By Demi (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Summary: When a little disagreement escalates into a full-blown, hurtful argument, Lois and Clark call off their engagement. But they have trouble hanging onto their resolve to be just partners again.
First off, I wrote this *eons* ago, but for a different group of people :) I've been asked to 'edit' <eg> the story so that it might be distributed on the more mainstream fanfic lists and so here goes! TI without the hottest flames of its sizzle ;) If you're over 18 and you've never read TI in the extended 'adult' version, email me privately and I'd be happy to send you a copy. Otherwise I hope you enjoy! My LOOOONG comments follow… Keep in mind I wrote the comments last season too =o)
This is a story which takes place BEFORE this crazy arc/wave thingy <bg> in terms of the plot of Lois and Clark. I'd like to use the term which I believe Gorn said her hubby used, and mention that this too is a 'CHICK' story <bg> and I make no apologies for that!! It is also the first *part* of a story which will probably end up being more than 100 pages if I ever finish it…and it will even have an A-plot! wow! (though it doesn't have one now…really <g>) Consider this a little sampling I suppose. I guess then, that this could have the "to be continued…" stamp at the end of it, though I have chosen not to put it on at this time :)
I'd like to try and thank some of the people who were inspirational to me in writing this. - It's not my FIRST fic, but it is my first *distributed* piece and so any and all comments are welcome. Big thanks go out to Gail Lefkowitz, for lending me her *wonderful* proofreading skills and taking so much time and care in helping me piece this all together! ;-) To Diane Levitan for encouraging me to write this! Also Jiji and Uni without whose encouragement I would have probably put this off even longer! :) Last but certainly not least; thanks go out to everyone on IRC; DebbyS, Kwiz, Grace, Keina…did I miss anyone? For that fateful Thursday night when I so desperately needed conflict! I don't know exactly WHOSE suggestion(s) I chose, but thanks to everyone just the same! I couldn't use Lex YET because the story doesn't really have enough A-plot. <bg> Sorry!
I wrote this because I was moved to find subjective answers to some of the questions I've been harbouring all season. I make the assumption that it *is* possible for a man to cry, and that sometimes even the 'simple questions' don't have 'easy answers'.
**All characters are copyright WB blah blah blah, and no infringement upon this copyright is intended. This story is for enjoyment only… :)
There were papers everywhere. On the desk, on the polished surface of the floor, some still floating haphazardly through the air on the way to a resting place. It was a complete mess. And it was a complete *disaster* in a day that couldn't have possibly gotten any worse for Lois Lane. This was it!
"Oh jeez, I'm sorry, Lois…" Jimmy quickly gathered his miscellaneous papers up from their resting place at Lois' feet and scrambled to retrieve the file which had fallen from his hands.
Glancing down at the offending file folder, now devoid of its previous cargo (which lay incongruously next to one of Lois' bright red, high-heeled shoes), Jimmy noticed uneasily that Lois' foot tapped impatiently against the floor as she herself stared icily down at his efforts.
"I guess I wasn't watching where I was going…" Jimmy apologized.
"No, I *guess* not." Lois scowled at the young man. Normally, something like this wouldn't have bothered her, but today…today was different. Today the whole world was different. "You know that the problem here is, Jimmy? The *problem* is that you *never* seem to be watching … *anything*, ever. You want to be a good reporter and get off of those two-bit amateur garbage collector assignments Perry keeps giving you? You have to learn to pay more attention. Attention…Jimmy? Are you listening to me? Come to think of it, perhaps if *I* would have figured that out sooner, maybe…just *maybe* I wouldn't be so…so… God I hate this!" Lois threw her hands up in complete exasperation. It wasn't bad enough that her whole universe was in a shambles, of course not. It wasn't even bad enough that she didn't know if she even felt like living anymore. **Goddamn you, Clark Kent!! I could kill you!** No she couldn't. She couldn't because she was still completely, head over heels, madly, *passionately* in love with the man. And *that* made her madder than anything else.
"Lois," Jimmy managed to cut in. "…hold up, are you feeling all right? You look kind of…upset. "
"Ha!" **He thinks I'm upset? He doesn't even know what upset *means*!**
"I look upset? Really? Okay, let me let you in on a little secret James Olsen, I am *upset*. I'm upset because I'm mad. I'm really, really mad, and if you were me you'd be mad too, and you'd have every reason to be mad!"
Moving backwards from his position at her feet, Jimmy dusted himself off. He couldn't remember the last time he had seen Lois this…upset. Except maybe that time that Clark had gone out to lunch with Mayson Drake and left her a note on her desk…
"Whoa, Lois, listen, this sounds serious. Maybe I'm not who you should be talking to, what about CK?" Jimmy glanced over his shoulder at the elevator, hoping desperately that Clark would be there so he could escape… "…And speaking of *talking*, I kind of have to get my butt in gear before Perry finds out I m talking to you instead of getting this copy outta here. I m sorry, I gotta fly…" Quickly gathering the last of his fallen papers off of the floor, Jimmy dashed out from under Lois' death glare and ducked into the elevator, brushing past Clark who stepped out into the newsroom.
"Hey, CK, just in time." Jimmy added hastily over his shoulder, as he swept into the open elevator. "Lois is really bummed this morning! I'm not sure I'd want to be the guy that has to cool her off today!" He grinned mischievously at Clark as the elevator doors closed around him.
Clark sighed and shook his head. It was going to be a long day. It was probably going to be a long month. He just hoped it wasn't going to be a really long career. From below in the newsroom Lois glanced up at him, her face assuming an air of quiet indifference. **Oh god, she hates me** Clark glanced back at her and smiled…barely. He hadn't realised how difficult it would be to see her this morning, especially after last night. She looked…beautiful, as ever. Her short hair pulled back to curl around her small delicate ears in that endearing way that was all Lois'. Clark could feel a lump rising up into his throat and a the knot in his stomach tighten into an aching ball. It felt like…like nothing he had ever experienced before. Physical pain was something he had only ever had to worry about around Kryptonite, and even then, he felt that he would much rather face a ten ton ball of the green menace rather than have to endure the cloying ache which pervaded his body now. Dying. It felt like dying. Only this time, Clark knew that there would be no final release as might come with any real death. For all he knew, this could go on forever.
"Kent, are you gonna stand there all day gawking, or are you gonna get some work done around here?" It was Perry's voice. Clark shook off his momentary daze and snapped to attention.
"Yes, Chief, sorry. I guess I got a bit sidetracked." Clark swallowed visibly and looked back in the direction of the woman who held his life in her delicate hands every day. For her part, Lois, who had been looking in his direction as well, noticed his gaze shift to her eyes and turned away. Sitting back down at her desk, he saw her fingers moving quickly over a keyboard that hadn't been used all morning … until now.
Clark made his way towards his own desk, stopping briefly to stand next to Lois'.
"Hi Lois." His voice was soft and so full of despair it almost tore through Lois' heart to hear him speaking. Maybe he was wrong, maybe they *could* go back to the way things were, maybe…*maybe* she shouldn't be such a fool - again. She had already been almost completely emotionally destroyed by two men. Who was to say that Clark wouldn't be the same? Who was to say that he…that *they* hadn't made the right choice last night. **Who am I kidding? Clark could never be the same as the others. I never loved any of them the way I love him…** Then why? All Lois knew was that she was hurt and angry and afraid. And that she wasn't going to allow Clark to see any of this…except maybe the anger.
"Clark." she said, not bothering to look up from her screen. The fact that Lois was giving him the brush off didn't bother Clark as much as the way she spoke. He could tell that she was hurt. All he wanted to do was take her into his arms and hold her, right there and to hell with what anybody else thought. And why not? She would let him, he *knew* she would! Why should he let his pride stand in the way? Or her pride for that matter? But he *couldn't* and a part of him was disgusted with himself for not being able to do it.
"Lois, this won't work. We can't be this way. We're a TEAM remember? Lane and Kent? We have to work together every day, professionally. What happens if we need to collaborate on a story? It won't work."
"You already said that." Lois' tone was icy as she continued to stare at her monitor and tapped her fingers impatiently against her desk. What did he think he was doing? After everything that happened last night he thought that he could just walk in here and expect them to be friends? Just pick up where they left off, sans the engagement and the romance, just be buddy buddy like nothing happened? No way. That was just impossible. "In fact, isn't that what we BOTH said last night as well? How odd…the same sentence, two very different meanings." Lois smiled bitterly.
Clark sighed. **I love you, Lois.**
"Lois, you know why we said…why we *did* what we did." he looked down at her and frowned.
Glancing up, she shot Clark a cold glare, but even as she did, she noticed the expression on his face was not grim and determined as it had been last night. It was almost…sad. **Oh Clark…** Suddenly all she wanted to do was jump up and fall into his arms, for him just to hold her and stroke her hair, to tell her…what?
Everything was so clear last night. Why was it so complicated today?
"No, Clark. What I *know* is that we ended it… for us. What I *know* is that we were going to get *married* and now, we can't even have a civil conversation…"
Clark regained his resolute determined face and moved around so that he was standing almost in front of her. "Lois, don't. It doesn't matter. We made the right choice. I can't expect to have a 'normal' life any more than…" Clark looked down for a moment and lowered his voice to almost a whisper, lest the other employees in the newsroom might hear him. "…well now, I dunno, I guess there really isn't a precedent for an alien from another planet landing on earth and…" Clark stopped abruptly and looked up to find himself staring into the face that held him captive every time he saw it. Forcing his eyes away before she could read his expression, and before he lost any more of his already waning control, he glanced quickly down towards her desk where he noticed all of the miscellaneous papers that were all in Lois' words, 'exactly where I know where to find them'. He noticed her small delicate hands sitting on top of her keyboard, hands which had so often brushed tenderly against his face, hand which had…no trace of the ring they had worn only yesterday.
"And what?" Lois looked up at Clark, who seemed as distant as the world where he was born. "Clark?" Why was he doing this? Everything had been so clear just a moment ago, and nothing had changed, so why did she suddenly feel like she was…
"…falling in love." he spoke, as he lifted his gaze reluctantly, to meet hers.
"Clark…" Lois' voice was soft, and Clark wasn't sure if he heard the familiar break in its cadence that usually meant tears were being held back. He felt as though his heart was being torn in half. **No, please, God, please don't cry…**
"Lois, I did a lot of thinking last night, and you were right, I can't… *We* can't do this …" Clark gently placed his hand against her face. It felt so right, the way her small features fit perfectly into the palm of his large masculine hand. Now, if his resolve had been shaken before, he realized that he couldn't hurt her. Not ever. It had to be over. "You know what the strangest part is? I think I've always known. I just… never wanted to admit it…I was selfish." The knot in his stomach became an insistent pulsing agony and Clark wondered if he could survive it. Lois just stared up at him, a mixture of hurt and pride evident on her face, her eyes shining with unshed tears. He couldn't take it anymore. It was too much. Unable to listen to her response, Clark swallowed hard and turned away from the one person who meant more to him than anything else in the universe. It was probably the second hardest thing he had ever done in his life, he thought bitterly. The hardest was when he had to watch Lois remove the engagement ring from her finger, when he saw the tears in her eyes as she did. And now, having seen her this one last time had confirmed everything he had been so confused about last night. Taking a deep breath, he walked slowly away towards the elevator, into which he slipped quietly, and was gone.
"Clark…" Lois whispered rather than called out, lest the entire newsroom notice the tears which fell unbidden, and trickled down her cheeks once again.
Safely inside his small confinement, a young, broken man sank to his knees against the wall and sobbed bitterly.
"I knew it! I knew it!" Lois smiled enigmatically at her partner in crime, Bobby Bigmouth, as he gleefully munched on yet another eggroll.
"Lows, I gotta tell ya I'surewasss," Bobby reached out and gulped down an entire can of soda before continuing. "…difficult to get those guys to confess. I'm glad I was only hiding in the shadows, guns you know…they give me … indigestion."
"Bobby, you're an angel…a saint! Did I ever tell you that?"
"Yeah, sure, sure, could you pass the shrimp? Man, I never figured espionage could build me up such an appetite, usually you know, it's just word on the street, and that's hungry work in itself, but this spying stuff…I'm starved!" Bobby grabbed the small white container proudly displaying the logo of "Ralph's Pagoda" and Lois smiled inwardly. Sometimes, having to shell out in order to feed Bobby's seemingly bottomless pit was rewarded by the fact that she could watch him eat almost anything and never get ill. **He must have a cast iron stomach, that one**
"So…" Lois looked up from her 'otherwise engaged' companion and stared thoughtfully out into space. "… If Intergang is behind all of the recent robberies and computer fraud in the scientific community, what could they be after?"
Bobby glanced up quickly, almost too quickly, but just in time to see Lois' shrewd stare confront him.
Confused for a split second, Lois only narrowed her eyes at his sudden response to her question. But the look of confident calculation which Lois thought she had seen on Bobby's face was no longer present.
"Look, Lois, don't take me there." Bobby spoke through mouthfuls of Slippery Shrimp. "I don't know, and I don't *wanna* know. I've already stuck my neck out as far as it'll reach on this one, and I ain't goin' no further. Next time I give you a lead, you can spy by yourself. I almost got my head blown off today!" Bobby patted his own neck reassuringly and then continued with his assault on the box of shrimp.
"I know, Bobby, and I appreciated it! Didn't I get you this 'extra' dinner on top of the three boxes of pastries from 'Logan's'? Didn't I take you all the way back here to my apartment so you could eat in peace?"
Bobby smirked. "You're here." he said matter-of- factly. "Where's the peace? …And, for that matter, I *still* ain't goin' with you next time. Why don't you take Kent with you? I'm sure he wouldn't mind following you off the edge of the planet.." At the mention of Clark, Lois' face fell noticeably, and she looked away for a second before returning her attention to Bobby's continuing verbal tirade. "… *I*, on the other hand, still have some regard for my own life. You know something? This *Love* stuff is overrated. A guy's gotta watch his own neck as far as I'm concerned, and being *in love* just gets in the way. Ah…but you probably disagree with me…being there yourself. I ain't no poet, but what is it that those poet types are always sayin'? Once bitten…I don't remember the rest."
"Twice shy." Lois whispered and looked down at her hand as it rested on the table. Her 'ringless' hand.
"What?" Bobby was once again chomping.
"Once bitten, twice shy. That's the cliche. But it doesn't fit in your context." She glanced up at Bobby and then tried to smile. "Anyway, I don't think Clark would follow me off the edge of the planet. Not anymore." She whispered, and then added in an even quieter voice. "…at least not this one."
"You know, Lois, I don't get you sometimes, always whispering to yourself. You need to seek help." Bobby regarded Lois for a moment while she fixed him with her finest 'very funny' stare, before he continued, "…I'm kidding, Lois. Look, its been real, but I gotta fly…"
The last part of Bobby's sentence grabbed Lois' attention and for a moment she simply stared at him.
"What? Do I got sauce on my face?" Bobby dabbed at the corners of his mouth with a napkin.
Snapping out of her trance, Lois shook her head slightly. Bobby frowned in return. He looked almost … sympathetic, but then with Bobby, Lois could never be sure of anything … except maybe his appetite.
"No, no Bobby, thanks a lot. Call me if you hear anything else." Lois shook her head slowly, to clear it, as she watched Bobby moved towards her door before turning back one last time.
"As usual, Lois, you'll never hear from me again, " He winked at her "…and I was never here and you never saw me" Bobby smiled. "G'bye, Lois…" He turned and left her, standing thoughtfully, next to her couch. Sighing, she closed and locked her door and moved back over to fall unceremoniously into her sofa.
**Oh God, what a killer headache** She brought one hand up to massage her temples as she allowed herself to think verbally. "I don't need you anyway, Clark. I got along just fine without you for years, why should NOW be any different?" Closing her eyes, Lois tried to remember a time when she was happy. Instead, shattering images popped uninvited into her head and as she slipped into a fitful sleep, dreaming of Clark, and the horrible night before.
"No! I disagree." Lois shot Clark a frustrated glare and took a step towards him. They had been in her apartment for two hours, having come to loggerheads over an investigation they could not seem to see eye to eye on. Not that this was anything new lately. "It's not as though Intergang hasn't run *all* of the crime in Metropolis before! What makes you think that if they have their hands into 98% of all the experimental labs in the country, they would leave S.T.A.R Labs alone?" Her tone was quickly approaching exasperated.
Clark rolled his eyes, just slightly, even so Lois noticed the gesture and scowled. "Lois, think about it. With Superman actively involved in protecting the facility, how could anyone get in or out without *my* knowing? I mean, I think I would recognize known members of Intergang entering and exiting the building." Clark gave Lois his patented 'ironic' look and tipped his head to one side as if anticipating her reaction.
It had taken Clark three years to get Lois exactly where he wanted her in both his personal *and* professional lives. In that time, he had amassed plenty of practice in dealing with her subtle arrogance. Tonight however, Clark was having a hard time keeping his cool. Lois was being completely unreasonable! And she was getting to him…again. Worst of all, she didn't seem as though she would be willing to back down any time soon.
For her part, Lois simply continued to stare at him, her scowl having transformed into an expression of utter disbelief. "I cannot *believe* I am hearing this. You are *so* naive sometimes! Come on, Clark! You can't be everywhere, *all* the time, and Intergang knows that. Just like they *know* that you are more active with S.T.A.R. Labs than perhaps 'the Man of Steel' ought to be…" That was it. That was just…IT.
"Oh really? You're the expert, right?" Clark threw back at her. "You know how I should live my life as Superman *much* better than *I* ever could! What are you saying *this* time, Lois? That I might be blowing my own cover in helping S.T.A.R. Labs do research on Kryptonite?"
Clark couldn't believe what he was hearing. It was bad enough that Lois would challenge him on his ability to stay on top of things in his own life, but to attack his keeping a close eye on S.T.A.R Labs when she *knew* exactly why he *had* to do it…
"Okay…and you propose I do…what? Just leave them alone with it? As much as I might trust Dr. Kline, I'm not sure I would be willing to give him free rein on something as dangerous to me as Kryptonite…"
"Clark." Lois' tone was resigned, and she seemed unaffected by his verbal attack. "*Maybe* you shouldn't have handed Kryptonite over to those scientists in the first place! You should have just gotten rid of it! Thrown it up into space or … something." She was scared. He could see it in her eyes. And her fear for him began to drain away any of the anger he had been feeling, slowly replacing it with that warm confusing knot he always felt in the pit of his stomach whenever he held her close to him, the energy between them that sometimes made him feel like he wanted to just hold forever, absorb her into himself, somehow.
Lois continued, "…I mean, its not as if they've made any startling *breakthroughs* yet, have they? And how long will it be before someone like Intergang catches on to the fact that Superman is interested in S.T.A.R. Labs because…"
**I love you.** he wanted to say. **Do you have any idea how much I just want to take you in my arms and hold you right now?**.
"Because what?" He cut her off instead. "Lois, *nothing* is going to happen to me, I've got everything under control and I wish sometimes that you'd just…that you'd…" At a loss for words, Clark sighed in frustration and threw his arms up unceremoniously. **How could I love you so much that it HURTS…and want to wring your neck at the same time? Do you have any idea what you do to me, Lois Lane?** Unexpectedly, Clark shook his head and laughed out loud.
"Lois, can we just drop this *please?*"
"No, Clark, we can't." It was Lois' turn to be affronted, or so it appeared to Clark. She was mad, there was no question of that, and somehow, Clark thought that his short burst of laughter, as innocent as his motives had been, had only served to make her even angrier. "We've been *dropping* too many things lately, and it's time we got things out in the open, don't you think?" Lois began to pace back and forth from her sofa to the window where Clark stood, casually dressed in his street clothes.
Clark watched her briefly. Lois always paced when she was uncomfortable or anxious.
"I mean…" she continued "…maybe we could at least *start* talking, seeing as how we both KNOW we won't get to finish this conversation." She glared at him, daring him to understand the implications of her innuendo.
Clark didn't need any further encouragement. "Oh I get it. You're going to start in again about how I get called off every time we start to have a serious talk, aren't you? Lois," Clark sighed. "… I thought we had an understanding about this? I *have* to go…" She was drawing him in expertly, he could feel the anger rising up inside of him…how did she do it? She always knew *exactly* which strings to pull, which needles to push into his exposed ego. Well she wasn't going to get away with it this time.
"Right. Every single time. It's not like the police could handle things by themselves once in a while is it? I mean, the world was just complete CHAOS before *Superman* came along, and we all KNOW that…"
"What?!" Lois shot back at Clark. She knew her remarks would hurt him. A part of her was even glad.
"Lois, Superman is a big part of who I am. I've divided myself in two so effectively that I can't be *both* at the same time anymore. And sometimes…"
"And sometimes I just want to be with Clark!" Lois screamed in frustration and turned in her pace, walking away from Clark before spinning back around to face him once again, pointing a finger at him accusingly. "I just want to sit down for one *full* evening in front of a VCR with the man I'm *in love* with and…and an old movie and *know* that if I lay back in his arms and fall asleep, that he'll, that *you'll* still be there when I wake up…" Lois glared at Clark, her eyes challenging him to tell her she was wrong in asking for what she had.
"I can't promise you that, Lois. I'm sorry." Clark's expression was unreadable. He hoped.
"No. You aren't sorry, and you probably shouldn't be. I hate this conversation even more than you do because *I* am clearly the bad guy here."
"Lois, you're not…"
"Yes. Yes, I am. But you know what? I don't care anymore. I guess I just want to have a REAL life with *my* fiance. Sometimes, if not all the time, *once in a while*! You know what? Everything in life is a choice, Clark. You *choose* not to promise me a night, even an evening with no interruptions. And the worst part is that I shouldn't even be angry with you for that. But I am, Clark. I am, and sometimes when I'm alone in my apartment, after you've -~> off yet again, and I *know* I won't see you again until the next day…sometimes I even find myself wondering if this can work anymore…" Lois heard the words tumble from her mouth as she let herself lace into Clark. This time, it was his turn to glare at her. **Funny, I was just wondering the same thing**
"Lois, where is this going…"
"We have to be honest, Clark." Lois' tone was outright mad. "…you said it yourself, didn't you? Sometimes you just wish I'd…? What? So say it now, Clark."
"Let me do what I have to do. Alone." Clark looked down, as if the admission of his thoughts was somehow also an admission of guilt for some other heinous crime.
"Exactly. You think I interfere with your job as Superman. I know that." The biting anger in Lois' voice only served to set Clark on edge.
"How can you do this, Lois? How can you take issues we have *agreed* upon and just … God you make me so angry sometimes!" Clark fixed his partner with a steely gaze before continuing. "You know what? I AM tired of you always having to *win* every argument. And you once told me that neither Clark nor Superman had the right to live your life for you, and yet you always seem to want to have a handle on *my* life…especially as Superman! How is *that* different, Lois? Maybe we DO need to talk about this and…"
"What, Clark? What could you possibly say that would change *anything*? You'll still always go running off at the slightest 'Oh My…' in the distance…" Lois fired back at him in defiance. Clark locked his gaze on her somber expression and knew that he could not let this last dig go unchallenged.
"I seem to recall one or two pleas for help from a certain star *reporter* who was none too upset to see Superman come to HER rescue!" He shot back. "What do you think? Should I start splitting hairs? I *have* to be 'Him' *some* of the time. You KNOW this! Why are we even having this discussion?!" Hurt and upset, Clark looked directly into Lois' face and saw only anger and determination. Or perhaps that was all he would let himself see.
"But you're not just 'Him' *some* of the time anymore, Clark, you're HIM *most* of the time, and this is not a discussion anymore, in case you haven't noticed, it's an argument. We're not even married and we're already fighting. It's just like my parents… "
Clark scowled. "Oh really? Well … maybe it's a Lane family trait then?" **Oh no.** He wished he could have taken this last comment back the moment the words rolled easily off of his lips, and he could see them slicing deeply into Lois even now.
She was silent for long moments, her eyes ever so slightly glassy, so that Clark was unable to tell if she was really on the verge of tears, or if it was simply the play of the light. "Maybe." she whispered, and then, from somewhere deep inside of her she found that 'Lois Lane' air of self- confidence, a wall of pride which Clark had encountered when he first met her. It was an insurmountable barrier she had kept for so many years, only slowly revealing herself to him as their feelings become stronger. She flung it now in front of her once again.
"You're right, Lois. Maybe this *isn't* going to work." A big part of Clark wondered if he'd hurt Lois with this last remark, but a smaller, yet somehow even more insistent part of him, was so full of guilt and shame and pride, that it forbade him to apologize.. "I *have* to be Superman and it isn't fair for me to ask you to give up your own personal life the way that I've given up mine." Clark took a step backwards unconsciously. He knew what he had said was hurtful and untrue, and he cringed when he saw Lois throw up her defenses against *him*. The defenses he had worked too long and hard to get her to drop, and he had forced her to pull them out again with little more that a few ill chosen words spoken in anger.
"Touche." Lois took a deep breath and swallowed hard. "So, it's official then. It won't work with us, will it?" She looked down at her feet, unable to face Clark and all of the implications of this newest decision.
"I guess not." Clark refused to look away.
Glancing up, Lois drew on all of the strength she had left inside of her, pulling herself further and further behind the familiar wall she had built up so long ago. She reached down and gently toyed with the small gold and diamond band which she wore around her left ring finger. It was a symbol which had only a few moments ago, it seemed, represented the most powerful feelings she had ever felt in her life. Clark watched her hand as she slowly slipped the ring from her finger and it was all he could do not to reach out and stop her…somehow. **Lois, No…please! I'll do anything you want…anything you say, don't do this!** Clark felt the words rise in his throat but was unable to speak. It was like a horrible nightmare, but it was real. How could this be happening? This was insane, impossibly insane and yet he could figure out no way to stop it from happening. For the second time in his life, Clark Kent felt utterly and completely helpless, and he thought, with bitter irony, the first time was when Lois had said yes…to Lex.
Lois watched the small gold band slide from her finger and into the palm of her other hand. She shivered with cold as she felt a rush of emptiness wash over her, enveloping her in a bleakness that threatened to consume her. Holding the delicate ring , she knew there were unshed tears shining in her eyes and she knew that Clark could see them. It was too late anyway. She extended her hand, and the ring, out towards him.
Looking at Lois, that way just then, Clark was unable to speak. All he could think about were her words and his as they rang out in his head unendingly. He took the ring.
"God," Lois allowed herself to look up at Clark, whose own eyes glistened with impending tears. "I never thought this could feel so much…like dying." He held the ring for a moment before slipping it into the pocket of his jacket. Silence seemed to hang over them for an eternity, until Clark suddenly looked up, away from Lois, a far-off expression crossing his face. Lois let out a small moan, it was the closest she had come to actually allowing herself to cry.
"I…I gotta go…" Clark pointed vaguely out in one direction, even as Lois was able to compose herself once again.
"Yeah." It was Lois' turn to be at a loss for words.
Clark moved back a few steps before spinning into his familiar red and blue costume. "Good-bye, Lois." He glanced at her one last time before he turned, and then disappeared through her window into the night sky.
**What is that?**
The phone was ringing. Lois woke from a fitful sleep, at first unaware of the nature of the harsh noise which had jolted her back into consciousness. Finally turning her attention to the red phone which sat next to her, she had regained enough coherence to pick it up.
"Lois, it's me - Jimmy."
"Jimmy, it's Sunday, it's my day off." Lois rubbed her eye with her other hand. "…Listen, I was meaning to talk to you…I'm sorry about the other day, I had no right to yell at you like that, it's just that I was feeling kind of out of sync, and I guess I just took it out on you. I shouldn't have done that."
"I know, Lois, it's okay, and I'm not calling about that anyway *really*. I also know it's your day off and this sucks, but the Chief asked me to call you *and* Clark. Another science lab got hit last night. Computers have been wiped clean, and any of the data which was copied to disk has been stolen."
Lois yawned loudly. "Jimmy, this is the 6th lab this month, it's not exactly breaking news." Falling back onto the couch, still holding the receiver, Lois sighed, her mind still replaying some of her more recent dreams. She was afraid they might never go away.
"Yeah I know, but the Chief figured you'd want to know since you seemed interested in these guys before…"
Lois sat bolt upright. "S.T.A.R. Labs? Jimmy, are you sure?"
"Positive, Lois. It was a clean getaway, too."
"Jimmy, listen to me, and this is VERY important. I want you to find out *exactly* what was stolen last night, and I'm not just talking about computer data, I mean *anything*, everything okay?" Lois could feel her heart pounding in her chest. **oh god, what if they had found the Kryptonite? They could get to Clark…they could kill him…**
"Sure, Lois, I'll get right on it…"
"Now, Jimmy! This is very important."
"I get that impression…I'm on it."
Lois hung up the receiver and stared for a moment at a photo of Clark and herself across the room. "We may not be together anymore, Clark, but I'll be damned if I'm going to stand by and watch them kill you."
Clark hung up the phone in his apartment and spun into his Superman costume. When he had finally arrived home last night after his patrol of the city, he had fallen asleep almost immediately. Thoughts of Lois and the last couple of days had kept his dreams fitful until he woke this morning to…the sound of Lois' heartbeat? Was she frightened? He wasn't sure, because just then the phone had rang. After he'd hung up, having spoken with Jimmy, Clark listened again, but the sound was gone.
As he took off from his apartment and flew across the city towards S.T.A.R. Labs' facility. He could just hear Lois' 'I told you so' echoing in his head. But the thought of that, instead of making him angry, only made him miss her more. He even missed the way she used to *insist* she was right, the way she rubbed it in when it was (often) discovered that she really was. Mostly, he missed the more recent way he had been apologizing to her of late, the kisses that seemed to last for hours until one or the other pulled away, unwilling but resolute, lest their mutual agreement to 'wait' until after the wedding would be broken.
Lost in thoughts of Lois, Clark almost missed S.T.A.R. Labs altogether. As it was he veered down quickly and landed, just barely on target, at the site of what was now a full-blown police investigation. He decided to do some exploring of his own.
After about twenty minutes, a silver Jeep pulled up onto the side of the road. Lois, bold and defiant as always, stepped out and walked straight through the line of 'Police Tape', marching inside the building before any of the busy investigators noticed she had even been through. Coming upon lab 6, the area dedicated to the study of Superman, and more notably… Kryptonite; Lois found it empty, the police having not yet searched this far into the building. She stepped carefully over the broken test tubes, beakers and miscellaneous papers which were scattered haphazardly over the floor and made her way to a small vault, which stood open. Moving cautiously inside, she came upon a sight she had not been prepared for. Sitting, knees pulled up to his chest, in and among the various items of disarray, was Superman.
Lois held her breath before entering. The sight of Clark, alone, looking very distressed and unhappy made her heart ache, but she knew that she would never allow herself to comfort him, not now.
"Clark…" Lois could not remember seeing him look this lost in a long time.
At the sound of her voice, Clark looked up at Lois, blankly, a worried expression visible on his face for only a moment.
"It's okay, there's no one here." She managed a half smile. "They probably won't get to this area for another hour or so…no one saw me come in." Clark sighed and nodded.
"The master of subterfuge. You should be the one wearing the cape." He looked up again briefly.
"No, we tried that, remember? I don't have the body for it." She smiled at her own remark.
"What?" Lois looked down at his serious expression.
"Nothing. They have it."
"I thought so." Lois moved towards Clark and lowered herself down to sit next to him, various papers sliding out of the way as she adjusted her position to be comfortable. "Is it still in the box?"
"I guess so." He looked directly at her while he spoke. "The box is gone too, and I doubt they could have cracked the code to open it before they would have had to get out of here. They might not even know what's in it." Clark looked down. He knew even as he said them, that his words were probably untrue.
"It's Intergang. We can find them…" Lois reached out and took his hand. She held it for a moment, letting her fingers gently caress his, until he looked up at her and she realized what she had been doing. Self-consciously, she pulled her hand back into her own lap and smiled shyly.
"Lois…" Clark's eyes were like warm pools she wanted to lose herself inside of, but thoughts of the previous night kept stabbing into her feelings for him. She wanted to hold him. Be held *by * him. Right here, right now, it hurt so much that she thought she might *really* die. **God, wouldn't that be ironic?** But he was looking at her that way again, the way he used to…Only now, she couldn't let herself be drawn in. She didn't know if she could go through what she had the other night. Not again. And they still hadn't resolved anything. Clark lifted one hand up towards her face - she longed for him to touch her again…
"So…" Lois interrupted, standing. "What are we doing just sitting here? We've got some investigating to do."
"You're right." Disappointed, Clark stood up and led the way out of the vault with Lois following close behind him. He kept reliving the last few moments of their conversation over and over in his head, the way she'd held his hand, her fingers lightly brushing up against his skin. It was driving him crazy. Spotting an opportunity (and a temporary escape from his irrational mind), Clark ducked into an alleyway and changed back into his street clothes. Just as quickly, he slipped back out and matched step with Lois, who had learned by now to just keep walking as though he had never left her side. She was an amazing woman.
"Since we already know who's behind it, all we *really* need to worry about is finding them." She spoke quickly as she walked beside him. "I say we start with Long Legs Lulu." Lois glanced at her partner to see what he thought of her idea.
"Lulu. I agree." Clark reached into his pocket to pull out his note pad realizing as he did so, that he had neglected to remove the ring from where he had placed it the night before. Holding it in his hand, Clark let the ring slip between his fingers and then turned to look at Lois. She was off in her own world. Gently moving the ring aside, he pulled the pad of paper out and glanced furtively at his partner in case she had noticed his moment of irresolution. Lois still seemed distracted in her own thoughts and Clark was almost relieved.
Suddenly, Lois turned towards him and cocked one eyebrow up. "You *do* realize you just agreed with me, Mr. Kent?" Her smile was enigmatic, perhaps more cheerful than she had intended, and so it was impossible for Clark not to return the favor.
"I know. Strange, isn't it?" Clark clicked on his pen and began writing *something* on the pad he carried in his hand. Lois, for her part, returned to what she was best at - talking(!).
"If Lulu's heard anything about who might have the box, there's a good chance that Intergang will have too, I mean, if it wasn't them to begin with. And they'll be either looking for it, or trying to open it, if they haven't already…" It was the strangest feeling. Lois *knew* that she should still be upset with Clark. She knew nothing had really changed between them, but somehow, she found herself falling back into old habits; the friendly banter they had always had even before they were involved…romantically. Maybe they could be friends again… Lois glanced expectantly at Clark. "I think it's time we did a little bit of 'undercover' work. Aliases, disguises, the whole bit, you up for it?"
Clark self-consciously straightened his tie. "Always. It's what I do best, isn't that what you said the other night?" Clark looked down at her.
Lois stared at him for a moment, obviously moved in some way by the mention of the other night, though he couldn't tell exactly which emotion registered on her face.
"I guess I did." She fidgeted with her carry bag for a few seconds before fixing Clark with another small, shy smile. "I said a lot of things the other night."
This time, Clark looked right into her eyes, trying to read her expression, his own conflicting emotions causing him to fail miserably. "So did I." He whispered, and somehow, they found themselves inches away from one another…closer and closer…
**He's going to kiss me** For Lois, the moments seemed an eternity, she closed her eyes and felt the brush of his lips against her own, sending a shiver through her entire body. She leaned forward in anticipation…but he was gone.
"I'm sorry…" It was Clark's almost breathless voice. He cleared his throat, as both straightened up and Lois swallowed hard. "You mentioned disguises?"
Lois looked down for a moment, hoping Clark hadn't seen her disappointment. She inwardly resolved to stay firm in her convictions from now on and mentally kicked herself for being so weak. "Yes, disguises. I did." Lois regarded her partner for a moment, appraisingly and then added. "Yes…yes, this COULD work."
They were both acting as if nothing had happened, and a part of Clark was almost, relieved. He cocked one eyebrow at his partner. "What? Lois, I know that look. *What* could work?" He shifted his focus downward on himself in a futile attempt to see whatever it was she had seen in him.
"You, in a black suit, plain tie, suspenders…checked I think…NO, make that Burgundy, nice shirt, new shoes…OH and we can't forget… the hat…"
"Hat? Lois, NO ONE wears hats anymore, and will you *please* tell me what your little mind has contrived *this* time?" Clark stared at Lois incredulously for a moment until she began to laugh.
"Ha! My *little* mind …you *did* say little didn't you?" Lois glanced questioningly at Clark.
"Figure of speech…" Clark mumbled guiltily.
Lois smiled at her partner. "Okay, you're forgiven…this time. My *little* mind has come up with a plan to get us *both* into the Blue Angel … *tonight*." Lois smiled at her own brilliance.
"Ahhhhh, Blue Angel…exclusive club, *known* for its affiliation with certain members of Intergang…strictly on the QT of course… HOW?" Clark's curiosity had been aroused. "Besides by my dressing up like a circus ringmaster…which by the way makes so much sense if you sit down and think about it…"
"See, I told you!" Lois cut in.
"in a padded room for about 30 years…" Clark finished.
"Ha Ha." Lois, smiled sarcastically at him and continued. "Actually, it DOES make sense, if you'd just listen instead of acting like a complete…Clark."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Clark shot back, almost laughing.
With an exasperated sigh, Lois shoved her pad of paper into her carry bag just as the two rounded the corner of the street and turned onto Carter Ave., heading, more from force of habit than anything else, in the direction of Lois' building. As Lois unlocked the door to her apartment and they stepped inside, Clark wondered just how exactly it was that they could be so in sync sometimes, and so…out of sync others.
"Okay," Lois said as she plunked her bag down on the coffee table near her couch and turned once again to face Clark. "YOU are a foreign investor."
"Of course I am." Clark smiled innocently at Lois, a clear indication that he was just 'humoring' her. "No one would ever suspect me." He sighed audibly. "I think you've been watching too many James Bond movies, Lois."
"James Bond was a wimp." Lois shot Clark a dangerous look. "*My* plan is going to get us into the Blue Angel. Are you listening?" Lois tapped Clark on the shoulder as he was examining an arrangement of flowers on a nearby table. Satisfied when she had regained his attention once again, she continued. "Do you remember when I went undercover as a singer?"
"Yeah, vaguely, you almost got yourself killed. And I seem to recall ANOTHER club, when I got shot trying to keep *you* out of trouble once again…" Clark grinned at her.
"..I remember. Speaking of which, Clark Kent, *I* seem to recall *you* made me believe you were dead!" Lois looked directly at Clark and suddenly her expression had changed from amused to distant. "I was devastated. I thought I'd never see you again, I thought I'd lost you…" Coming out of her trance, Lois realized what she had said…aloud.
"I'm sorry, that was kind of a tangent, wasn't it?" She could almost feel her ears turning red with embarrassment and was very grateful that she had her now-short hair combed just over them.
"Lois, I didn't *want* to do that to you." Clark reached out one hand to cup her face in the familiar way he always did. She marveled at the way her skin responded to his touch, sending an involuntary shiver up through her spine. "I never wanted to hurt you on purpose. Ever. I'm sorry. I mean I *was*, … then." Clark caught Lois' eyes with his own and for many moments, both seemed almost transfixed. Then, clearing her throat, Lois looked away from him and spoke.
"Anyway," she began, turning from him, so that his hand was no longer against her face. "I was just thinking that since I seem to be able to work as a singer, I should try it again."
"Lois, do you have any idea how dangerous that could be for you?" Clark challenged.
"Well…*you'll* be there with me…won't you?" Lois turned and fixed Clark with her best innocent smile.
Unable to refuse her, as ever, Clark gave in and shook his head. "Yeah, … me and my suspenders and my silly hat to boot."
Lois grinned. "Then it's settled, she patted his shoulder as she walked past him towards her bedroom so that she could change, and added in passing. "But I wouldn't go with the boots…"
"Ha. Ha." It was Clark's turn to play the sarcastic recipient.
Clark was gone. Lois stepped out of the shower and proceeded to towel dry her hair. She looked up momentarily and glanced at the small clock on the counter top which read 5:40pm. He would probably be back in about 20 minutes. She knew that even though he had been looking for some pretty 'rare' items for his 'costume' he wouldn't take more than an hour or so. **Ahhh, the advantages of being able to search the globe in under half an hour** After finishing her hair and make-up, Lois checked her appearance in the mirror. Satisfied, she sighed and made her way into the bedroom where she began to change into her outfit for tonight's performance. And it would have to be a good one if they were going to find out anything about who had taken the Kryptonite from S.T.A.R. Labs. On her bed she had laid out a beautiful off-the-shoulder dress, all in black with just a sequin here or there for effect. And as she pulled the tight-fitting garment down around her, she wondered if anyone would *know* that she was unable to wear either a bra or underwear with it because anything would be much too visible. Lascivious thoughts of the fun she might have in this dress, with Clark *knowing*, ran rampant through her mind and she forced herself to quell these. **Why does it hurt so much?** Fully attired, Lois fell back onto her bed and spread her arms wide above her head.
"Clark…why can't we make it work…?" Lois thought out loud… "I don't understand anymore…"
"It's over." Clark stared across the table at Martha and Jonathan Kent who sat next to one another with a shared look of sympathy for their son.
"Clark, it can't be over, honey. You *love* Lois!" Martha extended one hand and took her son's. "What happened?"
"It's…a *long* story, Mom. It's just, she's out of my personal life." Clark looked down at a plate of food which had long ago grown cold and remained untouched. "She gave the ring back to me…see?" Clark reached into a pocket and pulled out the precious cargo within. He held the small diamond ring out for inspection and his mother simply stared him in the face.
"Did you ask for the ring back, son?" Jonathan's low voice brought Clark out of his temporary melancholy silence.
"No, Dad. Well, not *directly*, I mean, we agreed that it was over and she just, took it off and gave it to me. I took it. If that's what you mean…"
"Clark, you silly boy! You took it back?" Martha shook her head in frustration. "What on earth for? When she handed you that ring she didn't want you to take it back!"
"She didn't?" Clark looked shocked.
"Heavens, no! She wanted you to tell her *not* to take it off! She wanted you to tell her that you wouldn't let things just end like that…" Martha laughed ruefully. "Honestly, Clark, sometimes I wonder if you *weren't* raised on another planet!"
"But Mom, she took it off! She handed it right to me, and we *both* said some things…"
"That you BOTH regret right now. I know." Martha smiled. "If I had a nickel for every time your father and I said some things we both regretted later, we'd all be rich!"
Clark shook his head. "You and Dad don't argue…not like this…"
Taking a sip of his coffee Jonathan choked loudly and coughed a few times. Martha burst out laughing.
"Oh dear…are you alright?" She patted her husband on the back and glanced at Clark. "Honey, we were very good at finding quiet places to disagree in. The one thing we COULD always agree on was that we didn't want YOU to see us fighting."
"Mom, I'm just not sure anymore. About anything." Clark stared down at his food.
"Well you don't need to be. Oh dear… if we were always *sure* about everything in life there would be no more fun…no more adventure and certainly no more romance. How do you feel about Lois?"
"I don't know." Clark looked up at his mother who frowned at him.
"Oh yes, you do! How are you feeling right now? Do you feel like you're shivering on the inside?"
"Yeah, how did you…?"
"It hurts in the middle of your chest and the pit of your stomach is all tied up in a knot and warm at the same time…"
"Yes." Clark was staring incredulously at his mother, as was Jonathan who began to smile.
"Well then, it's hopeless." Martha sighed.
"But I thought you were trying to *save* my relationship…?" Clark was very confused.
"Clark…you're hopelessly *in love*…with Lois. I'm assuming here since you haven't mentioned anyone else lately…" Martha frowned thoughtfully.
"Y…Mom! There *is* no one else, only Lois. "
"Well then, what *is* the problem? Get out of here, Clark. You know exactly what you have to do! I don't know what you were fighting about and I don't think I need to. Honey…BE IN LOVE. Don't let some silly argument bury feelings that will drive you crazy!"
Clark sighed and got up from the table, moving towards the door he removed the napkin he had tucked into the neck of his shirt, he opened the back door and moved out slowly, turning back to say good-bye.
"You know what, Mom? I know you're trying to help, but this time, it just isn't as simple. I gotta go…" With that, Clark took off and headed back to Metropolis.
"Clark!" Martha called after her son. "Honestly, Jonathan, sometimes I just want to strangle that boy! Is that wrong?" Martha and Jonathan stared at one another for a moment until Martha burst out laughing. "I give them one week."
"Two weeks, my love, you know how stubborn our son can be…"
"*ONE* and is that a bet?" Martha grinned mischievously at her husband who smiled in return.
Clark arrived back at Lois' apartment at 5:58 p.m. and decided to take the stairs up. He had stopped to change at his place on the way over , and now, dressed in a sharp new black suit, complete with designer suspenders *just* as Lois had outlined (he had had to stop in Sydney, Australia, to find exactly the right pair); he knocked twice on her door. Lois, for her part, was glancing at herself one last time in the mirror.
"This is dumb." Lois regarded her reflection in the full length mirror. "I haven't felt like this for so long…it's not even like this is going to be a romantic evening … this is business!" She glanced up and turned at the sound of two distinct knocks.
"Coming!" Gathering her purse up from its resting place on her bed, Lois dashed into her living room, tossed the small bag onto the couch and proceeded to unlock and open her door. As it swung inward, Lois caught her breath. Clark was dressed in a remarkable black single-breasted suit, he had it open in front and carried a casual handsome air about him that *screamed* GQ.
"Wow" Lois whispered as she took in the entire view, then catching herself… "How…come you don't have a hat?" **Stupid question, Lois…so dumb!** Lois backed up to let Clark into her apartment. Her snug dress moved with her, accentuating every curve and feature. Clark was unable to speak. Thoughts of Lois flooded his mind, and left him larger in places he wished that he wasn't.
"Clark?" Lois leaned forward to look questioningly at her partner. "You're staring. Do I look…alright?"
Coming back to reality, Clark let his gaze trail up Lois' body and settle on her face, her eyes. "You look…breathtaking." His own eyes reflected an intensity Lois had never seen before. Even when she *knew* Clark wanted her, she had never seen his eyes this full of desire. She felt dizzy, almost giddy, and she knew that if she didn't sit down, she would probably lose her balance.
"Well…" She reached out one hand to steady herself, and although it was nowhere near a move to save herself from falling, rather more of a slow deliberate motion towards the wall, Clark reached out and caught her wrist, steadying her. Lois smiled, very distracted..
"Thank you. I was lying down before, I guess, maybe, I got up a little quickly…" They were very close now and Lois could feel her body screaming in anticipation of something…*anything*. She realized that Clark had not spoken for quite a while.
"I guess." When he did, his voice was much deeper than usual. And Lois looked up, somewhat surprised.
Using every ounce of willpower in her body, she pulled reluctantly from her incongruous position and turned slowly away from him, hoping to recover *some* of her sanity before she went completely 'native'.
"The club…" Lois began, having turned to face the other side of the room. "… the club doesn't accept guests until nine, thanks again for coming early. I was hoping to work out the details of our plan before we left." Lois lied. She wasn't exactly sure why she had asked Clark to show up so much earlier this way, the 'plans' would only have taken about 15 minutes to go over and she knew it. In fact, she scolded herself, there was really only one reason she asked him over so early. She wanted to be with him. Her throat was dry and she cleared it softly before continuing. But Clark had already stopped listening.
All he could think about was her, the softness of her combined with the sweet smell of her perfume, the way her hair fell in tiny curls just above her ears, the way her eyes sparkled in the dim light, the way her dress accentuated every beautiful feature on what he believed was the most perfect body he had ever seen… He missed her laugh, her touch, the familiar way she used to hold her hands against his chest when she would tease him. HE could still hear his mother's advice echoing in his head… **'She wanted you to tell her *not* to take it off! She wanted you to tell her that you wouldn't let things just end like that… Don't let some silly argument bury feelings that will drive you crazy!… Honey, BE IN LOVE!** He *was* in love. He didn't think he had ever felt so intensely about anyone in his entire life. It was all so completely crazy! **God, I need her so much…**
"And if I could persuade the manager to let me sing I'm sure I could…" Still facing away from him, Lois was finishing a thought she had started only a moment before, unaware of Clark's absence from the discussion. **Lois, how do you do this to me? How do you make my blood burn and my mind completely irrational?** His own heart was beating so strongly against his chest that he couldn't hear Lois' doing the same.
Clark took a step towards her and stopped. **This is crazy! We're not even together anymore, she gave back the ring!** He saw his own hand as it moved up towards Lois' back and then shoulder, seemingly of its own volition. She was still talking when he came to stand directly behind her, and placed his hands against her. The room was suddenly silent. In that moment Clark knew that he would do anything for her. That he would live or die if she so much as asked him to. How hard would it be to let her have her one wish? To give her the nights she asked for, the nights without interruptions. The city had survived without him for so long and now he was choosing *it* over her. She was always there for him when he needed her. And he thought, he could even put up with the way she always liked to *win* every argument. If it meant being with her, he could do *anything*. He let his finger trace a line down her arm from her shoulder…
Lois felt fire racing along her arm as his touch awoke something in her that she had been suppressing ever since he walked through the door. **What's happening?** Her sharp intake of breath caused him to pause, momentarily, and then, without a single word, he tipped his hand onto its back and ran his fingers gently upwards, caressing her neck and moving her head to one side all in one motion. He lowered his head to the level of her neck and she could feel his warm breath against her sensitive skin. It felt as though every nerve, every muscle in her body had come alive, and she moaned softly as she felt the warmth of his lips brush against her neck, and then her back as Clark moved slowly around her, his hands exploring the length of her arms at first, and then settling at her waist for a time.
"Clark…" Lois whispered as her head remained tilted to one side, her eyes still closed.
"Shhhhhh shh shh shh…No interruptions."
"What?" For Lois, this was more of a gasp than a word, as Clark began trailing light kisses along her neck.
"I promise." Clark came fully around until he stood face to face with the woman he loved, staring directly into her eyes. "I promise… no interruptions." His face betrayed all of the emotion he was feeling and Lois was utterly lost, just as he was.
"Clark…no, you can't. I was wrong. I'm so sorry. I don't want you to make a promise like that anymore. I was being selfish. As usual. I'm always selfish, aren't I?" Her eyes glistened with tears and Clark could feel his own eyes filling with moisture rapidly.
"Lois, my beautiful Lois, inside and out." Clark held his hand out to caress her face and Lois was crying openly now, breathing in on a sob, she heard herself utter a small strangled moan, so ashamed of the way she had acted and wondering how he could possibly love her still, even so.
Clark felt as though his heart would explode. The knot in his stomach had moved to his chest and he longed to take her into his arms and hold her, make her part of him forever.
"Have I ever told you how completely, *madly*, head-over-heels in love I am, with you?" Clark gently wiped a tear away from Lois' face with the pad of his thumb and bent down to kiss her lightly on the lips. It was very sweet. Lois tasted like chocolate, and Clark smiled in spite of himself, knowing she must have had some of her stash before he came by. For a moment they just stared at each other, almost as though they were mesmerized. It was Lois who broke the silence.
"I won't ask you to promise anything that will make you have to choose." Lois swallowed against her tears and tried to look resolute, but Clark could still see that the issue was far from resolved.
"Lois, we should talk." He reached out and gently moved a lock of wayward hair away from her face and she looked down at the floor, unable to meet his gaze.
"I'm sorry! I can't help it, Clark, I just…I guess I'm just an awful person because every time I think about us…*together*…" Lois blushed slightly and Clark felt himself following quickly… "I see you having to rush off on some emergency! And it makes me sad, and it makes me…angry." Lois was whispering now, and Clark could tell that as much as she did feel hurt, she also felt ashamed for feeling the way that she did. It broke his heart.
"Lois, I understand. And you have every *right* to feel the way that you do." He sighed and looked into her tear filled eyes. "You know, sometimes, I get upset about having to *go*…and I feel like I shouldn't always *have* to drop everything and rush off to save the day, like I want to have my own life too, only it doesn't all belong to *me* anymore, Lois. Do you…do you understand?"
Lois choked on a sob and pulled herself into Clark's arms as he lifted them up until they completely enveloped her. With the side of her face pressed tightly against his chest, she spoke. "Yes, Clark. I *do* understand. I mean, I always have, and that's why I felt too…awful for being jealous. I loved Superman… and I hated him." Lois tensed, expecting to feel Clark stiffen beneath her, but instead, she felt his arms wrap more tightly around her and she felt him…crying? Yes, he was definitely crying, she could feel his quiet sobs moving inside his chest. And she could hear the soft intake of each breath as he shook beneath her. She held him so tightly that she thought her arms might break away from her body, and she let one hand reach up to stroke his hair from behind.
"Oh, Clark. How did we let this happen to us?" Clark was still pressed against her, he couldn't remember the last time he had felt more love and security. It was like, they had become one person, held together, even breathing as one. It was the most remarkable feeling he had ever experienced in his life and he wanted it to last forever.
"Lois, I don't care about any of it anymore. I mean, I've decided, *you* are the most important, most wonderful… treasure, I have ever known…" Clark spoke softly and Lois might have leaned back to look at him if he wasn't still holding her to him with such force. She smiled against his chest and marveled at how someone with such strength was able to be so gentle and vulnerable. She loved him with a passion that made her toes tingle and her chest ache every time she was around him. He made her feel like she was so special, so precious…
"I promise not to be so…controlling, about Superman I mean." Lois drew in a deep breath as she felt Clark release his embrace very slightly, perhaps sensing that she would need the freedom to move soon.
"And I promise…" Clark ran his hands down her back slowly, savoring the feel of her against him, letting the softness of the fabric mix with the softness of every curve in her body. It was amazing.
Lois leaned back now to look up at him. His eyes were still wet from the tears he had shed, but he had never looked more endearing , more handsome to her. She reached up to wipe away some of the wetness on his cheek with her hand and then, instead of releasing it back to her side, she brought it down to her own face, and placed his tears against her own. Without saying a word, she smiled at him and with her other hand, she twined her fingers around his.
Clark thought that his heart would burst. And he knew in that moment that he didn't want to wait until their wedding night. He didn't want to wait even one more minute.
"I have something for you." He took her other hand in his so that both were together, their fingers locked. Lois looked up at this man, a man she had taken so long to really see… The only man she could ever imagine herself loving. "Three hours." Clark stared expectantly into Lois' eyes. Would she agree?
Lois tipped her head to one side as if she were uncertain of what he was trying to say.
"I-I know it's not a whole night, I-"
Lois placed two fingers softly against Clark's lips, silencing his apology. She moved within a breath of his lips and whispered softly..
"It's okay. Make your offer, Clark. I'm listening."
Clark felt every fibre in his body respond to Lois' nearness. His confidence somewhat bolstered by her allowance, he smiled down at the woman he loved.
"Three hours, no interruptions. On my honor." Clark bowed gracefully like a nobleman in front of his lady and Lois giggled in response. "What do you say?"
Lois stared up at her partner for only a fraction of a second before responding. "I say…" She moved forward like a cat, taking his head in her hands, she drew him towards her and kissed him deeply. As their lips parted, Clark pressed his forehead against hers and whispered her name softly. Then, moving down, he recaptured her mouth with his own. His tongue found easy passage into the warm cavity of her mouth which she opened and she met him, eagerly, hungrily with her own. It was like falling into a bottomless pit. Except that the falling was the best part. Lois felt a tingling sensation coursing through her whole body, causing her to shiver involuntarily.
Sensing her response, Clark pulled her up against him, deepening their kiss, and Lois moaned as she felt his hot hands slide up and undo the zipper which ran from her mid back to her tailbone, taking great care to trail one finger down her spine as he went. Lois' head tipped back and she groaned softly, as Clark trailed kisses down from her neck to the line of her dress in front. With his hands, he explored the sensitive muscles on her back, gently reaching up to undo the clasp that held her bra, and then realizing that there wasn't one. Lois could sense the rate of Clark's breathing increase, she felt limp, as though she were melting into his arms…
It was the most exquisite sensation she had ever felt in her life, nothing…ever…it had *never* been like this before… Collapsing on top of him, Lois could hear her breath still coming in gasps. Pressed against his chest, she could feel his racing heartbeat as it sought stability.
For long moments there was silence, broken only by the sound of their breathing as they lay, still entwined in each others' arms. Lois sighed and pulled more tightly against him.
"God…" Lois breathed.
"What is it?" Clark's voice sounded odd in the calm silence.
"Nothing. Everything. That was .. amazing." She felt for his hand and pulled it down in front of her as she lay cradled on her side against his body.
"I know." Clark whispered as he squeezed her hand.
"I've never felt this way before. About anyone, ever. I mean, I know you know how I feel…about you, it's just, I feel like…" Lois stopped, seemingly at a loss for words.
"We're joined? Somehow?" There was uncertainty in Clark's voice, and Lois turned around to face him, allowing him to wrap his arms around her back for support as they lay on the narrow couch.
"Yeah. That's exactly what I mean. Emotionally and physically." Lois smiled shyly at him. "I guess…I mean… I hope…I … I wasn't a disappointment for you, I mean, for your first…oh god…I'm doing it again." She tipped her head down and Clark moved one hand from her back to pull her chin back up.
"Lois, I've never felt anything more powerful in my entire life." He stared into her eyes and she *knew* he was telling the truth. He had always told her the truth. How could she have ever thought of living without him? The idea of it now made her shiver and she pulled herself tightly against his body for warmth and reassurance.
"Clark…" Lois whispered and lay her head against his chest. "How do you always know the exact right thing to say?"
Clark began to play with a lock of Lois' hair as he spoke. "I don't, Lois. I know how to tell the truth. And with you, the truth is sometimes the exact right thing to say." He smiled as he continued to stroke her hair gently.
"What time is it?" Lois asked, still facing Clark, but with her head against his chest.
Clark glanced at his watch which lay on the floor next to the couch. **How did that get there?**
"Eight. We have some time still." Next to his watch on the floor lay the jacket he had worn. Remembering a familiar voice scolding him, he reached down towards the jacket and into its pocket, pulling out the engagement ring which he had been taking everywhere with him. For a moment he just played with it in between his fingers and then he heard that voice again inside his head.
"Lois?" Clark's tone was soft.
"Hmmm?" Lois sighed against him.
"When we were…arguing…," Clark could feel Lois' muscles tense at the mention of their disagreement. "the other night, when you handed me the ring, did you really want me to take it?"
Lois breathed out slowly. "No. I mean, I guess a part of me did, but the bigger part of me wanted you to tell me you wouldn't… take it."
There was silence for a brief time, and then Clark laughed softly to himself.
Lois, moved against him. "Why are you laughing?"
Clark noticed that her voice almost sounded hurt. **Oh god, she is so vulnerable now, she can't think that I did this just to prove a point**
"Lois, I'm not laughing because of what you said. It's just that my mom told me that's what you were feeling and I didn't believe her." Clark kissed the top of Lois' head and traced a line down her arm with one finger. "Lois?"
"Yes?" Lois voice was quiet, contemplative. And there was silence for a moment before Clark finally spoke.
"Will you marry me?"
She lifted her head from Clark's chest and pulled back very slightly so that she could see his face. His eyes were filled with love, and passion, and something that Lois had not seen there before, a deeper emotion which she couldn't put a name to, but she knew she shared it as well. She reached out her hand to touch his face and then giggled.
"You know, this is getting to be a habit with us…these proposals." Lois smiled and let her hand fall against his chest. "Clark, *yes*" She sighed as a stray thought crossed her mind. "Can we get it right this time?" Leaning forward, she kissed his chest lightly and then moved her kiss to his mouth. She ran her tongue lightly against his lips before leaning back once again.
Clark took Lois' hand in his and slipped the ring gently back onto her finger. He traced the outline of her lips with a finger and then moved forward once again to capture her mouth with his. It was a moment which was shattered with the ringing of the phone.
Lois reluctantly pulled away and picked it up, keeping her eyes locked on Clark's the entire time.
"Hello?… Yes. It's for you.." She handed the receiver to Clark who appeared confused.
"Yes? Dr. Kline. Superman asked me to get a hold of you…I've been trying for about a day…" Clark shifted his position as Lois rained light kisses along his neck and collar bone. "Yes I was … Yes I did. He was just here, can I relay the message?" Moving back almost unwillingly, Lois pulled a thin blanket from the back of the couch around her shoulders for warmth.
"You did what? I'm sure he'll be very pleased to hear that. Yes, thank you. Bye." Clark hung up the receiver and returned his gaze to Lois, noticing how perfect she looked. "That was Dr. Kline. He just got back from his sabbatical. It appears he locked the kryptonite in a safety deposit box before he left. He just wanted to tell Superman not to worry, that it's still there and it's just fine."
Lois smiled brightly. "Clark that's wonderful!" She jumped forward into his arms. "I still think my idea to get us into the Blue Angel is worth trying out sometime… We could get some great material on Intergang there…"
Lois was cut off in mid-sentence as Clark reached forward and pulled the blanket from her, to her waist. Settling himself on top of her, he moved down to kiss her passionately. After almost a minute, as their lips parted, Lois added breathlessly…
"Of course, we don't have to go tonight." She smiled and reached one hand up to play with a stray curl which hung over onto his forehead.
"You're right. We've got the whole night … no interruptions." Clark trailed kisses along Lois' neck and down her arm. She let head fall back against the small pillow below her and she moaned softly.
Clark gazed down at her, his eyes radiating heat. "I don't know how you make me feel the way you do, Lois, but I do know that I want to feel this way forever." As he moved forward to kiss her again on the lips, Clark heard the blanket fall to the floor and he adjusted his position so that he completely covered her. He moved his mouth lower, and heard Lois groan as he felt her arch against him once again. Pulling back for the briefest moment just to look at her, he wondered how he could be so lucky, how the most wonderful, beautiful woman in the world could possibly be in love with him. Yet here she was.
"Clark…" Lois' voice was almost a protest as she opened her eyes, heavy and full of desire. It was all the encouragement he needed. Metropolis could go on for one more night without him.