Sorry this took so long for me to post. Thank you for reading and reviewing, and I promise I will try to be more timely with future chapters. The real world got in the way for a while and I wanted to give this story its due respect. So I had to wait a bit to finish this chapter. The good news is, I already have the major pieces of the next chapter already fleshed out. So hopefully the turnover time for the next chapter will be within the week.
Chapter 5: Give Me Strength
Lois hated feeling helpless.
She had been trained, since birth it seemed, to deal with any problem that came her way head-on. No holds barred. If a situation began to spiral out of control, she only had herself to blame for not nipping it in the bud when it first started to evade her grasp.
This time, however, things were different.
Chloe's reaction to her questions regarding Davis Bloom's apparent death was to shut down completely and evade any further interrogation. She was changing subjects so fast that Lois couldn't keep up.
And the helplessness she felt right now, face to face with her tight-lipped younger cousin, was not something Lois was used to dealing with.
"Chlo," she tried again, placing a hand over the paper on the table between them. "I'm just saying…if you need to talk about it, I'm here –"
"And I appreciate that, Lois," Chloe broke in, offering a tight lipped smile from behind her coffee mug. "But I'm fine. Really," she added, just as Lois opened her mouth to protest. "The man I knew and became friends with didn't really exist. And if he was guilty of all the things people are saying he was guilty of – "
At this, her eyes found Lois' and pointedly held them. "Including you…then maybe things are better this way. How could I mourn for a murderer?"
Lois sighed, blowing her bangs out of her face. Davis' picture stared up at them from the front page, directly under the headline that announced his presumed death. Luckily, Tess Mercer had given the story to someone else to cover. For the first time since her career started, Lois was more than happy to take a pass on the front page news. "I know, it's just…I think I know what he meant to you. And I'm sorry if my investigation of him made things weird for you."
"It didn't," Chloe assured her. "If that was what happened, your responsibility to this city was to expose it. I don't have any illusions about the kind of man Davis Bloom was. Now all I want to do is forget that I ever thought of him as a friend."
Lois regarded her cousin carefully. There was more to it…of that she was absolutely certain. But it didn't seem that Chloe was going to clue her in anytime soon. "I get it," she said, settling back in her chair and cradling her coffee. "Consider the subject closed."
Lois' eyes traveled over the emptiness of the Talon. "So," she began, realizing that if anyone would appreciate her news, it would be Chloe. "Want to hear something completely weird yet wonderful?"
Curiosity lit Chloe's features, erasing, at least for the time being, the emptiness that had taken up residence in her eyes. "With an opening like that…" she said, leaning forward.
Lois could feel the smile pulling at her mouth readily. It seemed that every time she thought about the other night – which, if she was being honest, was about once every fifteen minutes or so - there was no stopping the smile or the surge of confusing emotions that went with it.
"The Red-Blue Blur called me."
Saying the words out loud made the conversation she'd had with him all the more real, and she felt her smile widen. She knew she was behaving like a school-girl, but she didn't care. Not in the slightest.
Chloe, however, didn't seem to be harboring any blushing, girlish fantasies about the mysterious hero. In fact, her brow was scrunched in confusion as she regarded her from across the table.
"He called me," Lois repeated, blowing on the steam rising from her mug.
"No, I heard you," Chloe explained, leaning even further over the table. "I guess what I meant to say was…" Her brow creased even deeper. "What?"
Lois laughed. "That was pretty much my reaction, too," she said. "After accusing him of being a weird stalker freak with too much time on his hands."
"Chlo, you sound like a parrot."
"I'm sorry," Chloe said, shaking her head as if to clear it. "You're saying that the Red-Blue Blur – a man practically obsessive about his anonymity – just picked up the phone and called you out of the blue? No pun intended…"
Lois' shoulders raised in a quick shrug. "That's exactly what I'm telling you."
From the way her cousin was acting, Lois felt as if she'd just told her that God himself had delivered ten more commandments to the world and used her as tablet-bearer.
Chloe shook her head again, but this time, there was the slightest of smiles pulling at the corners of her mouth. "Well, I'll be."
"Nothing," Chloe said quickly, her eyes locking on hers. Folding her arms across her chest, she leaned back in her chair. "So…the famous hero breaks his silence and the first person he talks to is the one and only Lois Lane. Must've heard about your little stint as Stiletto, right? He warned you about playing the hero?"
"That's just it, Chlo," Lois said, feeling the smile pulling at her own mouth again. "That's not why he called."
"So why did he?"
"I've been over and over it a thousand times in my head, and I keep coming up with the same answer."
Lois met her cousin's alert gaze. "I have absolutely no idea."
"Well, what did he say?"
Lois shrugged helplessly again, which only seemed to cause further amusement for her younger cousin. "For the life of me, I can't even really remember. I was just so…overwhelmed and nervous and I started to ramble and he totally called me on it."
Chloe's smile grew by increments until it was fully displayed across her face. She cradled her cheek in her hand as she leaned on the table towards her. "My, my. Does Lois Lane have a crush?"
Lois rolled her eyes, but quickly averted her gaze before Chloe could read them clearly. "It's not like that, Chlo. I just wanted him to know that I was around if he needed to talk."
"You said that?"
"Well, yeah," Lois said. "It's gotta be lonely being the savior of the free world. No one knowing who you are…who's really responsible for all the saves…sacrifice without the reward."
Chloe's smile turned a bit sad then. "He must've been so grateful to hear that he had a friend he could turn to."
Lois raised her eyes when she heard the melancholy seep into Chloe's tone. "Hey…you alright?"
Chloe snapped out of it immediately, and Lois realized she must've been thinking about Davis again. "Yeah, I'm fine. Although," she added, trying to recall the smile she'd previously worn, "I have to admit, I'm a bit jealous that the world's greatest hero practically has you on speed dial."
Lois huffed nonchalantly, although the words touched something she thought she'd buried after Chloe's disastrous wedding. "Hardly. He was probably just trying to tell me to back off politely, but in true Lois fashion, I talked over him until he forgot what he wanted to say."
Her cousin's head shook in defiance. "Don't sell yourself short, Lo. He didn't have to reach out to you at all – but he did."
Lois found another smile working its way onto her face, but Chloe's next words halted its progress. "So…just out of curiosity…what did Clark have to say when you told him about the one-on-one with the Blur?"
Lois' eyebrows drew together. "Why would I tell Clark?"
"Well, the Blur is front page news," Chloe reasoned. "Don't you guys discuss stories when they come across your desks?"
"Of course. But there's no story here. I told you, the Blur didn't really give me an interview. No personal info or stats or anything," Lois replied, sipping at her coffee in an effort to keep her features neutral. She didn't want to tell Clark about the conversation for so many reasons. The first and foremost being that she knew he'd get all big-brother on her and tell her to be careful with who she trusted.
"Besides," she continued, realizing that if anyone would understand, it would be Chloe. "I know Clark. He'd find a way to make the whole conversation seem completely trivial. He'd explain it away and the fact that Metropolis' very own superhero took time out of his schedule to talk about nothing with a loudmouthed army brat would be reduced to a footnote." She looked down at the table and drew nonsensical patterns on it with her fingernail. "I guess I'm not ready to let Clark take away how…needed…I felt for that one brief moment."
Chloe was staring at her again, in that singular way she had that made Lois feel like she was looking directly into her heart. "Lo…"
Lois brought her eyes up to meet her cousin's gaze.
"Clark needs you, too. He would never intentionally hurt you like that."
Lois chose to let the statement slide past her without pausing to examine it further. The last few months rolled over her in waves and just before the emotions dragged her under, she physically shook herself.
"Now it's my turn to ask for a change of topic," she joked, forcing a smile that barely pulled at her mouth. "Do you think Oliver knows the Blur?"
Chloe's mug paused in its trajectory to her mouth. "What?"
Lois rolled her eyes again. "Think about it, Chlo. Two heroes, one city. They've got to be holed up in some sort of clubhouse, don't they? They probably even have a cute little name for it…and a sign that says 'No Girls Allowed,' no doubt."
"I wouldn't be so sure of that," Chloe replied, inclining her head to the side and dropping her eyes to the table in front of her.
"Well, they may have one or two girls in the gang…like that Zatanna who gave new meaning to walking a mile in someone else's tight sweater…"
Chloe laughed and tucked her hair behind her ear. "Are you going to come right out and ask Oliver? Because I so want to be around if you do."
Lois chewed on her lip thoughtfully. "I don't think so. It might be best to crawl in under the wire, if you know what I mean."
"Not usually, but if it has anything to do with you putting yourself in danger, it's not as funny anymore," Chloe warned, pinning her with her eyes. "Tell me you're not going to do something foolish, Lois."
"My days of looking for trouble are done," Lois assured her. "But that doesn't mean that a little bit of friendly snooping isn't in order. Ollie typically forgets that he has a secret to protect…maybe he'll slip up about the Blur if I'm persistent enough."
Chloe chuckled softly, shaking her head. "You're something else, Lois, you really are."
Lois flashed her cousin a dazzling smile. "I'll take that as a compliment, thank you very much."
From this distance, the city of Metropolis looked so fragile. Clark knew full well that danger crawled along the streets day and night, and that the citizens that called it home could stand to be nicer to each other.
But standing at Oliver's 75th story window, staring at the city that had somehow become as vital to him as Smallville was, he couldn't help but momentarily succumb to the swift rush of crippling helplessness.
Something he was definitely not used to feeling.
"Are you sure about this Oliver?" he asked finally, his voice sounding deathly quiet as it bounced off the pristine office walls.
Oliver joined him at the window. His hands were shoved in his pockets and his face was a grim mask of resolve. "I went back to where we buried him and I saw that the dirt had been disturbed," he affirmed.
"That doesn't mean he's alive," Clark reasoned. He was grasping for something…anything…that would make the weight in the middle of his gut go away. "Some sick, twisted person could've –"
"Dug him up? No," Oliver said, shaking his head. "It looked like someone dug himself out."
Clark's eyes returned to staring unblinkingly out of the long windows. "That would mean that he's indestructible. I saw him die with my own two eyes, Oliver. That meteor liquid was all over him." The memory caused him to shudder. "I was affected and I was standing five feet away on the other side of glass and bars."
"Yeah, well, the fact still remains that there's no body in the grave." Oliver reasoned. "I had a team dig. No one was home."
"If he's unstoppable…" Clark said, more to himself than anything. His gaze swept once more over the unsuspecting city below. How could he possibly protect them?
"Have you talked to Chloe yet?" Oliver asked. "She and Davis were pretty tight. Maybe she might have an idea about where he would go to lay low for a while."
"Chloe's been a bit distracted lately," Clark said, his focus still on the streets below. "Every time I talk to her, it's like she's somewhere else entirely."
"Maybe because she's hiding something…or someone…from you."
Clark's eyes narrowed and he turned to face Oliver. "There's no way Chloe would keep something like this from me. She knows how dangerous he is. She wouldn't risk people's lives just because once upon a time she thought they were friends."
Oliver nodded, biting his lip. "I hope you're right," he said, not seeming, even for an instant, that he believed that was the case.
"Oliver, I know we've never really seen eye to eye on stuff like this," Clark began, crossing his arms across his chest. "But we're going to need to work together to keep this city safe. We're going to have to trust each other."
"I trust you, Clark," Oliver reasoned, shrugging slightly. "I always have. I just think that there are certain circumstances that require a little more than the standard knuckle slapping we give the threats in this city."
Clark could feel the muscles in his jaw clenching. It always came down to this line between them. "I can't take a human life."
Oliver faced him. "Well then, I guess we're lucky Davis Bloom isn't human anymore."
"Look," Oliver interrupted, holding up his hand. "I get it, okay? Protect and serve, at all costs try to minimize casualties. Life is sacred."
"But aren't civilians' lives sacred, too?" Oliver argued, not allowing the conversation to get away from him that easily. "Don't they have a right…hell, more of a right to a safe life than the scum that threaten them?"
Clark's hands balled into fists. "Of course they do. I just don't think that jumping the gun here is the way to go about things."
"Then what is?" Oliver demanded. "Wait until he kills someone we care about…Chloe, Jimmy, Lois…before we do anything about him? Because up until then, he's just attacking strangers, right?"
Clark's eyes darkened and he took a step towards Oliver. "That isn't fair."
Oliver squared up and stared directly back at him. "You're right, Clark. It isn't fair."
Images flew through Clark's mind as Oliver maintained the glare piercing straight through him. They weren't new pictures, and had the same effect they always did. Visions of his friends and family lying dead in the streets of Metropolis because he hadn't been strong enough to protect them.
The bile rose in his throat as his body shuddered involuntarily. The only thing different about this time was that the visions now had every reason in the world to become reality.
An indestructible monster.
As wave after wave of panic washed over him, he realized that Oliver was right. If he could keep them safe…
Wouldn't he do everything in his power to do so?
"Okay," he whispered, turning back to the city sprawled out before him. His head dropped forward so his forehead was almost touching the glass. He could feel the coolness against his skin despite the lack of contact and it felt like a reprieve from the heated visions plaguing his mind. He reached for the feeling blindly.
"Okay, what?" Oliver asked.
Clark let out a long breath, using the time to center the swirling thoughts in his mind.
"Okay, let's find Davis Bloom and make sure he doesn't hurt anyone else. Ever again."
The decision weighed on him the entire walk back to the Planet. He felt neither the desire nor the urgency to super-speed back to work. Once he got there, he'd have to sit across from Lois and pretend that everything was perfectly fine.
He'd have to pretend that he had the rest of their lives to verbally spar with her and maybe, someday, find the courage to examine what she meant to him.
Could he kill? Could he look Davis Bloom in the eyes and extinguish the life that had spiraled out of its master's control? And even if he could find the strength to accept his decision, would he even have a shot at succeeding?
His cell phone rang and he fished it out of his pocket. Chloe's name flashed across the screen and Clark's chest constricted tightly. He could count on one hand how many times he'd either lied to or kept something from her - the openness in their friendship a point of pride for him considering that he harbored the biggest secret a person could have.
This, however, was the moment he'd been dreading since making his decision. He wasn't going to tell her of his plans, knowing that if she did in fact know where Davis was, the information would hang over their heads like a destructive elephant in the room. He wasn't sure if he'd be able to understand her reasons for protecting a monster like Davis, and he was more than sure she'd never be able to forgive him for what he was planning to do to that monster.
Besides, he wanted her as far away from what was about to happen as she could physically get herself. Clearing his throat, he pressed the talk button before he could talk himself out of it.
"Hey, Chlo," he said, controlling his voice as best he could. "What's up?"
"So…I hear the Red-Blue Blur is reaching out and touching someone…"
Clark's brow furrowed for a moment before clarity came rushing over him. "Lois told you?"
The quiet laugh on the other end of the line was his answer and he closed his eyes and shook his head. He wasn't going to be able to live this one down. That was, assuming, that he lived at all…
"I mean, I could see if you were giving her the scoop of the century or trying to convince her to hang up her heels as a butt-kicking superhero…but picking up the phone just to tell her she's a good reporter?" The line buzzed with the hint of her barely contained laughter. "Methinks the gentleman protests too much."
"It's not like that," Clark tried to reason, rubbing at his forehead with his free hand. "I just…I wanted to…"
His silence came upon him so quickly that it surprised even him. He had absolutely no idea how to finish that sentence.
"Yes?" Chloe's voice prompted.
But he remained silent, trying to decipher his own reasons. After hanging up with Lois the other night, he'd realized he hadn't mentioned a single thing he'd planned on discussing with her regarding her Stiletto antics, but he'd also found that he didn't care.
She had told him that she'd be there for him whenever he needed to talk, and the warmth that had traveled through him at her words had him grinning like a fool the rest of the evening.
"Clark?" Chloe's voice interrupted. "You still there?"
"Yeah, I'm here," he mumbled.
Chloe cleared her throat and a seriousness replaced her amusement. "Look, I'm sorry for teasing you. What you do is your business, of course, but I can't help remembering a conversation I had with you about this very subject."
Clark pushed his hair off his forehead. "I'm not slamming your cousin in a door, Chlo. Just the opposite, actually. I'm trying to protect her the best way I know how."
"And how does a random phone call for no good reason factor into that?" she asked gently. "That harmless little conversation meant a lot to her. And why wouldn't it? The city's very own superhero singled her out and made her feel important…telling her that he'd hand-picked her to tell his story when he was ready. What girl would just let something like that slide like it was an everyday occurrence?"
His chest tightened as he remembered the look on Lois' face right before he'd put on the Legion ring. The loneliness he'd seen in her eyes called out to his own and somehow, in that brief moment that was seconds away from never happening at all, he'd felt that as long as Lois Lane was in his life, he'd never know loneliness again. Someone understood him and knew what it was like to search for answers in a world that only seemed to ask impossible questions.
Just like Chloe was doing now.
Because he still didn't have an answer for her. All he knew was that after seeing Lois come crashing through the roof to save his life without regard for her own, the only thing on his mind had been just how special she truly was. And he hadn't been able to stop himself from telling her...even if it was as the Red-Blue Blur.
"I didn't do it to hurt her," he quietly reasoned.
"I know," she admitted softly. "You just have to remember to tread lightly, okay? You can't push her away as Clark Kent and draw her in as the Red-Blue Blur. It isn't fair to her."
She paused, and Clark could almost see the worry lines crease her forehead.
"It's not fair to you, either."
And before he could ask her what she meant by that, she hung up. Clark stared at his phone for a moment before shutting it off and shoving it back into his pocket. At least the conversation had ended before getting around to Davis Bloom. For that, he could be a little grateful.
Which lasted until he got back to the Planet and spotted Lois working furiously at her computer. Taking a deep breath, he forged ahead and threw himself into his chair as quickly as he could so he could use his own computer to shield him until he figured out a way to keep from turning the day into a goodbye scene straight out of a tragically dramatic movie.
"Nice lunch, Smallville?" Lois asked haphazardly, not even looking up from the keys that were receiving the brunt of her focused frenzy.
A million and one things ran through his head, each one of them screaming to be let out and shared with the woman sitting across the desk. As each made their presence known, however, he stomped it down until there was nothing left but empty space.
She shot him a quick smile. "Good." And back she went to her relentless pounding of the keyboard.
He couldn't help it. His eyes remained fixed on her as he watched her in her element. If anyone had asked him months ago when he'd started working here if he'd miss it…miss her…he'd have told them they were insane. He'd seriously doubted his ability to survive sharing the same breathing space as Lois Lane since they couldn't seem to go more than an hour without pointing out what a nuisance the other was being.
And now it was the thing that he found himself getting out of bed for every morning.
How could he say goodbye to this? To her?
She glanced up then, catching his eye and doing a double take. "What is it, Smallville? Do I have something on my face?" Her hand reached up to swipe at her cheek and the look on her face brought a soft smile to his own.
"No, you're fine," he said, the words he really wanted to say cutting at his throat as he choked them back. He had promised himself that he would never intentionally hurt her, and throwing caution to the wind and exposing everything he was and everything he was about to do just so he could feel some kind of closure was insanely selfish.
Her eyes searched his and for the life of him, he couldn't look away. "You look like someone just told you there's no Santa."
"I'm fine," he lied, shaking his head absently. "Just a little tired."
"Well, next time there's a Kung-Fu marathon on the tube, tivo it like a normal person and get some sleep," she mandated, raising an eyebrow and returning to her work.
As he watched her, he realized he needed to leave. Soon. He wanted to confide in her so badly that his hands were literally shaking on top of his desk, and if he wasn't careful, all of the excuses he'd crafted for himself would go sailing out the window if she asked him if he was okay.
Because he would tell her.
He wanted to hear her voice wash over him and tell him that everything was going to be alright, just like she had so many times before. And even though she'd driven him to the brink of insanity and back, most of the time she'd at least pit-stopped at a place where she knew him better than anyone else.
"Uh, actually Lois…I'm not feeling so great. I don't think lunch agreed with me," he said, quickly grabbing his bag and his suit jacket off the back of his chair. "I'm taking the rest of the day off. Let Tess know for me, would you?"
Lois looked up in surprise and then swiveled away from her computer quickly. "Smallville, what's –"
"Nothing," he interrupted, knowing that if he heard the next words out of her mouth, he'd crack. "I'm just going to go home and get some rest."
"You want me to drive you home or anything?" she asked, reaching into her desk for her own keys. "If you're sick, maybe you shouldn't be behind the wheel…especially since you drive like an old lady as it is."
Clark's smile tugged at his lips despite his need to get out of the Planet as quickly as possible. "I'm okay, but thanks. I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"
"Sure thing," she said, eyeing him closely. "Call me if you need anything."
He had to force himself not to super-speed out of the building, but once outside, he glanced around and as soon as he knew it was clear, he allowed his powers to kick into gear and tried to outrun the sinking sensation that had settled in his gut.
He was getting very good at running away from Lois Lane.
His anxiety followed him all afternoon, and as the sun dipped below the horizon, his nerves were completely frayed. He tried contacting his mother, but she wasn't picking up her phone. The Senate typically stayed late these days, with the economy being in complete shambles. The irony wasn't lost on Clark as he thought of his mother fighting desperately for the common man and a better way of life for them in these trying times when in a matter of days none of it could matter anyway.
If he failed. If he couldn't find a way to defeat the undefeatable.
He thought about calling Chloe despite his initial reservations. At the heart of it all, he knew that Chloe had his back. He could talk to her about this and she'd find a way to be impartial if that's what she knew he needed. Still, he left his phone on the railing of the porch and stared at it as if it would somehow figure this all out for him.
Then, before he was even aware of what he was doing, he was reaching for a second phone…one whose voice modulator sent out a beam of blue light on the numbers he found himself dialing without command.
Closing his eyes, Clark cursed himself into the lowest rung of hell. But if he was going there, he was going there with her voice in his head.
"Ms. Lane," he acknowledged cautiously, concentrating all of his focus on his hearing when he heard the hitch in her breathing.
"I was wondering when I'd be hearing from you again." The breathlessness of her response settled in his chest and a warmth spread through him that began soothing and fixing and mending.
"I hope I'm not interrupting anything," he said, knowing full well that Lois was most likely the only one left at the Planet, like she often was by this time of night.
"No…no! Of course not," she assured him, and he could practically see her spinning around in her chair as if to prove to him that she was, in fact, alone. "I was just finishing up at work."
"Busy day?" he asked, sliding down onto the railing and looking out over the fields his father and mother had loved so much. If he concentrated hard enough, he could almost see his father standing in the barn doorway and his mother bounding across the yard to join him with a cup of coffee in each of her hands.
And if he really focused, he could even see Lois' convertible pealing out of the driveway, kicking up dust into his face as she laughed and cranked White Snake loud enough to raise the dead.
Smiling, he realized that she was talking about the news he'd missed out on after he'd left that afternoon and tried to refocus on her words.
"…and the mayor is trying to say that the paperwork is completely legit, but my sources are saying differently."
"I'm sure you'll get to the bottom of it," he said, meaning every word despite his initial lack of attention. "I hear you're very motivated when you're going after something you want."
"It's okay," she said, and he could hear the laughter in her voice. "You can say it. I'm hardheaded."
"I wouldn't call it that."
"I would," she admitted, laughing outright. He smiled at the sound. "And so would a lot of people I know."
"Like who?" he asked, leaning his head against the post behind him. Chloe was going to kill him, but he couldn't bring himself to care. For the first time since finding out about Doomsday and making the decision he'd made, he actually felt a small shred of normalcy. And he was going to hold onto it with everything he had for as long as he could.
"Well…I guess my cousin Chloe tolerates me fairly well. But a guy I dated used to tease me all the time about my inability to agree on a restaurant just on principle," she continued, laughing again. "Easy to see why it didn't work out, isn't it?"
Clark pushed thoughts of Lois and Oliver intimately squabbling over restaurants out of his mind. She didn't belong squabbling with anyone but –
"And someone I work with…I think he'd be able to give you a book of my most hardheaded moments."
He smiled at the thought that she'd saved him for last. "I'm sure your tenacity is one of the things they all admire about you," he said sincerely.
"Yeah, well…enough about me and my pig-headedness. To what do I owe the pleasure?" she asked, and he could pick up on the slight hitch in her voice again. She was nervous, but she was trying to mask it with her typical humor. The thought that he made her nervous coursed through him and made his nerve endings come alive.
It also made him want to share with her all the things Clark Kent couldn't. He found that he could do so as a virtual stranger without putting her in immediate danger.
And he wanted to have the chance to say a proper goodbye, even if he didn't actually say the words.
"I had to make a decision today and I'm having trouble accepting it," he explained.
"A decision about what?"
Clark's breath mingled with the warm breeze. "About whether or not to take a life."
His confession was met with silence, and for a moment, the weight came crashing back down on his shoulders. She didn't approve. She was going to tell him that a true hero didn't –
"I take it you've decided to do it."
His eyes drifted shut. "I don't want to. But if I don't, the entire world is in danger…"
"One life for millions." Lois' voice connected him to reality like a tethered boat in stormy waters. "And you're struggling with it because a life is still a life."
"Exactly," he muttered, sighing.
"Has this person killed before?"
The line went quiet for a while and Clark was just starting to wonder if she'd gotten so freaked out by the weight of their conversation that she'd hung up when he heard her strong voice resume control of the conversation.
"Can I ask you a personal question? Off the record, of course," she added hastily.
"Do you have a family? Friends?"
Clark's eyes closed again. "Yes, I have both."
"Well, here's my take on things…because, you know, you asked and all," she quipped, sending the corners of Clark's mouth up slightly. In the next instant, however, her voice grew resolved and quiet and he allowed the words to wash over him. "Each of his victims…they had people who cared about them, too. They belonged to someone in this world and he took them away from the life that was theirs to live."
Clark's throat began tightening as he realized where Lois was headed.
"I'm sure you've imagined what it would be like to lose someone you care. But here's the thing. There are people out there who don't have to imagine it. They're living it. And you have the power to keep other people from feeling the way they're feeling right now." Her voice grew stronger as she made her point, becoming downright passionate as she concluded. "In my opinion, this monster surrendered his right to your fairness the second he took the first life that wasn't his to take."
And just like that, Clark made peace with his decision. All the times Oliver had tried to explain it to him, all the times Chloe had begged him to consider his alternatives…
They both made sense now. It wasn't about his moral code or his desire to live by a set of hard and fast rules. It wasn't about him at all.
For all his super-powers, it took a mouthy whirlwind of a woman to make him see clearly.
"I told you…just my take. That and fifty cents will buy you a copy of the Planet," she joked lightly into the silence he'd created by being utterly captivated by the woman on the other end of the line.
"No," he rushed out. "I'm sorry…I was just thinking about how right you are." He paused, another smile finding its way to his lips. "And how glad I am that I called you tonight."
Even through an earpiece, he picked up on the acceleration of Lois' heartbeat. It caused his own to try and keep pace. "I'm glad you called tonight, too," she admitted quietly. "I wasn't sure if you would take my offer at face value or not."
"Somehow, I think it would be impossible to take anything you said or did at anything BUT face value, Ms. Lane."
"Lois," he said softly, his eyes drifting shut once more. "I can't thank you enough."
"Are you serious?" she lightly chided. "If you're about to do what it sounds like you're about to do, I should be thanking you - along with the entire free world."
"I'll take care of things," he said, realizing that his voice now held a confidence and assurance that he'd thought abandoned him since finding out about Davis Bloom's immaculate return to the land of the living. "I do, however, have one request."
It was her turn to fill the line with silence. And he knew that she knew what he was going to ask. He took a deep breath and prepared himself for the argument that she would inevitably start.
"You're going to ask me to keep out of things if it comes down to it, aren't you?"
"I can't promise you that I won't do what I have to do to protect the people I care about. You're the superhero, but normal people have every right to fight for their loved ones, too," she reasoned in a strong, sure voice.
"I know," he admitted grudgingly.
She seemed to sense his mood, however, and sighed lightly. "But what I can promise you is that I won't go looking for trouble. I'll keep close to the Planet and listen to the scanner with Clark – that's the guy I work with – and when everything's clear, I'll find you and get that interview. Got it?"
Clark thought of her sitting at their desks, her ears glued to the police scanner and her eyes narrowed at his empty chair, wondering where he could be during one of the most pressing news stories of their generation.
"Got it," he replied softly.
It was time to say goodbye, but he found himself wishing he could stay on the phone with her clear until morning. He knew that the second he hung up he'd be craving the sound of her voice and the realization shook him in ways that he didn't think he had the strength to interpret.
"I, um…" she began, her voice halting and tentative. He could hear her heartbeat again, and his once again kept time with hers. Her soft laughter broke through, although he could hear the nervousness fueling it. "I don't exactly know how to say goodbye," she said.
"I don't, either," he said, his voice sounding small even to his own ears.
"I mean," she continued, "Usually it's just a 'see you later' or 'call you next week' kind of thing. But with you, I have never seen you and I don't have your number."
Clark could hear the beginnings of her rambling streak, and he knew that she was starting to lose the battle over her emotions. Unfortunately, he was right there with her. "Besides…" she continued. "With what you're about to do, who knows when you're going to have the time to check in with me. It's not like you're going to call for a time out during the battle with the beast and give me a ring just to tell me how things are going."
"You're gonna kick his ass, though. I just know it. That murdering psychopath doesn't stand a chance –"
"Just promise me you'll be careful, okay? I know that sounds ridiculous…seeing as how you've got these powers that put us normal folk to shame, but still –"
He hadn't expected her to stop. When she did, however, and he had her full attention, he found himself at a loss. How could he sum up everything he wanted to say to her in one coherent thought.
"I needed a friend tonight and you came through for me more than I could've ever hoped for," he said finally, finding that once he started talking, the words were actually readily available and willing to be spoken. "I can go into this thing now with a clear head and I seriously have no idea how to thank you for what you've done."
"But I haven't done anything," she protested.
"Yes, you did." Pulling up a picture of her in his mind, he focused on it and pretended he'd had the courage to say these things to her face. "You have no idea what you've done for me."
"Well…you're welcome, I guess," she stammered softly.
"Goodbye, Lois." The thickness in his throat made speech near impossible.
"No – I'll catch you later," she amended. "And…just…be careful, alright? I know that sounds silly considering, but still…"
Clark smiled into the phone. "It doesn't sound silly at all. And I will."
Neither hung up, but neither spoke for a few seconds…seconds that Clark filled thinking about how lucky he was that Lois Lane had come barreling into his life five years ago.
"Goodnight, then," she said finally, quietly.
He waited until she hung up first, and when the click sounded in his ear, he lowered the phone and snapped it shut almost mechanically.
His mind was miles away, focused on the woman who had given him the strength he had lacked…the strength he had needed to find to be able to face what he had to face.
If he managed to defeat Doomsday, people all over the world would owe it all to Lois Lane.
Just so you all know, the next chapter will not include the Clark/Doomsday fight. I have chosen to circumvent it since it isn't plot-driven important, and I don't want to step all over Smallville's season ender or the actual canon. Besides this story isn't really about the importance of the fight. It's all about the decisions these two characters make regarding each other. So the aftermath will be more important than the battle.
I own nothing. Except that disclaimer. :D