By Sarah Luddy <meerkat_comments AT aslandia DOT net>
Submitted: January 2002
Summary: It's Valentine's Day! Which means it's time for Lois and Clark to tiptoe around each other, each wishing the other would only return their love. Now, if we could just get them together, perhaps with a bit of alcohol…
The worst day of the year was approaching fast, and, as usual, it had caught Lois unprepared. One day, life was normal. Chasing down leads, catching bad guys, getting headlines, dreaming of a Pulitzer, and fantasizing about how Clark looked without his shirt.
The next day—WHAM! Everywhere you went, pink, pink, and more pink. Oh, and sometimes, to break up the monotony— red! Candy hearts. Heart-shaped balloons. Pictures of hearts. Heart streamers. Even stupid, annoying, saccharine-sweet Valentine's Day cards, always addressed to other people, with pictures on the cover of—you guessed it—hearts! Lois, prize-winning investigative reporter, detected a theme.
It wasn't like there was anything wrong with Valentine's Day, exactly. Definitely not. When you were kids, you got a day to make cards, and then you could deliver them into little bags. And there were always some nice kids who attached lollipops—heart-shaped, of course—to the cards, and you could eat candy in class without the teacher's complaining. No, Valentine's Day had been nice when Lois had been young.
And it had been nice when she was a teenager, too. Whispering with Julie and Peggy about who was dating whom, and who had a crush on whom. Buying dresses for the Valentine's Day dance. And Lois remembered with nostalgia (and a bit of revisionist history), endless supplies of dates for the dance.
When had it soured? She had to think about that for a moment. It hadn't happened out of the blue, in some traumatic experience that day, lack of a date for the dance, development of an allergy to the color pink, or any other event that Lois could recall.
But after years of dating guys, only to be dumped or have her heart broken time and time again, the day had slowly come to symbolize everything Lois hated about the male half of the species.
All the bilious pink and red, the hearts, the flowers, the cards, the balloons, and the sweet sentiment—they were all just a cover. Just a cover for guys to win girls' hearts so they could get them into bed, get what *they* wanted, and be out of there by February 15th. The chocolate all went on sale that day, so the girls could go down to the store and buy enough chocolate to drown their sorrows. Of course, Lois didn't know this from experience. Definitely not.
Lois hated Valentine's Day. She had for years. It was, without question, the stupidest, most ridiculous, manipulative, and depressing holiday on the calendar.
So why was she unable to stop wondering if Clark would send her a Valentine's Day card?
Lois watched Clark cross the newsroom towards the supply cabinet against the far wall. She chewed on a pencil as she followed him with her eyes, wondering what he was thinking. Did the approaching date occur to him? He wasn't really dating anyone at the moment, unless you counted Mayson (and Lois didn't like to, if she could avoid it). Maybe he didn't even realize what tomorrow was.
Lois almost choked on graphite as she remembered the bright pink streamers, the hearts, etc., etc., that had greeted her when she came in Monday. Nope, he'd have to be blind not to have noticed the date.
Of course…maybe he was. How could he not have noticed the feelings that Lois had been telegraphing at him for the past week?
'Feelings?' "Admit it, Lois, you have a crush on the man," she said aloud.
"Did you say something, Lois?" Jimmy asked from his neighboring desk.
"Um, nope," she said, quickly pretending to pay attention to her monitor. Once the younger assistant's attention was back on his work, she allowed herself to indulge in the joy of watching Clark, the way she had been for the past week.
Clark was helping a girl get something from a higher shelf. As he reached up to grab it, his pants tightened to show off his muscular thighs in a way that made Lois's face grow hot.
She clenched down on the pencil and snapped it in two. With a gasp, she started spitting out bits of wood and graphite.
"Hi, Lois," Clark said, appearing in front of her desk.
She coughed and spit out the eraser. "Uh, hello, Clark."
"Are you okay?" he asked, his voice full of concern.
"Fine. Go away."
Oops. Had she said that aloud? "I mean, I'm fine, just give me a minute," she said. Grabbing her purse, she rushed for the ladies' room.
What was *wrong* with her? She'd just made a fool of herself in front of the man she loved.
Man she loved? Since when? She just had a crush on him. A crush, that was all. Her subconscious was just teasing her, probably. Could a subconscious joke? Maybe it found her crush on her partner amusing.
"Oh, lord," she said, leaning her forehead against the mirror. "What am I going to do?"
Clark stared, bemused, in the direction Lois had taken. "Is Lois okay today?" he asked Jimmy.
Jimmy shrugged. "I dunno, CK. She just said something about wanting to crush some man. Maybe she's mad at a source?"
Clark sat down at his desk and tried to concentrate on his current story, but he came up at a loss. His eyes kept roaming to Lois's desk, and his mind kept contemplating when she'd be back. So they could compare notes on the story, of course.
There she was! His Lois, walking across the room. Well, maybe not his Lois. Yet. A niggling little voice at the back of his mind tried to remind him that she might never be, but he stifled it for once.
For a moment, Clark felt as if he was living in one of those movies, when, as the heroine enters the room, it's as if everything has gone still and quiet except for her. The hero is left to admire her entrance, to breathe in every whiff of her perfume and drool over the way she flips her hair over her shoulder.
And there she was, approaching him in the same slow motion of those movies. She flipped her hair over her shoulder. He drooled on cue. She stopped to yell at an office assistant. He smiled indulgently at how sexy she looked when she was screaming at someone. She kicked over a wastebasket, and he sighed with pleasure at the grace inherent in her every movement.
"Clark! What are you just standing there like that for? We've got a story to write!"
Clark closed his eyes and savored the way she said his name. "Here, Lois, I brought you coffee," he said, handing her a mug.
His hand trembled when she touched it, and he immediately jerked away, spilling the coffee on the front of her blouse.
"Oh, Lois, I'm so sorry!" he said, quickly grabbing for a napkin to blot her shirt. "Did it burn you?"
"It's okay," she said, pushing him away. "It didn't burn. Must have been cold coffee." She gave him an accusing glare.
He shrugged. "Sorry about that. But your blouse is stained! You'd better take it off."
Her eyes widened, and he suddenly realized how that had sounded. "I mean…um…we'd better get you a new one."
"I'll stop at the store on my way out," she said. "I need to meet a source anyway."
"He's my source."
"And I'm your partner!"
"Fine. You can buy me a new blouse, then."
She turned and headed towards the elevators, as usual, not even looking to see if he was following.
Clark sighed. As usual. He wished…but it didn't do to think that way. He loved Lois Lane, but Lois Lane was the personification of the unattainable.
Almost in a daze, he grabbed for his jacket and tagged after her. She pushed people out of the way right and left as she stomped her way to the elevators. Hurricane Lois had arrived.
Lois muttered a curse under her breath as she caught a nail between the metal ladder and the side of the fire escape. Sucking on it for a moment, she glanced upwards at the lighted window above her. She could see shadows move through the apartment.
The added incentive led her to scramble up the remaining stairs and conceal herself in the shadows just outside the window.
Clark was talking to that obnoxious, pushy Mayson-person. What he saw in her, Lois would never know.
Oh, of course, she was a blonde. How…obvious. Clark only ever seemed to date blondes. Some strange fetish of his, no doubt.
Lois tugged at a lock of dark hair and closed her eyes tightly. Would he like her as a blonde? There was that nice beauty parlor on 32nd Street, she could stop by after work…maybe it would make him notice her?
She dropped her hair angrily. No! She was not going to dye her hair to please a man. No way. He could take her the way she was, or…
Or she would do anything and everything that he wanted, just to get him to love her the way she loved him.
"Watch it, girl," she said to herself. "You are not going to be dependent on any man, not even Clark." No matter how good he looks without a shirt. NO!!! She was not going to start thinking about that. She squeezed her eyes shut again. Images of Clark removing his shirt filled her mind. She let herself indulge for a few more moments, until dream-Clark started to remove more clothing. She gasped and opened her eyes.
She shook her head angrily and forced herself to pay attention to the drama that was unfolding inside Clark's apartment.
"You-you jerk!" Mayson cried, putting her hands on her hips. "You've been leading me on-"
"I haven't been leading you on," Clark insisted.
"-just to get your story. Do you know how much of a jerk that makes you, Clark? I-I thought better of you," she finished softly.
Clark reached out to touch her shoulder. "Mayson, I-"
"Don't say a word," she said, pulling away. "I've had it up to here with you, Clark Kent. You're in love with Lois. Don't even pretend otherwise. And I am not going to be second choice to any man. Please don't call me again."
With that, she stalked out of the apartment, slamming the door behind her.
Clark dropped down onto the sofa, covering his face in his hands. It was true, what Mayson said. He had used her attraction to him to get a story. And he'd encouraged her, because he'd felt rejected by Lois and oh-so-alone. But that wasn't fair to Mayson. She was attractive, he supposed. But he didn't feel the sparks for her that he felt every minute he was with Lois.
Lois was poetry. She made the room light up when she entered it, the skies sing, and his heart beat a wild rhythm. The rest of the world faded into the background the moment Lois appeared on the horizon.
Mayson was just…another friendly, attractive woman.
He walked over to the stand near the door and picked up Lois's picture. "Lois," he whispered. How he wished it was Lois who cared for him, who wanted him, instead of Mayson. He gently traced the lines of her face in the photograph. She was smiling, a rare, bright, brilliant smile that some lucky photographer had caught on film at a charity event. And, miracle of miracles, she'd been smiling at a joke he'd made as they entered the room. That smile made him want to devote every minute of his life to making her happy.
He pinched the bridge of his nose and groaned. When was he going to get over this obsession? He could not spend every waking moment thinking about Lois. Lois had made it quite clear that she didn't care for him, and he should just move on, date other women. Like Mayson.
Who'd just walked out the door. He glanced up at the closed, hard wood, and sighed. What he wouldn't give for Lois to walk in right now.
Lois fought back tears as she watched Clark finger the picture of Mayson and sigh. So, he was in love with Mayson. Lois wanted to feel terrible for the way Mayson had treated him, screaming at him and then dumping him. She couldn't hear what had been said, but she'd seen their body language, and, unfortunately, she'd witnessed Clark's heart breaking. How could that-that *idiot*—break up with him? Didn't she know what she was doing to him?
Why was she angry at Mayson? She'd gotten what she wanted, hadn't she? The competition was gone.
She was angry, she admitted to herself, because she knew she could never replace Mayson. She could never be the girl of Clark's dreams. So what was the point of trying?
She slowly climbed down the fire escape and headed home.
Clark had accepted the fact that Lois would never return his feelings. And he was okay with it, really. Most of the time. Being Lois Lane's friend was…it was an honor. A privilege. An amazing experience that most people weren't lucky enough to have.
Most people took one look at Lois Lane and went running in the opposite direction.
Well, that wasn't precisely true. Most people, men especially, took one look at Lois Lane and fell in lust. It was when she opened her mouth that they went running.
Clark had to smile. Lois was something else. Most people thought she was too obnoxious, too arrogant, too pig-headed to bother with. Or maybe her brilliance was intimidating. But whatever the reason, very few people were willing to do what it took to earn the respect and friendship of this remarkable woman.
It had taken him a long time to find a way through those walls of hers, to go from inferior coworker to real friend. But he liked to think that he'd done it. And for months now, he'd been ready to move on to the next step: dating.
The problem was, Lois herself obviously wasn't interested in crossing the bounds between friendship and romance. It wasn't surprising, given her previous bad experiences with men. Sometimes he was tempted to scoop them up and dump them in the Arctic Ocean for a bit. Of course then they might disturb his frequent swims in those waters after he'd spent the day in unrequited lust for his partner.
And any other day of the year, Clark would be perfectly content to be just Lois Lane's friend and confidant. He could handle it.
But not today. The one day when the entire world seemed intent on rubbing it in every single's face. "Ha ha, you don't have a significant other to share this most romantic day with! You poor schmuck."
Of course, if he hadn't destroyed things with Mayson last night, he probably could have spent the evening with her. But that wasn't really what he wanted anyway. It was Lois he wanted to celebrate Valentine's Day with. Lois he wanted to wine and dine and treat like royalty.
For a moment he allowed himself to close his eyes and fantasize about Valentine's Day with Lois. How she'd look in a beautiful violet—no, burgundy—dress. The way she'd close her mouth around a bite of delicious dessert. The romantic conversations they'd have. He would be able to use the endearments for her that always seemed to want to come out at inopportune moments. "Lois, honey." "Sweetheart." He sighed at the thought.
Then, after dinner, they'd go dancing. He'd be able to tell her the whole story about the Nigerian princess, and she'd listen with delight. He'd spin her around the room, making her dress flare out, and she'd delight him with that beautiful laugh of hers. He could almost see her eyes shimmering in the bright lights of a club.
And finally, at the end of the evening, the sedate walk home under the stars. For some reason, despite the fact that it was a cold February, in his dream it was always a night in late spring, just chilly enough to justify offering her his jacket. She'd snuggle into it, and he'd wrap an arm around her shoulder and hold her close.
At the door of her apartment, they'd engage in awkward conversation for a moment or so, until Clark took the first move and bent in to kiss her.
And kissing her—really kissing her—would be better than he could even imagine.
Clark opened his eyes and gasped to see Lois's face about two inches from his own.
"Where were you?" she asked. "Outer space? Come on, Perry wants that sidebar, and fast."
Clark sighed and turned towards his screen. Of course, they were only dreams. Lois Lane would never want to spend Valentine's Day with him. What was it he'd been thinking before? Unattainable.
The fish swam to and fro, going on with their own little lives even in the face of Lois's pain. She watched them chase the food she'd dropped into the tank as if it was the only sustenance they'd ever have in their entire lives. Fish didn't care about dates, or Valentine's Day, or how embarrassing it was to have to scrounge for a date for every social occasion. She could take Clark, of course, and often did, but taking a man she loved but who was in love with someone else didn't exactly make her feel any better.
"Lois, you have got to stop feeling sorry for yourself!" she said sharply. "Get with it!"
Lois suddenly wondered what Clark was doing tonight. Mayson had dumped him, and, at least to the best of Lois's knowledge, he wasn't dating anyone else. Which probably meant that he was alone, upset, and missing Mayson.
Should she? Clark was alone. Couldn't she set aside her stupid little crush for a few hours, go over, and cheer Clark up? They were best friends, after all, and best friends were supposed to be there for each other. And, she had to admit, Clark definitely did more of that "being there for each other" than she did. Maybe it was her turn to be there for him.
Hmm, what to bring? What did you bring to the house of your best friend, your best friend whom you'd fallen in love with but who didn't love you back, when he was mourning the loss of the woman he loved? Was there a Hallmark card for that?
Perhaps a bottle of wine was a safer bet. After all, they were both suffering from unrequited love this holiday. Maybe two bottles of wine.
She was in the cab on her way to Clark's before she started having second thoughts. Who was she kidding? If Clark wanted to be spending this romantic holiday with Mayson, she wasn't even a poor substitute. Not only was she as unlike Mayson as they come, but Mayson didn't even like her. Clark would probably feel disloyal to Mayson just for inviting her in.
But…she was his best friend, wasn't she? Even if Mayson didn't like her, Clark wouldn't toss her friendship aside for Mayson's sake.
She leaned forward and knocked on the separation. "Driver, can you take me back to Carter Avenue?"
The driver gave her an odd look over his shoulder, but he shrugged. "Sure, lady."
She sat back in her seat, squeezing her eyes shut. She was not going to cry, she was not. Lois Lane did not, ever, cry. Well, except maybe after a particularly sad episode of "The Ivory Tower." But Lois Lane did not cry at the thought that the man she loved wouldn't want her company.
Oh, this was stupid. Mayson was obviously not going over to Clark's tonight. So he'd be all alone. Wouldn't he welcome any company over that?
"Driver, I changed my mind again. I'm sorry, but could you take me to 344 Clinton?"
"You know this is on the meter, right, lady?"
"Yeah, I know," Lois said. She leaned forward to glance at the dollar amount on the meter, and winced.
But what if Mayson *was* there? Clark would never forgive her for bursting in on a reconciliation. And she did want them to get back together, didn't she?
Somewhere she'd heard that loving someone meant wanting their happiness above your own. And she did love Clark-so she wanted him to be happy with Mayson, if that was what he wanted, right? If she really loved him, she would want him to be happy with Mayson. So she shouldn't interrupt.
He groaned and fought traffic to turn the cab around again, without even having to wait for her request.
But, couldn't she just stop by, just to check? Maybe Mayson was stubborn, and wouldn't give in. Then Clark would be alone. Lois could climb up the fire escape again and check, just to see if she was there. If she was, then she'd leave immediately. If she wasn't, then she could go cheer Clark up, and be the best friend he needed.
It was a good thing that they were stopped at a traffic light, otherwise they might have gotten into an accident when the driver banged his head against the steering wheel in frustration.
"I'm really sorry," Lois said. "I promise I won't change my mind again."
Maybe she should leave him a nice big tip.
When they finally pulled up at 344 Clinton, it was almost 8pm. Lois quickly paid the cabbie and added a big tip. She wasn't surprised when he drove away with a roar.
The apartment looked dark. Maybe he was out. She hoped he wasn't. By this time, the cabbie had probably warned all his friends, and none of them would be willing to come pick her up.
But what if he wasn't out? What if the apartment was dark because he was in his bedroom, making love to Mayson? He wouldn't, would he? But maybe they'd had a tearful reconciliation and it had just gone…a bit further than expected.
Just the thought of Clark's beautiful dark hair lying tousled with Mayson's was enough to make Lois turn back to head home. But, of course, all the cabbies were now staying far, far away from Clinton Street. She'd have to walk.
She'd come so far, shouldn't she just make sure that he really was gone before she left? She could just peek through his door and check on him. But if they were in the bedroom, would there be any evidence? Maybe clothes strewn about? Did she really want to see that?
"Lois, stop being such a ninny!" she muttered to herself, creeping up to the door. "You are making far too much of this." She peered into the window. It was hard to see through the apartment, but against the window to the fire escape, she could see the silhouette of a man standing, staring out into the night. A man standing alone.
She rapped on the door.
Startled, Clark scanned the door. Lois? What was she doing here? He wasn't sure he could handle pretending to be "just friends" with her on Valentine's Day. For a brief moment, he considered pretending he wasn't home. But he couldn't do that, not to Lois, not ever.
Sighing, he grabbed his glasses and headed for the door.
"Lois? What's going on?" he asked.
She brushed past him, thrusting a bottle of wine at his chest and forcing him to grab it. She unbuttoned her coat and tossed it over the back of a chair.
"It's Valentine's Day," she said.
"I noticed," he muttered.
"Anyway, neither of us has a significant other to spend the evening with, and I just thought maybe we could spend it together as friends. Better than sitting home in a schlumpy robe, crying into a tub of Rocky Road, right?"
He raised an eyebrow.
"Oh, come on," she said. "Don't tell me guys don't feel a least a little alone on Valentine's Day."
"More than you'd realize," he whispered. Fortunately, she didn't seem to hear him, intent as she was on pushing him around. "Lois, this really isn't a good time," he said.
"Why not?" she asked, suddenly suspicious. "Mayson around here somewhere?"
"Mayson? No, she's not here." He watched as Lois trotted to the bedroom, peeked in, checked the bathroom, under the couch, and even in the dishwasher. "Lois? What are you doing?"
"Well, where is she?"
"Or whoever else you're hiding."
"I'm not hiding anyone."
"Then why isn't it a good time?"
Clark sighed. Did she never give up? Couldn't she see that it was driving him crazy, to be so close and yet so far? His fingers trembled with the urge to touch her, to slide his fingers through that silky hair. Sudden images flooded his mind, images in which he was pulling her towards him, kissing her soundly, touching that beautiful body, and most of all, whispering words of love and devotion.
He had to clench his fists to keep them at his sides. Turning away, he scowled at the window that he suddenly realized had betrayed his presence to his tormentor.
"So," Lois said brightly. "I brought some wine."
"So I see," Clark responded wryly.
They stood awkwardly for a moment, until Lois, still speaking in a bright, false voice, suggested, "how about we play a game?"
"Yeah. Like, Truth or Dare, strip poker…"
Clark gulped. "Um, Lois?"
"No way!" He was not that gullible. Either one could, first, easily force him to reveal his secret, or second, make his feelings for Lois quite clear and ruin their friendship.
She pouted, lower lip wobbling. Her huge dark eyes met his, filling with tears.
"Lois! Stop it!" he said, turning away again.
She laughed slightly. "Oh, come on, Clark. You're such a boy scout."
"How about a movie?" Clark offered in an attempt to be diplomatic.
"Fine," Lois said, walking over to Clark's kitchen table.
Clark stared after her, puzzled, for a moment. She had her back to him, but when she turned around he saw that she had two wine glasses and an open bottle.
"Thought we could use a drink while we watch," she said, smiling.
Clark flipped on the TV and surfed through the channels. Almost every channel was playing some sort of romantic movie, probably to provide atmosphere for thousands of couples sitting in front of the TV snuggling. Only he and Lois weren't a couple.
Probably the only non-couple that spent much of their time snuggling like one, he realized, noticing that Lois had curled up next to him with her head on his shoulder. He sighed. It was going to be a long night.
The heroine picked up the rose from the ground, puzzled. She examined it, tears coming to her eyes as she realized what it meant. Glancing at the door, she saw him.
He was waiting, watching for her reaction. When her face showed her joy, he smiled and strode into the room. Scooping her up and spinning her around, he laughed.
"You came back!" she said incredulously. "You…"
He set her down gently.
"I'll always come back," he whispered, lowering his mouth to hers. They kissed deeply.
Clark stood up, apparently agitated.
"Clark? What's wrong?" Lois asked. She watched wide-eyed as he began to pace the room.
"Uh, nothing, just thinking."
Lois glanced at the screen, where the hero and heroine were still lip-locked and appeared content to stay that way for the duration.
"Is the movie bothering you?"
He shook his head vehemently.
"Methinks the…well, the man…doth protest too much," Lois thought. That had to be it. The heroine was blonde and actually had something of a resemblance to Mayson. And the dark-haired hero, well, it was no wonder that Clark was reminded of their break-up. And, yet again, it was up to her to distract him.
"Uh, nothing. Maybe you're just antsy after sitting still so long." I know I'm antsy from sitting next to him and having to force myself not to attack that delicious body of his. "Why don't we play a game or something?"
He looked suspicious, and Lois rolled her eyes. Didn't he know her game suggestions before were just a joke? "You have a chessboard, don't you?"
"No, I left it in Smallville last time I visited home," he said. "How about checkers?"
"Checkers is good." She sighed and leaned back on the couch as he went into his bedroom to grab the board.
How in the world was she going to last through the evening? She'd spent the entire movie trying to remind herself that she and Clark weren't a couple. The whole situation just seemed so much like the dreams she'd had of Clark that it took constant reminders to keep her from forgetting it wasn't real. Every time the hero and heroine kissed, every time a scene was particularly sweet, she wanted to share the moment with Clark. They'd pretended to be a couple so many times that sometimes it was hard to remember they were not one. The willpower it took to keep her hands to herself was unbelievable.
Deciding she needed some fortification, Lois reached for her glass of wine. To her surprise, it was empty already. With a shrug, she refilled it.
Clark returned in a moment holding the checkerboard triumphantly over his head. "I'm pretty sure it has all the pieces, too," he said with a grin.
Lois smiled weakly. "Good."
He set the board up on the coffee table in front of the couch, so they could both sit on the couch as they played.
Lois wriggled herself a safe distance from him so that she could keep her wits together. In love or not, she was *not* about to lose a game of checkers.
Clark smiled fondly at the board as he set up his pieces. "You know, when I was about 10, I had this hankering to learn to play chess. But it was a bad year on the farm, and my parents couldn't afford a set."
"You must have been disappointed," Lois said, grateful that he had brought up a safe subject. She carefully picked up the wine bottle and refilled her glass.
"Well, I was. But then my father cut out little pieces of paper with labels on them and pasted them to the checker pieces. You know, 'R' for rook, 'K' for king, like that. We didn't have the directions, but he taught me how to play from his memories of learning from his grandfather as a boy."
Where was he going with this? "That was pretty good of him. I wouldn't have expected less from your father."
Clark grinned. "Yeah, he was a great dad. Always willing to take time to teach me. The problem was when I got to college and I discovered that he hadn't known how to play chess after all. He'd known I wouldn't know that he was teaching me wrong, and he thought it was easier to just make up a game so I'd have something to play. So he just made up a move for each piece, and made up the rules about how to check and checkmate."
Lois covered her mouth to hide a laugh. She took a careful sip of wine from her glass, which seemed emptier than she'd expected.
"Yeah, it wasn't 'til I got to college and started a game with my friend Richard that I realized I'd been playing wrong all along. Dad must have forgotten a few details from what his grandfather taught him."
"That, or your ancestors have just been playing chess wrong through the generations," Lois said. She frowned. "So, you do know how to play checkers, right?"
"That I know," he grinned. "And I did eventually learn how to play chess, honest. You didn't notice anything odd when we played that game in the newsroom, after all."
"That's right," Lois said, eyes narrowing. "You did lose that game, didn't you?" She caught her lower lip between her teeth as she contemplated her first move.
"I don't remember it quite that way," he said, smile broadening.
She rolled her eyes. "Well, just wait until you see my genius at checkers." She moved a piece.
He quickly moved in response. "And that overconfidence is what's gonna lead to your downfall," he said. "Besides, wouldn't you be better off being a checkers shark? Pretend not to know what you're doing and then whip my butt?"
She pretended to think for a moment. "Nope. Much more fun to taunt you the whole time." She moved again, putting herself into a position to be jumped.
Clark squinted at the board. "You know I'm going to jump you, don't you?" he said, puzzled.
Lois blushed at the image that conjured, but she managed to keep an innocent look on her face. She lifted her wineglass and was surprised to find it empty again.
He took the bait and jumped one of his red checkers over Lois's victim.
"Ha!" she crowed, double-jumping him.
He stared at the board with a dumbfounded expression on his face. "We just started playing," he muttered. "How can you do that so soon?"
The sudden sound of a couple kissing loudly startled Lois and Clark, and they glanced at the TV. The romance they'd been watching earlier was still on, and the couple had apparently been reunited, yet again.
Both blushed at the same moment and turned back to the checkerboard. Clark cleared his throat. Lois busied herself pouring each a new glass of wine. Her hand shook slightly as she handed one to Clark.
"They sure kiss loudly, don't they?" Lois said, not quite meeting Clark's eyes.
"Yeah," he said softly.
She knew she was treading dangerous ground, but she had to ask. "Do you mind my being here? I mean, instead of Mayson. Tonight. I mean, I don't know exactly what went on between the two of you, but I saw her leave the other night, and I thought maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to come over and try to cheer you up, but if I'm making things worse I really will leave, I just thought it was better to have a friend than to be alone, I know, because I spent most of my holidays as a kid alone and I remember how lonely I was, and, I guess I just wanted to know that it's okay, my not being Mayson."
She finally lifted her eyes. His eyes were fixed on her face, and their expression made her want to melt. How did he have such power over her? Those brown eyes, the same ones she had once tossed aside as "mud-brown" in comparison to Superman's, had the power to make her heart beat faster and her lungs constrict.
She suddenly realized that while she'd been lost in his gaze, they'd been leaning closer to each other. Their faces were only inches apart, and she knew she should pull back, but she couldn't make her muscles respond.
Wasn't it the Python from Greek mythology who froze his victims with his stare until they actually wanted to be devoured, and they stood at his mercy as he attacked? But, of course, Clark wouldn't devour her, would he?
Almost inevitably, Clark closed the final inches between them and touched his lips to hers.
As soon as Clark felt Lois's lips, he realized he was going to regret it. She tasted like sweet wine and chocolate, and absolutely irresistible. And he knew it was wrong, that she didn't care for him, but he couldn't resist her any longer.
To his amazement, Lois didn't resist. She didn't pull away, she didn't push him off her. In fact…was she kissing him back?
She was! She was kissing him back. As he gently sucked on her lower lip and then tenderly caressed her lips with his own, she was following his lead. Was she pretending he was someone else? Or was she simply allowing herself to be carried away in the moment, looking for romance on the most in-your-face romantic day of the year? And did it matter? As long as she was kissing him back, it was consensual. And it might be the only kiss he'd ever get from the woman he loved. He was going to make it count.
He touched his tongue to her lips, and was only slightly surprised when she gasped softly and opened her mouth. Before he could even react, he felt her tongue tenderly stroke his.
The pang of need that suddenly overwhelmed him was more than he could take. He groaned and slid one hand into Lois's hair, pulling her even closer to him. The other hand brushed down the side of her body, sliding around her waist and under the hem of her shirt.
"Oh, Clark," Lois mumbled against his mouth.
His heart swelled at the confirmation that he was the one she was making love to. Not some phantom guy, not an imaginary romance, but him. Sometimes the mere thought of being one day blessed with the love of this amazing woman was more than he could handle.
So why was he kissing her if she didn't love him back?
She whimpered into his mouth and clutched at the front of his shirt, and he had his answer. He moaned in response and held her closer, sliding his hands gently down her back. Lois pulled him towards her, and he allowed himself to lie partly on her as they kissed.
Taking a deep breath, he lifted his head from her lips long enough to pay homage to the soft skin on her neck. She purred and stretched her neck as his lips explored their way across her collarbone and up her neck to her lips again.
With a soft growl, she rolled him over so that she lay on top of him, and she tugged at his shirt. For a moment, he enjoyed the realization that she wanted to touch him.
Suddenly, he remembered the Superman suit. It was still under his clothes!
He quickly pushed her hands away from his shirt and sat up. Losing her balance, Lois fell towards the coffee table, and the wine bottle went flying.
Clark made a mad grab for the bottle, but without crushing Lois he couldn't get hold of it. Both watched in horror as it fell to the floor and bounced once. Clark closed his eyes for a moment, not even wanting to see the mess he was going to have to clean up.
But, to his surprise, the bottle landed without spilling more than a few drops. It had been empty.
Wait a second. It had been empty? Clark mentally calculated how many glasses he'd had to drink over the course of the evening. Not more than one or two, surely. Where had the rest gone?
That's why she'd allowed him to kiss her, and even kissed him back. She was drunk! She had to be. Why else would she have let him kiss her? Even if she wasn't completely drunk, she was most assuredly acting under the influence of the alcohol.
He stood up quickly, pushing her away. He was ashamed of himself. His mother had taught him better. Hell, his father had taught him better. You didn't take advantage of a woman, not ever. Much less when she wasn't in full control of her faculties. Lois was going to *hate* him in the morning.
"Lois," he said awkwardly. To his surprise, there were tears in her eyes. He focused on a point beyond her head so that he didn't have to see her cry. "Lois, I can't take advantage of you like this."
She stood up quickly, but the effect was lessened somewhat when she wobbled slightly. "Clark, I don't care," she insisted. "I know what I'm doing."
"No, you don't," he said gently. "Look, we should put you to bed."
"Clark, I'm not a child!"
Didn't she understand that he was just trying to protect her? It was killing him to have to do this, but he didn't want to lose his best friend in the morning. "Please, Lois," he said. "Don't make this harder for me than it already is. Look, you can stay here tonight, you shouldn't be driving home in your condition anyway."
Lois grabbed his face and pulled him towards her, pressing her lips against his. "Please, Clark," she whispered.
It took all of his strength to push her away. "Lois, don't."
She stood up quickly, and without looking at him, fled the room. Clark could hear the bathroom door slam behind her.
Clark dropped down onto the couch and pressed his forehead against the armrest. Tears burned against the inside of his eyelids, trying to force their way out. But he took several deep breaths and managed to calm himself before he cried, something he hadn't done since he was a child.
Why did life have to be so…so complicated? For a few minutes, he'd actually managed to convince himself that Lois loved him the way he loved her. Even if he knew, deep inside, that it wasn't true, he'd allowed himself to indulge in the daydream of a Lois who loved him back. But discovering that Lois had only shared in the kiss because she was drunk…well, it was like a splash of cold water on his desire.
Though…she had said his name while she was kissing him. Did that mean anything?
He couldn't let himself think like that. It wasn't helping, and he needed to calm down before he saw Lois again. Perhaps a cold shower was in order, once she'd relinquished the bathroom, after all.
The bathroom door had barely closed behind her before Lois burst into tears. How could she have been so-so-so stupid! Of course Clark was going to come to his senses and realize that it wasn't Mayson he was kissing. He thought he was taking advantage of her, using her as a cheap substitute for Mayson.
Cheap? Well, at least she had better taste in clothing than Mayson. And Mayson was far too forward for her own good.
Oh, god, what had she done? She'd allowed him to pretend she was Mayson and indulge in a little Valentine's Day make-out session, just because she was so desperately lonely and in love. How could she have taken advantage of Clark like that? There he was, staring forlorn out the window and probably thinking of Mayson, when she'd barged in, taken over his apartment, forced him to watch a romantic movie and then practically jumped him! He hadn't even been thinking straight.
He was going to hate her in the morning, when he realized what he'd almost done. After all, if they'd gone much farther, it could have jeopardized his chances for getting back with Mayson.
"Lois," she muttered, "can't you ever fall in love with a nice, decent guy, who will love you back?"
"Lois?" she heard Clark call through the bathroom door.
She didn't answer.
"Lois?" Pause. A loud sigh. "Look, Lois, I'm sorry. Okay? I'm really sorry. Just…please, don't go home tonight, okay? I'm worried about you. I'll take the couch, so you can sleep on my bed."
Stay here tonight? Not on his life! Nope, she was going to get out of here, and…
She grabbed for the sink and tried to hoist herself up, but the room spun before her eyes and she dropped back down to the floor.
Maybe this would be a little harder than she'd expected.
Carefully balancing against the wall, she pulled herself up again with the support of the towel rack. Finally, she was standing. But the door suddenly seemed very, very far away.
She slowly made her way towards the door, trying not to knock over anything on her way. The door slowly opened, and Clark walked in.
"Lois," he said, "it's you I want, not Mayson."
"Oh, Clark," she cried, grabbing for him. He clutched her to her, kissing her senseless…
And then disappeared.
Lois collapsed to the floor, sobbing.
Clark listened with his super-hearing as Lois scrambled about the bathroom. When he heard her start to cry, he almost jumped to his feet to go to her. But he wouldn't be welcome, if she'd finally come to her senses. And if she hadn't, it wasn't a very good idea to give her the idea that he wanted to continue where they'd left off.
He rolled over on the couch and shut his eyes. What he wouldn't give to just start this night over again. Lois had been acting very strange all evening. And then, kissing her…
He'd never felt anything that felt so right in his entire life.
It was as if Lois was his soulmate. It wasn't that they were like pieces of a puzzle that fit together. It was just that…the two of them together were somehow more, better, stronger, then they were alone. They were more than the sum of two parts, and that 'more' was absolutely amazing.
Could she feel it? Was that why she'd been willing to kiss him back, willing to keep kissing him? Maybe the wine had only lowered her defenses far enough for her to feel the connection between them, and then feelings had taken over from there?
The bathroom door opened and shut, and he heard things being knocked over and banged into as a tipsy Lois made her way to his bedroom.
At least she hadn't tried to sneak out. He didn't want her hailing a cab in this state. And for some strange reason, there didn't seem to be many cabs on his street this evening.
Clark stretched and rolled over. Losing his balance, he toppled off the couch and hit the coffee table.
"Ow," he said automatically, although, of course, coffee tables don't hurt supermen. It was almost painful being dragged from his dream, though, in which he and Lois had been on their honeymoon in the tropics, and…
This line of thinking was getting him nowhere. Except, possibly, a cold shower. And, Superman or not, he wasn't sure how many more cold showers he could handle this week.
Was Lois still asleep? He hoped she hadn't snuck out during the night, but if he wasn't mistaken, she'd be waking up with a bit of a headache this morning. And Lois wasn't a morning person even at the best of times.
Maybe that was an idea. If he made her coffee and breakfast, perhaps she could be convinced to stay and talk things through. She'd probably have a clearer head this morning (if an aching one). The only question was, would she be angry at him for the liberties he'd taken last night?
That question didn't even merit thought. Of course she would. She was always quick to push him away whenever he tried to get romantically close to her, why should today be any different?
With a bit of superspeed, Clark soon had breakfast cooking on the stove and the coffee-maker brewing. The room was filled with delicious smells. With a small grin, he blew gently in the direction of Lois's room, wondering if smells could be guided. As he gathered plates to set the table, he heard Lois begin to stir.
The sounds that drifted from her bedroom did not seem to be a good sign. Lois seemed intent upon making as much noise and wreaking as much havoc as she possibly could. He could hear drawers pulled open roughly and slammed shut (what was she doing in his dressers anyway?), the bathroom door shut with a bang, small metallic clangs coming from the bathroom and even muttered cursing.
Clark wasn't sure whether to be grateful that Lois was back to her normal, non-drunk and not-overly-amorous state, or to wish for the return of the Lois who'd kissed him back so passionately last night.
Clark checked to make sure that he had low-fat cream and artificial sweetener. Heaven forbid Lois should get a few extra calories from a cup of coffee.
He heard another crash from the bedroom. Wincing, he hoped he'd have a room left after she'd gotten through with taking out her anger on inanimate objects.
Lois kicked the dresser and then immediately clutched at her foot, moaning. She dropped onto the bed.
"Lois, you're such an idiot," she said aloud. "You can't even get angry without hurting yourself."
She knew she should probably just gather her things together and leave as quickly as possible. But something, some eensy-weensy bit of her subconscious, a firing of some recalcitrant synapse somewhere in her brain, was keeping her from storming out and letting the whole episode just come to a miserable close.
Lying back on the bed, she stared at the ceiling and listened to the sounds of Clark preparing breakfast. Delicious smells were beginning to tiptoe into the room, dancing around Lois's nose and trying to tempt her into the kitchen. But she resisted the enticement and flung an arm over her eyes.
Not only was her head pounding almost too much for her to think, but the pounding was a constant reminder of the fool she'd made of herself last night. What had she been doing, hitting on a man who loved somebody else? Chalk another one up to Lois's list of disastrous relationships.
Had she really wanted to be a substitute for Mayson? Had she really been willing to kiss Clark-even make love to Clark-knowing he was in love with another woman? What was wrong with her? Was she that desperate?
Maybe it wasn't her. Yes, that was it. It wasn't her at all. It was the men she'd dated, they were the morons. Why would Clark choose Mayson over her anyway? Just because he liked blondes…
Lois was smarter than Mayson, and not nearly so annoyingly pushy. And more important than that…
She loved him back.
This was stupid. What was she stalling for? She had her stuff all together (even if it was slightly banged up). She should just get out of here. That lovely breakfast would come at a cost. Sitting across the table from Clark, probably "talking about what had happened last night." No, sir, she was not hanging around for that.
She stood up and looked down at his bed. His bed. Tears came to her eyes and she wiped them away impatiently.
"Oh, Clark," she whispered under her breath. "Why can't you see how much I love you?"
Clark dropped the glass he was holding. It seemed to fall in slow motion as he stared in the direction of his bedroom, where he was pretty sure he'd just heard Lois say she loved him.
The glass hit the ground and shattered, the sound breaking Clark out of his trance.
"Clark?" Lois asked cautiously, peering out at him. "What happened? Are you okay?"
He could only gape at her as his mind frantically tried to sort out what she'd said. She loved him…as a brother, was that it? No, she wouldn't say it in that tone of voice if that was what she meant. Besides, he had already known she loved him in that way, it wasn't something she'd fret over.
She…she was joking, then? She knew he was listening, and she'd decided to throw out a little bait to catch him?
But unless she knew he was Superman, there was no way she could think he'd have heard her. She had said it so quietly that a normal human standing next to her would have been hard-put to decipher the words, and he'd been a room (and a partial wall) away. And he was pretty sure she hadn't figured out his secret.
When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.
And the truth must be…that Lois meant what she'd said, and she loved him.
"Clark? Clark, what's wrong?" Lois asked, looking anxious.
Clark realized that he'd been staring at her, mouth open and not blinking, the entire time he was working through this. He snapped his jaw shut and blinked. "Uh…"
What to do now? He could tell her that he'd overheard her words and that he returned her love. But then he'd have to explain how he could have heard her. Since he shouldn't have been able to hear her, she could easily deny she said it. Unless, of course, he wanted to reveal his secret identity, which would create a whole new set of problems.
Maybe it was time to take a risk. Somebody had to take the chance, after all. Perhaps it was best to simply tell her the truth about how he felt about her.
"Look, Clark, I'm leaving. I know last night was awkward, and, well, let's just talk about it once we've gotten some distance. Okay?" Lois turned on her heel and headed for the front door.
"Lois, no!" he called. "Please, wait."
She didn't stop.
He jogged up the stairs and grabbed her elbow just before she reached the doorknob.
"Lois, please, you have to listen to me," he said, pulling her back and putting himself between her and the door.
"What?" she asked, putting her hands on her hips just in case he'd missed the fact that she was impatient to leave.
He could hear his heart speed up. This was it. Now or never. If he could just get his jaw and brain to work in unison…
"Lois, I love you."
Lois's heart did several quite dizzying flips at his words, but then cold reality sunk in, as it tends to do.
"You don't love me," she said flatly. "You love Mayson. I'm just a substitute."
"No, Lois, that's not true!" he said. Was that fervency in his eyes? No, no, a trick of the light. He didn't know what he was talking about.
"Clark, look, I can't handle this right now," she said, trying to push him out of her way. "It hasn't been the greatest day, and I'm not really in the mood for another pounding from the world of romance."
"Lois, you have to believe me."
"I don't have to believe anyone," she said. "Clark…" How to explain this gently? "Look, there's an entire psychological reason for this. It's called transference. You're in love with Mayson, fine. She rejects you, and then it's Valentine's Day and I come over and spend the day with you. So you transfer those feelings of love to me. It's quite natural, really, but I'm also not going to stand here while you try to convince me you're in love with me when you're not! And I will *not* be second choice."
She realized she was getting a bit high-pitched by the end of that speech, but she was tired of this. Clark couldn't possibly be so oblivious as not to realize what he was doing to her, could he? Of course, all men did tend to be dense.
"Just…let me go." She shot Clark what she hoped was a haughty look and turned to leave. But something caught her eye, and she glanced back.
There…among the pictures. Something funny…
That's what it was. Mayson's picture was missing. There were two pictures of blondes, but one was Clark's mother, the other was Rachel. What had happened to Mayson's picture?
"Clark? What did you do with Mayson's picture?"
"Mayson's picture?" Clark asked, looking completely bewildered. "I've never had a picture of Mayson."
"Of course you did," she said sharply. "You picked it up and were stroking it when Mayson walked out on you last night."
Clark shook his head. "I never had a picture of Mayson. That wasn't Mayson's picture. It was…"
Lois raised her eyebrows.
"It was a picture of you," he said softly.
The room suddenly expanded and tilted crazily. Lois needed to sit down. Unfortunately she forgot about needing furniture and landed on the floor.
"Lois?" Clark grabbed for her, and there was concern, and yes, love, in his eyes.
How could she possibly have been so utterly and completely wrong? She, Lois Lane, investigative reporter? She had seen Mayson storm out and Clark pick up a picture-of course her first thought was that it was connected with Mayson leaving, that the picture was of Mayson. She'd glanced at his collection of pictures before and seen Rachel's blonde hair. Her mind had probably combined that with Mayson storming out and assumed that he had a picture of Mayson.
She moaned and clutched her head in her hands. "Oh, Clark."
"Come on," Clark said, try to tug her to a standing position. "Let's get you a cup of coffee."
A cup of coffee? Who needed coffee at a time like this?
She reached up and grabbed his head, pulling it down to hers. He lost his balance and fell after her, only catching himself from crushing her by bracing both hands on the floor.
With all the bravery she could muster, she kissed him softly on the lips.
Head spinning, Clark pulled away just enough to meet Lois's eyes. "What was that for?" he asked.
She smiled up at him, eyes brimming over. "It's because…Clark, I love you too."
He didn't need to read the love in her eyes or in her voice. At that moment, two souls who had drifted alone for years, unable to completely fit in or feel fulfilled either by work or relationships, had finally united as one. The souls may have reached out and joined for only a moment, but souls mate for life. Once they have chosen their mates, they can never truly be separated again.
With all that soul-bonding going on, neither had noticed that they were sitting on a rather cold hardwood floor. But when they finally separated, Lois began to notice the uncomfortable position she was in, and she let Clark pull her to her feet.
"I made breakfast," Clark said. She'd stay and eat with him now, wouldn't she?
She sniffed the air and frowned. "Is that what that burning smell is?"
Clark gasped and raced for the stove. The one time when he wanted everything to turn out perfectly, and he'd burned the pancakes. What kind of idiot was he?
He turned to meet Lois's smile as she joined him at the stove. An idiot in love, of course. No less, no more. He slid an arm around her back and pulled her to him.
"So," she said slyly, "I guess my ability in the kitchen is rubbing off."
"It had better not. Where will we be if *neither* of us can cook?"
"Well," she said thoughtfully, "you'd resort to Ho-Hos and Ding-Dongs, and of course not gain a pound, while I'd be forced to eat my own blackened messes and probably lose a few pounds. So perhaps it's not a wholly bad idea."
He swatted her with a towel. "I'll make another batch. Let's go eat on the window seat," he suggested.
The early-morning sun was streaming in through the window, and even the poor view didn't detract from the delightful spot. Tiny dust motes reveled in being visible in the sunlight and took the opportunity to show off their dancing ability.
They both took their plates of syrup-covered pancakes and sat down on the window seat. For a moment both ate in silence, nervous about talking now that they'd declared their love.
"These are delicious," Lois said. "I've never had pancakes with blueberries or chocolate chips in them before."
Clark smiled at her. "I made each pancake a different flavor." And saved the best for her.
She eyed his remaining pancake. "And what flavor is that one?"
"Banana. Wanna try a bite?"
She nodded, and he carefully speared a morsel on his fork and held it out.
With utmost delicacy, Lois took the piece into her mouth and swallowed. She closed her eyes for a moment and sighed in ecstasy. "Mmm. Wonderful. You're a great cook. I think I'll keep you around."
He laughed and took a large bite of pancake. The banana tasted all the better for having Lois's approval.
He finished chewing to notice that Lois was looking at him with consternation.
"Here, you have a little bit of syrup," she started to say, grabbing a napkin. But just before she dabbed at his chin, her hand stopped in midair. She paused for a moment, then put the napkin down. With a feather-light touch of her tongue, she licked away the syrup.
Clark drew in a startled breath when he felt her mouth against him. He closed his eyes for a moment and tried to reign in his hormones before they went gleefully into full alert.
When he opened his eyes, Lois was looking away shyly.
"Lois," he whispered, sliding a hand against her cheek and into the soft hair at the side of her head.
She smiled tremulously at him as he lowered his mouth to hers.
Her mouth tasted sweetly of syrup, and he felt heat race through his body as he felt her tongue against hers. Pulling her against him, he stroked his hands down her back and caressed her back through her shirt. She was an amazing kisser, and he couldn't help but wonder what else she was good at. The thought made him groan into her mouth. Every nerve felt on edge, waiting for something…something…
Reluctantly, he pulled away. There would be time for all that later. Right now it was enough to simply enjoy being in love.
And to think he could have lost her so easily, if she hadn't noticed his pictures.
Wait a second.
"Lois, can I ask you something?"
"Hmm?" she asked.
"You said that you saw me look at a picture after Mayson left, a picture you thought was of Mayson. But how did you know that? I mean, you weren't here…"
Lois widened her eyes, looking suddenly flushed. "I-I-"
She grabbed his head in both hands and pulled him back down to her, kissing him deeply. Astounded at her fervor, Clark eagerly kissed her back. As he felt himself falling farther and farther into a maelstrom of swirling emotions and passions, he suddenly remembered that there was something he'd wanted to ask her.
But whatever it was, it was lost forever.
*When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.*
— Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in the Sherlock Holmes book