By tvnerdgirl <email@example.com>
Submitted: November 2005
Summary: A "revelation" fic that centers largely on the events that took place in the episode "That Old Gang of Mine" and Lois' reactions to them. Lois and Clark get locked in a department store by accident and a secret is revealed during a game of Truth or Dare.
Disclaimer: Lois and Clark do not belong to me. I wish they did, however I shall have to settle with playing with them and returning them.
"I can't believe nothing's open," Lois Lane grumbled as she checked her watch for what had to be the fifth time in under ten minutes. "This is Metropolis! You would think there'd be some twenty-four hour place that would sell camcorder batteries."
"We could always go back to your house," Clark Kent offered. Her partner had been annoyingly calm during the whole ordeal, considering they had just left a prime suspect on a stakeout that could, if handled properly, blow open the story of a decade. "You could charge your camera there."
"I need batteries, Clark," was her testy response. "We go back to my apartment and we might as well be conceding the whole night. It will take hours to charge the camera, and by the time it's done, the governor and his mob contacts could be long gone."
"We've checked everywhere, Lois," Clark reminded her. "I don't know where else to look." He knew how frustrated she was, and wished desperately that he could tell her that, due to his super hearing, he could keep tabs on the governor's actions even from her apartment, but that was impossible. They had just gotten their friendship back to normal after she nearly married Lex Luthor. He was not about to jeopardize it by telling her he was Superman.
"We can't go back, Clark," she explained in exasperation. "What if something big happens and we don't have any proof? This is going to be huge! We can't just hope people will take our word that the governor is up to no good. You know this wouldn't be a problem if you would just step into the twentieth century and get a camcorder of your own."
"So now it's my fault?" Clark grinned at her, unable to keep the amusement from his face. She had an uncanny knack of turning any mistake she made around until it was no longer her responsibility. Sometimes it annoyed him, but tonight, it amused him. "Lois, I've told you a million times, technology just isn't my thing."
"If you want to be a good reporter, Clark, you're going to have to compromise," she replied stubbornly. "I might not always be around to…hey, hey stop here!"
She pointed at a large department store to the right that seemed to still have their lights on. Clark frowned doubtfully, but pulled into the parking lot anyway.
"Lois, I think they're closed," he said, doing a quick scan of the place. The cashiers appeared to be packing up their things and heading towards the staff lounge. Lois however didn't hear him, as she was already out of the car and racing towards the building.
"Don't worry, Clark, it will only take a second. I'm sure they'll understand." She reached the door and tugged on it. Surprisingly, it opened. "See? They can't be completely closed. The door's still open."
"I'm sure they want to go home for the night, Lois," he attempted one more time. She patted his shoulder as they entered and headed straight for the electronics section.
"Nonsense…I'm sure they saw us come in. We'll only be a minute. Besides, what's one more customer?"
Clark sighed and went along with her, hoping that the staff of the store wouldn't be too angry with them. Lois could be a little single-minded when it came to a big story and he knew that nothing short of a massive earthquake or some other natural disaster would deter her from purchasing batteries for her camcorder so that they could return to where the action was.
It was one of the things he loved about her. One of the many things he loved about her. He could never tell her that, for he knew she didn't feel the same way, especially after what happened with Lex. When he told her he loved her, he was certain he had lost her forever. She told him she didn't feel the same way and then left, intending to marry another man. It still hurt even now, sometimes to look at her face and see only friendship in her eyes. He'd take whatever he could get, for he was completely lost in that respect, but he vowed never to let her know just how much she had hurt him. That's why he had lied to her after they had gotten the Planet back. If she thought he lied to her about loving her, then some of his dignity could remain intact, even if his heart was in tatters.
"Lois, I really don't think…"
"Clark, do you want to nail this guy or not?" she interrupted impatiently as she went through various types of batteries searching for the right one. "It will be fine. Now, help me find the right kind, please?"
He shrugged and began to look with her, trying not to let it show that he thought the search was futile. He hated being rude, and felt that if they approached the registers now, all they would get for their troubles was a way out of the department store, escorted by a security guard. Not to mention that they would become this evening's story for the cashiers to tell their families once they got home. He could hear it now. 'Honey you won't believe the jerks that came in after we had closed!' He sighed and looked down another isle. Glancing up quickly he felt himself smile despite his better judgment as he watched her searching through various packages of batteries, biting her lip in concentration as she did so.
It was a familiar trait that he had learned to recognize as being solely and completely Lois. It was these times when he wanted nothing more than to lean into her and kiss her lower lip so softly that she would forget whatever frustration she was feeling at that moment. Then again, he always wanted to kiss her. Sometimes he would dream of her, dream of what it might feel like for her to kiss him back of her own volition and not because they were trying to maintain their cover as a married couple or about to die. He dreamed of what it might feel like to see her eyes looking back at him with the same desire that he felt on a constant basis for her. What it might feel like to take her in his arms and…
"Oh, this is so annoying!" Her exclamation brought him abruptly from his thoughts and he looked back to her. She threw her hands up in what looked to be a gesture of giving up. "Where is a sales person when you really need one?"
"I'm telling you, Lois, I think they've…" It was then that all the lights in the store switched off at once and a humming noise suddenly took over. Clark felt his stomach drop as he finished his sentence, "…gone home."
"Don't be ridiculous, Clark," she replied in aggravation. "Someone saw us come in; they would have had to. C'mon, let's go find someone who works here."
Ten minutes passed as they searched to no avail for an employee. Clark had a sinking feeling that he had been right. They hadn't seen the two of them come in, had locked up, and gone home. Lois, however, refused to believe that.
"We'll just check in the back. I'm sure that's where they are."
"I don't think that's a good idea. I think we should just pick up one of the phones, call the police and ask them to get us out of here." Clark sighed, knowing his words were pointless.
"Are you insane?" She turned to face him. "Even if we are locked in, the only thing calling the police will do is get us arrested. Do you really think they will believe this was an accident?"
"Given who we are, the fact that we haven't taken anything and the fact that we're calling them ourselves?" Clark pointed out. "Yes, I think they would believe us."
"Even so, we'll have to spend hours filling out a report, answering questions…" She trailed off and sighed. "The governor could be having that meeting right now."
"Lois, we're locked in." He took her by the hand and led her toward the exit. "Look." He pushed on it lightly enough to show that it was, indeed, locked.
"Oh, all right!" she burst out, ripping her hand from his. The anger in her eyes at possibly losing the story was evident. She chewed her lip again, trying desperately to think of a way out of the situation. Suddenly her face lit up. "What if we called Superman? You know…yelled for help? I'm sure he'd open the doors for us without setting off any alarms and then we could leave the money for the batteries here and get back to our stakeout!"
Clark felt his stomach drop at the mention of Superman. There was no way he could 'show up' to help them without Clark being absent somehow and he didn't see how that was possible, given he was trapped with her. Neither was it possible to somehow open the door without her seeing either what he did, or not buying whatever lame excuse he would surely give her if she didn't.
"I'm sure that Superman wouldn't appreciate us yelling for help over this," he pointed out calmly. "He's a hero, Lois, not a locksmith. He's probably got real lives to save. What if he thought you were in real trouble and someone else died as a result? He comes whenever you call, Lois, but you can't abuse that. It wouldn't be right."
"Clark Kent, always the boy scout," she sighed. "You're right. Let's try the phone and call the police then."
He watched as Lois picked up the phone and attempted to dial the number, then set it down. He grew confused as she stared at him for once looking worried.
"They've coded the phones for the night Clark. We can't call out, and nobody can call in. I think we might be stuck here."
Lois Lane resisted the urge to scream in frustration. There they were, on the verge of one of the biggest stories that had come along in a good long while and they were stuck in a department store, unable to complete it. And, as much as she hated to admit it to herself, it was basically all her fault.
She felt her shoulders slump in defeat and she slid down the side of the register until she was sitting on the floor, unsure of what else she could possibly do. She hated being in any kind of situation in which she was helpless, and this certainly counted, even if it wasn't life threatening.
Clark sighed and sat down next to her, allowing her to lean into his solid frame. Taking her hand, he squeezed it gently.
"I know this doesn't mean much, Lois, but I'm sure we'll find another way prove the governor's got mob ties. This wasn't a one and only shot."
"It's sweet of you to say that, Clark, but it was our best shot." She sighed again. "I just wish there was some way to get out of here!"
"You sure the phones won't work?" he asked her. She nodded dejectedly and handed him the receiver for one to prove it.
"You know, we wouldn't be in this mess if you had a cell phone," she said weakly. It was an attempt to shift the blame, but all it really ended up doing was making him laugh softly. She, in turn, laughed as well, and though she was disappointed, she felt some of the weight lift from her just by seeing him smile.
Why had it taken her so long to notice what an amazing smile he had? She shook her head, trying to clear it of the warm and fuzzy thoughts she was having towards Clark. But the truth was, they had been there for a while. After she had decided not to marry Lex Luthor, she had realized that she hadn't been truthful when she had told her partner that her feelings for him didn't extend beyond friendship. They did. And she had been ready to tell him that when they had gotten the Planet back, but he had insisted on speaking first, telling her that he had lied about loving her. She wasn't sure if she believed him, as his actions had spoken louder than words in the coming weeks since, but she couldn't possibly reveal her feelings for him now, could she? What would happen if she were wrong? How would they be able to get past it?
His friendship had somehow become one of the most important things in her world, and the idea of living without it…no, she had almost been forced to face that reality…twice…and both times she had handled it badly.
She had nearly married Lex, knowing that Clark may never speak to her again. And after that, after they had just started to get their friendship back on track, she had watched him get shot and killed right in front of her eyes by a bunch of resurrected gangsters in a bar. She shivered as she recalled the horror and emptiness that had engulfed her in the ensuing hours after that had happened. It was then she knew how deeply she had begun to feel for Clark Kent, and the idea that he was gone forever had almost been too much for her to bear. She wasn't sure if she would have been able to live without him, but thankfully did not have to face that possibility. In the end, it was that same research that had gotten him killed that had saved her partner's life. Lois was eternally grateful to Superman for what he had done for her partner. She only wished she could have thanked him the way he deserved. He would never know what he had given back to her.
"Lois?" Clark was giving her a look of concern. "Are you OK? Really, Lois, we'll get the story, I promise you. We'll find another way to prove the governor is dirty. Tonight isn't a complete loss."
"It's not the story, Clark," she admitted to him. He gave her a look of puzzlement and she desperately wanted to tell him how she was feeling, but knew there was the possibility that it wouldn't be received well. "It's nothing. So we're really stuck here, huh?"
"Looks like it," Clark replied uncomfortably. "On the bright side, though, it's not like we'll lack for anything." He gestured around to the large expanse of department store that stretched out before them.
"You're not suggesting we help ourselves, are you, Clark Kent?" She was teasing him again, and was rewarded with a bashful smile, that part of her brain wanted to softly kiss.
"Actually, I am," Clark replied blandly. "But we keep a tab of what we use and pay it back in the morning when someone finds us here."
"This is so embarrassing!" Lois exclaimed, realizing they were going to have to explain to the management the next morning what had happened.
"I'm sure it's not the most embarrassing thing that's happened to you," Clark replied with a grin.
"No, the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to me was when the fire alarm got pulled while I was showering after gym class and I had to wear my towel outside in front of the entire school and half the firefighters in Metropolis back in high school," she told him dryly. "But this runs a close second."
Clark chuckled at the image and Lois gave him a gentle smack on the arm. She glanced at him thoughtfully for a moment.
"What was your most embarrassing moment Clark?"
"Oh, I don't really have any, Lois," Clark replied evasively. Lois narrowed her eyes.
"I know that tone, Clark Kent," she said, challenge evident in her voice. "I'll figure you out yet."
"Lois, you already have me figured," he replied softly. She stared at him, wondering if she was mistaking the intimacy in his eyes. Did he feel as strongly for her as she did for him? Was it possibly he had been lying when he rescinded his declaration of love?
"I'd like to think so," she told him truthfully, "but I don't think I'll ever have you figured."
"We should find some pajamas," he suggested, changing the subject and standing up. Heading to the clothing department, Lois found herself thinking about Superman and wondering if his past was anything like a normal human's. Did he have a family? Friends? A life outside the suit? She was surprised she had never wondered this before. He had always seemed so…out of their league, so untouchable. She had never wondered where he went when he flew away at night, only knew that he would be back. She was a reporter. Why had she never thought about this before?
"What do you think Superman's most embarrassing moment is?" she asked her partner. "You think he has one?"
"Huh?" Clark looked surprised at her words. It was clear he had never wondered these things either.
"It's just that we don't really know anything about him as a person. Does he go everywhere in the suit? Do laundry in it? Shop? Or does he have another life that we don't know about?" She looked at him. "He ever mention any of this to you? You're closer to him than I am."
"If he wanted anyone to know his secrets, Lois, I'm sure he'd tell you." Clark's voice sounded tired, almost resigned.
Why did he get so bent out of shape when she brought up Superman lately? It wasn't as if she and Superman were involved; he had made it painfully clear that he wasn't interested the night she had declared her feelings for him. It had cut her to the core at the time, but now it hardly felt like a wound at all. Her pride was still bruised, but nothing beyond that was damaged. She had realized her feelings for Superman were superficial the moment she had seen Clark get shot in front of her. Nothing could hurt more than losing her partner had. And the fact that he had thrown himself in front of the bullet to save her, showed Lois that even though she idolized Superman's morals, Clark Kent was the real hero. What wouldn't even have affected Superman had killed her partner. And he had been willing to lose his life for her. It was a thought that kept her awake sometimes at night.
"I'm not trying to pry into his life," she told Clark honestly. "I'm just curious." She remembered telling him she would love him if he were an ordinary man with no powers at all. At the time, she had believed it with all her soul, but the more she thought about it, the more it weighed on her. Superman could never be ordinary. Telling him that must have hurt him quite a bit, even if he didn't love her. It was also what had started to make her think that he might have a life away from his heroic alter ego. He'd have to. Had she walked past him on the street and not even known it?
"You're kind of curiosity has a habit of causing trouble," Clark said dryly. He turned around and handed her a pair of hideous flannel pajamas. "Here you go. These will bring out your eyes."
"I really hope you're kidding." She grimaced and put them back on the rack. "Promise me you'll never buy me clothes for Christmas or my birthday, Clark."
"You don't have to worry about me, Lois," Clark promised. "I admit that I am a fashion-challenged man."
"In that case, maybe you should let me pick out your pajamas," Lois teased.
Clark shrugged. "I place myself in your experienced hands," he said, his voice taking on a huskier tone that Lois was wondering if she was imagining.
No, she told herself, he's not flirting.
"You know, maybe you should let me pick out your work clothes too," she pressed on. "I mean, your ties alone…"
"What's wrong with my ties?" Clark said indignantly.
Lois smiled. "Nothing…nothing at all. They say everything about you." She poked him affectionately. "They tell the world that you are a white, straight man with no girlfriend."
"Why no girlfriend?" he asked with feigned annoyance.
"Because," she replied matter-of-factly, "no woman would allow her man to wear those ties."
"Any woman who loved me would have to do so, ties and all." Clark told her, half joking but with a serious tone to his voice. "She'd have to accept all of me, or nothing."
"I'm only kidding, Clark," she assured him, holding up a pair of red boxers, then decided against them in favour of a pair of black ones. "Red's not your colour. Here, try these."
Clark took them and headed into the men's change room to change. When he came out, Lois' jaw nearly hit the floor. He was absolutely amazing. She had seen him once or twice before without his shirt on, but somehow she had always managed to forget that under those innocuous suits and crazy ties, lay the body of a God. Add to that the fact that black boxers looked amazing on him, and Lois was feeling fairly short of breath.
Placing his suit near the entrance to the changing room, he grabbed a black t-shirt and pulled it on, causing her to frown in disappointment.
"Your turn," he was saying to her. She blinked a few times, not comprehending what he meant. "You got to pick for me, so I get to pick for you."
"Oh no, Kent!" she told him. "You'll just be like any other guy and pick out something ugly and embarrassing with fur and strategically placed hearts or something."
"Strategically placed?" he echoed with a raised eyebrow.
"You know what I mean." She looked around and spotted a pajama set of loose cotton pants and a tank top. "These will do fine."
Heading into the changing room, she tried to control the raging thoughts in her head. Even with the t-shirt on, she couldn't help but be in awe of his physical beauty. How had she gotten to be so far gone? When had she fallen so completely in love with him?
Clark smiled as she went in to change into the tank top and pajama pants. Although he wasn't terribly pleased that their stakeout had to be abandoned, he had to admit that spending the night with Lois locked in a department store was not the worst way to spend an evening, especially since tonight she seemed so relaxed and open.
He had been wondering more and more often lately if he should tell Lois about his secret identity. Their friendship had gotten to the point where he knew he wouldn't have to worry about her publishing the story in the Daily Planet. He trusted her and knew she would keep his secret. He worried, though, that she would be angry with him when she found out, and he hesitated because of that. The last thing he wanted to do was tell her the truth and have her alienate him from her life.
For the longest time he had hoped against hope that she would forget about Superman, and learn to love Clark Kent. But after what happened with Lex Luthor, he realized that the best he could hope for was her friendship, and that was something he cherished beyond all measure. He would always love her, and always hope one day she'd love him, but if he told her his secret and she ended their friendship he wasn't sure he could take it. He loved her far too much to lose her entirely.
She exited the changing room and Clark felt himself draw a breath involuntarily. They were just pajamas. Nothing special in any way, and yet she looked so beautiful standing there, smiling at him, completely open…casual in a way that he so rarely got to see her. Sometimes she would come over to his place and they'd cuddle up together on the couch and watch a movie, but those nights were rare. She would never know how grateful he was that she would trust him to be so natural with him. He knew how hard it was for her to trust.
"You look great," he murmured, a little more intimately than he had intended to. He immediately regretted it, and braced himself for the biting comment he was sure he would receive. Instead, he watched her blush and thank him. It warmed him that she was being so receptive. She could get defensive about compliments, even from him at times.
"Now what should we do?" She looked around. "The home entertainment department is over there. We could watch a movie if you want…grab a few bean bag chairs from the furniture department."
"Sounds great," he replied. He watched her shiver slightly and realized that she was likely very cold in the tank top. He turned in the opposite direction and grabbed a light brown sweater that he proceeded to wrap around her shoulders. He marveled at how she could seem so fragile, and at the same time so strong. She smiled at him in a way that made his entire body grow warm. He returned her smile and headed towards the furniture department.
When they had gotten settled in, Lois picked out a Mel Gibson movie and popped it into the VCR player attached to the large screen TV. Clark leaned back against the bean bag chair and sighed with contentment.
"You seem pretty relaxed, Mr. Kent," he heard her comment.
He looked over to where she sat and shrugged. "No sense dwelling on where we can't be tonight," he replied. "Might as well concentrate on where we are. And right now, I am watching a movie on a bean bag chair with my best friend. I'm happy."
"You Smallville folks have a way with words, you know that?" Lois laughed and leaned into him, snuggling into his chest.
Clark's pulse sped up as he placed his arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. She was warm and soft against him. How he wished he could place a gentle kiss on her forehead and tell her that he loved her. Such a small, simple thing and yet it was beyond him, perhaps forever. He knew in his heart that she was the only woman he would ever truly love. And with that the case, there would probably be no other woman that he would be able to tell her secret to. It pained him to think that he may never be with someone who understood every part of him and accepted him for who he was. His parents wouldn't be around forever, and once they were gone, he would truly be alone.
"What are you thinking about?" she asked him.
Her voice was a soft vibration against him that Clark found incredibly pleasant. "Wondering what it is about Mel Gibson that women are so taken with," he lied.
"Aside from his rugged good looks?" Lois teased. She grew thoughtful for a moment. "Part of it is the fact that he's not afraid to be vulnerable. The characters he plays, even the most macho ones, usually have a softer side to them that he's not afraid to portray. Women admire a man who is secure enough in himself to let that show. Actually, he's a lot like you that way, Clark."
"You would compare me to Mel Gibson then?" he questioned, feeling secretly pleased that she would say something like that.
"Only when it comes to your generous nature," she told him. "When it comes to looks, Mel has you beat, I'm afraid."
"Thanks a lot," he replied with a laugh.
"What about you?" Lois wondered. "You know about my Mel fixation, but is there any particular female celebrity that you have a crush on?"
"I haven't really thought about it, to be honest, Lois," he told her.
"Oh come on, Clark!" she scoffed. "There has to be someone that you would go to every film just to see. And don't make it someone fake and cliched like Pamela Anderson."
"I would never go for Pamela Anderson, Lois," Clark said with a wry smile. "OK, fine. I guess I always had a thing for Carrie Fisher…you know, Princess Leia?"
"Why?" Her voice was curious, not sarcastic, so Clark continued.
"Many reasons," Clark told her. "Leia was courageous, and fearless. She was born to privilege, but she wasn't afraid to be a leader. She stood up for what she believed in, even if it meant joining the rebellion. She was strong. And she was beautiful."
"Most men say that part first," Lois commented.
"I told you before, Lois, I am not most men." He grew thoughtful. "I like beauty like any man, Lois, but if there's nothing behind it…"
"It's empty," she finished for him. He nodded, though she couldn't see it. "That's how I felt about Superman, I think."
"What do you mean?" He already felt his heart sink at the mention of his alter ego.
"Well, I thought I was in love with him, you know? But I think it might have been his ideals that I was in love with." She paused, trying to gather her thoughts. "Sort of like the opposite of what you were just saying. I mean, you can get a crush on someone based solely on their attractiveness, but if you're not attracted to their personality, then it's empty. With Superman, well, there's no denying that he is attractive and I love what he stands for, but that's not really him, you know? He tried to tell me that the night I asked him to meet me, but I wouldn't listen. I don't know anything about him. I don't know what he likes, where he lives, what sort of movies he watches…anything. I don't know who he is. What I felt for him was shallow and empty. I've tried to tell him that I understand since that happened, but he never sticks around long enough for me to get the chance."
"Lois…" Clark was speechless. Never in a million years would he have expected this. Lois, admitting that her feelings for Superman were an illusion. It filled him with hope that someday he might be able to get her to love him as himself.
"It was the same with Lex," she continued. "I never loved him either. The difference was that I knew I didn't love Lex, whereas I thought I loved Superman."
"Why would you agree to marry someone you didn't love?" Clark wondered. He had in the past been to afraid to ask her this question, feeling the subject of Lex Luthor to be off limits, but she had been the one to bring it up and his curiosity had gotten the better of him.
"Because it was safe," she admitted. "I have been hurt so many times, Clark, that I vowed never to be vulnerable again. With Lex, I didn't have to be. I knew I could never love him, and I'm pretty sure he didn't really love me, so it was easy to picture the rest of my life with him. I admired him, even liked him, but I knew that if I never loved him, I could never be hurt by him. I was so scared of being hurt again."
"You don't know how much I wish that I could prove to you that some people can be trusted, Lois." His voice was barely a whisper, yet he knew she heard it. "I wish I could show you the good in people."
"You have, Clark," she replied, sitting up and turning to meet his gaze. "You are one of the most trustworthy people I know. You're maybe the only one I trust. And you have a good heart. I know that you'll never hurt me on purpose."
"Never on purpose," he felt himself murmur back, completely mesmerized by her beautiful eyes. Before he even realized what he was doing, he was running his hands through her hair, caressing her neck ever so softly. She sighed and arched her head back, allowing him better access. Clark couldn't believe she was allowing him to be this close, to hold her this way. It scared him, in a way that nothing had ever frightened him before. She had just said that he was the only one she truly trusted and yet, everything she knew of him was a lie. He suddenly felt sick inside.
"That feels great, Clark," she murmured softly. He came crashing back to reality and met her eyes guiltily. "Did you learn how to give massages like that on your travels?"
"Actually, my mom taught me," he told her. She had sat up and turned her back to him so that he could fully devote his attentions to her back. She was tense at first, but soon he was able to work the tension away from her. It felt wonderful to sit with her, to touch her, to feel her relax under his fingers, and yet he couldn't erase the feelings of guilt.
"Remind me to thank Martha Kent," Lois chuckled. "Her son has magic fingers."
Clark smiled and pushed the thoughts of guilt from his mind, concentrating completely on Lois. The movie played as they sat in silence completely oblivious to it.
Lois watched Clark carefully as he picked up the basketball and aimed for the hoop. He seemed to concentrate for only a second before sending the ball sailing effortlessly through it. Lois cursed softly as he turned to her with a triumphant grin.
Grimacing, Lois took the ball and began to survey the hoop critically. After the movie (and the amazing massage) had ended, Lois had suggested that they look though the toy department to see if there was anything fun to do. She couldn't believe that things had gotten so intimate between her and Clark during the movie and the normalcy she felt about it scared her silly. She had wanted to push things further with her partner, but was realizing that in the process she may be getting more than she bargained for. Superman and Lex Luthor had been safe. She had told Clark that in complete and total honesty. What she didn't realize, and what Clark had brought sharply back into focus for her, was that he was anything but safe. She almost laughed out loud at the thought. Clark Kent, the regular, steadfast, good- natured farm boy was dangerous. Not to society or anything like that, but to her heart. Sure, he would never hurt her on purpose. He had even said as much, but there were so many other ways— accidental ways—that she could get hurt.
She had survived it with the other men, but with Clark? Well, she wasn't so sure that would be possible. She had almost lost her best friend in that bar a few weeks ago. Could she take the chance of pursuing a relationship and risk losing him again? Would she be worse off if she didn't?
"You gonna shoot that ball tonight, Lois?" Clark was asking her. "I doubt we'll get another night together in a department store for a rematch."
Shaking the thoughts from her head, she concentrated on the net and threw the ball. It missed terribly, however, and she felt her shoulders slump. She was awful at this game. Why had she suggested it?
"Alright, you get another one, Kent," she conceded. "And make it good."
"First kiss," he said with determination.
She pretended to think about it for a moment. "Eighth grade, Craig Miller," she replied with a smile on her face. "Terrible dresser, great kisser." She threw him the ball. "Your turn, and could you at least humour me and miss once?"
In all her competitiveness, she had added another element to the game that Clark had been reluctant about first. Whoever missed the shot would have to reveal something personal about themselves of the other's choosing, or take a physical dare if they chose not to answer the question. Lois knew it was juvenile, but thought it might be a fun way to really get to know her partner a little more fully. She knew bits and pieces about his life and his past, but somehow she knew there was way more to him than he ever let on. Unfortunately, he was a really good shot, and she was not. The little game was becoming very one-sided, and Lois didn't like it one little bit.
Clark took his shot and got the ball in yet again. Lois sighed.
"Ask me one anyway, Lois," Clark suggested.
Lois shook her head. "No way, Clark, I'm no cheater."
"Are you kidding me?" Clark's voice was incredulous. "Lois, you're a writer and you tried to pass 'chumpy' off as a word in Scrabble! I don't think you can legitimately claim the moral high ground on this one."
"I still say it should be a word," she muttered. "Fine, I'll ask you something then. Who was your first love?"
She watched Clark's face go from open to guarded. He looked almost panicked at the question. Clark Kent would not lie to her, that she knew. What was he so afraid of saying?
"Lois, I don't think that's such a good question," he stammered.
"Why not?" she looked at him oddly. "Is it that Rachel girl we met in Smallville? The one that was your prom date? She seemed nice enough, Clark."
"My first love…" He paused a moment, as if trying to figure out how to say it. "She didn't love me back, Lois. It's kind of a painful thing for me. Can we leave it at that?"
"Of course," she replied, feeling oddly disappointed. "It wasn't really my turn to begin with."
"Let's do something else, Lois," Clark suggested, sounding relieved. "Anything else."
She looked around the department store and raised an eyebrow at him.
"Like what, rob a bank?" The sarcasm wasn't lost on him.
"Sorry, Lois, my gangster days are over," he replied with a grin.
At the mention of gangsters, she was suddenly taken violently back to that night at the club. In her mind, she could see Dillinger's gun aimed at her, feel the fear within her as he pulled the trigger and watched as Clark dove in front of the gun for her, taking the bullet himself. Panic welled up in her suddenly as she looked into his face and the enormity of what he had done hit her full force yet again. A relationship terrified her, but the idea of him dying without knowing how she really felt terrified her even more. She dropped the basketball, not even realizing that her hands had begun to tremble.
Clark's expression immediately went from that of a grin, to one of concern. "Lois, are you OK? Was it something I said?"
"The gangsters, Clark, I…" She paused and attempted to collect herself. She was surprised to see that Clark was standing next to her, his warm, strong hand on her shoulders, making her feel safe and secure. Had she even seen him move? "I was just thinking about that night that you were shot."
"God, Lois, I'm sorry." He sounded it too, so much so that Lois felt bad for even bringing it up. "That was so insensitive of me."
"It's OK, Clark, I just…" She paused, trying to think of a way to tell him how she felt without scaring him off. "I think about it a lot. I almost lost you."
"I didn't realize it affected you like that, Lois." Clark's murmur was so soft she could barely hear him.
It was then something inside of her snapped. "How do you think it would affect me, Clark?" she exclaimed, her voice near tears. She couldn't believe her emotions had shifted so extremely. Had she been bottling up more than she thought? "I mean, I was there, and Dillinger had a gun, and he pointed it at me and…I watched you get shot and couldn't do anything. I thought you were dead, Clark! Do you think I wouldn't still feel something over that?"
He put his arms around her and she was shocked to feel her pulse start to race even through her tears. How had she managed to ignore the physical effect this man had on her for so long?
"Lois, I'm sorry," he was saying ever so softly. "I guess I should have talked to you about it. I never thought you didn't care. Far from it. And I didn't leave you on purpose, I promise you that."
"I know, Clark, it's just…" She trailed off, unable to speak any further without revealing her true feelings. She wanted desperately to tell him she loved him, to hear him say it back to her, like he had in Centenial park so long ago, and then to kiss him, to feel his gentle lips against hers, holding her close…
Suddenly, she knew what she wanted and knew she couldn't settle for any less. She wanted him. She wanted Clark Kent now and forever, and that was all there was to it. No matter how terrifying it felt, she was going to have to do something about it because even if he felt the same way for her, she knew he would never act on it. He had made the first move, and it had ended for him in disaster.
"What is it, Lois?" His thumb found her chin, and he tipped her face up to look into his deep chocolate eyes, warm and full of concern. "What's really wrong?"
"You didn't take the dare, Clark," she finally said. He blinked, obviously confused.
"You didn't answer my question about your first love," she clarified. "If you choose not to answer the question, you need to take a dare. And I get to pick what it is."
"OK, Lois, what is your dare?" He sounded guarded again, and Lois worked up her courage to continue with her plan.
"Clark, I dare you…" She swallowed slightly, knowing this was her last chance to back out. Instead, she forged ahead. "I dare you to kiss me."
"What?" Clark looked as if a train had suddenly just hit him full force. "You want me to what?"
"I want you to kiss me, Clark." She raised her chin defiantly. "I dare you to kiss me." Her voice lowered and became soft, almost pleading. "I need you to kiss me."
She had barely even finished the last sentence and already his lips were on hers. It was soft at first, frightened and tentative, but as she responded, his kiss became bolder. She sighed into the kiss and pressed herself closely against the broad, hardness of his chest. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed herself closer, deepening the kiss, wanting to be as close to him as possible, to feel his vitality against her, to know he wasn't leaving her again, just like he said.
She felt him moan softly and press her harder against him. Her entire body was alive with sensation and emotion. She whimpered with pleasure as his kiss became more sensual, as his tongue explored her mouth with a quiet desperation that matched her own. How had she lived without him, even this long?
"Lois," she heard him whisper breathlessly. "God, Lois…"
"Don't let me go, Clark," she responded through various kisses. "Please, just stay close…"
He clutched her closer, holding her fiercely as if any moment now she would be ripped away from him. Lois welcomed it, encouraged it. She had buried her feelings for far too long.
Suddenly, as if a bucket of cold water had been splashed on the both of them, Clark let her go and stepped back. His breathing was ragged and uneven, matching hers, and his eyes had darkened considerably by desire. Lois felt as if part of herself had been ripped away, and she cried out at the lack of physical contact.
"Lois, we can't…I can't…" He ran a hand through his hair in distraction. "I'm sorry, but this can't happen."
"Was it me?" She bit her lip, unable to believe she could have read him so falsely. "You were telling the truth the day we got the Planet back, weren't you? You really don't have feelings for me, do you?"
"What? No, Lois, that's not it at all. I…"
"Oh, I've made such a mess of things," she continued, not even having heard Clark. "I shouldn't have…now I've ruined our friendship." She had to get away from him, as far away from him as the confines of the store would allow. "I'm sorry, Clark…I'm sorry."
Clark lowered his glasses and searched the department store in an attempt to figure out where Lois had run off to. He couldn't believe that he had pushed her away like he had. It had been his dream come true to hear Lois ask him to kiss her, and for a brief, sweet moment, he had been able to get lost in her completely. He had come crashing back to reality, however, and could not in all conscience continue to kiss her, knowing why she had asked him to do it.
He had obviously underestimated the way his 'death' had affected her. He had expected her to be upset, of course, but never had he thought she was so upset over it that she was still reliving it even now. It had obviously hurt her enough to cause her to want to kiss him, to reaffirm that he was still here, and alive and close to her. He wasn't foolish enough to think it could be any more than that. He couldn't take advantage of her in that way. He wouldn't. Add to the fact that if she ever knew that he was Superman, the hurt she would feel over being led to believe he was dead, and he knew he couldn't keep kissing her the way he had. It was wrong to deceive her like that. Even if she was deceiving herself into wanting him, he couldn't do that to her. He felt bad enough about lying to her as it was.
Clark found Lois in one of the back offices, sitting in a chair, head in her hands, crying. He had never seen her so blatantly vulnerable. He immediately stopped watching her and headed back there, not knowing what he intended to say, but knowing he couldn't just let her sit there and cry. He had done enough to her as it was.
He knocked gently on the door of the office before letting himself in. Lois' head snapped up and she did her best to pull herself into coherency, but it was too late. Clark had seen her with her defenses down. She let her shoulder's drop and he heard a coldness creep into her voice.
"What now, Clark?"
"Lois, I think we need to talk."
"About what?" She sighed deeply and Clark could hear the resignation in it. "I think that what happened out there was pretty clear."
"No, Lois, it wasn't." Clark sat down next to her, hoping that she would at least hear him out. "I know what you were trying to do, Lois, and I understand completely. I'm sorry that thing with the gangsters scared you so much, but I'm not going anywhere. I'll always be your friend but I…"
"Don't feel anything more," she finished flatly. "I get that, Clark. You don't have to spell it out for me."
"Lois, if you had any idea…" He paused, not sure how to finish that without revealing too much of his own heart. "You don't have to prove anything to me. You don't have to try to be more than you are. I'm not going anywhere."
"Clark, what the hell do you think happened back there?" Lois exclaimed, eyes flashing. "You think I was just playing with you?"
"I think that you were more affected by what happened than you thought you were." Clark gave a sigh. "It happens with near death experiences, Lois. People need to remind themselves however they can that the other person is alive and well and not going anywhere. You needed to do what you did and I don't blame you for not feeling more."
"Are you from another planet, Clark?" Lois' voice was incredulous, as if Clark had said something completely out of the realm of possibility. "Or are you just blind? Yes, I was affected by what happened to you. What person in their right mind wouldn't be? But if you think that I did that just to physically remind myself that you're still here, than you are thicker than I thought you were."
"Than why did you do it, Lois?" Clark burst out, unable to take any more head games. "You made it pretty clear before you almost married Luthor how you felt—or should I say didn't feel. What else am I supposed to think?"
"I think the fact that I asked you to kiss me would have been a pretty clear sign," Lois snapped.
"Sign of what? Boredom? I mean, that's the only possible explanation. You got sick of the basketball game and decided to play with me instead. Why not? We've been trapped in here for quite some time."
He was being unreasonable now, but he no longer cared. He was tired of being close to her, but knowing he could never have her. He was tired of thinking she was flirting with him, only to realize she only thought of him as a friend.
Without warning, Lois slapped him. It was hard enough that it would have stung quite a bit for a normal man, and Clark made a good show of looking pained. The shock he felt, however, was natural.
"Oh God, Clark, I'm sorry!" she exclaimed, staring at her hand as if she didn't believe it had just done that.
"Don't be, Lois, I probably deserved that." His shoulders slumped and he felt the will to fight with her leave him entirely. "If you only knew how much that kiss meant to me, you…"
He trailed off, suddenly noting that her expression had changed significantly. She looked shocked now, but not because of what she had just done. She was looking at him with a sense of recognition on her face, followed by horror as she realized something she hadn't realized before.
"Lois, what is it?" He couldn't understand why she was suddenly trembling, why she was backing away from him. And then she saw them. His glasses were on the floor near his feet. She must have knocked them off when she had slapped him. He hadn't noticed it. But she did. And now she knew everything.
"You're…" She was stammering now, and Clark felt a great weight descend upon him as he realized it was all over. All the lies, all the deceptions, all the hiding was now stripped away. Lois was seeing him for who he truly was and it was clear it wasn't a welcome site.
"Yes, Lois," he sighed softly. "I am."
"All this time…" She trailed off, her mind clearly racing faster than her words. "You…you lied to me."
Clark didn't even try to point out that he had never directly lied, just failed to tell her the truth. It wouldn't matter. It was the same sin, no matter how it was carried out.
"Yes I did."
She wasn't yelling. She wasn't accusing. Her eyes had gone from angry and bright to cold and distant, almost completely detached. Clark didn't know how to react. Yelling and screaming was one thing. He knew how to fight with Lois almost as well as he knew how to breathe. But this Lois? He had never seen her before and she scared him.
"At first, I wasn't sure I could trust you not to expose me and write the story," he told her honestly. "After we got to be close, I fell in love with you. I know you probably don't want to hear this, but it's the truth. I fell in love with you, but all you could see was Superman, or worse, Luthor. When I told you my feelings and you rejected me, then asked to see Superman…well, I couldn't tell you then. I should have, but I was just too raw. I think I still am. I've wanted to tell you for a while now, but I didn't know how to bring it up. I was afraid I would lose you for good."
"You were right to be afraid, Clark," she whispered almost inaudibly. He felt his heart crack into a million pieces as he watched her face and heard her words. "I can understand everything you've just told me. I could even forgive it, except…"
She broke off and looked away, sobs overtaking her small frame. Unable to help himself, he went to her, placing a hand on her shoulder, wanting desperately to fix this mess that he had created.
"Don't touch me!" she hissed, the fire returning to her eyes. "You made me think you were dead, Clark! I can forgive the other stuff, but you let me think I had lost you! Damn you! How could you just sit by while I…how could you let me go through that hell? How could you not tell me then?"
"I wanted to, Lois. I did. I…" Why couldn't he give her a good reason for not telling her the truth? There wasn't one, he realized. She was right. He deserved all her anger and more.
"Liar! I thought you were dead, Clark. I thought you had sacrificed yourself to save me. I thought you maybe even could have loved me! Do you know that's when I realized I loved you? I wasn't trying to play games with you back there, or to use you to make myself feel better. I wanted to tell you I loved you. I needed you to know that because I finally knew that. I knew what I wanted. I wanted you! I thought you loved me enough to give up everything, but you didn't give up anything, did you?" She was shouting her loudest now, abandoning all attempts at composure. "Getting shot in front of me was just another day on the job, wasn't it?"
"That's not even close to true, Lois," he said furiously. "If you want to be angry with me for not telling you, fine, I deserve that. But don't you dare think for one minute that I didn't give up anything by taking that bullet. Did it ever occur to you that when I did that, I didn't know I would be able to find a loophole to explain Clark Kent's reappearance? Did you ever think that when I took that bullet, Clark Kent may have been lost forever? Oh sure, I wouldn't have been dead, you're right about that. Superman is invulnerable. But Clark Kent isn't. I gave up my identity that day with no assurances that I would ever give it back. I gave up my life, my job at the Planet, my whole world. I gave up you." He paused, pacing slightly and desperately needing her to understand. "It may not be the sacrifice you wanted, but I gave up something precious without a single thought that day. I gave up Clark Kent for you. I was ready to live my life as Superman and only Superman. By some miracle I found a way out of it, but if I hadn't…"
"You would have let me think you were dead forever, is that it?" Lois was quiet again. "You would have come to me in the suit, but you would be gone. I'd never see you again."
"I'm sorry if that isn't noble enough for you," Clark spat bitterly, hating the look of utter disappointment he saw on her face. "I'm sorry I'm invulnerable and wasn't able to die for you. If I had no powers at all, I would have jumped in front of that gun just the same. You probably don't believe me, but…"
"I believe you," she whispered bleakly. "And I understand what you gave up, and I'm sorry I made it seem like it was a lesser sacrifice. It wasn't. But that isn't the point. The point is, you would have let me grieve for you. You would have taken Clark Kent away from me and replaced him with…with Superman. You didn't even give me the choice. I don't know that I can forgive you for that, Clark."
"I never thought you'd be disappointed to be left with Superman," was all he could think so say. It didn't matter if he dug himself in deeper now. Whatever hope he had harboured was gone, replaced with the cold realization that he had lost her.
"Well, I guess that shows how little you know me." She shook her head regretfully. "Just so you know, I kissed you earlier because I was in love with Clark Kent. Another lie that I happened to fall for, I suppose."
When Lois left the office, Clark didn't follow her again. She didn't expect him to. What she had just said to him had little to no possible rebuttal. She wished she could regret it, but as much as she tried to quench it, there was a burning anger towards him that she had never felt before. She wasn't sure she would ever let go of it.
Clark Kent was Superman. She wished she could feel shocked, but it made too much sense for that. She couldn't believe she hadn't seen it sooner. She wanted so badly to rewind the night, to go back to thinking of him as just Clark Kent, her gentle boy scout of a partner.
Even now she could still see it in her mind. Dillinger would point the gun at her, and Clark would dive in front, falling to the ground, dead. Except he wasn't and he didn't see fit to tell her that. She hadn't been lying when she told him she understood the enormity of what he had done for her.
She was angry, but she wasn't heartless. He had given up everything that mattered to him. And he had taken away the only thing that mattered to her.
How could she ever trust him again? How could she look him in the eye, knowing all the times she had praised Superman and put him down in the process? It was bad enough she had ignored the wonderful man he was for so long, but to know that she had been quietly tearing him apart by worshipping the superhero…how could she face him again? And she knew she had hurt him deeply.
He may not have said it, but when she thought back to all those times she had gushed over Superman, she could see the hurt in Clark's eyes.
She could see the raw pain in his eyes when she had told Superman she would love him even if he had no powers at all. How could she have done that to him? No wonder he had taken back his declaration of love. Maybe he had secretly wanted to get away from her and Clark Kent's death was the best way to do it. No, it wasn't that. Lois knew that for sure. He had managed to come back and to make it plausible. She wanted so badly to go back there, to wrap her arms around his neck and tell him that it was OK, that she forgave him, but anger and her pride prevented it.
She hated herself for feeling sympathy towards him. She deserved her anger; she needed her anger. In the past it had kept her strong, kept her from getting knocked down. He had slipped past her defences though, and she was helpless to fight it. Somehow he had gotten past all the barriers and straight to her heart, far deeper than Claude or anyone else had ever gotten.
Looking around at the darkened department store, Lois felt a numb emptiness engulf her. She had thought there was one person in the world she could trust. And he turned out to be the biggest fraud of all. She just wanted to go home and curl up on the sofa with some ice cream with more chocolate in it than the human body could handle, and sob. She wanted to burn all his pictures and curse his name. She wanted to run to him and have him hold her the way he had earlier, and she didn't know which urge was most prominent.
But she did need to get out of here and only Clark could accomplish that. Drawing a deep breath, she headed back to the office she had left Clark in and opened the door.
She found him sitting at the desk in the room, staring blankly at the wall in front of him. She wondered briefly if he was looking through it or just staring at it. His head snapped up to look at her, but he said nothing.
"I take it asking Superman to help get us out of here is no longer out of the question?" She spoke softly and calmly, hoping that her voice did not betray the swirl of emotions raging through her. Clark stood up.
"You want to go home, Lois?"
"There's no reason for us to stay here until morning," she said matter-of-factly. "That excuse is gone. Can you just open the doors, please?"
"We'll have to leave money here for the things we've used," Clark reminded her.
Lois glared at him. "I've already done that, Clark," she said tonelessly. "Can we go?"
Clark nodded and looked up at the security cameras, zapping them all for good measure as they left the department store.
Lois knew that the employees of the store would find it quite the mystery that things were missing from the store, taken in the night and yet paid for with no evidence to suggest who had been in there. She felt somewhat relieved for not having to explain themselves, and yet at the same time, felt vaguely guilty, for they would surely wonder what had happened. She shrugged off the feeling and followed Clark as he opened the doors, careful not to damage them in the process.
She got into her car without even offering to give him a ride. She knew now that he didn't need it, and didn't feel like spending any more time with him than was necessary.
"Lois…" Clark was attempting to speak to her again as she put the car into drive.
"No, Clark." She stopped him with her hand. "I just can't talk to you right now. I'm still too upset. Maybe later, but not now."
Clark nodded soundlessly and watched her drive away.
Clark watched as Lois entered the Daily Planet newsroom and, without looking his way, headed to the coffee machine. It had been two days since she had found out he was Superman and she hadn't spoken a word to him since. There had been no new breaks in the story they'd been working on, at least not on Clark's end. He suspected if Lois found anything out, she would inform him out of professional courtesy, but that was probably the best he'd get from her.
He wondered if it would be like this from now on. People in the newsroom were beginning to notice the freeze-out going on between the two of them. He had caught Perry giving them a disapproving look at their solo research efforts more than once. Would he assign them different partners if they couldn't get along? Or would he have them work individually? Would he have to fight Lois for every story he did? Would she revert to the Mad Dog Lane persona she had been hiding behind when he first met her? He hated to think that would happen.
They worked so well together. Their styles, though as different as night and day, complimented each other perfectly. Perry had said so on many occasions. Clark sighed and turned back to his computer.
He would regret the loss of their partnership if it came to that, but wouldn't be what he mourned the most. He was desperately afraid that he had lost everything now. She had told him she loved him. If that were true, than he had ruined their chance to be together with his deception. He couldn't blame her for it. She deserved her anger. He couldn't bear the thought of not talking to her every day, laughing with her, going out to movies, hell even arguing with her. She was a part of him in a way that nobody had ever been before. She was everything to him. How could he have been so stupid? He should have told her from the moment he met her.
Looking over, he saw her seated at her computer, typing. It looked like she had possibly found something out, as she was staring at the screen as if her life depended on it. Clark gave a soul weary sigh and turned back to his own computer. He wanted to go over there, to apologize to her, but knew that would be futile. She would talk to him when and if she was ready. If that happened, Clark was determined to get her friendship back somehow, even if it took the rest of his life to gain her trust again. He had given up hoping they would ever be together. The hurt likely went too deep for that. But friendship…well, he couldn't live without at least that.
He was startled from his thoughts by a soft beep on his screen. Clicking on the instant message bar at the bottom of it, a window popped up. It was from Lois.
<Clark, can you meet me at my apartment tonight? I think we should talk.>
<I'll be there, Lois,> he replied, typing almost at super speed. He risked a glance at where she sat, but she hadn't looked up. Despite that, he allowed himself a hopeful smile. She wanted to talk.
Talking meant she wanted to understand. He only hoped he didn't make as big a mess of things the second time around. He knew if he did, he wouldn't get another chance.
Lois nervously paced her apartment as she waited for Clark to arrive. She hadn't been able to concentrate on anything since finding out Clark's secret. She had tried to do research for their story, but it had been a lacklustre effort and the results had shown that. She had searched every part of her, trying to figure out if she could forgive his deception…if she could get past the pain he had caused her. She had gone from hating him to wanting to forgive him so many times she felt like she were an emotional yo-yo.
Eventually, she had been forced to ask herself one important question. As angry as she was—and she was still angry—did she want to lose him? Was she willing to forfeit his friendship and whatever else they may be to one another because of this? The answer was no.
It was funny how easily she could answer that question once she finally got around to asking it. Deep down, she knew she couldn't remain angry with him forever. He was far too important to her to just write off completely. Part of her hoped they could resume whatever it was they had started when he had kissed her in that store, but the realistic part told her that may not be possible. After the things she had said to him, he may no longer want a relationship. She couldn't believe she had treated Superman and Clark so differently, thinking back on it.
The doorbell ringing jarred her from her thoughts and Lois was shocked to realize how nervous she was. When she opened the door, she could see on his face that he was nervous too. That comforted her slightly.
He looked incredibly good, she noted as she ushered him inside. He had changed from his usual suit, into a simple black sweater and jeans. His dark hair fell softly on his forehead, and he wasn't wearing his glasses. The gesture was not lost on Lois. There were no secrets between them now. This was who Clark was and Lois must decide whether she could accept that or not.
"I…I wasn't sure you'd come." Her voice sounded hoarse and foreign to her ears.
"Of course I came, Lois," Clark said quietly. "I'd do anything to make things right between us."
"I want you to know I'm still angry at you, Clark," she told him firmly. The gentleness in his eyes was throwing her terribly off balance. She just wanted to pull him close and tell him that everything would be all right. "What you did was…well, let me ask you this. How would you have felt if the situation were reversed? If you thought I had been killed, then found out that I had faked it, even planned on staying 'dead' without telling you? If I had let you grieve for me, the way I grieved for you?"
"I'd be devastated," he whispered. "You are so incredibly important to me. If I ever thought something had happened to you… God, Lois, I am so sorry. What I did was completely unforgivable. If you feel even remotely as strongly for me as I do for you, I don't know how you could even bear to look at me right now."
"It's hard," she admitted with a weak smile. "But not for the reasons you think. Clark, when I found out the other night, I was angry. Like I said I still am. But that was no excuse to say the things I said to you. You're not the only one to be blamed here. I did some pretty unforgivable things, as well. I treated you like trash, and Superman like a God for the longest time. That must have been hard."
"You did nothing wrong," Clark insisted. "I created the other personality consciously. You saw him as a hero. Everybody did. I can't be angry that I couldn't compete with that."
"But you should be!" she exclaimed suddenly. "You have no idea how heroic you are. You, Clark, not Superman! You saved me in a way that he never could." She broke off, feeling tears threaten her. "You taught me how to fall in love. You saved me from being alone. You saved me from marrying Lex Luthor and making the biggest mistake of my life. The thought of you was what stopped me, did you know that?"
"I had no idea." Clark's voice was ragged with emotion.
"I wanted to tell you," she continued, her eyes bright. "I wanted desperately to tell you, but you told me you had lied about loving me. I didn't want to jeopardize our friendship. When I saw you shot, I…well it was like losing a part of myself. I thought I had any opportunity I would ever have to tell you how I felt."
"I've been so stupid," he murmured to himself.
Lois smiled. "Clark, I love you." Her voice was strong with the confidence she now felt being able to tell him her true feelings. "I love you more than I've ever thought myself capable. And I'm still angry, but that will pass. And I will love you when it does. You may be Superman, but you're not immortal, and I don't ever want to think that something might happen to you without you knowing the truth."
"What are you saying, Lois?" Clark asked her, unable to keep the naked hope from his eyes. "Are you saying you can forgive me?"
She stepped closer to him and looked into the depths of his warm chocolate eyes and felt nothing but completeness wash over her as she saw the love within them.
"I'm saying that I want you to kiss me," she whispered, a catch in her voice. "I dare you to kiss me. I need you to kiss me."
There was no hesitation on his part as his hand reached out to cup her chin and bring her to him. The moment his lips touched hers, Lois felt a tidal wave of emotion surge through her. This was what love felt like. It was terrifying, and at the same time, the safest she had ever felt. Electricity surged through her as she felt his mouth claim hers tentatively at first, and then so deeply she wasn't sure where he ended and she began.
She whimpered against him as she tasted salt and realized that she was crying. His arms wrapped around her so tightly she thought he'd never let go. She pressed herself against the solidness of his chest and ran her hands through his hair, wanting to experience every part of him. He was the most powerful being in the world, and yet at that moment, he was just as weak as she was.
Eventually, he broke the kiss and pulled her even tighter to him, stroking her hair and kissing her neck gently.
"I love you, Lois," he murmured. "And I swear to you that I will never again make you cry."
"Oh, I don't think you should do that," she said. Stepping back, she gave him a watery smile. "You probably will. And I'll probably make you furious when I do something stupid or reckless. But I want to do this, Clark. I love you. Whatever we have, I want it to go further. I want to be with you."
"I want that more than anything," he told her, his voice husky with emotion. "Maybe…maybe we can go flying together sometime."
"I would love to fly with you, Clark," she told him with a laugh. "It's all I've ever wanted to do."
Clark kissed her once more, leaving her breathless. When he pulled away, he smiled a strange smile.
"Just so you know, the answer to the question is 'you.'"
"What? What question?"
"The question you asked me before when we were playing basketball. The one I didn't answer." He looked at his shoes as Lois realized what he was talking about.
"The one you took my dare on," she finished for him. "I asked you who your first love was."
"You are," he said again. "You're my first love and you'll be my only love."
"I like this game," she whispered as she pulled him closer to kiss him once more.