By C_A <Holland.firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted April 2008
Summary: Sometimes, strength wasn't about twisting metal with your bare hands, or about lifting spaceships into orbit. It was about saying three small words, knowing that in the past there had been too many lies and too little truth between them. (A TOGOM -- the episode "That Old Gang of Mine" -- vignette.)
Disclaimer: These characters don't belong to me, and I'm not making any money off of this.
Superman hovered outside her apartment window, hesitating to enter. She had left it open -- hoping he would come to her, as she did most nights. Yet tonight was no ordinary night, not a night like any other where he might stop by her place after patrol.
Tonight was the night that Clark Kent had been murdered.
And he came to her now as Superman because they had both lost something and needed comfort. He needed to... he needed her. But he also knew that now was not the time to turn to her for strength, as he had so often in the past. Instead, he needed to summon that strength from someplace deep inside, because while he may have lost himself, she had been the one to watch him die.
He finally set down his foot on the window sill and stepped down into her living room. She was dressed in boxer shorts and a navy blue sweatshirt. He recognized it as his own, but couldn't remember when he had given it to her.
She looked up at him from her sofa. Her face was an unreadable mask, but he knew she'd been crying.
"Superman," she said softly. "Clark's dead."
Clark sighed, feeling something cold and unpleasant settle in the pit of his stomach. He recognized it as guilt -- guilt for putting her through this. "I know. Lois, I --"
"They shot him. He died trying to protect me."
Clark wanted to say something -- tell her everything -- but his voice hitched and the words died in his throat. He did not know why he had come here. No, that wasn't true. He'd spent most of his adult life running. Whenever something happened that might give away his secret, he packed up his things and moved on. And he knew that this was one of those times, but he was done running.
He had left behind so many people he cared for in order to protect his secret, but he knew that he could never leave her. She anchored him in a way nobody else had ever been able to.
"Lois." He said her name softly.
She rose from the sofa and approached him. Clark took a step forward and a moment later she moved into his arms. He wrapped them around her tightly. As Superman, he had never held her like this. But Clark was gone. This was all that was left.
She shuddered, her steely exterior breaking away, and sobbed as she gripped the fabric of his cape, as though it was a lifeline keeping her from drowning. "I can't -- I just can't --"
Her words were difficult to decipher through the tears. Clark felt helpless. His world was spinning out of control. What should he do? He was here in the guise of a man who didn't exist. How would Superman react in this situation? He didn't know.
Suddenly, he felt Lois stir and push away from him. "Let go... let go of me!" she demanded, her voice unexpectedly angry. "This is your fault!" she shouted, her voice still slurred by tears. "Where *were* you? All the times... all the times you saved *me*. Why weren't you there to save *him*?"
Clark's eyes widened in bewilderment. Whatever he had expected to find when he came here, this verbal attack wasn't it.
Her eyes were ablaze with fury, and her voice cold as Arctic air when she hissed, "I will never forgive you for this. Never."
"Lo-is," he said slowly, trying to push away the surprising pang of anguish her words caused to stir within him.
She had never spoken to him like this, not when he was wearing the suit. She had always had a blind spot when it came to Superman's faults. She had been willing to absolve him of trespasses for which he could not forgive himself. For the first time in their relationship she was truly furious with him. He had no idea how to respond.
"Don't say that! Don't say my name like that!"
"I'm sorry." It was too little, too late. He knew that. He couldn't bring Clark back to her, and he realized then that she really was serious. She would never forgive him for that. "You will never know how much it hurts me that I couldn't save him."
A short, pained laugh erupted from her throat. "Oh, I know. Believe me. I know." She turned her back on him. "I thought I loved you... but I was wrong. I was wrong about many things."
"What... what do you mean?" he asked, his voice unsure. His guise was crumbling, he realized. It was impossible to keep up the pretense, to use his Superman voice and his Superman stance and his Superman look when all he wanted was to be Clark. He had never wanted anything so much in his life.
"I always thought that I could've happily waited a lifetime for you," she told him. This from a woman who refused to wait for anything. "I wasted so much time trying to get you to notice me. The truth is that what I wanted was always right there in front of me and I didn't see it. I was just as blind as I thought you were. And now it's too late."
"I don't know what to say," he told her truthfully.
"Don't say anything. Just go. I can't do this. I can't stand to see you right now."
Clark shut his eyes for a short moment. She had the right to say this, of course she did. This was her apartment. This was her pain. She had every right to resent him for causing it. And yet... yet, he felt irritation bubble up inside him.
"You don't know what you're saying, Lois. You just don't understand."
That this was *his* pain, too. For some awful, selfish reason, he wanted that acknowledged, but he knew it wouldn't be, not as long as she didn't know the truth -- not as long as she didn't know that while she had been the one to lose him, he had been the one to die.
Sometimes, strength wasn't about twisting metal with your bare hands, or about lifting spaceships into orbit. It was about saying three small words, knowing that in the past there had been too many lies and too little truth between them, and knowing that she might never forgive him for that.
"Don't understand *what*? That you had more important things to do when my partner and best friend was shot dead tonight?" Her voice was dripping with acerbity.
"No!" he cried. "That I... that I have *always* loved you. Always. And that I'm sorry that I didn't tell you. That I'm sorry I've been putting you through this when... when I really just need to tell you that -" His voice cracked. "Clark's not dead. *I'm* not dead."
"What are you... I don't..."
The truth hit her like a ton of bricks. He saw it in her eyes, which first narrowed and then widened in surprise when the realization dawned on her.
No, sometimes strength wasn't physical at all.
Sometimes it was just about finding the words that had eluded you for so long.