By Jessi Mounts <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted April 2000
Summary: Do you believe in love at first sight? Lois and Clark meet for the first time in an elevator, stranded between floors. This charming story explores their budding mutual feelings during their confinement together.
Before I do anything else, I need to thank Ann for editing this and the people at the boards for reminding twice to finish. Without you, this story never would have gotten past the first scene. Then thank you again to the people at the message boards and on the list for your encouragement and the crash course in dealing with constructive criticism. The a-plot used to be a disjointed mess. Now, hopefully, it's a little less messy. <g> Feedback is still more than welcome (a.k.a. desperately begged for <g>) in any form you want to give it.
"Oh! Oh! Hold that…door…open."
Lois didn't actually expect anyone on the elevator to grant her request. It was all the way across the food court she was standing in, and unless someone on there happened to be a lip reader or was fluent in the language of Lois-Lane-arm-waving, there was no way anyone would know she was even making one. So she was surprised to see the doors slide back open when they'd been just inches from sealing shut.
Lois snatched her Chinese take-out off the counter before she rushed across the mall's food court to eye the elevator's sole passenger suspiciously. He was staring at her, looking a little stunned, but holding on to that Doors Open button like it was the most important task of his life. That alone was enough to make her nervous. Why in the world would this guy wait for her to walk all the way across the food court unless he *really* wanted to be alone in that tiny space with her?
The man apparently saw her hesitation. He finally remembered to remove that stunned look from his face and replace it with a very reassuring and convincing smile.
Oh well, Lois thought, as she stepped into the elevator. The mall closed in half an hour, she had to get Lucy's present by Tuesday, and she really didn't want to deal with another round of saleswomen explaining why their perfume was a life necessity. And if he tries anything, I can always show him what I know about self-defense.
Lois gazed absently at the red digital numbers counting up the floors and tried to ignore the part of herself insisting that she didn't actually mind being alone in the elevator with this man. He wasn't bad looking, after all. Well, okay, the hair needed some work. It reminded her of a fourth grade kid who never realized his short haircut had outgrown itself until his mother dragged him off to the barber shop. But you could forgive the hair for the sake of those deep, dark eyes that looked like their owner could never hurt anyone. And the smile that made her feel like she was the most important thing in his world. And…and…um…and he'd noticed she was staring at him.
She whipped her head back around to examine the digital numbers that were taking their own sweet time in rising. Just where were you going with that anyway, Lane? she questioned herself. Get a grip! The man is not a manic serial killer who lures innocent women into abandoned elevators, and he is not madly in love with you!
If Clark Kent could have heard Lois's thoughts, he could have told her she was possibly only halfway right. A serial killer he was not, but whether or not he was in love with her was still open for debate. He had no problem with falling in love, of course. He *wanted* to fall in love. But love at first sight?
He glanced at this gorgeous, bewitching woman, only feet away from him, who seemed so fascinated by the interior of the elevator and utterly uninterested in him. No, he wasn't in love. There was a perfectly logical explanation why he was still fighting off the urge to soar into the air. Or sweep her into his arms. Or soar into the air with her enveloped in his arms. That would be good too.
But not in love. And this feeling that he'd finally found what he'd been searching for his whole life? That these few minutes would decide whether he'd never be lonely again, or he'd be more alone than he ever had? That wasn't love. It was…it was…relief that he'd survived the vulture salespeople of Metropolis? Okay, that was a pathetic excuse, but it was the only excuse he could come up with because he was *not* in love. He wasn't! He couldn't…possibly…be…
His overworked defiant voice wavered as he turned to catch just one last look at her, and his eyes met hers. She seemed so stubborn, so independent. So unneeding of anyone, least of all him. It didn't matter. No amount of stubbornness could hide the warmth and passion he was sure he saw behind it all. He loved her. Later he might laugh at this fairy-tale idea or be terrified for his sanity. Right now, there was no doubt in the world. He'd fallen in love at first sight with a stranger in an elevator.
Lois was now glaring at the digital six, threatening it to change to a seven, or else. Honestly, she'd walked right into *the* slowest elevator in the history of the earth! She should have taken the stairs.
Her perky little voice disagreed. "But then you never would have met—"She promptly made the thing shut up, and then sent her negative energy in the direction of the glowing red number, which had finally, on pain of death, changed to a seven. And then remained a seven, much to Lois's disgust. Did the thing plan on staying on floor seven all night?
The elevator responded with an exhausted gasp and an indignant jolt. Yes, apparently that's exactly where it was going to stay.
"I think it's stuck," the stranger offered timidly.
Lois turned to glare at him as if this whole thing were entirely his fault. It wasn't. It could have been, if he'd thought of it. He hadn't. Luckily. Clark was getting the uncomfortable feeling that the death rays this woman's eyes were shooting could disintegrate any innocent look he conjured up and see right through to his guilt.
Lois turned her lethal gaze back to the poor, abused numbers. "Yes, it's stuck! Computerized numbers, plush carpet on the walls, and — and — cheesy music, and the thing can't get from one floor to another! Even elevators in Bate's Motel don't get stuck!"
Clark wisely decided not to encourage further wrath by pointing out the Bate's Motel didn't have elevators and instead quietly pressed the Emergency button.
This wasn't really an emergency, he admitted. They weren't in any danger; and if they were, he could have them out of there before she had time to realize how she'd gotten out. But that would involve doing something extremely suspicious on his first day in Metropolis; and that was the type of thing he was trying to avoid, not practice at the drop of a hat. Besides, why would he want to have them out of there? Hadn't he just been wishing they were in a nice, slow elevator in, say, the Sears Tower?
Why would he want them out of there? Because this woman, who may or may not be the love of his life, looked like she was quietly planning the execution of whoever was responsible for the faulty elevator. And if she couldn't find the guilty party, he was getting the distinct impression he would do just as well. Really, he scolded himself, if you insist on falling in love at first sight, couldn't you have picked someone a little less homicidal?
By this time, Lois's rage was narrowing from the world in general to the makers of this elevator in particular. She glanced at her elevator companion and thought he'd be happy to hear that. His mysterious, stunned look was steadily changing to wild-eyed fear.
There was no reason for him to be afraid. Okay, well, maybe she'd yelled a bit, but she hadn't yelled at *him*. Had she? She reviewed the last couple of minutes and realized, yes, actually, she had.
Darn. She had no problem with scaring people. She just wanted the scaring to be her idea. Really, she thought idly, the guy hadn't done anything deserving a scare yet. He'd held the door for her.
How he'd known to was beyond her. He'd stayed well on his side of the elevator, and he'd known better than to interrupt her tirade.
She could be nice in return.
Unconsciously, she lifted her chin in determination and then relaxed, sliding down the wall into a seated position and loosely wrapping her hands around the knees of her slacks.
She hesitated for a second and then let out a half timid "So…" Oh, brilliant Lane. That's got to be the most creative conversation starter you've come up with yet.
The man stared at her, hands thrust deep in his pockets. She couldn't read his expression, but she guessed he was trying to decide whether her sudden change in attitude was a good or bad thing. Finally, he seemed to come to a decision and followed her example. "So…"
"That's not a fortune!"
Lois's eyes sparkled as she went into a parody of the infamous Mad Dog Lane mode. Lois would have been appalled if she had realized her eyes were showing anything at all, let alone sparkles, but at the moment, she was having too much fun to care. It turned out that her mysterious stranger, though maybe a little odd, was certainly not a serial killer. Or if he was, at least he was a charming and thoughtful one on his off time. Anyway, once he'd- they'd- relaxed enough to share the Chinese food that had almost made her miss the elevator in the first place, she'd discovered there wasn't anyone else she'd rather have been stuck in an elevator with. For some reason completely beyond her, she actually *liked* debating the authenticity of fortune cookies.
"Oh, it is so a fortune," she said stubbornly. "'Your life will be taking an interesting turn.' It comes from a cookie. It tells the future. That is a fortune." With each of her closing arguments, she rhythmically snapped the offending slip of paper to punctuate the phrases.
Clark slowly shook his head, partly in disagreement, but mostly in amazement at this complex, wonderful woman. After those first awkward few minutes, he'd discovered he was more than justified in falling in love with her. Oh, it was still a crazy fairy tale notion, but now, at least, he wouldn't have to tell his parents he was in love with someone who hadn't spoken ten words to him.
The passion he'd sensed in her wasn't imaginary. Each word she'd said, every gesture she made was done with all she had.
She hadn't given him her life story. In fact, they'd skipped right over the basic getting-to-know-you information. He didn't know her job, her friends, her opinions on the weather. He didn't even know her name. He wasn't going to complain. What she had said told him so much more than her thoughts about that morning's rainstorm. Between teasing, bad puns, and her Chinese take-out, he'd met a person he guessed she let few people see.
Her favorite TV shows were a "sappy" soap opera, The Ivory Tower, and a sixties spy show. She didn't like the movie based on the former, proclaiming it a "cheap rip-off" and "completely out of character." She loved to write. He'd already half guessed that by the time she'd said so. She worded herself so eloquently that, if she didn't write, she should. Since the age of nine, she'd had the long held dream of publishing a novel. At nine, the heroic main character of said novel would single-handedly save the world. Over fifteen years later, that heroine was still saving the world, but now it was at the expense of her chance to find her prince of all Prince Charmings.
She'd dropped one barrier after another, each one revealing yet another quirky, charming aspect of her personality. She often tried to out-sing her not so melodic hair-dryer in the mornings. She was an expert in self-defense and had considered using it on him if he got out of line. She loved cats, but didn't own one, for the protection of her elderly goldfish. She couldn't cook, hated most salespeople, had recently learned to roller-blade. She never let herself trust her coworkers.
With each barrier she dropped, Clark felt himself falling more deeply into her unintentional trap, and he really couldn't have been happier about it. In other words, he had fallen head over heels in love, and whatever logical, rational thought process he had left had fallen right along with him.
Meanwhile, Lois was working up an amused irritation at his apparent disagreement with her.
"Oh, you think I'm wrong? And I suppose you, farmboy, are a frequent visitor to China and a world renowned expert on fortune cookies!" Clark gave her his best devastating grin, knowing he had this debate nailed. "Well, I don't know about being a 'world renowned expert' but I have been to China. Twice." And innumerable other times to pick up a quick meal, he thought to himself, but those don't really count. Lois's expression slowly changed from mock irritation to sincere interest. The guy from Kansas said that so matter-of-factly, like he was telling her he had been to the Grand Canyon.
"You're kidding! How? Why?"
Clark felt his world crashing down around him as the meaning of her question hit him. She wanted to know how he'd gotten to China, and he couldn't tell her. He was completely, helplessly in love with her, and he couldn't tell her something as simple as his means of transportation. This wasn't that big of a deal, but what about next time? What about when she wanted to know why he never got hurt, never got sick, could hear things he shouldn't, could bruise her with a careless caress? What then?
Anyway, he had to give her an answer to this particular question now. She was getting suspicious! As he struggled to force his world back into it's rightful place, he stole a panicked glance in her direction. She didn't *look* that suspicious. Really, she just looked interested in finding out why a farm kid…oh… Clark grinned sheepishly, which matched what he was about to say pretty well anyway.
"Why'd I go to China? Mostly because it was there and I'd never been. My version of teenage rebellion, I guess."
At Lois's incredulous raised eyebrows, he hurried to continue, "Oh, my parents were — *are* — wonderful. They wouldn't have objected if I announced I was visiting the moon, as long as I knew how to get there." Which I do, he thought, wishing for the first time that he had a way to share that with someone. Namely, her. "It was just about everyone else in town who said I couldn't do it alone. Which made me that much more determined to try. Silly, I guess."
The corners of Lois's mouth slowly turned up into a charmed smile. He was such a walking contradiction. He had obvious physical strength, but he moved with all the careful grace of a jungle cat. He kept his shoulders slightly slumped, and his smiles were almost cautious. She'd think him timid, if she hadn't watched him hold up his fair share in every playful argument they'd had. She had no doubt he'd fare just as well in a real one. He was ridiculously kind-hearted, but here he was admitting to a stubborn streak. No, she corrected herself. That wasn't a contradiction. If his "rebellious" trip to China had caused any harm to anyone other than to mystify a couple of people, he wouldn't have thought about going. Knowingly hurting someone was even more impossible for him than flying to the moon.
"No, not silly at all," she said, finishing her reverie and remembering he was waiting for her to answer his question. "I've spent my entire life pulling stunts like that."
As Clark took his turn at eyebrow raising, Lois gave a short laugh. "No, not China!"
Feeling reassured by the return to the playful mood, she continued. "I can't resist a challenge. If someone says I can't do something, I can't resist the urge to show them I can. I've got this monstrous teddy bear packed away somewhere that my sister bet me I could never get. So I saved my money for two months and bought it. I didn't want it, but that wasn't the point."
She tipped her head back against the wall and tried to dredge up a memory to further explain herself.
"Then there was the time I joined the drama club after Daddy teased me about being a shy little bookworm. And the time I became the school's spelling bee champion because he said I couldn't."
She stopped abruptly, feeling uncomfortable for revealing so much and ridiculous for revealing it so bitterly. She was talking about a contest where nine-year-olds ponder the correct spelling of "mosquito" using the same rueful tone most people use when telling about failed marriages. If her elevator companion didn't already think she was off her rocker, he certainly did now. She reluctantly started to meet his eyes which, by this time, were undoubtedly showing cruel laughter mixed with shock. She got a shock of her own to see none of it.
She could see by his barely present smile that he was still trying valiantly to sustain the light mood. Somehow he'd guessed early on that she needed that, and so every time she'd slipped and said more than she'd meant to, he'd counter with a story about the time his dog ate two and a half boxes of crayons or something equally silly. And every single time, his eyes betrayed him a little more. At first, she'd convinced herself it was only her over-active imagination, but by now there was no denying that look in his eyes. He was falling in love with her.
She viciously squelched the thought as quickly as it came up. No, she could deny it. And she would deny it. There's no such thing as confident, intense love like that. Not for him, and most certainly *not* for her.
"Spelling bees," he was saying now, his voice far too low for such a flippant remark. "I always hated those."
He was still trying desperately, and failing miserably, to break the intimate mood. She met his gaze for the thousandth time that evening, the face only inches from hers, and her careful denial of true love fizzled. Oh god, she thought, feeling a sharp stab of panic, he's going to kiss me. The panic sharpened as she realized that's exactly what she wanted him to do. Would it be such a bad thing to let herself go, to let him hold her and feel his lips against hers? Would that be so wrong?
And now she was entirely sure it couldn't be, as her face was already cradled tenderly in his hands and his lips were-
-smashed unceremoniously into the cheap carpeted walls as a deafening clap of gunshot tore through the air and a bullet burst up through the floor. Well, she'd wanted someone to kill the mood, hadn't she?
"Uh," she stuttered, trying to recover at least some composure after the startling change in atmosphere, "you're squishing me."
The pressure enveloping her lessened instantly. Her protector's voice came from behind her sounding half-frantic. "Oh, I'm so sorry. Are you all right?"
Lois giggled, finally recognizing the absurdity of the situation. She'd only wanted to buy a gift for her little sister. Instead, after spending hours having an amazing conversation with a man who'd tried to kiss her, she'd found herself wrapped entirely in that man's protection as he dodged the bullets whizzing around him. And *he* was the one apologizing? Yup, just another day in the life of Lois Lane. "I'm just fine," she said, surprised to find herself laughing good-naturedly. "But just what makes you thing that *you've* got the right to protect *me*?"
"Well, I'm, uh, bigger than you, and — and there's really no sense in putting both of us in danger."
"Oh." There was something wrong with that logic, but Lois didn't feel like sorting it out.
"So," he said, sounding for all the world like someone still having a leisurely conversation over Chinese take out. Just a Kansas farm boy, huh? "Are you shot at often?"
Lois smiled, unable to resist her chance to tease him again. "And just what makes you so sure they're not shooting at you?" He wasn't so easily thrown off balance this time. "Oh, darn. I forgot. I never should have robbed that bank. Those Smallville cops will track to the ends of the earth. No, really, the mall's closed, so it's gotta be me or you, and I seriously doubt it's me. Why *are* they shooting at you?"
"I'm a reporter," Lois stated matter-of-factly.
There was a beat of silence from his end of the conversation, broken only by the sound of yet another gunshot ripping through the air. "Uh huh," he finally said. He paused for another beat and then asked brightly, "So, have you seen any good movies lately?"
Lois responded by probably confusing the poor man half to death with a laugh and gentle elbow in the ribs. "Shh!"
"Why shh?" came the whisper in her ear.
"Because—" she whispered, doing her best to be insistent while her grin stretched from ear to ear, entirely with her permission. Since when did she have *fun* being shot at? — "if our shooters can somehow hear anything at all over that racket, we want them to think that they've got us, mission accomplished, and go home."
"Oh, but you forget," he said, managing to sound sly in a low whisper. "Those aren't just the run-of-the-mill shooters out there. That's the Smallville police force, not to fooled by such amateurish tactics as-"
Lois cut him off with another good-natured elbow and a "Shh!" "Yes ma'am," he whispered and obediently fell into silence.
And promptly fell back out of it to announce, "Bet they're shooting up the elevator shaft from the doors at the floor below us. They're probably the ones who stopped the elevator in first place. Just how much ammunition do these people *have*, anyway?"
"Is it even humanly possible to-"
She laughed and said "Shh."
"Do they always-"
Lois gave up her shushing, which wasn't much fun anyway and announced, "If they're after me, they do. Anyone after me is always relentless, illogical, or nuts. It's some kind of curse."
He said simply "Ah," and fell back into silence, apparently intending to stay there this time.
He didn't have to for long. With his silence came one last, lonely gunshot, a few muffled shouts, and then nothing. Lois waited a good thirty seconds, and then turned to face her unlikely hero. His arms were still wrapped protectively around her. She could get used to that, she reflected. She tilted her face to smile up at him, and was greeted by an adoring grin. Oh, she could definitely get used to this.
"Well, sir," she teased, playfully resting her hands on his shoulders, "you've just survived your first attack by the bad guys. Welcome to Metropolis. Now—"
Later on, Clark realized there were probably other ways to handle what was to happen next. What exactly those ways were, he wasn't sure, but there had to be something, anything, less obvious and, well, less idiotic, that he could have done. At the time, he was only conscious of a pang of horror as he realized the floor was literally falling out from beneath him and the desperate thought that he'd finally found the woman of his dreams and he would *not* lose her now. From there, his subconscious took over and he suddenly found himself soaring into the air with her held tightly in his arms.
The woman of his dreams didn't seem to realize exactly how romantic the situation was.
Lois gasped as the elevator she'd been in a half a second before was demolished at the ground dozens upon dozens of feet below, followed by what she recognized as the remnants of a bomb. Of course. they could just cut the elevator's supports like normal villains, could they? Oh, no. They had to show off and use a bomb. What else?
Her shocked gaze lingered on the scattered wreckage and then shifted back to the dozens and dozens of feet of empty space. Very empty space. In fact, there was nothing at all between her and the ground. Absolutely nothing to stop her from plummeting to that ground. Nothing but…
Lois suppressed a panicked shriek and instead snapped her head upwards to sputter, "You…how…you put me down!"
He had the nerve to give her an irritating, smug grin. "Sorry. Can't do that." How dare he! When they were…when she was…
"Oh, yes you can!" she screeched, not caring in the least bit how panicky she sounded. She had a right to be panicky. "You got us up here; you can get us down. So put me down!"
He only smiled cheerfully and announced. "Sorry. Can't. I'd be happy to, but," Lois stifled a gasp as she felt one of his hands leave her to motion to the empty space beneath him, "it'd be a long way down. Wait a second and—"
"No, I will not wait!" she snapped, whatever cool she had left going out the window. "I don't care who or what kind of thing you are. You get me down now!"
Lois wanted desperately to steal back the words the second she'd said them. She'd always known exactly what to say to more than get her point across, and she'd certainly done it now. She wanted to frantically assure that he was not a "what" or a "thing". Unique, intriguing, amazing, wonderful, yes, but never, *never* a thing. The stiffening of his once-playful hold told her it was too late, and the damage was done.
Lois looked into his face in time to watch it crumble. His expression froze into a pale blankness, only his eyes betraying how badly she'd just hurt him. Then his eyes, too, iced over, hiding every trace of emotion and of the joyful man she'd known.
"I'm sorry," he said, his voice cracking a bit and then falling into awful, stiff formality. "I'll have you down as soon as possible."
Lois watched numbly as they both glided down to the elevator door she'd walked through hours before. He effortlessly pried it open with one hand, set her on the solid ground of the dark, deserted food court, and then disappeared to the wreckage at the bottom of the shaft. She barely had enough time to wonder what he was doing before he reappeared, silently holding out her tattered purse.
She stared into his unwavering gaze that seemed to be memorizing every detail about her for the last time and tried to come up with the brilliant words to put things back where they were just five minutes before. So what if the guy could fly? He was also ridiculously wonderful and was looking at her right now as if she'd broken his heart. Her own heart broke as she realized she couldn't bring herself to say a thing. Instead, she found herself reaching out mutely for her purse with only a murmured "Thank you."
For a second, neither of them moved. He only stared with that same wistful gaze, and Lois couldn't bring herself to look away. Finally, he took a shaky breath and said softly, "Goodbye." And suddenly he was gone; and Lois was left alone, staring into dark, empty space.
She reached mechanically for her cell phone, but her fingers fell motionless over the speed-dial. What exactly was she planning on telling the police? "The elevator car I was in crashed down seven stories, but I'm okay. The flying man with me got us out in time."
Uh-huh. She didn't need Perry to tell her that they wouldn't even print that in the National Whisper, let alone use it for a police report. And if they did? The man was obviously keeping his unusual abilities secret for a reason. She could not betray him like that.
And why not, she questioned herself. This was only a fascinating experience and nothing more. Logically, she knew that. Knew that she didn't *need* anyone, especially not someone she barely knew. But logic didn't have a thing to do with the tears welling up in her eyes as she dropped to the cold tiles.
She thought that there, at least, no would hear her cry.
Hovering just above the building, Clark Kent couldn't block out the sound of her sobs, and his heart broke with every one of them. Fighting off every instinct in him, which told him to go to her, *now*, and never leave her again, he shot aimlessly off into the night sky to leave her behind forever.
She hadn't meant it. Couldn't have. Never mind that he was in love with her. He understood other people. He knew how they thought, and he knew how to identify with them. That was one fact he'd always clung to.
He'd given her more rapt attention than he'd given any human being in his life. He'd *know* if she could mean something that unfeeling. She couldn't. And she wouldn't stop thinking of him as a person just because he could fly! Would she?
He found himself at the same place he'd started from a thousand times over and was forced to admit he didn't know. Wherever she was concerned, he had no idea how to think clearly. Oh, he knew the sound of her laughter and would know it in his sleep. He knew exactly how her dark tendrils fell around her face and how her eyes came alive when she smiled. He knew every single word she'd said to him. Knew? He couldn't forget any of it if he tried; and if this morning and the endless night before were any indication, that wouldn't ever change. She constantly invaded his thoughts, indiscriminately tossing out whatever practical matter he'd managed to keep her out of for, say, two minutes. He wouldn't really have it any other way. He didn't *want* to forget. He loved her. And as much as it scared him to admit it, he didn't care if she'd meant it or not. He'd still love her anyway.
He should leave Metropolis. His dramatic promise to leave her behind forever had only lasted the five minutes it took to realize he'd left her in an abandoned building with people who wanted her dead. Then he'd gone hurtling back to find the thugs making their escape and gloating over how well they'd done their job. Apparently, the job had been to scare the nosy reporter as much as possible before killing her, and they figured leaving her stranded for hours before shooting her and ultimately sending her crashing to a violent death had been a brilliant touch.
He had never in life wanted to hurt someone more than he had at that moment. He hadn't. He hadn't even tried to stop them from leaving, since he wanted them away from her as quickly as possible.
He had no doubt that she was more than capable of taking care of herself once they realized they'd failed, but he still couldn't leave Metropolis.
He tried to tell himself that it was only because he wanted to be there for her when they came after her again, but the truth was that was only half of it. Leaving would involve giving up any chance of seeing her again, and he couldn't do that.
But he should leave. Whisking someone into the air was never a good idea. He'd known that someone was a reporter, one who'd apparently risk anything for a story, if the bullet holes in his clothing were any indication. He'd whisked her into the air anyway, and that had been a worse idea.
And, he admitted wearily, he'd do it again in a heartbeat. "Son, if you want this job, you've gotta come to the interview too."
The gruff voice jolted him rudely out of his thoughts. Clark struggled to get her out of his head for just a minute and focus on the reason he'd come to Metropolis in the first place, his interview with the Daily Planet's editor-in-chief, Perry White. If he didn't pull himself together, the decision of whether to remain in Metropolis would be made for him. If nothing else, he had to pay the rent.
As the man regarded Clark intently, his look of irritation gave way to one of amusement. "You didn't hear a thing I just said, did you?" Clark groaned inwardly and forced himself to smile apologetically.
"No, I'm sorry, sir."
Mr. White afforded him a sympathetic smile and began again. "Now, son, I'm sure these are fascinating stories, but this is-"
"All right, Chief, I fixed the horn on your golf car!"
"Not now, Jimmy," Mr. White didn't bother to raise his voice at the young man throwing himself through the door. The tone of his growl said plenty.
Jimmy didn't get the message. "The tone's still off."
The editor's growl escalated to a roar as he shouted, "Jimmy, not now!" The scared-looking kid got it that time and hastily retreated through the open door.
Clark wished he could follow his example. He'd heard enough of what Mr. White had said to know what was coming next.
The man focused his attention back on Clark and shook his head. "The boy never learned to knock. Now where was I? Oh, yeah. Kent, you've gotta understand, this is the-"
Clark leaped to his feet at the sound of the word. He would know that voice anywhere. That was her voice. Her voice! That did it. She really was driving him crazy.
He found himself hopelessly frozen in place as the owner of the voice burst through the door and proved she was no dream. "I know there's a story here, and we should have…this…guy…" She trailed off as her flashing eyes widened into shock, and her expression began to mirror Clark's.
What explosion would have come from the editor was diffused by the sight of his unshakable star reporter standing motionless in the doorway. "Uh, Lois, honey," he began tentatively, "I'm really in the middle of this here."
If Lois heard a word of it, she gave no indication. Her eyes never left Clark's.
Thoroughly baffled, Perry tried a different tactic. "Uh, Lois Lane," he said, feeling an introduction was somehow redundant at this point, "Clark Kent."
That, at least, she heard. The word "Clark" formed in a whisper on her lips, and then she went right back to gazing.
Oh, well, this was getting ridiculous. He looked between Lois and the young man who appeared to have forgotten the world existed at all outside of Lois and tried his final course of action. "Lois," he sighed, doing his best to sound exasperated, "can I help you with something, or are you just going to stand there and decorate my office?"
Lois's focus snapped abruptly back to Perry. "Yes, Perry. Yes, you can help. Can I borrow him for a second?"
Perry chuckled and motioned to the door. "Be my guest. Just both of you get out of here."
No one was left to hear the tail of his sentence. The two were already well out the door.
Outside, Clark watched fascinated while Lois's eyes darted across the newsroom. She scanned the hectic sea of desks and glared at the occupied conference room. Suddenly, her eyes lit up as they landed on…no. She couldn't be serious.
She was. Motioning at Clark to follow, she strode purposefully off towards the elevator.
As the doors sealed shut, and he found himself staring into the face of the woman he loved, he knew he should take the chance to do something. In the sleepless night before, he'd gone over and over again exactly what he'd say if he could find her again.
"Lois Lane," he'd say, and now he knew her name. Her name was Lois! "I have fallen in love with you. I know it's crazy, and I keep trying to tell myself that, but nothing ever changes. I'm still in love with you and terrified at the thought of losing you. Please don't be afraid of me. I'll explain whatever I can. Just don't be afraid of me."
And then, ideally, she'd declare her undying love in return. Or something like that. Well, he hadn't worked out exactly what it was he was hoping she'd do, and now it didn't matter. He discovered that any chance at all of forming coherent phrases had left him, leaving him with only a delirious grin. She was here; she was smiling; he knew her name; he had not lost her!
And even if he'd had the presence of mind to make his grand speech, Lois began speaking soon enough to beat him to it.
"Clark," she began, smiling almost shyly at the name before starting again. "Clark, I never meant to hurt you. I need you to believe that. But I felt something for you I didn't understand and didn't have any control over, and that scared me. I'm not very good at being scared. I wasn't ready to be swept off my feet, and believe me, mister, you were doing a pretty good job of it. So really being swept into the air and dangling there was a bit more than I was ready to deal with."
She smiled again, and Clark tried desperately to kill the hope brought on by that smile. He didn't really know where she was going with this, and he didn't know how he'd survive thinking his world was finally in one piece, only to have it shatter again.
"I have no idea how you did whatever it was you did," she went on, "and we're going to have a long talk about that sometime soon."
We. She said "we". That had to be a good sign, didn't it?
"But what matters more to me than anything right now is that you understand I didn't mean to hurt you. I couldn't. And I'm not going to tell you I'm in love with you, because I just met you, and that kind of thing only happens in sappy love stories, right?"
Without waiting for his opinion on that, she pressed on.
"But I do know that if you walked out of my life right now, because I was too afraid to let you stay, I don't think I'd ever forgive myself."
"And I can't promise that I'm not going to panic sometimes and try to push you away again, but Clark, I want to try. So I guess the point is," she took a deep breath and looked intently into his eyes, "do you?"
She was asking him if he wanted to try? He had to be dreaming. Did he want to try?
"Yes!" he said, surprising even himself at the intensity of his response. "Yes, of course I want to try! I-" He stopped himself at the last second from saying, "I love you," and finished more softly with, "I don't want to lose you."
Lois's cautious smile widened into a broad grin. "Okay. Well, then, I'd say we pick up where we left off."
Clark eyed her warily. He could think of several places they'd left off, not all of them particularly pleasant. "And that would be…?" he asked carefully.
If the mischievous glint in her eye didn't tell him exactly where she intended to pick up, her comment and the actions that followed left no doubt. "Clark," she teased, wrapping her arms around his neck as she raised her face very pleasantly close to his, "I thought you had a better memory than that."
And just in case she really had robbed the poor man of all thought process, she proceeded to demonstrate by jerking away as the elevator dinged cheerfully. To their dismay, the doors glided wide open to reveal the mercifully deserted lobby.
That does it, Clark groaned inwardly. We're cursed. There just isn't any other explanation.
Lois echoed his sentiments aloud. "No. Uh uh. No way. Not this time." In one sweeping motion, she jabbed at some buttons, watched the doors seal securely shut, and then turned her arms and her attention back to Clark. "Now where were we?"
"I think you were about to refresh my memory," he prompted softly.
"You know, I think I've just had a lapse in concentration. Care to help me out?"
And not a thing, including crazed elevators or gunshot, could have kept Clark from very happily complying.
"Twenty bucks says she's in there, ah, welcoming the new employee." "Dylan, this is *Lois* we're talking about. You know, Lois. As in everyone, especially rookies, are possible sources for her next brilliant story. Period."
"Don't care. I saw that look."
"So did I. And it said, 'Ha! Now I've-'"
Jimmy broke off in mid-sentence as the elevator announced the arrival of the topics of conversation. He turned to see the two standing side-by-side, looking decidedly pleased with themselves, wearing wide grins and…lipstick?
No way. He rubbed at his eyes in hopes that his obviously faulty vision would fix itself. Miraculously, it did. Sort of.
When he ventured to look up again, Lois was marching purposefully off towards Perry's office and the guy, entirely lipstick-free, looked pretty thrilled to be following.
And he was sure his hearing couldn't have been playing tricks as he heard her announce, "Chief, you just can't brush this guy Kent off!" "Well," a voice said over his shoulder, "I'd say you owe me twenty bucks."
Had it been anyone else, he would have paid up on the spot. Anyone else and, after one look at the way she looked at that guy, he would have had to agree that of course she was in love with him. But Lois? Lois Lane?
His eyes were drawn to Chief's office, where he could see her gesturing furiously. Was it possible that she…?