"So, what do you want to know?" he asked after a brief silence blanketed the room.

"Everything." The response was immediate.

"Okay," he said with a single nod. He scanned the room with his eyes as he thought about how to dive into the subject. "Where to begin? I guess...My name really is Clark Jerome Kent. It's the name I've always gone by. I never knew any different, until not long ago. I was given the name Kal-El at birth by parents who had to give me up to save my life. I was a foundling child, as you already know. But you don't know the true story, just the 'official' one we've always used. That is, that I was left on their porch."

He looked to Lois and found her nodding. "My parents found me one night after seeing what they thought was a meteor crash into a field not far from their home. They followed the streak of light and found a tiny spaceship with me inside of it. I was maybe two months old. They couldn't have children of their own, and they adopted me as their son. But they were terrified that someone would come and take me away from them...a government official or scientist or whatever. So they told everyone I'd been found on their doorstep and hid the craft that had brought me to Earth."

His heart was hammering in his chest. He'd never spoken of his origins to anyone before. "I grew up never knowing that I was Kryptonian. Oh, I knew I was different. All throughout my childhood, my powers started manifesting, one by one. I didn't know why. Neither did my parents. Together, we worked hard and got each one under control. But, I always had questions. Who was I? Where did I come from? Why hadn't my birth parents been with me? Why was I so different from everyone else? Would I ever stop gaining new powers? I was an outsider, even though I worked hard to fit in. I had friends, sure, but I was still alone, no matter where on Earth I traveled to. And then, I came to Metropolis. I started at the paper and met you. Suddenly, I felt like I really belonged to the world, like I could stop searching for a place to call home. And, through you, I found my calling...a way to save people in a more, shall we say, immediate way than just through investigations."

"Please," Lois said, blowing off his words.

"No, I'm being serious," he said earnestly. "You inspired the idea of Superman, simply by suggesting that I keep a spare change of clothing on hand. Suddenly, I had this vision of how I could use my powers to help people, while still protecting myself. My parents were always afraid that, if anyone ever found out about me, they'd lock me in a lab and dissect me like a frog. Trask proved them right. Only he didn't want to dissect me, he just wanted to kill me, because he was afraid of someone who was different than the rest of society. Anyway, when we had our first run in with him, here in Metropolis, and we found Bureau Thirty-Nine's warehouse, I was drawn to a small globe."

"The one Jack stole. The one with the hologram of the guy wearing Superman's S," Lois supplied.

"Yes. I took the globe and didn't tell you. It killed me inside, not to tell you, but...how could I have explained it? So, for a couple of months, it stayed hidden in a box on my self, gathering dust and stirring up even more questions in my mind. Until one night, it lit up and this hologram started talking to me. It was my father, Lois. Jor-El. He'd left me messages within the globe, giving me a brief overview of my history. That's when I learned that I'm from a planet called Krypton. My parents - Jor-El and Lara - sent me to Earth because their planet was on the verge of death. I barely escaped before the planet exploded, making me the only survivor that I know of, and creating Kryptonite in the same moment. For the first time in my life, I had answers to just a handful of the questions I'd always had. But those answers, as amazing as it was to have them, weren't enough. I have more questions than ever before, but no way of finding out the answers."

"I'm sorry, Clark," Lois said sympathetically, reaching across the couch to him.

He took her hand. "Thanks," he murmured, a little surprised at the contact.

He went on then, giving her a detailed account of his life. She asked only a few questions here and there, causing him to panic internally. A silent Lois on the outside usually meant a surging volcano within. It was only a matter of time before her anger would come spewing forth, rightfully burying him in fire and ash.

"I guess...that's all there is to tell," he said, nearly an hour and a half later. "If there's anything else you want to know, just ask. I'll always, always be honest with you, Lois. I swear."

"Is that so?" She arched an eyebrow at him, as if gauging how serious he was.

"Absolutely."

"So, if I asked you how many women you've dated..."

"Five," Clark immediately responded, not waiting for her to finish, eager to prove that he would be true to his word. "Lana in high school, Sarah in college for one semester, Veronica for one summer, Cathy just after I graduated for about, oh, I guess it was maybe four months, and you. And there were a handful of first dates in college that went so poorly that it never progressed to a second date."

Lois nodded thoughtfully. "Boxers or briefs?"

Clark blushed a little at the personal questions, but it was more than obvious that Lois wanted to ask embarrassing things, to see if he would answer her.

"Boxers," he replied, not meeting her gaze.

"The women you saw...how many did you..."

"None," he interrupted, looking away. "I've never been in love before. Until I met you."

"So, you're..." Her eyes widened in shock.

He didn't need her to elaborate. He knew exactly what she meant. "Yes."

"How does that even happen?" Lois wondered aloud. "You can have anyone in the world. You're...you. With your looks and the whole Superman celebrity thing..."

"I made a promise to myself, a long time ago, when I was first starting to become interested in women in 'that way.' I'd never give myself to anyone I didn't love, and who didn't know everything about me."

Lois shook her head in stunned silence. Then, a nervous chuckle. "You really are being completely honest with me, aren't you?" she asked in wonderment.

"I've always been honest with you, Lois. I just wasn't being completely open with you."

She crossed her arms and gave him a hard look. "Same difference."

"No, it's not," he said quietly. "Everything I've ever told you has been the truth, Lois. Every emotion I've shown has been real. Every time I've share a like or dislike with you, or expressed an opinion, or told you have much I love you, has all been the real me. I've never held back anything from you, except for Superman. And even then, you had to realize that he treated you differently from anyone else in the world."

"Well, yeah, sure. But I thought it was a perk of being his friend. And maybe even a sign that I might have had a chance with him, at least in the beginning."

"I couldn't help it," he replied. "I could never hide the way I feel about you. I told myself, over and over again, that it was safer for the both of us, if Superman kept you at an arm's distance. But then I'd see you at a rescue, or come to your aid, and..." He gestured vaguely as he sighed. "I'd be lost to you once again."

"Clark..." Lois stood up from the couch and paced the living room.

He waited, but she didn't continue. After a minute, he spoke again. "Look, Lois, I don't expect you to forgive me. Not now, not ever. Not if forgiveness is something you can't - or don't want to - give."

He got up and joined her where she stood near his refrigerator. With infinite caution, he put his hands on her shoulders, and the thought shot across his mind that, if Lois chose to reject him, this could well be the very last time he would ever be allowed to touch her in any way.

"Clark," she said again, slipping out of his touch. She walked several steps away from him. Without turning around, she started to speak. "I've done a lot of thinking over the last few days, ever since I first found out about your secret. At first, I was too angry to feel anything else but mad. Well, angry and afraid for you. It was weird to me, to be able to have this intense fury at you, but to also still love you and be so afraid that I might lose you. It took a lot of self reflection before I was able to make any sense of anything I was feeling."

"I'm sorry things happened the way they did," he offered.

"I'm not sure that I am," she replied, turning to face him. She retreated to the couch again and sat back down. "I'm not happy that you were as sick as you were. But being in a situation where I had to face the very real possibility that I might never see you again made me realize just how much I need you in my life. It forced me to take a good, hard look at our relationship. It gave me a lot of perspective. And I came to the conclusion that I really do want you in my life."

She patted the seat next to her on the couch and Clark warily sat as directed.

"Now, that doesn't mean I'm not mad. When Mayson first called me and told me that you were at her apartment, I saw red. I was absolutely furious with you, because I thought that you...I don't know. That I'd scared you off by asking you to marry me. That maybe you'd chosen her over me. That I'd find out that you didn't love me the way I thought you did."

"Lois! Of course I love you," Clark replied, shocked that she could ever doubt his feelings for her.

"I know," she said, nodding absently, "but in the heat of the moment..." She didn't finish the thought. "I wasn't thinking straight. I wasn't even going to go to her apartment when she first asked. It was only when she said that you were sick and that she was scared that I realized that something bigger than you having cold feet was going on. So, I went to her apartment, only to find out that you'd been lying to me about an entire side of your life almost since the moment I met you."

"I'll go to my grave regretting how that night played out," he said, hoping she knew how sincere he was being. "Everything about that night," he clarified.

"I'm sure," she said, appearing to be taking him seriously. "The next thing I knew, Dr. Klein was telling us that, short of a miracle, you'd die. And for the first time, it almost didn't matter, that you'd been lying to me for so long. I was still angry and hurt, but the fear that I'd lose you took over, and I had to set aside my instincts to yell and scream and cry and question you. I hate to admit it, but, in a way, it was a good thing that I couldn't go with my knee-jerk reaction. I think, had I been able to take out all of my anger and hurt on you that night, I would have said things that I would have regretted. You know my history with men, Clark."
"I do."

"It's hardened me in a lot of ways. Because of that, something like this...under normal circumstances, I wouldn't have thought twice about walking away from someone who'd hurt me so deeply. But...nothing about us or our situation is normal."

"You can say that again," Clark chuckled, feeling like maybe, just maybe, he still had a chance to save his relationship with Lois.

She laughed nervously in turn. "I mean, look at us. Look at our story. Unwilling partners at work - well, I was unwilling, at any rate - who somehow became best friends, then a couple. And then me finding out the two men I've fantasized most about in my life were actually the same person."

"You fantasized about me? Uh, I mean, the Clark me?" he couldn't help but to tease.

She gave him a smirk. "Don't let it go to your head, Farm Boy."

He out his hands up in a gesture of mock surrender. That made her laugh again, but this time, there was no nervousness in it, only pure amusement and some relief. But after an all too short moment, her features went back to being serious again.

"Most of all, not being able to take out my anger on you made me realize how much I love you. I'm not saying that I can just magically forget everything that's happened between us. But what I can promise is that I'll do my damnedest to not let it affect us as we move forward and put this all behind us."

"So...you're giving me another chance?" It seemed too good to be true.

She took a deep breath and slowly let it out. "Maybe I'm crazy for this but...yeah, I am."

"I promise you, Lois. You won't regret it. The last thing I want to do is to hurt you, Lois. I never want to make you doubt my feelings for you. Because I love you too much for that. I respect you too much for that. The truth is, I'm glad you know everything. I'm glad I don't have to be afraid anymore. Afraid that you'll find out and hate me for it. Afraid that I'd never find the courage to tell you. None of this happened the way I would have chosen, but I'm glad Mayson called you that night."

"You know, somewhere, in the back of my mind, even as everything was unfolding, I'll admit that part of me was surprised you still saw Mayson at all. I mean, I knew you were still friendly with her as Clark, but I didn't think you still...saw her."

Clark shrugged. "I don't. Not really. I've had a couple of run-ins with her as myself, all of which you know about. Mostly stuff dealing with our investigations. And a couple of times when I checked in with her after the attempt on her life. I see her far more often as Superman. Again, all in a professional capacity, like I told you about in the hospital. I didn't really enjoy seeing her while in the suit in the beginning. I felt...exposed. Like a ridiculous fraud. She knew who I really was. I was always afraid that she might...I don't know. Accidentally call me by the wrong name or something. Do something that might give away my true identity. Plus, it felt just plain weird, to be meeting on friendly terms with her after her very public mistrust and distaste for Superman."

"And what about me?" Lois asked thoughtfully.

"What about you?"

"Don't you worry that I might give you away somehow?"

"No," he replied confidently and without hesitation. "I know I can trust you. More than that even. I can't really explain it. I know you'd never betray me, just like I know the sun will rise in the east tomorrow morning and set in the west. I know it just like I know that I can find you anywhere you are, just by the sound of your heartbeat alone. I know it like I know my love for you." He gave her a wobbly, but hopeful, smile.

"Smooth talker," she said, shyly returning the smile and lightly patting his shoulder.

He didn't say anything right away, choosing to savor the moment for what it was - a meeting of hearts, an understanding between souls, and a promise of a more perfect, honest future to come.

"Lois?" he said after a minute or two had passed.

"Hmm?"

"Do you...mind that Mayson and I have remained friends?"

"A week ago, it would have, I think," she admitted slowly, as if she was carefully thinking over his question. "But now? No. Part of me hates to say so, but I've seen a different side to her throughout all of this. She's not the person I thought she was. At first, I hated that she was the one you turned to for help. I'm glad that she was there to help you, if I couldn't be."

Clark shifted slightly, facing Lois just a bit more than he had been. He took both of her hands in his. "I never chose her, Lois. Going to her when I was in trouble was a matter of necessity. I was literally too sick to make it any further. I couldn't make it to your apartment any more than I could have made it here."

Lois nodded and scooted closer, until she was leaning against him. "I believe you."

Belief.

Trust.

Could it be that Lois was going to grant him her trust again? Could it be that his deception hadn't completely destroyed her ability to believe that he could be truthful with her?

"You don't know how glad I am to hear that," he whispered as he snaked his arm around her body. "Your trust in me means everything, Lois. Because if I'd lost that...I would have lost you. And I know I'm not strong enough to handle that."

"Don't make me regret it." It was half an ultimatum, half a plea.

"Never," he swore. "You have my word, Lois. I love the fact that I can be honest with you now. For so long, I've been alone in how I live my life."
"You've always had your parents," Lois pointed out, interrupting him.

"True," he agreed, "but it's different with them. They're my parents. Their support is...I don't want to say a given, but...it's kind of a given, you know? Besides, my entire life, I'd hoped and prayed to find love. To find a woman who accepts me for me, who I don't have to hide from. To find the one person in the world who'll be my shelter in the storm of life, someone who will be my source of strength, who will make me feel like I belong on this Earth. You've always been that woman, Lois. Since the moment I met you, it's been like...peace has come over my soul. For the first time, I wasn't afraid to let someone get past the protective barriers I'd erected around myself, lest anyone find out that I'm not a normal guy."

Lois put her head on his shoulder. "Well, I guess we've both been each other's rock. Once I stopped trying to push you away, you did the same thing for me. You healed the wounds that so many other guys had caused my heart. For the first time, I felt safe letting myself develop feelings for someone else. For the first time, I felt safe in letting myself fall in love."

"You still love me?" he teased.

"Of course I do, you lunkhead," she smiled, gently slapping his chest. "I'm not saying that I don't still have a few things to work on getting through, but, I'm here for you, Clark. I still want to make things work between us, even if we take a minor step back from my, perhaps ill-advised, proposal."

"I'll wait for you, Lois, for as long as it takes," he vowed quietly.


"That was an amazing meal, Martha," Lois complimented as she daintily dabbed her mouth with her napkin. "Thank you for having me over."

"You're welcome, dear," Martha said with a smile as she started to stand to clean up.

"Mom, let me," Clark offered, putting his own napkin down. He stood and picked up the bowl of mashed potatoes.

"I'll help," Lois said, but before she could move to stand up, Clark shook his head.

"I've got this. Relax. Enjoy yourself."

He really did want her to relax. After all they'd been through in the last month, she certainly deserved any relaxation she could get. Between the two of them, they'd tracked down the team who'd evaluated the nuclear facility after Superman's rescue, as well as a good number of the people he'd saved. In the guise of Superman, Clark had persuaded the local authorities to allow Dr. Klein to take at the samples they'd taken inside the building. As they'd suspected, he'd managed to find traces of the Kryptonian virus that had almost taken Clark's life. Together, Clark and Dr. Klein had managed to procure numerous samples of the virus. The doctor spent days experimenting on them, only to find that the virus could easily be killed with fire. Teams were immediately dispatched to cleanse the place, though Dr. Klein kept the exact extent of what it could do to Superman tightly under wraps. Then, and only then, was Clark confident enough to return to the site to help dissipate the lingering radiation.

From there, he and Lois had uncovered leads to a particular scientist who worked at the facility - a woman named Asako Fukui - who'd been responsible for releasing the virus on the night of the reactor breach. But she hadn't been acting alone. Six others had been in on the plot, and, as Clark had feared, the problem with the reactor had been a purposeful attempt to lure Superman into a trap. With the seven conspirators safely behind bars, they had tracked the virus to Johnny Bermuda, who'd created the virus from crystallized microbes from the ship Clark had come to Earth in.

The stolen ship I came to Earth in, Clark mentally corrected himself.

The tiny space craft had disappeared during the first encounter with Trask and Bureau Thirty Nine, much to Clark's concern and despair. As it turned out, Mindy Church, the new head of the crime syndicate, Intergang, had somehow gotten her manicured claws on it. It made Clark feel only marginally better to know that all the parties involved were in jail and awaiting trial.

Throughout all of their relentless investigation, he and Lois had continued to work on their relationship. To say they had come a long way was a gross understatement. Because of their newfound ability to be completely honest with one another, they were now closer than ever before. Their trust in one another had blossomed. Their love had deepened. That wasn't to say that it hadn't been rough in the beginning. There had still been times where Clark had lain awake most of the night, worried that Lois might still change her mind and decide he wasn't worth the effort.

Now, here they were, celebrating Christmas together at the Kent family farm, just as they had planned weeks before.

"Clark, I really don't mind..." Lois protested.

He smiled. "Really, it's okay. I've got this."

"Fine, but no super-cheating," she teased him.

Clark offered up a good-natured, overly dramatic groan.

Jonathan let go of a deep belly laugh. "Atta girl," he encouraged Lois as he adjusted his glasses.

"Dad! You're ganging up on me?" Clark mock-complained.

"Sorry, son. But Lois is one of the family, especially since she knows our little secret."

"One of the family? What am I then? Chopped liver?" he tossed back lightly.

"Lois, I know we've said this before," Jonathan said, deftly changing the coarse of the conversation, "but Martha and I couldn't be happier that you're in the know now. We've always hoped for this day, when Clark no longer has to hide who he is from the woman he loves."

"That's right," Martha agreed. "I can't speak for Jonathan, but, as soon as we met you for the first time, I started praying for this day."
"Really? But I was just awful during that first meeting," Lois said in disbelief.

Clark chuckled to himself as he continued to clear the table of leftover food and dishes. He worked swiftly, to the point where he was borderline using his powers. He kept a watchful eye to make sure no one noticed.

"Nonsense," Martha said with a shake of her head. She reached for Lois' hands and covered them briefly with her own. "We both saw fire and passion in you, and knew that you were the right match for our son."

"I wish I'd seen it so clearly that early on," Lois said softly. "But, I want you both to know, I'll always take good care of him. And I'm honored that you're okay with the fact that I know the family secret. I'll guard it with my life. You don't have to worry. I know I've said it before, but I feel like, now that I'm here and we don't have to worry about Clark's health, I should say it again."

"And we should thank you, again, for being there for Clark when we couldn't," Jonathan said solemnly.

"I'm just glad my father had that crazy idea about how to kill the virus," Lois said.

"So am I," Clark put in as he transferred the remaining turkey to a Tupperware container and found a spot for it in the fridge. "It saved my life."

"We're all grateful," Jonathan said sincerely.

"Why don't you guys go on into the living room?" Clark asked as he poured the extra gravy into a container to put away. "I'm almost done here. I'll be in in a couple of minutes."

"Okay. But could you get the table set for dessert?" Martha asked.

"Of course," he replied with a dip of his head. He grabbed a dish towel to clean off a spot of gravy that had splashed onto the back of his right hand.

Once everyone was out of sight, he allowed his tight restraint on his powers to slip just enough to speed through the rest of the clean up and set up for dessert. He put out everything he could, including the butter cookies he'd whipped up the night before, using his grandmother's old recipe. It was a surprise for his mother. He hadn't told her that he was going to attempt to replicate her mother's cookies. And, from what he remembered of them, he'd gotten them just about spot on.

A few minutes later, he joined his family in the living room. Lois was sitting there laughing over whatever story she'd just been told. Clark settled down next to her on the couch, a content smile on his face and a warmth of peace in his heart. This is what he'd always yearned for - a family that extended beyond his parents and himself. This was the first step in seeing his dreams come true - to have a wife and children of his own.

Please, he silently pleaded to the universe. Please let it be.


"Clark, honey?"

"Yeah, Mom?"

"Could you hand me those two packages under the tree? The ones right up front?" Martha pointed. "The red with the gold bow and the green with the silver."

"Sure," Clark said. He slid off the couch to sit on the floor. He retrieved the packages in question and handed them to his mother. "You know we don't have to still do this," he said with a grin.

"What?" Lois asked.

"Christmas Eve gifts," Clark replied with a shrug. "Isn't it obvious?"

"But...I thought we were exchanging gifts in the morning. You said that was your tradition."

"It is," Clark clarified. "But, when I was a kid, I also got one gift on Christmas Eve, to tide me over until the morning. At first, it was Santa who'd bring the gift. Then, once I got older, it was something from my parents."

"It's been a tradition of ours since Clark's very first Christmas," Martha said fondly. "It goes back generations on Jonathan's side."

"Even when the family didn't have much to spare, they managed to keep the tradition going," Jonathan proudly boasted.

"It's a nice tradition," Lois said approvingly. "I like it."

"Welcome to it," Martha said with a smile as she handed Lois the gift in the shiny red paper.

"Oh...oh!" Lois said in surprise as the box made its way into her hands. It was clear she hadn't anticipated being included in the intimate family traditions. "Thank you! You didn't have to do this."

"She wanted to," Jonathan said with a wink. "We both want you to be as much a part of this family as possible."

"I'm honored," she replied, and Clark could hear the tears she was blinking back. The simple act of including her in the family's long standing tradition had touched her heart.

"Clark? This one is yours," Martha continued, handing Clark the bright green gift.

"Thanks," he said.

"Well? Go on. Open them," Martha encouraged.

Lois shared a look with Clark, then they both dived into opening their present. Lois pulled a fluffy, pink fleece robe and matching slippers out of her box, while Clark opened his box to find an identical set in maroon.

"I love it!" Lois exclaimed enthusiastically. "I was just thinking that I should replace my old, worn out robe the other day when I was doing my laundry. This is perfect. Thank you both."

"Glad you like them," Jonathan said.

"I love it too," Clark said. "It'll be nice to slip into after a long day's work. Uh, reporting or superhero," he clarified with a grin.

Lois gently ribbed him with her elbow. "Who knew Superman enjoyed fuzzy bathrobes?" she teased.

"What? A guy can't relax after lifting a rocket into orbit, or cleaning up an oil spill?" he teased back.

"This is nice," Jonathan commented. "Being able to speak freely like this."

"No kidding," Clark said with a smile as he ran a hand through his hair. "It's such a relief to not have to hide anymore."

"It's nice to not feel like I'm the only one not in some kind of secret club," Lois said. "I always did wonder about those little looks you all used to give each other. I thought it was just some...I don't know. Something that close knit families did that I wouldn't know about, given the federal disaster that was my family growing up. I just want to say...I'm truly honored that you both are okay with me knowing the family secret."

"Lois, you make our boy happy," Martha said with a smile. "That's what matters most to us. And we trust you to keep that knowledge you now have safe. Plus, on a selfish note, it's nice to finally have another woman that I can talk to about my son." She gave Lois a smile and a conspiratorial wink.

Lois' answer was to gently embrace the older woman. Then she got up and did the same to Jonathan.

"Thank you," she told them, in a voice that sounded humbled.

"Well, I don't know about you younger folks," Jonathan said, standing and stretching, once Lois had returned to her place on the couch. "But I'm going to head up to bed."

"Me too," Martha agreed, stifling a yawn.

Lois looked to Clark.

"I think I'll stay up for a bit and watch the fire," he said, nodding in the direction of the hearth.

"Just make sure it's out completely before you go to sleep," Martha reminded him.

Clark rolled his eyes good-naturedly. "Mom, you do know that I put out fires on what's become an alarmingly regular basis," he told her.

Martha smiled and patted his cheek. "I know. But, Superman or not, I'm still your mother, and I'll always worry about you."

"Goodnight, Mom," Clark said with a smile and a chuckle. "And don't worry about the fire."

"Goodnight, you two," Jonathan said. "See you in the morning."

"Night, Dad," Clark said, watching as his parents left the room. He turned back to Lois after they were out of sight.

"I love your family," Lois said softly. "They're so...normal."

"Yeah," Clark agreed. "Just two normal farmers who raised an alien as their own." He grinned widely.

Lois laughed a little. "Yeah."

"They really are happy that you know," he said after a few seconds of silence. He reached for her and she slipped into his waiting embrace. "You want to know what my mother said when it first came up in conversation?"

"What?" she asked, clearly intrigued.

Clark smiled at the memory. "She said she was relieved that you finally knew. That she'd been waiting for this moment ever since she met you."

"Really?" she asked.

He nodded. "Really. She was ready to throw a party. I've never seen her so excited over the idea that someone else might know about me."

"What about Mayson? I mean, she's clearly been on your side ever since that night with the bomb."

Clark shook his head. "Mom's first reaction to Mayson knowing was to try and enroll me in the witness protection program. Or close enough to it. And, before you ask, I'm not joking."

"No, you aren't," Lois said, searching his face for any sign of humor. "But, she has proven herself, hasn't she?"

"Yes. And they are grateful for her help, in their own way. They appreciate that she's able to help me out in what small ways she can. But they still hate the fact that she knows about me." He paused to kiss the top of her head. "Now, you? They love that you know. You've always been my rock, Lois. My source of strength. My...my refuge and my happy place. They are so grateful for all of the infinite ways you've always been there for me. Before I met you, I was so lonely, I thought I'd never know true happiness. And then, you stormed into my interview with Perry. Suddenly, my world was turned upside down in the best of ways. I wasn't lonely anymore. The restlessness in my heart that had been a major factor in my world travels was snuffed out. In an instant, Metropolis was my home, the place where my heart found rest and happiness."

"You and I aren't so different in that respect," Lois said after half a minute had passed. "You cured my loneliness too and quelled the unrest in my heart. You're my happy place too."

"I, uh...I have something I'd like to give you tonight, Lois," Clark said, his pulse quickening. "It's not a gift, per se, but it's something I'd like to give you in private. If that's okay, I mean."

Lois nodded. "I don't really have anything to give you tonight. I didn't think that we'd be exchanging gifts tonight. Maybe one of the smaller things I got you..."

Clark shook his head. "No, it's okay, really. I just...if it's okay with you, I never got a chance to, well, to answer an important question you once asked me."

He reached into his shirt pocket as he spoke and pulled out the small ring that was concealed there. He'd slipped in there while he'd cleaned up from dessert, and, luckily, Lois hadn't noticed the few times he'd worriedly put his hand to his chest, making sure it was still safely there.

"Lois Lane, if I may...I'd like to answer your question. If you will still have me, then, yes, I would be honored to be your husband."

At a teary and encouraging nod, he slipped the ring onto her finger, the delicate golden band gliding effortlessly over the digit.

"Yes, I will still have you, Clark Kent," she said as silver tears escaped her eyes and raced down her cheeks. She wiped them away, seemingly embarrassed, then she took a moment to admire the ring. "It's gorgeous, Clark," she announced. Then, perhaps to cover the embarrassment of her tears, "Get some help from Mayson?" She was joking now, Clark was glad to hear.

"No, she wanted a completely different style," he tossed back. "Kidding!" He put his hands up in a gesture of surrender as she went to slap his pectoral. "Couldn't help myself," he explained. "Truth be told, I saw that ring right when I first met you. Remember the jewelry shop that the 'Invisible Man' robbed? I kept the ring in the back of my mind, and, call me crazy, I went and bought it after our second date, hoping against hope that, one day, I'd be free to give it to you."

"Okay, you're crazy," she said, grinning. "Crazy but very sweet."

"I love you, Lois," he told her, drawing her to kiss her deeply.

When they parted, Lois gave him a mischievous look. "Should we wake your parents and tell them the good news?"

"Nah," Clark said, waving off the suggestion. "For tonight, at least, it's our little secret."

The End.