By MrsMosley <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted September 2007
Summary: When Lois goes on a date with Dan Scardino, Clark realizes that it is time to take action.
This story takes place after Target: Jimmy Olsen. I was irritated with Clark for letting the problem with Lois get this far to begin with, but I was really irritated that he took her date with Dan lying down, so to speak. So this is Clark saying, 'enough is enough'.
Many thanks to DJ (MetroRhodes) for a speedy and very helpful beta, full of hit-the-nail-on-the-head suggestions!
And, last but not least, I'd like to dedicate this fic to my friend Sara Kraft.
I answered the door wearing sweats and my favorite socks, the pair that had made so many trips through the laundry that the purple starfish were fading into the blue background. I worked the locks on automatic pilot, still involved in a pivotal scene of Dancing with Desire. Finally I reached the end of the paragraph and opened the door.
Clark was standing in my hallway. We stared at each other for ten, twenty, thirty seconds as conflicting emotions cascaded over me like a waterfall, a jumbled mess of relief, anger, hope, fear and a desire to knock him over and beat him with the baseball bat I kept by the door. In a long-practiced move, I took all those thoughts and shoved them into the back closet of my brain and focused on something more tangible.
"Did you come here at eleven at night just to stare at me, Clark?"
What was he was doing here at this time of night, wearing… well, pretty much what I was wearing, actually, although his socks weren't sporting marine life. How did he make sweats look so good? It really wasn't fair.
An image popped into my mind of cuddling up with Clark on the couch, warm in our cozy fleece and watching a thoughtless movie. My eyelids briefly slid shut at the pure longing that coursed through me.
"I'm flattered," he said, jerking my attention back to the present. I shoved the comforting, watching-TV idea into the closet with my other unwelcome emotions and frowned at him. What was he going on about?
"The novel," he continued. "You never would've let me see you with that a year ago."
"Perhaps I just don't care what you think of me anymore, Clark," I said, giving him my sweetest smile. A flash of pain crossed his face, so quickly I almost missed it, and my heart jumped with twin thrills of triumph and guilt. Damn that guilt. I sighed and opened the door wider. I couldn't very well leave him in the hall. "Are you coming in?"
Say no. Say yes.
He hesitated. Say anything!
"Actually, I was hoping you would come out," he said, finally.
"Out? As in outdoors?"
"Yes, Lois." He smiled at me, a teasing note in his voice. "You know, that big space on the other side of these walls with trees and the moon and all that other stuff you can't fit in your apartment?"
"Aren't you funny," I replied dryly. "Why would I do that?"
"Because it's a beautiful night, and walks are nice."
He wasn't smiling anymore, and the look in his eyes was my undoing. I should have been able to turn away from him, to tell him to leave and firmly shut the door behind him before going back to my book. I shut my eyes briefly, seeing both Clark's face and Dan's dancing in my vision. Maybe I should just join a nunnery and be done with it. Nuns could be reporters, right?
I opened my eyes and placed the book on the small table by the door. I bent down and put on my tennis shoes, doing that little dance you do when you're trying to stand on one foot while tying your other shoe. That accomplished, I stood, picked up my keys off the table and pushed Clark back out the door. I pulled it shut behind me and locked it before turning back to him.
"Lead the way," I said. Clark held out his arm to me, but I shook my head. I wasn't ready to be that familiar with him again. He nodded and pushed his hands into his pockets.
As we headed down the stairs, I had a sudden desire to be moving faster, to not be sedately walking behind the man that I loved and hated in equal measure. I darted around Clark, ignoring his sound of surprise, and ran down the five flights as fast as I could go. By the time I burst through the front door, I was breathing hard and my heart was going fast. The adrenaline rush felt good. I needed the edge it gave me.
I braced my body against a convenient streetlight and stretched while I waited for Slowpoke to catch up. A light breeze went by, cooling my face and making my ponytail tickle my neck. Turning my head, I looked down the street at the pools of light falling onto the pavement from the streetlights above, counting twelve yellow circles before I heard the door open behind me.
We walked. Every few steps, we passed into the light and I steadied my nerves, adopting a carefully schooled look of indifference. But I couldn't hold it; with every step back into the darkness, I took a deep breath, glad for the relief the night brought. After a few blocks I realized Clark wasn't looking anyway, so I gave up and attempted to turn off my whirling thoughts.
By the end of our first circuit around the block, my world had shrunk down nothing but sensory input. The sound of our breathing, his and mine, the in-and-out rhythm soothing my jangled nerves. The comfortable steady vibration of my footsteps against the pavement. The pools of light flashing across my face at even intervals. Around the block once, twice, three times. When he finally spoke, I was so startled that I tripped. He caught my arm and pulled me vertical again before letting go.
"Did you ever get a chance to see that movie, the one about the guy and the girl in Vienna?"
He'd finally started speaking, and he chose small talk? Really?
"Yes," I replied. I'll admit my tone may have been a bit clipped.
"Did you like it?"
Apparently we really were going to do small talk. I rolled my eyes in exasperation, but considered his question even so.
"Yes. There's a line in the movie…" I hesitated for a moment before going on, "The girl, Celine, she says, 'Reality and love are almost contradictory to me.' That's how I feel."
He didn't reply right away, and I felt like kicking myself for saying something so telling, so open. I hated being vulnerable. I was looking up the phone number of that convent — Our Lady of the Sisters of Something — as soon as I got home.
His voice floated out softly from the darkness, and I turned to look at him as we entered the light again. His eyes were fixed on an old lady walking her equally old dog, as if he couldn't say what he needed to say while looking at me.
"For what, exactly?" I asked, my irritation with him coming to a boil. "You've played with my emotions for months, almost a year if you start counting from the day we watched Franklin Stern unveil the new Daily Planet globe. Which moment, which particular sidestep, are you sorry for? Or are you just sorry that I saw a movie that made me sad?"
For several moments, I was back to listening to just our breathing. I was beginning to think he wasn't going to answer when, finally, he did.
"I'm sorry that I was afraid." His voice quivered a bit. Was Clark crying? That would be a first. I snuck a peek in his direction, but we were in the dark and I couldn't tell. "That I made bad choices," he continued. "That I screwed up -" He waved his hand in the space between us. "- this. That I've lost you. Mostly, I'm sorry for making you doubt that I love you." The strength had returned to his voice. I knew without looking that he was watching me now.
I grabbed his arm, breaking his even stride with a suddenness that made him stumble. I felt him turn toward me in the darkness. One small step was all it took to touch him, to lean my forehead on his broad chest, the KSU logo scratchy against my skin. His warmth and musky scent enveloped me and sheer relief poured through my body. He loves me, he loves me, he loves me. I chanted the words in my head again and again until they became one long, nonsensical chain. Helovesmehelovesmehelovesme.
After a moment he placed his hand on the back of my neck, and I remembered that our problems weren't solved. I stayed one more moment, reveling in our physical closeness, before I stepped back. His hand pulled away, trailing across my cheek. I stood still for a moment to catch my breath, looking up into the beloved face that I really couldn't see, and then I started walking again.
"That doesn't really get us anywhere, does it?" I asked. "We're still right where we were when I was eating ice cream with Dan this afternoon." We turned onto a street lined with pretty brick townhouses, and I continued, "Unless you're willing to back that up by telling me why you keep abandoning me."
"Ice cream!" Clark's unexpected response caused me to glance over at him, and he looked angry, and a little scared, too. "Why did he have to take you someplace so… friendly? Why couldn't he have been like other men and just tried to impress you? I wouldn't have worried if he'd taken you to the opera. But ice cream is just insidious."
I bit my lip to stop the giggle in my throat from reaching the air. Was he serious? He certainly looked it. But his next comment stopped my hidden laughter cold.
"Lois, I can't tell you."
I stopped walking again. He couldn't tell me? Why, the arrogant jacka —
"This evening I sat on the sidewalk outside your apartment, talking to a streetlamp, and went over this for hours. Again. Option one. I can tell you, and you could be happy and just… love me. And then I laughed at myself, because that's not likely. Option two. I can tell you, and you could be mad — incandescent with rage — and eventually love me. I thought, maybe. Hopefully."
For some reason, that made him smile. Did something about my anger amuse him? I could give him anger. I was about to give him a good shaking and tell him to get on with it when he spoke again.
"Option three. I can tell you, and you could be horrified. Doubtful." He took a deep breath before going on. "Option four. I can tell you, and you could publish it. But I don't really think you'd do that."
Publish it? A tremor of fear went through me. What was he up to?
"Option five. I could not tell you, and we could continue this song and dance until you become so disgusted with me that you refuse to see me outside of work ever again, make Perry assign you a new partner and marry Scardino. And that was the thought that got me off the ground and knocking on your door."
Marry Dan? The thought left me cold.
"So does that mean you're going to tell me after all?" Why was I whispering?
He touched my hair, sliding his fingers over the top of my head and down through the stands of my ponytail, briefly resting them, once again, on the back of my neck before pulling away. What was it with him touching my neck tonight?
"I can't tell you, though god knows I've tried," he said with a bereft sigh. "I just can't make the words come out."
He looked down at me pleadingly, plainly begging me to understand. Understand what? That he didn't trust me? That his love for me wasn't enough to overcome whatever his issue was?
"But I can show you."
My heart skipped a beat. Was this it? Was right now, when he's wearing decade-old sweatpants and we're standing in front of a stranger's house, the moment when everything would change?
I hadn't even finished processing the thought before Clark wrapped his arms around my waist and we were airborne.
For several seconds, I was frozen in shock at finding myself so suddenly above the bright lights of the city, and then my brain started to function again as the puzzle piece I'd been looking for since… well, forever, slipped into place. I dropped my head onto Clark's shoulder and laughed until I cried, and then I really was crying because the joy ran so deep. I was euphoric.
Yeah, that had been the moment.
Stupid lunkhead of a man.
Clark whispered in my ear, "I moonlight in tights. I wear my underwear outside my clothes. I benchpress locomotives for exercise." He gently grasped my chin and pushed my head off his shoulder so he could look into my eyes.
"Lois, I'm Superman."
He continued to watch me, fear written in all the lines of his face. That phrase he'd used — incandescent with rage. Yes, probably. Tomorrow. But right this minute, as I circled my arms around his neck, I felt such a rush of love for him that I couldn't help but grin.
It was contagious, I guess, because he started smiling, too, as he asked, "What's so funny?"
I touched his cheek, feeling his warmth flow through my fingers. "You are, you silly, silly man," I said.
He loves me. He loves me. He loves me.