A Closet Encounter

By Meredith Knight <meredith@putwet.demon.co.uk>

Rating: PG-13

Submitted: December 2001

Summary: What will happen when Lois and Clark find themselves stuck in a closet during their latest investigation?

This was meant to be a little bit of fluff. It kept growing and growing, but it's still fluff. <g>

Many thanks to my wonderful beta readers: to Wendy Richards especially for early encouragement when I didn't know whether it was worth writing, and to Carol Moncado and Sarah Luddy for quick and insightful criticism (and more encouragement).

Familiar characters are the property of D.C. Comics, Warner Brothers, etc. No infringement of anyone's copyright is intended. This story is an original work and copyrighted to me.


The offices of Jackson and Son, Import/Export Agents, were in darkness except for the bright moonlight slanting in through the windows. In the office of the senior partner the moonbeams illuminated the opulent leather chair, pooled on the large, polished mahogany desk, and silhouetted the two black-clad figures working with quiet haste in the gloom. The large, muscular figure was looking through the contents of a filing cabinet with the aid of a small pencil flashlight, while the small, slight figure was bending over the desk, skimming through folders and occasionally stopping to copy a page with a handheld scanner.

Suddenly the taller figure froze, listening hard. Then it turned and hissed in low, urgent tones, "Lois! Someone's coming!"

"Okay, Clark — just let me finish this page…" Lois reached the bottom of the page, switched off the scanner and dropped it into her capacious shoulder bag. "All yours!" She turned towards the office door.

Clark grabbed the folder from the desk and filed it swiftly back in the drawer. Then he closed the drawer silently and followed Lois out of the office.

As he stepped out into the corridor, closing the office door behind him, the lights came on in the front office at the end of the corridor. The frosted glass in the communicating door fortunately prevented a clear view in either direction, but the sound of conversation suggested that several people were arriving. Lois turned and hurried down the corridor towards the back of the building, Clark hard on her heels.

The next door on the left was open and she paused to look into the room. It was another office, this one furnished in a more utilitarian style and containing several computer stations. "Nowhere to hide in here," she whispered, turning away.

Clark tried the door opposite. It was locked, but the key was in the lock. He turned it and pulled the door open. "Supply closet," he whispered. "Too small for both of us." He turned to Lois and opened his mouth, but she was looking up the corridor at the shadow forming on the frosted glass.

"It'll have to do!" she hissed, pushing him backwards into the closet. He grabbed at a shelf to restore his balance, and the next second Lois had backed into the closet with him and was pulling the door to, leaving only a narrow strip of light showing down the side of the door.

They were not a moment too soon, as the door to the front office opened and the conversation suddenly became intelligible. "… here in a few minutes," said a commanding voice. "Pendleton, get a copy of the inventory for them."

"Yes, Mr Jackson," a mild voice replied, and footsteps came down the corridor towards the closet. Outside the closet door they paused, and Lois shrank back against Clark as the handle of the cupboard door was gripped; then the door was pushed shut and the key turned in the lock with a soft but decisive click.

Neither of the reporters moved or even breathed as muffled footsteps receded once again. Then Lois heaved a quiet sigh. "Great," she muttered under her breath. She took a small step away from Clark, but a few inches was all there was room for.

"The proverbial tight spot," agreed her partner with the ghost of a chuckle.

Lois briefly considered elbowing him in the ribs, but an audible reaction could prove fatal in their position. She contented herself with a faint sniff, and tried to make out her surroundings. Although a bar of light was showing under the door, the illumination was too dim to be of much use. All she could tell was that there were shelves close to her on either side. Holding onto one of the shelves for balance, she closed her eyes and willed them to adjust to the darkness.

Behind her, Clark lowered his glasses and had a look around the office suite. In the office opposite the supply closet Pendleton, a scrawny, dusty-looking clerk, was hovering over the printer. The Jacksons, father and son, were still talking in the front office, while several of the firm's villainous-looking navvies were busy in a kitchenette at the back of the building, doing nothing more sinister than making a pot of coffee. There was certainly no possibility of making an undetected exit at present.

Clark pushed his glasses back up his nose and looked around the closet. The room was tiny, only as wide as the doorframe and lined with shelves on the other three sides. His right arm was extended along one of the shelves past Lois, but even so his shoulders were wedged uncomfortably tightly, and one of the rear shelves, wider than the rest, was sticking into the back of his neck. A light bulb hung from the ceiling, but there was no light switch visible inside the closet.

He had a look at the contents of the shelves themselves. The left-hand wall held office supplies and stationery; the right-hand wall coffee, sugar and a collection of biscuits and microwaveable snacks. Clark hoped devoutly that the kitchenette held enough supplies to last the evening.

He wondered what was on the shelves behind him. It would be almost impossible in the confined space to turn and look… at least, not without getting closer to Lois than was good for his peace of mind. He strove to remember what he had glimpsed on his first, brief glance into the cupboard. Cleaning supplies and equipment, he recalled — and, on the floor below, a small set of office steps. Great! That would come in useful.

He felt for the steps, craning his head cautiously to check for obstructions; then he bent and shifted the steps forward into the room. The movement brought him back into contact with Lois's body.

"What are you doing?" Lois hissed at him, opening her eyes.

"Sorry," he whispered. "I just found something to sit on." He perched himself on the top step, splaying his legs wide to give Lois as much room as possible. The drop in height put his shoulders between shelves, giving him more room to manoeuvre, and also allowed him to move backwards a few welcome inches under the wide top shelf. He breathed a faint sigh of relief.

"How come you can see?" she grumbled softly. "I can't see a thing!"

He froze for an instant, kicking himself. "Must be all those carrots I eat," he returned lightly. "You should try eating something healthy for a change — not so much chocolate ice cream."

She drew in a shocked breath, then grinned in the darkness. "Just you wait, Kent!" she warned. "I'll get you back when we get out of here!"

He grinned in return. "Sorry I can't offer you my seat," he apologised. "Are you okay standing? You could sit on my lap. I promise not to take advantage of you," he added teasingly, praying silently that his resolve wouldn't be put to the test.

He was relieved but puzzled to see the grin vanish from her face, leaving it expressionless. "No, I'm fine, thanks," she said in a constricted voice.

Belatedly, Clark remembered his flashlight. He pulled it out of his pocket left-handed and switched it on, careful to shine it away from Lois's eyes. Even so, she grimaced and screwed up her eyes against the sudden brightness.

"Why don't you put your bag down?" he suggested, directing the beam to an empty spot on a shelf next to her.

"Good idea," she returned, swinging the heavy bag carefully off her shoulder and putting it down on the shelf. She rubbed reflectively at her shoulder and looked briefly around the room, her expression still remote. "Not much to see," she commented. "You may as well save your batteries."

Clark switched the flashlight off and returned it to his pocket. An awkward silence fell.

Lois closed her eyes and leaned her forehead against the shelf in front of her, taking a deep breath. Clark's quip about taking advantage of her had evoked a sudden vivid memory of the last time he had kissed her, on stakeout at the Lexor, and she was having difficulty thinking about anything else. Feelings she had thought she'd successfully buried when Clark had taken back his declaration of love after her abortive wedding to Lex Luthor, came flooding back.

<Fool!> she chided herself. <Clark has made it quite clear he doesn't think of you that way. You're just his partner. Anyway, he's probably dating Mayson Drake. I wonder if he kisses her… the guy sure can kiss…>

She shook herself mentally. That line of thought was going nowhere, and she was starting to feel quite flushed. Perhaps that was partly due to being locked in a tiny closet, though — it was starting to get stuffy, too. "I wonder how long the air in here will last," she murmured.

Clark started. He had been listening to the conversation in the front office, hoping to discover how long the Jacksons and their cohorts intended to stay, but so far he had heard nothing of interest. He hadn't thought about the air supply, since he needed less oxygen than a human would, but it wouldn't do to have Lois passing out.

He lowered his glasses again and had a close look at the walls of their prison. To his satisfaction, they were constructed of plasterboard rather than brick. On one side of the closet lay the office Lois and he had been searching earlier, the intervening wall lined with filing cabinets. Behind the rear wall of the closet was another enclosed space, containing the office safe. Clark twisted around to look through the other side wall. There seemed to be a sort of meeting room on that side, with pictures hung on the walls.

"I think I saw something in this corner earlier…" he said, getting back to his feet and climbing halfway up the steps. A touch of levitation allowed him to turn around without kneeing Lois in the ribs. Picking a dark spot in the corner just above the top shelf, concealed by a picture on the other side, Clark used his heat vision to cut a small circle through the plasterboard.

Lois tensed beside him. "I can smell smoke!" she hissed with a note of panic.

"Probably just someone lighting a cigarette," Clark hastened to assure her. He quickly tugged the circle of plasterboard out of the hole he had created and slipped the telltale piece behind a box of biscuits. "There, that should give us some air," he said, returning thankfully to his seat.

Lois felt a faint, cool draught begin to blow across her warm skin, and the smell of smoke disappeared. "That's a relief," she whispered. "The Boy Scout strikes again, huh? How did you do that?"

"There was, uh, a piece of rag stuffed into a hole in the wall," he extemporised. "I just had to pull it out…" His voice tailed off as they heard footsteps coming down the corridor once again. Then the meeting-room door opened and the lights were switched on, casting an indirect glow through the new hole in the wall.

"Please sit down, Mr Bender," said the older Jackson. There was a lull in the conversation as several people seated themselves at the table. Lois seized the opportunity to rummage through her bag, unearthing a notebook and pen. As she turned back towards the hole in the wall, Clark thrust his flashlight into her hand and then grasped her hips to steady her as she climbed up a few steps between his legs to get into the best position for eavesdropping. As she laid her notebook on the top shelf and prepared to take notes, carefully shielding the flashlight beam from the hole in the wall, she spared a thought to marvel at the efficient and unstinting backup that she had almost come to take for granted from her partner; then she turned her full attention to the meeting taking place on the other side of the wall.

"We're a little surprised to see you here, Mr Bender," Jackson was saying tentatively. "We were expecting Martin Snell…"

"Ah, yes," Bender replied. "Mr Snell had an inconvenient encounter with the police, and as a result had a most unfortunate… accident."

There was a pregnant pause, then Jackson cleared his throat nervously. "I'm sorry to hear that," he said.

"No need to worry," Bender said smoothly. "Intergang always takes care of its associates."

"Of course," Jackson said hurriedly. "Well, to business. Pendleton, do you have the inventory for Mr Bender?"

"Here it is, sir," came Pendleton's obsequious tones.

There was a brief hush while Bender checked the inventory. "This seems to be in order," he concluded. "I have the money here. But before we go to collect the goods, I want to discuss the schedule for the next month."

The men proceeded to discuss the dates and arrangements for a number of shipments, with Lois taking copious notes. The nature of the goods being shipped wasn't specified, but from the arrangements being made it was clear that they were contraband of some kind, probably armaments.

At last the arrangements were finalised, and Jackson was instructing Pendleton to enter the details into the computer while the rest of the group went to the warehouse to hand over the goods to Bender. There was a stir as the meeting-room emptied, and Lois hastened to switch the flashlight off before the lights were extinguished.

As the footsteps trooped up the corridor and faded, Lois realised she was still standing halfway up the steps with Clark's arm looped around her thighs. A wave of heat swept over her, and her knees felt suddenly weak. She needed to get away from him — and quickly, before she did something stupid, like thread her fingers through the soft dark hair next to her hip…

She swallowed and shifted her weight to lift one foot. Instantly his clasp loosened, although he continued to steady her as she felt her way carefully down the steps and back to solid ground. "Thanks," she whispered breathlessly, turning to tuck her notebook safely back into her bag.

Across the corridor, a radio was suddenly switched on. Clark lowered his glasses to check on Pendleton's progress, and discovered him tuning the radio to a pop music station. There was a fresh mug of coffee steaming next to one of the computers. Clark frowned; he hoped Pendleton wasn't settling in for a long stay. He watched as the clerk opened a spreadsheet, taking careful note of the password that he entered. Pendleton started to type in the details discussed at the meeting, and Clark stopped watching. The radio diminished the chance that he and Lois would be detected, Clark mused, but they would still need to stay alert for any movement from the office.

He pushed his glasses back up and looked at Lois. She was standing awkwardly, head cocked towards the sound of the radio. As he looked more closely, he noticed she was trembling slightly. He reached out to touch her arm, and she leapt like a startled fawn.

"You're very tense," he said softly. "I think you'd better sit on my lap. You can't afford to get a cramp," he added persuasively as she started to shake her head.

Lois capitulated, unable to think of any plausible excuse. She allowed Clark to pull her closer and gather her onto his lap, noting with an involuntary thrill how easily he lifted her. He let go of her at once and rested one arm along the shelf beside her; she resisted the temptation to snuggle back against his body, leaning against his arm instead.

"With all the information we got tonight, we should be able to make a sizable dent in Intergang's operations," she said. "Maybe even link Bill Church to them at last."

Clark nodded. "If we can locate the warehouse where they're storing the goods, we can find out what they are," he agreed. "Then we can try to trace where the next shipment goes."

"Good idea," Lois replied.

Another strained silence fell. Lois cast about for another innocuous topic of conversation, but nothing presented itself; instead, she found herself daydreaming about what would happen if she simply gave in to the madness sweeping over her. If she yielded to the temptation to turn and press herself against Clark, to pull his head down to hers and kiss him with all the passion she could muster…

"What *is* that guy doing?" she muttered crossly.

Clark sneaked another look. "Surfing the web… probably," he added, a trifle belatedly.

"Hmm." She pondered briefly. "If they do have an internet connection, I wonder if we can hack into their files?" she mused.

"We can try."

"Clark, why don't we get out of here right now? One filing clerk isn't going to stop us."

"No, but we can't afford anyone knowing we were here," Clark replied reasonably. "If they find out we overheard the meeting, they'll change their shipping schedule."

Lois acknowledged the point with a frustrated grunt, and fell silent. Clark had another look at Pendleton's computer screen. He seemed to be searching for tropical holiday resorts, and Clark wondered whether the Jacksons knew their clerk was planning an overseas trip. Clark found himself thinking about flying Lois to a tropical island… picnicking in the shade of palm trees, next to a cobalt sea… Lois wearing a brief bikini, asking him to spread sunblock on her shoulders… He searched desperately for something, anything, to take his mind off Lois.

Attack was the best form of defence, Lois decided, even when it came to confronting her feelings. Once before, she had flung caution to the winds and pursued Clark with single-minded determination. In the intervening months she had studiously avoided exploring those memories, but perhaps they were just the medicine she needed now. Failing the possibility of taking a cold shower, a healthy dose of mortification ought to restore her sense of proportion.

Because for two days, while she had tried every feminine wile at her disposal to seduce him, he had remained politely, graciously, but nevertheless resolutely uninterested. She closed her eyes and relived the worst of the cringe-inducing moments…

… her first advances, when she had hoisted a leg onto his desk and tried to vamp him… It had failed dismally — he had thought she was trying to cadge a favour, which showed just how shallow he must think her.

… grabbing his tie, forcing him back against the wall and trying to kiss him… He had simply acquired a hunted look — the same one he had always got when Cat came on to him — and skittered away from her.

… strewing rose petals all over the newsroom… She would never have lived that down, if it hadn't been for the fact that nearly all her colleagues had been doing the same sort of thing, even descending to pink heart-shaped balloons.

… and, to crown it all, renting a belly dancer's costume, going round to his apartment, and performing the Dance of the Seven Veils… Her cheeks were crimson at the recollection. How incredibly tacky and cheap! And what must Clark have thought of her? What had he said? "You don't know how many times I've thought about this, dreamt about this — well, something like this —"

Her eyes flew open. That couldn't be right, could it? If Clark had been attracted to her, he wouldn't have had any hesitation about taking what she had so blatantly been offering. Actually, no, she had to admit that wasn't true: knowing Clark's overdeveloped conscience, he would have. But speculating about whether Clark was attracted to her was the last thing she needed right now.

She should focus on how she'd felt in the morning, waking up and realising what a complete fool she'd made of herself. Yes, that would do it. She'd felt unbearably humiliated! And the first thing she'd heard had been… had been Clark saying, in anguished tones, "Lois, I can't take it any more. If you really want me, I'm yours."

This just wasn't working at all! She was supposed to be scarifying herself out of any romantic feelings towards Clark; instead, she was coming to the conclusion that he'd been attracted to her — perhaps in love with her — for a very long time. Was her memory playing tricks on her, or had she simply been completely blind? She could no longer deny that, with her inhibitions removed by the pheromone, her instincts had led her straight to the right man. She hadn't even looked twice at Lex.

What would have happened if she had taken just a little longer to recover? Would Clark finally have taken her in his arms, and…

She opened her eyes and berated herself. <Enough day- dreaming, Lois! Concentrate on the here and now!>

Unfortunately, the here and now included the feel of Clark's muscular thighs under her, his arm against her back, his warm breath on her shoulder…

She was feeling very hot and breathless once again. Her black polo-neck sweater was ideal attire for snooping around offices in the dark, but it left something to be desired when locked in a tiny closet with her unreasonably attractive partner.

Lois shifted uncomfortably and heard Clark's breath catch in his throat. She sat perfectly still for a full minute, her eyes wide, as she considered the implications. The only conclusion she could draw was that he wasn't as unaffected by their close proximity as he would like to pretend. His breathing had resumed, but to her newly attentive ear it seemed somewhat heavy, and his arm was shaking slightly.

"Clark, what are you thinking about?" she said abruptly.

He started. "Thorium," he said without thinking.

Her eyebrows climbed. "Thorium?" she echoed.

"Yes, thorium," he replied sheepishly. "Atomic number 90. Chemical symbol Th. Radioactive metal in the actinide series."

"You're a strange one, Clark," she observed. She shifted her weight and ran her hand up his arm, hearing him suck in his breath. "Are you comfortable?" she enquired solicitously. "Your arm is trembling."

"I'm fine," he said hoarsely, and Lois smiled to herself. A daredevil spirit she scarcely recognised was taking hold of her.

"It's hot in here, isn't it?" she said. "Can you hold me steady while I take my sweater off?" Without waiting for his response she bent forward, and felt his hands move to her waist. She pulled her sweater off over her head and dropped it on top of her bag, then leant back against Clark's shoulder, lifting a hand to rearrange her hair. She was wearing a thin cotton camisole top, and Clark's ragged breath raised gooseflesh on the skin of her shoulder.

He let go of her, but she intercepted his arm before he could move it back to the shelf, tucking it around her waist instead. "That's much more comfortable, isn't it?" she asked.

He had to clear his throat before he could answer. "Yes, thank you," he said without conviction.

"So tell me, why are you thinking about thorium?" she enquired.

"I'm not," he responded. "I'm thinking about radon. Atomic number 86. Chemical symbol Rn. Radioactive noble gas."

She nodded. "Clark, why are you reciting the Periodic Table backwards?"

There was a brief silence. "It, er, passes the time…" he said hesitantly.

"It isn't just a way to keep your mind off other things, then?" she said deliberately. She paused and put a hand on his arm at her waist. "I mean, here we are, sitting close together… much closer than we usually do… I'm sitting on your lap, and you've got your arm around me…"

He swallowed convulsively. "Lois, can we please talk about something else?" he pleaded, a note of desperation in his low voice.

"I can feel your breath on my skin," she continued relentlessly. She stroked her fingers gently up his arm and then down again, interlacing them with his. "Your mouth must be very close to me. If it were any closer, you'd be… kissing my shoulder."

His arm tightened around her and she held her breath, awaiting his response.

Clark's self-control had been under siege ever since he had lifted Lois onto his lap. He had been trying with all his might to ignore the delightful physical sensations that she aroused in him, and to think of something besides the temptation to cover her with adoring kisses. It took some time to percolate through to his overloaded brain that, far from being her usual prickly and untouchable self, Lois was actually encouraging him to give in and act out the dream he had cherished ever since he had first met her; and when it did, he could scarcely bring himself to believe it.

He checked her pulse and respiration rate reflexively. Her heart was going like a trip-hammer, and she was holding her breath. The skin of her face and neck was flushed. All the signs were that she was as aroused as he was…

"Do you think that kissing your shoulder would be a good idea?" he asked. His voice seemed to have dropped an octave.

She let out her breath on a long sigh. "I think it would be a pleasant way to pass the time," she said demurely.

Clark felt delight suffuse his entire being. With a final vestige of caution he hooked one foot under a step to prevent any tendency to float away. Then he bent his head forward and let his lips brush the soft skin of her shoulder, sweeping slowly across from the strap of her top towards her neck. "Something like that?" he suggested.

A tremor ran through Lois's whole body and she melted bonelessly against him, her head tilting invitingly to the side. "I don't think you got it quite right," she teased breathlessly. "You'll have to try again…"

He grinned and tightened his arm about her, pulling her gently closer. He lifted his free hand to her temple and ran his fingers through her hair, tucking it back from her ear and neck. He drew a gentle finger across the skin thus exposed, from behind her ear, down her neck and out across her shoulder. He cupped the point of her shoulder and dipped his head again to retrace the trail with soft, nibbling kisses. Lois moaned and lifted her hand to his head, running her fingers through his hair and stroking the nape of his neck.

Across the corridor, the music changed to a loud rap song. Clark winced and lifted his head. "Somehow, when I dreamed about kissing you, I always imagined the musical accompaniment being more romantic!" he murmured into Lois's ear.

Lois's eyes opened wide as she processed that piece of information. Clark had been dreaming of kissing her? So she had been completely blind…

Then both of them froze as the music abruptly ceased. In the sudden hush, they could hear Pendleton switching his computer off, and his footsteps crossing the office towards them. The lights in the office suite were doused one by one, until darkness reigned supreme.

As Clark heard the lock of the outer door snap shut he let out the breath he had been holding. "I guess that means we can finally go home," he said, with a trace of regret.

"Not so fast, partner," Lois said, stirring at last. She disengaged her fingers from his and swung her legs around so that she could face him, ignoring the sudden clatter as she knocked a pile of boxes off a shelf. "We have some unfinished business to attend to first."

She felt for him carefully, looping one arm around his neck. She explored his chest with the other hand, running it under the edge of his shirt to feel the softness of his skin and the firm muscles beneath, taking her time, feeling the hammering of his pulse while he sat quiescent under her touch. Then she stroked gently up the side of his strong throat and ran her fingers down the line of his jaw, smiling appreciatively as she felt his breathing quicken.

Clark had been watching her absorbed face in wonderment, some distant corner of his mind thanking his lucky stars that he had chosen not to wear the suit under his clothes this evening. When she smiled, his heart turned over. He captured her hand in his, carrying it to his lips and pressing a kiss into the palm. "Lois, you are so beautiful!" he said huskily.

She laughed merrily. "Clark, it's too dark for you to see a thing!" she remonstrated. "And that reminds me…" She felt up the sides of his head with both hands and removed his glasses carefully. "You don't need these," she said, fumbling for a shelf behind him and putting the glasses down.

"I guess…" Clark's voice died as she leant forward and kissed him.

Her kiss was tentative at first, growing more assured as she felt his response. He wrapped his arms securely around her, closed his eyes, and gave himself up to pure sensation. Her scent was all around him, warmer and somehow spicier than usual, and her heartbeat was keeping time with his. He could feel her soft lips against his, and taste her… He ran his tongue across her full bottom lip, and her mouth opened, inviting him deeper. Gently, he probed the warm cavern of her mouth, stroking one hand up her spine to the nape of her neck. As his hand met the bare skin of her shoulders she shuddered and moaned, arching her back against him. Every cell in his body was alive with his desire for this beautiful woman…

Somewhere in the dim recesses of his brain, Clark became aware that warning bells were sounding. He didn't know what had sparked the sudden intimacy between them, and if things got out of control… would Lois ever speak to him again? He lifted his head and took a deep breath, willing himself back to earth again. Lois murmured in protest; then he felt her lips against his throat, and her hand stroked tantalisingly across his chest. He grasped her hand and lifted it to his cheek. "Lois… we should stop," he said breathlessly.

Lois stilled, withdrawing slightly to lean her head against his shoulder. "You don't want this to happen?" she asked softly, puzzled and a little hurt.

Clark sighed raggedly and his hand moved to cradle her head as he chose his words carefully. "I don't want us to do anything we'll regret later," he said, forcing the words out through a mouth that felt numb. It wanted to be kissing her, not talking… Lois didn't reply, and he soldiered on. "Let's get out of here and go somewhere we can be sure we won't be interrupted. Then we can talk."

"Okay, Clark," she agreed reluctantly. "Just tell me one thing first… are you going to say we should just be friends?"

The silence lengthened as he searched desperately for the right answer. Either a yes or a no risked damaging their relationship. "Lois… you're my best friend," he said finally. "I don't want to lose you. What do you want me to say?"

Lois expelled a breath she hadn't known she was holding. "You had your fingers crossed behind your back, that day outside the Planet, didn't you?" she asked.

"Yes, I did," he admitted nervously. Sneaking a look at Lois's face, he was relieved to see a brilliant smile light up her face.

"Good," she said with satisfaction. "In that case, let's move this… conversation… elsewhere." She drew his head down and pressed a last, lingering kiss on his lips. "You lunkhead," she said affectionately. "I knew I should have gone first. Come on."

"Lunkhead?" he said.

His only answer was a chuckle as she slid off his lap. Several more items fell from the shelves. "Oops," she said cheerfully. "Where's your flashlight?"

He picked it up off a shelf and handed it to her wordlessly. She switched it on and rummaged through her bag to produce a lockpick. "We'll be out of here in no time," she said brightly, and turned to the door. Then her eyes grew wide. "Clark, there's no keyhole this side!" she squeaked in dismay.

Clark grinned and peered past her to inspect the door. "Do you have a nail file in that bag?" he enquired.

"A nail file?" she asked crossly. "Why do men always assume women carry nail files around with them? And what do you want it for?"

"We could use it to take those screws out and get the lock off," he explained.

"Oh!" She dug in her bag again. "How about this instead?" she said triumphantly, producing a screwdriver with a flourish.

"Very impressive," he admitted, taking it from her. "Do you do this sort of thing often?"

"That's a bit of a dumb question, Kent," she replied pertly. "Of course I do." She scooted over to let him reach past her to the lock, and he dropped to one knee to address the task. She trained the flashlight on the lock for him; then, looking down at his dark hair with a gleam in her eyes, she threaded the fingers of her other hand into it, stroking the back of his head and the nape of his neck.

Struggling to keep himself down to human speed, Clark felt the last screw come free and the lock drop into his hand. He dumped everything onto the nearest shelf and then, in one swift movement, stood up and pulled Lois into his arms. As his face came down to hers, Lois dropped the flashlight and wound her arms around him. He kissed her with a thoroughness that left both of them breathless by the time he released her and stepped back. She gazed at him wide- eyed, thinking how different his face looked — no longer mild and easy-going, but determined and full of character. Was it just the change in their relationship that made her think so, or had she never really looked at him closely before?

He picked up her sweater and handed it to her. "Let's go," he said gruffly, turning to pick up his glasses from the back shelf.

Lois quickly donned her sweater and picked up her bag before opening the door and stepping out into the corridor. She waited while Clark replaced the lock and restored the closet to its former condition, stacking the disturbed items neatly back in their places and even remembering to block up the hole in the wall once again.

Then the closet door was closed and locked, and the sound of footsteps receded up the corridor for the last time that night.