By Kaylle T
Author's note: While watching Tracey's tapes of L&C during our Girls' Week Out in North Carolina, I commented that the conversation in Ordinary People could have gone in a completely different direction. As was her habit at the time, Tracey promptly assigned the story to me. A year and a half later I finally figured out where this conversation wanted to go and finished it. Better late than never, right, Trace? g
A big thank you to Laura and Tracey for betareading, and thanks to CC Aiken for GEing it and doing a great job of it;), and to Paul for listening to me brainstorm and/or complain aloud...
The fire was flickering low before them, and they lay contentedly watching it fade. Lois couldn't remember the last time she'd felt so peaceful, so content.
Cuddled close against him, she sketched idly on his hand as it lay across her stomach. "You know, I dreamed of this," she murmured absently. "Of spending the night in your arms. At first it was Superman I dreamed of... and then it was Clark."
He didn't seem upset by that admission. "What happened?"
She realized, abruptly, what she had said and what she was revealing. How could she say what she'd dreamt of? How could she speak of adolescent, wish-fulfillment fantasies, dramatic declarations and imagined kisses that would leave her starry-eyed and enchanted? Or of more intimate dreams, touches in the darkness and whispered words of affection?
She cast about for a generality. "Well, first you held me in your arms..." He smiled and pulled her a bit tighter to him, his fingers warm against her skin where her shirt had ridden up along her side.
"And then we kissed..." Again he obliged her, reaching down to cup the back of her head and press his lips to hers in a brief but affectionate caress.
"And..." she trailed off, remembering how most of those childish dreams had played out.
She blushed, closing her eyes in embarrassment. "And then I asked you how you felt about me."
Clark smiled encouragingly, letting her pull away and pillow her head on his stomach once more. "What did I say?"
Lois averted her eyes. She'd trusted him with her life time and time again; why was it still so hard, after all they'd been through, to trust him completely? She loved him, she knew that, and he loved her. Why would the admission of what she had dreamed change that?
"Superman would tell me he loved me too," she admitted. "That he'd always loved me. And he'd pull me close, and he'd give me a kiss, and I would just melt there in his arms." She laughed self-consciously. "That was all I wanted."
He paused, and after a moment he asked, "And... is that what you want now?"
In his voice there was still an undercurrent of tension, carefully controlled but audible. She'd thought they'd dealt with this particular issue; he'd accepted that she'd dreamed of Superman with little comment. Why the sudden fear for her fidelity, mental or otherwise?
She spoke without looking at him, her gaze fixed on the flickering glow of the fire. "I told you I dreamed of Clark, later," she said evenly, trying not to sound hurt by the doubt his words had implied.
"Yes," he replied, clearly expecting her to continue.
"Because I wanted Clark," she said, her voice firm.
She felt him sigh, his body rising and falling beneath her. "I know," he said softly. "I guess I forget that, sometimes." After a moment he asked, "What did you dream of, then?"
Lois hesitated. "Clark wasn't as bold as Superman," she said at last. "He couldn't swear undying love to me," she laughed, glancing up at him. "He could only look at me, gathering his courage... But in his eyes would be everything I needed him to say, before he ever found the nerve to say a word." She closed her eyes, remembering. "I used to wake up with that look still in my mind, and I wondered if you'd ever look at me that way."
"I didn't think you were ready to see it," he said. "It was so hard, sometimes, to hide what I felt. But I thought, if you knew, our relationship would change."
"It did," she pointed out drolly.
Clark laughed. "It did," he admitted, "and I'm glad. But it could have changed for the worse. I didn't want to lose you, what little of you I had. I didn't think I could gamble that away."
"Some nights," she said impulsively, "I'd beat you to it. I'd confess that I felt more for you than I'd realized. And your face would light up..."
"And then those dreams could play out the way your dreams with Superman did?" he asked, teasing.
"An embrace and a kiss?" Lois frowned, remembering. "Well, sometimes."
Clark frowned back at her. "Sometimes?"
She struggled not to blush, determined to be honest with him. "Superman was... well, he was a fantasy."
"And Clark isn't?"
"Well, you aren't now, no. I guess you were, then. But you were different. You... you were real. You had potential."
"Potential?" he said uncertainly. "Potential for what?"
"Potential for me," she clarified. "I mean, Superman was a celebrity and a hero. I couldn't picture him and me together. I didn't know why, at the time, because I didn't want to admit it to myself, but he and I couldn't have been together. How would we have done it?" She shook her head. "I couldn't even imagine it, as badly as I wanted to. I could imagine his declaration. I could imagine his kiss. I couldn't imagine what would happen after that."
"And with Clark?" His voice was filled with a tenuous hope now, and she squeezed his hand reassuringly.
"With Clark I could... I could picture us in other ways," she finished vaguely, her eyes fixed once more on the flicker of firelight beside her.
She was silent for a long moment, and at last he prodded, "You could picture us in other ways?"
She shrugged a little, uncomfortably. "Don't you picture us in other ways? Fantasize?"
He made a sound of sudden understanding, and his body stiffened slightly beneath her head. "I guess I do," he conceded reluctantly.
The tone of his voice made her a little more comfortable; he was obviously embarrassed, and the knowledge of it somehow made her less so. "It's okay, Clark." She smiled up at him. "I'd be a little hurt if you didn't."
He chuckled a little, but she could tell he wasn't really reassured. "I guess so."
"Superman was safe to fall in love with," she said after a moment's consideration. "He was a fantasy that couldn't come true. But to imagine us... to imagine making love with him... that was a little more frightening."
Looking up, she could see him frown. "Why?"
Lois was quiet for a moment. She still wanted to be honest with him, but this was so much harder. She pulled herself up into a seated position, wrapping her arms around her body. "I'm not very... I mean, I haven't had a lot of experience with sex," she said softly. "The guys I've been with in the past-not that there were very many of them-they weren't particularly... satisfied. With me, I mean." She fell silent again, struggling against the sudden shame rising in her. "With Superman... How could I be what he needed?"
Clark had sat up behind her, and she felt his hand fall on her shoulder. "Lois," he said firmly, but she shook her head, closing her eyes.
"Don't, Clark. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bring it up." She wasn't even sure, anymore, how the conversation had taken such a serious turn.
"Why do you believe that?" he insisted, a note of incredulity in his voice. "Claude, or Paul, you believe men like them when they tell you that? They obviously didn't see the beautiful, vibrant, passionate woman you are. I'm lucky they didn't. But what would make you believe anything they say?"
She smiled gratefully at the compliment, but shook her head. "Easy for you to say, Clark. You're still blind to all my faults."
"Not all of them," he began, and she elbowed him. "Okay, okay." He sighed, and she could feel him tensing a little beside her. "Let's look at this rationally. First of all, were you... I mean, these men who weren't satisfied with you, were you satisfied with them?"
Lois shrugged uncomfortably. "I guess so."
That startled a laugh out of him. "If you aren't sure, I think that's a no. So, Lois, if you weren't satisfied, and they weren't satisfied, it must have been a pretty miserable experience all around." At her nod, he continued, "Sounds pretty uninspiring to me."
He leaned forward and his fingers caught her chin, turned her head to look at him next to her. He met her eyes for a long, serious moment, and then kissed her firmly. He wasn't pushing, but he was making it clear that he cared for her, that he wanted her, that the touch of her lips alone gave him pleasure. When he pulled away, he smiled crookedly, running a hand self-consciously through his hair. "Now, I don't know about you, but that felt pretty inspiring to me."
Lois laughed in spite of herself, straightening her own tangled hair. "Well, yes," she agreed. "But that's not the same thing. Love isn't everything," she said softly, staring into the flames once more. "It doesn't make up for passion, or pleasure. I mean, it doesn't prove that I can be what you-- you need. All the love in the world won't make me... better at..." Her voice trailed off. "I wasn't good enough for a human man, let alone a super one..."
"Did it ever occur to you," he continued softly, ignoring her, "that Superman wondered how he could ever be what you needed?"
She laughed a little, turning her body to sit side by side with him once more. "Why would he worry? He's Superman. He has women falling over him all the time."
"I don't want 'women,'" Clark replied earnestly. "I want one woman. Lois Lane. I love you," he said, reaching to touch her cheek. "Lois, you can make me crazy just by smiling at me. Why would making love be any different?" He gave a harsh little laugh, suddenly self-deprecating. "If anyone should be worried, it's me. Clark Kent never had the effect on you that you had on him."
She rolled her eyes. "You were too busy flying around distracting me from him," she pointed out. "I was blinded by Superman."
"Yeah," he said thoughtfully, his gaze falling to the remnants of their fire. "Blinded by the superhero, and you didn't want the ordinary man."
Lois frowned; hadn't they had this conversation already? Several times? But there was something in his voice that told her there was more on his mind than her simple crush on Superman. "What is it? What's wrong?"
Clark looked back at her, and now all the teasing was gone from his face. "Lois... if we-- when we-- I mean, you're afraid of making love with me because you think I'll be... disappointed. Right?" At her nod, he shook his head. "What's the worst that could happen?"
She blinked. That was exactly the sort of thing she tried not to imagine. "I guess... you wouldn't find me attractive--"
"Impossible," he interrupted, the slightest spark of humor reappearing in his eyes.
"Or I won't be able to... please you..."
Clark shook his head. "Nope, that won't happen either."
"...Or that you'll compare me to someone in your past," Lois finished at last. "Someone who was better... in bed... than I was."
Once again he shook his head, all traces of laughter gone from his face. "And what do you think I'm afraid of?"
Lois frowned, taken aback. Clark was afraid of making love with her? "But, Clark, you already know I find you attractive."
He smiled grimly. "Maybe. But what else does that leave?"
She thought back to what she'd said. "That you won't be able to please me?" Lois looked at him in confusion. "But you... you're so... you're..."
"Superman?" he supplied with a bitter smile.
"I was going to say confident," she replied firmly, studying his downcast face in the firelight. There was still something she was missing here, something moving just below the surface of his thoughts. "Passionate. You've always... Well, let's just say you were able to command a response from my body long before I was willing to admit it," she concluded, blushing a little. There had been so many kisses between them, under so many guises and ruses, and each one had quickened her pulse, warmed her body, even as she steadfastly denied his effect on her.
"You said you never fantasized about Superman," he said quietly. "You never imagined what it might be like, making love with a 'god in a cape?' Supersex? Or whatever fantasies you had about Clark-- did they change when you found out Clark was Superman?"
She reddened fully now, hurt by the tone of his voice, the latent accusation. She'd confided those dreams and imaginings to him in a moment of trust, and she hadn't expected him to use them as indictments against her. But the tension in his shoulders, in the stiff lines of his posture, was still increasing. Something was bothering him badly. She struggled to control her hurt and indignation and speak calmly. "I don't understand, Clark."
He wouldn't look at her. "What was the last thing you were afraid of?"
"That you would compare me to someone else?"
He nodded evenly. "Or that you wouldn't live up to my expectations of you?"
Lois frowned, beginning to understand at last. "Clark..."
"Do you know what they say about Superman?" he asked, interrupting, and at last he raised his eyes to hers. There was quiet shame there, sorrow, and she reached to touch his shoulder. When she didn't answer, he continued, "They have all sorts of theories. Making love on the ceiling... instant recovery... super-awareness of his lover's responses, of what gives her the strongest pleasure... They've made him out to be the ultimate sexual partner."
She had no answer for that. "Yes," she replied at last, as mildly as she could. "I've heard them talk."
"Is that what you expect from me?" he asked after a moment, looking at her with anguish.
She raised an eyebrow. "Should I?" She'd taken enough steps onto this particular tightrope, and he'd used her confessions against her one too many times. She could see the tension in him, but she couldn't keep up this cryptic exchange any longer.
Clark sighed, raising his hands in a gesture of defeat. "Honestly, Lois, I have no idea."
She gasped before she could stop herself. Whatever she'd expected him to say, that hadn't been it. "What?" she asked, trying to understand the implications of it.
"I said I have no idea," he repeated, more forcefully this time. "I don't know what you should expect, because I've never done it before."
Lois drew a breath. So he had meant what she'd thought. "Clark," she began, and then stopped, unsure what to say.
He laughed, harshly. "Not what you expected? That Superman hasn't had sex before? Ironic, really. You were so worried about not living up to my expectations. But yours are so much higher... I hate to disappoint you, Lois, but your superhero isn't what you thought he was."
"Clark, stop," she said, moving to sit closer to him, taking his hands in hers. "I'm surprised, that's all. I mean, I told you, you're so confident... And you do have women falling all over you. Not that I expect Superman to take advantage of them," she continued hurriedly, seeing the protest rise in his expression. "But you've never been tempted? Or lonely? There was no one in high school or college that you were close to? It's just-- it's hard to take in."
"I didn't say I wasn't tempted," he said softly. "But, Lois, I've always been alone. I'm not from here. I didn't belong. And I guess I was afraid... If I let myself get that close to someone, if I let myself pretend that I belonged with her... I was afraid to be proven wrong, I guess."
Lois closed her eyes, the mental picture he'd painted rising insistently in her mind. A young Clark Kent, painfully alone. Seeking solace and connection in a woman's arms, in her bed. And emerging from that experience feeling more empty and isolated than before. For the first time she understood how deeply he needed to feel that connection, just how fragile his confidence in himself as a man worthy of love really was. What Martha had said was true; he feared his solitude more than anything else. "Oh, God, Clark, I'm sorry," she said softly, looking up at him and reaching to touch his face.
He looked startled. "Sorry for what?"
She shrugged helplessly, unable to explain. "Sorry you had to go through that alone. Sorry you've been carrying this fear inside you for so long, and that I made you doubt yourself by fawning over Superman and ignoring my feelings for Clark Kent."
"You didn't know," he replied. "You couldn't know."
"No," she agreed. "But I'm sorry you've been hurting all this time."
"It wasn't your fault. This was a choice I made a long time ago," he said firmly, with no trace of accusation or condemnation in his voice. "I just decided I needed to be sure I was ready before I took that step. I needed to meet the one person I could share everything with. I didn't think I'd survive it if... if I woke up alone the next morning and realized I'd made the wrong choice. I couldn't do that. But, Lois, I'm sure now. You're the one I've waited for."
She took a deep breath, gathering her courage. "Clark, your first time... I'm... well, I'm honored that you'd want to share that with me. But it does carry a lot of weight. Expectations."
"I don't expect anything," he protested. "I know everything will be fine. We love each other."
"But that's an expectation," she insisted. "That idea that everything will be okay because we love each other, that's something out of a romance novel. Maybe your first time-- our first time-- won't go smoothly and perfectly. Mine didn't."
"Lois," he began.
She cut him off, warming to her topic now. An unexpected thought had occurred to her, and at once she saw the truth of it. "Maybe our first time will be awkward and embarrassing. I told you, the men I've been with haven't been particularly pleased with me. And no matter what either of us says, we're not going to convince the other that they shouldn't be worried about being a disappointment. So maybe our first time won't be earth-shattering. Maybe it will just be... ordinary."
"Ordinary?" he repeated, sounding doubtful of the word.
"'Just like a regular guy,'" she quoted softly. "Like a regular couple. I fell in love with you, Clark. Not Superman, and not some super lover. You. Clark Kent. My 'ordinary man leading an ordinary life.'"
He smiled a little, recognizing the words, and laid a hand over hers where it still cupped his cheek. "But, Lois, I don't want... I mean, I don't want to be ordinary. I want to please you..."
Lois laughed. "And I don't want to be ordinary either. I didn't say all our times would be like that! I just meant we'll have to take it slowly. Learn what we like and don't like, and what works and what doesn't. The way other couples do. We love each other, Clark. We're getting married-- well, talking about getting married," she corrected hastily. "We have the rest of our lives to learn."
He was smiling more confidently now. "And who knows, maybe we'll be extraordinary from the beginning."
She laughed. "You never know."
Clark leaned forward and kissed her, firmly, the touch one of gratitude and devotion rather than passion. "You're pretty amazing already, you know that?"
She scooted closer to him and snuggled into his shoulder, feeling unexpectedly drowsy now that their nervous tension had broken. "We're okay, then? No more worrying about being inadequate, either of us, and we'll just see how things progress naturally?"
"Agreed," he said, wrapping his arms around her and leaning them both back to lie down once more. "I think I can handle being ordinary for a little while."
She smiled, closing her eyes. "Speaking of ordinary..."
"Do you feel like being just a little bit Super?" At his surprised look she smiled sheepishly. "As many times as I dreamed about spending the night in your arms-- even just sleeping-- I never really pictured us on a deserted island. And sleeping in sand isn't really appealing."
Clark chuckled. "Had enough of the regular guy so quickly?"
She grinned. "Well, it might be nice to have my Super boyfriend back again. At least until my ordinary lover and I are ready to take the next step." She met his gaze, enjoying the newfound understanding that passed between them. They weren't ready for that step yet. But she had no doubt the day would come when they would be. And, married or not, they were going to stay together. "Take us home, Clark."
He gathered her more fully into his arms, cuddling her close against as his chest as he began to float them into the air. "I thought you'd never ask..."
Some lines of dialogue in this story were taken from the scripts of Barbarians at the Planet (by Dan Levine and Deborah Joy LeVine), Ordinary People (by Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner) and Virtually Destroyed (by Dean Cain).