By LaraMoon <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: June 2007
Summary: Find out what happens when Lois and Clark find themselves stuck in a cabin in the mountains during a snow storm…
As per request — and I got plenty of 'em, which really blew my mind — this is a PG-13 version of an nfic. This story can easily stand on its own without any naughty, but for those of you who are so inclined, just know that the original version is out there, somewhere. (Like Fox Mulder's truth. LOL!)
I set this in S2, during The Eyes Have It, except that for the purpose of this story, let's pretend it was the middle of winter then. Also, there's no A-Plot in this. No one is going blind, no one is getting kidnapped, there's nothing of the sort here. Hopefully, you can all live with that. <g>
Eternal Thank You's:
- To Sue for giving me the idea for this and nagging me about it for weeks — if she hadn't kept encouraging me to write this, I'm pretty sure I would have thrown it away a long time ago. For the pep talks along the way, the real nice little lines of text that I could use (*yay*) and for looking over each new part of the story and helping me see where I'd messed up.
- To Jessi for always being there when I need her. (How and why she puts up with my whining is still a mystery! *lol*) Thanks for brainstorming with me, answering half a million seriously odd questions, putting to rest all my silly insecurities about this whole thing and helping me fill in a few blanks (i.e.: the neck rub) with some seriously amazing bits of text!
- To Sara, Rach and Cat, for the enormous amounts of encouragement they gave me while I wrote parts of this story. As well as keeping me company through MSN when I was sad and lonely — and for the laughs, because I needed them badly!
- To DJ and Caroline for their precious help, BR'ing parts of the story.
- To Barbara for showing me the errors of my ways and forcing me to make a change that has definitely improved this story.
And to everyone who's left feedback on the boards. There's no way I could possibly thank you enough for taking the time, not only to read this story, but to let me know what you think of it. There would be no point in writing it if you weren't there to enjoy it!
Clark got back to the Planet after most everyone else had already left. He had spent the bulk of that day by himself, chasing after sources and — sadly enough — was coming back with little to nothing that could be of use. Even Lois had left the newsroom by the time he finally made it back there and being that it was Friday night, that meant he wouldn't see her again until Monday.
Lois had told him, earlier in the week, that she had plans for the weekend. She hadn't told him what they were, simply that she had them. His heart sank as he recalled a couple of phone calls she'd had with a man named Ryan. Clark didn't know for sure what it was about, but from the tiny bits of conversation that he'd been unable to avoid overhearing, it sounded as though she was meeting him somewhere this weekend and that she was very excited about it.
Worse yet, he hadn't been able to get himself out of Mayson's invitation to spend the weekend up in the mountains with her. In fact, he fully expected she would show up in the newsroom to pick him up within the next few minutes.
Clark sighed dejectedly. To say that things weren't working out well for him would have been a huge understatement. This was an absolute disaster. And it was all his own fault, too! If he'd been just a little more decisive, then the woman he was in love with wouldn't be off on a romantic getaway with Ryan Something-Or-Other. And if he'd just been able to break it to her gently, then he wouldn't be stuck having to spend a weekend with a woman who was clearly in love with him, but whom he really didn't have the same sort of feelings for.
It was a wonder Clark Kent could pull off the Superman routine so well, he thought, seeing as though he felt so completely unable to stand up for himself when it came to his personal life.
As he reached his desk, Clark noticed a message that had been left there for him. For a second, he hoped that Mayson had changed her mind and called to cancel, but that wasn't it. It was a note from Lois asking if he could call her as soon as possible. He glanced at the clock. 6:32 PM. She was probably already gone for her weekend escapade with this Ryan person, he thought, but the least he could do was call back and leave a message anyway.
He picked up the phone and dialed Lois's number. Maybe he could try her cell phone afterwards, he thought. She would probably expect him to. After all, he wasn't supposed to have overheard her phone conversations. As he heard the first ring, Clark started thinking of what he would leave for a message. He was taken completely by surprise when Lois picked up instead of the answering machine he was certain he'd be talking to.
"Lois? Hi. You wanted me to call you back?" he said, hoping to hide the surprise in his voice.
"Clark! Oh, good! I was about to call you at home," she told him. "You know, in case you hadn't gone back to the Planet. Anyway… um… I need to ask you a favor."
He smiled, hoping this meant he'd see her tonight after all. Hoping for a second chance. And if by some miracle he was given that second chance, he wasn't going to spoil it — he wasn't going to just stand there and wait, like last time. Wait until things had progressed so far that she was seconds away from marrying the man. Not this time. He'd own up to the fact that he was still hopelessly in love with her; he'd even come clean about his being Superman right then and there, if need be. He was not going to let her walk out of his life.
"Ask away," he offered, the smile still very much apparent in his voice.
"You didn't have any plans this weekend, did you?" Lois inquired, her tone a little hesitant.
"Actually, I did…" he started, but she cut him off immediately.
"Oh." She sounded suddenly very disheartened.
Clark immediately wished he had phrased his answer differently. He had plans, sure, but they were plans that he very much wanted to get out of! He wondered for a moment what sort of favor she needed that would require him to be free all weekend. Realistically, it probably had something to do with watering plants or coming over to park her Jeep on the other side of the street so as to avoid getting a parking ticket.
"No, wait. Lois? I did have plans, but… Honestly? I've been looking for a reason to cancel them all day," he explained, looking towards the elevator to make sure Mayson hadn't just walked into the newsroom. Clark was very much relieved to see that she had not.
"Really? You're sure?" Lois asked, hopeful.
"Absolutely," he confirmed, all the while thinking that he would do absolutely anything for a good reason to stay in Metropolis this weekend. "What is it that you need exactly?"
"I… uh… well, this is the thing… I've just inherited a cottage," Lois rushed to answer. The rest of her explanation came out so fast that it all sounded like one very long sentence. "From an elderly lady who passed away last week. I guess she had no other family, I'm not sure. Anyway, she's left me this cottage up north — something to do with that piece I did that brought down a telemarketing scheme. Remember that? Anyway… there's no way I'm ever going to start spending weekends or vacations up there, so I decided I'd be better off selling it. But I need to see it and, you know, clean it up before the real-estate agent comes by on Sunday. So, will you help me?"
Relief flooded through Clark's veins. He couldn't have been happier if the world had suddenly stopped needing Superman. The real-estate agent. Ryan Whoever was the real-estate agent! He didn't need a second chance — he still had his first one intact. And he wasn't going to let it go to waste.
"A cottage? Sure, I'll give you a hand," he told her.
"You will?" She sounded so very surprised now that Clark couldn't help but chuckle.
"Yeah," he said in a soft, but convinced tone.
"Oh, Clark, thank you! You're such a great friend to have around."
He winced a little at the word… Friend. That wasn't exactly what he wanted to be to her. Even a best friend status wasn't nearly enough. But it would have to do for now, he reasoned. He'd have an entire weekend to state his case, anyway. And he would. By the time this weekend was over, he would know once and for all if there was any chance at all that Lois might ever see him as more than someone to come running to when she needed an ear to bend or a problem fixed. He shuddered at the realization that she just might reject him a second time, but he pushed the thought as far away as he could. This wasn't the same Lois who had almost married Lex Luthor, less than a year ago. They had grown a lot closer since then and he'd had plenty of opportunities to see that she cared about him more than she had back then. There was still a chance, he told himself, and he was going to make very good use of it.
After making quick travel plans with Lois, Clark hung up and started thinking about what he was going to tell Mayson. He obviously wouldn't be able to tell her the whole truth — she wouldn't understand that he was turning her down in favor of some silly spring-cleaning. Especially not considering that he'd said yes to the spring-cleaning thing *after* he'd agreed to spend the weekend with Mayson. Truth be told, he hadn't exactly agreed to it anyway — he'd been interrupted mid-answer and hadn't been able to finish his thought, letting her believe that he had agreed. And no matter how much he had wanted to talk to her afterwards and let her know that it was just a misunderstanding, he hadn't been able to find the words or the right moment to do it.
He sighed and picked up the phone again. Clark knew that he'd have to serve her some lame half-truth, but then, he was starting to get used to doing that. A lot. He'd find a way… He always did. He dialed Mayson's cell phone number, closed his eyes and prayed for inspiration.
Several long minutes later, Clark left the Daily Planet. He was annoyed with himself for the obvious hurt that he'd just caused Mayson, but nevertheless in much better spirits than he'd been in when he'd arrived in the newsroom. He could have made it home in less than two seconds flat, but opted to walk there instead, hoping that this would help clear his mind and make him feel less guilty about what he'd just done.
"So, anyway, what's this about you inheriting a cottage?" he asked, once Lois arrived at his place.
"Didn't I tell you?" she wondered. She was sure she had, but then she couldn't remember the specifics of the conversation she'd had with him earlier. She'd pretty much lost track of the discussion after he'd agreed to help her out. The prospect of spending a weekend in such close proximity to him had her both jittery and excited.
Lois wasn't anywhere near ready to admit it to anyone — much less to Clark himself — and as much as it made her feel weak and strangely inadequate, she knew that the reason she resented Mayson Drake so much was because she was jealous of the attention she got from Clark. And it wasn't anything professional, either. She'd seen him kiss her, she'd seen them exchange pleasantries. And she hated it. She hated it, not because she was afraid of losing her best friend once he settled into a relationship with a woman; not because she felt that, as his partner, she deserved all of his attention. No. She hated it because it should have been her instead of Mayson. It should have been her he was kissing and exchanging pleasantries with. It should have been *her*.
She had finally accepted the fact that she had feelings for him — she'd fought them long and hard enough to be able to recognize them for what they were. And now she was *this close* to losing him to the likes of Mayson Drake. Well, that was completely unacceptable! There was no way she was going to let anyone waltz in and steal him away without at least finding out if there was any chance that she, herself, might have a future with Clark. This weekend would be a perfect opportunity to figure things out. Just him and her, alone in the middle of nowhere, with no distractions. No running away to return a forgotten video, no missed appointments, no excuses.
"You know, it's the darndest thing," she finally explained. "This little old lady — who I don't even think I've ever met — dies and the next thing I know I get a call from a notary who tells me I now own a cottage in the mountains. According to her will, she's leaving it to me as a thank you for exposing a ring of fraudulent telemarketers last year. She was swindled out of a certain amount of money which she recovered after the article ran." She shrugged. "You ready to go? It's a long drive, we should really get going."
She wondered how much work they'd actually have to do once they got there. Hopefully, not a lot. Half an hour of dusting and sweeping and — voila…! — The cottage would be ready to be sold. And then, they could spend the rest of the weekend… exchanging pleasantries. Like perhaps making out on the sofa, a little voice in the back of her head yelled out. Lois blushed slightly and quickly tried to push the thought away for now.
Lois had been driving for over an hour now and it was starting to snow heavily. She was having more and more trouble seeing the road with every new mile and her shoulders and arms were starting to hurt from holding on to the steering wheel so tightly.
"We should stop and get some food and things," she suggested. "I wouldn't mind stretching my legs a little bit, either. You?"
"Sounds like a good idea," Clark answered. He could tell she was having a hard time driving in this weather, but he knew she would probably not admit to it. Perhaps once they stopped he might be able to convince her to let him drive the rest of the way there.
Just then, Lois saw a sign on the side of the road which indicated that New Paltz was just a few miles away. With a sigh of relief, she took the first exit that led into town and a few minutes later, parked her Jeep in front of the first grocery store she saw.
"Clark? Uh, I should have told you before, but…" Lois said, as they got inside the store. "There's something else you're going to have to do, this weekend."
"Mmm… Let me guess," he replied, cocking his head to the side as he looked in her direction. "You only know how to make four things, three of which have chocolate in them. Is that it?"
"Something like that," she conceded. Lois was somewhat embarrassed to have to admit that cooking wasn't one of the things she would win awards for. It was ridiculous, of course, since Clark already knew, but somehow it made her feel very inadequate. As if she was no longer allowed to show any flaws. It had never really seemed useful or important to impress him in the past, but it did now. Very much so.
"What would you do without me, huh?" he asked, with a teasing grin.
"Order pizza?" she answered, shrugging.
He shook his head, laughing, and for the briefest of seconds, Lois almost considered giving him an actual honest answer. The truth was that she'd be more than a little lost without him. She couldn't even begin to imagine what it would be like to go through the rest of her life if he wasn't a part of it. She didn't want to have to imagine it, either. Selfishly, she wanted Clark to be with her, always. If she could just stop being so scared of ruining things by taking their relationship a step forward, then maybe, she mused, *maybe* she'd never have to find out.
Half an hour of picking out food items and arguing over the nutritional value of various snacks later, they made it out of the store with enough to feed a small army. Lois couldn't believe that Clark had actually convinced her to buy all these things. Of course, he apparently possessed a bottomless pit in lieu of a stomach, but it still seemed way too much for a weekend and two people.
Lois waited as Clark placed the supplies in the back of the Jeep. A small sound of annoyance escaped her lips as she tilted her head from side to side, unsuccessfully trying to work a crick out of her neck.
"Are you all right?" he asked, a frown of concern creasing his brow.
"Hm? Oh, yeah," she assured him before closing the trunk and moving over to the driver-side door. "Just a little stiff from driving."
"C'mere," he said softly as he moved behind her and raised his hands, kneading his fingertips gently into the sides of her neck.
His thumbs worked up to the sensitive spots right below her ears, then downward, lingering over every knot until it relaxed under his touch. He knew the exact amount of pressure to use as his fingers danced in slow circles, soothing her aching muscles. As if by magic, all of the tension began to drain from her body.
"Is this something you learned from your Nigerian Princess?" she enquired.
"She wasn't exactly mine, you know." He chuckled. "And she only taught me how to dance. This… is all me. It's one of my many hidden talents."
The moan of approval she gave caught right at the base of his spine and he had to suppress a shiver.
"Oh… this feels so good," she said, dreamily.
Lois swayed slightly on her feet, and, resting back against the solid expanse of his chest, wondered idly what other kinds of magic his hands could work. His breath hitched as she leaned against him and he marveled at the idea that something as simple as a neck rub could be the Man of Steel's final undoing. Unlike Kryptonite, there was no recovering from Lois Lane.
"I just might ask for more of this, you know," she told him, semi-seriously.
"You can ask for anything you like, Lois," he whispered in her ear.
Clark's words and the tickling of his breath on her cheek caused a wave of pleasant dizziness to wash over her. Anything, he'd said. And it occurred to her that these weren't the words of a friend. Friends did not promise each other *anything*. Not in a breathless whisper. *Anything* was something a man promised a woman. Could it be that, even though he'd taken it all back that morning in front of the Planet, could it be that he'd really had feelings for her all along? Her heart sang at the thought. Maybe they'd just both been waiting for the other one to make the first move? Well, there were ways of finding out how far Clark's *anything* could stretch, she thought.
Slowly, Lois turned to face him and peered into his eyes. Biting her lower lip slightly, she looked at his for a second before looking back up again. *Kiss me*, her eyes begged him silently. He seemed to move towards her hesitantly. She gave him an encouraging smile. *Please kiss me*, she thought as hard as she could, as if hoping he would read her mind. Anticipation now flowing through her veins, she held her breath and reached up closer to him, standing on the tip of her toes. Her lips parted ever so slightly, in expectation of the kiss she now so desperately longed for.
Instinctively, he closed his eyes and the distance between them. The world started dissolving the instant his lips brushed against hers. Clark's last rational thought was quickly dispelled as he felt the silky touch of her tongue on his bottom lip. Immediately, they were caught in a delirious whirlwind of emotions and sensations. Bodies fused together in a tight embrace; tongues dancing and curling around one another; hands running madly along shoulders, backs and hips; heartbeats becoming ever more erratic with each new vocal expression of pleasure.
The kiss ended as suddenly and unexpectedly as it had begun, Lois having taken a step back, almost gasping for air. She looked up at Clark, her deep brown eyes sparkling like the ocean in the moonlight and the snowflakes in her hair shimmering like as many stars in the night sky.
"Can I ask a favor?" she said, sweetly.
A million different answers came to his mind. <Anything.> <Everything.> <There's nothing I wouldn't do for you.> <I would give you the world.> But when he opened his mouth to speak, the only thing that came out was "Yeah," in a ragged whisper.
"Would you drive the rest of the way?" she asked, a wide smile gracing her beautiful face. She held up the keys to the Jeep and dropped them in the open hand he had extended towards her in answer.
Clark got behind the wheel and took a quick look at the driving directions Lois had given him. They were so detailed that he had to make a real effort not to laugh as he read them. While he would have been just fine with an X on a map and the address of the place, Lois was apparently so afraid to get lost that she had written down every single turn and the exact distance to travel between each one. She even had a list of significant landmarks that were visible along the way, presumably to make sure she could verify that she hadn't taken a wrong turn somewhere. As if taking a wrong turn was even possible, with directions this precise!
As they got back on the main road, Lois realized it was a good thing that she didn't have to drive anymore. Big clumps of fluffy white snow drifted lazily to the ground, creating what seemed like curtains all around them and beyond which they could barely see. She wasn't used to driving in this sort of weather at all. When a snow storm hit Metropolis, she'd either take cabs or just stay home. Not that they really ever got storms in Metropolis anyway. Clark, on the other hand, seemed to be perfectly comfortable driving through the snow. They'd make it to their destination safely, she knew.
With that thought, Lois started relaxing in her seat. The tension and the stress from driving had taken their toll on her and very soon, fatigue and drowsiness started to take over her.
"Thank you," she said, stifling a yawn as she laid her head on the headrest and closed her eyes. Just for a second, she thought.
"You could have let me take over a while ago, you know," Clark replied.
"No, I mean… for coming along," she explained, sleepily. "And for being there when I need you."
He extended his arm and gently took her hand in his. "I'll always be there for you, Lois."
She mumbled something that Clark couldn't quite make out as she squeezed his hand slightly. A second later, she was fast asleep. He stroked the back of her hand with his thumb then brought his hand back on the steering wheel.
"Always," he whispered.
Several miles and two inches of snow later, they had arrived at the entrance of the private road that lead up to the cottage. Clark had been glad to take the wheel, earlier, but he was downright relieved that Lois had decided to let him drive, now. The road hadn't been cleared — it was a private road, which meant it fell on the owner to open it — and there were over three inches of snow on the ground, perhaps even more because of the wind.
Clark knew right away that driving from there to the house would be a challenge. If he had been alone, it wouldn't have been a problem. He probably wouldn't have been driving, anyway. But now… there was no way he could drive and use his heat vision at the same time, so he'd have to drive through the snow. Oh, he could have parked the Jeep and then cleared the road in a couple quick glances, but Lois would surely have woken up and, obviously, there was no way he could do anything "super" with her observing him.
Luckily, Clark not only had super fast reflexes, he could also count on the fact that Lois's Jeep had both anti-lock breaks and four-wheel drive systems. It would take him a while to travel the distance to the cottage, which he estimated to be around a thousand feet away, but he knew they'd be perfectly safe getting there.
<Strong hands on her shoulders. Soft kisses along the side of her neck. Breathless whispers in the night.>
<Anything you like, Lois. You can ask for anything you like. Anything…>
<Just hold me, Clark. Hold me close. Hold me and never let go.>
<Anything, Lois… Always.>
After what seemed like forever, especially to a man who could move as fast as the speed of light, Clark finally parked the Jeep in front of the house. He turned to Lois and gently shook her awake.
"We're here," he said softly.
Lois opened her eyes slowly. She blushed as she realized she'd just been dreaming about Clark. The pleasant feeling died quickly, however, as Lois looked out the window. She rubbed her eyes, somewhat confused by what she was seeing. It was snowing heavily, but the shape of the building in front of her was nothing like it was supposed to be. She had expected it to be a much larger house. Not a tiny little cabin like this was!
"No, no, no. That can't be it. You took a wrong turn somewhere," she said, accusingly.
Clark raised an eyebrow. How could he possibly have taken a wrong turn? Lois's directions were so precise that it was unimaginable that anyone would ever get lost following them. "Nope," he replied. "I followed the directions exactly the way you'd written them. This," — he gestured towards the cabin — "is it."
"But… it's not possible!" she barked.
Clark cringed a little. Somehow, about an hour ago, Lois Lane had fallen asleep and while he was busy concentrating on the road, she had been replaced by her evil twin — Mad Dog.
Completely ignoring his reaction, Lois continued her tirade. "It's supposed to be, oh, I'd say at least twice as big as this. And it's not supposed to be so run down and awful! Are you sure you didn't take a wrong turn, Clark?" She grabbed the paper he was handing her and glanced at it, knowing she wouldn't find the answer there anyway.
"Absolutely positive," he told her. "If you try the key in the front door, I'm convinced it'll open."
Lois stepped out of the Jeep carefully and took a few steps closer to the cabin. It looked as small and dingy from up close as it had a minute before. Maybe he'd followed the directions properly, but the directions themselves were wrong? She doubted it. She had double-checked them carefully, afraid that they'd get lost on the way and never be able to make it back to civilization afterwards. She kept on walking until she reached the entrance and noticed a row of big pewter numbers screwed on the side of the door: five hundred seventy nine. Looking at the piece of paper she held clutched in her hand, she saw that the address was right. They were *exactly* where they were supposed to be. The cottage, however, was *nothing* like she had expected it to be.
"I thought it would be more like an actual house," she said, pitifully, as Clark joined her at the front door. "It's awful!" She sighed.
"Does it matter?" he asked. Lois turned to face him, a shocked expression on her face. Of course it mattered! Clark quickly rephrased his question. "If you're planning on selling it, does it really matter if you like the way it looks or not?"
"Well, yeah!" She pouted. "We were supposed to get here and find this really nice place that I'd at least feel a *little* sorry to have to sell. This… How am I even going to be able to sell this? Who in their right mind would ever want to own such a place?"
"Well, who says the inside isn't great?" he offered. "First impressions can be deceiving, you know." And Clark was definitely an expert on that! Who would have thought, looking at this mild-mannered reporter, that underneath the nicely cut suit and colorful tie he wore was hiding someone as remarkable as Superman?
He peered through the wall quickly and unfortunately realized that the cabin was just as dingy and run down inside as out. Unlike his own, this ordinary exterior did not arbor a truly exceptional interior. Lois was going to be very disappointed, he knew.
"Come on," Clark suggested after a moment, "let's go inside. We're turning into snowmen out here."
Lois gave him a weak smile and nodded. She inserted the key inside the lock on the doorknob and gave it a turn. There was a metallic click, followed by the creaking of the hinges as she opened the door. Lois popped her head inside and looked, but there wasn't enough light to see much of anything, so she gave the door a small kick to swing it completely open and stepped inside.
As her eyes got accustomed to the darkness, she was able to make out some of her surroundings. She seemed to be standing in one very big room and from the looks of it, this was quite possibly all there was to the place. One big room. Like a loft. It was even worse than she thought!
Clark ran his hand on each side of the door, looking for the light switch. After a moment, he finally managed to find one and flicked it on. As he got a sense of what the cabin looked like exactly, he immediately knew how frustrated Lois was going to be. He shut the door behind himself and waited for the storm to hit — the one Lois was likely to create. But the skies remained clear… for now, anyway. Perhaps Lois was too tired to be frustrated, he told himself.
"It was supposed to be a nice big cottage," she complained, letting her head drop in defeat. Suddenly, Lois desperately wanted to forget about this whole entire place and just go home again. But she couldn't very well suggest they just go back to Metropolis, could she? She knew that Clark would probably not even argue and he'd offer to drive them all the way back home, but she couldn't ask that of him. Two more hours driving in the storm? No, she'd just have to live with the fact that she owned a shack, that she'd never be able to sell it and that for the time being they were pretty much stuck here.
Clark moved in closer to her and ran his hands on her arms, comfortingly. "It's not that bad," he told her. "Once it's cleaned up, it'll look just fine. A fresh coat of paint can do wonders to a place."
She turned to face him and gave him an unconvinced smile. Lois was kicking herself for not having asked much details when she'd been told she had inherited a 'cottage'. She'd just figured that it would be a nice house. This, however, was the most incredibly kitsch-looking shack she'd ever set foot in.
"I'm sorry to have dragged you all the way up here," she whispered. "It wasn't supposed to be like this at all. I thought a bit of dusting would be enough. This…" She sighed dejectedly. "Clark, even if I brought in the team from 'This Old House' they couldn't fix it up so it looks nice. Not in a million years. It's a disaster!"
The expression in her eyes, a mix of regret and despair, made his heart constrict. He took her hand in his and pulled her in for a hug, which she gladly leaned into.
"Come on," he told her, soothingly as he gently stroked her hair, "it's going to be just fine. You'll see."
"There's, uh… there's only one bed," she said after a moment, pointing a hand in its direction.
Clark couldn't help but chuckle. "We can flip for it," he suggested, grinning, as he recalled the last time they'd had this conversation.
"It's a big bed," she said, giggling. "Maybe we can share." Just as she said it, it occurred to her that it probably wasn't the wisest thing she could have said. She moved away from him suddenly, her eyes wide and her cheeks flushed. "Um… I mean…"
"I know," Clark cut in, seeing how mortified Lois was, "I remember."
"How much more snow is expected?" she asked, changing the subject to a less dangerous one. "Do you know?"
"Last I heard, probably about fourteen inches in all."
Lois gasped in shock and ran over to the window. Fourteen inches of snow. No wonder the guy from the snow removal company had laughed when she had told him she didn't need their services anymore! He'd argued with her for a while, obviously thinking — knowing, even — that she was out of her mind, but she'd ended up telling him there was no need for his services and she had hung up abruptly. They'd be stuck here all winter, she thought. The Jeep would be buried and they'd never be able to get out of here. And it was all her fault!
"What?" Clark asked, slightly worried. What was so alarming about it, he wondered. Granted, fourteen inches was a lot of snow, but it wasn't as if this was a life-threatening situation or anything. "Lois? What's wrong?"
"We're stuck," she explained, throwing her hands in the air. "We'll be here until spring and then when they find us, we'll have died of starvation. This is the worst day of my life!"
"Don't you think you're overstating it just a little?" he offered, trying very hard not to laugh. Lois had a natural born tendency of exaggerating things to such a degree that he often had to exert enormous amounts of effort not to burst out laughing. Clark knew that laughing now would be a really very bad idea, though. Not when Lois was so distraught.
"No… No, Clark, I'm not." She turned to face him. Panic was obvious in her face and she was gesticulating madly as she spoke. "We're stuck here. There's no way we're ever going to be able to leave. There's what, about a thousand feet from here to the road? It's going to take forever to shovel all that snow!"
"Shovel it?" This time it was too much and Clark was unable to stop a chuckle.
Lois merely glared at him, blinking a couple of times as if he'd just uttered the most unbelievable thing in the world. Clark sobered up quite rapidly at the sight of his partner. Volcano-Lois was about to erupt, he realized. And if he wasn't careful, the lava flow would be fierce.
"Lois, people don't shovel their driveways in places like this. When they don't own one themselves, they hire someone with an industrial snowblower or a snowplow to open it up for them. It's a country thing," he explained.
"Yes, I know that's what people do around these parts, Clark! I'm not that naive!" she barked.
"Well then, where's the problem? Whoever usually removes the snow here will be by sometime tomorrow and it'll all be perfectly fine."
"No, they won't. There is no snow removal service!"
Lois's exasperated attitude and the bite in her words made it harder and harder for Clark to keep his cool. "What do you mean there isn't one? Someone has obviously opened up this road before, judging by the height of the snowbanks on the side of the road. And if the previous owner was an elderly lady, she definitely didn't take care of it herself."
"I cancelled the service, OK? I cancelled it. That's why. You know, for a reporter, one would think you'd be able to figure things out a lot quicker!" she threw at him.
This time it was Clark's turn to glare. "Lois, calm down," he said slowly once he had regained enough control over his emotions not to shout right back at her. "Yelling at me will not accomplish anything."
"Sorry," she mumbled, her cheeks reddening somewhat. She hadn't really meant to yell — or insult him, for that matter — but dealing with the fact that she was wrong had never been easy for Lois. Admitting that she'd made a horrible mistake was just too hard. Anger was simply a defense mechanism. And since there was no one else around, Clark had found himself the target of Lois's fury, much to his annoyance and her embarrassment.
"We can call them back in the morning and straighten things out," he suggested.
"No… we can't," she said, sheepishly. "My cell phone doesn't work. I'm not getting any signal out here."
He sighed. "Right… Well, that doesn't mean we have to be stuck here, anyway."
"Yes it does. How are we supposed to get out of here? I mean, unless you're planning on shoveling snow for the next *month*?" Lois's voice had started to reach into the higher octaves again. Apparently, this volcano erupted in multiple bursts.
"Not exactly what I had in mind, no."
"What then? Heat vision? Oh, wait — that's a power only Superman has. Of course you could contact him. I'm sure he'd be more than happy to drop everything and come rescue us from all this snow. Oh, but wait… no signal on my cell phone. Then again, we *could* scream. Help! Superman!" She threw her hands in the air.
"No need to shout for him," Clark said, feeling his blood starting to boil again. He was tired and he'd had just about enough of Lois's volatile temper for tonight. He was used to her flying off the handle every once in a while, but this was absolutely ridiculous. "In fact, I don't think there's any need for us to shout at each other, either."
"Guess not," she mumbled. "But we're still stuck."
He raised an eyebrow at her and sighed. "I'm going to have to get some firewood," he told her. Having looked around quickly, he had noticed that the only heating source was the fireplace but there was no firewood anywhere in sight.
Lois looked over to the fireplace. What else could go wrong, she wondered.
"I'm sorry," she told him, in a small voice. "I honestly didn't mean for you to have to work very much at all."
"It's all right, there's probably a cord of wood just outside. I'll be right back," he said, going outside.
Clark quickly went around the cabin, looking for any sort of firewood, but found none. Luckily he had a few abilities he could count on that would help resolve the situation in no time. However, as he headed off into the woods, his super hearing kicked in and he heard screams, sounds of cars crashing into one another and cries for help.
He rushed back inside the cabin. Lois was sitting on the couch, staring at the ceiling and wondering how a potentially nice weekend could possibly have turned into such a nightmare. She straightened as she heard him come back in. She hadn't expected he'd be done so fast and was disappointed to see that he wasn't carrying anything. She braced herself for more bad news.
"All I've found are some really big logs that need to be chopped into smaller ones. They're right around the back," he told her. "It's going to take me a little while, though." He was thankful to have a real excuse for once. Lying to her was becoming harder and harder.
"This is such a disaster!" she exclaimed, throwing her hands in the air.
"No it's not," he said reassuringly. "Everything's going to be fine. Just keep warm and I'll be back as soon as I can."
Leaving Lois alone in a cabin with no heat, when she was so distraught, made Clark feel just awful. But what else could he do? He couldn't ignore the fact that someone out there needed his assistance. Lois wasn't in any danger here, he knew. She could take care of herself for half an hour or so, while Superman was off being heroic. He'd be back before she even started to miss him, he was certain of it. And then he could cut down a tree, chop it into logs and dry the wood with his heat vision so it would make perfectly fine firewood. Everything would turn out OK in the end. He went around to the back of the cabin where he knew she wouldn't see him, spun into the Suit and flew off in the direction of the accident.
When he arrived at the scene, however, he realized that he'd have to be gone longer than half an hour. There was an overturned semi-trailer blocking the road, three crushed vehicles whose drivers had apparently not seen the truck at all and crashed right into it and about half a dozen cars that had skidded over the side of the road and right into a ditch. Not to mention that given the road condition and the visibility, there was a high probability that more drivers would get to this point in the road and not be able to stop in time to avoid the other vehicles.
Superman touched ground at the scene and proceeded to scan for injured parties. Some of these people needed immediate medical assistance, he realized. But the closest hospital that had any chance of being sufficiently equipped to deal with so many casualties was actually quite far away. He, himself, could get there in a matter of seconds, but taking people there would take longer — he couldn't fly as fast if he was bringing anyone along, or he'd end up causing them more harm than good.
The quickest way to get these people the help they needed, he thought, would be to just fly the vehicles over to the hospital, back in New Paltz. Luckily, some people were able to get themselves out of the cars that had veered off into the ditch. They started helping others out of their vehicles and so Superman was left to deal with just the most extreme cases of injuries.
One by one, Superman carefully flew the three crushed cars and then the driver of the semi-trailer to the hospital. Everyone else seemed to have been able to get out safely and no one appeared to be injured seriously. When he got back, the last time, Superman brought all the vehicles out of the ditch and made sure everyone could get back on the road safely.
Meanwhile, Lois was starting to worry. Clark had been gone for almost an hour. How long should it have taken to chop some wood, she wondered. Perhaps he was having a hard time? She knew that Clark wasn't all that strong, but she knew better than to go out and offer to help — he might take that the wrong way. Any normal man would. Except, he'd been gone for quite some time now and she was really starting to wonder if something had gone wrong. What if he'd hurt himself with the axe? The thought of Clark bleeding to death outside was just too much to bear and so Lois made her decision and she went outside to look for him.
The snow had practically covered over his footsteps, but she could still see that he'd gone around to the back. The trail seemed to lead into the woods, but then it disappeared. And there was no sign of Clark. Or of the big logs of wood that he'd mentioned. Had he made that up? What if he had had to go into the forest? What if he'd gotten lost?
"Clark?" she called out. But no answer came. She called again a couple of times, but still no answer.
How much longer should she wait for him before trying to get help? Not that she was even sure she could drive out of there, but perhaps she'd get a better signal if she plugged her cell phone in the Jeep? Lois didn't dare venture into the woods, as she was afraid she'd get lost there and then they would probably both die there, stuck in the middle of nowhere! She heard noises coming from the forest — something like branches or a small tree falling to the ground. She smiled. That had to be Clark. Maybe he just hadn't heard her calling because he was too far away. Oh well, he was probably fine and he'd be back soon.
Lois walked back to the cabin, but decided against going back inside. It was freezing in there and she'd been walking in over a foot of snow, so her boots and the bottom of her pants were all wet. The Jeep, however, had heating. And a radio, so at least she would have something to keep her mind occupied while she waited. Clark would certainly be back soon, anyway. She'd just wait for him in there and dry herself off in the meantime.
Superman flew back to the cabin from the scene of the accident in a fraction of a second. The entire rescue operation had taken him two full hours and he wasn't looking forward to having to explain to Lois what had taken him so long. She was going to be beyond angry, he knew. When he arrived at the cabin, he saw that the Jeep was running. Had it not been for the fact that the engine was humming, the vehicle could easily have been mistaken for a mountain of snow.
If the Jeep was completely covered in snow, he reasoned, then it meant that Lois had probably gotten inside a while ago and since the engine was running, she had to be still inside. Suddenly, he realized something: the exhaust pipe was likely to have been blocked by all the snow. Panicked, he x-rayed the inside of the Jeep and saw Lois, unconscious. His heart almost stopped. He dove towards the vehicle and all but ripped away the driver-side door. She was still breathing. Barely, but she was. He took Lois in his arms and brought her inside the cabin.
There was still the matter of firewood to take care of, however. It was just as cold in here as it was outside. If he didn't manage to get a fire started soon, Lois would freeze to death and he most definitely hadn't saved her from dying of carbon monoxide poisoning just so she could die from hypothermia! He set Lois down on the couch and sprinted out. Barely a few seconds later, he was back with some wood. He piled it in the fireplace, dried it off with his heat vision so that it would actually burn, then he got a fire started.
He went back to Lois. Her cheeks had a little more color to them and she seemed to be breathing more easily. He even got her to open her eyes, although he was fairly certain she hadn't even noticed who she was with. No matter, he knew she'd pull through and this was the only important thing. But he needed to get her warm. Picking her up from the couch, he brought her over to the bed. He took off her boots, her coat and scarf and gently laid her in bed, covering her with layers of warm covers.
"You're back," she mumbled.
He sat down on the side of the bed and tenderly stoked her cheek with the back of his hand.
"I'm sorry, Lois," he whispered. "I'm so, so sorry." He had almost lost her, he realized. He'd never forgive himself for putting her life in danger like this. It was all his fault.
As he bent down to kiss her forehead, his cape dropped from off his shoulder and onto the bed. Somehow it landed near one of Lois's hands and she grabbed hold of it, as if it was one of the covers. He tried to free it from her, but she just kept pulling back. He tried getting up, but that only made her stir and grip his cape more tightly.
"Stay with me," Lois murmured.
He sighed. He didn't have much choice anyway… As long as she was holding on to his cape, he couldn't go anywhere. If he lay there beside her, he could help keep her warm, he thought. An hour or so of sleep would do him good, too — the drive and the rescue had taken their toll on him. Lois would probably be asleep for a good long while anyway and by the time he woke up, it was likely she would have let go of the cape and he'd be able to change back into Clark.
Lois slowly started to wake up. She smiled as she heard the crackling of the fire and felt the strong arm on her waist. Clark had made it back. He was all right. She opened her eyes, but shut them right back as she realized she had a killer headache. It was dark, anyway, she could barely make out her surroundings. Lois didn't remember much after getting in the Jeep last night. She was sleepy and must have fallen asleep there, she guessed. It didn't matter, the only important thing was that Clark had safely made it back.
Carefully, Lois turned around to face Clark, making sure not to wake him. Moving quickly was out of the question anyway — her head was throbbing with pain just staying still. She opened her eyes again, just a fraction of a second. Having assured herself that she wasn't dreaming and that Clark was really there with her, she closed her eyes again.
"Don't ever scare me like that again, Clark," she whispered to him. "I don't want to find out what life would be like without you."
"Never," he mumbled sleepily.
Lois opened her eyes once more, looking up at his face. She realized she'd never actually seen Clark without his glasses. He looked so peaceful in his sleep; he had such a gentle but strong air. He wasn't really awake, she knew. Just barely enough to understand her, so no matter what she said, he probably wouldn't remember in the morning. She might as well be honest, if only with herself.
"I love…" she started, but the rest of the words died in her throat. The hand she ran on his chest had caught what appeared to be a thick seam in the oddly silky fabric; looking down she had discovered, much to her dismay, that what her fingers had felt was Superman's spandex suit and the border of the familiar S shield. She pulled back, allowing for more light and blinked a few times. There was no mistaking this for anything else. It wasn't Clark she was with, this was Superman.
Confused, Lois scrambled away from him and sat up in one sharp move even though it sent awful jolts of pain cursing through her skull. There was a time when she would have been overjoyed to wake up and find Superman next to her in bed, but there was something about seeing him there now that just wasn't right. It didn't make sense. If only she didn't have such a headache, she would have been able to figure it out. If only…
Her moving away suddenly woke him up with a start. His eyes grew wide and he straightened himself up quickly. This was bad, he knew. It wasn't supposed to happen this way — he should have woken up a long time ago and changed back into his regular clothes. There wasn't much of a chance he could explain *this* away, now. Sure, he could tell her how he had found her, but how could he possibly explain the fact that Clark wasn't around? For all she knew, Clark had gone out to get firewood the night before and it wouldn't take very long before she realized that he wasn't back yet.
"Superman?" she asked, frowning. "What…"
"I found you in your Jeep, last night," he explained, calmly. "Lois, you had passed out from inhaling carbon monoxide." A shiver ran through his spine, the memory still quite vivid in his mind. He had been this close to losing her. Just a minute later and… "You could have… You almost…" he swallowed uneasily, the rest of the words dying in his throat.
"I went in there to warm up," she admitted. Immediately, she remembered why she had done that. She looked around the place quickly, but saw no one else there. "Clark?" she called out, but the only answer she got did not come from Clark. As far she knew, anyway.
"Lois…" Superman said, in as soft a voice as he could manage.
She ignored him completely. "Clark?" she called out, louder this time, panic obvious in her voice. Where was he? Why wasn't he answering?
"Lois, please calm down," Superman said, trying to sound reassuring.
She turned to face him, a look of horror starting to show in her eyes. "He went out to get some firewood," she explained. She was agitated and speaking at near super speed. "He was gone so long and I got worried so I went out to look for him but he wasn't there and then…" She stopped, frowning. "You need to go look for him!" she declared, wondering why she hadn't thought of that right away.
Seeing as though he wasn't moving at all, Lois gave Superman a sharp push in the middle of the chest. "Well, don't just sit there!" she ordered, ignoring the unbearable throbbing behind her eyes. "Go! Find him!"
"Lois," he started.
She cut him off suddenly as everything became crystal clear in her mind. "Oh, dear God," she whispered, an expression of absolute terror on her face, "that's why you're here, isn't it? He's not… he's not dead, is he? Oh, please, no! No, no, no! Tell me he's all right!"
"Lois, calm down," he repeated once more. He gently took her hands in his. "Please? Nothing's happened to Clark," he explained after a short pause. Facing the fact that he could not longer try and pretend that Clark Kent and Superman were two separate beings, he took a deep breath and confessed his secret to her. "Lois? Look at me… I *am* Clark."
She stared at him in disbelief for a moment before she found her voice again. "You…" she croaked."You're… him?"
He nodded, encouraging her to accept the facts as he was presenting them to her.
"You… lied to me," she said in as cold and cutting a tone as he had ever heard her use.
Clark looked at her, unsure just what he should do or say, and suddenly feeling like it was a very strange thing for him to be wearing the Suit. It used to shield his secret; it used to protect him. All it hid now was a lie. An enormous lie. And for the very first time since he'd put it on, he wished he'd never had.
"I'm sorry," he said, closing his eyes as he hung his head in shame. It seemed like such a silly thing to say — that he was sorry. How could that possibly make up for anything?
"I thought you were *dead*," Lois said, her tone still icy cold. She got up slowly, her head throbbing with each movement she made. "Do you have any idea… No, of course you don't, what am I saying? You couldn't possibly have any idea what that's like!"
"Yes, I do," he protested weakly. For a few seconds, the night before, his heart had almost stopped beating when he had found her. And what about all the times when she'd been kidnapped or hurt? Of course he had an idea what it was like to think he'd never see her alive again. And a very good one, at that! "Last night," he explained further as she shot him a quizzical look.
"Oh, right! For all of two seconds you thought maybe I'd passed on. And what? That's supposed to make me feel better?"
"Lois, please, I…" He looked up, an infinitely sad expression in his eyes, still unable to find words that could possibly express just how sorry he was.
For a tiny little moment, Lois almost felt sorry for him. Here he was, the strongest man on earth, yet for all his abilities, he was still just as fallible as anybody else. He made mistakes. He took wrong turns and made bad decisions. But as strange as it seemed for her to be standing there, in front of a very broken Superman, the anger won over the pity in a split second.
"Don't 'Lois, please' me!" she shouted, causing him to recoil slightly. "You have no right. You… Don't even speak to me. I don't want to hear it. It's all just flimsy excuses with you anyway, isn't it? A sick neighbor, a video to return? Cheese of the *month*? God, you must have thought I was such an idiot for blindly buying into all that crap you kept feeding me!"
"Lois, no! I happen to think…" he started. His eyes had grown wide as she yelled. Never for a second had he thought that she wasn't one of the most brilliant people he knew. But she wouldn't let him explain…
"I don't care what you think anymore," she threw at him, livid. She spotted her boots on the side of the bed and grabbed them in one swift move. She sat on the edge of the bed and awkwardly pulled them on. She needed to get out of this place. Get away from there; away from him.
"Please, just let me explain," he pleaded. If she would only give him one chance — however small — to explain himself. Explain why he had never worked up the nerve to tell her before. That it was he who'd been the idiot, not her.
"No," she said simply, shooting him a dirty look.
And then, suddenly, she stopped what she was doing and frowned. Her jaw dropped as she realized that this morning wasn't the first time that he had let her believe that that he was dead. Last fall… in an underground club… John Dillinger. She'd seen Clark get shot in the chest, point blank — and die. Only he hadn't died at all, had he? And while she spent long hours crying her eyes out over him, not to mention feeling guilty that he'd given his own life to save hers, all that time, he was alive and well? How could he have done that to her? How? She glared at him, anger burning in her eyes.
"Lois?" he asked, his voice shaking slightly. He knew by that look that she'd just connected the dots about something and that this might just be the one thing that she wouldn't be able to forgive; the one thing that would bring him to his knees. "Please. Give me a chance to explain," he added, barely above a whisper. She wouldn't listen, he knew. But he couldn't just give up. If she would just hear him out, maybe he could make her understand, maybe he could find a way to fix this? He had to.
As she remembered the events of that night, Lois felt the same intense pain she had experienced at the time; like a dagger stabbing through her heart and soul, destroying all hope of any happily ever after she had ever let herself dream about.
"You let me think you had been shot and killed," she said slowly, grief pouring out of every word. "And I blamed myself for it. Did you know? I saw them drag your *dead* body away as I stood there, knowing that you'd still be alive if you hadn't tried to protect me. I tortured myself over it and spent the next day desperately trying to figure out how I could possibly go on." She stopped short of telling him that the worst part of it all wasn't the guilt, it was the thought of having to go on without him that had been so impossible to get over. "Do you have any idea what that's like at all? I proof-read your *obituary*!" she told him instead, almost choking on the last word.
"I'm sorry," he said in a small voice. If she only knew how devastated he'd been after that night — because the fact of the matter was that Clark Kent, as far as the rest of the world was allowed to know, really was dead. All he'd worked for, all he'd hoped for, all his dreams had been killed. And while part of him still lived on, as Superman, the part that really mattered, the part that was really him, was gone. Had it not been for Dr. Hamilton's research, there would have been no way to explain how Clark Kent could possibly have survived being shot at gun point. Not without giving away the secret he had fought all his life to keep.
Lois got up clumsily, hot tears stinging her eyes. She grabbed her coat from the chair where he had set it and wrestled to put it on. "It broke my heart," she whispered. "You broke my heart. And I thought it was my fault. I can't…" The rest of the words died on her quivering lips.
Clark could barely hide his surprise as Lois let out that she'd been heartbroken over his 'death'. He knew it had been a painful experience — losing someone close to you always was — but… heartbreak? Unless she was exaggerating — and he was just about convinced that it wasn't the case — he knew there could be no heartbreak where there wasn't any love to begin with. If he hadn't been so blind, he might have seen it, too. But somehow, he had never realized that her heart was his to break — or rather keep safe, he admonished himself, he should have kept it safe, not broken it!
"I am so sorry," he told her, "I swear, I never meant to do anything to hurt you."
"But you did," she whispered, barely loud enough for him to hear.
As she stood there, unable to move or speak and looking so utterly miserable, he knew just exactly how she must have felt that night. He knew, for at that instant, his own heart was shattered into a million pieces. And it *was* his fault. He had hurt her; profoundly hurt her. The very last thing he had ever wanted to do was cause her pain — and yet he had. As it stood now, he didn't think there wasn't much of a chance that even their friendship would survive. But if he had to spend the rest of eternity apologizing to her in the hope that someday, maybe, she'd find it in her heart to forgive his foolishness, then apologize forever he would. And maybe, just maybe he'd forgive himself, too.
Seeing Lois so helpless, so crushed, was more than Clark could take. He got to his feet and closed the short distance between them. He gathered her in his arms, all the while knowing that she'd probably despise him for it.
Lois tried to struggle, tried to protest, but she neither had the energy nor the strength to fight him. Her head was threatening to explode, both from the pain and from the weight of this unexpected revelation. And as she found herself trapped there in his arms, barely listening to his murmured apologies, the only thing she was able to do anymore was cry.
For several long minutes she cried. Over the heartache and the deception. Over the loss of everything that could have been but had been destroyed by his lies. Lois cried in the arms of he man who had once been her hero, her best friend, the rock she could hold on to when the storms hit. She didn't know who he was anymore. He was a strange mix of all these things, yet none of them at the same time. The hero was a liar, the best friend a fake and the rock was simply crumbling away.
"I never meant to do anything to hurt you," he repeated again.
<Anything… Always…> Had those been lies, too? And what about his promise that she would never have to know what life would be without him? Well, that was a moot point now… The power to keep such a promise no longer rested in his hands. And while she alone could decide its fate, this was a decision she just could not make. She'd have to forgive him to find out if those words had been true, but how could she forgive all these horrible lies? How could she forgive something so big, something so painful?
"But you did," she reminded him.
And it was millions of times worse than empty words and stolen stories. This time, it hurt so much more. It hurt because for the first time, this was someone she completely trusted. One side of him she trusted with her life and, though he didn't know it, the other, she had trusted with her heart. It hurt because for the first time, this was someone she was truly and completely in love with. Less than an hour ago, she had been about to put into three little words all the emotion that filled her, all the joy he brought to her life, all the happiness she hoped to share with him. But now…
Now, all that was left were the lies and the heartbreak.
"You broke my heart," she told him, her bottom lip quivering as she forced herself to look him in the eyes.
"I'm so sorry, Lois," he told her. "You have no idea how sorry I am."
She might not know exactly, but she was starting to see. There was such obvious pain in his eyes that she had to look away. She'd always known that he was invulnerable only on the outside, but she had never thought she would ever actually bear witness to the fact that his heart and soul could be crushed just as anyone else's. That's when she realized just exactly how deep his emotions ran. If he had the power to break her heart, she held the same power over him. And while forgiveness seemed unthinkable, how could she live with herself knowing that refusing to do so would hurt him just as much?
"I know I can't ask you to forgive me," he whispered. "But I would do anything, anything in the world for a chance to fix this. Just tell me what I should do. Please?"
<Anything you like, Lois. You can ask for anything you like. Anything…>
A long sob escaped her lips. And she knew, right then, that there was only one thing she could say.
"Just hold me, Clark. Hold me and never let go."
For a second, Clark thought he might have misunderstood. She had asked him to hold her when he had half-expected to be told to let go of her. This was his second chance, he knew, and he was being handed it on a silver platter, no less. A chance to redeem himself and make up for his errors.
"Always," he said softly. He hugged her even more tightly against him, gently smoothing a hand on her back.
As hurt and angry as Lois had been a moment ago, this one word had the power of melting all the pain and the anguish away. And even though she wasn't quite ready to blindly forgive everything yet, for just a second she let herself forget and grasp at the dream of sharing "always" with him. Lois wrapped her arms around his waist and buried her face in the crook of his neck, sighing contentedly.
"I'm so sorry I hurt you," he whispered.
As Clark begged her forgiveness once more, it occurred to Lois that she had hurt him as well over the last year. She had hurt him more than once.
She thought back to that morning in the park when Clark had poured out his heart to her in an attempt to stop her from marrying Lex Luthor. She had turned him down immediately, without as much as a second thought. That evening, she had hurt him even further by telling Superman she would love him even if he were an ordinary man. It was obvious now why he had said that, under the circumstances, he just couldn't believe her. She had rejected the ordinary man that he was, just a few hours before!
She looked up, an apologetic expression gracing her features. "I hurt you too, didn't I?" she asked, in a soft, regretful voice. Seeing him frown, as if unsure what she meant exactly, she continued. "Last year… You know, after the Planet blew up? That night I said I'd… uh, I said I'd love you even if you were just an ordinary man."
"It's OK," he said, shaking his head. "You couldn't have known."
"Why didn't you just tell me? That day?" she wondered.
"I couldn't tell you, then, Lois. I needed to know that you would choose the ordinary guy hiding under the Suit. And… you didn't… You were after a fantasy. He's not really me, it's just… something I can do. And I couldn't stand the idea that you would have force yourself into accepting someone you barely even tolerated, for the sake of living out that fantasy."
"Barely tolerated? Is that… Really?" she said, surprised. "Is that what you thought? No… It wasn't like that at all. It was never like that. It's just… it was… complicated. For what it's worth, when it came right down to it and I actually had to make a choice, I picked the ordinary guy. I know it took me forever to sort my feelings out and even then I wasn't able to face them until the very last second, but in the end, I chose you, Clark. Not Superman's powers. Or someone else's billions. I chose *you*."
"Billions? What do you mean?" he asked, somewhat startled by her admission. "When was…?" Clark tried to figure it out as he spoke, but he just couldn't come up with a reasonable explanation. When had Lois ever chosen anyone over Lex Luthor? She would have married the man if he hadn't been arrested right in the middle of their wedding!
"You know…" She shrugged and looked away, suddenly ashamed that she had waited until the absolute last second to make up her mind at the time. "For richer or poorer, until death do you part? The place where people usually say 'I do'? I said I couldn't."
"Wait… What are you saying?" By now, he was completely taken aback. She'd said what? How was that possible? Could it mean…?
"I couldn't go through with it. I kept thinking of you and… I just couldn't say 'I do'. Not to him." Lois looked up at Clark, a shy smile tugging at her lips. He smiled back, a mix of happiness and surprise obvious in his eyes. He was about to say something when suddenly he tilted his head to the side, his expression changing to one of careful concentration. Lois frowned as she recognized that look. She'd seen it often; it usually preceded some sort of lame excuse that would enable him to run away from her. Except this time, she had finally understood what it meant. Someone was calling for help.
"No," he whispered, frowning as well. They were in the middle of a conversation — an important one! Couldn't the world leave him alone just a few more minutes, he wondered? Just this once?
"What is it? What do you hear?" Lois asked, concerned.
"There's been an avalanche."
She quickly let go of him. "Well, go!" she told him. Having noticed his hesitation, she nodded encouragingly, although the movement reminded her how much of a headache she still had. Lois brought a hand to her forehead and closed her eyes tightly, trying to block out the pain.
"Are you OK?" he asked. It was his turn to look concerned, now. Avalanche or not, if Lois wasn't all right, he wasn't going to leave her. He'd gotten his priorities wrong long enough as it was. She was far too important to him to keep playing second fiddle to the rest of the known universe. He wasn't going to be relegating her to second place any longer.
"It's just a headache," she replied, "I'll be fine. Go!"
Clark took a step back, a look of sincere regret in his eyes. Lois nodded again as if to say she understood and forgave his running out on her. He turned and started making his way towards the door.
"Clark?" she called just as he was about to step outside. It was still somewhat strange to call him that, seeing as though he was wearing the Suit… but calling him Superman sounded just too distant now. Besides, it obviously wasn't his name — she was the one who had come up with it.
"Be careful," she told him when he turned to look at her. It seemed like something normal to say before the words were out, but once she'd said them she realized how futile it was to caution *Superman* against getting hurt.
"I will," he promised, letting her catch a quick glimpse of a warm smile before he disappeared through the front door with a familiar 'whoosh' sound.
Left alone in the cabin, Lois took off her coat and boots, feeling rather silly for having put them on in the first place. Running away wouldn't have solved anything, she knew — it only would have made things worse. No matter… she hadn't stormed out and things looked much brighter now than they had when she'd first launched into tornado mode. There were issues left to resolve, obviously — she couldn't let him off the hook that easily, could she? At least now they could try and work through things like sensible adults.
The fire was slowly dying so she threw in some more wood, hoping that it would be enough for a while. Peering out the window at the morning sun, Lois saw her Jeep now looking like it were just a huge heap of snow. She shuddered at the thought that this might have been her coffin. Carbon monoxide poisoning, Clark had said. She'd heard of people dying from it because they'd been sitting in a running car inside a closed garage, but outside in the open? Who knew?
She marveled at the fact that once again, Superman had snatched her from the jaws of death. She remembered several other occasions when he had swooped right in to save her. No wonder he always found her just in time; he basically always knew where to find her to begin with!
Things made so much more sense to her, now that she knew. She finally understood why he had handed in his resignation during the heat wave, last winter; why the pheromone compound hadn't seemed to have any effects on him; how he had been able to stand up to — and pretty much overpower — that Superman clone.
It was going to be strange to have to think of Clark and Superman as one and the same from now on. He had been two different men for so long — and he really was different depending on which side of himself he was supposed to be at the time. Even the tone of his voice and the look in his eyes was different. While one was serious and strong, detached and authoritative, the other was gentle and lighthearted, caring and considerate.
Everything Lois knew about him — everything she had ever taken for granted about Clark and Superman — needed to be reevaluated. He wasn't just a partner and a friend, he was the guy who flew in and saved the day. Literally flew in. He was all of that. Everything. She just needed to find a way to put both sides together in her head, now.
The one really disturbing thing was that she'd never noticed anything before; she'd never figured him out. She was an award winning investigative reporter, wasn't she? How could she have missed all the clues? She'd seen through the flimsy excuses he used to run off at the first sign of trouble — at least far enough to know they weren't real. Maybe she just trusted that he'd tell her the truth about those eventually?
Lois rolled her eyes as she recalled the time he — as Superman — had told her he read her work. AH! Edited her copy, would have been more like it! In fact, come to think of it, *Superman* had walked away with a Kerth award, this year. Now that was just plain odd!
Shaking her head at strangeness and the irony of this new situation, Lois went rummaging through her bag for some aspirin and something to change into. A few minutes later, having donned the comfy flannel pajamas she had brought along, she padded to the kitchen, a couple of aspirin in her hand.
She made herself some toast, thinking it would be best not to take the caplets of aspirin on an empty stomach. Unfortunately, her stomach was less than happy to be fed and after a couple of bites, Lois started feeling queasy and lightheaded. She pushed the toast aside, left the kitchen and crawled into bed, feeling utterly drained, miserable and strangely lonely as well.
When Clark came back, it was late morning already. Lois was in bed, sound asleep, hugging a pillow in her arms. The sight of her there warmed his heart immensely. For the first time since he'd put on the Suit, he was coming back to someone he would be able to talk to about the rescue he had been away on. Oh, he had his parents he could talk to — in fact up until now, he had never had anyone else on earth he could talk to in the first place — but it just wasn't the same. Grown men did not go running back home to their folks when they'd had a bad day. Especially grown men who happened to moonlight in flashy tights and *saved the world* on an almost daily basis.
Obviously this wasn't anything like coming back *home* to someone, though. This was just him coming back to a place where someone he could talk to just happened to be at the time. But this was Lois and even if it wasn't the same — and probably just a one-time thing anyway — there was no other someone in the world that he would have rather come back to. Especially right now. For as fast and strong as he was, the avalanche had been a lot more powerful than he. And far more destructive.
Of course, Lois was asleep and talking to her would have to wait, but that didn't matter. He'd wait. He could survive a few more hours of being alone with his thoughts, his regrets and his feelings of guilt. He had a lot of practice in that department, didn't he?
He spun out of the Suit and into a pair of jeans and a black woolen sweater before going over to place some more wood in the fire. He had a quick look at the bookcase next to the fireplace and smiled as he noticed a copy of "To Kill a Mockingbird". He'd read it a thousand times or more, but he picked it up anyway. Taking a seat on the sofa in front of the warm fire, he opened up the book…
"When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow."
Clark slowly read through the pages, his mind wandering off every other sentence. To the people he'd saved that morning and to the people whose cold, dead bodies he had dug out from under the snow.
It wasn't the first time this had ever happened — that he hadn't been quick enough or strong enough to save everyone — but that didn't make it any easier to live with. If anything, it got even harder with each new life lost. Living with the fact that there were times when there just wasn't enough of him to save everyone would never be easy. He'd known it since the start.
But this time it was different and he felt an indescribable amount of guilt over the death of some of these people. If he had been more careful they would still be alive now. This time, he was the one to blame. He had made a bad decision; it had cost them their lives.
He'd barely gotten halfway through the second chapter when he heard the rustling of bed sheets. He tilted his head back and to the side, resting it against the back of the sofa. Lois was waking up.
"Hey," he said softly as they made eye contact.
"Hey," she replied, in a thick, sleep laden voice.
Getting out of bed, Lois walked over to where Clark was sitting. She let herself sink into the big comfy sofa. She still felt somewhat queasy, but at least the headache seemed to have passed, she realized with a great deal of relief.
"How's your head?" he asked. He turned to face her, sitting with his back against the arm of the sofa. As overwhelmed with guilt as he was, seeing her there — alive and well, for one, but just seeing her there at all — helped dull the ache a little.
"A lot better," she said. He smiled, but Lois noticed the sadness in his expression. "Are *you* OK?" she asked, frowning. Something was wrong, she thought. He looked about as sad now as he had when she had been throwing all his sins back to his face, earlier. Something must have happened, because she clearly remembered the glimpse of happiness she'd seen in his eyes before he had heard the call for help — when she had started to explain that she had preferred him to Lex, turning Luthor down at the altar, no less.
As much as he wanted to — needed to — talk about everything that had happened, Clark found he just couldn't. The words wouldn't come out, the images stayed stuck in his head, unable as he was to describe them and put the feelings into words. He resorted to closing his eyes and shaking his head dejectedly. The book he was holding slid down to the floor.
"What happened?" Lois asked. Clark needed someone to be there for him, that much was obvious. She'd just have to get over the fact that she was a little angry with him still and be that person.
She came to sit closer to him and stroked his arm gently. She knew it couldn't possibly be enough to soothe him — things had to be really bad for him to look so affected, she guessed. Clark was one of the few people she knew who constantly looked at life in a positive way, with a bright smile on his face. This must have been awful.
"There was this family — parents and two little boys, eight or nine years old — they were out on a cross-country ski trail when the avalanche started," he explained. "I got them out of harm's way and left to check if there was anyone else out there. The snow kept on sliding down the mountainside. It looked like it would never stop. And then…" He stopped and looked away, trying to push the images out of his mind.
"Tell me," she encouraged him when he looked at her again.
Lois never quite recalled seeing him this way before. She had rarely ever seen Superman after a tough rescue, anyway. And Clark just always seemed his usual happy-go-lucky self. Unless… did part of his disguise include keeping up appearances, even through the pain? Was this what life was like for him? Coming to everyone's rescue and having to turn around and pretend that it didn't affect him at all?
"I… I thought they would be safe there," he explained slowly.
Suddenly, Lois understood. Even though he had left this family somewhere they would be safe while he went off to help someone else — probably even digging people out of the snow — they were again caught by the sliding snow as the avalanche continued.
"It wasn't you fault," she told him. "It's not your fault. You didn't cause the avalanche," she insisted, when he looked like he was going to tell her otherwise.
"I know. It's just… they counted on me to take them somewhere they'd be safe. I thought I had, but I was wrong. They died. All four of them. Two little boys and their parents. Dead. I saved them only so they could die five minutes later."
"You did everything you could, everything you thought you should," Lois told him reassuringly.
"But it wasn't enough," he said, shaking his head again.
Lois had explained to him once that it didn't matter what he couldn't do, that what he could do was enough, but it occurred to her that maybe believing it might not be quite as easy to him. She didn't know how else to convince him of it than to repeat it.
"For a lot of these people, it was more than enough, Clark. You did everything you could possibly do," she said, as she smoothed her hand on his arm some more.
Clark placed his hand over hers and squeezed it gently. He said nothing, just nodded sadly. The look of sorrow in his eyes was just heart wrenching. He seemed so vulnerable, so alone. What could she do, Lois wondered, how could she help? She had often suggested that she would be there for Superman when and if he ever needed a friend, but now that she found herself in this exact position, Lois wasn't really sure how to go about it at all. But then it occurred to her that while she might not know exactly how to help a superhero, he was still just Clark underneath and she had a pretty good idea how she could raise *his* spirits.
She got up to her feet and extended a hand towards him. "Get up," she instructed him.
He looked up at her, puzzled. Get up? Why? What was she up to?
"Come on, get up," she repeated, her tone still gentle, but somewhat more commanding this time.
Seeing her move her hand about a little impatiently as if to convince him to take it, he decided to give in and find out what this was for. He got up to his feet and looked at her, still just as puzzled. Immediately he felt himself being pulled in for a hug. He made no attempt at resisting, letting out a long shuddered breath as he felt her arms closing in around his neck. He hugged her back tightly, closing his eyes and letting his chin rest on her shoulder.
"Does this help?" she whispered.
"You have no idea," he replied, his voice breaking on the words.
For several long minutes she held him against her as she whispered soothing words in his ear. Over and over, Lois told Clark how much good he did, how important he was; she promised that things would be OK and that there would be happier tomorrows; until finally he allowed himself to believe her.
"Thank you," he whispered softly. "I don't know what I'd do without you,"
"I'll never let you find out," she promised him, brushing a quick kiss on the side of his neck. "You're not getting rid of me that easily," she added with a slightly nervous little laugh. "You'll be stuck with me for a *very* long time."
"Will I?" he asked, pulling away enough to be able to see her face. He searched her eyes for a confirmation of what he hoped she meant by that.
"Oh, absolutely," she said, trying to sound assured even though she was suddenly shaking like a leaf inside. "I love you too much to ever let you go," she added in husky whisper that she didn't really recognize as her own voice.
Clark could not believe his ears. Twice today, Lois had taken him by surprise, saying something that gravitated around the opposite of what he was expecting. Unless he was reading too much into her words? No… The expression on her face, her body language and her previous avowal of feeling heartbroken over his supposed death; this wasn't any sort of brotherly love she was talking about… unlike that morning, in the park.
He held his breath as he looked into her eyes. The glimmer he saw in them told him all he needed to know. This was the kind of love he had for her and had been slowly losing hope of ever seeing returned. This… was the real thing.
For a long moment he stood, a dull sense of guilt still gnawing at him. How could he allow himself to feel happy — almost deliriously so — when this morning's events still weighed heavily on his conscience? Yet… How could he allow himself not to? When all his life he'd been waiting for this moment; when all his life he'd longed for someone to love him for the person he really was?
As a matter of fact, how could he allow himself to dwell on his failures when doing so might ruin any chance he had at happiness? He couldn't. It was as simple as that. He just couldn't. It wasn't merely his happiness that stood to be destroyed, but his entire ability to maintain his alter ego's image. A somber vigilante might work for Gotham City but the people of Metropolis needed Superman to be a beacon of hope and a role model, not a dark and conflicted shell of his usual self.
Love was the buoy he'd been praying for, to save him from the troubled ocean of his existence. It had the power to free him from the pain he felt as he relived, over and over again with each new breath, the events of the morning. It had the power to dispel the harrowing images that permeated his thoughts since he'd gotten back from the site of the avalanche.
Slowly, he let the strength of the emotion break through to his heart and his soul, let it pull him back towards the shores of hope and absolution — like a shipwrecked sailor, adrift and lost at sea, finding salvation on a sandy beach.
Lois anxiously waited for a sign, for some sort of assurance that the feeling was mutual. But Clark just looked at her and said nothing. He simply stared into her eyes as if trying to piece together a puzzle and make sense of the image he saw appearing before him. Was it so hard to figure out? Had this really come as such a surprise to him?
Unless… What if she'd read him all wrong? What if he was trying to find the words to break it to her gently?
That was it, Lois concluded. That's why he stood there silent. Because he didn't know how to let her down easy. She had lost to Mayson Drake, hadn't she? She had waited too damn long and she'd lost him. Of course she had — she'd seen them kissing in his apartment, after all. There was something between him and Mayson; obviously there was. If she hadn't been so stupid as to keep ignoring him and turning him away, then perhaps things might have been different.
But now… Now she was going to get a taste of her own medicine! This time, Clark would be the one to talk of respect and admiration; he'd be the one to say that the only thing between them was friendship.
No, no, no! Lois didn't want to hear that. Anything but that! There couldn't be another disaster on her list — not that his returning the feeling might mean success in the long run anyway, but unrequited love was just as much a failure as any other federal disaster she'd ever had. It was much worse, in fact. She had let herself fall for him. Hard. When she was usually so very careful about letting anyone into her heart, she had let him burst right in and take up all the space.
This was much, much worse than all her previous love-catastrophes, she realized. This was going to hurt *so* bad! She would have to fade quietly in the background while he dated *Mayson*. She would have to sit idly by and watch him do, for another woman, the countless little things that had been meant for her alone until then. A cup of coffee, a hand at the small of her back, the smile in his eyes when he looked at her. All the niceties that she had noticed too late and failed to really appreciate. All these niceties — that had once belonged to her — were Mayson's now.
A little voice in her head screamed at her to hurry up and fix this. Things would become awkward if she didn't and awkwardness was the last thing Lois wanted between them. Awkwardness could only lead to the deterioration of whatever relationship she might still have with him.
Take it back, she thought in a frenzy. Yes! That's what she needed to do. Take it back, blame it on carbon monoxide poisoning. Anything. Anything that would fix this so things would go back to the way they were before. Not that they could ever really go back to how they'd been before, seeing as though she now knew that Clark was also Superman, but back to a status quo that she could live with.
She would force herself to be civil to Mayson if she had to. She could even make an effort to stop clinging to her partner like a shadow and give him space. But losing Clark to another woman was bad enough — losing his friendship altogether would make the heartbreak she'd felt after his 'death' feel like a mere paper cut.
She had to launch a preemptive strike. Now. Before he spoke.
"That is, uh…" she began, her cheeks turning a deep shade of crimson, her voice shaky and betraying the state of panic she'd slipped into. "What I meant to say is that I… uh…"
Her eyes grew wide in surprise as Clark leaned in and claimed her lips, gently but assertively, causing the last of her words to die in her throat.
Then again… Maybe she hadn't read him completely wrong? Maybe he…
The thought faded away, somewhere in the recesses of Lois's mind, as she felt the silken brush of his tongue against the underside of her upper lip. Instinctively she closed her eyes and let herself relax in Clark's arms — his strong, powerful arms that were now wrapped around her waist, holding her tightly against him. So tightly that she could feel his heartbeat racing, matching her own rather rhythm. Rational thought stopped and the world started dissolving into a hazy mist around them as they kissed.
Reluctantly, Clark pulled away from her, breaking the spell he had cast over them. He desperately needed to say this before things went any further. She'd been about to explain something that needed no explanation — an obvious defense-mechanism, he knew — and he'd seen in her expression that she'd gotten herself in a state akin to hysteria, all because he had failed to respond in an expected manner. He'd been so caught up in his own little world of guilt and disbelief that he'd stood there stoically, failing to react appropriately in her eyes. And while a kiss could stop the flow of words, the anxiety and the doubts could not possibly be silenced so easily.
"I love you," he said, his voice heavy with emotion — filled with all the strength of what this meant to him, for these weren't just words he spoke, it was his heart and soul he was baring.
"Oh, Clark," Lois choked out, a sheen of tears slowly clouding her eyes. She leaned in closer, brushing a kiss on his lips before going on. "Love you… Clark… so much…" she told him, between more kisses.
"Lois…" he whispered against her lips, reclaiming her mouth as he did. All the longing and the desire that they had kept locked and hidden in their hearts until then finally bubbled over and was set free with this one soul-shattering kiss.
Lois pressed herself against Clark as closely as she possibly could, as if being close just wasn't enough anymore and she desperately wanted to somehow push herself right through him. He slid a hand carefully — almost shyly — under the top of her flannel pajamas and lightly grazed the satiny skin of her back with the tip of his fingers. She moaned softly in response to the touch that sent pleasant tingles running through her.
Clark ran his hands on Lois's back, no longer just grazing the skin, but pressing his palms firmly against it instead. Her own hands made their way from behind his neck, over to his chest, and ultimately disappeared underneath his shirt. Shivers went up his spine as he felt her warm touch on his skin.
Lost in the moment and feeling emboldened by Lois's soft moans of pleasure, Clark bent down and, with one arm on her back and the other behind her knees, he lifted her up in one swift move. She sucked in a sharp breath as she found herself cradled in his arms.
He had barely taken one step back when suddenly…
"Uh, no wait! Clark, put me down," Lois blurted out, her eyes wide with urgency.
Clark looked at her, confused — as if he'd been violently awoken from an intense dream. It didn't take long for him to realize that the situation had escalated beyond the limits of what he would normally have felt comfortable with. It was as if the reasonable part of his brain had been shut off for a moment in a desperate attempt to wash away the horrible events of this morning — as if only a stronger emotion could override the intense grief he felt. He had given in to his most primal instincts, his logical mind no longer strong enough to convince him that a brainwash wasn't the solution.
"I'm sorry. I got carried away," he said, apologetically, as he sat her down on the couch. He let himself sink on the couch, a little further away, looking thoroughly embarrassed. "I shouldn't have."
"You're…? Oh, no, no! Don't be! You have nothing to be sorry for," Lois explained, her brow furrowed. Seeing his puzzled expression, she added, "I'm just a little queasy still. You know? From last night? And when you picked me up… well… uh, my stomach didn't approve." She gave him a shy smile, feeling sorry that he had immediately blamed himself for ruining the moment when she was the true culprit.
"Oh!" Clark breathed, relieved. "Can I get you anything? Water? Or some aspirin, maybe?" He stood up immediately, ready to get whatever she would ask for.
"No. I'll be OK," she said softly. "Thanks."
"Are you sure? Because, whatever you need, I can be back before you even have time to blink," he explained with a grin, causing Lois to giggle wholeheartedly.
"I know you can," she told him, gesturing for him to sit down again. "I'll be OK. I don't want anything, really." Except you, her mind clarified.
Clark sat right back down and before he knew it, Lois was snuggling up against him, resting her head on his shoulder. She let out a contented sigh, at which he smiled widely.
"It's nice to see you smile," she whispered, having looked up.
He tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and gently brushed the back of his index finger along her cheek, all the way to her chin. "You have that effect on me," he explained. "I love you, Lois."
"And I love you," she said, wrapping an arm over his chest and squeezing tightly. "All of you. With or without the powers." She smiled at him, reassuringly.
"I know…" he replied, placing his arm around Lois's shoulders and squeezing her right back.
She shivered slightly and brought her legs up, burying her feet between the seat cushions.
"Are you cold?" Clark asked. The fire was slowly dying, he noticed. "I should probably put more wood in the fireplace," he suggested.
Lois moved away from him, letting him get up. "Can you…" she said, hesitant. He looked at her with an encouraging air. "Could you get me a pair of socks?" she finally managed to ask, slightly embarrassed to be asking him when she could have gone to get them herself. Truth was she was really very cold and having already lost the warmth she'd been getting from his body, she wasn't exactly encouraged to walk away from the only other source of heat in the place. She shouldn't have been imposing on him this way but, well… he had offered to get her anything she wanted just before. And besides, he was completely invulnerable to the cold, wasn't he?
"Yeah, sure." He chuckled softly.
"There's a pair of thick woolen socks in my bag." She pointed in its direction. "Thank you."
Clark threw a few more logs into the fire and went back to where Lois had left her bag. He opened it up and started looking for the pair of socks she had mentioned. He slid a hand under a neatly folded pile of sweaters and lifted them out so he would have a better chance of finding what he was looking for. What he found under the sweaters, however, left him completely stunned. He fumbled with the sweaters, trying to put them back where he had found them, finally forcing them back in and closing the bag in a hurry.
Questions rushed through his mind at the speed of light. What was that all about? Why had she…? Even if she had known beforehand that this place would have more than one room, she would never have packed such a thing, would she? It didn't make any sense. Lois wouldn't… Of course she wouldn't. This wasn't what this weekend was about.
Or was it?
Fishing out a pair of socks from his own bag, he made his way back to the living room area.
"I couldn't find yours," he explained as he handed Lois the socks. His face was flushed and wearing a clearly embarrassed expression.
She looked at him, curious. Mentally, she tried to picture the contents of her bag. "No? They were right under the…" She stopped cold, suddenly remembering the black, lacey nightgown she had packed 'just in case'. "Oh," was all that she could say. Obviously, he had seen it. That was the only explanation for his reaction.
Taking a deep breath, Clark risked asking the question that was now hammering inside his head. "Lois? What was this weekend supposed to be exactly?"
Lois blushed and looked at the socks she was holding, trying to formulate an answer in her head. One that wouldn't make it look like she had lured him here so she could have her way with him…
"Lois?" he asked again, seeing as though she made no attempt to reply.
"It's not what it looks like…" she finally said, still blushing. "I mean, really… it's like I said on Friday night. Honest! I want to sell the place and…" she stopped and looked up at him. "You don't believe me, do you?"
"That you want to sell the place? Of course I believe you," he told her. "You've been in contact with a real-estate agent, I heard you talking to him. That's not what I meant."
"Uh… well… OK, so maybe I had something else in mind, too. Is that so wrong? Seriously? And it's not what you think, either. I mean, I know what it looks like, but that… um… thing… I wasn't going to start walking around in it, you know — not like *that*! I just thought…" She sighed heavily before finally blurting it all out. "So sue me for hoping I might use this weekend to try and win you over. Or back, rather. Something like that. But, I swear, that thing, it was just, um, plan B. OK? It was plan B. It was a bad idea, I know. I wish I'd had the good sense to leave it at the store!"
"I'm sorry, what?" Clark interrupted, perplexed. "Back up a bit… Win me over? Lois…" He took one of her hands in his, stroking the back of it with his thumb, just like he had done in the car the day before. "You won me over that morning when you barged in to Perry's office when I was interviewing. I've been yours ever since. Only… you were too busy not paying attention to me to notice."
"Not paying attention?" she echoed slowly. "That's not true!"
"Absolutely not!" Lois defended herself, vehemently. "I noticed you the second I saw you swallow a bomb. Trust me, I noticed! If you'd just had the good sense to tell me it was you, you lunkhead! In case you haven't noticed yourself, I've been in love with you all along."
"No, Lois." Clark shook his head, sighing. "We've been over this already. Superman… is not me. It's just something I can do."
"Don't you ever listen to anything I say? It was never about the powers, Clark! It was always about you. Only I didn't know it was you. I didn't know there was another you under the spandex to begin with! I thought you were two different people. Of course I couldn't fall in love with you — I was too busy being in love with you, instead." She let out a small, nervous laugh. "Is it just me or did that sound completely insane?"
"Well, I must be deranged as well, then, because it made perfect sense to me." He paused for a second and then asked, in a more serious tone, "Lois, what ever made you think you needed to win me over — or back, I believe you said?"
"Oh… uh, I thought…" She suddenly felt rather silly, being on the verge of having to admit she was both jealous and a little territorial, too. For a second, Lois almost wished lightning would strike her down where she sat. "I thought you and… um… Mayson?"
Clark couldn't help but laugh. Mayson? Lois believed that he had a thing for Mayson Drake? This was just so ironic, he thought.
"Not funny," she complained, pulling her hand from his. There was nothing funny about it. At all. How dare he laugh at her?
"Yeah, actually, it is," Clark said, giving her one of his most handsome smiles. "Do you remember, when you called me last night, I told you I already had plans, but that I'd been looking for a reason to cancel them?"
She nodded, not at all certain where this was going.
"Well, there was a misunderstanding — a huge one at that. You see, Mayson thought I had agreed to spend the weekend with her. And I didn't know how to get myself out of it without hurting her feelings. Mind you, when I thought you were going to be spending the weekend with some guy named Ryan…"
"Ryan?" Lois interrupted. "No… Clark, that's the real-estate agent!"
"Yeah, I know that now. But I didn't then and…"
"So you're not…?" she interrupted him again. "You're not dating Mayson?" A smile started tugging at her lips.
"Dating her? No, of course not! Lois, in case you haven't noticed, Mayson despises Superman," Clark explained. "And as much as I need him to be a separate being in lots of ways, the fact is that Superman is a big part of who I am. And that's never going to change. There's no way I could ever get involved with someone who can't stand him. Or worse, someone who's only interested in him."
Lois shrugged and was about to say something else, but Clark continued, "Besides… when do I have time to date anyone anyway? Most of the time I'm with you. And when I'm not, Superman is out patrolling the city. That doesn't leave me with a lot of time on my hands. Not that I really have any interest in dating, anyway. I mean… unless my pretty partner suddenly decided she could go for… oh, I don't know… a hack from Nowheresville?" He smiled teasingly.
"Only if mine decided to forgive my being too blinded by his alter-ego to realize he was all I really ever wanted," Lois replied in a similar tone, though she was being quite serious.
"He already has," Clark whispered softly, extending a hand to cup her cheek.
Lois smiled at the familiar gesture and brought her hand over his, squeezing it gently. She closed her eyes for a second and let out the breath she hadn't realized she was holding.
"We've lost so much time," she said, when she opened her eyes again. She was mostly to blame for that, she knew. She had failed to notice what had been right under her nose all along. Clark truly was all that she had ever really wanted; she just hadn't recognized it until recently. And as if that wasn't enough, as if there was any need for an added bonus, it just so happened that Clark Kent was also Superman. By some miracle, Lois Lane stood the chance to have her cake and eat it, too.
"We'll just have to make up for it," he told her, with a warm smile.
Letting go of the socks she was still holding on to, Lois moved in closer to Clark. She looped her arms around his neck. "I like the sound of that," she replied.
Seconds stretching into infinity, Lois let herself drown in Clark's dark chocolate eyes. *Kiss me*, she thought, heart racing madly; memories of their last kiss still fresh on her mind — still alive on her lips. Before she could formulate her silent wish again, Lois found herself sitting across Clark's lap. She let out a small contented sigh, his strong arms tightening around her waist before, finally, their lips met.
What started out a soft and tender kiss quickly reached into the higher levels of the passion spectrum; every nerve tingling at the heat emanating from even the slightest brush of skin against skin, of tongue against tongue.
"You know, about time lost…" Lois said through erratic breaths as she tried to focus her thoughts after breaking the kiss. "Maybe we should start thinking about cleaning this place some before the weekend is over?"
"No need to start now," Clark replied as he traced a long path of kisses down her neck. "I can get it done… real quick… how about tomorrow?"
She let her head fall back, moaning softly. Fighting against the desire to just give in and surrender to his sweet caresses, she pulled away slightly. "Clark, no," she said, finally, "I don't want you to do everything."
"We'll get Superman to do it," he told her, brushing a kiss on her chin. "Tomorrow."
Lois swatted him playfully on the chest. "Silly! I don't want *him* doing everything, either."
"Superman isn't around," Clark explained, pulling down on the collar of his shirt, as if the fact that he wasn't wearing the Suit proved his point. "He doesn't get a vote. I'd rather concentrate on what Clark wants. Cleaning isn't on the list," he added and leaned in closer to nuzzle her neck.
"You normally wear the Suit under your clothes?" came Lois's perplexed reply.
Clark moved back slightly and looked at her, an amused smile on his face. "Well, yeah," he said, shrugging. "That's how I'm able to change so fast."
"Oh, so *that's* why you're always tugging on your tie!" she said, almost victoriously. As if she'd just understood one of life's greatest mysteries.
"Uh, yeah, that would be it," he confirmed, wondering why it mattered so much. Obviously Lois had switched to her reporter-mode. Clark hoped there was still a chance she would go back to being just the woman in his arms, but the sparkle he saw in her eyes told him otherwise. He could tell that her brain was working overtime trying to inventory all the little hints and details she had missed before; she was connecting the dots, just as she would if he'd been a story she was working on, a case she was trying to crack.
"So, um, you said something about cleaning the place up?" Clark said when it became clear that the mood was broken and the moment gone.
"We really should get a move on if we're going to get anything done this weekend," Lois told him, getting up. "I know you can work at super speed, but it wouldn't be fair to let you do everything while I sit here and, you know… marvel at your abilities."
"Most people would call that supervising," he teased.
"Yeah, well it still wouldn't be fair," she said. She gestured at her pajamas and started in the direction of the bathroom. "Let me just get dressed. I'll be right back."
"How about we break for dinner?" Clark suggested. They had spent the last few hours cleaning and dusting and were just about done getting the dishes and silverware from the china cabinet into a couple of big boxes, keeping only a strict minimum for them to use.
"Sounds good," Lois replied, wiping a little bit of sweat off her forehead with the back of her hand. "I wouldn't mind taking a break."
"I can empty out the bookcases later," he offered. Lois had told him earlier that she thought it might be a good idea to donate the books to charity. She had no particular use for them anyway.
"I'll help you. There are two of those and two of us." She looked around. "We're going to need more boxes though, I think."
"I can go get some. Unless…" He slid his glasses down on his nose a little and tilted his head back, proceeding to examine the ceiling for a few seconds.
"What are you…" Lois started before it dawned on her that he was looking through the ceiling, into the attic. "Oh."
"There's a stack of boxes up there, all folded neatly and tied together," he explained, looking back to Lois as he pushed the glasses back up the bridge of his nose. "I'll be right back."
Clark went up into the attic and grabbed all the boxes he thought they might need. When he came back down, he was covered in dust and cobwebs.
"Dusty is definitely not a good look for you," Lois told him, giggling.
"I guess not, huh?" Clark said as he glanced at his reflection in the dresser's big round mirror. "I'll hit the shower real quick and then we can see about dinner."
Lois nodded and took the boxes from him. She set out to put the boxes back together again, while he was in the shower, but she barely had time to get two done before Clark emerged from the bathroom. She looked at him, surprised. He wore different clothes and his hair was wet.
"Super speed," he explained.
"Oh. Of course." Lois stared at him for a few seconds, wondering if he did everything at super speed when he was alone at home. She shrugged the thought away. She could ask about it some other time. Right now, the idea of a nice hot shower was way too appealing. "I could use a shower as well," she told him. "It's going to take me a while, though. I'm just an ordinary Earth girl, after all."
"That's fine," he said, with a lopsided smile. "As it turns out, I'm quite partial to Earth girls." He moved in closer to where she was. "But there's nothing ordinary about you," he whispered in her ear when he got close enough.
"You got that right, flyboy," she whispered back, before heading off in the direction of the bathroom.
Clark shook his head, laughing whole-heartedly. He made his way towards the kitchen but stopped to look at the fireplace and the bookcases that stood next to it, an idea forming in his head. He had plenty of time, he guessed, looking back to the bathroom for a second.
When Lois got out of the bathroom, well over fifteen minutes later, she found Clark standing in the kitchen. He had apparently started to get dinner ready without her. Not that she minded, really, seeing as she was hopeless in a kitchen, but she had pretty much expected he'd wait for her before he got started.
As she walked over to join him, she glanced over to the fireplace and suddenly froze in place. The bookcases were now completely empty! He had transferred their entire contents into boxes and piled those up neatly against the wall.
"Clark, you weren't supposed to do all that on your own," she admonished.
"That? It only took me a second," he explained, grinning.
"Show off!" Lois noticed another, smaller box that sat on the coffee table. "What's this one?" she asked, pointing in its direction.
"Oh, those are the ones I thought you should keep," Clark told her.
She walked over to the box and opened it, looking through the books. "War and Peace? Moby Dick? Oh, even better… Huck Finn! Clark, I really have no interest in any of these!"
"Why not? They're great, you know," he said. "Anyhow, it just looked like some of them might be worth something. First editions and such. There's a copy of War of the Worlds in there with a dedication on the first page."
"If you say so." Lois shrugged. "What about this one?" she asked, lifting up the copy of To Kill a Mockingbird which had apparently been forgotten on the floor, between the couch and the coffee table.
"I wondered where it had disappeared to," he said. "You should keep that one, it's a wonderful book."
"You can have it if you like," she suggested, setting it on the coffee table.
"I, uh, have a few copies of it at home already," Clark explained. Seeing her questioning look, he added, "It's my favorite novel." So what if he had more than one copy of the same novel, he thought. People collected stranger things, after all. He turned his attention back to the potatoes he'd been peeling.
Lois walked over to the kitchen and hoisted herself up to sit on the counter. "Mind if I just sit here and… um… supervise?" she asked.
"Marvel at my abilities, you mean?" he teased.
"Hey, at least you have some. I don't even know the difference between mashed potatoes and pureed."
Clark gave her an amused look. "There is no difference, Lois. Mashed and pureed mean the same thing."
"See!" she said, blushing slightly. "I'm completely useless here."
"No you're not." He wiped his hands quickly and took a step in her direction, then leaned in and kissed her. "Thanks," he said afterwards, "that was very… useful."
He was about to go back to preparing dinner, but she grabbed his arm and pulled him back towards her. "Come back here," she said, "I don't think that was nearly useful enough."
She dragged him back in front of her and wrapped her legs and arms around him to keep him there. "Let's see just how useful I can make myself," she said in a sultry voice, closing in the distance between them.
Lois lightly brushed her lips against Clark's, once, and again a second time, leaving him breathless with anticipation before finally she captured his bottom lip between her own. A deep, long sigh escaped him as he felt the delicate touch of her tongue. He returned the gesture, suckling on her top lip gently. Before long, they were lost in each other's kisses.
Clark broke the kiss after a moment and bowed his head, looking into her eyes from above the rim of his glasses. "Just how hungry are you?" he asked, his voice low and husky.
"Ask me again later," Lois whispered, burying her hands in his hair and pulling him back towards her.
"Not sure I'll be able to ask again until much later," he warned her.
"Doesn't matter," she assured him, planting hot, wet kisses along his jaw line. "Food's not what I want right now."
"Tell me… What do you want, Lois?"
"You," she said, breathlessly. "I want you, Clark."
Clark closed his eyes and exhaled slowly, head spinning and thoughts racing out of control.
"Lois," he whispered hoarsely. He crushed his lips to hers, kissing her deeply and passionately. "Want you… so much…" he whispered between ragged breaths, pulling away just enough to look into her soft brown eyes.
Lois looked at him, eyes unfocused, lips wet and swollen from their kisses. "I'm all yours," she told him, a slight tremble in her voice.
"Are you sure?" he asked in a husky voice after a moment's reflection. "Lois? Because I…"
"Yes," she breathed.
He grabbed her hands and brought them back from behind his neck, an intense look in his eyes. "Lois," he said, his tone soft but serious. He brushed a quick kiss on her fingers before releasing them. "I just need to make something clear, this… it's not just a fling. It means a lot more to me; you mean a lot more to me. So if you're not -"
Lois blinked in surprise. "A fling?" she asked, interrupting him. "You don't seriously think…? I'd have to be completely out of my mind! I've come this close to losing you way too many times already. Clark, I want to be with you because I love you." She raised her hands to his face and gently removed his glasses, setting them down on the counter beside her. "All of you. The good-natured farm boy and the fearless hero who hides underneath."
Clark stood, speechless, taking her words in. This was everything he had ever longed for. His entire existence, all he had ever wanted was someone to love; someone who would love him back for who he was, someone who could see *him* past the super powers and the alien DNA.
Lois stroked his cheek tenderly but stopped suddenly, frowning. "Unless you're not sure? I mean… if you're having second thoughts…"
"No second thoughts," he said. "I'm still only interested in the first ones."
"Hm… Any chance they have to do with sharing that big bed over there?" she asked, smoothing her hand across his chest.
"Unless you'd like to flip for it?" He raised an eyebrow.
"Flip? Sure, we could flip," Lois replied, a mischievous smile appearing on her lips. "How about we flip the light switch?" she asked, placing her hands back behind his neck. She leaned in closer and trailed feather-light kisses up his neck and right to the corner of his mouth.
"Good idea," he mumbled against her lips, claiming them in a passion-filled kiss.
Clark wrapped his arms around Lois's waist and lifted her up from the counter. Without breaking the kiss for even a second, he took a few steps back and turned the light off. A few paces later, Lois felt her foot bump against the side of the bed.
Her feet dropped slowly towards the floor, Clark's strong hands around her waist holding her steady as she did. Once she found her footing, Lois's hands traveled from his neck all the way to where his shirt hung, loosely, over his jeans. She slipped one hand, then the next, under the hem of his shirt. A shiver ran through him as her fingers caressed his skin. She smoothed her hands over his muscular torso, taking the shirt up with her as she went. A moment later, Clark's shirt was on the floor.
Lois looked up at his face and saw him smile. Had he any idea what sort of effect that smile had on her, she wondered? Such a small little gesture — just a smile — but it held so much power and so much promise, too. For a few seconds that seemed to last a lifetime, she looked at his face, caressing every inch of it with her eyes. The shape of his eyebrows, the deep chocolate color of his eyes, the smooth skin of his cheeks, the strong jaw line, the small freckle above his lip… and that smile. Oh, that smile. Feeling weak at the knees, she pulled away from him and sat on the edge of the bed.
Clark turned to face her, looking down with an air of concern. "Are you OK?" he asked, hoping she wasn't feeling nauseous again.
"I'm fine," she assured him with a smile of her own as she pulled herself further up onto the bed. She turned her head to the side once she settled down flat on her back, and saw Clark hovering a few feet off the floor. A moment later, he landed next to her, on his side with his head propped up on one hand.
"Oooh, Superman," she whispered. Biting her lower lip, she traced an invisible 'S' on his chest.
"At your service," he answered, lowering his tone an octave or so just as he would have if he'd been wearing the Suit.
"You have no idea how sexy that voice is," Lois told him, reaching up towards him.
She brushed her lips over his, and he nibbled at her top lip, letting his tongue trail across it.
"Want you… Clark…" Lois mumbled between kisses.
Never before had he felt like he was cut off from the rest of the world; there were no cries for help, no voices. The rest of the world had just vanished, allowing for this one moment where all that existed was him — and her. She was his, he was hers. Eyes closed, he prayed for the feeling to last forever.
Lois snuggled closer to Clark, laying her head in the crook of his shoulder. She ran a hand over his chest, letting it rest just above his pounding heart. He slid one arm around her, hugging her tightly to him. With the other hand, he reached for the blanket and tugged at it so he could cover them with it.
Lois sighed contentedly, feeling his slowing heartbeat and his chest rising and falling under her hand. There was nowhere she would rather be than in his arms. His strong, loving arms. Where she knew she would be welcome, now and forever.
In one blinding moment of clarity, Lois knew that she was right where she belonged. That she was meant to be with this man. Her kind, gentle farm boy from Kansas by way of Krypton, with whom she would always be safe, cherished and loved. There would be no federal disaster — not this time. And there could never be anyone else. He was the one; the only. Her eyes filled with tears as, silently, she gave him her heart, her soul. As she closed her eyes, a teardrop fell onto his skin.
Clark frowned when a second tear followed the first and he realized that she was crying.
"Lois?" he asked, tilting her chin up gently with a finger so he could look into her eyes. "You're crying? Why — what's wrong?"
She just shook her head, eyes sparkling from more than tears.
"Honey, please don't cry," he said, his heart breaking at the sight of her with tears in her eyes.
*Honey*? Her heart swelled upon hearing the word, her vision blurring even more. If he was trying to get her to stop crying, he wasn't going about it the right way, Lois thought to herself.
Panic started rising inside him. Had he hurt her? "Tell me what's wrong. Please? Tell me, so I can fix it."
"Nothing's wrong," she explained with some difficulty, the words barely making it past the lump in her throat. After a long pause and with a watery smile she added, "I love you, Clark. With all my heart; I love you."
"Oh, Lois, I love you so much," he whispered. Tightening his arms around her, he brushed a kiss on her forehead.
They soon fell asleep, tangled in each other's arms.
Lois opened her eyes slowly. Turning on her side, she realized that Clark was no longer lying beside her in bed. She looked around for him, concerned that perhaps Superman had been needed and he'd had to run off someplace in a hurry, leaving her alone. Muffled sounds coming from the kitchen quickly dispelled her worries. She could hardly see into the kitchen at all from where she was, but knowing he was there was comforting enough.
Getting out of bed, Lois went looking in her bag for the nightgown she was no longer sorry to have brought along. She slipped it on and padded quietly to the bathroom. A few minutes later, refreshed and now fully awake, she made her way to the kitchen.
Clark sucked in a sharp breath at the sight of her dressed in black lace. The saucepan he was holding slid from his hand and landed on the counter with a metallic thud.
"What?" she asked. With a crooked little smile, Lois walked right up to him, planting a kiss on the side of his neck.
"I thought you said you weren't going to walk around in that," he said, placing a hand at the small of her back and pulling her in.
"Would you like me to take it off?" she whispered in his ear, then started nibbling on it.
"I'd like nothing more," he whispered back.
She peered at the reflection of the fire dancing in Clark's soft brown eyes. "Can I still ask you for anything I'd like?" she asked.
"Always, Lois," he assured her.
"Come back to bed," she whispered.
"Don't you Earth girls ever eat?" Clark asked, raising an eyebrow. If he didn't know any better, he could have sworn she was trying to do everything she could to keep him from fixing dinner.
"Well yes," Lois said, with a sly smile. "As a matter of fact, we prey on handsome visitors from other planets. First, we seduce them…"
"Interesting. And then what?" he asked, amused.
"Then…" She made a dramatic pause before going on. "Then, we rip out their spleen!"
Clark chuckled. "Ah! Well, I guess it's lucky I just happen to be invulnerable, huh?"
"Um… I'd forgotten about that. I suppose I'll have to find something else to do with you," she said, smoothing her hands across his chest. "Unless you'd rather have dinner, of course," she added after a short pause, shrugging.
"Dinner? Um…" he mumbled, thoughts started racing at a speed to match his heartbeat.
"I didn't think so," Lois said in a whisper, leaning in closer to him.
The fire had died before Lois woke up the next morning. She shivered under the covers. She stirred, trying to find a way to snuggle up as closely as humanly possible to the warm mass of muscles breathing evenly beside her.
"Are you cold?" Clark asked sleepily, eyes barely opened.
"Just a little," she lied. In reality she was pretty much freezing and she knew that since the fire was out it would only be getting colder, but she didn't want either of them to have to get up.
"There's no more fire," he stated, matter-of-factly. "I'll go -"
"No, don't," she pleaded, hugging him tightly. "Stay with me."
"Lois, you're shivering. I'll be back before you even realized you missed me," Clark told her softly.
"Even you don't move that fast… Superman." She smiled at him, sighing in barely hidden admiration. It was strange and wonderful at the same time to think about who this man beside her really was. She had to refrain from giggling at the thought that Superman's outfit really did come off.
He brushed a small kiss on her lips and, as he started to get out of bed, said, "I'll be right back, you'll see."
A few heartbeats later, there was a warm fire burning in the chimney and Clark was crawling back to bed. "Miss me?" he teased.
"Yeah," she pouted, snuggling up to him again.
"Missed you too," he told her, gathering her in his arms.
They lay there for several minutes in silence, enjoying each other's presence.
"Clark? What happens now?" Lois asked, half lost in thought.
"Well, isn't your real-estate agent coming over?"
"No… I mean, when we go back to Metropolis. What happens then?"
"We go back to work. You know… followings leads, catching the bad guys in the act and writing award winning articles about it."
His voice had an amused tone, but inside, he was a little scared and anxious — he knew what she had meant, but had decided to dodge the question, unsure how he should answer it. He didn't really know how things should work once they got back home. He hadn't had time to think about it long enough; this weekend was happening a lot faster than he had ever thought possible.
"No, Clark, I'm serious," Lois told him, propping her head up on one arm. "We'll go back to work and then Superman will go back to work, too… and, well, I'm just wondering where that leaves us. I mean, how do I go back to how it was before?"
"Is that what you want?" The question came out before he really realized. His heart was thundering in his chest now. She'd assured him that this meant something to her, that it wasn't just a weekend out of time and character, but he couldn't help the feelings of insecurity that were welling up inside him. Though he couldn't imagine her telling him she loved him without meaning it, what if she wasn't ready to be in a relationship with him? What if she asked him to sweep the events of the weekend under the rug? How would he ever be able to do that?
"No, I don't," she admitted. "I hate that this weekend will soon be over. I don't want it to be. It's so easy to just be here with you now. I don't want to have to face sleeping alone in my apartment when we go back home. Not to mention I'll have to share you with the rest of the world again."
Relief poured through him as she spoke. She hadn't meant that she wanted things to get back to how they'd been before. He almost felt ashamed for thinking that was it. They were just both seeking reassurance that this weekend was the beginning of something else. But neither of them really knew how things were supposed to work now. They'd skipped over the usual beginnings, in a way, and had found themselves propelled somewhere in the middle of what the 'normal' storyboard of a relationship looked like. But then, when had their lives been anything but unusual anyway?
"Superman belongs to the world," he told her. Knowing that this would do nothing to calm her anxieties, he explained further. "But Clark Kent, on the other hand, you'll never have to share with anyone else. He won't ever belong to anyone but you, Lois."
"I guess I can live with that," she told him with a smile. "Do you always refer to yourself in the third person?"
"It just makes it easier," he explained. "My mother hates it." He shrugged.
Lois giggled. "As long as you're sure who you are," she said.
"Oh, I'm perfectly sure who I am." He gave her a lopsided smile before going on. "I'm the guy who's sleeping with Lois Lane."
She giggled even more, blushing somewhat at the way he had described it. "I can see the tabloid headlines from here… Reporter gets the real skinny on Superman," she said with an overly dramatic voice, causing them both to laugh out loud.
"Um… Talking about Superman…" he started, turning more serious. "I think maybe he needs to be seen in Metropolis soon. He hasn't been around since Friday morning… He's been out on other rescues of course, but the criminal element in Metropolis is usually pretty quick to assume he's gone for good. I should probably go out on a patrol while the sun is out."
"Yeah, I was afraid you'd say that." She sighed dejectedly. "You're sure it can't wait until later tonight?"
"Well the whole point is for him to be *seen*…"
Lois started at the ceiling for a minute or two, thinking. About the weekend and how it would be over much, much too soon. About how she didn't really want to have to go back home today and wished they could have a reason to stay. Just one more day… And how she would be sorry to sell this place after all. An idea started forming in her head, all of a sudden.
"You know… you're right," she said, finally. "It's the reasonable thing to do. I mean, being out there when people can see you. And it works out fine, what with the real-estate agent being here around lunch time." Mentally, she crossed her fingers, hoping he'd fall for it. In reality, Ryan had told her he'd be by sometime in the afternoon, most probably late in the afternoon. But she needed to get Clark out of earshot, at least for part of her plan, or he'd probably try and lecture her on why it was wrong and she shouldn't be doing it. It just worked out better if he also wasn't around to hear her call the agent and cancel his visit.
"Are you trying to get rid of me, now?" Clark asked, suspicious. He knew the look on her face, knew it meant she was planning something. And knowing her, he wasn't sure if he should be happy or afraid of the consequences.
"Why would I want to do that?" she asked, in an overly sweet tone that confirmed all of his apprehensions.
As Lois got up and headed for the bathroom, Clark wondered why she would possibly want to get him to leave when she had made such a big deal of her not wanting him to get out of bed just a few moments before. He shrugged. He'd probably never really understand the inner-workings of Lois's mind. On the other hand, it was better this way anyhow — what would he have done if she'd made it absolutely impossible for him to leave? None of his special abilities were enough to resist her. And after all, there was a reason he had suggested he should do a quick patrol of Metropolis…
It was almost 1:30 PM when Clark flew back to the cabin. He had taken care of everything that needed his attention — and then some — and had been around Metropolis more times then he could count. It was still early, though; earlier than he'd said he would be back.
He found Lois sitting in front of the fire, wrapped up in a warm blanket. She was reading a book. She closed it and set it on the coffee table when she saw him come in and as she did so, the blanket slipped off, exposing her bare shoulder and the black spaghetti strap of her nightgown. He swallowed uneasily, remembering what she had looked like in it yesterday…
"Everything go OK?" she asked.
"Oh? Um… yeah. Yeah, it went… fine, I guess," he stammered. "How'd it go with your agent?"
"He hasn't been here," Lois informed him.
"Oh?" Clark looked at her, quizzically. If the agent hadn't been by, why was she sitting there in a nightgown? His eyes narrowed as he felt the beginnings of an odd wave of jealous possessiveness surge through him. He tried to reason with himself — he had to be overreacting. Jumping to conclusions wasn't the right or even the logical thing to do, but his mind was in a little bit of a mess and he was having a hard time sorting through things logically anyway.
"And he won't be," she added, reassuringly, seeing the reaction telling Clark only half the news had caused. "I changed my mind."
"You know when we got here how I said I wished I would be at least a little sorry to have to sell the place?"
Clark nodded and sat down beside her, waiting for the rest of the explanation.
"Well, I realized I would be *a lot* sorry, actually. And I know it's probably not going to get used that often — because face it, when do we ever get time off, really? — But, you know… a little weekend here and there, so we can get away from the rest of the world? Just you and me."
Lois let out a small, nervous laugh. "What's wrong? 'Oh' is all you've been able to say for the last five minutes, Clark."
"I'm sorry," he said. "I'm just a little distracted."
"Did something happen?" she asked, brows furrowed in concern. "While you were out in Metropolis?"
"No, nothing. It was pretty peaceful." He gave her a warm smile. "It's what you're wearing that's distracting, actually," he added, his cheeks turning a faint shade of pink.
"Oh, well, I just thought… you know, since we have nothing else to do all day…" She shrugged.
"You Earth girls really are insatiable," he said, shaking his head.
"Oh, you have no idea!" She smiled, almost victoriously. "I even got us a day off tomorrow, just so I could have my way with you some more."
"Nope. I called Perry," Lois explained. "Told him we were stuck here. You know, on account of all the snow and…" She blushed. "Well, me stupidly canceling the snow removal service. I kinda let him think they'd be by tomorrow and that we'd head back as soon as we could."
"You lied to him?" Clark asked, shocked. "Straight up lied to him? Lo-is!"
"Hey, look who's talking, Mr. I-Moonlight-In-Blue-Tights-And-A-Cape. At least I can lie convincingly. Cheese of the Month. Please…" She giggled as she recalled some of his most outrageous excuses. "In fact, I think you should let me come up with excuses from now on. Seriously, Clark, you're not very good at it."
"I don't know how we got to talking about my excuses for running off unexpectedly," he said, getting up and gathering her in his arms. "But I tell you what… if you let me go back to what we were discussing just before that, I'll let you do all the talking from now on."
"Mmmm… You've got a deal, flyboy." She leaned in and kissed him.
As they left the cabin, on Monday afternoon, Lois thought about the woman who had left it to her. She'd never met her, nor did she know much about this woman, but she owed her a huge debt of gratitude for the part that she had played in making this weekend happen. Lois's life had been altered because of it. Completely. And she couldn't have been happier about it.
Lois had arrived here on Friday night simply wanting to explore possibilities and was leaving, two and a half days later, with a whole new world of possibilities opening up before her.
She glanced at Clark, lovingly, and he looked back, giving her one of those smiles to melt her heart with. And while she didn't know for sure what the future might hold, she was certain of one thing: he'd always be right there by her side as it unfolded.
A weekend was all it had taken to forever change the landscape of their relationship. A weekend that had come about suddenly and unexpectedly… like a blizzard, through the night.
Bottom Dweller's Notes:
A quick little note about "This Old House" — it's a TV show that's been on the air since 1979 (on PBS) where they renovate a house from top to bottom. Even if you've never heard of it, chances are you're familiar with Bob Vila — this is the first show that he hosted. Of course, when Lois complains that even they couldn't fix up the house, she's exaggerating quite a bit. Then again, even though Bob Vila *can* work miracles, by the time this story takes place (1995) he wasn't on "This Old House" anymore, so who knows…
According to DC lore, Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" is Superman's favorite book. Actually, depending where you're looking for info, you will find that this is Superman's favorite book and that the movie version is Clark Kent's favorite movie. Either way… apparently both these guys like the same story — surprising, isn't it? Hehehe! The line I quoted is really the first line of the book.
War of the Worlds is a novel by H.G. Wells, in case you didn't know. It sounded like an appropriate choice, considering…