By Rose <Rcpeaches2@aol.com>
Submitted February 2000
Summary: What if … when Dillinger fired his gun in the episode "That Old Gang of Mine," Lois had been shot instead of Clark?
Dillinger raised the gun. Clark froze.
If he advanced toward Dillinger, Dillinger would surely fire. If he stood still, Lois could be hurt. If he advanced at superspeed…
Clark took a step forward. He felt Lois' body hit his at the same moment he heard the gun fire. Then he heard her cry out his name.
She was on the ground. He hadn't moved. There was blood everywhere, on his clothes, on the floor. It deepened the already deep red of her dress. "Clark!" she cried frantically, "Clark, you're hurt…"
Clark looked to where Lois was reaching. There was a bullet hole in his jacket, which was soaked through with blood.
But he couldn't bleed… Could he?
Lois was still crying for him, yelling for someone to help him. *Why was she still on the floor?* he wondered. Then, suddenly, he knew why.
He had not been shot. She had.
Clark Kent paced the length of the waiting room. He was worried about Lois, terribly worried. The doctor had said that she would be fine, that the bullet had passed cleanly through her femur. She would have to stay off of her leg for a week, and then she'd be up and hobbling on crutches in pursuit of her next byline. But Clark was worried for other reasons. Lois would heal this time. But next time…
Lois had a way of finding danger. She seemed to have a magnetism about her; a magnetism that attracted not only men, but every minute threat in the entirety of Metropolis and beyond. She was headstrong and fearless. And it scared Clark to death.
*How was it that she managed to get into so much trouble?* Clark mused. On an almost weekly basis, Clark, or rather Superman, saved her from what otherwise would certainly be a deadly situation. It terrified him beyond reason, the thought that someday he wouldn't be able to reach her in time. Someday, he might be a second too late, and in the space of a heartbeat, he would lose the woman he loved more than anything.
He loved her. From the day he met her, Clark belonged to her, heart and soul. She was his partner, his best friend, and his soulmate. He couldn't live without her.
Yet he stood and watched in horror while she was shot. He did nothing to save her from being killed. What kind of man was he?
Lois Lane laid on the hospital bed with her eyes squeezed tightly shut in pain. Her leg was aching badly, but something else hurt worse. She'd almost lost Clark. She'd dragged him into that casino so that she could chase after her Pulitzer. *Her* Pulitzer. A testament to her selfishness. Clark had been her partner for a year and a half now, but she still could not share a Pulitzer.
Clark was always looking out for her. Although it made her a little crazy sometimes, she secretly loved it. No one had ever taken the time to look out for her before, certainly not her father, or her mother. There was Perry, Lois had always shared a special relationship with him, more father/daughter than editor/reporter, but even Perry would step out of the way when Lois was headed for trouble. Clark was different. Clark had saved her life on more occasions than she could count. Almost as many times as Superman.
Once again, Lois had dragged Clark into one of her half-baked schemes. Clark was always telling her that she took far too many risks, that she was going to get herself killed. She'd lead him into dangerous situations before, but this time she went too far. She'd almost killed Clark. How could she ever expect him to forgive her?
Clark drove Lois home from the hospital in her Jeep, which he'd finally thought to fly back to the casino and pick up. Despite her protests and insistence that she could make it to her apartment on her crutches, Clark carried her to her apartment and laid her down in her bed.
"Clark, I don't need rest," Lois said the whole way. "I'm okay, really."
"You've been through quite a lot tonight, and look," Clark said, gesturing to her window, "it's morning now." The faint light of the sun was just barely visible, reflected off the windows of nearby buildings. "You need sleep, and the doctor said that those pills he gave you would hit you like a ton of bricks. I'm surprised you didn't fall asleep on the way home." Lois moved to protest, but Clark took her gently by the shoulders and pushed her back down on the bed. "Sleep," he ordered, trying to look stern. He tried not to show Lois how truly frightened he was.
Lois couldn't help but grin. "Yes, Martha," she teased. Clark turned out Lois' bedroom light, and quietly closed the door.
In the kitchen, he put a kettle of water on the stove, picked up the phone, and dialed the number for the Daily Planet. He knew Perry would be there, despite the early hour. He filled Perry in on the shooting, and told him Lois was fine and in bed asleep, although his heart was screaming otherwise. Clark promised to send him the story the minute he had it written, but Perry objected. Lois and Clark both had quite a few personal days left, neither one of them ever seemed to take a day off. After being ordered to show neither hide nor hair in the newsroom for the next three days, Clark hung up the phone, prepared his tea, and sat down to think.
He didn't know what to do. He was the strongest man on the planet, and Lois still got hurt. He could have saved her, should have saved her, but then everyone would know his secret. Everyone would know he was Superman.
Lois would know he was Superman.
Not that knowing would have been so bad for Superman. Lois loved Superman. But if Lois knew… would Clark matter? Clark knew Lois cared for him. They were good friends, even best friends. But she didn't love him. Not the way that he loved her, not the way he needed her to love him. If Lois knew that he was Superman, it would destroy any chance of Lois ever loving Clark.
He was being selfish, he knew that. He had put his love's life at risk because he cared more that she love him than that she was alive. How could he ever look her in the eye again? Why *should* she love him? He didn't deserve her love.
Just then, Lois' screams disrupted his reverie.
She was back in the casino. Clark was at her side. Dillinger entered, gun in hand. He took aim.
Lois tried to move. Tried to scream. She was frozen.
She heard the shot ring out. She stared, helpless, unable to make a move to help her fallen partner.
He was dead. The blood oozed from the hole in his jacket, soaking his chest, soaking his clothes, soaking the floor.
He was surrounded by red. The redness seemed to come alive in front of her eyes. It wrapped around Clark, spread across the floor.
His jacket was too big now, bright red with blood. He seemed to drown in it, his huge jacket. It billowed around him. It billowed like a cape.
Lois found her voice.
Clark was up out of his seat and at Lois's side in an instant. She was crying in her sleep, twisted uncomfortably in bed. Her arms were wrestling with her sheets, her hands reaching out for something. She was screaming his name.
"Shhhh, Lois, baby, I'm here," Clark whispered, pulling her to his chest and cradling her. He rocked her gently as she slowly eased out of her dream state.
"Clark! Oh, God, Clark," she sobbed, wrapping her arms around his neck. She held him just as close as he held her.
"I'm here, Lois, I'm not leaving you."
"It was so awful, Clark. There was so much blood…"
Clark's heart clenched within his chest. She was dreaming about being shot. Of course he couldn't expect her to just get over it. She was suffering. He tightened his hold on her, being careful not to hurt her more with the pressure of his grasp.
"I'm so sorry, Clark," Lois whispered between shaky breaths.
"Lois, you have nothing to be sorry for," Clark said hoarsely, shutting his eyes against the tears that were collecting there.
"I tried to stop him, Clark, I really did. But I couldn't move…"
"It was just a nightmare, Lois. He can't hurt you anymore."
"He was going to shoot, and I tried to stop him…"
"I won't let anyone hurt you again, ever."
"And then you were lying there…"
"There was so much blood… so much blood…"
"He shot you, Clark. You were bleeding." Lois jumped suddenly in his arms, as if startled. "There was a hole in your jacket."
Lois pulled away from him, and looked at him with teary eyes. She sniffled. He didn't move. He was searching for an explanation.
Lois moved away from him, slightly, keeping one arm around his neck. The other arm moved down. She pressed her hand to his chest, and then moved it down lower. Her fingers pressed down on his lower abdomen, right over where she was sure there had been a bullet hole. She could've sworn she saw a bullet hole.
"You were shot. I saw the hole."
Clark wet his lips. He'd managed to pull his jacket off quickly, using it to absorb the blood from Lois' leg before the paramedics got there. No one else had noticed the hole, and fortunately, there wasn't one in his shirt. His shirt had been close enough to his body to be protected by his aura. He'd hoped Lois had forgotten about it.
"There *was* a hole," Clark said slowly, trying to give himself time to come up with an explanation. "But the blood wasn't mine. It was yours."
At least that much was the truth.
"The paramedic said that the bullet passed through your leg and hit me. That's why there was a hole in the jacket. But, um, I was wearing my pager underneath my jacket… and the bullet hit the pager…" Clark reached quickly behind him, to where his pager was hooked to his belt. He pushed his thumb into the center of it, making an indentation. He pulled it around for Lois to see.
"See? The paramedic said that when the bullet passed through your leg, it lost enough momentum so that it didn't shatter the pager completely. Otherwise, the bullet would've killed me."
Clark inhaled sharply. *What a stupid excuse, Kent. She'll never buy it. It's almost as bad as the Choco Chocolate Monster Chip ice cream excuse you used for the warehouse fire the other day.*
Lois gazed at the pager in Clark's hand, slowly absorbing the information. Her fingers still pressed at his abdomen. He was solid. He was alive. Slowly, she brought her eyes back up to his.
She could see the concern in his eyes. *I've put him through so much* she thought, swallowing the lump that filled her throat. *I almost killed him. He's lucky to be alive.*
Lois wrapped her arms around his neck tightly once more, glad she still had him to hold.
It was midnight. Clark had spent the day at Lois's apartment, making sure she was alright. Finally, after reassuring him that she was fine, and that she'd call him if she needed anything, he left her apartment and headed for home. But he couldn't sleep. One of the few things Clark hated about being Superman was that he didn't have to sleep, even after having been awake for the past 48 hours. Of course, it had its advantages. When there was a lot of trouble in the city, he could go for a long time without sleep. But he'd already been patrolling. The city was quiet. Except for a few lurking gangsters, for whom he'd scoured the neighborhood to no avail, nobody needed Superman.
He tried to read, but found he couldn't concentrate. There was nothing but infomercials on television, and he didn't need a Thigh-Master or an Abdominizer. Finally, he picked up the phone.
"Hi, Honey! I read your story on that warehouse fire. Nice work… both of you."
There was a brief silence.
"So how long do I have to wait before you tell me what's wrong?"
"What? Nothing's wrong, Mom… Well, not really. Everything's fine now."
"Don't lie to me, Clark Jerome," Martha said in a tone that Clark knew meant business. "Do you really think you can fool me?"
Clark sighed. "No Ma'am."
"Well, then, tell me what's wrong. What's got you so upset?"
"Lois was shot, Mom."
"What?" Martha was alarmed. "Jonathan, pack the bags, we're going to Metropolis," Clark heard his mother call to his father, muffled by her hand over the receiver. Clark never understood why she did that. She knew he could hear her anyway.
"Mom, don't worry. She's okay. The bullet went through her leg. She's at home recovering."
Martha sighed, relieved. "Thank heavens. So, you're upset because Superman didn't get to her fast enough to save her."
"No… Well, yes. But it's not how you think."
"Clark, honey, there are going to be times when bad things happen and Superman just can't get there in time. You can't be everywhere, honey. You can't save everyone all the time, even Lois…"
"I know that Mom. But it's not that."
"Then what is it?"
"I got there. I was with her. I saw the whole thing happen. And I didn't…" Clark's voice cracked. He swallowed hard.
"What happened, baby?"
Clark told his mother about Dillinger and the other gangsters. He told her about the whole story, and about how he and Lois wound up at the casino. He told her how he stood there and watched Lois get shot, rather than revealing himself as Superman. Finally, he ended his story, spent from reliving the whole horrible scenario. He waited for his mother to say something. He was scared of what she thought of him.
Martha took a deep breath. She thought a minute, choosing her words carefully before proceeding. "Honey, I don't understand. You said Dillinger was aiming at you?"
"Then how was Lois shot?"
"She jumped on me, I think. I was hit too."
Martha paused. Clark froze. When Martha finally spoke, Clark could hear the laughter in her voice.
"Don't take this the wrong way, honey, but you really can be a lunkhead sometimes."
"Honey, why do you think Lois jumped on you?" Clark said nothing. Slowly, spelling it out for Clark, Martha continued. "Honey, she was trying to push you out of the way. She was trying to save you."
*Oh God.* Clark fought to absorb this new information. Lois was trying to save him. But he didn't need saving. He was Superman.
Martha could sense Clark struggling. "Honey, she loves you. Why else would she try to stop a bullet for you?"
The words were lost on Clark. He was lost in his own world again, his mind reeling with the implications of his mother's statement. Lois had tried to save him, and got hurt in the process.
Clark was always worried that Lois would get hurt because of Superman. If anyone realized how close her relationship with Superman was, even Lois, then she would instantly become a target. Criminals would be standing in line, waiting to use her to get to him. So he'd kept it a secret, in order to protect her.
But Lois had still gotten hurt.
Lois had gotten hurt because of his secret, only not the way he had thought she would. She almost died, because she thought Clark was vulnerable. She tried to save him because she thought the bullet could kill him. If she had known he was Superman, she wouldn't have put herself at risk. She'd almost died because Clark was Superman, but not the way he had thought. She almost died because he wasn't honest with her.
He may as well have pulled the trigger himself.
Lois couldn't sleep. Whenever she tried, her dreams haunted her; dreams of Clark drowning in a blanket of red. She couldn't close her eyes without the sight of her best friend lying dead before her.
Her eyes were swollen from crying continuously since Clark left. She was almost glad he had left; she couldn't bear looking at his sad brown eyes, knowing that she was the one who had made them so sad.
She had to do something to keep herself busy. She briefly considered going into the Planet, and getting some late night work done, but she knew Perry would have her hide if she came in before her forced vacation was over. She decided it wasn't worth the risk. The casino had been shut down after the shooting, and Dillinger, Capone, and the others had gone into hiding. Maybe, she guessed, if she went back to the casino and had a look around, she would find a clue as to where they were hiding.
*It's worth a shot,* she thought. *Hopefully, once these jerks are put away, Clark and I can put this whole thing behind us.*
After placing a call to Bobby Bigmouth, Lois called a cab, and sat out on the front stoop to wait. In her head, she listed everything she knew about Dillinger, Capone, and Bonnie and Clyde. Fingerprints had confirmed that they were the genuine article. Professor Hamilton, a scientist studying DNA modification, believed that it was possible to restructure DNA and short-circuit aggressive behavior. Lois was almost certain Hamilton was responsible for regenerating the gangsters. She had the "who" and the "what." Now if she could only figure out the "where," "why," and "how." She decided to start with the "where."
Clark had found a movie ticket stub from the cineplex that Dillinger dropped, after they had robbed the bank. Maybe something was left at the gambling club that would lead her to Hamilton's lab.
Ten minutes later, Lois was struggling to get out of the cab. Hobbs Street was poorly lit, making it easy for her to pick the lock on the door, and creep into the casino as quietly as the crutches would allow. The casino was completely dark, and the lack of windows prevented the moonlight from helping her out. She reached into her purse, drawing out a small flashlight, which she held in her mouth as she hobbled to where the shooting had taken place.
There were still blood stains on the carpet where she had fallen. She focused the light on the floor, working her way slowly to the door where Al Capone had entered. She didn't really know what she was looking for, but whatever it was, she wasn't finding it. She moved around to the bar, scanning the floor, the counter, the shelves where the bottles of alcohol were stored— anywhere that Dillinger may have touched. She found nothing.
Lois shifted her weight on the crutches. Not being able to move at top speed and the hindrance of the crutches sure wasn't making her work any easier. She decided to rest her crutches against a stool, and try her luck walking, hopping on her good leg when necessary. She found that she was able to do it, uncomfortably, but not unreasonably so.
Having shed her crutches, she hobbled more quickly toward the craps table and slot machines. Still nothing. Frustrated, she turned back, and was sliding toward a large roulette wheel using the slot machines for support, when she felt the cool metal barrel of a gun against her back.
Clark was sitting on the ceiling with his elbow on his knees and his head in his hands. He knew he had to tell Lois. She deserved to know the truth, *needed* to know it. But how could he tell her?
All this time, he'd worked side-by-side with Lois. They became friends, best friends, and maybe even more. Lois grew to care about him, genuinely, instead of just tolerating "the hack-from-nowheresville," as she did when they first met. Most of all, she trusted him. She trusted him to be honest with her, to respect her, and not to hurt her. But he'd destroyed all that.
He knew that she'd be furious with him. Or worse, she'd be so star-struck by the thought of working with Superman that he'd never see the real Lois Lane again, only the phony sugar-coated version of herself that she allowed Superman to see. Either way, he had blown all chance of developing a real relationship with her, and of ever truly having a "normal" life.
He thought of her eyes, and all the times he'd looked deep into them, trying to get her to see the truth. He'd wished sometimes that she would see past the glasses. He wished she could see the real man behind the glasses, and behind the cape. He wished that she would recognize him for who he truly was, for what was truly in his soul. *She* was in his soul. She was a part of him. A part of him that was almost killed by his two alter-egos— a mild-mannered reporter, and a cool-headed superhero. She didn't even really know him, really. She knew the superhero, she knew the reporter, but she didn't know the *man.*
He'd seen every side of her. He'd seen her brilliance, her temper, her unfaltering courage, and her unfaltering stubbornness. He'd seen past her walls, into the woman who desperately craved love, and who had so much love to offer. She'd allowed him, in her friendship, to melt the ice around her heart, and share a part of her that Clark didn't think anyone else had truly shared.
And he'd offered her a pair of glasses, and a flashy cape.
*She deserves more than that.* Clark set his jaw against the lump of regret that blocked his throat. *If it costs me everything I have, she'll have the truth.*
He owed her that much.
"You know, you're a pretty gutsy broad." Dillinger finished securing the knots that bound her to the barstool. "I woulda thought you'da stayed outta here after I shot ya. But you just can't get enough, can ya?"
Dillinger smiled at her in a way that made her stomach turn, the same way he smiled when he offered to make her head hostess. "You'll never get away with this," she spat. "Superman will be here any second."
"Superman, eh?" Dillinger chuckled, taunting her. "Where was Little Boy Blue the other night, then? Huh?"
Lois didn't know what to say. Where *had* he been that night? He had never failed to save either Lois or Clark in the past. Why didn't he come when they both needed him the most? In fact, she hadn't seen him at all since the shooting…
"Oh, he'll be here, trust me." Lois forced her doubts down to the pit of her stomach. Superman wouldn't let anything happen to her.
Dillinger grinned again. "Maybe he will. But it won't matter, Cutie. It'll be too late. It's a shame I gotta kill ya, but you just can't seem to mind your own business."
"You won't get away with this…" Lois started again, but Dillinger pressed the gun to her forehead, and positioned his finger on the trigger. Again, he grinned, a big toothy grin.
Clark flew slowly toward Lois's apartment, trying to plan out the conversation. He practiced, quietly saying the words to himself. "Lois, I'm Superman."
He'd thought he was invulnerable. But each time he saw Lois's face in his mind's eye, the inevitable hurt expression and angry tears that would follow, it felt as if a band of Kryptonite had seized his heart. He prayed to whomever was out there, whomever was stronger and more powerful than him, that Lois's pain would be lessened eventually, and that she wouldn't hate him after a while. He didn't bother to pray that his pain would be lessened. Without Lois, even God was helpless to ease his suffering.
He arrived at her apartment, and stepped gently off of her windowsill into her living room. It was dark. *Of course she would be sleeping,* he realized. *It's the middle of the night.*
But Clark couldn't wait any longer. He had to tell her now, or he might never be able to gather the courage again. He walked slowly to her bedroom, like a prisoner walking to his execution. His palms were sweating. He rubbed his hands on his tights, trying to rid himself of the strange and offending sensation.
She wasn't in her bed.
He turned on the bedroom light and looked again, as if bad eyesight had been the problem. The bed was empty, the sheets thrown back.
"Lois?" Clark called. His voice sounded hollow in the empty apartment. He quickly searched the apartment for her. Her purse and her crutches weren't there. Where could she have gone?
A quick flight proved she wasn't sneaking in some late-night work at the Planet, nor was she in any of the other places he thought she might go in the middle of the night. He saw no sign of her, anywhere.
He was getting more and more worried by the second. Gangsters were roaming the city, and Lois was nowhere to be found.
He was on his way back to Lois's apartment when he heard her scream for help. He almost cried. He was not going to fail her twice.
Lois squeezed her eyes shut. She forced herself to block out the image of his finger straining on the trigger. He was pressing the barrel firmly against her forehead, so hard it felt like the force of it alone could kill her. She inhaled and held it, waiting for the gun to fire.
Suddenly, the pressure disappeared.
Then came the tell-tale sonic boom.
She was saved.
She kept her eyes closed for another second, and then opened them. A familiar pair of concerned brown eyes were looking at her intently, as gentle hands worked at the knots in the ropes.
"Superman! Where's Dillinger?" Lois queried, rubbing her rope-burned wrists.
"Back where he belongs, in jail. Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Thanks for helping me."
Clark smiled, a sad smile. "You're welcome, Lois. I'm glad to help you."
Lois studied his face intently. Something felt very wrong. "Superman?"
Again, the sad smile. "Lois, we have to talk…"
Clark sat down on the floor, pushing his cape out behind him so as not to sit on it. He pulled his knees up to his chest. He wrapped his arms around his knees, and took a deep breath, preparing.
Lois watched him. An acute sense of wrongness plagued her. She was frightened of whatever Superman was going to say. What if he was mad at her?
*Oh no… He knows about the shooting. He knows I nearly killed Clark,* Lois thought. *He can't even look at me! He keeps staring at his boots so that he doesn't have to look at me!* Lois's eyes filled with tears. She had nearly lost Clark, now she was going to lose Superman. If only she'd never brought Clark to the casino!
Superman looked up sharply at the sound of Lois sniffling. *She's crying. I've made her cry,* Clark thought, and he felt his own heart breaking.
"Lois—" Clark leaned forward, reaching his hand out to comfort her. As he reached, his bright red cape fanned out behind him.
Lois was instantly mesmerized by the movement of the cape. The redness seemed to come alive and spread like spilled blood on the casino floor.
*…It billowed like a cape…*
Lois gasped, and looked into *Clark's* eyes.
Clark placed Lois gently on the floor and stepped down from the windowsill. She hadn't said a word. He knew there had to be a million thoughts and questions racing through her mind; he could see them in the way her eyes flashed. It was impossible for him to tell if she was angry though. He'd expected an outburst, as angry outbursts had been Lois's style in the past, but he got none. She'd just let him scoop her into his arms and fly her home.
Lois hung on to Clark's arm to help her hobble to the couch. Clark took this as a good sign— at least she was still willing to touch him. Lois sat down carefully at one end of the couch, and Clark sat down at the other, not sure if he should take the liberty of sitting too close to her.
For a long time, Lois looked at him. She searched his face, as if not quite sure what she was going to find there now. After a while, her eyes filled with tears.
"Lois," Clark started, his voice cracking slightly. "There is so much I've wanted to tell you. Please believe me when I say that I *never* wanted to hurt you." He cupped her face with his hand. She let him. "I thought that if you knew I was Superman, then you'd become a target for anyone who was trying to get to me. But…" Clark paused, drawing in a shaky breath, "you got hurt anyway. You got hurt because you *didn't* know—"
"Clark," Lois said suddenly. She tested the name again, matching it up to the outfit. "Clark." Her face crumbled. She dissolved into helpless tears. Clark reached out, desperate to hold her, to comfort her, but Lois flinched away.
"Clark, no. Please."
Clark inhaled sharply. This was it. She never wanted to see him again. He'd go to the Planet in the morning, give Perry his notice. It would be too difficult working next to Lois anyway, if he could no longer have the same relationship with her. Clark turned, prepared to fly out the window and leave her in peace.
"I'm sorry, Clark," Lois said suddenly. "I'm so very sorry."
"You have nothing to be sor—"
"Yes I do. I don't know how it is that you've worked with me, been my friend, been… It must have been so hard for you."
"What?" Clark was completely baffled. What was she talking about?
Lois laughed bitterly. "I would love you even if you were an ordinary man, without any powers," she mimicked herself. "Isn't that what I said? And you, seeing me everyday, at work as Clark, and then as Superman."
"I'm always Clark," Clark said quickly, "Superman is what I can do, and Clark—"
"Is who you are," Lois finished. "I should have realized, Clark. I feel so stupid. You must think that I don't care about you at all, that I'm heartless." She gazed at the floor, so that she wouldn't have to look Clark in the eye.
"You stopped a bullet for me, Lois." Clark said softly. "That took real courage. I know that Superman is supposed to be brave, but it's easy for me to fly in and catch a few bullets. I take it for granted. But you… you made a real sacrifice for me. You risked your life to save mine."
Lois allowed herself a quick glance at Clark. She was afraid, of what she wasn't sure. Maybe she was afraid that his eyes would make her feel too much, and she wasn't sure she could live with that.
She wasn't sure she could live without it.
Clark couldn't remember ever having been so scared. He'd never really faced losing something before, not something valuable. Compared to Lois, nothing was of worth to him. He knew that his entire future rested in this moment.
"I'm sorry. Go ahead," Clark offered.
Lois paused a moment, collecting herself.
"Clark," she started carefully, "We've been friends for almost two years now." Clark nodded agreement. "You've been my best friend."'
"And you, mine," Clark murmured.
"But when we were in the casino… when I thought you'd been shot… that changed."
Clark's heart pounded loudly in his chest. Things had changed. How could he live without Lois's friendship? He didn't think he could take it if their friendship were to end. Maybe he ought to fly out of here right now, and never…
"You became more."
At these words, Clark's head snapped up. Did she really say that? *More?*
"No… you'd already been more to me than just a friend. But when I thought I'd lost you for sure, that's when I realized…" Lois choked back the tears that threatened to overwhelm her. She focused her attention on her hands, which were playing with the hem of her shirt.
"That's when I realized that I love you."
Lois stopped abruptly. She couldn't say anymore. She almost couldn't breathe. All of her emotions that had been stirring around inside her had all come together and tightened into a lump that was now lodged in her throat.
The silence almost killed her. She thought he would say something, anything after what she'd told him, but when she finally looked up at him, she understood his silence. He was choked by the same emotions she was. Tears pooled at the corners of his eyes, threatening to overflow and overwhelm him.
So he said nothing.
Instead, he reached out to her and drew her closer to him. He cupped her face with his left hand, while he held her left hand in his right.
He kissed her.
All of the unsaid words met at the touch of their lips. There would be no more apologies, no more guilt. No more building walls, no more secrets, no more loneliness.
They sat there for a long while, saying nothing, only holding each other and knowing that finally, everything was going to be all right. When Clark felt Lois's sleepy body relax against his, he pulled her into his arms once more, and carried her to bed. She stirred, only for a moment, when she felt him move away from her.
Their fingers still intertwined, she pulled him toward her. When she felt the warmth of his arms around her, and the drowsy pull of sleep on her eyelids, she found the one thing she'd been searching for.
Lois Lane found home.