AN: This is set early in the same story arc of "Shadow of my Father" and Being Jason White." It is set about one year post SR in movie-verse. I've had lots of requests for fics from Clark's PoV, so I hope this will help fill that void for those of you who follow my stories. If you haven't read my stories, don't worry! So long as you've seen SR, then you will understand this one.
Thanks to htbthomas and Hellish Red Devil for the beta read. You guys rox!
WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN
"Every so often we long to steal
To the land of what might have been.
But that doesn't soften the ache we feel
When reality sets back in."
It's better this way. That's become my mantra. It's what I have repeatedly told myself at the end of every day for nearly a year now. It's better this way. No matter how much I want it to be different, this is how it is. This is what my life has become. This is how it will always be. And it's for the best, if not for her then for Jason. That's what I tell myself.
My heart doesn't agree with me, and I doubt it ever will. My heart thuds madly whenever she comes within a mile of me. The closer she gets, the more persuasive I have to be to convince my heart to calm down and resist the temptation to go to her. When she looks at me, my heart skips a few beats, always on edge that one of these days she will see me for who I really am. And on those rare and precious occasions that she talks to me – really talks about something that isn't related to an article or politics or the latest scoop – that's when my heart flutters irregularly and threatens to stop altogether. My heart will never be free from her.
But my brain understands. My brain knows that so long as the truth is hidden, she will be safe. So long as there isn't too much to link us together, Jason will be safe. My brain remembers what it was like for her to have the truth and how it crushed her. My brain registers the fact that I left her and that she moved on. That Jason already has a father – a devoted father. That I would do more harm than good if I forced myself into his life. My brain understands.
It's a constant battle between emotion and logic. It's tiresome and draining, both emotionally and mentally. Yet even though my heart complains daily, my brain wins out in the end. Well, it usually wins. It's days like today when my heart fights hardest that my mind has a tendency to give in.
I could blame it on the setting. It isn't every day that you are sent off to one of the most romantic places in the country with the woman you love. Okay, so this had happened to us twice now, but that still didn't mean it was an every day occurrence. First, Niagara Falls and now the Grand Hotel. I was convinced that some kind of higher power had it in for me. From the moment we stepped out of the car, I knew my heart would fight for a moment alone with her while we were here.
How could I resist? She's an enigma, and I can't help but be drawn to her. She was the one person in the world who could stand on the veranda of the Grand Hotel, overlook the lush, rolling hillside and state, in all honesty, that there was too much fresh air for her. She wasn't even affected by the majesty of the building or the grandeur of our accommodations. She just waltzed right into her room, flopped her suitcase on the bed, snapped open her computer, and went right to work. Amazing. How could she be so focused?
I, on the other hand, was completely distracted - by the location, by the arrangements, by her very presence. I'd never been to the Grand Hotel other than to fly over it, so I was thrilled to find out I was one of the reporters selected to attend this particular conference, especially since Lois was going as well. I figured one reporter was enough, but since there would be more than one speaker presenting at a time, Perry thought it best to send more than one reporter to "better cover the bases," as he put it. Richard, to most everyone's surprise, opted to stay home with Jason. It seemed odd to most people that Richard wouldn't want the chance to take Lois somewhere romantic, but I knew better. I'd heard him tell Perry his idea of romance wasn't working all weekend while surrounded by legions of competing reporters. He had a point. But his loss was my gain, and I ended up here with Lois instead of him.
Of course, had he been here, there wouldn't be the need for two hotel rooms instead of one. As it was, my room was right next to Lois's room. Only one thin wall separated us. A wall that would be so easy for me to break though. A wall that allowed me to hear her moving without even needing to use my powers. A wall that with one little squint of the eyes vanished completely so I could see her.
She was in her night clothes. A silky, camisole shift draped lightly over her skin and did little to hide her figure. Matching pajama bottoms hung so low on her hips that the skin of her stomach peeked through just enough to occasionally flash her belly button. Her hair was clipped up in a lopsided loop that flopped casually as she walked around her room restlessly. She was fidgeting, and I knew her well enough to realize she wanted a cigarette.
The phone rang and she smiled when she heard the voice on the other end of the line. A tilt of my head and I smiled, too, upon hearing that voice. The sweetest little voice in all the world. No, I take that back. In all the universe.
"Hi, Mommy…" He sounded rather disheartened.
"Hi, Munchkin! What are you still doing up?"
"I couldn't sleep, and so Daddy said I could call you."
"Why can't you sleep?"
"I had a bad dream."
Her smile faded. "Was it that same dream again?"
"Yes," he said timidly.
I inched closer to the wall, curious to know what kind of nightmare was keeping my little boy awake at night. I needed to know what he was afraid of.
"Honey, those men can't hurt you. You know that," she reassured.
"I know," he said, but he didn't sound convinced.
"You're safe at home. No one's going to hurt you."
"I know," he sighed again. "But it's still scary."
I crossed my arms in front of myself, feeling so powerless in the moment. "I would never let anything hurt him, Lois," I mumbled. "Tell him that."
Lois sat down slowly on the bed, licking her lips and shifting the phone to her other ear. "Jason, honey, if ever anything like that happened again, if ever you're in trouble…"
"I know," he breathed. "Call for Superman."
I knew she hadn't heard me. She couldn't have, but still I felt as if she had.
"Is Mr. Clark with you, Mommy?"
I inhaled sharply. Naturally, upon mention of Superman, Jason would ask about Clark. He'd done it so many times lately that it was a wonder Lois hadn't picked up on it yet.
"Mr. Clark is here. He's next door. Why?"
"Will you tell him I said good night?"
My knees felt a little weak. The only person who could make me feel that way, other than Lois, was my precious son. And he did it every time he talked to me. Just like his mother. Again, I knew he couldn't hear me, but I mumbled a gentle, "Goodnight, Jason. No more bad dreams."
"I'll tell him, sweetie. But you really need to go back to sleep."
"Okay," he agreed.
"Daddy's there with you. Nothing bad's going to happen while Daddy's there."
"And think about happy things," Lois added.
"Like Peter Pan?"
Lois laughed. "Yes, just like Peter Pan."
"Okay. I love you, Mommy."
"I love you, too, Munchkin."
"I love you, too, Jason," I replied naturally, as if I were in on the conversation from the start.
She hung up the phone and slowly fell backwards onto the bed. I sat down on my own bed, watching her and wanting more than anything to go to her and promise her, as I'd promised so many times all ready, that I would never let anyone hurt Jason. My heart raced in my chest, asking me to give in for just one moment. She's not yours, came the swift reply from my brain.
"He dreams about the Gertrude."
I jumped in surprise at hearing her voice again. She was still lying on the bed, looking up at the ceiling.
"He dreams about the water and almost drowning."
"I should have gotten there sooner," I scolded myself.
"And it's not your fault, so please don't blame yourself for this."
I blinked in confusion.
"It wasn't as if you didn't have an entire city to save. And you didn't know he was your son at the time. So really, don't blame yourself."
I stood up, watching her closely, wondering why she had never told me about these dreams of Jason's before. We didn't have many opportunities to talk about our son, but she could have told me he was having nightmares.
"I didn't want you to worry about him, that's why I didn't tell you."
It was unreal how she seemed to be talking to me. How was this possible?
"It's probably silly to tell you not to worry about him, right?"
"Right," I replied, taking a step closer to the wall.
"I know you're always watching over him – protecting him."
"I know you love him," she whispered.
"I do," I said in a voice just as soft as hers. "I love him so much, Lois."
Her eyes drifted closed as she hummed out a long breath. She stretched her body languidly and rolled over onto her stomach, hugging a pillow close to her as she did. "I have to tell him," she mumbled after a good long pause. "And I don't know how."
My heart was pounding in my chest, persistently thudding out it's message. Go to her. Go to her. Go to her! But the suggestion from my mind was stronger. Just let her talk. She might say something important if she thinks you aren't listening that she would never say while in your presence.
"I shouldn't be worried about telling my son he has the most powerful man in the world for a father," she said. "I shouldn't. I should be excited to tell him. But instead, I'm scared to death."
I frowned, wondering at her meaning.
"If the world were a better place, a more perfect place, I wouldn't be frightened that someone would find out he's your son and try to hurt him." She paused just long enough to wet her lips. "In a perfect world, I wouldn't be terrified of how Richard will react when he finds out the truth. I don't want to hurt him. He loves Jason so much."
I closed my eyes and let my head drop forward, wanting desperately to give in to my emotions and go to her – to hold her and offer her what comfort I could. But logic told me that if I went to her, I wouldn't want to leave her. My mind knew as well as my body did that if I held her, I wouldn't want to let her go. And I couldn't afford that.
"In a perfect world, you would be here with me right now instead of me sitting here alone talking to myself."
My eyes snapped open and I fixed my gaze on her once more. She was saying she wanted me. She needed me. My heart willed me to do as she asked, to just close that little space between us so I could wrap my arms around her and sink into her embrace…just once more! But my mind held me in check, reminding me that she was to be married shortly to another man. I'd come close to her once before and nearly kissed her, but she had pulled away. Richard White had won for his loyalty and devotion to her in a time when I had abandoned her, when she needed me the most. What right did I have to assume I could waltz in there right now and be with her in the way I longed to be with her? I didn't have any right, and I knew it. I didn't feel it, but I knew it
"In a perfect world," Lois continued, her voice barely a whisper, "you would have never left me."
I swallowed hard, my heart breaking upon hearing her words. I stepped closer to her, reaching out to her, giving in to my feelings for the moment in the hope that she would know I would give anything to change the past. I could almost feel her silky hair under my fingertips - almost smell the fragrance of her perfume – almost revel in the smoothness of her skin. Almost, but not quite.
Had it not been for the wall between us, I would have sat down on the bed next to her and rubbed her back as soothingly as I could. Had it not been for the years we spent apart, she would have turned to me with a smile and taken my hands in hers. Had it not been for the fact that I had abandoned her when she most needed me, she would have let me hold her in my arms and tell her how much I loved her. Had she been able to remember everything that had ever happened between us, she would let me kiss her, let me love her in the most passionate way I knew how. Had I been brave enough to stay with her in spite of my father's insistence, she would be my wife, and Jason would complete our family, and I would no long feel so alone.
My hand bumped against the solid wall, forcing me out of my hauntingly enchanting imaginations and back into the harshness of reality. Lois sat up, startled and slightly bewildered, and the moment was lost. I jumped back away from the wall, instantly worried that she had heard me and might suspect I was watching her. It was my heart that hoped she would suspect something enough to notice me – to notice Clark. It was my brain that told me I was being ridiculous – that Lois never paid much attention to Clark, so I shouldn't worry.
"Damn romantic place," she mumbled under her breath. "Making me imagine things. Snap out of it, Lois." She laughed darkly. "And stop talking to yourself."
Then, to my total surprise, Lois stood up, pulled on her robe, gathered up her lap top, and walked to her door. I watched her in stunned amazement as she left her room, took two steps, and came to a stop outside my door. I froze in place for a moment until I heard her knock. Luckily, I was vain enough to glance in the mirror before opening the door, for I didn't have my glasses on. I slipped them on and tried to act casually as I answered the door.
"Lois," I squeaked, acting surprised. "Wh – what – wh—"
"I can't sleep," she announced, brushing past me into my room. "My mind is all a jumble thinking about tomorrow and the schedule and…and…" she took a deep breath, "and trying to make the schedule work."
She sounded more like Clark Kent than Lois Lane. She was flustered. And I was smitten.
She shook her head and sat down on the bed. "Anyway, I thought we could get this planned now so we don't have to go over it come morning."
I blinked, taking in the details of the situation. Lois was in my hotel room, sitting on my bed, wearing her pajamas and a robe, telling me she couldn't sleep.
"Well, Lois," I started, feeling more than a bit awkward, "I figured I'd go to whichever presentation you didn't want to go to. So really, there isn't much to schedule."
She cocked her head at me. "Hmm, I suppose so, but how will you know which ones those are unless we go over them first?"
"Oh, I assumed you'd just give me a paper with the ones I was supposed to go to noted in some way. You know, circled or starred or—"
"But isn't there something specific you want to go to? I mean, what if we both want to go to the same presentation?" Her voice sounded much more stressed than normal.
I shrugged. "I'm not picky. So whatever you want to do is fine with me. No reason to lose sleep over it."
She groaned and tossed her head back. "Clark, you're not helping."
I frowned. "I don't understand. One would think that I'm being rather accommodating, so how is that not—"
"Because, Clark, it's just—" She huffed, frustrated. "Just humor me, okay?"
"Give me something to work with. I need something to think about."
That's when I understood. She had come in here to use me as a distraction so she wouldn't be thinking about… me. She needed Clark to help draw her mind away from Superman. I couldn't tell her that I understood that much, but I knew that's what was going on here.
My heart fluttered at the implication of what it meant to have Lois all to myself for the evening. Not only that, but to have her in her in my hotel room, sitting on my bed, dressed in her pajamas. Nothing would happen, nothing intimate, but that didn't mean my heart couldn't at least enjoy the moment and pretend for a little while that we were in this hotel as something other than friendly colleagues. You're playing a dangerous game, my mind warned me. But I ignored it for once.
"Okay, Lois," I said, smiling and sitting down in the corner chair. "Let me have a look at that schedule."
She smiled brightly back at me and tossed me some papers stapled together. "I knew you'd see it my way."
So, my heart won the battle this time. It wasn't a deeply satisfying win, but it was enough to take the edge off the pain. We spent the evening planning a detailed schedule for tomorrow, and when that was finished, she eyed the mini bar and suggested sharing a quick drink before she turned in for the night. I poured two glasses of bourbon and handed one to Lois.
"Thanks, Clark," she said, her eyes avoiding mine. "I really needed to get my mind off some things and you helped. I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't been here."
"I'm glad I was here, then." I knew I was blushing, but there was no way to stop it.
She held up her glass in the air. "To… what might have been," she said, her voice heavy with meaning that I'm sure she felt was lost on the simple man she knew as her bumbling friend.
But I understood her fully.
And that's how I, Clark Kent, ended up being the lucky man who had the good fortune of sharing a night cap with a half-dressed Lois Lane in my room at the Grand Hotel. It wasn't any substantial romantic moment, and I still longed for more. I would always want more where Lois was concerned. But this was more than what I normally had. This was reality – the reality that I had painstakingly created for myself. It would have to do for now. Maybe someday… maybe not. At least she was safe. And Jason was safe. It didn't matter what kind of misery I was in so long as they were both safe. Besides, it's better this way. At least, that's what I keep telling myself.