By AnnieM <email@example.com>
Submitted: June 2002
Summary: A sequel to the author's "Standing on the Edge," inspired by the song "Sand and Water." This story finds Lois on the beach contemplating the time since Clark left — and a future without him.
This is the sequel to Standing on the Edge, and it, too, is inspired by a song: Sand and Water by Beth Nielsen Chapman. Again, the lyrics are printed at the end of the story. Thank you to Sarah, who not only BR'd this, but actually found the song and started writing a sequel to Standing on the Edge herself, but generously turned it over to me when I expressed an interest in writing it myself. (Translation: I badgered her with suggestions until she sent the lyrics to me and told me to write it myself. <G>)
The ocean roared and the waves crashed steadily against the earth, surging forward then slipping back into the sea. The night was cold and clear, and the stars twinkled brightly without the city lights to obscure them. The rambling beach houses sat quietly on the shore, dark and unoccupied during the off-season. The beach was deserted entirely save for a solitary figure seated on the sand, arms wrapped around her knees.
Lois stared at the pull of the tides unseeingly, her eyes glazed and unfocused. She took a shuddering breath and laid her head back on her knees. Even dressed in heavy layers to ward off the cold of the night, she still shivered with the occasional gusts of wind.
For three years she had gone through the motions of life, forcing herself to maintain a semblance of normalcy. Three years of going to work, coming home, living life. When all she wanted most days was to stay in bed and cry. She had thought it would get easier, but she was wrong. It only got harder.
In the beginning, there was hope. He would be home any day now, any minute. But as the minutes and the days ticked by, she came to realize that he wasn't coming home any day now. She didn't know if he was ever coming home.
As the years went on, she cried for him, longed for him, but she couldn't give up the hope. She could still feel him. He was out there, somewhere, and he was coming home to her someday. But then, a few months ago, she had lost it. Lost the connection. One minute it was there, strong as ever. Wordless, but alive. And then it was gone. Just out of reach, she grasped for it, tried desperately to contact him.
And for months she had convinced herself that she was wrong. The connection was still there, or it was gone for a whole host of innocuous reasons. But all along, she knew the truth…knew she was fooling herself. He was gone. Dead. It was the only explanation.
He had promised her that if he could come back, he would. They had never discussed what would happen if he couldn't.
And now she was alone. So alone. Alone in a way she had never been before. Before she had met Clark—before she had let him into her heart—she had been alone, but she hadn't realized what she was missing. She knew she was missing something, but it was just the vague idea of something more. Now…now she knew exactly what she was missing.
Alone. Here, with no one for miles around, or at home in a city of millions, she was all alone.
Staring out into the vast ocean, she contemplated the eternal cycles of life. How many other women had sat on this very shore waiting for their lovers to return? How many others had prayed fervently for something they knew was a lost cause, refusing to believe what they knew must be true.
Did they feel the aching loneliness she felt? All alone. Just another cycle of life. Each person alone at their birth and alone at their death.
If they were lucky, in between they found completion, the other half of themselves. She had been spectacularly lucky. Even if for only a short time, she had found the one person in the universe who could fill her heart and her life. And he had loved her, too; adored her, treasured her, made her feel like the most special person in the world.
She had never spent much time contemplating an afterlife, but now she clung to the hope that they would be reunited. She couldn't bear to think that she would really never see him again.
So, someday, she would see him again. But until then, she was alone, faced with the daily reminders of everything she had lost. All alone she would live her life, do her work, try her best to move on with her life and find happiness.
And all alone she would raise their child.
A beautiful little boy just bursting with life and love. His laughter filled her world…and he wore his father's smile.
He looked so much like his father at times that she thought her heart would break just to see him. But she loved him so much. He was her life now; at times, the only thing that kept her going.
There were moments when she was with him—watching him, playing with him—that she could forget. Forget how desperately she missed his father. He had saved her, really. Because of him she was still living her life. Going through the motions, and even allowing herself to find some happiness. Clark was never far from her thoughts, and he never left her heart, but their beautiful son, with his father's eyes and his sunny disposition, reminded her that life went on.
But occasionally, she needed time like this. Time alone, away from the hustle and bustle of life. Time to remember and grieve. Time to let herself feel the pain she denied most of the time in order to give her son the happy childhood she had been denied.
She sighed deeply and rested her head on her knees again. She allowed herself to welcome the familiar, twisting pain in her chest rather than forcing it away as she often did as she tried to keep up appearances and hold together the strands of her shattered life. Hot tears pricked her eyes, and a silent sob escaped as the first of the tears trickled down her cheeks.
Sometimes she thought she was out of tears. She had cried so many times in the last three years that it hardly seemed possible that she could have any tears left to cry. But they continued to come, sometimes in moments of quiet contemplation like this, and other times suddenly, without warning. A noise, a smell, a familiar touch or word; it took so little to bring it all back. She could function for a long time, pushing the memories aside, living her life, but it took so little to remind her of what she had lost.
A few weeks ago it had been the three-year anniversary of his leaving. The world, having no idea the true hero they had lost, knew only that Superman had been gone for three years. Newspapers and television news programs ran old file photos and footage of their beloved hero at some of his more famous rescues, and then at his final press conference. Pundits conjectured about his whereabouts, wondering if he was still fighting, or if he was even still alive.
She had taken the entire week off work and flown to Smallville with her son. He was blissfully ignorant, attaching no significance to the visit. His grandparents were delighted to spend the week with him, but also pained by the sight of the toddler who looked so much like another child whose pictures still hung on the walls of the rambling farmhouse.
She slept in his bed that week, pretending she could still smell him on the sheets. In the early morning hours, when sleep eluded her, her eyes and fingers lovingly caressed the countless treasures displayed in the room: the trophies and footballs and class pictures and framed articles. They were so full of life, as if they were just waiting for their creator to return.
Years earlier, she had slept in the same bed, reluctantly curious about the same mementos and their intriguing owner, who slept downstairs on the couch. He told her later that he was already hopelessly in love with her by then, but was harboring serious doubts that she could ever feel the same way. She had nearly cried, running her fingers through his hair and holding him tight. In a strangled whisper she had apologized for wasting so much precious time. His embrace had tightened, and then he'd pulled back to look into her eyes. His words had been soft but steady as he explained to her that no time together was wasted, that he had been happier that night than he had ever been up until that point, and that even though it was torturous at times, he wouldn't trade a moment of their lives together for anything in the world. It was the wait, he told her, that made him appreciate just how precious their love was.
She shivered again, the icy breeze off the ocean matching the empty chill in her chest. Her tears had stopped, but the accompanying ache in her chest was strong and steady. Perhaps someday she would finish crying, but she doubted that the aching loneliness would ever fade.
Honestly, she was grateful for this time alone. Time to indulge and wallow in her grief. Once, she had hated wallowers, insisting on pushing aside all thoughts of self- pity. But, now… Now she needed moments like this. He was everywhere she looked, in everything she did, and sometimes the reminders were just too much to bear. Even now, memories of him surrounded her. In the waves, in the air… They shared so many memories that no matter where she looked she was bound to see him, hear him. Sometimes the memories were painful reminders of what she would never have again, but at other times they were balm to her soul, reminding her of the precious gift she had once had.
Her deepest fear was that one day he would begin to fade from her memory. Already there were memories that were beginning to fade: the exact look on his face when he spun from his street clothes into the suit and paused to smile at her slightly-awed expression before rushing off to the rescue; the exact sound of his voice as he wheedled and teased, begging for one more kiss before leaving her for the night; the childlike enthusiasm he had displayed at carnivals and fairs, promising not to 'cheat' as he attempted to win stuffed animals for her.
After only three years, the memories were sometimes hazy and hard to recall in detail. How much harder would it be in ten years? Twenty?
Would she ever be able to explain to their son how much she had loved his father? Would he ever understand how she knew unequivocally that the father who had never had the chance to learn of his existence would have loved him more than life itself? Could she convince him of the necessity of his father's final rescue when sometimes she wasn't so sure herself anymore?
She pushed her conscious thoughts aside, allowing his memories to surround her. For a moment she could see him, feel him, smell him. The soft touch of his hand, the quiet reverence of his voice when he whispered her name.
It was so real. So close it was almost painful.
Insanely, she felt a surge of hope. Telling herself she was crazy, she turned, eyes searching for him.
And then he was there. Like a beautiful mirage, she couldn't quite believe he was real. She froze, blinking, trying to clear the jumble of thoughts in her head.
"Lois?" he asked again, softly.
His words broke a spell that had held her motionless, and in the blink of an eye she was up and flying into his arms.
"It can't be. I don't understand. I thought… I thought…" She sobbed against his shoulder, hands roaming his body to assure her that he was real, that this was no mirage.
"Oh, God, Lois," he whispered shakily. "I thought I'd never see you again. Never hold you again."
"I love you," she said suddenly, barely hearing his agonized words. "I love you."
"I love you, too. I thought I'd never make it back, and then when I saw you…"
She pulled back just enough to study his face. Tears slid down his cheeks as he haltingly confessed, "I said your name and it was almost as if you didn't recognize me. For just a moment, I thought…"
She searched his eyes, reaching out to caress his face, wiping the tears away. "Clark?"
"I thought you had forgotten me. Not forgotten, but…moved on. That you didn't want me back, and—" His voice cracked with emotion, and he forced himself to swallow and continue. "Thinking of you was the only thing that kept me going. I thought of you everyday and dreamt of you every night. To think that I could return and still have lost you…"
"Shh," she whispered, pulling him closer, cradling him in her arms. "I was just stunned, that's all. I was sitting her thinking of you, missing you, and when you appeared—I couldn't believe you were real. I thought I was imagining you. I love you, Clark. I'll always love you."
He trembled in her arms and tightened his grip on her, suddenly unsteady on his feet.
"Clark?" she asked, pulling back worriedly.
"I'm fine," he reassured her, "just weak from the journey."
He sank to the sand, pulling her with him, tugging her into his lap and holding her cradled to his chest. They were silent for a long moment, drinking in the feel of having their beloved in their arms again.
Finally, Clark's ragged sigh broke the silence.
Lois raised her eyes to his face, smiling at his meditative look. His eyes fluttered open, and he smiled as he met her gaze. Her hand reached up to curve around his neck and pull him down to her. His eyes closed again, and a second later, his lips closed over hers.
It was as sweet as she remembered. His lips brushed against hers gently, timidly at first. As his lips seemed to remember hers, the kiss grew in intensity, mouths clasping and unclasping wetly, tugging insistently. At the first brush of his tongue against her lips, she went limp in his arms as she reflexively opened her mouth to him, darting her own tongue forward, eager for his familiar taste.
It might have been minutes or hours later when they pulled apart again. Her hand remained on his cheek, stroking his skin softly. Their eyes locked again and they smiled together.
He was alive and here. He hadn't given up on her. A twinge of guilt pierced her heart, and she dropped her gaze from his.
"What? What's the matter, sweetheart?" he asked softly, gently lifting her chin to urge her to meet his eyes again.
Tears pooled in her eyes. "I thought…I thought you were gone," she whispered. "I promised you that I would never give up, but I did. I believed you were…were…dead."
The last word was almost silent, and looked as if it were ripped from her.
He smoothed his hand through her hair again before brushing a kiss across her forehead. "Oh, Lois…"
"I'm sorry," she whispered, tears escaping and coursing down her cheeks.
"Shh. You have nothing to apologize for. *I'm* sorry. I'm sorry you had to believe that I was dead. I'm sorry I ever left to begin with. I'm sorry I couldn't be here with you."
She reached up and silenced his litany of apologies with a kiss.
"It was a long time," he whispered when their lips parted again. "It was only natural for you to think…"
She rested her head against his chest again, soothing herself with the steady beat of his heart. Suddenly, remembering something, she pulled back to look at him.
"But I felt you go. That's why I thought you were…gone. I thought… Before, I could feel you. And then you were gone. I told myself I was imagining things, but I knew what I could feel, and I thought that it could only mean one thing."
"What did you feel?" he asked carefully. "What was it like before…before you lost it?"
"It was…" She floundered for words to describe the connection. "It was as if a part of you was with me. It was strong at first—I could actually hear you. I heard you say that you loved me as the ship was leaving. But then, later, it was faint. I couldn't hear you. I could just feel your presence. I knew you were still alive—I could feel your love."
"I felt it, too," he whispered, awed. "I didn't think… I didn't know that you could feel it, too. I did tell you that I loved you as we were flying off. I was thinking of you, focusing all of my energy on you, hoping that you could hear me. But I never believed that you would hear it. Then later, when I was on New Krypton, I could feel you. I focused on that connection when I didn't think I could go on any longer. When I was weary or wounded, I thought of you, listened for you, and knew that I couldn't give up because I had to get back to you. I couldn't give up because if I did, that meant I would never see you again."
She swallowed, trying to clear the lump in her throat, aching for him. He appeared strong and healthy now, but she knew he could't have escaped untouched by the things he must have seen, the pain he must have felt.
"It kept me going, too," she said softly. "When I wanted to give up, I couldn't because I could feel you. I had to be strong, because I knew you were coming home to me as soon as you could."
He dropped his forehead to hers, and they stayed like that for a moment, drawing strength from each other.
Finally, she pulled back. "But…but the connection was gone. I could feel it leave. And I thought…"
"You thought that meant I was dead."
She clenched her jaw and nodded, unable to say the words again.
He took a ragged breath and lovingly traced her features with his fingertips before continuing. "You were right."
At her strangled gasp, he hurried on. "I wasn't dead, but I was—in an induced coma. I guess that's the best way to describe it.
"In the final battle, I was badly wounded. It wasn't fatal, but I lost a lot of blood and I could not have withstood the long journey home. But I had made Zara promise that the moment Nor's threat was eliminated she would take over so that I could return to Earth. After the battle, she tried to convince me to stay and wait until I was recovered, reminding me of the superior medical technology available on New Krypton. But, I…I wanted to leave so badly. All I could think about was coming home, finding you. She agreed to send me back on one of the fastest ships, but on one condition: I enter a stasis that would hold me in a suspended state, allowing my body to recover while I traveled. A renowned physician was commissioned to travel with me and care for me during the journey. I was never in any danger, and the coma-like state allowed my body to heal much more rapidly. But I didn't know…I had no idea that you could feel the connection. I didn't know that to you it would feel as if I had died." His voice cracked, his regret evident. "I'm sorry. If I had known… I never meant to make you think…"
"But you're not dead. You're alive, and you're well, and you're here. That's all that matters now," she said, wrapping her arms around his neck and holding him tightly. "Whatever I went through in the last few months was worth it to have you back in my arms."
His hands roamed her back, comforting and taking comfort from her. Suddenly, it occurred to her that there was so much to tell him. Things he needed to know.
Her immediate joy that she wouldn't have to raise him alone, that he would grow up with a father who adored him, was tinged with sadness for all that Clark had missed. She knew, had always known, that Clark would be the best father possible. A father who would delight in every moment of his child's life. And while she was overjoyed that he wouldn't miss any more moments, there were so many that he had missed already. His first breath, smile, step, word. He would be devastated that he had missed so much of his child's life. And he would feel guilty.
But there would be other firsts. His first day of school, loose tooth, football game, girlfriend. There was still so much for them to share.
She pulled back and began to speak, but stopped when his lips covered hers, kissing her gently.
She hesitated for a minute, not wanting to deprive Clark of the knowledge of his son's existence for another second, then relaxed into his embrace, returning his kiss. She could tell him everything in a minute, after they had a chance to revel in the feel of each other for another moment. In just another minute they would discuss what he had missed—and their tomorrows. For now, it was enough to know that she wasn't alone—would never be alone again.