Clark knocked on Lois' door at precisely six-fifteen, as he'd promised her. It had been a near enough thing. He'd been needed at a mugging. The poor old woman who'd been mugged had had a heart attack on the scene, and he'd rushed her off to the hospital. He'd stayed just long enough to make sure she was taken care of, then he'd flown back to where he'd bent a parking meter around the would-be thief and taken the young man to the police station. He'd barely had time to get back to his apartment, get changed at super speed, then bolt out the door in a rush to make it to Lois' place on time.
A moment later, Lois opened the door, stunning Clark as he gazed upon her. She was in a beautiful violet dress, one that hugged all the right curves, leaving Clark's heart rate elevated and his feet barely able to move. He was aware of the fact that he was staring and that he should probably say something.
"You look fantastic," he managed, prying his tongue off the roof of his mouth where it had super-glued itself.
"Thanks," Lois said, blushing a little. "You look great too."
"Thanks. I, uh, brought you these," he said, holding out a bouquet of flowers to her.
It wasn't a large or expensive assortment of flowers. But when he'd dashed into the florist on his way over, he'd been instantly struck with the bouquet. No two flowers were the same. Each had a unique look, a unique scent that was theirs alone. Each was a different color, or shade of color. Somehow, it reminded him of Lois. Perhaps it was because she was such a complex woman, whose layers and contradictions intrigued and excited him. Perhaps it was because she had so many facets to her personality, each one beautiful and different, like the flowers in the bunch. Perhaps it was because the random assortment of blossoms reminded him of the weird and often unrelated babbling tangents Lois frequently launched into, often leaving him slightly bewildered even through the fact that he loved those moments.
Lois smiled and brought the flowers to her nose. She inhaled their perfume deeply, closing her eyes for a moment, in what looked to Clark like a moment of bliss. Then she looked back up at Clark, her eyes meeting his and shining with gratitude and happiness.
"They're gorgeous," she said. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. So, are you ready?"
"I've been ready for a long time."
"Sorry," Clark apologized. "I didn't want to pressure you by showing up too early. Not to mention that I was a little tied up with, uh, you know."
Again Lois smiled. "That's not what I meant. What I really meant was that I've been ready for this date since probably the moment after I came to understand why you hid certain knowledge from me. No, wait, that's not true. I was ready for this before you even asked me out, I think."
As she spoke, Lois turned into her kitchen, pulling Clark along in her wake. Opening a cabinet, she found a crystal vase. She quickly filled it with water, then unwrapped the bouquet. A moment later, she snipped the very bottoms of the stems with a pair of scissors and placed the blossoms into the vase. She moved whole thing into the living room and placed it in the center of the coffee table. Stepping backwards a pace, she admired the effect.
"Perfect," she said.
"I'm glad you like them."
"I love them," Lois gently corrected him.
She grabbed her purse from the couch and ushered Clark out the door. With deft hands, she set the locks on her doors. A few minutes later, they were on their way, Clark driving Lois' Jeep across town to Antonio's.
Walking into the restaurant, Clark gave his name to the hostess, feeling like the world's richest, luckiest man alive. Just being able to have a reservation at Antonio's made him feel important - only the super wealthy and famous could get spur of the moment reservations at the restaurant, and even then, it was never a guarantee. Now here he was, a virtual nobody, compared to the usual clientele of the place, his reservation less than twenty-four hours old. But to do so with Lois on his arm, knowing that he was beginning a new chapter in his life - one which included Lois in a capacity as more than just a friend - that made him feel like his heart might burst with love and happiness. Never in his life had he ever felt so glad to be alive.
The food was exquisite, though Clark barely remembered eating any of it. Afterwards, he could barely even recall what he and Lois had ordered. He could scarcely bring to mind any memory of the bottle of wine he had brought to the table. He had only the most fleeting of impressions of the stunning décor within the walls of the restaurant. Afterwards, whenever someone asked about the restaurant, he could only come up with the words "elegant" and "warm," knowing it had to have been more than just that.
Everything simply paled in comparison to Lois.
Their conversation never ceased, easily, fluidly moving from topic to topic. Clark found himself under the spell of her voice, noting how different she seemed to be that night. There was no trace of Mad Dog Lane. His work partner was gone. Her usually teasing tongue was subdued. Gone was the woman who joked with him about his taste in ties or poked good-natured jabs at his odd little quirks. She was not his best friend that night.
Instead, she was so much more.
She was simply the most beautiful, most elegant, most feminine woman on the planet. She was his date. She even sounded a little unsure of herself from time to time, as she told him all about herself - things Clark never would have guessed and certainly didn't think he would have ever discovered by only being her friend. Each thing he learned about her made his heart both ache for the hardships she'd endured and burst with pride for her that she'd overcome them to become the strong woman she was. Each new discovery helped him make sense of the complex person that was Lois Lane and shed light on things she'd once hidden away from him in the dark shadows of the walls she'd built around herself.
Each new piece of information made him love her more than he'd ever thought possible.
He had known it, before their date, that he loved her - had loved her since the moment he'd first laid eyes on her. But by the end of that night, he knew for sure that he'd never feel for anyone else the way he felt for Lois. She alone held his heart, would ever hold his heart. He only hoped that this first date was just the beginning for them. He so desperately wanted to spend the rest of his life by her side, loving her and being loved by her in return.
At the end of the meal, Clark's friend, Kenny, approached their table. He towered half a foot taller than Clark and looked as though he could easily out-muscle the reporter. But he was all smiles and politeness, and his sparkling eyes gave away the fact that he was always ready with a laugh.
"Clark!" he said, slapping his friend on the shoulder. "Good to see you again! I don't mean to intrude, but I just had to come say hi."
"Hey, Kenny! Good to see you too. It's been too long."
"You can say that again. What's it been? Five years?"
"Kenny, I'd like you to meet Lois," Clark said, unable to hide the ear to ear grin having Lois with him, as his date, caused.
"It's a pleasure to meet you," the chef said, extending a hand and smiling. "Clark won't stop talking about you."
Lois laughed. "The pleasure's mine. And my compliments on the meal. I don't think I've ever tasted food so delicious before."
"Thank you," Kenny said, dipping his head in acknowledgement and beaming with pride.
"So, what has Clark said about me?" Lois asked, grinning, and knowing the question would make Clark squirm a little in embarrassment.
"Oh, the usual. How he's got the most beautiful, intelligent woman in the world as his partner and friend. How much he's been looking forward to this first date with you."
"Kenny!" Clark sputtered, feeling a blush creeping up on him.
"Personally, I've never seen him rave about anyone the way he talks about you," Kenny continued, giving Clark a bright smile.
"Kenny!" Clark said again. This time he couldn't force away the bloom of heat in his cheeks.
But Lois only laughed again, seemingly at complete ease that Clark had so enthusiastically spoken of her to someone else. To be honest, it surprised Clark somewhat. It was no secret that Lois enjoyed a good compliment - didn't everyone? - but he'd seen, first hand, how knowing he'd spoken so highly of her to others had once caused her to feel uncomfortable.
"Listen," the chef said, glancing toward the door to the kitchen. "I need to get back to my staff. It was nice to finally meet you, Miss Lane. Clark, call me sometime."
"Absolutely," Clark said, nodding. "Maybe we can shoot some hoops at the end of the week."
"Sounds great," the man said, before heading off back to his post.
"I, uh...sorry about that," Clark apologized to Lois. "I had no idea he was going to come say hello."
"It's all right," she said, as the waiter came and set a thick, rich slice of chocolate cake down in the center of the table for them, as well as two forks so they could share. "He seems like a really nice guy."
"One of the greatest," Clark confirmed. "When he's not embarrassing me, that is." He gave her a crooked smile.
"Actually, I like knowing that you hold me in such high regard," Lois said, suddenly losing her demeanor of a shy date and once more becoming the friend Clark had fallen in love with.
"Well then," he replied, taking up his usual light, teasing tone with her once again, "I'll bear that in mind and sing your praises wherever we go from now on. I'll be your very own, personal minstrel."
That brought out a laugh and a broad smile from Lois, breaking down the last remnants of her uncertainty in this scary new step of their relationship. Clark relaxed too, finding, to his surprise, that even he had been a little shy and insecure that night. But that laugh, that wondrous, enchanting sound, dissipated the tension he'd been so unaware of, like mist in the warmth of the summer sun.
They shared their dessert, laughing the whole time, each completely at ease. Clark thought it to be the most natural thing in all the world, to be sitting there with Lois, his partner, his best friend, his date, and the only person on the planet who was both privy to his secret and able to be trusted with it, outside of his family. It felt so right to finally be on a date with Lois. Like a puzzle, she was the piece, the only piece, who could fit into the missing space in his life, making him complete.
With dessert finished, Clark paid the bill and left a generous tip for their waiter. Then he helped Lois from her chair and linked their arms, escorting her from the restaurant. They retrieved the Jeep from the valet parking, Clark once again sliding into the driver's seat. He loved being able to do things for Lois, even if it was as simple as being the one to drive them someplace, though it wasn't too often that she allowed him to do that. For a moment, they just sat in silence, the car unmoving.
"So..." Clark began, a little nervously.
"So..." Lois echoed.
"I had a great time," Clark said, fumbling for words.
"I was wondering...I don't think I'm ready to call it a night just yet. Would you be interested in seeing a movie?"
"I'd like that," Lois said, nodding. "Truth be told, I was kind of hoping we could continue this date. It's been wonderful."
Clark put the car into gear and turned down the street which would eventually lead them to the movie theatre.
"It really has," he agreed. "I'm glad we finally got to do this."
"Me too," Lois said again. "Everything's right with the world, isn't it? Lex is in jail. Perry is thrilled with our coverage of the investigation and trial. We had a great dinner date together."
"Everything just seems to be falling into place," Clark said, finishing her train of thought.
"My thoughts exactly."
It did not take long to get to the movie theatre. But to their disappointment, the show they were hoping to see was sold out, and neither of them were all that interested in the ones which still did have tickets available. Clark stuck his hands into his pockets, debating with himself as to what he should say now.
"Sorry," he finally managed, feeling sheepish, though he knew it wasn't his fault. "Maybe I should have picked up tickets earlier in the day."
"It's okay," Lois said, rubbing his arm affectionately. "It's no big deal."
"We could try the theatre across town," he suggested.
Lois shook her head. "Nah. We'd never get there without cheating," she said, lowering her voice to a confidential whisper. "Besides, it's opening night. They're probably sold out over there too."
"Well, there is one place I can think of that we can go," he replied, a hint of mischief twinkling in his eyes.
"Oh, where's that?"
"My place. We can rent a video on the way and have our own, private movie screening."
"I'd like that. But let's not rent a movie. Let's just go to your place. We'll make some coffee and just relax for a while."
"Sure," Clark agreed, unlocking the car door again.
Soon they were at his apartment, Clark carrying Lois' gym bag of stakeout clothes so she could change into something more comfortable. Once inside, Lois took the bag and headed to the bathroom, leaving Clark to change at super speed into more casual apparel. Then he set the coffee brewing, humming to himself as he went through the familiar motions.
It wasn't at all unusual for him to be making a fresh pot of coffee to share with Lois. He'd done it a hundred times before, sometimes early in the morning, sometimes late at night, and, on the rare occasion, in the absolute dead of night when she'd come knocking on his door in fright or bubbling over with excitement as she finally figured out some missing piece to an investigation they were working on. He'd always graciously accepted her into his apartment, happy to have her there and feeling the whole place sparkle and come to life with her very presence. At first, she'd come only as his partner; the partner she had grudgingly become when Perry had first been struck with the idea to pair them together. But as time had worn on, she'd come as his friend, as well as the person he worked with.
Now she was there as the woman he was dating. His - dare he think it? - girlfriend.
"Hey," she said, stepping into his kitchen, clad now in comfortable shorts and a soft-looking shirt. "What's on your mind?"
"Just happy you're here," Clark answered truthfully. "And of all the times you've been here before."
"It's different now, huh? With us dating, I mean."
"A little," Clark admitted. "But in a fantastic, exciting new way. At least, it is for me."
"It is for me too. And I feel like...I don't know...like we should have been doing this from the start."
Clark nodded his agreement and set to work preparing their drinks in their preferred ways. He handed Lois her mug, then took a sip from his own.
"Let's sit out on the terrace," Lois suggested, after taking a sip of her own drink. "It's such a beautiful night out. I feel like we shouldn't stay cooped up inside."
They bought took their drinks to Clark's terrace. Clark dragged two chaise lounge chairs together and guided Lois to one. He held her mug while she settled into the comfortable cushions, before sitting in his own chair. He handed Lois back her mug, smiling at her as he did so. Lois let out what sounded like a contented sigh.
"So..." Clark said, grasping for words. "I had a great time tonight, Lois. And I was wondering if you'd allow me to take you out again. Like maybe tomorrow?"
"I had a great time too. Probably the best time I've ever had in my life. But, well, aren't you sick of me yet? I mean, we see each other every day at work. Don't you want a break from me?" she asked, and Clark caught the joking tone to her words.
"I will never get sick of being around you," he answered sincerely.
That stunned Lois into silence for several heartbeats. But after a moment, she recovered.
"In that case, I would love to go out with you again. What'd you have in mind?"
"I'm not sure yet," Clark said, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "First I was hoping you'd even want to go out again. I figured I'd worry about the actual date once I knew that much."
For a time, they sat in a companionable silence, simply drinking their coffee and enjoying the other's company. Lois finished hers and set the mug on the ground, alongside her chair. Then she stood and moved to Clark's chair. Clark scooted over in surprise as she climbed up onto the lounge chair beside him, snuggled into his side, and lay her head on his chest. His arm immediately encircled her, holding her securely to him, the tenderness behind the move showing her just how precious she was to him.
"You know, knowing the things I've recently discovered about you...I think...in a way, it's brought us closer."
"Me too," Clark said, putting his free hand behind his head as they reclined, looking up at the stars. "I know I've said it before, but, I'm glad you know. It was never easy, trying to hide from you."
"I used to dream about dating Superman," Lois said in a whisper. Clark thought perhaps she sounded a little embarrassed.
"I know," he said, nodding.
"I used to dream of the adventure it would be."
"Yeah? Like what?" he prodded, teasing her now.
"Like...impromptu picnics along the Rhine. Or lazy Sunday afternoon flights to nowhere in particular."
"We can still do those things, Lois."
"I know. But...I'm not so sure I want them anymore. Don't get me wrong. Flying with you is one of the most amazing things in the world, and I'll always love doing it. Especially knowing what I do now, that you and he are one. But tonight...tonight we were just a normal, average couple, and it was beyond anything I ever could have imagined a date with Superman - with Clark - would be."
"I'm glad, Lois. And for the record, I will always love flying with you too." He gave her a wry grin he was sure she saw as she lifted her head to peer at him. "Particularly when I'm not flying you away from some mortal danger," he added, utterly unable to help himself.
Lois laughed. "Yeah. I like it better too when I haven't been snatched away from death's door. Something about me being more relaxed and able to enjoy the view."
"Not that I mind," Clark said, still teasing her.
"Good. Because I really don't intend on slowing down anytime soon. I'm still going to do whatever is necessary to break a story."
"And win your Pulitzer," Clark supplied, holding her a little closer and resting his chin against the top of her head.
"Well, we will, at any rate," Lois said, snuggling deeper into his chest. For a moment, she was silent, shifting her gaze up to the star filled sky above.
"Lois? Are you okay? Did I say something wrong?"
Lois shook her head, though she was still laying against him. "No. I was just thinking, that's all."
"Care to share?"
She nodded. "I used to think I could love Superman. I used to think I could love him even if he was completely powerless; an ordinary guy leading a normal life."
Clark bit his lower lip, growing suddenly concerned over Lois' serious tone and topic change. He hoped - prayed - she wasn't about to drop some bombshell on him. He hoped she wasn't about to say that she was wrong and that she could never -would never - be able to reciprocate his feelings. His heart gave a nervous spasm in his chest. He wondered if she could feel the change in the organ's rhythm.
"And?" he asked, unable to stop himself, needing to know the answer and dreading it at the same time. How he managed not to choke on the word was a mystery to him.
He knew, on a very real, very visceral level, that her next words would either make him the happiest man on the planet or unreservedly destroy him.
"And," Lois said, drawing the word out longer than was necessary. She turned, twisting in Clark's embrace to look him in the eye. "It turns out, I was half right."
Clark swallowed hard around the lump that had appeared in his throat. "How's that?"
"I don't love Superman."
"You don't?" The words came out half strangled and fearful.
"No, I don't. If I've learned anything since that night, when I found out the truth, it's that you were right. Superman isn't real. And I can't love someone who isn't real. Who I can love is the ordinary man. The one who holds down a job and pays his rent on time. The one who brings me coffee and makes it better than even I do. The one who will share his chocolate dessert with me or listen to me rant or brighten my day with a smile - who stands when a woman enters the room and holds doors open for people without expecting so much as a thank you in return. The one who edits my copy, even when I claim I don't need or want it, and who has never turned me away from his door when I've needed him. I love you, Clark. Not the caped hero. Not the powers. You. Clark Kent."
Clark's eyes slid shut in bliss for the briefest, most fleeting moment, before he opened them again and met Lois' gaze once more. His heart was flying, while simultaneously smashing itself against his ribs as though it wished to escape his chest. He used his free hand to cup her cheek warmly, while holding her in a steady, even gaze.
"And I love you, Lois. I love everything about you. I have, ever since the moment I first laid eyes on you. Being with you - working alongside you every day and spending time together as friends outside of work - has been the greatest time of my life. Until now. Now...dating you...I feel like everything in my life has paled in comparison to this."
In the next instant, his lips found hers - or perhaps her lips had found his - he wasn't quite sure. It didn't matter. All that mattered was that they were together. He lost himself to the moment, knowing that this was the greatest moment in his life, and knowing, somehow, that things would only get better from there on out.