A/N: This was a holiday challenge I wrote and realized I never posted here. So, while it's rather off-season, I hope you all enjoy!
One Moonlit Night
It a great party, Lois reflected as she circulated around the room, doing her best to make sure she'd stopped and spoken with everyone at least once over the course of the evening. She paused long enough at one group to pay a compliment to one Senator on both her gown and position on a recent issue, and then she carried on. This was the part of her job that found the most difficult: trying to be witty and charming – and, more importantly, keeping her personal opinions to herself as much as possible. Also, she'd been smiling so much, she was beginning to worry that her face was about to crack.
As she grabbed a glass of champagne from a waiter, she skirted around another group and noticed Clark about ten yards away, talking with Senator Cross's daughter. She'd met Harmony before, of course, and she'd found the other girl to be sweet, funny, and… She watched as Harmony laughed at something Clark had said. Lois's eyes narrowed; was that one of Harmony's hands on his arm?
Vapid. Harmony was also incredibly vapid, and she was clearly lacking in taste.
Well, Smallville was obviously in the need of a little rescue, and since there was nobody else around who seemed inclined to do it, Lois made her way over to the two of them and rested her fingers lightly on Clark's right arm, trying not to glare too obviously at the barnacle on his left. "I'm sorry to interrupt, but the Senator was wondering if I could steal you away for just a moment, Clark. If that's okay with you, Harmony?"
"No, no, of course," the other woman said, reluctantly releasing her hold as Lois began to all but drag her companion away. "Maybe we'll get a chance to talk more later? It was really nice getting to know you, Clark. Merry Christmas!"
"Merry Christmas!" he managed to reply before the woman on his arm forcibly propelled him to what she deemed a safer part of the room. "Okay, so, where's my mom?"
"Oh, she's around here somewhere," Lois replied airily. "She didn't really need you, but you looked like you needed a save, Smallville, so I thought I'd intervene. No need to thank me, really."
His eyebrows shooting up almost into his hairline, he asked in bewilderment, "A save? From what, exactly?"
With a sigh, Lois explained in the type of overly patient tone one would use with a small child, "Harmony, of course. Her drool was getting so out of hand, I thought we were going to have to break out the caution signs to keep people from slipping and breaking their necks. Don't tell me you didn't notice."
Clark rolled his eyes. ""Don't you think you're exaggerating just a bit, Lois? She was not drooling over me." A small half-shrug was the only response to his comment, and he knew he sounded a bit defensive as he continued, "Actually, I thought she was sweet."
"I guess, if that's your type," she replied dismissively as she finished her glass of champagne and put the empty glass on a passing waiter's tray. Then, firmly shifting the conversation away from anything that might allude to what Clark did or did not find attractive, she said, "Anyway, I'm a bit surprised to see you here. When I talked to your mom earlier, she told me you'd decided not to come."
With a resigned sigh, he admitted, "I changed my mind. I'm beginning to wish I hadn't, though. I feel a little out of place here."
Lois knew what he was talking about. Of course, she was well-versed on the Senator's issues, and she did her best to promote them. But it was a Christmas party, for crying out loud! Didn't people have something more interesting to discuss than the precedent for a hypothetical bill that would probably never make its way to the Senate floor, even if it were proposed? Not that she hadn't already exceeded her tolerance for actual issues. If she had to nod and smile through on more long-winded debate on mandatory minimums, she was afraid she'd lose it.
"Well, if it makes you feel any better, you don't look out of place. You look…fine," she said lamely, catching herself just in time from finishing that thought with something absolutely mortifying. 'Amazing', for instance. In her defense, he wore a suit surprisingly well – which was, in her opinion, only more reason why he should steer away from the plaid.
Clark didn't react as she'd anticipated. Instead of taking the compliment, he frowned suspiciously at her. "Are you feeling okay? How many glasses of champagne have you had, exactly?"
Lois laughed, not taking offense. She didn't blame him for being nervous; they'd been conversing for a full three minutes and she'd refrained from teasing him even once. "Not to worry; I'm not drunk, and I don't have any hidden motives. Just trying to offer you a compliment."
"Okay," he replied, drawing the word out warily. "And you're doing that…why, exactly?"
"Lane Family rule: there's a mandatory cease-fire at Christmas. No bickering or unnecessary teasing allowed," she explained. "And I suppose it won't kill the two of us to call a truce for one evening, particularly since you managed to leave the plaid at home."
Raising his eyebrows, he asked for the sake of clarification, "'Unnecessary teasing'?"
With a grin, she replied, "Come on, Smallville. I'm declaring a truce, not petitioning for sainthood. Cut me some slack."
Clark laughed. "Ah, I was certain my Lois was under there somewhere. So are you enjoying the party? I saw you circulating earlier. Out of curiosity, how many fruit baskets will you be distributing with a well-versed apology on Monday?"
Glancing at him out of the corner of her eye, she asked lightly, "And I suppose that fell under the heading of necessary teasing?"
"If we're grading by a sliding scale," he responded in the same tone.
Tilting her head to the side so she could meet his eyes, she responded, "Keep it up, Smallville. Just remember, I give as good as I get."
He chuckled, and the two of them paused in their bantering long enough to greet another couple passing by. When they were alone once more, Lois groaned and lifted her hands to rub the tired muscles in her face. "Ow. I don't know how you can stand to do this all the time. My cheeks are killing me! They may actually have started going numb, which I'd almost count as a blessing at this point."
She saw Clark's smile out of the corner of her eye as she waited for the inevitable remark about how this might also fortunately prevent her from speaking. To her surprise, however, he said no such thing. "You want to get out of here for a few minutes?" he asked, giving the double doors nearby a significant look.
For a moment, Lois considered taking him up on the offer. Then she realized the doors lead outside, and she cried, "What, are you kidding? It's ten below out there!"
"Oh, it's not that bad. Come on, it's either that, or…hey, look! Senator Cooper's headed this way, and I'm sure he'd love to tell you all about his plans for a new health care initiative."
Without another word, Lois grabbed his sleeve and yanked him through the doorway. The chilled evening air hit her like a slap in the face and she shivered, but before she could change her mind about the chosen escape route, she felt Clark shift behind her and a black suit jacket was slung over her shoulders. Glancing back at him, she muttered her thanks as she slipped it on and crossed her arms over her chest.
Moving away from the house, she glanced at him and asked, "Aren't you cold?" She didn't have any intention of relinquishing his coat, but she was certain she'd feel guilty if he froze to death in her stead. Okay, she'd probably feel guilty, anyway. A severe case of hypothermia seemed likely, at the very least, since he was now clothed in nothing more substantial than a pair of slacks and a thin dress shirt. She'd have been turning blue, but he simply shrugged.
"The cold doesn't really bother me," he explained. Even as she scoffed at these words, she noticed that he wasn't even shivering. "Anyway, thanks for getting me out of there. I'm really not very comfortable at these things."
Now it was her turn to shrug. "No problem. They aren't exactly my favorite places to be, either."
Clark looked at her in surprise. "Really? I would have thought you'd be getting used to them by now."
"Not really. Most of the parties your mom has to attend don't require the presence of her Chief of Staff, thankfully." They had moved far enough away from the house that only the faintest strains of music could be heard, so Lois strolled over to a stone bench nearby and gestured for Clark to join her as she lowered herself onto it. Once he seated himself beside her, she scooted almost imperceptibly closer to him – but only (she was certain) because it was just so cold outside and he was so warm.
"And you don't go to many with Oliver?" When he caught her looking over at him, he shifted uncomfortably and continued, "I just…I would have thought he's the type to drag you to a lot of parties."
Lois grinned. "Fishing for information, Smallville?"
With a frown, he corrected her, "Concerned for a friend, Lois. Anyway, I was surprised not to see him tonight. Is everything okay between the two of you?" He knew, even as the words left his mouth, that his motives for asking the question could be misconstrued, so he concentrated on schooling his features into an expression that clearly conveyed that he had absolutely no vested interest in her answer.
He must have succeeded, because she neither laughed out loud nor mocked him derisively for the implication his interest in her social life was more than purely academic. "He had business," she said nonchalantly as she leaned back slightly, bracing her weight on her hands.
"On Christmas Eve?" Clark's disbelief was palpable.
Chuckling, she raised an eyebrow at him and asked, "You think he was lying to me?"
"No, it's not that. I'm just…surprised. I would have thought you'd have been upset that he won't be spending the holiday with you."
Lois shrugged again, but she didn't respond to his comment as she as she threw her head back and gazed up at the stars shining brightly above. She loved nights like this – nights so peaceful, it seemed like the rest of the world fell away until she was only left with only her thoughts, the moon, and the stars in the sky for company.
The full moon above cast enough light for Clark could see the expression on Lois's face as she gazed into the evening sky, but it still didn't give him a clue what she was thinking. She was so unlike anyone he'd ever known before. Most of the people he knew wore their hearts on their sleeves, as his mom would say. He generally had some idea of what they were thinking of feeling, but not Lois. She was always a mystery to him.
Breaking the silence that had fallen between them, she remarked suddenly, "You know, my mom always loved this time of year. Christmas was her favorite holiday, in fact. She used to put on this old record of Christmas carols she had and sing along as she decorated the tree and hung the stockings. She and my dad even threw a party every year for all the military families on the base, and she'd always bake all sorts of holiday treats and mix up a batch of eggnog using her own secret recipe. I remember I was allowed to stay up until nine o'clock sharp, and then I was marched off to bed like a good little soldier so I didn't stay up and scare Santa away. At least, that's what they told me.
"But I didn't really buy the Santa excuse; at least, the prospect of facing a stack presents in the morning, left by some mysterious stranger, didn't compare to the appeal of staying at the party and being right in the middle of all the action. I always hated being left out of the loop, even when I was little. So, the Christmas before my mom died, I finally got up the nerve to sneak out of bed and creep downstairs just far enough to see what was going on. I stayed there until everyone left, even though my perch really wasn't very comfortable, and I was exhausted by the time everyone left. And, then, when it was just the two of them, they put on that old record again, and I remember she laughed as my dad twirled her around the room." After a short pause, she reflected, "She loved to dance."
He smiled at the picture, but she wasn't finished. "As it turned out, my hiding place wasn't fooling anyone. When the last song started to play, the General suddenly called my name, and I came downstairs, expecting to be punished. You just didn't disobey a direct order, not even when my mom was alive. I stood there, trying to pretend I wasn't nervous at all, and, instead of condemning me to a month of dish duty, he took my hand and twirled me around and around, just like he'd done my mom. I felt…I felt like I was flying."
He chuckled softly at the picture of a young Lois twirling around the room. "That sounds…" His voice trailed off when he couldn't think of a word to describe what he was thinking, and he shook his head softly.
A soft smile crossed her lips at the memory, and she murmured, "It was." Then, her smile twisting, she cleared her throat and continued, "But then, after she died…well, the holiday just wasn't the same. The General tried, at least for a few years. I think he bought some of those pre-decorated trees and had them delivered, because I never saw him putting one up. But there was no more eggnog, no stockings hung on the fireplace, no more parties. And we never played that old record again."
As her story ended, she turned that wry, half-hearted smile on him. "So, in answer to your question, it doesn't really bother me that Oliver and I aren't making a big deal out of the holiday, or even that I'm going to be spending it alone. I'm pretty used to it by now."
Clark shifted uncomfortably, suddenly feeling guilty. He'd wondered if he should invite her over for Christmas, but he'd decided against it, thinking she'd probably be flying out to spend time with her family. Now it seemed he'd been wrong. "You know," he said awkwardly, "You could come over and spend it with us. I know my mom would love to have you."
He didn't know why, but he got the feeling he'd said something wrong. "Thanks, Smallville, but I'm a big girl. Anyway, they say that Christmas is a time to spend with family and people you love. Not people you find occasionally tolerable. Besides, I've already made plans." Though her tone was teasing, he winced.
Clark scoffed and frowned at her. He was willing to bet she was lying; her plans probably involved nothing more than a couch and the joined cinematic efforts of Frank Capra and Jimmy Stewart. He was also willing to bet it did bother her that she would be alone, that not even her boyfriend would be around to celebrate the holiday. Of course, Lois was both so proud and so stubborn, he didn't have the smallest doubt she'd never admit it.
He wished he could find a way to…well, actually, he wasn't entirely sure what it was he wanted to do. Lois seemed to have an uncanny ability to make him feel somewhat awkward and unsure of himself – an ability she had only perfected over the time they had known each other.
Suddenly, however, he knew just what to do. Before he could second-guess himself, he stood abruptly and turned to offer her his hand. In quintessential Lois Lane style, however, she looked at it as if he were offering her a small, dead rodent. "What are you doing?" she asked suspiciously.
"I was wondering if I could possibly have this dance," he said bravely. He wasn't much of a dancer, but he could faintly hear the orchestra, and there wasn't anyone around to see him embarrass himself, other than Lois – and he'd humiliated himself in a far greater fashion at their first meeting.
"That's sweet of you," she began, raising incredulous eyes to his, "But…"
With a rueful grin, he interrupted her, "Not really. I'm hardly Fred Astaire. But I always wanted to know what it felt like to fly."
Her skepticism crumbled into a soft smile. Slowly, almost uncertainly, she placed her hand in his and rose to her feet. "Okay, but you realize Oh Holy Night isn't exactly that kind of song."
"Wanna bet?" he challenged her, and as a single saxophone began to play over the orchestra, he spun her around.
Around and around, they twirled across the lawn together – and Clark even managed not to stomp on her toes (though he had no doubt this was more a credit to his extraordinary natural abilities than to any skill he might possess on a dance floor). He'd asked her to dance because she'd looked so sad and seemed so wistful when she recounted the memory of the last Christmas she spent with her mother. He'd been hoping for nothing more than to bring a smile to her face. Now, with the sound of her laughter and shrieks of joy carrying across the lawn, he had to wonder if he hadn't also asked her simply for the pleasure of sharing a dance with her.
They spun around until Lois grew so dizzy she staggered, and he shifted his hold around her waist so she wouldn't fall. When she collapsed against his chest with a breathless laugh, he knew he should release her and take a step back, but he didn't. It seemed only natural for the two of them to begin to sway gently together as the next song began to play.
"You know, we've been out here for a while. People will start to wonder where we went," Lois remarked softly, but she didn't move away from him, and they didn't stop dancing.
"You're probably right," he agreed, but he still didn't release his hold on her.
"Clark, I…It's snowing!" Whatever it was she had been about to say (and he was willing to bet it had nothing to do with the weather), he would never know. Lois let out a joyful cry when she noticed the white flakes dusting the midnight blue velvet of her gown and stuck a hand out to catch a snowflake in her palm.
Staring down at the top of her head, he blurted, not even realizing what he was about to do until it was already done, "Spend Christmas with us."
Forgetting for a moment about the snowflakes falling from the sky, she raised a searching gaze to his face. "Because your mom would love me to have me over?" she challenged him with that quintessential smirk of hers.
Though he felt distinctly uncomfortable under the weight of her regard, he shook his head gently. "Because I want you to come."
The smile she threw him was so bright, he would swear it rivaled the light of the full moon shining down upon them. He began to return the gesture, but then she leaned toward him suddenly.
She was probably aiming for his cheek, he would later reflect. However, at the last second, surprised by her sudden move toward him, he turned his head to ask her what she was doing and their lips met. It wasn't expected – and it certainly wasn't planned – but this was the moment that Clark Kent shared his first kiss with Lois Lane: dancing in the middle of Senator Russell's front lawn, surrounded by moonlight and the snow falling from the sky.
It lasted only a moment; their lips brushed against each other so lightly, he could almost believe he'd imagined it. Then they jumped away from each other as if burned. "What was that for?" he asked in awkwardly, staring at her with wide eyes.
Nonplussed, she nibbled on her lower lip and wondered what she should say. In truth, she didn't know what had compelled her to brush a kiss across his cheek; it must have been a combination of the moonlight and holiday spirit, infecting her and making her lose her mind. With a grin that felt forced, she explained, "Mistletoe," as she brushed past him and strolled back towards the party.
Clark stuffed his hands in his pockets and tilted his head to the side as he considered the woman walking away from him. Then, tilting his head back, he stared up at the starry sky above. "There's no mistletoe here," he remarked to her retreating back.
Well, she couldn't very well pass up an opportunity like that. Lois paused and threw him a coy smile over her shoulder. "Isn't there?" she asked, and then she slipped through the patio doors and was gone.
Neither of them realized it, but something had happened between them that evening, as they shared a kiss under the falling snow. Certainly, they would have sworn nothing had changed when the clock struck midnight the next evening and their truce was ended. But they each carried with them the memory of that moonlit night, when Clark and Lois both discovered what it felt like to fly, surrounded by moonlight and the snow falling down upon them.
No, neither of them knew it, but that was moment they began to fall in love.