Those Darn Space Rats...

By Bellarata <>

Submitted November 2008

Rated PG

Summary: Set during "Seasons Greedings," Clark gets exposed to the Space Rats again as Superman. How mean is he going to be Lois? And will Lois finally learn his secret?

A/N- This is just a quick, silly little fic. I was watching Seasons Greedings recently and I just love when they act like kids, so I thought I'd extend that. It starts right after Clark gets busted by his mom and the spray has worn off. If Martha seems out of character, I apologize, but I feel that she was written out of character in this episode (that line about tanning Clark's hide like cheap leather just didn't go with Martha, IMO.)


Chapter 1

Feeling decidedly embarrassed about the serious scolding he'd just had to endure from his mother, Clark was determined to set things right. He hadn't seen his mother that mad at him since he'd been ten years old and he'd been busted for using his x-ray vision to peek under the Christmas tree to check out the contents of his presents. He still had no idea how she knew that he'd been inspecting his gifts, but boy, had she been mad at him.

For such a small woman, his mom could be truly frightening.

Even though this current situation wasn't entirely his fault, Clark knew he had crossed the line. He had used his powers in a very public way to pick on Lois. He couldn't help the snicker at the memory of Lois falling on her thieving ass when he'd used his heat vision to melt her boot heel. Even though he knew it had been the wrong thing to do, it didn't make it any less funny.

"I think we're looking at a job for Superman," he told his parents seriously, hoping that would be enough to get him out of the dog house. Luckily, his parents didn't challenge him, although he had no idea what he could do as Superman to help this situation that he couldn't do as Clark. In truth, he really just wanted to see how Lois reacted to his alter ego -- if she treated him different as Superman than she had Clark.

Moments later, Clark landed with a caped flourish in front of her desk, watching as Lois and Angela played their grade school games. Okay, so maybe he had overdone the entrance, but he couldn't help it. Drawing himself up, he crossed his arms and attempted to look official.

"Cool! Superman!" Lois gushed when she saw him. Holding up her yarn-laden hands, she asked, "Do you want to play?"

Oh, he wanted to play all right. "Sure..." A burst of hysterical laughter coming from Perry's office side-tracked him. He grimaced and added, "Just a sec."

He could feel Lois' eyes on him as he marched determinedly into Perry's office, only to appear moments later with an armful of the toys that had gotten them all into this mess. He continued to have trouble believing that whatever drug these ridiculous toys were laced with had affected him in such a profound manner. Seeing his boss in such a state of giggles made him realize how lucky he had been that it had worn off so quickly. He shuddered to think what would be happening if he'd received more than the squirt that Lois had sprayed his way. Obviously, the more of the compound was ingested, the longer the affects lasted.

Giving Lois his best Superman-knows-best look, Clark stood before her desk once more. "Lois, I think we ought to wash your hands," he told her firmly, hoping that his face wasn't giving away his true thoughts. This was yet another side of Lois that he couldn't help but fall in love with. She was adorable.

Thanks to the multiple pieces of Bubble Yum bubblegum that Lois had shoved into her mouth, her response to his suggestion was to blow a bubble that far surpassed her previous attempts at blowing bigger bubbles than her new friend, Angela.

Clark watched with morbid fascination as Lois' mouth formed a perfect "O" and he found himself incapable of tearing his eyes away from the pink gum that appeared between her lips.

Oh god. Who knew bubble blowing could be so...erotic?

When the bubble popped all over Lois' face, Clark had to take a steadying deep breath. Was she trying to torture him?

He knew the answer to that when her lips parted and her tongue darted out to recapture the gum that had stuck to her lips.

Clark's eyes were riveted on that tongue. God, he was a sick, sick man. That shouldn't be such a turn on, but obviously his body hadn't gotten that memo. Another flick of her tongue and he tensed, his whole body jerking.

He felt something squish in his hands and looked down, grimacing as he realized he had squished the Space Rats he'd rescued from Perry mere moments before.

Oh boy.

The familiar horrendous odor permeated his senses before quickly turning into an odor he had to have more of. He loved Space Rats. And they were his and nobody was going to take them away from him.

Not even Lois.

When Martha and Jonathan returned to the Daily Planet, they were exhausted. Their Christmas shopping was finished but Martha didn't feel the joy she usually did when she shopped for her loved ones. The city had gone nuts and Martha hoped that her son would get to the bottom of it before something really bad happened. She felt fortunate that they'd manage to avoid the same curse her son had fell victim too. Those Space Rats seemed to be everywhere.

Martha looked around the newsroom hoping to find that sanity had returned during their absence.

It hadn't.

The employees were still running around like children without any apparent adult supervision. It had been quite some time since she'd had to go into full blown mother-mode, but desperate times called for desperate measures.

She whistled loudly and was pleased to see that she had shocked the newsroom into attention. There was a moment of silence.

It didn't last long, however, as each affected person went back to what they were doing. No shouting from Martha Kent was going to stop them. They hadn't just reverted to a child-like state -- they had reverted to spoiled children who had no respect for authority. This was worse than Martha had previously thought.

Turning to her husband, Martha asked, "Oh, Jonathan! What are we going to do?"

It was clear that Jonathan had no answers as he shrugged helplessly. "I don't know, Martha."

Martha pursed her lips as she contemplated their next course of action. She hoped that Clark had some answers. She looked around the newsroom for any sign of her son.

Her jaw dropped as she caught sight of the familiar red, blue and yellow entering the newsroom.

"You can't get them...." Clark taunted, floating just out of Lois' reach as she leapt as high as she could to snatch her beloved Space Rats from his grasp.

"You...cheater!" Lois screeched, grabbing a hold of the red cape that dangled in front of her and attempted to jerk him down. "Give me those!"

"No way," Clark informed her smugly. With a mischievous grin, he appeared to have second thoughts. "Okay, Lois, you can have them."

She eyed him warily.

He floated to the ground to give them to her. "Here you go, Lois." When she reached out to take them from his hands, Clark jerked back into the air, just out of her reach. "Psyche!!" he crowed, thoroughly pleased with himself.

Lois looked like she was going to cry. "I hate you, Stupidman."

He glared at her. "It's Superman."

She smiled sweetly. "That's what I said -- Stupidman."

"I'm not stupid," Clark bit out, eyes narrowing.

"Are too," Lois countered, glaring at him. "And you're mean."

"You're meaner."

"Am not!"

"Are too!"

Furious, Lois stuck her tongue out at Clark and stomped away. She hated him. He was the meanest person that ever lived. He thought he was so cool just because he got to wear a costume all the time and could fly. It wasn't fair.

Pouting, Lois threw herself into a chair, drawing her legs up and wrapping her arms around her knees, not caring that her skirt was way too short to sit in such a fashion.

"I see London, I see France, I see your underpants," Clark taunted, floating over to her desk.

"Go away, Stupidman," she ground out. Ooooh! He just made her so mad! She gave him a scathing look. "I see London, I see France, I always see your underpants," she countered proudly.

Clark looked down at his suit. "These aren't underpants!"

"They look like underpants," Lois announced, looking unimpressed.

"Well they're not! They have a belt!" Clark was indignant. He pointed to his waist. "See?"


"So... they aren't underpants!" He floated down to stand in front of her, the Space Rats still in his hands.

"Then why do they look like underpants?"

"They are part of my disguise, dummy," Clark scoffed. Girls could be so stupid.

"What do you need a disguise for?" Lois was eyeing the rats and wondering if she could snatch them away if she could distract him long enough.

Clark rolled his eyes. "So you don't know who I really am. Duh."

Before Lois could make her move, they were interrupted.

"Superman!" Martha hissed, grabbing hold of Clark's arm and spinning him around.

"Ooooooh... You're busted..." Lois gloated. Served the big dummy right.

"What? What did I do?" Clark attempted to look innocent. "I didn't do anything!"

"You know exactly what you've done, Superman," Martha informed him, not quite sure how she should handle this. It was apparent that this was a much stickier situation than before, when it had been just Clark under the influence. Superman under the influence had the potential for more serious repercussions; the very least they had to worry about him sharing his true identity.

Lois came to stand next to Clark. "You're not the boss of him, you know," she announced, clearly switching sides. He may be a meanie, but he was still her friend. Besides, if anybody was going to be mean to Stupidman, it was going to be her. "He's Superman. He can do anything he wants."

"Yeah. Listen to Lois. I can do anything I want." Clark crossed his arms over his chest and mimicked Lois' pose.

"That's what we're afraid of, son," Jonathan commented, standing next to his wife. "Why don't you start by giving me those toys?"

Clark gasped, gathering the Space Rats more securely in his arms. "No way! These are mine!"

"And mine!" Lois added.

"Superman, I really think you need to give those to me. I'll give them back to you later," Martha tried to reason. She knew without a doubt, that she needed to get those infected toys away from her son before he did something he really regretted. Something that would damage them all.

"You're just jealous that I have them and you don't," Clark informed his mother petulantly.

Martha took a step in her son's direction. "I need you to give them to me, Superman."

"Superman! No! Don't let her take them!" Lois cried.

Martha recognized the stubborn look that transformed her son's face. It was one he'd often worn as a child, but Clark's innate sense of responsibility for authority had always kept things from escalating. After witnessing the abnormal behavior around her, Martha wasn't hopeful that Clark had retained that parental respect. He had hardly ever back talked her as a child -- and nothing like he was doing now.

"Don't worry, Lois, I won't let her take them from us," Clark announced determinedly, glaring at his parents.

"Let's get out of here," Lois whispered loudly.

"Okay," Clark agreed. "You're going to have to hold them though, I can't fly and hold them at the same time," he informed her, reluctantly handing over his precious toys. "They are still mine though. I can take them back anytime I want."

"Superman, no!" Martha cried, her heart sinking as she watched her son hand Lois the cursed toys and gather her in his arms. "You can't leave the building!"

"Oh yes, I can. Just watch," Clark retorted smugly, defying gravity with Lois in his arms. "I can do anything I want."

"Yeah, cos he's Stupidman!" Lois added unhelpfully.

Martha and Jonathan watched as their son flew out the window with the girl of his dreams, throwing a 'haha you can't catch me' look over his shoulder.

"Oh Martha, this isn't good," Jonathan announced heavily. He knew it had been a bad idea to go to the city. Next time he'd listen to himself and not let his wife bully him into doing something he didn't want to.

Martha turned to her husband and burst into tears. "I'm so worried about him, Jonathan."

He drew his wife into his arms. "It'll be okay. He's still Clark."

Sniffing loudly, Martha retorted, "I just hope that is enough."

"Boy, Clark's parents are bossy," Lois announced loudly, watching the scenery go by. "I never knew they were so bossy."

Clark snorted but didn't respond, intent on keeping them in the air.

"Where are we going?"

"That's for me to know and you to find out," Clark taunted, enjoying getting Lois riled up again.

"Superman! That's not fair!"

"Look Lois," Clark started in a patronizing manner, "when you are the superhero, then maybe you get to call the shots. But you're not. I am."

"Just because you have super powers doesn't make you the boss of me, you know."

"No, but I can drop you any time I want. That makes me the boss."

Lois gasped and tightened her hold around his neck. "You wouldn't dare!"

"Ha ha, scared you."

"You're mean."

"I know you are, but what am I?"

With a loud huff, Lois refused to respond. Boys were just so immature sometimes.

Clark landed a short time later, not able to help himself from pretending to drop Lois before his feet hit the ground. He felt bad when he saw the tears that welled up in her eyes.

"That wasn't very nice," she sniffed.

"I was just kidding," he muttered. She was probably right. That had been kinda mean. Funny, but mean.

"Superman, why are we at Clark's parents house?"

Clark snorted. "It's not his house, it's my house." He grabbed the key under the mat and opened the door. "See?"

"We're going to get in trouble," Lois cautioned. "Clark's parents are going to be mad."

"No, they won't." Clark beckoned her in and Lois took tentative steps through the front door. "Come on, let's see what Mom has to eat in here." He headed into the kitchen leaving Lois to follow.

Watching Superman rummage through the Kents' refrigerator, Lois giggled.

"What's so funny?" Clark asked, jerking up from his perusal of the refrigerator contents. She better not be laughing at him. He didn't like it when she did that.

"You're funny." Lois threw herself into a kitchen chair and smiled at him. "I didn't know that you ate food."

Clark narrowed his eyes in her direction. "You're dumb."

Hurt appeared in her eyes. "Hey!"

Clark ducked his head and studied the floor. Maybe he had been mean. She wasn't really that dumb. "I eat food," he informed her stiffly.

"Okay, okay! You don't have to get so huffy about it, Mr. H.R. HuffnStuf." She got up to join him in front of the open fridge. "Anything good?"

Clark opened the freezer. "Ice cream!" they both yelled at the same time, grinning.

"Come on, Superman," Lois said, grabbing a gallon of her favorite from the freezer. "I bet I can eat more than you."

Clark snorted. "No, you can't."

"Oh, yes I can."

A short time later, Lois looked over at her friend and groaned. "Okay, you were right. You can eat more than I can."

"You should never question someone with super powers, Lois." He looked smug.

She managed a weak glare. "My tummy hurts."

"That's because you ate a gallon of ice cream," Clark informed her smugly.

"Well, you ate two gallons," she pointed out.

"Lois, what part of Super do you not understand?" he taunted, taking another bite of ice cream. Lois may be finished but he sure wasn't.

"Don't be mean to me when my tummy hurts," Lois whined, crossing her arms over her abdomen. "Superman, I really don't feel good."

Clark let out a belch and pushed the now empty container of ice cream to the side. "Don't worry, Lois. I'll save you." His attempt at a serious look was ruined when he burst into giggles.

"Superman!" she cried. "It's not funny!"

"Sorry." He attempted to look sincere. "Come on, let's go see what mom has in her medicine cabinet."

Lois followed behind him as Clark made his way through the house. "How do you know where everything is, Superman?"

Clark rolled his eyes. "I grew up here. Duh."

Lois looked confused. "You grew up with Clark?"

He shook his head. "You know, you're not very smart sometimes."

"Hey!" Lois cried. "I told you not to be mean to me when my tummy hurts."

They reached the bathroom and Clark rummaged through the contents of the medicine cabinet. "I think there is some of that pink stuff around here," he muttered. "I hear that is good for upset tummies."

"What, you don't know?"

Clark shook his head. "Nope. Never needed it."

"Oh. That's not really fair, you know. You have super powers and you don't get sick. Oh, my tummy hurts..."

Clark heard her heart beat escalate and turned around to regard the girl in his bathroom. She didn't look very good. Maybe he shouldn't have been so mean to her.

"Superman, I really feel sick."

Clark watched her face turn pale and when she clapped her hand over mouth with a look of horror, he used his superspeed to direct her over to the toilet. He was just in time as Lois proceeded to empty the contents of her stomach.

"Eww, that's really gross, Lois."

Lois turned miserable eyes in his direction and burst into tears. "I don't feel good," she announced unhappily.

A burst of compassion stuck Clark and his face changed from a look of disgust to one of worry. "Are you okay?"

Lois shook her head, tears streaming down her face.

"Come on." He helped her to her feet and led her over to the sink, grabbing a toothbrush from under the sink where his mom always stocked extras. "Brush your teeth and wash your face," Clark directed, watching as she followed his orders. He didn't like seeing his friend looking so sick. It bothered him. A lot.

"I'm sleepy, Superman" Lois mumbled when she'd dried her face with the towel Clark had given her.

"I am sleepy too," Clark admitted. "I think we need to take a nap." He wasn't used to being this tired. "Come on, we can sleep in my room."

"Don't you mean Clark's room?" Lois yawned, rubbing her tummy. She didn't feel sick anymore and she was happy about that. She didn't like being sick, especially when she got sick because she ate too much. She did that more often than she cared to think about. "Superman, I'm too tired to walk."

When Superman picked her up and carried her down the hall, she didn't protest. She liked it when he carried her. And she also liked it when he picked on her -- it made her feel special. Not that she'd ever tell Superman that, of course.

Okay fine, she'd admit it to herself. She had a crush on Superman.

"Do you like me, Superman?" she found herself asking before she could stop herself. She waited for him to make fun of her.

But he surprised her. Instead of mocking her and her feelings, Superman mumbled, "Yes Lois, I like you."

She gave him a sappy grin. Superman was blushing. She was making Superman blush. That had to mean something! "I like you too, Superman."

Clark set Lois down on his bed and pulled off her boots. Drawing his cape around him, he flung himself down next to her with a cheesy grin. They lay facing each other on the narrow twin bed. "I'm sorry I was mean to you today, Lois."

Lois yawned. "I'm sorry I was mean to you also, Superman." Her eyes drifted closed as she flipped herself over and snuggled against the superhero behind her. She was asleep by the time Clark draped his cape over her slight form and wrapped his arms around her. She missed the contented sigh as Superman followed her into slumber.


Chapter 2

A throbbing pain in her head greeted Lois as her body tried to awake from the heavy slumber she had succumbed to hours earlier. On the cusp of consciousness, Lois made a special effort to slink back into oblivion. It didn't hurt when she was asleep and right now, she was in agony. She beat back a wave of nausea and burrowed deeper into the warm, sleek pillow she was snuggled against. She gave up trying to remember what had happened that had left her in such a state, her brain fully refusing to cooperate. Normally such a thing would have had her leaping out of bed and demanding answers, but oddly, Lois felt safe and that was enough for the moment

Sleep was a welcome respite and Lois gladly embraced it, hoping even as she slipped into the numbing darkness that the pain in her head would not be present when she awoke.

She wasn't to be that lucky, however.

A loud ringing noise introduced her to a whole new definition of pain and she vaguely identified the sound as the telephone ringing. 'Oh god, make it stop,' she moaned to herself, still not wanting to awaken fully.

Her wish came true as the phone was finally answered.

"Hello," a male voice rumbled against her ear; her pillow raising and falling with the muffled greeting.

Lois gave a mental sigh of relief. It was Clark's voice. No wonder she felt safe -- she was always safe with him, even if she didn't quite remember the events that had led up to them falling asleep together. Now if he would just get off the phone and let her go back to sleep, she might even wake up in a semi-pleasant mood.

Or at least something close to it.

She felt her warm, sleek pillow tense with a quick indrawn breath and she mentally growled. If Kent knew what was good for him, he'd let her get back to her misery and sleep off this mother of all hangovers.

"Yes, she's here. Mom," she heard her partner say. "I'll uh... bring her back soon."

Great. Why had her partner just announced to his mother that they had spent the night together? He was a dead man. Even if she didn't remember spending the night, he was still a dead man, and even deader because now she felt herself waking up. Not good. She heard the phone settle heavily back into the cradle and her pillow sighed.


She wasn't going to answer him, hoping he'd get the hint and shut up and let her go back to sleep.

"Lois," Clark called again, a slight wariness in his voice that Lois didn't miss. "I know you're awake."

"No, I'm not," she mumbled, burying her face into the warmth of her pillow. "Shut up and let me go back to sleep."

She felt rather than heard the heavy sigh that left his lungs.

"Lois, you have to get up," Clark persisted. "We have to get back to Metropolis."

Get back to Metropolis? What was he talking about? A huge, gaping hole seemed to be missing from her memory and she struggled against the pain to remember the events that had led up to her falling asleep with her partner and best friend. She could feel the tight skirt she'd worn to work cutting into her waist so she knew she wasn't naked -- so whatever had happened obviously hadn't included anything that was clothing optional.

And why was that thought just a tiny bit disappointing?

"Lois," he insisted, his voice low and careful. "Wake up."

Lois sighed in irritation, not looking forward to the actual part where she opened her eyes. Her head hurt and she was tired. If Clark knew what was really good for him, he'd let her go back to sleep and not keep trying to get her awake. But since Clark was Clark, he didn't know what was good for him. So, with much trepidation, Lois forced her eyelids to part, bracing herself for the stabbing pain that she was sure to follow.

Only she found herself faced with a red "S" that was almost as familiar to her as her own reflection in the mirror.

Pain momentarily forgotten, Lois darted her gaze up to the face of the man who she was snuggled against. "Clark?" she asked incredulously, her brain churning to come up with a logical explanation as to why Superman had Clark's voice. And why Clark was wearing Superman's suit. Her eyes studied the familiar features, desperately trying to find anything that would explain this.

Anything but accept the undeniable truth that she refused to process.

"I'm sorry," he said quietly, easing out of her arms and getting out of bed. A hand found its way to his forehead as he also grimaced in pain. At least she wasn't the only one with the hangover from hell.

For the first time, Lois examined her surroundings. A gasp passed through her lips -- she knew this place. "We're in Smallville?" she hissed, eyes narrowing in accusation.

Clark nodded warily. The details were fuzzy but he clearly remembered the Space Rats and the damage those toys had inflicted on his maturity level.

"Why are we in Smallville?"

Clark made his way to the single window and parted the curtains, the sunlight striking him going a long way in easing the pain in his head. "What do you remember?"

Lois' forehead furrowed in concentration. "I remember Christmas shopping with you. Or uh, with Clark. And... something about... rats. And ice cream. I remember a lot of ice cream." Her eyes narrowed in accusation. "What did you do?"

That offended Clark. "Me? I didn't do anything!"

"And I just wound up in Smallville by myself?" Lois rolled her eyes, only to be quickly reminded why eye rolling of any kind wasn't conducive while experiencing headaches of massive proportions. "Ow," she muttered, burying her head in her hands.

He was there in an instant and Lois found herself drawn into arms that had left her feeling so safe earlier. Arms that she would never have associated with lies and treachery.

Clark was Superman. It hurt her head even more to think about it.

"Are you okay?" Clark's voice was gentle and soothing -- and she hated that about him.

"No, I'm not okay!" she huffed, not able to stop herself from burying her face against the spandex-covered chest of her best friend. "My head hurts, I can't remember anything and I find out that my partner has been lying to me every day since the day we met! Of course I'm not okay!"

Lois didn't see the smile but she could feel it. That Clark Kent mega-watt smile always did something to her and this time was no exception. "You better not be laughing at me, Kent."

"I'm not laughing at you, Lois."

She lifted her head from his chest to study his face. "Then why are you smiling?" she demanded when she saw the small smile playing along his lips.

His smile widened. "Because you're yelling at me."

"Ha! That's not yelling. My head hurts too bad to yell. Believe me, you'll know when I'm yelling."

"Actually, I am looking forward to it, if you want to know the truth."

"You're a sick man, Kent." After a moment, she added, "Why are you happy that I'm yelling at you?"

She almost didn't think he was going to answer, the silence stretched on for so long. "Because you're yelling at Superman, that's why. You've never yelled at Superman."

"No, I'm yelling at you."


Lois groaned and massaged her temples. "You're making my headache worse and I didn't think that it could get any worse."

"How about I go make us some coffee?"

"Please go make some coffee," Lois directed, willing the pain in her head to cease. She watched as Superman -- no, Clark -- left the room. She didn't know if it was the effects of this hellish hangover that was making his revelation seem so... anti-climatic but she'd just go with it -- for now.

Taking a deep breath, Lois took a careful step and made her way into the bathroom. The toothbrush that she had a slight memory of using the night before was lying by the sink and she used it. An irritated growl left her throat when she looked into the mirror.


This was so typical.

She had the imprint of Clark's 's' shield marking her cheek from using him as a pillow all night.

Could her day get any worse?

"Lois?" she heard Clark call from outside the door. "Are you okay?"

Lois threw open the door and glared at him, faltering only for a brief second at the sight of Clark wearing the oh so familiar suit. "Oh, I'm just peachy, Clark. Why wouldn't I be okay? I mean... I only wake up in a strange place, find out that my partner just happens to also be the man I've been crushing on for months," she ranted, before gesturing to her face. "And look! I have waffle face, thanks to your stupid 'S' shield. I'm tired. I'm stuck in Smallville when I should be in Metropolis getting to the bottom of this whole Space Rats fiasco and..." she broke off and sniffed, "And I have a headache."

Luckily for Clark, he kept his mouth shut and merely handed her a cup of coffee, which was taken gratefully.

"I'm sorry, Lois," Clark said carefully after Lois had taken several sips. "I didn't mean for any of this to happen."

Lois sniffed again and took a healthy gulp. She needed the caffeine at that moment like nothing else. Oh, she wanted to blame Clark for everything. It was always so easy to blame Clark. But the truth was -- this wasn't his fault. Well, the lying to her for years thing was his fault, but not their behavior of the day before.

"What were those things, anyway?"

Clark relaxed a fraction, glad to have Lois' analytical mind at work rather than the ranting fits she had been known to work herself into. "Come on, let's go sit down in the kitchen and we can try to figure things out."

Without waiting for her response, Clark turned on his heel and headed down the stairs, Lois trailing behind with her coffee tucked securely between two hands.

Passing through the familiar doorway into the bright airy kitchen, Lois was suddenly plagued by self-consciousness, which thoroughly pissed her off. Her comfort zone had been disturbed and she didn't like that. Clark had always been comfortable and they'd shared such an easy friendship. It hadn't been too far of a stretch for her to imagine them taking their friendship to the next level, because she trusted him. And for once, she could trust herself.

Now, in a disturbing twist of fate, he was no longer comfortable. He was... so far beyond her, she didn't even know if a definition existed for what Clark really was.

"Don't do that, Lois," Clark commanded, his mouth pinching just the slightest bit as he turned around to study her.

"Don't do what?" she bluffed. God, he knew her so well.

Clark closed the distance that separated them and carefully gripped her upper arms, deliberately violating the boundaries of personal space. "You know what," he told her. "Please don't shut me out."

'Like you shut me out ever since I knew you?' she wanted to shout. Instead, she raised her chin and rolled her eyes. "I'm not trying to shut you out. Like I could! You never let me shut you out and don't think that it's not because I don't try because I do! A lot. But you just give me that long suffering look and sigh, and then I feel bad and I let you back in. That's not really fair, you know. I think that might be one of your undisclosed super powers, because really, I never have problems shutting anybody else out except for you. God, you make my head hurt, Clark!"

A hint of a smile played along Clark's lips. This was the Lois he loved; full of indignation and self-righteousness, with a side of babbling mixed in. The smile dimmed as he realized that Lois was having trouble looking him in the eye.

Releasing her, Clark stepped back and gestured to the coffee pot. "More coffee?" he asked, knowing that he was trying to avoid the problem.

Lois nodded and let him take her cup from her hands. She watched him prepare her coffee, like she'd watched him prepare it countless times before.

But this was different.

Because, it wasn't just Clark fixing her coffee, it was Superman.

"Gah! Why is this so hard?" she blurted, throwing up her hands in aggravation. "I don't like feeling weird around you."

Clark handed her back the refilled mug, carefully avoiding her eyes. "Is it because I'm an alien?" he couldn't help but ask; his deepest fear taking root and springing from his mouth without thought.

The look she gave him could only be described as scorching. "Are you kidding me? You really think I feel weird because you're from another planet? Okay, fine...awed, maybe -- weird, no." Lois took a sip of coffee. "I feel weird because I never really felt entirely comfortable around Superman like I felt around you and now I'm just not sure how I should be feeling because you're not just Clark anymore, you're Superman."

Clark sighed. This is what he'd been afraid of, and why he'd withheld his second identity from Lois for so long. "Lois, where are we right now?"

The look she gave him was typical Lois. "The Kent farm in Smallville, Kansas, which you very well know since you brought me here!" Her tone was only slightly patronizing and he loved her for that.

"Right. Where I grew up." He gave her a pointed look. "So where did Superman grow up?"

"Well, since you're Superman, I guess Superman grew up in Smallville, Kansas," she replied derisively.

Clark shook his head. "Nope, you're wrong. Superman didn't exist until I ate that bomb at EPRAD. He didn't grow up anywhere."

Lois looked confused for only a brief moment. "So what you are trying to say is that Superman isn't really real?"

Clark nodded sharply.

Lois' response to that gesture was unexpected.

She laughed.

And then the phone rang. Clark snorted in exasperation, gave Lois a dark look and answered the phone.

Lois still felt helpless giggles trying to burrow their way out but she tapped them down. What was amazing was that Clark really seemed to believe that Superman wasn't real. He was very real. To say he was the most well-known celebrity on the planet wasn't an understatement, and Lois felt that slightly awe-struck edge creep into her emotions at the realization of just how famous this man was.

But watching Superman get scolded by his mother on the phone seemed to put things in perspective, like nothing else had managed to. It was just so... human.

It was just so very, very Clark.

And she had to admit to herself that she loved that about him, something she'd been trying for months now to deny to herself. But it took seeing her spandex-clad partner, standing in his mother's kitchen, shoulders slumped as he stumbled out one apology after another, clearly willing to take full responsibility for something that clearly wasn't his fault to make her admit to herself the truth...

She loved Clark Kent.

All of him.

It was like a huge weight had been lifted. Lois smiled brightly and crossed the room to stand at his side, brushing aside the look of apology he threw her way.

"Let me talk to your mom," Lois whispered.

Clark gave her an unreadable look and interrupted his mother's tirade. "Mom, hold on. Lois wants to talk to you." He handed the phone over to her waiting hand.

"Hi, Martha," she greeted.

"Oh, Lois, I'm so sorry this happened and that you found out in such a way! You must be so furious," Clark's mother remarked heartfelt. "I was already expecting you both back in Metropolis, I couldn't believe it when Clark was still there to answer the phone!"

"I needed coffee first," Lois said by way of explanation. "Is everything okay there? Is... Superman needed right this second?"

"Oh no, nothing like that, dear! We've actually got everything under control, thanks to your nice Inspector Henderson. I believe the people responsible are already behind bars," Martha rushed to assure her. "Everyone here is back to normal, although not everybody is feeling one hundred percent."

"I know that feeling," Lois remarked, the remnants of her horrendous headache still making its presence known. "Listen, Martha... Is it a problem if Clark and I don't head back right away? We have a lot we need to talk about."

"Oh... uh, sure, Lois..."

"Thanks, Martha. We'll be back later," Lois interrupted, not letting Clark's mother finish before firmly setting the phone back in its cradle. Okay, so she'd been a little rude, but she had good reasons, darnit. And she felt certain that Martha would forgive a little rudeness. At least, she hoped Martha would...

When Lois turned to face the man next to her, the wary look the Man of Steel gave her was almost comical. Every time that Lois had seen him wear this suit, there had never been anything even close to resembling the wariness that was so plainly written all over those oh-so-handsome features at this exact moment. She watched him gulp nervously as he tried to read her mood.

"So uh... you told my mom we were going to... talk?"

Lois nodded, still trying to give nothing away on her face.

Another endearing gulp and Clark asked, "What... exactly did you want to talk about?"

"This." And she kissed him.

Hours later, when they finally returned to Metropolis, Lois knew she would never look at the holiday season the same.

It truly was a magical time of year.