By RL <email@example.com>
Submitted: March 2004
Summary: Following "Individual Responsibility," Lois follows her heart and makes her choice while Clark plans a special surprise.
This story was originally inspired by Kaethel after a conversation on IRC. So in honor of that occasion, I'm dedicating this story for her birthday. I'd like to thank my beta readers, Sara and LauraU, for their help in improving this story, and thanks to Tricia for GE'ing this story so quickly.
This story takes place right after "Individual Responsibility" in late second season.
Lois looked at herself in the mirror and sighed. <This will never do,> she told herself, frowning at the black dress she wore that didn't quite hang right on her frame. Then she glanced at her bed where three additional outfits lay. She grabbed the burgundy dress from the bed and quickly changed. This dress fell to just above her knees, showing off her shapely long legs, and was sufficiently low-cut to be revealing, but demure enough to wear comfortably in public.
<Perfect! Yes, this is the one! Wait till Clark sees me in this!> she exclaimed to herself.
Running to the bathroom, she triple-checked her makeup and hair to make sure everything was in place. She glanced at her watch and panicked.
<He'll be here in five minutes!>
Rushing through the apartment, she cleaned as rapidly as she could. A few stray shirts ended up stuffed in a cupboard in the kitchen while a few magazines were thrown into the bedroom.
<No, not there!> she thought as she picked up the magazines carelessly tossed on the floor. She looked around desperately for a place to stash them. The bed! Tugging on the mattress, she shoved the magazines underneath. Lois flushed as she realized what she was doing. It wasn't as if Clark was going to see the bedroom tonight.
At least she didn't *think* so.
Just then, there was a knock on her door.
Lois raced for the door, pausing just before she reached it, and calmed herself. She walked slowly up to the door, took a deep breath to settle her nerves, and yanked the door open to see Clark standing before her.
Her mouth fell open slightly at the sight before her. Clark was dressed in a very nicely tailored black sports coat over a white buttoned-down collared shirt, accompanied by one of his trademark ties. The jacket was unbuttoned, allowing her to see just how well defined he was as she took in the sight of his broad shoulders and muscular chest. For a moment, she flashed back to the time when she had seen him bare-chested nearly two years ago. Lois' eyes wandered lower to take in his gray wool slacks tightly hugging his hips. She once again admitted to herself how very attractive her partner really was.
Suddenly the room seemed very warm. Slightly embarrassed, she glanced at Clark and was gratified to notice that he seemed as equally taken with her. His eyes were slightly wide, and he seemed to be holding his breath. Their eyes met, which broke them both out of their thoughts.
They both laughed as she gestured for him to come inside. Clark brought his right hand from behind his back to reveal a dozen long-stemmed roses.
"These are for you," he said, offering her the flowers that were an unusual combination of yellow with red tips. Pausing for a moment, he gave her a dazzling smile and told her, "You look beautiful, Lois."
Lois' heart jumped as she accepted them. "You shouldn't have, Clark. These are beautiful. I haven't seen these colors together before. What do they mean?"
She watched as Clark blushed. With a cute little half- smile, he told her, "The yellow means friendship; the red tips mean 'falling in love.'"
"Oh, that's lovely! They're very unusual. Where did you find them?"
"I saw them in a shop somewhere and thought of you." Clark looked down, failing to hide his embarrassment.
To hide her own suddenly flushed face, Lois brought the roses up to her nose and inhaled their freshly cut scent. She then said, "Just wait right here for a minute while I go and put these in water."
She walked over to the kitchen and brought down a vase from one of the overhead cabinets. While her hands busied themselves with filling the vase and clipping the stems before placing them in water, she reflected on their impending date. She found herself feeling excited and even a bit giddy. Mixed in was a little bit of fear.
More than anything else in the world, she wanted this to work. It was already far too late for them to go back to being just friends. And she began to realize something else. Going out with Dan didn't inspire these feelings within her: happiness, fear, anticipation, nervousness, and hope. Could it be love? Could she have finally fallen for her best friend?
<But what if it doesn't work out?> Her conscience warred within her. <He's always running out on me. Does that mean he doesn't feel the same way? He has to feel something for me since he's the one who asked me out. It isn't like Clark to risk our friendship for a casual relationship. With him, it's forever.>
Her internal struggle continued as she picked up the vase and placed it at the center of her coffee table. She looked up to see Clark still standing in her foyer, watching her. In his eyes, she saw a tenderness she had never seen before in anyone's expression. It was how she had always imagined how the men in her romantic novels looked at their true loves. Though she would never admit it to anyone, she had secretly hoped something like that could happen to her someday. Was Clark in love with her?
Their eyes met, and she felt a flutter in her chest. Clark walked over to her and took both of her hands in his. He bent his head down slightly, and she parted her lips in anticipation. After what seemed an eternity, his lips touched hers in a sweet caress. Her heart leapt, as she felt swept away by the heady emotions coursing through her.
The kiss deepened as his arms wrapped securely around her, and her arms went around his neck to pull him closer. Their bodies melded together while the world disappeared around them. Feelings of love and intense pleasure ran through her, driving out any remaining fears. Her hands went higher, tangling in his thick hair, as he pulled her body even closer to his. She moaned into his mouth and heard him moan in response to her kiss.
Lost in her emotions, she barely felt Clark pull back. She heard a disappointed sound come from her own throat, feeling bereft of his closeness. It took her a few moments to calm herself sufficiently to open her eyes.
She saw that Clark still had his eyes closed and was breathing heavily as if he was trying to regain his own composure. His eyes sprung open, his gaze intense and full of emotion. "God, Lois. That was incredible! Another second and I don't think I could have stopped myself."
In spite of her momentary disappointment, Lois couldn't help but smile. That was her Clark, ever the gentleman. He was nothing like any of the men she had known in her life; that made her feel even more secure. "Would that have been so bad?" she teased.
Clark suddenly gave her a deer-in-the-headlights look as he began to stammer. "Relax, Clark. I'm kidding," she told him, giving him a peck on the lips. "Let's go to dinner. I'm starved."
"So what made you want to travel all over the world?"
Clark looked up from his salad and glanced at her for a moment before he spoke. With a somewhat far-away look, he mused, "I think it was mostly because I came from Smallville. Having lived in a small town for all of my childhood, I guess I just got a touch of wanderlust."
"Got tired of smelling all that hay?" said Lois with a broad grin.
Clark chuckled. "Don't get me wrong. I love Smallville. But I wanted to see new sights, experience things I've never done before. I think what mattered most to me was meeting new people and seeing all the different cultures.
"I guess I'm not cut out for small town living. I'm just a city boy at heart," he said with a twinkle in his eye.
An eyebrow went up in surprise before Lois noticed the gleam in Clark's eye and the mischievous expression on his face. Unable to help it, she laughed delightfully. She hadn't had this much fun since…her last date with Clark, she realized. He had always had the ability to make her laugh or just to get her out of her bad moods.
"And I moved around a lot because I was looking for something that I never found in all those places," he continued.
Intrigued, Lois asked him, "Oh? Why did you stay in Metropolis? Did you find what you were looking for?"
At that moment, Clark gave her a little wistful smile. "Yeah, I did. I found you."
Lois found herself melting. She looked away a bit to wipe a tear from her eye. Once more she understood what a wonderful man her partner and best friend really was. From any other man, she would have looked upon such a declaration cynically. From Clark, she could see the sincerity in his face. She was certain he was in love with her.
And she found she was falling in love with Clark, too. She was struck with the realization that she had been feeling this way about him for a long time, but had been either too stubborn or too scared to admit it. Exhilaration swept through her as she finally stopped hiding from her emotions.
But there was still the matter of Clark's disappearing act. They couldn't really move forward with a relationship until that had been resolved. Her feeling of delight vanished. "Clark, I feel bad bringing this up right now, but we need to talk about why you're always running out on me…"
Lois Lane was in love. Last night's date had been absolutely wonderful. Clark had stayed with her all throughout their date, from 7:00 all the way to the time when he had walked her to her door at midnight. Having never truly been in love before, she'd been feeling giddy all morning. Now she found herself humming love songs in the shower and in the Jeep and could barely keep herself from bouncing her way through the crowded lobby of the Daily Planet as she looked forward to seeing her boyfriend again.
That had a great sound to it. She hadn't had a serious boyfriend since high school, not counting that disaster of a relationship with Lex where she had felt more like a possession than a girlfriend or fianc‚e, so this was all so new to her. Clark, on the other hand, made her feel loved. He had been so attentive last night and had been his usual charming, gentlemanly self. And one thing was certain. She had feelings for Clark that in no way resembled the feelings she had for Dan.
While she liked Dan, and occasionally wondered what it would be like to be in a real relationship with him, she knew she was in love with Clark. It was Clark she dreamed of at night when she was free to express her feelings, even if it was only to herself. Her dreams had formerly been occupied by Superman, but events of late had shown her how childish those feelings for him had really been. The love she had felt for Superman paled in comparison to the emotions that overtook her whenever she thought of her best friend.
Her anger over Clark's disappearances had come very close to doing permanent damage to their budding romance. The two of them had been on such an emotional rollercoaster for so long, what with Clark constantly running off on her whenever they started a serious conversation. But last night was different. They could each feel that difference in the air. Gone was the normal air of calm friendship between the two of them. In its place were a touch of romance and a definite feel of sexual tension.
And they had had their first serious talk about their relationship since Mayson Drake had died. For so long, Lois had wondered if Clark had really been in love with Mayson. She had told herself over and over that Clark would not have asked her out if he had fallen for the blonde Assistant DA. But his behavior following the deadly bomb incident had brought out all her insecurities.
Clark had assured her last night that he had never been in love with Mayson. "It was you, Lois. It was always you," he had told her. He had gone further by telling her that his withdrawal from her had mostly been due to his guilt over what he perceived to be his inability to tell Mayson that his heart belonged to someone else. So Mayson's death had left Clark without a sense of closure.
Clark's explanation still didn't tell her the reason for his disappearances, but he did reassure her that his departures had nothing to do with her. He had said cryptically, "I promise you that you'll know soon, Lois, but there's something I have to do first before I can tell you. It's not just my secret to keep." And she believed him. If there was one thing she knew about Clark, it was that he was a terrible liar. Clark had not lied to her.
And that kiss. When Clark had picked her up at her apartment early that evening, he had kissed her. She grew flushed at the thought of the feelings Clark had brought out in her. She had never felt so wonderful in her life. While definitely passionate, it was also very sweet with the promise of something more. That something more was what she couldn't wait to experience.
So it was with a bit of disappointment that she noticed Clark wasn't at his desk when the elevator opened to the newsroom. She stared wistfully at his empty chair as she walked to her own desk. Upon arriving, she noticed a bud vase with a single red rose emerging from the slender glass neck set next to her monitor. A card leaned against the vase. She happily picked up the card.
Opening it, she read:
Last night was magical. I had the best time of my life being with you. I'm hoping that was the start of many wonderful days and nights together. I also have a surprise for you tonight. Would you meet me at my apartment at 7:00 after work?
P.S. Wear something warm.*
Lois felt a surge of happiness as she read the card. Clark was asking her out again. This time, there was no hesitation. She had almost turned him down just a little over twelve hours ago. That would have been a major mistake. Wild horses, or even a Kerth-winning story, couldn't keep her from Clark's apartment tonight. Okay, she'd have to seriously think about it if it were a Pulitzer-winning story, she thought with a grin. Immediately she mentally went through her wardrobe, trying on outfits for her date. 'Wear something warm,' Clark had said in the card. It was April with fairly warm temperatures in Metropolis. She wondered what Clark meant by that.
With a shrug, she sat down and turned on her computer. Even though it was more fun to think about Clark and their impending date, Perry White didn't keep her on the payroll so she could daydream. In the middle of reading a tip from one of her sources, Lois was distracted by one of the Planet gophers, who dropped off a phone message.
She opened the handwritten message and read:
I'll be back in town tonight since I was able to wrap up my case. How about we get together for some dinner and who knows what else? Let's be spontaneous! How does 7:00 grab you? I'll swing by your place and pick you up. See you then.
Her happy mood dissipated rapidly. She had to call Dan and tell him that she couldn't date him any longer because she didn't have any romantic feelings for him. Suddenly, she sympathized with Clark's plight with Mayson since she was now faced with a similar dilemma. Having dated Dan several times, she was now in a position of having to tell him that she didn't see him as any more than a friend.
But she wouldn't make the same mistake Clark had made. She had to end it with Dan as soon as possible. She didn't want to lead Dan on with a promise of something more, especially since her feelings for Clark were finally clear. And any delay could doom her relationship with Clark, knowing how much her dating Dan had hurt him.
She was struck by the irony of the situation. Lois had started dating Dan in the first place because of Clark's perceived indifference. Before last night, she and Dan had almost been a couple even though she knew deep in her heart that she could never love him. Now she found herself wondering how she should break it off without hurting him.
It probably wasn't possible, so she had only one choice. She picked up her phone and dialed his phone number. It rang several times before the answering machine picked up.
Frustrated, Lois hung up the phone without leaving a message. <What can I do? I've got two dates for the same time tonight!>
Clark had been absent from the newsroom all morning and most of the afternoon, leaving Lois progressively more nervous as time went by. She really needed to talk to him. At one point, Clark had called in a Superman story, but where was he now? It seemed Superman had been very busy that day with numerous traffic accidents and even a chemical spill in Metropolis Harbor. Now Clark had been known to disappear for hours at a time, even when they hadn't been dating. Before, Lois had never been curious enough to pin him down as to where he had vanished. It had only been while they were dating that his disappearing act had increased in frequency.
Right now, her curiosity and annoyance were being swamped by her nervousness. She had failed to reach Dan since he was not answering his cell phone nor was he returning his pages. Leaving messages to call her back immediately were just as unsuccessful. Strangely, Clark wasn't answering his pager, either. She was a bit angry with Dan since he just assumed that she would agree to a date tonight, but realized that Dan probably considered it a postponement from their supposed date last night.
Only Lois didn't want to be with Dan tonight. How could she break up with him if she couldn't find him? She could always go to Clark's at seven, but that meant not being at her apartment when Dan arrived. Breaking up with him by leaving a message was out of the question. She couldn't be that rude to him. But meeting Dan had its pitfalls since her relationship with Clark had just gotten back on its feet. Clark was jealous of Dan. He had even admitted it to her last night. With her newfound feelings toward her partner, it was clear what she had to do. Clark had to take priority.
Just then, the elevator dinged. Lois' head came up automatically. She was delighted to see her partner emerge from the open doors. Their eyes met, and she felt that connection that had always seemed to be there from the first time they had met, but she had denied existed until just recently. His face lit up when he saw her, and she couldn't help but smile back in return.
Clark came down the steps into the bullpen and headed directly towards her. "Hi, partner," he said, perching himself on the corner of her desk.
"Hi yourself, stranger. I missed you today."
"Well, I've been busy following up on a few leads Perry gave us yesterday. And I got us a Superman exclusive for that chemical spill in the harbor. Perry will be thrilled."
While normally a Superman exclusive would have excited her, Lois had other things on her mind. Changing topics, she nervously asked, "Clark, about our date tonight, would you mind if we moved it to 8:00?"
Looking surprised, Clark was a bit hesitant in his reply. "Um, sure Lois. I guess that would be all right. Is everything okay?"
<Might as well get right to the point,> Lois told herself. "I have to see Dan tonight at 7:00."
Clark's face fell at her words. <Oh, great, Lois. That's the right way to tell him,> she berated herself sarcastically.
She hastened to reassure him. "No, it's not like that at all, Clark. I have to tell Dan that we can't see each other any more. He left me a message telling me he'd pick me up at my apartment at seven, but without asking me if I was free. I've been trying to get a hold of him all day, but he's not answering his phone or his pager. You know this is something I have to do in person. I'll come over as soon as I'm finished."
Clark's demeanor brightened immediately.
Lois added, "I hope you understand, Clark. It's just something I have to do."
"Yeah. I know. Are you sure you still want to come over afterwards? Will you be up to going out with me tonight?"
"Oh, I'm sure. You couldn't keep me away."
Clark practically beamed. His hand came up to her cheek and cupped her face in the manner she had come to love. While his thumb caressed her cheek, she turned her head slightly to kiss his hand. <He's going to kiss me,> Lois said to herself excitedly as she watched Clark lean towards her slightly. She felt her eyelids flutter closed as she lifted her face up to his.
His lips brushed against hers fleetingly, but the intensity of the feelings the kiss inspired caused her to shiver slightly.
She was startled to hear a throat clearing very close to them. Both looked over to see an amused Perry White standing a mere five feet from them with his arms folded across his chest. "Are you both through now? You see, we do have a paper to get out today — or have you forgotten? I still have a few column inches to fill for the morning edition so if you two don't mind…?"
"Sure, Chief," said Lois, turning back towards her computer. She glanced up at Clark and flashed him a conspiratorial smile. He grinned back at her.
"And Kent," Perry said, "I'll need that chemical spill story by five, if that's okay with you two lovebirds."
"I'll get on it right away, Chief," said Clark as he headed back to his own desk.
"All right, people. Enough gawking, so get back to work. This is the Daily Planet, not the honeymoon suite at the Heartbreak Hotel!" Perry bellowed before he headed back to his office. Lois was almost sure she heard the sound of Perry's laughter coming from behind his closed door.
Lois turned the final lock on her apartment door and leaned heavily against the wood, giving a sigh of exhaustion. Today had been very tiring day emotionally, and it wasn't over yet. Glancing at the clock on the wall, she realized that Dan would arrive in just over an hour. That gave her only a short time to get ready.
Jumping into the shower, she turned on the water as hot as she could stand it and just let the water cascade over her head and shoulders. She needed time to decompress and to think. While lathering shampoo into her hair, Lois thought about Dan and Clark. They were so different. Dan had been attracted to her from the very beginning and had no trouble letting her know he was interested. Even though she knew Clark had also been attracted to her from the time they'd met, it had taken him a year and a half to work up the courage to ask her out.
That had been part of the problem. Dan had stepped in at just the wrong moment. Clark's disappearances had escalated almost immediately after Mayson had died, angering Lois such that she had begun flirting with Dan just to upset him. She had come very close to ruining everything. Her insecurities had told her that Clark simply wasn't interested any more, so she should attempt a relationship with Dan.
Before she knew it, though, the situation had reversed. She had started dating Dan on an almost daily basis while her relationship with Clark had deteriorated to the point where they could barely talk to each other any more. She could have easily lost both his love and his friendship, and she wasn't sure which one she valued more.
But Clark really did care. He was brave enough to admit he cared and was jealous of Dan. That opened up a whole new world for them. It was amazing to her how one evening could change the course of her whole life.
Lois toweled off and combed her hair briefly before turning on the blow dryer. While her hair dried, she continued to muse about her current situation. She found it ironic that she was getting ready for a date with one man but waiting for another man to arrive so she could dump him.
She liked Dan. But she wasn't in love with him. He simply wasn't Clark. She discarded several different ways of telling him she couldn't see him any longer, but couldn't figure out a way that didn't sound like she was using him all along to make Clark jealous. She had to tell him that she and Clark were together again; it was only fair to say why they could no longer date. Sigh. She would just have to hope for the best.
For her date with Clark, Lois decided upon a more casual look this time around. While Clark didn't say exactly what his plans were, his cryptic message about dressing warmly seemed to imply that formal dress was not required. Looking through her closets unearthed several disappointing outfits until she ran across a thick, cream-colored turtleneck sweater. With satisfaction, she put on a pair of tight jeans with brown belt and a gold, heart-shaped pendant worn on the outside of the sweater to complete the ensemble. Smoothing down her sweater, she looked approvingly at herself in the mirror. Clark would love it. She couldn't wait to see the look on his face when he saw her.
Lois finished putting on her brown ankle boots just in time to hear a knock on the door. She glanced at her watch to see that it was actually about ten past seven. Dan was late as usual. Clark had always been the punctual type, never early and never late. <Well, I might as well get it over with,> thought Lois, pasting a hopefully convincing smile on her face as she undid her array of locks and opened the door.
Sure enough, Dan was standing outside. Wearing a cocky grin and an odd-looking multi-colored shirt that made Clark's ties look positively mundane, he sang out, "Hiya, gorgeous. This is for you." He brought his hand out from behind his back to reveal a strange, gray metallic sculpture. At least she thought that's what it was. Random pieces went in different directions, wrapping around in various patterns that reminded Lois of an Escher print.
"Thanks, Dan. You shouldn't have," Lois told him. She really meant it, but she didn't want him to actually know that. "Come on in. I've got something I want to talk to you about."
"Sure, Lois. I've got some great plans for tonight. I thought we'd go down to the park and ride the merry-go- round…"
"Dan," Lois interrupted. "Please? I really need to talk to you."
"Uh oh. That doesn't sound good," uttered Dan, looking at her with a puzzled frown as her serious tone apparently got through to him. He came inside at Lois' invitation and sat down on one of her love seats. Lois sat down next to him and turned to look into his eyes.
"Dan," she began, but couldn't get the words out. She looked away briefly before turning her gaze back on him.
"What is it, Lois?"
"Oh, god. I always know what to say. Why don't I know what to say? Yes, I know. Dan, wecan'tseeeachotheranymorebecauseI'minlovewithClark!" She winced and looked up at a dazed Dan.
Mouth hanging open, Dan said nothing for a very long time. Finally, he asked, "Did you just break up with me, Lois?"
"Yes. I'm sorry, Dan.
"Kent, isn't it?"
With a nod, she said, "I realized I'm in love with Clark, and I think I have been for a while."
After a long pause, Dan told her, "I guess I always knew you two had a thing for each other. I was hoping…" He let the rest of his sentence go unspoken. Looking down, he said, "I'll be going now. I'm heading back to Washington next week. Maybe I'll give you a call before I go.
"Oh, and good luck with Kent. I may not like the guy, but I can see he means a lot to you. Make sure he takes good care of you."
"He will. He's the kindest, gentlest man I've ever known."
Standing up, Dan turned for the door. But before he took a step, he turned back to Lois and gave her a tentative kiss on her lips. He lingered for a moment before they separated.
"See you around," he said with a final, wistful look and left her apartment, never to return.
Belatedly, Lois lifted her hand to wave and whispered, "Bye, Dan."
Lois stood before Clark's door and raised her hand to knock. She was quite nervous. Now that she had made her choice, it was irrevocable. Dan was no longer in the picture. She hated to hurt him, but hadn't seen a way to avoid it. While she felt badly for him, she finally felt happy and free of doubt. It was the right choice. Clark was her future, and she was anxious to begin their new relationship without other distractions.
There was still one huge distraction, though. Clark still hadn't told her about the reasons for his disappearances. That could potentially derail their fledgling relationship. He had promised to tell her, and she was confident he would tell her tonight. If he didn't… well she would cross that bridge when she needed to do so.
She firmly rapped on his door and waited for a response. Quicker than she'd expected, the door opened to reveal Clark standing before her. To her relief, Clark was dressed casually as well, wearing a black polo shirt unbuttoned at the top and a pair of crisply pleated tan chinos. The combination nearly took her breath away. Nobody had the right to look that good.
"Lois! Hi! Come on in," welcomed Clark, who gave her one of his smiles that made her weak at the knees. He took her hand and led her inside.
"Hi, Clark," she replied, smiling back at him.
"How did it go with Dan?" asked Clark as she came over the threshold.
"It went fine. I told Dan that we couldn't see…"
Lois looked up, stunned. She looked around Clark's apartment to see lights and garlands decorating the walls; stockings hung on the mantle; and a glorious Christmas tree stood in the corner, reaching nearly to the ceiling and brightly lit with hundreds of multi-colored lights. Innumerable ornaments and candy canes hung from the branches. The dim lights plus the rosy glow from the fireplace gave the apartment a very festive, yet romantic mood.
"What's this, Clark? This is April. Why is your apartment decorated like it's Christmas?"
Clark gave a little laugh and led her to his couch where he helped her sit down. Once seated, he took both of her hands in his.
"Remember last Christmas when you were complaining about the holidays?"
"I always complain about the holidays, Clark. All that crass commercialization plus all the forced holiday cheer never appealed to me. Though I do have to say you made last Christmas the best I'd ever had in my life." She moved closer to Clark and gave him a gentle kiss. She was rewarded with a look of sheer happiness as Clark cupped her cheek in his familiar manner while at the same time tucking a lock of her shoulder-length hair behind her ear.
"Anyway," he continued, "I asked you if you loved Christmas outside the Coates Orphanage. Do you remember what you said?"
Lois thought back to that day several months ago. She remembered Clark catching the wreath dropped by the man who had been trying to hang it on the entry arch to the orphanage. Then Clark had asked her the question. She could remember the setting quite clearly, but couldn't quite remember her response.
"I remember you asking, but I don't remember what I said," she confessed.
He grinned at her. "I asked you, 'Don't you just love Christmas, Lois?' You answered, 'It's okay. It's a very nice holiday like Fourth of July or Arbor Day.' I then asked you, 'Are you comparing Christmas to Arbor Day?' And you told me, 'No, I'm not comparing them. They're both holidays and they're both… fine.'"
Both of her eyebrows went up. "I don't understand."
"What's today, Lois?"
"April 28, 1995. What's so special about today?"
Clark's grin grew even wider. "Today's Arbor Day."
"What!" exclaimed Lois. "You did all this just because of what I said back then?" Lois suddenly felt very warm inside. Clark certainly went to a lot of trouble for her sake. And it felt wonderful to have someone care for her like that.
"Partly. I told you last night that I would tell you all about me, and that I'd tell you specifically why I disappeared on occasion. I talked to my parents this morning about it since it's also their secret, and they agreed it was time for you to know. In fact, they said it was long overdue," he laughed. "I figured that this would be the perfect setting."
"I still don't quite understand." She was even more confused than before.
"Wait here for just a few seconds," said Clark as he got up from the couch. He headed towards the tree where he picked up a box, wrapped up in red and yellow holiday wrapping paper with a blue bow on top. The box was a square shape, roughly eight inches wide on each side. He came back to the couch and handed the box to Lois.
"Happy Arbor Day, Lois!"
Lois arched her eyebrow inquisitively, to which Clark replied, "It's my gift to you: all my secrets, everything that I am. Go ahead and open it."
Like an eager child, Lois ripped the wrapping paper off the box but gently set the bow aside. She opened the box, looked inside, and drew in her breath sharply. Her feeling of bewilderment came back. Reaching inside, Lois took out a silver ball that brightly reflected the lights coming from the decorations.
"Is this what I think this is, Clark? It's Superman's globe. What are you doing with it? I thought you gave it back to him?"
"It *is* Superman's globe. But it's also mine."
"Yours? How could it be…" Lois gasped as realization struck her. She looked up at Clark, who sat absolutely still, looking at her through lenses that sparkled in the dim light. Looking deeply into his eyes, she saw the slight nervousness and fear in his expression. With a shaky hand, Lois took the glasses off of his face and then smoothed back his hair with her other hand.
"Superman," she whispered quietly.
"Yes. I'm Superman, but I'm mostly Clark. In fact, I've been Clark almost all my life. Superman's only been around for a couple of years. Before you get mad, let me explain."
At the moment, Lois didn't quite know what to think. She was still too stunned to react emotionally. Intellectually, she knew she ought to be mad at him for hiding such an incredible secret from her for as long as he'd known her. Emotionally, she didn't feel much of anything. Yet.
Clark distracted her from her thoughts as he began his explanation. "I came to Earth in a small spaceship when I was just a baby. Martha and Jonathan Kent found me in a field close to where they lived. Not knowing who or what I was and not being able to have children of their own, they adopted me with the help of a doctor friend who forged a birth certificate. I'll always be grateful to my parents for taking me in and caring for me," he said lovingly.
"I grew up not knowing who I was. All I knew was that I was different than anyone else. I didn't get sick like the other kids and healed up from any injuries faster than anyone I'd ever known. Over time, my powers manifested themselves one by one starting when I was about ten. I wasn't able to fly until I was eighteen. Now that was a wonderful day when I discovered an incredible feeling of freedom. There's nothing like it."
Lois saw the happiness that was clearly written on his face. But then his demeanor seemed to deflate somewhat.
"I grew up pretty lonely, unable to really be myself. Hiding what I could do became second nature. We were always afraid that if anyone found out about me that somebody would take me away and lock me up in a lab."
Lois felt her heart go out to that lonely boy who had grown up never able to be close to anyone out of fear of revealing himself, and who didn't know where he had come from. She reached out and placed her hand on top of his.
"The day I left Smallville, I promised myself one thing. I would never tell anyone about myself except the one woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with."
Lois' eyes widened in surprise. "You mean…"
"Yes. It's you, Lois. I've been in love with you for so long. I've known from the moment I set eyes on you that you were the one I wanted to be with. This isn't a proposal," he said with a slight chuckle. "I know you're not ready. Call it an intent to propose some day."
Lois felt any trace of anger dissipate at the honesty she saw in his eyes. Another thought occurred to her. "How did you find out about yourself, Clark?" she asked him.
"That globe you have in your hand answered that question. Remember that warehouse on Bessolo Boulevard back when we were chasing down Bureau 39?" At her nod, he continued, "While we were searching the warehouse, I found my spaceship under a tarp. Inside the ship was this globe. The second I touched it, I could hear the word, 'Krypton,' in my head. The globe then changed to a representation of my home world. That's how I knew I wasn't from around here. I only wish I was able to keep my ship. It vanished along with everything else when we came back with Perry."
"Oh, Clark. I'm sorry. I didn't have any idea." She squeezed his hand to offer her sympathy.
"I know. There's nothing I can do about it. About a year ago, though, the globe suddenly started glowing on its own and spoke to me. Apparently my birth parents, Jor-El and Lara, left me a series of messages in the globe that would activate when it thought I was old enough. In those messages my birth parents told me about how they saved me from a dying planet. I'd love to show you those messages some day."
"And I'd love to see them. So Krypton doesn't exist any more?" she asked him.
"No. Not as far as I know. I'm the last of my kind."
This time it was Lois' turn to cup his cheek with her hand. "And you're mine now."
Clark looked at her with surprise. "You're not mad? I thought you'd start throwing things at me."
Lois laughed. "You know, I probably ought to be pretty angry at you, Clark Kent. But instead, all I feel is relief — and happiness, too. We've wasted an awful lot of time apart, Clark. At least I know now why you kept disappearing on me. Sorry I gave you such a hard time," she said sheepishly. "Of course, I reserve the right to throw things later."
"Hey, you have nothing to apologize for. If anything, it's all my fault for not telling you earlier. But I was afraid of losing you if you found out. And I was afraid I'd lose you if you didn't. I guess I almost did."
"Clark, I never did love Dan. You have to know that. I know it isn't something to be proud of, but I went out with him because I was mad at you. It's you I love." She emphasized it by giving him a deep, soulful kiss, which Clark returned with equal fervor and tenderness.
Breaking apart after the kiss, both were slightly breathless. "Wow," exclaimed Clark.
"Yeah. Wow," said Lois, bringing his hand up to her lips and giving it a series of butterfly kisses. She felt Clark shiver slightly and was pleased at the effect she had on the Man of Steel.
"I can't believe you're taking this so well, Lois. I was so afraid you wouldn't even talk to me again after tonight. But I was hoping…" He let his sentence trail off.
"Hoping what, Clark?"
"I was hoping you'd like to go flying with me. That's why I asked you to dress warmly."
"I'd love to. You know I've always loved flying with you," she said, now wondering what it would be like to fly with her best friend rather than her hero. "Oh, and one more thing. You said you had another reason for decorating your apartment like this. Did you?"
"Yeah, I did," he said, looking slightly embarrassed. "I wanted to show you that holidays could be happy occasions. Christmas has always been my favorite holiday, and I wanted to share that feeling with you. And I wanted to tell you how much I love you. To me, every day's a holiday when I'm with you."
Author's note: Kaethel was writing her own Christmas story, but wasn't able to finish on time. During an IRC chat after the holidays, I commented that since Lois had mentioned that all holidays were pretty much the same to her, like Arbor Day was pretty much like Christmas, that she should just rewrite her story to take place during Arbor Day.