The Day After Christmas

By Kathy Bell <>

Summary: It's the day after the "Home Is Where the Heart Is" Christmas, and Sam Lane has pieced together a few coincidences. He barges in on Clark and his parents, furious to think that some alien (carrying "who knows what diseases and genetic disorders") would have designs on his daughter — and orders Clark away from Lois, forever.


With a gleam in his eye, Clark picked up the dice and began to roll them around in his hand. When he had them spinning faster than any human possibly could, he released them on the Monopoly board. "Double sixes!" he stated triumphantly when they came to a rest.

"Wonderful," answered his mother. "You just landed on Atlantic Gardens, and I have a hotel there. Just start paying me money; I'll tell you when to stop."

Clark's father, Jonathan, started to laugh, but before Clark could respond, his attention was diverted by a strange sensation deep within him.

"What's wrong, Clark?" asked Martha, when she noticed the faraway look on Clark's face. "Do you hear something?"

Clark shook his head "No, it's more of a feeling; I've been trying NOT to hear things today."

Jonathan raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Well, this whole holiday didn't work out as I had planned," Clark explained, "with my illness and Lois' parents arriving, and you having to go back to Smallville tonight. I just wanted some uninterrupted time with you before you left. So, I've been trying to NOT hear Metropolis' cries for help."

Martha patted his arm. "There is nothing wrong with that, dear. Everyone needs some time out from his job, even Superman."

"Well, it's OK. I haven't heard anyone today anyway, thank goodness. I guess everyone is still recovering from Christmas." Clark said. Then he frowned. "But I think something is wrong with Lois. I can feel her emotions — even when we are apart — if they are strong. I'm certain that she is very upset or angry about something." Clark stood up from the table and set down his Monopoly token. "I'm going to call her." However, a loud and insistent rapping on Clark's apartment door abruptly stopped his movement towards the phone.

"Who could that be?" Jonathan wondered. "Lois?"

Clark shook his head. "She's not here." He bounded up the steps to his door and opened it. "Dr. Lane!" he exclaimed. "Come in, come in. Have you just come from Lois', or have you seen her recently? I was just going to telephone her."

Dr. Lane stepped just inside the door and shook his head. "Please don't call her. I need to discuss something with you, and your 'parents' first." He said "parents" in an extremely ironic tone of voice and Clark suddenly felt very wary towards this man to whom he owed his life. He slowly stepped back down the stairs to stand with his parents, who had left the Monopoly game and followed Clark when they heard Sam Lane at the door.

"I won't beat around the bush, Mr. Kent." Sam said, following him down the stairs to the main living area of the apartment. "I want you out of my daughter's life, permanently and completely. If you don't break off this engagement and leave Metropolis immediately, I'll tell the world what I know about you. I imagine that will make your life a living hell, and you'd be forced to abandon this wild idea of marrying Lois. But I'll give you a chance to end it on your own before I force your hand."

Clark was taken aback by this bald pronouncement, and he fought to control the terrible sinking feeling that was developing in his stomach. He struggled to keep his face calm. He was standing slightly in front of his parents so he didn't know how they were faring, but he heard Martha and Jonathan sit down on his couch. They didn't say anything, and Clark asked coldly, "What deep, dark secret do you plan to reveal?"

Dr. Lane grimaced. "Don't act too obtuse, Kent. Obviously I know that you are Superman, and I don't want you to spend one more moment with my daughter. You are not the type of person I dreamed about her marrying. I had someone else — anyone human — in mind."

Clark said the only thing he could, flatly declaring, "I'm not Superman." He was thoroughly upset. This eventuality was exactly what he had been afraid would happen once anyone other than his parents learned of his secret.

"Apparently you've managed to convince the rest of Metropolis of that, but not me. To begin with, even before you contracted that virus yesterday afternoon, I noticed that you don't look a thing like Jonathan and Martha. They can't be your parents; you must be adopted. I'm willing to bet, with all my other evidence, that they 'adopted' you right off the ship from Krypton.

"Also, when you got sick, Superman got sick at exactly the same time, with the same viral symptoms. And while you were conveniently 'on assignment', there was Superman in your apartment, lying on your bed, with your parents hovering over him, and Lois in tears next to him, begging me to save his life."

Sam paused and added quietly, "I'd never seen her so upset before." He spoke a little louder and said, "And we won't even mention that both of you look the same: same build, same hair color, skin color, eye color." Clark didn't say anything. "I will not have my daughter marrying Superman."

Jonathan spoke up, "Clark is our son, regardless of what you think. I can show you his birth certificate, if that will satisfy your curiosity. And I assure you that he is not Superman. However, I do know Superman, and Lois or any other woman would be fortunate to marry him."

Sam laughed incredulously. "Fortunate? Did you say fortunate? It would be a disaster! A human, marrying an alien, who carries who knows what diseases and genetic disorders. How long will he live? What happens when he becomes enraged with her, in the course of some petty argument? He could kill her instantly. He could kill her and not even mean to. What kind of strange habits and rituals would he have, and what unnatural things would he force Lois to do or expect her to do?

"But most importantly, he and Lois are two different species. Clark may look like a human, and act like a human, and probably wishes he were a human, but Lois would not be able to have his children."

Sam paused, then added, "You know, even talking about Lois being with Clark is turning my stomach. The mere thought of her being intimate with someone of another species… Cross breeding with him! It would probably be genetically impossible, and even if it did yield offspring, what type of creatures would they be? What medical complications would they have? What type of new unclassified diseases would they introduce to this planet, our planet, threatening humanity? Yet condoning Lois' marriage to an alien, you'd be condemning her to being childless, or having some sort of mutant children."

Clark winced at the last part of Sam's diatribe as he had at no earlier point. He didn't need to look behind him to know his mother would take that statement personally, straight to the heart. He began feeling some of that rage that Dr. Lane had referred to earlier.

He stepped back towards the door, and said, "Leave, Dr. Lane." He spread open his arms and stated, "You are not going to accomplish anything with these wild accusations. I have absolutely no intention of ever leaving Lois. Since you are not going to believe me when I assure you that Superman and I are not the same person, please just go."

Sam answered belligerently, "I'm not leaving until you promise to leave Lois and Metropolis at once. Go back to wherever you came from. Maybe the hicks in Kansas weren't bright enough to figure you out, but I did."

Clark opened his mouth to reply (between wounding Martha down to her soul and insulting Kansas, Dr. Lane was fast becoming extremely difficult for him to deal with calmly). Before he could say anything, though, Lois rushed in through Clark's apartment door, which had been left ajar when Dr. Lane came in.

"Get out," she said to her father, in a low and guttural tone. "Get out, now."

Dr. Lane smiled and said placatingly, "Lois, you're just upset. If you would only do what I say, calm down, and think this over rationally, you would realize that I only have your best interests at heart."

"Get out while you still can," Lois said. "Get out before I throw you out."

"This isn't your apartment, Lois," he said reasonably, as if addressing a child having a fit because she was forced to share her toys with her sister.

"Well, it is mine," Clark stated. "Please do leave."

Dr. Lane looked at everyone in the room in turn. He had known that his actions would make him terribly unpopular, but he was certain he was doing the right thing for Lois. He had been gone from her life far too long already. He needed to atone for his absence, and he would do that by ensuring that Lois did not make the mistake of her life. He was confident that eventually she would see it his way.

"I'm merely looking out for my daughter's best interests," he said after a long pause. "I can't let her marry someone that isn't even from Earth. I do know what I am doing. There are a myriad of difficulties ahead for you, things that you can't even imagine now, and you won't consider any of the points I've raised. I'm just trying to protect you." These last statements had been directed at Lois.

"I do love you, Lois," Sam concluded. "And I'm not sorry I saved his life yesterday," indicating Clark with a gesture of his hand. "Superman provides a necessary service to Metropolis. I admire him a great deal but I can't abide you marrying an alien no matter how well-intentioned he is, or appears to be."

Looking intently at Clark, he turned and started to leave. "I'm giving you until tomorrow morning at nine," Sam said. "If you haven't formally broken off this engagement and made plans to leave Metropolis by then — starting with resigning from the newspaper and leaving Lois there, unmolested, the way she was before you flew into town — the Daily Planet will have a major scoop, regarding a story their top reporting team should have written but purposely concealed."

Sam spoke directly to the two reporters: "I wonder how your editor will feel about that, Lois? Clark? What will the Planet's management and the city of Metropolis think about 'Lane and Kent' when they find out that they sat on a major story for purely personal reasons?"

Turning quickly on his heel, for the entire conversation bothered him more than he thought it would, Dr. Lane walked through Clark's door and slammed it behind him.

The apartment was quiet except for the sounds of Martha's muffled sobs. Clark caught Lois' eye and indicated with a tilt of his head that he was going to see to his mother. Clark knew that Lois was merely angry right now — the feeling of betrayal had not set in yet — while Martha was feeling devastated.

She was staring into nothingness with tears running freely down her face. Emotionally, his mother was a very strong woman, but the stress of Clark's illness, just yesterday, and now this threat from Dr. Lane had thoroughly unnerved her. Jonathan had his arm around her shoulder as they sat on the couch, but Clark knew she needed to see him — her son.

He hurried over to the couch and knelt down in front of her. Reaching up, he took her face into his hands, and started wiping the tears away with his thumbs and palms. "Now, Mamma, stop crying," he said soothingly, using a diminutive term for her that he hadn't employed since junior high. "I love you."

Lois came over and stood next to him. "I'm so sorry, Martha," she said, feeling somehow responsible for her father's actions. Martha just shook her head, not even looking up at her, and Lois headed for the kitchen to get Martha a wet washrag for her face. Martha only had eyes for Clark right now.

"Mom," Clark stated firmly, letting his hands fall to her knees. "Don't listen to a word that man said. It was all utter nonsense."

Martha shook her head again and drew a shuddering breath as she managed to temporarily halt her tears. "He made a lot of sense, Clark," she whispered, staring at Clark with wide, sad eyes. "I just didn't want to say anything to you before, but I've been thinking about this over and over, ever since Lois finally said 'yes'. I am so very happy for you, for both of you, but what if you can't have children? I couldn't bear for you to go through what your father and I did. And I don't think any more babies are going to drop down from the sky like you did for us."

Jonathan nodded. Martha had shared this concern with him several months ago even before Lois had figured out that Clark and Superman were the same person. Martha had seen then that Lois was the special person Clark had been waiting for his entire life, but she also forecast some problems for the couple, including their ability to have children.

She had only mentioned it to him once, but Jonathan knew she was agonizing over it in her heart. He knew his wife better than he had ever known anyone, and he could always tell when she was upset over something like this. He just didn't know how to help her.

Jonathan addressed Clark, "You were a gift from the heavens. We couldn't believe how lucky we were to find you, and we can't tell you how much we love you or how much joy you have brought to our life together."

Lois walked back over to the couch and handed Martha the damp cloth. She listened intently to what all three of the Kents were saying as Martha started dabbing her eyes and cheeks with the washrag. She knew that the love the three of them shared had never existed in the Lane household and never would. She pursed her lips as she listened.

"First of all," Clark said, answering his mother but smiling at his father, "we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. If it turns out that we can't have kids, we'll just adopt. But Dr. Lane wasn't the first person to realize that we might have problems in that area. I spoke to Dr. Klein at Star Labs several months ago, telling him that I was considering marriage some day, and he is already working on some ideas that may permit me to father children with a human. Don't forget, I'm the one who is not from Earth. I've been cognizant of this ever since I met Lois. I am aware that I am the one who is the 'problem'."

Lois immediately objected to this characterization. "No, no, you're NOT a problem! I never planned to have children anyway, with anybody. Now, of course, I am reconsidering that, but it's not going to break my heart if we are childless — all I want is Clark."

Clark glanced up at her and smiled. No matter how bad things got, Clark always managed to retain a great deal of his natural good humor, and seeing him smile at Lois instantly made Martha and Jonathan feel better. "You're all I want, too, Lois," he said.

Martha cast her mind back to what Dr. Lane had said and her face grew sad again. "You know, Sam was right about one thing," she announced. "You kids may not be able to have children, and that can be tough for a marriage, for a woman, to endure."

She glanced at Jonathan. "If it hadn't been for you, I don't think I could have survived all those years until Clark came." Jonathan gave her a sad smile and kissed the top of Martha's head.

Clark shook his head. "I'm not a parent, so I may not have any room to talk, but having children doesn't seem to be any great trick in this country. Its the raising of them that is the true test of a parent."

He stood up, looked at Martha and then at Lois. "Lois and I could have ten kids, but if we have them and walk away from them, then she is not a mother and I am not a father. A mother is the person who cooks for the child, bathes the child, talks with the child, loves the child. It doesn't matter whose body that child came from. The same goes for a father. He teaches the child all sorts of things, like how to pitch a ball, to kick a football, and to drive a car. He goes out and cuts down the Christmas tree with his son."

Clark looked over at Jonathan and grinned. This was a long standing Christmas tradition he and his father shared every Christmas that they were together in Smallville. "And he takes the son fishing and tells him the difference between right and wrong. The man who actually sired the child is not a father if he fails to be there for the kid when he is growing up."

Clark stood up and looked down at his parents. "You are my parents, and I never wanted any others. I love you more than I could ever tell you."

Before either parent could say anything, Clark grew even more serious and his voice deepened. "Can you imagine what would have happened to me if you hadn't taken the risk of going into that field and finding my ship after you saw it fall through the Earth's atmosphere?"

Clark's expression became even more grim. "What would have happened to me?" he asked, speaking slowly and emphasizing each word. "I'll tell you what: I'd be dead, or locked up in a lab somewhere, or performing as a freak in some sideshow circus."

Clark repeated himself. "What would have happened to me? You saved my life." Then he relaxed and smiled again. "But here I am, living a normal life, working as a journalist, engaged to a wonderful woman — all thanks to great parents. I owe everything I am to you. I could never repay you for taking that one giant chance on me."

Lois hid a smile. Only Clark would call his life normal; no one else would. Martha stood up, too, all her tears dried. She threw her arms around Clark and looked up at him, giving him a big hug. "We're the ones who got the better end of the deal, Clark," she exclaimed, happy again.

Jonathan nodded. "We did, but now we need to try to get out of this mess Sam has created for us."

That was Lois' cue to speak, and she loosed a torrent of words and feelings. "Oh, Clark, I am so very sorry I didn't take more care of my actions and words when you were sick, but you just don't have any idea how worried I was. I thought I was going to lose you; I really did. I didn't see Superman lying there. I saw Clark, and all I wanted to do was be with you and try to give you some of my strength. Those words we shared just before you went into a coma, well, I thought those would be the last words we would ever say to each other in this life. I'm so, so sorry. I never thought, of all people, that my own father would try to sabotage my happiness, my future, my life. I can't believe he is doing this to me. I wish he would have stayed out of my life, for the rest of my life. I hate him!"

Clark gently put his hand over Lois' mouth as she uttered those last words, and Martha shook her head. "Don't ever say you hate one of your parents, Lois. You are a part of them, for better or for worse. Although I don't blame you for the way you feel."

Martha grew quite indignant. "I can't believe all the horrible things he said about Clark. He is a bigot! He made Clark sound like some germ-infested mutant from the swamp, eager to infect and destroy Metropolis." Clark laughed, despite himself, at his mother's lurid exaggeration.

"No, he didn't," protested Jonathan. "Look at it from his point of view. He doesn't know Clark as the three of us do, and when he did meet him, he WAS as sick as can be, with who knows what type of disease. He is behaving as any father would, if a bit too aggressively and inappropriately. Imagine, Martha, if we had had a daughter, and the first time we saw her in several years, she was engaged to marry someone from another planet. Are you listening to me, Martha?" Jonathan chided, because Martha had crossed her arms and was frowning at him.

"And bear in mind that you know nothing about this man or this other planet or anything. Couple that with a manipulative personality and a guilty conscience, and you can see how Sam worked himself into this state," Jonathan finished.

Clark nodded his head. "You've got a good point, Dad. And Dr. Lane would have to be pretty dense not to figure out that Superman and I are the same person. I remember a little bit about yesterday — like how painful the exposure to that kryptonite was! -and you guys were awfully upset considering I was supposedly only a good friend of Clark's."

Clark paused, seeing Lois start to get angry. "Goodness knows, I'm not blaming anyone for the way they felt or acted because I am sure I would not have survived without your presence," he was looking directly at Lois, "but he would have had to figure out that we were one person. And who else would all three of you have been so upset about but me? Clark's parents are upset because Superman is sick, and Clark's fiancee," Clark grinned at Lois because he loved saying 'Clark's fiancee' "is upset because Superman is sick; ergo, Superman must be Clark."

Lois smiled back at Clark, but then she grew serious. "All right, I don't hate my father. And I don't hate my mother. I just think that both of them are crazy." She looked at Clark's parents. "If Clark still does want to marry me, no matter what happens with my dad," she glanced at Clark, who lifted her left hand to his lips and kissed her engagement ring, then looked back at the elder Kents, "then I was wondering if you two would do me a big favor?"

Martha and Jonathan looked at each other and then back at Lois. "Of course, dear," Martha said.

"May I call you 'Mom' and 'Dad' just like Clark does? Pretend that I grew up in your home, as your daughter, with some of the love for me that you have for Clark? I'd kind of like to trade my parents in on you, and imagine that I grew up in the kind of family that Clark did, instead of my own. I think it will help our marriage a lot," she finished in a very uncertain tone of voice.

Clark, startled, drew his breath in quickly and then slipped his arm around Lois' shoulders to give her a hug. He never dreamed that Lois felt that alienated from her own parents. Martha and Jonathan smiled, and Jonathan said, "Of course you can, daughter. Starting right now." Martha added, "Welcome to the family."

"Thanks," Lois said shyly, but with a big smile. Then she was all business. "Now how are we going to get out of this?"


Many hours later, after the Kents and Lois had talked over all the options they could come up with to handle this new threat to Clark's, and therefore their, well-being, Clark and Lois sat sipping wine and talking in Clark's apartment. Clark drove his parents to the airport (in Lois' car; he still didn't own a car and saw no reason to, especially now that he and Lois were engaged. They both had keys to hers), saw them off and then returned.

"Well, what do you think about our plan, Clark?" Lois asked. She was pouring herself a second glass of wine as the couple sat on the couch, which was about one and a half more glasses than she usually drank. But both she and Clark were off work for one more day, and the past two days had been a terrific strain for Lois. Clark made a mental note to drive her home when she decided to go. It was already quite late, but Clark was excited about eliminating Sam's threat and by just being with Lois. He was not at all tired.

"I think it's great," he responded. "I don't see how it can fail. I am glad my dad pointed out the flaw in our thinking, however."

"Oh, you mean when he said, 'You can't prove Clark is not Superman because you can't prove a negative'? He was right. It's going to be a lot easier to prove to people that Clark and Superman are two different people then it would be to try and convince them you are NOT Superman."

Clark smiled, "Yeah. I can't wait until tomorrow when we can put this all to rest once and for all. Who knows, there may be other people, like Perry, out there with similar suspicions. We may satisfy everyone's questions all at once."

Lois bristled, "No one else suspects a thing about you, Clark, not even Perry. If it took me — me! — two years to figure you out, everyone else will require twenty. After all, no one knows you as well as I do!"

Clark grinned. The wine was really getting to her. "You're right, Lois; you are my closest friend. Are you about ready to go home? It is late and we do have a big day ahead of us tomorrow."

"Home?" she queried. "I am home."

Clark sighed. "I'd love it if we could make this work, Lois, but I told you; there is no way that we can share the same living space AND maintain our 'agreement'. I can't be that close to you and not want to do things — the thing — that we decided to not do until after the wedding."

"Don't tell me that you're only human, Kent," Lois challenged. "I'm not in the mood to hear that."

"No," he answered without a trace of a smile on his face. "I'm not human. But when it comes to you, I may as well be. You make me wild with desire for you, every part of you. I have to exercise so much self-control, every second I am around you, like now, lest I just abandon every pretense of civilization and take you, here, now, all the way." Clark still wasn't smiling.

Lois swallowed hard. This conversation was fast sobering her up. "You make me feel so loved when you talk like that, Clark. You know I can't wait, either. I know that you are a good and honorable man and are trying to have us do the right thing by waiting until after we are married." She set her wine glass down and grasped both his hands in hers.

"But all this talk scares me, too. You know I am not inexperienced in this area," she said without flinching or becoming embarrassed, "but I wonder sometimes, given your enormous strength, if everything between us will work out all right, especially sex. Are you going to be able to temper your reactions for someone like me, a 'mere' human? You don't have a past in this area for me to know that you can safely gauge your response."

Clark shook his head. "Don't worry, Lois. We'll take it slowly, very slowly, the first time. I promise you. I already decided that. But I could never hurt you, no matter how passionate we get." He drew her closer to him on the couch.

"I am bonded to you in a way I could never completely describe. As close to each other as my parents are, I can't believe they share the same depth of feelings that I have for you. I don't know if you, being human, feel this way about me too or not; it may be part of being Kryptonian. From what I understand, we mate for life; that other life completes our own. If I were ever to hurt you, I think I would be hurting myself just as much, at the same time. But I would never hurt you, no matter what."

Clark squeezed Lois' hands, very gently. "I realize this is all going to be new, especially for me. But we'll be OK, as long as everything we do to each other is for our mutual enjoyment and is done in love. And I do love you."

Lois gazed up at Clark with wide open eyes. "I love you, too, Clark." She yawned and looked at her watch. "Maybe you should take me home now. I feel better about things. And thankfully, it won't be much longer until the wedding."

"It won't be much longer until the morning," Clark chided as he helped Lois to her feet. "Next stop, your apartment. Your parents won't be there, will they? I probably shouldn't see either of them until after tomorrow."

Lois yawned again. "My mom is staying there, but she didn't hear any of Daddy's ravings. She is so excited about my getting married, its bringing out all her natural organizational abilities. I think she's already picking out appetizers for the rehearsal dinner. She's done a complete 180 degree turn-about on all of this since Martha talked to her."

"Yeah, Mom can be pretty convincing. Ellen has stopped calling weddings 'money down a rathole', has she?" Clark inquired, as he looked around for Lois' coat.

Lois nodded sleepily. "Maybe I could just crash here on the couch?" she asked hopefully, looking up at Clark, who had just located her coat, thrown on his bed.

"Let's go, Lois," Clark ordered sternly. "Tomorrow's a big day." He helped her get into her coat as they walked towards the door.


Clark woke early the next morning but just remained in bed thinking about Lois and their plans for the day until he heard a knock at the door. Jumping out of bed and throwing on jeans and a tee-shirt at super-speed, he bounded up the stairs to the apartment door.

"Good morning, Clark," said Lois with a smile. She looked very professional and conservative, wearing a black pinstriped skirt and jacket, with her hair neatly coifed. "I brought you coffee for a change," she added as she held out a steaming travel mug for him to grasp. The smell of coffee was quite strong in the air.

"Thanks." Clark accepted the mug gratefully, as he started to sip the contents of it with gusto. "I really needed this. Did you bring everything we need?"

"Of course," Lois scoffed. "When have I ever let you — or Superman — down?"

"Never," he answered with a soft smile and a shake of his head. "What time is it?"

"Around eight," Lois replied, barely glancing at her watch. "We have about an hour."

"Then give me a minute to finish dressing, and we can head over to the Planet."

"You may have exactly one minute," Lois decreed, using a more solemn tone. "This situation is wearing on me, and I want to get it over with."

Clark didn't say anything, but he set the coffee down on a nearby table and leaned over, kissing Lois on the cheek. She smiled happily and turned her head, kissing him back on the lips. She opened her mouth immediately and forced Clark to do the same.

Lois wrapped both her arms around him and slipped her hands up inside the back of his tee-shirt. She started caressing his back, slowly, moving her hands up and down the expanse of his back. His skin was so warm. Almost instantly, Clark felt his body start to respond to Lois' actions, and he ran his hands down her arms and over her hips, pulling her closer to him. His lips and his back were burning from Lois' touch, and Clark felt a wave of desire surge through him which almost made him weak in the knees.

It threatened to block out every reservation he had against pre-marital sex, not to mention causing him to forget the morning's purpose. All he wanted to do, all his body was screaming for him to do, was to put Lois down on her back and make love with her. He was painfully aware that his bed was only a few steps away. He could easily carry her over there and let the world go by, wrapped up in its own problems, while he ignored their current difficulty in order to spend time with this special person he had found.

Lois stopped kissing him for a moment, in order to catch her breath, and Clark said, "We really shouldn't be doing this; not right now, anyway. I'm liable to forget myself, and we do have something important to do this morning."

She grinned wickedly. "I'm counting on you to forget yourself, someday very soon." Then she nodded. "But you're right, we need to get going."

Lois then became quite serious and said, "I do want you to know something, Clark, before we leave. No matter what happens today, whether it goes well or not, if the world learns that you are Superman or if it doesn't, it won't change how I feel about you. I love you and intend to marry you. The opinions or beliefs of the world around me — father or no father — aren't going to impact my decision to spend the rest of my life with you. I want you to know that. Whatever you lose today, if this doesn't work, you aren't going to lose me. You aren't going to ever lose me."

Clark grinned, "Even if we have to move to the Arctic Circle?"

Lois playfully slapped him on the arm, "Yes, you lunkhead!"

Clark's eyes were bright as he looked down at the woman in his embrace. "Having you in my life is the most important thing. I've waited my whole life for you."

Lois smiled, somewhat sadly. "I was waiting my whole life for you, too. I just didn't know it, and I took some very wrong roads along the way."

"That's ancient history, Lois".

"I guess so," Lois said, taking a deep breath. "Hey, look at the time!" she exclaimed, looking at her watch closely for the first time since entering Clark's apartment that morning. "Go get dressed!"

Clark nodded, and let his hands drop from Lois' sides. He reluctantly pulled away from her and jogged towards his bedroom.

Lois started to turn back towards the door, planning to pace while she waited for him to get dressed, but by the time she had turned for her very first circuit around the room, Clark was back. He looked great, wearing a navy blue suit with a burgundy shirt. His tie picked up both those colors in an abstract design, with gold as an accent.

Lois almost gave him a kiss but stopped just in time, remembering how carried away they had just been. She decided to wait until they got back from the Planet.

"Let's go, Clark, if you're ready," Lois prompted.

"Yes, here goes nothing," he answered, as they walked together towards the door.

Clark and Lois walked into the newsroom at the Daily Planet at exactly 8:55 am, five minutes before the deadline Dr. Lane had set for Clark yesterday. The place was fairly deserted, but there were a few people working. Many of the employees were still on their Christmas holiday. Naturally, despite the holiday, Perry and Jimmy were there. They found Sam already there waiting for them at Clark's desk. He was standing towards the front of the desk and staring down at Clark's framed picture of his parents.

When the two reporters had walked up to him and stood right next to him, Sam looked sideways at Clark and said, "Are your parents from Krypton, too?"

Clark frowned and Lois giggled, not a happy giggle but a nervous one. But it did seem like a silly question to her; never in her life had she met two people who seemed more human to her that Jonathan and Martha.

Clark, properly, ignored the question. "Thank you for meeting us here, Dr. Lane. We appreciate it."

"Yes," Lois chimed in with their first falsehood. "Clark and I had to work today." Of course, they didn't. They were both scheduled to be off, but they both felt the potential for the success of their plan was greatly increased by executing it at the Planet. They hoped it would make Dr. Lane less suspicious. Clark noticed that Lois hadn't greeted her father and was even now avoiding calling her him, 'Dad', 'Daddy' or even 'Father'.

"Well," said Dr. Lane, "it was no problem. I assume that you decided to go quietly, Kent? Into the night, wherever you came from, as long as it's away from my daughter?"

Clark drew in his breath as if to answer him, but, before he could say anything, Lois broke in with her pre- arranged excuse.

"Could you two excuse me for a moment before we get started? I need to use the little girls' room."

Both Clark and Sam nodded, and Lois dashed off in the direction of the mailroom. That wasn't where the restrooms were located, but Lois was pretty sure that Sam didn't know that. There were advantages to him having been out of her life for 17 years; he had never visited the Daily Planet building, never talked to her about her work, and didn't really know much about the operations of the Daily Planet or its physical layout.

As every major newspaper in the US does, the Daily Planet keeps an eye on its competition. One form its competition takes is the visual media, the TV news. Therefore, there were screens set up all over the newsroom capturing all the news being broadcast by each of the major network and news channels. The mailroom happened to be where all the myriad of TV cables came into the building and delivered their feed to those TV screens in the newsroom.

Thanks to an earlier stop by Lois on her way to Clark's desk, all the screens had gone to static and stayed that way. Jimmy was in the mailroom now attempting to get them working again before Perry lost his temper again.

Lois had to move fast because she hadn't disabled them in a very intricate way, and it would probably take Jimmy only a few minutes to get everything working again. Fortunately, he was in there alone.

Lois rushed into the mailroom, not needing to fake the anxiety evident in her manner, hoping Jimmy would buy her line. "Jimmy, what are you doing?" she asked in an agitated voice.

"Trying to fix these cables and get the Chief off my back," he answered, none too graciously. "What does it look like?" Jimmy had had to work Christmas and yesterday, and was still looking for his first day off for the holiday season. He was not in a good mood.

"Well, I'll do that for you. Didn't you hear Clark calling for you a moment ago?" She lied again not blinking a eyelash.

"No, I didn't. I'll go see what he wants. But do you know how to fix these lines?" he questioned doubtfully.

"Of course I do," she assured him, loading her voice with false sincerity. "Don't forget I was an anchor at LNN for almost one full day."

Jimmy grinned. "I'll be right back in case it's too much for you." He sauntered off in the general direction of Clark's desk.

Lois' mind was racing, and she tried to get a grip on her emotions. She grabbed a video tape off the top of the stack of loose papers in her mail slot where she had placed it a few moments earlier. She thrust it into the VCR permanently mounted in the mailroom and fixed a small part of the damage she had previously caused.

A video of Superman rescuing a bus of tourists in a remote, isolated part of southern Mexico abruptly started showing on some scattered TV screens out in the newsroom, and a commentator began speaking in rapid Spanish.

Glancing out into the newsroom, Lois could see Jimmy talking to Clark, and then Clark's attention was apparently captured by the video as it began broadcasting on roughly one quarter of the TV screens.

As she and Clark had hoped, Jimmy immediately stopped talking and went over to watch the screens more closely. He attracted the attention of several of the other staffers, and soon a small knot of people was gathered around the screen Jimmy was watching. Clark walked over there, too, followed by Dr. Lane.

Jimmy was quite excited and animated, pointing out every move Superman made as if no one could appreciate exactly how wonderful the Man of Steel was except him, and they needed his blow by blow commentary to get the full impact of what was happening. Lois smiled and rapidly walked out to the newsroom to stand with Clark.

Her father's eyes were big, and he kept looking at the video, and then Clark, and then back at the video, and then… Clark looked down at Lois, and merely said, "Back already?"

"Yes, Clark," she said, forcing a big smile, conscious of the fact that her father was watching their every move. "I'm watching my second favorite guy do what he does best." Dr. Lane turned his head sharply at that exchange, then looked back towards the screen, but he said nothing.

Clark strode off also heading for the mailroom. He remembered that rescue, two weeks ago, as he hurried along. It had been the same time of day as it was right now, about nine in the morning for that time zone. It was a Sunday morning, and the last thing Clark had intended to do that morning was rescue a bunch of tourists from certain death as their bus toppled over the side of a mountain. He had been very glad he happened to be there, however.

He had awakened early that morning after being up late the previous night with Lois. He loved the early mornings, especially sunny ones as that day had been. It was wintertime in Metropolis and sometimes there were several days in a row with no sunshine so that made this day even more special to him. The sun helped rejuvenate his powers, as well as his mental and spiritual outlook on life. He had hopped out of bed the moment he saw the sunlight and his first thought was to go fetch Lois and spend the day with her, doing whatever she wanted to do.

Once he looked at a clock, he altered his plans somewhat. Lois was not a morning person on her best day, and after having been up until the wee hours of the morning the night before, nine o'clock was too early to disturb her. He wanted to spend time with someone, though. He was in too good of a mood to sit around his apartment waiting until a safe hour to call Lois.

Understandably, because he was so emotionally close to them, his first idea was to fly to Smallville and spend a few hours with his parents. He dismissed that idea when he looked at the clock again, however, because his parents would be leaving for church right now. He wouldn't get there in time to go with them, and he didn't feel like hanging around the house waiting for them to get home.

He thought about Perry and Jimmy, but ever since his separation from Alice, Perry was at the Planet seven days a week. Clark was sure Perry would be there right now, if he went down there. But as much as he liked his job, he didn't feel like going to work, even for a few hours, so visiting Perry was out. Clark was good friends with Jimmy, as close to him as he allowed himself to be with anyone who didn't know his secret identity, but Clark didn't want to disturb Jimmy this early, either. Also, if he recalled correctly, Jimmy had spoken about having female companionship this weekend, and Clark really didn't want to interrupt him if that were the case.

It looked like Clark would be left to his own devices until Lois woke up so he decided to go flying for a while.

Spinning into the suit and heading out the window, Clark had no particular destination in mind, but he loved being outside, flying and absorbing as much sunlight as he could. He had felt good when he woke up earlier, but now he began to feel great. He flew in a southerly direction because that was the direction the wind was blowing, and he decided to coast along with the air currents.

He hadn't crossed over the Rio Grande and entered Mexico very long ago when he heard the screams. It was easy to pinpoint their location and fly closer to the land, to see the bus begin to slip off the side of the mountain, and to swoop down and swiftly prevent it from doing that. The whole incident took less than two minutes. Once he had the bus back up on the road, Clark started evacuating some of the passengers through the back door of the bus while the rest scrambled out the front door on the side. Everyone was extremely grateful, and dozens of the rescued passengers thronged around him, most of whom only spoke Spanish.

It seemed as if everyone was talking at once, and Clark was hard pressed to extricate himself from the cluster of people without levitating up and flying away. Eventually, he managed to make a graceful exit after talking to some of the people whose lives he had saved. Of course, Spanish was one of the languages he was perfectly fluent in, and once he had reassured everyone that everything was fine, the situation was quite calm. When the local authorities arrived, Clark had flown back to Metropolis. There had been several dozen people on that bus, and Clark was really pleased he had been there.

At work the next day, Clark had been surprised that the Planet had not picked up on the story, but he didn't need the publicity, so he just passed over the omission. Eventually, as the day wore on, he realized that no Stateside media had covered the story so as far as the citizens of Metropolis were concerned, the rescue had never happened.

Once Clark perceived that the story was not going to be reported in the States, he contacted an former acquaintance of his in Mexico City and asked him for a summary of the Mexican coverage. That fellow had dug up this tape and sent it to Clark. Clark had intended to show the coverage to his parents and make a point about being in the right place at the right time without intending to be, but he had never gotten around to it. It was too much like blowing his own horn, and Clark was never one for that. So the video had sat in his bookcase at home until last night.

Clark burst into the mailroom and forced his mind back to the present situation. The tape only had a few more moments to run. He undid Lois' temporary fix and returned all the screens to snow. He yanked the tape out of the VCR, and looked around wildly for a place to store it until he got rid of Dr. Lane. He looked at his mail slot, but it was clean and empty. He always checked it several times a day and, in fact, had dropped by the Planet on his way back from the airport yesterday to check his interoffice mail and his e-mail.

Lois' mail slot, however, was almost always overflowing. Rapidly, he lifted up a stack of papers and jammed the tape in the center of all the papers. No one could see it unless he or she emptied out Lois' entire box, and no one was likely to do that if they valued his or her life. Lois did not take kindly to people bothering her stuff.

Now that the tape was safely hidden, Clark quickly repaired everything Lois had done to disable the TV feeds except for the one set of screens that had had the Superman video on them. It wouldn't do for that channel to come up too rapidly with some entirely unrelated topic.

No other station was likely to talk about that bus accident because it had happened a full two weeks ago; very old news in the news business. He could hear Perry in the distance, telling Lois to get a story on the rescue written in time for the early evening edition. That was great and was precisely what Clark and Lois had hoped Perry would do.

Assigning a reporter to the story gave it credibility and further reinforced the appearance that Superman was down in Mexico uprighting buses while Clark was up here in Metropolis working with Lois. Perry usually gave the Superman stories to Lois or Clark to do and, thankfully, he had done so again. Now, rather than being forced to try to hoodwink another Planet reporter, they could try to write a story that wasn't too inaccurate. They would try to make it enough of a yawner for Perry to bury it deep in Section C or D of the paper if he didn't cut it altogether.

Clark's super-hearing warned him that Jimmy was heading back to the mailroom so he corrected the rest of Lois' malfunction and slipped out the door and took a circuitous route back to Lois and her father. He walked up to them just in time to hear Sam apologizing to Lois and reassuring her that he only had her best interests at heart.

Lois was using her best professional tone with Sam. She sounded exactly like she did when a boring interview was over, and she couldn't wait to get rid of the interviewee so she could write the story and then get on to something more exciting. Clark noticed she still wasn't calling him anything that denoted the family tie between them. She was polite but rather cold and remote.

To Clark, however, Sam seemed as if he couldn't sense that anything was wrong. He was back to his jovial self, sorry that he had upset her but serenely believing that she would understand that he had done it only with her best interests at heart. He seemed to imply that he, and only he, was able to determine just what those best interests were.

At first, Clark couldn't imagine why Lois was being so restrained with her reaction. It wasn't like her at all; he had expected her to bite her dad's head off and tell him in no uncertain terms where to go.

Gradually, as the conversation progressed, Clark realized that Lois was being so calm because she just didn't care anymore. She didn't really care anymore about her father, or what he thought, or did, or said. She was merely filling the air between them with words, to respond appropriately to what he was saying, but offering no real part of herself to him.

Lois was beyond ever being angry with her father again, Clark thought to himself. She has been hurt by him for the last time. Her attitude was chilling, and Clark found himself hoping he never crossed her like Sam had.

Clark's reveries were cut off when he noticed Sam moving towards him. "Clark, I can't tell you how sorry I am," he was saying, with his hand outstretched to shake Clark's. "Someday, when you have a daughter you'll know how I feel."

Clark neatly avoided shaking Dr. Lane's hand by walking over to Lois and putting his arm around her shoulder. His skin was warmer, and his pulse-rate and respiration were faster than a human's were, and he didn't want any physical contact between himself and Dr. Lane to remind the physician of Superman. He usually tried to avoid touching anyone except his parents and Lois when he wasn't wearing the suit, so that no one noticed how warm Clark's skin was. It didn't matter how warm Superman's skin was; no one had any doubts that Superman was an alien. That was all right, but he wanted Clark to be considered 100% human.

"I'm sure we will," he answered Sam, forcing himself to smile.

Lois moved out from under Clark's arm. "We have a lot to do -you heard our editor gave me an assignment just a moment ago — so if you don't mind … ?"

Sam took the hint in good grace. "OK, princess, I'll run along. But I'll call you; we'll get together again, soon, OK? And I'm sorry again for everything I said. Can't wait to give you away on your big day!"

Lois smiled a small smile and sat down at her desk. Clark did likewise at his as Sam stepped jauntily to the elevator. "So long, now!"


Around eight o'clock that night, Lois stepped wearily up to Clark's apartment door and let herself in with the key Clark had given her ages ago before she had even begun to suspect that he might be Superman. That seemed so very long ago to her now. This entire Christmas holiday time had gone on too long for her taste. She couldn't wait until her mother ended her visit and left her apartment and for her father to become absorbed in his work again and forget anew that he had daughters. Clark's apartment was dark, quiet and empty but still a haven for her.

The two reporters had decided to go ahead and work the whole day since they were in the office already, and had missed a couple of days due to the holiday. They had managed to complete a completely undistinguished story about Superman's Mexican rescue, and, as they had hoped, Perry didn't even include it in the edition that had hit the streets a few hours ago.

They had so much to talk about but couldn't say anything in the newsroom especially with Perry and Jimmy hanging around their desks all day. It had been a very slow news day, and Clark still had not heard any calls for help since before he got sick. Lois could only hope their wedding day would be equally quiet.

The couple had left work around six that night, and Lois had driven home to her apartment by herself. It had become their daily habit for Clark to spend the early evening with her each night so usually they drove to her apartment together, but tonight Clark had wanted to see his parents and tell them about everything that had happened with Dr. Lane that day. He hadn't wanted to merely telephone them; he wanted to fill them in on all the details in person. He flew home directly from work, and even took the video with him for them to store for safekeeping. Apparently he was not back yet.

Lois sighed. She was so looking forward to seeing Clark — alone — and just having him hold her for a while. Work could be so difficult in some ways. She loved working with Clark and had no intention of losing her partner at work just because she was getting the same person as her husband in her personal life. However, there were days like today that were trying. When the work was slow, and she had a lot going on in her life, not being able to be close to Clark, especially when he was only a few steps away, was very arduous.

Lois had gone home after work and stayed only long enough to feed her fish, eat, shower, and change into a casual outfit of navy blue leggings and a white oversized sweater. She also spent some less-than-quality time with her mother, attempting to avoid answering her questions about what Lois had done that day, what she was going to do that evening, and what she had planned to do for tomorrow. She gave extremely evasive answers as she was going out the door. She knew her mother would pout, but she would get over it. Lois just was too tired to deal with her politely right now.

"I wouldn't have thought Clark would stay so long in Smallville," she mused to herself. "Maybe I should call him." She rejected that idea immediately; she didn't want to be a clinging vine. "He probably came across something he needed to handle on his way home," she concluded.

Stepping into the apartment and closing and locking the door behind her, she carefully walked down the stairs using the moonlight that shone through the many windows for illumination. It was a fine winter evening, cold but not so cold that you couldn't bear to spend a moment outside. Once she reached the living area, she turned on a small lamp on a side table for some light.

The light from the lamp shone down on a rectangular gift-wrapped present sitting on the table. Lois was startled. She hadn't seen any presents in the apartment earlier, but then she realized that she had not come all the way into the apartment that morning. In any case, this table was along one of the walls of the apartment, and even if she had stepped completely into the apartment this morning, she still might not have seen it.

The wrapping featured a Christmas motif, and it was simply beautiful. Golden angels danced, played musical instruments, and flew about on a silver background. The ribbon was white with tiny blue bells. The card … Lois opened her eyes wide in astonishment. The card was made out to her, from the Kents, all three of them.

Lois was determined to open it, at once, Clark or no Clark. They had gotten her a Christmas present, but Christmas was the day before yesterday, and by rights, she should have already gotten to open all her presents by now. Where had this one been hiding?

Lois reached for the gift, but as she did, a familiar whooshing sound suffused the small apartment, and Superman came to a stop next to her by the table. A chilly breeze blew in from the window he had left open.

"Go close that thing, Clark," she demanded, and he hastened to comply. When he returned to her side after completing the small task, he was dressed in jeans and a long sleeve black flannel shirt. He had left it untucked, and he was straightening his glasses.

"I see you found your Christmas present, Lois," he teased her. "Nothing wrong with your investigative skills."

"Stop kidding around with me, and tell me how OUR parents are," she commanded.

"They are just fine, and quite relieved, and send all their love. Mom said to forgive and forget." Clark looked down at Lois, unsure of how she would take that last statement.

Lois ignored it. "Why in the world didn't you give this to me Christmas day?"

"Because it wasn't quite ready," he answered patiently. "But it is now, and we'd love for you to open it right now. Mom and Dad are sorry they couldn't be here to see you unwrap it."

Lois hated to unwrap it, the paper was so pretty, so she settled for dashing into Clark's kitchen and getting a small kitchen knife. Carrying the present over to his couch, she sat down and carefully slit all the places where the tape secured the paper together. "Who wrapped this?" she asked Clark who had sat down quite close to her on the sofa.

"Mom did," he said with a grin. "Isn't it gorgeous? I hope you like the present as much as the wrapping."

Lois laughed, finding herself so much more relaxed than she had been when she first let herself into the apartment. It was just amazing the effect Clark had on her — what a good effect. She felt that she was perhaps getting too dependent on him (she couldn't imagine life without him), but she didn't dwell on that too much. All she knew was that she had never, ever been this happy in her life. She had meant it when she said she'd stay with him no matter what. "But aren't you glad we don't have to move to the Arctic Circle, Clark?"

Clark grinned. "Yes, and aren't you glad I can always figure out what you are talking about? Now open the present, already!"

Lois hastily slipped the box out from the wrapping and lifted its lid. Staring up at her from the shallow rectangular box was an 8" x 10" color photo of Clark as a teenager in a teakwood and silver frame. He was dressed in his high school graduation gown, but was holding his cap in his hand with the tassel and the gold "84" draped over his fingers. His gown was decorated with the National Honor Society ribbon and gold tassels denoting him as the salutatorian of his class. The whole effect was rather dark because Clark was dark haired and dark eyed, and his robe was also a deep hue, but the silver in the frame helped lighten up the picture a great deal.

Truly overwhelmed, Lois didn't know what to say. "Clark," she whispered. "It's wonderful."

Clark let out the breath he had been holding. "Do you like it?" he said doubtfully. "It was Mom's idea."

"Like it?" she asked incredulously. "I love it. It is the most thoughtful gift anyone has ever given to me." She lifted up the picture and studied it closely. "I am so in love with you that a picture of you taken before I knew you makes me feel a little more a part of your past. It is such a perfect gift. Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

"Well, like I said, I can't take too much credit. I smiled for the camera back then, but it was Mom's idea that you might like a picture of me in high school. When she was at your apartment a few months ago, she noticed that you had a couple of pictures of me taken since I've been in Metropolis, but none from Smallville. I'm so glad you like it."

"This has been the best Christmas I have ever had because its the first Christmas I've had you." Lois declared.

Clark smiled and kissed her on the cheek. "You've always had me, Lois, since the first day I laid eyes on you. We just had a lot of ground to cover to get to this point, where you could figure out my secret and I could trust you with it, and I could win your heart and you could trust me not to hurt you." Lois smiled at him and slipped her right hand into his left. She was clutching her picture tightly with her other arm.

"I forgot to tell you, but Mom and Dad wanted you and me to come home this weekend. They said they know they just saw you, but now that you're a daughter, you have to get to the farm more often," Clark said.

Lois smiled and simply said, "I'm there, farmboy. Just let me know your flight time."

But in her heart, she was gradually realizing that she was truly loved just for herself for the first time in her life — for her soul as it were. Clark didn't love her (merely) for her looks, nor for her brains or her writing ability, and certainly not for her efforts to shore up her parents' failing marriage or keep them on civil terms, but he loved her just for her. Clark loved plain old Lois Lane, and that suited her perfectly.

"Hey, can I stay here tonight if I promise to stay on the couch and leave you alone in your bed?" Lois asked.

Clark grinned. "That doesn't sound like very much fun, but I know what you mean. Why don't you want to go back to your apartment?"

"Oh, you-know-who is there, and I just can't deal with her tonight. Plus, I want to be with you. I can't seem to get enough of you these days, and there are parts of you I can't get at all."

"Now Lois, just a few weeks ago you said you were glad we were waiting," Clark remonstrated her. "And how much longer are you going to insist on avoiding calling your parents 'Mom and Dad'?"

"Just until they leave and never come back which, if past behavior is any indication, won't be very much longer."

"Well, that situation is entirely your business; I won't interfere. I'm happy to share my parents with you. My dad, for one, is thrilled to have a daughter! And I certainly don't mind if you stay here tonight as long as you help me be good," Clark said.

"Oh, I'm sure you'll be good, Clark. I'm counting on it!" Lois smiled seductively and starting kissing his cheek.

"Pick out a video to watch or a board game to play, Lois. I'll get the wine, and a quilt for us to wrap up in; it's cold in here." Clark stood up and looked down at her, grinning broadly. "And please don't make this too hard for me. A little more of this topic and you're going to get more of me than you bargained for."

Lois smiled back. "Sorry! I'll pick out something with Mel Gibson in it. Maybe he will take my mind off 'that topic'. Then again, maybe he won't." She stood up also, wrapped her arms around Clark, and kissed him full on the lips opening her mouth only slightly. "I love you, Clark," she said, pulling away from him just far enough to look up into his eyes. "Thanks for the picture, and I'll try to keep myself under control for a few more weeks. But after the wedding, watch out!"

Clark nodded, agreeing with her completely, "I can't wait."