She watches through half closed eyes as the remaining pearls of shampoo laced water, twist and swirl down the drain. The water blasts down on her at near scalding temperature, the steam rising over the glass like a tea kettle. Clark never complains about her taking up all the hot water, her few arctic adventures forever feeding an aversion to cold, and she knows her never feels the difference anyway.
Watching as the final sudsy bead of water falls from her reddened skin, she shuts the showerhead off, opens the door and reaches for the towel perched on the tension bar. She sighs loudly as she vigorously shakes any reaming dampness from her hair, the thinning towel making a valiant effort against her.
She tosses the blue terrycloth on the floor, smirking to herself that she wears through them so fast. Nearly all of their towel sets end up having one or two missing, and Clark never seems to notice. Sometimes she is glad he can be such a guy about things.
Stepping out from the stall she scuffs her feet gently on the bathmat, before moving on to the dampened tile. The fog is so thick around her it reminds her of the month she'd spent in London, wandering the docks on autumn nights, seeing the world for the first time.
Wiping condensation from the mirror, she blinks at her reflection briefly, before checking her skin and pores. Sometimes she feels as if she's still not used to this face. To this body. Sometimes it still feels as if it's all some crazy dream and she's back in that dam trying to...
The fog coats the mirror again, taking with it her train of thought, and she wipes at it once more. She can hear him snoring softly beyond the door, and wonders how late he'd made it in last night. She hadn't heard the window click closed, nor had she felt his familiar weight settling into the bed. But when she rolled over this morning, there he was, sleeping soundly.
He'd looked so peaceful she wanted to kiss him. As if some of that peace could be transferred through the sensation. But he was probably tired from some of the late night heroics he had to pull off, so she left him to sleep.
Opening the bottom drawer of the cabinet under the sink, she reaches for her hair dryer and plugs it in. The noise will most likely wake him up, and he'll lightly tap on the door, before peeking his head inside and mumbling a "good morning" through a yawn. To which she will respond the same, and he'll shuffle in still half asleep, and kiss her on the cheek before taking his turn in the shower.
She stares at the hair dryer in her hand, smiling to herself at the comfortable ease of their shared domestication, before clicking it on.
The first time Clark noticed something was different about her, was nearly a year later, when she had finally gotten the courage to cut her hair. She'd never been a fan of any length past the shoulders, and the brunette mane she had been struck with stretched long inches beyond her tolerance.
She'd caught his longer than normal stare out of the corner of her eye, briefly wondered if he'd slipped into x-ray mode, and allowed the possibility he thought it was a wig.
"Something got your eye Smallville?" She asked, finding that she still wasn't used to calling him such, even after months of forcing herself to. "It's only hair. Everyone except billionaires and old people have it."
And he'd balked for a second, like usual, whenever she'd verbally smack him upside the head. Then he opened his mouth for a rebuttal, stopped when he couldn't find the words, and finally ended up saying "It's different. It's like..."
Like hers, she knew he wanted to say.
Like mine, she thought to herself, like it always used to be.
"It's gorgeous," she replied with a smirk. "Don't be jealous that my follicle salvation looks far better than that farm boy shag you insist on having."
That made him smile, and shake his head, and finally drop the scrutinizing stare that had begun to make her uncomfortable. She felt as if she wanted to tell him everything when she caught him looking at her in such a way.
"What's wrong with my hair?" He asked.
"I'd give you a laundry list," she replied with a grin, moving past him, and out the door. "But I've got a deadline."
She'd felt his eyes on her as she walked away, far longer than any normal man could have kept her in sight.
Clark knocks lightly on the door, and she barely hears it over the dryer blasting in her ear. His head peeks in, just like predicted, but she doesn't turn around. Rather, just smiles at him through the mirror. He shuffles in, eyes still drooping with sleep, and pajama pants slung well below his waistline.
"Morning," he says, stifling a yawn.
She doesn't reply, her arm waving back and forth across her head, the heat slowly singing her hair dry. Her eyes flutter shut, as his hand slowly traces across her stomach, before wrapping around her completely. Sighing contently, she eases back into his embrace, as he drapes his other arm across her and lightly kisses her cheek.
"Where did you go last night?" She asks.
"Mexico City," he mumbles into her, careful to avoid the wave of heat still moving back and forth. "Earthquake. A lot of people were trapped."
Nodding her reply, she takes a few more seconds to enjoy his touch, before shrugging him off. He gasps playfully in shock, and she aims the dryer at his face, causing him to stumble back a step. She sees his incredulous stare reflected in the mirror, and she grins widely. A second passes and he can't help but return the curvature of her lips.
"Time to wash up Smallville," she says playfully. "You smell."
He shakes his head and laughs lightly, before placing another small kiss on the side of her face, and finally moves into the shower. The last of the steam vaporizes as the last remnants of hot water turn to cold, and rather than yelp at the temperature difference he begins to hum.
When she's finally done with her hair and face, she walks over to the shower stall, and taps on the door. Clark is washing his hair and she keeps tapping until he rinses the soap from his eyes. She kisses the glass, the moisture keeping her lip print nicely, and smiles once more before turning and exiting the bathroom.
When Clark walks into the kitchen just minutes later, in a crisp blue shirt and no tie, she has a cup of coffee, two creams and lots of sugar, already waiting for him. She nibbles half-heartedly on a blueberry muffin, as she watches him make eggs and bacon without ever turning the stove on.
They sit across from each other, eating quietly, both ignoring the radio squawking in the background when Clark's head suddenly snaps up.
"What is it?" She asks.
"Bank robbery," he replies. "Downtown. A security guard has been shot."
He looks down at his half eaten plate of food, then back to her apologetically. He doesn't want to leave it for her to clean up.
"Go," she says, and before she's even done pronouncing the vowel, he's already out the window and off to save the day.
Looking down at his dirty dishes she chuckles softly to herself. Somewhere a man lay dying on the floor of a bank, and she knows he still feels bad that he left her to clean up after him.
She thinks that if she loved him any more, they might want to consider surgery for getting attached at the hip.
The easiest thing to remember, was having to continually spell incorrectly. Lois, despite trying her hand at investigative reporting, a field that required a minimal grasp on the English language at the very least, had never really bothered to look in a dictionary. Or if she had, it never stuck. The Inquisitor may have been a rag, but spelling errors were something she found her new ass readily getting chewed out for.
Still, it was nowhere near the pressure she had faced at the Planet. And despite the fact that most of her articles consisted of alien head babies and crop circles, seeing her name (what she slowly began to accept as her name) on a front page byline every other day was a good thing. At the time she kept telling herself that the Inquisitor could have been just as good a stepping stone as the Planet.
Lois was a reporter like Chloe was a reporter.
A part of her had been grateful that her cousin had gotten the bug, so that when she fell back into old habits, such a sudden focus in her career change wouldn't raise quite so many eyebrows. Even though she thought that wanting to be a reporter like she had been before, would have been a great tribute for the deceased, that little lie of omission would have proven to be too much work along with so many other things she found herself having to remember.
Getting used to the body itself wasn't completely difficult. Sure, Lois had always been much taller in stature, and getting used to the legs that seemed to go on forever wasn't exactly a walk through the park. For months she felt like a baby colt taking its first awkward steps, but eventually it came together naturally. And sometimes her arms would knock things off of her desk, or she'd find her hand slamming into things, because the extra reach was there but subtle enough to keep forgetting. Still, Lois had been somewhat of a klutz, and it did seem to help sell the whole experience more.
The hardest thing to remember, was continually having to realize that she no longer knew Clark's secret. That whenever he came up with a lame excuse for his actions or whereabouts, she had to bite down a clever comeback or comment, and try and look like she bought it. It was especially difficult when his excuses had gotten particularly hard to swallow. She could barely remember a time when she didn't know better. When she'd actually believed such lies. Clark had the hero thing down sure, but he never did get any better at lying.
Other things, little things, like the relentless teasing of Clark and calling him Smallville all the time took getting used to. But eventually she fell into that like a movie role she never could escape.
At the office Jimmy sits on her desk, trying to talk to her about the mayor's little snafu the previous day, in which he'd slipped in a puddle and broken his tailbone. He has a picture of the poor man mid-splat, and the look on his face is nothing short of hilarious, but all she gives him is a restrained chuckle. Hoping it's enough for him to get the hint that she needs her time for other things, like finally proofreading her article on the newly proposed police budget.
He continues on about the photo that Perry will never run, pure Inquisitor material he'd say, before she finally tells him she has work to do.
Jimmy's small feign of hurt reminds her of a time when that look would actually work on her, but she quickly forces it away with a heavy gulp of coffee.
Glancing at her watch she hopes Clark won't be late for the morning meeting. They don't have a clock to punch per say, but Perry is pretty insistent that all his staffers attend mandatory idea sessions.
She'd been too late to be sent out on the bank story herself, and that pisses her off the slightest bit. She's oddly selfish when it comes to a Superman piece. Anyone else writing about him almost feels like cheating, and god knows what that hack Belinda Blaire is going to write about Clark.
Chasing the thought away, she sighs and wonders what exactly is taking him so long. As bad as it sounds, it's only a bank robbery. It can't be more work than simply snatching all the bad guys' guns away at high speed, while simultaneously tossing them all into police custody.
She checks her watch again as sees that a whole minute has passed since she last looked.
It was going to be a long morning.
When she caught Clark looking at her with that familiar longing, the first thing she wanted to do was slap him, and scream at the sky for the sick cosmic joke she had suddenly found herself in.
He was finally looking at her in the way she'd always dreamed, and the twisted irony that it wasn't really her, at least not to him or the rest of the world, soured her stomach to nausea.
It was Lois, he looked at that way.
She was Lois and he had no idea.
Had it always been there? She wondered. Bubbling underneath the surface of all that verbal sparring, all that head butting, all that opposite ends of the spectrum that had always been Lois and Clark?
Had Clark secretly been hiding affection behind his constant avoidance of even being in the same room as her? She didn't know. She couldn't remember anything obvious presenting itself. No small little gesture somewhere that could have been read as "Hi, I'm Clark Kent, and I think I love Lois now!"
What was it about Clark that kept him falling for girls with `LL' for initials?
She hated the way it made her feel. Clark looking at her like that, thinking she was someone else. It broke her heart every single time, and she vehemently fought against her own natural draw to him.
So she teased more. Dated men she knew would irk him. Readily stomped on the smallest romantic gestures he would find the courage for.
It's not as if she didn't want it.
It's not as if she didn't want him.
But it was just so disgustingly unfair she wouldn't let herself fall for it.
She wasn't that cruel.
When Clark finally waltzes off of the elevator and into the office, the sigh of relief she didn't know she was holding, escapes her. He nods a good morning to anyone who greets him as he makes a beeline toward her, finally settling down at his desk just across from hers.
She smirks at him and asks "Complications?"
Moving forward at his beckon, his voice drops into a whisper, the force of his words tickles her ear.
"On top of the shooting," he begins. "They hid a bomb, in a lead box, in the safety deposit box vault. The bank manager didn't want me ripping them all out of the wall, so he made me use the keys. Even with super speed it took awhile to find it."
"You couldn't just use your x-ray vision to find the one box you couldn't see through?" She asks.
His jaw drops the slightest bit, and that makes her laugh softly at him. Guess he hadn't though of it. She pats his head in mocking affection, and he grins dumbly at her.
"Have I said `I love you' today?"
"Not yet," she replies, leaning in close enough to kiss. His hand comes up to embrace her cheek, when she pulls away at the last second, leaving him stranded with his eyes closed and mouth partly open.
"Save it for later Smallville," she laughs, moving away from his desk and toward the conference room. "We've got places to be."
When he stutters and blushes, and fumbles with those glasses, she knows he isn't playing up the bumbling reporter he turned Clark Kent into.
It's just what she does to him.
The cold lonely fact was that Chloe Sullivan had to die.
To save Lois.
To be the hero for once.
What she hadn't counted on was being too late. Lois was shot. Lois was dead. Lois was gone.
Something had broken inside of her in that moment, and she knew she had to use whatever meteor ability that festered away somewhere in her body, to try and save her cousin. Her family.
Of course it backfired.
It was Smallville after all.
When the brightest light she'd ever seen, ceased illuminating from that single tear, her eyes felt so heavy. As if it had drained every last bit of energy from her. She let the fatigue overcome her mind and body, and when she closed her eyes it felt like it was the last time.
It didn't matter. As long as Lois was okay, everything would have been worth it. But when she woke up, it had been her own lifeless face in front of her.
Saying her name had been an odd kind of reflex.
She'd shaken that shoulder, her shoulder, hoping blindly that it was all some kind of strange side effect of whatever it was she'd done.
The panic that overtook her soul when she realized that she'd failed was still so painful to remember.
She was too late.
Lois had been gone far too long.
And her own body lay limp and lifeless on damp concrete and she didn't know what the hell she was going to do.
She tried to make it happen again. She tried to switch them back. Tried until that alarm started blaring all over the place, and finally she just grabbed hold of her body, and made a run for it.
She was scared. She didn't know if it was permanent. She didn't know if she was really dead.
All she knew was that she couldn't tell anyone.
At lunch she munches on a big bite of a chicken Caesar salad, while Clark tackles a monstrous foot long hoagie. A sandwich she notes to herself, that seems entirely too large to be eaten safely in his suit. If he's not careful that dollop of mayo hanging off the end will end up on his shirt.
A car horn blaring at the intersection behind them grabs her attention briefly, and when she looks back to Clark he's wiping at his shirt vigorously in vain, trying to get the blob off the material.
She chuckles to herself, and mumbles something under breath about taking the boy off the farm, etc. Taking her own napkin and dipping it into the sprite she's nearly ignored, she tries her best to clear up the stain while he sits there looking helpless.
To the casual observer it must seem like she's taking care of a five year old, and knows Clark must feel that way, due to the color rising hotly in his cheeks.
She's about to tell him to be more careful, when both of their eyes widen at the sudden crash at the end of the block.
He's on his feet and at her side quicker than she can see, and she cranes her neck behind her to see some would be super criminal flying high above the asphalt, with a car grasped in a giant metal hand.
She feels the tug on her elbow and she looks back to him.
"I have to-," he begins.
"I know," she finishes.
"Be careful," they say in unison.
It's her turn to say "I love you," and he grins.
Then he's gone before she can blink, and she starts rummaging through her bag to find her notepad.
Superman makes his appearance above the streets ready to go toe to toe with Metropolis' newest costumed villain.
She starts scribbling down everything she sees.
Belinda Blaire wasn't getting this story.
Of course she caved when it came to Clark.
When his romantic gestures started to improve more and more over those few years when she fought against him whole heartedly.
When he felt enough confidence to let her in on his secret again, saying that anyone he ever kept it from under the guise of protection only resulted in loneliness. And then the floodgates of her heart came roaring open with his confession, and she fell for him harder than she ever had before.
Of course she knew she was a hypocrite in keeping her own earth shattering secret from him.
She wanted desperately to tell him. But as time wore on the moments of opportunity to confess had come along less and less.
So when Clark got on his knee that day, and held out the ring she wanted so desperately to take, the opportunity she spurned for too long was suddenly staring her right in the face.
The bomb she thought she was going to drop on him was nothing compared to the one he dropped on her.
"Will you marry me Chloe?" he asked.
He called her Chloe.
The yes on the tip of her tongue didn't come flying out like she thought it would. Instead all she could manage was some strange choked gasp.
Of course he knew, he being keeper to one of the biggest secrets ever, had recognized the one in her.
"You..." She started.
His eyes searched hers, looking far too deep, and smiled when he found whatever it was he was looking for.
"How long have you known?" She demanded, feeling suddenly defensive and sort of foolish.
"Awhile now," he replied. "I've had my suspicions for some time, but I couldn't be sure. Sometimes I'd look at you and just, I don't know, feel that familiarity between us."
"Why didn't you say anything?" She asked. "We've been together for... For..."
"I know a little something about having a deep, dark secret and wanting to keep it to myself," he said. "And I figured you'd tell me eventually."
The conversation felt very familiar, and she smiled sadly at that, knowing she never did.
"Maybe I had a hunch that the day I tried to give you a ring, you might open up, but I was afraid."
"You were afraid?" She asked almost ready to laugh at the absurdity of the statement.
"We've lied to each other for so long Chloe," he replied softly. "Me with my secret, and you with yours. I didn't want this," he stared intently at the ring. "To start off with that, so I confessed first. For once I told you first."
She couldn't help but feel her heart warm at him for that.
"You keep calling me Chloe," she whispered.
"You're still the same person."
"No I'm not," she quickly countered. "I'm really, really not her anymore Clark."
And she wasn't. Not after all this time. Not after she'd worked so hard. Chloe was, for all intents and purposes, dead. He had to understand that.
He stared at her intently. "Oh."
Calling the brief silence awkward would have been an understatement.
"Does that make you not want to ask me anymore?"
"Of course not," he was quick to say. "I love you. You know that don't you?"
"It's just... We've been through so much. With you as Chloe, or you as Lois, it doesn't matter to me, it's still you. I know it's weird. I know this is probably wrong somehow, but I don't care. I don't want to be alone anymore, and I know with all my heart, that you don't either."
She felt the tears fall before she ever knew they were there, took the ring from his hand, and pulled him from his knee so she could throw her arms around him.
"You've grown into such an amazing man Clark," she whispered into his shoulder.
Maybe she shouldn't have said yes for a million different reasons.
But she did.
Because the only reason that mattered, whether she was Chloe Sullivan or Lois Lane, was that she really, truly felt like herself when she was with him.
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