By Wendy Richards <email@example.com>
Submitted: November 2001
Summary: A vignette set at the end of the episode "Resurrection."
Author's note: Thanks particularly to Meredith for inspiration: if she hadn't wanted to watch Lucky Leon and Resurrection over the weekend recently, I wouldn't have got the idea for this story. And thanks also to all those who commented on this on Zoom's boards, the fanfic email list and on IRC, especially the sharp-eyed readers who pointed out my errors!
All characters in this story are the property of DC Comics and/or Warner Bros, and no infringement of their or anyone else's rights is intended by the writing and distribution of this story.
"Looks like you've got some choices to make."
Lois slowly turned to look at Clark, his words hitting her with stinging force. How could she have just flirted with someone else in front of him? What was she thinking?
Then she noticed that he was holding up a notepad with the names of movies printed on it in his neat script. Of course — before Dan had arrived, they'd just agreed to go out to see a movie together. So that was what he'd meant!
But then she saw his face, and she knew that she'd been right the first time. She'd hurt him.
She would have to make it up to him later, explain to him that there hadn't been anything in it — Dan was a cute guy and she'd been flattered by his interest, that was all.
Or was it? Wasn't there some small part of her which found Dan attractive too?
But she was dating Clark. Or, at least, they'd had one date, and they'd just arranged what she supposed was another. So she had no right to be flirting with another man, and even less to be considering accepting a date with him.
Biting her lip guiltily, she turned her attention back to Clark and forced herself to look at the movies on offer; when she realised that she was barely taking in any of the titles, she waved a hand carelessly. "You choose this time, Clark — I'm always deciding what we see, and it's not fair."
He raised an eyebrow, but said evenly, "Okay. The American President or Die Hard With A Vengeance?"
"You're still giving me a choice," Lois pointed out.
"I'll always give you a choice," he responded quietly. "You should remember that."
He was watching her closely; too closely, Lois thought, and she looked away. This conversation, taking place as it was on two different levels, was making her uncomfortable. Not that any of it was Clark's fault. No; she was the one who'd practically been making a date with another man right under his nose.
But she and Clark weren't exclusive, were they? What was their relationship at the moment, exactly?
She began stuffing belongings into her bag, more as a means of avoiding Clark's gaze than anything else. It wasn't as if he was her boyfriend, anyway, was it? They'd had one date. Okay, it had been a *great* date. And even though she'd done something totally and completely stupid at the end of it, he'd forgiven her, and they'd had a wonderful kiss the day after. The memory of that kiss, and the way it had affected her, still made her feel warm and fuzzy inside.
She *did* want more where that had come from.
But what had happened since then? As she'd told Clark a few days earlier, absolutely nothing. Zip. Nada.
This was the first time he'd asked her out since that kiss, and he hadn't exactly seemed to show much interest in getting close to her in the meantime. She'd gone to a lot of trouble that evening she'd asked him to come over, dressing up for him and offering him hors d'oeuvres and wine, but he'd shown no interest in anything other than work.
And so she'd been forced to embarrass herself by asking him if she was yesterday's news. And he'd responded… Well, he hadn't exactly rushed to reassure her, had he? He'd hesitated, and then finally managed to tell her that he was sorry if it seemed as if he was ignoring her. But it was all the stuff with Mayson…
The Assistant DA who'd been in love with Clark, and who'd been killed because she got too close to Stanley Gables. And Clark had been feeling guilty all week because he'd got to her too late to save her life, and because he hadn't returned her feelings.
At least, Lois had assumed that this was why Clark had been so devastated and withdrawn over Mayson's death…
Of course her murder was horrible; everyone had been upset over it. Even Lois herself, despite the fact that she and Mayson had agreed that they didn't like each other, had been distressed and appalled. And, whatever about Mayson's feelings for him, Clark had regarded her as a friend.
But what if he'd only now realised that she'd been more than a friend?
It was perfectly possible, Lois thought, sneaking a quick glance at her partner; he was shutting down his computer and getting ready to go. He looked tired and unhappy, both of which were extremely unusual for her normally cheerful friend. So what if he'd realised when Mayson had been killed that he'd been in love with her after all?
And what if that was what had cooled his interest in *Lois*?
She considered the evidence for a moment. Clark had been attracted to Mayson from the moment the two of them had first met her; she'd recognised that appreciative look in his eyes. And he'd very quickly arranged a lunch date with her, after all. And then there had been that night at the charity ball; Lois had been dancing with Clark when Mayson had cut in. Clark hadn't seemed at all reluctant to let go of Lois and dance with the assistant DA instead.
And then, of course, she'd seen him kissing her…
That hadn't been just any kiss. Mayson had been wearing a flimsy sleeveless top and her chest had been pressed right up against Clark! Lois flushed as she remembered just how the two of them had looked entwined in each other's arms — and, worst of all, how she'd *felt* when she'd looked through the door of Clark's apartment prior to knocking and seen her partner locked in a passionate embrace with Mayson.
She'd felt viciously, sickeningly jealous. Which had been a very strange reaction at the time; she and Clark were friends, no more, and of course he'd been free to date any woman he wanted. Her own feelings for him had been… confused around then. She'd been aware that she loved Clark in a way, but she'd also been deeply in love with Superman — well, actually, she was still in love with Superman, but having recognised that there was no future for her there, she'd decided to go with the strong feelings she knew she had for Clark too.
But, thinking about that kiss she'd observed, she knew Clark well enough to be aware that he didn't take sex or relationships casually. That kiss must have been meaningful to him. *Mayson* had clearly meant a lot to Clark then.
Although something must have happened, because he'd stood her up when she'd invited him to go away for a weekend with her.
Had they had a fight? Or had Clark ended the relationship, leaving Mayson wanting more? Maybe, Lois reflected then, he'd finished with her because of what she — Lois — had said to him about letting his personal life getting in the way of an investigation. Was he still feeling guilty over dumping her?
Guilty… or only just having realised how much in love with Mayson he'd really been?
<But Clark asked *you* out!> Lois reminded herself quickly. And even when their first date had had to be cancelled, he'd pushed her to rearrange it. Was that the act of a man in love with another woman?
Yes, if the man in question hadn't realised at the time that he was in love with the other woman, she answered herself. And, with that answer, she accepted something else.
She didn't want to be Clark's second choice. Even if she was coming second to a dead woman.
Making a sudden decision, Lois turned to Clark.
"Clark, do you mind if I take a raincheck on that movie?"
For a moment, she could have sworn that he looked devastated. But then his expression relaxed and he gave her a brief smile. "It's your choice, Lois."
Her choice. That word again.
It wasn't fair of him to blame her for the mess their relationship seemed to be in. If it hadn't been for Clark's obsession with Mayson, they *would* have been an established couple by now. But instead, he'd left her to wonder just where her place in his life was.
"If you hurry, you might be able to catch Scardino." Clark's sarcastic tone shook her out of her thoughts and made her stare at him in bemusement. Then she took in his words, and she couldn't help herself.
"You're a fine one to talk!" she threw at him.
"What do you mean by that?" he demanded, jumping to his feet and giving her an angry look.
"You want to know why I don't want to go to the movies with you this evening?" she demanded. He blinked, then nodded.
"Yeah, go on. I'd like to know where I stand, Lois!"
"Two's company, Clark. Three's a crowd. You ever heard that?"
To her surprise, he looked aghast. Then he caught his breath, and said slowly, "So you know…?"
"You, me and Mayson's ghost, Clark — that's one too many for me," she threw at him, hurt that he'd acknowledged his feelings for the dead assistant DA so freely, and with such a guilty expression. "So I think it's best if I stay home, don't you?"
That also seemed to shake him up, but to Lois's surprise this was a different reaction. He looked almost relieved, but then anger blazed from his eyes.
"No, I damn well don't!" he bit out at her.
That had clearly cut him on the raw, she realised. And it hadn't been fair of her. If he was still hung up on Mayson, she should be more understanding and supportive, instead of holding it against him. Could she honestly fault Clark for having cared about someone? Even if he was being unfair to her by wanting to date her at the same time?
"I'm sorry, Clark; that was unfair," she conceded quietly. "I know you cared about Mayson. I understand that you need some time to figure out what you really want. That's why I think that it's best if I give you some space. I… I really don't want to date a guy who's still grieving, can't you understand that?"
"You still wanted to, until Agent Circus Clown came along," Clark muttered. "Maybe I'm the one who doesn't want to be with someone who'd prefer to be with someone else."
Before she could respond, he'd walked swiftly past her and out of the newsroom.
Lois walked slowly from the elevator to her Jeep, trying to make sense of Clark's parting words. She'd assumed that his problem with their relationship was largely due to Mayson, but it seemed that Dan's appearance on the scene was bothering him too.
<Well, full marks, Lois!> she told herself. It was obvious that Dan bothered Clark; she'd seen it herself. She'd already told herself off for flirting with Dan in front of Clark. But if Clark was still hung up on Mayson, why did it upset him so much to see her flirting with Dan?
Because he'd grown used to seeing her as his own personal property in some way, and hated seeing another man muscling in on his territory?
But she dismissed that thought immediately. Clark wasn't the possessive type. He'd be very hurt if the woman he loved wanted someone else, but he wouldn't act possessive over someone he regarded as just a friend.
<You're the one who acts like a dog in the manger> a tiny voice pointed out; Lois had to admit that it was true. She still cringed when she remembered how she'd behaved last year when women had shown an interest in Clark — Cat, Toni Taylor, Linda King; in each case, Lois had acted as if Clark was her personal property and the other women had no right to go anywhere near him. And yet at the time she'd barely acknowledged that he was her friend!
That was why, she mused as she started her car, she'd deliberately stayed out of the way when Mayson had arrived on the scene. Even though she'd been hurt and jealous, she'd retreated to the sidelines and allowed Clark the space to explore his relationship with Mayson, whatever that had entailed.
And, in the end, her patience had paid off: Clark had asked her out.
They'd had a wonderful date; he'd forgiven her for her stupidity, and they'd been all set to see where their relationship could go… but then Mayson had died and Clark's emotions had been all mixed up ever since.
<Yes, you know all that, but where does it get you?> she asked herself.
It all came back to what Clark wanted. She'd tried to ask him, that evening at her apartment, but he'd been hesitant and a little evasive. And he hadn't denied that he had strong feelings for Mayson.
She meant what she'd told him; she didn't want a relationship with a silent third party tagging along.
And then there was Dan.
Dan Scardino, the DEA agent with a nice line in compliments, witticisms and intelligent banter. He *was* cute. He had lively brown eyes, hair which tempted her to run her fingers through it, a nice face, and a great body. And he was considerate, too. He cared about her, even though they'd only recently met.
And he was attracted to her. He wasn't getting over a dead girlfriend…
…or was he? He had mentioned someone called Jenna, after all.
But that had been a couple of years ago. Mayson had been killed less than two weeks ago.
This was crazy! Lois told herself. <You're acting as if it's a straight choice between Clark and Dan, like between McDonalds and Burger King! These are *people*! What matters is if you love one of them. Or neither of them>
Put like that, it was a simple choice. And one she should never even have needed to think about.
She executed a U-turn in the busy road, earning herself several angry hoots as a result, but she didn't care. She had someone to see.
Preparing to knock on the door of Clark's apartment a short time later, Lois was biting her lip anxiously. What if he wasn't here? What if he'd gone off somewhere else after her unkindness to him? What if he'd gone to visit Mayson's grave?
And what if he was here, and he admitted that he was in love with Mayson?
If Clark was truly in love with Mayson, then she'd accept it. She'd have to — he was her friend, after all, as well as the man she was in love with. And if he wanted it from her, she would do whatever she could to comfort and support him in his grief. She'd be the best friend he could have, and she'd never let him see that it wasn't enough for her. She'd *make* it be enough for her.
Because she loved Clark.
She'd been so stupid! Six months ago, he'd been hers for the taking. He'd told her he loved her, that she was the only thing in his life he couldn't bear to lose. And she'd rejected him. Not only had she then thrown herself at Superman — her friendship with whom she knew Clark resented a little — but then she'd agreed to marry a man she'd been well aware Clark loathed.
If, instead, she'd had the courage to recognise and admit her true feelings and told Clark that she loved him too, they could have been together long ago. And probably still together today.
But she'd rejected him, and by the time she'd been ready to admit her feelings for him, it was too late. For whatever reason — and she still didn't believe the excuse he'd given her — he'd decided that she wasn't worth the effort of pursuing after all.
Except that, a few months later, he'd asked her out. Surely that meant that he did have feelings for her?
Or maybe he'd just been trying to forget Mayson. Assuming that her guess was correct and that he had decided that being with her was a conflict of interest. After all, the question of whether Mayson had worked for Intergang had never been resolved.
And she still hadn't worked out why, if Clark really was hung up on Mayson still, he was bothered by Dan's interest in *her*.
<Stop torturing yourself!> she told herself finally. <Just do what you came here to do!>
Quickly, before she could think better of it, Lois knocked on the door.
Within a second or two, it was opened, and Clark stood there, dressed in jeans and a grey T-shirt. He blinked in surprise at her. "Lois? I thought…?"
"I made a mistake, Clark," she said quietly. "Can I come in?"
"Sure." He opened the door wide, closing it behind her once she'd entered. "Want a coffee?"
She was tempted to accept, but then recognised it as a delaying tactic, on his part as much as hers. "No, I just want to talk."
"Okay." He leaned against the wall and looked at her, his expression shadowed. "What's up?"
Lois took a deep breath. "First, I'm sorry for anything I did which made you think I was interested in Dan. He's cute, sure, and he's a nice guy. But you and I are dating, and I have a rule never to date two men at the same time."
"If that's all that's stopping you…" Clark said slowly, then continued after a pause, "I won't get in your way if that's what you want. It's not as if we were… well, committed in any way, were we?"
Clark's use of past tense shook Lois to the core. He was already thinking of them as finished? Did he mean that he saw their relationship as being over even before it had started?
"We *were*?" she echoed shakily, unable to prevent herself from letting her feelings show. It might have been sensible not to react; after all, if Clark didn't want her, it would be better if he didn't know just how much he meant to her. "You mean it's over?"
"I didn't say that!" he whispered, sounding horrified. "Lois, what do you think I want where the two of us is concerned?"
She shook her head, feeling lost; as if she was on the verge of losing something very precious. "If you'd asked me that ten days ago, Clark, I could have told you," she told him sadly. "But now? Now, I haven't the faintest idea. Other than that you don't like Dan hanging around me and paying me compliments, but I'm not sure why."
"Think about it, Lois," he said sardonically, not moving from his position in the shadows, against the bedroom wall. His tone, and the distance he was maintaining between them, depressed her further.
"Clark, I don't know *what* to think! Am I yesterday's news? You never answered me properly, you know. Are there three people in this relationship? If there is a relationship, of course," she added in a choked voice.
"Lois, what do you want me to say?" he demanded. "That I'm jealous of your new friend? Do you really need me to tell you that? He hangs around you; pays you compliments; he even turns up at your apartment at all sorts of times, day and night. He was even there *very* late the other night, and you were in your pyjamas! *And* he was still there the next morning!"
Clark broke off briefly, running one hand through his hair in what seemed a weary gesture. "I've tried, Lois. I really tried to put innocent interpretations on it all. I trust you. I don't think you've been seeing him behind my back. But I do know that he wants you. And he even asked you for a date in front of me. What am I, Lois? Chopped liver?"
The naked pain in Clark's voice was a revelation to Lois. He really cared that much? He had to, if he was feeling such raw jealousy over Dan — when there was no reason at all for it.
Well, there was, she conceded. She'd flirted with Dan right in front of Clark. She hadn't given a single thought to the fact that Clark was there and witnessing the whole thing.
"I should have told Dan that you and I were dating," she admitted apologetically. "I would have — but, Clark, I hadn't a clue where I stand with you! I still don't."
He pushed himself away from the wall and approached her. "Lois, you stand with me where you've always stood. You're the only woman I've ever wanted to be with. You're the only woman I've asked out since leaving college. And you're the only woman I can imagine wanting to be with for the rest of my life."
Not making any attempt to touch her, he stood a couple of feet away, a sober expression on his face. But despite that, hope was beginning to build for Lois; surely Clark wouldn't have spoken like that if Mayson was the one he'd really wanted?
"Lois, I don't know what else I can do," he continued. "Yes, I'm jealous of Scardino. Yes, I wish you had told him that we're together. And I wish… I wish that things hadn't happened the way they did and that Mayson hadn't died like that and that the timing hadn't been so *lousy*!"
"Clark, there is something else I need to hear from you," Lois said quickly, before she could lose her nerve again. "What did — do you feel for Mayson?"
He shook his head in surprise. "What has Mayson got to do with us, Lois? And what was that crack earlier about Mayson's ghost?"
She grimaced guiltily. "I'm sorry, Clark — that was nasty, and I wish I hadn't said it. It's just… well, you've been so cut up about Mayson — which is understandable, I know, I mean, her death was so horrible and unfair and she was so young — but I couldn't help wondering whether… well, you know…"
"No, I don't know," Clark said slowly. "I think you need to tell me, Lois."
She took a deep breath. "Whether — whether you'd suddenly realised that you loved her all along!"
Suddenly, Clark began to laugh. Lois flinched at first, hurt, but then she realised that there was something not right about his laughter. Then it dawned on her: there was no humour in it.
"You thought I was in love with Mayson?" he said, bewildered. "Lois, that would be funny if it wasn't so bitterly ironic. Lois, Mayson was in love with me. And, yes, you were right; I hadn't realised it. Not until a day or two before she died. The reason I've been so… so distracted since she was killed is that I felt guilty! She was in love with me, and not only could I not love her back, but I couldn't even let her down gently!"
He stopped abruptly, spinning away from her. "Your *friend* Daniel Scardino found her diary, remember? He let me see it. And he was right: she'd written all kinds of things in there about me — including a couple of notes, written just like they were letters and she intended to send them! And I never saw it. I knew she was interested, and I guess I knew I needed to make it clear that I wasn't. But she was *nice*, Lois! I liked her. I enjoyed her company. And I kept seeing her because I *did* like her, and you weren't showing any sign of wanting anything more from me, and Mayson was there and she wanted to be with me…"
It all made sense suddenly. Clark was torturing himself because he felt he'd been unfair to Mayson, stringing her along by letting her hope that one day he might fall in love with her too. And all the time he'd felt nothing more for her than liking.
And that kiss she'd witnessed; Lois would have bet her next Kerth that it'd been Mayson who'd initiated it, and Clark had either finished it as quickly as he could without offending her, or simply decided to go along for the ride — just to see whether there was any spark there.
Suddenly, she felt a surge of sympathy for Mayson Drake, who'd been in love with a man who would never return her feelings, and who hadn't even *noticed* how she felt about him.
After all, in a way that mirrored the way she herself had felt about Superman until recently. Until she'd realised that, right under her nose, there was a very special man whom she loved very much.
With another man, she might suspect that his behaviour had been deliberate. But she knew Clark. Her friend would never want to hurt anyone, least of all someone he cared about — and, as she'd said to Dan, Clark really was about the only person who didn't know how Mayson had felt about him. He hadn't intended to hurt her, but now he knew that he had. And he was obsessing about it — had been obsessing about it for the last week or more, but she'd been too wrapped up in her own insecurities to notice.
"Clark." She said his name softly. "I know you. I know you cared for Mayson, and I know you'd never have deliberately hurt her. I'm also positive that she knew you were never going to love her. She just… well, she couldn't let herself stop hoping, that's all."
He turned back to meet her gaze, his voice husky. "I know how that feels, Lois. I've never stopped hoping since the day we met."
The expression in his dark eyes confirmed what his words had been telling her for the past few minutes. She'd been worrying for nothing. She should have trusted Clark, instead of letting her insecurities getting the better of her — but then, that was something she'd been telling herself for a long time where Clark was concerned.
He'd laid his feelings on the line; he might not have said the scary words, but they'd been implied in his earnest confession. So now it was her turn. "Clark, I love you."
"You… do?" His stance changed; his expression altered from sadness to hope.
"I love you. I loved you last summer when I almost married Lex Luthor, and I loved you the other week when we kissed properly for the first time. I… should have told you before, but I've never been very good at putting my feelings into words. And… and then when Mayson was killed I let all my insecurities out again…"
"I know," Clark whispered, taking the few steps to bring himself closer to her. Slowly, almost reverently, he took her in his arms, holding her close to him. "I should have realised, Lois. I know — I should have understood what you were feeling, what I was doing to you. I was pushing you away because I felt guilty."
"And I should have understood that Mayson was your friend, and not expected you to get over her death in a couple of days," Lois pointed out.
He raised one hand to stroke her hair back from her face. "We keep doing this to each other, Lois. Not talking to each other. Whereas if I'd actually *told* you what I was feeling… You tried to tell me what you were thinking, but I wouldn't listen. I didn't take your worries seriously. And I didn't tell you I love you — which is *crazy*, when I've loved you as long as I've known you! And I'm sorry. It would have been my fault if I'd lost you to Scardino," he finished heavily.
Much as Clark's declaration of love both moved and delighted Lois, she wasn't going to let this pass. "Clark, how would it have been your fault? Don't I have a choice in who I date? And you should know, after everything that's happened in the last year, that I wouldn't date a man I didn't… have feelings for!" Out of frustration, she thumped his arm.
He nodded, hugging her briefly. "Yes, of course you do. I didn't mean that you don't. And I know *that* too. It's just that… well, you did seem to be interested…"
"Clark, I love *you*!" she insisted. "Sure, I think Dan's cute. And he's a lot of fun to be with. I think we could be friends, if he could stop wanting to date me. But he's still hung up on his partner — she was killed by McCarthy too. That's why he was so desperate to catch Mayson's killers. I think he loved Jenna. And I would only ever be second-best for him."
Clark traced the line of her jaw with the back of her hand. "You're not second-best to me, Lois. You never could be. I love you far too much for that even to be a possibility. But I don't want to be second choice for you."
She smiled up at him, all her fears forgotten, her insecurities buried again. Clark had loved her all along, and she'd done the right thing at last by confronting him and her doubts at the same time. She'd trusted him not to let her down or lie to her when she'd come over to talk to him — and in doing so, she'd found that where her own heart lay, his lay too. Her partner, her friend, was also the man who loved her, deeply and lastingly. Reaching up, she brushed a gentle kiss on his welcoming lips.
"Haven't you realised yet, Clark?" she whispered. "I came here to you tonight. I told you that I love you. I've made my choices. And I won't change my mind. Not now; not ever."
(c) Wendy Richards firstname.lastname@example.org