By JoMarch <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted April 2001
Summary: A sequel to the author's "When I Was Twelve." Finding Lois's notebook brings back poignant memories for Clark.
This is a stand-alone vignette, but it might help if you've read my story, When I was Twelve… This is set a few years after that.
A BIG thank you! to LabRat for taking a look at this, and for suggesting the idea in the first place. I'd also like to thank Wendy Richards, my GE.
Please send comments to JoMarch <email@example.com>
The attic, flooded by the mellow light of a drowsy sun and lulled by the whispers of a lazy summer afternoon, seemed an incongruous place for a pair of mischievous, laughter-filled eyes, but there stood Clark Kent, holding several folders and completely unaware of the indignant spider that he had startled out of a slight nap.
Lois had 'shoo-ed' him out of the kitchen, demanding an hour of quiet and peace while she made dinner. It had been too tempting an opportunity to resist. Perhaps, if he had been wise, he would have agreed meekly and left, especially as the gleam in her eyes and the set of her jaw were all too familiar signs of a determined, absolutely-not-to-be-deterred, Lois. But he had stayed, lingered until Lois had literally pushed him out the door, her mock-stern tones mingling with her laughter.
Standing for a few moments at a loss as to what to do, a glance at the stacks of papers and files lying in various corners of the room had inspired him, and he'd set to work, separating what they'd looked over from what they still had to see, and adding to an ever-increasing pile of now useless papers. Despite their best efforts, work always seemed to follow them home — not that either one of them really minded. They both shared a passion for their work, and it increased when they could do it together.
Partners. Partners in every sense of the word. Clark had smiled as he'd thought about how lucky he was. Lois meant the world to him, and he could hardly imagine what life would be like without her. Since the moment he'd met her, everything had taken on a new meaning, a new depth. Every feeling was heightened and brought into sharper focus; every wish and hope was nearer, and happiness… happiness was suddenly attainable. His life before her seemed like a dream: pleasant, sad at times, and always drawn on a canvass of loneliness. And just like a dream, it was misty, elusive. Life with Lois was reality, and as better than the dream as the light is from the shadow.
Ironically enough, he felt sometimes as if he were in a dream. He had found the person he'd been looking for all his life. They'd fallen in love, they were married to each other, and every day was better than the one before. And she was in his house, in their home — grumbling over something in the kitchen.
He'd barely managed to hold back a laugh as he'd grabbed the folders he wanted and headed up the stairs to the attic.
Looking around carefully, he x-rayed box after box until he found exactly what he needed. "Perfect," he thought, as he headed toward a medium-sized cardboard box that he knew was half full of papers and books, with plenty of room for the papers he held.
He recognized Lois's handwriting. This must be one of the boxes they'd moved from her apartment, he thought, as he shuffled through the contents of the box, rearranging the various items to make more space. Magazines, many loose papers full of writing that was crossed and recrossed in many places (which left Clark wondering what they were and why Lois had decided to keep them), a paperback novel or two whose well-worn appearance attested to the fact that they had once been favourites, and a notebook.
He'd have to ask Lois about the papers — the corners of his mouth lifted up in a smile as he imagined teasing her about novels and writing styles and Kerths and Pulitzers and anything else he could think of. She would give as good as she got, too, and she would laugh and make him laugh, he thought. His smile broadened and his eyes glowed with a light born of a feeling deep in his heart, a look that would have brought tears to Lois's eyes. But he frowned as he glanced at the notebook. It was an ordinary notebook, the kind Lois usually carried in her bag and wrote story notes in. Why would she be keeping one of those?
Curious, he flipped through several pages before coming to an abrupt stop. The first part looked like any other of her numerous notebooks, and then came a few closely written pages. His lips tightened as he gazed at the tear-stained pages, the blurred words telling the clearest story of all. He hated the thought of Lois crying.
Slowly, he flipped through the remaining pages. A complete blank.
Clark closed the notebook and stared at it for a moment. A curious, dull ache spread through his heart. This is ridiculous, he thought. He couldn't be feeling pained over tears she had shed long ago. Nevertheless, his throat constricted as he opened it one last time. About to return it to the box, his glance fell on the tear-stained pages, and the first lines caught his eyes.
It could only have been that time.
Lois could only have written this at one time, he realized immediately — when he had had to leave and go to New Krypton. The last son of Krypton, he thought bitterly, going to the rescue of a faraway planet torn by civil war.
Clark had never even made it to New Krypton, but it had affected him deeply. Meeting people he'd thought didn't exist, finding out that he was not the last of his species, not one of a kind, not alone in the universe… it was something he had dreamed of and wondered about for years and years. And yet when Zara and Ching had come, it had been different.
They had asked him to leave Earth, and he'd realized that he hadn't been alone for some time, and that they, although they were like him and he was like them, were pulling him back into loneliness — a loneliness worse than that he'd felt before — of a different kind, and without the hope. He'd always known there was something missing; he'd known that he had been searching for something all his life. When he'd met Lois, he'd somehow realized that the search was over, and that he was finally where he belonged.
But he had felt compelled to go. What else could he do? He'd felt a responsibility he couldn't neglect. The decision had been made almost immediately — he couldn't deny that he felt it was his duty to go — but he'd lingered, postponed, and tarried, made excuses, argued, and put off making a decision, hoping someone would do it for him — even though the decision was made. It hadn't happened that way. His parents and then Lois had said he should do what *he* felt he needed to do — leaving the decision in his hands and showing him that they would support him; that no matter how it hurt them, they would stand by him to do the right thing. He'd almost wished they hadn't.
He'd hoped they would oppose — although he would ultimately go, there would've been something for him to hold on to. Maybe…
Maybe he'd wanted someone to cling to Clark Kent. He'd been afraid. Not of Lord Nor or of dying, but of losing Clark Kent. And he'd known that that was what he would be doing, just as he'd known that Lois and his parents hadn't known, couldn't have known. Maybe the New Kryptonians had in some measure known, but they couldn't have really understood; they hadn't known what he would be leaving back on Earth.
Everything that was of value to him would have faded away, turning into distant memories that he would recall vaguely, as if thinking of someone else, someone he might have liked to be, but someone very different. Someone who had once been known as Clark Kent.
That last day in the Daily Planet, he'd been saying goodbye to Clark Kent, and all that went with him. To life on Earth, his job, his friends, his mom and dad… to the blue sky and the yellow sun… to his life as a human, and to Lois.
"In my heart, I am your husband."
"And I am your wife."
Even now, it was too much to bear. The love, the trust, the confidence she'd placed in him.
It had been Clark Kent who'd flown out of the Daily Planet windows, and it had still been Clark Kent in the small spacecraft that had raced into space. But Lord Kal-El was there too.
And Lord Kal-El had grown. Once he had stepped into that role, it had been almost too easy.
Kal-El had taken charge; he had been a leader with a mission to accomplish and a plan to create. His people had obeyed him and followed his orders, whether they'd completely agreed or not. Lord Nor had been an enemy to be neutralized… and even crushed.
Lord Kal-El would've been capable of many things that to Clark would have seemed inconceivable. Power was heady, and although part of him hadn't enjoyed it and had been embarrassed by the deference that'd accompanied it, another part of him had been thrilled.
He'd been afraid — of himself. He'd been afraid of what he might have become. Although Lord Kal-El wasn't a bad man — indeed, far from it, he would have been a great man — it just wasn't what Clark wanted, what he believed he ought to be. It scared him to realize how easily he could have become Lord Kal-El — that that part of him existed, and was very real. In the short time he had been with the New Kryptonians, he had had a glimpse of another side of himself: a side that hadn't had the chance to develop in so short a time, but which had left Clark with a vivid image of what might have happened if he had gone to New Krypton for a long time.
Clark remembered a lot of what had happened at the time. He'd flown to the Kryptonian mother ship intending to travel to New Krypton, but returning almost immediately as the news that Lord Nor was on Earth had reached him. 'Home,' his heart had sung, even though he knew things would be difficult until Nor had been defeated.
He had been very glad to be back on earth with Lois, and he had been pleased to see Jimmy and Perry at the Daily Planet. But it had been Kal-El who had commandeered the building — Kal-El, who had laid the plans that took him to Smallville to try and defeat Lord Nor, and to save people he cared about. And he had almost died.
Things couldn't have gotten much worse then; surprisingly, they had gotten a little better. Lord Nor no longer had the support of the Council, and Lord Trey was finally completely on Clark's side. Kal-El had challenged Lord Nor, hoping to resolve things once and for all, and Superman had arrived to defend Earth, and to prove everything he stood for.
The confrontation in Metropolis. The hardened expression, then the fear. The brief moment before of a hard, cruel impulse. Like a lost child, everything had seemed big and looming and unfamiliar, and every sound hostile. He remembered… Lois coming back to him. Him fainting, his being shot. Lois running to him, saving him once again.
A sudden noise caught his attention, and he looked up to see Lois standing in the doorway.
"Hey there, stranger," she said. She seemed to sense his mood, for as she got closer her expression grew softer, and she sat down beside him and wordlessly held his hand.
At the touch of her hand in his, the kaleidoscope of emotions always connected with this one woman swirled around him and enveloped him. He wrapped his arm around her, and was pleased and comforted when she moved closer to him and laid her head on his shoulder.
They sat together in a world of their own, while the attic hung in that timeless moment between day and night.
A noise from outside intruded, and they both looked around, realizing it was already much darker. Lois stood up.
"C'mon, Clark," she said. "Let's go eat."
He got up willingly, but stood there for a moment looking at her. An ungovernable impulse seized him, and he couldn't have stopped even if he had wanted to. He gathered her in his arms and kissed her.
"I love you, Lois," he said against her hair.
"I know." She pulled back a little to look into his eyes. "I know, Clark. And I love you. But," she added, after a moment, "I made dinner and it's getting cold. So come on!" She smiled at him and playfully tugged at his sleeve, pulling him behind her.
The last rays of the sun faded slowly from the room, the shadowy nooks looking even more mysterious in the wan light. In the corner, the spider stretched all eight legs lazily and walked to another corner of its delicate home.
"Dinner?" he asked worriedly.
"Ohh!" she replied, indignantly.
The sound of masculine laughter floated up the stairs and spilled into the lonely attic, and on the floor, forgotten, lay a small notebook.