Unable to help herself, she couldn’t unlock her gaze from his. It seemed impossible, unthinkable. Clark. Superman. Kal-El. Oh God, what next? Lois thought, momentarily forgetting Jimmy’s cheerful introduction.
For a moment, both of them were frozen. Clark had seen her running past him and being shell-shocked on the plane, both times from a little distance. Now she was right in front of him, and he felt like he was falling into those impossibly beautiful eyes … with a very disturbing expression of horrified surprise in them.
I suppose this is a little much, he thought guiltily, giving her a shy Clark grin. She was almost killed, Superman shows back up and saves her, and then her old partner’s back too. It must feel like she’s gone through a time warp. I guess it’s one shock too many.
Lois, meanwhile, had an entirely different train of thought leaping from its track in her mind. What the hell is he doing here? Like that’s no coincidence, Clark and Superman show back up on the same day – he might as well ditch the glasses! What kind of idiot does he think I am, anyway!
Her grip had gone slack with surprise, and both twins tightened their hands in hers. That brought her consciousness back. And instantaneously she felt ice down her spine. My God, the twins! They’re right here, right in front of him; he has to notice the resemblance! Oh, shit!
“Mommy, are you okay?” Jason asked, his brow furrowing with concern. Kala just rolled her eyes, glancing at Clark as if to say, Yes, the whole family is crazy, except me.
Her breath was caught in her throat, once again torn ruthlessly between heartbreak and resentment as she looked into those incredible eyes. The same eyes that belonged to that small voice calling her name. As it had only been an hour ago, the urge to confront him was so strong as to be tangible, but how was up for debate. The sensible thing to do would be to ask Richard to take the twins home immediately, then pull the man before her off long enough to tell him, in no uncertain terms, just how unwelcome he was here. How dare he do this? He somehow gets himself rehired behind my back, reappears to save me as if nothing happened, as if he’s only been gone a day or so. And then he has the gall to be here waiting when I get back with that phony cornball smile on his face and acting as if this sudden reappearance shouldn’t be a surprise. Damn him.
Yet, for all of the fear in her heart, there was also the most dangerous ache in her chest. One she thought she had exorcised long ago. Just to see him here, right before her, so close that she could reach out and touch him, was its own special kind of torture.
It was Jason’s voice again, effectively snapping her out of her chaotic thoughts. Lois then remembered to breathe, shaking her head slightly. She would get through this, had to get through it. Without screaming. Without losing her cool. Without vengefully breaking that promise he thought she had forgotten. For the twins, if for no one else. With a deep breath, she tightened her jaw slightly and made herself give a reasonable facsimile of her usual high-spirited grin.
“I’m alright, sweetheart,” Lois reassured her son without a trace of the tumult that was nearly choking her. “It’s just not every day that your best friend comes home.” Somehow she managed to get herself into some semblance of control. Regardless of all of this, she had to keep up appearances. She even leaned forward to hug him quickly, bracing herself against the chaos roaring through her. “Clark. I didn’t know you were coming back here. This is a surprise. Perry didn’t even tell me that you two were in contact.”
“Yeah, well, it was kind of a surprise to me, too,” he said, remembering to sound diffident and awkward. But the smell of her skin after all these years was sweeter than perfume. “Perry pretty much hired me back the moment I called. I’ve got Norm Palmer’s desk now.” Clark paused for a second, keenly aware of the two children staring at them both, of Jimmy and Richard grinning at this happy reunion. “So, I hear you’re, um, assistant editor now? And engaged?”
Oh, did that sting? I’m so sorry, Lois’ angry side growled, the General’s daughter as sharp-tongued in her mind as she’d ever been out loud. Meanwhile, the romantic half of her mind was squirming with unease, seeing the father of her children standing right next to the man they called Daddy. But her voice was perfectly normal, putting a slightly cheerful note into saying, “Well, Clark, things have changed since you’ve been gone. I’m happy to admit that Act Two is even better than I could have dreamed. I met someone who really did need me, for once.” With that, she severed the intense eye contact with Clark to look over at Richard with a smile, making an effort to show her allegiance to the man determined to marry her. Mixed feelings meant nothing in the face of the secrets she was holding back. With more confidence than she felt and in spite of some internal resistance, Lois laughed. “What is it with me and flyboys?”
“Hey now,” Richard said teasingly, “don’t go comparing me to him. I have to file my flight plans with the FAA.”
Both kids perked up at that. “Him who?” they asked in unison, looking up at their mother curiously. Jason continued, “Mommy, you knew someone else who flew?”
Lois was saved from having to answer by Perry’s bellow, “Everyone! Staff meeting, now!”
“Richard, could you?” she asked with a helpless smile. “You can skip out better than I can.”
“Sure thing,” he said. “Hey, you two, how about some fast food?” The twins squealed with joy, running to him, and he quickly hugged Lois as the rest of the staff scurried into the conference room. Clark couldn’t help seeing them kiss, or hearing Richard whisper, “You’re really okay?”
“I’m fine,” she murmured against his lips, while her heart whispered Liar. “Comes with the territory. Don’t upset the kids.” Richard kissed her again, provoking some retching noises from the twins, and Lois raised her voice to remind him, “Nowhere that handles peanuts!”
“Yes, Mommy,” he teased back. “As if I don’t know by now. Heartworks Café and chicken tortillas, we know.”
Just before they turned to leave, both twins had looked up at him and smiled as they waved. “’Bye, Mr. Kent. ‘Night.”
And until the three of them were out the door, Lois’ eyes never left them.
“Lois! Everyone means you, too!” Perry roared.
Clark’s face was nearly ashen as he found a place to stand in the back of the crowded room. She remembers, he thought, feeling ill. God, if she remembered everything, what must she think of him? To leave a good friend, one you had a romantic interest in, without a word of goodbye, was insensitive. But to leave your lover that way…
She can’t remember. If Lois remembered that night, remembered who I really am, she’d be a whole lot angrier. In fact, she probably would’ve thrown a screaming fit and chased me out of the Daily Planet with the nearest chunk of kryptonite. Lois doesn’t carry a grudge, she cherishes one. The fact that she hasn’t tried to murder me is proof that she doesn’t remember.
Lois must have made the remark in reference to all the times she had sneered about the domesticated life. She was no longer the single reporter whose daring was legendary; now she was a mother and almost a wife. The second act of her life had begun, and it wasn’t the maddening hell Lois had always imagined. She clearly loved the twins with every fiber of her being. And Richard. I mustn’t forget Richard – that would be a very bad idea.
She is angry, though. And she has a right to that. But she doesn’t remember all the reasons for being angry. Should I tell her? Wouldn’t that harm her relationship with Richard? According to everything Jimmy said and the way he acts, he’s a pretty nice guy. Should I even consider doing anything that will upset that? Should I just leave well enough alone, now that she’s moved on with her life?
Oh God, what am I going to do now? he wondered.
Oh God, Lois thought, keeping her head down and pretending to make notes while Perry harangued them, what am I going to do now? Bad enough he was here, right under her nose every day, but he had seen the twins! She was torn between relief and irritation. Relief that he hadn’t immediately realized just when those kids had been conceived and commenced trying to get back into her life – which I do not want, I really don’t want him back – and irritation that something so obvious to her had slipped right by him.
“I want all of you on this story,” Perry growled at them. “I want to know everything. Where did he go? Why did he leave?” The editor-in-chief continued to fire questions at them, singling out by name those reporters who didn’t look like they were paying attention. He ignored Lois, though, presumably because of her recent harrowing experience.
Her mind had turned away from the man trying to hide himself in the crowd at the back of the conference room, Lois’ thoughts avoiding him in either guise. Right before everything went to hell, we had that power outage. That is not normal; those jets have fail-safes and backups and redundancies to prevent such a thing.
Hmm. As I was walking in, I overheard people talking about a blackout here, too. Jimmy was saying something about a power outage at the bar he was in, too, one that knocked out his cell phone as well as the lights. What kind of blackout affects electricity, battery-powered phones, and a plane in the sky? Sounds like an EMP.
Also sounds like the real story is the blackout, not Superman.
Almost unwillingly, she lifted her head at the thought, and her gaze went directly to Clark. Their eyes met, his a little confused, a little embarrassed, hers full of that intensity that had once led her to drive all over the California desert interviewing anyone who could comment on Luthor’s land deals.
Then Lois quickly looked back down at her notes, which had little to do with Perry’s questions about Superman and everything to do with her own concerns about the possible EMP.