Author's notes: This fic came about when I was up late watching Lois and Clark one night. I just happened to randomly select the episode "A Bolt From the Blue." In that episode, Lois almost gets run down by a car, but Resplendent Man saves her in the knick of time. However, Clark ran out (as Clark, not Superman,) to save Lois before Resplendent Man beat him to it. As a result, Clark gets hit by the car, but (obviously) in a way that he doesn't get hurt...err, or wouldn't, if he were just an ordinary guy.
Anyway... Lois didn't even acknowledge that fact, not even later in the episode. Well, I know that Lois usually doesn't express her feelings too well, and I can relate, but I would think that if Clark had almost been killed, she would have noticed, even if Resplendent Man was there. Especially if she had known he did it to save her life. So that's where this fic comes from- an after-the-fact acknowledgement that Clark *actually* *exists. * ;)
That was my intention when I started writing the first few paragraphs...but, well, y'know, that Muse o' mine? She can be pretty fickle. ("Write *this* fic like this!" and "No, no. This isn't the time for ASUR! We're writing something completely and totally random right now! Are you *listening* to me?!" and all that. [eye roll]) She decided that we *actually* *needed* to incorporate an a-plot (of course, she never made that suggestion in any *other* fics) in the *one* fic I actually *want* to be short and sweet. But nooo, that was too easy, too cliche; "Hello, you need a challenge; enough with these little vignette things, let's *write* something here!"
Yeah, ANYWAY... Thanks go out only to the writers of this episode at that time. (Was it still Deborah Joy Levine at that point?) I would thank beta-readers, but...I don't have any. (Akakuro, you complaining? Well, you shouldn't be! We *both* know you can't spell or use proper grammar...that's why I'm here. [g])
Disclaimers: Well, if you want, you can sue me. You won't get much out of it, but you could do it, 'cause these characters don't belong to me. (I just want to play with the little toy soldiers for a little while...I'll even be good and fish them out of the mud when I'm done...! And I promise I won't blow them up...well, not *all* of them. ;) They all belong to...oh, well, I don't really know anymore. Well, definitely DC Comics, Warner Brothers, and probably December Third Productions, and of course, those wonderful guys, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (or their closest living relatives, at this point).
//These indicate thoughts.// *These denote emphasis.*
Whew, okay... now let's write this story!
Lois gazed over at Clark. He was sitting at his desk, working on...well, something. //Ever the busy man,// she thought to herself. She frowned. Sometimes, it seemed that they were both too busy; they should spend more time together, outside of work.
She had never realized how much time they never spent together anymore. It had been several weeks since they had just gotten together for pizza and a movie, or a game of Scrabble, or whatever. They had just been too busy lately.
//Too busy saving you, you mean, // Lois' inner voice commented wryly. Lois grimaced at that thought. Just a few days ago, the two reporters had been walking along, discussing their investigative activities of the night before, when Lois had- yet again -nearly gotten herself killed. She had been so absorbed in what she had been saying that she hadn't realized that she had walked directly into the path of a large SUV until Clark had shouted her name in a panicky voice. She vaguely remembered looking up to see the car coming at her, and then- even more vaguely -Clark running out into the street to save her.
But then that William Wallace Webster Waldecker had stepped into the picture, and in his flashy spandex and with Superman's powers, had scooped her up and saved her first. She clearly remembered how astonished she had been as she realized that it wasn't Superman who had saved her, but some little guy in orange tights with a southern accent. Looking back now, she surmised that she must have only hazy memories of Clark's action because she had been so focused on William, aka "Resplendent Man."
Just a little while later, she and Clark had been back at the Daily Planet offices. It was then that she had found out what had happened to Clark. She had been going through the photos Jimmy had taken of William as he had saved her when she came across one depicting Clark, caught between the two front tires of the same SUV that had almost run her over.
Now, she was kicking herself for not pursuing the matter further. She did recall that Clark hadn't walked in front of the car with her, so she had deducted that he must have run out to try to push her out of the way. She felt awful, downright terrible, in fact, that she hadn't even thanked Clark for what he had done. How many times had he saved her in all the time that they knew each other? A *lot, * Lois realized. Oh, maybe not physically saved her- although he had done that on several occasions as well. No, he had saved her emotionally, mentally. Before he had come to work at the Planet...well, Lois' life wasn't really much of one, she realized looking back. She had been driven, sure, and she, at least, viewed that as a positive attribute. It was only in her work though. She had never been a real social person, especially after her parents had divorced. Oh, sure, she was popular enough, but that didn't mean she necessarily enjoyed it, or even wanted it. She remembered how hard it had been at times in high school when she had had to deal with social situations she didn't really want to be in at the time. No, she was never a true social butterfly. She didn't even have any real hobbies, either, to keep herself occupied. Well, it was true that in high school and college she had participated in various clubs and activities- as she had told Clark once, chess club, math club. Of course there was the school newspaper and literary magazine of each school, respectively. But after she had finished college and started her job at the Planet, she no longer had those activities, and she realized how few hobbies she actually had. So, she had buried herself in her work. The Lois that was alive for things other than the story...became non-existent.
Then Clark had come along and made her human again. Slowly, quietly, without her noticing, he had made her real again. He gave her a reason to live; it wasn't a story anymore. No, every time she went after a story now, she did it because that's what she loved. She had always loved it; but now, when the story was finished, she didn't have to die during the period where she waited for her next assignment. Clark gave her something after the story. So now, when she sank her teeth into her latest juicy story, she knew that there would be something for her after it was finished. When she was near dying, she feared it more; before Clark, she hadn't really had anything to live for other than the next story.
But Clark had saved her. As she reflected now, she realized she didn't know where she would be, or what she would be, if Clark weren't here.
And he almost wasn't. That scared her; no, "scared" was putting it too mildly, she decided. It terrified her. Now that she had reason to live, she didn't want to ever go back to the way things were. Not ever. She didn't want to be just an automaton anymore. She wanted to feel alive every day, to grip each day by the mane and ride out the wild ride that was her life, and do it with vitality. Clark had started her on that path, and without him, she knew she would stray from that road, and once again be lost in the thick, dark forest.
She needed him. She knew that now. Without him... Yesterday came flashing back to her...Clark beneath that car... She shuddered. Like Perry had said, another inch either way... If Clark had been hurt, or even...well...
She had to let him know that she saw how much he meant to her. It was almost five o'clock now; Perry wouldn't mind if they left a little early. She pushed her chair back, stood up, and headed for Clark's desk. She stopped before him. "Can we...go somewhere and talk?" she asked when he acknowledged her.
He looked at her strangely; suspiciously, and, at the same time, reminding her of a child that was trying to remember what he had done wrong. But after a moment he answered, "Sure." He then shut down his computer, and stood up to follow her.
She began to lead the way to the elevators, stopping briefly to grab her purse. They got on the elevator and Lois pressed the button for ground level. Clark regarded her curiously on the ride down; she knew that he was watching her the whole time, and he knew that she knew, even though she did nothing to acknowledge that fact.
When they reached the lobby, she again led the way. She had just stepped outside and had turned to ask Clark if he minded going to Centennial Park to talk, when she saw it.
"That Look." The one he always got before he remembered he had something to do, like return a library book, or had forgotten something, like his keys, even when she knew he had them. //Oh, great,// she thought to herself. //Not again.//
"Clark..." she half-complained, half-questioned.
"Lois, I'm really sorry, but I really have to go. I'll be right back, don't worry, I promise," he said in a rush. She glared at him with fire in her eyes. "Lois, I'm really sorry, I'm really sorry. I'll be back as soon as I can. Listen, why don't I meet you at Centennial Park. I won't be long; you go on ahead of me. I'll meet you there."
"But...Clark...?" she protested. Then she realized she didn't even know where he was going. "Where are you going?" she demanded.
He looked lost for a minute, then said, "I, um, left something at the office. I'll be right back as soon as I can. Go on ahead, I shouldn't be long." Then he turned and ran back through the revolving doors into the Planet building.
She stared after him for a second, her jaw hanging open slightly. She couldn't believe he had ditched her like that- again. And, of course, it was right when she had something important to say to him, too. //Great, just *great! *// she thought. She sighed in exasperation. Well, she might as well go on ahead like he had told her to; she didn't like it when he ran off like that, but if there was one thing she knew, it was that he always came back.
When Lois arrived at Centennial Park, she parked near the main entrance. She then took a seat on a wooden bench just inside the main gate. She hoped that Clark would come through the main entrance.
Forty-five minutes later, she was still waiting. Finally, she decided to leave. Maybe she would call him later. As she drove back to her apartment, she wondered whether they had just missed each other, or if it were something more. Was Clark avoiding her on purpose? He had seemed somewhat nervous when she had first asked to talk to him...maybe she had given him the wrong impression. Although, she reflected, she rarely asked to speak with him- at least not the way she had just come up to him before they were done at work, and when she did ask to talk to him at a time like that, it was usually because she was angry with him, or she was in trouble with something or another, or she had just found a new lead, or...well, the point was she didn't usually just come up to him and ask to talk the way she had if she didn't have a good and/or urgent reason. So, yeah, it was possible that she had given him the wrong impression.
Or was it deeper than that...? Clark always seemed to be running off right in the middle of a conversation or at some weird time, like in the middle of an investigation or something. Lois had a feeling he was hiding something from her... She supposed she had always suspected something...she had just never followed up on those suspicions.
What was her partner hiding? She didn't know; but she resolved that she would find out.
Clark flew into his apartment a good six hours after he had left Lois at the Planet. He was tired, dirty, and depressed.
A volcano had erupted over in China; it was something he couldn't ignore, so he had gone to help. Unfortunately, he had been too late to stem the lava flow. A number of people had been injured, and many had died. He had been too late to save them...
He trudged wearily into the bathroom to change and wash his suit. It was covered in mud and bits of lava had cooled on the edges of his cape. He stripped off the suit and tossed it to the floor. Looking at his soot- and dirt-smeared face, he decided a shower was definitely in order.
As he let the hot water pour over his body, he let his thoughts drift. The first thing that came to hime were thoughts of all the people he hadn't been able to rescue... There were so many...
One scene in particular stuck in his mind: buried beneath some rubble he had discovered a mother and her small child. The infant's mother had shielded her child with her own body, clutching the baby tightly to her chest. They hadn't survived... Clark knew he would hurt whenever the thought flashed into his mind for several more days, probably even weeks. He shut his eyes tightly against the pain the memory caused.
Then his thoughts drifted to Lois... He had been forced to abandon her...yet again. He sighed heavily; she was going to be angry. She had had something to discuss with him, but he had been forced to leave her in order to respond to the threat of the volcano. He wondered what she had wanted to talk about...she seemed to want to tell him something important, but not something urgent, like work or something. He had briefly questioned himself about what he had done to offend her this time, but had come up with no answers.
It was nagging at him that he had missed something very important this time. He wished desperately that he had been able to stay... Ah, well, just another day in the life of a super-hero. He might have laughed, if he had found it funny. Sometimes he hated Superman. He hated that he interfered with Clark's life, he hated the pain that came with seeing so much evil, he hated...he hated when Lois would swoon over Superman, and Clark became the Invisible Man for a while. He hated that part the most.
He wished Lois would see him for who he really was, not just the mask he wore. Err, well...the metaphorical mask he wore as Superman. Well, if he really wanted to be politically correct, he wore a mask as Clark, but really was Clark. He wasn't really Superman; Superman was just his creation. The situation was like Jekyll and Hyde. By day one way, but by night another. 1 Okay, so he was Superman during the day too, but that wasn't the point. The point was, Superman was a mask, he wasn't real; Clark was the real man, the person behind the mask. //I think I have it worse off than a guy who actually *wears* a mask, // Clark thought to himself. //Batman probably has it better off than I do... Well, okay, maybe not, but at least he doesn't have to wear a mask as his true self...or, maybe, he does...// Clark grimaced expressively. //The guy is pretty strange...interesting, well intentioned- not always "good," but well intentioned...but strange nonetheless. The man definitely seems to think of himself more as "Batman" than Bruce Wayne... Oh, forget it, bad metaphor. Being a superhero- mask or no -is just plain *confusing! *//
He closed his eyes and let the hot water cleanse his body; he wished it were so easy to cleanse his thoughts- not that they were bad. He knew that wishing he weren’t Superman wasn’t bad, it was only…human… Clark grimaced again. //Okay, so let’s make that "only natural." // But still, he felt guilty for thinking that; so many people needed Superman… //But Superman needs people too! // Clark protested silently. //I just wish it weren’t this way sometimes. I wish I had a normal life, that I was just an ordinary guy. Everything would be so much easier then…//
He leaned back against the glass of the shower; he knew he was taking much longer than even most normal people would, but he just couldn’t seem to make himself leave the soothing jets of hot water. He felt so weary, and depressed, and he suddenly realized how pathetic he was being. //Oh, who cares! My life is so messed up! Lois is probably so angry with me that she won’t be talking to me for at least a week, I just got back from not saving everybody, and Lois hates me! Oy! //
Right now, no one could see him; he was in the haven of his own apartment. He slid down the wall of the shower stall and sank to the hard, tiled floor. No one could see him; a few of his salty tears mixed with the clean water that softly pelted his skin.
Lois paced her floor; after Clark hadn't returned, she had headed back to her own apartment. Now, she couldn't help but wonder just what Clark's secret was. //Whatever it is, it's something *big,* or he would have told me by now, // Lois thought. She paced some more; she wished she could figure this out soon. If she paced like this every time she thought about The Secret, her legs would fall off in a matter of days! She sighed as she flopped down onto her couch; she wasn't getting anywhere like this.
She knew it had to be something big, and some gut instinct was nagging at her that it was something really obvious- something that was just glaring in her face. She had long given up on *not* thinking about The Secret- as she had come to think of it; she knew that once she had broached the topic in her mind, she would be obsessing about it for...well, however long it took her to figure out what It was. She sighed heavily again and leaned her head back against the back of the sofa. She stared up at the ceiling for a while, as if searching for inspiration. None came, however. She sighed yet again, letting her breath out slowly. What was Clark hiding? Was it a...a wife perhaps? And a family? Lois contemplated it for a moment before eliminating the guess. //No, Clark's not the kind of guy who would keep his family a secret, illegit or not. He's too much of a boy scout for that. // Although her thoughts had started out on a heavy note, she finished them in humor. It was true, though. Clark was definitely not the kind of man who would hide his family; he had too many good values in him. So, what was he hiding? Was he a spy?
She laughed out loud at that thought; she could just imagine, her partner and best friend ducking out on her all the time to go save the world, like James Bond or something! //Oh, yeah, that's a good one, Lane. The guy is so mild-mannered he walks little old ladies across the street! International spy, yeah right. // Saving the world...now there was something that would be guaranteed to get a laugh out of her for a *long* time.
"So, what *is* he hiding,?" she asked herself- aloud, this time -for what seemed like the *billionth* time that evening. Then she sighed- for the 999,997th time that night -and stood up to pace some more. She repeated the process over and over for hours. Later, she wouldn't even remember when she had fallen asleep that night, just that the next morning she had to double her intake of coffee in order to stay awake, and even then she had some trouble keeping her eyelids from being influenced by gravity too much. Though she might not have remembered when she had finally closed her eyes and fallen asleep, one particular instant on that night, she would *never* forget.
Clark woke up the next morning feeling uncharacteristically despondent. As his alarm woke him up, he rolled over on his side and brought his hand down upon the offending item. Once he did this, however, the unfortunate alarm clock was crushed into a million slivers of black plastic. //Great, now I have to buy a new alarm. Just wonderful,// he thought. Then he pulled his quilt up over his head, like a little child might when he doesn’t want to go to school. And that was how Clark felt. He didn’t want to get up and go to work. Superman had been out late another night, and Clark was actually feeling tired. He shut his eyes. His body felt like it was made of lead…well, steel. He felt lethargic and depressed. It seemed as though the smallest of movements took all of his energy. He snuggled down further into his nest of soft blankets.
Just then a loud car horn startled him awake. //Well, so much for getting a little extra sleep.// He threw his blankets off himself and crawled slowly out of bed. He blinked hard a few times, trying to dispel the last remnants of sleep, as he
made his way to the bathroom. Once inside, he glanced at himself in the mirror; he looked more tired than he had since before his powers had developed, even to himself. And of course, there was the disheveled appearance that came with sleep. He sighed heavily and trudged over to the shower.
He sighed again as memories of yesterday’s shower came back to him; well, he had to get ready for work now, so…no more repeats of *that.*
By the time he was ready for work, he felt slightly better than he had when he had first awakened. He still felt unusually tired, but hey, even superheroes get tired sometimes…even Superman.
As he entered the newsroom a few minutes later- super-speed is a wonderful thing -he realized that most of his feelings of weariness stemmed from the fact that he and Lois were once again on not-so-good terms. More and more, he was getting just plain sick of lying to her all the time because Superman was needed. It was starting to drive him insane. He espied Lois sitting at her desk, typing something at a speed which rivaled his own. She looked even more jaded than he felt. His running off must be taking its toll on her, too.
He glanced from Lois to the coffee machine and back again. Yup, a cup of coffee definitely wouldn’t hurt right about now- him or her.
Lois sat at her desk the next morning furiously typing up some of her latest article. The minute her partner stepped off the elevator, she knew it, though she didn’t even glance his way. She could feel his eyes on her as he followed her every movement with his eyes. She felt, rather than saw, him move to get some coffee. The glare that encompassed her face grew in intensity. //How can he think that a simple cup of coffee can make up for what he did to me? For what he’s been doing to me since the day I met him!// she thought angrily.
As he came up behind her, she felt her body tense; she didn’t know if she could handle him right now, today, tomorrow, next week…ever. What he had done to her was…unforgivable. //That’s not true, and you know it!// her annoying conscience pointed out to her. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t unforgivable in the long run, but right now…well, he definitely wouldn’t want to get on her bad side if he knew the kinds of murderous thoughts that were running through her mind right about then.
“Lois?” he asked softly. //Oh, great. You just made it ten times worse for yourself, buster. // Lois thought. How the hec was she supposed to remain immune to that damn voice of his? How was she supposed to remain angry with him when he looked at her with those infamous puppy-dog eyes? It was all his fault. She hated him. She hated him.
“Lois?” he inquired again as he set the mug of steaming coffee on her desk. //Damn you, Clark Kent! I hate you; you’re not allowed to be nice to me!! Stupid Clark. Stupid eyes, stupid voice, stupid you.//
“Lois, look. I know you’re probably angry with me about yesterday, but-” he started.
“*Angry?!* Clark, you have no idea,” she hissed. She wanted to scream it; she wanted to shout it at the top of her lungs to the whole world; she couldn’t. Not here, in the newsroom. There were too many people around, too many gossipers; this was one argument she preferred to keep between the two of them- at least for now.
Clark stared back at her, shocked. If the expression on his face was anything to go by, he felt as though someone had just slapped him in the face- hard. //Good!// she thought vehemently. Yet at the same time…she felt sick inside at the look on his face. //Ohhh…I hate you, you, you…you Kansas farmboy!!// Lois tried to think up something worse to call him, but she couldn’t. Now matter how much she wanted to, she just couldn’t. The guy was too damn perfect.
She just glared at him.
“Lois, I know what I did yesterday was…well, it definitely wasn’t acceptable. I want you to know that I’m sorry. I really, really am. I know you probably hate me, but…something came up.”
“‘Something came up?!’ What the hell came up?!”
“I…well, uhm… Lois, I can’t talk about it.” She stared daggers at him some more. “It’s personal,” he added.
“Yeah, personal…I could say the same thing,” Lois answered under her breath.
“Lo-is,” Clark protested quietly.
“NO, Clark. No way. I’m not falling for ‘it’s personal’ anymore.”
“Lois, I think…we need to talk.”
“Oh, yeah, we definitely need to talk. Right. Now.” At that, she got up and walked over to Perry’s office; from her gait, one would never know what she felt inside. That was the general idea.
She stalked into Perry’s office without knocking. “Perry, Clark and I are going out for a while,” she informed him. Then she turned on her heel, and walked out of the office with the same veneer of calm she had used on her way there.
“Wha…? What do you mean you’re ‘going out?’” she heard Perry protest. But she didn’t halt. Instead, she marched straight back to her desk- where Clark was still waiting, holding his cup of coffee -collected her coat, and headed for the elevators. She felt Clark’s eyes on her the entire time; she felt him shrug and leave his coffee on her desk before he joined her; she felt his presence the whole time. It was driving her insane. They rode down the elevator in silence. Lois stared straight ahead; Clark stared at her. She knew it was one of those “what’s Lois up to now” looks- enquiring, puzzled, adoring…and *adorable.* She pretended she had Superman’s…no, his…heat vision as she stared at the wall of the elevator.
By the time they finally reached the level of the lobby, Lois was ready to jump out of her skin. Instead, she jumped out of the elevator. She walked briskly to the revolving door and made her way to the cool November air. She had put herself ahead of Clark a good five or six steps; that was good, that was very good. Space is what she needed right now. //Mental note: Do *not,* I repeat, do *not* ride in an elevator with Clark until this is all over. In fact, refrain from entering small, enclosed spaces with him until I'm done with him.// Well, that ruled out her Jeep as transport...as well as a cab, the subway, or even the bus.
"C'mon, Clark, we're walking," she growled. She knew he still hadn't caught up with her. //That shouldn't make a difference though, considering that excellent hearing of his.// She weaved her way neatly through the crowds of Metropolis; she didn't really know where she was going. After a short time, though, she decided on Clark's apartment. They could talk there without interruptions and *with* privacy.
to be continued...