The ToC for this story is here .
Comments can go here .

Okay, as "promised" -- I said I might put another part up "early" and promptly got threatened with GBH (and yet, I always say that FoLCs are such nice people... confused wink ) -- here's a short-ish mood piece involving two things that you wouldn't normally expect to go together: Lois and a barn! Or, now that Clark has flown into her life, would you...? biggrin

Oh, and this is going up tonight (UK time) because I doubt that I'll be free to post on Christmas Day itself until quite late. As ever, Merry Christmas/Happy Hannukah/Io! Saturnalia/whatever to FoLCs everywhere.


*****

Now read on:

Lois lay back on the wonderfully soft bed and thought of the events of the day, and particularly of those of the evening that had only recently wound down into this peaceful time. From time to time, her gaze would stray towards the window of the room and to the barn that was dimly visible through the glass. Not that it was the barn that she seemed to be drawn to, almost unconsciously...

Oh, stop it! she told herself. It's a barn -- you know, animals, hay... all those country things that you have no ability or wish to cope with!

The problem was that it wasn't just a barn, though; it was a barn with Clark in it, and somehow, the thought of him asleep, stretched out on the hay bales up in the loft (Or even, she supposed, floating above them. I'd love to see him float in his sleep...) was not at all conducive to her getting any shut-eye.

Or maybe it was just that she had so much to think about, and now was the first real chance she'd had to do that (or the first time you've allowed yourself to do it, Lois, her inner self sniped). The last twenty-four hours or so had been one heck of a ride, physically, emotionally and... informationally? Is that a word? she wondered. Well, whether it was or not, she knew what she meant. Finding out about Clark's true origins, his home world, Bureau 39, Kryptonite, her other "selves"... it all mounted up to one heck of a lot to have to take on board and come to terms with; for the first time, she began to appreciate Clark's desire not to "overload her with weirdness", because, though it'd take wild horses to get her to admit it, she was feeling just a teeny-tiny little bit overwhelmed right now.

But it probably wasn't as bad as it could have been, thanks to the Kents -- the senior Kents, she guessed she meant, though Clark had been a big help, too. Jonathan and Martha were two of the most caring, supportive people she'd ever met, and they had taken Clark and her in with only the barest hesitation -- and she could hardly blame them for being wary to begin with; heck, it was a good thing that they were wary, with people like Trask out there, and she imagined that the older couple were themselves feeling rather stunned by the sudden appearance in their lives of a man who could have been their son -- not to mention everything else that came in his wake, so to speak, like Superman and Bureau 39... and her, too.

But they had accepted all the weirdness of Clark's very existence and opened their home -- and their hearts -- to the strangers from the big city despite all the rest of it, with hospitality so generous and so... natural that, to Lois' cynical mind, it seemed like the worst kind of small-town cliché. But it wasn't a cliché, it was how these people were... There were actually people like that, so different from the "city folks" that she was used to; it was as strange to her urban experience and expectations as... as a man from another planet who could fly!

It also explained a lot about Clark. If he'd been raised by the Kents -- and it didn't matter which Kents, from which universe; Lois could tell from Clark's reactions that this Jonathan and Martha were just like his parents (or how he could see they would have become over time, had they lived) so she could count them as the same, at least that way -- then so much of what she'd wondered about him, and even found hard to credit at first, suddenly made sense. Everything from his old-fashioned manners and his honesty to his disdain for gossip and that protective streak of his was there in the Kents, and they'd have passed it all on to their son almost without thinking about it, just as part of bringing him up the right way. She remembered the old Jesuit saying: "Give us a child until the age of seven, and he will be ours for life." Well, from what the Globe had shown them, Jonathan and Martha had had Clark from when he was barely a few months old until he was ten -- more than enough time to instil in him the values which both he and they held dear.

There was more to him than that, of course. The shattering loss of his parents at such a young age, the years that he had been in the clutches of "the system", his... abusive relationship with Lana, moving to Metropolis, the need to continually hide his true nature until it was suddenly revealed to the entire world, and then the stress of a life perpetually in the public eye -- they'd all left their mark on him. And yet, now that she had met the Kents, she could see that the real core of what made Clark Kent the man he was came from Jonathan and Martha; and the system, his ex-fiancée, the big city, the prying eyes of a sensation-hungry world... none of them had been able to touch that. Deep down, this amazing man who could fly, see through walls and lift jumbo jets was... a Kansas farmer's son; one with years of experience out in the big, wide, wicked world rather than a green kid fresh off the turnip truck, but a farm boy for all that.

On the other hand, Jonathan and Martha didn't seem to be ordinary farmers. Over the course of the evening, both of them had revealed knowledge, interests, hobbies and downright enquiring minds that would put many a "sophisticated" city slicker of her acquaintance to shame -- Martha in particular. Jonathan was perhaps more conventional that way than his wife, but he was no ignorant hayseed, not by a long shot, and the range of subjects that the two couples had discussed was phenomenal, even if most of them had cropped up almost by accident as the conversation ebbed and flowed between memories and tales of what everyone had been doing recently.

She was sure that Clark had been equally impressed. That was surprising -- or was it? The accident that made him an orphan for the second time had happened when he was ten, and how many ten-year-olds really knew their parents' interests -- or could really imagine them having them, for that matter? At that age, kids were pretty self-centred, and Mom and Dad were there to do all the things that you took for granted until they weren't there; they provided food, clothing, shelter, support, love...

That was how it was supposed to work, anyway. Lois grimaced at the unwanted thought of how her parents had spent all their time fighting when she was ten. She wondered who had been better off at that age, herself or Clark; at least she'd had Lucy -- then.

She shook her head in exasperated denial; she did not want to think about her family right now. Far better to remember Clark thinking out loud, quoting Lewis Carroll in amazement at the scope of the conversation with the Kents. At one point during the evening, he had been sitting back in his chair, a small, fond smile on his face as he slowly looked about him while Jonathan described some esoteric farm practice -- or so it seemed to Lois. She was sure she had heard her partner murmur something about "shoes and ships and sealing wax..." but, at the time, she was telling Martha about the no more than six things that she felt able to cook properly, and could only spare him an amused glance. She wondered whether he was any good as a carpenter, and how she could get revenge for the implied description of her as a walrus... Or was Jonathan the carpenter, which would make Martha the walrus (or vice versa) ...and Lois and Clark oysters?

She grinned, filing the idea away for later when she would be able to use it to tease her partner... which brought her back to the barn and his peculiar wish to sleep in it. After the Globe had finished playing the messages from Jor-El, stunned silence had reigned in the kitchen as Jonathan and Martha did their best to come to terms with the return to reality after the astounding images that they had just experienced. Lois had felt the same awe that had engulfed her the first time she had seen the messages -- was it only a few hours ago? -- so she understood, at least partially, how the Kents must feel, although she knew that she couldn't begin to comprehend how it must feel to find out what had brought them to discover that tiny baby in a spaceship so many years ago. She just hoped it helped them achieve a sense of closure -- although, with Clark there now as an adult, she wasn't sure if that would be possible.

The thought of her partner had drawn her eyes to him, and she saw that he was regarding the older couple with that same caring, compassionate (loving?) expression that she had seen in his eyes at times in the past... when he looked at her at times. But he made no move to approach them, letting them seek and draw comfort and reassurance from one another; she had no doubt that he wanted to help, but he wouldn't try, it seemed, unless he knew that they were prepared to accept it.

Remember that, her inner self had ordered. This man does not presume, does not push himself onto people, not even those closest to him, no matter how much he may want or need to help; he offers, but those offered must accept it before he will impose on them.

And if he's like that with his "parents", why wouldn't he be the same with
you?

Lois had no answer, nor any real inclination to get into an argument on the subject at the moment; instead, she watched in silence as Clark put the Globe back into the chest, and the locked chest into his rucksack.

"It's getting late," he said, beginning to pick up their luggage. "We'd better find somewhere to stay. Who runs the Smallville Motel these days?"

"Oh, don't be silly," Martha had immediately replied, shaking off the emotions roused by seeing the fate of Krypton -- at least for now. "Why go to all that trouble and spend good money to stay in an uncomfortable motel room when you could stay right here? Red does his best, but Smallville just doesn't have enough visitors for him to run to anything fancy, so you'll be much more comfortable here. Lois can have the guest room, and Clark, you can sleep on the couch." And then, as though suddenly thinking of it, she fixed them both with an amused eye, tilted her head and lifted one brow ever so slightly. "That is, unless you two are..."

At the time, Lois didn't know whether to be shocked or to burst out laughing at Martha's playful coyness; what she now found surprising, having had time to reflect, was that she'd never even thought of being insulted, or been angry, or even annoyed. That wasn't like her -- she thought -- and she wondered why she'd been able to treat the other woman's insinuations so calmly. Maybe it was because there was nothing sleazy about the question, nor anything judgemental; Martha had simply wanted to know, and if she could tease her guests a little at the same time -- but not in a malicious way -- so much the better. By the twinkle in her eye, Lois was fairly sure that Martha had already known the answer, but the other woman still felt it polite to ask -- or maybe she needed to distract herself from what she'd just experienced -- and so she'd made a game out of asking, out of consideration for Lois' (and Clark's) feelings.

Lois had blushed and ducked her head, unable to meet the eyes of anyone -- especially Clark. But when she did finally lift her head, she found her partner watching her sympathetically, but only for a moment, just long enough to assure himself that she was all right. Then he'd turned to Martha and replied in a pleasant but nonetheless firm tone, "No, we're work partners and friends, but that's all. But we'll gratefully accept your hospitality. Actually, Martha, if you and Jonathan don't mind, rather than sleep on the couch, I'd kinda like to..."

"To what, Clark?" Jonathan asked curiously.

"Um... to sleep in the barn..." Clark said -- and now, he was blushing. "I... I haven't done that since I was nine, and I'd like to, if it's no trouble. I don't need blankets or pillows or anything; I can float in my sleep -- I even do that unconsciously sometimes. And it might be a good idea if I was outside, just in case Trask or his goons turn up. I'd be able to change, fly out through the skylight, circle back and grab them without them realising where I came from..."

"Okay, okay, son, fine..." Jonathan assured him, holding up his hands in mock surrender. "Are you sure you won't need anything in the way of bedding?"

Clark was about to repeat that he didn't need anything when Martha broke in, "Take some, anyway! You don't want hay getting everywhere, and that way, you won't have to float all the time. Besides, half the fun of sleeping in the barn is lurking up in the loft among the hay-bales; it's been a while since we did it last, but I can still remember -- right, Jonathan?"

She winked at her husband, who blushed slightly under his tan, and neither Lois nor Clark missed the innuendo. For want of a good reason not to, or perhaps because he suspected that he'd have better luck fighting a hurricane, Clark gave in and, after putting down Lois' bags, accepted two old blankets -- worn, but in good condition -- and a quilt of similar vintage, all of which Martha produced from a small room (the laundry?) just off the kitchen.

He pulled down his glasses and, Lois presumed, made one last super-vision sweep for intruders, then shouldered his rucksack and bade everyone good-night before stepping outside and closing the door carefully behind him.

Which brought her full circle: Clark was out there in the barn (unless he'd had to fly off to be Superman), and she was here, in the Kents' "guest room", which she suspected had been Clark's room in his parents' farmhouse, and she needed to get some sleep because morning would arrive all too soon, and Trask and his gorillas were coming...

But so much was going around and around inside her head that she couldn't relax, and most of it had to do with Clark. It was hard to believe that she hadn't met him, or ever heard of Superman, the Kents, Smallville, Krypton, Kryptonite, etc., etc., a mere two weeks ago; he had become so much a part of her life so quickly that, if she hadn't known better, she'd have been suspecting him of using the telepathic powers that he denied having to brainwash her!

But she didn't believe that. No, Clark Kent had claimed a place in Lois' life and friendship by being everything that she thought a man could never be -- nor the vast majority of women, for that matter. He hadn't needed telepathic brainwashing; all he'd done was to trust her, and like her, and support her, and respect her, and be honest with her, and not be intimidated by her...

Ha! All, Lois? That's a pretty big order, you know.

Yes, it was, she had to admit, but the size of the "order" hadn't deterred Clark in the least. Of course, he was Superman, so size, weight or whatever wasn't going to bother him...

Bad metaphor, girl. You know you're not talking about anything physical, so his muscles, super or not, aren't going to be any help.

That was true, but it didn't seem to have made any difference whether the burden was physical or emotional; right from the start, from the night when he'd saved her life and then calmly proceeded to tell her who and what he was, with the promise to tell her anything else about him that she wanted to know -- a promise he'd kept -- Clark had never given her any reason to think that being with her, working with her, being her partner -- being her friend -- was a strain.

They'd had their ups and downs, but all relationships, of whatever type, took work, and Lois had never thought that Clark felt that the effort wasn't worth it, not even when she'd attacked him for real or imaginary offences. It was something that he wanted to do, and he did it -- carefully, with consideration for her feelings (more than she showed for his, she was sure), and so easily...

He made her laugh; he got annoyed, and even angry, when people put her down; he tried not to crowd her or hurt her feelings; he wanted her to stay safe, but he also knew that risk was part of her job; he showed her things and places that no-one else had ever seen, and delighted in it; he said that he needed her... in short, he cared.

What it boiled down to was that Clark Kent was a warm, outgoing, friendly man, but, in a piece of supreme irony, he could hardly ever be friends with anyone because of his secret, and the only person he had as a real friend was a woman who had almost forgotten how to be one! And he seemed quite happy about it...

And then there was that connection between them, that bond or whatever it was that somehow drew them together and took them apart from the world and showed each of them the true self of the other (the soul? Did she dare even think that?). And what was there, both in him and, to her surprise, in herself, was pure and beautiful and open and unafraid...

So maybe, just maybe, the thought emerged from the mental and emotional turmoil in her head, Clark might have even more to give to a woman-- to her. If, that is, she could bring herself to let him try. And to try herself. To become more than a "work partner and friend." If that was what she wanted. If that was what he wanted...

Oh, God, could it be true? she asked herself. Is he really like that... can I really trust him not to hurt me? It was scary to think about -- heck, it was terrifying! But it was such an incredible possibility that a little part of her, something that she'd suppressed, ruthlessly crushed for years, was starting to lift its head again... and there was hope in its eyes.

Lois grabbed her pillow and hugged it to her almost desperately. She didn't know what to think, and the feelings that had begun to surge through her were overwhelming. She wished... she wished... she wished Clark were there to hold her!

But he wasn't, and he couldn't be, because he'd want to know why she was upset, and how he could help, and what could she say? "I'm upset because I don't know how you feel about me, and I don't know how I feel about you, but I've started to feel something, even if I don't know what it is, and you're not like anyone I've ever known, and getting to know you has made me realise that, deep down, I might want something I thought I could never have because there was no such thing, but you've shown me that it might exist after all, but only if you want it, too, and I don't know what to think about that, either, and the whole thing scares me silly!"

Oh, sure. That'll be a big help! He'll think you're crazy, and he won't be far wrong!

She rolled over, restless and anxious and unable to relax, and tried not to think about anything at all... but her eyes kept being drawn to the window, until exhaustion finally claimed her and she slept.

*****

The thing about sleep is... eventually, you have to wake up frown -- something which has never been Lois' forte, even in Metropolis. But there are compensations -- like, say, breakfast. Join us next time for Lois' introduction to farm life, breakfast chez Kent, and a stroll around Smallville on a fine autumn morning...

And remember: what Wendy and I want from you lot in return for this little "gift" is lots of FDK -- the drug of authors! biggrin


Phil
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"Ping! Ping! Ping!" -- Mother Box