By Pam Jernigan
Summary: Clark realizes his abrupt exits are taking a toll on Lois. A romantic revelation story.
(Comments and feedback always welcome at ChiefPam@nc.rr.com)
"Darn it, Clark - you always run out on me!" Lois was visibly upset. They had spent the day in increasingly tense silence, not wanting to fight in front of the entire Daily Planet staff, but it was now after 5, and when Lois had walked out, Clark had followed her to walk her to her car. She was making fast progress down the street, and he had to scramble a bit to keep up with her.
"No, Lois, I don't! We had a good date on Saturday, didn't we?" Clark was somewhat confused as to why Lois was so unhappy - he thought they'd had a good time on their date, and thankfully, he wasn't aware of any awful consequences of Superman having the night off.
"Well, yes... but I think it ended a little too soon." Lois wasn't quite sure herself why she was making such a big deal about things; all she knew was that her nerves were stretched thin. It had been a good date - they'd had dinner, then walked around for a while, and had really talked. She'd told him that he was important to her - and he'd responded in kind. But then they'd both gotten distracted, and before she knew it, he was saying goodnight. It wasn't a blatantly rushed exit, but the more she'd thought about it afterward, the more she convinced herself that he was avoiding intimacy. Then Dan had called Sunday, and she'd halfway agreed to another date with him. She suspected that she was dating Dan now more to punish Clark than from any interest in the DEA agent, and she wasn't comfortable with that bit of self-knowledge. So she'd been in a rotten mood all day, and now Clark was bearing the brunt of it.
Clark rolled his eyes skyward as they reached the parking lot, and seemed to be begging for patience. "Lois, it was midnight. We were both tired, and I thought we got some important things out in the open, it seemed like enough for one night." It was exasperating to be blamed even when he was innocent. Just then, his super-hearing kicked in, and Clark squeezed his eyes shut in frustration.
Lois, chastened, stopped at her car and turned to face him. "Well, yeah, so maybe I was being a little unfair..."
Clark listened to a mugging develop a block and a half away, and tried to tell himself there was no need to do anything. He fixed his attention on his partner.
"You see," she continued, her hands straying to his shirt, "I just can't figure out what it is about me that makes you run away all the time, I mean, we're partners, we're friends, what's so scary?"
The mugging abruptly accelerated into a possible rape situation, and Clark winced. "Lois, it's not what you think. Anyway, I just remembered something back at the office, so why don't you go home, and I'll come visit you in a bit, okay?" He regretfully pulled back, holding her hands his chest for a second longer, then released her.
Lois's eyes went cold. "I can't believe you're doing it again!"
Clark could only say "I'm sorry - I'll see you later" as he hurried back toward the Planet building and found a place to change into Superman. He captured the would-be rapist easily, but his mind was on Lois. The situation was so incredibly frustrating; it seemed that every time he helped someone else, he worsened his own life. He could have dealt with that, except that it also seemed to be hurting Lois - the one person he would never want to hurt. He had to do something about it, get out of the city, maybe, where there would be fewer distractions. As he methodically tied the mugger to a fire escape and told the victim to call the cops, a plan formed in his mind. Before he could stop to talk himself out of it, he flew off.
Back in the parking lot, Lois paced furiously. She intended to catch Clark when he came back out of the office - she'd considered following him, but didn't want to make a scene even for the cleaning crew. She'd kidnap him if she had to, but she was going to talk to him no matter what it took. This uncertainty was tearing her apart, and she just had to end it, one way or another. Suddenly, her world shifted, and she realized that Superman had just scooped her up, and was flying away with her. She put her arms around his neck reflexively. "Superman - what are you doing?"
"Lois, we're going somewhere we can really talk." Something about the way he said that sounded odd to her, but she didn't take time to analyze it. She looked back toward the Planet building.
"Wait a minute, here, I was just talking to Clark. Put me down!"
"You wouldn't rather be flying with me?" He asked, almost angrily, and she looked at him strangely. He kept looking straight ahead.
"No, frankly - I need to talk to Clark, so turn around and put me back, right now!"
His angry look faded a bit at that, but he still didn't turn. "No, sorry, I've got to get you out of here."
She fixed him with a glare, "Superman, I've got something very important going on with Clark, and I don't need you messing it up for me."
He turned to face her then, with a wry smile. "I've messed it up before, I know, but this time I hope I'm going to fix it. Clark knows where you are. Now relax and enjoy the ride, it'll be a few minutes more." Clark's heart lifted as she showed her priorities - it seemed that she really did prefer him to his red-and-blue creation.
Lois, still unsatisfied, and puzzled by his comment about messing things up, leaned back a little to study his profile. Superman seemed different tonight... less plastic/heroic and more human, almost. As she visually traced his features, they seemed to shift, changing subtly from classical perfection to a more irregular reality. Before she could follow the thought, the ground came rushing up to meet them, and Superman flew them through a wide doorway into the dim interior of an empty barn. He set her down gently, and stood back a bit, looking around. "I haven't been here in a while, but it looks like nothing's changed." The barn belonged to the Kent's neighbor, but hadn't been used in a few years. Now that Clark had her here, he was no longer sure this was such a good idea... but he knew he couldn't stand to put it off any longer.
"Come on over here, Lois, we can sit down, and talk." He took her hand, and she followed willingly enough. She was frankly staring at him, though.
Lois refused to believe what her eyes were telling her. She'd always known that Superman and Clark looked somewhat similar, but tonight she was no longer sure she would be able to tell them apart. And the things that he'd said on the way here, and other events from the past were starting to make a weird sort of sense. Her reporter's instincts were slowly winning over her doubts. But then he was talking again, and she paid him her full attention.
He stood in front of where she was sitting on an old bale of hay. He was nervous, but tried to ignore that. "Lois, I've been meaning to tell you something. And this isn't the right way to do it, but it's probably too late to change that, so... listen to me, I'm babbling, you're the one that's supposed to do that." He smiled a little, but she was too intent in her thoughts to respond. Her suspicions were being confirmed, but she still didn't know how this might end.
Clark took a deep breath. "Well, I can't figure a graceful way to do this - so let me get into something more comfortable." He started twirling in a circle, and when he slowed down again, he was wearing cotton twill pants, a denim shirt, and his glasses.
"You wouldn't believe how hard that is on my suits," he muttered, wanting to break the silence. Lois just stared at him, trying to re-organize two years worth of memories to adjust to this new information. He moved over to sit by her, encouraged when she didn't move away.
"I knew you were going to do that, Clark, somehow." Lois felt as if she were in a trance of some sort, working things out logically, ignoring whatever emotions clamored to be let in. "Tonight, it seemed like I could see you clearly for the first time... I wonder why I never saw it before?"
She seemed much too calm to him. "Well, I guess I was too distracted to do my superhero act." He smiled again, nervously, searching her face for clues as to her mood.
Lois looked up, and when she saw the worry in his eyes, she melted a little. She couldn't decide whether to be furious at him keeping such a giant secret, or honored that he would share it. "So Superman is just an act to you?"
Clark relaxed a little at her curious tone. "Well, yeah, basically. I want to help people, but I also want to have a normal life, and it seemed like the only way to do both was to be two people. I just never thought it would get so complicated!"
"That's why you kept running off, isn't it?" Lois's brain was working overtime now, and the more she saw how difficult it had to have been for him, the less angry she felt. "You couldn't ignore a call for help - and there I was giving you grief for it. I'm so sorry, Clark." She reached over and gave him a hug, which he gratefully returned.
"You had no way to know - and I just couldn't figure out how to explain it to you. I'm sorry I hurt you, because I never meant to." They separated a little from the hug, far enough to see each other's smiles.
Clark basked in the warmth of her smile, but decided to break the mood a little. They were getting very close, very quickly, and she deserved a chance to sort through his revelation. "So, want to go to my parents' for dinner? We're just outside of Smallville."
Lois blinked as more facts fell into place. "Your parents know about you! Wow, some baby stories they must have."
Clark took that as a yes, and stood up, holding out his hand to help Lois up. "Come on, we'll have to hurry to get there in time. And really, except for the spaceship, I wasn't unusual as a child," he grinned briefly at that sentence. "I didn't start developing powers until I was a teenager. There are some good stories there, though."
Lois stood, and they took a few steps towards the barn door before she stopped. She was still thinking about incidents from the past - for instance, when Clark had seemed jealous of Superman. With a rush of embarrassment, she also remembered saying to Superman that she'd love him even if he were an ordinary man. No wonder he hadn't believed her. "Clark?"
Clark turned with a quizzical expression. Momentarily distracted, Lois remarked "You know, I think I like you better with the glasses. But what I wanted to say was... Clark, I love you." She was suddenly terrified that he wouldn't believe her, and hurried on. "It's not because of Superman, either. I would have told you this a week ago, if I'd had the chance." She laughed suddenly, softly. "And here I thought I was over Superman."
Clark watched her stumble verbally and fell even more in love with her. "You don't know how happy you've made me - I love you too, Lois, and I have for years now." His smile threatened to split his face, and Lois returned it, suddenly teary-eyed. Then they were in each other's arms, exchanging a warm, passionate kiss.
When Lois finally opened her eyes, she saw that they had floated up to the second level of the barn, and grabbed Clark's shirt reflexively. And giggled. "Clark Kent, do you float all your dates into haylofts?"
"You're the only one, Lois. Ever."