Lois always came and went and inevitably came back. Clark had taken to putting a little 'x' on his calendar for days she spent on the farm – it seemed so sporadic and he wondered if there was a pattern. She would often skip classes to stay for dinner and wrote papers from his old clunker of a computer, e-mailing them to her professors. Her motto was 'attendance is only ten per cent of my grade'. She said this often. She was smart enough, though, to never go to class, to never hear a lecture and still pass.
"I read the text books before the semester starts," she confessed once, "and that's usually enough to get me through." It was not something Clark condoned but he was envious of the skill nonetheless. In the summer she stayed for stretches and even if he did not see her, he knew she was near.
He was almost always there when she returned, tired from driving, tired and angry from dinner with her father, sad and defeated from speaking with her sister. Usually they bantered and jibed but sometimes Lois came home and he just made her tea with honey and even though she preferred coffee, she liked that Clark made her something he thought would help. In the summer, Jonathan Kent went to bed early and got up even earlier and Martha Kent, at the very least, rose with the sun and went to the Talon and so by the time Lois rolled out of bed, it was just the two of them in the humid, noiseless house.
She would pull on cut offs and the same t-shirt she'd worn yesterday and walk carefully, barefoot to the barn to find Clark fixing something or reading or just standing, gazing out at the flat, landlocked state that was his home waiting for her to wake up.
Lois always needed to be doing something, going somewhere, seeing someone and it was not until she met Clark that she learned how to slow down – besides, there wasn't much to do in Smallville. They spent the mornings in the barn, usually quiet, her reading the Planet and doing the crossword and him filling out financial aid applications or reading about that Native American tribe that so fascinated him. Finally, they would migrate to the house and she would fix sandwiches and when the hottest part of the day came, they would go to Crater Lake or take a walk in the woods in the densest part where it was cool or, if nothing else, they would go into town and see a movie or go to the Talon where at least there was air conditioning.
Mrs. Kent came home at least four nights a week to fix dinner and then Lois and Clark would part – Clark would go do his night chores and Lois would dutifully help in the kitchen trying to learn how to make edible meals and do the womanly things that the General couldn't teach her. Dinner was a family affair and then they would putter the night away. Another 'x', another day.
Lois saw him, once, lift up a pallet of bricks with one hand and nary a grunt, but she decided that she didn't see what she saw and if she did see what she saw, she wouldn't tell anyone. Not even Clark. It didn't change their routine at all. Occasionally, Chloe joined them and occasionally, Lana did too. Clark and Lois had developed and easy, unspoken language and when Lana came, Clark always fell apart. Lois was pretty sure that the whole Clark-Lana disaster had ended but there were still aftershocks and when Lana came, Lois had to spend the evening biting her tongue and she always claimed a headache so that Clark would take her home. Sometimes she would weave her arm in his and they would walk to her car in the moonlight, feeling happy and free.
"I think you should go to Met U," she said, one night, leaning against the side of the barn while he played basketball in the dark – never missing a shot.
"I've already been accepted to Central Kansas," he said. "You know that," She looked down at her bare feet, covered in a fine layer of brown dirt.
"Yeah, but… think about it. At the very least, you could transfer," she shrugged. She felt strongly about keeping him near.
"I will," he said and she believed him. When the summer ended, Lois returned to school and the empty square on the calendar looked out of place and jarring to Clark. But looking back, he finally saw the pattern. Exponential increase.
He couldn't afford Metropolis University and if he got the financial aid he needed, he'd be paying it off until the end of the world. Still, he took Lois seriously and he had wanted to go there for forever, almost.
For all the time they had spent together, they rarely spoke when apart. They had one another's phone numbers and e-mail addresses but did not call and did not write. At Halloween, though, she sent him an e-mail asking if he would come to the city for Halloween to visit. Chloe was there and there were parties and it could be fun. He agreed and he went as what he always went as – a cowboy. He borrowed his father's white hat and brown boots and made sure to have a long piece of wheat to chew on through the night. Arriving at Chloe's dorm, he was met by Chloe – an angel and Lois, a devil.
"Cute," he said, "Very cute," Chloe, always the social butterfly (or just looking for her next scoop) moved into the party easily and Clark stuck with Lois, by habit. Several hours later she was drunk and he walked her home, both of them laughing.
"See?" she said, hiccupping and teetering on her tall, red heels, "You belong here, not at that hick school," Clark smiled and helped her up the stairs into her building. He'd already applied for that transfer and was now just waiting. He ran back to Smallville the next morning while the girls were still sleeping in glitter and smudged make-up but he'd left a goodbye note taped to the mirror where they'd be sure to find it. His parents, never having actually given him permission to attend the party, were of course already awake when he crept into the kitchen. He apologized before they spoke.
"I was with Lois," he said. "perfectly safe." It had taken the Kents several years to warm to Lana and they had taken a liking to Lois in under a week. The Kents, perhaps, saw what Clark did not. Something flourishing. Their son went unpunished.
Clark started his sophomore year at Met U while Lois began her junior. Chloe worked on the paper and spent the rest of her energy convincing Clark and Lois to do the same. Eventually Lois gave in but Clark would not. When the girls were in the newsroom, he would often retreat to the arctic, to his fortress, to do his history homework – learning both of Krypton and the war of 1812. They didn't ask where he went but he suspected they knew it was personal. By the second semester of that year, Lois and Clark were kissing regularly. They didn't talk about it much; it was just the natural progression of things. Chloe was seeing one of her photographer friends, Clark now a thing of her past. Lois was with him nearly all the time and she was with him when Jonathan Kent died.
For graduation, Mrs. Kent gave him a specially made suit. Lois was working grunt on a small, independent newspaper and waitressing at night, waiting for Clark to graduate. They lived in a crummy, downtown apartment.
The first time Superman was spotted was also Miss Lane's big break and she was offered her first job at the Daily Planet. Chloe had moved to the west coast to work for the San Francisco Chronicle and called her cousin to congratulate her on the new job and her name in print.
"Who do you think he is?" Lois asked Clark one night in bed.
"I'm not sure," Clark lied. He'd been careless. One criminal had led to another and then he'd hear the plane that Lois was on had lost an engine and so he used his newfound gift of flight and his mother's graduation gift he'd caught the plane and set it down gently. Lois had watched wide-eyed from the window.
"He saved my life," Lois pointed out.
"Are you planning on leaving me for him?" Clark asked, jokingly.
"Maybe," Lois said, yawning. There had been something intriguing about that caped man and she wondered briefly if he could lift and entire pallet of bricks with one hand.the end.