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"I can get home fine on my own," Lois said.

"I know you can," Clark said, continuing to escort her home.

"I barely even drank." She drank a lot. She'd been teaching Steve an important lesson about... something. He'd passed out right at the bar, which meant she'd won.

Her claims of sobriety were undercut when she stepped slightly wrong, had her heel land crooked to nearly give out beneath her. Not that it had the chance to, because Clark was there in an instant to catch her by the shoulders and hold her upright.

Very gentlemanly about it, too. He made it easy to forget that he was goddamn huge. Something about his posture, or the way he almost always stood at a distance. But then he did things like this, walked her home and offered his arm and generally acted unrealistically gallant. And the distance was gone, and all of a sudden he seemed like he'd doubled in height.

She took his arm only because the sidewalks were a mess, and she didn't want to risk damaging her heels. They were very nice. They were very expensive. They hurt like hell.

"I'm basically sober," she added.

"I see that."

She scowled up at him. The fact that she had to look up was irritating. Lois was, objectively, not a short women. And she was in heels. "You don't get to talk."

"No?" He always played so innocent. She could see right through it, though. A glint in his eye that his glasses couldn't hide.

"No," she confirmed. "Because you didn't even drink."


"You never drink," she added.

"Also true," he agreed.

"You know what I think?" She was just prodding at him now, really. Trying to get a rise out of him. He could be fun, sometimes, when he took the bait.

"No," he said, "but I'm sure you'll tell me."

She narrowed her eyes at him. "Don't try to get smart with me, Smallville."

Clark smiled. It was a good smile, even she had to admit that. Kind of goofy in the earnestness of it, but that could be okay every now and again. "Never. I'm always stupid with you."

"I can tell." Lois paused in front of a puddle, mulling over whether or not she could make it over. Expensive shoes. Didn't want to ruin them. Clark waited while she squinted suspiciously at the water. Then, without warning, he hooked his arm around her waist, lifted her just high enough off the ground that she didn't touch the water when he walked them past it. Then he was back to his gentlemanly offering of his arm, and they were walking like nothing had happened. People kept picking her up, lately. It was probably bad that she was getting used to it. "I... what was I saying?"

"You were telling me what you think."

It couldn't just be country boy strength. Drinking a lot of milk could only do so much. He hadn't done farm work in years. He had to have been working out. "About what?" Who was he even trying to impress? He didn't wear enough short-sleeved shirts to be working out that much.

"About my teetotaling ways."

"Yes!" She caught the loose thread of the conversation, lost hold of all the others. "I think... you're a lightweight. You don't want people to know that you can't hold your liquor."

"You got me."

"I knew it."

"Of course," he said, "I could also be a recovered alcoholic."

"No," she said, without even having to think about it. Wrong personality, didn't have any of the usual tells. Would have mentioned it the first time someone offered him a drink. Wouldn't smile so much when they did.


"You're not that interesting," she said, because that felt like a concise summation of her research.

"Compelling evidence."

"Yes," she agreed. "That's what I've got that you don't."


"Good instincts."

"Is that all."

Lois paused. "Maybe a few other things."

"I'll have to take your word for it."

Almost at her building. She stopped again, and so did he, always so careful to follow her lead. "Hey, Kent." She turned toward him, grabbed him by the tie. "C'mere." She pulled him closer, and for the briefest of moments he hesitated. Eyes searching her own for... something. What a ridiculous shade of blue. There was blue, and then there was blue. How had she never noticed that, shining like blue chrome behind his lenses? Whatever it was he'd been trying to find, whether or not he'd found it, he gave in and let her close the gap between them.

It was just supposed to be a quick kiss. A peck, really. Kid stuff. Just to see. She was curious, was all. She was allowed to be curious. Curious was basically her job.

But the instant their lips touched he was kissing her back, nothing quick about it, not even tentative. She hadn't meant to close her eyes, but she did. Her grip on his tie tightened, he was softer and gentler than he had any right to be, tasted better than he had any reason to. Nothing touching but their mouths, but the way they touched had her wanting to wrap her arms around his shoulders to fit herself against him. She couldn't help a small sound when his hands cupped her face, and it made no sense that his hands were so soft, that nothing about him came even close to hurting. Not gentle in the way of chaste things, desire was wound all through him, the heat of it as constant and unassuming and persistent as the sun.

Who the hell had taught this boy how to kiss, and why on Earth had they ever stopped?

They separated only because she needed to breathe, and she still debated whether it was worth it.

Carefully, he extracted his tie from her hand, kissed the backs of her knuckles like a consolation prize. There was a bittersweetness to his smile, if it could be called a smile at all. "Goodnight, Lois."

She blinked. "Goodnight?" That didn't seem right.

"I'll see you tomorrow."

She looked at the door to her building, which was right there. She looked back at Clark. "Really?" She couldn't help the censorious disbelief that crept into her tone, but it only made him smile more.

"It's late," he said softly, "and you're drunk."

"I am not," she said, indignant.

"You're drunk," he repeated, more firmly. "You should go to bed."

"So should you."

For a split second he grinned, then forced himself not to. "Lois." He adjusted his glasses and tried to look stern. He wasn't very good at it.

"I'm not that drunk," she added, taking a different tack.

"I'm sure you're not." He didn't believe her. He ran his thumb along her jaw with what could only have been affection, she could think of no other word for it. "Which means you'll feel the same after you've slept on it."

"No it doesn't." She didn't know how this had turned into her arguing with him. "Have you met me? I'm fickle."

He let himself grin this time, and the effect was dazzling. "True," he admitted. "Still."

"There's a fine line between chivalrous and stupid, Kent."

"I know. I live there. Now you know where to find me when you're sober." He kissed her forehead, and the sweetness of it irritated her.

"Fine." She crossed her arms over her chest, a stubborn upward tilt to her chin. "But don't come crying to me because you're sad about missing out. You had your chance."

"Goodnight, Lois."

By the time she reached her apartment's balcony to look down at the city street, he was gone. Even though she could have sworn it hadn't taken her that long.

She sighed as she looked up at the night sky. Good men were a menace.