By Pam Jernigan (ChiefPam@nc.rr.com)
Summary: A continuation of the episode "And the Answer Is…" Lois does arrive at an answer after giving Clark's proposal much thought — and paying a visit to Dr. Friskin, her therapist.
Dedicated with appreciation to the FOLCs on CompuServe's SFMedia forum, Section 11, for being such insightful, intelligent, and understanding companions — you guys are great. Special thanks to Diane Whiteside for giving me a head start.
Set the day after the ending of "And the Answer Is…"; a story in which Lois ponders the marriage proposal.
Comments and feedback always welcome.
Lois woke up alone. As was all too common lately, she was confused, but at least now she knew what to be confused about, so she supposed she was making progress.
Clark's proposal the night before had been as romantic as anyone could have wished. Her answer had been more difficult to give than she'd imagined, but she'd said it as gently as she could. "Clark, as much as I'd like to… I can't answer that — not without some questions of my own. You know you've been hiding something from me — don't you think I deserve to know what it is?" She was fairly certain that she knew, but she wanted to hear him say it.
Clark, still down on one knee, had sighed. "Yes, Lois, you have a right to know, and I've been trying to tell you. I was… just… being selfish in postponing it, because you probably won't like it much at first." He hesitated, and then added softly "Or you may like it too much." He'd gotten up then, and sat next to her, oblivious to the rain.
Seeing his insecurity, Lois had leaned forward, and held her palm to his cheek, in an echo of his previous gestures. "Clark, it took me long enough to realize it, but I do know now. I've been in love with you for months." She searched his eyes, trying to peer behind his wet glasses, hoping her reassurances would reach him. "But I guess since meeting you I've gotten more cautious, because I don't want to leap before I look this time — so please, Clark, tell me your secret, so I can say yes!"
Clark had sighed again, and a resigned expression had replaced the apprehensive one. "Lois…" he ran a hand through his wet hair, searching for words, "just remember that I love you, and I've been wanting to do this for months." He reached up and pulled off his glasses. "This is what I've been hiding from you, and from everyone."
She had guessed it, but it was still a shock. She'd begun to put it together earlier, when, as Superman, he'd caressed her face exactly the same way Clark had. And then when he'd revived her, she'd heard Clark — but opened her eyes to see Superman. In the rush of events, she'd managed to avoid confronting the truth, but the knowledge had been there, lacking only confirmation. Confirmation she'd just received. "Yes," she'd heard herself whisper. "It all fits now… so that's what all your disappearances were about?"
He'd only nodded, watching her closely. She'd managed a tiny smile. "At least you had a good reason to leave me."
As the impossible truth had sunk in, she'd suddenly felt very cold, and it had little to do with the rain. As she'd looked at him, he seemed to recede further and further from her — neither the friend, nor the superhero, but a new, strange person, somewhere in between. Just as she'd felt most alone, however, he'd reached out and took her hand in one of his. The warmth in his grip steadied her.
"I never wanted to leave you, Lois." He studied her for a minute more. "Are you angry?"
Lois shook herself out of her reverie. "I don't know. My God, Clark, I _am_ in love with a space alien!" She saw him wince, and rushed to apologize. "I'm sorry, Clark, I'm just kind of in shock, here…"
"Lois, I'm an ordinary guy with a few extras. Look, let's get out of this weather, okay? Will you come to my place? My parents have gone home… I'll answer any questions you've got." He put his glasses back on, and stood up.
Still distracted, she'd replied "Yeah, sure… Are you going to fly us there?"
"Not in these clothes, I'm not — don't want anyone to see me. And I don't really want to get into costume right now." He helped her stand, and they started walking toward the park exit.
Back in Clark's apartment, they'd had a long talk, interrupted only once when Clark had heard a scream for help. Lois hadn't minded his short absence; she'd needed some time to try to process all the new information she was receiving — and to raid his freezer for some chocolate ice cream. And when Lois had gotten too sleepy to think of any new questions, Clark had changed into costume once more, and flown her home.
She no longer kept an unlocked window, so he'd landed them in an alley behind her building, changing back into regular clothing for the walk to her door. Lois was forced to smile at the succession of changes he'd made — being a superhero was beginning to look like an awful nuisance. Watching him do it, though, was an undeniable thrill. Her two dream men, revealed as one.
They'd shared a sweet goodnight kiss outside her door, as he'd declined to come in. Before she could get inside, however, Clark had one more thing to say.
"Lois, I know I can trust you not to tell anyone this. But you've got to be careful — it can be all too easy to let it out by accident. And if we're to have any sort of future together, this secret needs to be kept."
More pieces of the puzzle fell into place. "That's why you -"
He urgently shushed her, and looked nervously around the hallway. She looked around guiltily, and continued in a much lower voice. "- why you won't fly in your regular clothes — and why you put your glasses back on. Oh, this is complicated Clark. Just give me a few days to think this over, okay?"
"That's only fair — don't worry, I won't pressure you."
He looked so earnest, she had to laugh. "No, pressure just isn't your style, is it? I'll talk to you in the morning, Clark."
After a few more kisses, he'd resolutely left, and she had stumbled to bed, confused but tentatively happy.
Now, in the clear light of morning, she was only confused. Memories were flooding over her, and some of them had become extremely embarrassing.
She winced at the memory of talking to Clark (as Superman) at the courtroom, of telling Superman she just wanted to be friends. And yet, when she re-evaluated that moment, she couldn't regret it. She really had gotten over her initial infatuation with Superman — and Clark had needed to know that. She'd given him a hard time over Dan, too — she really was ashamed of that bit of childishness. It was incredible, really, that he still loved her after all she'd put him through… and all he'd put her through, too. The wave of guilt was followed by a wave of anger — he had let her think he didn't care, he'd even let her think he was dead.
Lois sighed and rolled over, re-arranging her pillow. This was infinitely more complicated than she'd bargained on. Then she saw the clock, and scrambled out of bed. If she didn't hurry, she'd be late to work on top of everything else, so she did her best to put both Clark and Superman out of her mind.
She got to the Planet barely on time, and hurried to her desk. She'd had to skip breakfast, so coffee was an essential. As soon as she'd had the first sip, she looked around, and saw Clark coming her way, uncertainty written all over his face. He met her at her desk, carrying a white paper bakery sack.
"I thought you might be having a rough morning…" he offered, as he set the pastries on her desk.
She sat down, and smiled up at him, determined to put on a cheerful face. "Thank you, Clark, you know me so well." She couldn't resist adding, under her breath, "and it's your fault, too…" She realized belatedly that he must have been able to hear that, and looked up at him, surprising a rueful grin from him.
"What was that, Lois? I couldn't quite hear it…" he lied cheerfully.
Her lips twitched in response. "Never mind, Clark." She was beginning to see fun possibilities here, but was also reminded of how many times he had lied to her. "Oh, just go away and let me eat in peace, will you?"
Seeing that her mood had changed, Clark let his smile fade, and walked quietly away. Blast him, thought Lois, does he _have_ to be so patient and understanding?
Lois managed to get so buried in her work that she almost forgot her appointment with Dr. Friskin. It was a relief to get out of the newsroom and into the safe, quiet haven of the therapist's office.
"So, Lois, what's new today?"
"Well, Clark proposed. And then he told me a secret that he'd been hiding from me." Lois sighed heavily from her prone position on the couch.
Dr. Friskin looked interested at that response. "Well, that's certainly progress. Did you accept his proposal?"
"No, not yet, but I didn't turn him down, either. It's this secret. It's really big."
"Is it enough to keep you from marrying him?" Dr. Friskin leaned forward.
"No, I don't think so — I can deal with it, I mean, it'll even come in handy in some ways, and while there's a downside to it, it's not really too bad, and certainly better than not having him at all, although come to think of it, I don't know about children. On the other hand, do I even want kids? Or we could adopt. If we had to. Anyway, that stuff I, I mean _we_ can manage. It's just that he's been lying to me for two years, and I did some things that seem really stupid now that I know. And I should have known it earlier; I should have been able to figure it out much sooner than I did."
Dr. Friskin blinked at this outburst, and settled back for a long session. "You're upset about him lying to you… do you think it's part of a pattern for him, will he continue to lie about things?"
Lois shook her head decisively. "No, I mean, Clark is a good, decent guy. He's just painfully honest, you know?"
"And yet he's been lying to you for years. Do you think that was easy for him?"
Lois considered this. "No, I can see now it was pretty hard on him sometimes…"
"So he felt that this secret was worth the cost. And yet he did tell you — did he have to?"
"Sort of, when I asked him… but that's not fair; he had tried earlier to talk to me, we just kept getting interrupted."
"Lois, let's talk about why he kept this secret in the first place." Dr. Friskin paused. "Could you tell me what it is?"
"Well, basically…" Lois stopped herself, remembering Clark's warning. She sat up on the couch, and looked hard at the therapist. "It's big. And I can't tell you. If it got out, it would pretty much ruin his life… and his family, too, I guess." She frowned, seeing more awful possibilities every second.
Dr. Friskin leaned forward. "Don't you think I'd keep it confidential? That's what my profession does best, you know." She paused again, as Lois squirmed a little, then drove her point home. "It's not like I'm a journalist, with a responsibility to share the truth…"
Lois stood up and began to pace. "It's not that I don't trust you, it's just that… wait a minute." She spun around to face the smiling therapist. "You're putting me in his shoes, aren't you?"
Dr. Friskin leaned back. "So if you're reluctant to share something that wouldn't harm you personally, how much more would Clark hesitate?"
Lois sat down again, and mumbled "But it would. I don't want to lose him." She sighed. "I guess I see now why he couldn't tell me before." She made a move towards the door, but stopped herself. "Oh, I was so awful to him. Poor Clark."
"About those things you did that now seem stupid. Be honest with yourself, Lois. Based on what you knew then, were they so bad?"
Lois considered that, doing her best to see past the intense retroactive embarrassment. "No, I suppose not. I did the best I could with what I had to work with."
"That's all anyone can ask, Lois."
Lois seemed to draw strength from that quiet statement. "And Clark still loves me, so he must have forgiven me, even when I hurt him. I guess I'd better forgive me, too." She looked up, with unshed tears in her eyes. "Thank you, Dr. Friskin."
The therapist smiled. "That's what I'm here for. So, what are you going to do now?"
Lois jumped up off the couch. "I need to find Clark — I think I have an answer for him."
On her way back to the Daily Planet, Lois heard sirens, and on a hunch, she checked things out. She found a fire in a downtown apartment building. As she watched on the sidewalk, she spotted Superman coming out of a high window, holding a small child in his arms. She watched him fondly as he delivered the boy to his grateful mother.
He spotted her, and walked over warily, with his arms crossed tightly on his chest. "Hello, Miss Lane."
His formality took her aback for a minute, but then she understood. This was one of the situations he'd meant about giving themselves away by accident. She composed herself, and tried to be professional. "Hello, Superman. So, ah, is there a story in this fire?"
He seemed to relax a little at her apparent understanding of the situation. "Perhaps the beginning of one. Would you, um, like me to come around tonight to tell you about it?"
"No!" She rejected that idea automatically, conscious of the small audience that Superman always attracted. "No, thanks. I don't think that would be a good idea."
She saw the hurt and confusion hidden in his eyes, and hastened to explain. "I'll be inviting Clark over for dinner tonight — perhaps you could tell him all the details?" She smiled, reassuringly, and he smiled in return — a slow, rich smile, that seemed to be affecting her knees.
"I see, Lois. I'll be sure to do that." He paused, apparently undecided about something, then continued, with a flash of a wicked grin. "So, you and Clark are getting together now?"
She suppressed a return grin, but couldn't resist teasing him. "Yes, I believe so. He and I are really quite compatible; he'll be much better for me that you could ever be." She heard a gasp from the crowd at that.
Clark squared his shoulders in the costume, and replied in his best superhero voice, "If you're happy, Miss Lane, then I'm happy. Congratulations."
He flew away before she could formulate a good reply. "Coward," she muttered affectionately, then made her way back to where she'd parked.
By the time Lois arrived back at the Planet, Clark was sitting at his desk, typing intently. She got out of the elevator, and stood there for a minute just watching him. On an impulse, she whispered "Hi honey," and watched his head turn across the newsroom. They exchanged smiles, and she continued whispering. "You know, this could be quite useful when I want to get the last word in." His smile deepened, and he waved for her to come over.
She walked over to his desk, but didn't quite have the nerve to kiss him. "So, anything happen while I was gone?"
"Well, there was this fire — but Superman tells me you were there for that."
Lois tired of playing games. There were things they still needed to settle. "I hope he told you more than that. C'mon, let's get some food and discuss it at my place. It's a little early, but I won't get anything more done here today anyway."
"Anything you say, partner."
Once they'd started moving, Lois looked sideways at her partner. "So, Clark, what did you see in there?"
They talked about the fire while they drove and collected food.
Once in her apartment, they sat on her sofa, eating and talking, until Clark stopped in the middle of a sentence, wearing a goofy smile. "Do you have any idea how nice it is to be able to tell you this directly? Instead of always saying 'Superman told me'? You're taking this better than I'd hoped."
Lois smiled at his impulsive confession. "Well, it's more efficient this way, I'll grant you. And as for taking it well… it was up in the air for a while. You should pardon the expression." She grinned briefly. "But I saw Dr. Friskin today, and she really helped me sort some things out. No, before you ask, I didn't tell her anything. Anyway, the bottom line is… I'll forgive you for lying to me, if you'll forgive me for being such a twit the last two years."
"There's nothing to forgive you for, Lois… I just didn't realize Superman would have such a big effect on you."
Lois closed her eyes briefly. "Please, don't remind me. It was just… safer… to fall for someone unattainable. Thanks for waiting until I grew up. Oh, Clark, it must have been so lonely for you, and I'm so sorry that I added to that by ignoring you." She put her food down on an end table, and reached for him. He folded her into a warm hug.
He kissed the top of her head, lightly. "You only added to it by showing me how much I was missing. I'd never expected to fall in love; I thought I was too different."
Lois straightened up enough to see his face, and took his glasses off. "Well, you have me now, Clark. I love you, and I'd be honored to marry you."