By Wendy Richards <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: December 2005
Summary: Christmas is a time for families, for friends and loved ones. But Lois is worried that Superman has nowhere to belong.
Author's note: Christmas is a time for families, for friends and loved ones. But Lois is worried that Superman has nowhere to belong.
This story is dedicated to all the wonderful readers and commenters who posted such amazing, fantastic feedback on 24 Hours for me, on the message boards, in IRC and in email. I simply can't describe how your kind, enthusiastic words made me feel. Even the yelling and threats as you waited for new instalments! I don't think I have *ever* had such a wonderful reaction to a story, and I love you all :) Thank you.
Special thanks go to Chris Carr and Kaethel for BRing this at incredibly short notice and catching a few glitches. Compliments of the season to you!
And to everyone else: Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice or whatever you celebrate. May you have a peaceful and fun season.
"So, what did you think of the movie?"
I smile up at Clark as we walk out of the cinema together. I'm glad he persuaded me to come. Before, I wasn't sure I'd enjoy this film, but from the first few minutes I was enthralled. And so was he, I could tell.
"I loved it." Moving closer to him, I slide my hand through his arm. He likes it when I do that, and I do too. I think he knows that. I hope he does, anyway. He's such a wonderful, special friend. I don't know what I'd do if I ever lost him.
And I do know what it's like to lose him. I did lose him, briefly… but I don't like to think of that time. Never want to think of it again if I can help it, but I know I won't forget the lesson I learned then.
Life is precious. *He* is precious. And I'll never let him doubt that.
"It reminded me of Superman," I say as we walk. "In fact, it really made me think about him…" There's sadness in my voice. The movie really affected me on one particular level.
"Superman? Why?" Clark's surprised, and I can also hear a note of something in his voice that I haven't heard for a long time. Irritation. I know he doesn't like it when he thinks I'm obsessing about Superman.
"Think about it, Clark." I shake his arm a little. "The alien in that movie… he was all alone. His planet was destroyed. He had no home. Nowhere to go. No-one to call his own, to feel… well, affinity with. And all he encountered were people calling him an alien. A thing. They were afraid of him, and all he wanted was to belong."
"Oh, right." Clark frowns a little. "But Superman's fine. People don't distrust him — okay, there was all that stuff with Trask last year, but no-one's calling him a thing and demanding that he leave Earth. I think he feels he belongs here."
"But he's still all alone." I stop walking for a moment, lost in thought.
"He has friends," Clark points out. "You. Me. And that's just for starters."
"Yeah, but still…" I hesitate. It's really not the same, is it? "He has friends, yes. But he doesn't have anyone special. Anywhere special."
Clark stops walking and looks at me. In the light of the street- lamps, I can see he's rolling his eyes. "Is that what this is about, Lois? You want to be 'someone special' to Superman?"
"No!" I drop his arm like a hot potato and stand glaring at him. "Clark, you should know better than that by now, and I'm hurt that you don't!"
He's breathing heavily, but after a few moments he calms down. "Okay. Yeah, you're right, Lois." And he pulls a face. "I'm sorry." He offers his arm again; after a minute hesitation, I take it and we continue walking. "So, what did you mean?"
I'm tempted not to talk about this to him any more. But he is my friend — my best friend — and I don't want to argue with him. Or have anything I can't talk to him about. He's special to me, after all. And he's part of what I'm thinking. Planning.
"What about Christmas? It's the end of this week." Clark grins. "You want to buy him a Christmas present?"
I shrug, hoping he won't see my blush. "Maybe."
"Oh." There's a strange inflexion to his voice I can't identify.
"But it's not that. What are you doing for Christmas, Clark?"
"Going to Smallville. You know that. I even asked you to come with me."
He did. And, actually, I'm wishing I'd said yes. But I thought that maybe Lucy would be in town this year and, anyway, we can't both have two days off together.
"See? You have somewhere to go. Somewhere you belong. And I have my family." Not that I intend spending Christmas anywhere near my parents. "Where does Superman have to go? Who will he be spending Christmas with?"
There's a pause. Then, "I see," Clark says quietly. "I guess when you put it that way it makes sense."
"Yes. And that's why I want to do something about it."
"What?" Now he's openly curious, and even… sounding a little alarmed? But why? This is a good idea. I know it. It's a great idea. And not even Clark is going to put me off it.
"I'm going to invite him to dinner."
"What, on Christmas Day?" Now Clark really does sound worried. Why, I have no idea at all.
"No — you won't be here then."
"What have I got to do with this?"
"I want you to come too, of course!" I shake him. Why does he keep missing the obvious? "I want Superman to have a special Christmas dinner with his closest friends. And, unless there's anyone else I don't know about, that's you and me."
"Oh." Clark really doesn't sound very enthusiastic. "Lois, are you sure this is a good idea? I mean, you know he's always busy. How can he commit to something like this when he doesn't know what could come up? If there's an emergency somewhere, he'll have to go."
"I know that!" I glare at him. Why can't he get into the spirit of this? "Clark, why can't you see that all I want is to do something nice for Superman? Okay, if something happens and he has to leave, I'll deal with it. But at least I can *try*, can't I?"
He sighs. "Yes. You're right, Lois, and it is a kind thought. I'm sure he'll really appreciate it."
"So you'll pass on the invitation? You're more likely to see him than I am."
"Yeah." He blows out a breath. "I'll tell him."
"And you'll be there yourself?"
He looks indecisive for a moment. Then he gives me a resigned smile. "Of course I will, Lois."
I get busy on the arrangements — after all, the dinner-party is only a few days away. Clark, though, seems distinctly unenthusiastic about it. I begin to worry that he might say he can't come.
But then he tells me that Superman will be there. And that he'll come himself, but he might be a bit late. Okay. I can live with that. And it's not as if I'm not used to Clark being late, or suddenly disappearing. Just one of the mysteries about my partner that I've learned to live with. Because, even though it irritates me, he's worth it.
So I busy myself with preparing the menu for dinner, checking my recipes to be sure that I can actually cook the meal without yet another culinary disaster, buying ingredients, choosing wine, decorating the apartment, choosing the perfect Christmas presents for Superman and for Clark.
Superman's the easier of the two, much to my amazement — I'd thought that Clark would be easy while I'd have to rack my brain to come up with something suitable for Superman. But, actually, Superman turns out to be much, much simpler.
There's so little he needs. I don't know if he has a home, or what sort of place it would be if he did. He doesn't have a car, or at least I assume he doesn't — what would he need one for? I don't know if he has anywhere he can keep *things* — possessions. So, if I give him something like a book or a CD, where would he put it?
What I want is to make sure that he knows beyond any doubt that he has friends. That he belongs. That he is loved. That has far more meaning than some commercially-produced object any day.
And then I find it.
It's a Christmas ornament. An embracing trio, standing close to each other, arms around each other. It's supposed to represent a family, and in a way I can't help but feel that's appropriate.
The family Superman doesn't have on Earth; the family I want him to feel that he does have.
Me. And Clark.
The three of us; friends together, supporting each other, caring for each other.
I want Superman to know that we're here for him any time he needs us. That he has friends. That he has a place where he can belong. People who love him and care about him. Who don't want to make demands on him, or want him only for his powers. Who just care about him because he's the man he is — caring, ethical, decent, gentle, loyal, affectionate, a good friend.
How better to show him than this?
Even if he doesn't have anywhere to keep it. He can leave it at my apartment if he likes. Or Clark's. The point is that it'll be his. And I hope he'll understand its message.
Clark, now, is much more difficult.
What can I possibly get Clark?
The thing is, he's so easy to please. I could get him *anything* and he'd be delighted. Claim it's what he's always wanted. Hug me and tell me that he's touched. Even if I just got him a new tie or pen-holder for his desk.
But I don't want to do that. I want to get him something that shows him exactly how special he is to me. How much I care about him. How much our friendship means. How well I know him. And that tells him that I love him.
Because I do. I love Clark.
How ironic that it's him I love after all, and not Superman.
It's taken me so long to admit the truth. Too long. If I'd known it before now, I could have had him. I know that, and in the middle of the night I often wake up and curse myself for it. I tried to tell him, after he was dead and was alive again and I had him back when I never thought it could happen. But he was asleep and didn't hear me and I…
Well, I just haven't had the courage to try again.
But maybe, just maybe, if I find the perfect Christmas gift for him, he might realise. And, if I'm so very lucky and this turns out to be the special Christmas I'm hoping for, he'll love me too.
Maybe. I can only hope. And dream.
Almost at the last minute, I finally find the perfect present for Clark. And then it's rush, rush, rush to get everything ready in time. I leave work early for the first time in I don't know how long. Hurry home, throw turkey into oven, set wine to chill, run a scented bath, lay out my special Christmas clothes. Then, bathed and dressed, I have everything else to prepare: vegetables to peel and cook, table to set and decorate, candles to arrange, music to choose.
After all, this is going to be the most special Christmas dinner I've ever had.
I'd hoped that Clark might come over early and help. But it seems he meant it when he said he might be late. He hadn't been in the newsroom when I left, and I'd returned home to a message on my answering machine. He's going to be delayed, it says. He'll be as quick as he can, but can't say how late he'll be. Superman and I should go ahead without him, but he will be here later.
Damn him anyway! This was supposed to be special! How can he do this to me?
But Superman is still coming, and he's the whole reason I'm doing this, after all. Even if I had high hopes of Clark… but obviously I'm wasting my time there. The mistletoe I've hung in a couple of strategic points in the living-room might as well not be there.
Of course, I might just get a Christmas kiss from Superman. That'd be nice… but he's not who I most want to kiss me. Not any more.
It's all ready. It's seven o'clock, and neither of my guests is here yet. Why does this always happen to me?
But… wait… there's a sudden wind outside the window. Superman's here.
Strange. I'm expecting that little flutter I always get in my stomach when I hear him arriving. And it's there… but it's nothing like before. There's excitement, all right, but none of the rush of anticipation I usually have. And then I realise why. I'm looking forward to seeing him, to spending an evening with him — but as a friend.
I'm not in love with him any more. I love him — I think I'll always love him — but I'm in love with Clark. And he's the one I'm really getting butterflies in my stomach about seeing.
I go and push the window open, and seconds later Superman's standing in front of me, as magnificent as ever, his cape fluttering in the breeze of his arrival. I smile at him in welcome, and he smiles back, warmth and affection in his gaze.
"Superman — thanks for coming." And I'm annoyed with myself — I almost stuttered. I'm way past that phase by now.
He shakes his head fractionally. "No, thank *you* for inviting me. It's very thoughtful of you." And he leans forward and kisses my cheek. I feel… warm, and just a little shaky. "Merry Christmas."
"Merry Christmas, Superman." I smile at him again, knowing I'm blushing. "It's nothing. I just wanted to have a little Christmas party for my two best friends, that's all."
Is it my imagination, or does he look very slightly uncomfortable? Doesn't he like the idea that I think of him as that close a friend?
To get us past the apparently awkward moment, I add, "Clark's going to be late, unfortunately. He called and left a message."
Superman nods. "Yes, he told me."
"Okay. Yes. Good." So, now what? Should I wait dinner for Clark? I should, shouldn't I? But Superman's here, so what do we do while we're waiting?
Oh. Right. "Can I get you something to drink? A glass of wine?"
"That sounds nice." He follows me towards the kitchen and waits while I pour. This is awkward. What can we talk about? Why do I feel so nervous? I'm a reporter. I'm used to having to make conversation with people. And anyway, he's not a stranger. He's my friend!
"So…" he begins, just as I begin to speak, too.
He stops, grins a little, then says, "You go ahead."
"Oh, I was just going to ask how your day was. Has it been busy?"
He doesn't meet my eyes, which is strange. "Pretty quiet, actually. I did get called to a robbery at a CostMart earlier today — lots of money in the tills this time of year. Oh, and there was a pile-up on the turnpike about an hour ago — people driving too fast for the road conditions, as usual."
"Was anyone hurt?"
"Not badly, thankfully. Just cuts and bruises. The only people who'll really be hurt are the insurance companies."
He must be feeling relaxed. He doesn't often joke. I smile in return, then gesture towards the sofas. "Would you like to sit down? While we wait for Clark, I mean."
"Oh, sure." He lets me lead him over. I can see another awkward silence coming, so I change my plans. I'd been going to wait until Clark got here before doing presents, but there's no reason why I can't give Superman his now.
So I make a detour to the tree and grab the gift-wrapped parcel. "This is for you, Superman," I say, handing it to him.
He looks startled. "Lois, you didn't need to do that."
"I wanted to." And I make him take it.
He plays with the package for a few moments before tearing off the paper. And then he just stares at the ornament, tracing the shape of the embracing figures with his fingertips. "This is beautiful, Lois. I really didn't…"
"It's sort of a symbol, really." I rush into speech, needing to explain to him what it means, why I gave it to him. "The figures… well, they represent you and Clark and me. I… well, I know you're the only Kryptonian left and so you don't have any family or home or anything, but you know we're your friends. And this… well, it's just saying that we care about you and we're here for you. Any time."
He's silent for a long time. And he's just staring down at the figurine.
Was this a mistake? I should never have bought it. Never have given it to him. What if he doesn't see things the same way? Maybe he doesn't think of us as friends the same way we do…
I jerk my head around to look at him. "Yes?"
"I… don't think I've ever been so touched in my life. This is… really thoughtful of you. And I just don't deserve it."
"What?" I stare at him.
"You think I'm alone. That I don't have anywhere to go, anywhere to belong. And this… what you've done, arranging this evening for me, this beautiful figurine…" He gestures to it. "It all reminds me that I'm here under false pretences. That I haven't been honest with you. And it makes me uncomfortable, Lois. More than I've ever been around you."
What is he saying? This isn't making sense. "Superman…?" He hasn't been honest with me? About what? "False pretences?"
"I'm not… as alone as you think I am. Yes, I'm the last Kryptonian, but that's not all that I am."
I'm lost. I'm not stupid. I know I'm not. I'm an intelligent woman; in fact, I'm considerably above average intelligence. And yet I'm listening to him talking and not *one word* is making sense.
"Superman, I don't understand. What are you trying to tell me?"
He swallows. Looks very uncomfortable — embarrassed and awkward. And… almost ashamed. "I can't do this, Lois. I can't let you think that I'm… alone, without a family, without anywhere to belong. It's not fair of me." He stands, and I'm left staring at him, gaping.
He has a family? What? Is he married or something? And he never told me?
He's looking very guilty now. "I have to go, Lois. I'm sorry."
He can't leave!
"But… aren't you going to tell me what you're talking about? What family? Where?"
He takes a deep breath. "I have to go. But you'll understand soon, I promise."
And then he's walking to the window and, before I can call him back, plead with him to tell me what's going on, he's gone.
The curtains flutter in his wake, and I'm alone.
What a disaster.
My carefully-planned Christmas dinner-party for my two best friends, ruined.
Abandoned by Superman, who didn't even have the decency to tell me why he was leaving. And Clark hasn't even bothered to turn up.
I want to cry.
Then there's a knock at the door.
It must be Clark. Part of me just wants to crawl into my bedroom and pretend I didn't hear him, but then I know I want to see him. I need him to hug me and comfort me and tell me that I didn't do anything wrong. That I didn't scare Superman away by being too… I don't know, intrusive or something.
I open the door. It is Clark, standing there in chinos and a soft black cotton shirt and looking positively yummy. He's holding a brightly-wrapped package with a red bow on top. And he's smiling as if he's delighted to see me.
"Clark!" I grab his hand and tug him in. "At last!"
"I'm sorry I'm late, Lois," he says immediately. "I really couldn't help it."
"Superman's gone," I tell him. "You just missed him."
He just nods. That surprises me — why isn't he asking why Superman left? But then I realise that he probably thinks he went to some emergency or other.
"So it's just you and me, then," he says. "I'm sorry — I know it's not how you planned it."
I shrug. "It's okay. The main thing is, you're here." And that's completely true.
He smiles then. "Merry Christmas, Lois." And he inclines his head towards me. He's aiming for my cheek, of course. I catch my breath and wonder if I dare… then I remind myself that it's Christmas and that we've kissed before and…
Well, it *is* Christmas.
I hold my breath, turn my head and his lips meet mine.
For an instant, he hesitates, his mouth on mine, his hand lightly on my shoulder. And then, as I reach up to slid my arms around his neck, he sighs a little and parts his lips over mine. And we kiss.
Clark is a wonderful kisser. I've known that for a while. Being stupid and blind where he was concerned, though, I never did anything about it when it would've been easy. Which is why we're where we are now. With me having rejected him for Lex Luthor — of all people! — and him having told me that he lied when he said he loved me.
But this is Christmas, a time for new beginnings, and I can always hope. And wish.
He ends the kiss at last, raising his head and giving me a questioning look, his head tilted to one side in enquiry.
I can feel myself blushing, but maybe he won't notice. And I look upwards, pointing with one finger, just hoping that we are close enough to the mistletoe for it to be a good excuse.
Well, we're not directly under it. But it's no more than about a foot from where we're standing.
He grins. "I see. But, you know, it counts as a real kiss if you're not standing right under it…"
He's teasing. I can see that he fully expects me to give him a thump for that. But this could be the opportunity I was looking for… And I lean up towards him again. "Sounds okay to me," I whisper, and brush my lips over his.
"Me too," he whispers back, and kisses me again.
This kiss is longer. Deeper. There's heat and there's intensity… and playfulness and teasing and the deep affection of friends who care for each other very much.
Who love each other.
I know Clark loves me. Even if he isn't *in* love with me, he loves me as his best friend. And maybe that's enough to start with. At least I'm pretty sure he's not in love with Mayson Drake, so there's got to be a chance.
This time, when he raises his head, his hand comes up to rest against my cheek. "Wow, Lois," he murmurs. "That was… really something."
"Yeah." I grin at him. "You're pretty good at this, Kent."
"You're not so bad yourself." He studies me, his gaze warm and affectionate and with a question in his eyes. "So… what was that really about?"
I shrug, feeling embarrassed again. Does he need me to spell it out? I want our friendship to change. Surely that must be obvious. And he knows how hard this is for me. He knows how difficult I find it to trust men…
"I… can't I kiss my best friend?"
"Of course you can!" he exclaims. "I just can't help feeling that was more than a kiss between friends."
"And if it was?" I ask him. "Would that be a problem?"
His eyes widen. "You need to ask? Lois, I would *love* that. You have to know that."
He gazes down at me. His eyes are ablaze with something I've never seen in them before. Something I realise suddenly that he's never let me see before.
And… suddenly I'm scared.
It's not that I don't want him to say that he loves me or anything like that. There's nothing I'd like more. I think what scares me more is that he *won't* say it.
So I take a couple of steps away from him, ducking my head. "Well, anyway… umm… can I get you a glass of wine or something?"
"Lois." Something in his tone makes me turn back to him. "I'm still your best friend. Just because we might be… more… doesn't change that."
He's right. And I smile at him. Because he's still Clark and he's still the one person in the world I feel most comfortable with.
"Anyway, yes, I'll have a glass of wine," he continues, in a completely normal voice. "But I want to give you this first." And he holds out the package he still has in his hand.
I take it, excited to find out what he's chosen for me. I rip off the paper, to reveal a jeweller's box. Surprised, I look up at Clark, to find him watching me expectantly. So I open the lid… and see something I recognise.
It's a gold brooch, all delicate Celtic curliques and scrollwork. I remember exactly when I first saw it. We were trying to track down where a particular custom-made ring had been manufactured, and this brooch was in one of the jewellers we visited. I'd loved it on sight, but knew I couldn't justify the cost. Not when I was still making payments on the Jeep, and saving for a vacation, and my rent had just gone up…
I stare up at him. My eyes are alight, I know it. I've never been given such a beautiful gift — or one that means so much to me. "Clark! How did you know…?"
"I saw you looking at it." He's grinning, happy that he's made me happy. "I could see how much you liked it. So it was the perfect present, I thought."
"You couldn't have chosen better." I fling my arms around him and hug him. "I love it! And it's really sweet of you. Thank you!"
I know I should protest that it's too expensive and he shouldn't have, but really he couldn't have chosen anything I'd like more. And, if he feels about me the way I do about him, the cost doesn't matter.
I take it out of the box, admiring it all over again, and pin it to my dress. It looks beautiful there — and I can see from Clark's expression as he looks at it — at me — that he thinks so too.
Then I pull away from him, rushing over to the tree. I want him to have his gift too. So I hand him the parcel — less expertly- wrapped than his, but that doesn't matter. He takes it and I can see the happiness in his face. Whatever it is, he's going to tell me that he loves it and I couldn't have got him anything he'd be more pleased with.
I only hope he means it as much as I meant it about his gift.
He's more careful than I am about unwrapping — doesn't tear the paper to shreds, but lifts it gently at the corners and joins. Which makes me impatient, because he takes longer than I do. Finally, though, he's taking the paper off and revealing what's underneath.
"Hey!" he exclaims. "Where did you find this?"
"Oh…" I shrug, trying to pretend that it was easy, no trouble at all, just a lucky discovery. "You know me. I know guys who know guys."
Which is true, but it took me the best part of a week, hours spent on the phone and in emails, and lots of favours called in, as well as a chunk out of my savings, to find it and then get it in time for tonight.
"Yeah, well…" He's smiling in amazement and happiness. "Do you know how much I love this book? And you got a signed first edition! In mint condition, too!"
That had been a real stroke of luck. And all the effort is so worth it — he's really pleased. Of course I know that To Kill a Mockingbird is his favourite book. We've talked about it often enough — and watched the movie.
"I'm glad you like it," I tell him.
"Of course I love it!" And suddenly he's hugging me again, the way we've hugged so many times before, only this time I'm just so completely conscious of him, of being in his arms, of being close to him.
And then we're staring at each other and my breath is catching and I can't think of anything else other than kissing him.
And then I am, and he is, and nothing else matters other than the feel of his lips on mine and mine on his.
Eventually, we move away just a little, neither of us seeming to want to stop touching. And I know now, without Clark having to say the words, that he loves me just as much as I love him. And I know that things will never be the same between us again.
And I couldn't be happier about it.
He smiles then. "This really isn't working out the way I'd planned." He sounds rueful, but amused. Happy.
"Is that good or bad?"
"Oh, it's good, believe me!" And he grins. "But there was something else I wanted to give you before we got so carried away."
"Something else?" I glance down at the brooch. "But you've already given me this!"
"This is different." And he reaches into his trouser pocket and takes out a sheet of paper, handing it to me. I unfold it.
At the top, there's a very well-drawn picture of Superman's S- shield. And the paper reads:
*This entitles Lois Lane to one Super flight of her choice, at a time of her choice, disasters and emergencies permitting, to be redeemed on presentation of this voucher.*
It's signed Superman.
And the whole document — gift certificate, whatever it is — is written in Clark's handwriting.
I stare at him. "How did…? You wrote this! Did he ask you to write it for him?" Had Superman not been able to spare the time to do it himself?
Clark looks back at me, his expression almost anticipatory. He takes a deep breath suddenly and then reaches into another pocket. From that, he produces the figurine I gave Superman.
He has that, too? But how? Superman flew off just before Clark arrived. Unless they'd met outside and Superman asked Clark to look after it for him…
"Lois." Clark's voice had dropped an octave suddenly, and I realised that his tone and the way he was looking at me meant that he was trying to tell me something important. Something *very* important…
"I told you that you'd understand soon," he murmurs.
And I just stare.
It can't be. *He* can't be.
No. Not Superm…
But he'd said he's not alone. That he has a family. Friends. Somewhere to belong.
Clark has a family. He has lots of friends. And he definitely has somewhere he belongs. Smallville. The Planet. Metropolis.
He's still watching me. "You do understand, don't you?"
I've been motionless, almost rigid, staring at him. Suddenly, it's as if his words free me, and I move towards him. Stretching up, I take off his glasses. And I see the eyes that looked down into mine so apologetically only half an hour earlier.
"It's you," I say, realising afterwards just how dumb that sounds.
He nods. He takes his glasses from me, folds them and puts them in his shirt pocket. It's an unspoken message that he's not disguising himself from me any more.
"But… why…?" God, I'm making an idiot of myself. I'm *never* this inarticulate. Lost for words? Not me! I'm always the one ready with the penetrating questions, the dagger-like riposte that ensures that no-one gets away from me with secrets intact.
Yet Clark's had this secret from me for as long as I've known him. And he's just given it up to me willingly.
And something else… That gift certificate in his own handwriting. He'd intended to tell me. This isn't just spur of the moment.
He's watching me, looking concerned. I wonder if he's afraid that I'm going to faint from shock, or start yelling at him for deceiving me. "Why what, Lois? Why didn't I tell you before? Or why now?"
"Let's start with why now, shall we?" I say. Why he didn't tell me before is likely to take up a *lot* more time.
"Because of what you did, Lois. Everything you said. When I was here earlier, as Superman… like I said, I realised that I was being such a hypocrite, letting you do all this nice stuff because you felt sorry for me being alone. I couldn't let you go on thinking that. I couldn't go on lying to you. I knew I had to tell you."
I'm not sure how much sense that makes. "It never bothered you before. That I thought you were a different person, I mean." And, as something else occurs to me, I add sharply, "It didn't bother you that I thought you were dead!"
But the way his expression changes when I say that shows me that I'm completely wrong. "It bothered me, Lois. I hated doing that to you."
Tentatively, as if he's afraid that I'll reject him, he raises his hand to my face, touching my cheek with his fingertips. I don't move. "I've had to take drastic action before when I've been in danger of having my secret revealed. I've always just moved on. Started again somewhere else. This time… well, the only difference would've been that I'd have had to take a new name. A different identity. But I didn't want to. I wanted to come back, as Clark — and you're the reason why." He pauses, studying me, then adds, "Because I love you. And because you missed me."
I love him too.
I could be mad at him. For dying, and for so many other reasons. I might be mad at him yet. We've got the rest of our lives for me to yell at him, after all.
But I love him. And he's just said he loves me. And he's just told me something that I know is the biggest secret he possesses. The most dangerous secret he possesses. I'm not a fool. I know what it would cost him if that information got out. Him, and his parents. And he's entrusted me with that, because he didn't want to lie to me any more.
I have to tell him. "I love you, Clark." As he begins to speak, I place a finger over his lips. "Don't get complacent, Kent. You've got a *lot* of explaining to do. And a lot of apologising and sucking up. Including letting me cash in on that gift certificate! But it's Christmas and I love you, so I'm not going to make you start tonight."
Suddenly, he smiles again. And it's a smile I've seen on both pairs of lips — Clark's and Superman's. And I wonder how it is that I've never realised before.
"I love you, Lois Lane," he says, and it sounds like a vow. "I love you, and I'll never lie to you again."
"Well, that's a start." I try to look chiding, but fail miserably. The look in his eyes, the way he sounds when he tells me he loves me, just can't help but make me smile back. After all, I've just got everything I wanted for Christmas — and more than I ever thought possible.
Somewhere in the distance, a timer buzzes. The turkey's almost ready and I need to put on the vegetables. Clark realises what it is too, and he touches my hand. "Come on. I'll help you do whatever needs doing."
We walk to the kitchen together. He gives me a sidelong glance as he starts work. "I hope you don't mind that there's just two of us for dinner, instead of three."
Well, I already knew there'd only be two, because Superman left… But there are only two because he *is* Superman. There always were only going to be two.
And then I grin. I look up at him, standing next to me, the man I love, my boyfriend, my Super man. "That's okay," I tell him. "I think three would've been a crowd."
He laughs, a happy, humorous, joyful sound. "Yeah, I think you're right."
We work together for a few minutes, doing what needs to be done, and then he catches my hands suddenly, turning me to face him.
"I love you, Lois. You can be as mad at me as you like. You can yell at me all you want. But don't forget that, okay?" And his eyes are serious and so, so loving. And he's just everything I've ever wanted, and I love him so much in return.
Maybe I won't yell at him. Much.
I say nothing, though. Instead, I reach up, wanting to kiss him. He grins slowly. "There's mistletoe here too?"
I shake my head. "Do we need it?"
"Absolutely not," he whispers, before his lips cover mine. And, even with everything else he's given me, this kiss is the best Christmas present yet.