(No title yet)

by Ultragirl

Note: This is one of my earlier fics, just an idea I had floating around in my head and felt like writing down. Don’t know if it’ll ever be finished, but if it is, it will probably be long and angst-ridden. (Perfect for Wendy, who should feel free to give suggestions/encouragement/ maybe complete this if I ever actually post it anywhere :) One more thing- I admit that the beginning may look a lot like the beginning of "Heaven's Prisoners." That's because it is. Now, I'm not trying to plagiarise, really, but the situation worked really well in my fic, and you all should keep in mind that "imitation is the highest form of flattery." ;) (This is just for fun!)

//These indicate thoughts.// *These denote emphasis.*

*****

It hadn’t been that long ago that Clark had been spending a few of his vacation days at the farm, helping his father with farm chores, cooking with his mother. That was before the men had shown up, men with guns, and kryptonite.

Now Clark lay on the ground outside the farmhouse, helpless to save them. He heard the explosion; he couldn’t save them. He lay back, waiting for death to claim him. He didn’t want to live; he couldn’t live. He didn’t deserve to live. They were dead, and it was his fault.

********

Lois Lane’s attention was suddenly drawn away from the story on her computer screen by the ding of the elevator. Her partner, Clark Kent, exited the car and descended down the stairs and into the heart of the newsroom.

His haggard appearance startled Lois. His normally handsome features were drawn, his expression downcast, and his eyes betrayed the stress and pain he was trying so hard to hide.

Lois wondered what could have happened to disturb him so greatly. She knew he had been on vacation, visiting his folks for a few days. She had been looking forward to seeing him again. Now her hopes of another date were dashed, replaced by worry for him.

He crossed over to his desk and sank into his chair without even uttering so much as a "hello." This action only fueled Lois’ concern, and she stood up to go speak with him.

********

Clark entered the newsroom, feeling more depressed than he ever had before in his life. That terrible moment kept playing in his head, haunting his every waking moment. He still couldn’t really remember how he had been rescued. He only knew that one minute, he had been lying on the ground outside the barn on his parents’ farm wishing to die and the next, he was fighting off the darkness encompassing him. When the last of the inky blackness had gone, he was staring into the worried face of Rachel Harris, the police sheriff of Smallville. She had told him that she and the police had driven up just in time to see the farmhouse explode, and him, Superman, laying unconcious on the ground nearby. It was only then that the memories had come flooding back to the forefront of Clark’s mind, and suddenly all the haziness left him, leaving the world in bitter sharp focus.

Clark remembered then that the die-hard followers of Trask and his paranoid, delusional beliefs about Superman and his “invading alien forces” had come, come to kill him, come to kill his parents, come to kill anyone whom Clark loved.

He remembered feeling so helpless, powerless to prevent their deaths. He had lain there, his mind screaming at him to get up, to fight, to save them, but his body had been too weak to respond. Then, with one resounding “boom”, they were gone.

He didn't want to think about it anymore, he didn't want to think about anything anymore, but it was like the scene was on instant replay in his mind. Every time he saw it, he thought of something he could have done differently, but then he rejected whatever idea it had been. The point was, he was alive and they weren't, all because he didn't save them. He wanted to die, he didn't deserve to live! He was angry, angry with Trask, angry with that delusional man's followers, angry with Rachel- she had let him live, for God's sake!- but most of all he was angry with himself. He hadn't saved them, and now they were dead.

He hadn't wanted to go in to work; hell, he hadn't even wanted to get out of bed that morning. There just wasn't any point anymore. But he hadn't told anyone at the Planet yet what had happened that weekend, not even Perry...and he had no intention of letting anyone in on anything what had happened. They'd just ask too many questions, they'd want him to talk about it, they'd say that they understood, but they wouldn't, not really. They'd make a whole big deal out of it; they'd try to help him with some sort of funeral service, they'd try to pretty the entire thing up, but he wouldn't have that. He wouldn't have them trying to help him through this, he wouldn't have them telling him that it wasn't his fault, because it was.

The only reason he had finally convinced himself to go to work that morning was because he had decided that he had to get all his things. He wasn't staying here, at the Planet, anymore. He hadn't really thought it all out yet, but he knew one thing for sure. Superman would never ever be too late again.

As he sank into his chair at his desk, he noticed the picture frame he had set there when he had first started at the Daily Planet. Inside it was a photograph of his parents. He stared at it for a few seconds, before violently tearing his eyes away from the photo. It hurt too much too even look at it anymore. He turned back to it though, intending to hide it away in the cavernous drawers of the desk. He reached a hand out toward it, but then pulled it away. He couldn't look at it, but he couldn't just throw it in some dark corner and forget about it either, despite how much he wanted to do just that.

Suddenly his attention was drawn to a movement nearby. He looked, and saw Lois get up from her desk and begin to come toward him. "Not now Lois, I can't deal with a tirade right now!" Clark thought. "I've got other things to do, like pack up all my stuff and go talk to Perry."

Lois reached his desk and just stood there, looking down at him sitting there. He stared back up at her warily, but he didn't look at her eyes. He knew that she would see something was wrong if he looked her straight in the eyes, and he didn't want her to know, not yet. "Not ever!!" he corrected his thoughts vehemently.

"Hey, Clark," Lois said. She studied Clark carefully while she waited for a response. She didn't miss the fact that he refused to make eye contact. Yup, something was definitely wrong. Clark was the most polite and personable person she knew, he would never not make eye contact unless something was wrong.

Clark had almost missed what Lois had said, so absorbed was he in his own musings. When he finally realized that she expected some reaction, he muttered a quiet "Hey."

This was really not a good sign, and Lois knew it. Clark was the one who usually instigated the talk between them, especially in the morning, and it was never like him to reply to a greeting with just a "hey." Plus, Clark had just returned from vacation, why should he be depressed?

"Great to have you back," Lois said. She waited for a response; none came. "So, how was your vacation?" she asked.

"Fine," Clark bit out. Obviously it hadn't been fine, even though Clark was trying not to show it.

"Um, Perry wanted to see us in his office once you came in, wanna go?" Lois inquired.

"Actually, Lois, I'd like to talk to Perry alone first, if that's okay," Clark anwered.

"Huh? Why?" Lois asked. That was weird. She and Clark always talked to Perry together.

"It's... personal, Lois," Clark answered.

"Personal? I thought we were partners! You wouln't have a story that you didn't feel like sharing, do you? I mean, why else would you want to see Perry alone? Partners, Clark! We share information, we share stories!" Lois ranted.

"Lois, it isn't like that," Clark protested meekly.

"Oh it isn't, eh? Then tell me Clark, what is it like, huh?" Lois almost-shouted.

"It's personal, Lois! I need to talk to Perry alone, but it's not about a story! I know that we're partners, I wouldn't take a story all for myself! Not everything is always a story!" Clark answered. His forehead was creased with lines of anger, his mouth turned down in a scowl. Lois could be so narrow-minded sometimes, and it frustrated the hell out of him. Normally, he probably wouldn't have gotten so angy with her, but today wasn't "normally."

Lois was taken completely aback. She had never seen Clark so angry, especially not with her. It scared her; she never thought she would, or even could, be scared of Clark. This was something that ran very deep, something catastrophic. She only wished she knew what "it" was.

"O-okay, Clark, I get it," she answered quietly. "You can go see Perry alone, if that's what you want."

Clark looked at Lois; immediately he regretted everything he had just said. He saw the fear in her eyes, and that hurt. One person he had never wanted to cause any pain was Lois, and she definitely didn't deserve the verbal lashing he had just given her.

"I'm sorry, " he murmered. He glanced at Lois; she was looking down at somewhere on his tie, nodding her head the very tiniest bit.

"It's okay," she replied, just as softly. "I really had no right to say what I did either." It was true, she hadn't. Clark was a good partner, and a good friend, and he had proven that he would never do something like that. "Well, um, I guess you should go see Perry now," she added after a brief, but uncomfortable period of silence.

" I guess so," Clark replied, and headed toward Perry's office.

*****

"Resign!?" Perry exclaimed. "You're giving up your job at a world class newspaper for- why are you doing this, anyway?"

Clark looked at Perry and answered, "I'd rather not say, Chief. It's personal."

Perry didn't say anything. He just stood there, looking at Clark. Just when you think you know a guy... He thought Clark loved his job. No, Perry knew Clark loved his job, almost as much as Lois loved hers. Clark was a great writer, the best reporter in the newsroom with the exception of Lois, and Perry thought he was happy. This resignation thing was- was- was just some sort of insanity! Clark had no reason to give up a job some reporters would die for, the whole thing was just crazy. Especially for Clark."Personal? Could you be any more cryptic?" Perry waited for some exaggeration of what "personal" could mean. Clark just stood there, eyes downcast. "Clark, no offense, son, but that's the most pathetic excuse for quitting not just this job, but any job. I don't want to let you go; you're the best, you know that."

"Except for Lois," Clark muttered.

"Awlright, except for Lois. But I still don't want to do it." He paused, then added, quietly but threateningly, "I won't let you."

"No offense, sir, but you have no right to prevent me from quitting my job," Clark answered darkly, in a more threatening tone than his boss had just used.

The only response was silence, then, "You're right, of course. But still-"

"No, Perry. I'm really sorry, but I have to do this," Clark said forcefully. His tone of voice changed, became more regretful, with a hint of pain, when he added, "You wouldn't understand."

"Wouldn't understand what?"

Clark didn't answer. He simply lowered his eyes to the floor in shame.

Perry sighed; he could tell that Clark didn't want to talk about his troubles, and he had no intention of pushing the matter. That didn't change the fact that he didn't want to let Clark just quit, but there didn't seem to be much he could do about it. "Alright, Kent. You're free to go whenever you like, but I want you to know," Perry let down his gruff editor-in-chief face and finished, "I'll give you back your job anytime, and I mean anytime. You just say the word."

"Thank you, Perry," Clark murmered. He turned to go, his eyes on the floor, and had his hand on the doorknob when Perry's voice stopped him.

"Clark," Perry called and when the young man turned around finished sadly, "We'll miss you."

Clark almost smiled, but didn't quite manage it. He turned around again and exited the office.

"We'll miss you, son," Perry muttered as he sank into his chair.

*****

"So, did Perry say what our new assignment is?" Lois asked Clark as he stepped out of the editor's office.

Clark sighed. He had to tell her. Now, before she found out for herself and got really hurt. //She's going to be so mad at you!// his inner voice screamed at him. He knew it, but there wasn't anything that would ever really change that. It would just hurt her more if she found out herself. "Lois, can I talk to you?" he asked nervously.

Lois was momentarily thrown off balance, but recovered gracefully and answered quickly, "Sure. No problem." She looked at him expectantly.

He took her by the shoulders and led her toward the conference room. When they entered, he let her go and she sat down in one of the chairs. He closed the door, locked it, then lowered the blinds. This was something serious. Maybe he was going to tell her what was wrong.

Clark took a deep breath, then turned to face Lois. It was now or never. "Lois, I have to tell you something. I-" he broke off and took another deep breath. "God, this is hard," he whispered.

Lois got up from her seat an came over to him. She put her hand on his arm in encouragement; the tension she felt in his muscles was unbelievable. This was something not only big, but bad; otherwise he would never be so nervous.

"Lois, I'm just going to tell you this as simply and as honestly as I can," he paused and closed his eyes, "I'm quitting the Planet."

Lois didn't say anything; she just stood there staring off into nowhere. Her hand fell away from Clark's arm. She couldn't, wouldn't, believe it. It was just a joke or something, some twisted joke. "Very funny, Clark. Now stop fooling around. We've got work to do," she said and walked toward the door. Clark's hand on her shoulder stopped her, however.

"Lois, I'm serious."

Lois froze. Her entire body tensed, and she turned slowly to face Clark. She looked at him; he was serious. He was quitting. "Clark," her voice broke as she said his name, "You can't."

"I have to," Clark said intensely, seeing the enquiry in her eyes.

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?!" Lois shouted.

//Oh, yeah, she's mad,// Clark thought. "I have to," he repeated softly.

"Why?" Lois asked.

"I..."

"You what, Clark?"

"I just do. I don't expect you to understand, but I do."

Lois just stared at him. Why was he doing this? What could be so bad to make him quit the Planet? She knew it wasn't because he didn't like his job, and it wasn't like his parents were in trouble with the farm, so much that they needed him to quit his job and move back west. The growing season was really very good this year, Clark had told her. So what was it?

"I have to go, Lois. I just wanted to tell you myself. Perry has already authorized it. I'm leaving today," Clark told her.

"Clark, you can't! I need you!" Lois exclaimed.

It cut into Clark's heart like a knife blade...made of Kryptonite; he needed her too, but the world needed Superman. Superman could never be too late again.

"I'm sorry," he said softly.

"Clark, you don't understand!" Lois said. "I love you!"

//Wh- what?// "What?" he asked aloud.

"I... I love you. I need you. Please don't leave," Lois implored.

"I- I love you too, Lois. And I need you, too."

He loved her. Clark loved her. It felt so good to hear him say that; it was almost overwhelming.

"But I still have to go," he gritted out. "It isn't you, trust me... it isn't you."

"If you love me then why, how, can you leave me?!" Lois was on the verge of tears now. She had finally found one man whom she could love, and who loved her back, and now he was leaving?! It wasn't fair! She needed him. How could he go?

"I don't want to talk about it, Lois. But I want you to know that I love you. I have always loved you, and will always love you, but I can't do this job anymore."

"Why not?!" Lois shouted. "Clark, this is crazy! You're just going to leave, and you're not even telling me why! I'll never even know why you left!"

"I can't, Lois. Not now. Maybe someday, but not now. I won't leave Metropolis. I'll still stay in my apartment, at least for as long as I can, but I promise you, I won't leave Metropolis. Then, maybe, if you can still bare to set eyes on me, we can talk. But right now...it just hurts too much." He said it so softly that Lois could barely make it out. She didn't want him to leave, but he was obviously in so much pain right now; maybe he just needed some time to think. She wanted to be there for him, but he obviously didn't want her help, or anyone's for that matter, at least not yet. But when he was ready, she would be there for him, no matter how much he might be hurting her now, no matter how much he might hurt her later. She cared too much not to help him.

"Okay, Clark. I want you to know that when you're ready, I'll be there for you. Please remember that. I care too much not to help you." she repeated her reflections out loud.

*****

It had been two weeks. Two weeks since Clark had quit. Two weeks without him editing her copy, two weeks without him bringing her coffee, two weeks without him to talk to; two damn weeks. Lois missed him so terribly. She had tried calling him two days after he had left, but he hadn't answered. She tried again and again, but he never answered; Lois figured he must have unplugged the phone. She wasn't even sure if he was home anymore; however, he had promised her he would stay as long as he could, and she trusted him. She knew he wouldn't leave without telling her.

Superman had been very busy during those two weeks. Lois wasn't sure, but she thought there might be some connection between the increase in Superman's activity and Clark's leaving, but she couldn't put her finger on what it was. It was like she was missing a piece to a puzzle. She was worried, though, about both of them, not only Clark. Although she had finally reconciled her feelings for the two men and had come to accept that she loved Clark, not Superman, she still considered him a friend, and she was worried about him. No one had ever known the boy in blue to work so hard at his self-appointed job, and speculation as to this increase in rescues was rampant. Not that the citizens of Metropolis didn't appreciate Superman's efforts, they had just never seen him so intent on performing his duties. It just wasn't normal, and everyone knew it, and it worried Lois.

Superman would work non-stop, it seemed; he would take care of one emergency, then move on to another. Lois had read through all reports of Superman sightings in the last two weeks, and had discovered that he spent about twenty hours of each day peforming rescues. Lois didn't know Superman's real physical limits, but she suspected that it wasn't healthy to stop crimes twenty hours a day, seven days a week, even for Superman. She feared that he would burn out, or that he wouldn't be as able to withstand an attack should some wacko with kryptonite or other powerful weapon attempt it. As he continued his self-proclaimed war on crime, Lois just got more and more worried. Superman showed no signs of lightening up anytime soon, and only seemed to push himself even more. He never even stopped to talk to reporters anymore, not even to give the briefest of statements. Lois was scared for him.

*****

It had been almost three weeks now. Clark was doing everything he could to help, and Superman was rarely too late anymore. Clark worked hard, almost non-stop; the only reason he did stop was to go back to his apartment and make sure it looked lived in, and to rest for a few hours. He would go home and super-speed through a shower, change clothes, and sleep for about four hours each night. He didn't eat anymore, though; he didn't have to, so why should he? He would then spin into the suit and fly out to the rescue again.

When he didn't have any rescues in particular to take care of, which was rare, though not as much as before, he ran patrols of the city; when there was nothing to do in Metropolis, he sometimes sped over to other cities like New York, Los Angeles, Central City, Keystone City, Gotham. He helped wherever and whenever he could. In short, he always had something to do, and Superman was never too late.

Well... almost never. There were the rare occassions that he was too late, and those times hurt more and more each time, more than ever before. One time, he had been helping to stop a mugging in Hobb's Bay, when a five-car pile-up occurred across town. He had gone over there as soon and as quickly as he could, but it still wasn't fast enough. As he yanked the door off the first car, his eyes were immediately drawn to the still forms of a mother and her child. He checked for vital signs, but there were none to be found. He had removed them gingerly from the wreckage, and as he looked down at each one in his arms, he felt an almost physical pain in his chest.

There were those occassions, but after the initial pain had worn away some, he only pushed himself harder to save those he hadn't been able to before. Sometimes he worked for twenty-four hours straight, and only then stop to rest for a few hours. Then there were the major disasters- earthquakes, mudslides, hurricanes -during those times he worked at least thirty-six hours straight, sometimes longer. He may not have even known about them before, but he had, since quitting his job at the Planet, attuned his super-hearing to much more than he had thought possible prior to leaving his job. He hadn't had to deal with all that many natural disasters so far, however, but there had been one or two major disasters which had claimed about sixty hours of his time a piece. One thing which he found very frustrating was that during his long absences from Metropolis, all the criminals he had seemed to discourage or frighten off emerged again, and that meant doing double-time in Metropolis.

He wondered sometimes how Lois was doing. He missed her, but he just didn't have time anymore to stop and check up on her. Hell, he didn't even talk to reporters in general anymore; there just wasn't any time. People needed Superman, and he would be there, Clark would see to that.

*****

It had been three and a half weeks. Lois was still missing Clark, and still worrying about both Clark and Superman, but she didn't let it show. No, she didn't allow her personal problems to show in her work; she had thrown herself into her work, but she took care of herself too, because that's what Clark would have wanted. But Lois was getting downright sick of hiding her problems from her friends at the Planet, especially Jimmy and Perry. She had to be extra careful around the two of them because they knew her so well, and it was starting to get to her. The loneliness and the worry were getting to her, too. She wanted to talk to Clark, to hear his voice, to see how he was, to just see him and make sure he was still in Metropolis.

It finally hit her one day while she was getting ready to go home after work- why didn't she just go to his apartment? Why hadn't she thought of this before? "Because you were too wrapped up in your worry and your loneliness, that's why," answered that annoying inner voice in the back of her mind. That was true, unfortunately, but now Lois wanted to see him more than ever, so when she left work, she picked up some Chinese takeout and headed over to 344 Clinton Avenue.

*****

Lois pulled up slowly in front of Clark's apartment building. For a few minutes, she just sat there in her silver Jeep, gathering her thoughts together. What if he wasn't here anymore? What if he left without telling her? What if he turned out to be just like Claude? Lois' hands gripped the steering wheel tight at that thought. What if he had run away without even telling her? No, no. Clark wasn't like that. He wasn't Claude; he wouldn't abandon her.

//Oh, yeah?// challenged her inner voice. //He abandoned his job, and her, at the Daily Planet. What if he did the same thing now?// Lois didn't know. She just prayed he wasn't gone already, that she wasn't too late.

She got out of her Jeep finally, locked the door, and headed for Clark's apartment. She reached the stairs which led up to Clark's door, and ascended them shakily. A thousand doubts ran through her mind again. "What if he's not here?" her inner voice seemed to hiss. He was, he had to be. She was standing at his door now. She tried to peer inside, but the curtains pulled across the windows were pulled shut. She raised her fist hesitantly to the door. She wanted to knock, but her hand seemed frozen. Finally, after several attempts to make herself knock, she succeeded. She waited. And waited. No one answered. She knocked again, louder this time. Still, no response came.

She turned slowly to leave, disappointment hitting her like a powerful wave, but then she stopped and turned around once again. She tried the door; of course, it was locked, but it was worth a try. She searched around the door and on the small patio in front of Clark's apartment, looking for a spare key, but it turned out to be a fruitless search.

"Damn!" Lois muttered under her breath. She then dug around in her purse until she found what she was looking for- her lock picks. She glanced around, and hoped there was no one to see her, and, stooping over, unlocked Clark's door. She looked around one more time, then slipped into the apartment.

Lois looked around. There was nothing to see, except Clark's apartment the way it had always been. She walked from the living area, to the bedroom, to the kitchen, but found nothing, and no one. Clark wasn't home.

She supposed he could be just out at the grocery store or something, and she had come here to find Clark. She decided she was going to wait here until he came home. She had come too far, and missed him too much not to try everything she could to talk to him.

She sat down on the couch and prepared herself to wait, even if it would be for hours.

*****

It was after one in the morning when Clark, dressed as Superman flew into his apartment. He spun out of the suit and changed into some sleep shorts and walked into the kitchen. He went over to the refrigerator and opened it. There wasn't anything inside except some mayonnaise and cream soda. He sighed quietly and grabbed the bottle of soda. He retrieved a glass from the cabinet and turned toward the living area to plop down on the couch and relax.

What, or rather whom, he saw when he turned around left him momentarily breathless. It was Lois. Lois, his Lois, was here, in his apartment, right now. She was curled up in the corner of the couch, her head on the armrest, sound asleep. Clark padded softly over to her. Then he just stood there. He watched her as he slept; she looked so peaceful when she slept, like an angel. He briefly wondered why he hadn't noticed her presence when he first came in, but it was a fleeting thought; he had probably just been too preoccupied or too tired to have noticed her. It was lucky she hadn't awoken before he had changed out of the suit, or worse, while he was spinning out of it.

He listened to her breathing, to her heartbeat, as he silently made his way back to the kitchen, where he sat down at the table and continued to watch her. He wondered why she was here; maybe she missed him just as much as he missed her. God, how he missed her! He had longed to see her again, to talk to her again, but he just didn't have the time. Now, here she was, asleep on his couch. It seemed almost unreal, and Clark would have written the whole thing off as a dream if it hadn't been for the evidence of Lois' heartbeat, the sound of her breathing, and the faint scent of her perfume. It was so good to see her again, almost overwhelmingly so.

He looked down at the bottle of soda he was still holding. Cream; Lois' favorite. Clark laughed under his breath at the irony of that. He hadn't ever really drank cream soda before meeting Lois. Once he had gotten to know her, he had discovered many of Lois' favorite things, including her favorite soda. Cream soda, but it had to be Mug Cream Soda; anything else just didn't taste the same. He laughed quietly again as he remebered the first time he had presented her with a glass of cream soda while she was at his apartment. She had taken one sip and then made a face in disgust; she had proceeded to name just what brand it was, and then lectured him on what brand he should have bought and why.

His soft laugh must not have been soft enough, however; Lois stirred on the couch, and Clark glanced up at her. She sat up a little, then lazily opened her eyes. She gazed around the apartment, seemingly disoriented for a moment, when her eyes landed on him.

*****

Lois had been dreaming of Clark. He had been laughing softly at something, but she didn't know what. It was then that she realized that his laugh hadn't been part of her dream, but had been the sound that had awakened her from her sleep. When she first opened her eyes, she felt disoriented; where was she, and why was she not at home in her own bed? Then all her memory came flooding back; she had come to Clark's apartment looking for him, and when he hadn't been home, she had let herself in and looked around, and finding no one, had fallen asleep on Clark's couch around midnight waiting for him.

She looked around the apartment; when she looked over toward the kitchen, there he was! He was watching her silently, a half-full bottle of cream soda in his hand. A tiny smile creased his face; he must have really been laughing- it hadn’t been a dream.

Cream soda; her favorite. It was ironic; she had come looking for him and then, when she found him, it was almost as though he was looking for her too. She knew he wouldn’t even drink cream soda if it wasn’t for her. It was almost like he wanted to be closer to her through something she liked; she supposed it could work.

When she turned around toward him, she could see that he tried to hide his grin; he would have been successful if she hadn’t seen it before he managed to hide it. Now he looked anxious, though the grin was still half-there under the veneer of seriousness. Why would he look anxious? Was he unhappy to see her? God, people could be so confusing! What if he was nervous about seeing her? Could he be unhappy about seeing her? Was he angry that she had let herself in to his apartment? His grin didn't seem to suggest that, but one never knew with people, whom Lois had concluded long ago were all crazy; some were just better at hiding it than others. One question bothered her more than all the others- when had he come home, and why hadn't she heard him?

“Clark?” she asked softly.

For a minute, he said nothing. He just looked at her; she thought maybe he hadn’t heard her. She was about to repeat his name when he answered her. “Hey, Lois,” he said even more softly than she had asked.

“Hey,” she responded. Then silence reigned for a few moments. Neither knew what to say. Finally Clark enquired, “What… what are you doing here?”

“Um, well… I just…I just wanted to see you,” Lois replied honestly.

“Oh,” Clark murmured. “Okay.”

Lois shifted uncomfortably. “I’ve missed you,” she told him.

“So have I,” Clark mumbled. “I mean, I’ve missed you too, Lois,” he hastened to correct. “So…how is everybody?” he added.

“Oh, uh, everybody’s fine. Good, uh-huh. I think Jimmy misses you though. Perry too.”

“Uh-huh. That’s good. That everybody’s fine, I mean.”

“Yeah.”

It was quiet for a while. “God, I miss you, Lois,” Clark said suddenly. “And Jimmy, and Perry, and everybody. And work. I miss everything. I miss my-” He cut himself off abruptly. He was about to say “my folks,” but he hadn’t told Lois yet, and he didn’t feel like talking about it right then.

“Your what, Clark?” Lois asked. What had he been about to say? It might have given her some clue as to why he had left the Daily Planet, and her.

“Uh, um, nothing,” he stuttered. He belatedly realized that answer might just make Lois want to know even more, so he added, “Just my- my job, my friends, everything.”

Lois knew he wasn’t telling her something. She wanted to know now even more. “No, Clark, that’s not what you were going to say,” she prompted him.

“I…” Clark didn’t know what to say. All he knew was that he had backed himself into a corner, and Lois wouldn’t just leave the subject alone.

to be continued...

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