Author: Krys Yuy
Summary: Clark isn't willing to risk his heart again. But when Fate gives him a glimpse into his future, the only question is – how hard will he fall?
Pairings/Characters: Clark/Lois, Chloe/Bart, Oliver/Dinah, Bruce/Zatanna, Justice League
Warning: Spoilers up to Hex.
Disclaimer: I own none of the characters used. This fic is purely for entertainment purposes only.
Author's Notes: Sooo… yeah. You all want to kill me now, probably. Before you do, I want to thank you for all the kind birthday wishes. You're all very sweet and I appreciate you taking the time to add the greeting to your reviews. In other news, I have no excuse except real life. I'm sure you all know what I'm talking about. :P Unfortunately, grad school trumps fanfiction. Simple as that. And these last two months have been quite hellish and it's not going to get any prettier. If interested in progress, please remember to check out my LiveJournal sidebar and/or Twitter for status updates.
Before I get into addressing this Interlude, I want to pimp out a special project that's been in the works by a few good folks over at DI. It's called the Global Gratitude Project. The project is dedicated to "uniting fans worldwide in an effort to give thanks and show appreciation to the cast and crew of Smallville". Basically, have you ever wanted to write a fan letter to someone on the cast and crew or of all them in general? Now's your chance! And to do it in style, no less. There will be three books where fan letters will be compiled – one for Tom Welling, one for Erica Durance, and one for the rest of the cast and crew. For more information on where to send letters and the other things that are going on with this amazing project, please visit their website: http(colon)//globalgratitudeproject(dot)tk/ (Obviously, replace (colon) and (dot) with the appropriate symbols.) Also, visit the GGP Twitter [http(colon)//twitter(dot)com/GlobalGratitude] for links to fan surveys – your answers will be included in the fan section of the books! But only for a limited time (they need to start designing the interior of the book w/ the answers in mind), you have a week to answer.
GGP needs letters, guys! Why not add yours and show your Smallville love? I'm already in the midst of writing four (for Tom, Erica, the writers in general, and Justin), and I'm just getting started! I'd actually like to write to each of the cast members and maybe a few of my favorite writers on staff. Have any questions? Visit the above mentioned sites – the project leaders are way organized and know exactly what they're doing. They can help you with anything. Please send in letters! GGP will not be a success without letters from the fans! Frankly, I'm pretty excited about the whole thing and now's your chance to be part of this amazing fan endeavor as well. The deadline for letters is January 18, 2010.
Now, for Interlude I. Yeah, see the 'I'? That's pretty much a guarantee you will see a 'II'. :P This current Interlude is Lois's POV of Chapter 9: Complication. After the first scene, it jumps because I really don't need to reiterate the whole chapter. And you all may want to kill me for the ending here as well (-coughscliffhangercoughs-), but that's the whole mystery. What do "they" know about this whole thing? Reading Chapter 10 and 11 with this ending in mind might clear up or confuse a few more things.
Thanks to those who reviewed Chapter 11: superlc529, TheGryfter, anacaro, gisell, EdwardBella4ever17, cloisharley, Aaron Leach, Mayicita, drvr8, 25, Cassandra-, thepretender1031, jazzy lane, FindingRhenie, Jed52, Ily18, f1ameseeker, Caro, Hittokiri, Dannie Tomlinson, Seersha, CrazyLikeaFox, Evergreen, Azurite, xxxCloisloverxxx, breathalittlelonger, Vlacas, and kaito142. You all rock. I really, really hope you enjoy this installment. Without further adieu, please read, review, and enjoy!
A cold chill paralyzed Lois's body as Clark fell to his knees, his mouth releasing a terrible scream. Horror froze her before it was quickly joined by panic and anger, spurring her into action. She took a step towards Clark as he fell forward on his hands, his screams dying down only because he had to struggle to breath.
"What the hell are you doing?!" Lois yelled at Zatanna's back. Clark's fingers were tensing, his limbs jerking with spasms and Lois couldn't look away. "Stop it! Stop the spell!"
Zatanna didn't reply, though her arms were thrown out and she shouted something that Lois couldn't hear properly, not over the pounding of her pulse in her ears.
Lois started to run, but Oliver grabbed her wrist. "The spell's still active! Lois, you have to wait for Zee," he said.
She tugged on her hand roughly, but he didn't let go. Lois wanted to yell at him, but her words didn't have a chance to get out as Clark's screams picked up again. His anguish resounded loud and clear, breaking her heart.
Clark cut himself off, gritting his teeth as he tried to stave off the pain, his head ducked down to touch the ground. She had to help him, she had to get to him!
Though her eyes never strayed from Clark's pained form, she shouted, "I told you to stop!" Her fear for the past version of her husband incited her ire towards Zatanna, furious that the spell hadn't yet been canceled. "You're hurting him! Stop!"
Zatanna looked at Lois from over her shoulder, dismay evident on her exotic features. "I did!" she exclaimed, distressed. "I don't know why –"
Lois didn't want to listen to her excuses. She had to get to Clark. She elbowed Oliver and broke free, but he grabbed her by the shoulders. She struggled as he said, "Stop, Lois! Who knows what'll happen if you go near him?"
Clark needed her, that's all she knew. "Let go of me!" she shouted. She twisted away, ducking under Oliver's arm. He reached for her again, but she threw him off balance with a shove to the shoulder and a sweep to his feet.
Without looking back, she dashed past Zatanna and up the stairs, skidding along the platform and falling to her knees beside Clark. He had dropped to his side, curling in on himself, eyes closed and face locked in grimaces of pain. Lois pressed her hands to his cheeks and brushed his sweaty bangs away from his forehead, relieved when the strained lines of his face smoothed over. His torment faded and his entire body loosened.
"Relax, sweetheart," she whispered. Lois bent down to gently kiss his temple before she hugged him. She felt more than saw as his body eased completely under her touch. "You're going to be okay," she continued. "You're going to be fine."
Lois tucked her head under his chin, angling her face so all she could see was his black T-shirt, the clock partition hiding Oliver's Green Arrow equipment in the background. His breathing evened out into a low, steady rhythm. "We'll find another way," she promised, closing her eyes. Clark was okay. Clark was fine.
It hurt so much to see him suffer. She never wanted him to feel pain. She didn't want him to hurt, even if it meant the return of her husband. There had to be another method to get him home and return things to the way they were. She'd be in the arms of her husband before long, but in the meantime, she would be here for his past self.
She shut her eyes. "What, Ollie?"
"We should move him," her friend replied.
She felt his hand on her shoulder, and after a moment, she nodded. Oliver was right. She couldn't just curl up to Clark on the floor and wait for him to wake. Lois sat up and already missed his warmth. She worked her arm under his as Oliver did the same on Clark's other side. Together, they stood up and brought Clark with them, his head hanging down.
Lois clenched the back of Clark's shirt and felt Oliver's hand brush hers as their arms crossed behind Clark's back. She looked over and he gave her a reassuring smile, and Lois let some of her tension subside. She nodded.
"Come on, Boy Scout here isn't exactly light," Oliver said, timing his steps with Lois so they wouldn't trip.
With Clark supported by her and Oliver, they led him to the couch near the glass doors and windows. She came out from under his arm and let Oliver gradually lay Clark's body out on the cushions. While Oliver adjusted Clark's head and shoulders, Lois straightened out his legs, unable to stop the small smile when his long limbs had to hang over the edge of the couch.
Lois folded her legs beneath her and sat back on her heels as she positioned herself on the rug next to Clark. With one elbow resting on the cushions, she reached out to stroke his forehead. She could still see his face in the throes of unimaginable pain and she lifted his hand, kissing his palm.
"You're going to wake up," she said, "and I'll be seeing that gorgeous smile of yours soon." As she tightened her grip on his hand, she heard Oliver and Zatanna in the background.
"So, I'm going to take a wild guess and say that's not what was supposed to happen," Oliver stated.
"Of course not!" Zatanna replied, consternation and annoyance fighting to dominate her tone. "If I thought something would go wrong, I would never have cast it."
"I know, Zee," Oliver stated. Lois kept her eyes on Clark's face, though she imagined Oliver was running his hand through his blond hair. "Check on Bruce's status. We need to figure this out."
Zatanna made a sound of agreement, but then called out, "Lois –"
"Not," Lois interrupted. She held up her free hand and shook her head. "… not now."
Oliver spoke in whispers this time and Zatanna responded. Then her heels clicked along the floor, fading as she walked down the hallway. Lois sighed and dropped her head, bringing Clark's fingers to her forehead. Her irritation ebbed slightly. She knew if she talked to Zatanna now, her misplaced anger would make her say things she didn't mean. Better that her friend was out of range.
Lois drew strength from the solid feel of Clark's hand in hers. At least she knew he was safe. The same couldn't be said for her husband, but he could take care of himself. His past self could as well, but she had to admit… this Clark was a bit more lost. It had been such a long time since she had seen her Clark so unsure of himself.
His past self needed her. Whether it was for support or simply a swift kick to the head, she didn't know.
Either way, she wasn't going anywhere.
"I'm here, Clark," she whispered, squeezing his fingers. "I'm right here."
Watching Clark fumble over himself was pretty adorable. It was one of many reasons she loved to tease him. This Clark reminded her of how easy it had been years ago. And she was glad he seemed perfectly fine and healthy, as if he had never experienced even an ounce of pain earlier that morning.
"How do I wear this thing?"
Lois leaned against the doorframe to the bathroom as Clark stood in the middle of the bedroom. A smile tugged at her lips as he held up the blue suit, a clueless expression on his face. It alleviated her stress somewhat to see him healthy and whole before her. When he frowned at her, she almost snickered.
She shrugged instead. Memories of how she and Clark first tried to figure out a costume had her fighting another laugh. Of course, his blue shirt, red jacket combination was never meant to last long, and she was glad that by the time Clark had told her, his costume had gone through an upgrade. Together, they had come up with a color scheme and general design before his mother had pieced together the masterpiece.
Lois had seen him change numerous times, had even helped him out of it a few times as well. Her lips quirked up – she doubted this Clark wanted to know that. "I've never seen you do it slowly. You sort of –" She twirled her fingers in a fast circular motion, picturing her husband's quick spin in her mind's eye. "– and there you go."
Lois watched as his puzzled frown turned back to the costume again. His hand moved along the edges at the back of the neckline. He pulled down the zipper till it stopped mid-back. He looked back at her for answers and she pushed herself off the doorframe. She gave her hips a wiggle.
"Shimmy your way in?" she suggested.
Lois enjoyed Clark's stare of disbelief, like he couldn't exactly figure her out. His eyes darted from her hips to the suit, and then he took a deep breath. He was so close. For one silly moment, she felt like holding her breath in anticipation. She could already see him in the suit, flashing his charming and breathtaking smile like countless instances before.
For some reason though, as Clark kicked off his shoes and looked pointedly at her, the smiling image felt a little… off. Bashfulness tinted past Clark's gaze as he waited for her to turn around. He was trying to be modest.
Trying to shake her unsettled feelings, Lois rolled her eyes. "It's not like I haven't seen it all before," she said nonchalantly. She almost added, And I have seen it all, but she didn't want to scare Clark off from the suit again completely.
"Lois." His tone conveyed his exasperation and impatience, but the hint of affection underneath only intensified her unease rather than abating it.
To cover, Lois waved her hand dismissively and said, "Yeah, 'no peeking'."
Clark watched her and she returned his look, eyes straying to the suit he held in his hands. He was finally going to put it on, after much badgering and insistence on her part, but now that the moment was here, she wasn't so sure she wanted to witness it. To see him in his iconic supersuit… Clark was no stranger, but he also wasn't hers. It was always there, in the back of her mind even if the lines had blurred a few times.
Though she was sure her expression didn't give anything away, Lois turned her head just in case Clark was able to spot her sudden mood change. Before she had even made a conscious decision, her feet were leading her towards the hallway, and suddenly getting some fresh air seemed like the best idea in the world.
"I'm going out," Lois said, keeping her tone casual.
"Wait," Clark called and she paused at the doorway. "Where are you going?"
She wasn't even sure. All she knew was she needed to breathe. "I need to check up on some things," she replied vaguely. "You don't need me for anything, right?"
She didn't look at him and he didn't say anything for a few seconds. Then he finally replied, "No, I guess not."
He sounded confused, but Lois was thankful he didn't push the issue. She waved at him without looking back. "Just do what you do best," she said.
Then she was down the hallway, grabbing her coat and keys, and out in the relative safety of the area outside her apartment door. She leaned back against the wooden entrance and took a deep breath.
It had been fun introducing the suit to past Clark, but insisting he wear it was an entirely different matter from actually seeing him in it. He reminded her so much of her husband – they are the same person, after all – the suit would be the final straw. Somehow, she knew that.
Lois was doing pretty well keeping it together, and it would remain that way, if she had any say.
"Let me get this straight."
Lois bit her lip as she received Chloe's full attention, the large computer monitor behind her going blank with a single tap on the touchscreen glass from her cousin. Her long blonde hair was tied into a ponytail that fell over her shoulder, and she wore a burgundy blouse over a pair of plain blue jeans. Chloe leaned forward on her desk and regarded Lois with narrowed eyes.
"Clark has been missing since yesterday morning. His past self is currently occupying his body, with no idea whatsoever of why he's pulled a 13 Going on 30 six years into the future. Zatanna used her hocus pocus, but it backfired horribly, so the hero brigade is regrouping while simultaneously working on their overseas mission. And right at this moment, Clark's body-stealing double is gallivanting around the city, dressed as Metropolis' resident red and blue superhero?"
Lois shrugged as if it weren't a completely huge deal. "That's it in one tiny, messed up nutshell," she said.
Chloe stood abruptly, her chair rolling backwards and her arms stiff and straight with her palms flat on the wooden portion of the desk. "And you're only telling me now?" she asked.
Lois had always planned on telling her, so the pinprick of guilt that grazed her was brief and quickly quashed. "Look, Chlo, I didn't want to worry you," she said. "It was a special day for you and Casanova, and you didn't need the stress."
Chloe's irritation faded and she sighed. "I appreciate that, Lo, really," she said, "but how can you be so sure this 'Clark' is telling the truth?"
Lois thought of his gentle smile, the warmth of his touch and the feeling of safety, security and home. "I know," she said softly.
Chloe shook her head. "Let me get in touch with Emil," she said. She reached for the desk phone. "Time travel is more his speed."
Lois hadn't finished telling her the whole story, and this was the part that worried her the most. Despite their conversation at Chloe's bridal shower – If you had the chance to do it all over again, would you change anything? – this was an actual chance for Chloe to change her fate. All it would take was one word to Clark. There was the real possibility that Chloe could die, but on the flip side, she could come out with no injuries whatsoever. Lois wasn't willing to take the chance, but it wasn't her body. And if the situation was reversed, Lois knew she would want to have the choice. Chloe deserved full disclosure.
Her gaze ran over Chloe's long scar before it moved up to her cousin's dual-colored eyes. "Chloe."
Her cousin paused and looked up before her index finger could start dialing. "Hmm?"
Lois turned her eyes upward, staring at the second level of Watchtower. "Clark – past Clark – he doesn't…"
"Doesn't what?" Chloe prompted.
Her gaze returned to her cousin, her expression uncharacteristically quiet and subdued. Lois finished, "… know. About the fallout from Doomsday." That time had changed all their lives, but Lois knew Chloe had been one of the few directly affected.
Chloe placed the receiver back in its cradle, her right hand fluttering over her scar. "I see," she replied. She looked down at the touchscreen of her desk. "Is that why you were in such a rush to leave the shower yesterday?"
Lois nodded, unsure of Chloe's blank expression. Her cousin had gotten frighteningly good at masking her emotions, and it was only thanks to Bart that Chloe was doing it less and less. Bringing up the past, however, led her back, and Lois hated that she was the one doing the leading.
"I told him not to ask. To not dig," Lois said. She walked closer to Chloe, standing directly on the other side of her desk. "He's struggling with it." She understood what it cost him, how much he wanted to save his best friend.
"But it's Doomsday, and the risk..." Lois placed a hand over Chloe's and quietly continued, "Something much worse could happen if he does something different. And, just in case you didn't know, I really, really wouldn't be able to take it if you – if you –"
Understanding passed over Chloe's face, breaking her empty mask. "Lois –"
"Once was enough," she interrupted. It was years ago, but Lois still remembered the call, still remembered how the General informed her in his gruff and blunt way that her uncle and cousin had passed away.
Lois straightened as she felt Chloe squeeze her hand and she squeezed back. "Remember our conversation yesterday? When you first got to the Ace of Clubs?" Lois asked.
If you had the chance…
"Lois," Chloe began. "My answer is the same." She looked down at her engagement ring.
Relief swept over her and Lois realized how much she had dreaded Chloe's answer. There were times when Lois felt like she knew Chloe so well, but then there were others when her baby cousin was a complete stranger.
"I'm through with taking one step forward and two steps back," Chloe continued. She gave Lois's hand another squeeze before letting go. She smiled at her. "Thanks for telling me about Clark." She reached for the phone again. "Let's see if I can't pry Emil away from S.T.A.R. Labs."
Lois turned away as Chloe made her phone call, and she approached the large round stained glass window at the opposite side of the room. She gazed at the expanse of Metropolis through the multiple pieces of colored glass and imagined her husband gracing its skies. The fingers of her left hand curled in at her side.
"You should get some rest," Chloe's voice said from behind her. "Go home. I'll try to figure something out."
Lois didn't move.
She felt Chloe come up behind her. "Are you okay?" her cousin asked.
Lois raised her clenched fist and unfurled her fingers. "Yeah," she replied. "Of course."
Her simple white gold wedding ring gleamed under the light of the tinted sunbeams. She paused to stare at it for a moment more before she looked back out over Metropolis. "Something's wrong," she whispered. "Something's wrong in the sense that something feels right."
Lois turned to meet Chloe's confused expression. "I'm a lot calmer than I should be considering Clark's gone missing," she said.
"You're keeping it together, like you always do," Chloe replied. "You never crumble under pressure."
"This is different, Chlo," Lois said. She started pacing the floor, walking back and forth in front of the large monitor. "I'm worried, but something's holding me back from freaking out entirely."
"Is it the other Clark?" Chloe asked with a raised eyebrow.
Lois stopped. "It's not him," she replied. At least, not completely. "It's something else, but I don't know what." She absentmindedly rubbed the turquoise stone of her bracelet.
"You know what they say about gift horses," Chloe replied. She walked up to one of her smaller computer monitors and started typing.
"Yeah, well –" Lois tried to string her thoughts together in a way that made sense. "Going crazy without going totally crazy is making me even crazier."
Chloe's typing came to a halt. "You want to run that by me again?"
Lois groaned. "Forget it. I don't even know half of what I'm saying right now," she replied. "I'm working off my nerves."
"Resting is probably a good idea," Chloe suggested again.
Lois barely registered her advice. Her mind was already switching topics, falling back on what had been nagging her since her restless night of almost no sleep. "I've been debating talking to my frosty father-in-law," she said.
"You haven't yet?" Chloe asked, surprised. "I would've bet my Watchtower monitors that was Clark's first stop once he realized he wasn't in Kansas anymore." She paused. "You know what I mean."
"I only thought of it last night, but Ollie and Bruce already had Zee in mind as a quick fix-it," Lois replied. "I was eager to get Clark back, and with that solution already in their back pockets, I thought… well, I didn't think about it at all." After a good deal of pacing, she finally plopped down in one of the rounded orange chairs placed at the front of Chloe's desk. Though she had her reservations about magic because of its effects on Clark, she also trusted Zatanna. "I thought the spell would work."
There was a difference between worrying over someone and missing them. Her worry level wasn't as high as it should be considering her husband's whereabouts were unknown. But that didn't mean she missed him any less. In fact, she was missing him fiercely. God, she missed him.
"What are your theories on where Clark – our Clark – is?" Chloe asked, interrupting the flow of Lois's contemplation.
Lois shot Chloe a grateful smile as she moved on to a less painful train of thought. "If his past self is here, I'm going with a good ol' fashioned body swap."
Chloe nodded. "So, his past self is here in the future with us. While he's stuck in the past, six years back," she thought aloud. "Plausible. One of the more likely scenarios."
Lois wasn't quite sure she wanted to know about the endless possibilities, but still asked, "Other scenarios being…?"
Chloe hesitated before she answered, "He could be at any point in time, not necessarily where his past self came from. Or imprisoned somewhere."
Lois shut her eyes and slowly let out a breath. "I think I do need some downtime. Maybe a cup of coffee from Metro," she said, opening her eyes. "Call me if you and the doc come up with anything." She pushed herself out of the chair, hanging her coat over her arm. Then she walked over and wrapped her arms around her cousin.
Chloe hugged her back tightly and whispered, "Let me handle it for tonight, Lo."
Lois tightened her hold before she pulled back and kissed Chloe's cheek. She smiled at her, nodded once, and turned to leave. A breeze swept past her and her heart jumped, but then she heard the voice accompanying it.
"Leaving so soon, sweet stuff?"
Swallowing her disappointment, she took a breath and turned around with a smirk. Bart looked at her expectantly, dressed in black track pants and a mustard-colored hoodie. She replied, "Tracking down informants, diving into the seedy underbelly of Suicide Slums, looking for that perfect headliner – no time to chitchat, Casanova." She gave a short wave. "Chloe can fill you in."
Bart raised his hand in goodbye, though she could tell he was puzzled. Before Lois left through the stained glass double doors, she saw him peck her cousin on the lips. She heard his voice drift into the hallway as she headed for the elevators.
"So, what'd I miss?"
Lois kicked off her sneakers in the hallway, heading straight for the living room. She placed her empty coffee cup on the dining table. "Clark?" she called out, wondering if her husband's past self was back from patrol.
No one answered.
She sighed and fell backward over the armrest of the couch, bouncing slightly on the cushions. She stared up at the cream ceiling, her thoughts swirling.
She didn't need a repeat of mindless staring. She had enough of that the night before. Lois sat up and reached for the files under the coffee table. Her notes spilled across the glass surface as she rummaged through them. She picked up a copy of the police report regarding the robbery at Orson Bank & Trust. The small group of perpetrators each had a flower tucked into their coat pockets – their calling card, maybe? The two other bank robberies, ones that happened before and after the Orson case, had different M.O.s, but they too had a strange signature.
Lois suspected there was something more going on, the oddities too peculiar to be a coincidence, the targeted banks all minor branches and holding not even a tenth of Metropolis First National Bank. There was a connection between all the cases, but she just couldn't see it, and why the hell was nothing going right?
Dewey still hadn't gotten back to her about the current gossip spreading on the streets. Her source's appearance may have been off-putting and questionable, but she knew his information was good. He had promised her by Monday. But she needed a lead, needed the information now.
Frustration swelled inside her and she threw her notes down, the other papers scattering with the force.
Slow down, Lo. Breathe.
Lois imagined his voice at her back, the caress of his fingers on her neck and her knots of tension smoothing under his tender touch.
She pressed the heels of her palms against her closed eyes.
Clark, where are you?
The sound of the sliding door opening and closing roused Lois from her light sleep. She opened her eyes and lifted her head from the back of the couch, smiling when she saw her husband in his saving-the-world uniform. A familiar thrill shot through her as she took in the familiar red and blue and dabs of yellow, and all she wanted to do was curl up in his arms and fall back asleep.
But then she looked into his eyes and saw what was missing. Her smile faded.
Lois hated the moments between sleep and awareness when, for a few precious seconds, she thought everything was right in her world. She remembered why she hadn't wanted to see him in the suit. Clark's sympathetic look only made her feel worse and she pretended as if she hadn't been fooled, as if he hadn't affected her at all.
"You look good," she commented. She pushed the ache deep down inside of her as she scrutinized him from head to toe. He wore the suit well, even though he still seemed a bit self-conscious. She grinned. "Am I right, or am I right?"
Clark pinched the fabric at his side. "It's… not so bad," he conceded.
"Not so bad, huh?" She arched an eyebrow. That was a big admission, considering his initial reaction to the costume. She commented, "I guess patrol went well."
"The Blur-slash-Superman helped a few more people today," he replied, beaming. He looked so innocently pleased, and Lois loved that about him.
"Chalk up another win for the good guys," she said. She pumped a fist in the air and spotted the DVD case she had pulled out from the shelves earlier. She wanted to watch it with past Clark and had fallen asleep waiting for him after she put the disc in the player.
Lois pulled at the long sleeves of her pajamas as she stretched her legs out on the couch. She cracked her neck before she took the DVD case from the coffee table. "Change out of that very hot ensemble and then come join me," she instructed with a wave to the bedroom. "We're going to veg out and watch a movie."
He followed her orders without protest. Within seconds, Clark zipped out of the room and returned in the same sleeping clothes he wore the night before, the breeze from his sudden motions stirring her ponytail.
"We are, are we?" he asked, cocking his head to the side.
Some of her tension eased now that he was out of the suit. Lois held up the case. "Back to the Future," she said. She thought it was appropriate viewing, all things considered. She tossed the slim container back onto the coffee table. "I imagine that's what Clark is up to right now."
"You have a strange sense of humor sometimes," Clark commented, faintly amused.
"You say that now, but I bet a DeLorean would solve a lot of our problems," she said offhandedly. She reached for her mug of coffee on the table and took a sip, grimacing at the lukewarm taste. Her voice turned subdued. "I know that, if Clark is stuck in the past, he's trying as hard as we are."
She shook her head. Theories had flitted in and out of her brain all day, and she was exhausted from worrying. There was a part of her that knew her Clark was safe wherever he was, but it still wasn't enough to keep all the anxiety away. There were too many questions, too many unknown factors.
"I need to not think about it for a couple hours," she said quietly. She placed her mug on the table and held out her hand. "Want to escape with me?"
Clark hesitated. He stared at her hand for a long moment, and Lois wasn't used to being unsure of Clark, not after all the years they had been together. She started to curl her fingers back, but then he wrapped his hand around hers. She beamed up at him and tugged him down next to her on her right side. He fell back against the cushions, her hand still twined with his. Her bracelet touched his skin and she reached down distractedly to pull the pajama sleeve back over her wrist.
"Ready to accelerate to time travel speeds of eighty-eight miles per hour?" Lois asked. She grabbed the DVD remote and pressed 'play'. Deciding to make herself as comfortable as possible, she tucked her legs underneath her and leaned her head on his shoulder.
"Sure," Clark replied, his tone preoccupied. He shifted in his seat and her hair skimmed along the side of his neck.
Minutes in, Clark adjusted his position again. He kept moving at random intervals, and Marty hadn't even gotten into the DeLorean yet.
Lois sighed and placed her hand on his leg to stop his bouncing knee. "Stop fidgeting, Smallville," she said. "I'm trying to watch a classic film here."
"Sorry," he mumbled.
She waited a second or two and then removed her hand from his leg. His bouncing didn't start up again, so she turned her attention back to the movie. A minute later, his fingers began tapping.
Lois stared at him until he met her gaze. She could tell by his sheepish grin that her annoyance came out loud and clear.
"I'll get some popcorn," he said, standing up.
"Yeah… you do that." Lois followed him with her eyes. Then she moved to the opposite side of the couch and leaned back against the armrest, her knees pulled up to her chest. She wasn't looking to purposefully fluster him. Not tonight, anyway. She called out, "Middle cupboard, second shelf."
Lois returned to watching and the DeLorean's speedometer hit eighty-eight and disappeared in a flash of light and flames just as Clark returned to the couch with a bowl of popcorn. He handed it to her when she reached for her coffee mug.
"Thanks," she said. She held out her cold coffee to him and smiled sweetly. "Could you?"
Puzzlement crossed his face for the briefest of seconds, but then realization dawned and her grin widened as he rolled his eyes. She looked at him expectantly and he focused his gaze on her mug. A second later, her coffee was steaming and she eagerly brought it to her lips.
The hot liquid warmed her and she let out of murmur of satisfaction. She grinned at him again in thanks and Clark shook his head, though he responded in turn. He sat down on the other end of the couch and didn't comment on her change in position, though he was visibly less tense.
Lois tossed a few popcorns in the air and caught them in her mouth. She saw Clark glancing at her out of the corner of his eye and flicked one at him. He plucked the popcorn midair with his hand.
"Too easy, Smallville," she said.
Clark shrugged and ate the treat. Lois lobbed another one at him and this time, he turned and caught it in his mouth before looking back at the television as if nothing had happened. Lois laughed and she spotted Clark hiding a small grin.
Feeling a bit lighter, Lois sat back with her mug of coffee and bowl of popcorn, and pretended that things were okay, just for a little while.
A few hours later, well into the sequel, Lois felt herself getting drowsier by the minute. Her mug lay discarded on the coffee table along with the empty popcorn bowl. Towards the end of the first film, she had gravitated closer to Clark and was now in her original position, her head on his shoulder, but with the afghan of the couch wrapped around them both.
She yawned for what seemed like the dozenth time, and felt rather than heard the rumble of Clark's low chuckle. "You should… go to bed, Lois," he said, his own voice tired and not all there. "It's… almost… two."
"No!" she protested, though it was punctuated by yet another yawn. "We have to complete the trilogy."
Clark mumbled something unintelligible.
Lois tilted her head and looked up at him. His eyes were closed, his mouth slightly open, and his head resting on the back of the couch. She smiled through her drowsiness. Sighing, she relaxed against him, and tugged on the arm he had draped over the couch. It came down over her shoulders and Clark shifted, but didn't wake.
With his warmth cloaking her and the faint sounds of the movie playing in the background, Lois allowed herself to simply drift away, his heartbeat a muted thrum under her palm.
When Lois next opened her eyes, white greeted her all around. For one brief second, she thought she was in the Fortress, but there was a distinct lack of cold wind. She sat up. There were no glittering columns of crystal or ice either, and she ignored the sliver of disappointment that ran down her spine.
Lois stood and for the first time, noticed she was barefoot and wearing a flowing ivory strap dress with a hem that stopped at the knees. She fingered the material, similar to silk but with an even softer, lustrous feel.
"A fancy dress for an extremely…" She did a complete turn, her hem swaying, and everywhere, there was white, white and white. "… bland dream. Not even a yellow brick road to lead the way."
Never one to just sit around and wait, Lois started walking in a random direction, trying to spot something, anything that wasn't pale and colorless.
"Well, it's not quite a dream, but close enough."
The warm tones of the voice washed over her, freezing her in place. Hope flickered in her chest, but Lois checked the dangerous emotion, her mind screaming caution. She held her breath as she turned slowly.
The man who stood some feet away was achingly familiar, dressed as if he were going to work at the Daily Planet. Classically handsome in black slacks and a charcoal gray button-up shirt, he was without a matching jacket, but a tie of an ever darker gray and matching business shoes gave his outfit its complete feel. Missing, however, were his ever-present glasses, which left his blue gaze unguarded and bare.
Something swirled in its azure depths and hope flared again in her chest, but this time she was unable to temper it. "Clark?"
He smiled, love shining from his eyes – strong, uninhibited and there. "I've been waiting for you."
"Clark," she whispered. His smile grew and he opened his arms. It was all the invitation she needed. "Clark!" Lois ran to him and jumped into his embrace.
Her husband caught her easily as she wrapped her legs around his waist. He held her to his chest and she felt his arms clasp her as close as he could. He buried his face in her neck as she breathed him in, his clean, woodsy, Clark Kent scent.
"Lo," he whispered. He pulled back to look into her eyes. "Lois."
He pressed a hard kiss to her mouth, and she reciprocated, pouring all her emotion into it, everything she had felt since she realized he had gone missing. Her worry, frustration, confusion, fear – she released it all into their kiss until there was only the sweet taste of relief and love, love, love. Judging by the desperate way he clutched her, she knew he had missed her as much as she had him.
"God, Clark," she murmured as their lips broke apart, taking in gasps of air. The hands she had entangled in his black locks fell to his neck as she voiced her thoughts aloud. "I've missed you."
Clark kissed her again, softly this time, grazing his knuckles on the smooth curve of her cheek. "I'm sorry," he murmured. He ran his gaze over her face and tenderly tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. "The crystal had to touch my skin."
"What?" Lois asked, puzzled. "What do you mean?" She stared into his blue eyes as she tried to decipher his words. "Where have you been?"
"I've been here…" His fingers skimmed his temple before he cupped her cheek, his thumb brushing her chin. Clark smiled and pulled her close so he could lean in to whisper against her lips. "… the entire time."