Richard was supremely uncomfortable in Lana’s house. The sofa he was lying on wasn’t the problem, nor were the cozy furnishings in the room. No, the two things that kept him staring at the ceiling long past the hour when he should’ve been asleep were both troublesome thoughts.
First, the twins. For the past three years, he had been there for them most nights, tucking them in, talking to them, and reading them stories. True, he’d shared that time with Lois, but now the twins didn’t have either of them. The thought of Jason and Kala, alone somewhere with only each other for comfort, gnawed at the back of Richard’s brain.
The other thought that simply would not go away, no matter how hard he tried to banish it, was a comparison of Lois and Lana. As often as Richard told himself it wasn’t fair to either woman, his mind kept returning to the contrast between them. Under pressure, Lois became tense and tended to lash out. Anytime she felt herself to be under attack, she fought back – and she generally won out of sheer stubborn refusal to accept defeat. Lana, on the other, would ignore anything short of a physical attack. She seemed to personify the playground advice so many parents gave their children: Don’t stoop to their level.
Lana was gracious where Lois was abrasive, and yet both of them always seemed to emerge the victor of any situation. Contemplating the vast differences that led to such similar superiority, Richard still couldn’t fall asleep.
And now it seemed he wasn’t the only one. A moving shadow caught his eye, and Richard sat up to see Lana standing in the hallway in a long bathrobe, as if his guilty thoughts had somehow conjured her. She was completely covered from neck to ankles, but the tightly-belted robe still followed her curves, and Richard’s traitorous mind seized on the image. He blushed in spite of himself, thinking, Idiot, it’s not like she can read your mind. Quit acting like teenage boy caught peering into his neighbor’s windows with binoculars!
Lana looked at him silently for a moment, her auburn hair merely dark in the dimness. “Having trouble sleeping?” she quietly asked at last.
“Yeah,” Richard replied, his voice as hushed as hers. Stop being a fool. You’re just trying to distract yourself from the real problem. She’s not at all interested in you…
“Me too,” Lana said, and chuckled softly. “Let me see if I can do something about that, hmm?”
Richard’s eyes widened as she walked toward him and past the couch, leaving a trail of some light, floral scent in her wake. Half unable to believe what she’d just said, he watched her disappear through the door.
After a moment he tossed the covers aside, his expression dazed, and stood up. In only an undershirt and boxers Richard padded after Lana, wondering if this were some kind of dream.
Lois moved with a deliberate slowness born of despair and the knowledge that, in her exhausted state, she could easily do something forgetful. Like climb into the bath with her blouse on – she’d done that once, after staying up for sixty hours chasing a story. But she soon sank into the comforting embrace of the hot water, immersing herself up to her chin and letting her hands fall to her sides.
Something went clink faintly. After thinking about it for a moment, Lois realized the sound was her engagement ring hitting the porcelain. Hot water with lavender bath oil in it would soon make the ring slide off her finger, so she took it off and set it beside the tub. Then she slid back into the water until only her eyes and nose were above it, and tried to clear her mind of everything.
It wasn’t working. As tired as she was, her mind was still spinning crazily, running on fumes and fear. Where were the twins right now? Who was giving them their nightly bath, or were they being forced to endure grime along with captivity? Had they had dinner tonight? Had anyone spoken kindly to them since they’d been taken? Were they scared, right now, had that bastard left them in the dark?
The water gradually became saltier as Lois’ silent tears slipped from her eyes. I can’t do this. I need to sleep; I have to be rested tomorrow. In the makeup bag beside the bathtub were several essentials of Lois’ life, and she reached for the Tylenol PM. Swallowing two pills dry, Lois set about getting herself cleaned up. No sense in soaking now that she had taken the drugs. She knew from experience that in about half an hour, she’d be totally unconscious and stay that way until dawn. Or until something woke her, preferably Clark telling her that he’d found the twins and accidentally dropped Luthor onto a sidewalk from two thousand feet.
When Lois finally slid between the sheets, her mind had gone pleasantly foggy. All the things she worried about seemed to be at a distance, and she closed her eyes gratefully, ready to sink into slumber. She was falling into a deep black well, letting sleep rise up and close over her, sweet respite…
Normally, she remained in that state until morning. But this time her nerves were still wired, and she began to rise toward awareness. For a long time she hovered in blessed darkness, and then after several hours she started to dream…
…the silver material was cool and smooth against her skin, like the finest silk and yet not like it. He was beside her, so warm, and she curled closer to him, the circular design of the bed making it easier for them to cuddle in the center of it. Kal-El, she was finally lying beside Kal-El with no more secrets between them, no more hesitation. Lois sighed softly and burrowed closer. In some way, she knew this for a dream, a memory more than six years old, but she let it comfort her anyway. Drifting as she’d drifted that morning, she felt peaceful and content and loved as she never had before. Her sleep deepened…
…he moved beside her, tucking the sheets around her. It was cool in the Fortress, not cold but cool, and even with his warm body beside her she would’ve been uncomfortable in just the thin nightgown. How sweet of him to do that…
…his lips brushed her forehead once. So brief a touch, and yet her desire woke purring like a sleepy cat. Lois turned her face up to his, caught his lips with her own, and kissed him with all of her adoration and satisfaction. Kal-El kissed her back softly…
…Lois ran her fingers into his thick dark hair, pulling him down closer to her. His very mouth tasted faintly sweet – was there nothing about him that wasn’t perfect? She smiled against his lips, thinking, No, of course not, he’s always been breathtaking, and kissed him again. And pulled his glasses off, tossed them aside, and kissed him again. And again…
…Kal-El drew back from her slightly, and Lois rose up with him, letting the sheets slide down around her. Her arms around his neck, his hands on her shoulders, even that simple touch making her skin tingle. Now he was sitting up on the edge of the bed, running a hand down her back, and she could feel his fingertips trace each vertebra…
…Murmuring wordlessly, Lois slipped free of the sheets and into his lap. He gasped, and she took advantage of it to deepen their kiss. Wonderful, it was as amazing as kisses in dreams should be, and a deep part of her grieved that this was only a dream, that she would wake alone. The rest of her concentrated on melting into him, her skin finally as hot as his, knowing that her nightgown was riding up her thighs and not caring. Only thin satin panties under it, but no matter. Let him see, let him touch, let him lift her up as he’d done six years ago and kiss the hollow of her hip…
…Lois drew back from the kiss to catch her breath, and started to unbutton his shirt, purring as his bare skin came into view. He caught her hands, his blue eyes serious, and murmured, “Lois, no.” She silenced him with another kiss and took his hand and placed it on her breast, letting him feel her heart beating so fast and her nipple rising for him…
…Moaning into his mouth because oh, God, she missed that so much, arching her body against him, so what if this’s a dream it’s a good one so let it be. He tried to whisper, “We can’t,” and she ground her hips against him and his hand caressed her breast and she moaned again, feeling her pulse beat between her thighs that were wrapped around his waist now…
…His voice so husky, “Lois, wait… Don’t, Lois, we shouldn’t…” and no matter what he said, she knew he wanted her, no way not to know given where she was sitting. Ignoring her waking life, she wanted this moment for her own, if she could have him only in dreams then by God she would have him here…
…Moving her body against him seductively, the gown almost up to her hips. Holding his hand against her breast, she whispered back, “This is my dream, Kal-El, things have to happen the way I want in my dreams, it’s only fair… Nothing else matters now but the dream, and in my dreams you don’t ever say stop…”
“You’re not dreaming,” his voice so low, the need in it. “Lois, please… We shouldn’t… Please, Lois, wake up, this isn’t a dream.”
Everything stopped as Lois woke up fully.
No silky silver sheets, only white cotton ones. No magnificent Fortress of Solitude, just the Hilton Garden Inn’s generic décor. But the man whose lap she was straddling was real, as real as the ache in the pit of her stomach. It was all real, from the kiss, to his hand on her breast, to the feeling of him pressed against her just there. Clark’s eyes were wide and his breath was fast, but he hadn’t simply picked her up and moved her off of him.
Lois realized then that the damn drugs had made her think she was dreaming; Clark had come in as requested to tell her about his search, and had gotten a whole hell of a lot more than he expected.
She also realized that he was still disconcerted, so much so that he hadn’t taken his hand off her breast. For a long instant, she stared at him, full of the knowledge that five little words would bring him to her with no more hesitation, words she’d breathed into his ear six years ago. Just say it… You can have this, it worked then to conquer his fears and it will work now. Just look him in the eyes and whisper “I want you inside me,” and you can have him…
No. No matter what the possibility felt like, the reality was that it wasn’t worth making Superman an adulterer. He’d tear himself to pieces over the guilt. It wasn’t worth betraying Richard like this, either. Even if she knew that things were nearly over between them. But oh dear God how she wanted it … she was literally trembling with desire…
Lois slithered off his lap, curling herself into a ball with her back at the headboard. Her hazel eyes, so wide she looked almost frightened, never left his, never looked away from the terrible yearning in those blue depths. After a long, breathless moment spent staring at each other, Lois whispered shakily, “I guess it’s still too late to play hard to get.”
That broke the spell slightly, the memories of six years ago close to the surface of both their minds. He laughed a little, running his fingers through his hair nervously. “Yes, well, it’s not like you didn’t always know how I felt about you,” he replied, voice just as unsteady. “Even in that first interview I was grinning like a fool every time I so much as looked at you. And you’re still the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”
That felt like a knife twisted in her heart. How can I say no to this? Why am I even trying to deny it to either of us? Again she cursed herself mentally for having anything resembling a conscience. “I had no idea back then. And… I… I’m sorry, I got a little … carried away… I was dreaming … about…”
“I know,” he whispered. “I dreamed about it for three years in that damned ship, heading to Krypton. I should’ve realized then that, even if I had a home waiting for me there, it would never really be home without you. Even though I was sick from kryptonite radiation on the trip home, I still dreamed of you. And I never said stop in my dreams, either.”
Lois had to close her eyes. One more second, looking at him, and she’d lose control of herself entirely. No more bullshit, Lane. Not when you’ve come this far. “Kal-El … I’m still in love with you. I’ve always loved you. Angry or not, I’ve never stopped.”
He took a deep, shuddering breath. “Oh, Lois… I love you, too. I had guessed … hoped … but you don’t know what it means to hear you say that face to face.”
“Oh, I know what it means. I remember the first time you said it to me.” Their eyes met again for a painfully intense moment that made her again regret her restraint. With a shuddery sigh, Lois pulled herself together, and finally began to say what she’d gradually realized she had to tell him. But it was so hard. “Kal-El, the twins…”
“I know. We shouldn’t even be thinking like this while they’re missing,” he said, rerouting his train of thought with visible effort. “No sign yet, Lois. I looked everywhere within a hundred miles of our last lead.”
It was on the tip of her tongue to correct him, but she bit it back. He’s got a point. Not now, not here, not like this. Not when we’re both still shivering with need for each other. But I have to tell him they’re his. He deserves to know now; I was wrong to keep it from him for so long. It doesn’t leave me any less frightened of what he’ll think or what he’ll say, or what his bastard father will do … but it’s time to give up the last of my little secrets.
“Kal-El,” she murmured, biting her lip briefly before finally look up at him. Her mind was made up. He had to know now. “There’s something I have to tell you in the morning.”
“Is it something important?” he asked nervously.
“Yes,” Lois replied seriously, the look in her still-dark eyes still worried. “Something I probably should’ve told you a long time ago. But it just…it’s been difficult to make the decision. Now’s not the best time for either of us, but tomorrow...”
“I’d probably better go,” he said huskily. “Before… We both need some rest.”
Not like I’m going back to sleep anytime soon, she thought. “Even if it makes me sound even more like a scarlet woman … does it make you feel any better to know I don’t want you to leave?”
Her sad little chuckle was echoed by his own. “Yes and no. We both care about Richard, though. I guess this is the price of being the good guys, huh?”
“I can never claim to be one of those, especially these days,” Lois told him with a pained look he completely misunderstood. “And yes, I do … care … about Richard…but…”
“I know. You’re a better person than you think, Lois.”
She gave a soft snort of bitter amusement at that. Would I be an entirely awful person if I said I don’t care at all at this moment? That all I want is you? All I ever wanted was you? The yearning in her eyes was clear when she whispered back, “Actually, to be honest, I feel like I’m being more selfish than ever. And I wish I cared.”
He had no reply for that, just a longing look. “Goodnight, Lois,” he said as he rose awkwardly to leave.
It seemed like Lois would say something more, but she tore her gaze from him as he left.
After the hotel door closed, Lois sighed. Unable to help herself, she said it again, just to hear the words out loud. “I love you, Kal-El.”
And now I will spend the whole day at work worrying about reader reaction. *LOL* Enjoy your day, guys!