That Charming Smallville Hospitality

By Laura S <>

Rated PG-13

Submitted March 2007

Summary: When 17-year-old Lois Lane finds herself stranded, alone in Nowheresville, commonly referred to as Smallville, Kansas, she is taken in by a kindly farmer, his wife and their lonely, 18-year-old son. And she absolutely can't wait to get back to the city… right?

Warning: Some strong and possibly offensive language is used briefly in order to advance the plot. The author does not use this language indiscriminately; rather, its usage impacts and clarifies the events of the rest of the story.


The 1985 silver Mustang careened wildly down the quiet country road as seventeen year old Lois Lane furiously jerked the wheel. She had gotten her license a mere three months before, but that hadn't stopped her father from allowing her to undertake the fourteen hour drive from Colorado to New Troy. Typical. She choked back a few wayward tears when she thought of the trip to Colorado.

Her grandmother, her father's mother and the only grandparent Lois had ever known, had died recently of lung cancer. She is…was, Lois mentally corrected herself, a compulsive smoker. Lois sighed as she caught a glimpse of her speed and slowed a little. Lois had sworn off cigarettes and drinking after she had seen what the cigarettes had done to her grandmother and what the drinking was doing to her mother.

Her mother. The thought reminded her of her father, and she dug her fingernails into the leather of the steering wheel. Her father had generously taken the time to take two days off of work and fly his family to New Wakeland, Colorado for the funeral. But he couldn't be expected to deal with such trivial things as his deceased mother's possessions, so Lois, fresh from driving school, was given three hundred dollars and a road map.

Lois had been so wrapped up in her thoughts, she had barely noticed the falling darkness. When she found herself squinting at the road, she turned on her headlights and sighed in relief. That was better. Driving one handed and keeping a wary eye on the road, she grabbed the road map on the seat next to her.

Where the heck was she? This country road was supposed to have given way to Route 64 miles ago. She jabbed the light switch above her and tried to read the lines on the map. A few flurries of snow started to fall, drifting lazily down and piling on the road. Lois swore softly as she narrowly missed a tree and continued to squint at the map. With a frustrated groan and a louder expletive, she bunched the map and threw it to the other end of the car.

She was lost. It was nighttime, she was in the country alone, and she was hopelessly misguided.

Just another day in the life of Lois Lane.

Her friends envied her freedom. "Your parents let you drive by yourself for fourteen hours? That's freakin' awesome. Mine won't let me out past the suburbs."

Some freedom. Look where it had got her.

The snow started to fall more heavily.

Lois continued driving, now keeping a wary eye on her nearly empty gas meter as well as the road. She sped up slightly and gripped the steering wheel with both hands now, a stark contrast to the loose one handed grasp she had employed earlier.

But then she had known where she was; it had been snow free, and most importantly, it had been bright and sunny. Now the trees that she had admired earlier looked dark and sinister and the high branches obscured most of the moonlight. She was uncomfortably aware that her situation resembled that of a B rated horror flick and she cringed. Those girls in those movies were always alone on country roads when the crazed murderer would close in on them. Lois had always thought those movies to be stupid and not worth her time, but now she found herself glancing backward into the pitch black interior of the car. What if someone had climbed in her trunk at that last stop at McDonalds!? Or if someone was in her backseat right now? With a sharp intake of breath, Lois jerked her head backward, frantically checking the backseat for any sign of insane rapists. Nothing. With a sigh at her foolishness, Lois turned back to the road and barely had time to gasp before she plowed headlong into a huge cottonwood tree.


Eighteen-year-old Clark Kent sat bolt upright in bed.

He then let out a startled yelp as he fell from where he was floating four feet above his twin bed. Clark rubbed his head slightly, the occurrence perfectly normal.

He had heard something.

Pulling some jeans over his boxers and a worn sweatshirt over his head, Clark grabbed his tennis shoes and knocked on his parents' door.

At their sleepy nod to come in, he stood in the doorway, framed by the light from the hall. He was taller than most, and with his wide shoulders and muscular build, his silhouette cut an imposing figure. But looks were misleading. The light also threw his face into sharp relief, illuminating concerned brown eyes and a normally unassuming stance. Right now, however, he was filled with a sharp tension at the noise.

"I heard something, Mom, Dad. I think I might go out and look around." Clark thought for a moment. "If it's the Denoso kids, I'll chase them off, okay?"

His mother murmured something that sounded like "yes, dear" and promptly fell back asleep.

Biting back a laugh, Clark shoved his shoes on and sped out the door at a comfortable speed only slightly faster than an Olympic sprinter. When he got outside, he paused and tuned in his "special" hearing. He hoped it wasn't the Denosos. Jeff Denoso was a senior, just like Clark, and seemed to relish making his life miserable. His younger brothers Randy and Mikey weren't much better, and they had taken to sneaking onto the Kent's property and causing as much damage as possible.

Clark could catch them if he absolutely needed too, but that would mean revealing his secret. And he had sworn never to do that. So he'd yell and run after them, nearly a snail's pace for Clark, listening as they cursed him over their shoulders and kicked up some of the crops. Again.

He knew why Jeff hated him so much. It was a scar he still hadn't completely erased. Jeff Denoso was the polar opposite of Clark. Physically he was smaller, blonde with blue eyes, and intellectually Clark was light years ahead. Jeff had been aggressive, smart mouthed and Clark's best friend in the world.

On *the* day, Clark had just turned 14 and Jeff was spending the night in celebration. Martha had baked a huge chocolate cake, Clark's favorite, and Jeff had bought Clark his first football as a birthday present.

Clark and Jeff were outside on the farm, tackling and passing the ball. Clark's strength hadn't yet kicked in, though he was fast. Very fast. He had learned to control that though, and it was easy for the folks in town to believe he was nothing more than a rambunctious, athletic teenage boy.

Until that day. The sun was fading; a soft breeze filled the Kansas air. It was beautiful. Jeff threw a perfect spiral pass to Clark, who caught the ball easily and began to jog away.

Jeff, small but scrappy, immediately zoomed after Clark and tackled him back down. Clark shook him off and laughed before tackling Jeff right back.

And that was when it happened. Clark's good-natured tackle was suddenly like a freight train. Jeff slammed into the dirt, causing an indention three inches deep in the hard ground. Clark got up immediately, horrified.

Jeff was unmoving in the ground, the rocky soil having caused bloody scratches on his face. Clark screamed for his parents, hysterical. He fell to his knees and shook his friend, who remained unconscious.

The night had passed as if through someone else's eyes. Clark could only remember bits and pieces, the harsh blue and red of the ambulance lights, the cold stares from Jeff's parents and his mom's tight grip on his shoulder.

Jeff hadn't spoken a civil word to him since. Clark had been at the hospital every day, talking to his unconscious friend, crying. His parents sat and had a long discussion with him about his "gifts" and his need to control them.

But Clark hadn't needed to be told twice. He dropped out of all sports and started to keep to himself more and more. After Jeff had gotten out of the hospital, Clark had tried three times to apologize and each time he was met with a disgusted stare, mixed with fear. Fear.

When he detected the fear amidst the tangible hate and contempt, Clark felt like he had been punched in the gut. This was Jeff, his best friend. And he was afraid of him. After the years had dulled the pain, Jeff had gotten more and more adventurous, less and less afraid. He spread rumors that Clark was gay-he wasn't, but the fear of anyone getting close to him had added fuel to the fire. He started vandalizing the Kent's property and taunted Clark on a fairly regular basis.

And Clark took it, turning his back, but never retaliating.

And so Clark was lonely.

Which brought Clark from his painful memories and back to the sharp winter night. He didn't hear the telltale scrape of tennis shoes on the ground, so he dismissed the Denoso boys with relief.

He tuned into a third heartbeat, aside from his parents, and dashed toward it.

About a half mile down the road, he saw the car crashed into the tree. He approached it hesitantly, apprehensively hoping whoever was inside was all right.

Frost had obscured the windows. He knocked on it and heard a frightened squeak from the inside, along with the sound of the car doors being relocked. He shouted against the wind.

"Hello? Let me help you!"

He couldn't tell if whoever was inside could hear him over the wind. The car was off and though the cold didn't particularly affect him, he had a feeling that whoever was inside the car didn't have his immunity. He grasped the door handle and pulled lightly, easily opening the door despite the lock.

At this, the girl inside whimpered slightly, her knees tightly pressed to her chest, but too cold to think to flee.

The girl turned to look at him, fear in her eyes. Clark's heart constricted slightly, even though he was aware that there would have been that fear directed at whoever had opened the door. It still killed him to see it. The girl looked about his age and was without a doubt the most beautiful woman he had ever seen in his life.

He spoke softly to her.

"Are you all right? Come on, you have to get out of the cold."

She shook her head defiantly, shivering on the seat.

"Please? My farm is only a few minutes down the road. We can get you warm and some medical attention."

The girl looked at him again, her trepidation slightly receding at the soft tone of his voice.

Clark took this as a sign of encouragement and easily lifted her out of the car and in his arms.

She gasped as the cold wind stung her face and all thoughts of struggling with this unknown man left her as she instinctively burrowed against him. He was warm, though she had no idea how. She couldn't say how long he walked, but the cold was dreadful. It whistled through every opening in her jacket and sliced at her skin like a knife.

Lois had no idea who the man was who carried her so easily. After the car had crashed into the tree, it had completely shut off. She was freezing minutes later, but one look at the outside had convinced her to stay in the car. She had been prepared to wait out the storm in the car, though she was terrified.

And she was still terrified. What if the man was a killer and bringing her back to his lair? The reasonable part of her mind immediately disregarded it. This man's voice was too full of kindness. She immediately trusted him.

But that was a killer's modus operandi, wasn't it? Their victims trusted them? Oh, God, she was going to die. Well, at least it would teach her father for making her drive by herself for 14 hours. Hah. What a story she'd make; she'd be on TV sets around the country and her friends would say, "I never envied her life, how much freedom she was given; it's unnatural," and her mother would cry, and Lucy would lock herself in her room.

Oh, God, it was really going to happen. She was about to start struggling when she was immersed in warmth. Oh, no. Maybe he had done it already. Was this heaven? It didn't really hurt quite as much as she expected…

Her eyes were tightly squeezed shut, afraid to open them and see heaven's gates and white clouds. She counted to ten and opened them. She was staring into a pair of curious, gorgeous deep brown eyes.

Oh, crap, she *was* in heaven. They didn't make eyes like that down on earth.

Her eyes slowly adjusted to the dim light of the… kitchen.



She wasn't dead! She looked around wildly and noticed she was still clasped protectively against the man's chest. Except… She looked at him curiously. He wasn't a man. Yet. Oh, he was definitely male. She could garner that from the hard chest she was currently pressed up against. But though his body was tall and muscular, his face was young, about her age.

"Thank God, you're okay," he said softly. He brought her over to a long couch and gently deposited her on it.

"I'll go get my folks. Stay here."

With that he was off. Lois wondered where the boy thought she would actually go. She mentally rolled her eyes — Kansas farmboy — and stretched her stiff shoulders. She had banged against the steering wheel when she crashed in front of that tree, but other than sore muscles and a killer headache, she seemed to be physically okay. Her thoughts were interrupted by the entrance of two middle aged people Lois assumed to be the boy's parents.

The woman immediately ran over to her, clucking her tongue and feeling her forehead.

"Oh, you poor dear! Clark! Go get your quilt; we need to get her warm."

Lois tried to protest, but she found she could barely find the strength to talk. All the adrenaline had rushed out of her as quickly as it had come. She was exhausted.

She watched through heavy lidded eyes as the boy, Carl? Clark? A C name she knew, returned with a thick blanket.

He ignored his mother's outstretched hands and instead tucked it around Lois himself. Clark was completely oblivious to the look of surprise his parents shot each other. He took a long look at Lois's face. "You'll be okay," he said softly.

With that reassuring thought, Lois closed her eyes completely and fell into a blissful sleep.

Lois woke the next morning to the pop and sizzle of bacon frying. It smelled delicious, but yet it was completely incongruous to her. She had never actually woken up to bacon being fried, or a big breakfast being cooked. It was kind of nice, though she was sure she definitely wasn't in Metropolis anymore.

She sat up, blearily rubbing the sleep from her eyes. The woman from last night was standing in the kitchen, next to the stove. After stretching her arms behind her back and hearing a satisfying crack, Lois stood.

The woman at the stove turned at the sound. "Oh, you're up, thank goodness!" She rushed over to Lois, and Lois couldn't help but smile. The woman's grin was infectious. As frightened as she should be, she couldn't seem to dredge up the fear she so had in spades last night. "We were so worried about you, dear." Lois noticed that the woman had only called her a general "dear" so she hastened to introduce herself.

"Thank you. My name's Lois. Lois Lane, that is."

The woman sat next to her on the couch and grasped her hands. "I'm Martha Kent; I don't think you met my husband, Jonathan, though I see you're already acquainted with my boy, Clark."

Ahh. So it was Clark.

"Jonathan and Clark are out doing their chores. It just about killed Clark to leave your side though."

A curious glimmer of warmth shot through Lois at this. She couldn't help digging a little.

"Really?" Casual, Lois, oh so casual.

"Oh, why yes! He didn't leave your side all night. Jonathan and I tried to get him to go back to bed, but he wanted to be sure that when you woke up you would see a familiar face." Martha's face softened as she spoke of her boy.

"We called the doctor, but he said we were doing all we could for you. The roads are a mess, and he can't get down here."

A thought came to Lois.

"Are they… Clark and Mr. Kent… all right in this weather?"

Martha inwardly smiled at this bit of concern. "Oh, they're fine. Big strong country boys, the both of them, but the roads are as slick as oil out there. But don't you worry. The roads stay slick for a day or two and then they clear up just fine."

Martha paused, staring at Lois with a thoughtful look on her face. "If you don't mind me asking, Lois, how old are you?"

"I'm seventeen," Lois said. She tucked a wayward strand of hair behind an ear.

"Oh you're just a year behind Clark then, but dear, where are your parents?"

Lois bit her lip. Should it bother her that this was the first time she had given them any thought?

"We were in Colorado for my grandmother's funeral. My… my father had to fly back for work, so he told me to drive back home myself with Grandma's possessions."

At this, Martha patted her hand in a motherly fashion. "Oh, Lois, I'm so sorry."

Lois was horrified to find herself blinking back tears. What was it about this attention that was making her so… emotional? She swallowed and took a deep breath.

"It's ok. Thank you though, Mrs. Kent."

"Oh, Lois, call me Martha." She gave Lois an affectionate smile. "But back to your parents, are they close? We can take you there as soon as the roads clear."

"Ahh… well… My family lives in New Troy."

It was as if something akin to an explosion burst forth from the spry form of Martha Kent.

"They let you drive from Colorado to New Troy? By yourself?! And just seventeen! Oh, Lois, you must have been so frightened! I'd like to give this father of yours a piece of my mind."

Lois was gaping at the woman in shock. What a transformation! She'd like to see Martha Kent give her father a piece of her mind too. It'd be a humbling experience.

But she didn't say that. "I…I should call them."

Martha Kent immediately calmed and reverted back to her caring mother exterior. "The phones went down just a couple minutes after I placed the call to Dr. Jordan. I'm sorry, honey."

Lois nodded at this and shivered involuntarily. Her clothes were still slightly wet from the snow, though at least she wasn't freezing anymore. The quilt she was wrapped in was thick and warm. Martha stood and held out her hand to help Lois up.

"Come on, we'll fix you up with some warm clothing."

Without waiting for a response, Martha went into her room and returned with a pair of jeans and a belt.

"You're much smaller than me, of course, but if you use the belt those should fit." Lois took the jeans gratefully and went into the bathroom to change. When she came out, Martha had a gray sweatshirt ready for her.

"This is Clark's, but it's the most comfortable thing in this house. It's his favorite."

Lois took the sweatshirt and slid it on, immediately enveloped in soft, worn material. She grinned delightedly at this unexpected comfort.

"Wow, he's right. This is amazingly comfortable. Are you sure he won't mind?"

"I'm sure." The warm voice came from the door, as a gust of freezing wind filled the house. Lois looked up to see Clark and Jonathan quickly shut the door and stamp off the snow on their shoes. "Hi," Clark said simply.

He was looking straight at Lois, though the greeting was aimed at both his mother and her. Lois looked down at her feet. So a cute boy was looking at her with those eyes. He's a farmboy. You're a city girl. Get a grip. She raised her head to steadily meet his gaze.


Martha quickly intervened and formally introduced Lois to Clark and Jonathan.

"Now who wants some breakfast?"

There was a whole hearted chorus of yeses and Jonathan and Lois sat at the table as Clark helped his mother bring over a plate of crispy bacon, scrambled eggs and some toast with strawberry jelly.

"This smells delicious, Martha," Lois said, inhaling the scent. She hadn't realized how hungry she was. She took some of everything Clark offered her and dug in with gusto.

During breakfast, Martha and Jonathan subtly interrogated her. They asked questions about her family, her friends, what she was interested in… general prying that embarrassed Clark much more so than it did Lois.

Partway through this, Clark, whose ears were reddening along with the rest of his face, tried to steer the conversation away from Lois and was softly rebuked by his mother.

"Mom, I'm sure Lois didn't expect a reenactment of the Spanish Inquisition when she came here."

"I don't mind," Lois interrupted. For a moment she was shocked as she realized… she really didn't. For some reason it felt… natural to tell this family from Kansas the details of her life she kept hidden from some of her closest friends.

In return, she was equally inquisitive. She directed most of her questions at Martha, as she was still slightly shy around Clark and Jonathan, but soon they both put her at ease.

Jonathan was as amiable as his wife, keeping Lois in stitches as he regaled story after story of life on a farm. For the first time Lois actually found herself enjoying herself in a setting that didn't involve skyscrapers in the background. She had been completely adverse to the country, preferring for her grandmother to visit them in Metropolis rather than make the trek down to Colorado, but after some of the stories she heard, she found herself wishing she could stay and experience some of this kind of life.

And then there was Clark. Sometimes she would look up from her plate and see him looking at her attentively. But the emotion behind his eyes wasn't criticism, as she usually saw in her father's intense stare. There was something… something else in his gaze. Lois broke off from a story about her best friend Julie quicker than intended. A lot had been revealed about Clark Kent, from the good natured stories from his parents and then his own open answers to her curious questions, but he hadn't mentioned any of his friends. She was curious. What kind of man was Clark Kent? Did he hang out with the jocks? He was certainly well built enough to. Her face flushed slightly as she called up the feeling of being cradled close to him. But then again, he didn't seem like the kind of jock she knew. He was well read and intelligent. Was he a nerd? She studied him unobtrusively. He had thick glasses, but they seemed to add to his appearance rather than detract from it. He really was cute. She tried to shake that thought. She didn't need to be falling for a Kansas farmboy. Even one with dimples and a certain unruly lock of hair she wanted to brush off his forehead. Especially one like that.

After everyone had finished breakfast and heartily commended Martha, Lois got up to help her clear.

"Lois, you don't need to do that," Martha admonished.

Clark appeared at her elbow, laded down with four plates balancing on one hand and a jam jar and a fistful of cutlery in the other.

"Nope, I've got it," he said quickly. He shot her a quick smile as he breezed past her.

"Clark Jerome Kent, if you drop those dishes…" Martha threatened as Clark struggled slightly with how to put down the dishes in his full hands.

Lois started laughing and reached over to grab a plate just as it slipped.

"Here you go, Farmboy."

It slipped out. Really it did. She hadn't meant to say it. Everything had been going so gosh darned well and she had to blurt out what she had been calling him privately. How could she tell him it was based more on affection than any dislike? Oh, why was it so quiet!?

Martha and Jonathan were staring at her. Clark blinked twice. For a moment it was silent in the kitchen before Clark suddenly shot her a thousand watt smile and burst into laughter.

Martha Kent watched this interaction, biting back a thoughtful grin. It had been a long time since she had seen her boy let loose and laugh with someone his own age. It worried her to no end that someone with so much love to give kept himself locked away. If she didn't know better she would have thought Clark was smitten.

Clark ran the dishes under the sink and then handed them to Lois, who dried them with a checked dishtowel and stacked them neatly beside her. Martha's keen eye noticed Clark's stance.

Around kids his own age, he would normally tense, his back ramrod straight. He was friendly, but wary and nobody ever got too close. Jeff Denoso had seen to that. It had broken her heart time and time again to see Clark come home everyday alone and retreat to his old tree house instead of attending socials and dances like most of his peers. But yet… he had only known Lois for less than 24 hours, but he was relaxed and laughing. He kept sneaking glances at her while she was completely oblivious. Martha couldn't keep the smile off of her face. Maybe Clark *was* smitten.

After the dishes had been washed and dried, Lois ambled to the living room and pressed her face against the glass. Her warm breath frosted the cold pane and Lois smiled to herself as she began to doodle her initials in the mist.

She thought of her poor car, buried in the snow. Lois sighed and rested her forehead on the cool glass. How long would she have to impose on the Kent's? She hated being so dependent on their kindness, yet the thought of driving the final ten hours of the trip alone filled her with trepidation. It was probably time to discuss logistics with them. They had things to do, and those surely didn't include an extra teenager. Tilting her head slightly, Lois turned around.


She bit back a strangled gasp of shock when she saw the tall form of Clark instead. He was leaning against the fireplace, staring thoughtfully at her.

"I'm sorry to startle you. My mom's in her room. Can I get you anything?" He moved toward her hesitantly.

"Oh… I just wanted to tell her that I'll be out of her hair as soon as the roads clear," Lois managed to get out. It was a lie. She didn't want to leave. The long road home loomed depressingly before her. "I hate imposing."

Clark's face seemed to fall slightly. "I can speak for us all when I say that we love having you. It gets kind of quiet up here; it's nice to have someone to talk to." He stuck his hands in his pockets and looked at the floor. "But I'm sure you're anxious to get back home. You really have to drive that whole way alone?"

Lois nodded and Clark frowned. "Are you sure? It's a long way."

"I can take care of myself," Lois said, a bit more vehemently than she planned. She hated condescension.

Instead of recoiling as most of her acquaintances did at her sharp tone, Clark merely nodded. "You're right. I bet you can."

Lois suspiciously analyzed the sentence for any sarcasm and finding none was slightly ashamed. Clark had been nothing but nice to her.

"I'm not," she said offhandedly, turning back to the window.

Clark moved a few paces closer to her, his head tilted slightly to one side.

"You're not what?"

"Anxious to get home," Lois replied, still staring out the window. "Anxious to get back on the road." She shrugged casually, though her mind was screaming at her to stop revealing so much to this relative stranger.

She turned to look him in the eye and found him merely a foot away. "I—" It was a lot harder to talk when he was so close. "I don't have the best relationship with my family. Not like yours, anyway. I can't remember the last time we all had breakfast together."

Clark murmured a soft noise for her to continue. She took the opportunity, though she still had no idea why. "My father wanted a boy… I tried so hard to impress him. But I was never good enough; there was always room for improvement. My mom started drinking a few years back, and after that, well…" She drifted off and looked up into Clark's face. He was close, very close. His gaze was soft behind his glasses, but he didn't look at her with the pity she hated so much. It looked more akin to… respect.

She broke off. She couldn't deal with this. The air was so thick, so heavy. Lois desperately tried to reclaim some of the earlier ease. "But you don't want to hear about that. So what do you think?" Lois assumed an offhand voice, secretly unnerved by how much she had let slip. "How long do you think I have before I have to leave?" Clark masterfully controlled his shock at the abrupt change and glanced out the window. "Well, it stopped icing about an hour ago, but we probably have another two days stuck on the farm. But after that, the roads will be clear enough to head into town, but I doubt my mother will let you drive off in that weather." He gave her a quick smile to ease the domineering statement, and she seemed to accept the offering. "After the ice clears, we can bring your car in for the necessary repairs, so however long that will take. I reckon you might be stuck with us for a week or more though. Jim McKinley, the mechanic, is good, and he's very prompt. If he's in the middle of something he finishes it. Booked solid for weeks. But he'll take your car in when he hears about your situation."

Lois took in the new information and methodically categorized the name and description. It was a habit she had been trying to get into. She had picked up some tricks from her journalism teacher and now was desperately trying to engrain them in her mind. Her teacher had told her that a keen memory was next to godliness when it came to reporting and she had taken the advice to heart.

Unfortunately she wasn't very good at it yet. She repeated the name Jim McKinley softly a few times, reconciling the word mechanic, determined with the surname.

Clark looked at her curiously. "What are you doing?"

Slightly defensive, Lois snapped at him. "I'm categorizing the name." "Why?"

Clark looked genuinely interested and she rebuked herself yet again. She had to stop being so distrustful. It wouldn't be good to alienate what looked like her only companion for the next week or so.

"It's a trick my journalism teacher taught me. He told me to try and categorize every person I meet: name, job, habits. It's just something to sharpen my memory."

A bright smile flitted across Clark's face for a moment. "You're in journalism, too?"

Lois nodded. "I'm the editor of the school newspaper." She couldn't keep some of the pride from creeping into her voice. She had fought tooth and nail for that prestigious position. It was nice to tell someone who hadn't heard it five times already.

"Me, too." The pride was evident in his voice as well, though he seemed slightly humbled. "But I'm sure the paper in Metropolis is a bit of a bigger deal than the Smallville Press." He frowned slightly and then brightened. "But I've done some freelancing for the Kansas Star."

"Really?" Lois was impressed. The Kansas Star was no small time paper. "What did you write?"

"Just a piece on some of the local thefts around Smallville," he said, rubbing the back of his neck. "Not anything big, but they were looking for a filler piece."

"Can I see it?" Lois was interested. None of her close friends were interested in journalism. Most of her partners on the paper were mere acquaintances, some less than that. She ran a tight ship, which didn't exactly endear her to most of the staff.

"You-you'd really want to read it? Are you sure?"

Lois nodded again, a small smile teasing the corners of her lips. "What, you scared, Kent?"

That seemed to jerk him out of his bashfulness. He met her steely eyed glance with one of his own, though his was tempered by a playful glimmer.

"Not in this lifetime, Lane." He ducked into his room and came out with his yearbook. Flipping open the hardbound copy, he fished out a yellowed page of a newspaper and handed it to Lois.

"Third page? Not bad Kent. I was expecting something by the obituaries." The harsh words were countered by a teasing tone and he instinctively relaxed. This seemed so incredibly normal to him; he was at a loss to explain why. He was no stranger to being teased, but these lighthearted jabs didn't wound him. Instead he felt… invigorated. Sharp. Being around Lois Lane was certainly keeping him on his toes. Lois eased herself onto the sofa and he sat in the chair across from her, watching her as she read his story.

It was his first investigative piece. The high school paper usually called for features and editorials, but he loved the thrill of reporting hard news. When his father had told him about a string of robberies that hit the normally sleepy town of Smallville, he had jumped into his truck and headed into town. He interviewed every shop owner who was hit, mapped out the similarities and staked out the likeliest spot for the robber to do his next.

Clark didn't think he'd ever forget the feeling when his hunch had paid off. He had phoned it into the police, gotten the exclusive and then bartered the story off to the Kansas Star, earning a tidy 100 dollar sum for himself. Not bad for a then seventeen, green, wannabe reporter.

He was pulled from these pleasant memories by the sound of the paper rustling as Lois set it down.

"Clark, that was great! You really nailed those guys!" Admiration shone in her brown eyes and Clark was momentarily rendered speechless. For some reason, he had the impression that her admiration wasn't freely given.

"Thank you. It really wasn't too much work to figure those guys out, but the feeling when the Star called me back and said they'd take it was pretty incredible." He leaned back in his chair and looked at the girl across from him thoughtfully. She was smiling, something that heightened her already pronounced beauty. The fact that she was smiling at him… well, he couldn't keep the goofy grin off his face, though he valiantly tried.

Folding up the paper along its worn creases, Lois picked up the yearbook that lay innocuously on the coffee table. For a moment the movement didn't register in Clark's mind. Then the horror dawned.

"You don't need to read that, Lois." He started talking quickly, trying to grab the yearbook from her hands. "It's nothing, old news. I know, want to go ice skating? There's a pond in the back. Or we could make some cookies. I like the chocolate chip kind, though we could make peanut butter ones. We have some peanut butter in the freezer, but it's the all natural kind. I know, that's disgusting, right? I like Jif, but my mom's on a health kick so…" He drifted off at Lois' stunned expression. She burst out laughing a moment later.

"And people tell me I babble." She gave him an affectionate grin that didn't completely alleviate the worry he felt at her holding his yearbook. "What's so terrible about this yearbook, Clark?"

Her laughter subsided when she saw the genuine fear in his eyes. She loosened her death grip on the book, something she normally wouldn't have done. When Lois Lane was curious, she went to the ends of the earth to find answers. Why was she letting him win?

Clark noticed this concession and his shoulders slumped. If only she had tried to keep it from him, he could have stolen it back with no further worries. But that hangdog look she was giving him… he sat next to her on the couch and took the book into his lap. Lois leaned next to him as she watched him open the cover.

When the book was finally opened, she couldn't help but gasp. The inside cover was filled with writing. It was all the same; a spiky hand that pressed into the page so deeply it nearly reached the other side of the thick cover. She read some of the print, her mind violently revolting to the sentiments.

It was crude, jeering. Clark was called a barrage of names that she only heard shouted from the Metropolis cabbies in the worst of traffic. It didn't stop there though. She flipped through the first couple of pages and saw that they had been horribly maimed by a black Sharpie.

She finally looked from the book to the stiff form of Clark Kent beside her. He was a deep shade of red, one hand clenched rigidly against his side.

Lois had no idea why anyone would write such things about the man beside her, especially when they so obviously still cut him to the quick. She hesitantly reached up to put a gentle hand on his shoulder. The muscle underneath was unyielding, but she gently smoothed her fingers over the soft film of his T-shirt and he seemed to visibly unwind. It obviously still hurt him to open the page.

"Who would do that to you?" She asked softly, still running a comforting hand idly on his shoulder and upper back.

"Just about any kid at school," he said with a self deprecating smile. It didn't quite reach his eyes. "I'm not some kind of antisocial loser or anything… I just… I made a powerful enemy a couple years back and he's turned a lot of people against me."

Lois wanted to press more, but the stiffness in his shoulders had returned, and for once she let it go. She lightly raked her fingernails over his back and stood.

"Come on, Farmboy, you said something about ice skating?"

Lois stood up from the couch and held out her hand for him to grab. He pulled himself up, only extending a slight pressure on Lois' outstretched arm while utilizing the powerful muscles of his calves to support most of his weight.

"That sounds great. Let me go get you something warmer to wear. Do you mind using my mom's skates?"

Lois shook her head and Clark gave her a soft smile before disappearing into the closet. He emerged with a thick woolen jacket, some gloves and a pair of beautiful tan skates.

"I hope these fit," he said. He slid on a leather jacket and joined her on the couch to put his black skates on.

Lois managed to get the skates on and stood-a little unsteadily-on her feet. She glared at the linoleum of the kitchen floor. How was she supposed to get across that balancing on two tiny strips of metal? Lois had suggested ice skating as a way to relieve the pressure of the moment. She had forgotten she was terrible at it.

Clark easily stood, balancing with a practiced ease and grace. Lois wobbled slightly and stuck her tongue out at him. "Show off," she muttered.

Clark gallantly extended his arm and she took it grudgingly.

"I'm better once I'm on the ice," she said petulantly. Almost as soon as the words left her lips, she slipped slightly, digging her fingers into Clark's shoulder as she desperately tried to right herself.

Clark masterfully bore the brunt of the assault while trying to control his laughter. Inch by inch, they awkwardly slid to the kitchen door. By the time they had only gone three feet in as many minutes, Clark couldn't help it. He burst out laughing, a deep, rich sound that filled Lois with unexplainable warmth. Lois detested being laughed at, preferring to be the instigator rather than the unfortunate victim, but for once she didn't feel threatened. She started to join him, but her laughter turned into a startled gasp as he swiftly lifted her up and into his arms, crossing the kitchen in four long strides.

He set her down gently once they were away from the slick linoleum and she stared at him in incredulity.

"I can't believe you can walk on those things, let along carry me across the floor with them on!" Her tone was admiring, but for some reason Clark looked uncomfortable.

"It's nothing, really." He paused to see if she would add more and when she opened her mouth to, he cut her off. "I skate pretty frequently during the winter. I get a lot of practice; my mom's not much more coordinated than you are."

He softened the blow with a brilliant smile and she couldn't stay angry. They started the trek to the pond, Lois going much more quickly on the brittle dirt and snow than on the sleek linoleum. The pond was about a hundred feet from the farmhouse, and by the end of the first fifty, Lois was beginning to regret her brilliant suggestion.

"Clark, why do humans strap these torture contraptions onto themselves?"

Clark turned in surprise and had to conceal another smile. Why did he find himself smiling and trying not to smile so many times in Lois' presence? He had never had such a compulsion before. He gave in to the temptation and placed his hand on the small of Lois' back, encouraging her forward.

"Come on. We're almost there."

Lois mumbled a few words of protest, but her eye had an excited sparkle. The chill had reddened her cheeks and the rough wind blew some rogue strands of coffee colored hair across her face. She looked beautiful.

Clark swallowed slightly and looked away toward the pond. He had never had such… a violent outpouring of emotion before. It was all he could do to master it.

They reached the edge of the pond and Clark watched in silent admiration as Lois squealed in delight.

The pond really was beautiful, framed by trees on all sides. In the spring and summertime, the long branches skimmed the top of the water, creating an idyllic haven for a lonely boy. Now the branches were bare, glittering with ice and exposing the ancient tire swing Clark had spent many hours swinging on.

Clark lowered his glasses slightly and unobtrusively scanned the ice. It looked to be about six inches thick, plenty to hold both him and Lois. He stepped onto the ice, fluently gliding a few feet and then spinning around to face Lois. She was hesitating by the side, one foot on the ice, the other firmly planted on the ground.

Clark moved toward her, silently taking her arm and helping her place both feet onto the ice. She stood unsteadily for a moment, looking like she would fall at the slightest breeze.

Switching his feet in an effortless pattern, Clark skated sideways, keeping a wary eye on Lois. She took a few tentative steps, then paused, pleased at the progress. Taking a few longer strides, Lois bit back a delighted grin as she eased back into the old rhythm. The ice was slick, but her blade cut through the ice smoothly, leaving a slight indention in her wake.

Seeing that Lois was okay and moving fairly well on her own, Clark removed himself from his vigilant watch over her and shot across the ice. He turned sharply and sent a shower of ice skittering across the flat top of the frozen water.

Lois was practicing closer to the edge, satisfied at her progress. She sped up slightly, feeling confident enough to leave the relative safety of the border. Moving with firm, if not completely confident strokes, Lois blazed across the ice, trying to catch up with Clark.

She was increasing speed drastically and she realized with a sick feeling of dread that she had forgotten how to stop. She had seen Clark's sharp turn, but her slight attempt to mimic it resulted in her nearly collapsing on the ice. She fought the clawing panic and eased into a turn, trying to figure out how to gracefully tumble onto the ice. She whipped her head back and forth to see if she could latch into a tree branch or some other convenient hold, but they all looked either too flimsy or too high.

Lois was so intent on her task of finding a way to surreptitiously stop, she didn't pay attention to what lay ahead of her. Her head still turned toward the trees lining the bank, she plowed straight into Clark. With a strangled scream from both of them and a sudden rush of frigid air, Lois felt herself falling. She immediately squeezed her eyes shut in vain preparation for the unyielding surface. She landed heavily, but not on freezing ice.

Clark landed soundly on the ice, his head whipping backward with a resounding crack. He winced, more from the feeling that there should be pain rather than any hurt he was actually experiencing. His invulnerability was a relatively new discovery, and he hadn't learned to school his fleeting, subconscious reactions yet.

Lois landed on top of him, firmly pressing him into the ice. One skate blade was wedged resolutely in the ice from where she had slammed it. For a moment they both were too stunned to move. Then Lois sat up, still sitting on Clark's stomach and tried to yank her skate from the ice. Succeeding after a few attempts, she quickly scurried off his body and knelt beside him. Completely ignoring the freezing plane below her, Lois worriedly scanned his face.

"Clark! Are you okay? Oh Clark, I'm so sorry!" She moved one hand to his silky black hair, gently threading the fingers of one hand through it. "Did you hurt your head?"

Clark had regained his senses by then and sat up, eager to reassure her that he was all right. She removed her fingers and he felt a sharp stab of disappointment.

"I'm okay. Are you?" He tried to discern if she had any injuries. "I'm all right. I had a cushioned landing," she said, giving him a soft smile. "But you… we hit the ground hard. Are you sure you're ok? Do you need me to go get help?"

Clark ran one hand through his hair and shook his head. "I'm really fine… But thank you." He met her anxious gaze with a steadfast one of his own. To prove his point, he stood, easing her up with him. He still wasn't sure if she was telling the truth about a lack of injuries. It was true that a fair amount of her had landed on him…that hadn't been such an altogether unappealing moment, but it was a pretty strong jolt. He kept his hands firmly on her waist, supporting her. "I'm really okay, Clark." Lois tried to laugh and move away but winced slightly.

She favored her right ankle and Clark's arm was around her waist and holding her almost before she realized she was limping. Clark supported Lois for a few seconds before giving a frustrated groan at their slow pace. He scooped her in his arms yet again and then with a few quick strokes, had them at the edge of the pond. Lois was freezing in his arms and he sighed. As much as he liked having her this close, it was starting to become ridiculous. As he trekked back to the house, no small feat considering he was on skates, he gave a thoughtful grin to the woman in his arms.

"Do you always attract trouble like this?"

She harrumphed, obviously disliking the feeling of helplessness. "Only since I've met you," she responded shortly, crossing her arms over her chest. The gesture looked so incongruous while she was being carried that Clark couldn't help a short burst of laughter.

He x-rayed her ankle and saw that it was not broken, though there was a nasty bruise covering the side. He sighed in relief. It probably wasn't even sprained; the muscle looked fine, just severely bruised. She'd be walking after a good night's sleep.

Which meant carrying her like this was probably sort of pointless, but he was enjoying it. Lois snuggled into his arms, turning her face into his chest to avoid the bitter cold.

Clark walked with her in companionable silence for a while before she spoke, her voice slightly muffled by his jacket.

"I'm sorry, Clark."

Clark looked down at the precious bundle he was carrying.

"You don't have anything to be sorry for, Lois." His voice was uncharacteristically serious. Lois sighed and his sensitive hearing picked up her heartbeat increasing slightly.

"You've just been so… so kind to me. I feel like I don't even deserve it. I've told you things I haven't even told my best friend. Why is that? Why do I trust you so much? I barely know you."

Clark looked up skyward for a long moment, asking himself the same questions. He thought carefully before responding.

"You know, I don't even know. But don't think it's one sided. I've… told you things, too. I've had a tough time opening up to people… But I felt like I could tell you and you'd understand. I don't know the answers to those questions any more than you do."

Clark looked at her earnestly and Lois found herself suddenly terrified by the unfamiliar feelings fluttering around inside her body.

Her mind was a mess, her heart was full to bursting and her ankle hurt like hell. She had absolutely no idea what to do. She sighed in relief as they reached the house a few minutes later.

Clark shouldered the door open and brought her into the front room, depositing her gently on the sofa.

"I'm getting a slight sense of deja vu…" he whispered softly in her ear as his hands slid from her. He quickly removed his two skates and then knelt by Lois' feet.

"This may hurt, Lois," he said softly. As gently as he could, he unlaced the skate on her hurt foot, and then eased one hand around her ankle. With a gentle tug, he pulled the skate off of her foot. She moaned slightly as the stiff leather rasped against her tender ankle and Clark felt like a world class heel. He quickly untied the other skate and pulled it off as well, before focusing on her swollen ankle.

"Clark! Lois, what's wrong?" Both teenagers looked up at their names. Martha walked in from the back room, looking worriedly at her son. "What happened? Are you all right?" Before Clark could answer, Lois spoke up.

"I'm okay, Martha. I tripped when we were ice skating and bruised my ankle."

Clark interjected with his own diagnosis.

"It's swollen, but it's not broken," he turned toward Lois, still gently cradling her ankle in one hand. "You should be able to walk in a day or so, but for now we had better wrap that up."

Elevating her ankle under a pillow on the coffee table, Clark disappeared into the house while Martha came to sit by Lois. "Oh, you poor dear." She took one of Lois' cold hands in her own. "I'm sorry this had to happen to you on your first day with us." Martha turned a practiced eye on Lois' ankle. "But Clark's right, you know. If he wraps this up for you, you should be able to be walking on your own tomorrow."

Lois nodded, unsure of what to say. It felt like she should extend more gratitude… but she couldn't put what she was feeling into words. This was a relatively new occurrence to her, as words were normally her forte.

The entire situation was new to her. To her extreme and utter horror, she found a few tears slipping down her face. She hurriedly bit down on her lower lip and quickly brushed them away with her sleeve. She wasn't fast enough, however. Martha caught her arm and Lois looked at her, trapped. For a moment their eyes seemed to converse what their words were unable to express, and Lois found herself pulled into a motherly hug.

And then the tears came. Lois buried her face in the soft flannel of Martha's shirt, dually embarrassed and relieved by the tears. It had been so long since she had been able to cry on a mother's shoulder. She had had to be strong for so many people, for so many years. Her father, with his constant absences and cruel, biting comments, her mother with her drinking problem, her sister Lucy because her big sister Lois was the only one she could turn to… It sometimes seemed like she was a calm rock in the middle of a raging sea, steadfast but being chipped away, bit by bit with every ragged wave. These bottled up emotions, coupled with the death of her beloved grandmother, the shock and terror of the car crash, her burgeoning feelings for a country boy and the dull throb in her ankle seemed to swell up all at once, overwhelming even her usually unfaltering courage.

Clark rushed in at the sound of Lois' sobs, medicine tape in one hand, the other balled into a fist, ready to attack either friend or foe who was making Lois cry. He paused awkwardly, his fist dropping loosely to his side when he saw Lois in a tight hug with his mother. He wasn't sure whether to rush over and see what was wrong or bolt.

His mom caught his eye and motioned for him to leave. He was reluctant to abandon Lois, especially since he hadn't taped her ankle up yet, but his mother eyed him sternly and he scampered out, leaving the tape on a nearby table.

Lois hadn't even noticed, and Martha held her quietly, gently stroking her hair. After a few minutes, Lois' sobs subsided and she pulled back, wiping her eyes with her sleeve.

"Thank you…" she sniffed slightly. "I don't… that doesn't really feel like enough for all you've done for me. I'm sorry to break down on you like that. I hardly ever cry; I don't understand why I've been so emotional lately."

"Lois, you've been under a ton of stress. You're in a new place with new people and far away from your family. It's no wonder you're a little upset!"

Lois hung her head and nodded a little.

"You're right, of course, Martha. I'm being silly with this crying. You and Jonathan have been so wonderful to me. And Clark…" Lois drifted off slightly at Clark's name, the rush of unfamiliar and foreign feelings threatening to bring her under again. "Clark has been super," she finished thickly.

Martha gave her a smile and patted her hand. She reached around the table and grabbed the medicine tape. Pulling Lois' leg onto the couch, she swiftly bandaged the ankle.

"He's a pretty super boy," Martha said as she wound the tape around her leg. "I've never seen him take to someone as quickly as he has with you. He's so wary, so untrusting. And he's the best friend that anyone could ever hope for."

Lois stared down at her now fully bandaged leg. "I can see how he would be… but why? Why is he like that? So alone?" Because now Lois had fully identified the gleam she had seen in Clark's eye. He was so afraid of losing his new friend because he was terribly lonesome. "He's so great… what could he have done to alienate himself like this?"

Martha was silent for a long moment before patting Lois' shoulder. "That's not my story to tell." She smiled apologetically and then stood. "Now, can I get you anything?"


"Where are you off to now, son?" Jonathan Kent leaned against the heavy duty shovel he was using to scrape the ice off the driveway and wiped his brow. He was been chipping away at the ice for well over an hour, but so far he had only cleared a small portion.

"I was thinking about going down to Lois' car and getting her suitcase. I'm sure she'd feel better with her own toothbrush and clothes." Clark shuffled restlessly. "She hurt her ankle when we were ice skating."

"Is she okay?" At Clark's quick nod, Jonathan continued, "And you two went ice skating? Where did you go?" Jonathan looked up, interested at this new information.

"She'll be fine. But Da-ad, we went to the pond out back. Where else would we go?" Clark shuffled his feet.

"Clark, that's your place. You haven't let anyone set foot over there since you were—"

"Fourteen, I know," Clark cut in roughly, feeling his face start to flush. Jonathan just gave him a knowing grin. Clark didn't answer, grabbing the shovel from his father. In two seconds, he had the ice stacked neatly alongside the driveway and the entire length smooth and dry. Dusting his hands off on his jeans, Clark shot a cocky grin back at his father and sauntered away, tipping an imaginary hat. His father burst into laughter and yelled a thank you as Clark trotted down the street to Lois' abandoned car.

When he reached the vehicle, he shivered slightly at the crunched metal in the front. When he had found Lois, he had been so intent on getting her warm and to safety that he had completely forgotten to check the state of the car. It looked like a pretty bad wreck. Maybe that means she'll get to stay a little longer than expected…

Clark hushed the small voice in the back of his head. Having her around was dangerous. He… forgot himself. When she was around he almost believed that he was normal, could have a normal life. Friends… a girlfriend. For a moment he allowed himself to relive the feeling of her fingers massaging his shoulder and he stifled a groan.

He had never been so rampantly attracted to someone. In fact, he had never really been attracted to anyone before. For a long while he had figured it was a part of his Kryptonian heritage, but now… His mind's eye called up her beautiful raven hair and warm brown eyes. He raked a hand through his hair. This was madness.

Trying to distill the images from his mind, he opened the trunk easily and pulled out a large suitcase. He then scoured the inside of the car, picking up the loose items on the floor that had fallen from her purse. Once Clark was sure he had gotten anything she could possibly need, he shut the trunk and car door again. They would have to call someone to pick up the car soon. He made a mental note to call later when the phones were up, and then hefted the suitcase over his shoulder. A small burst of super speed later and Clark was casually walking up the front steps of the farmhouse. The sky was a dusky blue, the sun having just set. Before he entered the house, he leaned against the door and breathed in the crisp air. It bit sharply at his mouth and lungs, but was refreshing nonetheless.

He hoped Lois was all right. But at least she was in the capable hands of his mother. Martha Kent was the queen of alleviating worries. If Lois was upset about something, there was no one else Clark would recommend her to go to…except for himself. He thought about holding her closely and wiping her tears away and sighed. If only she'd let him in a little, see that he wasn't here to hurt her.

But then again, did he want her to get too close? His heart was screaming yes, a whole hearted yes, but his mind was violently revolting. Close meant discovery… discovery meant rejection. He had been a young boy when Jeff Denoso had abandoned him and it still wrecked havoc on his mind four years later. What would it do to him if Lois Lane did the same?

He automatically dismissed the thought. Lois would never intentionally hurt him the way Jeff had set out to do. But a fleeting look of horror on her part might undo him more than a thousand Jeff Denoso's could. Clark shook his head to rid the thoughts from his mind. He was obsessing… again. Twisting the doorknob, he entered the house, hoping that the sounds of crying would have long abated. He was in luck. Lois was standing next to his mother in the kitchen, leaning on a pair of his old crutches and watching intently as Martha tried to explain the finer points of cooking.

They both turned at the gust of cool air Clark had let in. Clark's eyes were immediately drawn to Lois, anxiously eyeing her ankle.

"Hi, Clark!" Lois was grinning happily, and the smile eased Clark's fears.

"Hey," he said as he moved forward and shut the door behind him. He produced her suitcase and purse with a flourish. "Your belongings, Miss Lane."

Lois let out an excited squeal and immediately tried to hobble over as fast as she could on Clark's crutches. He had injured his foot when he was twelve, in the period just before his invulnerability kicked in. Clark chuckled to himself when he remembered how much of a pain those things were. He met Lois halfway.

"Lois, you shouldn't be up at all!"

"Clark, you worrier, I'm fine." She eyed her suitcase joyfully. "I can't believe you went to the car and dragged this huge thing out! Thank you!"

Balancing on one foot, she leaned the crutches against the nearby couch. Before Clark could think to ask what in the world she was doing, her arms were around his waist, giving him a tight hug. For a moment Clark felt like his heart had stopped. He responded a shell shocked second later and drew her as close as he could without hurting her. For a brief, beautiful moment he was holding her in his arms of her own accord. Not because she was injured, in danger of freezing to death or because of her lack of prowess on ice skates. But because she had thrown her arms around him for a hug. For a too short moment he inhaled the scent of her hair and tried to memorize the feel of her against his chest.

Then it was over. She was pulling away, obviously thinking nothing of the hug that had wrecked such havoc on his equilibrium. He mutely handed her the crutches and lifted the suitcase again.

Lois was still babbling and Clark had to smile. "That was so sweet of you, Clark. You could have frozen! It's so cold outside… oh, but thank you! I'd kill to brush my teeth right now."

Clark had a sudden, not quite unbidden image of kissing her squarely on the mouth to halt the string of excessive words. He was willing to bet it would work. Oh how he wished he could try it.

Instead, he addressed his mother, who had been innocently chopping vegetables while all of this had been going on. The knowing look in her eye nearly made him blush, but with a Herculean effort he managed to avoid that embarrassing impulse.

"Where should I put this, Mom?"

"Put it in your room," Martha said without looking up. "I already changed the sheets and made up the bed. You'll be on the couch, Clark."

Clark nodded and went to drop the suitcase off. When he returned he found Lois protesting. "Clark shouldn't have to give up his bed just because I foolishly tried to drive in the snow! He—You all have already done so much for me. I can't in good conscience take the bed."

"Oh, honey, you know we love having you around! Heavens, it's been ages since I've had another woman to talk to in such an informal setting. I love Clark and Jonathan to death, but if I have to spend another Saturday watching football…"

Lois giggled slightly and nodded. "That's true but—"

"But you'll take Clark's bed," Martha completed. "Dear, Clark's been walking on air since you've been here. He loves the company."

Clark, having heard the whole thing thanks to super hearing but had only been reasonably expected to hear the last part because he had just entered the kitchen, blushed a bright red.

"Mom…" He said warningly, wishing he didn't have such fierce reactions. It was a wonder Lois knew his true skin color at all with the amount of blushing he seemed to be doing.

"It's the truth and you know it, Clark Kent. Honestly, we've all been much happier since you've come here, Lois."

Clark couldn't argue with that, so he nodded his agreement.

Lois was incredulous at the apparent sincerity of Martha's words. Were these wonderful people talking about her? Mad Dog Lane? Most people ran screaming for the hills. Hell, her own family acted like they didn't even like her most of the time. Why did she mesh so well with this particular country family in backwater Smallville? When she thought of her family, she was ashamed slightly. She hadn't been completely honest. Lucy did care about her, a lot actually. They fought incessantly, but under it all, both knew they could count on the other. Lucy must be worried sick. And her mother, too, probably was upset. As much flak as Lois gave her, she was secure in the knowledge that her mother really did love her. Her father, on the other hand…

"Excuse me, Martha. Do you know if the phones are up yet? My family is probably starting to get worried."

Clark moved past Lois to the kitchen and picked up the phone. A faint dial tone buzzed loudly enough for the room to hear. "There's your answer." Clark motioned toward his room.

"There's a phone in there if you'd like to use it."

Lois nodded and excused herself while Clark joined his mother chopping vegetables. They chopped in companionable silence for a moment, Clark idly listening to the sounds of Lois' voice in the next room.

He wasn't trying to eavesdrop; the soft tones of her voice merely relaxed him. He was grinning off into mid air, listening to the comforting thrumming of Lois' heartbeat when he was suddenly aware that it was rapidly quickening.

Clark's hearing instantly tuned into her, her quick intake of breathing and her pacing footsteps. Scarcely thinking of the possible repercussions for eavesdropping, Clark's super hearing took a mind of its own and listened in on Lois' conversation.

Lois was speaking. "Dad, they're not crazy murderers! I'm perfectly fine here!"

The voice on the other end was harsh. "It's just a man and wife?"

"And a boy my age," Lois interjected without even thinking. A moment later she wished she hadn't. Her father's words were slurred and cruel. It didn't happen often, as her father preferred just to throw himself in his work, but every so often he got drunk… and he scared her.

"A boy? No wonder you don't want to leave, you damn tramp."

Clark heard that and froze, mindlessly squeezing the knife in his hand. It crumpled like tinfoil. His mother gasped, unaware of what was causing the reckless loss of control for Clark, but she had to snap him out of it. She lightly touched his shoulder, but he didn't respond, merely furrowed his brow and listened.

"—it's not like that Dad! He saved me. I almost died."

"Right. The car crash. That was your mother's car! You're causing so many damn problems. If only you'd have been a son. He'd have managed to make it through a little road trip without crashing the car."

Lois was crying softly, horrified and yet unable to hang up.

"Cry, you damn bitch. Just like your mother. Lust after a Kansas farm kid too naive to appreciate responsibility and enjoy a little roll in the hay. Then come crawling back to me when you're pregnant and alone…"

Her father angrily slammed the phone down and Lois sat for a moment, shell shocked and shaking.

Two rooms away, Clark stood, frozen. The large paring knife was a ball of crumpled silver and when he released it. The knife clattered to the floor, unrecognizable.

Martha was terrified; she had never seen her boy lose control. He mumbled something and was at Lois' side in an instant, cradling her in his arms. She was trembling. Her father had yelled at her before, yes, told her he wished she had been a boy countless times… but he had never been so coarse or crude. And he had never called her a whore. And during the times when the drink pushed him past where he could control his words, she could almost always spot the real man, apologetic for the words he was saying. She could always forgive him, though it never allowed a callous to form on her heart. It just left tender flesh, brutally whipped time and time again.

But she didn't think she could forgive him for the things he had just said.

How had Clark known she needed him? She thought idly. She didn't care. He was crushing her against his chest. This was what she needed… the crass words of her father resounded relentlessly in her mind. "… country hack…roll in the hay…" That wasn't it! That wasn't it at all! To see her budding feelings so callously torn and ruthlessly exposed in such a blazing light made her shudder again and pull Clark closer.

"You're not like that. You're not like that," the words were repeated by her ear and for a moment she wondered if it was Clark or herself speaking them. "I won't let you go back to him. Stay with me forever." For a moment Lois believed him. She relaxed slightly in his arms, her mind rapidly clearing. She could stay in Clark's arms forever… he knew exactly what to say…

What to say…

Lois gave a startled gasp and jerked out of Clark's embrace. "You…you…" She stood, backing up from him.

"Lois?" Clark stood, the red rage clearing from his head as well. He wracked his clouded mind. What had he said to make her back away like that? "Stay with me forever…" Oh. He inwardly groaned. He had probably scared her off. That was easily fixable. He moved a little closer to her, softening his voice.

"Lois… I'm sorry. I didn't mean to come on so strong. I was just so worried for you… what he said to you…"

And then, in a terrible moment of clarity, he understood.

"You-you listened in on my conversation with my father?"

Clark stood in mental anguish. He had been in such a rage over the words from Lois' father, he had forgotten that there was no earthly way he could have heard them. Unless he had picked up the extension in the kitchen and shamelessly violated her trust.

Oh, boy. He had known Lois long enough to figure that she did not give her trust lightly. And he had just shattered his one chance into a thousand tiny pieces.

Clark moved toward her, his mouth forming a soundless word. Lois backed away violently, glaring at him.

"You… you're just like him." And with that, she spun and fled as far away as she could from the most powerful man in the world, who currently didn't feel like he had enough strength to hold himself up.


Clark Kent found out what it felt like to be on the receiving end of the infamous Lane fury.

The incident, as he had bitterly taken to calling it, had happened two days ago and Lois hadn't spoken a word to him since. After she had run out of the room, she had curled up in a chair by the window, refusing to speak to anyone, even Martha.

Martha had been horribly confused, desperately trying to work out her son's complex relationship. How had things escalated from good to war zone in a span of twenty minutes?

Clark had run after Lois, but couldn't even get her to look at him. After pleading with her for ten minutes, and being greeted with icy silence for each approach, he sullenly withdrew.

His mother had somehow wrestled the story from him, though he refused to repeat what Lois' father had said. After an hour or so of staring aimlessly out the window, a sheen of angry tears in her eyes, Lois had gotten up and casually asked Martha if she could set the table.

Dinner was a solemn affair, Lois speaking only to Jonathan and Martha. Clark stared miserably at his plate, his food untouched.

Two days had passed. Lois seemed to be back to her old self, laughing with Martha, trying to help Jonathan… except for Clark. She refused to speak with him. Clark walked around morosely, spending most of his time outdoors, chopping firewood and completing other unnecessary chores. Lois was staying in his bedroom, and every night she'd curl up in his sheets, fancying she could smell him on them.

It was miserable half lie for the both of them.

The roads had cleared sufficiently. After making a few calls, Jonathan had Lois' car picked up by Jim McKinley, Smallville's resident mechanic. While Jonathan was in town, Martha and Lois were sitting at the kitchen table, playing a game of rummy.

As Lois dealt, Martha regarded her carefully. She had never seen Clark quite this miserable. A small part of her wanted to be angry with the woman who had so casually broken her boy's heart, but a larger part sighed in acceptance. Lois had a right to be angry. It was an extremely personal matter and she believed Clark had violated her trust. It tore Martha up inside to think that things like this might happen with a great frequency as Clark grew older. Picking up her hand, Martha idly arranged the cards by suite. Perhaps it was time to talk to Lois about it. She had built a sufficient level of trust with the woman, Martha being her primary companion for the past two days, and she felt that perhaps now she was willing to listen.


Lois looked up from her close scrutiny of the cards. "Yes?"

"Can you look me in the eye and tell me I'm really the person you'd like to be with right now?"

A gleam flashed in Lois' eyes for a moment that Martha had trouble identifying. Was it reluctance? Acceptance? Fear?

"Martha, of course I like being with you." Lois avoided her eyes and played a card. "Your turn."

"Clark didn't mean to overhear you, Lois," Martha said gently. She was treading on thin ice here. One slip and she might lose it all. "He just cares about you so much. I've never seen him so affected by anyone."

"How could he not help it? He picked up the phone and listened in. How can I forgive him for that? That was my business, my private business," Lois quickly swallowed angry tears. "I know it must seem silly, small and inconsequential, but my situation at home isn't for any bored bystander to sit back and enjoy. If I had chosen to let him in, it'd be different, but I'm not ready for that yet!"

Martha leaned back in her chair. "Perhaps you don't know the full story, Lois. But again, it isn't my story to tell." Martha hated being so cryptic, but she needed Lois to understand. "Clark… he's had such a rough time. He was hurt very badly when he was younger. I don't think the pain ever really left him."

Lois lowered her eyes, suddenly feeling ashamed for adding to his list of worries. She quickly squashed that feeling. He was at fault here, not her! But outwardly her words were soft. "About what was written in his yearbook?"

Martha shook her head sadly. "That was the least of it, Lois. Clark won't tell you this, he hates pity, but I think you should know." She took a deep breath, obviously hating the words she had to speak. "It was a boy, his best friend for so many years. They did everything together, absolutely inseparable. Then something happened and they fell apart, but Jeff, his friend, was not one to take it lying down. Jeff spread lies throughout the town. He said Clark was gay, that he had tried to come on to him."

Lois furrowed her brow. "Clark is most definitely not—"

Martha cut her off. "I know he isn't. But this is a small Midwestern town. Homosexuality isn't as well tolerated as in urban cities. Suddenly the people Clark has known for years stopped talking to him. His friends dropped him like a hot coal. People whispered as he passed. He received a death threat."

Lois bit back a strangled gasp and Martha continued. "The police traced it back to Jeff, but he was let off with a few hours of community service. Since it hadn't been acted upon, and because Jeff was a minor at the time, the police regarded it as an idle joke and let it be. That all happened about two years ago, though Jeff and Clark had their falling out when they were fourteen. Since then, the rumor has been gradually accepted as just that, a rumor, but Clark's never fully recovered. How can he trust the people who turned their back on him when he needed it most?"

Martha looked at Lois pleadingly. Both were blinking back tears.

"That's awful," Lois said thickly. "Clark…" She trailed off, mentally cataloguing his many wonderful qualities. His sense of humor, his beautiful smile, his loyalty, his quick wit… all in spite of the certain hell that had encompassed his teenage years. Perhaps she didn't know the full story of why he had listened in to her. But at least it wasn't done out of spite. He cared for her. Lois mentally revisited that terrible conversation. Clark had come charging in, ready to defend her honor. She mentally had to smile. He kept coming to her rescue at the moments she needed him most. And whether or not she still had a right to be angry with him, she had needed him after that phone call and he hadn't let her down. But she hadn't returned the favor. She hadn't given him a chance to explain. She had been so cavalier with his feelings.

Lois stood up, the chair nearly toppling over.

"Excuse me, Martha. Can I take a rain check on this game? There's someone I need to see." Lois spoke the words firmly, grabbing her jacket from the hook outside the door and yanking open the back door.

Martha stood up slowly and watched Lois trek across the yard until she reached the barn. Clark was inside repairing the tractor. Martha had to smile when she saw Lois throw open the door and barge in. Yes… she had definitely gotten through to Lois.

"Clark Kent!" Lois yelled loudly to the spacious barn. There was a clunk, and then a muffled curse. Clark's head popped out from beneath the large green tractor, his hair endearingly ruffled and his glasses askew.

"Lois?" Clark hastily stood, brushing the dirt self consciously off his jeans. He reached up to fix his glasses, leaving a smudge across his right cheek. He was completely oblivious to it. Lois' heart melted slightly.

She walked slowly to him. When she was a mere two feet away, she brought one hand up to rest on his shoulder and looked up at him earnestly. He stood, frozen to the spot. Was he dreaming? The spot where her fingers casually rested on the soft flannel of his shirt burned. Nope, not a dream.

"I don't know whether to strangle you or kiss you."

Clark's eyes widened. He would prefer the latter. Very much.

At Clark's owlish stare, Lois sighed, frustrated.

"I also don't know whether the heck you listened in on the phone with my conversation with my father or not." When Clark opened his mouth to speak, Lois hastily continued. "And I don't care anymore. You were there when I needed you, again. You're a strange one, Clark Kent, but…" Lois trailed off, unable to find the right words to express her jumbled feelings.

With another aggravated sigh, Lois bit the bullet and moved her hand from Clark's shoulder to his neck. Before he knew what exactly was happening, she had stood on her tip toes and shoved his neck forward, their lips meeting in a passionate kiss.

Clark remained frozen for about a millionth of a second before he responded with equal vigor, letting out a soft groan as his desires cumulated into the kiss. He moved one hand to tangle in her hair and the other to gently pull her closer. After a few more blissful moments, Clark's kisses became shorter and gentler and finally he pulled back an inch.

"You-I-We—" Clark's grip on her loosened, in case she wanted to slip away, but he kept a tentative hand on her back.

"Are you always this articulate after you sweep a girl off her feet?" Lois was unable to keep the smile from her face. That kiss… who knew underneath that passive exterior… her thoughts trailed off and she bit back a giggle.

"I think you did most of the sweeping," he said, slightly breathless. He rested his forehead against hers. "You forgive me?" As soon as he said it, he wished he could take it back. *Kent, you idiot. Why do you feel the need to question every gift you receive?*

But he had to know. Had to be reassured that the kiss meant something to her. If it had affected her one thousandth of the way it affected him…

"I do, Clark," Lois answered. "Heaven knows you don't deserve it," she gave him a small smile to take the bite out of her words. "But you're a pretty hard guy to forget and ignore."

Clark merely took her cold hands in his larger ones and rubbed them lightly.

"Thank you," he said softly.

Sighing, this time in contentment, Lois pulled her hands from his and instead wrapped her arms around Clark in a hug. Lois gently pressed a kiss on his neck as he spoke, his throat rumbling.

"Lois, would you go with me to the Smallville Winter Carnival? It's tonight actually, sort of short notice I know, but I hadn't been planning to go before…" Clark broke off and then continued. "But now after… this, I was just thinking… you know its pretty fun. They have a Ferris wheel and hot apple cider and…"

Lois watched in slight amusement as Clark went on nervously. She silenced him with a feather light kiss. "I'd love to. That sounds like a lot of fun." She pulled back a little from his embrace and her eyes sparkled up at him. "I've missed you; we have a lot of catching up to do."

The sun was just dipping into the horizon when Lois and Clark bundled up and slid into Clark's truck. Clark leaned his head out the window to speak with his mom and dad.

"You guys sure you don't want to ride with us? I've got room in the back."

"No, you two go on ahead, your mother and I will probably make an appearance later. Besides you two will probably have a later night than we will," Jonathan answered for the two of them as he wrapped an arm around Martha's slim shoulders.

Lois blushed slightly and Clark merely grinned.

"All right then. Bye Mom, Dad. You two have fun."

As Clark shifted the truck out of park and backed out of the driveway, Lois watched in a sort of fascination as Martha and Jonathan leaned in for a quick kiss.

"Are your parents always so…" Lois searched for the right word as they traveled down the ancient, but neatly preserved and cared for road. "…in love?"

Clark didn't hesitate. "Yup. Since I can remember. Enough to make you sick, huh?" Clark gave her a good natured grin and she couldn't help but smile back.

"It's nice. I honestly can't remember the last time I saw my parents be civil to one another." Lois looked at Clark, whose grip had noticeably tightened on the steering wheel.

"Your father…" Clark didn't finish the sentence, the distaste in his voice evident from the two words. Clark's usually warm eyes were stormy as he thought of sending Lois back to that man.

Noticing this and feeling strangely touched, Lois reached for Clark's hand where it rested casually on top of the gear shift. He immediately lifted it and intertwined his fingers with hers, finding apparent solace in her warm grip.

The topic was forgotten as they neared Smallville. Clark pointed out a few landmarks along the way and soon they neared the downtown square where the fair was being held.

Clark had looked forward to the Smallville Winter Carnival every year since he could remember. It nearly outshone Christmas. Nearly. Not quite. But it was the pinnacle of Smallville's winter society and the whole town always showed up. Clark pulled into an empty spot in the Valhalla Pharmacy parking lot and turned off the engine.

"I doubt we'll get a closer spot than this. The carnival's a few blocks down the road. You ready to walk?"

Lois nodded eagerly. Clark was grinning boyishly, his eyes gleaming. He quickly opened his door and made his way to Lois' side, opening her door, as well.

"Clark, chivalry died along with the knights," Lois giggled as Clark extended a hand to help her down. "Don't you know that?"

He shook his head playfully, refusing to let go of her hand. A large Ferris wheel twinkled merrily in the distance and the shouts and laughter of Smallville's inhabitants reached the two teenagers' ears. Lois playfully swung their joined hands back and forth.

"So what does one do at a Smallville Winter Carnival? Husk some corn? Take bets on next year's crop?" She walked a little closer to him, smelling the fresh scent of his cologne and the soap from his shower mingling with the sharp winter air.

"Nope, that's in October, the Corn Festival." Clark laughed in delight at the disbelief on Lois' face.

"Smallville has a corn festival? What, do you guys perform ritual crop dances every year, too?"

He tightened his grip on her hand and used his other to playfully tap her nose. "Nope, only every other year," he said, relishing this freedom to laugh and joke. "And only the elders in the society perform them. We also light a huge bonfire and roast a sacrificial pig on a spit." He said it completely deadpan and Lois burst out laughing.

The crowds on the sidewalks grew thicker as they reached the Carnival. A few people stared at her oddly for a moment, trying to place her. Clark ignored this for the most part, waving to a few people he knew, but mostly urging her forward. Lois had to fight down a smile. He really was like a little boy at Christmas.

Main Street was lined up with rows and rows of brightly colored tents, some selling typical fair food, some with games and prizes, and others selling homemade wares.

Lois and Clark walked through the first few booths, eyeing them curiously but not stopping. Lois was the first to fall under the spell, dragging a protesting Clark over to a fortune telling booth.

"Clark! Come on. Let's get our palms read!" Lois looked to see Clark hesitating and quickly kissed him on the lips. It was short, but sweet and Clark had to fight down the urge to pull her closer. "Please?"

"Oh, all right." He tore off four orange tickets from the reel he had bought and handed it to Stacy McMillen, the town's librarian. "Guess we're here to get our palms read."

Stacy held back the purple curtain magnanimously and bid them enter.

Lois and Clark sat down cross legged across from a woman whose face was obscured by a thin veil. A quick glance down his nose revealed her to be Natalia McMillen, Stacy's fourteen year old daughter. Clark quickly hid a smile and watched as Lois held out her hand.

Natalia took it, staring at the lines and ridges for a few long moments before starting in a dramatic voice. "This line, right here, leading up to your pinky means you crave speed and acceleration. You live off of danger and have a lot of pent up sexuality."

Lois tried to pull her hand back in embarrassment, but Natalia kept a firm grip. Clark was biting the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing at Lois' startled expression.

"See how your ring finger leans in slightly toward your middle finger?" Lois nodded and Natalia continued. "That means you enjoy mental stimulation and you love to have fun." She finally released Lois' hand and turned to Clark. "Your turn."

Clark held out his hand at Lois' pointed stare and smiled good naturedly. He didn't believe a word of it, but if it made Lois happy… "This thick muscle by your thumb means you're a courteous and kind person, as well as very passionate." Clark blinked at this, unsure what to say. "You have a long life line… very long in fact." Natalia looked at his hand curiously. "Wow, I've never seen anybody with a life line like that."

Natalia released Clark's hand, a little more reluctantly than she had Lois' and waved them off. "I must regain my sensei before the next customer."

As they walked out, Lois reached up to whisper in Clark's ear. "Isn't a sensei a karate instructor?" Clark nodded and Lois smirked. "I knew she was a fake."

"Lois, give her a break; she's fourteen years old."

Lois stared at him curiously. "How'd you know that? She kept that veil on the whole time."

Clark cursed again and thought quickly. "I-I recognized her voice. She's the librarian's daughter, Natalia…I think," Clark hastily amended.

Lois accepted that and held up Clark's palm for her own scrutiny. "My, what a long life line you have!"

Clark rolled his eyes as Lois burst into a fit of giggles. They passed a booth selling cider and Clark stopped. "Are you thirsty?" Lois nodded and Clark bought two apple ciders.

They found an empty bench and sat down, cautiously sipping the hot drink. Lois closed her eyes in appreciation as the drink warmed her. "Mmm… this is delicious." Clark nodded in agreement and turned to watch the crowds.

"So, what would you like to do next?" He scanned the booths. "There are some ones down there selling crafts and clothing if you'd like to look at that. And down the other way are some more games." He took a final sip of his cider and spotted a trashcan. He extended his arm in an over exaggerated basketball pose, and the cup sailed neatly in the wire bin. He turned to Lois with a big smile on his face and she rewarded him with a kiss on the cheek.

"Can you go two for two?" She handed him her empty cup. Clark jutted his lip in apparent concentration and Lois innocently moved closer. "If you sink this I'll…" Lois whispered the rest of the sentence in Clark's ear just as he released the cup. Clark gasped and it missed by a long shot.

"Guess I won't then," Lois said offhandedly as she gave Clark an impish grin. Clark stared at her wide-eyed, before hurrying to catch up with her, shaking his head.

Instead of taking her hand, Clark hesitantly slipped an arm around her shoulders. Lois sighed contentedly and snuggled a little closer to him. "Thank you, Clark."

Tilting his head, Clark met her gaze as they walked. "For what?"

Lois shrugged slightly. "I don't know, for being you, I guess."

Clark grinned, his heart full to bursting. After so many years of denying himself this pleasure… it was incredible. They wandered over to a few brightly colored tents and Lois left the shelter of his arm as she explored.

They stopped at a tent selling home made candles and had fun trying to find the most outlandish scent. They decided that Clark's burnt popcorn find beat Lois' fresh cake hands down and Lois gave him a quick kiss on his nose as a reward.

A few minutes later, a glass case caught Clark's eye. Keeping a wary eye on Lois, who was examining a huge bookshelf of antique novels, he casually approached the case. The jewelry inside was all silver, some of it gaudy and ostentatious, but some quite beautiful. A silver locket caught his eye and he slid his glasses down his nose to examine it critically.

It was small and delicate, a throwback to an older age. The front was etched in a twining pattern and after checking that Lois was still occupied, he quietly asked the clerk to take it out of the case. He checked the price, expensive but not unaffordable and bit his lip. He wanted to do something for Lois. Partly to make up for his grievous error re the phone call and partly because he had never had someone he cared about quite this much who wasn't an immediate member of his family. The locket was beautiful, and if he closed his eyes he could vividly imagine Lois wearing it. Making a decision with one quick look back at the oblivious Lois Lane, he paid Mr. Bronici and slipped the box in his pocket.

He walked up behind Lois, who was standing in line by the makeshift cash register.

"What are you getting?" he asked curiously, the wind ruffling his hair. "This Jane Austen book for Lucy," Lois held up an ancient looking copy of Pride and Prejudice. "It's totally not her style, but her latest kick is antique books. It's a bit more worthwhile than collecting men, so I'm helping her jump start the collection."

Clark nodded while Lois paid. "Sounds reasonable enough."

She gave him a bright smile and grabbed his hand. "Now come on and I'll let you drag me to that Ferris wheel you've been so excited about." Clark gave her a teasing grin. "Me? Don't you try and put this on me. I know you've been eyeing it ever since we pulled in."

"You just want to make out at the top."

With a bright smile, Clark swung their joined hands slightly and gave an enthusiastic nod. "You bet I do."

Lois and Clark were making their way over to the brightly lit up wheel when Clark noticeably stiffened. Jeff Denoso, his best friend Keith Manson and his girlfriend Lana Lang, were approaching him with the remarkable likeness of falcons zooming in on their prey. "Hey, Kent! Who's the lovely lady?" Keith called out as they approached.

Lois looked up at Clark to see a flash of fire in his eyes. She tightened her grip on his hand, and he gave her a quick look of surprise before some of the tension drained from his shoulders.

Clark didn't reply, but tried to avoid them altogether. The boys blocked the path, however, and though Clark could have muscled his way past easily, they wouldn't let up until they had had their laugh at his expense. Lana stood a little off the side, her head tilted slightly as she surveyed Lois. He was so used to it, he could probably predict their words, but this time Lois was here to witness each excruciating detail. Wonderful.

Jeff muscled his way in front of Keith, shooting the boy a dirty look for encroaching into his pick-up-ladies-and-torture-Clark-Kent territory.

"What's a looker like you doing with Kent here?" Jeff started, shooting Clark a malicious grin.

Clark instinctively moved between Lois and Jeff.

"Leave her alone."

"Who are you supposed to be? Her big brother?" Jeff looked him up and down. "Though you'd probably get more action from your sister than any other girl. If you even like action from girls."

He turned to Lois. "You had any idea that this guy here hasn't been on a date in… Why, have you ever gone out on a date, Kent? Word around here says he's gay. If you dump the stiff, I can show you a real good time."

Lana chose that moment to step between the two and run a perfectly filed fingernail down Clark's shirt. "Speaking of good times…"

Clark started, blushing slightly. Lois shot him a curious glance as he scooted backwards at her touch. When Jeff roughly shoved Lana out of the way, however, the blaze returned to his eyes. It was one thing to insult him, it was quite another to make any sort of advance toward Lois and another entirely to treat anyone with the contempt he had just shown Lana.

Just as he was about to throw himself into the fight, Lois grabbed the back of his jacket and gently restrained him. She gave Jeff a catlike half smile and Lana a slightly more deadly one.

"Why, I don't have any idea what you're talking about. There's been plenty of… action." At Clark and Jeff's identical owlish stares, she had to bite back a laugh. "Don't be so modest, Clark!" She slapped him lightly on the chest. "Last night was…" she trailed off deliberately, let out a satiated sigh, and grabbed Clark's arm. "Well, you know how it is," she finished apologetically to Jeff and Lana. "I'm sorry, but we have some things to do."

Clark Kent, Keith Manson, Lana Lang and Jeff Denoso each experienced the shock of a lifetime when Lois grabbed Clark by the neck and forcefully kissed him, long and hard. Playing it up a little for her audience, Lois pushed the still shell shocked Clark past the crowd and against the wall, her tongue in his mouth. Once Clark had finally regained his wits enough to move his mouth against hers, Jeff and Lana had left in a sullen huff.

Lois pulled back a few moments later and watched as Clark dazedly tried to regain control. "I-you-oh, wow." He finally murmured out, reaching out to gently push a stray lock of hair behind her ear. The tender moment was completely incongruous with the forceful kiss of a moment earlier and Lois was horrified to find the tears in her eyes. Clark noticed, however, and his gaze immediately turned from softness to concern. Lois had pushed them into an alleyway, and it was noticeably quieter than the bustle of the fair only a couple yards away.

"What's wrong, Lois? I'm so sorry about that, all of it. That you had to… pretend for them. And that they came onto you like they did! I never…" He hung his head for a moment, but then shook it. "This is about you, not me, what's wrong, Lois?" He lightly stroked her hair, their faces close together.

"Clark-I just. You just care. So much." Lois broke off, aware that she wasn't articulating well enough. "You… I just… well… okay we pretty much just made out like there was no tomorrow, and though it was partly to get those creeps to lay off of you… and for that hussy to stop coming on to you…" she had to stop herself in time to prevent a tangent about them, "It also, well, it meant a lot to me."

Clark, who had been haltingly following this stilted explanation suddenly blanched. "And you think it wasn't to me?" The words held no spite, only abject horror. "Did I give the impression that it didn't mean a thing to me? Because it meant the world. You mean the world to me. I care about you more than I've ever cared about anyone."

Lois smiled at the look on his face and covered his hand with her own. "No, I didn't mean that at all, you lunkhead. I could tell you enjoyed it." She held his warm hand up to her cool cheek. "You… oh, this will sound stupid…" She drifted off, but Clark nudged her to continue. "But after that… admittedly raunchy display for the neighborhood boys…" Clark blushed at that. "Well, you just gently brushed my hair from my face. And you cared so much about my reaction. I've just never been with someone who… seemed to care so much. You're a special guy, Clark Kent."

He hesitantly closed the short distance between them with a tentative brush of his lips, so unlike the forcefulness of before. It was short and sweet and Lois found herself clutching the front of his shirt for support.

"I think you're pretty special yourself, Lois Lane," he managed a few seconds later, a little short of breath. "Now come on. This time we're going to that Ferris wheel if I have to shove through everyone in the fair to do it."

They walked through the crowds and Lois glanced sideways at him.

"So what was up with you and that girl?"

"Lana? Nothing. We're friends."

A laugh. "Yeah, right, which is why it looked like she wanted to eat you for lunch."

Clark stared off into the distance, avoiding her gaze. "We dated for a while back."

"Now, that wasn't so hard!" Lois grinned at him. "So why'd you break up? I assume you did," her smile turned into a hard glare.

"Yes, of course we did, Lois. Honestly, what kind of person do you take me for?" Clark snapped. Lois' eyes widened at Clark's tone, which was normally laid back. Clark noticed this and immediately regretted his words. "I'm sorry, Lois, I really didn't mean to yell at you. We dated awhile back, as I said. I was really flattered that she seemed to chase after me, especially because she was one of the most popular and beautiful girls in school."

Sensing something horrible, Lois touched his hand.

"It's not as bad as you're thinking, Lois," Clark gave her a soft half smile. "She cheated on me with Jeff, that's all."

"Then she's blind and dumb," Lois said staunchly.

"She's really not that bad of a person, Lois," Clark said. "A few weeks later she apologized and asked if we could be friends." He shrugged. "I told her yes."

There was still a bit of half masked hurt in his eyes and Lois saw it immediately.

"You still really like her, don't you?" Lois tried not to let her own hurt at the realization filter across her expression.

"No, Lois," Clark stopped them and turned to her. "There's only one girl in this world who I "really like" and it isn't Lana Lang. She shares her initials though."

Clark nudged her side with his elbow and the grin was back on his face. A slow smile blossomed on Lois' as she walked a little closer, enjoying his solid presence.

By the time Lois and Clark made their way back to the truck, it was nearly midnight. Most of the fairgoers had gone home, and people were busy packing their wares. Lois was holding the stuffed bear Clark had won her and Clark was looking slightly chagrined at his larger stuffed lion. Clark had set down to winning Lois a prize, and it had taken more than a few tries, and a hefty battering of his wallet before he was able to win her that bear. And then, as he was about to present it to her with a flourish, she gave the lady a ticket she had snagged from his back pocket and on her first try won a grand prize. Which left him with a large lion and a bruised ego.

Once Clark had opened the car door for her and then gotten in on his side, he started the truck, cranking up the heat. The lion occupied the seat between them and he stared for a moment in disbelief. He couldn't even see Lois over the stupid mane. Pushing it back with one hand, he shot Lois a death glare.

"You had to undermine my masculinity and present me with an animal that's nearly as big as the car?"

"Stop pretending you don't love him already. Have you picked a name?"

Clark groaned. "Lois, I stopped naming my stuffed animals when I was seven."

"Come on Clark! You have to name him. Besides, I won him for you! Doesn't that make him special?"

She had a point. The lion was special. And a constant reminder that Lois Lane could kick his butt in just about anything she set her mind to. Except perhaps flying. That one he had down.

"All right, all right, I'll name him. And I do love him. Happy?"

Lois grinned and nodded, giving the lion an affectionate pat and then squeezing the bear.

"I've named my bear," she said a few moments later, as he shifted out of park and started driving.

"Really? What'd you pick?" Clark narrowly avoided some teenagers and then relaxed as he steered the truck onto the road.


Clark nearly crashed the car.



"Lois, I think there's been enough battering of my sensitive masculine pride already. You save me from bullies, though I could have taken them!" he added a few moments later, chagrined. "You beat me in that squirt gun game and now you're giving your bear a feminine version of my name. Oh God, it's never going to end."

Lois glanced sideways at him and noticed the sparkle in his brown eyes.

"Too bad, I'm still calling him Clarkie. Now what did you name Lion?"

Clark thought for a moment and then smiled. "Tornado."

"Tornado? What kind of ridiculous name is that?"

"About as ridiculous as Clarkie," he shot back, enjoying this sharp banter.

"But that's not romantic!"

"You want to be named after a lion?"

"Well…" Lois sputtered for a second. "Well… no, but I mean, come on, Tornado?"

Clark grinned inwardly. If she only knew he had named the lion for her. His little tornado as he had taken to calling her privately. Except if he told her that, she'd probably knee him.

He kept a Cheshire grin on his face. "Too bad, that's what I named her."

"It's a her?"

"Yes, and don't call her it; she's very sensitive." He moved one hand from the steering wheel, but instead of grasping Lois' hand, as she had been expecting, he softly ran his fingers down the lion's fluffy back. Lois looked at the large, gentle hand and suddenly really, really wished she was the one holding it. He shouldn't be petting that stupid lion, he should be holding her. But she had to stand firm. This was ridiculous. It wasn't as if she hadn't gone seventeen years of her life without holding Clark Kent's hand.

But it looked so warm and inviting. She studied the smooth back and work roughened fingers. Stupid hand. She didn't need it anyway. She let her gaze travel from the hand to the arm it was connected to and finally the broad chest.


No she didn't need that either.

Shaking herself, she looked at his face, casually focused on the road. His firm set jaw was tempered by his warm, chocolate reminding-y eyes…

Giving up with an inward groan of exasperation, Lois grabbed the hand that was still petting the stuffed lion and intertwined her fingers with his.


Clark was biting back a laugh and despite the urge to slap him, she had to laugh, too. She had never pegged herself as the touchy feely type, but she couldn't seem to get enough of this slightly strange, unbelievably loveable farmboy from Kansas.

He didn't rib her, however, as he was apt to, and instead sighed contentedly. They pulled up in front of the farmhouse and he turned off the ignition.

"You cold?" He asked her quietly. His truck was pretty ancient and the heating wasn't that great. He never needed it, but he had to start remembering how different he really was.

Lois tried to lean over for a kiss instead, but got a mouthful of mane. She sputtered, as did Clark, and suddenly they were both laughing again. Clark grabbed the lion by the scruff of its neck, yanked open his door and threw it into the bed of the truck. He returned a moment later, unbuckled Lois' seatbelt and then curved his hand around her neck.


"You want to what?" Jonathan Kent stared at his son as if he had grown a second head.

"I think I want to tell Lois about me."

Martha, Jonathan and Clark were sitting at the kitchen table late at night. Lois had gone to bed twenty minutes earlier, but Clark had snagged his parents in order to ask their opinion about his situation.

"But, son, are you sure? You know it's your decision… but what if… you've only known her a week." Jonathan gave Clark a reproachful look.

"Well, Jonathan, it's obvious that Lois won't do anything with the information if Clark asks her not to," Martha pointed out gently.

Clark nodded at this. "I just feel… like our…" he blushed at the word, "…relationship… is worthless if I can't be honest with her. It's a big deal… what if she decides she doesn't want to be with… well, whatever I am?"

"Clark, you're not feeling out of place again, are you? You know that you're our son and that's all that matters," Martha said. "You were raised as a human boy and you certainly have turned out to be a wonderful young man. Lois sure thinks so."

"Thanks, Mom…" Clark broke off awkwardly. "I know you guys are right, but that still doesn't help me. I can't stand the fact that she'll be leaving soon… that I have to send her back to him." Clark nearly spat out the word referring to Lois' father and his parents exchanged a glance. Neither one could get Clark to repeat what he'd heard, but it obviously still enraged him. "I just need her to know. To see the real Clark Kent."

Martha nodded and grasped her son's hand. "I think you know what the right decision is, sweetheart. I think you knew before you even sat down to talk to us."

Clark blinked and nodded slowly. "I…I think I'm going to take a walk. You guys go on to bed. I won't be gone long." He kissed his mom on the cheek and gave his dad a one armed hug before absentmindedly grabbing an unneeded jacket and exiting the house.

Clark blew out a breath, idly watching the condensation before it was swept away. He couldn't resist a glance toward the house. He reached for his glasses before forcibly stopping himself. He had seen Lois a mere half hour ago. He had no right to invade her privacy by checking on her again. He instead tuned in his special hearing and immediately disregarded the familiar beatings of his mother and father. With a minimal exertion of effort, he had attuned himself to Lois' steady, rhythmic heartbeat.

He sighed and relaxed slightly as he let the biting cold soothe him. He wasn't sure where this sudden urge to reveal his true self had come from, but once the idea had struck him, he couldn't shake it. Lois had been with them nearly a week and in those days she had yelled at him, insulted him, kissed him, cuddled with him and generally taken him on an emotional roller coaster. But God, he had loved it. He felt… freer than he had in years. He felt like for the first time he had someone under the age of thirty that understood him. That maybe… loved him.

Neither one of them had said those scary words and Clark understood why. Six days… that's it. It was ludicrous that he could consider saying those words to Lois. How could he even be sure love was what he was feeling?

But what else could it be? He thought of her constantly, but he didn't believe it was just an infatuation. He loved to listen to her go off on weird tangents and call him Farmboy. He cared about her in a way that he hadn't encountered with another soul besides his parents. They could and did talk for hours about nothing and everything. They just… fit. His world seemed, for lack of a better word, brighter when she was around.

When had he become such a sentimental sap?

"Clark." His musings were interrupted by a soft murmur and he started slightly.

Lois' voice was faint, almost dreamlike and he glanced around to see her.



Clark blinked and realized that Lois' distinctive heartbeat was thumping loudly in his ears. His hearing was still attuned to her, and after a quick glance through the house, he saw that she was fast asleep, whispering his name. His heart clenched slightly and for a moment he stood there, watching her sleep through the walls of his house.

The bear he had won for her was happily tucked in her arms and she was wearing his sweatshirt. After a few minutes of simply watching her, he reluctantly shook himself and shut off his x-ray vision. Images of the days immediately following Jeff's hospitalization infiltrated his thoughts then, of the days when his secret was nearly exposed. Jeff's face, full of anger and fear loomed before him, but Clark didn't feel the same sense of all consuming panic he usually felt when he summoned up the memory. Instead he saw Lois, her anger at him when she thought he had eavesdropped, that first, mind blowing kiss… the way she had looked on top of the Ferris wheel, the wind whipping her hair into her face.

And he had his answer.

She needed to know the truth, the full truth. If he could summon up the nerve.


"Oh, honey, you look fantastic!" Lois twirled slightly, twisting to glance at her back in the mirror. She and Martha were in Wichita, at one of the local department stores. They had just been passing through, not looking for anything in particular, when both she and Martha had stopped cold in front of one, single dress.

It was a deep burgundy, falling lightly just above the knee. The material, a soft silk, was cool to the touch. The dress was held up loosely by spaghetti straps and the material crisscrossed neatly in the back. Simple. Elegant. Beautiful.

Lois checked the price tag and grimaced. It definitely wasn't cheap. Affordable for the high quality of the design and material, yes, but not cheap. It flattered her figured though, and fit perfectly.

"I think if my boy saw you in that, he'd go into epileptic shock," Martha said, grinning in delight. Lois smiled at the compliment, but sighed in resignation.

"I could afford this, but barely. My father would probably tan my hide as well if I spent his money on something so frivolous."

Martha put her hand firmly on Lois' shoulder.

"Lois Lane, the moment when you find the person you're supposed to spend the rest of your life with is a rare and beautiful thing. The moment you find a dress this perfectly suited for you is even more infrequent. If you don't buy this dress, I'll buy it for you." Martha spoke the words completely deadpan, and Lois had to stifle a laugh.

"How can I refuse?" She murmured happily, pleased at this positive reaction. "I have enough. I'll buy it! It might be fun to send that boy of yours into the shock you promised."

Lois retreated back into the dressing room to take off the dress and Martha spoke from around the curtain.

"If I know Clark, he's probably obsessing right this very moment about you. Doubting himself." Martha's voice fell slightly and Lois sighed as she slipped one arm out of the silky dress.

"He has nothing to doubt. I don't know how he did it, but Clark has infiltrated just about every defense I've ever put up," Lois mused aloud. "I don't even understand how I could be feeling like this… this… weird feeling." She stepped out of the dressing room, the dress on one arm and her purse slung on the other. "Like… like things are spiraling out of my control. Like I'm on a roller coaster and can't get off." She and Martha made their way to the cash register and Lois handed over the dress to purchase. "But I don't really want to get off… does that make any sense? I must sound crazy! But I miss him already." Lois trailed off her babbling, aware that Martha was giving her a curious smile. Sure that she was missing something, Lois hesitated. "…What?"

"Nothing, my dear." It was a struggle to hide her gleeful smile, but she masterfully controlled it. "But I think you're in love."

Lois nearly dropped her shopping bag.


With a pacifying gesture, Martha held up her hands. "Just my opinion, but you sound exactly like I did when I met Jonathan. That man had me tongue-tied and fluttery in places I didn't even know existed in my body!"

Lois was still reeling, the simple statement as powerful as a blow to the stomach. It was foreign, yes, but… it didn't seem uncomfortable. It sent up red flags, but she knew with a certainty she didn't want to act on them. My God!

"Oh, my God, Martha, you might be right! But I've only known him a few days! This can't be love; it's just… a fleeting attraction?"

Martha Kent had to hide another smile. "Perhaps you're right; I'm just telling you from my experience. But would you like to know something, Lois?"

Lois nodded, her mind whirling faster than her conscious thought could even keep up with.

"I think my boy had fallen for you from the moment he saw you. I've never seen him like this. He's so eager to please you, to have you notice him. He cares about you. Even if you don't return the sentiment quite so ardently." Martha gave Lois a quick smile. "It's scary, I know. And you might not be completely sure of your feelings. It was wrong of me to speak as I did. But as I was saying, even if you don't return the sentiment completely, you've made a powerful ally. Clark doesn't give his trust or his heart easily. In fact, I don't know if I've ever seen it happen. But he cares about you… more than anyone in this world, I believe. And even if your feelings are just friendship, Clark will continue to care and always will. For the rest of his life. It's just how he is."

Lois swallowed hard as they walked to the car.

"He's a special man," she said softly, unable to completely mask her emotion clouded eyes.

"Yes, he is," Martha agreed idly, starting the car. "He is."

The rest of the car ride was spent in a comfortable, retrospective quiet, both inhabitants of the car having much to dwell on.

When the car rolled to a stop in front of the farmhouse, Lois couldn't stop the sudden bout of nervousness that roiled in the pit of her stomach. Clark was inside… after those amazing kisses they had shared, would it be awkward?

Jonathan came around the side of the house and grinned when he saw the two.

"Hi, Martha, Lois. Clark's back in the barn if you need him," he jerked a thumb behind him and went to help Martha and Lois with their purchases.

"Rough day?" he said dryly, hefting out three large bags while Martha and Lois each struggled with their own large one. The three dragged their purchases to the front and deposited them in their respective rooms.

Martha and Jonathan began a conversation about the Irig's recent crop failure and Lois took the opportunity to beat a hasty retreat. Grabbing one of Clark's thick coats, she trudged outside to the barn. As she took a deep breath, she suddenly blew it out and laughed, the sound lost in the chilly wind. This was silly; Clark was a friend first and foremost. Lois pushed open the door and stepped inside the cavernous shelter. A high loft, nearly fifteen feet high spanned one large wall and the rest of the floor was covered in farm machinery, stored for the winter. The air was thick with dust, and the natural light from one large window provided a cool, clear illumination. Lois squinted for a moment as her eyes adjusted to the new lighting and saw Clark pacing at the top of the loft, near the edge. She watched him for a moment, as he seemed unaware of her presence.

About to call out to him, two things happened in very rapid succession: Clark walked clear off the platform and Lois let out a harsh cry of warning.

At this voice, not his father's as Clark had been expecting, Clark looked up with horror filled eyes. For a moment it seemed to Lois like he hovered in the air before he fell, their gazes locked. And then Clark, finally sending the message to his brain to stop floating, fell like a rock to the floor. But instead of the soft wood to cushion his fall, which Clark could have conceivably explained, directly below him was the sharp pronged edge of the tractor.

And Clark was headed straight for it.

Lois watched in abject horror as Clark's body plummeted toward the sharp metal. He landed sharply, slipping onto the floor after the steel collided with his skin.

"Clark!" Finally able to regain some semblance of control over her body, Lois sprinted toward Clark's fallen form, her mind creating dozens of terrible, uncontrollably awful scenarios.

Clark felt the cool touch of her hand on his shoulder and sighed. He couldn't explain his way out of this one; he had clearly fallen straight onto the jagged metal edge. And besides, hadn't he just been pondering the merits of telling Lois his secret? Well, yes, he had, but to have the choice ripped from him… He growled in frustration at his carelessness. He had never had to be on the alert at home before, and he was failing this first time miserably. Before Lois could open her mouth, he caught her hand in his own and met her worried gaze.

"I'm okay, Lois," he said softly.

Lois' eyes were frantic as they roved over his seemingly uninjured body. "No, you can't be. Did you hit your head? Did you cut your side?" Before he could stop her, she was lifting up the hem of his T- shirt, exposing the wide expanse of smooth, uninjured skin.

"B-but…" Her voice trailed off as she met his harrowed gaze.

Clark tightened his grip on her hand slightly and took a deep breath. He could lose her; there was a very strong possibility that he might. His insides revolted at the thought of the words that were about to spill out from his mouth. This was ingrained in him not to say. She might reject him. Fear him. It was the fear that terrified him the most. If she did… he had gotten through it with Jeff, but those scars were ready to be freshly torn open by one askew look from the woman sitting across from him.

"Lois…" Clark hesitated, having never put his situation into words before. "I was adopted. I don't know if you knew that." Lois wordlessly shook her head and he fiddled with her hand for a moment before continuing.

"Everyone was told that I was Mom's cousin's kid, but I'm really not. My parents… for lack of a better word, sort of stumbled upon me. I'm a foundling."

Lois nodded at this. She appreciated that he was confiding in her something so personal, but it didn't explain why he was uninjured after that fall. As if sensing her confusion, Clark rushed on.

"When I was younger, I was just like everybody else. Normal." For a moment Clark looked wistful. "But when I was about 10, I realized that I could run fast. Very fast. Faster than any of the kids in school. And about that time if I fell, it wouldn't hurt."

Lois was staring at him wide-eyed and he continued before he lost his nerve.

"When I was eleven I climbed this huge tree in the backyard. I was twenty feet up before I even realized it and when I looked down, I was terrified. Just then, as my mom came running out of the house to tell me to get down, the branch holding me up snapped. I fell straight out of that tree onto the solid ground. My mother was nearly beside herself. I thought I was going to die. But when I hit the ground… nothing… no pain, no scratch, no bruise. My mom insisted I go to the emergency room and they thought I made up the whole scenario for attention." Clark's voice cracked slightly. It was difficult, much more so than he had ever anticipated saying this. "You know I was a foundling, and it's true. But what I didn't tell you, what I've never told anyone…" Clark's heart thundered in his ears; he felt like he was on the precipice of a staggering cliff. "My parents found me in a field… in a spaceship."

Lois gasped, unsure whether to laugh at the absurdity of what he was saying or to meet the pained and haunted look in his brown eyes. If she hadn't just witnessed the impossible, no injury after the fifteen foot fall, she would have immediately disregarded it. But with the facts standing up as they were, could she?

"A spaceship?"

Clark ran a hand through his hair nervously. "Look, I know I sound crazy but—"

Lois cut him off.

"And you're saying that… you're invulnerable? Can nothing hurt you?"

She couldn't keep the incredulity out of her voice.

"Nothing so far," Clark replied honestly.

"Even… a bullet? If you got shot, you wouldn't feel anything?"

Clark couldn't keep the dry inflection from his voice. "Well, Lois, it has been a while since I've held a gun up to my head to determine if it'd hurt me, but I'm fairly certain it's safe to assume that it wouldn't."

Stung by the sarcastic words, Lois withdrew her hand from his and sent him a scathing glare. The emotions flooding his system were almost great enough to not notice the significance of such a look, but not quite.

She hadn't left; she hadn't run away, repulsed. She certainly wasn't afraid of him. In fact, Clark had a feeling that Lois would still challenge him a fist fight if he crossed her. Duly chastised, Clark hung his head and sighed.

"I'm sorry, Lois; I didn't mean to be so flippant. I've just never said this before," Clark explained, the words pouring from his mouth. "You can't tell anyone; nobody in this world knows except my parents and now you." He stopped himself before he childishly started to ask her to cross her heart.

"You know I wouldn't, Clark. But why did you tell me?" She asked quietly. "You could have made up an excuse. Nobody would have believed me if I had said anything. You didn't have to say anything at all."

"Isn't it obvious, Lois?" The words tore from Clark's mouth before he could snatch them back. "Haven't you guessed?"

Clark was kneeling on the cold planks of timber on the floor and Lois knelt down in front of him, their knees touching. She reached for his hand again, winding their fingers. His grip was loose, nearly shaking. "I'm in love with you," he finally gasped out. "I don't know if I just ruined any chance we could have, or what you think of me right now. But it's the truth. I've only known you a few days and I've never said this to anyone else. I can't understand how I have this connection with you, but it's there and I can't pretend like it's not."

The words hung in the still air of the barn as Lois took it all in. This passionate declaration riding on the heels of her incredulity… it was mind bending and yet… it seemed unbelievably right.

"You can bend steel… but you're so gentle. How is that?" Lois asked softly, examining his hands.

Clark blinked, slightly perturbed. "I-I'm not sure. But I've always been able to control myself. It's never been a real issue." Suddenly Clark's warm gaze darkened. "Except once," he finished.

Lois shifted, slightly uncomfortable on her knees and Clark pulled her close to him, wrapping his arm around her shoulders.

"Does this have to do with your yearbook?"

Clark nodded and sighed. As he told Lois the story involving Jeff and their animosity, Lois tightened her grip on his hands.

When he had finished, Lois had tears in her eyes as she imagined the long, lonely years. "Oh, Clark." She impulsively hugged him and kissed the side of his neck lightly.

Clark responded eagerly, inhaling the soft scent of her, wintry air and something else he couldn't place. It was intoxicating. After a few moments, Lois pulled back and they simply looked at each other for a moment.

"I've never said this before either… but I think I love you, too." Clark's eyes widened slightly and he reached a hand up to caress her face. "You mean that, you're okay with…" he held up his other hand in a vague gesture toward himself "my… freakishness?"

"Oh, Clark, you're not a freak. Do you really think that about yourself?" Lois reached out to brush back his slightly too long bangs. She let her hand stray to run her fingers lightly along the hair at the base of his neck.

"Come on, Lois, I could lift this tractor with one pinky," Clark said self deprecatingly. "If that's not unnatural, I don't know what is."

"You're normal for you, Clark; you're an incredibly wonderful man," Lois said softly. "And you're not a freak."

"Actually you should probably reserve judgment on that, Lois." Clark grimaced slightly and stood. He proffered a hand and she took it, giving him a puzzled glance. "I haven't told you everything."

"There's more?" Lois raised an expectant eyebrow and Clark fought down a slightly hysterical laugh. Lois had been taking things well… unbelievably well. If he was waiting for the other shoe to drop, he wasn't going to be held in limbo too much longer.

"So you know that so far, I'm invulnerable as you put it," Clark began thickly, "And that I'm pretty strong."

Lois ran her fingers over one tense muscle and murmured that that was an understatement. The words were so soft, so quiet, that though the sounds filtered through clearly as if Lois had shouted them, her mouth had barely moved. Clark ran an exasperated hand through his hair and decided to zero in on this unexpected angle.

"See, that's one of the things. I can hear you." Clark noticed the lack of clarity in his sentence almost as soon as Lois and hastened to explain. "I mean when you just whispered, I could hear every word. I can hear things from miles away. A whisper, a yell… anything." Clark's voice trailed off as he caught Lois' expression.

"So that's how you heard my father…" Lois couldn't finish the sentence, her anger from the time quickly rebuilding. "You were spying on me!"

The hangdog look on Clark's face quieted her would be rant in an instant.

"Oh, Clark, I'm sorry, I didn't mean… well actually I did." Lois managed to give Clark a small smile. "But I'm not still upset with you." "God, this is incredible…" Lois turned away from Clark for a moment and blew out her breath. He placed a hand on her shoulder, the poignant moment calling for sobriety. Lois felt the hand and looked down at her feet, a wicked grin flitting across her features. In a soft mumble, so quiet Lois barely registered the words in her own mind, Lois whispered something slightly obscene about the things she'd like to do to him.

Clark jumped a mile and let out a sharp gasp.

Laughing in delight, Lois turned around and threw her arms around his neck. "Got ya, Farmboy. What other talents do you possess?" She wound a finger through the slightly curly hair at the base of his neck. "Well actually…" Clark proceeded to give Lois a demonstration of his heat vision and freezing breath. When it came time for him to pull out his next trick, x-ray vision, Clark froze and begged heavenward for some guidance. Please don't let her kill me.

Because Clark had no doubt in his mind that Lois Lane could kick his butt to next Friday, invulnerability or not.

"Well, ok, this next one… You have to know that I would never abuse it," Clark stuttered slightly as he tried to phrase it. He decided to go the blunt route. "I have x-ray vision."

Lois stared at him, her expression unreadable.

"It's… well, it's a bit of an awkward trait, especially when I first found out about it, but I've learned to really control it," Clark finished a bit uncomfortably.

Some of the tenseness left Lois' body as she looked on at Clark. He looked like he wanted to die. Suddenly she had to fight the urge to give him a chaste hug. How many other guys wouldn't relish having a talent like that?

"It's okay, Clark. Of course I trust you." Clark visibly relaxed and shot her a happy smile. "So Mr. I'm Full of Surprises, any more I should know about?"

Clark had to keep his grin in check as his small smile threatened to become a full fledged laugh.

"Well there's one more…" Taking her hand, Clark led Lois out of the barn and into the bright sunshine. After scanning the area to make sure that they were indeed alone, he placed his hands firmly on Lois' waist.


As the two shot in the air, Lois' scream faded, but she clutched Clark tightly.


Clark gave her a sideways grin for stating the obvious and she reached up to thwap him on the head before immediately thinking better of it and holding onto him firmly.

"I won't let you fall, Lois; you're safe," Clark said quietly, noticing her anxiety. "I'm sorry if I frightened you; it was never my intention." "You… you can fly!"

Some of Clark's insecurities arose with the simple statement.

"Well… yes, I can, but…"

"Do you know how cool this is?! We're flying! You actually defy gravity! This is impossible! I mean the hearing stuff and the bullet whatnot was pretty cool, but this… you could go anywhere! Do anything you could think of! Why on earth are you living in Kansas?"

At this slur on his beloved hometown, Clark burst into relieved laughter. There was the Lois he knew and loved.

"I happen to like Kansas, Lois."

Lois waved off his sentiment and finally looked away from his face to stare at the world they hovered over.

"This is incredible…" Some of the frantic excitement had left her voice and she was reverently surveyeing the scenery. "You're incredible." Clark blushed, and for a moment Lois wondered how on earth the strongest being on the planet could be undone by such words from a mere city girl. And then… then Lois remembered the Clark she had spent the last few days with, who had won her a bear at the carnival, who had kissed her so gently. Clark was Clark no matter which way she skewed it.

"You're you, Clark. I finally know the real you," Lois said softly, dragging her gaze back to his face. "This," she waved her hand, finally feeling safe enough to release her death grip, "this is the real you. A farmboy who flies. You're not the monster you think you are, Clark. I could cheerfully murder anyone who ever put those thoughts in your head."

Clark tried to give her a lopsided smile, but his breath had caught in his throat. How had she… how did she know exactly what to say? They were high above the clouds, the setting sun painting the sky a golden yellow tinged with bright red. The illumination from the sunset highlighted the snow below, and sometime later Lois noticed that she should by all rights, be freezing. When she voiced this thought to Clark, he looked perturbed as well.

"I'm not exactly sure," he mused. "I believe I have some sort of 'aura' I suppose you could call it. All I know is that when someone is close to me, very close to me," he amended wryly, indicating their entangled bodies, "that they're sort of protected from things. I'm really not sure of the logistics."

Lois nodded and nestled her head on his shoulder. "Thank you for trusting me with this, Clark."

Clark had to swallow before he could speak, emotion clouding his throat as he tightened his grip on Lois. "You're welcome." As the two came back to orbit, both metaphorically and physically, Lois' mind flashed back to the burgundy dress she had purchased. She'd love to wear it for him… Screwing up some courage, Lois proceeded to do what she always did best.

She dove right in without checking the water level.

"Clark…" Lois began, her fingers playing with the lapel of his shirt, "What do you have planned for tonight?"

Clark thought for a moment and shook his head. "Nothing, really." Suddenly the wording of her phrase dawned on him. "Wait, should I have something planned? Is it your birthday?! Did I forget? Oh Lois, I'm so, so sorry!"

Lois stared at him as the words burst forth in a raging torrent. He looked so contrite, so appalled at himself. She started to giggle. She hadn't even told him what day her birthday was, how could he think he had forgotten it?

Clark, still mentally slapping himself and running through possibilities for a present for Lois, barely registered her laughter. Lois finally took pity on him and as their feet brushed the dusty ground, she halted his words by placing both hands on his chest. He stopped, mid sentence, as she lightly traced the contours and ridges.


"It's not my birthday, silly. You would have been the recipient of not so subtle hints all day long if it had been." She grinned at him and he smiled back in return, relaxing in her arms. "Before you did that huge, radical jump to conclusions, I just wanted to know if you'd like to go out to dinner with me tonight, somewhere nice. My treat."

Clark's smile grew even wider as he took in the beautiful girl in front of him.

"I'd love to, on one condition."

"I don't take well to conditions, Kent."

"I'm paying."

"Oh, no, you're not."

"Yes, I am!"

The two bickered like five year olds until they reached the farmhouse. Finally, outside the door, Clark grabbed her and shoved her gently against the side of the house. Stepping up close, until his leg was wedged between hers and his hands had her trapped, he dipped his head to capture her lips.

When he pulled back a minute later, Lois blinked, sure that if he didn't have her in such a tight grasp, she'd surely drop to the floor.

"Okay, fine. You pay," she said, running a finger through her windblown locks.

At Clark's smug look she glared and ducked out beneath his arm. Just wait until he fell into that epileptic shock!

Clark was running around the house, dashing places at super speed in an attempt to locate his stupid tie. He had x-rayed his entire room, his parent's room; the laundry room… their house wasn't that big; he was running out of places to look. After another thorough examination, Clark slunk back to his bedroom in defeat. The tie he had received from his mother at Christmas, hand painted of course, seemed to perk up as he glared at it critically.

Sighing, he grabbed the brightly patterned palm tree tie and began looping it around his neck. He had searched high and low for his more subdued navy one, but it simply wasn't to be found. After he had pulled the end in place and tugged it tight, Clark double checked his appearance in the mirror. He had shaved using his heat vision, put on a crisp white dress shirt, found his black suit jacket and his dress pants. Not bad… except for the tie.

It was a green and white thing, palm trees etched by his mother's slightly abstract but nevertheless loving hand. As his gaze roamed the front of the tie, he had to grin. His mother had an odd sense of what was appropriate formal wear, but he was pretty sure Lois wouldn't mind.

And actually… he kind of liked the bright green rather than the normal gray or blue. Hmm. He might have to consider getting a few more. Clark rolled his eyes as he looked at his reflection a final time. Or maybe not.

Lois was changing in his parents' room, which somehow sucked the romance out of the whole "picking her up at her door" thing, but Clark wasn't complaining. In actuality, he was pacing. His mother had been thrilled at him wearing the tie, which made him smile, but his insides clenched. He had been cavalier in his assessment earlier that Lois might not mind. Would she? It really was a pretty loud tie. And they'd be going to a pretty nice place.

His mother was regaling him with tales of her and Lois' shopping excursion. He listened with half an ear and perked up when she mentioned that Lois had bought a surprise.

"For me?" he couldn't stop himself from asking.

Martha grinned at her eager son. She really could see the little boy in Clark's grown body. He was as thrilled and anxious about this date as he had been about Christmas all those years ago.

"Well, it's for her, but I think you'll enjoy it."

Clark was about to press more when the door opened and Lois stepped out, smoothing the hem of her dress.

Clark broke off mid sentence. His gaze started at Lois' slender feet, encased in black heels and traveled up her impossibly long legs. He took in the dress next, swallowing slightly, his mouth suddenly dry. It sheathed her figure beautifully, the material highlighting her creamy skin tones. Her hair was loose, almost how she wore it normally, but not quite the same.

She was gorgeous.

She touched his shoulder, a pleased, slightly shy smile on her face. "You look great, Clark."

At this, Clark finally regained his wits enough to speak. "You look…" His previous shocked awe spoke volumes and said what his words could not. "Amazing," he finally finished.

Lois playfully grabbed the end of his tie.

"I like the tie. Ready to go?"

He nodded, wordless as he caught flashes of tanned thigh beneath her dress as she walked. He allowed her to half drag him by his tie out the door.

"Bye, Martha, Jonathan!" Lois called cheerfully.

Clark gave them a wave and playfully grabbed his tie back.

"This is not a leash, Lois."

"It is… interesting," Lois giggled as she looked at it closely for the first time. "Is that a seagull in the background?"

"My mother made it for me!"

Lois laughed at his indignant outburst and grabbed his hand excitedly. "Let's go, Farmboy. You're taking me out."


That night, as Jonathan turned on the TV to watch the 11 p.m. news, he got wind of a forest fire raging in California. He hollered to Clark, who appeared a moment later dressed in black jeans and a black sweatshirt.

"I heard, Dad. I'll be back."

"Be careful, Clark."

Lois looked back and forth between the two of them, but before she could ask, Clark had kissed her on the cheek and sped off with a deafening boom.

"What…" Lois started to talk, but Martha came into the room. She put a comforting hand on Lois' shoulder and pointed to the screen. A moment later, the raging fire that the anchor had been trying to shout over was doused in a matter of seconds. The camera panned wildly to the sky as chaos reigned, but it was too dark to capture whatever had stopped the flames. Or whoever.

"Oh, my God… was that Clark?!" Lois couldn't tear her gaze from the still smoldering wilderness. Martha nodded and Lois shook her head in disbelief.

"I can't believe… it's dangerous! Couldn't he get hurt? How does he even know how to GET to California?!"

Jonathan and Martha nodded as Lois continued to rant nervously, recognizing the act as a way of coping with shock and edginess. Martha finally placed her hand on Lois' shoulder and Lois quieted. Jonathan found an excuse to leave a moment later, which left Lois and Martha alone on the couch.

"Lois, honey, are you okay with Clark? We were a little nervous that his telling you might hurt you."

Lois shook her head violently, her dark hair swinging into her face. "No, Martha! It isn't that. I think he's incredible. And I'm beginning to understand how he can be so introspective sometimes. I guess it comes with the territory if you isolate yourself."

Martha nodded solemnly and Lois had to sniffle back tears.

"Does he really think he's a freak?" It broke her heart to picture Clark filled with such self loathing. "He helps so many people… he saves lives, and for no reward or publicity. If anybody else in the world had such great power, I'd be sure that they would be tempted by evil… but not Clark. He's got… innate goodness. I just wish he could believe it himself."

"Clark's been more himself these past few days than we've seen him in years," Martha said softly. "Ever since he's met you." Just then, the back door opened and Clark himself walked in, smoky from the fire.

"Hi, sweetheart!" His mother jumped up and gave her son a hug. "You were wonderful. Now I'm going to bed. Be good you two." Martha gave a pointed look at her son, who blushed a violent red. "Mo-om!"

Lois giggled helplessly from the couch, a blush of her own spreading across her cheeks. Martha had to hide a grin as she surveyed them both with a slightly raised eyebrow and left the room. As soon as they heard the door click shut, the two teenagers' gazes met shyly. "Hi." Clark said softly, making his way slowly toward her. "Hey, you were fantastic out there…" Lois glanced sideways at him. "Were you scared?"

Clark shook his head. "I've been starting to go out like this at night sometimes, when I think someone needs help or I hear about something big on TV. It really only scares me when there's human life I can't save." His voice grew slightly melancholy at the thought. "Is that how you found me? God, I've never even thought about what you were doing out and about so late at night in that snowstorm. You saved me, Clark."

Clark finally built up enough courage to sit next to her on the couch and wrap his arms around her shoulders. "I feel like everything happens for a reason, Lois. If I was given these powers, I need to use them for good, to help people. Besides, there's no way I could ever just disregard a cry for help. I think you're the same way."

"That's deep, Mr. Kent."

"Mr. Kent now? What happened to Farmboy?"

Lois grinned happily and snuggled deeper against his chest. His black sweatshirt smelled like smoke and there was soot in his hair, but somehow the effect was endearing.

"I decided you're Mr. Kent tonight," Lois said. "It suits you, all dressed up in black."

Clark stood up abruptly and for a moment Lois felt bereft without the warm weight of his arm on her shoulder.

"What are you doing?"

Clark stood there grinning at her for a moment and then a second later, he started spinning. After a Clark shaped blur had colored from black to gray, he steadied himself and gave her a cocky smile. "Who am I now?" He was dressed in a faded Mid-U sweatshirt with cut off sleeves and some flannel pants to match her informal attire.

"Just Clark," Lois sighed and snuggled into his shoulder. "Tonight, you're just Clark."

They sat quietly, the fire crackling and popping merrily. Clark's mood, however, didn't fit the cheery disposition of the fireplace. Lois noticed his slight withdrawal and turned in his arms to inquire what was wrong. He looked at her for a moment, the firelight playing up her beautiful features and gently brought his hand to her cheek. "I'm going to miss you so incredibly much, Lois," Clark said softly, his voice barely above a murmur. "My mom said the mechanic called. Your car is ready and winter break is almost over. Pretty soon you're going to drive out of my life and back to Metropolis and I'll go back to Smallville High. I just can't believe it'll be over."

Lois bit her lip, unsure of how to deal with the problem. The thought of returning home was unappealing at best, especially now that she had a taste of the family life she was missing. And besides all of that, most importantly there was Clark. How he had insidiously entwined their lives together when she had tried so fiercely to keep him at arm's length was a mystery to her, but she knew she'd miss him intensely. "The car's ready?" Lois couldn't hide the crestfallen inflection of her voice. Despite the sobriety of the moment, a lopsided grin that flitted across Clark's face.

"You'll miss me?" He deliberately was speaking lightheartedly, not wanting his dark mood to permeate their moments together. Lois pretended to ponder for a moment and Clark pulled her to him, tickling her sides mercilessly.

"Uncle! Uncle!" Lois finally gasped out after holding out for a few seconds. "I'll miss you, Clark! God, I'll miss you so much."

Clark turned the light tackle into a bear hug as he pulled her close. "We can still see each other, right? I can fly up and see you?"

"Of course," Lois sighed softly. "But it won't be the same as having you down the hall."

Wrapping her arms around his neck, Lois sat awkwardly in his lap, and the two looked at each other for a moment. Without further delay, their lips met in a sweet kiss. Lois twisted slightly in Clark's arms as she tried to pull him even closer and the light kiss took a slightly desperate turn as the two tried to maintain contact. A tear rolled down Lois' cheek as she tangled a hand through his hair and he tightened his grip on her waist. They were held in the thrall of their ardor and ultimate distress as they fed the flame with a fervent caress. Gradually, countless minutes later, the desperation cooled slightly and their kisses became less enthusiastic and more affectionate. As Lois maneuvered herself back under his arm until she was comfortably settled against him, both remained quiet as the fire dwindled. He interlaced their fingers and pressed a light kiss on Lois' hair before closing his eyes for a moment, awash in the comfort of home and his girlfriend beside him.

The next day was the last of Clark's winter break and marked a vast turning point in his seventeen year life. It was the day he had to say goodbye, goodbye to the one person who had made him feel welcome, loved and cherished.

Jonathan had returned to the shop early to pick up Lois' Mustang and now it sat innocuously on the driveway, unaware of the heartache its presence was causing. After a half hearted breakfast, Lois walked the slow martyr's walk to Clark's room to pack her things. The previous night, neither had awoken and dawn had found them curled up in each other's arms on the sofa.

As Lois walked into the now familiar bathroom and grabbed her toothbrush from its case, her mind occupied itself with pleasant reminiscences of waking in Clark's arms. She had been slightly embarrassed to be found in such a position by Clark's parents, but the innocent nature of their night together was clearly indicted. And now… now it was time to pack her things and get back on the road. She had a good 10 hour drive ahead of her, and she wasn't looking forward to it.

When she emerged from her bedroom, suitcase in hand, she met an anxious Clark pacing in the hallway. When he saw her, he immediately stopped his tread and took the suitcase from her.

"It's a long drive, Lois, and I was thinking…" Clark began nervously. "Maybe, I could drive to Metropolis with you, you know, drive if you get tired or something, and then I could fly back home later. What do you think?"

A slow smile slid across Lois' face as she nodded her assent and Clark let out a sharp yell of joy. He set the suitcase down on the floor and lifted her in his arms, hugging her tightly. When their heads bobbed gently against the ceiling, Clark glanced downward in surprise. He was dangling them both four feet off the ground.

"Easy there, cowboy," Lois said gently, laughing in delight.

Clark moved his shoulders in a sheepish shrug and lowered them leisurely. "I love you, sweetheart."

Lois blushed slightly at the endearment. It would have sounded so corny from someone else… but yet… the ease at which it slipped off his tongue both amazed and intimidated her. Once their feet were firmly planted on the ground, she took his hand and pulled him toward the kitchen. "It's almost time to go."

Once her bag was loaded in the trunk of the Mustang, Lois turned toward Martha and Jonathan, tears threatening to spill over. They had become like surrogate parents to her and as she gave them both a tight hug, the tears slid smoothly down her face. "Goodbye," she whispered softly. She slipped into the driver's seat and Clark went around the side to the passenger's. The loose gravel of the driveway scattered underneath the rolling tires and finally the silver car pulled away from the house and the town that had given her such an unexpected bounty.

The trip passed uneventfully, as the two teenagers indulged in the most idiotic car games they could think of. After a competitive game of I Spy (one made difficult for Clark because he was currently driving, though Lois countered that it was only fair, since he had super vision), it was Lois' turn to pick out a game.

"Oh! What about Truth or Dare?" She grabbed his sleeve excitedly and he grinned at her exuberance.

"Lois, what kind of dares can we do in a car?"

At Lois' pointed stare, he blushed furiously and Lois took pity on him. "Okay, okay, what about Truth or Truth, then?"

"Fine," Clark rolled his eyes. "You can go first."

"Have you ever slept with anyone?" Lois asked bluntly, curiously scanning his profile.

Clark nearly spit out his Coke at the direct question. No casual beating around the bush for Lois. Determined to turn the tables, he raised his eyebrow and shot her a cocky grin. "Well," he drawled, letting the syllable hang heavily between them, "besides you?"

It was Lois' turn to blush at the innuendo laced comment. "You didn't answer the question," she finally managed to stammer out, giving him a nudge as she regained her composure.

Clark took his eyes off the road for a moment to make complete eye contact. "No, Lois. I've never slept with anyone. Have you?"

Lois grinned, catching him in a rule violation. "No ask backs, Clark!" At his appalled, puppy dog expression she relented slightly and sighed. "Okay, no, I haven't. But that was a freebie, Clark. Better make your real one count."

Clark easily steered with one hand on the wide expanse of highway and thoughtfully ran his fingers through his hair. "So… Lois… let's see, Truth or Truth?"

"That's real cute, Kent."

"You have to pick one," he responded in a slightly sing song voice. "Fine, truth. I pick truth," Lois mumbled something incoherent, but Clark's super hearing picked it up.

"I am not a loser!"

"You have whole chapters of Lord of the Rings memorized verbatim," Lois shot back playfully. "If that's not pretty dorky, I don't know what is."

"See, that is where you're wrong, Lois. I may very well be dorky, as you see." He gestured to himself vaguely with one hand. "But I am not a loser. There is a very fine line."

"And you're treading on it, buddy. As your question, sheesh." Clark gave her an easy smile and then leaned back, thinking. "All right Lois… What first attracted you to me?"

"Aww Clark… come on," Lois began, squirming in her seat. At Clark's rakish smile, she covered her face with her hands and mumbled out some words.

"What, Lois? I didn't catch that."

"You've got super hearing! Of course you did!"

Clark shook his head and Lois glared at him. "Fine. I thought you were pretty hot."

Clark's short burst of laughter resounded through the car as it speeded down the highway, and Lois formulated her next question, revenge the utmost on her mind.

"All right… what was… the most embarrassing thing you've ever done? I mean ever?"

Clark thought for a moment and then squirmed in his seat anxiously. "Oh look, Lois, a Cracker Barrel, you know I only ever eat there on road trips. You hungry? We could eat. And they have that store and checkers. I could probably take you on at checkers…"

Lois glared at him. "Stop stalling, Clark. Now fess up."

Clark rolled his eyes and tightened his grip on the steering wheel. "Okay fine! Back when Jeff kept spreading all those lies about me… the one that I was gay," Clark closed his eyes briefly, his face heating up. "Okay, well, there's this kid in my class, Justin Morris, and he's pretty… um… out there."

At Lois' look of confusion, Clark clarified. "I mean he's pretty flamboyantly gay. And anyway, after the rumors started circulating, he started talking to me a lot. We had some classes together, and I was stupid. I didn't even think he could mean anything more. He invited me to go catch a film with him and I said sure. I mean he was a good guy and he actually knew something about some intelligent topics. Plus I wasn't the most popular guy… anyway, so we got to the movies and he tried to… to put his arm around me! And hold my hand! I was so mortified about having to tell him that he had gotten the wrong idea. We watched the rest of the movie in silence and then when we were leaving he told me it was a shame."

"What was a shame?" Lois asked, hiding a grin.

"That I was straight!"

At that, Lois didn't bother to hide her laughter and after a moment of laughing alone, Clark joined in.

"I can just picture your face!"

"He was a nice guy; I didn't want to hurt his feelings!"

Lois chuckled again and Clark turned determinedly back to the wheel, thinking hard to find an equally embarrassing question.

But as the car neared Metropolis, the cozy, intimate atmosphere in the car dissipated rapidly. Lois was now driving and soon familiar streets and landmarks entered her line of vision. Clark had visibly stiffened at the sign welcoming them into her home city and now he was quiet. They had prolonged their goodbye as long as they could and now they couldn't deny or delay it any longer. Lois pulled the car onto a side street and switched off the ignition.

"Clark." Her voice cracked slightly and she valiantly tried to keep the tears from her eyes. "Clark, I love you." It was all she could say. She had thousands of thoughts and words jumbled in her mind, but the four she had just spoken were all she could wring out.

"Close your eyes," Clark instructed softly.

For once, Lois did as she was told without question and her breath caught in anticipation as she felt him draw closer. She heard a slight rustling of metal and she almost peeked a glance, but Clark admonished her quickly. A cool weight settled on the top of her shirt and she could feel Clark's arms around her as he fiddled with something behind her.

Finally he allowed her to open her eyes and Clark showed her the silver locket he had fastened around her neck. It was the locket he had purchased at the fair, and wordlessly he gently worked open the clasp. Clark and Lois stared down at the picture of the two of them on the farm. It was a tiny picture, but the joyous expression on both of their faces was clearly preserved.

And in the darkness, Clark's eyes glimmered slightly as well as he drew her close for one last kiss. It was a gentle caress, not their most passionate, but when his tongue gently prodded her lips, she tasted him for the last time. When they pulled apart both eyes shone with tears and Clark responded in turn.

"You've changed my life, Lois. And I love you, always."

With that said, his gaze scanned her face hurriedly, as if tracing the features.

"Goodbye, Lois."

Clark unbuckled his seatbelt and climbed out of the car. The tail lights of Lois' car faded and he shot straight upward at a blinding speed, trying to outrun the sting of tears in his eyes.


As Mr. Griffith droned on about Civil War battles and their effect on America's economy, it was all Clark could do to keep his eyes at half mast. After a few moments, he was dully aware of a constant prodding in his back. He turned around to see Jeff Denoso poking him with the end of his pen (The pointed end of course, no blunt eraser for Jeff). A moment later a folded piece of paper skimmed across his desk and Clark heaved a sigh. He had outgrown note passing about six years ago. Against his better judgment, he opened the note and scanned its contents.

Where's the hot chick you were showing around? She a new transfer? You'd better watch out, she know you're a queer?

Clark crumpled the note and with a quick, unseen movement turned it into dust.

God, he missed Lois.

For the rest of the lesson he ignored the insistent prodding on his back, the words of the history lecture, and his own torn heart as he instead focused wholly on remembering exactly the look on Lois' face when she had told him she loved him.

He wondered if it was too soon to call her.

In Metropolis, Lois was experiencing her final day of vacation and school couldn't come soon enough. She had returned home to find her mother in a drunken stupor and her father AWOL. Lucy had been in her room, dulling the pain with loud, obscene music, which echoed tinnily down the hall and into Lois' room.

Nobody, save for a nod from Lucy had acknowledged her when she had walked in the door. No hug, no thank you, no "thank goodness you're all right and were rescued by a farmer's son." Nothing. Which was actually worse than intrusive questions, if she got right down to the heart of the matter.

But had she really expected anything else? She walked into the kitchen and bypassed the grimy dishes piling in the sink. Picking the cleanest knife she could find, she spread some peanut butter on wheat bread and brought it into her room, locking the door behind her.

Her father had returned, finally, at 4 in the morning. Ellen Lane had passed out on the couch, Lucy was asleep with the headphones still jammed firmly in her ears and Lois was lying awake in her bed, one hand fisted firmly around the locket.

School was a welcome respite and Lois spent the day chasing down interviews for her story on the increase of winter car accidents and assigning stories for the rest of her newspaper staff. To be back in the journalism room, even if she was only typing run of the mill feature stories, was heaven. After she had finally deemed her story perfect, Lois slung her messenger bag over her shoulder and headed home. The blinking light of the clock read 6:00 and the school was blissfully quiet.

But even the constant activity hadn't allowed her mind to stray far from chocolate brown eyes and those mind blowing kisses… So when the phone rang later that night, Lois nearly flattened Lucy in her haste to answer it.

"Hello?" she answered, slightly breathless and mouthing an apology to her sister.


"Clark!" Lois quickly took the extension into her room and shut the door, ignoring Lucy's curious stare. "Clark!"

"Lois! Lois!" Clark mimicked teasingly and Lois let out a happy burst of laughter. "Oh my gosh, Clark, I've missed you."

"I've missed you too. You got home okay after I left?"

Lois thought back to her welcoming-or lack thereof-and rolled her eyes. "Yeah, I'm fine. I can't wait for school though; it's so boring at my house."

Their conversation continued in this vein, comfortably picking up where they last had left off. Twenty minutes later, Lois could make out Martha's voice shouting for her son. Clark called back and came back on the line, sighing regretfully.

"Lois? I have to go; Mom wants me to bring the tractor in before the rain we're supposed to get."

"The work of a farm kid is never-ending, right?" She teased him gently. Clark let out a short laugh and then his voice softened a little. "I really do miss you, Lois."

"I miss you too, Clark. Thanks for calling."

"Bye, Lois."

"Bye, Clark."

There was a click and Lois leaned back against her headboard, wishing she was still in Smallville, Kansas.

When she finally came out of her room, phone in hand, her father blocked her passage. His eyes were slightly red and she could smell the alcohol on his breath.

"Who was that?" He asked civilly enough.

"Just the kid from the house I stayed at in Kansas," Lois responded warily.

Sam Lane stumbled slightly, and righted himself with a hand on the wall. He was in bad shape. Lois maneuvered herself under his arm and helped steer her wayward father to the couch.

"You just stay here, Dad; I'll get you something to eat." Her sister's slim hand covered her shoulder for a moment. "I'll get it, Lo; you just take care of Mom."

Nodding absently, Lois went over to gently shove her mother out of the room. She was ranting on and off about her father, the same arguments Lois had heard a thousand and one times. Nodding sympathetically, Lois maneuvered her mother onto the bed and returned with three aspirin and a glass of water. Her mother downed the tablets with the sense that she'd done it before, countless times, and Lois felt a raging headache of her own coming on. She shut the door to the room and returned to check on her sister.

Her father was snoring on the couch, an empty plate beside him. Lois exhaled, relieved that the crisis was averted. Glancing around the room, she absently straightened a pillow until she noticed Lucy cradling her arm, rubbing unconsciously at a discolored, violently purple bruise.

"Lucy! What happened? Are you okay?"

Lucy nodded, but didn't disclose any more information. After consistent prodding from her older sister, she finally gave in, exasperated. "It's from Dad, okay? From when you were gone."

The words struck Lois with the force of a physical blow.

"It's okay, Lois. I was out late. I didn't call," Lucy gave a mirthless chuckle. "Of course it was the one night Dad was actually home. But I'm fine, Lois. Stop worrying."

And with that, Lucy avoided her gaze and exited the room abruptly, leaving a stunned Lois in her wake.

Her father had never been physically violent before, but the bruise on her sister's arm left little room for doubt. Choking back a sudden onslaught of tears, Lois ducked back into her room and tightly clutched her locket.

The week passed uneventfully after that night, and Lois could almost begin to forget it had ever occurred in the first place. Clark had called nearly every night and they spent hours talking on the phone, discussing everything and nothing. Lois toyed with the idea of telling Clark what had happened with Lucy, but the thought of his reaction was enough to quiet her. He'd be furious, and for now, she just wanted to forget.

On Sunday night, when the phone rang, Lois bounded out of her room, looking frantically for the phone. It was 8 p.m., Clark's usual calling time. The phone wasn't on its stand, nor was it in her bedroom. When it stopped ringing a moment later, she had to fight back disappointment… until she saw her father, the phone raised to his ear. She could only hear her father's part of the conversation, but immediately she realized that something was very wrong. He was slurring slightly and Lois could only imagine what Clark was thinking. However her fears abated after her father had demanded who was on the phone. To her absolute relief, he shoved the phone at her and trudged down the hallway.

"Hi, Clark," she said finally.

"Lois, hey," Clark drifted off and she could tell he was troubled. "Was that your father?"

"Yeah, sorry about that. I tried to find the phone."

"It's okay," Clark was silent for a moment and then he probed a little deeper. "You're okay, right? He hasn't been yelling at you?" Lois thought back about the past week. Her father had actually been nearly alcohol free. Well, for him anyway. Well, okay, not alcohol free, at least he hadn't drunk himself into a stupor lately. Though she was slightly worried about his slurring earlier on the phone. As if reading her thoughts, Clark voiced his own concern.

"You'd tell me if you were in trouble, right, Lois?"

Forcing herself to inflect a smile into her voice, Lois wholeheartedly agreed and the subject drifted to more pleasant topics. Finally they said goodbye, and Lois waited until she heard the click of Clark's phone before she jabbed the off switch herself. She was curled up on the couch in the living room, and was about to flip on the TV before her father stumbled in.

Without preamble, Sam Lane's eyes narrowed. "Just what went on in Kansas?"

At the question and the tone, Lois bristled. "None of your business."

He reached a hand up and smacked her on the face. Lois' eyes widened but she didn't cry out. The cool air from the window felt freezing on the heated flesh and Lois had to gulp back tears. "Don't talk to your father like that."

Despite her better judgment telling her to avoid the confrontation, her spirit and instinct wouldn't allow it. She stood up, squaring her shoulders. All her fear for Lucy had been transformed into a sudden anger. "You're not my father. Not in any real sense of the word. In Kansas I saw what a real father was, what a real family was!" She was shouting now, and vaguely she saw her mother and sister watching from the hall. "And a real family cares about each other. They talk to each other and solve their problems through talking, not alcohol! This isn't a family, this is a dysfunction!"

As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she wished she could claw them back. Her father's eyes were now cool steel and completely sober. Which, in a way, was more frightening than the glazed drunkenness. He grabbed her arm in a vice and manhandled her into her room.

"No more communication with this family, with this boy," her father said calmly. "You obviously can't handle speaking with them. And I won't have this disrespect in my home."

"Your home!? What home is this? The home where you beat your children and spend the night drinking? You can't stop me from seeing him!"

Lois jutted her chin out defiantly and Sam Lane's eyes narrowed. "I mean it, Lois. Cease all communication with them."

"I'd like to see you try and make me!"

Her father regarded her with steely gray eyes. "How about this? If I find out you've met with him, spoken with him or written to him or his family I'll refuse to pay your college tuition."

The fire in Lois' eyes died somewhat as she looked at the man in front of her. This cruel, resolute man couldn't be the father who had once told her bed times stories. For a moment Lois wondered what had happened to push her family so far off the beaten track.

"You know I'll make good on that threat, Lois. And you have your heart set on Metropolis University. You're good at journalism… but not good enough to get a scholarship."

Lois was horrified to find the tears pooling in her eyes had spilled over onto her flushed skin. "Why… why are you doing this?" She managed to choke out. For a moment she thought she saw her father relenting, a softening of his posture. But the idea was gone a moment later when he spoke coolly and detached.

"You say I'm not your father, I say you're still my daughter. And whatever went on in that farmhouse isn't making its way back to my door. I'll not have a pregnant, unwed daughter!"

"What makes you think I was sleeping with him?!" Lois was shocked at the accusation, her voice rising with the stress of the confrontation. Her father gave her a distant appraisal. "Why else would he have let you stay?"

Lois' mouth dropped open, her heartbeat roaring in her ears. "No more contact, Lois. Or you can kiss your dreams of becoming a journalist goodbye. The army is recruiting, they'll take you." Lois slammed the door, its crash resounding ominously through the house. Stunned, she slid down against the doorframe, collapsing in an ungracious heap on the floor. And then the tears came, silent and sending wracking spasms throughout her entire body.


Three weeks passed and Clark's worry grew to anxiety and then to panic when his calls to Lois went unanswered and his emails unread. Thursday evening found him pacing the kitchen of the farmhouse, wearing a tread on the linoleum.

"She's probably just been busy, Clark," His mother soothed, watching her boy stress and agonize. "Her school's started up again; she most likely just has a lot of work."

"But she won't answer any of my calls, Mom," he burst out, running a hand roughly through his hair. "I just can't figure out why. What if she's hurt?"

"If you'd like to find out so badly, why don't you fly up and see her?" Jonathan put in helpfully. Martha shot him an exasperated look. "Because he doesn't want to appear overeager, Jonathan!" Clark stopped pacing and faced both his parents. He was tense and his eyes reflected the inner conflict.

"Do you really think I should go see her?"

"It's up to you, sweetie," his mother said. His father joined in a moment later. "She's right, son. In the end, we can't make this decision for you."

Clark glanced outside. It was dark, too late for him to make the trip to Metropolis. He'd go tomorrow, meet her after school. The decision made, Clark slightly relaxed.

"Thanks, guys, I'll go see her tomorrow." He sighed and blew out a breath that nearly toppled the kitchen table. This being a relatively normal occurrence, Martha merely placed a hand and steadied it. "I just hope she's okay."

"She'll be fine, you'll see," his mother said comfortingly. "Why don't you just relax for tonight. You'll see her tomorrow and there's nothing you can do until then."

Clark nodded restlessly. "Yeah… but I think I'll go take a walk."

"Take a jacket," Martha called after him.

Clark grabbed the unnecessary sweatshirt from its hook by the door. "I'll be back soon, Mom, Dad." With that, he walked out into the bitter wind, completely unaffected by the slicing temperatures and completely encompassed by his thoughts.


The sun reflecting off the skyscrapers opposite Metropolis High School was intense, blinding cars and causing cabbies to honk their horns more often than usual for even Metropolis. The weather, however, was chilly despite the sun, near freezing, and as Lois walked to the bus stop, she kept her hands shoved deep in her pockets.

She was trying not to think of him. He had left message after message on her phone, and each time she listened to his voice she wanted to break down and cry again. The first few times he had sounded happy, certain that their missing each other was the result of dumb luck. Lately though his voice had sounded tense with worry as his calls remained unreturned. Lois deleted all the messages, terrified her father would find them on the phone.

She pushed Clark Kent to the back of her mind. He'd give up soon. He probably would be glad to get rid of the dead weight of a girlfriend halfway across the country. Even as her mind firmly scolded her heart, she knew it wasn't true. God, he must be hurting. But it was better this way. Her entire life had revolved around her journalism degree. She had fought tooth and nail for her high ranking position in the class and she couldn't afford to jeopardize her chances for college. Her mind flashed to the locket, the gorgeous, silver locket. It was locked inside a box on the top shelf of her closet, a painful reminder of what she had lost and given up.

Her father was civil now, her mother and sister trying to be especially kind. Lois refused to speak with her father unless he asked her a direct question. She was courteous enough, but in her mind, her father was dead to her. In half a year she could graduate, attend Metropolis University and escape from her dismal home life and the bittersweet memories of her unexpected winter vacation. She'd have to do it. Lois had almost reached the bus stop, having been walking on autopilot when she heard it. The voice. That voice. The voice that still called to her in her dreams… but only there. It was too dangerous to dwell on any other time than in the throes of sleep. She turned, already knowing whom she would see and preparing herself for her calm facade.


When she saw him, her preparation had been futile. Nothing could have primed her for the sudden, harsh constricting in her chest at the sight of him, handsome and unaware… and striding right to her. When he was a foot away, a huge smile on his face that reached clear to his eyes, he went to give her a hug, which she stiffly received. He released her the moment he felt the tension, the smile rapidly clearing from his face.

"Lois… What… what's wrong?"

The hurt bewilderment in his eyes was enough to make her almost start crying then and there. As her mind caught sight of Metropolis University's giant campus not too far from where they were standing, however, she reminded herself of the stakes. Lois forced herself to harden her heart and stared at him coolly.

"I thought you would understand when I didn't return your calls, Clark," Lois began distantly. "We need to break up."

"What…?" Clark was staring at her like she had asked him to go rob a bank. "Why, Lois? Is it the long distance part of it all? Because I could fly here every day if you'd like. We could get me a fake address and even register me for school. I could just fly home to Kansas every night. Please, Lois, we could make it work. Just give it a chance." Lois schooled her expression.

"I-I've met someone else."

Clark looked at her in shock, hurt shining from his eyes before his face clouded over. "No, you haven't."

Lois hadn't expected this. "What do you mean, 'No, you haven't.' Yes, I have!"

"Your heart rate is doing one sixty, Lois. You're lying," he said softly. "What is it? Are you in trouble?"

"No, Clark! I… I'm not lying! Just because you think you have all these fancy powers doesn't mean you can use them to… to… pry into people's…" Lois sputtered for the right word. "You shouldn't be able to know if I'm lying or not! Maybe my heart rate speeds up when I think of him!"

Clark stood there in his scuffed shoes and flannel shirt, obviously out of place amongst the urban and sleek crowd around him, feeling like he had just been punched in the gut.

"I still think you're lying," he finally managed.

Oh, why wouldn't he just leave, Lois thought anxiously. If he stays any longer I'll give in. Please leave, Clark.

Her silence seemed to speak more volumes than her words had and Lois regretted raising her eyes to meet his. They were filled with a silent anguish and heartbreak.

"I'll leave you then…" he finished quietly, the sound barely filtering to her ears. "Goodbye, Lois."

He turned and walked stiffly away, turning into an alleyway. A minute later the crowds in Metropolis all turned toward the sky when they heard the inexplicable sound of a sonic boom.

Both teenagers waited until they reached their houses, not speaking to anyone, before they locked themselves in their rooms. On two different sides of America, behind closed doors, two teenagers curled up on their beds, their shoulders shaking.


Ten Years Later

Lois Lane stormed into Perry White's, the editor in chief of the Daily Planet, office on a rampage.

"Chief, I think there's a story here and that we should check this guy out. The crazy one this morning? His name is Samuel Platt and he was an engineer at EPRAD for ten years. He's…"

Mad Dog Lane trailed off as her gaze rested on the man sitting opposite her editor.

The man looked to be about 28, with thick, dark hair and even thicker glasses obscuring a portion of his face. Despite his unfashionably long hair and an ill fitting suit, it was obvious that he wasn't lacking in the looks department. Perry was speaking to her, but it was white noise as she and the stranger in Perry's office locked gazes.

"Lois Lane, Clark Kent," Perry was saying, oblivious to the tangible tension and chemistry in the room.

"Clark Kent…" Lois repeated softly, just as the man spoke her own name with the same amount of reverence and disbelief. The name stuck in her throat, so familiar yet foreign.

Clark was standing, but his knees nearly threatened to give way with this startling turn of events. He was five feet away from the "one who got away," the person who he had unconsciously compared all other women to since their meeting. None of them had ever matched up. And now here he was, the job of a lifetime within his grasp and he was botching his interview, unable to tear his eyes from Lois Lane. "So you two ah… know each other?" Perry was still speaking, unable to interpret the looks they were giving each other.

"Um… yes, we do, Perry, you see…" Lois began, finally wrenching her gaze from Clark's wonder filled one. She was interrupted by Clark. "Mr. White, I'm afraid I've made a mistake coming here… please… I'm sorry for wasting your time."

Grabbing his suitcase with "CK" emblazoned on the front in peeling gold letters, Clark stood, his hands shaking slightly.

Lois stared at his retreating back, memories of Smallville and fairs, of Martha and Jonathan, of stuffed lions and heated kisses flooding her mind. Images she hadn't thought of in years, images she had tried to repress.

"Clark, wait!" Lois dashed after him, leaving a stunned editor in her wake. The sight of him walking away from her for the second time in her life, heartbroken, was too much for her to stand. In the years that had passed she had graduated at the top of her class from Metropolis University and had achieved a high quality job fresh out of college. Her father had served some jail time during her sophomore year of college, but he was out now and living alone. Lucy and her mother occupied a small apartment near Lois' modest one. But what she had given up was never far from her mind, even as she was seduced by the office Romeo and betrayed by her so called best friend in college. She had achieved her dream at the highest price possible, a heart that was never truly whole.

As the years dulled pain and muted memories, Lois had convinced herself that what they had shared wasn't real, that it was a passionate infatuation and that she hadn't crushed Clark Kent in her ambition to attend college.

One look into his brown eyes, so familiar and open, and Lois knew she had been fooling herself.

Lois grabbed his arm and he turned at her touch, old hurts dredged up at the bittersweet contact.

"What is it, Lois?" He asked softly. There was no anger or strong emotion in his voice. In fact, it was dulled and his face unresponsive. "Please… come get a cup of coffee with me and… and I can explain everything."

Clark raised an eyebrow. "About how you broke my heart in high school? I'm over it, Lois."

Wordlessly, Lois lifted her hand and pressed it flat on his chest, over his heart.

"You're lying, Clark."

As Clark's words from so long ago hung between them, reversed, both adults caught their breath.

"We're not teenagers anymore, Lois," Clark resisted half heartedly.

"I know, Clark, and you deserve the truth. The real truth."

Clark eyed her warily and then finally nodded his assent. She was as beautiful as ever, if not more. His heart still ridiculously betrayed him. The two reporters made their way out of the Planet, a thoughtful silence between them. Lois couldn't help noticing how handsome he looked and Clark couldn't keep his mind off her.

Perhaps, if fate would allow, Lois Lane's gift for words would allow her to adequately express the driving motivations for that day outside the bus stop. And maybe, just maybe, Clark Kent's forgiving nature might be able to bury the years of hurt.

And of course, there was the possibility that the spark and chemistry that still burned between them might, with time, rekindle into a raging inferno.


The two childhood sweethearts jumped a little as they accidentally brushed hands, both recognizing the spark but afraid to acknowledge its existence. They took turns sneaking glances at each other. Clark had grown even taller, even more built than she remembered. Those gorgeous brown eyes that she had looked into ten years ago were as warm as always, though Lois could detect a sense of hesitancy and hurt.

Lois had turned from a beautiful teenager into a stunning woman and Clark could barely focus on making his feet trip along in front of him. His fingers itched to touch her hair, and he found his gaze zeroing in on her lips. He vividly remembered the sensations that kissing her had shot through him.

Clark held open the door for her as they reached the coffee shop. She brushed by him, and his hearing detected her heart beat hammering in her chest. He swallowed, suddenly nervous. She took a seat at a small table in the corner and Clark took her order.

When he returned a few moments later, coffee in each hand, she took a deep, steadying breath.

And then she was telling him everything, the words tumbling ineloquently from her mouth.

As her story went on, Clark's gaze softened slightly from bruised to concerned. Halfway through, he reached across and hesitantly slid his fingers around her own.

When Lois had finished, she was afraid to look up. Clark gently tilted her face and absently tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, meeting her gaze thoughtfully.

No words were spoken, but yet again volumes were said.

And you know the story from there.