By Menolly <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted September 1999
Summary: Memories of a holiday in Portugal … the scent from a window box prompts a daydream.
Late afternoon sun tinged Metropolis a pale gold; the cityscape merged into itself in the distance, building upon building blending like corn in a Kansas prairie. As the heat haze rose from the asphalt the man-made sea of streets and skyscrapers even seemed to shimmer in waves. As she reined in that train of thought, Lois decided it had obviously been too long since they'd visited Martha and Jonathon; comparing Metropolis to a Kansas prairie was a little too bizarre, no matter how hot the day had been.
Still, the sight was beautiful in a way that Metropolis rarely was. Its attractions were usually more hard-edged, tied to the energy of a large city and small moments in time: the crisp colours of an autumn day in Centennial Park; the harbour fragile with ice and frost in a cold winter dawn; children shrieking in the spray of a hydrant in the dog days of summer. This calm summer evening was a rarity to be savoured with the peace and quiet of the apartment behind her.
Lois ran her hand through the box that encircled the planters on the wall of the balcony; it was carefully clipped into a miniature hedge, with intense green leaves that set off the rambling geraniums behind it. The clipping was Clark's work, the geraniums were hers. One of the few plants that withstood her alternating neglect and enthusiasm, the geraniums added a melange of colour to the view as they sprawled dark red and white; leaves like ivy contrasted with the delicately tiny leaves of box.
She let her head drop back, arching her neck and back to let the setting sun warm and relax taut muscles. Cleaning the apartment wasn't a favourite activity, just a necessary one. Today it seemed to have taken more out of her than usual, or perhaps that was just the weather. The humidity of the day had sunk with the sun, leaving a pleasant warmth that Lois intended to enjoy. Clark wouldn't be back for another hour or so — he'd taken Thomas to Metropolis Planetarium; the air-conditioning there was the best in the city. Lois idly wondered how long the queue to get in had been; they couldn't have been the only people to try to escape the weather in the cool darkness of an artificial night sky.
An unexpected yawn; Lois blinked in surprise as she realised how tired she was. She settled into one of the chairs on the balcony and picked up the frappucino that she'd set down on the table as she crossed the balcony to savour the view; a reward for a tedious task, carefully frozen whilst she worked. The drink was chilled to the point of perfection and the glass sparkled with condensation, leaving a damp ring behind on the wooden table.
The first sip carried an unexpected scent, puzzling Lois momentarily until she realised she could smell the fragrance of the leaves of box that she'd trailed her hand through. A delicate scent, indescribable except in memories. It always recalled a summer holiday, years ago, in the north of Portugal; Clark had brought the beginnings of the border back with them that year. It had been so much a part of the holiday. Lois' eyes closed as she drifted into a daydream, half awake and half submerged in recollections.***
Another balcony, an early morning in summer. Colours blended in the dawn light; the hills receded in distance and shade, heather coloured in the rising dew, until they met the fading ink of night in the sky. Below them was a formal garden of twisting low hedges that enclosed compositions of roses and herbs. The night had released a fragrance that the heat of the day would mask.
Lois stood, held in Clark's arms, pleasantly drifting still between sleep and waking. The heat of his body against hers kept her from shivering in the cold morning air; the sun wouldn't reach this side of the house for some hours yet and yesterday's warmth was long gone from the stonework.
"Remind me again why we're up so early?" she murmured, her voice definitely still asleep.
"We're going into Oporto; you needed to surround yourself with a city again for a while." Clark's indulgent amusement echoed in his words. There were so many things he loved about Lois but this drowsy, warm, early morning peace she sometimes allowed herself was something special; her voice was sleep-blurred and her body held the warmth of their bed. Just holding her centred him, although it took some effort to maintain that centre when she cuddled against him this way. Lois had let her head rest against his chest and her fingers idly played against the back of his hands, wrapped around her waist. "Besides, would you want to miss this?" he asked.
"Mmmm … I suppose not. It would look better with coffee, though." Lois smiled, rapidly waking up despite being loathe to let go of the comfort of sleep. The blue-patterned tiles that lined the balcony — walls and floor - were cool under her bare feet; that and the sharp freshness in the air combined to drag her senses from the embrace of dreams. If she had to wake up, though, this was the way to do it. Held by Clark, secure in ways she would never tire of, to a dawn so beautiful that she would carry the memory of it with her forever.
"Do you want breakfast here or on the terrace?" asked Clark; Lois' answer went momentarily astray when he followed the question by placing a fleeting kiss on her shoulder. She turned in his arms, bringing her hands up to splay across his chest; a crooked smile acknowledged how easily he could distract her and invited his kiss again. Clark took the invitation, capturing her mouth with his. A long slow kiss, barely moving, just a touch of mouths; then it deepened as Lois responded to the teasing touch of his tongue on her lips. She tasted of mint and something uniquely her own; a flavour which Clark was addicted to, heightened in the cool dawn air by the scent from the garden below. He wanted to bottle it and take it home; it was a scent in which he would always find this moment.
Lois pressed closer to Clark, silk and lace too little to provide any real barrier between them; his arms around her, his head lowered to hers, he was everything to her. The sweet invasion of her mouth defined the dawn, a rising arousal burning off the last vestiges of night and sleep. Some distant part of her mind was astonished at the pitiful mewl of protest that slipped out when Clark broke the kiss; where did that noise come from? Wherever it was, Clark seemed aroused and amused in equal parts by it, smiling at her with a banked heat.
"Breakfast, remember? Or would you prefer to stay here … ?" Another question, in a deliberately lowered tone; Clark enjoyed watching Lois' reaction, his riposte to the smoke-sultry voice she used to tease him.
Lois shuddered, the sound curling up her spine. Staying here seemed to be the best option by far, but she was determined to see something of the area whilst she was here; so far she could describe their room in some detail but not too much else.
"Breakfast. On the terrace." A decision made; no decision really, not if they were to have any chance of going anywhere today. Clark smiled.
"Whatever you want," he said, turning and leading her back through the open doors into the bedroom. Lois felt the touch of his hand on the small of her back, at the shallow point of her spine; a point that fascinated Clark. Every last nerve she possessed seemed to route through that spot, or so it felt. Familiarity hadn't dulled the sensation; Clark ushered her through doors several times a day, always letting his hand brush the small of her back. It had always prompted sparks through her. Lois had once spent some time trying to work out why something that would infuriate her if anyone else had tried it was a pleasure when it was Clark; she was quite capable of navigating through an open door without someone's assistance, thank you very much. In the end, the sparks seemed to be the best reason; her response to him was all that mattered. Clark made her feel more capable, not less, no matter what she was doing.
The room was vast, with ceilings so high that they'd found themselves still in mid-air the night before; Lois had had a fit of laughter when she realised she'd become accustomed to bumping into the ceiling whilst they were making love. Her laughter had been infectious, once she'd caught her breath enough to explain to Clark's mock-injured dignity what she was laughing at. They'd landed back on the bed hard enough to knock the breath out of her; Clark's apology had kept them awake and aloft again for some time.
It was not as though the bed was particularly close to the ground; at least a couple of hundred years old, an ornately carved half-poster, it should have been equipped with a step-ladder in Lois' opinion. The sleeping platform was level with her waist; it had taken some long-forgotten gymnastic ability to lever herself up onto it the night they'd arrived. Clark, of course, had no problem and had needed no encouragement when she asked him to help her into bed on the following nights. Lois was a little surprised he'd let her deal with the problem the first night; perhaps he was finally learning to wait until he was asked to help if it wasn't a life-threatening issue. Perversely, she wasn't quite as pleased with that as she would have imagined.
The bed was not perhaps the safest thing in the room to think about if they were going to make it downstairs to breakfast. Lois headed for the bathroom, closing the door behind her to shut out Clark's admittedly distracting presence. None of this house was particularly modern; the shower seemed to have come from the 1920's, detailed chrome set in black and white deco tiles, but the water was plentiful and hot. Lois fiddled with the taps, adjusting the temperature to her liking, and settled under the cascade of water with a sigh of contentment. She was on holiday, nothing to do but meander where the mood took her — and Clark.
Another sigh, slightly less content. Sometimes she wished he would be more decisive when they were on holiday; simply saying that he was happy to go where she wanted to wasn't particularly helpful. It made Lois feel responsible for his enjoyment of their time off; no matter how often he protested that he wanted only to be with her, that the details of where they were and what they were doing were irrelevant, she still felt that responsibility. Once in a while she'd like just to follow his lead; no matter what oddities lay at the end of it. Maybe she should just tell him … radical though that that might be; Lois giggled, face scrunched against the pressure of the shower as she lathered her hair with shampoo. She imagined Clark's expression when she voluntarily told him that there was something minor bothering her; no matter how secure she knew their relationship to be, she still had a tendency to hold back things she thought too inconsequential to bother him with.
Lois dried herself off, the towel warm and soft against her skin; she absently watched drops of condensation stagger down the mirror as she did so, their random trails mildly hypnotic to someone relaxed by a warm shower. Wrapping a robe around herself, she left the bathroom. Clark was sitting in one of the chairs by the fireplace, reading something. She crept up behind him, amused to see that he was pretending not to notice her approach, and looked over his shoulder. No help there, the book was in … probably Portuguese, she thought. A drop of water fell from her hair onto Clark's shoulder and he looked up, aimed for a startled look and failed; he laughed instead when Lois' smile quirked wider at his antics.
"My turn? I'll only take a couple of minutes," he said. He was accurate; Lois had barely finished pulling out some clothes from the closet before he returned. she had never worked out quite how he showered that quickly, given that water flows at the same rate no matter what species is standing below it. She glanced involuntarily at her watch when she felt a sudden breeze and a kiss on the back of her neck.
"Good; you can go ahead and get breakfast ordered. I'll have toast, and some fruit … and coffee!" She'd almost forgotten the most important part of breakfast in her attempt not to react; it was an ongoing game, his attempts to find another use of his powers to impress and her effort not to raise an eyebrow — no matter how extreme the stunt. Swift showers she was used to; it was his unerring ability to locate an erogenous zone with an equally swift kiss that tested her acting ability. She wasn't sure if that counted in the game, but it was fun to see if he'd follow up to try and get a reaction. This time he didn't; she felt another shiver of air and turned to see him pulling on a white t-shirt, already wearing black jeans: faded from use and obviously a comfortably snug fit, they were one of her favourite items of his clothing.
"Bread, melon and coffee; got it. See you in a few minutes." Lois got her follow-up after all; a short intense kiss on his way out of the room that left her slightly stunned. It took a moment for her to pull herself back out of the unbidden fantasy that her mind had anticipated and to concentrate on putting a black short-sleeved turtleneck on the right way round.
A few minutes it was; dressed and sun-screened, Lois made her way to the terrace. The house they were staying was an solar, an strawberry-gothic manor house built in the late 19th century by an son of the local village who'd made his money in Brazil. Apparently his wife had taken one look at the place and declared it unfit to live in; it was far too small, they couldn't possibly raise a family there. Lois had laughed when Clark had recounted this; their room alone was larger than their entire apartment in Metropolis. The house was built on three floors; the lower servants' quarters were a rabbit warren of cellars and dark damp rooms but the upper floors were an exercise in fin-de-siÈcle extravagance. They were covered in plaster work that depicted a nature too rich to be reality, much less the starkly beautiful landscape outside.
The halls were hung with tapestries and decorated with artwork; all Portuguese, mostly contemporary with the house. The house was kept immaculate and carefully polished, the attention giving an almost living glow to the wear of time; it had been a hotel ever since the builder's wife had decided it was too small for a family.
Lois found Clark at a table outside, sitting in the early morning sun; he'd thoughtfully picked a table that was half in the sun, half in the shade, to give her the choice. Lois ruffled his hair slightly as she moved round him to reach her seat, choosing to sit in the shade; it was early but already getting warm as the dawn haze burnt off from the hills. She'd taken longer than she thought, or the kitchen were well prepared; the table was already set and breakfast set out. Lois picked up the heavy white china bowl of coffee and inhaled the steam rising from it with gratitude; she was on holiday and this was real coffee. Hot cafÈ au lait — no, cafÈ com leite, she remembered from Clark's patient explanation of the myriad coffee options in the first cafÈ they had visited — bliss. Clark had already drunk his coffee, she noticed; the attentive waiter was already bringing over another. He'd opted for a .. bica, that was it; small dark and evil, Lois thought was the best description for it. Espresso was too mild a term for something that strong. Clark seemed to think it was the best coffee he'd ever had, and refused to adulterate it with milk as he did at home; the barista outside the Daily Planet usually had a latte ready for them both when they arrived at work in the morning.
"What do you want to do in Oporto?" asked Clark, "Any ideas?" Perfect opening, thought Lois.
"I hadn't thought about it — what do you want to do?"
"I don't mi-" Clark's words were cut off abruptly.
"I do mind!" Lois reached across to take his hand, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt that bluntly." Clark was still registering surprise at her outburst and she hurried to explain. "It's just that you always say that you don't mind, that you just want to spend time with me. And I like that, I really do; but do you have any idea how much … stress, I suppose, that puts me under? I have to try and think of things to do, which isn't always easy, but then I end up trying to work out what you'll enjoy and what you won't and … it's just not very relaxing, Clark."
She'd been right; he was surprised that she'd actually told him that something minor was bothering her. Now he understood why she'd been a bit pre-occupied the other day when they'd gone to Braga: he'd left her to decide their route through the cathedral town. When he'd asked if everything was alright, she'd shrugged it off.
"Then … well, I'd like to visit the Solar do Vinho do Porto. It's a sort of bar where they serve every port wine produced," he explained.
"I didn't think you liked that sort of drink much?" asked Lois, curiously. She'd never known him drink anything stronger than wine.
"I don't dislike it, but the bar is in one of the old houses overlooking the river; I've been told it's a nice place to visit," said Clark. "Other than that, I don't have any particular places I want to go. How about we just wander and see where it takes us?"
Lois nodded. "Train or car?" was her next question; they'd rented a car but neither of them were particularly enamoured of the local driving technique. The Portuguese seemed to have a second national personality that emerged behind the wheel of a car and scared her more than any MetroCabbie had ever managed to.
"Train, definitely." Clark had briefly thought about suggesting a less conventional method of transport but decided that this was a holiday, and taking things slowly was part of relaxing. Besides, he hadn't brought the suit and wasn't convinced about the feasibility of finding somewhere unobserved to take off and land in an unknown city. "There's one in about an hour, and the station's five minutes away." Lois smiled; he sometimes took the Boy Scout thing too seriously. Always being prepared had its uses, though.
They were quiet for a few minutes, eating breakfast. As Lois settled the coffee bowl back on the table, finished, Clark gestured to the gardens below the terrace. "Want to take a walk?" he asked. Lois nodded, taking his hand as they stood.
A short flight of stone steps led down from the terrace to the gravel paths of the garden. Like so many others they'd seen here it was formal, carefully controlled and planned. Intricately entwined low hedges, barely six inches high, outlined abstract patterns that were filled with roses. A series of interlinked narrow rectangular pools ran the length of the garden and high yew hedges enclosed the space. Outside those, the vineyards began; the terraces of vines descended to the river far below, a triumph of human engineering centuries old.
The garden was quiet; only the water, mumbling from a fountain in the wall of the terrace, broke the stillness. The faint scent of the garden that Lois had caught from the balcony of their room was more intense here. She and Clark walked here every morning after breakfast, either planning the day ahead or — like today — quietly enjoying each other's company before venturing out. The gravel crunched under their feet, shifting into shallows indentations to mark their trail. Clark reached down to brush the back of his hand through the small green border of a flowerbed; he pinched a couple of leaves off and sniffed them. Lois looked at him quizzically, so he offered them to her; somewhat dubious, Lois took a breath of the leaves' scent. It was an intense tang, the base of the garden's fragrance; it smelt like summer.
"What is that?" she asked.
"Box; it's a bit like privet, just smaller leaves and with a better fragrance." Lois was privately amused that he still assumed she'd know what privet looked like. That it was a hedge, and therefore probably green, was about the limit of her information. no one had ever accused her of having a talent for gardening.
The garden was small, and they had wandered all the way around it with plenty of time to spare to reach the station comfortably before the train. The 'five minutes' to the station turned out to be just that, along dusty roads edged by banks that scrambled up to low granite walls that held fields of maize. From the walls jutted posts, also granite, supporting the ubiquitous vines that scrambled through the region and framed the fields. The infinitely varying green of the leaves had provided a welcome shade for the occasional walks they'd taken through the fields down to a nearby stream.
Lois let Clark deal with the tickets; the station was barely a stopping point with only a shelter and a small octagonal concrete building — "hutch" was the best word to describe it — which acted as the ticket office. Lois was surprised the place even merited a ticket office; there couldn't be much traffic through here. She mentioned this to Clark when he rejoined her.
"No, there isn't much; it's only open because there's a train due. He'll close up once it arrives and won't open up until half an hour before the next one." That seemed to Lois to be an odd way to employ someone. "He's also in charge of the road-crossing here," Clark pointed to the gates on either side of the railway lines, "so he'll probably live in the house next to the lines there. It's a fairly standard arrangement around here. Free board and lodging in return for a constantly interrupted day." At that moment a couple of children ran out from the house and dashed to close the gates; a minute later and the rails started to echo. The train arrived with a groan of straining metal, brakes squealing. Once inside, the train wasn't particularly luxurious but the seats were comfortable enough.
Lois found herself dozing against Clark's shoulder, his arm around her shoulders anchoring her to him. The landscape they were passing through was dramatic; the railway line followed the river downstream to Oporto, cut into the side of the steep granite river banks and hugging the shoreline barely a few feet above water. On either side, above them, rose terraces of vines like those that surrounded the hotel. Every so often they would pass a farm on the far side of the river; these were nothing like the farms Lois was used to seeing in Kansas. Clark had called them "quintas"; they were smallholdings, mostly vines and a small area in which they grew crops for the family. Only on the upper, shallower reaches of the hills above the river grew more conventional farm crops.
"Why are the fields so small here?" she mused. Clark looked down, surprised she was still awake. The last time they'd travelled by train she'd fallen asleep within minutes; the inexorable soporific rumble of the train over the tracks took its toll. She wasn't particularly awake, either, he noticed; her eyes were closing as he described the problems of subdivision of estates as a result of Napoleonic laws of succession. She could do with the sleep, he thought, so he deliberately set his voice to a lulling cadence as he spoke.
The next thing Lois knew, it was dark outside. She blinked the sleep from her eyes in confusion; Clark sat up as she stirred. "Where are we?" she asked, "and why is it dark?"
Clark smothered a laugh at the mildly petulant confusion in her voice. "We're coming into Oporto, and it's dark because we're in a tunnel."
"A tunnel?" asked Lois, "Like the Metro or something?"
"No, Oporto's built on hills; I guess it was easier to take the railway line through and under rather than knock down half the city to reach the station."
A moment later and the train eased its way along a platform; the station seemed to grow out of the side of a hill, covered by a glass and girders roof supported on high steel pillars. They spent the day just meandering through the city, taking in their surroundings and delighting in pointing out things that amused them or just looked interesting — a series of shops in a narrow alley that sold votive offerings of wax in the shape of every body part you could image; small hardware stores that sold things that Metropolis hadn't seen since the days of Lois' grandparents; a furniture store that could have been the place that provided the hotel furnishings, all 19th century mahogany and intricate carving; the designs picked out in black against the white granite setts that formed the sidewalks.
They wandered into a bookstore which had a staircase growing up through the middle of the store, so sinuously carved that it seemed almost organic; the books were disappointing, mostly coffee-table imports. Not far from there they lunched in a cafÈ that didn't appear to have changed since the beginning of the century; all cracked leather seats, foxed mirrors and a riot of gilded art nouveau cherubs and gods decorating the ceiling. The waiters wore short white coats with shining brass buttons; the tables were covered in heavy cream linen; the service was impeccable. Too well-fed to move for a while they lingered over coffee and watched people pass by, entertaining each other with stories about them. The thick-set man over there, talking into a cellphone; he was a Russian, here to try and off-load some illicit goods smuggled into the shipyards on a Japanese freighter. The woman by the window, all tan and teeth; she was trying to remember which of the lipsticks on display she didn't already possess.
Later, as Lois' legs protested faintly at the punishing combination of granite sidewalks and hills, they found themselves in a park high on the bank of the river. The gardens were just as formal as that at the hotel, on a grander scale. The same box hedges, with their scent of summer, and a profusion of roses in all colours. Goldfish shivered the water in small pools; wall fountains rippled into basins. They sat for a while, watching the bustle on the quays on the far bank of the river some way below them. The city didn't rise as steeply from the river here as it did miles upstream, where the hotel was, but they were still some way up.
The afternoon was closing into evening when Clark stood and took Lois' hand. "Let's go visit this bar, then we can get back." The bar was tucked down a side street next to the park; Lois clung to Clark's hand to avoid twisting an ankle on the uneven granite of the cobbled street. They passed through a set of wrought iron gates; a small manor house stood to their left, overlooking a car park shaded with trees from the park. Lois headed for a dark green door that stood open in the whitewashed wall of the house and was surprised when Clark tugged at her hand, leading her down to a flight of steps. She looked at him, puzzled.
"It's down here; the main part of the house is a museum." He pointed out a small plaque on the wall next to the door, too small to read from where they were.
"No, I don't think so. We can always ask." They'd reached the bottom of the steps by now, and Clark led the way into a cool shaded room.
"Bliss." Lois sank into one of the deep leather armchairs that were scattered around; the air conditioning was a welcome relief after the heat of the day. She peered around; the room was built of yet more granite, a colonnade of arches opening onto another formal rose garden. It was enclosed from the heat by walls of glass beneath the arches. Lois closed her eyes and let her head drop back; the room was peaceful, with just a murmur in the background. She supposed Clark was ordering something; she could hear his voice, but not what he was saying. "This is heaven," she whispered, certain he'd hear her.
Clark settled into the chair next to Lois'; he had heard and agreed. The city had satisfied Lois' Metropolis withdrawal, but it was draining and this calm was welcome. "So, did you have a good time?" he teased; she'd been delighted by the city, and he'd delighted in watching her explore it.
"Mmmm. My feet may never forgive me, though," she smiled. "What did you order?"
"Just a couple of coffees. It seems too hot to drink anything stronger; is that alright, or do you want something else? I'm sorry, I should have asked."
"No, that's fine. I did tell you I wanted you to make some of the decisions, remember?" Lois looked up just in time to see an expression of startled amusement cross Clark's face. "What's so funny?"
"Nothing, nothing at all … I'll just remind you of that next time you shoot down one of my decisions about the way to write a story for Perry." Clark laughed and ducked as Lois swatted at him; if she'd connected it would have hurt her hand, not him, and he had plans for her hands later. The coffee arrived and they slipped into a companionable silence again.
Half an hour later, the coffee was finished and the silence had given way to a murmured exchange of reminiscences of the day. Clark stretched. "Ready to go?" he asked.
"Mmm-hmm," Lois nodded. "How long will it take us to get back?"
"A couple of hours, I think." At the grimace that passed over Lois' face, Clark thought rapidly. The park had had several forested areas, away from the main paths … and there was that place down by the stream near the hotel, no one seemed to go there much. "Do you want to … " he gestured, his hand dipping to indicate flying.
"Is it safe?" asked Lois.
"I think so; the park's got some secluded spots and there's that corner on the stream away from the path near the hotel. It's twilight now and if I fly fast enough no one should spot us."
"What happened to taking things slowly on holiday?" teased Lois as they left.
"There's a time and place for taking things slowly, and I intend to reach it as soon as possible," smiled Clark. Lois laughed; patience was not always his forte.
They weren't spotted and, as they tumbled out of the woods near the stream, Clark caught Lois' hand and pulled her to him. "I had a wonderful day; thank you," he murmured just before she kissed him.
"You're entirely welcome," her voice was indistinct; she was reluctant to leave the sensual touch of his mouth but Clark could feel her smile. The babble of the stream faded into the background as the moment stretched; the kiss deepened, sped by the edge of restraint they'd indulged in all day. The centre of a busy city wasn't quite the place to lose themselves in a kiss, no matter that no one there knew them; such things had a tendency to flame out of control too quickly for public consumption. Now there was no one to watch, and they took the time to release the restraint. No mere brush of mouths, this was a full open kiss; Clark dipped into Lois' mouth almost before they touched. She nipped gently at his exploration, taking advantage of his momentary retreat to follow and taste him; she suckled his lower lip with a delicate passion. Clark groaned her name, startling something in the undergrowth nearby; they were startled in turn, pulling apart at the unexpected noise of something small crashing away through the bracken.
"Let's take this somewhere else; where we won't scare the wildlife," smiled Clark, amusment replacing momentary surprise. Lois laughed and took his hand, following him across the precariously balanced stepping stones that led across the river. He had an unfair advantage, she thought, noticing that his feet didn't quite touch the stones.
Once on the shore, back on the path to the hotel, Clark slipped his arm around her waist and she reciprocated; she tucked her hand under his t-shirt and into the waistband of his jeans. The comfortable pressure of his hand against her hip focussed the arousal of their earlier kiss. It had dissipated with surprise but was beginning to coil back through her with each brush of his thigh against hers, and the warmth of his skin under her hand. She brushed her fingers lightly against him, letting them drift with each shift of denim on his hips as they walked. She could feel the mild shudder that sparked through him at her touch; and knew he could feel the tension creeping through her. The knowledge was always intoxicating, the pleasure they took in each other unabated by time and familiarity.
Their pace quickened rapidly until they reached the hotel at last; dusty and warm, a shower seemed like their best idea. They encountered no one as they fled up the flight of stairs to their room, chasing each other and laughing quietly as they tried to both evade and capture the other. Lois found herself caught against the door, facing Clark and laughing helplessly at the leer that he gave her. Her laughing was swallowed by his mouth, a hard fast kiss as he opened the door behind her. Off balance as it opened, they tumbled through it and only a swift inhuman correction stopped them from falling on the floor. Lois was laughing again as Clark shoved the door shut behind him with one foot.
The shower was forgotten for a moment; they settled into a close embrace, still hiccuping with laughter from time to time as they calmed down. Clark floated them across the room to the balcony; the sun was setting on the hills opposite and the morning's heather haze was now a rich copper red as the light bled across the crest of the furthest hills.
"Oh, it's beautiful," sighed Lois. Clark nuzzled the top of her head by way of agreement, dropping a swift kiss there. They watched the sun set as they'd watched the hills light up in the dawn, Lois wrapped in Clark's arms; his hands across her stomach and her fingers playing idly on them. The evening closed out the sounds of the day; all that remained were the sibilant sprinklers playing on the rose garden below and the crickets in the fields beyond.
Lois woke to that same scent of summer and the sound of her son chattering excitedly; the deeper murmur of Clark's voice was shushing him and telling him to go and put the stars in his room. Stars? Lois wondered. She looked up to see Clark come through the french windows and out onto the balcony.
"Have a good afternoon?" he asked, greeting her with a lingering kiss. He'd enjoyed his son's delight in the Planetarium but had still missed Lois' presence.
"Mmm; got the cleaning done and then fell asleep, I think. I had a wonderful daydream," answered Lois, stretching against him as she got up from the chair.
"Are you ok?" asked Clark. "You don't normally fall asleep in the middle of the afternoon. You didn't over-do it with the cleaning, did you? You should have left -" His concern was interrupted by Lois' fingers over his mouth.
"I'm fine; I didn't over-do it. I don't know why I was tired, I haven't fallen asleep mid-afternoon like that since … " Her words trailed off as a thought crossed her mind. Clark finished the thought for her.
" … since you were pregnant with Thomas."
Written: August 1-3,1999
The title was suggested by Ann — thank you! And thanks to Wendy for checking the PG-ness of this version!
Usual disclaimer and copyright acknowledgements. This story, however, is my copyright and is not to be distributed without my permission.