eyes as smoldering.

Smoldering—they really were… Or at least they could be.

And she remembered the almost pointed way Clark had looked at her when she'd mentioned Mayson being in love with him. She'd suddenly realized with an odd little thrill that the reason Clark had so steadfastly ignored or resisted Mayson's less-than- subtle flirtations must have been because of *her*, because of his feelings for *her*…

She forcibly returned her gaze to the mock-up, confused again by all the emotions inside her. She didn't think she'd ever felt so confused, so conflicted, in her life before. Oh she knew she wasn't really angry anymore; she could understand why he'd wanted to keep his identity secret and considering he'd spent his entire life hiding his powers, she could imagine that hiding, even lying, had become instinctive to him. She was still hurt at his apparent lack of trust in her but her main problem was that she couldn't seem to get past the nagging feeling that she really didn't know Clark at all—not the Clark that had super-powers and had saved her life more times than she cared to count, and not the Clark who had apparently been lying to her for almost two years now—and not the Superman who had grown up in Kansas as a regular farmboy.

But she also knew that she did still care about Clark—and, yes, about Superman, too. In a way, finding out that they were one and the same simplified matters. She wasn't in love with two different men at the same time; there was only one of them… She just didn't know if she could let him into her heart again, if she could risk getting into a real relationship with both of them, because she knew if anything went wrong, if somehow the relationship turned into the disasters which her relationships had always been before, she would be devastated. More than she'd ever been before—so much so that she somehow knew she wouldn't be able to go on, not after she'd been with Clark/Superman—because she cared about him, in both his incarnations, too much…

And the idea terrified her.

She looked up, feeling someone who wasn't Clark looking at her, and then blushed again, feeling flustered, as she saw that it was Dan.

He was another element of her confusion. She couldn't deny that she found his compliments and his obvious admiration flattering; it had been so long, it seemed, since she'd gotten that sort of unhidden, obvious admiration from a man from the beginning.

Clark had gotten too used to hiding his admiration behind lightly teasing words or the occasional look and he was always careful that he never made her feel at all uncomfortable with his own feelings, she had realized.

Like when he had arrived at her place to pick her up before they went to the jail to talk to Big Buster Williams and he'd first seen her very daring costume. He had visibly swallowed hard and she'd seen his gaze sweep the length of her body before he had dragged his eyes back up to meet hers, his cheeks flushed and a tiny muscle flexing in his cheek—and for a moment, she'd been torn between a wild urge to either go inside and change into her baggiest pair of sweats and a sweatshirt or the equally wild impulse to flatten herself against Clark (who looked very, *very* good in that tight muscle-shirt and leather jacket with his hair slicked back and sunglasses on) and explore that oh-so-wonderful body…

But then she'd seen him visibly regaining control of his emotions and his undeniable physical reaction to seeing her flaunting her assets so blatantly—and in another moment, he'd managed a light, teasing smile. "I see you haven't lost your fashion sense from when you were pretending to be Lenny Stoke's groupie," he had said in a bantering tone—and she might almost have believed that she'd imagined his initial reaction to seeing her outfit except for the muscle still twitching in his cheek, the only outward sign of the rigid control he was exerting over himself.

Clark wanted her—wanted her intensely, she had realized—but she'd also realized at that moment that he would never act on those desires, never presume to take their relationship any further, without her explicit permission. And the realization made her feel a bewildering range of emotions from relief and thankfulness to exasperation at his Boy Scout sense of ethics, when he might have made it so much easier by taking her decision away from her, in a sense, by making a move that forced her to decide. And she was under no illusions about her ability to resist Clark/Superman if he ever did decide to seduce her—but he wouldn't, she knew. The ball remained in her court. She only wished she knew what to do with it.

But Dan was different; he didn't try to hide, rather he flirted with her blatantly. And she couldn't deny the small, feminine thrill she felt at being treated that way by a man, especially one who could be as charming as Dan.

"Hi," he greeted her.

"Hi," she said, a little awkwardly, and glanced over at Clark involuntarily. Clark's gaze was forcibly fixed on his computer screen but she somehow knew that he'd only just stopped watching her and that, whether he was watching them or not, he was very much aware of her and Dan's conversation and probably listening in as well.

"I… uh, just came by to thank you for what you did today," Dan said.

"It's okay," Lois demurred. She had felt a good bit of satisfaction at seeing Sean McCarthy cowed by a woman, before he'd been knocked out by Dan's punch.

"And to ask you a question," Dan added.

Lois gave him a questioning look—and glanced, again, involuntarily, at Clark. This time, he allowed himself to meet her eyes and she suppressed a gasp at the depth of naked emotion she could see in his eyes, the jealousy, the hurt, the guilt, the longing, the love— the hopelessness… And she realized that Clark wouldn't try to stop her if she decided to start dating Dan. He loved her, but he would never pressure her, would never try to stop her from making her own decision in something like this—and he would only watch, no matter that his heart would be breaking, as she chose Dan over him…

It was, she thought, entirely her choice, her decision.

She had the power to break Superman's heart completely. He was vulnerable to her— and he'd had no qualms about showing it… And somehow knowing that he was vulnerable and at risk too comforted her immeasurably.

"What would you say if I asked you out sometime?" Dan was continuing on.

She sensed Clark stiffen and resolutely kept from glancing at Clark again.

"Are you asking me out?" she asked, reluctantly amused at Dan's rather odd phrasing of his question.

Dan's lips twisted into a half-smile. "I didn't say that. I said, what would you say if I did?"

What would she say…

She looked up at Dan—and she had to admit she did find him charming and, yes, attractive too. The way Dan looked at her made her feel… feminine and desirable.

And yet…

Clark made her feel feminine and desirable too, in those unguarded moments when he didn't hide his feelings. And more than that, Clark made her feel… cherished, safe… *Loved*…

She opened her lips to respond and heard her own voice saying, "I'm sorry, Dan, but I'd have to say no."

She didn't dare look at Clark to see his reaction to her answer, although she sensed his sharp intake of breath, and focused instead on Dan, who looked taken aback for a split second, before he regained his aplomb.

"Okay, well, I'm going to be around for a while. The agency could use an extra hand down here. So… I'll be around and I'll keep hoping that you'll change your mind."

He flashed a confident grin at her—and Lois shocked herself by thinking that his confidence seemed irritatingly close to arrogance in refusing to accept her no as a final answer.

*So different from Clark…*

And suddenly, she knew with absolute certainty, not only how she felt but what she wanted and what she was going to do.

She stood up and smiled slightly. "Sorry, Dan, but I won't be changing my mind. I'm already taken."

And with that, she moved to where Clark was sitting behind his desk, carefully keeping his gaze fixed on his computer, knowing Dan was watching in disbelief, and bent over to kiss Clark on the lips, deliberately looping her arms around Clark's neck and lingering until she felt Clark's hands lift to cup her face in a gentle caress and his lips soften and respond with the tenderness and the restrained passion she remembered so well from their first real kiss just days ago. And then she forgot all about their audience or her ulterior motive in kissing Clark publicly, losing herself in the rush of sheer pleasure she felt…

Yes, she thought fuzzily, this was definitely the right choice, where she belonged… She should have just grabbed him and kissed him days ago and avoided all the confusion and uncertainty of the past days since Mayson's death. Just the touch of his lips to hers and she knew she was well and truly lost… She'd never react so strongly to anyone else's kiss, she knew; she never had reacted so strongly to a simple touch of anyone's lips. Only with Clark, only Clark, could make her feel so much with just a kiss… Just a kiss—but, oh, such a kiss… A kiss that could, and had, turned her bones into water and set her heart to beating wildly in her chest…

The kiss ended slowly and Lois smiled softly into Clark's eyes as he stared up at her, his expression a mixture of elation and love and hope and desire.

They both started when the sound of Dan's voice broke the spell of desire that had enveloped them both.

"Well, I can see I'm not at all needed around here. Oh and Kent," Dan addressed Clark, who looked over at him with more equanimity than Clark had ever shown Scardino before. "I hope you know what a lucky guy you are."

Clark's eyes returned to Lois as he answered, softly, more as if he were addressing Lois rather than Scardino, "Oh, I do, believe me I do…"

"I'll see you around, Lois—and if you get tired of Kent here, I hope you'll call me," Dan added with another flash of his grin.

Lois spared him a fleeting smile and look almost of apology. "Bye, Dan."

After a last look at Lois and Clark, Dan left the Daily Planet, shaking his head a little. He would never have guessed that Clark Kent, who had seemed like a nice but boring guy, could possibly attract someone as vibrant and dynamic as Lois Lane—but the magnetism between the two of them when they'd kissed had been unmistakable. It appeared Kent had hidden depths.

Left alone with Clark, Lois slowly stood up straight, putting a little more distance between their bodies, although she kept her gaze on his face and her hands only moved to rest on his shoulders.

"Lois, I'm sorry I didn't tell you, sorry I hurt you. Can you forgive me?" Clark asked softly, before she could think of what to say to him.

"Oh Clark," she sighed, "there's nothing to forgive. I understand why you didn't tell me and I can't really blame you, especially when I made such a fool of myself at first over Superman and treated you so terribly as Clark. I should ask you to forgive *me.*"

"No, Lois, don't you- *do* you know just how much you've helped me? I don't think I could have continued to be Superman if it weren't for you, for the way you believed in him, the way you always treated him-treated *me*- like a human being with feelings just like everyone else. Maybe I couldn't say much, but there was nothing I couldn't feel."

She felt herself color at the sincerity and the tenderness of his tone, to say nothing of the look in his eyes, as if she were the only woman in the world. Superman needed her…

It was an oddly humbling thought, that the strongest man in the world needed her, Lois Lane, in spite of everything and in spite of the way she had treated Clark. He needed her, he wanted her—just as she needed and wanted him…

"Clark, I can't say that I'm not still a little bit hurt that you didn't trust me enough to tell me the truth before," she began, not missing the flicker of hurt and guilt in his eyes at her words, and she hurried on, wanting to reassure him. "But what it comes down to is that I don't want to live a life without you in it. Because… because I love you- both of you- and I couldn't bear to lose you," she finished, her voice dropping until it was so soft he nearly had to use his super-hearing to hear it.

If she had ever had any doubts about the intensity of his feelings for her, they would have been put to rest at that moment in the expression of heart-felt joy and sheer love that suffused his eyes, before he stood, pulling her into his arms as he buried his face in her dark hair.

He simply held her like that, their bodies pressed against each other, for a long moment, and Lois reveled in the feeling of being exactly where she belonged.

He drew back just enough to look at her, his hands coming up to cup her face in a gesture of such infinite tenderness it almost made Lois's heart ache, marveling that the strongest man in the world could still be so gentle—and that he loved her so.

"Lois," he breathed quietly, "I'll never lie to you again."

She smiled slightly. "I know you won't. I trust you, Clark."

He closed his eyes briefly and let out his breath, before he met her eyes again. "I know it won't be easy; there'll be lots of times when I'll have to leave you in the middle of something and I can't even promise to be able to come back within a few minutes. But I do promise that I will always come back to you and that I'll love you for the rest of my life."

Lois's smile softened. Yes, she had realized that long ago; it wouldn't be easy to be Superman's girlfriend, to have to share him with the world. But, she'd also realized— doubly so in these last few days in thinking of Clark and Superman—the times when he was around would more than make up for his absences. She had no doubt of that. And when it came down to a choice between not having Clark/Superman in her life or having to share him with the world, she knew she would always choose having him in her life. "Now that I'll know why you have to leave, I won't mind as much. I know you'll be back."

"Always," he promised, before he lowered his head and kissed her, savoring her taste, thrilling to the feel of her in his arms, rejoicing, *loving…*

And both of them knew that this was only the beginning of forever…