By coolgirl <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Rated: PG — 13
Submitted: October, 2007
Summary: This story begins where "House of Luthor" left off. Instead of going into season 2 as if nothing happened, in this version the characters wrestle with serious emotions and have to make realistic decisions.
"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today in the sight of God, and in the presence of these witnesses, to join together this man and this woman in holy matrimony."
Part 1 : I can't marry you
"I…" Lois hesitated.
"Lois?" her fiance inquired, surprised at her sudden reluctance to say the words.
"I… can't," said Lois to the man standing before her, whose shock at her words were drowned by the sudden crash as Perry, followed by Jimmy, Jack and the Metropolis police squad threw open the rear door.
Lois could understand only bits-and-pieces of the chaos that surrounded her as she was escorted safely out of the church by Perry. She remembered Perry telling her that she couldn't marry Lex and the police chasing after Lex, but she still couldn't come to terms with the reality. As if in a haze, she let Perry drag her out of the church. A thousand thoughts collided inside her mind.
What was happening? Was she married? No! She had said 'No', hadn't she? Lex was being charged with crime? What about Mrs. Cox, that promiscuous, mean-looking secretary of his? Why was she in handcuffs? Was she the accomplice? Lex *had* committed crimes? Clark was right? Lex was really a scoundrel? Did she have a narrow escape? She was an investigative reporter, wasn't she? Why hadn't she known? How had Clark known? And where was Clark?
"Where's Clark?" she turned to face Perry who was walking behind her, effectively stopping him from moving further without running into her. Perry tried to walk around her, gently escorting her with a hand at her waist to get away from the crowd closing in upon them.
"Come on, honey. This is no place for you. Let us get you home," he said, trying to guide her into the cab that was waiting for them. Lois dug her heels in, stopping Perry with a fierce grip on his arm and got out of the cab.
"I want to see Clark! Where's Clark? Didn't he come? Is he still angry?"
"I don't know, honey. He must be somewhere. Should be in his apartment *at least* by now! Hasn't been home since last night! Poor boy, probably getting drunk…" his explanation was cut short when a sudden commotion made them all look up. Lois got out of the cab only to see Lex Luthor, the master-criminal, take his final plunge to the ground from his penthouse balcony.
Perry buried her face onto his shoulder, unable to let her witness the death of her former fiance. He soothed her and finally guided her into the cab before she could fall victim to the *other* press-reporters. Perry almost snorted at the irony. Two-months before, he would have urged his reporters to pursue such a story relentlessly. Yet now he was here shielding one of the reporters of his non-existent newspaper from such people.
"Take me to Clark! I have to see him!" she cried to Perry. Still soothing her, Perry ordered the cab driver to take them to Clark's apartment. Looking down at Lois, still buried in his shoulder, crying her heart out, he was filled with a sudden wave of tenderness. She had made a terrible mistake and he hadn't been able to stop it. It seemed to him that he had somehow failed in yet one more duty.
Lois was like his daughter. He had seen her since she had been a cub-reporter — innocent, curious — with a nose for news and a spark of intelligence that had made him hire her. He had been sure from the first moment that she would go to great heights, though he had to admit that more than once he had feared for her rather than admired her fearlessness. He had seen her grow up and mature. He had seen her *fall* on so many occasions at the personal level and yet get up, dust herself and bounce back with a force much greater than before. That was Lois!
But this was not just another failure in her personal life. It was a huge mess and he was half-worried that she might not be strong enough to face it. She would have to get through this, too. She had to!
Her reckless 'barge-in-without-thinking-of-the-consequences' nature was becoming too much for him. He had always secretly hoped that some *special* man — who would take care of her without suppressing her immense energy — would drop down from the *sky*. If only his *instincts* were true!
Lois got out of the car and ran up the steps to Clark's door. Perry followed her at an incredible pace for his age and bent down to retrieve the key from under the mat.
"He is not home yet?" she half-cried in despair.
"It seems so, honey! Anyway let us go inside and get a bit comfortable. I'll cook," he said, as he sauntered into the kitchen. Jimmy and Jack, who had followed them into the apartment, almost gagged and hurried after their chief, and Lois was left sitting alone in the living-room sofa.
"Err… chief, we thought we would cook today, you know, umm… share the work. Why don't you go and have a nice clean bath… err… chat with… umm, Lois," Jimmy said tentatively, remembering Perry's inedible, *cooked* crawfish a few days before.
Lois saw Perry come towards her and asked him why Clark wasn't back yet, again. She was half-afraid that something might have happened to him.
"He should have been home by last night," he muttered, half to himself, being a bit concerned now. Then he added, with forced cheerfulness, "Don't worry, honey. I am sure he is in some bar getting hopelessly drunk."
Then, in a commanding voice, he urged, "Now, Lois, enough of this! You are going into one of these rooms now to sleep and not wake until I have cooked something for us. God knows! I had a more miserable time with your mother today trying to let you come with us than I had in my entire retirement vacation. She must have turned at least a hundred hairs on my head white and taken a few years off my life. I never want to go through that again, convincing her that you are safe with us…"
His voice trailed off as he saw that Lois had gotten up and dragged herself to Clark's room, and he smiled ruefully.
Lois shut the door gently and leaned back against it. "Clark, please come back soon. I need to talk to you," she whispered to herself.
And then, softly, she breathed, "Clark, I love you, too!"
"Dancer, Prancer, Comet, Blitzen, Dasher, Cupid… Donner…"
"That's seven…One more."
"I am not stuck… huh… I'm stuck."
Part 2 : Where are you?
She was stuck! Her thoughts would move no further from Clark. She had gotten no sleep in the past two hours. She should have known that the most important person in her world was Clark. The only man who could stomach working with her, the only man who teased her, cheered her up, confronted her without fear and held her when she was afraid. Her best friend. The man who loved her. The man whom she had rejected in favor of a master-mind criminal.
She buried her face in her palms and her shoulders jerked. She just couldn't stop crying. She cried for her aborted wedding. She cried because she had yet again made the wrong choice. She cried for the second chance that she might not get. She cried that she had been so thick-headed not to believe the worst about Luthor. She cried because she had been inches from being married to a monster. She cried because she had probably lost Clark in the process. Excellent Lois! Ten points for driving Clark away successfully!
A few minutes later, wiping her eyes, she looked at the clock beside Clark's bed. According to Perry, he should have been home last night. What if he thought that she was shallow and left her for some other woman? Or what if he had left Metropolis like he did during that heat-wave? He always seemed to be leaving her. Never stuck around!
Luthor had succeeded in driving away all the people close to her. Thinking about it, she suddenly saw things in a new light that alarmed her. What if Luthor had thought of Clark as a threat to his relationship with her and driven him out of Metropolis? Would Clark have left her and gone? No, he wouldn't have! Why then, wasn't he home yet? Did he fall prey to one of Luthor's ploys?
On a sudden impulse, or maybe instinct, she snatched the phone beside the bed and dialed Clark's parents' number. On the third ring, she heard Martha pick the phone on the other end.
"Mrs. Kent… um… Martha? This is Lois. Is Clark there?" she asked. She knew she sounded weepy and hoarse even through the phone but didn't have the strength to mask it.
"Lois? Honey, no, Clark is not here. What happened? Is everything all right? How was the wedding? And where are you calling from?"
"I didn't marry Lex and… Lex is… dead. Threw himself off the balcony. Turns out Clark was right, had been right as always. I was about to marry a crook." (sniff) "God! I always seem to land crooks, criminals and sleaze-balls. No wonder Clark didn't come to the wedding." (sniff) "And I desperately need to talk to him. Say I am sorry. But I can't find him! It is driving me insane. I've been sitting here in his apartment, and he is doing that vanishing act of his." (sniff) "Can't he…"
"Lois!! Lois, honey, calm down and tell me what's wrong. I'm sure Clark will be back from wherever he is. You say you didn't marry Lex and… he is *dead*?"
"Yes! I was there standing before him at the altar, and all I could think about was Clark." (sniff) "Then Perry burst in with the police and chased after Lex. He fell from his balcony." (sniff) "Perry wouldn't let me see his body. I wanted to check if he was really dead. Must have been! That balcony was almost thirty floors high." (sniff) "And Clark is missing. Didn't come to the wedding at all. I was waiting for him. He was supposed to be my best-friend." (sniff)
"Oh, Lois, I'm so sorry, honey! Are you okay now? Who is there with you?" she asked gently. 'And where the hell is Clark now?' she muttered to herself.
"Perry and Jimmy are here. My mother is coming over! And I am at Clark's place. I hope he doesn't mind. I wanted to see him so badly." (sniff) "And he's still angry with me, or he would have come home. Perry says he should have been home last night and he must be getting drunk somewhere. I have never seen him drunk! Oh Martha, I am in such a huge mess!" (sniff)
"Lois, Clark is not here. If he comes here, I'll ask him to call you. Do you want me to come over? I'm sure Jonathan could manage the farm on his own for a few days."
"No, Martha. I already feel so bad dumping all this on you. It is just that you are so different than my own mother. I'll just wait for Clark."
"I'm sure Clark will be there soon. Take care, honey. And call me if you need me. I'm never too busy for my family. And you are family."
"Thank you, Martha." She replaced the phone beside the bed and leaned back on the bed. She wrapped Clark's blanket around her searching for his warmth, but found none.
"Clark, where are you?" she whispered.
"You have to prevent it, Clark, knowing what you know about Luthor".
"Maybe it's time to do more than that."
"What is it, son?"
"Remember when you asked me what I wanted when I first moved to Metropolis?
"Yes, I do."
"I said I wanted a normal existence, to meet someone, raise a family, settle down. I know now that Lois is the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with."
"And you just figured this out? Dad and I have known from the first time you spoke about her."
"Maybe I did too, but I couldn't let myself…"
"You love her?"
Part 3 : I am powerless
"Clark? What are you doin…"
"Mom," he said feebly as he dropped the single duffel bag he was carrying and sank down to his knees.
"Clark!" she gasped as Clark dropped down into a faint at the kitchen doorstep.
"Jonathan! Get in here, quick!" she screamed, calling her husband who was in the barn. Rushing over to Clark with a glass of water, she gently turned him around, removed his glasses and sprinkled water on his face. As he slowly came around, she squatted down on the floor, laid his head on her lap and made him sip the water.
"Slowly, honey! Are you okay?"
"Mom, Kryptonite cage. Escaped. Luthor. Can't speak." He gasped for breath.
"How did you get here?"
"Flew by plane. Saved just enough strength. Hurts all over."
"Martha?" Jonathan called out as he entered the house.
"In the kitchen, Jonathan," she called back.
Jonathan, who had rushed inside at his wife's urgent tone, gasped as he saw Clark doubled-over and barely conscious.
"Kryptonite," Martha said softly to him, combing Clark's hair back from his face tenderly.
"Shall I put him to bed?" Jonathan asked her, as he bent over to maneuver Clark into a sitting position.
"No, Dad! The sun," Clark gasped.
"Yes, Jonathan, let's take him out. The sun did heal him faster last time," Martha said, concerned.
A few hours later, Clark walked back into the house. Martha was preparing his favorite apple-pie with jam. Clark sat down in one of the chairs by the dining table and ran his hands over his hair smoothing it back.
Putting down the newspaper that he was reading, Jonathan asked, "How are you feeling, son?"
"Fine. Just not *super*. I don't know how long it is going to take for the powers to come back or if they will even come back," he replied. "Good riddance," he muttered to himself.
"Son, we have been through this before. Normal for you is being *super*."
"And a lot of good it has done me!" he said monotonously, picking up the newspaper Jonathan had put down absent-mindedly. Looking at the date he asked, genuinely surprised, "Dad, you are reading the day-before-yesterday's newspaper!"
"Well… I know I didn't tell you, but the Smallville Post editor died last month and they closed the paper down. So one of us has to go to Wichita once in two days to buy a couple of newspapers and circulate them among ourselves. The storm last week has cut off all the power lines. We have registered a complaint. It is just a miracle that the telephone is still working."
"Why didn't you let me know?" Clark asked, still monotonously.
"It didn't seem umm… important to mention with all that you are going through."
Jonathan looked at Martha who was standing behind Clark. She rolled her eyes at him and then gently questioned Clark, "What is this Kryptonite cage, honey? Luthor tried to trap you in it?"
"He *trapped* me in it! I had no idea what I was walking into when he called me. I don't know where he got the Kryptonite from, but he had me in this really effective cage. I almost died."
Martha gasped and hugged her son, tears threatening to spill over, yet she restrained from crying. She needed to be strong now for her son. He was still alive, and that was what mattered. And she still needed to know what had happened. Soon the entire story spilled out from Clark in bits and pieces.
"… and all the while I could hear the church orchestra playing the wedding tunes. I knew I couldn't be there when she did it, so I flew here. I needed to see you, Mom and Dad, even if it meant taking a plane," he said. Then as an after-thought he added, "I even dreamt that she wouldn't go through with it, actually."
"She didn't, Clark," Martha said quietly. His head snapped up and he turned sharply to see her. Martha nodded.
"Lois called earlier…" She began to tell him about the phone call.
"So Perry did get there in time? They weren't married? And Luthor is dead?" Clark exclaimed in disbelief, surprised at the turn of events.
"That's what she said, honey," Martha clarified.
"Good for her!" Clark snapped, and without another word, got up and left for his room. Martha tried to follow him, but Jonathan stopped her with a hand on her arm and shook his head. Martha gave him an exasperated look and went back to cooking.
"Let him be, Martha. At least he has *started* feeling something. Give him some time alone."
The door of Clark's room shut with a loud bang. Jonathan gave Martha a knowing look. Martha rolled her eyes at her husband, then with an amused smile, she said, "Sometimes being *normal* has advantages. You won't have to replace that door!"
Clark sat down on his bed, relieved, yet hurt, and more than a little angry.
"Perry stopped it in time, eh? He shouldn't have! She should have married that devil! She really should have!" he punched his pillow hard. Even without super-powers, the stitch in the seam gave in a little.
"And a wonderful life they'd have had together!" (punch) "Would love the *ordinary* man beneath the *Superman*, would she?" (punch) "Love me, now!" (punch) "I am just that now!" (punch) "Just ordinary!" (punch)
The pillow burst with a bang and the feathers floated around him. Dejected and exhausted, he sat down.
"Love me, now," he whispered brokenly.
"I want you to come to my wedding."
"I just can't."
"You hate him that much? Or is it me you hate now?"
"I could never hate you, Lois. But there is no way I'm going to sit there and watch you walk down the aisle with that…"
"What? Thief? Gangster? Psychopath? Murderer?"
"Maybe all of the above."
"Clark, can't you see what's happening? All you're doing is driving us further and further apart."
"I'm not the one doing the driving, Lois. You are."
Part 4 : I am your friend
It took Clark almost the whole of that afternoon to come to terms with what had happened. The thought that Lois was free of Luthor filled him with acute relief. But the thought that she would have been married to him hadn't Perry intervened at the right time filled him with dread.
He couldn't digest the thought of her rejecting him for Luthor and of course, Superman! What was Clark Kent compare to two really powerful men — one super-powered and one extremely rich? Clark was just that naive, good-for-nothing hick-from-nowheresville with no money and no power! That hurt! Despite Martha telling him that Lois was waiting for him in his apartment and that she really missed him, he couldn't believe it.
She must have felt remorseful and a bit ashamed. After all, he had been shouting his vocal cords off for the past year about Lex Luthor. Hadn't he? She must have been a bit ashamed that her reporting-skills were not that sharp anymore. And she must have been jealous that he was right about Luthor. She had vacated her apartment before the wedding to move in with Luthor. After her aborted wedding, she wouldn't have gotten her apartment back. So she had conveniently taken over his apartment, making it impossible for him to go back. Nice, Lois!
What was he *thinking*? This was Lois. His best friend and partner. The only woman in his world. The only woman he thought as his equal. Of course, there was Martha, but she didn't count. But Lois? No, Lois wasn't shallow. Whatever she was — arrogant, obstinate, fierce, loyal, beautiful, pig-headed, domineering, loving — she wasn't shallow! It was just that she always seemed to choose the wrong sort of men — that guy in her college, that sleaze-ball Claude, Lex Luthor. She chose Superman too, who, though not a wrong sort of guy, wasn't right for her.
But he had thought that 'Clark' was supposed to be at least her friend. She should have listened to him. And even if she hadn't believed him, she should have given him some credit as a partner and tried to unveil the truth. Wasn't that their job? Unveiling the naked truth? Instead she had just ignored all his warnings that would have saved them both the heartache.
She must have either loved Luthor or cared about him deeply. That was the only explanation for her actions. She had run into Luthor's arms instead of Clark's when Superman rejected her. Hadn't she? That had hurt!
He shouldn't have told her that he loved her. That had complicated the matters. She had probably thought that he was accusing Luthor out of jealousy. Or he should have taken advantage of her trust in Superman and revealed the truth about Luthor as Superman. He had made a lot of thoughtless mistakes, too, which had probably sent her running into that monster's arms.
When he thought about it, he realized that though Lois was usually right in her intuition about people, she did have a blind spot when it came to *certain* people. He couldn't find fault with her for that. That was her nature. That was what made him love her all the more.
As his anger slowly gave way to rational thought, he got up from his bed and walked into the living room. The big mess they were in was partly because of him. He had his own part in setting it right. Even if it meant being just friends! Even if it made him jealous that he couldn't get what a crook easily got! He would set it right, and then he would leave because it would break him apart to be with her and not be able to love her. But he would right the mistake he had done!
And he would start by giving her the much needed space.
The phone at the living room rang thrice. Lois rushed into the room, only to find Jimmy on it. At Lois' curious look, Jimmy mouthed 'wait' to her.
"Jimmy? Is that you?" the muffled voice from the phone reached her.
"CK? Where are you? You had us worried, man. (pause) When did you get there? (pause) Yeah! We are doing fine. (pause) Sure! Lois, her mother, Perry and I are here (pause) Umm… CK, Lois… well… she wants to talk…"
Lois snatched the telephone receiver from him, excitedly, only to hear the repeated tone that indicated a disconnected line. For a moment, she looked stunned, as if she could not believe what she was hearing. Then she replaced the phone and ran upstairs to Clark's room.
In Smallville, Clark too, looked at the receiver as if it were something disgusting. Then he replaced it. He had walked away a few steps, when he suddenly rushed back and picked the phone up. No dial tone!
"Mom!" he shouted, "The phone's dead too!"
Two days later, Clark was almost back to normal. He could *see* through things. He could *hear* the blacksmith, who lived nearly a mile away, hammering the nails. He tried floating, just a few inches, then fell back on the bed with a loud thud!
'Nope, that's not back fully,' he thought to himself.
Smelling his mom's *super*-cooking with his *super*-nose, he super-sped downstairs. Martha was only too happy to have him back to *almost* normal. After a cup of coffee, Clark told Martha about his decision.
"So, you want to stay here for a while and take over the Smallville Post?" Martha enquired.
"Because there's no Daily Planet anymore?"
"And then you will think of moving to some other place?"
"Clark! You are avoiding Lois. You can't do that forever," Martha said, shocked.
"I know, but I am just not ready to face her yet. You see, I made a muck of things when I told her that I love her," he said meekly.
"You told her that you love her?"
"Yes, and she said — what was it? Aah, yes — she does love me, but only as a friend. You see, she isn't romantically interested in me, Clark. Only in 'me' as in 'Superman'!"
"When did this happen? Why didn't you tell me, Clark Kent? And will you stop referring to yourself in third-person?" Martha scolded.
"It doesn't matter, Mom. I know she doesn't love me. She can't ever love me the way I love her. I just hope we can be friends. That's all she can give me. I can be satisfied with it. I have to be!"
"Of course not!" Martha exclaimed.
"Mom! I don't want to talk about that, now. Metropolis doesn't hold anything for me now."
"Except Lois," Martha said pointedly.
"What I am saying is," he continued as if she hadn't spoken, "without the Daily Planet, I cannot go back to Metropolis. I don't have a job. How would I pay for my apartment and other things?"
"You seemed to manage quite well these past two months," she said. Then she added, "Clark, you can't fool me. I know how your mind works."
That was the problem. Clark sighed. He couldn't fool his mother.
"Mom, I want to stay here for a while, working for the Smallville Post till I find something else. I need to be away from Metropolis right now. Too many memories. I hope you guys don't mind."
"Of course we don't. You are always welcome here, honey. This is your home, too. It is just that you can't start or stop your feelings for Lois just like *that*."
She got up and laid a hand on his shoulder, looking intently at him. "I am sure Lois loves you, Clark. She just hasn't realized it yet!"
With that Martha went to resume her cooking and left Clark gaping at her with his mouth opening and closing like some startled fish.
"Lois, when I thought about losing my job at the Planet, saying goodbye to Perry, Jimmy, everyone… I realized something. I realized I could lose all that and still go on. I realized there was only one thing I didn't want to live without… and that was you. Seeing you every morning, working with you, being with you…"
"That's why you should…"
"No. Lois, listen to me. I'm not talking about the partnership. I'm talking about us. I've been in love with you for a long time… You must have known."
Part 5 : I love you
"It has been two days since you have slept properly or ate anything, Lois. Are you listening to me? If I had stopped eating every time your father left me, I wouldn't have lived to see this day…"
"Mother, had you been sober every time fath…" Lois interjected with some asperity.
"Don't you interrupt me, Lois Lane! It is not as if you *loved* Lex Luthor. I mean, how could you love him? He was a criminal. And you weren't even sure of marrying him, were you? I told you not to go through with it if you weren't sure, didn't I? Then why are you sitting over there crying over a dead man you don't love? For heavens sake, had I known you'd be like this I'd never have…"
"Mother, I want to be alone right now, please!" Lois pleaded. As her mother left her with a huff, she closed the door and locked it secure. Then the tears fell, again. Lois Lane didn't wallow. But she was no longer Lois Lane. She was nothing. No longer was she the top-reporter of the Daily Planet. No longer was she a friend of Superman. She couldn't be, not after the way she had thrown herself on him that last time. And now, apparently she had lost Clark as well.
Too tired to think, she flopped down on Clark's bed and tried to grasp that evasive and much needed sleep. She couldn't! She lay staring at the ceiling for hours until her eyes, which hadn't blinked properly for several minutes, dropped closed of their own volition.
He smiled. Then taking her hand, he knelt down on his knees. She loved the way he looked at her. She loved his beloved face. Those beautiful bespectacled brown eyes she could drown in. She loved his voice, that deep resonating voice that filled her with music. She loved his mouth, beautiful bow-shaped and those lips, those delicious lips that she could devour forever. And when he smiled, oh God, when he smiled her insides twisted, a tremor ran through her and she melted into a pool of liquid at his feet.
His hand lifted hers and he placed a gentle kiss on her left knuckle. She blushed.
"Lois Lane, will you do the honor of becoming my wife?" His deep, gentle voice flowed over her, filling her with a warn glow.
"Yes!" Her reply was drowned in a gasp when he suddenly stood up and pulled her into his arms. He lifted her up and she laughed. There was a shower of flowers over them.
There could never be any other man for her. There could never be any other woman for him.
She was in a room with thousands of lit candles that filled her with lovely warmth. She was reclining on a silk bed with satin sheets. He was looming over her. He came closer and closer. She closed her eyes in sweet anticipation.
The first touch of his lips on hers filled her with happiness. The second touch, warmth. The third, love. The fourth, desire. Then she could no longer keep track of his kisses. They were a never-ending series of drugging kisses.
Her body entwined with his. Her breath mingled with his. Her soul merged with his. She gasped at the sweet, yet unfamiliar intimacy. He soothed her with his tongue and lips. She moaned into his mouth. He crooned soft-nothings into her ear. She pulled at his lips. He pushed his tongue into her mouth. Their tongues danced the tango, gentle and erotic, until their bodies and souls clamored for more and more.
She woke up in his bed, drenched in sweat. She panted hard before regaining control of her breath and pushed her hair behind her ear.
Standing up, she went into the bathroom for a bath — a cold bath — at three in the morning. But that vivid and erotic dream continued to haunt her throughout the night.
Sleep was eluding her, as usual. She decided to fix something to eat from the kitchen, since she had gone almost hungry the previous day. She found a generous supply of Double Crunch Chocolate Bars in Clark's refrigerator, which he had probably stocked for her sake. Carrying at least a dozen of them in her hands, she walked back into Clark's room. Sitting on the bed, she tore off the wrapper and was about to eat it when she saw a white paper lying on the pillow.
Curious, she picked it up. She recognized Clark's neat handwriting addressing her, 'To Lois'. It was a letter. A letter from Clark! 'How did it get here?' she wondered. Had it been lying there all the while? No. She was quite sure it wasn't there before. Then how? A sudden thought struck her. Superman?
"Superman? Are you there?" she called out.
Forgetting the chocolate bar, she opened the letter and started to read.
'Dear Lois,' it read.
"I knew… well I knew that you liked me, were attracted to me, but… I'm sorry. I don't think about you in that way… romantically. Clark, you're my best friend, the only partner I could ever stand to work with. I admire you, respect you, and I do love you, but only as a friend."
Part 6 : I can't love you
I'm sorry about a lot of things. I wanted to bring Luthor down, but I never wanted to hurt you in the process. I tried telling you what a crook he was. As a last resort I had to take even that final and drastic measure, just because I couldn't see you marry that scoundrel. I would have said anything to stop you from marrying Luthor. And I did. Only it didn't work the way I thought it would. It has only succeeded in driving us apart.
Being apart from you was the last thing I wanted. I cherish every moment we spent together, at work, at home — yours and mine. I didn't want to give it all up just because you don't return my feelings.
But I should never have said anything about the way I felt towards you. It put you in an incredibly awkward position. The fact of the matter is it wasn't true. I'm not in love with you. I only said that because I thought it would make you reconsider your options.
I want the same thing you do, Lois. I want us to be friends, forever.
I have been thinking of taking over the Smallville Post. I have obtained the required permission and am thinking of moving over to my parents' place for a while until I find some other position.
I just hope you can forgive me after all that has happened and that you hold no grudge against me for investigating and incriminating Luthor. I hope you'll believe me when I say that had he been a better man, I wouldn't have opposed your decision.
Always a friend,
Writing the letter had been the most difficult thing in his entire life. It was a thousand times worse than kryptonite. It had made him want to cry like a baby. It had made him want to die. Yet, it had to be done. It was his first step in setting things right.
It wasn't as if Lois was going to be hurt by it. She had always wanted to be his friend. Only a friend, when he had made a muck of things by declaring his love. He couldn't leave without setting it right. It would always be there, between them, even if he ran to a place halfway across the world. It had to be done and he had done it! The only thing left was to deliver it to her, unseen.
He flew over to Metropolis after regaining his powers completely. He hovered outside her window, seeing her sleep in his bed. It twisted his insides with an intense longing for the unattainable. It reminded him of his secret fantasy in which he would come home from a rescue and see her on his bed like this.
It was then that he noticed that her sleep was restless. Her heart was thumping hard and her breathing, ragged. She twisted and turned in her sleep and then suddenly…
"Clark!" he heard her call out. She probably had a nightmare about him. His arms ached to take her into his embrace. But he had lost the right a long time ago. Clenching his teeth in agony, he flew away.
But he returned, again and again, after two short, half-hearted patrols over the city and found the bed empty. Seeing his opportunity, he placed the letter over her — his — pillow, with a heavy heart.
"I will always love you, Lois," he whispered, before flying away without looking back.
Her hands trembled. Her chin quivered. The tears slid out of her closed eyes, as Lois clutched Clark's letter close to her heart. He did not love her?
He did NOT love her? Great! Excellent! And a really beautiful punishment for her. And just when she had started loving him. She had always believed in destiny. Two months before she had three handsome men in her life with whom she could imagine her future with — as a husband, as a friend and as a superhero. That was when she had been contemplating marrying Lex.
But one by one she had lost them. To Clark, she had said a big 'No' when he had so sweetly offered. Superman had told her a bigger 'No' and not even considered it worthy to stay through their conversation. The one man she had fallen back to, Lex, had turned out to be the biggest crook. And now, Clark was retracting his love. Talk about a series of federal disasters!
She started laughing. She laughed and laughed until it turned hysterical and she ended up in tears, not from mirth, but from a hurt that came deep from her heart.
Perry had an unexpected visitor the next morning. He had moved back to his own place as soon as Lois' mother had taken charge over her. Jimmy had been assigned the duty of hunting for a new apartment for Lois. He had been sitting in his chair, looking morosely at the Metropolis Star, still unable to touch the *rival* newspaper, when the doorbell jolted him out of his melancholic reflection.
"Clark! When did you get back? Have you seen Lois?" Perry enquired, enthusiastically.
"Err… no, chief, I haven't seen her. I hope she is well."
"She isn't, and you know it, son."
"I… am… I don't know what to say, chief," he stammered.
"Stern contacted me yesterday. Says he always had an old score to settle with Luthor. He has hopes for restoring the Daily Planet, provided he gets to see at least one story against Luthor every week, starting tomorrow."
"Chief, that's great news!" Clark exclaimed, really happy for the first time in two months.
"So, son, you are re-hired!"
"Umm… chief, I… have decided to work for the Smallville Post. Not permanently! Just until some things are… umm… settled here."
"Clark!" Perry exclaimed, astonished. It was rare for him to show such an emotion. But it was apparent from the look on his face that he was really and truly surprised.
"Considering the situation here, it seemed the best course of action. At least for some time. That is why I came here. I wanted to inform you personally."
"Have you told Lois?" Perry asked him sharply.
"She would have known by now."
"Written her a farewell letter, have you? I thought you would face her, son, instead of running away again."
"I…" Clark stammered.
"Okay, Kent, I accept your decision. I will give you two months. Your job at the Planet will be waiting for you. If you are not here exactly two months from the day I put the next Daily Planet edition to bed, you are fired, permanently."
"Now where have you put up for tonight?" Perry asked.
"Umm… I think I will take a room in the Lexor for tonight. But I haven't decided, chief."
Embarrassed, Clark left Perry in a hurry. But not before he *super*heard his mumbled, 'Poor boy. Doesn't know what he is doing!'
But Perry had known. He had known that Clark would leave sooner or later and that he had to act quickly if he wanted him back, not just for himself, but for Lois too.
The phone rang. Absent mindedly, Lois picked it up.
"Lois? Lois, honey? Are you there?" Perry's concerned voice came from the phone.
"Perry, Clark wrote to me. Says he is moving to Smallville. I don't know what to do. I have lost him now. It was a wonder he stuck around this long. Why am I like this with relationships?" she said with tears on her face not yet dried.
"Lois, he'll come around. He is just having a spell of stupidity. He will be back, honey. I called you to let you know that he came here, too. He has lodged himself in Lexor for the night."
"He is not coming to his apartment?"
"No, I don't think so."
"Is it because of me? Is he angry with me? Is he avoiding me? Did he say something about me? Oh, Perry, I am in such a mess. And just when I realized that I love him, too. And I am miserable. I am wallowing and I hate myself. Have you ever seen me like this? You must think I am no longer worthy to be a reporter," she ranted in wobbly tone.
"That's the other thing I wanted to say, Lois. Stern's bought the newspaper. We are going to rebuild the ruined building. And you are rehired. That is you are, if you want to. Or do you have some stupid intention of working for LNN?"
"No, I mean, yes, I am coming back. Perry, this is great news," she said, a ray of happiness passing through her. "Are you hiring everybody back? What about Jimmy, Jack, Cat? And Clark? What about Clark?" she asked apprehensively.
"As you know, he has some stupid intention of working for the Smallville Post."
"He isn't coming back, is he? I know, Perry. He is just tired of working with me. I put him through a lot. And now I have lost him and I am…" she ended up in another round of weeping.
"Lois, I have things more important in my hand than your personal relationship with Clark. I have a newspaper to run and I don't want to lose such a good reporter. If he is leaving because of your personal conflict, then I want you to sort things out and bring him back. I don't care what you do. I don't care if you butt your heads or cuddle up in a bed. If you are the reason he is leaving, I want you to set it right instead of sitting there wallowing over your ex-fiance and your stupid partner," Perry commanded.
"I want him back, even if you aren't mature enough to settle your differences. It is going to be difficult, as it is, building a newspaper from ruins, and I don't want one of my top reporters leaving because of a personal problem," he continued strongly and hung up without another word.
"Yes, Perry," she answered sniffing.
He needed to do that, Perry thought. He had wanted to soothe her and he had even started to, but when she had continued to be miserable, he had known exactly what would bring Lois to her senses. He had known that pitying her wouldn't solve anything. It would only send her deeper into her misery.
What she needed was work. A challenge. Some task to prove that she wasn't a loser. To make her realize that she was still that confident, beautiful top-reporter of the top-most newspaper in the world. Her task was to bring her partner back. She was a fighter. She just didn't sit at home and let things happen to her. He just had to remind her of that. And if he had succeeded, she would be on her way to the Lexor by now.
Perry sat back on his chair and closed his eyes. By setting Lois on the task, he had hoped to gain Clark back as well as distract her from her wretched mood. If he succeeded, he would have not one, but both of his top-reporters back. He smiled his first genuine smile in months.
"I miss you."
"I miss you, too."
Part 7 : I miss you
"Hello, Lexor Hotel? Could you please connect me to a Mr. Kent? Clark Kent. No, that's Clark with a 'C' as in 'chocolate'. C-L-A-R-K! No, don't put me on hold… You don't have an entry for Clark Kent? Did you look carefully? He would have checked-in this morning… No?"
A little later, she tried again.
"What? Still no one called Clark Kent? Are there any other hotels nearby? Could you get me the number? What? It isn't your business? It isn't your business to help a woman? What the hell? He hung up? How dare he? That filthy, good-for-nothing, moron — Aaaaaghh!!!" she screamed, stomping her feet.
The third time, she wore whatever clothes she could find from her partner's closet and marched her way to the Lexor.
"Hi. I have come to see Mr. Clark Kent. Could you please direct me to his room?" she asked a little too sweetly.
"Mr. Clark Kent? Clark Kent… hmm…" the receptionist said thoughtfully as he looked into the register and then ran a search on his computer.
BEEP! Beep! No results!
"I am sorry, ma'm, but we don't have a person named Clark Kent lodged in our hotel for today."
"Now look here, Mister. I know that you have a person here named Clark Kent and I need to see him even if he has ordered you not to send any visitors up! I am going to find him whether you like it or not!" she threatened no longer sticking to being sweet.
Lois grabbed the register from him and went through it, batting his protesting hands away. There was no entry for a 'Clark Kent' but there was one 'Charles King'. Hoping against hope, she marched off to Room No. 212, seventh floor. The lift was busy, so she decided to take the stairs. Running half of the way and panting away through the rest, she didn't stop until she reached Room No.212.
"Open up! Clark Kent!" she shouted, as she banged the door off its hinges.
She raised her hand to knock again, when a stout, bald man opened the door.
"What do you want, miss?" the man questioned, his tone hardly polite.
"I came to see Claaar… umm… Charles King."
"I am Charles King. What may I do for you?" he asked, still irritated at being interrupted.
"You are Charles King? But…" she started to say, suddenly uncertain of herself.
"Now see here, miss, I have my passport, working identity-card and other identifications to prove I am Charles King. I am spending a quiet evening with my wife and I don't want any such silly interruptions again. I am calling the hotel manager right now!" Saying so, he banged the door shut across her stunned face.
After searching in five hotels and three small inns in Metropolis, Lois rang up Perry to tell him that Clark hadn't taken a room in the Lexor or any of the nearby hotels, and to ask him if Clark had contacted him again.
Clark hadn't contacted Perry over the phone. Disappointed, she hung up. Walking along the pavement, she reached a park. Almost absent-mindedly, she strolled on the grass-covered land, mulling over her current predicament. She had never thought that she would have to hunt for her partner like this. He had always been there for her, like a solid rock, cushioning her every fall. He had tolerated her like nobody else.
She remembered how they argued over every silly thing. She loved the way he gave her that exasperated look whenever her tirades went on some wild tangent. She loved how he would buy her takeouts, how he would just know instinctively what she would like to eat. She remembered how he smelt, that strong masculine smell with just a tinge of his own flavor. She recalled his smile, that lovely full smile which accentuated that beautiful mole on his upper lip. And his laughter, lighting up the entire room, leaving no trace of melancholy. He had always been there — at work, during stakeouts, at home, whenever she had needed a friend or platonic company. Hell, he had even been there when she had cried. What man stayed when a woman cried? What man consoled a woman in distress? He did!
He had been there doing everything for her, big and small, without her knowing it. He had been there for her in ways even Superman hadn't been. Superman had saved her life countless times, but Clark, Clark had saved her soul. She remembered her pre-Clark days, how hard-bitten and ruthless she had been for just a story. Her life had revolved around a newspaper. But he had changed it all. He had come like a gentle wind and gotten inside her soul, slowly and surely. From just a reporter, he had made her a woman.
And now she was in distress because of him, and he wasn't here to console her. That constant in her life named Clark had suddenly vanished and she was left, helpless and desolate, with nobody else to turn to. She had lost him. As a partner, as a friend, and as a lover.
Without realizing it, she had reached the place where Clark had declared his love for her. Looking around, she saw that the park was almost empty since it was getting dark. She spotted the bench where they had had that talk. His declaration of love. Her refusal. And she had even asked the disappointed man to contact his friend Superman so she could convey her own love. No wonder she had lost them both. She must be the worst sort of woman in the world. The most cruel one. She had to be. Who else would ask the man who loved her to contact the man she loved on the same day he had declared his love?
The man who loved her? Hell, she was talking as though Clark still loved her. He didn't, remember? The letter! He had written that he didn't love her. Feeling the breast pocket of Clark's jacket that she was wearing, she drew out the letter. She sat down on the bench Clark had sat on that day and unfolded the letter. Spreading it open she read it again. 'How lovely, Lois,' she thought as the irony of the situation sank in. 'He said he loved you here, and you also get to read his letter saying he doesn't love you here, in this same place. And you are sitting in his place, your positions exactly reversed. You love him now, but he doesn't love you.'
The tears fell, starting slowly from the corner of her eyes, sliding down her cheeks, leaving a wet, salty trail.
"I miss you, Clark!" she sobbed, her face buried in his letter. Then softly, "I love you, Clark!"
High up, in the sky, a blue and red spandex-clothed man, Superman, hovered, looking down at that small, beautiful woman who had always held his attention. It was the first time she had stepped out of his apartment, and he wanted to see her back home — to his apartment — safely. That, only that had made him keep an eye on her. He didn't want to see her. Not now. Not ever. If he got too close or talked to her, he didn't think he would be able to control himself. Distance was safe.
All day long she had stepped in and out of so many hotels, no doubt searching for him. Then she had taken a walk in the park. He had seen her walk towards that special place where he had ripped open his heart on that special day. He had been honest and earnest, but she hadn't returned his feelings. Yet it would always be a special day for him, and that bench would always be special because that was the only time he had truly been himself with her. Just Clark. The man who loved her and would love her always. And he would visit that place always and tell himself, 'That's the place, remember? That's where you told her you love her.'
He slowly drifted down, still keeping track of her, to listen to her … her heartbeat, her breathing and everything that was 'her'. He gasped softly when she opened his letter and read it. Then she cried and his heart twisted in his chest, threatening to burst. He heard her say she missed him, and he wanted to rush to her and hug her fiercely and pull her tight against him.
Then he heard it, soft but clear, 'I love you, Clark!'
"I guess so. Anyway, I'm just trying to figure out… well, there've been a lot of changes going on in my life and I'm trying to make the right decisions, but I can't until I know… how you feel… Superman, is there any hope for us? You and me? I'm so completely in love with you that I can't do anything else without knowing."
"Lois, I do care for you. But… there are things about me you don't know, that you may never know."
Part 8 : I need you
Shocked, he lost concentration and started falling, his altitude decreasing rapidly. It was only after he fell down almost half-the-way to the ground, that he realized it. Regaining his balance, he drifted slowly downwards, still reeling from what he had heard.
What was she saying? She loved Clark? What did she mean? As a friend? Of course, she loved him as a friend. She had said that before, remember? In this same place, two months ago. She missed him, but only as a friend. Just as she loved him, only as a friend.
Then why was she sitting here in this place where she had once rejected his love? And why was she clutching his letter, sobbing her heart over it. Had she started feeling something for him? If so, was she on the rebound or having post-traumatic feelings for him? Or if she did love him, then were her feelings real?
Assailed by these doubts, his attention got diverted, and he didn't see her stand up and walk out of the park to go home.
She had crossed the gate and was walking gloomily, brooding over her partner. She stepped off the pavement to cross the road to reach the other side when a horn blared into her ears suddenly and she saw a huge truck speeding towards her with its headlights glaring at her!
Transfixed, she stood there, in its path, unable to move, unable to think.
A sudden blur of red and blue streaked straight down from the sky, carrying her off the ground and rocketed upwards. It was a moment before she realized what had almost happened. She turned to thank him for saving her and ask him to let go of her when she was sidetracked by the loud thumping of his heart beneath her hand where she had placed them on his chest.
Surprised, she looked up at him, at the face that had haunted her dreams once upon a time. She was still left awe-struck by him, his strength and capabilities. And she did love him, in her own small way. And she could still feel that physical attraction that assaulted her senses whenever he was around. But it was nothing compared to what she felt for Clark.
With Clark, she felt love, that indescribable feeling that came from familiarity and intimacy, and yet every time she heard his name, she felt as though she was being born again. She hadn't recognized it when he was around, tailing behind her at work, leading her during their stakeouts and walking with her always. Yet it had been there. Hadn't she sub-consciously recognized it when she had been affected by the pheromone? And that kiss at Lexor! Hadn't she dreamed about it for months?
With Superman, she felt desire, strong and powerful, yet distant. It wasn't that type of desire that she wanted to cling to when she was lonely. She could keep this desire bottled up and tucked away for the rest of her life. But she could not do that to that tender feeling of love that had bloomed inside her for Clark. Only Clark.
She wanted an ever-lasting love that would keep her safe, secure and happy. She wanted Clark. She needed Clark.
A sudden breeze brought her out of her trance and she gently nudged Superman in his arm. He flew her to his apartment and set her down on his balcony. She walked inside and he followed, looking around the apartment. Then his gaze settled on her.
"Thank you, Superman," she said.
He glared at her. Confused, she questioned, "Superman? Are you okay?"
"Yes!" he spat, and started to leave. But then on a second thought he turned back and burst out, "No! I am not okay. What the hell were you thinking, crossing the road like that? Never learned anything about about traffic rules when you were a child, eh? Or forgotten? Is this how you were planning to take care of yourself after marrying Luthor, eh? Oh! I forgot! You wouldn't have needed to walk had you been married to him, isn't that it? You'd have had air-conditioned limousines to escort you, eh? Now that Luthor's gone, you are so dejected that you don't even value your life and want to go the same way he did!"
"Then what? What is it? Do you expect me to keep on trailing behind you, keeping you safe? Do you think I have nothing else to do than to keep you safe? Or was it your trick to make me come to save you so that you can drool all over me like last time?" he spat, his eyes turning almost red with anger.
"No!" she shouted back at him, angry and hurt by his unfounded accusations. "I would have rather have died there than call for you, Superman. You should have known that! After the way you treated me last time, it is a wonder I am still standing here talking to you. All I did that day was ask you if there were any hope for us. You could have said your 'No' a bit more decently. You were the one who made that callous joke about my robe. And you didn't even stay through the conversation, did you?"
"So that is it, eh? Who was it, eh, who said that she would love me even if I were an ordinary man, eh? You… you…" he stammered, clutching at her shoulders and shaking her until she was left breathless.
"Superman…" she squeaked, suddenly frightened. Not that he would hurt her physically. She knew he wasn't capable of harming anybody, even in his anger. But she was frightened of his mood. It seemed as if he was nearing the end of his control. His voice turned very thick and husky. His eyes turned intense black and passionate. As if confirming her suspicions, he roughly pulled her into his arms and his mouth swooped down to claim hers in a very passionate kiss, borne out of intense anger.
She protested, trying to push him away. Ignoring her struggles, he caught her hands, twisted them back, imprisoned her with his body and continued to kiss her. She couldn't resist him. Her mouth softened under his rough attention and she gently kissed him back. His mouth, too, softened its ruthless plundering and gently, almost tenderly he tilted her head back, to gain easy access to unexplored recesses of her mouth.
Leaving her mouth, his lips moved down towards her jaw, and then bending her further, he kissed his way down her throat and then drifted lower. Seeing his jacket on her sent a surge of possessiveness through him and he ripped it open with a tug of his super-fingers. Excited, he moved down to capture his prize when …
"No!" she shouted, pulling herself away from him. Hastily covering herself, she turned away from him. The momentary loss of contact cleared his senses and he shook his head. Then the enormity of his actions — what he had been doing and where his mouth had been — sank in. Horrified, he looked at her guiltily.
"I am sorry, Lois. I got… it got… out of control… I didn't mean…"
She turned around, tears threatening to spill from her eyes.
"I shouldn't have done this, Superman. I love Clark," she said.
"You love Clark? No, Lois, you don't love Clark. You just think that you love him," he said softly, as if he was explaining her own mind to her.
She laughed ruefully. A lone tear sticking on her eyelashes fell as she closed her eyes. Then she opened them again.
"I know what you must think of me," she said sadly, "that I am either a slut running behind men or a person who doesn't know her own mind. I am sorry, Superman. We shouldn't have kissed. But thank you for saving me today, and all those times before. I shall always be grateful for that, and I shall make sure I don't put myself in danger henceforth."
Superman looked at her, dumbstruck. How had she become like this? There was no vibrant-energy, no zest and no fire left in her. There was just defeated acceptance. And the Lois Lane he knew would never accept anything without putting on a fight. And she would never accept defeat! Oh God! What had Luthor done to her?
She walked to a chair and sat down, exhausted by her day's activities and gave him a depressed smile. She was waiting for him to go away, so that she could cry in peace. But he wasn't going to go. He wanted her back to normal. He could not leave her like this. It hadn't been on his agenda to leave her miserable and then go away to some other place. He needed her to be happy. He needed her to be strong. He needed her to become normal. Hell, he needed her!
Lois didn't know when she had fallen asleep, or how. All she remembered was that she had been sitting on the chair. Feeling the soft mattress beneath her and the blanket covering her shoulders, she was momentarily confused. She groped for the night-lamp and switched it on. The clock showed that it was almost two o'clock in the morning. Snuggling back into the covers, she turned to the other side when she noticed that somebody was sitting on the chair.
After the initial shock, she remembered that she hadn't seen Superman leave that night.
"Superman," she called out softly.
The person in the chair had apparently been sleeping because he visibly jerked on hearing her voice.
"Lois?" he called out softly.
"Clark?" she gasped.
"It doesn't matter. I know you. And I don't mean you the celebrity or you the 'superhero.' If you had no powers, if you were just an ordinary man leading an ordinary life, I'd love you just the same. Can't you believe that?"
"I wish I could, Lois. But, under the circumstances, I don't see how I can."
Part 9 : Don't leave me
"Clark!" Lois exclaimed, again, as she tried to get out of the bed to reach him. She stood up from the bed, but the bed-covers tangled in her legs and she fell forward. Clark caught her in a swift stride.
"Clark! You came!" she said excitedly as she wrapped her arms around him, hugging him to her. Clark remained motionless for a moment, as if he could not decide what to do. But then his arms went around her in a big-bear hug. She smiled a wobbly smile as her eyes filled with tears. She buried her face into his chest, rubbing her nose and cheeks on his shirt, all the while trying to control her emotions.
She was happy that he was here and was relieved, too. But she was also filled with apprehension. She wondered what he thought of her now. Was she still the friend he claimed her to be? She didn't know what she'd do if he hated her for almost going through the wedding he had always condemned. She partly wondered if that was why he had retracted his declaration of love, or had he never ever loved her?
Clark, on the other hand, suddenly felt numb. He felt… nothing! No emotions seemed to course through him. He was hugging Lois again, as Clark. And she was smiling at him. It all felt… unreal. In fact, he felt almost as if he were drunk. Or it was all a dream, and he was looking at somebody else instead of himself. He stood there motionless.
"Clark, you came!" she repeated placing a tiny butterfly kiss on his chest and then looked up into his face. His impassive expression and something in his stance made her suddenly feel unsure of herself. 'Oh God! He doesn't even want to hug me now!' she thought to herself. Embarrassed, she pulled away from him and turned to face the other side. She felt like crying. But she had work to do. Perry wanted Clark back and she could not let her feelings come in the way of convincing him to work for the Planet again. Controlling herself she walked towards the bed.
"I got your letter, Clark. I still can't believe that you were going to leave without even seeing me. But, I guess I have done things you could never forgive me for." She sat down on the bed with a huge sigh, then she said, "You were right, Clark. I was wrong about Lex. And you were right; I am no investigative reporter. In fact, I am not quite sure I should take up Perry's offer to work at the Planet again. So, you need not worry about seeing me again at work, Clark. But please don't go away. The Daily Planet needs you. Perry needs you." I need you too, she added silently.
When he remained motionless, she turned back to him. "Were you listening to me? Clark, I know you don't think of me as much of a friend, but please don't forsake Perry on my account now. He needs to rebuild the Planet and he can't lose all his good reporters now."
When he still didn't answer, she panicked, "Clark, I am so sorry. I really am. I know I didn't listen to you, but please don't punish me like this. I… I'll leave Metropolis if you want. Clark, will you say something?" she cried desperately. She paused to take a deep breath, as if preparing herself for the inevitable, before she put forward the only question that decided her life.
"Do you hate me that much now?"
He looked straight at her for a moment. Then she heard him ask her softly,
"Do you love me, Lois?"
She gasped at his directness. Her eyes widened and her mouth almost fell open. She couldn't answer anything for sometime. Then she gathered herself.
"Clark, I am talking about the Planet." she reminded him, evading his question. But the tell-tale blush that had reddened her face made him insistent.
"I am talking about us, Lois. Do you love me?"
She wanted to lie and say 'No'. She didn't want to face the additional embarrassment of letting Clark know what she had already blurted out to Superman. But then she thought that Superman might have told him already, assuming he was the one who brought Clark here. In that case, Clark was here just to set things straight and declare that there was nothing between them. Nothing!
"Lois, answer me. Do you love me?" he asked, stepping towards her.
His direct gaze would see through her lies. Besides, what if this was the last time they ever met. Did she want to lie to him? Would she forgive herself for lying to him? Hell, if she told him the truth, he might at least give her a parting kiss, which she could treasure for the rest of her life.
"Do you?" he asked again, as he took another step towards her.
"I… I do. I love you," she said softly. Then gathering her courage, she continued, "And not just as a friend. But I know you don't love me, Clark. I am sorry you had to say you love me just to prevent me from marrying Lex. I realized that I did love you when I was walking down the aisle to marry Lex. I kept seeing you. It was then that I knew that I was walking towards the wrong man. I kept imagining you there. I said 'No' to Lex at the altar. Do you know that?" She took a deep breath and looked down at her fingernails.
Then she continued, "But it doesn't matter, Clark. I probably did the right thing on that day in the park by rejecting you, too. It was probably a good thing I didn't realize I loved you then. It would have been harder for me and you had I said that I loved you and you were only pretending to love me. As it is, it has all turned out well. I don't want you to go away on my account. I will…"
"I love you, Lois."
"…not let you… What did you say?" Her head snapped up, unsure of what she had heard.
"I love you. I wasn't pretending that day in the park," he said softly, walking towards her and sitting beside her in the bed. He cupped her face in his palms and said, "I love you. I never stopped loving you. I tried! God knows I tried to push you away and get on with my life. But I couldn't. Not even once, I …"
"You love me? You love me?" she cried turning away from him and rummaged through the bed and her clothes as if searching for something. She found his letter in the pocket of the torn jacket. Pulling it out, she stood up and waved the letter in front of his face. "Then why did you write this? Why did you … " she almost screamed, her voice becoming hysterical.
Clark gently caught her hand and pulled her down on his lap as a surge of tenderness went through him. He took the letter from her and tore it up into pieces.
"Writing that letter almost killed me, sweetheart. I guess I wasn't thinking properly. And I was angry and hurt. I am sorry. I am so sorry, Lois."
She clutched at his shirt as she sobbed all over him.
"You said you don't love… (hic)" she bawled.
"No, love. I do," he soothed.
"…shouldn't have written this… (hic)"
"I know, sweetheart."
"(hic) …you made me cry… (hic) thought you didn't care… (hic)"
"I was being stupid."
"(hic) …thought you hated me… (hic)"
"Hate you? Love, I love you."
"…and now you're goin 'way… (hic)"
"No, love, I'm not."
"…you're just sayin' that (hic)'
"No Lois. I am staying here."
"…promise? (hic) …"
"I promise," he vowed.
Hugging her tight, he silently cursed himself for not coming to see her sooner. He crooned to her, soothing her by running his hands over her head and trying to comfort her. Oh God, what had he put her through! He had never seen her cry like this. That he had brought these tears from her twisted his insides and he shut his eyes tight to prevent his own tears from falling.
Soon her sobs quieted and he looked at her. She was asleep. She must have been exhausted, walking in and out of so many places searching for him, and the emotional turmoil that she had been through. Gingerly he lifted her further up his body, settling her head in the crook of his arm, as he sat reclining against the headboard. She mewled softly as he adjusted her to a comfortable position against his body and clutched at him and then settled down again in his arms.
"Sleep, my love. I am here," he whispered into her ear.
Filled with a new sense of contentment, he closed his eyes.
Sometime during the night, he had moved down to rest his head on a pillow. She had moved along with him, fitting herself against his side, one leg thrown across his waist carelessly and one arm over his chest.
In her sleep, she burrowed herself closer to him, resting her head on his shoulder. He turned to his side facing her. She pressed closer to him. His hand automatically wrapped around her waist and he stroked her sleepily. They both drifted back to deep sleep.
Her mind still muddled from sleep, Lois tried to get more comfortable. She tried to pull her pillow closer to her. Her pillow felt unusually huge and did not budge. Instead she felt herself being drawn closer by her huge pillow. It felt so good.
"Hmmm," her pillow rumbled.
"Mmmm," she gave an answering moan.
It penetrated through her sleepiness jerking her awake. Clearing her head with a shake, she looked around to see where she was.
Then she looked at him looking at her and whispered in awe, "Oh, my God!"
"Clark, do you think much about the future?"
"All the time. You?"
"A lot lately…"
Part 10 : Don't go away
"Clark, I… I am so sorry. I… touched you… I didn't even ask you… and I didn't stop…You never wanted to do this with me. I ruined it all, didn't I? Oh, my God! I… I… I am so…" she panicked.
"…sorry. You were probably waiting for someone special, and I ruined it all…"
"…and you must hate…"
"Geez, Lois! Will you stop?" He pulled her down beside him and kissed her startled mouth. "After what you have done to me, I am eager for revenge. Now be still!" He cuddled her close. He turned to look at her, giving her his complete attention.
"Clark, I am so sorr…" His hand clamped over her mouth and he looked at her intently.
"Lois, don't ever apologize for what you just did to me. I… have never… ever felt anything as wonderful as this. What you gave me just now is a gift I have always dreamed about. I want to treasure this moment. Don't ruin this for me by apologizing. This right to touch me has always belonged to you, only you, ever since the day I met you." 'And even before that,' he silently added.
"Oh Clark!" She smiled through her tears. "That's so beautiful. I was almost sure that you'd be angry, but I couldn't restrain myself from touching you. So, you are okay with what I did?" she asked hesitantly.
"Well… ideally I would have liked to wait until we talked," he said as he kissed her again for reassurance, "but no, I don't regret what happened. It probably would have taken years for us to do this had we talked," he said apprehensively.
"I have a lot of things to tell you, honey. There are things which we should have talked about … things I wanted to tell you a long time ago. Bringing this up, especially now, when I should be taking my *revenge* on you, is really a bad idea. But we can't proceed in our relationship without talking. I don't want us to build our love on a lie."
"Clark! What is it? You are really scaring me! Is it Lex? Do you want to know about me and him? Because if you do, then let me tell you I didn't sleep with Lex. I didn't even feel anything close to passion with him, let alone love. I made a mistake about Lex, Clark. I hope you'll forgive…"
"Lois! I am not talking about Lex. I am talking about Superman."
"Superman? You mean me and Superman? Clark, you have to know that there's nothing between us. There can never be anything between me and Superman. He is a superhero, and I am just a… a friend. I won't lie to you and say I am not attracted to him. I even thought I was in love with him. And I have kissed him a couple of times. Even yesterday he sort of… ummm… kissed me but that won't happen again and besides I told him I love you, Clark."
"Aahh… umm… Lois," he said sheepishly, yet there was some apprehension in his voice. "I can't say I am exactly… umm… jealous of your relationship with Superman, because you see, I… I…" he stammered.
"You what, Clark?" she asked, trying hard not to panic.
"I am him," he finished plainly.
"What do you mean, you are him? You are him?"
Lois shook her head, unable to process that or comprehend anything else for a moment. It seemed as if her brain was stuck. Not at all functioning. It seemed as if she was hearing it all but nothing was getting assimilated. Her brows furrowed and she bit her lip and closed her eyes as she suddenly felt blank.
Then her eyes opened and pointing a finger towards him, she said it again.
"You. Are. Him."
He nodded dully. She looked at his face as if she was seeing it for the first time. His glasses weren't on. In fact they hadn't been since she had woken up. But then, she hadn't been looking at his face, had she? She had been too busy paying attention to his other parts and later she'd been too embarrassed to look straight at his face.
"You are Superman?"
He nodded again. She moved close to his face, so close that she was almost kissing him, and looked straight into his eyes. He couldn't blink. Then as if she were an automaton, she lifted her hand and pushed his hair back.
"You are Superman," she concluded and nodded to herself as she sat back.
"I am Superman," he confirmed, now almost squirming in tension.
"Okay. You are Superman," she said calmly and nodded to herself, again. Then she shouted, "And I am stupid!"
"I can't believe it." She shook her head in disbelief as if she didn't know what to do. "No! Don't touch me!" she screamed, jumping backwards as he moved to take her into his arms again.
He grimaced again. 'Wrong move!' he thought to himself.
"Clark," he supplied.
"…whoever the hell you are… I need to be alone right now… You can just go… what am I saying? This is your apartment. Superman has an apartment!" she said sarcastically. "All these months I've been worrying where he went to after those rescues and if he even had a home, and all the while… all the while you have been here!" she said pointing an accusing finger at him.
"Stop! Stop! Don't say a word. Not a word!" she shouted, gesturing him to stop with her hand, "I can't take this. I can't! This is a lot to take in. I… I…Oh, my God! I touched you! I… did that… to you…" she stammered, almost horrified. Then suddenly overcome with embarrassment more than anything else, she ran to the living-room.
Clark almost jumped as the door of his room banged shut after her exit and sighed deeply. That didn't go well. Not that he had expected her to be extremely happy and hug him and kiss him and call him 'Superman, my love!' But he had expected her to be… hmm… a bit more rational? Maybe he'd thought she would react more like a reporter than a person, asking him questions and him answering them all, and then she would calmly tell him that this was really a piece of surprising news and ask for more time to get used to this before they could proceed in their relationship.
Ha! Like that would even happen with Lois Lane! Who was he kidding? How could he have even thought she would take it calmly? Thinking of it, it seemed to him that sub-consciously he had been too frightened of doing this that he had imagined only an easy and positive outcome that she'd ultimately be happy to have Superman. But reality was always different and more complex.
'Should I have waited?' he mused. He probably should have. Her emotions had been too raw. She had been through a lot and he probably shouldn't have burdened her with his secret. But he couldn't go on lying to her after she had opened her heart to him. She had the right to know that he was Superman. He could have delayed it, may be for a few days, or a week at the most. He'd have buttered her up and pampered her with delicious food and candlelight dinner and kisses, but their intimacy this morning had made it necessary for him to let her know who she had been with.
The afterglow long gone and replaced by something heavy and depressing, Clark got out of the bed and followed her into the living room.
"Do you want me to leave?" he asked tentatively, standing before her.
"Excuse me!" she asked, confused and incredulous.
"You wanted me to go away, before. Do you want me to leave while you sort this out in your mind?"
She glared at him and then said, "No! Don't you dare go anywhere! I just need some time to think. And we need to talk!"
"Lois, I will give you all the time in the world to get used to this… this truth about me. But just answer this one question. Do you or do you not want to be with me, after this?"
She thought for a long moment and then she sighed, "I don't know! I just don't know!"
"Are you mad?"
"Am I mad? You are asking me that? Okay buddy, how would you feel if you had worked with me for one whole year and then I came out and told you, 'Clark, I am Lois Lane, but I also moonlight as Cat Grant, the world-famous exhibitionist?'" she said pointedly, jabbing her index finger forcefully on his chest and then clutching it in pain.
"You see Superman and Cat Grant in the same league?" he asked incredulously. Then noticing her pain, he took her hand in his and examined her bruised finger. He gently probed at the nail and knuckle.
"Owww," she howled in pain.
"That hurt? No, wait, let me see." He x-rayed her. "Nothing's broken. Don't do that again!"
"Is that supposed to offer me comfort? 'No, Lois. Don't ever touch me because I am so strong that I can hurt you!' If I get hurt just by jabbing you then how can we ever…" she trailed off as if suddenly realizing what she was saying. "Nevermind!" she covered up quickly.
His heart gave an excited flip as he heard what she had almost implied. 'If I get hurt just by jabbing you then how can we ever… make love,' he filled in, in his mind. He chose to ignore it, simply because they weren't ready to discuss that, yet. Instead he said, "Wait. Let me apply that muscle-relaxant on it."
"Muscle-relaxant? You have a muscle-relaxant here? Why would you need that?"
"Mom kept one of her first-aid kits here for me to use during the rescues. And before you ask me, yes, mom and dad are… normal."
"I know that. We have only one Superhero flying about, not three," she snapped sourly.
Clark sat down on the sofa and pulled her down beside her. While examining her finger he absently stroked her injured finger. The action brought back memories of that morning to her. Her hands over him, stroking him and bringing him to … She imagined her lips where her hands had been. She shivered.
"Still paining?" he asked her softly.
She looked at him closely and shook her head slowly. He had beautiful chocolate-brown eyes. They lured her to get drowned in them. Her gaze slid lower to his lips. Beautiful and soft. She had an overwhelming urge to run her fingers over them and taste him when she remembered that she was supposed to be angry with him.
Why? She couldn't remember that as she thought of the days she had slept alone in his bed, pining for a glance of him. She was mad at him, and she would probably be for the rest of her life for this deception. But she loved him. Nothing, not even knowing that he was Superman changed it. In fact, she now had both of them in a single package. She didn't even have to two-time them, she thought suddenly feeling free. Not that she'd have done it even if they'd been different people. She'd have chosen Clark and been a friend to Superman. But she didn't have to give up Superman after all. Talk about luck! She would forgive him. After all it was her who got the bonus two-in-one!
"I… err… don't have the muscle relaxant I promised to put on your finger, Lois," Clark said embarrassedly. His voice brought her out of her reverie.
"How do you know that?" she asked amazed, for he hadn't gotten up from his place beside her on the sofa when he had declared that.
"Umm… I x-rayed the medicine cabinet in the bathroom," he said sheepishly.
"Oh!" Lois' mouth almost dropped open as the truth started sinking in. So this was how being with Superman would be like?
"The next best thing to keep the blood from clotting is to… err… suck on the finger," he admitted embarrassed.
"What?" she asked, as her mind went back to that vivid detailed picture of what sort of sucking she actually wanted.
"Suck on it, Lois. Shall I?" he asked. She nodded dumbly, not understanding what she was agreeing to.
Then she understood, as his mouth closed over her finger and he sucked strongly. She almost moaned out aloud as her eyes widened and her heart raced. He wasn't just trying to cure her injured finger… he was making love to it. Only he could do this to her. Her eyes brimmed with tears and she averted her face to hide her emotions.
Gently pulling her finger out of his mouth, she started to say, "Claaar… Super…"
"Clark, Lois. I am Clark Kent from Smallville."
"Clark, are we going to have a serious discussion here?" she asked, prepared to resolve the things between them.
"Of course, and you should know that I am Clark. I also happen to possess these… umm… powers that I use to help people. I needed a disguise so that I could have a personal life. You gave me the idea to 'bring a change of clothes' on that first day we were partnered. And you named me 'Superman'."
She nodded, recalling the incident and then said, "But why didn't you tell me before? I mean, I can really understand why you didn't tell me at first, when we were partnered for the first time. I was so hard-bitten and I would probably have seen it as a story. But later? Clark, you know I had a crush for Superman — you — and I liked you, 'Clark'. And I didn't publish that thing about kryptonite! That should have told you I could be trusted."
"I couldn't, Lois! I was afraid, though that's only part of the reason. I couldn't tell you because you were… umm… dating Luthor," he said, unable to face her, and he turned away to face the window.
Hurt, she turned and faced him. "I guess, I didn't trust you as Clark, and I always gave you the impression that I couldn't be trusted…"
"… but I'd have trusted you as Superman. I would have believed you about Lex and I wouldn't have gone through the… the… whole fiasco."
"Oh, Lois, do you think I don't know that I practically pushed you towards Lex? I desperately wanted to tell you that night I came to you as Superman. But then you told me you'd love me even if I were an ordinary man. That hurt, Lois, even though I knew you didn't know that we… I mean, I was Superman," he said and then averted his gaze from her.
"All this time I have been working beside Superman, talking with Superman, fighting and crying over Superman," she thought aloud, and then looking at him, she said, "I am still trying to reconcile you — both of you — in my mind. I didn't know it was you, Clark. I really am so sorry! Oh, my God, I must have hurt you a lot. If I could…"
"I am over that, Lois. Really! I couldn't go on keeping a grudge against you. I love you, Lois. I have loved you ever since that first day when you barged into my interview with Perry. But I know I can't hold on to what you said before knowing about me."
"About what?" she asked, confused.
"About… loving me," he said. Then he asked hesitantly, "Are we still friends, at least?"
That was just like him, thinking that somehow her feelings for him would suddenly vanish if she found out something about him. Stupid, stupid Clark! She wasn't going to let go of him that easily, especially when she had just known how miserable she would be without him. Second chances were a boon and she wasn't going to miss this chance, no matter how many unresolved things were between them. She was going to trail behind him and be a real pain in his butt for the rest of his life. That would be his punishment for not telling her before. But she wanted him in her life. So, were they friends? Just friends?
"Friends? You mean you don't want me to love you anymore?" she asked him with a mischievous look on her face. His face lit up and then turned grave.
"I do," he said solemnly, as if he were promising her something else, too.
"I do, too," she said softly. "I still love you and I'll always love you, Clark."
She didn't know what happened next. She was suddenly in his arms and he was kissing her as if he would never let her go. She returned his kisses just as passionately. It was a while before he let her go for some air. Her eyes were glazed and she was panting for breath.
"Wow, I…" she trailed off as she saw that his attention was no longer on what she was saying. He had a far-away look on his face that she must have seen in his face a hundred times, both as Clark and as Superman. She just hadn't known what it meant. Now she did, but it still left her dumbstruck.
"What is it?" she asked.
"Fire! It's serious… I gotta go, Lois. I am sorry. We have to continue this…" He moved towards the window.
"Wait! Don't go away! Take me with you."
"Take me with you! I can write about it. 'Superman makes an appearance after almost a week of absence,'" she quoted the headline. Then she said, "I can't miss it! Perry will be so happy."
"Do I get to share the by-line?" he asked, smiling at her enthusiasm. That was his Lois, still hard-bitten for a story. And he loved her just that way.
"Only if you are nice to me, Flyboy!"
"Yes, that's a variation of Farmboy. Now, hurry!"
He spun into his suit, which earned another 'Wow' from her, and carrying her in his arms, he took off.
"This is just like old times. I guess I like knowing that it's you, Clark!" she said.
"I like this too, Lois. A lot more than you think."
"So no more thought of leaving me and going away?
"Nope! I love being here, Lois. I am gonna be here with you. Forever!" He smiled down at her and sped towards their destination.