A/N: My makeup fic for the Ficstravaganza goes out to desi. Sorry it isn't longer! The prompt is: S9; NC-17; Lois's New Apartment: Living Room.

I own nothing but the story.

ETA: If you liked this story, check out the sequel! Dream Echoes.

Dream Lovers

She gasped as he moved inside her, rocking harder into her body with each thrust. Her head fell back as she fought for air, a soft purr of pleasure escaping her lips. "Yes," she moaned as his hand tangled in her hair, mussed from sleep and sex.

"Lois," he groaned her name as her fingers dug into his shoulders.

The muscles in her thighs tightened around his waist, pulling him tighter against her. Bowing her head, she licked the side of his neck, tasting the saltiness of his skin, slick with sweat. He shuddered against her, moaning once more, every muscle in his body taut with strain. He was so close, she could feel it, and she reached for the precipice, ready to jump off it alongside him.

He plunged into her, their movements growing frenetic, almost wild. Lois's clutched onto him, her nails biting into his skin, afraid of taking that next step alone. But she wasn't alone, he was right there with her. "Come with me," she whispered, rocking her hips against his, meeting him thrust for thrust.

"Always," he said, his voice a harsh rasp as he surged inside her once more.

With a cry, the man beneath her went rigid, pouring himself into her. Lois's head fell back and, with a cry of pleasure, she jumped over the edge with him. "Clark!"

Lois cried out as she bolted upright in bed. Her breath was coming in soft pants, her body slicked with sweat. She ached with arousal. "J-Jesus," she moaned, spearing a hand through hair that had fallen forward over her face. The cheek beneath her palm felt hot, flushed, and when she closed her eyes, she could see the images from her dream again, clear as day. As if they'd been permanently engraved into the back of her eyelids.

"Lois." She shuddered at the memory of the way his voice had sounded when he'd groaned her name. Thick with need and with pleasure.

"Jesus!" she said again, this time louder – a self-recrimination for the direction her thoughts had taken. In an effort to break the spell, she jumped out of bed and headed purposefully toward the master bath, trying to ignore the way her body still trembled in the aftermath of her midnight fantasy. The dream had been so vivid, had felt so real.

In the bathroom, she ran cold water over her hands and splashed it onto her face as she concentrated on her breathing, trying to get it under control. For almost a month now, these images had plagued her. Night after night, he came to her in her dreams and made love to her with a tenderness and a passion that took her breath away, even into her waking hours. It was always the same, and it was always him. Clark.

Even as she tried to push the images from her mind, she remembered the way her dream visitor had looked up at her, the way his eyes had darkened with desire, and her entire body shuddered with longing.

With a muttered curse, she straightened abruptly and glared reproachfully at the woman in the mirror. Well, she tried to glare reproachfully at her reflection at any rate, but the woman staring back at her looked a little too rumpled with sleep – and a little too flushed with desire – for the glare to have its intended effect.

"Get a hold of yourself, Lois!" she snapped. Night after night, he came to her in her dreams, driving her wild with passion. And day after day, she had to sit across from him at the Daily Planet and pretend like nothing was amiss. It was getting harder to separate her days from her nights, to remember that she shouldn't be spending a good portion of any given day picturing her partner naked.

"Come with me." That the purring voice in her head was her own made no difference; the entire force of the dream came back to mind with almost painful clarity. The feel of his touch as he wrapped his hand around her thigh, pulling her tighter against him. The taste of him under her tongue as she licked the sensitive spot at the side of his neck.

Lois's eyes flew open, and she came back to herself with a start. At some point during the recollection, her eyes had fluttered shut and her head had fallen back. She snapped her attention back to the reflection in the mirror and grimaced at what she saw. In the glass before her, the evidence of her arousal was all too apparent. The sweat moistening her skin had adhered the silky nightgown against her body, leaving very little to the imagination.

"Damn it," she muttered as she tore it off and tossed it into the laundry basket, where it joined a rapidly growing collection of nightgowns that had been soiled from sweat during her recurring and entirely inappropriate fantasies. Though the clock on the shelf indicated that it was only a little after six, she turned to the shower anyway. There was no way she was going to be getting back to sleep this evening – even if she could manage it, she'd be afraid she'd only have the same dream again. So, faced with no other option, she figured she might as well go into work and get started on her day.

Though this alarming habit she'd picked up had to stop soon, she vowed as she began to shampoo her hair, trying very hard not to remember the way Clark's hand had tangled into her hair in her dream. For one thing, it was getting harder and harder to work alongside him every day and not betray the fact that he was the starring player in her most vivid of erotic fantasies. And for another thing, she was beginning to suffer from a serious lack of sleep.

"Lois, you okay? Lois?" Clark's voice penetrated the fog that had come over her brain, and she sat up with a start, looking around guiltily. She'd been working at her desk all morning, her eyelids growing increasingly heavy as her lack of sleep began to catch up with her. Seeing the concern in her partner's face, she flushed in embarrassment. Had she really just fallen asleep sitting up in front of her computer? "You okay?" he asked again, his voice tender with worry.

"I'm fine!" she said, a bit more brusquely than she'd intended, as she made a big show out of getting back to work. "I was just…lost in my thoughts."

Clark sighed, but he didn't argue – likely because this wasn't the first time in the past month that she'd almost passed out at her desk, and his previous attempts to talk to her about her recurring lack of sleep had been met with little more than a cold wall of silence. "Anyway," he said pointedly as he rose to his feet, "I was going to go grab a doughnut. What do you want?"

"What do you want?" She shivered at the memory of her dream lover's husky growl, delivered night after night accompanied by a wicked glint in his eye. The question always immediately preceded her fantasy Clark doing something even more wicked with his tongue, making any her dream self might attempt at answering his question impossible.

"What?" she barked abruptly, snapping to attention. "What is that supposed to mean?"

Clark looked intensely confused. "I mean, are you in the mood for a jelly-filled or do you want your usual chocolate-covered doughnut?"

"Oh," she said, ducking her head to hide the embarrassed expression on her face. "Um…surprise me." Doughnuts? He was asking about doughnuts? She was entertaining an extremely graphic image of him between her thighs, and he was asking her about baked goods? Or maybe they were fried, but, really, who cared? Squeezing her eyes shut, she sucked in a few deep breaths and reminded herself that, of course, Clark had no idea what she'd been thinking about at just that moment. And it had to stay that way.

Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the expression on his face as he stared at her in silence. He was clearly both confused and worried by her behavior. If he only knew what was precipitating her attitude, he'd probably be scandalized and beat a hasty exit. When she didn't say anything more, a flash of irritated disappointment crossed his face. "Okay," he said heavily, shoving his hands into the pockets of his slacks. "I'll be right back."

"Yeah, okay," she said absently as she strove valiantly to regain control of herself. This had to stop.

When Clark returned a few minutes later, he placed a chocolate-covered doughnut on the desk next to her. "They only had cream-filled, and I know you hate those," he explained as he put it down. His task done, she expected him to walk around to his own chair, but instead he stayed where he was. He was standing so close, she could swear she could feel the heat of his body, even through his trousers. Lois kept her gaze fixed on the computer screen in front of her for a long moment, hoping he would get the hint and walk away, but he didn't.

Painfully conscious of the part of his anatomy that would be so near her gaze if she turned towards him, Lois tilted her head to the side to arch an eyebrow up at him questioningly. "Yes?" she asked, prompting an explanation for his presence.

His attitude was unruffled as he held a folder out towards her, though she noted that his eyes had narrowed even further as he gazed down at her. "Chloe dropped this off for you," he replied.

For the first time that morning, all thought of her dream lover fled from her mind as she stared at the envelope in his hand with the same enthusiasm one might use for a poisonous snake. "Thanks," she said heavily, but even after she wrapped one hand around the envelope, he didn't release it. Instead, he held onto it for a moment longer, his eyes locked with hers, and then finally, slowly, he let it go.

There was nothing to be gained by putting it off, and she'd agreed to Chloe's stupid idea anyway, so she might as well find out what she'd gotten herself into. With no further ado, Lois tore the envelope open and started to scan the sheets inside, but Clark didn't seem to be put off by the obvious dismissal. "New story?" he asked, obviously fishing for information.

She tensed. "Uh…yeah. Just something I was gonna…look into. Probably won't turn out to be anything." Her words were stilted as she fibbed.

"You want any help with that?" he tried, his voice taking on an edge of exasperation at what had to be coming off as emotional evasiveness after her behavior that morning. An edge she didn't entirely hear.

"You want help with that?" Lois's throaty laughter echoed as Clark fumbled for a moment to the clasp to her bra.

"No!" she yelped as she shot to her feet. When she glanced up at her companion's face, she saw that his eyes were wide with surprise, not darkened with desire, and she remembered where she was once more. "I-I-I need to…um…go. Take care of something. See you later, okay?" she blurted as she scooted around him and made a bee-line for the elevator. She didn't know where she was planning on going, exactly; she just knew that it had to be anywhere that Clark wasn't nearby. Her work area was quickly turning into soft porn central, and she couldn't take it any longer.

"Lois!" he cried after her, but she ignored him as she all but fled from the bullpen.

"Aw, come on!" Lois growled angrily as she gave the wrench in her hand a vicious twist. For a second, it seemed to have no discernable effect, but then, with the sound of metal snapping in two, the fixture in front of her came apart and she got a face full of cold water. "Damn it, no!" she cried as she whacked the broken piece of metal with her wrench in an ineffectual attempt to get it to un-break itself.

"Lois, what's –?' she heard Clark say from the doorway, and then he was behind her, reaching up above her head to try to stem the flow of cold water. "Go turn off the water!" he barked as he pulled the wrench from her hand and tried to put it to a more effectual use.

"I can't!" she cried, ducking her head to avoid getting a mouthful of water. "I don't have access; I think it's in the wall somewhere!"

She heard Clark mutter something under his breath, and then, as suddenly as it had started, the spray of water stopped. She looked up in surprise, but not even a trickle of water was escaping. "What – how did you do that?" he asked, swiping her drenched hair back off her face.

He was silent for a second, and then he said, "I tried twisting it a little more. It seemed to work, but you're probably still going to want to get someone in here to work on it. What were you doing anyway?"

"Oh, I was –" she began, and as she spoke, she started to turn to face him. Her socks slid against wet porcelain, however, and she skidded, almost falling backwards over the edge of the tub.

She barely had time to gasp in surprise when Clark's arm shot out, wrapping around her waist and pulling her against his body in an attempt to stop her fall. When she gasped a second time, it was for an entirely different reason. They were both soaked, their clothes plastered against their bodies. All things considered, they might not have been wearing clothes at all, for as aware of the warm solidity of him as she was.

"Careful," he warned her, his voice low and husky.

Lois didn't need to have a flash of her erotic dreams of late to recognize the trouble she was in. It was all too apparent, given how her blood had started to race at having him so near. "Oh!" she cried as she pulled away. "Thanks," she managed to say, her cheeks crimson, and then she stepped out of the tub and put some distance between them. In an attempt to distract herself, she blurted, "Not that I'm not appreciative, but what are you doing here?" As she spoke, she swiped a slightly damp towel off the rack and passed it to Clark, keeping the second for her own use.

Clark sighed and leaned over to place the wrench on the sink before stepping out of the tub himself. "I came by because I wanted to talk about that story of yours. I knocked a few times, but I guess you didn't hear me. And then I heard you cry out, and…well, I thought you might be in trouble so I came to see if you needed any help."

With a downward look of dismay, he continued, "You wouldn't happen to have an extra t-shirt I could wear, would you?" As he spoke, he loosened his tie and began to unbutton his shirt.

"Wh-wh-what are you doing?" she blurted unthinkingly.

He looked at her like she'd gone insane. "I'm soaked," he said, stating the obvious.

She grimaced in chagrin over her knee-jerk reaction. She had to get a hold of herself! True, she'd been dreaming about Clark naked every night, but the fact of the matter was that she'd lived with him for months. She'd seen The Full Clarkie before, in fact. This was nothing to get worked up over now.

"Right," she said, exhaling a deep breath as she tried to regain control of her sanity. "Gimme a minute and I'll find you something. We can put your shirt…in…the dryer…" Her voice trailed off as Clark stripped back his soaked garment, revealing a tantalizing expanse of bare skin. Of course, her memory of him had been clear enough to likely be the cause for her recent string of erotic fantasies, but no memory – no matter how clear – could ever compare with seeing the real thing in the flesh. His body couldn't have been more perfect if it had been sculpted by the gods. From the curve of his shoulder to his rock-hard abs, there wasn't an inch of him that wasn't absolutely flawless. Lois's mouth went dry instantly just looking at him.

Clark didn't seem to notice anything amiss with her behavior, however, as he just stripped off his shirt with a perfunctory, "Thanks." She stood there for a second longer, momentarily entranced by the sheer poetry that was the line of his clavicle, and then she whirled and bolted for her room. The sooner she found other clothes for him to wear, the sooner he'd have no further cause to stand half-naked in the middle of her bathroom.

Ten minutes later, Clark's gorgeous chest was once again covered as the two of them sat across from each other on the couch. "So, about your story," he began, with the air of a man about to face a firing squad but determined to see it through.

Lois narrowed her eyes at him as she leaned back against the arm of the couch. "Yes?" she prompted, tensing as she prepared herself for more questions.

He shifted uncomfortable. "I'd like to help you." She didn't answer. "We are partners, after all."

"We work together on stories sometimes," she corrected him. "That doesn't mean we're partners."

Clark sighed. "Lois," he groaned, drawing her name out in protest. "Does everything have to be a battle with you?"

"Does everything have to be a contest with you?" he teased, his blue eyes dark as Lois pushed him back against the mattress.

Splaying a hand over his chest, she trailed her fingers down the ridges of his stomach, letting out a throaty chuckle when he sucked in a sharp breath. "I like to be on top," she teased him in a strained tone as she slung a leg over his hips.

His palm was hot against her skin as he slid his hand over thigh, pushing aside the silky fabric of her nightgown. "Never let it be said that I'm not willing to do what it takes to make you happy," he growled enticingly as she leaned over him, her hair brushing lightly against his chest.

"Lois?" Clark asked, his brow creased from his concerned frown. "Are you okay?"

"It's not a story!" In her haste to turn his attention off her odd behavior – and get the fairly graphic fantasy out of her mind – she blurted out her confession without meaning to do so. By the time she realized what she had done, it was too late to do anything about it. The damage was done. At his curious look, she scowled. "It's not a story," she grumbled darkly. "It's a date."

He made an odd choking sound at her admission. "A d-date? What do you mean? You mean like – like a date?" he stammered in surprise.

Lois sighed. "That's the popular definition, yes," she said heavily. Before Clark could ask her further questions, she saved him the time (and her the torture) by volunteering. "Chloe's been on me lately; she seems to think that I should start dating again. She seems to think that online dating is the way to go." The expression on her face made it clear she'd rather suffer through a root canal without Novocain.

"You don't seem very enthusiastic about it," he pointed out, and if Lois didn't know better, she'd say he looked almost hopeful at the prospect.

She threw him a sardonic look. "Blind dates with total strangers? Sign me up!" she said sarcastically.

Clark shrugged. "So why not refuse? I mean, if you're not into it. You don't normally do things that you don't want to do; I don't see why you're going to start now."

"First, because I lost a bet," she admitted with a scowl. Then, blowing out a deep breath, she added reluctantly, "Besides, I figure she may have a point. Not about how I should go about it, but about the whole…dating thing. Maybe it is time I started checking out the field again. I mean, if I don't, I don't see how I'll ever get over…Ollie." She caught herself just in time to keep from making a humiliating confession.

Her words didn't seem to make him feel very pleased because a frown crossed his features in a quick spasm, but he looked away from her before she could see more. "I see," he said heavily. "So, when's the first date?"

"Tomorrow night," she said.

"Oh." Though the word came out almost in a growl, his face was impassive when he looked back over at her again, and her stomach sank. Did he really not care that she was going on a date with another guy? Not that she'd told him to make him jealous or anything, but she had to admit – to herself at least – that a small part of her had entertained the brief hope that he would feel such an emotion at the thought of her out on a date with another man. But, then again, she didn't know why she should have entertained such a hope, given that he'd never really shown her any indication that he had any serious romantic feelings for her. Hence her need to go on blind dates in an effort to get over him. "So, you need anything?" he asked. "Moral support?"

Lois shook her head. "I think I've got it covered, but thanks. If I do need anything, I'll let you know."

"Kill me," she muttered darkly to the waiter the next evening. He threw her a sympathetic look, but since it wasn't accompanied by a butter knife to the ribs, Lois figured she was going to receive no practical help from that quarter. Instead, she swallowed a groan and sat back, turning her attention to more practical considerations than her own demise. Like the imminent demise of her cousin Chloe.

"So where was I?" her date asked as he turned his attention back to her, rather than to a critical assessment of the physical attributes of every other patron of the restaurant. Lois opened her mouth to respond, but he didn't wait for her to reply before he continued. Which was more or less par for the course for the evening. "Well, of course my supervisor thought he knew better than I did," he charged ahead, heedless of the fact that his date could not be less interested. "But I think management realized who was the – yes?" he asked, turning his attention quickly to the hovering waiter, an irritated scowl on his face.

"I was wondering if you wanted desert," the waiter offered apologetically, still not apparently the least bit interested in saving Lois from her night of agonizing torture.

Lois opened her mouth to order a plate of rat poison – or possibly a slice of chocolate cake – when her date answered for her. As he'd been trying to do all evening. "Yes, of course. I'll have the Crème Brule and she'll have the fruit cup."

Ignoring his statement, Lois abandoned her thoughts of dessert and decided to call it a night instead. "I'll have my check, actually. And a piece of chocolate cake to go." No reason to deny herself what would possibly be the only good thing about the evening.

"She'll have the fruit cup," he said again in complete disregard for her wishes. Turning his attention back to her, he said, "Dear, I don't think you –" her date began to protest, reaching out for her hand.

Lois snatched it out from under his grip. "I'll have the check," she repeated, her voice low with warning. "And if you touch me again, I'll break every bone in your hand. Got that?"

In disgust at him for being an ass and at herself for having wasted an evening, Lois shot to her feet. Pulling some bills out of her purse, she thrust enough to cover her meal and a sizeable tip into the waiter's hand, not waiting to receive her check. All in all, she just wanted to be out of there.

She fumed all the way home, but when she arrived there, she found Clark on the step, his hand raised to knock on the door. He turned to her in surprise, and in response to her questioning look, he explained sheepishly, "I was in the neighborhood and thought I'd stop by to see if everything was okay. You didn't answer your phone."

"Oh. I guess I didn't hear it ring," she replied, moving past him to unlock the door. As she walked into her living room, she felt the muscles between her shoulder blades finally start to unclench.

Though she'd not really had any intention of discussing her date with Clark, she was still annoyed by the entire evening and wanted to get it off her chest. So she had two options, as she saw it: She could vent about it with Clark or she could call Chloe and tear her a new one for having gotten Lois into the mess to begin with.

"You know, Clark, if I didn't love Chloe so much, I'd kill her," she muttered darkly, kicking off her shoes.

"That bad, huh?" he called after her as she made her way to the bedroom to tear off any remaining vestige of her date and change into some more comfortable clothes.

"Worse!" she cried back at him, her voice high in indication. "He was rude, condescending. He kept trying to order for me, without even asking what I wanted first, and when I'd tell the waiter that wasn't what I wanted, he'd try to correct me! He spent the first half hour talking about himself and the next half hour talking about every other person at the restaurant, criticizing what they ate, how they looked…He told me that the next time we went out, he was willing to buy me a new dress if I didn't have one that would suit him better! Can you believe this guy?" she demanded, storming back into the living room.

For a second, she could swear that she saw a grin on Clark's face, but in the next moment, it had fallen and he was looking at her in grave sympathy. "Sounds like torture," he said. "Why didn't you leave early, if it was as bad as all that?"

Lois groused, "I promised Chloe. She didn't seem to think I'd give her little experiment a fair shot, so she made me promise to see every date through, unless an actual genuine emergency came up. And she would get to decide if something was an emergency or not." After a brief pause, she shook her head. "Damn it. I should have set the restaurant on fire. Why didn't I think of that sooner?"

"Arson charges?" Clark offered with a small smile tugging at the corners of his lips.

"Justifiable actions," she retorted. "And I dare any judge to see it differently." On that, she flopped down on the couch and began the process of attempting turn her body into a viscous substance so that she might never have to get up again. "And, damn it, I never did get my piece of chocolate cake."

Clark looked down at her in sympathy. "You want me to go pick you up one?" he offered.

"No," she replied on a heavy sigh. "Don't worry about it. But I was thinking maybe popcorn and a movie would help me forget about my date from hell. You interested?" Granted, given her recent run of erotic fantasies, she was playing with fire just being near Clark and her offer wasn't one she'd have made under any other circumstances – at least not until those pesky dreams of hers went away, as having him near her couldn't be doing much for her wavering sanity. But she was willing to risk it, this once, because anything had to be better than the date she'd just been on.

He grinned in full this time. "You stay there; I'll get the popcorn. What movie do you want to watch?"

"Something with action and a lot of explosions," she responded.

"Lois, that pretty much describes your entire movie collection!" he replied teasingly over his shoulder as he headed into the kitchen.

She shrugged, but she felt herself start to smile in response to his humor. "Well, I'm in luck then, don't you think?"

He laughed and came back to the couch a few minutes later with a heaping bowl of popcorn smothered in butter, just how she liked it. "Since you weren't more specific, I picked a movie at random. I hope you're in the mood for Last Action Hero."

"Clark, you did that on purpose! You know that I think that's a cheesy movie!" she protested, scooting over a smidge to give him space to sit next to her.

"I guess next time you'll be more specific," he responded lightly, and she slugged him lightly on his bicep as he settled in next to her. "Besides, I figured that this way, whenever you get annoyed, you could throw popcorn at Arnold and you can imagine it's your date's face. Great stress reliever."

Lois shot him a speculative look out of the corner of her eye as the credits began to roll. "That's…strangely thoughtful," she said in mild surprise.

He didn't seem to take her flattery too much to heart. "Aha! I knew I could get you to compliment me! You called me thoughtful!" he teased her.

"I called you strange and thoughtful, Clark. Don't let it go to your head," she retorted in kind as she made a grab for the popcorn. Though she knew it was the worst idea she'd had in a long time, she curled her body close to Clark's, giving in to the temptation to have him close as the movie began to play.

He held her in his arms, her cheek pressed against his chest, his hand stroking her thigh in a soft and soothing pattern. "I don't want to lose you," she whispered against his skin, and though nobody should have been able to hear her, so soft was her confession, he did.

"You won't lose me," he told her, and she could feel the words rumble in his chest. "I've always been there for you, and I always will be."

"Not like this," she argued. He didn't respond to that; how could he? "I don't want to do this," she protested, scooting closer to him, holding tightly to him as though afraid of what would happen if she let him go.

"I know," he whispered. "But we don't have a choice."

Tears stung in her eyes as she shook her head. "We always have a choice!" But her words lacked conviction because she knew that this one time, they didn't. Heaving a deep breath, she said sadly, "You'll be alone again."

Clark's hand stilled on her thigh. Finally, he spoke, and his voice was thick with emotion. "I won't be alone again. I'll be waiting to love you."

Her breath caught in her throat. "Love me?" she repeated.

"You doubt it?" he countered, his hand falling to lie against her stomach.

"Show me," she breathed, arching towards him as he shifted, sliding his thigh between her legs. She opened her mouth beneath his, moaning softly when his tongue slipped inside.

Though his voice had been filled with resolve when he'd spoken of what they had to do, she could feel his reluctance and regret in the trembling of his arms as he tucked her closer against him. But she didn't want to think about the future – or the past – as she opened herself to him, gasping his name as he thrust into her, sheathing himself fully inside her body.

His eyes were dark with need when he looked down at her. "I don't want to face tomorrow," he admitted as he began to move inside her. "I just want to stay in this moment. Don't leave me, Lois. Don't leave me."

Linking her hands behind his neck and staring into his eyes, she promised, "Never."

Lois moaned in his arms, and Clark froze at the soft touch of her breath against his neck. Towards the end of the movie, he'd noticed that Lois had fallen asleep, and he'd considered leaving her there for the night. Perhaps it was selfish of him, wanting to keep her next to him like that. But then she'd began to move in her sleep and so, assuming she was uncomfortable, he's scooped her into his arms with the intention of laying her on her bed.

He looked down at her and saw her head tilt back and her eyes flutter open. "Never," she moaned, her breath hot against his cheek, and then her mouth was on his in a passionate kiss.

Clark gasped in surprise as she deepened the kiss. He knew he should stop, pull back, break away. He suspected Lois wasn't entirely awake, which meant she wasn't completely herself. Though she was kissing him, who knew who she dreamt of kissing in her sleep?

But recognizing he should stop kissing her and finding the strength to do so were two entirely different things. Against his better judgment, he kissed her back, holding her tight against his body as their lips met again and again. When she finally pulled away, she looked up at him for a brief moment, placed her head back on his shoulder, and promptly fell back to sleep.

Looking down at her, Clark sighed and muttered a curse. This was just not good.

The next day, Lois breezed into the Daily Planet, a cheery smile on her face. She'd awoken that morning feeling oddly refreshed; though she'd had the same dream she'd had every night before, it had been different somehow. In a certain sense, her dream had felt more real, more tangible, leaving her feeling more refreshed than usual.

"Morning, Smallville," she said brightly as she passed his desk, swiping his cup of coffee as she brushed past.

Clark sighed as he watched the appropriation of his cup of coffee. "Morning, Lois. You're looking incredibly cheerful today."

Arching her eyebrows, she looked up at him in mild challenge. "Aren't I usually?"

Remembering her attitude as of late, he decided that it would be best not to answer and so simply shrugged instead. Perhaps a change of topic was in order. "So, after last night, are you still going to do the online dating thing?"

She shrugged. "Might as well; I promised her I would. Besides, it was one bad date. Granted, it was 'train-wreck' bad, but still, I shouldn't judge the whole experience on one bad date." Then she took a gulp of her coffee and scowled. "Ugh. Not enough sugar."

"Yeah, I don't like too much sugar in my coffee," he said in mild rebuke, though his tone lacked any real censure. Raising slowly to his feet, he said, "I've gotta grab something off the copier. You want me to grab you a cup of coffee of your own while I'm up?"

Lifting his cup, she grinned cheekily up at him. "No thanks. I'm good," she said, her tone taunting him a little.

For the first time in a long time, she was teasing him like they were the old friends that they were. She wasn't avoiding him or babbling nervously at him every time he came near. To have this Lois back, Clark would gladly sacrifice a hundred cups of coffee, though of course he wasn't about to tell her that. Instead, he let himself enjoy the moment as he teased her back. Leaning a hip against his desk, he arched an eyebrow at her and drawled, "You know, I'm only letting you keep that out of the goodness of my heart."

Lois's grin grew wider. "Uh huh," she said skeptically. "I'd like to see you come over here and get it." Then she made a big show out of taking a sip of his coffee, letting out a moan of satisfaction as she swallowed. "Mmmm. Man, this is good," she said, her voice husky with pleasure.

"That's it!" he cried as he rounded the desk and made a grab for the cup in her hand. Lois let out a shriek of laughter as she tried to keep it away from him, lifting one hand to his chest to control his movement as she thrust the cup behind her, putting as much distance between him and it as possible. Grinning down at her, he tried to scoot around her, but she spun in her chair to block him as he said challengingly, "I'll be getting that cup back, you know."

"Oh, yeah? You talk a good game, but I don't see you doing it!" she taunted him back. "No!" she yelped, turning her chair again as he made another attempt to scoot around her.

"You wanna fight dirty, Lane?" he teased as he changed tactics. Instead of trying to scoot around her chair, he leaned over her, putting one hand on the arm of her chair to keep his balance as he tried to reach behind her with the other. His position neatly trapped her in her chair and brought their faces closer together, close enough that he could feel her breath against his cheek when she laughed in surprise.

Heedless of the rest of the Planet's reporters, some of whom were staring at the pair of them with ill-disguised interest, Clark leaned even closer to her and stretched. The tip of his fingers brushed the cup in his hand; he was so close!

"No fair!" Lois cried, unable to do anything to increase the distance between him and her prize. "I thought you were supposed to be too good a guy to pull a trick like this!"

Unfazed by her assessment of his character, Clark grinned. "Just because I'm a nice guy, you shouldn't underestimate what I'm willing to do when it comes to…something I want." His voice trailed off at the end as he turned to look at her and realized how close her face was to his. Their bodies were so close, he could almost feel her suck in a sharp gasp of surprise as she had the same realization. Her eyes widened as they locked on his, and as he stared into their depths, he realized that he would happily spend an entire day counting every fleck of gold within them. In that second, their game was forgotten and all he could think about was her. "Lois," he breathed, leaning in towards her to steal a kiss.

"I've been here – like this – for so long. Alone. I'd almost forgotten…" he couldn't turn away from her, and so he turned his head instead so that she couldn't see the pain in his eyes.

"You're not alone anymore, Clark," she said softly, lifting a hand to his cheek and trying to force him to look at her. "Look at me. You're not alone anymore. I'm here now."

Slowly, almost unwillingly, he turned to look down at her. "I can't do this, Lois. I lost you once; I don't think I could bear to lose you again."

"You're not going to lose me." Her hand slipped behind his head, and she could feel the silky strands of his hair slip through her fingers. "I'm not going anywhere."

He leaned down until their lips were only inches apart, and Lois tilted her head back, her breath caught in her throat at having him so near. But then he stopped and said reluctantly, "I-We shouldn't do this."

Lois couldn't disguise the flash of hurt in her eyes. This wasn't the first time she'd moved in to kiss him and he'd pulled away. "You don't really want me, huh," she said with a wry twist of her lips. She took a step back, dropping her chin, and tried to deflect attention from the moment they'd 'almost' had – for the second time. "It's okay; I understand, I mean, just because you – "

"I want you, Lois," he interjected, cutting her off. In surprise, she looked back up at him, and he took advantage of the moment to move closer to her. "I've dreamed of you every night since you left," he said in a low tone. The timbre of his voice was erotic, but the slight thread of pain that accompanied every word made it impossible for her to doubt his sincerity. "Every single night. And every day, I've wondered why I didn't have the power to bring you back to me. I've dreamt about what I would do if I had you here with me. What I would say. How I would – touch you." His voice faltered for a moment as he placed a hand on her side and slowly slid it down to her hip.

"I've forgotten so many things about the life I used to have." His pain was more evident in his voice now, in the eyes locked on hers. "But I've never forgotten the sound of your voice or the way you say my name. The exact color of your eyes. The curve of your lips when you tease me. I tried so hard to forget all of those things; I wanted to forget you. I wanted to forget the man I used to be. But every time I hear a woman laugh, I find myself wishing it was you." He paused and then added, "I've changed so much since you left, there are times when I don't even know who I am anymore. But if there's one thing I know without a doubt, it's how much I want you."

It was one of those Moments in life where Lois would give anything to know just the right thing to say, but she was struck speechless by his words. She'd never been very good at knowing what to say, at any rate. So she did what she did best; she acted instead, pulling his face down to hers and kissing him passionately, swept away as she gave into the longing she'd had to suppress for over a year.

If her longing for him was great, his was a tidal wave crashing over her, stealing her breath. Stealing her sanity.

"I want you," he breathed against her lips.

Lois jerked away from Clark as if she'd been physically struck. "I gotta go!" she blurted, pushing him away with the hand that still lay on his chest.

"Wait, what?" he asked, thrown by her abrupt change of mood.

"I-I have a thing. An important thing." She hastily thrust the cup of coffee towards him, and it sloshed in the mug, some of it spilling against his chest."Sorry! I didn't mean to –" she reached towards him but stopped before she made contact. "I really have to go."

And yet again, he was left calling her name after her as she headed for the nearest exit. He watched her retreating back in exasperation. She didn't even glance over her shoulder at him. When the elevator doors closed behind her, he turned back to his desk and glowered thoughtfully at his phone. Whatever was wrong with Lois, maybe Chloe could give him so answers. At the very least, she could tell him why she had convinced Lois to try online dating.

"Lois is acting strangely? How can you tell?" Chloe asked with a small smile an hour later when Clark came to see her at the Watchtower building.

He scowled at her. "This isn't funny, Chloe. Every time I see her lately she's…she's jumpy and every time I get close to her, she remembers some appointment or other," he stressed the word to show his skepticism, "and she races out the door."

She shrugged and turned to some papers laid out on her table. "Well, maybe she really has an appointment, Clark. It's been a long time since I worked in a bullpen, but I remember it can get pretty busy."

"Chloe, I'm her partner. Well, kind of her partner. I mean, I work across the desk from – look, all I'm saying is that if she was working on an actual story, I think I'd know about it."

Chloe didn't seem to find his statement terribly newsworthy because she didn't bother to look up at him as she shrugged again. "Well, you know, maybe it's something else that doesn't have to do with work. A doctor's appointment or something."

He stared at her. "Every single day for a month?" he asked skeptically.

A look of mild irritation crossed her features. "Well, not just a doctor's appointment, Clark. I just mean that she could be busy."

"It's not just that," he said with a sigh. "Like I said, she's…jittery. She's not acting like herself."

"She may need to cut down on her coffee intake," Chloe offered. "I mean, you have to admit, Clark, that Lois has many good qualities but caffeine moderation has never been one of them."

"Would you take this seriously?" he snapped, crossing his arms over his chest. "I'm telling you, something's wrong."

Chloe rolled her eyes and looked up at him. "And I'm telling you, I think you're blowing this out of proportion. I haven't seen Lois in a week or so, but she seemed fine to me the last time I saw her."

It was an opportunity to segue into the other topic he wanted to discuss with her. "You mean when you talked her into trying online dating?"

She snorted. "You mean strong-armed her into it. Not that anyone strong-arms Lois, but a little emotional blackmail goes a long way with her. Anyway, you know about that?"

He shrugged. "She mentioned it to me. Her first date didn't go over so well."

Chloe grimaced. "Make that her second. Well, it would have been her second. She was supposed to have a date a few days ago, but it fell through." At Clark's expectant look, she explained, "About an hour before she was supposed to meet the guy at the restaurant, his wife called."

"Ouch," he said, wincing on her behalf.

"Yeah, she was certainly taken by surprise," she drawled. "Anyway, maybe the next one will go better."

"How many of these dates is she going to go on?" he demanded, irritated at the thought of Lois going on yet another date.

Chloe seemed surprised by his tone, and she looked up at him curiously. "I don't know. Maybe all it'll take will be one more. Maybe she'll meet Mr. Right the next time out."

His frown deepened. "Or she'll meet another sleazeball or even a serial killer!"

She seemed amused by his comment. "You don't think Lois can take care of herself? Be sure not to let her hear you say that!"

He lifted one shoulder as if to dismiss her warning. "I'm just saying, it may not be safe. And I don't see why she's doing this. You know, love is something that should happen naturally. Why the big rush for her to meet someone?"

Chloe seemed to have lost interest because she returned her attention to her papers. "No rush; it just seemed like maybe she should try new things."

"I don't see why," he groused. "She seemed to be doing pretty well as she was. I mean, I don't think she has to go looking online for some guy to fall in love with her. She has…Ollie."

"Yeah, well, I think that's the problem," she pointed out. "She has a hard time letting go."

He jumped on that comment. "What do you mean?" he asked.

As if she realized she'd said more than she should, Chloe grimace. "Look, maybe I shouldn't say anything." When she saw Clark cross his arms over his chest and stare meaningfully at her, she sighed. "Okay, look, I'm going to tell you something, but it stays between us, okay? Lois would kill me if she knew I was telling you this. But about a month ago, Lois came to me with a-a problem. She wanted to know how to stop loving someone when they don't love you back."

"She still loves Ollie?" Clark asked, his stomach dropping.

Chloe shrugged, but she didn't answer his question directly. "She said she kept trying to move on. She thought she had, but…something happened, and she'd realized that she hadn't let go. So we thought that maybe if she put herself out there more, tried to meet someone new…well, maybe that would do the trick."

Heaving a heavy sigh, he took a couple of steps back and sank into a chair. It was amazing how, in the span of thirty seconds, it could feel like his entire world had been taken from him. Lois still loved Ollie? This was worse than he'd thought.

How had he not realized that she was still in love with Oliver? Ever since she'd come back, he'd been thinking…he'd thought there was a chance…

They'd had a moment at Chloe's wedding, he knew that. He also knew he'd blown it afterwards; he'd taken Lois for granted. He'd taken what they had together for granted. He hadn't realized what he felt for her until he thought she was gone, and once he'd gotten her back…well, he'd wondered if they couldn't have more. But he'd been so stupid; he'd stalled, he hadn't acted on his feelings. He'd kept telling himself that there would always be 'tomorrow' – another chance to show her how he felt about her; to convince her to fall in love with him somehow; to find the perfect moment, the perfect time, the perfect way to tell her how he felt about her.

But it seemed like he'd waited for too long, because before he could find that "perfect" moment, it seemed like he'd lost his chance. In waiting for the perfect moment, he'd missed his moment. When she'd thought he'd lost her, he also thought it had taught him a lesson – that he shouldn't take her for granted. But now he realized that he had continued to take her for granted. He had continued to assume that she would be there for him, she would wait while he continued to wait for that perfect moment. He had taken it for granted that, though her heart might not yet be open to him, that her heart might still be open to the possibility. He'd taken her for granted, yet again, and this time, he might not be lucky enough to get her back.

He realized that even as he'd been losing himself in the past, Chloe had continued to talk and he hadn't heard a word she'd said. "– back and doing nothing never accomplished anything. If you want something, you have to go after it, right? But of course she –"

"I have to go!" he blurted, jumping to his feet.

"– said that she was – What?" she asked, taken by surprise.

"No, I – I'm sorry, I have to – there's something I have to do," he stammered as he made his way to the nearest exit.

With a slight shake of her head, she said, "Yeah, okay. If you have to go…" But he didn't hear the rest of what she said as he bolted out the door. He also missed the tiny self-satisfied smile she shot after his retreating back.

Later that night, Lois was making the long walk home by herself after yet another failed date. It was probably too early to claim that there was some sort of pattern to her string of failures, but it was hard to resist the urge. Was every unattached male in this great city of theirs seriously flawed, or was there something about her that attracted only the flawed ones? Or maybe she was overthinking it. Yes, they all had their flaws, but their biggest flaw was that none of them were Clark.

None of them were Clark, and Clark was who she truly wanted. Of course, Clark was also who she couldn't have. Even if he dream-self was determined to have him every single night until it drove her insane.

At last, she arrived at her apartment and let herself in. She was tired, emotionally drained. On her walk home, she had fantasized about a hot bath and a good night's sleep (or what passed for it nowadays) with at least as much fervency as her unconscious self fantasized about doing various wicked and wild things to a Clark who was only so willing in her dreams.

As soon as she walked through the door, she kicked her shoes off and lunged for her hose, stripping them off her legs so quickly that she created a run. With a disgusted sigh, she tossed them towards the trash can; when they fell on the floor a few feet short of their target, she simply rolled her eyes and ignored them.

She reached around for the zipper to her dress when she heard a knock on the door. Letting out an exasperated cry, she turned and threw it open. "Clark!" she cried, feeling herself flush at seeing the man who had been so much on her mind standing there on her doorstep. Her eyes dropped to the two cups of coffee in his hand, and she frowned slightly. "Uh…what are you doing here? It's after ten."

"I brought you coffee," he said, holding up his offering for her approval.

"Yeah. I can see that," she said, raising her eyes from the coffee shop's logo to his face. "The question is why."

His eyes fell and he stared at the white tops to the cups in his hand. "I thought – that is – I was thinking that maybe…we could…have a second date."

Lois blinked several times in surprise. "A second date?" she asked, crossing her arms over her chest. "We haven't had a first one."

"I know," he said heavily. "That's why I'm brought coffee."

She looked at him like he was a creature from a far distant planet that had few similarities with the people of Earth. "I do not get you, Clark," she said and turned, storming away from the door so that he could come inside. When she heard the front door close behind him, she whirled around to face him again. "I mean, what is this? I do not understand you!"

He put the cups on the table next to the door. "It's complicated," he said.

"Yeah, I would say so," she spat. "You know, it wasn't even a real date. It was just…a chance to see if there was anything there. And you passed on that! You passed, you didn't show up! And that's totally fine; I get it! But now you come here and –"

"I showed up," he blurted.

"What?" she asked, frowning in confusion.

"I showed up. That night. I showed up at the coffee shop. I showed up, and I saw you there, sitting at that table. In that white jacket of yours, your hair pulled back off your face. I saw you there, sitting by yourself, and I – I wanted to go across the street and sit there with you. I can't tell you how much I wanted to join you at that table, but I – I didn't."

Dropping her arms at her sides, she shook her head slowly. "No," she agreed. "You didn't. If you were there…I don't understand. If you really were there, why didn't you? Why'd you send that text?"

Clark frowned and looked back up at her. "I was scared. The last time I put myself on the line like that was with – well, it didn't end well. I guess it wasn't all bad; we had happy moments. But it changed me. I had a hard time letting go, moving on. And I was scared that if I opened myself up like that again…" He let his voice trail off, hoping she would understand.

Lois raised her hand to brush her hair off her forehead. "Well, I…of course I understand that, Clark, but you…I was left hanging there, you know? You didn't say anything; you let me think that it was just me sitting there. You couldn't say something? Just come over and tell me that you were there, even if you couldn't stay?"

"I wasn't ready," he said softly. "And I'm sorry; I should have said something. I just wasn't ready."

"So why now?" she asked in a similar tone. "Why show up at my door now with two cups of coffee and an apology?"

Clark tightened his lips in a pale mockery of a smile. "It's not just now. I've been thinking about doing this for a while. I just didn't know how. I didn't know how to tell you."

Lois stared at his face for a moment, her eyes searching. "But you're not scared anymore?"

"I'm still scared," he admitted in a voice so soft she barely heard it. "But when you disappeared, I realized…I'm still scared of being here right now; I'm scared I'll be hurt again. But I'm scared of losing you more."

She kept her eyes locked on his face as she looked up at him. "So, what do you do now? I'm not sure I'm ready for…whatever this is."

Clark smiled softly. "This is coffee." He snatched one of the cups off the table and handed it over to her. "Making up for a past mistake. And maybe a first step forward. A small step."

She took a sip of the coffee, smiling up at him from over the rim. "All right," she said, turning towards the couch. "Coffee sounds great. As for the rest…well, it's been a long night. I'm not sure I'm up for any heavy conversation tonight. But I was thinking of watching The Terminator. If you're up for it."

"What is this, an Arnold Schwarzenegger marathon?" he teased.

"Something like that," she responded lightly. "Come on, Smallville. The popcorn's not going to pop itself."

He looked down at her in surprise and saw her wink cheekily up at him. Heaving a long-suffering sigh, he grabbed his own cup of coffee and headed towards the kitchen. "Though your comment was an impressive example of subtlety, I managed to decode your hint and am on it," he called jokingly over his shoulder at her.

"I thought you would be," she said, jumping to her feet and heading towards her bedroom. If she was going to have a relaxing night on the couch with Clark, she wasn't going to be able to do it in a cocktail dress. "I'll be right back. I'm gonna go change clothes."

"I'll be waiting," he whispered to the microwave as he watched her walk past. Lois may have decided that she wasn't ready to pursue anything yet, but he was willing to wait for her. As long as it took.

"Clark," she moaned, wrapping her arm around his neck and pulling him down for a kiss. "Stay with me tonight."

"Lois," he breathed, wrapping his arm around her waist and pulling her tight against his body. He lifted his hand to brush her hair off her cheek, cupping the side of her face. She sighed and lay back onto the couch, pulling him down on top of her.

Her leg twisted around his, and she rubbed her calf against the back of his thigh, lifting her leg high against his hip. His lifted his hand, cupping the weight of her breast in his palm, running his thumb over the tip. He swallowed her gasp of pleasure as she arched against him.

He was hard, throbbing with need when he kissed the soft skin of her neck and slipped his hand between her thighs. She was warm and wet under his touch, and she opened herself to him. "Clark!" She cried his name again as his fingers slipped inside her, a hitch in her voice. "Don't stop!" The command came on a throaty groan, and she reached for him, wrapping her hand around him

Rubbing her fingers deftly along his shaft, Lois sighed, "I love you, Clark."

"I love you, Lois," he said, poising herself at her entrance, and then he thrust inside her. "I love you."

Clark awoke with a start and jerked upright. It took him a moment to recognize that he wasn't still asleep, dreaming of Lois with him on the couch. He was still hard, aching with longing. Glancing over his shoulder, he looked towards her bedroom, where he knew she was sleeping. He could picture her there, lying on her bed, the sheets twisted around her body. If he concentrated, he could hear the steady rise and fall of her breathing, the soft sound of her skin rubbing against cotton sheets as she shifted in her sleep. While his imagination had conjured an image of her that was both tantalizing and maddening in its exquisite detail, it wasn't helping his immediate problem.

With a heavy sigh, he collapsed back on the couch, curling his arm under his head. It looked like it was going to be another long night of lying in silence as he stared up at the ceiling, picturing Lois there.

As he tried to ignore the agony of his unsatisfied desire, he grimaced and tried not to hear the sounds of Lois sleeping soundly so nearby. He tried to stop the erotic fantasy that came so easily to mind. "This has to stop," he groaned into the darkness. After a month of almost nightly recurring fantasies about Lois, he was seriously starting to suffer from lack of sleep.