By Kathy Brown <email@example.com>
Submitted: May 2003
Summary: Clark fears the worst when Lois begins acting distant two months into their new-found relationship, but nothing can prepare him for the shock of her explanation.
Author's Note: I actually started this story last fall after watching two characters on a current prime-time drama confront a similar situation. After spending the next few weeks grinding my teeth as their storyline played out, I was constantly struck by how completely *differently* Lois and Clark would have handled things, and this story just wouldn't let go until I'd written it. I hope you find it worth your time to read.
This story officially takes place during the summer between S2 and S3, but as you'll see when you start reading, it breaks from continuity after "Whine, Whine, Whine".
Special thanks to AnnieM and Pam for reading for me on short notice, and for their helpful comments. And, as always, all feedback is welcome and appreciated. :)
Lois stood on the front porch of the farmhouse, blowing a stream of air upwards as she unsuccessfully tried to dislodge a wayward strand of hair that was stuck to her forehead. She finally gave up and roughly brushed it away with her hand. "The first time we come to Smallville as a couple and we have to choose the hottest week of the year," she muttered.
Clark put a tentative hand on her back and rubbed gently. "I'm sorry," he said quietly. "I can't control the weather … I had no idea it would be this hot when we picked this week to come out."
"It's not your fault," she answered back on a sigh.
Clark straightened a little, feeling encouraged for the first time all day. Lois wasn't leaning into his touch the way she usually did, but neither was she shrugging him off. "I guess if we had to pick a week for me to help with the chores, though," he offered, a little more animated, "this is it. I'd rather it be me doing any heavy work outside than Dad."
Lois nodded, resigned. "You're right … I'm glad you're here, too. It's too hot for him to be doing the stuff he's been trying to do."
"Yeah. I'm just sorry that it's meant we haven't spent as much time together as we'd planned."
His words hung in the air as Lois suddenly turned and took a few steps away. An uncomfortable but all too familiar silence filled the porch.
Clark watched her for a moment on the other side of the porch, then turned away himself, sighing miserably. The last several days had been strained between them, to say the least, but now it seemed that they couldn't even hold a conversation. The worst part was, he had no idea why. He and Lois had been dating for two months now, and it had been the best two months of his life. He loved her with all his heart, and she'd said that she loved him. Even telling her about Superman hadn't been as bad as he'd feared. If anything, the time they'd spent hashing out their feelings about the situation — her sense of betrayal coupled with his sense of never really belonging — had only brought them closer.
But the last several days had been different. Lois was different. She was distracted by something, something upsetting, but she wouldn't tell him what it was. At first, Clark thought that it was Superman causing the friction. Not only had he and Lois been working extra long hours at the paper this month — often on separate stories — but an unusually high demand for Superman had eaten up almost all of Clark's free time. Lois had initially been supportive, but then last week, she'd suddenly become grouchy and distant.
Most upsetting of all was the fact that she no longer seemed to want Clark around even when he could find a free moment. They'd begun making love a few weeks into the relationship, soon after they'd worked through their Superman issues, and until recently, he'd had a standing invitation to come over after a rescue to spend the night. For him, their love-making was beautiful and passionate and life-affirming, and he could tell by the way Lois had always responded that she felt the same way. Yet, on Clark's only free evening last week, Lois had refused to even let him in the door, insisting that she'd wanted to be alone.
Clark ran a hand through his hair as he looked out over the Kent land. He'd hoped that their vacation in Smallville would get them back on track — they'd planned for the time off last month, picking the second week in July as their vacation to avoid the Independence Day holiday rush. They'd each been eager to get out of Metropolis and come to Smallville … eager to spend their days having fun relaxing together, and their nights making unrushed love in the moonlight. What they hadn't counted on, however, had been a Kansas heat wave.
July in Kansas was always hot, but even Martha and Jonathan had admitted this week was hotter than normal. With the temperature hovering near 95, no one wanted to spend any longer than necessary outside. Unfortunately, inside was nearly as bad.
There was no air-conditioning in the old farmhouse, and Clark and Martha had shown Lois how they kept the windows closed during the day to keep the heat out, then opened them wide after sunset, using several large strategically placed fans to move the air around overnight. This usually cooled the house sufficiently for the next day, but even that set-up wasn't helping much this week. With the night- time temperatures dipping only to the low 80's, even Clark's use of his super-breath to cool the house only provided a short-term fix, and sleeping was becoming increasingly unpleasant. Instead of enjoying romantic evenings in his old bedroom, he and Lois were keeping the door and windows wide open at night to encourage airflow. Even their sleeping attire had needed adjustment. Given the heat, they would have normally have slept in the nude, but t-shirts and shorts were necessary to prevent the elder Kents from seeing more than they bargained for when they walked past the open bedroom door.
Clark would have been content to settle for just cuddling at night, sympathetic to how physically uncomfortable Lois was, but even that was too much for her now. She said it was hard enough to fall asleep without Clark's extra body heat warming her further, and any more than a few minutes of skin contact had her scooting to the far side of the bed, hoping to find a cool spot on the sheet. If it hadn't been for her distant behavior in the few days prior to their trip, Clark wouldn't have taken it personally, but now … now he couldn't help but worry that she no longer wanted to be with him.
Clark swallowed the lump growing in his throat. He loved her so much it almost hurt, and the thought of losing her now was hard to even contemplate. He'd finally gotten everything he'd ever wanted out of life, but he was no longer sure Lois felt the same way. Maybe she'd decided that she could no longer put up with his responsibilities as Superman, that she couldn't take not knowing when he'd be called away on some rescue or how long he would be gone each time. Or maybe the heady rush of their new-found relationship was already over for her and she was realizing that her feelings for him weren't as strong as she'd once professed.
Troubled, he turned to watch her as she stirred on the other side of the porch. Her eyes were closed and she had turned her face into the slight breeze that had just come in from the west. The sky had clouded over a few hours before, and it looked like a storm was brewing. There was a slight increase in the wind level, but for whatever reason, the clouds were simply not yet ready to release the moisture and resulting cooler temperatures that were so desperately needed on the ground below.
Watching Lois relax a bit in the gentle breeze, Clark tried to push away the doubts and insecurities that were plaguing him — maybe it really was just the heat that was bothering her. He cleared his throat. "Do you want to take a walk?" he asked, trying to be helpful, desperately yearning to forge a connection between them again. "I think we might be able to pick up that breeze better if we get away from the house." He squinted up into the clouds. "Though I think it will still be a little while before we get any rain, unfortunately."
Lois sighed, but to his relief, she gave a little shrug and nodded. "All right, let's go."
Barely speaking, they slowly worked their way across the grassy portions of the Kent land, moving away from the house and the road. Clark noted with some relief that Lois had accepted his outstretched hand as they walked, but he couldn't escape the growing fear that she wasn't happy anymore. He had seen glimpses of the woman who loved him these last few days in Smallville, mainly when they'd been with his parents or other people. When they were with others, she'd been back to her old self again, laughing and smiling as they'd played games with his parents after dinner, or while shopping in town. But whenever the two of them had been alone together, she'd always become distant once again.
The idea that his presence was making her unhappy was unbearable for Clark. He didn't understand how it had happened, but somehow, over the last week, she must have fallen out of love with him. Before last week, they couldn't get enough of each other and there weren't enough hours in the day for all the things they wanted to say and do. But since then she'd been moody and distracted, and just wanted to be alone.
Despite himself, Clark found himself swiping at his eyes with his free hand. Darn it, he was not going to cry. If she didn't love him anymore, he would take it like a man. If she no longer wanted to be with him, well, he would let her go. He would simply start over somewhere else, the way he'd done a dozen times before he'd come to Metropolis. He'd be just fine …
Clark took a shaky breath. Who was he kidding? His heart would shatter into a million pieces and he would never be the same again.
When they'd traveled a good half-mile away from the house and road, far from any prying ears or eyes, Clark reluctantly stopped walking. There was no sense in avoiding the inevitable; he had to know the truth before the not- knowing tore him apart. If Lois wanted to break up with him, he'd rather she do it now, before they had to return to work. Then he could fly her back to Metropolis and he could return to Smallville alone to use the remaining days of their vacation to somehow try to recover.
"Lois?" he asked, taking a deep breath. "Tell me what's going on."
Stopping in the middle of the grassy field, Lois turned away. "What do you mean?" she replied in a strangled voice.
"What do I mean?" he exclaimed. "The way you've been acting— Lois, have I done something wrong?"
Lois glanced back at him, tears clear in her eyes, but she quickly looked away again. "No, Clark … it's not you, it's me. I've … just had a lot on my mind lately."
Clark felt the lump in his throat grow even larger. "Honey, please," he begged. "I don't want to lose you. Whatever it is, give me a chance to fix it."
From the way Lois held her shoulders, Clark knew that she was fighting the tears. "It's not— You can't — I'm sorry," she finally choked out.
Tears sprung to his eyes as he watched her. So this was it … everything he'd dreamed of, everything he'd ever wanted … gone. Somehow in the last week, she had stopped loving him, stopped wanting to be with him. Now it was over and there was nothing he could do to stop it.
"So you're breaking up with me." His voice cracked as he said the words.
Lois quickly turned. "What?"
Clark ran a hand through his hair, trying desperately to keep hold of the last threads of his emotions. "You've been distant and distracted and angry. You won't talk to me about it. You don't want me to touch you … you wouldn't let me spend the night last week—"
"I'm sorry … I never meant to hurt you—"
"So it's over." His voice was thick.
"No!" She took a few deep breaths, her eyes pleading with him to understand. "Clark."
Clark roughly swiped at the tears that were forming in his eyes. "Then what, Lois? You love me but you can't be with me? You keep pulling away. If you don't want to break up, then what—"
"I'm pregnant!" she blurted out, cutting him off. Lois promptly burst into tears. "Damn it, Clark, I'm pregnant."
Clark stared at Lois, his mind spinning. "What?"
She threw up her hands. "Do you need me to repeat it? I think I'm pregnant!" Her eyes filled with fresh tears.
"You *think*?" Clark's brow furrowed as his voice grew more insistent. "Or you *know*? Lois, that's kind of important! Have you been to a doctor?"
"No," she half-sobbed as she began to pace. "But I've taken three of those little stick tests in the last six days and they all said the same thing." She sniffled loudly and her voice took on an almost hysterical tone. "The box says they're 99% accurate for a positive, and you don't have to be a math expert to figure out that three 99% positives pretty much means you are, in fact, pregnant!"
Clark held up his hands in a placating gesture. "OK … OK. Lois, I'm just trying to figure this out. You kind of blind-sided me with this, so just let me catch up, all right?" As she sniffled again and nodded, he continued, concerned. "I thought you were on the pill."
"I am!" she wailed. "But nothing is 100% effective, Clark; didn't they teach you that in Boy Scout Training Camp??" She shot him an angry glare, but it wasn't long before her bottom lip began to tremble once again. "I— I missed a pill," she admitted tearfully. "It was after that stake-out we did in the Jeep last month." At his silent nod, she continued. "We didn't get home until four in the morning and I was so tired, I just forgot. I didn't remember until the next night, so I took two then." She swallowed, her tone becoming more desperate. "You're supposed to be able to miss one once in a while! You're just supposed to be able to take it the next day and it's supposed to be all right!"
"But it didn't work out that way," he whispered.
Tears slipped down her face. "I'm sorry."
Clark quickly pulled her into his arms. "You don't have to apologize," he whispered into her hair. "I'm not mad." He cupped the back of her head with his hand. "God, Lois, you had me so scared … I thought you didn't love me anymore. I thought you didn't want to be with me." His words only made her cling to him harder, and Clark closed his eyes in relief. He supposed it was an odd reaction after she had just dropped a bombshell into his lap, but all he could think about was how relieved he was that he hadn't lost her. Anything else, they could deal with. "Oh, honey," he sighed, "why didn't you just tell me?"
"What would be the point?" she exclaimed, pulling out of his embrace and trying to wipe away her tears. "I wasn't even sure I was in the beginning and we were both so busy at work. We had all those stories we were trying to finish so we could come out here, and Perry was breathing down our necks the whole time about getting scooped." She began to pace again. "We were putting in fourteen-hour days between me working on the hospital strike and you working on that state financing piece, and then we were both going nuts trying to nail the police corruption investigation. I couldn't let myself think about it — I didn't have time!"
Clark couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Lois, this is important! You could have made time!"
She whirled on him, eyes flashing. "OK, *you* didn't have the time! Even when I did see you at night, you were always running off to be Superman!"
Clark took a few agitated breaths. "That's not fair! If you'd told me, I'd—"
Lois threw up her hands. "You'd WHAT?" she demanded, her voice rising. "What were you going to do, not save someone?? 'Oh, so sorry, person-who's-about-to-get-mugged, but I can't rescue you because my girlfriend just told me she was stupid enough to get knocked up, so excuse me while I go figure out some way to get us out of this mess!'" She shot him a savage look. "Well, don't worry, Clark … it doesn't have to be your problem."
"What do you mean, it doesn't have to be my problem?" he hissed angrily. "You think I'm just going to walk away?? Damn it, Lois, we're in this together!"
"We've only been together two months, Clark. No one is going to fault you if you want to run as far away as possible from this mess!" She started to cry again. "Go on, you know you want to."
He stared at her, horrified. "Is that really what you think of me?"
She looked at him helplessly, her anger dissipating with her fresh tears. "I don't know what to think anymore, Clark." With a sob, she sank to the ground. "Everything is so messed up. I don't know what to do. I just want to make it all go away."
Clark felt a cold chill travel up the back of his spine as her words registered. "Lois?" he choked out. "Are you—?" He swallowed hard, and his final words came out in a whisper. "Are you thinking about getting rid of this baby?"
She looked up at him, her face full of anguish. "No … I don't know." She began to sob. "I don't want to. It just wasn't supposed to be like this, Clark. I never expected this to happen."
His knees going weak with relief at her words, Clark sank to the ground next to her and pulled her into his arms. His head was still spinning from all that he'd just found out, but in that moment, all he could think about what that she needed him, even if she couldn't admit it. "I'm here, sweetheart. I'm right here. I'm not going anywhere."
She just cried harder as she clung to him. "I'm sorry," she gasped. "I screwed everything up."
"No," Clark exclaimed, hugging her more tightly. "We're in this together, Lois." He pulled back and lifted her face so he could look her in the eye. "Listen to me. We are in this together." He repeated the words slowly, trying to make her understand, trying to convey all of the love and tenderness he felt for her with his eyes. "I love you, honey. And I would never leave you … or this child." He pressed a kiss to her forehead. "You're everything to me."
Lois buried her head in his chest, but his words seemed to reach her and her tears began to slow. "I thought you were going to hate me," she choked out.
"Never," he whispered. "I could never hate you." Clark closed his eyes and dropped his cheek to the top of her head. "It's going to be OK, Lois. We're going to be fine."
She sniffled and made a gasping sound as she tried to catch her breath. "But how?" she whimpered. "I don't know anything about babies."
"We'll learn," he soothed, tenderly running his hand over her hair as he held her close.
"I don't even know where it would sleep … my apartment isn't very big."
"Then we'll find a new place. Big enough for three."
Lois looked up, her eyes puffy. "Three?"
Clark gave her an encouraging smile. "Yeah … you, me, and the baby. We'll find a great place, Lois, don't worry. It won't be that hard to find." Clark cocked his head thoughtfully as he started to plan. "Though if you want to start looking as soon as we get back, that would be fine with me. We'll need the extra space, anyway, once we get married and combine our stuff. We don't have to wait until the baby comes to move."
At his words, however, Lois slowly pulled out of his arms and dropped her gaze to the ground. "You don't have to do that, Clark," she said quietly.
Clark furrowed his brow. "Don't have to do what? Move?" He shook his head. "No, my place is smaller than yours; it wouldn't work for a family. I love it, but—"
"Not move," she interrupted, her mouth twisting. "Get married. You don't have to offer to marry me, Clark."
That stopped him. "Why not?" he whispered. "You don't want to get married?" Clark swallowed, pained, as a new thought occurred to him. "Or you don't want to marry me?"
She looked up at him, her eyes full of anguish. "It's not that. But getting married just because I got pregnant … I can't do that to you." She released a shaky breath. "I should have known it couldn't last. This was the best relationship I've ever had. But now I've ruined everything."
Clark looked at her helplessly. "Honey, you haven't ruined *anything*. I don't even understand why you would think that." He ran his hand over her knee as she sat in front of him on the dry grass, wondering what else he could say to reassure her. "Lois, what we have together … this wasn't some fling for me. I *want* to marry you. I love you."
"I love you, too, but it's all happening so fast. It wasn't supposed to be like this," she whispered sadly.
At her words, Clark gently pulled her towards him, cradling her in his lap. "Tell me," he said softly. "Tell me how it was supposed to be."
She sniffled. "I don't know … I figured we'd date for a while, maybe a year … and then, if I hadn't scared you off, maybe we'd get engaged." She rested her head against his chest and sighed miserably. "And now I'm forcing you into a marriage after only two months."
"Forcing me?" Clark repeated, not sure whether to laugh or cry. How in the world had they gotten their signals crossed so completely in the course of only a week? "Oh, Lois." He cupped her cheek, gently lifting her face until she was looking into his eyes. "Honey, I wasn't going to wait a year."
"What do you mean?" she whispered.
He smiled and lifted her from his lap, setting her back down on the grass beside him. "Wait here … I'll be right back."
Lois stood up with him. "Clark, don't. Where are you going?"
He smiled again and held up his finger. "Be right back." He disappeared in a burst of super-speed, but returned just as quickly. "See, told you it wouldn't take long." He gave her a lopsided grin.
Lois couldn't help but smile as she dragged the back of her hands across her cheeks, drying her tears. "What are you doing?"
"Proving to you that you're not forcing me into anything," he responded. His face a mix of tenderness and nervousness, Clark took a deep breath. "Lois, I was already planning to propose this week."
Lois released a sad sigh. "It's OK, Clark, you don't have to say that to make me feel better."
In response, he reached into the back pocket of his jeans and pulled out a small box. Swallowing, he opened the box, exposing a diamond ring inside. "Honey," he answered, "I'm not just saying it. I bought this in Metropolis two weeks ago and it's been in my suitcase since we arrived. I was just waiting for the right time to ask you to be my wife."
She slowly looked from the ring to his face, eyes wide. "You were?" she whispered. She sounded as if she didn't want to let herself believe it, but the hope in her eyes was clear.
"Yeah," he reassured her, smiling. "I was. But then you starting acting all angry and distant, and I thought I'd been wrong … I thought that you didn't want to be with me, that you didn't love me anymore—"
"Oh, Clark, I'm so sorry—"
He shook his head, cutting her off. "No, shh, honey, it's OK. Now that I know why, it's OK. I love you. I've loved you from the moment I saw you." Slowly dropping to one knee before her, he took one of her hands and looked into her eyes, trying to convey his sincerity. "Lois, I want to marry you … baby or no baby. If you'll have me."
Lois swallowed hard, looking again from the ring to Clark's face. Tears welled up in her eyes, but this time, it was clear that they were tears of happiness. "Yes," she whispered, smiling through the wetness. "Yes, Clark, I will marry you."
Clark took a deep shuddering breath even as his face broke into a grin. His hands shaking slightly, he pulled the ring out of the box and slipped it on the third finger of Lois's left hand. Then he stood, still holding her hand. "I love you, Lois," he whispered.
She only allowed herself to admire the ring on her finger for a moment before she threw her arms around his neck. "And I love you, Clark," she said, holding him tightly. "I love you so much."
Clark wrapped his arms around her back and held her close, his face buried in her hair. "Thank you," he whispered emotionally.
They held each other close for moment, but soon Lois pulled back, laughing through her tears. "Are you crying on me?"
When he lifted his head and looked at her, Clark's eyes were shining, both from his unshed tears and the happiness beneath them. "I don't know; am I?"
"I don't know either … I just felt a drop," she explained, looking up into the sky. Another raindrop hit her in the cheek. "Clark, it's raining!"
Clark looked up into the sky with her, examining the clouds. "Yeah. It's about to really come down, too. And here … it … comes!"
In that moment, the clouds opened up and it began to pour down on them. Lois laughed out loud and stepped out of his embrace, stretching her arms out to the sides and lifting her face to the rain so it could wash over her. "What a relief!" she exclaimed.
Clark grinned as he watched her. His clothes and hair were getting soaked but he didn't care. Lois was smiling again and that was all that mattered. And she had just agreed to become his wife. His wife! As the realization hit him, Clark released a joyous shout and pulled her into his arms, swinging her around in the rain as they both laughed.
When he finally set her down, Lois's eyes were shining brightly. Completely unable to stop himself and unwilling even to try, Clark lowered his mouth to hers and kissed her, gently at first, but quickly deepening it as she immediately responded. It had been over a week since she'd let him kiss her like this, and he hadn't realized how much he'd been starving for it. "Oh, Lois," he murmured against her mouth. "I've missed you so much."
She captured his mouth again. "And I've missed you," she sighed.
When they finally separated, Clark couldn't help but glance back at the house and grin. "It's a good thing my parents aren't home yet. They'd probably think we were nuts, standing out here, kissing in the rain."
Lois laughed as she raised her face to the sky again. "Kissing? They'd probably think we were nuts for *standing* in the rain."
Clark smiled, then took her hand. "Come on, let's get back. You want to fly?"
"No, let's walk," she suggested, intertwining her fingers with his. "I'm not in any hurry and the rain feels so good."
They took their time as they made their way back to the house, walking hand in hand, and laughing as they jumped over the puddles that were quickly forming on the previously baked earth. It wasn't long, however, before they came to the dirt road separating the grassy area from the house and realized it was now one big mud puddle. While Lois looked at it doubtfully, Clark only smiled. "Come on," he said, swinging her up into his arms. "This is better than jumping."
As he floated them the final few yards to the farmhouse, Lois smoothed the wet hair away from his face. "Thank you," she murmured. "For everything. This last week has been so awful, and I—" She broke off as her emotions caught up with her once again.
Clark set her down gently on the front porch, her response reminding him of how scared he'd been over the last few days. "It was awful for me, too," he admitted quietly. He looked down at the floor for a moment, then continued, lost in the memories. "I thought you were going to break up with me. I thought you didn't want anything to do with me anymore."
"I'm sorry," she said emotionally. She ran her fingers over his cheek. "I think … I think I was so convinced you were going to push me away that I tried to push you away first."
Clark sighed as he looked into her eyes. Her expression was regretful and she was clearly sorry for what she had put him through. Still … "I just wish you'd have trusted me."
"I should have," she said, biting her lip. "I should have trusted you enough to just tell you. I know that now. But I was just … scared."
"Scared that I would leave you," he said quietly.
Lois's mouth twisted. "And maybe scared that you wouldn't."
The words hit him like a ton of bricks. "Lois?" he whispered, unable to say more than that.
Her eyes begged him to understand. "You're a good man, Clark. A wonderful man; an honorable man. And in my head, I knew you'd want to do the right thing, to marry me, at least eventually. But I couldn't get past the thought that you might think I'd trapped you."
"Honey, I would *never*—"
She cut him off with a vehement shake of her head. "You might never say it, but that would almost be worse. Clark, to look in your eyes and see resentment there—" Her voice cracked, and she took a gasping breath. "I don't know if I could take it."
"Resent you?" Clark gasped. "Honey—" He shook his head, amazed at how wrong she'd been in her concerns over his reaction. He looked into her eyes, imploring her to understand. "Lois, this baby is a gift … a wonderful, magical gift. I know it might not seem like it right now, and I know you're scared. But, honey, you have no idea how much this means to me." He ran his hand down to her belly. "I had no idea if I'd ever be able to have children. Because of who I am, I had no idea if I could ever have that … give you that." He swallowed and his voice grew hoarse. "And now I know."
Fresh tears filled her eyes. "But what if I screw it up?" she asked plaintively. "I have no idea what I'm doing, Clark, and I'm so scared." She looked up at him, clearly pained. "I don't know how to be a mother … or a wife. My only role models for those two things—" She shook her head. "I don't want us to be like that, Clark."
"We won't be, honey," Clark replied, taking her hands in a comforting gesture. "I promise."
Lois sniffled. "But you can't promise that," she said. "No one can."
Clark took a deep breath, absorbing her words. "You're right," he finally answered slowly. "I can't. I can't just snap my fingers and make everything perfect, Lois. I wish I could, but I can't." At her melancholy expression, he gave her a tender smile. "But if we work at it … if we trust each other and keep talking to each other and not shut the other person out—"
"Like I did to you this week," she interjected worriedly. "See, Clark, I'm going to mess this up; I just know it."
He shook his head, trying to make her understand. "Lois, we've both made mistakes, not just you. And I do know how scary it is to tell someone something you don't think they are going to want to hear," he added reassuringly. "You of all people should know how scared I was to tell you about Superman." When that earned him a watery smile, Clark squeezed her hands reassuringly. "We're in this together, Lois. And while you're right that I can't promise everything will be perfect, I can promise that I will never keep anything from you again, that I will never intentionally hurt you or shut you out of my life. And if you can promise the same, I know we're going to be OK."
Lois wiped her fingers across her cheeks, drying her tears. "No more secrets," she vowed.
"No more not talking about things, even if we're scared about what the other person might say," Clark reiterated, part statement, part question.
"No more shutting each other out of our lives," she responded, attempting a wobbly smile.
"We're in this together," he said, clearly looking for reassurance.
This time, she smiled for real. "We're in this together."
Clark pulled her into his arms, relieved. "I love you," he whispered.
"And I love you."
"We're going to be OK, Lois. I know we are."
She hugged him even more tightly. "I know it now, too."
They held each other for a long moment, until the sound of thunder rumbling in the distance made its way into Clark's awareness. "We should probably get inside," he said reluctantly. "Get you dried off."
Lois gave him a little smile. "Don't want me dripping on your porch anymore, huh?"
He smiled back and glanced down at their feet. "All done dripping. But I don't want you to get chilled."
She quirked an eyebrow at him. "It's 80 degrees outside and you're worried about me getting chilled?" She rolled her eyes. "This wouldn't happen to be one of those 'protect the little woman now that she's with child' things, would it?"
"Uh …" Clark opened his mouth, then shut it again. "Does anyone really ever say 'with child' anymore?" he finally responded.
Lois dropped her forehead to his chest and shook it in mock futility. "Am I going to have to deal with this for the next eight months?"
Clark grinned. "You think I'm going to be bad, just wait till Perry finds out."
Clark couldn't help but laugh at her muffled whimper. "Come on," he said, reaching for the door. "Let's get inside."
The interior of the house was dim, the stormy sky having cut off most of the light coming through the windows, but Clark knew better than to turn on any lights. Electric lights gave off excess heat, and it would be that much harder to cool the house down. "I think it's finally cool enough outside that we should open up some windows," he observed. "Mom and Dad aren't supposed to be home until this evening, and I bet we can get it a lot more comfortable in here by then."
Lois nodded. "I think that's a good idea. Then I'm going to change into some dry clothes."
"I can dry you off," Clark offered. "Stand still."
Lois winced and held up a hand to hold him off. "No offense, honey, but heat vision is the *last* thing I want right now. I'm too warm as it is."
He smiled, a little sheepish. "Oh, yeah, sorry." He gestured towards the stairs. "Go get changed. I can take care of the windows by myself. Some of them are kind of temperamental, anyway."
As Lois made her way up the stairs, Clark began moving through the house, opening the windows that offered the best chances for cross-ventilation yet were protected from the rain still falling outside. As he worked his way into the living room, however, he found himself leaning against the window sill, lost in thought.
It was amazing how much his life had changed in the course of one afternoon. An hour ago, he'd been convinced that Lois was no longer in love with them, that they had no future together, and his heart felt as if it were going to break. Now, only a short hour later, he was about to become a husband … and a father. The realization was almost enough to take his breath away.
Clark looked out the window, across the wind-blown fields of corn, and let his thoughts wander. What would their child be like? In his mind's eye, he could see a small dark-haired boy running through the fields, laughing as his father chased him. It was his own father, Clark knew, his own happy memory of a long-past summer's day resurfacing, but it wasn't hard to replace his father's face with his own. He could picture himself swinging his child up into his arms, spinning him around they made their way back to the farmhouse, then handing the laughing child off to Lois's waiting arms. What he couldn't tell, however, was whether Lois was happy.
The smile slowly left Clark's face as his contented thoughts of the future were gradually replaced by a wistful melancholy. Would Lois find it hard to smile over their child? It was clear what a shock the news of her pregnancy had been to her, and in contrast to Clark's acceptance — his happiness — she had seemed absolutely devastated. She was clearly feeling better now that he'd assured her of his love and commitment, but she had never once said that she'd wanted this child.
Maybe it was too soon. It had only been — what had she said? — less than a week since she had first taken the pregnancy test. She would just need time to adjust, he told himself. Time to accept the fact that their lives were going to change. Yet she had told him once, well before they had begun dating, that she'd never imagined herself having children. Could it be that she still felt that way, that her pregnancy, their child, would never be anything more than a burden to her?
Clark sighed as he opened the final window in the living room, then shook his head, refusing to accept the thought. Lois had so much love to give … that he knew for certain. But he couldn't help but wonder how long it would be before she could truly welcome this child into her heart.
Clark climbed the stairs slowly as he moved to the upper level of the house. He could feel the air moving slightly and he realized that Lois must have been able to open a few of the windows upstairs. The breeze was still warm, but in contrast to the intense heat from the last several days, it felt refreshing.
Passing the bathroom as his way to his bedroom, Clark noticed Lois had removed her wet sun-dress and hung it over the shower rod. Pulling off his damp t-shirt, jeans and socks, he hung them next to her dress, then padded the rest of the way down the hall in his bare feet, wearing only his underwear.
As he approached his open bedroom door, however, Clark paused in the doorway, his eyes on the woman who stood before him. She had already changed into a dry t-shirt, but had yet to put on any shorts. The white panties she was wearing might not have even been noticeable under the material of the t-shirt, except that she had lifted up the shirt's hem, exposing her midsection as she studied her profile in the mirror. She looked up when he entered the room, and sighed as they made eye contact. "Do you think I'm showing?" she asked, clearly a little troubled.
He shook his head. "No."
She took her gaze back to the mirror, then sighed again, dropping the t-shirt. "I wonder how long I'll be able to hide it."
Clark reached into his suitcase and pulled out a clean pair of shorts. He gave her a little smile as he put them on. "You're beautiful, Lois … you can't hide that."
"Bet you won't say that when I'm as big as a house," she murmured, running her hands across her stomach. Her face held a ghost of a smile, but her voice was clearly wistful.
Approaching her, Clark wrapped his arms around her from behind and covered her hands with his, letting them rest over her still flat belly. "Bet you I will."
Lois let her head drop back to his chest as they stood in the middle of the room, and closed her eyes. "Is it OK to still be scared?" she whispered after a long pause.
Holding her a bit more tightly, Clark nodded. "Yeah … it's OK." He rested his cheek on the top of her head and closed his eyes, remembering how long it had been since she'd let him hold her like this. "Just let me be there for you."
"I will … I promise." She turned in his arms. "I love you, Clark."
"And I love you. So very much."
As their lips met slowly in the dim light of the quiet bedroom, the rustle of the wind-blown curtains and the gentle patter of rain on the roof were the only accompaniments to their beating hearts.
Clark sighed deeply as he stretched out on the sheets, cradling Lois against his chest, then smiled as he heard her give the same satisfied sigh.
"Why is it, Mr. Super-hero," she asked, purring contentedly as she pressed a kiss to his bare skin, "that you can work outside all day in 90 degree heat and not even feel it, but making love can make you sweat?"
Clark chuckled and rolled to his side, then captured Lois's mouth in a kiss. "I don't know … internal versus external heat?" he suggested.
Lois grinned even as she traced a fingertip over his pectoral muscles. "So you're saying I'm hotter than a Kansas heat wave, huh? Hmm, I like it."
"Just don't go putting it on your resume," he teased, kissing her again. "It's proprietary information." When their mouths separated, Clark looked into her eyes and smiled. "I love you."
She smiled back. "I love you, too."
Clark cupped her cheek, letting his thumb stroke her skin. His gaze grew tender. "You're glowing."
Lois gave a little laugh, but he couldn't help notice that the expression in her eyes became a bit more pensive. "Is that from the sex or the pregnancy?"
"Both, I hope." He picked up Lois's left hand and held it out so they could both examine the ring. "Or maybe because you're happy about this?" As his gaze flickered back to her face, however, he felt his worries begin to resurface. "You are, aren't you?"
"Happy about getting married?" Smiling softly, Lois intertwined her fingers with his and gave his hand a reassuring squeeze. "Yeah … I am." After a moment, however, she rested her cheek against his chest and sighed. "It's just not how I had pictured us as newlyweds, that's all."
Hearing the doubt had returned to her voice, Clark began to stroke her hair. "Because of the baby?" he asked gently.
Lois slowly nodded, clearly searching for the words. "It's just … when you first get married, you're supposed to be carefree. Making love at every opportunity, vacationing in exotic places." He heard her give a rueful laugh. "Instead I'll probably be too busy with morning sickness to want to do anything."
Instead of being disappointed at what he was supposed to be missing, Clark only furrowed his brow with concern. "Have you been feeling sick?" he asked.
"No," Lois answered slowly. "Not yet, at least. Just kind of tired."
"But you'd tell me if you were, right? And if there was anything I could do to help?"
A little smile quirked at her lips. "Carry the kid for me? Give birth?"
Clark couldn't help but smile. "You know, I might just have to draw the line there."
"Lot of help you are," she shot back, but her smile proved she was only teasing.
Pressing an affectionate kiss to her forehead, Clark propped himself up on one elbow. "You know, we can still take an exotic vacation … we do have a honeymoon coming up, after all."
Lois's eyebrows rose in interest. "Gosh, I hadn't even thought about that … where should we go?"
"Well," Clark said with a shrug, "with Superman Airlines, we can pretty much go anywhere, so I'd say the sky's the limit." He grinned. "Literally." When that earned him a chuckle, he continued more thoughtfully. "I mean, we won't have many vacation days left after this week, but I think Perry would be willing to spot us a few extra if we told him it was for a honeymoon." He gave a little laugh. "After he picked himself up off the floor, that is."
Lois laughed with him, even as she shook her head. "Everyone is going to be so shocked." After a moment, though, she sighed. "But they're all going to know, you know. Even if we don't say anything right away, they're all going to do the math and figure out that I got pregnant, and they're going to assume that I made you marry me."
"Lois! What a thing to—"
"No, Clark, it's what they're going to say," she reiterated, her voice taking on a weary tone. "I've been on the receiving end of the rumor mill before and, trust me, it can be really vicious."
"Well, anyone who gets vicious with you is going to have to answer to me," he retorted protectively. "And after I teach them some manners, I'll tell them that it's none of their business!"
The firmness in his tone earned him a smile. "My hero," she teased gently, giving him a hug. But Clark couldn't miss the resignation in her voice.
Suddenly, a new thought occurred to him. "Hey, remember when I told you about Superman? How I told you that I hadn't really lied, that I'd just told you certain facts—"
"To keep me from finding out about certain other facts." Lois rolled her eyes. "Believe me, I remember."
Clark couldn't help but chuckle at her response, but as he quickly warmed to his idea, his voice grew more animated. "Why couldn't we do something similar when it comes to this information? Not lie, exactly, but put our own spin on it before anyone else has a chance to?"
Lois shook her head, confused. "You've lost me."
"Well, everyone knows we've been planning this vacation for weeks, right?"
"And if we come home from our vacation already married …"
Lois's eyebrows suddenly lifted as she caught his implication. "Then everyone will assume we went on vacation to elope."
Clark smiled. "Exactly. And by the time you start to show, we'll be so obviously happy together that no one will dare imply that we were forced in anything — or that we're anything less than delighted by the news.
Lois stared at him for a long moment, but soon a delighted smile began to spread across her face. "I had no idea you could be so devious, Mr. Kent."
He grinned proudly. "I had a really good teacher."
Lois leaned forward to press a kiss to his mouth, but she clearly still needed some reassurance. "So you're really serious?" she asked. "You think we should get married in the next few days?"
Clark took her hand. "Honey, I'd marry you in the next few minutes if we could get a minister here," he promised. "Just say where … we could fly to Las Vegas tonight, or we could visit the Small County courthouse in the morning and be married by the end of the week. But if you think that's too fast, we could wait till we got back to Metropolis and start planning something there—"
"Smallville," Lois interjected suddenly.
Lois smiled and reached up to caress his cheek. "Smallville, Clark … Let's do it here, this week. I can't think of any better place to begin our life together."
Swallowing emotionally at the tenderness in her gaze, Clark caught her hand in his and pressed a gentle kiss to her palm. "Oh, Lois," he whispered. "You make me so happy." As he looked in her eyes, however, a new seriousness took hold. "But, honey, I need you to believe me … if you go to the doctor next week and he tells you it was all just a false alarm … I'll still be just as happy. I need you to believe that."
Her eyes beginning to tear, Lois pulled him to her. "Oh, Clark," she said with a watery laugh. "If I didn't believe it, I never would have said yes."
As afternoon turned to evening, the storm clouds outside began to dissipate and a gentle beam of light from the setting sun broke through to illuminate the bedroom. Clark gently laid his head on his fiancee's abdomen, his ear resting on her belly.
Lois stroked his hair. "Do you hear anything?" she whispered.
He shook his head softly. "No … I wondered if I might hear a heartbeat or something, but I don't."
"I think it's too early," she said. "Your hearing might be different, but I don't think doctors can hear the heartbeat until nine or ten weeks along."
"And how far along are you?"
"Just past five weeks, I think. They start counting from the date of your last period, so even though I just ovulated three weeks ago, they call it five weeks."
Clark sat up. "How do you know that?" he asked, suddenly curious. "About the counting? And the heartbeat?"
"I don't know," Lois said with a slight shrug. "I read it somewhere, I guess."
He couldn't help but give her a little smile. "I thought you didn't know anything about babies."
She dropped her gaze. "I don't … not really. I just— When I thought I might be … I—"
"Researched?" he whispered. When she nodded, his mouth twisted and he found he had to blink back tears. He took her hand and placed it on her belly, then covered it with his own. "Lois … you *do* want this baby."
She met his gaze, her eyes damp as well. "How could I not?" she whispered back. "It's part of you."
Clark opened his mouth to speak, but his emotions got the better of him. Still, as he stretched himself alongside her and brought his mouth to hers, it was clear there was no need for words. The joy on his face said it all.
THE END :)
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