Spoilers: Nothing specific.
Genre: Clois angst, future-vignette
Disclaimer: I only wish I owned this stuff.
Summary: When does discovering the truth become too little, too late?
A/N: I admit that I know very well that this premise has been done almost to death. Even so, there always seems to be a new little twist. So here is mine. The summary offers the question that prompted this; reading one too many BDA (Big Dumb Alien, a.k.a. Clark Kent being an idiot) scenes is what colored it.
Last but not least, thanks to katekeane of Divine Intervention for the beta.
Enjoy (well, as much as you can enjoy angst.)
"Why didn't you tell me, Clark?" came the soft question.
Clark looked over to the shadowed end of the couch to see where his beloved fiancé of a month sat, her knees pulled up to her chest. From where she sat, Clark knew it was an impossible dream that she missed his landing on their balcony as Superman. Plus, from the nature and tone of her question, it seemed quite likely she'd seen him depart in the same guise three hours before. That would've been all well and good, if it hadn't also been the manner in which she'd apparently discovered one of his greatest secrets.
He stood frozen in front of the balcony door, where he'd paused at the sound of her voice in the middle of stripping off his tights. To say he was at a loss for words would be putting it mildly. He'd imagined many scenarios involving her discovering his dual identity. He'd imagined her reactions too. Everything from taking her on a picnic to the Fortress of Solitude, to her walking in on him washing his tights in the sink. He'd imagined her angry and upset, stunned, or even just plain excited. But this…this…stillness was beyond anything he'd expected.
She wasn't even looking at him, just looking down as she idly played with the diamond solitaire engagement ring residing on her finger.
And that terrified him beyond all rhyme or reason. Not even when Jor-El was first making his overbearing presence felt had he been this scared out of his mind. Whenever he and Lois had an argument, or she was calling him on his shortcomings, or he was trying to reign in her recklessness, she always looked him in the eye when she let him have it. Lois Lane was spit and vinegar personified.
At this point denials, half-truths, and excuses were utterly out of the question. So his most closely guarded truth, even beyond that of his alien origins, forced its way through his constricted throat.
"I was afraid."
After a long moment of perfect silence, she nodded absently as if that was the answer she'd expected. Perhaps it was. She knew him better than anyone. Relatively speaking.
A lone tear escaped her eye, and Clark watched with morbid fascination as it made its way unimpeded down her cheek to her jaw line.
"Then you don't know me, or trust me, or both," she all but whispered.
He started to speak, to apologize, to try and explain, but she cut him off with a sharp swipe of her hand.
"We've been dating for almost two years, and known each other for years before that. You had no reason to fear my reaction; you should know me better than that." She chuckled bitterly, "Now I doubt whether I even know you."
Again, he tried to speak, but she continued on almost as if she'd forgotten he was still standing there half-dressed.
"Don't misunderstand me. The secret itself, that you moonlight as the world's most powerful superhero, is irrelevant. I mean, you could rule the planet with your abilities…but you don't. You don't," she trailed off with a heavy sigh. "No, the problem is that I fell in love with the most honorable, courageous man I've ever met. Now I feel like I fell for an illusion.
"Everyone's feels fear at some time or another, Clark; only the foolish are perpetually unafraid. But what separates courage from cowardice isn't the presence or absence of fear, but how you act while afraid. Now what I once saw as courage seems merely comfort behind your physical invulnerability. When you could be hurt, when you were vulnerable and afraid you failed to trust me. You failed to trust that I would love and protect your heart from harm. That's what hurts. That's what disappoints. That's why I feel numb."
Clark stood stock still, no longer even trying to force words out through his closed throat. Finally, she looked up at him and into his eyes. He almost wished she hadn't. Her gaze wasn't filled with pain. It was worse, her eyes were dead, a look of utter defeat clouding her usually vibrant irises. He suddenly felt nauseous and his stomach clenched with nigh debilitating pain as he reached out a hand to steady himself.
"I've never pushed you to tell me your secrets, never pried; everyone is entitled to their secrets. I figured that if it was important, you'd tell me eventually. When you were ready. I've known there was something special about you since we met, even begun to suspect you were Superman a few months ago."
Finally, her voice rose from its near whisper, but it was still quiet. Quietly bitter, without a trace of her usual light sarcasm.
"But I figured, hell, if he was Superman, he would surely tell me before he did anything serious like propose. That's what dating is for after all, getting to know all the big things about each other. Getting to know and trust and love the person inside and out, deciding whether you wanted to spend the rest of your lives together."
Slowly, she unfolded herself from her corner of the couch and stood up. She looked down again, and he followed her eye line to her left hand with growing dread. A moment later, her engagement ring had been carefully removed and gingerly set on the coffee table sitting before her.
"The bottom line, Kent," she said as she moved towards the front door, "is that you should never have proposed. We don't know each other; we have no business getting married. And if after so long together, we don't know each other…" she trailed off with a final shrug.
Clark continued to stand immobile long after the final click of the door faded into silence.