By Shayne Terry <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: November 2001
Summary: Clark realizes his life and love are lost after he's shot during the episode "This Old Gang of Mine."
All recognizable characters are the property of DC Comics, Warner Bros and December 3rd productions.
Peace was ephemeral.
Time had weathered the edges off his pain, but some wounds would never heal. Losing an entire life wasn't as difficult as one might believe. Clark had never really cared about material things, and other than having to hide when visiting his parents, it was easy to pretend that things were as they'd always been.
Living without love, though, that was hard. Finding it once had been a miracle after a lifetime of loneliness. Like a flower in the desert, he'd bloomed with the first touch of rain. That she'd never returned his feelings didn't matter; just being in her presence had been enough.
Love wouldn't come again; twice in one lifetime was too much to ask of destiny. The wasted opportunity was bitter; if he'd gone to her right after Clark Kent had been shot, she would have understood. But with each passing day it had gotten harder to even consider going back.
She'd undoubtedly gone on with her life; losing Superman would probably eclipse anything but a passing regret at the loss of a colleague. Clark had always been an afterthought; if she'd given him the slightest hint that more was possible, he'd have moved heaven and earth to be with her.
As it was, she haunted him. He imagined that he could hear her footsteps, smell her perfume, see her in the reflection of the pool. What he saw wasn't her, of course; it was his memories of her, and while he'd thought they might fade with time, they'd only grown sharper.
He could have gone to the funeral, but facing all of them one more time would have been more than he could bear. He'd loved them all in his way; Jimmy, Perry, the newsroom crew. Seeing them from the cold, impersonal visage of the alien was more than he could possibly bear.
Wearing the costume at all had become a trial. The world assumed that he was mourning the death of a friend, and thankfully it was giving him time. Much of Metropolis assumed that he'd be back in time, but Clark knew better.
Undoubtedly, another reporter was already at his desk. Lois would be back to working alone, unless Perry had assigned another greenhorn for her to shepherd.
All that was left was the land.
Clark had never understood what his father had seen in farming. Despite having grown up working on the farm, he'd been ready to leave the moment he'd found that he could float. He'd never stopped and listened to the silence.
Building things with his own hands, watching the plants grow, knowing that what he made was his and his alone; it was all deeply satisfying. Best of all was the silence. He couldn't hear the rhythms of thousands of people pressing in on all side. He didn't have the pain of hearing fifty simultaneous cries for help. There was peace in the land.
But the peace never lasted.
Clark stood and looked out over the fields. His parents would be pleased. He'd reclaimed land that had lain fallow for more than a decade, and he'd done it all in a short time. Out here he didn't have to worry about anyone seeing him; the only access was a locked gate near the front of his parents property.
He heard the sound of an engine; a quick glance showed his parents' battered pick up battling its way up the pitted dirt road. He didn't bother looking any closer; no one ever came out this far. Instead, he simply watched the sun setting against the horizon.
If he could have forgotten what he'd once had, perhaps he could find peace now. Clark closed his eyes and sighed. The smell of earth and growing things was so much cleaner than the stench of the city, but even here he imagined that he could smell her delicate scent.
He barely registered the footsteps coming from behind him.
"You left me." Her voice was flat and angry, yet the sound of it didn't startle him at all.
As he had a thousand times before, he turned. No matter how many times he realized that he was dreaming, he'd never been able to turn away from her. This time was no exception.
She was smaller than he remembered; thinner and hunched over. In his memory she'd always been larger than life, vibrant, and expressive. Now she was none of that. She looked as though life had beaten her down; he almost imagined that he could see new lines on her face, lines of grief.
Clark couldn't take his eyes from her. He'd dreamed of this meeting more times than he remembered, but just seeing her was more visceral than he'd imagined. Leaving her had torn something within him; it was only now that he realized how much he'd missed it…and her.
He couldn't imagine how she'd found him; to the entire world, Clark Kent was gone, and only Superman remained. Even Superman wasn't spending much time in the world these days.
"You came looking for Superman."
Slowly, she nodded. "The world needs Superman."
Lois had known that Clark and Superman were close. Clark had been the only one able to get hold of him consistently. Undoubtedly, she'd made one of her intuitive leaps, and thought that the Kents might know how to contact him.
"Why did you do it?"
The pain in her voice startled Clark. The thought that she might have been hurting as badly as he was had never occurred to him.
"I didn't have a choice," Clark said. "I had to protect my parents."
"You thought I'd reveal the secret?" Lois bit her lip then looked away quickly. "I thought you knew me better than that."
"I wanted to tell you!" Clark protested. "There hasn't been a day gone by that I haven't thought about flying to your apartment and revealing myself."
"What stopped you?" Lois refused to look at him.
For the first time Clark looked away from her, off into the distance. "What sort of life could we have together? Now that Clark Kent is dead… Could you imagine me taking you to dinner in the suit?"
Life as the bride of Superman wouldn't be anything like the life Lois wanted for herself. Sighing, he shook his head. "I couldn't let you make that kind of sacrifice for me. You deserve better than that."
Lois looked up at him finally, and he was shocked to see her eyes brimming with tears. "You didn't think that I'd want to know that my best friend wasn't dead because of something I'd done?"
Clark couldn't look her in the eye. "I thought you'd have moved on by now."
"You thought I'd just go on as though nothing had happened?" Lois's voice was incredulous.
"I didn't think you cared that much." Clark was bewildered. After all they'd been through, he'd thought Lois would have moved on much more quickly than she had. She'd told him once that she didn't love him; she deserved to be with someone she could love.
"I was in love with you." Lois's voice was flat.
Time froze, and Clark found himself staring.
"I didn't know it until you were gone, of course, but by then it was too late!"
"I…I…" For once, words completely escaped him. It was as though the earth and the sky had traded places, as though the sun and the stars had been extinguished, and the world had stood still.
Her love had been the world to him, and he'd cast it aside.
Such was his shock that he didn't see her moving until she was already on top of him. She pushed him, and he allowed himself to fall.
"You claimed you loved me…you were my best friend…and you thought I'd just forget about you like yesterday's news?"
"I think that without you, I just wanted to be forgotten."
He'd wanted to lose himself, become one with the earth and the wind, revel in the silence. Forgetting everything that had made him a man had been comforting, but always Lois had intruded.
Lois didn't say a word; she simply stood and stared. Finally, she turned away from him.
"I came to beg Superman to come back to a world that needs him. Maybe you can give him the message, next time you see him."
In a flash, Clark was on his feet and in front of Lois.
"What do you want me to do now, Lois? I love you more than I love life itself, but I can't abandon my parents. Superman has enemies, and…"
"You could create another life. You've done it once; why not again?" Lois refused to look at him; her voice was angry, but something there gave him a ray of hope.
"And ask you to follow me? What about your career?"
Lois straightened to her full height. "Lois Lane has the credentials to work anywhere in the world. Can you say the same about Clark Kent…or whoever your name might be by then?"
"You'd do that for me?"
He wouldn't be able to work in journalism, of course, but Clark had few doubts that he'd be able to find something.
"I'd do that for the man that I love."
A painful thought occurred to Clark. "You haven't…moved on, have you?"
Lois's eyes met his in a steadfast gaze. "I haven't forgiven you, and I think it's going to be quite some time before that happens."
"So you don't…care for me anymore."
"Should I care for a man who has lied to me as long as I've known him, proven himself untrustworthy, and has made me cry for the last six months?" Lois hesitated. "If I had any common sense at all, I'd turn right around and leave you in the middle of this field."
Clark found himself grinning. "But you aren't exactly the poster child for common sense, are you?"
Hesitantly, he kissed her, and the world seemed to stop around them both. There was only the two of them together, and the twilight.
When they finally came up for air, Lois said, "Don't think this means you won't be paying for this for a long time to come."
Clark grinned again. Sometimes peace was overrated.