Submitted: June 2002
Summary: When Lois and Clark are stranded at a deserted cabin in the middle of a snowstorm, a simple game of truth or dare leads to a much more serious conversation.
A couple of months ago, ML Thompson posted a challenge on the nfic boards asking us to write a story that explained a picture of Lois dressed only in a man's shirt seated on a hardwood floor.
I wrote a response that I wasn't terribly satisfied with, submitted it to the message boards, took all of the wonderful comments and suggestions to heart, and rewrote it. Later, I stumbled across it on my hard drive and realized that not only was it easy to convert to PG, I liked it even better without the nfic scene at the end. So thank you to all of the wonderful writers and readers who helped with this story, and especially to Sarah, my indefatigable BR.
"This is ridiculous, Clark!"
"Lois, there's no other option. The snow is *not* letting up, and you just heard them say on the radio that the roads are closed. Face it; we are not going to make it back to Metropolis tonight." Clark closed his eyes and tried to remain calm. He had convinced Lois to pull off to the side of the country road when the blowing snow made driving impossible. For a half hour they sat listening to the reports on the radio, Lois fervently insisting they could make it back to Metropolis if they just kept going.
Lois slumped over the steering wheel, finally conceding defeat. "Fine," she said wearily. "We're not going to make it back to Metropolis. We've wasted out entire evening on a wild goose chase, I'm cold and tired, and all I want to do is go home and take a hot bath and go to bed. And we're stranded in the middle of nowhere. I'm going to *kill* Bobby. I should have known no self-respecting criminal would come all the way out into the middle of a state park to do business."
"Lois," Clark said gently, reaching to place a hand on her shoulder. "It'll be fine. There has to be a motel or something around here. We'll find something. Then you take a nice long bath and get some sleep. I'm sure this storm will have blown over by morning, and then we can get back to Metropolis."
"Look around, Clark. Where are we going to find a motel around here?" Lois asked gesturing out the windshield at the surrounding darkness.
"Lois, stay here for a minute, I'm going to go out and see if I can look around a little."
"What?! You've got to be kidding me! Clark, you aren't going to be able to see anything. Look how fast the snow is coming down."
Clark wracked his brain for a plausible story and finally gave up. "I know, but I can't just sit here. I'll be right back," he said, exiting the passenger side of the jeep before she could protest again.
Outside the jeep Clark immediately lowered his glasses and scanned the surrounding area, looking for shelter. They hadn't passed a ranger station in a while and he was hoping they would be within walking distance of one now.
Nothing. Trees and more trees. Clark shook his head. He really didn't want to spend the night in the Jeep, but if he didn't find something fast that was going to be the only option. He could always tell Lois he was Superman and fly them back to Metropolis, but he decided to use that option only if it was truly necessary.
Inside the Jeep he could hear Lois muttering softly. He grinned in spite of himself.
Just as he was about to give up and open the car door, something to the left caught his eye. Focusing on it and looking more carefully, he couldn't believe his good fortune.
"Lois," Clark said, quickly climbing into the Jeep and pulling the door shut behind him. "There's some kind of abandoned cabin not far from here. It's just across the road, up the ridge a little."
"Are you sure? How could you have possibly seen that?"
"It's really not far. I almost missed it, but the wind let up for a minute, and when the snow calmed down, I could see it. There aren't any lights, so I don't think there's anyone there. But it's better than staying the Jeep all night."
She looked around the Jeep one more time and grimaced. Finally, she turned off the car and slipped the keys into her coat pocket. Gathering her coat tightly around her, she reached for the door. "Ok, let's go."
The wind whipped around them, blowing Lois's hair into her face and making it hard to walk. The fat, wet snowflakes pelted them, melting on contact and soaking their hair and coats. Clark rested a hand on the small of Lois's back, guiding her forward and supporting her when she faltered.
About half way to the cabin, Clark let his focus on Lois slip as he tuned in to an emergency broadcast, trying to determine whether he was needed. Just as he determined that the rescue workers had everything under control and he wouldn't be needed, Lois's foot landed on an icy patch and she slid out of Clark's grasp. She stumbled, flinging her arms in front of herself and tumbling headlong into a snow bank. Clark gasped, totally caught off guard. Immediately, he grabbed her waist and pulled her from the bank.
"Are you ok?" he asked worriedly.
Lois nodded, her teeth chattering. The wet snow of the bank had soaked through her coat, drenching her clothes. She shivered as she started to move forward again.
Clark glanced up at the cabin then back down at Lois shivering next to him. Quickly he scooped her into his arms and strode toward the cabin as fast as he could without arousing any suspicions.
"Clark!" Lois gasped.
"Lois, you are not in any shape to walk. We're almost there," he said.
A moment later they were at the cabin. Clark x-rayed the small building to make sure it was indeed abandoned and quickly used a little super-strength to open the door.
He shut the door behind him and let Lois slide to the floor beside him. "Are you all right?" he asked worriedly.
"I'm fine," she said, still shivering.
Clark moved quickly to the fireplace in the small living room. "There's some wood here. Let me see if I can get a fire going."
Lois curled up on the small wooden sofa across the room, wrapping her arms around her legs.
Clark piled the wood into the fireplace and checked to make sure that Lois was not watching before using his vision to ignite the wood. Soon he had a fire blazing.
"Lois, come here by the fire. Lois…" When she didn't respond immediately, Clark looked up. She remained on the couch, shivering in her wet clothes.
"What? Oh, I'm coming…" She stood slowly, and moved toward him.
Clark stood and reached for her hand. "Lois, you're freezing! You've got to get out of those wet clothes."
Lois met his eyes and raised an eyebrow. Clark laughed; glad she was feeling well enough to challenge him.
"Lois, you're soaked. You're never going to warm up if you don't get out of those clothes."
"Clark, I have nothing to change into. I'm not just going to—"
Lois broke off as Clark began quickly unbuttoning his shirt. She swallowed, her eyes glued to the broad expanse of his chest as he stripped the shirt off and handed it to her. Her eyes roamed his chiseled chest and strong arms.
"Here. You can wear this," Clark said, snapping from her reverie. "Umm…you stay here and change in front of the fire. I'll go explore the cabin a little. Let me know when you're ready."
Lois nodded, grateful for his understanding of her need for privacy. Clark wandered towards the back of the cabin moving into the small bedroom. The room was sparsely furnished, but he found a thick quilt on the bed.
"Clark," Lois called from the living room.
Clark exited the bedroom and felt his chest clench as his eyes fell on her. She was sitting on the hardwood floor in front of the fireplace wearing only his dress shirt. Her hair fell in tangled curls around her face, and the light from the fire danced across her skin.
"Thanks," she said softly. "I feel better already. You must be freezing, though!"
Clark strode quickly to her side and slid to the floor beside her. "I'm ok. Look, I found a quilt in the bedroom."
Lois watched intently as Clark shook the quilt in front of them, his muscles rippling with each movement. He quickly tucked the blanket around their laps, moving to sit as close to Lois as he could without touching her.
Lois looked up and found herself gazing into Clark's eyes. Her hand moved of its own volition, reaching to caress his chest. "Are you sure you're not cold?" she asked.
Clark swallowed, suddenly feeling rather warm. "Really, it's ok. Are you warming up?"
Lois nodded, and then turned to face the fire again, leaning into his embrace. Clark wrapped his arms around her, tugging her to sit between his legs, leaning back against his chest. He rubbed her arms gently — just to warm her, he tried to convince himself.
Sparks of electricity traveled from Clark's hands down Lois's arms. She shivered, shifting against Clark. Clark dropped his head back and clenched his jaw, sending a firm warning to his body.
He shifted his hips back and wrapped his arms more securely around her. "You should warm up in a few seconds," he said.
Lois nodded, secretly glad Clark misinterpreted her shiver if only because it gave him an excuse to hold her more closely. Things had been changing between them lately, and it was increasingly difficult for her to deny her feelings for him. It hadn't been that long ago that she had thought she would never feel his arms around her again. She had yet to come to terms with the future of their relationship, but she had stopped trying to convince herself that she was not attracted to him.
They sat silently for a while, gazing into the fireplace.
Lois sighed softly, then muffled a giggle.
"You know, Lois. You never cease to amaze me. Only you could be amused by this situation. What in the world are you giggling at?"
"I was just thinking that the last time I sat in front of a fire — a real fire, not a gas fireplace or one of the electric things that poses as a fireplace- you know those things give off heat, but it's just not the same. I mean it smells different, and real fires make such a nice crackling noise, and somehow the heat just seems more real, more intense from a real fire instead of a gas fire—"
"Oh, I'm babbling. I'm sorry. Anyway, I was just thinking that the last time I sat in front of a real fire was at Girl Scout camp."
"You were a Girl Scout?"
"Why are you so surprised? I was a great Girl Scout!"
"I'm sure you were, Lois," Clark said, shaking his head in amusement.
"Anyway, you know what we always did around the campfire?"
"Told ghost stories?"
"Nope. We played Truth or Dare," she said with a sly grin. "What do you say? You want to play with me?"
Clark steadfastly beat back the voices in his head that told him just what he wanted to play with her. "You want to play Truth or Dare with me?"
"Well, why not? I mean, we're going to be here all night, and we don't have anything else to do."
"I don't know…"
"What, are you chicken, Kent? Or are you hiding secrets you don't want me to find out about?"
Clark shifted nervously.
"Come on, Clark. It'll be fun."
"Ummm," Clark stalled. "How can we even do any dares? We're pretty much stuck sitting here."
"Fine. We'll just play Truth then," Lois teased. "All right. I'll go first. What's really going on between you and Mayson?"
"You say she's not your girlfriend, but you were supposed to go away for the weekend with her…"
"Nothing's going on between Mayson and me. We went out to lunch once. She stormed out because I wanted to ask her questions about Bill Church and Intergang. I don't know how the whole 'going away for the weekend' thing happened. I had other…commitments that weekend, and we just had a miscommunication."
"So, she's really not your girlfriend?" Lois asked, turning to look at him.
"No, Lois," Clark said softly. "She's definitely not my girlfriend."
Lois turned back to face the fire, snuggling against Clark's chest and pausing for a moment to wonder at her intense feeling of relief.
"All right," Lois said after a short pause. "Your turn."
"The game, Clark. You answered my question, now it's your turn to ask."
"Ok," Clark paused, searching for a question. He was mildly surprised that she was actually going through with this. It was one thing for Lois Lane to grill someone else, but for her to offer him a chance to ask her a question, that was surprising. Clark had been working for nearly two years to gain this level of her trust, and he couldn't help but feel that this was sort of a test. A test to see what he would ask — to see if she could really trust him.
"What are you doing for Christmas?"
"What? That's your question?" Again, Lois was surprised by her own emotions. Why was she so disappointed by this question? Surely, she didn't *want* him to ask her about her love life, right? She had been sure that he would have asked her about that, after all, that's what she had asked. Perhaps Clark just wasn't interested in her love life… Why did she find that even more disappointing?
"Lois?" Clark prodded gently.
"Right. Christmas. I don't know, Clark. I mean, I don't really have any plans yet. I know it's only two weeks away, but I just… Well, Lucy just moved to California, and it doesn't look like she's going to be able to come home. Daddy never really celebrated Christmas, even when he and Mother were together. He doesn't like to leave his lab. He always said it was a waste of time. I suppose I should go to my Mother's, or have her come to my place…" Lois sighed, obviously not thrilled with this idea.
"Come to Smallville with me," Clark whispered, dropping his head to rest against hers and hugging her gently.
"Clark, no. I'll be fine. You don't have to invite me."
"I'm not inviting you because I have to, I'm inviting you because I *want* to."
"I don't want to intrude on your time with your parents."
"Lois, you wouldn't be intruding. I really want you to come. My parents would be thrilled. They're always asking when I'm going to bring you to visit again."
"Really?" she asked in a small voice.
"Yes, really. They love you, Lois. I love you." The words were out of Clark's mouth before he knew what he was saying. His first reaction was to apologize immediately, or to tell her that he had just meant it platonically, that his love for her was as a friend, not a lover. But he hated to lie to her, and that's what a denial would have been, because he did love her. Not as a friend, but as everything that was precious in his life. He adored her, and he lived for the hope that someday she would be able to return that love. So, when she didn't immediately stiffen or move away, he decided to wait for her response before making any hasty clarifications.
Lois sat silently for a minute, pondering Clark's words. Over the past few months she had begun to admit to herself that there was more to her relationship with Clark than just friendship, but the idea of actually moving forward and risking what they already had was so scary, that after her botched attempt to speak to him about it after the Bonnie and Clyde fiasco, she had vowed not to say anything again. After awhile she had almost been able to convince herself that she was wrong, that they weren't meant to be anything but friends. And it was that part of her brain that told her that Clark hadn't really meant anything with his confession of love, that is was simply a confirmation of his friendship with her, not a declaration of true love. For a moment she was tempted to move on and pretend he hadn't said anything. But, a bigger part of her knew that this was not just a simple gesture of friendship and that their relationship was not just platonic. She was terrified of losing her friendship with Clark, but equally terrified that if she passed up the opportunity for more, she might regret it for the rest of her life. As she gazed into the soft firelight and felt Clark's arms firmly wrapped around her, she knew there could be no better time for them discuss this.
Slowly she turned in his arms until she could face him.
"You love me," she stated quietly, not quite a question.
Clark searched her eyes for horror or rejection and found only nervousness and…hope?
"I love you," he whispered, bending his head to capture her lips in a sweet, gentle kiss. For a second Lois's lips remained still beneath his. Then, as if she was suddenly freed by the implication of his words she began to kiss him back.
Her lips gently clasped with his as her hand reached up to tangle in his hair, pulling him closer. She sighed contentedly, letting her body relax completely against his and parting her lips in invitation.
Clark wrapped his arms more tightly around her waist tugging her tightly to him. He felt her part her lips and eagerly and gently slipped his tongue into her mouth. He withdrew almost immediately, and then pressed forward more boldly. He swept through her mouth, memorizing each feeling, each taste. Finally they pulled back, gasping for air.
"Clark- I-" Lois fumbled.
"What, Lois. What are you thinking?" Clark asked searching her face for a sign of what she was thinking.
"I don't know. I feel like my head is spinning."
Clark took a deep breath and forged forward. "Lois, I love you. I've been in love with you from the moment I met you. I know it's not supposed to happen like that. I never believed in love at first sight until I met you."
"I just… I don't know what to say."
Clark dropped his eyes and tried to hide all traces of disappointment from his voice. "Lois, you don't have to say anything—"
"No, Clark! It's just… This is all so sudden…"
Lois saw Clark stiffen at her words, as if he was preparing himself for the gentle let-down of the 'let's just be friends' speech.
"Clark," she said softly, reaching to cup his cheek and gently guiding him to look up and meet her gaze. "Clark, I do love you, but—"
"Lois, I swear to God, if you say 'like a brother' I'm going to…" His voice trailed off, the pain evident.
Lois's chest clenched at the stark vulnerability in Clark's voice. Before she even realized what she was doing, she pulled his face to hers and kissed him gently on the lips. She pulled back for a second, then leaned in to kiss him more firmly. She parted her lips and gently sucked on his lower lip before tracing it with her tongue. Clark shuddered as he sighed with relief, opening his mouth to Lois's gentle probing. His arms reached out, pulling her to him, his fingers threading through her hair.
Lois slowly broke off their kiss, then gently initiated another. "I'm scared," she whispered against his lips.
"What?" Clark asked, starting to pull away.
Lois held him in place, her lips continuing to explore his. "That's what I was going to say," she breathed. "I love you, but I'm scared."
Clark finally pulled back. His elation at realizing she hadn't been planning to say that she loved him like a brother lasted for only a second before he processed her words. "What are you scared of?" he asked, reaching to caress her cheek.
Lois drew a shaky breath. "I'm scared of losing you — us. You're my best friend, Clark. I'm scared that if we try for more, and we don't make it, that I'm going to lose the best friend I've ever had."
"You could never lose me, Lois. No matter what happens, I promise I'll always be your friend. You're my best friend too, you know. I would never do anything that I thought would ruin our friendship. It means way too much to me to just risk it like that."
"But, Clark, people don't go into relationships thinking they're not going to work out. My parents thought they were in love, and look how that turned out. They can't even stand to be in the same room with each other."
"Lois, we are not your parents. I know their marriage turned out horribly, and I can understand why that scares you, but not every relationship ends badly, or even ends at all."
"Like your parents," she whispered.
"Yes, like my parents. They've been married for almost thirty years and they're more in love now than they were the day they got married. They trust each other, and respect each other, and love each other. They're more than just a married couple; they're partners, and best friends."
Lois sat quietly for a minute, wondering at Clark's simple acceptance of love and marriage.
"Lois, I know that being in a relationship isn't always easy. I know that we may not always be perfectly happy. But I have faith that we can work through any obstacle that comes our way, and that we'll come out on the other side stronger than we were before. I can't prove it to you, and I can't explain why. But sometimes you just have to have faith."
Lois nodded thoughtfully.
"I know this is a risk, but it's a risk I'm willing to take, because I love you and because I have faith in us," Clark said.
For a moment Lois found herself drowning in Clark's gaze. "Yes," she finally whispered. She shook her head for a second, as if to clear her mind, and went on. "I love you too, Clark, and I'm willing to take that risk."
Lois felt herself smile as Clark's face broke into a huge grin. He reached for her and she moved easily into his arms.
"You love me," he whispered, echoing her earlier statement.
"I love you," she said with a smile, tugging him back to her lips.
Clark deepened the kiss and ran his hands up and down her back. Lois tangled one hand in his hair and ran the other down his neck and over his shoulder revelling in the feel of his soft skin under her hand. Clark hugged her tightly causing his muscles to ripple under her fingers. Lois moaned and shifted in his arms, moving to trail kisses along his jaw.
"Lois, wait. There's something else I have to tell you."
Lois pulled back, worried at the urgency in his voice.
"What, Clark? What's the matter?"
Clark grimaced and nervously ran his fingers through his hair. She could see the muscle in his jaw ticking as he struggled to find the words he was looking for.
His eyes met hers and she was startled by the raw terror she saw there.
"Clark," she gasped. "What in the world is wrong?"
"There's something I have to tell you. Our relationship is worthless if it's not based on trust. And there's something I have to tell you before we can go any further into this relationship. It wouldn't be fair to you for me to keep this from you."
He hung his head dejectedly. "All I've ever wanted is for you to love me," he whispered.
She reached out and stroked his cheek. "Clark," she whispered. "I do love you. I just told you that I love you."
"I know," he said softly. "But in a few seconds — after I tell you what I have to tell you — you're going to hate me. I feel like I'm so close to everything I ever dreamed of, and I'm going to…"
"What could you possibly have to tell me that would make me hate you?"
He ran his fingers through his hair again, every muscle in his body tensed. "I lied to you," he whispered.
"You lied? About what? You don't really love me?"
"No!" he shouted, making Lois flinch.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry," he said, immediately reaching for her and pulling her into a tight embrace.
He released her, and raised a hand to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. "I didn't mean to yell. It's just — please don't ever doubt that I love you. I've loved you from the beginning, and I never meant to lie to you. I've wanted to tell you the truth so many times…and maybe I should have. But, I just wanted…" he trailed off again, lost in despair.
"Clark," Lois prodded. "Just tell me. Whatever it is, just tell me."
"Lois, I'm-" he cut himself off, unable to form the scary words. He took a deep breath and changed tactics. "Ok, you know how sometimes I just run off, and I never tell you where I'm going? Well, I'm not just running off for the heck of it. There's somewhere I have to go. I'm…"
"You're what, Clark? You're secretly married? You're an undercover FBI agent? You're Super-" she froze, her mouth hanging open.
"No! Don't say anything yet. Oh, my god. Oh, my god. How could I-? How did I not-? Oh, my god."
"Lois, I'm so sorry. I know I should have told you. I—"
"Yeah, you should have told me! Why didn't you tell me? How could you let me believe you were two different people? God, I feel a complete idiot!"
"You are not an idiot. It's not your fault you didn't figure it out. I work really hard to keep anyone from figuring it out. No one else knows. Well, except for my parents, of course."
"Jonathan and Martha — are they…do they?"
Clark smiled. "No. They're just wonderful farmers from Kansas who found a baby in a spaceship and raised him as their own."
Lois drew her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around her legs. She rested her head on her knees, and sat quietly for a minute trying to consolidate all of her memories of her best friend and her idealized superhero. Her head swam as she realized the implications of this discovery. She had pulled a kryptonite bullet from Clark's shoulder, and it was Clark who had danced with her in her apartment after the Kerth ceremony. And it was Superman who had cooked her dinner all those times and let her spend the night when she was scared.
Finally she lifted her head and looked at him. "Ok, I can understand why you didn't tell me in the beginning. You didn't know me, and there was a pretty good chance I would have used you as my ticket to a Pulitzer. But, why didn't you tell me later, after we became friends? Clark, you had to know I would never do anything to hurt you. You're my best friend."
"I know," he said, hanging his head. "It wasn't that I didn't trust you. I did — I do. I trust you implicitly. It's just… You were… I just…"
"It's because I was in love with Superman, wasn't it?" she asked quietly. When he didn't respond, she reached out and cupped his cheek, gently lifting his head to meet her eyes.
"I'm sorry. I just wanted you to love me," he said softly.
"But, Clark, you *are* Superman."
"No. I'm Clark, just Clark. Superman is a two-dimensional figment of my imagination who exists solely to allow me to use my powers and still lead a normal life. I just wanted you to love me as the ordinary man I am."
Lois froze, her own voice echoing in her head.
"If you had no powers at all, if you were just an ordinary man leading an ordinary life, I would love you just the same…" she whispered. "Oh, Clark, I'm so sorry." A solitary tear coursed down her cheek.
Clark tentatively reached for her, half expecting her to flinch away from his touch. When she made no move to evade him, he pulled her into his arms, gently stroking her hair. "It's ok. Please don't cry. I never wanted to make you cry."
"But you know what, Clark?" she said, pulling back so she could see him. "You still don't understand, because I really did love Superman. I know you think he's two- dimensional, and he's not real. But to me he *was* real. He was my friend. He helped me when I was in danger, and he held me when I was scared. He told me that he read my work, and he made me feel smart because he valued my opinions. He told me he believed in me, and he encouraged me when I was depressed. He was very real to me, Clark."
"But I did all those things, too. I — Clark — was there for you lots of times when Superman wasn't."
"I know that, but this isn't a competition between Clark and Superman. I'm just trying to show you that there is a lot more to Superman than you think. To you he may just be a caricature, but to me, and to the rest of the world, he is very real. I often wondered where he went and what he did when he wasn't rescuing people. I wanted to be a part of that side of his life. I just didn't know that I already was."
Clark sat quietly for a moment, taking in Lois's explanation. "I guess that makes sense. I never looked at it that way. I'm sorry."
They sat quietly for another moment, and finally Clark timidly asked, "Do you hate me?"
"Oh, Clark. I don't hate you. I could never hate you." She reached out and intertwined her fingers with his. "I'm still a little overwhelmed by this whole thing. But, I guess, in a way, it's a good thing. I mean, I just found out that my two best friends, the two men I love, are the same person — and he loves me," she finished softly, almost questioningly.
"I do love you. I love you so much," he confirmed, bringing his lips to hers. She surrendered to him completely, relaxing into his embrace and kissing him passionately.
After a few moments, they finally pulled apart, each smiling happily.
"You know," Clark said. "Now that you know, I could fly us back to Metropolis. There's no reason we have to stay here tonight."
Lois grinned wryly and raised a hand to cup his cheek. "Come on, Clark. This isn't *so* bad. I mean, an abandoned cabin, a roaring fire… It's not exactly torture."
Clark laughed and pulled her tighter to him. "No, it's not, is it?" he said, lowering his lips until she could feel his breath against her lips. "It's almost…"
"Romantic," she finished, closing her eyes as he closed the distance between them.