By Nicole Sullivan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: October, 2005
Summary: How different might things have been if Clark had granted Lois's request and agreed to attend her wedding to Lex Luthor?
What do you want, Lois?
I want you come to my wedding.
I just can't.
You hate him that much? Or is it me you hate now?
He stared at the woman behind the wheel of the fancy car, shock written on his face. She was known to everyone walking by, staring into the classy vehicle, as Lex Luthor's fiancée. Soon to be wife. Soon to be rich.
But to him, she was Lois.
And he wondered how she could *ever* think that he could hate her. He loved her more than anything. He had told her that!
"I could never hate you, Lois. You know that," he said. "I just…"
"What? Clark, please. If I never ask anything of you ever again, I just ask that you —"
"— Why? Why do you need me there? Do you want my approval or something? Because that is something you'll never get. Not on this."
She stared at him for a moment before breaking down.
"I feel like everything is changing, Clark. The Planet is gone. You and I… we're drifting apart! And… I'm scared, Clark! I am so scared of losing everything. I am scared of getting married and of everything that is going on and changing all around me. I am scared and I need you! I need my best friend! I don't think you know how much it matters to me that *you* are there; how much it would mean to me if —"
"— Okay," he said, staring ahead.
"What?" she asked, her crying stopping dead in its tracks, her pain replaced by confusion.
He just couldn't turn his back on her.
He couldn't support her choice, but it was *her* choice. She'd made it. And while all he wanted was for her to return his feelings, he knew it was impossible. He was hoping for the absolute impossible.
And, supporting her choice or not, she was right; he *was* her best friend.
He'd made sure of it.
When he had come into her life, he had seen that she did not trust easily. He had told her she could trust him. That he wouldn't hurt her. She had finally *put* that trust in him. And he hadn't let her down so far.
What would happen to her down the line if he turned his back on her because of a major disagreement now? She would never trust again. She would never let anyone get close to her. What kind of person would she then become?
She'd be alone…
It made him ache inside to picture her alone in this great, big world.
He remembered how alone she had seemed when he had first met her. Not in some ways… but in so many of the ways that counted most. He'd identified a kind of loneliness in her that he himself had felt, and he had known there'd been a connection between them. He had known that if they became friends, they'd never be lonely again
He had successfully broken down the walls she had built around herself. This moment — her begging him to come to her wedding, admitting what she would have once called a weakness, saying she was scared — was proof of that. She had learned to trust him over the year. She confided in him and let him see how imperfect, how *human*, she really was. She let him in. She called him her best friend. She meant that. And he knew that it took a lot for her. All of it.
It didn't take the sting out, though.
"I said, 'okay'. I'll come," he finished, getting out of the car, not looking at her.
"You will?" she asked, incredulously. "Oh… oh, Clark! Thank you!"
"Sure," he said, tonelessly, with a wave — a dismissal — walking away. Not looking back.
Clark pulled out his address book and started flipping through its pages.
There were a few people that came to mind immediately.
Even Cat Grant.
He needed a date to this wedding. There was no way he was going on his own. Besides, if he went with someone from Smallville, he didn't have to stay long. If it were just him, Lois would beg him to stay until it was all over. The champagne, the dancing, the music, the food…
He couldn't stay and torture himself like that.
If he brought someone from out of town, there were plenty of excuses that they could get away with, which would offer him reprieve from his silent suffering.
…There was jet-lag.
Had Lana gotten married, he wondered, as he looked at her old address, which she had scribbled in his book the summer after their junior year at college. What was it his mother had told him about her…
…There was sickness. Cold, nausea, flu…
Rachel had been the same old Rachel when he'd been in Smallville earlier in the year. With Lois. Lois… that dress she'd worn… He shook his head, trying to shake the image away.
He and Rachel had had fun at the senior prom together. She was incredibly sweet and fun to be around. He had no history with her, as he had with Lana… Well, no bad history, rather.
…There was the flight excuse. "She has to get back to Smallville tonight. Her flight leaves in a little while and we must be going. Well, congratulations. Goodbye…"
He stared ahead, a familiar tightening in his chest making it hard to breathe for a moment.
He looked at the book again. At his own scribbling.
Cat Grant was out of the question, he realized immediately, crossing her name off of his small list of potential dates. She would read into it, and make him incredibly uncomfortable for hours on end. And she was a friend. He did not want to be in a position of letting anyone down on that particular day. As it was, he was willingly going into a situation where someone he loved was letting *him* down. He could only deal with so much…
"I can't believe you are going to this wedding, Clark," Martha Kent said on the phone, later that night. "Don't you want to fight for her?"
"Fight for her?" he asked, his voice taut, strained, nearly breaking.
And then, he was angry.
His mother could afford to think romantically, to assume that there was always hope. He was almost angry at her for raising him to believe that too.
His mother could think that Lois Lane might look at him someday and be swept off her feet, realizing she was in love with him. He had dared to imagine it could happen himself. It was stupid! It was so stupid! She wasn't just any girl. This was Lois Lane. She stood out from the rest. He was a nobody and a fool at that. He was nothing but friend-material to someone like her. And how stupid he must have looked that day, putting himself out there like that, imagining that she might choose him over Lex Luthor. Forgetting all about her infatuation with Superman.
Didn't his mother know that she was out of his league? That he was an idiot. A fool. A child, practically. Complete with naïve dreams and hopes that should never be voiced. That could never come true.
He learned to face reality a few days ago. To grow up. Why couldn't his mother!
Fight for her, his mother said. Sure. Because to win her over, he had to just work harder at it. Handing her his heart, only to have it returned completely bruised and battered hadn't been enough. He just hadn't done enough! He had to fight! Fight.
*Obviously* that was the problem! He wasn't fighting nearly hard enough!
It wasn't that Lois Lane was too good for him and he had been a complete idiot to think otherwise. It wasn't that he was destined to be alone and was stupid to have even allowed himself to fall in love, when he had *known* that. And he'd known what was happening when he'd met her! How he should have taken her cue and allowed them to simply exist together at work. Not become friends. He should not have let it happen. But no! He pursued the friendship knowing fully well that he had fallen in love with her before it had even begun to form.
He embarrassed himself in the name of that love that he was not fighting for. He allowed his heart to be shattered for all to see. But… he had not fought hard enough!
"Mom," he eventually said, his breathing heavy, fighting his anger which was trying to get the better of him, trying not to take his wounded feelings out on his mother, knowing she did not deserve it. "I called you for Rachel's new number. I told you, the one I have is not working. Please," he added, his voice failing, finally, as his eyes filled with tears that just would not fall.
They would not fall.
He would not break.
"Okay, Clark… I will look for it. But why don't you come here to get it and I'll make dinner," she said softly. Soothingly.
"Yeah, fine," he said.
What else could he do? What was there in his life besides his parents?
No Planet. No Lois…
He should go there.
He hung up the phone and stood up. He looked around.
He *had* fought. He'd fought hard enough! He had given her his heart!
He had fought!
He'd just lost.
Lois stood in the center of her apartment, looking around at it. It seemed big and cold and very lonely. Or rather, she felt cold and lonely. And so empty inside.
She found herself thinking about Clark. She hadn't stopped thinking about him since he'd walked away from her.
He was going to come. He had granted her wish and said he'd be there. He hadn't turned his back on her. He had never turned his back on her in their entire relationship. It just was not surprising, in the end
She should be happy. Clark was going to be there! Clark! She should be ecstatic. Why wasn't she ecstatic?
She could hear her own voice in her head, begging him to come. It sounded needy and pathetic… and selfish. She had asked him to come and be there for her, knowing that he hated Lex. He hated him with every fiber in his being. And aside from that, he was in love with her. To ask him to come knowing of those two major facts was beyond selfish. She was beyond cruel.
But he had agreed.
She had begged him like a child wanting candy. And just as he had always done in their relationship, he did what she asked. He agreed.
And instead of feeling the relief that she had thought she'd feel when he agreed, she'd felt just awful.
He hadn't looked at her. He couldn't look at her. He'd gotten out of the car, as if it was suddenly too much. Too hard.
Her life had been so hard these last few weeks, she hadn't thought about his life. What he was going through. She just hadn't given it much thought at all. She could see it, though. He was going through an awful time. And agreeing to go to this wedding that he was so completely against had been hard. But he had done it. For her. And he couldn't sit there with her anymore because of it.
He'd stood up. He'd gotten out of the car. He hadn't looked at her.
But she had seen it.
She lay back on her pillow in her bedroom and closed her eyes. Maybe she could shut it out. Maybe if she tried to focus on something else, she could shut out the image. Shut out his face. And the look she had seen when he had stepped out of her car.
He had looked positively broken-hearted. So hurt.
She had hurt him. Again.
He looked like he couldn't believe it. What, she didn't know. Maybe he couldn't believe that she could actually not only expect him to attend, but beg him to. Maybe he couldn't believe that he had accepted. Maybe he couldn't believe that she could cause him even more pain than she had already caused him. Maybe all of those things.
She just needed to forget.
But she couldn't. The look on his face had been too awful to shut out. She had seen it. And the moment she had seen it, she had wished she hadn't. But things could not ever be unseen. She knew that only too well.
Maybe, she thought, she should call him and tell him not to come. That it had been selfish of her to expect him to.
But… she couldn't!
She hadn't been lying in the car. Things were changing so fast that she was scared of losing everything. They *were* drifting apart and she was desperately scared of losing him. She was getting married and that was a major thing in her life. She needed to share it with him, because if they couldn't face it together and get through it *together*, they would never face it and get through it at all. She would lose him. Everything she had known and loved would be…
"Your mom said you might stop by," Rachel said, wiping her hands on her pants before giving Clark a warm, welcoming hug.
"Yeah, I'm just in town for a night," Clark said.
"It's good to see you!"
He looked down at the baby goat she had been feeding.
"So when you're not off chasing bad guys, you're a mother to lost baby animals?" he asked, smiling.
"I don't know what they've been telling you about my job, Clark, but aside from that one time you were here, nothing too exciting happens. The last 'bad guy' I chased was a fifteen year old boy, making out with his girlfriend, who was a little too young to be doing such things with him behind the Dairy Freeze," she said, laughing.
Clark smiled, but didn't laugh, as a memory passed over his consciousness and his heart felt heavy with everything that had been weighing him down lately.
"I'm sorry… I just remembered something, that's all," he said, not actually lying.
"Okay, where's the happy, carefree Clark Kent I knew from years ago, who could make anything happen?"
He smiled. "I'm here, Rachel. It's just been a rough time lately. I'm sure you've heard about the Planet."
"Oh… that's right; your mother told me. I had forgotten. Oh, Clark, I am sorry. That was your dream job and now… well, I'm sorry."
"It's okay. These haven't been my best few weeks, that's all. But that's not why I'm here. I was wondering if… hoping… would you like to go to a wedding with me? In Metropolis?"
She smiled and looked away for a moment.
"That would be great! I'd love to," she said when she looked at him again.
"I haven't even told you when it is," he said.
"Whenever it is, it would be great. I'd love to," she said, her smile growing.
"Great. Well, it's this Saturday. This is kind of last minute."
"I don't want to give you any ideas or anything, but I'm curious. Why aren't you going with Lois? It seems more convenient, since she's in Metropolis and the wedding —"
Her words trailed off as she noticed the expression on his face.
"It's nothing," he said, suddenly finding that he couldn't look at her. "It's, uh, Lois's wedding. That's all," he said, shrugging casually, like that fact meant absolutely nothing to him.
"I am always putting my foot in my mouth, I swear," Rachel eventually said.
Clark looked at her then and laughed a little. It was true. As far back as he could remember, Rachel always said whatever came to her and usually ended up putting her foot in her mouth. It was endearing, really. And just so uniquely Rachel
"It's fine. And I'm glad you're coming. I don't plan on being there long either. Just the ceremony. After the last 'I do' we're out," he said.
She nodded. "Sure, Clark, whatever you want."
He started to walk away when she called his name.
"It's all going to work out," she said.
He turned and smiled at her. "Sure," he said, a note of something — wistful — in his tone.
And then he continued on his way, realizing that for the first time in his life, he had absolutely no hope at all that anything in his life would work out. And what was worse, he no longer cared.
She was drunk. And nothing was right. She was getting married in a day and the only person at her bachelorette party was her *mother*! Even her sister hadn't shown up. She had even stooped so low as to invite Cat. She'd left her a message.
She really didn't have any girlfriends.
She looked at her mother. This was it.
"Honey, I really think you should stop now."
"I don't want to stop. I want another drink," she said, half to her mother and half to the bartender.
"Believe me, Lois, I know the words 'I want another drink'. I almost think I invented them. But… you've had enough! You are getting married tomorrow and this is no way to behave! You're going to be positively sick the whole day!"
"Mom… I am having another drink. I'm fine!" Lois said, growing increasingly more frustrated with her mother as the seconds ticked on.
She didn't want to see her anymore. She had spent the last day with her, having her dress fitted and going over makeup and jewelry choices. She was done with her mother!
Her mother was annoying her!
Her mother didn't know how to calm her nerves, either; that was for sure. She didn't know how to deal with her. Kind of like Lex. Every time he tried to "help", he just made her more nervous about everything.
And she was getting married to him… tomorrow!
It was positively…
"Clark?" Lois said, tiredly, to no one in particular, not believing her eyes.
Clark had just walked into the bar. He was smiling. Talking to someone.
A blonde someone!
Something started hurting in her stomach and she immediately assumed it had to do with the drink she had just downed. As the bartender placed a new one in front of her, she looked at him in shock.
"Are you crazy? I can't have another drink!"
She clutched at her stomach and scooted off her stool, walking toward her ex-partner.
Such a good friend…
He was coming to her wedding tomorrow…
"Lois," he said, when he saw her walking over. He moved to grab her as she stumbled on something. "You've been drinking," he said quietly, his lovely smile from before now gone.
Replaced with another look she always loved.
That best friend look. Like he cared. *Really* cared.
"It's a bar, Clark. Of course I've been drinking. What were you going to do here? Have some milk and cookies?"
"Rachel wanted to see a lively city bar," he said, gesturing to the blonde next to him. "It's her first time in Metropolis, so I —"
"— Rachel," Lois said, looking at her, finally, seeing that she was waving, a small smile on her face.
"I met you!" Lois said, smiling at Rachel. "In Smallville! You're the cop! No, sheriff!"
"That's right. Nice to see you again, Lois. And… congratulations," Rachel said.
Lois looked her up and down noticeably. Rachel was a fish out of water. A country bumpkin in a city bar. Dressed in a denim dress with shoes that were at least three seasons out of style.
"So… Rachel… what do you think of this *lively* city bar?" Lois asked, animatedly, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
"Lois," Clark said, a serious expression on his face.
"What? Clark, relax, I'm just curious. Is this like any of the bars in Smallville?" she asked, trying to sound more innocent. More genuinely interested.
"No," Clark and Rachel answered together.
"Lois, if you'll excuse us — " Clark started.
"Real nice, Lois, leaving your mother to pay a fifty dollar tab while you stumble away," her mother said, walking up to the group. "Well… aren't you going to introduce me?"
Lois rolled her eyes. "Mom, Clark, Clark, Mom. Mom, Rachel, Rachel, Mom," she said, in a bored tone, still looking at Rachel.
"Yeah, uh, hi, Mrs. Lane. It's nice to meet you," Clark said, shaking her hand, a kind smile on his face.
Lois smiled, feeling relieved suddenly. Something about when Clark smiled…
"I hate being called Mrs. Lane. Makes me feel like I'm still married. Call me Ellen, please. So… you're coming to the wedding tomorrow.
"Uh, yeah. Rachel and I," Clark said, smiling briefly — reassuringly, it seemed — at Rachel.
And Lois's smile disappeared.
"You're taking a date to the wedding?" she asked, looking crestfallen. Her mind a confused mess.
"I assumed it was okay," Clark said. "Usually when you go to a wedding, you bring a date. Why did you think Rachel was here one day before your wedding?"
"I don't know… where is she staying tonight?" Lois asked, tilting her head, her eyebrows furrowed intensely, her thoughts sort of running all over the place, and coming out of her mouth without the usual screening of them.
"At my place," Clark said, in a tone that seemed to say 'what does it matter?' "Lois, are you alright?"
"She had a few too many. I tried to get her to stop, but, I guess I'm not exactly someone she would take seriously on this one matter," her mother said lightly.
Ignoring her mother, Lois looked at Rachel. "It's my bachelorette party right now. And, well, you're a bachelorette. Why don't you come to the bar and we'll toast, I don't know, me or something."
"Lois, I don't think —"
"Clark, it's alright," Rachel said, touching his arm briefly. "One drink with the bride to be and then we'll head out of here, what do you say?"
When she touched his arm, Lois started thinking that maybe she shouldn't have another drink. Her stomach had started doing that flip-floppy thing again. It had to be the alcohol. Surely. She really should stop drinking.
Clark nodded at Rachel. "Okay, sure. It's *your* first time in Metropolis, so… whatever you want."
Lois grabbed Rachel's hand, excitedly, and pulled her away from Clark, and toward the bar, throwing a look over her shoulder at Clark. She noticed as they walked away, watching him standing there, that black was a great color for him. A really great color. He kind of looked handsome in black.
And that pinkish-salmon color that his t-shirt was that morning at the honeymoon suite…
There were lots of colors that looked good on him.
Whose hand was she holding?! Rachel… there was Rachel. Rachel… Harris! Looking around in wonder at the lively city bar as Lois pulled her forward.
And there was Clark behind, watching them with a look on his face. A look she had seen before… She didn't like it too much. Why couldn't he just smile? He should smile all the time. It was always better when Clark smiled…
But he looked away, as her mother began to surely talk his ear off.
"So, Lois… are you nervous?"
Huh? "What?" she asked.
"My friend Linda got married about five months ago and the night before… she sure was nervous," Rachel said, sitting down on a stool.
"So when did Clark ask you to come to the wedding? And how did he ask you?"
Rachel looked thrown for a moment, but recovered pretty quickly. "Well he didn't get down on one knee or anything like that. He just kind of came to my old farm."
"Your old farm? Tell me about this old farm. How often does Clark… visit you… at the old farm?"
Rachel looked at her like she had about fifty heads, but then watched Lois sipping her drink from her straw, a curious and very drunk look on her face and she shrugged. "He and I used to always play over there as kids, in the pastures. Hide and seek mostly. He was always better at hiding. It was never very fair, either, because he could get into places I never could get into! I am not sure how he did that! He hasn't really come there in a few years. Christmas, actually, he visited to say hello. But other than that, it's been awhile. It sure was a nice surprise, him asking me to this wedding. It's nice to be able to see him again. *Really* see him. Not just a casual, quick visit —"
"— what do you mean, *really* see him?" Lois asked, before placing her lips around the straw again, sipping away at her drink, waiting for her answer.
Clark sat down at a table, while Ellen went into the restroom, and looked discreetly at Lois and Rachel. He was glad Rachel was in town. Showing her around had taken his mind off of everything, and her genuine enthusiasm for seeing 'the big city', as she called it, was great. It reminded him of how he had felt when he'd first come to Metropolis.
It hadn't been that long ago, actually, that he had been the small town boy in the big city. The fish out of water. He had walked into the Daily Planet a little more than nine months ago, young and intelligent, motivated and passionate… but incredibly naïve and a little too dependent on his childhood hopes and dreams. His romantic views on life.
Then came Lois.
He watched her now, chewing her straw, listening to Rachel tell some story, watching her intently, and something in his chest began to ache.
Lois had been the reason he had survived in Metropolis. She had taken him under her wing… after much persuasion from Perry… and forced him to develop a harder skin, all the while showing him that she did like him as he was. Letting him know in subtle ways that she didn't want him to *change*, that it was the way he was that allowed them to become such good friends at all. And he had always appreciated that. It had always made him feel so special when he thought that she accepted him for what he was, even if she didn't know just *how* different he really was.
She had inspired the creation of Superman, and inspired the hero in general as well, when things became tough. He actually owed her a lot… this woman who was causing him such pain at the moment.
The woman that he loved…
He had fallen in love with her so quickly. And in his mind, he had thought it would all work out. In his naïve, romantic mind. While he had learned some things quickly and adapted himself to the harder ways of Metropolis, somehow his incurably romantic spirit has remained constant. He had hoped that she would eventually see through the disguise. See *him*. And love him…
She loved a part of him. But not the core of him. Not the heart and soul. Not the part of him that loved her. That part she couldn't see. That part she didn't love.
He was happy to have Rachel around to take his mind off what he had to endure the following day. He was also happy to have an old friend around, to reminisce with about better times. About being young and hopeful. Talking with her, he was reminded of who he was growing up. He had been a boy who wanted to change the world. He'd felt different as a child and often scared because of it. But when he thought about his childhood, what he remembered most were not those feelings of being scared and being different. He remembered being ambitious. Daring to dream. He remembered being hopelessly romantic, knowing that someday he would find the one… and it would be great when it happened. She would love him unconditionally. And accept him for all the many things about him that set him apart from everyone else.
Maybe he had dared to dream just a little too big…
"Clark! Why are you sitting in a corner! I told you I had to redo all my makeup! You should have gone to talk with Lois and uh… what's-her-name."
"Rachel. And they seemed to be deep in conversation. I didn't want to intrude," he said to Ellen, when she walked back over.
"Clark from everything I can gather and the way you are both acting, I have to ask… are you and Lois still… friends?" Ellen asked, taking a seat and looking at him intensely.
"Sure," he said, not feeling sure of that fact at all, suddenly.
He had agreed to go to this stupid wedding to salvage a friendship that he now realized may have already been thrown too far away to ever get it back. But he had to go now. He had told Lois he would, for one thing. He still loved her; he didn't want her life to be ruined — for her to be alone — because her best friend had let her down in a big way. But… she was letting him down too! Didn't that matter?!
He put a hand through his hair.
Plus… he had Rachel here now. She was here for this wedding. He couldn't just not go. He'd inconvenienced someone who had nothing to do with this entire mess.
He looked up when he realized that Ellen Lane was talking again.
"What happened with you two? Lois used to talk about you all the time and I could tell you were her best friend and then suddenly, I don't know. I would say your name and she'd change the subject. And then she wasn't sure you would come to the wedding at all. I'm glad you are going."
"If you don't mind, I'd really rather not talk about the wedding," Clark said, resignedly, looking down.
"I just don't get it!" she said, throwing her hands in the air. He looked up at her. "You know… you're good for her. She's been nicer to me this whole year than she has ever been to me in her entire life. You've affected her. She's let go of a lot of the issues she had growing up. A lot of the issues she still had a few months ago. She's let a lot of them go and the rest that she still has… they don't rule her like they used to. I can hear that. I can see it! I just don't understand… did she *do* something to upset you? Did she ruin this friendship? I know she hasn't kept all of her friends over the years. She's never been the perfect friend, at that. I know it. But… with you, I know she cared far more… that she would do whatever she had to do to keep you in her life. She loves you, Clark. I could always hear it in the way she talked about you. What happened?"
"It's a long story, Mrs. Lane. Ellen. And it's not my place to discuss it with you. Lois and I have a complicated relationship. And I don't exactly approve of her marrying… *him*. But, that's all I'll say. There's more, but honestly, I can't even talk about it right now. And I just want to get out of here," he said, looking around, suddenly feeling claustrophobic.
He felt bad. Here was Lois's mother and it was his first time meeting her! Some first impression he was making. He had practically told her to shut up twice! But… she was making it so painful. As if it weren't bad enough that the one bar he had decided to enter on this night, the eve of what was to surely be the worst day of his life, Lois would be there, drinking — celebrating the farewell to her old life and her entrance into her new life with his enemy.
He looked at Ellen. She looked a little bit like Lois. She was a pretty woman, but he could see that years of drinking had had a bit of an effect on how she had aged. But nonetheless, he could tell she had probably been quite beautiful in her day. He could see that Lois had gotten her intense, brown, soulful eyes from her. They were practically the same, except whatever it was that made Lois's eyes separate had the power to completely captivate him. Lois's eyes had something extra — something special — that he had never seen in another set of eyes. Even ones that looked almost exactly like hers.
He looked at Ellen again, his mental comparison of the mother and daughter continuing as she talked more about how Lois would never find another friend like him. He smiled. She was certainly stubborn like Lois, not dropping this issue even after his many pleas. And she seemed to be able to joke about her own shortcomings lightly, but he could also see that she, like Lois, had issues that she was constantly battling. Constantly trying to control and work through.
He turned to look at Lois. She was still talking to Rachel. Rachel was laughing, looking carefree as ever and Lois… even though this was supposed to be a celebration and even though she had thoroughly and constantly convinced him that she wanted to marry Lex Luthor… she just didn't look happy. And at this point, that was the only thing he really wanted anymore. For her to do whatever she had to do to be happy.
"… so Lana had decided she *had* to go to the prom with the sure-fire Prom King, Sam Thompkins. And she broke up with Clark to do it. Honestly? He didn't seem all that upset. I had thought they were in love or something, but I don't think he ever thought that about Lana. He just… liked her. Enough to date her for a bit. But when he came over my house… now I was voted shyest in the class and not too many people really knew me… although Clark did; we'd been friends and played together for years and he was always great to me, even once he was a popular kid… when he asked me if I wanted to go to the prom, well I just about died! I was happy. To go to the prom at all, and with a good friend who was just a nice guy! And a popular kid! And, let's face it, a looker! I was ecstatic… Oh! And —"
As Rachel went on and on, Lois began to regret having drilled her so much about her and Clark. Because now the details were just making her sad. And she couldn't even figure out why! Yet every time Rachel wrapped up a rant, she found herself asking more questions. Did she want to torture herself? Something about the answers was making her insane… yet she kept asking the questions! But now… something about hearing of Clark asking this girl to the prom… something about the certainty, the instinct, deep down that told her that this girl still had it bad for Clark… it was just making something inside of her sink.
She turned and looked at her ex-partner. He had been staring at her and Rachel with a look on his face that tore at her heart. It was the same look she had seen on his face when she'd turned him down in the park.
And there was her mother, going on and on, about god-knows-what. Talking his ear off!
But then… he turned to her mother and smiled the kindest smile. The kind of smile that only Clark Kent was capable of. It showed his character and how genuinely good he was. No one else could ever smile like that. She was sure of it. Just then, when he smiled, it felt like everyone else in the bar had gone silent and slowly faded until it was just her and him… and he was smiling. Happy. Everything was as it should be. His smile was the most wonderful thing. She never craved seeing anyone's smile the way she craved… longed… always to see his.
"I am excited for the wedding! I mean, I kind of hope it'll be like the prom. We had a lot of fun at the prom! He was such a good date…"
Lois lowered her lashes, hoping the tears that she suddenly realized were in her eyes would not have the indecency to fall.
Rachel… this Rachel Harris!… was talking about dating Clark. Past… and present.
Clark was dating. He was bringing a date to the wedding.
She sighed, aggravated at herself. Of *course* he was dating! He was young and handsome and he would make someone incredibly happy. Had she supposed he'd just be completely unattached all his life? Did she think that he would never change from the boy scout she had been introduced to all those months ago? The man she had met and become such good friends with had been single the whole time she'd known him. And okay, he had given *her* quite a lot of attention, from special looks to all of his free time, whenever she wanted or needed to hang out…
But he wouldn't be like that forever!
Of course not!
Had she expected he would?!
How could she have voiced that thought before about him bringing a date to the wedding? Of course he'd bring a date to the wedding! Weddings were date-worthy occasions. The most date- worthy occasion there was, come to think of it!
And soon, Clark might be getting married… and then she'd be at *his* wedding with her date. Husband! With her… husband.
She looked up at Rachel.
Would it be her? Rachel Harris? Would she someday be Rachel Kent?
Oh, the alcohol! Her stomach was doing strange things again! Turning and feeling just awful! Something in one of her drinks just was not agreeing with her! At moments, she felt positively sick to her stomach. Nauseous. Anxious.
Rachel was still talking, smiling as she told some Smallville story.
Lois smiled a sad smile. Rachel was pretty; she had to admit it. Not a sophisticated pretty. More like a really cute kind of pretty. But pretty nonetheless. And blonde! Her blonde hair fell a little below her shoulders and without that sheriff's hat hair… it looked really nice. She looked really nice. She had some makeup on. Her hair curled a bit, like she had styled it that way. And she was kind… she had an incredibly kind smile. An incredibly kind nature that you could just sense, sitting there, talking with her.
Just like Clark…
If they did start dating, he'd probably move back to Smallville. After all, with the Planet gone, what reason would he have to stay in Metropolis? No, he'd move away. Go back to where he had come from — back to that place that had shaped him into the incredible person that he was, the place that was such an essential part of him. Then he'd be living in his quaint, small town, living a Leave It to Beaver lifestyle. He'd be happy, of course, because he loved Smallville. Dating someone from back home was probably exactly what he wanted. Marrying someone back home…
She looked at Rachel again. She had made fun of her mentally before, for wearing a denim dress to a Metropolis bar. It was so out of style and so country bumpkin… but just now… it seemed endearing. Kind of naïve. Cute.
Which was probably exactly what Clark thought too. After all, he'd been kind of protective of Rachel when Lois first saw her and launched into her drunken sarcastic assault on the poor girl.
She sighed, remembering.
They'd be a nice couple, surely. The kind of couple that would be great to be around. Two happy, kind people together… it didn't get better than that, did it?
And if this date tomorrow turned out well for them, maybe…
Or if later tonight, after these drinks, they are sitting at his apartment talking innocently enough, but then…
"Lois… are you okay?"
She looked at Rachel's concerned expression.
"Stupid drinks! I don't want anymore," she said, kind of lamely.
"Well, okay… here," Rachel said, pulling the drink away from Lois and giving the glass to the bartender.
"Thanks," Lois said, looking down.
"Hey, you ready?"
Lois jumped at the sound of Clark's voice. She hadn't seen him or her mother move. But there they were. He was talking to Rachel. Looking at Rachel.
He didn't even glance her way!
But… he wasn't being rude either. If he wasn't looking at Rachel, he was staring down. Her body and her mind were screaming at him to look at her. To look into her eyes. To notice her. To pull her away and talk with her!
Talk about what, though! She wondered furiously. What could she possibly want to talk to him about when everything that ever needed to be said between them had been said already. He had told her his feelings and she had turned him down and waited a gracious two seconds before telling him basically who she *did* love, who was actually worth her time! Would they talk about that? No… Then what? Would they talk about their argument at Perry's retirement party? No. Please, no. It had been awful. She wanted — needed — to forget. So… what? Would they talk about her impending wedding to a man she was well-aware he hated or the fact that she groveled at his feet to get him to agree to come? Would they talk about his impending possible romance with his date to that wedding, which somewhere in the recesses of her mind she could admit was making her sick!
She groaned, placing her head in her hands on the bar top. What kind of friend was she!? She didn't want him, but she didn't want anyone else to have him!? Why couldn't she be even half the friend he was? Why!
She heard the others talking quietly. She could feel someone's hand rubbing her back soothingly and she had to assume that it was Rachel's. She could hear Rachel saying that she had been complaining about the alcohol a moment before they'd walked over. She could hear her mother saying she had told her to stop a long time ago. To not drink anymore.
But their voices didn't matter.
Her heart flipped over when she heard his voice, though.
"Ellen, why don't I get a taxi for the two of you. I really think she should go home. Maybe get her a cup of coffee and have her take a shower before she goes to bed. It'll make her feel better…"
She began to cry silently.
She would never have a friend like this. Not ever again.
And… she'd all but ruined it. She had stooped so low, asking him to come to this wedding. She couldn't even be happy for him, that he was finding romance since she had turned him down. She'd… she'd turned him down. Clark Kent. And she still expected — and okay, hoped — that he would go on loving her. She didn't even realize she was that shallow, that low… that bad a friend… until he showed up tonight with a prospect on his arm. Someone he could love instead of her. Someone *he* could marry… But… instead of being happy for him and hoping for the best for him — the normal reaction for a best friend who claimed not to be in love with you back — she felt sick. She desperately wanted him to be… hers? No one's? She just was not sure… The room was spinning and nothing made sense. Why couldn't she do it? Why couldn't she be Clark Kent's best friend? He was hers!
… not hers anymore.
"Okay, Rachel, let's go get a taxi," she heard her mother say and when she looked up hopefully, she saw that her mother had abandoned her so she was alone with Clark. She was struck with the thought that sometimes, her mother knew just what she needed. Sometimes she was a pretty good mother.
She looked at Clark, thoughts of her mother moving to the back of her mind as more important thoughts brought themselves back. Brought themselves to the forefront of her mind.
He was looking after her mother and Rachel, a strange look on his face, before he hesitatingly turned to her.
And the tortured expression she had seen earlier on his face was gone. His anger was gone. He just looked… concerned.
"Lois… what's wrong?"
"It's over. It's all over," she cried.
"What is?" he asked, gently.
He was such a gentle — and strong — person.
"This. Us. It is, isn't it?" she asked.
He sighed. He looked away for a moment, but then grabbed a napkin from the bar top and handed it to her.
"Lois… I want to be your friend. I'm going tomorrow. I… I don't know what else you want from me. This… it's not easy."
She nodded pathetically, wiping her eyes with the napkin. "I know. And I'm so completely selfish for asking you to come. When you walked away from me that day, I knew it, too. But did I call you? Did I tell you to forget it, not to come, that I understood why it just… it wouldn't work? No. I didn't. Because I thought about myself. And *I* didn't want to lose you. *I* needed you. But, oh… I've lost you anyway. And now… with Rachel…"
"What about Rachel?" he asked.
"Oh, Clark. Your date. I mean, you're dating. You and Rachel. You'll probably move back to Smallville and maybe get married. I know she'd be a great girlfriend. Wife. Whatever! God, Clark. It's the day before my wedding and I'm obsessing about you possibly having feelings for her."
He waited a moment. "Are you… jealous? Is that what this is?"
He didn't sound angry or accusing… he sounded baffled, if anything.
"No. I don't think so. I don't know! I just…"
"… you don't want me. But you don't want anyone else to have me," he finished, putting his hands in his pockets, nodding like he'd made up his mind and that must be it. And how far off was he? she wondered to herself. She had thought that same thing only moments ago. "You know, I think your taxi is probably here, Lois," he said, now sounding angry. "I think you should go. Sober up. Feel better. After all, you're getting married tomorrow."
He turned, ready to walk away.
"Clark, no! Please! Look at me. Please, Clark, look at me!" she cried. She begged.
He turned slowly and when his eyes finally met hers, she gasped.
Oh the pain she had caused him.
"Clark… no one in my life has ever mattered to me like you do. And no one ever will. And I… I don't know what to do here. I've never felt this torn. I just never thought consciously that maybe I cared for you… like that."
He took a step toward her.
"Because you don't care for me like that. You want Superman. And if you can't have him, Lex will do. And you want me on the sidelines; your biggest fan. And the second you think I might be putting my attention somewhere else, you want it back. Not so you can return the feelings. Just so you can have your fan back. If I'm not feeding your ego, it takes a hit. You need me. You need that attention from me, rather. I am to long for you my entire life from the sidelines, never looking at anyone else! Always be there for you no matter what! No matter how I feel about it. Then all is right in the world. Right?"
"You can't honestly think that, Clark. You know you mean more to me than that. You are my best friend. Not some Lois Lane groupie. You know that!"
"Do I, Lois? I'm sorry… I guess you haven't made that message crystal clear. Or maybe I am completely dense."
"I am sick to death of this, Clark. Of us fighting. I am not sure what's going on in my head. And I'm sorry. I can see that I've hurt you. More than once. More than I ever could have imagined in my worst nightmares. But… you have to know how much I care for you, how much I love you. You have to know it, Clark! Can't you see it?"
He sighed and looked down.
She placed both hands on his face, forcing him to once again look into her eyes. She stood up.
"Tell me I haven't lost you, Clark."
"What do you want from me?" he asked, instead of assuring her that he was, in fact, still there. Still, somehow… hers. Her friend! Her friend… just her friend…
She trailed off. She had no idea what she wanted from him. Part of her wanted to concede that he was right. That she wanted him to never look at another woman, but just remain her very best friend.
Her… "biggest fan"… No…
She looked into his eyes. His beautiful eyes, completely tinged with pain. A pain only she had caused.
"I think we both know that I can't give you what you want, Lois," he said, softly. "Just like you can't give me what I want. And we might still want this friendship to work anyway. But… can't you see now that maybe it can't survive this?"
He sounded so defeated. Kind of lost.
"No," she said, not wanting to face that awful prospect. It just couldn't end. Not now. Not ever…
She wanted to reach up and hug him. To just hold him dear and tell him that she would become sane soon and they could begin to heal and make things between them right again. To tell him not to give up. But at the last possible moment, she touched her lips to his instead. Tears slipped down her cheeks at the touch, which was charged but innocent — the kiss embodied their mutual feelings of loss and desperation. And love. But it was quick. A mere few seconds after her lips brushed his, she pulled away, shocked that she had done that.
He stared into her eyes for a few moments more, conflicting emotions dancing across his expression. He placed two shaky hands on her arms, and pulled them off of him, not letting go immediately.
"Goodbye, Lois," he said, his voice quivering.
He walked away and this time she didn't force him to return by calling out to him or begging once more for something from him.
She lowered herself back onto the barstool, wondering what she had done. Why she had done it.
But before she could think too much, her mother was there once more, holding out an arm.
Ready to take her home.
Clark was silent the whole ride back. Occasionally Rachel said something about the bar or about something she had seen while waiting for a taxi that had struck her as funny or amusing.
But Clark was lost in his own thoughts.
As Rachel talked to the cab driver about Smallville, he looked out the window.
She could not — would not — free him. And she seemed well- aware of this fact. She knew that she was torturing him, that he was her prisoner for life. So how could she do it? She made it so clear that she didn't return his feelings. But… she didn't want him to find happiness somewhere else then. It upset her to think about him finding happiness with someone else. How could she say that to him? How could she be so low? He had once thought she was an incredible romantic like him. After all, she had admitted once that she was writing a romance novel. And despite her sometimes hard exterior, he could see that she was a sentimental softy at heart. She would show him that when she opened up to him. And she had opened up to him many times. So… how could she basically admit she didn't want him to find with someone else what she wouldn't give to him?
Not that Rachel was a romantic interest. She had been his friend for nearly twenty years now. She felt more like a sister. But… Lois had thought Rachel might be a romantic interest for him.
He looked at Rachel.
She was very pretty and sweet. Funny and kind. She was a total catch, really. Just not his catch. He only had strong feelings for one woman.
But that didn't change the fact that Rachel was great. And Lois must have seen that when the two girls had been talking. So it wasn't as if Rachel was catty or mean and Lois didn't want her best friend with someone like that. His best friend — a real best friend — would probably *want* him with someone like Rachel. But… Lois didn't. Lois made it clear she didn't return his feelings or want him. But the thought of him giving someone else his attentions upset her? Someone nice who could offer him what any best friend would want for him?
And when he called her on it, she told him it wasn't like that… but she couldn't even back it up completely. And then… she'd kissed him.
She had purposely tried to keep him under her spell. Purposely made it impossible for him to break free so he could think about another woman. Not that she needed to do that. She would never have to kiss him to ensure that. But clearly she didn't know that. And the kiss was…
While his lips still felt alive and heated from their final kiss, their kiss goodbye… which was quick, but still electrifying… he couldn't help feeling completely angered at the whole thing.
She was getting married in the morning! She admitted she didn't feel that way for him. But she kissed him.
And the only thing she *had* admitted was that she was upset thinking about him dating Rachel.
What else could it mean?
The kiss only meant one thing. Lois Lane wanted to ensure that his love never went away. That he didn't think about anyone else.
She wanted him to be alone… loving her. He knew she was afraid of things changing. It was okay for her to change, but she wanted to ensure that he stayed just as he was. Feelings, availability and all…
How could she want that for him? It was an awful thing to want for anyone!
Sometimes the idea that he would grow old alone with no one to share his life with scared him. It scared him so much and made him unbelievably sad. Sometimes the ache was so strong, he did surrender to it and shed a few tears over it all. How could his supposed best friend want that for him?
You're supposed to wish your friends the best! You're supposed to hope they find love.
Her kiss had been her way of saying that he didn't matter to her as much as she said he did. Her feelings were clear. All too clear. Her kiss had said *everything*.
She wanted him to be alone. Unattached. Imprisoned by his love for her. A love she admitted she did not return. While she changed her life massively, she wanted him to never change from the man she had known throughout their friendship.
Well… he had changed! And after he walked out of that church tomorrow… that friendship was over.
He had done his part; he had done all that he could do; hell, he had even done too much; and in the end, he had said goodbye.
It was over.
It was all over.
It was over.
Everything… was over.
Lois lay in her bed, her hair still wet from the shower her mother had insisted she take. The coffee she had given her when she'd gotten out of the shower was starting to take effect and she was beginning to remember too much.
How she'd acted! The things she had said!
To Rachel! To Clark!
She put a hand to her head, already feeling a headache coming. Whether it was due to the alcohol or her dizzying thoughts, she had no idea. She didn't care.
It was over.
It was all over.
Clark had said goodbye. And she had seen something in his eyes that seemed final. The concerned eyes of her good friend had looked defeated and broken in the end when he'd said it. They'd looked like they had had quite enough. They were done.
And could she blame him!? What was wrong with her! Why couldn't she just leave him alone! Let him live his life. If he had a chance at happiness with someone great, pretty, nice and someone he definitely seemed to like, why couldn't she just be happy for him!?
Had it all been a reaction to the alcohol? Was she more vulnerable to feelings that normally lay dormant within her with alcohol in her system? If she had been sober tonight, would she have toasted Clark and Rachel and wished them the best? Had it just been a result of her nerves from everything lately and her fear of losing him all intensified by her massive consumption of hard, disgusting liquor?
It was too awful. Why had she done it? Why had she acted that way?
She'd been on the prowl the moment she laid eyes on Rachel Harris. Clark had asked her if it was jealousy and she had said it wasn't. Even now she wasn't sure if that was it. But… the moment she had seen Clark walk into the club, her heart had done something wonderful. Seeing his smile had been great. But the moment she laid eyes on the blonde — realizing she was *with* him, that his smile was meant for her — her heart had sunk. And she had moved in on her target, launching an unladylike — but moreover, un-*Lois*-like — attack on her. It had been catty and cruel. And Rachel seemed completely oblivious to it, which made it worse! She had been sickeningly nice to Lois and had even tried to cheer her up when it was clear something was wrong with her. Rachel had been wonderful, simply wonderful, after Lois had been awful. Simply awful. And the worst part was that while Rachel had been oblivious to her cruelty, Clark had not. He had seen a side of her she would never have wanted him to see. He had stepped in to stop it, to defend Rachel against Lois. And that had just made her feel worse!
And later, as Rachel talked about her nearly twenty-year friendship with Clark, Lois had felt something inside that had to be jealousy. But not… romantic jealousy. This was more a jealousy that Rachel had known Clark for that long and she hadn't. She knew things about him that she didn't. She could recall what he'd looked like as a child and as a teenager. She was a part of his history. And it, for some reason, completely unsettled her. Especially in light of the fact that it seemed likely that she would always know him better, since she might well become an important part of his future, too. But… it had to be jealousy over the friendship. That had to be the reason for her attitude the whole night!
She pulled her robe tighter around her, curling up at the head of her bed, putting her feet under the comforter. She was suddenly a little cold, as fresh air from her open window in the living room found her and ran through her wet hair and sent chills down her still damp body.
Even while she had been completely unsettled while Rachel talked about Clark when he was younger, she had still been incredibly interested. Rachel had painted him as just the sweetest guy in Smallville. He defended the kids that were picked on and was nice to everyone. He would smile at Rachel and her friends and always talk with them and sometimes have lunch with them — at least once a week in high school — even though they weren't the prettiest, and they weren't very popular. Oh, it was Clark all over. He was just the nicest and most decent guy she had ever met. No wonder he had given her a second chance when she'd been so cruel to him when they'd first met. And a third chance when she'd been cruel again. And a fourth chance… And…
Well eventually she stopped being so cruel to him because she saw it. She saw those qualities that Rachel talked about tonight, that she realized were just inherent in him. He was simply the best guy. Even better than…
She walked to the open window and shut it on a sudden impulse.
She sat down on her couch and wondered something. How would she feel if Superman were out on the town tonight on a date and she'd seen him? If she had reacted as she had to Clark being out with Rachel, she surely would have murdered the woman out with Superman, right?
She closed her eyes and painted the same scene, only with Superman in the place of Clark. She laughed out loud at the image of Superman out on the town like a normal guy. Out on a date.
In that suit!
That brought up a whole new issue she hadn't thought about before…
If Superman had said yes to her not-so-subtle invitation, would they have ever been able to go out on a date? Probably not. But that didn't matter. It wasn't as if she loved going out or anything. Staying home was great. Hiding had its excitement and thrill.
Superman on a date. Focus, her mind told her.
It would have hurt to see him out with someone, too, she decided. But… it would have felt probably a little more like finding out your favorite celebrity had a girlfriend. Like finding out that Harrison Ford was dating someone, when the day before you had still believed naively that he might meet you one day and fall for you. Except… she didn't know Harrison Ford. And she *was* Superman's friend. And it wasn't the crush on a stranger that she felt for him… it *was* real… So it would have been more personal, seeing Superman out with someone, than finding out Harrison Ford had a girlfriend. But it still kind of would have had that feeling… that less personal feeling than… oh… if your best friend were out with someone.
When it came to your best friend… it was much more personal. It could never be compared to a celebrity crush, no matter how far fetched the comparison was even with Superman.
Not that she had a crush on Clark…
Lois went to the kitchen for another cup of coffee. She felt a little more sober already, but her thoughts weren't making any more sense to her and she felt that another cup of coffee couldn't hurt anyway.
Why hadn't she thought about Superman lately? She wondered. She had not thought about him too much since he had flown out of her window. If he had broken her heart, like she had believed in the moment that sent her running to accept the proposal she had only been toiling before with, then why wasn't she consumed by thoughts of him? Why did Clark even have the power to put her through all the things she had felt this evening? And really since that talk in the car.
When it came to Clark, everything mattered so much more. Was he the most important person to her? Was that why he took over her thoughts? She had never really had a best friend before… was this what it was like? Did they come before everything? Did they come before thoughts of the man you loved? Was that right?
She glanced at the window. The closed window. She had no desire to see Superman right now. And not because of how things had gone the last time he had visited.
But… she just didn't really want to think about him. She had something so much more important to ponder on this evening, the night before her wedding.
She shook her head confusedly. Shouldn't she be thinking of Superman the night before her wedding? She loved Superman. Why wouldn't she stop thinking about Clark already! How could Clark be classified as something more important to think about! How!?
But… she couldn't help wondering what Clark and Rachel were doing just now.
And, she realized, she didn't *really* care what Superman was doing right now. She could assume he wasn't on a date. That he was possibly helping at a natural disaster. She cared. But not… She didn't… *care*.
If that made any sense.
She realized in a moment that she hadn't thought at *all* about her fiancée much lately. Even when he would be there in the flesh, talking to her, her mind was somewhere else. And tonight, he was not there in the flesh. So he hadn't been anywhere near her thoughts. When she was fiercely trying to understand the matters of her own heart, she hadn't even thought once about the man she was about to marry! Did that… mean something?
Did it mean something that she couldn't stop thinking about Clark?
No, he was a friend! Just a friend! And okay, she was confused about what was going on with him and especially with her! But… no, it did not matter.
It didn't matter…
Except that it did. For some reason it mattered more than anything else. Her inability to stop thinking about it — or him — proved that.
Clark mattered… most.
She closed her eyes, that realization hitting her like a ton of bricks.
What did it mean?
Why did he matter so much?
Was it just the fear of losing him that was doing this to her?
Was this what it was like to care so much for someone? To have a best friend?
What did the kiss mean? Why had she done that?
She'd only meant to hug him… but…
As she'd stood on her toes and moved to do that, something changed. Something pulled her, almost like a gravitational force, like she had no control of her lips or something! And something in his eyes… she found herself wanting to kiss away all of the pain she had caused. She thought if she could find one way to make it okay, she would do it. She would do just about anything to stop him from hurting.
But when the kiss — which she had to admit had felt incredibly good, despite its brevity — ended… he had looked more hurt than before. And he had looked finished. With her.
And said goodbye.
Oh, she hadn't done a thing right all night! She threw herself finally onto her bed with that thought, her coffee long gone down the kitchen sink. She really had just not done one thing right. For a long time. But especially tonight.
Throwing question after question at Rachel! Like she was the prime suspect in a murder investigation. She had been such an idiot during that chat with Rachel.
And then with Clark… their conversation was awful. She had driven that conversation; and in that, she had taken many wrong turns. And eventually they were too far out and too lost. The more she said, the worse it got. And in the end it had pushed him away.
She wondered if he would still come to the wedding tomorrow.
She placed her head on her pillow. The wedding…
She finally thought about the wedding.
It was tomorrow.
And she finally admitted to herself that she really wasn't sure anymore she was doing the right thing. She wasn't sure anymore about anything! But…
It was just too late.
Today was the day. And Clark hadn't slept all night because of that fact. And that fact just kept turning over and over again in his head and he kept checking to see if the outcome was different. But… it wasn't. The facts remained the same.
Today Lois Lane was getting married. To his enemy. While he watched. And when the ceremony ended, his goal was to walk out of her life forever, ending a friendship he had long cherished. A friendship that had saved him in many ways. A friendship that had given him so much hope… for so much more.
But she was not in love with him. She never would be. And she had abused the limits of his friendship one time too many.
He was sure he wouldn't attend at all if he hadn't roped Rachel into it. But she was so excited and kept going on and on about telling her best friend Carol all about the social event of the year in the big city and how she was able to attend. He had pulled her in and she was so excited. And he hadn't spent nearly enough time with her over the past few years and didn't want to cut the trip short or hurt her feelings. He had already told her they would leave after the ceremony, and she had understood. So… he really just had to go and get through it. Weddings were only, what, an hour or so?
He threw his suit coat over his shirt and tie and groaned. *Why* had he given into Lois in the car? Why couldn't he deny her when she cried? It was fine to say he'd go a few days ago. But now… he was getting dressed and he had to actually *go*! He had to watch her walk down the aisle looking breathtaking, no doubt, and watch his enemy wait for her to join him. He had to listen to the priest say all those things about love eternal, and listen to their vows! He could perhaps try to focus on other noises, like ones across the street or something, but… he was so attuned to Lois he would probably hone in on her voice anyway. And hear her promise herself to Lex Luthor.
He had made a grave mistake a few days ago…
"Oh, Clark, you look nice!" Rachel said, opening the door and walking out of the bedroom.
… and now he had to live with the consequences.
He looked at Rachel. Her hair was tied up, a few loose curls hanging down and her dress was pale blue and very pretty. She looked really nice. He smiled.
"Rachel, you look beautiful," he said, looking into her eyes to assure her that he meant that. He knew that she could sometimes be the most insecure person in the world and hadn't a clue what a catch she really was. How great. And how pretty.
She blushed. "Thanks, Clark."
"You know, I feel bad now that we won't be going to the reception. You look so nice. We may have to go dancing somewhere else," he said, his smile growing.
She smiled back, glowing. "I would like that!"
"Well then we'll do it! We'll have fun," he added. And he knew they would. He always had fun with Rachel. And he knew that after the ceremony, he really would need that so that he wouldn't fly into orbit and wait twenty-one minutes just to see what might happen to him.
"Okay, shall we?" she asked.
They began walking out of the apartment.
"This feels just like prom!" Rachel laughed.
Clark laughed. Her enthusiasm really was infectious.
"Okay, let's get this over with," he said.
And then they walked out his front door and into what was sure to be the worst day of his life.
She looked at her reflection in the three-way mirror. She was shaking. Her knees, her hands. Her entire body was trembling. And the tears would not stop falling. Was it supposed to be this way?
"Honey… you're going to be fine. Everyone gets the jitters on the big day!"
"Does everyone throw up six times?" Lois asked, touching her stomach, realizing that she was still feeling pretty bad. Realizing that maybe she wasn't ready to mention throwing up just yet.
"Well, I think it's safe to say you're a bit hung over."
"Clearly," Lois said. Although she knew it was more than that.
She just wasn't sure what was happening. She couldn't understand why she wasn't thinking nonstop about Superman. Or Lex! The man she was marrying. Why was she still thinking so much about her ex-partner?
How come she hadn't slept a wink last night because of him? Why had she obsessed about what Clark might have been doing with Rachel? Why did she care? How come she had been reliving that kiss in her mind over and over — at first to try to justify her actions, and in the end because it was a perfect kiss and she felt, for the first time in a long time, safe in that moment, and like she was exactly where she belonged. In the early morning light, that thought had been like a sucker punch and she begged for sleep to take her so she could escape such thoughts. Why, when her mind was demanding that she stop thinking about that kiss did her heart insist on it? Had it just been easier to imagine him kissing her than kissing Rachel?
Her stomach churned at the very thought.
And that made her mad! She wanted so badly to let him go; to let Clark do what he had to do to be happy. She really wanted him to be happy. She did! Of course she wanted it! He was her best friend. And he had always been so good to her. She wanted him to find happiness.
Wasn't she happy? It *was* her wedding day.
She looked at her tear-streaked face. She could look at herself in the mirror and let her reflection speak a truth she had denied for so long. She was not happy. She was completely miserable and so utterly torn. More than ever before. And over Clark! Clark, who she had never thought of as anything but her dear, good friend.
Had he become more to her on a level she hadn't acknowledged? Had he snuck into her heart as more… and she had just been too busy to notice? Until she was forced to notice…
Looking at her reflection a moment longer, the final question came to her mind. *Why*, an hour ago, when she had first seen herself in her beautiful dress, did the name "Lois Lane… Kent" come out of her mouth?
She turned away from her reflection and sat down on the step, bending over, her head in her hands. She quietly shook; quietly sobbed. Everything had spiraled so far out of her control and she had no idea what to do.
"Honey… I hate seeing you like this!" her mother said, sitting beside her, moving Lois's hair so she could see her face. "You have to listen to your heart, honey. And if that means not doing this today…"
"It's too late!" Lois cried, not looking up.
"Honey, when you're married to Lex Luthor… and the man you love is married to someone else, after he slipped through your fingers… well, then you might be able to say it's too late."
She looked up at her mother then, questions in her eyes.
Her mom wiped her cheek with a handkerchief, wiping away the black trail of her tears.
"Oh honey. *I* know. The question is… do you?"
Clark and Rachel walked into a pew and sat down and Clark finally realized how nervous he actually was. His heart was beating so very fast. He was there. He was sitting in a church for Lois's wedding. He thought it was the absolute worst thing he could imagine, but when he saw the groom walk out of a side room at the front of the church and go and stand in his place, he realized it *could* get worse.
Lex looked over at Clark briefly, smiled an evil, victorious smile that anyone but him would not have even noticed, and turned away again, not acknowledging him in any way.
"Doesn't he know you?" Rachel asked, leaning into him.
"He's met me quite a few times. But he does not by any means know me," Clark said, clenching a muscle in his jaw as he stared at his hands.
"Clark… I've tried not to butt in, even though it's been clear something's wrong here. But… why is Lois marrying him? She doesn't *seem* to be in love. And it seems like the whole thing has put a real damper on her friendship with you. And she seems really upset about that."
"I think it's safe to say that Lois has no clue what she wants." He looked at her. "I think… when the Planet was destroyed, she just grasped for anything that might offer her some kind of stability, some kind of life. And this is the outcome of that. But it's her choice. I can't do a thing to stop her. And I hate that man standing up there," he said quietly, shaking his head, not looking at Rachel anymore, but seeming more lost in his thoughts. "I came today to try to work with Lois to save our friendship and it did not work. When this is over, so are we. I know it. She knows it." He shrugged. "And we just have to live with it."
"Can you live with it?"
He looked at her, surprise in his expression, and then looked away for a moment.
"You always knew how to ask the hard questions, Rach."
She smiled, but did not shield her look of concern from him.
He didn't say it, but he knew. The answer to her question was no. Absolutely not.
He was broken out of his thoughts by the sound of the organ, signaling the beginning of the ceremony. The entire church stood up.
He tried. He did. But his shaking legs would not support him and in the end, he leaned forward, resting his hands on the pew in front of him. He couldn't stand. He couldn't look. He couldn't even be there. But… there was nowhere for him to go now.
Lois stood before the closed doors, which led to the church. She stared at them, still shaking all over. She felt light-headed and sick. The music was playing. It was almost time.
Her mother's question rolled over in her mind countless times and still she could not answer it. *Did she know?* It was a seemingly simple question, but layered with meanings, all of which made her dizzy to think about.
Did she know if she should do it? Get married? Did she know what she wanted? Did she know what she had to do now? Did she know why she hadn't been able to get Clark out of her mind? Did she know if she maybe actually loved…
No… no… why was she thinking all of this? No. She was getting married today. She had to get married today! She was not a girl to say yes to a marriage proposal and then merely fail to show up because of intensely cold feet. This was big. She hadn't just told someone she would meet them at the Italian restaurant down the street and then had to cancel because of a late night at work or something.
This was a wedding, for god's sake! *Her* wedding!
She could not just back down.
She just… had to pull herself together.
If she was going to cancel this wedding, she should have done it long ago. If she wasn't in this for the right reasons and wasn't sure about Lex, then she should not have accepted the proposal to begin with. But she had. She had accepted. And if she had made a mistake, didn't she have to live with the consequences? She had made many mistakes in her life… and she always stuck around to live with the consequences. She should have learned long ago to not jump into a situation without checking the water level first.
This was no different.
The doors were opening.
She had to go! She had to… get married.
Her feet began to move and she was walking forward. She wasn't sure how it was possible; it didn't seem as if any part of her mind was working properly. But something propelled her forward.
She tried to focus on her task… to get to the front of the aisle without falling over. And to get through the ceremony so she could begin doing it. Living with the consequences of her own decisions, that is. So she could put her worrying thoughts about everything else to rest finally. Surely, once she was married, she would stop obsessing about Clark… right?
Clark… where was he?
She looked around. She barely recognized anyone.
She eventually saw the worried face of her mother. And… Rachel… she could see Rachel. Rachel looked pretty. Really pretty. Her stomach clenched, realizing Clark *was* there. He had kept his word. He was there…
She finally saw his profile… he was sitting… and he wasn't looking at her. He looked like he was hyperventilating. He looked…
It was over.
All she had to do was look at him and it was clear. If it hadn't been clear before, she surely knew now.
It was over.
*Everything* was over!
She remembered how it had all begun. She could remember like it was yesterday. How sweet his face…
*"You are a strange one, Clark Kent."
"Yeah… but I think I've got you figured out."*
And now, this would be how it would all end…
She had ruined it. Their friendship and everything she had grown to depend on, to cherish, to look forward to, everything she loved… was gone.
She was not the only one that had to live with the consequences of her decisions either.
Clark… he had lost her because of her decision. He had lost a friend he had been so good to.
She'd never listened to him. Never given him a chance.
He had told her he loved her. She could remember now. How he had looked. And the expression on his face of hurt. He'd looked so hurt… so defeated. And she'd ignored it; she hadn't really seen him that day… she'd… been cold. Asked for someone else. Someone she wasn't even thinking about just now! He… didn't matter as much… Why?
*"Clark?" She heard her own voice, sounding seductive.
"Just a sec, Lois, I…"
She could feel the heat of his gaze, the intensity of his
attraction, on her… She loved it; she loved… *
She was getting closer to him. Not Lex… Clark… there he was.
He had come! He was there!
He stared down, like this was the hardest thing he had ever had to do and her heart turned over. How could she have been so cold? Put him in such a painful situation. She could see it now. She could finally see it all now, so clearly…
It was over.
This was… goodbye…
*… he bent down to kiss her sweetly… "Goodbye, Lois," he said.*
And he had gone.
It was not the only time a sweet, but quick kiss had been followed by the word "goodbye" from him.
The first time he had come back.
She remembered last night. The kiss. How it had felt. How it — how *he* — had thrown her thoughts into a whirl which was still causing her pain and confusion, calling into question everything she had thought she'd known as a certainty.
She was no longer sure about anything it seemed, except…
There was one thing that was becoming clear, though, through the fog. One thing that pushed itself forward. If she could just focus on that one thing that she knew for sure, it wouldn't be too late to do whatever it was she had to do.
Something was clear in her mind — her cluttered, confused mind — somewhere. She just had to find that one certainty and…
She was there.
At the front.
A tear escaped her eye.
It was too late.
As the priest went on, Lex grabbed her hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze.
His hands… they were cold. Or were… were her hands cold?
Something was cold.
She looked up at him.
She had been dating him for months, but she barely recognized him. She'd… never really looked, had she? Like finally being able today to see Clark clearly that day in the park, *finally* she could recognize this too. She barely recognized the man standing next to her. The man she was about to marry. To spend her *life* with! She had been dating him for awhile, but had never really looked at him.
She had never really looked at — really seen — anything in her life too clearly until right now. But…
It was too late.
It was all too late.
*"Honey, when you're married to Lex Luthor… and the man you love is married to someone else, after he slipped through your fingers… well, then you might be able to say it's too late," her mother had said.*
She looked over her shoulder, looking for Rachel and Clark in the crowd.
She found them immediately. Clark still was not looking at her. She could see the look on his face. Like he was in physical pain. He was breathing hard and Rachel put a hand on his, reassuringly. He grabbed her hand with his other hand and squeezed back, not looking at her.
She turned again, facing forward. Trying to focus on the priest.
Her mother had been right… oh, god… why hadn't she done something then? It wouldn't have been this bad. But…
She had to do something now.
She couldn't marry a man she barely knew.
The only man she truly knew, who truly mattered… he was right there. He was always right there. Clark. It was… always Clark. And even though he couldn't look at her now; he was there once more. His friendship was unwavering and solid and she was a breath away from losing it. Losing everything. And now she knew. He was honestly all that mattered. More than Superman, she had slowly figured out. And definitely more than Lex.
*Why* did it take her so long?
She turned once more to look at Clark and saw that he had stood up and turned. He was… he was leaving.
"Lex," she whispered, turning back. "I… I can't."
The priest kept talking, oblivious to their quiet conversation.
"Lois… what are you talking about? You're doing fine."
"I can't do this. We can't get married," she whispered.
He looked at her.
She turned and looked at Clark and… finally… he was looking at her, too. From the door. One hand on the door, he was just standing there… looking at her for the first time today. For whatever reason, he finally could. And she was so grateful, because something in his gaze gave her the strength to continue. "Lois, we are in the middle of our ceremony. We are not stopping," Lex said, before turning back to the priest.
"I don't… I don't love you, Lex. And you can't love me," she continued, still whispering. "You barely know me."
"I can't believe you're trying to pull this. You're having cold feet… now please… let's get this over with." He turned to her, then, his eyes showing her something he had never allowed her to see before. Something… something Clark had mentioned about Lex. He was no more than a stranger to her. And he had hidden things from her. He had hidden his true self from her. "There is no one to save you now, dear," he whispered, his voice like acid. "You are mine and you are getting married to me. If you do a thing to stop it, mark my words, you *will* regret it."
She closed her mouth, her shock at his true nature overwhelming her.
"… any reason why these two people should not be married…"
She had to do something!
*"no one to save you now, dear"…*
"… speak now or forever hold your peace…"
His voice was like a breath of fresh air after feeling like you were drowning.
"These two people should not be married."
She turned and looked at him, standing there. Strong and solid… the most gentle and caring man she had ever known.
*He*… was saving her…
She smiled at him, her eyes shining with tears. He walked toward the altar.
He met her gaze and held it steady with his, as if asking permission to continue. And her look must have said it all.
"They do not love each other," he continued, softly, almost privately, so the whole church would not overhear. "… and should not be married."
The priest looked around, from Lex to Lois to Clark.
Lex looked about ready to kill Clark.
"Kent," he breathed, through gritted teeth.
Clark held a hand out to Lois and she took it quickly. He pulled her behind him so he was standing between her and Lex.
"Is this true?" the priest finally asked, pulling himself together.
Lois could not say anything, but she nodded at the priest.
There was nothing more true.
She did not love Lex.
She didn't even really love Superman. Not the way she had imagined she had. Not the way she had convinced herself she loved him.
Lex stared at Clark for a long moment and in that time, Lois worried he was going to try something. Try to hurt Clark for ruining the wedding. But Clark stared right back, not backing down and she felt something inside of her swell with pride and… something else. Something that went deeper than the friendship with him that she treasured and feared losing.
Lex eventually looked away and turned to the guests. "I'm sorry everyone. There won't be a wedding today. Lois and I are taking a rain check. We apologize for the inconvenience. There will still be free food and drinks at the Lexor," he said, before disappearing out a side door, one last look at Clark.
Everyone in the church began to murmur, shocked tones filling the room. And they all stood up, finally.
"Clark… he's going to kill you!" Lois said, once she was certain Lex was gone.
"Let him try. Are you alright?" he asked.
She nodded, tears falling, and she launched herself into his open — waiting — arms. "Thank you," she whispered. "I… I thought it was too late…"
He put a hand on her head. "It's alright. It wasn't too late. You didn't do it. You didn't marry him," he said, his voice sounding emotional now too.
"Because of you… you saved… I can't believe… after everything… oh," she trailed off. "Thank you, Clark."
He said nothing; he just hugged her tighter.
The dress was off and she felt… free. Liberated.
Her mother had found an earlier flight, finding that her work as mother was done for awhile, and wanted to get back home sooner.
That was fine with Lois, as she had a lot she needed to sort through on her own. She was more than grateful for her mother's help in the last few days, and they shared one of their most genuinely happy goodbyes to date. There was something of promise in their relationship to come and it made Lois feel really good.
Clark had left to go do something — one of his strange exits that she never understood, but had recently been missing a lot. And that left Lois with Rachel. She asked Rachel to help her with her dress, but she knew she should use the opportunity for more than that. There was something she needed to do.
She walked out of her bedroom in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, finding Rachel looking out her window.
"This view is great. The window is so big," Rachel said, wondrously.
"Yeah," Lois agreed. And for the first time, she didn't feel inclined to add in her mind that it was the perfect window to fly in and out of. "Rachel… I need to apologize to you."
Rachel looked at her in shock. "For what?"
Lois gestured to her couch and they both took a seat. Lois turned to her.
"For last night. I know I was drunk, but it doesn't excuse me. I behaved appallingly, asking you all those questions. And… I'm not sure what's going on with you and Clark, but I won't get in the way. I like you. And… I want him to be happy. You have to know that that is the most important thing to me," she said.
"Okay, Lois, you're about ten steps ahead of me here. First of all, you were fine last night. It was clear you were going through something. I can understand that. And second of all… there's something going on with Clark and me?" she asked, smiling, sounding excited and a bit amused at the prospect.
"Well… isn't there?" Lois asked, her cheeks turning red.
"If there is, it's news to me!" Rachel said, laughing. She reached forward and squeezed Lois's hand. "Okay. I've always had a bit of a crush on Clark. And I'm sure I always will. But… we've been friends for a really long time. And I'm content to have my crush, knowing it'll never go anywhere. It's something to dream about. Something to fantasize about," she said. "If you know what I mean."
"I do," Lois said, realizing that she and Rachel were alike in a few ways. This was exactly the kind of thing she realized she felt for Superman earlier today or sometime last night… or just at some point in her crazy musings from the past few days.
"When we came home from the senior prom, we sat on the swings in my backyard and talked for a long time. We even discussed dating. Each other," Rachel said, glowing at the memory, seeming as giddy as she had undoubtedly been then. "We weren't sure if we should date. But… he kissed me," she said, quietly. "And… it didn't feel like I always thought it would. It was nice! Don't get me wrong! But when we broke apart, we both laughed and decided we should stick to the friendship. It was a good decision and we both are glad we made it. Because we've been able to stay friends. Good friends. And now we've been friends for almost twenty years. That kind of thing doesn't come along every day. We both knew we weren't soul mates or anything. That if we dated, it wouldn't lead to marriage or anything. So it was a matter of deciding whether we should date for awhile or stay friends forever. And the choice was easy. I don't see him like I used to and we've both enjoyed these last two days. But not because it's the beginning of something. It's just… a reminder of something. It's a reminder that we are friends and always have been and that we have fun together and should keep in touch a little better. Besides," she added. "How could I ever want something to happen with Clark knowing he would never look at me the way I've always seen him look at you?"
Lois opened her mouth to say something, but closed it. She was speechless.
"I was hoping everything would work out, but I honestly wasn't sure it would when I saw you make it all the way down the aisle. But then… it did! I'm glad. It sure did make for an exciting wedding, though. The weddings in Smallville have nothing on this one! The bride and groom always end up getting married when the ceremony is in Smallville. Every time. No exceptions. No one ever speaks up like Clark did. In Smallville, you forever hold your peace! This was great!" Rachel said, smiling ear-to-ear.
When she'd met Rachel in Smallville, she had thought her kind of annoying. But then she had saved Clark's life and she was glad for her existence, if not for anything else. But she hadn't thought she was anything special. Just a typical small town girl who was clearly still interested in her prom date. She hadn't noticed how great Rachel was. How wonderful. She was a unique and incredibly special person… and she was glad she could see that now.
It wasn't surprising she hadn't seen it then; she hadn't seen much for what it was until about an hour ago.
"Thank you, Rachel. You've been… well, I'm just glad you're here. I hope you'll visit Metropolis again. If you do, I promise I won't give you the third degree!"
"Sounds good, Lois," she laughed. "You know, I wonder if Clark can get in touch with Superman about maybe taking me back tonight. This has been fun, but I need to get back to reality. Smallville reality," she said, with a face.
"Superman?" Lois asked. "He took you here?"
"Yeah… as a favor to Clark for I don't know, something-or- other. It was really great too! Faster than a plane. Less hassle too."
Lois laughed, surprised that hearing this didn't make her jealous at all. She had been so jealous seeing Clark out with Rachel yesterday. But hearing her talk about flying in Superman's arms today didn't bother her at all.
She smiled, realizing why. In the space between yesterday and today, she had learned to actually listen to her heart. It had been crying out, but keeping its ways, its message, mysterious to her. But finally, she had figured that darned thing out. And not a moment too soon.
"Well, if anyone can get in touch with Superman, it's Clark."
Saying his name, Lois felt butterflies in her stomach. She had no idea what was going to be said when she and Clark were finally alone, but… she knew one thing. She owed him a lot. Starting with the truth.
Clark spun back into himself in a dark alley and walked onto Main Street. He decided to walk back to Lois's apartment, so he could think over everything.
Everything which had seemed so wrong and suddenly become so very right.
Lois… did not marry Luthor. It was over.
Not their friendship — although that would need some careful handling and a lot of talking over.
Not his life — which he had thought to be the case when he'd sat down in that pew.
But Lois and Luthor. *That* was over. It was all over.
He wanted to fly. To soar through the sky. But… he couldn't. Not as Clark anyway. And he really had no desire to become Superman again just now. He just wanted to walk — like the ordinary man that he was — and marvel at the turn of events.
He'd been sitting in that church, finding it suddenly hard to breathe, as the reality of what was happening crashed down on him over and over. It hurt. It ached. He had never felt such pain before. When it eventually became too much to bear, he stood up to leave. He just couldn't do it. He couldn't sit there and listen to the exchange of vows or the priest pronounce them husband and wife. He just… couldn't.
He'd made it all the way to the door.
He heard her voice. Her quiet whisper — almost like a plea — saying she did not want to get married.
He felt like his heart had stopped. And she continued.
She didn't love him. And she recognized that he didn't love her too. She had seen what he had known to be the truth. She had seen it on her own! Before it was too late. And before he had walked out on her life, which he had planned to do because of the pain he had been feeling.
She ended the wedding, and in doing so, stopped the friendship from ending instead. It was… brave and smart and just wonderful. His heart turned over as the words poured out of her mouth.
When Luthor's evil voice began threatening her against stopping the wedding, it took all of his power not to run up there and punch him. But to do so would have been to reveal his secret to everyone. And when he honed in on the priest, he had realized his opportunity was coming up. And he would not lose it.
While Lois was shocked into submission, only seeing Lex Luthor's true colors for the first time, he would not be. He was not afraid of his enemy. And… he had too much to lose to not do anything.
And she had been grateful to him for it. He had been afraid she would be upset that he had done that. Stepped in for — seemingly — no apparent reason. But she had been grateful and they had shared a hug. They had finally hugged each other and he could feel it. He could feel the friendship which hadn't fallen away like they'd thought. Feared. It had been a bit abused and taken a few hits. But somehow… it had come out stronger. And he could feel that.
That friendship saved him. In turn, it saved her.
And in the end, it saved them.
He didn't know what she wanted now. He didn't care. For the first time in a long time, things actually seemed possible again. He was hopeful again. And that, for him, was enough.
Clark stood outside his apartment with Rachel and placed her suitcase on the ground.
"Rach… thanks for coming. Thanks for everything. I don't know what I would have done if you weren't here. You made these last few days not only bearable… but I had a good time with you. I didn't even think it was possible for me to smile, but you made it happen repeatedly. I can never thank you enough," he said.
"Clark… I am just glad it worked out. If I had to spend the rest of my life seeing that look on your face, I don't know what I would've done! You looked so sad! I am going home knowing that all is right with the world. Clark Kent is once again the carefree, happy guy he always should be."
He hugged her, a big smile on his face.
"You know, I still owe you a night of dancing," he said.
"Oh and I'll hold you to it! We can't dance in these Metropolis bars, though. Next time you're in Smallville, mister, we're doing some real dancing!"
"Of course," he said.
"And Lois has to come too!"
"I don't know how easy it'd be to convince her to come to Smallville to do some 'real dancing', but I'll try," he said, laughing.
They just looked at each other for another long moment.
"Thanks again," he said.
"Any time. And let's not go so long again without spending some quality time together, okay?"
"I agree," he said. "Hey… there's something I have to do. But Superman should be here any minute. Do you mind if I take off?" he asked.
She smiled. "I was just about to tell you to get lost. Go find her. Don't waste any more time."
He smiled. "Okay."
He walked away, and moments later, Superman flew down from another direction to take her home, as promised.
Lois sat in her apartment, knowing that as soon as Rachel was off, Clark would be by. She didn't know what to say to him. They hadn't had a moment alone since the church.
She was nervous.
She wasn't sure what his feelings were now that she had run them through the mud for so long. But… if he only wanted her friendship, she would find a way to reconcile herself to that. She had to. She would not lose him.
She also had to ask him why he had done it. Why had he spoken up? She'd been so grateful because he had saved her… but that didn't explain why he had done it at all.
He'd looked like he was about to book it. Out of the church; out of her life… so it just made no sense.
She'd have to ask him about it… but at the moment she wasn't worrying over it. She was just grateful he hadn't given up on her completely. That after everything, he *could* have still done what he did.
She went into her room and changed into a pair of sweatpants and a comfortable sweatshirt. She stood in the doorway to her bedroom and looked around her apartment, feeling incredibly happy about her life for the first time in a really long time.
She walked to her bed and sat down and smiled, at that.
Things seemed possible.
Her relief at Rachel's admission that there was nothing going on between her and Clark was the final piece of proof she needed. She'd known her own feelings, but the feeling of being bowled over with relief did not go unnoticed by her by any means and just solidified it all.
She laid her head down on her pillow, feeling tired and dreamy. She tried to stay awake. Clark was coming over. Stay awake…
She hadn't lost him…
And with that soothing thought, unable to fight it, she fell asleep.
Lois awoke, seeing Clark sitting beside her, staring at her with a look… a look that made her feel incredibly special. And just really loved. "What time is it?" she asked.
"It's late," he said. "I didn't want to wake you; I know you haven't slept much. But… I didn't want to leave you alone. Who knows what is going on in Lex Luthor's mind right now?"
She sat up and rubbed her eyes, trying to pull herself from dreamland. She looked at him. "You were right about Lex, Clark. He's… he's… I don't know. Not what he ever appeared to be. That's for sure. And I'm so sorry that I never listened to you. About anything."
He looked at her for a long moment, a serious expression on his face. "Lois, you need to know that I would never make something up about someone just to keep you away from them. If I thought you could be happy, I'd back away, even if it was the hardest thing I had to do. If I ever say that I don't trust someone, that I think they're no good… it means that I mean that. That I would think that even if it had nothing to do with you."
"I can see that now," she said, quietly.
"I just could never prove anything where he was concerned. I'm glad you didn't end up married to him, learning about his true nature when it was too late."
"Thank god," she murmured, pulling the comforter up around her, suppressing the chill that she could feel coming, if she allowed herself to think of how it could have turned out. "And maybe if we work together, we can find something out… prove your suspicions… and put him away for a long time… if, that is, you could still… be partners with me?" she finished nervously.
"I'd love to be partners with you again, Lois."
She smiled. "Good. Because I was not going to take no for an answer."
He smiled. "I wouldn't think you could."
"Why did you do it, Clark?" she asked.
He stared at her for a moment, a look of surprise in his eyes.
"Why did you stop the wedding? I didn't want to get married and I was about ten seconds away from doing it myself, assuming I got the guts up to do it, but… you couldn't have known that…"
"I… I guess I saw something when you looked at me. Something pleading, maybe… in your eyes… and I just… I couldn't not do something," he stammered, nervously. Lamely.
She smiled. "I'm glad you did it. I don't know what I would have done if…"
"Well… you needn't worry about it anymore."
She smiled and lost herself to her thoughts for a moment.
"So you stopped my wedding because of a look you *may* have seen from me?" she asked suddenly, a moment later, tilting her head, realizing this — like many of his lame excuses — seemed incredibly thin.
"Yeah," he said, not meeting her gaze.
"You are a strange one, Clark Kent."
He smiled and looked up. "Am I?"
"Yeah… and… I'm not sure I'll ever figure you out," she said, crossing her arms.
He stood up and walked to the bed, sitting down beside her. "Maybe someday you will."
"I'd like to," she said, growing serious suddenly.
"Why did you decide you didn't want to marry him in the end, Lois?"
"I guess… I could only imagine one man up there with me. And… it wasn't Lex," she said, her heart feeling like it was in her throat with butterflies fluttering about in her stomach. Being honest with herself was one thing… and that was hard enough… being honest with him was making her downright nervous.
He nodded, like he knew who she meant. And she knew he had no idea.
"It wasn't Superman, either, Clark," she said, which made him look up at her in surprise, hope evident in his eyes, try as he might to hide it. "Clark… last night… you asked me if I was jealous of you and Rachel and I said 'no' so quickly. It was sort of an instinct… and sort of a defensive mechanism. Mostly it was denial. And… I hurt you because of it. Making you think I could never be jealous where you're concerned."
"It's okay," he said, shrugging.
"No, Clark… you don't understand. You see, I *was* jealous. It just came as a surprise to me and… I didn't realize what it was immediately. And I didn't mean to hurt you. Ever. Especially not repeatedly," she said, tears filling her eyes. "And I came so close to losing you. You have no idea…"
"I have a pretty good idea, Lois. I came just as close to losing you."
"How did everything get so messed up?" she asked, shaking her head.
"You know… I have no idea. But let's try to never let it happen again," he said.
They smiled at each other and just looked into one another's eyes.
"Thank you for saving me, Clark."
"Thank you for saving me," he said.
She touched his cheek and he closed a hand over her smaller one, closing his eyes. He leaned down and brushed his lips against hers softly, questioningly.
"I won't be able to handle it if this is another kiss that ends in 'goodbye'," she whispered, placing her other hand on the back of his neck.
He shook his head, and opened his eyes so he could look into hers. "There won't be any more 'goodbyes', Lois. Will there?"
He kissed her again, a little more deeply, and her heart felt like it was soaring inside of her. Flying…
And suddenly, she realized what it was. The one certainty in her life that was trying to push itself forward when she was walking down the aisle. The one thing she knew for sure when everything else was so confusing.
She had known that amidst the chaos and confusion, one thing was clear, but she had not been able to pinpoint it and acknowledge it.
But she knew now.
That one thing was right there in her arms. Kissing her. That one thing was right there in her heart.
And now that she knew what it was, she would never forget. And she would most certainly never let it go again.