Fic: Falling Is Like This

Author’s note: This was my take on how Clark and Lois’s romance would play out in the Smallville universe. It was written (in a remarkably short space of time for Slodwick‘s Ani DiFranco title challenge) after they announced that Lois would be joining the cast in S4 (I think), but before she actually did and even before she was cast. I made the graphic that opens the story some time later.

There was a time when he’d forgotten what it felt like to fall. The total lack of control that was both exhilarating and frightening had long ago been replaced by the easy defiance of gravity’s law that he’d mastered by the end of his freshman year in college. He still remembered the midnight experiments while the rest of the small campus slept, testing his invisible wings buoyed by Pete’s undying enthusiasm for his friend and roommate’s otherworldly gifts.

He’d learned to fly but forgotten how to fall.

Of course, even before that year he hadn’t had much experience with falling. The plunge off the bridge when Lex’s Porsche had struck him at 65 MPH and his arrival with the meteor shower as a toddler were probably the only real falls he’d ever suffered–he didn’t count the short plummet from hovering above his bed to landing on it and breaking it. He’d climbed a windmill once to show Lana the Metropolis skyline, but after she’d fallen from it, not him. He’d leaped a tall building in a single bound to save his mother, and never quite lost his footing. He’d even run into the heart of a tornado, but his then-unknown power of flight had nevertheless saved him from crashing back to Earth again.

Even loving Lana Lang hadn’t truly been a fall. Or mooning over Lana, as Chloe had once described it–a description he was now forced to admit was probably the truth. He’d grown into his crush on Lana as he’d grown into his 6’4″ frame, and as blind as he’d been to anything else but her, neither falling nor flying really described what he’d felt.

Lana had been like floating: a little euphoric, a little dizzying, a little extraordinary, but ultimately safe and minimally damaging to both of them when it ended.

His brief, torridly innocent infatuation with Chloe came a little closer–he’d stumbled into caring for her more than just as a friend, stumbled out of it, and they’d both fumbled each other’s hearts a great deal in the years that followed. They’d almost fallen from grace too many times, but the fact that their friendship had survived despite the failures and betrayals was a testament to the solid footing they’d never quite lost.

But gravity is a tricky thing. It doesn’t like to be defied, and likes even less to be forgotten.

In Clark Kent’s life, gravity adopted the guise of Lois Lane.

It had to be a disguise, part of him still argued sometimes. He’d met Lois when he was still in high school, she in college, and he’d hated her on sight, much to the relief of Chloe who’d admitted she didn’t expect him to see past the long curtain of shining dark hair and bright green eyes so similar to Lana’s. But Lois didn’t have Lana’s sweet, damsel-in-distress temperament. Lois had an attitude that made Chloe look docile and an arrogance that thrust a mirror up before his unassuming superiority complex and unmasked it for what it really was.

Neither of them had been happy on Clark’s first day at the Daily Planet, when Perry White lifted the wings Lois kept tucked tightly to her side and forcibly placed his newest reporter under them.

Sometimes Clark wondered if he ever would have looked deeper if Lois hadn’t fallen so hard and fast for Superman. Her infatuation had startled him, made him wonder if he’d been wrong about the tough city girl who didn’t need anyone–not a country bumpkin farmboy, and certainly not a hero.

When he saw her unfiltered by the lenses of that first meeting, what he found was a woman in love with justice, whose arrogance and ambition were weapons she wielded against a world that didn’t bend for the timid. A woman who risked her life every day not just for the story, but for the story behind the story, the people who made it. A woman who didn’t sit around waiting for a rescue–at least not quietly–but wasn’t too proud to be grateful when it came. A woman whose romantic heart almost broke through its cynical shell when faced with an illusory knight still only beginning to understand his destiny.

For the first time in his life, Clark Kent found himself in free fall. The Earth he’d escaped almost as cleanly as he’d escaped the world of his birth suddenly came rushing back to meet him. The role he’d created to set himself free of the secret he’d carried his whole life became a prison, while at the same time he found himself wanting to truly be the hero he’d only played at being before. To fight for truth and justice not just because he could, but because it was the right thing to do.

Everything he’d forgotten and everything he’d never known about falling came clear to him in a rush. He couldn’t fight this, couldn’t turn his back on it and soar back home to the safe, untouched shore where he’d lived before. Even more terrifying, even if it turned out that he could, he didn’t want to. He could see the ground beneath him hurtling closer every day, a landing that even the Man of Steel might not survive, but he couldn’t, wouldn’t turn away.

Not even with the ever-present, gnawing doubt that she might never see past the suit as he’d seen through her incorporeal mask, never learn to love the reality of him instead of the illusion.

It was too late. The road beneath his feet had given way to sky and there was nothing to do but follow through with the dive like any human soul.

The man who could fly had finally learned to fall.

Gravity threw its head back and laughed.

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