This is a companion piece I jotted out this weekend while on the Road Trip from Hell. I know, I know. I should have been working on my next chapter for the story I shall refrain from shamelessly plugging here. But, riding for eight hours straight in a back seat that I'm sure came right out of the Spanish Inquisition, it was hard to be inspired to write the scene were Clark and Lois...ah...never mind. You wouldn't want me to ruin it, would you? ;)
Anyway, as I was saying, this is a companion piece to my other standalone fic, Standing on the Brink. Unless, of course, the quality of this isn't up to par. In which case, this is a short story I wrote to while away the time until I could regain some blessed freedom. :D
Okay, all joking aside...here it is, by popular request! (Oh, and, of course, the characters do not belong to me. Nor are there any spoilers, unless, of course, you don't know that Clark will some day be Superman. If that's the case, you must tell me what rock you've been living under.)
Clark smiled to himself as he soared high above the clouds. Out of sight from any curious onlookers below, he flipped over onto his back and linked his fingers behind his head, lazily drifting through the sky. His red cape flapped at his ankles as he closed his eyes and recalled an image from memory.
Lois Lane. He could see her face in his mind as clearly as if she were standing before him – the lines that formed beside her mouth when she smiled and the ones that appeared between her brows when she was working on a problem. He could vividly recall the mischievous glint in her eyes when she was planning on causing trouble and the kindness with which she looked at him when bumbling Clark Kent made an idiot out of himself. Though there was once a time when they would have both sworn they would never be able to stand each other, they had somehow gradually become friends over the last few years.
Even more gradually still, Clark had fallen in love with her.
There were so many times when he almost told her how he felt, so many instances when he almost gave in to the urge to do all those things he'd dreamt of for so long. A thousand times a day, her hand would brush his and he was tempted to grab on to her and pull her close. When she passed by and he smelled her perfume, he wanted to bury his nose in her hair and inhale her scent. When sadness lurked behind her eyes, he wanted to caress the curves of her face and promise to take all of her sorrow away. When she grinned at him, he wanted to lean down and kiss the smile from her lips.
But, of course, he never did any of these things. He might adore Lois, but he entertained no delusions that she felt likewise. She looked at Clark Kent in friendship; it was Superman that she looked at with desire. It was Superman that she longed for, Superman she dreamed of holding at night. It was Superman that she loved.
Of course, she would no doubt look at Clark the way she looked at Superman if only she knew they were the same person. If only Clark would tell her. But he couldn't, because he wanted her to look at him they way she looked at his superhero alter-ego. He wanted her to see the man beneath the suit and love him anyway. He needed to know that she would love him for the man he was, not just for the things he could do.
So he kept his silence and resolved to give her time. He didn't do all the things he longed to do. He didn't hold her. Didn't tell her how he felt. Didn't kiss her.
At least, he hadn't until this evening. At the reminder of his own stupidity, Clark scowled and straightened into a standing position. He flew higher into the sky as if trying to escape the memory, but it wouldn't go away. So, instead of avoiding it, he frowned down at the Earth below and remembered.
They had been working together on a story, and, as was often the case, their efforts had kept them late at the Daily Planet so they had ordered dinner in. Clark still didn't know how the moment of his monumental stupidity had come about. One minute, he was joking along with Lois as she tried to scoot around him to steal a bite of his sandwich. The next, he held her in his arms, and he was kissing her.
He closed his eyes, vividly recalling every detail of that moment. He could still smell the scent of her skin, feel the silky fabric of her blouse under his fingertips as he'd wrapped his arms around her, taste the coffee she'd been drinking on her lips. It had happened so fast and so unexpectedly, he still couldn't say who had initiated the embrace. Had he grabbed on to her first? Had he finally lost the battle with temptation? At first, he could have sworn that she'd been the one to kiss him, but then the embrace ended and he stepped away from her. His heart had leapt in his chest, and, for a moment, he wanted to rip off the glasses he wore as part of his disguise and reveal everything to her.
But then she looked at him – in amazement at first, her eyes wide as she unconsciously raised her hand to touch her lips. Then the amazement turned to horror, and Clark felt sick inside. Trying to diffuse the situation, he had lamely muttered something to excuse himself, though he doubted that she even heard him since she'd blurted something about needing fresh air and had all but bolted to the elevator.
That's how he'd left things between them. Before she could return to the newsroom, Clark had left. Fortunately, calls for Superman were never scarce, and he'd been able to lose himself for a time in flying where he was needed.
Clark shook his head and slowly descended, the peaceful moment he'd stolen completely ruined. Part of him wished he could turn back time and undo the events of the evening, but, at the same time, he knew he'd never forget the way she'd felt in his arms, and, no matter what happened tomorrow, he didn't want to.
With a start, he realized he was near Lois's apartment. He shouldn't have been surprised – with all the times he'd flown there, he could probably make the trip in his sleep. After a moment's hesitation, he descended so that he was floating outside her window. Making sure to stay far enough away so that she wouldn't see the bright yellow and red "S" on his chest, he peered through the glass at the woman inside.
Lois was sitting on the couch with her legs curled under her, perusing some papers she had spread around her. As he watched, she put the paper in her hand aside and visibly sighed. Reaching out a hand, she tapped two fingers thoughtfully on the cordless phone on the table by her side. She picked it up, nibbled on her lower lip for a moment, and the put it back down with a scowl. Shaking her head, she stood, stretched, and walked out of the room.
He wondered what would happen if he knocked on her window and made his presence known. More, he wondered what she would do if Clark appeared on her doorstep. Would she be appalled to see him standing there? Embarrassed? Nervous? Happy?
Clark sighed and flew into the sky again, heading for the alley by the Daily Planet where he'd stashed his clothes. It was idle thoughts like the one he'd just been entertaining that had gotten him in trouble to begin with. But still, as he rose into the air, he couldn't help but glance back down at her apartment window.
Although tonight had been a shining example of how dangerous dreaming could be, he couldn't stop himself from entertaining the fantasy of finally telling her the truth. He couldn't stop from wondering how she'd react. Would she look at him with the same horror he'd seen on her face after their kiss, or would she finally look at him with the love she reserved for the man in the blue, yellow, and red? Would she be overjoyed, or would she be disappointed that the man she adored wasn't as infallible as the rest of the world believed him?
Even though it wasn't the relationship he wanted with her, was he willing to risk losing her completely in the hopes that one day she would return his affection? As it was, he was the person she confided in. He was the one she spent most of her days – and a good portion of her evenings – alongside. He wasn't able to tell her how he felt, but he could show her every day in a million tiny ways.
He could also someday watch when she gave up on the dream of loving Superman and fell in love with someone else, never knowing how he felt about her. For the sake of friendship, could he stand back and let her do that without having once tried for something more?
The doubt and the endless questions ate away at him as he wondered what to do. He didn't think it was likely that she would, but what if she rejected him when she discovered his secret? What if she couldn't handle the knowledge that the man she'd known for years and had finally befriended was an alien? He was well aware that part of the appeal of Superman was the fantasy; what if she found the reality distasteful? Furthermore, keeping his secret wasn't easy on anyone who bore that responsibility. What if she decided it was more than she was willing to handle?
Then again, what if she didn't? He could easily imagine spending his life with her, waking up in bed next to her every morning, holding her in his arms each night as she drifted off to sleep. He wanted to be the one to make her smile and the one to hold her when she cried. She intrigued him, amazed him, challenged him, and comforted him, and he didn't want to miss a moment of it for the rest of his life.
Before he could second-guess himself, Clark changed back into his regular clothes and sped back to her apartment. Standing outside her front door, he raised his hand to knock, but he paused at the last moment. Opening his fist, he rested his palm gently against the wood and took a few deep breaths. Then he closed his eyes as his head drooped, and he contemplated one last time what he was about to do.
Maybe she would open the door and appear happy to see him. Maybe she hadn't been entirely unaffected by their kiss. He swore that if she looked at him with even a portion of the love she usually reserved for Superman, he would confess everything to her. He would tell her how he felt, how much he loved her. He would tell her his secret. If, on the other hand…
Clark winced, unable to finish the thought. There was so much at stake; he didn't know what he would do if he saw that same look in her eyes from earlier that evening. It wasn't too late to change his mind. He could stop now and walk away and, tomorrow, the two of them could pretend nothing had happened.
But he couldn't quite seem to make himself leave, on the slight chance that she would look at him tonight the way she looked at him in his dreams. He had to know how she felt about him; he couldn't stand wondering any longer. Of all the "what if?"s he'd entertained that evening, there was one that bugged him the most. What if he could finally tell her the truth and actually be allowed to be himself when he was by her side?
Raising his head, he knocked briskly and held his breath, waiting for her to answer the door. Waiting for her to find out who he really was. Waiting for her to love him. Waiting.