I have spent most of the day putting in a comma and the rest of the day taking it out. Oscar Wilde (paraphrased)

PS If you write, you are a writer. Let no one tell you different:)

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SUMMARY

After SR, after Richard, Lois and Superman face an uncertain future because of their past. Rated T for mild language and mature but not adult themes.

Disclaimer: Superman and his fellow characters are the property of Warner Bros. Studios and DC Comics, and created by Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel. The fact that Clark lives in my basement is beside the point.

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Hovering on the Brink

1. A Drink of Water

Superman perches on Lois's tiny wrought iron patio chair, incongruous in his cape and unreadable in expression, but for a slight tilt to his lips which betrays his pleasure at being in Lois's presence. She wonders if he is aware of this transparency.

Lois's chair squeals and creaks, Superman's is silent.

Is he sitting… or hovering? Lois… wake up girl – you asked him here.

"Do… you want something to… drink? Or …eat," she blurts – flashing back to a moment in time on this same balcony six years before. The same apartment complex -- the same damn apartment -- cements into fact, the fear she's carried for five years – that her marriage with Richard was never to be.

Superman's voice, steel wrapped in velvet, pulls her up from her drowning depths.

"I would… like a glass of water, Lois, if it's not too much trouble."

He holds her gaze a tad too long for her comfort.

Don't distract me, damn it.

Or, perhaps, she was the one holding it.

Somebody held it. I can't stand this, like ping pong. A stupid game, with stupid, little, white, stupid balls…

She continues to look at him, her expression guarded; her heart guarded -- steel mesh, forged through years of dearth of contact and lack of intimacy with the man-alien she once believed was her soul mate.

"Lois?"

"Huh?"

"Water?"

"Water, uh yeah, on it." Lois stumbles to the kitchen, her thoughts tumbling and tripping her up on the way.

She opens the sticky cabinet door, the stale old-man's-apartment smell assailing her, and she promises herself for the tenth time, since she moved in last month, that she'll make a trip to IKEA… soon.

He smiles like he has a secret – a BIG secret -- I'm sure of it.

The one glass she finds at the back of the shelf leaps out of her hand, and she catches it before it smashes in the sink.She stashes it back in the cupboard and chooses a plastic cup – Just in case.

Lois grabs a dishtowel from the drawer, runs the cold water and clutches the metal faucet, the chill welcome to her too-warm palms. She wets the cloth, wrings it out, and lays it on the back of her neck as she leans into the sink, faintly nauseous.

Why do I feel so angry?

At that moment, a warm hand presses her shoulder blade.

Lois starts, and rips the cloth off of her neck.

"Lois, are you okay… your heart rate shot up, and I thought…"

I hate that I never hear him approach – no, I love that.

"I'm alright, just dizzy – I lost my balance."

Twisting the rag in her hands, she feels trapped, and focuses on the cold water that seeps through her fingers and drips on the tile.

Superman turns her to face him, takes her hands in his, and massages them dry. He absorbs her shivers and suffuses her with his heat; to her consternation, without enfolding her in his arms. You'd think I was made of Kryptonite, the way he literally holds me at arm's length -- Like I'm dangerous.

"So cold, Lois -- why would you want to be cold? You never have to be cold, with me around. I could always be around…"

"Last week, Richard told Perry I have a heart of stone." Or, I only have a heart for steel Perhaps the difference is moot – whatever, I broke his heart for sure.

Then, there's Jason… why I have to talk to Superman, why I'm chained to a man I can't trust, with invisible links, invisibly forged…

Stay focused, Lois.

Squirming out of his grasp to busy herself with the task of filling the plastic cup, Lois turns back to face the famous shield, and holds the flimsy chalice between them. Superman takes it and drains it in one draft, while Lois watches his throat work.

"Do you need water?" She asks, snatching the cup out of his hand too quickly. He tilts his head and thinks before he answers, looking down for a second before meeting her eyes.

"Uh, I seem to – but I never thought about it much. My mom always says I have a hollow leg where apple juice is concerned."

"Mother?" Lois gulps, and the cup cracks in her hand.

"I'll take that," he smoothly intones, meaning to set it on the counter, but, as he reaches around her, he freezes in place.

"Thanks," Lois utters -- her face flushing, and her focus lingering on the heated brush of his arm in contact with hers.

Superman chews his lip, and Clark/blurts "W-well, anyway -- you've got plenty," and indicates her cupboard full of plastic cups and paper plates.

Lois squints at him.

Something… just there…

Now his turn to blush, Superman bends down to hide his face, and tosses the ruined cup in the trash under the sink, his soft black hair falling before his eyes like wet silk in the fluorescent light.

and there…

With a minute shake of her head, Lois mumbles, "Disposable's a lot easier when you're a single working mom."

Superman nods, serious, "I guess that makes me a single working dad."

Lois, inexplicably near tears, swipes her eyes with the dish cloth, and waves her free hand at her meagre kitchen, "… besides, most of the good stuff was…"

"Richard's," Superman finishes in a gentle rumble.

Bringing his warm palms up to cup her shoulders, he smiles, catches her eyes, and in a teasing tone says, "I think you're wrong Lois, I see some good stuff right here that he doesn't own -- that no one can own."

The air caught between them slows time, as the knowledge of what could be blazes in Superman's unfathomable cerulean gaze. Lois feels faint, but the moment dissipates like smoke, and Superman blinks. Swift as a hummingbird, he moves back, and squints in the direction of the door.

"Jason's back."

"He shouldn't see you here... not yet."

TBC

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