By Kaethel <Kaethel@wanadoo.fr> & Tracey <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: October 2001
Summary: Ever wonder what might have happened during the stakeout in the episode "Target: Jimmy Olsen" if Superman hadn't been needed and Scardino hadn't decided to show up? Ever wonder what might have happened if two good friends decided to get together and work on a WAFFy rewrite of this scene? We'll give you one hint as to the consequences: smoochies!
Authors' foreword (if you can call it a foreword <g>):
Kaethel — Once upon a time, the dinosaurs had just vanished from the face of earth and…<skipping a lot of historical details, here>…Tracey and I were chatting on irc about one of our favorite topics (fanfic writing, how did you guess? <g>). We were mostly complaining about runaway muses, when she suggested we write a fluffy, waffy vignette as a joint effort, since both our muses had decided to take an unexpected vacation to…uh…wherever muses go when they need a break (we're still investigating as to the location of their remote, deserted, and very secret island <g>). We'd been talking about writing something together for a long time, and we even already had other joint fanfics in the plans, but it didn't stop us from starting something new. I've been a fan of Tracey's writing since she started posting fanfic last year, so needless to say I was thrilled and very flattered that she was willing to co- author something with me. :) Anyway, Tracey challenged me, poor innocent Kaethel (yes, innocent! Of course innocent! <g>), with a premise of her choice, so all I had to do was obey. Yes, she tortures me, I know. Sigh… Got to create a union for the poor, innocent Kaethel in distress, someday. <vbeg> /me ducks and runs before Tracey hits her. See? Proves my point, really! ;)
Tracey — Oh, Kaethel, you know I would never hit you… /me smiles innocently and slides the bat back behind my body. <vbeg> Okay, but first of all, 'poor, innocent Kaethel'?? Oh, honest to goodness, K, like anyone is really going to believe that! You guys know her too well to believe that one, right? ;) Okay, so yes, while we were on irc, I challenged her to write a fic with me, but she was the one who agreed, so this thing is as much her fault as it is mine <g>. I suggested that we "fix" a scene from 'Target: Jimmy Olsen,' and then within a few days—or perhaps it was even the very next day!—I found a part of this fic in my mailbox. What she sent me was terrific, to say the least, but then I found myself with a bit of a problem: I had to hold up my end of the bargain and match that terrific writing of hers! Well, I'm not sure if I did or not, but either way, I had a blast writing this, Kaethel, and I can't thank you enough for being a wonderful co-author and not to mention, a wonderful friend :)
A big thank you goes out to our wonderful beta-readers Wendy Richards and LabRat for their ever so helpful edits, suggestions and encouragement, and to our great GE, Erin Klingler, for catching our typos and for being so supportive. And special thanks to Wendy for the title. :)
All usual disclaimers apply. Lois, Clark, and all related characters are the property of DC Comics and Warner Bros. No copyright infringement intended.
Feedback is, of course, very welcome. :)
Lois leaned against the headrest of her seat, squirming to stretch her cramped muscles. Boy, buying this car had seemed like a good idea at the time, but the salesman should have warned her that it wasn't the best of choices for long stakeouts. A Jeep. She could have had a…a van…or a camper! It would have been more difficult to park around Metropolis, sure, but the comfort it would have provided during complicated investigations like this one would have been well worth it.
Yawning, she craned her head to check the clock hanging above the large, glass doors of the hospital's hall for the umpteenth time, and sighed in frustration when it informed her that only five minutes had passed since she'd last looked.
She was tired. And angry. Make that furious, she thought bleakly. The interview with Katherine Wilder had left her fuming at the half-spoken menace lurking behind the corrupted doctor's words.
/Bad habits can be hazardous to your health./
She snorted. This woman visibly had no idea who she was dealing with, and if she thought that a mere threat would put off Lois Lane, well…she should think again! Whatever Katherine Wilder was hiding, she was certainly doing a very bad job as a liar, and her defensive attitude when Lois had talked about the phone message on her desk hadn't done anything to soothe the young reporter's curiosity.
"If Roxie Terrace is a patient, I'm Oprah Winfrey," she muttered aloud, turning towards her partner when she realized that her words had woken him from a half-drowsing state. "And was she threatening me?" she asked indignantly.
"I'm not sure," he answered softly. "But I think we should keep an eye on her. I've got a hunch something might be happening tonight." The usual gentleness of his eyes failed to hide an expression of deep concern. For her safety, she was sure.
Clark was always like that, looking out for her, which sometimes led him to behave in an over-protective way around her, as if she was some kind of porcelain doll that would break at any moment. His attitude had irritated her at first, but with time, she'd come to appreciate that he cared, and she now recognized that his caution had saved her life on more than one occasion in the past.
Every time she was in danger, he opened his arms to her, letting her crash at his place, reassuring her when she needed it, although not stepping on her toes when it came to investigating. He didn't consider himself the invincible male whose mission in life was to protect the damsel in distress. He seemed to prefer an equal partnership with her in any circumstances, and that was fine with her. More than fine.
Not like Dan, who'd let her know more times than she cared for that it was better for her to stay *out* of anything remotely dangerous, and who would visibly never understand what her job as an investigative reporter involved. As if he had any idea of what was *better* for her, she thought incredulously.
She sighed, pushing the DEA agent out of her mind with a slight shake of her head. Now wasn't the time to think about him, nor any other aspect of her personal, disastrous, private life.
God, she really knew how to pick them, didn't she? For the past year, she'd managed to fall hard for a superhero who was totally unattainable, she'd nearly married the biggest crook on earth, realizing almost too late that he was on his way to controlling her completely, and now she was letting Daniel Scardino flirt with her when she knew perfectly well that any relationship with him had no future. Not that Dan had ever had anything to do with Lex, but they had that in common. Neither of them had ever treated her as an equal.
She'd fallen for the unknown, mysterious and appealing male way too many times in the past, and now was time for her to grow up.
Her gaze imperceptibly shifted to the man sitting beside her, and her lips curved into a small smile. Clark *was* mystery, in a way—a mystery she knew by heart—but very appealing nonetheless. And yet contemplating a relationship with him was scaring her even more than the prospect of dating someone like Daniel Scardino, probably because she knew that with her best friend it wasn't something they would just *try* for a few days before easing back into a smooth relationship, were they to find out that it wasn't meant to be.
Getting involved with him implied a real commitment, which meant that she could get hurt were Clark to turn into another womanizer, or a man who found fulfillment in seduction and got bored with the routine of an established couple.
And if it didn't work…
She sighed downheartedly, returning her attention to the fascinating sight of the car's dashboard.
*If* it didn't work.
The same thought had been invading her mind over and over since Clark had asked her out a couple of months earlier, making her shy away from him whenever things got too intimate. She reproached him for running away, but she really wasn't any better, and relationships were scaring her to the point of panic when things got too serious.
She should have gained confidence after their first, and so far only, date. It had just been perfect, more than perfect even. Magic, she'd told him at the end of the evening, before a primal, protective impulse had pushed her to slam the door in his face. It *had* worked, more than she'd ever have expected it to. She and Clark had a lot of common points, they worked together on a daily basis, they shared many experiences as reporters, they were friends, and—
And that was precisely what was going wrong.
They were *friends*.
Which meant that any tender word, any caring gesture that they were used to sharing in the frame of their friendship was now more meaningful than she wanted it to be. Eating take-out at his place was becoming a date. A comforting hug could be the trigger for a kiss. An innocent peck on the cheek could turn into an obvious show of affection. An insignificant caress could lead to the beginning of a sensual seduction, and already, her mind was screaming to her to stop and run before it was too late.
Except that it *was* already too late, and when she looked at Clark Kent now, it wasn't her partner whom she saw, or her best friend, or her confidant, but a potential boyfriend, and maybe even more than that.
What worried her more was that her steady, solid Clark seemed even more frightened by the prospect than she was, if she went by his constant lame excuses every single time she attempted to have a serious conversation with him. It was as if he was avoiding the topic altogether, and if it wasn't for his obviously jealous act whenever Dan approached her, she'd be convinced that he was backing off to try and revert to their old friendship, as if nothing had ever happened.
He'd done it once already, after all, so the odds that he would do it again were against him. She'd almost bought his speech outside the Daily Planet building, a few weeks after her wed—*fiasco* of a wedding with Lex. Why did he have to confuse her by saying that he didn't love her, that his romantic declaration in the park had been an act, that his only goal had been to prevent her from going through with the wedding, by any means?
It had taken a few months for her to get her equilibrium back, and starting a relationship right after such a disaster probably wouldn't have been wise, but she wished he hadn't lied. He'd been keeping her in the dark as to what feelings he exactly harbored for her, until that one morning when he'd asked her if she'd like to go out on a date with him.
You didn't ask someone out if you didn't think there could be…*something* going on. Right? And he *did* care for her more than he was letting on, she was sure of that.
Sort of sure.
Maybe all it took was to lurch forward, heedless of the consequences. She did that all the time in her professional life, so why was she so unwilling to face danger in the relationship department?
/Because you got burned too many times,/ a bitter voice inside her head answered. And it was true. With an investigation, if she ever got herself into trouble, she could always find a way out of the situation. If needed, Superman came to the rescue and beat the bad guys while she made her escape. But in a relationship, she was alone to face feelings on which she'd learned never to rely.
Lois Lane, ace reporter, disappeared, leaving Lois Lane, woman, to deal with the vulnerability of her deepest emotions.
And when she was alone with Clark, she became fragile and ready to surrender to the heat of his gaze and the desires of her heart. She was longing to feel his lips caress hers, to explore the sensations he was awakening in her, to let him sweep away all coherent thought as he kissed her until she couldn't breathe any more.
She closed her eyes and shivered, remembering only too well how passionately she'd responded to him when he'd kissed her for the first time without it being any kind of pretence. The still-fresh memory made her uncomfortable as she became even more aware of his presence at her side. She was attuned to his every breath and to his every move, as if connected to him, and she was feeling herself irrevocably pulled towards him.
It was a good thing they were on assignment and not on an official date, she thought as she stubbornly resisted her attraction to him. It allowed her to pretend that it was safe to stay in his company…alone…with nothing else to do but stare out the window every couple of minutes in hope that Katherine Wilder would leave her office and lead them to some lair where she kept the database on the Valhalla project.
Lois chuckled inwardly. The situation was utterly ridiculous, when you thought about it. Here she was, alone with him at last, with the perfect opportunity to get things out in the open and find out whatever it was that bothered him to the point that he had to run away as soon as things got too personal; and yet all she could think about was the many excuses why tonight was absolutely nothing remotely close to an intimate moment with Clark.
There were times when they were really alike, she mused with a tired smile, finding her thought highly ironic.
A movement beside her caught her attention, and she turned her head towards Clark, raising an eyebrow and smiling even more broadly upon meeting his confused and oh-so-cute expression.
"What are you smiling about?"
"Oh…well…nothing." He didn't look satisfied with her answer at all, if she went by the insistence of his gaze, so she continued. "Just that this is the first night we'll be spending together since our first date and it's another stakeout." She frowned. "Do you think that means something? Like…on some cosmic level?"
Clark seemed taken aback by her question, then an offended and mildly defensive look crossed his face. "Well, I don't know. Sometimes when it's difficult to make something happen—"
"I mean it's not supposed to happen," Lois interrupted, heedless of his argument. "Unless it's something you *really* don't want to happen in the first place, in which case—"
"I *want* it to happen," Clark cut her off impatiently. "And you know that perfectly well."
True. She did know that. She just needed to hear it, and to finally have a real talk with him about the issues they'd recently encountered in their…partnership. She lowered her eyes self-consciously.
"Look, Lois," Clark spoke up again, his tone getting softer. "I know that I've seemed…distant lately. After Mayson's death everything seemed more complicated and—"
"Oh, yeah, like it was simple when she was alive?" Lois snorted sarcastically. "You've been unable to take a decision, Clark. All along. Even after you'd asked me out, even after our almost first date, heck, even after our *real* first date, Mayson just had to ask and you were at her feet. Does the word 'commitment' mean anything to you?" she spat out harshly, anger suddenly rising in her in reaction to his attempt at finding yet another excuse to his confusing attitude towards her. Why was he keeping her at arms' length if he wanted to be with her?
He stared at her blankly for a moment, showing her that she'd thrown him off balance. "Excuse me?" he finally asked indignantly. "So what do you think you're doing with Mr DEA-Call-Me-Daniel?"
"Well, at least *Dan* hangs around long enough for us to have a complete conversation," she replied, anger sifting through her apparently calm voice.
"We're having a conversation here!"
"No, we're not," Lois denied stubbornly. "We're having an argument," she corrected bitterly, crossing her arms and turning to her window in full brooding mode, with that familiar 'I'm ignoring you completely now' air that Clark had seen more times than he could count.
He must have noticed her defensive gesture, because he immediately countered with one of his own. "Fine," he answered, turning his head toward the passenger window. "We're having an argument. No different than usual," he added in the same bitter tone that she'd used.
They sat in stony silence for several minutes, studiously ignoring each other, glaring out their respective windows. Finally, Lois turned her head, slowly, just enough to see what he was doing. It just made her more furious when she saw that he was looking out the passenger window, apparently uncaring whether or not she was angry with him.
"What," he responded flatly, but he did turn slightly to face her.
She sighed, looking down at the hands folded across her lap. She always told everyone how different she and Clark were, but the truth of the matter was that they were more alike than they cared to admit. "This isn't getting us anywhere, you know," she admitted quietly.
Her words were true, and he knew it as well as she did. "I know," he agreed, and there was a weariness in his voice that worried her. Was he tired of the fighting, or was he just tired of her? Was he going to give up on her that easily? But she didn't want him to! She wanted him to fight for her and for their relationship!
But how could she tell him that when it looked like even she herself wasn't willing to fight? She was the one leading Dan on, mostly because she was angry with Clark. She wasn't being fair to either of them, and yet she expected to be treated fairly and with respect?
Gee, if that wasn't the pot calling the kettle black, she thought sourly, suddenly ashamed of the way she'd been handling the situation.
"Clark," she began again, and there was a new determination in her voice. "Look, we're here, alone together for the first time in days. And, contrary to my previous behavior," she admitted with a guilty half-grin, "I really don't want to spend this time fighting with you. I want to talk. Really talk, I mean," she added in case he'd missed the point of her little speech.
"I do, too," he agreed, and this time he turned to face her fully. The hospital behind them stood forgotten. "I know that I haven't been very good lately about…well, being here when you wanted to talk. I apologize for that, Lois," he said sincerely.
"Thank you," she returned cautiously. He had apologized to her once before, but as soon as she'd accepted, he'd run off, leaving her bewildered and alone. "I appreciate you saying that." Her mouth echoed the exact words she'd said to him once before, but not without reservation. Would she forever be accepting his apologies if they became a couple?
He continued. "I know that there are some things I want to get straight about us and our relationship."
She smiled slightly. "I'm really glad that you said that, Clark. I've been having some feelings lately…" She trailed off, suddenly shy as she began to give voice to the feelings that had been plaguing her for weeks. It was stupid, really—she'd been practically begging him for his attention for days, but now that he was giving it to her, she felt awkward.
It wasn't that she didn't want to tell him; in fact, just the opposite. She wanted to tell him so badly that she was afraid of making a mistake and ruining their entire relationship. Clark was just too important to her. She took a deep breath, trying to gather her thoughts and praying that she would find the right way to express herself.
She tried a different approach. "I've been thinking a lot about us, especially in the last couple of weeks. I mean, about our relationship," she needlessly clarified. She was sure that he could sense her nervousness.
He smiled encouragingly, nodding and asking without words for her to continue.
"Ever since our first date—and, well, before that even—I guess I've just been even more aware of how much you mean to me. I mean, do you realize how much is at stake here, Clark? We went through so much just to build our friendship," she emphasized, and her voice shook nervously. "How much would we have to go through to build a romantic relationship? And would it even be worth the effort, knowing we would just break up?"
Clark reached over, knowing instinctively that she was nearing babble-mode, and placed a hand on her arm. "Lois."
She stilled, letting her head dip and her eyes slide down until they once again concentrated on the wringing of her hands.
Clark sighed to himself as he watched her. He knew that she wasn't very confident when it came to their relationship— to tell the truth, he wasn't all that confident either. Especially since she didn't know about his secret identity yet, and he knew things weren't going take a turn for the better when he finally did tell her.
On the other hand, though, there was one thing he was very confident about when it came to Lois, and that was the fact that he loved her—had loved her, did love her, and always would love her. Somehow, he needed to make her see that without scaring her away.
He reached up with his index finger and tilted her chin up, wanting to see her eyes when he said what was he was thinking. "Who's to say that we would break up?" he asked softly. He noticed her eyes widen, but he went on. "Lois, I know we have to work through a lot. I *know* that, and so do you.
"But the thing is, we're going to work through it together, and we're going to be stronger people because of it. We're going to be a stronger couple, and it's that bond that's going to keep us together." His voice was intense, trying to portray to her just how much he believed in *them*, without actually saying the "L" word.
Lois felt torn. On one hand, she wanted desperately to be swept along in his fervor. It sounded so good to be able to trust totally in him and in them as a couple, to surrender herself completely and without reservation. She could easily fall in love with him, that she knew for a fact. She sometimes feared that she already had.
But she just couldn't bring herself to admit that to herself, let alone to anyone else. And he was right; there still were a lot of issues that they had to work through. For one thing, he still hadn't given her a reason why he was always running away whenever they had an intimate conversation, and she didn't want to get involved with someone who was that afraid of committing to her.
He's not running away now, an inner voice reminded her.
But for how long would he stay? she wondered in answer. Wasn't it only a matter of time before he ran away from this conversation and away from her in general?
"I don't know," she finally responded, pulling her face away from his touch and turning her head toward the window once again. "I just don't know, Clark."
At her words, Clark pulled back, letting his hand fall back to his side. He set his lips in a thin line, hating the fact that she was shutting herself off from him. Hadn't she been the one to tell him she wanted to talk? Why, then, when he was talking to her and trying to reassure her about their relationship, did she keep tuning him out? Was she that afraid of what would happen if they actually did get things out in the open?
If only he knew the right way to handle this, he thought in frustration. He wanted to say the right things, what was in his heart, but he was afraid of pushing too hard. He knew she had reservations when it came to men.
Maybe he should try a different approach. Actions spoke louder than words, after all, didn't they? If she was confused about how she felt about him, he would help her decide. And if she wasn't sure of how he felt about her, then he'd alleviate that fear as well.
"Okay, fine. If you don't know, that's fine, Lois, but just let me tell you this. I'm not sure about a lot of this relationship-stuff either, but there is one thing that I'm very sure of—and that's the way I feel whenever I'm around you." He paused briefly, as if making a snap decision, trying to weight the pros and cons in the space of a matter of seconds. "And I'm very, very sure of the way I feel…"
Lois looked up, drawn by the passionate tone of his voice. Time seemed to slow as she watched him, his body shifting just slightly in the direction of hers within the small interior of the Jeep. The light of the moon slid in through the window and fell across his hair, slicing it with a silver beam and making her wish she could run her fingers through it. Suddenly, she knew what was going to happen, and she wanted it, despite the fact that she'd promised herself that this stakeout wouldn't take a romantic turn.
She could barely concentrate. He was a whisper away from her, the last of his sentence drifting to her ears, sounding very far away. "…when we do this." She closed her eyes, waiting for the touch she'd craved for days.
He slipped a hand around the back of her neck and drew against him. She gasped slightly, but came more than willingly. Despite the fact that it was only their second kiss, he sealed their mouths with an ease that surprised her. It had been like this with their first kiss, too— she'd expected awkwardness and uncertainty as they'd moved their relationship to the next step, but it hadn't been that way in the least. They'd been in perfect sync, brushing their lips together, then pulling apart for a brief second before they'd each fallen forward, desperate for more of the other's touch.
She remembered how she'd tried so hard to keep her response in check, but it had been hopeless. She'd been lost in his kiss, much the same way she was lost in this one. He was just so good at it, she thought hazily as he gently pulled her lower lip into his mouth.
For several minutes they continued that way before she felt him begin to withdraw, his kisses becoming shorter and lighter as he prepared to end the encounter. Almost without conscious thought, she raised her hands to cup the sides of his face and held him close, showing him that she didn't want the moment to end, not right yet. She wanted to keep this intimacy with him a little longer, this feeling that right now everything was perfect in her world.
But perfect couldn't last forever, and they both knew it. Reluctantly, Clark again slowed the kiss until their lips carefully separated.
The spell broken, they stared at each other, their breathing quick and uneven.
Lois closed her eyes for a second, trying to regain a little control. She'd said that she'd wanted him to kiss her senseless again, and he definitely had. Kissing Clark was an amazing experience, and it was one she wanted to repeat again and again. "It's always going to be like that, isn't it?" she finally murmured into the starry darkness behind her eyelids.
She opened her eyes and looked at him. "This," she indicated, waving a hand in the space between their bodies. "This. Us." She paused, and then forged ahead. "The way I feel when you touch me."
Stunned, Clark could only gape at her. Was he hearing things? Had she really just said what he'd thought she'd said? No, he must be dreaming. He had to be dreaming. "Um, Lois?"
"Clark, we can't keep doing this, hiding from each other like this. I don't want to do it anymore."
Excitement warred with dread in his mind. This was a good sign for their relationship, but it also made him feel very guilty when she talked about hiding from each other. The fact was that he *was* hiding something from her, and she didn't even know it.
Lois didn't look at him as she continued to speak. "This is hard for me to say, but…well, you scare me sometimes, Clark."
"I what? Lois, why would I scare you?"
"I just mean…" She took a deep breath. "I mean, it scares me the way I look for you in the newsroom, even when I know you're going to be out for the afternoon. It scares me the way I wake up in the morning, wanting to come to work because I know you'll be there. It scares me the way I miss you when Perry assigns us to different stories." Her voice quivered, and she swallowed hard before her next words. "And it terrifies me that the only time I feel complete is when I'm with you."
Clark didn't have any words—none, at least, that could describe what he'd felt as he'd heard her confession. "Oh, Lois…" Reaching for her, he slipped a hand beside her ear and tunneled his fingers through her hair. "You have to know that I feel the same way about you. I always have."
There were tears beginning to show themselves, glassy behind the deep brown of her eyes. "Really? What about Mayson?"
"Not even close, Lois. She couldn't even come close to you." His head curved down, his cheek nuzzling against hers. He turned slightly, placing a tender kiss on her cheekbone. "Not even close."
Lois shivered, loving the quick brush of his lips against her skin. "There was nothing with Dan either, Clark. He couldn't even come close to you," she echoed in a whisper. And then she did the same thing to him that he had done to her, rubbing her lips gently across his cheek. "Not even close."
In answer, he found her lips again in a hungry kiss that was healing at the same time. They both knew that they had made mistakes in these the beginning stages of their romantic relationship, and both knew that there were probably many more mistakes that would be made along the way.
But some of their fears had been allayed tonight, confessions made that had desperately needed to be made, and a hope restored that would carry them into the next stages of their relationship. The important thing was that they believed in each other and were ready to face those more difficult times—together.
Sighing into the kiss, they melted into each other, their hearts pounding with a happiness neither had known possible.
His approach had been more or less silent, knowing that she was on a stakeout, but he realized now that it really wouldn't have mattered anyway. It was pretty apparent that Lois Lane wasn't too concerned about the whereabouts of her crook. Neither was Clark Kent, for that matter.
Scardino smiled sadly as he watched the obviously very much in love couple. He was disappointed, yes; but in truth, he'd known that the mild-mannered reporter had already won Lois's heart. It had just been a matter of time.
He looked down at the picnic basket and bottle of wine in his hand, noticing it felt heavier than before. He supposed Kent and Lois would get better use out of it now, anyway. It'd be a lovely parting gift to Lois, and maybe it would convince Kent that he wasn't such a bad character after all. Well, perhaps he wouldn't hold his breath on that last one. He grinned at the thought.
Dan glanced inside at Lois one last time, and then placed the package and bottle on the hood of the Jeep. Shrugging good-naturedly, he stepped back and disappeared into the night.