Missed Years, Part 2

By JLT <j.l.t@talk21.com>

Rated: PG-13

Submitted: January 2005

Summary: Now that Clark has returned to Earth after almost five years on New Krypton, can he and Lois pick up where they left off? Or have things changed too much? This is part 2 of a series and follows "Missed Years."

Well, I eventually finished part 2. I'd like to thank all those who encouraged me to continue with this story. Your feedback was greatly appreciated. A huge thank you to Erica, my BR: your input was invaluble.

If you haven't read the original Missed Years, also on the archive, then I suggest you do so for this fic to make any sense.

Keep smiling. JLT

***

*Find me here

Speak to me

I want to feel you

I need to hear you

You are the light

That is leading me to the place

Where I find peace again

You are the strength that keeps me walking

You are the hope that keeps me trusting

You are the life to my soul

You are my purpose

You are everything

And how can I stand here with you

And not be moved by you

Would you tell me how could it be

Any better than this

You calm the storms

You give me rest

You hold me in your hands

You won't let me fall

You still my heart

And you take my breath away

Would you take me in

Would you take me deeper now

'Cause you're all I want

You are all I need

You are everything

Everything*

(Everything by Lifehouse)

***

Lois had felt confident when she'd left Clark's apartment. She knew what she had to do, but now she was on her own and she didn't have Clark by her side, she was scared. Finding her seat on the plane, she checked the number and sat down next to a pretty young girl. The girl smiled and continued to read the paper, which had Superman on the front cover. He'd spent the last few weeks fighting criminals and liaising with police. Metropolis was slowly but surely taking its true form again. The prospect of talking to Paul was the only thing on her mind; she had absolutely no idea of what she was going to say. He would most probably feel used, hurt, and angry. There was no way that she could spare his feelings. It was a case of being cruel to be kind.

***

A few hours later, Lois was opening the front door to the barn. It was late and she was tired. The last thing she wanted to do was have a confrontation so she crept into the bedroom, carefully closing the door behind her. Letting out a deep breath, she placed her bags on the floor and sat down in front of the dressing table.

"Lois, is that you?"

She froze; her heart skipped a beat. "What?" Looking in the mirror, she saw Paul.

Propping himself up, he winked at her and held out his hand. "Didn't mean to scare you sweetheart; thought I'd surprise you."

"Well, you certainly did surprise me, Paul," said Lois, turning round to look at him.

He looked hot; there was no denying the fact he was pretty gorgeous.

Swinging his legs round, he got out of bed and made his way towards Lois. Taking her hands, he pulled her towards him. She could feel the heat burning from his chest and see the desire in his eyes.

"I missed you Lois, I need you. I can't wait any longer to show you how much I love you." He wound one of her curls around his index finger. He let it go and it bounced back.

He was going to kiss her and she had to stop it; this wasn't what she'd came back to do. Her heart and mind were fighting against each other as he drew in even closer to capture her mouth. She couldn't think, he had overwhelmed her as her body responded to his advances. Summoning all her courage, she tried to pull away. "Paul… please."

Surprisingly, he let go immediately. "Lois, what is it? Don't you realise how long I've waited for this? I have been so patient with you. Done everything your way and in your time. I thought you felt the same way, but you're always hanging on to the past."

Lois knew every word he was saying was true. "I'm so sorry, Paul, I can't help the way I feel about Clark. I've loved being with you and you mean a lot to me, but it's different with him."

"Lois, the guy left you for nearly five years. He doesn't deserve you. I'd do anything for you. Anything, " he whispered the last word.

"I know all that, Paul, and I'm so sorry. I want to be with Clark. He needs us and we need him. I know it must be hard for you to understand. I barely understand it myself. I can't hurt you anymore either, but it just wouldn't be fair. What I'm trying to say is there can never be an 'us'."

There was a long silence before Paul replied. "I never really stood a chance. Did I?"

Lois felt like the most evil woman on earth. She really liked this guy a lot and if Clark had never existed, then things might have been different. "I guess not."

***

Paul went into his room and started to gather up his things, throwing them into a bag. He felt humiliated and devastated. He had wasted months on Lois, and he had never done that before with any other woman. He used to be a fly-by-night kind of guy. "I'll come round for the rest of my stuff when I've got my head round this."

Lois followed him. "Paul, I'm…" She was cut dead.

"Just don't, Lois. I've heard all you've got to say." He got to the door, paused, and turned around. "I'll see ya, then."

"Bye." The door closed and Lois fell onto the bed. It was done now and it was over. She reached over and took her cell phone out of her bag and dialed Clark's number. And waited.

"Clark Kent."

"Clark, it's me."

"Lois, hi. Are you all right?"

"I'm fine, just thought I'd better let you know that I've done it. Paul's gone."

Clark detected a sad tone in her voice. "Lois, do you want me to come over? Just say the word and I'll be there."

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't but I…"

Clark walked through the door of the barn and into Lois's room. "But what?"

Lois laughed. "But nothing, what am I gonna do with you?"

"Anything you like. I'm at your disposal."

Taking Clark's hand, she escorted him to the kitchen. "Want a coffee or something stronger?"

"Coffee's fine. Now, are you going to tell me what happened?"

Lois placed the mugs on the side and sat down at the kitchen table with her husband.

"Well, when I got in I didn't think anybody was home. I walked into my bedroom and there he was. Paul was waiting for me. He said that he had waited too long and that he wanted to show me how much he loved me."

Lois's words were making Clark feel extremely uncomfortable. "So, you never slept with Paul?"

Looking directly into his eyes she gave him her answer. "No."

"But I thought… well, I assumed that you…"

"No, there were many times when I nearly did. He's a handsome, loving, and caring man. I'll admit that I was very tempted and found it hard to reject his advances. There is something between us, nothing like I have with you; nevertheless there is definitely a mutual attraction."

"So, why didn't you?"

"I'm a married woman. Sleeping with someone else would have been the ultimate betrayal. How could I give myself to another man when I didn't know if you were alive or dead? You are part of my very soul, Clark."

"Oh, Lois. You have just lifted a great weight from my shoulders. I couldn't bear the thought of you with somebody else, and when I saw you and Paul, I thought I'd lost you forever."

"Clark," she whispered while a single tear ran down her face. All the emotion she had stored up over the last months had finally got a hold of her. She couldn't breathe. She was choked by her own tears and emotion. Clark ran round to her side of the table to comfort her. He placed his strong arms around her and held her.

Eventually she stopped crying and released herself from his embrace. Clark hated to see Lois in such a state.

Taking her face between his hands, he gently wiped the tears away. He moved closer and began to kiss the side of her cheek, slowly moving to her neck. Leaning back, she closed her eyes and let the feeling envelop her. Gently scooping Lois up, he carried her to the bedroom, closed the door behind him, and laid her on the bed. It was what they had both been waiting for; the ultimate show of affection. They had both waited long enough.

***

It had been the first time in five years that Lois had woken up to find the man she loved lying next to her. She couldn't stop smiling; she was on cloud nine. She hadn't realised until now just how much she had missed him. It was nearly time for the kids to get up so she slowly crept out of bed.

Suddenly, a muffled male voice came from the under the duvet. "Hey, where do you think you're going?"

"I thought you were asleep."

Clark pulled back the covers, propped himself up with the pillows, and gave Lois the widest grin. "You are stunning. I could just look at you all day."

Lois could feel the colour rising to her face. "Stop it, you've got me all flustered."

"Sorry, honey. Don't let me stop you from doing whatever you were going to do."

"I have to get the kids up, it's a school day. If you hurry up you can come with us." With that she threw his clothes at him.

He caught them. "What happened to the passionate woman I was with last night?"

"I'm in mommy mode now. You'll have to wait," winked Lois.

Lois heard the footsteps coming down the hall. They stopped outside the bedroom door. "Okay kids, I can hear you. Come in."

Lois went over to the door and swung it open. Two little bodies fell into the bedroom. "And what do you two think you're doing?"

Kieran and Faith looked at each other then back to their parents. Faith spoke first. "We could hear you talking. At first we thought it was Paul and then it sounded like you were talking to Superman, but we can see now you were talking to Daddy."

Lois and Clark couldn't help but laugh. "These two are quite the little reporters, aren't they?"

"Don't I get a morning hug from my two favorite little people?" asked Clark.

Kieran and Faith leapt onto the bed, pinning their dad down. "Guys, guys, calm down."

"Come on, mommy, we can have a group hug," said Faith, waving her hand.

Lois joined her husband and children on the bed. The twins started to tickle each other, then they both tickled Lois, who then tickled Clark while Kieran and Faith pinned him down. Clark was trying really hard not to laugh. "Okay, okay… stop." They finally stopped and Clark was allowed to get up.

"Fun's over, guys. Time to get ready for school," shouted Lois.

Full of beans, the kids ran out of the room. "Lois, are you all right this morning?"

"Yeah, I think you managed to take my mind off things. I'm gonna have to face him today at the school. It's not going to be easy."

"You're a strong person and I know you'll get through it. We've got a lot of stuff to sort out. I live and work in Metropolis and you live and work here."

Lois hadn't even thought about that yet. "Gosh, you're right. I guess we have got a lot of things to sort out." The thought of leaving Smallville hadn't even occurred to her until now, but she couldn't think about it at the moment; there would be plenty of time for that later.

Clark could see he had hit a nerve with Lois. "Hey, it'll be all right. We will sort something out. I promise, but for now I think we should just take each day as it comes. I can see that you and the kids are settled here; I have no right to ask you to give everything up."

"How is it that you can read my thoughts? I must be transparent or something."

Clark grabbed her hand. "Come on, I'll cook us all breakfast. Then I'd better get going."

***

Lois and Clark dropped the twins off at school. It was all new to Clark. After nearly five years in an environment that was alien to him, he was suddenly in the midst of fatherhood and family life. He hadn't spoken with Lois but he was finding it hard to re-adjust. It was taking all his power just to block out the horrible thoughts. He couldn't heal the wound that was embedded on his person from life on New Krypton; he could still hear voices, see the blood on his hands, and feel the pain of the people he fought to protect.

Glancing over at Clark, Lois could see he was in some far away place. "Honey, are you all right?"

The sound of her voice brought him back to reality. "Oh… yeah, I was just thinking."

Lois frowned at him. "They must have been some thoughts, Clark. For a minute there I thought you were back on New Krypton."

"So did I, Lois, so did I."

"Listen, I've got to go to work but if you want to talk about it later, I'm all ears."

Taking Lois's hand, he pulled her towards him. "I'll be okay. Now a kiss good bye would be nice."

"I think I can do that." She moved in and planted a big kiss on his lips. "That's all you're getting for now. I really have to go. Will you be flying over tonight?"

"Try and stop me. Have a good day then."

"You too."

Clark watched her get into the jeep and drive off. Her perfume still surrounded him, and he could still sense her. She was everywhere. For the first time in years, he felt alive. Everything he loved had been taken away from him, but he wasn't going to let it happen again. Being with Lois in every capacity made him the man he was. He knew it wasn't going to be easy to fall back into the swing of things, but he had two children to get to know and he was determined to be a family at all costs.

***

The staff room at Smallville High was empty when Lois arrived. She had half an hour until her first class. Pulling up a chair, she sat down and began to read her notes. Little did she know that she was being watched.

Paul watched her as she chewed on her pencil and pulled her hair back into a ponytail. He had been up all night contemplating leaving Smallville. His resignation was in his back pocket, and talking to Lois would help him make up his mind. Taking a deep breath, he walked into the staff room.

"Morning, Lois."

Lois jumped as she had been in deep concentration and hadn't noticed Paul walk in. "Morning, Paul."

He sat in the chair opposite her. "I know you're busy but I think we should talk."

Lois looked up at him and leant back into her chair. "Okay, I'm listening."

"I accept what you said last night. I don't have to like it, but I understand that you want the best for the children."

"And me." Lois interrupted.

"Of course. I have never let a woman get to me as much as you have and I'd find it really difficult seeing you every day, going through the formalities and stuff. I just need to know how you feel about it all?"

"I'm finding it awkward now. I wish we could be friends but I guess it's a bit raw at the moment."

"Thank you. You've just made my decision easier. I'm going to resign." Paul pulled out the letter from his back pocket.

"You don't have to resign because of me, Paul! Yes, it will be hard working with each other but in time it will get better."

"No, Lois. It will never get better for me. I think we could have been happy together but your easy disregard for our relationship has shown me your true colours."

Lois got up. "Paul, that's not true. You will always be very special to me. Please don't let this get in the way of your career."

"It already has, Lois." He got up and moved towards the door.

"Paul, I…"

He was about to leave but decided to turn around and walk back to Lois. "There's just one thing you owe me, Ms. Lane. He closed in on her, summoned up all his passion, and kissed her full on the lips. As he pulled away, he could see he had shocked her. He was gone before she could open her eyes.

Lois was overwhelmed by what had just happened. She hadn't expected him to do that. Putting her right hand to her lips, she walked to her class in a daze.

***

Principal Chambers announced Paul's resignation. He had decided not to work his notice and had left immediately. Lois went home in bad spirits and feeling guilty. Before Clark had came back she had been happy and it was down to Paul. He had shown her that life was precious and there was a future; she owed him a lot. Instead, she had pushed him away like he hadn't meant anything to her and now he was gone. She suddenly felt vulnerable and alone.

Her feelings turned into reality that evening when Clark didn't turn up or even call to say that he couldn't make it. She had spent half the evening explaining to Kieran and Faith that he had to work. The look on their faces distressed Lois, and she had never had to do that before. The truth was that she had no idea where he was and therefore couldn't give them a straight answer to when he would be there to see them next. She had tried phoning him, but every call was diverted to the answer machine.

Eventually, she got the kids to sleep after reading them various stories. It was too late to call the Kents and she didn't want to worry them. Working herself up into a state wasn't going to help so she decided to turn in for the night.

***

Lois woke with a start. Surprisingly, she managed to get a good night's sleep. Reaching over for the clock, the time read seven in the morning. It was still early and it was the weekend. Pondering on whether to go back to bed, she walked over to the balcony and drew back the curtains. There was someone sitting at the table. Rubbbing her eyes and blinking, she focused in on him. It was Clark. There were two Starbucks coffees and two croissants on the table.

Lois unlocked the door, picked up the spare chair, placed it beside Clark, and sat down. There was an uneasy silence as they both looked straight ahead out into the open fields.

Finally Clark spoke. "I'm sorry."

He still wasn't looking at her. It wasn't like him not to make eye contact. "Not as sorry as your children were last night," replied Lois, bitterly.

"What did you tell them?"

"That you had to work."

Clark just nodded his head, while Lois was finding it hard to keep her temper under control. "Clark, will you look at me when we're having a conversation?!"

She continued to stare at him until he eventually turned to face her. Their eyes met and were locked instantaneously. He looked troubled and her heart sank. She felt his sadness and it overwhelmed her. "Clark, what is it?" she whispered.

"I need you to understand that I've changed, Lois. I'm not the same man that I was five years ago. Things affect me now far more than they ever did. I used to enjoy my role as Superman; nothing could compare to saving people's lives and making the world a better place. It wasn't like that on New Krypton. I can't begin to explain how different it was. Put it this way, there wasn't any job satisfaction."

Lois didn't quite know what his angle was; what was he trying to tell her and why now? "Are you having second thoughts about us?"

"You really don't expect me to answer that, do you?"

"Well, what am I supposed to think?"

Clark grabbed her hand and held it firmly. "Don't ever doubt my feelings for you. My love for you is the one thing that has remained constant throughout the years. I just need you to know that I'm not the same man you married."

"And I'm not the same woman you married. Granted, I haven't been through what you have but I have had to make huge alterations to my life. I uprooted myself from Metropolis whilst I was still grieving, and had two children. My whole life completely changed. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I found strength that I never knew I had. We probably won't know just how much we've changed until we've been together for a little while but we have to see it through and if it just doesn't feel right – then we take it from there. It's OK to be scared, Clark."

"Lois, I don't know if I can be what you want me to be. You need stability and I'm not sure if I can do that. I had to rescue so many people last night that I didn't even realise what the time was until it was too late. I'm just not sure if I'm cut out for all this."

Rising from her chair. Lois went over to the balcony. She didn't know what to say to him. She couldn't even look at him. A long silence hung in the morning air. "We don't have to rush into anything, we don't even have to live together. As long as we know you're around then that'll be enough. I've lived on my own for five years. I think I can manage without you."

Clark's brow furrowed. The whole conversation they were having was beginning to get off track.

"Listen, Lois, I'm not saying that I don't want to be with you, I just want to be able to give you all my undivided attention, but you know that will never happen. While I'm Superman, I'll miss out on things and let you down. I don't know who I am or what I'm doing anymore."

"That's enough, Clark. Will you quit feeling sorry for yourself? It doesn't suit you! I don't want to hear any more more of it. We've got to give it our best shot and that's all there is to it. This conversation ends now. I'm going to get dressed so why don't you make yourself at home?"

"Well, that told me," mumbled Clark under his breath.

***

Over the next few weeks Clark spent his time flitting between Metropolis and Smallville. Some nights he stayed at his apartment, most nights he spent with Lois. They hadn't really had a chance to talk about anything, with Lois working and Clark at the Daily Planet. He set aside weekends for the children, which left little time for each other.

Lois pulled up her car outside the Kents' house. She'd promised Martha that she'd pop in to discuss the twins' birthday with her. The back door was open so she let herself in.

"Martha? Jonathan? It's me, Lois."

"Come in, honey. I'm in the Kitchen," replied Martha.

"Hi, Martha. Sorry it's a bit late, I had to work overtime at the school."

Martha ushered Lois to a chair. "Don't worry, it's nice to see you. We haven't seen much of you recently. Are things okay?"

Lois should have known that she couldn't hide her feelings from her mother-in-law. "Oh, Martha, I don't know where to start."

Martha sat down next to Lois and took her hand. "Is it Clark?"

Lois looked up into her sweet face. "Since the day we decided to give our relationship a second chance, it just hasn't happened. I've been working here and he's been in Metropolis. He comes home late practically every night and at weekends he devotes his entire time to the twins. I just feel that he's shutting me out. I need adult conversation. I spend all day and all night with kids and teenagers. I went into this with my eyes wide open. I knew it wouldn't be easy, but at least we'd be together but we're not even that. I gave up a great guy for him, Martha. He told me that he'd changed, that he wasn't the same Clark that I used to know. People change, lord knows I have, but deep down where it really matters that can never change. I know the Clark I love must still be there somewhere."

"Oh, honey, he barely has time for us, I did wonder if he was the same with you. If I know Clark, I'd say he probably feels guilty for leaving you and we don't know what happened to him while he was away."

"I can't bear it any longer. I feel so alone, so neglected. He's so distant with me and we haven't been close in weeks. We're not even having a relationship in any form at all. I really have tried, Martha."

"I wish I could do something. Just give it some time and maybe he'll open up. Don't give up on him, I know how much he loves you."

"And I love him, so very much. That's what makes it hurt all the more," Lois sighed.

***

Lois arrived home and headed straight for the drinks cabinet. The children were staying over at friends so she had the night to herself.

Pouring herself a large brandy, she wondered whether or not her estranged husband would make an appearance. She raised her glass, sat down in the chair, and made a toast to Clark. The liquor was smooth and reassuring, so she poured another and turned the radio on.

"Oh, great. That's all I need," Lois muttered to herself. "Mushy love songs." She managed to tune into a station that was playing more suitable music but she couldn't get into it, so she turned it off and topped up her glass. The drink was starting to take an effect on her, and she was feeling lightheaded and quite merry. The sound of the front door opening jolted her out of her day dreaming. It had to be Clark. She quickly tried to compose herself, hiding the glass and brandy bottle behind the chair she sat in.

His tall dark figure stood in the doorway. "I… I… thought you'd be in bed?"

"Sorry to disappoint you," she slowly replied.

Clark turned the light on and walked towards Lois. She gave him a sharp defiant look as she stood up. As she turned to walk away, he grabbed her arm and pulled her back.

Clark gave her a look of disgust. He could smell the alcohol on her breath. "You've been drinking, haven't you?"

"So what if I have?!"

He let go of her and went round the back of the chair. He picked up the half empty brandy bottle and held it in front of Lois. "What were you thinking?"

"What do you care?" retorted Lois

"I care, Lois. You know I do."

"I'll tell you what I was thinking (hiccup). You weren't here AGAIN and I felt like a drink (hiccup)." She could feel herself losing balance.

Clark managed to catch her before her legs gave way. Scooping her up in his arms, he carried her to the bedroom and laid her on the bed. He sat down next to her and watched her fall asleep. It was his fault, everything was his fault, he thought. He hadn't spent any time with her at all over the past weeks. It was unlike Lois to drink so much, especially as he knew how much she despised her mother's alcoholism. The truth was he was finding life harder than ever. He was trying to catch up on all that he'd missed the last few years but it was virtually impossible. He needed to talk to Lois, to tell her how he felt, and to tell her the truth. Clark gently tried to wake her up.

"What? Who?" Her eyes focused on a familiar figure. "Oh, Clark, you're still here."

"I know this isn't the best time but we really have to talk."

Lois hauled herself into the sitting position. "Blink and I'll miss you," she chuckled to herself.

"I can't believe you drank all that brandy. It won't solve anything. It'll just make you feel ill."

"I don't need a lecture from you. Haven't you got someone to save tonight or maybe a woman to see, must've been desperate to come here, SUPERMAN," slurred Lois.

Clark grabbed his wife by the shoulders. "Don't, Lois. I didn't come here to start an argument."

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that. I can't take much more of this. Where are we going, Clark? I knew it would be hard but I never expected us to end up like this!"

"I think both of our lives changed beyond recognition, and correct me if I'm wrong but you were happy before I showed up, weren't you?"

Lois could see the grief in his eyes. She snapped out of her drunken state and moved closer to Clark. "Yes, I was as happy as I could be."

"You're not happy now though, are you? I thought love would be enough, but it isn't. To love someone they have to be around and I'm not. God, I feel so guilty; whatever I do, I'm letting somebody down. If it's not you it's the kids, if it's not them it's the screams I hear in my head. Even if we moved back to Metropolis it wouldn't solve the problem. It's destroying me because I know I'm destroying you and we can't let it continue."

"So what do you suggest?" enquired Lois.

Clark ran his fingers through his hair and sighed. "Let's not expect too much from one another. I'll stay in Metropolis for now and on weekends we can all go out as a family and spend time together. If our lives take a different path then so be it."

Lois reached out and rested her hand on his leg. "Clark, I will always love you. You know that, don't you?"

"I know, Lois. I'll always love you too. This isn't giving up, you know. It's facing up and taking control."

If there was one change Lois had noticed in Clark, it was that he had become distant. She felt as though he wasn't sharing everything with her. Just like when he was hiding his identity when they were best friends. Lois hated it then and she hated it now.

"Clark, there's something or someone keeping you away from me, isn't there?"

It was no use trying to hide things from Lois. Sooner or later her inquisitive nature would take over. "I… Er, I… haven't been completely honest with you. That day you saw me outside my parent's farmhouse, you weren't supposed to be there."

"What are you talking about, Clark?"

"I was never supposed to stay. I was at a low ebb on New Krypton and very homesick. I couldn't concentrate. I yearned just to see a glimpse of the place I love. They granted me leave for a while to visit earth. I stood behind that tree for ages just thinking until I was spotted by two children and then…" He tore a look at her; she was hanging on his every word. "I heard your voice. It was torture. I knew at that moment that I had to leave, that I couldn't let you see me. My heart was telling me one thing and my head another. I was overruled with emotion. Before I knew it you'd seen me and when you said my name, it was too late; I just…" Reliving it again was too much. He could barely speak.

Dumbfounded, Lois could barely utter the words. "You… you, " she stuttered, "were never supposed to come back to me?"

"No, not at that time. How could I tell you that I wasn't meant to be there? How could I leave when I found out I had two children? How could I leave you when every day since the day I left you were the only thing on my mind? Lois, when I saw you with Paul, I felt sick. I wanted so much to just go and let you get on with your life but I just couldn't do it."

Lois didn't know what to say. Her mind had gone completely blank. Clark had got up and gone over to the window. "I never thought I'd see Earth again let alone see you. Most days I was preoccupied on New Krypton, and the little time I had to myself, I spent thinking about the good times."

Wiping a tear away with the back of her hand, she poised herself. "What was it like there? You've not said much about it."

Silence hang between them for a minute or two. With his back still turned he slowly began to speak again. "Hostile… It was like everything I ever believed in didn't exist there. I was with my own people but I was an outsider to them. I'm no more Kryptonian than you are. Having to adjust to life there was the hardest thing I've ever done. It took at least two years for them to accept me. I was deprived of laughter, friendship, trust and love. At one time, I could have pleaded insanity; it ate away at me, all that death and destruction that I had to witness every day. I could feel my body slowly rejecting my heart, they became disconnected; it was the only way I could survive."

Lois made her way across the room to where Clark was standing. He didn't turn around. "I'm sorry, Clark. I had no idea."

"I don't want sympathy. I just need you to understand that it's altered me a little. I've been back to New Krypton several times. I told them that I couldn't go back for good. They took it better than I thought. Ching and Zara have learnt a lot, so I think they should be able to rule perfectly well without me."

He turned away from the window to face Lois. "Now you've been completely honest with me, do you think we could be true to ourselves?" Lois softly asked.

"We can but try." Clark raised his hand to her cheek and pulled her closer.

Lois shied away. "You're not going to go away tonight, are you?"

"Not tonight, Lois… not tonight."

A smile crept across her face as she put her arms around him. She felt better already.

***

It had been a week since their talk and things were getting better. Jonathan and Martha had been great, taking the children when they wanted time to themselves. It was like they were dating and in the "getting to know you" period. They had come to a mutual arrangement that they would take each day as it comes, being just very good friends.

The forthcoming event in the Kent household was proving a hard task. Lois wanted Kieran and Faith's fifth birthday to be their best yet. She'd spent the last few days sorting out entertainment and food, and buying presents. Clark helped when he could but he knew Lois was in her element organizing everything, so he left most of it to her.

She was just going over the numbers for the party when she caught sight of Martha's face at the kitchen window. "Martha!" She waved. "Come in."

"Hi, honey. You looked deep in thought."

"Yeah, I was just checking how many people were coming to the party. Do you know I counted twenty children?"

Martha laughed. "They're going to love it. Have you sorted out the entertainment?"

"I've got Mr. Magic coming but that won't keep them entertained for long. I was thinking about asking Clark."

"Clark?"

"C'mon, Martha, the kids would love having Superman at their party."

"I'm not sure, Lois. What if they make the connection between Clark and Superman?"

"Well, we can paint his face or something."

Martha gave Lois a funny look. "I think you should ask Clark."

"Ask me what?" The two Kent women nearly jumped out of their skin.

Lois held her chest, "Don't do that, Clark!"

"Sorry. Hi, mom."

Martha gave Clark a peck on the cheek. "Hi, honey. Lois was just telling me about the entertainment for the kids' party next week."

"Oh, well what did you want to ask me?"

Putting her pen down on the table, Lois looked at Clark. "I was wondering if you could come to the party as Superman just for ten minutes or so. The kids would love it."

Clark raised his eyebrows and looked at his mom, who shrugged her shoulders, and then at Lois. "I kinda thought I'd be going as their dad."

"Of course you will… for most of it. Just fly down and deliver the birthday cake or something."

"All right, I suppose it can't hurt. This will be a good one to tell Kieran and Faith when they're older."

Lois was grinning from ear to ear as she ticked "Superman" off her list. "I knew you wouldn't let me down."

"I'll leave you two to it then," said Martha, "Oh, and I'll be round later to look after the twins"

"Thanks, Martha."

"Yeah, bye, Mom," shouted Clark.

"Slow news day?" Lois asked, hugging her husband close.

"Jimmy and I have been working on a few things. It'll soon pick up, what with Lex Luthor getting his 'get out of jail free' card, passing go, and collecting two hundred dollars. Metropolis just isn't the same without him," he said, sarcastically.

Lois's face fell. The mere mention of his name sent a chill through her heart. "Be careful, Clark. It won't be long before he's up to something. You know what they say about leopards never changing their spots."

Clark reached out and covered her hand. "I won't let him hurt our family."

"Let's not talk about him. I'm really looking forward to tonight. Where are you taking me?"

A smile danced across his lips. "How do you fancy Paris?"

"Don't try so hard, Clark. Pizza and a video is just as good; besides it doesn't matter where you take me, it's the company that counts."

He should have known better than to dazzle Lois. He wanted to show her how much he cared and he would give her the world if he could. As far as he was concerned, he owed her everything; the respect and admiration he had for her now was at its highest. Their relationship had reached a new level and it was important that he didn't step over the line. He had no idea whether they'd ever get back together, but for the moment he was just enjoying what they had.

"Pizza in Metropolis it is, then. I better go and tidy up. Pick you up at seven, then."

"I'll be waiting."

***

By six o'clock Lois finished arranging the party, having now an hour left to get ready before Clark picked her up. "Oh, God, I look awful," she muttered as she caught sight of herself in the bedroom mirror.

She had no idea what to wear; not having seen the inside of a decent clothes shop for ages, she didn't have anything new, either. After a lot of deliberating she eventually decided on a pair of Levi's and a v-neck sweater. It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad either. Laying the garments out on the bed, she then went into the bathroom to run herself her bath.

The warm water welcomed her as she slid into the bath. It had completely relaxed her and before she knew it there was a knock at the door. "Kids, can one of you get that?" she shouted.

Kieran and Faith were in the playroom with their toys. Faith looked at Kieran who was deep in thought with a king size jigsaw puzzle. Realising he wasn't going to get the door, Faith got up to see who it was. She looked out the window and saw it was Martha. Smiling, she grabbed the little chair she used to open the door and its many locks.

"Hi, Grandma. Mommy's in the bath. Come and see what I made at school today." Faith grabbed Martha's hand and led her into the playroom. She ran over to the table and picked up the pottery.

"It's a vase. I made it with Mrs. Lopez in our pottery class."

Martha laughed as she picked up the lop-sided vase. "It's beautiful, darling, and did you paint it too?"

Faith looked indignant. "Of course I did, Grandma!"

"Well, you are a clever little girl." Martha proudly smiled, patting her granddaughter on the head.

Lois quickly wrapped a towel around her body and dried herself off. She sorted her hair out and put a bit of makeup on. Satisfied with herself, she went in search of Martha and the kids.

"Oh, Martha, I'm sorry. I was enjoying wallowing in the bath. Are you sure you don't mind looking after the kids?"

"It's fine, Lois, really. You look lovely, by the way."

Lois gave her an appreciative smile and went over to the kids to kiss them goodbye.

The door went again. This time it was Clark. "Am I early or late?"

As soon as the twins caught sight of Clark, they ran to him. "Daddy, Daddy!"

Clark bent down and opened his arms out towards them. "Hey guys, have you been good today?"

They both nodded and continued holding on to Clark. "Are you staying to play with us tonight, Daddy?" asked Kieran.

"I'd love to, but I promised Mommy that I'd take her out. I tell you what though, maybe you can come and stay with me on the weekend?" Clark looked at Lois.

Faith's eyes grew large. "Metop…oo…lis?" enquired Faith.

Clark threw his head back and laughed out loud. "Yes, sweetie, the big city. We can go to the park, visit the museums, and we could see Uncle Perry and Uncle Jimmy."

The kids were jumping up and down and clapping their hands. "Mommy, can we go… please?"

"Mommy can come too, if she wants?"

"I don't see why not. I really need to visit the shops, anyway," grinned Lois. "Let go of Daddy now. We have to go, so you two be good for your Grandma."

"I'll sort your plane tickets out," winked Clark.

"Thanks."

"We're gonna bake cookies tonight," Martha said, "then Grandpa is going to come over to taste them! Have a nice evening and don't worry about these two, they'll be fine."

"Thanks, Martha."

***

Clark and Lois landed on his balcony in Clinton Street a few minutes later. "That was invigorating! It's so beautiful when Metropolis comes into view; there's nothing quite like it." Her heart warmed at the sight of the city she loved, and dearly missed.

"I know what you mean. When I first came here, I used hover over the city for hours just watching as night became day."

"Thanks for inviting us to Metropolis for the weekend, I think it's just what we need."

"I'm gonna love having you here. Hopefully I won't get called away too much. Today has been one of those days; I'm so glad Perry and Jimmy know about Superman. I don't think I'd have a job otherwise. It's not the same at the Planet without you, Lois."

Lois walked round the couch and sat down. "I miss it, I really do. My job at the school is nice but it's not me. I always found myself looking for a story, digging where I shouldn't."

Clark laughed. "That's definitely you. Hey, you know you can have your old job back in a flash if you wanted it?"

"As much as that tempts me, I don't know if I could do it anymore. I have responsibilities, others to think about. It's a job I have to devote my entire life to and at the moment it's not the right time."

"One step at a time, huh?"

Lois smiled. "Something like that."

They ordered take out and watched a video. Lois was really enjoying herself. It had been ages since she'd chilled out and let her hair down. Clark seemed to be enjoying himself, too. She observed him over the top of her wineglass.

"This is really nice, Clark. This must be the first time since you've been back that we've actually been on our own."

"I think you're right. I've been so overwhelmed with everything I just don't know whether I'm coming or going. My priorities need sorting out and we need to get back to having some sort of relationship. Even if it's a friendship, it's better than nothing."

Lois moved nearer to Clark "Do you think we'll ever get it back?"

"What?"

"To the way it used to be. To the way we used to be together. Sometimes I can feel it but I can't hold on to it. Do you feel like that, Clark?"

He took her small delicate hand and held it for a moment. "I feel so many different things, but I feel guilt and regret more than anything. It's like I can't allow myself to feel happy because that would be wrong. I don't deserve you and certainly don't deserve to be a father."

"Isn't that for us to decide? We need you, Clark, but we need all of you. Don't let the past destroy the present. Give yourself a break. You did what you thought was right at the time and you helped a lot of people."

He shot up from the sofa and stood over Lois. "I also killed a lot of people, Lois! Do you understand what I'm saying here? I'm a murderer! I killed about as many people as I saved. That's not an achievement! I see their faces and their pain every time I close my eyes. It eats away at me day after day. How can we ever get it back if I'm not the same person?!"

Lois was shocked by Clark's sudden outburst. There was obviously a lot more going on with him than she realised. Just when she thought she was getting through to him he had turned again. Maybe he was right. He was a different person.

"I guess that's it, then. Well, let's just give up, shall we? Like you said, we can be friends. I'll sort out the days and times when you can have the children and we'll take it from there. Now if you'd kindly take me home?"

"Lois! Look, you've only just got here. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have shouted like that."

"Damn right you shouldn't have." Lois flung her jumper over her shoulder. "Give me one good reason why I should stay?"

A long miserable silence filled the air of Clark's apartment. Lois was waiting for an answer with gritted teeth. "Your silence speaks volumes. I'm gonna take a walk and get some fresh air. I'm sure you'll be able to find me when you have something to say."

Rooted to the spot, he let her go.

***

Outside, Lois Lane was in full turmoil. She didn't want to be in that apartment for one more second, listening to Clark destroying himself. She felt utterly useless and completely shut out. Just when she thought they were finally getting somewhere, he'd thrown it all back in her face. She was fighting to keep hold of him and it was making her weak. He was breaking her heart all over again when he'd promised he wouldn't. Glancing back at his door, she made her way down the steps and into Metropolis.

The city was all lit up at night and it was buzzing. She noticed the improvement since she'd last been. It was a lot cleaner and the atmosphere felt right. "At least he managed to get one thing back to normal," she thought.

Lois wandered aimlessly through the streets of the city in deep thought. She passed several bars but decided against having a glass of brandy. As she grew nearer to the main theatre she noticed a huge crowd gathering round the main entrance. Lois, being naturally inquisitive, decided she'd see what all the fuss was about.

Having plenty of experience, she managed to push her way through the crowd to the front. Looking around, she still couldn't fathom what or who was the centre of attention. Then, all of a sudden the double doors opened and out walked a gorgeous man. Not just any man; it was Paul.

The screams were deafening. People were yelling his name and trying to scramble over the rope to get to him. Lois was baffled at this strange turn of events. She didn't want to be seen by him, but it was too late; she was wedged fast and he was heading in her direction. The look on Paul's face wasn't too dissimilar to her own. He pulled down his sunglasses and blinded her with his smile.

"Lois."

"Paul."

The crowd around her fell silent as he held out his hand towards her. Reluctantly, she took it and stepped over the rope to join him. He whispered something to one of the guards and the crowds parted, allowing them to walk freely to the limo waiting at the bottom of the red carpet. Lois was so overcome that she just went with it. Paul ushered her into the limo and sat down besides her.

"Well, it's lovely to see you, Lois. I'd like to think you came here just to see me but I'm not getting that feeling."

"No, I was just taking an evening stroll when I came across the theatre and there you were in the midst of a frenzy."

"That would be my fans." Paul picked up the bottle of champagne. "Would you care for a glass?"

Lois took the flute and let Paul pour the champagne. "Your fans?"

"When I left Smallville, I came back to Metropolis and auditioned for a few parts in various films. A few weeks later I got a part in a major supporting role and it's spiralled out of control since. What you just witnessed was yours truly coming out from the premier. My agent reckons I'll be fighting them off with a stick after that one. It's what I've always wanted, Lois. I am now officially living the dream."

Lois rolled her eyes as Paul topped up her glass. "Well, your fame hasn't reached Smallville yet. I'm glad it's all worked out for you. I always thought you had that film star look about you."

Paul looked her up and down. "Shame you couldn't be my leading lady."

Lois felt the heat rise to her face. "Paul, I'm really sorry about what happened between us."

She noticed the immediate change of expression on his face. "Not as sorry as I was."

The driver interrupted them. "Excuse me, Mr. Aston. We're near your hotel. Is your friend accompanying you or would you like us to take her to a different destination?"

"Would you like to join me for a nightcap, or can my driver take you… home or your hotel?"

"I really should be getting back, but I guess a quick nightcap wouldn't hurt." She wanted to go back to Clark, but she was scared.

Paul pressed the intercom button and told the driver to go directly to the hotel. Lois didn't want to think about what she was doing. She was supposed to be spending the evening with her husband. Ten minutes later she was walking into a hotel bar with her ex-boyfriend-turned-film-star.

They sat down in a private corner of the function room. The lighting was soft and music played in the background.

"Are you going to tell me why you were wandering around Metropolis on your own?"

"I was with Clark at his apartment. We had words and then I walked out." Lois looked down at her hands and played with her rings. A single tear fell down her face. "I'm sorry… I just can't deal with it anymore. Maybe I should go. I've wasted enough of your time already."

"Hey, I know I'm probably the last person you'd expect to comfort you, but I'm here and I'm listening. Now take this tissue and dry your eyes and take your time."

"Thanks, Paul. Look, I really shouldn't be here with you. I'm not sure I feel comfortable about this."

"Maybe not. I don't like seeing you upset. Hey, we're still friends, you know. You know I'm a good listener."

"Well, all right. Clark and I, we've always had this amazing connection; we didn't even have to speak and we'd know what the other was feeling and thinking. Ever since he's been back I've been waiting for that connection. He says he still loves me but I'm not so sure."

"Well, it sounds like whatever he experienced while he was away had a deep effect on him. It could be that you had your time together and he blew it by walking out on you."

"Thanks," said Lois sarcastically.

Paul moved round to where Lois was seated. Putting his arm around her, he pulled her close. "It'll be all right. Just don't try so hard."

Lois looked up at Paul and composed herself. "I missed you after you left, you know. I kept expecting you to walk around the corner at school. Your replacement isn't a patch on you."

"It's nice to be appreciated. So, what are we going to do with you? Shall I take you back to Clark's or would you like to stay here at the hotel?"

"I can't leave things as they are; I should probably go back or he'll be worried about me. I'll order a taxi and be on my way." Lois rose from the table and Paul held her back. "I'll get my driver to take you back. It's late and Metropolis is full of low- lifes."

"Thanks, Paul. You've been my saviour tonight. I won't forget it." She kissed him on the cheek and headed off towards the front of the hotel.

Paul shouted after her. "I'll be here all week if you need me."

***

Lois stepped out of the limo and walked up the steps toward Clark's apartment. She pulled the key from her bag and opened the door.

Clark was sitting on the sofa with two pizza boxes on the table in front of him, staring at the TV screen.

"Anything good on TV?" asked Lois sarcastically. She was trying to control her temper. She was still angry with him for flying off the handle with her.

Clark gave Lois a sharp look. "Oh, just my wife getting into a limo with her ex-boyfriend."

Lois looked at the screen and then at Clark. "It's not what you think, Clark."

"No wonder you were so eager to leave. Pre-arranged, wasn't it?"

"Is anything I say going to make a difference to what you're thinking?"

Clark said nothing and continued to avoid Lois. "Clark, I shouldn't have walked out on you but I just can't take this anymore. We seem to be fine for a few weeks, then suddenly we end up arguing and saying hurtful things. This isn't doing either of us any good and sooner or later it will affect the children. I've tried so hard with you and I don't know what else I can do to rescue our relationship. You have to help me out, here." Lois walked over to the television and turned it off. "Clark, are you listening to me?!"

"I hear you, Lois." He gestured for Lois to sit down next to him. "I'd like nothing more than for things to go back to the way they used to be between us. I'm trying to get my life back on track while dealing with the demons in my head, and it's a lot harder to do than I thought. We keep saying that we'll take it slow but we don't. It becomes intense because of the way we feel and I love you too much to keep hurting you like this. You, the kids and my parents are everything to me and that's why I've come to a decision."

Lois knew what was coming next, she could see the pain in his face. "You're leaving again, aren't you?"

"No, that's the coward's way out. I want a separation, Lois."

"A separation?"

"Yes. We need to go back to the core of our relationship." Before Clark could continue, Lois finished the sentence.

"Our friendship."

"Yes. I've decided to live here in Metropolis permanently. I'll continue to provide for you, Kieran, and Faith and I'll visit every weekend. This is something I have to do on my own. It's only fair that I sort myself out before making any commitments to anyone."

"I could be waiting months or even years for you, Clark. What if this isn't what I want?"

"Then I guess I'll have no choice but to let you go."

Lois felt sick. It was like being in a room with a complete stranger. "I don't know you anymore, Clark Kent. What did they do to you?"

"That's a question that I ask myself daily. This is a case of being cruel to be kind."

Lois was fuming. This was the second time he had ruined her life. "Well, there's nothing much left to say, is there?"

"I can fly you home."

"No, thank you. I'll make alternative arrangements."

"Lois, I don't want you walking around the city at this time of night on your own. It's no trouble; I'll fly you home. Please?"

"All right."

***

They flew in complete silence all the way back to Smallville. Lois didn't look at Clark and he didn't look at her. There was an awkwardness between them as Clark lowered her down on to the balcony. "The invitation still stands for the weekend. You're more than welcome to come and stay."

Lois looked up at him and managed a smile. "Thanks. I'll think about it. Are you still coming to the twins' party on Friday?"

"Wouldn't miss it for the world." Clark lent over to give Lois a kiss but she turned her head away from him.

"See you on Friday then; four o'clock."

"Bye, Lois. Take care."

"Night, Clark."

Lois checked on the children and went downstairs for a nightcap. There was a light still on in the lounge. She looked over and saw that Martha was still up.

"Martha, it's gone midnight."

"Oh, Lois, I thought I heard you. I've just finished reading my book. It was one of those I couldn't put down." She looked at Lois and thought she looked a little unwell. "Are you all right, honey?"

"Oh well, let's just say tonight wasn't a success. Clark wants a separation."

Martha was taken aback by her news. "He said that?"

"Yes. I thought we were finally getting somewhere, but tonight just proved that we have a lot of groundwork to do. He doesn't know what he wants, Martha, and I don't know if he'll ever be my Clark again."

Martha ran over to her daughter-in-law and put her arms around her. "Oh, sweetie. He thinks the world of you."

"I'm not sure he does, but it isn't enough, is it? For five years our lives took different paths. I don't think either of us will ever get over what happened. We were so happy and we'd been searching a long time for it and then to have it torn away."

"You're both afraid it will happen again, aren't you?"

"It's scary, Martha. All I can do now is try and get on with things and if it changes between Clark and me, then that would be fantastic."

"Time is the greatest healer, Lois. Would you like me to talk to him?"

"No, it won't change anything. Anyway, how were the little monsters tonight?"

"I think I wore them out for the evening. They're both excited about the party on Friday."

Lois laughed. "Well, we had better make it a good one, then. Listen, I'm going to bed. I'll see you in the morning."

Martha laid a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "Good night, Lois."

***

The day of the party came round quickly and it was chaos in the Kent household. Clark had phoned earlier to say that he had the afternoon off and that Perry and Jimmy were coming too. Lois was looking forward to seeing her old friends again. It was just what she needed.

While the twins were at school, she was busy with Martha setting everything up in the back garden. There were balloons and streamers everywhere and tables full of party food. A few hours later it was all set. Martha and Lois stepped back to admire their efforts.

"Not a bad job if I do say so, myself. Now all we need is some music, and… " Lois was cut off by Perry's loud voice. "How about some Elvis?"

Lois turned and saw her old friend smiling at her. She ran into his arms. "Perry, it's lovely to see you. I'm so glad you could make it."

"It looks great; you've done a good job. I never thought I'd see the day when Lois Lane would be organizing kids' parties!"

Lois poked Perry's chest. "Cheeky. Where's Jimmy and Clark?"

"I think they went to get Jonathan."

"Well, I had better go and pick up the birthday boy and girl. If you'll excuse me, Perry, I won't be too long. I'm sure Martha will look after you."

Perry took a seat under the tree and waved Lois off. "Sure thing, darling."

"So, Martha. Got any Elvis CDs? Maybe we could have a quick dance before Lois and the kids get back. What do you say?"

Giving Perry a friendly nudge, she grabbed his hand. "You old hound dog!"

They both burst out laughing.

***

Kieran and Faith were waiting for her outside the school playground. "Mommy, where have you been?" shouted Faith excitedly.

"Sorry, I was talking to Uncle Perry." Lois removed their coats and bags and put them in the Jeep.

"Hey look, it's Daddy!" Kieran pointed at Clark who was walking towards them.

Clark glanced over at Lois and smiled. "Hi, Lois. I hope you don't mind but I thought it would be nice if…"

Lois interrupted him. "It's fine. Really."

Clark gave the twins a hug and wished them both a happy birthday. "Are you looking forward to the party?"

"Yeah!!!" They both shouted at once.

Lois hopped into the driver's seat. "Well, we should be getting back so they can get changed."

Clark lifted them into the back and helped them with their seat belts. He then got in the front, next to Lois.

"Have we got jelly and ice cream?" asked Kieran.

"Just wait and see, sweetheart."

***

They drove along without exchanging so much as a look at each other. It was becoming extremely awkward for both of them.

Clark was the one who broke the ice. "You've done a fantastic job, Lois. The garden looks great and the food isn't that bad either. I went to see Mom before I came here and she insisted on giving me a cookie."

Lois raised one eyebrow. "That bad?"

"C'mon. I'm being honest."

She let out a small laugh and accepted his compliment. "Thank you, Clark."

"How have you been?"

"Too busy to think about anything, to be honest. What about you?"

"Yeah. I've had better days. Did Perry tell you that he's partnered me with a new journalist?"

Lois didn't answer for a couple of seconds. "No, I didn't have the chance to talk much to him."

"She seems fairly nice. I've got to train her over the next few months. Her name's Natasha James."

At the mention of a 'she', Lois's stomach churned. The thought of Clark working with another woman sent jealousy reeling through her body. "Oh, I see."

They pulled up outside the barn. Lois didn't get out of the Jeep and neither did Clark. The children sat silently in the back, watching their parents.

Lois turned to her right to look at Clark. He met her gaze and was instantly struck by her beauty. "Lois, I'm sorry; I thought you knew."

"No, I didn't," she whispered. "We've got a party to go to, so would you mind letting the children out of the car?"

"Sure."

***

The party went really well. Especially after Superman showed up with the birthday cake. Kieran and Faith were now the most popular kids at school. After everyone had gone, Lois and Clark gathered the family round to watch the twins open their presents. Faith sat in between Clark's legs and Kieran sat on Lois's lap while Martha and Jonathan handed out the gifts. Perry and Jimmy were still munching on the leftover desserts.

To anyone observing, they looked like the picture perfect family, but looking past the faćade, you could feel the tension between Lois and Clark. The expressions on their faces were worth a thousand words. It didn't take long for the twins to open all the presents. Jonathan had taken over one hundred pictures with his new camera and Martha was helping Faith put her stroller together.

Perry called Lois over. "Honey, are you two OK? Is it to do with Clark's new partner?"

"We're having a few problems at the moment, but I was shocked to hear about… Natasha?"

"I'm sorry, Lois. Recently Clark's been finding it hard working as a one-man band, what with all his other duties. I think you'll like her; she's a lot like you and about your age."

"I've been well and truly replaced, then."

"Clark only has eyes for you, darling."

"So everyone keeps telling me."

"He seems to be enjoying himself." Perry looked over at Clark who was helping Kieran put his new train set together.

"Yeah, he's a fantastic father and the kids love him to bits. I just wish… Oh, it doesn't matter what I wish."

"You'll work it out. Hey, you may even end up having more little ones.

"That would be nice but I don't think so Perry. I bet you never thought you'd hear me say that!"

Perry laughed out loud. "They've really got under your skin, haven't they?" I can see why, though. Oh, I forgot to tell you that the Daily Planet interviewed Paul Aston last week. That guy really has something."

"I saw him a few days ago. I can't believe he's this big movie star. I'm really pleased for him though; he's been trying to get into the movie business for ages. I guess I did him a favour finishing with him."

Perry put his arm around Lois. "It must have been hard for you. I can see you're not happy, Lois. I hate seeing you like this."

"I'll be okay; don't worry about me, Perry."

"Well, if you need anything at all, you know where I am."

Lois thanked Perry. Somehow he always managed to make her feel a little bit better.

***

It was getting late so the Kents headed back to the farm and Clark flew Perry and Jimmy back to Metropolis. Lois tidied up and put the children to bed before settling down for the evening with her book. She was about half way through the third chapter when Clark walked through the back door.

"Oh, Clark, it's you."

"Sorry, I'm not the movie star; you'll have to put up with Superman instead," said Clark, sarcastically.

Rolling her eyes, she got up and poured herself a drink. "Can I get you anything?"

"Whatever you're having is fine."

Lois poured two glasses of red wine and handed one to Clark. "I thought we should finish the drink we were having the other night."

"I didn't mean to intrude on your evening. I just thought we should sort out plans for the weekend." Clark sat down on the chair furthest away from his wife.

Lois was offended by the way he was keeping his distance from her. "Sure, we didn't get much time to talk today. Or maybe it was a case of we didn't have much to say to one another."

"Lois, if this is how it's going to be between us from now on…"

"I'm sorry. I'm just finding the whole thing really hard. Today took it all out of me, having to pretend that everything's OK."

Clark knew how she felt. He, too, had found the day hard going. Every time he looked at his parents he felt guilty and he didn't know what to do around Lois. "So, are you coming to Metropolis for the weekend?"

"Do you think that we could spend two days together without arguing? Anyway, there's barely any room in your apartment and I'd have nowhere to sleep."

He hadn't thought about that. "Well, you'd have to sleep with me and the kids can have the camp beds."

"That's just out of the question," said Lois, shaking her head.

"We are married."

"Could have fooled me."

"Look, I know it's not ideal, but I think we need this time together as a family. Kieran and Faith will want you there. C'mon, we owe it to them. You never know, it could be fun."

Lois thought about it. The kids had been really looking forward to the weekend and she knew she couldn't let them down, but at the same time she wasn't sure how she felt about being with Clark. "All right, I'll come… for the kids."

Clark smiled. "It'll be alright. We'll have a good time. I promise."

***

Lois managed to reserve three seats on the early morning flight to Metropolis. She called Martha to let her know that she was going and packed a few things in a suitcase.

A few hours later, they were walking through the city airport, heading towards the taxi rank. The ten-minute ride to Clark's apartment was full of excitement. The children had only ever been to Metropolis when they were babies, so it was all new and it fascinated them.

"Okay, guys." Lois gave Faith the money for the taxi and she handed it to the driver. Lois opened the trunk and collected their luggage. "I want you to be careful walking up the steps."

"Yes, Mom."

Lois laughed as she watched her two children run up the steps with their little trolleys trailing behind them. Clark must have heard them, as he was at the top of the steps grinning from ear to ear. "Hey!"

"Daddy, we flew in a plane, then went in a taxi through the city," shouted Faith.

Clark took the luggage from Lois and escorted them into the apartment. "So, you've been having fun, then?"

"Oh, yeah," replied Kieran.

Lois went straight to the kitchen and poured herself a coffee. "They've been full of beans ever since we left home. I think we're going to have our work cut out over the next couple of days."

Kieran was pulling at her sweater. "Mommy, can we go and see Uncle Perry and Uncle Jimmy?"

Clark crept up behind Kieran and picked him up. "Don't worry, you'll get to do everything you want. This one gets more like you every day, Lois."

She reluctantly smiled. "I'll just unpack and then we can get going."

Lois walked into Clark's room with her case and laid it on the bed. He hadn't altered it much since she'd last been in there. Everything was neat and tidy; she could smell the freshly cleaned sheets. There were pictures of the children on the bedside table and one of Clark and her at the Kerth awards taken a few years back. They were happy then; it was only just the beginning of their relationship. Clark was looking at her adoringly. She stopped reminiscing and hung her clothes up next to Clark's. She'd done this once before just after their wedding. It seemed like it was just a very nice dream long, long ago.

Clark poked his head around the door. "Everything okay?"

"Yeah, you caught me in deep thought."

"I've got the kids sorted, so whenever you're ready we can get going."

Lois grabbed her jacket and followed behind Clark. "I'm all set now."

The Kent family headed off to the museum in a yellow cab. It was the grand re-opening day after being closed for new exhibits and renovations. They purchased their entry tickets and followed the crowds inside.

Lois knelt down to face the twins. "Okay, guys, I don't want you getting lost; hold each other's hand and mind where you're going. If you get lost, stay put or go to a museum guard."

"Yes, Mom," they said in harmony.

Lois and Clark admired the lobby of the Metropolis Museum. "Wow, they've done a really great job in here. I hardly recognise the place," remarked Clark.

"Well, I guess Lex had to do something worthwhile with his money. I'm sure it helped him get out of prison early."

"Yeah, the less said about him the better. Anyway, you better grab my hand in case you get lost."

"Don't push it, Kent," laughed Lois.

The children were given a quiz to complete on their way round the museum. Lois thought it would help with their schoolwork, but all they seemed to be doing was arguing about who had the right answers.

Meanwhile, Clark was hearing a cry for help. He gestured to Lois that he needed to go. She waved him off and ushered the kids into the next room. There was an exhibition dedicated to Superman, featuring all his facts and feats over the past decade. She wandered around the room reading little snippets of information, not looking where she was going. She walked straight into a gentleman, knocking his papers all over the floor.

"Oh, I'm sorry, sir." Lois bent down and started to gather up the papers.

"That's quite all right, Ms… ?"

Lois handed the papers to the gentleman and got the shock of her life when she saw whom she'd bumped into. "Lex!"

"Well, this is a surprise, meeting Lois Lane in the Superman Exhibition. How ironic."

Lois stared at him. watching the corners of his mouth turn into that sickly smile. This was a face she'd never wanted to see ever again.

"Well, my dear, it's lovely to see you. You look as pleasing as ever."

She looked over at Kieran and Faith who were pressing buttons on an interactive screen. Lex caught her glancing and saw her anxiousness.

"The children. Are they yours?" he asked.

"Yes," she replied, swallowing hard.

"No guessing who the father is, then. They're fine looking children, Lois."

Lois prayed for Clark to come back. She gave the rest of the papers back to Lex, grabbed the twins and made a sharp exit. Outside the museum she let out a long breath. Clark was running up the sidewalk towards them. He immediately noticed that Lois wasn't happy.

"Lois? What's the matter? You look like you've seen a ghost."

"If only," she replied. "I walked straight into him, Clark, that monster. Oh, I feel so sick."

"Are you saying you saw Luthor in there?"

"Yes. The way he looked at me…"

Clark had known that sooner or later they were going to meet their old nemesis again. He pulled Lois into his arms and held her. "Shhh, honey. It's all right, I won't let him hurt you."

"He saw the children, too. I can handle Lex, but if he tries to get to me through them… Will he never leave us in peace?"

"He's always been obsessed with you, Lois. I'm not going to let him ruin our day. C'mon, let's go and see Perry and Jimmy at the Planet. Maybe they've heard something."

***

The newsroom was bustling as usual. Perry was shouting at some poor kid, Jimmy was on the phone and Ralph was talking to the female staff. Lois got caught by a few people who were cooing over the twins but was soon rescued by Jimmy. Clark entered Perry's office and sat down.

"Aaaahh, son, how's the day off? Been out and about?"

"We've just been to the museum, where Lois had the unfortunate experience of meeting Lex Luthor."

Perry gritted his teeth. "That good for nothing crook. Lands on his feet as soon as he's out of prison. You would have thought the people of Metropolis wouldn't have forgotten what he did this city. Memories like goldfish. Is she ok?"

"You know Lois."

"And what about you two? It was a bit tense at the party yesterday."

"I didn't realise it was so bad. I keep asking myself how did it ever come to this? You of all people know how we feel about each other."

"I've seen Lois go through a lot over these past five or so years. She's put the kids first at all times, no matter what the cost was to her. I think it's about time someone pampered her."

"I hear what you're saying, Chief. If I'd known about the twins, I would have never have left her. I shouldn't have left anyway. I missed out on so much."

"You may have your chance again, son. Lois has mentioned to me that she'd like more children." Perry kicked himself. He wished he'd never said that.

"What? Really?"

"Don't let her know I told you that. I just thought you should know that there is hope."

Lois knocked on Perry's door and went in. "Sorry, am I intruding on your male conversation?"

"No, not at all, darling. Clark, here, was just telling me about Luthor."

***

They stayed at the Planet for a little while before heading off for lunch. Clark thought Lois was rather quiet. She preoccupied herself by fussing over the children and barely talking to him. The rest of the day was spent in out of shops and at the park. It was fairly late by the time they returned to Clinton Street.

"I'm dead beat. I think I'll just grab a glass of water, then go to bed," yawned Lois.

"Okay, well, I'll just make sure the kids are all right, then I'll join you."

Lois got her glass and made her way to the bedroom. She quickly got changed, went to the bathroom and jumped into bed. Closing her eyes, she wished herself off to sleep. The thought of Clark being beside her was all too much. No matter what was going on, she was all too aware of the passion that existed between them. She heard footsteps, then the door opened and he walked in. A few minutes later, she felt the bed covers being turned back. She knew he was looking at her; she could feel it.

"Lois? Are you awake?" He gently took her shoulder and pulled it towards him.

She reluctantly opened her eyes. "What is it, Clark?"

"I just wanted to make sure that you're OK. You've been quiet all afternoon."

"I'm fine. Good night, Clark," she whispered.

"Night, Lois," replied Clark as he rolled over.

***

As it was, Lois slept well. She woke up with Clark's arm around her. She gently removed it and slid out of bed. Throwing on her negligee, she glanced at the clock. It was seven thirty. The twins were bound to be awake.

"Hey, kids, you're up?" She looked around the living room but couldn't see them for all the mess. Then she saw a dinosaur heading towards her from behind the sofa.

"Hi, Mommy," said Kieran.

"Morning, sweetheart. Where's your sister?"

He pointed to the kitchen table. "She's making a layer for the dinos."

"Okay, but I don't want you touching Daddy's stuff and making… a mess." Clark's apartment was in total chaos. Lois couldn't help but laugh to herself. She'd have to make some effort to tidy it up a bit before Clark put in an appearance. Unfortunately for her, they had been caught out. Clark was standing in the bedroom doorway with his hand on his head in utter bewilderment.

"Hi, Clark. Isn't it a lovely morning?" sniggered Lois.

"I'm glad you think so. What happened to my apartment?"

"Kids, Clark. Get used to it."

Lois felt sorry for him. He looked so adorable. He soon melted when he saw their two little faces smiling at him. "Daddy, do you want to play with us?" asked Faith.

Lois clambered over the toys to get to the kitchen. She poured the twins some juice and made a coffee for Clark and herself. "Let Daddy wake up first, Faith."

Clark joined Lois in the kitchen. "Now, this is something alien to me. I don't think I could make this much mess if I tried," he laughed.

"I'm sorry. They'll tidy it up. Oh, Clark, the look on your face. It was a classic."

He still wasn't amused. Lois nudged him.

"You're enjoying this, aren't you?"

"Now, what ever gave you that idea?"

"Well, this is what it's like for me most days when I get up. I'm sure those kids don't get much sleep. I don't know how they find the energy first thing in the morning. Anyway, did you sleep well?"

"Yeah, I did. What about you?"

"Like a log," she smiled.

"Well, I could go and get us some breakfast. Won't take me long, I promise."

"Sure, you do that and I'll try and sort all this out."

***

Lois made a start on clearing up while Clark went out for some groceries. Kieran and Faith helped her, then they set the table for breakfast. Lois was just about to jump in the shower when there was a knock at the door. The woman was tall, well dressed with long blonde hair. She was turned out immaculately.

"Hi, my name's Natasha James. Clark's partner. You must be Lois? Perry said that I just missed you at the Planet. I was out covering a story." She extended her hand out to Lois.

So this was the infamous Miss James. Lois was curious to know what she was doing on a Sunday morning, all dressed up and on Clark's doorstep. "Yes, I'm Lois Lane. Clark's wife," she emphasised the wife part just so she got the message. "Clark's not here at the moment; he's just popped out."

"Well, I'm sure he won't mind if I wait for him. It's rather important." Natasha pushed past Lois and made her way to the sofa.

"Excuse me, but I don't like your impertinence." She could have continued but Clark had come back.

"Hi, Lois, I'm back." Clark walked through the door, carrying four brown bags. "Oh, Natasha. What are you doing here?"

"Perry's put us on a new assignment. I didn't realise you had visitors; sorry for the intrusion. I just thought that if you weren't doing anything, maybe you'd like to go through some stuff with me."

Clark looked at Lois and then at the kids sitting at the table. "I'm spending the weekend with Lois and children. Can it wait till Monday?"

"I guess so. Perry said it was an urgent assignment. Are you aware that Lex Luthor is back in business?"

Lois coughed. Clark set the bags on the floor. "Yeah, I know he's trying to take over Metropolis again."

"What do you know?" asked Lois.

"Apparently he's supposed to be a reformed character. He's been helping out with Metropolis United Charities and putting money into the refurbish programme at the museums. It's all too suspicious; there must be an ulterior motive."

"Well if I know Lex, he's up to no good. I saw him yesterday and I certainly didn't notice any change. Besides, I didn't fancy talking to him."

Clark gave Natasha a file he'd been working on. "Well, you're quite welcome to scan through these."

Natasha bent down to pick up her briefcase. "Well, I'll see what I can dig up and then we'll go from there. Once again, I apologise for the intrusion. It was nice to finally meet you, Lois." She shook her hand and walked out. "I'll see you Monday, Clark!"

"Yeah, bye, Natasha."

Lois closed the door properly. "Well, she certainly means business. I'm not so sure she came over to talk work, Clark."

Clark had his hands on his waist. "Oh, Lois, c'mon. You're always looking into things; she's just conscientious, that's all."

"Yeah, right. And you must be blind. Never mind, you were always oblivious to women flirting with you. I'm going to head for the shower so you can sort the kids out."

***

Lois stepped into the warm shower and let the water warm her skin. It was invigorating. She didn't normally have the time to indulge herself in such luxuries. It was normally step in, quick wash and out again. Meanwhile, Clark had breakfast underway. He had the twins making up some eggs, most of which seemed to be out of the bowl rather than in it.

"I wonder what's keeping Mommy so long? She's been in there for ages."

"Shall I go see, Daddy?" asked Faith.

Clark ruffled Faith's hair. "No, no, darling, you stay there, I'll go and see what she's doing."

The steam was seeping through all the gaps in the door. "Lois? Are you okay?" She didn't reply, so he banged on the door. She still didn't reply.

Lois suddenly felt a draft. "What the… Clark!!"

"Oh, you're OK. Sorry, Lois. It's just you've been in here ages. I thought that maybe you slipped… or something," he tried to pull his eyes away from a very wet and steamy, exposed Lois Lane.

"Can't a girl take a shower in peace these days?! Can you pass me a towel please, Mr. Superhero?"

Clark handed Lois a towel. He blushed and looked away.

Lois started to laugh uncontrollably. "Oh, Clark. Your face. You look like you've been caught by your mother, looking at a naughty magazine."

Clark started to smile. "I'm glad I've managed to make you laugh. It's just with the way things are between us…"

"Like you said, Clark, we are married."

"Then why am I standing here, feeling guilty about… well…, this. I couldn't keep my eyes off you."

With a twinkle in her eye Lois walked from the bathroom to the bedroom. "At least I've still got what it takes, then. I have a confession to make. It'll make you feel better."

Clark followed her. "I'm listening."

"Last night when you thought I was asleep and you were getting undressed, I was watching the whole time!"

"In that case, we're even. If we were all alone right now there's no telling what I'd do to you," winked Clark. "Speaking of which, I had better see if our breakfast has been burnt."

Lois felt a sudden flutter of happiness. They had just been flirting like a couple of teenagers. It was the first time in ages she'd felt that way. Throwing on some casual clothes, she joined them all at the table. Out of the corner of her eye she caught Clark looking at her. "Today is going to be good," she thought to herself.

***

The previous day Perry had given Clark four tickets for the baseball game. It didn't start until the afternoon, so they had the morning to kill. The children had enjoyed themselves so much at the park the day before that they decided that was where they wanted to spend the morning. It was a beautiful day; everyone seemed to have the same idea. When they arrived, the park was full of people; kids were paddling in the stream, and people were walking their dogs and flying kites.

Clark had given Faith a piggyback while Lois was pulling along Kieran.

"Hey, look at the kites. Can we have one?" pointed Faith.

"We'll see," said Lois.

"Oh, look at that one," said Kieran, "it's a Superman kite."

Clark let Faith slide down to the ground. "You guys get settled here and I'll go and get us a kite."

Faith ran after Clark as fast as her little legs could carry her. "Daddy, wait for me!" He stopped and waited for his daughter to catch him up.

Lois crouched down to Kieran's level. "So, little man. Do you fancy a paddle in the stream?"

"Mmmm, OK."

They took their shoes off and stood at the edge of the water. "Look, honey, there's some stepping stones. We can walk over to them and cross the stream." Lois noticed that Kieran was acting a little strange. "Sweetheart, what is it? Can you tell me?"

"I don't want to go home. Why can't we all live together? Don't you love Daddy? That's what Sammy at school says."

"Oh, sweetie, I do love your Daddy. We've been apart for such a long time that we need to get to know one another again. It may take a while, but eventually if things go okay then we can all live together. I know this might be hard for you to understand, Kieran, but just be patient with us."

His big brown eyes filled with tears. Lois took his face in her hands and gently held him there. "Hey, where's Mommy's big brave boy? I want you to know that I love you and Daddy loves you very much. Nothing will ever change that, ever. Come on, I want you to enjoy today so let's go and see if they've got that kite yet."

Kieran managed a small smile. He took hold of his mother's hand and followed her lead. "Hey, they got one, and Daddy's flying it. Look, Mommy, can you see it?

"I see it."

Faith was jumping up and down beside Clark like she was on a pogo stick, while he was flying the kite. Kieran then joined in the fun by chasing it. Lois couldn't decide who was the bigger kid. She sat down on the grass and watched them all play with the kite.

"Hey."

Lois looked up to see Paul standing over her. "Hey. This is a surprise."

Paul caught his breath. "I've been jogging and working out. In this heat it's a little intense. I saw Clark and the kids over there with the kite. Looks fun."

"If it keeps them entertained, I'm all for it."

"They're growing up fast. So, how are you after the other night?"

"Putting on a brave face and trying to get on with things."

"You're a hardy person, Lois, you'll get through it. I…, er, should go. I can feel the eyes burning in the back of my head. Look me up sometime."

Clark wound the kite in and glanced over. He was pretty sure that Paul wasn't going to give up on Lois and he could hardly blame him, but that didn't mean he had to like it. He bit his lip and made his way over.

"What did Mr. Movie Star want?"

"He was just passing."

Clark raised his eyebrows.

"Don't, Clark. Let's just enjoy our day together. It seems the kite flying went down well?" Clark turned round to see Kieran and Faith, trying hard to get the kite to fly.

"It's not as easy as it looks."

Lois patted the grass next to her. "Why don't you sit down, we need to have a talk."

"Sounds ominous."

"Well, it's not. While you were with Faith, I had a little one- on-one with Kieran. He wanted to know why we all didn't live together and if I loved you. I think his friends at school have been making him feel insecure. It's obviously something that's been playing on his mind and upsetting him. Clark, everything we do affects the children and I don't want that."

"Well, what did you say to him?"

"That I loved you and that he has to be patient with us as we have a lot to sort out. Then he started crying and getting upset."

Reassuringly, he took her hand. "Well, we don't want to rush into anything which could make things worse in the long term. I'll try and spend as much time as I can with all of you. It's all new to them at the moment, having me around. I guess it's a hard thing to cope with when you're a kid."

"Yeah, and I know all too well what it's like when your parents aren't together and when they are, all they ever do is argue."

"Hey, we're going to be all right. You know I have things to sort out in my head and so do you. We can only give it our best shot. The last thing I want is a broken family, Lois; you must realise that?"

"I know, I know. It just breaks my heart when the children get upset. I've tried so hard to make sure they have a happy life. It's been the three of us against the world and it's taking some getting used to now there's four."

"Well, I'm afraid you're stuck with me. I have no intention of leaving now or in the distant future. You never know; maybe we could… extend the family?"

Lois shot a look at Clark. "Perry."

"Where?" asked Clark, smirking.

"He said something to you, didn't he? You're a good liar, Clark, but I know your every expression."

Clark's grin had widened into a mischievous smile. "I didn't mean right now, but maybe one day. It was just a comment."

"Wait till I see Perry."

"Why, did you mention something to him, then?"

"Clark Kent, you're incorrigible. I don't think I want to continue this conversation with you." Lois poked Clark on his chest.

"Well, in that case, we'll just have to find some other way of passing the time." He grabbed her hand before she could pull it away, and turning her around he laid her on the grass. Inches away from her face, he looked into her eyes.

"Not here, with all these people," Lois whispered.

"Who cares? I've been dying to do this all weekend." Before she could answer, his lips were soft on hers.

Kieran and Faith nudged each other and giggled. "See, I told you Mommy and Daddy were OK," said Faith to her brother.

Kieran was screwing his face up. "Eeewwww."

***

At the end of the day, after the baseball game, the Kent family made their way back to Clinton Street. The children had fallen asleep on Lois's lap in the back of the taxi. Clark was sitting in the front next to the driver, smiling to himself. Today they had made progress and had got along really well, just like they used to. He'd had a few interruptions of the superhero kind, but apart from that, they'd had a fun family day out and he'd really enjoyed that feeling.

Lois gently nudged the children as the cab stopped outside the apartment. Clark opened the door and took Kieran from Lois. Faith rubbed her eyes and hopped onto the sidewalk.

"Looks like the little guy can't keep up," said Clark as he gently carried him up the steps.

"He's not the only one," said Lois.

"C'mon, let's get inside and get these two settled, then we can relax a little."

The twins didn't protest when Lois and Clark put them to bed. "Are you sure you don't mind roughing it on the couch, Clark?"

"It's fine, really. I'll probably get a better sleep than you, what with the twins fidgeting all the time," laughed Clark.

Lois shrugged her shoulders. "I'm used to it."

Clark made his way round the kitchen, while Lois followed him with her eyes. "So, today's been good, right?" said Clark.

"Yes, I'd say so. It was really nice just being with you and the children. I never thought I'd get that experience."

"Oh?"

"To be a family. You know, I used to watch families together and they'd always look so content and complete. It's really hard being a single parent; you feel inadequate and you can never do enough because you feel you have compensate all the time."

Clark stopped what he was doing and sat opposite Lois. "Well, we can raise our children together now, and you'll never have to feel like that again. You've done a fantastic job and you should be proud of yourself. This whole parenting thing is new to me, so you'll have to be a little patient. I don't think I've quite got the hang of it yet."

"Oh, Clark, you're so modest. You're a natural and you know it!"

"Hey, eat your cookies and drink the coffee."

"What did I just tell you? You're a natural father."

Lois started to nibble the edge of the cookie. "So, I guess it will be back to work tomorrow with the lovely Miss James?"

Clark shook his head. "Loooiss."

"Clarrrk."

"Can't say I'm looking forward to chasing Luthor again. I though that was all in the past, but it looks like the past has come back to haunt me."

There was a brief silence between them until Lois spoke again. "He's been sending me roses."

"Luthor?"

"Yeah. Once a year on the anniversary of the day that I didn't marry him."

"What?! How come you never mentioned this before?" Clark's expression changed.

"I was hoping I wouldn't have to. I'm the one that got away and that's a challenge to Lex. Possessions are everything to him."

"Will that man never stop?!" shouted Clark.

Lois put her index finger to her lips. "Shhhh, you'll wake the kids."

Clark lent over the table and whispered, "Sorry, you should've told me sooner."

"What with everything going on, I didn't want to add another problem."

"Lois, Luthor is capable of anything; who knows what he'll do next? I don't want you living on your own with the children. I'll move to Smallville."

"No! What happened to giving it time? We don't need looking after, Clark. You're overreacting. I'm not scared of him. I think he was just letting me know that he had not forgotten about me. As long as he's alive he'll always make his presence known to me; you know that."

"I guess so, but I'm not happy about it. I dealt with rogues like him on New Krypton; it wasn't a pleasant experience, you know. Everyday I had new enemies; having to constantly watch your back the whole time, it really gets to you. Not having you to talk to was the worst thing, though. Most of the time I had to lock my feelings and emotions inside. Occasionally, I'd talk to Zara about things, but she didn't really understand. She tried her best, but when it came down to it I was all alone."

Her heart went out to him. He had such a pained look in his eyes. "Oh, Clark, it may be a little late but I'm here now and I'm listening. I'd much rather you open up to me than argue with me."

"Yeah. It's just so hard. Harder than I ever thought."

Lois got up and took Clark's hand. "Come with me."

She led him to his bedroom. "They're perfect, aren't they? So peaceful, so innocent, and so beautiful. I've spent so many hours just looking at them when they're asleep. Clark, we're so lucky to have them and each other; do you understand what I'm saying?"

"Yes, I think I do."

"Everybody has their problems, but they get through them because they have family. Clark, you have us and your parents and we all love you. If there's anything you need to get off your chest, then talk to one of us."

Clark pulled Lois into his arms and kissed the top of her head. "Oh, Lois, what would I do without you?"

***

The following morning, Lois and the twins flew back to Smallville. Lois had enjoyed her weekend with Clark; she hated the thought of leaving him, and he looked so lonely at the airport. There had been plenty of times when she could have thrown caution to the wind and gone back to him permanently, but her mind was telling her not to. He wasn't ready to come back to her just yet; she knew that, but at the same time she couldn't help but wonder that if she left it long enough would he ever come back? How much time did he need?

Looking over at her children, her heavy heart fluttered. At least she still had a part of him in them. Both of the twins had his innate goodness; they were really starting to develop their own little personalities. Lois had told them to write a letter to Clark thanking him for the weekend. At least it would keep them occupied on the plane until they reached Smallville.

The last few passengers filtered on to the plane. A man sat down in the aisle seat next to Lois. He looked familiar, but Lois couldn't really see as he had on dark sunglasses and a hat. He gave her a funny sideways glance, and she shifted uneasily in her seat.

"We'll have to stop meeting like this," he said.

"I'm sorry?"

The man removed his glasses to reveal a pair of beautiful blue eyes that she recognised immediately. "Oh. Paul! What are you doing here?"

He laughed and put his sunglasses back on. "Going to Smallville to catch up with some old buddies and to get away from all the hype in Metropolis."

"Why the disguise?"

"I was meant to be in first class but they double booked, so here I am. I told them I didn't mind. I can see it was worth it now." He winked.

"You think you're so charming, don't you?" teased Lois.

He smiled that gorgeous smile that she had loved so much. "So, what happened with you and Clark? Have you split up?"

"No, no; on the contrary. We had a lovely weekend with him, but the kids have school tomorrow and I have work; otherwise I would have liked to have stayed longer."

"Oh… right."

"Don't give me that look, Paul. I don't want to talk about Clark with you. It doesn't feel right. Don't get me wrong, I really appreciate your concern and you were great the other day, but please don't persist with this."

"OK, OK, I can't help it, Lo. I care about you."

Lois dared not look over at him. Every time she looked at him she could see love in his eyes. If she was honest with herself, she was still very fond of him. She often thought about the amazing kiss that he had given her in the staff room before he left. It wasn't the first time she had wondered what it would have been like to be his lover. They were thoughts she had pushed to the back of her mind since Clark had come back. She loved Clark with all her heart, but when in the presence of Paul Aston she couldn't help but feel the way she did; she couldn't explain it. Paul scarcely said another word to her for the remainder of the flight.

***

Clark opened the door to his empty apartment. He'd been flying around most of the day. It was like all the life had gone and now there was just him and his thoughts again. He picked up a teddy bear that was on the floor and sat on the couch. Out of the corner of his eye he could see the red message light flashing on his telephone. Leaning over, he pressed the play button to listen to the messages.

<You have two messages… first message…>

<Hi Clark. Just wanted to let you know that we're back and to thank you for a great weekend. Take care.>

<Second message…>

<Clark. It's Natasha. I've been to reach you all day. We have an assignment to do and I need your input. I'll be round at seven.>

He wasn't ecstatic at the prospect of spending the evening with his new partner. There was only one partner that he wanted to work with and that was Lois. He was used to working in a certain way and wasn't sure if he had the time to baby-sit a new reporter. Nevertheless, he'd promised the chief that he'd try his best and if didn't work he'd figure something else out. He looked at his watch. Natasha would be over in half an hour. At super speed he tidied the apartment, had a shower and changed clothes. He had about enough time to give Lois a quick ring.

The phone rang several times before she answered. "Lois Lane."

"Hi, it's me."

"Clark, did you get my message?"

"Yeah, I haven't long been back, stuff to do and all. So, your flight was okay?"

"It was fine." <"Hey Lo, shall I cook a pizza or something?">

"Who's with you, Lois?"

"Paul. He was on our flight to Smallville. He gave us a lift back so I invited him for dinner."

There was a long silence before Clark spoke again. "Oh… I see. Well. I better get going myself. Natasha's coming over to discuss the story."

There was another long silence before Lois spoke. "Oh. OK. Thanks for ringing. I'll be in touch within the next few days."

"Sure. Take Care."

"Bye, Clark," Lois whispered then put down the phone.

Clark hung up. He was just about to throw the phone at the wall when there was a knock at the door. Calming himself down, he ran up the steps and let Natasha in.

"Are you okay, Clark?"

"Oh yeah, it's nothing. Just caught me at a bad time. Can I get you a coffee or something?"

"Sure. Black and no sugar." As Clark was banging about in the kitchen, Natasha was walking around his apartment, taking it all in. "So, has Mrs. Kent gone, then?"

At first Clark was confused, but then he realised who she was referring to. "Oh, you mean Lois. She and the kids left this morning."

Natasha wanted to dig some more into Clark's private life but decided better of it when she saw Clark's face. Over the weekend she had uncovered some interesting facts about Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, Clark Kent and Superman. She was surprised to find out that Lois and Lex were nearly married just over seven years ago. What intrigued her greatly, though, was the fact that all their lives were so closely entwined. Lois Lane seemed to have the city's most prominent men at her feet.

Clark settled down in the chair opposite Natasha. "Have you found out anything about Luthor?"

"It depends. I've been doing a lot of research on him over the last few days. He doesn't like you much, does he?"

"The feeling's mutual. He's a menace to society. Always has been and always will be."

"You don't think he could have changed, then?"

Clark laughed with sarcasm. "Impossible."

"He seems to be impressing people with his reformed character."

Clark smiled. "Natasha, you've got a lot to learn. I'll look over your notes tonight and I'll see you in the office first thing tomorrow morning. I've got some things I need to do now."

"What was the point in me coming over?! I'll see you tomorrow, then."

Clark watched her walk out the door. Natasha reminded him of Mayson: a dauntless woman who knew what she wanted. She was also very attractive. His thoughts wondered back to Lois. He wasn't really shocked to discover that Paul was with Lois. He'd gotten the impression the few times he had met him that he wasn't one to give up easily. Paul had been there for Lois at the most significant times in her life, the times when he should have been there; there was bound to be a bond between them. He yearned for his life to be with Lois and the children; he just wanted some normality and resolve.

***

Meanwhile, back in Smallville, Lois was standing at the sink nonchalantly washing the dishes. She hadn't been able to focus on anything since Clark had come back. There was a constant whirlwind swirling in her head. Paul was in the next room, entertaining the children. She'd been aware of the change in Clark's voice when he heard Paul in the background and she had felt guilty, until he mentioned that Natasha was coming over. Suddenly she was startled by a knock at the kitchen window. It was Clark. Lois ran over to the back door and quietly opened it. Clark grabbed her and pulled her into the barn next door.

"What do you think you're doing, Clark?!"

His face was firm and his body language was defensive. "What kind of game are you playing, Lois? You say you no longer care for him but he's always there, sniffing around like a dog with a bone. Damn it, Lois, if it's him you want, why can't you just be honest with me?!" Clark grabbed hold of her shoulders and pushed her as he let go.

Never in her life had she seen this side to Clark. She could hardly swallow for the look he had in his eyes. Her arms stung where his hands had been gripping her. Taking two steps back she found the wall and steadied herself against it. He moved in on her and closed the gap between them.

"Lois Lane lost for words, there's a first."

She turned her head to the left to avoid his gaze but he gently pulled her back to face him. "Don't turn away from me, Lois. I want to see you."

"Why are you doing this, Clark? Please, if you want to talk, then we'll talk, but please don't do this."

Clark was confused. "Do what? What do you think I'm going to do?!" he shouted. Lois turned to look at him and what he saw in her eyes was pure fear.

Lois protected her body with her arms and sat on a nearby bail of hay.

"You thought I was going to… My God, you really thought that I'd hurt you?" Clark stood rooted the spot, watching Lois. She was in complete shock and started to shake.

They hadn't noticed Paul creep up behind them. He'd heard some shouting and had come outside to see what it was. Seeing Lois and the state she was in, he immediately ran over and pulled her into his arms.

"What the hell have you done to her, Clark?! If you've hurt her, I swear I'll kill you!"

In silence, he turned around and walked away.

Martha was watering the plants in the yard when she saw Clark walking up the drive. As soon as she saw him, she knew something was wrong. She shouted for Jonathan but he didn't answer. Dropping everything, Martha ran towards her son.

"Clark? What is it?"

He couldn't look at his mother, he was so ashamed. "I was so jealous, Mom. I didn't mean to… I didn't mean to, Mom."

Martha tried to look at her son but he kept avoiding her gaze and repeating himself. "Didn't mean to do what? What have you done, Clark? Talk to me, please!!" she shouted. She escorted him into the farmhouse and sat him down at the kitchen table.

"Here, drink this and in your own time tell me what's wrong."

Clark slowly lifted the glass of buttermilk to his lips. He took a small sip and put it down again. "I called Lois to see if they had a safe journey. While we were on the phone I heard him in the background talking."

"Who, honey?"

"Paul. I was so furious. There's still something between them; I'm sure of it. I cut short a meeting with Natasha and flew straight to Smallville to confront her. I grabbed Lois and shouted at her; I wanted to hurt her, I wanted her to feel the pain that I've been feeling."

Martha lifted her hand to her mouth. "Oh, Clark, what did you do?"

"My behaviour was formidable. I don't think I'll ever forget that look upon her face as long as I live. She was scared… of me. Mom, she thought I was going to harm her."

"Well, were you?"

Clark shot a look at Martha. "No! Mentally maybe, but never physically."

"Oh, Clark, what ever possessed you? That's not like you at all. Is she okay?"

"She's with Paul. He said if she was hurt that he'd kill me. Some husband, huh? You have to believe me, Mom, I'd never do anything to intentionally hurt my own wife. I've got so much anger inside of me. Most of the time I can contain it, but this was the last straw. The one thing I want, I can't seem to get a grip of. Now I've probably ruined every chance I ever had of being with Lois again in one foolish action."

Martha took hold of her son's hands and held them tight. She could see his torment and it broke her heart. "Honey, I knew there was something wrong but I didn't want to pressure you to tell us. I can remember a time when you used to talk everything through with us. What's changed?"

Lifting his head he managed to look into the loving eyes of his mother. "Me. I've changed. I question everything and everyone and I'm severely critical of myself. I want to be that man I used to be. The one people looked up to, relied on. The Clark Kent who found the good in everybody, believed anything was possible. I can't be him ever again, Mom. They took it all away from me on New Krypton and now I'm lost."

"He may be lost now, but not forever. I won't accept that, Clark, nor will the people who love you. We'll work through this together as family and you'll find yourself again. I will not stand by and let you destroy your life. Are you listening to me, Clark?"

"I love you, Mom." He pushed back the chair, stood up and gave Martha a kiss on the forehead.

"Where are you going?"

"I have to talk to Lois. Don't try and stop me. I have to see her."

"I understand, sweetie."

***

Back at the barn, Paul was comforting Lois. After Clark had left she'd collapsed. Paul carried her inside and laid her on the couch. He attempted to rouse her several times. After a few minutes she started to come round. He gently encouraged her to sit up and take a sip of water.

"Clark- where is he?"

"Don't you remember he walked away?"

She sighed a deep breath. "Thank you for staying, Paul. I'm sorry you had to witness that."

"I'm glad I stuck around. Who knows what he would have done? Stay there and sit quietly for a while. I'll check on the kids and tidy up the play room. No pressure."

"Thanks, Paul."

As Paul was coming down the stairs, he heard a knock at the door. He was surprised to see that it was Clark. "You've got some nerve, showing up here after what you did."

"I need to see Lois. Just let me in. I promise I won't cause any trouble."

Lois had heard the knock at the door but wasn't sure if Paul had answered it. When she saw Clark, she froze.

Paul turned around to see Lois standing in the doorway. "I'm sorry, Lois. He's insisting on seeing you. What do you want me to do?"

Lois knew only too well that Paul wouldn't stand a chance against Clark if things got out of hand. "Show him in."

"I'll leave you alone for now, but if you need me just call. I'll be in the kitchen."

Lois nodded. Clark cautiously made his way in. "Take a seat."

He sat down and tried to get her to look at him but she sat there with a glazed expression on her face, twiddling nervously with her rings. "Are you all right, Lois?"

"I collapsed after you left."

Clark attempted to get up but Lois stopped him.

"No, stay where you are."

"I'm sorry you had to see me like that. They say you take it out on the people you love."

Lois huffed. "Love! Is that what you'd call that outburst? I didn't see a remote sign of love in your face. Clark, do you know how scared I was? You're a powerful man; I had no idea what you were going do."

He hung his head in disgrace. "I've tried so hard to get back to normality but these feelings I have — I just can't shake them off. I get such a vehement wave of jealousy and anger because I have to share you with another man. It's killing me, Lois, killing my very soul. Do you understand?"

Lois let down her guard a little as he poured his heart out. "I had no idea how strong your feelings were. You've kept them pretty much hidden from me over the last months."

"I know, and it's been pushing you away. I can't remember how to be Clark Kent; do you know how frustrating that is? I'm at the bottom of a hole and I can't find a way out. The last thing I want is for you to hate me. I need you."

Lois plucked up the courage to move next to Clark. "Listen, lashing out at people isn't going to get you anywhere, nor is being jealous. I'll be as honest as I can with you if we're getting everything out in the open. Firstly, I do have feelings for Paul. I can't just turn them off because one day you suddenly appear again. He's been a good friend to me and the children and I do love him, but you are the one who has my heart, Clark. You're making it so hard for me to love you right now, but I do love you. For better or for worse."

"It seems like we only ever have the worse, doesn't it?"

"Maybe you should see someone, Clark, like a counsellor or something. I can give you a number if you like. It may help talking to an outsider. This problem you have definitely needs addressing."

Clark turned to his wife. "I guess it can't hurt." He went to touch her but she jumped back. "Lois, you know I'd never hurt you, don't you?"

Lois felt awful. The look on his face when she moved away was of helplessness. "At the moment, you're very unpredictable. You're just so different. Before I can understand what you've been through, you have to make yourself come to terms with what you've been going through. If you don't, you'll be fighting forever."

"I'm impatient. I want everything to be as it was before I went to New Krypton. I feel like I've wasted so much time already. It's getting used to being involved with people on a personal level again. I spent so long on my own, I think it made me a little selfish. Lois, if you want to end our marriage I will understand. Sometimes you just have to admit defeat."

"Let's not do anything too hasty. I'm not giving up that easily. I'll get that number for you and we'll go from there. It's Dr Friskin, actually; she's still based in Metropolis. If it wasn't for her I would probably still be denying my feelings for you."

"I've had a few sessions with her before. I owe her a lot then, if she helped you see the light," he laughed. "I should be going. I've done enough damage for one day. I'll be in touch when the time's right. I'm truly sorry for what happened earlier. It won't happen again."

"Hey, you just take good care of yourself. I'll be thinking of you." Lois walked over to Clark and gave him a kiss on the cheek. He responded with a smile and gently touched her on the arm, and this time she didn't pull away.

A few seconds later there was a boom and he was gone.

***

Four weeks had passed and Lois hadn't heard from Clark. She was coping surprisingly well, but the children were disappointed. They missed spending time with their father. Lois explained that he had to go away because he wasn't feeling too good, but she wasn't sure if they were totally convinced. Martha had spoken to Clark a few times and she said he seemed to being seeing things a lot more clearly after a few sessions with Dr Friskin. She'd seen him a few times on the TV and he looked stronger; he even looked like he was enjoying the rescues again. Lois kept herself focused with school work and being a mom, and she hardly had any spare time to herself. Kieran had started soccer after school and Faith was taking dance lessons with Lois's colleague, Miss. Butler. Now that the children were in full-time education, she could at least plan her days better and write extra columns for the Planet.

Paul had been to see them a couple times but he had his own life to get on with. Lois was pleased to hear he was dating again. She didn't want to contribute to yet another man's misery. As friends, they got on famously and supported one another; it was much better that way. Although she was coping with her situation, she missed Clark. As tempting as it was to contact him, she refrained from all forms of communication. Her feelings for him were still questionable and as long as there were doubts she couldn't face him.

***

Meanwhile, in Metropolis, Clark had just returned from a harrowing session with Dr Friskin. Compared to her questions, being Superman was fairly easy. He had decided to go to the counseling as Clark Kent rather than his alter ego. At least that way, he would be treated as a normal human being. After the third session he began to open up more and he was really finding it helpful talking about everything he'd been through. Just to let out all the pent up anger and frustration felt great. He even managed to talk to Perry and Jimmy about it, which was an achievement in itself. There were several times in the past week when he had been tempted to fly to Smallville to see Lois and the children but his mom had told him to leave her for the moment. Clark had resigned himself to the fact that his marriage to Lois was nearing the end, and he wasn't holding out much hope of reconciliation.

The phone rang early Friday morning. It was Martha with some good news; she and Jonathan were going to bring the twins to Metropolis for the weekend to visit. The news had really brightened his day; it was just the tonic he needed, plus he could really do with his parents loving support.

***

Lois had just finished packing the twins' things when Martha popped her head round the door.

"Hi, honey, didn't meant to sneak up on you like that."

"Hi, Martha. I wasn't sure what they'll be doing so I've packed a variety of clothing. I don't think they've ever been away from me before."

"They'll be fine. You may even find you enjoy the peace and quiet," Martha laughed.

"Maybe. They're so excited, I had trouble trying to get them to sleep last night. Faith's been drawing pictures to give to Clark and Kieran's been practising his soccer skills to show him. I'm feeling a little left out."

"You could always come, too."

"No, Clark needs time with them on their own without me around. Besides, I'm not sure I can face him."

"I know what he did, Lois. He came to me almost immediately afterwards. I don't think I've ever seen him so low."

"I know he didn't mean it, Martha. He just scared me a little."

"Try not to hold it against him. All people go to a bad place sometime or other in their lives, but it's worse for Clark because being a good, kind person is what makes him Clark. It's what he's all about; what he saw and what he did on New Krypton wasn't easy for him. He went against everything he stood for. He thinks he's lost his identity, but he hasn't."

Martha looked directly at Lois, and gently squeezed her arm.

"That man is still there inside him; Clark just needs a little help finding him again. You've both had a tough time and you've both had to cope without the support of the other, but you don't have to do that anymore, Lois. The last time I spoke to Clark he was accepting the fact that things were over between you. Is that how you feel?"

She'd listened intently to what her mother-in-law was saying. "No, he is my life, Martha. He means everything to me. I guess I'm just not used to him being the one with the problem and I find it hard to deal with. Seeing Clark so vulnerable has really freaked me out and I have no idea how to help him. Oh, God, I sound so selfish, don't I?"

"He may be Superman and he may be strong but he needs you emotionally. I love you both very much and I don't know what else to do but try and make you see things a little differently. Use this time alone to think about what it is you really want; fix it now before it's too late."

Lois gave Martha a huge hug and kissed her on the cheek "You're a very wise lady, Mrs. Kent. Don't let anybody tell you any different."

"Oh, don't. You'll make me cry. Now, where are those two monsters? We better get a move on. Jonathan is waiting in the truck and he's probably wondering where we are."

***

Lois waved goodbye until the truck disappeared into the horizon. Turning around, she headed back towards the barn. The wind gently moved through the trees and the air was cool. Lois stopped to observe her surroundings. It was a beautiful clear evening; the sun was about to bid farewell and the moon was high in the sky. Clark had often mentioned how he used to sit for hours just admiring the beauty of nature. She used to tease him and tell him he was sentimental, but at that moment she couldn't agree more and the only thing that was missing was him to share it with. Pulling her shawl more tightly around her body, she placed herself on the swing outside and sat there gently swaying until the darkness embraced her.

***

The weekend seemed to last forever for Lois. She missed the children terribly. They had called her Saturday evening and were having a great time. She was disappointed when Clark didn't speak to her; it had been ages since she'd even heard his voice. Everyone she cared about was in Metropolis and she was all by herself in Smallville with only her thoughts and Purdey, the kitten, for company. She'd tried several times to get down to some serious book writing but always drew a blank. Sunday evening eventually came round. It was around seven when she heard the truck pull up outside.

Kieran and Faith ran towards her, waving and smiling. She bent down and smothered them with hugs and kisses. Martha and Jonathan followed behind with their luggage.

"I think they missed you, Lois," said Jonathan.

"Not as much as I missed them. I know it was only two days, but I really didn't know what to do with myself," she laughed.

Faith looked up at Lois and was babbling away. "Daddy took us all round Meto…p…lis and we went to Daddy's work. It was fun and Kieran sat in Uncle Perry's chair in his office."

"All right, sweetie. You can tell me all about it in a little while after I've spoken to Grandma and Grandpa. Take your brother inside; there should be some chocolate for you in the kitchen."

The children ran off into the house while Lois and the Kents followed.

"Did you have a nice weekend, then?" asked Lois.

"Yes, it was quite hectic, though. I don't know how we managed to keep up. Clark was in his element, of course," replied Martha.

"How is he?"

"Getting there slowly. He seems more content and optimistic, anyway, which is good. Seeing the children really perked him up, though; they've taken so readily to him. I told him that you were thinking of him."

"That's all I've been doing. I was wondering if I should go and see him next week? We can't carry on in limbo like this; we're gonna have to talk sooner or later."

Lois felt Martha gently tug at her arm. "You do whatever you think will help, but he'd like to see you. I know he would."

***

On Wednesday morning Lois said goodbye to the children again. She dropped them off at the Kents' before heading to the airport. She had purchased a one way ticket, hoping that Clark could bring her back later in the day.

The plane touched down in Metropolis early that morning; if she was quick she could try and catch Clark before he went to The Planet. At least she could arrange to meet with him for lunch. Waving frantically, she hailed a taxi and jumped in. "Clinton Street, please."

The taxi driver was as quick as he could be in rush hour. They pulled up outside Clinton Street a few minutes later. Lois took a deep breath and headed for number 344. Just as she was about to rap on the door, it opened.

"Hi…" She still had her arm in the air and was leaning forward slightly, trying to stop herself from falling into Clark's apartment.

He gently caught her and stood her upright again. "Lois? What are you doing here? Are you okay? Is everything all right with the twins?"

Blushing, she swept her hair away from her face. "Oh, no, I mean yes… everything is fine. Look, I won't keep you; can we meet up for lunch?" She was looking at him intently, waiting for a response. She had forgotten how handsome he was in the flesh, and suits always looked amazing on him— all bar the crazy tie he was wearing.

"Um, yeah. What are you going to do in the meantime, though?"

"I've got a few things I can do before we meet up. So what do you say to noon at Jo Jo's?"

"Sure. I'll see you there. I don't mean to be rude but I'm meeting a source in a few minutes."

"Oh, I'm sorry. You better go. I'll see you later, then?"

He smiled at her. "I'll be there! Oh, and Lois… it's good to see you!" he shouted.

"That didn't go too badly," she said to herself.

***

Lois spent the morning researching for her next story and catching up on some shopping in the mall. As usual, she'd bought loads of stuff for the kids and could just about manage to get the bags through the restaurant door. She found a nice little private table near the window. Making herself comfortable, she sat down and ordered a black coffee and went over her notes she'd made in the library.

Clark spotted her in the far corner chewing her pencil. He smiled to himself and thought how cute she looked.

"I hate to see a beautiful woman sitting all on her own. May I join you?"

Lois jumped. "Oh, Clark. You shouldn't creep up on people like that!"

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you. Have you ordered any food?"

"No, I thought I'd wait for you. The pasta looks good, though; I think I'll try that."

Clark summoned the waitress and ordered their lunch and a soda for himself. "Are you here on business or personal?" he asked.

"The main reason I'm here is to talk with you, although I have got a bit of work done this morning."

"Lois, I don't want to play games anymore. Let's just cut to the chase and get this over with."

"Hang on a minute, you don't even know what I'm going to say yet."

"I have a pretty good idea."

"I don't think you do. Clark, I'm sorry that I haven't been in contact with you but it doesn't mean I've given up on you or us. I've been watching your progress on the television and your mom has been keeping me posted. I'm really proud of you. Looking at you today, you're like a different man."

Clark was surprised by her words. "Thanks, it means a lot to me. It's been hard having to face up to things, but I've been seeing the world differently recently."

"That's wonderful, Clark."

"Dr. Friskin made me realise that I had so many positive things in my life. She comes out with some weird stuff but it seems to work. Anyway, after some tests and then a few sessions with her and Dr. Klein, the conclusion is that I'm suffering from Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder. Apparently, I've been showing all the signs: intrusion, avoidance, and hyperarousal. I've been reading up on it at home on the internet. I'm going to visit some people with the same condition next week. I think it'll be really beneficial."

"Is that what people get after they've been through a natural disaster or witnessed something horrific?"

"Yeah. It's kind of a delayed reaction. In my case, when I came back to Earth, I couldn't deal with the sudden changes in my life. One minute I was at war and the next I was free to do whatever I wanted. I came back to Metropolis expecting everything to fall back into place, and when it didn't I just went into a depression."

Lois could feel herself welling up. "Oh, Clark."

"Hey, don't cry for me. Dry your eyes and save your tears." He offered Lois a tissue.

Sniffing, Lois took the tissue and dabbed her eyes. "I just wish we'd been able to help each other instead of arguing and being hateful. You're the last person I want to fall out with."

"I won't let that happen. Now, what did you want to talk to me about?"

"I came to salvage our relationship. If I've given you the impression that I'm indifferent to you, then I'm sorry. I don't want a divorce or a separation; it's hard enough living apart now. If anything, we've been distancing ourselves from each other too much. Clark, I can't live like this anymore. Please just come home."

"You've really thought about this, haven't you?"

"Yes. You don't have to answer right now. Just give it some thought and let me know when you've come to a decision."

Clark caught her hand before she turned away. "Lois, I don't need to think about it, I've done enough of that to last a lifetime. There's nothing I'd love more."

Through the tears the smile came. The waitress placed their lunch down on the table but Lois and Clark didn't seem to notice. They were content with just being there together and feeling happy. Eventually they ate lunch accompanied by a bottle of champagne.

***

"Oh, gosh, I feel really tipsy," laughed Lois.

Clark shook his head. "C'mon, I'll get the cheque and we can get going. Speaking of which, what are your plans for the rest of the day?"

"Well, I was hoping you could take me home. I didn't buy a return ticket, but if it's a problem I'll make my way back to the airport and pick up the next flight to Kansas."

"I can take you back, but not yet. Why don't you come back to the Planet with me this afternoon? I'm sure Perry and Jimmy would love to see you."

Picking up her bags, she thought about it. "Sure."

"Do you want a hand with those?"

"If you wouldn't mind. I kind of got carried away at the mall this morning. All those cute clothes and toys and boutiques and…"

Clark grabbed the bags and manoeuvred her towards the door. "I get the picture."

"Oh, my cell is ringing. Can you get it Clark? It's in my coat pocket."

"Hello, Clark Kent… Hi, Ellen. How are you? …Great. I've just had lunch with Lois and now we're heading back to the paper. Okay. I'll tell her. …Yeah, sure. Okay. Bye, Ellen."

"Don't tell me, let me guess. She's cancelling her visit for next week?"

"Er… yeah. She's going to a convention with your father, but she'll ring you later to reschedule."

"Typical. They're like a couple of love sick teenagers… can't go anywhere without the other!"

"It's kinda sweet."

Rolling her eyes, she put her phone back and linked arms with Clark. "Is Natasha going to be there?"

"Lois, she works there."

"OK, OK, I was just asking."

"She's quite a nice girl when you get to know her. I'd rather you were my partner, of course."

"Of course," said Lois flippantly.

***

Lois stayed at the paper with Clark all afternoon. She borrowed a computer to continue with her latest article. She looked up and caught Clark's eye. He winked and she smiled back. A rush of adrenaline invaded her body. It was a feeling she had long since forgotten existed. The phone on the desk started to ring, so she picked it up.

"Lois Lane."

"Lois Lane, you can be very distracting to a man while working… Take your hair down," said the husky voice at the end of the phone.

Lois looked round the newsroom and then looked directly at Clark. She slowly took the clip that was holding all the loose curls up out of her hair. They gently fell around her face and onto her shoulders. His dark eyes were drawn only to her. He watched on as she ran her fingers through her hair.

"I've never seen anything more beautiful. Meet me on the roof in five minutes. I think we have unfinished business to attend to."

Lois hung up with her heart in her mouth. She was dumbfounded. She knew Clark had hidden talents but that had been… erotic? Lois hurried towards the elevator, her stomach in tight knots and her face burning.

A few minutes later Clark was making his way up towards the Daily Planet roof. He prayed that she hadn't gone anywhere else. The last thing he wanted to do was scare her off. Opening the fire exit door, he wasn't disappointed. There she was her hair still loose, the wind sweeping it back from her face. She was perfect.

He closed the distance between them and softly placed his hands on either side of her face. Desire prevailed and their mouths met with such passion that nothing could divide them; only the need for oxygen eventually parted them. They remained close, their bodies still touching, and breathing in a sensorial rhythm.

"Clark, that was… amazing."

"How about I amaze you some more back at my apartment?"

Her eyes were sparkling with excitement. "That's an offer I cannot refuse."

Releasing Lois, Clark spun round into Superman. "Your taxi in the sky awaits you, madam."

She jumped into his arms and they took off into the dusky evening sky.

***

Some time later, Lois and Clark emerged from the bedroom of his apartment with sanguine looks on their faces. Neither of them had experienced quite so many emotions at once. A connection had been made once more in the act of love. It came as naturally as they'd found it the first time.

***

Lois took one last look at the place she'd called home for the past five years. There was no going back now; a new family was moving in next week. Kieran and Faith were helping Clark load up the removal truck; they were so cute and Clark was so patient. She wasn't going to get all maudlin over a house. A fresh start was what they'd decided on. A new house, with her family in Metropolis and her old job at the Planet. Life couldn't get much better than that.

THE END

… for now.