A/N: This is a companion piece to "Standing on the Brink" and "Waiting." I apologize to everyone who's been asking me when this was coming; I didn't intend it to take so long! The format's a little different than with the first two stories, but I think it worked out pretty well...and, anyway, I'm still working to get my Smallville!Clois love back after the last few episodes. *grumble grumbleki*
Of course, I own nothing but the story! Enjoy!
Lois's yawn ended with a sigh as she twitched her nightgown into place and climbed into bed. Then she fluffed the pillow underneath her head and stared up at the ceiling, calling herself at least eighteen kinds of fool. How much time had she spent that evening, thinking about the two men in her life and wondering what to do? And yet, though she'd spent the better part of her evening on the question, for all of her ponderings, she was no closer to an answer now than she had been as she stood on the rooftop of the Daily Planet and stared up at the sky. Even after she returned home, when she tried to review on her notes for the story she and Clark were currently working on, she couldn't concentrate. She supposed she shouldn't be surprised; Clark was such a huge part of her everyday life – as her partner and her best friend – it was hard to get away from thoughts of him.
But, in a sense, the very fact that he was her best friend should have made the decision easy for her. How long had it been since he'd become one of the most important people in her life? The thought of having to live without him was terrifying to her. Inconceivable, actually. Stifling another sigh, Lois turned her head and gazed out of her bedroom window. She had made her choice, it seemed. She loved Clark; she had come to accept that now. But because she loved him, she could not risk the pain of losing him. Superman might never truly be hers, but in return, he could never really leave her behind.
Somewhere out there, a Superman was waiting for her. He loved her; of that, she was certain. So why did she feel so incredibly alone?
Shifting her position on the pillow, she glanced at the phone on her nightstand. How many times had she picked up the phone today, thinking to call Clark? And yet, each time, she'd hung up without dialing a single number. Chicken, she chastised herself silently with a scowl.
Behind the phone was a photograph; she slowly reached towards the wooden frame and picked it up. The photo it contained was one of Jimmy's, taken at the Daily Planet. Lois and Clark were sitting across from each other at their desks – Clark was staring down at some papers in his hand, and Lois had taken the opportunity to glance up at her partner, a warm smile on her face.
It was funny; the girl in the picture didn't look particularly alone. In fact, she looked…happy.
With a grimace of disgust, Lois tossed the picture back on top of her nightstand. Just because she'd looked so happy in the photograph didn't really mean anything. It certainly didn't mean that she'd be happier with Clark than she would with Superman. After all, she reminded herself, Superman would never leave her. Clark could never make that promise, and even if he could…she would still be afraid of losing him. What if something went wrong? She could ruin everything.
No, she'd made the right choice, she consoled herself. A life loving Superman may be a lonely one, but it beat the pain that would undoubtedly come from loving and losing her best friend. If she felt a little melancholy now, well…she'd just have to remind herself that she was better off in the long run. She had to be.
Lost in her thoughts, Lois heard a soft sound, like a knock, and she bolted upright, her heart racing. Given the lateness of the hour, it had to be Superman; he'd probably seen that her light was still on as he flew by and decided to stop by for a visit. So why had her heart leapt at the thought that it might be Clark?
Ugh, she told herself in disgust as she hopped out of bed and crossed over to the window. You have got to get over this silly infatuation of yours. But when she looked out her bedroom window, nobody was there. Though she glanced around, there was no sight of the familiar blue, red, and yellow uniform. Instead, another knock – this one sounding much more tentative – carried softly into her bedroom.
This time, she knew it had to be Clark. Spinning on her heel, she raced into the living room, heading straight for the door. However, she stumbled to a halt a few feet from her destination, her heart sinking into her stomach. What if it was Clark? What could she possibly say to him?
Over the course of the evening, Lois had replayed the kiss in her head about a million times, blowing it more out of proportion each time. What had actually been a relatively quick, chaste kiss had become, in her mind, something far, far worse. Why, he could almost swear that she'd practically pushed Clark down on top of his desk and thrown herself on top of him until he had pushed her off of him and ran for his life. And who could blame him, really? His partner had gone completely insane on him without warning!
But what was she supposed to say to him now? She was sorry to have almost mauled him earlier, but she was better now? Oh, just kill her now.
Whatever she was going to do about her current predicament, she was going to have to figure it out soon. Clark was still at her door, and though she could probably wait him out a little longer until he went away, he was probably going to be at work in the morning. So which would be worse? Dealing with this entire mess now, in private, or doing it tomorrow in front of witnesses?
Tomorrow sounds good to me, a voice in her head coaxed. Or the next day, even. Or maybe never. It was so tempting to give in to the little voice, but since it was so hard to find good housing in Guam at the last minute (and that was really the only way she was going to be able to avoid the inevitable confrontation), Lois sucked in a deep breath, flipped the lock, yanked open the door…and immediately swallowed her tongue.
Damn. Why does he have to look so good? She should probably hate herself that this was the first thought that crossed her mind upon seeing him, but it wasn't like her thought wasn't absolutely true. He did look good. Pretty darn good, actually. Not good enough to fling herself atop him like a madwoman, the way she had earlier that day. But definitely good.
And nervous. He looked nervous as he took advantage of her silent invitation and brushed past her, to walk into her living room. She followed him in silence, trying to decipher his mood. When he turned to face her, he raised one hand to his neck and rubbed it anxiously, visibly growing even more nervous by the moment. Which meant, no doubt, that he was afraid that his partner's marbles had yet to be returned to her and he might be the victim of yet another unfortunate assault. Ever helpful, her internal voice tried to help her see the silver lining. You may have assaulted the man, but there was nothing unfortunate about it. Apparently, her mental voice was not particularly concerned with her dignity, because Lois was pretty sure that THAT had gone straight out the window.
Had gone? Was going, was more like it. Someone who had managed to maintain some dignity probably wouldn't be standing absolutely still in the middle of her living room, staring up at him in total silence. At the very least, a woman with dignity would, say, blink every once and a while or something.
Though she couldn't bear all the blame, she supposed. It wasn't like Clark was racing to hold up his side of the conversation, either. In fact, he was standing a few feet away in absolute silence, staring at her with such intensity that she wondered if he was waiting for her to sprout wings and fly right in front of him.
Ooh! Can we do that? Because I vote for that option. She looked rather desperately towards the nearest window, taking a moment to entertain her little fantasy. Unfortunately, for as much as she might want to avoid the conversation she and Clark weren't really having at present (though she had no doubt that her luck wouldn't hold out much longer; she and Clark were probably going to have to actually say something at some point, and then the unavoidable conversation would ensue), the window didn't seem to be a viable alternative. Superman had shown her what it felt like to fly; he'd unfortunately never taught her how to do so on her own.
"You're looking for Superman, aren't you?" Clark finally broke the silence between them, and her eyes shot back towards his.
"I was…uh…have a seat," she said instead of answering, gesturing to the couch behind him.
"No, I'm…I won't be her long," he said heavily. For some reason, he looked depressed, all of a sudden. Defeated. His shoulders slumped and he wouldn't meet her eyes. "I just came by to see…it's not important."
He turned towards the door, clearly intending to leave, and Lois knew she should let him. Her eyes flew over to the window again, only this time, she really was looking for the man in the familiar blue, red, and yellow. He was out there somewhere, and he loved her. So what if the thought only made her feel more alone? So what if the flash of pain she'd just seen in Clark's eyes killed her a little inside? It didn't mean anything. She should let him walk away. He'd probably come over tonight to tell her not to worry, to reassure her that he wasn't taking her astonishing lapse in judgment earlier the wrong way. And now he was leaving because he'd undoubtedly realized he didn't want to embarrass her by bringing it up.
She should let him go. She knew she should let him go. So why couldn't she do it?
"Clark, wait!" she blurted, stopping him in his tracks. "L-look. About earlier…I didn't mean…"
"No, it's okay," he said reassuringly, though his smile looked a little forced. "You don't have to say anything. It was a mistake, I know that. I should never have…"
"You?" she scoffed, cutting him off. She couldn't think of anything he'd done other than maybe let out a rather justifiable screech of terror as she'd hurdled her body across the room at him. (Her imagination was having a field day, blowing their one little kiss into epic proportions.) "What about me? I was the one who went a little crazy there."
His brow creased as he stared at her in confusion for a moment. Then, his frown fading, he shook his head gently. "I think anyone would understand why you'd felt the need to leave in a hurry." What did that have to do with anything, she wondered. Oh, of course. It was Clark, and he knew her just about as well as anyone ever had, if not better. He wasn't just giving her a pass on her atrocious behavior; he was trying to make her feel better about the fact that she'd been embarrassed by it. Wasn't that…rather frustratingly just like him?
"Not that, Smallville. I was talking about my brain lapse earlier," she clarified, speaking through gritted teeth.
There it was – that confused look again. "You shouldn't blame yourself, Lois," he said consolingly. "I mean, it was my fault."
Absolutely. It was absolutely his fault. What did he expect, looking that good at work every day? It's downright cruel, actually. Insanity isn't giving in to the temptation to lick something that downright irresistible. Insanity is walking away from the opportunity to do just that whenever it presents itself.
Okay, first…her mental voice wasn't helping matters. Second…she'd actually licked him?!? The mental list of all her imagined misdeeds grew ever longer.
All things considered, though, she couldn't let him take the blame for what had happened between them. "No, look Clark. Really, it was all me. You weren't –"
He cut her off. "Lois, I know what you're trying to do, but I –"
"What I'm trying to do?" she interjected. "You're the one –"
"This is ridiculous!" he burst out. "Either way, it was a mistake, right? You said so yourself."
Mentally scrambling to replay the entire conversation, Lois couldn't help but point out, "Actually, you were the one who said it was a mistake."
A long-suffering sigh greeted this remark. Finally, through tightly gritted teeth, Clark growled, "But you agreed that it was a mistake. Right?"
"Absolutely." She couldn't agree fast enough, actually. "Absolutely a mistake. Huge. Enormous. We should forget it ever happened and never mention it again." Though how the two of them were going to pretend that Lois hadn't tried to wrestle him out of his pants (her imagination was clearly not through torturing her) was beyond her.
"Right," he said once more, looking crushed. "Well…um…you know, it's getting pretty late, so I should…I should probably…I just wanted to…I thought there might be a chance that…Never mind."
Before she could press him to finish at least one of his sentences, he turned on his heel and bolted for the exit. Standing in the middle of her living room, she watched him walk away and tried to ignore the tight feeling in her chest.
She'd made her choice. She'd decided to bury the feelings she had for Clark and never, ever admit them to him. She'd decided that loving him wasn't worth the risk of losing him.
So why did it feel like she was losing him at that very moment, that somehow she might never again find a way to broach the distance that was growing between them with each step he took? Why did she have the sinking feeling that, if she let him walk through that door right now, she might never get him back?
She tried to ignore the feeling in the pit of her stomach, telling her that this time she really was making an enormous mistake, but it only grew as she watched him walk away. Finally, she just couldn't take it any longer. "Clark!" she cried, a ring of desperation in her voice that caused him to pause, just as he was pulling her front door open.
Before he had even completely turned to face her – before she'd even decided what she was going to do or say – she was running towards him, bridging the distance between their bodies.
"L-look," she said once she'd finally reached him. She was panting slightly, though she didn't know why. She ran six miles three times a week; a matter of less than six yards shouldn't have winded her. But for whatever reason, her heart was racing, beating so hard against her ribcage that she thought it a wonder that Clark didn't seem to hear it. "Look," she repeated. "I meant what I said. It was a mistake. An enormous mistake of almost epic proportions. If the two of us had any sense at all, we'd pretend it never happened and move on. Only…"
"Only…?" he prompted when she trailed off, somehow managing an expression of mixed hope, confusion, and sadness all at the same time.
"Some mistakes are worth making. Don't you think?" she asked breathlessly. Reaching towards him, she wrapped her fingers around the fold of his blue dress shirt and pulled him close. For a second, as their bodies came together, their eyes met and Lois wondered if he would pull away. Instead, he ducked his head and met her lips with his own.
Their first kiss was tentative – soft and a little hesitant. As Lois clutched Clark's shoulders, he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her closer. She felt breathless and unsure when she finally pulled away to stare up at Clark with wide eyes, trying to assess his reaction. Yes, he'd kissed her back, but…was it really…? Did that mean that he…? "Clark?" she finally asked softly.
What would happen now? Would he pull away? Would he leave, as he had earlier that day?
He didn't answer her right away, so she pulled away, stepping out of his arms. "So…you still think it's a mistake, Smallville?" she challenged, trying to pretend like she hadn't a care in the world, like her heart wasn't teetering on some sort of precipice as she awaited his answer.
For a moment, Clark looked rueful. "Maybe," he admitted. It certainly hadn't been the answer Lois had been hoping to hear, so, full of self-recriminations, she turned to walk away. Before she could go more than a couple steps, however, Clark grabbed her hand and pulled her back towards him. She turned to look up at him in surprise, and that's when she saw the corner of his mouth quirk into a grin. "But like you said," he teased her. "Some mistakes are worth making."
This time, there was nothing uncertain about him as he pulled her to him and captured her lips with his own. It was a kiss that stole her breath away, and she speared her fingers through his hair as she deepened the kiss.
As they stood there in the middle of her living room and kissed with a level of passion that even Lois's imagination hadn't been able to match, she realized that she'd been wrong, earlier. When she'd stood on the rooftop of the Daily Planet and stared out at the city lights spread out before her, she'd felt like she was standing at the edge of a precipice. She'd been almost ready to take that first step, but she'd been scared of the fall.
As Clark held her in his arms, Lois closed her eyes and took that step, waiting for the inevitable sinking feeling that she knew would come. She was risking so much – her heart, her pride, the pain that would come if she lost Clark and ruined their friendship in the process – and she had been given no promises in return. She'd thrown herself over the edge, with nothing more than mere hope that Clark would be there to catch her. But as she kissed him, she realized how little she had understood. She kissed him, and she realized that she wasn't falling for Clark.
She was flying.