By C. Leuch
Submitted: November 2003
Summary: Lois Lane finds out that sometimes the truth lies in a smile.
The bright lights of Metropolis passed rapidly beneath Lois as the cool night air whipped by her face, soothing, yet not all that forceful. Something about being in the arms of Superman seemed to make the sting of the wind go away. Above her, the stars were brighter than they ever seemed to be from on the ground. Here, at this moment, she felt incredibly at peace, but then again she always did when she was in his arms. It didn't matter that mere moments earlier she had been on the verge of certain death. The sheer terror of the moment was staggering, yes, but anymore, similar moments were becoming more and more commonplace, as much as she hated to admit it. The job of a journalist was dangerous and tended to lead to those situations, but the silver lining in the whole thing was that there was a Superman out there to come to her rescue. She couldn't count how many times he'd saved her life, but he certainly never complained. Sometimes there would be the stern looks, the speeches about safety, or the silent glances of disapproval, but more often than not, there was just silence, one that wasn't uncomfortable at all.
And, just like now, her apartment always seemed to approach too quickly. Her moment of contentedness would be ruined as her mind began to spin, trying to find some way, any way, for him stay around for even a little while. Those moments after he dropped her off were always the most memorable. That was when she would see little nuggets of his personality come out, from stray comments to absentminded movements and mannerisms. It was amazing that she was so comfortable with him, that she knew him better than almost anyone, but she really didn't seem to know him at all. He was many things, often many contradictory things, all at the same time. He wouldn't be Superman if he wasn't the calm and confident person that he was, but sometimes she could sense insecurity beneath the steely exterior. He was unfailingly personable when in the public eyes, but she could sense shyness when they were alone. Somewhere deep inside, she knew that there was something more to him than just the superhero - there HAD to be. Superman wasn't off saving someone at all times, she had covered him long enough to know that. As tempting as it was to rabidly pursue the wheres and whys and whens of his prsonal life, she did respect him enough to let him have his privacy.
Superman landed gently just inside the window of her darkened apartment. His arms began to drop, sliding her gently to the ground. Lois's arms lingered around his neck, her forehead against his soft, warm cheek. Even as her feet planted firmly on the ground, his hands remained on the small of her back, reassuring, comforting, but only for a second. His hands dropped and he took a step back away from her, and she knew the moment was over. She straightened her clothes and composed herself, then reached over to turn on a lamp.
"I guess I have to thank you again," she said, looking toward him. Superman had folded his arms over his chest and molded his expression into the maddeningly neutral one that characterized him most of the time. "I, ah, wish there were some way that I could…"
"It's not necessary," he said, cutting her off. "I'm just glad to be of service. You know I would never let anything…hurt you." His expression seemed to soften a little, along with his voice. Lois smiled at the thought. They looked at each other for a moment, until he took a half step toward the window. "I should really…" he started, but Lois would have none of it.
"Wait!" she said, halting his movement. He looked her quizzically. "Would you like to, I don't know, stay for coffee? Talk about what's going on in the world?" she asked. Not waiting for his answer, she rushed into the kitchen, flinging open the cupboard and grabbing the can of coffee.
"No, thanks, I need to…" he started but Lois would not be stopped.
"I know it's probably a little late for coffee," she said, fiddling with the coffee maker. "But I was just thinking that we never get a chance to talk. I don't know what you like, what your political leanings are, who your favorite football team is. Not that any of those things are important, really, especially since you seem to spend most of your time saving people and cleaning up after natural disasters." Lois suddenly stopped playing with the coffee machine and turned her gaze to the refrigerator. "I have some cheesecake, if you're interested," she said, shifting her gaze back toward him.
With a start, she noticed that Superman was now smiling a little half-smile, one that seemed to set off a bemused sparkle in his eyes. The expression seemed so easy and natural, and at the same time so completely un- Superman. Superman's smile never really seemed to reach his eyes - not in publicity photos, not in interviews or when he was around people. But looking at him now, it seemed hard to believe that he didn't smile like that all the time. It was a very warm smile, one that made her heart rate speed up a little and her cheeks flush. She would give anything to see that expression more often. Anything.
"That sounds suspiciously like an interview," he said, dropping his hands to his hips, the sparkle still present in his eyes.
"Only if you want it to be," she replied, answering him with her most dazzling smile, one that began to fade a little as she remembered her real motivation. "I really just want to get to know you a little better, though." Lois took a few steps forward, realizing that she was completely vulnerable, but recognizing that that always seemed to happen when he was around, and there was seemingly nothing that she could do about it. "I'd like to think that we're friends. I mean, you've been regularly saving my life for the last year or so, and you seem to know everything about me - where I live, where I work, what I like and where I go. But I don't know anything more about you that anyone else does."
She saw his expression become almost sad as she spoke. He was frowning now, his eyes diverted away from her to some imaginary point in the distance that only he could see. "What I like is not important. Politics are not something that I even want to consider expressing an opinion about. And please believe me when I say that you probably know a lot more about me that you think you do," he said, his voice taking on a timbre that she was unfamiliar with. "I wish I could stay and talk, but I can't." The last words were somewhat raspy, but as he finished them, his expression steeled again, and the Superman that she was familiar with came back. "Please take care of yourself, Lois," he said, then turned on his heel and stepped up into the window.
"Goodnight," she said as he took off into the air and immediately faded from view. It was like every other encounter she had with him, she thought with a sigh. A quick rescue, a wonderful trip home followed by an emotional exchange, at least on her part, and a firm rejection by him. Tonight, at least, she got something more. Tonight she got that smile, that little peek into his personality, one that she was sure she'd be attracted to. If only he were more open, if only she could wrestle more out of him. If only. She'd been uttering plenty of 'if onlys' since he'd come to Metropolis, but none of them had even helped her get any closer to him, and she was beginning to wonder if they ever would. But for tonight there was the smile, one that would invade her dreams, and the knowledge that as long as there was danger, Superman would be there to keep her safe.
The morning found Lois in good spirits. As she breezed into the office, she even decided to splurge a little bit and grab a Danish. Her partner had beaten her in, for once, and was busily punching his keyboard, getting an early jump on the large stack of stories that had been ignored in recent days. But the clock on the wall told her that it was still a good fifteen minutes before the work day officially began, and while she would normally be one to scoff at the idea of strict working hours, the employee handbook did technically call for them, and she didn't quite feel like settling down into the old routine just yet. After a night that had seen her working until the wee hours, only to conclude with her near death and another rescue by her favorite hero, maybe it was time to do something for herself for those fifteen minutes.
She could feel Clark's eyes on her as she settled into the chair. She gave him a quick glance and a wave of the hand, a curt acknowledgement of his presence, she knew, but he wouldn't mind. She could ignore him completely and he would still offer her a smile - that's just how he was. How he had the patience to put up with her she didn't know, but it was reassuring to know that he would always be there for her. That was more than she could say for most of her friends and even her family. So often he knew just the right thing to say to lighten her mood, but every now and then he knew just what to say to completely infuriate her. It sometimes made her wonder if that was what having a brother felt like, but lately she was beginning to think that maybe it was something more than what siblings shared. Something deeper. Something scary. Something that she was very much trying to ignore right now, because she was really in too good of a mood to ponder what it was exactly that Clark did to her.
Sensing that Clark had returned to his work, she pulled open a desk drawer and withdrew a well-worn catalog. The dog-eared corners marked her favorite fantasies, the things that she either wanted very badly but couldn't afford or didn't want badly enough to justify purchasing.
Today, however, it was time to indulge her fancies, and she knew just what she wanted. The 1-800 number was dialed, the credit card was withdrawn from the wallet, and the moment was at hand.
"Hello welcome to Chocolate Treasures International hold please," a female voice spat out so quickly that Lois had to think for a couple of seconds to process what had actually been said. Her eyebrows knitted together in frustration and she glanced up at the clock again, shrugging as she saw that there were a good 13 minutes left until she was officially on the clock. Besides, the hold music on the other end was halfway entertaining, and in an entirely unexpected stroke of luck, it wasn't muzak. It was Chicago, she decided, something catchy. It was only a matter of seconds before she was softly humming along.
"Hmm hmm magic…hmm hmm hold you…" she sang under her breath to herself, soft enough that nobody should be able to hear her. "Tell me you will stay, make me smiiiile…"
Looking up, she noticed Clark staring at her, one eyebrow cocked and a bemused half grin on his face. Far from annoyed at having his work interrupted, he seemed almost surprised and certainly more than a little amused. How he heard her at all, she couldn't figure out, unless her hums were projecting more than she realized.
The first emotion that struck her as she frantically looked around the room scanning for more eavesdroppers was sheer horror. The blood rushing in her ears obscured the song being blared through the telephone earpiece, cutting off her music. But it was the lump her throat that ultimately stopped her humming. After a moment, though, she realized that she really didn't have anything to be horrified about. Nobody else seemed to be paying attention, but even if they were, she was good, dang it, and she knew it. She was good enough to fool professionals into thinking that she was a musician. Clark was the only one who could or would hear, though, and that meant that this moment, her humming and his amusement, was just between them. The rest of the office seemed to dissolve away as her focus turned to him and him alone, and that strange connection that she often felt around him asserted itself. As their eyes locked, she could almost feel his heart beat speed up and his breathing shallow. Maybe it was just her good mood, or maybe she just felt like being silly, but right then and there, she decided that she needed to give him a little show. Her lips drew into a thin, almost seductive grin, and he leaned forward ever so slightly, anticipating.
The song on the telephone changed, and she started to quietly sing along again, the music familiar and comforting at the same time. Her lip movements were exaggerated, her smile affixed on her face. She tapped into the little bit of theatrical training she had, using her eyes and her expressions to try and tease him, taunt him. After a few moment, her free hand got into the act, too, moving up to her temples and eventually into her hair. His smile slowly grew, to the point that it was breathtaking. It was a smile that she supposed he had always possessed, but she had only recently begun to appreciate it. The fluorescent glare from his glasses obscured his eyes just enough so that she couldn't clearly read them, but she swore she could see a mischievous twinkle back there.
"When I feel cold, you warm me. And when I feel I can't go on, you come and hold me. It's you and me forever. Sarah, smiiile," she practically whispered to the strains of Hall and Oates. It occurred to her that there seemed be an abundance of songs this morning about smiling, but the moment somehow seemed very appropriate. Maybe smile songs made the customer a little less angry as they sat on hold, but it was fun to use them to her advantage. Clark's fingers had long since stopped their motion over the keyboard, and he seemed very content to watch her show. It was odd, she thought as he laughed, but there was something very familiar about his smile. Not in an I-know-you've-smiled-at-me-before-but-I- never-noticed way, but in a way that reminded her of…someone else. It was hard to say who, though.
"Won't you smile a while for me," she continued, and he obliged. But the magic ended abruptly as the overbearing figure of Perry White suddenly appeared directly between her and Clark. Her mouth snapped shut and the corners of her mouth went suddenly slack as he gave her a glare. Perry, never known as a morning person, didn't seem to be in the mood for a newsroom serenade, not that it mattered, she thought, as a voice interrupted her song, asking her to please stay on hold, and telling her that they appreciated her business. Good for them.
Clark had dutifully returned to his typing, but now she couldn't think about anything except why it was that his smile seemed so familiar to her. She hated it when something seemed to be right on the tip of her tongue, but wouldn't come. It would bug her all day, she knew it. She was even frowning as her hold music changed again. This time, Elton John was telling her about how someone saved his life tonight. She didn't know why, but this song always made her think of Superman. Okay she DID know why, it was very obvious why, and truthfully she was thankful for the distraction. Someone saved her life last night, and she couldn't help but replay the moment in her mind. How soft the skin of the man of steel was, how the skyline of Metropolis sparkled at night, how dazzling the smile of Superman was.
It was then that it hit her. Being smacked upside the head by a two by four wouldn't have cause more stars to swim in her vision. It couldn't be, could it? She wanted so badly for it not to be, but as her stomach threatened to turn upside down, she mentally juxtaposed the smiles of her partner and Superman, and knew them to be one in the same.
Her breathing was becoming labored, but she was trying desperately not to show it. Her partner almost seemed to have a sixth sense about when she was upset, and the last thing she needed was some sort of confrontation with Clark, because she didn't know what exactly she would do if she had to face him right now.
Suddenly the music on the other end stopped. "Chocolate Treasures International, how may I help you?" a chipper voice said. No. No no no. She couldn't talk right now; it was physically impossible. To her own surprise, though, she heard her voice go across the line.
"Super…Clark," she mumbled, mentally telling herself to shut up. Her mouth grudgingly obliged.
There was silence on the other end for a moment, but the chipper voice was back soon enough. "I'm sorry, ma'am, we don't carry king- sized Clark bars. Maybe I could interest you in a deluxe fudge box, or a chocolate sampler surprise…?"
Lois blinked, then felt the urge to laugh. THAT was truly funny. A giggle escaped, but she composed herself and took a deep breath. "The deluxe fudge box would be great," she replied, completing the order and then hanging up the phone. As she turned to her oblivious partner, she felt a wave of emotion that was incredibly strong. If it was true, really true, and her partner was the Superhero that she had loved so much for so long, then there was no way that she was going to let him out of her sight ever again. That strange connection between her and Clark seemed to make a lot more sense now, and the inexplicable growing SOMETHING that she was feeling for him made perfect sense. Maybe deep inside she had known it all along. Maybe the cosmos just felt like nudging her along, giving her the perfect set of signs and circumstances and songs. But she had to know for sure, once and for all, and she had to get Clark to tell her so.
Her mind was preoccupied as the hands on the clock showed eight o'clock, and she began to work. Even through the stories of crime and poverty and life in the big city, she had only one thing on her mind. A plan was forming. And she almost felt bad for Clark. Almost.
The nighttime in Metropolis was far from peaceful, as Lois was becoming very familiar with. She sprawled out on her bed and stared at the ceiling wishing that her mind would just stop so that she could get some sleep. She'd been wishing that for three hours now without any luck, though, and she was beginning to wonder if maybe it wasn't time to admit that the sandman just wasn't going to come. With a moan, she turned over on her side, her eyes affixed on her curtains, once white, which now seemed to be emitting an orange, sodium vapor glow.
She had always had a mind for strategy. It was one of the reasons that she had risen in the ranks of journalism so quickly. But as good as she was at strategy, she was absolutely terrible at anything that could be considered emotional, and that was at the root of her problem at the moment. She wanted to find some way to confirm her suspicions about Clark, but she had to be delicate about it. Normally, her strategy had that steamroller element to it that tended to leave the person at the other end rather unhappy as a result, and the last thing she wanted to do was alienate Clark. No pun intended. She just wanted to know…well, several things.
As she thought about all the ways that she could have Clark reveal his secret to her, it occurred to her that she really didn't know anything about how he felt for her. When she first discovered his secret, her planning had been predicated by love: he was Superman, therefore she loved him, and she had to show him as much. The more she thought about it, the more that she discovered that she cared for Clark a lot more than she had ever let herself realize. She loved the way he talked to her, worked with her, played around with her. It was kind of exciting to put her respect and, yes, love, for those parts of Clark together with all the qualities that she loved about Superman to make a complete person. But the real question was did he love her? She had taken it as a given, but certain things disturbed her. For example, Superman had made no secret about distancing himself from her. He rescued her, yes, and sometimes seemed almost tender toward her, but at the same time was almost cold. Also, Clark had never said anything to her about any feelings he had toward her. She supposed it was easy enough to read into his actions and expressions, but those would never tell the complete tale. He did allow himself to be seduced today. That was a start.
So maybe one other goal of her plan would have to be getting him to admit to having feelings for her. And maybe that required some real, personal, one-on-one contact. Again, not a personal strong point. Insecurity gave her the tendency to babble, or get hyper, or sound like a needy, neurotic, nervous wreck. Somehow she didn't think that would endear herself to him. On the other hand, he always seemed to have that lopsided smile of his when she was at her most raw. She couldn't be sure, but he almost seemed to have a certain appreciation of her weird rambling tangents. So maybe she shouldn't worry about that. But a crooked smile was far from an admission of love, and if he hadn't told her of any feelings he's had for her by now, after nearly a year of close contact, of her weird rants and tangents, and various evenings in formal wear, then it would take something truly drastic to make him say the words that she longed to hear. Maybe what it would take is her telling him…
Lois let out a frustrated whine, flopped onto her other side and pulled the blanket over her head. The L word was something that was not to be tossed around cavalierly. Lois Lane would not even so much as THINK of telling a man that she loved him without some sort of guarantee, preferably in writing, that he would return that love, and would promise to honor and cherish her, as well, for as long as they both shall live. Clark might be great, and Superman might be, well, super, but neither had proven that they wouldn't break her heart.
Her muscles relaxed for a moment as she let that thought manifest itself. That was really what this was all about, wasn't it? The elaborate set-up, the desire to draw platitudes from him. She just couldn't let herself become emotionally invested in someone who might not return her feelings. She'd been hurt too many times before, and she'd told herself a million times that the next time she'd be careful. The next time, she'd make sure he was the one. But being cautious, taking an all-or-nothing approach, sure didn't lend itself to very many happy relationships. Maybe the problem was that she had chosen the wrong people to love in the past. Certainly being cautious would tend to discourage all but the truly tenacious from courting her. But what if, hypothetically, the person that she was interested was worth throwing a little caution to the wind?
She thought about that for a little while. If Clark was Superman, then he was the most ethical and purely moral person she'd ever met. Yes, he may have kept his secret from her, but maybe he had a reason for it. If she put herself in his shoes, she'd have done the exact same thing, for a multitude of reasons. She really couldn't be mad at him for trying to protect himself, even from her. She hadn't exactly proven to him that she was the most trustworthy person around - he probably figured that his entire life story would become international news if her ever told it to her. That was her fault for not being more trusting. That was her fault for being so rabid about Superman.
A yawn escaped as she felt herself settling into darkness at last. She needed to get to know him better. And she needed him to get to know her better, too. Then, maybe, she could resolve her feelings for him. Until then, there really wasn't any big hurry. Maybe the education process could begin tomorrow over a nice, private dinner. Just the two of them. Yes, that would be very nice.
Sleep finally came, and Lois dreamt of things that she'd never let herself so much as ponder in her waking hours. Dreams of flights and faraway cities. Dreams of domestic bliss, of strong arms embracing her and then doing more. And in all her dreams, her friend, her lover, and her confidant all bore the smiling face of her partner.
The restaurant that Lois had chosen for the encounter was one that she couldn't help but feel comfortable in. Each table was private, surrounded by a tall divide, with a stained glass lamp hanging down from the large timbers of the ceiling. All the wood, from the floor boards to the tables to the ceiling beams, was stained a dark brown. The textured walls were painted a rich cream, accented by splashes of red and bathed in the multicolored glow from above each table. Through the dinner chatter could be heard the familiar tones of popular music, giving the whole scene a comforting soundtrack. The aromas of the dinner palate filled the whole restaurant, blending into one mouth watering smell until the waiters rush by with trays full of food. It was a very American establishment, a very down-to-earth atmosphere, and Lois knew Clark would enjoy it as much as she did.
She had arrived early, hoping that maybe she would find some degree of composure before Clark arrived. A glass of wine helped, of course, and as Clark sauntered toward the table, she was pleasantly relaxed. Even before he sat down, he was smiling at her. She had expected him to be guarded, curious - she had been the one to ask him here tonight, after all, and she had made it clear that the meeting wasn't going to be about work. Clark knew better than anyone that this was not something that she did. The unspoken rule between them was that personal contact just didn't happen outside of work, unless of course there was some sort of drug induced insanity happening at the time. Maybe he figured that she was atoning for being so mean to him in the past. And maybe she was, at least in part. But that wasn't why she was here, and maybe that wasn't why he was here, either.
The slight buzz of the wine put her in a good mood, and she found herself laughing at his stories and enjoying herself far more than she had expected. They ordered, ate, and talked, sharing their histories and baring parts of their souls to each other. She found herself flirting with him, and she found him flirting with her, too. That twinkle was back in his eyes, too, the one that seemed so mischievous but so knowing at the same time. And tender, always tender. His quick wit was there, of course, but there was adoration in those eyes, and she could feel it washing over her with just a glance. As the empty plates were taken away and another round of wine was brought to the table, she found herself staring at him, really seeing him for the first time. It was amazing, she thought, how she had missed it for so long. He radiated love for her, and she had been completely oblivious. He had also been her hero, and she had failed to see it.
"What?" Clark asked with a grin as he leaned forward and rested his chin on his hand. It was then that Lois heard it, as if it were coming from every corner of the restaurant. It was the bluesy strains of a guitar and a steady afterbeat, followed by a smooth voice. This was the song that had started it all, the one that had been playing over and over in her mind ever since she had softly sung it to her partner. Someone was trying to give her a sign. Clark seemed to recognize it, too, and he gave a knowing smile as his eyes found the speaker in the ceiling.
"I like it when you smile," Lois said. Clark's eyes went almost imperceptibly wider, then snapped to her face. His cool, smiling outside gave away the shock that he felt at those words, and at the tenderness with which they had been said.
"Do you?" he asked, heavily.
The corners of Lois's mouth pulled up, and she leaned forward, matching Clark's position. "Yeah, I do. It makes you look handsome."
All of a sudden, a mask seemed to go over Clark's face. He bore an expression that she knew well from both of his guises, one of polite distancing. He picked up her wine glass and twirled it around, bringing it up to his nose and taking a deep breath. "Are you sure you should be having any more of this?" he asked. "What kind of perfume are you wearing? You might be…"
Lois laughed, cutting him off. Apparently she wasn't the only one who kept her emotions bottled up. It was like looking in a mirror, in some respects, she thought, as scary as that was. Gently, she took the glass out of his hand and placed it on the table. "I can hold my wine just fine, Clark. And I'm not under the influence of any chemicals. I just have a new appreciation for you, that's all, and I thought I'd let you know." She leaned back and smiled at him, watching as a blank expression made its way onto his face. He was stunned, obviously, and she had to fight hard not to laugh again. He was so cute when he was confused.
"Oh," he said softly, thinking. Every now and then he squinted at her, as if trying to get to the bottom of some deep, dark mystery. Lois sat patiently silent, waiting for him to do or say something, and after a while she saw a smile start to spread across his face.
"Can I let you in on something?" he asked.
"I wish you would," she answered, perhaps too quickly. Subtle, Lois, real subtle. Clark's eyebrows arched for a second and he hesitated, but soon enough the smile was back.
"I once told myself that hearing those words from you, directed at myself, would be the sure sign of the apocalypse. Surely the icecaps would melt first. Surely pigs would start shooting across the sky first. Surely…"
"I get it," Lois said, looking away, her cheeks burning. She felt her fingers start tugging at her hair, a sure sign of shyness, and made herself stop. After a deep breath, she looked at Clark again. "Well, I don't see any of the seven horsemen riding across the sky, and I think civilization is still intact. And I just called you handsome, Clark."
"Yes, you did," he said, talking through his smile, his eyes positively dancing. Far be it for Clark to rub it in a little in his own way. But she knew it was all in fun. And the payoff would come soon enough. Really, just looking at him and the way he emanated playfulness and warmth, was payoff enough. They could smile at each other all night and she thought that she just might be content. "Am I allowed to offer a compliment in return?" he asked.
"Please do," Lois answered.
Clark leaned in toward her, as if trying to whisper something that only she was allowed to hear. "I think you're pretty terrific." Lois smiled her most stunning smile, but as she mentally prepared her rebuttal, something unexpected happened. She felt his hand reach for her arm and his fingers start gently, tenderly rubbing her. "I also think you're beautiful."
"You do?" she managed to croak past the lump that had developed in her throat.
"I have for a long time. I just didn't think…" He hesitated and searched her eyes. "I didn't think you felt the same way. I was wondering if you ever would."
Lois stared at him, her heart pumping slowly, deliberately. She had never realized… The tone of his voice was so deep and sincere. And so full of pain from a long year of suffering. She had no idea how he felt, and faced with it, she didn't know what to say. "Oh, Clark," she said. At her words, he took her hand in his and brought it up to his mouth, kissing it gently.
Warmth engrossed her as she realized that she was falling for him. It was inevitable, she supposed, but she couldn't help herself. The icy wall that had built up around her heart, one that held in all the reason and kept out all the unwanted emotion was thawing, falling away. Love was washing over her whole body, but there was still one thing she had to do before she let herself get swept away in it all. As his fingers gently held her hand in his and warm lips gently caressed the back of her hand, she leaned in toward him. Gently, she cupped his cheek with her free hand, slowly working it upwards. As it gripped one of the bows of his glasses, her other hand shook free, grasping the other side of his frames. As she slid his glasses off, there was no resistance. He didn't even try to stop her, even though, as the strongest man in the world, he easily could've.
She held the glasses in front of his face for a moment, almost afraid of what she knew she would see. Clark stared at her, his face strangely misshapen through the plain glass in the frames. With a deep breath, she lowered the frames, locking her eyes into his. He didn't seem surprised, he didn't seem angry. Just expectant. As she watched, he clenched his jaw, and she realized that underneath it all, he was nervous. He seemed so naked somehow without the glasses, but as she searched his face, she realized that he didn't look like she expected, either. There was no doubt that he was who she had known he was. The clear, brown eyes, the face shape, the strong jaw - he was Superman, all right. But, with the ruddy polo shirt below and the styled brown hair above, she had to search hard to really see the resemblance.
"Lois, please," Clark whispered, and she had to blink as she exited her thoughts. His voice seemed so small, almost vulnerable. It was then she realized what it was that he had been going through. He didn't even need to say anything to her, the story came from deep in his eyes. Superman had kept his distance from her because Clark had loved her so deeply and so completely, he couldn't stand to see her fall for the part of himself that was a mere caricature.
"I didn't come here tonight to try and corner you, Clark," she said, folding the glasses and placing them in front of him on the table. "I don't want anything from you, no explanations, no stories, no regrets."
"No expectations, either?" he asked quietly, his eyebrows arched, before dropping his eyes and running his hand through his hair. "I always told myself that the moment you told me you loved me, Clark, the real me, would be the moment I told you everything, but then what? I may be, you know," he said, looking up at her and making a little wiggling motion with his hand. "But that's not who I am at all. And you've been in love with him for so long, I was afraid that you wouldn't understand."
Lois leaned back in her seat and regarded her wine glass for a moment before turning toward Clark. She could only imagine what he was feeling right now. Was it disappointment? Was it nervousness? Sadness? "All I expect of you is to not break my heart," she said finally, coaxing a smile from him. "I know that I have a lot to learn about you, and you have a lot to learn about me. But tell me you love me -"
"I love you," he said eagerly, almost giddily.
Lois beamed. "And I'll tell you that I may just love you," she responded, bringing a twinkle to his eyes. "And maybe things will just work themselves out."
"Lois Lane, an optimist? When did this happen?" he asked teasingly as he picked the glasses up and slipped them onto his face.
"You save a girl enough times and she begins to think that maybe there is a sunny side to life after all," she said, and he laughed that easy laugh of his. All the pieces fit, she thought, savoring the moment, burning it into her mental photo album with the other memories that were precious to her. Sometime, later in life, she knew she would look back at this night and see it as a real turning point in her life. And it wouldn't be brought on by her tenacious spirit or keen reporters instincts. No, it would be predicated by a man who was really two men, both of whom had the same easy smile and warm laugh.