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Showers and Pancakes

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Two hours in the shower. What was he trying to do, beat her record?

Lois waited and waited, intentionally scooting away out of sight when he came out, and waited some more before knocking on his bedroom door.

Then she knocked again.

Usually Lois said a quick unmeaning hellooooo and walked in before uttering the last syllable.

Clark had a habit of changing lightning fast. No matter her timing she never caught him with his pants even half way down, and it became one of the things she did. Barge in. Her instincts told her Clark had some super speedy trick up his sleeve and she was curious.

Except, Lois didn’t want to play or make jokes or tease him.

So she knocked, and kept knocking, determined not to be all… Lois.

That didn’t work.

There was nothing. No answer.

Her knuckles stopped short of an angry bang. She almost called out his name, but if he’d wanted her around he would’ve—

—his door slowly inched open.

She entered as if stepping around booby traps. Part of the fun of being around Clark was making him angsty. Lois couldn’t explain why taking over his space delighted her. Maybe it was because testing that perfect Midwestern hospitality also inevitably made him burst out a grin. And she liked looking at it, that face he made, all exasperation and joy.

Clark was not smiling, not moving, not even blinking. He leaned against the wide-open window in the dark, staring out. Grey clouds obscured the stars and kept the world outside in an eerie perpetual darkness. He was unaffected by the bitter cold, standing there with only his icy white exhales to indicate he was alive.

This was Clark’s thing, looking longingly out windows, but he wasn’t stargazing, as was his way in the barn. His eyes were cast forward, towards the quiet nothingness of the fields. Not even the moon was out. She could barely make him out. Despite taking up most of the space, he was gone, lost, searching for Jonathan in his memories.

The wind blew in hard and loud, unstoppable from the moment she entered. The door behind her slammed shut. No way the door opened on its own. That would mean Clark had somehow opened it and darted back to the window. He wasn’t out of breath, and though a few strands scattered across his forehead, his hair remained in place.

She stood across from him, leaning against the pane, arms crossed over her chest to block the chill.

The view was a little better from her side. On clear, warm nights a billion stars shined down on Kansas. She’d never really cared about that sort of thing, having become jaded to the wonders of the world because she knew her father would just take her away.

Then she came to Smallville and lived with this boy who held a quiet fascination with space, with the sky, neck arched upward to the sky almost always.

Lois wasn’t about to talk about the weather, and she couldn't tell him he could talk to her about Mr. Kent or tell him she’d be there when he was ready. Time would heal his pain and yadda-yadda.

For starters, she didn’t believe in any of that sentimental stuff. She agreed with Clark’s tactic. Shove it down. Shove it waaaay down.

Secondly, the General had dragged her to a few funerals, military funerals with synchronized open fire and little to no real expressions. She’d hated them since.

Third, they weren’t exactly friends. Or, at least, not close friends.

Lois went with the truth, harsh though it was, lodged in her throat to the point she wasn’t sure she was talking. “I really miss him.”

She spent the last few months stuck to Mr. Kent’s hip working on his campaign. They must have shared a million coffees.

Clark didn’t look at her, but he visibly reacted, moving just enough to give her hope. To make her less awkward.

There was a pattern and he wasn’t following it. Lois would say something, something borderline mean, a comment on something he’d say or do, and he’d respond with something equally nasty or sarcastic. Then they’d verbally spar until a truce was called, which didn’t mean much between them. They liked to spar.

“Do you need a sweater?” He asked, voice gruff, like he hadn’t spoken in weeks. Maybe he hadn’t.

Hell yeah, she needed a sweater, but he was open to conversation and the nonchalant thing was working.

“No, no. Thanks. What about you?” Stupid question. Another intriguing baffling fact about Clark Kent was that he was perfect in any situation. Rain, snow, whatever. All he needed was that red shirt and blue jacket combo.

Lois held in her grumble at herself and went on for his sake. “Do you need anything?”

“I’m good, Lois.” He finally turned to look at her. She was pushing through the awkwardness. “Thanks.”

Lois nodded, noticing a leaf that must have blown in without him noticing lodged in his hair. She came forward and removed it. “You don’t need anything besides a comb.”

Her fingers waded through his hair, the tenderness of her touch nearly unbearable.

“Got it all?” He asked, careful not to show her how much he appreciated her presence.

“Are you kidding? I’m gonna have to set up another bath.”

“I’ll take my chances.”

“Wow. Did… Clark Kent just attempt levity?”

Instinct took over his grief and he answered almost instantly. “Did Lois Lane get a new dictionary?

“Jerk.” She punched his hard arm. “But you get a free pass.”

“Oh, do I?”

“Yes!” She clapped twice, a new thought dawning on her. “And some pancakes. And beer.”

Clark was not expecting that. “Pancakes and beer?”

“Extra sweet. Extra butter. Your dad would yell at me when I made them.”

Lois turned on her heel and left his bedroom, excited for the next project at hand. Everyone danced around Jonathan's death a lot now. Like he was a dangerous flame, get too close and the burn hurt too much. Lois evoked his memory out of pure joy. He missed that.

Clark watched her in disbelief, deducing her skills in the kitchen weren’t actually terrible. The recipes and measurements were all correct. It was her impatience. Lois wanted everything done fast, and she did everything at once. Clark did some adjusting so their pancakes didn’t get burned, snatching snacks out of her hands (she decided on blueberry and banana, plus whip cream), moving her an inch here and inch there so she wouldn’t burn herself or a finger. She liked to eat as she cooked and she did not pay attention.

“You’re getting better,” he said as she set the last fluffy pie onto a set of a dozen.

“Well. Grief makes me work a little harder. Here.” She pulled out two beers from the fridge and opened his with a quick, strong twist of her fingers, leaving behind a sugary fingerprint. “I stacked up a couple weeks ago. They’re my favorite now, too.”

Clark hadn’t thought of food in weeks, hadn’t bothered to look in the fridge.

“To pancakes and beer,” she said.

Clark smiled. His dad would say something about not being 21 yet. “To pancakes and beer.”

He tasted the sweetness, then the beer washed down.

Lois served herself one fluffy pancake with everything on it (“What about ice cream?!” To which Clark responded, “No, Lois.”) The rest were for him.

“I won’t be able to eat all this, Lois.”

“Please. I’ve seen you eat your own hand, Clark.” She poured the maple syrup over his pancakes. “Extra sweet, right?”

Clark meant this with all honesty. “Okay, where is Lois Lane and what have you done to her?”

“I’m telling you. Take advantage now. I know you’ll go back to ignoring the hell out of me—I mean, everyone. Everyone. And lock yourself in your room.” The point if it all was not to get too heavy, except she couldn’t help it. “Sometimes it feels like you’re not even here.”

Clark wasn’t there. He locked his bedroom door and sped out. Helped where he could, and if he wasn’t out saving people, he was keeping the farm up and running. He was so tired he could’ve fallen asleep on her lap right then and there.

“I’ve been working a lot, Lois.”

Now that she thought about it, she couldn’t pin point the exact last time she saw him. “Just... let us know you’re alive? I miss you - we miss you. All of us. Here. In this town, this place. You know what I mean.”

Clark looked at her a long while, realizing only when he said it how much he meant it. “I miss you too, Lois.”

That’s when it hit him. If she stayed in his life she would always be in danger. The best thing for her would be to leave him, leave Smallville.

With that thought the momentary relief of her spontaneity vanished.

Lois watched his face darken with thoughts she couldn’t figure out. “I know this is a dumb question you’ve been asked a hundred times, but are you okay?”

He finished his beer and got to his feet. “I’ll save these for tomorrow. Thanks, Lois. I’ll be around more, I promise.”

Lois hugged him before he could go on, startling him. Clark hesitated, but soon his body slacked and his hands spread the length of her back, bringing her up to the tip of her toes.

That always impressed Lois. His strength. On top of chugging several unfortunate jerks across an alley, it won him his senior championship game and a scholarship to her would-be alma mater, Metropolis U.

But he turned that down long before Mr. K passed.

Add that to the list of Clark Kent mysteries.

Neither let go. It felt too good, being held and cared for. His powers focused beyond his control and he heard her heartbeat beat hard against his chest. He loved that sound, the sound of life. Warm, close, dear life.

“I… I hurt everyone… everyone…”

Lois smiled against his neck, her soul crushing inside of her. “How can you possibly hurt anyone? You’re the sweetest guy I know. He wouldn’t just leave five pancakes on his plate after I slaved over the stove making them, would he?”

His laugh vibrated through her, though small and sad, she loved that sound. Loved when she could make it happen. Lois pulled away to look at his face.

“No, he wouldn’t,” he smiled, sitting back down.

“So while you finish that. It’s my turn in the shower.”

“Hold on. I could fix the heater up. I used up all the hot water.”

“Of course you did. Hurry it up. Chop chop.”

Clark shook his head. “That’s the only reason you did this, didn’t you?”

“Absolutely.”