Thanks to Djinn for the beta.
They were friends, only friends.
Though somehow, those words didn't seem sufficient to define his and Diana's relationship. What do you call the person whose life you've saved and who has saved your life in return, more times than either one of you cares to count?
"Just friends" smacked of coffees at Starbucks, not of the intimate bond forged by fellow soldiers in the fight for justice.
How do you describe what happens when one looks into another's eyes and sees oneself? "Just friends" didn't have that kind of connection. Yet he'd told anyone who'd asked, told Lois, and even told himself repeatedly that he and Diana were "just friends."
Sometimes, he even believed it.
For her sake, he hoped that Lois did, although he feared that her knack for ferreting out the truth would lead her to learn things she didn't truly want to know. Like how Diana had called for him when she was wounded, or how tenderly, gently – intimately – he had cared for her, patching her up until he could place her under the healing ray.
Or the thoughts that he only dared put into words when he was alone in his Fortress. Thoughts of what might have been. Images of the road not taken. Visions of a future that could come to pass if they waited long enough.
Thoughts. Dreams. Fantasies.
A phrase floated through his mind before he could stop it, something about "adultery in his heart."
People spoke of "having affairs", of "cheating", of "stepping out on" someone. The word "adultery" seemed so…clinical, somehow. And he'd never touched Diana, at least not in a way that wasn't a normal part of being a teammate or a friend. They had never come close to the intimacies that he and Lois shared. He had never explored her curves, learned the ways she liked to be touched, or embraced her so tightly that he almost thought they would meld into one person. One flesh.
That nagging phrase crossed his mind again – what was it? His Google search located it: Matthew 5:28. "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
That wasn't possible. Surely he couldn't be judged for the occasional erotic thought that came unbidden to his mind.
A voice whispered in his head, How about all the other ones?
Did anyone suspect how often he thought about her? How many times had he surreptitiously glanced over at J'onn, hoping that the telepath was practicing his usual restraint?
How many times had he been grateful that Lois wasn't telepathic – at least no more than wives always seemed to be?
When had he crossed the line between friend and would-be lover? Was it when he found himself saving his thoughts, his feelings, to share with Diana the next time they met?
Was it when his pulse quickened whenever he saw her, or when he realized that she occupied his thoughts far more often than a "friend" should?
Or was it the time they'd stopped by Shayera's favorite bar on Ursa Minor Beta, had a couple of drinks, and started swapping stories? At first, he and Diana had compared notes about their childhoods, but after a couple of Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters, he'd found himself confiding his disappointment with the bedroom activities at chez Kent.
Diana had been sympathetic, of course, though she couldn't entirely repress a smirk that lingered on the corner of her mouth. Was it a metahuman's unconscious disdain for his merely human wife? He wasn't sure. Or was it the awareness that he wouldn't have to hold back with her, that she was his perfect match in that regard…
And in other ways as well. Diana understood a superhero's fears and doubts better than Lois ever could, because she shared them herself. Diana understood the responsibility that super powers brought with them; the certain knowledge that taking time off for oneself or one's family meant running the risk that people would die or be injured who could have been saved.
Clark sighed, resting his head in his hands. Lois's humanity was in itself a gift to him. She reminded him that he was more than the Man of Steel; he was her man, the man she loved. He was the man who loved her enough to share both sides of his life with her. He was the man who'd vowed before God, family, and friends that he would love and cherish her forever.
Was he now the man whose thoughts and actions were placing his marriage at risk?
That was not the man Martha and Jonathan Kent had raised. He'd never know for sure, but he couldn't imagine that Jor-El and Lara would have approved either.
He didn't want to be that man. He didn't want to look in the mirror and see the face of one whose love for two women would bring all three of them to eventual grief.
Another phrase floated through his mind, Love is a decision.
Where had that come from, he wondered, and then he remembered sitting in the pastor's office with Lois a couple of months before the wedding. During their first required premarital counseling session, Reverend Turley had given them a brochure on communication. He could picture the swirling black text superimposed over the embracing couple's face – "Love is a Decision."
Premarital counseling hadn't been a bad idea, really, he thought – although it was unfortunate that the issues that most plagued their marriage weren't ones they could have shared with the pastor, understanding as she was. How could Lois have spoken of her fear that, strong as he was, someday he wouldn't come home from a mission alive? Doomsday had already made her fear a reality once, and how many miracles was a man allotted?
It would have been equally hard for him to explain the strong bonds he'd developed with his coworkers – with one, in particular – as investigative journalism just didn't lead to that kind of esprit de corps.
Still, knowing the risks, Lois had accepted his proposal. Was that their decision to love?
There had to be more to it. In a sense, every time he placed Lois's needs over his own was a decision to love. Every time he chose to talk about difficult matters instead of retreating to the Fortress was also a decision.
And every time he stayed late after a mission to spend time with Diana was a decision as well. It was a decision to love – but not to love Lois.
Their situation was becoming unstable. He could feel jealousy well up within him when Diana's eyes sparkled as she traded banter with Bruce – Bruce, of all people. Clark had no right to her, yet he felt possessive. She was his friend, perhaps his best friend.
She was his.
Did that mean that he was hers? He suddenly realized he was twisting his wedding ring, remembering Lois's mischievous smile under the veil, her whispered words as she had placed it on his finger – "Now you're mine, Smallville."
He was Lois's. Lois was his. Their embrace formed a circle, symbolized by their rings. Someday – God willing – there would be children from that embrace, but there was no room for anyone else.
There was no room for Diana within his arms.
There should be no room for Diana within his heart.
Clark sighed again. He would have to set some boundaries for himself, decide what was appropriate and what was inappropriate to share with a woman not his wife. He knew she'd realize and hoped that she would understand why he was pulling back. Perhaps the only way he could truly love Diana was by refusing to give in to his natural urges, by restraining the part of himself that wanted more than her friendship.
For someone who was "beyond human", he felt all-too-human indeed.