Prompt: "Who knows where we'd be if you'd answered that question." –Lois Lane, Committed
Dedication: This song goes out to my two aim buddies. You know who you are and you know why. g
For a person that didn't normally experience pain, the sudden introduction to sensation was always more that Clark was prepared for. The first jolt of electric current had sent flaming bolts of angry needles zigzagging throughout his body. The moment it hit, he knew that he never wanted to feel it again, and was relieved when he knew he wouldn't have to. The second question that the man had asked Lois was a no-brainer.
At least, it should have been a no-brainer. For some reason she was hesitating.
"Tell the truth," Clark urged. Lois had already told the maniac that they were pretending. There was no reason to keep up the ruse now.
"Do you love him?" Lois was asked again, and once more her hesitation confused him. She looked like she was about to dissolve into tears. What did that mean?
Finally she answered… quietly, painfully, "Yes."
Clark stiffened in preparation for the molten sting, but it didn't come.
The machine's sensors were as calm as a crystalline sea.
He frowned and looked over at Lois where she was chained and wired to a chair across from him. He barely had the chance to read the look in her eyes before she quickly glanced away. Was it anguish? Was it subterfuge? And if it was either… Why?
Before he could contemplate further, it was his turn.
"And you," the man said, turning away from the lie detector with a pleased expression and a crazy gleam, "do you love this woman?"
Love this woman, Clark repeated in his mind. Immediately his thoughts went back to Lois's answer. Then they spiraled through a series of quick memories. Lois under the love potion on Valentine's Day. Lois threatening him with a bath scrubber. Lois wrapping a blanket around his naked form.
The man moved closer, bracing the chair Clark sat in with both hands. This time it was a different pain that surrounded him—the paralyzing full-body misery that accompanied green kryptonite.
"Speak up," their tormentor demanded. "I can't hear you if you don't speak up."
The pain was getting to be unbearable. He needed a plan, he needed a diversion, he needed… "No," he whispered through his agony. The answer was so soft he could barely hear it himself.
As Clark had expected, their captor turned his head to check the machine for validity, and while he was distracted, Clark reached for his wrist and pulled the kryptonite embossed watch away.
Enraged, the maniac turned back with the intent of harm, but Clark head-butted him as soon as he was close.
A few seconds later Clark was rejuvenated, and before long, they were free.
"In or out?" Clark teased, placing his hand on the door so it wouldn't close. She'd said she wasn't avoiding him, but he knew that she was. And he wanted to talk to her about it—about what he'd been thinking since they'd escaped that madman's lair. About what Maxima had said—about what the machine had revealed about their answers.
"You know, all things considered, the stairs are better for cardio."
"Come on," he urged, gesturing for her to enter into the elevator car. "Statistically, this is the safer way to travel." It was an unspoken challenge. If she weren't avoiding him as she'd assured, she should have no problem riding with him.
Apparently Lois agreed, because she appeared to bite an invisible bullet before she stepped inside the lift to stand beside him.
In silence, they began to ascend. While Clark contemplated exactly how to broach the subject, Lois characteristically beat him to the punch. "About that test…"
Clark turned to face her and waited for her to continue.
She smirked, "I mean, you know that machine was a piece of Kaiser Era junk, right?"
If he hadn't been so focused on her eyes, he would not have seen the tell. Even then, he almost missed it—she really was a good liar.
He stepped forward and pulled the emergency stop button, causing the elevator to jolt to a halt.
"Smallville, what the hell?"
When she started to move around him to reach for the button, he shifted his body in front of it, effectively cutting off her advance and making her step backwards. "Lois…" he said, moving forward.
She stepped back again, tilting her head to the side and narrowing her eyes. "What?"
"I want to talk about it."
She scoffed, inching backward again. "There's nothing to talk about."
Her tone was firm and her voice didn't catch, but he'd seen the tell once and knew it when he saw it again. What he'd seen in her eyes were the equivalent of Lois Lane tears—and for some reason, they pulled at him. Lois Lane never wanted to appear weak, but it was when she did that he felt at his strongest. "But you said…"
She blinked and the vulnerability was gone. "Please," she said, laughing lightly and sidestepping to get around him. "I slipped the sensor off of my finger when he wasn't looking."
Frowning, Clark turned, watching as she hit the red button that sent the car into motion again. It made sense—she could have been taking all that time to answer because she was maneuvering the sensor off of her hand. He wasn't sure why the thought of her having lied was suddenly so devastating.
"I mean, think about it," she continued. "We make a good team, but you're the King of Brood, The High Priest to the Temple of Plaid. There's just no rectifying a 'you and me' scenario in any universe."
Clark tilted his head. She was convincing—to anyone who didn't have their own built-in lie detector. He could hear her heart beating… and it was telling him all he needed to know. He reached out and took her arm, pulling her around to look at him. "You're lying." He smiled because even with her back to him, her eyes had still been telling the truth.
The elevator dinged to announce their arrival, and she pulled her arm away. "It doesn't matter, Clark."
He felt panicked as the doors began to slide open. "But…"
"It doesn't matter," she repeated firmly, valiantly keeping her voice calm even though she was teetering close to an invisible edge. "I heard what you answered. You said no."
Surprised, Clark was momentarily paralyzed as she turned and stepped out of the lift. "The machine!" he called after her, feeling somewhat hopeful that she had paused with his words. "Lois, the machine said that I lied!"
She turned to stare at him for a minute before shaking her head and walking away.
Seconds later, Clark had managed to get ahead of her, and he caught her off guard when he pulled her into a supply closet. It pained him to see that she was still looking at him with an expression somewhere between hurt and sorrow. He'd wanted to see hope. "Didn't you hear what I said?" he asked, keeping her in place with his hands on her shoulders.
Her eyes danced as she glanced around at everything but him. "What the hell am I supposed to do with that?" she asked, scoffing at him. "'The machine said that I lied'?" she mocked.
His smile faded. "I…"
"No. No, don't," she said raising a hand to stop him from speaking. Her other arm remained in place, clutching her files defensively against her chest. "I mean, I don't know what about that statement is supposed to be flattering. If you said no and you were lying, then you were trying to get me electrocuted, probably in some inhumane revenge pact for me having done it to you first—which by the way makes no sense because there's no way to cheat on a person who you're not even dating! And if that wasn't the case and you said no because you thought you were telling the truth, then it just means that you weren't ready for the truth, and that's okay, because maybe I'm not ready—maybe we're both not ready, maybe… maybe we'll never be ready, and I'm okay with that, because I refuse to live on a one-sided train wreck…"
Feeling that he was about to be steamrolled by her rant, Clark cut it off by pulling her to him and forcing her mouth to close under his own. While he kissed her, he began to finally come to terms with the feelings his subconscious seemed to have already known.
But before he could fully join thought with action, Lois wrenched away and slapped him.
They stood for a tense few minutes staring at one another, chests heaving in anger and passion—and then she launched herself at him, initiating and fully participating in the resulting kiss.
This time when she pulled back, there was no fight left in her eyes. "Don't screw this up," she warned in an emotional whisper. Then she took a breath, smoothed out her shirt, and left him alone in the supply room.
Smiling, Clark finally finished his previous thoughts.
Clark Kent was in love with Lois Lane.