By C_A <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: January 2007
Summary: How could she move on without him when he was all she had ever known? A follow-up to the episode "Tempus, Anyone?"
Disclaimer: All characters in this story (there are only two) belong to DC comics and Warner Bros. I'm not making any money off of this, so please don't sue.
Her days would never be the same. Because he wasn't the same anymore, not since that woman had barged into his life—their life—and turned it on its head.
Lois. Lois Lane.
When she found them together at his place, and he was dressed in that absurd outfit, she had stormed out: furious at Lois for dragging him into this, furious at him for agreeing to it, furious at herself for not realizing sooner that he was slipping away from her. When he had been exposed on national television she had known it was over. Some things even a super man could not fix.
But he had been part of her life for so long. Even after all this, she could not leave things the way they were. They deserved a proper goodbye. Goodbye was forever, she thought then, and wondered if she could last that long.
She found him in his apartment, alone. Dressed in his regular clothes, he was the man she knew and had loved for as long as she could remember. He seemed surprised to see her, which was understandable, she supposed, after how they had left things.
Just that, her name, and the way he said it broke her heart. Coldness and emptiness loomed in the shadows of his apartment and in the depths of her heart. She closed her eyes, shutting it out, concentrating instead on what she wanted—*needed*—to say to him. She recalled the cinnamon scent of his skin and remembered the vanilla taste of his kiss, both burned into her soul like her love for him.
So many things to say. "I'm sorry," was the first.
"For what?" He sounded drained. "You were right all along."
'You'll never have a life. *We'll* never have a life.' Those were her words. Never had she expected them to be so devastatingly prophetic. And yet, she had never seen him more at ease than when he was wearing that outfit. Maybe he would have a life, only a different one he had envisioned for himself and for her, one which no one could have foreseen.
"I'm sorry I made you pretend."
It was true, in a way. She wasn't sorry for trying to protect him and what they had built for themselves, just sorry for holding him back. She had always weighed him down. That was the truth, and it was the one thing she had never really understood, not once, in all these years. Becoming Superman—what a ridiculous name, she thought briefly—might be good for him in the long run, even though it had robbed her, and him, of Clark Kent.
He didn't reply, just shrugged his shoulders as if to say: it's in the past, what does it matter now?
Lana sighed. The past. Their past. It was an accumulation of days and weeks and years they had shared, spent together, their paths intertwined since that day long ago when they had bumped into each other in the hallway of Smallville High. How could she move on without him when he was all she had ever known?
In that instant she knew that she would never get over him. He was the only lover she would mourn forever.
Even though crying was the one thing she had promised herself she would not do, she felt tears sting in her eyes.
A sudden impulse made her ask: "Who was she, really?"
His eyes, deep like a dark pool of water she was still in danger of drowning in, told her that he was unsure of the answer himself. Lana realized that, even though he had not known this woman, he had sacrificed everything for her, and he himself did not understand why.
"Someone who only stays until the wind changes," he said after a moment, his voice laced with a misery she had never noticed there before. But perhaps she had been deaf, just like she had been blind, when it came to his true feelings, his hopes and his dreams.
Lana, of course, caught the irony of the remark, and the aptness of it: like Mary Poppins, Lois Lane had descended upon them, altered their lives beyond recognition and left before the fallout set in. It was for that selfish thoughtlessness, more than anything, that Lana resented her.
"If she had asked you," Lana began and wondered where the question came from and why she was masochistic enough to ask it, "would you have gone with her?"
For a moment, he seemed to be wondering whether a kind lie would be preferable to the truth. "I don't know," he finally said, but his eyes told a different story. It occurred to her then that she had perhaps never known him. And now, she doubted she ever would, because he was a man who had watched dreams die and hopes fade and who had washed cinnamon from his skin.
There was silence for a long time before she spoke again. "I still love you," she said softly. "I always will." And then: "But it's not enough, is it? It never was."
He had no answer for her. What could he possibly say? The love he had once professed for her had been wiped away when he looked into the eyes of a woman he barely knew. A woman who understood him better than Lana ever would. Now, after the anger had gone, replaced by sorrow and regret, even Lana was forced to admit that.
"Are you going to stay in Metropolis?" he asked her, probably already sensing that, after all that had happened, this was the last place she wanted to be. Like her, he understood that there was no future for them, not now. All that remained were shattered souls and lives, and thoughts of what might have been.
Lana looked away, dragging her gaze away from his eyes, eyes that would haunt her for the rest of her life. "No."
"Where are you heading?"
They exchanged a long look, and then Lana stepped into his arms for the last time. Memories of their life together washed over her. And she realized then, standing close to him in his arms, that there were more things that remained after all, truths she could not deny, even now. One was that he would stay a part of her for all time, because what they had shared was true, and it was real, and once upon a time it had been good.
Another truth, a far more important and painful one, was that regardless of her love for him, he was lost to her forever, because not only was there Superman, there was also Lois Lane. Something Lana had never grasped until now was the inevitability of love. He could not escape it, though he had tried, and it had left him brokenhearted. In spite of what Lana had believed, she was not meant for him, and he had lost the woman who was.
Knowing this, understanding it for the first time, she finally ached for him, and let him go.
In the years to come, she would sometimes think of him, the man he had once been and who had vanished when Superman took his place. She would regret not knowing him, not understanding him and not loving him the way he deserved to be loved. And she hoped for his sake that there were times when the pain he felt was not so deep and he found it more bearable.
Because, in the end, that was all anyone could hope for.