By Sam Jackson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: November 2004
Summary: Lois spends time at Clark's apartment after her place is ransacked, and a late-night Scrabble game turns into something more.
"That is not a word!" Clark Kent exclaimed, looking down at his partner's latest offering on the Scrabble board.
"Sure it is! And it's twenty-two points for me," Lois Lane replied cheerfully, knowing full well Clark would let her have the score after the obligatory minimal protests.
"Look, Kent, it's not my fault if your vocabulary isn't as vast as mine. So come on, it's your turn." Lois grinned as her partner sighed to himself before leaning forward to study his Scrabble letters. She loved it when he let her have her own way. Not that Clark was a pushover, he was just…incredibly sweet. In fact, that was why she was sitting in his apartment playing Scrabble at midnight.
Lois's mood darkened as she remembered why she was here. She had rang Clark up six hours earlier after returning home from work only to find her apartment had been completely ransacked; the contents of cupboards and drawers were emptied over the floor, most of her furniture had been tipped over, her laptop had been smashed across the coffee table, and several threatening (and frankly obscene) messages had been daubed on the walls. Yet again, it seemed someone was unhappy with the path one of her investigations was taking. In fact, she suspected it was something to do with the protection racket she and Clark were looking into. There were definite links to a very shady club owner they had had dealings with in the past, and they were *so* close to cracking it.
Clark had arrived in record time after her frantic phone call and, after helping her deal with the police, had insisted she stay at his place tonight. Thinking about it, Clark had looked a little like she had felt — terrified. Of course she had tried to argue with him, but he wouldn't take no for an answer. 'He knew how scared I was,' Lois thought to herself, 'despite the brave face I put on.'
But that was Clark all over, she reflected. 'Sometimes I think he knows me better than I know myself. He always picks up on my mood, and somehow he always knows how to make me feel better.' She smiled as she remembered how caring Clark had been this evening; he had made her countless cups of tea, let her babble about the state of her apartment, reassured her when she drifted into thinking about what could have happened if she had been home when the thugs arrived, sent out for take-out, and let her snuggle up to him as they watched the film. Now the man was playing Scrabble with her at midnight, just because *she* couldn't sleep!
'He is such a good friend to you, Lane,' Lois told herself as she studied his handsome face across the coffee table. Clark seemed to sense her eyes upon him as he looked up and flashed a smile at her. Lois smiled back and relaxed into the sofa, sipping at her cup of herbal tea. 'And he has a great smile,' said a little voice in her head. 'Shush you!' she told the voice. 'We are not thinking about him like that any more!'
But he did have a great smile. 'Plus the personality to match it,' she added. 'Clark's…a genuinely nice guy.' In fact, she had never known anyone like Clark before; he was the best friend she had ever had. Probably ever would have. Not that she had many friends anyway.
'Clark is more than a friend, Lois…'
Oh God, that annoying voice was back. Where did that thought come from? 'Stop it, Lane,' she thought furiously. 'But he is, though, isn't he?' Lois asked herself slowly.
She definitely found him attractive, but then what woman wouldn't? And just a second ago she had been thinking about how nice a guy he was, 'and funny, and intelligent, and gentle, and caring, and -'
"Ha! Beat that, partner!"
Lois was interrupted out of her reverie by Clark's shout of triumph as he laid down six of his letters.
"I believe that's twenty-eight points to me!" he continued with a smug grin.
Lois marked down the score as he picked up his replacement letters, then looked towards her own pieces for her next word.
'C'mon, Lane, concentrate. Scrabble, not Clark.' But it wasn't long before her mind drifted back to her best friend again. 'He can't be more than a friend,' she told herself sternly. Relationships never worked for her, so why ruin the friendship they had by pushing her and Clark into something that was bound to end in tears? It just wasn't worth it. Every time she had let herself get close to a man it had been a federal disaster. Why should Clark be any different?
'Because Clark *is* different,' she insisted at the back of her mind. Lois sighed heavily. 'But what if I'm wrong again?'
Clark's eyes narrowed as he looked across at his best friend and partner. That sigh suggested to him that she was still upset about earlier. He hated seeing her upset or scared, and just wished there was something more he could do. When he'd answered her call earlier and heard the panic in her voice he had immediately felt his own fear rise.
He had flown straight over to her apartment at breakneck speed, before realising that it was physically impossible for him to arrive for at least another ten minutes. So he had stood in the stairwell of the building, watching over her anxiously and waiting until he could feasibly be expected to appear. Even then he suspected he was a bit too quick, but luckily Lois hadn't seemed to notice.
After talking to Lois for only a short minute, Clark had recognized the signs she was carefully trying to keep hidden. Lois was worried, but in typical Lane style there was no way she would be admitting it. He'd managed to persuade her to come home with him, and had spent the rest of the evening trying to reassure and calm her. 'Though whether it's possible to actually calm Lois Lane is another thing altogether,' Clark told himself wryly. Thankfully there had been no Superman emergency, as that would have required some pretty quick excuses for him to disappear, though he'd have to sneak out later to do his patrols.
It was so hard to resist the urge to wrap his arms around her and not let go until everything was better. That's what he'd do if she gave him the slightest hint of returning the feelings he had for her. But he had decided long ago that Lois didn't want anything but friendship from him, and he was determined to provide that for her. He dreamed of a future with him and Lois together, as a couple, married even. He wouldn't give up hope, but had to admit to himself that it looked unlikely. He would have to be content with loving her from afar, and just being the friend she needed. He could do that.
Of course, as a friend, his other impulse was to fly off as Superman, turn Metropolis upside down to find the guys who had wrecked Lois' apartment, and put them behind bars. But right now she needed Clark and tea, rather than the Superhero and justice. 'Maybe later,' he thought to himself.
Just then his partner let out another huge sigh, and his mind was brought back to the present.
"Lois? Are you okay?"
"I'm fine, Clark, just thinking," she reassured him.
"Are you sure? Because if you're still worried about these guys, trust me, it's going to be fine. You can stay here as long as you like and you'll be safe, honestly. I'd never let them hurt you, Lois," he told her sincerely.
Lois looked up at him, and she knew that he meant it. Here he was again, looking out for her. She felt her heart constrict at the emotion she could see written across his concerned face. "I know, Clark. I wasn't thinking about them, but I do know that."
Clark simply nodded in reply, and they settled back into comfortable silence.
Lois took another sip of her tea as she studied the Scrabble letters in front of her. She really did feel safe at Clark's; his solid presence was so reassuring. Lois had never before thought of herself as someone who needed that from a man; indeed she had kind of rebelled against something she saw as 'neediness.' But now she found herself actively seeking out that sense of security that only Clark provided. And she was intensely grateful to him for that.
Suddenly she felt a strong need to tell him that, but as soon as this thought surfaced, embarrassment flooded through her. She couldn't just blurt that sort of thing out to Clark. What would he think of her?! Actually he'd probably tell her she was welcome and that there was no need to thank him. He'd be there anytime. Why, though, Lois had no idea. After the horrible way she had treated Clark when he first arrived it Metropolis, she wouldn't have blamed him if he hadn't bothered speaking to her ever again, let alone been as good to her as he had been. Clark had risen up and beyond the realms of friendship many, many times and tonight was just the latest example. 'Scrabble and tea at midnight?' Lois asked herself incredulously. 'The man is either a saint or he's completely in love with you, girl!'
Lois laughed silently to herself. Nah, not *love*. 'Would that be such a bad thing though?' She had suspected for a while that Clark's feelings towards her ran deeper than he ever let on, but she chose to ignore her suspicions and just continue with the easy friendship they shared. But lately she had been feeling something different towards Clark too. At first she had thought it was a silly crush, but if anything the feelings were getting stronger.
Tonight had been wonderful, despite the fact she had been so worried earlier on, she has really enjoyed spending time with her partner. In fact, she always did. It was so easy to relax and just be herself around him. She didn't feel the need to impress him, or be careful about what she said or pretend around him. Not only that, he made her feel good about herself as well, which was an impression she didn't experience very often. The more time she spent with Clark, the more these strange feelings grew.
But still she was holding back. Maybe it was the result of the hurt she had gone through with other guys, something just made her cautious. Even if she did feel something for Clark, she knew she could never make the first move herself. What if she was wrong about how he felt? How could she know? Self-doubt flooded to the surface as she thought of the sheer humiliation if she made a move on Cark only for him to reject her. Even worse, what if it *was* only a crush, and it faded after a few weeks? She couldn't go back and work with him.
But no, she contemplated; this wasn't a crush. 'Face it girl, you're totally falling for him!' came her subconscious. To her surprise, she didn't immediately reject that thought. 'Maybe I am,' she thought as she stared at the letters before her. There was still the question of getting Clark to make the first move, but she was confident she could do that. A warm, lazy sensation spread throughout her body, and suddenly she decided what to put out on the board in front of her. Of course she'd have to cheat slightly, but never mind.
Lois leant forward and placed her letters down carefully. T-H-A- N-K-U. She smiled up at Clark as he read her message, confident he would understand.
Clark did understand. He looked into those dark eyes across the table, and immediately understood Lois was thanking him not only for the basic things he had done for her tonight, but for his friendship and simply caring so much for her.
"You are most very welcome, Lois. Anytime," he said quietly as he reached across to squeeze her hand for a short moment.
"Why, though, Clark?" she replied, holding onto his hand.
"Why?" he asked, confused at the sudden question.
"Yes, why? Why *are* you so good to me?"
Clark felt like a deer caught in headlights. How was he supposed to answer that? The answer was obvious of course — he'd do anything for her. But he couldn't just come out and say that. With a flash of amusement he imagined the scene: 'I love you, Lois, and I'm yours, whatever you want, whatever you need, anytime, anyplace.' She'd run a mile and not even Superman would be able to catch up with her!
But he couldn't come out with some flippant remark either. Maybe he *should* just tell her exactly how he felt. She really deserved to know by now, that's if she didn't already. And lately he'd felt a change in her attitude towards him. Nothing big, just the occasional glance, perhaps a brief touch or maybe a few words. To Clark, it seemed like she had a new awareness of him, and he fancied that he recognised it as that same unconscious way he was tuned into her.
Clark gazed into her face, searching for a clue to the answer she expected, but her expression was unreadable. She just stared right back at him, and eventually he had to look away before he was completely incapable of simple thought. But as he stared down at his knees, his enhanced hearing picked up a soft whisper.
"Just say it, Clark."
His head snapped back up and he saw shock cross Lois' face before a red flush slowly rose to her cheeks. He knew that he wasn't meant to hear her whispered appeal, but he couldn't pretend that he hadn't. And he also couldn't deny the rush of confidence he felt, though that was rapidly fading as he pondered the importance of this moment in his life. Clark tried to steel his nerves. 'Go for it, Kent. You won't get a better opportunity.' He took a deep breath and went for it.
"I love you," Clark said simply.
Lois carried on staring straight at her partner, unwilling to break the spell that seemed to be binding them together. Inside, however, her mind was racing. 'Clark loves me. Oh my god, what am I supposed to do now?' She wanted to reply but no words came. She knew she couldn't just stay sitting here face to face forever, but her mind just wasn't coming up with an alternative. She scrutinized Clark's face and saw the uncertainty grow there. The need to reply became even greater, but still she couldn't kick herself into action.
She watched Clark get even more nervous as the silence went on; he looked ready to bolt. Sure enough he dragged his eyes away and began to stand up.
"More tea? I'm going to make some more. Do you want another mug?"
Lois detected the strained note in his voice and shook off the fog around her brain. She was losing him. Reaching up, she grasped the front of Clark's T-shirt just as he rose to leave her sitting there. As soon as he felt her hand on him he stopped dead, crouched in mid-air. Slowly she rose up from her seat, leaned forward and touched her lips to his.
'Wow.' That was her immediate thought as her lips parted underneath his gentle pressure. 'Clark is good at this.' His lips were soft against hers, but at the same time insistent, as he pressed himself closer. 'How did he get so good at this?' she wondered before the sensation of kissing Clark wiped all conscious thought from her mind, and she felt herself slipping into an almost dream-like state. Slowly the kiss came to an end, and she opened her eyes to find Clark's face still only centimetres from her own. She could see the passion clouding in his eyes and a slow satisfied smile spread across her face. Wow.
She touched her forehead up against his before gently pushing him back onto the sofa. She began to root round the box of extra letters, stilling Clark's attempt to say something with a wave of her hand. To his credit, he remained quiet despite the puzzled look on his face. Finally Lois found what she was looking for, and again she laid out a row of letters.
Clark smiled as he read the new message.
"You'll have to let me off the spelling and grammar," she said.
Clark's smile widened and he reached over for the scorecard. "Not a problem," he told her, filling in a number in her column. He passed over the card so she could see what he had written.
"A hundred points?" she asked confused, "Those letters are only worth ten, and it's not even covering a double word score!"
"Trust me, Lois, those letters are worth so much more than that," he replied before pulling her gently round the table toward him and bringing his lips to her own again.