Brief Encounter

By Wendy Richards and Yvonne Connell

Rated PG-13

Submitted April 2000

Summary: The Nightfall Asteroid leads Lois Lane to a find a very disoriented and an extremely naked Clark in the middle of a crater. Or is it Superman she's found?

By Wendy Richards and Yvonne Connell <wendy@kingsmeadowcr.freeserve.co.uk> and <Yvonne@yconnell.fsnet.co.uk>

This story was originally nfic, and anyone over 18 who would like to read the full version can find it at annesplace, http://move.to/nfic

Authors' notes:

This story got started when I visited Wendy a few weeks ago — someone suggested it could be fun if we tried writing something together, I mentioned it to Wendy, and before I knew it, she'd given me a page and a half of story to continue. Since then, we've been throwing it back and forth to each other, neither of us knowing what the other would write, or even what the plot was. We certainly didn't know it was going to turn out the way it did, although personally I blame Wendy for getting rid of Clark's Suit on the first page!

Anyway, it was a lot of fun to write — believe me, when your co-author dumps you in some of the situations Wendy gave me, writing is almost better than…nah! Maybe not :D.

Yvonne

~~~

And I can't let that go without commenting… one of the intriguing, and for me very rewarding, parts of this exercise has been the way in which our styles seem to have merged to the point that where we swapped authors mid-section even *we* can't see the joins, and our much-appreciated test-reader, LabRat, had no chance at all!

As for the Suit, I only suggested that *some* of it might be missing! It was Yvonne who… oh well, you'll see! Hope you enjoy it!

Wendy (who will have to ply Yvonne with alcohol more often! :))

***

"I love you, Clark… like a brother."

Yes, those words had sounded very familiar, Clark reflected as he flew back to Earth having managed to destroy what remained of the Nightfall asteroid. Lois did care about him, he knew she did. Her attitude towards him had changed substantially from the days when she barely tolerated him around the newsroom, and resented his presence as her partner. Now, she was fond of him, she enjoyed working with him and sparring with him, and even tolerated his company occasionally outside working hours. And she had been genuinely sorry to see him go when he'd left, temporarily, during the time he'd been persuaded that he was causing the heat wave.

But she didn't love him the way he wanted her to love him.

Okay; but she did *care* about him, he reminded himself once again. And she had been very good to him during the couple of days when he'd lost his memory, making sure that he was taken care of, showing him familiar places and introducing him to the people he knew and worked with every day. She'd even cared enough to want to make sure he wasn't alone when the asteroid was due to strike. She'd cared enough to come and say goodbye.

But she didn't love him the way he wanted her to love him.

So caught up was he in his own thoughts, he failed to notice that he was re-entering the Earth's atmosphere, and he forgot to slow down. He crashed through the atmosphere almost as fast as he'd done the first time, and most of his Suit burned away, his aura simply not effective enough to protect it. Belatedly recalled to an awareness of his surroundings, he grimaced and tried to focus on where he was, but by then he had gathered momentum to such a degree that he was unable to slow down adequately.

He came to a crashing, shuddering halt in the alley behind his apartment, his body making a hole several feet wide and a few feet deep in the asphalt.

***

<I was very unfair to Clark> Lois told herself once again as she paced Clinton Avenue for about the fifth time. It wasn't as if she didn't know he cared about her… found her attractive and wanted to be more than a friend to her. Even having lost his memory he'd still seemed to know how he felt about her. And once again she had upset and disappointed him by telling him that she cared for him as a friend — a brother, she'd told him. The last thing Clark wanted to be was her *brother,* she knew.

<But I can't lie to him just to spare his feelings!> she argued with her conscience. Yes, her conscience retorted, but you could have let him down gently.

And that was why she was here now: to talk to Clark, to see whether they could get this whole issue out in the open. She *did* care about him, but she wasn't in love with him. She wasn't sure she was even attracted to him… <yeah, right!> her conscience pointed out irritatingly. Okay, she admitted, there had been those couple of kisses… but lots of guys can kiss well. It doesn't mean anything — hadn't meant anything. He was a good friend — her best friend, but as for love… No. Not a chance.

But…

They needed to talk. If Clark did have strong feelings for her, he needed to learn to live with them. And if they could get things out in the open, then at least they wouldn't be tip-toeing around each other's sensitivities any longer. They could -

"What was that?!" she exclaimed suddenly as a noise rather like a firework exploding came from the alley behind her, followed by a crash and a loud groan.

Turning abruptly, she hurried off to investigate.

***

Lois rounded the corner, and screeched to a standstill. Where the trashcans at the back of Clark's apartment had been earlier in the day when she had bumped into him there was now a hole. A large hole. She walked up to the edge and peered down, her eyes slowly adjusting to the gloomy alley after the brightness of the sunny day behind her. A man was cautiously picking himself up from the bottom of the crater, looking about him with a confused expression. His dark hair was tousled and matted with dust and debris, his face streaked with black soot, but these details paled into insignificance when stacked up against two very important facts: one, she recognised him, and two, he was stark naked.

As soon as her brain registered the information, her eyes were zeroing in with unerring accuracy to the one part of his anatomy she least wanted to look at. Feeling the blood rushing to her face, she dragged her gaze hastily up to his face and kept it there resolutely, willing her peripheral vision not to work in concert with her subconscious to direct her eyes anywhere else.

"What happened?" she asked, taking refuge in her reporter's instincts to establish what, when, who, why and how.

He frowned at her for a moment before replying. "I'm not sure." He started to climb out of the hole, causing her to back rapidly away from him. Puzzled by her behaviour, he straightened up at the edge of the crater and bent his head forward to brush some of the debris out of his hair.

Suddenly he froze in mid-brush. Lois, her head turned studiously away from him, pulled off her jacket and shoved it towards him. "Here."

He took it from her with a muttered "Thanks," and hastily tied the sleeves around his waist, using the body of the jacket as a makeshift loin-cloth.

"What do you mean, you're not sure?" she asked with a quick glance up to his face.

He threw the question back at her. "I… well, what do *you* think I was doing in a crater at the back of an apartment block with, well, like this?"

"I have absolutely no idea. Look, Clark, why don't we go back into your apartment and we'll figure this out together?"

He looked up at the building above him. "*My* apartment?"

Oh-oh, thought Lois. But… it *was* Clark, wasn't it? Of course it was Clark! She worked with the guy every day, spent most of her waking hours with him. There was no way she wouldn't recognise him. Besides which, she knew that bare chest. An indelible image remained in her mind of the evening she had arranged to pick him up from his hotel, in his very first week at the Planet, and she had turned up to find him naked but for a towel. And for the first couple of seconds she had been completely and utterly unable to tear her eyes away from that broad, muscular torso.

This was the same torso. No doubt about it at all.

This was Clark. But… what *was* he doing naked in a hole outside his apartment building? And where had that crater come from? It hadn't been there earlier, had it?

She shook her head in disbelief. Somehow, he was making her doubt her own sanity; this very weird partner of hers was standing in front of her, her jacket tied around his waist, staring at her as if he couldn't imagine what she was doing there or what he was going to say to her. There were times when she really thought that Clark Kent had to be from another planet.

***

<Oh God> Clark stared unseeingly at Lois, wondering what the heck he was supposed to do. How on earth was he going to explain his predicament? What possible explanation could Clark Kent come up with for being stranded in the alley behind his apartment with no clothes on? And for the crater, whose appearance Clark certainly couldn't explain.

And this was Lois… of course, it would have to be Lois who had found him. She would never let this drop until she'd managed to extract every last bit of information possible out of him — more than he'd ever intended or wanted to tell her. At least when he'd crashed to Earth a few days earlier — and anyone would have thought he would have learned from that experience! — he had been found by a down-and-out who didn't know him from Adam. He hadn't had to identify himself as either Clark or Superman…

That was it! That was the other thing which had puzzled him about Lois's response. She'd recognised him as Clark! But how…? He had no clothes on. He was a mess, no doubt — he could see soot and dirt still on his hands and he knew he hadn't managed to get rid of it from the rest of him. And he wasn't wearing his glasses. So why had she identified him as Clark rather than Superman?

But okay, she had, he thought quickly. And he could accept that and go up to his apartment — she would follow him, of course, and then she would interrogate him. And he would have to think pretty darned quickly to come up with some convincing answers.

Or… he could…

He drew himself up to his full height, squaring his shoulders and crossing him arms in front of his chest, putting on the dignified expression he normally assumed when in this posture. Mind you, he'd never before tried to do it when buck naked but for a makeshift loincloth, he mused with an inward grimace. But he was sure he could make it work.

Turning his gaze to Lois, he caught the instant look of shock on her face as it dawned on her that her identification had been wrong after all. He then saw several expressions chase themselves across her face: disbelief, confusion, doubt, followed by appalled horror.

"*Superman*?" Her voice was a squeaky gasp. "Oh, God, it is you! And… and you're *naked*…! Oh God! I can't believe… I thought you were Clark…! How could I…? Oh, Superman, let me help you!" she finished in a rush.

He inclined his head, maintaining a distant expression. "That's all right, Lois. And thank you for your… help." He gestured vaguely in the direction of her jacket. "I'll get going now."

She took a step towards him, reaching out as if to grab his arm, then seemed to think better of it since it was missing its normal Spandex cover. "Wait… Superman, you can't leave! Not like that…!"

He raised one eyebrow in her direction.

"Well… I mean, you've got no clothes…"

"I can go and get another Suit," he said dismissively, preparing to take off.

Again she tried to detain him. "But… but people might *see* you! Like that, I mean!"

Trust Lois to argue, even when confronted with a determined Superman, Clark mused wryly. "Lois, I can fly so fast that no-one will see me," he pointed out dryly.

But she was having none of that either, and he groaned inwardly. All he wanted was for her to go *away,* leave him alone so that he could fly off and sneak back into his apartment and get changed, and then figure out what he could do to repair the damage in the alley; it wasn't fair that his neighbours should suffer for his carelessness.

But then another thought struck him. What was Lois doing here anyway? This was right outside Clark's apartment, after all. That fact suggested that she had been looking for Clark… but why? It was their day off, and they'd made no plans to spend it together. And after the anxiety and trauma of the past few days, he'd got the impression that she was quite relieved at the thought of having some time on her own to wind down.

So why was she looking for Clark?

Maybe he should find out… but in order to do that, he needed to return as Clark. He pondered again his prospects of actually managing to make his escape, sneaking into his apartment, and then sneaking out again in order to appear to be just arriving home.

He could do that…

On the other hand, he could see what she had in mind to help Superman — and perhaps get Superman to find out what Lois wanted from Clark. One thing was for sure, she rarely told *Clark* the whole truth about what she was up to.

He deliberately heaved a heavy sigh. "Perhaps you're right, Lois. Have you any suggestions?"

***

Lois panicked. She'd offered to help, but she had absolutely no idea what form that help might take: all she knew was that she wanted to make amends for mistaking him for Clark, and that she didn't often get the opportunity to help her hero. She glanced around hurriedly for inspiration — her eye lit on a washing line a couple of floors up on the other side of the alley. The fire escape wasn't near enough to the ground for her to reach it, though. Could she ask for Superman's help in stealing someone's belongings — even when it was for his own benefit? She looked back at him and caught him gazing in the same direction as she had been.

"You could give them back later. If you're quick enough, they wouldn't even have to know they were gone."

"Lois, I can't -"

"All you need to do is help me up on to the fire-escape. I'll do the rest. Come on, scoop, fly and it'll all be over before you know it." She sidled up a little closer to him, his state of undress making her uncharacteristically shy.

"Lois, I really don't think this is a good idea," he protested. Yes, he wanted to find out why she had made this special trip to come and see him, but stealing just wasn't in Superman's repertoire of allowable activities.

"Oh, and you think standing in the middle of the street with only my jacket covering up your…" Finding herself running into dangerous territory, she stopped and gestured vaguely in the direction of his lower half instead.

If Lois hadn't know better, she would almost have suspected that Superman had been overcome by a sudden sense of mischief. "My…?" he prompted innocently with wide eyes and raised eyebrows.

She drew herself up with proud dignity and glared. "Your lack of clothes. So are you going to stand there all day, or are you going to let me help you?" She held her arms out from her sides and looked at him expectantly. "I'm all yours."

His eyebrows rose even higher, causing a disconcerted look to interfere with her dignified glare.

"I mean, let's get this show on the road," she amended haughtily.

Clark checked the knot in her jacket sleeves behind him to reassure himself of its security before gathering her up in his arms and flying her up to the first stage of the fire-escape.

"I'll wait down there," he told her, pointing to a particularly dark spot in the alley. "Call me when you're ready."

Lois paused a moment after he left her. She had expected him to grasp her under her arms and lift her up at arm's length, but instead he had carried her up in his usual manner, bringing her much closer to him, and allowing her to put her arm around his shoulders — his broad, muscular, naked shoulders. And that chest. Funny how she had thought a few minutes ago that he was Clark, based on her previous acquaintance with her partner's upper torso. Superman was obviously much more well-developed and just, well, more everything, wasn't he? Clark was in good shape — very good shape, she admitted to herself, but he was no Superman: Superman had muscles of steel covered with smooth, warm skin. Wow. She now had direct experience of that, holding on to his bare shoulder with her hand as he carried her up to the fire-escape.

"Pssst!"

A noise from below interrupted her reverie. She peered down to see Superman waving at her from the shadows, pantomiming climbing actions to her.

"Okay, okay!" she whispered. Geesh, first he didn't want her help and now he was hurrying her up. She climbed up to the washing line, pulled off some clothes and hurried back down. Seconds later, she was back in the shadows with Superman, feeling her hand tingling from another trip with the naked shoulder. "Here," she said, handing over the clothes.

Superman held up the bright red dress in consternation. "This is an improvement?"

"Sorry — apparently Armani doesn't do his washing in this neighbourhood," retorted Lois tartly. "That's the best I could do — hurry up and get changed." She turned her back on him, listened to the rustling sounds behind her for a while and then a rough clearing of his throat.

"Okay," he announced.

She turned around.

At least the dress was nice and long, she reflected, fighting with her facial muscles which were doing their best to make her break out into a huge grin. Long sleeves would have been better, though — his biceps were threatening to burst the cuffs of the slightly puffed short sleeves. The ridiculous V-necked frills weren't doing a lot for his magnificent chest, either, although they did have the advantage of hiding his lack of a decent bust to fill the voluminous top. Best of all, the straight skirt was skimming his hips very nicely, the effect somewhat spoilt, however, by the side split which revealed more masculine leg than was strictly necessary.

"Here," he said gruffly, thrusting the jacket into her hands.

"Superman," she started, struggling to smother another broad grin. "at least you're decent now."

"Depends on your definition of 'decent', Lois. I don't think this is much of an improvement."

"No, I wouldn't throw away the blue spandex just yet — I don't think the city is ready for a cross-dressing superhero." She glanced up at Clark's building. "Maybe we should try and contact Clark. He could bring you some better clothes — in fact, I don't know why I didn't think of that earlier."

"Um… I don't think he's in right now."

"That's okay, I'll phone him." She pulled out her mobile phone and dialled the number. After a couple of minutes listened, she closed it in disgust. "He's got it switched off — what's the point of a mobile phone if you don't keep it on? Honestly — sometimes I'd swear he's deliberately avoiding me."

"Actually, Lois, I don't think he'd mind too much if I… kind of forced the lock on his door. I could repair it pretty quickly for him."

She sighed. "Why didn't you say that before, instead of making me steal Clark's neighbour's clothes?"

"I didn't make -" he stopped, noticing the warning look in Lois' eyes. "I — I'll fly up there, then. Thanks for your help." Despite wanting to talk to her, he couldn't think of a good reason to take her up with him.

"Oh, no, you don't! I'm coming with you — I'd like to leave him a message anyway."

***

Clark groaned inwardly. Okay, he had originally stuck around because he wanted to know why Lois was looking for him, but this was swiftly getting embarrassing. As if it hadn't been bad enough standing in front of the woman he loved with only a flimsy jacket held in front of his… attributes — and he wasn't sure whether he preferred her thinking that the naked man she had discovered was Clark or Superman — actually flying with her in his arms had been nothing short of torture. He hadn't even been able to enjoy holding her; he had been far too concerned with worrying about the jacket slipping, or Lois wriggling and dislodging it, or — worse still — what effect the feel of her hand on his bare shoulder was having on him, and whether she'd noticed it!

And, to add insult to injury, she had dressed him in this over-large sack which masqueraded as a dress. Okay, he probably wouldn't have got into anything smaller, but this was *extremely* embarrassing. And since he'd allowed Lois to believe that she was with Superman, not Clark, then whenever she saw Superman in future she would recall the image of him dressed like half of some cheap circus act. She would never take him seriously again! She might even slip it into one of her newspaper articles! She certainly wouldn't have any respect for Superman in future…

But she might drop her crush on him as well, he realised in sudden delight. If she thought her hero really wasn't the macho, masculine type she believed him to be, would she change her opinion of him…? The idea was very tempting.

He sighed visibly. "If you must," he told her, immediately setting out for the steps leading to his apartment without checking to see whether Lois was following or not. He knew that she was close on his heels, however, since his senses had been attuned to this woman since the day he'd met her. He could hear her breathing, smell her own unique scent, *sense* her behind him.

Standing in front of the painted double doors, he considered the various options for getting into the apartment. Normally, when he arrived as Superman, he would simply fly onto the balcony and stroll in from there, but he didn't want to use that method right now since it would be bound to make Lois wonder why Superman was so familiar with Clark's apartment, or on such friendly terms with Clark, that he had his own entry deliberately left open for him.

He could simply twist the handle; that would break the lock. He could explain to Lois that he would apologise to Clark later and pay for the repairs, but that would leave her with the impression that Superman was willing to cause criminal damage when it wasn't strictly necessary. He could use his laser vision to melt the lock, but the principle was the same.

He was still contemplating options when Lois elbowed him aside. Severely taken aback, he swung around to see what she was doing. He couldn't believe that she had just behaved like that towards Superman; that wasn't anything like the way Lois normally treated her hero. But she wasn't even looking at him; instead, she was unfolding a paper clip preparatory to using it to unlock the door.

Hoping that none of his neighbours could see what was going on, Clark shielded Lois from view as she worked on the lock; he decided that if anyone did see them he'd prefer the questions to be about why Clark Kent was standing on his doorstep dressed in something out of a ten-year-old catalogue from 'Fashion for Big Girls,' than about why Lois Lane was picking her colleague's lock. But she was fast; within a few seconds the door swung open and she waved at him to precede her in.

"I guess you know the bedroom's that way," she gestured. "And don't run away… um, fly away, when you're done, okay?"

Clark paused on his way to his bedroom, turned back towards Lois and raised an eyebrow. "Don't fly away…? Please?" he prompted.

"Oh… um, yes, please don't fly away," she added quickly. Clark eyed her in surprise; she already seemed to be treating Superman differently as a result of this. Her almost reverential hero-worship had vanished out the window, and she was suddenly treating him in almost the same way as she did Clark. Was that a good thing or a bad thing, he wondered?

He was beginning to have second thoughts about his plan. But on the other hand, that same irrepressible, unstoppable sense of mischief which had prevented him from flying away half an hour ago had returned with a vengeance. How *would* she treat Superman if…?

He strolled into his bedroom, pausing in front of the mirror. He *did* look definitely scruffy, not to mention dirty, and it was hardly surprising that Lois had initially taken him for Clark despite the absence of glasses. His hair was tousled, which did make a difference, he knew.

Shower first, he decided, and in under a second he was allowing the warm, clean water to flow over him. Super-speed had its advantages, he reflected as he quickly dried himself afterwards and arranged his hair in the normal slicked-back style he wore as Superman.

Then he pulled on the red dress again, calling out to Lois at the same time.

When she tentatively poked her head around the archway leading to the bedroom, he was standing in front of the full-length mirror gazing at his reflection.

"Superman…?" Good, she sounded as taken aback as he'd hoped. "Couldn't you find anything of Clark's? I mean, I know you're taller and broader than he is, but there must be *something*?"

He turned slowly and smiled at her. "I haven't looked yet. I wanted to see how this looked with me cleaned up first."

He saw her puzzled expression as she tried to figure out what he meant, and he decided to give her another couple of hints.

"Well, I know the style's pretty… well, non-existent, and it's too big across the chest and those puffed sleeves look ridiculous on me, but the skirt's not bad, and you have to admit that red is my colour." He turned away from her to look at his reflection again, twisting and turning in order to view himself from all possible angles, including getting a good view of the slit which revealed his upper thigh. "Hmmm — something a little more tight-fitting in this shade of red might work…"

Out of the corner of his eye he could see her appalled, disbelieving expression. "Superman…? I know I made that stupid reference to cross-dressing earlier, but… but you can't *really* like dressing in women's clothes?"

He didn't answer immediately but continued to watch her in the mirror, seeing the mixture of incredulity, appalled fascination and disillusionment cross her face. That final one, though, was almost his undoing: he hated to see Lois hurt, and the knowledge that he had been responsible for destroying her illusions about Superman made him feel very guilty.

He was on the point of confessing that he'd only been teasing when she finally spoke, her words almost tripping over themselves in her haste to get her point across.

"Superman, you need help! I can't imagine why I never thought of it before… I mean, all the stuff you go through, you see horrible things every day, it's not surprising if you need something for release… but this isn't the way! Look," she added, a little more slowly, "I know this great therapist, she really helped Lucy earlier this year… I can give you her number if you like?"

Ouch! Okay, this was going too far. It was one thing to have some fun with Lois, tease her a little, but when it got to the point where she thought he needed psychological help, then things were definitely getting out of hand. That remark about him needing a release had taken him by surprise, though; he hadn't thought that she dwelt very much on Superman's own feelings when it came to dealing with tragedy and disaster on an almost daily basis. He was touched by her concern, and his heart swelled with renewed love at this freshly-discovered insight into the softer side of Lois Lane. Now, if he could only get her to care about Clark in the same way — which brought him back to his original puzzle: why had she made this special effort to come and see him? First things first, though — he had to assure her that he wasn't in need of psychological help. He sobered up quickly and turned away from the mirror to face her.

"Lois, that's very kind of you, it really is, but…" How could he put this without offending her? "I was just kidding about the dress."

No, bad choice, Clark, he thought as he watched her draw back and stare at him angrily.

"Oh, I see! Having a little fun at my expense, were we? Well, fine, two can play at that — want a preview of tomorrow's headline? Let's see, we could have 'Confessions Of A Naked Superman', or 'Superman Flashes His Credentials', or, or 'The Big Guy Not In The Blue Tights'! Which one would you prefer, huh?"

This was going from bad to worse, Clark reflected. All he'd wanted was a quiet chat with her, perhaps persuade her to let him step off the pedestal she'd put him on, but now he'd made her angry at her superhero: definitely a retrograde step. How could he salvage anything from this embarrassing mess? Come to think of it, maybe that was the problem — his embarrassment was making him behave in this mischievous manner.

"Lois, I'm sorry. I don't know what got into me — well, actually, I think maybe I do: this situation is embarrassing, to say the least, and I think I got a little flippant to hide my embarrassment." He tried to look at her with disarming honesty while he made his confession. Trouble was, honesty didn't always work with Lois, but it was the only weapon at his disposal right now. He tried some more: "I would never want to make fun of you, Lois, I-I like you too much to do that to you. I just tried what I thought was a little gentle teasing, but I guess I misjudged it."

She regarded him warily. "But you don't tease. You're Superman."

Clark sighed inwardly. There it was again — Superman, the staid, boring always-right superhero. "I do have a sense of humour, Lois," he protested.

"Yeah, well, trust me, that wasn't funny," she replied with a spark of fire.

"I guess not. Look, how about we start over again? I'll get changed into something more… appropriate, and then we'll talk — maybe you can help me figure out how to fix that crater I just made?"

"Hmph! Okay — just come out wearing something normal, this time, would you? I'm sure your parents wouldn't approve of that split — it's not decent for a man of your age."

***

Clark pondered his wardrobe. Wear something normal but don't look like Clark. In Clark's clothes. How was he supposed to do that? Not to mention the fact that he was starting to think about himself in the third person again. God, what this woman did to him! He picked out the tightest T-shirt he could find, hoping it would suggest that he was actually a little too big for Clark's clothes, and pulled on his new jeans — the ones Lois hadn't seen yet. Make sure the hair was slicked back, leave off the glasses, walk tall — if he could pull it off when he was naked, he could surely do it fully clothed.

"How about some coffee?" he asked, strolling back into his lounge.

Lois turned around and gaped. That chest again, this time clad in a tight-fitting black T-shirt, his upper arms stretching out the short sleeves, crisp new jeans and white trainers to finish the ensemble — my God, he looked good in spandex, but in real clothes, he was just…

"Perfect," she replied in a distracted voice.

She was vaguely aware of him looking curiously at her, but then he moved across to the kitchen to start fishing out the coffee things. That chest… there was something about it which was oddly familiar… nah! She remembered how she'd mistaken him for Clark at first, basically on the evidence of that smooth upper torso she'd come face to face with so abruptly a few months ago. Okay, so they were a similar build, but that was all. She watched him move with easy familiarity around Clark's kitchen…well, of course he would, since he and Clark were good friends. And obviously some of Clark's teasing had rubbed off on him as well, and that was why he had behaved so mischievously before — not that she had completely forgiven him for that yet. She wasn't used to being teased by Superman, and he had to learn that teasing Lois Lane was a risky thing to do — just as she had taught Clark the exact same lesson. Not that he ever seemed to get the message. Of course, if she was completely honest with herself, she would acknowledge that she quite liked the fact that he dared to tease her when no-one else would. It made her feel as though she'd at last found an equal in partnership. <Or more?> asked her irritating subconscious. No, she reminded herself, she had come here to talk things out with Clark about that — to let him know that she cared for him, but no more. No more!

"Here you are." His proffered mug of coffee interrupted her thoughts.

"Thanks," she replied, watching him settle down in the easy chair beside the sofa she was sitting on. "I liked the heat vision thing."

"What?"

"You know…" she held out the mug and gazed down intently at it.

"Oh! I guess I use it without thinking these days," he answered with a smile.

These days? Interesting — so he wasn't always so comfortable with his powers. She filed that away for future probing.

"So…" she said, not sure where the conversation was going now they were settled.

"So…" he replied equally awkwardly.

"Definitely an improvement." She nodded at his attire.

"Thanks."

"Actually, it really suits you. Black, I mean…" <careful, Lois — don't gush>

"You think so? I thought the blue and red -"

"Oh, it's very nice! But the black is just… well, it suits you," she repeated lamely.

"Maybe Clark might lend it to me if I asked him."

"Maybe…"

The both smiled at each other and took a sip of coffee. Lois eyed him over her mug. "I guess you don't really have to do that."

"What?" <She's got you off-balance again> he thought. "Oh, you mean this?" He sipped from his mug again.

"Yes. Why don't you just drink it normally?"

<Yes, why don't I? Because I'm dressed as Clark so I'm acting like Clark. Darn> He laughed nervously. "Habit, I guess."

"Habit," she repeated sceptically.

"Yes. Habit." <Okay, Clark, give up now. Just admit you're Clark and Superman all rolled together in one package and then…> — but what about all those reasons he knew by heart about why he shouldn't tell her?

"I see."

Two more sips of coffee.

"Thanks for helping me back there," tried Clark. "And I really am sorry about the dress. I shouldn't have teased you."

"No, you shouldn't." A corner of her mouth curled up as she recalled what he had looked like in it. "You did look very fetching, though."

He smiled. "I told you red was my colour."

"And you do know I was kidding about those headlines, don't you?"

"Lois, I trust you — I know you would never do anything like that. Besides, I doubt Pe — Mr White would approve of his newspaper printing tabloid headlines like those."

"No question of approval or disapproval — he'd probably send *me* off for psychological counselling if I tried anything like that!"

"I guess he would. And Clark wouldn't be too happy either." Why had he said that? he wondered. The last thing he wanted was to make Lois associate Clark and Superman in her mind… wasn't it?

But Lois didn't seem to react to his remark; she seemed to be lost in thought. He wondered what she was thinking about, and then remembered that one of his reasons — okay, his principal reason — for sticking around instead of just flying off was to find out what she wanted to see Clark about. Okay, he acknowledged, if he did just fly off he could come back almost immediately as Clark and she would then tell him; but his instinct was telling him that she probably wouldn't be completely open with Clark about what was on her mind.

Whereas, if Superman encouraged her to speak frankly to him, she might just do that… if he hadn't put her off completely by his ridiculous kidding around earlier.

***

Lois sipped at her coffee, surreptitiously observing Superman over the rim of her mug. He looked so different dressed in ordinary street clothes: she would guess that if they walked down the street together hardly anyone would recognise him as Superman. It was that Suit, she reflected, visualising it in her mind. The Suit itself was so eye-catching, with its primary colours and the *very* close-fitting design, that when he wore it anyone could be forgiven for not looking at his *face*!

That would be how she'd mistaken him for Clark, Lois decided, feeling a hot flush as she again remembered the sight of Superman, tall and very handsome and distinctly naked, climbing out of the crater. His body was every bit as good as she'd imagined in all those dreams and fantasies; she'd never imagined having a chance to find out!

<Stop thinking about that!> she told herself, conscious that the object of her fantasies was sitting a mere five feet away from her; thank goodness he couldn't read minds! She forced herself to concentrate on what was really important. She was in Clark's apartment with Superman — and no Clark — and the Man of Steel had just returned from smashing the remainder of the Nightfall Asteroid. Okay, the EPRAD scientists had already told the world that Superman had succeeded, but no-one had spoken to Superman himself since he'd returned. Nor had anyone managed to find out exactly where he'd been in those nightmarish few days after his first attempt.

And she now had the man all to herself; what an exclusive interview this could be!

But… She stole another look at him. He looked so relaxed sitting there in Clark's over-tight T-shirt and jeans. This was a side of Superman she had never seen before: he was usually in a hurry to leave, never stayed around just to chat. And yet here he was having a casual conversation with her over coffee. He'd even dropped his usual very formal demeanour and revealed himself to have a sense of humour. A very strange sense of humour, apparently, although admittedly he had apologised for leading her to think he was a transvestite.

He had even relaxed his guard a little. He never answered personal questions normally: he hadn't even told her his *name* when she'd asked before. And yet a little while ago she'd referred to his parents, and instead of clamming up he had just grinned. So… clearly he had parents — somewhere. On Krypton, maybe? Not to mention that throwaway remark about not always having been so comfortable with his incredible powers.

This could be an opportunity to *really* find out the full Superman story!

But as soon as the idea hit her, she discarded it. Sure, when Superman had first appeared on the scene all she had wanted was the story; but now he had become something more. Of course she was crazy about him; but she also regarded him as a friend. And to use an opportunity like this to pump him for information which she would then use to get an exclusive would be a fundamental betrayal of their friendship.

Besides, it would also be a waste of this precious time with him.

But… she was torn. What about the Nightfall story? Perry would kill her if he knew she'd had this great opportunity and hadn't taken it. Clark would already have seized it with both hands, she knew that — Clark was always getting Superman exclusives. She had wondered how, but now that she saw how familiar Superman was with the interior of Clark's apartment, she understood. He was obviously a regular visitor.

Which meant that Clark 'Farmboy' Kent had been holding out on her! The sneaky, no-good… and he called himself her partner? Her *friend*?

Some friend! And to think she'd come over here to talk about his feelings for her, and to find some way to help him overcome them so they could be just good friends?

Superman's voice broke in on her musings, his tone amused. "Lois? Are you still here, or do I need to rescue you from the planet Zod?"

"Oh! I'm sorry… I guess I was… um, thinking!" She almost spilt her coffee as she turned to stare at him, dropping her gaze almost immediately as his broad grin and dancing eyes disconcerted her completely.

"Oh?" He merely raised one eyebrow this time, apparently enjoying her discomfiture. She sighed; he probably thought it was only fair that she be embarrassed now, since he'd had more than his share of it earlier.

"Okay." Laying her coffee-cup on Clark's low table, she raised her gaze to Superman again. "Well, I guess I was just thinking about… this, I mean, being here with you like this. I mean, it's not something that happens a lot, you know?"

"I suppose not," he agreed softly.

"Yeah, and… well, I was kind of torn. I mean, I'm a reporter! You know that — and you're the biggest story around right now. I should be interviewing you — I should have spent the past half-hour interviewing you!"

"And you didn't," he pointed out.

"No. And if Perry knew, he'd have me covering dog shows," she said wryly.

"So… you want to interview me?" He sounded a little disappointed, she thought.

"Well… I *should*! And that's the weird thing, Superman! I'm very ambitious — well, I guess you know that. I've already won three Kerth awards, and I want more… I want a Pulitzer! And if I could get that definitive Superman interview — or even a good interview about the Nightfall… well, that would be very good for me." She shrugged, thinking Superman would wonder why she was being so diffident about it. He wouldn't understand…

"You're a brilliant journalist, Lois," he told her softly. "But if you want that definitive interview — well, the problem is that I'm just not ready to give it." He smiled apologetically. "I may be, some day. And if I am — "

"You'll give it to Clark," she interrupted.

He looked very surprised at that. "Why do you think that?"

"Well, you and Clark are very close, aren't you?"

It had to be her imagination; did Superman look uncomfortable? He didn't answer for a moment, but then he nodded. "Yeah, I guess you could say we're… close." He looked away for a moment, then added, "If you want an interview about Nightfall, go ahead."

But she shook her head. "That's the problem, Superman. Yeah, I want that interview, but… it's been so nice, just talking with you like this. You've never been this… relaxed with me before. And if I start interviewing you, that'll change. You'll switch into your 'public' mode."

"Ah." He was silent for a few moments. "And you don't want that?"

"Well… I guess I'd just like us to talk for a while — as friends."

A strange expression crossed his face, and she wondered why. Surely he had people he considered friends? He had Clark!

"Yeah, I'd like that too — as long as no-one needs me," he answered after a few moments. "Tell you what — I'll give you the interview as well, later. If I have to go first, I'll come and see you at your apartment or the Planet."

*Did* he feel lonely sometimes? Lois wondered. It sounded as if he didn't get a lot of opportunities to talk to people like this; but then, most of the time she supposed people wanted him for what he could do for them, either by rescuing them or giving them information.

"So, Lois, you said you had something you wanted to talk to Clark about?" he interrupted her thoughts.

His mention of Clark took her by surprise, and she flushed. "Yeah… well, I guess maybe not what I originally planned."

"What do you mean?"

She grimaced. "Clark's been holding out on me, hasn't he? He's *supposed* to be my partner, yet it's obvious you and he are a lot closer than he ever told me. I mean, you know your way around his apartment, you have no problem with being here even though he's not, you knew where to find things in the kitchen…"

Superman squirmed. There was no other word for it. He squirmed!

And Lois started to put the clues together. He'd landed just outside Clark's apartment — which meant that had to have been his destination. He seemed completely at home in Clark's place. He knew where to find Clark's clothes. He'd admitted he and Clark were… close.

She'd bet they were 'close'!

Okay, if Superman had been a closet transvestite, that would have been news — not that she would have printed it.

But this… *this* was bigger news still!

Superman and Clark Kent were…

She had to stop and take a deep breath before she could even voice the thought to herself. It certainly explained an *awful* lot about both Clark and Superman.

It all added up. It was the only explanation for all the weird coincidences.

Clark and Superman were… no, she couldn't even think it!

"I guess… well, I have been here quite a few times," Superman conceded, looking distinctly uncomfortable.

<My God, he's even admitting it himself now!> thought Lois.

"He lets me keep some spare suits here, you see," he continued.

<*And* they share a wardrobe! That was it — you share a wardrobe with someone, you have to be practically married to them>

"Lois?" he prompted, and looking up, she noted the anxious expression on his face. Okay, she could handle this; she was liberal-minded, and what did it matter to her if the two most gorgeous-looking men she'd ever met had decided that they felt the same way about each other? It was a criminal waste of… resources, but who was she to stand in the way of true love? She arranged her face into an encouraging smile.

"Of course he does. I guess when you're around here so often, it's handier to keep a few suits in his wardrobe rather than go home for a clean one."

"Exactly." He relaxed back in his chair, obviously more at ease now that she had accepted his explanation. She was pretty sure he hadn't realised just how much he had given away though, and she wasn't entirely sure she was going to let on what she had worked out. Although… he had looked pretty lonely when she had mentioned talking together as friends; maybe he needed someone to share his secret with.

"So, Superman, I guess it's nice having Clark to talk to when things get tough. You probably need that, with all the horrible things you have to deal with."

"Yeah."

"I mean, that's what close friends are for."

"Yes."

"Sharing things."

He nodded.

"Coming home after a hard day's rescuing people, relaxing on the sofa together, maybe having a glass of wine, cooking a meal together?"

Now he was looking distinctly wistful, she thought. Maybe the path of true love wasn't always a smooth one — maybe they'd had a tiff recently? If that was the case, then he really could do with someone to talk it through with.

"I guess you have arguments like any other couple, though, don't you?" she asked with the best sympathetic tone she could muster.

But instead of the sad nod of acquiescence she was expecting, his eyebrows shot up into his hairline as he stared at her. "Couple?" he asked incredulously.

"Yes…you and Clark — it's okay, Superman, you don't have to keep up the pretence any longer. Your secret's safe with me. I have to admit I was a little shocked to begin with, but I understand — I mean, Clark's a good-looking guy. Who wouldn't want to fall in love with someone with his looks and charm? Actually, for a moment, I even wondered whether I might be falling for him, but, well, you beat me to it, didn't you?" she finished wryly.

"Lois!"

She was slowly beginning to regret her honesty — he was looking pretty agitated now that she'd brought things out into the open for him. How could she make him feel better about this? "I think it's wonderful that you've found each other — you're obviously made for each other: you look about the same age, you're obviously both a little lonely, you share the same caring attitude towards other people, and you even look a little alike — I bet people think you're twins when you're out together, huh? Of course, it would be great if you were able to come out of the closet some day — you'd be a wonderful ambassador for the gay community, you know."

"Lois, I am not gay!"

"Superman, I told you, it's ok-"

"Lois, believe me, I am the least gay person I know! And so is Clark! Not gay, I mean. I don't know what I said to make you think either one of us was, but trust me, we're as heterosexual as you are."

She peered at him. "You're sure?"

"Of course I'm sure. We're close, but not that close."

"Oh."

Clark flopped back in his chair. First a transvestite, then she thinks he's gay! Was there no end to this woman's fertile imagination? His chances of any sort of romantic entanglement with Lois seemed to be receding further and further away as they stumbled through misunderstanding after misunderstanding. All he wanted was a quiet chat with Lois Lane and the chance to find out why she'd come to visit him, he repeated to himself. Was that so hard? Now he supposed she'd be back to her original misconception: that he, Clark Kent, had been holding out on her about how close he was to Superman. In a way that was very true, unfortunately. Perhaps it really was time to give up the pretence, as she had said, and admit his secret to her. It would make things so much simpler than all this verbal dancing they'd been engaging in, and then they could actually move on in this partnership…friendship — whatever it was — instead of going around in circles. After all, hadn't she just admitted that she was perhaps even starting to fall for him? The thought excited him tremendously, and then there was that picture she'd painted for him — a fond couple relaxing together after work — it had sounded so attractive, just what he wanted, in fact. However, he wasn't going to get anywhere near it without some painful honesty. He took a deep breath.

"There is something I have to tell you, though."

About to rush into the big confession, he paused, suddenly scared of saying the words. What should he say to her? 'Lois, I'm Clark'? Or should he just grab his spare pair of glasses and put them on, and let her see for herself? How would she react? Would she be mad… or glad? Would she be willing to consider a closer relationship with him? Would she simply scream and run out of his apartment?

Well, he could only try. And he was tired of the lies and the excuses, if he was honest with himself. So…

Her voice intruded on his thoughts as he rehearsed his words. "There's something I want to talk to you about too, Superman," she murmured softly. He jerked his head up to meet her gaze: she was smiling, a warm expression in her eyes. "Come and sit next to me?"

"Umm… why?" he asked warily.

She looked taken aback. "I just… well, I think I'd find it easier if you were over here."

Okay, well, he could tell her the truth just as easily sitting next to her — perhaps more easily, if he could hold her hand or something as he was doing it. With an economy of movement he stood up, moved around the low table and joined her on the couch, leaving a couple of feet between them. She slid a little closer and, as if she'd read his mind, she took his hand between her two small ones.

"Lois — "

"Superman — "

He smiled crookedly. "You go first." It would give him some time to think about how he should explain, he thought, his attention drifting from Lois for a moment.

Lois regarded her companion for a moment or two. He was so different like this, so much more approachable — more human. If he'd been wearing his Suit, she would never have dreamed of telling him how she felt, but now… and especially now he'd made such a point of letting her know that he wasn't gay. What a crazy rollercoaster ride they'd had during the past half-hour, she reflected, finding him in that crater, then dressing him in that ridiculous dress, then the stupid transvestite thing and the even more embarrassing gay misunderstanding. One thing was for sure: life was never dull when Superman was around, be-Suited, in civvies, or…she got a sudden flash of him without his clothes on, remembering the glimpse she'd got of his…credentials. Well, more than a glimpse actually — the image was indelibly burned into her mind, and it made her feel all hot and bothered just thinking about it. But now he was sitting beside her, watching her patiently while she formulated her words, looking drop-dead gorgeous in that black T-shirt and smart jeans. She knew how that made her feel…

And she'd seen the envious, regretful expression on his face when she'd been talking about companionship. It was obvious that the man was lonely. He needed someone to love, someone to be there for him, to listen to him, to care for him… to love him.

Her thoughts turned briefly to Clark. She had been wondering whether her feelings for him were more than just friendship, but now that she'd seen this new and quite different side to Superman, she knew that while she was fond of Clark, she was quite probably head-over-heels in love with Superman. And Superman needed her in a way that Clark didn't.

"Superman, I want you to know that you've always been special to me — right from the first moment I saw you," she began softly, gazing up at him from under her eyelashes. She thought he seemed a little taken aback, but she hurried onwards, determined that she was going to say this. "I've… I've known for a long time that my feelings towards you were… weren't just friendship. I know you care about me, and I'm hoping that maybe you might feel the same way…? I… I think I love you, Superman."

Watching him with trepidation, she saw his brown eyes widen and his gaze fix on her face. Shock or delight? A rush of emotion overwhelmed her again: she loved this man so much, and he'd let his guard down with her so much over the past half-hour. Suddenly, she felt able to do what she would have been too nervous to do at any other time.

She slid closer to him, letting go of his hand so that she could wrap her arms around his neck, pulling his head down to hers, and she kissed him.

For a brief instant, he froze, and she thought it had all been a dreadful mistake. He hadn't wanted her to kiss him, he didn't care for her the way she did about him, she was being too pushy, she was embarrassing him…

But then his arms came gently around her waist, supporting her against him, and his lips softened under hers as he returned the kiss. Her lips parted under the pressure of his, and daringly she allowed her tongue to dart forward, touching the corner of his mouth lightly.

He uttered some sort of sound deep in his throat and tightened his grasp on her a little, and a frisson of shock shot through her as she realised that his own tongue was feeling its way awkwardly into her mouth. She parted her lips further to allow him greater access, sliding one hand up into his hair. It was much softer than she'd imagined.

As the kiss deepened, he seemed to find their respective positions on the sofa rather awkward, for his hands gripped her waist lightly but firmly and he lifted her up to pull her over onto his lap. She hadn't been expecting his movement, and flailed wildly in mid-air for a moment before trying to steady herself with a grab at his chest. Surprisingly, she caught him unawares, and he tumbled back into the cushions with her falling on top of him, ending up lying in his lap with her face inches from his.

"Oh… I'm sorry, I…" she muttered, embarrassed, as she shifted awkwardly against his legs, putting one hand on his knee to try and pull herself back up again.

"It's okay, it was my fault, I…" he stammered out, his hands reaching around her to help her up; one hand caught the side of her breast and she exhaled sharply at the sensation.

He stilled, and as her head jerked up, she saw the expression on his face: almost deer-in-the-headlights, his eyes were focused on her — her chest, to be precise. Given her position on top of him as he lay semi-recumbent on the couch, his position afforded him a view straight down the neckline of her blouse… her open-neck blouse.

Was she wearing a bra? She struggled for a moment to think clearly… yes, she could feel it, a creamy lace piece of nothing.

The expression in his eyes changed as she watched him in breathless fascination; she saw his pupils widen and heard his breathing grow harsher. He was by no means indifferent to her…

Made more daring by this realisation, she gave up her struggle to sit up, relaxed back against his legs and pulled his face down towards her again. This time he met her half-way and his kiss was utterly devastating. His hand came over again and hesitantly stroked the side of her breast before becoming more daring and cupping it in his hand while caressing her lips with his own, his tongue now confidently exploring inside her mouth.

She was riffling her hands through his hair, fascinated by the unexpected softness she found there, when he broke away and gazed intently down at her. "Is this okay, Lois?"

"Superman, I kissed you first," she reminded him, touched by his uncertain tenderness.

"I know, but I thought -"

"Don't think." She reached up a hand to smooth over his t-shirt-clad chest. "Just feel."

He groaned softly before reaching back down to meet her lips once more, his hand tracing the contour of her side down to her waist, where it rested lightly while he concentrated on the kiss. After a few moments, he pulled away again.

"Do you mind?" He lifted his feet off the floor as a prelude to lying full length on the sofa. "This is a bit awkward."

"Oh! Sure…"

With the minimum of fuss, they rearranged themselves on the sofa so that he was lying with his head resting on one arm of the sofa with her on top of him. Lois couldn't believe how far they'd come in such a short time, but somehow, the past half-hour or so had broken down the barriers between them — at least, it had for her — so that she no longer felt awkward being this close to him, and felt a new familiarity with him which let her relax and allow her to treat him as a true equal. She dipped down to kiss him again.

***

Clark's head was whirling with heady emotion. His dream of holding Lois close to him had come suddenly and unexpectedly true, and in the most peculiar circumstances. He would never have thought that crashing to Earth and losing all his clothes in the process would have led to this, but he didn't care: she had told him she loved him, and she was already demonstrating her feelings to him in the most wonderful way possible. Her kisses fogged his brain and left him oblivious to anything but the feel of her body resting over his, the caress of her soft breasts against his chest, and the smell of her sweet, floral perfume. He stroked up and down her back, marvelling at how slender and fragile she felt, yet at the same time so strong and sure in her movements.

Now she was staring down at him, supporting herself on her hands either side of him. "Did I say I think I love you, Superman?" she asked with a smile.

He nodded.

"Well, I was wrong. I *know* I love you, Superman."

There it was. The one thing wrong with this scenario, the one thing he'd been ignoring up until now: he was Superman, not Clark, right now, and that wasn't really the dream he'd treasured for so long. His hand stilled on her back.

She frowned a little at him, noticing his faltering caresses. "What? Did I say something wrong?"

"No. Nothing…I-"

"Good." All coherent thought fled from him again as she yanked his T-shirt free from his jeans with one hand and reached up inside to explore his chest, eliciting a quick intake of breath from him when her palm passed over one of his nipples.

An eyebrow went up. "You like that?"

He was helpless, gazing up at her in dumb assent.

"Then you'll probably like this." She pushed his T-shirt further up and leaned down to kiss his chest. He closed his eyes to lose himself in the sensation, stunned at the reaction his body had to her intimate attentions. "In fact," she continued after a time, "why don't we just get rid of this?"

She pulled on his T-shirt, and he helped her by straightening out his arms. She had to lean over him to get the garment off him, and once it was discarded, he surprised himself with his forwardness by lifting his head up to touch his lips to the gap at her neckline. She froze in position at his touch, and for a moment he thought he'd gone too far. He let go, but then a hand came behind his head to pull him gently back up to her, encouraging him to continue with the impulsive move. He soon brought his hands up to start undoing the buttons of her blouse. Two buttons later and suddenly he was apparently too slow for her. She pulled away, yanking the blouse over her head.

His heart was thudding in his chest as he gazed at her before reaching out to touch her. He had come this far once or twice with other women, but with Lois it was on a whole new plane of experience: her actions were so generous and sensuous, assured without being rushed, but always with a thrilling undercurrent of electricity. Above all, it was different simply because this was Lois Lane, the woman he knew he loved with all his heart.

It was too much to resist. He focused his attention on touching her, caressing her with his lips and hands, Lois clearly welcoming his touch.

"Superman," she breathed.

There it was again. This was wrong: he couldn't do this with her without her knowing who he really was. It was dishonest and selfish of him to indulge his own fantasies when she didn't know who she was making love to — it would be little more than him merely using her for his own pleasure, and he would never, could never, do that to Lois. Reluctantly he straightened up to face her, resting his hands lightly at her waist.

"Lois…"

"What's the matter? Am I going too fast for you?" She smiled at the improbably assertion that she, Lois Lane, could be too fast for Superman.

"No, I -"

He blinked when she dove forward and kissed him hard on the lips, fogging his brain once more with her infectious passion. His resolve leeched away from him again, and he melted back down to the sofa, taking her with him so that they were once more lying one atop the other, this time flesh pressed against sensitive flesh as the kiss went on and on.

Now he was definitely taking a step into the unknown: she returned for a brief, yet fierce kiss and then withdrew so that she could tug off her remaining clothing. She smiled down at him, an easy, content smile, and his heart swelled with happiness that she trusted him so implicitly, that she was being so frank with him, and how natural it felt to be with her like this. Suddenly, as she began to pull at his own clothes, his conscience gave him a sharp stab in the ribs.

"Lois," he began, trying to ignore the pounding in his head, the sheer delight of being with her like this.

"Mmmm?"

"Lois," he repeated softly, placing his hand over hers to stop her caresses.

She transferred her gaze to his face. "What?

"There's something I have to tell you."

"Now? Can't it wait?"

"No, I have to tell you now," he said, hoping he was managing to show the regret he was feeling despite the lust roaring through his body. "I'm sorry."

"Sorry? What about?" She frowned down at him.

"I… we… that is, Clark and I… we…"

"Yes? Come on, Superman, you can tell me — it's okay." Her frown belied her assurance, however.

Clark drew in a deep breath. "I don't have any condoms."

<Coward, coward, coward!> he told himself instantly. What the hell had gone wrong with his brain-to-mouth communication there? He knew, he was sure, that his head had directed his lips to form the words 'I am Clark, Lois.' But somehow between his brain-cells and his vocal cords the words had changed. 'I don't have any condoms'?? What on earth was he thinking of?

Well, he *didn't,* he rationalised to himself, dwelling for a moment on the fact that he'd never before needed them, never even believed that maybe, some day… After all, he was different. Not human. And who knew whether it was even safe for an Earth woman to make love with him?

But Lois was now staring at him, her mouth open in a soft, round 'O'. "Condoms… Oh, God, I never thought… and I'm not even on the Pill, I came off that ages ago, I didn't like the side-effects… and, um, I guess you wouldn't really want to take the chance that I might get… um…"

"Pregnant," he finished for her, his voice a whisper. Oh, if that was possible…! Suddenly an image flashed into his mind of Lois holding a baby, a beautiful little girl with her eyes and hair, and his… his genes? His powers?

But who knew whether that was even possible? Or what might result if he impregnated Lois — would the result be normal? Or some sort of dreadful mutant Krypto-human? There was no way he would take the risk.

Lois was breathing heavily, and the expression on her face suggested that the interruption had left her very frustrated indeed. She raised her gaze to his again, and he could see the latent passion in her eyes. "Superman… I don't suppose Clark would…? I mean, in his bathroom cabinet or anything?"

Clark shuddered. If he said no, she'd wonder how he knew. If he got up and looked… well, wouldn't that just be prolonging the deception? And making it more deliberate?

But Lois seemed to note his expression and put her own interpretation on it. "I guess you wouldn't want to go and look — I mean, it'd be kind of an invasion of his privacy, wouldn't it?"

Clark flushed again. It was from guilt, but Lois again misinterpreted it.

"Oh, God, Superman! I've just realised… that's exactly what we've been doing! I mean, we're making out on Clark's couch — we almost made love on Clark's couch! What would he think if he — " She broke off suddenly, blushing scarlet. "What if he walked in right now?"

How could he get himself out of this? Clark asked himself, feeling increasingly desperate. "Lois… I… it's okay, Clark won't…"

"But I don't know where he is, and you didn't either," she reminded him. "And — look, maybe it'd be better if we took this to my place? How about you fly us there?" she asked him with a mischievous grin, her embarrassment forgotten. "And maybe you could stop at a drugstore on the way back…?"

He could, he supposed… and as she wriggled on his lap, he desperately wanted to do just that. "Lois…" He groaned as she pressed against a particularly sensitive part of him.

"Or… I've just thought," she said to him. "Can you use condoms — I mean, you're so strong, wouldn't they break?"

He blushed furiously. "I… I have no idea, Lois."

She stared at him. "Haven't you ever… Oh, God, you haven't!" She clapped a hand over her mouth, causing her breasts to swing in front of him yet again. Her expression also caused him to feel hot all over again, since it held a mixture of awe and disbelief. She was *pleased* that he was a virgin!

Without stopping to think, he reached out to touch her with one hand again. He looked down at her for a moment, barely able to believe that he was doing this… and doing it with Lois. Then he raised his gaze, and caught her staring at him, the tip of her tongue visible at the corner of her mouth.

He leaned forward and seized her lips with his again in a fierce, passionate kiss. He wanted, *needed* to make love to her, to give them both what they so badly wanted. But…

She tore her mouth from his. "Superman… Superman, take me home. Take *us* home, please!"

He made his decision on the spur of the moment. "Lois, we are home," he told her quietly, humbly.

She gazed back at him, eyebrows furrowed, clearly not understanding.

"*My* home," he told her.

She shook her head in confusion. "I don't… oh, do you mean you *live* here with Clark or something?"

He wrapped his arms around her, drawing her head onto his shoulder and burying his face in her hair. "No. I live here. Alone."

She didn't reply, and the stillness of her body suggested that she was still baffled.

"Me. Clark," he murmured at last, and waited for the explosion.

She pulled back from him, staring at his face; her hands pulled at his hair, ruffling it and dragging strands down over his forehead. "My God! Do you mean… I was right the first time! When I saw you… you *were* Clark, but you were just pretending to be Superman? I don't believe… you *fink!*"

She stopped abruptly, seemingly too shocked to move, but continued to stare at him. Then she spoke again, muttering agitatedly to herself. "No. You can't have been Clark — you *flew* me up to that washing-line. And Clark can't fly…"

"I can," he told her quietly.

The expression of shock seemed to be frozen on her face as she simply continued to stare at him; he felt his desire subside as it was obvious that any lovemaking was now definitely not going to happen. He wondered whether she'd hit him if he tried to put his T-shirt on.

Did he need to explain further? Possibly. "Lois, I am Clark. And I am Superman. There aren't two of us — there never were."

He watched in horror and disbelief as she began to cry.

***

Lois let the tears run unheeded down her cheeks, feeling utterly devastated and desolate. How could he do this to her? Things had been so beautiful, so wonderful with him, and now he had to go and ruin it all by telling her he was Clark…and Superman! Her perfect dream was shattered. She'd been so bold with him, initiating their love-making, pushing things forward each time he seemed to falter, wanting so desperately for it to happen. All the time, she'd pressed herself on to more and more brazen behaviour, moving much faster than she normally would have, because she loved him and wanted him so much. What was the result? She had made a fool of herself — she'd declared she loved him, done a virtual striptease in front of him, and was now sitting astride a man she didn't even know. With no clothes on…with a cry of anguish, she scrambled off him, grabbed her jeans and blouse up from the floor and scuttled over to an armchair where she did her best to cover herself up with the clothes without even taking the time to dress herself properly.

Huddled in the chair, she stared resolutely at the carpet, desperately trying to pretend he wasn't even in the room with her.

"Lois, I'm so, so, sorry. That was unforgivable of me — I should never have let things get this far without telling you."

She heard the words but discarded them. Why did things like this have to happen to her? Everyone else got to have perfectly normal relationships where they met, fell in love — with one person! — and spent the rest of their lives together in blissful harmony, but she ended up with two men who confused the hell out of her and then completely threw her world upside down by telling her that actually they were both the same person. Confused? She was a total mess — a mess with no relationship whatsoever and definitely no blissful harmony. More like miserable chaos.

"Lois, please talk to me."

Talk to him? Talk to whom? Clark or Superman? Neither of them were here any more, and instead she had this weird hybrid person she was supposed to make conversation with as if it was the most normal thing in the world to talk to someone who had just told you he was two people. Well, she supposed, maybe it was normal for her — she seemed to attract these crazy, wacko types like bees to a honey pot. There must be something wrong with her, she decided — maybe she had the wrong pheromones or something.

"Do you want me to leave?"

Now he wanted her to make decisions as well as make polite conversation. She didn't want to make decisions, she just wanted to shrivel away into a little dot and make the craziness stop — not to mention the acute embarrassment of sitting here with only a cushion, a bunched-up pair of jeans and a precariously-placed blouse to cover her up. Anyway, she was a honey pot with the wrong pheromones, and how could a honey pot be expected to make decisions?

"Lois, I really don't want to leave you when you're this upset, but if that's what you'd prefer, I'll go. Just nod if that's what you want."

She nodded furiously, then changed her mind and shook her head quickly, before breaking into a fresh bout of sobs.

"Lois, I — I'm not sure what you meant by that."

Neither was she…

"I'm a honey pot," she wailed miserably.

"You're a…?"

"I'm a honey pot," she repeated. "I-I attract the wrong bees because I've got the wrong pheromones, and, and then the bees aren't who they say they are, and then they all gang up on me like one big, gigantic bee, and, and then I get stung!"

"I'm not sure…"

"Who are you?" she threw at him suddenly.

"I'm Clark, Lois. The guy you work with at the Daily Planet."

"No you're not — you told me you were Superman!"

"I know… Lois, I don't know what to say to you — "

"Makes two of us, then," she snapped.

She heard him stand up. "I'm gonna go into the bedroom, so you can…"

"Fine," she muttered.

She waited until she was absolutely sure he was out of the way before standing up, still clutching as much of her cover-up to her as she could, and retrieved her underwear from the sofa and the floor. Picking it up like this, strewn about the room, reminded her of her crazy abandonment and how embarrassingly lascivious she'd been with him. What had she been thinking? Glancing around to make absolutely sure he wasn't around, she hurriedly pulled her underwear back on and got dressed properly again. Of course, if he wanted to, he could probably see anything he wanted through the walls… but he wouldn't do that. He might be guilty of lots of things, but invading someone's privacy like that wasn't one of them.

For a moment, she considered making a quick exit right there and then. She could run away from this, convince herself it never happened — or at least forget it for a while — and get back to some semblance of normality. Except that it *did* happen, and she'd have to face him tomorrow and every other day of the week at the Planet. Which would be worse — dealing with it now, or trying to avoid him the rest of her life?

She slumped back down in the armchair to await his return.

***

Clark sat on his bed with his head in his hands. What had he done? Well, he knew what he'd done — he'd hurt Lois, and that was the one thing he never intended to do. In fact, he didn't even think he was capable of hurting her, it was so much anathema to him, but apparently he was. He'd hurt the only woman he loved, and he'd done it in the worst way imaginable — by humiliating her as well as shattering her illusions about himself. He could only guess what it felt like to be led on so far, to expose yourself so much to another person, only to find out that person wasn't who you thought he was.

He had been selfish and cruel. He'd let his body rule his mind, that's what he'd done — he was no better than any other man who took what he wanted from a woman without regard to her feelings. She had every right to throw him out of her life now.

Except he didn't want that. If there was any way he could repair the damage he'd done, he would do it — if nothing else, he wanted to ensure that Lois got over the hurt he'd inflicted on her. Anything else was secondary to that, even his own happiness.

Pulling on his T-shirt and fastening himself up again, he wondered morosely how he could start to put things right. It was obvious from the way she'd scrambled away from him that she didn't want him anywhere near her, but he wasn't sure if he could stop himself wanting to comfort her if she was still crying when he went back into the lounge. It had been hard enough sitting on the sofa before, listening to her sob and trying not to embarrass her by looking at her. All he'd wanted to do was gather her up in his arms and soothe away the hurt — the hurt he had caused her.

Things had been going so well — sort of — until he ruined everything. Their crazy antics had allowed him to show her that Superman had a more human side; broken down her awkwardness with him so that she was treating him as an equal and not some sort of untouchable higher being. In retrospect, he realised that he had been trying to show her that Superman wasn't so different to Clark — and the next logical step would have been to tell her that they were actually the same person. If only he hadn't left things so long, then it might even have worked. He could have gradually let more of his true self show until the similarities became more and more obvious, and then he could have given her the news gently — not bludgeoned her with it when she was at her most vulnerable.

At least she hadn't actively told him to leave her alone. Did that mean anything, or did it just mean she didn't care one way or the other? No, he couldn't imagine Lois not caring about whether the man she'd just been so intimate with stayed or went — more likely he'd confused her so much with his revelation that she didn't know what she wanted. Well, one thing he could do was to try and help her overcome that confusion, explain who he really was and perhaps why he'd behaved so badly — he wasn't under any illusions about receiving forgiveness from her, but at least he could give her the honest truth: she deserved that. He drew in a deep breath, reached for his spare pair of glasses and walked back into the living-room.

***

Now that she'd calmed down, Lois was starting to worry a little about her partner. During her initial reaction to his revelation, she'd been unable to see past what she perceived as her own humiliation; now she remembered the pain in his voice when he'd asked her whether she wanted him to leave. He had apologised as well, for letting things go so far without telling her. That told her… what did it tell her?

That he was hurting as much as she was, possibly more. That maybe the reason he hadn't told her sooner was because… because he'd wanted what they were doing as much as she had? And if he had… then maybe it wasn't such a disaster after all. Except that she'd been making love with Superman — or so she'd thought. Instead, she'd found out that Superman didn't exist.

But that still left Clark, and despite everything that had just transpired, Clark was her friend. Her partner. Her *best* friend — and someone she cared about. She needed him in her life, and if this had hurt him as much as she suspected, then they needed to talk.

She heard a movement, and looked up to see Clark re-entering the room. He was now wearing his glasses, and looked much more like himself; that was reassuring, in a way, since she'd begun to berate herself for not noticing the similarities between what she'd thought were two men. He looked unsure of himself, as if afraid she'd tell him to go away again, and she grimaced. Had she hurt him that much by her apparent rejection? She thought back to what she'd said, and realised that the harm was probably as much in what she hadn't said — she hadn't stopped him leaving, she'd snapped at him, she'd refused to meet his gaze.

Deliberately, therefore, she raised her head and stared straight at him. He reached the dividing wall between living-room and kitchen and stopped, keeping his distance, then turned apologetic brown eyes to her.

It was up to her to make the first move. "Who are you, Clark?" she asked him quietly.

He blinked a little at the calm tone of her voice; clearly he'd expected anger, or tears.

"I'm Clark, Lois. I only put on the Suit as a disguise so that I can use my powers to help people and still lead a normal life."

She assimilated this, then nodded. "Okay. So *you're* really from Krypton?"

It was his turn to nod. "Yeah. Don't ask me how, or why — I really don't know." His mouth turned down at the corners. "You said a few times that you want that definitive Superman interview — who am I, why am I here? Well, now you know why I never gave it to you. I wouldn't have known what to say."

He didn't *know*? Lois was appalled. He was… what, twenty-eight, and he had no idea why he'd ended up on Earth when he was originally from Krypton! And it occurred to her suddenly that if Superman was Clark, then he had to have been on Earth for almost all of his life — she'd seen *baby pictures* of him, for heaven's sake! A flash of memory came back to her, and she remembered Clark's strange empathy with the plight of adoptive children seeking their natural parents. No wonder!

An impulse led her to extend a hand in his direction. She saw him blink again in surprise, but he accepted the unspoken invitation and came closer. He still seemed to hesitate, however, so she gestured in the direction of the couch; he sat awkwardly, gazing down at his hands.

"Tell me something, Clark. Why did you decide to let me think you were Superman rather than Clark, outside?"

To her amazement, he blushed. "Umm… well, apart from the fact I was standing in the middle of a crater I'd just created myself, it was, uh, a pretty embarrassing situation, Lois," he stammered. "I guess… I thought I could cope better with you thinking that you'd seen Superman naked rather than Clark — I mean, the thought of turning up to the Planet tomorrow and having you laugh at me…"

"Laugh?" She stared at him incredulously. "Why would I laugh, Clark? Am I really that mean a person?"

He shook his head emphatically. "No, Lois, no, you're not. I just meant… well, I just felt at a heck of a disadvantage… you know what they say, if you want not to be intimidated by someone, just visualise them naked…"

Lois suddenly saw what he was getting at. He'd thought she'd be laughing at the sight of his naked body! If he only knew… "Clark, I wouldn't have been laughing at you," she assured him softly. "Hasn't anyone told you how…? well, I mean, you're pretty easy on the eye," she finished.

"Oh." That seemed to embarrass him too, and he changed the subject. "Lois… I should apologise for not telling you sooner. I… I suppose I always wanted to tell you the truth one day, but I never expected this to happen, and when you — you told me you loved me and you seemed to want me… well, it was just a dream come true." His voice was hesitant, awkward.

But there was something not quite right about his explanation; Lois struggled to work out what it was. Yes… that was it! "Clark, I told *Superman* I loved him."

He shook his head, the gesture almost one of defeat, though she couldn't understand why. "I'm Superman, Lois. You told me that you loved… me."

No, that still wasn't right. She frowned. "But I don't love you, I love Superman. I… I've loved him for months, and I finally got to tell him today." To her annoyance, her eyes began to blur again as tears threatened to spill once more.

Despite her own sorry state, she couldn't help noticing the pained expression which crossed his face. "You don't love me?" he whispered.

"No," she answered immediately, not stopping to think about the logic of her answer. But… there was something not quite right about that either, and she couldn't figure it out this time.

He closed his eyes briefly. "Oh, Lois, what have I done? I've been so selfish, letting my feelings for you take control, pretending everything would be all right because I loved you — and now I've made you cry, and that's the last thing in the world I'd want to do. I've ruined everything," he finished sadly.

She scrubbed impatiently at her eyes, not wanting to cry again. "It was all so nice, so beautifully, beautifully nice, thinking you loved me and knowing I loved you. We'd had such a crazy time together, you in that dress and me thinking you were gay, and then you started to show me a whole different side to yourself — you were so approachable and, and…it just felt so *right*, you know?"

"I know. I felt it too."

"You did?"

"Yes."

She dashed the tears from her eyes again and stared down at him, something he said suddenly registering in her head. "You… *you* felt it? You… Superman?"

He nodded. "Me. Superman. Clark."

That was it. That was what hadn't seemed right about her earlier denial. This man *was* Superman… and he was also Clark. She raised her gaze to him again, seeming to see the chocolate brown eyes for the first time since Clark had rejoined her; those same eyes which had gazed at her earlier with desire and… love. "You love me?"

He nodded. "Yes, Lois. Clark Kent loves you, Lois Lane." He flicked his eyes away before coming back to look at her; the naked pain in his gaze made her heart wrench. "But I should probably never have told you that. I'm being selfish again."

"I don't think you are," she replied slowly, as things gradually began to fall into place. "I think you're just being honest. And that's probably what love is all about."

"Yes. But it's not fair to you if I tell you I love you when you don't feel the same way about me."

"That would be true… if I didn't."

"Didn't what?"

"Didn't love you."

"But?"

"Maybe I do." She brushed away the rest of her tears, and sat up a little straighter, feeling a new sense of purpose now that everything had become clear to her. "I've always known I loved Superman, and I came here to talk to you about how much I cared for you -"

His eyes went wide at her admission at last of what her original purpose had been in visiting him today.

"Yes," she affirmed. "But I was kidding myself, really. I couldn't allow myself to love two men, so I had to choose one of you at a time. Now I know you're… you, it's easy."

"It is?"

"Yes. I love you, Clark Kent." She leaned towards him and kissed him softly. "I've always loved you, but I just didn't realise it until you helped me see it. And I love you, Superman. You just distracted me by flying around in that Suit, you know."

"Lois…" he whispered with a catch in his throat.

"Shhh…" She put a gentle hand on either side of his head and kissed him again. Her kiss changed to a smile against his lips when his hand came up to play in her hair: the dream was real again.

And if it was real… she deepened the kiss, sliding her tongue forward to tease the corner of his mouth. His lips instantly parted, allowing her access, and she took immediate advantage of the opportunity.

In a sudden movement, he lifted her off the armchair and brought her to sit on his lap on the couch again, wrapping his arms tightly around her as if he never intended to let her go. She made full use of the opportunity this afforded her to run her fingers through his thick dark hair again, then as her fingers dislodged his glasses she grabbed hold of them and discarded them.

His hands were warm on her back, through her blouse, and she suddenly ached to feel them on her skin again. Her body was reminding her that it had been disappointed, frustrated by the earlier interruption, and as she adjusted her position on Clark's lap she became suddenly, gleefully aware that he was experiencing precisely the same reaction as she was.

One problem still remained, however. "Um, Clark?"

"Yes?"

"If this is going where I think it's going — and please don't think I'm being presumptuous here, it's just I'm not sure I could stand the interruption a second time around — we still have that other problem to solve."

She watched as his face went from puzzlement to comprehension accompanied by an endearing pink flush. "Oh! Right! Do you want me to…?"

She smiled. "Better now than later."

"Right. I'll just… go and buy some, then."

She transferred back to the sofa cushions so that he could stand up. Of course, he'd change into Superman to fly to the drugstore, she suddenly realised. "Do you want me to turn my back while you get changed?" Silly question, really, in the light of where he was going and why, but still…

It was his turn to smile broadly. "No need." She stared, transfixed, watching his image blur before her eyes, his fast spin turning him into a column of swirling colours, and then he was slowing down to a stop, and Superman was in front of her with a beaming grin on his face. "That's the first time I've tried that with an audience. Came out pretty well, huh?"

"I'd…I'd say it did," she replied, stunned by his blatant and thrilling use of super-powers in front of her. "Yup, definitely worked for me."

"I'll be back soon… make yourself at home."

With a whoosh of air he was gone. Lois stared at the spot he'd been occupying, still marvelling at this new person who was revealed to her now that he'd dropped his disguise. Was that disguise, or disguises? Was Clark Kent, reporter for the Daily Planet and the son of a farming family in Kansas, the real person any more than Superman was? Or was there another person who was neither of those two men, but a wonderful combination of the two? It seemed to her that what she had glimpsed just now was a third person: an ordinary man with extraordinary abilities, who at the age of twenty eight still didn't even know his true origins or how he'd come to be on this planet.

She wondered if that was why he was still a virgin. Did the uncertainty about what and who he was make him hesitate to cross the final intimacy threshold with a woman? Perhaps he was even scared about how his body might or might not react — whether it even worked the same as anyone else's. Of course, he must have experimented on his own, she reasoned, so he must have a pretty good idea of how he reacted. She swallowed a little nervously. This was a heady responsibility she was taking on, leading a man such as he through his first sexual encounter — if they got that far. One thing was certain this time around: she wasn't going to push things forward at fast as she had the first time. If it happened, that would be just wonderful, but it if didn't happen, she was pretty sure this wouldn't be the last time they found themselves together like this.

He'd better get back soon, before she thought too much about what she was doing here and began to feel as nervous as he probably was already. As it was, she was beginning to feel as though she was sitting in a doctor's waiting room rather than anticipating one of the most romantic moments in her life. Having to go out and buy them made it feel so cold and calculating.

She suddenly found herself trying to visualise the act of purchase: surely Clark wouldn't simply walk into the drugstore as Superman and buy a pack? Now that would certainly be a story worthy of the front page of a tabloid newspaper, she thought, the bizarre side of her brain even drawing up the headlines it would produce. 'Better Latex Than Never for Superman,' perhaps? Or 'Mystery Woman Drives Man of Steel Hard'? 'Pay and Display'? Or even 'Condom Over To My Place, Superman!' Lois blushed as she realised that not only would Superman be the subject of attention in that case, but there would be a massive hunt for Superman's girlfriend… her.

Was that what she was — Superman's girlfriend? It was a title which only a short time ago would have been an impossible dream; yet now she thought she preferred to be Clark's girlfriend. If that was how *he* saw it, of course; they hadn't really talked about the future, just kissed and let their hormones get the better of them. But — she smiled then, remembering — they had exchanged vows of love. Lois knew she didn't make such declarations easily, and with her new knowledge of Clark, she was pretty sure that he didn't either.

Another whoosh, and he was walking across the room from the window. "Hi."

"Hi. No problems…?" she asked, feeling suddenly gauche and unsure of herself again in his presence.

"No, no problem…I returned that dress to its rightful owner at the same time." He sat down gingerly on the sofa beside her and smiled shyly at her. "This is awkward, isn't it?"

"Yes."

He eased a cautious arm around her shoulders. "Maybe we should just take things nice and slowly — not force it."

"Just what I was thinking." She looked down at his blue spandex-covered legs and put a hand on his knee. "It would be a whole lot easier for me if you weren't wearing this though." She listened to what she'd just said and hurriedly dived in again. "I mean, if you were in your usual clothes."

He smiled gently at her slip. "Sure, Lois."

She stared once more at the blur of blue and red which this time became Clark in his jeans and black T-shirt. "It might take me a while to get used to that."

"Well, I have to tell you — it took me a few tries to get it right. The first time I nearly broke a window, and one of my neighbours gained an extra pair of men's jeans."

Lois laughed. "Just as well it was only your jeans, and not…" her traitorous eyes flickered downwards briefly, "something else."

"Lois, I keep *them* on," he replied with a straight face.

"Of course you do," she agreed with an equally straight face.

He came back to the sofa. "Talking of… clothes, you want to know what my Mom said when she made the Suit for me?"

"What?"

"She said the disguise was sure to work because people certainly wouldn't be looking at my face!"

"She didn't!"

"Mom's not one to mince words."

"I like your Mom."

"Yeah… look, do you want another cup of coffee or something? I've got a new blend I picked up the other day you'll probably like."

Before she could answer, he was already up and heading for the kitchen. She sighed: this seemed to be heading in completely the wrong direction, despite the fact that she was pretty sure they both wanted something entirely different. Still, she had promised herself she wouldn't force things, so…

"Sure." Since that he was already pulling out the coffee things, she might as well find out how he did this — would he use his superpowers? "Can I help?" she asked, following him into the kitchen. He was staring intently into a jug of cold water, which to her amazement slowly started to steam and then boil. "I mean, I can't do that, but… where's the milk?"

He looked up at her, pushing his glasses back in place quickly with his index finger. "Where most people keep it," he replied with amusement, indicating the fridge with his eyes.

"Well, how was I to know you didn't do something super-powered with it?" She crossed to the fridge, located the carton and placed in on the counter near where he was working. So near she could smell his cologne… it was nice, whatever it was — not heady or musky, just kind of clean-smelling…

"Like what, Lois?"

She blinked, his voice breaking her spell. "Um, I don't know… mugs?"

"Above the sink."

She retrieved two and brought them over for him. This was crazy — she wanted to jump all over him, but it was if there was some invisible force stopping her. He glanced over to her. "Thanks."

"Clark?"

"We should let this steep for a few minutes… what?" He looked over at her again, and this time she caught his gaze and held it.

Suddenly she was in his arms, locked together with him in a tight embrace, her lips sealed against his in an unfettered display of raw passion. She felt his tongue seek an entrance, and, willing, she let him in, meeting his tongue with her own then playing with him, savouring the sensuous feel of his flesh inside her own. Any resolve to take things slowly flew out of the window, and she yanked his t-shirt free from his jeans to slide her hands up his sides, taking the material with her as she went. With a quick pull, he finished the job for her then arched his back with a soft hiss, pushing his chest forward into her hands as she let them roam over the smooth planes of his pectoral muscles. His body was so firm and strong, yet so soft at the same time…

A rush of air and a split-second blur of something around her made her gasp. Before she could recover, his hands were stroking over her bare shoulders and down over her arms, while he drowned her in more of his wonderful kisses. She moaned softly into his mouth, and abruptly he stopped.

"I — I wasn't too fast for you, was I?" he asked hesitantly, gazing down at her with those wide, concerned eyes of his.

"Clark, that wasn't a moan of protest, you know."

"Oh."

"You might hear one soon, though, if you don't get going again soon."

Obviously he didn't need much encouragement, for he immediately began a pattern of kisses down the side of her neck, over her collar bone, nuzzling in the nape of her neck for a time, tickling her with the tip of his tongue, caressing her with a feather-light touch of his lips. It was her turn to arch herself forward to his mouth. He might be inexperienced, but he was pretty darn good at this, she decided.

He was also taking more of the initiative, she noticed, his hands traversing her body with gentle caresses, reaching for intimate and secret places which had her grabbing onto his shoulders for support as her legs began to tremble from the reaction. Once again he stopped and straightened up to face her.

"Too much?"

She felt like screaming. "Clark, you've got to stop doing that!"

"What?" he asked with a worried expression.

"Stopping!" She lunged forward to kiss him fiercely, at the same time returning his daring caresses with a few of her own, evincing a gasp of shocked pleasure from him. Happy with the effect she had on him, she decided it was time to get rid of a few more barriers…except his hands were stopping her.

"Clark!"

"No… bedroom," he said breathlessly.

"Oh, okay, but make it quick." Oh, she sounded almost desperate; belatedly, she wondered what he thought of her behaviour. She knew he was a virgin, but she'd never given him any real indication of her sexual history apart from telling him about Claude. Was he assuming, given her sheer passionate eagerness with him, that she was *very* experienced? How could she tell him that actually she'd only ever made love with two men before, and that neither had been especially memorable? That there was just something so *right* about this, that when he kissed her nothing mattered any more but getting closer to him, needing him to keep kissing her and touching her and never stop?

Before she could make a move, he gathered her up in his arms, the room became a blur, and then she was lying on his bed beside him. No sooner had she registered her new surroundings than he was swooping down to kiss her again, playing through her hair with one hand while running the other over the curves of her body, exploring her, seemingly learning her shape, coming back up to her neck then down along her arm, until he found her hand and twined his fingers around hers. His hand had given her a warm glow of suffuse electricity wherever it travelled over her; now his clasp over her hand was oddly comforting in this wash of new and exciting touch sensations. His mouth abandoned hers so that he could look down at her with a quirky smile.

"Quick enough for you?"

So many questions…impatiently, she pulled his head back down to enjoy his lips again. Talking was vastly over-rated; lips were for kissing, especially when the kisser was as good as he was. Freeing her hand from his, she reached across to resume her intimate caresses, and it wasn't long before their passion overcame them and the last of their clothes lay abandoned in a messy pile by the side of the bed.

***

"Too fast," Clark whispered into the warm, electric darkness.

She stopped and he opened his eyes onto a smiling Lois. "I forgot you're kinda new at this."

"Yeah. Sorry." Yes, he was, and she… wasn't. Would that matter? He hoped he wouldn't disgrace himself — this was just too important.

"Hey, don't apologise. I only forgot because you're so good."

He caught his breath at her words, not doubting her sincerity for a moment. "Maybe I should…" he reached behind to the ledge above the bed, showing her the small, cellophane-wrapped box.

"Good idea."

Suddenly he was all fingers and thumbs, his trembling fingers making the task of opening the box nearly impossible.

"Here," she said, taking the box from him. "Let me."

He watched while she deftly unwrapped the box, ripped open a packet and pulled out the condom. "There you go. Want me to do the honours?"

He nodded dumbly, the emotion of the moment too strong for words, and moments later, Clark's world opened up into a whole new realm of experience and generous love. Lois showed him how to love and be loved; she showed him what was important in love and what wasn't, and most of all, she showed him just who she loved with her body and her words.

"Wait," she whispered, reaching up to his face to lift his glasses gently off. "Now I can see you properly."

His heart did a flip, and for a long time after there was nothing but heat and excitement, mutual sharing and deep, searing emotion. He had expected to be overwhelmed physically, but nothing could have prepared him for the waves of love and passion which overcame him during these most intimate and special moments. God, how he loved this woman! No-one else could possibly make him feel like this, he was absolutely sure of that.

How completely his life had changed in a couple of short hours; his battles with the Nightfall Asteroid paled into insignificance beside the lightening-shock of discovering that Lois loved him after all and that, suddenly, it had been easy to tell her his secret. And how different things would be from now on: she would cover for him at work when he needed to go and be Super, and she would be there, he hoped, when he returned home tired and in need of comfort after a difficult rescue. She would be there, in his bed, to love him and hold him and simply *be* with him — as he would be with her.

He bent down to kiss his love, his partner, his friend, and quite probably, his soulmate.

THE END