Clark stands on the roof of the Daily Planet building at the heart of Metropolis. The city is unfolded before him: he knows each of its lines, all of its caprices. The buildings glow from within like glass encasements placed over gas flames to protect them from the wind, creating a second, artificial sunset. The sky is variegated, almost white near the horizon and progressing in bands of varying shades of blue to deepest black. He closes his eyes. He can smell all the flavours of the city and taste the dust of the surrounding plains: of all the places of the Earth; these places where nature is married to humanity move him most deeply.
Lois is over an hour late, but he is not worried; if he turns his ear he can resolve, within the bustle of late-evening Metropolis — the drumming of feet, the stuttering of traffic, (the sweet sighs of a couple making love) — Lois's voice: she is still speaking with the aide to a high-ranking city politician suspected of dirty business. He leaves her to her questioning and listens instead to a pianist practising Ravel in a small apartment on the other side of the city. The musician's cramped surroundings reshape the sound in a way which would no doubt be displeasing to anyone sitting in the room with her — she herself would almost certainly call it a distortion — but Clark has the benefit of listening from miles away to distortions which had spread themselves out and swelled to fill the whole air with a sweet thrum too quiet for human ears to hear (and the waves slowed by their passage through the air, lengthened, deepened in timbre), adding a new overtone to this piece which has always been one of his favourites. The effect on him is like that of seeing a landscape which he had enjoyed in person recaptured and reinterpreted by the hand of a painter and of seeing it for the first time all over again.
Lois, then, has the pleasure of sneaking up on him as his attention is diverted and putting her arms around him, pressing her lips to the back of his neck and blowing warm breath against it before he realises she is there. "Did you forget that I was coming?" she says, teasing him. But he is too breathtaken to answer as he turns to face her, for she had run to meet him: her hair is in disarray, tumbling over her forehead; her cheeks are red and blotched and she is breathless. He kisses her instead, pulling her up into him: this is not their first kiss beneath the great, rotating globe of the Daily Planet, nor will it be their last — but each of their kisses is new, has some charm to it that is slightly different from the rest and he closes his eyes, tries to print this one indelibly on the pages of his memory, kisses her as if it is both the first time and the last.
- - -
He runs his fingers across her skin, in the soft valleys between rib bones; she sleeps with her face turned to him and her limbs spilling out over the bed, having kicked off all the covers in the heat of the night. He presses his hand to her heart: here's the light which glows from inside the glass encasement of Lois' body. But that isn't right, not really: Lois is not delicate like those old decorative gas lamps; Lois burns much brighter than that: she is penetrating and solid, and she stands firm both in sun and storm — a lighthouse whose bright light guides lost ships into port. We are so alike, he thinks; we are so different in temperament, and yet so alike in purpose.
She wakes as she always wakes, in a sudden burst as of a firework going off. "What are you doing?" she says, and then kisses him violently before he has a chance to tell her.
- - -
Lois is never cold when Clark takes her up into the air, even in the night; he holds her so close that she can hear his heart beating. Sometimes he takes her up so high and then holds her so still that she thinks they have been suspended in amber without their realising: beneath them Metropolis looks like a constellation of glimmering golden stars neatly placed onto a grid as if by the hand of an obsessive-compulsive god.
It takes her breath away each time; and she reflects on how strange that someone like Clark could be hiding the kind of depths which would set even Lois Lane's heart racing. But then, she thinks, how could anybody fail to love someone who is so gentle and so compassionate, so principled and so strong? If she had failed to love him from the moment they met, it was only because he had hidden these things about himself as a night-blooming flower conceals the true extent of its magnificence until the precise moment when nobody is looking at it. Then she kisses his neck, his clavicle, his hands, and he only looks at her with those big, star-spangled eyes as if to say: why me?
- - -
Clark's feelings for Lois had grown gradually and in secret — without knowing it himself, from their first meeting he had planted a seed of affection for her deep inside himself and jealously shielded it from interference; then, over the course of years, it had grown into a creeping plant whose tendrils found their way into every crevice of a soul he had long-since guarded against any external penetration. He had not realised the extent to which he was inhabited by this new warmth for her until it flowered suddenly and violently within him after she disappeared. From that moment he had understood that he had not been able to do without her for a long time, and it had been too late — far too late — to ry to stunt the plant's growth, to trim it back, to prevent it from scattering its seeds throughout the rest of his soul: there was nothing he had wanted less than to stop loving Lois, though it hurt him.
But he had never imagined, even after she returned, that he could ever find himself in this position with her: in love and loved back, and with no secrets between them — nothing between them but silence in the place where he ends and she begins. It is with embarrassment that Clark realises that she knew she loved him even before he had realised the depth of his feelings for her; it is with regret that he realises the pain that his seeming-indifference must have caused her. He says this to her one day, as they lie together in the barn with the setting sun painting them with hues of red, gold, and deep pink, and she just grunts and angles her head up to kiss his jaw (and even this, he thinks, is an admission: as if Lois Lane had ever allowed anyone to apologise for hurting her before!); and he holds her tighter to him, watching the play of red sunlight on the waves of her dark hair as she drifts into sleep.
The sound of sirens comes to him from deep within Metropolis, flowing and ebbing and then flowing again just as the sun dips beneath the horizon; he angles his ear towards the sound and hears the rat-a-tat drumbeat of gunfire beneath their melody. Waking from his half-sleep, he gets up, placing Lois back onto the couch alone and, lingering just a moment to press his lips to her forehead, flies out of the window. Lois, opening her eyes, just sees a flash of red like a streak of paint against the deep blue of the early-night sky as he leaves her (and it is a sight which never fails to leave her breathless).
"You know I can't sleep when you're away, Smallville," she says, and as she leans against the window with the blanket wrapped around her shoulders she wonders what sort of emergency could have prompted this night-blooming, this sudden unfurling to reveal Clark in his full, red-and-blue splendour. Then, for no reason at all except that the words are pressing her to release them, she says, "I love you."