Title: What Hurts The Most
Author: brdwaybebe
Spoilers: S2 and then it goes AU
Rating: PG
Word Count: 3,916 words
Disclaimer: This is another in my growing repertoire of Reeveverse oneshots. For some reason they always seem to translate to angst. Which is odd because I'm about the least angsty person I know. Huh. Maybe I get it all out in my fics?

Anyway, I think I need to make a concentrated effort to write a RV comedy lol. I feel guilty for all I put them through. This story is from the 12 Days of Clois prompt; "Clark's Last Day at The Daily Planet" – I thought I had an idea and then when it came to write it I about went bonkers trying to coax my muse into cooperating. Enter Lois and Anissa who held my hand through all my whining and lent me their muse. This is a result of that nurturing. Despite the angst it is written with love and so I dedicate this one to them. 

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The sound of a melodious laugh floated on the air over the hustle and bustle of the bullpen over to the desk of Clark Kent. His eyes rose from his work to locate the source of the sound. It didn't require much searching as his ears, if not his whole being were tuned to Lois Lane's every intake of breath.

Across the bullpen, Lois tapped Jimmy Olsen on the arm, nearly causing him to drop his camera. Her voice lilted once again as the pair laughed together, the tune burrowing into Clark's heart, causing it to ache. Jimmy lifted his camera in Lois' direction sending the reporter into a series of comical poses, none of which the photographer would be able to use for her bio portrait for the Daily Planet's upcoming journalist featurette. She leaned dramatically back in her chair, fluffing her hair and pouting her lips toward the lens. Jimmy muttered something under his breath and Lois' face bloomed into her million dollar smile that never failed to light up a room. The young photographer leaned forward to peer into the view finder, nodding slightly in satisfaction that he'd gotten the shot he needed.

Clark's mouth turned up into a melancholic smile. It was good to see her smile again. His eyes flickered unconsciously over to the archive room. His heart twisted gently at the sight of it in response to the events that had occurred there.

He had spent many an afternoon in that room sparring with Lois amidst the old newspapers and microfiche. Hours would pass in a blink, as the pair worked together in perfect tandem to ferret out the angles that Pulitzer worthy stories were made of. Clark exhaled softly. But in all the volume of memories the room held, one clamored at the forefront of his mind. The surface of his lips tingled as the memory washed over him.

Lois' face had been lifted toward his, an expression of complete trust juxtaposing the tears that ran down her cheeks.

Clark had been unable to bear that he was the cause of those tears and his hands had instinctively risen. His fingers gently rested along her jaw line as his thumbs traced across the glittering trail of her tears, erasing the evidence of their existence.

He could still hear the sound of his heart thundering in his ears as he'd wrestled with his decision. It was the right thing to do. A small voice that sounded more like his Jor-El than himself whispered.

In his mind's eye he relived the moment that he had lowered his lips to hers. He never thought there would be a time where he would hesitate to kiss Lois Lane. His entire body instinctively reached for her, even now his arms ached to hold her.

But in that moment he'd held back just for a second. He'd taken a breath, a moment of hesitation before the certainty of decision. When their lips met he'd been lost in the feel of her. He had pulled her as close to him as he dared, letting her melt into him as he'd memorized every curve, every rise and fall of her. Those memories, they would need to last him a lifetime.

An ever-intensifying warmth spread over his lips and Lois had gasped as it had passed onto hers. Clark's mind's eye had exploded with the force of their shared memories. He'd felt her wonder at discovering she'd been right all along about his identity, the prickle of anger at his deceit that had been swallowed up in her all-consuming love for him. A sob had risen in his throat in the face of such love, mourning its loss as he slid the memory of him moment by moment from her mind. He turned every second over in his heart like a precious gemstone to be examined, folding it into the safety of his heart where he alone would bear the burden of a love story that could not be written.

How he had warred within himself. The desire to have her as his own, raged against a lifetime of teaching that said it was impossible. He would be a danger to her and he loved her too much to put a target on her back. Never set one of them above the rest. Love all humanity instead. His father's voice had echoed in his mind, triggering the sense of respect and subsequent obedience that he had learned within the crystalline walls of the Fortress that would once again return to its solitude.

Lois' fingers had tightened at the lapel of his suit, her grip wrinkling the unremarkable fabric mere millimeters from the seal of his Kryptonian heritage. As her hands slipped away to rest at her sides, his heart had twisted at the metaphor… So close but never to be.

He'd lifted his head, and stepped back once, twice… Even that tiny measure of distance was excruciating. His eyes never left her face. Her countenance had changed, trading anguish for peace and as a result her tears had been traded for his.

A coworker had entered the room and he had turned away, wiping the telltale moisture from his cheeks. When Lois' eyes had opened, they were clear and bright, if not a touch confused. Her eyes had lifted to his momentarily and he'd scanned her expression for any glimmer of recognition. Finding none, he'd made a hurried excuse to leave the room and for the first time in his life, he'd fled.

"Are you okay, Mr. Kent?" a voice ripped him from his thoughts.

"What?" Clark looked up in surprise through a veil of unshed tears to see Jimmy looking down at him with concern. He slipped his finger beneath the lens of his glasses to wipe away the telltale moisture. "Allergies." He said, his voice taking on a timbre that was pathetic even to his own ears. He reached over his desk for a tissue, and made a show of noisily blowing his nose. "I'll be fine." He said, pasting on a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes.

Jimmy nodded slowly. "I'm taking pictures for the journalist piece we're running tomorrow." He said somewhat apologetically. "I need a shot of you for your bio."

"Oh…" Clark's eyes fell to the crumpled tissue in his hand. "I don't think it'll be necessary Jimmy." He lifted his eyes at last to meet those of the red haired coworker who had become a dear friend. "This is my last day at the Planet."

Jimmy stared at him, momentarily taken aback. "You're…leaving?" his freckled noise wrinkled in confusion. His eyes scanned Clark's desk, only now noticing its stark appearance. Wide green eyes found their way to Clark. "For how long?"

Clark sighed and tossed the tissue into the trash can. "A long while." He murmured.

"But…I mean…no one knew…" Jimmy's face was pained. "Where are you going?"

"Traveling. There is something I need to do." He rasped in a tone that didn't invite questions. He exhaled softly at the young man's expression and rose to his feet to embrace him. Clark offered his friend a sad smile. "I'll miss you Jimmy." He turned away to pull an empty box from beneath his desk and set it atop his already sparse shelf.

Clark kept his back turned, pretending to busy himself with filling the box with the last of his belongings until Jimmy walked away in shocked silence.

A pang of regret rang through him.

Experience had lent him to believe no one would notice the departure of mild mannered klutz in the corner. Perry had accepted his resignation with little more than a raised eyebrow and a phone call had prevented further conversation. His desk had been all but bare the better part of the day and this fact having gone largely unnoticed by his coworkers, he hadn't put much thought into a passable story.

He'd spoken with Dr. Hamilton about a recent discovery made by NASA of a planet somewhere near the galaxy that had brought him to earth. Their presupposition was that planet was Krypton.

Clark had been gobsmacked by the news. The all-consuming loneliness he'd been suffering since his fateful kiss with Lois had subsided ever so slightly and a small ray of hope had begun to shine. Was it possible that he wasn't alone? The thought of somehow finding life on his home world offered him solace from the life of solitude he had until that moment faced.

He set the now-filled box on his empty chair and let his eyes wander over the entirety of the bullpen. I'm not running away. He rationalized as his eyes found their way once again to Lois' desk. She was balancing the handset of the phone on her shoulder as her fingers flew with determined fury over the keyboard. Her earlier smile had been replaced with the brow-furrowed determination she adopted when a source was being less than cooperative. She paused in her typing to give a heated reply to the person on the other side of the phone. Her arms waved and her hands stabbed at the air as she passionately laid out her points.

She was the very definition of tenacity and it was that very trait he adored about her that would inevitably lead her to his identity if given the opening. He couldn't take that chance. And with this amazing opportunity before him, it was the best course of action. She would continue on as she always had in her signature style of brilliant grace. Lois would continue on with a life unburdened by the pitfalls his love would bring her.

He wasn't running away.

Then Lois looked up mid-tirade and their eyes met from across the room. Lungs that could withstand the vacuum of space struggled for breath as her fierce expression softened into a smile just for a moment before she continued her struggle with her source.

Who was he kidding?

He watched her for a moment more, before tucking the small box under his arm. He gently folded his coat over his arm and slipped out the doors of the Daily Planet bullpen for the last time.

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Lois slammed down the phone so hard the tremor caused one of the frames on her shelf to slide off its support and clatter onto her desk. She scribbled some notes on a steno pad as she absently reached for the fragile frame. She turned it over to find herself standing beside Clark, their smiles shining brightly from behind the clear glass. This picture had been taken last year at the Casey Journalism Award ceremony. It was the one time Clark had taken an award over her and perhaps the only time in her life she wasn't furious at the fact.

She ran her finger over the smooth surface, a gentle smile softening her face.

"I'm glad I'm not the only one who's going to miss him." Jimmy grumbled, placing a full cup of coffee on her desk before sitting in the slumping into the chair beside it.

Lois replaced the frame on its shelf and began to gather her notes together. "Miss who?" She asked distractedly.

"Clark." Jimmy lamented.

"Clark?" Two raven eyebrows gathered in confusion. "What do you mean, miss him? Clark isn't going anywhere." Lois shook tossed the sugar packet Jimmy had brought with her coffee into the trash can beside her desk. After all these years, Clark was the only one who remembered she liked her coffee black.

Jimmy's jaw slacked a moment as he realized that Lois had been just as in the dark about Clark's departure as he. "I just finished speaking with him, Lois." He began to pick at an undefined speck on his camera lens. "He said today was his last day at the Planet, that he was going somewhere." Jimmy looked at Lois sadly. "And from what I saw, he was pretty broken up about it."

A chill ran through Lois' body. She turned her head, focusing her full attention on the fidgeting young man beside her. This couldn't be true. She took a sip of her coffee and made a face, her emotion expertly hidden behind a haughty exterior. "Jimmy, why did you bring me decaf?" she asked incredulously.

"I didn't-"

Lois cut him off. "This clearly decaf. Please get me another cup of coffee, and this time; forget the sugar."

Jimmy rose to his feet at her tone, wisely deciding it was best not to argue. "Sorry, Lois. I'll get you a new one right away." But Lois had already turned back to her notes.

Lois' hands gripped the edge of her desk so hard her knuckles were bloodless and white. Her eyes snapped over to Clark's desk. From her vantage point she could see that he wasn't in his chair, the remainder of his workspace usually modest was now entirely bare. Impossible. She thought, blinking quickly to sooth eyes that had begun to sting with tears.

She rose to stand and her eyes caught the words she had circled in her notes. "New Planetoid Discovered?" was written in bold with a large red circle around it. An icy hand of dread wrapped itself around her throat. Lois reached for the phone, stabbing the buttons with unnecessary force born of building panic.

"You've reached the voicemail of Clark Kent. I'm not available to take your-"

Lois pressed her finger into the receiver, breaking the connection. Her fingers flew over the buttons as she dialed a second number from memory.

"Thank you for calling S.T.A.R Labs! How may I direct -?"

"Connect me with Dr. Hamilton." Lois was on the warpath now and the jovial voice only seemed to fuel the growing inferno of her fury.

"Miss Lane, Dr. Hamilton is unavailable at the moment. As I recall you have already had you scheduled phone appointment with him." The secretary said, her southern drawl maintaining a chilly professional tone.

"Listen Mary Sue or whatever your name is, if you don't connect me immediately, I will come down there. And if you think I'm difficult over the phone, wait until you get the up close and personal experience." Lois growled.

There was a moment of silence before the secretary asked her to hold. A second or so later there was a lone tone and a beep before a series of fumbled rustlings. The nervous voice of Emil Hamilton piped into Lois' ear. "This is Dr. Hamilton…"

"This is Lois Lane." Her voice cut through the phone in such a way she nearly felt him wince.

"Miss Lane. Of course. How nice to speak to you ag-"

"I have reason to believe you may have left out some pertinent details when we discussed the new discoveries that were announced at the Astronomy Summit this morning. Specifically the 'unknown' planetoid your people found…" Lois said through clenched teeth.

"I'm sure I don't know what you-"

"Dr. Hamilton." Lois' voice was a thinly veiled warning.

"Miss Lane…we are not at liberty to discuss classified information. I am under strict orders to release only the preapproved statement given by our-"

"Emil…" she rasped, her voice thickened thick with tears.

Desperation was not an emotion often heard in the voice of Lois Lane, and it caused the scientist to pause.

"Lois, you and I have a long standing relationship. I have appreciated your fairness as well as your discretion over the years in regards to a certain mutual friend of ours. I need to know the information I'm about to share will not be disclosed to anyone outside of this conversation. Can you give me that assurance?"

Her fingers tightened around the receiver. "I can." She choked.

After a moment, the reporter heard him sigh. "The planetoid we have discovered is far beyond our solar system. We have reason to believe that it may in fact be more familiar than at first suspected. Given the location and the distance it is entirely possible that the planet we've discovered could be a planet thought to have been destroyed." Emil cleared his throat before continuing. "We believe it could in fact be the planet Krypton or perhaps its remains…"

"And…" she struggled for a shallow breath. "Is Superman aware of this?"

Another pause. "He is." Dr. Hamilton admitted quietly.

"I see." Lois lifted her eyes to find her view of Clark's desk obscured by tears. "Thank you, Dr. Hamilton."

"Lois, I'm so-"

Before he had finished, Lois had already disconnected the call and had risen from her desk. Her healed snapped determinedly on the tile of the bullpen floor as she made her way to the elevator.

The crisp chill of autumn greeted her as she opened the door that let to the roof. An unseasonably frosty gust of wind blew across her face, wrapping a tendril of hair around the base of her throat. Lois flipped her face in the direction of the wind and lifted her eyes to the sky.

"Clark! Clark!!" she screamed in desperation at a sky that remained empty.

She wrapped her arms around herself in a self-protecting gesture, her mind traced back over the events of the day. Confusion and agony caused her to shiver where the wind had failed.

Closing her eyes she once again found herself in the arms of the man she loved. Her tears of uncertainty being wiped away so tenderly, the warmth of his fingers cupping her face. When his lips touched hers, the warmth seemed intensify and spread from their joined lips through her entire body. Suddenly her entire world was illuminated. Images from their time together over the past few days paraded through her mind's eye. Her heart swelled at the realization that she was experiencing not only her own memories, but those of Clark as well. She opened herself to the sweet deluge in every way she knew how basking in the intensity of his adoration.

Lois gloried in his joy in for the first time, not having to be alone. She felt his relief and amazement at her acceptance and love for him despite his being different. His love wrapped around her with all the softness and warmth of the silvery cocoon they occupied only mere hours before.

She had emerged from his kiss aglow with the absolute conviction she was loved beyond reason. The uncertainty of their future and his feelings for her had melted beneath the sunlight of his embrace.

The spell of the moment had been broken as he'd stepped away from her. She'd opened her eyes in confusion only to see the reason for his departure in Peg who was on her way into the room. Lois had feigned a dizzy spell to explain her flushed cheeks and draw attention away from Clark's lipstick smeared mouth.

She had held back a giggle as he slid so easily into the familiar and ridiculous persona of the office klutz and slipped from the room.

The joy of the memory faded and Lois began a leaden walk across the expanse of the roof. In that moment they had shared an intimacy that rivaled that of their tryst in his arctic fortress. Knowing the depth to which he loved her made the situation all the more confusing. She rested her palms against the cold stone of the ledge, letting the chill seep into her skin. Oh Clark. Why?

Her thoughts raced in a thousand directions, her usual precision waylaid by the anguish raging through her. A barrage of questions mixed with the new memories playing through her consciousness. She flipped through them with all the focus she could muster, forlornly searching for an answer that would explain the impossible circumstance in which she found herself.

Suddenly, a sentiment surfaced, first as a whisper, then as a shout. Never set one of them above the rest. Love all humanity instead. The statement ricocheted through Lois' body in the booming voice of a disembodied Kryptonian father who disapproved of his son's decision to pursue a life of love over a life of duty. I love her too much to put a target on her back. Another series of thoughts bloomed into her mind from the perspective of her tormented love. This is the only way…

The sky above her rumbled and the wind kicked up as an approaching storm began to advance in earnest. Lois collapsed against the unyielding stone of the ledge wall, sliding down the rough surface to the glittering pavement of the roof. A sob wracked her body and she reached into her purse and pulled out her phone. Tears blurred the illuminated screen as she frantically scrolled through the names until she found the one she sought. Hitting 'send', Lois curled up into a ball, trying to compose herself enough to speak.

"Kent residence."

At the sound of the kindly voice, Lois crumbled into a heap of agony. A shuddering sob escaped her throat in the stead of any words she'd planned.

"Hello?" the voice was hushed in concern. "Hello…"

"Martha…" Lois choked. "…Tell me…he's not gone…"

"Lois…is that you?" Clark's mother gasped into the phone.

Lois' answer came in the form of a grief-stricken whimper.

"Oh my poor sweet girl, he didn't think you'd take his leaving so hard." Lois heard the woman click her tongue in sympathy. "Now, don't you worry my dear, I'm sure he'll write you…"

An ember of offense ignited in the face of the well-meaning lie. Lois held the phone firmly against her cheek. "From space?" she snapped.

A stunned silence filled the phone line. When Martha found her voice again, it was thick with emotion. "Wh….How…do you know that…?"

"He didn't tell you I knew?" Lois asked, with a little more edge to her tone than she'd intended.

Martha answered quickly. "Oh, no he told me… but…oh. Oh my…"

Lois' journalistic instinct kicked in. "But what?" she pressed.

"He said… you wouldn't remember…that it was better this way." The older woman's trepidation was palpable as her voice wavered.

Lois' eyes narrowed. It was impossible. Unthinkable. He wouldn't do that to her…he couldn't... Could he? Torment twisted from anguish to rage as realization dawned. The shared memories hadn't been his intent. The man she loved. The man she trusted had betrayed her. Expertly constructed walls of defense, recently lowered began the process of fortification.

Lightning flashed above her head and Lois rose to her feet just as the first plump raindrops began to splash on the surfaces around her.

This is the only way…Clark's words echoed in her mind.

The ghostly plea fell on deaf ears as Lois bid an emotionless goodbye to Martha Kent and stalked into the shelter of the Daily Planet.

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Above the earth, the skies opened their floodgates. The roar of the gargantuan downpour filled the air as the power of the storm chased the huddled masses indoors. Downcast, fleeing gazes did not notice the small crystalline spacecraft that split the clouds as it ascended into the atmosphere.

Inside the ship, the slumbering form of the planet's greatest champion lay in quiet repose. Plans were in motion. Trajectory was set. Stasis initiated. The decision was final.

A computerized voice droned announcing the progression of the duties it had been programmed to accomplish.

"Exiting Earth's atmosphere…

Booster consoles disengaged…

Life Support Chamber. At. 100. Percent.

Primary. Distance. Checkpoint; Solar System – Moon.

Final. Distance. Checkpoint; Thoron.

End Cycle. Destination: Krypton."