A/N: I started this around Christmas, and it was supposed to be a makeup fic for Mizhelfire. But it turns out she got a fic, and so I guess this ended up being a fic just for fun! Sadly, it took me longer than expected, but the AoS is to blame for that. Took the Clois right out of me.
Anyway, here's my not-so-short one-shot. It takes place just after "Bride." Lois finds out a thing or two about Clark. Rating...PG-13, I suppose.
I own nothing but the story, believe me. If I owned Smallville, there would be a NUMBER of things done differently.
Two Days to Christmas
Keeping her body as close to the wall as possible, Lois slipped out of her shoes and, in stocking feet, crept slowly towards the door in front of her. She was just about there – she could almost taste how close she was to her objective – when a board underneath her feet creaked loudly, the sound almost seeming to echo in the silence surrounding her. Sucking in a sharp breath, Lois threw her body against the wall, finding some comfort in its cool surface as she pressed herself hard against its surface and waited.
She'd counted slowly to twenty before she decided that luck was with her; nobody had heard the telltale creak. Breathing a soft sigh of relief, she edged closer to the doorway and then poked her head around the corner so that she could scan the room. What she saw made her emit a quickly-suppressed squeak of joy. Maybe Frank Sinatra was right and Luck really was a lady; Lois wouldn't know because she and Luck had not always been on the best of terms. But either way, she could jump for joy because Luck was on her side for the moment, at least.
The room was empty; Lois was alone. Abandoning all attempt at subterfuge, she jogged into the living room of her old apartment – currently owned by the new Mr. and Mrs. Olsen – and took a good look around. It was time for Operation Jingle Bells to get underway.
Clark cleared his throat anxiously as he jogged up the stairs that led to the apartment above the Talon. He was in desperate need of some help – fast – and the only person he could come to was Chloe. He just hoped he'd managed to catch her at home; she and Jimmy had been a little hard to track down ever since they got married, which was understandable. There were just so many things a newly married couple wanted to go out and do together.
Standing at the front door, he raised his hand to knock, but then his super hearing picked up a very familiar sound coming from the other side. "I want a hippopotamus for Chr…Darn it! C'mon, Chlo! What'd you do with it?…Christmas! Only a hippopotamus will do…"
Curious to know what Lois was up to – and what had prompted the one-sided conversation – Clark quietly opened the door and poked his head inside. It was hard not to laugh aloud when he caught sight of the scene taking place on the far side of the Talon's small living room. Lois was standing on her tiptoes, perched on the top of a chair as she rooted around on the top shelves of a closet. She was dressed in a pair of jeans and a light sweater, her feet clad only in a thick pair of socks, but there was something rather adorable about the Santa hat she had perched on her head. There was something ever so slightly less adorable about the off-key nature of her Christmas carol, but all in all, the picture she presented was downright irresistible.
For a man his size, Clark knew he could move silently when he needed to, though the speed certainly helped with the stealth. With a grin, he zoomed into the room, knowing Lois would feel a slight breeze behind her at best. Coming to a stop behind her, he crossed his hands over his chest and fought to fight back his smile, fixing a severe look on his face instead. When he thought he'd just about managed the air he was going for, he cleared his throat loudly and demanded, "Lois, what are you doing?"
Lois apparently hadn't been expected the abrupt interruption because she let out a shriek of surprise and jumped. Unfortunately, the sudden movement caused her to lose her footing, and Clark watched in horror and a little bit of self-chagrin as one of her feet slid off the side of the chair, the rest of her body seeming more than ready to follow suit.
Rushing forward, Clark reached out his arms, catching her as she fell hard against his chest. His arms went instinctively around her, holding her close as he cradled her against his body. "Uh…wha…good catch there, Smallville," she breathed after a moment as she stared up at him with wide eyes. He set her sheepishly back on her feet as she asked, "What are you doing here?"
"Oh. Uh…I was supposed to meet Chloe to get her help with something." Before she could ask what he needed help with – which was the one thing he couldn't tell her – he deflected her attention off himself by peering over her shoulder into the dark recesses of the closet and asking, "What about you? You looking for something?"
To his surprise, she flushed. "What? No! I mean…uh…yes! My…uh…" Whirling, she glanced around at the interior of the closet quickly and then stooped to grab something off the floor. "Uh…my glove. Left my glove here when I moved, you know. Can't live without it."
Clark looked dubiously at the object in her hand. "Your glove," he repeated in a tone that conveyed the full extent of his skepticism. "You drove three hours from Metropolis to Smallville because you'd left a two-dollar glove here."
"Oh…well, you know, it's cold outside," she offered lamely as she ran the glove between nervous fingers.
"Lois, there's a hole in it. One of the fingers is missing," he pointed out reasonably.
Her nose wrinkled as she shot a quick look at the pitiful excuse for a glove in her hands and then, rolling her eyes, she huffed and tossed the pitiful excuse for a glove back on the floor of the closet. "Oh, all right. If you must know, I was…well, I was looking for Christmas presents."
It certainly hadn't been what he'd expected to hear so he let out a bark of laughter. "You were what?"
"Well, Chloe nagged me into agreeing to come down and spend the Christmas here in Smallville – I think she was afraid I'd spend the holiday alone otherwise!" she explained quickly in her own defense, "I know she always buys her gifts early, but there's nothing for me under the tree. And, honestly, I know she does this to drive me insane because she always hides my present – always! She never puts my present out until Christmas morning so I have to spend a week wondering what she got me and…well…you know how I am about waiting and surprises and things!"
Clark couldn't resist the grin twitching the corners of his mouth or the chuckle that escaped as he teased, "She hides her gifts from you? Really? I wonder why."
She frowned and crossed her arms over her chest. Sounding a little irritable, she replied, "I don't know. All I can say is she finds a gift under the tree one year that looks like maybe it's been unwrapped very carefully and then wrapped back up and she totally overreacts and acts like she can't trust her own cousin not to try to peek at her gifts early. Can you believe that?"
Eyeing the chair behind her pointedly, Clark commented wryly, "Nope. No idea where she would have gotten the impression."
She was narrowing her eyes suspiciously at him, and so he knew he should probably not push his luck. He just couldn't help himself, though, so instead of moving onto a safer subject – like any sane man would do – he gave a quick nod in her direction and commented, "I like the Santa hat, by the way."
She was definitely blushing now as she reached up to yank the red piece of felt off her head. "So I like Christmas," she mumbled. "Sue me."
Feeling charitable, Clark decided it was time to change the subject. "So, you're in town for the holidays?" he asked, trying not to sound so obviously hopeful about her answer.
"Yeah, well, Chloe warned me that the mountain would come to Mohammad if Mohammad wouldn't come to it, and this just seemed easier somehow," she admitted grudgingly as she strode towards the couch and plopped down, tucking her feet underneath her. "I agreed to come down for a couple of days, but I won't be able to stay the whole weekend. Too much to do at the Planet, and you should know by now that the reporting world doesn't take a break just because there's a holiday." At his expectant look, she sighed and confessed, "Okay, so, really, I just didn't want to be a fifth wheel on their first Christmas together as man and wife. So I agreed to stay until tomorrow night, but then I'm gonna head back up to Metropolis and spend Christmas Day up there."
Clark frowned as he took a seat next to her. "Alone? Lois, that doesn't…"
"No pity invites, please," she said, cutting him off. "Honestly, I'll be fine. I'm a big girl now, Clark, and this is hardly the first Christmas I've spent alone. Besides, I'm kind of looking forward to it. It'll be…peaceful. So," she said quickly before he could protest. "What about you? You planning anything special?"
Though he knew she couldn't possibly know his plans, Clark gave a guilty start and asked, a little too quickly, "Why, what do you mean?"
The look on her face made it clear she thought his reaction had been odd. "Um…you know. Do you have a romantic weekend planned or what?"
"What…wh…why would you ask that?" he stammered nervously, only compounding the problem.
Now she was looking at him like she thought he was from Pluto, which meant she wasn't far off. "Uh…hello! Lana's in town! Remember her? The love of your life? Came back for a wedding, decided to stick around to tort…" She coughed, cutting off the end of her sentence. "Uh…the girl you've loved since you realized that there was actually a difference between boys and girls. That Lana? You planning anything special with her?"
Clark paused and looked searchingly into her face, trying to read her thoughts. Her question had been so matter-of-fact; did she really want him to have plans with Lana? But, then, if he didn't know any better, he would think that Lois had caught her breath as she finished asking him the question and was currently fixing him with a look that was almost…hopeful? Or maybe that was just his imagination because, as the silence between them stretched on a second too long, her expression collapsed and her features grew shuttered.
"I'm working on something…special," he confessed. "That's why I need Chloe's help." Worried that he'd given away too much, Clark cleared his throat. "Which reminds me. Have you seen her?"
Lois had turned to look at the tree as he'd spoken, and now she shrugged. "She went shopping with Jimmy a little earlier, but I'm sure you could reach her by cell."
"Right," he said with a sigh of relief as he jumped to his feet. "Great. I should go…um…see if I can catch her then," he said as he all but bolted to the door.
His hand was on the latch when she stopped him. "Clark, wait!" she cried, and he paused and turned to look at her as she rose to her feet behind him. "I don't know if I'll get to see you before I leave tomorrow, so…"
"I thought you were leaving tomorrow night," he interjected with a confused frown.
"Yeah, well, that's the current plan, but I may cut out early. You know how it is. Chloe's got Jimmy and you've got…" her voice trailed off and she gave an abrupt shake of her head. "Anyway, like I said, I'm kinda looking forward to having a low-key holiday this year. But in case I don't see you, I want to make sure to give you your gifts."
He opened his mouth to protest, but she was already reaching for a bag that was resting at the foot of the couch. From its depths, she pulled out two packages. Closing the distance between them, Lois thrust the gifts in his hands. "The one on top is for Lana, but the other one's for you," she told him.
"Thanks," he replied graciously, and then he took a cautious sniff. Though the packages weren't particularly close to his nose, he could smell the faint scent of vanilla.
She apparently noticed his surreptitious act, because a corner of her mouth tilted up into a smile, though the expression almost looked slightly pained. "I didn't know what kinds of things Lana really likes, save for the obvious, so I got her a gift basket. She seems like a vanilla kind of girl."
He didn't quite understand her comment about the obvious; nor did he understand the rather pointed way she said the word vanilla, but he nodded his head and offered feebly, "I'm sure she'll love it."
"Yeah, well…what do you get the girl who's got everything?" she asked, ducking her head to stare down at the floor for a moment. When she looked back up at him, her smile looked forced, and she shoved her hands into her back pockets. "Even if she doesn't realize it."
He still had the feeling that there was much more beneath her words than it seemed, but she didn't elaborate. Instead, she took a step back. "Anyway, I hope you like what I got you."
"Oh, um…I'll have to bring you your gift later. I haven't…I mean, it's not quite…I don't have it for you right now," he explained, feeling bad that he had nothing to hand her in return. Since she'd been on a quest for her presents earlier, he had no doubt that she'd noticed that he'd left several small gifts for the Olsens under their tree, but a gift for Lois had been conspicuously absent.
She nodded and her mouth twisted as she said, "Haven't finished your Christmas shopping, huh? It's okay, Clark. I know you've been busy with…other things lately. I understand."
As she turned away, he caught the flash of emotion on her face and his stomach sank as he realized what she must have thought. She'd thought he'd forgotten her, that he'd simply not thought of her when he'd gone out to do his Christmas shopping. "Lois, I –" he began to explain, but before he could think of the right words, the phone in his pocket began to ring. With a sigh, he pulled it out and checked the Caller ID. It was Chloe. "Look, I've gotta go take care of some things. I'll see you later, okay?"
"Yeah, sure," she said with a sigh as she turned and tossed her Santa hat back on the couch. "See ya later, Smallville."
Though he was confused by her mood, Clark simply didn't have the time to ask her what was wrong. There was too much he wanted to do and not a good deal of time to do it. So although he wished he could stay behind and talk to Lois, he raced out the door instead.
Lois loved Christmas, as a general rule. From the chintzy decorations to the eggnog to the music, there wasn't a single thing she didn't like about the holiday.
Except for being alone.
In her life, Lois had spent many Christmases alone – most of them, perhaps, though she'd never taken the time to count them all up. For the most part, she was okay with being on her own, she was happy to be in charge of her own life and not have to report – or justify – her everyday decisions to anybody but herself. Even if it sometimes got lonely, she didn't mind….most of the time.
A burst of laughter carried to her from the kitchen, and Lois turned from the window and glanced towards the room in question. Of course, she wasn't exactly alone this Christmas; she was staying with Chloe and Jimmy. But they were newlyweds, and though she knew they were thrilled to have her over for the holidays, Lois still couldn't help but feel like she was intruding on their private time. They had only been married for a little over a month; it was natural that they'd want to spend a romantic holiday together, and that wasn't easy to do when there was a third person at the party.
Truth be told, Lois wasn't tempted to leave for entirely altruistic reasons. Yes, she wanted to give the Olsens some private time, but if she was going to be completely honest with herself, she had her own motives for wanting to leave, as well. Somehow, being around the happy couple made Lois feel even more alone.
She didn't want to cast a pall on the atmosphere, though, so Lois fixed a smile on her face as she strolled towards the kitchen. "What's up, guys?" she asked.
Chloe, hiding something behind her back, was dancing out of her husband's reach. "Jimmy here wants to put on a compilation of 80s Christmas songs," she explained on a laugh.
On a laugh, Lois darted forward and snatched the CD out of her cousin's hand. Glancing at the track list, she let out a soft shriek. "You actually want us to sit through ABBA's remix of 'We Wish You a Merry Christmas?' Are you trying to kill us or something?"
"It's not that bad!" Jimmy protested as he tried to grab the CD out of her hand.
With an exaggerated shudder (though it was entirely feigned), Lois rolled her eyes at him. "Jimmy, do the world a favor. Burn this," she directed.
With an air of wounded dignity, Jimmy took back the CD she was offering him. "You know, you mock, but this is some great music." Seeing the matching skeptical expressions on the cousins' faces, he cried, "And, Chloe, I thought you said you loved my music!"
Chloe laughed. "I said I loved you," his wife corrected him as she stepped forward and brushed a kiss across his cheek. "I never said anything about your music."
Jimmy seemed mollified as he returned Chloe's kiss, but Lois felt once again like the odd man out at the party. "Okay, well, I hate to break up the party, but I've got a long drive ahead of me. I should probably head out."
"Already?" Chloe asked, pulling away from Jimmy to look over at her cousin. "I thought you weren't going to head back until tonight!"
Lois grimaced. "Well, I was, but…" she glanced out the window. Thank heavens; nature seemed to be on her side. "It's started to snow, and I want to get on the road before the weather turns too bad." As she talked, she walked over to her bags.
"But you can't!" Chloe cried as she charged after her.
In surprise, Lois turned and stared at her cousin, thrown by the note of alarm in Chloe's voice. "Why not?" she asked reasonably.
"Because…because…um…Jimmy!" Chloe spluttered.
Lois turned to Jimmy, who looked confused for a moment. Then, his expression clearing, he blurted, "Right! You can't go because…I…" he paused. "I need your help with something!" he finally crowed with a measure of self-satisfaction. At his cousin-in-law's skeptical expression, he stammered, "Ch-Chloe, could you give us a minute?"
"Sure!" Chloe agreed in an overly-bright tone. "I've got to call…uh…someone…about something…nothing important or anything, just…I'll be back in a minute!"
"What the –?" Lois asked as Chloe darted out of the room. "Okay, Olsen. What's this about?" she demanded, pinning the younger man with her gaze.
Jimmy flushed, but he gamely charged forward with his obvious charade. "I needed to talk to you about…um…tomorrow. Ch-Chloe and I are planning to go out to dinner, and I wanted to…uh…well, I need to…to…pick out a tie! And I was wondering if I could get your advice."
"My advice?" Lois echoed. "On your tie?"
"Well, yes," he mumbled sheepishly.
Throwing a significant look at the door through which Chloe had disappeared, Lois asked, "Don't you think this is something you should ask your wife?"
Jimmy nodded readily and then, catching himself, he paused. "Well, yes, normally. But I can't ask her because…because I want it to be a surprise!"
It was all Lois could do not to laugh. "Your tie?" Jimmy nodded. "You want your tie to be a surprise."
With a boyish grin, Jimmy clarified, "The dinner. I want the dinner to be a surprise."
"But you said the two of you were planning it," she pointed out reasonably.
Realizing he'd been backed into a corner, Jimmy grimaced and amended his statement. "Right! Right, we are! But…um…Chloe thinks we're not going out somewhere special and, uh, I thought I'd surprise her by taking her someplace really nice, instead."
Lois wasn't biting. "Uh huh," she offered dryly as she grabbed her coat and shrugged it on. "Okay, well, you and Chloe clearly have your own special brand of crazy going on right now, and I think that's great for you both! But I really have to go. I know it's going to be tough, but I think you'll have to handle that whole tie emergency on your own. If you want my advice, I say go with the bowtie she got you on Valentine's Day; she'll be touched you're wearing it for her. Now, if you don't mind…I'm going to cut out of here before you start asking me which socks I think will best match your tie. Okay?" Throwing him one last concerned look – she was beginning to wonder if her new in-law had lost a few of his marbles – she turned back to her bags.
Before she could take a step, however, Jimmy blurted her name just as Chloe sauntered back into the room. "Oh, thank god," Lois thought she heard him mumble when he saw his wife.
If Chloe had been eager to keep Lois at the apartment when she'd walked out of the room, she seemed eager for Lois for leave upon her return. "Okay!" the petite blonde said brightly as she walked up to her cousin and thrust a bag of presents in her hands. "Everything seems to be in order." Lois didn't know what Chloe meant by that, but before she could ask, Chloe continued, "Well, we're sorry to see you go, but of course you're right; you should get a move-on before it gets too much later. Here are all your presents. I'm happy to see you didn't manage to ferret out my hiding place this year. Have a safe drive and promise you'll call me tomorrow morn….afternoon, okay?"
"Uh…what?" Lois asked, thrown by her cousin's abrupt 180 in attitude. "But you…okay…" Not that she'd been lying when she'd said she thought it was time to go, but she was a little hurt that Chloe seemed so eager to get rid of her.
At the door, Chloe grabbed Lois and wrapped her into a tight hug. "Don't worry, cuz," Chloe said with a knowing grin. "I know you're confused now, but it'll all make sense soon."
Then, as she pulled away, she thrust a small package into her cousin's hands."Listen, this is from Clark," Chloe explained as Lois looked down in confusion at the small flat package wrapped in white tissue paper. "Keep it on you; it's important."
"Er…okay," Lois agreed slowly. "Any particular reason why…?"
Instead of answering, Chloe answered, "You'll understand." Then, with one last hug, she all but forcibly propelled Lois out the door. Then, before closing it behind her, she repeated, "Just don't forget to call me tomorrow with all the details!" With a mischievous glint in her eye, she amended, "At least most of the details."
"Chloe, what are you…?" Lois began, but she didn't manage to finish the question before the door was closed behind her. She considered charging back into the apartment to demand answers about her cousin's strange behavior but then, with a shrug and a roll of her eyes, she decided to let it go. Maybe it was typical for newlyweds to go crazy around Christmas. So instead, she slung her bag over her shoulder and headed out to her car.
In the car, Lois slipped her gloves out of her pockets and slipped them on. The temperature had dropped in the last few hours, and Lois's teeth chattered as she sat in her idling car and waited for it to warm up. After a few minutes, she threw the car into gear and pulled out of her parking spot, intending to head directly to her apartment in Metropolis. It would be a bit lonely, no doubt, but she was actually looking forward to putting her own feet up on her very own couch and relaxing to the point where she attained viscosity.
Just as she was about to turn onto the road and head to the interstate, however, her phone emitted the familiar chirping sound of an incoming text message. With a slight frown, Lois pulled it out of her pocket and glanced at the screen.
"Lois, please open your present from me now. Clark."
She stared at the screen for a good deal more time than those nine little words should have warranted. Her eyes narrowed as she pulled up the caller ID on the text message, just to make sure it had actually come from Clark. Her confusion only grew when she saw that it had. She certainly wasn't adverse to bucking holiday tradition, but Clark was usually too straight-laced to encourage her in her deviant behavior. Had he somehow forgotten that Christmas wasn't until the next day?
Her phone chirped again. "Yes, it really is me. And I know it's a day early, but open my present anyway."
Her eyes widened at this, and she shot a quick glance around at the bustling street. Smallville's denizens may have hit the streets en masse in preparation for the holiday, but Clark didn't seem to be one of them. How had he…?
"Stop stalling and open the present!" the next text read.
Typing furiously, she replied, "What makes you think I haven't opened it yet?" Then, as she waited for a response, she craned her neck to look around again.
It took a moment, but then his reply arrived. "Because I know you. You're wasting time arguing instead of simply doing what I said."
Lois glowered at her phone. "Oh, get off it, Smallville. You do not know me that well."
The words had barely left her mouth before the phone chirped again. "I do too know you. And you're still stalling."
"Gah! All right, all right! I'm opening it, okay? Yeesh!" she cried aloud. As she made a grab for the present Chloe had given her on behalf of Clark, she took one more glance around the interior of her car and made a mental note to have it checked for hidden cameras. Clark had to have found a way to slip one into her car without her knowledge because there was just no other explanation for his text messages. There was no way he could know her that well.
Even though the text messages were pretty explicit in directing her to open her gift right away, she indulged herself for a moment and savored the expectation. Lifting the small box to her ear, she shook it gently and frowned slightly when she didn't hear anything move. That was hardly enlightening.
Lowering the package once more, she slipped a nail under the flap of paper and toyed with it a second as she tried to hazard a guess as to what kind of gift Clark had gotten her. Of course, given its size, it could be something as simple – and impersonal – as a gift card from a local store. She certainly didn't anticipate that he'd spent a lot of time picking out a gift for her, given her encounter with him the day before. But, still, though she knew she was only setting herself up for disappointment in the end, she couldn't help but harbor some hope that he'd gotten her something that made it clear that he'd thought about her. Maybe even that he cared about her. It was too much for her to hope that he felt anything stronger than friendship, she knew, but she could at least hope for that much, couldn't she?
"You open it yet?" Her phone lay on the passenger seat, where she'd tossed it in favor of grabbing her gift instead, and its obnoxious chirp reminded her of her task.
Lois rolled her eyes. Only Clark could find a way to annoy her when he wasn't even around. At least, she didn't think he was around. Under any other circumstances, she might have picked up the phone to needle him further, but as it was, she'd had a present in her hands for at least a minute and a half and hadn't opened it yet. That had to be some kind of record.
With almost childish glee, Lois tore into the wrapping paper, tossing it onto the floor of her passenger seat to be thrown out later. Within the packaging, she found a small black box, and her mind raced with the possibilities as she curved her fingers around the top and began to pull it open. When she saw what the box contained, however, her stomach sank.
Whatever she'd been expecting to find, a simple piece of folded paper wasn't it. Lois sighed heavily as she rested the box on her thigh and plucked the paper off of the piece of cotton that had kept it from moving when she'd shaken the package.
In an attempt to look on the bright side, she told herself that maybe the paper contained an IOU for a one-on-one get-together with Clark someday. The two of them had so rarely had the chance to hang out outside of work lately. Once she had unfolded the paper and read the writing it contained, however, Lois realized that she still had far more questions than answers. It was a note, written in Clark's handwriting, but she didn't really understand what Clark was after. This was her Christmas gift?
Lois, the note read.
You can stop pouting; this isn't your present. She opened her mind to protest against the assertion that she'd ever do such a thing as pout before remembering that she was alone in the car and Clark, wherever he was, couldn't hear her. Still, she let out a huff of disdain just on principle and continued to read.
I couldn't wrap up your gift this year, though, so you're going to have to come get it. Go to the place where we first met; there's something waiting there for you.
See you soon.
With a slight frown, Lois flipped the paper, but the other side was blank. "I was driving in the middle of nowhere when we met, Clark," she muttered to nobody in particular. "What did you get me for Christmas, a cornfield of my own?"
Since the air in the car around her offered no immediate response, she snatched up her phone and typed up a quick text message. "What's this about, Smallville?"
"I guess if you want to find out, you'll just have to do what the note says," came the reply. She could almost feel his smirk of satisfaction as he simply refused to offer her any more of an explanation. She was still trying to figure out a suitable reply when her phone chirped again. "You're the investigative reporter, Lois. Investigate."
"Oh, it's on farm boy," she muttered as she threw her car in gear and tore into traffic. As she recognized had probably been his intention, there was no way she was going to be able to resist the challenge he'd just texted her way.
As a general rule, Lois wasn't the type of woman who could tell one cornfield from another. A city girl born and bred, she typically didn't eat corn that hadn't come either out of a can or off a menu. But her destination was rather unique in her memory in at least one respect – it was the only place in her life where she'd ever come across a naked amnesiac who'd just been struck by lightning. Given the rather…impressive first impression Clark had made, she figured she could be blindfolded and probably find the cornfield where they'd first met.
Smallville as appropriately named, as it was small in size, so Lois reached her destination in less than ten minutes. She slowed down the car as she approached the general area in which her car had run off the road, all those years before. Though she looked for Clark's truck, she didn't see any other vehicle in the area. Upon closer inspection she did, however, see that a small red flag had been planted in the ground at the side of the road a short distance ahead.
The red piece of plastic was out of place and so, intrigued, Lois pulled over and hopped out of the car. As she approached the flag, she realized that a small package had been left beneath it, wrapped in plastic to protect it from the elements. As it was getting colder out by the minute and the flat Kansas terrain around her did absolutely nothing to block the biting wind, she snatched the package off the ground and hurried back to the car.
Back inside the warmth of her vehicle, Lois pursed her lips thoughtfully and pulled the small wrapped package out of its plastic covering. She didn't know what she'd expected, when she'd driven all the way out to the middle of nowhere per Clark's instructions, but this certainly wasn't it. His note hate indicated that her real Christmas present – presumably the item in her hands – had been left for her here because it would have been impossible for him to deliver it to her anywhere else. She juggled it from hand to hand, feeling how the softness of its contents gave under her fingertips, as she pondered this strange contradiction. The gift he'd left her could easily have been delivered to the Talon, so what was he after?
Only one way to find out. Lois tore open the green wrapping paper. Inside was a soft piece of fabric, and she lifted it out of its wrappings to hold it up for a better look.
Clark's gift had been a swath of silk – a shawl, she realized – made of red silk so fine it was almost entirely see-through. Scattered across the fabric were symbols (either Japanese or Chinese, she wasn't sure) embroidered carefully upon the delicate fabric. The sheerness of the fabric made the symbols seem to almost hover in midair.
Lois had seen a news report once about seamstresses in some faraway land – she'd forgotten exactly where – who embroidered on silk this fine, and she remembered that she'd remarked once to Clark about it. She'd never dreamed that the work they did was even more beautiful in real life than it had been on the television, she realized as she caressed the silky texture between her fingertips. But where had Clark managed to find it, here in Metropolis? He would have had to search all over for such a thing, rare as it was.
Had it been mere luck that had caused him to stumble across the swath of silk in her hand? Or had he actually taken the time and trouble to hunt it down…for her? Perhaps she should track Clark down and find out.
Folding the shawl very carefully, Lois set it aside on the passenger seat. She was reaching for the gear shift when her hand brushed across a piece of paper and she looked down to see what had caught her attention.
Lying upside-down on her lap was a piece of paper, which had to have fallen out from between the silky folds of the shawl when she'd held it up to the light. Curious, Lois picked it up and flipped it over. It was then that she realized it was a photograph, and after a moment, she remembered the event it depicted.
Back when Lois had lived with the Kents, Chloe had come over for dinner one snowy evening in December. After dinner, everyone had meandered onto the front porch with their mugs of hot chocolate and stared out at the white landscape spread out before them.
Lois couldn't remember now who had initiated the snowball fight, though she knew she was a pretty safe bet. But whoever had started it, she remembered that she and Clark had run all around the yard as waged battle, lobbing icy projectiles at each other. At first, it had just been the two of them, until someone's snowball went astray and somehow hit Jonathan in the left shoulder instead.
Apparently, that had just been too much for him to bear, because he'd grabbed Martha's hand and dragged her out onto the lawn to join in the snowball fight, and the next ten minutes or so were filled with both laughter and cries of indignation as what had been a small skirmish became out-and-out pandemonium, with everyone lobbing tiny packed globs of snow at each other and laughing as they got hit in turn.
Chloe must have caught a picture of the Kents waging good-natured battle out on the lawn, and Clark must have kept it, only to give it to her now. Blinking back the sting of tears at the bittersweet memory the photograph evoked, Lois tucked it very carefully into her sun visor and grabbed her cell phone.
"Where are you?" she typed quickly before sending the text off to Clark.
A couple of minutes later, she received the reply. "You'll see."
Lois glowered at her phone. She'd see? What kind of a response was that? It's not like he'd made it hard for her or anything. Odds were pretty good he was at the farm, where he always spent his holidays. It wasn't like tracking him down was going to be hard.
Though she was still baffled by the odd game Clark had decided to play, Lois shrugged it off and decided to play along. So, throwing the car into gear, she headed towards the Kent Farm.
To her surprise, however, she found that all the lights in the house were off when she pulled into the drive. Normally, the house would be decked out in holiday festivities on Christmas Eve, but this year, nobody seemed to be at home.
Her lips pursing in a moue of disappointment, Lois hopped out of the car and headed towards the door. It looked like Clark wasn't at the farm, but she figured there was a chance – a slight, incredibly remote chance, but a chance – that perhaps he was there and had simply gone to bed already…at five o'clock…on Christmas Eve.
When she pressed her forehead against the window and peered into the quiet living room, she saw that her first impression had been correct. It was quite clear that nobody was at home. There wasn't even a Christmas tree standing in its usual spot in the corner of the living room. Where was Clark, and why wasn't he there?
Maybe he's with Lana. Lois tried to squelch the thought, but it was too fast for her, and it sprang to the forefront of her mind. With a grimace of disgust, Lois started to turn to head back to the car – and then on to her apartment in Metropolis – when she saw a flash of color out of the corner of her eye. Curious, she stepped towards the swing swaying slightly in the wind and the flash on its seat.
As she moved forward, she saw that there was a flower resting atop another plastic bag. When she reached out and touched the petals, she realized that they were fabric, though they looked real enough. Lowering her body into the seat of the swing, she picked up the plastic bag and pulled it open to grab yet another wrapped gift.
So that was what Clark was up to. He was leaving her gifts like breadcrumbs, a trail for her to follow. She didn't know the point or purpose of his plan, but she had to admit she was curious. This time, she didn't so much as pause before tearing open the blue tissue paper.
Once she'd finished pulling off the paper, she didn't automatically recognize what it had covered. After a moment, however, she realized it was a burned CD, and at the sight of it, she didn't know whether to laugh or cringe. The cover of the CD case contained a crude drawing of a snake wrapped around a heart, with the word "Whitesnake" written in big letters across the top.
Though it wasn't the CD she'd once burned for Clark (that was safely ensconced in the back of her underwear drawer back at her apartment), the picture on the CD in her hands was very much like the one she'd drawn once while under the influence of love potion. "Ha ha. Very funny, Kent," she muttered under her breath. It would figure that he'd do something so sweet as remember her favorite band and, in so remembering, remind her of one of her most embarrassing moments. At least, she assumed it was embarrassing. She'd never quite managed to remember what it was she'd done while under the love potion. As that was probably for the best, she'd never really tried too terribly hard to remember, either.
Still, while the thought of what she couldn't quite recall was somewhat painful, there was something sort of…sweet in Clark's remembering her favorite band. Slipping the CD into her pocket, she picked up the fake flower and fingered its cloth petals with her gloved hands. Clark was sending her bread crumbs, daring her to put the pieces together. So what message was he sending her now?
Pursing her lips thoughtfully, she silently contemplated the flower's color. The flower was white, but the edges of the petals were tinted slightly orange in color. Was that a clue?
Her head snapped up and she turned her head to look at the barn as the pieces fell into place. Of course, she remembered the last place she'd seen white roses: her cousin's wedding. And as the maid of honor, she'd been dressed in orange that day. Jumping to her feet, Lois headed towards the barn, which at one time, she'd managed to turn into a romantic setting for a wedding. Complete with white roses.
The door was heavy, and it fought her a little as she pulled it open. It never used to be so hard to open, but then again, the Kents had probably been more contentious about keeping it in good condition when they'd lived on the farm on a full-time basis. The thought gave her a twinge of sadness, to think of all the changes time had wrought. But then she thought of Clark working at the desk across from her at the Daily Planet, and the moment of sorrow passed. Not all changes were bad, she supposed.
Putting her moment of bittersweet melancholy behind her, Lois scooted through the cracked door and looked around. It didn't take her long to find what she was looking for. Only a few feet away, a package sat in purple tissue paper sat on a bale of hay. With a grin, Lois strode over to the package and tore it open. She gasped when she caught sight of what was inside.
It was a jewelry box made of what looked like elm or perhaps maple. The box itself was lovely, but it was the intricate pattern on the top that caught her attention. Pulling off one glove, she stroked her hand across the wood. The pattern had been burned into the wood, the lid then covered with some sort of varnish. It was beautiful. As she lifted the lid, a tinkling melody began to play. Lifting the lid all the way, she saw something inside, but she didn't grab it at once. Instead, she focused on the figurine that had begun to spin around inside the box once she'd lifted the lid. It was a couple in each other's arms, and they danced to the box's melody.
Lois caught her breath as she sank down onto the bale of hay. The sight of the dancing figures reminded her of the time she'd danced inside this very barn, as well as the kiss she and Clark had almost shared. Had he intended to remind her of that when he'd left her his present? Lois snapped the lid shut, cutting off the tinkling melody that sounded suspiciously like the song that had played when she and Clark…but, no, of course not. It had to be a coincidence; Clark wouldn't have left her a memento to remind her of the moment that the two of them…
It was foolish, the path her thoughts had taken. The dance between them had been…well, simply that. A dance. And as for the kiss they'd almost shared, it had been a mistake. An incredibly stupid mistake. Because…because she and Clark were friends, that was all. They were friends, and she'd almost let some stupid crush get in the way of that. Thankfully, Chloe had interrupted them before any irreparable damage could be done.
So there was no way that, with this gift, Clark could be trying to remind her of that mistake they'd narrowly avoided. Why, they'd never even really talked about what had happened between them. Or almost happened, rather. She'd returned from Star City a couple weeks after the wedding, and the moment she'd seen Clark, she'd recognized that there was a land mine between them. She'd also known that poking at that land mine would only precipitate an explosion of a kind she was not prepared for, and so when he'd seemed ready to bring the subject up, she'd taken control of the conversation and bulldozed the two of them right past it.
She didn't know how he'd felt about her determination not to talk about what had almost happened between them. At the time, she'd thought he'd looked both annoyed and a little relieved. But he'd let the subject drop, and he'd never brought it up again. And so she'd let herself pretend that it had never happened, and so had he, she had thought.
So it didn't seem likely that Clark was trying to recall the memory now, with this gift. It had to be a coincidence, or so she told herself.
Comforted by this thought, Lois decided to dwell no longer on her nonsensical train of thought and concentrate instead on figuring out where Clark was sending her next. Remembering the object in the box, she lifted the lid once more and picked it up. Of course, she recognized it at once. Clark had taunted her with it recently enough. It was his nameplate from the Daily Planet.
So he wanted her to go to the Planet now? It was pretty far away, but she figured it wasn't that much of an imposition. She'd been planning on going to Metropolis anyway; she might as well hit work before heading home. Slipping the nameplate back inside the box, she cradling her gift under her arm and jogged back to her car. She hated to admit it, but she was curious to know what Clark had in store for her next.
A few hours later, Lois pulled into her usual spot in the lot next to the Daily Planet and hopped out of the car. She didn't know what prompted her at the last minute to grab the gifts Clark had left for her, but she placed the shawl very carefully on top of the jewelry box and tucked them both against her chest as she nudged the car door closed with her hop. Then, keeping her head tucked down against the wind, she headed quickly towards the doors and made her way straight to the elevator. As the golden colored doors slid shut, she regarded her reflection in silent contemplation. Her hair was a little mussed, windblown from her excursion outside. Her cheeks were a little flushed, which she'd liked to have blamed entirely on the cold winter wind, but she suspected her curiosity and excitement over this little game Clark was playing had something to do with it, as well.
The elevator dinged and the doors slid open, and Lois stepped off and looked around. The newsroom was deserted – but of course it would be, given that it was eight o'clock on Christmas Eve. Still, she didn't see any sign of Clark, so she headed towards their desks, to see what clue he'd left behind to direct her to her next location.
When she reached the desks, however, she didn't see any bits of tissue paper. There were no notes, no messages. Nothing. So she walked around the corner of the desks and looked at her work station, instead. But her desktop was in its usual state of organized chaos; nothing seemed to have been moved or added. Placing the jewelry box carefully on top of the desk, she bent and pulling open her desk drawers, but she didn't see anything there, either.
With a sigh, she rested a hand on her hip and looked around in contemplation. There was a clue here; she knew it. So what was she missing?
Scanning the area more carefully, she noted once more that everything looked more or less the way it always did. Clark's desk was neat and tidy; hers looked like a tornado had hit it. With the exception of Clark's nameplate, nothing seemed to be missing. The only thing that looked even the least bit out of place was the plaid shirt slung on the back of Clark's chair, but as dorky as that was, it wasn't…
Well, actually, that was somewhat curious. Clark hadn't worn plaid to work since his first day on the job, when he'd shown up in that same plaid shirt, his dorky red backpack slung over his shoulder. He'd looked so proud of himself, until Lois had informed him of those all-too-important Rules of Reporting and all but ordered him to change. Hell, she'd practically dragged him into the phone booth to get him to change shirts so he wouldn't make a bad first impression on the boss. Okay, so there'd been no "practically" about it; she'd physically shoved him into the phone booth. But there was no point contemplating semantics; the point was that she couldn't imagine why Clark had left a plaid shirt hanging on the back of his chair when he'd left. In fact, she couldn't figure out what it was doing there in the first place; she knew for a fact that Clark's last day at work had been two days before, and he'd been wearing a grey button-up shirt that day. A grey button-up shirt with a burgundy tie and a pair of black slacks that looked new, in fact.
So what was the plaid shirt doing here now? Could it be the clue? Scooting around the desks once more, she rubbed her hand against the soft flannel fabric as she pondered its presence. The more she thought about it, the more convinced she was that this was the clue Clark had left behind for her. But what message was he trying to send?
Lois glanced around thoughtfully, but when she caught sight of the phone booth, she paused, her eyes narrowing. Well, on Clark's first day, she'd pulled him into that very booth and ordered him to change. Maybe she was supposed to go there.
She wouldn't know unless she checked it out, so she strode purposefully towards the booth and pulled open the door. When she saw what was inside, she chuckled in self-satisfaction. This was definitely where Clark had been directing her to go, but…she frowned as she processed what he'd left behind for her to find.
A long black dress was hanging on a nail in the back of the booth; she recognized it at a glance as a dress she'd drooled over the week before when she and Chloe had gone on shopping excursion together. On the floor in front of it, she saw a box, and she could see the back of a pair of matching high heeled shoes poking over the edge. There was a slip of paper pinned to the hanger, so Lois stepped forward and pulled it off. To her surprise, the message was written in Chloe's handwriting.
I know you're curious to know what this is all about, but I promised not to tell. Please change into the dress I've left for you; there are some other things you'll need in the box. When you're ready, there's one last clue for you to follow.
Merry Christmas, cuz!
P.S. Remember not to follow that last clue until you've changed. I mean it. That would be cheating.
Her eyebrows arching in curiosity, Lois folded the note and slipped it into her pocket as she looked around. A small package wrapped in yellow tissue sat on the ledge beneath the phone, but she didn't grab it at once. Instead, she glanced over at the dress once more. Chloe wanted her to change into it, but…why?
She wasn't going to think about that, not just yet. She could no longer fool herself into thinking that all of the gifts Clark had left her were coincidence, that they'd brought up memories of her past with him by mere chance. No, if Chloe wanted her to change now, she had no doubt that it was because Clark wanted her to be dressed for…whatever was coming next. His actions had a point and a purpose, the thought of which loomed on the horizon and which she was not sure she was ready to face. At least the act of changing clothes would give her a little bit more time to put off the inevitable.
Biting her lip, she stuck her head out the door and glanced around once more to make sure she really was alone. Then she slipped back into the tiny area, slid the door closed behind her, and pulled off her coat.
It was actually a lot harder to change in a phone booth than she'd thought, she decided a few minutes later. Of course, Clark had been asked to change shirts. She'd faced the challenge of thigh-high hose (which she'd found in the bottom of the box), a floor-length dress, and high heels. If it wasn't for the fact that her curiosity was peaked, she'd have called the quick change a wash and carried on without it. But she was curious, and Clark – and Chloe, it seemed – had clearly put a lot of thought into this evening's events. She readily played along to this point; she couldn't be churlish about it now.
She'd only hit the walls of the confined space with her head once and her elbows a half dozen times by the time she changed. With a relieved sigh, she straightened and slipped her feet into the high heeled shoes before running her hands through her hair, sweeping it off her shoulders. Then she slipped her coat back on – the thin straps of the dress did nothing to keep her arms warm – and glanced around once more to make sure she hadn't missed anything, and then she tossed her clothes into the box and kicked it into the corner. She'd grab it later.
Satisfied that she looked as good as she could, given the conditions of her wardrobe change, Lois snatched the package off its shelf and tore it open. She'd slid open the door to the booth and was heading towards the elevators once more before it was even completely unwrapped. One peek at it had told her everything she needed to know about her next destination. She didn't know where Clark had managed to get his hands on a crystal replica of the Daily Planet globe, but that wasn't important. She had no doubt that he was directing her to the rooftop of the Planet, and somehow, she knew she'd find him there.
At the doors, she reached to press the call button, but her fingers trembled softly before she could do so, and she paused with her hand in mid-air as she caught a sharp breath. She'd been putting off thinking about what was coming next, but she couldn't do so any longer. All she had to do was to press the button and travel to the rooftop, and she'd find out what this scavenger hunt of sorts was all about. But now that the moment to face Clark was at hand, she was nervous. A thousand butterflies had taken flight in her stomach, careening around inside her until she thought she might be sick.
It was stupid, she told herself. There was no reason for her to feel so inexplicably nervous. It was just Clark; what was there to be nervous about? Once again, she was probably reading more into the situation than he'd intended. Just like she had at the wedding, when she'd thought for a moment that a dance had been more than a dance and a near-kiss had actually meant something. Until Lana returned, and she'd left because she realized that those moments hadn't meant anything.
She's hoped she was past this – this wishing for something more and then being hurt when she had to settle for something less. She had to stop being so blinded by what she wanted that she didn't see what she actually had. Yes, Clark had led her on a path down memory lane, but she had to remember that he'd made her no promises. This was a moment, nothing more. A moment that could mean nothing or everything, to be sure, but a moment that would only break her heart if she let it.
Clark had Lana; he had given no indication that what he wanted was her. The fact that he'd left gifts for her didn't change that, and if she let herself think it did, it would only hurt more to find out that she'd been wrong. No, there was every chance that she'd go up on that rooftop and she'd see Clark, and he'd grin at her – so proud of himself for having led her on a merry chase as she played his little game. A game that, at the end of the day, didn't have to mean anything.
Except – a stubborn voice of optimism in her mind pointed out pragmatically – Chloe had told her to change into this dress, and Lois had no doubt that this had been by Clark's request. If the game really didn't mean anything, why would he go through all this trouble? Every place he'd sent her this evening had been filled with memories…memories of him, of her life since she'd met him. He hadn't sent her to random places; he'd sent her along the path of their past together. And along the way, he'd left her mementoes that had reminded her of the moments they'd shared. The red shawl, like the blanket she'd wrapped around Clark when he'd stood naked in the middle of that cornfield, unable at that moment even to tell her his name. A photo which recalled the time she'd spent living with the Kents. The Whitesnake CD, the dancing figurines inside the jewelry box…all of those added up to something.
To what? He'd left her reminders of their past, but to what purpose?
She was doing it again, and she cursed herself silently for it. She was hoping again. And though she hated to admit to such a weakness, the truth was, she was scared. Scared to know what was coming next. Scared to know what answers she'd find on the rooftop. The clues Clark had left for her…they had to mean…something, and she was afraid to face it. Because once she went up onto that rooftop…well, she knew that there was the slightest chance that it could change things. She knew that if she went up that elevator and met Clark, things could change between her and her partner – her best friend – and she wasn't sure she was ready for that.
Oh, god, she was overthinking everything and it was only muddling her brain. Her brain was at war with her heart, and since she was a woman who tended to live by her impulses, she wasn't accustomed to listening closely to either before deciding to act. She certainly didn't have much experience with negotiating a truce between the two of them.
Of course, it wasn't like she didn't have options. She could turn back now. She could head back to her car, send Clark a text message, that she'd been unable to decipher his clues, and she go back home now without seeing him. He'd understand, she was sure, and everything would be the same between them tomorrow. On the other hand, if she wanted to take this next step, she could go up on that rooftop. He would be there, waiting for her, and either she'd get her heart broken once again or everything would change between them
Closing her eyes, Lois took a deep breath and tried to clear her mind. Really, she was being ridiculous. After all, what was the worst that could happen? Okay, so she could go upstairs and tell Clark that she loved him, and he could crush her heart into tiny little bite-sized pieces.
Right. Maybe she shouldn't think about it that way. Maybe she could think about what could happen if she wasn't getting her hopes up for nothing.
She and Clark could actually explore the sexual tension between them. And then, of course, something could go wrong and everything could be ruined between them. "Way to be a glass half full kind of girl," she muttered to herself, rolling her eyes at her fairly uncharacteristic spate of pessimism.
Still, she wasn't entirely wrong. Even if she wasn't getting her hopes up for nothing, tonight she could be taking a pretty big chance. So the question was, was it worth it? Was what she stood to find on that rooftop tonight worth the risk of what she might lose if she was wrong? If they were both wrong?
Her eyes fluttered open, and she hit the call button. Her mind was made up. Yes, there was a risk. If she was wrong about Clark's intentions tonight, she stood to feel like a fool…again. Even if she was right, there was a chance she would get her heart broken. There was a chance that their friendship could be ruined, even if Clark did want…if the two of them…But if she didn't take the chance, her heart would still be broken. And at any rate, what she felt for Clark – the hope that maybe he felt the same way about her – it was worth the gamble of tomorrow. After all, while it was true that the two of them stood to lose everything if they took this chance, there were rare times when a gamble would pay off.
This had to be worth that chance. Because even if went up on that rooftop tonight to find out Clark's intentions and the answer broke her heart, it had to beat hating herself for never finding out for sure.
The door opened as soon as she hit the button, and Lois stepped inside and pressed the button for the highest floor. It was time to face Clark.
The elevator dinged at the top floor, and when Lois stepped onto the landing, it was with the knowledge that only one short flight of stairs and a metal door stood between her and the answers she both needed and feared. As she neared the top, she pulled the phone out of her pocket and pulled up the text messages screen. "You sure you know what you're getting into, Smallville?" she wrote; it was only fair to make sure. When she was two steps from the top, she hit "send" and paused to see what would happen next.
On the other side of the door, she heard the familiar sound of Clark's phone, and she still didn't move. A minute later, her phone chirped and she held her breath as she glanced down at the screen. The message Clark had sent her made her laugh. "Does anyone really know what they're getting into with you, Lane?"
"Fair enough," she muttered, and though she figured Clark had heard her phone ring and knew she was there, he didn't open the door to greet her. It seemed he was determined to keep the ball in her court, so there was no point in putting it off any longer. She buttoned up her coat, placed her hand on the cold metal handle of the door, and shoved it open.
At her first sight of Clark, her breath caught in the back of her throat. A smile trembling on the corners of her mouth, she stepped forward, trying to project an air of nonchalance as she met his eyes. Though she supposed she should have come up with some sort of pithy remark to complete the picture, but absolutely no words came to mind. The only thing she could see was him; the only thing she could think about in that moment was how incredibly handsome he looked, standing on the rooftop of the Daily Planet, the city lights shining behind him, framing his body.
The moment stretched between them until Clark spoke. "Merry Christmas, Lois," he said softly.
With a sigh of relief, she let herself slip back into old habits. "Aren't you getting a little ahead of yourself? Christmas isn't until tomorrow," she teased him gently.
Grinning, he returned, "You always say I can't keep up with you. I've learned to get an early start if I'm going to give it a try."
There was plenty she could say to that, but she didn't. Instead, as a gust of wind wrapped around her body, she shivered and frowned at him in concern. The temperature had dropped by several degrees in the last hour or so, and he'd been standing up on the rooftop for who knew how long, waiting for her. And while he was wearing a long woolen coat, he wasn't wearing a scarf or gloves. "Aw, geez…have you been waiting up here for very long? It's freezing out here! We should head back inside before you –"
"It's okay, Lois," he said comfortingly. "The cold doesn't bother me much." She began to protest, but he reassured her once again. "Really, I'm fine. Besides there's something I wanted to show you. Are you…are you cold? Do you need to go inside?"
"No, I'm fine," she said. There was something about the way he was looking at her that made her feel awkward and unsure, so she slipped her hands into her coat pockets and threw him a sheepish smile.
An uncomfortable pause fell between them, and then he rescued her by offering, "You're probably wondering why I led you up here."
Bridging the distance between them, Lois nodded. "The thought had crossed my mind."
There was another brief pause, and then Clark cleared his throat nervously. "You see, the thing is, I had this whole plan. But now, it…well, now that you're here, it's not exactly…I don't really know where to begin." She could certainly understand his dilemma, since she also found herself without the first idea of what to do next.
Clark glanced away from her for a second, and she could see the muscle jump in his jaw. When he looked back at her, there was a determination in his gaze that hadn't been there the moment before. "Lois, I asked you to come up here because there's something I want to tell you, and I wanted to pick the right place and the right time to do it."
Lois arched her eyebrows curiously. "And the Planet's rooftop on Christmas Eve was what you decided on?" she asked.
With a slightly sheepish smile, he nodded. "Definitely."
She wanted to tease him, to use their pattern of banter to break the tension between them. But instead, she took a deep breath and said on a voice that shook very slightly, "Well, I'm here. What's up?"
Now Clark seemed to have to brace himself before he could continue. Turning away from her, he gazed over the lights of the city and said, "I've been doing a lot of thinking lately, about…well, a lot of things, actually, but mostly about the past."
She didn't want to say a word, didn't want to interrupt him. She certainly didn't want to drag the memory of another woman, another lifetime, another love onto this rooftop with the two of them. But she had to ask, because she had to know. "Lana?"
Clark nodded, and Lois wanted to turn away from him, to leave him with his memories and her heartbreak. She'd known it was foolish to allow herself to hope, but she had. Against her own better instincts, she had. And that made his confirmation of her greatest fears all the worse. But though she knew she should turn and leave this place, all she did was turn to face the city lights by his side.
From his position beside her, Clark admitted, "A lot of things. Yes, Lana. My parents. Chloe. You. I've been doing a lot of thinking about a lot of things lately." She didn't know what to say about that, so she didn't say anything at all when suddenly, he blurted, "Do you ever think about the past?"
Placing her hands on the balustrade, Lois heaved a heavy sigh and nodded. "Sometimes," she admitted.
Tilting his head to the side, the edges of Clark's mouth quirked up into a smile. "And what do you think about?" he asked softly.
Lois felt like it was a question riddled with traps, but she didn't know where they were or how to avoid them. Choosing her words as carefully as she knew how, she said slowly, "Oh, the usual things, I guess." His gaze prompted her for more, so she bit her lip and pondered his question. She thought about the past quite often at this time of year, and with an awkward shrug of her shoulders, she confessed, "Around Christmas? My family. The way my mother looked on Christmas morning when she'd get up early to make us breakfast and how Lucy would drench her pancakes in maple syrup so that none was left for the rest of us…but she didn't get in trouble for it because nobody was allowed to get mad on Christmas. And then Mom would somehow convince the General to put on this stupid Santa hat that had definitely seen better days, and he'd pass out all the gifts. One to each of his girls and we couldn't open another until everyone had finished opening the gift he'd given them and dutifully gotten their pictures taken."
He grinned over at her. "And I bet you hated to wait on everyone else."
With an abashed chuckle, she admitted, "Well, patience isn't one of my virtues, I have to admit."
"Really? I'd have never guessed!" he teased in return.
Without an immediate rejoinder, Lois rolled her eyes at him. "Anyway," she said, stressing the word in a pointed attempt to get back to the subject. "I also remember the year that Uncle Gabe decided he wanted to cut down his own tree as some sort of bonding experience, so he dragged Chloe out to the woods somewhere and when they got home, she had this horrible rash over her hands and face and…" she paused, chuckling at the memory. "The poor thing…the rash itched so much that she was miserable for a week, but as miserable as she was, she also said it was the prettiest tree they'd ever had."
With a small smile, Lois leaned over and nudged Clark with her shoulder. "I also think about you, you know. Your whole family, actually."
"I always think about my dad at this time of year," Clark admitted.
The admission didn't surprise her. "He loved you a lot," she murmured softly, knowing that Jonathan Kent's loss was still mourned by the people who loved him best. Though she hadn't known him for very long in the grand scheme of things, Lois mourned him, too.
He nodded. "He loved you too, you know." And she did. That was one thing she admired most about the Kents; they never hid their love from each other. As Lois let her mind drift back to some of her fonder memories of her time at the Kent Farm, Clark explained, "But this year…this year I've been thinking a lot about you."
"Me?" she asked in mild surprise, though she didn't know why his answer should shock her.
"You," he confirmed as he turned back towards her, and she swallowed heavily at the intent expression on his face. "The night we met…the time we spent living together at my parents' house…the dance we shared at Chloe's wedding, and the ki…"
"So that's why you sent me those gifts?" she interrupted hastily before he could finish that thought. She knew he'd been about to mention the kiss they'd almost shared, and for some reason, she was afraid to let him do so. In talking about it, they would have to face it – both what it had been and what it could be. And then things might change between them, and Lois…Lois wasn't sure if she was ready for that.
Clark stared at her for a moment, his gaze intent on her face as if he was searching for something, but then he nodded. "Over the last few days, I've travelled all over Smallville and Metropolis, thinking about you. About…about us. I went to the spot where you and I met. I went to my parents' house, and the Talon…the nightclub where you almost got abducted…Ollie's old apartment…All over, really."
"And that's why you sent me on a scavenger hunt tonight?" she asked softly, taking a small step towards him.
He nodded. "The places you went to tonight were…well, they were important places for us. For the two of us, I mean. I wanted you to remember. I wanted you to think about them, too."
Lois felt like she was standing on the edge of a cliff, and she was scared to look over the ledge. With a small smile, she reached for his hands, linking her fingers in his and holding on tight. Then she admitted quietly, "I remembered. How could I forget? I think about you, too."
At her confession, he moved even closer to her and rested his hands on her hips, and Lois caught her breath at the intent look in his eyes. She felt a trap close behind her; she'd unwittingly walked right into it. Afraid that she might have given away too much, she panicked and blurted, "Clark, what is all of this really about? All this talk about the past…we could have done that anywhere. Why the Planet's rooftop?"
Clark threw her a boyish grin, and there was a distinctly mischievous glint in his eye. "Like I said, Lois. There's something I want to show you," he said as he adjusted his hold on her. "Grab on tight."
Lois expelled the breath she'd been holding in a whoosh, relieved to think she'd been imagining things as she let herself relax. "Why?" she asked teasingly as she gave a slight shake of her head and placed her hands on his shoulders. "What are you going to do? Fly?"
"Actually…" he responded, and though she thought he'd been joking, one quick glance down confirmed that he had spoken seriously.
With a little squeak, Lois gripped shifted so that she could wrap her arms around his neck as she exclaimed in a voice that was perilously close to a squeak, "Clark, you…you…you…" A longer look down towards the ground reaffirmed her suspicions. She and Clark were currently floating above the skyline of Metropolis, the city lights fading below as they ascended.
"It's okay, Lois," he said comfortingly, though the little frown line between his brows wasn't exactly reassuring. "I've got you."
"Okay, you've got me…but who's got you?" she shot back, tightening her grip on him. Sucking in a deep breath, she dared one more look down before deciding that she really had to stop doing that. The cars on the streets below were the size of Micro Machines and getting smaller as it was. If anything happened – if, for example, Clark dropped her…okay, she really wasn't going to think about that right now.
Murmuring a hopeful prayer under her breath, she looked back up at Clark's face and noticed that the frown line had deepened. "Uh…Sma-Clark?" she corrected herself automatically, as the thought struck her that she probably shouldn't call him Smallville any longer. "Everything okay?"
"Yes," he responded reassuringly, though he didn't entirely look like he was reassured. "It's just…I'm pretty new to flying, and I-I'm not sure I have it all figured out yet."
Lois supposed she should have been alarmed that Clark had taken her flying while he was still a novice, but the truth was that she was anything but. If anything, she was flattered he'd chosen to share this moment with her, but underneath it all, she was amazed. This was Clark. Clark Kent. Clark Kent could fly.
It was the most incredible experience of her life, and she was sharing it with Clark. More to the point, it was he who was giving this moment to her. She didn't know if she should read some deeper meaning in that, but it was hard to keep herself from doing so.
She was momentarily distracted from both her thoughts and her awe when she felt Clark stop in mid-air and bobbled in midair for a second as he tried to change course. "Sorry," he said, flushing. "I practiced for this moment, but it's not exactly the same, flying with someone else, as when you fly by yourself."
"I'll have to take your word on it," she responded on a shaky laugh. Then, as his words penetrated, she asked incredulously, "You mean I'm the first person you've ever…ever…ever done this with?" She'd wanted to say 'taken flying' but her amazement over Clark's meteor power – as she assumed it had to be – was still too fresh for her to be able to verbalize the reality of it..
"Of course," he responded, sounding surprised that shed even asked. "Who else did you expect me to take up for the first time?"
Lois didn't really know, but she'd never thought it would have been her. "I-I don't know," she muttered in embarrassment as her gaze dropped to his lips when she found it hard to continue looking him in the eye. She should let it go and she knew it, but she simply couldn't. At any rate, they were hovering in mid-air, a thousand miles above the Earth for all Lois knew. It wasn't like she had to worry that someone would burst upon them unexpectedly and catch the two of them by surprise.
Every natural instinct she possessed screamed at her to hide her emotions. Being in Clark's arms like this…she had never felt more vulnerable, and vulnerabilities were something that she always tried her hardest to hide. And so it was with a force of will that she made herself lift her gaze to his and whispered, "Why are you doing this, Clark? Why me?"
Tilting his chin down, Clark met her eyes and there was something in his gaze that made it impossible for her to look away. "Because, Lois. You're special. You're special to me."
She let out a soft snort. "Oh, come on Clark. You know I'm well aware of how absolutely incredible I am, but you've never really seemed to give the matter much thought. I think you had me pegged as nothing more than a pain in your ass from the moment we met."
It was a strange conversation to have, as they hovered so high in the air. But somehow, talking to Clark like this…it wasn't that Lois forgot where she was; it was more that she recognized that what the man in her arms could do didn't change the person that he was. Yes, he was flying with her in his arms, but he was still Clark – the same Clark she'd come to know and lo…know – in so many ways.
"You're right," he surprised her by admitting. His voice remained mild, his tone lacking censure, as he continued, "I did have you pegged as a pain in the ass from the moment I met you. Well, at least from the moment that I got my memories back and realized what a pain in the ass was. But if I'm not mistaken, you didn't exactly go out of your way to come off as anything else."
He had her there, but she wasn't going to let the matter go. "So what changed?" she asked suspiciously.
The smile he threw her made her catch her breath. For the first time, she began to let herself believe that maybe all of this wasn't a fluke and that if Clark's actions tonight really did mean something more, then maybe that something more was worth risking her heart for. "I looked twice," he replied simply.
She wasn't about to let him get away with such a simple answer, but the air, which had been frigid enough down on the ground, was positively freezing from such an altitude. It worked its way under the folds of her coat, and she shivered. "You're cold," Clark said, pulling her closer.
"You're not?" she asked incredulously, though she let him tuck her against his body.
"I told you before, the cold doesn't really bother me," he responded as they began to drift once more.
"How is that even possible?" she asked, but she felt him shake his head in response.
"There's a lot I have to tell you, Lois," he admitted. "But first, we have to get you someplace warm. Just hold on tight while I try to figure out how to change direction here…"
Lois couldn't entirely explain the grin she hid quickly against the folds of his coat, but she supposed it had something to do with the fact that Clark's comment had been just so very…Clark. Her Clark.
"I think I'm screwing up your center of balance," she suggested as she glanced up at his face and saw the frown there. "Maybe if you…ah…h-held me in your arms instead of against your b-body like this, it would help." Her advice probably made sense; at least, she thought it did though she was hardly versed on the physics of centers of gravity. But the thought of him scooping her into his arms and holding her in such a fashion…something about it had caused her to stutter out the suggestion. She had no idea why, since heaven knew she was pressed against his body from chest to thigh as it was, so the shift could hardly make their positions much more intimate.
Clark didn't seem to notice her discomfort, however. Instead, he pursed his lips thoughtfully and then gave a slight nod. "Makes sense," he agreed as he bent and scooped her into his arms. A moment later, he smiled down at her. "You're right. This is easier."
"Ah…excellent?" She hadn't intended her response to come out as a question, but if truth be told, she wasn't sure that it was easier – at least for her. As they'd been positioned before, she could rest her chin on his shoulder and hide her face from his view. Now there was no way to hide from him. It was also a lot harder to resist the urge to look up at him, to study the features she knew by heart.
Of course, they were flying over the Metropolis, so it would have been perfectly understandable for her to look out at the city sprawling below them, but she didn't. Perhaps she would worry about the view next time. For this, her first flight with Clark, she was completely enthralled by the man holding her in his arms.
She'd known for a long time that there was something extraordinary about Clark Kent, but she never would have guessed it would be this. He could fly, and he'd said that there was quite a bit more he wanted to tell her. What other revelations did he have in store for her?
"We're here," he said, his voice breaking into her thoughts. She blinked in surprise as she tried to process his words; she'd been so wrapped up in her thoughts that she'd forgotten he was taking her somewhere to warm up. "Lois, we're here," he repeated.
Glancing around, she realized they were hovering a few feet above her apartment balcony. "Oh. Ah…right. Sorry. I got a little…anyway, you're welcome to come inside if you…if you want."
"Thanks," he said with a crooked grin. "But first…I'm, um, I'm really a lot better at taking off than landing, so if you want me to put you down before I…"
"No, it's okay," she said as she shifted the arms she still had wrapped around his neck. "I trust you."
He looked down at her, and she smiled. Then, with a short nod, he began to slowly descend towards her balcony. When he finally touched down, he stumbled for a couple of feet, but he didn't drop her.
"Not half bad, Sm…Clark," she said, correcting herself once again.
"You can still call me Smallville, you know," he told her as he set her gently on her feet. When she arched her eyebrows up at him, he threw her a slightly sheepish grin and confessed, "I…well, I guess I've gotten used to it."
"Okay," she said softly. "Smallville it is. So, should we…what's all of this?" she asked as she turned and caught sight of her living room. Two place settings of Martha Kent's best china had been arranged on her dining room table, an unlit candelabra between them.
"This," he began as he brushed past her and slid open her balcony door, gesturing for her to precede him inside, "is dinner. I figured you probably wouldn't get a chance to eat on the road, so I…I cooked you something."
Lois looked at him, her mouth agape. "You? You cooked something? You did?"
Clark frowned at her and groused, "I can cook, you know. Just because I don't do it often doesn't mean I don't know how."
"No, no!" she blurted quickly, suspecting she'd hurt his feelings and wanting to kick herself for having so foolishly done such a thing. "It's just…I…well, it's a surprise is all."
"It's supposed to be," he reminded her. Then, staring at her face, he laughed aloud. "You really aren't very good at surprises, are you?" he teased her.
"I'm better at giving them than getting them," she admitted as she shrugged off her coat and tossed it onto the back of the couch. "Anyway, I…Clark?" she asked as she turned and caught sight of his face. He didn't seem to have heard her, so she repeated, "Clark? You okay?"
She saw him swallow heavily and watched as his eyes swept down the length of her body and then up again. When he looked her in the eyes once more, his gaze was smoldering, and Lois felt her mouth go dry. "Lois, you look…incredible," he complimented her in a soft tone that sent a shiver up her spine.
Though Lois was certainly no stranger to male attention, she felt her cheeks flush with color and stammered, "Th-thank you." What was it about Clark that undid her so, she wondered. She could handle the lewdest of cat calls and remain unfazed as she shot back a snarky remark, but one heartfelt compliment from the man in front of her, and her knees turned to mush. Maybe her brain turned to mush, too, because instead of trying to find out what this thing was between them – this palpable tension in the air – she blurted instead, "A-and speaking of surprises, you said you had a long story to tell me."
She watched as Clark's shoulders relaxed a bit, and the intense moment between them shattered as he turned. "Right. Well, like I said, it's a long story and you must be famished. Why don't you go ahead and have a seat, and I'll get the food ready."
Even though she was dying to know all about Clark's newfound ability to defy gravity, Lois found she was somewhat grateful that he was acting as if it was business as usual. Somehow, it helped her keep a grip on things; it was as if the last half hour was just a dream and this was just another night, spent with just the two of them. "I wish I'd known you'd gone through all this trouble," she called to him as he headed into the kitchen and she moved towards the dining room table, running a fingertip across the pristine white tablecloth. "It's probably gone cold by now!"
"Don't worry about it; I've got it covered," he told her cheerfully as he brought in the roast he'd cooked for dinner, still steaming from the oven. He'd probably kept it on low to keep it warm, and it was likely only due to the Kent influence that he had managed not to dry their dinner out. "Go ahead and have a seat; I'll serve."
Throwing him a mock suspicious glare over her shoulder, Lois turned to a nearby cabinet and grabbed a bottle of wine instead. "You keep spoiling me like this, Smallville, and I'll think you're after something," she teased.
"Maybe I am," he teased back as he took the bottle from her hands. She didn't know if it was his semi-suggestive comment or the brush of his hand against hers, but she sucked in a sharp breath and her hand trembled. She would have dropped the bottle if he hadn't had a hold on it, so she took a quick step back. Any other time, he would have made up some sort of lie to cover, to pretend like nothing had just happened between them. Tonight, he simply grabbed a corkscrew off the table and began to uncork the wine bottle.
Lois didn't know what to do; her former perceptions and the current reality clashed, and every time she thought she had a handle on the situation – every time she thought she could pretend like it was just another night with Clark – something would happen that would mix her up all over again. Was he even aware of what he was doing? Was he feeling the same pull between them that she was feeling? Or was he oblivious and all of this – the look she'd seen in his eyes, the semi-flirtatious banter…was it all in Lois's head?
"All ready," he said, seemingly oblivious to Lois's internal conflict. Scooting around her, he pulled out her chair and held it for her, waiting for her to seat herself. She didn't move. Truth be told, she was a little afraid of getting that close to him, scared of what such proximity would do to her already precarious grasp on both sanity and dignity. Instead, she looked around wildly, desperate for an excuse to stall, to distract him, to put some distance between the two of them before all hell broke loose and she just gave in to the temptation to kiss him. "Uh…matches. We need matches. To light the…the candles."
Clark's grin was boyishly endearing as he replied, "Don't worry, Lois. I've got it covered." He turned his head to stare at the candles, and just when she was about to make some sort of crack about trying to stare them into igniting, she saw a flame flicker at the wick and the candles were lighted. "I-I-I…how did you do that?" she asked rather vaguely as she lowered herself into the chair he was holding for her, her knees having gone too soft to support her weight any longer.
"Well, like I said…it's a long story," he replied softly as he pushed in her chair and then scooted around the table to have a seat on the other side. "But I guess first thing's first. Lois, I'm the Red-Blue Blur."
Lois didn't know how much she ate of the meal Clark had taken such time to prepare for her that evening. She didn't remember taking so much as a bite, truth be told, but she supposed she must have done so, because somewhere between Clark's opening lobby in the arena of personal confessions, his explanation of all the powers he had at his disposal (definitely throwing her as he explained his x-ray vision), and his admission that he was an alien from another planet, her plate got cleared of food.
"A-an alien?" she repeated as she stared at Clark with wide eyes. "Like…little green men, human abductions, strange cow experiments type alien?"
He grimaced. "Well, sort of. Not exactly, but if you mean a being from another planet who travelled here in a spaceship, then…yes. That's exactly what I mean."
Just realizing how insulting her comment had been, Lois covered her mouth with her hand and shook her head, shooting Clark a miserable look. Dropping her hand to the table once more, she tried to make up for her mistake. "Oh, crap, I did it again, didn't I? I mean, of course you're not a little green man or anything. I mean, look at you! You're huge!" Perhaps that hadn't come out the way she'd intended. "I-I mean, you're…but I've seen you naked and you have all the parts of a-a…um…"
"Human man?" he asked, arching his eyebrows at her.
"Er…right." Perhaps it wasn't the best time to mention that she'd seen him naked, either. "I-I'm really not handling this very well, am I?" she moaned.
Though she'd expected Clark to be offended by her usual lack of tact, to her surprise, he smiled across the table at her. "It's a lot to take in, Lois. I understand that."
"Well, no, but…it is a lot to take in!" she cried as she jumped to her feet and began to pace. The movement helped her think somehow. "I mean, I've lived with you! You look like a…um…well, okay, let's face it, a human man. Wait, don't take this the wrong way, but what…ah…planet are you from, exactly?" she demanded as she whirled to look at him.
Clark didn't move as he watched her pace, letting her come to grips with his revelations in her own time. "Krypton," he answered her simply.
"Krypton," she repeated, testing out the taste of the word on her tongue. "Okay, so you don't look like you're from Krypton…not that I'd know, because I've not exactly met any Kryptonites, have I?"
"Kryptonians," he corrected her.
"Whatever," she replied with a shrug. "But still, you…you don't…look…different. You know what I mean?"
He nodded. "You'd expect an alien to be more…alien, is that it?"
She grimaced. "When you say it out loud, it sounds so much worse than it does in my head."
Clark shook his head. "You don't have anything to feel embarrassed about, Lois. It's perfectly understandable. The thing is, I am like a regular human man in a lot of ways."
"Barring that whole flight thing?" she offered with a shaky smile.
"Well," he admitted, a smile lifting the corners of his mouth, "there are one or two differences. But in all the most important ways, I'm just like a regular man."
Cocking her head to the side, Lois studied the man still sitting at the dining room table, though he'd turned his chair so he could watch her prowl a path across her living room floor. "So I know you eat…and you sleep. How about…um…everything else?" She'd always assumed he'd had sex with Lana, but she'd hardly listened outside the bedroom door, so how would she know?
"Like what?" he asked her softly.
Lois couldn't pull her gaze away from his as she stepped near to him. Reaching for him with a hand that trembled only slightly, she brushed her fingertips across his cheek and then down the line of his jaw. Trailing a path along the soft, sensitive skin of his neck, she breathed in a voice barely above a whisper, "Do you…feel like an ordinary man?"
"Yes," he replied, so softly that she could barely hear him. Moving very slowly, as if he was scared that any sudden movement might scare her away, Clark rose to his feet and stood close to her. But Lois didn't run; she stayed where she was and stared up into his face.
"What do you feel?" she whispered, finally voicing the question that had been plaguing her over endless nights.
"I feel you," he responded, his voice dropping softer still. Shifting closer, he slowly reached towards her and wrapped his arm around her waist, resting his hand gently on the small of her back. "What about you, Lois? What do you feel?"
"I-I feel…I feel…" she paused, trying to determine what exactly she did feel before so she could take a stab at verbalizing those feelings. Her hand trailed down his neck to his chest, to rest over his heart. Though it wasn't in her nature to usually admit to such a thing, she found she couldn't dissemble in this moment. "I feel scared," she admitted, and then she pressed her lips tightly together as she stared up into his face, wishing she could all the words back. Though the moment of raw vulnerability and honesty between them had prompted her to be truthful in her confession, she found that her admission had only made her feel more unsure, more frightened as she wavered on some sort of invisible precipice.
A spasm of some kind of emotion passed his face too quickly for Lois to identify it. "Of me?" he asked gently, his hand tightening against her back, but neither of them moved away.
But of course she knew what he was afraid she meant; it didn't take a mind reader to figure it out. He was an alien, he'd kept this secret from so many for so long, it was only natural that he was afraid of how the people in his life would react when they found out. She opened her mouth to make a joke about his inability to scare her off, but instead, she lifted her free hand and cupped his cheek. "Clark, I know…well, actually, I can't even imagine how hard it's been for you, to have to hide your secret from everyone you care about. I can only imagine the reasons you – your family – had for…" She shook her head, unable even to fully comprehend what it must have been like for the man before her, for so many years having to hide such an enormous part of himself from the world.
And yet, when anyone else might have grown embittered over the constant need for secrecy and the fear of what would happen if the world ever found out about them…Clark had become the Red and Blue Blur instead.
"You save the world from the shadows," she breathed, finally coming to understand why he did what he did – and just how incredible it was that he chose to do it. "You've been alone for so long, and yet you…everything you do…it's incredible."
He reached up and brushed some hair back off her face. "I haven't always been alone," he said, and Lois knew from the tone of his voice that he was trying to comfort her. Wasn't that just the most incredible thing yet? He was comforting her. "I've always had my parents, and they were pretty amazing, actually."
"Well, yeah," she agreed, because she would never have imagined anything less from the elder Kents. "But having family isn't always enough, when you're lonely," she said in a voice borne of entirely too much experience.
"It hasn't just been them," he said with a small smile. "Chloe and Lana…they've both known my secret for a while now."
"Oh," she said as she tried to come to grips with what he was telling her. Of course, she was happy to hear that he hadn't been alone. Except that she'd thought, for a moment, that there was a reason why he was telling her all of this now, that perhaps it meant something more. That perhaps she was special to him. Of course, it had been foolish of her to assume such a thing, she realized. "Right. Of course!" she said brightly as she forced a smile and tried to pull away.
Before she could do so, Clark grabbed the hand she held over his heart, holding it in place. "Lois, they've known about me for years because they found out about me. You're the first person outside of my family that I've ever told my secret to. I told you because I wanted you to know about me, not because I had to."
Did it really matter, she wondered, how everyone had found out about him? Of course it did, she realized, but then she wondered if she shouldn't have found out his secret earlier, put all the pieces together. Was he telling her now because he didn't think she'd ever figure it out on her own? "I didn't want to pry into your private life," she said defensively, feeling compelled to explain why she hadn't discovered his secret earlier. "Yeah, of course I knew there was something different about you," though her suspicions had thus far been confined to assuming he had a Peter Pan complex. "But we're friends, and I figured that was just the way you were! And even when I thought there was something strange about you…and, trust me, I have, I figured you have told me if you wanted me to know and you wouldn't appreciate my prying into your personal life. Besides, we're friends and that's more important than some stupid curiosity…"
What was gearing up to be a full-scale ramble on her part broke off abruptly as Clark grabbed her free hand and pressed it to his chest, covering her hands with his own. She could feel the soft cotton fabric of his dress shirt under her fingertips and, beneath it, the warmth of his body. His breath fanned gently across her cheek as he leaned forward. "Friends? Is that all we are?"
"Isn't it?" she breathed, her gaze locked on his, and she completely forgot the need she'd so recently felt to explain herself to him. She was searching his face for something, and he was gazing intently at her in return. This wasn't the last time they'd stood like this, their bodies inches apart as they gazed searchingly into each other's eyes. The last time they'd stood like this, it had almost ended in a kiss. Where would it end now?
"Is that all you want us to be?" he challenged, lowering his face to hers. Before she could respond, his lips pressed against hers. His caress was soft, almost tentative, as if he was waiting to see if she would return the kiss or if she would break it off.
For a split second, Lois didn't react, and then she leaned into him, bridging the distance between their bodies as her mouth opened under his. Clark raised his hands to frame her face as he tilted his head and deepened the kiss. She felt like she was falling and so, her hands suddenly freed, Lois grabbed Clark's arms and held them tight as she kissed him again and again. She'd dreamed of this a hundred times, a thousand times. She'd wondered what it would be like to hold him like this, to kiss him, to call him hers.
In the distance, the clock in the clock tower struck midnight, the sound of the chimes penetrating through the haze caused by Clark's kiss. Pulling back, Lois grinned up at him. "Merry Christmas, Smallville," she breathed.
"Merry Christmas, Lois," he returned softly, brushing her hair back off her face. Then, with a slightly dopey grin, he asked, "So, now that you know the truth about me…do you want to go…you know…" He nodded towards the window, his eyes sparkling.
Tossing her head, she laughed. "What? Fly with you again?" When he nodded, she sighed and tightened her arms around his neck. "There's only one thing I'd like better."
"And what's that?" he asked with a smirk.
Lois sucked the corner of her lower lip between her teeth in an unconscious gesture, her grin widening. "Tell ya what, Smallville. Why don't you kiss me again and maybe you'll figure it out."
And he did.