It keeps getting longer... heading towards the wind-up, but we'll see!

~~~~~~

As Lois watched Clark blur away in the early morning sun, relief filled her.

He was going to be all right.

Hope was alive again.

She felt shaky from the rush down the stairs of the Planet and fearing she had nearly lost Clark, so she leaned against the cool brick wall of a nearby building to steady herself as it all suddenly became too much.

The flight with Superman, saving Clark, and realizing they were both one and the same as the Blur. And somehow, she fit into his remarkable destiny. It was overwhelming.

But here, in the cool morning sun, the city still cold from the rain, she couldn’t help but feel a little bit lost. How was she to reconcile what she knew with the man Clark was today? How would she talk to him and know what to say without forcing him to reveal the truth?

How could she be the woman that he so obviously loved in that distant future?

Her emotions bubbled over as tears began to fall, her bedraggled hair plastered to her face. She indulged in tears for only a moment, though. She needed to pull herself together. She could do this, she thought, taking a deep breath. Clark needed her, he had said so.

She loved him, but she was only beginning to really understand him. She realized she knew facets of him between her encounters with the Blur and Superman, but seeing that prism in the full light of day all together, was quite dazzling.

Her reflex was to bolt, to leave town, give them both some space. But she wondered how long she had already been gone thanks to the ring. Would it be crueler to Clark to leave without letting him know she was at least okay?

She took another deep breath as her tears dried, closing her eyes as she calmed. Maybe she could buy herself a few hours at least. Just a little time to find out how long she had been gone, and how she would face Clark without falling into a puddle of mush.

She decided she would head to Smallville. It was a good two-hour drive, if she took the back roads. And it would give her time to think, and adjust.

She found her jeep a short time later in the Planet parking deck. She was glad she had opted for keyless entry when she bought the car, as she had no idea where her real keys were, so she could start the car with just a code. She was always moving or chasing a story, making keys more of an annoyance than a convenience.

As she shifted into drive and out of the lot, doing a normal thing such as driving started to steady her. Lois blasted some Whitesnake as she headed out of the city, the windows down, taking in the cool morning air. She put her hand out the window, riding the wave of air as she drove, and she couldn’t help but think of the magical flight she had had in Superman’s arms---in Clark’s arms, she clarified. She shook her head with a rueful laugh, still having a hard time believing the truth about her favorite farm boy.

As the golden wheat fields of Kansas began to replace the city skyline, Lois started feeling anxious again. She was scared of making a mistake, of confessing all to Clark right off the bat and potentially ruining their future. Superman had been clear that it was her patience with Clark coming around to tell the truth about himself that had been key to moving their relationship forward. But in the light of day, Lois couldn’t remember a time she had ever been patient.

And that’s what scared her now.

Before she was ready, she was entering Smallville. The Talon loomed ahead, and though she suspected Chloe would be there, she couldn’t seem to stop the jeep there. And the Kent farm was a definite no, at least until she got her head together.

She drove around for another half hour, until she found herself on the other edge of Smallville. She suddenly remembered a place from long ago that was just beyond this end of town. She used to tease Clark about his seemingly nerdy interest in the Kawatche cave drawings out here, but now, in light of what she knew about him, she wondered if there hadn’t been something else going on there.

Her curiosity stirred, and having found an excuse to avoid the inevitable, Lois headed for the caves. If nothing else, she knew it was a special place to Clark, and maybe she could do some thinking there and decide how she would handle seeing him again.

The grasses near the caves were overgrown, indicating that no one had been out here in quite a while. Lois turned off her jeep and headed inside. She was surprised by how cool it was in the caves, as the sun was already reaching quite warm temperatures outside. She remembered to bring her flashlight, and hoped not to run into any wild animals or worse, other snoopers that may be lurking.

“Hello?” she called tentatively, her voice echoing loudly through the cave as she stepped inside. It was easier to just face one’s fears than skulk around; if anyone was there, she’d prefer to find out sooner rather than later.

But she heard nothing but the sound of her own footsteps and the spludge of water dripping somewhere. She flashed the light around the cave, intrigued by the drawings there. One drawing showed a star, falling from the sky, and another of a two-headed figure. Most of the pictures didn’t make much sense to her, but she could tell they were describing a story, and she somehow knew, this was Clark’s story.

Her fingers traced the pictures of the cave, as she silently asked the cave her questions.

Does he really need me? How did I never see the truth about Clark? How do we go forward from here?

“I don’t know what to do, Smallville,” she whispered at last, maybe trying to reach that other, future Clark for some advice. “I don’t want to ruin everything.”

She wandered around the inside of the cave, ending up at some symbols that were laid out in a circle. Three separate stones seemed embedded in the wall itself, and her fingers traced over them. They suddenly came to life, lighting up blue, red, and yellow in turn. She had no time to be afraid, because before she could move, a flash of light appeared and she was suddenly transported somewhere else.

This light was different than the ring’s light when she had put it on and went to the future. This was warmer, more enveloping, and more powerful.

When she opened her eyes again, she was standing in a large, frozen cave. Crystals of ice or glass surrounded her, mesmerizing her with their beauty. She looked around in awe, wondering if this was yet another secret Clark had kept hidden.

“Hello?” she whispered aloud, her voice echoing and tremulous. She didn’t expect anyone to actually answer, but the cave around her seemed alive somehow, even if it was still and freezing cold; it seemed full of energy, if devoid of life.

“Welcome, Lois Lane,” came a deep voice from above her suddenly, or around her… she couldn’t detect from where, but it made her jump.

She spun around, a little freaked out as she called, “Who are you? How do you know my name?” She wrapped her arms around herself, trying to keep warm.

“I am Jor-El, father of Kal-El… the one you will call Superman.”

She felt her mouth go dry—this was Clark’s real father? If this was true, then at least she didn’t think she had anything to fear. That made her feel a little better, and when next she spoke, her voice was a little stronger. “How—why am I here?”

“You activated the portal. But I brought you here, Lois Lane.”

“Why?” she asked, breathless and still in shock. She couldn’t believe she was having a conversation with Clark’s real alien father, and he was somehow not really here. Or he was… in the crystals perhaps?

“I have been preparing Kal-El for his destiny… and I have come to accept that you are a part of that destiny as well, Lois Lane.”

“I am?” she asked weakly, thinking again of those wonderful moments flying with Superman, and how all of this just seemed bigger than what she was ready for.

“But you are frightened of what lies ahead. You don’t know how to speak to Kal-El… And as much as I have fought his feelings for you, I have seen they are real. But what I don’t know is what you feel for him.”

Clark’s father sounded skeptical of her feelings and Lois felt a little affronted. “Rest assured, Mr.—El , I love your son. I knew for a long time, but the timing was never right… and now---“

“Are you willing to sacrifice, to learn what it is like to accept Kal-El’s burden?”

She wasn’t sure what he was talking about, but she knew she would face anything to be with Clark. “I’ll do whatever it takes for Clark. I love him,” she said fiercely, determined not to look weak.

“You will lend him strength as my wife Lara did for me on Krypton. I can no longer deny that Clark needs you.”

Lois glossed over the whole question about where was Krypton, and in typical style, went instead to the heart of the matter. “So is this why you brought me here? To, um, welcome me to the family?” she asked with a shrug. “Cause it’s getting pretty cold in here… I could have done with just a phone call or something,” she tried for levity, but the disembodied voice around her didn’t seem to have a sense of humor.

“Lois Lane, you have seen the future. You know what Kal-El’s destiny is and you know that you cannot tell him what you know until he reveals his secrets to you himself. So, I will grant you a power to help guide you, and help you understand the responsibilities my son carries.”

“A power?” she whispered, a little floored by the very idea of having a super-power. But the crystal cold cave and the voice that seemed part of it was real, and for Clark’s sake she knew she had to try to understand. This wasn’t a game, she knew. It was a sort of test, a trial. And she was determined not to fail, no matter how Jor-El would test her. “Like Cl—I mean, Kal-El’s powers?” she asked, thinking how little she knew about who he really was, what he actually could do---superspeed… and some sort of power with fire, she thought, but she was vague on the details. She felt nervous at the prospect of wielding powers like those. She hoped Clark’s ice castle father knew what he was doing.

Jor-El ignored her questions. She felt the palace grow brighter once more as she heard Jor-El’s final words. “At the break of dawn tomorrow, you will discover your power, yours until sunset. Use it well. Good luck, Lois Lane.”

In another flash of light, she was back in the cave. Lois turned to face the wall that had lit up before and she laid her hand on it, trying to make sense of what had just happened. But no lights flashed around her this time, just the cool wall of the cave and the sound of water dripping somewhere in its shadows.

Her flashlight was lying on the ground, still on. She reached for it and then headed to the sliver of sunlight that was on the other side of the cave. She felt a shiver as she left. And she wasn’t sure if it was from her visit to that cold winter palace or her talk with Jor-El, but something had left her feeling spooked.

She made her way to her jeep, deep in thought. Jor-El was going to grant her a power tomorrow to help her understand Clark.

She felt even more nervous than when she had driven out here.

Maybe she should have gone to see Clark first after all.

~\S/~

Lois drove back to the Talon, suddenly feeling exhausted. It was only four in the afternoon, but between her trips through time and to the caves, she was worn out. She was relieved when she didn’t see Chloe’s car in the parking lot, as she was even less ready to face her little cousin now, even though she could do with a friend.

But how do you talk to anyone about secret ice castles and superpowers?

No wonder Clark seemed so alone at times. He had been carrying this huge secret for so long, obviously terrified to tell anyone… yet Lois knew Chloe knew. She wondered how that had happened. She was almost certain he hadn’t told her of his own volition, though, which made her sigh sadly. She hoped that whatever power Jor-El was going to give her, it would help her face her fears.

She hoped it would give her the strength to tell Clark that she loved him, no matter what, and that soon, there would be no more secrets between them.

~\S/~

Lois woke up early the next morning. She rolled over, seeing it was just after five. She had slept nearly twelve hours. It seemed her adventures were taking their toll. She groaned as she flopped the covers back over herself.

Then suddenly, nervous excitement filled her. The sun was coming up—and supposedly she had a super-power. She sat up quickly in bed, feeling a little dizzy at the sudden movement.

She slipped on her bunny slippers and shuffled into the kitchen and turned on a light. She sure didn’t feel any different… As she started the coffee pot, she noticed movement over on the sofa. Chloe was lying there, sleeping.

Lois looked carefully at her cousin, noticing it seemed like she had been crying.

Lois continued to make her coffee, wondering if Chloe was upset about Clark. Had she known about Clark’s apparent fight with Zod? She wished she could tell her cousin everything was okay…
Lois curled her legs under as she sat down on the plush chair, momentarily distracted from worrying about what power Jor-El had given her as she watched her cousin sleep.

Chloe slowly opened her eyes, meeting Lois’ gaze.

“Lois?” she said sleepily. Chloe scooted up to a sitting position and Lois moved to sit next to her, setting down her coffee so she could give her cousin a hug. “Where have you been?”

“Here and there,” Lois said quietly, meaning to sound light, but failing seeing her cousin’s distressed look.

“I’m glad you’re back,” Chloe said. I know you can’t tell me where you were, any more than I can explain how I know you were in the future… But I don’t care. I am just glad you’re here. You may be all I have left.

“Chloe, what’s the matter?” Lois asked with concern, brushing Chloe’s hair out of her eyes.

Chloe pulled away slightly, shaking her head and wiped her eyes, flashing Lois a smile. “N—nothing. Is there any more brew from where that came from?”

Lois wasn’t convinced Chloe was all right, but made her way to the kitchen. “Yeah, just hold on… so why didn’t you wake me up when you got in? You didn’t have to sleep on the sofa, you know.”

“I was just relieved to see you were here. And you seemed exhausted… But I’m fine, Lois, really.” I’ve just lost my best friend and the man I think I’m falling in love with, but I’ll make it through… I have to.

Lois looked at her cousin in astonished puzzlement. She could have sworn she heard Chloe say something about losing a friend and the man she was falling in love with---could Chloe still harbor feelings for Clark?

“What is it, Lois? You look like you’ve seen a ghost or something,” Chloe said nervously.

Lois plastered her own smile on her face. “No, I was just thinking… um, have you seen Clark?” she asked, watching carefully for Chloe’s reaction.

“Clark?” Chloe said weakly, her smile fading as sadness filled her eyes. How am I going to explain that Clark is gone forever? “Um, n—no. Not recently, why?”

“Just wondering,” Lois said, certain now that she was actually hearing what Chloe was thinking. Wait. Hearing? Realization suddenly hit her. This was it, Jor-El’s gift---the ability to hear people’s thoughts.

She rolled her eyes, muttering, “Great.”

“What?”

“Um, nothing. Just spilled some coffee,” Lois said, mulling over the idea of this power. Why couldn’t Jor-El have picked something fun like superspeed or—flying! But this---?

Lois came back over to the sofa and handed Chloe a steaming mug of coffee.

“Thanks,” Chloe said appreciatively, taking a sip. I’m going to start crying like a baby any moment now and have no way to explain why. When did we stop being honest with each other, Lo? We used to tell each other all of our secrets.

“I know,” Lois said softly.

“Huh?”

Lois turned and smiled at her cousin, “I know---what will cheer you up—“

“I’m fine, Lois… just a little tired is all.” Tired, and terrified. With Clark gone and Ollie missing—

“Ollie?” Lois whispered aloud, as she began to understand.

“What did you say?”

“Nothing… It’s just early. I don’t think either of us are functioning on all four cylinders yet… I’m going to hop in the shower and then we can ride in to Metropolis together, okay?” Are Chloe and Ollie together?

Chloe nodded, though she looked anxious to Lois. I need to get to Watchtower, ASAP. If there is any sign of Oliver, I’ll find him.

Lois looked askance at Chloe, wanting desperately to ask her about what happened to Oliver, but she held her tongue. And an apparent budding romance between the two? It made Lois smile, really. She had been so worried about Ollie losing himself, and if Chloe was able to pull him back from that abyss, so much the better. She wished her cousin would confide in her though… maybe she was scared what Lois would think. But Lois couldn’t be happier.

Lois shook her head, and focused on getting ready for a shower. Regardless, if Chloe was worried about Oliver being missing, that had to be taken care of first. Maybe Clark would know something about Oliver…

Clark.

She was going to see him and hear his thoughts. It made her stomach flip—with fear. Did Clark himself have this power? She certainly hoped not... there had been times where it seemed like he could read her mind. But there were far many more that ruled that possibility out. No, Lois was pretty sure this was her very own little gift from Clark's dear old ice daddy.

Though she couldn't see how this little gift could help matters. Surely this would only make things more complicated!

Lois took a deep breath. She wanted to see Clark, desperately. And he was likely the only one who could help Oliver, wherever he was.

But what was she going to say to him?

She shook her head ruefully. Flying would have been so much easier.

~\S/~

The mumbled sounds of people’s thoughts assaulted Lois as soon as she stepped off the elevator at the Planet. She was privy to every random thought whizzing around her, from diatribes to donuts; it was a constant hum of noise in her brain. She made her way over to her desk, wondering how she would make it through the day. She didn’t think Advil would be a strong enough cure for a superpower, but there had to be a way to shut off the track running like a thousand TVs through her mind. Jor-El must have been nuts to think this would help her understand Clark better. Speaking of, where was he?

He wasn’t at his desk, and for the first time since she came back from her recent trek to the future, she wondered if she had overestimated his abilities. Was he really all right? What if he had gone back to face Zod again? What if he hadn’t been out of danger?

“Some gift if I can’t even save---“ but she didn’t finish her mumbling as someone interrupted her.

“Lois,” Clark said, in soft, low tones behind her. She took just the barest of moments to breathe in a sigh of relief, and suddenly her thoughts focused on him, and the extraneous noise around her began to fade away. “Are you okay?” Clark asked, laying a gentle hand on her back. She had to restrain herself from melting into his touch, but instead turned to him and gave him a warm smile.

“I’m fine, Smallville.”

“I—I’ve missed you around here,” he hesitated, his eyes searching hers. “I mean---you’ve been gone almost a month.” I couldn’t sleep, Lois. I couldn’t do anything! Knowing you were out there somewhere in the future… and it was all my fault for leaving that ring around… “Are you sure everything is okay? You can tell me—“ he began, but instead his expression fell into a weak smile. If there weren’t so many secrets between us Lois---It’s unfair of me to ask you to trust me when I can’t even tell you the truth…

Lois reached out and gently squeezed his arm in comfort, trying to convey that she understood. He looked down at her touch, slightly surprised. “Don’t worry about me, Smallville. I’m okay, really,” she said, as her eyes met his. She saw so much uncertainty in his eyes and self-doubt, merely a shadow of the self-assured Clark she had met in the future. But she knew he was in there somewhere. He just needed a little encouragement.

But are you okay? Did you go back to that horrible future, Lois? Did Zod hurt you? He’s gone now… all the Kandorians are gone.

“So what happened? I mean, where did you go?” he asked cautiously. Does she remember? And if she does, am I forcing her to lie to me? Just like I lie to her everyday…

She couldn’t believe the major guilt-complex cycling through Clark’s thoughts. He really did carry the weight of the world on his shoulders sometimes.

“I was here and there,” she said, but rushed on quickly. She really didn’t want to stack the lies any higher than they already were. And though she had managed to explain her blurry visions of an apocalyptic future to him, telling him he would become a tight-wearing superhero just wasn’t going to—well, fly, at the moment. She decided it was best to focus on the other matter at hand, and somehow, she’d tell him how she felt about him later. “But Clark, there was something else I wanted to talk to you about,” she began. “Ollie is missing.”

“Oliver? What do you mean he’s missing, Lois? Oliver doesn’t check in with anyone,” Clark said reassuringly. And it’s not like he’d fill me in on any of his plans anyway.

“Well—Chloe seemed worried about him this morning—“ she began, but hesitated, uncertain how she’d explain how she knew Chloe was worried.

“Chloe?” Surely she has an eye in the sky looking after Oliver. How do I reassure Lois without telling her how things really work around here?

“Yeah,” Lois said, looking intently at him. ‘Eye in the sky’? What the hell does that mean?

“Well, look, Lois, we all know how Oliver goes off on his own to do whatever. Just give it another day, I’m sure everything is fine,” he said, reaching to squeeze her shoulder comfortingly. But if Oliver really is missing, then I need to look into it.

She met his eyes and did feel comforted, knowing he’d do all he could if Oliver was in danger, so she gave him a smile of her own. His hand lingered longer than just an encouraging touch would on her shoulder and she felt his piercing blue gaze on her. Have I messed up everything, Lois? You were gone for so long… I don’t know what will become of us if we can’t be honest, but I know I can’t live my life without you in it. I can’t work at the Planet without seeing you every day. But these secrets… they’re strangling me.

She looked away from him and pretended to organize some files. His thoughts cut her to her heart and she was tempted right there to spill everything that she knew. She didn’t know how long she could keep this up, letting him beat himself up like this. She always thought Clark was stoic and strong, but she didn’t realize how hard on himself he could be. She had to lighten his mood, give him some hope.

Lois turned back to him, giving him a beaming smile. “I was thinking… about that date? I mean, do you still want to?”

“The date?” he sighed. I didn’t think we’d get a second chance…. You were gone for so long, Lois. I thought you were gone forever. “Yeah, I was afraid you… “ Clark suddenly looked to his right and tilted his head as Lois watched him carefully. There’s a fire in an apartment building… I could be there in just a few seconds. But Lois— He looked back at her, his eyes reassuring. “Sure. Is Alessandro’s still a good choice?”

“Sure, Smallville. Tonight then?” she said, resisting the urge to shoo him away to go take care of that fire.

“Absolutely.” I’ve missed you, Lois. I’d do anything for you.

She purposely turned away from him so he could make a quick exit, unable to keep the grin off her face. Lois felt a slight breeze behind her, and wondered how she had missed that before.
She turned back around when she was sure he had gone.

“I’d do anything for you, too,” she murmured, glancing at the newsroom TV screens to see the media praising the Blur who had quickly taken care of the fire, saving hundreds of lives.

Maybe Clark wasn’t so far away from the Superman of her future after all.


Edited by mozartmaid (08/29/11 09:07 AM)
_________________________
Smallville:
Clark: ...You know, there are times when I think you don't know me at all, and others where I think you know me better than anyone.
Lois: That's what I'm here for, Smallville – one save at a time.