Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
The titles are from the hymn "For the Beauty of the Earth"
Sequel to For the Beauty of Each Hour
A Joyful Hymn of Praise, Part 3
His big body was warm against hers, and in sleep he looked very relaxed, his mouth slightly open, his features slack. His face appeared more youthful than she'd seen him look in a long time. Between his job as a reporter and his second job as a superhero, he never seemed to slow down during the daytime, let alone relax. Of course, he did his best to make everyone think he was goofy, clumsy, and slightly incompetent, but Chloe Sullivan knew that was just a cover for the moments when he had to disappear, so he could fly out a window and save someone.
She didn't move away from him, even though he was totally unconscious. In fact she took the opportunity to move a little closer, just to enjoy the sensation of his body so near hers. Clark Kent wasn't a cuddler, and although they'd been having an affair for months, he'd never fallen asleep and stayed in her bed before.
Clark was a gentleman, who wouldn't dream of just showing up at her door and announcing that he wanted to screw. So he took her out a few nights a week, to a restaurant or a movie, then brought her back to her Metropolis apartment and politely waited to be invited in.
Of course she invited him in, every single time, because she was incapable of saying no to that look in his eyes. And every single time, he made love to her, then rolled out of bed, pulled on his clothes, and left.
Tonight he must have been more tired than usual, because his eyes had drifted shut after they'd had sex, and the next thing she knew he was snoring. She was amused to discover that a superhuman alien snored, but snore he most certainly did. It was a light buzzing sound, not at all annoying, but it was beyond any shadow of a doubt a snore.
She knew he'd had an exhausting day, between their editor Perry riding his ass to turn in a story and several big emergencies he'd dealt with as Superman. So she wasn't really surprised he was tired. But the fact that he'd lowered his guard enough to fall asleep in her bed-- that surprised her.
He was still trying very hard to pretend that they were friends, not lovers, and it was obvious that as far as he was concerned, the fact that they had sex several times a week meant nothing. He obviously thought of her as nothing more than a fuck buddy. Not that Clark would ever use the phrase, but it was quite evident that was what he thought.
He'd done his best to stay detached from humanity, but even though he wasn't human, he was a man, and he couldn't live without physical contact forever. He needed release as much as any human did. And he apparently thought she was a safe outlet because she knew his secret. With her, he didn't have to worry about giving away his secret in a weak moment-- like last week, when he'd accidentally set the comforter on fire with his eyes, or a couple of weeks before that, when he'd inadvertently split the headboard in two-- and he didn't have to worry about hurting her feelings, or having to come up with a lame excuse if he heard a disturbance and needed to fly out the window.
She was a sanctuary for him, a place where he could find release for his physical needs. But she didn't fool herself that she really meant anything to him, beyond friendship. They were close friends, the same as they'd always been. But he never touched her hand at the office, never gave her a warm, secret smile, never let on by the slightest look that there was anything between them.
She was unpleasantly certain that was because there wasn't anything between them. At least not on his end.
And not on her end either, damn it. She enjoyed having sex with him, because he was a sexy guy and a thoughtful lover. But that was it. She was a normal, healthy woman, and she enjoyed having sex with a gloriously beautiful man. That was all she felt for him.
The fact that she couldn't get to sleep on the nights he didn't come to her, the fact that she often tossed and turned until two in the morning, didn't mean a damn thing.
She reached out and flipped the lamp off, then moved a little closer to him, so that her bare back was pressed up against his bare front. He stirred just a bit and draped a heavy arm over her, pressing his face into her hair and murmuring softly in his sleep.
She closed her eyes and fell asleep almost instantly.
Sometime in the middle of the night, she awakened to the sound of him moaning.
"Clark," she whispered. She was pretty sure he was having a bad dream, because he was stirring restlessly. She rolled over just a bit and stroked his cheek with her hand. "Clark. Hey, Clark. It's okay."
He jerked in his sleep, his head rolling on the pillow, and moaned again. "No."
The idea that this incredibly powerful man, quite likely the most powerful being on Earth, was emotionally vulnerable enough to have nightmares shocked her. Somehow she'd never imagined that Clark, who was superfast, superstrong, and physically invulnerable, had anything to fear.
But maybe, she thought slowly, he had more to fear than anyone else. He'd taken more responsibility onto his shoulders than anyone on the planet, so it stood to reason he had a lot more to worry about.
"Take it easy," she murmured again, stroking his hair softly.
He moaned again, and then his hand jerked in a convulsive movement, striking her arm lightly. It was only a glancing blow, but being hit by Clark, even softly, was a lot like being hit by a sledgehammer. She yelped in surprised pain and pulled her arm back.
He jolted violently, and then he was sitting up and flipping on the light. "Chloe," he whispered. She was cradling her arm in her other hand, and he took her arm into his big hands and looked at it carefully, presumably x-raying it, then looked up into her eyes. "Are you all right?"
She nodded. "I'm fine."
"I'm sorry." His eyes were wide with what looked like panic. He stared at her a moment longer, then turned away, sat on the edge of the bed, and started yanking on his clothes, almost in superspeed.
"Hey," she said, a little hesitantly. "You don't have to go, you know."
"I can't stay." His voice was harsh. "I might hurt you again. When I'm sleeping, I could..." His voice trailed off.
She stared at the rigid expanse of his broad back, while every idea she'd ever had about their relationship and his feelings for her shattered apart in her head, then reassembled in entirely new patterns.
"You always leave after we have sex because you're afraid of hurting me in your sleep," she said softly.
The honed, powerful muscles in his back flowed and rippled as he pulled a blue t-shirt on. "I leave because I don't have any reason to stay," he said shortly. "This isn't about love, Chloe. It's just sex."
Earlier in the evening, she would have believed him without question. But now she couldn't forget the look of panic in his eyes when he thought he'd hurt her. "No," she said, with more certainty. "You're afraid, because you're not in control of yourself when you're sleeping, and you know it."
He stood up and stalked across the room with angry, restless steps, apparently searching for his shoes. "Believe what you want," he snapped. "It doesn't matter. Either way, I'm not staying."
"Clark." She stood up and walked after him, stark naked. He spun around to face her, and lust immediately began to burn in his green eyes. She saw him lower his lashes in an attempt to veil the reaction, and she put her arms around his waist and leaned into him. "Don't go."
"I have to go." The words sounded like they were being dragged out of him, one by one. "I hurt your arm, Chlo. I could hurt you a lot worse than that. I have nightmares almost every night, and when I do..."
"You thrash around. Yeah, I noticed." She tightened her arms around him, as if she could protect him. "Did it ever occur to you that maybe you have the nightmares because you're all alone, Clark?"
He still felt very stiff and unyielding in her arms. "I wasn't all alone tonight."
"You weren't really aware you'd fallen asleep in my apartment," she pointed out. "You just snoozed out. But if you go to sleep in my bed, and you know I'm there, and that you're not alone any more, maybe you won't have any bad dreams."
He hesitated. She risked a glance upward and saw hope in the depths of his eyes. For the first time she realized how terribly lonely he was. Having sex a few nights a week was no substitute for a genuine intimate relationship.
And he'd obviously been too afraid of hurting her to risk a real relationship with her.
"Come back to bed, Clark," she said softly. "Please. Just give it a try. Just this one night, okay?"
He closed his eyes, looking as painfully tempted as if she'd offered him an apple in the Garden of Eden. "You'd be taking a terrible risk, Chlo. If I thrash around too much, I could break your bones. Maybe even crush your skull."
She pressed her face into his chest. "For you," she whispered, "I'm willing to take the risk. But I honestly don't believe you'll really hurt me." She lifted her head and brushed a kiss over his throat. "Now come back to bed."
He hesitated, then let her pull his clothes off... and allowed her to lead him back to bed.
When Chloe woke up, light was streaming in through the window. She felt Clark pressed up against her, his arm over her, his nose in her hair, and the nearness of his big, powerful body warmed her, inside and out. She snuggled up against him even closer, enjoying the feel of his body's automatic response. And then her eyes fell on the alarm clock on the bedside table.
Clark stirred and opened one eye. "Whassa matter?"
"It's way past time for me to get up." She managed to get out from beneath his arm and rolled to the side of the bed. "Damn it. I must have forgotten to set the alarm last night."
"Mmmm." He rolled over onto his back and stretched luxuriously. "I wonder what could possibly have distracted you."
She growled, trying not to look at the sight of his chest muscles rippling and bulging as he stretched. The last thing she needed was yet another distraction. "You're in just as big trouble as I am, buddy. You'd better get your lazy ass out of bed."
"I might be in just as big trouble," he said lazily. "If I didn't have superspeed, anyway."
"Some of us don't have superspeed, Wonderboy." She cursed again and headed for the shower at top speed. Top Chloe speed, which was a lot slower than top Clark speed. But it was the best she could do.
"Hey." His voice sounded more serious, and she turned around at the bathroom door.
"What's up, Clark?"
"About the whole nightmare thing..." He gazed at her seriously. "Maybe you were right. I didn't have any bad dreams last night. But I can't guarantee I'll never have bad dreams again. And if I thrash around..."
She looked at his anxious eyes, and then walked back across the room and sat down on the edge of the bed. "Have you ever fallen out of bed while you were sleeping, Clark?"
He blinked at the apparent non sequitur. "Uh, no. I mean, not since I was about three."
"Why is that, do you suppose?"
He stared at her, his forehead wrinkling. "I'm not sure, actually."
"Because subconsciously, you know where the edge of the bed is. Your subconscious mind stops you from rolling off the edge during the night." She reached out and patted his hand reassuringly. "And once you get used to having me in bed with you, your subconscious will know I'm there. You won't hit me, Clark. I promise."
He closed his eyes. "You could be right, I guess. But I'm still scared I'm going to hurt you somehow."
"I know." She squeezed his hand. "But you can't spend the rest of your life alone, Clark."
"I thought I could." He spoke very quietly. "Things weren't so bad the way they were, Chloe. I mean, they weren't perfect, but they weren't awful, either. I was getting by okay."
"You deserve a whole lot better than just getting by," she said gently. "If I'd known you were afraid of hurting me, I would have made you stay a lot sooner. But I figured you just wanted to be fuck buddies."
He opened his eyes and met her steady gaze. "I wanted you to think that, Chlo. I meant for you to think that. But the truth is..." He turned his hand over and laced his fingers through hers. "You mean a whole hell of a lot more to me than that."
"Yeah." She remembered the way he'd curled around her while he slept, the slow, rhythmic sound of his breathing, the soft noises of contentment he'd made in his sleep, and she smiled. "I know that now. So will you stay here again tonight?"
He was silent for a long moment, looking down at their intertwined hands. At last he spoke.
"Chlo," he said, very softly, "I'll stay here as long as you'll have me."
Read the sequel, For Each Perfect Gift.