By Ruth Ellison (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Summary: It was a tough decision to make, but Lois has finally chosen between the two men in her life. Now all she has to do is give one of them the bad news. The title means, "Lovers' anger is the renewal of love."
* PROLOGUE *
It was the kind of headline that Perry White had always wanted to run. "I WAS KIDNAPPED BY ALIENS: AWARD-WINNING JOURNALIST TELLS." As the editor of such a reputable journal as the Daily Planet, Perry's baser newspaperman instincts rarely had a chance to display themselves. But this story had the lot. Lois had excelled herself.
There was the description of the spacecraft, outside and in, replete with flashing lights and alien architecture and weird noises that no earthly machinery was capable of making. There were the pen portraits of the extraterrestrials themselves. There was the exciting narrative telling how she had been captured and taken aboard, and even more dramatically rescued by Superman and carried in his arms back to Metropolis. The article filled six front-page columns, and was accompanied by a typically thorough analysis by Clark Kent of previous alien kidnappings, and even by an unusually good Jimmy Olsen photograph of Superman delivering the unconscious heroine to Metropolis General Hospital.
Perry was delighted, and the public loved it. But he was more intrigued by what Lois *hadn't* written. She was strangely silent about her actual experiences aboard the alien craft. Perry had seen her in hospital a few days later, withdrawn and pale, her hand gripping Clark's tightly. He was amazed when she volunteered to write the story and he never asked her about the missing details. Nor did he ask Clark Kent why he had also been absent from the office for several days, because Perry wasn't sure that he wanted to hear the young man's answer. After all, only the story mattered, and the story was a beauty.
*** EXPLICIT ***
She was sitting on the sofa, feet curled under her, one hand in a box of chocolates and the other clutching an unedifying romance novel which she was reading avidly. Clark sighed. She had a tendency to regress to her teenage years whenever she felt emotionally confused. He wondered if he had chosen the right night. She wouldn't have seen him yet, it wasn't too late to go away again.
How long do you want things to go on like this, a voice inside him chided. Sooner or later, you and Lois have to thrash this out or you have no chance of a normal life together. Clark admitted to himself that he was afraid. And the longer you leave it, the worse it gets, the annoying voice went on.
The annoying voice was a feature of Clark's life that had been with him so long, he'd come to accept it as normal. It was an inevitable byproduct, he assumed, of setting himself very high standards. Every time he failed to meet those standards, the annoying voice kicked in with its own inimitable brand of sarcasm. Or just pointed irony if it was in a good mood. Clark sometimes wondered if everyone else had one too, or if it was a consequence of his own peculiar situation. Certainly it had become a lot more vocal since he'd invented Superman. And since you met Lois Lane, it reminded him. Come on, can't I ever think about things without you butting in?
Clark sometimes wondered if his mother was right. Maybe he did need analysis.
Lois's window was open, which was not unheard of. He tapped on it anyway. She looked up at him, blushed a deep red and hastily thrust the romance underneath a cushion. She came over to him just a little too hastily for Clark's peace of mind.
"I wasn't expecting you." She smiled bashfully, then giggled. He recognised the giggle. It said, "I'm embarrassed by how badly I'm about to behave around you."
It was painfully ironic. Clark had two separate relationships with this woman, and it wasn't always easy to tell which was which. Clark had always loved Lois; that was clear enough. Lois had started off scorning Clark, and now seemed to love him; this was good. Clark was Superman; he was usually fairly certain of that, except when he found himself referring to Superman in the third person, or behaving like Clark when he was dressed as Superman. Ergo, Superman had always loved Lois, and sometimes had shown it. Lois had started out infatuated with Superman, but now seemed to only regard him as a close friend…and this was where things got seriously messy.
'Now' had been a period of several months at least. Clark had believed this was better, having Lois wanting the ordinary man and merely liking the superhero. It seemed more 'normal', and in this aspect of his life at least, Clark desperately wanted to discover that he *was* normal. But suddenly, this alien kidnapping thing had somehow forced them back into the old Superman-rescues-Lois cycle, with all its attendant emotional responses. Lois was skittish again, there was stardust in her eyes and 'normal' no longer seemed to appeal. It was that intoxication with the improbable, the old yearning to soar above the mundane — almost forgotten, but so willingly reawakened.
And Clark found himself remembering some very good moments between them, moments that 'normal' people would never know, that 'normal' Clark couldn't offer Lois. Lois wasn't the only one dazzled. He hadn't realised how much he missed the look in her eyes when she saw him, the eagerness, the undisguised pleasure. They'd been taking each other too much for granted lately. Clark had thought he wanted passion, but he'd forgotten about enchantment.
And the irony was, of course, that she didn't know there was any irony. She still didn't know.
She was frightened, Clark knew. She was confused, suddenly discovering that she had two options again. It would have been easy, Clark's annoying voice pointed out to him, if you hadn't given her the wrong sort of encouragement. Why did you let yourself forget while you waited beside her hospital bed? Who do you think she saw every time she opened her eyes? And since then, can you deny that you responded to her eagerness?
Yes, he was guilty of all of that. He wanted Lois in all her moods. He valued her faith in Superman; his pride still craved her innocent admiration. He wanted the sense of possibility that existed between them in those moments. He'd just forgotten how powerful the wanting could be.
"The window was open," he said apologetically. "I just came to see how you're getting on."
"Oh, you know me. I'm fine. Back at work…" She waved her hands dismissively.
"I read your article. It was brilliant."
She studied his face. "Do you think so? I'm not sure I gave you enough credit."
"Lois, you know I'm not after that sort of credit." Dangerous remark, Clark. What sort of credit *were* you after? He changed tack slightly. "I mean it, Lois. I think it'll win you another Kerth award."
Lois blushed. That was another loaded statement. The last time they'd discussed Kerth awards in this room — how long ago was it? And yet he could still picture the scene vividly in his mind. It had been the perfect evening from start to finish, and he hadn't been able to resist having a few more minutes with her. He still had the rose — pressed between two pages of 'The Secret Language of Flowers'.
He realised they were gazing intently into each other's eyes. Lois's face glowed. She was beautiful even when she wasn't trying — maybe especially then.
Lois was the first to look away. She sighed wistfully. Clark wondered exactly what she was thinking.
"There was a lot you didn't mention in the article." It was a tentative prod. Lois turned her gaze back to him, and he read pain in her eyes.
"I couldn't. It was just too close to me. That's what I meant — I could've said a lot more about what you did, but I just felt like I couldn't talk about it."
Clark nodded understandingly. He knew most of the story anyway, of course, and she'd told him the rest — told Clark, which was oddly encouraging. But there were some things which the human mind just couldn't handle, or could absorb but never utter. Her article *was* brilliant — he marveled that she'd managed to remember and tell as much as she did. He alone knew that her facts were spot-on — but of course he couldn't corroborate her story. And it had been physically harrowing for her too. She'd been injured, left for several days without food, and then of course had insisted on fighting her way out until she didn't have any physical strength left at all. Her mental and emotional stamina, on the other hand, had been inspirational.
Lois turned away from him. She started pacing round the furniture, a little agitated.
"Thank you for staying with me for so long in the hospital. Getting me off the spaceship — that's what I'd expect from you. But I really appreciated you giving up your time for me like that."
She glanced up at him as she said it. Her hands were knotting the hem of her sweatshirt.
"Just one friend helping another." It was easy to sound cool; Clark had had plenty of practice. But Lois's agitation was adding to his own tenseness.
Lois continued to pace. She didn't look at him this time. "I just wonder why Clark wasn't there. I mean, he was there when I woke up properly, but I surfaced a few times before that, and I only remember seeing you."
Clark groaned inwardly. This was always the point where things got tricky. "He was there, you just didn't see him." Which was the honest truth, he thought ruefully. "Anyway," and he was intensely curious to hear her answer, "what does it matter?"
She stopped pacing abruptly and turned to face him, leaning her hands on the back of the sofa for support. Her eyes looked a little blotchy, and her voice was low and unsteady.
"I…I'm glad you asked that. I fact, I'm glad you came this evening, because I've been wanting to talk to you. To tell you something. Oh…"
She began pacing again. Once again, her hands fiddled with her sweatshirt. She looked down at them, and seemed surprised to notice what they were doing.
Clark was content to wait for her to regain her composure. Because you don't know what to say, a familiar voice suggested sardonically.
Finally, Lois came to a halt directly in front of him. She raised her head and gazed searchingly into his eyes, looking for some kind of confirmation or encouragement there. Clark wasn't sure what he could offer her at this point. Whatever your choice is, Lois, I'll abide by it and understand it. Well, I can try, anyway.
But what do you see when you look at me so closely? Not Clark, not all of me, obviously. Not the partner, not the friend, not the would-be lover — no, just the stoical superhero who can't afford to let anyone get too close to him. That was the self-mocking voice again.
He didn't know if Lois had found what she was looking for. Probably not — she looked a little hurt. She took a deep breath and spoke anyway.
"You know, Clark and I are…more than just good friends. I don't know how, but we've been growing closer together…and I've found that my feelings for him have completely changed."
Clark felt transfixed. It was odd how they could say things to each other like this that they would never dare say under ordinary conditions. Which doesn't suggest you have much of a future together, the annoying voice pointed out with its usual cutting accuracy.
Lois took another deep breath. She was shaking visibly.
"I *think* Clark is going to propose to me soon. At least, the way he's been behaving… I could be wrong, I could have misread him, but I think…well, I hope…"
Clark felt he was floundering as badly as she was. Should I feel happy she's saying this? Lois, if you only knew…
Well, of course you could tell her now, if you really think that would be appropriate. Personally, I think it would be disastrous, but you never take my advice anyway…
Lois swallowed. Her eyes were red and moist. Why is she crying? What have I done? Clark couldn't take his eyes off Lois, but she was studiously looking everywhere but at him.
"If he asks me, I'll accept. I mean, I've decided that my future is with Clark. He's good, and dependable, and generous…"
She sniffled damply. An encouraging response to your character traits, the ironic voice remarked.
"Sometimes I've felt that between us…between you and me…" She finally raised her head to meet his gaze. "..it could have been so different…!" This last, plaintive plea was accompanied by a longing look so incredibly intense that it hit Clark with almost physical force. The raw hunger of it made his stomach knot and his mouth dry — not physical symptoms that he was much accustomed to experiencing. Lois, no, not now… After all we've been through together, we can't go back now!
Most of Clark wanted to take her in his arms, kiss her tears away and tell her everything. But a small part of him was terrified of the consequences. Tell her now, and risk ruining everything? Not tell her, and ruin everything anyway? Clark's quick wits were useless in making a decision like this. With Lois, his mind was always numb. He became acutely conscious of his own body language — arms crossed, defensive and excluding. He watched helplessly as the look faded from her face, to be replaced by disillusionment and resignation. Somewhere inside her, the lights went out.
Clark felt a sort of despair well up in his own heart too. Is this the best you can offer her? Coldness and ordinariness? Are you so afraid of what might happen to you that you'd rather see her like this? That thought broke his resistance and he opened his arms to her, but it was too late, because she'd already turned away. He let his arms fall to his sides. Lois moved away from him, putting physical as well as emotional distance between them.
Several minutes passed. Clark could hear Lois taking deep breaths, struggling to regain her equilibrium. He wondered what was going through her mind. It was often impossible to tell. This was one of her great attractions.
It seemed appropriate for him to say something conciliatory at this point. Eventually, he found a fairly non- controversial offering.
"I think you and Clark will be very happy together," he ventured. Touching words, the annoying voice said, but on present evidence would you be prepared to bet on that?
His words seemed to satisfy Lois, because she finally turned to face him. Her eyes were still tear-stained, but she held her chin up proudly. She's indestructible, Clark thought admiringly.
"Thank you for saying that," she said with only a slight waver in her voice. "You're a good friend to us both."
She sniffled a little. Clark surprised himself by offering her a corner of his cape to wipe her eyes with, and she dabbed at them gratefully. She even managed a chuckle. "I never thought I'd be doing that." Clark allowed himself the luxury of a wry smile in reply. Ten minutes ago, if I'd done that, it would've meant something completely different to both of us. Gee, this is one weird relationship we have.
He felt like teasing her. "So you're going to be Clark's responsibility from now on, then?"
Her head shot up at that. "Clark and I are responsible for each other." She hadn't used quite that tone of voice with him for a long time. "We're partners, that's how it's always been between us. Shared responsibility."
Time and again, Lois had the capacity to surprise him. Shared responsibility. It sounded good. And she was right, of course — it *was* how they operated, at least at an ordinary level. But if she knew he was Superman — or rather, if she knew he was Clark — would she still behave the same way?
The annoying voice loved openings like this. You're afraid, Clark. You're afraid of losing her both ways. And that's why you've never told her.
"You and Clark are right for each other. You've made the right choice, Lois. You'll never regret it — I'm sure of that."
She nodded. She might have been uncertain about her choice even ten minutes ago, but having made it, she would stick by it for the rest of her life. The decision seemed to have given her a degree of confidence that had been missing. It didn't seem to have made her unduly happy, however.
Of course, the fun starts when you tell her the details you've been missing. That might just make her change her mind all over again. She might just dump you completely. Wouldn't that be interesting?
No, thought Clark, if I'm going to have that argument with myself again, I'd rather be having it somewhere else.
"Well, I'd better be going, then." Retreat seemed the safest manoeuvre at this point. "Goodbye, Lois."
She held out her hands to him. "Not goodbye forever, surely. I mean, we're still friends. I'm sure I'll still be running into you if there's a story on — but maybe you won't find yourself having to rescue me quite so often."
He smiled, a little more comfortably. "I'm not so sure about *that*. Anyway, it's just part of the job."
He knew straightaway that this was the wrong thing to say. Her brow creased, and she turned away from him slightly. She might have decided to put the past behind her, but she didn't yet want to be told that it had been meaningless.
"I'll certainly keep reading your articles," he said to mollify her. That made her smile.
"And I still haven't got your full life story out of you. The definitive Superman article — the one that wins me a Pulitzer."
He shook his head slightly, but he was still smiling. "Look after yourself, Lois."
"You too." There was a little catch in her throat.
The impulse to take her in his arms was still strong, but he limited himself to bending down and kissing her chastely on the cheek. She blushed, but didn't respond with any similar show of affection. She was an admirable woman.
"Goodbye, Lois," he said again. A slight bow, and he left. Fled, the self-mocking part of him said.
He heard Lois run to the window to watch him go. He was always attuned to her. "I still love you, I'll always love you," he heard her whisper. Surely she must have known he could hear her?
Clark didn't dare turn around until he was sure she could no longer see him. She was still there, gazing after him wistfully. Now, is that good or bad, he wondered. I *think* we've made progress… God, I'm as confused as ever.
You know, none of this is really too difficult for you to resolve. It was the usual commentator speaking again. Really, how did you ever get this reputation for bravery, Clark?
Clark never seemed to be allowed to have the last word anymore. He sighed heavily and headed for home.
*** INCIPIT ***
Lois yawned. It had been a long night — a long two nights, a long fortnight — and all she wanted to do was sink into bed and sleep away her troubles. The lights were gone in the corridor again. This was not a good sign. She wondered if she could get rid of Clark politely.
"Well, thanks for the truly memorable evening, Clark."
"It wasn't quite what I expected, no."
"Next time you decide to take me to the opera, don't choose a night when a visiting head of state is attending."
"I'll be sure to check with the embassies first."
"And next time, don't duck out to the men's room just before the terrorists take me hostage."
"OK, I'll check with the IRA and PLO too."
"It was just as well that Superman turned up when he did."
"Perfect timing, of course."
Lois finally unearthed her keys from her handbag and undid the locks. She reached inside the door for the light switch. Nothing. Great.
"Hold on, I know where to find a candle and matches."
She felt her way into the darkness. Behind her, she heard Clark enter and close the door. Fortunately the candle was in its holder, right where she expected it to be, and her hands didn't shake too much when she struck the match.
She brought the candle back over to Clark. His eyes widened slightly.
"What is it, Clark?"
"In the candlelight…I think I've never seen you look so beautiful."
Lois laughed. "Clark, this is hardly the time for gallantry. My hair's a mess, my heel's broken…and you seem to have lost your tie too."
His hand went to his neck. "It got pulled off in the scuffle, I think."
"Serves you right for trying to be heroic. Look, I'd offer you coffee, but I don't seem to have any power."
"No, I'd better be going. You look like you could use some sleep."
Lois nodded wearily. Actually, she wasn't sure if she *could* sleep. There was too much going on in her life for that, and the excitement of the evening hadn't helped either. I shouldn't have let him talk me into going out. I know he was just trying to cheer me up, but… She thought about the previous evening. It would take more than one night out with Clark to cheer her up from that.
"What is it, Lois? Come and tell me what's bothering you."
He took her free hand and gently pulled her over to the sofa. She sank onto it heavily, glad of its support. Clark took the candle from her and put it on the coffee table.
"You know, Clark…have you ever had the experience of not realising how much you value something until you no longer have it? And it was something I gave up voluntarily, but that doesn't make it any easier."
Clark gripped her hand a little tighter. "Look at me, Lois."
She glanced at him, but her thoughts were elsewhere and her gaze wandered.
"Lois, didn't I tell you that you'd made the right choice?"
There was a pause, and then suddenly Clark's words registered with Lois, tired as she was. She swung her gaze back to his face. "Say that again, Clark," she said sharply.
He continued to look at her intently. "I said, I told you that you'd made the right choice, and…"
"…and I'd never regret it," she finished the sentence with him. She looked at him in horror, conscious of a rising sense of panic inside her. She wasn't with her best friend anymore, she was with a stranger — or rather, not a stranger at all. She felt a little light-headed. "Clark, are you trying to tell me what I think you're trying to tell me?"
"I'm sorry, Lois. I had to know. I had to hear you say it."
Lois took a deep breath. "Excuse me, Clark. I think I need some fresh air." She went over to the window, threw it open and screamed.
There was a long, heavy silence between them. Lois's first thought was: I've misunderstood, I'm not thinking straight. Her second thought was: it's logical, it's obvious, of course it's true. I've had the evidence before me all along, haven't I? Why didn't I realise? Why did I need him to say it instead? Why hasn't he told me before?! She rapidly catalogued everything that had happened between them since they'd met. The things I've said…! No, the things *he's* said…! Thinking about it made her want to scream again, so she concentrated on breathing steadily. She didn't yet feel capable of speaking. She was conscious of Clark behind her, watching her anxiously, his eyes boring into her back. And what a delightfully ironic turn of phrase, she suddenly realised.
She turned to face him. "What kind of an idiot have you been playing me for, Clark? Are you in the habit of concealing vital personal information from your women? Did you think I was just after your story? Did you think," she said with daggerlike precision, "that you couldn't trust me?"
"Lois, it's not that straightforward. I'd trust you with my life — I have done. But I needed to be sure you didn't just want one part of me…"
"Oh, so I'm some airhead who can't tell a man's brain from his pectorals? Is that what you've been thinking? That I wasn't mature enough to love you for any other reasons?"
"For my own peace of mind, then."
"Clark, do you have the least idea how I felt last night? Do you have any idea how I've felt the last few months, feeling I had a choice to make that my whole life depended on? And now I find it was a choice I didn't even need to make!"
Clark sighed. "I don't blame you for being angry with me, Lois…" he began tentatively.
"Oh, thank you for giving me permission to be angry!" She turned her back on him again.
"See things from my perspective, Lois! Do you think I haven't felt like an idiot, having you drape yourself all over me half the time, and ignore me the other half?"
"Those days are long gone, Clark."
"On the evidence of the last couple of weeks, do you blame me for wondering?"
"Yes, I do! Do you really think I'm that fickle? And besides, I seem to recall getting plenty of encouragement from you in the past."
"Only because I thought I never had any chance normally!"
"Well, that just goes to show how little you understand my feelings, doesn't it?"
"Maybe it does. OK, I don't understand your feelings. I'm just your typical insensitive male. What did you think last night was all about? Did you imagine *I* enjoyed that little charade?"
"'Charade' is right, Clark. All along, you've just been playing a part, and I've been stupid enough to play along with you. And I trusted you. I thought that you at least were someone I could trust."
Lois wasn't sure which 'you' she was referring to. In fact, she wasn't entirely sure just who she was talking to, as he seemed to shift personalities with every utterance. Or maybe it was her, that she hadn't yet reconciled what she knew with what she was used to.
"You betrayed me, Clark. All this time I've been telling you things in confidence, or so I thought… You've been using me. I thought you were more honourable than that."
"You're never satisfied, Lois. Whatever I say, whatever I do, it's the wrong thing."
"Yes, you're very good at that."
"I can't believe this is the woman I was talking to last night! Lois, do you even know what you want?"
"I want a man who'll be honest with me. Isn't that something you're supposed to stand for — the truth? Why didn't you just tell me?!" Her voice sounded desperate in her own ears.
"It was never the right time to tell you," he said bitterly. "In the past it always seemed too early, and now it's obviously too late."
"I would have understood. I would have…made allowances."
"But you're not prepared to understand now."
"And you shut me out last night. You didn't even pretend to be sympathetic."
"Should I have told you then? Would that have helped?"
She considered the possibility. "No, it would have been infinitely worse. But at least it would have been honest."
"Well, you know now."
"I'm trying to forget."
The air between them froze. As soon as she said the words, Lois regretted them. There were parts of Clark that were painfully vulnerable, and she'd just thrust a stiletto into one that she didn't even realise existed. There was another aching silence.
At length Clark spoke. He sounded acutely miserable. "It's obvious I'm not wanted here, so I'll go. But first, Lois, let me at least say that I love you and if I've hurt you, I've hurt myself even more."
"And which of your multiple personalities just made that declaration?"
She could almost hear him wince. "All of me," he replied simply.
Lois gazed out the window, though she paid no attention to the view. She needed to think this through.
It was obviously the truth. She couldn't help believing him. Evidently Clark was a far more accomplished liar than she realised, but she knew hopeless honesty when she heard it. Of course he loved her. He'd probably loved her from the moment he set eyes on her, and he'd probably love her until the day he died — that is, unless he was immortal as well as invulnerable. Lois sighed inwardly. It was hard to hate a man like that. She heard him walking away. Not only honest, but a man of his word. She thought about what he'd said. How much had lying to her hurt him too?
"Wait, Clark." He stopped.
It was time to get her thoughts in order. How do I feel, really? Why did I just ask him to stay? (Just who is he, anyway?) I *am* angry, bitter, disappointed — disillusioned, maybe. The Man of Steel has feet of clay. I wanted someone perfect, but I find I've got…someone like me. Someone who makes the same mistakes that I do. Someone who believes in the same things that I do. Someone, she realised, who had managed to become such an essential part of her life that even when she felt grievously wronged by him, she still couldn't bear to actually send him away. Which means, I suppose, that I love you anyway. And what's worse, I still *like* you. Damn! That wasn't the conclusion I wanted to come to. Maybe I should resent you for that…or maybe I should resent myself… Just let me get out of this with my dignity intact…
Meanwhile Clark said nothing, but she knew he was watching her intently. Well, I told him to wait, didn't I? He'll wait till doomsday; he's always been incredibly patient with me. How long have I kept him waiting already, one way or another?
Lois suddenly felt very tired, and it had nothing to do with physical exhaustion. She just didn't want to fight with him anymore. It's up to me, then. He needs my forgiveness; there's no way forward for us without it. And Lois suddenly longed for the way forward.
She turned to face him again. He hadn't moved.
"How many times have you saved my life, Clark?"
He looked at her thoughtfully before answering. "I lost count a while ago."
"Tonight as well."
"No, I don't think the terrorists were actually planning to kill you."
"Then your efforts were wasted."
"It was worth it just to see you hit the big one with your shoe."
"Clark Kent, do you know what you are? You're a lying, sneaky, devious, despicable, Kansas…fink."
His eyebrows went up.
"Have I ever called you a fink before, Clark?"
"No, but since you have now, I'm sure you will again."
She glared at him. He looked at her innocently.
She moved away from the window, came and stood in front of him. She scrutinised his face closely. The candlelight flickered on his glasses. Very deliberately, she took them off and set them carefully on the table next to the candle. Then she renewed her scrutiny.
"I don't know, you don't look that different without them. I must have been dazzled by the fancy dress. But the hair, maybe…" She pushed back his hair experimentally. "Yeah, that makes a difference."
She let it fall back into its natural position. "Anyway," she continued, "I like it better the way you normally have it."
"So do I, Lois. That's why I wear it this way."
Lois had moved back to the window, but she turned and said icily, "Clark Kent, you have absolutely no reason to be smiling."
"Sorry," he apologised meekly but he kept grinning.
Lois realised to her disgust that she was smiling herself, and Clark had the bad grace to notice. He came and stood beside her, and took her hands in his.
"Ah, you're beautiful when you're angry, Lois."
"For that remark, I'd rearrange your face if I thought I could."
"I don't recommend you try, Lois. Your hand would definitely be the loser."
Was there an edge of steel in his voice? She was confused by the shifts in her perception of him. She thought about other times they had stood together by this window, the unspoken need between them, and now she knew why it had never been spoken. She wondered if he was remembering too.
And yet patently the man standing in front of her was the same old Clark, looking at her anxiously like a puppy at the pound, waiting to be adopted. Inconsiderately, Lois's sense of confusion continued to grow. Someone had moved the goalposts so far that she no longer even knew what playing field she was on. Memories crowded her — two strands of memories that she was now supposed to be weaving into a seamless whole. She looked at Clark and tried to reconcile him with the heroic figure that had rescued her only a few hours earlier. Simple, yet incredibly complex. She thought she had him all worked out, but every time she peeled back a layer, she found more and more layers reaching towards his heart. And that, she chided herself, is the most ridiculous metaphor you've thought of yet.
Perhaps it was lack of sleep, perhaps it was the chaos of her emotions, but something inside Lois's brain tried to make 1 + 1 = 1, failed dismally, and snapped.
She started to giggle. This didn't seem to be the correct response to the situation, but the urge to laugh out loud was overwhelming. Clark looked puzzled, and somehow that only made her laugh harder. The tears streamed from her eyes, and she found herself reaching for the wall to steady herself.
Clark looked quite astonished. "I'm missing something here, aren't I?"
Lois couldn't speak, and the attempt just set her off again. Clark looked totally baffled. As her knees seemed to be about to give way, Lois leant back against the wall and allowed herself to sink onto the carpet. She pulled her knees up under her chin and stared up at Clark mistily.
"I wish I could make you this happy all the time," he remarked dryly.
Lois finally regained her composure. "Oh, it's you…me…us… I don't know, the whole thing is ludicrous when you think about it."
"Just thinking about some of your ridiculous excuses for running off…some of the things I've said to you…trying to picture you flying through the window in a suit and tie…do I remember you saying your *mother* made that outfit?" She giggled again. "Maybe it's just the way we've been behaving all along. God, what were we both thinking when I gave you that rose? Face it, we've both been acting like idiots."
She kicked off her shoes. Clark sat down companionably beside her. "I have to admit, we could have saved ourselves a lot of trouble." He inspected her broken shoe. "You did hit him rather hard."
Lois chose to ignore this last remark. "Well, it's all your fault. Be honest — why didn't you tell me earlier?"
Clark grimaced. "I guess I was afraid of your reaction, partly."
"And with reason!"
"And you were always so obsessed with Superman, the rest of me was getting lost."
"But I like Superman. He's handsome, dashing, sexy… I thought I was displaying good taste."
"I've still got it, you know."
"Oh." She wrinkled her nose.
He looked a little hurt. "You gave it, I kept it — I thought that was the idea."
"But didn't it…wilt?"
He laughed. "Oh, no, I meant I *pressed* it. In a book."
"Oh, right. You must show me sometime. Let me guess, your mom showed you how."
He grinned. "Right again. You know, I was afraid you'd be angry when you found out, but I certainly didn't expect you to laugh."
"Oh, come on, Clark. I'll never be able to keep a straight face again. The next time you give a press conference, they'll probably have to carry me out for giggling too loudly. Which reminds me," she continued, "you'll have to give me that definitive interview now."
"Lois, if anyone writes the definitive Superman story, it'll be me. Or perhaps I'll just write my autobiography."
"Clark, that's unusually selfish of you. Why are you denying me the honour? After all, I named you."
"You'd get all the facts wrong."
"Clark Kent, I do *not* get my facts wrong! Oh, stop laughing at me!"
"You laughed first. Actually, I'm rather hurt by that. After I've worked so hard to be heroic, trying to live up to people's expectations — and I made an extra effort for you, too."
Lois thought about this. "I think that was part of the problem." Clark looked thoughtful too.
She leaned back against the wall and sighed. "I have been extraordinarily stupid, haven't I?"
"Lois, you could never be stupid, but you *are* extraordinary." She heard the steel in his voice again, and once more found herself losing her bearings. What sort of person spoke like that? Colleague, friend…lover? Lois blushed. She wasn't sure she was ready to follow that train of thought.
She remembered something from the previous evening. "Clark, last night, did you hear what I said after you left?"
His eyes widened. Obviously he had.
"It's still true." Her voice sounded unsteady in her own ears.
She heard him catch his breath, and to her amazement she realised that he was crying. She'd never seen him cry before. She wiped the tears off his cheeks. Her own eyes were damp, but maybe that was just from laughing.
"Lois, I don't know what kind of future I can offer you. I have even less idea than most people about what the future might bring."
There was a wistfulness in his voice that made Lois's heart ache. "Clark, whatever it might hold, I'll be there."
His eyes glowed. "That's all I want, Lois." He smiled slightly. "'We're responsible for each other.'" He was completely serious. It felt like a contract had just been signed between them. The possibilities were awesome, but a little frightening.
Lois wondered what he could see in her expression, because he leant forward, cupped her chin in his hand and kissed her. It made her skin tingle. She put her arms about his neck and pulled him closer. It wasn't the first time they had kissed, of course, but it was value-added this time.
Lois buried her head against his shoulder. She was trembling, and she could hear Clark's heart beating faster than usual. He was running his fingers lightly down the nape of her neck. "This whole thing terrifies me," he murmured.
She pulled back to look at him. "What do you have to be afraid of, Clark?"
"It comes back to trust, doesn't it? Like you said, in the past I've…manipulated you. Not that I ever meant it like that, but… Now, I'll never know just who you're seeing when you look at me. You're the one with the power now."
Her eyes narrowed. "I've always had power over you, Clark."
He smiled ruefully. "That's true enough."
"And have I ever abused it?"
He blinked, and didn't answer.
"You're allowed to lie occasionally, Clark."
Clark laughed. He stood up. "Come on, I want to show you something." He lifted her gently to her feet, and she leant her weight on him gratefully. He nodded in the direction of the open window.
It was Lois's turn to laugh. "Clark, you do know my weaknesses, don't you?"
"Chocolate, chocolate, and…flying?"
"You said it, not me."
He put his arms around her waist. "You romantic, Clark — sweeping me off my feet." He laughed and hugged her closer. Soon she had that familiar sense of drifting, made the more piquant because the rules had changed somewhere in the last hour. She felt dizzy. Exhaustion? Adrenalin? She tried to remember if she'd ever felt airsick in the past when…
Get a grip on yourself, woman! You're with the man you love, he's flying — flying! — you across the rooftops of Metropolis, and right now he's trying to kiss you again. Of course you feel dizzy!
Aerial kissing. Interesting concept. "We'll have to work on this a little more, Clark."
"Well, I intended to give us every opportunity to try."
He set her down on the roof of a skyscraper. The concrete felt cold beneath her bare feet.
"LexCorp. How appropriate. I expect Lex told you this is the highest building in Metropolis?"
"Ah, but I always had an advantage over Luthor. However lofty he thought he was, I was always that much higher than him."
"Why did you bring me here, Clark?" she asked.
Clark had wandered over to the parapet and was looking out over the cityscape. Lois came over to join him. She shivered a little, so he put his arm around her.
"Actually, it's my feet that are cold, Clark."
"Well, I can fix that. Just step back a bit…"
He used his heat vision to warm up the concrete. Then he grinned sheepishly when he saw her watching. He'd got the temperature just right.
Even at this time of night, the city was awash with light. So this is your view of the world, is it? Looking down on everything from above?
Clark waved his arm expansively. "You know, I love Metropolis. Ever since I first came here, I've been fascinated by the lights, the sounds, the people, the stories. There's always something new happening. I'd be quite content to spend the rest of my life here. I never really felt at home anywhere before, but Metropolis has welcomed me into her embrace."
"And you belong to her. Metropolis needs you."
"Sometimes I wish she didn't, but yes, that too."
Clark glanced out over the city again. "But you, Lois, you're the heart of Metropolis to me. You're where her flame burns brightest. All the qualities I love in the city, I see in you. You're both bright, beautiful, full of life, dangerous to know… And if it weren't for you, I'm not sure that I'd still be here."
"You should be a poet, Clark. You're wasted as a reporter."
"After you finish your book, Lois."
She made a face at him, and he laughed again.
They watched the night sky gradually grow paler in the east. Lois yawned.
"It's time I took you home, then. What time does Perry want us this morning?"
Clark set Lois down just inside her window.
"Clark Kent, if you dare use the fireman's lift ever again, I'll never talk to you for as long as I live."
He looked amused, and totally unrepentant.
"Clark, I'm too tired for games, all right?"
His expression changed immediately. "Sorry, Lois, I wasn't thinking. And I guess neither of us got much sleep last night either."
She thought about last night. "Clark," she said softly, "don't ever do that to me again."
There was a moment's silence between them. We've hardly begun to resolve things, she thought. "Lois, there had to be an ending before there could be a beginning."
They stood either side of the window, Lois inside, Clark outside. Truly on the threshold.
"Well, I'd better be going, then."
"You said that last night too."
Clark looked unsure whether he was allowed to smile or not.
"And you've forgotten something."
Lois went back into the room. His glasses were still sitting on the table, next to the candle which had burned down some time ago. She picked them up and handed them to him. "I think you might need these later today."
He folded them and put them into his jacket pocket. So that's how it's to be between us, then? She felt oddly touched. But then, Clark had always been good at simple but meaningful gestures.
It was almost light. "See if you can get some sleep, Lois."
"I doubt it. I've got too much to think about. A relaxing bath might be the best I can manage — *if* I've got any hot water."
"Well, I can arrange that…"
"Clark, stop showing off."
"So shiver then. See if I care."
"Clark, get out of here before I hit you with my other shoe."
He put his hands up in mock self-defence. "All right, I'm going, ingrate! Well, I'll see you at the Planet."
He bent down and kissed her lightly on the lips. He looked tired himself. What a productive day we've both got ahead of us, she thought.
Clark was already airborne when a sudden thought struck Lois. She called out his name, softly. He drifted back down to her.
"Clark, stop me if I'm being stupid here, but were you intending to propose to me tonight — I mean, last night?"
He smiled. "After the prompting you gave me…? Yes, I was, but I seem to have forgotten in the excitement."
"Oh, well, never mind. It'll keep."
He grinned, blew her an extravagant kiss, and left.
When Lois finally made it into the Planet later that morning, there were flowers waiting for her on her desk — red and yellow roses mingled with cornflowers, and a note attached which read, "We both love you. Honest."
Completion date: 25/4/95
Continuity: doesn't really fit into the continuity, but let's say somewhere after Lucky Leon
Thanks to my proofreaders: Dick Sidbury, Laurel Brooks and Suzanne Fleischauer, especially Dick for some nice romantic touches, and Fleisch for eliminating a few Australianisms.
* Meaning of the title etc *
The title is a quote from Terence. It means "Lovers' anger is the renewal of love." Both Fleisch and I came up with the same quote, so it was obviously destiny.
'incipit' and 'explicit' are words used in Latin manuscripts to signify the beginning and ending of a book.
eg: incipit evangelium Marci = Here begins the gospel of Mark. explicit " " = Here ends " " " "
'explicit' literally means 'unrolls/unravels', from the idea of unrolling a scroll to the end, so it has the nice added connotation of a problem being resolved.
I bet Clark knows Latin :^)