By Wendy Richards <firstname.lastname@example.org
Submitted: September 2002
Summary: Clark's teasing words to Lois in the episode "The Prankster" that if she was married she'd be less likely to be troubled by stalkers come back to him with a vengeance…
Author's note: This was written as a Birthday Vignette for JoMarch, on the occasion of her 21st birthday. Many happy returns, Jo!
The dialogue at the start of this vignette comes directly from The Prankster; acknowledgements to the writers of that episode. Thanks to Kaethel for some super-fast and excellent beta-reading.
He Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven
*Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.*
—William Butler Yeats
"I can see this is going to be a long day." Clark muttered as he and Lois crossed the street towards the jewellery store.
"What? Because I'm a little edgy?" Lois objected. "Well, I'm sorry, Clark, but I can't get this image out of my head of some weirdo sitting in his living room snickering to his friends about how he's going to get Lois Lane to fall for him."
He gave her a sympathetic glance. "I guess that's one of the drawbacks of being beautiful, successful and eligible."
She turned to stare at him, her expression suspicious. "What's that supposed to mean?!"
"Nothing. I was paying you a compliment," Clark said quickly, wondering why she was always so quick to suspect an ulterior motive. Though, today of all days, he probably couldn't blame her; this mysterious joker of a so-called secret admirer was making her life a misery. He should have known better than to tease her today — but on the other hand, she should know him better than to imagine that he was trying to be smart or unkind. He was supposed to be her best friend, after all, and he'd been nothing but supportive so far.
"No, you weren't. You were implying that if I wasn't single I wouldn't have this problem," she snapped in return.
"No, I wasn't." He paused briefly, then some crazy impulse made him continue. "But you probably wouldn't have this problem if you were married."
"Oh, that's a good reason to get married. To avoid harassment." She tossed her head, her eyes flashing angrily, and turned away from him.
Oh, why had he said that? It had been a really stupid thing to say, Clark told himself as the assistant came up to ask how he could help. Teasing *Lois* about being married? Was he some sort of sado-masochist?
He really couldn't believe that he'd said it. Quite apart from the idiocy of telling the woman he loved that she should be married — the implication being that she should be married to someone else — how could he possibly have raised the issue of marriage with Lois?
He knew only too well that only a bare few months ago she'd been on the verge of being married; in fact, had it not been for Perry White's very timely interruption, she could have been married. Not that the marriage would have lasted very long, he thought cynically — even if Lex Luthor hadn't committed suicide, he was very sure that Lois would never have wanted to remain the wife of the criminal Luthor had been exposed as.
That incident had scarred Lois deeply. He had more reason to know that than anyone else, since he was one of the very few people Lois had talked to about what had happened — and she hadn't even told him very much.
In a few careless words, he'd no doubt hurt her deeply.
And he couldn't even tell her that he was sorry; they were in the middle of an investigation, and he had to focus on getting the information they needed to catch the moron who was upsetting Lois with his stupid 'presents'.
Sighing, Clark joined Lois at the jeweller's counter and made himself concentrate on their business there.
How could Clark have been so cruel? Lois asked herself bitterly as they emerged from the store and headed back to her Jeep. He of all people should know how upsetting the topic of marriage would be to her. Okay, that horrible business with Lex Luthor had been almost five months ago now, but still… He should have known better.
Telling her that if she was married she'd be less prone to some creep sending her stupid gifts! Was he crazy? Had he ever even looked at the statistics? Married women were no more exempt from the attentions of a stalker than their single counterparts. If she was married, or dating seriously, it wouldn't make any difference. This creep, whoever he was, would still be doing what he was doing.
Clark was supposed to be her friend! What the heck had he thought he was doing with all his stupid stuff about her being 'beautiful, successful and eligible'? Okay, it was nice to know that he considered her beautiful, but the rest of it… She could hardly be blamed for thinking that he'd been being sarcastic.
She'd love to snap back at him. At any other time, she would have. She wasn't one to smother her anger and pretend that it wasn't important. But this… this was too personal. Too painful. She was beyond anger here. And if she even hinted at how much his words had hurt her, it would be far too embarrassing. There was no way that she was going to humiliate herself in front of Clark. Not *even* in front of Clark.
Grimacing, she unlocked the Jeep and climbed into the driver's seat, leaving Clark to scramble into the passenger seat as she started the engine.
It had been a hectic morning; visiting Lois's old college friend, Randall Loomis, and ruling him out of their enquiry, and then what had happened on the way back to the Planet. He'd only just managed to avert catastrophe, Clark thought as he glanced at Lois again. She'd said that she was okay, but she still looked a bit shaken up to him. It was hardly surprising, though. He'd only just managed to prevent her Jeep from crashing, and then he'd been in the nick of time to prevent another SUV from running Lois over. She'd come close to death or serious injury twice in the space of two minutes.
But that wasn't what was troubling him most. He still couldn't believe that he'd said what he had to her earlier, and he wished more than anything that he could go back to that moment and take the words away again. He'd give almost anything he possessed not to have mentioned anything to do with marriage in reference to Lois.
She hadn't said anything, or given him any reason to believe that she'd been hurt by his careless words. But that made no difference. He'd said them, and he'd do anything to unsay them.
Okay, it would be very easy to ignore the fact that he'd said them, to carry on as if they'd never been said. That was what Lois seemed to be doing. If she was upset at all, she was clearly pretending not to be, or accepting that he hadn't meant any harm. But that wasn't right. Even if she wasn't making an issue out of it, he couldn't forget what he'd said.
Glancing at his watch, he said, "Want to stop for a sandwich or a hot dog? It's lunchtime."
Lois looked at her own watch, then shrugged. "I guess."
They got their sandwiches, but when Lois would have taken hers back to the car, Clark gestured towards the entrance to Centennial Park, which was just across the street. "Walk with me?"
She didn't look especially enamoured of the idea, but after a moment she shrugged again. "Might as well, I guess."
Ah. So she had noticed what he'd said, and she was upset. Well, he couldn't blame her at all for that. "Please," he said quietly. "I'd like to talk to you."
She shot him a quick glance. "Oh? To give me another lecture on why I should be -" She broke off, and he watched her bite her lip. It had been pretty obvious what she'd been about to say, and he cursed himself again. The fact that she'd almost referred to it, as well as her acerbic tone, again made it clear that she hadn't been as oblivious to his words as he'd suspected.
"Lois, I'm sorry," he said immediately, his tone heartfelt. "It was a completely stupid thing to say. I can't imagine why I… I must have been crazy. I never meant to remind you of all that horrible stuff… I'm sorry."
She didn't respond immediately, instead crossing the road ahead of him and heading for the entrance to the park. He might have thought that she'd decided to ignore both his apology and him, except that if she was planning to do that she'd have gone straight back to the car. So she was willing to talk.
Hurrying after her, he slowed down as he reached her side. "I mean it, Lois. Forgive me. Please?"
She paused and looked at him briefly, and in that moment he saw the tension in her jaw and the moisture in her eyes she was trying so hard to hide. No doubt that was why she'd rushed away from him.
Then she swallowed and said, "Clark, I know you never meant to hurt me. You of all people… I know you didn't mean it. But it was a shock. And… I think it hurt more from you than it would've from anyone else."
Of course it would; he'd already told himself that. And of anyone he knew, Lois was the one person he'd most hate to hurt. Unable to prevent himself, he wrapped his free arm around her shoulders, hoping that she wouldn't pull away from him. "I know. Believe me, I know, Lois. And I'd cut my tongue out if it'd take those words back, I swear to you."
"It's okay," she said after a moment, and he knew that it had taken some effort. "I… it's just that every time I think I've put all that behind me, that it doesn't have the power to hurt me any more, something happens to bring it all back. If it's not some new revelation about Lex, it's my mother going on about how neither of her daughters seem to want to get married, or…"
"Or your tactless partner and best friend putting his foot in it?" Clark finished.
She smiled at that. "I know you didn't mean to. And it's probably just that I'm already on edge today anyway. I shouldn't have got upset by it."
"Yes, you should." He hugged her gently. "Of course you should."
"Thanks for telling me that you didn't mean it," Lois said after a moment. "I knew you hadn't… but it helped to hear it."
"I'll tell you again if it helps," Clark said, giving her a teasing grin and withdrawing his arm from her shoulders. All was well again between them, though he'd make very sure that he never said anything so stupid to her ever again.
"So you don't really think I should be married?" Lois said lightly, though there was still a faintly insecure note in her voice.
"Not unless you're married to me."
The words came out of his mouth before Clark even realised that they were on the tip of his tongue. And, for the second time in one day, he cursed his idiocy.
How could he possibly have said that? Was he imagining that he'd said it out loud? He had to have just thought it. That was it; he hadn't really said it. He'd certainly thought the words; it was exactly how he felt on the subject. But he could never have been so *stupid*, so careless, as to actually voice them.
And then he saw Lois's face.
Oh yeah, he'd said it all right. And she was staring at him in disbelief.
"I… uh… please, forget I said that," he muttered, more embarrassed than he'd ever felt in his life before. If he'd thought he could get away with it, he'd have invented an emergency and run off; in fact, he would have given anything to hear a cry of 'Help, Superman!' right about now.
But no cry for help came. Except perhaps his own… but no- one was answering.
*How* could he have said that aloud? And after everything he'd done to make Lois believe that he just thought of her as a friend? All his careful efforts to ensure that she had no reason to feel awkward around him, to assure her that there was no question of him embarrassing her again by telling her that he was in love with her?
She was going to be appalled. She was going to turn and run away from him as fast as she could… or else she was going to give him another version of that speech she'd given him the last time they'd been in this park, when he'd laid his feelings bare before her.
In the words of the poet, he'd spread his dreams beneath her feet, hoping all the while that she would want to share them with him.
That time, she'd crushed them beneath her feet. It hadn't mattered that she'd done it gently, even kindly; she'd still trodden all over them. Her rejection had been bitterly painful then.
Now, all these months later, with their friendship even deeper than it had been then, it would be even worse.
He closed his eyes and waited for the speech.
"Clark?" Now she'd stopped walking and was standing simply looking at him. "Did you just say… what I thought you said?"
She didn't sound horrified. In fact, she sounded… incredulous. And almost fascinated.
He swallowed. "Uh… I guess I did. But, Lois," he continued hurriedly. "It's not… I didn't mean to…"
"You didn't mean it?" She picked up on his attempt to explain it away… and she actually sounded disappointed. "Clark… why did you say it, then?" Now her tone sounded forlorn, and he stared at her, startled.
"I…" Suddenly, he couldn't lie to her about his feelings any more. He couldn't come up with some pathetic excuse to explain why he'd said what he had. He could only tell her the truth, and take whatever the consequence might be.
"I meant it, Lois." Taking a deep breath, he continued, his heart in his mouth. "I'm in love with you. I always have been. And… that's why the only way I'd want to see you married would be if it was to me."
There; he'd done it. He'd spread his dreams beneath her feet again. And this time he was tempted to ask her to tread carefully. Not that it would do any good; a rejection would always be a rejection, no matter how gently she put it.
He was forcing himself to look at her; that way, he'd be prepared for the words of gentle denial when they came. He'd see it in her eyes, in the soft downturn of her lips, in the way she'd shake her head at him and maybe even take a step backwards, away from him. And he'd be able to stop her and tell her that he understood and that she should forget he'd said anything. That all he wanted was to go on being her friend.
But she didn't shake her head. And she didn't look upset or worried about how she was going to tell him that she didn't love him.
Instead… her eyes were widening. And her lips were parting, but in an incredulous look. And she was taking a step closer to him.
He waited, barely able to breathe, not daring to allow himself to hope that this time the answer might be different.
And then she spoke. "You said you didn't. You said you'd lied."
Clark felt himself flush. "So would anyone, Lois! I wanted us to be friends again. I didn't want you worried about working with someone who was in love with you — especially after everything you'd been through. So I… I crossed my fingers."
"You lied *then*? Not… not here?"
"Not here. Never here," he confessed. "Everything I told you then was true, Lois. And nothing's changed since."
Now it was all out in the open, and he could only wait again. She'd been surprised just now, which no doubt explained why she hadn't given him the brush-off again. But it would come. Any minute now; he was sure of it. Lois didn't love him, and she certainly didn't want him to be in love with her.
"Clark… you really love me?" Her voice was shaky, and he caught his breath again. Once more, he wasn't getting the expected response.
"Lois, I've loved you since the moment I set eyes on you," he told her, his voice thick with emotion. "I've pretended, all this time, that I just saw you as a friend… it was enough, as long as I could spend time with you. And you *are* my friend. But I love you, too. I'm *in* love with you. It's not just attraction. And it's not just some temporary thing. I will love you until the day I die, Lois. And… if you didn't want to know that, then I'm sorry. I'll never mention it again after today."
Lois was silent for so long that Clark was about to turn on his heel and start walking back to the Planet. It was obvious that she was going to reject him again, but she just couldn't find the words. That was understandable, after all; she was his friend too, and they'd been through a lot together, more even than when he'd told her his feelings for her before. It was natural that she'd be worried about hurting him.
"It's okay, Lois," he told her in the end, wanting to spare her the embarrassment of having to tell him that she didn't return his feelings. "I guess I knew what would come of this. I feel kind of like the guy wishing for the cloths of heaven."
"Huh?" She blinked at that, seeming to come out of her abstraction at last.
"The poem by Yeats. He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven. You know it?"
Lois shook her head. "I've heard of Yeats — I read some of his stuff when I was in Ireland on that exchange scheme. But I don't think I've come across that one."
"But I, being poor, have only my dreams," Clark quoted. "I have spread my dreams under your feet. Tread softly, for you tread on my dreams."
"Oh, Clark!" There was a catch in Lois's voice, and when he looked at her again he saw the tell-tale glisten of tears in her eyes. "That's beautiful!"
He shrugged. "I always liked that poem. But anyway, Lois, I… look, let's just forget we ever had this conversation, okay? Please?"
At the same time, she reached for his hand. "Clark, you don't have to worry that I'll trample on your dreams," she said softly, that catch still in her voice. "I'm just… kind of shocked because… well, because your dreams are… pretty much the same as mine."
What did she mean?
"Lois… what are you saying?" he asked shakily.
"I… that I love you too, Clark." She dipped her head for a moment, then raised it to meet his gaze again. "I think I always have, but I only figured it out when it was too late — or it seemed that way. And then you said you only wanted to be friends… and I thought it was probably for the best, if you didn't want me after all."
She sounded so forlorn that Clark wanted to wrap her up in his arms and fly away with her. He settled for seizing her hand and pulling her over to the nearest bench, sitting her down and coming to join her.
It felt like d‚j… vu; the last time she'd been sitting on a bench too. But now he wasn't standing awkwardly in front of her. He was sitting beside her, holding her hand and watching her stare in wonderment into his eyes.
"Lois, I'm sorry that you thought that," he told her quietly. "I had no idea that you felt anything for me… But even if I had known, I think I'd still have done the same, or something like it. Then… wasn't the time to tell you how I really feel."
"That you want to marry me?" Lois asked.
"Well, that too," he admitted, flushing a little. "But that wasn't what I meant. You'd just escaped from a disastrous engagement; you needed time to come to terms with it all, and the last thing you wanted was someone telling you that he was crazily in love with you."
"Even if I was crazily in love with him too?"
"Oh, Lois…" Clark couldn't find words to tell her how happy her admission made him feel. Instead, he simply reached for her, bringing her closer to him and tilting her chin up to his face. Slowly, deliberately, he lowered his head and brought his lips to hers.
It was a kiss worth waiting for; the stuff dreams were made of. It was each and every one of Clark's dreams come true all at once; her arms came around his neck, pulling him closer down to her, and her lips parted under his. Fervently, passionately and lovingly, she kissed him back, until they were both breathless. He could hold his breath for twenty minutes, he knew; but that didn't seem to apply when Lois was kissing him.
Finally, he drew back and rested his forehead against hers. "I love you, Lois. But if you want to be with me, too, don't be afraid that I'll ever put pressure on you. I know I told you that I'd love us to be married, but you don't have to worry that I'll propose any day soon. I just want us to be together."
She hugged him, brushing a kiss against his chin. "I love you too, Clark. And you're right, I don't want to talk about marriage any time soon. It's wonderful to know that you want me like that… but I just want to be in love for now."
"Me too." Holding her pressed tightly against him, he added, "I think I've just found those cloths of heaven, Lois. And, if you'll let me, I'd love to spread them all under your feet."
She pulled back a little, eyes wide in wonderment. "You're such a romantic, Clark. And… I'll let you, but only if you'll walk on them with me."
"Together," he promised.
They had to return to the Daily Planet, he knew. They had a crazed practical joker to catch, before he drove Lois completely insane. And, of course, there were always other stories to work on. This conversation was just one stolen moment, a brief time of wishes and dreams and kisses before they had to return to the normality of their daily lives. But this stolen moment was one which would remain with both of them forever, Clark knew.
He had spread his dreams under her feet. And she had gathered them up and made them her own. And now they would tread on them side by side. Together. For as long as she would have him.
He wasn't wishing for the cloths of heaven any more. He had something infinitely more precious. And, bending his head to kiss Lois again, Clark knew that reality would be even more wonderful than his dreams from this moment on.
(c) Wendy Richards 2002