By Tracey <email@example.com>
Submitted July 2000
Summary: Lois and Clark go back to the newsroom to finish their chess game at the end of the episode "Top Copy." What happened once they got upstairs?
This is a continuation of the last scene in "Top Copy." I always wondered what happened after they went back into the Planet to finish the chess game, so here's my version. Usual copyrights apply: characters are property of DC Comics, TNT, etc., and any reference to any other story is accidental on my part. Comments welcome; please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
"You're some partner." She rubbed her hand affectionately against his arm, a safe, friendly gesture that still allowed her to touch him. Although why that was important to her, she wasn't sure, and it wasn't something she wanted to spend any length of time thinking about right now.
"Is that all I am, Lois?" He stopped alongside her, holding his breath, waiting for her response. He didn't know why he had chosen this particular moment to pose the question he had been dying to ask her for a couple of days now. He just hadn't been able to work up the courage. He wasn't entirely sure he wanted to know the answer, anyway.
She hesitated, glancing down at the sidewalk for inspiration. How should she respond? Should she tell him everything she was feeling?
No, that would be way too complicated, she decided, and besides, she wasn't even sure of her own feelings at the moment.
Should she deny everything that she felt for him?
Absolutely not, came the firm reply from deep within her. There was no way she could lie to him again. Lois clearly remembered how awful she had felt that day outside the Daily Planet when she had agreed that they should just be friends.
Finally, she turned to face him, telling him on a shaky breath, "I don't know. I know how I feel — and I know what I think. And those are two very different things."
Two very different things, indeed. Lois had never felt so torn on an issue in her entire life. One of the things she prided herself on was her ability to look beyond the external, to see things how they really were. It was a necessity in her profession. She had always found it made life simpler if one thought in black and white—good guy, bad guy; award-winning scoop, back page dog show. There was just no middle ground with Lois Lane. She was passionate about her work and tenacious in her reporting. She went all out or she didn't go at all. That was just the way things worked; that was the way *she* worked.
So why was Clark Kent such a gray area? Why were her feelings about him so mixed?
Why in the world wouldn't her heart listen to her head?
Her head knew that she and Clark should just stay best friends. They got along amazingly well, both professionally and personally. Sometimes it even seemed he knew her better that she knew herself. He did things for her that no other man had before; things like getting her coffee in the morning, fixed just the way she liked it, or holding her coat for her at the end of the day. And professionally? Well, Perry had put it perfectly: they were as natural a pairing as Hepburn and Tracy. He often repeated this phrase to them whenever they bagged another exclusive for the Daily Planet.
So her head had a perfectly valid point: why risk their strong, steady relationship on a few fleeting romantic feelings?
But, her heart insisted, if she was being truthful with herself, they really weren't all that frail or that fleeting. In fact, they were strong enough that in the last few months she had gone to bed with his name on her lips and images of him behind her closed eyelids. Strong enough that she had caught herself staring at him across the newsroom, admiring everything from the way he walked to the way he concentrated while working on a particular story. She had never let any man distract her from her work, but Clark did. Clark definitely did, she admitted with a smug, inward smile as an image of him in that charcoal suit flashed before her eyes.
But if he could distract her this much now, what would happen if they actually became a couple?
She had imagined the scene many times during those sleepless nights alone in her bed: she would be sitting at her computer, pretending to work, but in reality, watching and waiting for him to arrive. Then the elevator doors would open, and he would stroll down the ramp, that charming, heart-melting grin playing on his lips and aimed directly at her. Their eyes would meet, and a spark would jump across the crowded newsroom, generating a heat that would be visible only to the two partners.
As he walked toward her, she would smile back at him, pleased that his first stop was her desk. He would lean down and kiss her softly, whispering "Good morning, honey," against her moist lips. She would be able to taste the coffee he'd bought on the way into work on his lips, mixed with his own special flavor. She already knew it would be more addictive and sweeter than the finest chocolate.
"Morning, sweetheart," she would reply, kissing him again, the sighs of envy from various women around the newsroom floating to her ears. She wouldn't need Superman's superhearing to know they were whispering about how incredibly lucky she was to have Clark Kent by her side.
Lois sighed, reluctantly slipping back to reality. It was a wonderful fantasy, but would it ever come true?
Of course, her heart spoke up.
Never, her head emphasized. You two would have a huge fight, break up, and he would never speak to you again. You'd probably force him to work somewhere else, maybe even move away from Metropolis. You would lose him forever.
And she couldn't risk that. Lois pulled her jacket tighter around her, tying the knot securely. She didn't know what to say to him.
Clark recognized the defensive movement instantly. She was pushing him away, tabling the issue for a later discussion that would never happen. "Can I make a suggestion?" he asked quickly, desperate to keep her there, if only for another minute.
"Please," she whispered, her wobbly smile revealing her uncertainty. Any guidance right now would be better than trying to follow the chaotic pattern of her own confused thoughts.
"Let's finish what we started," he suggested steadily, his dark brown eyes holding hers captive.
For a moment, she just looked at him, stunned, sure that he was talking about finishing their "almost-first" date. Almost immediately, she was rushed by two conflicting emotions—a desperate "yes" and an equally desperate "no." Then she heard the rest of his sentence.
"The chess game," he clarified, gesturing toward the Planet. "Then we can take it from there."
She almost laughed out loud with relief. Suddenly, her heart swelled with respect for this kind, wonderful man who had just shown that he was allowing her set the pace in their relationship. Clark was willing to step back and let her sort out her feelings before going any farther. It was an amazing revelation, one that made her feel invincible and vulnerable at the same time. She had just been given one of the most precious gifts in the world: time.
Lois was still smiling as she took a step towards him and laid her hand on his arm, trying to demonstrate emotions for which she had no words. He smiled back, understanding, and turned them towards the Planet's revolving doors.
Perry and Jimmy were coming through the doors, on their way home after putting the paper to bed. "You two going back to work?" Perry questioned.
"No, we're going back to play," Lois answered. She and Clark shared a secret smile, moving into the Planet, while Perry and Jimmy exchanged puzzled glances.
"You know, I gotta bad feeling in the pit of my stomach," Perry told Jimmy, referring to the budding relationship between his two star reporters.
"Well, it must be that chili dog you ate, Chief, 'cause I think they're kinda cute," Jimmy grinned in return.
Perry swung his arm up around Jimmy's shoulders. "Ahhh, youth," he sighed, remembering the days when every relationship had been simply wine and roses. He decided Jimmy needed a little story demonstrate the true nature of relationships. "Now, son, let me tell you what the King would say about that — "
"I like your new glasses," Lois offered conversationally as she pushed her way through the revolving doors.
He followed her, so thrilled that she had agreed to come back with him that he just barely caught the last of her sentence. "Thanks," he responded, nudging his glasses with one hand to acknowledge that he'd heard her.
"Did you ever think about getting contacts?" she continued, glancing back at him.
This time he heard her loud and clear and had to bite his lip to keep from smiling. "No," he chuckled. Clark Kent with contacts? If only you knew, Lois, he thought with a grin.
They slid into the elevator side by side, and Clark reached over to press the button that would take them to the newsroom. The elevator began to move, slowly at first and seemingly quieter than usual.
Or maybe it was just the uncomfortable silence of the elevator's two passengers that made the ride more silent than usual. Clark ran his hand along the seam on the pocket of his jacket, staring at the pattern on the doors directly in front of him. He began to quickly have second thoughts about this friendly chess game he'd invited her to finish; it was just too awkward to be alone with her while the question of furthering their relationship hung between them. It was like a blanket, dividing the elevator almost perfectly down the middle.
It wasn't supposed to work this way, he wanted to shout. He'd finally gathered the courage to ask her out on a date, and she'd accepted. She had to be blind now if she hadn't figured out how he felt about her. This was the time when they were supposed to confess their feelings and fall into each other's arms, happy, content, and truly complete for the first time in their lives.
So why were they acting as if they were complete strangers, standing awkwardly in an elevator on their way to finish a chess game?
He almost wished he could take back his invitation and all his pushing to make their relationship more. He would go back to being just her friend in a heartbeat if it would take away all this uneasy silence and forced conversation they'd been having over the past few days.
He sneaked a quick glance at her out of the corner of his eye, trying to read her expression. Oh, how he wished he knew what she was thinking!
Oh, I wish I knew what he was thinking, Lois muttered in the back of her mind. It would make this whole mess so much easier. She pretended to fool with the belt of her coat, all the while keeping one eye trained on the lit numbers that indicated the floors they were passing. She couldn't get out of this elevator fast enough. There was just too much of *him* in here, and they were far too alone for her comfort. When they were alone, she had nothing to distract her should he attempt to talk to her. Please don't say anything to me, she prayed silently.
When had it come to this, though? He was her best friend. She talked to him more than anyone in this world, whether or not he knew it. She trusted him, admired him, respected him, and loved him as a friend.
But there were also these other feelings that had emerged as they had grown closer, feelings that she had buried long ago, feelings that she had convinced herself didn't exist between her and Clark.
Then he had asked her out on a date. She sighed. Why did he have to go and ask her out? Why did he have to force her to confront her feelings about him? She had been content to fantasize a little in her mind about a romantic involvement with him, but actually going through with it was another matter entirely! She wasn't ready to lose him when things didn't work out between them. She wasn't ready to gamble away their friendship on a physical attraction that would fade with time.
The elevator finally, mercifully, grinded to a halt, its doors opening to reveal an almost dark, empty newsroom. There were a few people milling around, but most of the graveyard shift didn't come in until after one in the morning. A quick glance at the big clock next to the stairs proved it was just past ten.
What was she doing here at ten p.m. anyway? Lois wondered as she and Clark made their way down the ramp to her desk. Whatever had possessed her to come back to the newsroom to play a chess game when she was so tired she could barely stand? The day had been exhausting, to say the least. All this mess with Diana Stride had been finally straightened out, thank goodness. Clark had told Lois that Superman had taken both Stride and her photographer to jail. It was a sure bet they would both stay there for quite a long time.
And then there was that crazy accusation that Clark was Superman. Diana thought she had proved it when she'd found Superman's capes in Clark's closet, but Clark had refuted her claim at a press conference earlier this evening. He had stated that he, as a close friend of Superman, allowed the superhero to hang his extra capes in the closet of Clark's bedroom. Then Superman had flown by and confirmed what Clark was saying, putting to rest the rumors that they were the same person.
Lois had been relieved when she'd seen Superman flying high in the sky above Clark. The thought that Clark and Superman could possibly be the same person had rocked her world. There had always been similarities between the two, but she had never for a moment imagined they could be one in the same. Once Diana had revealed Clark's supposed "secret", Lois had stood stock still in the Planet's newsroom, rooted to the floor. She vaguely remembered Perry asking her if she bought the whole thing, but she wasn't sure if she had been able to muster a response, other than a strangled gasp of surprise.
Pieces had started to fall into place then, if only for a moment. Clark's sudden disappearances, his impossibly thorough Superman coverage, his weak excuses when he reappeared just as quickly as he had vanished—all just a cover for his superhuman feats?
As soon as she had actually witnessed Clark and Superman together, though, all her doubts had been quelled. Clark hadn't been lying to her all this time, he hadn't been secretly reveling in making her look stupid, and he hadn't been hiding from her. It was a relief.
Despite that relief, however, something had been gnawing at her ever since the press conference; she just couldn't put her finger on it. It was definitely a frustrating feeling. There was something strange about the whole situation, and attempting to picture Clark wearing contacts was just making the feeling worse. Maybe it was Diana's news story that had planted the idea in her head; whatever the case, it seemed she couldn't keep her mind from trying to blend the two men into one.
Lois shook her head, forcing the thoughts from her mind. She realized belatedly that Clark had just asked her a question as they arrived at her desk. "What?"
"I just asked if you wanted to start a new game or if you wanted to finish the one we were playing the other day," Clark repeated, giving her a quizzical glance as he noticed her dazed look.
"Oh, we might as well start a new one. I don't think I have a clue where we were in the other game," she told him as she pulled the coat from her shoulders and threw it haphazardly over the back of her red chair. She smoothed her hair with one hand, trying not to watch him as he went about setting up the new game.
It was a lost cause. She followed every movement of his body with her eyes as he strode toward his desk to retrieve the board, as he bent down slightly to pull open the drawer which held the black and white game pieces, and even as he shrugged out of his overcoat.
He came back over to her, trailing his chair behind him, and opened the board on her desk. While he was setting up the pieces, she tried to act nonchalant as she studied his hands, which were gently placing the knights and kings on the game. He had amazing hands, she thought; for the briefest of seconds she wondered if those hands would be as gentle with her as they were with the chess pieces.
Stop right it right there, Lois, she chastised herself. She knew these stolen moments spent admiring Clark would only cloud her judgement when it came time for her to make a decision regarding their relationship. She needed to keep a clear head.
She was so engrossed in her thoughts that she jumped when Clark laid his hand on her arm. "Hey, Lois, do you want to make the first move or do you want me to?"
"What?" She squeaked and jumped back even farther when she heard his question. Did he just ask her what she thought he asked her? He couldn't mean — They were just here to play chess, weren't they? And Clark wasn't usually that forward.
Clark saw her panic-stricken face and immediately panicked himself. Had he said something wrong? He'd only wanted her to decide which of them would go first in the game. There was nothing wrong with that, right? "Lois?" He called her name cautiously, half afraid to ask what was wrong. "Are you okay?"
At his concerned look, the true meaning of his question dawned on Lois. She breathed a sigh of relief. Good thing she hadn't said anything embarrassing, for that would've surely revealed the direction of her thoughts. She laughed nervously, trying to cover her mistake. "Oh, I'm fine — it's nothing, really. Um, you can go ahead and go first if you want."
He nodded, seemingly relieved as well, though she didn't know why. "Sure," he answered. They both settled down into their chairs, and Clark began the game with a traditional move. After that, they slid easily into the playing of the game; perhaps it was due to the fact that they now had something to concentrate on besides each other.
It was comforting for a while, bantering back and forth as their own respective competitive drives kept the strain of earlier thoughts and conversation at bay. They kidded each other when they captured enemy pieces, even going so far as to place a little wager on the outcome of the game.
"Hmm, that was a good move, Clark," Lois murmured appreciatively when he effectively trapped her in a corner of the board.
"Nah, you should be used to them by now," Clark told her, a teasing gleam in his eye.
His remark caused Lois to raise her eyebrows. "Really. For me to be used to them would mean that you make them all the time, and we both know that doesn't happen," she returned with a smug smile and the same evil glint mirrored in her own eyes. Clark should know by now that she always gave as good as she got.
He chuckled at her retort, for he knew it was all in fun. "I think you've always been pretty amazed by my moves, Lois. You just haven't been able to admit it."
Once again, there was a double meaning in his sentence that struck Lois like an electric shock. He didn't know what he was saying, but there was more truth in his previous statement than she cared to acknowledge. She blushed, wondering if he could tell what she was thinking. Her eyes had been directly in line with his, issuing her usual challenge to him to try and top her, but now she averted her eyes to the floor.
However, she didn't want him to know that her thoughts were not really on the chess game. Quickly realizing what she'd done, she raised them again and went right back to the offensive. "I guess by the end of the game we'll see who has the best moves."
Clark smiled sweetly at her. "I guess so. Care to make a little wager about that very outcome?" he challenged.
Lois Lane was never one to back down from a challenge. "I have nothing to worry about, so why not? What did you have in mind?"
He thought a moment before answering. "How about this? If you win, I'll buy you next month's supply of Double Fudge Crunch Bars— "
"That sounds promising," she interrupted with a giggle.
"—but if I win—"
"Yes?" she wondered, curious.
"—you have to go out with me Saturday night," he finished quickly, his gaze intent on hers. Suddenly, the teasing atmosphere they had built collapsed like a sandcastle in the midst of a summer storm. Silence crashed down around them, and Lois felt almost as if she were the one being tossed around in a raging sea. They had been having such a good time. Why did he have to go and break the fragile peace between them?
Clark shifted his head to the side, closing his eyes and biting down hard on his lip. Where had that come from? They had been having fun, and then, out of nowhere, he had ruined everything. What in the world had possessed him to ask her out like that?
He waited for the sounds of the movement of her chair, waited to hear her stand up, waited to hear her walk out of the newsroom and probably out of his life forever. She had made it perfectly clear when they were outside earlier that she didn't want to be pushed into a relationship with him, and he had tried to make her see that he understood her hesitation. What must she think of him now, going back on his word?
Lois inhaled deeply, desperately searching for something to break the awful silence. Finally, she cleared her throat and managed say, "I think it's your turn."
Clark raised his head, confused. Of all the things he'd expected her to say, that was not one of them. Then he realized what she was doing—she was trying to dodge the subject again, act like he'd never said the word 'date'. Well, he'd let her get away with it outside, but he wasn't going to just ignore what had been said. "Listen, Lois, please. I'm sorry I said that. I know I shouldn't have, but — " He trailed off, wondering how to explain to her why he'd said it. Even *he* didn't know why he'd said it.
"It's fine, Clark, really. Now let's get on with the game, okay?"
She said the words much too fast, betraying the disinterested front she was trying to present. Clark knew right then that if they didn't talk about this, it would fester between them, corroding their relationship until there was nothing left. He grabbed her hand as she reached for one of the black chess pieces. "Lois, no. I don't want to play right now. I want to talk to you."
She felt his hand encompass hers; his palm was soft and warm against her skin, and she couldn't stop the sensations that made their way up her arm and radiated through her body, resting finally in her heart. She let herself enjoy them for a spilt second before she tore her hand away. There was no way she could have a serious discussion with him while holding his hand. "Clark, please."
"I know you're not sure about us yet, Lois. I know that," he emphasized. "Just give me a chance. That's all I'm asking for—a chance."
Then she made the mistake of looking into his eyes. They were pleading, showing her without words how much she meant to him. She knew Clark cared about her, probably more than anyone she had ever been involved with. He'd shown it time and time again during the two years that she'd known him. What, then, was holding her back?
And all he was asking for was a chance.
"I know," she whispered, "but I just can't shake this feeling that if we go out, it's going to ruin our relationship. And I know I couldn't handle that." She stood, turning so her back faced him. The chess game long forgotten, she took a deep breath, gathering the courage to tell him three words she had never spoken to another soul. "Clark, I need you."
Clark looked at her, stunned by the intensity in her expression. He knew how hard that admission must have been for her; he was sure she probably had never admitted to needing anyone, let alone her partner from Nowheresville.
Then his mind began to comprehend exactly what she had said to him. She *needed* him! Lois Lane needed Clark Kent! Not Superman, not her job, not even chocolate—she needed him! It took every ounce of super willpower he possessed not to reach for her and smother her with happy, passionate kisses.
In time, he thought to himself. That would come in time, he was sure of it. They had taken a big step tonight, whether or not she realized it. He quietly got up from his chair and took three steps to close the distance between them. She still had her back to him, unwilling to face him after her declaration. Very softly, he slipped an arm around her shoulders, turning her, and brought their bodies closer. "I need you too, Lois." He tipped their heads so their foreheads rested together. "And that's exactly why were going to take this—us—slow. As slow as you need, okay? I promise."
She pulled her head back, eyeing him almost warily. "Really?"
At his nod, her brown eyes began to swim in a small pool of tears. "What is it?" he asked immediately, afraid once again that he'd said something wrong.
"Nothing," she answered, blinking back the sheen of tears. "It's just that no one's ever said anything like that to me."
"Well," Clark told her, letting his arms drop from where they had been holding hers, "I have a feeling we're going to experience a lot of firsts together."
That made her smile. "I think you're probably right."
He returned her smile with one of his own. "I'm sure we could have another first again tonight—that is, if by some miracle, you come from behind to win our chess game."
Lois's features twisted with mock indignation and outrage. "Oh, really? For me to come from behind, I'd have to be losing, Clark," she told him haughtily. "And I'm not."
He pushed her back towards their game. "We'll just see about that." He gave her a wink as he settled back into his chair.
"Fine," she said, choosing to ignore the wink and the fact that he looked incredibly cute when he did that. "Let's play, Mr. Kent."
"Anytime, Ms. Lane."
(slip back into season two continuity)