Bequest : Chapter Eight - Reaching
Clark was exhausted from the events of the day and in this fragile peace, the slicing pain of his loss swirled at a low tide. The sun had long since set and he found himself still on the floor of the barn within the comforting circle of Lois' arms. Her hand ran rhythmically over his hair, her fingers sliding through the locks and letting them fall strand by strand back into place. Her slow, steady breathing hypnotized him, becoming the focus of his attention.
Clark floated on the swell and fall of each breath, trying not to focus on any one thought. He found when he did it would build until it rushed through him rising from his heart until it materialized in his eyes, spilling onto his cheeks.
At such moments, Lois instinctively would hold him closer. Her heartbeat pulsed against his chest, and his rose to meet hers as the space between them disappeared. Clark felt her shiver against him and he drew back his head to meet her eyes.
He hadn't noticed the drop in temperature since the sun had set. All the same, the air in had cooled as the evening breeze traveled through the slatted doors of the barn. The light of one naked bulb flickered meagerly across Lois' features as he looked at her.
"Are you cold?" he whispered.
Lois' eyes met his and he was lost in their hazel depths. Clark was bathed in a thousand memories, more welcome than the sorrowful focus of this day. His mind went back to an hour long ago when he'd found himself here in her embrace, her face inches away from his. Her smell intoxicated him and Clark's eyes fluttered closed as he reached back in time to recapture what he'd lost.
His lips sank into hers and their breaths intertwined for the first time in five years. Clark clung to her, burying his hands in her hair, declaring his love in every way but speech. With every brush of her lips, every stroke of her cheek, he would collect the pieces of their shattered pasts and fused them back together.
The air around him was warm and hazy, the world righting itself as long as she was in his arms. He was lost in this moment until her tears mixed with his on their lips.
Clark drew back to find Lois' eyes looking back into through a veil of tears. Her expression pained.
The reality of their present situation crashed over him, as her hands slid off of his shoulders, retreating back to her sides. Clark's memories shifted to the empty newsroom and his ears echoed with the angry words born of betrayal that had been spoken there.
Lois took a step back and her arms crossed defensively over her chest. Clark didn't know which was worse, the pain in her eyes over her mistrust of him or the longing he saw there to continue what they had just begun.
They stood there a moment, eyes locked on one another, his eyes pleading for understanding and hers unable to give it.
Lois dropped her gaze and turned away. Clark watched her as she disappeared out of the barn into the consuming darkness of the night.
The gravel crunched beneath Lois' feet as she all but ran toward the farmhouse.
The moonlit walkway in front of her blurred through her tears. She angrily batted them away as quickly as they fell. [IWhat was I thinking?[/I Every step resonated painfully throughout her body as she increased the distance between her head and her heart.
Her head told her to get to the house, to remember why a relationship not founded on trust would always fail. But her heart…
Her heart was on the floor of the barn.
She had wanted just for one moment, to take away the pain in his eyes, but selfishly she wanted to remember what it felt like to be in his arms, to be loved by him.
Lois mentally cursed herself as made her way around to the front of the house. She climbed the steps of the porch and sat heavily down on the welcoming cushion of the porch swing.
There in the security of the darkness, the tears came, her shoulders shaking with the force of her sobs. How had things become so complicated? Lois bounced off the walls of her own mind, trying to work out her confusion.
Her eyes filled afresh at the memory of his crestfallen expression when she'd left him in the barn. Clark had been through so much already the last few days and the last thing Lois had wanted to do was add more hardship to an already difficult situation.
But the way he looked at her…
She couldn't stop herself from answering the question in his eyes.
Lois drew her knees up to her chest and laid against the arm of the swing, her tears slid down her cheeks, soaking the smooth wood beneath them.
It had never been an issue whether or not she loved him. Even now, her arms ached to be filled, the feel his ever-present warmth radiating from him into her.
The last time she'd felt his arms around her, they had been floating twenty feet above the floor of the Planet bullpen.
A shuddering sob escaped her as the memory of the night flooded her mind.
The rest of the staff had gone home for the night. It was an ordinary evening for Lois & Clark. She was plugging away at what she hoped would be the last revision on her story, meanwhile Clark had taken a break from correcting her spelling mistakes to go to the roof for some air.
Lois took off her glasses and rubbed her sore, tired eyes. The news droned on from the lone live monitor in the newsroom. Looped news footage covering the swearing in of the new mayor flickered onto the screen. This mayor was being sworn in after the previous mayor's resignation.
Lois felt a small swell of pride rise in her chest at that. She had been the one to break the story wide open when she'd discovered Mayor Fantinelli's side business of taking bribes from the local mob boss.
It hadn't taken long before charges had come flying from every direction and under public scrutiny, the mayor had stepped down.
Lois smiled and stood up, stretching the kinks out of her back. She tilted her head to either side relaxing the muscles of her neck.
Lois leaned over her desk to her finished document and hit the print button. Her eyes flitted upward.
"I wouldn't mind some fresh air myself." She muttered to herself.
Lois reached for her purse, and her hand had just closed around her last pack of cigarettes when television monitor blared to life with a live bulletin.
"This just in from down town. Superman has just extinguished a fire that began in the apartment complex behind me. The tenants of the building have been evacuated. The resident of the apartment where the fire originated has just been flown down to the ambulance by Superman airlines." The bottle-blonde reporter giggled at her own joke.
"Oh Lord." Lois rolled her eyes.
"We'll see if the Man of Steel has a moment….Superman? Superman!" The woman's teased hairdo bobbed wildly as she teetered on her stilettos across the street toward Superman who smiled patiently at her. "Bonnie Lieberwitz, 'Metropolis Beat'! Would you mind giving us a statement about the blaze?"
Superman pretended not to notice the reporter inching closer to him as he spoke. "Well Bonnie, the fire was easily extinguished because it was contained to pretty much the one apartment. It was a lucky night for the people in this building."
Superman's normally immaculate suit was smudged with charcoal and debris, his face streaked with dirt and dust from the rescue. Despite his disheveled appearance, he stood towering and regal next to the fawning reporter.
"He even looks perfect when he's a mess." Lois tapped on the bottom of the cigarette package a half smile on her face.
"Superman, were you able to see how the fire began with your x-ray vision?" Bonnie's eyes were wide as she mooned over the superhero.
Superman's lip twitched momentarily before he responded. He cleared his throat and regarded her soberly, "I'm afraid this whole incident could have been avoided. It appears the resident fell asleep with a lit cigarette in her hand and the sheets of her bed were set ablaze."
"Oh my!" Bonnie marveled dramatically.
"I think all of us can learn a valuable lesson about the risks of this dangerous habit." Superman said as he turned his eye on the camera and Lois felt as if he was looking right at her.
She laughed out loud and tosses the cigarette package back onto her desk. With a grin she set her course for the elevators. "How does he do that?"
Lois was still chuckling when the elevator gave a soft ding for the roof entrance. She opened the doorway to the rooftop and called out for her coworker.
"Clark! I've finished my homework! Want to give it a quick once ov-" Lois' nose wrinkled in confusion as her eyes beheld an empty rooftop. "Clark Keeent?" she called merrily.
Lois took a few steps around the marble-covered roof and found no sign of her partner. She clicked her tongue and shrugged, turning back to the roof entrance door. Lois stepped through it and was about to close it behind her when she heard the familiar sound of boot-clad feet meeting marble.
Lois ran a hand over her hair to smooth it and grinned at the thought that maybe she and Bonnie weren't so different after all.
She opened the door and was surprised when she came face to face not with Superman but a very stricken looking Clark Kent, who's hand was frozen midway through a tie-straightening.
"Where did you come from?" Lois tilted her head, her brow furrowed.
Clark stared mutely at her for a moment. "Wha- uh. What do you mean Lois? I was just up here getting some air."
Lois' eyes narrowed a little and she stepped towards him, he skittered backwards, avoiding her eyes. "Clark, no you weren't, I was just up here looking for you." A little bell went off in her head at his strange behavior. "Clark, what's going on?"
Clark straightened his glasses and nudged past her through the door into the building. "Lois don't be silly, nothing is going on. You must not have seen me is all." He pushed the down button on the elevator, which opened immediately.
"I called your name. Twice." Lois's eyes followed Clark as he stepped into the elevator. "Why-"
"Are you coming?" Clark cut her off, his voice coming more strident and firm than it usually did.
"Yeh…" Lois stepped into the elevator car and as the doors closed the smell of smoke tickled her nose. Lois sniffed the air, once, twice. She leaned toward Clark who seemed unaware of the odor. "You know, for a guy who wanted some fresh air you smell like the business end of a fireplace."
Clark shifted uncomfortably. When the doors of the elevator opened he looked visibly relieved and walked briskly into the bullpen. Lois stalked after him, the warning bells in her head amplifying into an all out alarm.
"Did you finish your story, Lois?" Clark asked, his voice still uncharacteristically high. He shed his coat and plopped it onto his desk. "It's getting late and we need to be bac-" Clark turned around and nearly walked right into her. "Excuse me."
Lois let him pass as he shuffled over to her desk and picked up her final print of their story. Her eyes studied him, something niggled in the back of her mind just out of reach.
Clark's eyes shifted sideways as he pretended not to notice her scrutiny. He reached back nervously and rubbed the back of his neck. As he did, his tilted head revealed a long black smudge down the side of his neck.
"What the-" After a moment, Lois' eyes widened. It couldn't be.
Clark looked up and saw her expression. "Lois…" he put the pages down on her desk and cross the room to stand in front of her.
Lois swallowed the lump growing in her throat. "Why do you smell like smoke, Clark." She said quietly.
It was not a question.
Her jaw set and she blinked repeatedly as the harsh reality of who was standing before her became crystal clear.
Clark regarded her in silence, a flicker of defeat and fear flashing through his blue eyes.
"Why is there a charcoal smudge down your neck, Clark" she interrupted, leaning heavily on his name, her voice shaking with anger.
Clark reached for her, his hands falling briefly on her shoulders before Lois pulled away with such violence she nearly fell backwards.
"That's why you weren't on the roof. You were needed… somewhere else weren't you… Superman." She said the name thickly, her voice breaking as she closed her eyes.
Clark did not insult her with a denial. Rather he stepped forward. Looking directly into her eyes, his large hands closed gently around her elbows. Lois' eyes locked with his momentarily until she felt the floor of the bullpen give way below her heels.
She gasped as her shoes slipped off her feet and clattered to the floor. Lois looked down to see the newsroom stretching twenty feet below her as she and Clark floated above it.
"Lois now that-" Clark began softly.
Lois' surprise was short lived and her head snapped towards Clark
"Put me down…please." She growled through clenched teeth, her eyes burned into his.
Clark shifted his grip, wrapping his arm around her waist to steady her.
"Lois, now that you know…" Clark repeated, softly as he lowered them back toward the floor. His voice was calm and steady which only made Lois angrier.
"You mean now that I've found out! How could you?" The moment her feet touched the floor, she pulled away from his embrace. She stalked over to her shoes, her bare feet squeaking on the tiled floor. "How long would you have let this go on, Clark? Forever? If I hadn't figured this out, would I be walking Jason down the aisle by myself on his wedding day while you floated above the church x-raying the roof?
No! Because you'd be there as 'Clark!' wouldn't you!?" Her hands cut the air in violent air quotes and she slipped a shoe onto her foot. "I don't even know who you are!"
"God, Clark! I don't understand how someone so synonymous with 'truth' could live every second of his life in opposition to it!" With every word, Lois' hurt-fueled anger began to spiral out of control. "Did you even love me at all? Or was that just another lie?"
Clark's mouth gaped and his eyes bulged in disbelief.
"How can you even ask me that? You're the one person on this planet I'd ever even consider telling this secret to. I loved you. I love you. I didn't want there to be anything unknown between us. I'm sorry you found out the way you did. But I would have told you. That's the truth."
Tears fell unchecked down Lois' face as she slipped on her second shoe and turned her back to him as she stalked to her desk.
"Is that the truth, Clark? Or your truth?" She said quietly.
She collected her purse and coat turned on her heel, pushing her way through the glass doors towards the elevator, leaving Clark standing in stunned silence.