A Lot Like Christmas

Lois reached up to massage the bridge of her nose with her thumb and forefinger. With a sigh, she moved her hand to her hair and tucked away a strand that had fallen from her bun.

"Tell me this isn't true," a voice behind her requested.

A smile found its way to her lips. She opened her eyes but didn't turn around in her chair, instead focusing on her computer monitor. "I could do that…" she replied, her tone hiding her amusement. "But that really depends on what you're talking about."

She finally looked up as her visitor moved to sit on her desk, moving her mouse to the side.

Lois arched an eyebrow at her friend in indignation of the movement. "I was using that."

Clark ignored her glare. "Chloe says you're working today and tomorrow! It's Christmas Eve!"

Lois leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms over her chest. "News doesn't take a holiday, Smallville."

Clark studied her curiously for a moment. She had been pretty grumpy recently but he had figured she was exaggerating when she said she was boycotting Christmas.

"I thought you were going to see your dad and Lucy," he remarked. He had just assumed that those were her plans when she hadn't accepted Chloe's invitation.

Lois shook her head. "We're not big on holidays, especially retail ones." She pushed him lightly to make him move over as she reached for her mouse.

"Well, then, come with me," Clark offered. He knew his parents would love to have Lois visit. It now occurred to him that Lois had always seemed to disappear around holiday time when she was living in Smallville.

Lois flashed him a wry grin. "Thanks, but it's okay. Really."

They had come a long way since Smallville. Her quest to keep Lex Luthor out of the Kansas Senate position had sparked a journey that had led to career as a reporter at The Daily Planet. Clark had been with her every step of the way, and was a great reporter in his own right.

Initially, their partnership had been an extension of the old grudge match they had started in Smallville. Somehow, one was always around to back up the other, and they became reluctant friends. Now, five years after their meeting in a cornfield, after three years of being sparring partners at Metropolis University's award-winning newspaper, and after one year of long distance friendship… the tectonic plates of their relationship were shifting once again.

They had each separately established themselves as respected reporters. After Met U, Clark had taken a year to travel, engaging his journalistic skills with stories he encountered around the world. Lois, on the other hand, having been around the world numerous times, had taken advantage of an offer from the great Daily Planet.

Six months ago, much to her surprise, her editor had introduced Clark Kent as her new partner. There were some people that said that distance made the heart grow fonder.

Lois hated those people for being right.

She blinked and shook herself out of her introspection to find Clark watching her. As usual, it unnerved her. She abruptly rose out of her chair and walked over to the window.

"Humbug!" she smirked, taking in the sights of the city below her. Trees were littered with colorful lights and red-clad Santa's rang silver bells in jubilant tunes.

"How can anyone possibly feel Christmas-y when it's not even snowing!"

Lois placed a hand against the glass, watching condensation cause an icy fog around her print. The weatherman had been taking a beating lately. While the temp was cool, no snow was in the forecast, and the streets were uncharacteristically dry.

Clark glanced around the newsroom. While there were still a number of people bustling around, it was nowhere as busy as normal; about what he expected for mid-afternoon on Christmas Eve. He really didn't think Lois would be missed if he were able to get her to leave with him.

"There's snow in Smallville."

Lois rolled her eyes at her reflection and turned to return to her desk. Keeping a safe distance between them, she stopped and met his gaze. Her eyes flew wide and she glanced at her watch. "I thought you were catching the 1 o'clock bus!"

Lois still couldn't figure out why Clark insisted on not buying a car. True, she gave him rides whenever he needed them, but still… she couldn't imagine life without an escape pod. Her wheels were her freedom.

Clark shrugged. "Snow delay?" he tried sheepishly.

Lois gave him a suspicious look.

"I'm claustrophobic," he tried again. "A three hour drive becomes a ten hour nightmare on that bus."

Lois narrowed her eyes. "I'm not driving you to Smallville." That was a setup if she ever knew one.

Clark grinned in return. As much as he had hoped she would have caved, that was merely a distraction for his real motive. "Well, I guess that means I'm staying. Merry Christmas, Partner."

Clark watched with a sentimental smile as Lois measured the brown powder. She had taken that godforsaken sensible bun out of her hair when they had arrived at her apartment and now her hair was flowing around her shoulders, just like he liked it. Not that he'd ever told her that.

In truth, he ached to run his fingers through it, but knew he couldn't. They were closer than they had ever been, but not that close.

Lois handed him a mug and grinned as she held the bag of marshmallows aloft with the other hand. "One lump or two?" she asked.

One of the reasons their friendship worked was because they both felt comfortable to act like overgrown kids whenever they felt like it.

Clark laughed and said, "Five. Now all we need are graham crackers, chocolate bars, and a wire hanger."

"You are such a boy scout," Lois laughed, as he took the bag. She turned around to retrieve her own mug.

Clark noticed as Lois peered out of the window wistfully for the umpteenth time that night. It was as if she were looking for Santa and his eight tiny reindeer.

Lois sighed and turned around, forcing an aloof smile. "So…"

Clark smiled back. "So…"

Lois shrugged and sipped her drink. Clark placed his mug on the cabinet and reached for her hand.

"Lois," he started.

Lois jerked at his touch, causing her Hot Chocolate to slosh over the rim of the cup. Reacting to the spill, she jumped back to avoid getting hot liquid all over herself.

"Damn. Let me get that." She placed the now half-full mug on the counter and grabbed a handful of paper towels off of the rack.

Clark sighed and walked around the counter to where Lois was squatting on the floor.

He squatted next to her and pulled her hand into his own. He would try again. "Lois…"

Lois met his gaze with wide-eyed panic.

Don't, she pleaded silently.

"You really should be on your way home, you know." She rose to her feet and threw the towels in the trashcan. "I know Mrs. Kent is probably out of her mind with worry right now. You can make the 7 o'clock bus if you leave soon."

Clark frowned with determination. They had been doing this two-step forward; two-step back dance for too long. He knew her well enough to know that the wall she was hiding behind was near collapse.

Pulling his shoulders back so he stood straighter, Clark took a step in her direction.

Lois watched him warily as he moved in. She saw the moment his face fell, and released a sigh of mixed disappointment and relief.

Clark reached for his pocket. "I need to take this… I'll be right back."

Clark walked through the living room toward the terrace, cursing silently as he pulled his phone out of his pocket. His hearing had picked up a television report from a neighboring apartment. He pretended to have a conversation on the phone as he listened for details. While Metropolis was miraculously devoid of snow, a blizzard was ripping through the Twin Cities. Caught in a blinding white out, commuters on the city's major highway were getting caught in massive pileups. Things were not looking good.

Resigned, he closed his phone and turned to re-enter Lois's apartment.

Lois watched as Clark took his phone call out on the terrace. She had recognized the look on his face immediately. She always wondered why he kept his phone on vibrate. Most of the time, that damn phone rang at the worst times, which led to some emergency errand. Lois didn't always believe the given excuse, but Clark usually returned with a good story for the paper.

While it irked her and prodded her curiosity, Lois wasn't one to question others… because it usually opened the door to for her to be questioned in return. She trusted that one day she would learn who his source was.

Clark stepped inside the apartment and slid the door shut behind him.

"You have to go," Lois said with a smile, reading his expression.

Clark nodded. He hated doing this. It seemed to happen at the worst times. He avoided her eyes as he tucked his phone back in his pocket. "Yeah… I'm really sorry, but I need to get back…" he lied.

Lois nodded. "Is everything okay? Your folks?"

"They're fine. Um, I better go."

"Do you need a ride to the station?" Lois asked, following him as he headed toward the door.

"No, I've got it." Clark turned to face her as he opened the door. There was much he wanted to say. "Merry Christmas, Lois."

"It's not Christmas yet, Smallville," she returned. "Tell your parents that I said hello."

Their gazes held for a moment before Clark bent to give her a hug. And just like that, they were back to being comfortable friends.

Lois gazed down at the photo album and sighed heavily. This was exactly the opposite of how she had been planning on spending Christmas Eve. Her plan had been to be buried up to her nose in newsprint.

She hadn't lied way back then when she told Clark that she had a healthy acceptance of her mother's death… it was just that holidays were understandably harder than other days. As a rule, she didn't pull out the pictures until after people had taken the lights down from their houses. Tonight, though, all the rules were going out of the window.

She had no right to be disappointed that she was spending Christmas alone… after all, that was what she had worked so hard to ensure by strategically avoiding party invitations all week. Unfortunately, Clark's insistence of returning the favor of crashing a solitude party had drawn her out of her blue funk.

She felt guilty for not offering to drive Clark to Smallville… but she couldn't go back there right now. It would be too painful. She considered Martha Kent to be the mother she never had (though she never told her that), and on this day, those feelings conflicted with the memories she had of the mother she did have. She wasn't ready to mix those two special people yet… but maybe someday…

She thought about what had happened right before Clark had received his phone call. She knew Clark was approaching the "next level" conversation. He had been teetering around it for the past few months, but she had been successful in keeping it at bay. Even so, she was afraid that he might wear her down and catch her off guard and vulnerable… like today.

It wasn't that she couldn't stomach the idea of she and Clark together… it was that she couldn't stomach the idea that wouldn't work. He had become her best friend and she didn't take that lightly. Lois Lane lived a life of extremes. If she let Clark in… all the way in… there were only two possible outcomes, and they both scared her.

She was afraid that it wouldn't work and their friendship would disintegrate, leaving her exiled from the family that had become closer to her than her own. But more than that, she was afraid that it would be good…really good.

Clark was a nice guy. A naïve guy sometimes, but a really nice guy, nonetheless. He was one of the few truly good guys that she knew, and she knew he deserved more than she could ever offer. She thought about what he must be doing right now- no doubt sipping Egg Nog with his parents and their closest friends.

No, he deserved a family. A healthy family to balance the amazing one that he came from. Her baggage consisted of a con-in-the-making sister, and an over-possessive harpoon-wielding father. And that was just the external stuff.

She was definitely going in to work tomorrow. Looking for something to keep her mind from taking fruitless trips down a Fantasy Lane decorated with plaid, she turned on the television on and flipped to LNN.

As Lois turned her TV off, she decided that if there were angels, tonight was as good of a night for them as any.

The blizzard in Minnesota had caused less damage than early reports had estimated. Many people claimed that someone had helped them out of wrecked vehicles, others told stories of skidding cars coming safely to a halt. All of them relished in the fact that they were alive and able to spend another Christmas with their loved ones.

Lois glanced down at the photo album that was still lying in her lap. She ran a finger over a photo and closed the book. Setting it aside, she rose and walked to her window, taking a final look at the sky.

She turned away with a frown as the phone rang.


"Hey, I didn't wake you, right?"

Lois nibbled her lower lip and held the phone closer. "No. So, you made it home okay?"

She rolled her eyes. Why was she acting like a school-girl?

Clark laughed and she could hear his smile through the phone. "Actually, no," he replied.

Lois frowned in confusion. "No?"

There was a knock at her door. Her eyes narrowed as she walked toward it. Looking through the peephole, she scoffed into the phone. "What are you doing here?"

Clark flipped his phone shut. "Just open the door, Lane."

The door swung open. "You hung up on me!"

Clark stepped inside and pulled her jacket from the closet next to the door. "I want to show you something."

Lois arched an eyebrow at him and slid her arms into the coat as he held it aloft. He was lucky she hadn't dressed for bed yet. She was still wearing the jeans and Met U sweatshirt she had changed into after work.

Clark led her outside, and grinned when she gasped in surprise. The small courtyard outside of her building was covered with snow.

"How… what… but…" Lois stuttered as she peered around and into the sky.

Suddenly she was unceremoniously pulled to the ground. She landed next to Clark who was lying on his back in the snow. She laughed as he began to extend his arms and legs, making a snow angel.

If you can't beat them…she mused, falling onto her back and waving her limbs in a like manner. …Join them.

Lois shivered and grabbed a couple of fluffy towels out of the bathroom closet. She threw one at Clark and ducked back into the bathroom, intent on taking a hot shower.

Clark rubbed his hair with the towel and sighed happily. He had been on his way home to the farm after leaving Minnesota when he decided to stop and check in on Lois. Hovering outside her balcony, he had seen her staring at a picture in a photo album. Zooming in, he had seen the picture of the woman he recognized to be her mother, and a five year-old Lois making snow angels on a winter day.

That small glimpse was al he needed to understand why the lack of snow had been a problem. He had no intention of replacing her memories… he just felt that maybe they could make some new ones.

Lois stepped out of the bathroom, leaving a trail of steam as she moved. She paused for a moment, watching as Clark stood looking out of her balcony door with the red towel draped around his shoulders.

She had no idea how he had arranged for 100 square feet of snow, but she wasn't about to question a miracle. She might have the sniffles for three days, but it had been worth it.

"It's all yours," she announced.

Clark turned around and smiled, walking toward her. "Any hot water left?" he teased.

"Some," she answered with a wink. "I had fun," she told him. "Thank you."

Clark stopped in front of her and grinned. Holding a hand out to her, he asked, "What do you say we do it again next year?" There was an unspoken statement underlying the question. It said that if she was willing to try, he had no doubt they would still be together next Christmas.

Lois glanced at his outstretched hand and met his eyes. "You're always leaving," she said softly, responding to the unspoken words.

Clark's hand remained extended. "But I always come back."

Their gazes locked for a moment as more unspoken words danced like sugarplums in the air between them. Slowly, but steadily, Lois lifted her hand and placed it in his.

Clark's eyes twinkled as he fought to keep his feet on the floor. He glanced at his watch. "Merry Christmas," he whispered, rubbing his thumb over the back of her hand.

"Yeah. I guess it is… Christmas…" Lois replied, feeling a little off balance.

"Looks like it," Clark laughed. He gave her hand a squeeze and stepped past her into the bathroom.

Lois turned her head and watched him over her shoulder.

Yeah. It certainly did.

A/N: I killed the word count, as I usually do when it comes to these things. So my apologies for that. Hopefully you're not mad.

This fic serves a couple of purposes-

First, it's dedicated to Olea, my poor beta who has been deprived of updates to my what-was-supposed-to-be-a-short story because real life stepped in.

Second, this fic goes out to the talented cloisians who entered the banner contest. This is my way of saying congrats and great work.

Third, this fic is in response to David's challenge… although I took a different approach than others might have in that Lois doesn't know the true reason why Clark pulls his disappearing act… and for the fact that I killed the word count.

And finally, this fic is a one-week belated birthday present-- to me! Hope you enjoy reading as much as I did dreaming. hasta