Chapter 21: Rain
“Lois? Is everything all right? Did something happen?” Clark hurriedly ushered her into his apartment, and closed the door, talking a mile a minute. “I heard your heartbeat approaching… you seemed so upset! Not the danger kind of upset, but…” He seemed to slip into ‘Clark mode’ whenever she was near him. Didn’t he know it wasn’t necessary to behave that way around her anymore? But maybe… She suddenly realized that she didn’t even know which side of him was closer to the real Clark…
“Should I wake Jason…?” He finally trailed off when he saw her half-bemused, half-agonized expression.
She shook her head. With her mascara running in tracks down her cheeks, with eyes and nose red from crying, what a lovely sight she must be. “Something happened all right…” She suddenly felt weary to the bone. “Can I sit, please?”
He started with embarrassment. “Oh, of course, please…” he said quickly, gesturing to the couch.
As she sat and tried to settle herself, he was instantly hovering over her with a box of tissues. She plucked one gratefully, and began to dab at her eyes. Her thoughts were still whirling – how could she tell him everything she needed to say? How do I even begin?
“You really don’t know why I’m here?” she asked, hoping that she would be saved a few explanations.
“No… I wasn’t listening, Lois. You and Richard were spending the evening together…” His face contorted in pain for an instant. “How could I?” He looked away out of the window, where dark, heavy clouds were covering the moon.
“Oh, Clark,” she said, touching his shoulder gently. He was so certain they would never again share anything more than love for their little boy. I have to tell him…
He turned back to her, his face a picture of deepest concern. “What did happen? Why are you here?”
“I… Richard…” She swallowed, and then the dam burst forth. “Oh, my God, I can’t believe I just ran out like that!” she cried, burying her face in her hands.
She grabbed another tissue and blew her nose this time, rather noisily. “I… I left him, Clark.” Lois took his hands in hers, and moved his fingers across the spot where her engagement ring had rested.
His shock would have been almost funny any other time. His mouth dropped open slightly, his blue eyes went wide behind his glasses. She could see the super-wheels turning in his head as he struggled to make sense of what he had just heard. “But…”
“I couldn’t lie to myself anymore. Or to him. The truth is, things haven’t been the same between Richard and me since you returned, Clark. All these emotions came bubbling back to the surface: hurt, anger, pain, betrayal…”
“I know,” he said softly.
“No, you don’t,” she corrected, more for herself than him. “I’ve never felt such strong emotions for any man… anyone! Until you.”
He looked at her, still not comprehending what she was trying to say. She would have to just come out and say it…
“All those emotions, they were protecting my heart from the truth I didn’t want to admit to myself. That I was still in love with you.”
If it were possible for his eyes to grow wider, they did. “You…” he murmured, still disbelieving.
“I left Richard for you, you big dork.” She smiled to soften the words.
The disbelief on his face turned to pure joy. He started forward to wrap her in a hug, but suddenly checked himself, looking as if he was unsure this was the right thing to do. He must have been wondering if the superhero’s duty to the world precluded any chance at happiness for the man.
Lois leaned into him, giving him permission to love her, and after a moment, his strong arms encircled her. She finally relaxed into his embrace in a way she hadn’t in a long time. Somehow this felt more real than the fantasy they had shared at the Fortress all those years ago. She wanted to stay here forever in his arms…
But there was so much to discuss. She pulled away reluctantly. “Clark, as much as I want to…” …and boy, do I want to… “We can’t just rush headlong into anything.” She looked toward the hallway, where she assumed Jason was sleeping in the spare bedroom beyond. “There are others to consider.”
“I completely agree,” he said with a reasonable tone of voice. “Rushing into things is what got us…”
“…into trouble the last time,” Lois finished for him with a smile, but she quickly became serious again. “It’s going to be so hard on Jason. He really loves Richard. I don’t know how he’ll react… And I can’t even imagine telling him you’re his father yet…”
“It’s a lot to put on one little boy,” Clark said gravely.
“And then there’s Richard. I left him so suddenly, he must be absolutely bewildered.” Lois felt such sadness again, remembering the look in his eyes. She had turned off her cell phone in the car the first time Richard had called. She couldn’t even listen to the sound of his voice right now… didn’t want to think about whether the message would be filled with pleading, anger or bitterness… “He has to know I’ve left him for Superman. It’s the only conclusion he could come to after what he’s found out the last few days. And if he ever saw us together as a couple…” She shuddered and looked down at her hands. “He’d just know… and I don’t know what he would do with that information.”
“We’ll figure this stuff out together, Lois. I’ll give you all the time you need.” He lifted her chin gently to look up at him. “Love is patient, you know.”
The love she saw shining in his clear, blue eyes, no longer held back, was almost stunning in its intensity. She felt a wave of tears threaten to overflow again, but blinked them back. “I know. Thank you.” She reached over and gave his hands a squeeze. “Can I stay here tonight? I don’t really have anywhere else to go…” Not anywhere where she wouldn’t be assaulted with a million questions, anyway, and a hotel room would feel so empty…
He startled again, as if she had reminded him of some duty he’d forgotten. “Oh! Of course you can! I’ll just go get the bedroom ready…” Then he blushed, very attractively she noticed, as he realized how that sounded. “I mean! I’ll take the couch, and you can have the bedroom…”
“Absolutely not, Clark. I’m the intruder here. The couch is fine.”
“Lois, you must be exhausted after the night you had… you deserve a little rest, and the couch is not very comfortable.” He injected a little gentlemanly firmness into that statement.
She retorted, even more firmly. “And you don’t deserve it? You practically run yourself ragged all day living a double life…” She held his eyes, asserting herself. “You sleep in your own bed tonight.”
A silent war of wills raged for about a minute, as they locked gazes. Then one corner of his lips crinkled up in amused surrender. “You win, Miss Lane. The couch it is. I’ll go get you a blanket and pillow.”
After he left, she breathed a sigh of relief. Even though she believed completely in the reasons she had just given him… she hadn’t added that sleeping in his bed tonight, even alone, would feel a little too intimate right now.
A moment later, he returned with the promised blanket and pillow, a spare toothbrush, still in its box… and a soft brown-plaid flannel shirt. Lois looked from the shirt to his sheepish face, a small smile curving her lips. He explained, “I noticed you didn’t bring anything with you… and I didn’t think you’d want to sleep in that…” He gestured to the black slipdress she had been wearing for the disastrous dinner.
She took the bundle with a silent nod, and set it on the couch.
“I would lend you some shorts or something, but I don’t think I have anything that will fit you…” He shut his mouth, probably deciding he’d said enough. For a man who had once savored her every curve, he was surprisingly shy.
Lois moved closer to him, touched by his genteel ways. “This will be fine. Thank you, Clark.” Standing on tiptoe, she gave him a light kiss on the cheek. “Good night.” She was surprised anew at his warmth, which lingered on her lips.
Clark bent down to give her a light kiss of his own, breathing, “Good night,” against her cheek. A ripple of pleasure spread from the point of contact, and she shut her eyelids. If just the slightest voluntary touch evoked such a reaction in her…
Thankfully, he was turning away and heading for his bedroom. “Let me know if you need anything, all right?”
He smiled once more, and then disappeared into his doorway.
- - - - -
Two hours later, Lois was still staring up at the ceiling trying to fall asleep. A thousand different scenarios were playing through her mind. What would she do about Richard? And Jason? And Perry… the office… her family…
So many repercussions for this one rash act. She mentally kicked herself again for bolting like that. Richard had deserved an explanation, and she had gone with her gut, and acted out of pure instinct. She chuckled softly. When have I ever acted any differently when it came to Superman? I’ve always followed my heart and not my head.
No matter how difficult it was going to be, she promised herself that she would give Richard a fuller explanation, some closure. He had treated her well, more than well, during the years they had shared. But how much to tell? He had figured out that Jason wasn’t his son, what else could he figure out with the right incentive? This was a fire they had to put out, and soon.
Jason was another matter, possibly harder than Richard. He would be devastated by their break-up, she just knew it. But how would it manifest itself? Would he cry and plead that things must never change? Would he act out in anger and frustration? Or would he seem to accept it placidly, while closing himself off to her emotionally? In many ways, she was looking forward to that conversation even less than the one with Richard. Children were a lot less predictable than adults.
Heaven knows how anyone would react around the office… oh, God, this was going to be a nightmare.
She groaned softly and curled up under the blanket. At that moment, a crack of thunder pealed across the sky outside. The dark clouds she had seen before had finally worked themselves into a full-fledged storm. Figures, she thought. Are you trying to tell me something?
Lois huffed in frustration and flung back the blanket from her legs. She looked outside, trying to gauge how strong the storm was going to become. It hadn’t started raining on the balcony yet… she opened the sliding glass door, and stepped outside. Sure, she was clad only in a flannel shirt which nearly grazed her knees, but she didn’t feel uncomfortably cold.
After closing the door again, she walked over to the edge of the balcony, grabbed the iron railing and looked down. Was this where Clark took off and landed on a nightly basis? She noticed that the closest buildings were far enough away that he could probably come and go undetected. He was probably very careful about it, too. Did he change before he returned, and then ride the elevator to his apartment, just like anyone else? Did the doorman notice his strange comings and goings? How much time did he really spend here?
She realized that she really knew nothing at all of his life outside of the Planet and his heroic rescues. What did he do with his time? What were his interests? What kind of music did he like, books, favorite foods… These were all things she could recite with ease about Richard, but Clark?
But instead of feeling nervous about how little she knew, she felt a thrill of anticipation. She was going to learn all of these things about him, experience the excitement of getting to really know him. The now-familiar warm sensation started again in her chest. She finally was recognizing it for what it was. She had felt it every time she thought of Clark and their relationship. She felt an intense connection to him… and tonight, while kissing Richard, she’d suddenly realized that she and Richard had never had that connection. She hadn’t really noticed it when Superman was away, but now it was obvious that the stark difference in the two was like a bonfire beside a single candle flame.
The thunder crashed a little closer this time, but she stayed where she was. Why had she let it go on so long? She had accepted Richard’s proposal readily enough, but refused even to think about planning a wedding. She let him talk her into buying a house, and it had seemed like maybe that was enough. They had everything but the marriage license…
A wave of sadness washed through her just as the first raindrops fell on her fingertips. I was so unfair to him! He deserved so much better than a woman who shared her life, her son, her bed, but never really shared her heart. There must have been a piece of it locked away with the memories…
She was beginning to see Clark’s reasons for wiping her memories, even though she still didn’t accept them fully. He thought he was protecting her, saving her from a world of hurt. He couldn’t have known that the ripples would spread out and affect them all like this.
Unbidden, a fresh outpouring of tears streamed down her cheeks again, mixing with the rain that was now coming down quite steadily. Oh, that’s just perfect, Lois, she thought, sobbing even harder. The perfect cliché – the broken woman sobbing in the rain. So many tears she had cried these last few days! Would they ever stop?
She didn’t know how long she stood there, not caring that she was being totally drenched, but she suddenly felt a pair of arms wrap around her from behind. Of course, Clark would have heard her come out here, would have heard her begin to bawl like a child. He had probably been reluctant to disturb her, but couldn’t help but comfort her.
“Shh, it’s all right,” he soothed, and she turned around to bury her head in his chest.
“So many people have been hurt, Clark, will be hurt by this…”
“We’ll work things out, I promise.” He kissed the top of her head, and embraced her tighter.
“This is the right thing to do, isn’t it?”
Once again, he tilted her chin so that she could look into his eyes. “I’ve never felt anything more right than this.”
Lois was struck again by his deep gaze, mesmerized by his presence. He was just as soaked now as she was, the rain running in rivulets down his face, curling his hair against his forehead and into his eyes. His undershirt was clinging to him, bringing his chiseled muscles into relief below the fabric.
The ‘warms’ she had been having for Clark were definitely becoming ‘hots’ now. The sensation swept through her entire body, causing her to flush with passion. She tentatively reached up to brush the errant locks from his face, her mouth parting involuntarily…
And despite both of their best intentions, despite the rational way they had discussed waiting, their mouths crashed together hungrily. Lois drank in the taste of him, giving herself completely to what they had denied each other the previous afternoon. Clark greedily explored her with tongue and hands. Lois gripped his back tightly, unafraid at last of expressing her need.
A soft moan escaped her lips at the feel of his hands traveling lower, and she pressed herself against him. She was completely aware that there was only a flannel shirt and some thin underwear separating him from…
And only a thin wall separating them from an impressionable little boy!
Lois gasped, and pulled away. “Clark, we can’t….”
Although she could see passion smoldering in his eyes, he knew exactly why she had stopped, and agreed fully. “Jason.”
She took a step back, a hand to her chest. “Oh, my God, that was…” Incredible, she finished silently, body tingling all over. Like five years of missed opportunity packed into one kiss!
Suddenly Clark stiffened beside her. He leapt back, putting a careful distance between them, and whirled abruptly toward the living room. Walking toward them from the hallway, rubbing his eyes, was a pajama-clad little boy. He stopped dead in confusion when he saw just who was standing out in the rain with his ‘babysitter.’
“Mommy? What are you doing here?”Next: Chapter 22: Tell All