By Kaethel <Kaethel@wanadoo.fr>
Rated: PG 13
Submitted: September 2001
Summary: Too tired with Clark taking one step forward and two steps backwards where their relationship is concerned, Lois decides to take action and confront him immediately, and force him to acknowledge the dawning romance between them. But as with every decision, putting it into practice turns out to be a lot more intimidating than she'd planned.
Don't expect anything more than fluff in this one; I let my waffy mind take over, and here's the result. <g> Many thanks go out to the #lanekent crowd for encouraging me to share this story, and to my wonderful beta-readers Wendy Richards, LabRat, JoMarch and Tracey, without whom I'd never have dared posting…um…this. <g> Thanks also to my Archive GE, Kylie, for her kindness and encouragements. :)
All usual disclaimers apply. Lois, Clark, and all related characters belong to Warner Bros and DC Comics. No copyright infringement intended.
Feedback is of course very welcome. :)
Two months of uncertainties, two months of discreet glances when they thought the other wasn't looking, two months of unspoken reproach for fear they would spoil what little balance their relationship now held.
It hadn't been so bad before their first, real date, but now, the tension between them was palpable across a room, and Lois couldn't help but immediately think back to her fears whenever he approached her. Because she was afraid. So very much afraid. Their dinner together had been more than a success; it had been…magic. That was the term she'd used, and it perfectly reflected her memory of the evening.
Never had she imagined that she and Clark could spend such a great time together, in a romantic environment. Sure, it had already happened more than once that they'd ended up sprawled on the couch at either one of their apartments, watching the latest movie and eating popcorn, but that was very different. A date with Clark implicitly meant that any of his usual physical demonstrations of affection held a new dimension and could eventually escalate into something she might not be ready for.
The one and so far only kiss they'd shared had left her conflicted about how much time she'd need to get used to the new state of their relationship. When his lips had touched hers, the bare brush had left her weak at the knees, and she'd realised afterwards that she'd have done anything he asked after that first kiss.
For the first time in years, Lois Lane had felt very much vulnerable to a man.
A shiver ran down her spine whenever he laid his eyes on her. It invaded her heart with its paralysing tendrils whenever he touched her. And if he did kiss her again, she thought she would die of desire for this man.
How could her feelings towards him have changed so drastically in the space of a few months? She was perfectly happy with the status quo of their friendship, and Clark had to play havoc on her life with his idea of asking her out.
And now, here she was, out on the street at two in the morning, walking to his place because she couldn't bear to spend the night without him. She had the sudden need to feel him close to her, to hear his voice, to lock her eyes with his and drown in their depths.
Calling him had only got her a busy phone line, but her frustration had won, and she'd quickly dressed and gone out. Her first intention, to stroll aimlessly through the almost deserted streets, had quickly turned into the reaching of a clear goal: seeing Clark.
Her heart started to beat faster as she approached his apartment building. She recognised the last few blocks preceding the entry to the small, square yard that protected his place from the noise of the street, and apprehension gripped at her.
What if he didn't want to see her?
After all, the last time she'd seen him, they hadn't been on very friendly terms. Well, *he* had, but then he'd suddenly left just as she was broaching the topic of his continual disappearing act, and she hadn't waited for him to come back. It was clear enough that he didn't want to talk about it, and that commitment wasn't something he wanted to offer her.
He should have known, though, that she was as scared as he was. That falling in love with him was something she'd resisted for so long before she'd finally come to her senses and realised she had little choice but to face the consequences of her deep emotions.
But Clark visibly wasn't *just* afraid.
He was reluctant.
Reluctant to have a real, meaningful relationship with her. Or with any woman, for that matter. Of all the women who had crossed paths with him — Cat Grant, Toni Taylor, and Mayson Drake among them — none of them had managed to make him settle.
All right, so Cat had probably invented her night of passion with him, although there was still a lingering doubt as to the truth of Clark's version; he'd let Cat invite him to have dinner with her, at *her* place, so he must have had a pretty good idea of what she'd had in mind. Not to mention he hadn't exactly pushed her away when she'd kissed him rather blatantly in front of the whole newsroom, and that at least a couple of times.
Toni Taylor was more of a mystery, as Clark had claimed it was just a technique to get her to confide in him about the organisation ruling over the South Side. All right. Maybe that was true.
However with Mayson Drake Clark couldn't pretend that nothing had happened. They'd had several official dates and Mayson had even invited him on a weekend once. He hadn't seemed to realise how head-over-heels in love she was with him, but it had been obvious to everyone else, and Clark had really looked like a complete, insensitive, arrogant male when he'd stood her up without any explanation.
As a potential rival she didn't even know she was back then, Lois had felt a great deal of satisfaction that Mayson hadn't managed to get Clark the way she wanted, but now that she was finding herself in the same kind of situation as the now deceased Assistant D.A., she couldn't help but wonder what exactly was wrong with her partner.
Why was he running away from any relationship with a person of the opposite sex? She remembered how he'd once told her that he'd never lived full time with a woman, and she wondered now how come she'd been surprised by the revelation. Sure, Clark was a very handsome and pleasant man, but it seemed he *did* have a problem where relationships were concerned. When she thought about it, he'd looked almost…uncomfortable with talking about it with her, even back then.
And yet *he* had been the one to take the first step with her. For the first time since she'd known him, he'd made a move on a woman, and this woman had been none other than herself. Surely that had to mean something.
He was scared, there was no other possible reason for his behaviour. And Lois Lane would make sure he lost his fear of intimacy, even if it meant she had to forget her own concerns about relationships with men.
Clark sighed in frustration when his second attempt at calling Lois was as unfruitful as the first one. What was she doing, on the phone at two in the morning and then gone at two fifteen? Unless she'd turned in and had fallen asleep? But then, who would leave their answering machine pick up a call in the middle of the night, if they were there? Surely, they would realise that the person who needed so badly to talk to them had something urgent to say!
The only thing that could drive Lois out of her apartment at this late hour was a breaking story, and the thought that she was out sniffing around at this time of the night was making his stomach churn.
For an instant, he was tempted to spin into the suit and make a quick check over the city — just a small patrol to make sure she was all right. But maybe he was jumping to conclusions too fast. Maybe she had simply gone to the bathroom or something. But it was precisely the 'or something' that worried him the most.
A knock on the door disturbed his thoughts, and he frowned, rising from the couch and jogging up the stairs. It didn't even cross his mind to take a quick X-ray check at whoever it was visiting him at this time of the night. So he was utterly unprepared when he opened the door blind and found himself face to face with…
He caught his breath as he saw her. She'd been on his mind all night long, and there she was, appearing at his threshold as if on cue.
"Hi," she said nervously, fiddling with her hands in the same way she used when she was beating around the bush and didn't dare express her exact thoughts.
Once he came back from his initial stupor, he nodded back in greeting and motioned for her to come in, without a word. He didn't trust himself to speak when what he wanted to say wasn't what Lois was ready to hear. But the need to take her in his arms and show her how much she meant to him was almost overwhelming, and he steered his gaze away from her as she made her way to the living-room.
She looked quite restless herself, as she sat on the sofa for a mere second before she was standing again and walking to the kitchen counter.
"Coffee?" she suggested, her gaze avoiding his.
"Sure," he mumbled back and surreptitiously watched her as she fetched the mugs and prepared the beverage.
She knew her way around his apartment almost as well as if she lived there and for a minute Clark let himself fantasise about what sharing his existence with her could be like. Fighting over who'd get to use the shower first in the morning, driving to work together, going back home to dinner and a movie, before they both decided to turn in for the night…
Other images immediately filled his mind, and he closed his eyes, trying to escape from the too vivid pictures of Lois and him sharing so much more than a chaste and so far unique kiss. Falling asleep as she snuggled against him and waking up with his arms still wrapped around her was something he'd always dreamt of. But it was nothing more than a dream, and it didn't look like it would ever be more than that, if he considered the current state of their relationship — or what little remained of it.
Still. Lois was here, in his home, in the middle of the night. She couldn't have had the sudden idea to visit him only to share coffee and make small talk. Taking his courage in both hands, Clark walked to the kitchen area, though still careful to keep some physical distance between them before he cleared his throat and spoke up.
She started, as if surprised at his interruption, and stared at him. "What?"
Her reaction took him aback, and he hesitated. She was behaving as if it was the most natural thing for her to make coffee at his place at two thirty in the morning, and he was beginning to really worry about the reason for her visit. Her attitude spoke of more than simple nervousness, and it was influencing his own feelings of disquiet.
"Here!" she exclaimed, thrusting the hot mug into his hands and busying herself with the cleaning of the coffee maker before he could even say a word. Whatever was on her mind, it was obviously worse than he could ever imagine.
Leaving his mug on the counter behind him, Clark approached Lois and laid his hand on her arm, stopping her restlessness short.
Making a resolution was one thing. Putting it into practice was entirely different, Lois thought as she snatched a dishtowel off its hook and wiped the beads of water off the coffeepot she'd just washed.
As soon as she'd *seen* Clark, her conviction had flown out the window, and she'd found herself unable to look him in the eye. Even talking to him was an effort that required all of her courage. His voice was a caress to her ear, and she longed to hear him murmur sweet nothings to her, to revel in heated declarations and…and…and, well, all that mushy stuff she'd always rejected in the past.
Somehow, with Clark, it was different.
So when he touched her arm, her legs turned to jelly and she had to lean against the counter to keep herself upright. She was suddenly wishing that she'd stayed home and hadn't got the stupid idea to throw herself into this inextricable situation. Why had she let herself be enclosed within Clark's universe? And *willingly*, to top it all!
His apartment. Was there any more dangerous place than that? The furniture that usually made her feel so cosy and at home was studying her intently, waiting for her to make her first faux pas and spoil what little hope remained among the ruins of her relationship with their owner. And then, she knew that if she only *hinted* at their critical situation, Clark would find an excuse, *any* excuse to leave. The fact that she was in his apartment wouldn't prevent him from running away, she knew it.
"Lois, we need to —"
"Drink coffee before it gets too cold, you're right," she blurted out, not allowing him to finish his thought.
But determination held little value when a mere touch was melting her resolve, and when Clark took her mug and set it aside, she didn't offer any resistance. When he wrapped his fingers around hers and tugged her towards the living room, she let him, her steps following him as if she didn't have any will left.
He sat on the couch without letting go of her hand, and she carefully took her place beside him, wondering how on earth he'd managed to turn the tables on her in such a surreptitious manner. *She* had been the one to visit him in the middle of the night, with the thought firmly planted in her mind that she needed to be the one taking the first step and saying the scary words, and yet here he was, in control, while she was desperately trying to keep her erratic heartbeat under check.
From beneath her lashes, she observed him and noticed that he looked just as troubled as she did. The fingers of his free hand came up to lift his glasses and pinch the bridge of his nose in the same way as when he was tired or haunted by an issue, and Lois realised that her sudden and unexpected arrival at his place now had thrown them to the edge.
It was now or never.
Taking a deep breath and briefly closing her eyes, she decided to take advantage of his momentary silence. Letting the butterflies fluttering in her stomach rule her mind would only postpone a talk that had become unavoidable.
"What are you afraid of?" she asked without any preamble, which she knew would only result in lengthy babble and give Clark a chance to take off before she could broach the topic currently occupying her thoughts.
He did a double take, staring up at her and gaping in surprise, but her gaze didn't waver, and she kept it fixed on him intently. Her fingers curled a little tighter around his in a subconscious worry that he'd cut the physical connection he'd established; right now, it was the only thing she had left, and she wasn't ready to give it up.
"I'm not afraid," he started warily, his tone defensive, and even a little hurt.
But Lois insisted. "You are. Whatever it is that is keeping you away from me, it's eating at us, affecting not only our professional life, but also our personal relationship. Our friendship, Clark. I thought our friendship meant too much to you to want to spoil it."
"I don't want to spoil anything. I don't —"
"Then what makes you run away?" She scooted closer to him and noticed with satisfaction that he didn't flinch. However, the small sign of panic shining in his eyes, if just for a millisecond, wasn't lost on her.
Her hands came up to frame his face, and she inched herself closer to him, ever so slowly. He didn't budge, although her fingers pressed to his skin perceived the increasing rhythm of his heartbeat, and she knew he was fighting for control. Well, that was a good sign, she decided. After all, her primary intention was to make him stop thinking and start acting, wasn't it? And if he was struggling to remain impassive before she'd even done anything, he was on a losing battle and would be handing over the white flag within seconds.
The first brush of her lips against his was a mere feather-like caress, and she pulled away as quickly as she'd initiated the kiss, holding back her already intense desire when a very male groan answered the interruption. Keeping her own need in check, she closed the distance between them again, granting him permission to deepen the encounter, without realising that it was leading her to the crumbling of all her carefully constructed barriers.
But, as with all well-thought out plans, nothing turned out in the expected manner. This rule didn't fail this time either, and she'd barely had time to form another coherent thought before Clark's arms were holding her against him, and he eagerly responded to her kiss, initiating a not-so-shy exploration of the feminine curves tightly pressed to him.
She was melting against him, unable to get enough of his taste and the touch of his hands where they roamed up her back, disappearing in the mass of her hair as he kissed her, over and over, his mouth repeatedly plundering hers. She was quickly spinning out of control, and, she realised with almost a jolt of surprise, she wasn't scared.
The exhilaration following her discovery enthused her next move, and she shifted to kneel on the couch, pushing him back against the cushions as she loomed up over him. Her fingers curled around the top buttons of his black shirt, and she bit her lip in concentration as her work revealed the first few inches of skin of his chest.
Her face took on a predatory grin as she bent her head and grazed her lips on the newly exposed patch of skin, revelling in Clark's heavy breathing — the only sound troubling the almost too quiet atmosphere of the apartment.
But as her fingers started to work their way down his shirt, Clark's hands came over hers to stop her. Thwarted in her intentions, she raised her head towards him interrogatively, fear gripping at her heart as she felt him withdraw from her. Fast. Too fast. She should have expected it, though — it was part of his usual pattern: let them settle in a comfortable relationship before he shut her off and ran away.
"Wait," he said faintly, breathlessly. "If we're heading this way, we need to talk, first."
Talk was good, assuming he stayed around long enough for them to have a real, serious conversation. His past attitude wasn't helping his case, here, she thought as she let go of him and withdrew to settle on the other side of the couch.
At least he'd acknowledged the drastic change in a relationship that had remained platonic until tonight, and hadn't expressed any reluctance…at least, until things had really threatened to spin out of control, and he'd had to stop her.
The old fear of intimacy was back, and she'd failed to make him forget about it.
Clark slowly sat up, trying to get a hold on the gentle swaying of his surroundings. Boy, if he'd been confused when Lois had first entered his apartment, his level of wonderment was now reaching dizzying heights. She'd literally jumped his bones — well, okay, he could have pulled away…if he'd wanted to. Not that the thought had ever crossed his mind: kissing Lois without holding back had always been one of his dreams, and she'd made it come true.
All of a sudden.
As if it was the most natural thing in the world.
And if he hadn't stopped her, God knew how far she'd have carried on with her seduction! It had taken all of his willpower to pull away before he lost all sense of reality and let himself get drowned by the passion devouring him. Oh yes, he wanted her, so much that it hurt, so much that it had been painful for him to let reason have its claim on his actions, when his instincts were begging him to forget about the one remaining barrier between them.
Yet he could *not* make love to her without letting her in on his secret. It wouldn't be fair to her, especially when their relationship had been spoiled by what she'd come to call his 'disappearing act'. Especially when she'd had such a close friendship with Superman and probably still harboured a crush on him, even if it had visibly lessened over the past few months. Especially when he loved her and wanted to share every aspect of his life with her.
She had to know everything about him and make a conscious decision, not be faced with the truth after she'd been intimate with a man, who, after all, had been hiding something from her for almost two years.
Clark was aware that what he said now would be the turning point in their relationship. If Lois wasn't able to forgive him for what she would consider a deceit, then a good part of his personal life was over, and he wasn't sure he could even stay in Metropolis if she decided to hate him.
He sneaked a glance at her; she was huddled against the other side of his sofa, hugging her knees to her chest and playing with the hem of her loose flannel shirt. Her face looked flushed, her teeth were biting into her lower lip in concentration, and she was obviously hiding behind the curtain of her hair. She looked so vulnerable that he longed to gather her in his arms and let the newfound peacefulness of the moment envelop them in a wave of tenderness.
"Is it gonna be this way between you and me?" she asked shakily, breaking the silence without glancing up at him. "Always holding back, never abandoning yourself to what's going on between us?"
"I'm not —"
"You *are*, Clark!" she interrupted his defence forcefully. "You're constantly running away from me. From *us*!"
"It's not what you think, Lois."
"I don't even know *what* I think, so don't assume you do! What I know for certain is that with you, Kent, it's one step forward for two steps back. What are you gonna say, now? What's gonna be your next excuse to interrupt this conversation? Or whatever it was before it became a conversation?" she pointed at him accusingly, her not so subtle reminder of their earlier activities making a slightly pink shade spread on Clark's cheeks.
Tears had welled up in her eyes as she'd spoken, and she wiped them with the back of her sleeve in an irritated gesture. Clark couldn't bear to see her hurt, and knowing that he'd initiated her pain was more than he could take. And yet there was nothing he could do to make up for his past mistakes. It was now hitting him hard that his secret had left Lois not only in the dark, but also in a state of distress that had been unknown to him. Until now. Until she'd opened up to him and had had the courage to tell him upfront the effects of his attitude on her. On *them*.
He tentatively reached a hand towards her, half-afraid that she'd reject him. But she didn't shrug off his touch, even as he cupped her cheek and forced her to look at him. Strong emotions were playing on her face as she met his gaze and he promised himself he wouldn't run away. Not this time. Not ever.
"No more excuses, Lois," he whispered intensely. "No more running away."
She shrugged half-heartedly and shook her head in disbelief. "Yeah. Like you haven't told me that one before."
"And I'm sorry. I know apologising will never take away the hurt I inflicted on you, but I really am sorry."
"I just want the truth, Clark. I'm not someone you can play with, whom you can be with one minute and reject the next."
He gaped, appalled by her words. She certainly thought he was no better than any of the males she'd met in her past. "Oh my…Lois, don't tell me this is how I make you feel?"
She stared pointedly at him, and he got his answer. It was devastating for him to realise how badly he'd hurt her feelings, and that only because he'd been too preoccupied in his desire to protect himself.
Protect her, too, a part of his mind argued. But Lois was more than able to take care of herself, and anyway, her relationship with Superman was independent from the one she'd developed with Clark Kent. If she learned his secret, she would certainly understand the need for her to keep it to herself, and she would be clever enough not to show her connection to the superhero, especially if she was aware of his double identity. In her intention to keep Clark and Superman two distinct personas, she would make an extra effort in cutting short all obvious favours that the superhero used to grant her.
"Tell me!" she insisted again. "Was I just another shadow passing through your life? Just another woman who fell for you?"
He choked as he heard her barely subtle revelation. "Who…fell for me?"
"Don't take advantage of the situation," she warned sourly, preventing any further question on what was, apparently, one heck of a slip of the tongue.
Clark sighed and ran a hand through his hair in frustration, but decided not to push the matter, knowing it was pointless. Besides, Lois was right — what mattered right now was to tell her the complete truth and make her understand he'd never meant to hurt her.
"There *is* a reason why I've been…well, running away is what you think I've been doing. But it's really not," he started, correcting an assumption which, he was sure, was ingrained deep within her. "It's mostly a matter of terrible timing, one that has been extremely frustrating for me, just as it's been for you."
"Bad timing?" she asked, her voice turning thunderous. "Bad timing? You just pushed me away *again* and you tell me it's bad timing?"
"No!" he exclaimed immediately. "Not this time. Lois, we can't…make love before you know everything about me."
She lowered her head at his mention of the intimacy they'd almost reached tonight, but soon regained her confidence and spoke again. "You've been my best friend for two years. Don't you think we know each other enough? Don't you think we've *shared* enough to be sure that this," she laid her hand on his thigh in emphasis, "is real?"
Clark tried to block the heat coursing through him at the contact she'd initiated and concentrated on her words. She thought she knew him. She was convinced he had no secret to tell her, and he was about to disappoint her, to let her know that he'd managed to keep a good part of his life a secret for as long as she'd known him.
"This is very real," he replied, imprisoning her hand in his and entwining his fingers with hers. "Never doubt this, Lois. Our relationship means *everything* to me."
"You have quite a way of showing it," she muttered resentfully.
"I know," he admitted quietly. "It must look that way to you, and I don't see anything I could say to make you change your mind. Except the entire truth." Taking both of her hands in his, he turned towards her, taking in the solemnity of the moment. "Lois," he started, letting his feelings for her rule his next words, "I fell in love with you from the first minute I saw you. I never thought it was possible before to love someone as much as I love you, and yet it's the way I feel. When I think about you, I want to think about *us*. As a team, but not just like we are at the Planet. I want to believe that someday, we might be a permanent team. In every basis of our life. Forever."
"Clark, I —"
"No, let me finish, first," he almost pleaded, gathering what little courage he had left. "Please!" If she rejected him now, he'd never get another chance to reveal himself completely to her.
She nodded shakily, and the imperceptible brush of her thumb against his hand was all the encouragement he needed.
"There's a reason why I leave at a moment's notice. It's not something I want, nor something I control. And it tears me apart to see the wounded look on your face when I have to run, but it's precisely that: I *have* to. It's never my choice."
"What is it?"
He drew in a shaky breath and met her gaze as steadily as he could. "Lois, I'm…not just Clark Kent." Darnit, but he couldn't even bring himself to pronounce the dreaded name!
"Huh? Don't tell me you're one of those wackos who have a split personality, some kind of Jeckyl and Hyde!"
"Er…not exactly. Not in the way you think, anyway. I have only *one* personality, I can assure you. But I have another identity, one that I use whenever I want to help…"
He trailed off, realising that Lois had suddenly stopped listening. Her eyes were fixed on him in extreme concentration, and he held back his urge to squirm. Then, before he'd had time to make a move, she lurched forward, swiftly taking hold of his glasses and taking them off.
His first impulse was to avoid her move, but he finally let her do it and remained immobile as she continued her intent scrutiny of his face. She was visibly still not satisfied with the result, as she approached him again with a frown and smoothed his hair back. The final confirmation was here, and it was a matter of seconds before the storm hit him.
"You…you…" she stuttered, turning pale.
"I'm Superman," he stated the obvious, a sigh on his lips. "Look, I know it's a shock to you, Lois, that it's a lot to take in and that it's gonna be a long time before you can understand why I kept it from you for so long, but —"
"You're Superman…" she interrupted stubbornly, her voice still very weak.
He nodded, realising he needed to leave her enough time to process the revelation before he launched himself into an explanation that she'd probably wouldn't want to listen to, anyway.
"How long have you been…him? And why? And how?"
"Do you have your powers when you're Clark, too?"
"Are you two completely different people, or are you still Clark when you're Superman, or still Superman when you're still Clark?"
"I'm al —"
"Why didn't you tell me before?"
Her last question was one he'd expected, and yet he felt at a loss as to what to answer. Any of his reasons for keeping his secret from her for so long would look lame to her, and she'd certainly find a response for any of his excuses. The main one would be his apparent lack of trust in her, even though she would be wrong.
The voice of his conscience protested, reminding him that one of his main reasons for keeping his secret from Lois was his selfish need to feel loved just for being Clark Kent. He'd implicitly accused Lois of being shallow by letting her crush on Superman prevent him from revealing the truth to her.
And who was the most shallow of the two? The woman who was falling for a man whom she thought was a God in tights? Or the man in tights who wanted a woman to love the part of him he'd chosen?
"My God, Clark…Superman…who are you, anyway?"
"I'm Clark, Lois. I've always been Clark Kent, born and bred in Kansas. Well, bred there, anyway. I was born on Krypton."
Lois took her head in her hands and started to massage her temples in slow, circular movements.
"Are you okay?" he enquired tentatively after a few minutes of uncomfortable silence.
"Do I look like I'm *okay*?" she sniped angrily, darting a furious look at him.
"Look, that's why I wanted you to know before we made lo —"
"Don't!" she cut him off abruptly. "Don't pronounce that word. You have absolutely *no* right to even express such a thing when you spend your entire life pretending to be someone you're not!"
"It's not about pretending! Okay, maybe it is a little," he amended more calmly. "But I never lied for any other purpose than protecting the lives of those I love. Protecting *my* life, too. It might seem a little selfish, but I do want to be normal. Go to a ballgame with Jimmy. Hear Perry bark at me because I'm late for deadline. Bounce ideas off you when we're working together on a story. Spend time with you out of work, on a date, and more if you want me. How could I have that if I was Superman full time?"
He interrupted himself, feeling at a loss when she kept staring at him in silence, as if nothing of what he'd just opened up about mattered to her, as if there was only one remaining fact prevailing in her mind: his lies, and how he'd made her suffer.
Lois had never felt so conflicted in her life.
Clark was Superman.
Superman was Clark.
However she shuffled the words around, their meaning remained the same, and hit her hard, smacking her on the face and leaving her disoriented. Lost. Dizzy. Hurt. Deceived. Betrayed.
The feeling of betrayal was the prevailing one, and her anger was driving her to hate the man she'd loved and admired for as long as she'd first seen him. It wasn't Clark towards whom her irritation was directed, but that superhero who'd fooled not just her, but also just about everyone since he'd arrived on the scene. By revealing that he was just Clark Kent, he'd destroyed a myth that had been built around his persona, and she felt like Superman had died.
He was a liar. There was nothing worse than that, especially for a hero who claimed to stand for truth and justice. Talk about hypocrisy!
She couldn't reconcile the fact that Superman was sitting beside her, that she'd been melting in his arms only minutes before and would now be making love with him if he'd let her. She assumed she ought to be grateful to Clark for stopping them before they stepped over the intimacy threshold, but somehow, her dearest wish was to go back in time and not give him the occasion to reveal anything to her.
Ignorance was kind when the truth was too painful.
She was burying her head in the sand. What would it change to be kept in the dark about something that was true and couldn't be changed? The pain stabbing her heart right now would have been ten times worse if he'd waited to be intimately involved with her before he told her about his being Superman.
She darted a careful glance at him and met his pleading, almost frantic expression. She couldn't let that mollify her, not after the lies and deceit.
"Were the kisses part of the pretence, too?" she heard herself ask harshly. She knew it wasn't fair to him, that she was only lashing out at him as a means of revenge. And as expected, a look of disbelieving hurt drew all blood from his face. But there was no remorse on her part, no regrets for words that went beyond her thoughts.
Clark swiftly got up from the couch and silently walked to the kitchen area without a glance back at her. She'd only got a glimpse of his expression before he'd turned away, but it had been enough to tell her how upset and hurt he was by her assumption. But the ugly face of the guilt that welled up in her mind was overpowered by the truth that had been lying in her accusation. How was she to know that every little detail of their relationship wasn't part of Superman's master plan to fool everyone?
And who was he anyway? Clark or Superman? Or some hybrid mix between the two? He claimed he was Clark Kent, but she knew that wasn't true. When he showed up at a disaster scene or saved a cat in distress, he was none other than the hero she'd christened some two years before, and whose name had been pronounced all around the world. He'd been given the keys to the city of Metropolis, he'd become an honorary citizen of the United States, he had met the heads of many states, and encouraged the signing of peace treaties between enemy nations. Superman sure wasn't *just* a pretence. He did believe in what he stood for, and in what good he brought to the world.
Clark, on the other hand, was living in a calm area of Metropolis, worked in a major, national newspaper, and cooked organically-grown vegetables. He was your basic, run-of-the- mill, all-American guy, who could get passionate over the Superbowl or the NBA championship. Was *he* the pretence, despite what he was claiming?
It was just so confusing to try and reconcile two people she'd always considered as very real, into one that was, after all, a mixture of two of her closest friends. One had been silently waiting for her to fall in love with him, while the other had rejected her. What kind of game had they — *he* — been playing, there?
Suddenly needing more answers than her reflections were able to give her, Lois joined Clark where he'd taken refuge and planted herself in front of him, crossing her arms in a challenging and somewhat protective manner.
"All right," she started when he made no effort to acknowledge her presence. "You're him. He's you. Whatever."
He simply glared before returning his attention to the mugs he was washing and which seemed to hold a complete fascination for him all of a sudden.
"Why reject me as Superman? And why ask me out as Clark? What kind of game were you playing?"
"Superman isn't real, Lois. I told you already, the person you'd fallen in love with was a two-dimensional character, one that had no past, no present, and no future. Other than helping out with the disasters he'd be trying to avoid on a daily basis. He's no- one. Superman is only a disguise, nothing more."
"Clark, Superman *is* real! He's *you*! Isn't it the person beneath the suit that matters?"
"Precisely." He threw her an angry look, then as she raised her eyebrows in confusion, spoke up again. "Superman is the ordinary man you said you'd love just the same if he had no powers at all, Lois."
Lois lowered her eyes, the weight of words she'd thoughtlessly pronounced a few months ago hitting her full-force. She remembered that painful moment of her life, her embarrassment at Clark's declaration of love in the park and the hurt she'd felt when Superman had turned her down on the same day. Everything made sense, all of a sudden, from the superhero's angry reaction to Clark's withdrawal after the whole mess of her wedding with Luthor had been called off.
It was obvious that he couldn't let her believe he loved her as Clark when he was convinced she was only attracted to the powers. How shallow he must think she was! And yet, it had never crossed her mind before that Superman could be just a disguise. To her, he was just as real as Clark Kent, and…and he was being *unfair* to make such an accusation to her when he was aware of things she *wasn't*.
"All right," she started, doing her best to keep her voice calm and even. "I'm sorry for how I made you feel, but try to see things from *my* point of view. I was in love with a man I thought was very real. I didn't have any idea that it was the same man I'd rejected a few hours before, and I couldn't have known!"
Clark remained silent and still didn't look at her, but he stopped his restless activities around the kitchen to stand in a corner and lean against the counter.
Lois took a few steps forward, carefully approaching him and afraid he'd refuse their closeness. She timidly reached out to take his hands in hers and heaved a sigh of relief when he didn't flinch or push her away.
"To me, Clark and Superman sure had a number of common points, but they were both different entities. *You* were two different people," she murmured, getting desperate for a reaction, and losing the last of her hopes as he remained immobile and unresponsive.
Clark felt Lois's fingers twine around his and swallowed the lump rising in his throat. If this woman had the power to make his anger rise in a mere second, she could soothe him just as quickly, and only with the power of her touch. The soft contact of her hands on his was too much of a reminder of what they'd shared before he'd told her the whole truth about himself, and he was feeling drawn to her despite his irritation at her initial reaction and apparent lack of understanding.
/You were two different people./
He could see so clearly how it must have seemed to her. No question had been raised as to Superman's life outside the rescues he'd performed, and she'd never imagined that he could hide as someone perfectly normal. When he thought about it, it was precisely the point of his disguise in the first place. However, the original plan he'd set up to keep some kind of privacy had turned against him and made his existence a living hell as far as relationships were concerned. Especially with Lois.
To her, it had seemed very simple until tonight. There was Clark, who was her best friend and partner at work, and whom she appreciated without having any remotely romantic feelings for, and there was Superman, who was an unattainable superhero gifted with powers, sure, but also with the security of someone who stood for truth and goodness. The image he projected to the outside world as Superman was shadowing the fact that it was still Clark who was wearing that flashy suit, and Lois was no exception to the crowd of bystanders.
He'd wanted her to see something he'd put so much effort into hiding, and all of a sudden, he realised how unfair that sounded to her.
Raising his eyes to meet hers, he finally whispered, "I suppose…you couldn't have known." Taking a deep breath, he clasped her hands more firmly into his, looking down at their entwined fingers and letting a shaky smile reach his face. "I always wanted you to see the…*normal* side of me. As in the Clark side of me."
"But you're both Clark and Superman, Clark. You might go by the name you grew up with, you might be a reporter, and a pretty good one, at that," she added, letting out a playful chuckle when his eyes went round at the compliment, "but you're still *him*," she continued, her voice dropping a couple of notches and turning seductive, "even when you're wearing this…sexy black shirt of yours."
She was right. Somehow, by hiding the truth from others, he'd also hid it from himself, and it was Lois, his Lois, who was reminding him that he was a complete person, and not just one half of his identities.
Her last argument suddenly registered, and his eyebrows rose into his hairline. "Sexy?" he asked huskily, imperceptibly tugging her towards him and bending his face closer to hers without quite closing the distance, as if implicitly asking for her permission.
Lois didn't reply, reaching up to plant a soft kiss on his lips instead. She withdrew her hands from his grasp to wrap them around his neck and pull him down to her. "Very," she murmured throatily, her fingers running a caress through his thick, black hair and enticing him for more of her delicate attentions.
Clark's head was spinning. The soft touch of her mouth against his was enough to send him spiralling out of control, and he was having a hard time putting a straight thought in front of the other when she was standing so close to him that the heat of her skin was radiating on his. "Ah…we…ah…lost a lot of time…didn't we?" he finally stuttered half-coherently, relief washing over him as he realised that things were going to be okay, now.
"How 'bout we make up for it?" she suggested with an inviting wink as she inched herself closer, ever so slowly.
He could only nod before she launched herself at him with a kiss that sent all remaining thoughts out the window. Clark, Superman, and multiple identities faded to a remote, faraway world as he wrapped his arms around the woman he loved and rejoiced in their newfound bliss.
"You know," she gasped, drawing away from him for a bare second before she joined her lips to his again in another sweet kiss, "Could be…ah…more comfortable…over there." She waved in the vague direction of what could be the living-room area just as much as the bedroom, before returning her fingers to the unbuttoning of his shirt, leaving him in no doubt of her naughty intentions.
His first instinct was to cover her hand and stop her movements a second time, but he held himself back when he met the warning and somewhat insecure look on her face.
"No more running away, Clark. You promised," she reminded him, her tone turning serious.
He nodded, becoming aware as he did so of the weight of that silent approval, and as she took her hand in his and led him towards the archway to his bedroom, he understood that this time, there would be no secrets holding them back.
"Lois…" he murmured hesitantly, darting a worried look at her, "Are you…sure?"
"Clark!" she protested. "It's almost three in the morning; what do you think I came to your place for?"
Her outraged growl was lost in his kiss as he finally complied with her demands, silencing her to lose himself in the love they were sharing…and many years of happiness to come.
Kaethel@wanadoo.fr September 2001