When Lois could pull herself together, she left the restaurant… a simple dinner alone with Clark would have to wait for another time. That is, if they ever could come together without the confusion of lies and secrets between them.
Lois stepped out onto the street, a misting rain beginning to envelope the city. She pulled out her phone, seeing that there hadn’t been a response from Chloe from her earlier text. She decided to call her, unsure of where Clark had headed for first.
Lois wiped the tears from under her eyes and pressed ‘call.’
Though she had almost expected it, her heart lurched a bit when Chloe didn’t answer. She hoped that Clark had gotten to her in time.
Frustrated by not knowing how she could help, Lois wandered around the city, thinking over the day, and especially over her dinner with Clark. She didn’t understand what Jor-El had wanted her to learn with her temporary power, except that knowing the truth about people, trying to care for everyone, was difficult and even painful.
She understood the burden on Clark’s shoulders a bit more though. With his powers, he had chosen to help people when and wherever possible, yet he felt guilty whenever he couldn’t get to someone, or he had to choose who had the most need. How did he do it, make those decisions every day?
However he managed to do so many extraordinary things every day, help so many people, she fundamentally believed he should be happier, should be on the way to becoming that confident hero of the future. Instead, he seemed –afraid, guilty even.
And Lois thought she understood, at least partly, the source of those feelings. It must be Jor-El; she could imagine what an imposing father he must be to Clark, so unlike the loving and supportive atmosphere he had growing up as the son of Jonathan Kent. Jor-El must have burdened his son with an impossible mantle of responsibility, and though Clark carried it well, he also seemed weighed down by it. With Jonathan gone, shouldn’t Jor-El be there to support his son?
Lois knew that only Clark could stop Chloe and save Oliver. She knew Clark could get to Chloe before she could—but maybe Lois could help in another way. Maybe it was time to go back to that ice fortress and confront Jor-El. She had her own questions that needed answering, and maybe in the process, she could help Clark as well.
Clark was back at Watchtower in the blink of an eye.
“Chloe?” he called, not seeing her. He felt his heart in his throat, that maybe Lois had been right, that Chloe was going to trade herself for Oliver.
Clark hoped it wasn’t already too late to stop her.
He blurred out of Watchtower, and sped towards the edge of the city, where people often went to carry out their shady dealings. In seconds, he scoured ten miles, at last spotting two dark vans, stopped opposite each other by the river.
A light rain was beginning to fall, and he saw Oliver, his hands tied behind his back and a hood drawn over his face step out of the first van, two men in dark suits holding him. At the same moment, Chloe, tied and blindfolded similarly, stepped out of the other. Clark couldn’t believe what he saw, as the men led the two to opposite vans. Clark couldn’t believe the sacrifice that Chloe was willing to make for Oliver, to be taken who knows where...
How had Lois known? Clark knew Lois could investigate better than anyone, and often got herself into trouble in the process---but how had she known about this? Surely Chloe hadn’t told her; she would know that Lois would do all she could to stop her. Clark wondered if the ring had shown her this. But his questions would have to wait. Clark had to stop them, had to stop Chloe from putting herself at the mercy of those who wanted to see ‘vigilantes’ like himself and Oliver stopped.
As Oliver and Chloe began to cross paths, making an obvious switch between the two vans, Clark supersped over, and snatched them away from their captors. Clark didn’t stop until he reached Watchtower, his friends held close to him.
Clark set them down in Watchtower at last, taking off their blindfolds and breaking their handcuffs. All three of them stared at each other, dumfounded a moment.
Oliver, his face bruised and bleeding, glanced up at Clark, and then looked over at Chloe. They were both still on the floor, still breathing heavily, trying to make sense of what had almost just happened. Oliver's jaw clenched, as he seemed to struggle with what to say.
“I—“ he hesitated.
Chloe, her eyes wide with shock, and then suddenly wet with tears, launched herself at Oliver. “I would have done anything to save you,” she whispered fiercely into his neck.
Oliver wrapped his arm around her, holding her close, and then glanced up at Clark. His eyes met his friend’s, and he simply nodded in Clark’s direction an unspoken ‘thank you,’ as he realized what Chloe had intended to do.
Clark nodded in return, glad they were safe. But this reunion only made him want to get back to Lois, to talk to her and get some answers. He supersped out of the tower, leaving the reunited couple to themselves.
“You foolish, foolish girl,” Oliver whispered into Chloe’s hair, holding her closer to his side once Clark left. “What were you thinking?”
Chloe pulled back from him, meeting his eyes. “I—I was trying to rescue you,” she said through tears. “How did Clark know?”
“I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. You’re safe. That’s all that matters, you’re safe,” he said, pulling her close to give her a kiss.
Chloe met him halfway, thinking how she had almost disappeared into oblivion. God knows what would have happened to her if she had gone through with the trade. She may well have never been heard from again.
But it would have been worth it to know that Oliver was free. She’d do anything for him, make any sacrifice for him. She knew that now, and so did he.
She looked into his eyes, seeing the concern there, the love. She felt foolish as well, considering how easily Clark had solved it all… yet she had been willing to take the burden, make the sacrifice. Perhaps to prove, at last, that she too could be a hero. It was selfish pride, and she knew it. She had trusted what the Helmet of Nabu had shown her, that everything would be fine. She simply hadn’t accounted for the possibility that it was Clark that would make it so. It was always Clark that saved the day, after all-- and selfishly, she had wanted to be the hero, just this once. “I’m sorry, Oliver. I—just wanted you to be okay.”
“Doesn’t matter, Chloe. We’re safe. Doesn’t matter,” he whispered, as once more his bronze head, bent to meet her golden one.
Finding Lois had left the restaurant, Clark resignedly went to his favorite perch over the city to think. He took out the Legion ring, contemplating what Lois had told him tonight.
“I used to think that the Blur was simply an unseeable force, but one who wanted to do good in the world. Then, when I started talking to him, I realized he was a man, with feelings and flaws. But he tries so hard to do what is right.”
He thought of how she had looked at him at the restaurant, as if she could see right through him. It was almost as if—she knew. Clark studied the ring, wondering where it had taken her, what it had shown her… Had the ring shown her what was going to happen with Chloe and Oliver? Or, had she been to another time and seen him as he really was?
The possibility sent his heart thudding in his chest, partly with anticipation, and partly with fear. With Lana, his secret had been a manipulation, a wall that both of them hid behind in one form or another, and it had poisoned them. But with Lois—she accepted the Blur without questions, she seemed to love the Blur, but she also seemed to care about him, about Clark.
Had she learned they were one and the same? Or was she simply torn between the two, unable to see their connection, yet drawn to both of them equally?
Had he been too rash to judge her feelings, thinking that she only saw the Blur? Her trust in Clark seemed just as sure, just as strong… If only he knew what she had seen of the future, if only he could piece together that puzzle, maybe he’d understand her heart as well.
He contemplated putting on the ring, but its powers were somewhat unpredictable. It would move one to a time that was needed either for understanding, or to fix an anomaly. But to rashly put on the ring, without knowing where or when to go, could be disaster.
No, it was best if he talked to Lois himself. Maybe he could break down these barriers of secrets and lies once and for all, and learn how she had known about Chloe and Oliver. Had the ring shown her?
It didn’t matter, though. What mattered was talking to Lois as honestly as he could. And maybe if she shared her secrets, he could begin to share his as well.
Lois drove towards the Kawatche caves with anxiety roiling in her belly. She didn’t know if this was a good idea, but she didn’t know how else she would truly understand what Jor-El wanted—from either of them.
It was dark by the time she reached the caves. Lois pulled out her flashlight, her nervousness increasing with each step forward.
“You’ve faced Ice Daddy once, Lois. You can do it again,” she whispered to herself.
Once in the cave, it didn’t take her long to find the strange wall with the circular markings that had transported her to the fortress before. However, her first attempts at trying to open the gate failed. She couldn’t seem to do the right combination.
Frustrated at her futile attempts, she slammed her fist against the wall and cried, her voice echoing all around her, “I want to speak to you, Jor-El! What are you, a coward?”
At that, the circle glowed bright again, and with a gasp, Lois was transported to the ice fortress.
“Lois Lane, why have you returned?” Jor-El asked, sounding somewhat irritated.
“I—I want to know why you gave me that gift. What was I supposed to learn except that there is too much suffering in the world?” she asked, surprising herself that her voice was choked with tears.
“Exactly that, Lois Lane. Clark’s burden is to lessen the ills of your planet, and you needed to understand what a burden that is to him.”
“But why must it be a burden?” she asked, looking up and around her at the glowing crystals. “Why can’t Clark be happy? Have joy? You’ve burdened him with this impossible task of saving the world—and he’s just one man. One extraordinary man, but still…”
“Clark sees his gifts as burdens because he understands the weight of responsibility placed on him, which you do not.”
“I get it, I do. And Clark is a hero already. But perhaps it’s your disapproval that weighs so heavily on him. Maybe you don’t think he is up to the task… Have you tested him like you did me? Have you educated him but not loved him? Have you chastened him but not given him advice? Have you forgotten how to be a father and support your son?”
Suddenly, Lois felt frozen to the spot. Light surrounded her, cold and harsh, and lifted her up above the snowy ground below her.
“Perhaps I was too quick to say you have a place beside my son, Lois Lane. I do love my son. Perhaps it is you who doesn’t love him, is not strong enough to support him in his destiny.”
Frightened, but determined not to show it, Lois shot back, “I do love your son. And that is precisely the reason I came here. Clark already lost a father on this earth… the least you can do is try to be a father to him here. Give him encouragement instead of trials. Give him love instead of disapproval. Then I guarantee you, Clark will become the hero that we all know is in him.”
Clark tried calling Lois, a little concerned that she didn’t pick up. She knew, albeit indirectly, that he was trying to help Oliver and Chloe. He thought she would be eager to answer her phone, to know what had happened. Or had he misread her? Had she made her choice after all, choosing the Blur, which was a false option? Had she relinquished the information to stop Chloe in order to declare where her true heart lied?
“Lois,” he said with bittersweet affection. She simply doesn’t understand. And it’s all my fault… Reluctantly, yet full of resignation, Clark pulled out his other cell to call her as the Blur.
She didn’t answer this time either. His hand automatically went to his pocket, seeking the comfort of knowing that the Legion ring was still in his possession. She hadn’t disappeared into time… but that only worried him further.
Who else could be after Lois?
Clark continued to ring her cell, and circled the city, hitting her usual haunts in hopes of finding her. But to no avail. She wasn’t in Metropolis.
Had she headed to Smallville? Surely she would have known that the Blur could get to Chloe faster than Lois could drive to the Talon… But perhaps she had gone there for another reason, had sought comfort at the Kent farmhouse like she had done before. She had been distressed at dinner, even if Clark hadn’t understood exactly her reasons.
His heart clenched in his chest with affection and just a little trepidation. He wanted to see her, to tell her what she meant to him. But what if he was wrong? What if she wanted to talk to him to tell him that they could never be together because her heart was for the Blur? And how could he then explain the truth to her that the Blur was really just --him?
Regardless, Clark had to know. He was tired of running in circles with her. Either they would tell each other the truth or—go their separate ways.
Even though he couldn’t see the way forward if they couldn’t be together.
He had decided weeks ago, when Lois was lost in time, that a life without her was simply, no life at all.
Clark sped past the Talon, happy to see Lois’ truck nowhere in sight. Hope mingled with doubt sprang in his chest that she had sought him out as he headed to the farmhouse.
But he approached a dark house; there was no one home. Lois’ jeep wasn’t there, and there didn’t appear to be any new tracks in the drive.
How could he have been so mistaken?
Clark sat down on the porch, in the dark, with a heavy sigh. He pulled out both his cell phones, contemplating which one he should call her from.
Clark’s phone? Did she want to hear from him? Have him tell her that the Blur was able to save their friends in time but could she please come over so they could finish the conversation they were having at dinner?
Or did he perpetuate the lie one more time, and call her as the Blur? Bring her to him, and then, reveal himself as her scared best friend that simply didn’t know where to go from here if she wasn’t by his side?
He looked at his two phones, weighing them each in his hand, as if he weighed his two identities. Which one meant more to Lois? Her hero, or the man who loved her? The man who put up with-- and even secretly relished--- her tirades and her Whitesnake. The man who teased her like a brother but dreamed of holding her like a lover; who couldn’t imagine a world where Lois Lane didn’t exist.
Or the shadow of that man, who was Lois' hero?
He had almost lost himself during those dark days when Lois was lost to time. Without her cheery spirit to guide him and comfort him, he had become a ship without a compass, lost at sea.
But she had to know that it was him who was her hero. Not some faceless, nameless friend. She had to know, or they would never move forward, never move past the secrets and the lies.
At last, he crushed the phone in his left hand.
The Blur wouldn’t exist for Lois anymore. Not in the sense that he had in the past. She had to know him truly, and hopefully love him as Clark. She had to understand that loving the Blur was a false choice, as much as it pained him to admit it. He could only love her as himself, and knowing his identity was the only way they could have a future together.
Clark just hoped that when the curtain was pulled back on the mysterious Blur, and she saw it was just a man beneath all the symbols and the saves--he would be enough.
“Please pick up, Lois,” he whispered into the night air as he tried her phone once again.
But her phone went to voicemail after about a half a dozen rings… where was she?
Clark closed his eyes, leaned his head back against the porch post. He could hear a dozen night sounds all around him. In his early teens, he used to train himself to pick out and name the different sounds around him. He often kept up the exercise to not only train his senses, but to calm him. He took a deep breath and simply listened, counting and articulating the sounds around him as he tried to think what to do...
Crickets. A car passing by. An owl. A dog in the bushes. A cell phone—
His thumb had pressed her phone number again, and he could hear it ringing. Clark suddenly sat up, scanning the area for her phone. It was somewhere relatively far away, but still within range of Smallville, he gathered.
Suddenly, he took off, a horrible fear overcoming him as he headed for her phone coming from nearby the Kawatche caves.
“Lois!” he called, seeing her jeep parked outside the caves. He found her purse inside the car along with her cell phone. What was she doing out here?
He entered the caves quickly, calling her name again. But his voice echoed hollowly in the cavernous rocks around him.
Searching, his eyes landed on the portal to the fortress. Fear ripped through him, knowing his father’s unpredictability, as he wondered if Lois had somehow accessed the Fortress.
“Jor-El!” he called, anger and fear fighting for position in his heart. He swiftly ran his hands over the stones in the combination to opening the door to the Fortress.
After a flash of light, he was there, in the icy palace, and once again, he called his father’s name in anger.
“Jor-El! Where is she? What have you done with Lois?”
“She is not worthy of you, Kal-El. She has defied my authority and questioned my motives.
“What have you done to her?” Clark asked as fear gripped him. He searched around but saw no sign of her.
“She was given a trial, and though her compassion is admirable, she doesn’t understand the weight of responsibility on your shoulders, Kal-El.”
“Where is she?!” he asked more forcefully. “If you have a lesson to teach, teach it to me. But leave Lois out of this!”
All at once, he saw her, lifted above the ground, suspended in a cool light. Clark could see she was freezing, and was possibly barely conscious.
“Jor-El, let her go! You don’t know what you are doing to her!” Clark cried to the frozen walls.
“Does she love you, Kal-El?” Jor-El asked matter-of-factly. “And do you love her?”
“Yes!” Clark cried, confused by this new line of questioning. “But if she stays there, she will freeze to death!”
“She was defiant to me, but she does have a spirit that I admire. However, Kal-El, I wonder what you would do for her.”
“I would do anything,” Clark said, his voice choking. “Please, let her go.”
“Kal-El, if you love her, then you will take her from me yourself.”
Clark looked up at Lois, suspended at least thirty feet above him. He suddenly knew what he had to do. “I don’t understand why you have dragged Lois into this, Jor-El. But you will leave her alone!”
“She came to me, son, looking for answers.”
Clark’s skin suddenly prickled with understanding. If she had come here, she must know the truth. She had known at dinner. She had known he was the Blur, but had been afraid to tell him. “Oh, Lois,” he whispered, anguished by all their mixed signals and lies.
Suddenly, he prepared himself for a super jump. But he didn’t want Lois to face him with the shadow of Jor-El hanging over them, he didn't want to talk to her here. He wanted to go back to the farm, talk to her where they were both comfortable, where they both felt like home. Then perhaps there, the last of their secrets could finally melt away.
Clark jumped, snapping Lois out of Jor-El’s hold, and cut through the ceiling into the open sky. He felt a moment of fear, a moment of uncertainty as they hovered, suspended over the crystalline palace, infinite quiet stretching before them in the arctic darkness.
But Lois’ eyes opened and met his, a smile on her lips, even as they trembled from the cold. “I knew you’d come for me, Smallville.”
And suddenly, Clark was soaring across the sky. Buoyed by her smile, her trust, her love, or all three---it didn’t matter.
Clark could suddenly fly.
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.