This is a oneshot from an April Fanfic challenge, I thought it came out decently and compared to the original this one has ACTUALLY been Beta-ed! Thanks to Vgerland for her input and Beta assistance on this one! Please R & R.
The constant flow of water continued to swirl counter-clockwise as the nearly intolerable searing heat from the shower head pelted the bare back of Lois Lane. The water stung, rivet-like against her reddening skin.
In sharp contrast, her forehead pressed firmly against the cold, slick ceramic tile. The wet hair that was plastered to her neck was pushed away as her eyes closed. An immense sigh escaped as steam rose; water continued to pour down her fatigued legs. Lois remained in the stream, a meager attempt to rinse away the troubles that plagued her along with the soap, grime and water.
Her hands rubbed the corners of both eyes as she blinked through the salty tears and fresh water of the shower. The events that had occurred…or rather the ones that had not occurred reverberated in her mind, like a tuning fork that had been struck. Today could not have happened, but it did.
Lois was uncertain of the exact time, but the fading light in her bathroom provided every indication that evening had come and she should have been in the air to Rome. Instead, she was in a somewhat catatonic state of disbelief in her own shower. Today had been highly anticipated and was to have been a wonderful occasion; it was after all her wedding day. At least, that is what it should have been but a pair of first class tickets for Alitalia Flight 758 to Rome's Leonardo DaVinci Airport remained on the hallway table.
The pale ivory taffeta train swirled and rustled as the anxious bride turned on the pedestal in the dress store. The expansive 180 degree mirror reflected varying angles of the slender woman.
"Oh Lois," her mother gasped. "It's …"
Her daughter's frame that occupied the snug fitting rucheted bodice and smooth A-line gown gave every impression that the dress had been created just for her.
"It's the one" cooed her younger sister.
"Maybe" Lois sighed.
"Maybe?!" The mother and sister gasped in unison.
"Lo, are you nuts?"
The quizzical expression that Lois's sister Lucy wore was rebuffed. In the pit of Lois's stomach, the bride felt an expanse of ambivalence. It's beautiful, I do look fantastic in it, hmm….maybe even ten pounds thinner. Despite all the reassurances that were received from her family and fiancé in recent weeks, Lois continued to have an unwavering sense that her wedding would not actually come to fruition. Things between the couple never seemed to fall in their jointed favor.
It was quiet; the evening calm that settled nightly in the Planet newsroom always triggered an eerie sensation. The stark contrast crawled across Clark's skin in tandem with an odd mixture of anxiety, urgency and guilt. His pen scratched across a sheet of legal pad paper. Despite what was on his troubled mind, the article about the construction permits for the new hospital wing at Metropolis General was due. Perry's phone calls only increased in frequency as his deadline loomed. Apparently, he was not the only one with a deadline that was urgent.
The only other sound than the occasional click of his computer mouse was the more frequent swish of liquor inside a steel flask that his partner kept for 'emergency purposes'. Lois had completed her article and had taken to alleviating impending wedding jitters with tequila. The rapid-fire tapping of her pen on the edge of her desk grew with intensity as she browsed the internet.
Lois sighed, the chair she occupied groaned as she shifted her weight to slightly recline. Her hazel eyes gazed blankly at the ceiling. How on earth was she going to marry Richard in three days? Clark was her oldest friend; perhaps he would offer a plausible rationale to her paranoia.
"Something on your mind Lois?"
Clark sat at his small kitchen table as a heavy envelope flipped over and over in his large hands. He didn't need the ability to see through nearly anything. He knew Lois's wedding invitation was inside.
The reporter's soul was heavy with dread and remorse as he gazed out the window over the city. He laid the unopened envelope on the table, pulled off his glasses and combed back his thick hair. This was not how things should have been.
After he returned to Metropolis and his work, he had intended to immediately lay everything down for Lois, to expose his most important secret to her. Somehow a few hours had stretched into days, days into weeks and weeks became months. There was never a convenient time.
On a multitude of occasions, he had been on the verge of spilling his profound confession but had been called away. Superman had been in high demand since his public return. Then again, it was not exceptionally different than before he had left.
Clark had anticipated that when he came back, Lois would have been confused, upset and most assuredly, carrying a sizeable grudge...but she was the reason why he had returned. He was going to tell her everything but what had not been expected, was a now five year-old son that he barely knew and Lois engaged.
Martha and Jonathon Ken raised him with a strong moral compass and he had no intention of ever intervening in a relationship between two people. It had been his choice to leave, to keep his double life separate and it stung when Lois had fallen in love with another man. However the consequences of those decisions were only a just result. Part of him had believed if he was ever able to gain any form of redemption with Lois, to serve his penance that somehow, things would melt away as if it were a bad dream.
Reality however, turned out to be a future with a far more cruel and ironic outcome. He never had anticipated how charismatic, humble and genuine her fiancé was. Clark had thought he would strongly dislike the man, but contrary to his predictions; Richard became friends with him quickly. Close friends, to be truthful and that close friend soon would marry the love of his life.
When the wedding date was finally set, a cold awakening had settled in with a sudden overwhelming sense of urgency. There were so many things Lois did not understand, things that were unknown. The incredible history and passionate romance that had once been between the two of them, she had to know. All of it.
His gut churned with indecisiveness as the strong conscience tore at his soul, for he knew the result would be a conflicted woman when he surrendered the most valuable secret one could ever keep. But he had to, and it was an awful predicament. Not only would it confound Lois, but would also betray Richard, the man who had asked him to be the best man at the wedding.
The reporter sipped his coffee as alarms filled his ears as did cries for help. Superman rocketed into the night sky. At least some things never changed. He would always be needed.
A well toned leg hung in the air from the reclined chair.
"Clark, have you ever had your gut tell you something was going to be a colossal mistake but you went ahead with it?"
His eyes traveled every inch of her leg down to the heeled shoe that was no longer on the nylon-clad foot, rather it balanced and dangled on her toes. It wobbled as her foot rhythmically rocked.
"Gee Lois…" an index finger pushed the glasses upward that had slid down his nose. "That's kind of personal, don't you think?"
"You're my oldest friend Clark. Just answer the question."
"Yeah, I have."
Lois's eyebrows rose at the regret that tainted his words. She chewed a cuticle on her already haggard thumb. "Well?"
"Did you regret your choice?"
The hair on the back of his neck stood on edge. She was after something, like a shark that smelled blood in the water. The direction of the conversation was not one that would end well but at this point, it did not matter any more. The constant edge on which he resided with this woman in his dual identities had grown tired. No one was there; just the two of them. The way it should be.
Much like the way it was when it all began years ago, it was here. When they collided mid-air, it was just on the other side of the windows from where they now sat. The location of their offices and the profound significance was never lost on him and he decided justifiably that this was where it would end.
"Lois, where's all of this coming from?"
"You know what Clark? When you consistently avoid answering the question, it's really irritating and lately, it's been pretty often. I'm over it." She sat upright. Lois's attention was fully honed on her partner. "I've been trying to tell you something as my friend. I need you to listen to me. Please!"
Nodding, he decided it was best to let her vent..
"I know you're the best man at my wedding so you have to swear to secrecy." An eyebrow raised in warning. "This stays between us, not Richard."
"Promise. I've been told I'm not bad at keeping secrets."
Her face fell somber as she leaned forward, her elbows on her knees as her eyes bore into his. "Clark, I don't know if I should marry Richard."
"I think you're just nervous."
"No, I've always had a feeling that it would never happen. But now it's happening, so fast. I just don't know…." Her eyes looked large, questioning her old friend, seeking any type of consolation and advice that could help her predicament.
"I don't think I can give you an answer. Gosh, I'm really not the best person to talk to about this you know. Richard's the groom, I'm the best man…shouldn't you talk to your mom about this or something?"
"You've been my friend longer. I know far more incriminating things about you, for instance, you scream like a girl when held at gunpoint…you faint!"
"Lois, you're putting me in a really difficult position, Richard's my friend too."
Lois slapped her hands on her desk in frustration at her partner's distanced remark.
"Clark, something between us has been different since you came back to work, don't think I haven't noticed. Case in point, I'm asking for advice, for your help and you won't give it to me."
"People change Lois; I think you of all people should understand." The photograph of her family that sat at her desk served as a prominent reminder. She was a mother, a fiancée. Lois had a family that did not include him.
"I haven't changed Clark, some life changing curve balls have been thrown my way but I've dealt with them. I didn't run unlike someone I know."
"Lois, you know as well as I do I'm not running from anything."
"Oh, so that's what you call the fast disappearing act you pulled? When you left on your 'self finding'" her fingers quoted in mid air "trip, you didn't say anything about it to me." She stood abruptly; the chair skated away and banged into the desk behind hers. "After all we'd been through, what we meant to each other… you've never even explained why you still haven't told me a damn thing!"
She paced. Her partner approached Lois as she crossed her arms in fury. An abrupt turn on her heel suddenly caught the tall man in her path. His large steady hands embraced her frame to prevent a head-on collision.
The sudden touch of the man who kept himself at such a distance stunned Lois from her stubborn refusal to grant him the satisfaction of eye contact.
"I meant something to you?" He wondered.
"Yeah, you did Clark." Her voice grew softer. "A lot. It really stung when you didn't say goodbye." She huffed and looked out the window. Lois whispered. "You're my best friend." Her gaze returned to the man who stood in front of her. "At least, that's what I thought. Apparently I was mistaken, the feeling wasn't mutual I take it."
"Are you kidding? I've always considered you my closest friend."
"It hurt like hell when you never even called." Her stare was cold. "I missed you Clark."
The silence of the office fell around their ears. The muted sound of traffic below seeped through the glass. Her partner relaxed the grip on her biceps and let his arms fall away. They retreated into the pockets of his trousers.
"I'm sorry I left you Lois" he murmured. The back of her neck prickled at his admission as her blood ran cold.
"What did you say?" she queried. Her eyes flew up at an apprehensive pair of vivid blue eyes behind a pair of glasses.
Clark swallowed and sighed. There was no retreat; they were beyond the point of no return. His mind raced back to the image burned in his mind. The wedding invitation that sat on the kitchen table he received a month ago, still unopened.
"Lois." The high range of his voice was gone. "I'm sorry I left you…I didn't, couldn't tell you a lie." He stepped backward. "I can't lie to you, I never have."
An overwhelming sense of unease rose to the surface as Lois shifted her weight. She remained silent and for the first time, Lois Lane could not find the words to say.
His head turned to look out the window, through the walls to where he had caught her for the first time. A nervous hand that had been fidgeting in his pocket was now calm, steady and sure as it loosened the tie around his neck and unfastened the shirts top button.
Without blinking or ceasing to look past the steel and brick, his hand slid the glasses from his face.
Clark's sharp profile, unmarred by the thick frames of his glasses caused a sharp inhale from Lois. It could not be….no, Superman was Superman. Clark was, well…Clark. They could not be the same person.
His head turned as he spoke. "I never told you goodbye, because I never would have left…to find Krypton." Clark continued. "When I came back, I meant what I said. It would have been too unbearable. I hope someday you'll be able to forgive me."
"My God" she whispered. Tears rapidly welled up and splashed down her cheeks. Her hands began to tremble.
"I can't lie to you Lois and after what you told me tonight, I can't just continue to be silent and watch you marry someone else. At least not without telling you everything."
Lois tentatively stepped forward, closer. Her unsteady hand pushed the hair away from his unobstructed face; her eyes searched his features as her mouth hung agape. The man who stood before her was Clark, but there was so much of Superman in his eyes.
His deep voice broke her contemplative gaze.
"Lois, I love you."
"What?" She gasped as her palm came to rest on his cheek.
The blue of his uniform was barely visible above the open shirt collar. Everything suddenly coincided. All of the pieces fit. The man that stood before her was real, he consisted of the complimentary pieces from the best of the two men she had thought she knew. It was so simple.
"I love you but I can't stop you from marrying Richard, I won't intervene. I think you and I both know that. I had to explain everything to you beforehand…you deserve at least that. I'm not looking for redemption. Just your understanding."
"Clark, the rehearsal dinner is Friday," she choked as her hand fell from his face. Her sorrow-filled eyes remained locked with his.
"You're the best man for goodness sake!" Her hands flung up in despair. "It's too…oh, why didn't you tell me this sooner?" she sobbed. He stepped closer.
The overwhelming urge Lois felt to smack her former lover across the face was overridden only by the simple known fact that he would not feel anything, the sting would only be felt across the palm of her own hand.
His hands stirred to hold hers. When their skin made contact, she did not pull away as a litany of emotions coursed through her veins. Lois did not close her eyes as his thumb cleared the tears from her face.
Clark motioned to speak but Lois pressed a finger against his open mouth to silence him. She could not stop herself from her own actions; her basic instincts had overridden any logical form of behavior.
"Just don't…Clark." She whispered, leaned forward and slowly placed her lips on top of the index finger that remained on his open mouth. Both of them closed their eyes as she slid her finger out from between their lips.
Lois inhaled sharply again at the sensation of his lips against hers. Lois kissed him again, more intensely. His muscles tensed and rippled beneath her hands as he returned her actions. A shockwave of ecstasy pulsed through every inch of her body as he pulled away. Their eyes both flew open as the spell was broken; the harsh reality of the situation closed in around them.
"Lois…no" he breathed. "We can't…"
"I know." Regret filled her words. "I don't know what to do anymore. This complicates everything."
The clock ticked.
"Why did you kiss me?"
"Clark…I'm so..." Her fingers combed through her hair in frustration as she began to pace again. "I just had to see if I still—oh never mind."
Lois buzzed as she flew around her desk, frantically grabbed her purse and rushed for the elevator.
"Lois" his deep voice boomed. Again, goose bumps rippled through her skin as his incredible voice sounded. "I've told you a pretty important detail, at least tell me what you were about to say" he pleaded.
His sad eyes pierced her soul. She knew they were meant to be together, it was that simple but the words would not come.
Lois sobbed "It doesn't matter anymore Clark, you're too late…the wedding's Saturday."
The doors to the elevator opened abruptly as the clang of the bell sprung Lois back into motion.
As everything continued to shape together in her disjointed mind, she looked up, now almost certain he was able to meet her eyes through the elevator shaft, she sighed.
"I know you can hear me…I, I love you. I just couldn't say it to your face." Her lips still burned from the touch of his. "It would have been too unbearable."
"Bye Richard! Last time we'll see ya without dragging behind you that ball and chain!" The heavyset reporter snickered as he stood in the doorway.
"Well Gil, misery loves company they say... the next time I see your wife I'll be sure to let her know how fondly you think of her when you're apart" Richard yelled over the sports station in the bar.
"Humph" he grunted. "Probably the same way she feels about me. Honeymoon's been over awhile."
"Yeah" Ron laughed. "You sure you want to enter into the Lane family?"
Richard nodded smugly.
"Alright then, don't say you weren't warned from an insider. Too late to turn back for me, Sam knows where I live…with his other daughter."
"Technically since I've already given him a grandson I'm committed for life anyway."
"Yeah, true. Well buddy, gotta run home. If I get home much later I won't be able to deny the stripper rumors."
"See you in two days Ron." Richard waved.
"Oh Clark, make sure Richard doesn't make a break for it." Ron Troupe winked at the last of the groomsmen to remain. The two men slipped away into the evening to return to their wives.
The tall reporter smiled uncomfortably as he began to twirl the beer bottle on the table. His fingers picked at the label. Richard had been beaming all day and eagerly anticipated his upcoming nuptials. The best man however had been riddled with guilt and had been quiet.
"Clark, you've been quiet. Even for you."
"I guess, it's your day, you know. Had to let the guys give you a bit of grief."
"Yeah, but I know you. Something's up. Spill it man."
"Nothing you'd care to hear that this point Richard, I can assure you."
"Ah I doubt it." His friend buzzed. The pleasantly sedated sensation from one beer too many had consequently increased the amount of prodding he gave to his best man. "C'mon Clark, don't be so down. Don't worry, you'll find a girl."
"Let it go." His eyes darkened. Clark shifted in his seat.
"You don't have a date to the wedding…is that it?"
"Something like that. But not exactly."
"Well then, my sister happens to be available. If you happen to have a thing for skinny blondes." He winked conspiratorially.
"Actually I happen to prefer brunettes."
"You've got a thing for someone, don't you?"
"Sort of." This was going to be awful. It was as if he were watching a train wreck in slow motion.
"It's Beth in accounting…oh; you can't keep me in the dark! This is good…I bet even Lois doesn't know!" Richard inched forward with interest. He took another swig of his beer. His green eyes sparkled with mischief.
"Um, sorry Richard. She knows."
"Becky already knows?"
"Not Becky. Lois."
His face fell. "For once, I thought I was going to know something she didn't about you."
Clark averted his friend's eyes and returned to picking at the label. He inhaled deeply. It was incredibly painful. He had to tell his friend what had happened, save one sordid detail of course.
"About that…" his voice grew quiet, necessitating his friend to lean forward to hear him above the roar of the ball game on the television.
"Clark, are you alright?" Richard had a horrible feeling that rose in his stomach. Clark looked horrible. It was quite apparent something was terribly wrong.
"Lois and I worked late last night, together…something, well um, happened."
"Why am I not so sure I want to hear what's next?" Richard's face grew somber as nausea swelled in his stomach.
"She kissed me Richard."
His eyes searched his friend's pleadingly. "What? Clark—"
"And I kissed her back." Richard stared blankly at his beer bottle as Clark continued. "I'm sorry. I couldn't keep it from you; it was something you needed to know."
"You're the best man, how could you." He whispered, Richard's affect remained flat.
"Lois and I were partners a long time; we have a lot between us. I want nothing but the best for her. I love her Richard, but I don't deserve her, you do. I made the decision to leave. I loved her before I left and I said nothing. It's my loss, my choice. I have to live with it."
The two man sat, stunned into silence. After a few minutes passed, Clark stood wordlessly and pulled his jacket on. "I'm so sorry Richard, for everything." Then the tall reporter disappeared into the night.
Shortly after, his non-descript clothing was shed and Superman sped through the night sky as a sonic boom sounded over Metropolis. He worked relentlessly across the globe to intervene as often as possible. His body ached under the strain and incredible speed with which he worked. He continued to move between the continents nearly at light speed.
Superman toiled to seek some form of redemption for the egregious sin he had committed against his dear friend. The guilt continued to gnaw at him despite the staggering number of people he had saved that night. It would never be enough. The image of his wounded friend was seared into his perfect memory.
The wedding ceremony that never reached completion replayed at the crucial junction in Lois's mind. The steam continued to rise in the shower.
"If there is any person who objects to this marriage, speak now or forever hold your peace."
Her eyes that had remained fixed on her fiancé abruptly looked out to the audience. I cannot look at Clark, do not look at him…if I do I can't go through with this. She immediately found her son's. Those eyes, they're Superman's eyes…they're so blue. Those are Jason's eyes. Our son, we have a son together Clark. A part of her silently willed him to speak, but she knew that he would remain silent. Clark was too honorable and so was Superman. There was no part of him that would save her this time.
Her hands were held more tightly as Richard sighed. "I can't do this Lois."
Everyone's heads turned toward the groom, the minister included. "What? Richard…" she gasped. Her eyes searched his in question and disbelief.
"Lois, it's not right. This, us…it's not right" Richard said loudly. His eyes met hers as he spoke softly enough for only the two of them.
"Lois, don't marry me out of obligation. Look, I know."
Her eyes widened as her stomach lurched. Richard continued. "You should be with the person you love; I shouldn't be in the way."
"Richard, I don't deserve you."
"You deserve to be with the person who you love." Tears welled in his eyes. "Not me."
Lois toweled herself off and donned a large T-shirt and sweatpants. She froze as her eyes rested on her engagement ring that remained on the bathroom sink. The strange sense of numbness was completely inappropriate for the situation but it was what she felt. It was as embarrassing as all hell but she knew the wedding that did not occur was for the best.
Being a single mother would be difficult but she could make it work. The house felt odd so empty, so silent. The floorboards creaked underneath her bare feet as she wandered through the dim kitchen.
A knock at the back door startled her. She spun in anticipation.
"Betty. Hi." Her next door neighbor hovered in the doorway.
"Lois, I'm sorry to hear what happened." Her face full of worry.
"I'll be alright. Thanks."
"Lucy's watching him tonight. I just need to be alone."
"Need some dinner? I've got some lasagna in the oven, too much for me and the boys. You're welcome to join us."
"It's alright Betty. I'd prefer to be alone right now. Maybe tomorrow, okay? If you'll excuse me…" Lois waved a pack of cigarettes and lighter as she inched past her neighbor into the backyard. "I've got a craving. I've always promised I wouldn't smoke in the house." Her eyes glittered with moisture in the fading light. Betty nodded.
"If you need me Lois, just call" she uttered as her figure retreated behind the fence into her own yard. "I'll be up late. Jack's helping out the fourth precinct tonight. You know I never sleep when he's got that shift." Betty smiled sympathetically.
Lois padded through the grass and flicked the lighter as she walked. She inhaled the earthy tobacco smoke. Tension that had wrapped itself around her began to unravel as she exhaled a grey plume of smoke. She closed her eyes and stood still. Everything was such a mess. She did not look forward to facing the rumor mill at work or her boss….Richard's uncle. That was going to be such a treat. Hopefully she still had a job to return to.
She turned to her name, his voice. It would be a bald faced lie if she didn't claim to be a bit nervous or pleased to hear it. Lois was uncertain what to see, who he would be…what they were to each other.
It was all she could say.
The man who stood in front of her was not who she had expected. He was Clark, yet he was Superman. She half expected Superman to stand there, in all his glory, the iconic cape and blue suit, the suit that revealed every fold and ripple of the amazing musculature of his body…Alright, so that was where her mind wandered. Fantastic. So appropriate.
His black hair dripping wet from someplace. The blue suit was absent. So were the ill-fitting three-piece suits and thick glasses. Instead he wore a white T-shirt, faded jeans and worn sneakers. He did not stand in a slumped posture, or rigid but there was a foreign sense of comfort, an ease that was about him.
Lois was quite certain that the body language he projected was a reflection of neither caricature she had known, but who he truly was; his genuine self. Absent were both the awkward mannerisms and the regal presence. He wasn't an untouchable hero wrapped in mystery; instead, a common man stood in front of her, an incredibly handsome and familiar man.
"Your hair….it's wet."
"A hurricane in Florida, it was a busy day."
"A hurricane…." It felt odd to casually discuss incredible disasters and potentially front page worthy quotes from a hero. He discussed it as openly as one would a routine day at the office.
"It was headed straight for the keys. A lot of people would have died; otherwise I would have been here sooner. I'm sorry."
Her stomach lurched. The skin on her arms tingled. He was amazing. "Are you kidding?" She laughed. "I think a hurricane trumps a failed wedding…"
"Not when I'm the reason you didn't get married Lois." He spoke with regret. His hands shoved into the pockets of his jeans. He stepped closer.
"Yeah, about that. It's for the best I suppose."
"It is?" His blue eyes flashed.
"It is." She stepped closer. "Richard was right." His smell was intoxicating as every inch of her skin sizzled. "I need to be with you."
"There are a lot of things we need to talk about. I can't live without you Lois, did you know that?"
"I'd certainly hope so. You broke up my wedding."
His hands grazed gently along her elbows "I know our boss would salivate over this, but it's off the record…"
"Lois, the reason why I came back to earth and Metropolis, it was you."
"Are you serious?" A slow smile spread across her face.
"I was meant for you."
Lois digested the second earth shattering revelation this week.
"I've got the week off you know…you've got a son who desperately needs to know you better. We have a lot to talk about and you've got a hell of a lot of explaining to do."
An incredibly mesmerizing smile formed across his lips. "Absolutely, if you'll listen, I won't leave you again."
Please let me know your thoughts, constructive criticism please! I might follow up with a short second chapter to follow up; I'm not sure at this point.