By Julie Stars <stars_Julie@hotmail.com>
Submitted: April 2005
Summary: One eventful night is all it takes to set things straight between two friends.
First, there are several people I really need to thank. Both Sara Kraft and Sara (the Irish one <g>) gave me invaluable help, and made me laugh with their funny, witty comments. This story would definitely still be only half finished (if that) on my hard drive if it weren't for Sara Kraft, who BRed the same parts over and over again, brainstormed with me and kicked my butt numerous times, and it would've had a long way to go if it weren't for Sara, whose help was extremely appreciated even if she joined the BR staff later. <g> Wendy gave me an awesome title when I was completely desperate for one — she's good with those, among other things. <g> Thanks to Chris Carr for being a wonderful, patient GE. :) Last but definitely not least, is the IRC crowd who encouraged me to post and assured me again and again that I was not going to get hate-mail for this. <g> Thanks is not adequate, but it's all I can say. Thanks everyone!
*Time enough for hard questions,
Time enough for all our fears,
Time is tougher than we both know yet,
Time enough for tears.*
— "Time Enough For Tears" by the Corrs (album "Borrowed Heaven")
When it came down to it, she wasn't mad. Not anymore, anyway.
Just sorry. Sorry that she'd made a fool of herself by agreeing to marry Lex Luthor. Sorry that he'd very nearly ruined the Planet. Sorry that she hadn't trusted her friends; that she'd abandoned her friends for that criminal. Sorry that Clark had felt he'd had to lie to her about something so important to try and make her come to her senses; try to make her see what kind of a person she'd been about to marry. Sorry that she hadn't seen, after all. Sorry…
Sorry that what he'd told her *was* a lie.
Because for a bright second or two, she'd seen something in his eyes. Thought there was still hope for her.
<The truth of the matter is, Lois, it wasn't true, I'm not in love with you…>
That was what he'd told her just yesterday.
When she thought about how she'd felt at his initial confession, his taking it back was unexpectedly…
And here she was now, in bed, sitting over a carton of ice cream, having chased away everything normal and constant in her life.
Her public reputation was not the one of an award-winning journalist anymore, she was sure. The public probably only saw her now as Lex Luthor's ex-fiancée. The fact that this wedding had been so rushed — and surprising — wasn't helped by the fact some people had already declared her nothing but a gold digger. And like so many Hollywood scandals, she was nothing more than a face on a tabloid.
She'd lost Superman, too. She wasn't sure he still considered her a friend, not after what she'd done. She'd presented an ultimatum to him — an ultimatum she knew was unfair. She'd practically said it out loud: "Love me, or I'll marry Lex." She had known only too well that he couldn't openly have a relationship with her… had known it was best for both of them to suppress their feelings, whatever *his* might have been. If people were using her against him now, the situation could only get worse.
It wasn't only them, though. Her friends would probably find it difficult to trust her opinions for some time… the once praised Lois Lane had the instincts and judgement of a doorknob, as it turned out.
She couldn't imagine what it would be like to walk into the newsroom for the first time when the Planet reopened in less than a week. She had mixed feelings about that; the Planet had been her home and family for years, but she'd let that family down by trusting…
Trusting whom she shouldn't have trusted.
Although Clark, as it turned out, did not have any romantic feelings for her at all, they'd still been best friends before the fiasco. And although he'd helped bring down Luthor, and although he'd been there for her after the fiasco wedding, she knew things wouldn't — *couldn't* — be the same anymore.
She'd behaved shamefully after the Planet exploded. Gone to work at LNN without a second thought. Given up on the Planet. Went on to accept Lex's proposal and let everyone plan her wedding for her. Like a doormat.
She really was a horrible person.
Clark had once told her, when they were talking, long after everyone had left the newsroom and they were alone in the semi-darkness, that one of her best qualities was her loyalty.
She snorted. Some loyalty she'd proven. She hadn't fought for the Planet with her friends at all. Hadn't given Jack many thoughts, or dismissed them when they'd come up. Hadn't spoken to Jimmy and Perry for ages, and hadn't helped them bring the Planet back.
She couldn't blame Clark if he hated her.
His view of her must have changed a lot…
God, could it be…?
Could it be possible that he *had been* in love with her, and she had driven him to change his mind about that? Driven him away from her?
It was entirely possible that once she'd rejected him, and then so insensitively asked him to tell Superman she wanted to see him…
God, how she must've hurt him!
She couldn't believe what a nightmare the past few weeks had been, and what was worse — she'd brought it on herself. She might've been able to stop Luthor earlier, before he'd had a chance to horribly destroy her life — and her friends' lives — if only she'd trusted Clark.
She closed her eyes. She missed him so much.
She willed herself to wake up; tried to convince herself that this wasn't happening. That tomorrow she'd wake up and go to work and nothing would have changed.
Something dripped on her hand, snapping her out of her thoughts, and she realized she was tilting her ice cream container a bit too much.
She opened her eyes again.
She was wallowing.
She hadn't planned on doing anything tonight, but doing nothing wasn't helping her. Maybe going somewhere would do her some good.
A few months ago — before she'd gone and ruined everything that ever had been and could ever be between them — she could have called Clark and dragged him off to catch a late movie or something. Maybe even just gone over. But she couldn't do that now.
She *was* going to go over there. She would *make* him listen to her, make him forgive her. Even if it didn't fix how he felt about her. She wanted her best friend back.
After getting rid of the ice cream and washing her hands, she returned to the bedroom and threw on a pair of sweats and a sweater. She grabbed her keys and, locking only two of her multiple locks, hurried in the direction of the elevator.
Lois didn't drive there — Clark's place was only a half hour's walk away, and the night air was just cool enough to be pleasant.
And she'd needed the time to think. Prepare herself, more like, because there was still the possibility that he wouldn't want to listen to her once he realised why she was there. She wasn't sure how she'd handle that.
She didn't want to think about that.
She was at his door now, and she could see it was dark inside. She checked her watch. Ten p.m. Maybe he had just gone to sleep early.
She wouldn't wake him up — she didn't want to have this conversation with him half asleep.
Yes. Yes, she *would* wake him up. She didn't know if she'd ever be able to gather up the courage to do this again if she didn't do it tonight.
She knocked and waited.
No response came.
A minute later, she knocked again, louder. Again, no response. He was either out, or sleeping like a log.
Out. He was probably just out.
So she'd just wait for him. How long could he possibly be?
She sat on the top stair in front of his door and leaned her head on her hands, which were supported by her knees.
She looked at her watch for the one millionth time and sighed. Eleven p.m. She'd waited for an hour. It felt like five. She was beginning to wonder if he was planning on coming home tonight at all.
God, where *was* he?
Was it possible — it hadn't occurred to her before — that he was… with a woman?
No, no. She'd have known he was seeing anyone.
Wouldn't she have?
She stood up resolutely. She'd be damned if she was going to let him find her waiting for him when he came back from his date.
If he came back at all.
She stood up and exited the building as swiftly as she could, going over the possibilities of a next destination in her head. One place she knew she wasn't going was back to her apartment.
She wouldn't be able to stand being alone again. She'd felt so helpless earlier.
She'd walked for about a block when her eyes fell on a shiny sign across the street — Ace of Spades. She could clearly see it was a bar — a noisy place, which was exactly what she was looking for. A good distraction.
She crossed the street and went in.
She felt eyes sweeping up and down her body immediately. Largely made up of men, the population of that bar didn't remind of her anyone she hung out with lately at all.
She sat on one of the tall stools beside the bar. "Gin and tonic," she told the bartender. "And make it a double," she sighed.
Aside from the two robberies he'd stopped tonight, Metropolis was relatively quiet. Clark was pretty sure he could have the rest of the night off.
He'd been afraid that all of Luthor's now-unemployed thugs and criminals would be wreaking havoc, but they seemed to be biding their time.
That thought worried him somewhat.
There hadn't seemed to be any especially suspicious activity in the city since the day Luthor died.
He shook himself and tried to clear his mind.
He was not going to start thinking about that again.
Because every time he started thinking about Lex Luthor, he started thinking about Lois. And that sidetracked him too often, and for too long.
The last time he'd seen her had been when he told her he wasn't in love with her.
And it had been the hardest thing he'd ever had to do.
Even though he had crossed his fingers, lying to the woman he loved about his feelings for her, so boldly, was making his heart bleed.
With those few sentences, he'd taken back not only his previous proclamation of love, but also any chances of anything ever being between them.
God, she must think he was a jerk.
She had the right to.
What kind of guy went and told his partner that he loved her, and then took it back?
He didn't know how long he'd been out, but he knew he'd looped the city at least twice. He doubted anything was going to happen.
He started closing in on his neighbourhood.
Why did she insist in staying in his head nearly all of his waking hours? Why couldn't he spend a few minutes without thinking of her? Practically feeling her touch, a lingering memory from every time they'd shared a hug or brief contact…
He knew he'd never get those minutes. He was cursed, doomed to be haunted by her for the rest of his life. Haunted by the memory of a living person.
Because he loved her more than he could believe. More than he could describe, even to himself. The pain said more than anything else could.
He didn't know what he would do with the rest of his life if this was how it would be spent.
He had no doubt he was going to dream about her again tonight.
Of her not marrying Luthor. Of her not rejecting him. Of her in his arms. Forever.
For a moment he fancied he heard her heartbeat.
He shook his head. He was imagining things.
But there it was again…
And strong, and confident, if a little slower than usual.
Well, that was it. He was nuts. If his subconscious could pick up the sound of her heartbeat without telling him first, he was definitely losing his mind.
She was clearly asleep. Her heart rate was slow and calm. And she was at least a mile away.
No, she wasn't…
It was coming from the building he'd just flown over.
He dove behind it and re-emerged from an alley in street clothes a second later. He walked up to the entrance.
What the heck was she doing in a bar at nearly midnight?
He pushed the door open and went in, immediately spotting her on a bar stool, with a glass in her hands.
She didn't look like she knew what she was doing, or like she knew what the guy she was conversing with had in mind.
He walked up to her.
"Lois, what on Earth are you doing here?"
She looked at him with a childlike expression. "Clark! So nice you've joined the party!" Her voice was unusually bright, but her eyes were tired.
A hand landed on his shoulder. "Hey, mate, lady's with me."
He turned to face the same guy she had been talking to, an expression of determination on his face. "Sorry, but she's going home. With me," he added firmly.
A fist that was meant for his face was stopped in mid air by Clark's strong hand, which sent his opponent away, muttering swear words and rubbing his wrist.
"Aw, Clark, you're such a party pooper!" Lois drawled in exaggerated teasing as she awkwardly slid off her seat.
She was so… drunk. Wasted was more accurate.
He briefly closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "Lois, you are going home."
She staggered slightly, and he put his arm around her waist to steady her. Her purse was in her hands. She was lucky she still had it, in a place as sleazy as this.
He led her toward the entrance, after she somewhat ungracefully waved goodbye to the others.
"Lois, don't you know better than getting drunk in a bar full of strangers?" he asked after they were outside.
She was clearly still in a good mood. "Oh, Clark, don't be such a grumpy-pants."
He rolled his eyes and took a deep breath, trying to chase the visions of her and the trouble she could've gotten into out of his head.
When Lois was finally seated on his couch, relief coursed through him. That was the longest walk he'd ever had to take.
He couldn't stand to be holding Lois so closely, steadying her and hearing her breathe so close to him.
It was all he could do not to kiss her.
But he'd known he couldn't, even if she wasn't drunk.
Even though she was extremely intoxicated, she was still Lois — soft skin, beautiful eyes, silky hair.
Still his Lois.
Except she wasn't his Lois.
Not for at least a month now, though even then, she had never been really his. Not Clark's, anyway. She'd made clear that she wouldn't have minded being Superman's, but that made it all worse.
There was no way he was taking her to her apartment tonight, though — not the way she was. For one thing, he wasn't looking forward to supporting her and leading her through the streets all the way to her place — a half an hour's walk. For another, she was drunk — she was definitely not staying alone tonight.
He took a bottle of mineral water out of one of his cupboards and handed it to her after opening it. "Drink, or you'll have a hangover in a few hours."
She obediently took a sip, amazingly not spilling any. "Can I go to sleep, Clark?" she asked in a drowsy, childish voice.
He went back into the kitchen and returned with some aspirin, which he handed to her. "Yeah, you can go to sleep after you take this and finish your water."
He was grateful that he still had any aspirin. He made it a point to have that and a first aid kit at home in case his guests needed anything, but he couldn't remember the last time he'd checked his stock.
She swallowed the two tablets he'd handed her and took a few more sips from the bottle.
He returned to the kitchen and sat at the table to watch her from there as she drank the water in slow sips.
She was so adorable, sitting there quietly and hiccoughing occasionally.
Eventually she finished her bottle of water and discarded it on the table. She got up and wobbled to the bathroom; when she emerged she went back to the couch and curled up on it.
His heart wrenched. She was so adorable, so… unreachable.
She'd been the one who'd begged him to come to her wedding, and she'd been the one who'd called him up several times during the time of her engagement, but he'd taken care to distance himself from her so much, that he didn't know if that tear could be stitched.
When morning came, he had no doubt she would leave. If she woke up first, maybe she'd even leave without saying goodbye.
He could tell that, while she seemed okay on the couch at first, she'd grown uncomfortable in the minutes — hours? — he'd spent gazing at her.
He left the kitchen and approached her. For a moment he just looked at her. This could be the last time he could be this close to her.
He scooped her up and carried her into his bedroom. He lowered her down onto the bed softly, rolling back the covers in doing so. She tugged on his neck with her palms when he began to stand up.
"Clark, please don't leave me," she mumbled sleepily.
His heart swelled with love, and at that moment, he forgot that it was drunk Lois talking.
Somewhere in the back of his head, he might've known this was a bad idea… but he forced it to stay just there, at the back. He missed her too much to bring himself to listen to it. It might come back to haunt him, but…
He climbed under the covers and took her in his arms.
It was dark, that much she knew.
There were hammers in her head. She groaned.
And felt something under her outstretched arm.
And it was no blanket.
She opened her eyes. She tried to stretch slightly. As far as she could tell, she was snug in a man's arms.
What the hell had she done last night?!
And then she remembered.
She quickly lifted the blanket to peep under it. Fully dressed. Good. At least that was clear.
She looked around. The place was definitely familiar. Familiar walls, a familiar bookcase in the living room beyond the familiar arches that led out of the bedroom.
It was Clark's place.
Then… then it was Clark, who was so comfortably and warmly holding her close.
She'd have to find out how she got here eventually, of course, but she was so comfortable, and tired, and overcome by a pounding headache. She just wanted to lie there.
She'd thought she might never have been able to do that. Just lie in his arms. She wanted to pretend, just for a moment, that she could stay there forever.
Then he stirred, and his head lowered to kiss the top of hers.
She felt warm inside, but at the same time slightly disappointed at the fact he was awake.
Though… why was he kissing the top of her head? Could it… could it be because he had feelings for her after all? Or what… what if she'd done something really stupid last night, like… She shook herself mentally. She'd already established that she was not naked.
And yet… what the heck was happening?
Well, that was it. She couldn't pretend anymore, she concluded reluctantly.
And what do you say to a guy when you've just woken up in his bed, with only a faint recollection of how you got there in the first place?
"Hey," she said quietly. She figured that was a good way to start.
"Hey!" he returned, in surprise. He'd clearly still thought she was asleep. "How are you feeling?"
She smiled inwardly at that question, so typically Clark. "Fine," she said with an awkward smile.
She kicked herself mentally. Or rather, made a note to kick herself later. She ought to have asked him how the heck she got here. Why they were in bed together. But the gnawing headache told her to hold that off until she felt human again.
"How's your head?" he asked as if he'd read her mind.
She groaned. "Somewhat of a headache."
His arms tightened around her for a moment, making her want even more to never have to leave. "It could have been worse if I hadn't given you water and aspirin before you fell asleep."
She closed her eyes and took him in.
"Actually, you should probably have more water, do you want some?" He loosened his grip and she felt him lower his head to look at her.
Time to change the subject, or he was going to make both of them get up. "Clark, what did I do last night?"
He took a deep breath. She could tell he wasn't really looking forward to answering that question… which made her hope again that she hadn't done anything too dumb.
"I don't know why you decided to go into one, but I found you in a bar," he said finally.
The bar, she remembered that much. "Oh. And then?"
He sighed. "I don't know what went on between the time you went in and when I found you, but I know you were pretty drunk. So I brought you here."
Well. That was one mystery solved. "Ah." But… why were they in the same bed together? Not that she was complaining, but still… "Clark?"
"Yes?" he said, as his arms around her tightened again.
"Uh, not that I'm complaining a lot, but why are we in bed together?"
Oh, God. The thought that she might not remember telling him to stay with her had never crossed his mind.
He'd been so grateful for the chance to have her in his arms like that, when he'd thought he'd lost her, that he'd pushed any other thoughts aside.
And now she wanted to know why they were in that same bed, curled up together.
Well, she'd reached for him and asked him to stay, so he had.
Except now that he thought about it, it was a violation of her privacy — she'd been intoxicated, and this was as good as taking advantage of her!
He kicked himself mentally.
"Well, you sort of nearly fell asleep on the couch, and that was clearly uncomfortable, so I carried you to the bed, and…" And what? She told you to stay, so you stayed?
She'd been drunk.
What kind of person did that?
He let go of her and scooted away a little. "You asked me to stay with you… so I did," he said, blushing.
She looked like she was taking a minute to digest this. She sat up against the headboard, her hands in her lap. "I see."
He watched her intently.
She leaped off the bed suddenly, knotting up his stomach. "Uh, how about that water?"
He hurried after her to the kitchen.
No doubt she thought he was a horrible person. He had, in effect, taken advantage of her. He'd known she'd been drunk.
And he also had the feeling that, had she not been drunk, she would not have been so forward with asking him to stay with her.
But perhaps… perhaps it hadn't been just impulse. Perhaps she'd missed him as much as he'd missed her.
Well, clearly he'd ruined that now.
"Aspirin?" he asked, taking a bottle of water out of the fridge.
"Yes, please," she replied faintly. He wanted to hug her, to soothe her headache, make it go away… he hated seeing her like this.
She'd brought it on herself, but he wondered what had led her to do that in the first place. Lois was, after all, a respected, professional reporter who didn't usually go out at night and do that to herself.
She was usually so… together.
Although he knew she had many insecurities, he'd never seen her break down about them in such a drastic way.
"So… you want to tell me why you were drunk in a bar last night?" he asked, finally.
She had asked him to stay with her. In bed.
What he must think of her… she noticed how he let go of her when he told her this. Like he'd only just realized what he was holding.
On top of the fact she'd nearly married Luthor and given up on the Planet, she'd gotten drunk and made a fool of herself. Practically *thrown* herself at him.
Her throat suddenly felt dry.
"Uh, how about that water?" she asked, and hurried out of the bedroom to the kitchen.
When she reached the kitchen she sat down on a chair at the table and stared at her folded hands.
He followed in tow, and extracted a second bottle of water for her from the fridge. "Aspirin?"
"Yes, please," she whispered, remembering her headache.
How was she supposed to deal with *this*?
She had not planned for this. Had not planned to make a fool of herself, had not planned for him to find her drunk, had not planned for waking up in his bed.
He was friendly, but she was sure part of him was only treating her this way because it was his nature. She was sure he couldn't wait for her to be out of there, for her to stop imposing on him.
His voice snapped her out of her thoughts.
"So… you want to tell me why you were drunk in a bar?" he asked as he handed her the aspirin.
And suddenly everything that had happened last night came back to her.
She paused to swallow the pill. Well, she has nothing to lose now. "I sort of came looking for you last night… and, and you weren't home."
She suddenly found the water bottle fascinating, not wanting to look him in the eye.
He seemed to take a moment to find his voice. "Uh, Lois? I wasn't home so you went into some seedy bar and got drunk?"
Did he have to pry for details after hearing this? Did he not realize she was reluctant enough to tell him that much?
"God, you're dense sometimes!" she snapped.
He looked like he was genuinely taken aback. "Excuse me?"
She stood up and began pacing the length of the kitchen. "Why do you think I was here?" she asked. "I was here to talk to you," she continued, not waiting for his answer.
"Lois?" he asked when she didn't say anything else.
She didn't reply.
"I'm sorry I wasn't here… I had things to do," he offered hesitantly.
"Like your stupid date," she whispered more to herself than to him.
He paused. "You think I was out on a date? Lois-"
Oh, she'd really believed he thought more of her.
"Do you take me for an idiot?" she cut him off. "What else could you possibly have been doing so late? And don't give me excuses, Clark. You don't have to hide it." She stopped pacing and sat back down, leaning her head on her hands.
People didn't disappear for hours when they had the next day off for much other than dates.
He knelt down beside her and put his hand tenderly on her shoulder. "Lois, I wasn't on a date."
She turned to look at him and her heart skipped a tiny beat at the sight of his face, a mere couple of inches away from hers. "You weren't?" she whispered, her heart in her mouth.
"No," he said. "Trust me, that's not where I was."
He leaned in and pressed his lips softly to hers, and she closed her eyes instinctively at the contact.
Clark was kissing her.
Oh, God, Clark was kissing her.
She tried unsuccessfully to ignore the flip-flops in her stomach, the way he made butterflies spread to the rest of her body with that slight touch.
She heard herself moan, to her embarrassment, but all too soon, he was breaking away… she didn't dare to open her eyes until she was sure he was once again a safe couple of inches away.
She was sorry she had — because his eyes were looking straight into hers, hypnotizing her, entrancing her with their depth…
She looked away and he stood up swiftly, apologetic. "God, I shouldn't have done that, I'm sorry, Lois-"
"No, don't worry-"
"No, really, I don't know why I did it — Lois, are you okay?" he asked, his voice changing from apology to concern as she got up and, as she headed out of the kitchen, tripped over something non-existent and stumbled into the couch.
He was by her side in an instant, steadying her.
"Yes, I'm fine," she said, expressionless. She shook him off and sat down on the couch, not looking at him.
What was he doing to her? One minute kissing her, the other apologizing for it… If he was trying to avoid telling her where he was, she wasn't going to let him.
He tried to read her.
She didn't look mad. Not very, anyway… but she didn't look like she believed him, either.
"Lois, I was not on a date."
"Right," she said coldly. Not sarcastically. Just coldly.
She didn't believe him. And she was right — he had no other explanation, no alibi, nothing whatsoever to prove otherwise.
Why was she so upset, anyway? Hadn't she rejected him for Luthor? Wasn't she in love with Superman?
What right did she have to be upset over this?
Had he no right to move on? Had he no right to date someone else? Someone who wasn't getting married, or rejecting him, or confessing love to a celebrity in tights? He didn't belong to her.
"Lois, why are you upset?" he asked impatiently, looking down at her.
She looked up, saying nothing. Her expression told him she considered it a dumb question.
"I mean it, Lois, you rejected me for Luthor. Luthor, Lois. And Superman. Why would you be upset if I had a date?"
"Do I have no right to move on? What if I really *was* on a date? Can you blame me?"
Something in her expression changed, and she looked up. "I thought you said you didn't have any feelings for me?"
He paused. Uh oh.
Heck. It was all or nothing at this point. He might as well be honest.
But… what if his honesty ruled out any possibility of even friendship between them? What if he made things awkward? More than they already were, that was.
Wasn't that the reason he'd taken back his words in the first place?
And yet… he felt that he couldn't lie to her anymore. He didn't think any good could come out of it now, but things could not possibly get worse, either.
He sighed and looked down. "Lois," he began finally, and sighed. "I've always had feelings for you," he said softly. "I only said those things so that maybe… maybe we could be friends again."
Which apparently they couldn't be, now.
He watched her look down at her hands.
She hated him. She clearly thought no more of him than a liar.
Which he was — he'd lied to her. Shamelessly. Rattled her world and then made it seem as if he'd done it for nothing. Even though he'd said he'd done it to stop her marrying Luthor, it didn't make lying any more right.
More wrong, if anything. He'd tried to manipulate her.
And now, he'd yet again confessed to lying to her. He couldn't expect her not to be upset.
He looked at her again. She seemed like she didn't know what to say.
"Lois, say something," he pleaded.
She glanced up at him again, looking like she was still taking in what he'd just told her. She swiftly turned away and stood up with her back to him.
He watched her walk away slowly, taking small steps in some vague direction. "I… what do you want me to say, Clark?" She turned around when she was a safe distance away. "You don't know what I was going to tell you before you cut me off and lied to me that day, do you?"
He sighed. "Lois, I had to say what I needed to, because I didn't know if I could later. It took a lot to tell you those things. I know it wasn't the most polite thing to do-"
"To hell with polite!" she snapped for the second time tonight. "To hell with your confessions, your lies!"
He turned away from her to face the kitchen. He didn't think he could bear to look at her any longer.
"Do you want to know what I had to say that day?" he heard her say through her teeth.
He forced himself to turn around and face her.
She took a deep breath. "I wanted to tell you," she started slowly. "That I might have feelings for you. That I did, *do* have feelings for you. Only you cut me off. With your stupid lies, with your stupid, pointless confessions. With what *you* wanted. With what you thought was the right thing to say. Without thinking about what I might've had to say. You know, this is what you get for not letting me go first."
It took a minute to sink in, and he eventually realized with horror that he must have been staring at her blankly for at least the past thirty seconds.
She'd had feelings for him.
No, he corrected himself. She used the present tense. She *had* feelings for him.
She must've noticed that long pause, because she continued. "And if you want to say that I was only on the rebound, and that those feelings weren't real — Clark, when I was walking down the aisle I thought of you. When I was getting ready for the wedding I thought of you. It scared me, but I couldn't help it." Her voice choked up slightly before she finished.
He grinned. He couldn't help but grin.
"Clark, you find that funny?" she asked, sounding disgusted.
Funny? She thought he found it funny? He found it wonderful. Wonderful wasn't even adequate… amazing, fantastic, brilliant, incredible…
He would have kissed her again, had she been a bit closer.
Noticing the distance between them jolted him back into the reality of the situation.
"I love you. God, I love you," he said. It was all he could manage.
Her mouth opened a little upon hearing that, and she looked down at her feet for a second, as if considering her next words.
"Clark, where were you tonight?" she asked again, ignoring the fact that the clock had rung midnight long ago, and that it had been, in fact, last night.
That wiped the grin right off his face. He hesitated.
It was only fair for her to know. If he was to allow for any chance of anything between them — and she'd just given him hope — he had to stop lying to her.
"Lois, you have to know that this… you might not like it."
She cocked an eyebrow. "Clark, it can't be worse than what I'm imagining."
He smiled. "I bet you're not imagining this." He sighed heavily, like a person being led to the electric chair. "Lois, you'd better sit down."
He waited until she made her way back to the couch and was seated, before he took a few steps away and began spinning.
Clark was spinning. It took a few moment to register what was happening. He was spinning, and fast.
And then Superman was standing in front of her.
Clark was Superman.
Superman was Clark.
They were the same person.
She repeated that to herself several times before the idea even began to penetrate her brain. It seemed as bizarre as saying Perry and Cat Grant were the same person.
When she thought about it some more — after she regained capability of thought — she realized they *had* acted similarly on more than one occasion. And they did have the same facial structure…
How had she not noticed that before?
God, what an investigative reporter she was.
First, she'd missed the biggest criminal in the galaxy right under her nose, then *Superman.* Superman, the world's strongest man and renowned superhero — under her nose.
Her nose wasn't very reliable, she noted to herself, and then almost giggled at the idea.
All the times she'd talked to Clark about Superman flashed before her eyes. How had he dared sit there and listen to her make a fool of herself? He'd probably laughed at her later…
No. He hadn't laughed at her later. That wasn't who he was.
She was pretty sure a character like his wasn't easy to fake.
"Oh, my God," was all she managed when she regained her speech.
"Lois," he said as he knelt down in front of her. "Please — I'm still the same person — look," he added, and standing up, spun back into his previous attire to demonstrate his words.
He watched her with an anxious, tortured look on his face.
She considered what he'd said. He *wasn't* the same person anymore. In one moment, he had collapsed part of her reality.
Superman and Clark were the same person.
She'd worked with Superman, every day for the past year, and hadn't known it.
Clark had superpowers. Clark had saved her life on numerous occasions. Clark saved people from accidents, bombs, natural disasters…
And, she realised, although he was friendly with the whole newsroom — few people found it possible to dislike Clark — how alone he must feel.
No one to share his special abilities with — she assumed his parents knew, but that was little support, and they lived half a country away. No one to come to when a rescue went wrong… she remembered how, once, he'd asked her what good Superman was if he couldn't save everyone, couldn't be everywhere at the same time — she remembered how upset he'd been, and how her little speech about what Superman stood for had made him feel better.
She'd been puzzled at first, when he'd brought it up — she'd even been a bit angry over the way he'd questioned Superman — but she realized now that he was simply looking for something every man should be entitled to — emotional support.
At the same time — what a liar!
Though… she could see why he'd lied to everyone — she supposed that, were she in his shoes, she wouldn't hurry and tell everyone she'd had superpowers either.
He was still looking at her, a worried look on his face. He didn't speak for long minutes, but it seemed that he couldn't take it anymore. He took her hands in his. "Lois, please say something," he repeated.
She didn't flinch, didn't make another move. "How can you say that you're the same person? You aren't. You can't be."
He let go of her hands, moving his onto her knee. "Oh, Lois… I'm sorry…"
She cut him off. "You're not just Clark anymore, can't you see? Not just Superman, either. Clark doesn't fly and save people. Superman doesn't wear glasses-" she reached out and gently slid his off his face- "or come to work with me every morning…" she trailed off. "And neither of them lie," she added finally, quietly.
He looked like she'd just punched him in the gut.
"Don't you see, Lois? I *have* to lie. Everyone — especially you — looks at me so differently when I'm in the suit. I've felt guilty about these lies so many times… " He ran his hand through his hair. "But, Lois, I couldn't possibly tell everyone I'm Superman."
"To hell with everyone," she spoke in the echo of moments ago. "You couldn't tell me earlier? Did you have to let me confess my feelings about Superman time and time again, and let me look like an idiot?"
He stood up and put a bit of distance between them.
He turned around before saying, "Lois, I didn't ask for all that! I never asked for all those things you told me! And have you any idea how much it hurt when you mooned over me in the suit and ignored me, *Clark,* the person?"
What the heck was he trying to say? "You're the same person!" she exclaimed impatiently.
He took a deep breath. "No, Lois — Superman is not me — Superman is a disguise!" He looked tortured again, genuinely frustrated. "I created him — he's an invention! He's not real!"
She shook her head. "No, Clark, he's as much a part of you as your powers are, and so is the decision to keep the truth from everyone."
She wasn't sure what made her say it; but suddenly she saw how much more real Clark was than Superman. He'd spent way more time as Clark than as Superman, she knew.
He never hung around for too long as Superman. He was always more formal as Superman. It made sense that Superman was his disguise — he hadn't even given himself the name! And now that she came to think about it, he'd let the public create most of his image for him.
"God, Clark," she breathed when he didn't say anything. "This is the end, isn't it?" she asked.
At his startled look, she clarified. "An end to the lies and excuses, Clark, an end to shuffling around each other?" She looked up at him, hopeful.
And once again he was at her side, holding her hand. "Yes, Lois." He looked at her intently. "And… About what you said earlier…" he trailed off.
She looked at her lap. "Clark, you've just dropped a bomb the size of the sun on me."
"I know," was his quiet reply.
"But…" she hesitated. "I do have feelings for you… I don't think I can deny them. I came here earlier because I couldn't. And…"
"And I wasn't here," he completed her thought. "Oh, Lois," he said softly as he gathered her in his arms. "I'm so sorry. I wasn't with anyone. I was out patrolling Metropolis, trying not to think of you."
"Oh, Clark," she breathed, leaning into him.
Grateful. She was so grateful for having him back. For having him back and… more. For whatever was now there.
He kissed the top of her head. She twisted her body so that she could face him.
"God, I love you," he repeated.
She leaned in, then, and touched her lips to his. Gently, and then not so gently, as she ran her hands up his chest, feeling out his well- defined torso, and up to his shoulders to tug on his neck.
He let out a wonderful, deep, throaty, masculine groan, and his hold on her waist tightened.
She ran her hands through his hair as she parted her lips to grant him further access to her mouth, moaning at what he was doing to her. Any train of thought that might have been there before the initial contact was chased away by the touch of his skin, the way he was applying just the right pressure…
When they finally came up for air, both were flushed and breathing hard. She leaned her forehead against his. "I love you, Clark," she said hoarsely. He cupped her cheek in his palm tenderly.
And in that moment, all was right in their world.