Member # 5640
From Part 4
The one absolute in her life – a life that often spiralled way beyond weird – was Clark’s love for her.
And her love for him.
He knew that, didn’t he?
Despite her distraction and neglect for over a year – he had to know she still loved him.
He knew she would always love him.
Or had the hours alone allowed his doubts to take root and grow?
Had her neglect seemed like a dying love?
“Aww, Clark,” Lois muttered. “I still love you. Please know that.”
Clark pulled the now-empty car from the road so the lane could be re-opened. The police officer came over and thanked him for his help.
Clark nodded and scanned the area for anything else requiring his powers. Satisfied there was nothing, he lifted from the ground, feeling very relieved it was late enough that the interested onlookers were few and the media unrepresented.
He didn’t feel like answering questions. Didn’t feel like talking.
Not about a car wreck.
He settled on the top of the highest building in Metropolis and leant back with a deep sigh.
What a mess.
His heart ached for Lucy. Dan’s betrayal was surely the worst of all traitorous acts. Somehow it struck right at the essence of trust.
If Lois ...
If Lois left him ... and married someone else ... she would ... they would ...
Just the thought of it sent shooting stabs of pain through his heart.
He had so firmly fixated on the image of Lois with a child that he had been able to ignore the things that would have to come first.
He just didn’t want to think about that.
Was there any other way?
Was there any other way for Lois to have a child?
Any way that meant they could stay together?
He’d become lost in the fog of his conclusion that he needed to cultivate a distance between them – as a prelude to their separation.
Now ... now he just wasn’t sure. Wasn’t sure he couldn’t actually do it.
He loved Lois so much.
But he wasn’t enough for her. He could never give her the child she yearned for. And she had chosen to fill that hollowness with her job – not with him.
What could he do?
He groaned as his mind spun faster and faster in ever-decreasing circles of confusion.
Abruptly he stood and flew to Smallville.
Martha Kent dabbed two splotches of pastel blue paint across the deep blue that represented the ocean. She stepped back, paintbrush still poised, and studied the canvas.
She smiled. It had a pleasing balance now – a slightly offset symmetry that she enjoyed.
But the true test would be how it looked at first glance tomorrow morning. She checked the clock and was astonished at how much time had passed. Jonathan had gone to bed over two hours ago.
She gathered her brushes and palette and headed for the kitchen sink.
Before she reached it, she heard the so-familiar swoosh and detoured to open the door. As Clark walked in, she searched his face, hoping for an indication he had changed his mind about leaving Lois.
“Hi,” she said, reaching up to kiss him, while being careful to ensure that her brushes didn’t contact his suit. “How are you?”
It was a superfluous question. His face said it all. “OK,” he said, his voice lifeless.
Martha went to the sink, deposited her painting tools and filled it with water, trying not to think of the damage soaking would inflict upon her brushes. She sat next to the disconsolate figure of her son. “It’s not going so well?”
“Lucy and Dan have broken up.”
“Oh, Clark,” she said, squeezing his arm briefly. “Oh, Clark, I’m so sorry.”
“Dan is having an affair with a work colleague.”
“Oh, no.” Even in her compassion for Lucy, Martha felt a tiny thread of hope for her son. Perhaps this would make him realise that marriage was not disposable. Perhaps it would help him see that his plans - however altruistic – were totally misguided. “How’s Lois?”
“She was upset when Lucy told her.”
They fell to silence – a heavy silence. There was so much Martha wanted to ask. So many questions that had formed as she had brooded over their previous conversation. “How’s it going?” she said.
“I hate it,” he replied darkly.
“You hate what Dan did?”
Clark absently drummed his fingers on the table. “Of course I hate what Dan did, but that’s not what I was referring to.”
“Leaving Lois isn’t going to be easy?” Martha guessed.
“It’s killing me,” he said.
Martha decided she needed to speak frankly. She would probably embarrass herself and almost certainly embarrass her son – but ... “Clark,” she said gently. “There are other options, you know.”
“Like finding a spaceship?” he snapped. He groaned instantly. “Sorry, Mom, I shouldn’t have said that.”
“Like adoption,” she said.
Clark sighed. “We tried that. We missed the first appointment because Lois had been left for dead in a disused mine by two men who didn’t appreciate her investigating their habit of renting out apartments they didn’t own. We missed the second appointment because there was an earthquake in China. Lois went and they asked where I was and of course she couldn’t tell them I was hauling survivors out from under tons of rubble. They said that the third appointment was our final chance – but we missed that because Lois was tied to the underside of a pier in Hobb’s Bay as the tide rose. I arrived at the adoption agency and got as far as the interview room before I heard her screams. I made the usual inadequate, stammering excuses and ran out.”
“Oh, Clark.” His arm under her hand was so tense, it felt like granite.
“A week later we received a letter informing us we were unsuitable as adoptive parents because of our high-risk lifestyle and our low level of commitment to the adoption process as evidenced by our casual attitude to the appointments.” Clark pulled his hand out from under hers and sat back in his chair, arms folded.
His posture was as unapproachable as Martha had ever seen from him. She was trying to formulate her next question when he spoke.
“Would you like to hear the details of why we decided against using donor sperm?” he demanded harshly.
Martha flinched, but tried to hide it. “What happened?” she asked, pouring a reservoir of love into her question.
He glared – not at her, but at the table. “Reputable sperm banks won’t deal directly with people,” he said coldly. “The *transaction* has to be supervised by a medical practitioner.”
Martha could fully appreciate that this was uncomfortable for Clark – both discussing it now and the actual experience. But she couldn’t see how it was worse than considering a divorce.
He saved her from having to ask another question. “Do you know what happens when a couple walks into a doctor’s office and says they are unable to conceive? The first thing the doctor does is order tests on the man’s semen. But, of course, we couldn’t do that, because one look at my semen is going to turn the medical world on its head.”
“What happens when you refuse?” Martha asked gently.
“The doctor decides I’m stupidly stubborn and not at all committed to becoming a father.” Clark shrugged and Martha could see the hopelessness in his gesture. “Finally he realises that all of his reasoning and explanation is not going to get the tests done, so he moves to Lois. The tests for her are much more intrusive, but the doctors insist and won’t accept our argument that we have no reason to suspect Lois can’t conceive.” Clark glanced up to her. “And all that’s before any doctor will even *talk* about donor sperm.”
“Has Lois had the tests?”
“After we tried four doctors and always arrived at the same point, yes – she had the tests.”
“And there is no reason why she couldn’t conceive.”
“So we thought it would be simple, but it’s not. They always want to use hormones to stimulate ovulation and the whole process becomes so involved and so cold and so contrived.”
“But if it resulted in the child you both want ...”
Clark was again staring at the table. “We spent hours going through profiles of donors,” he said sadly. “It was so unnatural, so weird to be shopping for the father of your child.”
“But others have done it,” Martha said. “It has worked well for them.”
His head jolted up. “But others don’t have to consider the possibility that the world will one day find out that Clark Kent is Superman. Imagine that, Mom. Imagine if the world knew – they’re going to want to know how the freak managed to impregnate his wife. The sperm bank will have records of our child’s real father – he’ll suddenly find himself a celebrity.” Clark squeezed the bridge of his nose. “Imagine the uproar. And in the middle of it will be a little kid who didn’t ask to have an alien as his father.”
Martha didn’t know how to respond. It was true she hadn’t thought through the difficulties Clark and Lois would face. But she would never accept that divorce was the best solution.
“You still disagree with me, don’t you?” Clark said.
Martha looked at her son and their eyes meshed. In his, she saw steely defiance. “Yes,” she said. “I will never believe that it is best for you and Lois to be apart.”
He stood abruptly. “Then you come up with a better solution,” he challenged.
He stormed from her kitchen, his cape slapping against his legs.
Martha stood slowly and returned to her neglected brushes. As she washed them, her tears fell, landing on her wet hands and dissipating into the coloured water.
If only her son’s pain could be washed away as easily.
The house was still empty when Lois arrived home.
She felt its oppression as she walked through the eerie silence.
Usually when she arrived home, she was so tired that her only thought was to get to bed and try to get sufficient sleep to enable her to function the next day.
But now, it was still and quiet and so very, very empty.
She wanted Clark.
She needed Clark.
This house wasn’t a home without Clark.
She stood at the end of her bed and wished he were here, wished they could go to bed together – to talk, to cuddle, maybe to make love - although right now she needed his presence more than his body.
With a sigh, Lois glanced to the clock. It was after midnight. She had no way of knowing how long Clark would be away.
If he’d been called to another emergency, it could be hours before he came in.
But if it were just the one car wreck, it shouldn’t take too much longer.
What if Clark deliberately stayed away? What if he felt the loneliness of this house so much he had started avoiding it – looking for things to do as Superman, looking for anything that would postpone having to face an unwelcoming house?
Lois resolutely pushed away her exhaustion. If she went to bed now, she would be asleep when Clark came in and she wouldn’t see him until tomorrow morning at the earliest.
She circled the room, touching things, opening drawers, re-connecting with an environment she came back to every night, but hadn’t really looked at in months. She picked up the perfume that had been Clark’s birthday gift to her and sprayed a little on her wrist. Then she looked at the name – Treasure Chest.
Had Clark chosen it deliberately for the name? Or because he thought she would like the scent? Or because a store assistant had recommended it?
If the chest could be considered her life, what was her most cherished treasure?
Clark. No question.
If she had to choose between losing Clark and never again working another day at the Planet, which would she keep?
Again. No question. Clark. She would cling to him.
But there had been nothing in her behaviour these past months that represented what was in her heart.
Lois gently replaced the bottle, brought her wrist to her nose and breathed deeply.
It was beautiful. Fruity, sweet and even with the hint of vanilla that she loved.
If Clark had chosen this for its scent, he knew her well.
Lois continued around the room, stopping at the closet. She opened the door and saw the row of Clark’s shirts. She clasped one and stretched it forward, laying her face on its cool softness and inhaling the essence of Clark that still lingered in the fabric.
She missed him so much she could feel the ache in her heart.
Next, she opened one of his drawers. On top of one of the neat piles was a garment of garish green. She picked it up and saw it was a basketball jersey. On the front it had the words ‘Kent’s Cougars’ and underneath a picture of a startled kitten.
Lois’s laughter echoed around the empty room.
She turned the jersey. On the back was written ‘Purr-fect’ and the number 21.
Did Clark play basketball?
Much as he enjoyed many sports, Clark had avoided playing competitively since his college days. He figured it just wasn’t fair on everyone else.
Lois folded the jersey and replaced it in the drawer.
She moved to the next room – the second bedroom they used as a study - and turned on the computer. She again googled ‘relaxing, romantic getaways’ and found some of the sites that had interested her earlier.
Some of the places sounded perfect. The South Seas Summerhouse. Just the name evoked feelings that resonated strongly with what she was hoping for – tranquillity, sunshine, empty beaches.
She imagined Clark, dressed only in a pair of old shorts, the sea breezes tousling his hair, his eyes shining with happiness, his smile constant except for when he stopped to kiss her as the waves splashed around their bare feet.
But it was in Florida and Lois wanted to get out of the States.
She noticed a link for other, relating hotels in many different places. She moved the cursor to the drop-down and skimmed over the far-flung countries of the world.
She paused on the Caribbean and clicked through to an island called Anguilla. There were pictures of white sand and blue sea and villas made just for two; the pictures called out to her and drew her into their idyllic ambience.
The hotel was called the Caribbean Coral. Lois sighed wistfully at the beauty and serenity set before her. It looked perfect. All it needed was Clark ... and her. Impulsively, she clicked on ‘book’ and a box appeared asking for the dates she required. She took her diary from her bag and flicked to the end of September. Next week she had eight appointments, but only two of them were crucial.
Perhaps she needed to redefine ‘crucial’.
One meeting was with the owners of the Daily Planet. It was a strategy meeting – to plan the direction of the paper for the coming three months. It was vital that she be there. Two of the owners were flying in from interstate.
Lois flicked to the following week. She already had thirteen appointments booked.
She turned the pages and looked ahead – week by week.
The first clear week was in early December.
She couldn’t wait that long.
She wouldn’t wait that long.
She would do it next week. Monday. That would give her three days to prepare the paper for her absence. She hadn’t taken leave for nearly two years. She would simply tell the owners that she was taking some of the vacation time that was owed to her.
What would happen to the Planet if she went away for a week?
She felt the fear snake into her heart. Would they lose readers? Would the standard drop? Would they be scooped in a really big story? If she wasn’t there, overseeing every published word, would -?
Lois clamped down on her rampaging fears. They were not the important questions. The only important question was how Clark would feel if she continued to put her job before him.
Next to that, nothing else had any significance.
Lois keyed in next week’s dates, chose a mid-range villa and waited with growing suspense. She wanted this. She wanted it badly.
What if they had nothing available at such short notice?
The page came up – telling her a White Wonderland villa had been reserved for her, pending payment.
Lois’s squeal of triumph echoed around the empty room. She put in her credit card numbers and clicked on ‘purchase’.
As she waited for her booking to be confirmed, Lois felt her excitement begin to bubble. She felt alive – as if she had just awoken from a long, long hibernation.
A week! Five days away with Clark! Just the two of them! Together!
When her booking was finalised, she printed out her receipt. As it emerged from the printer, she heard the swish of the curtain in the bedroom. She jumped from her seat and skipped into the bedroom. “Clark,” she greeted, grinning and breathless.
He looked up quickly. “What’s wrong?” he asked.
She stopped. “Nothing’s wrong,” she said.
He eyed her for a long moment. “You sure?”
“I’m sure.” She gestured through the door and towards the study. “I’ve just been -.”
He spun out of the Superman suit and into his robe. “I need a shower,” he said. “I’m covered in grease and oil from the car.”
“Want some company?” Lois asked.
He had already reached the door of their bathroom, but he turned at her words. “I was going to do it at super-speed,” he said. “It’s late. I’m tired. You must be tired too.”
He walked into the bathroom and five seconds later walked out, wearing his sleep shorts and a t-shirt. He hung up his robe and walked over to where Lois was still standing at the end of their bed, holding the print-out of their vacation booking. He leant down and kissed her briefly on the cheek. “G’night,” he said.
As Clark got into their bed, Lois’s excitement evaporated. Should she leave him and let him sleep? Or should she pursue this now? She shuffled onto the bed and positioned herself next to him. “Hey, Clark?”
He didn’t respond at first. Then, his eyes slowly opened. “Uhm?”
“I think we need a vacation.”
“A vacation?” he said doubtfully.
She thrust the paper at him and watched as his eyes scanned the details.
“Next week?” he said. “Why next week?”
“We have spent so little time together since ... well, for a long time and I thought this would be perfect.”
“You’ve already booked it?” he asked.
Lois sensed it required effort for him to keep his voice even. She nodded and pushed what was left of her enthusiasm into her reply. “If we don’t book it, we’ll talk about it, agree it’s a good idea and keep putting it off, waiting for the ideal time.”
“I don’t think it is a good idea,” Clark said flatly.
Lois felt her posture slump. “Why not?”
“Because we both have things planned for next week,” he said. “You have the strategic planning meeting with the owners. I have things I have promised to do.” He still refused to meet her eyes. “And then there’s Lucy. I don’t think we should go away when her life has just fallen apart.”
“I saw her tonight,” Lois said. “She is going to need support, but she will be all right if we go away for five days.”
“I wish you’d discussed it with me first.” There was something in his tone – Lois wasn’t sure what it was – reproach maybe. No, not reproach. Hopelessness.
“I thought it would be a nice surprise.”
He glanced into her eyes – just for a moment. “Can you change the dates?”
“Why is it so important that we don’t go next week?”
He rose onto his elbow and the sheet fell from his shoulder, revealing a muscle-ripped upper arm. “We hadn’t planned this,” he said. “We both have commitments here – things not easily changed or postponed. A big vacation like this is usually planned weeks in advance.”
“But Clark, we’ve both worked really hard for so long. I want to relax and rest and not think about anything except us.”
“I don’t think we should go,” he said.
“I just don’t think now is the right time.”
She studied the brown eyes that still seemed to be having difficulty meeting hers. There was something he wasn’t telling her. Her heart went cold. What could it possibly be?
That he didn’t love her any more?
That he didn’t want to be married to her any more?
That ... Lois felt her heart constrict ... that he had found someone else?
Is that what he did in the evenings while she was at the Planet? Had he ... either Clark or Superman ... found someone else to spend his time with? Neither would lack for opportunities. Clark was an extremely good looking man – with a kind and gentle spirit that would prove irresistible to many women. And Superman ... Superman had had women fawning over him since he first appeared.
Clark slid back down the bed. “I’m tired,” he said. “Could we discuss this tomorrow, please?”
Lois pushed down her annoyance – annoyance that was turned bitter by fear.
She slowly rose from the bed and returned to the computer.
The pictures of the beautiful beaches didn’t seem at all appealing any more.
Not without Clark.
Clark kept his eyes closed until he heard Lois in the shower. Then he lifted from the bed and flew into the study at super-speed. The computer was still on. He checked through her recent pages and speed-read the information about the villas at the resort on Anguilla.
When he finished, he groaned. Now he understood.
Lois was hoping for a miracle.
She was pinning all her desperate yearning for a child on a week together in a Caribbean paradise. That explained why she was so insistent about the timing.
He groaned again, dreading her heart-broken despair when they returned home and Lois discovered she wasn’t pregnant.
He couldn’t go.
He couldn’t let her build hope for something he knew was impossible.
And if he went, if he spent five days, five long glorious days with his wife, he would never be able to suggest they divorce. It would be impossible. If he spent five days being reminded of every little thing about Lois Lane – the things he had glimpsed for the first time in Perry’s office, the things that had captured his heart within seconds of meeting her, the things that would be embedded there for as long as he breathed – how could he ever let her go?
It had been hard enough not to respond to her little touches today. It would be impossible not to respond to her when they were alone in the warm, relaxed atmosphere of a Caribbean villa.
And when that atmosphere and that closeness led to the obvious conclusion, it was going to rip them both to shreds. Lois when she discovered there would be no child and him when he watched her anguish.
She had looked so breathtakingly beautiful when she had bounded into their room - her eyes sparkling with excitement and her face alight with anticipation.
It had tugged at everything within him and made him long to sweep her into his arms and laugh without restraint from the sheer joy of seeing her happy.
Clark heard the shower close off. He quickly shut down the pages he had opened and flew back to bed. When Lois slipped in beside him, Clark was already settled, his back to her, his heart heavy, his tears pushing against his tightly clamped eyelids.
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