A/N: Extremely sorry for the late update. Work and exams got into the way. But no more excuses now. Here it is – the final chapter of Trepidation.
I am tremendously thankful to everyone who reviewed, bookmarked or added this story to their favorites list. I also immensely thank all those who haven't left any reviews but have still read and liked this story. It really means a lot to me.
Enjoy this rather long final chapter and do let me know how it was.
Next morning, when Chloe walked into the living room of her apartment, the sun permeated through the glass windows and bathed everything in its soft and warm light. She put down her bag on the sofa before entering into the kitchen. As she had expected, Lois was already up.
"Morning," Chloe greeted as she stopped in front of the island.
"Hey, want coffee?" Lois asked, forcing a smile on her face, something that had become an excruciating task for her lately.
"There's nothing I want more right now than some caffeine in my system," Chloe chuckled as she dragged a stool and settled down.
"Here you go," Lois said as she put a mug of steaming hot coffee in front of Chloe.
Chloe picked up the mug and breathed in the tempting aroma before she took a sip.
"Hmmm… perfect," she said.
"Where have you been all night?" Lois put her coffee mug on the island before she pulled a stool and sat down across her cousin.
"I was with Bart and Dinah at Oliver's office, sorry I couldn't reply to your phone call earlier," Chloe replied.
"That's okay, Ollie told me you were busy," Lois said.
"Did he call you?" Chloe asked.
"No, he was here last night," Lois replied absently as she drank from her mug.
Chloe studied Lois's facial expressions for a moment. She could still see the same conflict on her face that she had seen that night when she had walked into her apartment after leaving her husband. Lois hadn't told her why Oliver had visited her but their topic of discussion was quite evident from the bags under Lois's eyes. She hadn't slept all night which meant that they had talked about her fallout with Clark.
Chloe desperately wanted to talk to Lois but she found it impossible to gather enough courage. Her talk with Clark hadn't proved to be very fruitful last night and there wasn't much hope that it would work with Lois either. The one thing that she was worried about more than anything else was that if she tried to push her, she'd disappear from her apartment and cut all ties with her and the last thing Lois needed right now was to be left alone.
While Chloe fought a battle with herself, Lois finished her coffee and rose from the stool.
"Gotta go back to work," she stretched her arms.
"Have you finished your article on Doyle Corp's fake building permit?" Chloe asked.
"Nope, but I have to finish it today at any cost, Perry's breathing down my neck for that one," Lois rolled her eyes while she picked up the empty coffee mugs from the island and stashed them into the sink.
"What about that Department of Defense article Lois?" Chloe had to muster all the courage she had in her to put that one across.
Lois looked up, surprised for a moment.
"I'm not working on it anymore," Lois tried not to make any eye contact with her cousin as she diverted her entire attention towards washing the mugs.
That article immediately brought all those painful memories to the surface, still her voice was so calm that it did not even hint at the storm of emotions that turned inside her.
"Why?" Chloe walked near the sink to stand behind her cousin.
"I don't want to," Lois replied.
"Because of what happened between you and Clark?" Chloe asked.
Lois's hand that was wiping the mugs with a napkin stopped halfway as she turned around in shock.
"I know," Chloe nodded slightly.
Lois let out a sigh.
"Lois…" Chloe began but Lois stopped her with a gesture of her hand.
"Chloe, please, I don't wanna talk about it," she stated firmly.
"For how long?" Chloe's determination finally matched that of her stubborn cousin.
"I… I just… I am not ready to discuss this okay?" Lois tried hard to sound calm over the storm of pain that had suddenly surged into her.
"You walk in here one night and tell me that you've left Clark and your home and then you say that you're not ready to talk about it and I'm supposed to do what? Not ask you anything and just watch you locked inside this apartment and chained to that desk for the rest of your life?" Chloe tried hard to keep the frustration from her voice but wasn't met with much success.
"Chloe, if you don't want me here I'll leave," Lois said.
"Do you honestly believe that I want you to leave?" Chloe was filled with anger and disbelief, "I am worried about you Lois, I can't stand to see you like this,"
"Chlo, I am sorry," Lois immediately softened on seeing the glimpse of tears in her younger cousin's eyes.
"You don't wanna talk to me; fine, but how long will you keep running from yourself?" Chloe asked.
"I'm not running from myself," Lois replied.
"Yes you are," Chloe was adamant, "You and Clark both,"
"I don't want to talk about Clark," Lois's voice quivered as soon as her lips uttered his name.
"Lois… I know what Clark did was wrong… but he is very sorry," Chloe paused for a moment before she added, "I talked to him last night, he's completely broken… just like you,"
Lois let out a sigh as she tried hard to stop the tears from crawling into her eyes.
"Lois, I've never seen him so defeated in my whole life… it's like he has lost the purpose of his life, not even Superman will be able to salvage Clark Kent if he continues to go like this," Chloe said in a breaking voice.
"Chlo… I know how much you love me and I know what Clark's friendship means to you, you can't stand to see us like this but the truth is that he—" she left her sentence incomplete because she simply couldn't gather the words to tell Chloe how exactly she felt about what Clark had done.
Chloe walked near Lois and put a hand on her shoulder. Her heart shattered into thousand little pieces every time she saw Lois in so much pain. The one thing she knew was that Lois could not live without Clark and he could not live without her. His mistake may have torn their relationship but it had also torn their hearts apart.
"Lois, we all make mistakes, that's what makes us human," she said softly, "You're the one who said this to me, remember?"
"Chloe, this isn't about making mistakes, it just means that every time we're going to disagree on something, he's just going to pull the rug out from under me… to make sure that I do exactly what he wants me to do… my thoughts and my choices won't hold any importance in his eyes, and I can't live with that," Lois's voice was suddenly burdened with emotions.
"No Lois… he just made a mistake but you know that the only reason he did it was to protect you, to keep you safe," Chloe said.
"Well, if I really bring out the worst in him then I guess it would be better if I stay away from him," Lois said before she walked out of the kitchen into the living room.
"Lois…" Chloe called out as she followed her cousin after a moment.
Lois turned around and looked at her.
"If you don't forgive him, you and I will loose Clark Kent, but the world will loose Superman," Chloe said, gathering all the courage she had one last time.
Lois felt as if she had been torn into a thousand little pieces. She could see the glint of tears in Chloe's eyes as she continued to stare at her. She wanted to say something but couldn't find the strength. Both women stood silently in front of each other for some time before Chloe left the room.
Two weeks later
It was around midnight. Lois was settled on the couch in Chloe's living room, which for the past two days served as her latest workstation. Her laptop rested on her thighs while she was deeply engrossed in putting together the final paragraphs of one of her articles. Papers, cutouts, scans and photographs were scattered everywhere around her on the couch and the glass table in front of it.
Suddenly, her cell phone buzzed with the arrival of a new text message.
She lowered her laptop screen and stretched her hand to grab her cell phone from the table. The message was from Chloe.
"Swamped in work. Will spend the night at the Watchtower. Love ya"
Lois replied to her message and went back to finishing her story. She didn't know for how long she continued to work until her exhaustion finally overcame her and she fell asleep on the couch.
She was shaken from her deep slumber when her cell phone suddenly rang. She groggily lifted her head and put her laptop aside before her hand reached the cell phone and she looked at the screen. It was Chloe.
"Chlo, what's up?" she muttered sleepily.
"Lois…" Chloe's voice stifled soon after she uttered her name.
Lois could feel a surge of panic and worry in her voice.
"Chloe what happened?" she immediately sat up on the couch, "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm okay but—" Chloe left her sentence incomplete.
"But what Chlo?" Lois almost cried out, impatient and terrified all at the same time.
"Clark… Clark is injured Lois," Chloe finally managed to say.
For a moment Lois felt as if her heart stopped beating and her senses went completely numb until Chloe's words registered themselves in some deep corner of her mind and a tide of emotions hit her. She could suddenly hear her heart drumming inside her ears.
"What do you mean injured?" her voice trembled as she rose from the couch, "How can Clark get injured?"
She felt as if her legs won't be able to carry her weight.
"What happened to him Chloe?" she didn't know whether to scream or to just burst into tears.
"The guys went to Italy to hunt down Drake inside a chemical plant but it looks like he knew about our operation beforehand, his minions blew up the plant and escaped; Clark pulled all the guys out alive and unhurt but—" Chloe paused as if trying to gather words.
"But what?" Lois almost became hysterical.
She hadn't felt this frantic and terrified in her entire life.
"Lo, there was Kryptonite in there, so… so the explosion injured him… badly," Chloe revealed.
"How is he now? Where is he?" she felt as if her voice was breaking.
She was shaken by the thought of something happening to him. It was her worst fear. It was a nemesis that she could never fight. She didn't even have any idea when tears left the corners of her eyes and trickled down her cheeks.
"Lois, he's here, at the Watchtower," Chloe replied.
"I'm coming," Lois said.
"No… Lois… wait—" Chloe tried to tell her something but the call had already been disconnected.
Lois had no idea how she went downstairs to the parking lot and managed to get into her car. She had never driven so fast in her entire life. She desperately wished that she could just fly to the Watchtower. There was nothing in her world right now. There wasn't anything that held any meaning to her.
Her feelings and her thinking abilities had abandoned her the moment Chloe had told her that Clark was injured. Every sense and feeling in her had been replaced by a fear that was so strong that it overtook everything else.
The fear of loosing him.
"Please be okay… please…"
She whispered those prayers to all the powers of the universe out there. All the anger that she had felt for him in the past couple of months had suddenly evaporated into thin air. As her car speeded down the deserted roads, overlooking all the signals that must have come into the way, there was only one thing on her mind – she had to reach him. She didn't even remember anything else.
Her cell phone continually buzzed with Chloe's calls but she didn't have the time to stop and pick it up. She didn't even want to know why Chloe was calling her.
What was she trying to tell her about Clark?
Lois didn't even want to think about the possibility of Chloe telling her something that she didn't have the courage to hear. The one thing she knew was that she won't be able to live if anything happened to him.
"He is going to be okay. He has got to be okay," she kept telling herself.
She didn't know when and how she arrived at the tallest building in Metropolis and led herself to into the elevator. She realized that she had reached her destination only after she threw open the huge stained glass door and ran inside the enormous hall that currently served as the headquarter of the Justice League.
She felt as if her strength had been drained out of her body as she staggered towards Chloe's desk and rested her palms on it. Beads of sweat rested on her forehead.
"Lois…" Chloe called out as she came running down the stairs.
"Chloe… where is he?" she was breathless and shaking.
As Chloe put her arms around Lois, she felt that her heart was threatening to shatter into a thousand pieces. She was used to seeing the strong, determined and steadfast Lois whose mind always worked like a soldier and a fighter. She wasn't used to seeing her so crushed, weak and torn.
"Lois," Chloe whispered again as tears crawled into her eyes.
Lois pushed her back and stared at her face.
"Chloe where is he?" she repeated her question, pouring all her fears and her love into words.
"He's upstairs, Dr. Emil is taking care of—"
Chloe couldn't even complete her sentence because Lois didn't wait any further and rushed towards the stairs. As she ran upstairs, she felt that her legs won't be able to carry her weight any longer. She had never felt this helpless in her entire life.
Her heart pounded uncontrollably inside her chest as she stepped on the last stair. She stopped dead in her tracks as her eyes fell on the sight before her.
He was lying unconscious on the bed. His forehead, his right shoulder and both his arms were covered with bandages. She stared wide eyed at the numerous tubes and needles hooked to his body. Dr. Emil stood next to his bed, checking his pulse while his gaze was set on the large monitor in front of him that displayed his heart rate and various other kinds of graphs and simulations.
The storm that flooded her heart suddenly broke all the stops that she had been trying to build in its way. Her vision blurred with tears and she ran towards his bed to sit next to his unconscious form.
"Clark, Clark," she frantically whispered his name between tears.
She combed back the hair that rested on his forehead with her fingers as she looked at his face, completely oblivious to the fact that Chloe and Dr. Emil Hamilton were also standing there.
Chloe couldn't stand to watch her cousin breaking apart like this as she quickly came to her side and placed a hand on her shoulder.
"Lois… he's gonna be all right," Chloe wanted to comfort Lois but her own voice became burdened as she felt a lump in her throat.
Lois looked up at Dr. Hamilton who gave his head an assuring nod.
"What exactly happened to him?" Lois asked, her gaze returned to Clark's face.
"The Kryptonite in the factory exploded as a result of the blast and the tiny particles penetrated his skin, as a result his body became vulnerable to the injuries that were caused by the subsequent explosions," Dr. Hamilton explained.
"You mean that there's still Kryptonite in his body?" Lois was shocked and horrified all at the same time.
"No, I took out every single smallest piece of Kryptonite from his skin before it could penetrate his veins, reach his vital organs and do any irreparable damage," Dr. Hamilton replied.
"Then why aren't his wounds healed already?" Lois asked.
"It will take some time for his body to overcome the effect of the poisoning and his powers to return," Dr. Hamilton replied, "It could take a few days or even more than a week,"
"But he's no longer in any danger right?" Lois looked at Dr. Hamilton and then Chloe, seeking an assertion that he really was going to recover.
Her heart still thumped uncontrollably inside her chest.
"It may take some time but he's going to be fine Lois," Dr. Hamilton said, trying hard to sound reassuring enough to convince Lois who was about to break apart any moment.
Lois stared at Clark's face without blinking. She couldn't think about anything else but pain he was suffering from right now. It was as if she was deprived of every other thought. Her mind felt completely drained and exhausted right now.
Just then, a message flashed on one of the monitors behind Dr. Emil's back and a computerized voice echoed the words 'Incoming Call – Green Arrow' throughout the hall.
Dr. Emil quickly turned around and looked at the screen before he rushed downstairs. Chloe however didn't move an inch. She continued to stand next to her cousin; with her hand placed on her shoulder. She wanted to say something but decided against it, for she knew that there were no words of consolation in the world right now that could soothe Lois's pain.
Lois's fingers gently ran in Clark's hair as the events of the past few weeks suddenly flashed before her eyes and a plethora of emotions returned to her. She felt completely torn by the conflicting feelings that filled her heart right now.
"Lois," Chloe softly whispered her name, her fingers gently rubbed her shoulder.
Lois's hand went up and held Chloe's fingers but her gaze did not break from Clark's face even for a moment.
"The team was trapped inside after the first explosion but Clark found a way out and flew everyone to safety," Chloe began, not sure how to even put the words together.
"Why did he go in there again if he had already brought everyone out?" Lois asked.
"They suspected that some of Drake's men might still be inside," Chloe replied, "Clark went back to scan the area when the explosions happened one after another, he was injured and buried under the rubble, the rest of the guys rushed in there and dragged him out moments ahead of the final explosion that destroyed the plant completely, when they brought him back here, we didn't know if he would even make it or not, but Dr. Emil managed to take out the particles of Kryptonite from his skin before the poisoning could spread,"
Lois could picture the entire scene before her eyes. The mere thought of the pain that he must have gone through was enough to completely tear her heart into pieces.
"Why didn't you call me sooner?" Lois's gaze suddenly broke from Clark's face and she turned around to look at her cousin.
There was nothing but a sea of anguish and anger in her red and swollen eyes.
"We decided that we won't let you know until he'd fully recover but—" Chloe left her sentence incomplete.
"But what?" Lois asked.
"He gained consciousness just for a brief moment and the only word that came out of his mouth was… your name," she revealed.
Lois closed her eyes and let out a sigh. In that mere moment, the ache and pain of the past months intensified more than ever. She suddenly wanted to scream but felt as if her voice would never be able to leave her throat.
The only word that came out of his mouth was your name.
Chloe's words echoed in her ears again and again.
"I've to go," Chloe said softly after a moment, "The guys are still trying to locate Drake and they need my help,"
Lois was brought out of the labyrinth of her painful thoughts for a moment as she looked at Chloe and nodded.
As soon as Chloe left, Lois's gaze went back to Clark. Her fingers traveled down from his face to his shoulder and then to his bandaged hand that rested on his stomach.
He looked pale and lifeless as if blood had been drained out of him.
Lois didn't feel any different either.
Her life was drained out of her body too.
After she had received Chloe's call, the fears that she kept deeply hidden inside her heart suddenly came to surface. She hadn't even properly listened to what Chloe was trying to tell her. All she wanted was to reach him, to be close to him but her emotions kept running in all directions.
What if he won't make it?
The 'what ifs' followed by all the dreadful scenarios that ran rampant in her mind took away every single strand of patience and courage that she had left in her.
The thought of something terrible happening to him, the thought of loosing him, was scarier than anything else, even death. She had forgotten how angry she had been with him. The wedge between them seemed to have disappeared somewhere beneath the aura of fear and love that surrounded her soon after she had received Chloe's call.
The one thing she had come to realize over the past few weeks was that the ties that bound them together were stronger than everything else in the world. She may have been angry with him for what he had done, she may have refused to listen to his apologies, but the fear of loosing him was enough to shatter all those walls that she had desperately been trying to build around her.
"Clark," she whispered his name as she brought her face closer to him.
She gently put her arms around him and placed her head on his chest. She closed her eyes and continued to listen to the steady rhythm of his heartbeat that provided her with an assurance that he was safe and alive.
Clark's mind returned from the deep silence of the valley of oblivion and the first thought that brought him to the world of the living was her thought. His heart whispered her name with each beat as if it had become a steady song.
The next thing to hit him was a surge of unbearable pain that ran through his body like electricity. His mind immediately flooded with the memories of the incident that resulted in this insufferable ache.
He gradually opened his eyes and saw nothing but an expanse of blackness before him. He frantically blinked several times and thankfully the light slowly began to return. He tried to move his neck and instantly drew a sharp breath as a surge of pain ran from his shoulder to his arm. He didn't try to move for the next few moments. His eyes wandered around as he began to get a sense of the familiarity in his surroundings.
He lowered his eyes and realized that a head rested on his chest. The black hair that was spread all over his right arm and the hands around his shoulder were suddenly united with a familiar scent and a thought registered in his mind.
It was her.
He couldn't believe it.
No, it had to be a dream, a hallucination that his mind was making up due to his condition.
But he could feel the rise and fall of her body as she breathed and he could also hear the steady rhythm of her heartbeat.
"Lois," he whispered her name.
The word came out like a desperate prayer rising from some deep corner of his heart.
She lifted her head up.
"Clark," she quickly pulled herself closer to him as her fingers instinctively cupped his face in them.
She felt as if she would go insane with the surge of emotions that stormed her heart right now.
He looked at her, without blinking, as if she was merely a vision that would disappear the moment he would flicker an eyelid. All he knew was that he was immeasurably thankful to the divine powers out there that they had allowed him to see her face again.
"Lois…" a trembling whisper came out of his mouth.
"Clark… how are you feeling?" she asked.
He didn't reply but continued to look at her face in order to drink in the sight that was before him and to fill his soul with her image, because he had no idea for how long she would be there before this dream would shatter.
Until the one feeling that was stronger than anything else took over him.
The feeling of remorse.
"I'm sorry Lois," the words finally found their way out.
A storm of tears left her eyes as she lowered her head on his. Their foreheads touched and they could see no other sight before them but each other's faces. Then her lips met his and their eyes closed almost as a reflex.
Sorrows… Fears… Egos… Remorse…
Every single feeling that had ruled their hearts and their minds for the past few weeks was suddenly gone. Only one thing was left.
The feelings that were hidden in the deepest corners of her heart came out as soon as she captured his lips with hers, kissing them again and again.
His hands did not have the strength to pull her closer and fill her in his arms like he always did when they kissed. He did not even have the dilution to match her fervor and let her know how insanely he loved her, yet when he felt the sensation of her lips on his, the remorse, the pain of loss and the fears all came back to the surface and hit him with full force.
"Lois…" he breathlessly whispered as their lips parted, "Please forgive me…"
She shook her head.
"Don't…" she put a finger on his lips as she lifted herself from his body.
An unknown fear suddenly crawled into his heart again.
Was she leaving him… again? Was this really a dream? A hallucination?
"I'm going to call Dr. Emil," she said, trying to stand up.
"No… Lois please wait…" he had to struggle hard to find enough strength to say the words, "Please listen to me,"
"Clark now isn't the time to talk about—" she tried to say but he interrupted her.
"Now is the only time Lois," he replied, "Please…"
His imploring voice chained her feet to the ground. At that very moment, she felt as if her love for him had never been stronger. She wanted to pull him in her arms, take away all his pain and hide it somewhere inside her heart. The only thing she wanted was to comfort him and protect him from all the sorrows of the world, like he had always protected her.
She settled down on the corner of his bed and put her hand over his. He finally found the strength to entangle his fingers in hers, still not quite believing that she really was sitting in front of him.
"You're supposed to rest," she said in a soft voice.
He slightly shook his head.
"I broke your trust Lois; I did something that I should never have… I stole something from you…" he began as the thoughts that had haunted him for a long time suddenly came to surface.
"In the past few weeks, I don't know how many times I've thought about all those moments when my articles got published or I won an award and you couldn't stop telling me how proud you were of me and then I used to ask myself, when did that change?" she said.
He closed his eyes for a moment and when he opened them again, she caught a glimmer of tears in his beautiful green eyes.
"Lois, when you started getting those threats, there was only one thought in my mind, there was only one fear, what if some harm came to you and I was not there to save you?" he said, "I couldn't stop thinking that if I hadn't been with you that night you were attacked… you could've… died,"
"Clark, this wasn't the first time I wrote a story that resulted in my getting death threats, this wasn't the first time my life was in danger for doing the right thing… you were supposed to be my strength, you were supposed to support me… not—" she left her sentence incomplete as her voice stifled.
Silence fell between them as both of them were overwhelmed by their emotions.
"There was this dream I saw…" he began after several moments, "That night after I saved those train incident victims in Seville,"
"What dream?" she asked.
"I saw a man holding the dead body of the woman whom I had failed to save that evening, and in that dream… he blamed me for her death because I didn't save her… and he asked me how would I feel if I lost someone I loved?" he said.
"Clark, it wasn't your fault, if it had been in your power you would never have let her die," she said.
"That wasn't the point Lois," he said, "I didn't save everyone… I failed… I saw those corpses in my dream… the faces of those people that I didn't save, they told me that I killed them and that dream kept coming back to me… each night after that Lois,"
Lois felt as if an unseen force had clutched her heart. He had been living in such agony for so long.
"Why didn't you tell me sooner?" she asked.
"I didn't want to worry you with my fears Lois," he replied.
Lois merely shook her head, her eyes filled up with tears once again.
"What if I lost someone I loved… what if someday the person I would fail to save would be the one who means the world to me…" he found it difficult to gather his thoughts and put them to words.
"And when I started writing that article—" she almost chocked tears.
"I felt as if that dream was some sort of a warning Lois," he completed her sentence.
"No it wasn't Clark, it was just a culmination of the regret that you always feel when someone dies in front of you, because you keep thinking that you could have saved that life… because you keep blaming yourself… and those faces you saw… were the faces of those fears and remorse that you keep hidden inside you. I can't for a moment believe that people don't think that you're a hero. You haven't killed anyone; you've only saved lives… thousand of lives," she replied after a moment's contemplation.
Clark was astonished for a moment at her words. He could never have inferred such a denotation from that horrifying dream that had haunted him for months.
It was the face of his own fears.
"I wish I had talked to you about it sooner Lois, but that dream precipitated my fears so much that it even took away my thinking abilities," his voice held acquiescence.
"Clark you're not always with me, you can't be, but that doesn't mean that you should stop trusting my judgments for the fear of loosing me," she said.
Clark merely continued to look into her beautiful hazel eyes to witness the plethora of emotions that stormed in them right now.
"No matter how powerful you are, you can't be everywhere, you can't save everyone and it's not your fault," she added softly, "You sacrifice your happiness and your life each day to save the lives of people that you don't even know, you use your abilities to bring people hope, then how could you let your fears rule you like this?"
"Because that thought had started to haunt me Lois… what if I lost a loved one?" he said.
"Clark no one has lost more loved ones than you have… no one has gone through the pain that you have, no one knows about the fears and sorrows that you live with each day… to help those who are in need—" she left her sentence incomplete as she felt a lump in her throat.
"May be I didn't want to loose another loved one… I didn't want to loose you Lois because I can't live without you," he said.
Her fingers went back to his face and she touched his cheek. All the love that was hidden in the deepest corners of her heart suddenly poured itself into her eyes as tears glimmered in them.
"So… I did something that I regretted from that very day," he added softly, "I know you won't trust me but I struggled each day, I couldn't destroy that envelope because I wanted to give it to you,"
"I know," she whispered.
For several moments, they merely continued to stare into each other's eyes, both overtaken by the storm of emotions that filled their hearts.
"I fear for your safety too Clark," she suddenly said, "Each day… when you're out there, saving people,"
He looked at her, surprised for a moment.
"Clark just because a bullet can't penetrate your skin doesn't mean that I don't have any fears," she looked into his eyes, "Every time you are away from me, in some distant part of the world, saving people from some disaster, there's always a fear in my heart, fear of something… like this…"
Her gaze lowered to his bandaged chest and shoulder before it came back to meet his eyes again.
"What if there's Kryptonite hidden somewhere and you become vulnerable, what if someone finds out your secret and tries to exploit you… what if you come upon some enemy who is more powerful than you… like Doomsday or Zod…" she tried hard to keep her voice calm.
He merely looked at her with nothing but the pain of realization in his eyes.
"Yes Clark, I fear for you each day, I am not relieved until you come back home safely," she said.
She paused for a moment, as if trying to gather words.
"To be honest, there are times when I desperately want to tell you not to leave me," she added, "There are times when I want to become selfish and tell you that I don't… I don't have the courage to share you with the world anymore,"
Clark was astonished and broken. He claimed to know Lois better than anyone. How could he never have realized that beneath the exterior of this strong and iron willed woman, there were so many fears and apprehensions, and they were all born out of her love for him?
How similar we are to each other, but how brave she is and what a coward I have been, he thought.
"Then I remind myself that the world doesn't know Superman as a husband or a son or a reporter, they know Superman as a savior, as a symbol of hope," she said, "I can't take that away from them, because if I do, I won't just take their hope away, I'll also kill a part of you… and I can't do that… I can't stop you from being who you are,"
"But I tried to stop you from being who you were," he was filled with nothing but guilt, "I forgot that you have always been my strength not my weakness,"
"We will always fear for each other's safety Clark, but we can't let those fears rule us, we can't let them rule our lives," she said.
He nodded and closed his eyes, conceding to the truth in her words.
Her head lowered on him once again before she kissed him softly.
"Lois, please finish that article," he whispered as soon as their lips parted.
She immediately lifted up her head and looked at him. There was a storm turning inside his eyes right now.
"Seeing that article on the front page can be my salvation Lois," he pleaded softly.
"You don't need any," she shook her head.
She rested her head against his chest softly. He had to gather all the strength that was left in him before he was able to lift his hand and put it around her shoulder.
One week later
Lois stood in front of the window of Clark's loft. The sun was rising on the horizon from beneath the curtains of the clouds, casting a golden spell on the cornfields.
She stood for a long time, with her hands folded on her chest. Her mind wandered everywhere yet there was no particular thought that dominated her at that time.
Just then, she heard footsteps on the wooden stairs of the loft and turned around.
Clark stood on the last stair with his hands folded on his chest. The way he looked at her with a soft smile playing on his lips was enough to raise her heartbeat instantaneously. He looked simply breathtaking in that grey T-shirt and pair of jeans, bathed in the warm glow of the sunlight.
"Hey," she smiled softly as her eyes looked him up and down to drink in the sight of his stunning form.
"Hey," he replied as he closed the distance between them and gently put his arms around her waist.
His heartbeat rose as soon as he took her in his arms. Her scent mixed with her lavender shampoo, the slightly damp locks of the dark hair that rested on her shoulders, the glint in her lovely hazel eyes and the way that light blue roll-up sleeved cotton blouse and the pair of low-waist jeans highlighted all the right curves of her shapely figure were enough to send his blood pumping through his veins.
Sometimes he felt as if there wasn't enough love in this entire world to be gathered and showered on this woman. The more he touched her, the more his body craved for her nearness. He devoured her with his eyes for a moment and then his lips lowered on hers. He caught her smile as he kissed her fervently.
As soon as the kiss ended, he lifted up his head to relish in her sight again. She looked so blissful and serene that he found it fascinating to simply stand there and watch her. He still couldn't believe that she was back in his life. He still couldn't find the words to thank her enough for having such an enormous heart.
"How are you feeling?" she asked softly, her hand instinctively moved up and touched the faint reddish spot on his forehead.
"Do you still need to ask me this after last night?" his eyebrow immediately shot up.
She could feel the mischief in his voice and in the sparkle of his beautiful eyes
"That still doesn't mean that you don't need to rest," her lips curved in a smile as she tried to push him back.
He noticed the faint blush on her cheeks with an amused grin playing on his lips.
"You're right, let's go to bed," he gave an innocent suggestion.
"Smooth Mr. Kent," she rolled her eyes as she pushed his hands away, finally succeeding in freeing herself from his embrace, "But you're the only one who's going back to bed, I'm going to work,"
"Actually, I'm going to work too," he said, "I'm already way behind my deadlines, Perry is gonna go ballistic,"
"No he is not, he's more concerned about your health than your articles, he knows that even his best reporters need a break sometimes," she placed a finger on his chest.
"But Superman isn't allowed to take any breaks Lois," he suddenly became serious.
"Clark your powers haven't fully returned," she shook her head, "There's no way you're putting yourself out there like this,"
"Lois, I'll be fine," he said softly, "Besides, the League needs my help in finding Drake and his men,"
"Clark what if you run into some trouble, you're still vulnerable to injuries remember?" she was suddenly filled with worry.
"Lois, I'll be fine," he said softly as he held her by her arms and pulled her a little closer, "This is something I've gotta do,"
The irony of his words dawned on him as soon as they came out of his mouth.
If I can't stop myself from being who I am, how could I have stopped Lois from being who she is, how could I even have thought of stopping her from doing things her way, just because of my fears, just because I wanted to keep her safe?
He looked into the deep sea of her eyes and felt as if she could see right through him. As if she could read him like a book and already knew what he was thinking.
"Fine," she let out a small acquiescent sigh and pushed him back again, "Go save the world, and leave Perry to me,"
A playful grin appeared on his lips and she rolled her eyes.
"Besides, there is nothing in this world these days that can make him mad at you, you're his star reporter right now, he's absolutely certain that your story on the chemical hazards caused by fertilizer plants is going to win the Pulitzer this year," she said.
His smile suddenly left his face.
"Yeah that," he let out a sigh and his gaze shifted from Lois's face.
"Anything wrong?" she didn't fail to notice the sudden change in his demeanor.
"Lois… I… well…" he began hesitantly, "I called Perry a couple of days back, and requested him to withdraw that nomination,"
"You did what?" she almost yelled in disbelief, "Why the hell?"
"Because I can't take that award even if I win," he replied as he looked into her eyes again.
"Clark you worked so hard for that story, it made such a huge impact, the topmost industries of the country, even Luthor Corp had to revamp their environmental safety plans after that article got published, why would you deny yourself something that you deserve so much?" she was so taken aback by his sudden announcement that she didn't even know how to put her words together.
"No I don't deserve it Lois," his voice was calm yet determined, "I lost the right to win it the day I betrayed you, the day I took away from you what you deserved,"
She was stunned into silence for a moment. Then his words finally sank themselves in her mind and the rest of the emotions came rushing from some deep corner of her heart. The one thing she knew was that in that very moment her love for him dominated every other thought and feeling inside her.
"Clark no…" she shook her head, trying hard to fight tears, "You don't have to punish yourself like this,"
"It isn't a punishment Lois, it's only fair," he replied softly.
"No it isn't Clark, we have closed the chapter on what happened right? We've left it behind, we don't need to make it haunt our lives anymore," she looked into his eyes and her words came out as a desperate plea, "Besides, my article has already made the front page,"
"And Perry is sure that you're getting a Pulitzer nomination next year," a proud smile appeared on his lips as soon as he said the words.
"Yes, but what does that have to do with your nomination?" she was frustrated now.
She wanted to be angry at him for being so unreasonable and stubborn yet she found it impossible to do so.
"After I bought that evidence from Elliot, I found it impossible to face you Lois, because I had to lie to you each day," he began, "I didn't just break your heart Lois, I compromised my integrity and my principles as a journalist, there's no way I can take this award, knowing what I did,"
Lois tried to say something but couldn't find the words.
"Besides, I've realized that there was no point in keeping you safe if I took away from you who you were, there was no meaning of preserving that empty shell if the person inside was already dead," he added.
Tears eventually left her eyes and trickled down her cheeks.
"I know that I'll always fear for you, I'll always want to protect you, but if I ever stopped you from being who you were, if I ever stopped you from doing what you wanted to do, I'll loose you anyway," he paused for a moment before gathering words, "And if I ever lost you Lois, then my life would have no purpose, I can't live… not as Clark… and definitely not as Superman…"
"Please don't take back this nomination," she begged him one last time, even though she already knew in some corner of her heart that he had made his mind and he won't change it.
"I already have Lois," he replied in a soft yet firm tone.
"But you deserved to win this," she whispered as she walked away from him.
She simply didn't have the courage to look into his eyes anymore.
"I'll have my deserved win when you get that Pulitzer next year," he whispered the words in her ear as he walked behind her and pulled her in his arms once again.
She could feel his smile in his voice. Her body gradually relaxed and she rested her back against his chest.
For the last couple of months, she had felt that her world had come to an end. Her heart had broken into a million pieces with the notion that he wasn't the man she had believed him to be, but right now, she was filled with nothing but an immense gratitude as she realized that Clark Kent was exactly the man who she had always known him to be.
A part of her was crushed to know that he had given up on his Pulitzer nomination, something that meant so much to him, but the rest of her, was filled with so much pride and love for him that she believed that even her entire life won't be enough to deluge those feelings on this man.
She let out a contended sigh and closed her eyes, feeling the same peace, love and safety that she always felt in his arms.
"He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life" – Ralph Waldo Emerson