Title: Unmasked

Author: Nadia Mack

Rating: T

Disclaimer: I Own Nothing

Summary: Post Superman Returns. Behind the hero is a man longing to be free.

Author's Notes: What can I say? Barbara went on vacation, and so did I. lol I'm sorry for the wait everyone and I hope this chapter leaves you satisfied. Thank you again Barbara for all the help you've provided me throughout this journey. It's been invaluable. And for all the readers who took the time to share their thoughts and comments, you've been a phenomenal group of readers to write for, and hopefully, I get the chance to do so again.

Chapter 20: Past, Present and Future

Four Weeks Ago

Clark entered his apartment carrying a huge box, and then dropped it carefully to the side where a group of other boxes were stacked. He looked to his couch and found Lois sleeping soundly. He shook his head, smiling at the endearing sight before moving to her side to gently caress her soft cheek.

Lois stirred awake and saw her guy staring at her with a smug look on his face. Her eyes roamed around the room before settling themselves embarrassingly back on him. "Did I fall asleep?"

Clark nodded; his smile was still there. "Shamelessly. I thought you were going to help me?"

"But you were doing so well without me."

Her response made him chuckle. "I would do just about anything to get you to move in with me." Clark glanced back to the various boxes littered about the room. "Speaking of, everything's here now."

She lifted herself up, using her elbows for support. "I can see that."

"Did you sleep well?" He grinned.

"It was amazing!" she sighed dramatically.

Clark laughed and then leaned in to kiss her. It happened so unexpectedly that he pulled back just as quickly as it happened. "I'm sorry," he apologized. "I didn't mean to do that." It was the first time he had kissed her since leaving for Krypton.

Lois raised her eyebrows and Clark realized she might have misinterpreted what he meant.

"Actually, I did," he rephrased, falling into complete and utter embarrassment. "But I don't think I was supposed to." His composure faltered even further. "I'm not explaining myself right, am I?"

Lois mischievously smiled. "No, but I like watching you try." She reached for his collar, the heroic suit he normally wore beneath his clothing not present today. She pulled him down slowly, and he submitted. "Here, let me…"

Their lips touched softly at first, almost chastely. It'd been so many years since they'd truly kissed. It had nearly happened a few months ago, when he came back, but there were so many issues and unanswered questions between them that she didn't allow herself to give in.

She was free now. They both were. The feelings they'd long withheld from one another bursting forth in an explosion of emotions. Slowly, their passion grew, and she felt his body press against her as she pulled him in, her arms making their way to the buttons of his shirt. She burned with yearning for his contact.

"We should…" he breathed with surprising difficulty. "We should, um…" he kissed her deeply and then murmured, "… slow down."

With his lips trailing kisses down her jaw line to the crook of her neck, she answered him with an "okay" but discarded his shirt with one effortless movement, completely ignoring his suggestion. They'd taken their time long enough, and if they waited any longer, they'd die of old age before they even got halfway to the finish line.

Late that night, with his back against the couch, Clark held Lois on the floor of his living room with a blanket wrapped around them, holding her tight as they watched the fire crackle and pop in fireplace. They had made love several times that night, and for once, he was thankful that the world saw fit to give him a reprieve from his duties.

"What are you thinking?" he asked, softly placing a single kiss on her temple as he cuddled closer to her. He let his lips rest on her shoulder as she answered.

"I was just… thinking back to the last six years."

He kissed her on the shoulder before lifting his head to meet her piercing gaze. He let his fingers lightly comb through her slightly tousled hair. It was the most beautiful sight he'd ever seen.

"A lot of time lost," he said, knowing exactly what was on her mind. "I was a coward, I'm sorry."

She shook her head. "Don't be." Then she kissed him. She wanted to tell him that she loved him, but she found herself not quite ready to say it yet. They'd only recently started dating, and the last thing she wanted to do was build up false expectations.

"You're amazing, you know that?"

"And don't you ever forget it," she said, winking. Anyone could have easily guessed what followed next.

Present Time

"And this is the place where my ship landed," Clark described as he took Lois on a sightseeing trip through his past. They parked the car just a few yards back as he recalled the story his parents told him of his arrival on earth. "They found me right around here… I think."

Lois smiled; the image of Clark as a child appeared in the forefront of her mind. It would never cease to amaze her how utterly normal he could be.

"That's a hell of a childhood."

Clark chuckled. "It had its trials," he said wistfully. "But for the most part, it was a happy childhood."

"And now?"

"Now it's even happier."

Feeling slightly embarrassed, she turned and faced the endless fields of corn. "Your mom is great, by the way."

"I knew you'd like her."

Lois didn't say anything afterwards. Instead, she took his hand and let their fingers intertwine. They watched the sunset, the colors mixing together in ethereal beauty and remained like this for another hour before heading back to the farm. Every look she took and every touch she felt was powerful, and she reveled in the love they shared.

As the night sneaked in, Clark turned to her, slightly shaking.

"Clark, are you okay?"

He exhaled. "There's something I want you to have."

She raised her eyebrows. "Does it come with a receipt?" she asked playfully, making him laugh and unknowingly lifting some of the anxiety and nervousness he was feeling.

"Not quite," he returned with equal playfulness. He reached into his pocket and removed something wrapped in a white handkerchief. "I've been carrying this for years," he revealed. "And for a while, I thought, well, I thought I'd lost you forever."

Lois opened her mouth to say something but found her voice devoid of words instead. It didn't take long for her to realize what he was doing, and she was surprised that it had come this soon.

Clark removed the ring from his palm and held it in front of her, the stars as their witness.

"I love you, Lois," he shared, his heart fully open to her. "And I'll love you forever if you'll let me."

He stood there, waiting. The silence between them was the only obstacle. He hadn't meant to propose for at least another couple of months, but he knew in his heart he couldn't wait that long. This was where he belonged. Lois had him. Always had and always would. He'd waited long enough to reveal all of himself to her, and he didn't want to make the same mistake twice.

Lois's eyes glistened beautifully under the night sky. She reached for the ring, not daring to touch it just yet in fear that she was dreaming, and it would suddenly disappear. His previous words echoed in her ears. I've been carrying this for years. I love you. Forever if you'll let me.

"You sure about that, Smallville?" she said finally finding her voice, its tone laced with teasing. A smile crept up from the corner of his lips as she continued. "You do realize we're talking eternity here?"

Seizing the moment, Clark took her hand and slowly inserted the ring into her finger. The size of it fit her perfectly.

"I could take on the challenge if you are."

She placed her hand on his cheek and let her lips meet his with the tenderest kiss imaginable. A kiss full of hope, dreams and promises. Her arms made their way around his neck as they both deepened the kiss.

"I could… definitely… get used… to this," Lois mumbled in between his kisses.

The Future

Jason sprinted out of the house carrying a duffle bag filled with his sports equipment. During the year following the events of the Gertrude, the young boy had slowly but surely overcome most of his fragile nature, proving Bruce's estimation about Jason's health correct. Now 12 years old, he was the picture of good health.

Lois, though, continued to keep an eye on him, not leaving anything to chance alone. While she thanked God that her son was no longer dependent on so many medications, she insisted that maybe it was a good idea for Jason to hold onto his asthma inhaler for the time being.

Clark thought it was a good idea just as long as their son was comfortable with it.

Happy enough that he didn't need to be on a strict regimen of pills and diets, Jason happily obliged his overprotective mother. For the last seven years, he had used his inhaler every now and again as a way to draw people's attention away from the unique abilities he shared with his dad, even though he wasn't using them as openly as his father did.

"Come on, Dad, we're going to be late!" Jason yelled from the backseat of the car. He had a baseball game in an hour, and after that, a piano recital with his best friend Helena in the city, so he was very anxious to get going.

Bruce Wayne or "Uncle Bruce" as Jason had begun to call him by the time he reached his sixth birthday, remained friends with his parents. He had also began a close brotherly friendship with Helena Wayne, whom he spent plenty of time with whenever he visited Gotham City, or whenever she visited Metropolis.

Until Richard White married just two and a half years earlier, he also visited Metropolis for most holidays. Richard and his wife, a woman he had met in Europe specializing in interior design, were expecting their first child in a few months. Jason spoke with him occasionally, and Clark made it clear to Richard that he was always welcome to see Jason whenever he liked.

In the intervening years, Clark and Richard had formed a friendship that would last them for the rest of their lives as they both finally found the happiness each had longed for.

When Clark heard his son calling, he stepped out of the house he shared with his wife of six years. Six months after they married, they found a home twenty five miles outside the city with good acreage and a surrounding forest that kept them company and away from prying eyes. They wanted as much privacy as living near the city could allow, and there was also less chance that Jason would be seen when his powers unexpectedly appeared.

"I swear, he's becoming more and more like you every day," Clark said to his wife, who joined him walking across the driveway to the car where Jason anxiously waited. Jason had a lot of his mother in him: his confidence when challenged, a natural perfectionism in anything he tried to do, and a burning curiosity that would surely put him in a lot of trouble in the years to come.

Lois opened the car door and smiled at her husband mischievously. "What? You mean smart, beautiful and devilishly charming?"

In the car, Clark leaned over the gears and eyed his wife passionately. "It drives me crazy." Lois kissed him fervently with Jason sighing in the backseat.

"Mom. Dad. Please!" Jason pleaded. He was happy that his parents continued to love each other more every day, yet it was mixed with a dose of shyness that they displayed their affection so openly even in public. Where his confidence came from his mom, his humble nature came from his dad.

"Sorry," they both said apologetically, but Jason knew better. They weren't sorry at all.

"We should get going," Lois said. "We don't want to keep everyone waiting." She pulled on her seat belt and fastened it across her chest. She glanced quickly to the back seat and watched her son do the same. After all these years, and no matter how much older he got, she could not stop worrying, even about the son of Superman.

Just as Clark was about to turn on the ignition, he heard a cry for help in the distance. He looked back to his son regretfully.

"I understand, Dad," Jason said, vaguely hearing the call himself.

Clark smiled graciously at his son, unbuckling his seat belt and reaching to the back to hug him. Jason welcomed his father's embrace, knowing the world needed him just as much as he did, and as long as they loved each other, he was willing to share his dad with the world.

"Be sure to hit one out of the park for me." He let go of him and looked at him proudly. "Just don't run too fast." He winked.

Jason laughed and Lois slapped his shoulder playfully.

"I love you, Son."

"I love you too, Dad."

Clark turned to his wife, and she said, "We'll see you around?"

He grinned. "I'm always around." With that, he stepped out of the car and flew into the sky, shedding his casual clothes along the way until the only thing wife and son could see was the sight of red and blue streaking across the sky.

The End

Author's Notes: I'd like to take this opportunity again to thank all of you for sticking with this story from the start, tense problems and all. You've been a pleasure to write for and this story was a pleasure to write in and of itself.