A/N: My makeup entry for the '09 Holiday Ficstravaganza at DI, written for Widgetgirl. My challenge was "Season 9; NC-17; Crazy Jeweler Guy from Committed." Enjoy!

A Smallville Christmas Carol

"So, I guess this is goodnight," Clark said softly, his hands thrust into the pockets of his coat, as he turned towards the woman next to him. For a while had to simply stare at her, taking in the way the snow lightly dusted her hair and the way her cheeks were tinged pink from the cold.

The lights strung in the trees by the Talon's door were reflected in Lois's eyes as she turned to look up at him. "I suppose," she replied, but she didn't turn towards the door. Instead, she kicked at the snow under her feet. She apparently wanted to prolong the moment as much as he did, because she said, "I'd invite you inside, but it's late, this is Lucy's last night here, and…you know."

"We agreed to take it slow," he completed for her in a soft murmur of agreement. But, still, she didn't protest when he reached for her, wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her against him. "Come over tomorrow night," he said abruptly, revisiting a conversation they'd been having off and on for at least a week. "I'm not trying to rush you or anything," he added hastily, afraid she would get the wrong idea. "You can sleep in my old room; I'll take the couch. But it's Christmas Eve. I'd like to spend it with you."

She grinned, leaning into his embrace, her palms resting on his chest over his heart. "Isn't your mom coming in for the holiday?" she asked.

"On Christmas Day," he replied, leaning down to brush his lips across hers. "But I want you to be there, too."

"Oh yeah? And why's that?" she breathed, the corners of her mouth quirked up into a teasing smile, though her eyes were surprisingly grave.

Clark didn't really register the disparate expressions on her face, however, let alone consider the significance of them. Instead, he replied lightheartedly, "Well, you know, my mom would probably love to see you. And I'd kind of like to spend the holiday with my girlfriend."

She swept her hands up his chest and linked them behind his neck. "So, you'd miss me if I weren't there, huh?" she asked on a soft chuckle as she pressed her lips against his jaw.

He swallowed, sucking in a sharp breath as her hair brushed the side of his neck and he reminded himself for at least the twentieth time that evening that he had agreed to take it slow. He wanted to pull her hard against his body and deepen their kiss. Actually, he wanted to sweep her into his arms and carry her inside. But he couldn't rush her.

"Of course I would," he replied in a strained voice.

"And why's that?" she breathed into his ear, and a shudder of pure desire travelled down his spine, causing him to tremble slightly.

Two could play at that game. Lifting a hand to brush her hair back off her cheek, he joked, "Well, after all this time, I've kind of gotten used to having you around."

She snorted. "You have such a way with words!" she said in mock outrage. "Boy, you really know how to sweep a girl back onto her feet!"

He straightened so he could meet her eyes, which sparkled with amusement as she grinned cheekily up at him. "Well, I suppose there is more to it than that," he said, drawing out the words as if begrudging the confession. When she tilted her head to the side, her eyes fixed on him with an expectant expression on her face, he offered, "You're also…oh, I don't know. You're…" he paused as he tried to think of the right words to describe her. As usually happened when he tried to explain what captivated him so about his girlfriend, words failed him and he fell short of the mark. "You're…Lois."

She waited for a moment, but when he didn't say anything further, she shook her head and rolled her eyes up at him. "Well, I'm glad to know that after five years, you've got my name down, at least," she joked, punching him lightly on the shoulder.

At the contact, Clark grew serious again, reaching for her and wrapping her into his arms once more. "So you'll come?"

Her smile fell and she pursed her lips as she considered his request. He could see the indecision in her eyes when she finally agreed, "I'll come by tomorrow, but I'm not going to spend the night. And of course I wouldn't miss your mom's world-famous Christmas dinner."

Having her near him for only a few hours each day wasn't going to be enough, he knew. It seemed like every time the two of them were together, he was left only wanting more of her. Not less. But – once again – he reminded himself that he couldn't push her. The woman who was so incredibly fearless when it came to every other aspect of her life was uncharacteristically cautious when it came to relationships. If he pushed her, he might scare her away, and he didn't want to take that chance. "All right," he agreed on a sigh, not quite able to suppress his small dissatisfied frown. Then, before he could give in to the urge to press her for more, he bent and kissed her again. "It's late, and I should let you get inside. I don't want you to freeze out here."

She grabbed the lapel of his coat, pulling him down for yet another kiss, prolonging the moment before they would have to say goodbye. Finally, however, she had to let him go. "I'll see you tomorrow, Smallville," she said softly, and then she turned and went inside.

Clark waited on the sidewalk until he heard the deadbolt on her door slide into place and he knew she was safely inside. Only then did he turn and stroll back to his truck, sliding behind the wheel and pulling onto the street that would take him out to the farm.

That night, he found himself unable to sleep so he went downstairs and flipped on the television, channel surfing until he came across an old rerun of the movie "A Christmas Carol." Then he sat back on the sofa and stifled a yawn as his mind wandered, going straight to the woman who was so often on his thoughts as of late.

Lois meant so much to him and yet she was a bundle of contradictions. In the past, he had seen glimpses of how amazing the two of them could be together, though it had only been recently that he'd finally felt ready to take that step, to find out for sure. But he was ready. He – who had once thought he would never love again – was ready to take a chance what he and Lois might have together. And it was Lois – who almost never looked before she leapt – who was holding back, reluctant to take the risk.

Every once and a while, when he looked at her, he could see it in her eyes. It was like she was watching him, waiting for something…something…well, he frankly didn't know what. But it was like she was waiting on him, but he didn't know what she was waiting for. Every once and a while, he grew scared that if he didn't figure it out sooner or later, she would decide she was tired of waiting and walk away.

He frowned as his stomach knotted into a fist at the thought. The two of them hadn't been dating very long, but still…the thought of losing her…he couldn't bear to think about it, even now. How much worse would it be after they'd been dating for longer, when she'd become such a part of his life – and his heart – that he couldn't imagine them being nothing more than friends, let alone less?

Laying on his side, Clark absently watched the images flickering across his screen as he tried to quell the thought. As his eyes closed, he dimly heard a voice from the television say, "Tonight, you will be visited by three spirits…" And then he was asleep.

Clark had barely drifted off to sleep when a strong gust of wind rattled the window panes, jerking him awake once more. Momentarily disoriented, he sat up and shook his head, clearing away the cobwebs. Then he stood and walked to the window, pulling the drapes closed to block out the sound of the winter storm.

As the curtains fell into place, he stretched and then turned, intending to go upstairs to bed. He hadn't taken more than a step, however, when he paused and looked at the couch in shock. Where he had been laying a moment before, Lana now sat, perched on the edge of the sofa.

"Hey, Clark!" she said with a cheery smile and a casual wave.

"L-Lana!" he choked in surprise, taking a step back from her. He didn't dare get too close to her; she was poison to him now and being close to her very well could kill him. "What are you doing here?"

She stood, a graceful movement, and her smile didn't so much as waver when she said, "I came to see you, of course."

"I don't think that's a good idea –" he began, crossing his arms over his chest and carefully maintaining his distance.

She ignored his interruption and talked over him. "Don't worry, I won't be here for long. In fact, I'm not really here now. I just came to give you a message."

"A message?" he asked in confusion as he puzzled over her cryptic statement.

She nodded and cleared her throat. Then she said with as much solemnity as she could muster, her voice dropping dramatically, "Tonight, you will be visited by three ghosts."

Clark's confusion melted into a frown of concern. "Lana, we talked about what Kryptonite exposure might do to you. I think…you're not well. Let me call Chloe; we'll get you some help."

She sighed and shook her head. "That was always the problem with you, Clark. You never listened to me. Well, you really need to listen to me now, because I'm not crazy. I came to deliver a message and it's important. Tonight, you will be visited by three ghosts. I came because I wanted to tell you to listen to their warnings. Before it's too late."

He shook his head, a scowl on his face. "Right. You came to deliver a message," he repeated sarcastically. "Lana, why are you really here? Why now? You have to know that I'm with Lois now. You left, remember? I begged you to stay; I said we could find a cure for your Kryptonite radiation together. But you left. So if you're here because you've changed your mind, then I really don't appreciate this game you're playing."

Lana smiled, but this time the expression had a tinge of sadness. "No, I already told you, Clark. I know it doesn't make sense now, but before the end of the evening, you'll understand why I came. And why it had to be me."

Clark opened his mouth to reply, but before he could utter a sound, she repeated her message – that he needed to listen to the ghosts who would visit him over the course of the evening – and disappeared right in front of his eyes. For a second, he thought she might have just sped away, but he dismissed the thought with a shake of his head. He would have seen her speed away, felt the slight breeze as she raced away. There was nothing.

"Okay, Clark. You really need to get some sleep," he muttered to himself as he rubbed his eyes in bewilderment. "You're hallucinating your ex-girlfriend, and you're clearly spending too much time with your current girlfriend because now you're talking to yourself. Great. Just great."

He frowned as he walked to the stairs and trudged slowly up to bed, feeling unusually exhausted – more tired than he had felt for as long as he could remember, in fact. Clearly, he had imagined the conversation he had with Lana in his living room. He hadn't been entirely awake, and the movie he'd been watching had undoubtedly had something to do with his unusual hallucination. It probably even made sense that it would be Lana who had come to him to enact the role of Marlowe from the Dickens story. She had been such a part of his life for so long. But still…he was with Lois now. Even in such an innocuous situation, should he really have dreamt of Lana, given that he was currently dating Lois?

With a heavy sigh, he threw himself into bed and closed his eyes. He would think about it in the morning. For right now, he simply wanted to sleep.

Clark didn't know how long he'd slept – though he doubted it was for very long at all – when he heard a soft voice say his name. A voice he hadn't heard in a long time; it had to be a dream. The voice called his name again, more insistently this time. The more he focused on it, the more he felt himself start to awaken, and he tried to fight it. With a small moan of protest, Clark squeezed his eyes shut and tried to will himself to stay asleep. However, when the voice called his name again, he opened his eyes, his heart heavy at the thought of the voice he'd heard in his sleep – that of the father he missed every single day.

His sad sigh changed to a gasp of shock as he turned his head to find his father standing by his bedside, staring down at him. "Hello, son," Jonathan said softly.

"Dad?" Clark asked, bolting upright. "But you're – how can you –? I'm dreaming. I must be dreaming!"

"You're not dreaming," his father said as he sat by her side. "Not exactly. I'm really here."

Clark swallowed, his mind racing to process this sudden change of development. This wasn't the first time his father's ghost had come to him, but that had been a long time ago, right after Jonathan passed away. He jumped to his feet and said, speaking aloud, "Well, if I'm not dreaming and you're really here, that must mean…there's something seriously wrong. I should go to the Fortress and talk to Jor-El. Maybe he knows –"

"Son, wait. There is something wrong, and I came here to help. But Jor-El can't really help you with this particular problem," Jonathan interjected patiently.

This stopped the younger Kent in his tracks, and he turned back to the figure sitting on the bed. "What do you mean? Dad, why are you here?"

Jonathan stood and moved to Clark's side. "I'm the ghost of Christmas past, Clark. And I'm here because of Lois."

"Lois?" Clark repeated in confusion as Jonathan reached for him and grabbed his arm. And then he felt a slight tug in his stomach as his father pulled him into the past.

He blinked, sucking in a sharp breath at the strange sensation. When he opened his eyes again, he found himself in the middle of a small living room, immaculately maintained and furnished with a tan sofa, matching arm chairs, and a small television set. Since he didn't recognize the room, he looked to his father for an explanation, but Jonathan didn't say a thing. Instead, he nodded towards the sofa, silently directing Clark to pay attention to the room.

Just at that moment, a woman who appeared to be in her early thirties walked from the kitchen into the living room, wiping her hands on a dish towel before adjusting the sofa pillows. "Lois! It's getting late! Are you ready?"

Clark found himself unconsciously leaning forward at the sound of his girlfriend's name. He was surprised that the voice which called out in return sounded so young. He'd sometimes wondered what Lois would have been like as a little girl, but it wasn't really something he'd ever been able to really picture. She always seemed so self-assured, confident, fully convinced she was in charge of herself and her surroundings. It was hard to picture what she'd been like when she was little.

He heard the clatter of footsteps charging down the hall before the little girl burst into the room, and Clark chuckled at the sight. Even if he had ever managed to form a concrete picture of a little Lois, he was pretty sure this wouldn't have been what he would have envisioned. She was young, probably about six or seven. Her long brown hair was pulled back with a headband, and she was wearing white tights under a red dress with a black belt. Her shoes were also black and looked like they had been meticulously shined, though there was already a small scuff on the side of her left foot.

"Oh, sweetie, you look adorable!" the older woman cried as she reached to straighten the bow on the back of Lois's dress.

Lois grimaced. "It itches," she complained, tugging at the bottom of her dress. "Mrs. Brenner, do you really think he'll like it?"

"Of course he will!" the older woman exclaimed with a smile. "Of course, I'm sure your daddy's missed you while he's been away, so he probably wouldn't care what you wore. But you look so pretty in your dress, I'm sure he'll love it." Then she glanced at a clock hanging on the wall above the sofa; it was a little after noon. "He's supposed to be here soon. Why don't you have a seat so you don't get your dress dirty? I'll get you something to drink. You want some juice?"

"Mm-hmm," Lois hummed in agreement, betraying her excitement by lifting her weight onto the balls of her feet. "Thank you, Mrs. Brenner." As soon as her companion left the room to fetch her some juice, she raced to the window, standing on her tip-toes as she craned her neck to look out onto the street.

Clark smiled as he stared at the little girl. "She's adorable," he said softly. "But I don't understand. What are we doing here?" He turned to look at his father. "You said you came to see me because there's something wrong, something having to do with Lois. But she can't be any older than seven here. What could I possibly learn here that would help me?"

Jonathan placed a hand on his shoulder. "You'll see," he said, nodding towards as she shifted her weight impatiently. When the older woman came back with a glass of juice, she took it and sat down on the couch, nervously smoothing the skirt of her dress into place. He could see her visibly struggle to remain still, but it wasn't long before she was on her feet again, racing across the room to stare out the window once more.

"She's waiting for her dad?" Clark guessed, his eyes locked on the little girl. "He's coming home for Christmas?"

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his father nod. "She's six, and it's a few days after Christmas, actually. He wasn't able to make it home for the holiday, but he promised to make it up to her when he got back. He said they'd spend the day together. Just the two of them."

Clark winced as he watched Lois turn back to the couch, only to spin around and race back to the window at the sound of a car passing by outside. "He doesn't come, does he?" he asked softly, staring sadly at the little girl's eagerness and the palpable disappointment she felt every time she looked out and didn't see her father coming up the walk.

"He comes," Jonathan contradicted him, giving a little wave of his hand. The scene in front of them jumped. He had taken them several hours into the future, but the scene hadn't markedly changed, for all intents and purposes.

The dim light outside indicated it was almost dusk, and Lois was still sitting on the couch. But she was no longer racing towards the window at every sound. Instead, her head was bowed sadly as she scuffed the rug with the toe of her shoe. Clark heard the soft sound of a sniffle and stepped forward to kneel before the small, forlorn figure. When he looked into her face, he saw the trembling of her lower lip and a few tears trickle down her cheeks.

"Lois, I'm sorry," he said softly, even though he knew she couldn't hear him, as the little girl in front of him lifted a hand to rub her eyes. He wished there was something he could do – some way to comfort her – but of course there wasn't. This was only a memory; there was nothing he could do to change it.

Jumping to his feet, he whirled on his father. "Okay, Dad, enough of these games. What are we really doing here? Did you bring me here just to see her cry? There's nothing we can do to change it, so why are we here?"

Jonathan sighed and sat on the couch next to Lois. "She doesn't cry, does she?"

Clark frowned in puzzlement at his father's words. "Of course she cries," he said confusedly. "She may not like people to see her do it, but that doesn't mean she doesn't cry."

"What about you?" the older man asked softly. "Have you ever made her cry?"

Clark frowned. "N-no, of course not," he said, sounding vaguely uncertain. They'd only been dating for a brief period; until recently, they'd been nothing more than friends and co-workers. She'd never had cause to cry over him. Had she?

Jonathan made a non-committal sound. Clark once again looked down at the little girl on the couch. "Sometimes I forget how lucky I was to have you, Dad," he said in an abrupt change of topic, not really wanting to think about his father's question. "I mean, things weren't always perfect on the farm, but you were always there for us when we needed you."

"General Lane is an important man," his father replied. "I'm sure there were times he would have liked to have spent more time with his daughters, but his duties always got in the way." Jonathan paused and then added mildly, "I'm sure Lois understood."

Clark frowned and opened his mouth, ready to reply that at the moment, Lois didn't look like she particularly did, but then the front door flew open and General Lane walked into the room. Clark turned to look at the older man as he braced himself for the fallout.

The Lois he knew would been enraged at having been left waiting for hours. She have given her father a piece of her mind, regardless of the stars he wore on his uniform. But the little girl on the couch didn't seem to be feeling the same anger her older counterpart would as her face broke into a smile that caused a sharp pain in Clark's chest. She'd been so forlorn a few second before, but in the way of little girls, the very sight of her father made her forget all of her disappointment, at least for the moment. Instead of yelling at him like Clark could easily imagine her older version doing, she raced up to her father and wrapped her arms around his waist, giving him a tight hug.

Clark saw the General look down in surprise at the little girl clutching onto him. "Lois," he said in a perfunctory greeting, giving her a quick pat on the back before moving out of her embrace.

She wasn't deterred. Instead, she scooted in front of him and twirled. "Do you like my dress?" she asked eagerly, and Clark winced at her obvious attempt to keep her father's attention.

"It's nice, Lo," the General said absently. "Anyway, we're running a little late; I was supposed to pick up your sister ten minutes ago. Run back and get your things. We need to get moving; I have some people coming over tonight."

His little girl's face fell. "Lucy? B-But what about our day together?" Lois asked, her small voice wavering as she tried one final time to hold onto the promise she'd been so eagerly anticipating all day.

"Our what?" the General asked, finally giving his daughter his full attention as he threw her a confused frown.

"You promised!" she cried, stamping a little foot to punctuate her words. "You said when you came home, we'd spend the day together! Our make-up Christmas, you said!"

Clark saw the General wince, and there was a rueful look behind his eyes. "Oh. Right," he said softly, clearly having forgotten his promise until that moment. With a sigh, he squatted in front of his daughter. "Listen, Lois, I'm sorry. I know I promised, but I just can't take you out right now. I have some very important men coming over tonight for a meeting, and I can't miss it. We'll do it some other time, okay?"

Lois sniffled, her eyes filling with tears. "You forgot, didn't you?" she asked softly.

"No, of course I didn't!" the General protested, though his words lacked the full force of his convictions. When Lois threw him a petulant look, his expression hardened as he stood. "I know you're upset that our plans got changed, but I don't have time for this right now, Lois. Now, I've told you that I have a very important meeting, and I'm not going to stand here and argue with you about it. Go get your things so we can go get your sister." When his daughter opened her mouth to protest, he said firmly, "That's an order, Lois."

The little girl's mouth snapped shut and her head bowed sadly. "Yes, sir," she said softly as she turned and trudged down the hallway. The General had an expression of regret on his face as he stared at his daughter's retreating back, but he didn't say a word as Lois disappeared around the corner.

"That's it?" Clark asked with a frown, feeling his heart tug at the dejected line of Lois's little shoulders. "He just forgot about her and expected her to be okay with it because he told her to be?"

Jonathan stood, stepping towards his son. "He was the best father he knew how to be," he answered simply. "And, yes. He forgot about her and just expected her to be okay with it. But, then, he did apologize." At his son's frown, he added, "And, like I said, he's a very important man. When you have responsibilities like he has, sometimes it's easy to forget the people left waiting for you at home when you're off saving the world."

Clark frowned, shooting his dad a quick look. He had a feeling they were no longer talking about the General alone; his father was warning him that he had to remember to balance his hero duties and his private life. But that was a lesson Clark had already learned, so he didn't address that broad hint and asked instead, "Did he ever make up for it? Did he ever take her out like he promised?"

The older man stared at his son for a long moment until he replied softly, "No. He never did. Work kept getting in the way, and he put her off until she just stopped asking."

Clark's mouth twisted as he thought about the little girl's sadness, but then he shook his head and turned back to his father, his mind once again on his more immediate concern. "Dad, why did you bring me here tonight? Whatever's wrong with Lois, does it have to do with her father? Is he in danger?"

"No, that's not why we're here," his father replied. "This is just the first part of the lesson. There's more you need to see."

"Can't you just tell me?" Clark asked. "Whatever lesson you want me to learn, can't you just tell me? We're wasting time, here! If Lois is in danger –!"

Jonathan shook his head. "It doesn't work that way, son. But you're right. It is time for us to move on. There's a lot you still need to see." And Clark felt that strange sensation of being pulled through time again.

When Clark looked around a moment later, he found himself in sparsely decorated bedroom, though the few dolls, posters, and toys in view indicated the room belonged to a little girl. A half-filled suitcase lay open on the bed, and sure enough, a little girl stormed into the room a moment later. She threw herself on the bed, grabbing a doll off the pillow and holding it close as she curled her legs against her chest, resting her chin on her knees with a pout.

"Lucy, you almost finished packing?" Lois asked as she walked into the room. She was a few years older than she'd been in the last memory – possibly twelve or thirteen by Clark's guess. "The General said your plane takes off in a few hours."

"I'm not going," Lucy said petulantly, flinging out her foot to kick the suitcase off the bed. All the clothes that been neatly folded before came spilling out into an untidy pile on the floor.

"Oh, Lucy," Lois said on a heavy sigh as she perched on the edge of the bed. "I know you don't want to go, and I'm going to miss you, too. But, you know, I really think you'll end up liking this school you'll be going to if you give it a chance."

Lucy scowled. "You don't have to lie, Lois. We both know he's not sending me off to school," she grumbled.

"What are you talking about? Of course he is!" Lois protested.

"He's not sending you away, is he?" Lucy retorted. "No, just me. He's sending me away because he just doesn't want to deal with me."

Lois sighed and reached to brush her sister's hair off her face, but the younger girl flinched away. "Oh, Luce…it's not like that at all. He's sending you off to school because…well, you're brilliant. With your grades and the way you play the violin? With everything you can do? All of that will just go to waste if the General keeps dragging you from one place to another like a piece of luggage and he knows it!"

Lucy scowled, a skeptical expression. "Yeah, right. He's not sending you away is he?"

The older sister shrugged. "I'm not special. You are."

"I hate it when she says that," Clark interjected, and the scene in front of him paused as his father turned to face him. "When she says she's not special. I hate it," he explained.

Jonathan frowned slightly, staring intently at his son. His eyebrows raised, he asked, "Why's that?"

Clark scowled, inexplicably irritated by the question. "Because she is special, of course. She's…she's…"

When his voice trailed off, his father nodded. "Hmm," he hummed, clearly not impressed by Clark's answer.

The scene started up again, and Lucy snorted. "Please," she said sarcastically. "Of course you are! He could send you off to school, too, if he wanted. But he's not because he wants you here. He's okay with the thought of being away from me, but not you. "

Lois rolled her eyes. "Right. Well, then, being special means being ignored half the time and criticized the other half. It means that he can just forget I even exist when having me around isn't convenient to him. It means being shoved into a corner or left behind, whenever anything better or more important comes along. If that makes me 'special' then let me tell you…being special? It pretty much sucks."

"You don't understand!" Lucy retorted, jumping off the bed. Her face was red with anger and her hands were clenched at her sides. "You don't understand anything!" And then she raced out of the room, Lois following immediately after her.

Clark opened his mouth to demand an explanation once again, but his father shook his head. "Not yet," Jonathan interjected, cutting the protest off. "There's one more scene I want you to see, and then, if you still have questions, I'll explain what I can." Before Clark could say anything else, he waved his hand, pulling them through time once more.

This time, when Clark opened his eyes, he found himself in another living room, furnished with heavy wooden furniture and sharp lines. It was a living room Martha Kent would laughingly describe as needing a woman's touch. But Clark and Jonathan weren't alone; there were a number of uniformed officers milling about. By the decorations, it was clear that this was a holiday party.

Clark didn't see any sign of Lois, but he did catch a glimpse of the General on the other side of the room, deep in conversation with another officer. He tried to focus in with his hearing, but his powers didn't seem to work while he was in this ghost-type state. So instead, he skirted the edge of the room (not wanting to experience the sensation of having someone walk through him) and moved closer.

As he drew closer, he saw the man engaged in conversation with Sam grab a photo off the mantle. "- family." Clark managed to catch only the last word. "These are your daughters?"

The General glanced at the photo in the other officer's hand. "Yes," he replied. "The one on the left is my youngest, Lucy. She's in boarding school in Switzerland; got a full scholarship to study the violin. You should hear her play. It's really…it's something else." He chuckled. "She definitely takes after her mother."

"She's beautiful," the stranger remarked, replacing the frame. "And your other daughter?"

The General took a sip of his drink, and Clark saw movement out of the corner of his eye. He turned his head to see Lois, dressed in a formal black dress but otherwise looking about the same as she did when she first arrived in Smallville. She had a smile on her face as she approached her father, but he didn't seem to have noticed her yet.

"Oh, that's Lois," the General responded simply, and Clark saw Lois pause, as if waiting to hear what he would say next. It appeared she'd heard her father talk about his youngest daughter and wondered how he would describe her.

But the General didn't say anything else, and there was a flicker of wry humor mixed with disappointment on her features, quickly masked with a wide smile. "Good evening, sir," she said with forced cheer as she stepped forward. "Sorry I'm late."

He turned to face his daughter. "Lois," he greeted her. "I've pretty much given up on the hope that you'll ever show up anywhere on time." His words were a mild rebuke, but his daughter's expression didn't so much as flicker.

"Well, it's good to know there's at least one thing that can always be said for me: I never fail to live down to expectations," she said brightly, turning her attention back to the General's companion. "But I haven't had a chance to introduce myself. Brigadier General, I'm Lois Lane…"

The scene in front of Clark froze as Jonathan rested his hand on his son's shoulder before pulling him back to the present. "The second ghost will come to see you soon, but do you understand why we're here yet, son?" he asked once when they were back in Clark's room as he stared intently into the younger man's eyes.

Clark frowned as he thought about everything he'd just seen. He almost felt as if he did understand the point his father was making, but he wasn't sure he was ready to face it yet. So instead, he shook his head. "No, I don't. Earlier, you said that Lois was in danger, but how could what you showed me tonight possibly help her?"

"I never said she was in danger," Jonathan corrected him. "I said I came here tonight because of Lois. And I did, but I also came here because of you. Because there's something you need to learn." He paused. "But I think you do understand why I showed you all of this."

Clark sighed, running his finger through his hair as he began to pace back and forth in frustration. "Look, it's complicated. Lois is complicated," he groused. "I loved Lana for so long, I never even thought…and now, what Lois and I have together…I'm not sure I even know…I mean, how can I explain how I feel to her if I don't even understand it yet?"

He whirled on his father, knowing that he sounded like he was doing nothing more than making excuses and perhaps unfairly angry at his father for pressing him to explain something that was as of yet incapable of being put into words. "And, anyway, you don't know Lois like I do! She knows how I feel about her! She knows that she's important to me!"

Jonathan's eyebrows shot into his hairline again. "Does she?" he asked, and all of a sudden, Clark was standing in his front lawn, facing his parents' house. His father was nowhere to be seen.

With a slight frown, Clark took a cautious step forward, wondering why his father had brought him here. As he approached the front steps, he heard what sounded like people talking and walked faster when he thought he recognized Lois's voice.

He climbed the steps to the porch and had to turn the corner to he could catch of glimpse of Lois in the orange dress she'd worn at Chloe's wedding. She was sitting on the front porch, a bottle of champagne in her hand and a sad expression on her face. "-whine like Patsy Cline," she was saying to Oliver, who stood nearby.

"Yeah, you're probably right," Ollie said, stepping forward to sit at her side. "You know, um, I might not be at the top of your confidante list, but if you ever want to talk, I'm here."

Clark frowned, wondering what they were talking about. Of course, he remembered Chloe's wedding. He certainly remembered how it ended, though this was clearly much earlier in the evening. Remembering everything that happened after caused him to grimace in regret.

But to his recollection, Lois hadn't been sad that day; she'd seemed to be in a pretty good mood – excited for her cousin, in fact. When had this scene taken place, and how had he never known about it? How had Ollie known to come out here looking for her and he hadn't?

Of course. This had to be after Lana returned. Until then, he'd spent most of his time with Lois; he'd known for a fact she hadn't snuck off to the front porch with a bottle of champagne. But after Lana walked through the door and he saw her again…well, as much as he hated to admit it, Lois had been barely an afterthought. As always happened when he was around Lana, he closed his eyes to everything that wasn't her…and, at the time, that meant leaving Lois alone on the dance floor. He'd always told himself that she understood, that it had been just a dance, that she didn't even really care. He'd never thought about whether his actions had hurt her because in all honesty, he didn't really want to know.

On the swing, Lois was staring at Ollie with pain in her eyes, and then she put the champagne bottle aside. "I'm just having these feelings and I don't know what they mean," she said and then sighed, dropping her eyes to her lap.

Her gaze was still downcast when Oliver said awkwardly, "Oh. Who's the lucky guy?"

Clark caught his breath; he knew where this conversation was headed. He hadn't wanted to think about it before, but judging by the scene in front of him, his oblivious self-involvement over Lana had hurt her. It hadn't been just a dance to her. And she had cared that he'd walked away from her so easily.

He didn't want to see this. He didn't want to see that he'd hurt her so, even though it had been unintentional. His father had asked if he'd ever made Lois cry; he didn't want to see that he might have been wrong when he answered in the negative.

"No," he said as Lois said something to Ollie about the awkwardness of the conversation, given their romantic history. But Clark didn't listen as he backed a few steps away. "I don't want to see this."

"I know you don't," his father said behind him. "But I think maybe you need to."

Ollie was offering to be her friend, and Clark turned towards the man who was subjecting him to this. "Why? So I can see that I hurt her? We weren't together at the time! She wasn't – I mean, I guess I knew that maybe she felt something for me, but that wasn't – I didn't mean to do this! It isn't fair! I didn't do this! I didn't know!"

"You said she understands, that she knows how you feel about her," Jonathan replied softly. Then he stepped forward and looked at the scene in front of him, and though Clark didn't want to see what he knew was coming, he followed his father's gaze.

"It's like, I was just going along and it just snuck up on me. And I tried to ignore it but then there are these…moments that you can't. Maybe I was reading it wrong. And to add insult to injury, it all went down at tonight's tribute to romantic bliss!" Clark could tell that Lois was trying to hide her emotions, put on a brave face like she always did. But there were moments when her voice almost broke, and he couldn't deny her heartache.

Ollie looked at her sympathetically. She sighed and looked away, and Clark could tell that it wasn't easy for her to get the rest of her words out. "I know it sounds sappy, but I thought…just for a minute…that someone needed me."

Clark tore his eyes away from the scene in front of him. He just couldn't stand to watch any longer. He couldn't stand to hear the tremor of her voice as she fought to hide her feelings, her sorrow and disappointment, pretending instead that everything was okay. As he saw tonight, she'd been doing it from the time she was young, and he couldn't bear to see that she'd had to struggle to do it because of him. And he'd never known; he hadn't even bothered to wonder.

"Please…I want to go," he said in a thick voice. "I understand why you brought me here. I've seen what you wanted me to see. Please…take me back. I can't…I can't stand it."

"Well, I'm sure he needs you Lois," Ollie replied comfortingly from his position on the swing nearby.

Jonathan turned to look at Clark, and there was sorrow in his eyes at the pain he was causing his son. "All right," he agreed softly. "We can go if you want."

Lois scoffed. "That's sweet of you to say, but how do you know?" she asked, dismissing Ollie's words as an empty gesture of comfort.

"Please," Clark replied, almost begging.

"Because I know Clark," Ollie responded, but the man in question didn't hear anything else as the scene around him faded and he found himself in his bedroom once more. His father was gone; he was all alone.

His legs felt unsteady as Clark lowered himself onto the edge of the bed. His head bowed, he thought about the scene his father had just showed him. He had never intended to hurt Lois, but he knew that was a cold consolation when the fact was that whether or not he had was a question he had intentionally avoided until the answer was right in front of him.

He didn't have long to sit in silent contemplation, however. Before he'd even had a chance to process everything he'd seen, he heard a soft sound and looked up. To his surprise, the psychotic jeweler, who had kidnapped couples and tortured them to test their infidelity, stood in front of him.

By instinct, Clark drew back in surprise, but a second later, he was on his feet, towering over the man who had tortured Chloe and Jimmy and who had later endangered Lois's life, all for a sick test. "You!" he cried, taking an angry step forward. "What are you doing here?"

Macy smiled, apparently unperturbed by Clark's ire, and Clark soon realized why. When he reached for the other man, his hand went straight through the non-corporeal body. "I'm the ghost of Christmas present."

That took Clark a bit aback. Of course, given the rather bizarre evening he was having, he couldn't claim to be entirely surprised that he was being visited by yet another ghost. The identity of said ghost was something of a surprise, however. "Why you?" he asked, his eyes narrowing as he stared suspiciously at his unwelcome companion.

Macy seemed to ponder that, but then he shrugged, his expression nonchalant – but then he had been eerily calm for most of the time that he'd threatened to torture Lois, as well. "Don't ask me. It's your subconscious," he replied. "And, really, it doesn't matter. I'm here to take you to see Lois."

Before Clark could think of a suitable reply, Macy waved his hand in the air just as Jonathan Kent had done. Faster than a blink, he teleported the two of them across town.

He would have expected Lois to already be in bed, but to his surprise, she wasn't. Instead, she was sitting on the edge of the bed, watching her sister cram a folded shirt into her luggage. As Clark watched, the younger girl plopped on top of the suitcase and bounced up and down in some sort of futile attempt to compact her clothes enough to give the overworked zipper a passing chance to close.

Lois laughed. "You need help with that, Luce?"

"I got it," the younger girl said as she bounced up and down once more, her actions having no noticeable effect.

With a shake of her head, Lois got to her feet. "Come on, move. I'll fix it. You always have sucked at packing a suitcase."

Lucy threw her older sister an unrepentant grin. "That's because I always found a way to get you to do it for me." She stepped aside as Lois deftly rearranged the contents of her suitcase and zipped it closed. Grabbing the handle to haul it off the bed, she asked casually, "You sure you won't come with me?"

Lois snorted. "You trying to back out of our deal? I took Thanksgiving with the General; you get Christmas. Besides, I have other plans."

That got Lucy's attention. "Oh?" she asked, dropping her bag by the door and turning to face her sister. Her eyes took on a gleam of interest. "What kinds of plans?"

Clark held his breath, hoping she had changed her mind about spending the next two nights at his house. "I'm going out to the farm to see Clark," Lois replied, suddenly finding her nails so fascinating that she felt the need to stare at them in rapt attention.

Clark grinned happily at her words, but his enthusiasm was quickly dampened at the younger girl's reply. Lucy's face fell. "Oh," she repeated, this time with considerably less enthusiasm. "Him."

The corner of Lois's mouth quirked as she dropped her hand to her lap. "He is my boyfriend, Luce," she reminded her sister.

Clark frowned as he watched the interplay. It didn't take great observational skills to see that Lucy wasn't his greatest fan, but he couldn't for the life of him figure out why she seemed to be so unenthusiastic about him. Granted, they'd only met once, when he'd helped her out of a jam, but she hadn't seemed to be particularly adverse to him then. What could possibly have changed?

"Yeah, don't remind me," she grumbled as she threw herself onto the bed next to her sister.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Clark shot back, but of course neither girl heard him.

"Luce," Lois said, drawing out the name in warning.

Undeterred by her sister's reaction, Lucy turned to sit cross-legged on the bed. "Hey, you're my sister! I know the role of overprotective sister is usually your thing, but that doesn't mean I can't worry about you. And I just have to ask. Why are you with Clark, anyway? Yes, he's gorgeous, but other than that, you could do so much better than him!"

Clark let out a huff of irritation, but Lois just shook her head, a bemused smile on her face. "You just don't know Clark like I do…"

Lucy rolled her eyes again. "That's because love hasn't made me deranged or blind."

"That's unfair!" Lois protested, her voice taking on an irritated edge. "I'm not deranged, Lucy; you don't know him! If you had the complete picture –"

Lucy cut her off with a snort. "I have enough of a picture, believe me. You know what I see? A guy who was friends with the most amazing girl in the world – and as you're my big sister, I would know – for years, and he was too busy moping over his ex-girlfriend to see it. And, yeah, trust me…talking to Chloe, I know all about the romantic saga of Clark and Lana. And then, when he finally gets his head out of his ass long enough to realize that maybe, just maybe, he should try dating a girl who's not half-psychotic, his ex comes waltzing back into town and he ditches you without a second thought."

Lois glowered at her sister. "That's not what happened, and you know it!" she growled.

"Oh? And which part of that is revisionist history? He dated Lana. He was crazy in love with her. And he ditched you the second she came back into town to go right back to where he and Lana left off. Knocking boots and all, according to Chloe. Did I miss anything, because as I understand it, that's the highlights."

"That's not what happened!" Clark cried angrily, stepping towards the women on the bed, neither of whom took notice.

Behind him, Macy said as an unnecessary reminder, "You're a ghost right now, Clark. They can't see or hear you."

"But that's not what happened!" Clark repeated, whirling on the only being in the room who could take note of his words. "I mean…yes, I did go back to Lana, but…it's not that simple!"

Macy pursed his lips thoughtfully. "I don't know, Clark. Lucy makes a good point. Seems pretty straight-forward to me."

Clark glowered at the other man as the two sisters continued their conversation, completely oblivious to the interruption. "We weren't dating!" Lois retorted. "It's not like he ditched me to go back to her after we were involved! There was nothing between us at that point! I didn't have any claims on him; he was free to do what he wanted!"

Clark nodded his head. "Exactly!" he said. "It's not like I chose Lana over Lois; Lois and I weren't even a couple back then! Whereas Lana and I…well, we had a lot of history." Unfortunately, his momentary feeling of vindication was short-lived.

"Yeah, he was free," Lucy shot back. "But I know you, sis, and even though you tried to hide it, I could tell you were crazy about him! Don't even pretend it didn't hurt you that he went right back to her without a second thought because I know it did! Even if the two of you weren't dating, that doesn't mean he didn't make a choice. And given the choice between the most amazing girl in the world and a complete sociopath, Clark chose the sociopath! Which doesn't bother me half as much as the fact that you don't even seem to care that he did! I mean, the Lois I know wouldn't have given him the time of day after that, but you're dating him?"

Lois sighed. "Yes, I'm dating him. Because he's…amazing. He's the nicest guy I've ever known. And not because he's after something. He's actually a bona-fide good guy. He's…he's sweet and honorable…not as funny as he thinks he is, but there are moments he's witty. He can even be charming when he wants to be. I mean, you act like he just treats me like crap, but you know that's not true! He took a bullet for me, Luce! Someone took a shot at me, and he jumped in front of the gun to save my life! And it wasn't because he cared so much about me or anything like that! Hell, it probably didn't have anything to do with me. He did it because that's the kind of person he is. It wouldn't matter if I was someone he'd never even met before; he'd have jumped in front of the bullet just the same because he's that kind of guy. How could I not be crazy about someone like that?"

Lucy stretched out on the bed and propped her head up on her arm. "So if you're right and he would have done that for anyone – and I don't disagree, from what little I got to know of him, I think you're probably spot on there – then how do you know that you're special to him, Lo?" When she saw her older sister's disgusted expression, she spoke quickly over the imminent protest, "Don't look at me like that; you should be with someone who lets you know every day how much you mean to him! Maybe he is a great guy, but that's not the point. The point is that you deserve better."

Her mouth twisted, Lois scoffed, "I think you're setting the standard a bit high, don't you?"

"No, absolutely not; you're setting it too low and even then, you have to make excuses for Clark in order for him to meet it," her younger sister retorted emphatically, her enthusiasm not diminished when her companion jumped off the bed and walked to the window, turning her back on the conversation. "You deserve a guy who was crazy enough about you that he wouldn't ditch you just when things were getting interesting just because his ex walked into a room. A guy who might be heroic enough that he'd jump in front of a bullet for anyone, but he'd move heaven and earth to make damn sure he did it when the person in danger was you. Because it was you, and because he didn't want to see anything bad happen to you!"

Lois didn't turn from the window when she replied in a strained voice, "I never knew you were such a romantic, Lucy. You're a grown-up now; it's time for you to stop expecting love to be some guy riding up on a white horse to whisk you away for some fairy-tale wedding and accept the fact that in real life, people are only human."

It was Lucy's turn to jump off the bed. "Don't pull that with me, acting like it's okay that the guy you're dating has the emotional depth of a turnip, like all guys are like that! That's crap and you know it! After all, Oliver Queen wasn't like that, was he?"

This got Lois's attention, and she turned to lean against the windowsill. "Ollie?" she asked in surprise, the corners of her mouth quirking into a smile. "Hate to break this to you, but Ollie was far from perfect."

"Yeah, and as you pointed out earlier, so are you." Lucy retorted. "The thing is, though, that you were happy with him. I know you were. Maybe things ended between you – and you never were exactly clear on why that was, incidentally – but I remember talking to you when you were dating him. Sometimes he drove you crazy, but you loved him. You were happy with him. And I know that you act like you don't care, but you have to admit that you liked that he made you feel special. Even if he didn't then, then I'm sure he made up for it earlier this year when he told you how crazy he was about you and told you he wanted you back. And you passed that up for Clark freaking Kent?"

Clark's shoulders tensed defensively, and he wanted to reply something scathing even if Lucy wouldn't hear it. Instead, he caught his breath and waited, wondering what Lois would say.

She shrugged. "Yeah, Ollie loved me. But I love Clark," she said simply. Perhaps to her, it was that simple – but then Lois never had been the type to over-complicate things for herself the way Clark was wont to do.

"But does he love you?" Lucy pressed.

"Well, Clark? Do you love her?" Macy asked with a small smile as he asked the question Clark had never gotten around to answering the last time it had been posed.

Clark glowered furiously at his companion, but Lucy continued before he could respond, "Has he said it? Has he even given you any reason to think he does? Anything at all?"

The ghost of Christmas present glanced expectantly at Clark, who frowned. "I told her she was special," he said defensively.

"And then you reset history so she didn't even remember it," Macy pointed out. Clark glowered at him in response.

Lois grimaced. "Well, he brings me maple donuts," she offered. "And he did buy me five dozen roses; let's not forget that!"

Her younger sister sighed heavily, her expression conveying just how weak she thought her sister's attempt was. "It's your love life, Lois, and you'll do what you want, but let's not kid ourselves here. If our situations were reversed and you had the choice between a guy like Clark – who may buy you donuts and flowers but isn't exactly the most forthcoming with his feelings; I mean do you even know where you stand with him really? If it were between a guy like that and a handsome billionaire who all but did backflips to show you how much you meant to him…and who, incidentally, isn't exactly hard on the eyes either…and I chose the guy who couldn't tell me he cared about me if his life depended upon it? You'd be calling me an idiot. Hell, you'd threaten to have me committed for my own good."

Lois's eyes skittered away from her sister's, and she lifted one shoulder in an awkward gesture. "You're still being unfair," she demurred. She sounded sad as she tried one last-ditch effort to defend Clark, "We haven't been dating that long, and he was the one to ask me out. It's like you're expecting him to be breaking out an engagement ring already, but we've only gone on a couple of dates. Don't you think it's a bit early to expect him to make some sort of grand declaration of his feelings?"

Lucy looked sad as she walked up to her sister and pulled her into a hug, blocking her face from Clark's view. "It doesn't have to be a grand declaration, Lo. It could be a simple one. And yeah, you're right. It's early in your relationship, so maybe that'll come in time. I just…I wonder how long you're willing to wait before you accept the fact that it just may not ever happen. He may never give you a clear indication of how he feels about you. And if he doesn't…well, what you have now…would it really be enough?"

Clark wanted to see what Lois would say in response, but he didn't get a chance. Beside him, Macy waved his hand to take the two of them back to the Kent farm, and the scene around them faded.

Back in his bedroom, Clark spun around. "Take me back!" he demanded, but Macy was nowhere to be seen. He ran a hand through his hair in frustration, and indecisive look on his face as he pondered what to do next. He wanted to talk to Lois. Just hearing her voice (and, more specifically, knowing she could hear his) would make him feel better. He wanted to know what she'd had to say in response to Lucy's last question. Of course, he wasn't entirely clear on how he'd manage to ask her without making her think he'd been somehow lurking outside her apartment, listening in on her private conversation.

He was still trying to decide if he should stop by her place (and how he would explain that) or call her on the phone (making up some excuse to explain the sudden impulse) as he walked to the bedroom door. He threw it open to find a tall blonde woman dressed in white on the other side.

He drew back in surprise as she smiled at him. There was something familiar about her; he could swear he'd seen her before somewhere, but he couldn't place exactly where. As he stared at her in silence, she looked bemused at first. Then she rolled her eyes at him, her lips parting in a heavy sigh, and he realized he recognized the expression. "You must be Lois's mom." She grinned and he added, "The ghost of Christmas future?"

She nodded and held out her hand, and after a momentary pause, Clark reached out and took it. He braced himself as the room around him faded, wondering what he would see.

When they reappeared, Clark looked around. It looked like a ballroom, but he didn't recognize it. He did, however, recognize several of its occupants. In fact, the first thing he saw made him smile.

Even with her back to him, he had no trouble recognizing Lois where she stood talking to a small group of people. He turned to Ella. "So, what is it I'm supposed to see?" he asked cautiously. He couldn't believe he'd gone through all of this just to see what kind of future he and Lois had together, though he couldn't deny that he hoped this was the case. When he'd reached out to take Ella's hand, a part of him had wondered if she would take him to a future in which Lois had died, perhaps as a consequence of having discovered his secret. At least that wasn't the case, but he still found himself waiting for the other shoe to drop. "Are we no longer together? Is it because of my secret?"

As he spoke, he started to walk towards Lois, but Ella reached out her hand and grabbed hold of his arm, stopping him in his tracks. She nodded towards a tall figure walking towards the small group, carrying two glasses of champagne, and Clark smiled and began to relax. Perhaps he'd been wrong; perhaps he and Lois were together in this future.

The future version Clark had to skirt around a couple who had clearly had too much to drink already, and then he stepped behind Lois, murmuring her name softly. When she turned to look at him over her shoulder, he lifted a glass in offering. "I thought you might like some champagne."

The skirt of her purple dress swirled around her knees as she turned. A diamond twinkled on her finger as she lifted her own glass. "I'm actually covered, but thanks."

The ghostly Clark stared at the ring on Lois's hand. "So we're engaged," he said, glancing at his companion over his shoulder. "I don't understand; what lesson did you bring me here to teach me? Is she about to find out my secret and she leaves me because I didn't tell her sooner?" She merely gave her head a soft shake and nodded towards the scene playing out in front of them.

"Oh," the older version of himself replied, and then a long moment of awkward silence passed between them. "It's – it's good to see you," he finally said softly, placing both glasses back onto a passing waiter's tray.

The younger version of the man floundering in his conversation frowned. "I don't understand," he said, not tearing his eyes from the couple in front of him. "I thought…Why are we acting like that? Like we…I'm engaged to Lois, right? I mean, I have to be!" He'd been scared Ella would bring him to a future in which he and Lois weren't together, but from the moment he'd seen the ring on her finger, he'd hoped he was wrong. He simply couldn't imagine Lois ending up with anyone but him. He didn't even want to try. And so he fought against the reality he was witnessing, even though he could see the truth of it in the discomfort of the couple before him.

Ella was every bit as uncommunicative as she'd been to that point as Lois replied with a tight smile, "It's good to see you too. Um…I read that retirement home scandal piece that you wrote a few months ago. It was good! Really good, actually."

"Oh, thanks," he said, as his younger version shifted to get a look at his face. He looked vaguely hopeful as he asked lightly, "Not as good as the stories we used to write together, though, right?"

It was the kind of joke that they'd always made together, but the hope in the older Clark's eyes died at the sound of Lois's forced and insincere chuckle. "Well, you know…" she said, but she let her voice trail off without finishing the jibe.

The incorporeal Clark felt his stomach tying itself into knots with every second that passed in the scene before him. It wasn't just that the two of them weren't together that he found so hard to take. It was that they looked so…uncomfortable together. Rather, Lois looked so uncomfortable with him – like she'd rather be anywhere else in the world but standing there talking to him.

What could have gone so horribly wrong between them?

Just when he thought he couldn't feel any worse, he watched Lois smile over her companion's shoulder at the tall blonde man who was walking up to them. "Ollie!" she cried, and he heard a note of relief in her voice as she scooted past Clark to give Ollie a hug.

"Oh, no," the ghost of Clark moaned. "Not him. Please tell me she's not engaged to him."

He was somewhat relieved (though, under the circumstances, not overly so) when he heard Ollie reply, "Hey, Legs. I didn't know you guys were going to be in town! You should have called; Dinah and I would have loved to have you both over!"

"We didn't know we would be until the last minute," she replied as she drew back. "You know how it is…there's always a fire to be put out somewhere."

Clark watched the older version of himself as he stared at the woman who clearly meant so much to him. It hurt to see the uncertainty, the longing, the sad resignation on his face. And then there was a flash of pain as a tall black-haired man with blue eyes walked up to Lois and wrapped his arm around her waist. Bending to brush a kiss across her cheek, the stranger murmured, "Sorry I couldn't get back here sooner, but I got caught by the governor's wife. For a minute there, I was afraid I'd have to find a way to set the room on fire so she'd let me go."

She looked relieved at the interruption. "That's okay. You ready to get out of here?" she asked, sounding downright hopeful at the prospect.

"The car's being pulled around as we speak," he replied, giving her hip a little squeeze. Then, directing his attention to their companions, he said, "If you gentlemen don't mind, we've had a long week and I just want to get my fiancé home."

"Of course," Clark murmured as Ollie echoed the sentiment. Then he shuffled his feet, as though he'd intended to step forward to hug her but changed her mind at the last moment. "It was…it was good to see you again, Lois."

"Oh…yeah, you too, Clark," she said with patent insincerity over her shoulder as she turned to go.

As the engaged couple brushed past the invisible Clark, he heard the tall stranger ask, "Who was that? An old friend of yours? If you want to stay in town another night, we could invite him out to dinner, give the two of you a chance to catch up."

Lois shook her head. "No, that's not necessary. He's just…someone I used to know. A long time ago."

It hurt more than he'd ever thought possibly to hear Lois describe him that way. When he'd seen the engagement ring on her finger, he'd hoped that he'd been the one to give it to her. She'd come to mean so much to him in the time he'd gotten to know her – she meant more to him now than he knew how to say. But here, in this future, all of that had been lost.

How could he have gone from being the man she loved to being a man she 'used to know'? Once again, he wondered what could have gone so wrong between them.

The two of them had disappeared into the crowd before Ollie spoke again. His voice was soft and sympathetic as he said, "I'm sorry, Clark. I know you came here just to have an excuse to talk to her and, well…"

"You thought things would be different?" Clark suggested heavily with a shake of his head. "I knew this was how it would be. You don't need to apologize, Ollie. Even after all this time, I knew how much it would hurt, seeing her like this. Not knowing what to say to her."

Oliver was silent for a moment before he suggested softly, "You could tell her you still love her."

"You don't think I want to?" Clark demanded, and the lines of his face tightened in pain. "You don't think I want to tell her that I think about her every single day, that there isn't a day that goes by that I don't regret what happened between us? But I had my chance a long time ago, when she walked away and I let her go." He heaved a heavy sigh, and the fire left his voice as he said in resignation, "It's always going to be like this, Ollie. I didn't tell her what I needed to say when she needed to hear it, and now it's too late. I love her, but I lost her a long time ago."

The scene in front of them froze, and Clark turned to the ghost of Ella Lane. "But…she's at least happy, right?" he asked. It was hard to watch the pain his future self was experiencing, but Clark told himself it might be worth it, if Lois was at least happy.

Ella's eyes narrowed and she tilted her head to the side in a thoughtful gesture. Then, as Clark turned around again, the scene around him changed. This time, he was in the middle of a large living room, decorated with furniture he didn't recognize. However, from the number of Lois's personal effects left lying about, he presumed this must be her home.

She wasn't alone; Lucy was there, talking to her older sister, and Clark could tell she was excited about something from the animation on her face. "So we're probably going to set the date for some time in July. What about you? Have you two decided on a date for the wedding?"

Lucy had reached for her drink and therefore didn't see the grimace on her sister's face at the question. "Oh…well, no, not really. I mean, we've talked about it…"

The younger girl's enthusiasm was not dampened by her sister's equivocal response. "I just don't understand how you can wait," she said, almost speaking over Lois in her eagerness. "I mean, if I thought I could set my wedding day for tomorrow – and have everything ready in time, of course – I would! I mean, how can you wait to marry the man you love?"

The silence that greeted her question was telling, penetrating even Lucy's excited distraction. She paused and looked over at the silent woman on the couch. "Lois?" she asked after a moment, the name tentative on her lips. "Well…I mean…you love him, right? Of course you love him! You wouldn't marry him if you didn't….would you?"

Lois's mouth twisted into a wry smile. "Luce, you know I'm happy that you found someone that you love that much. But you have to realize…that kind of thing is the exception, not the rule. Not everyone believes in true love, and even if it does exist, I don't think everyone is meant to find it."

Lucy looked shocked. "I can't believe you're saying that, like you're one of those people who aren't meant to find what I have! You've been in love before; I know that for a fact!"

"Yeah, of course I have," Lois agreed. "But there's a difference between loving someone and being in love with them in the way you're talking about. Some people are meant to find what you have. Other people, if they're lucky, settle for finding someone who doesn't make them miserable."

"Wow," Lucy breathed as she collapsed against the couch. "That's what you've come to, sis? You're not even holding out for someone who makes you happy; you're willing to settle – your word, not mine – for someone who doesn't make you too terribly miserable?"

Lois scowled. "Don't say it like that," she shot back irritably. "Like I have some kind of tragic life or something. You may be all grown up, but I'm still your older sister and that means I can still kick your ass."

Lucy gave a weak chuckle in recognition of the attempted joke, but she didn't let Lois change the subject so easily. Perching on the edge of the couch, she leaned forward and prodded earnestly, "Okay, but all joking aside, I know you believe that true love exists. I know you've seen it; you've told me you have. Are you honestly telling me that you've never found it – that kind of love that you know will last forever?"

Lois shrugged, and bowed her head, hiding her face from view. But Clark didn't need to see her expression to hear the heartfelt sorrow in her voice when she admitted, "I did. Once. I loved him more than…more than I ever thought I could love someone. I still love him, actually. I'm sure I'll love him for the rest of my life. He just…he didn't love me back. I don't know; maybe he tried. Maybe he just couldn't."

At Lucy's murmur of sympathy, Lois tilted her chin up enough to glance at her sister's face, and Clark could see that her eyes were red with tears she was trying not to shed. "I'm sorry, Luce. I shouldn't lay this off on you, especially not now. I'm so, so happy for you. I just…I think finding someone who loves you that much is amazing. Extraordinary. I just think some people aren't destined for extraordinary things."

"Don't say that," Clark pleaded as he sank to his knees in front of where she sat on the couch. As he watched, a tear spilled over her eyelid to trail slowly down her cheek, and he reached out to brush it away. His hand passed through her body without making contact, and he drew it back in helpless frustration. "Lois, please…" he pleaded, even though she couldn't hear her.

He could feel Ella walk up behind him, but he didn't turn to face her. Instead, his entire attention was focused on the woman in front of him. "This isn't right!" he cried. "She wasn't supposed to end up like this! How could I have done this to her? How could I have let her think that I didn't love her?" He felt Ella rest a hand on his shoulder, but he jerked away, denying himself her offer of comfort. "I could have stopped this from happening; why didn't I? She's supposed to be happy! Even if we don't end up together, she's at least supposed to be happy!"

He craned his neck to look at his ghostly companion over his shoulder. "It's not to late to stop this from happening though, right? I mean, that's why you brought me here. That's why you showed me all of this. Because I can still stop it. Right? There's still time?"

Ella looked uncertain, and he begged in a whisper, "Please…please give me a chance to fix this. I can't – even though it would probably kill me, I'd let her go if I thought that's what it would take for her to be happy. But I can't stand to see her like this. To hear her say she doesn't believe anyone could ever love her…to see...to see her like this…" His voice broke. "Please, give me another chance."

Ella bowed her head and backed away, but this time the scene around them didn't change. His feeling of desperation growing, Clark turned back to Lois to continue his futile attempt to get her attention. "Lois, listen to me," he begged, hoping somehow his words could reach her even though he knew she couldn't hear him. "You were wrong; I did love you. I do love you! I love you more than – more than I'll probably ever be able to tell you. You're not alone, Lois! Please…please, you have to hear me! Lois!"

Clark let out a cry as his eyes flew open, and there, leaning over him, was the woman he'd just been dreaming about. She looked surprised, her hand outstretched as if to shake him awake. "Hey," she said softly, gazing down at him in concern. As she took a step back, she explained, "I knocked a few times but nobody answered so I just let myself in and then I heard a noise up here so I thought I'd check it out. You looked like you were having a pretty bad dream. Everything okay?"

Clark swung his legs over the side of the bed and jumped to his feet. Acting on impulse, he breached the distance between the two of them and wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her tight against him. Her saw her eyes widen in surprise and heard her soft gasp, and then he bent to kiss her, his hands fisting in the fabric of her shirt as his lips met hers.

Lois moaned softly and kissed him back, leaning into him as her lips parted beneath his, and he lost himself in the kiss. He didn't know how much time passed before she put her hands on his chest and gently pushed him away, but his breathing was ragged when he finally let her go. "Um…wow. That must have been some dream," she said, forcing a smile as she tried to deflect with a joke as she usually did. "Everything okay?"

"Yeah, I just…I was glad to see you," he answered.

"I could tell," she replied. Then she blushed, and he realized why. As tightly as he'd had her pressed against his body, he was sure she had no problem feeling the state he was in. "Well, you probably want to get naked." She coughed suddenly and backed out of range when he reached for her again. "I mean, dressed! I'll be downstairs." Before he could pull her into another kiss, she darted out the door.

Clark took a few minutes to get dressed, as well as ponder what he should do next. In a sense, he'd awoken with a strange sort of clarity from the dream he'd had the night before. Had it really been a dream, or had it been something more? Either way, he'd awoken this morning knowing he needed to tell Lois how he felt about her, knowing she needed to hear how much he loved her. He just didn't know how to tell her.

He jogged down the stairs to find Lois in the kitchen, brewing a pot of coffee, and he stared at her a moment in silence. How was he going to tell her how he felt about her? Back when he was with Lana, expressing his feelings had been so easy. But, then, his feelings for her had been so simple, so uncomplicated, and after all, in their relationship, the two of them had basically read off the same script for years.

Thing with Lois were in one sense easier – it was just so easy to be with her. But when it came to his feelings for her, they were so much more complicated. How did he even begin to put what he felt into words? He considered making a grand gesture, something with soft lighting and even music playing in the background. But even if he could plan such a gesture without Lois stumbling onto what he was doing, there was something about such a scenario that just felt wrong. Lois needed honesty more than she needed a dramatic gesture, but he was beginning to discover that dramatic gestures were somehow easier than a simple honest confession.

"You need help?" he offered uselessly, his hands thrust into his pockets, as he watched her fiddle with the coffee maker.

"Making coffee?" she asked with a chuckle. "Thanks, but I think I've got it covered. I may be pretty useless in the kitchen in most respects, but I can brew coffee with the best of 'em."

"So, how was your visit with Lucy?" he asked, mostly to fill the silence between them as she waited for the coffee to brew.

Lois smiled. "It was surprisingly nice, actually. Usually when the two of us get together, it's like I'm ten years old again and she's the annoying little sister who keeps getting into all of my stuff."

"I'm sure you were a great older sister," he replied warmly. "She was lucky to have you, and I'm sure she knows it." She smiled and shrugged in response – not agreeing to his comment but not entirely disagreeing, either. On impulse, he asked "So, did you tell her we were dating?"

Remembering the dream he'd had the night before, he watched her reaction closely, but at that moment, she turned away to grab some mugs out of the cabinet. "I haven't seen her in over a year, and you think we'd spend our evening talking about you, Smallville?" she scoffed, but he noticed she didn't answer the question.

Indeed, it seemed she was determined not to answer the question as she prepared the coffee and skirted the island so she could hand Clark his mug. Instead, she changed the topic entirely. "Anyway, since it's Christmas Eve, I brought over a couple of movies in honor of the occasion," she offered brightly.

"Yeah? What do you have?" he asked in an attempt to contribute to the conversation, though his question was slightly strained due to his preoccupation. He didn't know if his dream was entirely real, but from Lois's reaction, he had the feeling she and her sister had talked about him the night before – and that she wasn't too eager to confess as much to him. Was it because she just didn't want to admit to having talked about him, or was there more to it? Had Lucy expressed doubts about the relationship, giving Lois doubts of her own?

And, still, how in the world was he going to tell her how he felt about her?

Lois didn't seem to notice his preoccupation as she dug around inside of her purse, finally pulling out a couple of DVDs. "Let's see…I have Miracle on Thirty-Fourth Street or…A Christmas Carol."

"Not that one!" he blurted, reaching out to snatch the latter DVD from her hand. When he saw her surprised expression, he added sheepishly, "Er…please. I just realized that I really hate that movie."

Her eyebrows arched even higher. "You just realized?" she parroted, stressing the second word. "Like, in the last five minutes?"

"Last night, actually," he replied with a grimace. "It's a long story."

"Wow. Just when I think you couldn't get any weirder," she capitulated with a flippant shrug. "Okay, then. Santa Claus hanging out at Macy's it is." He winced as the name of the department store reminded him of the dream he'd had the night before. "I'll go ahead and put it in."

While she slid the DVD into the player, Clark went into the kitchen to pop a big bowl of popcorn. Even though it wasn't even noon yet, Lois always said that the true movie-watching experience practically demanded a bowl of overly buttered popcorn. Clark wasn't about to disappoint her.

When he returned to the couch a few minutes later, he found that she'd already made herself comfortable – stealing the blanket and most of the pillows – and he grinned at her as he took a seat at her side. From experience, he knew that she preferred to be the wielder of the popcorn bowl, so he handed it over as she slid her feet into his lap. He settled back against the couch as the opening credits began to play and tried to get comfortable, but even as the credits rolled, he couldn't get his mind off of his predicament. How was he going to tell Lois how he felt about her? How would he even begin to put it into words? As he pondered the problem, he began to rub her feet, smiling softly to himself when she let out a soft sigh of contentment.

It felt like the movie ended all too soon, and then Lois rose to her feet and stretched. "Okay, well…I should probably head out," she said.

"So early?" Clark blurted, leaping to his feet as well. He'd known she hadn't planned to stay long, but he'd still hoped to have a little more time with her. If he was going to find the perfect way to tell her he loved her, he needed all the time he could get.

"It's starting to snow, and I need to get back into town before the roads get too icy. Besides, I told you I wouldn't be able to stay long," she reminded him as she shrugged into her coat. "And, anyway, if you must know, I'm not done with my Christmas shopping yet."

"But it's Christmas Eve!" he protested, trying to prolong the conversation.

She rolled her eyes at him. "Yeah, well, most people don't start our holiday shopping in April, Smallville," she teased.

As she pulled a pair of gloves out of her pocket, she slung her bag over her shoulder and turned to go, and Clark raced forward to stop her. "Wait! Lois, there's something I need to tell you!"

She was almost at the door but she paused and turned back to him. "Yeah?" she asked.

The moment of truth was at hand, and he still had no idea what he should say. Clark felt himself start to fidget. "I – I need to talk about – about us," he stammered.

She looked curious but also guarded, and he wondered what she thought he was about to say when she bit her lower lip and asked softly, "What about us?"

"It's – how I feel for you – it's hard to explain," he stammered uselessly again, and her expression grew even more guarded, if that were possible. "The thing is, Lois…what I mean to say…I shouldn't have told you that you were special!" he finally blurted.

Well, that hadn't come out the way he'd intended it to. Lois looked surprised by his sudden announcement, and then she frowned in confusion. "When did you do that?" she asked, and only belatedly did he remember that, as Macy had said, she had no memory of the event.

"Um, well –" he stammered, flustered by his inability to answer the question.

She rested a hand on her hip. "Is this one of those things that you only did in your head, so you think everyone else should know what you're talking about when really it's just you?" she finally asked, her caustic tone betraying the hurt she felt at his unexpected pronouncement.

"Well, that's not –" he began, but she talked over him.

"So, for whatever reason, you just decided to tell me that you don't think I'm special. Right out of the blue," she clarified.

"That's not what I was trying to say," he protested.

She arched her eyebrows at him. "You didn't mean to imply that I'm not special when you said I'm not special?" she demanded testily. "Well, then, for a writer, you really suck with words. And Lucy was right. For a guy who made the first move towards us being a couple, you really suck at being in one."

She turned and headed out the door, and Clark followed her, calling her name desperately. When she ignored him, he sped up so he could catch up to her. "Lois, you don't understand! Could you just listen to me for a minute?" he pleaded.

"Why?" she demanded. "So you can tell me what a crappy girlfriend I am? Or maybe you don't have a problem with me as a girlfriend and it's me as a person that you can't seem to stand!" She stopped in her tracks, almost causing Clark to stumble, and turned on him.. "You know what? I don't get you! If you didn't want to date me, you could have just told me! Hell, you didn't have to ask me out to begin with!

"Do you know how maddening this last year has been, Clark? It's always one step forward; two steps back with you! You almost kiss me, and then you act like I'm not even there! One minute you're looking at me like – like you actually want me, and the next minute, you look at me like I'm as appealing as a chimpanzee in a dress and act like you can't stand to have me around!"

Storming towards him, she poked him sharply in the chest. "Do you have any idea what it's like to be dating the king of mixed signals?" she snapped. "You ask me on a date and then you don't show up. Then, when I'm still trying to figure out how I should take that, you just lay one on me and tell me you want to be a couple! So you would think that would be a good indication of your feelings, except when the subject of us as a couple comes up? When anyone asks why you're even with me? You say it's because I'm Lois! Well, you know what, Smallville? I know who I am; I figured that out a long time ago! What I don't know is what I am to you, and I'm beginning to realize that I don't want to spend the rest of my life waiting for an answer I probably won't ever get!"

She dropped her hand and backed away from him, shoving her hands into the pockets of her coat as she gave him a searching look. "You've known me for five years, Clark. And I know we haven't been a couple for most of that time; I know this is new territory for the both of us. But we've known each other for five years! If after all that time…if I'm still such a – such a non-entity to you that you don't even know why you'd want to be with me…?" She shook her head, her mouth curving into a wry smile. "Well, all I can say is…I'm a pretty kick-ass person to be around, Clark. For a lot of reasons. If you ask me, it shouldn't have even taken you five minutes to realize that, let alone five years. If you still have no idea why you'd even want to be with someone like me…maybe we shouldn't be together at all."

She spun around and walked quickly towards her car, and Clark realized that this was the moment he'd dreamt of. This was the moment that everything hung in the balance. If he let her go now, without telling her how he felt about her, he knew he would change, from man he was to the man he saw in his dream. The man who was had lost her but had never learned how to let her go.

"When I didn't remember anything else, I remembered you!" he blurted, practically yelling the words after her.

She paused and looked warily at him over her shoulder. "What?" she asked.

Snow crunched underfoot as he took a deep breath and a step closer to her and tried again. "When we first met, I – I didn't remember who I was. I didn't know what I was doing in that field or how to get home. Remember?" He waited for her slow nod. "Well, after I got my memories back, I didn't remember much about what happened to me during that period. I didn't remember where I'd been or who I'd seen or what I'd done…except for you. I remembered you when I didn't remember anything else."

He saw her brow furrow as she turned to face him. She opened her mouth, and he could see the question in her eyes, but she didn't speak. Instead, she slipped her lower lip between her teeth and nibbled on it in an unconscious display of uncertainty.

He took this as a good sign and tried to find the words to tell her what he needed to say. "I know a million little things about you, things that don't even mean anything," he said softly. "I know how you like your coffee and that you love bear claws but hate cream filled donuts. You have to have a piece of chocolate every afternoon after lunch or you get cranky." He grinned, tilting his head to the side. "I also know you're only person on the planet who can turn Guitar Hero into a blood sport. And you have to be the only person in the world who doesn't know the theme song to Jaws."

The corners of her mouth twitched, as if she was fighting back a smile, and he took that as a positive sign so he took a step towards her. "Lois, I know I've been taking you for granted, that I just assumed you would understand how I felt about you. But if I don't tell you how I feel, it's not because I don't know and it's not because I don't care. It's just – how I feel about you –" he let his voice trail off.

Lois shifted closer to him. "Is this the part where you tell me I complete you?" she asked to break the awkward tension between them.

He chuckled and shook his head. "No," he admitted. "This is the part where I apologize. I shouldn't have told you that you were special to me. I should have made sure you knew it."

Her eyes narrowed as she stared thoughtfully at his face. "So that's why you're with me, Clark? Because I like chocolate and bear claws and can kick your ass at Guitar Hero?"

"Not really," he contradicted her. "Those are just some of the things that make you special to me, that make you different from anyone I've ever met. Explaining that is complicated. Explaining why I'm with you? That's easy. I'm with you because I love you."

"You love me?" she asked, her eyes widening.

"I love you," he affirmed. "And I don't know why I expected you to just know that somehow, since I didn't even begin to realize how I felt about you until I thought I'd never see you again." He couldn't bear it any longer; he reached for her and breathed a sigh of relief when she didn't pull out of his arms. As he pulled her closer, he murmured, "I don't know how to explain why I feel like I'm not me except when I'm with you. But, if you want to know why I want to be with you, then the answer's simple. I want to be with you, Lois, because I know that I'd be completely lost without you."

Her hand brushed snowflakes off his shoulders as she wrapped her arms around his neck and tilted her head back, and he needed no further invitation. Ducking his head, he pressed his lips against hers, as the snow fell silently to the ground around them.

"You know, Smallville…I guess you're not so bad with words after all," she murmured when she finally pulled away. Her lips curved into a soft smile. "You know I'd almost given up hope that I'd ever break through that impenetrable force field of yours."

Though he appreciated her attempt to inject some lighthearted banter into the situation, he was well aware of what he almost lost. And so his voice was grave as he replied, "I know. I'm just sorry it took so long."

She cocked her head to the side. "So what changed now?" she asked, a small frown line between her brows. "After all this time, what made you finally open up?"

Bowing his head, Clark hid his eyes as he confessed, "Last night, I had a dream – a nightmare, actually. I dreamt I'd lost you and I just…I couldn't bear it." His arms tightened around her in an unconscious spasm of pain at the memory.

She rose up on her toes and brushed a kiss across his lips, his cheek, the line of his jaw, until he raised his eyes to hers again. "It's cold out here," she breathed against the warmth of his skin. "And you're not wearing a coat. You have to be freezing."

He frowned in surprise, tilting his head back to look at the sky. Until she'd mentioned it, he hadn't really noticed that it was still snowing. As he realized the extent of his obliviousness, she snorted and grabbed his hand, pulling him back inside the house.

After he closed the door behind them, she turned towards him. "Your shirt's wet from the snow," she pointed out, placing her hands on his chest and sliding them down his stomach to his waist. "We should get you undressed before you catch a cold."

She had started to lift the bottom of his shirt, but he caught her wrist. "Wait," he said. "Lois, if we do this…I know you wanted to take it slow, and I don't want you to think that I'm rushing you into anything."

She grinned. "You're rushing me? I'm the one trying to get you undressed," she pointed out. Then, with a slight shake of her head, she explained, "I wanted to take it slow because I knew how I felt about you, but I didn't want to rush into anything when I didn't know how you felt about me." She pulled her wrist out of his grasp and slid her hands under the folds of his shirt, resting them against the bare skin of his stomach. "But I don't really want to take it slow anymore. Do you?"

"Not really," he replied, breathing a heavy sigh of relief. "Actually, I'd much rather pick up where we left off upstairs."

His fingers sank into her hair as he tilted her head back and met her lips in a passionate kiss. As his tongue slid into her mouth, he yanked off the coat she was wearing and tossed it aside. She moaned and arched against him, and he walked her backwards towards the couch. He braced her hips between his hands, holding her in place as he sank to the couch in front of her, pinning her between his legs.

She started to lean forward, reaching for him, but he stopped her with a grin. "Oh, no," he said. "There's something I've wanted to do for a while now."

She chuckled breathily. "Clark, if you know me as well as you say you do, then you know that I'm not exactly the most patient woman in the world."

"I know," he replied. "But it's Christmas Eve. Just consider this my Christmas present." His eyes dropped to her stomach, and he lifted the bottom of her shirt, staring at the small patch of bare skin that was slowly being exposed to his gaze. He stroked his thumbs against her stomach, just above the line of her pants and then leaned forward, brushing his lips across her sensitive skin. He grabbed the top of her jeans between his teeth and tugged gently, smiling when he felt her suck in a sharp breath. Then he released her pants and scraped his teeth gently across her hip instead.

"C-Clark," she moaned, resting her palms on his shoulders. He smiled, flicking his tongue against her skin, as he lifted her shirt until she pulled it the rest of the way off and tossed it aside.

He tilted his head back letting his eyes travel up is neck to her lacy bra. "Mmm…red," he remarked, staring at her bra.

"It's Christmas," she explained, a slight catch in her words.

"I like it," he said with a grin, undoing the button to her pants before slowly sliding the zipper down.

She gave a breathy chuckle as he folded down the top of her jeans. "Have I mentioned I'm not a particularly patient person?"

"Patience is a virtue," he reminded her, running his hands along her back as he pushed down her pants so it would fall to the ground at her feet.

"You listed my virtues not too long ago," she retorted, leaning into his hands. "Do you remember patience being on the list?"

He slid his fingers under the line of her panties, pulling them down his hips. "Well, now that you mention it…"

Lois couldn't take Clark's teasing any longer. Shoving him back against the couch, she straddled his lap, lowering herself down on top of him. "Now it's time for my Christmas present," she growled, ripping off his shirt.

He fumbled with the clasp to her bra as she arched against him. A moment later, it fell into his lap, and he cupped her bare breasts in his palms, thumbing her nipples. His touch elicited a low moan from her, and he dropped his hands to her hips, pulling her hard against him.

Clark groaned as she rocked her hips against his; he was hard from wanting her. "We could go upstairs to bed," he murmured against the soft skin at the side of her neck.

"The couch is fine," she growled, reaching between them to unbutton the fastening of his pants.

"But it's our first time. It should be special," he protested, even as he lifted his hips and helped Lois pull his pants and underwear down his thighs.

She braced her hands on his shoulders as she rose on her knees so he could pull down her panties. "You mean with a soft bed and maybe some music, while a thousand candles pose a fire hazard while you make your move?" she teased, grinning at him.

He'd had something very much like that in mind, but when she put it like that, he couldn't admit it to her. "W-well, not exactly like that," he protested. Even as she teased him, he couldn't keep his hands off of her. He kept stroking her with his hands, trailing his fingers down her spine, along the curve of her ribs, across the soft skin of her stomach, along the inside of her thighs.

She reached between them and wrapped her hand around his penis, stroking the shaft with her palm. He sucked in a sharp breath at her touch and moved his hand between her thighs, caressing her with his fingers. "Do you really want to wait while we light all the damn candles?" she bit out as he slid two fingers inside of her.

"Well, when you put it that way…" Clark gasped when she rubbed her thumb across his tip.

Lois guided him to her entrance and lowered herself on top of him. Letting out a hiss of pleasure, she threw her head back as she started to ride him, and he licked her neck, feeling her pulse beat wildly beneath his lips. His lips trailed down the curve of her shoulder and along the ridge of her collarbone as he ran his hands across her body, stroking every inch of skin that he could reach.

As she rocked against him, he bucked his hips, thrusting deep inside of her with every stroke. Her fingers dug into his flesh and her breath came out as tiny gasps as he increased his tempo, pounding deep inside her again and again.

"Clark," Lois moaned. Her skin was slick with sweat, and he brushed her damp hair off her shoulders.

Cupping her behind her head, he pulled her mouth down to his. "It's okay, Lois," he murmured against her lips. "Come for me."

Lois let out a little cry and sucked his lower lip into her mouth, scraping the soft flesh with her teeth as she moaned and shuddered against him. Her mouth swallowed up Clark's cry as he thrust inside her one final time and poured himself inside her.

She was still trembling when she collapsed on top of his body, resting her head on his shoulder as she sucked in deep gasps of air. Clark's breath was equally as labored as he rested his head on the back of the sofa, stroking her back gently with his palm.

When he felt her breathing slow, he smiled. "So, does this mean you'll stay for Christmas?" he asked idly, running his fingers through her hair.

Lois sat up again, looking down at him with a mischievous smile. "Mmm…I haven't decided yet, but I think you stand a chance of talking me into it."

Clark chuckled at her flirtatious comment. "Well, I'm more than happy to do what I can to convince you," he offered, "But could I ask you a favor?" When she nodded, he continued, "Could we take this to the bedroom? Otherwise, this might be a little hard to explain to my mom when she gets home."

Lois laughed. "You're on, Smallville, but just so we're clear?" He smiled at her as she leaned down and murmured in his ear, "Forget the candles. Trust me; you're not going to have time to light them."