By Cape Fetish <email@example.com>
Submitted January 2008
Summary: Our reluctant lovers, still just friends, wile away their time in drawing room games while a huge secret hangs in the air. Ah, but help may be on the way as artifice and guile are about to pierce the tension both already feel.
Even with the window open, the air in the apartment felt stifling, suffocating. Silent tension hung between the two occupants, tinging every glance with nervousness, and every gesture with discomfort. Two sets of weary brown eyes met and locked, both struggling desperately to remain composed, impassive; to give nothing away.
Her eyes bored into the very soul of him, it seemed. There was no way he could continue to hide the apprehensive self-doubt that plagued him. He couldn't remember ever feeling so exposed. For a moment he felt something akin to pity for the criminals she so ruthlessly tracked down. How did they ever hold up under that piercing gaze, when one glance nearly made him confess every wrong doing in his entire life? Almost subconsciously, his hand came up to adjust his tie. Instead, his fingers came into contact with the soft cotton of the t-shirt he had changed into after work, and he looked down, momentarily startled.
His head snapped up immediately, but it was too late. His cover was blown. She knew -- the self-satisfied smirk on her face was enough to tell him that. It was best to just admit defeat now.
With a long-suffering sigh he tossed his cards down. "I fold."
"I knew it!" Lois squealed as she gathered all the Hershey's Kisses they had been betting with.
"You always were such a graceful winner," Clark admonished playfully.
Though he teased her, there was no one else he would rather lose to. Partly because he was happy when she was happy, and partly because she was absolutely beautiful when she won. Her whole face would light up in the same way it did when a big story broke, and she would look up at him like the most amazing thing in the world had just happened to her. For a moment, he could pretend that he was the cause of her elation in the same way she was the cause of his.
"Who needs grace? I've got chocolate," she explained with a dismissive shrug, most of her attention invested in unwrapping one of the candies.
His amused reply died in his throat as her tongue darted out to moisten her lower lip in anticipation of the chocolate. All of his senses honed in on that one little gesture, and he unconsciously mimicked her, drawing his tongue along his lip and imagining what she would taste like right then -- an exciting mix of chocolate and something uniquely Lois.
Lost in his fantasies, it took a while for him to realize that Lois had paused in her actions and was now regarding him with a slightly amused expression. He flushed violently and looked away, not believing he had let himself be caught staring so blatantly. Since the early days of their partnership he had learned to reign in the impulse to go all moony-eyed over her, but here he was, gaping at her like she was the most fascinating thing he had ever seen...And while she was, in fact, the most fascinating thing he had ever seen, he knew she didn't appreciate him treating her so.
For a moment he almost expected her to say something along the lines of 'Don't fall for me, Farmboy,' but her smiled turned coy, almost shy, and she extended the Kiss towards him. "If it means that much to you, Clark, I suppose I could share."
"Uh, n-no, I was just uh...lost in thought," he stuttered, his blush deepening.
She seemed to consider this for a moment before shrugging and popping the candy into her mouth. Gathering their empty coffee mugs, she stood from her spot next to him on the floor and headed for the kitchen. "As bad as you are at cards, maybe next time I'll suggest strip poker."
Satisfied that she had startled her partner well enough, Lois made a hasty departure to the kitchen.
Though her last remark had knocked the enamored look right off of Clark's face, she needed to put some space between them. She had been caught off-guard by the warm tenderness in his eyes, and it would have been all too easy to succumb. She had been so tempted to lean over and kiss him, or even worse, blurt out those three little words that had been on the tip of her tongue for over a month now.
Inevitably, her brain had kicked into gear, screaming "Run away!" and she had hurried back behind the one defense she had left -- the safety of their comfortable friendship and the lighthearted banter that came so easily between them. No one was going to get their heart ripped out and stomped on over a little teasing, even if it was a bit flirtatious.
"You might just find out I've been letting you win all this time." Clark's voice wafted in from the living room, his playful tone indicating that he had followed her lead back to friend territory. As always, she noted with a pang of regret. Though she was almost certain he wanted more, he never pushed for it, never did anything that could possibly make her uncomfortable. Apparently, it was one thing to give her lovesick looks when he thought she wasn't paying attention, but it was a whole other to come right out and say he had feelings for her.
Assuming, of course, that he did.
It was entirely possible she was imagining things, seeing adoration when there was only friendly affection in Clark's eyes, the smile he seemed to reserve just for her, and the million little things he did for her every day. For all she knew, he really had been lost in thought, preoccupied with mental images of Mayson Drake or some other annoying blond, and hadn't even known he had been looking at her. Her stomach lurched at that thought and she nearly had to set down the carafe of coffee she was refilling their mugs with.
No. Absolutely not. He was *her* partner and *her* best friend and just because she had taken him for granted for so long didn't mean any one else had the right to inspire that day-dreamy haze in his expression. Not after all they had been through together. She had already lost him once before...
It had been over a month, but her heart still constricted painfully at the thought of the night she realized exactly how much she had taken her partner for granted. In one second, one blink of an eye, everything that meant anything had been taken away from her. The night Clyde Barrow's bullets had taken Clark's life, her life had been taken, too.
By some incredible miracle, it had all been given back to her. She had been given the second chance so many people prayed for but never received, and while seeing Clark end up with Mayson was slightly more bearable than watching him die, she couldn't lose him that way.
'So what are you going to do about it?' was the question she had to ask herself.
When Clark had died, she had sworn to herself that, if she ever got another chance, she would tell him everything he hadn't known -- everything she hadn't been able to admit, even to herself. He was amazing. He was her everything. He was the man she loved.
She had come close -- so frighteningly close -- the night he returned to her, and the lunkhead had had the nerve to fall asleep, instead of listening to what she had to say. So she had retreated back behind her carefully constructed barriers and waited to work up the nerve to throw herself into the proverbial battlefield of love. The problem was, she wasn't getting any braver.
"Lois? Did you get lost in there?"
Lois realized with a start just how long she had spent on the simple task of refilling a couple of coffee mugs.
"No! I just...uh, misplaced the sweetener." She glanced towards the living room to see Clark peek over the couch and eye the container of sweetener standing on the counter, then give her a questioning look.
"But I found it..." she added, hoping that hadn't sounded too lame. Somehow, she couldn't bring herself to say something like 'Sorry, I was distracted, thinking about how much I love you.'
Pushing all of those thoughts to the back of her mind for the moment, she hurriedly filled Clark's mug with the ridiculous amounts of sugar and creamer he liked and headed back to his side.
Lois heaved a heavy sigh as she stretched out on her stomach, pulling a pillow down from the couch to add some padding between her and the hardwood floor. She had been sighing so much since the game began, she thought it might only be a matter of time before she hyperventilated, or at least blew the letter tiles right off of the Scrabble board.
Which, she reflected, probably wouldn't be a bad idea. Maybe she could fake a sneeze and blow hard enough...
No, it was all useless. Her "partner" was grinning triumphantly and arranging his third triple-word score as she mulled over her own completely useless letters. Not only had Clark gotten every useful tile in the entire box, but he had efficiently vetoed all of her most clever words with the use of that poor excuse for a dictionary. Why she even had that disgrace on her bookshelf was beyond her.
She sighed again and pushed a couple of letters around. UYOELOI. She didn't think Clark would accept that as a word, and she was pretty sure she wouldn't be able to pronounce it well enough to argue with him.
LIOEUYO? IUYOLOE? OLUYOIE? Still no inspiration came, and she had to resist the urge to throw her letters and that traitorous dictionary out of the window.
IYLEOUO? ILOOEYU? ILEOYUO...ILEOYOU...ILO..
Her attention darted quickly towards the board to find the 'V' from Clark's 'PERVADE,' and her brain seemed to stutter as she realized that, as crazy as it seemed, her letters would actually fit...
Lois's eyes shot up to meet Clark's when his voice broke the silence that had descended between them. He gave her a smile that nearly lit up the entire living room, and she felt her heart flutter excitedly. There was a lot more meaning behind those words than he realized.
It was her turn. Clark had made his feelings for her perfectly clear in the past. He had gone as far as confessing his love for her, once, and she had rejected him -- for the biggest criminal mastermind Metropolis had ever seen, no less. She could hardly blame him for retracting his admission of love after that. As poorly as she had treated him then, it was a wonder he even still talked to her, let alone looked at her with as much adulation as he had been earlier.
Adulation or not, it wasn't a surprise that he was hesitant to bring up anything more than friendship between them. He had been burned by her before, and she doubted he was keen on having it happen again. So the ball was in her court, and she was beginning to realize that it might not be as scary to put it into play as she had originally thought.
She returned his megawatt smile with one of her own, then began arranging her tiles.
Clark chuckled to himself as she returned to the game with a new enthusiasm, figuring she had just found a way to annihilate him at yet another game. Like a complete sucker, he would willingly be destroyed if it meant receiving a smile like that from her.
He watched closely as she arranged the letters, wondering what brilliant word she had come up with.
His breath caught in his throat as he kept his eyes glued to the game board, afraid to lift them and see the expression on her face. He was sure it must be amused, maybe slightly ironic. She would find it funny that those were the letters she had, arranging them with a laugh because that was the only thing she was able to spell out, unaware that those words really could destroy him.
It seemed like days before he was able to come up with what he thought was a reasonable response. "I'm pretty sure you're not allowed to use three words."
More deafening silence ensued before he was finally able to lift his gaze to look at her. The expression on her face was serious, if not a little apprehensive.
"Not even if they're true?"
An odd half-laugh, half-sob escaped him at her meek-sounding reply. He felt almost dizzy as he reread the words she had spelled out in front of him. Had she really just told him she loved him?
One look into her eyes -- so filled with hope and trepidation -- told him that she had indeed. He was excruciatingly familiar with those feelings. He knew what it was like to bare your heart and soul to someone, to take a flying leap and hope that that person was there to catch you before you hit bottom. Over the past year and a half, he had caught Lois from numerous leaps, both literal and figurative, and there was no way he was going to let her down now.
He shifted onto his knees, never breaking eye contact with her as he reached out to cup her cheek in his palm. She covered his hand with her own, and then they were both leaning in over the Scrabble board to meet each other's lips. He felt her give a shuddering sigh against him as his tongue lightly teased her lower lip the way he had so longed to earlier. The taste of chocolate and coffee he found there made his head spin, and he had to pull away briefly in order to catch his breath.
"I suppose all is fair in the game of love," he whispered to her as his mouth descended on hers again.