By Wendy Richards <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: February 2002
Summary: Remember when Lois threw Clark's flowers away at the end of the episode "The Prankster"? This vignette considers what could have happened next…
This story was written as a birthday present for Tracey, whose birthday is the day after mine. She said she'd post a story for my birthday if I wrote one for hers. <g>
The story takes place at the end of The Prankster; you should recognise the scene from the ep.
Lois eyed with surreptitious interest the large bouquet of yellow roses being carried across the newsroom. They certainly were beautiful. Whoever they were for was fortunate…
To her surprise, Diane, her colleague who was carrying the roses, stopped by her desk. "These just came for you, Lois."
Someone had sent *her* flowers? Smiling with pleasure — they really were beautiful — Lois asked, "Diane, what do yellow roses mean?"
Diane grinned wryly. "Who knows? The only thing men ever send me is directions to their house."
"Yellow means friendship," a voice to her left pointed out; she looked up from the flowers to see Clark watching her, a half-smile on his face.
Friendship? That sounded nice… There was a card attached to the bouquet, so she opened it up, insatiably curious to find out who'd sent her flowers.
"From a special friend," she read. There was no name on the card.
All those 'gifts' she'd received over the past few days. All from a donor who didn't give his name. And all with a serious sting in the tail — and all from a man who'd tried to scare her to death before actually trying to kill her.
"One final sick prank from Kyle Griffin," she said scornfully, feeling deeply disappointed. For just a minute there, she'd allowed herself to believe that someone really liked her enough to send her flowers. But, of course, that wasn't true. The flowers, like the ring and the Jack-in- the-box, hadn't been real; they hadn't been intended as a genuine gift from someone who cared.
Before she could think better of it — and before some horrible creepy-crawly or whatever could come sliming its way out of the bouquet — she grabbed the flowers and upended them into her trash-can. She barely heard Clark's, "No, wait!" as she poured the remainder of her mug of coffee on top.
Straightening, she caught sight of the expression on Clark's face; he looked distinctly hurt, which puzzled her. Then he said quietly, frustratedly, "Those flowers cost me fifty bucks."
Lois stared at her partner. *Clark* had sent her the flowers? 'From a special friend'… of course they were from Clark! And she should have realised. He was a special friend, after all — who more so? And hadn't he been the one to tell her that yellow roses were for friendship? And he was… well, sort of hovering around her desk, and he'd had a kind of secretive smile on his face, as if he knew something that she didn't and it was something which made him happy…
Clark had been incredibly thoughtful and kind and had sent her yellow friendship roses.
And she'd just…
She'd just thrown them away, rejecting his thoughtfulness and at the same time completely spoiling not only the lovely gesture, but also her own enjoyment of the first time since Lex Luthor that someone had sent her flowers. And anything Lex had done wasn't something she particularly wanted to remember…
Tears pricking at her eyes, she bent to survey the damage. Several of the stems were bent or broken, and most of the bouquet was covered with dark brown aromatic liquid. It was beyond salvage.
"Clark… I'm so sorry," she whispered, knowing that he'd come over to stand beside her.
She felt a warm, comforting hand on her shoulder. "Hey," he said softly. "It's okay. I should have thought — you've had enough scares over the past couple of days. It's only natural that you'd assume another unexpected gift had to be from Griffin too. I should have asked the florist to write my name on the card."
Lois turned to look at Clark; he was standing close to her and, she realised, blocking her from the view of most of their colleagues. As ever, he was being thoughtful. "I really am sorry, though. I didn't give you a chance to tell me… and now they're ruined."
He shrugged, although she could see the disappointment in his own expression. "They're only flowers, Lois. You don't need flowers to know that I'll always be your friend."
But it would have been nice… It had been such a lovely gesture, and she'd ruined it all, for him as well as for her.
Lois knew Clark well enough to be sure that he wasn't really bothered by the waste of fifty dollars. He earned a decent salary, just as she did, and he didn't seem to behave as if money was particularly important to him. He was disappointed because his surprise had been ruined, of course, but right now he seemed to be more concerned about her feelings than his own. Which was Clark all over, of course…
"I know, Clark," she told him quietly. "And I don't think I told you just how much I appreciate the way you've been there for me over the past few days…" She swallowed, emotion threatening to overwhelm her again.
Clark saw, she could tell. He gave her a concerned look. "How about we get out of here?" he suggested quietly, glancing around. "I know it's early, but I don't think Perry will mind in the circumstances. We did just bring in a pretty great scoop."
That was the best idea she'd heard all day. Although Lois wasn't normally one for leaving work early, somehow today it seemed like the right thing to do. All the worry and fear of the last few days seemed to have caught up with her suddenly, and all she wanted to do was to get out of the Planet.
"Come on, get your coat," Clark urged.
"So, where do you want to go?" Clark asked once they were at street level.
Lois shrugged, not really caring as long as she wasn't in the newsroom and Clark was with her. "You suggested leaving…"
"Well, you could just go home — but then I'd have to go back to work, and you wouldn't do that to me, would you?" he teased. "Or I could take you to the Fudge Castle. Or we could just go for a walk in the park."
"A walk sounds good," Lois said, thinking that it sounded great, in fact. Some fresh air, and Clark's teasing, undemanding company, was just what she needed.
It was obviously just reaction, that was all. It had been a pretty tough week, all in all — while she was well used to having threats made against her, and had actually experienced people trying to kill her before, there had been something different about Kyle Griffin.
It was the way he'd embarked on a planned campaign of terror, she thought. He'd set out to unsettle her. All his little tricks were designed, first, to attract her attention, and then to scare her in a pretty serious way. The Jack-in-the- box hadn't harmed her in any way, although it wasn't pleasant to know that she'd been used as a diversion for a robbery. The ring had hurt, and it had shaken her to know that someone would pretend to give her gifts which purported to be nice, but which actually were a kind of poisoned chalice.
And then she'd started to get seriously scared as Griffin's campaign had advanced…
Being scared was a new experience for Lois. And it wasn't something she wanted her colleagues at the Planet to know about. That was one reason she'd jumped at Clark's suggestion to leave; she'd been on the verge of coming apart at the seams, and she knew it. The gift of the flowers, and her crushing disappointment at having thrown them away, had been the last straw; it had unleashed the emotions she'd been keeping bottled up since the night she'd fled to Clark's apartment.
Clark knew she'd been terrified — but, typically for him, he hadn't made an issue of it. Instead, he'd been incredibly sweet and had pretended that he wanted her to stay at his place for his own reassurance, not hers. And he'd pretended to ignore the whole thing, Griffin's threats, even though she knew very well that he was probably angry and very afraid on her behalf. He'd hid all that under a veil of gentle humour and caring protectiveness.
Yes, Clark was well aware of how close she'd been to coming unglued there in the newsroom, although she also knew that he wouldn't refer to it unless she did first. He'd just be there, being supportive and understanding; the perfect friend.
Impulse, and a sudden rush of love for her best friend, made her loop her arm through his. She just felt the need to be close to someone; for the sort of human contact which reminded her that she wasn't alone and wasn't friendless.
He glanced down at her, and she saw him smile gently. Without saying anything, he freed his arm from her grasp, looping it around her shoulders instead and tugging her against him. She snuggled into his embrace, wrapping her own arm around his waist. It felt good; she felt cared for and protected yet again.
That was one of the things she liked so much about Clark. He could be very affectionate; physically demonstrative, in a way she'd never imagined that she'd like. Okay, she was the one who'd started the quite tactile nature of their friendship, frequently touching him in order to make a point, and sometimes, she was aware, in a flirtatious manner. He'd responded by resting his hand on her shoulder as he stood behind her reading her copy, occasionally placing his hand at her back as he escorted her somewhere, and — very occasionally — encouraging her to take his arm when they walked together.
And he hugged her. He was incredibly generous with his hugs; sometimes Lois thought that she'd probably saved herself a fortune in therapy thanks to Clark. He always seemed to know just when she needed a hug, and when she needed to be released, and he'd never once teased her about her neediness in those circumstances.
He was the perfect friend, in fact. A friend who'd even sent her flowers because he knew that she needed a little TLC.
And she'd spoilt the gesture…
But that was over and done with. There was no point in dwelling on it. She'd be more careful next time… if there was a next time. She couldn't blame Clark if he never risked buying her anything ever again!
"It's fun to play hookey just once in a while," Clark said cheerfully, smiling down at her again.
"Yeah, it is," she agreed. "And if you tell anyone I said that, you won't live to see the dawn, Kent!"
He laughed, a wonderful, rich sound. "Ruin your reputation as the workaholic Mad Dog Lane, would it?"
"Precisely!" she told him. "Though, you know, I should be encouraging you to play hookey all you want, Clark. Then maybe I'd have a chance in next year's Kerths!" she teased.
He stopped dead, making her come to a standstill as well. "Are you actually admitting that I'm a better reporter than you?" he demanded incredulously. "And after all you said about how much of a scandal it was that you weren't nominated, and how it had to be a mistake, and that I wouldn't have a snowball's chance in hell next year…"
"Well, all that's true," she pointed out matter-of-factly, knowing that she wasn't entirely serious and confident that Clark understood it too. "I mean, how anyone could have thought that your story was more deserving than mine…"
Clark grinned, urging her onwards again. "Actually, what really bothered me was how they'd managed to overlook some of the stories we wrote *together*. Like our story on corruption inside the Metropolis Star. Or the Congressman Harrington story. Or —-"
"Or our Lex Luthor pieces," Lois finished, knowing that those had been among their best work as a partnership, and also knowing that, out of deference for her feelings, Clark wouldn't have mentioned them. "You're right, partner; we've done some pretty great work as a team."
"Yeah, and I'd far rather have won a Kerth jointly with you than alone," he said, surprising her. It certainly wasn't how she'd have reacted in his position.
And yet she shouldn't have been surprised. That attitude was pure Clark. It wasn't that he was uncompetitive; when he wanted, he could exhibit a highly competitive approach. But not with *her*; she was his partner, not his rival, and he didn't seem to aspire to be better than her. Just to be as good as her; good enough to work with her.
"You deserved that Kerth," she told him, for the first time. She'd congratulated him on the night, of course, but never actually told him that she thought it was merited. Smiling up at him, she added, "That was a really great story. If you hadn't won, it'd have been a travesty."
He looked… genuinely surprised. Pleased, too, but it was the surprise which took Lois aback. Had she really never told her partner before just how good she thought his writing was? If that was the case, then she'd been a pretty poor partner. Well, she'd do better in the future, she determined.
Clark's arm tightened around her in a brief hug. "Thanks, Lois. It means a lot to me to hear you say that."
She smiled, gratified to know that she had given her friend pleasure. Then she waited… and waited…
"Clark," she said at last, a little impatiently. "Aren't you going to tell me that my story was good too? That I —-"
"Lois!" She felt him laugh silently. "You can't pay someone a compliment without wanting one in return, can you?" The teasing note in his voice told her that he didn't mind, and she laughed in return. This was one of the other things she loved about Clark; he knew exactly what she was like, and never tried to change her. She was pretty sure, in fact, that he didn't want to change her.
Then he continued, "Lois, do you really need me to tell you that your work is Kerth-standard? You've got three awards back home in that closet of yours that tell you that. You *know* I admire your work. But, actually, I thought that it was the two of us — Lane and Kent, the partnership — who really deserved that award. And if I ever get my name on a Kerth again, I want yours to be right there beside it."
That sounded pretty great, Lois had to admit. But just when had she stopped feeling the need to go it alone, to be competitive even with Clark? Oh, she admitted, she'd probably always be competitive to a degree, even with him — but that, she understood now, was something between the two of them. Their own private joke, perhaps. Publicly, they were partners, and what one partner did the other was equally responsible for. What one partner got, the other equally deserved. That was a very new concept to Lois; but, to her pleased surprise, she liked it.
"Me too," she told him, and saw him smile in response.
They'd reached the park, and together they strolled inside. It was a lovely day, and since it was autumn, many of the trees and shrubs were beginning to turn beautiful shades of copper, russet, gold and bronze. Lois felt even more grateful to Clark for getting her out of the office — and for coming with her; then she remembered again what had precipitated it.
"Clark, I'm so sorry about the flowers," she told him again, with regret in her voice.
"I told you. It's okay," he answered immediately. "Like I said, I should have thought. Not putting my name on the card was a mistake — I guess I thought you'd know it was me from the message, and maybe you wouldn't want the whole newsroom knowing that I'd sent you flowers." He paused, then added, "Anyway, the look on your face when you first got them was more than worth what I spent."
Touched, Lois looked away. Clark was so sweet sometimes. She didn't know what she'd do if she ever lost him…
Suddenly, he dropped his arm from around her shoulders. Feeling oddly bereft, she turned to look questioningly at him, but he was striding away from her. She assumed that he had a good reason, but she couldn't help feeling hurt that he hadn't bothered to explain.
Then she saw him stop at a cart just down one of the side- paths. It was a florist's stall, she realised, and he was buying something… Then he came back, holding something wrapped in plastic and tissue paper, but not letting her see it at first.
"Just one this time," he said lightly, holding the slim object out to her. It was a yellow rose, in a florist's tube.
"Yellow for friendship," she echoed, gazing down at the perfect yellow bud. Very touched, and with a lump in her throat, she reached up and kissed Clark on the cheek. "You're a wonderful friend, Clark. Thank you."
Clark was almost blushing as she stepped back, but he recovered quickly and offered her his arm. "Shall we walk, my lady?" he said, the old-fashioned courtesy making her smile.
Disappointed that he wasn't going to put his arm around her this time, she slipped her arm through his and allowed him to lead the way through the park.
"I mean it, though, Clark," she said, continuing on the same theme. "I know I never tell you how much I appreciate you, but that doesn't mean I don't."
"Hey." He squeezed her arm. "It's pretty mutual, remember."
"Yeah, well, it's been kind of one-way for a while now," Lois admitted. "I mean, after the wedding and all that… and then you were there for me when I needed you when I got suspended. And then the last few days… I don't know what I'd have done if I hadn't had you to run to the night Griffin called me."
Clark shrugged. "You'd have called Perry. Or Bill Henderson. Or your father, even. You weren't alone. I'm just glad you came to me."
"You were the first person I thought of," she confessed. "And… thanks for understanding, that night. For not making me talk about it."
He just smiled.
They walked in silence for a few minutes, Lois deep in thought and Clark seemingly content just to meander through the park. The last few days really had affected her deeply, she knew; coming on top of what had already been a very traumatic experience in which she'd thought she was responsible for getting a man killed and she'd been suspended as a result, it was probably hardly surprising if she was a little off-balance. But in so many ways she felt she was acting out of character, and it worried her.
Despite having denied, a month or so ago, that she was upset in any way or needed any kind of therapy — although, to be fair, the 'therapy' which had been on offer was from a psychiatrist who'd created an exact double of her and had then tried to frame her for Superman's murder, so it was hardly surprising that she'd objected! — Lois was beginning to wonder whether she did need *something* to help her get back to normal. She wasn't sure what that was — a vacation? counselling? something else? — but her current mental state scared her. She'd almost lost it in the newsroom; that wasn't Lois Lane.
"Am I turning into a flake?" she asked Clark abruptly, alarming herself by doing so because she hadn't intended to ask him the question; hadn't even formulated the words before they came out.
He stopped dead, releasing her and turning to face her. "Are you *what*?" he demanded incredulously. "Lois, what on earth are you talking about?"
She stood, staring at him; then reaction to the fact that she'd put her thoughts into words set in and she began to shake.
"Lois!" Looking worried, Clark reached for her and tugged her into his embrace. Holding her pressed tightly against him, her head tucked into the hollow of his shoulder, he said thickly, "Lois, you are *not* a flake! You're about the most together person I know!"
"I was," she muttered miserably. "Lately… I don't know what's got into me."
"Come and sit down," he urged, and led her over to a nearby bench. As he came to sit beside her, she suddenly recognised exactly where they were. This was the same bench where he'd told her, a few months ago, that he loved her and that she was the one thing in his life he'd miss most. And where she'd shot him down, telling him that she only loved him as a friend.
Embarrassed at the reminder of how badly she'd hurt him that day — because he had *looked* hurt, even if he'd later told her that he'd lied — she flushed and avoided his gaze.
But he didn't seem to be aware of the significance of their location. "Lois, talk to me. Why do you think there's something wrong with you?" he asked insistently.
"Well, look at me lately!" she exclaimed. "Apart from my… my *stupidity* in almost marrying the greatest criminal in the country, I almost broke up our partnership because I was stupidly jealous that you'd been nominated for a Kerth and I hadn't. I damn nearly got a source killed — and no, it doesn't matter that Stuart pretended to be dead, because it could just as easily have been the real thing. And then I got myself suspended over that. And then when Kyle Griffin threatened me — and it's not as if I've never been threatened before, or even as if someone hasn't tried to kill me before — I just fell apart, Clark! The other night when I went running to you I was practically hysterical. I'd calmed down by the time I got to your place, but if you'd tried to make me talk about it I'd have lost it. And then today — it was all *over*, Clark! Griffin was back in jail! And I freaked out when your flowers arrived, and almost lost it again."
She stopped to draw breath, then continued before he could interrupt her. "I was pathetic, Clark! You had to have been wondering just where your partner was. You must be thinking that I'm not much use as a partner lately. I'm not pulling my weight, and I know it. I mean, if Kyle Griffin can reduce me to hysterics just because he sends me a few practical jokes, then I'm not much of a reporter, am I?"
"You are one heck of a reporter, Lois," Clark said firmly. "You always have been, and I haven't noticed any difference. Look," he added quickly just as she was about to contradict him, "where Stuart Hofferman was concerned you had his statement. You had corroboration. He agreed to go on the record. You had no way of knowing what would happen. You did everything by the book, and if there had been an investigation you'd have been cleared. Of course you would."
He reached out and took both her hands, enfolding them in his two larger ones. It was only then that she realised how cold she was. "Lois, Kyle Griffin set out to terrorise you! It was a very cleverly-planned operation. Even if he never intended to try to kill you — and I don't think he really cared whether he killed you or not; he had a bigger plan in mind, to destroy the Planet — he still deliberately aimed to scare you out of your wits. And with all he did, it's hardly surprising that you were frightened! Lois, *anyone* would have been terrified! Other people would have left town or gone into hiding or something, just to get out of the way, and left the police to deal with it. You stayed around, knowing that it would draw him out and make it easier to catch him in the act."
Feeling calmer now, she watched Clark as he continued. "And anyway, the person who took on both Griffin *and* his idiot sidekick was no flake! And she wasn't a coward either. You single-handedly put them out of action, and stopped Griffin from firing that weapon of his again."
"How did you know about that?" Lois asked, suddenly remembering that Clark hadn't been anywhere around at that point.
"Oh…" He flushed suddenly, which puzzled her. "Superman told me about it. He was very impressed by what you did."
"He was?" On top of Clark's reassurances, that made Lois feel a lot better about herself.
"He was indeed. So do me a favour, partner: stop believing that there's something wrong with you, and start telling yourself how great you are! I know that's something you're particularly good at…" he said, a teasing glint in his eyes.
"Hey!" Lois freed one hand and took a swipe at Clark's shoulder.
He laughed, and punched her lightly on the upper arm. "So, you okay now, partner?"
She nodded, now feeling much lighter. "Yeah. Thanks."
He shrugged, smiling. "For what?"
<For whatever it is you do that makes me feel so good about you>
The words came into her head from nowhere, and she frowned slightly, remembering. Clark had said that to her when he'd lost his memory; he couldn't remember anything about himself or about anyone he knew, but, he'd said, he had a strong feeling that she was important in his life.
As he was in hers.
Quite bluntly, she needed Clark. She'd realised, in those horrible weeks after the Planet had been destroyed, just how essential he was to her well-being. And she'd realised more, too. A lot more.
She loved him.
She loved him? But, as her mind began to question the realisation, her heart overruled it. There was no room for doubt here. Love had grown over a period of close friendship, more than a year in duration. Love for Clark had insinuated itself into her heart, her soul, her very being.
She loved him.
Not as a friend. Not as a brother. But as the one person who made sense to her. The one man who could put up with her. The only man she could ever imagine loving.
Not even Superman came close to Clark.
And she'd thrown away any chance she had with him.
Suddenly near to tears again, and embarrassed by it, she caught up her rose, which had fallen to her lap, and got up, walking some feet away and standing with her back to Clark while she tried to regain her composure.
"Lois? Are you okay?" Again, he sounded concerned. He was far nicer to her than she ever deserved.
"Yeah," she called back. "Just… give me a minute, Clark."
"Sure." He'd respect her privacy; she knew that.
She loved Clark. And, while it had been something of a shock to face her feelings for him just now, she knew that it wasn't anything new. Those feelings which she'd admitted to herself for the first time on the morning of her wedding hadn't gone away. But it was equally clear to her that Clark didn't love her back. Even if she did suspect that Clark hadn't been telling the whole truth that day outside the Planet, when he told her he'd made up his confession of love to try to stop her marrying Luthor — and given the way he'd looked when she'd rejected him, she had every reason to believe that he'd been genuine — she was just as sure that he'd since had time to think and had got over his feelings.
After all, she'd rejected him in favour of a criminal like Luthor, whom she hadn't even loved. She'd ignored him for weeks afterwards, and argued with him on the few occasions they had met. And then she'd taken advantage of his caring once the wedding had collapsed, never giving him anything in return; theirs had been a very one-sided friendship.
And then she'd been a prize bitch to him when he'd been nominated for the Kerth, making it clear that she didn't think he deserved it and even ditching him as a partner.
How could he possibly love her?
How, in fact, could he even want to be her friend?
"Lois?" Again, he called to her, sounding worried.
"I'm okay. Really," she insisted again. "I was just… thinking about a few things. Sorry if I'm keeping you hanging around."
His voice came from a couple of feet away. "That's okay, Lois. You know I don't mind. Anything I can help you with?"
She shrugged. "I guess I'm just wondering why on earth you put up with me," she told him wryly, turning as she spoke.
He clearly wasn't expecting her to turn around just at that moment. As she looked at him, the expression on his face, in his eyes, told her just why he put up with her.
He schooled his features very quickly, but she'd seen the betraying signs.
He loved her.
Despite everything; regardless of everything she'd said and done to him; even though he'd denied it, Clark loved her.
Filled with joy, Lois was about to ask him to tell her the truth about his feelings for her. But then she remembered that he'd laid his feelings for her on the line before — before she'd accepted Lex's proposal, and even before that, when he'd had amnesia. She'd tried to tell him once before, of course, and he'd stopped her.
Regardless, it was her turn to step up and say the scary words. Lois caught her breath, about to do just that, when an idea suddenly struck her.
She touched Clark's arm. "I'll be back in a minute. Don't go anywhere, okay?"
He gave her a puzzled look, then nodded, presumably assuming that she was headed for the ladies' room. She wasn't, but he'd find out about that when she got back…
Holding her gift for him behind her back, Lois approached Clark again. He was sitting on the bench watching some children play, his expression pensive. No wonder, she thought, if he'd been in love with her for as long as she suspected… for as long as he'd told her the last time they'd talked on that bench. She was surprised that he hadn't simply given up on her and found someone else.
But he hadn't. And she'd finally come to see just what a wonderful, *perfect* match for her he was. She wanted to spend the rest of her life loving Clark, if he'd let her.
He came out of his abstraction and smiled at her. "You okay?" he asked softly.
Lois nodded. "Clark, I… have something for you," she told him, coming closer.
"You do?" He stood, waiting for her.
She held out her hand towards him, offering him the narrow, wrapped tube.
He stood and accepted it, glancing down at it and then at her, his expression confused.
"Yellow for friendship," she reminded him. Gesturing at the rose he held, she added, "Red for… love."
He looked at the rose again, as if to confirm its colour, and then took a step towards her. "You… love me?" The words almost seemed to be dragged out of him; he looked shocked and disbelieving.
Lois nodded, her heart in her mouth. "And if you say you love me like a sister, I'll…"
She heard him groan. "Oh, Lois, you have to know there's no chance of that!" Looking up at him, she could see the love and longing writ clearly on his face, his eyes searching her as if for further confirmation of what she'd already told him. The way he was looking at her left no room for doubt in her mind.
Clark *did* love her.
And she felt warmed, loved and protected; secure in the knowledge that her best friend would always be hers, because he was her lover too. She'd never have to face losing Clark, because they were destined to be together.
Then, in a swift movement, he swept her up against him, then slid his palms up her cheeks to hold her face tenderly.
"I love you, Lois Lane," he whispered, before his lips descended and claimed hers in a kiss full of love, passion and promise.
(c) Wendy Richards 2002 email@example.com