A/N: A scene in the last SV episode (Disciple) reminded me of a scene in this story (can you guess which one?) and I decided to look it up. I wrote this a long time ago... like Aug '07, or something like that, and for whatever reason, I never uploaded it here (it was posted on DI and on Cloisfic Archive), so here it is. Bday fic for Chumpy (good times).Let's see... here's what you need to know. This was set circa season late6/early7ish. This would be post 6x22 when Chloe used her healing mojo to save Lois from the stabbing at the dam in the episode 'Phantom'. Enjoy!
The Untold Want
aka The Gods Must Be Crazy Fools
Certain events set in motion some tricky and risky behavior on the part of Lois and Clark.
**Mature rating for some close bodily interaction, swearing and a whole lot of innuendo. Physically and mentally underaged folks need not apply.**
The Untold Want
By Life and Land Ne'er Granted
Forth to Seek and Find
-- Walt Whitman
Somewhere in Metropolis…
Lois ducked around the corner of a building and pressed her back tightly against the wall. She was in another one of her patented situations. What had started out as a stakeout for a story had somehow turned into a fight for her life.
She mentally tallied the talking points. There was a sinister character in a black trench coat trailing her through the streets. Check. She had chosen to run down an alley, which predictably, was a dead end. Check. It was the middle of the night and half the lights in this god-forsaken sector of town were busted or not working. Check.
She lifted a hand and pushed the wet bangs off of her forehead, rolling her eyes as she marked the final check on her mental list - it was also pouring rain.
Little hairs on the back of her neck stood to attention as a splash informed her that her pursuer had reached the entrance of the alleyway. It would only be a moment before he would start making his way to her current position.
Why, oh why, didn't I take the blue pill?
Lois inched to the edge of the building. If she could gauge the exact moment that Trench Coat Guy would reach her position, she could try to catch him off guard. It was going to come down to hand to hand combat… once she found a way to disarm him - *if* he was armed, that is.
So intently focused on trying to judge depth and position in the darkness of the alley, Lois nearly jumped out of her skin when a hand landed on her shoulder. Before she could grunt (because Lois Lane was no screamer), that same hand was covering her mouth.
Her surprise turned into reluctant relief once she recognized who was with her. She hastily pushed her companion's hand away from her mouth, adding a curt shove to his chest to underscore her annoyance.
"Clark!" she whispered through clenched teeth. "What the hell?!" Even though she was happy to see him - because now he could help her fight - her reporter's brain was busy trying to understand how he had gotten there. "When did you… Where did…?"
"You called Chloe – she called me," he replied in clipped tones. Obviously he didn't think that his whereabouts – and howabouts, for that matter – were as important as the man steadily closing in on them in the alley.
"But, that doesn't…" Lois sputtered, unable to release the mystery at hand.
"I was in the neighborhood!"
Lois's mouth snapped shut. She wasn't sold on the explanation but there was the whole issue of running for her life to deal with first. Still… "Chloe called you?"
...No one ever said she was the type to let go of things easily.
"You told her you were in trouble."
"I was!" And I still am, she amended silently.
Her eyes darted around their immediate surroundings. While the alley offered no escape route save going back the way they came in, there were suitable options for hiding if you didn't mind a little dirt. She began weighing the pros and cons between climbing into the dumpster or climbing into the neighboring sewage drain.
"Why didn't Chloe call the police?" Lois grumbled. Never mind the fact that she could have called the police herself… Chloe's number just happened to be easier to speed-dial in the dark… while running.
Clark sighed and grabbed her hand, pulling her toward the drain – it wasn't the choice she would have decided on, but she let herself be dragged along anyway.
They only got two steps before he stopped abruptly. Her eyes had adjusted to the dark enough to register the fact that Trench Coat Guy had found them. She also was able to add another mental check mark to her list. The villain was definitely armed...
...With a crossbow no less.
Clark's eyes bored into hers as he turned his body to block her from the oncoming arrow. It all happened so fast that she didn't have time to protest. The 'thwoot' sound of the bow firing was hardly enough of a warning to get out of the way. Lois idly wondered what kind of bad guy shot first and asked questions later.
Still looking into Clark's eyes, she saw as they widened in shocked surprise milliseconds before she felt the flash of hot pain that followed. They were both knocked backwards into the side of the building, and Lois noted with mild interest that the guy with the trench coat and the bow had fled the scene - the brunt of her attention was on Clark, whose weight was pinning her against the wall.
She couldn't help but grimace as he gingerly pulled away, and her eyes drifted down and to the left. "You're bleeding," she observed, her right hand reaching up to touch the spot where the metal arrow was lodged in his arm. Her military trained eye informed her that the projectile had gone through without hitting any bones.
She quirked an eyebrow and attempted to moisten her lips – lips that suddenly felt very dry even though it was still, predictably, pouring rain.
Her fingers trailed along the shaft of the arrow from where it protruded from his bicep… to where it pierced her skin just above her left breast.
Energy sapped, Lois let her right hand - now covered with blood from both of them - fall to her side. She felt herself slump, but couldn't stop her slide.
Her eyes fluttered shut as she felt Clark's arm come to support her. As much as she complained about his often smothering techniques, she had to admit that she liked the fact that he was always there to catch her.
Later in Smallville…
Clark's hands trembled as he reached for the washcloth again. The once white towel was stained a dark red, the evidence of its original state long gone and forever changed. There had just been so much blood.
He scrubbed at his hands again, replacing the cloth in the bucket when once again confronted with the futility of the action. He could no more wipe away every drop than he could stop them when they flowed from her body.
His own wound had healed almost immediately after he had broken free of their macabre embrace. The shock of his being shot was shelved as he did everything in his power to try to stop Lois from bleeding out in his arms.
He had learned something about his abilities in that instance. First, he wasn't immune to everything… and second, he wasn't fast enough.
Not nearly fast enough when he was racing against a line of blood.
And so, he had gathered her in his arms and brought her to his loft… because now she was out of his hands.
Footsteps scrambled up the stairs at a fervent pace. He didn't look up when Chloe reached the landing. He couldn't.
His only response was to keep looking at the ashen woman lying on his couch.
The steps skidded to a halt. "Is she…?" He heard as Chloe sucked in a shuddered breath and continued forward. "Oh, Lois."
He finally met the blonde's eyes. "I'm so sorry, Chloe…"
Chloe's green eyes grew wide as a knowledge she didn't want settled into her awareness. "No."
She searched Clark's eyes for some evidence of a mistake. Why hadn't he just taken Lois to a hospital?
Tears began to form on their own accord and her head tilted to the side in an attempt at denial. "No."
She turned back to face the couch, rushing to it and kneeling beside the body of her cousin. Chloe's hands fluttered for a minute as she searched for somewhere to touch her - somewhere to make a connection – that wasn't covered with rust colored stain.
Why hadn't he gotten her there faster?
Her wandering hands finally settled on Lois's face and she leaned forward to place her forehead against hers, seeking some sign of life.
Why hadn't he bought her some time?
See, over the past few months, Chloe had learned some things about her abilities. First, she couldn't heal someone else without sapping her own resources of strength, and second, she couldn't bring back the dead.
The last time, Lois had been nearly there when fate had allowed her the chance to snatch her from the hands of death. This time, Death had snatched back.
She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She knew that the effort would be futile, but she also knew that she would die trying.
Just as she was summoning the white cloud of senselessness, she felt Clark's hands on her shoulders pulling her away. He knew as well as she did that this was out of her hands. At that moment, she both loved him (for making her stop) and hated him (for making her stop).
She rounded on him with fisted hands, ready for a fight. He was always saving someone.
Why hadn't he saved Lois?
Clark allowed a few blows to get purchase before he pulled Chloe into a firm embrace - more to stop her from hurting herself than anything else. There was nothing she could do. There was nothing he could do either.
His ears pricked at a sudden sound and he stiffened. He knew with great certainty that it hadn't been there before. A low lub-dub that gained strength as it repeated its cadence.
"Chloe…" he started, trailing off as the woman on the couch suddenly drew in a shaky breath.
Chloe turned from his embrace and they looked at the couch with matching expressions of shock. "Lois?"
In less than a second they were both at Lois's side. Her eyes didn't open, but she was breathing and her pulse was strong. He and Chloe exchanged a look of complete amazement. The emotion only deepened when Chloe pulled Lois's collar aside to reveal that the wound was closing right before their very eyes.
In unison, they wordlessly stepped away from the couch.
"Did you…?" "I didn't…"
"Oh." Clark racked his mind for an explanation. "Maybe there was some residual… from last time."
"Possibly," Chloe replied after a hesitation. They both knew it was highly unlikely.
They simultaneously broke eye contact to look back to the couch.
"What do we do?" Chloe asked.
"I guess we wait."
Even later in Smallville…
Chloe paced the floor of the Loft restlessly. There was a chair next to the couch for her to sit in but she had grown weary of sitting. She had also grown weary of waiting.
Clark was off doing his farm chores - due back at any minute - and she guiltily envied his dutifulness. She wanted to leave, and yet she didn't want to.
Three days had slipped by unknowingly to Lois, who continued to lay silently on Clark's couch. On day one, Chloe had gone to the apartment for clothing changes for both she and Lois. The blood-stained outfit that she had cut off of her cousin now sat in a plastic bag against the far wall, awaiting disposal.
There was nothing Chloe wanted to do more than burn them, but she needed Lois to wake up and be part of the ceremony.
"Come on, Cuz. You can do it," Chloe muttered, making yet another pass by the couch on her circuit around the loft.
Lois was breathing fine and she seemed to be resting peacefully. The only evidence of the past trauma was her slightly high temperature and the fading bruise where the nasty gaping puncture wound had been.
"Come on back, Lois. Fight it."
Chloe paused at the loft's window, glancing down at the cell phone in her hand after giving her car a longing look.
"You should go."
She spun around at the sound of Clark's voice. His expression looked as guilty as she felt. "No, I…"
"Chloe, you've missed three days of work already. It's okay. I'll stay."
Chloe tried to quell the surge of shame that accosted her psyche. She shouldn't want to get away. Her cousin was fighting for her life – the least she could do was stand by…
…Yet, standing by had been exactly what she had done for three days. Three days of potent reminders that great power comes with great responsibility. Three days of undisputable evidence that even great power sometimes wasn't enough.
"Well… I guess…"
Clark stepped further into the room. "If you leave now, you can get in a couple of hours of sleep and still make it to the Planet by noon."
She took one last glance at her resting cousin – if only it were as simple as sleep. "Will you call me if anything…"
Nodding, Chloe walked over to the couch. She couldn't do anything more here. This fight was Lois's and Lois's alone.
Clark's Loft in Smallville…
Clark forced himself to get up from the chair and leave Lois's side. He had been sitting there for the last five hours without a break after relieving Chloe. He hadn't wanted to exchange positions with her – in fact, for the past three days he had been coming up with every excuse in the book to not spend time in the loft.
The truth of the matter was that when he was in the same room with Lois, he inexplicably couldn't keep from touching her. Since the moment she had miraculously come back to life, he had been drawn to her side. The only way he could combat the pull was to keep himself busy… and scarce – but that wasn't fair to Chloe.
So, after three days of guilty avoidance, he was back.
Clark dropped into the chair once again, not having gotten more than three feet away. His hand found her wrist yet again, finding comfort in the feel of her pulse. Lying in this state, Lois seemed peaceful, approachable… even vulnerable. Her serenity made him pause – and through it all, she remained still. Like a Sleeping Beauty.
He smoothed back the hair from her forehead. This was no fairy tale, and yet he was willing to try just about anything – including…
Leaning down, he placed his lips against hers and pulled back - watching… waiting.
There was no magical change. Contrary to what Walt Disney and his wonderful world of films led people to believe, Lois didn't suddenly awaken from her slumber. The curse, if that's even what it was, was not broken.
Mentally laughing at his naivety, he leaned back into the chair and braced his elbows on his knees. After releasing a sigh, he cradled his chin in his hands and allowed his heavy sleep-deprived eyelids to close.
When he opened his eyes again, the altered shadows alerted Clark that the sun had changed positions. What had felt like a mere blink to him had actually been a couple of hours. Straightening, he reached a hand to massage the back of his neck, stretching out his shoulder muscles as he moved. He lifted his head and shot a passing glance over to Lois. What he saw caused him to sit ramrod straight.
She was looking back at him.
"Lois," he gasped, moving from the chair to kneel on the floor next to the couch. How long had she been watching him? "You're awake."
Her expression was soft with sleep as she arched an eyebrow in reply. "So are you."
Clark realized with a start that three days without her snarky responses had been three too many.
Lois began to push herself into an upright position and immediately Clark was reaching out to help her. As she settled, he remained kneeling on the floor, his hands sliding away from her arms. In awed wonder, she gingerly touched the place on her chest where the arrow had protruded from. She then returned her gaze to him and reached out to feel his arm.
Wanting to delay the inevitable questions, Clark pulled her against his chest. "I'm glad you came back."
Lois returned the embrace. He had no idea how glad she was to be back as well. Dark and disturbed images had chased her back to consciousness and all she wanted to do was make them disappear. She had plenty of questions… but she was almost more afraid of the answers.
The fingers of her left hand slipped into the short hairs at the back of Clark's neck. She had to touch him. He was her connection to all things living. "Life is short."
Clark pulled away so he could see her face. "What do you mean by that?"
Lois shook her head, retrieving her hand from his hair and placing it gently on the side of his face.
While she had watched him sleep, her hands had itched to touch him. The only sense she could make of it was that his stillness unnerved her – with no motion, she feared that she was in another realm of the strange dream world that had claimed her from the moment she'd lost consciousness in that dreaded alley.
That explanation, however, did not explain why the urge to touch him was increasing now that he was awake.
"I'm not really sure," she finally answered.
A strange clenching of muscles accosted her stomach and her chest began to tighten as she realized that his face was suddenly a lot closer to hers than she'd expected. Now, without preface, they were dueling breaths. "I'm not really sure about anything..."
The rest of her statement dissolved as she found herself meeting Clark's wordless advance. The first brush of their lips was hesitant… careful. After that, all bets were off.
Thoughts, words, judgments, and ideas slid from her consciousness, leaving her with only her senses. Lois was lost in the feel of his tongue pushing past her teeth as it demanded entrance. Her nostrils flared as she pulled in air and she was accosted with the smell of him, something outdoorsy and mildly spicy.
She felt the light touches of his fingertips on her waist, and then they were under the edges of her shirt. The feathery brushes against her skin tickled, causing her to arch closer to him. Hearing the groan that the increased contact elicited, Lois was driven to find a way to get closer still. Her own hands snaked beneath his shirt and then, miraculously, it was gone. The silk of his skin was hers for the touch and she wasted no time exploring the play of muscles across his abs and chest.
Then her shirt met his on the floor; his lips were on her neck, then her collarbone, traveling on a direct path southward where they lingered over the faint bruise above her bra on the left side. Everywhere their skin met was evidenced with heat--almost as if they could create fire simply by touching. That heat then took residence in her thighs as his hands slid to her waistband, and somewhere in her haze-filled mind, she observed that he had on too many clothes.
Of their own accord, her fingers sought to rectify that mistake.
Meanwhile on Mount Olympus…
"Hold it right there."
The young page paused at the door to the office and turned around so he was again facing His Deity.
"What is this?" Zeus asked, holding aloft the scroll he had just finished reading.
"It is the report from the Underworld, sir," the youth replied, his head lowered in a respectful bow.
"No, I know *what* it is," the powerful statesman replied with an annoyed expression. "I am asking what the *meaning* of it is."
The page glanced at the scroll nervously. Immortality didn't mean that lightning bolts didn't sting. "I am… unsure. I did not read it… sir."
Zeus dismissed the boy with a wave of his hand and sighed. Once the door closed after the attendant's exit, he reached for his Celestial phone. "Hades, a word if you please."
Seconds later, a large muscular body materialized in the marble settee across from the desk. "Since I just left you at lunch a decade ago, I'm guessing that this isn't a social call," Hades said in greeting.
Zeus frowned. "It isn't." He snapped his fingers and the sound of thunder accompanied the flash of light that sent the scroll he'd held in his hands across the room to his brother's. "It is about the entry that I have highlighted there."
Hades scanned the scroll and nodded sagely once he reached the highlighted name. "Umhmmm," he murmured in his gravelly voice.
Hades shrugged. "Her application was denied."
"Denied? As in a Divine Pardon? That is not granted without a council trial. Why was I not consulted?"
Hades scratched his bearded chin in a bored fashion. "Edict states that a council trial is only deemed necessary when the candidate is to be granted pardon after a scheduled arrival."
Zeus's brow furrowed as he attempted to understand. "Her arrival was unscheduled? How so?"
Hades smirked and rose to his feet. "There was Divine… Interruption, I should say."
Zeus's spine stiffened. They had enough trouble keeping the human world balanced without adding external interferences. "Who? Why?"
"I think you should ask that question of my darling niece of Love and Beauty."
The Mighty Thunderer placed his elbows on the marble counter and leaned heavily against them. His daughter and her offspring were often the culprits behind many of his greatest entanglements - and if he had learned anything from their past dalliances, he knew that there would be no straight forward answer in this case.
Hades chuckled at his brother's expression. He, too, knew the extent of Aphrodite's dealings. "Should we hold a congress regarding all the usual suspects?"
Zeus sighed again, the rumble echoing in the room – somewhere in the land it was going to rain. He nodded. "We might as well hold a repast while we are at it. Undoubtedly, we will be in session for quite a while."
With another snap of his fingers, he was holding the file of the woman in question in his hands.
Back in Smallville…
Consciousness slammed into both of them as the wave ended and their vision cleared. Panting, their eyes met in shock, and after holding stares for a tense moment, both gazes skirted away.
Lois unhooked her legs from Clark's thighs and bit her lip as he slowly withdrew. Her eyes fluttered shut with the shifting movements of the couch beneath her and she was left feeling curiously empty. She kept her eyes closed until she heard the sound of a zipper being pulled up. Then, moving slowly and affecting a dignity she didn't necessarily feel, she retrieved her clothes from the floor and started putting them back on.
Once covered, Lois turned to face Clark and decided that he looked as bewildered as she felt. There was nothing she could do to erase the wide-eyed expression she knew was contorting her face at that very moment.
They hadn't just… Had they?
Clark released a breath and shoved his hands in his jeans pockets. "Um… I…" He stopped and cleared his throat.
Oh, God. They had.
And here was where things would go from awkward situation to worse case scenario in a hurry. Unless, of course, she could head it off. "I should go."
"Well… I mean…" He swallowed. "Okay." She could tell he didn't know whether he was coming or going - and damn well didn't know which to ask of her.
His neck was flushed red and she off handedly noted that his hair was damp. For some reason, it occurred to her that she hadn't ever seen him sweat before. "Okay."
After a forced smile, she stepped past him and fled down the stairs and out of the barn doors.
When Clark exited five minutes later, Lois was sitting on the front porch steps of the farmhouse.
She looked up at him meekly. "I can't seem to remember where I left my car."
"Just let me grab the keys to the truck and I'll drive you back to the Talon," he offered awkwardly.
She nodded and shifted to the side so he could walk up the steps and into the house.
The ride into town brought the awkward meter to the next level. Lois fidgeted, unsure of where to place her hands. She went from sitting with her arms crossed, to putting them at her sides, to putting her hands on her thighs – only to end with her arms crossed again.
"Music?" she asked, reaching for the radio knob.
"Sure. Music's good," Clark replied. He concentrated on gripping the steering wheel tightly without breaking it. The sound of Lois flipping through the various channels would have been annoying on another day but right now it was a welcome distraction.
What had come over them? Namely, what had come over *him*?
"Uh, Chloe…" he started.
"I'll call her."
Clark turned to look at her in mild panic.
"To tell her that I'm okay," Lois quickly added at his look.
"Right. Okay. She'll want to know that."
He mentally cursed and refocused his attention on the road, remaining that way until he pulled to a stop in the alley behind the coffee shop. "Listen…"
"Clark, I already know what you're going to say," she interrupted. "It was…" She waved a hand in the air.
"Yeah," he agreed to her soundless surmise. "I mean, we both…"
She sucked in a breath and nodded. "Yeah."
"So, can we…"
"…Act like it never happened?"
He sighed in relief. She really did know what he wanted to say. "I just want us to be all right."
"Me too." She gave him a real smile and he further relaxed. "And we will be. I mean, we are."
He smiled back. "Good. That's great."
She reached for the handle of the door and opened it. "So… Talk to you later?"
He nodded and she hopped out of the truck, slamming the door shut behind her. He ducked his head so he could watch her through the window. She entered the Talon's rear entrance and he sighed. "See ya' around."
Shifting into gear, he accelerated and drove away.
A Week Later at the Talon…
"We need to talk about Clark," Chloe demanded, dropping into the booth across from her cousin.
Chloe's eyes narrowed briefly at the hitch in Lois's voice. Shaking it off as just being the effect of Chloe's sudden appearance, she continued. "Yes. He's distracted, brooding, anxious, and clearly avoiding you."
Lois's eyes widened and she took a drink from her coffee cup. "I don't… I don't know what to say."
Chloe sighed in frustration. "Say you'll talk to him."
Lois pointed at her chest as if to say 'Me?'
"He's obviously feeling responsible for your accident."
"That's just…" Lois rolled her eyes. "It wasn't his fault and I'm fine."
Chloe pressed her lips together for a moment. None of them had ever brought up the fact that Lois had 'died' that day. There was no way for she or Clark to explain to Lois what had happened and the unknown was scary enough to deal with without confronting it.
Lois leaned back into the seat cushion. "I don't think I can be of any help here, Chlo."
Lois may have been right, still, Chloe knew her best friend, and he was currently being rendered useless by guilt. Chloe leaned forward and grabbed one of Lois's hands. "I just want you to talk to him. Make him see that you don't blame him."
Lois scoffed. "Blame him for the idiot that shot me? Why would he even think that? It was probably some Green Arrow ex-girlfriend getting back at me for getting that exclusive on him."
"The Green Arrow's girlfriend?" Chloe asked with an amused smirk. "I thought you said it was a guy that was chasing you."
Lois shrugged. "Or boyfriend… Although, Arrow didn't kiss like he was testing the fruit…"
Chloe struggled to remain neutral at Lois's speculation. "I don't think it had anything to do with the Green Arrow."
Lois threw her hands up in exasperation. "Well, it also didn't have anything to do with Clark Kent. If he can't figure that on his own, there's nothing I can do to make him."
"This is Clark we're talking about," Chloe said as if that was all the explanation needed. "I just want you to *try*."
Lois looked at her dejectedly. "Fine, I'll talk to him but I'm not promising…"
"Great!" Chloe interrupted, ignoring the disclaimer. "He's on his way."
"What? Right now?"
The petite blonde grinned. "I told him that you wanted to meet for coffee." She glanced out the window and noted the red truck pulling into a parking spot on the street outside. "And there he is."
Chloe scooted her chair back so she could stand but Lois's hand was on her arm before her legs fully extended.
"You just assumed that I would say yes?"
Chloe shrugged. "I had hoped," she confessed. "I know you, Lois. You are the most dedicated, loyal, and stubborn person I know. You'd do anything for someone you care about."
Lois's eyes narrowed. "It's a little unfair to pull the family honor card when you want it used on someone else's behalf."
"I'm not," Chloe replied, laughing. "I'm pulling Clark's friend card on *his* behalf. As much as you try to deny it, I know you care… I'm just asking you to act on it."
Chloe watched the expressions on Lois's face as she prepared to give in. She was a little surprised at her cousin's reluctance - she knew that Lois considered Clark to be a pain in the butt sometimes but that wouldn't stop her from lending a helping hand.
A concerned niggle at the back of her mind raised a flag. She certainly *hoped* that Lois didn't blame Clark as well.
She relaxed when Lois released her hand and signaled her compliance. "Here, have another coffee on me," she said, dropping a ten dollar bill on the table.
Lois picked it up and shot her cousin a dry smile. "Money left on the table for my services? I feel so cheapened."
She watched as Chloe turned and walked from the table. Just as she reached the door, it was pulled open from the outside and Clark stepped in. Chloe gave her a look that said 'Be nice,' then patted Clark on the shoulder and left.
When Clark was seated in the spot Chloe had just vacated, Lois drummed her fingers on the surface of the table. "This was Chloe's idea," she announced when the silence got to be unbearable.
Clark opened his mouth as if to say something then closed it. Instead, he simply nodded.
"She thinks we're avoiding each other, or more, she thinks you're avoiding me," Lois continued. "Are you avoiding me, Clark?"
He seemed to contemplate the question. "No. I'm… approaching you."
Lois frowned. "You're approaching me?"
Lois tilted her head and studied him curiously. His choice of words made no sense. "Oh. Ok." She signaled for a waitress. "You want some coffee? Chloe's buying."
After they placed their orders, the conversation lulled again.
Clark began drumming his fingers on the table, unconsciously matching the tuneless beat she was making on her side. When they realized what they were doing, they stopped."So, Chloe told me that you found your car," he offered.
She nodded. "It was at the Inquisitor building."
He nodded back. They were human bobble-heads. Lois forced her head still. "I haven't seen you around much," she lamely supplied.
His counter was just as lame. "I haven't been around… much."
Their gazes met and held for beat before they both started to laugh.
"So much for going back to normal, huh?" Lois asked, still smiling.
"Yeah. I guess." He swallowed, and looked around as if wishing his drink would arrive.
When he turned to face her again, he had that look on his face like he wanted to say something but couldn't find the words.
"Chloe thinks you're feeling guilty – you do know that whole getting shot thing wasn't your fault, right?"
He frowned and she realized that whatever he had been preparing to talk about – the accident wasn't it. "I guess," he repeated. "I just… I would feel a lot better if it hadn't happen," he replied.
Lois smiled softly. "I would feel a lot better if I knew why it *did* happen." She met his anxious gaze full on. When Chloe had said that Clark was anxious, restless and pacing, she hadn't known that she was describing Lois as well. "But I'm grateful for whatever magic allowed us both to heal so quickly."
Clark smiled back and they both relaxed even further. "We're frie…" he paused as their waitress set the drinks on the table. After thanking her, he started again. "We're friends, right?"
Lois's brow creased. "It's not as well a kept secret as we'd hoped," she teased. "But yes, we are."
"I don't want that to change."
Lois began to feel a slight trepidation as to where the conversation was going. "I don't either."
Clark shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "Well, it's been a little strained lately."
She didn't feel the need to respond. He didn't need her input to know that he speaking true.
"Strained and um, tense." He licked his lips nervously and she had to look away. "I was, um, thinking… that maybe we could try to do something… together."
Lois pulled her hands into her lap and clasped them together. "Together," she repeated. "As in…?"
"As in friends doing… friendly things?" She noticed his neck beginning to flush. "I just…" he blew out a breath. "… feel that maybe we could, um, benefit from our friendship, reciprocally."
"Like, you scratch my back, I scratch yours?"
He looked up, pleased and relieved. "Exactly."
Lois gnawed on her bottom lip, looking down at the table in thought. After a few moments, she looked back up. "Helping one another… with things?"
Clark began the bobble-head act again. "Like…" He glanced around at the other patrons. "…plowing the fields at the farm."
Lois let out a dry laugh. "You want me to help you plow the fields at the farm?"
"Or flush the pipes," he offered.
"Flush the pipes," she parroted. "At the farm?"
Clark massaged the back of his neck and cleared his throat. "Yes, the farm… or your apartment."
The expression on his face reminded her of a constipated toddler. "Why wouldn't I just call a plumber for that?"
Clark's gaze was sharply drawn to hers. "Do you really not know what I'm talking about, here, or…" he trailed off, looking to find an answer in her eyes.
Lois sighed, closed her eyes and then opened them after a pause. "I'm trying to buy you enough time to realize what you're asking with the hope that you'll come to your senses before this gets worse."
"Oh." He swallowed and pulled at his collar. "I see."
He held up his hands. "No. Don't… Just don't." He began an awkward slide to exit the booth.
Lois watched his struggle sadly. "Look, I just…"
"No, you were right," he said after finally stumbling to his feet. "It was a crazy idea… I'm not thinking straight – it was just a moment of insanity… like when we did that thing that we didn't do." He made a strange waving motion with his hand and shook his head. "Yeah."
"I really need to be going, Lois. Let's just forget it… add it to the list, or whatever."
As she watched him leave, she wished to herself that it were that easy.
The next day at the Daily Planet…
Lois was camped out in the Archive Room of the Daily Planet, her laptop and a bottle of water near at hand. As freelancer for the Inquisitor, she wasn't privy to desk space. Instead, she had to get in where she could - and having a cousin working at the newspaper building tended to make that feat more tolerable.
"I thought you were going to talk to him!"
Lois jumped at her cousin's unannounced interruption. A trail of unintelligible letters skirted across the screen. "Talk to whom?" she asked, making repetitive use of the Backspace key.
She looked up to see Chloe giving her an unimpressed look.
"I *did* talk to him! You left me with him, so you *know* I did!" Lois replied under her breath.
"Then why is he still the King of Brood?"
Lois bit back the snarky comment that popped in her head and shrugged.
"You need to talk to him again," Chloe retorted simply.
Lois groaned. "Chloe…"
"I'm serious, Lois. You were supposed to make him understand that the whole 'shot through the heart' thing wasn't his fault so we could all move on."
Lois began to feel flustered. "It's complicated."
When Chloe's expression darkened, she wanted to take the words back--or elaborate somehow--but she didn't know how to go about doing it.
"No, it's simple. Either you blame him for it or you don't," Chloe said flatly.
Lois could tell that Chloe was starting to question how she truly felt about the incident. "I don't blame him for that," she inserted quickly. And it was true. There was something altogether different that she blamed Clark for.
Thankfully Chloe's worry lines relaxed with the admission. "Then you can fix it," she quipped confidently.
"You don't know what you're asking, Chloe."
"I'm asking you to try… and before you say that you already did, spare me. Lois Lane would never equate a single unsuccessful conversation over coffee with a 'try'."
Lois swallowed the response she had been ready to give. Her cousin knew her well… she just hoped she didn't know her well enough to see her secrets. "Maybe you're reading him wrong," she offered meekly.
Chloe's nose scrunched at the suggestion. "If he's not feeling guilty about *that* then what would make him want to avoid you?"
Lois found herself pinned in the interrogating gaze of her cousin's wide green eyes. Irrationally fearing that Chloe would read her mind, she forced a smile. "No, you're right. Guilt! That's it!" She coughed and cleared her throat in an attempt to disguise the way her voice had jumped octaves.
Chloe's mind was immediately off of the Hunt for Something Guilty. "So you'll talk to him?"
Lois took a drink of her water to combat a flush she could feel spreading. It would be a little too obvious if she were to start fanning herself. After swallowing, she eyed her cousin. "I'll think about it."
"Can you think about it on your way out to the Kent farm?"
The brunette gave the blonde an exasperated look. "Why is this so important to you?"
Chloe looked sad for a moment. "Clark has been through a lot over the past few years. I just don't want to see him unhappy."
Lois looked down guiltily. "You're a good friend, Chloe."
"So, you'll do it?"
Lois blinked at the question, reminding herself that Chloe *really* didn't know what she was asking. "I'll… talk to him." That's all she was willing to promise.
Lois gave her an annoyed look and nodded pointedly at her laptop where her unfinished article laid in wait for some overdue attention.
Chloe took the hint. She rose from the table and retreated, walking backwards. "This is me backing off," she said with a wide grin. "Thank you, Lois."
"Yeah, yeah," she answered, waving Chloe away. She rolled her eyes and shifted her attention to her computer screen. She said she would talk to him - now she only had to figure out what she could possibly say.
A few days later in Smallville…
Clark hoisted a bale of hay onto the large pile stacked in an empty stable. He was forcing himself to do everything at human speed. It made the time to complete the chores pass painstakingly slowly – but the concentration it required kept his mind from wandering.
He had turned to lift another bale when he noticed Lois's car coming down the drive. Pulling off his gloves, he stood and waited for her to exit the car.
"Hey," she greeted, warily eyeing the barn behind him.
"Hey." It occurred to him that this was the first time she'd been back to the farm since the 'Incident.'
She swallowed and glanced around. "You, uh, want to go for a walk?"
Surprised, Clark nodded. "Yeah… sure."
He secured his gloves beneath the wire holding the forgotten hay bale and sidled up beside her.
They walked in silence for a while before Lois spoke. "This isn't working."
Clark glanced down at her. "I'm not brooding," he countered.
"Then what would you call locking yourself away on a farm so much that your best friend sends in the brigade?"
"I call it keeping busy." He smirked. "Are you the brigade?"
Lois sighed and left the road, walking to the fence lining the East field and leaning against it.
Clark hesitated for a moment before moving to stand beside her.
"You have Chloe worried," she commented.
"Obviously," came his dry return.
Lois turned around so her back was leaning against the fence and crossed her arms on her chest. "You're not doing a very believable job of normal." Clark chuckled at the irony of her statement. "Maybe I don't want normal." For the first time in his life, he didn't.
He caught the sidelong glare Lois threw at him. "I'm not the only one," he observed. "Sure, you seem to be doing it better but I think it's only because you're trying harder."
He turned to his side so he was fully facing her profile. His head tilted in challenge. "Why haven't you been to the farm lately? Normally you're here so much that this is where your mail is delivered." His lips curled. "Are you avoiding me, Lois?"
She turned her head to look in the direction they had come from. "What I can't figure out, is why you – Clark Kent, farm boy extraordinaire - would want to make a proposal like that."
"What? That you're avoiding me?"
She turned her head back to face him and he laughed at her irritated expression. "Oh, you mean… the *other* thing."
When she didn't return his amusement he sobered. "Well, I…" He tried to think of a good way to explain it. If their conversation at the Talon had shown him anything, it was that Lois wasn't going to be an easy sell.
"I thought things would be easier than they are," he started hesitantly.
Lois gave him an odd look and he knew that he wasn't successfully explaining it to her. "When Dad died, everything changed."
Lois's expression shifted and he was immediately sorry for bringing it up so he rushed on. "Lana married Lex, Chloe met Jimmy, you had Oliver… and I was alone, but not alone, you know?" He met her eyes. "But then Mom left for D.C. - which was a wonderful opportunity and I wanted her to go - but…"
She nodded her understanding. "Oliver left too."
He looked at her sadly. "Yeah. I know we said we weren't going to think about… *it*, but I haven't really been able to stop. It was the first time in a long time that I felt… connected. It's haunted me – like an addiction – since then and I thought maybe… we could try to get it back. That connection."
Lois swallowed and looked away. She was starting to wish that she hadn't asked. "So, you want to feel 'connected' and since I'm flying solo like you are, I'm prime candidate."
"I didn't say it like that."
"But that's what you meant, right?"
He seemed appropriately flustered. "No. I mean, yes, but… no." He rubbed a hand against his mouth and blew out a harsh breath. "Truth?" he asked.
Lois arched an eyebrow. "That would be nice."
She studied his face as he searched for words. "I *really* just want to see if it can be as good the next time."
She choked on a sudden peal of laughter; an unwelcome flush of heat crawling down her back. "I never knew you were such a *guy*," she commented.
Clark's face split into a grin. "I gave you the impression that I was a girl?"
Of their own accord, Lois's eyes dipped. She hastily brought them back up to his face. "Not in the least."
That damn flush deepened and she forcefully cleared her throat. "What happened last time… it was the circumstances, not who we really are. Think about it, Smallville, if it hadn't have happened, it never would have. We both know that. It was a haze – a fog – part of the magic *thing* that healed us." She coughed. "The whole near death experience - it made us… hungry… reckless."
"Tell me, Lois. Don't you ever want to be reckless?"
She caught the flash of something uncharacteristically bold in his eyes and took a fumbled step backwards. How naïve it had been of her to think she would have the upper hand here. When it came down to it, she was no better than he was.
To her complete and utter embarrassment, she had been thinking along the same lines as he had for just about as long.
"Do you think about it?" he pressed.
Lois faced him. "Truth?"
With a smirk, he nodded. "That would be nice."
"I've thought about it."
She had often heard about these types of arrangements before but had always remained skeptical about how they could actually work. Could a pair of friends actually engage in a sexual relationship and remain unattached? Was *really* good sex, and the temporary comfort it provided, worth the risk?
"You've thought about it, and…" Clark prompted.
She eyed him warily. He wasn't the only one suffering from a mild addiction. She had never even considered herself capable of even *thinking* of doing something like this, and yet with the opportunity presenting itself, she found the curiosity insatiable.
"There would have to be rules," she blurted.
"Rules," Clark repeated. "Of course."
Was she really contemplating this?
"I need to think about it… We *both* need to think about it," she said, needing to save face and buy time.
Clark's grin was feral – a Cheshire-cat-ate-the-canary grin. "As long as we're still talking about it, we can think all we want." He stepped forward and began to gently finger the hem of her shirt. "Maybe we should think about a trial run."
Lois chomped down on her tongue to keep her composure.
Mild addiction had been an understatement.
On Mount Olympus…
The large opulent dining room was filled with the sound of many muffled conversations. At the head of the long lavishly adorned table, the god of Sky and Air sat with a furrowed brow. Once the ambrosia had been served, he tapped his wine glass with his desert spoon.
"If we could all come to attention please. I would like to get to the business at hand." Zeus looked down the table to his daughter. "Aphrodite, if you please."
A beautiful preternatural auburn haired woman lifted her head at her father's call. "Yes, Baba?"
"Are you familiar with a woman from the terran world named Lois Lane?"
It did not go unnoticed by the powerful god king that the group of three knitting sisters at the far end of the table exchanged brief glances at the name.
Dite's brows creased in thought. "Of the terran world?" she repeated. "It doesn't ring any bells."
One of her three sons piped up. "Yeah it does, Mom. You remember the story – you used to tell us about it all the time!"
At his exclamation, his two brothers turned and simultaneously smacked him on the back of the head.
"Ow! What was that for?"
Aphrodite frowned at the actions of her children. "Why do I get the feeling that you three had something to do with this?"
The trio sunk into their chairs and pretended to be mute.
"Eros," Zeus addressed. "Enlighten us with the story."
One of the three hosts rose to his feet, searing both his twin and his younger brother with a glare. He rifled his wing feathers and cleared his throat. "Well, Papou, I'm no bard… but as legends go, this one is eternal - kind of like us!"
Laughter rippled around the room and Eros smiled at the encouragement. "It is the original story of the evolution of Love told over and over throughout the ages. Boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, and then boy turns world around on axis to win her heart. "
Zeus nodded. What his grandson was voicing went along with what he had read in the file. "So what is different about this latest incarnation of the legend?" he asked.
Eros glanced at his brothers. "It got derailed," he confessed, sheepishly.
"Umhmmm," Zeus grumbled. He motioned for Eros to take his seat, but the look that accompanied the gesture made it clear that he was not done with the young Erotes.
Zeus addressed the trio of sisters who had earlier caught his attention. "Clotho, Lachesis, Atropos… You look as if you have something to add. Are you not the keepers of the Line?"
Atropos, the elder sister, stood. "We are, Father."
Zeus held the file he had been holding throughout the evening aloft. "Then, how is it that Miss Lane was at your uncle's door before her appointed hour?"
Atropos frowned, hating to have something changed from the way she had set it. "The derailment of this incarnation of the story was an accident."
Seeing her sister's struggle, Clotho, the youngest, stood to her feet. "We take great pains to make sure that one of us is always present to preserve the integrity of the Line. It just so happens that once every billion years, the odds align themselves where the three of us have to… make use if the water closet at the same time."
Murmurs traveled around the table. The thought of the Line being left unattended was a more than uncomfortable thought.
Lachesis, the middle sister, tended to shy from conflict but she couldn't allow her sisters to face the fault alone. She also rose to her feet. "Our priority is always to keep the Line from compromise," she offered. "Whenever this timing occurs we employ an intern."
Zeus stroked his white beard thoughtfully. "And did you do so this time as well?"
Lachesis nodded. "We did."
Zeus consulted his scroll again. "Then how is it that Miss Lane's scheduled meeting with Clark Kent took place before schedule? The resulting shift in the chain of planned events has misdirected the outcome of the original narrative."
Atropos cleared her throat. "It was the intern we employed, Father."
Zeus waited for her to continue as Clotho and Lachesis looked on with empathy.
"It was Eris."
All faces turned to the raven-haired goddess of Discord and Strife, who, in turn, looked to be having a hard time holding back her amusement. She lifted her wine glass and winked at her many colleagues.
"That story has been told many times and they all start the same," she explained in a bored tone. "I just threw in a couple wrenches here and there."
Eris grinned demurely and lifted her wine glass to her lips. "Remember my motto: Chaos makes it better."
Back in Smallville…
Lois rolled her eyes and pulled the cell phone back to her ear. "You've already thanked me, Chloe. I told you – it's not a big deal."
"I know, Lo, I'm just glad to hear that you guys are trying to get back to normal. I have to admit that after we talked about it the last time, I didn't have much hope that it would happen..."
"Yeah, normal," Lois muttered, tucking the phone between her ear and her shoulder so she could drop her keys into her purse.
On the other end of the line, Chloe continued unfettered. "...So, when Clark tells me that you two are meeting for coffee – a meeting that *I* didn't have to set up – I can finally sigh in relief. I really was worried for a while there."
Lois chuckled as she pulled open the door of the coffee shop. "I know, Chlo. I know. We'll just have to see how it goes…"
"Oh, sure. Of course. I mean, it's just a trial run, right?"
Lois broke into a coughing fit. "Right! Um, look – I just made it to the table and Clark's already here, so… I'll call you later?"
After saying goodbye, she shot Clark a culpable smile. "That was Chloe," she said, snapping her phone shut.
Clark smiled nervously. "I gathered."
Lois laughed. "Yeah, well…" She pulled out a chair and sat down on the other side of the table. She clasped her hands together on the table's surface. "So…"
She began chewing on her lower lip. "I can't even believe we're really thinking of doing this."
He let out a long breath. "I can't either."
The waver brought her to attention. "Are you changing you're mind?" she asked. His insecurity made her hopeful because Heaven knew she wanted him to… and yet Heaven also knew that she didn't want him to. She was the personification of the Prisoner's Dilemma.
"Are you?" he asked.
Her out was plattered and served right in front of her but she couldn't take it. The last time they had discussed the proposal while strolling the fields at the farm had been the proverbial nail in her equally proverbial coffin.
Clark's suggestion of a trial run had led to a pretty heavy make-out session that had pretty much cemented her answer.
Anticipation was Temptation's pimp – and she had been slapped.
"No. I'm not," she finally answered. A chill ran down her spine when his expression relaxed at her answer. "So… rules," she entered, lowering her voice to ensure they wouldn't be overheard.
"You know, we could have done this in your apartment," he said, recognizing her attempt at clandestine.
Lois unconsciously arched an eyebrow. If she took into account the way she had been ready to 'drop trou' after that kiss in the fields, they were right where they needed to be. In public. With witnesses.
"No, this is good."
Clark felt a rise in temperature at the huskiness in her voice. He remembered well how they both had been affected out in the field. He was faintly ashamed of the utter relief he'd felt when Lois said she wasn't changing her mind. He hadn't been kidding when he'd said that their former coupling haunted him. He also hadn't been kidding when he'd claimed to be lonely - although his pride had sent him skidding off of the topic at the first chance for escape.
The truth was, he *was* tired of being by himself. He was tired of feeling detached from everyone around him, tired of wondering if he would be forever cursed to live and love alone. That night in the alley, he had pulled the shaft of the arrow from his arm and had made a mistake that had almost – no, that *had* - gotten Lois killed. The dislodging of the arrow from her chest had torn the wound open and he had been rendered helpless as she died in his arms.
But then she had woken up, and the rush of relief, adrenaline and absolution had prompted him into action. The memory had been so euphoric that he just wanted--no *needed* --to feel it again. He didn't know if this arrangement with her would go past the first use, but he needed to see if he could get that feeling back – even if it was for just one more time.
Desire made him unexpectedly bold. "Okay, rules," he said, getting them back on track.
Blinking in amusement when Lois pulled out a notepad, he continued. "I did a little research on what typical guidelines would be."
Her eyes widened. "You researched it?"
He smiled when she blushed and looked away. He knew he had her there. "I need to ask… we didn't use any," he waved his hand, "last time… could you be…?"
He saw the moment when comprehension hit her. "No! No… um. I take something… Not because of this or anything like it… I already was."
"Okay. I just wanted to make sure…" He inhaled. This was harder than he'd expected – not that he'd really known what to expect. "At any rate, I think we should… play it safe."
Lois nodded enthusiastically. "Definitely." She jotted something down on the paper.
Curious, he leaned over to read it. "USC Trojans?"
She shot him an 'it's-a-secret' smile. "Sometimes it's easier to hide things when they are in plain sight. Okay, so another rule… no kissing."
Clark frowned. He had read about this one but still mourned it. It made sense – kissing was intimate, something they were (ironically) trying to avoid in a sexual relationship – but it was too bad, because that was something they did *extremely* well.
Amazingly enough, his research hadn't acquired as much information on the 'rules of engagement' for this type of thing as he'd hoped. There were only a few general rules that most blogs and articles suggested. "No sleepovers."
"No calling the next day," Lois added.
Clark raised a finger to that one. "We see each other almost every day anyway… wouldn't that seem like avoidance?"
Lois chuckled. "I guess so. Hmm… okay, so, no *topical* conversations the next day," she amended.
Clark watched as she crossed off 'Quarterbacking' and wrote down 'Press Coverage' instead. He had to give it to her – she took a theme and ran with it better than anyone he knew. For kissing, she had written 'Miami Dolphins' and for sleepovers, she had used 'Chicago Bears.'
"Okay…um." Clark leaned back in his chair and scanned the room in thought. They had already exhausted the generic list of rules; the rest would have to be made up as they went.
"Foreplay," Lois said suddenly, drawing his attention back to her. "If this is going to be a beneficial arrangement for both of us, it has to be a requirement." Her right brow arched in challenge.
Clark didn't have a problem with the rule, but he felt the slight shift in atmosphere. The conversation was taking on an underlying game of one-upmanship… and Lois was the current King of the Mountain.
"That's going to be a little hard with the Miami Dolphins rule," he countered.
Her head tilted to the side and her eyes narrowed as she recognized his picking up of the gauntlet. "Then we'll apply the rule to the mouth only."
He rubbed the back of his neck as he felt a flush rise to it. "Agreed."
For the first time, it occurred to him that he *just might* be playing with fire.
Their gazes held for a moment before Lois looked down to make the changes to the list.
Clark released a breath and surreptitiously pulled at his collar. "What else?"
Lois tapped the end of her pen against her lips, obviously having no idea that it was an attention focusing action. "We should probably decide on a system. Like, if we should alternate scheduling, or who gets the first call, or whatever."
"That's easy. Me," Clark answered with a wide grin. "Since it was my idea."
Lois scoffed. "We'll flip for it."
"Mine," she replied with a smirk. "It was my idea." She pulled a quarter from her bag and prepared to toss it. "Call it in the air."
Clark watched the coin flip in the air. "Tails."
Lois caught it and flipped it onto the back of her other hand. The look on her face told him he had won the rights to round one.
The game was officially on.
And it was good to be King.
Smallville, the next evening…
Lois reached for the front door of the Kent's farmhouse and paused. Normally, when she arrived, she would just open the door and go right in, but these circumstances were different. She was unsure of how to proceed.
Just as her hand hovered between knocking and ringing the doorbell, the heavy oak door was pulled open from the inside.
"Hey, come on in," Clark said, stepping back to let her enter.
"Thanks." Lois walked into the den and lowered her bag onto the couch.
She had come straight over to the house after work as they had planned, but she couldn't explain why she hadn't just left the bag in the car. Her mind was too preoccupied for the minor details, she decided, tilting her head as she heard the soft sounds of jazz music coming from the CD player. When Clark walked past her after closing the front door, her nose twitched at the faint odor that trailed behind him.
She followed him into the kitchen, struggling not to laugh. "You're cooking?"
"Was cooking," he admitted gruffly, sliding something resembling a charcoal briquette into the trash.
"And you give *me* a hard time…" she chided.
Clark set the plate on the counter next to the sink and turned to face her. He crossed his arms over his chest and her eyes trailed along the seam of his blue tee-shirt where a flexed bicep stretched it to its limits.
"I could make a couple of grilled cheese sandwiches," he offered sheepishly.
Lois brought her gaze back up to his face. There had been a thick chunk of nerves residing in the bottom of her stomach since the day before when they had committed themselves to this plan. There was no way she could sit through a meal, much less eat one.
"I actually ate a little something earlier," she replied, thinking of the three candy bar wrappers shoved in the ash tray of her car. Belatedly, she recognized that chocolate probably hadn't been the best choice of snack. "But maybe we can do the sandwiches later?"
Clark nodded and took a step toward her. "Can I have this dance?"
She forced herself to maintain eye contact and not stiffen when he lightly placed his hands on her hips. She figured that things would get easier once they got past the awkward initial ice breakers.
Lifting her arms, she let her hands rest on his shoulders. "This is a good song."
Clark smiled and pulled her against him, starting a slow sway to the lazy tempo of the music. Closing her eyes, Lois slid her arms to his neck and let her head fall against his shoulder. One by one, she tucked away the cares and problems of her day and drifted with the movement of his body.
The subtle shifting of their bodies against one another began to call up some recent muscle memories, and she changed her position so that one of her legs was between his. The movement also brought her head further into the curve of his neck and she felt his fingers tighten against her sides when she released a slow breath from her mouth. She could feel an interested part of him start to harden and an inner heat ignited in response.
Not one to be left behind, Clark snaked his hands under her shirt and trailed his fingers over the silky skin that was no longer hidden from him. Dipping his head, he nosed her chin out of the way so he could place his lips against her neck, excited to feel the way Lois's pulse quickened under his ministrations.
He moved his arms around to her back, sliding one hand upward beneath her shirt. The tips of his fingers unlatched the clasp of her bra and he took the opportunity to run his fingers along her spine. In response, she arched against him and he couldn't check the groan of appreciation that escaped from the back of his throat.
At the sound, Lois pulled her head back and looked up at him through half-lidded eyes. "Not to dampen the mood, but… if we stay in the kitchen, I'll never be able to eat at that table again. I'm not sure how I would be able to explain that to your mom. The look on her face…"
Clark chuckled and moved his hands to her waist to hold her still. The friction from her shifting was tampering with his control. His body, having intimate knowledge of the one pressed against him, was aching to make the necessary re-introductions.
"It couldn't be any worse than the time she and Dad walked in when Lana…"
He was abruptly cut off when Lois's fingers covered his lips. "Talk of former conquests is a definite buzz kill."
"Sorry," he said against her fingers.
She sighed and scrunched her nose in mild disgust. "Ew, now your room is out, too."
Clark frowned. "The sheets are clean," he offered.
Lois just shook her head and shuddered.
Scrambling mentally for a solution – a *quick* solution – he looked around. He needed her to refocus. "The den!" He spun her around and shifted snugly behind her, walking her into the family room while maintaining contact. As they walked, the hand wrapped around her waist kept her pressed flush against him, while the other worked at unfastening her shirt.
Too many buttons!
By the time they reached the center of the room, the striped blue collared shirt she was wearing was undone and he was treated to a tantalizing view of the valley between her breasts… and the loose black bra that was barely holding it all together.
He ran his fingers over her stomach, feeling the twitching answer from her abdominal muscles.
She turned in his arms and pressed a kiss against his neck, running her hands up his chest and over his shoulders. "Don't hate me."
Clark frowned. How on earth could he hate her when she was making him feel like *this*? "Huh?"
She pressed her teeth onto her lower lip and gave him an apologetic look. "We can't in here either."
His eyes popped. "What? Why not?"
"The pictures… They're looking at me."
He started to laugh. "Lois, they are not…"
But when he turned to look at the framed photos that lined the mantle, he trailed off. Pictures of his mother, his father, himself at numerous ages in his life, his grandparents - and even one of Shelby - all stared back at him judgmentally.
He quickly looked away. She was right, the den was out… but he wasn't sure what that left. It occurred to him that things in his world were not coming up Clark. At the same time, it also occurred to him that if this didn't happen *tonight*, it wasn't going to happen. Ever.
Resolute determination prompted him into action. They could go outside to the loft, the location of the first encounter of the third kind, but he was afraid that Lois seeing her car would break the spell. There was only one more room that he was sure Lois wouldn't have objections to.
Boldly, he reached a hand down between them and unfastened her pants. As he slid the head of the zipper down with his thumb--the extra contact deliberate--he made a suggestion. "Let's take a shower."
Zeus massaged the bridge of his nose, closing his eyes as he addressed this new development. "Just how many wrenches did you throw in?" he asked.
Eris squinted her eyes in thought. "I would say… enough for, oh, about five or six terran years."
Zeus let out a rumbling sigh – yet another town was going to get rain. Demeter would be pleased for the gift to her fields. "Five or *six* terran years," he repeated.
Eris shrugged. "It would have been more but the Morai were deft at untying the most difficult of my knots." She shot the three Fates a disappointed look.
Hera, seated in the golden leaf chair to the immediate right of Zeus chose that moment to speak up. She had been trying to follow the story through the speeches of the various parties. "Wait, so if the sisters were able to untie the knots, how did this Lois end up at the door to Tartarus?"
Atropos, who with her sisters had remained standing – and knitting – answered, "The chronicles of the players had been altered to such a degree that it seemed doubtful that they would find a way back onto the Path – or to one another."
Eris showed the first signs of remorse. Her desire had been to make things more interesting – not to completely destroy them. If she had known how detrimental the work of those human producers would be, she would have never employed them.
Atropos continued, "It is well known that the Sacred Love is the catalyst for the Path, so we asked the Cupid for help."
All eyes returned to the three winged brothers who had just been named.
Himerus, the youngest, shrugged sheepishly. "I was just trying to help."
Hera grasped the arm of her chair in shock. The arrows of Himerus carried the embodiment of Lust and Desire.
She exchanged a look with the King, her mate. This could not bode well at all.
The next day in Smallville…
Lois jogged up the stairs to her apartment door and unlocked it with flourish. Today had been a good – no *great* day – so she felt no guilt about the permanent grin that had been plastered on her face since she'd woken up. If she were honest about it, she probably had that grin on in her sleep as well.
Last night had been… she stopped and leaned against the wall with her arms crossed as she took a moment to reflect. ...Yeah, it had been like that. Somehow, it had been even *better* than the day she had come back to life – and that was saying a lot. A whole hell of a lot.
She had a new respect for farmers.
Clark was strong. She had never done *that* in the shower before, but she was damn sure she would do it again.
Straightening from the wall, Lois pulled her hair away from her face and tucked it behind her ear. Now was not the time to get sentimental – even though that grilled cheese sandwich had been the absolute best one she'd ever had in her life. It was important that she show some restraint – she had her pride and self-respect, after all.
Her thoughts returned to her day as she walked further into the apartment, kicking off her shoes and unbuttoning her blazer. Stretching, she dropped the jacket onto the couch. First, she had made excellent time on the drive to Metropolis *even though* she had slept in a little. Then, she had been surprised by the Inquisitor's decision to give her a desk. Her good fortune had increased when she'd had a run in with an editor from the Daily Planet at a press conference. He had seemed a little doubtful about her skill once he had read the name of her organization from her badge, but she had scored a business card.
Pulling the item in question from her pocket, she smiled. She planned on pestering him with emails and articles until she earned that elusive interview. She smirked and put the card on the counter. The poor guy had no idea what was coming.
Lois opened the refrigerator door. This called for celebration. Shutting it after not finding anything that matched her taste, she glanced at her watch.
Pride and restraint be damned. She had waited a full 22 hours and 41 minutes. It was time to make the call.
She went to the couch and dug her cell phone from her bag, entering the speed-dial number and hitting Send. Sure, '69' was a bit obvious for the choice, but it made her laugh.
When the other end was picked up, she grinned wider – if that was even possible. "Hey. There's a game on."
Lois chuckled. "The home team."
"Smallville, I'm asking you to come over."
"Oh. Well why didn't you say so?"
"I just did," she said, rolling her eyes.
"No, you said there was a game on TV."
"I didn't say anything about TV," she retorted.
"Why mention a game at all?" he asked.
Lois sighed. "I thought it would be fun to have a codeword… Why are we even arguing about this?"
"I'm not arguing…"
"You *are* arguing and yet you should be *leaving* instead." She turned when there was a knock at the door. "Damn, hold on." So much for her plans to celebrate.
"Somebody's at the door…" She unlocked the deadbolt and pulled the door open. "Hey – how did you…?"
Smiling, Clark snapped his cell phone shut. "…Get here so fast?" he finished. "I was around."
Lois stepped backwards to let him enter. "You were banking on me calling you today?"
Clark followed her inside and shut the door behind him. After taking extra care to both lock the door and engage the deadbolt, he moved into her personal space. "I had hoped," he whispered, placing a kiss on her collarbone.
Lois caught his hands as he reached for her shirt tails. "Slow down, Cow Boy. If memory serves me correctly, you got to do the unwrapping last time." She arched an eyebrow.
Who knew Clark Kent could be so insatiable?
He lifted his head and met her eyes. "It's faster when I do it," he pouted.
For a brief moment his lips hovered over hers, and she read the telltale signs in his eyes. He wanted to kiss her… but there were rules. Lois smirked and lifted her chin so she could kiss the tip of his nose. "Who said anything about fast?"
Pressing the tip of her tongue against her two front teeth, she slid a hand down the front of his pants and then around to the back of his thigh, pulling him tightly against her. The instant 'hel-lo!' she received from Jr had her shifting her weight from one foot to the other.
Who knew *I* could be this insatiable?
Clark cleared his throat. "Maybe I should have a codeword too. I could say… 'Cock-a-doodle-doo'!"
Lois coughed. If she considered his initial comment about 'plowing the fields,' she'd have to say that he was really working the farm theme. "Well, as long as you don't have a problem saying that over the phone… then I don't see why not," she agreed with amusement.
Clark's smile sobered and he swallowed at the thought. "Yeah. I'll think of something else."
Laughing, Lois pulled the bottom of his shirt up to expose the chest she had become so intimately acquainted with. Cooperatively, Clark raised his arms so she could continue to pull the tee over his head. She took a moment to run her fingers over the newly exposed skin.
Rubbing the palm of her right hand over his pec muscle, she delighted when the nipple hardened in direct response. Glancing up, she saw the muscle in his jaw twitch when he began gritting his teeth together.
Empowered, she bent and took the interested bud in her mouth, alternating between licking and nipping at it with her teeth. With her hands, she unfastened his jeans and pulled the zipper down.
"Loiiisss," he hissed breathlessly. "If you want slow…" he groaned and pulled away from her with a pleading expression.
She smirked seductively - all of a sudden she was thinking that slow was overrated.
Clark had already proven that he packed for seconds… so she just might be willing to take quantity over length this time. Taking hold of his jeans at the open fly, she pulled him over to the bed.
Once there, she drew his jeans down over his hips, lowering them to his knees, and pushed him down into a sitting position. When he kicked off his shoes and socks, she leaned against his shoulders and used a foot to help him divest himself of those pesky pants. Smiling victoriously at the sight of him in nothing but a pair of black boxer briefs, she quickly stripped off her own pants to match, leaving only her shirt on.
Licking her bottom lip, Lois trailed a finger down the center of his chest… traced his belly button… and palmed his erection through the cotton underwear.
She heard Clark groan, and the next thing she knew, she was laying on her back with her arms pinned above her head. The position caused her to arch a bit, and her stomach quivered when she laughed at the look on his face. "Hey…" she whined plaintively. "I wasn't finished."
Clark's eyes were dark from the dilation of his pupils. He moved further onto the bed, placing his knees beside her hips and keeping her pinned with one hand while the other hand moved to the buttons on her shirt. "You said you wanted slow…"
Lois bucked in an attempt to gain an advantage and free herself. "Technically, I didn't…" she countered.
Clark shook his head and lowered onto her, effectively stopping her movement by sitting on her thighs. Narrowing her eyes, she tried to wiggle lower but was unable to move him. Her nostrils flared as she groaned in frustration.
"Slow," he reminded her, finishing with her shirt and smiling dangerously.
Closing her eyes, Lois contemplated giving up the fight. "Work with me here, Smallville," she muttered.
"Oh, I'm trying. Believe me, I'm trying."
Her stomach flipped at the huskiness in his voice and she stilled, no longer *contemplating* giving in – she was completely throwing down the white towel and doing a flamenco dance on it.
Clark must have sensed his victory. "Don't move," he warned, moving the hand that had unfastened her shirt further south.
Seconds later she was concentrating on keeping her breathing under control as his fingers traced lazy circles at the deep center of her panties. Every so often, the tip of one of his fingers would brush against her nub and he lifted his weight off of her so she could spread her legs wider for his access. Before long, she was squirming - trying hard to remain immobile to respect his wishes - and she failed to notice that he was no longer holding her arms still.
Her eyes popped open and she gasped when the teasing stroking of his fingers was replaced by a wet warmth that rivaled her own. Glancing down, her entire body felt ready to engulf in flames when she saw his head dip between her thighs. She held on as long as she could, gripping at the sheets underneath her with her hands, until she couldn't resist the need to help guide him.
She was immediately sorry when he reacted to the touch of her hand to his head by pulling away. "I said not to move."
Literally thrumming with unreleased passion, Lois put both hands on the sides of his head and pulled him upward.
Clark held his head back just as their mouths were about to touch.
"Rules…" he whispered against her lips.
"…Are made to be broken," she finished with a groan, lifting her head from the bed to capture his lips vigorously.
It didn't take long for Clark to join in, and as the kiss became deeper and more passionate, he allowed his weight to settle against her length. She wiggled beneath him, silently begging him to finish what he'd started, and trying to describe what exactly she wanted him to do by the example of their kisses.
Clark lifted from her long enough to pull her underwear off, and she foggily realized that at some point in the last few blissful minutes, he had taken off his own underwear and put on a condom.
She bent her legs at the knees and rocked her pelvis upward in anticipation for him and almost lost it right then and there when his tip breached her center… and stopped.
"Clark!" she gasped, wrenching her lips from his to speak. This was the worst possible time for him to be exercising patience.
The sound of a key turning in the lock threw the proverbial bucket of cold water on the situation.
"Oh, Hell!" Lois swore. "It's Chloe."
As if to confirm Lois's statement, Chloe's voice called from the other side of the door. "Lois? The deadbolt is on… I can't get in."
Clark was motionless – which wasn't really all that helpful. "Maybe she'll go away if you don't answer."
Lois whimpered softly. "No, she'd break down the door first." Regretfully, she began inching upward and away from the very place she wanted to be. "We have to stop."
The tone of Clark's voice showed equal disappointment. "We barely got started." He slowly and deliberately rose from the bed.
At the door, Chloe began knocking. "Lois?"
"Um, hold on, Chlo!" Gritting her teeth, Lois picked Clark's clothes from the floor and shoved them at his chest, whispering, "You've gotta go." She began pushing him toward the window.
At the window, Clark groaned and carefully shrugged into his jeans, throwing his shirt on in a hasty move. He opened the window and stepped out onto the small secluded terrace that led to a fire escape. At the last second he turned back. "My shoes…"
Lois scrambled across the room and picked them up from the floor. "I'll be right there, Chloe," she said loudly, tossing the shoes across the room. She sighed with relief that Clark caught them with no trouble.
She did a quick survey glance of the room as he disappeared, grabbing both pairs discarded underwear and the rest of her clothes and shoving them under the covers of her bed. On the way to the front door, she snagged her robe from the bathroom hook and slid it on.
She unlocked the door and pulled it open just as Chloe was reaching to knock again. "Hey, Cuz!"
Chloe seemed to be a little startled at her appearance and Lois felt the need to give details. "I was just about to get in the shower… I was exercising." She made a show of wiping some of the beads of sweat from her forehead.
Accepting the explanation, Chloe stepped into the apartment. Lois compulsively looked around for tell-tale signs of misconduct while Chloe was facing away from her.
"What's with the bolt?" Chloe asked, moving Lois's bag so she could plop down on the couch.
"Oh, sorry about that. I didn't know you were coming over tonight." With the rebuilding dorms at Met U, Chloe's sleepovers at Lois's apartment had become less frequent.
Chloe laughed. "What, do you want me to start calling ahead now?" she teased.
"Of course not," Lois replied. And give me my key back while you're at it. "My couch is your couch."
Lois futilely sniffed at the air in the room trying to see if any muskiness was apparent. Unable to tell if it was just her, she grabbed an air freshener spray can and gave it a few squirts. "Let me just jump in the shower and I'll get you some bedding," she said, thankful that the window was still open.
Swallowing, Lois gingerly turning back around. She was being careful not to create too much friction – externally or internally, for that matter. She felt a little anxiety at the way Chloe's eyes were skirting around the apartment.
"I need to ask a favor."
Lois sighed in relief. Chloe's actions were nervousness… not investigative. "Oh, okay."
Chloe sighed. "Jimmy's coming back in town tomorrow."
"Chloe that's great!" Lois replied with a wide smile. She knew how much her cousin had been missing him.
"It is, isn't it?" Chloe responded.
The hesitation in her voice made Lois frown. "What's wrong?"
"It's just… we've been apart so long that I'm not sure what to expect… or what *he* expects. What we had before worked because we were both in the same place physically and mentally – and even then we had some problems. I don't know…" she trailed off.
Lois gave her a sympathetic look. "All of your concerns might be valid," she offered, "but you'll never know if you don't try."
"I plan to… but I wanted some back up, just in case things go sour, fast."
"Okay. What can I do?"
"Here's the thing…" Chloe replied, the nervousness becoming more pronounced. "I said we would all meet him for dinner tomorrow night."
Lois's brow wrinkled. "We 'all'… as in…?"
Chloe ducked her head. "…You, me, and Clark?"
Lois chewed on that information for a moment, trying to think of what the correct reaction to the suggestion would be. Finally, she sighed. "I don't have a problem with going to dinner with you, Chlo - you know I like Jimmy - but I'm not sure bringing Clark along would help ease the two of you back into a relationship," she warned, thinking back to Jimmy's earlier insecurities about the nature of Chloe's feelings for Clark.
Chloe waved her hand in the air dismissively. "No, we cleared all of that up before he left. He knows that Clark is just a really good friend. Besides, I'm not all that sure that easing back into a relationship is what I want right now. I don't even know if he's back for good – and the long distance thing hasn't worked so well for us in the past..." She trailed off in a hesitance marred by insecurity.
Lois shrugged. "Well, count me in."
Chloe's face relaxed immensely. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" she gushed. "Now, you go ahead and shower. I'll call Clark and get him on board."
The next evening, at a restaurant in Metropolis…
After Lois parked the car on a side street, she, Chloe and Clark walked to the entrance of the restaurant. Jimmy was waiting outside the door with his hands in the pockets of his navy blue dress pants. His face immediately brightened when he saw them approach.
"Hey Jimmy," Clark answered, noticing that as Jimmy greeted them, his eyes never left Chloe.
Lois shot him an amused look, having obviously made the same observation that he had.
Clark reached for the door and held it open for the group to enter the building. After addressing the hostess to request a table, they moved toward the side waiting area. Just as Clark was about to sit down, Lois put a hand on his arm.
"I'm just going to go check the wine list at the bar," she announced. "Clark, don't you want to see it as well?"
"Oh. Yeah. I do… want to see the wine list."
At the bar, Lois settled onto a stool and motioned for him to do the same. "I figured they could use a moment."
Clark looked back at the waiting area where Jimmy and Chloe were talking.
"Don't stare at them!" Lois admonished, lightly hitting him on the shoulder. She chuckled. "God, why do I feel like a chaperone on a first date?"
The bartender approached them. "Can I get you something?"
Lois grabbed the little folder sitting on the bar and scanned the pages. Finally she pointed to the picture of something brightly colored and fruity. "I'll take that."
"And you, sir?"
Clark shrugged. Since he rarely drank alcohol – not benefiting from the induced high – he didn't have a particular favorite. "The same, I guess. Thank you."
He turned to face Lois again to see her smiling. "What?"
"Nothing. Most guys wouldn't feel comfortable with a pink and yellow drink." Her eyes flashed. "I like that about you."
Clark batted his eyes in mock modesty. "How was your night?" he asked. This was the first moment they had been able to get alone.
Lois arched an eyebrow. "It went about as well as I imagine yours did."
Clark held her gaze for an extended moment. Last night he had come to the realization that certain problems could not be rectified with his hands. Just the nearness of her kept him slightly attentive.
The moment broke when their drinks arrived. Clark pulled the cherry from his and popped it into his mouth.
Lois laughed at his enthusiasm and reached for his face. "You have something right…" She swiped at his lower lip with her thumb and pulled her hand away. Flicking a glance over her shoulder, she stuck her thumb into her mouth and sucked the juice from it.
She looked back at him and the look on her face told him that she was purposely teasing him. "Don't start something you can't finish, Lane."
Lois rolled her eyes. "Spoil sport. Come on, they are seating us."
"Who chose a Thai restaurant?" Clark asked as they took the drinks and headed over to where the waitress was seating their friends.
"Jimmy did," Lois answered. "I don't think that leaves any mystery about what direction *he'd* like his and Chloe's relationship to take tonight," she added with a laugh.
Clark didn't find it nearly so funny. With his free hand, he pulled his button down shirt free of his pants so the tails would hang low. When they arrived at the booth, Jimmy and Chloe had already claimed one side together - so after setting down their drinks, Lois and Clark slid into the booth on the other.
"So," Lois started after they were situated. "What's new with you, Jimmy?"
Jimmy proudly ran a hand down the front of his shirt. "You mean besides being a world-class photographer?"
Lois's responding look was skeptical. "World class?"
Jimmy shrugged good-naturedly. "A couple of my images got picked up for Britannica Online. I figure that's close."
They all laughed and continued to get reacquainted as they browsed the menu. After ordering, Clark felt Lois put a hand on his thigh. She shot him a sidelong warning glance and he realized with a start that he had been agitatedly bouncing his leg up and down alongside hers. He blamed her for his agitation… she had started it.
Halting the movement, he returned his attention to whatever it was that Jimmy was saying.
"...It was really exciting," Jimmy added. "I mean, I was a little despondent over the Milwaukee assignment at first, but then the photographer on the L.A. story got sick and I was the only one available. Then, from there it was D.C., Pensacola, and Chi-town. It's funny how things end up a lot differently than you first expect."
Clark smiled good-naturedly and shifted in his seat. He couldn't understand how Lois could be sitting there unaffected when he was feeling stifled, overheated, and uncomfortable all at once.
So much for being invulnerable.
"And now you're back," Lois said. "Is it for good?"
Clark didn't know if was better or worse for him that Lois had removed her hand from his thigh.
Jimmy turned to look at Chloe as he answered Lois's question. "Yeah," he replied softly. "I am." He turned back to face Lois and Clark. "The timing is perfect, too. I found out that the Planet is just about to name a new Chief Editor."
"So *that's* what the All-Staff meeting is going to be about," Chloe realized aloud. "Wow."
The conversation paused as their food was delivered. Clark watched as Lois took a piece of a pita-like bread and dipped it into the mixed meat and rice dish on her plate. She must have noticed him stealing glances at her, because she slowly licked each finger after swallowing the first bite.
Clearing his throat, Clark took a drink of his fruity concoction and tried to focus on his own plate. She was not playing fair at all. He looked over to Chloe and Jimmy. "Do you know who the new editor is going to be?"
Jimmy scooped some food onto his fork. "Um, I'm not really sure, but word is that currently he's an editor from the Investigative division."
"Fletcher?" Chloe asked.
"No, he's not the one…"Jimmy said, thinking.
Jimmy shook his head again. "It wasn't Williams…"
While the listing continued on the other side of the table, Lois turned to address him. "You're not eating," she said in a low tone. "What? You had a taste for something else?"
Any suspicions about her purposely teasing him were confirmed by the glint in her eye. He gave her an exasperated look. The smile she gave him in return made him launch into action.
Without warning, he slid his hand into her lap.
The table jerked as Lois jumped at the sudden intimate contact. Chuckling nervously when Jimmy and Chloe looked up suddenly, she dropped her hand off the table and clutched at Clark's before forcefully pushing it back to his side of the seat. "Sorry, did you just say… Gabriel?"
Chloe looked at her curiously. "No, I said Stanley."
"Gabriel," Jimmy interrupted. "That's it! How did you know?"
Lois brought her hand to the table level again. "I didn't. That's the only editor's name I know, actually."
"Gabriel?" Chloe repeated. "He seems kind of young to be made Chief."
"I think he's related to one of the suits," Jimmy offered. "It'll be interesting to see how the dynamics fly at the reception."
Feeling Clark's return advance, Lois grasped her steak knife and plunged it into the seat cushion a satisfying few centimeters from his where his hand was sliding along the bench. She smiled sweetly across the table and explained, "I dropped my knife."
From the corner of her eye she saw Clark lift his napkin and surreptitiously wave it before using it to wipe his mouth.
"What was that about a reception?" Lois asked.
"Anniversary party on Wednesday night," Chloe quipped. "At least it was supposed to be, but now it looks like it will be a 'changing of the guard' party as well."
Lois arched an eyebrow. "Can you get me in?"
Chloe looked at her with wide eyes. "I guess so… Why?"
"I'd like to reintroduce myself to Mr. Gabriel," she replied slyly.
Lois turned at Clark's question. "Yeah." Her eyes narrowed as she looked at him curiously, trying to divine if there was anything underlying his inquiry. "We met at a press junket a while back."
Clark's face remained unreadable so she shrugged and turned back to the others. "I'm hoping to network. A girl can't work the supermarket press forever, you know?"
Laughing, Jimmy nodded. "Hear, hear."
Lois exchanged a smile with him. He knew she was better than the rag that she worked for and she was grateful for his support.
Mount Olympus, as the session continues…
Hera was near speechlessness with shock. "You attempted to remedy the Sacred Love with an arrow of Lust?"
"No. I knew that wouldn't work," Himerus replied with a smirk. "But Eros wasn't around at the time, so I went into his locker and took his last arrow."
"Eros's arrow?!" Aphrodite exclaimed. There was a certain amount of disdain that came with the deal of being parent to perpetual teenagers. She had told them many times over about the importance of balance when they used their arrows. "That only impacts the initial target. Without Anteros's counter attack, you create an imbalance in how each party perceives the relationship!"
She had a right to be worried. Wars had resulted from misguided dealings like this. She had hoped her sons would have learned from her stories about the tragic gift that had destroyed the infamous Trojan empire. At this rate, it wouldn't surprise her if Terran Lane's lover hadn't killed her outright. Such was often the consequence of Unrequited Love.
Later, in Metropolis…
As the group neared Lois's car in the restaurant parking lot, Jimmy turned to address Chloe. "So, do you want to hang out for a little longer?"
Chloe's face lit up and her answer was an immediate, "Yes!"
At the same time, the young couple seemed to remember that they weren't alone. Jimmy hesitated for a second before turning to Lois and Clark. "I mean, you guys, too… Would you like to join us?"
"Well…" Lois started. Seeing the look on her cousin's face, she decided not to tease her. "Actually, Jimmy, I hope you won't be disappointed if I ask for a rain check."
"Oh, sure!" Jimmy responded enthusiastically. Tampering back his enthusiasm, he glanced in Clark's direction.
"Uh, me too."
Clark waved a hand in the air and nodded distractedly. "Rain check."
Chloe beamed at them and leaned over to speak to Lois. "I'm going to stay in Metropolis tonight – probably go back to the dorms."
Lois quirked an eyebrow. "Oh really?" Obviously, Chloe's worries about sliding back into the swing of things with Jimmy had been abated.
"I know, I know. I won't do anything you wouldn't do."
Lois bit her lower lip. That hadn't really been the advice she would want to give at this point. "Yeah. Ok!" She waved as Chloe stepped to Jimmy and took his outstretched hand. "You guys have fun."
She and Clark remained standing next to her car as they watched Jimmy open the passenger door of his car for Chloe and they both waved as the duo drove off. When the car turned the corner, Clark turned on Lois and pushed her against the car, pressing his body against hers as he leaned down to kiss her passionately.
It was probably not a good idea – their whole deal was based on secrecy and privacy, but she knew they had both been trying to work through some pent-up energy throughout dinner. The fact that they could be seen by someone they knew – but most likely wouldn't – made the stolen kiss all the more exciting.
Pulling away, Clark's eyes narrowed. "I've been waiting to do that all night."
Feeling just how responsive his body was, Lois took a deep breath to keep from panting. "I can tell."
"So… there are no chances of interruptions at your apartment tonight…" he goaded.
She unconsciously licked her lips before clearing her throat. "Are you sure you could, ah, keep it in check for the three hour drive back to Smallville?" From where she was standing, it didn't seem likely.
In fact, the expression on his face made her feel like he wanted to take off running – as if that would get them there sooner.
"It shouldn't be this hard," he groaned, pressing harder against her.
The conflicting emotions continued to wash over his face, and Lois wondered what it was he was struggling with. It was almost as if he wanted to tell her something… "Location seems to be our biggest enemy," she said, equally exasperated.
She literally saw the light bulb pop over his head and she immediately shook her head in warning. "I *refuse* to go to a seedy pay-by-the-hour motel." She did have standards, after all.
Clark's expression clouded again. "What about…" He looked around as if seeking inspiration. "…Oliver's place?"
Frowning, Lois pushed him off of her. "I have a better idea." She stamped down her body's ache at the loss of his touch. "Maybe you should walk it off."
Without waiting for his reply, she pushed past him and began taking her own advice. The suggestion of using Oliver's vacant apartment was plausible – in a way. She still had the key and it wasn't the sight of a 'former conquest' – she and Ollie hadn't crossed that line – but it still seemed so… *wrong*. She shuddered involuntarily.
"Okay, so that was a bad idea," Clark said, jogging to catch up to her brisk pace.
She glared at him. "And *that* was an understatement."
They walked on in silence for a few minutes. Lois was happy they did, because the walk-it-off routine was needed for her as much as it was for
Clark – any more of that body-to-body business and she would have agreed to just about anything… including a seedy motel.
Glancing up, she saw that Clark's expression was despondent and apologetic to near puppy-dog proportions. She reached out with her left hand and interlaced her fingers with his to show that she wasn't angry. After giving his hand a slight squeeze, she decided not to let go.
"What's going on over there?" Clark asked, after they had walked for a few more minutes in silence.
Up ahead, people were sitting in the grass of a large open section in Centennial Park. "They show movies on Friday nights," she explained. "Usually they are classics from the silver age."
Squinting in an attempt to make out the shapes on the screen, she smiled. "Look's like Bette Davis in… 'Now Voyager'. I love that movie."
Clark tugged her in the direction of the park's entrance. "Let's go see it."
Lois gave him an odd look. "You want to go watch black and white movies? Just a minute ago you were near overheating."
"I'm working my way down to a slow boil," Clark said with a feral grin. Hell, slow boil was what he'd been feeling since the *unfulfilled* night before. There was no immediate relief in sight, so they might as well do something distracting.
When they arrived at the designated clearing, it became clear that they had come ill-prepared. They sheepishly exchanged a look when they saw that all the other viewers were seated on blankets or lawn chairs.
Clark smiled at a memory.
"What?" Lois asked, catching his look.
"Don't you usually keep a blanket in your car?"
He could tell her mind flicked to the same memory by the brief dip of her gaze. "Yes… I do have one…" Her words trailed off as she glanced over her shoulder as if contemplating walking back to the restaurant parking lot.
"I'll go," Clark offered. "And then I'll bring the car closer."
Lois slowly pulled her car keys from her jeans pocket. "If I find a single scratch…" she warned.
He smiled at her hesitance and took the keys from her hand. "I know, I know… you'll bite me."
Her full-bodied laugh drew the annoyed looks of some of the other patrons so he dramatically put a finger to his lips and shushed her. "I'll be right back."
It took less than a second for him to get back to the car. He had to tamper his own enthusiasm to fight the urge to just pick up the car and race back. The whole situation with Lois made him feel reckless, carefree and alive.
Clark drove car the few blocks back to the park and then spent another ten frustrating minutes looking for a parking spot. The only thing he wanted to do was get back to the park, to the movie… to Lois. There was something intoxicating about the feelings he had when he was with her – and for someone who rarely felt intoxicated – it was powerful. It was intriguing.
Earlier he had been a victim of a discontented libido. The night before had been torture, the day had been torment, and the dinner had been taunting… and fun. Sitting next to him, Lois's body had been so close, and yet, so far. Passion wanted instant gratification for the numerous fantasies that had interfered with every farm themed chore he had embarked upon that day, but Protocol had kept him in check.
There were only so many things you could do in public…
'…Like hang out on a blanket in the middle of Centennial Park,' Clark thought to himself as he subtlety used his strength to slide the car into a parallel parking spot - of course, this was after he had made the space between the two cars already parked there a little bigger.
He jogged back into the park to find Lois leaning against the trunk of a sycamore tree at the back of the clearing, watching the movie from afar. Stepping in front of her, he spread the blanket onto the grass and gestured for her to sit down. Once she lowered to one end of the blanket, he sat on the other.
"So what is this movie about exactly?" he asked softly, at a loss to explain the actions of the characters on the screen.
"Well, it's been a while since I saw this, but the character Bette Davis is playing is Charlotte – a repressed, dowdy, grown woman who has been browbeaten and demoralized by her mother for her entire life. When the movie starts, she's about to have a nervous breakdown and her sister-in-law arranges for a doctor to come and help her."
Lois shifted on the blanked to get more comfortable, lying down on her side and bracing her head against her hand. She pointed to the screen. "The psychiatrist finds out that the one time of happiness in Charlotte's life was when she went on a voyage as a young woman – before her mother tightened the reigns."
Clark looked away from Lois and back to the screen. The main character was now on the deck of a ship.
"After she goes into a sanatorium for a few months, her doctor clears her and advises that she go on a long trip," Lois explained. "She's got a fresh start."
Clark glanced back to Lois at the wistful tone that accompanied her last words. She was still gazing at the screen and not really paying attention to him. With a sigh, Clark decided to get comfortable himself.
After sliding behind her, he found himself leaning forward to inhale the fragrance of her shampoo. The movie was indeed a welcome distraction for his slow boil, but the circumstances were never far from his mind.
This… this quiet time where they didn't have to sneak out of windows to avoid being seen, where they could just lie on a blanket and watch a movie amidst other people doing the same… this was nice. It made him feel invigorated, uninhibited… and a little possessive.
Clark slipped an arm over Lois's waist and pulled her closer.
She turned her head to look at him over her shoulder. "You do know that there is a standing 'No Backfield in Motion' clause, right?" she asked.
He frowned. "No backfield…" Suddenly, he caught her meaning and swallowed, shifting his midsection back a little. "Oh! I would never, I mean, you know that…"
Lois arched an eyebrow at him, her expression unrelenting. "Sure, you say that now but then later it's all 'oops! It slipped!'"
Clark forced himself to blink, convinced that his eyebrows were disappearing into his hairline. "I… uh… What?"
His panic subsided when a grin split Lois's face. She was doing it again. Ducking his head down, he sucked her bottom lip into his mouth and ran his tongue across it.
She let out a gasp when his hand snaked under her shirt. "No," she said, grabbing his hand and rolling onto her back to look up at him. "We're simmering, remember?"
Clark rolled his eyes. Like he could forget.
Reaching up, Lois patted his cheek and winked. Turning back onto her side, she tucked herself against his body again and lowered her head onto the bicep of the arm he was bracing his head with. Shaking his head, he wrapped his free arm around her waist and tried to concentrate on the movie.
Later, in Smallville…
Clark stopped the car in Lois's designated parking spot behind the Talon. She had fallen asleep before the movie had ended and he hadn't had the heart to wake her. Actually, his motivation for not waking her had been selfish. He had enjoyed the quiet moments of holding her sleeping in his arms and wanted to prolong them.
When it had gotten to the point where it was no longer plausible for him to sit there staring at her, he had carried her to the car and started the long drive back to Smallville. Now it was after one o'clock in the morning and they had arrived at their destination.
"Lois." He reached over to the reclined passenger seat and gently stroked her hair. "Hey, you're home."
His hand slid to her shoulder and he shook her lightly. "Lois."
"Huh?" Blinking, Lois began to awaken. "Oh. Hey…" Still groggy, she looked around through squinted eyes. "How did we get…?" Her question trailed off into laughter. "Wow, I must have really been out of it."
Clark smiled in return. "You were tired."
"Still am," she agreed with a yawn. Realizing what she had just said, she turned an apologetic look to him. "I mean… You can come up…"
Clark was disappointed but valiantly kept it hidden. "It's okay. I'm tired too." His disappointment deepened when her face showed obvious relief. He wondered if there was something wrong with him. Since the moment he had watched Lois's life force ebb out through his fingers, he had seen her in a different light.
He was addicted. And it wasn't healthy.
"You should get some rest," he added with finality.
Lois smiled gratefully and re-adjusted her seat so that she was sitting up. He got out of the car and was opening her door by the time she was ready to get out.
Standing outside the car door, she stopped suddenly and faced him. "Wait, I need to drive you home."
Clark shook his head. "No, it's okay. I'll walk."
Her expression became concerned. "It's late… I can drop you off…"
"Really," he interrupted, clearing his throat. "I *need* to walk. I think I might actually run."
Lois's expression was guilty. "Clark…"
The tone of her voice told him that she was wavering, and as much as he wanted it… he didn't want it like that. He moved closer and wrapped his arms around her, dipping his head to kiss each of her eyelids when they fluttered closed. "Sweet dreams, Beautiful."
When he stepped away, he noticed that there was a different kind of concerned look on her face, but chocked it up to her worrying about his getting home.
She looked a bit distracted as she took the car keys and let herself into the Talon. He waited until he was sure she was inside securely before turning and walking out of the alley.
A few days later at the Daily Planet…
Lois deposited an empty champagne flute onto the tray of a passing waiter and ran a hand over her hair. She had just spotted Grant Gabriel taking his leave of an older executive and had determined that it was time for her to make her move.
Just before a tall woman in a tasteless (in Lois's humble opinion) red dress was able to intercept him, Lois slid in and held out her hand.
"Mr. Gabriel, Lois Lane. We met at the Starkey press conference a while back."
The startled editor reached to take her offered hand. "Miss Lane," he greeted in response. "I and my email account remember you well."
They shared a laugh and she shrugged. "I tend to be a very persistent person, Mr. Gabriel."
"It's Grant," he said, lifting a hand to straighten his light blue silk tie. The thin navy stripes on it accented the pin stripes in his suit perfectly. "And persistence will serve you well in this profession."
Lois slightly lifted an eyebrow and tilted her head to side. "Yes, Mr. Gabriel," she said, keeping the professional lines drawn. "I've come to see that, but I'm really more interested in how it will serve me at the Daily Planet."
Lois noticed that Gabriel looked mildly disappointed. "You want to talk shop?"
"I would settle for an interview," she replied simply.
Gabriel seemed to size her up for a minute. "Okay. Business it is."
The new Chief's expression hardened and he suddenly seemed older than he looked just minutes earlier. Lois had the impression that when he wanted to, he could be a formidable taskmaster.
"You do good work," he stated. "You get your facts, you follow the story and you report it succinctly. I find it unfortunate that the *publication* you currently work for only sees fit to use the more sensational of your articles. In my opinion, you could well be a diamond in the rough, and I can only see you getting better from here, but there are some concerns I have with considering you for a position at my paper."
Lois's eyebrow lifted even higher but she kept her composure. "Those concerns are?"
He looked at her seriously. "Persistence and passion only cover so much. I have nothing against trial by fire, but a lot can be said about education and formative training."
She pressed the tip of her tongue against her top row of teeth. "You're talking about my schooling, aren't you?"
Gabriel chuckled. "Actually, I'm talking about the lack of it. So far your connections have made it seem irrelevant."
She felt herself bristle. She didn't know if she was more pleased by the fact that he had investigated her resume or bothered that he was crediting her networking skills with her success rather than her hard work. "Well, if you know that much, then you know that I'm already registered to start school at Met U this fall."
Gabriel's expression softened as he smiled widely. "I *am* aware of it. That's why they are just concerns and not 'problems'."
Lois blinked at the sudden change in attitude. "Wait… So, does this mean I get an interview?"
"Excuse me. I just wanted to introduce myself."
Lois turned at the sound of the new voice and held back a groan. Grant turned to the newcomer and accepted his outstretched hand.
"I'm Clark Kent."
Lois tried to catch Clark's eye but he seemed to not notice the heat of her glare.
"It's nice to meet you, Clark," Grant replied, unaware of Lois's annoyance. "Please tell me you're one of the few people at this party who doesn't want to talk about my new job."
Clark shared a good-natured laugh with him. "Sorry. I guess all the attention kind of ruins the night for you."
Grant shook his head and waved dismissively. "Actually, I don't mind. It comes with the territory." He turned back to Lois. "I'm sorry, let me introduce Lois Lane…"
Clark finally caught Lois's fierce look and was skewered by it. "Um… We know each other." He looked up in time to see that Gabriel had caught Lois's glare as well.
Clark saw Lois force a smile when she realized that she wasn't being very subtle. "Oh, uh… yeah. Clark and I are…"
As she rooted around for words, Clark jumped in to help, and they ended up answering at the same time. "…Friends." "…Associates."
Gabriel looked slightly confused. "So, the two of you work together?"
Clark and Lois exchanged a glance. "Sometimes."
Lois sought to clarify. "We have an agreement."
"Like a partnership?" Gabriel asked.
Clark didn't know the man well, but he could have sworn that the look on his face held slight amusement. It made him uncomfortable. "Something like that."
The editor's reaction was non-committal. "Hmmm." He reached out to pat Clark's shoulder as he prepared to move on to the next group of party-goers. "Well, it was nice speaking to you, Clark, and you too, Lois."
He started to turn away from them but stopped short. "Oh, Lois," he said, addressing her, "Give me a chance to get settled and then call over to the front office so we can set something up."
Lois smiled victoriously. "Great. I'll call first thing tomorrow."
Chuckling, Grant gave them a final nod before he walked away, only to be intercepted by more eager employees before he had taken two steps.
Clark was about to put his hands in his pockets when Lois grabbed his arm and pulled him to a deserted corner of the lobby.
"What are you doing here?" she demanded.
"I told Chloe I wanted to come too."
She narrowed her eyes suspiciously at him. "Why?"
He looked at her and sighed. "You don't have the market cornered on reporting, Lois. I used to write for Chloe at the Torch, remember?"
"And now you're interested in picking it back up? Journalism?"
He shrugged. "I might be. I don't really know, but I thought it might be good to keep my options open."
She crossed her arms over her chest and he could almost literally see her heckles rising. He mentally cursed himself for being so obvious.
"Did you come here because of me?"
Clark knew she would see through a lie. "I really am thinking about journalism again. That's the truth," he said. "But I also wanted to see you."
Lois let out a sigh as if being confronted with something she was dreading. "Smallville…"
"Hey, it's been almost a week since we had dinner with Chloe and Jimmy. I haven't seen you since."
She gave a tight shrug. "I've been busy."
He nodded. "I know, and I didn't push. I'm just thinking that maybe we need to add a clause to the list that says something about how many times you can put off someone's turn. It's my *turn*," he emphasized in a low whine.
He saw that his pout had the desired effect when Lois had trouble biting back a smile.
"I know. I'm sorry. It's just been crazy. Now that I have a desk at the Inquisitor, I actually have to put in bankable *hours*, I've been looking for apartments, and then with the commute…"
Clark's ears perked. "Wait, what? Apartments?"
Lois nibbled on her bottom lip guiltily. "Yeah."
He tilted his head. "In Metropolis?"
"You're moving?" He knew he was probably sounding dense with all these obvious questions, but he was suffering from a mild case of shock.
"Listen, I was going to tell you…"
"I think it's great," he entered, smiling widely.
Lois seemed surprised. "You do?"
"Of course. You're getting settled at work and the commute really doesn't make any sense."
Her brow furrowed. "Right."
Clark felt that it was best for him to show his support in the face of her sudden hesitance – regardless of how he really felt. "Right," he repeated firmly.
He felt the sudden need for levity and reached out to take her hand in his. "Now… about it being my turn…" he started, rubbing his thumb in slow circles on her palm.
"Chloe's coming," she said through a tight smile that was directed over his shoulder. She slowly pulled her hand from his.
He turned to see his friend heading their way from the middle of the room. "Tonight?" he asked.
Lois shook her head, still smiling in her cousin's direction. "I'm staying with Chloe tonight. I figured it was better than driving back…"
Clark nodded – like it or not, he understood.
"But I'll be back at the Talon after I put in a few hours at work," she finished. "How about we talk then?"
Before he could answer, Chloe was upon them. "What are you two doing way over here?" Chloe asked.
Lois shrugged, her eyes looking around the vast lobby of the Planet with barely hidden glee. "Surveying," she answered cryptically.
Chloe shot Clark a glance and he shrugged in return. "What?"
Lois shook her head and put an arm around the blonde's shoulders. "Nothing… Let's go get some more of that cake."
Clark trailed behind the two women as they returned to the mingling crowd. He had pretended to be just as bewildered with Lois's comment as Chloe was, but in truth he knew exactly what she had meant. The look in her eye had been one that he was familiar with from other… um, experiences.
The look was of Lois circling her prey; staking her claim.
Like himself, the Daily Planet wasn't going to be ready for what hit it.
Smallville, The next day…
Clark slid onto a stool at the Talon's bar and smiled at the barista. "Hi, Angela."
"Hey Clark," she replied, clearing an empty cup and money from the surface in front of him. "What can I get you? Your regular order?"
"Um… I think I'll try something new today. How about a Dulce de Leche espresso?"
The blonde-haired waitress raised her eyebrows in surprise. "Wow. Sweet tooth, huh?"
Clark shrugged and Angela walked over to the coffee machines to make his order. While he waited, Clark glanced down at his watch and sighed.
A couple of minutes later, Angela returned with his drink. "You look like you're worried about something," she observed, setting the cup down in front of him.
"No, not really."
Angela pursed her lips together and looked at him with obvious doubt.
Clark grinned sheepishly. "Well, a little."
She chuckled and shook her head. "What's on your mind?"
Clark drummed his fingers along the side of his cup while wondering exactly how to phrase what was going through his mind. "My, uh… friend. She told me she was moving yesterday."
"Friend, huh?" Angela nodded thoughtfully. "How did you react?"
Clark shrugged. "I told her that I thought it was a good idea."
The waitress grimaced. "Ooh, ouch."
He frowned at her reply. "Why ouch?"
She sucked in a slow breath and scrunched her nose. "Did you even look sad at all?"
Clark thought back to the conversation between he and Lois the night before. "No, I was supportive," he said simply.
Clark laughed softly. He didn't understand why Angela was making painful faces at him. "It's a great career move for her."
Angela tucked a fist under her chin in the classic 'thinker' pose. "And you put her career over everything else, including your… friendship?"
Clark realized that this was a different kind of 'hmm' than the last one, but he had no idea what either of them inferred. "I shouldn't have been supportive?" he asked in confusion.
Angela straightened. "No, supportive is good. Supportive is *really* good…"
Clark narrowed his eyes. "…But?"
"But…" She trailed off and seemed to decide to come at a different angle. "What has you worried?"
Clark took a few sips of his coffee to buy some time to think. "We haven't really been… communicating as much as we used to."
"And communication is important to you?"
"Yes." Clark felt the strange need to embellish on his answer when Angela remained quiet. "It is."
Angela nodded, but it seemed to be directed more to herself than to him. "And is communication as important to her as it is to you?"
"I… think so. I mean, it seemed to be… until recently." He scratched the back of his neck awkwardly. "I guess I'm a little worried about her getting new friends."
"And possibly replacing you," the blonde finished with a knowing smile.
He wondered how much 'know' was actually in that smile. "I guess. Yes."
Clark shook his head in amusement. Angela had gone from 'hmm-ing' to 'huh-ing' and he still didn't know what it meant. He drank more of his drink, deciding that female-speak was harder to decipher than Kryptonian.
"Hold that thought," Angela said. "I'll be right back."
Laughing to himself, Clark lifted his cup in her direction as she went to help a new customer. He had no idea what thought he was supposed to be holding onto.
"Here's what I think," Angela announced when she returned. "It's a question of trust."
Clark shook his head. "I trust her," he answered quickly.
"No. Do you trust your position in her life?"
That question brought him to a pause. "My position?"
Angela nodded sagely. "The way I see it, if on some level, you bring something to her life that she can't get anywhere else, you don't have to ever worry about being replaced."
Clark grinned widely, comprehension finally coming to him. "I get it," he said. "Thanks."
Angela winked. "Anytime."
"You're good at this," he complimented. "Maybe you should think about doing it professionally."
"I already do."
When he looked up in surprise, she laughed. "I work at Maggio's on the weekends as a bartender."
As Clark joined in on her laughter he felt the urge to look up. When he did, he saw Lois looking down at them from the second level. Her blank expression gave nothing away and once she saw that he had seen her, she turned and walked out of his sight to her apartment.
Clearing his throat, Clark drained his drink and pulled money from his wallet. "I, uh, need to go," he said.
Angela smiled and accepted the money. "Good luck."
With a sigh, Clark stood and made his way to the Talon's front door.
Upstairs, Lois strolled nonchalantly across the main room to the window and unlocked it. That task completed, she moved to the couch and sat down, reaching back to massage the back of her neck. That drive was really a killer daily commute.
She opened her eyes at the sound of the window being slid open – they had decided that his coming and goings should be as surreptitious as possible.
"Hey," Clark greeted as he climbed through.
"Hey, yourself," she responded. "You didn't have to come up so soon. You looked like you were enjoying yourself."
Clark looked at her curiously, but she kept her expression impassive. "I was done with my coffee."
She nodded curtly. "So… we need to talk."
Clark crossed and sat on the coffee table so he was directly in front of her. "About my *turn*?" he teased, leaning forward.
Lois arched an eyebrow, not moving from her reclined position on the couch. "About last night," she countered.
Clark's expression turned perplexed. "What about it?"
Lois studied his face. "I think we need to end our arrangement."
Clark suddenly straightened; the seductive smile was now gone. "End it? Why?"
Lois sighed and pushed herself off of the couch, walking into the kitchen to create space. She had a number of reasons actually. First, she was still having trouble with the way things had gone the night of the dinner with Jimmy. It had ended a little to comfy for her liking and in turn, it had been on her mind since she'd woken up the next morning. The whole thing was getting out of hand.
Secondly, she had not missed the look in Clark's eye last night when he had interrupted her conversation with Gabriel.
Clark might not have been aware of it, but he had been posturing… and posturing wasn't what they had agreed on.
Thirdly, which was not finally but certainly most disturbingly, she hadn't failed to notice her own… discomfort at seeing Clark flirting with the waitress downstairs.
"I just think that we have reached that point in our relationship," she answered.
Clark rose to his feet and turned to face her. "What point is that?"
She sighed and rubbed her hands together. "I think you know."
Clark crossed his arms across his chest. "And all of this came from something that happened last night?" he asked in disbelief.
"In part." Lois began to feel uncomfortable. She didn't want to admit to herself - or to him for that matter - that her body was planning a mutiny against her mind for this decision. "It's getting out of hand."
"Because I showed up?" he asked in confusion. "I told you, I'm thinking about taking up journalism again. You said that the party would be good for networking… I agreed."
Lois's eyes narrowed and she scoffed. She remembered Clark's reaction to her request to go to the party. He had been concerned about her getting 'reacquainted' with Grant Gabriel. "No. You came because you knew I had met Grant before."
She placed her hands flat against the kitchen counter, bracing as she readied to defend her argument. "This is exactly what I was worried about happening. There is no way to get into a 'friendship' like this without someone wanting more."
Clark rubbed his jaw in thought. "You think I'm jealous?"
She arched an eyebrow in response. When he started laughing she tilted her head.
"I'm not jealous, Lois," he said through his chuckles. Still amused, he brushed past her and opened the refrigerator. "So, there's no reason to end anything. You hungry?"
Lois blinked as she tried to comprehend what had just happened.
Clark had just brushed off her concerns as if they were petty. Plus, he had said he wasn't jealous… She looked over at him where he was picking through the contents of her fridge. He certainly wasn't acting as if he were jealous.
Wait, why the hell wasn't he jealous?
Her pride slightly bruised, she walked over to the fridge and shut the door, sliding into the space between it and Clark and looking him in the eye. "You're *not* jealous?"
Clark smiled. "I don't have anything to be jealous of."
"That's a little cocky.
He moved closer. "Not yet."
Lois's mouth dropped and she released an astonished laugh. She would never be able to explain to other people the kind of personality Clark took on when it was just the two of them. No one would believe it.
"I'm not jealous because no one else would know about this…"
Her eyes fluttered closed as he dipped his head and kissed a particularly sensitive spot on her neck.
"Or this…" He slid a hand under her shirt and fingered the belly button ring that she rarely allowed anyone to see - it was the embarrassing result of a rare moment of teenage conformity. Whenever she knew there was a chance that it could be seen, she took it out.
She opened her eyes and took in his smug expression. Well, if *he* wasn't having jealousy issues, and *she* wasn't having jealousy issues – because she wasn't – then there really was no reason to stop. Right?
She had to bite her lip as he slid a leg between hers. Sheee-iiit.
"You know what?" she pants, reaching a hand down between them so she could cup him through his jeans. "I think I'm a little hungry after all."
Smallville, two weeks later…
As Lois parked her car, she decided that she was weak.
Weak. Weak. Weak.
And she was going to Hell – probably via hand basket.
All of her intentions had been scrapped and canned, and as much as she desired to, she couldn't really blame Clark. Sure, he was convincing when he wanted to be… but she was also weak.
Weak. Weak. Weak.
Two weeks had passed – two *eventful* weeks, that is – and she had shamefully not succeeded in putting her libido aside. In fact, she was getting to the point where she was considering that she might need therapy.
They both did.
What she *had* been able to put aside, though, were those mounting concerns about Clark's attachment to her. There was a minion standing in one corner of her mind waving a flag about Clark's actions – namely the 'posturing' – to show that maybe he was seeing more in this 'arrangement' than was really there.
In the opposite corner – wearing the white shorts with the blue band – was another minion raising a flag to say that *she* might be getting far too comfortable in this 'arrangement' than she should allow.
She felt it best to deal with both minions in a mature way. She ignored them.
Giggling as she climbed out of her car, Lois couldn't help but acknowledge that she was having fun – albeit *really guilty* fun. Whenever doubts arose, she buried them under more of that 'guilty pleasure,' and all of that burying almost made her afraid of what the monster was going to look like when it came out of the closet.
Scratch that 'almost' stuff. She was scared shitless.
And that was saying a lot because Lanes don't scare… and they certainly don't lose their shit.
In any event, the time for doubt and brood-storming had been quite limited because she was – simply - *busy*. The call to Grant Gabriel had led to an interview, and the interview had led to a job offer, which in turn had led to the giving of an acceptance to one place of employment and a week's notice to the other. She was moving on up… and out.
With Clark's help, she had finally found an apartment in Metropolis. It wasn't a penthouse or anything, but it was functional.
One of Lois's eyebrows skirted up as she thought about just how functional the one bedroom apartment was… Suffice it to say that the blanket she kept in her trunk was wearing thin.
Lois jogged up the stairs to the second floor of the Talon building with barely hidden excitement. Her week's notice to the Inquisitor was up and she was ready to get started at the Planet… so there were definite reasons for celebration – and as luck would have it, it was her *turn*.
She had already made the call.
She opened her apartment door with flair – and stopped cold.
"Chloe!" Lois exclaimed in surprise. She wondered which flag referees threw for a delay of game warning. "What are you doing here?"
When Chloe looked at her oddly, she amended, "I mean, hey yooouuu!"
Lois walked inside and as she pulled her cousin into a hug, another figure came into view from around the stack of boxes that were blocking the living room from the front door. "…And Jimmy! Yay!"
Briefly looking skyward, Lois wondered who was going to pop out of the box next.
"Hi, Lois," Jimmy replied, laughing at her apparent enthusiasm for company.
Chloe smoothed her blazer once she was released from Lois's embrace. "I'm here to pick up that box of my clothes you made for me. Jimmy came along for the ride."
Lois shrugged. "I could have brought that to you."
"I know, but we're going out tonight and I wanted to wear that red shirt with the beaded rhinestones…"
"That's *my* shirt," Lois interrupted with narrowed eyes.
Chloe smiled innocently in return. "Is it? Do you happen to know where it is?"
The window behind the couch slid up and both Jimmy and Chloe turned at the unexpected intrusion.
Lois regretted having asked the Heavens for help. Someone up there obviously had a wry sense of humor.
"CK, why are you climbing in the window?"
Clark's face was the absolute picture of shock and Lois could literally see his ability to reason dissipate before her eyes. She suddenly wished that Reckless & Bold Clark didn't only come out at night.
"It's okay, Clark. It turns out that my key was in my bag after all." She turned to her cousin. "I thought I was locked out."
Chloe smiled dismissively. "That's nice." She walked into Lois's room. "Is that shirt in your closet?"
Lois walked to the kitchen island and watched her cousin's search thoughtfully. "You know what? I think it may be in the box by the bed…"
Her eyes popped when Chloe went to the named box and pulled out the first item. "What are these?"
Lois grabbed the garment and balled it up. "Spandex."
When Chloe shrugged and kept digging, Lois turned and threw the boxer briefs at Clark's chest. Thankfully, Jimmy had wandered back into the living room and didn't see the exchange.
"What do you want me to do with them?" Clark asked quietly.
"I don't know! Put them on if you have to. Hide them!" Lois whispered back.
Flushing, Clark began looking around the kitchen for somewhere to dispose of his underwear.
"Hey, Lois, I didn't know you were in a fantasy league," Jimmy called from the couch.
Lois shared a puzzled look with Clark. "I'm not."
Jimmy walked over to them. "Oh, come on. Embrace your inner geek. There's no reason to be ashamed. I mean it's fantasy football! That's sports!"
"Okay, first of all, that is *so* not a sport, and second… what are you talking about?"
"Your list," Jimmy replied, holding aloft the item in question. "If it's not for a fantasy football league, then what is it for?"
Behind her, Clark stepped closer. "You left that *out*?"
Hiding a grimace, Lois elbowed Clark in the abs. "Oh. The list. Right. Yes, you got me! It is a league… or it was… at the Inquisitor." She let out a breath and took the piece of paper from Jimmy. "Whoo! Too bad I don't work there anymore. No more league…" she said, shrugging dejectedly and starting to fold it up.
"That's not a problem," Jimmy replied excitedly, taking the paper back. "You can play in the Planet's league. This is great. I was having trouble trying to get enough members."
"Members for what?" Chloe asked, returning to the kitchen area with the red shirt in tow.
"Oh, Lois is going to join my fantasy football league," Jimmy answered.
Chloe's face pinched. "She is? Lois?"
"Well, you know me… always trying new ways to meet people." Lois smiled sheepishly and tried not to look too off kilter when Chloe gave her a strange look.
Chloe walked over to Jimmy and looked at the list over his shoulder. "I don't know what kind of league you were in before, but USC is not in the NFL," Chloe observed.
"That's why she wrote in the Tennessee Titans," Jimmy countered.
Clark started coughing uncontrollably and Lois turned around to glare at him. Still coughing, he raised his hands and reached to pull a glass from the dish rack.
Unaware, Jimmy continued. "Although, I have to say these are some strange picks – the Dolphins, the Bears?"
"Underdogs," Lois quipped. "Long odds equal big money."
Chloe frowned. "I didn't think Kentucky had a team."
Sobered, Clark chimed in. "Kentucky?"
Already knowing what was coming, Lois pursed her lips.
"Well, it says KY."
Lois cut her eyes to Clark daring him to say anything else. In response he took another drink of water.
"So are the rest of these like rules or something?" Chloe asked. "No quarterbacking, limited press coverage, mandatory pre-game warm-ups, audibles not allowed…" she read off in a questioning tone.
Lois was a little lost for an answer. She emitted a choked laugh and turned to shoot a glance at Clark. "A little help here?" she muttered.
He offered her his glass of water.
"Thank you *so* much," she said dryly as she took it from him.
"Hey Lois, why are there three stars next to 'face-masking'?"
Instead of answering, Lois lifted the glass and guzzled water.
Back to the scene on Mount Olympus…
Murmurs of concern spread throughout the hall. Requited Love was a powerful thing, but without its match, it was a deadly force.
Eros patted his younger brother's arm sympathetically. "The thing is," he offered, "the reason that was the only arrow left in my locker, was that it wasn't mine."
Aphrodite's brow creased with concern. She was starting to see where all of this was going.
Zeus spoke up. "Well, if it wasn't Himerus's arrow, and it wasn't your arrow, whose arrow was it?" He had to frown at his own words… it sounded like the opening to a bad joke.
Eros glanced to his left where his twin was sitting mutely. Up to this point, Anteros had remained silent and under the radar.
"An arrow of Anteros," Hera said dryly. "Would that were a better circumstance."
"So it was an arrow of *Requited* Love?" Zeus asked. "Without Love first being engaged?" Requited Love without Love at its foundation was the same as Hate.
Both Eros and Himerus deferred to their brother for the reply.
"Not exactly, Papou." Anteros sighed as if sorry to even have to bring it up. "That arrow wasn't one from my quiver. It was one I had taken from Apollo."
The crowd let out a collective gasp.
"You did what?!" Zeus bellowed. A flash of lightening sparked in the corner of the room. "And you shot the Terran with it?"
Anteros pointed to his younger brother. "Actually, *he* shot her."
Himerus ducked. He had no desire to feel the sting of a lightening lash again. "Hey, how was I supposed to know it was the most powerful weapon in all the land?"
"Because *everyone* knows that," Eros muttered.
Hera's eyebrows rose. "So what happened?"
"I… kind of killed her."
"*Kind* of!" Hades shouted, slapping the table as he released a loud bark of laughter. "I guess that's why I 'kind of' had to send her back."
Zeus had to agree that his brother had a point. "So, let me get this straight… the arrow that you shot at the unsuspecting couple wasn't an arrow of the Cupid?"
The three Erotes shook their heads in unison.
"And the death arrow has no other effect but to bring about demise?"
Apollo nodded his head.
"And as far as you know, everything is back online?"
The three Fates nodded their heads.
"So, in effect, the actions the two Terran cohorts engage in from the point of the Divine Interruptus and on is purely of their own cognizance?"
The host of gods and goddesses and demi-gods and demi-goddesses present nodded their heads - each laying claim that none of them had interfered with this particular case other than what had already been revealed.
"Well then," Zeus announced with pride and relief, "our work here is done!"
It didn't seem to matter to anyone at the table that, other than kill an earthling and bring her back to life, they really hadn't done anything at all. Around the table the multitude of Olympians congratulated each other for another job well done.
Clapping his hands together twice with thunderous grace, Zeus beckoned for the lyrists. "Let's dance!"
"I never thought they would leave," Lois said with a contented sigh. "The look on your face when you came through that window..." She trailed off in laughter.
Clark was lying behind her with his arms wrapped around her waist. When he didn't join in on her mirth, she rolled over to face him. "Why so quiet?"
He looked down at her concerned expression and felt a little remorse that he was raining on her parade. After the awkwardness of the Chloe-encounter, their later activities had done well to change the atmosphere of the day.
Lois was still looking at him questioningly so he sighed. "Will Chloe have a key to your new apartment?"
"Of course she will."
Her eyes narrowed and something briefly flashed in them. She was quiet for a tense moment and he felt the need to say more. "I'm tired of climbing through windows."
She pulled away from his embrace and sat up in the bed, taking the top sheet with her. "Uh oh. I was afraid this would happen."
He immediately missed the feel of her in his arms. "What?"
She ran a hand roughly through her hair and continued as if he hadn't spoken. "I was so afraid that one of us would have to go *there*."
She shook her head. "There is just no way a 'relationship' like this could work. Friends with benefits," she practically spat out, "is a scam. Anyone who says otherwise is either lying to themselves or lying to the person they are trying to impress by talking about it… Probably both!"
Clark smiled to himself as he watched her rant. The words she was saying should have been making his melancholy worse, but he was holding on to the hope that a certain string of words inspired. She had said 'one of us would go there'… meaning she had been thinking along the same lines – he had just verbalized it first.
She finally turned her attention back to him. "Us… What we have…" She waved a hand between them. "This is a lie – a beautiful lie – but a lie nonetheless."
Clark's smile faded. "You think this is a lie?"
Her responding look asked how he couldn't.
"Not divulging the truth is not the same thing as lying," he said. The irony did not pass him that this was a multi-faceted topic… only he was the only one aware of the layers.
Lois scoffed. "*That* is your stance?"
Clark reached for her arm, partly because he needed to touch her, and partly because he didn't want her to bolt. "I don't want to hide anymore."
He felt some empowerment by the fact that she wasn't shaking his hand off, so he continued. "I want to be able to take you out to dinner, to call you on the phone and talk about something other than football… to walk down the street holding your hand without having to worry about who might see." He tried to catch her eyes with his own. "Don't you want that too?"
After an intense moment where their gazes were locked, Lois looked away. "No."
He wasn't hurt upon hearing her confession because he had seen what was in her eyes right before it. She was lying. Beautifully. "Why not?"
After another long beat, she answered. "Playa-hatas."
He frowned. "Who?"
Lois sighed. "You know: Lookie-Loos who just sit in wait for something to go wrong. Don't you see, Clark? You let the world in and then the world does everything in its power to get you down."
"I thought that was the Man."
"You know what I mean," she said, flustered.
He laughed and pulled her further onto the bed. "I *do* know what you mean."
"Everything changes," Lois said, still not willing to look at him.
"Change is good," he advised, rubbing his thumb against her arm. "And the world is no match for us. I promise."
Doubtful, her brow was deeply furrowed as she studied his face. "How do you know it's not just the sex? That's not a healthy reason to get into a relationship. It's an addiction."
Clark understood her hesitance, but was elated by the fact that she wasn't saying 'no' outright. It meant that she had been considering it on her own. "Then we quit."
"Whoa. Wait… what?"
He laughed at her reaction. "We quit," he repeated.
The look she was giving him was filled with amused disbelief. She slid her top leg between his, her eyebrow dancing. "You could do that?"
He squeezed his thighs together to stop her advance. "I mean, don't get me wrong, you have a great body, but that's not the only reason I love you." He snapped his mouth shut.
He had just dropped the L-bomb… and it was waaayy too early for that.
From the look in Lois's eye, she had caught it, but she let it slide. "So… we just… date?"
"You don't think you could handle it?"
Lois's eyes narrowed to dangerously thin slits and Clark couldn't help but to laugh. He had come to learn her well enough to know that the best way to get Lois to accept a challenge she wasn't too sure about… was to challenge her.
Clark felt a pang of loss when she pulled her leg away. "So, that's a yes?" he asked.
She giggled, and he felt a dip in his stomach – it wasn't something she did around other people (Lane's, he'd been informed, didn't giggle).
"Yes, Clark, I will go steady with you… on one condition."
He couldn't help the grin that threatened to split his face in two. "Name it."
She leaned close enough to kiss him - stopping a hair's breadth from completion. "You're the one that gets to tell Chloe. Now… get out of my bed."