A/N: This is a story that I wrote years ago, but just realized wasn't up on this site. I'm rectifying that now. Sometimes I forget all where I put things. (I hadn't even put it up on the Cloisfic Archive- and that's my site!)
Just so you know the context, part one begins with a 'novelization' of a well known scene from 'Barbarians at the Planet' from season 1 of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, but has some minor tweaks that build out the rest. Have fun!
(Part I of III)
Metropolis' hottest reporting team slowly strolled through Centennial Park. Clark was nervously glancing at his partner out of the corner of his eyes as they walked. So much had happened in the last few days, and he wasn't sure of how their relationship was going to survive. There was the news that The Planet was going under, and then, miraculously, Lex Luthor had swooped in as some sort of savior buying the paper and saving jobs. His own disbelief about Luthor's intentions led to an astounding revelation from Lois that the bas#&$%d had proposed to her.
Clark knew that even had he not had his own shaky history with Luthor in his other guise, he would not have been able to regard the proposal with an unbiased eye. He was currently on an emotional roller coaster. The destruction of The Planet, the accusation of guilt slapped on his young friend Jack, the announcement of retirement by his mentor, the threat of losing his best friend, and Lois's continuing support of Luthor was turning his ride into a despairing plunge.
He morosely thought about his colleagues from work who were now scrambling to find ways to put their lives back together. He would miss them all, but mostly, his thoughts were on Lois Lane. He knew that he loved her. He'd known it for quite a while now, although not as long as his mother claimed to have known.
He'd been attracted to her from the first time he saw her, even though it felt more like he was drawn to her- something akin to a moth and a flame. He hadn't really resigned to the fact that he was in love with her until later, after they'd become closer. There were numerous times when they'd been able to finish one another's sentences, and had acted as if being able to read the other's mind.
Sometimes he felt that his mother had powers of intuition that made his own special abilities pale in comparison. When he had talked to his parents about his feelings, she'd smiled knowingly and told him that she'd known he was in love from the first time he mentioned Lois. Perhaps if he'd come to terms with it that early, he wouldn't be in the position he was in now. Perhaps Luthor would have never been part of the equation. Perhaps...
Before, he'd thought that the true assessment of his love was to resign himself to being her friend. His deep reliance on her company caused him to believe that it was better to have her as a close friend in the semi-intimate relationship they currently had over not having her at all.
The recent events now had him convinced that he had been kidding himself all along. All that stuff about keeping his feelings to himself as a token of his love was crap. It worked while she was single and they were able to be friends, but now... The threat of her being whisked away by his nemesis put everything in a new light. There would be no way that they would be able to stay close friends and spend as much time together as they did before.
Thus, it wasn't until he couldn't imagine breathing without her in his life that he understood exactly how much he loved her. Compared to what he thought he'd felt before, the gaping hole he felt consume his chest when he imagined her gone was more powerful than all of his abilities combined.
Taking another glance in her direction, he fought against the instinct his body had to double over in response to the deep fluttering that pierced his abdomen. Ironic that even Superman wasn't invulnerable to butterflies.
Seeing an empty park bench, he led Lois to it and they sat down.
Lois felt Clark's eyes on her as she looked up at the sky. She hoped he was reconsidering his brash rejection to her offer for them to be partners at LNN. She wasn't overly thrilled about going into television, but her own insecurities about what to do without the Planet left her putting false bravado into beginning the new career. The recent events had shaken up her life, and she was feeling vulnerable and not a little unsure. Somehow, the thought of Clark being by her side during the transition wrapped around her like a child's security blanket.
The Planet had been more her home than her own apartment. It had been the pinnacle of her dreams as a child, and the globe proudly sitting on the top of the building had been a personal symbol of her success. She loved the smell of the ink and paper. She loved the way her fingers would get dirty as she read through the freshly printed editions. Television would never compare.
She couldn't fathom that everything was changing. She knew that when she really calmed down and let it all sink in, she would break down. She hated the feeling of being out of control, so she purposely hadn't given herself an opportunity to dwell on it. Escapism, Dr. Friskin would call it.
Did she love Lex Luthor? No. She couldn't honestly say that she did. It was thrilling to have someone with that much power focus it on her. Could she be relishing in Luthor's attentions because the other powerful man she wanted to woo her refused to do so? Anyone had to agree that it was flattering to be the desired woman rather than the rejected one.
Her first reaction had been to be as devastated as everyone else, but seeing Perry's pained expression and hearing his choked tones had left her feeling as if she'd been gutted. The man had always been a pillar of strength for her, her only source before she'd opened her heart to accept Clark's friendship. Seeing Perry's resolve wane had been like watching a parent in deep grief. Afraid of what she would do if she let the situation get to her, she'd hidden her true feelings behind an optimistic speech about their future.
She heard Clark clear his throat, and turned to face him.
"What is it, Clark?" she sighed wearily. Lois didn't know what Clark wanted to talk about, but she didn't want to argue about her decisions anymore.
"Lois, when I thought about losing my job at the Planet, saying goodbye to Perry, Jimmy, everyone..." he faltered, unsure of how to proceed. Steeling his will, he continued, "I realized something. I realized I could lose all of that and still go on. I realized there was only one thing I didn't want to live without... and that was you. Seeing you every morning, working with you; being with you."
Lois was relieved. She really was scared he would desert her and leave her to be alone. Before he'd come along, that would have been preferable, but once you opened yourself up to somebody, it was hard to let them go.
With a slight smile she sat forward a bit. "That's why you should..."
Shaking his head, he stopped her. He knew she was thinking that he'd changed his mind. "No. Lois, listen to me. I'm not talking about the partnership. I'm talking about us."
He sought her gaze and held it for a brief moment, hoping to draw strength from it. "I've been in love with you for a long time."
Lois studied Clark's expression, unsure of how to respond.
"You must have known," he offered flatly, trying to cover the emotion that sat in a large lump in his throat.
Lois closed her eyes so she wouldn't have to see the pain in his when he heard her response. "I knew..." She found that she couldn't keep her eyes averted. Somehow, she found herself drawn back to his gaze. "...Well I knew that you liked me, were attracted to me, but..."
She fought the urge to touch him, and thought back to the feelings of frustration she would have every time he ran out on her. "I'm sorry. I don't think about you in that way... romantically."
She looked down to study her hands. "Clark, you're my best friend, the only partner I could ever stand to work with. I admire you, respect you, and I do love you… but only as a friend," she added quickly, hoping to make the blow less painful.
"And Luthor?" he spat. "Do you love him?" The sharp pain Clark was feeling caused his words to come out clipped and harsh.
"I don't know," she replied honestly. "I do have feelings for him."
She absentmindedly ran a finger over the space on her hand that would be occupied by a wedding ring. "I haven't said yes, yet. And I won't, until I've talked it over with someone else."
Clark thought he tasted bile. "Who?" he demanded, standing to his feet. Every muscle in his body was contracted, and he felt the need to flee before he exploded.
"I think you know. If you see him, will you tell him I'm looking for him?"
Clark refused to look at her. Instead, he shoved his hands in his pockets and briskly walked away from the park.
Lois watched his retreating figure. Part of her wanted to call him back, but a familiar feeling of frustration surfaced. Making her way to her car, she felt exhausted. She didn't want to hurt him, but she didn't know what else to do. She scanned the area looking for him. The least she could do was give him a ride home, right?
But she didn't see him. He had completely disappeared. Perhaps that was for the best. He probably needed some air.
Clark flew toward the atmosphere as fast as he dared. How could she destroy his life and ask him to find her 'beau' all in the same breath? How could she be so cruel and callous? She'd shown her true colors as 'Mad Dog Lane' that night.
'I think you know,' she'd said. Did his feelings mean anything to her?
'Will you tell him I'm looking for him?' she'd asked. Right. Going to see her as her hero was the last thing he wanted to do. Right now, he wanted to get as far away from her as he could. Holding his breath as he breached the atmosphere, a tear drifted horizontally away as it squeezed from the corner of his eye.
His gaze settled on a familiar glowing mass in the sky, and he let out a ragged scream, expelling the air he'd saved in his lungs. The night he had finally admitted to himself that he loved Lois Lane, he'd been star gazing. Metropolis' night sky was muted from the expanse of streetlights and glowing windows in skyscrapers. He'd flown into space to see the constellations that he'd enjoyed tracing as a child. There was one particular star that night that he'd never noticed before. He might have just been star-crossed by the new feeling of love he was allowing himself to feel for the first time, but it had reminded him of the gleam he'd seen in her eyes the first day they'd met.
For weeks after that first sighting, he'd continued to look to the sky for that star, and eventually he'd bought and named it after the woman who would always hold his heart.
Right now he wanted to fly at full force and release his anger on the very object that he'd looked to for solace in the past. Instead, he found himself slowly returning to Earth. Back to Lois. He would let Superman visit her. She had asked, and he knew that there was nothing he could deny her.
Lois was curled up on the sofa watching TV. As she flipped through the channels, she stalled when she got to LNN. Grimacing at the anchor delivering the latest headlines, she wondered if she would be able to manage as easily as she'd led everyone to believe. She would be behind a desk, and she wouldn't be able to investigate. The worse part of the whole thing was that she would actually be doing reports on someone else's news.
Oh Clark, she thought. She wasn't expecting a visit from Superman. The more she thought about it, the worse she felt. There was no doubt that Clark would be feeling hurt and angry and wouldn't want to have anything to do with her or her request. With those thoughts foremost in her mind, she was startled when she heard a familiar rush of air behind her. Standing, she turned to see the muscular figure of Superman.
He was standing in his normal pose, arms crossed formidably across his upper torso. What wasn't normal was the hard glint in his eyes – an expression much harder than the ones he usually graced her with. That and his sudden arrival left her flustered.
"I heard you wanted to see me." His words were curt and short, as if he were trying to hint that he really needed to be going.
"Yes." Lois felt an internal let down. He wasn't going to make this easy. She struggled for a way to gather her thoughts. "Please, come in. I'll just put on a robe."
"Unless its lead lined, Lois, it's a waste of time."
Superman grimaced at his quick retort. His own emotional turmoil was making him speak rashly. He would have never have spoken to her that way as Superman before. His already bruised pride wouldn't consider an apology, but he felt the need to try to control his anger. Superman had no reason to be upset with Lois. Clark, on the other hand, did.
"I guess so," Lois blushed, unconsciously turning her body away from her visitor. She began rubbing her hands together nervously. "Anyway, I'm just trying to figure out..."
Boy, this is difficult, she thought. She began again, "Well, there've been a lot of changes going on in my life and I'm trying to make the right... decisions... But I can't until I know... how you feel."
She moved to close the distance between them. Superman was still standing like a statue right next to her window and Lois felt the need to bring some warmth back into his gaze. His affronted demeanor was certainly foreign to the way he normally looked at her, especially when he thought she wasn't looking.
He was refusing to meet her eyes, so she put a hand on his chest, biting back a sigh when she felt him flinch slightly at the touch.
"Superman, is there any hope for us? You and me? I'm so completely in love with you that I can't do anything else without knowing." The words spilled out from her like a bursting dam and she felt a sense of relief after letting them out. With all the turmoil of the last few days, this was the first time she was able to be truly honest about how she was feeling.
Superman couldn't believe the absurdity of this situation. Shaking his head, he said, "Lois, I do care for you. But..." The hand on his chest had originally sent an unwelcome feeling of tenderness for this woman. Now, as their earlier conversation flashed through his mind, it was more of an insult.
"There are things about me you don't know. That you may never know." How could she claim to love this alien whom she only saw after hanging in the jaws of danger, he asked himself bitterly.
Lois felt him withdrawing and fought to find the words to prevent it. "It doesn't matter. I know *you*. And I don't mean the celebrity or you the 'superhero.' If you had *no* powers, if you were just an ordinary man leading an ordinary life, I'd love you just the same. Can't you believe that?"
His throat tightened painfully. This couldn't be happening. Was she really trying to convince him that she wanted the very thing she threw away just a few hours earlier?
"I wish I could, Lois. But, under the circumstances, I don't see how I can."
A number of emotions suddenly flared up in Lois, with anger being the most prominent one. Tears jumped to her eyes, and she turned away, trying to gain control. How could he infer that she didn't know the truth about how she felt? What did he mean by 'under the circumstances?' She should be the one feeling slighted by the 'circumstances.' He had no right!
Lois had been holding her emotions in check too long to be successful this time. Spinning around wildly, she hissed, "You are such a coward!"
Superman had turned to the window in preparation for his departure, but upon hearing her charge, he slowly lowered his arms. If it had been any other day, any other time, or any other person throwing such an accusation at him, he would have ignored it and gone about his business. Who could possibly call the invulnerable Man of Steel a coward?
He tuned to be confronted by the flushed face of Lois Lane.
He gave her a nasty smirk. "What? No longer star struck? It's more your practice to comment on my other impressive attributes." He ran a hard look down the length of her body and roughly pulled her against him, still being careful not to hurt her with his force despite his anger. "You have many fine ones as far as I can see."
Lois pulled away, reaching up to slap him as she moved. He caught her wrist, and reached for her waist again.
"Stop!" she demanded through gritted teeth.
He ignored her and pulled her to him again.
"Quit!" she cried, struggling to be released from his grip.
Again, he ignored her protests, moving his face toward hers with eyes shining in anger.
"Don't." Lois pushed away with finality in her voice, and this time he released her.
Somewhere deep inside his conscious, he was shocked at his behavior, but he refused to let that feeling surface. Instead he concentrated on fueling his own inner furnace.
"Just a minute ago you were asking for my love. Now you don't want to touch me. Make up your mind. I have better things to do."
"That wasn't a display of love, you..." Lois struggled with the desire to lash out him but instead moved to create more distance between them. "You make me so angry sometimes. For as well as you know me, how can you believe that I don't know how I feel about you?"
"You don't know me as well as you think you do."
"I know you better than you could imagine," she mumbled quietly.
Superman heard her retort easily and scoffed. She was proverbially as blind as a bat. "What kind of sense does it make to call a super man a coward, if you know so much?" Internally he cringed at how close to the truth about his character she actually might be.
"Oh, sure. You can leap tall buildings in a single bound. You can bend steel with your bare hands. You can wrestle a lion or defeat a bear. You fight mudslides. You'd swim in a volcano to save someone. For any other man that might be bravery, but not for you. None of that puts you in harm's way… You don't conquer a fear or face death by doing any of that."
"Wow, such flattery. How could you claim to love a man who's such a craven?"
Lois momentarily softened. "Because while all of that may not show bravery, it does show dedication, selflessness, nobility, integrity... chivalry. No. For you, bravery would be opening your life to someone else. Opening your heart. Sharing your joys, your tears, and your secrets..."
Lois became uncomfortably aware that she was equally talking about herself.
"I'm sorry," Superman said flatly. "I can't give you what you want." He turned to face the window again, preparing to leave.
"Is it so hard to believe that I could love an ordinary man who would hold me when I have pain? Someone who cares about everyone around him and proves it every day with his actions? A man who would sit and listen to my dreams, and walks beside me day in and day out? Would it be wrong of me to love a man that pledges to be my friend no matter what happens? A man who is always there to catch me when I fall?"
Superman shook his head. This was unbelievable. She had no idea what she was talking about.
Lois watched his figure slouch as she talked. Anyone else wouldn't have seen it, but she was so attuned to him that she could almost hear what he was thinking.
"And what if that ordinary man just happened to have some extraordinary powers?" she continued, moving closer to him. "Could you not believe that I would feel the same about him whether or not he wore a cape? Sure, it would be pretty amazing to see him streak across the sky, or lift a space station with his bare hands, but that wouldn't be all... It would be even more amazing to know that this amazing man loves *me*. That he would choose to expose his soul to me, and trust me to care for the only vulnerable part of him- his heart."
He wanted to cry. Everything she said was exactly what he wanted, except she'd refused to give it to him in one outfit, and was pleading with him to receive it in another. How had this gotten to be so out of control? She was unaware of it, but her own actions contradicted the very words she was saying. There was no way he could believe her.
"The worse part about all of this," Lois was saying, "is the fact that you can't be honest with me. Don't you think I have the right to be upset that you don't feel you can trust me? And then you expect me to swoon at your declaration of love as if that makes everything okay?"
Superman turned around abruptly to face her. What was she talking about? His declaration of love making her swoon? Did she think that his attempt at kissing her earlier was his way of trying to tell her that the superhero returned her affection? He gaped at her speechless, unsure of how to respond.
"Say something," she demanded.
"I... I'm not sure what you are getting at here, Lois. I've told you already that although I do have feelings for you, I don't think that there is any way this could work out."
He was totally flabbergasted at that and threw his hands up in defeat. "What do you want, Lois?"
Lois was again overcome with anger. He was such a dolt at times.
"I am so tired of the games!" she shouted. Calmer, she added, "We both are guilty here. I didn't mean to hurt you."
"What are you talking about? You can't hurt me."
Lois sighed and dropped heavily onto the sofa she was standing beside. She was exhausted. This wasn't going the way she'd planned, but then again, she hadn't really planned anything.
"It all happened so suddenly. I never expected you to confess your love for me... well, not really. And earlier when I asked for Superman, it was kind of a reaction... I guess. I was really hoping that you would tell me the truth... to show me that you were serious enough to throw all your insecurities to the wind, because maybe then I would be able to the same," she stammered, aware that she was talking in circles and not getting to what she really wanted to say.
Superman simply watched her warily, without speaking.
"Somehow in my mind, I expected you to just come out and tell me. That your love for me was powerful enough to make you break your own rules. I felt that maybe I needed to push you. That if I pushed you into a corner, you would confess."
"Confess what? Push me how?"
She locked eyes with his. "Tonight at the park."
His mind spiraled. He rehearsed everything she had been saying, trying to piece together what she was trying to infer. "Wh... What?"
"I was asked to love half a man. I needed you to share with me the whole one. I... I needed you to tell me..."
He raised a hand to his eyes and began massaging his temples.
"I needed you to show me that you loved me more than your secret. I needed you to show me that the super man that I am in love with was really the only man I have ever truly loved... Clark Kent."
The butterflies that had been circling his stomach earlier that night all turned to rocks as his breathing ceased.
End Part 1