By Ann Sidbrant <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: February 2006
Summary: It's Valentine's Day, and Clark is absent again. But maybe he has a surprise for Lois?
Valentine's Day, and Clark was gone again.
He hadn't even told her where he was going. Just as well. She couldn't take many more of his blatant lies about having to return a book to the library, having to meet a dentist's appointment or being forced to pick up his Cheese of the Month shipment, for the third time in a single month. No, instead of saying anything this time, he had just smiled sheepishly at her and slipped guiltily out of the newsroom.
Lois sighed in exasperation. It was almost six o'clock, and it was Valentine's Day. She had counted on them being together tonight, she really had. These last few weeks — heck, these last few months, even — she had felt more and more as if they were a couple. And finally, last week, they had dated, and he had kissed her, and that kiss… well, she could still feel her entire body tingling and shivering as she thought of it. She had thought, the next day, that this would be it now, they would be lovers… But instead he had been withdrawn, seemingly avoiding her.
He was infuriating. He was fun, tender, caring… a brilliant reporter… cute… no, make that darn good-looking… no, heck, knock-down completely gorgeous! God! And a spine-tingling kisser. But… he was a pathological liar. And some kind of coward too, always running away from her at odd moments and never having the guts to tell her where he was really going. Could she have a serious relationship with a man who treated her so condescendingly? Who thought so little of her right to know the man who asked her for her company, perhaps even for her love, but refused to trust her?
Lois sighed again. Maybe Clark was a mistake… another one. Maybe she should just cut her losses and go while the going was good. Like tonight. For example, right across the newsroom was Dan Scardino, ogling her as usual and probably more than willing to keep her company tonight if Clark decided to play hooky. She blushed. Dan? Did she want to spend the night with him? It wasn't as if she wasn't free to do it… it wasn't as if she had any previous engagements.
She stood up quickly, needing to think. A cup of coffee was what she needed to clear out the fog in her brain. She strode quickly, decisively over to the coffee machine… and stopped dead in her tracks. Since when had that brightly-colored plastic hook been glued to the side of the coffee machine? And since when had Clark's jacket been dangling from that hook?
And since when had Clark had a rose sticking out of one of the pockets of that jacket?
And since when did Clark fasten little cards to his roses, insofar as he kept any roses anywhere at all? And since when did those cards bear a single word?
"Had," said the card. That was all. "Had."
Confused, well, flabbergasted, Lois took Clark's jacket from the silly hook. She took the rose and the card too, somehow certain they were for her, even if the card didn't say so. In total consternation, she returned to her desk… only to find another rose there. A rose which hadn't been there just a moment ago, when she had gotten up to go to the coffee machine.
And it wasn't just a rose. There was a sort of bow around it, made from a — a ridiculous, outrageous, garishly colored, ludicrously broad silky ribbon. Except it wasn't a ribbon.
It was Clark's tie. And there was a card attached to it, too, again bearing a single word: "we".
Lois turned around. Clark — Clark was nearby. He had to be. He was playing games with her. What did he want? Where was he? Turning sharply once again, Lois headed straight for the elevator. She rode all the way down to the underground parking lot where she kept her Jeep. Nearing her Jeep, she somehow wasn't surprised to see something strange, something out of place, next to it. A pair of gleamingly well-polished black shoes. Clark's shoes. And, of course, in each shoe a rose, each bearing its own card and its own cryptic word: "but", "world".
Glancing inside her Jeep, Lois immediately spotted the crisp white shirt lying neatly folded on the driver's seat. Clark's shirt, with a rose lying across it. Squinting inside, Lois could make out the word on the card even through the slightly dirty window: "enough,". Yes, there was indeed a comma after the word. And what was that dark shape lying on the other front seat? Clark's pants? Yes, sure enough. The red rose and the white card stood out starkly against the dark material of the pants. There were two words and a comma on the card: "and time,".
Almost mesmerized, Lois got into the Jeep and drove off. Her car navigated the streets of its own accord, while her mind feverishly turned over the mysterious message of the cards. "Had" "we" "but" "world" "enough," "and time,". "Had we but world enough, and time?" Wasn't that an old poem? From the — sixteenth? seventeenth? eighteenth? — century? What was it called — something about a mistress? "To His Coy Mistress"?
Lois slammed the brakes so hard that the car behind her actually rammed her bumper. She glared at the unfortunate young man whose face she could see in her rear view mirror, and he, mercifully for him, seemed to shrink when she caught his gaze and held it, and apparently decided that getting into an argument with her simply wasn't worth the trouble. He drove off, and Lois remained sitting in her slightly-worse-for-wear unmoving Jeep, fuming. "To His Coy Mistress". Clark dared to imply that she was coy? That she was some sort of a prude? That nothing happened between them because she was afraid of letting it happen?
Lois pressed hard on the accelarator, and the Jeep made a roar and leaped into motion. Driving recklessly, she was soon where she knew the showdown would take place — at her apartment. Quickly checking her mail on the way to her apartment, she found a pair of glasses — Clark's glasses — and a rose. And a rather big card, bearing no less than six words, "This coyness, Lady, were no crime".
<This coyness, Clark! Speak for yourself!> Fuming, Lois ran up the stairs, needing to get rid of some excess adrenaline before facing the infuriating farmboy. Reaching her own landing, she saw a rose hanging from her door handle. It was wrapped in something big, red and silky. A piece of silky red cloth. A cape.
Lois' breath caught. Her heart was pounding. For a moment she was dizzy, the concrete floor unsteady under her feet.
Of its own accord, her right hand inserted the keys into the locks, turning them. Pressing down the door handle. Opening the door. Stepping inside.
There he was. Like she'd known he'd be. Sitting on her couch. Wearing… Yes. His Superman suit. Sans his cape.
Inhaling sharply, but unmoving, she stared mutely at him.
His eyes searched hers. What was that expression in them? Fear? Yes… they were fearful. Begging. Pleading with her.
Looking down at his chest, he ran a hand over his "S" shield. And finally, he said something. Speaking so low she could barely hear, he murmurmed into the air:
"I always wanted to be Clark to you, Lois."
Unable to reply, she stood staring at him. Only now did she realize what a bundle of clothes and things she was carrying: Clark's jacket, tie, shoes, shirt, pants and glasses, Superman's cape, and eight red roses.
Clark — or Superman — rose from the couch, and walked hesitantly towards her.
"Can I have my clothes back, please?"
Wordlessly, she held out his various garments to him. Taking them from her, he carefully fastened the flashy red cape to the suit, then put on the white shirt so that the cape was trapped underneath. The way the cape hung down from the edge of the shirt, as if it had been a half of a skirt, looked incongruously funny. But suddenly the slow manner of dressing was too much for him, and he whirled. The next moment Clark stood before her, complete with glasses and loose hairstyle, all traces of Superman gone.
"Why?" she whispered.
He almost jumped, reminding her of a splendid stag, magnificent but skittish, ready to bolt.
"I wanted you to love me," he said, so low she almost couldn't hear. "I wanted you to love me for myself."
"How could I?" she flared. "How could I love you for yourself when you wouldn't even let me see you as you are?" Her voice caught. "Who — who are you really? Clark? Superman? Tell me who you are!"
His eyes shone brightly, like fire. They bore into her eyes, into her soul, begging her to understand.
"I'm — I'm the man I am with you," he insisted. "When I am with you, that's when I'm really myself. I don't think I've ever been myself before. Before I met you. Before I — before I started being with you."
"But you didn't show yourself to me, Clark. Maybe you were yourself to you when you were with me, but you were not yourself to me. I never really got to see you."
Half-turning away from her, he raked his fingers through his hair, then buried his face in his hands.
"I'm… I was so scared," he whispered. "Scared that you would reject me, now that I'd finally found myself, thanks to you. I didn't know if I could live without you," he added bleakly. "And I didn't know if you would have me if you really knew me."
He fell silent for a moment, then continued, so low that she could barely hear him: "Yesterday, I was thinking. I was wondering if I could propose to you — if I could make you marry me, live with me — without telling you the truth about me. I was wondering if I could make you share your life with me and still keep you in the dark about me for the rest of your life."
He ran out of steam, unable to go on.
"But?" she prodded gently.
"But," he said, finding his voice again. "I finally knew I couldn't do it. I want you to love me, Lois. Shouldn't I be prepared to love you back? But how can I love you if I keep lying to you — if I keep feeding you a pack of lies about the man I'm asking you to give your heart to?"
Lois' breath caught. She reached out, imperceptibly trembling, and lightly touched his cheek with her fingertips. He started, as if her fingers had burnt him, and blushed hotly.
"Are you?" she asked.
"Am I what? Lying to you? No, Lois. Not any more."
She took his face in both her hands and gently pulled him closer, tilting her own face upwards, looking intently into his eyes.
"No," she whispered. "Are you asking me to give you my heart? Are you speaking To Your Coy Mistress, Clark? Do you think I'm afraid of you? That I don't want you?"
For a moment he stared at her, uncertain of what she was asking him, even more uncertain of what she was promising him. His eyes searched hers, begging for an answer — and finding it. His whole body quivered, tears welled up in his eyes, and he reached for her, crushing her against him, devouring her mouth with his own. They were rocking, hugging, kissing, touching, moaning, sobbing, and she, too, found herself crying as they kissed, their tongues dancing as their tears mingled. She caressed and stroked his face, his neck, his chest, his back, his shoulders, and of their own volition, her hands starting unbuttoning his shirt, finding the firm unyielding spandex underneath. With an effort, she tore her lips away from his, and, staring into his eyes, she wordlessly asked him a question. Relief, joy and awe shining out of him like a sun, he answered her from his heart:
"If you want me, Lois, I'm yours. All of me."
Then he whirled, slowly and gracefully. The Superman suit lay by his feet, neatly folded. His tie was gone, like his glasses, but he still wore his shirt and his pants. His shirt was open, the way Lois wanted it. And she was pressing her body against his, snaking her arms inside his shirt, feeling the soft skin of his chest and back. Shivering with joyful wonder, he caressed her with equal tenderness, kissing her perfect ivory skin and cupping her breasts in his hands.
The night was young. Everything was wonderful and overwhelming to two brand new lovers. The full moon rose over them, bathing their skin in silver light. In the morning, the sun would rise and caress them with its golden rays, set in rose-colored clouds. For a moment, for a night, for a time outside time in the era of love, for two brand new lovers, heaven reached out and touched the Earth. And for a moment, for two loving people, everything was right with the world.