By Sue S. <email@example.com>
Submitted: January 2007
Summary: Fifth in the author's "Proof" series. Sometimes the truth is right in front of you.
For Jojo — for the button, for the laughs, for telling me not to continue the series (how I love a challenge!) and for a happy (belated) birthday.
Allow me a moment to sing about my betas — alcyone, DJ and Yvonne. They all contributed in ways that I hope they'll recognize in the final draft. Many thanks, ladies!
When three out of three betas don't recognize a word, you would think I'd change it. I didn't. "Buss" is an archaic word for "kiss." Just so you know. <g>
Lois closed her eyes, tired of staring at the paperwork in front of her. She leaned back against Clark's couch, telling herself she was only going to rest for a couple of minutes and then she'd start reading again.
"Do you want me to call a cab for you?" Clark asked from the other end of the couch.
"No, thanks." She shook her head without opening her eyes. "I'm just resting for a minute."
He didn't reply, but she could hear the shuffle of papers as he continued to read. He always read faster than her, a fact that continued to irk her. He had to be cheating, but she had yet to find a single thing he had missed when speed-reading. The paper sound stopped and she heard him take a sip of soda. That was followed by the soft clunk as he set the can back down. She cracked one eye open in time to see him absent-mindedly lick his lips.
'One week ago tonight,' she reminded herself. 'It was one week ago tonight that you kissed him.' It was hardly a kiss, really. It had been just a swift congratulatory buss after dancing with him. She opened her eyes again to watch his lips. Her eye caught and held on the small freckle at the corner of his mouth, then wandered to the spot on his cheek that turned into a dimple when he smiled.
How many times this week had she done this? Certainly more than she really wanted to admit to herself. Several times a day she had sat at her desk and taken surreptitious looks at him — the broad span of his shoulders, the sure grace of his hands, but she had always been drawn back to his mouth. What would he taste like? She couldn't remember — didn't think she had even paid attention — the first couple of times she had kissed him. But those weren't real kisses — they were only improvised to save their lives or to maintain a ruse.
That was an entirely different thing from kissing him deliberately. She had promised herself last week that she would do so — but she hadn't given herself a deadline. 'Tonight,' she thought. 'What about tonight?' She tried, but she couldn't think of a good reason to do it. And she had to have a good reason. Otherwise she would be kissing him solely to satisfy her curiosity.
It had to happen soon, that much she knew. She had finally admitted to herself on the night he won the Kerth that she had spent the last year falling in love with him. Months and months of gradually increasing acquaintance had changed him in her eyes from a hayseed to a valued friend. More than a friend, she hoped. Much, much more than a friend.
Lois sighed and opened her eyes, leaning forward to take up the research she had been reading.
Clark heard her sigh and said, "You don't have to stay, you know. I don't mind reading through the rest of this."
"I know," she muttered. He was right. She should go home — preferably before she did anything stupid. She stood up, telling herself she only needed to walk around for a minute and then she'd be able to concentrate on the story again and not on him. She walked over to his fridge and opened it, looking inside for another cream soda.
"I think I have the last one," he called out.
"What?" She shut the fridge and turned to look at him. "The last what?"
He held up the soda can and gave her an apologetic smile. "I think I took the last one."
Lois blew out a sigh and shrugged. "Oh, well. It doesn't matter." She looked at the bookshelves behind him and then at the end table next to him. It wasn't there. Come to think of it, she hadn't seen his Kerth since last week. What had he done with it? Surely he didn't really believe her when she said she kept hers in the bottom of her closet.
"Where's your Kerth?" she asked.
Clark, still trying to concentrate on the papers before him, replied to her question without thinking. "In there," he said as he tilted his head in the direction of his bedroom but didn't look up.
Then his heart stuttered and his eyes went wide. He should stand up. He should call out to her. He should stop her. He waited instead, his head cocked in the direction of his bedroom, and listened intently as she stopped in front of his curio cabinet.
Then…nothing. Absolute silence. His heart seemed to slow down and he felt his entire body turn cold with panic. Had she seen it? Did she recognize it? Did she know what it meant?
Lois stopped in front of the cabinet in his bedroom. There it was, given a place of pride front and center on the top shelf. She glanced over the other items in the case — a small wooden chest, a football, a few awards and ribbons — before her eyes were drawn back to the Kerth. There was something behind it. Through the award she could see a yellowish-brown blur. Curious, she moved the award to reveal a long-stemmed rose. It had been white but was now yellowed from having dried out.
What an odd thing for Clark to have, she thought. Where did he get it? Why did he keep it? It must have some kind of significance if he was keeping it here. These thoughts had flashed through her mind and then her brow furrowed.
"What's this?" Superman asked, taking the rose from her.
"It's a rose." Lois grinned, using all her willpower not to add the word "silly" at the end.
"What's this for?" he clarified with half a laugh in his voice.
She gave him a shy smile. "Do I have to have a reason?"
Their eyes had met and then he looked away, back at the rose in his hand. Feeling bold, she had leaned closer and kissed his cheek.
Their eyes met again and he looked like he wanted to say something but settled for, "No, I guess not." ***
What was it her journalism teacher in high school had drilled into their heads? Always go for the simplest explanation. Clark had the rose because she had given it to him. She stared blindly at the name on his Kerth award. Clark Kent. That was what had bothered her last week. The sound of his name was so close to the name that Superman had given her. Clark Kent. Kal-El. Clark. Kal. One and the same.
That was the simplest explanation.
What had he said? Her mind raced, recalling his words easily since she had replayed and examined them in her head over and over again. He had said that he was in love with someone and she didn't know he was Superman. That he couldn't tell her because she'd be angry. That she was his best friend. That he would dance with her the next time he saw her at a social function. All those conversations with Superman — and it had been Clark.
She heard his footsteps behind her but she didn't turn around. Her eyes caught and held on his hazy reflection in the Kerth award. She thought of everything else he had told her. That things were complicated between them. That he was afraid she would never understand. That the truth would hurt her. That he wanted her to notice him for who he was and not for Superman.
The simplest explanation was always best.
"You should tell her," she finally whispered. "Just take a chance and tell her the truth."
He took a deep breath, his heartbeat pounding in his ears. "Lois, it's me. Kal-El."
She closed her eyes, reaching out to steady herself against the cabinet. She had known she was right — knew it the same way she knew when a story was about to break. For a moment she wavered on the brink of being really, truly angry. Angry with him for lying, but mostly angry with herself for being so completely blind. In the end, it was the need to prove him wrong that stopped her. Just as quickly her emotions turned to hurt — not that he had lied, but that he had misjudged her as much as she had misjudged him.
Clark didn't dare move. He stood tense, ready for the moment she would whirl around and start hurling the accusations. But she didn't move either. She just stood there, absolutely still.
When she finally spoke she couldn't hide the hurt in her voice. "Did you really think I would be angry?"
"Yes," he admitted softly.
"I thought you were in love with a moron." She nodded to herself. "I was right."
"I never thought you were a moron." He took one step closer, encouraged by the fact that she was being so calm.
The cabinet swam out of focus in front of her and she had to swallow to find her voice. "I was so jealous. Of *her*." She shook her head ruefully. "Tell me that's not moronic." The words were tinged with bitterness.
Clark winced. He would have much rather she was upset with him than hurt. "I'm sorry. You should be angry with me."
"I don't want to be." She swallowed and blinked. "Am I really so scary that you thought you couldn't tell me?"
Clark hesitated. "No." That wasn't true; he couldn't lie to her anymore. "Yes." Then, quickly, he amended it to, "Sometimes."
She finally turned towards him but she couldn't bring herself to look at his face. It was too sudden, too intense, too crazy. She kept her eyes fixed on the dark cotton of his t-shirt. She could see the slow, even lift and fall of his chest as he breathed.
Her mind raced — he had kept his promise and danced with her. She had told him that she wanted Clark over Superman that night. At least she had done that much right. Had that been all he was waiting for? The thought struck her that maybe he had purposefully left the rose where she could find it.
"You said I was your best friend." Her gaze lifted to meet his.
"You said you were in love with…"
Clark took another step towards her. "I am," he said firmly. Whatever else she might think, he didn't want her to doubt his feelings for her.
"You didn't think I'd understand?" There was a little anger mixed in with the hurt now.
"That's the wrong way to say it. I was worried that you would think I had done all of it to deceive you."
"You did deceive me." The words were direct, but there was no anger in her voice.
"I deceived everyone. Can you understand why?"
Lois thought of Jason Trask, of Lex and of the media frenzy still surrounding Superman's true identity. She had always understood why Superman kept himself hidden. It was only that Clark hadn't told her sooner that hurt. She thought of all those times he had come by, all the hints he had dropped on his late-night visits. "Was it easier to have me figure it out, then? Easier than telling me?"
She studied him, trying to superimpose the suit and cape onto the man in front of her. "Take off your glasses."
He did, setting them down on the curio cabinet next to his Kerth. For several long seconds she only stared at him. Take a chance, she had told him. Clark decided to take her at her word. He held out his hand. "Will you fly with me?"
"Fly with you?" Somewhere it registered that this was for real. It wasn't some crazy dream. Clark really was Superman.
"Since that first time, when I flew you back to the Planet from EPRAD, I've wanted to take you flying, just for fun and not because I was rescuing you."
"Shouldn't you change first?"
He glanced down at his clothes, then over at the window. The blinds were shut. He looked at her again and found she was watching him intently, as if she thought he might just grow a third arm at any moment. Clark gave her a self-conscious smile and took a few steps back before he began to spin. When he stopped she was staring at him in open-mouthed astonishment.
"Wow," she finally choked out.
He held his hand out to her again. "Fly with me?"
She took his hand and her mind reeled. Clark! Oh my god, this was Clark!
He led her outside onto the patio and turned to stand in front of her. He let go of her hand to put his hands at her waist. She looked up at him, still dazed by the thought that it was Clark wearing the familiar red and blue.
"You don't have to hold onto me," he said with a shy smile, "but I wish you would."
"Oh, right." She raised her arms and put them around his neck.
His hands tightened on her waist and then he asked, "Ready?"
She nodded and took a deep breath. "Yeah."
There was the slightest of jolts and she realized that her feet were now dangling. They were a few feet above his patio and rising fast. Her arms tightened around his neck reflexively. She didn't believe for a moment that he would drop her. It was just so surreal to be flying — with Clark. Her head tilted forward to tentatively rest against his shoulder. His right hand slid from her waist to the small of her back. With her eyes closed, it was almost like when she had danced with him last week. She nuzzled into the space between his chin and his shoulder, inhaling the clean, familiar scent of him.
"Are you cold?" he asked.
"Maybe a little," she admitted.
He wrapped his cape around her, one side at a time, and then held her solidly against him. "Just tell me if you're getting too cold and we'll go back."
She looked down, delighted by the sea of lights beneath them. Metropolis seemed to stretch on forever and she was as dazzled by the sight as she was by the knowledge of who was showing it to her.
"Do you do this a lot? Come up here and look at the lights? I know I would, if I could fly."
"I come up here when I need to think."
"Do you need to think tonight?"
"No," he said after a few moments of silence. "Tonight I just want to be with you."
Lois looked into his eyes and wished she could be caught forever in this moment. One of his arms stayed securely around her while his other hand touched her face. He lifted her chin, bringing her mouth to his. She closed her eyes in anticipation.
She felt the whisper of his breath first and then the touch of his mouth against her barely parted lips. His lips moved, settling over her upper lip. His broad hand slipped to the back of her head, holding her in place for the first airy touch of his tongue against her lip. Then his head tilted, a coaxing motion that persuaded her mouth to open. His tongue slid against hers and she could taste something faintly sweet. She tried to place it — was it the cream soda he had been drinking? His open mouth leaned down on hers, his tongue becoming more demanding in its slow search of her. The weight of his kiss tilted her head back into his palm.
Dizzy, my god, she was so dizzy now. It was too much, floating with him like this where he was the only solid thing in the world. It was too much and yet, somehow, it wasn't nearly enough.
"Clark," she murmured. She instantly regretted breaking the kiss, but she had to stop kissing him sometime. "Clark," she tried again, finding her voice at last. "Please take me back now."
His eyes were dark and serious and she cursed herself again for pulling away. Only temporarily, she told herself. She couldn't kiss him again until she could feel more in control of the situation. He shifted, his body moving fractionally away from hers, and she realized he was taking this the wrong way. He thought she was stopping them when the truth was they were only getting started.
As her feet touched onto the patio she tilted her head back to look closely at him. "You told me that if anyone could seduce Superman, it would be me."
"Did I?" He looked both amused and hopeful at the same time.
She reached up to touch his face, letting her thumb glide across that full lower lip that had been distracting her for days, weeks, months. "Prove it."