By Kaethel <Kaethel@wanadoo.fr>
Submitted: June 2002
Summary: Being separated from her best friend during her engagement to Lex leads Lois to realize how much an essential part of her life Clark has become. But will she find the courage to confront her unexpected feelings?
Here's the result of some late night inspiration (yes, I know, BATP again <g>) on the challenge posted by Pam (authors had to write a story entitled Change of Heart). Many thanks to my BRs Wendy and LabRat and to my GE Tricia for the help they provided, and to the readers on the MBs. :)
Feedback is very welcome at Kaethel@wanadoo.fr
"Clark…I miss you."
The silence that met her admission tore at Lois's heart. Maybe it hadn't been such a good idea to call him to patch things up. Actually, maybe it hadn't been such a good idea to call him, period. But she'd been missing him too much. Over the past couple of weeks, she'd buried herself in the preparations for her wedding — or what little Lex had let her handle without the 'assistance' of his staff — but deep down, the void in her heart left by her ruined relationship with Clark had never stopped haunting her. It was probably that longing for their dead friendship that had pushed her to admit how much she missed him, despite the despairing awkwardness of their conversation.
"I miss you, too," Clark finally replied, and Lois couldn't hold back a sigh of relief.
The emotion in his voice was obvious, and suddenly her fear was replaced by determination. She would make things right between them, no matter what it took. Now. Tonight. She wouldn't wait another minute to see him and regain the support of a relationship that had become so essential to her life.
"Clark, can I…can I come over?" There was a short silence on the other end of the line, and Lois chewed on her lower lip, afraid she'd pushed it too far. If her request was met with a refusal, she would know for sure that her friendship with Clark couldn't be saved. "I know it's late and you're probably tired or even already in bed and maybe I even woke you up. I'm sorry, it was a stupid idea, just forg—"
"Lois, no!" Clark cut her off sharply. "Please. I'd love to see you. We haven't had much of a chance to talk lately."
No, they hadn't. In fact, every single attempt at a conversation had quickly turned into a fight.
"Look, I'll be right there, okay?"
"No, it's okay, I can drive to your place in no time and —"
"And get yourself killed in the process?"
His gentle teasing made her smile; it had been a long time since her partner had scolded her for her tendency to plunge in head first without thinking of the consequences. And right now he was probably picturing her maneuvering her Jeep through the streets of Metropolis as if it were a Stock Car race.
"Okay," she finally whispered, and slid from under the covers as they both hung up.
She needed to dress quickly and prepare some coffee…and she had no idea what she'd just gotten herself into. As usual, she'd acted before weighing her options, inviting Clark to her place at almost midnight. What would Lex think of Clark's nocturnal visit to her apartment if he knew about it? Well, he wouldn't learn it from her, she decided firmly. It wasn't as if she was doing anything wrong!
She was pondering her unexpected lack of guilt when a sharp knock on the door jolted her out of her musing. Her jaw dropped when she found herself face to face with Clark. How had he…? Her gaze drifted to the telephone in her bedroom — she could have sworn she'd hung up barely two minutes ago…
"Superman…was around. He offered me a ride," he explained, probably sensing her confusion.
"Oh." Superman. She swallowed hard, chasing away the humiliating image of the superhero who'd rejected her a few weeks earlier. "Come on in," she blurted out, ushering Clark inside and turning away to regain some composure.
"Lois, will you tell me what this is all about?"
She started as he brought a warm hand up onto her shoulder; she suddenly felt naked, stripped of all the barriers usually protecting her deepest emotions. How could this man touch her with just a few words and make her want to bare her heart to him, whereas she shied away from anyone else? Why was he the only one who could make her feel so comfortable, as if anything she said or did could never change the way he cared about her?
"The last time you were this jumpy was when Barbara Trevino was trying to kill you and — oh my god! Who's after you this time? Why didn't you call me sooner?"
She interrupted his flood of words. "Clark! Don't panic; no one's trying to kill me."
"Oh." He sounded relieved, but there was still a gleam of doubt lurking in his gaze.
"I swear! If anyone was after me, you'd be the first to know."
She passed by him and plopped herself onto the couch, taking her head in her hands and trying to shake off the confusing feelings hurtling through her. She couldn't hold back a shiver when he sat next to her, but when he took her hand in his, relief overpowered any other sensation; his gestures of tenderness had always soothed her, and tonight was no exception. Tonight, in fact, the connection between them was stronger. It was something she wanted to hold on to and never let go; something she'd never let herself feel before.
Why couldn't it be the same with Lex? Why did her fiance's touch make her recoil instead of ache for more? Why had she accepted his proposal? No! She wouldn't let herself slide down this slope. She'd agreed to marry Lex because he was the best thing that could ever have happened to her…right?
"I can't!" she burst out in frustration, jerking her hand out of Clark's and abruptly getting to her feet. She needed to pace. She needed to breathe and stop thinking about a decision that was over and done with.
"I'm sorry, it was probably a bad idea to come over, I'll just g—"
She was back at his side in a second. "No! Please. Don't go. I…I need you," she whispered intensely, fighting back the tears that threatened to overwhelm her. "I love you." She gasped as the last words came out of her mouth of their own volition, and she prayed that Clark hadn't heard them — it had only been a murmur and maybe he hadn't caught the meaning of what was just a soft mumble. But the stunned, confused look on his face crushed her hopes.
"You…you love me?" he stuttered, and hearing her own words thrown back at her made it even harder for her to ignore their meaning.
She couldn't possibly love Clark, could she?
"Oh yeah," he added, sounding suddenly dejected. "Like your best friend. Or like a brother. I remember."
Did she? Did she love Clark like a brother? Like the best friend she'd been missing so much over the past few weeks? Or was the need to be close to him, to be wrapped in his strong embrace, safe from anything in the world, a clue to deeper feelings for him? Could she…could she have fallen in love with him?
But that was impossible! She'd meant it when she'd turned him down. She loved Superman, not Clark. She didn't…she *couldn't*… She was marrying Lex…
She fought the urge to bury her head in her hands again. Why did it feel like whatever path she chose, she had to regretfully look back to what she'd deliberately rejected? Objectively, she didn't long for the kind of life Lex seemed to lead — and wanted to make her lead as well. The way he claimed not to have time to plan their wedding by himself was already a clue that they didn't have the same priorities in life…
…but did she love Clark? The question was haunting her, refusing to leave her alone now that the scary words were out. Her best friend was looking down at his lap, obviously convinced she couldn't feel for him the way he felt for her. He probably thought her words had been meant to torture him further, to remind him that she cared for him indeed, but not as much as he did for her.
"I don't know, Clark," she finally said, fear clenching in her heart as she confessed her confusion. "I don't know how I feel anymore…about Lex…about…you."
"Maybe it's just your basic wedding jitters," he offered weakly, and the pain in his voice made her want to hold him close.
She sighed, resolute to face the truth at last. "I'm afraid not. I'm not in love with Lex. I thought my feelings for him would come at some point; that since he loved me and wanted to spend the rest of his life with me, I could learn to love him, too. But I can't. And I can't go on lying to myself. I can't, because…because I think I made a mistake, that day in the park."
This time he looked up at her, and a flicker of hope lightened his gaze. "Lois, you're…you're serious? You're sure?"
"I think so… Gosh, it's time I was honest with myself," she scolded herself with a shake of her head. "Yes," she continued firmly. "I'm sure I made a mistake. And if I could go back and change the way I reacted to what you told me that day, I…I would. And yes, I'm sure I can't marry Lex. I thought I could do what seemed reasonable and not let anything cloud my judgment *this* once, but being away from you made me realize that maybe…maybe I was too quick to turn you down. As sad as it sounds, it took our separation to make me see how much I need you, how much I lov—"
She didn't finish her sentence before Clark's lips were on hers, devouring her mouth with a passion that she'd never have expected from her mild-mannered partner. His kiss was a mixture of fervor and gentleness, and in the midst of the warmth suffusing her body as he wrapped his arms around her, the clouds of her confusion drifted away, leaving only the certainty of a love she should have recognized long ago.