By Katie Sizer <email@example.com>
Submitted November 2002
Summary: In this adaptation of the episode "That Old Gang of Mine," Lois takes a leap for love — in front of the bullet intended for Clark. The aftermath that follows proves to be a difficult path for both Lois and Clark to follow.
First of all, a huge thank you goes to my wonderful beta- readers for this story, Wendy Richards, Sarah Luddy and LabRat. You guys are all amazing! :) Your help and enthusiastic comments were more helpful than I can say. I remember sending the first six pages or so of this to Wendy, and I dare say that without her input and kind words, this story wouldn't have ever been written further than that!
A special mention also goes to Helene for giving me some very useful information and helping me out of a situation which had me totally stumped! Thank you, H!
And many thanks to all the readers on Zoomway's message boards who posted some lovely feedback throughout the posting of this story!
This story is set during TOGOM. (Yes, another one. <g>) A quick point to note; the Planet celebrations are a couple of days later, just to tie in with everything else.
All feedback is invited and appreciated at firstname.lastname@example.org
"Clark, this place is crawling with gangsters!" Lois exclaimed as Clark returned from talking to Bonnie.
"I know," he replied. "We'd better get out of here and call the police so they can come and arrest them now, before they escape."
"But won't they find it suspicious that we're leaving so soon after we've arrived? What if they try to detain us?" Lois wondered aloud.
"We have to take that chance, Lois," he told her. "If we don't leave with this information, we won't know where they're headed next. Whereas if we go now, the police can come and arrest them here."
"Okay," she said, growing determined. Clark was right; they had to get out with their information now.
As they prepared to leave the illegal gambling club to call the police, the door suddenly burst open, the gangsters and their thugs making their way in. Dillinger fired a shot into the air, getting the attention of everyone in the club. Shocked murmurs filled the air, the sound of frightened people getting louder until a gunshot tore through the air, cutting through the commotion. The crowd instantly silenced and took a respectful step back from Dillinger as he lowered his gun with a smile.
There were a few shocked murmurs here and there, but most people silenced immediately, the gunfire halting them.
"My apologies, ladies and gentlemen, for this little interruption," a distinct voice rang out. It was Capone. "I just came by to announce that Georgie Hairdo has wisely decided to retire from the hospitality business." He paused, taking a drag of his cigar. "So from now on, this club belongs to Al Capone."
Lois held her breath — the intrusion by Al Capone and his gangsters was certainly unexpected. He was becoming more and more difficult to control. She and Clark had to get these people inside a cell before they did any more damage, much as the thought worried her. It was obvious they weren't averse to using their weapons. She eyed the gangsters and suddenly saw Dillinger staring intently at her. He inched ever so slightly closer, a leering look appearing on his face.
"Hey Al, how about we name this little cutie our new head hostess?" he suggested, smirking. "You know, I always was partial to a lady in red." He moved his hand up to her face and ran it down her cheek.
As Lois began to turn her head away, she saw Clark's own hand come up to push Dillinger's away from her face. She sighed with relief — being groped by Dillinger was something she certainly didn't want. Repulse grew at the thought of him touching her and she gave an involuntary shudder. She could tell that Dillinger was enjoying himself in making her uncomfortable.
"Leave her alone," she heard him say. She knew he was pushing Dillinger to the edge and hoped he wouldn't try and go any further. It was very sweet of Clark to stick up for her, but what made him think he could win a fight against a group of gangsters armed with several guns?
"Who are you?" he asked Clark, a look on his face that told her he was surprised Clark had even dared to challenge him. "Her big brother?"
Dillinger reached towards her and she shied back slightly, away from his touch. She saw Clark advance towards him and knew he was putting himself in danger too much. Dillinger already seemed to have had enough of Clark and now the look on his face made it plain that he wasn't going to stand for any more. Seeing him continue to move towards Dillinger, she suddenly felt greater fear for him, and shouted out, "Clark, no!"
But it was too late. She saw Clyde reach for his gun, and a million things ran through her mind in mere milliseconds. He was going to kill Clark.
There was no way she could let that happen. Not having any time available to think, even breathe, she threw herself in front of Clark, just as a single gunshot rang out.
An acute pain instantly ran through her, but she knew Clark was okay. If she could just make it through the blinding white light that was already starting to overtake her. But it did and she fell backwards to the floor, landing hard. Everything overwhelmed her and the thoughts darted through her head like lightning, barely giving her time to process things.
At this range, there was no way Clyde would have missed getting a fatal shot in. Without acting, he would have died and all because he'd been trying to protect her. And she'd have been forced to watch him being dragged away, knowing she'd killed him. Her best friend. The person she… the person she loved.
The person she loved.
With that final thought, her body became no longer able to fight off unconsciousness and her eyes slowly flickered shut, the world around her becoming a blur of sound.
The shot blasted and Clark watched Lois fall to the floor, seemingly in slow motion. At first she seemed okay; her eyes slowly moved around, trance-like. But as the reaction obviously set in, her eyes closed and her body fell limp, a small moan emitting from her. She lay still, and although he could see that she was breathing, it was very weak. What had he done to her? Why had he let her dash in front of him? And most of all, more important than anything, he hadn't been able to save her. Fear for her life had him frozen to the spot. Fear that might have actually killed his best friend.
The scene replayed itself through his head without warning and he found himself unable to shake the thoughts away, forced to watch the movie of Lois being shot, each time with new feelings arousing. He tried to focus but found himself unable to remove the scene…
As Dillinger still continued to harass Lois, despite his warning, Clark knew he had to protect Lois from that… from that animal. As he moved towards Dillinger, he saw Clyde in the background, his gun at the ready and wondered what he'd do if he were shot. Would he be able to cover it over and say he missed? But at such close range, there was no way it'd be a plausible story. But that didn't matter. Dillinger had upset Lois and obviously thought he could do it as much as he wanted while still getting away with it.
But suddenly, the flash of Lois rushing in front of him interrupted all his conscious thought. What on earth was she doing? She was going to get shot!
He didn't have time to think as he saw Clyde's finger go for the trigger. It had all happened in a millisecond — Lois had rushed out from behind him in almost the same instant as Clyde pulled the trigger. He had to get Lois away from there, but suddenly he felt fear for her paralyse him. As much as he told his limbs to move, to use his super strength to push Lois away, he couldn't manage it. His eyes fixed on Clyde's fingers, which were held tightly in place on the trigger.
He saw the first sight of blood appear on Lois and wanted to tear himself apart for having been frozen on the spot. For still being frozen on the spot… even now she was lying on the floor and he was standing beside her, helpless. Something told him that he should drop down beside her, cradle her, but his legs were still paralysed, unable to believe what had just happened.
"You moron! What did you do that for?" Capone questioned, shaking his head. "Let's get out of here. And take the stiff. I can't afford to be linked to a murder."
"No!" Clark yelled, finally falling to the floor over Lois's body as a desperate attempt to protect her.
The thugs that had already begun to gather around Lois's still body pushed Clark away with no hesitation and proceeded to drag her across the floor and out of the club as if she were a rag doll.
He heard the voices of the gangsters all around him but they only got back to him as muffled, insignificant sounds. He only came out of his trance when he saw the thugs begin to move with Lois, pulling her roughly over the hard floor, not caring if they knocked her against something.
As he watched them drag he away, he instantly jumped to his feet. He had to get out of there and follow her. What if they dumped her body somewhere and he didn't find her in time to get her to a hospital? What if… what if she ended up lying alone in the cold and darkness, desperately hoping for help that never came? He couldn't let that happen to her!
He rushed to the door of the club, but was held back by the gangsters. One of their faces stood out to him — Dillinger. A smug grin was plastered on his face; he obviously had no remorse for what had happened to Lois. But why would he? He was a murderer; nothing mattered to him, least of all the fact that Clyde had just shot Lois because of him.
Clark met Dillinger's stare, resisting the urge to say something to him. He was desperate to get out of the club and follow the car that Lois was in.
"Excuse me," he said calmly.
They let him pass, obviously seeing no need to hold him there further. He rushed past them and out into the night, tears running freely down his face as he realised the car had already set off.
Once outside, Clark stumbled round the corner, making sure he wasn't in view of anybody else. However, they were all inside anyway, so he was safe. Quickly, he spun into his suit and flew off into the night air.
He quickly tuned his enhanced vision to look for the distinctive car of the gangsters, but when he didn't immediately find anything, his mind began to wander again to the scene in the club. Why hadn't he saved her? He had the strength, the power, and the speed to have reached that bullet before it hit her, even if it did mean everyone finding out he was Superman. That was nowhere near as important as Lois's life. But no. He'd stood still and watched and the gun was fired. He should have made himself move, instead of standing there like a deer in headlights.
He had to find Lois. She'd still been breathing when she was dragged out of the club. At least there was the chance that she wasn't dead! He found new hope; if he could find her, there was every chance she would be okay. But… what happened if the thugs had noticed she was still breathing? Or that the shot wasn't in a fatal place? They'd surely finish the job Dillinger started! It was imperative that he find her as soon as possible.
He shuddered as the thought of a life without Lois flashed before him. And to make the hell it would be worse, he'd forever have to live with the guilt of knowing he should have saved her. Heck, she shouldn't have even been shot in the first place! The bullet had been meant for him. She'd dived in front of him and taken his bullet, regardless of her own life. And if the bullet hadn't killed her, then there was no reason why they wouldn't kill her before they dumped her body.
All his fault. The words continued to run through his head with new fervour. He tried to tell himself, thoughts formed from desperation, that she would be okay. Surely he'd find her and be able to revive her! But the voice at the back of his head remained, questioning what would happen if he couldn't find her, or he got there too late. What if she lay bleeding to death in some dirty alleyway?
He couldn't possibly allow that to happen to her. He loved her so much he ached inside just looking at her, and now that he didn't know where she was or even if she was still alive, the ache turned into a blinding pain. The thought that he might never see Lois again, never laugh, argue with or comfort her again felt worse than if he had been exposed to Kryptonite. How could he possibly live the rest of his life knowing that he'd killed the woman he loved? True, he hadn't been the one with the gun, but she'd done everything for him. She'd only dived in front of him to protect him and he hadn't saved her. He hadn't used his super speed to stop her from receiving the bullet from Clyde Barrow's gun.
Lois. For all he knew, Lois's life could already be over. He cursed himself for being so selfish and thinking how it would affect him. How he would feel for the rest of his life, what he would do. What about her life?
The flight continued and he continued to use his x-ray vision to survey the area for her. It was strange, he found, that he could still be thinking about Lois constantly and concentrate on the search. As he approached the harbour, an area that would make a very good dumping ground, he flew lower down, trying to find either the car or the car tracks, but to no avail. He could only assume that she hadn't been dumped yet.
He looked down on the city, the city in which he made rescues every day, a city filled with people that called him 'Superman'. But he knew he was no Superman. How could he be when he'd allowed his best friend and the woman that he loved to be shot? He saved total strangers every day, and yet he'd possibly let Lois be killed.
Tears sprang to his eyes and he blinked them back, telling himself strongly that he was assuming the worst. It was hard to be positive, though, when he didn't know what had happened to Lois. He thought back to the club, the scene replaying of its own accord in his head. Lois had still been alive, he'd been able to tell that much. But as he'd thought before, if he could see it, then the gangsters must have been able to see that too. Her breathing had seemed very weak, though. He couldn't tell whether that was a bad thing or a blessing. If it was so weak, then they might not even notice it. On the other hand, was she going to continue breathing on her own? She was wounded, after all.
A sight caught his eye, interrupting his thoughts. It was the car, driving out of an alleyway. Zooming in further on it, he caught a glimpse of the back door shutting — so they'd already thrown her out, as if she were some sort of garbage. He found himself disgusted at the thought.
Something suddenly sprang to mind: Should he go to her as Clark or as Superman? He desperately wanted to fly down as Clark. She didn't treat him the same as she treated Superman. Clark was her friend. Superman was just someone she had a crush on. But, when he was truthful with himself, he knew that he had to go down there as Superman. She desperately needed medical attention. Clark would have to catch up with her later.
He knew she'd fallen into unconsciousness in the club, but if she'd been shaken out of it when she was thrown out of the car, would she be conscious now? Wouldn't she wonder just why Superman was there? She hadn't cried out or anything when she'd been shot; she'd simply fell to the floor. So if she was aware of her surroundings, surely she would wonder why Superman was there instead of Clark. Of course, Clark could have called for Superman. That was a perfectly logical explanation.
So should he go to her as Clark? It was what he wanted to do. Of course, there was that problem of her needing instant medical attention. That was more important. But that aside, he was sure she'd be happier to see him than Superman. She'd dived in front of him to save his life. Providing she was even conscious when he got to her, she'd surely have her mind put more at ease to see Clark.
And, of course, even if he did see her as Superman, he wouldn't be able to whisk her off to the hospital. From all his experience, he knew which gunshot wounds were more potentially dangerous. In the club, he'd noticed that she had a shoulder injury, which if handled incorrectly could result in permanent nerve damage. Flying her to the hospital would be out of the question, he suspected.
His mind made up, he landed behind a dumpster in the alley where Lois's body had to be. He quickly spun back into his Clark clothes and came from behind the dumpster. She came into his view instantly, her bright red dress making her stand out in the dark night. Running up to her, his eyes widened as he caught his first proper glimpse of her since the club.
Quickly, he bent down to have a closer look at her. She looked terrible. A lump arose in his throat as he saw what had happened to her because of him. There was blood surrounding the bullet hole, which marked her delicate shoulder. Relief briefly washing away the pain of seeing her like this; at least it didn't seem to have been a fatal shot. But this light was quickly wiped out as he continued to stand staring at her, fixated. Her forehead had a gash on it, which had started to bleed. Obviously, the gangsters and thugs hadn't taken any care when they'd thrown her out of the car.
She looked so fragile and helpless. He grabbed hold of her wrist with shaking hands and started to check her pulse almost without thinking. When he found he has shaking too much to tell, only then did he remember about his Super hearing. He again sighed with relief when he found she had a pulse and he felt overjoyed when he realised it was a strong one.
She wasn't dead! As much as he'd tried to tell himself that'd she'd be fine, the longer he'd been flying, the more that voice in the back of his mind pushed forward and tried to convince him she was dead. The thought of her dying, alone and in pain, and because was him was too much to bear. But she was okay! Unconscious, but at least she had a strong pulse.
However, he noticed she was losing a lot of blood. He knew that if she lost any more, it would start to be dangerous. Could he risk administering some of his heat vision to seal up the wound? Oh, he knew she'd be safe — well, he presumed she would — but what if she awoke and saw him? He instantly knew the answer to that. It didn't matter whether she saw him or not; all that mattered was that she was okay. She'd almost lost her life to him once already tonight; he sure couldn't ever chance that again.
But no. She was unconscious and needed experts to take a look at her. There was no way he could administer the proper medical attention she needed — he had to take her to the ER. Besides that, there was no way he could treat her in a dark, dirty alley. Shoulder injuries were very delicate, he knew, and not only would he be taking a risk on her having serious nerve damage by doing anything to it, but he would also be arousing suspicions. The staff at ER would wonder just how he'd managed to not only remove the bullet from her shoulder, but also heal up the wound.
She needed to be taken out of that alley. It was the perfect breeding place for rats and other vermin and Lois was on the ground, exposed to all the filth and grime. He wondered how to get her to the hospital. He would have to send for an ambulance. He couldn't carry her there — it was too far. And far too dangerous, too. There was no way he could risk doing any further damage to her shoulder. As far as he could tell from his x-ray vision, it was only tissue damage, but he wasn't an expert.
He pulled his cell phone out of his jacket pocket and phoned 911. Quickly reeling the details off to them, he took Lois's good hand and held it gently, rubbing his thumb along the back of it. The operator informed him the ambulance wouldn't be long and he sighed with relief, wanting to get Lois looked at by a doctor as quickly as possible. He couldn't lose her. She meant the world to him.
He knew the police would also be accompanying the ambulance — after all, it was a shooting. They'd require statements from both of them, but he hoped they could wait for a while. He had to go with Lois in the ambulance, he knew that. Surely it would help her to see a familiar face when she came around. And they'd have to wait for Lois's statement, anyway. If they put her on pain relief for her shoulder, then she could become tired and confused about what had happened.
Placing his cell phone back in his pocket, he turned his gaze back to Lois and silently held his head in his hand, losing control of his tears as he thought over what had happened.
Lois felt herself regain consciousness, and with it came pain. Pain that shot through her body in an agonizing streak. What had happened? The last thing she remembered was being in the illegal gambling club and Al Capone and his gangsters barging in. And now she was… where was she? She tried to look at her surroundings from the corner of her eye, but failed. A wave of pain rushed through her head and she closed her eyes again, willing it to go away.
She became aware that she wasn't moving. She knew she was lying still and felt hard ground beneath her. But she wasn't aware of anything else around her. What was happening? Was she… was she dead? But that made no sense. She wondered why she was laid in some hard place, pain coursing through her. Was this the morgue? She couldn't tell. Was she alone or with somebody else? She couldn't hear anybody, but sensed a presence near her. A strong one… like a soulmate.
Trying to ignore the throbbing in her head, she opened one eye a fraction of the way and tried to see if anybody was near her. There was. She saw a figure crouched down besides her, staring intently at her. But who was that?
Tilting her head ever so slightly, her eyes flew open regardless of the pain it caused when she saw just who was sitting next to her, holding her hand. "Clark!" she exclaimed, her voice sounding groggy and only semi- coherent, even to her own ears.
The worried look in his eyes disappeared and she saw a look of relief wash over his face. "Lois! You're okay!"
She felt numbness in her arm and tried to move it into a more comfortable position but was only rewarded with pain. What was wrong? She knew she must have been shot. "What happened?" she asked him, starting to feel weak again.
Clark sighed — what could he tell her? That she'd been shot because of him? Of course, if would come back to her in the end, so he might as well just get it over with. But was now the best of times? No. It would upset or worry her, and she didn't need that right now.
But he'd nearly got her killed! Of course, she couldn't have known that he wouldn't have been harmed by the bullet, but still. Maybe she wouldn't be angry? It was something to hope for. She'd risked her own life to save him. To her, her attempt to save would look like it had worked. He was still alive and unharmed! He knew that he'd eventually have to tell her he was okay because he was Superman; it would be unfair to hide that from her. She'd almost given up her own life for him!
There was no need to do it now, though. She was obviously in a lot of pain; he saw her keep wincing. Even though she seemed to be trying to hide her pain from him, he still noticed it. He glanced down at her to look at her injury. It was still bleeding, although the rate of the blood loss was starting to slow, as far as he could tell. But finally realising that he needed to stop the blood flow, he ripped a piece of his shirt off and held it against her wound, hoping that she hadn't already lost too much blood.
He felt another wave of guilt rush over him as he thought of the pain she must be in. He hadn't experienced pain very many times before, but when he had, it was a horrible experience. But the pain had gone away fairly quickly, as soon as he'd gotten over the exposure of kryptonite. Lois would be in pain for weeks. And all because she'd tried to save his life, which wasn't even necessary. The only good thing that had come from that was it was now obvious that he cared for him an awful lot. Oh, he'd known that he meant something to her, but he never knew how much. She was willing to die for him. That was exactly how he felt about her.
The only difference was that he loved her. He felt his eyes begin to well with tears that he tried to hold back as he realised that while she cared, it was only as a friend. They were best friends, nothing more.
Lois was puzzled by Clark's silence. What was so bad? The events of the evening were a daze in her head, but she couldn't recall anything that would make him fall into silence. She turned to ask him again what had happened and was shocked when she saw tears in his eyes. Why was he upset?
"Clark? What's wrong? What happened?" she asked, ignoring the stabbing pain it caused her to turn and look at him.
"Huh?" he asked, surprised at being suddenly jolted out of his thought before remembering Lois was waiting for an answer. "You were shot, Lois," he told her. "In your shoulder."
"How?" she asked. She already knew she'd been shot. But why had they shot her? She remembered seeing Clyde pull the trigger…
"It was Clyde Barrow. The bullet… the bullet was meant for me, Lois. You intercepted it," he informed her, not looking her directly in the eye as he said it.
She remembered. Dillinger had been upsetting her with his leering looks, running his hands along her face and saying things to her that she wasn't happy about. Clark had stopped him and had begun to advance towards him. She recalled the fear she felt as she saw Clyde ready his gun. Clark had gone too far in protecting her and they'd had enough of him. Thoughts of losing her best friend had rushed through he mind, and in a split second she'd been in front of him, taking the shot.
Grateful she had survived, she felt pure relief that her interception had stopped Clark from being killed. The bullet had only caught her in the shoulder and wasn't fatal, but then she was much smaller than Clark. If she hadn't done anything, then it might have… It didn't bear thinking about. The fact that that *monster* had nearly killed him was too hard for her to take. Instead of being in his arms now, she might have been weeping over his lifeless body.
A cry escaped her before she could stop it. She saw Clark look down at her, concern written all over his face. "I'm… I'm okay. I just remember now, that's all."
"Why did you do it, Lois? You could have been killed!" he exclaimed.
"I know," she said quietly. "Can we talk about it later, though, Clark? I don't feel so good right now."
"Of course, Lois," he told her. "An ambulance will be here for you soon, anyway."
They drifted off into silence while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. Clark held her hand a little more firmly and she gripped his too, smiling slightly at him through her pain. He tenderly played with her fingers, thinking how lucky he was just to be able to do that. She was alive! He felt extreme guilt for having not saved her, but at least she was still with him.
He saw tears fall from the corner of her eyes and he squeezed her hand again. "Lois? What's the matter?"
"Clark," she began quietly, "I don't wanna die."
"Oh, Lois, you're not going to die. Trust me, you're not going to die," he reassured her, wishing he could take her into his arms and properly reassure her.
Lois just nodded and held his hand tighter. When he saw her shiver slightly, he wished the ambulance would speed up. They'd been quite a while already and Lois desperately needed to go to ER.
"When is help coming?" Lois asked him, her voice no more than a whisper.
"Soon, Lois," he whispered back, looking into her eyes. "Soon."
They were only waiting for a few more minutes before the screeching of sirens and flashing of blue lights came, indicted the arrival, at least, of help. The paramedics were very efficient, quickly loading Lois onto a stretcher and putting her into the back of the ambulance. He noted that she kept her eyes on him all the time and had been reluctant to let go of his hand when they placed her on the stretcher. He wanted to quickly join her in the ambulance so she wasn't alone, but knew he had to talk to one of the police officers on the scene first.
Seeing one approach him, he gave Lois a quick, reassuring glance, which told her he would get to her as soon as possible. It was probably best he wasn't in the ambulance, though, as the paramedics were started to do their work on Lois.
"Henderson! What are you doing here?" Clark asked, surprised to see him there.
"I'm a cop, Clark, this is my job," he answered in his usual deadpan tone.
"Yes, I know. I just didn't think you handled these type of cases," he replied.
"Usually, I don't. But given that this is related to the murder of Georgie Hairdo and took place in his club, I might gain some new information related to that case by coming here," he told Clark.
"Ah, I see," Clark responded. "Can I give my statement after I've been to the hospital, though? I would like to go with Lois, make sure she's okay."
"That's fine," he told him. "Just make sure you come down to the station as soon as possible. We're going to need to take statements from both you and Lois. Attempted murder is a very serious crime."
"I know. I'll make sure I get down to the station as soon as possible, and Lois too."
"Clark," Henderson began, his voice softer. "How is she? Still in shock?"
"She's very shaken up by the whole thing. And yes, she seems to be in shock — she's been very quiet so far. As for her injuries, I'm not sure what to say, but the blood loss wasn't too bad. But she'll be okay, I know it." Clark purposely gave away little information about her injury. Henderson didn't know that Clark had a lot of experience with gunshot victims, and telling him anything in detail might arouse suspicions.
"Good," he said, before going back to the police car to gather together his files. "But how can you be so sure at this stage that she'd okay?"
"Because she *has* to be. She has to be okay. I know she'll be fine," he insisted, with conviction in his voice.
Henderson just nodded in response.
Clark smiled at him and headed back to the waiting ambulance. Quickly jumping in the back, he saw Lois give him a small smile. He sat down next to her and again took hold of her hand, squeezing it gently. He noticed they'd put a cotton pad on her shoulder — obviously a temporary measure to stop the bleeding. The graze on her head seemed to have stopped bleeding on its own.
Lois closed her eyes for a few seconds. She had to be so tired! It had been an exhausting evening for the both of them, but especially for her. Of course, the day wasn't over yet. After he'd accompanied Lois to ER, he had to give his statement to Henderson. It was something he wasn't looking forward to. It wasn't that he didn't want to give a statement; it was just that he was very tired. And besides, he didn't want to leave Lois on her own just yet.
Seeing Lois beginning to fall asleep, he decided against saying anything else to her and instead turned his attention to the paramedic in the back of the ambulance with them. "How's she doing? Is there any chance of her having a concussion?" he asked quietly.
"She's stable at the moment," the woman told him with a half smile. "Her pulse rate is only above average. We can't tell you anything about the wound until she'd been properly examined by a doctor, though. As for a concussion, there is a small chance. It's best if she stays awake until we get her to the hospital. Of course, she'll be in pain for quite a few days, but morphine should help with that."
"At least she's stable," Clark said in response. "But she's going to be okay, right?"
"It's a little early at this stage to be saying, but I'm sure she'll be fine," the woman replied.
"Okay," Clark said softly.
He continued to watch Lois, still keeping his grip on her hand. He felt so incredibly guilty and nothing could take that away. Even though in his heart he was sure that Lois was going to be okay, he still felt guilty over letting it happen to her. Like the paramedic had said, she'd be in pain. He never wanted to cause her any pain, neither mentally nor physically. And yet he'd done both. No doubt she would have nightmares about being shot. It wasn't something she was just likely to brush off.
And she'd be scarred forever. A constant reminder of what he'd let happen to her. He knew that if he told her about his guilt before he told her his secret, she wouldn't understand how he felt. They couldn't discuss this properly without him telling her. It seemed that they had an awful lot to talk about.
Right now, he resolved to just keep watch over her as they journeyed to the hospital. She didn't look to be totally asleep, which he was thankful for. He started to squeeze her hand just enough to stop her from drifting into sleep. It upset him to be the one keeping her from sleeping when she was obviously so tired, but he'd been told to keep her awake. Her eyes fluttered open and she began to look at him without uttering a word, but a tiny smile appeared on her face at seeing him. He smiled back at her, grasping her hand tighter and thinking how she wouldn't feel like that if she knew it was really his fault she'd been shot.
The rest of the journey to the hospital was undertaken in silence. On the way, Clark had been keeping a careful eye on Lois. The paramedics, plural, couldn't see things like he, Clark, could. To them, Lois was just another person, another injured being to take to hospital. But he knew her better than that. From moments he'd shared with her over the past year and a half, he knew from her facial expressions, even the tiniest ones, whether she was in pain, scared, or felt discomfort.
During the journey, she seemed to be fine, apart from the occasionally discreet wince of pain. He couldn't see her wound with his normal vision, but x-raying under the cotton pad, he could see the swelling was starting to happen. He wished that he had some way of taking away her pain, or at least easing it, but there was nothing he could do. Nothing to ease her pain, or the pain he had inside on knowing this was all because of him.
The rest of the journey to ER passed relatively quickly. As soon as they arrived, Lois was quickly hurried into the ER on the stretcher. She had obviously been woke up by the moving around and, before she was taken totally out of his sight, she gave him a look that told him she didn't want to be away from him. It tore his heart to see her being carried into the hospital on her own, looking back at him the whole time.
He quickly dashed after her, knowing that he'd have to stay in the waiting room while she was examined. But he still couldn't allow himself to hang around too long outside — he needed to see where they took Lois. And she also needed to see that he would be sitting there waiting for her to come back out. If she didn't see him there, she might assume that he wasn't going to stay and make sure she was going to be okay. Of course, he hoped she wouldn't think that but there was always the chance.
Taking one last look at Lois as she was wheeled round a corner, he sighed, wishing that she didn't have to be alone. He quickly gave details to the receptionist, and after she told him they'd let him know when the examination and the operation to remove the bullet was over, he moved over to one of the hard, plastic seats and sat down slowly. It was hard to believe that he was sitting there waiting for Lois. He never thought she'd end up at the ER when he was around. He always thought she'd be safe, that he'd save her from whatever danger she was in by using his powers.
He had to be grateful that she was alive, though. At least he'd see her again every day, and things could go back to normal. Until she found out that he could have protected her and didn't, of course. What if she never wanted to speak to him again? What if it became so unbearable being forced not to speak to her that he had to quit his job at the Planet to get away from the tension? He hoped it wouldn't come to that. There had to be some way to convince Lois that his not protecting her wasn't so bad. If she next spoke to him again… He shuddered.
But how could he? He knew all the arguments she would use against him because he was using them against himself. He should have saved her with his super powers. Although maybe she would understand him freezing on the spot, though. He knew she'd be extremely hurt, though. And he should have told her long ago about him being Superman. If she'd have known, she never would have dived in front of him, because she would have known he'd be safe! There was no reason for him to have kept his secret to himself any longer — after all, they were best friends. He trusted her and yet he hadn't told her his biggest secret. If he hadn't valued his secret so dearly, than he wouldn't have risked her life. She wouldn't be lying in an operating room now, fighting for her life.
His mind again wandered back to what he would have done if she'd been killed. It was impossible to imagine it, working on his own at the Planet, nobody to bounce ideas off. Sitting alone watching movies instead of having her beside him, talking and laughing with him. And no hope of ever being anything more to her. At least he still had that chance of her falling in love with him, even though it had been severely decreased by tonight's events. If she was… if she was dead, then he knew he'd be lonely forever. How could he ever fall in love with anyone else after her? He didn't know what he would have done had she died.
In the back of his mind, he did. Life would have been too unbearable without Lois. He'd have existed for a while, but only as a shell. The numbness inside that would have been created by Lois's death would have been too much to cope with. So while everyone else would be getting on with their lives, he wouldn't have. He knew that if he'd lost Lois, he'd have got the biggest lump of Kryptonite he could find and killed himself too. It would be easier than spending the rest of his life knowing that not only had the woman he loved died, but he'd been responsible.
After thinking that idea, though, he dismissed it. Much as it would hurt him to carry on existing, he knew that the world needed Superman. It was selfish of him to consider ending his own life just because he couldn't bear it any more — there were all the other people to think about. Millions of people relied and depended on Superman and he couldn't have let them down, no matter how much he was hurting.
So what would he have done? He couldn't go on existing, trying to put on a brave face for people but really be torn up inside. He could have given up his life as Clark Kent. He wouldn't have to get close to anyone that way and reveal his feelings. He could have been Superman full time, dedicating all his time to saving as many people as possible and making up for that one person, one of the most important people in the world to him, die.
He shuddered. Why was he even thinking about it? Lois was alive! It was stupid to think such maudlin thoughts when he knew that Lois hadn't died. He'd travelled with her to the hospital and held her hand. He'd seen her wistfully watching him as the ER crew took her away. He had to remain strong for her and help her when they'd finished doing whatever they were doing to her.
Sitting back, he picked up one of the old magazines and began to flick lazily through it, trying to clear his head. He kept one eye fixated on the corner that Lois had been taken round, praying that it wouldn't take much longer.
Lois awoke to find herself in an unfamiliar surrounding. She was in a sterile-looking room, alone. It didn't take long to figure out where she was — a private room in a hospital. The day's events came back to her in a way similar to how she'd remembered everything earlier, when lying in the alley with Clark. Only now it was much later, and from the looks of it, she'd already been given treatment on the shot wound.
Sun was streaming through the window and Lois deduced that it must be early in the morning. She listened for sounds but found she could only hear the gentle footsteps of people walking around outside. Her eyes wandered to the chair at the side of the bed, looking for Clark, but found it empty. The door clicked open softly and a nurse entered the room, smiling.
"Ms…" the nurse looked at Lois's bed, "Lane, we just need to examine you and see if you're fit to go back home. We really only kept you in overnight to make sure you're okay. However, we normally keep gunshot victims in a little longer, so you'll have to wait to see what the doctor thinks."
Lois looked at her shoulder. It was covered by an unfamiliar gown — obviously one of the hospital's — and had a cotton pad over it. "Did you get the bullet out okay?" she asked, not really remembering much after she last saw Clark.
"Yes. It was close to the surface so we were able to remove it with surgical forceps. You were lucky, Ms Lane — any deeper and you could have been facing some nerve damage. As it is, you're fine," the nurse replied.
"Great," she replied, smiling slightly. "Where… where is Clark?"
"Clark?" the nurse enquired.
"Oh — Mr. Kent. He was in the waiting room for me when I was admitted," she told the nurse.
"Yes, I know the one. He's been enquiring after you all night, Ms. Lane, but we couldn't let him in whilst you were sleeping. He was told it would be best for him to go home and get some rest, but he spent the whole night here."
Lois smiled. That was so typical of Clark. In her head, she hoped that he would stay and wait for her so he could take her home but she hadn't said anything like that to him. She knew that he needed to get some proper sleep and it would have been selfish of her to ask him to sleep in an ER waiting room. But she hoped…
She wanted to see him. She'd so nearly lost him last night and hadn't seen him since she'd be wheeled away from him, her gaze locking with his. "Would you mind if he came in to see me?" she asked the nurse.
"Not at all. We need to examine you first, though," she reminded Lois.
"Okay," Lois replied, a little disappointed that she would have to wait a while.
The afternoon rolled on and Lois continued to lie in the hospital bed, wondering why Clark still hadn't been allowed in to see her. It had been a while since she'd been examined by the doctor, who'd told her she might be able to leave that evening. She'd been disappointed she couldn't leave that morning, but knew it was for the best.
Earlier she'd been informed that a couple of police officers would drop by to take her statement sometime in the afternoon. She wished that Clark could sit in with her, but as far as she knew, he was still in the waiting room. Her heart ached for him — he was so sweet to wait for her for this length of time, no doubt keeping himself awake to see if any more news on her became available.
The nurse who'd talked to her that morning had told her Clark would be allowed to see her but nothing so far. However, she had received one of her business suits for when she was ready to be discharged. Obviously, Clark had been back to her apartment at some stage of the day to gather the outfit for her. She was grateful; after all, the only other clothing she had at the moment was the red dress. Presently she was wearing a hospital gown, but knew she needed something to change into for when she was ready to leave.
Suddenly, a knock on the door interrupted her musing and two uniformed police officers walked in. "Ms. Lane," one of them began. "Are you well enough to give your statement now?"
"Sure," she replied, sitting up in bed, holding the sheet over her to cover the thin hospital gown.
They entered the room and proceeded to sit down next to her, opening their files.
Late that afternoon, long after the police officers had left, the doctor and his assistant nurse re-entered the room. Lois cheered up; the hospital felt depressing and she now felt well enough to go home. "Can I go home tonight?" she asked quietly.
"I just need to give your shoulder a final examination and then I'll be able to tell you," he replied.
After Lois had been examined and been deemed fit to go home, she thanked the nurse and prepared to leave the room. She'd already changed into her other clothes that Clark had fetched for her. Much to her chagrin, they'd given her a sling to make sure she didn't move her arm. At the wound, she felt a dull ache, but nothing as bad as the pain she'd felt last night. She'd been prescribed some pain relief to take away the sting of the wound, which luckily seemed to be helping.
"Are you sure I'm ready to leave?" Lois asked the nurse. While she desperately wanted to get out of the hospital, she'd always thought gunshot victims would have spent another night or so in the hospital.
"Don't you feel ready?" the nurse asked politely. "The doctor authorised it so you must be well enough."
"It's not that; I just didn't realise I'd be free to leave the very next day," she said.
"Well, with it only being a surface wound, there isn't much damage." The nurse picked up the doctors file. "He's noted down that the bullet was only small, limiting the damage it would have done anyway. Apparently, it hit your bone, so there'll be a lot of bruising but minimal other damage. So I think it's safe for you to go home."
"Okay. Thank you," Lois replied.
She still hadn't seen Clark yet. Seeing as she didn't need to stay in the hospital any longer, there had been no need for Clark to go to the ward in which she was in — she could just see him as she made her way out. She and Clark needed to talk; she knew that, and the sooner, the better. But as much as she needed to talk to him, she knew that he would be tired and certainly not in the mood. After all, he'd been in the waiting room all night.
Making her way out into the waiting room, she caught her first glimpse of Clark since the night before. He looked so tired and concerned, and a wave of guilt flew through her for making him this worried. If she hadn't had dived in front of him, she wouldn't have been here. But… he would have been instead. Or even worse, he would have been laid out in a morgue somewhere and she'd be telling everyone he'd died because of her. Tears sprang to her eyes and she quickly blinked them back. That didn't happen.
She saw him notice her and watched his face brighten. He stood up from his seat and rushed towards her, smiling.
"Lois!" he exclaimed. "Have they discharged you?"
"Yeah," she replied, smiling. "They put a couple of stitches in the wound and prescribed me some pain relief. It turned out that it was just a surface shot, so I wasn't at any risk. Although I don't remember any of this — I must have been under anesthesia at the time."
"How did it not go further?" Clark asked. "Clyde was pretty close to you."
"The nurse told me that the bullet hit my bone, which left it near the surface," Lois told him.
"Well, you were very lucky it didn't damage any of your bone!" he exclaimed.
"The weapon was old, from the 1940s. I doubt it's as powerful as the guns available today," she said.
"I see. Well, I'm glad that you're going to be okay!" he told her.
"Yeah. I'll be fine. I'll just have a little pain, that's all," she replied, trying to understate the extent of her injury to reassure Clark.
Clark sighed and shook his head. "Why did you do it, Lois? You could have been killed!"
"Clark… we need to talk about this. But you're tired. And I need to sign all the insurance forms before we leave."
"Yes, Lois, we do need to talk about this," he confirmed. "But after we've left here, I need to give my statement down at the precinct, so I'm not going to get any sleep anyway."
"Oh, right. I'd forgotten about that — I thought they'd maybe interview you at the same time they did me. But I really don't want to do this in a public place, Clark, you have to understand that! And regardless of the fact that you wouldn't get any sleep anyway, now just isn't the time to talk about it," she told him, a little too abruptly.
"Okay," he replied quietly.
At his hurt look, she took hold of his arm with her good hand. "I'm sorry, Clark. I didn't mean to sound like that. I guess I'm just irritable because we haven't got more time."
"I know, Lois," he said to her. "The sooner we get your insurance forms signed, the quicker we can get down to the precinct and the quicker we can get to talk."
"Yeah," she replied, smiling slightly. "You might as well sit back down while I'm doing it. Although I doubt it'd be any more comfortable!"
He gave a small laugh and went to take a seat on the plastic chairs. Lois walked slowly over to the reception, wishing that they didn't have to go through all the procedures. She wanted to talk to Clark. Wanted to tell him that she'd done what she had because she was in love with him. It wasn't something that she'd thought about a lot, but she knew that it was right. She was in love with Clark and whether or not he felt the same about her, she wanted him to know that.
About fifteen minutes after she'd told him he might as well sit down to wait for her, he saw her begin to walk back towards him. She was smiling, but he could tell that she had some pain from her injury. She was trying to play it down, but it was obvious to him.
She didn't seem angry with him for what had happened and it surprised him. After all, he'd caused her to be shot — surely she should at least be a little off hand with him right now. Yes, she'd dived in front of him voluntarily, but it was still his fault. Was that why she'd been so desperate to save that conversation until later? So she could get as angry with him as she wanted? With anybody else, that could be true. But then again, this was Lois. Would she really put on an act of niceties just for the sake of being in public? It didn't seem like her.
That was something they would have to deal with later. Right now, he had to give his statement at the precinct.
"Are you coming?" she asked.
"Where?" he asked. "I have to give my statement."
"I know, and I'm coming with you," she informed him.
"Lois! You've just been released form hospital!" he protested. "You should go straight home and get some rest. Now, before it gets dark."
"Clark, I'm going with you. I… I don't want to be without you," she whispered.
His heart tore at her fragile voice. "Okay," he replied. "How shall we get there?"
"A cab sounds good. It's probably too cold to walk and besides, walking would take much longer."
"Yeah," he responded.
"When did you change?" she asked, gesturing to his fresh suit.
"Oh, when I went back to your apartment to get some fresh clothes, I stopped off at mine too," he explained.
"Thank you for getting me the clothes," she thanked. "By the way, how did you manage to get in?"
"Well, they took your important possessions off you before you went in for the operation. I got your key from reception," he told her.
"Ah, I see. Come on, let's go and get a cab to the precinct," she said, taking hold of his arm with her useful arm and pulling him towards the exit.
Hours later they left the precinct, feeling tired. The process of Clark giving his statement had taken much longer than they'd expected, especially as they were talking about supposedly dead gangsters. But eventually he'd been allowed to leave and now there was nothing that neither wanted to do more than rest.
But they both knew that they had to talk. Clark hadn't slept at all since Lois had been brought into the hospital — when she'd been taken away, he'd kept an all night vigil in case there was any news. But there was none and whenever he'd asked a doctor for her status, he'd been told that they'd let him know. But the first he'd known about Lois was when he'd seen her emerge, ready to go home.
Could he really allow himself to wait until tomorrow to have the conversation? The answer was simple. Waiting to find out whether Lois was really angry with him would torture him. But he had to think of Lois. It had been a long day for her, too. Surely she would want to get some more sleep? She must not have had that much when at the hospital.
"Well, I guess we should go home and get some more rest. And call Perry, too. He called my cell phone while we were at the hospital to let us know that he'd heard the news. But he said to call him again later. He's worried about you, Lois."
"Ah, I see. I thought he must have heard the news pretty quickly. That's why calling him totally slipped my mind," she replied.
"Well, he'll understand," Clark said, wondering why Lois hadn't replied to what he'd said about going home. Should he ask her again what she wanted to do?
"Clark…" Lois began and he looked at her, hearing her voice growing serious. "Do you want to come to my apartment? To talk, I mean? We need to discuss what happened."
"Yes, Lois. If you're sure that you're not too tired then I do think that we need to talk," he replied, feeling glad that she did want to talk about things. And she'd invited him around to her apartment. If she was angry with him, then wouldn't she have wanted to go to his place? At least then she had the choice to leave any time she wanted. When she was on her own territory, she couldn't. But… it could work the other way. Maybe she just wanted to be on her own territory. Maybe her inviting him to her's wasn't such a good thing after all.
"Yeah, I'm not that tired. And we need to talk, Clark."
"Okay," he replied. "Let's go."
The drive to Lois's apartment was almost in silence. Clark could tell that Lois *was* tired, no matter what she said. She wasn't making any move to say anything, but then again, she didn't really need to. The silence between them was comfortable. Lois looked like she was lost in thought, probably of what she was going to say to him. He felt the same. How on earth was he going to explain things to her without making her violently upset?
There was no way. When he told her that he was Superman and he could have saved her, she'd be fuming. And there was no doubt about it, he'd have to tell her about himself. How could he let her think that he'd almost died when in actual fact there was no chance that he might have died? It would be cruel.
However… even if the bullet had him, there would have been problems explaining his survival. At point blank range, there was no way he could have walked away from it. So he'd have had to tell her about Superman anyway. There would have been no other way to explain things.
By the time they arrived at Lois's apartment, he noticed that she'd fallen asleep against the Jeep window. He looked at her, wishing that she hadn't had to have gone through any of this. And yet again he told himself that it was all his fault. He hated himself for getting her shot any causing her all this pain. And now he had to wake her up when she was obviously very tired to have this conversation with her, which would upset her even more. Maybe he should wait until tomorrow, let her get some rest.
"Lois?" he asked, shaking the arm that wasn't injured. "Lois, we're at your apartment."
She slowly woke up, yawning. "Oh? Sorry, I didn't mean to fall asleep on you, Clark," she told him, sitting up in her seat and undoing her seatbelt.
"Lois, you know that's fine! You're tired and you're in pain, no matter what you say. Not to mention on strong painkillers. Anyway, I've been thinking… maybe we should just talk tomorrow? I don't think you should go into work at all and I can just go in late. I'm sure Perry won't mind, after everything that has happened."
"No, Clark! Okay, I'm tired and in a little pain, I'll admit that, but nevertheless, we need to have this conversation. I've… I've got some things that I need to say," she told him, letting him know that he wasn't getting out of it.
"Okay," he replied, dreading whatever it was that she needed to say. If she was that desperate to talk to him, then it couldn't be good.
They both got out of the Jeep and headed up the steps to Lois's apartment. Clark tentatively held his arm out and Lois took it, giving him a look that told him she was grateful for the support he offered.
"Thank you, Clark," she told him when they reached the top of the short flight of stairs.
Clark just smiled back in return and let Lois open the door to the apartment building. He entered behind her and they made their way up to Lois's apartment, both trying to prepare themselves for the long conversation to come.
Minutes later, they entered Lois's apartment. "Would you like a drink?" she asked him.
"Sure, Lois. But I'll make it. You go and sit down," he told her. "What would you like?"
Lois thought about protesting and telling him that she would make it, but then concluded he was right. Her shoulder was aching and she really did feel like sitting down. So she decided it was best to let him make it. "Coffee, please," she replied. "Although… you're not supposed to drink caffeine while on painkillers, are you? Better make it decaf," she added grudgingly.
As she made her way over to the sofa, she struggled out of her sling, throwing it on the nearby table. "Lois!" Clark exclaimed. "They gave you that to support your arm!"
"I know, but it's driving me crazy," she replied. As he started to protest further, she gave him a look which told him to back off. "It doesn't feel any worse now than it did when it was up."
Clark walked into her kitchen. She watched him, musing that he'd made coffee for her enough times now that he knew where everything was. He worked quickly and efficiently and only a few minutes later, he walked back into the sitting room and handed Lois's coffee to her before sitting down on her sofa too.
She took a quick sip of it before placing it on the table. "It's good," she told him, trying to delay things. She hoped that he would start their conversation off. She had no idea about how to start things at all. But at the moment, he didn't seem to be in a hurry to start talking and an awkward silence was growing between them.
As if he sensed what she was thinking, he started to talk. "Lois… we need to discuss what happened at the club. I've asked you the question twice already and you haven't yet answered."
"Which question?" Lois said, knowing full well what he meant, but not wanting it to seem like all she'd been doing was thinking about it. Of course, she knew he would have been doing the same, but still.
"Lois," he said sternly.
"Okay. But it's hard for me to talk about, Clark. I know that I need to reveal a lot of my feelings and you know that I'm not that good at doing that. I normally don't let anybody know my feelings. And when it's my best friend I'm talking to, it's even harder. I know that sounds totally stupid but it's true. You'd think it would be easier to talk about my feelings with the person who knows me best but it isn't." She took a deep breath.
"It's okay, I understand, Lois. Just take it easy," he told her in a reassuring tone.
"I… I couldn't let you die, Clark! You were at point blank range. You'd have been killed," she blurted out, trying to blink back the tears. It had been a long time since she'd cried as much as she had in the previous two days.
"You don't know that I would have died, Lois," he told her gently. Lois quickly mused that he had a strange look on his face, but dismissed it and carried on with what she was saying.
"Of course you would have! You know how close Clyde was to you. I had to stop them. I just knew that you'd have no chance if they hit you… so I dived in front of you. I hardly even thought about it; it was just something that came naturally," she told him, noting the surprised look on his face.
"So if you'd have had time to think about it, you wouldn't have done it?" he asked, the disappointment he seem to be desperately trying to hide still evident in his voice.
"Clark, of course I'd still have done it! I couldn't live without you, Clark. You're my best friend. How could I let you die knowing I could have done something about it?" she said quietly, sobbing.
Clark placed his hand over hers, a gesture of comfort and reassurance. "But you could have very easily been killed or seriously injured, Lois! I can't believe that you put yourself at such risk for me. What if you'd been hit lower? Or if the bullet had gone deeper? You could have been facing some serious nerve damage."
"But you're alive, Clark! And none of that happened to me."
"You're still in pain, though," he told her softly.
"It'll go. It's not a permanent thing. And don't you think I'd have been in pain if you'd died, Clark? Don't you think that it would have almost killed me inside to go through all that?" she asked, pulling her hand away from his. "Are you seriously saying that you think that would have been better for me than a little gunshot wound?"
"No, Lois! I—"
Lois cut him off. "Tell me, what is it that makes you think I could have coped with losing you better? Crying over your dead body as they dragged you away from me in the club. Helping your folks arrange your funeral. Living the rest of my life without my best friend. Is that really better for me than a few days of physical pain?"
She felt Clark's arms around her back, trying to calm down her convulsions from her sobbing. She didn't shrug away from him. After her tirade, she'd instantly known that it had been wrong to shout at him in such a manner but it couldn't be taken back. He was obviously concerned about her and the fact that she was injured, but he had to see that was better than the other outcome.
"I'm so sorry, Lois," she heard him whisper. "I didn't mean to upset you like this. I was just thinking of you. It wouldn't have been a picnic for me if you'd died, either."
"I know," she replied, nodding slightly. "But you have to understand that I had to do it. There was no way you would have survived that shot. As it is now, we're both alive. And I'm not seriously injured!"
"It was such a brave thing for you to do, though, Lois. You could have been killed because of me!" he protested.
"Because of you, Clark? How would it have been your fault? You didn't make me intercept that bullet. I made that choice for myself, whether it was a conscious choice or not! But the point is that you didn't choose to have me dive in front of you and you couldn't have stopped me."
Lois noticed Clark's answer of a nod and wondered why he wasn't agreeing with her. He had to understand what she was saying — after all, even he must know that there was no way he could have stopped her from doing it. In the split second between Clyde getting his gun out and her diving in front of Clark, there had been no time to do anything.
But Clark just didn't seem to be getting the point. His face was a picture of remorse. It was obvious that he was blaming himself for her getting shot and there didn't seem to be any way of convincing him otherwise. She studied him for a brief moment. His head was hung low and he was cradling his mug of coffee, which surely must have gone cold. He should be glad that he was alive, but instead just seemed maudlin.
"Aren't you going to drink your coffee?" she asked quietly, realising that he wasn't going to say anything more until she did.
"Oh, right," he said, taking a sip of the coffee and immediately spitting it back in the cup.
"Cold?" she enquired.
"Yeah," he replied, making a face.
"I'll make you another one," she volunteered, sensing that he wanted some time to think about what he might say next. She took the mug out of his hand and stood up from the sofa, walking slowly into the kitchen, sighing quietly.
Clark leaned back against the sofa and ran his hands through his hair. He was digging himself into a deeper and deeper mess. He urgently needed to tell Lois that he could have done something about her getting shot. The longer he let her keep telling him how it wasn't his fault and how it couldn't have done anything, the harder she would take it when he did eventually tell her. He had to try and stop this right now and make her realise just why he was blaming himself so much.
But how could he tell her? It wasn't as if he could announce that he was Superman! She must have noticed that something was wrong, though, especially after her outburst at him. She had a point, of course, but she didn't know why he was torturing himself so much. It was hard to see that he was making her so upset by just trying to reassure her, though, so surely she'd be extremely angry at his revelation.
If only there was a way to turn the clock back and make sure that this had never happened. He knew that eventually he'd have found a way to tell Lois about Superman, in his own time. Now he was being forced to tell her. If he didn't, he'd have to endure the guilt of her thinking that he couldn't have done anything to save her from being injured.
Once again, he felt waves of guilt wash over him for Lois being shot. It was his fault. He'd stood up to the gangsters instead of being meek, even though he knew full well they wouldn't like it. What had he hoped to achieve? On looking back, standing up to Lois just looked like he was trying to play the big, hard man to them. He should have known that, should have thought about it before he stood up to them.
He was almost totally sure that he'd have no chance of having a relationship with Lois after all of this. She'd never be able to trust him again. He'd hoped, wished, that one day she'd begin to have feelings for him and then he could tell her about Superman. Yes, she'd still be hurt, especially if she'd begun to develop feelings for him. But it wouldn't be the same. Now she'd be hurt not only because he'd lied to her, but also because she'd put her life at risk for no reason and he hadn't done anything to save her.
She knew what he was capable of and had a fair idea of the capacity of his powers from her numerous Superman interviews and from when he'd saved her before. She'd realise that he had enough super speed to have saved her from the bullet. Whether or not she took into consideration that that would have revealed him as being Superman, she'd still be hurt that he'd almost let her die.
Lois was a person who was obviously hurt very easily. Maybe… maybe she would think that by not saving her, he didn't care about her! That he cared more about not revealing his super powers than saving her. He involuntarily clenched his fists at the thought.
Seeing her return from the kitchen with a fresh cup of coffee, he sighed and tried to prepare himself for telling her.
"You might want to slow down on this one," she joked with a smile.
As she placed his fresh coffee on the table and started to sit down, he saw her wince in pain and quickly try and hide it from him. "Lois? Is your shoulder hurting?" he asked tentatively.
"It's okay," she told him. "Well, I guess it's hurting a bit, but not too bad."
"You really need to take it easy, Lois. You can't stress those stitches too much," he told her, noticing the slight roll of eyes which was typically Lois.
"I'll be fine, Clark!" she said with fervour in her voice.
"I know what you're like, though, Lois," he reminded her. "You won't take it easy, especially not at work. Which, by the way, I think you need to take a few days off. It's been a pretty big shock to your system and I know you're likely to want to dive right back in, but I don't think you're fit enough."
"I'm not talking any time off work, Clark! It's not as if I have any *serious* injuries. Oh, speaking of work, I'd guess we'd better call Perry."
"Yeah," he replied. "Do you want to call him or should I?"
"I'd better! No doubt you'd try and convince Perry I'm dying!" she replied, a hint of laughter in her voice. The tears that she'd cried earlier seemed to have stopped and she seemed in a much lighter mood. Until he told her, anyway.
He didn't really listen to the phone call between Lois and Perry — not for privacy reasons, but because he was lost in thought. He knew that things would never be the same again. The way Lois had been teasing him just then about the phone call had been amusing, but his heart was sad. He knew that after he'd told her, they'd never be like that again.
After Lois had finished explaining to Perry everything that had happened, she placed the receiver down and turned her attention back to Clark.
"What did he say?" he asked.
"He was really concerned," she answered. "He told me to take some time off if I wanted, but like I told you, I'm fine. Didn't you hear the conversation?"
"No, I was just thinking about some things. I wasn't really listening to what you were saying. I'm sorry," he told her.
"It's fine," she told him, smiling. "What were you thinking about?"
"Well… about us, Lois," he began, taking her hand. Now was the time. He was going to have to tell her. "It's about our relationship and also about what happened at the club."
"I've been thinking similar thoughts, Clark. I want… no, I *need* to talk to you about something. Would it be okay if I went first… again?"
"Lois, I really need to tell you something…"
"I know," she said, cutting him off. "But the last time we had a conversation like this I let you go first and I think I should be the one to talk this time."
"Okay," Clark gave in, wondering why she was so desperate to go first. But she was right — he clearly remembered the conversation they had after Lois's disastrous wedding to Luthor. He'd always wondered what she would have said if he'd let her go first that day, instead of insisting on going first himself. Today he wanted to tell her about him being Superman before he lost his nerve, but he also didn't want to be left wondering what she would have said.
"Thanks," she said, nervousness showing in her voice. "Well, I'm not really sure how to begin. But at the club I realised something. I guess that I've known for a while now. It just took this to make me take notice."
Clark became extremely intrigued by what she was saying. Could she mean…? No. It was impossible. But he couldn't think of anything else she could possibly be talking about. Did she… was she… was it possible? He looked at her tenderly, trying to urge her with his eyes to continue.
"You must be wondering what on earth I'm talking about," she continued with a small, nervous laugh. "I'm not really sure how to tell you. But, that night in the club when I thought about how you might have died and I'd never have seen you again, it terrified me. A life without you flashed before me and I realised how much unbelievable pain it would cause me."
"I'm here, Lois," he reassured her.
"I know. But if you'd died… oh, god, I don't know what I would have done! In that split second the gun was being held on you and ever since then, I've been totally honest with myself about my feelings for you. Seeing you almost shot before my eyes made me realise that… that I love you, Clark."
He saw her choke for breath for a second after her revelation and he squeezed her hand. He barely allowed himself to believe what he'd heard. Lois loved him? It was what he'd hoped and dreamed of ever since he'd joined the Planet. But now that he'd heard her utter the words, it didn't seem real. It felt like a dream. He'd almost closed the door to any hope that Lois would ever feel more for him than friendship.
Still taken aback by her declaration, he didn't know how to respond. He knew that sitting there without saying anything might worry Lois or embarrass her, but words didn't seem to come to him. One of his greatest dreams had finally come true. He felt his spirits rise at this new knowledge.
But his heart sank as he realised that nothing would ever come of it. He still had to tell her that he was Superman, which would cause her to be violently angry with him, no matter how she felt. Maybe telling her would be even worse now, after she'd just declared her feelings for him. He knew that such a thing wasn't easy for Lois.
An idle thought about Superman suddenly entered his head — why hadn't he heard any cries for help since the incident at the club? Could it be possible that he was so attuned to Lois that he could think of nothing else? That night in the ER waiting room, there surely had to be some problems occurring. But he'd been so worried about Lois, constantly thinking of her, that he just hadn't heard anything. That was true of today, too.
"Clark?" she asked quietly. "Did you… did you hear what I said?"
"Oh, yes, Lois! I was listening to you. You telling me that means so much to me. I know how hard it is for you to share your feelings, Lois, and I'm so happy that you've told me this," he told her, ashamed that he'd left her in silence after her obviously difficult confession.
He saw Lois staring down at her hands. "I… I assume that means you don't feel the same way about me, then," she said, her voice low.
"Huh?" Clark asked, taken aback. Why on earth would she think that? Didn't she know that he'd loved her ever since he first set eyes on her at the Planet? "What made you think that, Lois?"
"I don't know," she replied, her eyes still firmly fixed in her lap. "Your silence, I guess. And the way you've told me how happy you are, but you didn't actually tell me that you love me. If you felt the same way, I'm sure you'd have told me that straight away. But it's okay, Clark. I wasn't really expecting anything; I just had to tell you," she finished, turning her head slightly.
Clark assumed that she'd turned her head away from him to hide the tear descending from her eye. She hadn't quite been quick enough and he'd seen it fall. So he'd upset her again. "Lois…" he began, wishing that she would turn her face back to look at him. "When I told you I didn't love you after the Luthor wedding fiasco, I had my fingers crossed."
That worked; he turned her face back to him, a look of surprise on her face. "I have loved you ever since you first flounced into Perry's office that day I had my interview. And ever since then, when I've gotten to know you better, my love for you has grown."
"So, you were lying to me when you said you didn't love me?" she asked quietly, wiping the tears from her face.
"I couldn't tell you otherwise, Lois! You told me you just wanted me as a friend. By telling you I lied about my feelings to stop you from marrying Luthor, it didn't change anything between us. If you knew I was in love with you, then our friendship could have been ruined," he told her, continuing to look her in the eye.
"Yeah, I know," she replied. "But the strange thing is, if you'd let me go first, I would have told you that I might have feelings towards you that were more than friendship. Oh, back then I didn't know that I loved you, but I certainly wanted to give being more than friends a try."
"I wish I'd let you go first," he told her. "I'd almost given up hope on you ever wanting more from me. I'd waited for so long, but it didn't seem likely that anything was ever going to happen between us."
"If only I'd realised my feelings sooner! Or if you'd let me go first. Speaking of which, what did you want to say? I know I kinda insisted on doing so today…"
Clark's need to tell her dissolved. How could he make her so angry with him after she'd revealed her most private feelings to him? Lois had just told him that she loved him; he should be over the moon. He should savor it and make the most of this newfound information and decide how they should proceed with these feelings. Instead he was contemplating ruining it all.
There was no way he could spoil everything so soon after Lois had told him how she felt. If he told her now, she'd hate him, and the hope that had rushed through him when he'd heard what Lois had said would be broken down again, never to come back. But he new he'd have to tell her eventually. What good would putting it off do him? It wouldn't be fair to her to date her, let her build up an exclusive level of trust in him, and then tell her that he was Superman and could have saved her.
And there was, of course, the trust issue. Lois was putting her heart on the line, and he knew how much trust she was putting into him. She'd been hurt so many times before! How could he break her trust so quickly after she'd put it into him? Surely that would put her off him totally.
So what was he going to do? It was a cert that he didn't want to ruin things with Lois so quickly. She'd be so hurt if he told her now. But what could he do? How could he let a relationship with Lois develop if he wasn't being totally honest with her? However, he knew he couldn't tell her now. He'd waited a year and a half for her to tell him that she was in love with him and now she'd finally said it, it would be wasted hope if he made her angry with him the minute after she'd told him.
"It wasn't that important, Lois," he told her.
"It wasn't?" she asked, eyebrows raised. "Clark, the last time you said that, it was obviously important. You just told me that!"
"It was just… I just wanted to say… thank you. For protecting me like that," he told her, improvising.
She smiled back at him. "My pleasure, Clark." She paused. "So… what are we going to do?" she asked rather awkwardly.
"About what?" Clark questioned, momentarily confused.
Lois moved closer to him and his eyes widened as she took both of his hands in her own and looked straight in his eyes. It wasn't like Lois to make such a gesture. "About us. The conversation tonight has gone far better than I hoped it would. I didn't think I'd have the guts to tell you how I felt and hardly dared to think that you'd tell me you were in love with me too."
"I'm surprised it wasn't obvious," he told her with a hint of laughter in his voice.
"Well, I knew that you were attracted to me from the beginning. But after that, it wasn't obvious at all. I ended up assuming that you'd just developed a little crush on me, which had faded. I had no idea it was love, Clark."
Clark took Lois's face in his hands and gazed at her. "I love you, Lois. I always have."
"I love you too, Clark," she told him, and he was surprised at how easily she said it. Lois was such a shy person when it came to her feelings; it was hard to believe she was now admitting them so openly to him in the short sentence that meant so much.
He looked down at her and saw her gazing back at him. After a minute or so, shyness seemed to get the better of her and she looked down. Not wanting to end this intimate exchange, his hand reached down and caught her face, bringing it back up to look into her eyes. Slowly, he moved his head down and touched her lips with his in a soft kiss, conveying emotions to her without words. Almost as soon as he'd started, he moved his lips away from hers and studied her look.
"Wow," she breathed, giggling slightly.
"What's funny?" he asked, still keeping his gaze on her.
"Oh… nothing," she replied, leaning back in his arms. "I was just thinking that this was the kind of thing I always dreamed about. When I was a teenager, anyway. After I got hurt a few times, I thought that this kind of thing was only in movies and that in real life, every man I met would hurt me until tonight." She paused. "Don't hurt me, Clark."
"I don't want to hurt you, Lois. I'd never purposely hurt you," he told her, feeling awful. He knew that as soon as he told her he was Superman, she would be hurt. There was no way to avoid that. But Lois was obviously vulnerable at the moment, so telling her he wouldn't hurt her was probably best. And what he was telling her *was* the truth. He wasn't trying to purposely hurt her.
Lois smiled in response. "I know, Clark. It might take me some time to totally believe that, though. It's nothing against you — after a year and a half, I know how sweet and honest you are about everything. I've just been hurt so much in the past, though…"
"It's okay, Lois," he told her. "I'm not like those other… creeps… you trusted. I love you."
Clark momentarily wondered if Lois was okay with such exchanges. After all, it had only been a few minutes since they'd both established to each other they were in love. They hadn't even arranged doing anything about it yet, although he intended to ask her on a date very soon. Things hadn't been done in the order he'd always planned — he'd expected to go on many dates before telling Lois that he loved her. As it was, they hadn't even been on a first date.
But she seemed comfortable enough at the moment, even after the small kiss he gave her. He looked down at her. She was leaned back into him, her head twisted around so she could see him. He realised that the position couldn't be very comfortable for her, and, keeping his arm around her, he pulled them both up into a sitting position. Lois winced and he winced too, knowing that he'd almost forgotten about her injured shoulder.
"I'm sorry, Lois," he apologised. "I totally forgot about your shoulder."
"It's okay, it really doesn't hurt that much. It was just the sudden movement, that's all," she replied.
Silence descended upon them for a moment and Clark sensed that there was something else on Lois's mind that she was worried about. But knowing Lois, she wasn't likely to bring anything up herself, so it was up to him to try and get her to open up.
"Lois? Is there something else that you want to talk to me about?" he asked quietly, keeping an arm around her shoulder and being careful not to injure her any more than he had already done.
"Not really…" she started, trailing off. "It's just that I'm worried I've hurt you with what I said earlier. I didn't mean to make out like you were like the other guys who hurt me. But you turned pretty quiet after I said that and I don't want to have offended you but it seems like I might have."
"Of course you didn't, Lois! I know that you're still vulnerable from what they did to you and I realise it will take time for you to get over that. But don't worry, you didn't hurt me. It's perfectly understandable that you're scared," he said reassuringly, wishing that he wouldn't have to hurt her, too. Now wasn't the time to suddenly spurt out he'd been keeping a secret from her for a year and a half, though.
"I'm glad, Clark. And I'm sorry that I'm like this. I told myself that I wouldn't get involved with anybody from work ever again. While I know that you're a great person, my head is telling me to be cautious," she told him.
"It's okay, Lois," he replied, smiling at her.
He saw Lois looking up at him and noticed her slightly parted lips. He didn't know whether that was intended as an invitation to kiss her or not, but she looked irresistible. Her eyes were sparkling as she gazed at him and he felt the feelings in his heart swell for her. She parted her lips further and he moved his head down, letting his lips meet with hers in another tender, loving kiss.
A hand moved through his hair and he sighed into Lois's mouth, deepening the kiss from the tender caress it started as, into a much more passionate kiss. The sensation of Lois's mouth on his was heady and he brought both of his arms to go around her waist, holding her gently as they continued to kiss.
Taking care not to go near her shoulder and listening for any sounds of discomfort she might make, he pulled her closer to him so their bodies were pressed against one another's. He felt Lois's embrace on him increase as her tongue probed at his lips and he parted them further, allowing her to make total contact with him.
Clark felt as if he were in heaven. Lois, the woman he was in love with, was in his arms and responding to his kisses with fervour. And she was in love with him. The scene that he'd dreamed about for so long was finally happening. Kissing her felt incredible. They'd shared kisses before, but nothing like this. He recalled the ruse kissing they'd done before and remembered how he thought those were great. But kissing Lois for real, knowing she loved him… it was amazing.
He only wished it could stay like that. As soon as he confessed to Lois, there would be no more of this. He wondered how he could be here, kissing her passionately when he knew he was going to have to hurt her. He wondered what sort of a person he really was when it came down to it.
"Oh, Clark…" she sighed into his mouth as she took a moment for air. He looked at her for a tender moment, their lips only a fraction away from each other. Not able to bear being so close to her and yet so far for any longer, he took a hold of her lips again with his own and continued to kiss her with the same passion as before.
They continued to share their loving exchange a while longer until he felt Lois's delicate hand move to his shirt and begin to unfasten the buttons. "Lois?" he asked, slightly breathless.
"Make love to me, Clark…" she whispered into him. At his taken aback look, she continued. "I mean, I know that the way my shoulder is, I shouldn't even be thinking about it, but I…" she trailed off.
He couldn't believe it. This was one of the moments that he'd been waiting for all his life. He'd waited until he met somebody perfect to make love to and she was sitting in front of him, only inches away from him. Lois was the woman he loved. And she was asking him to make love to her. It seemed like he should be overjoyed and he was… but he couldn't do it. How could he make the hurt she would have when she found out the true even worse by making love to her?
"Lois, we can't… it's too soon…" he replied, using all his will power. Much as he knew he couldn't make love to her, having her pressed up against him and seeing her hands playing with the part of his chest she exposed when unfastening his buttons was lowering his resolves.
She momentarily stopped her ministrations and looked him straight in the eyes. "Clark… I almost lost you. You nearly died and you didn't know how I felt about you. It made me realise that I could lose you at any time, without warning. Please, Clark… please, make love to me."
Clark felt all resolve drain from him. He couldn't believe how much she was opening up to him and revealing her true feelings. He'd seen Lois like this very rarely before. She always kept such a wall up around herself and her feelings, but now she was revealing exactly how she felt.
How could he refuse her when she was asking him to make love to her? He'd never seen her as vulnerable as this before. She seemed desperate to be with him and from what she'd just revealed to him, she wanted to reassure herself that he was alive and that he loved her. There was no way he could tell her again that no, he couldn't make love to her.
But what about her shoulder? That was certainly a reason not to do it. She'd only been released from the hospital that very same day. Could he really risk injuring her further?
"I know, Lois," he told her, his voice almost a whisper. "But is this really what you want? You're upset now, but when tomorrow comes, are you going to regret it?"
Lois shook her head. "No, Clark. I know this is what I want. You have to understand that. Unless… don't you want me?" she asked timidly.
"Oh, Lois, of course I do!" he quickly replied. "It's something that I've dreamed of for such a long time. But I'm thinking of you. And what about your shoulder, anyway? I don't think it's safe."
"It's fine, Clark," she told him. "It wasn't a deep wound, they told me at the ER. There isn't any risk."
He'd admitted to her and to himself that he wanted this. He'd dreamt of this his entire life. Find his love. Find his…Lois. And that was who he would make love to. She was sitting right in front of him, pleading with him to make love to her. It seemed unreal, somehow, that the woman who was usually so protective of her feelings was the one to initiate things between them.
But yet it was so unfair to her! She didn't know that he was Superman. Making love to her without telling her that, especially after what had happened, should be out of the question. He knew that Lois wanted — needed — to do this, though.
"Please?" she asked in a voice that was almost inaudible.
He took hold of her face with one hand and looked into her eyes, seeing the tears shimmering in them. Without given her an answer in words, he told her that he wanted to make love to her too. The expression in his own eyes conveyed his feelings to her and a small, shy smile appeared on her face. She nervously laughed, and turned her face away from his intent stare.
Her fingers moved back down to his shirt, a couple of the buttons already undone from earlier. She worked slowly, and when he looked down, he saw that she was shaking slightly. One of his hands moved down to rest over her smaller, delicate hands and moved them away, ceasing her actions. Clark continued to undo his shirt himself, moving his head forward to kiss her once again when he had finished.
"Oh, Clark…" he heard her whisper into his mouth in a way similar to how she had done before. The kiss deepened, filling with emotion and passion as they became pressed close against one another. He gave in to the kiss for a few moments longer before realising that neither of them could be very comfortable in the position they were in.
"Maybe we should move from here," Clark suggested, knowing that Lois's sofas were more for decoration than comfort.
"Yeah," Lois agreed breathlessly. He felt her arms slide from around him and he stood up, preparing to carry Lois into her bedroom. He gently brought his arms under her and lifted effortlessly, smiling at her as he did so.
He held his breath as the reality of the situation came to him. He was going to make love to this amazing, gorgeous, responsive woman in his arms. And he was in love. For the time being, anyway. He knew that after their wonderful night that they would spent together, everything would be ripped apart. Even if he spent days thinking of ways to tell her his secret, there was no way she wouldn't be hurt. There wasn't any possible way of explaining things to her. The fact was simple; he'd lied to her about his true identity. And more than that, he'd almost let her be killed in that club when he had the ability to save her.
There was nothing he could do to ease the shock and the pain of that, he mused sadly. But, at least for now, she loved him and wanted him. She was about to reveal herself completely to him, which proved that she trusted him. And she was in love with him. Maybe the secret identity thing wouldn't matter so much to her if she was truly in love. He could hope, anyway.
He had to stop thinking of this. Tonight was going to be special; possibly one of the greatest moments of his life. And for these few short hours, he would not let himself think about the Superman issue. Tonight was just he and Lois. Nothing else mattered.
Wanting to spend as much intimate time with her as possible before she had to be told the cruel truth, he carried her across the room and towards her bedroom, kissing her softly as he walked, while wishing he didn't have to cause her so much pain the next day.
In the early hours of the morning, Clark awoke. At first he was confused by the surroundings, but everything soon became coherent. He was in Lois's apartment, in her bed. And he was lying next to her, her body entwined with his own. Hair softly framed her face, which, combined with her peaceful sleep, made her look almost angelic. He mused that he'd never seen her look so beautiful.
Glancing over at the alarm clock on Lois's bedside table, he saw that it was barely after four AM. He decided to let her sleep. He was surprised at how long she'd managed to stay awake the previous day, what with going to the ER and also having to give extensive statements about the shooting down at the police station. And then the talk. Lois had gotten pretty upset about some things, which must have worn her out.
They'd made love for hours. He'd been oblivious to the time when he'd been so intimate with Lois, but he knew that it couldn't have been all that long since they'd fallen into sleep together. Gently, he propped himself up onto one arm and gazed at Lois. She was so perfect. This was exactly how he'd imagined the first time he made love to be. Spending hours filled with kisses, caresses and tenderness together. Waking up and spending time together just being with each other. And more… it was with a woman he desperately loved, and who he now knew loved him back.
Marriage had always seemed like the time when he would first make love, but it wasn't made any less perfect by the fact that they hadn't even dated. Lois was still Lois — beautiful, responsive… breathtaking. And right now, he couldn't get enough of her. She looked so peaceful and sated that he would be content to just stay awake and watch her softly sleep.
However, everything wasn't perfect. He sharply drew his face away from looking at her. Why prolong the false feeling that everything had been perfect? He knew perfectly well that soon this all had to end. But for now… he still had a couple of hours left to sleep with her and hold her in his arms. He had to be at work that day, but surely Lois was going to take the day off. Or knowing Lois, maybe not.
Turning back towards her, he looked at her shoulder. The pad which the hospital had provided was still in place, but it seemed to be clean and free from any more blood. He reached to pull his glasses down and momentarily found himself surprised when they weren't there. But then he saw them lying on Lois's bedside table and with a smile, he remembered how she'd tenderly removed them from his face earlier and looked into his eyes.
Quickly, he remembered he was supposed to be x-raying underneath the pad on Lois's shoulder. Sending a burst of x-ray vision her way, he noted that her shoulder seemed okay. There was a lot of bruising around the wound area, which couldn't be very comfortable for her, but overall it looked like it would heal well. He knew that Lois would try and hide any pain she was in from him, though, so he wasn't really sure if it was hurting her.
After finishing examining her, he relaxed and closed his eyes, trying in vain to sleep again. His arm slipped around Lois's waist and he pulled her close to him, being careful not to wake her. She fitted together perfectly with him, he mused. Minutes rolled on in the seemingly ending early morning and he slowly began to drift off to sleep with Lois in his arms. In her deep sleep, she moved towards him little by little and obviously seemed to be dreaming of something.
As he continued to hold her closely to him, a noise interrupted him. Realising instantly that it was a cry for help, he was suddenly faced with a tough decision. Save the person who needed help, or stay with Lois? With a heavy heart, he knew that he had to help the person who was calling him. Much as he wanted to stay with Lois, hold her, be with her and wake up with her, he couldn't possibly ignore someone who was in trouble.
Gently, he crept out of Lois's bed and headed through into the living area, quickly realising he was naked, and grabbed his boxer shorts. The only place where he could leave Lois's apartment was through one of the big windows, which weren't exactly inconspicuous, but would have to do. He walked over to where he'd dispensed with his jacket earlier and fumbled in one of the pockets.
Finally he found the small, square-shaped object and quickly pulled it out. Having the suit folded up into such a small state had proved to be a lot more handy than wearing it under his clothes. Not only did he hate not being able to wear short-sleeved shirts in the summer, but he also continually ran the risk of somebody discovering the suit. The idea to squash the whole thing up into a tiny object had been his own.
He couldn't be more thankful for that idea now. If Lois had discovered the suit under his clothes when she'd tentatively started to undress him last night, then everything would have been over before it had begun. At super speed, he unfolded the spandex lump into his suit and spun into it, trying not to make any noise that would wake Lois.
Laughing briefly for a second, he imagined what would have happened if he'd forgotten to bring the suit with him. A half-naked Superman flying across the city would be a bit of a shock for some people! But standing around thinking such things wasn't getting him to the rescue any quicker, so he moved across towards the window, opening it gently and flying through it. He made sure to leave it slightly open so he could return back through after the rescue, hoping Lois wouldn't wake up early and discover it.
The call for help shouldn't take him too long; an all-night shop was under armed robbery. Hopefully, by the time Lois was awake, he'd already be back at her apartment. If not, how on earth would he explain it? He'd have to cross that bridge when he came to it, though, because he needed to get to the rescue…
The obnoxious sound of the alarm clock woke Lois from her sleep and she quickly slammed it off. She frowned; she'd been having a wonderful dream. Recalling last night's wonderful events instantly, she rolled over to see if Clark was still sleeping.
With shock, she realised that he wasn't with her. Running her hand over his imprint, she discovered that it wasn't even warm. Clearly, Clark had not been there for quite a while. Lois moved her eyes up towards the ceiling, praying to herself that she hadn't been fooled again by a man. The night she'd spent with Clark had been amazing, exquisite even. After they were finally sated, Lois had fallen asleep in Clark's arms quickly, musing about how wonderful it would be to wake up in Clark's arms.
But now she found herself alone. Just where was Clark? She hoped with desperation that he was only using the bathroom, and would be back any minute now, apologetic for missing her wake up. Resolving to wait for if — no, *when* — he came back, she pulled the sheet over herself.
However, a couple of minutes passed by and Lois found she could wait no longer. She pulled herself up from the comfort of the bed and quickly grabbed the robe that was hanging on the end of the bedstead. Wrapping it around herself, she proceeded to call Clark's name. When she heard no response, she ventured towards the bathroom.
She peered into the room, listening for any signs that Clark might be in the shower. But it was pretty obvious that he wasn't and her face fell in dismay and sadness. That seemed like the only place that Clark could have been. Trying to stay hopeful, though, she made her way towards the bedroom door, telling herself that Clark could be doing something as simple as watching the television. It didn't seem very plausible, but she didn't want to believe that Clark was like the others.
Standing still for an instant, she tried to prepare herself for when she would surely discover that Clark wasn't in the living room or the kitchen. She leaned back against the wall, feeling the coolness of it on her hands. Trying so hard not to give up hope was difficult. The scene was so familiar to the one in which she had woken up to find herself without Claude. She shuddered as she recalled it. After that, she'd told herself to never trust anyone again. And she had. With Clark, he'd seemed like the perfect guy.
From all the things he'd said to her last night, after she'd confessed her feelings for him, she'd truly believed that he was different. He knew she had fears about things; she'd told him that much. And… and he'd told her that he understood.
But had he really? It seemed not. Or maybe he just realised how vulnerable she actually was and realised she was perfect for taking advantage of. Who knew, maybe he'd done this to many women before? She knew that before he'd settled down in Metropolis, he'd travelled the world. It was impossible to know how many hearts he might have broken by making lo… having *sex* with people and then leaving them.
A tiny voice inside Lois protested that it had been making love, though. The things she'd felt with Clark had been very different to what she'd felt with anybody else. He'd made her feel beautiful and loved. All her past experiences paled in comparison to Clark. When they'd made love, it had truly felt like making love. And what was more, he'd said that he loved her. While it could have been an excuse to get her into bed, she didn't want to believe it. The sincerity in his voice last night had been clear.
Deciding she couldn't wait any longer, she moved to open the bedroom door and see if Clark really had used her.
After the rescue, Clark flew quickly back to Lois's. The rescue itself hadn't taken a long time, and luckily, he'd managed to get there in time. The shop owner had almost been hysterical, though, and it had been necessary to stay for longer than he'd intended, to make sure he was okay. He briefly noted that he'd saved that store from armed robbery before that week, but didn't have time to dwell on it. It didn't seem to have taken too long, though, and Clark hoped he'd made it back on time.
However, he had no idea what time it was now. If Lois was already awake, then how could he explain himself? She would be steaming angry with him. This wasn't the way he wanted Lois to find out! What would happen if Lois happened to see him fly back in as Superman? He desperately hoped that wouldn't happen.
Seeing Lois's apartment ahead of him, he slowed down and floated in through the window. That was a good sign that Lois wasn't about yet, as it was still open just the way he left it. Leaving the window open had been a very good idea — if he'd have closed it, he would have been forced to re- enter through the door. But if the door had been locked… he wouldn't have been able to get back in.
He quickly spun out of the suit and back into his boxer shorts, using his super strength to turn the suit back into the spandex lump. He walked across the room to his jacket and replaced it in his inside pocket, buttoning it up to keep it in place. He couldn't possibly afford for it to fall out and have Lois notice it.
From what he could tell straight away, it seemed like Lois was still in bed. Glancing at the clock on the wall, he checked the time. To his surprise, it was still quite a bit before six AM. He knew that Lois's alarm went off at six, so she was probably still in bed! He sighed with great relief. Coming back from the rescue and have her see him do it certainly wasn't what he wanted to do. Creeping gently towards the bedroom, he hoped that Lois wasn't sitting in there waiting for him.
As quietly as he could manage, he opened the bedroom door to find Lois still sleeping, her breathing gentle and a smile on her face. He considered getting back in bed with her and having her wake up in his arms, but he didn't want to run the risk of disturbing her as he climbed in the bed. By the time they'd finally fallen asleep, it had been well into the early hours of the morning, and what with all the events of the previous days, she must be tired.
But he knew what Lois was like, and no doubt she wouldn't let herself have an extra few hours in bed. Seeing as he had some time to kill before she awoke, he decided to make her breakfast. But first, he crept over to the bedside table where his glasses were and placed them back on his face. He gently walked back out of the bedroom and closed the door behind him, heading towards the kitchen.
Lois's hand gripped the bedroom door handle tightly. She'd thought she'd prepared herself for leaving the room, but try as she might, she couldn't make herself open the door. Tears slowly began to rise in her eyes as she realised the chances of Clark being out there were slim. But still… she couldn't quite bring herself to believe that he would do such a thing. Clark had always been a gentleman towards her… then again, so had Claude. Until he'd persuaded her to sleep with him.
Feeling the anger flow through her when she remembered what he'd done, she jerked the door open and began to march forward, only to be stopped by a wonderful smell. Lois quickly identified it: breakfast was cooking.
Rushing out of the room in an altogether happier manner, she advanced to her kitchen and found Clark standing over the cooker, preparing what looked like a delightful meal. The table was set neatly and carefully and was already decked out with toast and coffee. She quickly wiped all trace of the tears from her eyes.
"Oh, Clark…" she sighed, seeing the effort he'd gone to. She chastised herself again and again for even allowing herself to think that Clark could ever be like that monster, Claude.
Clark spun around, a heart-warming smile on his face. "Hey, Lois! I thought you wouldn't be able to let yourself go and sleep for a while longer, so I thought I'd prepare you some breakfast," he told her, laughing.
"It looks wonderful!" Lois gushed. She was having a hard time concentrating on just what he was making, considering he was only wearing his boxer shorts. Her mind rushed back to the previous night, when she'd seen just what was beneath those. And then his chest… it was hard to believe how she'd managed to ignore how totally gorgeous this man was for over a year.
"I've made us some bacon, eggs, and the toast is already on the table. But the best part…" he trailed off, moving to the other side of the cooker, "is this!" he exclaimed with a wide grin, gesturing towards some pancakes.
"It sounds delicious!" she replied, her eyes lighting up. "You're so sweet."
"Thanks," he grinned. "Why not sit down? It won't be long."
Lois did just that and sat down, looking forward to the breakfast that Clark was making her. So that's why he'd gotten up before her! Not because he'd used her or anything like that. She couldn't believe she'd thought such awful thoughts about Clark. She should have known that he'd never do anything like that to her. Resigning to put it down to her fragile stage from previous relationships, she continued to smile and allowed herself to keep sneaking in the odd glance at Clark's… rear assets.
Only seconds later, Clark came to the table with the first of the plates. Everything smelled wonderful. She certainly hadn't had breakfast like this for a while, especially with her lack of cooking skills! Gratefully taking the plate from Clark, she smiled and placed it down in front of her.
"What do you think?" he asked, his tone light.
Lois quickly took a bite. "Oh, Clark, it's great!" she exclaimed. "You're so good at this."
"Well, I guess being a farmboy is some good," he shot at her, a broad grin on his face. "Don't you think?"
"Yeah," she admitted shyly, suddenly remembering the numerous insults she'd thrown at Clark in the early days of knowing each other. "Clark… I'm sorry about calling you a farmboy," she told him, dropping her head.
"Hey, Lois, I wasn't saying anything against you! I was only joking…" he trailed off, shocked by Lois's reaction.
"I know, Clark," she replied. "I guess it just brought it back to me… I was so awful to you when we first met."
"Well, that was a long time ago, Lois. And besides, I wasn't insulted. You made me laugh most of the time!" he told her, trying to reassure her.
"Really?" she asked.
"Of course! Yes, sometimes you weren't very pleasant to me, but it was a long time ago now. That was before you really got to know me." He paused and she studied his face. "And besides, I guess you could say I am a farmboy sometimes. Look at all my farmer's muscles!" he added with a grin.
She laughed back, attempting to give him a glare but failed. Her face grew serious again. "Thank you, Clark," she told him. Realising that the breakfast he had made her must be starting to go cold, she took some more bites of it. "You know, I'd better not get used to this!" she exclaimed.
"Why not?" he enquired.
"Because all that work at the gym would be gone to waste if I had such a breakfast every morning!" she replied with a laugh, and suddenly realised what she was implying. Would she be staying with Clark every night now? After all, she still didn't know how he felt about what had happened. He seemed to be feeling the same about things as she was last night, making her a delicious breakfast.
She wondered if she should approach the subject first, but then decided against it. Surely she'd embarrassed herself last night, what with telling Clark about her feelings. She knew that she wasn't the type of person to start a topic as serious as that, and when she did, she hardly ever felt comfortable continuing.
But Clark was different, though. Normally, she always felt comfortable around Clark. He didn't probe too hard for information, neither did he laugh at her if she couldn't tell him something straight away. Still, she didn't want to bring up the subject of last night, and where they were going to go from here.
Suddenly, she remembered that they were in the middle of a conversation. She tuned back in, in time to hear Clark finish laughing and continue the light banter that had started.
"Oh, you won't get this every morning," he told her with a wink.
Lois knew that she had to find out what that comment meant. Embarrassing as it would be to bring up the subject, she had to find out. "Clark…" she began quietly.
"I was just wondering…" She stopped and took a deep breath. "I was just wondering what happens now… with us?"
"How do you mean?" he questioned.
Lois mentally cursed him for not understanding what she meant. "Well, I mean, we admitted last night that we both love each other. And I meant it, of course, but you were tired. I guess I'm wondering if you actually meant it too?"
His breakfast forgotten, Clark moved his chair around the table so he was close to Lois. "Of course I did, Lois! Everything I said last night was the truth." He cupped her face in his hands and she sighed, wishing she didn't have so much mistrust for men remaining from past disasters.
"I'm sorry, Clark," she told him, looking into his eyes.
"It's okay, Lois! I know you've been hurt a lot before. But I mean it when I say I love you, Lois. I've loved you for so long now," he said. She saw him lean forwards and then his lips joined with hers in a sweet kiss. It was over as soon as it began, but Lois smiled.
"So, are we still going to go on that date?" she asked, her smile turning into a grin.
"Yes!" he told her with enthusiasm. She couldn't help noticing some hesitation on his face, but dismissed it as her overactive imagination. "How about tomorrow evening? I know a great little French place we could go to."
"Tomorrow night sounds good," she replied, growing excited about the prospect of going on a real date with Clark. It seemed strange knowing that they were already in love and just having their first date, but also fun at the same time. And neither of them would have to wonder what the other person thought of them.
Lois briefly wondered whether their making love was a one- off thing. Clark hadn't said anything about it and she was confused as to whether he would want to repeat the experience. It must have been obvious to him that she was upset last night, but did he think she had just wanted to make love to him because of that? Because she'd needed comforting?
"About last night," she started, dipping her head away from him. "What exactly did it mean to you?"
"Lois," he said softly, putting a hand on her cheek and lifting her head back up to meet his eyes. "Last night meant everything to me. It was perfect. Yes, I always thought I'd make love to you when we'd been together for a long time, but it was still perfect."
Lois processed what Clark had told her and smiled widely. "You've thought about us making love before?"
She saw Clark blush slightly. "I guess I have."
Lois felt extremely guilty again for what she'd thought earlier about him. Obviously, making love was very special for him and not something that he took lightly. She recalled last night when she'd pleaded with him, how he'd made sure that it was totally what she wanted and not just something she'd regret the morning after. How had she managed to think that Clark would ever use her and then leave her?
"I was also wondering… was it just a one-night stand for now? I mean, I know I was upset last night and you probably only did it because I made it hard for you to say no… but is that it?" She flushed and pulled her face away from Clark's grasp with embarrassment.
"Lois…" he began, taking her into his arms. "Listen to me. Last night was great. And it wasn't because you made it hard to say no, or anything like that. We both said we loved each other and that made it special. It wasn't just some random thing I did. I always knew that I'd make love to someone I loved and I have."
She nodded into his shoulder and he continued. "As for where we go from here… that's up to you. If you don't want to make love with me again until after we've dated for a while longer, then that's okay! I've always thought that people shouldn't rush into things until they're really ready…"
Lois was lost for words. It was hard to believe that Clark was giving her the *choice*. Yes, he was very gentlemanly and sweet, but he was still a man! Would he really resolve to not make love to her if she chose that she didn't want to? He'd given his word, though, and knowing Clark, he would.
Processing the other things he'd said, it was now very obvious that their encounter had been very precious to him. He was possibly the only man she knew that would have such feelings about making love. Her mind drifted back. All through the night he'd been thoughtful, caring, and selfless. The men she'd known only took their own pleasure and forgot about her. She sighed.
Should she give Clark an answer now about the question of sleeping together? To be truthful, it was hard to know what she wanted. After Claude, she'd vowed not to let any other man in that soon, if at all. Clark and she hadn't even had a first date yet, though, so it made more sense for them to wait and get to know each other better.
But a little voice protested that they already knew each other. They were best friends and had known each other for a year and a half! And also… did she really want to give up what she had felt last night? It had been one of the best experiences of her life. Would it be possible to still be close to each other, kiss and hug each other and be able to keep things at that? What with the memory of last night and Clark sitting beside her in just his boxer shorts, she didn't think it was possible.
Gently, she pulled herself out of the hug she'd been enveloped in and looked at Clark. His eyes were soft and she saw the love in his eyes. It was all for her. To know that he loved her like that was almost overwhelming. Never before had she seen someone look at her with such adoration.
"Wow," she finally whispered, still shocked by the sincerity of his speech. "I'm not quite sure how to reply to that, Clark. We'll see how things go, okay? I mean, lat night was perfect for me too… oh, it's so hard to know what I want! But I know that I love you."
Clark smiled at her in return. "I know, Lois. But I'll wait for you as long as you need."
"You're so wonderful," she told him, looking intently into his eyes. "Being so great over my insecurities, and making me this wonderful breakfast. Speaking of which… are the pancakes burning?" she asked, suddenly noticed the smell of burnt food — a smell she was often faced with — lingering around the room.
"Oh, yes!" Clark exclaimed, jumping up from his chair and over to the stove. "I'd forgotten about those!"
Lois laughed. "Finally, somebody whose cooking is worse than mine!"
"Hey!" he said loudly. "Are you saying this isn't first rate food?" With that, he held up the pan filled with charred pancakes, stuck to the pan.
"Well… I guess it's better than some of my things," she admitted. "But I can say I've never ruined a pan!"
Only because you've never tried to use one!" he joked back, giving her a playful grin.
Enjoying the playful banter they were sharing, she leapt up off her chair and slapped him lightly on the shoulder. To her delight, Clark smiled widely and threw the pan down, grabbed Lois into his arms and held her close to him.
"I do believe you're feeling playful, Ms Lane?" he giggled, holding her in his grasp.
She grinned back in response and twisted herself around in his arms, kissing him quickly on his lips. He leaned forwards, trying to catch her lips again, but she pulled away, keeping him in suspense. Lois felt shocked about how natural everything felt. She'd never have imagined that being so playful when kissing Clark would be so easy. Sure, they often had this kind of banter as friends, but this was different.
They were lovers now.
Lois's breath was momentarily taken aback as she thought that over. When she'd first met him, who would have thought they would have ended up like this? If only she'd seen all this at the beginning! Clark and she would have been together for a while now. She knew he'd been attracted to her in the early days.
Maybe they would have even been engaged by now. That shocked her even more than the fact they were now lovers. How could she be thinking about it? Of course, it was too soon yet… but she knew that Clark was perfect for her. That seemed like it should be a scary thought, especially since she hadn't long known that she loved him, but it wasn't. She could quite easily see herself, in a year or so, being engaged to Clark.
Turning her attention back to him, she saw him barely inches away from her face, his lips parted. She again realised just how gorgeous he looked, especially with his hair tousled, curls falling down over his forehead. And his glasses. It seemed strange, but his glasses seemed to finish his face off perfectly, making him look even more attractive.
She leaned forward and kissed him again, this time less playfully and more passionately. She wrapped her arms around his head and ran her hands through the hair she'd just been admiring. The kiss between them deepened and Lois parted her lips, allowing Clark's tongue to access her mouth fully. Sighing as she tasted the coffee on him, she continued to press herself further against him, kissing him with fervour.
Reluctantly, she began to break the kiss off. "Clark…" she started breathlessly, "we really should start getting ready for work."
She saw Clark pull away, a slight scowl on his face. "Lois, Perry told you to take today off!" he exclaimed.
"I know he did, but I'm feeling fine. I guess I'm still shocked about what happened, but nothing that will stop me from doing my job!" she reassured him.
"But you must be in pain, Lois. You were trying to hide it from me yesterday, but I saw you wincing several times," he informed her.
"Okay, so I'm in some pain, I'll admit that. But I have medication. And besides, it doesn't hurt enough for me to take the whole day off work!"
"I really think it would be better —"
"No!" she interrupted. "I'm going to work."
Clark threw his hands in the air and she giggled. "Well, I'm going back into the bedroom to get changed. Are you going to wear the clothes you were wearing yesterday, or are you going to go back to your apartment to get some fresh clothes?" she asked.
"I think I'll wear the ones I wore yesterday," he replied. "That way we can ride into work together."
She smiled and stood up, walking towards the bedroom. It seemed impossible that the same time yesterday, she was lying in a hospital bed and Clark was totally oblivious to how she felt about him. Now… everything was falling into place.
As she opened the bedroom door, she felt Clark behind her, his arms around her waist. "We'll never get to work at this rate!" she said with a laugh.
"Sure we will," he whispered gently into her ear and she felt a shiver of pleasure.
With that, he walked around to the other side of the bed to gather his clothes. He quickly pulled them on, and Lois watched him. Those suits he wore really did nothing to show off his body. She grinned to herself as she realised she was quite sad that she wouldn't be able to see him in just his boxer shorts all day.
Suddenly, she felt very shy about getting changed in front of Clark. She knew she had no reason to be embarrassed, but in all her previous relationships, the man hadn't stayed around long enough to see her getting changed so she wasn't used to it. And besides… removing your clothes in the midst of kissing was one thing; stripping in front of Clark was something different all together.
As if he sensed her uneasiness, he came over to her. "I can wait in the living room if it'd make you feel better," he offered.
"Would you mind?" she asked quietly. "It's just… oh, I don't know. But I'd feel better."
"Okay," he replied and left the room, closing the door behind him.
Clark left Lois alone in the bedroom and sighed. Lois was so happy. That was a great thing and he was so relieved that she didn't regret anything, but it would make it all the more harder for him to tell her about Superman. He'd already reassured her that he loved her and that he'd stay with her. But she'd be so upset when she found out.
And now they'd planned a date. He'd wanted to tell Lois about himself as soon as possible, but now he was torn. Should he wait until after their date tomorrow evening to tell her? He knew he should… but he wanted to go out on a real, proper date with her. Who knew how long it would be after he'd told her before she was willing to trust her again?
He wondered if Lois would ever forgive him. He had no idea how he was even going to tell her his secret, but he hoped he would be able to find a way in which to do so and not make himself look totally bad.
Sighing, he realised that if he'd told her before now, she might not have been so angry with him. But she'd risked her life to save him because she thought he was going to die. If she'd known that he was invulnerable… she wouldn't have done it. When she knew that she'd almost died for no reason, she'd be fuming. There was no way to ease that, as he'd established to himself earlier.
And they'd made love. The most intimate thing they could possibly share. If only he'd told Lois sooner! No matter how much he thought that over, he knew it wouldn't change anything. Cursing himself seemed liked the thing to do, but it didn't ease his torture at all. He and Lois had been best friends for a long time now and there was no excuse for not telling her before now.
Well, there was one. The main reason he'd withheld his secret identity from her. He'd wanted to know that she wanted him for who he was, Clark. Not Superman. But even that seemed a feeble reason, given that he'd thought they'd never be anything more than friends. There was always that chance, though… and it had happened. Now he did know that Lois loved him for just being Clark, but was that worth not telling her? After all, what if she decided she no longer loved him when she'd found out about how he lied to her?
The sound of the door opening interrupted his musings, leaving him still wondering just when he should tell her.
"You ready?" she asked him. "I normally take a shower and wash my hair, but I didn't want to keep you waiting too long."
"Yeah, I'm ready," he told her. "And don't worry, you look great."
He smiled when he saw Lois blush slightly. It felt so good to be able to say such things to her now. It was obvious that she enjoyed being complimented, too. Oh, it was always obvious with her writing, but it was special to be able to tell her just how beautiful she was.
"Thanks," she replied, a shy smile appearing on her face.
"What about the mess?" Clark asked, suddenly remembering the burnt food and discarded places still strewn around the kitchen.
"I'll do it later," she replied. He was shocked when she proceeded to take his hand in his. "You coming?" she asked.
He simply smiled at her in reply and they walked towards the door. He grabbed his jacket and saw Lois pick up hers and he helped her put it on.
"Hey, this doesn't mean you can baby-sit me now," she joked.
"I'm not," he replied in mock offence.
"I know," she replied, grinning, and, putting her arms in the jacket, turned around to face Clark.
He laughed and pulled his own jacket on. Lois picked up her bag, slung it onto her shoulder and opened the door, holding it until Clark followed behind her.
The car journey to work was mostly filled was light banter. Much to Lois's disdain, Clark had insisted on driving the car because she wasn't well enough to do it herself. Although she had to admit that she was still in a quite a bit of pain, so in retrospect, she was pleased she'd given in and let him drive her there.
Now they were in the elevator, silence descending over them, though not an awkward one. Clark seemed to be lost in deep thought, his face turning into a slight frown.
"Anything wrong?" she asked lightly, worried that he had started to change his mind about them. He'd seemed fine this morning, but if he had… she couldn't bear it.
"What? Oh, no, nothing is wrong," he reassured, but Lois wasn't convinced. He'd seem to be pretty agitated by something or other.
"Are you sure, Clark? You were frowning."
"I'm sure," he replied in a tone that hurt Lois. What was he keeping from her?
"Clark… have you changed your mind? About us?"
This time he came around more, losing the faraway look from his eyes. His hands lightly touched her arms, bringing her face to face with him. "I could never change my mind about us, Lois," he told her with fervour. "I was just thinking about something. But it's not important now."
"Okay," she replied quietly. She believed him when he said it wasn't about them, but her instinctive curiosity told her not to let this one go and she mentally filed the question away for later, determined to find out what had made Clark change so much from the car to the elevator.
After a couple of minutes, the elevator arrived at the newsroom and they exited, walking quickly in. Lois momentarily thought about taking Clark's hand again as she'd done in the privacy of her own apartment but decided against it, knowing that it was too public of a display. After all, they'd only just announced their feelings for each other last night. It was too soon to let everyone know about them, although she got the feeling that it wouldn't be long before their relationship became new gossip fodder, anyway.
As they walked towards their desks, she wondered whether Perry had told the others what had happened and realised he must have. More people than usual were looking at her as she walked in, although it could have just been because she was with Clark. However, she'd eaten breakfast with Clark before they came into work before now, so it wasn't anything special.
She noticed that there weren't all that many people here yet and checked her watch. She and Clark were at work a good bit earlier than normal. As they reached her desk, Lois started to sit down, only to jump up again when she heard her name bellowed across the newsroom.
"Lois! What are you doing here? I thought I told you to take a couple of days off and rest!" Perry's voice echoed.
"I know, but you know me, Chief. There's nothing to do at home! I'd much rather be at work," she told him.
"I tried to talk her out of coming," Clark offered somewhat weakly and she rolled her eyes.
"I know you like to work, Lois, but I don't think it's good for you to be coming to work when you've been shot. Now, how is your shoulder?"
"It hurts a little, but it'll be okay. I need to go back in a week to get the stitches taken out. Right now I want to concentrate on catching those gangsters," she told him.
"I know what you mean. Okay, just don't work yourself too hard, Lois," he said before heading back to his office. "And Clark, make sure she doesn't do anything too dangerous," he added as an after-thought.
"I'll try, Chief," he said, a grin on his face.
When Perry was back in his office, Lois finally sat down and turned to Clark. "You could have at least defended me!" she exclaimed, slapping his shoulder playfully.
"I could have, but I happen to think the Chief's right," he informed her. She gave him a glare, and at that, he added, "How about a coffee and a doughnut to make up for it?"
"Done," she laughed, and handed her mug to him.
As Clark walked over to the coffee machine, she realised just how happy she was. She'd always enjoyed their playful conversations but now they seemed even better. Their relationship was very different now. It was some more; something deeper. She looked at Clark and saw him smiling at her while he was waiting for the machine to brew. A gesture that would look normal to everyone else in the newsroom looked so wonderful to her. How had she not seen it before in Clark's face and eyes that he was blindingly in love with her? It seemed obvious now.
Moments later, he arrived back at her desk with a fresh mug of coffee and a doughnut. "I know you shouldn't be having this after the breakfast I cooked you this morning," he began, "but I did ruin your pancakes, so here you are!"
Lois laughed and took a bite. "Mmm, it's nice, thank you," she told him gratefully.
With that, he went to his own desk. Lois felt a little sad at the thought she wouldn't be next to him. She hadn't really realised how close she'd grown to him over the past year and a half before now. Steadily, they'd been spending more and more time with each other and even at work they would usually be at each other's desks, working closely together.
But her face lit up again when Clark returned with just the chair from his own desk. "We'd better get on with catching those gangsters," he said.
"Yeah," she replied. "We really need to find out where they're based. We know they have to be in a lab somewhere, so it's just a case of finding them."
"Do you think the police have any new leads?" he asked. "We already had a little information on the club. It's obvious that the gangsters will have moved on, so as not to be caught. After all those extensive statements we gave yesterday, they must have been able to get some clues."
"You'd think so. I'll phone them later, see if they know anything."
She finished off the rest of her coffee and doughnut quickly. It looked set to be a long day. As they were in to work earlier, Lois leaned back for a minute, closing her eyes. She was aware of Clark next to her, but he had to realise how tired she was. What with the lack of sleep the night before, and by the time they'd fallen asleep last night, she was feeling shattered.
Only seconds later, Perry stormed out of his office. "Lois! Clark! Over here!" he yelled.
"No rest for the weary," Lois grumbled and saw Clark smile. How had she not noticed how heart-warming that smile was the first time she saw him?
They walked over to where Perry was standing. "Have you two heard about the armed robbery at Bridge's 24-hour store last night?"
"No, Chief," Lois replied. "What happened?"
"Third time it's been attacked in a week. Luckily, Superman has stopped all three attempts, but it's pretty strange that they keep coming back again and again."
"Chief, I know that it must be terrible for the owner, but it's not really very newsworthy," Lois said.
"Four outlets have all been attacked in the same way in the past two weeks. They're all down in the Hobbs Bay area, which makes it seem suspicious," Perry replied.
"We'll get on it," Clark joined in. "It sounds like there's more to this than just stealing goods."
"That's what I thought," said Perry. "Oh, and are you all prepared for the party tonight?"
"Party?" Lois asked.
"The anniversary celebrations, Lois!"
"Oh! Right. What with everything that has happened, I'd forgotten about it!"
"I don't blame you, Lois!" Clark commented.
"Well, we'll be there," she replied. Previously she'd been looking forward to the Planet's celebrations, but as tired as she was feeling, it didn't seem like fun. Still, she would be expected to make an appearance. And she would be going with Clark, after all. That was sure to brighten things up.
"Take it easy, Lois," Perry reminded and she rolled her eyes as he returned to his office.
She and Clark walked back over to her desk and sat back down.
"I'd forgotten about the party too, Lois," Clark offered.
"But it's okay for you. I haven't got anything to wear!" Lois exclaimed.
"I'm sure whatever you wear will be fine," he told her. Then his voice lowered to a whisper and he added, "You always look beautiful."
Lois felt a shiver run down her spine at his words. Yes, she could really get used to being complimented in such a way. She laughed ruefully when she remembered how she always thought such comments were sucking up and nobody said them unless they wanted something, or were guilty of something. But Clark… Clark was different.
Clark was in love with her. He didn't need a reason to compliment her in such way. But even then, she'd always thought that couples that complimented each other all the time were pointless. Now, it made her feel wonderful every time Clark told her she was beautiful. It didn't seem real. She appeared to have changed so much since… well, since she'd been with Clark. Not even 24 hours. Everything seemed to have progressed so quickly. She'd knew it was only last night since they'd admitted that they loved each other, but it seemed much longer.
Smiling at Clark for what he'd said, she decided it was better to turn back to work. Much as she wanted to be with Clark like this all day, more people were filing into work.
"Maybe you should call the police now, see if they have any information?" she suggested.
"Okay," he replied and picked the phone up on her desk, dialling the number.
After a few minutes, he replaced the phone, sighing.
"Anything?" she enquired.
"Apparently, they have a lead on a location where the clones might be based. But they haven't checked it out themselves yet, so we can't get hold of the information."
"Typical," she grumbled. "Think we can sweet-talk Henderson for the information?"
"I doubt it this time, Lois," Clark replied.
She scowled in response. "I suppose we'd better investigate the armed robberies Perry was talking about."
"Yeah. We should go to the one most recently hit, see what information he has about the robbers," he suggested.
"Okay. What was that one called again?"
"Bridge's 24-hour store," he replied.
"Let's go," she said unenthusiastically, picking up her coat.
They walked back over to the elevator, after only being in the newsroom for not more than half an hour. The advantage, Lois thought, was that she could spend some more time with Clark without the risk of everybody looking on.
They drove across town towards Hobb's Bay. They knew they were getting close to their destination without even having to check the street signs — the smell was enough. Clark was driving the car again, much to Lois's chagrin. But she knew that it was for her own good.
With ease, he found the store that was the scene of the armed robbery. After helping to deal with it last night and a couple of times before, he already knew where to find it. He hoped that it wouldn't seem strange to Lois how quickly he found the store.
"Is it safe to leave my Jeep here?" Lois asked with a frown, interrupting his musings.
"I think so, Lois. We'll keep an eye on it while we're talking to the owner," he replied. He parked up the car outside the store and opened the door. "Coming?"
He saw Lois yawn and get out of the car too. "I still think this won't ever be newsworthy enough to end up in the paper," she grumbled.
"We have to check it out," he told her sternly.
When the jeep was locked up, they walked into the store. It was quiet, almost empty, apart from the cashier behind the till.
"Excuse me?" Lois asked, walking quickly up to the cashier. "I'm Lois Lane from the Daily Planet, and this is my partner, Clark Kent. We're investigating the series of armed robberies in Hobb's Bay. Can we see the owner?"
"That's me," he replied.
Clark recognised the man as the same one that was there when the store was robbed, but thought he'd better ask, as so not to make things look suspicious. "Were you here last night when your store was robbed, sir?"
"Yeah. It's bad luck that the store only gets attacked when I'm on night duty. Mark, one of my staff, works three nights per week, and nothing has ever happened while he's on night duty," the store owner told them.
"Could it be more than a coincidence, sir?" Clark offered.
"Could be, but I doubt it," the owner replied. "And call me Fred."
"What have you told the police so far?" Lois asked.
"Everything I know," Fred told them. "I reported the attempted robbery the first time, but this last time was the only time I got even a glimpse of the person's face. I don't think the police are bothered, though."
Lois turned towards Clark. "Like when Uncle Mike's cafe was attacked," she said.
"Could you give us the description?" Clark asked. Maybe they could look into it more closely than the police would bother to.
"Sure," Fred replied.
The rest of the interview progressed fairly quickly, leaving Lois and Clark with enough information to continue the investigation at the Planet. Clark thought that something seemed strange about the whole thing, but it was obvious Lois was going to need a little more convincing to think that this was a useful way to spend time. In the car, she'd already complained that they didn't both need to go, and also that it was sure to take so long to interview the store owner.
And they still had to finish up the gangster story. After how the gangster clones shot Lois like that, he felt prepared to work as hard as he possibly could to make sure they were caught. But with no new leads at the moment, they had to be content to wait until Bonnie and Clyde or one of the other clones made an appearance.
"Thank you for talking to us," he heard Lois tell Fred. "Hopefully, we'll be able to get this sorted."
"I hope so," Fred replied.
"We'll let you know if anything comes up," Clark added before turning around and walking out of the shop. He heard Lois following behind him.
"We need to find out if the other stores were robbed by the same person," Lois said while opening the car door and getting in.
"Yeah. Jimmy can run a check when we get back, see if he can find anything. Maybe there's some similarities or habits that the robber has," he replied.
Clark quickly got in the car too, noting that Lois had voluntarily given him the driver's side this time.
"It'll be lunch time in an hour or so," Lois commented. "Do you feel like going out somewhere, or staying at the Planet?"
"Let's go out and get a sandwich," he said, smiling in return as he started the car, driving them out of the dingy Hobb's Bay area and into the cleaner parts of Metropolis.
As Clark drove, he allowed his mind to wander back to this morning in the elevator. Lois had wondered why his facial expression had changed. It had shocked him that she'd thought he'd changed his mind about them. After all his reassurances, he thought she'd have been a little less worried, but it seemed it would take more time than that.
In actual fact, he'd heard a rescue call. There had been a house fire on the outskirts of the city. He'd planned to make his excuses to Lois and leave as soon as the elevator reached the newsroom, but on further listening in, he discovered the fire was under control thanks to the fire crew, and everyone had been safely evacuated from the building.
On retrospect, it was a good idea to avoid going to help out. After Lois's earlier uneasiness about his feelings for her, leaving her as soon as they reached the Planet wasn't the best thing to do. At least he'd persuaded her that he wasn't having doubts at all.
He resigned to not thinking about telling her he was Superman. His earlier thoughts about whether or not to tell Lois before the date had been sorted for him. The Planet celebrations had totally slipped his mind. It meant, however, that he got to spend at least two wonderful evenings with her before it had to be ruined.
An hour later, they arrived back at the Planet. A traffic jam on the main road had delayed them, causing Lois to become justifiably annoyed.
"Why do there always have to be traffic jams when we're in a hurry?" she complained as they walked back into the newsroom.
"It's Metropolis, Lois," Clark grinned in return. "There are always traffic jams."
Lois shot him a glare and continued walking into the newsroom towards her desk. "We'd better find out which other stores have been attacked in the Hobbs Bay area."
"Jimmy!" Clark shouted. When the young man came over instantly, he continued. "We need you to check on every all-night convenience store that has been under armed robbery in the Hobb's Bay area for the last few weeks."
"Sure thing, CK," Jimmy replied, walking away to begin the research. He suddenly stopped and turned around. "Oh, how is your shoulder, Lois?"
"How do you know about it?" she questioned.
"Perry told me," Jimmy replied.
"Ah. Well, it's okay. Still throbbing a bit, but I'm definitely fine for work!" Lois told him, starting to grow annoyed with everyone fussing around her. True, it could have been a serious injury, especially in the shoulder area, but it wasn't. The wound itself was causing more pain than she was letting on, but it would heal.
The main thing was that Clark was alive. The pain her shoulder caused was worth it, because Clark hadn't died. She took a breath and tried not to lose her composure as the thought ran through her head. "Thanks for the concern, Jimmy," she added.
"Take care, Lois," he told her, before finally leaving to get on with his research.
"So, are we still having that sandwich for lunch?" Clark asked, shaking her out of her thoughts.
"Uh, yeah!" she replied, smiling.
"Come on, let's…" Clark broke off suddenly, causing Lois to wonder what was wrong. His eyes had taken on that faraway look that he so often had. Which normally meant that he was going to do one of his famous disappearances. But why would he, when they'd just planned to have lunch?
"Clark?" she asked.
"Lois… I have… I need to take a rain check on lunch, Lois. I have to get my hair cut," he said pathetically.
"Now? You booked a hair cut during work hours?" she questioned sceptically.
"Yes. I'm going to be late! I'll see you later, Lois!" he told her, rushing. And with that, he'd dashed away from her, over towards the stairs.
Lois carefully began to sit down at her desk, trying not to get angry. Why had he left her again? Oh, she knew he liked to disappear every so often, with the lamest of excuses, but why now? Why when they were going to have lunch together, just the two of them?
Anger gradually began to seep in, despite how much she'd tried to calm herself. He could be so inconsiderate at times! It was obvious that he wasn't going to have his hair done, so why had he told her that?
Normally she wouldn't be so angry with him; it would usually just be a case of rolling her eyes and getting back to work. But now that they were together… it hurt. It hurt that he didn't want to be with her, that he would rather be wherever else he went.
She tried to blink back the tears that suddenly sprang forth. Lois Lane was never seen upset, especially not in so public a place. Folding her arms, she leaned back in her chair and waited for Clark to return. This time, she was determined to find out the truth about his disappearing acts.
Clark once again re-entered the newsroom, something he'd done a few times already that day. His eyes searched around for Lois and he instantly found her at her desk, sitting back with arms folded. It had been about an hour since he'd left her, but from the lack of paperwork on her desk and physical movement, it looked like she'd been sitting there since he'd left.
So she was angry. Very angry. He couldn't blame her, though. After all, they'd been planning to eat lunch together, and he'd suddenly left her on her own, with one of the worst excuses he'd ever thought of. For a second, he'd thought about ignoring the rescue, but it was a train derailment. Without him, the chance of anyone surviving would've been very slim. So, much as it pained him, he'd had to leave Lois and be prepared to face her when he returned.
Gingerly, he progressed over towards her desk. "I'm back, Lois," he offered weakly, noticing that although she'd seen him, she made no offer to acknowledge him.
"It's you," she finally spat.
"Look, I'm so sorry about lunch, Lois," he apologised. "I'd totally forgotten about my hair cut."
"Really," she said sardonically.
"I didn't mean for it to happen. I wouldn't have arranged to eat with you if I'd have known that I was going to be busy," he told her, trying to make her even look at him. But it didn't seem to be doing much good, as Lois was still laid back with her arms folded.
"Looks good," she commented, finally turning around to face him. "What exactly did you have done at the barber's, Clark?"
He fumbled with his hands. What with stopping the out of control train, he'd totally forgotten that she might notice his hair still the same. "I just had it trimmed a little," he told her, knowing he sounded lame.
"I'd ask for my money back if I were you," she responded sharply.
"Lois…" he began softly, taking a seat next to her. "I know you're angry because I left you earlier, but I'm here now. How about we get some lunch now?"
"Why, Clark?" she asked. "So you can abandon me again?"
"No, Lois. I'm so sorry for leaving you earlier, but let me make it up to you now," he offered, hoping she would let him take her out.
"Tell me why, then. Why did you play another one of your disappearing acts, giving me yet another pathetic excuse, when we were going to have lunch together?"
Clark was faced with a decision. Carry on with the haircut excuse, or let her know there was a reason, but he couldn't tell her yet? He was going to tell her about him being Superman anyway, as soon as he got a chance, but if he told her there was a reason now, she'd never leave him alone until he told her. So carrying on with the barber excuse seemed to be the best thing to do.
"I guess I'm just forgetful," he told her with a half smile. He saw her arms unfold and her posture became more relaxed.
"I'm getting tired of it, Clark," she replied. Her voice lowered to a whisper as she continued. "Now that we know how we feel about each other, and are dating, you have to stop doing this."
"I know, Lois. And I will," he reassured, hoping he could keep to that as much as possible. At least when he told her he was Superman, she'd know he wasn't leaving her on purpose, or trying to hurt her. There was always the problem of him needing to do something super on their date. What on earth would he do if that happened? He sighed inwardly as he realised he had no idea.
"Okay," she replied. "Let's go for lunch."
Clark smiled as she stood up from the chair. "I'm buying."
"You'd better be!" she exclaimed, smiling. He felt relieved that she was okay for now — knowing Lois, she could have stayed angry with him for a lot longer than she did.
They walked over to the elevator, laughing and joking, as they were earlier in the day. Clark mused that maybe now they'd admitted they were in love with one another, Lois might be less angry about him being Superman than he thought. But then he remembered Lois's awful temper, and with a rueful smile to himself, he realised that was just wishful thinking.
Later in the day, the staff began to mill out of the Planet so it could be prepared for the anniversary celebrations. Lois and Clark had been hard at work all afternoon, after the extended lunch break. But hours on, they still had neither any new information on the cloned gangsters or the new armed robbery story.
Earlier, Jimmy had produced a list of stores that had been attacked. All of the crimes had taken place in the middle of the night, which was an interesting point. But it wasn't exactly unusual. Overall, a total of eight different stores had been repeatedly robbed in the last three weeks. From the information, Lois and Clark had been able to deduce while this could be just a high spate of robberies — after all, Hobb's Bay was a bad area — but their reporting instincts told them otherwise.
But from the limited information they had, it wasn't obvious why. It looked like this was going to turn out to be a bigger story than either of them had originally thought.
She sifted through various files they'd been able to pull up from the computer. Every so often, Clark's arm came over her shoulder, pointing out different things on the screen.
"What about that?" he said triumphantly, pointing to a particular line in the file.
"Could just be a coincidence," she replied, seeing his face fall from the corner of her eye.
She turned her head and grinned at him. "My reporter's instincts tell me that it's something more, though."
He grinned in return. "So now that we both agree… what do you think it could be?" he asked.
They discussed the topic for several minutes, but still came up blank. At this stage, it was impossible to tell. But things were steadily progressing, and Lois was confident that they'd have a front-page story out of this pretty quickly.
Lois stood up from her desk, preparing to leave with the rest of the staff. Clark, who was still sitting next to her, stood up too.
"So, what time shall I meet you for the party tonight, Lois?" he asked. "I'm assuming you want to go together."
"Yeah," she replied. "How about 6:30? That should give us plenty of time."
"Would you like me to drive you home now?" he volunteered.
"No, I'm okay," she told him, knowing she had to go out before the party. She was sure she must have something at home to wear that would be suitable, but with her upcoming date with Clark, she needed something new to wear. With the party tonight and busy day tomorrow, now was the only chance she'd get to buy anything.
"Are you sure?" he asked. "I know I keep reminding you of it, but you really need to look after your shoulder."
"I'm sure, Clark!" she exclaimed. "I have some stuff to do anyway."
"Okay," he replied, giving in. "I'll walk down with you to your car, though."
They walked quickly towards the elevator, which luckily, was already waiting. They found themselves alone, and once the doors were closed, Lois gently put her hands onto Clark's waist, pulling him towards her. "I wish I could spend tonight alone with you," she told him, realising how strange that sounded. After all, before she met Clark, spending an evening alone with someone just enjoying each other's company sounded like an absurd idea.
Now she found the prospect of being alone with Clark as often as she could very appealing. Oh, it wasn't something that happened overnight; she knew that. As she and Clark had become closer to each other, she'd found herself gradually wanting to spend time with Clark. Sometimes there was nothing she enjoyed more than pizza and a video at Clark's apartment.
And now… she longed to be alone with him. Now that they both knew how they really felt and realised they were in love, things would be different. It would be fine to cuddle as close up to Clark as she could, as she'd wanted to be before sometimes. She could reach up and kiss those lips that were so hard to resist. It sounded like heaven.
"Me too, Lois," Clark replied. "But we have to make an appearance tonight."
"I know. At least we have our date to look forward to! Tomorrow night isn't that far away," she said.
"Yeah. It's still long enough, though. It'll be a long day, having to make sure nobody at work suspects anything," he reminded her with a sigh.
"Well, we don't really have to hide it, do we?" she asked. It wasn't anything they'd really discussed, but they seemed to have come to a decision to keep their new relationship from the rest of the staff. She knew she didn't want to be gossiped about, but she hated having to maintain a safe distance from Clark so people wouldn't become suspicious.
"I thought that was what you wanted, Lois," he questioned.
"I don't know. I don't like having to keep away from you so people won't realise anything is different. And besides, people are bound to find out sooner or later."
"Okay. If that's what you want, Lois, I'll not try to avoid you at the party tonight." He grinned in response.
"You'd better not!" she exclaimed.
As the elevator pulled to a halt and the doors opened, they exited, smiling at each other. "So I guess I'll see you tonight then," Clark said.
"Yeah. 6:30, remember?" she reminded him, hardly wanting him to go. But she broke eye contact and began to walk out of the building and towards her jeep, Clark following. Normally, she would have parked in the underground parking lot, but Clark was always one for thinking of safety, and he'd decided the car should be parked in the open air so she wouldn't have to go down there in the dimly lit parking lot.
"Later," he said quietly as he walked away from her. She gave a sad smile, even though she knew she'd see him in just a couple of hours.
Suddenly, he was back in front of her, his lips descending down on hers. The kiss was brief, but she found herself smiling broadly as he raised his head and looked into her eyes. "Later, Clark," she grinned.
With that, she got into her jeep and quickly drove away, leaving Clark to stand and watch her depart. She quickly decided that she would choose a new, stunning dress for tonight, as well as a new dress for the date. Even though she would have liked to be alone with Clark, now that they'd decided they weren't going to hide their relationship, it was going to be a lot more fun.
A couple of hours later, Clark took a brisk walk over to Lois's apartment. He was early, and, knowing she wouldn't be ready yet, waited on her front steps until it was time to go up. He'd chosen his outfit for the celebration party carefully — after all, he wanted to impress Lois. Even though this wasn't their proper date and they'd be surrounded by the rest of the Planet workers, they were going together, and it felt special.
His breath caught in his throat as he realised how quickly things had changed between them. Suddenly, he wondered if this would still have happened if they hadn't been in the illegal gambling club that night, if Lois hadn't been shot. He knew he'd planned to ask her on a date, so maybe it would have. If he'd had the nerve to ask her on a date, that was. Before she'd told him of her feelings, he didn't know whether or not he would be rejected.
The reality still lingering in his mind, though, putting a dark cloud over their new relationship. He'd constantly been thinking of how to tell Lois he was Superman, and yet nothing came to mind. Whatever he told her, however he said it, she was going to be angry. And rightly so. What made it worse was that he was sure if he'd told her before, she wouldn't have been so annoyed with him.
But now she'd risked her life for him. When she found out it was all for nothing, that in fact he would have been safe, she'd be fuming.
Sighing, he glanced at his watch and realised with excitement that it was time to pick up Lois. Trying to push the Superman issue to the back of his mind, he stood up and entered the apartment building, heading for Lois's apartment.
Lois nervously paced her apartment, hoping that Clark would come early. After buying some new clothes, she'd quickly rushed home and started preparing for the celebrations. It had taken a while to find which outfit she liked the most, but in the end she had chosen a simple, dark blue dress. The dress was plain, with no fancywork on it, but it clung to her perfectly.
To her chagrin, she'd had to buy a selection of dresses with broad straps, to cover the pad on her shoulder. It was probably safe to remove it now, but a dress with spaghetti straps would no doubt rub and cause pain. Besides, she knew the area was very bruised and she wanted to look her best — - purple bruises weren't very nice to look at, and would no doubt attract attention to her.
She looked in the mirror, hoping to pass the time. Glancing at the wall clock, it occurred to her that he would be here any minute. With a laugh, she realised that if she was this nervous about going to a public event with Clark, then what would she be like tomorrow night when he picked her up for their date?
Suddenly, a knock came on the door and she quickly rushed over to it, looking through the peephole. It was Clark… and he looked amazing. He was wearing a dark suit, as far as she could tell from the small peephole image. But he did look very good, even with this distortion. Taking a deep breath, she opened the door and smiled at him.
"Right on time," she said, trying to disguise her sharp intake of breath as she looked at him.
"Lois… you look great," he told her, smiling. "But I thought you had nothing to wear?"
"I don't. Well, I bought this today," she admitted.
"Ah," he replied. "Your shoulder looks sore," he added, turning his gaze to the bruising that wasn't covered by the broad strap of the dress
"It's not as bad as it looks," she grimaced.
"Are you sure, Lois? It looks pretty bruised to me," he commented.
"I'm fine! Now, are we going to this party or not?" Lois asked, grinning.
"Yeah. Let's go," he replied.
Lois grabbed her bag from inside the apartment and walked out, locking the door behind her. "I wonder if this party is gonna be any better than last year's?" she asked him.
"Well…" he started, hesitating. "It'll be okay, but I'd rather be watching a video and eating a pizza with you."
Lois blushed and ducked her head slightly as they began to walk. It felt wonderful for Clark to be saying such things to her, but she hadn't had any practice at how to reply to compliments. She knew she must look stupid to Clark by not replying to him, but she sensed he understood. Over the time they'd been friends, she'd revealed little bits of information to him about her past relationship disasters, so he knew she hadn't had much practice.
It didn't take long for them to exit the building, and they headed to Lois's jeep. "Here you are," she said, handing the keys to Clark. "I'm assuming you want to drive," she laughed.
He unlocked the car and replied, "You know, you're taking this pretty well, Lois. I thought you liked to drive yourself."
"I do… but I have to admit it's nice to be chauffeured around sometimes," she grinned. "And you're much better than the cab drivers."
"I'm not really sure if that's a compliment or not," he grinned in response. "Oh, by the way, when I was walking here I noticed there was quite a bit of traffic on the roads, so we'd better hurry or else we'll be late!"
They both hurriedly got into the jeep and fastened their seat belts. Lois half wished that she had insisted on driving — if the traffic was going to be bad, she knew that Clark would try to take things carefully, whereas she would speed as much as possible in order to get there on time.
"Come on, let's go!" she exclaimed. Clark quickly started the car and drove off at his regularly slow speed, much to Lois's annoyance.
Lois and Clark arrived at the celebrations to find most people already there. Clark glanced at his watch and realised they were ten minutes late. Once they were in the newsroom, they stood still, looking around the room.
"What do you think?" he said into her ear in a hushed tone, and felt her shiver against him.
"It's nice," she replied. "I thought they would have decorated it more, though."
"Me too. Although the cake looks really nice," he said, pointing towards it.
"Yeah," she replied.
Clark saw Perry in the centre of the room, champagne in hand. It seemed like he was almost ready to begin making a speech about the Planet and people were starting to gather round him. As he saw everyone advance towards Perry, he mused that no one looked as beautiful as Lois did. As close as he was to her, he could smell her perfume, an intoxicating smell. Her small, delicate body was almost touching his, and suddenly, memories flooded back to him of their lovemaking the previous night.
How he wished he could take her into his arms right now. But he'd resolved to let her set the pace, and from her embarrassment at the thought of being naked in front of him this morning, it seemed as if she wanted to move things along slowly. Oh, he didn't have a problem with that at all — after all, he himself had always thought he wouldn't make love with anyone until he was deep in a meaningful relationship. Not that his relationship with Lois wasn't meaningful, of course. But she didn't know everything about him, not yet.
His mind protested that she did know him, but he ignored it. She *didn't* know that he was Superman. Besides, it was Lois's choice as to whether they made love or not, and for now, he was content to ignore his desires.
If only she weren't so tempting! He'd been standing this close to her before with no problem, he knew that… but now that they'd made love and he knew what every curve of her body felt like, it was hard to control his feelings.
"Maybe we should get some champagne?" he asked, gesturing towards the champagne table in order to try and take his mind off Lois.
"Yeah, that sounds like a good idea," she replied. "Looks like Perry's about to make a speech."
Suddenly, the tinkling of somebody tapping on a glass interrupted them. "I'd just like to propose a toast to the Daily Planet," Perry's voice rang out across the newsroom. "Now, has everyone got full glasses?"
Everyone became hushed and Clark quickly made his way towards the champagne table, pouring both a glass for Lois and one for himself. He walked back over to her and handed her a glass, gently placing his hand on the small of her back to draw her closer to him.
"First of all, I'd like to say what a pleasure it is to have worked at the Planet for almost thirty-five years. I've had some great times here and have seen some great reporters come and go. And some wonderful teams, too. Norcross and Judd, and now Lane and Kent." With that, he began to clap and everyone else followed suit.
Clark smiled with pride, and although he couldn't see Lois's face, he knew she was smiling too. To be compared with such a great reporting team as Norcross and Judd was a great honour, something he'd waited for all his life. As the applause continued, he realised how glad he was he'd settled in Metropolis. He had a job that he'd always dreamed of, his very own Kerth award and what was more, he had Lois. She was perfect. If he'd never chosen Metropolis, he never would have found her.
The clapping subsided, and Perry continued. "To still be at the Planet while it is celebrating its 60th year of being a broadsheet is an honour. So I'd like to —"
The sudden sound of shouts and screams interrupted everyone, and Lois and Clark spun around to see what the disturbance was. Shocked gasps rang out around the room as people saw the group of resurrected gangsters. Clark's blood ran cold as he saw Clyde Barrow, and he automatically moved to stand in front of Lois, protecting her. After all, if Clyde thought he'd killed Lois, there was no reason why he wouldn't try and finish the job.
"Good evening ladies and gentlemen," Al Capone's voice came. As he walked forward, the other gangsters followed, raising their guns. "My name is Al Capone. And we'd appreciate it if all of you would just line up."
Clark knew that he had to do something. These were people who were not afraid to use the guns they were armed with, and everyone at the Planet, especially Perry, was in danger. But how could he stop them without being noticed? If he did it now, he risked everyone finding out he was Superman. No, he had to sneak off and change into his Superman costume.
But, he reminded himself, if he did that, Lois would be left unprotected. Now he was faced with the choice of leaving her and coming back as quickly as he could as Superman to stop them, or staying and making sure she was okay, but risking the lives of everyone else. Much as he was afraid for Lois's life, he knew that he had to go. What would be a suitable distraction, though?
Suddenly, he saw Jacques, the caterer, walk forward towards Al Capone and his gang. "What are you doing? We don't need you here," he heard Jacques scold, and he saw a window of opportunity. All eyes were on the Frenchman. Clark slowly walked backwards, slipping away from the crowd. Luckily, he and Lois were at the back of the crowd of people, so his moving disturbed no one.
His eyes darted around for somewhere to go and he edged his way around the back of a pillar. Seeing the door to the stockroom lodged half open, he dived in there and quickly removed the suit from his pocket, spinning into it. Within seconds, he was at the front of the newsroom, ready to take hold of the gangsters when he saw Perry moving forward from the corner of his eye.
"Capone, this isn't 1940. The police are probably already in the lobby. Don't make things worse for yourself," he heard Perry say, obviously trying to reason with him.
"The only person things are about to get worse for is you," Capone replied sarcastically, and the gang raised their guns, preparing to shoot. The people in the newsroom began to scream as fingers moved towards triggers.
Clark flew forward in a flash of blue, catching the bullets as each of the gangsters fired their guns. The screaming of the crowd subsided and sighs of relief were evident.
"You again!" Capone exclaimed with a shocked look on his face.
"Looking for these?" Clark said in a smug tone, holding out his hands to reveal the bullets, before crushing them and letting the dust fall to the floor.
The gang suddenly turned their guns on Clark and prepared to shoot, when Clyde stopped. His gaze moved over to where Lois was standing at the back of the crowd. "You," he stated, bringing his gun round and aiming it at Lois.
Clark felt a stab of fear run through his veins and quickly changed positions so he was directly in front of Clyde. Using a burst of heat vision, he heated up all the guns, and one by one, each gangster dropped their weapon to the floor.
With that, the group turned around and began to make their escape from the building. Several members of the Planet staff began to chase after them, pinning them down. Clark wanted to wait behind, make sure Lois was okay after being threatened again by Clyde, but he saw Al Capone going down the stairwell in an attempt to get away from him. Quickly, Clark followed him down the stairs silently until they reached the lobby.
Clark realised that someone in the newsroom must have alerted the police, as a cascade of blue flashing lights were making their way down the street. He grabbed Al Capone from behind, holding onto his collar and lifting him clean off the floor.
"Hey! What's going on?" Capone asked incredulously.
"Alcatraz is closed, Capone," Clark replied with a grin. "But I'm sure they'll find something nice for you."
Police officers began to enter the building and walked over to Clark. He pushed Capone over to them and watched as he was quickly put into handcuffs and escorted out of the building. "Thanks, Superman," one of the officers said on their way out.
"The rest of them are upstairs in the newsroom," Clark told the remaining officers and pointed to the stairwell. Once the police were on their way to catching the gangsters, Clark quickly followed up the flight of stairs. It didn't take long to reach the newsroom, and once there, he snuck around to the men's room, which thankfully, was away from people's view. When he made sure that it wasn't occupied, he changed back into his regular suit, squashing his super suit back up and replacing it in his pocket.
He exited the men's room and returned to the main section of the newsroom. The gangsters were being put under arrest by the police officers and now most of the staff were standing still, muttering inaudible things to each other. He searched around for Lois but didn't instantly see her, until he saw her rushing towards him.
"Clark!" she exclaimed. "Where did you go? I thought they'd done something to you!"
"I'm fine, Lois!" he replied. "I just… um, I had to use the men's room," he told her, gesturing to the room he'd just emerged from.
"There was a group of gangsters with guns and you decided it would be a good time to do that now?" she asked with raised eyebrows.
"Well…" Clark tried to think of excuses but didn't seem to be coming up with anything productive. "I guess they made me nervous…" he finished, blushing at his weak reason.
But he smiled when he saw Lois laughing. At least she found it funny and not lame! "What do you think is happening to the party?" he heard her ask, changing the subject. Clark felt relieved that she didn't try to get further information about his disappearance; there weren't many ways in which he could have explained it.
"I don't know," he replied. "Where's Perry?"
Lois pointed to the other side of the newsroom where the remaining gangsters were being handcuffed and led down the stairwell. "He's right over there."
Quickly, they walked over to him. "What are we doing about the rest of the celebrations, Chief?" Clark asked.
"I'm not sure," Perry replied. "I was thinking that maybe we should call it a night, but people haven't been here for very long. What do you think?"
"Maybe you should finish your speech first," Lois suggested.
"Yeah, I'll do that," he replied. "Okay, everyone, gather round," he addressed all the members of staff in a louder tone.
As people began to move towards Perry, Clark collected two glasses of champagne from the nearby table for him and Lois. "Here you go," he said quietly, aware of the hush that was filling the newsroom again.
"Thanks," she whispered back.
"Well, I'm going to finish this speech quickly before Elvis walks into my newsroom," Perry joked, grinning. "So, here's to sixty years of the Daily Planet being the best newspaper in Metropolis!"
"The Daily Planet!" everyone toasted, raising their glasses in the air.
"Now I know we should probably call it a night after what's happened, but I don't think we should let them ruin our celebrations. So everybody have a great time!" Perry exclaimed.
The group crowded around the middle of the newsroom began to wander away. Clark sighed, part of him wishing that the celebrations had been cancelled. Normally milling about talking to everyone would be fun, but he just wanted to spend some quality time with Lois. While she was still happy with him.
But he knew they had to be loyal to the paper and stay for at least another hour. He glanced over at Lois and saw a tired look on her face. She must be exhausted, he realised, what with everything that had happened in the last couple of days. Maybe Perry wouldn't mind if they did leave early, after all. He must have noticed how tired Lois looked, too.
"Lois," Clark said, getting Lois's attention. She looked up at him gently. "Do you want to go home? You look tired."
"I am tired," she replied. "But we should probably stay longer — we're two of the main reporters at the Planet. I'm sure Perry wants us to mingle and such," she said, making a face.
"I'm sure that people would understand, with everything you've gone through," he told her.
"Maybe," she responded.
"And besides, I know that wandering around and talking to everyone probably isn't your kind of thing, is it?" he asked.
"Well… I could think of better things to do!" she exclaimed with a grin. "I have to say that I'm not really in the mood for it now."
"Perry will understand. I'll tell him that we're leaving," Clark told her before walking away in search of the editor. Quickly, he found him and went over to him.
"Chief, can I have a word?" he asked politely, pulling him over to one side.
"Sure, Clark. What's up?" Perry replied.
"I was just wondering if you'd mind if Lois and I left the party early. Lois isn't feeling herself after the other night and doesn't really feel up to the party," he told Perry. "Although don't tell her I said that! You know how she's trying to convince everyone she's no different."
"Of course not," Perry said. "I knew she needed to get some rest."
"Thanks, Chief," Clark replied, smiling. "We'll see you tomorrow."
"Okay. Make sure she rests," Perry reminded.
With that, Clark returned to where Lois was standing waiting for him. "What did he say?" she asked.
"He says it's fine," Clark answered. "Come on, let's go."
They walked over to the elevator and pressed the button to call it. Surprisingly, the car arrived straight away and they walked into it quickly. Although he didn't need to sleep as much as humans, Clark found himself also tired by the recent events. He felt glad that they'd been allowed to leave the celebration party early — not only did he know that Lois wasn't in the mood, but he wanted to get a good night's sleep before their date tomorrow.
After the relatively quick journey back to Lois's apartment, all too soon she found herself outside her apartment door, saying goodbye to Clark for the night. Although she'd wanted to get away from the party, she wished she could spend some more time alone with Clark. But now that she'd told him she was tired, he would want her to have an early night.
"I'll see you tomorrow, Lois," he told her in a soft voice.
She glanced at her watch. It wasn't even nine o'clock and he was saying goodnight to her. It seemed stupid, given that she'd been with Clark all day, but she wanted to be with him even more. Leaving him was such a hard thing to do.
How was she even supposed to say goodbye? At the moment, she was looking deep into his eyes, trying to hold their contact for longer. She moved her eyes to his lips and found them to be looking so full and gorgeous, just like usual. As she'd already done many times since she'd realised how she felt about Clark, she mentally slapped herself for not seeing how handsome he was earlier on.
"Goodnight, Clark," she said gently, lowering her head in an attempt to make it easier to let him go.
But neither of them moved, and suddenly Lois wondered what Clark would do if she invited him back into her apartment. Would he accept? She questioned her thought; what exactly did she want to happen? Did she… did she want to make love with him again? Earlier in the day, she'd resolved to wait until they'd been dating for a while until they made love again, to let it happen naturally. But now… he seemed hard to resist.
However, she knew it probably was best to wait, no matter how desirable Clark was looking. She knew she *was* tired; that hadn't been an excuse to just escape from the party. And she had another long day tomorrow, what with writing the follow up story on the group of cloned gangsters arrest and later on, their date. She smiled at the thought of it and wished it would come sooner!
Becoming aware she was still very close to Clark, not moving, not speaking. "Night…" she said again, her voice barely more than a whisper. How could he have such power over her, enough to make her speechless when he was close?
Suddenly, she saw his head move towards hers and felt his lips press against hers in a sweet kiss, a kiss she'd been longing for all evening. Her hands came quickly up to his head, running her hands through his hair as he worked his lips against hers. A jolt of pain shot its way down her arm but she ignored it, desperate to keep on sharing this intimate exchange with Clark.
As she felt his tongue pushing forward, she opened her mouth and allowed him access, moaning as he did. The surroundings around them faded and she became unaware they were in a public place outside her apartment door. Passion began to increase and she felt Clark push closer against her, gently moving her back so she was leaning on her apartment door.
But she knew it had to end, reluctant as she was to do so. Gradually, she took control, slowing the kiss down. Her chest heaved as she tried to catch her breath, and she momentarily leaned her head against Clark, smiling as she did.
"Clark…" she whispered. "I have to go now," she told him, looking up at him. Briefly, she saw disappointment flit across his face, to be quickly replaced with a smile.
"Okay, Lois," he replied. "See you tomorrow." She felt his arms slip from around her and fall at his sides. "Take care," he added.
Lois turned around and reached for the key from her purse, quickly unlocking her apartment door.
"You too, Clark," she told him, smiling.
"Bye," he said, before finally turning around and walking back down the corridor. Lois stood outside her apartment and watched him as he walked until he turned the corner and was out of view.
She entered her apartment and shut the door before leaning back against it, allowing her head to lean against the cool wood. "Wow…" she whispered to herself, almost unable to believe the things Clark was making her feel.
Now she was alone. She'd been away from Clark for less than a minute and already she felt lonely. She asked herself if she felt the same about Clark before they'd found out they loved each other. Did she feel lonely as soon as he left? Had she been desperate for him to run back and kiss her? Well, no, not kiss her, but it was true she'd felt lonely. After their friendship had developed, sometimes she'd wished he could stay and watch movies with her all night long.
But the memory of Clark making love to her the previous night now haunted her mind. If she'd invited him, they could have been together again tonight, bodies entwined, hearts beating wildly. Just the two of them, locked in a passionate embrace while they again sealed their love.
She'd let him go, though. Now he was on his way home and she wouldn't see him until tomorrow in the newsroom. It wasn't the same as being alone with him, not afraid of being watched. At work, they had to act professionally. She wouldn't be able to go up to him, take hold of his body and kiss him until all other thoughts flowed away as they had done just mere minutes ago. Sighing as she realised it had been a mistake to let him go now, she pulled herself up from the door and walked over to the bedroom, hoping she would find solace from the continual thoughts of Clark.
The next morning, Lois entered the newsroom feeling cheerful and well rested. After she'd finally fallen asleep last night, her rest had been peaceful, albeit filled with sweet dreams of Clark, causing her to wake up feeling energetic and happy. Of course, she mused, it could be because the date with Clark would come around in only a few hours!
But she was aware that she and Clark had a full day of work ahead of them so she tried to push the date to the back of her mind, to allow her to fully concentrate on their work. The gangster article was important, possibly even Kerth material, and she couldn't let her writing slip because of outside work activities.
Lois giggled to herself at her description of her date with Clark as an 'activity'. Oh, it was much more than that! It was… the start of something good. She smiled widely as she tried to imagine what Clark would be like on a date. She didn't even know where they going. All he'd told her was that he knew a 'great little French place'. But however he acted on a date, she was sure he would be the perfect gentleman.
The smell of fresh coffee assaulted her senses and she wished Clark had arrived early so he could get some. But as of yet, there was no sign of him. Sighing, she stood up and made her way over to the coffee machine to get it for herself. A box of fresh doughnuts lay next to the coffee and she quickly picked one out for herself along with one of Clark's favourites for him.
After quickly preparing her coffee, she returned to her desk, placing the items down. She briefly glanced over at Clark's desk, then, finding it still empty, looked at her watch. He had plenty of time remaining to be there punctually, but she knew he normally came early.
Knowing that she might as well be working while she was waiting for Clark to arrive, she turned on her computer and fired up the writing program. But suddenly, the noise of the elevator came faintly and she raised her head, somehow instinctively knowing she'd find Clark.
And there he was. It was strange; normally the noise of the elevator never distracted her from her work. She rarely even heard it. But this time she'd known it was Clark coming to work. She watched him cross the newsroom and come towards her, smiling as he walked.
"Morning, Lois," he said brightly, leaning down beside her.
"Hey, Clark," she replied with a smile. "You're pretty late this morning!"
"I… uh, I accidentally slept in late," he told her.
"Well," she began. "Seeing as you're later than normal, I got you one of your favourite doughnuts before they ran out." With that, she handed him the doughnut, a pleased look on her face.
"Thank you, Lois!" he replied gratefully. "And I see you made your own coffee this morning… I have to say I'm impressed!"
She shot him a mock glare in return. "You know, I could have just let you had a plain old biscuit. Or nothing at all!" she exclaimed.
"Maybe that would have been a better choice," he replied, his voice slightly lower in volume. "They serve a *lot* of food at the restaurant we're going to tonight."
"Where is this place, Clark?" she asked curiously.
"It's called 'Restaurant Le Charlemagne'. About four or five blocks away from my apartment," Clark replied.
"Don't think I've seen it," she told him. "But I'm sure it's great."
"Oh, it is! You'll love it. They have a really great selection of desserts there, too," he informed her with a grin.
"Well, I'll be looking forward to it, then," she responded, slapping him lightly on the arm in a playful manner. "But we'd better start doing some work."
"Yeah." Clark moved away to pull the chair from his desk over to Lois's. She smiled. It was something she'd appreciated when he'd done it the day before. She saw him begin to sit down, pulling the chair near her computer. "Are we working on the gangster story first?"
"Mmm. Perry wants it in for today," she replied.
"Okay," he said. They spent a few brief moments discussing what sort of angle to use on the story before getting down to work.
Forty-five minutes later, Lois emailed the story back to Perry, satisfied with how things had turned out. "I'm glad they're in jail now," she said to Clark quietly.
"Me too. At least they can do no more harm."
"Clark… I didn't tell you," she began, knowing that she needed to tell him about Clyde moving towards her last night, at the party. "Last night, while you where in the men's room, Clyde… well, he went for me again."
She studied Clark's face and wondered why it wasn't changing. There didn't seem to be any look of surprise at all. After a few seconds of silence, something seemed to register with him and his face changed to one of horror. "Oh, no, Lois! What happened?"
"Well, I don't know how much you saw before you left, but the gangsters came in with the guns. They came towards everyone and shot… but Superman was there. He stopped the bullets but then Clyde saw me." She stopped, trying to catch her breath. Although Superman had been there and had stopped him from hurting her, she'd still been afraid. He'd shot her once; obviously he'd have no problems with doing it again.
"Yes?" Clark asked, urging her to continue.
"He walked towards me and said, 'You'. Just like that — no emotion, just a statement. Superman dashed in front of him straight away, but if he hadn't… oh, Clark! He wanted me dead," she finished, trying to keep her composure. They were in the newsroom, filled with lots of other people.
"It's okay, Lois," he told her reassuringly. She saw his hand go towards hers and stop, as if he was briefly wondering whether to go any further. Grateful for the comforting gesture, she reached her hand forward and laid it over the top of his, squeezing it gently.
"I'm glad he's safely behind bars now, anyway," she said quickly.
"He won't hurt you again Lois, I swear. There's no way I'd let that animal near you again," Clark told her with vigour.
"That's so sweet, Clark. But there's no way you could stop him," she replied quietly.
Clark seemed to hesitate for a while, an emotion playing across his face that she couldn't read, couldn't understand. "I should, Lois. He shouldn't have shot you in the first place. The bullet was meant for me."
Lois gasped at what Clark was telling her. He was still obsessing about it? She had no idea that he was still blaming himself for what had happened to her. "Clark, look at me," she told him firmly, noticing his head was looking down towards his hands. To anyone in the newsroom, the position they were in might attract attention but she didn't care.
Finally, he moved his head to look into her eyes and she continued. "I thought we'd sorted this out the other night? Clark, there was *no way* you could have stopped what happened!"
"I feel guilty, Lois," he replied.
"I wish I'd never brought this up if I'd known it was going to affect you so much," she said quietly. "Please stop blaming yourself, Clark. He's in jail now; he can't do anything else to me. And Superman was there last night to stop him!"
"But what if Superman wasn't there? What if Superman found himself frozen on the spot and couldn't save you?" Clark asked sharply, letting his head fall back down into his hands.
Lois started to worry about him. He was obviously upset about something, but why question Superman's abilities? There seemed to be no logical reason why he would ask such a question. "I don't think Superman would be frozen on the spot," she told him.
"It's possible to be totally paralysed by fear, Lois," he replied in a voice that was only just louder than a whisper.
"Clark —" she began, ready to reassure him when Perry's voice came behind her, making her jump.
"Lois, Clark," he drawled. "This article on the clones of the gangsters is great. I can see a joint Kerth heading your way pretty soon."
"Thanks, Chief," Lois replied. It was a nice compliment to receive, and the prospect of a joint Kerth with Clark was very appealing, but right now she wanted some time alone with Clark to try and calm him down, and discover if he had any other lingering problems on his mind.
"Yes, thank you, Chief," Clark chipped in briefly.
"Clark? Are you okay?" Perry asked, obviously noticing that Clark didn't look quite himself.
"I'm fine, Chief," he replied. "Just a little tired, I guess."
"Okay. Well, don't let it affect your work," he told Clark in his usual gruff tone.
Perry wandered back over to his office. When he was out of earshot, Lois turned to look at Clark again. "*Are* you okay?" she asked, concern showing in her voice.
"Yeah," he replied, seeming to cheer up a little. He raised his head and gave her a slight smile. "I was just wondering what I would have done if I'd lost you."
"But I'm right here! There's no point in thinking of 'what ifs' — nothing happened to me, Clark. You didn't lose me." She gave the hand she was still holding a squeeze to aid her reassurance.
"I guess you're right," he replied, squeezing her hand back.
"I am. Now come on, cheer up. We have our date to look forward to tonight!" she exclaimed.
That made him smile, making her pleased. "Yeah, I'm surprised I actually got distracted from thinking about it for five minutes. That's the longest time I've thought about something else all morning," he said, grinning.
"Me either. Well, we've had a little break now; let's get back to work. We ought to check out some of the stores from the list Jimmy brought up for us yesterday; you know, the 24-hour ones in Hobbs Bay?"
"Ah, yes. Sounds like a good idea," he said.
"Were there any more attacks last night?" she questioned.
"Not that I know of. But I doubt that means they're over — somebody is obviously attempting to frighten these people. Each time Superman has stopped them and they still keep coming back for more. From the news reports I've seen, they never get away with anything, so what's the point in keep trying? Unless there's more to it."
"There has to be. Shall we split up, see what information we can get between us? Maybe we can meet back up for a late lunch?" she asked with a small smile.
"Sounds like a good idea. Come on, let's go." Clark quickly stood up and moved his chair back around to his desk, picking up his coat.
"Okay," Lois replied, doing the same. "I'll meet you at Susan's cafe around two o'clock!"
With that, they both headed their separate ways, planning to find out as much information as quickly as possible. Lois hadn't really wanted to split up from Clark, but it seemed like the most efficient way to work. While they were being paid, they had to try and forget about their personal life and do whatever they could to get the information.
Hours later, Lois and Clark walked back into the newsroom after sharing lunch and gathering their information together. After checking out quite a few of the stores each, they'd matched each other's information and had been able to see how many of the details fitted together. They'd been able to piece together that there were two main people attacking these stores. At each scene, there had been various witnesses — homeless people, and of course, the shop workers themselves. From what they'd been told, obviously the two people didn't seem to care about having their identities broadcast around.
The questioned now was why. It had become obvious that this simply wasn't a coincidence. Once they managed to get an identity on the people taking part in this, then things might become a lot clearer.
Now it was three o'clock and there were only another couple of hours before they would be free to go home. Clark beamed widely. Something he'd been waiting for ever since he'd joined the Planet was going to happen — his date with Lois was tonight! He knew that she was looking forward to it as much as he was. Not that he expected any less, of course. He'd never been on a date with somebody he was truly in love with, and he knew Lois hadn't either. A date in those circumstances sounded fantastic.
His mind drifted back to the conversation earlier. He'd been so stupid to let himself get that worked up again in front of Lois, and also to the view of everyone else in the Planet! If Lois had read any further into what he'd been saying about Superman and how people get paralysed by fear… she could have found out by herself. As it was, although she'd been concerned about him, she didn't seem to connect things together.
He'd have to be very careful to make sure that didn't happen again. But when he'd heard how upset Lois was about Clyde seeing her at the Planet last night and going for her… he hadn't been able to help himself. Yes, he'd known it had happened, but as he was concentrating on being Superman, he hadn't been able to see just how things had affected Lois.
Clark suddenly realised they were now over at Lois's desk. It seemed that they had walked there while he was deep in thought. Lois seemed to be too, as Clark hadn't heard her say anything for quite a while.
"Clark?" he suddenly heard her ask.
"Just wondering if you were okay — you've been pretty quiet since we left Susan's cafe. I know you were upset earlier."
"I'm fine. I was just thinking — about the case," he told her, feeling bad for lying. But he already knew she thought he was obsessing about her being shot, so admitting he was thinking back to that morning would have been a bad idea.
"It's pretty strange, isn't it," she said. "The only thing I can think of is that they're part of an organisation. Maybe they're trying to scare the owners into selling their stores so they can swoop in and buy them?"
"That's a possibility — and would make a lot of sense," Clark agreed. "Actually, you bring up an interesting point. Remember Craig Durst, the owner of Gibb's Convenience Store?" he asked. At her nod, he continued, "He said he'd had an offer on one his stores, but he wasn't moving. It could be related."
"But why would anybody want to buy a whole load of 24-hour stores? Unless they're going to turn them into something else, but then again, what could it possibly be?" Lois wondered aloud.
"I don't know, Lois. But the sooner we find out who these people are, I think we'll have more chance of getting to the bottom of it," he replied.
"Let's get Jimmy to run these descriptions through the database. Where is he?" Lois questioned.
Clark quickly scanned around the newsroom and saw Jimmy nearby. "Over there," he told Lois, pointing him out.
"Jimmy!" she yelled, grabbing his attention. "We have these two descriptions," she said, handing him the pieces of paper they'd gathered together. "I know they're not much to go on, but see if you can find a match for either of them."
"Okay, Lois, I'll try," Jimmy replied, walking away to begin the research.
"I wonder why these people keep doing it over and over? I mean, shouldn't they have been put into jail by Superman?" she queried.
"I… uh, I talked to Superman after one. The first priority would have been to check that the shopkeepers were okay, giving the criminals time to get past. And don't forget, these seem to be two guys with a lot of experience," he replied. He knew that he also hadn't attended some of the robberies; also another reason for the crooks not yet being in jail. It was something he often wondered about; why didn't he hear everyone's cries for help? After all, his hearing seemed to be much more attuned to people needing help in general, rather than just specific calls for help.
Of course, there was always the chance that the shop owners, at least one or two of them, would have remained calm, if not totally silent. But that wasn't much of an excuse… with all his Super hearing, he should be able to hear the tiniest sound of panic when people needed helping.
There was only so much that he could do, though; that was something he'd learned when he first created the Superman identity. Besides, with the speed the investigation was going at, they'd have proof on these characters in no time at all and be able to stop them from terrorising the store owners.
"Well, the sooner we get them back in jail, the better," Lois replied.
A couple of hours passed with very little action in the Planet newsroom. A few minor stories had been completed for the evening edition, and now it was time for Lois and Clark to go home.
"Lois?" Clark prompted, standing up from his desk. He'd returned to his own working area when it became obvious that him and Lois were getting no work done.
"Yes, Clark?" she asked.
"It's time to go," he told her gently.
"It is?" She turned her head to look at her watch. "Oh, it is! I hadn't noticed."
She began to gather her belongings together and shut down her computer. Clark studied her face, wondering what she was thinking about. Every few moments, he saw a tiny smile creep up only to be quickly wiped away. It seemed that she was trying to hide her excitement from him. He, too, found himself unable to contain his joy that they were going out on a date. All day, no matter how much he tried to ignore them, the thoughts of what they would do whirred around in his head.
There was one thing he'd found it essential to push from his mind in order to continue with work, though. The kiss they'd shared last night outside Lois's apartment had been… breathtaking. For a moment he'd thought things were going to go further and had almost been disappointed when the kiss broke off. The memory of kissing Lois with passion, holding her against her apartment door, set his heart racing.
Every time he imagined kissing Lois, his pulse went crazy. Hopefully, given time, he'd find a way to control those feelings while working, so he was able to carry on with things. Then again, it was Lois. He was sure that every time she was close to him, her body touching his, he would be reminded of how amazing it had felt to make love to her.
He saw that Lois had finished shutting her computer down and so he began to walk over to the elevator, glancing behind to make sure he hadn't left her.
"Would you like a lift back to your place?" she asked.
Ideally he'd wanted to walk, to allow himself a chance to clear his head and plan some of the things he might say to Lois on their date. But she'd offered and he didn't really want to turn her down. "Sure, Lois. I'd like that," he replied, showing gratefulness in his voice.
"Great. You'll have more time to prepare for tonight," she said, smiling widely. "Although I'm sure you don't need to prepare that much — you're a guy."
"True, Lois, but it doesn't mean I won't put any effort in. I have to chose what sort of suit I wear!" he exclaimed.
Lois laughed and pushed the elevator button. "How hard can it be, Clark?"
"Well, the colour is very important," he retorted. "I need to make sure it's one you like. Do you have any preferences?" he asked with a grin.
"Why don't you surprise me? I mean, people already have so many expectations of each other on dates so we might as well not add to them," she replied.
"Good idea. But we're going to set a time for me to pick me up?" he questioned.
"Of course! But are you sure you want to pick me up? That means you having to take a cab over here first. It would be easier for me to just collect you."
The elevator arrived and they walked in, waiting for the doors to close and the carriage to start moving before continuing the conversation. "Well, it would, but I'd rather come and pick you up."
"Always the gentlemen," she said softly and placed her hand on his arm. He smiled in return, thinking of all the times he had wanted to make such a gesture to her.
"So what time shall I pick you up? I made reservations for eight," he told her.
"About seven-thirty, then?" she asked. "Would we get there in time?"
"Yeah, just about. It's not very far away."
The rest of the two-minute ride was filled with a comfortable silence. Clark knew he should probably do a Superman patrol before he left for the date to make sure he wouldn't be distracted later on that night. But seeing as he'd accepted a lift from Lois, the free time he had was running increasing short. Maybe riding home with Lois wasn't such a good idea after all.
As the elevator car pulled to a stop and they exited, Clark decided to tell Lois he would walk. "Lois," he began. "I think maybe I should get some fresh air and walk home after all," he told her.
"Are you sure, Clark?"
"Yes, Lois. Thank you for the offer, but I think a brisk walk is just what I need."
"Okay," she replied shrugging. They moved over towards her car and she unlocked it, quickly jumping into the driver's seat. "I'll see you at around seven-thirty, then?"
"I'll be there on the dot, Lois," he replied, grinning.
She gave one final smile before driving off, tires screeching behind her in usual Lois fashion. He gave a quick wave before setting off towards an alleyway, intent on doing his Superman patrol before preparing for the date.
At half past seven exactly, Clark knocked on the door of Lois's apartment.
After the Superman patrol around Metropolis, he'd returned to his apartment and tried on various different suits, trying hard to figure out which one Lois would like best. But with most of them, he had come to the same conclusion. Not right. As this was their first date, he wanted to look just perfect. He knew that Lois would make as much effort as she could, so he wanted to do the same.
However, after almost giving up, he'd tried on the charcoal suit he'd earlier dismissed before even testing it. He'd decided that one was perfect. Lois had said earlier that people already had so many expectations of dates and one of the main ones was what people expected the other to wear. It didn't seem like a big thing but it was important.
Clark took a deep breath and knocked on the door of Lois's apartment, resisting the temptation to x-ray the door and see what she was doing. To his surprise, she answered the door quickly, smiling at him.
The breath caught in his throat as his eyes moved over Lois, trying to take her in. She looked absolutely stunning. A black dress glided down to the floor, clinging to her every curve. Her hair was styled more than it was for the Planet, stray strands wisping around the edge of her face, making her look… perfect.
Perfect. The word rolled around in his head; it was the only possible way to describe her. He heard a nervous giggle emit from her and suddenly realised that he hadn't said a word to her since she'd opened the door. "Hey, Lois," he said brightly.
"Hey, Clark," she replied. He noticed her eyes wandering over him shyly and hoped the suit he'd chosen met her standards.
"You look… amazing," he told her with a smile, once again looking at her. She looked beautiful, but he knew that she was just as gorgeous when she wasn't all dressed up. One of the times she'd looked most attractive was the morning after the night they'd made love… yesterday morning. It seemed much longer ago than that!
Lois laughed. "You look good too, Clark. I really like your suit — you said you were going to surprise me… and you did!"
"I did?" he asked. "It's not that much of a surprise!"
She gently reached out a hand and ran it down his arm. "I just never knew you had any suits that were so well fitted!" she giggled in response.
He caught her meaning quickly and grinned at her, reaching forward to grab her other hand, pulling her gently out of the apartment. "You know, my work suits aren't that ill- fitting!"
"They're not bad," she admitted as she locked the door. Slowly, she leaned closer to him and lowered her voice to a whisper. "But when we made love the other night, it was a surprise to find what a great body you'd been hiding."
Clark felt a blush creep over his cheeks and heard her give a girlish giggle as she noticed. Even a mention of their night together was enough to set his pulse rate going twice as fast. "Um, yeah," he mumbled, scolding himself mentally for not being able to get a grip of himself. If Lois mentioned their making love one more time, he felt sure he would explode as the memories flooded his head.
"Are you embarrassed, Clark?" she asked. Her face had changed and it became impossible to tell whether she was joking or being serious. But as the hint of a grin broke out again onto her face, he knew she was only messing around.
"Of course not, Lois!" he told her. "I was just… thinking…"
"About when we made love?" she prompted.
"Well…" he began, unsure of how to proceed. But no doubt it was obvious to her what he had been thinking of so being truthful seemed to be the best policy. "Yeah."
"Do you think about it a lot?"
Trust Lois to ask all the probing questions he couldn't answer without blushing! He mused that she probably knew what sort of effect she was having on him and was teasing him, but try as he might, he couldn't think of any amusing comebacks on the spot, and had to resolve to drive her crazy in the same way some time.
"Sometimes it's hard not to think about it," he replied, feeling his face flush. "It was so special to me, Lois, that it's hard for me to get the lingering sensations out of my mind."
"I know what you mean," she told him, her voice taking on a breathy texture. At that point, she seemed to stop her teasing and Clark hoped it was the last time she'd say anything for a while. Oh, he wasn't embarrassed about having made love with Lois, but now that he didn't know where they stood in that department, he didn't want to scare Lois by letting her know that he couldn't stop the memories every time she was near him.
"Well, we'd better get going if we want to be there by eight," he said, looking at his watch. "Shall I drive? Your arm must be aching after all the work we've done today."
"Actually, it isn't that bad," she replied. "I took some more painkillers earlier so there's only a dull ache now. But I know you like driving, so go ahead."
They walked down the hall and around the corridor, heading for the exit of Lois's apartment. Clark slipped his arm around Lois's waist on the way and she quickly reciprocated.
Clark smiled as feelings of joy washed over him. His first date with Lois Lane, the event he'd been looking forward to all day, was finally here.
Not long after, Lois and Clark were sitting in the Restaurant Le Charlemagne, looking through the menu. Lois had been particularly impressed when they'd entered the restaurant. It was more beautiful than she'd imagined it to be. Soft fairy lights adorned the walls and, other than the candles on the tables, it was the only lighting there. The place had a friendly yet sophisticated atmosphere, and Lois wondered how Clark would be able to afford the meal they were going to have.
"Have you decided what you want yet?" Clark asked.
"Not yet. It says that you have Kir with peanuts before your starter, but I'm not sure what that is," she told him, hoping he would be able to explain. The last time she'd been in a French restaurant was when she'd gone out with Claude… an experience she'd tried to block from her mind.
Besides, they hadn't been anywhere nearly as fancy as this. There hadn't been numerous things on the menu to choose from, and they hadn't had all the courses they were allowed to choose from anyway. Claude had been nowhere near as thoughtful as Clark at anything.
Involuntarily, she shuddered and tried to forget her experiences with Claude. She was with Clark now, and they were in love. This wasn't just an ordinary first date people had when they were trying to get to know each other; they were already in love and knew most things about each other. This was different. It was special. Much more so than she'd ever had with anyone.
"You've never heard of it?" he questioned. She shook her head and he continued. "Well, it was invented by a priest, the Chanoine Kir. It's sweet white wine with a small amount of blackcurrant cream added," he told her.
"Wow, Clark!" she exclaimed, impressed. "How do you know all of that?"
"I guess it's just something that I picked up on my travels," he replied, smiling.
"Well, it sounds nice," she said. "Why don't you order that now?"
Clark beckoned a waiter and ordered the Kir quickly. "It shouldn't be long," he told her.
"What was it like to travel, Clark?" she asked. It was something she'd never really thought of doing, although from some of the stories Clark had told her, it sounded like an amazing experience. And he had obviously learned a lot of new things along the way.
"An interesting experience, Lois. It's fascinating to see how people from many other cultures live," he replied, smiling.
"You've obviously picked up a lot of things," she remarked.
"Yeah. I think I enjoyed learned ballroom dancing from the Nigerian princess the most. The one you don't believe exists," he joked.
"You mean you didn't make that up?" she asked with surprise.
"Of course not! How else would I have been able to dance so well?"
"I'm sorry I didn't believe you," she said, her voice taking on an apologetic tone.
"Hey, Lois, it's okay. Not many people would have believed me, I'm sure!" he reassured her. "Anyway, back to travelling. I'm really glad I did it. The freedom of being able to go wherever I wanted was exhilarating. And, of course, I got in some newspaper experience too."
"Ah yes. What was it, mating rituals of the knob-tailed gecko?" she said, grinning.
"I was proud of that story!" he objected playfully. "That was front page material!"
"Maybe for the Borneo Gazette, but certainly not for the Planet!" she said, grinning.
"Well, true," he admitted.
Their light banter was interrupted by the waiter bringing the Kir and peanuts over to them. He let them know that they could order the rest of their meal any time they were ready. Clark thanked the waiter quickly.
"What do you think?" Clark asked as Lois began to take a sip.
"Oh, it's really good!" she exclaimed, smiling. Clark's smile in response made her feel weak. So far, the date was turning out to be everything she had expected and more. She mused about how handsome Clark looked, sitting across from her, smiling. His hand was lying on the table and suddenly she found it impossible to resist laying her own hand over his, giving it a quick squeeze.
Her mind drifted back yet again to the other night, when those hands had been… She grinned to herself and decided it was best to let herself think those thoughts later. She continued to drink the Kir, the taste making her smile in delight. "This is great, Clark," she told him.
"Yes, it is," he replied, finishing the last of his. "I picked up some wonderful food and drink information on my travels, too."
Lois quickly finished the Kir, placing her glass back down on the table. "So I guess a starter comes next?" she asked. "Or are there any more pre-starters?"
"No," he answered, laughing. "The menu is in order of the courses, so it's easy to follow."
"Right. Well, I think I'll have langoustines for my starter," she told him.
"That's what I was going to suggest," he replied. "I'll have langoustines too."
"Clark…" Lois began. "How do you know about this restaurant? I mean… have you brought anybody here before?" Lois suddenly felt a wave of jealousy run through her. She hadn't known Clark to have had any other girlfriends while he'd been in Metropolis, but in the early stages of their relationship, there was no reason why he would have told her even if he had.
"Oh, I brought my parents here once while they were staying in Metropolis. It's the closest restaurant to my apartment," he explained.
"Ah, I see," Lois said, breathing a sigh of relief. She didn't know why the thought of Clark going out with someone upset her so much; it wasn't as if she'd wanted him herself back then. But it did, and much as she told herself that Clark had only been here with his parents anyway, she knew there'd still been others he'd dated before her.
She tried to shake the feelings from her head as she yet again reminded herself that Clark was with *her* now — any past girlfriends he'd had didn't matter now. She was the one he was going out with… the one he was in love with. The thought warmed her. "Why, Lois?" she heard him ask tentatively.
"Oh… just wondering, that's all!" she told him quickly.
"Okay," he replied, giving her a smile. "And what do you want for the main course?"
"Umm…" she mumbled, looking through the menu. The amount of food available was great and she was having a hard time choosing. Everything on the menu looked to be very expensive, and seeing as Clark was paying for this date, she didn't want to spend his money unnecessarily. "What do you think?" she asked.
"You can have whatever you like, Lois! I think I'm going to go for the roast beef and green beans. That's what I had the last time," he told her.
"But everything seems so expensive, Clark," she replied, admitting to him her reason for hesitating over what to choose. She knew that Clark's pay packet wasn't that great and didn't want to have anything that was over his limit.
"Lois," he began, taking both of her hands in his. "I brought you here to enjoy yourself! If you see something on the menu you'd like, then have it. It's our first date, Lois; the cost doesn't matter," he reassured her.
"You're so sweet, Clark," she told him, squeezing his hands before claiming her own back. She took another look at the menu, trying to decide what to have. "Can I have grilled sole with boiled potatoes?"
"Sure, Lois," Clark said. "Are you sure that's what you want, before I order it?"
"Yes," she told him. "It sounds really nice."
"I think that's what my Mom had the last time we came here. She said it was extremely good."
Lois smiled and sat back in her chair, watching Clark call the waiter over and order their food. She studied every move he made, her mind involuntarily wondering what she'd be doing right now if Clark had been killed by Clyde Barrow.
No doubt lying on the sofa, trying to block things from her mind. Just living minute by minute, not daring to think of the future. She shuddered as she realised just how close she had come to that. Having to endure the knowledge that the man she was in love with would have never known how she felt. As Clark finished talking to the waiter, giving him a smile, she tried to bring herself back to the present moment.
But the morbid thoughts refused to leave her head as quickly as they had entered and she found herself realising just how lucky she was to be sitting opposite Clark, instead of lying down grieving, knowing she'd never see his smile, his face, any of him again.
"Lois?" he asked quietly, moving a hand across the table. She felt her face being raised by that hand.
"Yes?" she said innocently, not sure she should tell Clark of her thoughts. She'd already told him not to dwell on what had happened, and what might have happened, and now here she was doing the same. But whatever she'd said to Clark, it hadn't reassured *her*. It was impossible not to think about what might have happened to him.
But was telling Clark she couldn't escape from the thoughts of how she'd be feeling if something had happened to him at the club a good idea? Maybe it would only serve the purpose of upsetting him more, and ruining their date. They were having a fantastic time so far, and apart from these thoughts, she was enjoying it. And so was Clark. She could see from the expressions on his face that he was having a great time.
"Are you okay? You seem to have turned quiet," he said, a hint of concern evident in his voice.
No. She couldn't — wouldn't — ruin their evening together. Shaking her head vigorously, she banished the last of the maudlin thoughts from her mind and gave Clark a smile. "I'm fine, Clark!" she insisted.
He seemed to hesitate for a moment before carrying on talking to her. "You're having a good time, aren't you, Lois?" he asked quietly.
"Oh, Clark, of course I am! I was just looking forward to our main course, that's all. I'm having a wonderful time," she said, almost unable to believe he doubted she was having fun.
"Are you sure?" he still questioned, obviously not totally believing her reassurances.
"I've been looking forward to this date ever since you asked me, Clark, and now I'm here it's everything I expected and much more. I'm not sure why you don't believe me, but I'm having fun!" she told him, a pleading tone creeping into her voice.
"You just seem a little quiet, that's all," he told her.
"Well, it seems a little weird that we already know each other! By this time, people are usually finding out about each other, but we're already best friends," she told him, still refusing to tell him just what she'd been thinking about. What with Clark already being so worried that she wasn't enjoying herself, there was really no need to tell him.
"And falling in love," he added. "Whereas we're already in love."
"Yeah," she replied, smiling. "And it's much better to have a first date this way, not wondering if the other person likes you or is bored with you… I already know you're in love with me."
Clark smiled back and they continued to talk casually, waiting for their meal to arrive. They became oblivious to the rest of the restaurant around them and Lois only concentrated on Clark, making sure her mind didn't lose concentration on him and slip back into those dark, bleak thoughts from earlier.
Clark finished the last of his roast beef, quickly pushing the plate aside. Lois had finished her meal a few minutes earlier and was now waiting patiently for Clark to finish eating.
"What did you think?" he asked her, wiping his mouth.
"It was a really nice meal, Clark. You were right when you said it was a really good restaurant," she told him.
They'd shared light conversation over dinner, avoiding subjects such as work. They'd been working hard all day and Lois had obviously wanted nothing more than to get away from it. So he'd come up with a multitude of other topics for them to talk about, some of which had left both of them in fits of laughter.
He hadn't again questioned whether or not Lois was enjoying their date; once he looked for it, it became apparent that she was having a great time. There was a sparkle in her eyes that he didn't normally see, apart from very rare occasions. Such as the other night, when they'd made love. A spark had been present then in her eyes that was unlike anything he'd ever seen before in her.
Oh, something similar was there when she was at work, chasing a story with all the ferocity she had in her. But this was different. He knew this sparkle meant she was enjoying herself. And she was in love.
The thought made his spine tingle. Everything seemed surreal; he'd wanted Lois to fall in love with him ever since he'd come to live in Metropolis. Now it was happening, she was really here, on a date with him! He looked across the table at her and found she was looking at him, her soft eyes peeking from under her lashes. Everything seemed perfect.
Sometime during the meal, he'd decided to tell Lois about Superman tomorrow night. He couldn't go on allowing himself to think everything was perfect when soon things would get as far from being perfect as they could. But right now, he was with Lois and she seemed to be watching his every move. Already he'd accused her of not having fun because she was a little quiet, he didn't want to make her think he wasn't enjoying himself.
"We'll have to come here again sometime," he told her softly.
"Maybe," she replied. "Although next time I'm not going to let you pay!" she exclaimed.
Clark shook his head and gave a small laugh. It seemed like Lois was worrying about the cost of the restaurant too much. "I told you, Lois, don't worry about it. Although, if it's bothering you, maybe we should get a pizza for our next date," he joked, grinning.
"Well, that wouldn't be so bad, would it?" she asked. "Snuggling up on your sofa and watching a movie?"
"Oh no," he replied. "But we've always done that!"
"But did we cuddle up to each other before?" she questioned with a grin.
"You have a point," he responded, laughing. And she did. The thought of watching a movie with Lois while being held in her embrace was an exhilarating one.
He saw Lois pick up the menu and begin to flick to the desserts page. As the waiter came across and started to efficiently clear the table, another one brought over green salad and cheese for both of them, causing Lois's brow to furrow. "Is this dessert?" she asked.
"This is an in-between snack!" he informed her.
"When did you order that?"
"With the other food. You must have been daydreaming. I haven't ordered desserts yet, though — there are a lot of things on the menu I'm sure you'll love!" he told her, grinning.
"I'm not sure I'll have room after this!" She pointed to the salad and cheese. Leaning towards her plate, she took a sniff of the cheese, her expression changing to one of being pleased. "This camembert smells great, though."
Much later in the evening, they grudgingly gathered their belongings as the restaurant prepared to close, the last of the diners milling out. Clark slipped his arm around Lois's shoulder, bringing her closer to him as they walked. The car was parked just outside the restaurant and Clark saw Lois quickly scramble in her coat pocket for the keys, finding them instantly and unlocking the car.
"Lois…" he began, taking her hand in his own. "I really enjoyed tonight," he told her, looking deep into her eyes.
"Me too, Clark. It was the best date I've ever had with anyone," she admitted.
Clark suddenly didn't want the evening to end, didn't want to go back to his apartment alone. He wondered what she'd say if he invited her back to his apartment. Oh, not for making love or anything since they'd already agreed that she would set the pace, but just to spend a little more time with him. It was already getting to the stage where he wanted to spend every free moment he had with Lois.
He glanced at his watch and saw he could still feasibly have another couple of hours with her before they had to get some rest. There was always the chance that she would turn him down, but he decided to risk it. Maybe Lois didn't want to leave him just yet, either.
"Lois," he began, half hesitantly, "I was wondering if you'd like to come back to my apartment?"
He saw Lois's mouth drop slightly and realised he hadn't told her exactly what he wanted her to come back to his apartment for. "Just to talk some more, I mean. I don't really want to say goodnight yet," he admitted.
"Okay," Lois replied with a smile. "I know it's only a few blocks to your apartment, but we'd better take the car. I don't really want to have to come back and fetch it."
"I know, Lois," he said as they started to get into the jeep. Once they were both inside, Lois quickly started up the engine and drove off. Clark noticed Lois giving a quick look back at the restaurant, obviously wishing the evening hadn't passed so quickly. He agreed; he was having so much fun with Lois that disappointment was setting in because they had to leave. The evening had been perfect.
If only it could stay that way, he mused sadly.
Lois and Clark arrived at Clark's apartment only a few moments after they'd set off from the restaurant. Lois quickly parked the car and they headed towards Clark's front door.
"Have you got the key?" she asked as she saw him fumble around in his pocket.
"Of course!" he told her laughing, and produced a key. He quickly opened the door and they entered, shutting the door behind them. "It's cold out there."
"Sure is," Lois replied. "Let's go over to your sofa and warm up," she added with a mischievous grin. She then headed straight for Clark's couch, stopping when he stood behind her and offered his hands.
She stayed still as he gently removed her coat and hung it up. She smiled at him as she seated herself on the sofa.
"It really was great tonight," she told him again, hoping that Clark knew she meant it. From the fun they'd had over eating their main course and dessert, though, surely he must now know she'd had a wonderful time. "Especially the desserts. They were out of this world!"
"Definitely," Clark replied. "You certainly seemed to enjoy yours!"
"White and dark chocolate ice cream, vanilla ice cream, plus whipped cream. What could be better?" she exclaimed. "What was it called again?"
"Dame Blanche," he replied. "And I had a Poire Belle H‚lŠne."
"I'm glad you gave me a bite of it," she said, grinning as she recalled Clark reaching across the table and feeding her a piece. "Although I can't believe you tried to take some of mine in return!"
"I should have known better to try and steal Lois Lane's ice cream, shouldn't I?" he asked, trying to keep a straight face. Finally, he joined her on the sofa and she smiled when he eased himself closer to her.
"Well, you'll know not to try it again unless I offer," she told him playfully, grateful for the fact that he'd invited her back to his apartment. It seemed he'd been feeling like she had; not wanting the evening to end.
Clark took his suit jacket off and laid it on the back of the sofa. "It's quite hot in here," he commented.
"Yeah," she replied. "So, how about that coffee? We had quite a bit of wine in the restaurant; the coffee might do me good," she said, half jokingly.
"I'll prepare it in a minute," he told her. "But first, I have to use the bathroom…" He gestured.
"Okay," she responded, unconsciously watching his rear as he stood up and walked away. She grinned.
Once he was out of sight, Lois slowly looked around Clark's apartment. It wasn't as if she'd never been in it before; lately she'd been spending more and more time at Clark's apartment and knew it inside out. But Clark was in the bathroom and there seemed to be nothing else to do to pass the time.
She glanced over to where Clark had been sitting and saw that his jacket had fallen from the back of the sofa to the floor, and was now lying in a crumpled heap. Picking it up, she began to fold it up when she noticed something fall out of the unzipped inside pocket. Forgetting the jacket, she threw it over the back of the sofa and picked up the small object.
Bringing it closer to her face, she studied it intently. It was a largish ball of red material that seemed so familiar… but from where? She didn't recall Clark ever having anything like this. She twisted it around in her hands, feeling to see if she could make out what it was. It was an invasion of Clark's privacy to be looking at this, she told herself, but somehow she was captivated, unable to put it down until she knew what it was.
Suddenly she identified a crack in the material and recognised it instantly as a fold mark. Digging her fingers in, she pried the fold apart, trying to get into the strange object. It was packed tight and she struggled for several seconds to open the crack before it finally came loose and allowed her to unfold the object quicker.
With a cry, she realised she'd know that material anywhere — Superman's suit. And the red material was from the cape. But why did Clark have one of Superman's balled up suits in his pocket?
Unless it was just a miniature one — like a souvenir, perhaps? Quickly, she pulled the whole thing out of the folded ball shape and held it in front of her, her eyes wide. A proper, full-sized Superman suit.
But why…? Numerous possible answers spun through her mind, confusing her. But none of them made sense. Nothing explained why Clark had this. She squeezed it in her hand, trying to calm herself. She didn't even know why it was there — who knew, maybe he was just saving it for Superman?
A voice inside her head scoffed at the thought. She knew she should fold the suit back up, put it back in Clark's pocket and act as if it had never happened — after all, she was invading Clark's privacy. That seemed unlikely, though. The suit had taken an awful lot of unfolding and appeared to be highly compressed. There was no way she could return it to its original state. Another thought struck her. What if there was something else to go with this discovery in his jacket pocket? Did she dare look?
Quickly, she picked up Clark's jacket and slipped her hand inside the pocket. Suddenly, she dropped it and took in a deep gasp of air, sitting back into the sofa.
Suddenly, everything seemed to fall into place like a jigsaw puzzle. Lois closed her eyes as she recalled all the times Clark rushed away with some lame excuse, fiddling as he left. The way he always fiddling around, or undoing his clothing, caught her eye sometimes, but she always brushed it off as looking for change or being too warm. But now… suddenly, it became obvious.
Clark was… he was…
Suddenly, images bombarded her brain as the two men fused together. All the times he had disappeared and suddenly appeared as Superman. All the pathetic reasons for disappearing. Somehow, she didn't need any more proof than that. Now that she'd discovered this, it became blindingly obvious. Everything. She tried to remain calm but she could feel emotions building inside her, threatening to overcome her.
Lois wondered briefly if she should tell Clark about her findings. Would he lie yet again to her, or would he admit the truth? There was no way of knowing. But how would she even tell him she'd found out, anyway? Surely he'd think she'd been rummaging through his belongings.
But suddenly her mind was made up for her as the bathroom door clicked open. She saw Clark emerge and walk towards her, stopping dead in his tracks when he reached the sofa.
"Lois…" he began, rubbing his hands together awkwardly. "Where did you… how did you get that?"
She stared at him for a while, unsure of how to proceed. Disbelief was refusing to leave and, mixed with the anger that was now setting in, she found herself unable to even make coherent sentences, never mind come up with some sort of sarcastic reply that he surely deserved. Instead, she gestured to his jacket. "It fell out."
"I see," he replied quietly. "Look, Lois, I can explain this…" he started, sitting down on the sofa next to her. She instantly moved further away from him, finding it hard to believe how annoyed she now was with him, after being so happy just a few minutes ago.
"Go on," she prompted, trying to keep her composure.
"I…" he began, his eyes flicking around the room as he seemed to gather his thoughts. She rolled her eyes at his hesitation. Was he going to spew forth yet another lie? "Lois, there's something I've wanted to tell you for a while now. First, I want you to know that I've never intended to hurt you. Nor have I ever lied to you, apart from one thing."
"One?" she asked, in a slightly sarcastic tone. She knew it was wrong and she should at least listen to Clark, but found it impossible to stop herself. "What about when you told me you didn't love me?"
"That's not important now, Lois; you know that I love you. I know that you have every right to be angry with me at the moment, but just hear me out, okay?"
The small pleading tone that crept into his voice soothed her and she nodded her head. Obviously, he was going to tell her the truth. She had to give him credit for that — at least he wasn't attempting to prolong the lie.
"You seem to have figured it out for yourself," he said ruefully. "I'm… I'm Superman."
Her jaw dropped slightly as he confirmed what she'd pieced together. Yet when she looked at him, it was impossible to see it. Maybe it was too fresh, too sudden for her to see any resemblance between Clark and Superman. "Why did you lie to me… to everyone?"
"When I came to Metropolis, I needed to help. But I also needed to live my life privately. If I helped out as Clark Kent, I'd never have a moment to myself. I never wanted to hurt you, Lois, you have to see that!" he told her, obviously trying hard to get his point across.
She processed the things he was saying but still found herself in a daze, unable to quite believe what she was hearing. It was all too much of a shock to her! And she still couldn't see much resemblance to Superman. She remembered a time when she had declared Clark looked a lot like Superman — but had put that down to the influence of the pheromone compound.
Now she wanted to see; had to see. If she was even to begin to try to understand everything, she had to see Clark as Superman. Reaching forward, she moved her hand up to his face and silently pulled his glasses off. She stared at his face for a while before moving her focus onto his eyes. Suddenly, her other free hand moved up to his hair and pushed it back. To her surprise, his appearance was instantly transformed. "Superman…" she breathed.
Suddenly, everything became too much and she pushed herself further back on the sofa, giving a small cry of anguish.
Clark gasped as all his worst fears started to take place — - Lois had found out on her own. And she didn't look happy at all. His first thought was to run. In her hands she held his unfolded Superman suit, which still had wrinkles from being folded up inside his pocket. He wondered just why she'd been looking in his jacket pocket in the first place, but that didn't really matter now.
When he'd first re-entered the room and seen her with the suit, his first thoughts were incoherent. But instantly he'd known that it was the time to tell her the truth. He couldn't wait any longer; not after everything they'd been through together. And somehow he'd sensed that Lois had been expecting him to lie. No. He had owed her the truth.
Now Lois was staring at him, anger flaring. He could see it in her eyes; those eyes that only a few minutes earlier had shown all the signs of happiness were now cold, with the first hint of tears brimming in them. She was waiting for him to explain things further, and although he'd spent the last couple of days constantly thinking of telling Lois he was Superman, he hadn't actually planned anything to say! He'd already briefly explained *why* he'd created a secret identity, but she deserved more than that.
He took a deep breath and began to speak. "Lois… I'm so sorry," he apologised, knowing that a simple apology could never serve to make things right between them.
"For what, Clark?" she asked, feigning calmness. As he tried to respond, to find the right words she continued, "For lying to me? For hurting me? For letting me think you were the last decent man on this earth? Which one?"
"For everything, Lois!" he told her, looking straight into her eyes. His heart sank when she instantly averted her gaze to look down at her hands.
"Why, Clark?" she asked, her voice low and controlled. "We're best friends. You should have told me."
"I know, Lois!" he exclaimed, trying to find a way to put everything he wanted her to know into words. "I should have told you. But… but at first, you hated having me around. And, as our friendship grew, there just never seemed to be a time to tell you everything."
"So you continued to let me think that you were two different men because you couldn't find a suitable time to tell me otherwise," she spat out.
Clark reached his hand over to Lois in a frantic attempt to keep her calm, but instantly she moved away from him, confirming to him that the gesture had been foolish. "There was another reason I didn't tell you," he admitted quietly.
"Oh? What's that?" she asked, her voice showing impatience.
"I guess I needed to know that you love me for who I am. Not for the Superman persona," he told her. "At least, that used to be one of my reasons. After you told me that you were in love with me, that stopped being a reason."
"For who you are?" she asked incredulously, and he knew he'd made a mistake in telling her that. "For being a liar, Clark? I'm not one of those women who loves a liar."
"I meant I needed to know that you love Clark, not Superman," he stated, knowing she knew full well what he meant. But he could hardly blame her for being angry. In fact, he was surprised she hadn't lost her calm much more than this.
"But I've loved Clark — you — for a while now! So why haven't you told me before?"
"You're forgetting that I didn't know you loved me until the other night, Lois!" he protested. "For all I knew, you could still have been fawning over Superman. I know I should have told you, and believe me, I regret not doing so."
Lois fell silent for a moment, seemingly processing everything. It was a lot for her to take in. From what he was able to tell, she hadn't even thought about the incident at the gambling club. Once she did… he'd be lucky if she even let him try to explain. But to be honest, what explanation was there? He'd failed. He hadn't stopped her from getting shot.
His head fell into his hands. This was the worst thing that could possibly have happened! Maybe if he'd been allowed just one more night, then Lois wouldn't have been so angry. Telling her himself would surely have been a better option than having her find out from discovering his suit. It had to happen tonight, though. After they'd shared a perfect evening together, it had to be ruined.
He felt a surge of emotion rise to the surface and tried to contain himself. Getting through the rest of this discussion, trying desperately to make Lois see things from his point of view, was essential. If he allowed himself to break down… well, who knew what would happen.
Realising Lois had been quiet for a while, he raised his head and looked over at her and found himself shocked to see her fighting tears, too. "Lois?" he asked gently, trying not to alarm her.
"When were you going to tell me?" she questioned slowly. "Or were you just waiting until I found out on my own?"
"I was going to tell you, Lois. I've been wanting to tell you for so long now."
She snorted. "Yeah. Of course you have," she replied sarcastically.
"Lois, lying to you has been eating away at me, especially now we've admitted our feelings for each other. I've been trying to find some free time to explain everything to you!" he informed her, his voice taking on a pleading tone.
"But how can I believe that?" she asked, then lowered her voice to a whisper. "How can I ever believe anything you say again?"
"I promise you, Lois. I've hardly thought about anything else. I knew how angry you were going to be with me and I've tried to think of ways to explain myself, but obviously I didn't think about it enough. Believe me, Lois, I've been longing to tell you about myself," he said, trying to reassure her.
"Okay…" she said slowly, "It doesn't make it any better, though. I'm hurt, Clark! I haven't had any time to think about things, yet," she finished, shaking her head.
Watching Lois changing endlessly from hurt to angry tore at his heart. It was plain to see that his explanations weren't making things better. It seemed like she was debating everything he said before becoming emotional about it. He realised that the truth hadn't totally sunk in yet, though. She was sitting quietly on the sofa, still holding his Superman suit on her lap. He had no idea how to ease her pain.
"Would you like that coffee?" he asked gently, trying to break the silence.
"I don't think I'll be staying long enough to drink it," she replied.
Clark winced at her words. If she was thinking about leaving, then he had to stop her. They had to get all their feelings out in the open. Running from this made no sense at all; he knew they would have to face this sometime. And he wasn't averse to pleading with Lois to stay. "Lois, please stay longer. We need to talk about things."
She fiddled with her hands. "Okay," she replied quietly. "I guess we do need to talk about things."
"I'll go and make coffee," he said, disappearing into the kitchen.
Lois watched Clark go, and finally allowed tears to fall. Well, it was true. Clark was Superman. And although she'd had a few minutes for the news to sink in, she had no idea how to react. Her instincts told her to strike out at Clark and stay as far away from him as possible. But something else told her to listen to his arguments.
It was so hard, though. Clark had lied to her over and over. True, he had his reasons, but it still hurt. He could still have told her. Lois looked down at the Superman suit still on her lap and took a deep breath. Her hands ran over the soft spandex, trying to convince herself that it was real, that this wasn't just some dream where she'd wake up and laugh.
But as she saw Clark walk back into the room carrying two fresh cups of coffee, she knew that this was very much reality. "Thanks," she murmured as Clark placed the cups on the table and proceeded to sit back down next to her on the sofa.
She stared at him for a long moment, trying to work out what to say and do next. A look of gentleness played across his face, but his head was lowered. Through her hurt and anger, she felt her heart reach out for him. He looked so sad and vulnerable. Suddenly, she wanted to move closer to him and hold him until the lost look disappeared from his face.
No. She couldn't fall for this. After all, he seemed to be an experienced liar! For all she knew, he was putting on this act, too. But she wasn't really sure what else to say to him. He'd told her his arguments and she'd listened, but she couldn't accept them, not yet. There was nothing else for them to say. She needed time to process everything now. Could she ever trust Clark again?
"Lois…" he began, looking up at her. "What are you thinking?"
"I'm thinking of how much you've hurt me; how much you've betrayed my trust, Clark," she told him gently. At the moment, she knew that getting angry and losing her temper would be pointless, much as she wanted to hit him, to pound her fists against his chest until all her feelings drained out of her.
"I know I have, Lois. I don't know how to help you. There's nothing I can say to make things right, I know that," he told her, defeat slowly creeping into his voice.
She shook her head. "Oh, Clark, why did you have to keep this from me?" she exclaimed. "I would have understood. But… we're going out together! We've made love…" She trailed off, bringing her hand up to her face to wipe her eyes.
She felt him try to take hold of her hand again and this time didn't protest, letting him squeeze it gently. "Can you… can you forgive me, Lois?" he asked tentatively.
"I don't know. It's too soon. I haven't had a chance to think about everything yet. I've listened to what you've said. But it hurts so badly. We were doing so well, especially after our date tonight. And now this. I don't know how to react, Clark," she admitted.
It would be so easy to forget everything and just kiss him. He was looking her straight in the eyes, his face stained with tears, and she realised this was hard on him too. Despite the fact that she was so hurt, she couldn't help thinking of how much she loved him when she looked into those eyes. This revelation didn't — couldn't — change her feelings about him.
She was so used to that smile that was normally on his face that it was hard to see him looking so dejected. And the feel of his hand lying gently on hers made her see that he didn't mean to hurt her. Not at all. His touch was soft and gentle, making her feel warm inside, despite what she'd just found out. Not the touch of someone who had purposefully meant to do this to her. Maybe everything would be okay after all… she just needed a little time to think things through, fuse the two men together in her mind.
"I wish I'd told you this sooner," he said, breaking the silence. "If I had, you wouldn't have been shot at the club."
Lois started to form a reply when the true meaning of his comment sunk in. She'd dived in front of him so he wouldn't take a bullet… and he was invulnerable! The thought had never occurred to her before. Her breath caught and she struggled to get it back. Her hand flew away from his and to her mouth and she pulled herself up off the sofa, bolting to the other side of the room.
"Clark… I could have died!" she told him, her voice shaking from shock. All thoughts of how sad and alone he looked vanished from her head as the realisation sank in.
She saw him stand up from the sofa and hoped he had the sense to leave her alone. Her breathing quickened as her anger continued to grow. "Lois, listen to me," he started in an obvious attempt to calm her down.
"No!" she said loudly, taking further steps back from him. "That night… in the club… I dived in front of you. I thought you were going to die, Clark!"
"And I'm so grateful for you thinking of my life like that," he replied, stopping only inches away from her. She tried to move back even further but found herself up against the wall.
"But you would have been fine!" she yelled at him, fuming. "You wouldn't have been killed at all — no, the bullet would have just bounced off you!"
"Lois, I am so sorry that you risked your life for me. But at least it brought us together!" he exclaimed.
For an instant she felt white hot rage but dismissed it, knowing she had no escape from Clark in the position she was in. No way in which she could flee quickly if she needed to. How dare he! How dare he make such light of her nearly dying, saying that it brought them together? If anything, it had pushed them apart. Before, when she hadn't really thought things through, she thought they were going to be okay. Now… in the mood she was in, she never wanted to see Clark again.
Suddenly, she slapped him across the face, unable to contain herself any longer. At his shocked gasp, she carried on shouting at him. "Why didn't you save me, Superman?" she asked sharply. "You, with all your speed and strength, saw me dive in front of you, and you stood there, letting me take the bullet!"
"I deserved that slap, I know. And I couldn't save you. Everything happened in a split second… I saw you dive in front of me but I couldn't move. Fear froze me to the spot when I saw you there."
"You've said that before," she noted, letting her mind wander back to that day at the Planet. "I was so confused by what you meant. Now I know."
"It's been eating away at me. The fact that I let myself freeze up when you needed me is driving me crazy," he told her, and she recognised the sincerity in his voice.
"I can understand, Clark," she told him softly. "But what would you have done if I'd died?" she asked.
"I don't even want to think about it, Lois," he said with a violent shudder. "The thought of living a life without you is too much for me to bear. I would have existed as a shell merely to save people's lives, not to live. I already feel so guilty at letting you be shot, so I don't know what I would have done to escape from the guilt for even an instant if you'd died."
Lois was shocked by Clark's heartfelt confession and almost felt sorry for him. But she was too angry. She could have died, and all because he hadn't told her he was invulnerable. If he had, she wouldn't have intercepted the bullet, because she'd have known he would be okay. It was something she couldn't forgive, nor simply let pass by. "I tried to make you feel less guilty. I kept telling you that you shouldn't feel guilty. Little did I know," she said in a quieter voice. "I told you over and over that you shouldn't feel guilty about me getting shot!"
"Now you know why the guilt was so painful, at least," he said with a wry, humourless smile.
"If you had just told me before! Clark, don't you realise how much this hurts me? Not just the fact that I put myself at such risk to save the life of the man I love for no reason, but your lies. The way you've constantly lied to me and fobbed me off with excuses hurts. I don't think it's something I can forgive, Clark," she told him, sobbing freely. "I'm not even sure I knew the man I thought I was saving."
"Lois, you have to believe me, I never meant for any of this to happen. I tried to save you from being shot, but I couldn't move. Something was restricting me and no matter how much I fought it, I couldn't move. And in that split second, you'd gone. Lying on the floor, as if you were dead. I never meant for you to get hurt," he told her, desperation in his voice. He suddenly reached both hands out and took her arms, pulling her even closer to him.
As she held still for a moment, she saw his lips move down to hers. She felt them press against her, and combined with the sensation of Clark's wet cheeks pressed against her own, she felt so desperate to kiss him back, to pretend that none of this was true, that it was all part of some game she didn't understand the rules to.
But she couldn't do it. She struggled away from him, slipping out from his side and moved towards the door.
"Lois, don't leave me like this. You can't go, Lois, you can't. Not yet," he said quietly, his voice shaky with emotion.
The image of Clark standing with tears streaming down his face and trembling as he begged her to stay with him was one she was sure would be imprinted in her memory forever. It was too hard, though. She needed time on her own to think, much as she wanted to rush back to Clark and hold him until all his pain drifted away, then make love to him throughout the night. But she had to face reality. She was hurting too, and running to Clark surely wouldn't solve anything. No, she had to leave now before it became too hard.
"Please stay, Lois," he repeated. "Don't go like this. I love you."
Lois only hesitated a moment longer. "I have to, Clark," she whispered softly, her voice overcome with emotion. Unable to look at his face anymore, she turned around and fled his apartment. Once outside, she leaned against the cool brick wall, her chest heaving and tears streaming down her face as she heard Clark yelling her name with a strangled cry.
Clark awoke the next day with a groan. His entire body ached with exhaustion, a testament to the few hours of sleep he'd gotten that night. The little sleep he'd caught had been plagued with images of Lois running through his door and into the night. After she'd left, he'd said her name over and over in some hopeful attempt at getting her to return. But the effort had been futile and eventually he'd flopped onto the sofa, forcing himself to rest.
Now, as he thought of being at work all day with Lois, he was filled with dread. She obviously wouldn't want to talk to him and wouldn't want to see him any more than was necessary. His heart wrenched at the thought of Lois seeing him and simply giving him a cold stare before quickly returning to her work. Of course, they had the joint story they were working on so he knew there would have to be some conversation between them, but nothing like what he was used to. No doubt Lois would ensure the conversation was totally professional.
At least he would get to see her. Who knew, maybe she would have calmed down by the time they got to work? It wasn't likely, though. He knew Lois was well within her rights to be so angry with him; he had expected it. The fact that she'd found out by herself had made things even worse. If he'd had time to prepare his arguments then maybe things wouldn't have been so bad.
Of course, the thing she really seemed to be angry about was the fact that she'd nearly died because of him, more so than he'd expected. And, of course, the way he'd lied to her over the past year and a half. She'd already told him that she didn't think she could forgive him for that. The only thing he could do now was to try and explain to her some more. That was, if she was even willing to have any more private conversations with him. Maybe she would just totally refuse to talk to him when they were on their own, he mused sadly.
It seemed that the best idea would be to play things cool around Lois at work. Maybe giving her some time on her own would be more beneficial to her, enabling her to have a while to think. After Lois's sudden departure last night, maybe she'd be angry with him if he even went near her. No, the best thing to do was stay away from her for a while.
He dragged himself off the sofa and started to prepare for work, his heart heavy.
Lois entered the newsroom the next morning and headed straight for her desk, keeping her head low. She didn't want anyone to see the scars of the previous night — the dark circles, the bloodshot eyes. She'd tried to cover them up with makeup but found herself lacking the energy to try and make a good job of it. After last night, bothering with makeup seemed pointless.
She'd managed to drive herself home and crawl into bed, crying herself to sleep. Even now, everything hadn't really sunk in properly. As she'd suspected, when she finally fell asleep her dreams had been filled with the image of Clark as she'd left, looking so lost and alone. Clark looking devastated. Clark… Clark crying. It was hard to think of anything else. But today was another day of work and she had to do her best to control herself when she was around Clark. She had no idea what to say to him — she knew she couldn't totally ignore him, but she didn't really want to get into any personal conversations either. It was too complicated.
Of course, at some point they had to talk about where they stood. Even after all the lies Clark had spun to her, even after she'd almost needlessly died for him, she still couldn't change her feelings for him. She couldn't erase her love for him. It was still very much there, which made things all the more complicated. How could she have a relationship with somebody she couldn't trust?
She wanted to, though. So much. She wanted to put all the mistrust behind her instantly and let Clark hold her so tightly. But anger still clouded her feelings and she knew she couldn't decide what she wanted to do at the moment. The wounds were too raw for her to be thinking about going back to a relationship with Clark. In truth, she was fuming mad. The rage she felt for Clark was very near the surface and there was no way she could even think about a relationship with him when she was in that state of mind.
Suddenly, something made her head turn to the elevator, but nothing was there. She shook her head and turned to her PC, booting it up for the day. But the same feeling, a weird sense she couldn't explain, made her raise her head again and suddenly the car arrived. The doors opened and Clark came walking out, moving quickly into the newsroom.
She tried to tear her eyes away from him but found herself watching his movements and studying his face. He looked as terrible as she did, she mused. The telltale dark circles around his eyes proved that he'd had just as little sleep as she.
Her heart dropped when he walked straight over to his desk without even a word. She didn't know why it hurt so much; it wasn't as if she wanted to have any conversation with him. But over the last couple of days, it'd been nice to have him immediately pull his chair around to her desk and begin to chat and laugh with her. But everything had been so different just a couple of days ago. She had been totally oblivious to his secret identity. Now, she just didn't know what to think.
There seemed to be so much tension in the air already and she wished that he would say something, even if it was only a cool 'hello'. Anything was better than total silence. True, she had walked out on him last night, but there was no need to ignore each other.
Unable to take it anymore, she looked towards his desk. "Hi, Clark," she said in a toneless voice.
"Hey, Lois," he replied in an equally cool manner, only looking up for a second.
She became hurt — obviously he wanted to discuss last night's events no further. Not that she wanted him to keep grovelling; after all, there wasn't anything else he could say to cure the hurt and anger she was feeling, but she thought he'd at least have said something else. It was almost like he didn't want to talk to her. As if he blamed *her* for the tension between them!
"So, what are we working on today?" he asked. He smiled slightly, but she narrowed her eyes at him. He obviously didn't want to try and smooth things over at all! Oh, he was asking about work, but she'd thought he'd have wanted to talk to her about other things. In private.
"I don't know," she answered sharply. She paused, waiting for him to reply, but he didn't. Suddenly, she felt a rush of anger mixed with hurt. Her sharp manner should have been enough to show him that she wanted him to initiate a conversation, but he seemed to be shrinking away from her.
Suddenly, he seemed to come out of his trance again. "Are we still partners, Lois?" he asked gently. "After last night I didn't think you'd want to work with me."
She felt the urge to glare at him. He thought that she wasn't professional enough to maintain a working relationship with him? It brought up an interesting question. He wasn't making any move to apologise again to her at this point, let alone ask her to talk in private. She shrugged in response to his question, turning her head away from him.
There was a pause, and she heard Clark sigh. "Well, I gave you all my notes on the armed robbery story yesterday, so you can continue with that. I'm going to see what else Perry has available for me," he told her.
His words hit her like a truck. Suddenly, she felt as if she'd been punched in the gut and needed a moment to regain her breath. He didn't want to work with her anymore? She found herself wanting to cry but stopped herself. If anyone should have been deciding to part ways on this story, it should have been her. She was the one who he'd lied to constantly! He hadn't been hurt in any way. Apart from her exit last night, but that certainly wasn't a reason never to talk to her again.
She knew that behaving in such a cool manner towards him was a little mean, but he needed to realise what he'd done to her! Avoiding the subject wasn't going to help either of them. And *he* didn't want to work with *her*? It wasn't as if she'd done anything wrong! She was glad she'd ignored his question about being partners still… if she had said yes and then he'd told her he didn't want to work with her, she didn't think she'd have been able to remain so calm.
Well, if he wanted to play it like that, then he could. Obviously, he'd decided that making her forgive him wasn't worth the trouble — even making conversation with her seemed to be a waste of his time. Last night's crying session from him had to be a ruse, she decided. If he was so unwilling to even work with her, then it showed how much she really did mean to him.
"Okay," she replied coolly. "We'll have to talk to Perry, see if he'll allow us to work separately on a more permanent basis," she finished, trying to keep her voice from shaking.
She saw a look of surprise … and one she couldn't identify on his face. But it was only brief and he soon bowed his head down to look at his desk. "Yes," he agreed.
The tears that kept threatening to fall finally spilled over and she raised her hand to quickly wipe them away. She could hardly believe he was so readily agreeing to splitting them up! She'd thought he would disagree, tell her that they were great together and shouldn't split their partnership up. But no. He obviously didn't care about her as much as he'd said. All those times he'd said he loved her… all lies. Just like he lied about being Superman.
Before he realised how upset she was getting, she turned her chair away from his desk.
Away from his life.
Clark stared at his desk, wondering what on earth he'd just done. He'd just split their working partnership up, too! The fact that it was Lois who had said it made no difference, it was his fault. He should have pressed her further. Of course she was going to be upset and not try and make conversation with him. But he shouldn't have shied away from her in response. No, he should have persuaded her to talk to him about everything. Instead, stupidly, in some attempt to make Lois happier, he'd told her he was pulling out of the story. He wanted to scream at himself for being such an idiot.
There was no excuse for them to talk now. He might never get to talk to Lois again. At least when they were working on stories together, they could talk about work-related things. Now he'd gone and ruined their partnership, he wouldn't have any reason to talk to Lois. It was over.
Everything was over.
>From Lois's cool tone, it was obvious she wasn't in any hurry to change things. The annoying thing was that she'd initiated the conversation. That showed that she wasn't against talking to him. And he'd just blown it. He looked up, wondering if there was any way to rectify what he'd done. But Lois had turned away from him, her back facing him. His head fell into his hands and he tuned his super- hearing into her. Her pulse rate had increased and he thought he heard the sound of small sobs running through her. But surely Lois wouldn't cry at work, would she?
He found himself unable to let her go this easily. Maybe he could beg her to keep working with him. Anything to keep some contact between them.
"Lois," he said loudly, waiting for a reply. But when he got no response, he looked up and realised she was no longer at her desk. Where had she gone? It had only been a minute or so since he'd been watching her. His eyes panned the newsroom, searching for any signs of her.
And then she came into view, and his heart fell. She was already in Perry's office. Not even thinking about how he was invading her privacy, he tuned in his super-hearing to their conversation, and he realised Lane and Kent were no more. She was already asking if they could split their partnership. The conversation became too painful for him to listen to and he tuned his hearing in to the rest of Metropolis, hoping to hear about a disaster he could attend to. Anything so he wouldn't have to see Lois when she left Perry's office.
To his luck, he heard of a rescue he could go to and he quickly made a dash towards the stairs, unaware that Lois was watching him from the window of Perry's office.
"Perry, you don't understand, I can't work with him at the moment," she told Perry, knowing that the conversation wasn't going very well. She wasn't surprised; why would their editor want to lose one of the best reporting teams the Planet had ever seen?
"Lois, just what has happened between you two? You were getting on so well just yesterday," Perry enquired, obviously confused by the sudden change of attitude between them.
"I can't say what has happened between us. But Clark doesn't want us to work together anymore, so I doubt forcing us to stay partners would help anybody," she told Perry.
He stood up from his desk and moved closer to her. She saw that he was studying her face, obviously looking at the signs of her lack of sleep. "Is this to do with you two dating?" he asked.
Her mouth fell agape. "How… how do you know?" she questioned incredulously. She didn't think that she and Clark had given away too many signs of their relationship.
"How do you think I got to this position, Lois? I'm not blind," he said with a smile. "The way you and Clark have been acting towards each other has made it pretty obvious."
"It's not really that," she told him quietly. "I mean, we had a great date last night but then… well, I found something out about him when we were back at his apartment. Something that changes everything. And I couldn't take it. I needed some breathing space from him. So I left." Lois felt amazed at how easily she was able to talk to Perry.
"And now he's not talking to you?" the gruff old man questioned softly, with concern for her evident in his voice.
"It's awkward," she replied. "I tried to start a polite conversation with him this morning about work and he told me he was pulling out of the story we're working on. So I suggested talking to you to see about permanently breaking us up and he agreed!" she finished with a sob.
Suddenly, she found herself being pulled into a hug by the editor and she smiled weakly. Although he was her boss, he was also a great friend to her. "Aw, darlin', don't cry," he told her. "So this thing you found out about Clark… is it something you can live with?"
"I don't know," she answered truthfully. "I'm still hurt and shocked at the moment. But how can we even have a chance if he doesn't want us to talk to each other?"
"I'm sure he doesn't want you two to split up professionally, Lois," Perry told her, releasing her from his hold. "Maybe he was just thinking about you — if you left last night, maybe he thought it would be easier for you if you didn't have to work with him?" he suggested.
"Maybe," she replied, not convinced. "But I don't know what to do now. I'm not ready to continue my relationship with Clark, but I don't want to lose our working relationship. I mean, I'm sure the conversation between us would be awkward, but it's better than not talking at all."
"Lois, I'm sure whatever problems you two have, you'll sort them out in the end. As for the partnership, if you want to tell Clark that I wouldn't let you break it up, then you can," he told her.
"Thanks," she said unenthusiastically. "What if he's disappointed, though?"
"That boy thinks the world of you, Lois. It's obvious that he worships you. I think he'll be relieved to find out you're not breaking up the partnership," Perry reassured her.
"Okay," she said, a smile appearing on her face. Suddenly, she saw Perry looking over her shoulder. "What is it?" she asked.
"Maybe you'd better tell him later. Look's like he's going somewhere," he replied, gesturing through the window.
She turned around and saw Clark heading to the stairwell fiddling with his clothing, a familiar gesture. She suddenly felt a wave of relief to now know that he wasn't trying to escape from her when he did that, he was just doing his job. Well, his other job. But a wave of pain suddenly rushed over her as she remembered all the times he'd lied to her and she tried not to think about things. "I think he had to go to the police precinct. Something about the shooting at the club," she told Perry, waving her hand in the air.
"I see," Perry replied.
"Well, I'd better get back to work," she said, preparing to leave the office. But then she turned around, back to face Perry again. "Thank you, Perry," she said softly.
"Any time," he replied.
She exited her editor's office and returned to her desk, sitting down quickly. She needed to think things through. Okay, so they were still working partners, but every time she thought about Clark being Superman, she felt so hurt. Seeing him leave the room via the stairwell was a good example of that. Watching him leave while knowing just where he was going was hard.
She was shocked at the way the lie had just flown out of her mouth to Perry. Why had she even bothered to stick up for him? Covering for his disappearing acts were his problem, not hers. But she found it impossible not to help him out. She did care for him after all. She was in love… well, it was best to not think of Clark that way at the moment.
It was important to concentrate on just how she was going to talk to him now. Nothing personal. Until she managed enough time on her own to think over just how she felt about what Clark had done, she needed to keep their relationship as professional as possible.
But why did it have to be so hard? She couldn't banish the images of them together from her head. The touch of Clark's hands running over her and the feel of his soft lips pressed against hers lingered on her skin. And his closeness to her last night. At one point, they'd been only inches apart as they'd argued, the nearness of each other making their heated conversation even more dramatic and emotional.
The best thing to do seemed to be to focus on how much he'd hurt her. The strange thing was that had she not risked her life, his 'crime' wouldn't seem half as bad. But the fact that she'd almost died for him, diving in front of him in one grief-stricken second, was too much to bear. And the way she'd made love to him because she'd realised how easily they could lose each other… all fake. Clark couldn't just suddenly be killed as she'd thought.
He hadn't stopped her from making love to her. He'd allowed her to beg him and then reassured her throughout the night that he wasn't going to leave her. At least that wasn't a lie, she thought with a sad smile. But she'd told him her fears that he could be taken away at any time… and he'd simply gone along with her.
Instinctively, her hands clenched into fists. Thinking of her anger seemed to be the solution to not getting into personal conversations with Clark.
It was painful, though. Knowing she couldn't trust Clark anymore was almost the last straw. If she couldn't trust Clark, who could she trust?
Clark re-entered the newsroom after his short rescue and found that Lois was now back at her desk. He wondered whether he should approach to see what Perry had said, but decided that going up to her and striking up a conversation probably wasn't what she wanted at the moment.
But he was desperate to find out what had been said in the Chief's office. So, taking a deep breath, he walked back into the main section of the newsroom and over towards Lois's desk.
"Lois…" he began, clearing his throat. "I saw you were in the office earlier."
"Yeah, I was discussing us with Perry," she replied, deliberately keeping her head low.
"And?" he prompted, not wanting to drag this out any longer. This could be their last conversation for a while. The thought was painful. Maybe the fact that he couldn't feel physical pain made emotional pain even worse. Or maybe it was because he was so deeply in love with Lois. He wanted to spend every moment of every day with her. If they couldn't spend any time together at work, what chance did Lois have of seeing that he wasn't such a bad person? Short of going round to her apartment every night and begging her to think about things from his point of view.
"Perry wants us to keep working together," she said quickly.
His breath caught in his throat. Had she really just told him that their partnership was still intact? Oh, it didn't seem to be her choice but at least they would still have the chance to be with each other in the day! His stupid idea hadn't blown everything after all!
"Oh?" he asked, trying not to show his excitement.
"Yeah. Well, we're the best this newspaper has so I can understand him wanting to keep us together," she told him, finally raising her head to look at him. His excitement waned when he saw such pain in her eyes. It was obvious how upset she was and he cursed himself for ever inventing Superman.
An uncomfortable silence descended upon them and he wondered who was going to say something first. He'd realised that things wouldn't be pleasant between them but he hadn't realised to what extent. But he knew Lois was stubborn and also annoyed with him, so he felt that it was his duty to either start the conversation up again or leave.
However, as soon as he began to think of possible conversation topics she continued where she'd left off. "So, what do we have today?" she asked in a bright tone, one that was obviously false. "We should probably see if Jimmy managed to get an identity on those characters we gave him the descriptions of yesterday."
"Yeah," he agreed.
"Oh, and by the way, you were at the police precinct this morning," she told him.
He became confused. "Uh… sorry, Lois? I was…" he lowered his voice, "rescuing someone this morning."
"I know, I saw you leave. But I told Perry you were at the precinct regarding the shooting, so if he asks you about it, that's where you were."
Clark felt a smile crawl onto his face and he quickly tried to wipe it off. If Lois had thought about covering for him than maybe she wasn't quite as angry as she had been last night. After all, she could have just not said anything and left him to explain for himself where he'd been. "Thank you, Lois," he said, genuinely touched.
"It's okay," she replied quickly.
"Lois… shall I sit at my own desk?" he asked quietly, knowing he was taking a chance. But over the last couple of days he'd enjoyed being so close to Lois. Of course, things were different then. They had been so much in love with each other. Now, he had no idea how Lois felt about him.
For a moment she gave him a questioning look and then suddenly she seemed to understand what he meant. "Clark, I think it's best if you stay at your own desk for now," she told him. "We can still talk without being so close to each other."
His heart fell. Yes, they were still working together, but there were so many conditions to adhere to. Maybe her covering for him didn't mean so much after all. It was going to be hard being around Lois and know he couldn't touch her affectionately, like he'd always done since their friendship had begun to grow. "Okay," he simply replied, walking back over to his desk. He noticed Lois rolling her eyes.
"I take it that conversation is over, then?" she asked, sarcasm dripping in her voice. Seemed like the old Lois was back, protecting herself with wit and sarcasm, not letting him see what she was really feeling.
"How do you mean?" he asked politely, trying not to respond to Lois's provocative question.
"I didn't say leave instantly," she stated. As he started to move back towards her, she held up her hands. "You've gone now. Anyway, we should get that information from Jimmy."
"Judas Priest!" Perry exclaimed as Lois and Clark explained to him the outcome of their investigation on the armed robberies. "So the guys hired to perform the robberies told you everything?"
"Yes." Lois couldn't keep the self-satisfied grin off her face as she confirmed what Perry said.
"But why did they give in so easily?" Perry questioned.
"Well, I think they thought it would endear them to the police if they didn't try to hide everything," Clark replied.
Once Jimmy had managed to find out just who those people were, the rest had been easy. Their names had turned out to be Jake Robins and Barry Norgreaves, two people well known and often used by the criminal fraternity in Metropolis. After being released from jail just a few weeks earlier, it seemed that a life of crime was too tempting for them.
What had shocked the two reporters was the reason *why* they'd been attacking the stores. As they'd suspected, it had been to try and frighten the owners into selling their businesses. The plan had been for whoever had hired the two criminals to immediately buy the properties and turn them into a collection of illegal gambling clubs and strip joints. The thought of an illegal gambling club had made Lois shudder involuntarily and she hadn't missed the worried look Clark gave her.
All this information had been revealed by both criminals, each one giving the exact same story. She and Clark had called the police, and both of them were now in cells. However, there was one piece of information that neither of them had revealed: just who was orchestrating the whole operation. No clues had been given away and they were still left in the dark. Lois had originally thought the gangsters might have been behind it, before realising that the robberies had begun before the gangsters showed up.
So the story had been left at a loose end. Investigating who was in charge had been put on hold for the moment and she and Clark had written up the information they had together.
"Thanks for getting this done, you two," Perry said, addressing both of them together. "It'll go nicely on tomorrow's front page."
They both smiled in return and prepared to leave the office and go home. Everything they were working on was completed for the day and many of the staff had already headed for home. It was the longest they'd stayed at the Planet for a couple of days, Lois mused.
"Lois, can I speak to you for a moment?" Perry said as they turned to go.
Clark continued out the door. "I'll see you on Monday, Lois," he said quietly.
"Bye, Clark," she answered, not sure whether to be glad that she didn't have to see him for a day or whether to be upset.
"What did you want, Perry?" she asked, wanting to get home herself.
"How did things go between you two?"
Lois was momentarily surprised at Perry's question but knew that he cared for her, and worried about her. "Okay, I think. The conversation was a little awkward between us, but we managed to work together."
"And your personal relationship?" he pressed.
"We didn't talk about it. I just don't feel ready to discuss it yet."
"That's understandable. At least you both have the weekend on your own."
"Yeah. Well, I should be going," she told him. "Thanks for caring, Perry," she added. "I appreciate it."
"See you on Monday, Lois," he said with a smile.
A week passed by without any progress between Lois and Clark, and it wasn't for the lack of trying. Several times Clark had tried to talk to Lois at work but each time she had brushed all his attempts away, saying she needed more time. The feeling of uneasiness between them had failed to leave and, if anything, it had only gotten worse.
Clark was slowly beginning to lose hope of Lois changing her mind. It had soon became clear to him that she was far too hurt by his actions just to brush everything to one side and carry on having a relationship with him. Not that he blamed her; he knew keeping the secret from her for so long was appalling, despite the reasons he had.
And now it looked like that had broken them up. If only he'd told her the night after the shooting! Even that would have been better. At least then he wouldn't be stuck with the permanent, never-fading memory of making love to Lois, and having one wonderful date with her. To experience a few days of being a loving couple and suddenly having it all ripped away was hell on him.
As was seeing Lois at work every day and not knowing how to speak to her. Even in the early days, it hadn't been like this. Back then, he'd been able to tease her and, in rare moments, he managed to make her laugh with him. And it had gradually got easier. But now he couldn't even make any teasing remarks. He didn't have that right.
Maybe he was despairing too quickly. After all, it had only been a week. But he knew that Lois wouldn't just snap out of it. However, he was worried that if they continued to not discuss their relationship, Lois might decide it wasn't worth it. If they didn't talk for long enough, Lois might just lose her feelings for him altogether.
He heard rain bouncing outside and x-rayed through the wall, noticing how quickly darkness had overcome the city. It was only two weeks until Christmas. When he and Lois had got together he'd been hoping they could spend their Christmas with each other this year. Normally, he would have gone home to his parents, but the thought spending a Christmas with Lois was too tempting.
Two weeks. There seemed to be little chance of them patching things up in such a short amount of time. If they were to get back together at all, then surely it would take much longer.
Although he'd visited his parents recently, he hadn't told them about what had happened between Lois and himself. He was certain they had noticed that something was wrong with him, though, but they hadn't asked any questions. The main reason he hadn't told them was because he knew what they would say. That Lois needed time.
That was something he knew. But it frustrated him so much! He wanted to be able to sort things out with Lois now. Nothing he could say to her would change anything, though. So what could he do? He could stick it out, and see if she changed her mind.
He'd seen her as Superman a few times over the past week; that had been inevitable. But on those occasions she'd been totally professional, asking him for a quote to use in her story, nothing more. Her coolness around him had hurt, he couldn't deny that.
Realistically, he knew that she wasn't likely to just wake up one day and decide she'd forgiven him. It was becoming impossible to see her every day though and not take her into his arms and beg for her love again. To work closely with her and be unable to even touch her was hell on him.
But what else could he do? Unless he stopped working at the Planet, he would be forced to see her every day. He mused sadly that this was almost as bad as what life would be like if Lois had died. He was still existing as that same, empty shell. Going through the motions of life without actually living it. But would things change even if he did quit his job?
No. He'd still constantly think of Lois. Not seeing her at all, ever again, would be so much worse than what he was dealing with now. Maybe a break was the answer. He still had the vacation time he was due from the Planet, and now seemed like the best time to take it. He could spend the time with his parents and help out on the farm. Not that there was much he could do in winter, of course…
But it seemed like the ideal solution. Then both of them could have time to get some perspective on things. Although it would be hard to be without Lois for a week, maybe it would help him ease the pain of being in such close proximity to her every day.
He had to make sure the Chief allowed it, of course. There was no point planning what he was going to do if it turned out that he wouldn't be allowed any time off. But it seemed to be a slow time for news at the moment, and he must have noticed how awkward things were getting. As long as he told the Chief his reasons properly, he should be allowed the time off. He was due fot it, after all.
Deciding that was what he would do, he lay back on his sofa and picked up the photo of himself and Lois, taken on the night he'd won his Kerth award. He'd been so proud that night to win an award, and the whole evening was made better by having Lois at his side. She had been distressed at first that she hadn't been nominated. Later on she'd cheered for him and a smile was beaming on her face when the announcer revealed that he'd won.
Happy times. Now the smile they shared in the picture seemed an eternity away. It became too frustrating to look at the happy pair in the photograph, and he quickly replaced it on the table. However, he still found it impossible not to think about Lois, and his mind drifted to what she'd be doing now. No doubt having a productive day, catching up with everything. Not like him, maudlin and thinking of past memories.
For all he knew, Lois might not even be giving him a second thought.
And that hurt.
Clark wrapped his arms around her, drawing her in for another earth-shattering kiss. She allowed herself to be brought further into his grip, revelling in the feel of his hard, muscular body against her. As the kiss deepened, she inhaled and took in his wonderful scent, the mixture of his aftershave and his own masculine scent intoxicating her.
Her hands slid across the back of his neck, and she ran her fingers through his hair lovingly. As she did, she felt his hands travel downwards, holding her body against him. Lois's breath caught in her throat as she felt a finger slip underneath the edge of her blouse, gently caressing her skin. An involuntary shudder followed, and she broke off the kiss, sighing happily as she moved her lips down his neck and over his throat.
Being with Clark in this way felt wonderful. Her fingers moved to his shirt, wanting to expose more of his chest. She felt the vibrations from his throat move against her mouth as he let out a low groan, and heard a moan of similar pleasure escape from herself. The fact that she could provoke this sort of response, even though he was the strongest man in the world, both amazed and excited her.
And suddenly, almost in a blur, they were lying on the bed, whispering their love for one other. Lois felt her breaths escape from her slowly as Clark wrapped his arm around her. Before Clark, she had never felt loved like this. The feelings that coursed through her body when she was with Clark stunned her. He was her love, her life, her everything. And making love to him was one of the most amazing experiences she'd ever had.
As she felt his warm arm wrap itself around her, her eyes fluttered open, and she turned her head to look into his eyes.
And there was the pillow, smooth from the night before.
Cold, hard reality came back to her. Just a dream. It had all been just a dream. The memory of being intimate with Clark in such a powerful way was just that — a memory. A memory which was now very present in her mind. Not that it had ever really left. The image of being held tightly by Clark, feeling so secure and warm, refused to leave her head.
She squeezed her eyes tightly shut again, trying to drift asleep again, alone.
Lois was slouched on the sofa when the first hint of rain started to fall. So far, the day had been wasted; she'd spent her time in front of the television, eating chocolate. The past week with Clark had not gone well. The tension between them was so great, it was nearing breaking point. They hadn't talked about Clark being Superman, although she had to admit that he'd tried to talk to her.
But it was just too soon for her. Didn't Clark understand that? Didn't he realise just how much he'd hurt her? It wasn't as if she was deliberately trying to push him out of her life. She just needed to think things through, work everything out.
It had been a week now and she was still finding it almost impossible to gel the two men together in her head. There was Clark, and there was Superman. Imagining them as the same person was hard. When she thought of all the times she'd confided in one about the other, she started to grow angry at Clark. But, after some careful thought, she'd realised that Clark's reasons for not telling her made sense — some sense, anyway. Not telling her *after* she'd declared her love for him didn't.
Now she just had to accept them.
Suddenly, it felt like she was going down the same road over and over again. Every man that she'd ever trusted had lied to her, or tricked her. It just wasn't fair! Why had she always fallen for the guys who hurt her? Wasn't there one, just one, man out there who wouldn't lie to her and make her feel like this? Of course, she'd thought that Clark was that man. But no. Just like all the others who'd abused her trust in them…
Her thoughts seemed to be getting her nowhere. No matter how many times she thought about this, nothing changed. Clark had still deceived her. And there was nothing he could do about it. Oh, it would be nice to make him grovel but she couldn't do that. He had feelings too.
Maybe now it was time to start talking to Clark about it. She realised that she was never going to be able to fuse the two men in her mind without finding out more about him, why he'd felt the need to adopt a secret identity in the first place. Although that one was pretty obvious — to lead a normal life. She could understand Clark not wanting to make his abilities public as himself; after all, he'd never be able to have a private life if he did.
She was being unfair to herself, and on Clark if she didn't let him talk to her, though. Their relationship at work was becoming more and more strained by keeping their personal lives out of the conversation and the tension must now be obvious to all of the Planet staff. Work wasn't the best place to talk, though. She contemplated going around to Clark's apartment now but decided she'd rather be in her own space when she talked to him. She could still tell him to leave if she got too upset.
Now. She needed to phone him up and ask him over so they could get this out in the open. She reached over to the table and picked up the phone, only to put it back down again. Yes, she wanted to do it now, but it would make more sense to wait until tomorrow so she could plan what she was going to say to Clark, instead of allowing herself to get tongue-tied. Tomorrow, she would ask him to talk.
Sadly, she still found herself getting angry with him and hoped that wouldn't be a problem. Especially when she'd returned to the hospital to have her stitches removed. As she had been sitting in the waiting room, all of her emotions had risen to the surface. It had been hard to stop herself from breaking down right there and then, but luckily she'd been able to control her emotions. She was left with a scar from the bullet, though, which served to be a reminder of just what Clark's lying had caused.
Suddenly, a new thought entered her head out of the blue. Mouth agape, she realised that more good had come from her diving in front of Clark than she'd originally thought! What would have happened if the bullet had indeed hit Clark as had been intended? He wouldn't have died — he would have still been standing! At point blank range, there was no way a normal human could have survived that.
Clark's secret would have been revealed to the world if she hadn't interjected. She felt great relief that it hadn't — Clark had been right when he'd talked about having a private life. She and Clark… they wouldn't even have had a chance at happiness if his secret had been revealed there and then.
For the hundredth time that week, she wondered why the scene in the gambling club kept replaying through her head. If only she could stop thinking of it, then maybe she could forget the pain that Clark had caused her! But no matter how much she tried, she found herself repeatedly blaming Clark for her being shot.
Technically, she knew it wasn't his fault, it had been her who dived in front of him. But the thought of Clark dying had been too much and it had been instinctive. If he'd just told her he was Superman before, then it wouldn't have happened. Things would have been better if he'd told her the night after, when she was soothing his guilt. But no, he allowed her to tell him he wasn't guilty of anything, that he couldn't have saved her.
He was Superman. Of course he could have saved her.
He'd claimed he was paralysed by fear, though. Which made sense. She believed that; after all, she knew he wouldn't purposely not have saved her. So maybe she was being too harsh on him after all. Oh, she didn't know what to think. On the one hand, she wanted to put the whole thing behind them. On the other hand, she wanted to stay away from him for longer. Now, it was just a question of which hand she decided to listen to.
But dwelling on it now would make no difference. She'd already decided she would talk to Clark tomorrow, so there was no need to think about it any more. Sighing, she turned back to the television and continued to eat her ice cream, sadly realising that this was just how she used to be before she met Clark.
"Chief, can I have a word?" Clark said as he walked into Perry's office early the next morning. He had purposely arrived before most of the Planet staff so there wouldn't be a big scene when everyone found out he was taking a week or so of vacation leave. Not that he was planning on telling people; gossip spread fast enough for everyone to know by the time the day was out — not that him taking vacation time was a big matter in itself. But there was always the speculation that would follow: Why was he doing it? Was it because of Lois?
Of course, there was Lois. He surely owed it to her to tell her in person that he wasn't going to be there. But somehow he didn't feel he could take what her reaction would surely be. Disinterest, no doubt. Worse would be relief, but he didn't think Lois hated having him around so badly that she'd be relieved he'd gone. But she definitely wouldn't be asking him to stay.
So, cruel as it was, he decided to leave her a note telling her where he was going. That, at least, was better than letting her find out from somebody else.
"Come in, Clark," the editor said, beckoning him in.
He walked over to Perry's desk. "I was wondering if I could use my vacation time," he blurted out. He hadn't meant to ask so immediately but suddenly had found himself tongue- tied.
"Oh? Why?" Perry asked, a surprised look crossing his face briefly.
"I'd like to spend some time with my folks," he replied. "I haven't seen them for a while, and seeing as I haven't used my vacation time this year, I thought now would be a good time."
"This wouldn't have anything to do with you and Lois, then?" Perry asked, a knowing tone in his voice.
"Not really —" he began, but Perry cut him off.
"I know you two haven't been getting on over this past week. But is running away from her really the solution? You know, the King never ran away from anything," Perry told him.
Clark smiled slightly at the Elvis reference. "I know I'm running from this," he said with a sigh. "But Lois needs more time alone before she can talk to me. Something happened between us — something big — and I know she isn't ready to face it yet."
"I see. Well, I can't deny you your vacation time, especially since the news is slow at the moment, but are you sure you don't want to think this over?"
No, his mind was made up. He needed to get away from the cold stares Lois gave him, and the rejections he received every time he tried to initiate a conversation about what had happened. Running away or not, he needed some time to think. "No, I need to get away for a week or so."
"Okay," Perry agreed. "I'll see you back here in a week, if that's what you want."
"Thanks, Chief," Clark replied before turning to leave the office.
"And Clark? Make sure you try and get things between you and Lois sorted out when you get back. Your stories just aren't the same when you're like this," Perry added.
"I'll try," Clark said with a brief smile, then returned to the newsroom. He walked over to Lois's desk and retrieved some paper and a pen. Then, quickly covering himself in case anyone was watching, he wrote a note at super speed explaining where he was going to Lois and put it in an envelope, carefully placing it on her computer keyboard.
With one sad, last look at her desk, he made his way back out of the newsroom and back into the open air, preparing to go back to his apartment and then fly on to Smallville.
As the clock reached midday, Lois wondered for the hundredth time where Clark was. Today had been the day she was planning to ask him back to her apartment to talk about things, and she couldn't do that if he wasn't there. She'd tried to keep her mind from things by typing up a short follow-up story to one of their front page articles, but now that was complete, she found herself wondering where he was.
The obvious answer was that he was helping out somewhere as Superman. Maybe there was a major natural disaster in another country; that was why he was taking so long. But the thought was quelled as she realised that, although LNN had been playing all day, nothing had come up about Superman. So him being at a rescue couldn't be the problem.
Then what was it? Suddenly, she saw Jimmy walking past and called his name, wondering if he knew where Clark had gone.
"What is it, Lois?" he asked. "If it's research, then can it wait? I'm taking the new girl from the food section out for lunch," he finished with a grin.
Lois simply rolled her eyes at him. "No, it's not research. I was wondering if you know where Clark is?"
"Uh… I take it you don't know, then," he said in a quieter voice. "I thought Clark, or the Chief, would have told you."
"Told me what? Jimmy, what's going on?" she questioned impatiently, not liking to be left out of knowing just where Clark had disappeared to.
"He's taken a week of vacation leave," Jimmy replied.
"What?" she asked quickly, mouth agape. "Where's he gone?"
"I don't know, Lois. The Chief only told me that he's taken a week away from work," Jimmy told her.
"But why didn't he tell me?" she asked, unable to believe that he had just snuck off like that without giving her any warning.
"I don't know, Lois," Jimmy said softly.
Lois saw a young woman looking at Jimmy intently and figured that must be the one he was taking out to lunch. "I think your… friend is waiting for you," she told him, gesturing.
"Yeah. See you later, Lois." He started to walk away and then halted.
"What is it?" she asked.
He bent down and picked something up from the floor just beside her desk. "This was on the floor," he told her as he handed her the envelope, before joining the woman.
Lois held the envelope in her hand. There was no writing on it, so she quickly tore it open, retrieving the single piece of paper from inside. Clark's handwriting jumped out at her immediately. She quickly read through his message, her eyes wide. "He's gone to Smallville?" she asked herself incredulously.
Why had he just left like that? His note to her didn't explain much, only that he'd thought it would be best for the two of them if they spent some time apart. So that was how much she meant to him now? How could him leaving for a week be good for anybody? Especially when she'd just decided talking about what had happened was a good idea. Now… now she wouldn't see him again for a week.
She wasn't sure if she should be upset or angry at this sudden move by him. She was more confused than anything. After spending a week of asking her to talk to him, now he was running away from her? It made no sense. She could hardly believe that he'd just left her so simple a note to make her aware of where he was going. He had, however, left his parent's number.
Was that a hint? He must have been aware already that she knew his parent's home phone number. So was this his way of telling her that he wanted her to call him? It was hard to tell. Clark was usually pretty direct with most things, so maybe if that was true he'd have just asked her to call him instead of leaving such clues.
Of course, did she even want to call him? If she was going to talk to him about what had happened at all, then she wanted it to be in person. No. She would wait until he returned home from Smallville, and then talk to him. That seemed like the best thing to do. This week she would try and not let herself think of Clark. But she realised straight away that was going to be impossible. Despite how much he'd hurt her, and now how he was running away from the problem, she still felt the same about him.
She loved him. She just hoped that even though he was going to disappear for a week, he still loved her too.
"So what's wrong, Clark?" Martha asked Clark carefully as he finished off the last bite of his apple pie.
"What do you mean, Mom?" he asked. He'd already been in Smallville for the whole day and still hadn't told them why he was there. When he arrived and asked if he could spend a week there, he'd brushed off their initial questions with excuses about wanting to help on the farm. Even then he'd known the excuses were lame, but his parents had accepted them.
But now it must be obvious to them that he was here for a reason. And now he needed to tell them. Maybe they could offer him some advice on what to do.
"Oh, Clark, I can tell when something is wrong," Martha said, patting him on the shoulder.
"It's Lois," he replied quietly.
"What about her, son?" Jonathon asked as he came through the kitchen door, joining the conversation.
"I guess I'd better start from the beginning," he said, realising that he hadn't even told them about the shooting.
He quickly filled his parents in on the events at the gambling club, pausing as looks of horror crossed their faces.
"But she's okay, isn't she?" Jonathan questioned quickly.
"She's okay. It was just a surface wound, but the point is that she dived in front of me to save my life. And I'm Superman," he told them, feeling the guilt all over again.
"But she doesn't know that," Martha replied.
He sighed. "She does." He knew he had to tell his parents about them getting together and admitting their love for each other, but it was so hard. Should he tell his parents that he made love to her? Would they be annoyed that he'd done so without even dating her first? It wasn't the sort of person they'd brought him up to be, he knew that. But, they were his parents, and somehow it seemed to be helping to get everything off his chest.
"How?" Martha asked.
He continued to explain the rest of the events, watching the various looks he received. Once he'd finally finished, he felt his mom squeeze his shoulder. Her comforting hand had been laid there throughout his explanations, helping him keep his feelings in check. The last thing he needed was to become emotional. Not now.
"And now she's not talking to you?" Martha asked, still keeping her hand on his shoulder and giving it another squeeze.
"Yeah. She's so angry because she risked her life for me. I can understand why she's so annoyed, but she won't even talk to me about it. Things have been awful at work between us," he said, sighing. "I don't know what to do. I've tried talking to her but she always says she needs more time."
"She's right, Clark. You have to give her time to thing things through," Martha told him.
"But she's not likely to just forgive me! We need to talk about it," he protested.
"Son, I know it's hard for you to just sit back, but she'll come round. If she loves you like she told you, she'll want to talk about it eventually," Jonathon reassured him.
"I'm not so sure. You haven't seen how upset she is," Clark said. The advice his parents were giving him was exactly what he had expected, but it was so frustrating! Sitting back and waiting for Lois to make the first steps sounded almost impossible.
"How did she feel about you coming here?" Martha asked.
He could tell what his mom was thinking. That Lois would be upset that he was leaving her for a while. By now she would have read his note, and if she wanted to discuss it with him, surely she would have called. He had left his parents phone number on the note, after all. "I don't know, Mom," he finally said.
"What do you mean?" she prompted. "Didn't you tell her?"
I… I left her a note," he told them lamely.
"Clark!" she exclaimed. "You need to treat Lois better than that. Wouldn't telling her to her face have been better?"
"I couldn't face the disinterest in her voice," he said dejectedly.
"Clark, I'm sorry to have to say this, but you might have just made things worse by telling her where you've gone in a note," Jonathan said.
Maybe they were right. After all, Lois had been angrier about his secret identity because he hadn't told her. This wasn't exactly the same; he had told her, but not to her face. For a moment, he wished he hadn't decided to come to Smallville at all, but dismissed the thought. At least he got to spend some time with his parents. At the moment, however, he was still at a loss as to what to do about Lois.
"Maybe," he replied. "I just want her to talk to me. We were getting on so well before she found out. When she told me she loves me, it felt so great. And now… I don't even know if she still feels the same about me."
"Of course she does! She just needs time to get used to the fact that Clark and Superman are the same person," Martha assured him.
"Thanks, Mom," he replied, smiling. "And I thought I was the only one who talked about myself in the third person!"
His parents both smiled. "Things will work out in the end, Son," Martha told him. "Now how about some more apple pie?"
"That would be great," he said with a slight grin.
Only a few days later, the Planet had become a festival of lights, tinsel and decorations. The day had already lost its light, and as Lois slipped into her coat, ready to go home, she found herself standing in front of the Christmas tree studying the multitude of lights and baubles. She remembered earlier in the day when staff had been decorating the tree. Everyone seemed so joyful and filled with the Christmas spirit.
However, when she'd been asked to help, she'd dismissed the offer, claiming she was working on a big story. In actual fact, there was hardly any news around. But as excited as everyone was about making the Planet look as beautiful as possible, she found herself unable to work up any excitement for Christmas at all. To her, it was just another tedious holiday to get through.
And yet this year she'd begun to look forward to Christmas. She'd thought that this one would be different, because this year, she had Clark. But no. It was going to turn out as lonely and as miserable as all the other years. She would be on her own, eating take out and watching some cheesy old 'classic' Christmas movie. It seemed pointless even getting a tree this year. After all, who would be there to see it?
Well, there was the dinner on Christmas Eve she was giving. When thinking it through, it sounded like it was going to be a nightmare. She never had been very good at cooking, and the prospect of making an entire Christmas dinner sounded pretty scary. She ran through all the people who would be coming: Perry, Alice, Jimmy, and her sister Lucy. She was almost certain that Jimmy would want to bring someone with him, so including her that made sev… six. There was one name that would no longer be on that list. Clark. When her idea of throwing a dinner party came to mind, she'd fully expected Clark to help her with the cooking, even though she hadn't mentioned it to him.
Now he wouldn't even be there. Of course, there was a week between his arrival back in Metropolis and Christmas Eve but working things out in such a short amount of time seemed unlikely. Near impossible, even. Spending Christmas with Clark this year was something that wasn't going to happen.
With one last look at the huge tree that dominated the newsroom, she turned to leave, shaking her head sadly.
Clark quickly flew from Kansas back to Metropolis, preparing to do his Superman patrol. In the daytime he'd hardly been attending any rescues due to his being in Smallville, but to make sure nobody connected Clark Kent's vacation and Superman's lack of rescues, he had done two patrols every day to make sure the city was safe; one in the daytime and one in the evening. That seemed to have worked.
One place he avoided while on his patrols was the Planet. Oh, he tried to tell himself that he wasn't avoiding Lois, but his heart knew differently. If by any chance he saw her, he would find it impossible to fly past and not stop and talk to her.
He only had a couple more days before he had to be back at work. It would be lying to say he wasn't looking forward to going back; the job at the newspaper was wonderful and he enjoyed doing it. But he certainly wasn't looking forward to facing Lois. Over the last few days, he'd thought hard about what his parents had told him and realised they were right. Surely just leaving her a note instead of telling her would have made her angry with him.
But he couldn't turn back time; now he just had to face the consequences of his cowardice. That was all it was, when he admitted it to himself.
Suddenly, he realised that just this small thought of Lois was affecting him. Involuntarily, he was flying in the direction of the Planet. He began to change direction and go the opposite way when he saw her walking through the main entrance and starting to walk home. Why was she walking? Her apartment was a couple miles away and snow was already starting fall.
In any other circumstances, he would have tried to tear himself away from her and flown back to Smallville. But he couldn't let her walk home at night in the dark and the falling snow. Quickly, he decreased his flying height and landed softly behind her, calling her name softly, but loud enough so she could hear.
Her steps halted but she didn't turn around straight away. She seemed to be gathering her thoughts together, deciding whether turning around was a good idea. But eventually she slowly began to turn, looking at him intently. "Superman," she simply said, not moving from where she was.
He walked closer to her. "Lois… why are you walking home?" he asked, hoping she wouldn't ignore him.
"The Jeep's in the shop," she told him, her voice toneless.
"Why don't you call a cab? Or… I could fly you home," he offered.
"I'm capable of walking myself home," she stated.
"I know you are, Lois. But it's cold outside, and it's dark. You don't know what could happen to you," he told her, a pleading tone creeping into his voice. He knew as well as she did that the streets of Metropolis weren't safe at night. It was obvious that she was just being stubborn with him. Of course, he couldn't blame her, after what he'd done, but he had her safety to think about.
"I'll be fine. I thought you were supposed to be in Smallville, anyway?" she asked with a raised eyebrow.
He momentarily thought of asking her to keep her voice down but it was quiet, and after a quick turn of his head, he realised that there was nobody around. "I've been doing patrols of the city to make sure everything is safe," he told her.
"I see. Well, if you've been patrolling it then it must be safe for me to walk home," she said, turning away from him again and starting to walk.
He sighed. "Lois, if you won't let me take you home, then at least will you get a cab?"
She ignored him and continued walking. Yes, it seemed that he'd really upset her. Her comment about Smallville had told him that much. It was obvious that she wasn't going to back down on this. He took off back into the air but resolved to watch her from above. If she was going to insist on walking home alone, at night, then the least he could do was watch her and make sure she was safe.
As he started to follow her, a shrill scream from a woman interrupted his thoughts. He quickly tuned in and realised that she was being threatened; he had to go. He gave a glance at Lois and silently promised that he'd be right back to make sure she was safe, and then flew off to help the woman.
Lois walked towards her apartment in quick strides, feeling bad for the way she'd behaved towards Clark. He was only looking out for her, after all, and yet she'd dismissed his offer to fly her home without a second thought. As the temperature slipped lower and the snow began to fall harder, she realised that if she'd just let him take her home, she'd already be there by now. At the moment, she was still a good distance away from her apartment.
But earlier, when he'd landed behind her and said her voice, she'd frozen. She hadn't been expected to hear that soft voice again for another few days. At first she'd been shocked and thought, even hoped, that he was back from Smallville early. But when she'd turned around and seen that he was dressed in the Super suit, she'd realised that was a false hope.
Her eyes began to fill with tears as she recalled how she'd totally ignored his concern for her. It had seemed like the thing to do at the time, but now she realised that she might have hurt him. All the time she was upset at what he'd done to her, she'd pushed away the thought that persistently ignoring him might be causing him pain, too.
She lowered her head and concentrated on walking home, not looking at what lay ahead of her. Watching where she was going while walking was essential with the snow and ice building up.
Suddenly, she felt a hand reach out from the side of her, attempting to snatch her purse away from her. Her instant reactions kicked in within a split second and without thinking, she grasped her purse back, holding it behind her. As she moved back, away from the shadowy figure, her foot found a patch of ice and she fell backwards, landing hard on the sidewalk.
She saw the figure run away, not giving her time to see any features that stood out. She groaned, realised her hand was still tightly clutched onto her purse, and was starting to pull herself up when she felt a pair of strong arms around her, lifting her up.
"Lois? I'm so sorry I wasn't here to stop this. I'm so sorry. Are you okay?" a voice asked, almost frantically. She turned around and saw she was being held up by Clark… well, Superman.
"I'm okay," she said quietly, remembering the last time she was in these arms. Suddenly everything overwhelmed her and a tear fell, too quick for her to wipe away. "Take me home, Clark," she whispered, turning herself around so he could lift her into his arms.
"Okay, Lois," he told her softly, scooping her up. She buried her face into his chest without speaking, trying to calm herself down. Clark had obviously been following her, making sure she was okay. That was incredibly sweet of him, especially after she'd just turned around and walked away from him earlier. She'd been stubborn and pigheaded as usual.
And if she'd only let him fly her home then, this wouldn't have happened. Yet, even after how badly she'd treated him, he'd still watched her. He was such a gentleman. And, at the moment, he seemed to be realising that she didn't feel like talking, as he was flying her through the air in total silence. She momentarily raised her head from his chest but felt the snow hit her face, stinging her, so she tucked her face back into him, taking comfort from his warmth.
Just a few minutes later, they were outside her apartment building and she reluctantly let Clark put her down. He was about to walk away without a word when she reached her arm out and touched his hand gently. "Thank you for watching out for me," she told him softly, dropping her gaze to the floor.
"No problem, Lois," he replied, giving her a smile. "Goodnight."
No. She couldn't let him go, not now. She was tired of running from him, tired of not getting things out in the open. They had to talk, and they had to do it now. "Clark…" she began, unsure of how to proceed.
"Yes, Lois?" he asked, seeming genuinely surprised that she'd called his name again.
"Can you come in and talk? There are things we need to discuss," she said softly, silently hoping that he wouldn't refuse.
But to her relief, a small smile instantly broke out onto his face. "That'd be great, Lois!" he exclaimed, before obviously trying to control the brightness that had suddenly appeared in his voice.
"What about your parents? Are they expecting you back?" she questioned suddenly.
"No, they'll know that I'm patrolling the city," he replied.
Lois inserted the key in the lock and opened the door, walking into her apartment building with Clark following.
As they entered Lois's apartment, Clark felt excitement flow through him. The fact that Lois had invited him into her home must mean that she was willing to talk. After all, she had said that they needed to discuss things.
At first, he'd been shocked by Lois's reaction when he'd flown down to her after the attempted mugging. A part of him had wanted to chase after the person for trying to do that to Lois, not to mention knocking her over. But a greater part of him demanded that he stay with Lois and make sure that she wasn't hurt.
But the gentle, whimpering person he found in his arms wasn't what he had expected at all. He had thought she would struggle away from him as before and assure him that she was okay on her own. The Lois that had asked him to take her home had been… frightened. Shaken up. It wasn't an image that he naturally associated with Lois, but he knew it was there. In these last few weeks, that side of her personality had appeared much more frequently.
"Are you okay, Lois?" he asked tentatively. "You seem pretty shaken up."
Lois momentarily seemed confused, but then her blank expression changed and she understood. "I'm okay. I just… didn't expect to see you tonight," she told him. Her voice wavered a little, and it was obvious that she'd been more affected than she was letting on.
"I'm so sorry that I went to Smallville, Lois. I can't believe I left you like that. You wouldn't have been attacked if I'd have stayed here," he replied, wanting to take her into his arms again. But it was too soon for that; they needed to talk first, to see where they both stood with each other.
"I shouldn't have walked away from you, Clark," she told him and he felt his heart reach out. There was so much pain in her voice. What had changed? Only a few minutes ago, she'd pushed him away. Surely the attempted mugging on its own couldn't have changed her feelings so much.
"Lois, I deserved it," he replied honestly. "I shouldn't have gone to Smallville like I did. I shouldn't have run away from things at all."
"No, you shouldn't," she said sternly. "Can we sit down?" She gestured to the sofa.
Clark nodded, but before he moved, he spun into his regular Clark clothes, to give her a sense of normalcy. He didn't fail to notice her awestruck look, which she had obviously tried to hide.
They walked over and seated themselves on the sofa. "Lois, I know I've behaved appallingly towards you. I thought… I thought you wanted time away from me; to think about things."
"Oh, Clark! The day I found out you'd left, I was ready to talk to you. I was going to ask you to come back to my apartment," she told him.
He mentally kicked himself. If he hadn't have been so stupid and left her, they might have been together again now. And he wouldn't have spent the last few days obsessing over everything. No. They'd have been friends… maybe even a couple again. Why hadn't he let Perry convince him to stay, or at least have one last chance at getting Lois to talk? At least she didn't seem to be fuming that he'd gone to Smallville.
"I've been so stupid, Lois. First, not telling you I was going and just leaving you that note… I don't know how to apologise," he said, dropping his head. At the time, his vacation had seemed like a good idea, but as he said the words aloud, he realised just how much of a mistake it had been. And Perry had tried to warn him!
"Clark, I wanted to talk to you because I wanted to put everything behind us," she responded, momentarily stunning him. "Yes, you've hurt me a lot by everything that you've done, and I'm going to need you to explain some things to me now. But you giving continual apologies isn't going to help, and I don't think it's fair for me to make you grovel."
He raised his head to look at her; her face was serious, but not angrily so. She was obviously desperate to get on with this conversation and have him explain everything to her. But what did she want him to say? The main issue was about him being Superman, not the Smallville trip. And yet he'd already explained why he lied to her on that fateful night, so what could she possibly be looking for?
"What type of things do you want me to explain?" he asked carefully.
"A lot of things. You've already explained to me why you lied to me about you being Superman, and while I understand the reasons for not telling me *before* — I even accept them — you should have told me after I said I loved you. You have absolutely no excuse for that. That's what hurts me, Clark."
The pain still lingered in Lois's voice and facial expressions, no matter how much she was trying to hide it. And, of course, she was right. He had no explanation for her as to why he didn't tell her. "I wanted to tell you, Lois. I just knew that it'd ruin everything, though, and I wanted to spend as much time just being in love as I could, without destroying it," he told her truthfully.
"I can understand that, Clark. But it doesn't help to ease the pain," she replied. He noticed she was awkwardly fiddling with her hands, a telltale sign that she was nervous.
"What can I do to make it better, Lois?" he questioned tentatively. He didn't have any answers to that. Oh, it would be so easy to scoop her into his arms and try to soothe all the hurt away. Or to kiss her senseless, making all conscious thought slip from her mind. But he couldn't do that. That was an easy escape, and would only solve the problems in the short term, anyway.
"I said I needed time —"
His heart sank as she began to speak and he found himself instantly cutting her off. "So why did you ask me in tonight, if you need more time?" he snapped, a little too rudely.
"I *said* I needed time," she repeated, ignoring his question. "I was wrong." His jaw dropped slightly and she continued. "I'm not going to suddenly wake up one day after being away from you and decide that I've forgiven you. That's not the way it works; after thinking everything through, I know that now. I should have talked to you sooner."
"Lois, I understand that you needed some time away from me. This isn't your fault," he contradicted. "What made you decide you wanted to talk to me?" Her words had shocked him. After everything he'd done to her, he hardly expected her to be blaming herself.
"I don't know… I haven't been able to think about anything else over these past few days. Not for one moment. And I thought about our relationship together and… and I knew that I didn't want to lose any of it. Those few days we spent together as a couple were great. I don't want to lose that."
She still wanted to have a relationship with him! His heart began to thump with excitement at the prospect. But… something was weighing on his mind, stopping him from thinking about it. "Lois… how can we have a relationship if you can't forgive me?
"Clark," she began, reaching forward and taking his hand in her own. "I think I already have forgiven you. I… I know that tonight I walked away from you. But you still watched me anyway. You could have flown back to Smallville, away from me." She paused for a moment and looked at his face. He gazed back into her eyes, trying to figure out what she was thinking. "You stayed with me, even though I pushed you away. And that shows me how much you are committed to me."
Her words still spun in his head. She'd forgiven him? He breathed a deep sigh of relief. There was still hope for them! "I couldn't just let you walk away on your own like that, Lois. Anything could have happened! Look at what did happen. It was just lucky I was there to take you home. Who knows what else would have happened if I hadn't have done that? I couldn't let you down again," he told her sincerely.
"Again?" she asked.
"In the club… you said yourself that you could have died because you tried to save me, when there was no need to do that. And I didn't save you. I let you down, Lois," he replied.
"I know I got angry about that. I didn't mean it… it was stupid of me. I was shocked at the time, when I realised that. But after thinking everything through, I shouldn't have gotten so angry with you," she told him. He felt her squeeze the hand she was still clutching. "You didn't let me down. I understand what you said about fear paralysing you. If it's possible, I think it makes me love you more. Knowing that your feelings for me can do that to you."
"Oh, Lois, I did let you down. Like you said before, what would I have done if you'd died?" he asked, feeling the guilt swamp him again. He suddenly felt so torn.
"Clark… I'm sorry I said that. You were feeling guilty enough already, without me saying something like that to you. I didn't mean it. I was angry and upset, but there was no need for me to be so cruel," she said, pausing for a moment. "And besides, some good did come of it," she added.
He took a moment to ponder whether or not he'd heard Lois correctly. What good had come of it? He remembered telling Lois that it had brought them together… but that had infuriated her. However, she did seem to have changed her mind on a number of things, so maybe that was one of them. "Such as what, Lois?" he asked carefully.
"A thought entered my head while I was thinking this through," she replied. "What would have happened if I hadn't have dived in front of you, and the bullet had hit you? You'd have been revealed to the world as Superman. What… what would you have done?" she asked quietly.
"I haven't really thought about it much, Lois," he told her. That was the truth — this was something that had hardly even entered his head. It was a good question; what would he have done? The first thing that popped into his head escaped his mouth. "I guess I would have played dead. Pretended that the bullet had injured me, so I didn't reveal my powers."
"But your Clark Kent identity would have been… it would be as if you were dead, Clark," Lois protested, her eyes growing wider.
"Yeah," he simply replied, unsure of how to respond.
Lois stared at Clark long and hard. So far, she hadn't really learned anything she hadn't known before… but she understood it better. This was the first time she'd properly spoken to Clark about any of this. The night she'd found out, she'd been hurt, angry. But now that she'd had time to get things into perspective, what Clark had done didn't seem so bad.
She'd been watching Clark intently throughout their discussion, and it had become obvious to her just how badly — and how guilty — he was feeling. And sitting next to him, tentatively holding his hand, she felt no more anger towards him. Only sadness that she'd left him alone with this guilt.
After Clark had told her that he would have let 'Clark' die if he'd been shot, she had been shocked. And suddenly very relieved that she'd stopped that from happening. In a way… she had saved his life, as she'd intended. If the bullet really had hit him, unless he'd revealed his powers, he would have been pronounced dead. With no way to bring him back to life. She shuddered. At least that hadn't happened. Even if he had chosen to reveal that he had powers, he would have been as good as dead too. There would have been no way for him to lead a normal life as Clark Kent if everyone knew about his secret identity.
So where were they to go from here? It was obvious that she was going to have to be the one to make that decision. Could she… could she just dive straight back into a relationship with Clark, or would she need more time? Time. It was already perfectly clear that time had just made things worse already. Maybe they could have been back together now, if only she had given Clark a chance to speak!
"Clark…" she began, not entirely sure of how to proceed.
"Yes?" he asked. He seemed to be deep in thought, too; his head was bowed and he was staring at his hands. Their hands. She realised that she was still holding onto his.
"What are we going to do about this? About us?" she asked carefully, abstractly wondering if hearts could really break. If Clark was to reject her now — and hopefully he wouldn't do that — she didn't think she would be able to stand it. It had taken her more than she'd admit to open up to Clark and to forgive him. It wasn't something she was used to doing, plunging all of her trust back into him so recklessly.
But he'd earned that. Finally, she'd managed to pull herself out of the trance she'd been in and given Clark a chance. Now… she was waiting to find out if she was too late. Sure, Clark had apologised over and over, and she'd already told him that she didn't want to lose their relationship, but did he feel the same? Or had he decided that she wasn't worth the bother? She desperately hoped not.
Clark being Superman didn't seem to matter. Not now. It was something she'd accepted. Oh, it would definitely take a while for her to get used to it, but time would help. All she wanted now was to have Clark back. She hadn't realised just how much she'd come to rely on him until he'd left her to go to Smallville.
"Lois… I want to have a relationship with you," he replied, and she felt her heart leap. "I love you; you know that. But what do you want? I want you to feel comfortable around me — if you have any doubts about this, you need to tell me."
"Oh, Clark," she whispered, pulling herself across the sofa to be closer to him. Today had been the closest they'd been to each other in a while. She moved even further towards him, until she felt the soft warmth of his thigh against hers. "I love you. What you did… I've accepted. It hurt me, but I'm not about to throw our relationship away because of it," she told him, sincerely.
She felt Clark's hand rise to cup her face tenderly, and she felt the first hint of tears prick her eyes. Emotions scorched through her, threatening to overcome her. Clark's eyes pierced into hers, as if searching her soul. His face moved a fraction closer to hers, and she found herself involuntarily parting her lips slightly. Was he going to kiss her? Should she make the first move?
But her questions were answered for her as his lips were suddenly on hers in a sweet, tender kiss. He pulled his head back to look at her. She knew tears were running freely down her face now but she didn't care.
"Lois? Are you okay?" he asked, his face taking on a confused look.
She nodded, unable to keep the smile off her face. "I've missed this so much," she admitted. "Clark… you don't have any more secrets, do you? I'm putting all my trust into you once more; I don't want to be hurt again."
"Lois…" he started, still keeping his comforting hand on her face. She breathed deeply, trying to stop herself from smiling. Her question had been serious, and yet she was unable to contain her joy over their kiss. The last time Clark had kissed her had been *that* night, the night where she'd overreacted and made things much worse. That kiss had been pleading, begging her to stay. This one had been gentle… and she longed for him to do it again.
"I swear to you, that was the only thing I ever lied about, Lois. I'm not going to hurt you again. I'd rather kill myself than cause you such pain again," he told her, sincerity evident in his voice.
And in an instant, she was kissing him again. Her hand removed itself from his, freeing her arms. They travelled round his back, one of her hands slipping into his silky, soft hair. Their kiss deepened, and yet again, she began crying, but tonight these were tears of happiness. After two long weeks of pain, she was back with Clark. And it felt… wonderful.
All at once, she was transported back to the night they'd made love. Oh, how she'd endlessly thought about the time she had been lying naked in Clark's arms, feeling thoroughly cherished. Loved. Throughout all her life, she'd never felt such a wonderful sensation of being loved as she had that night. And now… as Clark was kissing her, the sensations flooded her again and again, taking a hold of her.
He was her life. That night, she'd been truly made love to by Clark, and thinking back, she wondered just why she'd doubted Clark's feelings for her for the last few weeks. The tenderness and care he'd shown for her when they'd made love had been a sign of his feelings, and the feeling of being secure and safe with him had warmed her then, and was doing so now.
And suddenly she knew, with all her heart, what she wanted to do. "Clark…" she said as she moved her mouth away from his, breathlessly. "Make love to me, Clark," she whispered. She remembered the words as the exact same ones she'd used on that first magical night between them.
Clark didn't respond in words, but held his forehead against hers, connecting with her in a way so powerful that she shuddered. Silently, he moved his head away and stood up, carefully lifting her up from the sofa, gently whispering his love for her into her ear.
Lois stood in front of her Christmas tree, smiling. It was the first time she'd been able to buy a big, beautiful tree, instead of one of the lonely ones left standing on their own. She and Clark had decorated it between them, and now it was a beautiful sight, awash with decorations and colour.
She turned to see the table laden with food for her Christmas Eve party. As it had turned out, everyone on her guest list had been too busy to make it, and now she was standing on her own. Everyone was with someone. Perry and Alice had decided to spend Christmas Eve together, enjoying the time alone. Jimmy and the girl he'd met at the Planet were going to her parents', much to Lois's surprise. And her sister was in Venice with another love interest.
And there was Clark. Only the day after they'd worked things out, she'd asked him what he was doing for Christmas, in hopes that they could spend it together. But, much to her dismay, he'd tentatively told her about his plans to return to Smallville for Christmas. Of course, she didn't blame him. He'd organised it while they were barely even speaking to each other. At that time, he wouldn't have thought there was any chance of them being together for Christmas, obviously.
He'd offered to stay in Metropolis, but as much as she wanted to let him, his parents would already be expecting him. It wouldn't have been fair of her to expect him to stay with her. But… oh, it was going to be so lonely without him! Just another year alone, with nothing but the TV for comfort.
For a fleeting moment in their conversation about Christmas, it had seemed as if he was going to ask her to go to Smallville with him. She'd quickly mulled over the possibility in her head, and had decided that if he did ask, then she would go with him straight away. But… he'd opened his mouth slightly and then pulled back again, never saying what was on the tip of his tongue. She'd tried not to be dismayed, but she found the disappointment hard to avoid. Christmas in Smallville with Clark sounded wonderful.
As she turned to sit down at the table, she felt a telltale gust of wind on her, and saw the voile curtains flutter. Her heart caught in her throat — was Clark really here? But when no figure appeared, no soft voice warmed her, she sighed and closed the window, looking briefly out of it at the emptiness of the outdoors. Silhouettes flicked in windows of other apartments, obviously people having a great time on Christmas Eve.
But her heart jumped again when a knock came on the door. It was him. It had to be him. She rushed over and quickly unlocked it, throwing it open a little more enthusiastically than she'd intended to. "Clark! I thought you were in Smallville."
"I was, Lois," he replied. "I just flew back to pick you up."
"To… to pick me up?" she repeated, unsure of what he meant. Were they supposed to be going somewhere?
"I flew to Smallville to ask my parents if it would be okay for you to join us tomorrow, Lois," he replied. "Seeing as you insisted that I go to Smallville, the least I could do was take you with me! I was thinking of asking you earlier, but a surprise seemed like a much nicer idea."
Lois smiled at him widely. All her sadness drifted away from her. She wouldn't be alone after all. And he had been considering it! For a fleeting moment, the prospect of being around Clark's family for Christmas was a daunting one. But the fear disappeared quickly. She loved spending time with Clark's parents, and having a proper Christmas in a *normal* family environment was something she'd always longed for.
"Thank you, Clark," she replied softly. "But what about all this? Everyone was too busy to come, and I can't just leave it here," she told him. Not that her cooking was that wonderful, but while making the meal, she had felt proud. And now it was going to go to waste.
"Well, they're expecting us tomorrow morning. So we have tonight to ourselves," he replied, stepping forwards and taking hold of both her hands.
"You're just the best," she told him, grasping onto his hands.
"So what are we eating?" he asked politely, and she resisted the urge to laugh. After all, the table was just in front of him.
But at the moment all she wanted to do was spend some time in this man's company. Asking his parents if she could go to Smallville had been so sweet of him. And now, despite the fact that the food was going cold, she would be content to stand and stare into those eyes for the rest of the evening. Over the previous week, Clark had used his Super powers openly in front of her, and slowly she'd pieced the two men together, and it now seemed perfectly normal that they were the same.
The same gentle, warm, loving eyes. The love that always shone for her in those eyes often threatened to overcome her with emotion. It was a look she'd never seen before, and to know Clark felt so much for her was amazing. She knew that the look was mirrored in her own eyes, too. She was very much in love with Clark, and it was obvious for the whole world to see.
"Later…" she whispered softly, not moving away from him, hardly daring to breathe.
"I have a gift for you," he told her gently, pulling a box out of his pocket. She grinned slightly as she saw him firmly fasten the pocket back up. He handed the box over to her and she slowly opened it, revealing a beautiful pendant. "I know it's not very original, but I thought you'd like it," he added.
"Oh… Oh, Clark, it's beautiful!" she exclaimed, thoroughly touched by his gift. She remembered fleetingly pointing out the same pendant in a shop not too many weeks before, when they were still friends, nothing more. But she'd never expected Clark to buy it for her! She felt a tear in the corner of her eye as she continued to look at Clark's gift. "You remembered," she said, breathless.
"I did," he replied, smiling.
She reached forward and kissed him softly, holding her free arm around his neck, holding his head to hers. The kiss was brief, but they both smiled as they parted. Suddenly, the distant noise of carolers interrupted them, the soft sound filling the apartment. "Let's go over to the window," Clark suggested.
They walked hand in hand and looked outside at the small group of people. The first flakes of snow were starting to fall, gradually falling faster and faster until the carolers left, headed for their homes. Lois leaned against Clark, feeling him wrap his gentle arm around her shoulder, bringing her closer to him.
An eternity seemed to pass as they stayed together, holding each other gently as the snow fell. The dinner was long cold, and both were brought out of their gentle trance as the bells for midnight chimed softly.
"Merry Christmas, Lois," Clark said gently. "I love you."
"I love you too, Clark," she whispered back, embracing him and kissing him again.
And suddenly, everything fell into place. This was why she'd never liked Christmas. This year, it was perfect. She had her Clark, the man she loved. The man she'd do anything for… even die for.
The snow continued to fall, but both of them became oblivious to the world as they became lost in each other, everything else becoming a blur. And while they continued to kiss, Lois recalled the word she'd briefly seen on the back of Clark's pendant. Love.
She sighed, blissfully happy at the knowledge that she'd finally found her true love.