Part of the 12DaysofClois started by bitsyboo1974 on livejournal. Also, special thanks to Mark C and htbthomas for beta-ing. Happy holidays to everyone!
Lois thrust her weight against the heavy door and felt a rush of cold winter air as she stepped out onto the roof of The Daily Planet. She reached into her purse, digging for the spare cigarette she kept in case of emergency. As she searched for her lighter she noticed that she was not alone on the roof. It was dark but Lois could make out the outline of a man standing at the ledge, looking out over the city. She half-expected to see the familiar billowing cape, but this was not her usual rooftop companion.
She recognized the out-of-style dress suit of her co-worker, Clark Kent.
Lois walked up beside him, leaning against the railing of the rooftop, "I didn't realize you'd left the party."
She expected him to flinch from surprise – not unlike Clark – but it was as if he had known she was there all along, as if he had heard her coming.
"I suppose no one noticed that I left."
Again, Lois was surprised by Clark; this somber reply was a stark contrast to his usual cheerful self.
"Honestly, I kind of thought you'd be back in Smallville by now."
"I'm flying out later tonight," Clark replied.
"They have flights out to Kentucky this late?"
She had broken through his solemn exterior and saw the trace of a smile as he corrected her, "It's Kansas."
"I know. I was just kidding."
Every Christmas Eve, The Daily Planet hosted a holiday office party. Most of the staff worked early into the evening on the 24th – the news knows no holiday – but as soon as the morning edition went to print, the staffers broke out champagne and mistletoe. It had started as an unofficial celebration, but each year stories spread throughout the building, of the wild antics of the festive, and drunken, reporters. After a few years, every worker in The Daily Planet building, from corporate to custodial, attended the Christmas party.
Over the years, a considerable amount more effort, and portion of the budget, had gone into the parties. The decorations were more elaborate and the food was catered but the essence of the party was still the same – a chance for the workers to let loose and enjoy the spirit of the season.
"So why aren't you at the party?" Clark asked.
"There's only so much Christmas cheer I can stomach. I needed a break."
She saw him smile again.
Truthfully, things at the party had just become very awkward and uncomfortable for Lois. She needed an escape – and a smoke. She resumed fumbling in her purse and finally felt her fingers grasp the lighter. She pulled it out and was about to light up but decided the polite thing to do was to ask for permission from her companion, "You don't mind if I smoke, do you?"
"Yes, yes I do."
She hadn't really been asking; it was more of a courtesy. She rolled her eyes and sighed, "OK," as she put the lighter and cigarette back in her purse.
Clark added, "They're taking years off your life, you know."
"So I've heard," she replied facetiously.
"I know it's not really my business whether you smoke or not. But Jason – well, I'm sure he wants to have his mom around for a long time."
Lois suddenly felt incredibly guilty and needed to explain herself to Clark. "My new year's resolution is to quit. I just…the people at the party, they get to me. I really needed something to take my mind off of it. I swear, I'm going to quit though." The more she protested, the guiltier she felt.
She had enough guilt as it was. Guilt kept her up at night. It crept up on her without warning at random points in the day, temporarily choking her while simultaneously making her heart race. Forget cigarettes, it was guilt that was slowly killing her. And it was the very thing that drove Lois up to the roof on this Christmas Eve. She needed confession; she needed release.
She just hadn't expected Clark Kent to be there.
He would do for now, Lois decided, as she continued to ramble on about her problems. At least it was someone.
"Cat Grant. That woman! It's Christmas, so I won't say it, but any other day I'd have some colorful names for her."
"I was just having a good time with Richard," she thought she saw Clark tightened up at this but then she brushed it off, "Cat came over to us and… for starters she's had one too many glasses of eggnog. Anyway, she came over and said to me, 'Lois, are you staying up all night, waiting for your man in red to fly down from the North Pole? Or are you on his naughty list?' She thought that was so funny. And Richard didn't stand up for me. He didn't say anything. He just walked away and now he won't talk to me."
"I'm so sorry, Lois. You shouldn't have to put up with that."
"I bet she's been waiting all week to say that…" Lois trailed off, as she looked at Clark. She realized that whatever her troubles were, Clark seemed even more distraught. She had never considered it possible that beneath Clark's jubilant exterior there was someone troubled. "Clark, what's wrong?"
He didn't look at her. His eyes remained fixated on the lights of the city. "Sometimes I lose my faith in people. I see so much violence and despair all around…but then there are nights like tonight when the city is quiet. Everyone's at peace. It's moments like this when I'm reminded that people are inherently good."
Lois was speechless. Clark seemed on the verge of an existential crisis and she had no idea how to respond. She put her hand lightly on his back as if to imply that she was there for him, even if she did not know what to say.
"Everyone's at home with their family," he continued. "There is nothing I wouldn't give to be able to have a family to go home to."
"You have your mother." The moment the words escaped her, she recognized that this was probably not what he was referring to.
"Yes, I do. I'm thankful for her."
"Clark, you're a great guy. Any woman would be lucky to have you. You should go back downstairs and flirt with some of those girls from accounting…"
This seemed to be the worst thing she could have said. He bit his lip to stifle a sour laugh. "Lois, there's already someone I'm in love with."
"Well, you should tell her…"
"She's with someone else."
"Isn't that how it always is? But maybe it won't work out." She thought about her own collapsing relationship. "You never know what could happen."
"I wish it were that simple. Even if she weren't attached, I could never be there for her like he could. I could never be nearly as good a husband or father…she's better off without me."
Lois had a habit of saying the wrong thing, and thought it best to change the subject.
"You know, Clark, my father's a military man and when we were little we moved around all the time. I hated it – always changing schools, having to make new friends, never really feeling any one place was home. One Christmas, I must have been 8 or 9, I went to my father crying because I was afraid Santa wouldn't be able to find our new house. My father took me and my sister outside and said to us:
'Even though we've moved, Santa will always be able to find us. He knows everything. He's always watching, listening, to make sure that you've been good girls. So you know what, if you just look to the North Pole and whisper your Christmas wish, Santa will be able to hear it and he'll do his best to grant it for you. I promise.'
"And every year from then on, a few days before Christmas, we'd go outside at night, look toward the North Star and whisper our wish. I'm half convinced that my father used some sort of stealth military bugging device to listen to us. He always seemed to know what we wished for. Well, at least he always knew what my sister wished for. Every year she got what she wanted – usually a stupid Barbie or something."
"What did you wish for Lois?"
"I wished that we'd stop moving and settle down somewhere." She began to shiver. For the first time, she realized just how cold it was outside.
Clark noticed this and took off his jacket, "Forgive me for being so rude. I should have given this to you before."
"You don't have to do that…" Lois tried to resist, but he wasn't listening. He wrapped his suit coat around her shoulders. "Won't you be cold?"
"Well, you know, us country boys are tougher than you city folk."
She smiled at him, thankful for his generosity. She felt comfortable talking to Clark. "Don't laugh at me, but I think we should make a wish. I haven't done it in years."
"Are you serious?"
"Yeah. It couldn't hurt."
"OK," Clark grinned at Lois. "What do I have to do?"
"Just look toward the North Star and whisper your deepest wish. But go over there." She pushed him away teasingly, "I don't want you to hear mine."
"Your father used to listen…"
"Well, that was different. He thought he could make it come true." She motioned for him to keep going.
When Lois was happy with the amount of distance between them she called out, "OK, ready?"
Clark nodded back. She looked toward the North Star. And then Lois began her wish.
"I wish for Superman. I need him to be with me. I need him to be with Jason. I can't keep living my life this way. It's killing me inside. I need him to be here; I need him to love me… I just don't know what to do anymore. Please, send me a sign, any sort of sign…"
Lois felt oddly liberated. She had not even known what she was going to wish for until she opened her mouth and the words came pouring out. She took a deep breath and collected herself before yelling out to Clark.
"OK, I'm done. You can come back now."
As Clark walked back to her, his disposition had changed enormously. The wish must have done him good as well; he smiled as if a weight had been lifted and he now walked with a purpose, as if things had become clear and he knew what he had to do.
The way he looked as he walked back to her made Lois' heart flutter momentarily. She couldn't explain it. It must have been the glass of champagne she'd had earlier. Never had she thought of Clark that way.
Flustered and unsure of how respond, she tried to pretend nothing was different and teased him as she normally did, "Don't ask me what I wished for. It won't come true if I tell you."
He looked her in the eye, "What if I told you I knew a way for both our wishes to come true?"
Lois laughed. "I highly doubt that."
"I'm serious." He then reached out and took her hand in his. It took her by surprise, yet it felt strangely right, and she didn't resist.
"You don't even know what I wished for…"
He drew her in closer to him. "I do know."
"I don't understand…" That was the understatement of the century. The normally cocky and bull-headed Lois Lane now felt baffled and meek; yet being in his arms seemed safe and almost familiar. She felt bewitched by Clark Kent and was barely able to breathe the words of her question, "What was your wish?"
He took her hands and guided them up to his face, lightly grazing his warm cheek. He looked Lois straight in the eye and answered, "I wished that you would take off my glasses."
Her eyes transfixed on his, Lois took hold of the metal frames and pulled them away. Without the lenses, she recognized the preternatural shade of blue that preoccupied her dreams. Her heart began beating faster. In the background, over the quiet stillness of the city, she could hear distant church bells chiming midnight, ringing in Christmas Day. Clark leaned in closer, his lips yearning for hers, and whispered, "Merry Christmas, Lois."