By Nancy Lemieux (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Summary: Lois struggles with one of the biggest decisions of her life. (A continuation of the episode "And the Answer Is …")
Most of the characters of this story belong to DC and Warner Bros. Many of the facts stated in the past tense belong to different episodes, both first and second season, of LNCTNAOS. This story is meant as a chronological continuation of the second season finale, ATAI.
This is my first attempt at fanfic… please be gentle. Comments, criticisms, and (I hope not) flames can be sent to my medcor address. A very special Thank You to Mighty Mouse (you know who you are) for agreeing to read my drafts, giving me constructive criticism and good suggestions, and just plain pushing me on until I had finished the story.
"Clark, don't you think it's a bit early in our relationship to be talking about such things?" she said, trying to sound convincing.
From the moment they'd started walking in the park, Lois had decided that she could no longer put off the fact that she knew he was Superman. When Clark had started the conversation in the park by "Lois, I've been thinking," she had been so far off in her own thoughts, trying to find a way to let him know she knew, that she hadn't paid attention to what he was saying until it was too late: "Me, too" just slipped out. Panic. How to cover up? And then it didn't help when he asked what about. It was only her uncanny quick wit which had inspired her at the last second - deflect the subject by directing the conversation back to him… "You first".
There. Not only had she managed to squirm her way out of a potentially tricky situation, but she had left the door wide open for him to confess the truth. Confess. That was an understatement! She still had a hard time believing he'd been lying to her all along. Clark. The most honest man on this planet - even if he isn't from this planet - she corrected herself, and her heart gave a skip at that. Why had it taken her so long to figure it out? God! I've really been stupid, she thought. So stupid, I don't think there's a word to describe the extent to which I've been stupid. *Stop it, Lois*, she told herself, *You're repeating the same words too often. It's no use going over this again. At least you've figured it out before he managed to tell you*. That had been a close call, she realized now. If it hadn't been for that phone call this morning in her apartment, she would have been made to look the fool. Same thing in the conference room. But it wasn't as if she hadn't had her doubts. It's just that the two personae were such opposites that she never had been able to reconcile those two as being one and the same. Even now, it was still a stretch. She thought back to what each one had meant to her at the time.
Clark had been exactly the kind of man she tried to stay away from. Too shy, too polite, too controlled. As a woman of action, she had felt that she needed a man who could keep up with her, make decisions and accept hers in a flash; the two moving in perfect sync like some sort of Olympic duo. The last thing she needed was a farm boy who'd just gotten off the hay truck. Smallville! That name was synonymous to "middle of nowhere" in her book. And she had been majorly peeved at Perry when he'd dumped Clark in her lap. Carry that sort of weight around? No, sir! Not when she was at the pinnacle of her career, and planning to stay there for a long time! But it hadn't taken very long for Lois to see that Clark was all she'd previously noted, and much more. He seemed to have this innate ability to read her mind, and her aggression had changed to respect. Clark was good at what he did, and his honesty (as aggravating as it could be at times) was something she came to value. She could trust Clark. He wouldn't lie to her, she was sure of it. Besides, you couldn't deny they were great together as journalistic partners, reporting the latest, exciting, news- breaking events. And there was never any lack of action in Metropolis, even if it was now a safer city since Superman had come in to the picture.
Now that had been another thing altogether. With Clark, she felt she could easily become friends, but Superman was the stuff dreams were made of… A knight in shining armour, or should we say tight Spandex suit (a definite plus!), who appeared at the right moment, and whisked her away - literally! She'd known almost immediately that she wanted him, and Lois Lane almost always got what she wanted. Lois had thanked her lucky stars that she'd chosen to be an investigative reporter. This way, she could follow Superman around wherever he appeared, and that she did: following him around with a fervor any groupie would envy, trying to get his attention, almost to the point of yelling out, "Pick me! Pick me, Superman!".
What was there not to like about Superman? A man of steel, invulnerable to everything except kryptonite (but then everybody has at least one flaw), drop-dead gorgeous with a body to match, and with a heart so big he would even take the time to rescue a kitten stranded in a tree and return it to its tearful owner. It was almost too good to be true. Here was Lois' epitome of the man of action. A perfect match - if only he'd notice her. She got weak in the knees when he talked to her. She left a window unlocked at night, hoping he would drop by to see her. When he finally had visited (after she'd plied him with a few invitations), she had acted like a teenager on a first date. Nervous almost to the point of babbling incoherently, furiously trying to straighten out her hair. Dying for a chance to go flying with him, her body pressed close to his, his arm wrapped around her waist… That thought was often in her head. Sometimes, while sitting at her desk at work, she'd start daydreaming about flight. The wind in her hair, Metropolis so far below that it seemed like some sort of child's toy, and Superman holding her a little tighter as he gazed lovingly into her eyes.
It was usually at this point that her phone would ring, or Clark would interrupt her thoughts and bring her plummeting back to earth. Clark. He certainly wasn't the object of her dreams, yet she certainly considered him as a good friend - make that her best friend. If only he'd been more like… like Superman.
It had taken her a long time to realize that Clark wanted a lot more that friendly get-togethers. She felt pretty awkward about it. It wasn't that she didn't like Clark. He was great, but she just didn't think of him that way. Granted, he was handsome. He sort of looked a bit like Superman, but that didn't surprise her. Lois had a lot of friends who were constantly attracted to guys with similar features. Attracted? Had she really just thought of that? Nah.. Must have been those chili dogs she'd eaten for lunch that were doing things to her brain.
But as their relationship continued to progress, Lois had begun to realize that she no longer felt very platonic towards Clark. Okay, maybe things were going well between them, but then there was still Superman. She felt a connection as strong as ever to him, even if he seemed to retreat every time she tried any sort of moves on him. *Wonderful,* she said to herself, *I get to choose between the shy farm boy from Nowheresville, and the alien hero who keeps slipping out of range.* She couldn't do much to get Superman, and she still hadn't been sure Clark was worth pursuing, even if he had tried to wear her down with constant invitations to anything from a coffee break to a concert.
Things had begun to change when Mayson came into the picture. Suddenly, Lois wasn't the only object of Clark's attention. Mayson was throwing herself at him, feeding off every little scrap of attention he gave her. Lois had started to feel the competitive spirit rise in her, fueled by jealousy. She wasn't going to let go of Clark that easily!
That thought had been a revelation. Lois finally realized that she was falling for him. But why? He wasn't really that much her type. Even though he'd loosened up somewhat, he certainly wasn't a man of action. That thought led on to the man of steel. *Oh, Superman, why don't you like me the way I like you?* Lois had sighed at that. It was a no-win situation. She was caught between an imperfect man and a perfect non-man. She couldn't leave things this way and Superman's visits had been getting fewer and far between, so when Clark had finally worked up the nerve to ask her out on an official date, she had agreed, although expecting it to be a total flop. After all, they weren't compatible, right?
She had been so surprised that her date had gone well that she hadn't known how to react - pushing Clark away in the process. Clark had started to make her feel weak at the knees and yet there was still Superman. How could she want both at the same time? It hadn't seemed fair to them, and it hadn't seemed fair to her, either. Admittedly the idea of Clark had started to sound better and better, but he had had the annoying habit of running off at the wrong moment. As time went by, this had become more and more frequent, and always when she'd managed to get him alone to talk to him about where their relationship was going.
It had finally become too much for Lois, and when Dan had come into the picture, although he was a pallid imitation of James Bond at best, she thought she'd seen the "human" man of action which just might be what she needed.
The long interlude that followed had been too complicated for even Lois to understand. It was finally Dr. Friskin that had given her the final advice she needed to see the light… She loved Clark. Despite his quirks and his frequent flights from her whenever she got serious. Maybe Dr. Friskin was right. Maybe Clark was afraid of commitment, and/or scared off by Dan. Well, she would take care of that!
At Dan's next visit, she'd given him the boot (gently but firmly). Then she had gone to see Clark. Her blood had gone cold when she saw he was packing. Desperate to push her point across that they were more than friends, she had kissed him. At the time, she couldn't help feeling like this was all too familiar, but she had pushed that thought out of her mind, assuming it meant she was supposed to be with him, and had just concentrated on Clark. His arms around her, stroking her back. His body, pressing tighter and tighter against hers. His kisses rapidly prying open the last of her defenses. The blood had rushed to her cheeks as she started feeling warmer. As a matter of the fact, the whole apartment had gotten hotter. She had wrapped her arms around his neck and begun pulling him backwards, towards the couch. When they were only a few feet away, Clark had suddenly pulled away. He had stepped back while keeping his hands on her shoulders. Breathing hard and obviously struggling to regain self-control, he had gazed deeply into her eyes and said, "Lois, you wouldn't believe how happy I am to be with you and know that you want me. I've been waiting two years to hear you say that, but I think we'd better slow down a bit, tonight. How about I walk you home?"
She had almost burst into tears. He was the most thoughtful person she'd ever known, and love had suddenly overwhelmed her, so much that she had reached out for him and held him tight. They had stayed that way a long time, just holding each other in silence. He had walked her home, unable to resist kissing her good night at the door. That night, her dreams had been sweet. Mostly about Clark, holding her hand and walking with her at his parents' farm. She had no way to know that such a great tragedy would happen in the next two days.
When Lois had found out that Clark's parents had been kidnapped, she'd been devastated. The only thing she could think of was trying to find a way to save Clark's parents at all costs. She had successfully managed to comfort him, and he had thanked her by running his fingers through her hair and cupping her face with his strong hand, a move which he made on occasion when he wanted to tell her something without using words.
When Mayzeck had ordered Clark to kill Lois, and he'd told her, then pleaded with her to leave the country, her true nature had come shining through and she'd taken over the situation, asking Clark to tell Superman to meet her at her apartment. She hadn't told Clark about it because she had known he would refuse adamantly and try to talk her out of doing it - risking her life to save his parents. It all seemed so ironic now.
She had talked to Superman about Clark, pleading for the former to help the latter. Telling Superman he hadn't seen Clark, couldn't possibly understand how desperate Clark was for help. And then she'd gone and said it: "If anything happens, tell Clark that I love him." But she couldn't have known, not just yet, because she hadn't figured out his identity. She should have guessed by the look of extreme tenderness he had given her at that moment. But then, she had been a little preoccupied by the fact that she might die from the hypothermia. It had taken all her courage to close her eyes, and she certainly hadn't expected Superman to touch her. She had felt fingers brushing her hair, and a palm come to rest lightly on her cheek. Like in a dream, she was just enjoying Clark's reassuring touch, when reality had suddenly hit, and she'd opened her eyes to see Superman's arm reached out to touch her. A thousand questions had gone through her mind, but the only thing her mouth had been able to say was, "The way you just touched me…" At the same time she had looked in his eyes, and then all she had been able to do was silently ask the question *Clark, is that you? Did you just touch me? Is it really you?*. He had seemed to sense her question, and resolutely took a step back, while looking at her straight in the eyes, and had whispered two words which had made all the difference: "I am." Suddenly, everything had fallen into place: Clark always disappearing, the reason why she'd never seen the two together (except for that one press conference) even if they seemed very close, and the fact that he seemed to never have ordinary problems, like catching a cold.
All these thoughts, and many others, had been whizzing through her head at light speed and it seemed to her that she had lost all voluntary control over speech. In fact, she had been so dazed that she had simply complied when he'd asked her a second time to close her eyes. The memory of his captive parents had surged back, and it seemed that now she needed even more urgently to save them, so she could talk to them, try to sort things out. At that moment, he had used his breath to freeze her.
She hadn't known how long there had been nothing but darkness. All she knew is that at one point she had started to feel as if she were floating in a pool of warm water, which was getting warmer every second. That had felt good because she was so cold. Then she had heard a voice. Distant at first, then growing stronger - pleading with her to live, then ordering her to breathe. She had recognized that voice - Clark's - and had used it as a guide, leading her back to where she wanted to be. It was like she was trying to resurface after a dive that lasted too long - lungs aching for air. She had taken that first breath, sweeter than any double fudge crunch bars she'd ever had. Coughing and gasping for air, she tried to find something to tell Clark she was OK, that she would make it. All she could manage was a weak, "I heard you calling." And then she had opened her eyes - expecting Clark and seeing Superman. She had been taken aback for a few seconds by that sight. Then, slowly, the memory of the conversation in her apartment and the stunning revelation had come back. Too weak to do anything, she had let herself be carried in Clark/Superman's arms, and flown back to her apartment where she had immediately fallen asleep when lain down on her bed, and had stayed there, in a semi-catatonic state for a good 16 hours. When she awoke, she felt as if she had just run a marathon - aching all over and shivering from what she gathered must be a slight fever. She had called in sick, saying she needed some time to rest. Although this was the case, she had mostly wanted to think over the events of the previous day. Now that she knew that Superman and Clark were none other than the same person, what was she going to do about it?
The emotions she hadn't been allowed to vent the previous day had all suddenly come out, and mostly in the form of tears. Tears of joy from the fact she was alive and well, tears bordering on hysteria (mingled with some high-pitched laughter) from the realization that Clark was Superman and Superman was Clark, tears because they had lied to her. Suddenly she realized she was still thinking of Clark and Superman as two distinct entities. She didn't even know what to call them. She had decided to make things simpler by referring to both as X just until she had resolved this issue.
She had been angry at X for lying to her, and had let loose several cushions which had followed several flight paths through her apartment. Once her anger had been spent, she had been left with only questions: *Why? How could you do this to me, X? Didn't you trust me? Who else knew about this? What am I supposed to do now?* The last one had haunted her the most. How to react? Should she go on pretending like nothing was different or should she confront him with it? And then, completely drained of energy, she had sat down and examined the facts. She was working with a man, whom she considered her best friend and also loved deeply. This man, unbeknownst to her was also a superhero, whom she had loved for a long time, but had given up in order to be with her best friend, who was in fact the superhero, but didn't act like the other, who…
Her thoughts had gone off on a long, tangled tangent, and then she had started daydreaming of both "men", going over what she liked best of each one. Superman's "superness", Clark's quietness, honesty and infectious good humor. Both had been so patient with her.
At that point, she had wondered why Clark had wooed her as Superman, when he had so obviously winced every time she had mentioned Superman to him. Suddenly, it had hit her: *Clark only wanted to be with me, and since I barely gave Clark the time of day, while I drooled over Superman as a dog drools over a T-bone, then at least he could have those evening visits with my lousy cooking, a dance or two, and a good-night kiss.* Lois had begun to realize the torture he must have gone through. *And to think I once told Superman that I'd love him, even if he didn't have superpowers. No wonder he hadn't believed me!* Yet that wasn't totally fair because she did love Clark - Superman stripped of his superpowers - even if it had taken a long time for her to realize this. And now that she knew, was she willing to forgive Clark? Could she accept his dual role in her life and in the community? After more soul searching she had come up with an answer - yes. Yes!!! She loved him and couldn't think of living without him.
That had only left her with one problem - why hadn't he told her, and was he ever going to do so, or would she have to be the one to tell him she knew. All of a sudden she had had a flashback of the previous morning in her apartment. He *had* tried to tell her! Again in the conference room. If only they hadn't been interrupted both times by Mayzeck, he would have told her, and she'd have had to struggle with all these emotions while he was watching. Suddenly she had been glad for fate's interruptions. Then again, a thought had suddenly sprung up, he had tried in an indirect manner to tell her in her apartment, when he was dressed as Superman. Or had he? Had he caressed her hair in a purposefully "Clark-like" manner, or had that been an unconscious move of concern. Had the "I am" meant "I am Clark", or could it have been "I am in love with you, just like he is," or something else yet?
These sudden thoughts had left Lois worried about Clark's intent to tell her. Maybe she had made it too difficult for him. Well that certainly wouldn't be the case any more! On the spot, she had decided to make a perfect opportunity for Clark to reveal his double life.
Finally the opportunity had come in the park. Everything he had said led up to the final revelation of his secret identity, and that's when he'd surprised her with his proposal. Proposal!
Lois snapped out of her reverie. Clark was staring at her with a dejected look. His mouth was opening and closing without a sound, and he was obviously searching for something to say.
"I mean, it's not that I'm not flattered, but we've barely been dating a few times, though I do love you, yet this is the 90's and you know about the divorce rate, and I'm not sure I'm ready to marry you, not that I wouldn't - won't - but just not right now, under these circumstances, although I am deeply flattered you asked… I'm babbling, aren't I?" Lois finally stopped.
Clark recovered and let out a nervous giggle (if men can be described as giggling). "Well, maybe a little, but under the circumstances, you're forgiven."
"I'm sorry, Clark. Like I said, it's not that I don't love you, but I wouldn't feel comfortable saying yes just yet. We still have some unresolved issues we have to take care of, such as your constant disappearing acts, before I go for it. Besides," she added with a wink, "I'm a firm believer in trying out a product before I buy it. What do you say we live together for a while?"
Clark had never blushed so deeply in his life. This certainly hadn't been what he expected. One part of him wanted badly to say yes, but the other part of him, the one that had been raised on a proper country farm, was worried about what his parents would say. He pondered the issue for a few seconds, then, unable to make up his mind, simply told Lois, "Well, I don't know. How about I think about it? But whatever you do, don't tell my parents about the offer. Dad would have a fit!"
They both laughed at this. Yes, Jonathan Kent would have gone through the roof if he'd heard this, although he was partial to Lois…
The laughter had managed to break the silent, uncomfortable mood between them, and Clark, realizing he was still holding the ring in its opened case, closed it and put it in his pocket, "For safekeeping. I'm sure I'll be needing it again soon."
Lois had smiled at that. He was right. But he had to trust her enough to tell her his secret first. Or at least find the right time to do so, since he had tried telling her before with precious little success. Suddenly she wanted to get out of the park, go somewhere warm and comfortable where she might talk to Clark some more. "How about we get out of this downpour? Why don't we go back to my place? I could give you a towel and you could dry off. My cold surely isn't going to get any better while I'm soaking wet in this weather."
As expected, Clark had agreed, and they had walked hand in hand towards her apartment, while keeping a comfortable silence, each one lost in their own thoughts. On an impulse, Lois suggested they rent a movie and watch it with a big vat of popcorn. Clark agreed immediately, accepting any excuse to spend more time with Lois. He had taken care of buying the popcorn - the microwaveable kind since Lois didn't have a popcorn maker - and she had taken care of the movie. After carefully pondering her options, Lois had chosen "The Bodyguard", a movie where a rock star falls in love with her protector. It seemed fitting, and the strong romantic mood it created might give Clark some ideas.
Clark gave her a funny look at the rental counter when he saw what she had picked, but didn't comment.
At her apartment, with their hair dried, the popcorn made and the tape in the VCR, they sat down to watch the movie. Clark sat at one end of the couch, with his arm wrapped around Lois' shoulders, while she had her feet up on the couch, and was resting her head on his chest, just underneath his shoulder. It felt so good for them to be there together. Neither of them wanted to move, for fear of breaking the mood. They only occasionally reached into the tub of popcorn for a few more kernels, and usually looked at each other as they did so, thereby missing out a little on the movie. When it came time for the love scene, Lois tensed as she got some ideas of her own, but kept silent. She was trying to feel Clark's reaction. He seemed affected too, shifting slightly, and it also seemed as if he were holding his breath. *Control yourself, Lois,* she told herself sternly, *just watch the movie.* But even as she was willing her eyes to look only at the screen, the image suddenly stopped.
Clark had pressed the 'pause' button on the remote. She looked up towards him, and their eyes met for what seemed like an interminable amount of time. Without willing herself to do so, Lois sat up and turned towards Clark. He didn't waste any time and bent towards her, slowly, very slowly in fact. Her anticipation increased with every second that he was nearing her mouth. Their lips finally met in a light, light kiss which grew in intensity and deepened. They separated for a second, coming up for air, and Clark looked at Lois, reading in her eyes the same desire he felt. As if her eyes were a magnet, he reached out for her again, this time kissing her with more vigour, their tongues doing a slow, but thorough exploration, teasing each other, only to retreat and come back for another attack. Lois let out a low moan, and wrapped her arms around his neck. He gently held her, easing her back onto the couch. He let go of her lips, covering other areas with light kisses. First he worked his way towards the base of her neck, then upwards, to right under the ear, which he found to be one of her sensitive spots. She laughed, as if tickled, and held him tighter. One hand held the back of his head, while the other moved up and down his back, feeling every muscle.
Their movements got more and more feverish, while each enjoyed a detailed exploration of the other. Without thinking, Lois began unbuttoning her blouse, exposing some skin which Clark immediately reached for and covered with kisses. Enjoying the sensation immensely, Lois began to edge Clark's jacket off. It landed on the floor in a messy pile, and was soon followed by the tie. She was reaching for the buttons of his shirt. At this point, Clark was so overcome by these new feelings that he didn't give a thought to the fact that he was wearing his costume underneath…
Lois had barely managed to dislodge the first button when she jumped at a sound in her apartment. The timer on her pause function had run out, and the movie had automatically started playing again! Both stared at the TV for a second, then looked at each other. Realizing the mood was broken, and just in time, they sat up. Clark let out a sigh, and pulled Lois back to him, in the same position as when they had started watching the movie. Both of them tried to concentrate on the movie, but with precious little success. After a few more minutes, Clark apologized for the lateness of the hour, and got up to leave. Lois sighed, but did not argue. It *had* been a trying day, and they had come a little closer, even if he hadn't yet told her the secret. He kissed her good-bye at the door, reluctantly letting go and leaving.
Lois stood at her door, waiting until the door to the elevator had shut, then moved to her balcony, where she saw Clark exit and turn towards the direction of his apartment. It was a little hard to tell from this height, but she was sure he was whistling…
That night, in her sleep, Lois dreamt of Clark, holding her in his arms and flying to all sorts of romantic, secluded areas, where they kissed. Clark, at his place, was dreaming the exact same thing…
The door to the elevator opened, and Lois stepped out. Instinctively, her eyes searched for Clark. He was at his desk, furiously typing away. *I'm glad he can concentrate,* she thought, *because I'm not sure I will*.
She walked down the ramp towards the newsroom, never taking her eyes off Clark. He had heard her coming into the building, her distinct walk easily audible from the lobby for anyone with superhearing. As the elevator had started its ascent, he had suddenly bent towards his keyboard, trying to make it look like he'd been on a story for a while. The truth of it is he was typing rapidly, but none of it was words. It was just the random hitting of keys one might see on TV where someone is pretending to be a secretary, or a journalist for that matter. It had taken all his willpower not to look up when the door to the elevator had opened. And as she approached his desk, it became harder. *Play it cool,* Clark told himself, *we don't want to start up any more rumors.*
Okay, so it wasn't a rumor that they were now going steady. There was already too much gossip in this small family of co-workers without adding more fuel to the fire.
Lois walked all the way up to Clark's desk. *Boy! He must really be concentrating*, she thought, *He hasn't looked up once,*. She sat on his desk, with her legs up in that sexy pose she had used once or twice before. "Hello Clark".
Clark stopped typing, and turned slowly towards Lois, making believe he was having a hard time tearing himself away from his screen. "Good morning, Lo…is". He had caught a good look of her before finishing his phrase. Wow! She sure looked hot this morning. Struggling with himself, he blinked once or twice and did his best to regain his composure… realizing that his mouth was open. With what he deemed was a professional demeanour, he smiled and said, "So, how are you this morning?"
"Fine, thank you. And yourself? Did you sleep well?"
"Like a log. I guess I was just tired." *Liar,* he told himself. But then again, he didn't have to tell her how he'd tossed and turned a good part of the night, before finally falling asleep and dreaming of her. "How about yourself?"
"Same here," Lois answered. I guess my cold is almost gone because I was able to get a full night's sleep. I even started dreaming again.
Clark refrained from asking her what she had dreamt about. After all, people around them were doing their best to conceal the fact they were staring at the couple - who still did not acknowledge publicly they were a couple - and Lois might have dreamt of the same type of things as he had. It was enough that he was lying to her without getting her in that habit as well.
Both had stopped talking and were just staring at each other, enjoying the view. Neither of them was moving, for fear of breaking the charm, when Perry's voice boomed right behind them.
"Lois, you're back! Is your cold better? Are you coming in to work?"
Lois jumped, and turned around to face Perry.
"Hi Chief! Yes, I'm back and ready for work. Do you have something exciting for us, or should we dig up some juicy story ourselves?"
Perry winked and told them, "With you, I never have to worry about running out of juicy stories"
Lois and Clark looked at each other and blushed slightly. Was Perry referring to their investigative abilities, or was he talking about something more personal. With him, it was hard to tell. Not wanting to give Perry any more ideas, Lois decided to mention one of their investigations.
"Well, Chief, we're trying to nail that story on the two million dollar tax evasion at Larcom Industries. We have a couple of disgruntled employees which might serve as reliable sources. Clark and I have a meeting with them today. In fact, if we don't leave right now, we'll be late to meet one of them." Having said this, Lois tugged on Clark's sleeve, and gestured towards the elevator. Perry, taking the hint, moved onto another desk, to harangue the next unsuspecting reporter.
Once at the elevator and out of earshot, Clark leaned towards Lois, "Quick thinking, there. I was worried he was going to come out and ask us if the situation between us had changed".
"Well, it has, hasn't it?" Lois replied, taking Clark's arm. To heck with the rumors. Every chance she got to touch Clark, she would.
The elevator door opened to reveal an empty cage. They both got in, and as soon as the door shut, reached for each other and kissed. It was only a minute later that Clark realized that neither of them had pressed the ground floor, and that the elevator hadn't moved. Laughing and a little embarrassed, Clark pulled away and reached for the elevator's control panel.
In the lobby, they stopped. The charade was over. They didn't have an appointment with ex-employees, and therefore had nowhere to go. Going back to the newsroom was out of the question, so they just stood there, anxiously trying to find somewhere useful to go.
It was Clark who finally came up with a suggestion.
"Why don't we go see Bobby Bigmouth to see if he's heard of any new criminal activity in Metropolis"
Lois agreed, and the two of them set off to find Bobby. First, they ordered a meal from a good quality Italian restaurant, then walked over to the latest shelter where he was known to stay.
It had only taken half an hour to find Bobby. Unfortunately, the meal had been a waste of time since Bobby had nothing new to report.
"Oh well," Lois said as they walked away from the shelter, still within earshot of Bobby's ravings over the Marinara sauce, "I guess the criminals of Metropolis have calmed down. I wonder what Superman's doing with all this free time." She glanced quickly at Clark to gauge his reaction.
He didn't react in any visible way, so she pressed further, "I mean, no one really knows where he goes off to when he's not making some rescue. You'd think I'd know since I'm probably the person he's closest to in Metropolis, other than you, that is."
Now *that* had gotten a reaction. Clark was squirming. And was that a touch of jealousy she was seeing? It must be an awful thing, to be jealous of yourself.
Before Clark was forced to answer, his beeper went off, and he was saved from trying to lie to Lois again. Spotting a nearby public phone, he guided her in that direction, and fished around in his spare change for a quarter. The number on the beeper window had been for Perry's office. He dialed the number quickly, realizing that Lois was about to rip the phone out of his hands in her usual anticipation. He gently held her at arm's length, while listening to the ring on the line. Perry answered after the second ring.
"Hi, Chief," Clark said, "you wanted to talk to us?"
"Yeah, son. I'm not sure how to say this. It's got to be the worst news I've heard since that of Elvis' death."
Clark was instantly worried, and this translated into his facial expression, which got Lois fighting even harder to get the phone out of his hands.
"I don't like the sound of this, Chief. What is it?"
"Brace yourself, Clark, because you won't like this one. But first, is Lois nearby?"
"She's right here, Chief. Do you want to talk to her?" At this Lois made a heroic effort to reach for the receiver, but there was no fighting against Clark's strength, and she let out a muttered curse.
Perry continued, "No, son, that's alright. Besides, I think you should be the one to tell her this. I just got word myself from the Police Chief. It's about Lex…"
"What about him?" Clark interrupted rapidly. Anything that had to do with Lex got him edgy.
"He escaped from prison last night."
"I'm afraid so," Perry continued, having expected that outburst. "Apparently he was there last night at light's out, but when they had role call this morning, he was nowhere to be found."
"I can't believe it. How could this have happened?"
"They found a night guard bound and gagged in one of the janitorial closets." Apparently, someone had gotten inside disguised as a guard, and then attacked his partner (for the prison guards always patrolled two by two) and put him in that closet. "Lex must have escaped with this false guard," Perry had concluded. Having nothing else to add, he had hung up after a quick salutation, leaving Clark with the dirty work of telling Lois.
"Well?" Lois jumped in, the second Clark had hung up.
"Lois, why don't we find somewhere to sit down," Clark asked, scanning the area for a bench or a restaurant, or some place with a suitable seat.
"No, Clark. What did Perry have to say?"
"I'd really rather wait until you're seated…"
Lois paused at this. *It must be really serious for Clark to want me to sit down*. Thinking back suddenly to the last few days, she said, "Clark, you're worrying me. The last time you told me I'd better sit down was right before your parents were kidnapped. Please tell me what's going on."
Clark sighed. She was right. Although this had nothing to do with his parents, he wasn't sure what sort of repercussions this news would have. Still thinking she might need support, he gripped her arms firmly (but not too firmly, so as not to bruise her), and looked her straight in the eyes. "Lois, something terrible has happened, and I'm not sure how to tell you this. I guess I just might as well come out and say it. It's about Lex… He escaped from jail last night."
"Luthor? He's out?" She faltered visibly, and Clark tried to steady her as the news sank in. "I don't suppose they know where to?"
"I'm afraid not, Lois. Are you alright?" There was genuine worry in his voice, even if his mind was busy trying to guess where Luthor could have gone to, and what his next move would be.
"Y-yes. I guess. Why wouldn't I be? Just because the man I almost married, who turns out to be this manipulating psychopath that now wants both of us *and* Superman dead, has just escaped from prison doesn't mean I'm not alright." She let out a little hysterical laughter, then leaned forward to bury her face into Clark's jacket, bursting into tears.
"Oh, Clark," she said, in a shaky voice, "What are we going to do?"
Clark held Lois tightly, trying to comfort her with his body where he knew words would not suffice… especially since he didn't know what to say. "I don't know, Lois."
She let out another sob at this, and he tightened his grip around her, protectively.
"He's going to come after us, Clark, isn't he?"
"I don't know, Lois. But if I were a betting man, I'd say yes, he will come after us, and Superman."
A thought suddenly came to Lois. "Do you think we're safe for now? I wonder if he's in Metropolis. Should we call the police and arrange for protection?"
Clark pulled back a bit and looked at Lois directly in the eyes. He had a very serious expression. "Lois, I don't think the police will be of much help. We've dealt with Luthor before, and know his mode of action as well as anyone else." He then took a long breath, and said softly, "Lois, I'll protect you."
"Oh, Clark -"
Before Lois could continue, he interrupted, "But I can't protect you unless you're close by. I think we should stick together until Luthor has been found. I would feel better if you stayed at my apartment until it's safe again." He seemed to think of this for a second, then added, "You could take the bed, as my guest, and I'll sleep on the couch." And, as an afterthought, "It would almost be like sampling the merchandise, but platonic, OK?"
She couldn't stop herself from laughing. "Well, when you put it that way, how could a girl refuse?"
He answered her with a quick hug, then brought the conversation around to one of the stories they were working on, and they drove back to the Planet for their daily 11 o'clock meeting with Perry.
By 7 o'clock, they had wrapped up their stories, dotting the i's and crossing the t's. They submitted them to Perry, and waited for final confirmation, which would enable them to leave. Somehow, they weren't in a great hurry to leave, even if both of them were tired.
Ten minutes later, Perry's door opened, and he glanced in their direction, giving them a two thumbs up sign. They both smiled back at him, waved, and gathered their things.
As they got in the elevator, Lois sighed, and leaned against the wall, suddenly feeling drained. She jumped slightly when Clark talked.
"Do you want to go somewhere to eat, or would you rather go get your things, and then eat at my place?"
"Clark, to be perfectly honest, I haven't got the energy to go out and eat. Why don't we pick up some take-out Chinese at that drive-thru restaurant a few blocks away?"
"Okay, but how about we go to your place first, so you can pack a few things?"
"I'm too tired to argue. Lead the way, and I'll follow, Clark. As a matter of fact, why don't you drive?"
Clark did a double take at this. Him? Drive? *Boy! She must really be tired*, he thought. It was not very often that she let anyone else drive. It came naturally with her personality… She like to be in charge — in the driver's seat.
He settled down behind the wheel, adjusting the seat for his long legs, and changing the angles of the mirrors. As he was wrestling with the seat belt buckle, he glanced her way, and saw that she had leaned back in her seat, relaxing.
"Lois, put your seat belt on."
She opened her eyes and looked at him. "When you said you'd protect me, you weren't kidding, eh?"
"Well, from what I can remember of your comments the last time I drove, I thought it would be safer for you."
She chewed her lip, thinking of his comment, and said, "Well, I guess I haven't always been appreciative of your talents. I'm sorry I offended you. You're a good driver."
Clark smiled, and turned back to face the front. *She actually complimented me on something,* he thought, *there is hope for us yet!*
When they got to her place, he parked the car in the street, then turned towards Lois, who was sleeping. Her face was relaxed, and her breathing light and regular. Clark wanted to wake her, but couldn't bring himself to disturb her when she was resting so peacefully. Besides, how often did he get such an opportunity to just look at her? She was absolutely beautiful, and there was no one he would rather spend his time with - until the end of his life, although he wasn't absolutely sure when that would be (the globe from his father hadn't told him that, and there was no way for him to know his natural life span).
After a long hesitation, he reached out for her, and brushed the back of his index finger along her cheek, all the way to her lips, which he traced. She stirred at this, but did not wake up. He then leaned towards her, and kissed her lips lightly. Unable to stop himself, he then went on to plant another, and another, and another kiss, until she suddenly awoke.
Lois had been dreaming. She was this princess who was persecuted by this rich ogre, who wanted her dead. At one point, the ogre had kidnapped her, and as she cried for help, a knight had come riding to her rescue. He wore glasses and a cape, and had lifted her out of the dungeon and carried her to safety. At that point, the dream had become very lifelike, and she could actually feel him touching her cheek, and kissing her. That was when she had realized that this was not a dream, and she was really being kissed.
Completely awake, she looked at Clark, smiling, and said, "Now I know how Sleeping Beauty felt."
He smiled at her, then leaned towards her again, proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that this was much better than any fairy tale.
After a few moments, Lois reluctantly pushed him away. He protested a little, but soon realized that she really needed to go to her apartment in order to pack some things. They walked in to her building and took the elevator up to her floor. As they neared her apartment, she got visibly nervous. At the door, she grabbed a hold of Clark's hand, barely able to say, "What if there are some men in there, waiting for me to come in and kill me?"
Clark gave her hand a reassuring squeeze. "Well, you wouldn't be alone to face them. I'd fight them off. I promised to protect you, remember? Anyway, Luthor hasn't been out that long. He probably hasn't had the time to organize any attack yet." What he wasn't telling Lois is that he had already scanned her apartment with his X-ray vision and had found no trace of strangers waiting to jump out at them. The only living things in her apartment were her fish, and the leftover take-out in her fridge!
She opened the door warily, flipped the light switch, and jumped in, rapidly assuming her fighting stance (she had, after all taken Tae Kwon Do classes at the Y). A quick glance told her that there was no one lurking in her living room, and she quickly advanced towards the kitchen, jumping behind the counter to surprise anyone who might be hiding there. Having found nothing, she looked at Clark and shrugged her shoulders, indicating that everything seemed normal. Clark could barely resist laughing at her stalking technique, which seemed to come straight out of a low budget detective movie, and instead smiled reassuringly and gave her an OK sign.
Lois then remembered that she still hadn't checked her bedroom. She glanced nervously towards that door, then began walking towards it, trying to make the least noise possible. Here, she entered the bedroom in a manner very similar to her earlier entrance in the apartment. Nothing. After checking her bathroom and closets, she was satisfied that her apartment was secure - no thanks to Clark's help - and began rummaging through her things, trying to decide what to pack.
Clark was seated on the sofa, relaxing, while Lois was chatting away, her voice trailing in from her bedroom. What was taking her so long? Was she completely rearranging the room? He didn't have to wonder for much longer, because she entered the living room, holding a suitcase. *Good,* he thought, *we can finally get on our way.*
She put the suitcase on the carpet, near the hall door, and turned back.
"Lois, what are you doing?"
"Oh, just going to get the rest of my stuff.
"The rest of your stuff???" Clark couldn't believe his ears. "You mean you didn't get to put all your possessions in this huge suitcase?"
She gave him a look which meant she couldn't believe he was asking this question. "Well, I don't know how long it'll be before Luthor is caught, so I have to have a reasonable selection of clothing, and then there's my make-up, my rollers, my hair dryer, and some medication because I noticed you don't have any,…" She listed off a series of other items which she could not live without, until he finally put up his hands in a sign of defeat.
"OK, OK. But next time you talk to me about false stereotypes which women are burdened with, I'll remind you of this little incident."
She gave him a dirty look, then turned back to her room to get the rest of her stuff. Mercifully, she only had another suitcase and a shoulder bag. He wouldn't have to use his superpowers in order to carry all this to the car.
It was 9:30 by the time they got to his place. They had stopped off at the previously mentioned restaurant to get their take-out. Clark piled the suitcases right near his bed, and returned to the kitchen, where Lois was busy hunting down some plates and utensils. Finding them, she started setting the table, turning to Clark to ask, "Would you mind if we listened to some music while we ate?"
He smiled, nodded, and said, "Yeah, sure. That's a good idea. I'll go put on a CD." He put on something soft and romantic. When he turned back towards the kitchen, he saw that Lois had found some candles and was lighting them. This was definitely going to be an interesting evening..
He made his way towards the kitchen table, swaying lightly to the rhythm of the music. Lois was busy arranging the food on the plates, and didn't look up. He stepped in behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist. She stood up, and pressed back against him, leaning her head against his cheek. They stood there for a minute, not moving, until he slowly turned her around. They looked at each other, saying all they had to say with their eyes, and then she slowly reached up and kissed him. It was a slow, lazy kiss, meant to thank him for his hospitality. Without parting, Clark put his arms around Lois' waist, and she around his shoulders. They began moving to the music. The song ended, and another went by, while they still held each other and danced. She had leaned her head against his chest, closed her eyes, and was breathing in his scent. It felt so good just being in his arms. She couldn't imagine being anywhere else.
When that song ended, Clark pulled away gently, cupped her chin with his hand and lifted her face so she was looking at him. He smiled a warm smile which made her stomach do a flip, and, with an apologetic tone, told her, "The food's getting cold."
Lois' eyes remained unfocused for a second, as she let out a, "Huh?" Then, a spark of understanding replaced her earlier confusion as she realized what Clark was saying, which was being seconded by her stomach, crying out for a meal.
They sat down to eat, although both had a hard time concentrating on their own food.
"That looks good," Lois said, pointing to some Szechwan shrimp Clark had ordered.
"Want to taste?" He offered.
He nimbly picked up a shrimp, and deposited it in her open mouth with the help of his chopsticks, which she held onto for a moment too long. She then deliberately chewed slowly, savouring the spiciness of the dish.
Clark felt himself breaking out in a cold sweat. *If she keeps this up,* he thought, *I'll never make it through dinner*.
"Want some more?" He offered, hoping she'd refuse, yet thinking it would be more fun if she agreed.
"No thanks. It's really good, but I've got enough spicy things in my order, and, besides, you're a strong man and you need your food. I won't steal any more, I promise."
He laughed. She could take anything she wanted. He wouldn't mind at all…
The rest of the meal was silent, punctuated only by small glances towards each other, and shy smiles as their gazes retreated back to their plates.
Lois got up to clear the table and pile the dirty dishes in the sink. Turning back towards his direction, she asked, "Where do you keep the dish washing soap?"
He shook his head. "The dishes can wait. Come here."
It was all she needed. She practically ran across the room into his waiting arms. He wrapped his arms around her and danced her across the living room. *This is better than heaven,* she thought, losing herself in his eyes. He cradled her a little closer, resting his face against her hair and breathing in the faint smell of her shampoo.
The song seemed to stretch on forever as they swayed to the rhythm, bodies held tightly together and molding almost to perfection. At the next pause on the CD, Clark looked into her eyes, as if trying to read right into the depths of her soul. He leaned towards her and kissed her - slowly at first, and then more passionately. Lois eagerly responded, moving one hand behind his head to hold him more tightly, while the other reached around his neck, for support because her knees were starting to give out.
Clark began moving his hands up and down her back, feeling every curve and every muscle along the way. She responded in kind, blazing a fiery trail along his back. He pulled back for a second, breathing in and taking the opportunity to look in her eyes again. They stood there for a few moments, then he expelled his breath rapidly, reached down behind Lois' knees, and picked her up in his arms. The rapidity of the movement had taken her breath away, and she clung to him, surprised but not afraid. She knew that Clark would never hurt him. He carried her into the bedroom, side-stepped the luggage, and deposited her on the bed with extreme care. Again, he stopped and looked at her, as if asking for permission to continue.
The tenderness with which he looked at her made Lois' heart melt, not to mention what it did to her heart rate. She reached out and caressed his face in a gesture reminiscent of the way he often touched her. It was all he needed.
He put one knee on the bed, then bent down towards her and rained kisses on her face. She placed her hands on his chest and began massaging it, feeling every detail of the muscle. He let out a soft moan, obviously enjoying her touch. Her hands moved towards his back, still using slow, circular movements, pulling him closer to her. He obeyed, moving closer until she could feel his weight on her. She found his lips and gave in to the passion which was building within her. They parted, short of breath, and then, recovered, Lois attacked Clark's earlobe with renewed vigour. "Oh, Clark," she whispered in his ear, "I love you so much. You don't know how long I've waited for this moment."
Clark stilled for a moment, overcome by tenderness and love. A silent tear streamed out from his eyes, which were gazing lovingly at Lois, and fell on the pillow, right next to her hair. Here was the woman whom he loved more than anything in the whole world, saying what he had always wanted to hear. It was almost too good to be true.
Slowly, he took off his jacket. The tie, he let Lois pull on, slowly, seductively. While he was throwing his discarded clothes onto the back of a chair, Lois began unbuttoning her shirt. He started helping her, guiding her hands to each button, and watching eagerly as more and more of her silky skin was exposed. She finished taking her blouse off and he gasped, realizing how truly beautiful she was, and feeling a new wave of desire flood him. Clumsily, he started fumbling with his shirt buttons, and she reached out to help him. By the third button, his hand brushed the material of his costume which he hadn't taken off, and he froze.
*OHMYGOSH! I still have the costume on,* he felt panic overcoming him. *What do I do?*
Lois was staring at him, obviously confused at him having stopped so suddenly. "Clark, what is it? What's wrong?"
"Lois, I…" He didn't know what to say. He couldn't run out of the room to change, he couldn't stop without giving her an explanation, and he couldn't keep going because the next button would start revealing what he was wearing under his shirt. He had no choice. Now was the time to tell Lois the whole truth, and face the consequences. One part of him was fighting this decision. *No, I won't lose Lois because of this, not now that we're so close*. But his logical side knew that there was no escape.
Bracing himself for the worse, Clark reached for Lois and lifted her gently so that her back would rest against the pillows piled on the top of his bed. He took a deep breath, then stared Lois straight in the eyes.
"Lois, don't be frightened. There's nothing wrong. It's just that I can't continue right now. You were right earlier. There are some unresolved issues between us." He searched her eyes for any signs of trouble. All he saw was the desire she felt at that moment, along with the concentration with which she was listening to his every words.
"There's something I've wanted to tell you for a long time," he continued, "but every time I tried, I've stopped myself because I just don't know how you'll react. Lois, I'm scared that what I'm about to say is going to drive you away from me. You have to realize that I love you and that I trust you, which is why I'm now willing to share with you my greatest secret."
He heard her swallow, obviously taking in everything he was saying in a solemn manner.
*OK,* Clark told himself, *do it now.*
Somehow his mouth was paralyzed. He couldn't make himself say the words. *Come on, Clark. You've gone too far. You can't stop now.*
She held a finger up to his lips, effectively shushing him. He looked at her, confused. A smile slowly grew on her lips.
His heart stopped for a second. He couldn't believe what he had just heard. Surely he was hearing things.
She ran her fingers through his hair, slicking it backwards.
"You heard me right. I said, I know, Superman."
He backed away a bit, looking at her incredulously. It just wasn't sinking in. Suddenly, the full impact of what she had just said hit him - harder than that 17-mile-wide meteorite. Tears filled his eyes. He reached for her, hugging her hard. This was like a dream come true. He had expected her to walk out on him, and now she was here with him, even knowing the truth!
Just as suddenly, he stopped. A horrible thought had just crossed his mind. Had she found this out a long time ago? Was this all a charade? Was she still in love with Superman? Was this the reason why she had started getting closer to him? All his self-doubts concerning Lois came flooding back. He let go of her, no longer able to be close to her. He got up and started pacing the room. She didn't love *him*, she was still obsessed with his superpowers. At that moment, he wished that he could throw them all away. Why hadn't he been born an ordinary man? He put his hands to his face, the pain almost too much for him to bear. He could stop a speeding bus and not wince, but the thought of not having Lois was too much.
"Clark…" She broke into his thoughts, realizing that something was wrong with his reaction. Why was he angry?
He turned to face her, the image of a broken man. "How long have you known, Lois? Was it with Superman that you agreed to go on a first date?" His voice faltered. "Did you know who you were talking to when you told him you loved Clark?"
Lois stared at him for a second, not believing what she was hearing. This was tearing him apart. And he was so wrong.
"No, Clark. I didn't know. I've only known for a few days. I meant it when I said I loved you. I'm talking about Clark. Who do you think I fell in love with over the last few months?"
He still didn't seem convinced. She pressed her point further.
"In the courtroom, when I told Superman - you - that I only wanted to be friends, I meant it. I had just had a session with Dr. Friskin, and she made me realize that I was sacrificing a wonderful relationship because of the shadow of a superhero that I could never have."
Lois saw Clark's hard gaze waver a bit. He was obviously believing her, desperate to be convinced that she loved him first. Spurred by the hope in his eyes, she continued her account.
"It was Clark that I reached out for, when I went to your apartment and saw you were packing."
"The next day, it was you that I wanted to help, when I found out your parents had been kidnapped. I really thought it was Superman that I was talking to when I pleaded for his help. I hadn't realized it was you. When I told him to tell you that I loved you, I meant it." She saw his gaze soften, and he started walking towards her, but she wanted to say everything, first.
"It was when you touched me, right before freezing me, that I realized who you were. Superman didn't touch me like that. Clark did - you did. I heard you calling me, when you were trying to revive me. That wasn't Superman's voice, it was yours." She took a long breath, let it out slowly, and finished her account.
"When I had rested, I thought about you and Superman. I wasn't sure I could handle your double life. Then I realized I couldn't live without you. I knew you had tried telling me who you were, but we kept getting interrupted. I decided I'd let you confess in your own time, but then you surprised me with this proposal. I knew you wouldn't be able to live with yourself if you kept lying to me about your identity, so I decided to postpone the answer until after you had found the right time to tell me everything."
She let out a little hysterical laugh. "I certainly hadn't expected this reaction from you."
Those last few explanations broke down the rest of his defenses. He ran to the bed and embraced Lois so hard, she could hardly breathe. He relaxed his grip, apologized for his energetic rush, and moved to cradle her face in his hands. The tears which had been threatening both of them came out in full force as they realized that they were freed from the secrets which had weighed them down.
Clark settled in next to Lois, holding her and saying soothing words. He had a thousand questions for her, and he was sure she had just as many, if not more, for him. After a few silent moments, she looked at him, and he laughed, realizing that she was dying to talk to him.
"Yes, Lois, go ahead and ask."
She smiled at the fact that he had read her mind, once again, and started asking him questions. Not grilling him, as her seasoned reporter instincts could do, but gently, with a curiosity reigned in by the shyness which she felt. This was a side of Clark that she had yet to get accustomed to.
They held each other and talked until the wee hours of the morning, at which point exhaustion took over and they fell asleep in each other's arms.
Lois was the first to wake up. Opening her eyes, she looked around. Unable to recognize where she was, she started to sit up. A weight against her stomach stopped her. Looking down, she saw it was an arm — then recognized that it was Clark's arm, and relaxed. He had fallen asleep holding her, one arm behind her head, his head next to her shoulder, and the other arm over her, covering her stomach. She followed the trail of that arm all the way up to his face. He was relaxed, unguarded. Lois realized that she had never really seen him look that peaceful. He had always been guarded, especially around her. Now that she knew - now that he had felt he could confide in her - she realized that Clark would no longer have to hold back. He had someone else in the world he could talk to, other than his parents - which Lois guessed must know the secret. It didn't make sense otherwise.
While she was lost in her thoughts, Clark stirred, bringing her back to earth. He disengaged his other arm, stretched, blinked a lot, then looked at her and smiled.
Lois' heart gave a jump. He was so adorable with his sleepy eyes and his hair all mussed up. Unable to resist the urge, she reached out and mussed his hair even more. He caught her hand, effectively stopping her, but one look at his face was enough to tell her that he was enjoying the treatment.
"Good morning." He had said it lazily, and Lois smiled at him, liking the sound of that. She would need to hear that a lot more often. In response, she reached out with the hand that he was still holding, and caressed his cheek. The morning growth of beard gave his skin a raspy texture, but she didn't mind. Leaning in, she gave him a kiss.
"Ouch," she complained, teasing him, "talk about whisker burn! I think you'd better go and shave." She suddenly wondered how he did that. Would razor blades actually cut the hairs, or would his super beard simply dull the blade?
Clark gave a mock angry look. "Hey, I'm not complaining about your appearance this morning! How about giving a guy a break. I haven't had that many hours of sleep."
Lois playfully slapped him on the arm. "You've had as many as I've had. We fell asleep together, didn't we?" She gave him a look as if daring him to say otherwise.
He looked away for a second, something obviously on his mind, and then turned back towards her.
"Well, actually, I woke up about an hour after falling asleep. I was just watching you sleep when I heard a call for help. I snuck out, changed, and went to help. It was nothing serious, just a woman who had fallen down some stairs and had sprained her ankle. Unfortunately, no one was around to help her. I took her to the hospital, then changed and walked back home. I only got back two hours ago, so that gives me only three hours of sleep."
Lois had listened intently as he had started his story, then tears had sprung in her eyes when she realized he had gone off without telling her. He had barely finished his story when she burst out, "Clark, how could you! What if it had been something serious? You could have gotten hurt, or needed help, and I never would have known."
Clark wore a contrite look. He knew he should expect this, but when he had turned to tell her he had to leave she had looked so peaceful and happy that he hadn't wanted to wake her.
"You were sleeping so soundly that I didn't dare wake you, " he explained, hoping this would be enough.
Lois softened visibly at that, but still held on to her disapproving look, to make sure he knew she hadn't liked finding out he had run out in the middle of the night.
"Look," Clark continued, "I'm sorry. I should have told you before I left, but I really didn't want to disturb you."
The last of Lois' stern face melted away, replaced by a smile which made Clark's heart melt. Teasingly, he asked her, "Am I forgiven?"
Her smile widened, as she wrapped her arms around his neck, and said, "Uh huh…". Slowly, she reached out for him, closing her eyes and just waiting for her lips to make contact with his mouth, opened in anticipation. The prickliness of his beard once again stunned her, and she backed away after only a quick brushing kiss.
She laughed at his confused expression, then said, "Look, I'm not sure I'm able to handle your super beard. Why don't you go shave while I go make breakfast."
He hesitated at her last suggestion, knowing all too well Lois' lack of culinary skills. He must have telegraphed what he was thinking, because she laughed, then told him to go on, adding, "Don't worry, I'll stick to fairly innocuous things. How about toast and coffee?"
Clark agreed, and made his way towards the bathroom, while Lois watched him go, enjoying the view. Sometime during the night he had changed into a pair of shorts and sleeveless T-shirt, which covered the essential, but were just tight enough to let the imagination run wild…
Once the bathroom door closed and there was nothing left to see, Lois sighed and forced herself to get up. In the kitchen, she looked around to find the necessary things for coffee. The fresh blend was one she didn't recognize and she wondered if Clark had flown to a coffee-producing country to get it. *Could make for interesting shopping,* she thought, smiling to herself.
She had barely had time to scoop some of the coffee into a basket filter when she heard footsteps coming up behind her. Turning around, she saw Clark, already showered, with a clean shave, and dressed for work.
"How do you do that?" She asked him, before she could catch herself. *He's Superman, silly. Wake up.*
"Easy," Clark answered, then, with a grin he went on, bragging, "Actually, I only went at half-speed. I guess I really need more sleep."
Lois gave him a dirty look at that. "How am I supposed to compete with that? I'm lucky if it only takes me 45 minutes to wake up and shower…"
Clark grinned. "Well, you're already awake, but if we want to be in time at the Planet, you'd better go on and get ready. I'll take care of breakfast."
"What, are you going to fly off somewhere and get breakfast?" She teased.
Clark made believe he was insulted by this, and gave her a mock stern look. "I'll have you know that I can cook, thank you very much! As a matter of fact, I'll whip up a breakfast that you won't soon forget." He turned her towards the direction of the bathroom, gave her a playful tap on the rear - as a parent might give a child, to push them on - and told her, "Now go on. Everything will be ready by the time you're done. But go ahead and take your time."
Lois didn't feel like arguing, and obediently went to the bedroom, where she unpacked her soap and shampoo, and a robe. She searched through the linen closets until she found suitable towels and a face cloth. Once in the shower, the hot water washed away all her tension. Funny, she hadn't realized she was tense. Thinking about it, Lois understood why she had been like this. Everything had happened so fast last night that she hadn't had the chance to realize how the situation had changed between herself and Clark. And now that the worst was over - Clark knew she knew and everything was okay between them - she could afford to relax.
Lois breathed in the steamy air, and tried to clear her mind of all thoughts. Unfortunately, images of Clark kept popping up, and they were rather disconcerting. She was using Clark's shower, and she kept getting these mental pictures of him, lathering up the soap, passing the washcloth all over his body, drenched by the steady stream of water…
Her mind wandered off for another minute, while she indulged in a little daydreaming, until a change in the temperature of the water brought her back to reality. She'd better hurry and finish before there was no more hot water.
Ten minutes later, she was heading back to the kitchen, in semi-casual work clothes. Her hair was wet and loose (she didn't want to use rollers today, in front of Clark), and starting to curl lightly from the humidity.
She stopped, stunned, as the kitchen table came in to view. Clark hadn't been joking. The table was set with a red and white checkered cloth, fine china, silver utensils, more candles than she'd ever seen, and a centerpiece with at least a dozen red roses. A light, jazzy tune was playing in the background, and the smell of food was wafting towards her.
"So, you're finally ready", Clark teased, effectively snapping Lois out of her shocked state. She let out a soft whistle, impressed by his efforts.
"If the food is even half as good as the presentation," she mused, "I don't think I'll forget this meal."
Clark smiled, obviously flattered, then winked. "Well then, what are we waiting for? Madam is served." Doing his best to imitate a French accent, he led her towards the table, chatting away as a Maitre D' would for a special customer. "Well, as a first course, we have ze freshly squeeeezed orange juice - and before you ask, I deed not go all ze way to Florida to 'and pick zese oranges for you, alzough I did teenk about eet."
Lois couldn't stop herself from laughing, pleading for him to stop, or else she wouldn't be able to eat. Clark put on a dejected face, obviously enjoying his theatrics, and gave her a puppy dog look which made her heart stop for a few seconds. Then, he suddenly swooped down and gave her a quick kiss before backing away and turning towards the counter. "I hope you're hungry," he said, "because there's a lot of food here."
The meal was even better than she could have imagined it. Hot waffles, smothered in syrup, with fresh whipped cream (from his parent's farm) and berries. After eating all she could manage, Lois let out a long breath, backing away from the table and resisting the urge to loosen her belt.
"Clark, if you keep this up, I'm going to have to go on a drastic diet before I weigh 200 pounds."
Clark only smiled at this. "Lois, I'd love you no matter what you looked like, which brings me to my next point…"
He took Lois' hands and helped her to her feet, then guided her over to the couch. She sat down while he stood in front of her, looking at her as if to memorize every little detail. Slowly, without taking his eyes off her, he knelt down. Lois' heart beat accelerated as she realized what he was doing.
Clark reached into his jacket pocket and once again pulled out the velvet box. He opened it slowly, revealing the shiny diamond ring inside which attracted Lois' gaze in an almost hypnotic manner. She gasped, really looking at it for the first time, and fully comprehending its meaning.
"I think I've kept this safe long enough…" Clark joked, trying to get Lois' attention. Her gaze turned towards him, and their eyes locked for a long moment. Finally, Clark swallowed audibly and took a deep breath.
"Lois, we've been through a lot together. We've fought and we've made up, we've disagreed on stories and gone together on wild investigations. But the important thing is that whatever we did, we did it together. You are very special to me. I love you more than I've ever loved anyone and I can't imagine my life without you."
Clark stopped for a second, allowing her to absorb all this and unwittingly creating a dramatic pause, then continued, "Lois, will you marry me?"
Tears formed in Lois' eyes. She had been waiting so long for this moment that she was having a hard time realizing it was really happening. She reached for Clark's face, holding it in her hands, and looked deeply into his eyes. Slowly, she smiled and spoke up.
"Clark, I love you and I can't possibly imagine living without you. Yes, I would be honoured to marry you."
Clark exhaled, realizing he had been holding his breath. Had she really said it? As if in a dream, he took the ring out of its case and slipped it on Lois' finger. He looked at the ring on her finger, and slowly realized that this was really happening. She had said yes. She was going to be his wife. Overcome with love and happiness, he reached out to Lois and kissed her, slowly, tenderly. After some time they separated, looking at each other, and then Lois reached out towards him, to just hold him. They stayed that way for a long time, too absorbed by each other to realize time was passing by, and they would be late for work.
At least for now, anyway. If I get positive response, and people want me to, I'll write a sequel.
Nancy Lemieux LEMIEUX@medcor.mcgill.ca