By Anna Botsakou <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: May 2005
Summary: After Clark's proposal in the episode "Barbarians at the Planet," Lois realizes what she cherishes the most.
A million thanks to Avia, for a very useful brainstorming session, Kaethel, for BRing this story and coming up with a title for it, and the readers on Zoom's and the fic boards for their nice feedback.
I hope you enjoy. All comments are welcome :) Anna.
Lois paced around her living-room, her mind racing furiously.
She was a bad friend. Inconsiderate. Stupid!
How could she do this to Clark? There he had been, pouring his heart out to her, and she had been barely listening. Instead, she had been calculating. Thinking of Lex's proposal, and of Superman…
He should be here any minute. It just couldn't take much longer. She'd been here, nervously waiting, for hours. The two empty chocolate ice cream cartons spoke for themselves.
But that wasn't so important now. The important thing was that Clark's words had finally registered in her mind. And with them, the whole morning. She had rejected Clark almost automatically, and now she was paying for it. Guilt was eating all of her insides, but even heavier was the worry about him.
How would he be feeling right now? She was his best friend, and it should have been a terrible shock seeing her shrug him off like this. Because that was what it would have looked like to him, and it wasn't far from what it had actually been, either.
He would *never* do that to her. How could *she* do it to him? How could she be so insensitive? And asking him to contact Superman for her! Her intentions must have been obvious. Poor Clark! Now he remembered he had looked hurt… but she had been too busy to notice.
She would have called to apologize, but… what could she say? Since she'd have to reject him anyway, what difference would it make?
A familiar whoosh in her window attracted her attention. It was Superman, of course. Now what?
"I heard you wanted to see me," he said. A bit coldly, but that hardly mattered. She was tongue-tied. The only thing she was sure of was that she wasn't going to discuss anything love-related with Superman, or anyone, for that matter, unless she made sure Clark was all right. And if he wasn't… well, she was still his friend. She'd help him in any way he needed her. Or… almost. Whatever.
Superman noticed her uneasiness. She seemed stressed. A bit too pale.
"Lois, are you okay?" he asked, concerned.
Silent, she sat on the loveseat and waved for him to do the same. He stepped in and made himself as comfortable as he could, opposite her.
"Superman," she then began, "what did Clark tell you?"
He gave her a puzzled look.
"You heard I wanted to see you," she explained. "By Clark. Right?"
"Yes…" Now he was genuinely confused.
"Did he just tell you that I wanted to see you? Or… did he tell you everything?"
Superman took a moment to reply. This was a quite… interesting development. What could she possibly have in mind? He should better go fishing for it.
"A couple of things," he finally said.
Lois's cheeks turned crimson. "How is he?"
Superman pondered the best way to answer. "Okay," he said with a shrug. "He'll be fine."
Lois's gaze fell on the floor. "I'm so stupid," she muttered, forgetting that Superman could hear her.
"Lois?" he said worriedly, trying to make eye contact. He'd thought she wasn't interested at all in Clark's feelings. It was what she had shown earlier, anyway. But now he was starting to doubt it.
"I'm sorry," she said, her voice shaky. "I…" She rose. "I have to talk to him."
"And tell him what?" he demanded, rising too.
His authoritative tone took her by surprise. "I'm his friend," she said, without much confidence in herself. "And…I hurt him. I have to apologize."
"For hurting him?" Superman said, unable to hide the drop of irony painting his words. "Lois, whatever you have to tell him now won't do much good."
Lois shrugged helplessly. "But… I don't want him to be sad!"
"Do you want to marry him?"
"For God's sake, Lois, we're not talking about Luthor here!"
"Would it make so little sense?"
She sighed. "Superman, you don't just go on and marry your best friend!"
"Okay, then don't!"
The uneasy grimace this comment earned him made him realize he was being far more bitter and cruel than he should. He changed his attitude.
"Look," he said, approaching her. "It's very nice that you would like to talk to him and support him as a friend. But what do you want to tell him?"
"I don't know," she said, her thumb searching for rebel tears underneath her eyelashes. "That I'm sorry. For being so insensitive. I was… he was there, talking to me, and I wasn't even listening! He didn't deserve that."
"You told him you love him as a friend, didn't you?"
"Well, yeah," she said nervously.
"Then? What could you say that you didn't?"
Lois, annoyed, stared at the superhero. She knew she had been wrong, awful even, but she didn't need him to rub it on her face. She was feeling guilty enough already. If he wanted to be helpful to either Clark or her, he should better try to help her calm down, instead of getting on her nerves with this cold, sarcastic tone of his.
Then it hit her. He had seen Clark, talked to him. Maybe Clark hadn't been all right because of her, and Superman had gotten angry with her for hurting his friend. He was being a good, compassionate friend. Unlike her.
She felt her knees weaken and sank back onto the couch, too embarrassed to look at his face. He took his seat opposite her as before.
"Look." She sighed. "I'm sorry for what I did. I wasn't thinking clearly. I said I loved him as a friend, but what kind of friend am I to act so selfishly? If I was a *real* friend, I'd have comforted him. I'd have told him that whatever happens, I'll be there for him, whenever he needs me, even if I'm with another man."
"Lois," Superman interrupted. "That's just words."
"I *can* do that!" she objected, insulted by his insinuation.
"I know," he replied hastily, "but what comfort is it for a man in love?"
"I don't know…" She sighed. "Is he in love?"
Superman eyed her strangely. "He told you that, didn't he?"
"Yeah, but maybe it's just a crush that will fade away."
Superman shook his head. "I doubt that."
"Even worse. So he declares his love to me, I reject him and ask him to contact you for me. How nice of me." She exhaled deeply, her sour-looking face resting on the back of the couch.
"Why did you want me?" he dared ask.
"You know what? It really doesn't matter anymore." She blinked one tear away. "You'd better go. I have to figure some things out."
"I could help you…"
"No, you can't." She sniffed. "I have to do this alone."
Reluctantly, he left her apartment from the window and returned to his place.
Lois buried her face in a cushion. What was she supposed to do?
She wondered how Clark was now. Judging by Superman's attitude towards her, he must have been having a hard time coping with it. Had she really been so hurtful without even realizing it? Unless… unless he loved her so much that her rejection was too much to handle.
But that was impossible. She'd have noticed that long ago, right?
Sure, she would. As a matter of fact, she *had*. She hated to admit it, but he hadn't taken her by surprise. She had been suspecting he had feelings for her for a long time. She just chose to ignore it. Much safer to have him as a friend, wasn't it?
Yes. But when you are a friend, you have to act the part, too.
She picked up the phone and called his number.
"Hi, Clark, it's Lois."
"Oh, hi, Lois."
She frowned. This wasn't the Clark she knew. He wasn't happy to hear her, eager to strike a conversation that could go on for hours. And frankly, why would he be? He was right not to be. Still, he was making her nervous.
"I just wanted to see how you're doing." She couldn't find a more clichéd line if she tried. God, who'd have guessed that she was talking to her best friend?
"Fine, too…" She paused for a moment. "Are you sure you're okay?"
"Yeah, why wouldn't I be?"
"I don't know, maybe it's something you don't want to tell me…"
"Oh…" he mumbled, as if he'd just remembered what had happened that morning.
"I'm sorry, okay? I didn't mean to be so cruel. I wasn't thinking. Sorry."
"It's okay. Don't think about it. Did Superman come to see you already?"
"Yeah, but I finally changed my mind."
"You're not marrying Luthor, are you?" He sounded terrified.
"No… no. I'm not marrying anyone. I have other things on my mind right now."
"Yeah. So… I guess I gotta go. Take care, okay? And call me if you need anything."
Clark's heart fluttered. It was silly, but just the thought of her worrying over his well-being made him feel warm inside.
Tonight she had taken him totally by surprise. When he had flown by, he had almost expected her to throw herself at him. Instead, she had been worrying about Clark. Her friend, the man she had turned down. The superhero had been there, in her living-room, and instead of worshipping him, as she usually did, she had talked to him about Clark.
She'd pushed everything aside for him. Luthor's proposal, her feelings for Superman… all aside. Clark first.
And now… calling to apologize. Pushing even her pride away, just for him.
The tiniest ray of hope flickered in his heart. What if there was more to it? What if she was having second thoughts? If… she considered being with him? Was it possible?
He couldn't answer that. He could only hope.
Picking up a random book from his bookcase, he went to bed.
Lois parked her Jeep outside Clark's apartment, staying inside to take a look. There was light in his bedroom. He was still awake. So now it was up to her.
Making the decision to come here hadn't been easy. But a phone call was so distant, so impersonal… Clark would have preferred the eye contact. And, although she was too embarrassed to look at him in the face, she recognized that it would make for a better conversation. The previous one over the phone hadn't had any real outcome.
She took a deep breath. Well, since she'd made it here, she might just as well go all the way. She exited the Jeep, walked up to the doorstep and knocked on the door.
Clark was lying on his bed, reading his book. As he heard the knock, he turned to the direction of the door and x-rayed.
Lois was here? What for? She had apologized already, over the phone. Could something bad have happened in the meantime? Could she… have changed her mind about him? Oh, if only she had! She'd make him the happiest man on Earth.
She looked nervous, though. There she stood, on the doorstep, biting her lip and taking deep breaths. Better than he'd left her earlier, but still not perfectly fine. But anyway, now wasn't the time to keep her waiting outside his door.
He hurried to open. "Lois?"
"Sorry, Clark, I can't," she said, entering the apartment without turning to look at his face. She stood in the center of the living-room, her back to him.
"You can't what?" he asked, confused.
"You said, 'it's okay, don't think about it.' But I can't stop thinking about it."
He stared at her back, troubled. "So?" he finally managed.
"So…" She gathered all her courage and turned to face him. "Did you forgive me?"
"For turning you down like this."
"I wasn't angry at you."
"Don't lie to me, Clark."
"Lois, I can't blame you for not loving me."
"But I do love you! Just… not like this," she spoke while he approached her. "But I love you very much, you know that. It's not like you're just a friend, not even just my best friend. You are…" Her eyes filled with tears, as he got even closer. "…Everything. And even the notion of me hurting you is unbearable, especially since you've always been so good, and caring…" She fell in his embrace. He put his arms around her, at a loss for words, but overwhelmed with happiness.
"It's not fair," she sniffed, once calmer.
"What's not fair?"
"You're the only person who's been like that to me. It's more than I could ever describe. I wish I could return it to you."
"I'm not in a hurry, you know."
She looked up in his eyes. "You'd wait for me?"
"All my life, if I had to."
She gave him a timid smile.
"I don't think it's going to take that long."
THE END (?)