By Pam Jernigan (ChiefPam@nc.rr.com)
Summary: Tired of hiding her grief and making excuses about Clark's absence, Lois seeks refuge in Smallville. But dreams of Clark continue to haunt her. A continuation of the episode "Big Girls Don't Fly."
All right, I know there are approximately 30 zillion of these post-BGDF, "get us through the summer" LCWS stories out there, but I just had to write this one, and I hope you like it. Words in [brackets] describe emotions/actions in Lois' dream state.
(Laraine, this one's for you! [g]) (Graham, you'll know I was thinking of you [eg]) (Oh, and my interpretation of the "fluttering curtain" scene in BGDF was largely influenced by my good friend Sarah Wood, but the rest of the "relationship theory" as presented here is all mine…)
"I just don't know how much longer I can do this!"
It had been a month since Superman's departure for New Krypton. Lois had told everyone that Clark had needed to tend to a "family emergency", which was true enough in a bitterly ironic way, but no one had believed her. She hadn't been able to hide her grief, so they'd assumed that he'd left her. Also true, but not in the way they thought. So they tiptoed around her, and muttered dark things about Clark when she wasn't listening — they'd tried to do it in front of her, but after she'd demolished a few of his detractors, that had stopped. It hadn't really changed anything, though, except giving her a reputation for being foolishly loyal to a skunk. The irony of it all made her teeth ache.
After the fourth draining week, Lois had finally been driven to her last refuge: Kansas. Martha and Jonathan had welcomed her with open arms, just as she'd known they would. She'd been on the edge of tears for the whole flight (just the fact that she'd had to take an airplane had depressed her) and Martha's comforting hug had opened the floodgates.
The bout of crying had made her feel better for a while, but now, after dinner, she could feel her tension creeping back.
"I'm not used to working on my own anymore, and my apartment is so empty. I find myself driving down Clinton Street, sort of automatically going to Clark's apartment, and when I realize he's not there, it hits me all over again."
"I know." Martha commiserated, reaching for the younger woman's hand. "Every time the phone rings, or a gust of wind blows up…"
"…I look around, hoping it's him." Lois laughed in recognition, if not in amusement. "But the rest of the time, I'm such a zombie. You know what I did last weekend? I played solitaire, on my kitchen table. Over and over and over. I have no idea whether I won or lost, or even followed the rules, I just had to do *something*."
Martha nodded understanding. She was having a hard time herself, but she and Jonathan had been able to support each other. Now it was their turn to help Lois, as much as they could.
"At work, I'm okay," Lois continued, "although I know I'm not writing or investigating as well as I used to. Perry gave me a flower show to cover, and I could barely finish that — well, okay, that was because it bored me senseless, but you get the idea."
"But the worst part," she lowered her voice to a near whisper. "is the dreams. I had the first one a week after he left, and since then I've been having them more often. I miss him so much… I don't know, maybe this is how my brain copes with him not being there." She fell silent for a moment, staring at her hands, unseeing.
"What do you dream about?" Martha asked hesitantly. She recognized the other signs of grief that Lois had mentioned, but this was different.
"Just Clark. Always Clark… We're in a room, I think. The room is indistinct, fuzzy, but I can see him, and sometimes it seems like there's furniture there, too, but not always. I think we talk about things, sometimes, but I can never remember what. And then we're kissing, and then our clothes disappear, and…" she trailed off, realizing who she was speaking to.
Jonathan was looking off into the living room, a little red faced, but Martha was smiling tearfully. "Those sound like nice dreams, Lois…"
Lois stared down at the table top. "They are… that's the problem. I don't want to wake up from them, and that scares me. Once," she confessed in a low voice, "I took some sleeping pills, so that I'd sleep longer, but then I didn't have the dream at all. But when I do have it, just in those few moments before I really wake up, it's like I can feel him there next to me, and I just want to stay there forever…" she began crying again, softly. "It's like losing him all over again, every morning."
Martha rubbed her arm comfortingly. "I know you miss him."
"It's just not fair! We had so little time together." She was crying angry tears now, finally able to express what she'd been bottling up for weeks. "We had just gotten things straight between us, after me being stupid for so long, and him being noble, and that whole clone and amnesia thing that I will *never* forgive — and now this! Why did he have to go? Why?"
Martha and Jonathan had no answers she hadn't already heard. But what they could offer, they did: the sort of loving care her own parents had never provided.
"Martha, this poor girl is all tuckered out." Jonathan was, as always, the practical one. Martha agreed, and between them, they eased Lois into Clark's bedroom for the night. "You get some good rest, dear, dreams or not, and we'll talk about it again in the morning."
That night, she had the dream again. Perhaps it was inevitable. Sleeping in his room, in his bed, had made her feel closer to him than she'd felt in weeks, and in her weakness she'd welcomed that illusion. The truth could wait.
So decided, she'd snuggled down, closed her eyes, and did her best to pretend Clark was there next to her, just out of reach.
She knew the dream had started when she felt him pull her close. Her pajamas had somehow disappeared, so she could tell he was equally unclothed, and it was easy for her to open up to him, easy for him to slide gently into her secret depths. Easy, and yet supremely satisfying.
Afterwards, they lay tangled together until the languor of the moment passed.
Oh Clark, I miss you.
[love] [regret] I miss you too, Lois.
His answer wasn't conveyed in words, precisely, but in waves of emotion, and that strange state of sudden knowledge that comes with dreams.
It's been hard working by myself. Everyone at work thinks you're a louse to have left me.
[guilt] [remorse] Do you blame them? Sometimes _I_ think I am, too.
Lois felt his weariness and discouragement as if it were her own. And even in her dreams, she couldn't bear to see him like that.
No, Clark, you had to go — I don't blame you for it.
He looked at her with such tenderness that she wanted to cry.
Lois, I love you so much — and I will find a way to return to you. I swear it. [determination] [renewed resolve] [love] [love] [love]
Perhaps the conversation continued past that point, but when she woke, the most that she could remember was the sense that he would return. That certainty lingered with her as the rest of the dream faded, as strong dream-emotions often will.
Martha noticed the improvement when Lois arrived in the kitchen for breakfast. "You look better, dear — I told you a nice long sleep would help."
Lois smiled. "I had the dream again. But this time, it didn't feel so much like losing him. More like…" she shook her head, searching for words. "Like it was the end of a visit, but that there'd be another one; that I would see him again. I guess I'm really going crazy now, letting my own wild imagination console me."
Martha listened as she got out the pancake batter left over from Jonathan's breakfast earlier, added more milk, and poured the batter into the skillet. "The human mind is a tricky thing, Lois. And if these dreams can help you cope with things… why fight it?"
Lois settled down in the kitchen chair, pondering that advice. "Maybe you're right, Martha… oh, it's so good to be here… I wish I could stay for a week."
"Well, why don't you? We've got the room."
That cheerfully practical suggestion caught Lois off-guard, clearly showing her how lax she'd let her brain become, wallowing in her grief. She needed to recover, as fully as she could, without the strain of pretending… Four beautifully done pancakes were placed before her, only to be ignored.
Martha read her silence, and tried to anticipate any possible objections. "Even if Clark does come back this week, he'll come here sooner or later — you can leave a message on his machine if you like."
"That's a good idea, Martha…" She felt more energized than she had in weeks, as if by sharing her grief and worries she'd lessened their hold on her. A week here would surely do her good. "I'll call Perry right now, if I can use your phone?"
Martha nodded assent and began washing the skillet.
"Hi, Perry? Yeah, it's Lois…"
While she washed dishes, Martha mentally added to her shopping list and sketched out a plan of action for the week.
"Perry, would you mind if I took a week off? I know I'm not giving you any notice, but I haven't been much use lately anyway…"
Cooking, canning, gardening… Martha ticked the chores off in her head; Lois could help with all of those.
"Where am I? Well… let's just say it's someplace quiet, I should be getting lots of rest."
Maybe Lois could help Jonathan with the animals, too… She needed to be kept busy, and there were always things to do on a farm.
"Thanks, Perry! I'll be back next Monday."
That week, while they worked together, they talked. Or rather, Lois talked, and Martha listened. She had heard much of it before, of course, but from a different perspective.
"I never wanted a partner, you know," Lois confessed while peeling potatoes. "When Perry teamed us up, I really resented it. I mean, I knew he had talent, but something inside me wouldn't let me admit it, so I kept putting him down." Her hands slowed as her eyes looked unseeing into the distance.
After a moment, though, she collected herself and continued working. "And the Superman thing… we were both kind of dumb about that, but I guess I can see why. There I was, throwing myself at him… but Superman wasn't a threat to me, you know? Not the way Clark was. With Clark there was always the possibility of something serious, something permanent — and that scared me. Superman was magical to me, and magic can't let you down, can't disappoint you… You can't really have it, but that means you can't really lose it, either. But with Clark… Well, every time I'd made myself vulnerable in the past, something came along and kicked me in the face. It was hard to get past that," she finished in a whisper. She set down the potato she'd not quite completely peeled.
"And when you did, something came along and kicked you in the face," Martha replied quietly, holding Lois' hand. The younger woman nodded and sniffed valiantly, fighting tears. "But you're not alone this time, Lois, and you'll make it through this."
Lois smiled weakly at that, finally subduing the urge to bawl on Martha's shoulder. She used the back of her hand to awkwardly wipe her eyes, to take care of any stray leaks.
"Go ahead and cry if you want to," Martha offered, in a carefully nonchalant tone. "That way we won't have to add as much salt to the casserole."
Lois hiccuped a laugh and smiled more broadly, past the crisis now. "I'm all right."
"Yes, you are."
She dreamed of Clark again that night. When the dream began, they were sitting at a table, and she could see him clearly, more clearly than usual. Her joy in seeing him again, however, was stilled as she took in his condition. He looked worried, and deathly tired, and more than that, she could feel his anxiety, his desperate indecision.
How are you, Clark?
[weariness] [worry] I'm fine… you look great. [appreciation] [longing]
I'm staying with your parents, and they're taking good care of me. I feel better, a lot better. But what's worrying you?
[amusement] I can't get anything past you, can I?
Not anymore you can't. Spill it.
He shrugged acknowledgment and began recounting the events of the day. The names and terms he used were foreign to her, but as he spoke, she felt dream-knowledge flooding her, instantly teaching her what he meant. It didn't occur to her to question it.
[discouragement] …and it seems as if no matter what we do, Lord Nor has a counter for it, whether it's changing the law about birth-marriages, or getting Ching set up as my proxy for this marriage to Zara…
You never expected the law to go through anyway, and they all think you're crazy to try to get out of that marriage. You need to get rid of Nor instead.
[frustration] Don't you think we've tried? The civil war is starting, even with me here. So far he's been too well protected.
But you think that will change… maybe. And that's what you're so worried about; there's a battle shaping up, and you think you have an advantage.
[hope] [fear] Maybe. We've been planning a lot.
Clark rose from the table and began to pace. As he spoke of their planning, he seemed almost to forget she was there, his attention fixed on his memories of the day, re-weighing and analyzing the options. He spoke in particular of a Lord Grahm, and as he described the man, Lois could almost see him — heavy set, with thick white brows and an arrogant sneer. She shivered.
I don't trust him, Clark.
[surprise] What? Why not?
His eyes, his voice… I don't know.
[doubt] [hesitation] But Lois, he's of high rank, everyone trusts him…
You're of high rank too, m'lord Kal — and you're far too trusting. You always have been.
[amusement] That's my cynical Lois…
He knelt beside her chair, regarding her as if she were the most precious thing in the universe. She smiled shakily.
I'm realistic, Clark. And you need to be, too.
His gently mischievous answer firmly closed the door on that topic, and then he reached for her, and the time for words was past.
"I'm worried, Martha." The announcement was unnecessary; Lois had been visibly uneasy all day.
It was Friday evening. After a week of careful tending, her nerves had become much steadier, and her brain much clearer. She still mourned Clark's absence, but not to the exclusion of all other thought. This day, however, had brought nameless anxieties, and she was unable to sit still.
"Why are you so jumpy, dear?" Martha was working on a quilt. Lois had been quite good at helping with a variety of chores during the week, but this morning it had been clear that they wouldn't get any work out of her, so Martha had worked on things that didn't require assistance.
"I don't know," Lois confessed unhappily, looking out the window at the approaching clouds. "Maybe it's this storm that's coming up. But I feel like something big is going to happen, something enormously important, something I can't do anything about." Thunder rumbled in the distance, and she started.
"Relax, Lois, it's just a storm." Jonathan traipsed into the living room in stockinged feet, having left his boots just inside the door as always. "The animals are settled down for the night, and this old farmhouse has come through worse than this."
She smiled shakily. "Yes, I know. I'm being silly. Nothing could go wrong."
She'd almost convinced herself of that when the power went out. Involuntarily, she yelped, but she relaxed when she heard Jonathan's chuckle. "I've been wondering when that would happen. Power cuts in and out during a storm this big, it's nothing to worry about. I'll get the generator started."
In the dim light from the windows, he carefully made his way back out of the room, and Martha set her quilt aside. A moment later, a light flared up.
"Battery-operated lantern," Martha explained, setting it on the table beside her. "Clark got it for us, in case we didn't want to go to the trouble of starting up the generator."
"Yes," Martha agreed gently, searching for a topic to distract Lois from her unease. "Have you had more dreams this week?"
"Yeah," Lois assented, then furrowed her brows in thought. "At least I think so. I don't remember much from them, except sometimes the lovemaking…"
Her face was tender with happy memories, and since Jonathan would likely take a while in wrestling with their stubborn generator, Martha couldn't resist prying, just a little. "Lois, you don't have to answer me, but before he left, had you and Clark…?"
Lois nodded, blushing a little. "We really had wanted to wait for the wedding, or at least Clark had…"
"That's Jonathan's influence," Martha concurred.
"And I agreed," Lois added hastily, searching her would-be mother-in-law's face for any hint of censure.
Martha smiled. "I only wanted Clark to find the right woman, and be able to tell her everything. Clark's always taken those sorts of things very seriously. The words 'casual' and 'sex' just never went together for him."
Reassured by this oblique answer, Lois continued. "Well, the wedding was so messed up that after we got it straightened out, and I got my memory back… I just didn't want to wait anymore. So we had a few weeks together, at least."
"I'm glad," Martha replied quietly. "You two deserved a little happiness. I know you spent the night together before he left…"
"Yes, but not the way you think." Lois smiled, with tears in her eyes. "He just held me, all night. We talked, we cried, we held on to each other. I fell asleep for a while, but I don't think he ever did. When I woke up, he was just looking at me, with the saddest expression on his face… I have never loved anyone as much as I love Clark — and I know he feels the same about me. If it hadn't been for that, I might not have survived at all." She drifted off into a haze of bittersweet memories, and Martha left her to it. At least she was no longer worried about the storm… or whatever it was that had gotten her so worked up.
Early the next morning, Lois bounced into the kitchen, surprising Martha and Jonathan with her energy. "Isn't it a wonderful morning?"
"Well, the storm's gone through, if that's what you mean," Jonathan replied dryly. Lois certainly had gone through some mood swings this week! But she'd had a battle to fight, one against self-pity and despair, and it seemed as if she'd won it.
"Good dreams last night, Lois?" Martha asked with a twinkle in her eye.
"Very," Lois replied, smiling broadly as she started making herself some eggs. "I don't remember any details, and," she winked at Jonathan, "I wouldn't tell them if I could remember them, but somehow, I have the feeling that everything's going to be fine."
"Are you all packed, Lois?" It was Sunday afternoon, and Lois had to return to Metropolis. She felt much stronger than she had the week before, able to once more face her coworkers, perhaps even to reverse their low opinion of Clark — she planned to tell them she'd been visiting him.
"Sure am, Jonathan. I mean, I only brought enough for a weekend, so I've been wearing Clark's old clothes all week, if you hadn't noticed."
He chuckled. "I knew there was a reason you seemed like a member of the family."
She smiled mistily up at him, and surprised both of them by planting a kiss on his cheek. "Thank you. Thanks for letting me stay here, I feel so much better now, it's amazing."
"Well, of course you can stay here anytime, Lois," Martha interjected, coming in from the kitchen with a small ice chest held in front of her. "You're family now, and you always will be. Now here, you need to take this." She set the chest down next to Lois's sole suitcase. "That's got enough frozen roasts and casseroles to last you another week or two."
Lois felt tears welling up again, even though she could have sworn she'd cried herself dry, but these were tears of gratitude, not grief. She hugged Martha with a fierce strength. "Why are you guys so good to me?"
"Because that's what parents do — or at least that's what they tell me." A new voice, a familiar voice, came from the porch. Lois froze, then turned around slowly.
"Clark!" After a second of utter disbelief, she nearly tore the screen door off its hinges to get to him. He held his arms open and held her close, a look of pure bliss on his face.
A long moment later, they released each other, and Lois let him greet his happy parents… but she stayed close at all times, and as soon as he was done hugging his mother, she found herself back in the crook of his arm.
"Clark, what happened?" Martha asked, laughing and crying at the same time. "And how did you get back here?"
"Same way I left, Mom; Zara and Ching brought me. I had to get myself exiled from Kryptonian society." He looked sad for a moment, glancing upwards, but then he looked down at Lois, and his smile blossomed. "But it was worth it."
"Did you go to Metropolis first?" Jonathan asked, herding them all inside the living room to sit down.
"No." Clark sat near one end of the sofa, arranging Lois with infinite tenderness — she was now seated with her back against the end of the sofa, her legs draped over his lap. "I had them drop me off in one of your fields. Superman's not back yet — I'll have to wait for my powers to build up under this yellow sun."
Martha quirked an eyebrow at that. Lois didn't yet seem recovered enough to ask the obvious questions, so she did. "You came here, to us, rather than going to Lois in Metropolis? Not that I'm not glad you love us, but…"
He smiled at that. "Well, I had to be practical. A spaceship is a lot easier to miss out here. And besides," he paused, frowning thoughtfully at his fiancee. "I just had a feeling she'd be here."
"Lucky for you, then," Jonathan smiled. "But come on, boy, tell us what happened on your trip!"
Lois listened to Clark relate the events of his stay on New Krypton with a curious disinterest. She preferred just to let her eyes feast on the curve of his cheek, the way his hair waved over his forehead, the gleam in his eye every time he glanced her way. She hoped he'd be done with his tale soon; surely Martha would help them get some time alone soon, before they both exploded.
"…so then it all came down to one open battle. And we could have lost; there was a traitor on our side, very high up in the government — Lord Grahm. But I had my doubts, so--"
"Ha!" Lois interrupted smugly. "You fell for his act, and you know it. I'm the one who told you--"
"You didn't like his *voice*, Lois; I had to get something more to go on than that--"
They stopped, realizing what they were saying, and Lois felt her eyes grow wide. "Ohmigod."
Clark turned pale. "I thought that was a dream…"
"Only it wasn't, was it?"
They stared at each other, almost in fear, until Jonathan broke the mood with a perplexed question. "What are you two talking about?"
Lois wrenched her gaze away from Clark and had to remind herself to breathe. "Well, remember I told you I'd been having some dreams?"
Martha nodded, and took the step the younger pair were frightened of. "They were really telepathy, weren't they? You told us, Clark, that Kryptonians were telepathic when they wanted to be."
"And there wasn't anything I wanted more than to talk to Lois," Clark admitted, his hands tightening along her shoulder and her legs.
Lois grinned. "Oh yes there was," she stage-whispered, "but don't tell your father."
They grinned at each other, and even Jonathan laughed, too pleased at having his boy back to take umbrage at their teasing.
"So, telepathy…" Martha brought them back to the subject at hand. "That could come in handy — can you tell what each other is thinking right now?"
"I don't think so, but I hadn't thought about it." Lois shrugged and looked at Clark. They stared at each other for a moment, and identical blushes crept up their cheeks. After a moment more, Lois began giggling, and broke eye contact, while Clark grinned from ear to ear.
"Well, is it working? Lois, can you tell what he's thinking?"
"Yes," she gasped out between giggles. "But I don't think telepathy was involved!"
"We should maybe test it out later," Clark agreed, trying to sound detached.
"It may be an emergency thing," Martha suggested, "or somehow you were boosted by all the other Kryptonians around."
"That's possible," Jonathan agreed, "and it may come back if you need it…"
"…but I wouldn't count on it happening again," Martha concluded. "And now, Jonathan, I think you and I need to go into town."
"Yes, we do," she replied firmly, standing up. "We need supplies for guests for another week and I'd like to talk to Father Thomas, to see how soon we can arrange a wedding." She hustled her confused husband out the door, then turned around with a smile. "We'll be gone for at least a few hours."
Once they were gone, Lois turned to her heart-husband and smiled. "Welcome home."
Two days later, they were back in Metropolis. It had taken two days because, to Lois's great amusement, a powerless Clark had refused to take an airplane ("I've helped out with too many plane wrecks, Lois!"). So, they'd taken a train ("Oh, so I suppose trains never have accidents?" "…That's different."), and enjoyed the privacy en route. Following their long separation, they both felt the need to be physically near one another, even when in the public dining car, even if it was only the touch of a hand.
After a stop at their apartments to shower and change into fresh clothing, they had headed straight to the Daily Planet. The entire newspaper staff had been astonished to see Clark walk in holding hands with Lois, but the couple hadn't answered any questions, heading directly to the chief editor's office. Jimmy was privileged to be in on the meeting, but everyone else would need to wait.
"So let me get this straight." Perry looked them both over with a skeptical eye. "Clark's old friend from college, excuse me, his old girlfriend, called up and said she had an emergency?"
"So he rushed to her side, and Lois, you overreacted?"
Lois winced. They'd worked on this cover story over the last two days. They hadn't seen a way to both come out of it in good shape, but the idea of a lover's spat ought to keep people from probing their story too deeply. And since Lois was better at lying, she took the harder role.
"I did, Perry." She kept her eyes fixed on her shoes, carefully avoiding her editor's eye. "I was a little insecure, I guess. But then last week, I went to Kansas, and then Clark was there… and we've patched it all up."
"Uh-huh." Perry was clearly unconvinced.
"I'll say!" Jimmy interjected eagerly. "Those are wedding rings, aren't they? Clark, my man!"
"We've learned a lot, Chief," Clark responded, trying to project all the sincerity he could muster. "I don't ever want to leave Lois again. And yes, we're married now. My parents set it up back in Smallville."
They smiled at each other then, and the emotions displayed there chased away Perry's doubts. Something about their story rang as false as an Elvis autograph in a Memphis dime store, but after all, they'd had their share of problems before, so maybe they were telling the truth. Or something close to it, at least, which was as much as he expected whenever Lois was involved. As long as his two star reporters were happy, he was happy. Not that he'd ever let them know that. "Well, all right then, get back to work! I don't run a dating service here; this is a newspaper!"
Jimmy grinned, and headed off, no doubt to relay his news to everyone in the break room. Lois and Clark followed more sedately, ending at her desk.
"So, Farm boy," she sat on the edge of her desk, glancing around with an arch expression. "No x-rays, no super-eavesdropping… now we get to see how good at this investigation stuff you really are!"
Clark stood facing her, as close as he dared get in full view of everyone, smiling ruefully down at his bride. "Sure, make fun of me."
"I'm not making fun of you… well, maybe a little.. mostly I'm just enjoying it." She leaned in close to whisper to him. "I've got some time alone with you now, and I don't have to share with that boring do-gooder Superman!"
Clark had to grin at her wicked smile. "He'll be back, you know." He looked around the newsroom, but everyone seemed to be in the break room getting the scoop from Jimmy. "I just hope my hearing comes back last — I'd hate to hear calls for help I can't do anything about!"
She smiled sympathetically. "You'll do fine — so far everything's been coming back at about the same rate. You'll probably be up to speed by the end of the week, worse luck!"
"Maybe." He put his hands on her shoulders and slid them down to her waist. "So, do you think Superman should give another press conference, or just start back to work?"
"Oh, a press conference, definitely. Unless…" she ran a finger down his tie, "you think he could give me an exclusive?"
Clark licked his lips and caught her finger before it dipped too low. "I don't know what your husband would think about that…"
"Oh, I can get around him, no problem," she assured him with a sultry smile.
"But not here," Clark pointed out firmly, stepping back. "Tell you what. You work on it, for the rest of the week, and we'll see."
She laughed, hopping down from the desk. "I suppose, if I have to… And then, we'll be all back to normal, I hope…"
They shared a smile for a moment, until Lois noticed Perry looking their way. "Speaking of back to normal, we'd better get to work!"
Clark grinned. "Yeah, I'd hate to have come all this way back just to get myself fired…"