No one knows what it's
To be the bad man, to be the sad man
Behind blue eyes
Clark sighed when his x-ray vision revealed the identity of who was on the other side of the front door to his apartment. It was late – it had been a long and emotional day, and he really wasn't in the mood to extend it. If he let her in, he would have to summon the strength to grind through another confrontation. He'd had enough of those that day.
Still, he found himself moving toward the door, floating so as to not make any noise.
"Open the door, Clark. I know you're there."
He flinched in surprise when she said that. It had always amazed him that she seemed to have a sixth sense attuned to him. She always knew when he was there.
Giving in, he reached out to flick the light on – no use in trying to absorb the solitude of the dark anymore – and opened the door.
She brushed past him without waiting for an invitation and Clark slowly closed the door and turned to face the center of the room. She stood with her back to him, and he wondered why she had even come over if they were just going to share silence. At one time in their relationship – when things had been good – shared silence had been nice… comfortable. Now, it was awkward.
In the silence, the memories of the last time she had been in his apartment rang loud and clear.
He saw her looking around and guessed what she was seeking. "Um, Diana's not here."
She finally turned to face him with an unreadable expression. "Well, seeing as I didn't come here to talk to her – forgive me if I'm not all that disappointed."
He had called that one wrong. "You wanted to talk… to me?"
She looked as if she were in a fight with herself on that one. "Astonishing, huh?"
He found himself releasing another sigh. The fears supporting the reason he had desired to escape a confrontation were manifesting in front of him. After the grocery store and Diana, he had decided that time was the key. Maybe with time, they would be able to talk about this. Whatever the case, there certainly hadn't been enough time gone by to deal with this.
He waited to see if she would explain her visit. They were in a battle of wills.
His sensitive nose told him something new. "Have you been drinking?" If that was how she was deciding to handle her problems, they had more to deal with than he thought.
She looked momentarily surprised and then angry. "You expected me to self-destruct, didn't you? Typical."
Great. He hadn't been trying to insult her. He sighed again.
"I had one drink, Clark. Am I off of the hay wagon?"
He should have known better than to doubt her responsibility. Had he been working off the information about the Lois that he once knew, he wouldn't have the need to question her decisions. Contrary to what most people thought, Lois Lane was one of the most astute and conscientious people he knew.
No, normally he wouldn't have suspected her of any untoward behavior… it was just the situation they were in – a situation of his making. It skewed everything. "Lois, I didn't mean to hurt you."
Her expression showed irony. "Didn't you?" Her eyes narrowed and she shrugged. "Because you had that whole list of things prepared to say, and that alone tells me you had it planned out before hand. Are you telling me that in all that premeditation, you didn't think that I would be hurt?"
He noticed the flush rise to her neck as she broke the lock of their gazes. Her voice had trembled with something that was both sad and angry at the same time, and he felt awful for having put it there.
That list… those things he'd said to her… They had been true and they had served their purpose – whether or not they had been fair.
She suddenly looked at him again. "I came to tell you that you were right about us… about everything."
That took him by surprise. "You… you did?" For the first time, he was forced to question if he wanted to be right about everything.
She seemed to almost look disgusted as she studied him. "We did move fast – really fast for a one month relationship. On the surface we are opposites, and yes, there is the question of if what we have – I mean, if what we had could exist outside of these four walls…"
She paused and looked at him – really looked, and he had trouble believing what he thought he might have seen there.
"We fell too fast for it to be believable."
Clark was forced to look away so he wouldn't expose the lie. Maybe on the surface they had fallen too fast, but there had been droppage before the 39 days. They just hadn't let themselves admit it.
"I was wrong about a lot of things," she declared. "Namely…"
The trailing off of her words caused him to look up and he saw her turn and walk over to a spot near his bookshelf.
"…When I stood right here, in this spot, and let you crush me with line after line of reasons…" Her jaw tightened as she reigned in her composure. "…and like some kick bag, I just took it. Like I was popping back up each time; ready for another hit."
The metaphor troubled him. He would never deliberately hurt her – well, he amended recalling the verbal rundown of the break up, not physically.
"I never said anything back, never defended myself…"
He wanted to respond… he wanted to say something, but this was her turn to speak, and he would give it to her. The last time they were here together, he had said his 'reasons why not' and she had listened. She had not argued, she had not questioned. She had just taken it all in - and left.
"That was wrong," she added softly. "But let me tell you where you were wrong." Turning to face him, she continued, "You said that you were saving our friendship, but the truth is that you didn't – you couldn't. Our 'friendship'," she spat, heatedly. "…is ruined."
Clark successfully fought off the urge for tears. The reason he had put on the breaks, the reason he had pulled back when they were in the heat of the frying pan, had been to salvage the relationship that had been his saving grace. If that was gone – and that is what it certainly appeared to be – then the sacrifice had been for naught.
He couldn't accept that it had all been worthless. "You don't mean that," he said, half pleading with her, half pleading with himself.
"You asked me to walk away, Clark. To quit." Her tone was partly accusatory but steady. "And I have been trying like hell to prove to myself that I felt the same way you did, but I can't… because I don't."
She didn't feel the same way he did about what? About quitting?
Again, her sixth sense seemed to tell her exactly what he was thinking. "I don't want to love you…" His heart pinched when she answered his thoughts. "But I do."
Clark experienced a breathless and soundless minute as all of his senses attempted to overload at once. He didn't know what to do with that. He still had a job to do.
"And I just can't walk away from that. So, no, we can't go back to being friends. It's too late." She gave him a hard look, challenging him to deny that she was right. "And you know it."
The ice he was applying to his heart threatened to thaw when he saw the lone tear thread its way down her cheek. Lois Lane didn't cry. Again, the perception that she gave was one of shatter-resistant material, but he had learned the failsafe – and he was the person that broke the glass.
He stiffened in surprise when she suddenly rushed across the room and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. "Am I unlovable?"
She moved a hand to the side of his face and stood gazing into his eyes. He found that he was paralyzed by fear. Fear that he really had broken her – the look in her eyes and the fact that she was pleading with him were things quite out of character.
"Show me," she whispered.
Then she pressed herself flush against him in another type of plea altogether. And there was the fear that she had broken him – the sight of her, the smell of her, the mere presence of her, overwhelmed him. He finally felt his nerves release and he began to reach for her… one more time. One last time… but before he could, she was gone.
"Oh, God, I'm so sorry," she said into her hands.
Clark forced himself to check his emotions. "You don't have to apologize," he said.
She pulled her hands away from her face and glared at him. "I wasn't apologizing to you. I was talking to myself."
He noticed with slight relief that she was back. The Lois Lane who didn't beg. The Lois Lane who would be all right without him.
"Everything is just so messed up." She hugged herself, as if trying to keep that Lois Lane in place. "What I should be doing is taking all of my anger and hurt out on you…"
Yes, he said silently. You should.
Somehow, the return of abuse would soothe him where the devastating guilt was crushing his soul.
Her expression took on yet another emotion to add to the list the night was producing. "I don't understand, Clark… Why?"
It was the one question he didn't want to answer. It was the one that determined the necessity for the lies. His heart – his love – was not his to share. "I can't be what you want me to."
Obviously that didn't answer anything. "When have I ever asked you to be anything?"
"Everyone wants something, Lois." In his mind, the faces of everyone he knew were conjured up. They all expected something from him. His mom expected duty, Chloe expected power, the world expected protection… "Even you."
He recognized the anger as it boiled in her eyes. It almost looked like passion – but she kept a tight lid on it. "You're right."
And there it was, finally. His absolution. The pressure wasn't imagined. His reactions were real.
"So, let's get to the bottom of this. What was it that I wanted from you that was too much to bear?" she demanded, stepping closer to him. "What was it that I wanted you to be?"
He felt the unexpected need to step back – her tightly coiled emotions were that intimidating – but he didn't move.
"Stoic?" she asked, poking his shoulder. "You seem to be doing very well with that right about now. Secretive?" This time the poke was in his chest. "I am not La…" Her expression darkened. "I have never even asked."
Shaking her head, she stepped back, again putting space between them. The idea that he would have considered her to be comparable to Lana seemed to threaten to send her over the edge. It made Clark think back to his conversation with his mother.
'Lois is not Lana. Don't make the mistake of treating her like she is.'
"So, what then?" Lois asked, throwing her hands into the air. "Present? Prompt? Faithful? I've put up with all of your excuses and never once did I suspect…"
Her words stalled, and her eyes widened – filled with surprise, hurt, realization, and betrayal. "Oh."
And then he caught up. Grocery store. Diana. His attempt at subterfuge paying out.
"No. Never. I wouldn't, Lois. She's not even…" For some reason, he felt the need to protect that little slice of what she could trust about him as a person. He wouldn't have cheated on Lois – he couldn't have cheated on Lois. "Fearless," he finally admitted. "I couldn't be fearless."
"Fearless?" she asked, with incredulity filling her voice. "You don't think I was afraid? You don't think that I'm afraid right now?" She took a moment to close her eyes and release a breath. "You want to know what I wanted, no – what I needed you to be, Smallville?"
The look of misrecognition she gave him shook his core.
His entire psyche drooped at her words. They defined the very thing he wasn't. Human. He couldn't be what she wanted. She had justified everything he had done and thought without even knowing it.
"Everyone has fears – it's what you do in the face of those fears that determines what kind of person you are… what kind of man you are."
He couldn't find it within himself to look at her. The two words were still ringing in his ears. She had admitted the very thing he had wanted her to – and yet it was the very thing he never wanted to hear her say.
She sighed heavily at his non-response. "You asked me not to love you, and I tried, believe me, I tried – but it's too late. And as much as you would like to convince me otherwise, I don't believe that you can just 'lose' love."
Again she paused, giving him breadth to insert something to make her think otherwise – but he couldn't do it. He couldn't be rejected again.
He knew that she was laying it on the line. She was waiting for him to provide the final seal.
"Listen, every relationship has a breaking point. Either it cracks apart or it gets welded over and becomes stronger." She paused again. "Are we stronger? Do we get to use our one-time idiot passes and try again?"
He finally met her gaze. This woman – this Lois Lane – was pledging to love him in spite of the things she didn't know. In spite of the things he had said, the ways he had lied. She deserved greater than he had to offer. She deserved a man who could love her freely and without limit. She deserved to be released.
But as much as his logical mind was demanding that he say these things, that he confirm the diagnosis with a time of death, his heart would not let him speak. So he stood there, gazing at this woman – this Lois Lane – and said nothing.
"Okay," Lois said after the time they spent in silence went beyond anything constructive.
Clark felt a physical void when she finally pulled her gaze away. "Okay."
He still couldn't move when she stepped past him, and her movement drove home what his inactivity had accomplished.
He allowed his chin to fall to his chest. In his other life, he saved people, he kept them from harm and protected them from dangers seen and unseen – but when he brought his work home to this private side, the rules didn't seem to be the same.
He was no hero here.
His secret was not his alone. His identity was tied into the lives of other people, and their identities were tied up in his. He had been sent to this world to act as an overseer – a guardian. These were the things he knew – the things that kept him grounded.
But his identity was also intertwined with the essence of a woman who had helped to create his confidence, who had challenged him into action when he had resigned to take none. She was half of the reason the other parts of himself were even able to function. She deserved someone who could appreciate those things. She deserved someone who wasn't so afraid of her rejection of the truth that he refused to share it with her. She deserved a man who would demand that his other life responsibilities bend to her presence.
But most of all, she deserved to have the one thing he was refusing to give to her.
She deserved to have a choice.
"Lois," he said, turning to face the door… but it was wide open.
And she was gone.
Within seconds, he had finally made a choice that he had been avoiding for months. Within seconds he was standing on her stoop, waiting with held breath for the taxi to deposit its passenger on the curb.
He held his breath as she slowly walked up the sidewalk, focused on finding the elusive keyring that was hidden somewhere in the recesses of her purse. And he held his breath when she finally looked up and saw him waiting there.
This woman – this Lois Lane – was the woman he loved. And if she would have him, he would pledge to love her forever.
She took a confused glance around, and he smiled with mixed anxiety and amusement at what he knew she was wondering.
"How did you get here so fast?" she asked, halting her steps a few feet from him.
This was the proverbial point of no return on the proverbial flight of life… This was the time to be fearless - to tell the truth.
He licked his lips and straightened, looking her deeply in the eyes. "I flew."