Author: De Duchess
Rating: PG13 – R
Prompt: 'I'm fine' is what you say when you can't break.
Spoilers: Bride. Other then that? None really. I'm making up my own time line for this. I have no idea when Lana is supposed to do her thing in Smallville, but since the episodes air in January, I'm guessing that on Smallville, not before Christmas. I don't care.
Beta: Erin (Thank you!)
Summary: She's said it so many times, that she's almost started to believe it herself. And then off course, he shows up…
Authors Note: Written in the spirit of Divine Intervention's Christmas ficstravaganza 2008.
~How not to break~
You'll sit alone forever
if you wait for the right time
What are you hoping for
I'm here, I'm now, I'm ready
Holding on tight
Don't give away the end,
the one thing that stays mine
Lois reached for the remote to the stereo and resolutely turned it off. She'd consciously chosen a channel that wasn't trying to brainwash her with Christmas music, but this wasn't any better. In fact it was hitting a little too close to home for her liking.
She threw the remote on the coffee table and settled back into the couch. There, silence was better. She stifled a sigh and glanced around the apartment, or penthouse really. Oliver owned the building and was letting her use this place while she was in Star City. While tastefully furnished, it was bare of any and all Christmas decorations. Anyone that knew her would be shocked. Christmas was arguably her favorite holiday, but this year there wasn't so much as a wreath on her door.
Of course, the wedding from hell would do that. This time Lois did sigh. A bloodbath. That was the only way to describe it. And by some miracle no one was killed - although Jimmy came close. Too close.
But the wedding had been ruined for her even before that thing had decided to crash it.
Lois shook her head and got up. She would not dwell on it. Not anymore. Going into the kitchen she pulled open the fridge and regarded its contents with a critical eye. Champagne or apple cider? Regretfully she reached for the apple cider and poured herself a glass. She couldn't afford to get drunk, no matter how much she might want to. She was still the emergency contact - hell the only contact - and they'd need her sober.
If there was one thing she was hoping for, it was that she wouldn't get a call. Jimmy was doing better. He was breathing on his own and soon he would start the gruelling rehabilitation process. She'd been by his side the past few weeks; first while he lounged in his coma and then when he'd woken up. Today was the first day since he'd been brought to Star City that she hadn't been to the hospital.
Jimmy thought she was in Smallville, spending Christmas with Chloe. Chloe thought she was spending Christmas with the General. What she really wanted was to be left alone. Just for a day.
She didn't mind spending time with Jimmy. She liked Jimmy. What bothered her was that her cousin, his wife, had only spent four days in Star City before returning to Smallville. Call her crazy, but what could possibly be more important then being by your husband's side after he nearly died? Jimmy thought the same thing, even if he would never say it. And neither would she. But she could see it in his eyes after every phone call ended with a hurried goodbye, and he could probably see it in hers each time the doctor glanced around the room before addressing them.
She was angry with Chloe. She'd been worried sick those first few days, when Chloe had been missing. The only blessing was that Jimmy had still been in a coma and blissfully unaware of his wife's disappearance. But it had been draining, trying to think and make decisions about his treatment while her cousin had been taken by the very thing that had put Jimmy in the hospital.
And then Chloe had been found. A little worse for wear, but otherwise unharmed. And Jimmy woke up. And for a moment, a short moment, she'd thought everything would be okay. Chloe came to Star City and Jimmy had smiled, as much as he was able with a tube down his throat anyway. And she'd hugged Chloe, squeezing her tight and not willing to let go. She'd watched Chloe sitting next to Jimmy's bed and she'd thought that it was unfair that they had to spent their first moments and husband and wife this way. And then suddenly Chloe had left.
She'd gotten a phone call, and whatever the conversation had been about had been enough to make her leave. She hadn't been back since. Lois gulped down her glass and poured another before putting the bottle back. With her glass in hand she returned to the couch and sank down heavily onto the cushions. It had been Clark. Clark and whatever the secret was that had brought Lana back and made Oliver distracted. Probably something to do with Lex. She'd heard through her sources about a confrontation between Lana and Tess, where the name Lex had been shouted around - loudly.
And while she hated Lex with a passion for everything he had done, if it was her husband in the hospital, she wouldn't be out chasing Lex. Not unless he'd been the one to put him there. And she knew this wasn't Lex's doing. She'd asked Oliver straight out when Lex's name had begun to be thrown around - and he'd assured her that whatever that thing was that had gone on a rampage at the wedding, it wasn't anything connected to Lex. She believed him. Maybe she shouldn't, but she did. He wasn't lying. So why wasn't Chloe here? She didn't know.
In the silence the ringing of her phone made her jump and she quickly reached for it as dread settled in her stomach. She glanced at the display screen and released a breath she hadn't realised she was holding as 'unknown number' flashed across the screen. It wasn't about Jimmy. The hospital was programmed into her phone even if she didn't need it. She'd memorised the number weeks ago.
She flipped open her phone cautiously. "Hello."
Silence reigned at the other end for a moment before, "Hey sis."
"Lucy?" Lois breathed.
"What, you have another sister I don't know about?" Lucy chuckled.
Lois rubbed her forehead. "Where are you and how much trouble are you in?" She asked.
"I'm not in any trouble." Lucy said indignantly.
"Right." Lois answered. "And you're not calling me to wire you money either."
The line was quiet for a long moment. "I'm not in any trouble and I don't need money." Lucy finally answered. "I'm still in Gotham, I'm still in school and I still have my job at the diner."
"Good." Lois said. "I'm glad. So why are you calling then?"
Lucy snorted. "Merry Christmas Lois." She said sarcastically.
Lois blinked. "Thanks." She finally said. "You too."
Lucy remained silent in the other end and Lois sighed. "I'm sorry Luce." She said. "I just --" she shook her head, even though Lucy couldn't see her.
"Are you okay?" Lucy asked quietly.
Lois grimaced. "I'm fine."
"Right," Lucy said, "that's why you nearly bit my head off just now."
"It's been a tough couple of weeks." Lois said. "But I'm fine. Everything's okay."
"If you say so." Lucy said, "I just wanted to call and say 'merry Christmas'."
Lois nodded. "Thanks."
Lucy hesitated on the other end. "Have you talked to the General?" She finally asked.
"Not recently." Lois answered, "You should call him."
Lucy chuckled. "Yeah, no thanks. Anyway, I gotta go."
"Okay. Be safe."
"I will. Bye sis."
The line went dead before Lois could reply. She sighed as she flipped the phone closed. Abrupt and awkward as that had been, she was glad to have talked to Lucy. At least one person didn't need her help. She leaned back and stretched down onto the couch, rubbing her forehead again.
Tired. She was just tired. Tired in a way that made it impossible to sleep. So tired that her head hurt and it felt like she was underwater. Her thoughts seemed sluggish and slow and her movements required an effort she wasn't sure she could manage right now. Or maybe she shouldn't have drunk that glass of cider on an empty stomach. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply. She wanted to sleep, just rest. It seemed like these past few weeks she hadn't had more then a couple of hours sleep at a time. Sheer willpower had been the only thing keeping her from collapsing in exhaustion. That and the cot the nurses had put in Jimmy's room after the third day, when they finally admitted defeat and stopped trying to get her to leave. But things were catching up to her and now she just wanted to rest. But while her body craved sleep, her mind wouldn't slow down.
Too tired to sleep. Lois had always thought that was a stupid notion. She'd seen soldiers so tired they fell asleep standing. The thought that you were so tired that you actually couldn't sleep had always been something she couldn't quite grasp. But she understood it now.
Her phone came to life again, simultaneously ringing and buzzing so it moved around on the low table. Lois stretched her arm out and closed her fingers around the device, not bothering to check the id this time in favour of stopping the noise. She flipped it open and wearily brought it to her ear.
"Hello?" she said.
Lois shot upright, stunned to hear the voice on the line. "Clark?"
"Wha- What's wrong?" she asked.
"You tell me." He answered and Lois frowned.
"Clark what's going on?" she asked.
"Chloe's in Star City." He answered. "She didn't want Jimmy to be alone for Christmas so she went to surprise him. Imagine her surprise when he was shocked to see her, since he thought she was spending Christmas with you."
Lois sighed. "That's it?" she asked. "That's why you called me?" She didn't know why it hurt her that the first real contact they'd had since she left Smallville was about this. But then again, what did she expect.
"Don't you think that's enough?" He asked. "We thought you were spending Christmas with the General."
"Change of plans." Lois said.
"Don't you mean non-existent plans? Chloe called the General, he didn't know about anything. You lied to everyone."
Lois rolled her eyes. "So you called to chastise me? Chloe and Jimmy are together for Christmas, I think that's a good thing. I'm not having a fight with the General, also a good thing. All in all, things seem to be going well. So if that's all." She resolutely flipped the phone closed. She couldn't help the flash of satisfaction at that. Then a knock sounded at her door.
Lois stared at the door in stunned silence. It couldn't be. There was no way that the person she thought was there, could be. No. Way.
Unless Oliver had told him. In which case she would kill him. Slowly.
The knock sounded again, louder and more insistent this time, but Lois didn't move. How had he even gotten past the doorman? It had to be Oliver, she decided, Oliver had to have helped him. That would also explain how he got here so fast. He had to have used Ollie's private jet.
"Lois I know you're in there." Clark called through the door and Lois cursed as she held down the 2 on her speed dial.
"What the hell are you doing here?" She demanded as soon as he'd picked up.
"Open the door." Clark answered and Lois gritted her teeth.
"No." she told him. "Go away."
"Not a chance." Clark said.
Lois felt her eye twitch and the dull feeling in her head roared to life into a headache. "What do you want?" she asked slowly, trying to keep her anger under control.
"Not to talk through a phone when we're ten feet apart." Clark retorted.
Lois gripped the phone tighter in her hand. "Clark." She warned.
She could hear him take a breath and release it. "I just want to make sure you're okay."
Lois' eyebrows rose. "I'm fine." She told him. "I'd be better if you weren't here."
There was a soft sound outside, as if Clark was leaning against her door. "I don't believe you." He told her bluntly.
"I don't care."
"If everything was fine then you wouldn't have lied to everyone about where you were. And we would be having this conversation face to face."
Lois rubbed her forehead as she considered her options. She knew that she couldn't bluff her way out of this. Clark would be perfectly content to camp outside her door if he had to. He could be relentlessly stubborn and determined when he wanted. Why all of a sudden he'd turned his attention to her was beyond Lois. It wasn't like she mattered to him.
The bitter thought made Lois flinch and she snapped the phone closed again.
There it was again. The thing she didn't want to think about. All this time she'd been away from Smallville and Lana had been there – with him. All that time she hadn't heard from Clark, he hadn't bothered to call her. She received emails, mostly inquiring about Jimmy's condition.
Oliver had implied a few times that Clark asked about her, but she'd resolutely cut off those conversations before they began. Pouring her heart out to Oliver once, that she could deal with. It wasn't going to become a regular occurrence. Her trust was still something he had to re-earn. And if her conclusion was right, and he'd helped Clark get to her, then he'd just forfeited any claim of 'friendship'.
Lois got up and stalked to the door, turning the locks and removing the chain, before pulling open the door. Clark stood in front of her, his cell phone still clutched in his hand. Her eyes swept over him quickly, taking in his attire. He was wearing one of his dress shirts, a deep red one with a tie and black dress pants. It seemed like he'd decided to work through Christmas – she doubted he wore these clothes at the farm.
Likewise Clark took her in and the scrutiny in his eyes made her narrow hers in challenge. He didn't say anything as he stepped past her into her temporary apartment and she threw the door closed with a bit more force then strictly necessary, but he didn't jump. Instead he crossed his arms and glowered at her.
She wondered if Lana was still in Smallville. Her sources were celebrating the holidays and therefore ignoring her, so she wasn't sure. But if he was working through Christmas then at the very least it meant they weren't spending it together. So he'd apparently decided to come bother her instead. Lois sat on the arm of the couch and regarded him silently.
Clark seemed to realize that she wasn't going to say anything. He'd come here, he'd insisted that she let him in, so he would have to make the first move.
"Chloe called me." He finally said. "She didn't want to leave Jimmy alone, but she was worried about you."
"I didn't lie to her. I told her I wasn't going to be there today with Jimmy. I didn't pretend to be spending Christmas here and then left him alone. I wouldn't do that." Lois answered.
"I know." Clark said quickly, the heated look on his face melting away.
"The hospital has my number if anything happens, they can call me anytime." Lois continued.
"What they really want is to commit you. And at this point I'd let them. You look terrible."
Lois's eyebrow rose. "The door is right there Clark. Remind me why I shouldn't throw you through it?"
Clark ran a hand through his hair in agitation. "Why did you lie to everyone about where you'd be today?"
Lois shrugged. "Doesn't matter. It concerns me, no one else."
"What are you talking about? Of course it concerns us, we care about you!" Clark exploded.
Lois regarded him. "What are you doing here Clark? Really. Because I really hope you didn't come all the way to Star City so you could yell at me in person."
Clark glared at her. "I came to make sure you were alright."
Lois nodded. "Mission accomplished, clearly I'm fine. So how about you go back to Smallville? Or better yet, put Oliver's jet to good use and go to Washington. I'm sure your mom would be thrilled to see you."
Clark stared at her. The implication wasn't lost on him. His mom would be happy to see him. Lois was not. His face hardened with resolve.
"I'm not going anywhere." He told her.
"Oh really?" Lois mocked.
"Not until we talk."
Lois snorted. "Clark, there is nothing that you and I need to talk about. Except maybe the concept of boundaries."
Clark shook his head. "Lois I think we both know that there's more going on here."
Lois narrowed her eyes. "I think you should leave now, Clark. You wanted to make sure I was okay, you've done that." She rose up from her seat on the couch's armrest. "Go back to Smallville, or go to Washington, or go to the hospital and keep Chloe and Jimmy company. But do me a favor and leave me alone."
Clark was shaking his head before she'd even finished talking. "No. I won't do that. I can't."
Lois stared at him and clenched her jaw. "Fine." She bit out. She stalked to the door, and grabbed her coat and scarf from the hooks mounted to the wall and swiped her bag from the little table next to the door as Clark watched.
"Lois--" He began.
Lois flung the door open and turned to glare at him. "Merry Christmas Clark." She said and yanked the door shut with a resounding thud. She stalked to the elevator and impatiently jabbed at the button as she pulled on her coat. The elevator doors opened after just a few seconds and she stepped inside, pushing the button for the lobby. When she turned around she could see Clark standing in the doorway of her apartment, looking at her. She watched him silently as the elevator doors slid closed and he made no move to stop her. The look on his face was quiet misery and concern, but she simply fixed him with a steely gaze until the doors cut him off from her sight.
Lois dunked the marshmallow down into her hot chocolate, before raising her cup. She nursed the warm drink in her hands but didn't take a sip, instead staring out the diner windows to the people rushing around on the sidewalk. She didn't see them though. Instead she saw Clark. Handsome Clark. Determined Clark. Clark who knew what he wanted and the way things were supposed to be and wasn't going to stop until he managed to get reality to bend to that will. Clark the colleague. Clark the friend. Clark the man. Clark whom she loved.
Lois set her cup down and stared into the liquid. At least the burning, aching feeling was gone. She'd seen him and hadn't been hit by a teenage swoon spell. Or maybe it was because she was pissed at him. She really hoped her lack of reaction meant that she was getting over him. Well, not lack of reaction. She was used to her heart speeding up when she saw him. She knew it was unavoidable to get lost in his eyes for a moment. All those things were just natural occurrences when within close proximity to Clark Kent.
It still rattled her. How hard she'd fallen for him. How fast. How sudden. Or maybe the realization of the feelings was sudden. The falling had been slow and a long time coming. But how deeply she'd managed to fall in love with him? That was still something she couldn't explain. And believe it, she'd tried. It was Clark.
It was Clark.
Lois sighed. Clark who wasn't in love with her. Clark who didn't have any romantic feelings for her. She'd thought, just for a moment, that he did. At the wedding, being held in his arms. The look in his eyes; on his face. She'd put her hand on his chest and he hadn't stopped her, hadn't moved away. She'd asked the question silently, not daring to hope that maybe he did feel it. She'd read the answer in his eyes. And for a moment, just for a moment, when he leaned towards her, she'd thought that she could very well be happy for the rest of her life in the arms of this man.
How silly was that? They hadn't even kissed yet, never been on a date, hadn't even spoken any feelings or desire or anything out loud. But in that moment she'd known. And then the world came crashing down. Not literally, that happened later. But figuratively, for her at least, with Lana's return. She hadn't wanted to see it, their reunion. The affirmation of their undying, odds defying, self-destructive love. So she'd quietly made her exit.
Well not tonight. For once in her life she'd done something she despised. She'd made a dramatic exit. At least she hoped it had been dramatic. The door slamming shut behind her had seemed pretty damn dramatic to her. Of course, standing in the elevator with her scarf wrapped around her arm, while zipping up her coat probably killed it a little.
Her phone rang and Lois jumped a little as the thing vibrated. She fumbled for her phone in the pocket of her jeans and pulled it out to look at the display. Her eyes narrowed at the name. She flipped it open and put it to her ear.
"You're dead." She growled.
"Would you like to be buried or cremated? You know what, it's irrelevant, because they will never find your body."
"I'm a general's daughter. I have immunity in 14 countries."
"…Fourteen? Are you serious?"
"You're right. I think it expired it Peru and Italy. Make that twelve."
Oliver gave a weak laugh on the other end of the line. "He was just trying to look out for you. They were worried."
"Right and you decided to help them. What the hell were you thinking!"
"I was thinking that you're completely in love with the guy." Oliver answered and Lois went cold.
"Don't go there." She told him angrily. "If you want to do one thing for me ever, you will drop that."
"He's an idiot." Oliver told her. "I know that, he knows that. But is it worth giving up everything because he was stupid?"
Lois gave an incredulous laugh. "There is nothing to 'give up' Oliver. There was never anything there."
"You're wrong. There always has been. Since the first time I met you Lois. You and Clark were always on this path."
"Yeah and there's a giant roadblock in the middle of it. She's called Lana. You may remember her: petite, gorgeous, you brought her to the wedding?"
Oliver sighed. "Look, I had to okay. And I'm sorry about that. If I'd known that was the day Clark would finally work up the courage to do something, I wouldn't have."
"Well you did. And Clark didn't do anything. Except revert back to the same guy he was."
"You're wrong." Oliver repeated quietly. "He didn't Lois. You haven't been here, haven't seen him. He's different. He's not just the insecure farmboy anymore. The changes you saw in him? The things that finally made you willing to look at him and fall for him? They stuck. That's the person he is now. Lana being back hasn't changed that."
Lois snorted. "Well I'm sure they will be very happy together. Now, could you do me a favor and tell him to leave me alone? I'd appreciate it if I could actually get some sleep."
"Lois they're not together." Oliver said, sounding frustrated.
"Right, that's why they were making out in Metropolis." Lois retorted.
Silence met her on the other end before Oliver cleared his throat. "I don't--"
"I have sources Oliver." She reminded him. "I know what's been going on. Are you forgetting that I want to take down Lex just as much as you do? If anything can draw him out of hiding it's Lana being back. So I've had my sources keep an eye out."
"Lois, sometimes it's hard to let go of something you've wanted for a long time." Oliver said softly. "Sometimes it's hard to admit that it's not going to work and no matter how much you care about someone, this isn't the relationship that you're meant to be in. Letting go takes time and hurts and you just need to be sure. One last try before you give it all up."
Lois shook her head. She wasn't going to do this. She wasn't going to get into a debate about her relationship with Clark, with her ex.
"Why did you call me Oliver?" she asked.
Oliver sighed. "Clark called me. He told me you ran off. Will you please go back to the apartment?"
"Is he still there?" Lois asked.
"Then no. I won't."
"Lois he just wants to know that you're okay."
"I'm fine." Lois told him through gritted teeth. "If people don't stop asking me that, I'm going to start knocking heads together."
"Lois the hospital sends me reports on Jimmy every week right?" Oliver said, "Well they also include your condition. And they are two steps away from admitting you. You don't sleep, you barely eat, and they can't get you to leave his side even with armed security guards. And yes, I know they've tried."
"He has no one else Oliver." Lois said angrily. "Am I supposed to leave him by himself? He nearly died. And he was still in the woods for a long time. I'm healthy, I'm fine, I wasn't in that barn when all hell broke loose. I couldn't protect anyone, because I was at the house with you, pouring my heart out. I'm over Clark. It's done. Jimmy is still healing, Jimmy still needs me and I'm not going to fail him again."
"Lois you didn't fail him the first time." Oliver said gently.
Lois remained quiet. She was done. If Oliver wanted to be stubborn he could try and debate this until he grew roots. She was done.
"Oliver my non-existent relationship with Clark is none of your business. I don't want you meddling or it will be the last time you ever do anything associated with my life. I appreciate what you've done for Jimmy. I appreciate you letting me use the apartment, but that does not give you the right to do this. So stop."
Oliver breathed quietly through the line and when he finally answered he sounded tired. "I'm sorry Lois. I just want you to be happy. And I know that I couldn't do that. I'm not sure there's anyone who deserves you, but you want that idiot and I just thought I'd try and help." He sighed. "Go home. Please? I can't promise Clark won't be there, because it's Clark and you know how he is. But I just want you to know something."
"What?" Lois prompted warily, when he didn't continue.
"Clark's a good guy. He's an idiot. But he always means well and he cares about people. He tries to help. He's one of the best people I've ever met. Don't give up on him because of what happened at the wedding. I brought Lana there, I screwed up that chance you guys had. But Lois, you haven't been here. And I don't know if it's true what your source said, but I know that they're not together. He doesn't love her. I know he hurt you, I know you don't want to be vulnerable again, but if there's one thing I believe. Just one thing, it's that Clark can make you happy. Clark can be that one person who deserves you. If you give him the chance to prove it. Don't let everything slip away because of what I did. What you two have is more then that. I know it. You know it. And Clark is finally starting to realize it too. Merry Christmas."
There was a sift click and the line went dead. Lois stared at the phone in her hand for a long time, before she finally flipped it closed.
She put her head in her hands and breathed in and out slowly. Why now? Why did Oliver have to be all philosophical and introspective now? Why did he have to bring all of that up? She was letting go of Clark. She was moving on and trying to get over those feelings. And then Oliver had to start in again. She didn't want to believe him. She didn't want to believe that Clark had really come here because he cared. That was a dangerous road to go down. It wasn't that she didn't want to love Clark. But she didn't want to be in love by herself. And Clark wasn't in love with her, no matter what Oliver said. She'd seen how deep her love for Clark was. She'd felt it and the hurt at being rejected.
And she didn't care what Oliver said. It had been rejection. Lana had returned and in that moment she'd lost him. Yeah, she'd slipped out of the barn and abandoned the festivities without waiting to see how it would all go down. Didn't mean she couldn't imagine how it had all played out. Was it wrong to want to spare herself the pain of watching it all unfold?
They'd had the argument countless times before. Oliver insisted that by leaving, she couldn't say that Clark didn't have feelings for her. After all, they'd been a hairs breath away from kissing. Pulling away didn't mean anything. But Lois knew. She'd seen the look on his face. Watched him as Lana and Chloe hugged. And she'd seen enough in his eyes to know that she didn't stand a chance. It hadn't been about closure. It had been hope. Hope for a second chance. Or seventh chance if you wanted to get technical about it. I may not have been the whole jump for joy, immediate declaration of love kinda thing, there had been shock and hurt in his eyes and he'd gone numb. But there had been longing too. Longing and hope.
Lois ran a hand through her hair and winced. Her head hurt, her heart ached and she really wanted to sleep. A waitress approached with her take out and Lois stared at the bag as she put it down in front of her. Had there really been any doubt though of what she would do?
With a sigh she grabbed the bag and got up, glancing regretfully at her still full cup of cocoa. Resolutely she squared her shoulders and made her way through the diner and out the door.
She didn't know what she expected, but somehow she wasn't surprised to find Clark sitting in the hall in front of her door. She stepped out of the elevator as Clark rose to his feet, unfolding gracefully from the floor to stand his full height. He was always taller then everyone else. He had a good couple of inches on her, even in heels. She didn't know why she was thinking of that as she opened the door to the apartment and stepped inside. And it wasn't something she needed to think about. Because that led to thoughts of hugging him and dancing and how perfectly they fit together and that was a road she wasn't going to go down tonight.
She set the bag of take out on the table and went into the kitchen to grab two plates, glasses and forks and the bottle of cider from the fridge. She hadn't closed the door and Clark had followed her inside. He now hesitated at nearly exactly the same spot he'd stood earlier, clearly unsure of what to do.
Lois moved back into the living room and sat down, pulling out the containers and spreading them out on the table. Clark slowly moved to the single seat next to the couch and sat down as Lois piled up one of the plates. She passed him the plate and he looked at her for a moment before he reached out to take it from her.
"Don't." She cut him off.
She didn't know what she meant. She didn't know what he'd been about to say. But he stopped and sat back, adjusting his grip on the plate. Lois served herself as well and reached for the remote to the tv. Her hand was shaking slightly and she forced it to stop. She turned on the tv and immediately activated the TIVO, wanting to avoid any and all of the 'holiday cheer' that was surely dripping of the channels. She flipped through the short list of saved shows before she found the one she wanted. Today was Christmas and per tradition that meant that there would be a Christmas Special of the BBC's Doctor Who. It had already aired in the UK, but she hadn't bothered to watch it live.
Now she put on the last episode of series four and settled back. First this, then the Christmas special. She needed to work up to an episode with none of the companions by watching the one episode with every one of them.
Clark settled back aswell, turning to watch the show. Lois tried not to think about the many times they'd done this. Doctor Who marathon's, classic movie marathons, guitar hero contests, and then a Torchwood marathon just to see Clark blush at all the innuendo and groping.
Lois glanced at the food laid out on the table in front of her. She'd ordered it herself. Way too much for just her and the flaming chicken? That was Clark's favorite, not hers. She liked food that didn't make her eyes water, thank you very much. So why had she ordered it? Why had she not locked the door behind herself just now when she came in?
Damn Oliver and his stupid pep talk. He'd gone and done it. She was hopeful. Cautiously optimistic. Of course she'd ordered the food before she'd talked to him, but that was just good manners. Clark wasn't going to leave, so the least she could do was buy him something to eat so he could chow it down while he sat in the hallway. Outside. Not here, inside her apartment less then 3 feet away. She was doing it for his mother she decided. Mrs. Kent would be disappointed in her if she'd left Clark out there.
"Lois?" Clark said.
She glanced at him. "Yes?" she asked slowly.
He was looking at her plate. "You've barely touched your food." He pointed out.
Lois looked down at her plate. She'd been pushing her food around for the last half hour but hadn't really eaten anything. She put the plate down onto the table. "Not that hungry."
Clark's eyebrows rose. "Lois you're not taking care of yourself." He said.
Lois took a deep breathe. "Clark, if you're going to start patronizing me again, there's the door."
"I'm not patronizing you Lois, I'm worried!" Clark said.
"Right." Lois snorted, "That's why this is the first time we've talked since I came to Star City."
Clark frowned at her. "I've been trying to talk to you, but you've been avoiding me."
Lois rolled her eyes. "Don't flatter yourself Clark, I've been taking care of Jimmy."
"To the exclusion of everything else?" Clark demanded angrily. "Lois you have circles under your eyes so I know you don't get enough sleep. I can see you barely eat, do you know that the hospital staff wants to have you admitted so they can run an IV and make sure you're properly hydrated?!"
"Clark I doubt that you know anything about what's been going on here. Let alone what the hospital staff wants." Lois said icily.
Clark glared at her. "I know what's going on. Since you won't talk to me outside of emails consisting of no more then 5 sentences, Ollie's been keeping me up to date. You're not taking care of yourself and you can't keep using Jimmy as an excuse."
Lois had been trying to keep her anger in check but at this her eyes flashed and she slowly and deliberately rose from the couch.
"An excuse." She repeated. "An excuse?!"
Clark got up aswell, apparently somewhat taken aback by her reaction.
Lois clenched her hands into fist. "Do you have any idea what it's been like here Clark?" Lois spoke softly, her voice like steel. "Do you know what Jimmy's been through? He has no one, because for some reason his wife doesn't deem his recovery important enough. Chloe has been in Smallville and Metropolis, doing God only knows what and I've been here. I was the one that sat with Jimmy those first few days he was in his coma. I was the one with him when he woke up. When he still had a tube down his throat and he gagged so badly they had to sedate him. When he couldn't talk, couldn't move, could only squeeze my hand. And when they finally removed that damn tube I was the one trying to calm him down as he couldn't breathe because his midriff had been weakened and he needed to learn how to breathe on his own again."
She fixed Clark with an icy glare. "When he was gasping for breathe, begging them to put to tube back, because he was drowning, I was there. When he had panic attacks and nightmares and they had to bind him to the bed so he didn't open up his injuries again, I was the one who stayed awake all night, to make sure he wouldn't be alone when he woke up in the middle of the night terrified. When they started the rehabilitation process, by just moving his limbs to keep the blood flowing and the muscles strong, I was the one who had to hear him cry in pain."
She jabbed a finger into Clark's chest, "Not you. Not his parents. Not Chloe. Me. So excuse me, if making sure that he wasn't alone while he recovered has made me a bit lacks, but since no one else was around I was pulling triple duty. I did the best I could considering I'm neither his wife nor his best friend."
Clark looked shell-shocked as he stared at her and Lois felt drained. Now that she'd exploded she felt even more tired then before. But most of all she was angry. Angry at Clark, angry at Chloe, angry at Oliver. Angry at herself for losing it like this.
Clark swallowed a few times as he looked at her.
"I'm sorry." He finally said softly. "You're right, I didn't know."
Lois was silent as she stared at him. On the tv, the Doctor was saying goodbye to Rose and himself. Letting someone he loved go forever, so she could live a life with another version of him.
Clark seemed to summon his resolve. "But Lois, all that just proves it. You're not okay, you're not fine."
Lois gave a hollow laugh. "Do you know what I am Clark? I'm angry. I'm angry at Chloe. She should be the one here, sitting by her husbands bedside. But she's not. Did you know that Jimmy didn't have a single panic attack those four days she was here? Not one nightmare?"
Clark cringed slightly and Lois shook her head. "She was here and Jimmy came alive. He smiled. I haven't seen him smile since." She said bitterly. "And I've tried. Tried to be here and help him and make sure he was okay, because I believed that Chloe wouldn't not be here, unless it was important. But that was weeks ago. Now I don't even know anymore."
She looked up at Clark. "I'm tired Clark." She admitted. "I'm tired and I'm--" she broke off helplessly. "I'm fine. But I just wanted one day to myself. One day where I wouldn't be responsible for someone else. One day where I wouldn't have to be on guard all the time. One day to rest and recover, one day, where I could just be."
She raised a hand to slowly rub her temple, staring up at Clark, willing him to understand. She just wanted to be left alone.
Clark stared at her for long moments. The only sound was tv softly playing and she saw Clark's gaze shift over her shoulder to the screen. She turned slightly to see the Doctor step out of Donna Noble's house, leaving her behind forever. He stood in the pouring rain, once again having saved the universe, once again alone, as Wilf promised to always look up at the sky for him, when Clark finally quietly spoke.
"'I'm fine' is what you say when you can't break."
Lois went rigid. She felt as if she was the one standing in the freezing rain, as the Doctor's recent words to Wilf sunk in and she turned back to look at Clark.
'They've all got someone else. Still that's fine, I'm fine.'
Except he wasn't. Not even close.
And neither was she.
'I'm fine' is what you say when you can't break'
Lois squeezed her eyes shut as they suddenly filled with tears and tried to swallow the lump in her throat before it could form and escape in a sob. And then Clark was there.
He wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her in against him, cradling her head into his shoulder. The last time they'd stood like this her world was unravelling. Her cousin was missing, Jimmy was on the brink of death and she'd just accepted that she'd lost Clark forever. She hadn't been willing to give herself over to his embrace, to accept his comfort. This time, it was all she could do to remain standing as she clung to him. She shuddered as silent sobs wracked her body and her tears soaked his shirt. She didn't make a sound. But right there in his arms, Lois let the emotional turmoil of the past weeks overtake her. And she broke.
It was long minutes later when she was able to regain her composure. When she registered Clark's hand rubbing slow circles into her back. When she felt him slightly rocking them back and fort. And when she was able to understand the words he was murmuring softly into her hair, calming her down. Lois felt sick to her stomach and her head pounded. She hadn't meant to let it all go like this. But then again, she hadn't realized she was holding all this in. Unclenching a fist from where she was clutching Clark's shoulder she scrubbed at her face, trying to erase the tear streaks. When she was reasonably sure that she didn't look like death warmed over, she took a wobbly step back, out of Clark's embrace.
Clark's hands were on her arms steadying her, as she sank down onto the armrest of the couch.
"You don't have to do this alone Lois." Clark whispered.
Lois smiled sadly. "I shouldn't have to do this at all. But there's no one else."
Clark hung his head. "I'll talk to Chloe." He said.
Lois shrugged. "It doesn't matter Clark. In sickness and in health, through good and bad, till death do them part." She tilted her head to look at him. "They got the bad and near death up front. If they can survive this, they can survive anything. Or Chloe can throw it all away."
Clark looked at her for a long moment, something in his eyes that she couldn't quite understand. Finally he slowly raised his hand and cupped her cheek, tracing her face with his thumb. Her breath caught at the intensity in his eyes and she recognized his look. It was the look he'd had at the wedding as they danced, when she'd put her hand on his chest. Only this time, there was no doubt in his eyes, only a blazing heat that made her glad she was sitting down.
"And me?" he asked softly. "Did I throw it all away?"
Lois swallowed, unable to pretend she misunderstood his question. "I don't know." She answered honestly.
Clark moved his thumb slowly and it took her a second to realize he was wiping away a tear – her tear.
"I'm sorry I hurt you." He said. "I couldn't see what was right in front of me. And when I did, I was so overwhelmed by it, that I didn't think I deserved you. And then I proved you right."
Lois shook her head, reaching up to cover the hand still on her face. "I never thought that Clark."
Clark smiled softly. "You're the only one Lois. The only person in my life who ever really saw me. Not who they thought I should be, not what they wanted or expected. Just me. Every flaw and bad habit. Every good deed and action." He stepped closer to her, his fingers tangling in her hair. "Did I throw it away? Can you trust me?" he asked hoarsely.
Lois glanced at the spot on his shoulders where his shirt was damp from her tears. She smirked quietly, but Clark shook his head. "No. Lois, can you trust me with your heart?"
Lois felt her mouth dry up at the direct question. Could she? Could she trust him with the risk that he would break it? And her. The only people capable of breaking you, were the ones you let close. But hadn't she just done that, broken down completely? And hadn't he been right there for her? Just like he somehow always seemed to be.
Clark stood tense as she stared at him, trying to formulate an answer. There was only one that she could give honestly. "I don't know Clark. Right now, I just don't know."
Clark nodded tightly as he stepped back, releasing her. Lois had to force herself from not tipping forward to follow him. She felt inexplicably cold, without him near.
"I know I screwed up that day." Clark said. "I'm sorry. I want you to know that Lana and I are over. For good. No doubts, no lingering feelings, nothing. She will always be someone I cared about a great deal, but I don't love her anymore." He looked up in to her eyes. "I wouldn't have been able to say that the night of the wedding. I'm just sorry that me figuring all this out came at your expense."
Lois shrugged. "I'm fine, Clark."
Clark's eyebrow rose and only then did she realize what she'd said.
Lois sighed. "I will be fine." She amended, "Don't worry about me Clark. I know I just had a complete meltdown, but that was just the stress of the last couple of weeks catching up to me. You did not single-handedly push me to an emotional breakdown."
Clark's mouth quirked in acknowledgement. "I think I should go." He said.
Lois nodded as she got up. "Yeah, I think that's a good idea."
Clark walked to the door but paused with his hand on the doorknob. He turned back around to her and took a deep breath. "Do I stand a chance?" he asked.
Lois stared up at him, into his blue eyes that seemed to allow her to stare straight into his soul. There was only one answer she could honestly give to that question.
"Yes." Because I still love you.
Clark smiled. He smiled so wide that his eyes crinkled at the corners and lit up. And then he stepped forward, encircling her waist with one arm to pull her closer and cupped her face, bringing her mouth up to meet his. Lois closed her eyes and simply felt. Felt his mouth moving over hers, his hand in the small of her back, pulling her somehow closer to him. Felt how they just fit and she melted into him, her hand on his face, sliding into his hair. The other on his chest, where it had been that night when everything had ended and started. She could feel his heart hammering under her fingers as he lips brushed over hers one last time and he pulled back, staring down at her.
"I should go." He whispered, his voice thick.
Lois could only nod, she didn't trust herself to speak. Slowly his arms fell away and he released her, but his eyes never left hers. She wondered for a moment if he would truly leave, or if this was going to be something more. But he tore his gaze away from hers and fumbled behind him for the doorknob. He opened the door as he reached for his coat, pulling it off the hook. He turned in the doorway to look back at her, his eyes bright with happiness and hope.
"Merry Christmas Lois."
Lois nodded with a smile. "Merry Christmas Smallville."
Clark lurched in the doorway, as if he had to forcibly stop himself from stepping back inside the apartment. His entire face shone with happiness and Lois didn't know how she could've mistaken the look in his eyes that night for this. He didn't say it, but she could read it in his eyes. As he pulled the door shut behind him, only one thought swam through her mind. 'He loves me.'
And he did. She had no doubt. Lois sat back down on the couch in a daze and reached up to touch her tingling lips. He loved her.
Her hand fell away as her smile grew. Yes. She really would be fine…
Okay, so I may have some issues with the way CLois has been portrayed this season. I may have vented a little. Lois deserves to be angry and I loath to think that she'll just smile and accept Clark if he so much as implies that he and Lana are over. He hurt her, he needs to regain her trust. Only then does he stand a chance at her heart. I hope I managed to portray that.
Happy Holiday's guys, and I'll see you in the new Year.
Reviews are happy thoughts, shared with me.