Lois Lane looks over the smoking crater of her city and swallows the urge to scream. She'd been born here, later moved by choice and torn away by circumstances in equal parts but Metropolis is as much a part of her as she is a cog in its silver-gilded machine and the kryptonians-- those aliens--
Clark's breath warms her hip and she wipes the thought away, feeling slightly soiled. He starts to rise but she keeps her hand pressed against his curls and he stays although tension makes his whole body vibrate.
"I have to-- the city-- I need to help."
"Okay," she says.
He presses his forehead firmer on her stomach. His hands are light around her waist. "I don't even know where to start."
"The main roads need clearing so disaster relief can get through. The buildings closest to the prison ship's beam are probably structurally most vulnerable."
"With the most people in danger," he adds and his hands twitch. "The world builder caused tsunamis in the Indian Ocean. They don't have much disaster relief there. I can secure the buildings here and see to the roads but there's another coastline that need my help as well." He stands. "Will you be all right?"
Lois nods. "I've been climbing over disaster areas long before you floated into my life, buddy."
"I know, Lois, I just... " He touches her cheek. It takes everything Lois has not to lean into it then in a second, it's a non-issue because he's gone, leaving a puff of air swirling around her, a traumatized human family still hugging the wall, and a dead kryptonian on the floor.
It's petty and useless but Lois follows this particular urge and kicks Zod's corpse. Then she takes a picture of him for the record. Then she kicks him again.
Fuck you, she thought at Zod, You broke his heart.
* * *
Then, in the days following, there are the stories, so many stories! On so many types of media, in all the media, in all the world, and all Lois could do was write and rebut and write some more even though fuck! yes! why did they have to slug it out in the middle of a major metropolitan area and hundreds of lives lost and billions in damages and how is an alien god in a cape going to bring that back? And Lois is furious. She's so god-fucking-damned angry! She wants to-- she needs to--
Clark whips into her apartment, smudged in dirt and blood. "I... can come back later."
Lois decides not to throw another mug at her wall. "No. It's all right. Need a drink?"
He shakes his head. "I just wanted to check in on you." His shoulders are hunched, his eyes are unfocussed, and his cape is more brown than red.
"When was the last time you slept, Clark?"
"I've been recharging." He spares a glance at the slivers of grey-orange sunlight peeking around the charred Metropolis skyline.
"You need to sleep."
"I don't have the time."
"You had at least ten minutes to check in on me."
She spots him looking at the newsfeed on her laptop and his shoulders, if possible, slump even more. She crosses her arms.
"If you don't take a nap, I'm going to call your mother."
Clark almost smiles. "Ten minutes."
"Fifteen and that's my final offer."
Lois laughs. She feels like she hasn't laughed in years.
* * *
"Am I the only one who gives a shit that while we're wringing our hands and playing the blame-game, LexCorp's managed to acquire almost all the tech the Kryptonians left behind?" Lois demands. "The same LexCorp that already owns half of the industry on the east coast?"
Perry's sigh is just as meaning-filled through the speakerphone. "I give a shit, Lane. People give a shit."
"But slo-mo destructa-cam and fear-mongering sells more papers, right, Perry? And the shareholders need to have their dividends."
"We need our paycheques or were you planning on funding your next story all on your lonesome? I printed your story."
"Buried in page five between double-page pictures and Vicky Fucking Vale's editorial! Since when does the Planet print Gotham Gazette writers?!"
"Give me a better story, Lane. Give me something I can shove at the owners' faces."
Lois thinks she's grown as a person because she pitches her phone against the couch instead of out the window.
* * *
When she rolls over, he's wide awake, staring at the ceiling. His eyes seem to glow; Lois wonders if that's the construction lighting just outside or if it's all Clark. Or maybe it's all her because, hot damn, this guy! She trails a nail down the whorl of hairs on his chest.
He shakes his head. He covers her hand with his. His nails are blunt and square. His skin is softer than cashmere.
"I have some Benadryl somewhere around here."
"That's all right. It just gets a little loud sometimes."
"A little loud sometimes?"
The corners of his lips curl up. "Usually, I concentrate on one thing. An anchor. But there's so much to do--" He shakes his head.
Lois burrows deeper against his side. Clark shifts, his head rests against her cheek, and his hand on her chest, tapping out a rhythm she soon recognizes as her heartbeat.
* * *
Lois eats Martha Kent's cherry pie, and barbequed chicken with apple and potato salad. She sips sweet iced tea mixed with watermelon juice. She toes the tree swing back and watches Clark hammer siding into the squeaking-new frame of his parents' house. Her own hammer lies at her feet at the insistence of her hostess.
"How is he?" asks Martha.
"If I had a strong enough piece of rope, I'd tie him down and make him take a shower."
"Hmm. He's always had a thing about avoiding showers. Terrible in his teens."
"No, actually. He smells like pennies when he sweats." Martha tops up Lois' glass with more watermelon iced tea. "Clark's broken everything on this farm at least three times. Not maliciously, mind you. He had a hard time growing up with his body."
She can see that, smiling at the memory of a photo album filled with images of a dark-mopped boy with brilliant blue eyes.
"Every time he wrecked something though, he'd fix it and ten other things besides. If we let him, he'd've tried to do everything on the farm himself."
"Can he do that?"
"Not when he was nine."
"How about when he was twenty-nine?"
"By then, he'd moved on to fixing the rest of the world."
Lois arches an eyebrow.
Martha pats her hand. "You look like you need more pie."
* * *
She meets him on the roof of a building just outside Ground Zero. He lands, floating a second longer to hide the little stumble in his step. Lois crosses her arms. "That's enough."
"We're not done rebuilding."
"For today you are."
He matches her pose. "Lois."
He breaks eye contact first. "Kal?"
She nods at the security camera on the roof. "They won't hate you just because you didn't single-handedly rebuild the city and cauterize every wound."
Clark flinches. He lowers his head.
Lois takes a few steps closer. "You don't have to be afraid that they're afraid."
"They should be. Look what I've done."
"One city can rise up again. One world, not so much." She straightens because she'd been leaning towards him and he towards her, and according to her sources, the government had feeds from those security cameras. "You need to give an interview. As Kal-el," she hurries to assure him, knowing his main argument of against one. "People want to know you. They want to believe the best of you but if they only hear opposing voices, you'll lose your popularity."
"I don't need to be popular. I just want to help."
"Then tell them. Like you told me."
He smiles. His eyes are the blue of summer in the prairies or the ocean against glaciers. Lois flushes.
"Okay, not exactly like how you told me."
Clark licks his lips, tilting his head to one side. She wonders what he hears as his gaze tracks north to south at the area behind her head before focussing on her again. "I'll think about it," he says out loud. I'll see you tonight, he says with the quirk of his mouth and the stroke of his thumb inside her wrist.
* * *
In the dark, with his lashes brushing knife-sharp cheekbones and those nebula-blue eyes hidden, Lois realises she's focussed on his heartbeat, too.