Dance of the Seven Capes

By Kaethel <>

Rated PG-13

Submitted February 2001

Summary: Every woman in love may think her man looks like Superman, but even while "drunk on love" from the pheromone perfume, Lois notices there is more than a passing resemblance between Clark and her favorite super-hero.

Don't ask me where this one came from <bg>. I just intended to jog the Muse back into work by writing a little short story, and it somehow expanded itself into something a bit longer. A big thank you goes to my wonderful beta-readers and friends LabRat and Wendy Richards for editing this little fluffy piece and encouraging me to post it, to the readers on Zoom's boards and the fic list for their kind words about it, and to Kathy Brown for GEing it for the Archive. :)

Feedback is very welcome, as usual, at


Clark entered his apartment and closed the door behind him, releasing the breath he hadn't been aware he was holding.


He was safe.

He'd never thought he'd have to hide from Lois, but since yesterday, her behaviour towards him was making him rather uncomfortable, and he was unable to determine what kind of game she was playing with him.

Oh, she'd flirted with him before, on a couple of occasions, and each time it hadn't taken long for him to discover that she wanted something from him, and played nice only to get it. But here, her attitude was so very different from anything he'd ever witnessed in her. First, it had lasted for two days, and her pursuit of him hadn't lessened. And, it was more than flirting this time: she was *lusting* after him; she'd clearly made him understand that she wanted him, and that she wouldn't give up until he'd given in.

He sighed, realising how difficult it had been for him to escape her, and how much he wanted her, too. But there was something very wrong about her behaviour, and he knew it would hold him back until he knew what lay behind. She wasn't teasing him, that much he'd already determined, otherwise she'd have tired of her little game long ago. She was behaving like an excited teenager on her first date, jumping on his lap, cuddling up to him and gratifying him with that girlish giggle that had the power to drive him crazy. This morning, as he'd appeared in the office, convinced he'd dreamt the previous evening, and that Lois hadn't really grabbed him, tie and shirt, growling huskily that he wouldn't get away from her this time, she'd run to him, her immaculate white dress and the rose petals she'd been throwing around her making her look like a bride, and for a nanosecond, Clark had found himself transported to her universe of joy and unrestrained love.

That was the Lois of his dreams and fantasies, looking at him in the way he'd never thought she would. In the way she looked at his alter-ego. As she'd thrown her arms around him, squealing in delight at seeing him, he hadn't been able to prevent himself from setting his hands on her waist. He'd felt her warm fingers slip through his hair, and she'd called him her 'darling'. He'd melted under her touch, revelling in the full curves pressed to his chest, holding her gaze darkened with desire, and it had taken all of his willpower not to close the distance between them and kiss her.

Not that Lois would have objected. In her state, she probably wanted nothing more than some physical indulgence between them. Clark grimaced at the thought, knowing it was probably all there was to it. He'd realised, shortly after this moment of almost-weakness, that the origin of everyone's behaviour might be that mysterious fragrance that some blonde chemist had sprayed on them on the previous day. Weirdly enough, he had a rather unpleasant memory of the perfume in question; it had seemed to make everyone nauseous at first. Yet barely a few hours after the woman's passage, Lois had appeared at his desk. Her slit skirt had revealed a very long leg, and her sultry voice had been as seductive as her body language.

Clark shook himself out of his memories, aware that they were not helping him in keeping a cool head. As far as he knew, everyone at the Planet was out of order, and so obsessed with their love-induced spell that they didn't care about anything else. From what he'd gathered, they didn't even know they weren't themselves. And, Clark reflected, he would probably be as affected as everyone else right now, if he wasn't Superman. Heck, he would probably be with Lois, right now, responding to her attentions and uncaring of the consequences.

He shrugged out of his coat and sat on the floor in his living room to browse through the magazines he'd brought back from the news-stand. Thank God, Lois hadn't followed him there, which had allowed him to escape fairly discreetly. He'd promised her he'd come back, but he'd needed to cool off and think before he faced her again, so leaving the Planet had seemed like the best solution. It wasn't as if Perry would notice, anyway; his editor was too busy lusting after Rehalia.

Clark flipped through the first couple of women's journals, not really sure what he was looking for. He wasn't familiar with this kind of magazines, but he supposed there must be some references to perfumes and such. With a description of the fragrance, he might be able to identify it.

It had been almost animal, actually. Rough and spicy. But none of the brands presented there matched that. And even if they did, he doubted that such a perfume would be commercialised. Or they would have known about it; its effects weren't exactly discreet.

Perusing another magazine revealed itself vain as well, and Clark was about to give up when his eyes fell on a familiar picture, one of the woman who'd sprayed them in the Planet's newsroom. He compared the advertisement with the shot that Jimmy had taken the previous day. Bingo. It turned out that she was called Miranda and owned a shop in the north of Metropolis. He checked his watch. Too late for a visit to her, but he'd be sure to find her tomorrow, first thing, and ask for an explanation. Maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to snoop around discreetly first, before he aroused any suspicion in the woman. This was where he'd desperately need Lois's skills at drawing the attention away from what she was doing or where she was looking, but he supposed there was a fat chance that his partner would be back to her normal self by tomorrow.

Which raised a question. Would she *ever* be herself again? Would she spend her entire life running after him? He knew he wouldn't be able to resist much longer than he already had. When she was throwing herself at him, she was too much of a temptation for him. He'd been in love with her for months now, and she'd never noticed him until the previous day. And now that she was finally within reach, he couldn't let himself be seduced, because deep down, it wasn't what Lois wanted. Even if he did give in, and assuming she'd wake up from that trance the perfume had set on her, she would never forgive him, and all his chances of ever having a relationship with her would be over.

A sharp knock on his door interrupted his thoughts, and he dropped the magazine he was still holding. A quick burst of X-ray vision allowed him to see Lois draped in a long trench coat, and wearing an impatient and almost worried expression on her face. She was thoughtfully biting on her lower lip, and her eyes still held that mischievous light that had been speaking of danger to him for the past two days.

Oh no! Not that again!

She knocked again, and Clark walked up the stairs, resigning himself to face her. With a bit of luck, she'd agree to do everything her 'love' asked her to, and she'd go home, leaving him alone until he'd found who was responsible for this mess.

He braced himself for the encounter, hoping she wouldn't throw herself in his arms like she'd done this morning, and carefully opened the door.

"Lois," he whined, "it's very late."

But she ignored his complaint, pushing him out of her way and walking down the stairs into his living room before turning back towards him. "Oh, not too late, I hope," she answered huskily as she untied her coat. "For us. For happiness!"

Clark gaped, staring at her in disbelief as the coat fell to her feet and revealed what looked more like a harem outfit than anything else. The bright golden pieces that composed the dress were shining against the amber of Lois's skin, the short skirt and plunging neckline leaving only little to the imagination, and the outfit was completed with several light blue veils that Lois draped around herself as her hips swayed seductively, dancing to a music only she could hear.

Clark swallowed, suddenly feeling a tightness in his throat. Some place else, too, he thought dryly as he struggled to get his desire under control. "Oh no, Lois," he whispered desperately. "Please no, don't."

But she wasn't aware of his distress, or if she was, she didn't make an effort to take it into account. She walked quickly back to him and threw one of her veils around his neck, the silken fabric brushing against his nape and bringing him close, oh so very close to her. "Oh, Clark, I love you, I wanna to spend the rest of my life with you," she purred throatily.

She kept her eyes locked with his as she made her declaration, and Clark thought he would die. He'd been aching to hear these words for so long, and yet tonight he knew he couldn't retaliate, or follow the pattern of what until then only his dreams had allowed him to live. Kiss her. Make love to her senselessly. Spend his entire life loving her and cherishing her. He came back to Earth with a despondent sigh. "Lois, please go home," he pleaded again, knowing he couldn't trust himself if she kept this up.

"You're here; *this* is my home," she replied seductively as she kept on dancing in front of him.

"Lois, you don't know how many times I thought about this, *dreamt* about this," he started regretfully. "Or something like this," he added, deliberately ignoring the wild chuckle of his conscience at this alteration of the truth of his fantasies. "But it's not *real*! What you're feeling is not real. I don't know exactly how, but there was something in the perfume that made everybody in the newsroom… drunk… on… love." He paused between each of his last words as he caught the veil she'd just thrown at him in a graceful movement, hesitating to speak out the truth beneath Lois's attitude. But he couldn't fool himself; nor could he let her believe that she *was* in love with him, when it was a chemical substance that had altered her perceptions. He stared at her for a few seconds, hoping what he'd just said was registering, but she seemed oblivious to him, lost in her world of pure devotion as she continued to make her veils dance around her in a blue-hazed symphony. "Lois, I cannot take advantage of you like this," he tried again, directing his plea as much to himself as to her, his voice dropping to a husky murmur.

Lois slid one of her veils between her fingers, the whisper of the silk on her skin almost his demise, and she raised it between them, her face shining with a mysterious glow through the thin barrier of cloth, and her eyes dark and luminous behind the small slit in the middle of the veil. She inched herself closer to him, and he froze, afraid to even breathe as he awaited her next move apprehensively.

The veil separating their faces dropped, and she put her hands on his shoulders, bringing her face closer to his. Clark could already feel the tingle of her breath on his lips, and his heart started to beat faster as her eyes became predatory. She would kiss him. She would kiss him, and he wouldn't be able to pull away. She would kiss him, and he would sink into oblivion and never wake up. He swallowed roughly, unable to move and not trusting his voice to speak.

"It's remarkable." Lois's words reached him through the buzzing sound in his ears. "I never noticed it before."

Huh? "What?" he asked warily, half-relieved and half-sorry that his prediction had been wrong.

"You look… a lot like Superman…"

An expression of pure bliss settled on her face as she looked up at him, and Clark couldn't hold back a small gasp of fear upon hearing her voice the truth of his double identity. He closed his eyes and stood immobile, letting the weight of Lois's hands rest on his shoulders and mentally counting to ten. He picked up the sound of her heartbeat and noticed with a little sigh of relief that it was still regular. He could also feel that her body was relaxed and her breathing regular.

All right.


Everything was okay.

So far.

Or at least it *seemed* okay.

He warily opened his eyes, his gaze locking with Lois's intense scrutiny of his face, and squirmed uncomfortably as he vainly attempted to find another point to focus on. Anything but her piercing eyes. Her chin. Her neck. Her -

Oh oh…

Not so good.

His head jerked back up, in search of something safer, and he found himself facing that look that made him want to squirm, again. "Um… Lois?" he asked tentatively, fearfully, even as the sound barely made it out of his suddenly dry mouth.

"You… You…" she stuttered, dropping her hands from his shoulder and taking an unconscious step back. "You look like… him."

It wasn't an affirmation. It was an accusation, this time, and Clark swallowed, waiting for the storm to explode above him.

"Like him," she whispered, bringing a trembling hand to his face.

Clark froze, knowing there was no need for him to flinch this time. It was too late to escape, and he realised with a certain surprise, he didn't *want* to escape. Everything would be so simple if she knew. No more lies, no more frustration when he had to leave her in the middle of an investigation under whatever lame excuse he could think of, no more facing her disapproving looks when he got back from a rescue…

And also, no more of her complete fascination for his alter-ego. She would know that her fantasy of a perfect man didn't exist anywhere else than in her imagination, and that the superhero she'd been courting for months was the reporter she barely respected in the Planet's newsroom. That Superman was in fact…

"Clark…" she whispered, as if answering his thoughts.

He could feel her fingers close to the side-piece of his glasses, the warmth of her hands sending like micro shocks through him, and he knew he was probably flushing with apprehension.

No more secrets he reminded himself for the umpteenth time, more to convince himself than anything else. Would revealing his secret to her reveal his secret to the world as well? Would she understand that it wasn't something she could make a story out of, unless she wanted it to be the *final* Superman interview that ever got published. Unless she wanted to endanger herself, and his parents, and anyone he'd ever come close to?

He trusted Lois; on more than one occasion, he'd found her a very reliable friend, and he knew she wouldn't betray him if it was something that was important to him. Over the months he'd spent working at her side, he'd realised that she wasn't just the hard-hitting reporter that her colleagues called her, and that beneath that tough exterior hid a strong sense of justice. She knew the difference between right and wrong probably better than anyone else, and even if the world wasn't all painted in black and white, she'd know that this one truth had to remain hidden.

Which didn't mean she wouldn't be extremely upset with him, he thought downheartedly. She'd consider he'd deceived her, that he'd led her on with his double identity, and even if they hadn't known each other for that long, they still shared a lot. She'd trusted him with any number of what she considered the depths of her heart, and he hadn't been able to reiterate that trust. That wasn't something she'd easily accept.

And he knew that what would happen in the next few seconds would probably determine the rest of his life, and the bare thought that he might end up alone, losing this one woman who meant something to him, losing all hope of ever reaching his dream of fitting into the world exactly like every other being on the Planet, was enough to make him flinch unconsciously.

The motion, imperceptible to the human eye, brought Lois's hand in contact with his jaw, and he chilled, struck by the sheer emotion that took hold of his whole being each time she touched him. Losing her was impossible. Not now. Not ever. He wouldn't allow that to happen, and however long it might take, he would make her understand his reasons for keeping Superman a secret from her.

Slowly, very slowly, he felt her pull his glasses down his nose, as if afraid of what she'd find beneath. And maybe she *was* afraid. Maybe she would be afraid of him once she knew, maybe she wouldn't want to approach him ever again. Maybe she was mooning after Superman because he was unreachable, and once he was there, in front of her, stripped bare of any mystery, she'd shy away from him. He shivered at the thought, but forced himself to remain calm as Lois finished taking off his glasses.

A small gust of air reached him, tingling his eyes and forcing him to blink a few times, noticing with growing worry that Lois was standing in front of him, staring at him impassively, her face a mask.

"Oh, my…" she finally breathed out. "You… look… like… him…" she repeated, pausing between each word as if to take in their full significance. Her free hand reached for his face again and this time there was no hesitation as she smoothed his hair back. "Oh, my God! Oh, my…" She retreated abruptly, leaving him disoriented and dizzy from her touch, unaware of the pain she was causing him with her reaction.


This was what he'd dreaded the most, and this was what was now lying in her eyes. She walked back without turning around, keeping her eyes fixed on his face, until her back fetched up hard against the far wall of the apartment. Her gaze kept travelling from the glasses she was still clutching, to him, who hadn't made a move since she'd discovered the truth, not even allowing himself to breathe for fear of making her scream.

She brought a trembling hand to her face, shaking her head as if to deny the truth offering itself to her, yet unable to doubt any longer. "Oh, my God, you *are* him," she hissed out, voicing the evidence.





Clark was *Superman*.

Superman was *Clark*.

The thought whirled in her head over and over, almost mocking her, and making her want to yell in frustration. Clark, her gentle and naive partner, Clark Kent, was in fact the strongest being on Earth, a man who'd saved her on more than one occasion, who'd saved millions of people over the few months he'd been around, and -

Her train of thought came to an abrupt halt as she realised something she shouldn't have missed. Clark Kent and Superman had appeared in Metropolis on the same week, barely four months ago, yet she'd never even made the link between them. She'd noticed her new partner was one of the most handsome men she'd ever seen, she'd more than once secretly admired the broad expanse of his shoulders, and even if she refused to give her dreams any meaning that didn't satisfy her, *he* had filled some of her wildest fantasies. At least until yesterday, she'd refused to accord any signification to those dreams where Clark Kent would be much more than a colleague or even a friend, where he'd cuddle in front of a romantic movie with her, where the film would go forgotten as he'd kiss her, his soft lips touching hers in a tender caress, his strong arms wrapping themselves around her and pulling her closer, the feel of him intoxicating her as she lost herself in his embrace…

She struggled to get her heart-rate back under control, and her eyes, that had glazed over during this short moment of raging fantasy, focused again on the face of…



All the clues had been before her, and she'd missed every single one of them, until that dumbstruck state of lust for her partner had made her confuse him for -

Oh, God! Had she actually been trying to seduce *Superman* with that awfully short and clingy outfit?

She'd just spent the past few minutes — *days*! — lusting after the Man of Steel. Humiliating herself in front of him. And all he could do right now was stand there, dumbstruck, and stare at her as if she came from another planet?

But, she noticed despite the anger welling up in her, he looked so adorable, confused as he was, his hair tousled, his mouth half-open, and his eyes pleading. That strange sensation she'd been experiencing for the last two days was back, and all she seemed to be able to think about was that he was the person she'd been looking for all her life.

Did that mean that her ideal man was the worst damn liar she'd ever met?

Her mind revolted against the very idea, but her heart kept beating only for the man who was standing in front of her, unmoving and visibly worried, reminding her that she ought to say or *do* something very soon. The atmosphere between them was heavy, and she could feel the electricity in the air as he took a careful step towards her. She involuntarily flinched, and he stopped his advance immediately, looking defeated. He stood there, looking at his feet, and avoiding looking at her face at all costs.

"I'm sorry," he whispered, so low that she made out rather than heard the words.

Sorry? He was *sorry*? Sorry was far from enough when she'd spent the past few months throwing herself at a part of him and rejecting the other! *Sorry* was what she should be; for falling for a damn professional liar, who was fooling everyone on this planet, masquerading as Mr Joe Regular when he could leap tall buildings in a single bound!

She lurched forward without another single thought, her fists slamming his chest violently, the gesture conveying her anger and frustration at his apparent apathy. It was as if he didn't care, as if it didn't matter to him what her reaction would be upon learning who he really was, and that ticked her even more. She was fed up with liars, fed up with men who thought they could play with their feelings with a Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde personality. And -


Her fists hit his pectoral muscle and she retreated as quickly as she'd closed the distance between them, holding her sprained hand against her breast and wincing in pain. Boy, but he was strong. How come she'd never noticed it before? She'd slapped Clark's chest more than once, after all, yet she'd never felt any pain then. Her favourite occasion to do that was when he took the liberty of editing her copy; then she'd generally turn around and playfully push him away.

Her eyes fell again on the glasses she was still holding in her hand. Were they some kind of protection that made Clark human, and as soon as he wasn't wearing them, he became Superman? No, that seemed way too farfetched. Even if he was a man who flew and did all those strange feats, it didn't mean he had to go through some kind of morphing thing to become an invincible superhero.

She felt a hand on her shoulder and started, the pain in her wrist momentarily forgotten.

"Lois, are you all right?"

Clark's voice was full of concern, and his eyes were reflecting pure torture as he looked down at the hand she was still clutching to herself. He'd taken a step back when she'd jumped at his touch, and he looked completely lost and desperate.

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," he kept whispering, over and over, shaking his head and closing his eyes as if refusing to look at her. "Oh, my God, Lois, I hurt you, I'm so sorry."

She finally found her voice and walked to him. "Clark, no. You didn't hurt me, I hurt myself."

"I'm so sorry, I didn't expect you to… hit me, so I didn't…" He sighed frustratedly and ran a hand through his hair, turning away from her. He sat on the couch and held his head between his hands.

Lois approached him carefully and reached a tentative hand to his shoulder. He didn't flinch, but she could feel the tension within him. "Clark? Clark, look at me."

No reaction. He kept shaking his head and muttering something unintelligible under his breath.

"Clark!" She shook his shoulder. "Look, Clark, you didn't hurt me. Physically, that is. Look." She extended her wrist towards him, and he took it between his hands with infinite care.His tender touch was making her shiver, and he let her go abruptly, certainly afraid he'd hurt her again. Her other hand reached for his and placed it on the area where she could still feel a small stab of pain, lurking beneath the surface of her skin and progressively fading to nothingness.

He finally raised his head, looking up at her and silently asking for permission.

"It's not painful," she reassured him.

His fingers prodded the area carefully, his eyes never leaving hers and looking for the faintest expression of her discomfort.

"Clark," she spoke up when the silence between them stretched to a heavy pause. "You said that if you'd seen me come, I wouldn't have felt pain when I hit you. What did you mean?"

"Oh… I don't exactly know how it works, but I can soften my strength so that anyone touching me doesn't realise I'm… like him."

"*Like* him? Clark, I thought you were him. Or he was you."

"I am. Well, he is. I know, Mom keeps complaining I talk about myself in the third person when it comes to Superman, but it's my way to cope with this…" He trailed off and made a vague gesture showing himself. "… this thing," he finished, almost disgustedly.

"This *thing*? What are you talking about? Superman isn't a *thing*, he's the most wonderful person on this planet, he's gentle and considerate and handsome and — Oh, God!" The dreamy expression in her eyes faltered as quickly as it had come. "He's you," she murmured.

Clark nodded faintly, looking even more despondent than in the past few minutes.

Lois started to pace about the room, fidgeting with her hands and cursing under her breath. The myriad of golden pearls composing her outfit occasionally caught the decreasing evening light that entered the apartment through the large glass panels at the back of the living room, and the now forgotten blue veils hung around her skirt, brushing against her legs in a shushing sound of silk against skin.

She wasn't behaving like the seductive woman who'd been pursuing him for the past two days, but the dress clinging to her body and defining every detail of her curves was only too much of a reminder of his attraction to her. Maybe it was better that she'd stopped lusting after him, Clark reasoned; he didn't know how long he could have restrained his desire for her if she'd kept this up. But at the same time, he couldn't help but feel his mood darken when he noticed the physical distance she seemed to want to put between them. She'd let him touch her hand, but he'd seen her flinch, and there was a note of wariness in her eyes every time she looked at him.

He didn't think she was afraid of him; she'd been determined in convincing him he hadn't hurt her, and after a quick check of her hand, he was reassured. He was still castigating himself for not having softened himself as she hit him, but he hadn't expected her move, and it was only when he'd seen her wince at the pain that he'd realised what had happened.

And now, she was pacing in front of the couch, and if not wearing a trench in his carpet, in great danger of making his head spin. If she did one more return journey in front of him, he would have to scream.

"Lois," he called faintly, hoping to get her attention.

She continued her soft mutters, flailing her arms around and completely oblivious to him.

"Lois," he said, louder this time, but still to no avail. He got up from the sofa and stood in front of her, blocking her way. His hands reached for her shoulders but he stopped himself in time, too unsure that she would welcome the contact. She gratified him with a harsh stare, but at least she stopped her everlasting advance a couple of feet away from him, challengingly crossing her arms in front of her breasts, her body language speaking of a minefield.

"What?" she asked aggressively, more to protect herself than to destabilise him. He was confusing her in a way she didn't feel comfortable with. One minute she thought he was the most attractive specimen on the planet, and there was nothing more she wanted than throw caution to the wind and let him sweep her off her feet — admitting he'd want to do that, which was less than sure, considering how he'd always tried to keep his distance with her when she'd come on to Superman. And barely a few seconds after, her opinion of him was completely reversed and she hated him for all the lies and humiliation he'd made her go through.

She was slowly understanding that his secret wasn't something he could have told her right away, but she had confided so many things to him that she'd expected a bit of trust from him as well. Besides, he was all so proud to stand for truth and justice in that flashy costume of his, but he'd been lying over and over, to her and to everyone, for as long as she could remember.

And if there was one thing she hated above all, it was being kept out of a secret.

She was a friend to him, wasn't she? He could have confided in her, or at least not let her humiliate herself continually in front of whoever he presented himself as to her. He'd let her tell Clark about her feelings for Superman, and he'd let Superman hear her concern for Clark on several occasions. Yet he'd never even given her a clue that whenever she told a secret to one, the other would automatically know. Why had he let her get close to Clark, to the point of considering him a friend?

Well, sort of a friend. At least, the closest to a friend that she'd had in years. She didn't know what it was about Clark Kent that had made her like him, and even trust him, from the moment she'd seen him. He was straightforward, a country boy without any hidden agenda, an open book to her.

Or so she'd thought.

Little did she know. She'd never suspected that the gentle farmboy from Smallville, Kansas was far from being the average American boy she'd accused him of being! When she came right down to it, though, she had to admit that Clark possessed the same qualities as the superhero she'd more than admired. He had the same innate goodness, the need to help others, a sense of sharing and generosity, the hope that there was always some good beneath any tough-looking exterior.

But Clark had always seemed so vulnerable to her, so sensitive to anything around him, exactly like he was just now, a lock of dark hair stubbornly falling over his forehead, his hands stuck in his jeans pockets and his eyes fleeing in every direction but hers. Like a little boy caught red-handed at some crime his mom had frequently warned him about, and who didn't know where to hide to avoid the scolding.

Right now, he looked like anyone but Superman.

Yet he looked completely adorable, and she was aching to reach up and cup his cheek in her hand in a tender gesture, like he'd done when…

She faltered, remembering that same gesture he'd had for her as he'd been about to leave the Planet — and her — for good. The touch of his fingers on her ear had had little power compared to the electricity she'd felt when he'd tenderly grazed his lips on hers, as a goodbye. The contact had brought an emotion she didn't know she was capable of, something she hadn't ever felt during any of the kisses she'd shared, even with Superman. Clark, her partner, Clark, had brought his lips to hers, and the entire world had faded.

No wonder he'd had to leave the Planet, then, when the entire city had asked Superman to stop any activity around Metropolis and made him feel like he wasn't welcome there any more. And that distress she'd felt in Clark as he'd gathered the remainder of his stuff in the newsroom had been plastered just the same way on Superman's face as he'd announced his departure from Metropolis.

The same kind of distress that lay on his face right now.

She sighed, forcing her eyes to meet his, despite the danger her attraction to him represented.

"Are you… mad?" he asked timidly, hesitating a second before voicing his worry.

She carefully pondered his question, then nodded her head slowly. "I think I am, yes. In a strange way, though." He looked at her, confused, so she explained, "Right now, I don't know if I want to yell at you… or ask you to spend the rest of your life with me… Oh, my, did I just say that?" Her eyes grew wide and she turned away, unable to face him after what she'd just admitted. It was what she'd been feeling for the past few days, but telling him was a weakness she couldn't allow herself to show, she couldn't let him win this battle, she couldn't let him have the advantage.

"You could do both," Clark answered, a smile entering his voice for the first time since the previous day.


"You could spend the rest of your life yelling at me," he clarified with a teasing gleam in his gaze.

"I could…" Lois trailed off and threw up her arms in frustration. There he was, already taking advantage of her confusion, already ridiculing her for whatever she said, like he'd probably done for the past few months. Poor Lois, award-winning reporter, yet unable to recognise one man from another even when she spent most of her time with them! Talk about blind and stupid!

"Lois, I didn't want it to happen this way."

"Meaning you wanted it to happen?" she threw at him, swivelling around to face him again, determined not to let him win the war.

He nodded. "If I hadn't wanted you to find out, I wouldn't have let you take off my glasses."

"I sort of took you by surprise back there," she argued.

"I'm fast, Lois, and I could have very easily stepped back before you had time to make your move."

"Don't push it, Kent," she warned, and he looked down with an apologetic sigh. "If you wanted me to know, why now? Why not earlier? What prompted you to reveal your secret now?"

Clark knew perfectly well what lay behind her question. She wasn't asking why he'd chosen this moment to tell her, but why he hadn't told her before. And she had a point; he'd just admitted to her that he'd wanted to tell her for some time, so why had he waited until tonight, when he'd had all of these occasions when it would have been so easy to let her on his secret?

He'd been tempted, a number of times, to reveal himself to her. From the moment she'd convinced him — indirectly — to stay in Metropolis and keep on being Superman because even though he couldn't save everyone, it was the hope he represented that mattered, he'd understood that she deserved to know. It had only confirmed his belief that someday, he would tell Lois Lane that Clark Kent was a little more than a farmboy from Kansas, because he couldn't fathom the idea of getting involved in a serious relationship with her without telling her.

From the moment he'd seen her, he'd known she would be the one he'd share everything with, and that there would be no-one else for him. There had been an instant connection that hadn't ever let go of him, that made his heart beat faster every time she set foot in the room, that made him shiver whenever she touched him, even with the most casual of contacts. He'd been in love with her right away, and for the first time, someone had made him feel like he belonged, like he could, someday, fit in this adoptive world where his difference had always been a burden to his childhood and teenage years.

Yet this burden hadn't ceased when he'd first met her. After his first encounter with her as Superman, he'd felt the weight of his difference more heavily than ever. Oh, she hadn't ever rejected him, and she'd certainly made him feel welcome.

More than welcome.

Too welcome.

He sighed, remembering the dreamy sigh that had escaped her mouth when she'd noticed the resemblance between him and Superman. Of course she didn't love Clark, *hadn't* ever loved Clark, he thought despondently. Her attraction to him had just been the effect of whatever substance had been present in the perfume she'd been sprayed with, and…

… and she wasn't throwing herself at him any more.

Did that mean the weird substance had worn off? Or did that mean she found him despicable?

"Lois, are you feeling better?" he enquired worriedly.

"Better? To feel better, I'd have to feel well, first, and that's far from being the case! In case you haven't noticed, I'm facing two guys in one. I don't even know which one of you is here, actually."

"I *am* Clark," he answered insistently.

"But you're Superman as well. I thought Clark was the one who wore glasses, but you're not wearing them right now, and you still claim to be — oh, this is so confusing!" she exclaimed frustratedly, handing him back his spectacles.

He laid them on the coffee table beside him, and took a step closer to him, taking her hands in his. She didn't move away, to his immense relief.

"I'm Clark. I'm always Clark," he said calmly. "Even when I wear the suit, it's Clark who's beneath the flashy colours."

"It's Clark who's saved my life a million times," she completed faintly, and he nodded in confirmation. "I… I need to sit down."

She took a place on the sofa, and Clark sat beside her, careful to keep a reasonable distance between them. She seemed rather upset at the moment, and he knew how her fragile state could degenerate if he stepped too close to a forbidden area. Better leave her space and time to think this through, and not take the risk of seeing her storm out of his life before he'd even had time to explain himself.

"Oh Clark…" she said so faintly he could barely hear her. Her hands were hiding her face, yet he could see stains of a pink flush on the side of her cheeks. Her fingers slowly spread to reveal a pair of dark eyes staring directly at him. "Did I really do the dance of the seven veils in front of Superman?" she asked weakly.

He winced, but couldn't do anything but nod, making her turn away from him and hide herself against a cushion. Realising she was still wearing the enticing outfit of her oriental seduction, he swiftly got up and reached for a soft blanket in his closet before coming back to her and covering her with it. She clutched at the worn fabric as though it were a life preserver, but still managed to raise her head and silently thank him.

"Lois, you weren't yourself," he said, trying to reassure her even as she buried her head under the cushion. "You remember that blonde woman who walked around the newsroom, spraying some awful perfume on us all?" He perceived a small move beneath the cushions, and took it for a nod. "There was something in that perfume that made us all… drunk with love."

Lois slowly reappeared from her hiding place. "You're not affected. Have never been affected," she accused him.

"Probably because I'm invulnerable," he explained. "Are you feeling better? I mean, has the effect of the perfume worn off?"

She shook her head, and he couldn't help but wince.

"No, if you want to know, I still desperately want to throw myself at you, and I don't even understand why. I'm mad at you, Clark, mad like you can't imagine I've ever been. Mad at myself as well, but mostly, I'm upset, and I just want to beat you senseless. And at the same time…" she sighed. "I still feel this unbelievable attraction to you," she murmured. "And you're not even feeling a thing for me," she finished despondently. "At least now I know why I was attracted to you. Of course I was, you're *Superman*!" she spat out harshly, unaware of the hurt she created in him as she said the words he'd been dreading to hear.

He'd wanted to tell her he didn't need that strange substance to feel the many emotions her presence provoked in his heart, but no words had come out of his mouth. He'd been too afraid to reveal the extent of his feelings for her, too scared that she would reject him, now that she knew that the superhero of her dreams was the simple son of a farmer from Kansas. And what she'd just said only confirmed his fears. Oh, he knew Lois wasn't so shallow as to be attracted to his powers alone, that there was something much deeper about her love — or what she thought was love — for his alter-ego. But she was attracted to the adventurous life he represented, to the mystery that lay behind a caped Superman. Now that the mystery was gone, chances were she wouldn't be interested in him.

"Clark, I'm sorry," she said timidly when she saw the way he looked down and didn't react to her frustration. "I shouldn't have said what I said, that was mean, and heartless, but I'm just so *scared*!" she exclaimed, letting her emotions out for the first time in years. "I feel things with you that I've never experienced before, a sense of… of belonging."

He shook his head. "You don't feel them with me, Lois. You feel them with that guy who flies around in a pair of red boots and a billowing cape. He's a fantasy, Lois, he doesn't exist."

"He does," she argued firmly, inching herself closer to him. Her hand reached for his chest and she placed it on his heart. "He's there," she explained, her eyes never leaving his. "Every day, when I see you, you *Clark*, I find the same qualities that attracted me to Superman in the first place."

"But you don't love Clark."

"Well, I… I…"

"It's all right, Lois. I understand that."

"No you don't! Clark, you've been living with those two identities ever since you were born, whereas *I* have known about them for five minutes, so please understand that I need time to understand who you really are."

"Oh, I've always been Clark Kent, true. But I've only been Superman for four months."

"You mean you didn't have powers before?"

"I did. I just… didn't use them to the same extent, because I was afraid I'd be discovered and…"

"And you wouldn't have any life," she completed for him.

"Dad keeps saying that if they find out they'll lock me in a lab to dissect me like a frog."

"Why would they? They haven't done that, have they? Why would knowing you're Clark Kent make them want to use you as a guinea pig for their experiments?"

"Maybe because Clark is attainable. Superman is… above all this. The suit makes him look more impressive, less…"

"Less human," she said softly. "But Clark, you're the most human person I've ever known. A few days ago, I would have added 'after Superman', because Superman has all these powers and uses them for the greater good of humanity, when it would be so easy for him to take over the world. But you *are* Superman. Which means this strong person I've been admiring for months is in fact… you."

"Me," he repeated dejectedly.

"You've been Superman ever since you were born, Clark. Okay, you might not have worn the costume then, but you've had these incredible powers for years, and you've always used them to help, in any way you could. Whatever you claim, you *are* him. He's part of you, and you can't deny that. You don't *want* to deny that."

"Sometimes I do. He's eating me up, Lois. Stealing my life away."

"How could he do that?"

He made a face. "Just look at how you've been throwing yourself at him."

She had the courtesy to blush, but she didn't lower her eyes. "I think that this theory of yours has been proved wrong for the past two days," she murmured shyly, her gaze searching.

He looked up at her, his mouth gaping, a shocked expression on his face.

"Don't get your hopes up, Kent, I'm still mad at you," she warned, her voice thunderous. "You still haven't told me why you decided now was a good time to tell me."

He shrugged. "I guess I was tired of lying."

"About time. Do you realise you've been lying to me ever since you met me? That there's not one single day when you haven't invented something to let you go be Superman while I was left on my own to deal with whatever situation you'd left me in? Do you realise that more than once I wondered what could have happened to you while I was observing Superman taking care of the bad guys, asking myself if you were lying in agony in a dark corner, and I'd just find your dead body when the dawn came, and it would be too late to tell you how much you me — " She stopped herself abruptly, taking a deep breath and refusing to voice the feelings that had been buried within her for a long time.

Yes, Clark did mean a lot to her. She'd never admitted it to him, but he was the first man in her life who'd come to lighten her day whenever he teased her or just worked with her. Her crush on Superman had been real as well, but there had always been something about Clark that she didn't understand, and that scared her so much that all she'd found as a response was a less than encouraging behaviour. She couldn't let herself fall for him, that had always been out of the question. He was working with her, in the same newsroom, and therefore he was competition. After Claude, she'd learned her lesson, and she knew better than letting herself get involved with a man she worked with.

<Don't fall for me, farmboy. I don't have time for it.>

One of her first warnings to him came back to her, and she realised how much it had been addressed to herself more than to him. She'd been aware that he was extremely attractive, with that boyish smile and good manners, and she'd sensed the danger immediately. He was too good to be true. He was…

He was super.

And it would be so easy to let herself fall for him. So easy not to let her mind have the last word, to simply let go of all her inhibitions and lose herself in him. After all, that was what she'd been doing for the past thirty-six hours, and she'd never felt as liberated as she was feeling now. It was exhilarating to be careless about what tomorrow would bring, and just this once, apply the carpe diem principle to herself, as if she was drunk and didn't realise the consequences of her actions. And if Clark hadn't been resisting her, she'd be in his strong but tender embrace right now, revelling in the fleeting yet insistent brush of his skin on hers, responding eagerly to his caresses and murmured words of devotion… Letting him love her as much as she loved him.

Instead of that, she was sitting a few feet away from him, and the warmth that had inhabited her for the past few hours was replaced by a chill she couldn't quite grasp. He was so near, yet so far away. Sharing his secret with her should have brought them closer, but it had done the exact opposite, and she knew she was partly responsible for Clark's wariness around her. Well, her, and that mysterious perfume that Clark claimed to be responsible for her actual state.

She knew this wasn't entirely true. Maybe the perfume had lowered her inhibitions like too much strong wine would, but the only thing it had done was to make her aware of feelings she'd been shutting off for weeks. She now realised that Clark was a lot more than a work colleague to her, that somewhere during their partnership, he'd become much more than that, and even if she'd always refused to acknowledge this growing sensation, maybe it was time to stop fighting it. Maybe it was time to stop being a coward in her relationships, and take the scary step she'd sworn she wouldn't ever take again.

Making up her mind on a sudden impulse, she threw blanket and cushion away, and turned towards her superhero of a partner.





Clark observed the expressions flitting over Lois's face with growing worry. She hadn't said a word for several minutes, and she seemed lost in her thoughts. Her gaze was unfocused, and she was repeatedly tearing on the edge of a cushion, completely unaware that the fabric was progressively giving way, and he could already see some of the white stuffing sticking out of the hole she was digging.

She hadn't finished her earlier sentence, but he'd understood the meaning of her last words. As much as it should thrill him that he actually meant something to her, it pained him that she couldn't bring herself to admit it out loud. He knew she needed time, that discovering about his other identity had come as a shock to her, and that right now he was probably very lucky she was methodically tearing that cushion to pieces, instead of him.

But her silence scared him, because he knew that beneath lay the hurt she didn't want to show him. Lois had never been good at revealing her emotions, and when she was upset, she shut herself off in a silence that could destabilise anyone who approached her. If she'd been really mad, she would be yelling at him, hitting him, or she'd have already stormed out. But she wasn't doing anything of the sort. She was sitting here, staring into space, and ignoring his presence, as if he didn't exist in her inner universe. A place where he didn't, and probably *wouldn't*, ever have any role.

Her attitude was a rather ominous sign when it came to any future they could have had together. He inwardly shook himself, ordering himself to stop fantasising about something that wouldn't ever exist anywhere else but in his dreams. Whatever Lois felt about him, him *Clark*, it had never involved love. Even if she did think she had some strong feelings for Superman, she should now be aware these hadn't been real, and her attraction to him would very quickly wear off now that she knew who was hiding behind the famous superhero.

A very ordinary man, who could do right and wrong, love and hate, rejoice and hurt.

A man who was far from being perfect.

Why would she want him, now? He'd always considered Lois someone who was looking for perfection, and wouldn't be content with anything less, whether it was in her work or in her relationships. Not that her attraction to Luthor fitted really well in that little dreamy scheme, but she probably thought the businessman didn't have any flaws, and Clark had to concede that, from an exterior point of view, she couldn't be contradicted on that.

She also seemed to take the name she'd given him literally, without realising the man she saw in the suit didn't exist, had never existed, and would never exist. There was no such thing as a perfect being, and Lois had been the first one to claim that truth on his first day at the Planet. She was the cynical one in this partnership, so why was she insisting on her attachment to some non-existent entity?

Suddenly, her head snapped up and she caught his gaze, not giving him a chance to escape as she threw her blanket and cushion on the floor, revealing again that golden outfit, the sky-blue threads of silk sliding on her bare arms and making him shiver as he wondered how it would feel to brush his fingers over her skin. He briefly closed his eyes, trying to get his senses back under control, to fight against the desire that was coursing through him and eating at him a little more every day, not giving him a moment of respite, never giving him the chance to catch his breath before he would fall again, mesmerised by that woman who'd given him so much already, without ever fulfilling his heart's dearest wish.

And… and…

His thoughts trailed off as he felt her take his hands in hers and brush her thumbs on his knuckles, the fleeting touch making him shudder, though he couldn't decipher if it was from fear or anticipation. When he didn't find one last straw of strength to resist, he kept his eyes closed, refusing to see and preferring to feel, letting her guide his hands to her lips. The contact was soft, making his nerve ends tingle. His fingers pushed against her mouth, and he couldn't hold back a small gasp as her tongue stroked a timid path down his index finger. But it was all over too soon, and her torturous mouth left him somewhere between a moan of frustration and a sigh of relief.

"I guess my… relationship with Superman didn't really help in making you want to tell me," Lois said, breaking the silence that had settled between them for those long minutes.

Clark opened his eyes, his body still dizzy from her exquisite caress, and his mind still confused by the new turn of events brought by her knowledge of his secret. He nodded slowly, not trusting his voice to stay neutral. Lois had kept a light hold on his hand, and was absently playing with his fingers, entwining them with hers in complicated patterns that Clark suddenly found fascinating.

It felt good, to have her touch him like that, in that innocuous yet intimate caress, a promise of more, yet a casual gesture which he could easily get used to.

"I really did make a fool of myself," Lois murmured with a small sigh.

He looked up at her discomfited face and drew a hand out of her tender grasp, bringing it under her chin to make her face him. "You couldn't have known Clark was the man beneath that suit," he said softly, trying to convey some reassurance with his voice and gestures.

"Yeah? I'm a reporter, Clark. How come a man who flies has been able to work beside me for months and I never even noticed?" she asked, unconvinced.

Clark took a few seconds to answer, pained by the truth lurking beneath her statement. Oh, not that he could ever doubt her ability as a reporter; but she had just spelled out what had been his torture ever since he'd met her. She'd seen Superman, and hadn't ever given a second glance to Clark Kent. "Who would ever guess someone like me has superpowers? I'm a pretty unremarkable guy," he finally said, unable to hide a downcast note from his reply.

"But you have the same qualities as he does. The only difference is the powers… well, *was* the powers. At least in my head — Oh, Clark, this is so confusing! Yesterday there were two people who mattered to me, Superman and you, and now — "

"Now there's only one of them."

She nodded.

"I… I matter to you?" Clark asked hopefully, reviewing what she'd just told him.

"Of course you do. You're the first man I've ever…" She trailed off, unsure of her next words, but his reassuring squeeze of her hand was the only encouragement she needed. "The first man I've ever completely trusted. You know that."

"Superman is."

She shook her head. "No. *Clark* is. Superman is… well, he's trustworthy. But who did I tell about Claude? Who knows what I like, what revolts me, what makes me cry and what makes me laugh? Which one of you knows the *real* me?"

"All right, so maybe you consider me a friend," Clark conceded. "And I do, too. You're the only person I've truly trusted, apart from my parents, and I couldn't imagine telling anyone about me, but you. So, yes, we're friends, but — "

"More than that," Lois interrupted, her eyes unwavering.

Clark started and his head shot up, his gaze locking with hers and a question forming on his lips but that he couldn't bring himself to voice out loud.

"Yes, Clark. These past few days made me realise that it's time to stop struggling against… against this thing."

"This thing?"

"This… connection I feel to you."

"Lois, there's nothing I'd wish more than that, but I can't let you say that when you're still under the effect of this nasty substance — "

"It's not the perfume, Clark. What I feel for you is stronger than anything I ever felt for any man in my life. It's real."

"It's just — "

"It's *not* lust."

Clark's eyebrows shot up, and he couldn't help but let his gaze travel over her pearl-clad body.

"Okay, there was some of that. Still is. I mean I wouldn't be against the idea of- oh, geez, what am I saying?" Lois blushed furiously, feeling even more embarrassed as a broad grin made its way to Clark's face. Collecting her thoughts, she ignored his teasing expression and spoke up again. "You said you were tired of lying. Well, so am I. This perfume thing, whatever it is, just helped me to realise something I'd been denying for the past few months."

Clark's gaze was still fixed on her, and she looked down, suddenly feeling shy and vulnerable. He wasn't helping her at all, sitting there, immobile, and waiting for her to speak her heart's contents to him. Did he think it was easy for her? The last time she'd opened up to a man, that individual had taken advantage of the emotions she'd been experiencing for him to get her into bed and steal her story while he was at it. She knew that Clark had nothing in common with Claude, that he would never betray her the way her former lover had, but when you'd spent the last five years burying yourself in your work and avoiding any relationship with any man, almost barking when one approached too close, it was difficult to win over her skittishness and plunge forward.

Even with Clark.

She'd been too naive when she'd met Claude, thinking that her love would be requited, too young to understand that the man's range of experience went beyond reporting, and that it was something he wouldn't hesitate to take advantage of. She'd barely waited to know him before she'd made the first step that had got her into utter humiliation. A goo-goo-eyed teenager, that's what she'd been at that time. Unable to see what was right in front of her, not seeing…

Not seeing the man beneath the suit.

She'd made the exact same mistake with Clark Kent, and yet it didn't have the same bitter taste it had had when she'd discovered the way Claude had been using her. Clark had never, and *would* never do such a thing. He'd become her friend before reaching the next level in their relationship, and there had been no hidden schemes, no lurking strings attached.

But he had lied to her. After her disastrous experience with Claude, she'd sworn never to fall for a liar ever again, and yet she was on the verge of forgiving Clark for the amount of lame excuses he'd made her buy ever since she'd known him, for his elusive personality, for letting her live in her fantasy world, her nights filled with dreams of blue, red and yellow whirlwinds.

Whatever his lies, he'd never used them to destroy her, and therein lay the difference. Clark had to keep his identity a secret to protect the people he loved as much as himself. Besides, she'd been throwing herself at his alter-ego for longer than she cared to remember, and he'd never taken advantage of that, despite his own feelings.

She couldn't doubt that he was attracted to her; he'd given her a few glimpses of his attachment to her on several occasions, both as Clark and as Superman. The caped superhero, generally distant and unreachable, had completely melted in her arms that day when he'd saved her as she was trapped in a vault. She'd seen the brief yet unmistakable flicker of desire in his eyes when he'd caught her as she was almost fainting; his warm hands had sent shots of need through her body, but above all, the dark light of passion and fear had been shining in his gaze, and for half a second, she'd thought he would kiss her. If Allan Morris hadn't interrupted, he would probably have, and she wouldn't have complained in the least.

After that investigation, however, Superman had started to drift away from her, coming less often to her apartment, even though her window was still open for him. He'd remained distant during the rare interviews she conducted, as if something had been broken by that one moment of weakness. What had hurt at that time was now a comfort to her, though, knowing that it was *Clark* who had been fighting against his attraction to her so as not to let her start a relationship with the part of him he considered unreal.

As for Clark's feelings for her, she'd always suspected they ran deeper than simple friendship. From the first glance he'd given her, she'd caught that spark that spoke of danger to her, and which had made her try to run away at first. For the past four months, she'd been struggling somewhere between her fear of commitment and her worry that Clark would stop being interested in her. One minute flirting with him, the next one sending him to hell. She was surprised he was still here beside her after what she'd put him through, but it probably took more than Lois Lane to destabilise the Man of Steel.

She should have known, though. Barely two weeks earlier, when they'd been investigating what had turned out to be Jason Trask's sickening paranoia in Smallville, and Rachel Harris had prevented the madman from shooting Clark in the back in extremis, Lois had run to her partner and clung to him as if she would never let go. Clark had returned the embrace, and she'd felt a strong and weird sense of deja vu when she'd noticed that barely suppressed longing shining in his eyes. She hadn't made the link with the vault event right then, but on reflection, now, it seemed obvious that it had been the same insistent but shy emotion that had passed between them both times. That time, in Smallville, *she* had been the one to pull away, scared by the intensity of the physical and emotional contact between them, probably like Superman — Clark — had felt back in that vault a couple of months earlier.

And during these past thirty-six hours, he'd most certainly had to face the same kind of temptation, only much stronger this time, since her attempts at seducing him had been more than blatant. Yet he'd resisted, *again*, in that boy scout fashion that should irritate her but did nothing but endear him to her.

Didn't that prove he was trustworthy? Enough to make her lower her barriers this once, and take a tentative step towards a relationship that could, for the first time in her life, bring her the happiness she'd been missing all this time?

She felt his gaze on her and met his eyes, noticing with dawning wonder the care and tenderness they held and promised. Her hands were still wrapped around his, and he hadn't made a move to escape her grip, accepting her gesture of commitment, as if confirming this was where he belonged.

Where *they* belonged.

A timid smile crept to her face, and he responded in kind. It was the only encouragement she needed, and she slowly bent forward, almost imperceptibly, her eyes flickering closed of their own volition.

Their lips met, the caress of silk against silk, and she let him explore her in unhurried gentleness, his leisurely pace contrasting with the quickening pulse in the back of her throat. His hands left hers to frame her face and bring her even closer, and she let out a moan of pleasure as she felt his fingers thread themselves in her hair. The heat of his body radiated through her even as she wasn't touching him, beckoning her, and she fell forward into his steady embrace, her hands roaming up his chest and feeling the hard muscles beneath the light fabric of his shirt.

She sensed the nanosecond of hesitation within him as she reached beneath the hem of his pants to tug his shirt out, and immediately pulled away, afraid to have trod one step too far beyond the limit.

He seemed to understand the concern in her eyes, because he cupped her cheek and brought his lips to hers again, keeping the pressure gentle, and retreating a bare second later to trail a series of open-mouthed kisses on her throat. She gasped at the sensation, both surprised and aroused by the long forgotten reactions of her body to a man's touch.

Not just any man, she corrected faintly through the fog in her mind. Clark. It was Clark in the arms of whom she was melting, surrendering to the light strokes of his lips and hands, leaning into his strong body, anticipating the feel of his warm skin on hers, and…

… and letting him take her over that threshold of intimacy without an ounce of reluctance on her part.

He momentarily stopped his delicate attentions on her neck, his arms coming around her and lifting her effortlessly so that she sat on his lap. He kept his hold on her, his hands stroking a shivery path up and down her ribcage and making her ache for more, but the passion that had lain in his eyes during those past heated minutes left way to an infinite tenderness, and a question that he seemed unable to voice, probably for fear of shattering the spell between them.

"Yes, Clark," she murmured, breaking the silent exchange, and answering his uncertainty.

He closed his eyes and a shuddering sigh escaped his mouth before he whispered her name, reverently, the raw emotion radiating from him bringing a lump to her throat upon realising the many ways that man could love her.

"I love you," he said in a sigh, leaning his forehead against hers.

Lois took a deep shuddering breath, moved by the truthfulness she heard in his declaration, and aware that for the first time in her life, there were no lies, no false confessions. "I love you, too," she said softly, surprised by how good it felt to finally voice her feelings for him. A weight was being lifted off her shoulders, and she found herself grinning at him, before she repeated, "Oh, yes, I really do love you," confirming it as much to him as to herself.

"Are you…" he started to ask, trailing off and averting his eyes from hers, unable to prevent himself from thinking about the perfume and what effects it could still have on her mind.

"Sure?" she asked, completing his half-formed question.

He nodded. "The perfume, Lois. I can't… I can't take advantage of you like that. As much as I love you, I don't want you to say things like that because some chemical made you lose — "

"Made me lose my inhibitions," she interrupted. "Clark, it just proves that what I feel for you is *real*. No chemical substance could create what I'm feeling right now."

"What if there is such a substance? What do we know about this weird thing?"

"I was sprayed yesterday, and have had enough time to understand what I was feeling towards you during all that time."

His eyebrows shot up in a silent question.

"Lust. Raw need. Sexual desire," she countered, amused at the blush that made its way to her shy partner's face. "But this isn't what I'm feeling right now."

"Oh?" There was a slight note of disappointment in his tone, even if he'd probably done his best to hide it, and Lois found herself giggling.

"What I'm feeling," she continued, guiding his hands around her waist, "is that this…" She wrapped her arms around his neck. "… is where I belong. Now and forever."

He looked at her for a long moment, amazed by the simple truth lying in her words. "Now and forever," he solemnly repeated her statement before sealing his lips back to hers…

… in agreement.

THE END February 2001