By emilystarr1 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted March 2000
Summary: A tragedy in the Kent family makes Lois reconsider a choice she made long, long ago…
<< >> denotes thoughts
warning: This story is set after the death of a child. While the actual event takes place before the story begins, this story is about the aftermath, the beginning of the grief process. This warning isn't to scare anyone away from reading the story, but to hopefully keep anyone particularly sensitive on the subject from being surprised.
Lois Lane walked towards the middle of the great golden field stretching before her. In the city it had been late spring, cold and raining drearily. But here, just on the outskirts of Smallville, it was early summer, complete with sunshine beating down to warm your shoulders and breezes just cool enough to keep you from sweating.
Lois smiled, her lips sore and dry, her mouth feeling pinched and out of practice. There were a few more lines drawn on the beautiful face, and her eyes were just a little tired. But, she reflected contentedly, she had *not* gone soft. After she had quit working at the Planet, she had lived in a good gripping fear for almost six months that she would go soft. What with Perry gone and Jimmy only God knew where, she really had no reasons to stay.
She had begun to specialize in true crime, writing her books as she uncovered the mystery herself. She did her small part to fight the good fight as much as she could. Lois had gotten many a criminal put away while her husband was out saving the world.
Half an hour ago he had heard a cry for help and sharply pulled the car over, apologizing for the delay even as he took off. A bit of a belly had put something of a strain on the old suit, and Clark didn't fly with quite so much speed as he used to, but no doubt he would fly off during important conversations until his dying day.
If that day ever came.
Lois had been thinking of that more and more lately, more fear striking her heart each time she noticed a wrinkle on her face that Clark had not gained. She sat down with a plop, relaxing on the ground with the soft plantlife. She hoped she wasn't ruining part of some poor farmer's crop. She looked at the sky quietly, just thinking, wondering…but not imagining. She didn't imagine much anymore. It had been a hard year, for both of them.
Twelve year old James Perry Kent had lost his long battle with cancer just a few short weeks before. Tear sprang to Lois's eyes in the solitude of the grass or wheat or whatever it was.
She did her best to not cry in front of Clark, because she knew the pain, unimaginably, was even worse for him. Every day, for a full year and six months, Clark had watched his only son struggle, fighting for his life. And the man who could fly, who saw through walls, who saved the world, could not loosen the cancer's grip and save his son.
For the first time in his life, Clark Kent had felt completely helpless.
Lois leaned back and relaxed. After Clark's sudden departure she had driven only about five miles before she saw this field, and pulled over. She suddenly felt that she did not want to arrive at the farm by herself. She loved Clark's parents as her own — and smiled at the thought, thinking how they had taken two foundlings under their wings —but right now, she needed someone to lean on, her own private support system. Sighing, she closed her eyes. She knew he would always be there for her *now*, but she had no idea what would happen if she got old and Clark — well, *didn't*.
And sometimes that constant devotion, that sense of being "cared for", well, didn't it seem a little stifling at times? Usually, she would never find it stifling — Clark was extra careful to give Lois her freedom. But the strain of the past year had made her sick of everything.
Lois bit her lip and forced back the tears. After all, she wouldn't succumb to self-pity, even if everything *did* seem to be wrong. She looked into the great blue beyond, and wondered what would have happened if, long ago, she had taken the rocky road.
Instead of the chocolate…
Lois woke with a stiff neck and a sense of disconnection. She was in a chair… she didn't remember falling asleep in a chair! She jumped up and looked around.
"My God," she whispered softly. "It's the Planet." She had been dozing in her old chair, and now walked around to Clark's old desk, and even saw some notes in his handwriting. But all the lights were off, and there was a misty sensation almost as if she were in…
"A dream," she said, comforting herself. "It's just a dumb dream, Lois. Get your act together. I mean, if you were really at the Planet, a light would be on, at least. Janitors, nightwatchmen, there would be *somebody* around… "
Just then light flooded the building, and a door slammed as Perry White walked in, heading purposefully for his office.
"Perry!" Lois yelled his name joyfully, jogging towards him. "You have no idea how glad I am to see you."
"Well, Lois, I'm glad you're so enthusiastic about an early work day." Perry laughed. "Now, how's that story coming along?"
Lois struggled. What could she say?
"Fine, Chief. I, uh, I should have it on your desk by lunchtime."
Perry gave her a strange look. "You got some information I don't know about, Lois?"
"Oh! Oh, no." Lois tried to laugh. "I guess I'll need to gather a bit more before I can finish."
He pointed at her. "Good. You keep on this. Superman needs the Planet, and we've never let him down. That guitarist is some piece of work." Perry made a disgusted sound and marched into his office.
Lois sat with a thud at her desk. She was back at the Planet, and Superman was being sued by some jerk who said his career was over thanks to Superman's saving his life. And if she remembered correctly, she and Clark had not even started really going out yet. She was… free?
Did she really think that? And was she dead? How did she come back here? Lois had to think. She had to go home.
My apartment, she thought. I can go to my apartment! Lois laughed, and hurried up to the elevator, grabbing her purse as an afterthought. She pushed the down button and waited. Finally Lois heard the little ding, and the doors slid open. With them came Clark.
He looks good, Lois thought. She stared, not quite believing her eyes. Had Clark come back, too?
"Lois," he said. "I am so glad you're here."
She smiled. "Oh, me too. What's—"
"No." he interrupted.
"Just let me say this. I am so sorry about last night. But I remembered I'd left the oven on, and you know what a fire hazard that is—"
Lois almost laughed. This was the old Clark, all right. But this meant that she was alone. Lois just rolled her eyes and pushed past him, anxious to get away from this strange situation where it seemed as if she'd gone back in time.
Clark sighed. He'd blown it, *again*. He resolved to do something to make it up to her.
Lois looked around her in wonder. Her apartment was exactly as it had been. Except —
"Scardino," Lois groaned, and looked in distaste at the little sculpture of a tree of eyes. Just one more thing to worry about. Lois stopped in her tracks. Was it?
"I mean," she said to herself. "I was feeling trapped with Clark, and everything that's happened to us. Maybe this is a chance to change things. Maybe I was meant to give Dan more of a chance." But did she want to change things? Lois knew she wanted certain things — freedom from worry about aging, worry about Clark leaving her, worry she'd lost her independence.
But most of all Lois wanted to free herself from the pain she felt. Was Scardino the road to an easier life? But to lose the pain — that would mean losing the existence of her son. And it would also mean losing Clark, and his parents. Would the freedom be worth the price she would have to pay?
But, then again, Lois mused, if she literally changed the future by making a different decision, she would probably lose the memory of these days, along with the rest of her life with Clark. After all, wasn't that how this kind of thing usually worked? If it was, then she wouldn't know what she would be missing.
Someone knocked on the door, interrupting her thoughts. Lois rushed to answer it, revealing a tall, handsome man with dark hair and features. And a killer smile. Lois smirked.
"Well, speak of the devil," she said.
"Close," he responded, grinning. "Wanna join me for dinner?"
Dan laughed. "Your hair actually *stuck*?"
Lois nodded, laughing easily. "Yeah. The cold weather, and all that hairspray I'd used… It was an interesting way to end my graduation dance. Stuck to a lamppost. My date was so embarrassed, I think he wanted to just abandon me."
"Well, I can't imagine any guy doing that."
Lois smiled and ducked her head. This dinner was turning out to be very enjoyable. Dan was good-looking, good company, sweet, entertaining, easy to talk to…
"What are you thinking?" He smiled, and leaned forward conspirationally.
Lois blushed. "Well, uh… "
"Thinking how great I am?" He grinned crookedly, and she remembered what she didn't like about him. His egotism, for one thing.
She grinned, wryly. "Yeah, that's it. Listen, this has been great, but I'm beat. Mind if we call it a night?"
He stood, noticing the new frost in her voice, but smiling anyway. "No, not at all. I'll drive you back to your apartment."
Lois flopped onto her bed. She had decided that she hadn't died, and knew it couldn't be HG Wells. After all, usually she would see him, and usually she and Clark would be together. Lois winced. Clark. She really didn't want to think about him right now. She was in the middle of another time in her life, when she'd made a decision, and it looked like she would have to make it again. This time, it was easier in a way, since she only had to choose between *two* people. Lois groaned, thinking that it wasn't much help. She tossed in her bed, and fell into a restless sleep.
Clark was flying through the night sky, ostensibly looking for any possible trouble, but really just circling widely around Lois's apartment. His heart felt as if it were literally breaking. As Superman, he *had* to help people, no matter what Lois was trying to say. But to her, he was just running off every time she started to say something important. She hadn't even spoken to him this morning when he tried to apologize.
And as of yet, he hadn't thought of anything he could do to make it up to Lois. Except tell her the truth. Maybe it was finally time to come clean with his partner. Clark exhaled deeply, and turned towards her apartment. He'd made his decision, and this time it was final.
Lois was sitting on her apartment steps with Scardino. Earlier, she had tried calling Clark, and even walked over to his apartment, bent on telling him all about this strange affair. But the phone had been busy — again. And he wasn't at his apartment — again. What had made her think anything would have been different? When Lois had gotten back, Dan was on her steps, and she invited him in. Lois was about to close the front door of her building behind her when she felt a force pulling her back. Stunned, she turned around, then gasped as she saw a flash of red in front of her. Clark had been looking for her! There he was, watching them go into the apartment. He obviously didn't see her looking at him, and suddenly vaulted himself into the night sky. Lois swallowed, knowing what he must have thought…
"I didn't know you were there!" she called out to the sky. "I didn't know! I went looking for you, too!" She couldn't believe that in all their years of marriage he had never told her that he'd gone looking for her.
Lois sighed, feeling tears pool in her eyes at this almost-meeting. She wondered what else she didn't know about Clark Kent.
Days passed, days when Lois would call in sick since this was so weird anyway. She'd walk around Metropolis, finding another memory with each sight. She went out with Dan a couple times, savoring every moment of the newness, of the excitement he seemed to be enveloped in. She avoided even the thought of Clark, and was extra careful not to get in trouble and have to face "Superman". Conversations kept running through her mind.
<<"That's the point. Clark's chocolate. I mean, it's good, it's good and all, but, you know, you've had it… I'm telling you, Lois, chocolate will always be there."
<<"No one knows how long they've got. Anyways, it's not the years that count, it's the moments. Right now, as they happen."
But, Lois thought, the years *did* count… moments could make up years and years of important stuff. Like kisses, and proposals, and arguments, and writing, and eating and walking and having a child and looking. Really, nothing could compare to the years.
Lois remembered one awful night at the hospital, not long before James had died…
<<"Lois, no matter what happens tomorrow, we have tonight. We have him there, talking with us and loving us. And no matter what, we have each other. We have been tested so many times… Every time we've come through. I know that we'll make it."
Clark had tightened his grip on her, and even though only moments ago she had been ready to lose it, she went back into the hospital room and they all talked, a talk so sweet and poignant she knew she'd never forget it.
She even smiled now, thinking of that night that had begun so terribly and ended so beautifully. It was true, what Clark had said. Even though her son had died three short days later, that talk was imprinted more strongly in her memory that all the times of pain and suffering.
Lois looked up into the sky, and saw a flash of red. She smiled, and detoured into the nearest grocery store. She suddenly had an overwhelming craving for chocolate ice cream…
Lois woke slowly, but with a smile on her face. A flash of the sun's rays blinded her for a moment, until a sturdy body blocked her view. He adjusted his glasses and smiled at her.
"Sleep well? You gave me a little scare back there, when I couldn't find the car."
She stared, drinking in the sight of him.
<<God, you are so beautiful.
"Mmm-hmm?" he answered, reaching out a hand to help lift her up.
Lois stepped in closer and wrapped her arms around his body, snuggling as close to him as she could get. She tilted her face so she could see his eyes.
"I would not give up these years we've had together for anything. *Anything*." She smiled, really smiled for the first time in months. Lois reached up and kissed him lovingly, lips lingering on lips. "I love you."
He was touched. "I love you, too, Lois. Always and forever."
Lois kissed him again, then grinned. "Well, until then, what's say we hurry up to get to your parents'? We're already hours late."
Clark smiled and pulled her even closer. "Then I guess it doesn't matter if we're a little bit later."
When they finally arrived at the farm, only Martha was there to greet them.
"Jonathan went looking for you, actually. He should be checking in here soon. What took you two so long?"
Lois and Clark exchanged an amused glance. Lois ducked her head, grinning to herself as she sat at Martha's kitchen table beside Clark and covered his hand with hers. It was good to be back.
Martha was bustling around, making tea for them, when she stepped over to the freezer and smiled at Lois.
"Would you like some ice cream, honey? Jonathan picked me up some rocky road at the store yesterday. It's really good." She spoke in coaxing tones, forcing a smile in an attempt to act normal to the grieving parents, and obviously still working through her own horror at losing her only grandson. Lois could see tears pooling in Martha's eyes before she turned away. Lois jumped up and held Martha in a tight embrace.
"I'm sorry, honey," Martha wept, clutching Lois like a lifeline. "I don't mean to upset you, but this is all so *hard*… "
"Oh, Mom," Lois laughed gently at the unnecessary apology, holding the older woman tenderly. "I, of all people, know. There are good days and bad days. Today is a better day for me, a little worse for you. But I think I finally know that he's okay, and that helps a lot." She squeezed Martha a little harder, and echoed her husband's sentiments. "I know we'll get through this."
Martha smiled and reached out for the tissue Clark had been holding out for her, sniffing and reaching out to hold onto her son. "Honey, how are you doing?"
He had tears in his eyes, and had to work to unclench his jaw. "Okay, Mom. Like Lois said, there are good days and bad days."
Martha smiled again, sadly, and turned toward the counter. "Oh, look at that," she exclaimed. "I've gone and left the ice cream out on the counter. Let's say we all have some before it melts, while we wait for your father to get back."
Clark grinned and settled back into his seat, enjoying the feel of Lois once again slipping her hand into his. Martha set heaping bowls of ice cream filled with chunks of chocolate and marshmallow before them, and they all ate silently for a moment, licking their spoons and exchanging smiles. It was a pleasant silence for them all, and Lois didn't feel she needed to spoil the moment by saying that as much as she liked this, chocolate would always be her favorite. Just knowing that was enough for her.