Playing by Heart

By AnnieM <>

Rated: PG-13

Submitted: December 2003

Summary: This fourth and final story in the "Playing" series is full of love and holiday cheer as Lois and Clark visit Smallville for Christmas.



Lois rolled her eyes as the eager note in Clark's voice as he perched himself on the side of her desk.

"Give me one more minute. I just need to finish tweaking this paragraph."

Clark continued to fidget as she typed until she stopped and looked at him. "Clark, really. It's not like we're going to miss our flight."

Lois couldn't help but smile at Clark's excitement, even though she wished he wouldn't hover over her while she was trying to edit her story. They had been lucky to get five days off in a row, starting with Christmas Day, agreeing to work Christmas Eve in exchange. They were leaving for Smallville to start their vacation as soon as she finished her story, and Lois could see that Clark was getting more and more anxious to get home as the afternoon wore on. He was like a kid on Christmas, she thought, grimacing at her own pun.

He'd been talking for weeks about how much fun they would have there and all the things he would show her. They'd been to Smallville together before — for Thanksgiving — right after they'd become a couple. But that had been just for a day. They'd never had a long period together there before. And now that were more settled in their relationship, it seemed a little different.

Lois struck a final key, sending the story on to be edited, and stood. "All right, let's hit the road."

Clark grabbed her coat and helped her slide her arms into it. "Are you sure you won't need anything else?" he asked, as they headed for the stairwell. He had taken their bags out during a slow spot earlier in the day. Lois had laughed at his eagerness, but secretly she thought it was sweet that he was in such a hurry to go home and see his parents. It must be nice to have a relationship like that.

Just as Clark reached for the door, Lois stopped him and informed him that she needed to make a trip to the restroom before they left. Clark rolled his eyes at the further delay and waited at the door while she dashed back.

Lois hurried as fast as she could, eager now to get on the way, and hustled out of the restroom, running headlong into Mariel Turner.

"Oh! Sorry, I didn't see you there."

"In a hurry, Lois?"

"Yep," she replied, no longer scared of the gossip maven. "I'm headed home with Clark. We're spending Christmas with his parents in Smallville."

"That's nice," she replied, obviously uninterested.

Lois said goodbye and hurried to Clark's side, smiling at the gossip columnist's disinterest. There was nothing more boring than a couple in love, she thought. When they'd first started dating, she and Clark had been the talk of the newsroom. Everyone had wanted to know when they had started dating, how serious it was, and how long it was going to last. But after a week or so, when people began to realize that there was no drama — that they were just a couple in love — the gossip began to die down. And the longer they stayed together, the less people seemed to care. Soon other scandals had stepped up to take their place, and everyone had all but forgotten how obsessed they'd once been with the personal lives of Lois Lane and Clark Kent. Occasionally Lois would still hear people commenting on her and Clark, but mostly they were jealous, wistful comments. And she had to admit, she didn't mind flaunting their relationship every now and then.

"Okay, Farmboy. Let's get out of here."

They reached the roof quickly and Clark spun into the suit and then made sure Lois was properly bundled before cradling her in his arms. She snuggled against him, enjoying the thrill she always got from flying with him, and prepared for take off.

As they rose over the city and headed out past the suburbs, she let her mind wander. She was looking forward to their time in Smallville, but she'd be lying if she didn't admit that she was nervous too. It wasn't Martha and Jonathan, who'd never made her feel anything less than welcome. It was just the idea of a family Christmas making her nervous, she supposed. Christmas had never been a pleasant time of the year for her. As a child, she had been witness to her parents' incessant fighting and their ploys to beat each other with bigger and better gifts. It had never occurred to either of them that what she and Lucy really wanted couldn't be bought in a store. Once she was out of the house and on her own, Christmas was a lonely time that only served to emphasize what was missing from her life. And though Lois had told herself a million times that she didn't care, it still hurt to watch happy families during the holidays and know that she would spend the evening alone in her apartment watching television or at the paper working.

But this year it would be completely different. She'd be surrounded by a family that loved each other; she'd be a part of Christmas traditions that stretched back years and years. She was a little nervous about staying with Clark's family for so long, but they'd always done everything in their power to make her feel welcome and at home.

She'd been terrified to come for Thanksgiving. They'd only been dating for a couple of weeks, and she'd insisted that she didn't want to intrude on a family holiday. But Clark had insisted, and she'd been so glad in the end that she'd accepted his invitation. The food had been wonderful, and Martha had loaded them down with leftovers. But the best part had been the company. After spending her childhood Thanksgivings refereeing fights and monitoring her mother's intake of wine, she'd been glad to ignore the holiday as an adult. But Thanksgiving in Smallville had been wonderful. She'd helped Martha in the kitchen while the men had done the chores, and then they'd sat together at the table, lingering for hours. They talked about everything under the sun and Lois couldn't remember a time she'd felt so comfortable.

"You warm enough?" Clark's soft voice cut into her memories.

"Yeah, I'm fine," she said, snuggling into him embrace.

"You're awfully quiet. Are you nervous?"

Lois hesitated. "A little."

"My parents love you, Lois. You're lucky I'm not the jealous type because sometimes I think they like you better than they like me. Every time my mother calls, you are the first thing she asks about."

Lois smiled. "I love them, too," she said.

"What about me? Do you love me?" he asked teasingly.

"You know I do," she whispered, raising her lips to him. He dipped his head to hers and kissed her gently. Lois melted further against him, savoring his taste. Her hand dropped from his neck to caress his hard muscles through the thin spandex. The familiar thrill that she always got from touching him began to overwhelm her as the kiss deepened. She shifted in his arms, pressing herself to him more firmly and freeing one hand to explore under his cape.

"We have to keep moving if we're going to make it in time for dinner," Clark said as he pulled away, regret in his eyes. "Come on, let me give you an early Christmas present," Lois whispered seductively, outlining exactly what she had in mind, her lips brushing the sensitive skin of his ear.

Clark groaned and she could feel him tensing in anticipation. She smiled and sucked his earlobe into her mouth for just a second before letting it go and beginning to layer open-mouthed kisses down his neck.

"Honey… Oh, Lois… Honey, we can't."

"We have time. We won't be that late."

Clark chuckled. "I'm just not sure this is such a good idea."

Lois pulled back and looked him skeptically, eyebrows raised. He laughed then kissed her quickly on the mouth before continuing. "It sounds like a wonderful idea, trust me. But I'm a little worried about the logistics of it. I have to concentrate in order to maintain a consistent altitude. And if you are doing that…there is no way I'll be able to concentrate."

"Don't you want to try?" she whispered, beginning to her assault again. She kissed along his jaw line, thrilling at each sigh and moan. "I know you won't let us fall. You float us all the time."

"That's different. That's just moving quickly from the floor to the couch or something. If I drop you six inches onto the couch, it's not exactly going to traumatize you."

Her tongue darted out, tasting his skin. "You're not going to drop me, Clark. You've never, ever dropped me. Besides, it's risky, that's part of the fun. Don't even try to tell me you've never fantasized about this."

Clark groaned and dropped his head to the side, giving her mouth more room to explore. After another moment he unbuttoned her coat and began to tease her through the soft material of her sweater. "We'll never make it to Smallville by six. What will we tell my parents?"

"We could tell them that we were unavoidably detained," Lois said hopefully. "At the paper."

Clark nuzzled against her hair laughed. "They'd see right through that. But if you don't mind explaining to my parents that we were late for dinner because we wanted to create our own version of the mile high club…"

"Fine," Lois said forcing a note of disinterest into her voice. "We'll just finish this later tonight."

"Yes, later," Clark started to agree before he realized what she'd said. "Tonight? In my parents' house? With them right down the hall? Lois, I'm not even sure they're going to let us share a room, let alone…"

Lois raised an eyebrow. "So what you're telling me is that we might not be able to make love for nearly a week."

One look at the horrified expression on Clark's face told her she'd hit her mark. She let that sink in while she resumed her ministrations, nipping at his earlobe and gently massaging the firm muscles of his chest. After only another second she heard Clark groan and felt his grip shift until his hands gripped her waist. Then, in one fluid movement, he flipped onto his back and guided her to lie on top of him.

She raised her gaze to meet his and laughed at the abashed look on his face.

"You win."

Lois laughed and wriggled against him, eliciting another groan. "Trust me," she said, leaning forward to kiss the hollow of his throat, just above the collar of his spandex suit, "if this goes as planned, we'll both win."


"Ready?" Clark asked, an immeasurable time later as he scooped her back into the familiar carrying position. "We are going to be so late. We're never going to be able to explain this." She reached up and kissed him lightly on the lips. When she pulled back, his eyes were intense, wiping out any concern about his parents. "I love you," he said finally. "I love you so much."

"I love you, too," she said, stroking his cheek.

He held her gaze for just a second longer, then broke it, focusing on the path in front of them as he sped up, racing toward Smallville. Lois enjoyed the rest of the ride, watching the landscape beneath them change and cuddling with her boyfriend. Her boyfriend. Even after six weeks, she wasn't sick of saying — or thinking — those words. In some ways it was hard to believe it had been that long already. It seemed like just yesterday they were stuck at a conference in Washington, D.C., pretending to be a couple. But, on the other hand, she felt like they'd been together much longer than that. She could hardly remember now what life had been like before him. Her days and nights were so much fuller with him in them. The empty shell of a life she'd been living before he'd wormed his way in now seemed like nothing more than a bad dream.

After they'd returned from Washington, things hadn't been entirely without problem. She cringed as she remembered her thwarted attempt to break up with Clark "for their own good." Luckily for her, he'd seen through her charade and known that she was just freaking out. Confronted with the reality of what it would be like to lose him and his insistence that he would never grow tired of her, her protests had crumbled.

Thank God. She shuddered thinking about what her life might be like had Clark simply let her walk away.

"You okay?" Clark asked, misinterpreting the reason for her trembling and warming her quickly with his heat vision. "We're almost there."

"I'm fine," she replied. Fine. She was much more than fine, she thought with a smile. She was happier than she ever could have imagined. Since that night that they'd yelled and cried, fighting for their future, and then made love through the night and into the morning, nothing had ever been the same. After that, she'd opened herself up to him in ways that she hadn't before — even after she'd told him she was in love with him. It was as if he'd broken through her final defenses.

The road since then hadn't been totally smooth, but Clark had lived up to his promise. No matter what they fought about, he didn't walk away. He stayed, and they worked it out.

In the distance Lois saw farms approaching, and she felt Clark begin to slow down. Before she knew it, they were landing on the back porch of the old farmhouse. The backdoor swung open before she was even completely out of Clark's arms and within seconds, she was enveloped in Martha's embrace.

"Oh, I'm so glad you're finally here!" Martha said when she finally pulled back. "We've been going stir crazy all day waiting, haven't we Jonathan?" She didn't bother to wait for Jonathan's response before tugging Lois toward the door. "Come on in. I've already put your things up in Clark's room."

"Gee, Mom. It's good to see you too." Clark's greeting, tinged with irony, interrupted Martha's flow of chatter.

"Oh, Clark," she said, giving him a quick hug. "You know I'm glad to see you too. But we see you all the time. You were just here earlier today. I haven't seen Lois in weeks. You never bring her with you," she admonished.

"I've told you million times, I can't bring Lois when I can only have a few minutes to spare. I have to fly much slower when I have her with me." Clark rolled his eyes and smiled at his girlfriend, making it clear that he was only joking about being hurt by his mother's reaction. Deep down she knew he was thrilled.

"Yes, yes. That's what you tell me. You'll just have to find more time to fly out slowly then." With that she ushered Lois through the door, chattering about showing her the decorations she put up, leaving the men out in the cold.

"It's beautiful," Lois said, taking in the quaint living room, trimmed with greenery and red ribbons. A tall tree stood in the corner, draped with white lights but devoid of ornaments. "Where are the ornaments for the tree?"

Martha nodded in the direction of two large boxes sitting next to the fireplace. "We thought you and Clark would want to help with that, so we saved it for last."

"Oh! That'll be such fun," Lois said, suddenly very excited at the prospect. She couldn't remember the last time she'd decorated a tree.

Just then Clark made his way into the living room. "Is dinner almost ready? It smells great."

"It's been ready," Martha said, her voice tinged with amusement. "We were just keeping it warm for you."

"Sorry, the flight took longer than expected," Clark said as Lois simultaneously responded, "We got held up at the office."

Martha raised an eyebrow, but didn't press for an explanation. Instead, she smiled as she ducked out of the room, leaving them alone.

"Well, that went well," Clark said, rolling his eyes.

"She doesn't seem mad…"

Clark snorted. "I'm not worried about her being mad. I'm more worried about her pressing for details at dinner."

Lois laughed in spite of herself and slipped her hand into his.

"Oh, good," Clark said, taking in the tree. "Mom left the tree undecorated. We can do that after dinner.

"Yeah, she said she thought we'd like to help."

"Decorating the tree was always one of my favorite parts of Christmas so after I moved out, my mom started waiting for me to come home to do it."

"That's really sweet."

"Yeah, it's a nice tradition." They stood quietly, looking at the tree for a minute before the quiet moment was interrupted by Martha's announcement that dinner was being served. Clark led Lois back into the kitchen where wonderful smells were wafting out of the oven. Martha moved everything to the table and within minutes they were eating a delicious meal. They lingered over the food, chatting about the stories they'd been covering in Metropolis and the latest Smallville gossip. Finally Lois thought she couldn't eat another bite.

"I'm going to gain ten pounds this week," Lois said as she finished her second helping of mashed potatoes. "And you know what? I don't think I care. I'll just go the gym extra when I get back. It's worth it."

Martha laughed and stood to begin clearing the plates.

"I'll help," Lois said, rising.

"Nonsense. Jonathan will help me. You and Clark go get started on the tree, we'll be there in a minute."

"Really, I don't mind. I can-"


"There's no use arguing with her when she uses that tone," Clark said, heading toward the living room. Lois followed hesitantly and watching as Clark slipped a Christmas CD into the stereo and then began digging into the boxes of ornaments.

"Come on," Clark said, taking her hand and tugging her to kneel next to him.

She'd been expecting boxes of coordinating crystal and silver ornaments stored in little individual boxes, like the ones her mother had paid the housekeeper to put on their tree each year. Instead she found a jumble of brightly colored decorations, some in boxes, some loose and wrapped in tissue paper. As she unwrapped each, she examined it carefully.

"Did you buy these when you were traveling?" she asked, when she came upon a cache of ornaments bearing the names of cities across the U.S. and Europe.

"The older one, like these," he said, indicating a couple from Chicago, Los Angeles and Dallas, "we bought on family trips. It was a tradition. Every time we went on vacation, no matter where we went or what time of year it was, we found an ornament with the name of the city on it. Sometimes we didn't have many options, so we wound up with some really cheesy ornaments." Clark held up a hula girl with "Honolulu" emblazoned across on the sand beneath her feet as evidence, then placed it on the tree with the others.

"Did you make these?" Lois asked, holding up a delicate origami swan and gesturing to the pile of equally intricate animals.

"No, they were a gift. I spent a month teaching English to young kids in Japan. In exchange, they taught me to make a few origami animals, but nothing that intricate. On my last day, they presented me with these as a going away gift."

"Oh, that's so sweet," Lois said, examining the paper creatures closely. "They're so detailed. It's amazing."

"I know. I love them. They weren't really intended to be Christmas ornaments, obviously, since the kids don't celebrate Christmas. But I couldn't resist. I knew they'd look great on the tree."

Clark continued sorting through the ornaments as Lois hung the animals on the tree.

"Oh! This is one of my favorites," Clark said, holding up a tear-shaped transparent glass bulb with a design painted in a beautiful, rich blue color. When Lois looked closer she saw that the painting was of couples skating in the foreground and windmills in the background.

"This is really beautiful," Lois said, taking the ornament to examine it.

"I bought it in Amsterdam. There is this cool little Christmas shop that is open all year long. When I heard about it, I had to stop by and pick out an ornament. I figured it would be practically empty since it was the middle of July, but it was packed with tourists. The store had every ornament you can imagine. I chose this one because it was one of the more traditional pieces. I love the Delft blue."

"Yeah, the color is amazing. It's so vibrant." Lois admired it for another moment, then stood hung it on the tree before rummaging through the box again. "Ooh, this is pretty," Lois said, holding up a delicate bird made of thin metal and painted in bright colors. She ran her finger over the soft fan that made up its tail. "Where did this come from?"

"Czechoslovakia. It was a gift too. When I backpacked through Europe the first time, I met this sweet elderly couple who lived in a tiny village and rented out their extra rooms. I stayed there for about a week and wound up becoming really close to the couple. I made a point to visit them regularly after that. I stopped by just before Christmas a couple of years later and admired this ornament. When I left, she pulled it from the tree and told me to keep it. I told her I couldn't accept it, but she said she wanted me to have it. It was such a typical thing for her to do; she was so generous. She said she could see that I really appreciated its beauty. They didn't have any children of their own, and I think she saw me as the son they never had. That was the last time I ever saw them. When I came back in the spring, they were both dead. The neighbor said she'd died first, in January, and her husband hadn't lived past the February. I always thought he just lost the will to live after she died."

Lois tried to swallow around the lump that had formed in her throat. Clark reached out and took the bird from her, finding a spot for it on the tree. She was surprised to see that it didn't hang from a string like most of the other ornaments, but fastened to the branch with a clip at the bottom, making it appear that the bird was sitting on the branch. It was even more striking in the tree than it had been in the box. She could see why Clark had been drawn to it.

The next ornament she pulled out was nestled in layers and layers of tissue paper. "Are you sure there's something in this box?" she asked, holding it up to test the weight. "It doesn't feel like it."

Clark smiled. "There's something in there. Be gentle when you find it."

"Oh wow," she said, pulling out a blown egg. "There's an entire scene on here. It's the nativity."

"I found it in France and I just had to buy it."

"Well, it's certainly better than a miniature Eiffel tower."

"Yes, and it reminds me of my childhood."

Lois looked up from the ornament expectantly and waited for him to continue.

Clark rolled his eyes self deprecatingly. "My mom used to have this little nativity set carved out of wood. It was really beautiful, and it had been a gift or something. It was really special to her, and she always put it out on display. When I was really little, she didn't put it out because she was afraid I would choke on the pieces, but once I was old enough not to stick things in my mouth, she put it out again. I knew it was special and that I wasn't supposed to touch it, but I was so enchanted by the little people — especially the baby Jesus."

"Oh no. What did you do?"

"I kept carrying him around everywhere. Every time Mom looked at the nativity, Jesus would be missing. And she'd come find me, and sure enough, there he'd be. Well, finally she sat me down and told me that this was something that was really special to her and that she didn't want me to play with it because I might lose it. So I promised I wouldn't touch it anymore."


"But it just kept calling to me. It was so cute. Such a tiny little baby. So I figured it wouldn't hurt just to carry it around a little bit. I was wearing my overalls that day, and they had a little pocket in the front, so I put Baby Jesus in there while I went out to do my chores."

"Oh no, this can't be good."

"No, it's not," Clark said with a grin. "I was feeding the cows, and I leaned over too far and Baby Jesus fell out of my pocket into the hay. Before I could grab it back, the cow ate it."

"Your cow ate Baby Jesus?" Lois burst out laughing at the sacrilege.

"It looks wonderful so far," Martha said, coming in the room, Jonathan on her heels. She stood back for a minute and looked at the progress they'd made, then looked questioningly at Lois, who was still laughing. When she glimpsed the ornament in Lois' hand, her face broke out in a grin. "Ah, I see Clark has shown you his peace offering. It took him twenty years to replace the Baby Jesus he fed to the cow."

"I didn't FEED him to the cow! It was an accident!"

Lois laughed even harder. "So it's really true?"

Martha motioned for Lois to follow her into the hall where Lois saw an intricately carved nativity scene on display. "Oh, it's beautiful," she said, her laughter fading. Then her eyes caught sight of the empty manger. "Oh, no."

"Oh, yes."

"Did you want to murder him?"

"For a time, but it was hard not to laugh eventually. And he was so apologetic. He cried and cried."

"Aww. And he did buy you the beautiful egg."

Martha laughed, leading Lois back into the living room where Clark was commiserating with his father. "Yes, I'd long forgiven him by that point, of course. But I laughed and laughed when he presented the egg to me that Christmas." Martha dropped to her knees and began to fish out more ornaments. "Did you see these?" she asked Lois, pulling out a smaller box.

Lois shook her head and took the box. She opened it, and a slow grin spread across her face as she took in the jumble of creations made of popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners.

"Oh! Did you make these?" she asked, turning to Clark.

He blushed. "Yeah, I wasn't exactly van Gogh."

"These are so cute!" Lois said, holding up a coupe of reindeer made of pipe cleaners. "Oh!" She dropped the reindeer and pulled out a frame made of red and green popsicle sticks. In the center was a picture of Clark as a small boy.

"Ah, yes. I love that one," Martha said. "He brought that home from kindergarten, just as proud as can be. 'Look, Mama! I made you a present. My teacher says I'm SOO handsome.'"

Lois burst into giggles as Clark turned eight shades of red. "Thanks, Mom. Terrific."

"Oh, but, honey, you are so cute," Lois said through her laughter.

They continued placing the ornaments on the tree, filling Lois in on all the stories behind them. Time passed quickly, and before they knew it, the last ornament was on the tree.

"It looks perfect," Lois said, stepping back and surveying the fruits of their labor.

"Not quite," Clark said, holding up a final box. "We have to put the angel on the top."

Clark opened the box and revealed a beautiful porcelain doll dressed in a white gown, complete with a sparkling halo.

"Oh, Clark. It's beautiful," she said, reaching out tentatively and stroking the delicately fabric. "Did you find this on one of your trips too?"

"Oh, no. This has been in the family for years."

"My mother gave it to when I got married," Martha explained. "Her mother had given it to her and so on. We always put it on last. When Clark was little, Jonathan would hold him up so he could put it on. Then, when he discovered he could fly, he'd … you know."

Lois smiled and placed her hand on Clark's arm. She could just picture Clark eager to show off his newfound abilities. "Well, go on then, flyboy," she teased.

Clark smiled and handed her the doll. Lois took it slowly, giving Clark a questioning look. Instead of answering, he simply rested his hands at her waist and levitated slowly upwards until they had almost reached the ceiling and the tree was within easy reach. Lois settled the angel on top, taking care to make sure it was properly secured. She turned her gaze back to Clark and kept her eyes locked with his and he lowered them again. When they were back on solid ground, she turned her face up to his and smiled as he captured her lips in a sweet kiss.

When they pulled apart a moment later, Lois realized that Clark's parents were still watching. She ducked her head, blushing.

"It looks perfect," Martha said, breaking the silence. "Jonathan, why don't you come help me make some hot cocoa?"

Lois watched as the older couple exited the room quickly, then turned back to her boyfriend. "Thank you."

"It was nothing," Clark said, gesturing to the tree.

"It's not just that. It's this," Lois said, making a sweeping gesture. "It's tonight. It's your family. It's knowing I'm going to wake up tomorrow and be just as happy as I am right now. Thank you. For sharing them with me. For giving me a family."

"They're your family too now," he said, drawing her in for another kiss. "That's the way it works."

Lois threaded her fingers through his hair and held him to her for another lingering kiss. Finally they pulled apart, and Lois tried to lighten the moment before his parents returned.

"Then I'm afraid you got a bum deal," Lois laughed, only half kidding. "I wouldn't wish my family on anyone."

Clark's dark eyes were serious. "I got the best deal in the world."

"Oh, Clark."

When Martha and Jonathan returned a few minutes later — a little longer than strictly necessary to make the cocoa, Lois thought with a smile — she and Clark were cuddled on the coach watching the fire. They sipped their warm beverages slowly, chatting about their plans for the morning and last minute preparations for the Kent's annual Day After Christmas Party.

Lois felt her stomach clench a little at the thought of meeting and being evaluated by all of the people Clark had known and loved since childhood, especially when Martha told her how excited everyone was to meet her. She knew that it didn't matter to Clark if she passed their inspection, but she wanted so much to be a part of the family, that she hoped she could make a favorable impression on their longtime friends.

It was a far cry from the way she'd felt the first time she'd come to visit. Things had been so different then. She'd only reluctantly accepted Clark as a partner; she hadn't even been ready to call him a friend. She'd had nothing but disdain for the small town he'd come from, laughing at the simple ways of the townspeople. But even then much of her blustering had been just for show. She'd been jealous, she realized now, of the warm, tight-knit community that was so unlike the Metropolis she'd grown up in.

"Well," said Jonathan finally. "I think we should head to bed. It's awfully late, and the cows will need milking in the morning, Christmas or no Christmas."

Lois started to rise, but Martha put out a hand to stop her. "You two enjoy the fire for awhile. And don't worry about getting up with us. You're on vacation; sleep in."

"Thanks, Mom." Clark said, drawing Lois back to his side.

They said their goodnights and the Kents started upstairs. Martha stopped at the foot of the stairs and turned back to face them. "I put extra blankets and pillows on Clark's bed."

"Oh, right," Lois said, flustered. Somehow she'd forgotten to worry about sleeping arrangements. She shot Clark a desperate glance trying to figure out what to do. She desperately wanted to sleep with him. The thought of spending the entire week alone when he was right down the hall seemed torturous. Clark seemed panicked though, and Lois knew he wouldn't want to push his parents to do something they weren't comfortable with. Grudgingly she decided the best thing to do was just to deal with it, maybe they could persuade the Kents to let the [them?}share a room later. "I can just sleep on the couch," she said finally.

Clark looked disappointed but resigned. "No, no. You take the bed, I'll take the couch."

Martha fixed them both with a weird look. "There's no need for anyone to take the couch, that bed is perfectly big enough for two. I just set out the extra blankets because it gets cold in there at night."

Lois and Clark exchanged a look filled with equal parts relief and confusion. "You are sleeping together, aren't you?" Martha asked.

When both Lois and Clark stammered out incoherent replies, Martha laughed. "I'm not blind. I see the looks you two give each other. No use pretending anything."

Clark dropped his head into his hands and muttered something that Lois thought sounded a lot like, "Leave it to my mother."

"Thanks, Martha," Lois said, her cheeks blazing.

"Oh," she added as an afterthought. "The walls are thin, but with the door shut and us all the way down the hall…it's pretty private. And Jonathan and I are deep sleepers, once we're asleep, all the racket in the world wouldn't wake us up."


Martha's laughter floated down the stairs and she made her way up to the room.

Lois turned to face Clark who was burning with embarrassment. "She's really something isn't she?"

"I told you she loved you."

"What about you?"


"Do you love me?" Lois asked, knowing full well what the answer was, but looking forward to how Clark would prove it.

Clark smiled and bent his head to hers. "Oh, yeah," he whispered against her lips. "I love you."


Lois awoke slowly, not quite willing to give up the comfortable cocoon of sleep. Clark's body lay stretched behind hers, the soft hair on his legs tickling her as he nudged her legs in an attempt to wake her. Her head rested on his bottom arm, while the other held her snug against him. The hand splayed across her stomach had found its way under her shirt, she noted with a smile, and he was stroking her skin gently.

"Wake up, sleepy head," he whispered, nuzzling her hair aside and kissing her neck.

"I don't want to move," she mumbled. "I want to stay just like this."

Clark's deep chuckle sent waves of pleasure through her. "I won't let go yet, I just want you to wake up."

"I'm awake," she said with a sleepy yawn, pressing back against him and closing her eyes again.

"Merry Christmas."

Her eyes flew open and suddenly she was wide awake. She twisted in his embrace until she was facing him. She brought one hand up to caress his face. "Merry Christmas, sweetheart."

He dipped his head and caught her lips in a sweet, tender kiss. When it ended finally, she rested her head on his arm, looking up at him. Her hand caressed his side lightly, his skin smooth and soft over the taut muscles.

"Are you ready to go downstairs and open presents?" he asked, smiling at her.

"Mmm, how about I open this present?" Lois slid one hand under the waistband of his boxers, inching them down, while one of her legs insinuated its way between his.

Clark groaned and captured her hand. "As tempting as that is, I can hear my parents downstairs making breakfast already. If we don't hurry and get ready, it will be cold by the time we get down there."

Lois sighed and retreated. "Fine," she said, sitting up. "I guess I should go get in the shower."

Clark's eyes lit up, and she burst out laughing. "Don't even think about it. Wait your turn."

A half hour later, clean and dressed in jeans and casual long-sleeved shirts, Lois and Clark strolled into the kitchen.

Once they exchanged good mornings and Merry Christmases, they settled in at the table and Lois caught Jonathan smiling wryly at Clark.

"I see city living is having an affect on you," Jonathan said finally, glancing at the clock. "Nine thirty. If you still lived on the farm, you'd have been up for five hours already."

"Oh, leave him be," Martha said, fussing with the heaping dishes of sausages, pancakes and scrambled eggs. "Besides," she added, looking pointedly at Lois before turning back to her husband, "you can't blame him for wanting to put off getting out of bed as long as possible."

Lois blushed as Clark whined, "Mo-om."

"I'm just saying…"

Lois shook her head, more amused than embarrassed. Besides, Martha had a point. It was always hard to tear herself out of bed mornings she woke up with Clark by her side.

They lingered over breakfast, helping themselves to extra portions of all the delicious breakfast foods Martha had prepared. Finally everyone was stuffed and they cleared the table quickly and moved into the living room.

Lois settled on the floor next to Clark, watching the lights on the tree blink. The Kents took their places on the couch, and Clark took turns ferreting gifts to people as they took turns opening them.

Martha was delighted when the set of paint and brushes that Jonathan had bought for her, and even more excited when he informed her that he bought them thinking they would come in handy for the art lessons for which he'd signed her up.

Jonathan in turn had been thankful for the new, warm winter coat Martha had purchased for him, noting that it would be a welcome trade from his ratty old coat that she hated so much.

Clark went next, opening the package from his parents and revealing a cache of dress shirts with matching ties.

"Now I know where he gets all those wild ties," Lois teased.

"What's wrong with my ties?" Clark asked, mock defensive.

"Nothing," Lois said, reaching out to stroke the smooth silk of the tie he was examining. "I love them. They're just so much more … colorful than the ties most of the other reporters wear. Very you."

Clark rolled his eyes and opened his other gift from his parents, revealing a new stereo for his living room. "Oh, you shouldn't have," he said, already examining the contents and specifics listed on the side of the box.

"We know how much you love listening to your CDs, and you've had that old stereo forever. We figured it was time you had something nicer," Jonathan explained, clearly thrilled that Clark was happy with the gift.

Finally Clark set the box aside and motioned for Lois to go next. She picked up the surprisingly- heavy box from the Kents and set it in her lap, removing the bow, then prizing up the corners of the wrapping paper before sliding it off the box. She lifted the lid and gasped. Her fingers reached out automatically, stroking the soft fabric, her finger tracing the careful pattern of the bright shapes. She pulled the quilt out to examine it more closely, taking in the complicated pattern and eclectic mix of patters and solid colors.

"It's beautiful," she said finally. "Did you make this?"

Martha nodded, beaming. "I'm so glad you like it. When you were here for Thanksgiving, you mentioned really liking some of the quilts we have around the house. It's been awhile since I did any quilting — since I've been working more on painting and sculpting in recent years. But I had a great time hauling out all my old supplies and sorting through the patterns again. This pattern is called Kansas Morning. It's the same pattern as the one you were admiring, just different colors."

"I love it. Thank you so much." Lois hugged Martha. "Okay, now you have to open my gift!"

Lois pulled a small envelope from under the tree and handed it to Martha. Martha examined the envelope for a minute before opening it and pulling out two sets of tickets. "Oh! The Glass Menagerie! I love this play. I used to go see it every time it came anywhere near us, but I haven't seen it in ages!"

"Clark told me it was a favorite of yours, so when I saw they were going to be doing it in Wichita, I had to get them for you."

Martha looked at the next set of tickets. "Eve Zaremba? The name sounds familiar…"

"She's made a name for herself creating art from trash, basically. She takes old, discarded items and makes sculptures out of them."

"Oh, good lord," Jonathan muttered good-naturedly. "Don't encourage her."

Martha whacked Jonathan with the empty envelope. "Stop. You loved that sculpture I made you out of old tractor parts."

"Yes, Martha. It was lovely," he said before turning and shooting a pained look at Lois and Clark.

"Ignore him, Lois. It's wonderful and I can't wait to go. Looks like we'll have to plan a weekend in Wichita."

"Well, while you're planning, you take a look at this," Clark said, handing his father a large envelope. Jonathan opened it and dumped the contents into his lap — a pile of brochures about farming techniques, laws and trends all published by the Kansas Farmers Union. Jonathan thumbed through them, then pulled out the last contents of the envelope — a computer printout with his registration confirmation and hotel reservation information for the annual convention in late January.

"Wow, thanks, son. This is wonderful. I haven't made it the last couple of years and I've really missed it."

"I've already talked to Sam, and he said he wouldn't mind the extra work while you're gone," Clark said. "The tickets Lois bought are for the weekend following the Thursday-Friday conference. We thought you could make a mini-vacation out of it. The hotel reservations are for four nights."

"Oh, that's perfect!" Martha exclaimed. "Thank you, you two. This is wonderful."

"I love it," Jonathan said. "We could use a vacation."

Lois beamed at Clark, thrilled their gift had been such a hit. She'd agonized for weeks over what to get his parents, wanting to choose something they would love, something perfect. Everything she'd considered had seemed too impersonal or too extravagant. When Clark decided to set up the retreat, the idea of adding fun, cultural events had popped into her head, and she'd been thrilled with the idea. Clark had agreed that it was perfect and had helped her find exactly the right events.

A brightly colored package beneath the tree caught her eye, and Lois reached for it handing it to Clark. "Okay, you're next. This one is from me."

Clark hefted the weight of the package and looked at her suspiciously for a second, then ripped into the paper. He lifted the lid and found an assortment of kitchen supplies. He pulled out a set of spoons, spatulas and other utensils and found a pizza stone at the bottom. "Is this why you were asking me all those cooking questions?" he asked, laughing. Lois nodded and Clark began to laugh. "And here I thought you'd decided to take up a new hobby."

"Me?" Lois asked, horrified. "No thanks. You cook, I eat. It's a beautiful partnership."

Martha and Jonathan began to laugh as well, and Lois couldn't resist joining in.

"Thank you, sweetheart. I'll make you a pizza when we get home. I promise."

"Open the other one. There are no ulterior motives behind that one." Well, not any kind of ulterior motive she wanted to discuss in front of his parents anyway, she thought with a small grin.

Clark ripped through the paper again and opened the box, oohing over the contents. "It's feels great," he said, pulling the black leather jacket out of the box and running his hands over the soft exterior.

He stood quickly and slipped his arms into the sleeves, tugging it closed. Oh yeah, Lois thought. It looked just as good on him as she'd imagined when she saw it on the mannequin at the store. He looked better in black than anyone had the right to. He knelt beside her and kissed her cheek. "I love it. Thank you."

Lois reached out and stroked the sleeve. "It looks great on you."

Clark wiggled his eyebrows at her and grinned, setting off a flurry of butterflies in her stomach. "All right. Your turn."

Clark reached under the tree and pulled out the final package — a small rectangle. Lois took it from Clark and knew immediately that it was a book. Knowing her boyfriend the way she did, she knew it couldn't be just any random book.

She tore the paper carefully and extracted a small book, bound in dull dark fabric. It looked to be in perfect condition, but it was obviously old. She flipped it over and smiled broadly when she read the title. Anne of Green Gables.

It had been a childhood favorite of hers, and she reread it at least once a year as an adult. She'd done so just a few weeks ago, and had been struck by the similarities between her relationship with Clark and Anne's with Gilbert. As she'd lain in bed that night with Clark, she'd mentioned it to him and had been horrified to hear that he'd never read it. She'd elicited a promise immediately that he'd do so immediately. He'd kept his promise and had wound up loving the book as well, and they'd discussed it at great length, comparing favorite passages.

She ran her finger over the cover, then flipped it open. "Clark," she gasped. "This is a first edition. Where did you find this?"

Clark smiled mysteriously. "I have my sources."

"I love it," she said, pulling him in for a hug. "Thank you."

"I'm glad. Here, this goes with it," he said, handing her a lighter package about the same size as the first.

She ripped through the paper and smiled when she realized it was a box of cookies. She studied the logo and discovered they were Green Gables cookies, sold at the Green Gables Bed and Breakfast on Prince Edward Island.

"I thought you might like to try them out ahead of time," Clark said, earning a baffled look from Lois. "Then, if you like them, we can buy a couple more boxes while we're there."

"While we're there?" she asked, a smile forming slowly.

"I booked us a long weekend in one of their suites. We have a couple of weekends we can choose from, so we'll look at our schedules and find a week to go up there. We can tour the island and see all the sites from the books."

"Oh, Clark! That would be wonderful!" They immediately began discussing possible dates for their trip while Martha began sorting through her art supplies and Jonathan pulled out the brochures on farming trends. Lois scooted over to sit next to Clark, curling up against him as he slipped his arm around her shoulders. She leaned her head on his chest, gazing at the tree while they continued to plan their trip.

She half-listened to Clark as she reflected on the morning. As simple as it had been, she'd had more fun than she'd ever had on Christmas. A part of her wished the moment would never end, while another part cautiously wondered what next Christmas would hold. Would she and Clark return to Smallville again? Or might the Kents come to Metropolis to visit Lois and Clark…in their own home. It was possible. She smiled a secret smile and snuggled back into his embrace. The future was fun to imagine, she thought, but for now she was content just enjoying the present.


After opening their presents, the four of them had watched Christmas specials on television for most of the day, broken up only by phone calls to friends and family members. Then they had gorged themselves on a turkey dinner with all the fixings before returning to the living room for yet more Christmas specials. Finally, when Lois had thought they had seen every Christmas movie ever made, Martha had announced that she'd made a special dessert and they'd all returned to the kitchen for chocolate mousse.

The dessert had been exquisite, and Lois had grinned when she caught a heated look in Clark's eyes as she moaned in satisfaction. Once everyone was done, Clark rose and began collecting the plates. Lois stood automatically to help him, but paused when Martha admonished them.

"Come on, Mom. You've done everything today. It's the least we can do," Clark insisted.

Martha finally capitulated and left them to their own devises. Clark filled the sink with soapy water while Lois transferred the leftovers into the plastic containers Clark had found for her. She stuck the containers in the refrigerator and watched Clark out of the corner of her eye. He hummed as he washed the dishes, looking totally at ease with the simple domesticity of the task. It was a sight she could get used to, she realized.

She grabbed a towel and began drying the dishes he'd already washed and rinsed, stacking them in the drainer. After a minute, the sides of her mouth began to twitch upwards. Clark gave her a funny look, but refrained from commenting immediately. But after another minute his curiosity got the best of him.

"What is so funny?"

"Nothing," she said, trying to smother a laugh.

"Fine," he said, rolling his eyes and resuming his task, launching back into his song.

Lois coughed to hide her laughter and was immediately nailed by Clark's gaze. "What?"

She couldn't resist any longer. "Clark, what *are* you humming? Every time I think I might be close to identifying it, it morphs into something else."

Clark gave her a mock hurt look. "It's Away in the Manger."

Lois burst out laughing. "No, it's not. That wasn't even on the list of possibilities."

Clark laughed and splashed the water at her in retaliation, soaking the cuffs of her shirt.


Lois splashed him back and suddenly chaos erupted. Lois smacked a small plate against the surface of the water, sending a stream across Clark's chest. He looked at her stunned for half a second, then grabbed the sprayer and turned the water on her full blast. She let out a shriek and tried to wrestle the sprayer from him, succeeding in drenching both of them. When Martha entered the room a minute later, they were both soaked and there was water all over the counter and the floor. They both froze as Martha took in the disaster.

"Sorry, Mom," Clark said, giving her a puppy dog look.

Martha's gaze traveled from Clark to Lois who threw her hands up in the air. "He started it!" Clark didn't bother denying it. Instead he turned into a blur, and when he came to a stop again, the rest of the dishes had been washed and dried and the mess had been cleaned up. "Show off," Lois muttered, unable to keep a grin from her face.

Martha just shook her head and grinned then retreated to the living room.

Clark looked down at his sopping shirt. "Um, I think I need to go change."

Lois laughed, surveying her own state of disrepair. "Yeah, me too," she said, following him up the stairs to their room.

"Good grief, I'm soaked," Lois said, peeling off her shirt. Clark stripped off his shirt as well and took them both across the hall to the bathroom where he hung them over the shower curtain rod. When he returned, Lois had slipped into a soft purple shirt.

He grabbed a flannel shirt from his drawer and slipped it on, buttoning it. When he looked up again, Lois was smiling at him tenderly. He reached out and took her hand, pulling her close. His hands locked around her waist and he brushed his lips across her forehead. She melted against him, slipping her arms around him and resting her head on his chest.

"While we're up here, I wanted to give you the other part of your Christmas present," she said, stroking his back gently through the soft flannel.

"Mmm, maybe we should wait until my parents go to bed," he replied, kissing her neck.

Lois pulled back, mock exasperated. "I swear, you have a one-track mind. That's NOT what I was talking about."

"Could I talk you into talking about it?" he mumbled, pulling her back and nuzzling her neck again.

"You're ridiculous," she said, amusement sparkling in her eyes. She lifted her face for quick kiss, then pulled away, reaching into her suitcase and pulling out a large square gift, wrapped in Christmas paper.

"What is it?" he asked, taking it from her and sitting on the edge of the bed.

She followed his lead and sat down. "Just open it," she said, rolling her eyes. "I've never understood why people ask what a gift is right before they open it."

Clark unwrapped in carefully, and smiled when he realized it was a large photo album. The cover was a plain blue border with a framed picture of the two of them in the middle. He traced the picture with his finger, smiling.

"Open it," Lois urged.

Clark did as instructed and smiled when he saw the inscription on the first page, written in Lois' handwriting. She'd labored over the letter for a week, going through countless drafts before she found a version she thought sufficiently expressed the desire to showcase their relationship and her love for him in this scrapbook.


I don't think I can tell you with words how much you mean to me. You've turned my life upside down and made me a new person. When I'm with you, I feel free in a way I've never been before. From the beginning, I've known you would change my life, I just never knew how much or how wonderful it would be. What I've gathered here are just a few reminders of the wonderful times that we've shared. As I compiled them, I remembered each wonderful moment and dreamed of all those yet to come. I hope you enjoy this walk down memory lane as much as I have, and I hope you look forward to adding more memories as much as I do.

Love always,


Obviously intrigued, Clark turned the page and smiled when he recognized his first piece published in the Daily Planet. Also on the page was a note from Lois telling him how impressed she'd been with the piece, although at the time she'd called it fluff. The next page was her article about Superman's appearance a photo of Superman flying her through the Daily Planet window.

Clark flipped through the pages, lingering over each memory. He paused when he reached a spread of his Kerth victory. Laid out over the article that had won him the award was an announcement of his win and an array of pictures, both of him accepting the award and of the two of them afterwards. In the corner, she'd included a note that read, "I couldn't have been prouder if I'd won it myself."

"This is incredible," Clark said, looking up for the first time. "How did you…?"

"I have my ways," Lois said with a grin. "I've had Jimmy scouring his digital archives for pictures of the two of us for weeks. Sometimes it pays to have a wannabe photog tagging along all the time. The other stuff… mostly it's stuff I've saved. A few of the articles I didn't have, so I got them from the archives."

"Amazing," Clark said. "I love this."

Lois smiled and leaned over for a quick kiss, then pulled back. "Keep going."

Clark turned the page and gasped. Next to a glossy press photo of Bijour Sur le Fleur, where they'd begun their charade for Paul and Jennifer, was a matchbook from the restaurant and a dried, pressed red rose. "Lois…"

Lois reached out and rested a hand on his thigh, happy he appreciated her hard work as much as she'd expected he would and getting caught up in the moment herself. He flipped silently past a spread of memorabilia from their time in Washington — stationary from the hotel, matchbooks from restaurants they'd visited, postcards featuring monuments they'd seen.

He flipped again and saw another Superman article, this one little more than a blurb, about a suspect apprehended breaking into Star Labs.

"That was the first time," Lois said softly. "The first time I knew it was you."

Clark met her eyes and opened his mouth to speak but didn't say anything. He closed his mouth again and turned back to the album. He smiled as he turned the next page, finding receipts for take out interspersed with a handful of rose petals. She knew he was remembering the long weekend they'd spent making love after cementing their relationship. They'd ordered take out, unwilling to leave the apartment and the rose petals had been scattered across the bed when she'd come out of the shower one morning.

The next page was a collage of photos from Thanksgiving. Pictures of the two of them, of his parents, of him with his parents, of the turkey Lois had been so proud of helping with. He turned again found ticket stubs and matchbooks, memoirs of dates they'd gone on together, scattered with random pictures of them, professional and personal.

He turned again and found an empty page. "That's the end," Lois said softly.

"Not the end," he said quietly. "It's just the beginning."

He set the book aside and pulled her close, covering her lips with his own and kissing her tenderly. "Thank you," he said when he pulled away. "I wish I could tell you how much I love it, but I can't find the words. It's the best gift I've ever received."

"I'm glad you like it," she said softly, running her fingers through his hair. "I really enjoyed making it. It was fun to reminisce. I thought we could make the Christmas pages when we get home. Once we get our film developed and everything."

Clark nodded, leaning in for another kiss. They traded sweet, tender kisses until Clark finally pulled away. "What do you say we go for a walk?" Clark asked, standing and taking her hand, guiding her to stand as well. "It's dark out but between the moon and the barn lights, it's not bad as long as we stay close."

Lois nodded in agreement and allowed herself to be led downstairs. They stopped in the living room and informed Jonathan and Martha that they were going on a walk. They listened patiently while Martha wished them goodnight, explaining that she and Jonathan would probably be in bed before Lois and Clark got back."

Lois slipped her hand back into Clark's quietly, reluctant to break the silent night air. They walked down the path toward the barn, the snow crunching under their boots, their breath puffs of white in front of them.

Behind them, the house was trimmed in beautiful white Christmas lights. The lights, combined with the light dusting of snow that covered the ground and trees, lent a storybook feeling to the night. When Lois had first noticed the lights, she'd wondered why the Kents bothered with the hassle of putting them up when few people would see them. "We see them," Clark had replied.

That simple line statement said a lot about the differences between Christmases in the Lane and Kent households.

As they reached the gate to the pasture, Lois hesitated, looking up at the stars.

"It's amazing. I've never seen stars like this before."

"I know. They're so much brighter here. That was one of the first things I noticed when I moved to Metropolis. I came back for dinner one night and sat out here with my dad afterwards, looking at the stars, and I told him the only stars you see in Metropolis are the ones getting out of limousines."

"What else did you tell them?" Lois asked. When Clark looked at her quizzically, she explained. "What did you think when you first moved to Metropolis? What did you tell them about the city? About your job?"

Clark leaned back against the fence and drew her back against his chest, wrapping his arms around her waist and resting his chin on her shoulder. "I told them I loved it," he said quietly. "I told them it was crazy: loud and busy and millions of people. But I told them I'd finally found the place where I wanted to settle down. That's why I needed their help finding a way to use my powers without getting caught. My dad was none too thrilled with the idea at first, but he came around eventually."

"You knew so soon that you wanted to stay? Superman appeared just days after you came to Metropolis. How did you know so quickly that this was the place you would settle down, after having lived so many other places? Surely your parents must have asked you that. What did you tell them? Did you tell them about your job?"

"Yes, that was partly it. It was a dream job. I'd been freelancing mostly, working for random English-speaking newspapers around the world. Working at the Daily Planet was a dream come true. It would have been an exciting opportunity for a seasoned journalist, for someone as rough as I was, it was a miracle." He was quiet for a minute, rubbing her arms to keep her warm, then resting them at her waist where she covered them with her own. "But that wasn't all," he added quietly. "I told them about this amazing woman I met. How she stormed in during my interview and didn't even see me she was so focused. She was famous, one of my idols. Meeting her was incredible."

Lois snorted. "Yes, and I'm sure you were impressed by my dazzling charm."

Clark ignored her and went on. "She didn't exactly seem impressed with me, and she seemed less impressed when Perry read her the story I wrote. I told them I thought she was appalled by the fact that Perry hired me."

"It was a good story, Clark," she said softly, bringing one of his hands up to her mouth for kiss. "My personal feelings — then and now — aside, it was a good story and he made the right decision by hiring you."

"Thank you," he whispered, kissing her cheek. He held her like that for another minute, then resumed his story. "I told them that I wound up partnered with her by some miracle and that I was sure working with her was going to be amazing. I told them she was the most intelligent, passionate, beautiful woman I'd ever met. I didn't tell them I was head over heels already, but I think they figured that part out on their own."

"You barely knew me, Clark. And I was awful to you."

"I saw past that."

"You don't really believe in love at first sight, do you?" she asked, turning in his arms to look at him.

Clark hesitated. "No. It wasn't love at first sight. There was something there. I definitely felt something. I was attracted to you immediately, more attracted than I'd ever been to any other woman. More than that, I felt … some kind of connection to you. I'd never felt it before, and I had — have — no idea exactly what it is, but it's there. But, no, it wasn't love. Not like I love you now. My feelings for you then, as sincere as they were, are so shallow compared to what I feel for you now."

"How do you feel now?" she asked softly, bringing one hand up to caress his cheek, the other resting on his shoulder.

"I feel… I can't even put it into words, Lois. I love you so much. You've changed my whole life for the better. I'm so much happier now, so much more complete. You make me feel emotions I never knew existed. You are the only thing that gets me through the bad times, and you make the good times so much better. You help me forget about the past, when I thought I could never fit it, and you give me hope for the future. You are everything to me."

"Oh, Clark." Lois stretched up, closing the short distance between them and capturing his lips in a sweet kiss. Her heart felt swollen in her chest and her eyes pricked with tears as she battled to keep her emotions under control. When the kiss ended, it was a few seconds before she could speak. "I love you, too. I love you so much that it overwhelms me sometimes. I didn't know a love like this existed. I thought it was only in fairytales and movies. You turned my world completely upside down. I thought I was happy. Or at least I thought I was happy enough to get by. I look back now on what my life was like without you and I can't imagine living like that again. You've calmed me, taught me to trust again. I'm not scared anymore. You make me want to be a better person."

Lois stopped, emotion clogging her throat. She held Clark's gaze for just another second before tugging him back down for another kiss. Time stood still as they stayed locked in each other's embrace. A gust of wind caused Lois to shiver and Clark pulled back reluctantly. "You must be freezing," he said, cupping her cheeks in his warm palms. "Let's go inside. We can continue this by the fire."

Lois nodded, then shivered again. Clark immediately scooped her up into his arms and flew them to the backdoor. He set her on her feet again, and slid open the door.

Lois allowed herself to be ushered through the door, then waited for Clark to enter behind her and close the door. Once he was in, Lois smiled at him and ran her hand over his soft flannel shirt. "You've never done that before," she said softly.

"What?" Clark asked. "I fly with you all the time."

"Superman flies with me," she said, emphasizing the differences.

"Lois, it's still me, even when I'm in the suit. Or out of the suit," he added with a chuckle. "You know that."

"Oh, I know. But somehow it seems different when you fly without the suit. I like it. I feel… I feel special. Like I'm the only person who really sees you like that. Millions of people have seen Superman fly, and tons of people know Clark. But no one else sees Clark fly. I love knowing that I'm the only one who sees you like that."

"Only you," he said softly, smiling then kissing her gently. He slipped his arm around her waist leading her into the now deserted living room where his parents had left the fire roaring and a Christmas CD playing. He left the lights off, settling into the couch and sighing as Lois snuggled next to him.

They traded kisses and touches for awhile, soft and sweet kisses that spoke more of love and devotion than passion. When they finally pulled apart, Lois smiled at him tenderly. "Thank you," she said finally. "This whole day has been incredible. I always thought I wasn't really a Christmas person, but after today… I think I just didn't really understand how wonderful Christmas could be. You've made me so happy. It's been perfect."

"Almost perfect," he corrected.

Her brow furrowed and she reached up to stroke his cheek. "What's missing, Clark? What would make it perfect? What do you want?"

Clark took a deep breath and slid off the couch onto one knee. "Marry me," he said softly. "Tell me this will last forever, and then it will be perfect. I want to spend all the Christmases for the rest of my life with you. Forever. That's what I want, Lois."

Lois gasped, caught totally off guard. She'd known he intended to propose, he'd even told her so. But she hadn't expected it to come so soon; after they'd been dating for less than two months.

"I know what you're thinking. You're thinking it's too soon. But whether I wait a day, a month or a year, it's not going to change anything. You are the only one I want, the only one I'll ever want. Tell me you'll marry me. Give me forever."

His eyes pleaded with her, overflowing with love and hope. As she looked at his expectant face, she realized there could be only one answer. The surprise that had filled her senses fled, taking with it all shreds of doubt, leaving only joy and hope.

"Yes," she said, her voice soft but steady.

He looked stunned for a minute, as if he'd expected her to say no or at least need a little convincing. Then he rose to the couch immediately, slipping his free hand behind her head, tangling his fingers in her hair and bringing her in for a celebratory kiss. When he pulled back, his eyes were full of wonderment and hope. "Yes?"

"Yes," she repeated, bringing him in for another kiss.

After a few moments of trading sweet kisses, Lois pulled back. "Let's go upstairs."

Clark's eyes darkened with passion, then looked troubled. "I don't know, Lois. My parents are right down the hall. What if…?"

"We'll be quiet," Lois said, leaning forward and kissing his neck. "Come on, Clark. I want to make love to you."

Clark groaned and hugged her tightly. "I want to make love to you, too."

Lois pulled away and stood, offering Clark her hand. He hesitated for just a second before taking it and allowing her to lead him upstairs. "Why don't you go ahead and use the bathroom first. I'll be ready in a minute," Lois said when they reached the bedroom.

Clark nodded and disappeared into the hallway. Lois stood gazing out the window as she waited for Clark to return. The grin that had appeared the moment she said yes, still refused to leave her face. She knew she should be freaking out, but for some reason, she wasn't scared at all. She was going to marry Clark Kent. Marry him. It wasn't an entirely new idea. Clark had told her from the beginning that this was where he was heading. But it was so much more real, so much more final, now. And she was thrilled.

Clark reentered the room and Lois fixed him with a brilliant smile. Her eyes swept over his chiseled body, covered only by flannel sleep shorts. "Hey, handsome," she said softly, extending her arm in invitation.

In a heartbeat, he was by her side, arms wrapped around her. "Do you have any idea how happy you've made me? Any idea?" he whispered, his voice unsteady. "The whole time I was in the bathroom, I kept pinching myself to make sure this was real. Then I was terrified I was going to get back here and you'd tell me you'd changed your mind and didn't think this was such a good idea after all."

Lois tried to swallow past the lump in her throat her heart aching at his earnest confession. "It's a wonderful idea," she said, bringing one hand up to caress his cheek. "I love you so much. I'm not going to change my mind, Clark. Not now, not ever." He dropped his forehead to her shoulder, his arms encircling her waist more tightly to draw her closer. She stroked his hair gently. "I love you," she repeated.

He pulled back, his eyes meeting hers. Love and adoration were mixed with desire and arousal. He started to speak, then stopped, capturing her mouth his own and plundering it gently. She sagged against him, allowing his strong arms to keep her upright as their lips and tongues danced together.

Finally she pulled away. She kissed him lightly one last time, then stepped back. "Just let me go use the bathroom. I'll be right back."

Clark looked pained, but released her. "Hurry," he said quietly as she disappeared into the hallway.

Lois felt her heart lurch at Clark's simple, heartfelt request. She washed her face and brushed her teeth quickly, then ran a brush through her hair. As she surveyed her appearance in the mirror, she frowned, wishing she thought to bring some sort of lingerie with her to Smallville. Not that she needed it, she thought with a smile. Clark had told her a million times how beautiful she was no matter what she was wearing. But tonight was special.

Just then her eye spotted something hanging on the hook on the door. Her smile widened as she reached out and fingered the soft flannel, still warm with Clark's body heat. She slipped out of her clothes quickly and into the shirt, unbuttoning the top two buttons and leaving the collar pulled wide to show off a generous portion of her chest. The shirt hung about half way to her knees, the sides cut higher, barely coving the essentials. She glanced at herself in the mirror and smiled. Perfect.

When she reentered the room, Clark was sitting on the edge of the bed, staring at his hands. She paused in the doorway, watching him, then whispered his name. His head whipped up and the look in his eyes was so hot she could feel it as his gaze traveled over her face, then her body.

"Oh, god," he whispered. He was on his feet immediately, pulling her through the doorway and closing the door softly. "You look… Oh, sweetheart…" The rest of his compliment was lost as his mouth busied itself exploring hers. When he pulled back, he was breathing hard, his chest heaving. Lois reached out and ran her hands over his chest, tracing the muscles. He led her wordlessly to the bed and guided her to sit on the edge.

Lois followed willingly, then reached for him, expecting him to lay her back and cover her body with his own. Instead he slid gracefully to the floor, on one knee again. She smiled and reached out to stroke his cheek. "I already said yes," she said softly.

Clark held her gaze for a second but didn't speak. Then he opened his right hand and revealed a small black, velvet box. Lois gasped as he lifted the lid, revealing a beautiful solitaire diamond set in platinum. "Oh, Clark. It's beautiful."

"Marry me," he whispered, a request rather than a question, as he pulled the ring from the box.

"Yes," Lois replied, extending her hand so that he could slip the ring on her finger. She paused for a moment, staring at it, trying to make it feel real. Then her gaze moved from her ring to the face of her fiance.

"I had this whole fancy proposal planned," Clark said softly. "I was going to take you to Bijour su le Fleuve when we got back to Metropolis. I was going to wine you and dine you and then take you out to walk by the water again. I was going to tell you how much I love you, and then I was going to sink to one knee and make the most romantic proposal ever made. I didn't mean to propose tonight. I didn't even bring the ring to Smallville — I had to fly home and get it out of my dresser drawer while you were in the bathroom."

Lois looked up at him and smiled. "I like it better this way," she said softly.

Clark leaned forward and kissed her, briefly but passionately. When he pulled back, his face was a mask of emotions so complicated she wasn't sure she could interpret it. "What are you thinking, Clark?"

"I love you," he replied automatically, without hesitation.

"I love you, too," she said with a smile. "What else are you thinking?"

Clark's eyes wandered down her body, then settled on her ring for a moment before returning to her face. "I'm not sure you want to know," he said, a smile quirking at the edges of mouth.

Lois raised an eyebrow. "Try me."

"It's just, looking at you like this — in my bed, wearing my shirt, with that ring on your finger… It's like the answer to a prayer. You have no idea how many times I dreamed of this. I don't think I ever really let myself believe it would happen, but I dreamed about it so many times. Even before I knew you, I think. I knew you were out there, I just had to find you."

Clark's soft words, thick with love, twisted in her heart, taking her breath away. "And you thought I wouldn't like that?"

"Not that," Clark said, shaking his head. "The way that makes me feel now that you are really here. Seeing you like this. I feel so…possessive. I want to claim you. I don't even know what that means, really. I just know that you're mine and I never want to let you go, and I want the whole world to know. I know that sounds terrible. I know you probably hate that. And trust me, I know you aren't some object to be claimed. You know I don't think of you like that at all. Part of what I love so much about you is your independence. I'd never try to change that. I'm not trying to control you. I just…"

Lois was quiet for a minute, grappling with Clark's explanation. He was the sweetest man she'd ever met. She knew that he wasn't possessive in a bad way. He'd never try to make her bend to his will or do his bidding. He wouldn't try to control who she was friends with or what she did with her life. She smiled tenderly at him as he looked down, avoiding eye contact. She lifted one hand to his cheek, her thumb stroking his soft skin. "I'm not mad." He looked up, obviously relieved and she could see that he was enjoying this feeling of possession more than he'd originally let on. "What do you want, Clark? This idea, this feeling of possession. Now that I'm yours, what is it you want?"

"I just want you. I want to love you. I want to make you happy. Right now I want to touch you and kiss and drive you crazy until you forget that my parents are down the hall and cry out in pleasure," he said with a small smile. "But in the long run, I just want to be with you. I want you to come to me when you're happy or sad or scared or lonely or just bored."

"I already do all those things," Lois said, trying to reassure him.

"I know," he said confidently. "I just want to know that you're going to keep doing that for the rest of our lives."

"I think I can live with that kind of possessive behavior," Lois said, sliding her hand around to the back of his neck and pulling him in for a kiss. The moment his lips touched hers, any concerns she'd had melted away.


"What are you nervous about?" Clark asked, squeezing her hand.

"I don't know. It's just… This has all been so perfect. I know your parents like me, but I'm just afraid they're going to freak out. After all, we haven't been dating very long, and dating and marriage are different. What if they think I'm not good enough for you?"

Clark gasped. "Lois, they don't think that. I promise you. They adore you. They know how happy you make me. They're going to be absolutely thrilled."

"What if they aren't? I mean, you're right that it's silly to worry that they secret dislike me. I know that's not true. But what if we tell them and rather than being all excited, they just get quiet. What if they're disappointed? I almost think that would be worse."

"First of all, that's not going to happen. My mom is probably going to scream and immediately start planning the wedding. By the way, you'd better have some idea of what you want, because she's going to start grilling you right away. My dad will just shake our hands and smile, but he'll be secretly thrilled too. Secondly, even if they were disappointed — which they won't be — it wouldn't matter to me. Yes, I want them to be happy, and I want their blessing, but not as much as I want you. I love you more than anything in the entire world, Lois. It doesn't matter what anyone else says or thinks about that."

Lois smiled, her fears melting slightly. They reached the doorway to the kitchen and paused.

"Ah, there they are," Martha said with a smile before turning her attention back to the stove. Jonathan looked up from his newspaper long enough to say good morning, then went back to reading.

Clark looked at Lois and shrugged, grinning. "Mom? Dad? Can we have your attention for a minute?"

The Kents looked up from their tasks, their expressions confused but expectant.

"Lois and I have an announcement."

"Oh my god," Martha exclaimed. "You're engaged." Before Lois knew what had hit her, Martha had flown across the kitchen, wrapping her arms around both of them. "Oh, I'm so excited!"

Jonathan stood, unable to mask his smile. "You'd better hope you're right, Martha, or you're going to be mighty embarrassed."

Lois was sure the grin on her face, and the matching smile she saw on Clark's, were a dead giveaway that Martha's deduction was right on.

"Congratulations, son," Jonathan said, shaking Clark's hand, then pulling him into a hug and slapping his back. "You're a lucky man." The Jonathan released Clark and pulled Lois into a hug. "Welcome to the family, sweetheart. We've been looking forward to this day for a long time."

Lois felt tears well in her eyes at Jonathan's sweet words, and tried to fight them as he pulled away. She lost the battle though when Martha hugged her again.

"I'm sorry," she said, wiping her eyes and laughing. "I'm all emotional all of a sudden."

She looked up at Clark and was surprised to see that he had tears in his eyes too. He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her forehead. She reached up and stroked his cheek, forgetting for a minute that they weren't alone.

"Oh! Let me see the ring!" Lois grinned, Martha's voice bringing her back to the present. She turned in Clark's arms and held out her hand for Martha to admire. As Martha gushed over the ring and Jonathan watched proudly, Lois rested her head against Clark's chest. She'd finally found her home, her family. She'd been looking for this her entire life, she just hadn't known it until she'd found it.


Lois was putting the finishing touches on a tray of Christmas cookies when Martha reentered the kitchen. Lois didn't look up at first, eager to get the tray just right. She'd been helping Martha get ready for most of the morning, and now the first guests were set to arrive in a matter of minutes. Finally satisfied with her arrangement, she looked up, ready to display her masterpiece, and caught Clark snitching a cookie out of the corner of her eye. "Clark!"

Clark hurriedly shifted the other pieces to fill in the empty spot. "They'll never know."

Lois rolled her eyes and looked to Martha to commiserate. Men.

Martha laughed and shook her head. "Get used to it," she said. "Old habits die hard. When he was little, I spent more time slapping his hand away from the food than I did actually making it."

Clark stepped behind Lois and slipped his arms around her waist. "I'll be good. I promise."

Martha looked at him skeptically for a minute, then shifted her gaze to Lois and raised the small, wrapped box she was carrying. "Before the guests start arriving, I wanted to give you one more present."

"Oh! No, you've already been far too generous."

"Well, then consider this an engagement present. I wanted to give you this yesterday, but Jonathan convinced me it was too soon. After this morning… Well, we both want you to have this."

Lois was puzzled, but accepted the box. She ripped the edges and slid the paper off, revealing a plain paper box, worn with age. She opened the box and was surprised to see that it was empty except for some aged tissue paper. Her mind raced, trying to comprehend the significance of the box. Just as she was about to give in and ask, she realized where she had seen the box before.

"Oh, Martha," she said, her voice choked with emotion.

"I told you yesterday, the angel is passed down every generation to the oldest daughter. I never had a daughter to pass it on to … until now."

"Thank you," Lois said, sorry those simple words couldn't fully express her gratitude. "I'll always treasure it."

Lois stepped out of Clark's embrace and into Martha's. Never before had she felt so loved, so much a part of a family. The idea that she had once been afraid to open her heart and her life to Clark now seemed so ridiculous. She had worried that it would bring her pain, but instead it had brought her joy beyond anything she could have imagined.

When she pulled back, she saw that Martha had tears in her eyes, and she felt matching tears pool in her own eyes. She dabbed at her eyes and sniffled before laughing. "Now, look what you've done. People will be here any minute and their first impression of me will be with mascara all over my face."

Lois' cheerful admonition lightened the moment significantly and soon everyone was smiling. She handed the box back to Martha who promised to return the box — complete with the angel this time — after they took the tree down.

Lois excused herself to go check her makeup and hurried upstairs to the bathroom. As she made a few touch ups, she couldn't fight the silly grin from her face. Engaged. She was engaged. Unbelievable.

Before she could ponder that thought much further, her fianc‚ appeared in the doorway. "You look gorgeous already."

Lois blushed as her smile widened. She watched him in the mirror as he took his time looking over her black skirt and thin red sweater, then stepped forward and wrapped his arms around her. She tilted her head to the side and sighed contentedly when he nuzzled her hair, then pressed a kiss to her neck.

"Don't be nervous," he whispered as he continued to kiss the sensitive skin of her neck and shoulder. "Everyone is going to love you."

Lois smiled and turned in his arms to kiss him. "Doesn't matter," she whispered as she pulled away, a smile forming on her lips. Clark looked at her inquisitively and she held out her left hand to admire the diamond on her ring finger. "Nope, doesn't matter. Even if they hate me, you're still stuck with me. There's no going back now."

Lois lifted her eyes to look at Clark, expecting to see him amused by her statement, but instead found that his eyes were serious and tinged with passion. "No going back now," he repeated.

She drew her hand back and stroked his cheek gently. "Nope. I'm not going anywhere."

Before she knew what had hit her, Clark's lips were on hers. The sweet, gentle kisses of a moment ago had been replaced with hard, insistent kisses filled with passion. When he pulled back, they were both breathing heavily. "Mine," he whispered before claiming her lips again. A jolt of pleasure surged through her at his possessive declaration as she remembered the conversation they'd had the night before. She was his. His to love and adore. Then he pressed her up against the counter, deepening the kiss, and she lost all ability to think rationally.

Clark's hands settled at her waist then lifted her easily to sit on the edge of the counter. He stepped between her parted legs, drawing her close and placing one hand on the back of her neck, steadying her against the assault he launched against her mouth. Finally, when Lois was weak from his kisses, he dragged his lips from hers and sprinkled a trail of kisses to her ear and down her neck.

"This is definitely going to mess up my make-up," Lois whispered as she threaded her fingers through his hair.

Clark murmured something incomprehensible and reversed his path, working his way back to her mouth. She returned his kiss eagerly, parting her lips to welcome his sweet invasion. As his mouth explored hers, his hand wandered from where it rested on her hip down her leg to her knee, kneading her leg through the sheer silk of her stockings. His fingertips traced over her skin lightly, almost tickling. As he reversed directions, Lois hooked her leg around his waist, eliciting a moan in response. She sighed as their bodies pressed against each other, overwhelmed as always by his solid presence.

While one hand continued to explore her leg, his other slid down her back, holding pulling her even closer. Lois slid easily toward him, tightening her leg around his waist and whimpering when he slid his hand under her shirt, sparks of electricity jolting through her at the skin on skin contact.

When Clark's other hand reached her skirt, he slipped his hand under it, massaging higher and higher. Lois moaned and untangled one hand from his hair to wander down his back, smoothing over the rippling muscles hidden by his dress shirt. She traced the waistband of his slacks, then slid her hand lower.

She needed to feel his bare skin against hers. The clothing had to go. She brought her hands between them, fumbling hastily with the buttons of his shirt. Somewhere in the distance a warning sounded, reminding her that there was something else she had to be doing, that this was neither the time nor the place. But she disregarded the thought, wrenching her lips from his and layering kisses over the skin she bared with each undone button.

"Oh, Lois," Clark gasped, moaning in encouragement.

"Lois? Clark? The Irigs-" Martha's statement was cut short when she rounded the corner.

"Mom!" Clark jumped back as if he'd just been scalded. He untangled his hands from under her sweater and covered his face.

"Oh god." Lois slid off the counter and rapidly tried to straighten her clothing, her face flaming.

Martha, normally cool under any circumstance, stammered and blushed as she averted her eyes. "Well, I just came up here to tell you that the Irigs are pulling up," Martha said, a wry grin spreading across her face. "I thought you'd want to come down…"

"We'll be right there," Clark said, running a hand through his hair, his shirt still untucked and hanging open.

Martha disappeared and Lois went back into Clark's open arms, resting her forehead against his chest and giving in to her giggles. "I can't believe that just happened."

"I feel like I'm in high school… Only I never got caught doing anything fun in high school," Clark said, causing Lois to laugh even harder.

"I'm never going to be able to look your mother in the eye again," Lois said, pulling out of his embrace and turning to face the mirror again. She straightened her hair and clothes, then repaired her make up. She watched Clark in the mirror as he took a deep breath and tried to calm down again while buttoning and tucking in his shirt.

As she made her restorations, something worked its way back into her conscious. "Mine?" she asked, her voice amused.

Clark grinned at her, stirring up the butterflies in her stomach again. Lois checked her reflection one final time and turned to look at him. After a few seconds, she couldn't hold back her own grin. "Just don't let it go to your head." As she looked at him, she noticed smudges of lipstick on his mouth and neck. She laughed softly and reached up, wiping them away gently. "I marked you."

Clark caught her hand and brought it to his mouth, kissing it gently. "Don't get all wound up again, farmboy," Lois said softly, her voice full of affection. "We've got company."

"I love you," he said, releasing her hand. The passion in his eyes melted slowly into adoration and reverence.

"I love you, too," she said, slipping her hand into his and lacing their fingers together. "Ready to go downstairs?"

Clark held her gaze for a second more, then nodded, and left the bathroom, leading her downstairs to the party.


An hour later, the party was in full swing. The house was overflowing with guests and Lois was struggling to keep names straight. Clark's best friend from high school, Pete, had arrived with his wife and infant daughter in tow, and had immediately corralled "the guys" and herded them downstairs to the rec room to watch the bowl game. Clark had managed to keep them upstairs long enough to meet Lois, but then he had been swept off.

Lois smiled as she watched Clark with his friends. Surrounded by his high school buddies, she could almost see the boy he had been once. She wandered back into the kitchen where Martha handed her a tray of cookies to replenish the table in the living and told her to skedaddle.

Lois placed the tray on the table and straightened the napkins nervously, unsure what to do next.

"Lois, right?" a friendly voice asked. Lois looked up and recognized the blonde woman as Pete's wife, but couldn't remember her name. In fact, she wasn't entirely certain Pete had made introductions before dashing off.

"Yes," Lois said, offering her hand before realizing that with her arms full of a wiggling baby, the woman couldn't easily take it. But before Lois could withdraw her hand, the other woman shifted the baby to her other arm gracefully and shook her hand. "I'm Lana Ross. I don't think we were properly introduced earlier. You'll have to excuse my husband. He a sweetheart, but when he gets a chance to play with Clark it's like they're thirteen again." Lois couldn't help but smile at the woman's casual demeanor. "Can I see your ring?"

Lois grinned and lifted her hand, so the other woman could inspect it.

"It's gorgeous," Lana said, releasing her hand.

"Thanks. I might be biased, but I think it's perfect. Does every woman think her engagement ring is the most beautiful piece of jewelry ever?"

Lana laughed. "I don't know. I've heard some horror stories. But I'm pretty fond of mine, so who knows."

"Did you go to high school with Clark, too?"

"Oh yeah, I've known Clark all my life. We all went to preschool together."

"Wait a minute. Lana. You dated Clark in high school. I've seen pictures." For a fleeting moment Lois braced herself, assessing the woman as competition. She dismissed the thought immediately, running her thumb over the band of her engagement ring. Besides, Lana was married with a baby. She was hardly on the prowl.

Lana laughed. "I don't know if you'd call it dating, really. We were friends. We went out in a group a lot. We went out one on one a handful of times. It was never anything serious."

"And then you started dating Pete?"

Lana nodded to the empty couch. "Come, let's sit. I'll tell you the whole sordid story," she said with a smile.

Lois followed her eagerly, intrigued by her glimpse into Clark's early years and happy to have someone at the party to talk to.

Lana settled into the couch, and pulled a bottle from the bag she'd been carrying. Once the baby was eating contentedly, she resumed her story. "Clark, Pete and I have known each other since we were in diapers. Our moms were friends; I can't even remember not knowing them. Once we got to high school, there was definitely something between Pete and me. I don't know what it was exactly, but it was just never totally platonic. But we never acted on it. I don't know if we were just scared or what. Finally, our senior year, Pete told me he had feelings for me. But I was stupid and immature and obsessed with popularity. So I told him I wasn't interested in him like that and that I just wanted to be friends."

Lois listened in rapt attention as Lana continued her story. "Anyway, Clark was the quarterback of the football team, the school's golden boy. And he had no idea that Pete had feelings for me. I don't know how he missed it, but he did. He had drifted away from us a lot by that time. We were still good friends, but he just seemed more reserved somehow. I think he and Pete had stopped confiding in each other, I know he and I had. Anyway, I decided Clark would be the perfect boyfriend for me. So I tried desperately to make myself fall for him. We went out a couple of times, but the spark just wasn't there. And in the meantime, Pete and I were both miserable. Clark asked me to prom, I think more out of convenience than anything else, and I agreed. But about a week before prom, Pete showed up at my house with roses and begged me to give him a chance. It all seemed so romantic and dramatic that for a moment I forgot my stupidity and agreed. Of course, once Pete and I were dating, there was the problem of prom. But Pete called Clark and told him the whole story and Clark insisted that we go together. I felt bad, but Clark wound up going with our friend Rachel, and he seemed happy. I'm sure he was just as happy with her as he would have been with me." Lana paused, a troubled yet amused expression crossing her face. "Rachel's treated me funny ever since, though. I think she's still laboring under the misapprehension that I broke Clark's heart."

Lois smiled, remembering her meeting with the Sheriff during her first trip to Smallville. "So you and Pete have been together ever since?" Lois asked. "When did you get married?"

"Well, actually…" Lana grimaced. "Remember when I said I was stupid and immature? That didn't exactly disappear overnight. After graduation, Pete and I went away to college. Pete went to Midwest with Clark, but I went west to UCLA. Once I got out there, I was seduced by the bright lights and fast pace of the city. I decided I didn't want to settle down and move back to Smallville after graduation, even though I knew that Pete could never be happy anywhere else. We broke up eventually, and I stayed in Los Angeles after I graduated. I was working in Hollywood, basically as a gopher with high aspirations, and dating a string of struggling actors. But after a couple of years, I realized I was miserable. I hated my job, I hated the city…and I was lonely. I missed Pete terribly. We'd broken up four years earlier and I was still thinking of him almost daily."

"What did you do?" Lois asked, enthralled.

"I called him," Lana said with a shrug and a wry smile. "I told him that I knew he probably had moved on and didn't want to see me again, but that I realized how stupid I was and I'd give anything for another chance. I groveled."

"What did he say?"

"He said, 'Come home.'"

Lois inhaled sharply. "Wow." As the words sunk in, Lois couldn't keep the sappy grin from her face. "That's so sweet."

"Yeah, he can be pretty romantic when he wants to be," Lana said with a smile before resuming her story. "I packed everything I could fit into the backseat of my car and left everything else. I paid my roommate two months rent to cover until she found someone else, and I drove straight through. I didn't even go home before going to Pete's. We were engaged in two months, married in six. That was three years ago. I traded Hollywood for teaching English at the high school directing the drama club. I love it. And now I've got Emma," she said, taking the now- empty bottle from the baby and propping her on her shoulder, patting her back gently.

"She's cute," Lois said automatically, realizing belatedly that she actually meant it.

"Thanks," Lana said, stroking her daughter's red curls. "She looks just like her daddy. I don't think I can take too much credit. It's funny. I thought I'd never have kids. That was something Pete and I always argued about the first time we dated. He wanted a house full of kids and I just wasn't interested. Dirty diapers? Mushed up animal crackers stuck to the car seats? No thank you. But after we got married, something changed. Now I wouldn't trade her for the world. She's only been here for three months, but already I can't imagine my life without her. That seems like a whole other life." She paused for a minute. "What about you and Clark? Are you planning a houseful? Clark was always great with kids. He babysat more than I did."

Lois was quiet for a minute, realizing that she and Clark had never really discussed it. "I don't know," she said finally. "I… I've never really thought much about kids."

Lana smiled knowingly. "Give it time."

Lois pondered that for a moment, trying to picture herself as a mother. It was such an unfamiliar imagine; motherhood was such a foreign concept to her. She smiled as she pictured Clark holding a baby then wrestling with a toddler. He'd be a great father, she thought. A fantastic father. If she was going to have children, she couldn't have picked a better father for them.

Her reverie was interrupted by Lana's voice. "So tell me about how you and Clark got together. I'm dying to hear this story. You work together, right? So you've known each other for awhile now. But from what I hear, you haven't been dating all that long."

Lois launched into the condensed version of her relationship with Clark, highlighting their time as friends and partners before telling the story of recent events, leaving out the fact that Clark had been pretending to be her boyfriend while they were in Washington. She ended with a recap of Clark's proposal the night before.

"Wow, that's so romantic."

"I know," Lois said with a grin. "He's really something."

Lois and Lana continued to chat for awhile, and Lana introduced Lois to a number of folks who came over to say hello and see the baby. Everyone was delighted to meet Lois and gushed over her ring and the engagement, welcoming her to their small community. After her fourth introduction, Lois was grinning ear to ear.

"Will you do me a favor?" Lana asked finally. "Will you hold Emma for me for a minute? I'm dying to run to the bathroom and then go get a plate of real food from the kitchen. As much as I love cookies, I can't live on them, and I happen to know Mrs. Kent's famous meatballs are in there."

"Oh, I don't know," Lois said. "I really don't know anything about babies. I wouldn't know what to do."

"She'll be fine. She's full and content," Lana said, shifting her into Lois arms and adjusting her. "And I'll be right down the hall. If my beloved husband was anywhere in sight, I'd foist her off on him, but he's too busy being a guy. Thanks, you're a lifesaver."

And then she was gone, and Lois was left alone with the baby. "Okay, baby, it's just you and me. Don't panic. Your Mommy will be back any second. I hope." She jiggled the baby awkwardly for a minute, then stopped. "You're not so bad, are you? You're not crying or anything. Good baby."

Emma's eyes fluttered shut again, and Lois felt a tug at her heartstrings as the baby stretched and settled in. She stroked Emma's tiny hand with her finger and smiled when the baby grasped her finger and held on. "Yeah, you're pretty cute," Lois whispered.

Lois looked up when she heard someone say Clark's name and saw her fiance enter the room. His eyes met hers and he smiled. Then his gaze traveled down to the baby in her arms and he looked at her, surprised. He made his way past the other partygoers, shaking hands and exchanging brief pleasantries, and was at her side in moments.

"Hey," he said softly as he slid onto the sofa next to her. "Look at you."

"Don't even think about it," she deadpanned. "We're not keeping it."

Clark laughed and stroked the baby's cheek gently, then looked up his eyes so full of longing Lois could almost feel it.

"She precious, isn't she?" he said finally.

"Yeah, she is. Do you want to hold her?"

Clark shook his head. "I'd rather watch you hold her," he said quietly, slipping his other arm around her shoulders. He was quiet again, his attention focused on the baby. "We've never talked about kids," he said quietly. "We don't have to talk about it now, but we should. I…"

"…can't imagine not having kids?" Lois finished.

"Yeah," he said, meeting her gaze again. "I know you're not overly fond of kids. But I just… Do you think…?"

"Yeah, I do," Lois said softly, readjusting the baby in her arms. The idea of children before had always been unthinkable. But now, with Clark, it seemed more than possible. It seemed right. "I need time though," she warned. "Time to get used to the idea. I haven't had good parental role models, like you, Clark. I need time to think about this, to come to terms with this and prepare myself for motherhood. It's not something I've ever thought about before. Besides, I want to have some time to enjoy just being together before we have a baby."

"I'll give you all the time you need," he said softly, kissing her hand.

Lois couldn't hold back the laugh that was welling inside her. "Great. So I should be pregnant it, what, one month? Two?" Clark looked at her, puzzled. "That's exactly what you told be about our relationship, remember?" She teased. "You told me you'd give me as much time as I needed, and here we are, less than two months later, engaged."

Clark laughed, his eyes twinkling. "But I gave you all the time you needed, didn't I?"

"Yeah, I was ready," Lois said with a smile.

He held her gaze for a moment, then tipped his head down and brushed his lips across hers. She sighed gently as he pulled back just slightly, reaching up with her free hand to stroke his hair. "Mine," she whispered, gazing into his eyes.

Clark's eyes focused on hers as he inhaled sharply. Then his mouth was over hers again, kissing her more passionately this time. A small voice in the back of her head reminded her that they were in the midst of a roomful of people, but she pushed it aside and gave herself over to his kiss.


In the kitchen, Martha loaded a tray with cookies and sweets to replenish the table in the living room yet again. She rounded the corner from the kitchen to the living room and stopped suddenly when she spotted her son, cooing over a baby in Lois' arms. His arm was around her shoulders, holding her tight, while he used his free hand to tickle the baby. They were both focused on the baby, oblivious to everything else around them. The baby gurgled in reply, causing them both to laugh. They turned to look at each other, and smiled, gazing into each others' eyes. Clark kissed her lips quickly, then touched his forehead to hers and dropped his gaze to the baby again.

Martha smiled wistfully, rooted to her spot, watching her son and the woman he'd fallen in love with. He was so lucky, Martha thought. They both were — to find this kind of love. She'd always worried about her boy. He was so special to her, so precious. She'd worried he would never find anyone who fully accept and understand him. But he had. She couldn't have created a better wife for him if she'd designed one herself. And with her, Clark had a chance for the future she'd always dreamed of for him; one filled with happiness and love.

"What are you looking at?" Jonathan asked, as he approached from the kitchen.

Martha just smiled for a minute at the picture the three of them made, then responded quietly. "The future."