Be Careful What You Wish For

He had debated even going. And, now that he was standing here, he couldn't seem to remember having actually made the decision to show up in the first place.

His eyes were held to her slightly shivering form, watching her hands fiddle idly with the cell phone in front of her on the table. She was expecting him. Or, at the very least, hear from him if he wasn't going to show.

Clark realized it was only one of a thousand calls he should've made to her.

But he couldn't do it. He could catch a car in mid-air. He could withstand hundreds of bullets being fired at him from point blank range. He could absorb the maniacal attack of a monster hurling him across the barn.

But a phone call…

Lying to her and keeping her at arm's length because he couldn't watch another person he cared about wander into the proverbial line of fire would take more strength than he had at the moment.

She had understood. She had let him open up to her about who he really was and she had accepted him. In fact, she'd even looked a bit proud. Smiling softly, her sparkling eyes drifted through his memory. She had listened to his story and it hadn't changed how she felt about him. And then when things had gone so terribly wrong, and he'd decided to leave instead of stay and fight like she'd wanted, she'd understood then, too. She'd looked past all of the walls he'd begun to build up all over again at the thought of having to hide himself within his own life and she'd said she understood. Why he had to go back instead of moving forward…why he wouldn't tell her…

Sharing his secret with her really had made everything seem alright for a while. Seeing the acceptance in her eyes, the smile of determination that had lit her face at the thought of all the good he'd do in the world if she could only do his story justice had brought him a sense of calm that he hadn't felt in a very, very long time.

One he wasn't likely to feel any time soon, either. He couldn't tell her this time around. The feds that had stormed his house made that perfectly clear. They'd tagged Lois as an accessory to the crimes they were hell-bent on believing he had committed, and had even gone so far as to track her down at the Planet with every intention of using force if necessary to get her to talk.

Telling her now would be worse than letting her wander into the line of fire. He'd be tossing her into it willingly, all because of that smile, that pride in her eyes that made him feel as indestructible as his powers did.

She shifted again in her chair, her head inclining slightly toward the street and then snapping back to the marble of the table almost immediately. His hand clenched around his phone, but the strength to press the speed-dial still failed him. She deserved more. She deserved…

The breath escaped his lips and mingled with the steam from the vents in the pavement below. She deserved an uncomplicated life, one in which he didn't hurt her in one way or another. She deserved the truth, and someone who wouldn't make her doubt just how special she really was. She deserved to be with her friend whom she felt she knew and be comforted in the fact that she actually did.

He couldn't give her any of those things. All he would wind up giving her was the hope that he'd never disappoint her right before he brought her world crashing down.

It was better this way. She'd understood his need to go back to before he'd revealed his secret, and he could only hope she understood why he couldn't meet her. She'd said she would…

Taking action before he could change his mind, his fingers flew over the keys and pressed send just as his instincts were telling his feet to move forward. But he remained rooted to the spot as he saw her attention drawn by her beeping phone and held his breath as her hand hovered over it.

Time had always been somewhat irrelevant to him…being as how he could move quicker than it took words to travel from one person's mouth to another's ears…but he felt every moment of it now. She didn't seem in any rush to check her waiting message and the knot in his stomach intensified. Somehow, without even being able to see her face, he knew that he'd found a way to hurt her regardless of his desire to protect her.

When her hand finally snatched up the phone, something snapped inside him and he almost sped past her table with every intention of grabbing the offending piece of technology and tossing it in the nearest trash can. But before he could give the thought any kind of credence, he saw her fingers moving over the keys. He could do little more than watch her as she crafted what he assumed would be some flippant Lois reply regarding her surprise that the glorified copy boy was working late. Or a short, stand-offish assurance that she was tired anyway and would catch him tomorrow…

But when his phone beeped twice and his eyes greedily flew over the words she'd sent across the small distance, his chest constricted and all of the sounds he was always trying to find a way to drown out became muted and vacuous. A dull ringing began somewhere in the deepest corners of his mind and wouldn't let up as his eyes dragged, like magnets, back to the straightness of her back and the slight drop of her head.

Chasing a lead, couldn't make it anyway.

And just like that, he could feel everything shift. Despite every effort to set things right, he'd wound up hurting her. But this time, he knew she didn't understand.

Because he didn't.

And he knew without a doubt that Lois had, within seconds, reconstructed every wall they'd torn down over the course of their friendship the past four years. Things wouldn't be the same between them from this point on because she'd lost her faith in him.

The muscles in his jaw tensed as the realization washed over him in a sickening wave. He'd wanted to keep her safe by keeping his distance, by protecting her from the influence of simply knowing him…

And in the process, Lois would close herself off to him, denying him the privilege of being her friend and sometime confidante. She wouldn't need him to protect her because from now on, she'd be protecting herself.

From him.

He knew it wasn't possible, but the night got darker right before his eyes and he found it hard to breathe.

He'd gotten exactly what he wished for…and never, despite an entire lifetime of feeling like an outsider, had he felt so alone.