A Christmas Miracle

By NiteMar <nitemar@att.net>

Rated: PG

Submitted: November 2002

Summary: Christmas had lost its meaning for Lois years ago, and she never really cared until now. This holiday season had been particularly bothersome to Lois, as she had never before missed what others around her had — someone to share their holiday with. A Christmas story set in Season Two.

Feedback: Courteous constructive criticism is welcome at the above email address.

With the posting of other Christmas stories, I couldn't keep the Holiday bug from biting. <g> This is my first completed L&C fanfiction.

Disclaimers and Acknowledgements: These characters aren't mine; I'm just playing with them. The idea came to me while re- watching Seasons Greedings, and includes portions of the episode which places Lois and Clark in second season in a firmly developed friendship and much more, yet unacknowledged; no infringement is intended. Thanks to Amac and BrightFeather for the beta-reading and encouragement! Enjoy!

***

Lois walked through the trees standing in the Christmas tree lot, casually examining the choices available. "I don't know, Clark," she said, turning to where he stood inspecting a nice large tree that was full and symmetrical. "I know I said I was going to go ahead and get a big tree this year, but I'm not sure anymore."

Clark saw the uncertainty in her expression. "We can get whatever tree you want, Lois. Why don't we look a little more?" he suggested as they walked further down the makeshift aisle of trees.

She fingered the branches as she reflected on her mood the past few days. Christmas. She really didn't hate the holiday, but she did hate how everyone was so cheery and syrupy-sweet, like they were happy or something. It was everywhere. Red and green. Lights and ribbons. People rushing around shopping… for their loved ones. When her parents had split during Christmastime so many years ago, Christmas had lost its meaning for her. Gifts meant nothing; it was all fake. As a girl, all she really wanted was to have a semi-normal family, people who cared for each other all year long, and parents that were happy enough to stay together.

And here she was — a twenty-something adult with a successful career, but no one to share her life with. For the longest time, she hadn't even missed it. That was what had been bugging her the past few days — that there was something she wanted and didn't have. It surrounded her this holiday season as she watched the people around her, people who had family and friends to share their holidays with.

"Lois, what do you think of this one?"

Clark's voice brought her out of her thoughts as she looked at the tree he had found, and she couldn't help but grin at him. He was smiling as he held what must have been the smallest and scrawniest tree on the lot. And she knew instinctively that he wasn't making fun of the story she had just told him about the tree she had bought when she was twelve. He understood. He understood her like no one ever had and more than she ever hoped anyone could. She giggled like a schoolgirl. "Clark, that's wonderful."

"Come on, then. We'll take this one home and give it some much- needed attention," he suggested.

Lois walked alongside Clark to the vendor and, as they paid for the tree, her thoughts returned to Clark. When had she first noticed her feelings for him changing? At her wedding, she had thought of Clark while preparing to marry another man. She had wanted to tell him about it, but he had stopped her. And as time passed, she became more afraid to reveal how she truly felt.

Lois slipped her arm through Clark's while he carried the tree. "Thanks for finding the tree for me, Clark. It'll be perfect."

He smiled at her. "As soon as I saw it, I knew you would want it."

Lois tightened her arm through his as they walked the rest of the way in quiet. Clark had come to mean so much to her since that day of her disastrous wedding. Their friendship had grown deeper as they depended on each other for much more than their working relationship. Then, just three weeks ago, she had lost Clark when he was shot and the reality of what that meant came crashing down around her. He had become the meaning in her life, not just her work life, or even as her friend. She loved him. Then why hadn't she said anything? Well, not counting the time she spilled her heart out and he turned out to be sleeping. As her further inaction chilled her as much as the cold weather, she shivered against Clark half-wishing that he would put his arm around her and hold her close.

"You're cold," Clark stated the obvious as he reached his arm around her and rubbed along her coat-covered arm. "Here's your building now." He guided her through the outer door into the hallway.

"That's better," Lois commented as they continued on to her apartment. When Clark had died, she had regretted having never told him how she felt. And now, three weeks later, she still hadn't told him. She was afraid. Maybe he had feelings for Mayson; telling him, opening her heart to him, would devastate her if her feelings were not returned. She had seen them kiss in his apartment that one night. For all she knew, he was planning on taking her to Smallville when he went there tomorrow for the holidays.

They finally arrived at her door and Lois unlocked it, letting them into the warm apartment. Clark handed the tree to Lois and she walked over to the table by the window, setting the tree there.

Lois' heart was beating rapidly with uncertainty. Should she take a chance? She was still afraid, but could she live with that regret again? Even if it was too late, she had to tell him. She turned to Clark and found him watching her. "Clark?" she said, choking back the emotion in her voice.

"Yes, Lois," he prompted her, bothered that Christmas was so painful to her, that she grew up so differently than he had. He could see the emotion she was holding back.

"I've wanted to tell you something for months now. I was going to tell you then, but then you said something different and I wasn't expecting that. But when you died, Clark, I…" Lois reached up and quickly swiped at her tears, pausing to catch her breath.

Clark reached for her hands, realizing what she was saying had nothing to do with her family at Christmastime. It was about them.

"I never realized how much you meant to me until that day," she said as she gazed into his eyes. "When I thought you were dead, I regretted that I never told you, but then I tried to tell you and you fell asleep, and then I couldn't tell you after that. Then it looked like you and Mayson might…"

Clark was getting confused. Cupping her cheeks with both hands, he tried to calm her. "Wait, Lois. What are you talking about? What didn't you ever tell me? And there is nothing between Mayson and me. Don't you know that?"

Lois gazed into his eyes and saw the sincerity there. Taking a deep breath, she gathered her courage and said, "I never told you… that I love you."

Clark stared at her, stunned at her confession. It was the last thing on earth he ever expected her to say. "You love me?" Suddenly, Clark's super-hearing alerted him. <No, no, no! Not now, God, please not now.> He leaned his forehead against hers, trying to will the problem away. In fact, it got worse, and he was needed. Reluctantly, he lifted his head from hers and slowly started to back away. "Lois, I am so-o-o sorry, but I have to go." And as he said those horrible words, he watched as her face fell in disappointment. He shut his eyes, trying to block the pain he felt at what he was doing to her. With every ounce of strength he could muster, he turned away and left.

Lois couldn't move as she stood there in the same spot for what seemed like hours. She had just poured out her heart and Clark had just left. No explanation. She sank into the nearest chair and the tears streamed down her face. She was too late. She had never told him and now it was too late. Another had his heart now. She had humiliated herself and intimidated him into leaving.

***

Last night, when Clark had been called away from Lois, he had hated his super abilities like never before. But he couldn't ignore people who needed his help, not when his help meant, or could mean, the difference between life and death. He stared into the mirror as he prepared to shave, but paused as he looked into the eyes of the man that had walked out on the woman he loved, just as she had confided her love to him. How long had he been waiting for a sign like that? Sign? It was a ton of kryptonite that had knocked him over. And he hadn't even seen it coming.

How was he ever going to fix this one? Could he fix it? He didn't know what to do now. He angled the hand mirror, aimed his heat vision, and began to shave. He could apologize and come up with an excuse. What was he thinking? Lois had just told him that she loved him. He knew what that had taken for her to say. No excuse was going to be enough.

He set the mirror back on the counter and leaned his hands against the edge as he stared down at its surface. He could always tell her the real reason. What an explosive discussion that would be! The only reason he had kept it from her so long was because of her crush on Superman. He wanted her to love Clark. What reason was there to keep it from her anymore? None.

He looked up into the mirror again. He had flown by Lois' apartment last night after he was done, but it was so late. She had already been asleep, her breathing even and steady. But he knew she had been crying earlier, as he'd heard her sobs when he first left. No matter how difficult it might be, she deserved to know.

Clark hurriedly finished getting ready for work and left the apartment early. Hopefully, there would be some time to talk before work. He arrived at her apartment building just as she was leaving.

Lois turned after exiting the building and jumped, startled at Clark's approach. "Clark," she said.

"Lois, I am so sorry about last night. I really think we should talk about it," he said, hoping for the chance.

She purposely avoided looking at him, still hurting from his rejection, and said, with irritation evident in her voice, "Well, it's cold out here, so if you want to talk, get in the Jeep."

After hopping into the Jeep, Clark started again. "Lois—"

"Clark, it's okay," Lois interrupted him. She turned the keys in the ignition and pulled the Jeep into the street as she looked behind her for traffic. "Really. I mean, I'm sorry if I made you uncomfortable last night when I said that."

"But, Lois, you didn't…"

Lois kept talking. "And if you are involved with Mayson or someone else, I'm happy for you. I rejected you before. I didn't expect you to wait for me. And I am going to have a real Christmas and have it my way just like I said; this doesn't change that at all." Lois pulled the Jeep to the curb. She looked over at Clark. "We're still friends, right?" she asked.

Flabbergasted, Clark said, "Of course we're friends, but Lois…" Before he could say another word, she was out of the Jeep and hustling into the Planet building, leaving him behind, stunned.

All day long, she avoided any chance of a private conversation to talk about his abrupt departure last night. Yet Lois seemed determined to have the real Christmas she had talked about and had invited Perry and Jimmy to her dinner. By afternoon, Superman was needed in capturing Mr. Schott and his Space Rats, and Clark only saw Lois in the guise of his alter-ego.

***

Lois set the last bowl from the oven onto the table, now overflowing with holiday food. She stepped back and looked at the picture-perfect setting. She had decided to have a real Christmas this year, and she was. It didn't matter that no one was coming. Perry was able to resolve the misunderstandings with his wife and was with her tonight. Jimmy was with Angela thanks to Lois' efforts at smoothing things over between them. It had felt good to do something like that for her friend even though it meant she would be alone tonight.

Then there was Clark. Tears welled up in her eyes as she thought of him, of what she had lost. He had loved her once, had wanted her, but she hadn't been ready for his love. Now that she was, he no longer felt the same. He had felt so awkward about her confession last night that he couldn't even think of a good excuse to leave—but then, he had never been very good with believable excuses. There was probably another woman in his thoughts tonight, but if he was happy, that was what mattered. He deserved it.

Lois picked up the candles and set them in the center of the table. She carefully lit the wicks and thought how grand it would have been to have her family and friends here tonight. It would have been nice, but they were happy elsewhere tonight and that made her happy for them.

Even Superman would be busy tonight. She chuckled as she recalled the sleigh ride he had taken Perry, Jimmy, and her on earlier. It had been such fun, so thrilling. It had been such a perfect moment, what with finding Christmas for herself again after so many years. Maybe Superman would stop by after all. There was no one else.

Just as she had wondered about him, she heard a familiar rush of wind. She turned expectantly to see only the curtains fluttering in the chilly wind. She stared at the window, her Christmas tree sitting on the table next to it, and bittersweet feelings overwhelmed her.

A knock at the door broke the silence and she turned towards the sound. She opened the door to find Clark standing there with a confident smile, holding a bottle of wine and a small gift-wrapped box. "Clark?" she asked in surprise. "I thought you went to Smallville."

Clark stepped in as Lois closed the door. "I decided to stay and spend Christmas with you," he said with a hopeful smile.

She almost didn't know what to say. Resting her hand lightly on his chest, she said, "You are the best." He must've found out that she would be alone tonight and was doing what best friends did for each other. Then dragging him in further towards the table, she said excitedly, "You are going to be so stuffed. I have turkey and stuffing and… did you know that you have to make the stuffing? It doesn't come already stuffed."

Clark smiled as he watched Lois, never so happy to see her babbling. "Yes, I have heard that," he said, grinning. He set the wine down and said, "Lois, I want to tell you something." When Lois stopped to gaze into his eyes, he smiled and pushed a loose hair from her face, and then rested his palm against her cheek. "Last night you said that *you* love me," he began. "I love you, too, Lois. I never stopped."

"You love me?" Lois asked, bewildered.

But before Lois could say more, Clark forged ahead by handing her the gift. "And I have something for you. Merry Christmas, Lois."

"Oh, Clark," Lois said, overwhelmed that he had thought of her. She tore the wrapping from the box, exposing a black velvet jewelry box. Expectantly, she looked up at Clark before dropping her gaze to the small box and opening it up. On the dark velvet laid a gold double heart, set with a small garnet in one corner. She lifted the pendant from the box, the chain spread across her fingers, and she was awed by its simple beauty. She gazed up at Clark, astonished by his gift. "Clark. It's beautiful."

"Turn it over," he said.

She carefully held the dainty heart in one hand and turned it over. Engraved on the back, it said, "My heart belongs to you. All my love, Clark." She just stared for a moment, not able to find the words to express herself. She finally looked up with tears in her eyes. "Will you help me put it on?"

Clark smiled. "Of course." Gently, he grasped the chain, unclasped it, and reached his hands around her neck to hook it as he gazed into her eyes. He hooked the catch delicately and slowly released the chain, following the movement of the pendant as it fell against her skin and settled near the edge of her cleavage.

Lois gazed up at him, confusion settling in her. "Clark? Then why did you leave like that last night? I thought…" she asked, confused. She had thought he left in such a hurry because he was so unnerved with what she was telling him. She had assumed it meant he no longer felt that way about her, and that he might have feelings for another. Now he said he loved her. If that was true, his behavior last night made no sense.

"That is something else I need to tell you about, something very important," he said, sobering as he remembered what he had decided to tell her tonight.

Lois smiled as she studied his face. He loved her. He had said he loved her. The soft sounds of carolers coming from outside slowly filtered into the room. "Clark," she said cheerfully as she turned towards the window, "Carolers." She guided Clark to the window, temporarily pushing aside what Clark had been trying to say. They stood, hand in hand, listening to the enchanting music as snow started to fall softly in the night. Lois leaned against Clark's shoulder, surrendering to the mood of this magical holiday evening.

The moment here with Lois was breathtaking and Clark gave in to the creation of this incredible memory. He could only hope the feeling between them would last. They loved each other. It was Christmas Eve and they were together, about to share a feast and listening to music sung just for them. And if he was lucky, she would agree to join him in Smallville for Christmas Day.

He gazed down at Lois as she rested her head on his shoulder. He turned to face her, placing his hands on her shoulders. She looked up at him through her eyelashes and Clark leaned closer to kiss her, pausing momentarily before capturing her lips with his. He felt her arms encircle his waist and pull him closer. As his lips broke from hers, he heard a soft moan escape from her, and he pressed his lips to hers again, fueled by their combined desire. His lips parted at the soft touch of her tongue against them. Lois sighed into his mouth in the midst of her explorations, prompting his own. As they broke their kiss, Clark leaned his forehead against hers as he caught his breath.

"Wow," Lois mumbled. That had been nothing like any of the kisses Clark had given her before, ploys during their various schemes and cases. She never expected his kiss to be any different tonight. She released her arms from around Clark, pulling back a bit. "Maybe we should eat before it gets cold."

No, first it was time she knew everything before any more time had passed. He pulled Lois back into his arms, filled with resolve and hoping for his own holiday miracle. "Lois, I need to tell you something very important…"

Lois noticed the seriousness with which Clark spoke and it was scaring her. What could he possibly need to tell her right now? She searched his eyes for some clue as to what was so important. "Clark?" she asked, her voice unsteady. "What is it? What's wrong?" She reached a hand to his face and her fingers softly caressed along his cheek.

Clark closed his eyes in response to her fingers' stroke, memorizing the feel of her touch, fearful of what saying the next words would bring. He sighed deeply and opened his eyes, gazing into Lois' expectant ones.

"Clark, please? Just tell me." A million crazy thoughts were going through her mind. He had a wife he hadn't told her about; he was going to die; he had children; he lived a double life as a criminal mastermind. Knowing the truth had to be better than this mental torture. Did any of it matter anyway? She loved him.

"Lois, I… I am Superman," he said, pushing the words out. Not realizing he was holding his breath, he waited for her reaction. But it didn't come, at least not like he expected. He watched her features as she let the truth of his words sink in.

'Superman.' The word echoed in her brain. Her mouth gaped open as she scrutinized Clark's face and searched his eyes. Slowly she reached for his eyeglasses and lifted them from his face, permitting her to gaze into his unobstructed eyes. She looked down at the glasses in her hands and lifted her gaze back to Clark as she fiddled with the eyewear. "I guess you really don't need these, do you?" she asked, more sarcastically than she had intended.

"Not to see," he replied softly.

"What's that supposed to mean?" she asked. Her heart was pounding in her chest as she tried to sort out what he was saying, all while images of the two men flooded into her thoughts from her memories.

"My parents first gave me glasses to wear as a teenager. They were a reminder to me about my powers—so I wouldn't hurt anyone by accident. They helped me control my visual powers when they started to develop," Clark confided. He knew there would be questions and he had every intention of telling her everything she wanted to know.

Lois listened to the man in front of her explain a part of his life she never could have imagined. The man she thought she knew. "Your parents? You mean your real parents?"

Clark considered her words as he recognized her confusion. "My parents—the Kents—are the only parents I have ever known. And no," he said with a slight smile, "they are not Kryptonian. I came to Earth when I was a baby and they found me, took me in, and raised me."

"A baby? I always thought… So they've been part of this secret with you," she said, finally grasping the situation, still fiddling with the glasses.

Clark nodded.

Lois looked down at the glasses in her hands again. Folding them closed, she set them on the table under the Christmas tree. Then a thought occurred to her and she looked up again, asking, "Do you still need them—to remind you when you're not him, to keep from hurting people?"

Clark smiled. "I guess they are a reminder of sorts—to be careful about revealing myself in public, letting people see me use my powers. But no, I don't really need them to remember. Now they mainly help me to look different from Superman, so people don't see the similarities."

Lois let that sink in. He had to keep Clark and Superman separate. How many people who weren't even criminals, but just greedy, had tried to exploit Superman? Even she hadn't always printed everything she knew about Superman for fear that the wrong people would use the information against him. How many times had criminals already tried to use her to get to Superman? For that very reason, Superman gave exclusive stories to other reporters—so the bad guys wouldn't target any one person to get at Superman. She paused a moment as she realized that her thoughts about Superman were really about Clark. Clark had given her exclusive interviews. She glanced up at him. Clark had given himself exclusive interviews!

Comprehending his deception, Lois' eyes widened and her mouth gaped wide, her anger building like a steaming teakettle about to boil over. "You gave yourself exclusive interviews! Clark Kent! You…you…" she ranted as she pounded her fists against his chest. But after hitting his firm chest a few times, she slowed and finally stopped. "This doesn't even hurt you," she whimpered.

Clark covered her fists soothingly with his hands. "Do you want to hurt me, Lois? All you have to do is tell me you don't love me anymore," he said quietly.

Lois gazed into his eyes, unshed tears threatening to fall. She looked into the eyes of the man who claimed she could hurt him with her words. He had even told her how to do it. She shook her head and said, "I don't want to hurt you, Clark." She subconsciously reached for the pendant around her neck and caressed the heart between her fingers.

Clark couldn't help but notice as she grasped at the heart pendant he had given her earlier tonight, realizing it may have been a mistake giving it to her before confiding that he was Superman. She literally and figuratively held his heart in her hands.

"Clark?"

"Lois, why don't we eat something? You went to all the trouble to prepare this food…" He hoped that sitting down to the meal would give her time to digest what he had told her, and hopefully it would register just how much he loved her.

"It's probably all cold by now," she commented as she looked over to the table.

Clark grinned. "No problem." Then he pointed to his eyes, signaling his solution. But almost immediately, he regretted the reference to his superpower. It wasn't that he wanted to hide it from her; keeping it from her was over now. But the look in her eyes as she stared at him told him that it was still not connecting in her head.

Lois stared at Clark, taken aback by his suggestion. Of course, she knew he could do those things. Clark had just told her he was Superman. She searched his face, reconciling the two people. There was Clark, the handsome man and her talented partner with a na´ve country background, a man with passionate opinions, who had a strong sense of justice and loyalty, but who also got angry and could make mistakes as much as the next person. The man she had fallen in love with. Then there was Superman, the hero from another planet, invincible and perfect, who always did the right thing and never took his anger out on others; he was untouchable. But she realized that he wasn't perfect or invincible as she gazed at Clark. She just hadn't known the real Superman. It had always been Clark with the superpowers.

"Lois?" he said, chancing to interrupt her thoughts as she kept staring at him.

A smile slowly graced her face and a chuckle escaped her lips. "It was you. The other day, when I thought my coffee was cold— you handed it back to me and it was hot." She saw it was true by Clark's caught-with-hand-in-the-cookie-jar look. "How many times have you done that?" she asked, her voice softening.

Clark shrugged with embarrassment. "Lots of times, I guess. I like taking care of you."

"It was always you. Locks and doors that came undone. And you saving me—that's how Superman always knew I needed him," she said in awe as she lightly rested her hand against his chest. Not in awe of Superman, but of the fact that he was always there with her, and that she had always meant more to him than she ever knew.

Clark inhaled deeply at her touch.

"Why tell me now, Clark? Why didn't you tell me before?"

"The only people who knew my secret are my parents, but I always knew I would tell the woman I would spend my life with, if I ever found her. When I did find her, I wasn't sure she loved me—until last night. Last night, when I was called away on an emergency—"

"That was why you left last night. Someone needed Superman," she interrupted as she realized what he was saying.

"Yes, someone needed my help," he explained almost apologetically. "Last night when you told me that you loved me, I knew that I needed to tell you everything, but I had to leave before I had a chance. I flew by last night when I was done, but you were already asleep."

"And you have been trying to talk to me all day," she finished for him as she fondled her heart pendant.

His hand covered hers as she stroked the jewelry, prompting her to look up into his eyes. "I never should have given this to you before I told you everything. That wasn't fair."

"Don't you feel the same about the engraved words anymore?"

"Oh God, Lois, of course I feel the same. I just have been noticing how you have been pulling at it, playing with it ever since I told you I was Superman. I'm not sure what to think about what you feel." He was almost afraid she would yank it from her neck and toss it to the floor.

"Clark, I'm glad you gave it to me. I was just remembering what you said earlier when you gave it to me," she said, stepping closer and releasing her hand from the necklace. "And thinking about how much I love you."

"You still love me?"

Lois leaned forward and kissed his lips softly. "Yes, I love you. And your heart is safe in my hands," she said with a smile. "Now, I have a question?"

Clark raised a brow. "What's that?"

"You said your heart belongs to me, but that was before you told me you were Superman. So what about Superman's heart?" she asked teasingly.

Clark's grin widened. "Lois, you have always had his heart. You created him."

"What are you talking about?" Lois asked, confused. She pulled back to look at him.

"I had always helped people when they needed it. But there was no Superman; it was just me. That's why I moved around a lot— when things would start to get noticed. When I came to Metropolis, I didn't want to keep moving," he explained.

"Right. You said how you had always wanted to work at the Planet."

"It wasn't the Planet, Lois. It was you that made me want to stop moving around," he admitted as the surprise showed on Lois' face. "But I couldn't stop helping people. Then you gave me an idea one day."

"I gave you an idea?"

"Yeah. You probably don't remember, but one day we were walking along and there was a nearby sewer accident. When I snuck away to help, my clothes got dirty. You told me…"

"…to bring a change of clothes to work like I do," she completed for him. She sighed at her own comprehension. "Your mother made it for you! That's what you told that little girl."

Clark nodded. "You also helped put into words what Superman stood for. I wanted to help people, but you took it further by giving me a focus."

"I made it impossible for you to be human," she said sadly.

"That's not true, Lois. You have made me feel more human than you could ever know, but I wanted Superman to be a disguise, so no one would know it was me. You helped me create that image, helped me make him an icon that was above all that." He sighed. "But in doing that, I've destroyed your image of who he is."

"No, Clark. You're right—he is an icon, a symbol, but I know the whole man. And that is you, Clark."

"Only to my parents and… you. To everyone else Clark and Superman are two separate people. I told you earlier that my heart belongs to you, and that is still true. I know you have a lot of questions. I expected that from you, and I'll answer anything you want. I am done hiding things from you."

"Oh, Clark," she choked, falling into his arms.

Clark held her close, enfolding his arms around her and caressing her back. "I love you, Lois."

"I love you, Clark."

"So, how about some of that feast you took the time to prepare?" he asked, pulling back and waggling his brow.

***

Lois followed Clark with her eyes as he sat down on the couch with her. He had insisted on clearing the table after dinner, giving her time with her thoughts. She chuckled at the new perception she had been given tonight, insight into the man who had been her friend for nearly a year and a half.

Clark swallowed self-consciously as he sat back on the couch and eyed her nervously. "What? Do I have something on me?" He looked down at his shirt to see what she might be laughing about.

Lois smiled and scooted a bit closer to him. "No, you're fine, Clark," she assured him, placing a hand gently against his chest. "I was just thinking about you using your powers to heat the food. I never thought of your heat vision being used quite that way—for ordinary, everyday things. It just seemed funny."

"So I make you laugh, do I?" he teased.

"You make me smile," she said softly as she glanced up at him through her eyelashes. She sipped some wine from the glass in her hand.

Clark slowly took the wineglass from her hand and set it on the coffee table. Sliding closer, his arm came around her shoulders. Gazing into her dark eyes, he reached up to push aside a strand of hair on her face and rested his hand against her cheek. Mesmerized by her beauty, he was unable to control his heart pounding in his chest. She had accepted him with very little anger or yelling and a lot of questions. He knew that more questions would still come, but he expected no less from Lois Lane.

Lois gazed into Clark's dark chocolate eyes, wide and unobstructed by his usual eyewear. He was Clark, yet so much more now. He had shared all that he was with her… because he loved her and knew that she loved him. Time seemed to slow as he leaned towards her and tenderly pressed his lips to hers. She leaned into his kiss, responding to his caress as his touch fueled her growing desire. Her hand cupped the side of his neck as her fingers slid through his thick hair, and she moaned into his mouth.

Clark pulled her tight against him, overwhelmed with all he was feeling, the heat and electricity sparking between them. His tongue slid between her parted lips, exploring her mouth and consumed by his desire. Groans escaped from deep within his chest and, barely pulling his lips from hers, he mumbled her name, "Lois," before capturing her lips again, plundering her mouth in a passionate kiss.

Lois' head was swimming with the rush of heady desire and she pulled her lips from his, her breathing ragged and heavy. "Clark." His earlier kiss had been magical as they had stood by the Christmas tree, the light snow falling outside. But this kiss had been full of unrestrained passion, creating a fire inside her she couldn't ignore.

Clark leaned his forehead against hers as he, too, caught his breath. "Lois." As his breathing slowed, he lifted his head to look into her eyes. "I'm sorry. I got carried away." Wanting her for so long and finally having her love was almost too much to handle, but he had to take it slow. He didn't want to give her reason to panic.

"Don't be sorry, Clark. I just need to think, to breathe," she replied as she softly caressed his cheek. She leaned closer, pressing her lips to his with a quick peck, assuring him that they were all right. She turned into his chest, leaning against him, and his arm came around her to hold her close. She murmured in contentment at his embrace.

They held each other, talking about everything and nothing for the next few hours. Clark's internal voice kept prodding him to ask her about tomorrow, but his nervousness kept delaying him. He knew that Lois had sad memories of Christmas with her own family and he hoped that wouldn't keep her from wanting to join him. But finally, he found the courage and he asked, "Would you like to come to Smallville with me tomorrow?"

Lois pulled back from his chest and considered his question, "That's right. You can still go there." Superman can go anywhere she realized. This was going to take some getting used to.

"Yeah," he said, reaching out to smooth her hair with his hand. "I called home earlier tonight before I came here to tell them I wouldn't arrive until tomorrow… and that I might have someone with me."

"They know you planned on telling me?" she asked, her expression tense.

"I thought I should warn them. It's their secret too," he explained, hoping she understood.

"And it was okay with them?" Lois grew nervous wondering about his parents' reaction to her knowing. Did they trust her as much as Clark did? What did they think of her knowing? All she could think of was how she had so quickly insulted them when she had first met them. Although it had been a long time ago, and she had seen them many times since, she knew first impressions tended to stay with people.

"Oh yeah, they were all for it. My mom really likes you," Clark assured her as he shifted to focus on her, sensing her insecurity about being accepted. "And except my dad's usual frog thing… they are fine about it."

"Your dad's frog thing?"

"Oh, it's nothing." Why did he even bring up his dad's usual spiel?

What reservations did his dad have? What did frogs have to do with anything? She needed to know. "Clark, no more secrets, remember? What frog thing?"

Clark sighed and realized he needed to explain; she would end up hearing it sometime anyway. "Really, it's nothing, just something my dad has said ever since I was a kid. When my powers started to develop, he was always afraid someone would find out how different I was. He would warn me about being careful, to not let anyone see me use my powers. He'd say that they'd take me away to a lab and dissect me like a frog." Clark couldn't help but wince as he said the familiar words.

"Oh, Clark," she responded sympathetically, resting a hand on his arm.

"And whenever I have talked about doing something where there was the danger of being exposed, he has said the same thing. I know that my dad saying that now is crazy. I mean, it would be pretty hard for someone to be able to do that to me now."

"But it wasn't crazy to a boy." She watched as Clark talked of things from his childhood, seeing an outcast boy afraid of people seeing certain parts of who he was.

Clark stared at her, knowing she comprehended the meaning of what he had explained, that it was more than a child's fear of being hurt or killed. As he grew into adulthood, it was more about protecting his privacy, his wish to live a normal life. It was about always hiding yourself from others, never letting anyone see more than you felt was safe.

"It must've been hard growing up like that," she said. What must it have been like for him, afraid that people would find out he could burn things with his eyes, see through things, or fly. It would be like trying to hide talents that made up who you were, like a musical talent or writing talent, but so much more basic than that. She guessed that, for Clark, it was almost comparable to hiding something as automatic as talking or breathing.

"Oh, Lois, don't blame my dad. My parents have been the greatest. They've just been protective…"

"Oh Clark, I know they've been great," she rushed to correct his misunderstanding. "You have great parents. They are the best parents any child could have. What I meant was that it must've been hard growing up keeping a secret like that, afraid that people would find out about your powers and take you away from your parents." Lois sympathized with Clark about his childhood. She realized just how hard it had been to confide his secret. "And you told me," she stated, gazing into his eyes, knowing what she meant to him.

"I love you," he stated simply. He cupped her cheeks with both hands in a tender caress and leaned to gently kiss her lips. "So, you never said if you'd come with me tomorrow," he whispered as he pulled away.

She felt his warm breath caress her lips. "Of course I'll come," she replied and returned his kiss. She snuggled into his arms, wrapped in the warmth and security they provided. She never thought her Christmas Eve would ever end up like it had, and she couldn't be happier. Maybe taking chances on the right things was worth it.

Clark held her close, caressing her back and occasionally pressing his lips to hers. There was no pretense in the closeness they shared tonight, no ruse for a story they were on, no dangerous villain threatening her security and causing her to fall into his arms. They were just in love. They. Both of them. And she knew all of who he was and accepted him. God, his head was spinning. And she was coming home with him to Smallville on Christmas Day… not as a friend, but as the woman he hoped to spend the rest of his life with.

"Clark?" Lois said, raising her head from his chest to look into his eyes. "When are we going tomorrow?"

Clark kissed her tenderly. It was getting late. "I should leave, so you can get some sleep before tomorrow."

Lois stopped him. "Don't go yet. I was just wondering what time. Stay a while longer."

"We can leave anytime you want, but I was thinking around nine if that's okay," he suggested.

"That's fine," she said.

Clark hesitated briefly, but then asked, "Lois, are you ok? With everything tonight?" He knew he had thrown a lot at her tonight, that it must be hard to digest everything.

"Yeah. I think I still have a lot to sort out, but yeah I'm ok," Lois said with a smile. "But I'm not done with the questions," she warned.

"Honey, I don't expect you to *ever* be done with questions," he teased.

Lois searched his eyes a moment. "You called me honey," she stated.

Clark beamed. "Yeah, I did."

Lois smiled in return and kissed his lips. She could get used to this.

***

Clark hurried over to Lois' apartment the next morning, anxious to get started on their trip to Smallville. He had stayed late the previous night as they had talked into the early morning hours. Well, not just talked. Clark recalled with a smile that they had done plenty of kissing too.

As he approached Lois' door, he felt nervous for a moment. Had last night been all a wonderful dream? Did Lois really know he was Superman and still love him? It seemed all too good to be true. Pushing his apprehension aside, he took a deep breath and knocked on her door.

Lois opened the door, beaming a huge smile before throwing her arms around him, and all his doubts melted away. She pulled back breathlessly after he had hungrily kissed her. As she closed the door, her eyes wandered over his body, closely examining the clothes he wore. He looked sharp in the dark trousers and an off-white cable knit sweater. He wore a mid- thigh length leather coat. "You did say casual, right? I mean, I am wearing the right thing?" she asked nervously, wanting to fit in with his family today.

Clark smiled, realizing it was her own insecurities that were sizing him up. He quickly examined what she wore—nice forest green slacks and a red V-neck sweater. "You look wonderful, Lois," he assured her.

"I can always change real quick," she offered, still uncertain.

Clark stepped closer and, resting his hands on her shoulders, halted her babbling with a lingering kiss. Pulling back and slipping his fingers through her silky hair, he repeated, "You look wonderful."

No matter how many times he had kissed her last night, he still took her breath away. Her heart seemed to stop beating as she recovered from his lips' caress. She smiled and reached for the necklace lying by the mirror. "Can you help me put this back on then?"

Clark took the necklace he had given her last night and stood behind her at the mirror. He held the heart pendant in front of her as he clasped it close on her neck and released it to lie perfectly in the V of her sweater.

She turned with a smile as she centered the pendant heart around her neck. Then she realized as she eyed Clark's attire that he wasn't dressed for flying. "Clark, are you flying like that?" She looked up at him, puzzled. "Do you fly in regular clothes too?"

"No, I fly as Superman, in case I'm seen." Clark stepped back and spun in a whirl of color, changing into his alter-ego in front of Lois.

Lois' mouth gaped at the blur in front of her. After only a few moments Superman was in front of her for the first time since finding out his true identity. "Wow," she muttered, stunned at the remarkable man she loved. "That is so…"

She gazed into his eyes and saw something different. His smile extended from his mouth to his eyes, Clark's love shining through with an expression she had never seen on Superman. Of course, that had been a Superman who had tried to keep his identity a secret. That's why Superman had always seemed so distant.

"You ready?"

She nodded as he reached for her coat draped over the chair and held it for her to slip on. He quickly scooped her into his arms and gazed down at her. After giving her a quick peck on the lips, he strode to the open window and floated outside before darting into the sky with his precious bundle.

Lois snuggled close in his arms as they flew through the air, burying her face into the crook of his neck and away from the winter wind. She felt his arms tighten around her and was warmed by his body heat. She had flown many times with Superman, but this was the first time she had been flying with Clark. Superman looked the same and was dressed the same, but he was different now.

How many times had he carried Lois as he flew before? Too many to count. And each time, he had had to be careful to not convey any special meaning to the way in which he held her or snatched her away from some danger. He had had to be careful, sure to not hold her too close, yet holding her safely in his arms. The expressions on his face had to be guarded—a smile, relief, or anything that revealed how he cared. He glanced down at her as she snuggled against him, no longer needing to hide his feelings. This morning, all his feelings flowed through his touch, and he pulled her close to him.

Clark landed on the Kent farm behind the barn, setting Lois down gently. He still held her close and asked, "Are you ok? Not too cold?" Cupping her cheeks with his hands, he felt her chill. He stepped back and scanned his eyes over her body slowly as the heat beam warmed her. "Better?"

"Thanks." Again she was amazed by his unusual use of powers for personal reasons, like another person might hold a door open for someone.

Clark spun into his regular clothes and they walked towards the house, his arm around her. "Only my parents know; the others here don't, so be careful what you say," he reminded her.

"Don't worry, Clark. I wouldn't—"

Martha and Jonathan burst through the front door. "Clark. Lois." Martha enveloped both of them in wide open arms. "We're so happy you made it. Come in and warm up," she said with a grin, taking Lois' presence a sign that their discussion had gone well last night.

Jonathan patted Clark on the back as they ushered them inside. "Good to see you, Son."

Clark knew it was his dad's way of assuring him of his support. His dad was always protective of him and knew he meant well with his usual warnings. He turned to his dad and returned the man's gesture in a hug. "It's good to see you, too, Dad."

Lois suspected there was more to the exchange between father and son than was readily apparent. Her thoughts were interrupted as she felt Martha's hand on her arm.

"So, Lois," she said in a quiet tone, "How are you doing?"

Lois smiled. "Oh, I'm fine."

"I mean really. You know, about…" she said with a wink.

Lois grinned, comprehending her secret meaning. "I'm okay. I'm still sorting it out, I think. Sometimes I forget. Or something takes a bit to click, you know. It all so new."

"Of course it'll take time, honey," Martha assured, enveloping her in a warm hug. Lois smiled at the affectionate gesture, Martha's acceptance warming her heart.

"Lois?"

The women broke their embrace at Clark's interruption and Lois turned to him.

"Let me take your coat," he said, his own coat already draped over his arm. He helped her off with the coat and draped it on his arm. "Let me introduce you to everyone," he said, escorting her into the living room as he set the coats on the corner chair.

They walked into the cozy living room and he introduced her to his Uncle Joe and Aunt Ruby from Wichita, their son Pete, and Mr. Stevenson and his son from down the road. Clark discreetly explained that Mr. Stevenson had lost his wife this past year and his parents had invited him and his boy to join them for the holidays.

After a few minutes of talking with everyone, Martha handed them two mugs of hot chocolate. "I thought this might warm you two up a bit."

Clark urged Lois to settle with him near the hearth where a warm fire was burning. He sipped at his drink as he watched Lois, who seemed to be deep in thought. "I don't have a big family, but we have a good holiday together," he said quietly.

Lois turned to him and smiled. "Your family is great, Clark." She reached out grasping his hand. "You are lucky to have such a loving family." She sipped at her hot chocolate and moaned. "Oh, this is good stuff."

"My mom makes a mean hot chocolate," Clark said with a grin. Sliding closer to her, he wrapped an arm around her.

They continued to chat as they sipped hot chocolate in front of the fire, occasionally joining in the family conversation going on around them. Lois' images of her own family's holidays had made her a bit uneasy about what to expect today, but she should have known it would be different. Clark's family was different. It was such a contrast to what she had experienced growing up.

After a while, Clark whispered, "If you don't mind, I'd like to talk with Jake for a bit. I know it must be hard to lose your mom at such a young age."

Lois agreed. "Of course, you go ahead." She watched as Clark went across the room to spend some time with the young boy. She was coming to understand what it was that made Clark Superman. It wasn't the super powers. It was how he was raised and his good heart that made him who he was.

Lois continued to watch Clark and at one point, Clark looked over at Lois, smiling as their eyes met. For a moment, the distance across the room shrank as they gazed at each other in a trance. Clark then seemed to be drawn back into his conversation and the spell was broken.

Finally, Lois rose and grabbed their empty mugs. She went into the kitchen to return the mugs to find Martha and Ruby chatting as they readied the meal. Setting the dirty mugs on the counter, she cheerfully offered, "Do you need any help?"

"Oh, great. Lois, grab this and take it to the table."

Lois quickly stepped up and grabbed the large casserole dish filled with stuffing and carried it to the table. Over the next several minutes, she carried other bowls and serving trays and worked with the women to set the table.

"So, this is where you are?" a familiar voice said, causing her to turn.

A grin covered her face as she was welcomed by Clark's playful expression. "Hi. Did you and Jake have a good talk?"

He stepped closer, enjoying the new-found freedom to close the space between them. He encircled her in his arms and pressed his lips lightly to hers. "How are you doing?" he whispered.

"I'm just fine—" she almost squeaked.

"Come on, honey," Ruby interrupted. "We need to get the gang together for dinner before it gets cold." She guided Lois away by her arm, Lois looking back forlornly at Clark as he laughed at her.

Clark watched his love being escorted away by his Aunt Ruby and hearing her tell Lois there would be plenty of time for necking later. He chuckled, lost in the world known as Lois Lane. She was definitely doing fine.

Clark's mom rested her hand on his arm, jarring him from his musings. "Clark, how is everything going with you?"

"Okay, Mom. It's still all so new."

"You'll be fine, but it'll take time," she assured him. "After all, she knew both of you. And it's *new* to both of you. You've never trusted anyone with this before."

"I know. I was worried before telling her, but not about the trust—I knew I could trust her," he said as he stared at the floor. He looked up with a wide grin and explained the difference. "It's wonderful now that she knows, not having to hide it from her anymore. But the biggest thing is that she still loves me."

"Of course she does," his mom said matter-of-factly. "There was never any question of that. It was just how mad or hurt she would be."

Clark looked at his mom, stunned by her common sense insight. Again.

***

Dinner was punctuated with laughter and stories between servings of the wonderful feast. Lois enjoyed every moment, wrapped in the warmth this family brought her. No shouting, no accusations, no guilt trips. Conversation had no ulterior motive to further another's agenda; it was simply friendly chitchat and enjoyment of each other's company.

Later, after the dishes and food had been cleared from the table, Lois sat at the table with Clark sharing a quiet moment over a cup of coffee. Then Clark suddenly tilted his head, getting that far-off look. "What is it, Clark?"

He held up a hand, motioning to her to give him a minute, and he continued to concentrate his focus elsewhere.

Then it dawned on her that he heard something. All those times he got that look, he was hearing something no one else could. She patiently waited, but grew anxious.

A moment later, he looked back to her. "Sorry, Lois. I needed to hear that," he said, his voice guarded and low. "I need to leave for a little bit. There's a problem with a bridge in a nearby town. Cars are trapped and it's collapsing." Lois's expression prompted him to assure her, "It shouldn't be long, honey," and he speedily rushed out the door.

Seconds later, she heard the sonic boom as he took to the sky. She hadn't even had a chance to tell him to be careful. It hadn't been how long he'd be gone that bothered her, as he had assumed. It was because… but that made no sense.

Martha walked into the room, searching out Lois when she had heard the loud noise that signaled Clark's take-off. She saw Lois sitting alone at the table, staring into her coffee mug. Martha rushed to her and asked, "Are you okay, honey?"

Lois looked at Martha, her emotions warring with her common sense. "This is the first time he has had to leave since I've known," she started to explain.

Martha sat down next to her, sympathizing with the young woman's turmoil. "Did he say what it was?"

"A bridge in a nearby town," she said, repeating his words.

"Oh, it must be that Mac Bridge in Cottonwood Falls. Those cheap fools kept putting off repairs. I knew this would… Honey, what is it?" Martha asked, noticing Lois' troubled expression. "Are you worried he'll be away long?"

"Oh it's not that, Martha. It's just…" she said as she fought back her tears. "I didn't really worry so much about Superman before… well, except for kryptonite," she whispered. "But with Clark I feel different somehow. I know he's not any different, but he's more… real, and that makes me worry. I know it sounds stupid," she reasoned while she nervously fondled the heart he'd given her as it hung around her neck.

Martha placed a comforting hand over hers. "I understand and it's not stupid."

"I love him," she said, her eyes shining with tears.

Martha reached for the box of Kleenex and set it on the table. Pulling a tissue from the box, she handed one to Lois. "Here. Let me refresh your coffee and we'll sit for a while."

As Lois wiped her eyes and was again presentable, Jake popped his head in the room. "Is Clark here? We're trying to get a game going."

Without even a pause, Lois replied, "No, Jake. I think he's getting out some of his things that he promised he'd show me. So he's probably in the attic, or basement, but good luck finding him."

"Ah, that's okay. Sounds like you two are planning something anyway." Jake left as quickly as he had burst in.

Martha, at the counter filling up their mugs, had been a quiet observer to this amazing exchange. She joined Lois at the table again, setting Lois' mug in front of her. "That was remarkable, Lois," she whispered.

Lois looked up at Martha, confused for a second. "Oh, the story," she said in a hushed tone. "I'm used to making up stories on the fly in my business. I'm used to it." She sipped at the hot coffee, contemplating the whole thing about covering Clark's tracks. "You know, I'll be able to help him out a lot with that. I mean, with excuses like 'Cheese of the Month Club', it won't stay a secret long."

Martha covered her mouth as she snickered. "You're kidding? He used that excuse?"

"Definitely not one of his best," Lois opined as she rolled her eyes.

"He never was good with that part of it."

"By the way, what do you tell people about the booming noise when he takes off like that?" she questioned, curious why the others weren't asking about it.

"Military jets."

***

Lois was relieved when Clark returned. He had been right; it hadn't taken him long to rescue the people from the bridge collapse. Luckily, no one had been killed, or even seriously injured. That would have been a tragedy on this holiday. Except for Jake's inquiry, no one had even missed Clark for the short time he had been absent.

Jake had even asked Clark if he had ever found what he was looking for in the attic. Clark, confused about his question, was saved by a calm-voiced Lois explaining to the boy how Clark finally found the box and they had had fun going through it.

Clark was astounded at her easily-delivered story, although he didn't know why he should have been surprised. He had seen her tell enough stories while working on investigations, but now she was using her talents for him.

It had started to quiet down after Mr. Stevenson and Jake had left. Uncle Joe, Aunt Ruby and their boy had left even earlier to make it back to Wichita. Martha had tried to insist they stay overnight, but Ruby wanted to be home for something she had planned the next day. Lois and Clark sat on the couch, the room still warmed by the dying fire.

"You kids stay as long as you want," Martha said as she approached the young couple, leaning to kiss each on the cheek. "It's been a long day, and we're going to bed." Martha and Jonathan exchanged a glance, happy for the young couple, and climbed the stairs to their room.

Clark, his arm around her shoulders, pulled Lois close to him. He pressed a kiss to her cheek. "I hope today wasn't too overwhelming for you."

Lois turned in his arms and, eyeing him aggressively, teased, "What's this with pecks on the cheek?" Before he could answer, she had wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her lips to his. "Mmmm, it's been too long," she murmured against his lips.

She had surprised him momentarily, but he quickly gave in to her kiss. Then he scooped her up in his arms and pulled her onto his lap as she tried to conceal a yelp of surprise. His lips found hers again, his tongue begged entry, and they explored each other with their tongues and roaming hands.

"Oh God, Clark," she breathed, "Is this the necking Aunt Ruby promised?"

Clark couldn't help but chuckle against her mouth. "Mmmm," he mumbled as he left a trail of heat along her jaw and neck.

Lois' hands grasped his head and he lifted his gaze to her. "Thank you for a perfect Christmas, Clark. I've never had a Christmas Day like this before."

He leaned his forehead against hers as his breathing returned to normal. "Even when Superman was needed?" he asked, certain she had forgotten about that interruption.

"Especially then. You astound me, Clark Kent," she said. "You know, I figured something out about you."

Clark raised his brow in question.

Lois explained, "You're not Superman because of your powers. Someone else with those powers… I'd be afraid to see what someone else would do with them." Caressing his firm chest, Lois continued, "You're Superman because you care, because of how you were raised. Your parents—inviting Mr. Stevenson and Jake over—that's nothing my parents would have ever done, a lot of people wouldn't. Even if you didn't have powers, you would help where you could—just like your parents."

Clark gazed into her eyes as she spoke of him, not knowing quite what to say. "I guess that makes me a nerd to some."

Lois smiled. "Well, that's their problem then… You know, it wasn't about you being gone long that had me feeling odd when you left earlier… I was worried about you."

"Worried about *me*?" He pulled back to look at her. Now he *was* confused. He was Superman. Why would she worry about him?

Lois smiled at his obvious bewilderment. "I talked with your mom about it after you left," she started to explain. "I think I was worried because, for the first time, I saw you leave as Superman. You—Clark. You're real. And I love you, so I was worried."

Clark kissed her. "And *I* love you."

Lois leaned back against Clark. "This is so crazy. We haven't even been on a date. It's not normal."

"When have you, Lois Lane, ever done anything normal?" Clark reminded her.

Lois just nuzzled against his chest as his arms wrapped snugly around her. He had a point. She never did anything the way most people did, but she figured that was probably a good thing with a boyfriend with a split personality, one of which saved the world and the people in it on a fairly regular basis.

"How about dinner this Friday?"

Lois pushed against his chest to look into his eyes. "A date?"

"Yeah, a real date." he said with a smile.

Lois smiled, her eyes beaming. "I'd love that."

Lois had never looked as beautiful to him as she did at that moment. Her smile and sparkling eyes were for him alone. Not even Superman had been recipient of a look as radiant as the one she wore now. How could he have been so blessed as to have her love? He had truly been granted his wish for Christmas, his own Christmas miracle.

The End and Merry Holidays to all Merry FoLCs.

Feedback is welcome at <nitemar@att.net>