It Only Hurts When I Breathe

By Wendy Richards <>

Rated: PG

Submitted: September 2003

Summary: Lois is devastated when she thinks she's lost Clark to Mayson. Can Superman help set her straight?

Author's note:

As usual with my short stories, this is Kaethel's fault. <g> She was visiting recently, and we were sharing our tastes in angsty stories — we both love this one, by Shania Twain, and one by Delta Goodrem, which inspired a story by Kae which will be on the archive very soon! So, as we were playing these songs over and over again at a rate which would drive anyone else to distraction, we came up with ideas for short stories.

Many thanks to Kae for her usual terrific BRing, and also to the residents of the Lois and Clark Fanfic Message Boards ( for their comments and enthusiasm.

All rights to Lois and Clark belong to DC Comics and Warner Bros; I've only borrowed them temporarily to torture for a few minutes. They're all right, really!!


*And it only hurts when I'm breathing

My heart only breaks when it's beating

My dreams only die when I'm dreaming

So, I hold my breath — to forget*

— (c) Shania Twain/R.J Lange 2002; sung by Shania Twain


Sitting on her sofa, her knees drawn up against her chest and her arms wrapped around them, Lois stared unseeing into the distance.

In the background, the TV blared on, but she paid it no attention, even though her favourite soap opera was on. Somehow, the trials and tribulations of the characters in The Ivory Tower offered no interest whatsoever tonight. Actors moved across the screen, voices spoke, but Lois didn't even notice.

Outside, it was dark; it was a clear night and, despite the level of light pollution, the stars were bright. But, even though she turned her head towards the window, Lois didn't notice them either.

She'd never felt more alone in her whole life before. And she knew that she would still feel alone even if she was in the midst of a crowd — or in the busy newsroom at the Planet, working on a story.

Or even if she was where she'd wanted to be this evening — in Clark's apartment. She was alone now, and would probably be alone for the rest of her life.

She'd lost Clark.

It was still hard to believe, and yet the irrefutable proof was stark in the forefront of her memory, blazing itself like a brand in front of her eyes.

He'd found someone else.

How had it happened? That was what she still couldn't understand. How had this… this *interloper* managed to steal Clark right from underneath her nose?

Clark was *hers*. He'd always been hers, right from the very first moment they'd met. She'd known that; sensed it somehow, even before that late-night Chinese takeout session when she'd caught him gazing almost besottedly at her.

He was hers. Her partner; her best friend. And whatever else she wanted him to be. It was one of life's constants that he'd always be there for her; just as the sun rose in the morning, just as today's newspapers would be tomorrow's fish-wrapping, Clark would be part of her life.

And yet, in a single instant, all that had changed forever.

A single person had changed it.

Mayson Drake.

That woman had been after Clark right from the second she'd set eyes on him. She hadn't cared that he was taken… Well, to be fair, he hadn't exactly been taken; it wasn't as if they'd been dating, but he was *hers*, anyone could see that. And yet Ms I Think I'm So Sexy Drake had marched right in and flirted with Clark right under Lois's nose.

And he'd fallen for it.

So much for loyalty! So much for his declaration of love to her — the one he'd withdrawn, but she'd never believed that he'd meant that. Of course Clark loved her. And she'd been secure in that love for months, knowing that when she was ready she could just reach out to Clark and he'd be there. She'd trusted him, with a level of trust she hadn't thought she was capable of any more, to be there, always.

He wasn't there any more. He was in Mayson Drake's arms, half-naked — in fact, they were probably completely naked by now and doing the horizontal lambada in Clark's bedroom, she thought in disgust.

Though, if they were in Clark's bedroom, it wouldn't be casual sex, Lois knew with a pang so sharp it hurt. Her partner wasn't into easy relationships or one-night stands. They'd never really discussed sex, but she knew Clark well enough to know that he took intimacy seriously.

If he was being intimate with Mayson Drake, then he wouldn't be having sex with her. He would be making love with her.

He would be *in love* with her.

Clark. In love. With someone else. Someone who wasn't Lois Lane.

And the pain was back, a tight band around her chest which wouldn't go away. Lois took a shuddering breath, barely surprised when that hurt too.

But she wouldn't let it hurt. She just couldn't! No man was worth that kind of pain. No man deserved to have a woman tie herself in knots over him.

<Not even Clark?>

Not even Clark, she told herself stubbornly, ignoring the renewed sharp thrust of pain at the thought. Mayson Drake was welcome to him, Lois decided suddenly, jumping to her feet and marching towards the kitchen in search of ice-cream. The whole miserable incident was yet more proof that men just weren't capable of constancy. It wasn't possible for a man's love to last.

How was it Shakespeare put it?

"Sigh no more lady, sigh no more For men were deceivers ever… One foot in sea and one on shore; to one thing constant never"

That was it exactly.

And yet she'd thought that Clark was different.

Different. Hah! He was just the same as every other man, she muttered inwardly, giving the freezer door a violent kick to close it. Tub of triple-chocolate- chip ice-cream in hand, a spoon stuck in her mouth, Lois headed back to the sofa…

…where, as soon as she threw herself back on the cushions, the image of Clark kissing Mayson Drake passionately flashed before her mind once again.

They'd looked so natural in each other's arms, so passionately caught up in the kiss. The Drake woman's hands had been buried in Clark's hair, and he'd been holding her by the shoulders. Clark had been shirtless, and *she* had been wearing a flimsy camisole, by the look of it. Clark's eyes had been closed in blissful happiness. And both of them had been completely oblivious to her presence outside the door.

All they'd been interested in was each other.

A solitary tear fell into the ice-cream carton.

<No!> Lois almost screamed inwardly. She would *not* weep over Clark Kent! If he was that fickle, then she was better off without him. There were plenty more where he came from. And anyway, she certainly didn't need a man to make her feel complete. Kent was history. They were partners at work, and that was it. He could whistle for any more evenings of shared pizza and movies.

And yet…

Tears came to her eyes again as more memories flooded back. Sitting curled up on Clark's sofa, or with her legs resting across his lap, as they watched Lethal Weapon for the tenth time; or sitting opposite him over coffee in her apartment as they argued good- naturedly about politics, literature or the media industry — these were evenings she counted as among the happiest, most enjoyable in her life.

It wasn't only Clark who would feel the loss of shared time together. But then, he had his new girlfriend, so why should he miss time spent with Lois Lane?

His new girlfriend. Clark was dating someone else.

And it hurt.

No matter how much she tried to pretend that it didn't, it hurt deeply. Like a physical pain. Her chest ached. Her throat muscles were constricted and sore from the effort of holding back choking tears. Her eyes were burning, scalding as moisture tried to escape. Since she'd laid eyes on the two of them at Clark's apartment, every single second had held nothing but torture for her.

Lois had never taken seriously all the millions of romance novels which described the agony of lost love. All those weeping heroines, falling into declines for the loss of the man they'd loved; she'd thought them weak and idiotic. How could any woman allow a man to become that important to her?

Romeo and Juliet was thought by many to be one of the world's greatest love stories, and yet Lois had never been able to empathise with a woman who committed suicide rather than live without the man she'd loved. Scarlett O'Hara was more her kind of woman, Lois had always thought; even without Rhett Butler, O'Hara had been able to focus on what was most important: her land. Her livelihood. Scarlett would miss Rhett, of course, but she could live without him. No-one could say that Scarlett O'Hara needed a man to make her complete.

Now, though, Lois understood what it meant to feel lost. To feel as if nothing would ever be normal or enjoyable ever again. Even her career meant nothing to her right now, now that the man she'd shared it with for so long was lost to her. Even though Clark would still be her partner, nothing could ever be the same again.

Not now that he was dating Mayson Drake.

What on earth did he see in her?

<She wanted him> a tiny voice pointed out. <She showed him that he was desirable. She didn't push him away. She didn't ignore him and fawn over someone else, yet still expect him to be there for her>

Lois pushed the tub of ice-cream away, no longer able to face it.

It was all true. She had pushed Clark away. She had rejected him, over and over again. Her own words still echoed in her head…

"I just don't feel that way about you, Clark."

"I love you… like a brother."

"Don't fall for me, farmboy; I don't have time for it."

How was he supposed to know that she wanted him, after so many clear indications to the contrary?

If she hadn't known her own mind, how was Clark supposed to know what she wanted?

And how could she possibly blame him, call him disloyal or fickle, when she was the one who'd driven him away?

Because she hadn't known her own mind. She'd had the most wonderful man she could wish to find right under her nose for over a year, and yet she'd ignored him — even worse, had walked all over him.

It was as if she'd known that she could always have Clark simply by clicking her fingers. And, because he hadn't presented any sort of a challenge, she'd been complacent, assuming that he would always be there whenever she decided she was ready.

So, first, she'd set her sights on Superman. Well, any woman would, Lois conceded wryly; after all, he was every woman's fantasy. But that was it exactly: he was a fantasy. How could any ordinary man ever compete with a fantasy?

But, at the same time, could anyone possibly live with a fantasy?

Somehow, in all her daydreaming over Superman, she'd never given any thought to what the reality of being his girlfriend might involve. And yet any fool could work that out: constantly at risk against anyone who might want to hurt or control him; continually being left alone because he had to rush off and save the world; sharing him with everyone who thought they deserved a piece of him.

Superman could never belong to just one person. She understood that now. But she'd wasted far too much time trying to persuade herself that he could be hers. And she'd hurt Clark in the process.

It had been all too easy, too convenient, to let herself forget that day in Centennial Park when Clark had told her that he loved her. Too convenient to forget how she'd rejected him and yet made it clear what she wanted from Superman. And Clark, to his credit, had never again referred to it, despite the fact that she must have hurt him deeply.

<You're not the only one who knows what it's like to be rejected by the one you love, Lois Lane>

Superman had turned her down — and yes, she'd experienced the pain of rejection herself in return. But then, in what must have seemed to Clark as the ultimate insult, especially given what he'd known and what she'd later found out to have been true all along, she'd turned to Lex Luthor.

How could she possibly have expected Clark to remain loyal to her throughout all that? Had she really thought that he'd be there waiting, like a faithful lap-dog, whenever she decided she was ready to stop chasing after excitement elsewhere and settle for him?

And maybe that was why he lied that day outside the Planet. Maybe he had fallen out of love with her, maybe he'd decided not to wait for her any more, that someone blind enough to fall for Lex Luthor and almost go through a wedding with him wasn't worth loving. And instead of humiliating her by telling her the truth, he'd said he had only pretended to love her so that she wouldn't marry Luthor, instead of telling her what she'd really deserved to hear.

That she didn't deserve his love. That she'd humiliated and betrayed him once too often for him to have any feelings for her. That there was no way he could love a woman who'd fallen for Lex Luthor's deceit, or who had brushed aside the man who really did love her, at the same time rushing after a hero in a cape who could never offer her more than friendship anyway.

That the Lois Lane who could do all of those things was shallow and unworthy of his love.

Yes, Clark deserved better than she'd offered him. And so it wasn't remotely surprising that, when Mayson Drake had shown interest in him, he'd responded.

She'd lost him, yes; but it was all her own fault.

And that made the agony worse than ever. Losing Clark to Mayson Drake would have been painful under any circumstances. Knowing that she'd practically handed him to the Assistant DA on a plate was devastating.

Lois buried her head in her hands. But still the image of Clark kissing Mayson haunted her.

How was she going to face Clark at work tomorrow? Because she couldn't possibly allow him to realise what she'd seen. And under no circumstances could she ever, ever let him guess what it had meant to her. How much his defection had hurt her.

How she'd realised, in the instant that she'd seen him kissing Mayson Drake, that she loved him.

Not Superman.

Not Lex Luthor — not that she'd ever loved him anyway.

She loved Clark. But she'd left it far too late. And now he'd found someone else.

"Oh, Clark!" she sobbed, at last allowing herself to cry aloud as she acknowledged what she'd lost.

He would still be her partner. He would still be her best friend, if she could bear it.


But how could she possibly bear it when every look, every touch, every little attention from him would remind her of what she had lost? Of what had been hers, but she'd thrown away?

He would never be what she needed him to be now: hers, and hers alone. And very soon he would cease to be anything for her: Mayson Drake would see to that.

She made a vain attempt to dry her tears, but they still flowed. What had someone once sung? she wondered wryly. "I cried a river over you." Wasn't that it? Again, she'd once thought that an idiotic concept. And yet now she knew that she could easily cry a river over Clark Kent.

A tapping at her window made her jerk her head up.

No. Not Superman. Not now.

She couldn't let him see her like this.

Frantically, she contemplated hiding in the bedroom. But that was useless. Superman had X-ray vision. He'd see her there, and he'd know that she was hiding from him. And that would only make him curious.

She grabbed a Kleenex from her pocket and scrubbed at her eyes before getting up and walking slowly, unenthusiastically, towards the window. He probably only wanted to give her an exclusive about some rescue or other.

The irony of her lack of interest in a Superman exclusive — indeed, in the prospect of spending some time with Superman — struck her. But she shrugged it aside. She was fond of Superman; but it was Clark that she loved.

And it was Clark that she'd lost.

And in the cold light of her solitary apartment, it seemed to her that she would be alone, bereft, for the rest of her life.

The sense of loneliness was pressing in on her painfully now, and so even though her initial instinct had been to get rid of Superman as soon as possible, she flung her window open wide to invite him in, ducking her head so that he wouldn't see the dried tear-streaks on her face.

He drifted down from the sill to land on the floor in front of her. "Lois, are you okay?"

His voice was concerned. But how…?

"I'm fine," she replied, trying to sound unconcerned.

Before she even realised he was that close, his long fingers had tilted up her chin so that she was forced to look at him. "Lois," he said softly, concern and sympathy in his gaze. "What's wrong?"

She shrugged. "It's not important, Superman. What was it you wanted, anyway?"

<Please go. Please, just leave…> She didn't want him around after all. Not if he was going to ask painful questions. Not if he was going to be so kind and caring. Not if he was going to make her cry all over again.

"I came to see you." He didn't release her, and his gaze held her, his warm brown eyes holding nothing but affection and worry. "I was passing and noticed that you seemed upset. Is there anything I can help with?"

Lois shook her head. "I… appreciate your concern, Superman. You're very kind. But… no. You can't."

He was silent for several moments. Then he said carefully, "Maybe Clark could help? Would you like me to get him for you?"


Before she could stop herself, Lois was saying, "You'd have to get him out of bed first -"

She bit her lip, but it was too late. Those too- revealing words had escaped.

Superman frowned. "I didn't think Clark ever minded what time it was, if you needed to see him."

"No — I mean… uh…" Realising that she couldn't say any more without giving herself away completely, Lois just shrugged. "It doesn't matter."

"Lois, it matters."

He was going to be insistent, she realised. Why wasn't there some emergency somewhere he could fly off to?

And, just as she was trying to hold on to whatever remnants of control she had left, a solitary tear escaped and trickled down her cheek.

Superman's reaction was immediate. Before Lois even had time to brush the tear away, she was being cradled in his arms. His large hand stroked her hair, and his soft voice murmured her name. And the tears came once more.

After a while, Lois felt a sensation of movement, and when she raised her head from Superman's shoulder he was seated on one of her couches, settling her on his lap. His concerned gaze rested on her.

"Are you going to tell me what's wrong?"

Lois swallowed and scrubbed away the remains of her tears, determined not to allow herself to cry again. "Don't you have somewhere you need to be, Superman?" she asked him wryly.

He smiled. "Not at the moment. I can stay as long as you want me to — unless," he added cautiously, "you'd rather I left."

Part of her did, but another part was arguing that since Superman had already seen her cry there wasn't a lot else she could be embarrassed by. Shrugging, she said, "No, I don't want you to leave."

"Good." He hugged her, then allowed her to slide off his lap to sit beside him. "We are friends, Lois, aren't we?"

It was a strange question. "Of course!"

He gave her a faintly awkward smile. "I know I hurt you a few months ago. I wasn't sure if you were still angry with me for that."

She had been angry then; very angry indeed. And hurt, which was far worse. But in the elapsed time since, and in tonight's recognition of how she really felt about Clark, Lois had realised that Superman had been right. She really didn't know him. And she hadn't even begun to think about what being his girlfriend would mean. She loved Superman; but she wasn't in love with him. Not really.

"No." She gave him a sheepish smile in return. "Yes, you did hurt me — but somehow I think I hurt you too, though I don't know how. Maybe we should just say we're even? Anyway, I'd like to forget it, if you don't mind," she added quickly, blushing as the memory of how she'd practically thrown herself half- naked at him flashed into her mind.

"Me too," he agreed. "So… if we're friends, Lois, won't you tell me why you were crying? Maybe I can help? And even if I can't, maybe just talking about it will help."


Superman reached for her hand then, squeezing it lightly before holding it on his lap between his two bigger hands. "Tell me, Lois."

She bit her lip, wanting to tell him how she felt, needing someone to help take away the aching, hollow sense of loneliness. She didn't want to be alone tonight, and if Superman was willing to stay even for half an hour, that was better than nothing. He wasn't Clark, but he did care about her. He would reassure her that she wasn't a horrible person, wouldn't he? He'd sympathise with her, tell her that Clark didn't deserve her, that he had no idea what he'd thrown away.

He'd be the friend that Clark couldn't be any more. The friend who would always have time for her, who would listen, be sympathetic, who would tease her out of her bad moods and never judge her. The kind of friend…

…that only Clark could be.

How could she possibly replace Clark? And with Superman, of all people? How could he always be there for her, when he had so many other demands on his time?

But did she want Superman to replace Clark, anyway?

The crazy thing was, if anyone had asked her a few days ago — or even a few hours ago — how she would have felt at the prospect of an hour or so of Superman's company, alone with him, she would have been ecstatic. She'd have been fantasising about all the things she'd like to do with him, all the things they could talk about… and the things they could do which didn't involve talking.

The mere thought of Superman holding her in his arms would have led her to visions of them kissing, and even more than kissing.

And yet, now that he was here, he wasn't who she wanted. She already knew who she wanted, and it wasn't the man sitting next to her, offering to be her friend and confidant.

She wanted Clark.

But, she reminded herself, Clark wasn't here. And he wasn't going to be here any more. He was with Mayson now. And Superman was offering to listen, to be her friend, and maybe he could help her to get through the worst of her reaction to the devastating picture of Clark and Mayson Drake together.

But Superman was also Clark's friend…

He was here now. That was all that counted. Lois took a deep breath, searching for the words to explain as calmly as possible what had happened. "Okay. It's…" she began, then broke off as the words refused to come. Taking another shuddering breath, she tried again, but this time different words came out in an unstoppable force. "Oh, Superman, I've lost Clark, and it's all my fault!"

He stiffened. His face went rigid and his hands tightened around hers. When he spoke, his voice was incredulous. "What?"

"Clark… he's dating Mayson Drake — I hate her! She stole him from me, but I guess that's not really true — I mean, I never let him know how I really felt, I just took him for granted and I assumed that I'd always have him if I wanted him, but then *she* came along and just fluttered her eyelashes at him and…"

"Lois!" Superman interrupted her agitatedly. He sounded as if he was being strangled. "What do you mean, Clark's dating Mayson?"

Lois stared at him, frowning. "He didn't tell you? I guess it's too recent…"

Superman shook his head. "Lois, Clark's not dating Mayson Drake!"

"Oh, he's just using her for sex, then?" Lois snapped bitterly, the caustic phrase escaping before she could prevent it.

"Lois!" Superman exclaimed again. "I don't know where you got that idea from, but -"

"I saw them!" she almost yelled. "I went over to Clark's apartment — I knocked, but they didn't even hear me! They were engrossed in each other… half- naked and kissing as if they couldn't get enough of each other." She pulled a face, repulsed again by the memory.

"But I can't really blame him," she continued, more calmly now, her tone sad. "I never told him how I felt about him. I never showed him… I mean, I just took him for granted. He deserved more than that, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised that he took it when it was offered." The tears were threatening again; Lois brushed one away with the back of her hand before reaching across to the coffee-table for another Kleenex.

And then she saw Superman's face. He looked completely stunned, as if someone had hit him with a Kryptonite two by four.


"Let me get this straight," he said, still sounding as if he was having difficulty accepting what she'd said. "You saw Clark and Mayson kissing, and you assumed that they were dating?"

"Well, wouldn't anyone?" Lois retorted defensively. "Especially if they were both half-naked at the time!"

"Half-naked?" Superman queried.

"Clark wasn't wearing a shirt, and *she*… well, she was *almost* wearing some sort of camisole thing, from what I could see." Lois pulled a face. "I doubt she was wearing it for all that long after I left."

"Oh, hell, Lois!" Superman sighed, causing her to give him a sharp look. She'd expected him to be sympathetic, but this… He was almost acting as if he had some sort of personal stake in this! And his questioning seemed to be accusing her of jumping to conclusions.

How could she have jumped to conclusions? It had been darned obvious what was going on! Just whose side was Superman on here?

"Superman?" she queried again, the lump in her throat back. Her voice caught, and she cursed herself for betraying weakness once more.

"Lois…" His arms came around her again and he cradled her against his broad chest. The S of his emblem was resting against her cheek, and something inside her melted. She'd thought she wasn't in love with Superman? Right now, she wanted nothing more than to be held by him; to have him lift her chin with his long fingers again, but this time to kiss her…

"Oh, Lois, I'm sorry you had to see that…" he murmured, his words a near-groan. And then his fingers did tip up her chin, and his face did lower to hers…

"It's not true, Lois — none of it's true," Superman whispered. "Forget Mayson… you're the only woman I've ever wanted!"

And then his lips met hers and he kissed her. And her heart did flip-flops.

How could a simple kiss be so devastating? How could the mere touch of one man's lips against her own make her want to crawl into his lap and get as close to him as she possibly could? How could something as strange as the meeting of mouths make her feel as if she was floating, high on the most potent drug known to humankind?

Only when she was being kissed by the right man.

But then, how could Superman make her feel as much desire as she'd felt when Clark kissed her? The way she'd felt when Clark had kissed her in the honeymoon suite, before she'd discovered that it was all a ruse?

She loved *Clark*! How could she possibly feel this way about Superman? How could she let him kiss her?

And yet she could no more stop herself from kissing him back than she could stop the sun from rising in the morning.

She'd gone through all the agony of realising, accepting that Superman couldn't be for her, and that she wasn't in love with him — and now Superman was telling her that she was the only woman he'd ever wanted! He was kissing her as if he never wanted to let her go.

She'd finally woken up to the knowledge that she loved Clark, not Superman, only to see him abandon her for someone else. And, now that she knew how she felt about Clark, now that she ached for him and had cried over his loss, Superman was offering himself to her after all?

It wasn't fair to Superman to offer him hope if she was in love with someone else. It didn't matter that Clark was lost to her. She still couldn't use Superman like that.

Breathing heavily, Lois broke off the kiss. "Superman, no!" she exclaimed. "I can't… It wouldn't be fair to you!"

He stared at her, his expression shocked, hurt. "Why? Lois, I thought you… that you wanted me too…?"

She took a shuddering breath once more. "Superman, I can't deny that I… well, you know I wanted you to kiss me! But it's not fair," she said, feeling that lump returning to her throat again.

Was she crazy? She'd sighed over Superman for so long. She'd dreamed of being his, and yet now, when her dream was within her grasp, she was rejecting him! What was wrong with her?

"It's not fair," she continued quietly. "I can't be with you while I'm in love with someone else. And it doesn't make any difference that Clark's with Mayson. I still love him, and I can't just forget that -"

"But, Lois, I love you too!" Superman exclaimed, gripping her hands tightly.

"I know, Superman, but… I'm sorry, but it's Clark I want." Near to tears again, she wanted to let him down gently, but there was no other way to say it.

"Lois!" He dropped her hands abruptly, bringing his palms up to cup her face. "Lois, it's me. *Clark*! And I love you! I'm not dating Mayson — I never was!"

She stared at him.

Superman stared back at her.

And yet, those hands holding her so tenderly… she'd felt their caress before, many times. She touched at least one of those hands every day.

And Superman's brown eyes bored into hers, his expression one of frustrated longing. And she knew those eyes, too, even though they were usually shielded by spectacles.

Clark's hands.

Clark's eyes.

Clark's declaration of love.

He wasn't in love with Mayson. He wasn't even dating her.

"Then why did you kiss her, you ratfink?" Lois yelled at him, jerking away from his grasp.

"I didn't!" he protested. "She kissed me! And… I couldn't just push her away. Yeah, I kissed her back, for all of about two seconds. And then I told her that I liked her, but I wasn't interested in anything more with her. I told her that I was in love with someone else. And then I made her coffee and we talked about my testimony. And that was all, Lois!"

"Oh yeah? And why was it necessary to do that half- naked?!"

Superman — no, Clark — shook his head frantically. "She caught me unawares, Lois! I was just getting changed, and she knocked… I should have put something on before opening the door, but I didn't think. I wished I had, when I saw who it was. Actually," he added, "I thought it was probably you."

"Me?" She blinked. This was good, wasn't it? — if he would have thought nothing of opening the door to her without a shirt, but wished he'd put one on for Mayson Drake.

"Lois, you must know that I only ever wanted you?" His expression was so sincere that Lois almost found herself melting again. "And I never thought you took me for granted. Well, not for a long time, anyway," he added wryly.

When had she told him…? Oh yes, that was right. Lois jumped to her feet abruptly and stood, arms akimbo, glaring at her superpowered partner.

"You rat! You low-down piece of pond-scum!" Grabbing one of the sofa cushions, she began to lash out at him.

"Lois?" Sounding puzzled and not a little hurt, Clark got to his feet and caught her arms, stilling her. "What's wrong?"

"You!" she exclaimed. "You liar! You two-faced hypocrite!"

"What -?" he began to protest, but she interrupted him.

"You! Pretending to be two different people, flying around in that outfit of yours one minute and pretending to be my best friend the next! And making me so confused about both of you that I barely even knew my own feelings!"

"I never pretended, Lois!" he protested. "Okay, yeah, I pretended to be two different people, but I *never* pretended anything about the way I feel about you!" He ran his hands agitatedly through his hair. "Have you any idea how tough this has been for me?"

"Oh yeah?" she sneered. "I bet you were laughing at me behind my back for the way I behaved!"

"Never," he said forcefully. "Lois, if anything, I've been closer to crying. Can you possibly imagine what it's been like seeing you chase after Superman and treat me — Clark — just as your friend? To have you tell Superman that you love him and want to be with him, when I know you only love Clark like a brother? Have you any conception of how much that hurt?"

All of Lois's anger fled, leaving her shaken. He was right. Hadn't she just been castigating herself earlier for the way she'd treated Clark in contrast to Superman? And the way she'd continued to ignore Clark, even when Superman had rejected her, and had accepted Lex Luthor's proposal.

In his position, she would never have told the truth about her dual identity.

Her knees threatening to give way, she subsided onto the sofa again. Clark hesitated, and then he did something very strange. He moved into the middle of the room, and then started to spin himself around. The red of his cape melded with the blue of the rest of his Suit, with occasional flashes of yellow appearing…

…and then suddenly the bright primary colours were replaced with dull grey and blue. The whirlwind calmed, and Clark stood there, dressed in T-shirt and jeans and the familiar spectacles.

Before she'd had time to snap her jaw back into place, he'd come to sit beside her.

"Lois," he said softly, taking her hands in his again. "Please believe me when I say that I never wanted to hurt you. And I've wanted to tell you about this for a very long time… but it's been so difficult. I was never sure that the time was right —"

"And you were afraid that I'd want you for Superman, not Clark," Lois finished for him. "I can't blame you for that."

"All the same, I'm sorry. I know I deceived you."

"Yeah, well, I hurt you. Lots of times," Lois admitted, ashamed of her actions.

"Like you said earlier, maybe we should just say we're even?" he suggested, his tone tender.

"I do love you, Clark. I know I haven't exactly acted as if I did — and I know it took something like seeing you kissing Mayson Drake to make me realise it. But I was devastated at the thought that I might lose you," she finished miserably.

"You'll never lose me, Lois!" he promised. "All I've wanted, ever since I met you, was for you to love me the way I love you." He dropped her hands, wrapping his arms around her shoulders instead, tugging her to him. "You don't have to worry about me wanting any other woman, ever. I only want you."

"And I only want you. You, Clark," she assured him. "I mean, okay, I'm not exactly devastated that you can fly too… but I want *you*, the man I work with every day, my best friend. Superman… well, he's an added bonus, but I'm in love with Clark."

"And Clark is in love with you," he vowed, before lowering his lips to hers and claiming her in another soul-stirring kiss.

A kiss as amazing, as wonderful, as the one she'd shared with Superman only minutes earlier. But better; far better. This time, she was kissing the man she loved. There was no need to feel that she was betraying her love for Clark by kissing another man. There was no need to regret what she'd lost in giving up Superman.

It was a kiss of trust, honesty and love; a kiss heralding the start of a new and wonderful relationship.

Her heart wasn't breaking any more. And her dreams were all coming alive again, right in front of her eyes.


(c) Wendy Richards 2003