By Kathy Bell (Kathybell2@aol.com)
Summary: After that second bump on the head, Lois' memory is almost back, but she still doesn't remember who Clark is. Clark, emotionally drained, spends some down time in Smallville in a scenario that picks up after the episode "Seconds."
I have two special people to thank for help with this story, Leigh Raglan and Kathy Brown. Leigh has reviewed each of my fanfiction stories, and eliminated errors and inconsistencies in all of them. Kathy, in particular, edited this story twice and vastly improved it. Thank you so much to two wonderful e-mail compatriots and fellow FOLCs.
The events in this story occur after "Seconds" and take the place of "Forget Me Not" and "Oedipus Wrecks".
Clark pushed the apartment door shut behind him and wearily descended the steps into the main living area of his apartment.
"How is she?" his mother demanded immediately. She had showered and changed from her soiled skirt and sweater outfit to a warmup suit, and was sitting on his couch sipping a cup of tea. Jonathan was standing directly behind her.
"Well, she isn't calling herself Wanda anymore," Clark said, throwing himself down into a chair across from where Martha sat.
"That's great!" his parents chorused.
"No, it isn't great," Clark rejoined. "She knows her name is Lois, but she's drawing a complete blank about a guy named Clark."
"Oh, no," Martha said sympathetically. "Clark, you are just going to have to give her time. She has had a bad bump on the head, and the shock and stress of dealing with Lex again …"
"She's had TWO concussions since Sunday, Mom. Her doctor said she was lucky to be in as good a condition as she is. I didn't get a chance to talk to him about her memory loss."
Jonathan just shook his head. "Martha, I thought we had trouble getting married. Poor Lois and Clark are having trouble and then some."
Clark laughed bitterly. "I'm starting to think someone up there doesn't want us to get married. Maybe all this is a sign that I wasn't meant to make a life here. I was probably supposed to die when Krypton exploded."
"That's ridiculous, Clark," Martha stated firmly. "Don't even think things like that. No one up above had anything to do with Lex Luthor's evil plans or that explosion. They were from a lower realm, and had nothing to do with what was 'meant to be'. I'm sure if you give Lois time, she'll remember everything about her life, especially her fiance."
Clark jumped up and started pacing back and forth in front of his parents. "Time! That's what's driving me crazy. I have waited and waited for her, through all her aloofness, her Superman worship, her old boyfriends and new admirers, just to get to this week, the week we were finally going to get to be together, the week that was going to be the happiest time of our lives, and instead it has been hell on earth! This has been the worst few days of my life and I can't tell you how bad I feel."
Clark stopped pacing and turned to face his mother. "Plus, I nearly lost both of you to Luther today as well! It just goes to show you that being around me, having me love someone, is dangerous. I should go away, far, far away, and only surface in civilization when I'm needed. The rest of the time I'm a liability, not an asset."
Martha sighed, and glanced back up over her shoulder at her husband. She could see Clark was overwrought, and heading into a spiral of negative thoughts that she knew from experience would just plunge him deeper and deeper in despair. Her son was an optimistic individual who usually maintained an upbeat outlook on life, but when he let himself get mired in a pessimistic frame of mind, he could be ridiculously hard on himself.
"Now, Clark," she started, trying to decide whether she should take a sympathetic approach to his concerns or a firm, 'get a grip on yourself' one, but before she could get any either thought out, Clark interrupted her suddenly. He realized how self-centered he was being.
"Mom, Dad, I'm so sorry to be standing here, going on and on about my problems, and ignoring yours."
Since arriving home, Clark had been struck by how wan Martha looked, and the bruise on his dad's chin was big and colorful. He remembered that they had been just as worried about Lois, and just as frightened about Lex discovering his secret identity, as he had been. Lex had dragged Martha off and imprisoned her deep in his underground hideout, and had brutally hit Jonathan in the face when he tried to defend his wife. They were both probably extremely tired, as well as being emotionally worn down. This week had been hard for them. They loved Lois, too, and he knew it hurt them to see him so upset.
Clark hurried over to give his mom a hug and a kiss, and his dad a pat on the back. "I'm so glad you're OK. You're the only thing I've got left in life that I care about. I couldn't have gone on if Lex had killed either of you."
"We're fine, son, don't worry about us." Jonathan said, gruffly. "Are you sure Lex is dead?"
"Yes, I'm sure. If that molecular disrupter didn't kill him, then the cave in must have. I stopped by there on the way back here from the hospital, and even I couldn't have stopped that cave in once it started. The entire subway section is crushed. Thank goodness there were no subway cars in that section of the track when it collapsed."
"Why did you stop by there, Clark?" his mother asked, gently. "To check on the other Lois?" She already knew the answer.
Clark nodded. "You know, it is funny. When I finally figured out she wasn't Lois, I almost hated her. But as time went on, I began to see things in her I really liked, and not only things that reminded me of Lois. Actually, she wasn't much like Lois at all, once you got beyond her looks. Even at the end, when she told me that she had revealed to Lex that I was Superman, I couldn't get mad at her. She was like a child, learning and making mistakes, but wanting to grow and take her place in the world. Lex made sure she'd never have the chance, though."
Martha reached up and took her son's hand. "She told me that Lex had assured her that once she died, no one would remember her or mourn her. I guess that this is just another area where Luthor was horribly wrong. I, for one, will remember and mourn her. She was a special person."
Clark nodded. "She was." He took a deep breath. "But she wasn't Lois. I love Lois, and I have to find a way to get her back. I have to."
"Speaking of Lois, son," Jonathan interjected. "What are you going to do now?"
Clark's answer was interrupted by a knock on the door. He bounded up the steps to answer it.
"Perry, Jimmy, what are you doing here?" Clark exclaimed, throwing open his apartment door and welcoming his boss and his fellow co-worker. "Come in."
The two men came in, and followed Clark down the steps of his apartment. "Jonathan, Martha," Perry greeted Clark's parents with a nod. Jimmy waved a greeting.
"Well, son, we've just been to see Lois." Perry announced. He glanced at Jonathan, and decided to not call Clark 'son' with Jonathan there. The older Kent might take it the wrong way.
"Let me guess," Clark said quietly. "She knows she is Lois but she doesn't know you."
"Well, actually …" Jimmy looked uncomfortably at Perry, unable to meet Clark's eyes. "She didn't know me, but she DID remember the Chief."
Martha reached up and grabbed her son's arm, holding on to his hand. "There, you see, it is just going to take her some time, but she is already starting to remember. Why don't you go over there now?"
"Well," Perry said, apologetically, with a glance at Clark. "Her doctor says she can't have any more visitors for a while, except for one special person."
"Special?" Clark asked, emphatically. "A special person to Lois? That would be me. I am her fiance, her partner, her best friend. I am the person she was planning to marry that morning when she got out of bed. She is wearing, or was wearing, my ring."
Jimmy surreptitiously looked at Clark's left hand, and noticed with a shock that his ring finger was bare. Martha had noticed that immediately, the first time she'd seen Clark after he'd taken his wedding ring off. But she hadn't said anything to him about it, only to Jonathan. Their hearts ached for him.
"Well," Perry answered, in a gentle tone of voice, "it is not you. The doctor said that it probably wouldn't help for her to see you right now, because she apparently doesn't know who you are."
"Then who can see her?" Clark demanded. "Her mom, her dad?"
Perry shook his head, and Clark's parents frowned. They had an idea of what was coming.
"Superman!" Jimmy exclaimed. "Superman can see her! In fact, that's one of the reasons we're here, to see if you would get a hold of him for us." Jimmy thought the world of Superman and was sure that once Lois saw the famous blue and red suit, all her memories of the past few years would instantly flood back.
Clark sat down heavily on the couch, next to his mom. "Superman?" he said faintly. "Why in the world can Superman see her and not me?"
"It's like this, C.K." Jimmy said, excitedly. "The doc figures that she can remember everything up to about three years ago. That's why Lois knows the chief, but not me or you. He is looking for the person who had the biggest impact on her life during that three year period, and he figured - we figured - it would be Superman. He is hoping that seeing Superman will jog Lois' memory of these past few years. Lois is crazy about him, even though she's engaged to you. No offense." he finished hastily, as Clark's face began to darken.
Clark stood up again, agitated. "Lois is NOT crazy about Superman. She loves me, not him. She barely knows Superman. She said she'd be my wife, spend the rest of her life with me, not him. How did that doctor get the crazy idea that Superman would help her recover her memory instead of me?"
Martha reached for Clark's hand yet again, but he eluded her. He struck his fist into his hand several times, and started pacing along the side of the couch. Martha started to get up to go to him, but Jonathan reached Clark's side first.
"Son, calm down." Jonathan said soothingly but firmly, in a soft voice. "You are just making matters worse for yourself." He had encircled Clark's shoulders with his left arm and was speaking directly into his ear. He finished off by giving him a one armed hug.
Perry agreed wholeheartedly, although he had no inkling of why he did. "Clark, all I am asking is that you get in touch with Superman for us. I wouldn't even have bothered asking you, but Jimmy has been trying to contact Superman, with no luck. You know, you and Lois have always been the only ones who can reach him consistently."
Clark whirled towards Jimmy abruptly, saying, "You've been trying to get in touch with Superman?"
Jimmy nodded, not trusting himself to say the right thing when Clark's mood was so precarious.
"How?" Clark demanded.
"Well, I just been thinking about him really hard, and wishing he would come by." Jimmy admitted. Vocalizing this made him realized how silly and futile it had been.
"Jimmy," Clark said, sarcastically. "He's not psychic. He has to hear you calling him."
Jimmy felt quite stupid now. "I did consider throwing myself out a window, like Lois used to do, but I'm not as brave as she is."
"Throw herself out of a window? Just to get Superman's attention?" Martha inquired, incredulously. "Tell me Lois didn't really do that."
Clark just looked at his mother, and she shook her head. Jimmy started to mention the other times Lois had done crazy things in the hopes of drawing Superman out from where ever it was that he stayed when he wasn't rescuing people, but he decided against it after considering Clark's state of mind. Even though he and Jimmy were good friends, Clark could be so sensitive and protective concerning Lois that it didn't pay to criticize her around him.
"Jimmy, if you go back to the Planet and call Superman, I bet he'll show up."
"That would be great, because then I can tell him about Lois and do my interview."
Clark felt like he had started reading a mystery novel half way through, and couldn't quite pick up the plot. "What interview?"
Perry stepped over and clapped Clark on the shoulder. "That was the other reason I came by, Kent. We need to talk about your status."
"My status?" Clark echoed.
"His status?" Martha and Jonathan repeated.
"I talked to Mr. Stern today." Perry grew serious. "He called from Paris to tell my how sorry he was to have missed your wedding." Perry hurried on, not wanting to dwell on that painful topic. "When I told him there hadn't really been a wedding, and that Lois was ill and would be out of work for a while, he … well, he asked about your plans. He feels that you just wouldn't be the reporter you are capable of being while worrying about Lois, and, well, while we were able to put Lois on worker's comp because we'll argue that Lex injuring her is a work related issue … "
Clark knew Mr. Stern fairly well, and completed Perry's sentence. "He's putting me on an unpaid leave of absence until Lois is better, right?"
Perry shook his head. "No, he is asking you to voluntarily take some time off, to give you time to deal with your situation and see to Lois." He winced as he said this, realizing how weak it sounded.
"Believe me," Perry added, rapidly, "I know you can chase down a story and write it without Lois' help. Did it for years before coming to the Planet. I argued with Stern for a half hour at transatlantic phone rates. But he would like to cut you loose for a while, and I can't shake his decision. But don't worry. I am personally standing ready to help you meet any bills you may have while we wait for Lois to recover. I certainly don't want to lose you to another paper."
Clark was touched by Perry's offer, he really was. He knew that Perry had two households to maintain, as well as a separate maintenance agreement with Alice while they were waiting for their divorce to become final. Clark didn't know how much money Perry made (although he was certain Lois did) but he was sure Alice was getting a healthy chunk of it these days.
"That's OK, chief," Clark responded. "I'll go quietly. Lois and I had saved up a bit of money in preparation for our honeymoon. I can use that for now."
"And we'll make sure he doesn't starve," Martha said tartly.
"My interview," Jimmy said. "Can we talk about that?"
Clark smiled, just barely. "OK, your interview. Who are you interviewing?"
"Superman, hopefully," Jimmy said. "This will be my second article for the paper and the Chief said it could be front page stuff."
"Superman is always front page news, Jimmy." Perry cautioned. "Let's not put the cart in front of the horse."
"It is still an honor to get asked to write it, though," Jonathan inquired. "Isn't it?"
"Lois and Clark have always done 100% of our Superman coverage," Perry said, cheering up somewhat as he warmed up to his favorite topic, the Planet. "and we've always scooped everyone, and I mean everyone, even LNN, when it comes to Superman."
Turning to Clark, he continued: "I don't know how you two met him, or why he always comes to you first, but I don't intend to lose our edge on Superman just because you and Lois are - temporarily - out of commission. I was going to assign Gonzales to cover the Superman angle, but then I thought about Jimmy. He has worked with Superman before, and I'm hoping that Superman will take to him the way he did Lois and you. I'm worried though - Superman hasn't made one appearance at the paper since you and Lois went on vacation to get married. It may be that he will only work with you or Lois."
Perry frowned. "I need a story written about Superman rescuing Lois, and the death of Luthor …"
He was interrupted by Clark saying, "and the clone."
"And the clone, but no one has seen the guy since he dropped Lois off at the hospital and left to find you, Clark."
"I always get in contact with Superman by calling him." Clark stated unequivocally. "Jimmy, when you get back to the Planet, you try that. It's got to work better than beaming cheerful thoughts towards him."
Jimmy nodded, sheepishly.
"Well, son," Martha said. "What are you going to do with your new found free time?" She meant the comment in a light hearted way, although she was a little irked at Perry, and definitely mad at Stern.
Everyone grew quiet, and looked at Clark.
"I'm going home." Clark said, simply. Jonathan involuntarily looked about the room at Clark's things, situated in his apartment, where he had chosen to live, and work, and love. Jimmy and Perry exchanged glances.
"Home?" Martha and Perry said, almost in unison.
"Yes, home. Smallville. I'm leaving tonight."
Martha opened her mouth to reason with Clark, and then realized that a short stay in Smallville might be just what Clark needed. He hadn't eaten or slept regularly since his wedding day. Merely watching him grow increasingly irritated with his Superman persona was evidence of that. "OK, Clark," Martha acquiesced. "We'll go home tonight."
"But you'll get a hold of Superman first, right, C.K.?"
"No, Jimmy. You can call him. I'm sure he'll hear you. I don't feel up to talking to other people right now, even him."
"O.K." Jimmy conceded. "Let's go, Chief. My Kerth award is waiting."
Perry shook his head and Clark sighed, and ushered them both up to the door, standing there a few minutes to make sure he heard them drive away.
Clark came back down the stairs and started to change into the costume.
Jonathan re entered the room just as Clark finished spinning into his Superman outfit. He had been in Clark's bedroom, on the phone making plane reservations to Wichita.
"What time is your flight?" Clark asked.
"Soon, we'll have to go right now. Don't worry about driving us to the airport; we'll take a cab. It doesn't feel right using Lois' car when she doesn't know who we are, anyway."
Clark grimaced. "Good point."
Martha gave Clark a quick hug. "See you at home when you can get there, dear. Please be careful."
Clark smiled sadly. "You be careful, too, Mom. I love you." With a quick movement towards his balcony, Clark was gone.
Several hours later, Jonathan parked the pickup truck in the driveway of their farmhouse and doused the headlights. The yard was pitch black because the yard light had burned out, and if the Kents had taken to time to look, they would have seen a gorgeous canopy of stars over their heads. They were too preoccupied to enjoy the familiar view, however.
Fortunately, when they had originally flown out to Metropolis, they had decided to leave their truck at the Wichita airport. Usually they caught a commuter flight out of Smallville (it was really a friend of theirs with a crop duster) and wouldn't usually have had their truck at the airport. But Eddie hadn't been able to fly them to Wichita the day they'd left for Metropolis, so Jonathan had reluctantly driven to Wichita and left the pickup in the airport's long term parking.
"Well, I wonder if Clark beat us home," Martha commented, as she gratefully stepped down from the pickup truck's cab. Now, as well as being physically and emotionally exhausted, and quite worried about Clark, she was also stiff from the long trip home.
Jonathan didn't say anything, just grabbed the bags from the bed of the truck and walked up to the front door.
Once they were inside the farmhouse, there was no doubt that Clark was home. A fire had been laid and lit in the fireplace, the coffee maker was running through its cycle of brewing, and there was a light on in Clark's bedroom. The shower was running, too.
Jonathan dropped their bags and grabbed Martha's arm, propelling her over to Clark's bedroom. His closet door was open and his Superman costume was crumpled up on the floor, by the dresser.
"Gosh," Jonathan said. "Sure wish we would have been the first ones home."
Martha nodded. She couldn't agree more. Both of them were staring at what had been intended to be their wedding present to Clark and Lois.
A few weeks ago, when they had been making their rounds of the garage sales (indoor ones, this time of year), their attention had been caught by a wooden double bed frame that was sadly in need of some repair and refinishing. Closer examination had revealed that the wood was good, solid oak, and that it really wasn't in that bad of a shape.
Delighted with their find, they had purchased the frame for ten dollars, and Martha had spent the next week or so refinishing it. Jonathan had also made a few minor repairs. With the addition of a new box spring and mattress, they had been certain they had found the perfect wedding present for their son and his fiancee. The couple visited Smallville frequently, and as Martha had said, no matter how much you love someone, sleeping two to a twin bed can be too much of a good thing. And their usual Smallville sleeping arrangement, one of them on the bed in Clark's room and the other on the couch in front of the fireplace, was not at all suitable for a newly married couple.
Clark had slept in that same old twin bed from the day he grew too big for his cradle until the day he'd left for college. It was even a little small for just him now, never mind Lois and him. They had replaced the old twin bed with this 'new' one, and were sure both Lois and Clark would appreciate the extra sleeping space.
Given the current state of affairs; however, they were sure Clark would hate the extra sleeping space.
The sound of the shower turning off caused Martha and Jonathan to retreat hastily to the living room.
A few minutes later, Clark appeared, his hair still wet and slicked back from the shower. He didn't have his glasses on, and in addition to some well worn jeans and sneakers, he was wearing his old Smallville High School FFA (Future Farmers of America) sweatshirt. He smiled a greeting at his parents as he headed to the kitchen for some coffee.
Martha caught her breath. Her son looked so young and vulnerable, almost as he did over a decade ago when he was still in high school and had all those problems with fitting in with his peer group, while simultaneously adjusting to those strange new powers. He seemed to get a new one every day back then.
Martha followed Clark into the kitchen, but just as earlier in the day, her train of thought was interrupted by someone knocking on the back door. Clark panicked for a moment. He didn't have his glasses on and with his hair wet, he might easily be identified as Superman. He X-rayed through the kitchen door, however, and saw that it was their closest next door neighbor, Wayne Irig.
Deciding to be better safe than sorry, Clark dashed back to his room to comb his hair and put on his glasses as Martha answered the knock. He was back in the kitchen before his mother finished unlocking the door.
"Hi, Wayne," Clark said, offering him his hand as Wayne came through the door.
Wayne was obviously surprised to see Clark there, alone, when Jonathan had been talking for weeks about the wedding, and the honeymoon. However, Wayne, being Wayne, didn't say anything and didn't ask any questions. He returned Clark's handshake politely but called to Jonathan through the entranceway into the living/dining room.
"Jonathan, one of your cows had been having a hard time of it recently. Sorry to come by so late, but I thought you'd better check on her first thing."
Jonathan walked into the kitchen, pulling on his coat and frowning at Wayne. "Thanks, Wayne. And don't worry about the late hour. Let's go."
"Need any help, Dad?" Clark offered immediately, but Jonathan shook his head. He followed Wayne back out the back door, which swung shut with a slam.
Clark pulled his glasses off to clean them, and turned to look at Martha. She got her first good look at him since arriving home.
"I didn't know when you'd be home, Mom, so I didn't make any tea. Shall I make you some?" Clark knew that Martha never touched the coffee maker unless she was making some coffee for Jonathan or him. She vastly preferred tea.
"You've been crying." Martha made it a statement, not a question.
Clark rubbed his eyes ruefully, even reaching up with one hand to move away the glasses he wasn't wearing. "Does it show?"
"Of course it does, to me. I'm your mother."
"Well, not to edit your copy, Mom," Clark said, with a feeble attempt at humor, "but I think the correct term would be 'bawling'."
Martha was somewhat relieved that Clark had found a way to express some of the sadness and anger that had been building up inside him for the last few days, and she smiled a bit as she reached over to hug him. "You do feel better now, don't you?"
Clark nodded, returning the embrace and holding on to his mom just an extra moment before letting her go. He was not surprised that she was able to discern that. "When I went in my bedroom and saw that beautiful new bed that you guys fixed up for us, I just lost it. You are so wonderful, but that really pointed out to me what I've lost. That's why I took a shower, so I could wail in private. And I do feel better."
Clark knew the bed wasn't new; his parents wouldn't have been able to afford a brand new double bed for him, and in any case, furniture his mother refinished always looked much better than the store bought stuff did anyway. But that just made him love the bed even more, because Martha had taken the time and effort to refinish it for them instead of just running to the store to get a new one.
"We tried to get back here before you did to replace it with your old bed, but we weren't faster than Superman."
"That's OK. I'm glad I had to chance to see your handiwork. But I won't be sleeping on it tonight," Clark assured her.
"Just sleeping, anywhere, is what you need now, dear. I think I hear your father coming back (Clark nodded, confirming this) so let's put everything off until the morning, after all three of us have had a good night's sleep. Your dad and I are tired, too."
As Jonathan came in the door, locking it behind him, Clark downed his coffee with a gulp. Setting the empty mug in the sink, he followed his parents out of the kitchen.
The next day, Sunday, was cold and bright. The sunlight on the snow made Martha's eyes hurt to look out the kitchen window. It was early, but Martha was always the first one up. She had walked past Clark on the couch, pleased to see him getting some much needed sleep. She was also relieved that he was on the couch and not floating above it. Clark hadn't stirred at Martha's passing through the living room, and she guessed he had a hour or so of sleep left in him. If that were true, her activities in the kitchen wouldn't disturb him in the least. She began to make breakfast.
A short while later it was ready, and Clark and Jonathan were up. Jonathan had stopped for a cup of coffee, but he had immediately headed out to the barn to see about the ailing cow. Again he had declined Clark's help.
"How did your interview with Jimmy go yesterday?" Martha asked Clark as she glanced out the window, trying to judge how long Jonathan would be in the barn.
"Fine. He is a lot better at interviewing than he was a couple of years ago. Of course, I still controlled the interview without him realizing it, but I've been doing this a lot longer than he has. I gave him a sanitized version of the story, threw in a couple of interesting quotes so that Perry doesn't give him too hard a time, and then invented an emergency to attend to so I could leave."
Martha nodded, glad that he was able to talk about recent events more calmly and dispassionately than he had been able to last night.
"I'm glad the Planet put me on a leave of absence, really. Just seeing Lois' desk, and her name plate, and her favorite coffee mug; it was killing me, deep inside." Clark walked over to the kitchen door to let his dad back in.
Martha murmured sympathetically but didn't really know what to say. She busied herself laying breakfast out on the kitchen table.
"Well, I guess the 64 thousand dollar question is 'how did your meeting with Lois go'?" Jonathan said, picking up the conversation as he knocked the snow off his boots and shut the door.
Clark sighed. He had been dreading this.
"Clark," his mother said, looking at him askance. "You did go to the hospital as Superman, to see her, didn't you?"
Clark looked regretfully at his parents, and Martha had her answer.
"Why in the world did you skip going to the hospital?" Martha burst out. "I thought you would do anything to get Lois back."
Clark, who was very hungry, motioned his parents to sit down and eat so that he could get started on the food. It looked and smelled delicious, and it seemed to him it had been years since he had been hungry, or had eaten anything. It occurred to him that this conversation might go better on a full stomach, also.
"I can't go see Lois dressed as Superman, Mom," Clark said reasonably, between bites of his breakfast. "What if I walk in on her and her doctor, or one of the nurses or orderlies, and she sees me in the outfit but still calls me Clark? Anyway, I don't want her to remember Superman, I want her to remember Clark."
His father set his fork down. "I would think by this point, you'd settle for her remembering one or the other. Let's not get too choosy here."
Martha nodded in agreement. "You have to go see her, Clark. If she remembers one of you, she'll be bound to remember the other, eventually."
Clark looked at his parents in disbelief. "I can't take the chance that someone will connect me and Clark, or Superman and Lois, or whatever." He was frustrated, as he commonly was, with his inability to clearly express himself in conversation.
He frequently wondered how he could be such a gifted writer (an award winning journalist for a major metropolitan newspaper, no less) but be so tongue tied in conversation. "What if she calls me one person when I'm dressed as another? What if she remembers Superman and not Clark?"
"What if, what if," his mother said, sharply. "What if I had been fighting with your father that May evening, and been so mad at him that I was looking out the right side of the cab and not the left? What if I had never seen your ship's vapor trail? What if your biological parents had calculated the trajectory of that ship incorrectly, and missed the Earth's atmosphere? What if they had decided that if they had to die because their planet was going to explode, their child did, too?"
This comment captured every bit of Clark's attention, because Martha almost never talked about Clark having other parents besides Jonathan and her. She had built up such a artifice of half truths and outright lies around Clark being her 'real' son that sometimes Clark thought she'd forgotten out how he'd really gotten to earth.
He'd never forget the first time he, as a teenager, had listened to Martha describe his birth. She was full of details and memories, and had the other mothers hanging on to her every word. No one would have guessed she'd invented every single thing she was saying.
Clark decided to forgo a conversation about his biological parents at 7:00 am on a Sunday morning.
"You guys never fight," he said fondly, reverting to a safe subject. "There is no way you would have been looking out the right side of the truck, not the left."
Jonathan cleared his throat and took a big swallow of his coffee. "That's not true, son. We fought all the time back then. And we have disagreements even today. Unfortunately, that is just part of being married. The trick is learning how to handle differences before they become unmanageable."
Martha, agreeing with Jonathan completely, stood up and starting clearing away the dishes. "We had a rough time just before you were born. We'd been married almost ten years, and couldn't have children, and couldn't afford to adopt one. I was brokenhearted, and I took it out on Jonathan. He wanted children just as much as I did, and didn't deserve to be on the receiving end of all my pain and disappointment. We quarreled constantly about everything, but rarely talked about what we were really upset about."
Clark raised his eyebrows in surprise. That sounded a little like Lois and him. Sometimes when they got upset with one another, they argued about everything except what was really bothering them. It had occurred to him that that was a rather unproductive way of handling their difficulties, but having never been as close to another person as he was to Lois, he did not have a lot of practice in dealing with a relationship. It was somewhat heartening to realize that even people with excellent marriages, like his parents, had problems sometimes.
Jonathan cleared his throat to catch Clark's attention. "Son, you were willing to take Lois in sickness or in health, till death do you part, just a few days ago. You need to honor that pledge now, and go to her in her time of need, no matter what the consequences are to you personally. She needs you, and only you. Hiding here in Smallville is not going to bring the two of you back to where you need to be."
Martha glanced at the clock. "We need to get ready for church, Clark. Would you like to come? Or are you going to go to Metropolis?" Her implication was hardly subtle.
Clark grimaced. His mother knew he wouldn't want to go the church. Although he grew up going to church every Sunday and Wednesday, as his super powers began to manifest themselves, he became less certain that he should attend. A few years ago, when he found out that he was from another planet, he really didn't feel he belonged in church. He wasn't sure that this God was his God, since he wasn't human. His mother thought his attitude was ludicrous, but naturally she didn't pressure him to go back. For Clark, it was just another way he felt out of step with the rest of the planet.
"I'll go to Metropolis." Clark sounded defeated. "I wouldn't be able to stand everyone asking me about Lois and then praying for me."
"I felt that way for ten years, Clark," his mother replied, rather coolly. "Every Sunday morning, every Sunday evening, every Wednesday evening, and in the prayer groups on Tuesday, everyone in that church prayed for me to have a child. Ten long years I listened to all these farmers with a dozen kids each pray for me to have a child. I gave up, but they never did."
She smiled suddenly. "And those prayers did pay off. Not really the way I expected, but a few months after we found you, I realized that God had answered those prayers, in his own time, in his own way."
Martha broke off her comments abruptly when she realized Clark was giving her an odd look. Hopefully he was reflecting on what she had said.
Clark changed the topic, moving again to safer territory. "I never thought you guys would be chasing me away from my own home," he complained.
"We're not, Clark," Martha said. "You are always welcome here. This is your home, after all. But we love Lois, too, and we want you two back together. That has to come first, before anything else. You help her remember who she loves and why, and then bring her back here for a vacation, if you want. You can break in your new bed!"
Clark reddened slightly, and Jonathan stood up quickly. "Go on, Clark, before I really get embarrassed."
Clark dashed off to his room and retrieved his Superman costume, where it still lay crumpled up on the floor. In a moment, he had changed and stood again in front of his parents.
"Good luck, son." Jonathan said. "Please let us know how you are doing."
Clark nodded somberly, and, giving his mother a kiss, was gone in a flash of red and blue. But he had no intention of going to Metropolis.
Clark spent most of the day flying, up above the clouds. He felt so alone and bereft. His mind went over the same track over and over, getting him nowhere. He tortured himself emotionally, thinking, "if only I had gone with her to sign the marriage license … if only I had grabbed her out of Lex's limousine … if only I hadn't trusted Lex, not for a minute … if only I had the past few weeks to live over again …"
Worst of all was his memories of the time between their engagement and the wedding. Lois had clearly wanted to step over the intimacy threshold once she was wearing his engagement ring, and frequently, alone in his apartment or hers, she had pushed the issue with him. But he had waited this long, and wanted to wait until they were married, not merely engaged.
Clark had never forgotten his father's counsel to wait until he was married to make love, and he just couldn't abandon that facet of his beliefs, no matter how much he loved Lois. No matter how much his body, and Lois, pressured him to.
So he had purposely put definite parameters on their behavior together, and limited Lois' actions to within them. When she tried to cross his line, he usually found a reason to leave. At the time, he had been sure that he had been doing the right thing. Now, he would sell his soul to have been able to have that one special time with the only woman he would ever love.
Clark's flight paths were truly random, and at some points during the day, he wasn't really sure where he was. All he knew was that he would not go anywhere near Metropolis. Towards the late evening (Metropolis time) he noticed that, despite his best intentions, he was directly over Metropolis.
By that time, he was emotionally drained again, and almost ready to call on that God he wasn't sure was there for him. Looking heavenward, he made a silent pact with whatever was up there that he would stop feeling sorry for himself and start taking some proactive measures towards bringing Lois and him back together again.
Having made that decision, it was a simple matter to glance down through the clouds and locate the old Van Klees mansion that had been converted into the neurological center where Lois had been sent. Clark swiftly flew down to the window of Lois' room. He had checked her in before leaving for Smallville and knew exactly which room she was in.
Fortunately, her room had French windows similar to Lois' apartment, although they were slightly smaller. Clark rapped sharply on the glass, hoping to rouse Lois from sleep without alerting the staff of his presence. He could see her sleeping on a large double bed, and as he knocked, he saw her awaken with a start.
Lois hopped out of bed immediately upon spying Clark outlined by the window frame, and unhesitatingly came over to let him in. "Awfully trusting for someone with no memory," Clark thought grumpily, but he perceived that Lois hadn't gotten to her position on the Planet staff by turning and running whenever something, or someone, new presented itself.
"Hi, Lois," he said with a smile, and he floated in through the window and set himself down next to her. He could not stop a grin from spreading across his face. Boy, it felt good to be near her again. He already felt a lot better than he had all day flying, or in Smallville.
"Hi," Lois said tentatively, not sure who this stranger flying around in blue tights and a cape was, but eager to find out. He did seem vaguely familiar to her, but she couldn't move beyond that feeling to an identity.
Clark saw her shiver a little, and noticed that the room was quite chilly for a human's comfort. And Lois' nightgown didn't offer much in the way of warmth, or coverage.
"Why don't you hop back under the covers, Lois? It is really cold in here."
Lois rolled her eyes, just a little, but complied. Crossing back over to the bed, she swung her legs under the covers, but remained sitting up.
Clark followed her, as a cat follows a piece of yarn, and sat down on the edge of the bed next to her.
"Still cold?" he asked. Lois didn't look nearly as pale and ill as she had a few days ago, and she had some light back in her eyes, but she still looked rather frail and worn out to Clark.
Lois nodded, never taking her eyes off Clark, and he reached behind him to free up his cape. Shaking it completely open, he wrapped it, and his arms, around Lois.
Lois smiled suddenly, enjoying the warmth and the attention she was getting. "Thanks." Lois realized that there was something very comforting about this man and his cape. He made her feel safe, and he wasn't bad looking, either.
"No problem. That's what I'm here for." Clark bent his head, only slightly, towards Lois'. "If she gives me any encouragement, any at all, I'm gonna kiss her," Clark thought to himself.
She did. Lois looked up at Clark, and closed her eyes. Freeing her arms and wrapping them around his neck, she pulled Clark's head further down to kiss him.
Clark didn't need a second invitation. He took her mouth with his, and kissed her with all the passion built up in him since the wedding. He used his tongue to explore the inside of Lois' mouth, and was thrilled to feel her doing to the same to his. He buried his left hand in her hair, and used his right one to lightly rub up and down her back. He kissed her until she pulled away from him slightly to catch her breath.
Clark allowed her that, and rested his forehead on hers. Cradling both sides of her head in his hands, he pushed her back just enough to look in her eyes. Smiling, he caressed her left cheek with his hand, just as he had so many times in the past.
As the pieces of the puzzle fell into place for her, Lois looked up at him, her expressive eyes large with wonder. Clark felt a surge of hope overwhelm him.
"Superman?" Lois said, questioningly.
"Yes?" His heart was in his throat, and his eyes were suspiciously moist.