A/N: Thanks for all the great feedback! Here's the last part, hope you enjoy!
If the situation had been different, Lois would have probably busted out laughing at the utterly confused look on Clark's face at her seemingly out of nowhere mention of Lana's name. She'd always loved that look, completely adorable and totally Clark.
However, things being what they were, she was hard-pressed to find any amusement in his tightly knit eyebrows. Shaking her head slightly, a wry chuckle barely escaping her lips, she reached out and touched his arm, gently turning him toward the raven-haired beauty that was now standing barely six feet away from them while her cousin watched, a helpless look coloring her features.
Lana watched him carefully as he turned toward her. Every flicker, every twitch, hoping against rapidly fading hope that there would be something still there for her.
As Clark's eyes fell on her, his confusion seemed to lessen, but only slightly, blinking a few times as if to clear the cobwebs, perhaps making the realization that he wasn't feeling any stabbing pains in her presence. After a moment, though, an easy smile played on his lips.
Who knew a smile could break a heart? Because as she noted the friendly grin, that was exactly what Lana felt happening.
It wasn't a lovestruck smile. It wasn't a longing smile. It was a nice smile. A smile she'd seen him give many times before. To Jimmy Olsen. To Chloe. To Ben Hubbard. To Mrs. Wilkins when he ran into her at the Talon and she asked after his mom.
But she never thought she'd see that particular expression aimed at her.
"Lana," he finally said, his tone just friendly enough to make Lana's teeth grate in frustration. "Wow, you're the last person I expected to run into today."
And that was the truth. Because of all the people Clark Kent expected to see as he and Lois raced through Metropolis, chasing down story after story, Lana Lang was definitely last on the list.
He noted to himself, as he his eyes glanced sideways and saw Lois subtly gnawing at her bottom lip (a move that someone only as well versed in the ways of Lois Lane as Clark had become would pick up), that that wasn't the case because he didn't want to see Lana. Nor did he want to. She just…didn't cross his mind much anymore.
"Hey, Chloe," he continued, sending a smile the blonde's way.
"Hey guys," Chloe said weakly, her voice signaling she wasn't unaware of the tension that had suddenly filled the heretofore empty coffee shop.
"Clark," Lana interjected, taking a step toward him, as if to prove to him that she was safe now, "I didn't expect to run into you here," she said, with a meaningful sideways glance toward Lois.
"Yeah, well it's just about time for Lois' post-lunch, pre-snack coffee break," he offered, grinning down at the brunette at his side.
Lovely lips ticked up into a typical Lois Lane smirk. "Smallville here knows better than to make me wait for my caffeine fix."
"Well, I've learned the hard way that a caffeine deprived Lois means a cranky Lois," he said, the teasing affection in his voice clear to all three women standing there.
"Clark, I really need to talk to you," Lana blurted out suddenly, startling not only Clark, Lois, and Chloe, but apparently herself, as her eyes widened the moment the words left her mouth. Inwardly, she chastised herself, having planned on being as cool as the proverbial cucumber when she came face-to-face with Clark. That, it seemed, was out the window, her nerves on edge having witnessed the unexpected easy intimacy between Lois and Clark.
"Oh, um…well, we have this big interview we have to get to," Clark said, glancing at Lois and then back at Lana.
"I can handle it Clark," Lois chimed in, gazing up at him. "No big deal. That way you and Lana can catch up."
Looking into her eyes, Clark could see she meant it. Every word. She wouldn't hold it against him, she would understand it if that's what he chose to do. And it was for that reason, among others, that he reached over and intertwined his fingers with hers, before cocking an eyebrow at her.
"And miss my chance at being the bad cop? Forget it, Lane," he said softly.
It happened in the span of mere seconds, but Lana didn't miss the silent communication between them. Clark's grasp of her fingers, his soft, reassuring smile, and Lois' almost imperceptible nod in response, her lips forming a gentle smile of their own.
He'd chosen her.
Lana gasped, feeling the realization hit her as if she'd been punched in the stomach.
Tearing his eyes away from Lois, and seemingly unaware of Lana's shock, Clark simply suggested, "Maybe we can catch up later? I gotta pick some stuff up from Lois' apartment, but I should be back at the farm around 7 if you wanna stop by."
"I was…I was hoping for earlier," Lana managed to stammer out.
"Is everything okay? It's not an emergency is it?"
Every fiber of her being wanted her to scream "Yes" in response to his question. Get him rattled, bring out his protective streak, anything to see a glimmer of the feelings she had to believe were still there for her.
Instead, she opted for truth.
"No. It's just…a lot's happened, Clark," she said, her voice soft and plaintive, hoping that tone would pull on his heartstrings like it used to.
"Smallville, I can pack up the truck and meet you there later. You and Lana should talk."
"It's a lot of heavy stuff, Lo."
"Chloe can help me," she said, gesturing to her cousin, who nodded in response.
Clark looked at Lana, then back at Lois. Finally, he sighed, and to Lana, it seemed almost as if it was one of resignation.
But she refused to allow herself to believe that.
Because just as quickly as she'd heard it, he smiled, once again all too politely, at her.
"Yeah, okay. The interview should take no more than an hour at most, then I'll drop Lois and the truck off at her apartment and head back to the farm. We'll meet there in about an hour and a half, alright?"
Lana nodded, doing her best to smile brightly. "Great, I'll see you then."
Clark simply nodded and gently tugged on Lois' fingers. "We should go. You can text Jimmy on the way," he said, before raising his coffee slightly in Chloe's direction. "See ya, Chloe."
Lois smiled at her cousin, before setting her eyes on Lana. "Nice seeing you Lana," she said evenly.
"You too," Lana replied, her voice tight.
She watched as they walked hand in hand out of the coffee shop, her mind whirling with a zillion questions. But as she turned to her friend, only one came out in a hoarse whisper.
Chloe sighed. "Since they actually admitted it? About six months. But, honestly, it's been going on a lot longer than that."
She blinked quickly, as if trying to will the words away. "And…she knows? Everything?"
"Actually, the day after their first official date."
Incredulously, Lana stared at the blonde, feeling as if she'd entered some alternate universe. Clark Kent, the most secretive person she'd ever known, the man she'd hounded for years to trust her, the same one who'd kept his biggest secret from her even after they'd dated on and off for years, had opened up to Lois mere hours after their first date.
"You're kidding?" she mumbled, stunned.
Chloe shrugged, her eyes sympathetic. "I think he learned his lesson. He didn't wanna make the same mistakes," she said quietly.
"…learned his lesson…didn't wanna make the same mistakes…"
It was those words, spoken by her longtime friend that constantly whispered through her mind as she sat on the front porch of the Kent farm.
She was early. She knew it. But she couldn't wait. She was on edge as it was, and she needed to be there, get her bearings, and reset her strategy.
It was a beautiful day, the sun shining and the breeze wafting gently. It was early spring in Kansas, and while there was definitely a bite to the air, it wasn't unpleasant.
She glanced around, noting that the farm never changed. Clark was still managing to keep up with things, even with his job at the Planet. Shelby was at his post in the front yard, waiting for Clark as he so often did when he wasn't over at Ben Hubbard's, playing with the other farmer's gaggle of assorted pups . She'd patted the dog quickly on the head upon her arrival, getting very little response from the oversized canine, he simply putting his head down on the grass and setting his eyes back on the road.
Lana glanced at her watch, before closing her eyes and resting her head on her fingertips.
This so wasn't what she'd envisioned when she'd arrived back in Metropolis this morning.
It was Shelby's bark that brought her out of her self-induced pity party. Lana couldn't help but smile at seeing the large dog jump up and practically tackle Clark, who affectionately rubbed his neck in return.
"Come on, boy, you hungry?" Clark asked, walking toward the porch with Shelby at his heels. He stopped in his tracks when his eyes finally fell on the woman sitting there.
"I'm early, I know," Lana said, smiling apologetically.
"No problem," Clark said, gesturing for her to follow him in. "Just let me feed Shelby and get changed, and we can catch up."
He quickly opened a can of dog food for the now whimpering Shelby, then took off jogging up the stairs. Her eyes fell on the refrigerator, a smile tugging at her lips at the picture of a smiling Clark and his parents that remained there after all this time.
A smile that quickly turned to a frown when she focused on the picture next to it.
Judging from the colorful lights in the doorway, it appeared to have been taken around Christmas time. A beaming Clark stood behind and equally smiling Lois, his arm wrapped around her shoulders, his cheek resting against her long, brown hair.
Their happiness was palpable. Even in a picture.
Swallowing hard, she quickly turned away from the fridge, choosing instead to lean against the large island in the middle of the room.
She heard his familiar footsteps heavily thumping down the stairs. He entered the kitchen, walking over to the refrigerator and pulling out a pitcher of iced tea.
"You want some?"
Lana simply shook her head "no", her eyes fixed on him as he poured himself a glass.
"So, I take it from the complete absence of pain on my end that you're cured."
"Yeah," she said quietly.
"That's good. I'm glad, Lana. It can't have been good for your health to be infected with meteor rock."
"Or yours," she said pointedly.
"Yeah, but you weren't near me, so it wasn't really an issue," he said nonchalantly.
"I wasn't near you because of that," she said, her voice rising in volume slightly, the frustrations of the day beginning to wear on her. "It was why we broke up."
Clark nodded, but remained silent.
"But I'm better now," she ventured. "And I still have my powers."
He looked at her for a long moment before responding. "I'm sure you'll help a lot of people."
If Lana didn't pride herself on being so composed, she would have screamed at his calm, well-mannered tone.
Didn't he get what she was saying?
Perhaps it was time to lay it on the line.
"I want to help you, Clark."
Another moment of silence. An unreadable mask on his face.
"Just like I did before…when we worked together. Patrolled together. We can be a team again, Clark. You and me, saving the world. Helping people. We can be together."
"Things are different now, Lana," he said, his voice gentle but firm.
"Because of Lois?"
She'd planned this pitch as she'd sat on the porch, knowing she needed to change things up with what she'd witnessed earlier. She couldn't appeal to his loneliness anymore.
But his specialness? What set him apart from almost everyone but her? That…that she could still use.
"It'll never work, Clark. And I think you know that."
For the first time, Clark's polite demeanor wavered a bit, a flash of anger on his features at her words.
"No, I don't know that."
"She'll never understand you the way I do. She can't possibly. She doesn't have the powers that we do."
"And I'm glad she doesn't."
Surprised, Lana took a step toward him. "How can you say that? She has no idea what it's like to live like you do, like I do. How can you possibly think that will work? You and I…we're the same, Clark."
"No, we aren't Lana," he said, before taking a few steps away from her, dragging his hand along the counter. Turning to look at her, he tilted his head, contemplating her. "That's always what it's been about for you, hasn't it?"
Her brow furrowed in response, shaking her head slightly. "What are you talking about?"
"What do you see when you look at me?"
The confusion on her face melted into a mask of affection. "I see a hero. I see a great being who was sent here and can make an incredible difference in this world. I see someone who I would be honored to be partners with."
A bittersweet smile touched Clark's lips. "That's what I thought."
For a moment, his eyes flickered toward the photograph hanging on the refrigerator, resting on it briefly before he turned back to her.
"You know what Lois sees when she looks at me?"
The question making little to no sense to her, Lana gave a quick negative shake of her head.
The slightly sad grin turned into one of the most heartstopping smiles Lana had ever witnessed.
"She sees Clark."
She exhaled loudly, the words hanging in the air around them.
"But," she said, her voice strained, "you're so much more than that. If Lois doesn't appreciate that…"
"I never said she didn't."
"Well if all she wants is for you to be some regular guy then I'd say she doesn't."
"Lana, I wanna be a regular guy."
"Then she's holding you back," Lana retorted, accusation clear in her voice.
"You're not hearing me. My abilities, I've accepted them, and what's more, I'm actually happy I have them. That I can use them to help people, I feel like I wake up every day with a purpose, and I love that."
"And I understand that," she insisted.
"But what you don't understand is that that's not all of me. Just as much as I can appreciate my abilities and what I can do with them, I love going to the Planet each day and working to become a better reporter. I love hanging out here and watching a movie with my girlfriend or doing some simple chores around the farm. I want my own life, too, Lana. I don't want it to be all about my heritage or my powers. Sometimes, I just wanna be Clark Kent. And Lois, she gets that. But she also knows there are times when I'm gonna have to rush off, when I might have to cut a date short and leave her, and she gets that too."
Lana felt the tears sting her eyes, seeing the man before her perhaps clearly for the first time.
For so long, she'd hounded him about his secret, feeling cheated that he'd kept something from her. When she'd learned it, she felt inferior, that she was holding him back, only feeling his equal when she'd baked a superpowered suit into her skin.
And all he'd ever wanted was for someone to remember that behind the alien DNA, behind the superpowers, behind the hero…there was a man who wanted what everyone wanted.
To be loved for who he was. And not just what he could do or what he could give.
That he'd found that in a loud, brash, and bossy brunette who lived to tease him seemed …well, she thought, her mind flashing back to the first moment she'd seen them together, all those years ago…it seemed oddly right.
"Well," she said softly, "I guess that's it then."
Clark nodded, taking a few steps toward her and gently grasping her arm. "I hope you know that if you ever need anything, Lana…I'll always be here."
She smiled tightly, the tears still threatening. "Thanks," she whispered. Gently tugging her arm from his grip, she turned and headed toward the door.
"Goodbye Clark," she whispered, a tear escaping her eye.
As she closed the door behind her, she wiped roughly at the stray tear, erasing it from her cheek, before speeding off into the fading sun.
3 Hours Later
He'd just finished sliding his clothes over, making room for hers, when he heard a joyful bark from downstairs. Grinning, he sped downstairs just in time to see Shelby happily licking Lois' cheek.
"Hey Shelbs," she said, chuckling as she patted the dog affectionately.
"I don't know who's happier about you moving back in, him or me."
"It better be you, Smallville."
Taking the large shoulder bag from her, he placed a gentle kiss on her lips. "I definitely get the better end of the deal. He doesn't get to sleep with you," he said, a grin on his face that sent her pulse racing.
"Unless you tick me off. Then you get the couch and Shelbs gets the bed."
"I'll remember that."
Lois grabbed a pair of glasses and the pitcher of iced tea from the fridge, pouring some for them both.
"So, what does Ma Kent think of our plan?"
"You mean my plan?"
"Please, Smallville, couples share the credit for these things."
"I'll remember that next time you want a solo byline."
"Anyway…" she said, smirking adorably and gesturing for him to continue.
"She thought you and me living here until she moves back in November and then moving to Metropolis was a good idea. And, for the record, she agreed with me that it would be silly for you to look for a new place in the city after your rent got hiked up when living here with me we could save money and be able to afford the kind of place we're going to need in Metropolis in a few months.
"And she doesn't mind us living together?"
"Lois, we're adults."
"She's still your mother."
"You afraid she's gonna think you're seducing her sweet, innocent son?" he teased.
"You only look sweet and innocent, Smallville. Little does she know."
He laughed at that, having a feeling she was referring to his stellar performance earlier that day. He reached out and tucked a stray lock of hair that had fallen from her ponytail behind her ear.
"She's fine with it, Lo. I promise. So, did you and Chloe manage to get a lot of stuff in the truck?"
He began to move toward the door, but stopped, feeling Lois' hand on his arm.
She looked at him incredulously. "Really? We're gonna just ignore the petite, brunette elephant in the room?"
Clark shrugged. "There's really not much to say."
"I'll be the judge of that."
He sighed, turning fully toward her. "She wanted me back."
"No kidding," Lois snarked. "And?"
This time, it was Clark's turn to look surprised. "You even have to ask?"
She narrowed her eyes, biting the side of her lip.
"Come on, Lo. You know I love you," he said, his voice laced with tenderness.
"I know you do."
She breathed out, crossing her arms in front of her, a pose Clark knew as a classic Lois defensive stance. "You didn't choose to break up with her. You had to."
Lois scoffed at his apparent nonchalance. "So? The reason you had to break up with her is now gone. Look, I know you love me, Clark, but you wouldn't be human if you didn't wonder what if."
"Well, I'm not human," he said, a grin tugging at his lips.
"I'm being serious."
"So am I. Okay, you're right. I didn't break up with Lana by choice. But, in the end, I did choose to let her go. I didn't try and find her, and I didn't search for any cure. And obviously we know now there is one out there. After she left, I could have done what I'd done in the past. I could have pined away for her, I could have let my life be taken over by trying to find her, trying to make things right between us, but I didn't want to. All I wanted was to move on. So yeah, maybe it wasn't initially by choice, but the truth is, the kryptonite was just the means to an end. An end that should have happened long before that, but both of us were too scared to be alone and too stuck in the past to admit it."
He gently cupped her cheek in his hand. "I was pretty messed up then, Lois. Lana was suddenly back and then there were all these confusing feelings I had for you that I didn't know what to make of or what do with. I made a lot of mistakes, and yeah, there are some things I wish I could go back and change. But ending things with Lana, regardless of how it happened, isn't one of them."
She contemplated him for a moment, as she always did when she was taking in what he said, processing it and letting it sink in. Then, she nodded slightly, a soft smile gracing her lips.
He narrowed his eyes, a teasing sparkle in them. "Just like that?"
She tilted her head slightly. "If you're lying to me, I'll just kryptonite in your Cheerios," she retorted playfully, moving closer to him and wrapping her arms around his neck. "And I know you're not. Seriously, Smallville. Worst poker face ever. Which, by the way, makes you an awesome boyfriend."
"Except I'll never be able to surprise you apparently. You can read me way too well, Lane."
"Hmm….I don't know about that. You definitely shocked me with the bad cop routine today."
He arched an eyebrow, his arms moving to circle her waist. "Really?"
"Yeah. It was pretty sexy," she grinned, reaching up to brush his lips with hers.
"There's more where that came from," he said, his voice low, sending a shiver throughout her body.
Biting her lip, her eyes darkening slightly as Clark planted soft kisses along her jaw, she mumbled, "What about my stuff?"
"It can wait," he whispered into her ear. "You're not gonna need any of it tonight anyway."
And with that, he swept her into his arms and supersped them up to what was, for the next few months, their bedroom.