By Pam Jernigan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: August 2003
Summary: Clark has waited years to hear Lois say she loves him — but he's not quite sure why she picked this particular moment. Is it too good to be true? The sequel to "Chaos Unspool."
Author's Note: Thanks to everyone on the www.lcficmbs.com message boards, who encouraged me to write this sequel. Thanks (again) to C.C. Aiken for the fantastic premise, to Kaethel for her on-the-spot beta reading, and to Erin Klingler for being a stellar G.E.
It was like a dream come true. Clark could hardly believe it, but Lois had said she loved him, and finally he could reveal his own feelings. "I love you, Lois Lane."
"And I love you, Clark Kent." She was smiling at him, and kissing him. He wasn't quite sure what might have prompted this change of heart, but he wasn't complaining. "Now," Lois continued, "about you running away all the time…"
Fear clenched in his gut. He'd known he'd have to explain this to her somehow, but he wasn't prepared — and he knew she'd react badly. He hated to lose this wonderful closeness with her, but there was no way around it. "Yeah, I should probably explain that. Lois," he began, "you have to know that I never meant to hurt you—"
She interrupted him with a kiss, then pulled back far enough to say, "It's okay, Clark. But for pete's sake, the next time you have to run off to be Superman, just say so!"
Clark stared at her, dumbfounded. Did she just say what he thought she did? No, she couldn't have. Could she? It felt like someone had knocked all the wind out of him, and it was difficult to think properly. Did she know…? *How* could she have found out?
Lois grinned up at him, obviously enjoying whatever she was seeing in his face. But she hadn't pulled out of his arms… "Um, Lois…? What?"
"Okay, maybe that was a little bit mean of me," she said, looking not the least bit repentant. "But you kept me guessing for two years," she emphasized that last phrase with widened eyes, "so I figure I'm entitled to just a little bit of payback."
She knew. And she was still smiling at him, and hugging him, and resting her head on his shoulder, making herself at home against his chest. She'd kissed him. The thoughts swirled around in his head, making it hard to think. She knew about Superman, and she wasn't upset — in fact, she'd said she loved him…
A horrible suspicion began to sprout. His heart squeezed painfully as his thought processes slowed. Earlier than five minutes ago, Lois hadn't been acting as if she'd been in love with him. But now, all of a sudden, her feelings had changed. At about the same time that she'd found out he was Superman. With whom she'd been infatuated for almost two years. Had all those wonderful words earlier been for Superman, not for him?
Her head popped back up off his chest as he tensed, and she grinned at him again, clearly exhilarated. Well, why not? She'd finally succeeded in a long-held goal — she'd got Superman to admit that he loved her. A black haze threatened to cut him off from the world.
"I guess I should explain what happened, Clark," she began. "It's all pretty weird, but—"
"No, Lois, it's not weird at all," he replied, stepping out of their embrace, his voice hard. Some part of him knew this wasn't fair to her, but he'd played this moment over in his mind thousands of times, and he just wanted to get through it as quickly as possible. "You found out I was Superman, so all of a sudden you ditch Dan and call me over. Makes perfect sense."
She gaped at him, her arms still reaching toward him even as he took another step backward. "Is that really what you think of me?" She drew her arms back, folding them in front of her, a dismayed look on her face.
He refused to respond to her evident hurt. "Well, Lois, earlier today you were mad at me, and dating Dan. Then all of a sudden, it's all magically changed? You love me — as Clark — and run into my arms?" Unbidden, an old and painful phrase came out. "I'd like to believe you, Lois, but under the circumstances I don't think I can."
She gasped at the unintended reference. She opened her mouth to reply, then caught herself. After a few seconds, she said "Clark, I know I hurt you then, and I'm deeply sorry, and I didn't mean to hurt you tonight — and if I was mad at you," she continued, her voice acquiring a testy edge, "it was because you've been avoiding me for the past two weeks — giving a really good impression of a man with commitment problems. You tell me, what was I supposed to think about that?"
"If you wanted me, you knew where to find me," he snapped back. "But you were too busy with Inspector Gadget to even — never mind." He gave in to his sudden urgent need to have the sky around him. "I'll see you around, Lois." He stepped past her, reaching out to un-do all her locks.
There was a shocked silence behind him. It didn't last long. "Clark whatever-your-middle- name-is Kent! Don't leave! You have to listen to me."
He snapped the last lock open, then turned around. "Oh, really? Tell me, Lois, what could you possibly say right now that would make any difference?"
She was reaching for him with one hand, her expression anxious. "I'm sorry, Clark, I should have — never mind, just… let the memories unspool."
He squinted at her. "What?"
Let the memories unspool? What on earth was that supposed to mean? Although it seemed to mean something, on some level, as the phrase echoed through his head. Abruptly, his mind was flooded with images, sounds… memories?
There were too many to make sense of immediately. He tried to focus on one of the moments — any of them. The one that came into focus first had him and Lois in the woods, with Lois holding a baby. And then she was handing the baby over to him. He thought he was dressed as Superman, but she was calling him Clark… And she was smiling at him.
He was dimly aware of Lois touching him, of her guiding him around to sit on one of her sofas. She was saying something, in a soft tone of regret, but whatever she said was drowned out by the phantom voices.
The picture changed. He was running toward a building, a barn, he thought. He was worried about Lois. When he'd entered the barn, she was there. Eyes flashing, she'd slapped him. As he gaped at her, trying to figure out what that was for, she'd said in a scornful voice, "Don't pretend that hurt, Superman."
He closed his eyes, trying to sort out the whirling snapshots, and forced himself to breathe deeply — he'd always told people that, anyway. He wasn't sure what purpose it was supposed to serve. "Lois… what's happening?"
He struggled to focus on her present-day voice, instead of the one in his head, which was yelling at him.
"I think it's some kind of suppressed memory thing," she replied. "All this — what you're remembering — happened a little over a week ago. It was the day of Perry's party. H.G. Wells came in looking for you — we both thought he was nuts, but then he whispered something to you, I don't know what."
"I know you're Superman, and I need your help," Clark quoted, feeling again the cold shock that had hit him when he'd first heard it.
"So then he took us to his time machine, and his passenger decided he wanted to kill Superman, except he couldn't do it now. He planned to go back in time and kill you, as a baby." A note of self-derision entered her voice. "He told me that, and told me he was going to Smallville, and I still didn't get it."
"I was terrified that you would," Clark said absently, still trying to sort out the information bombarding him. At least, with Lois's narration, it should be easy to get things into the right sequence. "But I needed you, and I'd been meaning to tell you anyway…"
"We had a detour in 1866, which is where Tempus told me about you. Made fun of me for not knowing," she added glumly. "He said I was galactically stupid."
Clark winced, knowing how badly Lois would have reacted to that sort of insult. No wonder she'd slapped him. "Lois, you are *not* stupid. You are the most not-stupid person I know."
There was a pause, and Clark felt Lois's hand enfold his. "But then we went to 1966, and Tempus tried to kill the baby, but I got rid of the Kryptonite, and we stopped him." Another pause. "You really had me scared there for a while. You were sort of fading in and out."
Clark turned his hand over and laced his fingers with hers. "I think I remember that…" He smiled suddenly. "You kicked the crap out of Tempus."
She grinned then — he could hear it in her voice. "Yeah, I did, didn't I? But then we put the baby back into the field, and you did your meteor impersonation, and the Kents found him — you, I mean. I have to admit," she added, her tone going pensive. "You were a really cute baby."
"And then we came home," she finished lightly. "Mr. Wells blocked our memories, but he set it up so that we'd remember if he ever said 'let the memories unspool' — I heard someone say 'unspool' earlier, so I went through this process earlier tonight."
She was leaving out quite a few details, but he could supply those himself, now. Mostly. She hadn't said so, just now, but as he recalled, she had been furious at him for a long time. She'd alternated between making snide comments and simply ignoring him.
But then… his mind's eye skimmed ahead, until he reached a quiet moment, after he'd taken care of the baby. Lois had been there, smiling a little nervously. He'd been dressed as Superman. She'd called him Clark. And they'd kissed. The kiss had been followed by a long talk, until it was time to come home.
Slowly, Clark came back to an awareness of his surroundings. The first thing that registered was Lois, sitting close beside him, holding his hand. The second was a feeling of shame. "Lois, about earlier… I'm sorry. I… just…"
"Well…" She drawled out the word. "It could have been worse. At least you didn't slap me."
He dared to look up at her then, and was reassured to see no anger on her face.
"Look, Clark, I, ah, had an advantage earlier. We've already had this conversation, and worked everything out… but you didn't know that. I wanted to surprise you — just not quite that much."
Clark shook his head. "Still, I shouldn't have…"
"No, you shouldn't have." She smiled. "But could we get back to what we were doing before then? I liked that a lot better."
"You did, did you?" Clark considered her for a moment. They had talked everything out already, hadn't they? And she'd evidently forgiven him for his surly words earlier. If they had any other issues they needed to talk about, he couldn't think of them at the moment. So, why not? "Me, too."
Still feeling a bit awkward, he leaned towards her, bringing up his free hand to cup her cheek. She leaned forward, too, and they met somewhere in the middle, exchanging kisses that built slowly from exploratory to enthusiastic.
Eventually, they drew back, and Clark saw that Lois had somehow ended up on his lap, with her arms securely around his neck. She sat back in the curve of his arm, sighing contentedly.
Clark ran a hand up and down her back, just enjoying the sensation of holding her so close. Finally, he could show her how he felt, how much he loved her.
"I was right, though," she said.
Trust Lois to want to have the last word. Well, if it made her happier, he was willing to oblige. "I'm sure you were. Right about what?"
"Well, here we are…" She kissed him softly. "And you're an ordinary man…" Her mouth moved sideways, trailing little kisses across his face. "Living an ordinary life…"
It was difficult to concentrate when she was nibbling on his earlobe like that. But he recognized the quote, and an old deep hurt was soothed. "And you love me all the same."