By Wendy Richards <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted March 28, 1998
Summary: If you've always wondered what happened in the episode "And the Answer Is," between the time Superman revived Lois and the proposal in Centennial Park, read on …
Author's Note: The inspiration for this story came after I watched ATAI (for the second time only - *many* thanks, Jenny!). I started wondering exactly what happened between Lois awakening and the now-legendary walk in Centennial Park
All characters are the property of Warner Bros, December 3rd Productions, ABC (?), and anyone else who may have a legal claim on them. I am only borrowing them, and as I am certainly not making any money out of this, there is no point in claiming breach of copyright!
"You *froze* Lois, Clark! I still don't believe you did that!" Martha faced her son across the living area of Lois's apartment, an expression of acute horror on her face.
"Yes, son, you could have *killed* her!" Jonathan added, equally appalled at Clark's action.
"Do you guys think I don't know that?" Clark retorted angrily. He found his teeth beginning to chatter slightly, in a sensation he'd never experienced before but recognised as delayed shock. He was well aware that Lois could have died; he was well aware that all four of them had almost died. And he knew that he had to take the responsibility on himself for what had happened; after all, if he wasn't Superman, then his parents and Lois would never have been in any danger. It had been sheer quick thinking on Martha's part, and a good aim on Jonathan's, which had enabled them to escape from the lead-lined room which would have been their tomb.
After Lois had regained consciousness, Clark had flown her swiftly back to her apartment, leaving his parents to follow by taxi. He had immediately telephoned her doctor, and had stayed with her, still dressed as Superman, until his parents had arrived.
They hadn't spoken much, he and Lois; she had still been dazed and unfocused from having been frozen. She had managed to ask whether his - Clark's - parents were safe, and he had told her, over and over, how courageous she was and how much he loved and admired her for what she had done. He didn't, however, think she was likely to remember any of that conversation later.
When his parents had arrived, Clark had flown off to deal with Mazik and to hand the double (and almost six times) murderer over to the police. He had then returned to the apartment as Clark, and been hugely reassured to find that the doctor had said that Lois had suffered no damage or injury, and that she would be fine after a long sleep. She was now sedated and fast asleep in the bedroom, and Clark was facing his parents' reaction to the events of the day.
To be honest, he thought, he couldn't really blame them. It had been a crazy thing to do, and even in retrospect, knowing that Lois hadn't been harmed by the experience, he wasn't sure if he would do the same thing again. The long, agonising moments between his thawing her and those first words of hers to him… "I heard you… calling me…"; they had been the longest seconds of his life.
"Mom, Dad, I *know* it was dangerous, but I didn't know what else to do," he pointed out in a strained voice, the fear and tension of the day clearly taking its toll on him.
Martha noticed that his face, unusually for him, was a greyish hue, and she hurried to his side. "Honey, I know it was hard for you too, but you have to understand that we just… we find it hard to accept that you took that risk," she said in a gentler tone.
Clark accepted her hug, then pulled back and said, "If I hadn't pretended to go along with Mazik's orders, you two would have been killed."
Jonathan nodded in understanding, but said, "Clark, didn't you think that he might have killed us anyway, despite your doing as he asked?"
Clark sighed. "Yeah, I guessed he might - he'd already double-crossed me once. But I… I couldn't take the chance - I *had* to see if there was some way I could get you out alive! And since he had you somewhere lead-lined I knew I'd never be able to find you in time."
"Not even by scanning for places you *can't* see into?" Martha asked.
Clark shook his head as he paced the room, feeling tense and frustrated as he remembered his desperate seeking for a solution earlier that day. "No, Mom - have you any idea just how many lead-lined basements and shelters there are in Metropolis? Remnants of the cold war, I guess, but there're just too many for me to fly around breaking into all of them. I dismissed that idea as soon as I thought of it."
"But to risk Lois's life…" Jonathan interjected again, his plump face drawn with concern at what might have occurred.
"I *love* you guys!" Clark exclaimed. "Do you really think I could let anything happen to you - especially as it was all because of me… who I am?"
"But you love Lois, too," Martha pointed out.
<Yeah, more than my life> Clark thought. The past few days had shown him that, particularly when he had thought that she had chosen Dan Scardino instead of him. He hadn't wanted to stay in Metropolis without Lois: he had known that his life was worthless if she wasn't with him. It had been an appalling decision to have to make, those few seconds in her apartment when she had pleaded with him to take the risk and freeze her.
"You know I love her," he told his parents. "She is… all I ever wanted, the only woman I want to spend my life with. But you two are the best parents I could ever have had. I… just couldn't…" He broke off, too distressed to continue, imagining the people he loved most in the world lying dead with him powerless to save them.
"Clark," Jonathan began gently, crossing to put his hand on his son's shoulder. "We love you too. You are the best son Martha and I could have had. We couldn't love you more if you were our own flesh and blood. But we… your Mom and I… we've had a good life. We've had long, happy years together. You and Lois…" He paused, finding it difficult to continue. The atmosphere in the room was highly charged with emotion.
Martha took up where her husband had left off. "You two…you're just kids. You have your whole lives in front of you. We've had ours. You could have just told that person…Mazik… to do his worst."
Clark stared at her, and from her to his father, who was nodding in agreement. He couldn't believe that his parents would have been willing to sacrifice their lives for him and Lois. He made a little incoherent choking sound, and threw his arms around both his parents, holding them tight for a long moment.
After a while, regaining his composure, he pulled away. "You *know* I couldn't have done that," he told them firmly, in what he belatedly recognised as his 'Superman' voice.
Clark drew in a deep breath and crossed to lean against Lois's breakfast bar. He seemed to stare at some far-off point for a few moments; remembering? Martha wondered. Or just seeking inspiration? He removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes in a weary gesture, then faced his parents.
"It was actually Lois's idea, you know - not that that absolves me from any blame, I know," he told them. "My first thought was to get her as far away from here as possible - I told her to get on the first plane out of Metropolis. I'd have taken her myself, but Mazik only gave me thirty minutes and I needed to figure out how I was going to find you two." He paused, remembering his first moments of panic and fear in the newsroom. "When I told Lois, and begged her to get on a plane… she refused. She asked me to get - Superman - to meet her here… she'd had an idea. I would have tried anything… so I met her."
He walked to the centre of the living room. "She stood just here, and quietly asked me to freeze her so she'd appear to be dead. I… refused, told her how dangerous it was, but she said… she told me I hadn't seen how Clark - I - was hurting, and that she couldn't stand by and let …"
He tailed off, remembering his feelings as he had looked at Lois, into that beloved face, knowing that she was asking him to do something which might kill her, but which also just might save his parents. She had been close to tears; she had not, he hoped, been able to see just how close he had also been.
He had never loved her more than at that moment. He hadn't even been able to tell her that, of course, because he'd been dressed as Superman and she still didn't know his secret - of all the ironies!
He continued his narration. "It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. She closed her eyes, and I… I couldn't bear the thought that she might die and I wouldn't have a proper chance to say good-bye, tell her how I feel, so… I touched her." He closed his eyes briefly and swallowed. "She stared at me - I thought for a second she'd realised I was Clark. I wanted to tell her… I wasn't sure if she *had* guessed something, but it wasn't the right time to talk about it." He paused again, then added, "When I tell her, I want to do it properly, to answer all her questions and convince her that I didn't deliberately try to deceive her. I didn't want a two-second conversation in the middle of all that mess."
"I can understand that, Clark," Martha said softly. "So - do you think she does know?"
"No," he replied. "I'm pretty sure she doesn't - she hasn't said anything about it since, and I know Lois: she couldn't keep something like that to herself. She'd have to talk to me about it, tell me what she thought of me for not telling her." He smiled softly, reflecting on all the traits he loved about Lois: her impatience, her swift temper when she thought someone was holding out on her… her loyalty, courage, determination and sheer radiance.
"I am going to tell her, though," he said firmly. "As soon as she's able to listen."
"You should, son," Jonathan agreed. "After all she's done for us, for you… she deserves to know."
Clark let himself back into Lois's apartment early the next morning, using her spare key, and closed the door quietly.
After concluding their conversation the previous evening, his mother had insisted that Lois would probably sleep better if left in peace, "and that means she doesn't need you hovering over her all night!" she had said to Clark.
He had protested, of course, pointing out that he could keep an eye on Lois, and listen to her breathing, without even going into her room.
Martha was unimpressed by this. "Just you give the girl some privacy, Clark. You can talk to her tomorrow. I'll stay here tonight," she had insisted.
Clark had reluctantly given in, but had gone briefly into her bedroom to check on her before he'd left. He'd floated rather than walked over to the bed, so as not to disturb her, and allowed his super-senses to check her body temperature. He'd been relieved to find that it was normal. Very gently, in a kiss which was gossamer-light, he had pressed his lips to her forehead, and then drifted out of the room again.
He hadn't slept much that night: after tossing and turning on the sofa for a couple of hours while contemplating what *might* have happened to those he loved, he had changed into the Super-suit and gone flying. He had ended up spending much of the night rescuing people and their belongings from a flood somewhere in Korea. He hadn't minded; apart from his belief that he was there on Earth to help (as he'd declared in court only a few days earlier - was it really such a short time ago? he wondered incredulously), it helped to take his mind off Lois.
Now, he paused inside the door and listened. He heard his mother's breathing and spotted her, fast asleep, on the sofa. Lois, on the other hand, was awake.
He walked softly to her bedroom door and knocked quietly. After a moment or two he heard her voice, still sleepy, enquire, "Who is it?"
"It's me. Clark," he replied. "Can I come in?"
"Yeah - of course," she said, sounding a little more awake now. He opened the door and went in, eager to see her, longing to hold her, if she'd let him.
Lois gave him a hesitant smile as she struggled to sit up in bed. "My hair's such a mess," she said apologetically, seeming a little embarrassed, "and I'm wearing this sloppy old T-shirt - not really how I wanted to look next time I got you in my bedroom." She gave him a slightly coy look, but Clark shook his head briefly in denial of her words. Didn't she know she *always* looked beautiful to him? "Who undressed me?" she asked, as if the thought had just occurred to her.
"My mom," he reassured her.
"Oh. Oh." Lois wasn't entirely sure whether she was relieved or disappointed that it hadn't been Clark. She was then struck by another thought. "So - Martha and Jonathan - they're OK then?"
"Yes. Very OK," Clark emphasised. "And very grateful to you. As I also am."
Lois shook her head, denying the need for gratitude. "I told Superman, it was the only thing to do. If Mazik thought I *was*dead, you and Superman might have a chance of getting your parents out. And it must have worked. I remember Superman being there when I woke up from being frozen."
She thought for a moment; her memories of the events immediately after her 'resurrection' were sketchy. "It was really weird, though, Clark; I remember *you* calling me, pleading with me to come back to you. But when I opened my eyes, Superman was holding me." She shrugged. "I guess I wasn't in my full senses, so maybe I thought it was you because I *wanted* it to be you?" Lois looked at Clark enquiringly.
Clark stared back at her. Her eyes, like soft brown pools, made him want to melt in front of her. How could he refuse this woman anything? He loved her. He wanted to shout it from the rooftops. But he was aware that her question posed a more immediate problem. He *had* to talk to her, to tell her the truth once and for all.
But his super-hearing picked up the sound of his mother stirring in the other room. Any minute now, he knew, she would come in to check on her patient. And Clark did not want to risk being interrupted in this conversation. He bent and kissed Lois softly, lingeringly, on her lips. She clung to him for a moment before he pulled away.
"You should rest, Lois, and I shouldn't disturb you. I just… needed to see that you were OK. You nearly died yesterday. I… I need to be sure that you're safe."
If she'd had any doubts that Clark loved her as she loved him, Lois thought, those doubts would have been dispelled by his words, and the intent expression on his face as he spoke. His eyes caressed her, and somehow it felt as real as if it had been his hands.
"I'll go now, Lois, but I'll come back this evening if you'll let me."
"Please," she whispered.
"OK," Clark replied. "How about going for a walk -Centennial Park, maybe? I'd like to talk - there's something I *really* want to tell you…"