By Nicole Sullivan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: November, 2005
Summary: Lucy Lane is coming to spend Christmas with Lois, but she still needs to find her sister the perfect gift. Can that perfect gift be something money can't buy…like someone tall, dark, and handsome?
*"You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I'm telling you why…"*
Lucy Lane looked out the tiny, circular window of the airplane, humming her favorite Christmas carol in an attempt to settle her nerves and remember that this season was supposed to be a jolly one. She should not be nervous or preoccupied. But she was. She had a problem. Well, two problems actually. A family problem and a financial problem. And they kind of, at this point, intertwined with each other.
There was the family problem. Her parents were complete nuts, for starters. When she had been asked to make a decision about who she wanted to stay with when she visited Metropolis for the holidays, the choice had been easy. Lois. She had made the reservations long ago, saving herself money. She was proud of her level of responsibility in doing that. Normally she wasted an extra hundred dollars or so by making the reservations last minute. And last year, she had waited so long, she couldn't get a seat on any flight and had to stay in California for Christmas.
This year, she had been good, though! Responsible. The plans with Lois had been made months ago. Before the thing with Johnny happened. Johnny Corbin. Oh, he'd seemed great at first. Cute and fun to be around. She'd eventually, with Lois's persistence, grown to see what a jerk he was, taking her tip money and basically using her. Like every other guy in her life, he had not respected her. She'd been a pretty face and a good body. And the one guy who had made her think he liked her for who she was and thought she had a brain inside of that pretty head, turned out to be the worst boyfriend in the world. But worse… he created The Lois Problem, which, whether she liked it or not, she now had to deal with.
The realization that Johnny was a jerk was not a simple run of the mill realization. It wasn't like the time she saw Freddy Jenkins kissing Martha Fillmore at a party or the time she saw Tim Biggs harassing kids that were *much* smaller than him behind the school one day after school. No, with Johnny it was not simple or plainly evident that he was a jerk of the worst kind. First he had become a robot. He had sported a cold, metal chest and had become very strong, hurting her a bit in the process. *Then* he had kidnapped Lois's best friend and just a really nice guy, Clark Kent. And then he'd been killed and her sister had been forced to use the humiliating experience as a front page story for her paper. She had appreciated Lois's help in that mess. And she had understood that Lois needed to write that story. And Lois had protected her, as always, in that story. She hadn't even mentioned her name.
Lucy was always making a mess of Lois's life. Ever since they were young girls. And Lois was always being Lois. Helping her out of those messes. Reacting like a responsible grown up. Protecting Lucy. Lois always protected her! But she had never messed up so badly in her life as she had with the whole Johnny situation. She had gotten Clark kidnapped! Clark was the nicest guy. She'd only met him a few times, but he was always so sincere and sweet. He was funny too. He never looked at any woman like they were a piece of meat or something. He didn't seem perverted or crude or bad-intentioned. He was every bit as genuinely nice and good as he seemed. And he really understood her sister, who was a little bit of a mystery to so many people her especially! Lois had never had a friend like Clark before. She'd never held onto a friend for so long, either. And he'd nearly died… at *her* boyfriend's hands, no less. The same boyfriend Lois had *warned* her about! She never listened to Lois until it was too late. It was just the way it was.
She was going to Lois's for Christmas and she was determined to make everything okay. She really had to make it up to her sister. It wasn't right that Lois always had to take care of her. It wasn't right that Lois always received the brunt of punishment for all her problems. Lucy would start a fight with Lois, when they were little, pulling Lois's hair, and Lois would pull her hair back. But who always got yelled at? Lois! Lucy made fun of kids at school with her friends, and Lois yelled at her in the schoolyard. Who got detention? Lois! Lucy made a bad choice in boyfriends, *again*. Who paid the price? Lois! And Clark, this time, too.
It was always the same and it was driving her nuts! They were grown now. It had to be different! It just had to be.
When she had asked Lois if it was still alright for her to stay at her place for Christmas, Lois had said, "of course!" It was not surprising, really. She had been understanding, in the end, of the Johnny mess. A great sister. A friend, even. And they'd parted on good terms. But… Lucy didn't feel right about it. It had been in the back of her mind ever since she'd returned to California. But now… she had to deal with it.
She needed to get Lois the perfect present! She had always screwed that up royally as a kid, too. One Christmas, she had gotten Lois coal as a joke. It was just a joke! She'd just wanted to make Lois laugh! She'd never forget the wounded look on Lois's face that day. Lois had saved so much money to get Lucy the doll she had been talking about for months. It was just awful.
Another Christmas, when they were older, Lucy wrapped something for Lois that was hers. She hoped Lois wouldn't notice. But it turned out it had been a hand-me-down, and Lois had owned it before giving it to her. She actually did buy things some Christmases, but it was always either something she had, something she absolutely didn't want or need, something that was generic, like a candle or earrings (ultimate proof she didn't know her sister well enough). Lois always smiled though and thanked her. She didn't seem to care too much.
But Lucy cared. Now she cared more than ever.
She could never forget the look on Lois's face when she told Lucy what Johnny had done. Her sister strong and indomitable in her eyes had been on the verge of tears, nearly shaking out of worry for Clark.
Lucy put her head back on the headrest as the plane *finally* took off, after the aimless taxiing and the safety demonstration.
She had to get Lois something great. She owed Lois a lot. The perfect gift would surely settle those debts. It had to! She couldn't bear these thoughts of guilt that always flooded her when she thought about her sister. She knew it shouldn't be that way anymore. She had to make it so it was not that way anymore.
But therein lay her second problem. The Financial Problem.
Once her rent, bills, cost of living and plane ticket were factored into the balance on her bank statement, which she held tightly in her hand, staring at it, almost willing the number to change, she only had about twenty-two dollars to spare. And once she factored in gifts for her parents, she only had about seven dollars left for Lois.
Who could buy her sister the perfect present with only seven dollars?
"You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I'm telling you why…" she hummed, trying once again to settle her nerves and remember that this time of the year was supposed to be jolly!
"Kiss kiss, Sis!" Lucy said as she ran into her sister's arms.
Lois Lane smiled. For all the things that might change as the years went on, Lucy was always the same. She marveled at that thought, wondrously. Here she was, a mere two months after yet another boyfriend stomped all over her and this one was the worst; a killer, a madman, a robot, he used her and abused her she could still come off an airplane giddily, saying "kiss kiss, sis!" like she did every time she saw her sister after having been away from her a time.
"How was your flight?" Lois asked, pulling back from the hug to take in her sister's appearance. She looked tanned and beautiful. And she looked like she always did; like she had not a care in the world.
"It was great. I read this book that I really think you'll like. I'll try to finish it while I'm here so I can lend it to you!" she said, linking her arm through Lois's as they walked.
Lois smiled and handed Lucy a coat she had brought with her. "You're in Metropolis now."
"I know," Lucy said, taking the coat and putting it on. "I already miss the California sun. It's freezing here! That's what the captain said when we were coming in for landing."
"Well, the captain was right. It's about ten degrees outside."
"Thanks for bringing me a coat, Lois," Lucy said, smiling genuinely at her.
Lois smiled, tilting her head, confused by the semi-emotional look on her sister's face. "Well, what are big sisters for? I'm just looking out for you. You wouldn't make it to my car in a long-sleeved tee-shirt," she laughed. "Then Mom and Dad would kill me. The only instruction I got was to keep you alive!"
Lucy smiled and they continued walking, arm-in-arm. "So… how are things? How's Clark?"
"Things are good. Clark's good," Lois said.
Then she remembered. Oh, right. Last time Lucy saw Clark, he was pretty weak. He'd suffered a bit at the hands of Lucy's latest romantic screw up. This one had been bad for Lucy… but it had been bad for her and her partner too.
"I hope he won't mind seeing me," Lucy said.
"Lucy… Clark knows you had nothing to do with what Johnny did. He's excited you're here, actually. He wants to catch up. He really likes you," she assured her.
It was funny… even as they got older, Lois's protective instincts where Lucy was concerned were still intact. Still very strong. She didn't want her sister thinking Clark somehow judged her for any of that past business. She knew it was not in his nature to do that anyway. But Lucy didn't know that. And it was obvious that unchanging as Lucy was, she still held onto things. Still felt them strongly. And Lois had no choice but to do what she always did on instinct quell her sister's worries as best she could.
"So, Lois, what do you want for Christmas?" Lucy asked, throwing a blanket onto the couch, getting ready to settle in for the night.
Lois was on her laptop, deeply engrossed in… something… probably a boring something.
"A new car," Lois said, distractedly, not looking up.
"Actually, I was thinking a suggestion maybe under twenty- thousand dollars," Lucy said. "To be honest, under ten dollars would be ideal," she added to herself.
Lois smiled and looked up. "Lucy, you don't have to get me anything. Honestly. I know you don't have a lot of money right now. I don't expect anything."
'From me,' Lucy thought. 'You don't expect anything from me.' Lucy sighed. Lois never expected anything from her little sister. Or, rather, she never expected anything from her and when she did get something, it usually was pretty awful.
Lucy pulled the cover up to her chin and looked at the ceiling.
This Christmas had to be different. It had to be special. What could she possibly get her sister that she would love and want and didn't already have?
It seemed impossible.
Lois sent her story to Perry and closed her computer. She walked over to the couch and was surprised to see that Lucy was fast asleep already, when her body was three hours behind! But travel days were tiring.
She looked at her a moment longer, her nose tucked under the blanket. She looked the same as she had as a child. She looked so warm and safe.
Lois walked over and shut the light off in the living room, before going to bed herself, reveling in the happy thoughts that accompanied the idea that it was Christmas and her little sister was here with her.
"Lucy!" Perry said, running out of his office. "You're here already? It's so easy to forget it's almost Christmas around here," he said.
Lucy looked around seeing at least five wreaths throughout the newsroom, lots of twinkling lights and a big Happy Holidays sign by the elevator. "Really?"
He smiled. "It's good to see you again."
"You too, Perry," she said.
"Now, Lois, just because your sister is here does not mean you get to run all around this town doing your Christmas shopping on your work hours."
"It never even crossed my mind," Lois said sweetly.
"But you said that tomorrow " Lucy started. But she was cut off by a look from Lois. A look she knew well.
She looked over at Clark's desk. "Where's Clark?" she asked.
"Who knows," Lois said, annoyance creeping into her voice. "He ran off about ten minutes ago like he always does. One of these days…"
She trailed off.
Lucy wondered. One of these days… what? She'd get rid of Clark? Lois adored Clark. That was obvious. He could run off any time he wanted. And he'd always have Lois to return to. They were best friends. That's what it was all about!
"Ah, there you are! I was just asking about you!" Lucy said, hugging Clark.
He shot a wary look at Lois, who did not turn around to look at him.
"Lois, I'm sorry I "
"Save it, Clark. I don't care," Lois said. And then she got up and stormed over to the coffee machine.
Clark looked at Lois, a mixture of emotions dancing across his expression, ranging from sadness to defeat to fear to… something else. Lucy looked closer. No. It couldn't be!
"How was your flight?" he asked, turning back to Lucy after a moment.
"Oh, fine. It's so cold here. I feel like such a snobby Californian! I grew up here, but now that I'm over there, it's like I completely forget what a cold winter feels like!"
He smiled. "You've grown accustomed to a pampered lifestyle."
"Clark!" Perry called, leaning out of his office.
Clark turned to Lucy. "I'll be right back," he said.
Lucy looked at Lois, who was standing by the coffee machine, staring towards Perry's office wearing… well, a similar look to the one Clark had just worn.
He had done it again. She had been in the middle of telling Clark about how good it was to see her little sister after everything that happened a few months ago, how good it felt to see she was okay and moving on with her life healthily and he just took off. He ran out on her.
She shook her head, grinding her teeth together.
Why did she put up with him?
Well, in a day, they'd have their two days off for Christmas and then the weekend, and she wouldn't have to think about Clark Kent. He'd probably go to Smallville and she had Lucy in town. She could stop wondering why she still talked to him at all when he always seemed uninterested enough to run away. It was strange. When he was actually around, he seemed immensely interested in everything she had to say. And he was not a rude person. He could not be running away out of disinterest. That was beyond rude.
Oh, he was a mystery.
And *that* was annoying!
But oh… he was her best friend. The most amazing best friend she ever could have hoped for, if she was honest with herself. And there really was no changing that.
Seven dollars. Seven dollars. Seven dollars! Who could buy a decent present with seven dollars!?
Lucy Lane sat in the unoccupied conference room of the Daily Planet with a notepad on the desk in front of her. She stared at the notes she had scribbled so far, which included:
"Seven dollars couldn't even buy her decent flowers!"
"You might as well get her coal… AGAIN!"
"Seven! 7!! SEVEN!"
"Okay, Lois wants: a car."
She knew her sister had been joking in her own little way the night before, but it didn't change a darn thing. She had to get her sister a present and she had next to nothing. And she still so desperately wanted the present to be perfect! Priceless.
She sat back in her chair and looked out of the conference room window at her sister. She was discussing something with Clark. Some Planet-related something-or-other. The exact kind of thing that led her to ask Perry if there was somewhere else she could sit for awhile, so she "wouldn't bother" her sister, when really she just couldn't stand to listen to Lois's conspiracy theories about everyone in politics or positions of power. Except for Superman. She couldn't stand her statements about Superman either, though. Superman was such a mold of total perfection in her sister's eyes. It was funny; Lois always said Lucy had the ability to get hurt over and over because she was too trusting and too naïve. But then she, Lois Lane, was a complete schoolgirl when it came to Superman. And okay, Superman and Johnny Corbin were two very different types of people, so Lois probably was a little smarter and much safer on this. But all the same. Her heart could easily be hurt by him. With Superman, she failed to listen to her own advice, really.
Wouldn't that be a great present, she thought, biting the eraser on her pencil. To Superman-proof her sister's heart so she could never be hurt by him. Wow! That *was* a priceless gift. But a near-impossible one.
The only way she could Superman-proof her sister's heart was if her sister's affections went toward someone else.
She looked at her sister, who was sitting at her desk, talking to Clark.
"If only they cared about each other," she said. "He'd be perfect. Definitely a great brother-in-law, too. And really easy on the eyes," she added with a devilish smile.
She knew they didn't care for each other, however. Well, Clark she couldn't tell. He sort of had this look when he'd look at Lois. And she completely approved of the look. It was appropriate and even sweet. Sort of innocent! There was something in the look.
If you just looked for it…
But Lois definitely didn't feel that way about Clark.
She remembered a few months ago, getting a call from her sister who was in tears because her partner had been shot and killed on assignment. She had been beside herself with grief. But then a miracle had happened. He had come back. "How did that happen, again?" She shook her head. She couldn't keep up with the strange things that happened in Lois's line of work. She read her sister's stories; but she couldn't wrap her mind around most of them. But those months ago, she had never heard her sister sounding so bereft. But when Clark came back she didn't do anything. She didn't declare her undying love for him before another day passed by without him knowing. "I know if it had been me, I'd have jumped him that night," she thought.
And then she had witnessed Lois's feelings first-hand, when Johnny had taken Clark. Lois was scared for him. Incredibly worried. But again, he returned… and nothing. No feelings were declared.
It had to be that she didn't feel anything for him. You don't go through situations like those and not declare undying love afterward. He was clearly very special to her. Her best friend. But that was it. It had to be.
She looked at them again.
Lois smiled at something Clark said. She had obviously forgiven him for running off this morning. She smiled at Clark and touched his arm, walking away, talking to him still.
No. Lois clearly didn't have feelings for Clark…
Something in the way she looked at *him*…
Struck with inspiration, Lucy grabbed her pen and pad and walked out of the conference room and straight into Perry White's office. She shut the door and sat down, completely uninvited.
"You are just like your sister," Perry said, after he got over the shock that she had just walked into his office so freely and shut his door, not asking if he had a minute. It *was* quite like Lois.
Lucy smiled. She was just so comfortable with Perry. When she had lived with Lois nearly two years ago, she'd spent a lot of time at the Planet. And Perry had always sort of treated her like the spoiled baby in a big family. Lois was the daughter he was hard on at times but loved dearly and had the utmost respect for. Jimmy was the son with a lot of potential but who needed a lot of guidance and occasionally had to be set straight or pulled back to reality. And she was the one who he didn't have to give any responsibility to, but could just laugh with and give attention to. It was great. For her, anyway.
"What's the story with those two?" Lucy asked, peering out of Perry's window at Lois and Clark again.
"Oh you'd have to make an appointment for that," Perry said.
Lucy looked at him, shocked. "Are they more than friends? I had no idea."
"No. They're still fighting that," he said, shaking his head.
"Fighting it. Huh," she said, mostly to herself. She looked back out into the newsroom at the two people in question. "I think I can guess at Clark's feelings." She turned back and looked at Perry. "Tell me. What do you think Lois feels? And where does Superman still fit into her agenda?"
She readied her pen and paper as Perry began telling a complicated tale. As best he could, anyway.
"Seriously. It's getting old," Lois said, looking over her shoulder at Clark, whose face was very close to hers just then. Dangerously close. She looked ahead of her at her computer again.
"Okay, I'll stop editing your copy and we'll just let them print the mistakes. But do you think you could take my name off the byline?"
"Gladly," she shot back.
He walked to the front of her desk and smiled that smile at her and she couldn't help but smile back. Even though she tried not to.
"I think our actual copy editors might catch it, Clark. It *is* their job."
"But what if one of them slipped by their notice? Our job is to fix all the mistakes we notice. They see a lot of copy throughout the day and "
"—Okay, you made your point. Your name is off the byline," she said, smiling, enjoying this.
He looked offended. Hurt. Pained. About to just keel over from it all! And they both laughed.
"You wouldn't take my name off the byline if they paid you extra. Face it. You like being partners with me. You like Lane and Kent."
"So long as it's never Kent and Lane, I like it just fine," she said.
He laughed and walked back to his own desk.
She watched him for just a moment longer. Lately she would do that; watch him just a moment longer than she normally did. She had no idea why she did it. But she'd watch him write something, or the way he talked to someone on the phone, and she felt something inside, like everything was just right. So long as he was there. She supposed it had to do with the few experiences she'd recently had where she'd been forced to consider a life without him right there. On one occasion, she'd been forced to face the prospect of a life without him forever and it had made her completely sick. She had even thought that she had feelings for him. But… she had probably just been completely devastated and then overwhelmed with relief. She hadn't had a clear head. That was it. It was obvious! She knew, though, that he was special to her. He had become so dear to her and she knew that she need not deny *that* any longer.
She watched as Clark made a phone call and eventually she looked away, locking away the thoughts that should never be thought. Not about Clark. The romantic thoughts. The friend-thoughts were okay, though.
She opened her top drawer and pulled out a notepad. She'd been making a list before, and looking at it now could see its ridiculousness.
"Ways to Get Superman to kiss me on Christmas," it was titled.
Oh god, she thought. This was horrible. But even more horrible were the items listed.
"1. jump off a building. 2. scream from the top of the Planet Building probably better than number 1 because if he's busy during number 1, I'll be awfully sorry and feel *really* stupid. And I'll be dead. 3. find Miranda's love potion and spray him!"
Oh! She threw her forehead down on her desk, on top of the notepad. This was awful! She'd clearly written the list under the influence of complete desperation during one of her emotionally charged chocolate binges.
She couldn't do any of those things! They were all very low. And totally beneath her. Except… she really wanted it. She really *really* wanted it. A perfect kiss on Christmas. Just once! Last year, she hadn't known Superman very well, so it couldn't have happened last year. But this year! They were friends. If she could just find a way to kiss him, maybe he'd realize they could be so much more if he'd give it a chance!
She had to obviously find more ways to make it happen. More subtle ways! She grabbed a pen.
"4. trip and fall and land on his lips," she added to the list, with a smile. She could at least practice tripping and falling and that one wouldn't seem too pathetic! "5. Get him under some mistletoe," she wrote. She then got a distant look in her eye.
That was it! Mistletoe! That was how you got your perfect Christmas kiss!
This was perfect! It would just take some work! She had two days to get her plan in action. But she needed help. She needed Clark's help! And the help of most of the Planet employees.
Walking out of Perry White's office, Lucy Lane walked happily back into the conference room and sat down.
A list. She needed a list! It would be a short list. She could actually solve her Lois Problem even with her Financial Problem with a list that only had *two* items!
"Number One," she wrote out, in her best cursive. She smiled. "Plan a Fake… but Real… surprise Christmas Party for Lois for Friday night. Oh. Tomorrow night, I mean."
She laughed to herself.
"Number Two. Fall in love (for Fake!) with Clark Kent."
She made her list and checked it twice. She turned and looked out at her two victims. She planned to be naughty; and she refused to play nice.
"Clark, can I talk to you for a second?" Lucy asked, walking up to Clark's desk a little while later.
He looked up. "Yeah, sure. What is it?"
She turned and looked at her sister, who was engrossed in writing something on a notepad at her desk.
She lowered her voice and leaned in. "I'm planning a surprise Christmas party for Lois. Here. Tomorrow night. Perry said it was okay."
"A surprise Christmas party? I've never heard of that before. Surprise birthdays, surprise anniversary parties, those I've—"
"—Oh, it's a California thing. We're like our own little country there. Our own traditions and all. Anyway, I wanted to do something really special for Lois this year," she said, her eyes conveying her genuine feelings on that one matter.
"Well, okay. I won't tell her a thing," he said, smiling.
"Great. I may also need your help here and there," she said, faking shyness.
"Anything you need, just ask. You know, this'll be fun. I'm glad you thought of it."
Lucy smiled. "Me too."
"Perry, I need Lois and Clark gone. Now," Lucy said, walking up to Perry's desk.
"Lucy, this is a newspaper, in case you haven't noticed. I don't just ask my two star reporters to go off on picnics because one of their kid sisters tells me to. This is not a playground."
"But you made that whole stink about some space rat story getting stale before it even got hot, because Superman arrested those people and how that was the *only* story worth anything and how now you've got nothing and "
"I remember, Lucy," Perry said.
"— *and*… well I was just thinking. Wouldn't it just be better for everyone if Lois and Clark got a move on already and got together?"
"I know I'd get more work done," he said. "Those two. Trying to figure out their moods and their feelings. Everything they say and go through. What they say versus what they mean. It's tiring."
"I know! It must be!" she said, emphatically. "And I can sympathize. I'm exhausted and I've only had to witness a tiny amount for *one* day!"
"What exactly are you up to?"
"I have a plan. But I'm going to need your help," she said.
"Lois, Clark, down to City Hall."
Lois and Clark looked at each other, confused.
"Sure, Chief. What's going on?" Clark asked.
"Uh…" he trailed off and looked at Lucy. They hadn't worked out that detail.
Lucy shot him an expectant look back.
"Superman! He's… there. Go see if you can get an interview," he said, his head down. It was the lamest assignment he had ever handed out since he became the Editor in Chief of the Daily Planet. And it wasn't even real! What was he coming to!? A sentimental softy. A hopeless romantic? Oh boy.
Clark's eyebrows went up in surprise, like he didn't believe it, while Lois just beamed.
"On it, Chief!" she said, running toward the elevators.
In her haste to get to Superman, she had sort of forgot to wait for her partner. But he was quick. He was right behind her anyway.
"Oh god," Lucy said in disgust once they'd left. "She needs to get over that guy. And soon."
"Okay, everyone!" Perry said once they were alone with the newsroom sans Lois and Clark. "We never got around to planning a Christmas party this year, but Lois's sister, Lucy, has graciously offered to help out planning one for tomorrow night. Here's what you all need to understand. Lois is not to know about the party. And…" He trailed off and looked at Lucy. He couldn't say the rest. It was too ridiculous. And it was not the way to operate a newsroom.
Lucy stepped up and sighed impatiently.
"Okay, raise your hand if you're about ready to knock Lois and Clark's heads together because you think they are beyond dense at this point, that they clearly like each other but are just too stubborn or scared or *whatever* to do anything about it themselves?"
Every hand went up.
"Okay. Well. I agree. So here's the deal. Clark knows about the party. Lois does not. What Clark does not know is that this is all a big matchmaking ruse. That he can't know. I'll take any volunteers who want to help me create 'situations' for them, as that will be a large part of the success of this plan. And any volunteers who want to help sell Lois on the idea that Clark is falling for her little sister are welcome to it."
Smiles spread all around and hoards of people rushed up to Lucy, suggestions and votes of confidence in her plan rolling off their tongues. Most people seemed incredibly relieved that the torture they had to endure every day would soon end. Or… begin. Depending on how you looked at it.
"Perry… Superman hasn't been at City Hall all day. Heck, he hasn't even been there all week!" Lois said, walking into Perry's office, her eyes flashing.
"Oh. Must have been a faulty source," he said, not looking up. "Anyway. Don't you have another story due in, oh," he paused, looking at his watch for dramatic effect, "three hours?"
With a grunt she walked back out into the newsroom.
"Oh my god."
"What?" Lois asked, looking up from her story to see what Lucy was talking about.
"What about him?" she asked, looking at her partner. He was standing up looking for something at his desk, while talking to someone on the phone.
"Yum," Lucy purred.
"Did you just say 'yum'?"
Lois looked at her sister, who hadn't taken her… *hungry*… eyes off of Clark.
"Um, Lois, I don't know if you've happened to really look at your partner lately. I mean, I know you see him all day, everyday, and everything, but obviously you need a pair of fresh eyes to really notice the *yum*."
Lois's eyebrows shot sky high.
Lois looked at Clark. I mean, yes, it was obvious that he really was… no! She would not think of him like that! He was very attractive, yes. But she could not sit there and listen to someone say things like that about him. It was inappropriate and rude! And…
"Lucy, I really don't think you…"
But she trailed off when she noticed Lucy, completely ignoring her, strut herself across the floor to Clark's desk. She leaned in and said something to him and he smiled that smile. Lois felt something tighten inside at that smile. It really was a nice, good, perfect smile. It couldn't be denied that Clark Kent had an amazing smile. She watched closely, as Lucy laughed and launched herself into Clark's arms. He looked a little surprised by her outpour of affection, but hugged her back with a smile and winked at her when he pulled away.
Clark didn't wink.
Well… at least she didn't think he did.
What was going on? Had the whole newsroom gone mad? First Perry was sending them out on wild goose chases and then Lucy was saying Clark was yum… and then she was throwing herself at him and he was *winking* at her!
There was something strange in the air. And it wasn't the spray from those stupid space rats! Dang it too, because *that* might have been a good story!
Clark liked Lucy. She was sort of like the little sister he never had but would have enjoyed having around. She was full of energy. She was *very* different from her sister. Lois, now she was… not like a sister to him. At all. Which was probably a bad thing, since he was apparently like a brother to her.
Lucy was fun to be around. Happy-go-lucky and very carefree. It was cute, this plan for a surprise Christmas party for Lois. Lucy was so happy about it. He couldn't help but join in and feel happy about it himself. Besides, a few more hours with Lois tomorrow before they parted for Christmas was fine by him. Any day.
Lucy had come over to ask him if he'd help her pick out some decorations later. Of course he'd agreed. She seemed so into the party; he really couldn't turn her down. Plus, he didn't exactly have any pressing plans later. That game on television would be summarized in tomorrow's paper. So…
He looked up to see Lucy standing by his desk, Lois not far behind.
"Ready?" Lois asked. "For what?"
Lucy whirled around and looked at her sister, seeming overly surprised to see her there. "Oh. Clark and I are going out."
Lois's eyebrows shot up into the air. "Going out? Where?"
Lois looked at Clark, not Lucy, for this answer.
He knew Lucy wanted the party to be a surprise, but he couldn't think of any rational reason he might me going somewhere with Lucy Lane, so he just blushed. "Just out for a bit," he muttered finally.
Lucy turned to Lois again for a moment. He couldn't see what kind of face she made at her, but whatever it was, it caused Lois to look back at him, her mouth falling open, before looking at Lucy again. "Okay. Well, good. Fine," she said quickly. And then she walked away.
She looked… mad? Possibly mad. She was probably mad because it looked like he was stealing her kid sister. Here she was visiting and instead of doing whatever with Lois, she was going to do it with him, like she preferred spending time with him over her. Lois was probably hurt. She was so excited to have Lucy in town. She was positively glowing this morning, telling him that. Before he had to run out on her of course…
He sighed. Oh, he *hated* lying to Lois! He did it daily as it was out of necessity. And now he was doing it as a favor to her kid sister, for her own sake! But she didn't know that.
Lois was probably angry and hurt because *she* wanted to hang out with Lucy. Oh, well, he would just have to speed up their decoration-buying, so Lois could have her sister back.
He looked at Lucy who looked beyond happy.
Yes, he liked Lucy Lane, Kid Sister, who really seemed not to have a care in the world. He admired that shining quality about her at that moment, wishing that he could adopt it and not worry so much over Lois's feelings all the time.
"Hey, Lucy, before you go, I wanted to show you something. Do you have a minute?" Jimmy asked.
Lucy smiled, remembering his suggestion for the plan. "That's right. Clark, I'll be right back!"
He nodded and walked toward Lois's desk.
She ran to the conference room with Jimmy.
"Okay, let me see this picture you're talking about," Lucy said excitedly.
"This is so awesome. I can't believe our luck," Jimmy said. "I mean, I came across this the other day in the photo archive and thought it was useless, but this is just perfect. Okay, here it is."
He opened a manila folder and showed her the picture.
Her breath caught at first. It was a black and white photo. Perfect quality. Lois and Clark.
She was sitting casually at the edge of his desk, clearly in mid- tirade. She was looking at him, her mouth forming some word. Her eyes. Lucy focused on her eyes. They were so happy. Almost laughing. Animated. All throughout their childhood, Lucy had never seen that side of her sister. The side she saw so much more now. When Lois was with Clark…
She studied the picture closer.
She was so comfortable. Like… like she was home.
She looked at Clark. He was the reason her breath had caught when she'd seen it.
He was looking up at her. And…
You could see it. You could see it so clearly.
He was hopelessly in love with Lois Lane. Endlessly. Unconditionally. And… it was beautiful. It brought tears to her eyes.
"Who took this?" she asked Jimmy, not breaking her trance on the photo.
"I did. Franklin Stern, our owner, requested some pictures of daily operations about two months ago, and I just walked around taking pictures. Everyone was so used to it they just ignored me. I saw this in the archive just the other day. I'd forgotten we even had it. But when you mentioned the plan, it came back to me and I just figured we could use it."
She smiled and finally looked up at him.
"Okay, what should I do?" she asked.
"Sit at the edge of the conference table," he instructed. He moved and pulled out his camera. After minutes of looking from the photo to Lucy, and repositioning himself and her, he took a bunch of pictures. "Okay," he finally said. "Tomorrow, you've got yourself a pretty picture."
"Bye sis, don't wait up," Lucy whispered to Lois minutes later. She then walked over to Clark and linked her arm in his as they walked happily out of the newsroom.
Lois sat back in her chair, staring in the direction in which they'd just disappeared.
What was going on?
Everything seemed so… off. She felt like she's entered a parallel universe. It definitely felt off. But why?
Clark had walked over, when Lucy disappeared with Jimmy, to ensure her that he wasn't "stealing her sister". Whatever that meant. But when she threw a series of questions at him that she thought were straightforward enough, like "where are you going?" "Why is she going out with you?" "What will you two do?", he'd had no answers.
"So what do you think?"
Lois looked up to see Perry standing there, looking wistfully in the direction that Lucy and Clark had just disappeared in.
"About what?" she asked, startled herself at the edge in her voice.
"Those two," Perry said, like he hadn't noticed her tone. "Clark and Lucy. Who'd have thought?"
"What do you mean?" Lois asked. Although she wasn't an idiot. She knew what he meant.
"Oh, I just never considered that they might be a good couple. But… I don't know. I think there might be something there. A chemistry. A connection."
"A connection? Perry, they've spent all of five minutes together since she's gotten here."
"Well, Lois, haven't you ever heard of instant attraction? Animal magnetism? Besides… they're going to be together now, it seems, for more than five minutes. That should give them enough time to see what it all means."
"What *what* all means?" she asked. Again, like she had no idea. Like she was a complete idiot.
"What I saw. You know. The connection."
With a smile that made it seem like he had just fallen in love himself, he walked away.
WHAT WAS GOING ON?
Lois laid her head in her hands. Surely she was just going nuts.
"Where have you been?!" Lois demanded when Lucy walked through the door two hours later.
Lucy sighed, looking around dreamily. "Out," she said, in a giddy, flighty voice.
"Well, where did… what's wrong with your face? Are… " Lois trailed off, her eyebrows shooting up. "You're *glowing*."
Lucy smiled. It had worked. The woman at the makeup store said the cream would give her a radiant glow. So she'd put on extra.
"Probably," she said, acting perfectly innocent, as if she had no idea her skin was so radiantly glow-y. "We had a really, *really* good time."
Lucy tried to contain her excitement as Lois used the chair she was next to for support. It seemed like Lois was a little weak in the knees, unsteady on her feet and — if her expression was any indication — absolutely horrified by all the possibilities most likely flitting through her mind at the moment.
"He's… he's… oh…Clark… what is he?" Lucy asked, looking thoughtful.
"Well, I'd say he gets under your skin. One second he's this reliable constant in your life and you know exactly what to expect of him; he's unwavering as a friend. The next second he'll run off on you with some cockeyed excuse that makes *no* sense, or he'll run off with… with… he'll do something so unlike him and so… *so*… stupid! You spend half your time wanting to see him and wanting to hug him," she said, looking emotional, "and the other half of the time wanting to throw him through the conference room wall!"
Lucy smiled. This was working better than she ever could have imagined. "No. That's not it," she said. Lois looked up at her, seething eyes burning into her own. "But there's something about him. Something great. I just *know* it."
"If you haven't figured out what's great about Clark yet, then you don't know him at all," Lois said quickly, before looking like she was mortified to have been caught saying that out loud.
"Who cares about knowing him! Lois… have you *seen* him? Have you ever laid eyes on that man?"
"Well, since we're partners, I believe it's happened once or twice or every single day for the past year and a half," Lois said, her voice dripping in anger and sarcasm.
"You see him every day, sure. But have you ever… okay, checked him out, I guess? That's the best way to put it."
"No, I haven't checked him out!" Lois said, blushing profusely. And Lucy knew… Lois was lying through her teeth. And what was worse, Lois *knew* she was lying and it was making her angry. For the first time, she was being forced to think about her clear attraction to her partner and she could deny it out loud all she wanted, but her thoughts clearly were not betraying her. "He's my friend!" she added after a moment. "And why are you acting like you've never seen him before? You've met him twice before!"
"Yeah, but the first time I was preoccupied getting ready to move to California. And last time I was sort of dealing with a psychotic homicidal boyfriend who used me for my tip money, if you recall correctly, since you so eloquently pointed that out to me," Lucy shot back hotly.
"So you come back this time and it's suddenly all you can do to keep from drooling all over the newsroom floor?"
Lucy smiled. "I know. I don't know how I didn't notice it before. Notice the "
" 'yum', I know. You said."
Lucy smiled and concentrated really hard on not looking directly at her sister. She feared if they made eye contact at that moment, her whole facade would be figured out. It wasn't a hard facade. Being attracted to Clark Kent was perfectly easy. The man was gorgeous. So this was not exactly acting. But because she felt that Lois cared far more for Clark than she'd ever admit, Lucy would never act on an attraction to him. That part of the charade was getting harder to pull off. She just had to play it smart. And at the moment, smart was not looking at Lois directly.
She took a long, breath and cocked her head sideways, imagining a big, giant cheesecake floating somewhere just in front of her face. She licked her lips invitingly. "I am going to make him mine. He's just so hot. He has the best body. Those muscles. That chest! Oh! He's so tall and lean. And that butt!"
Lucy looked up at Lois and pretended to be embarrassed at having said so much. She smiled her sweetest, shyest smile and bit her bottom lip. "Sorry. I'll be quiet."
"How can you say those things? Clark's a person, you know. And if you really looked at him or really talked to him, you'd see he's a good person. The best person. Someone who should be pursued because of that. Not just because he looks good! He's the best there is and you're treating him like nothing more than a sex symbol!"
Lucy crossed her arms and put on her most offended face. One she'd perfected back in high school when Lois was on her case about *everything*. "You're such a hypocrite."
"Am I?" Lois said, clearly thinking she was not one at all. Little did she know how much thought Lucy had put into all of this. Into this carefully orchestrated conversation.
"You treat Superman the exact same way," Lucy finally said.
Lois's face fell and she looked away.
And check mate.
Lois clearly had nothing to say to that. Well, at first anyway. Lucy knew only too well that Lois was never speechless for very long.
"Superman is my friend," Lois finally said. "I don't… I don't look at him like…"
Lucy smiled in self-satisfaction. Lois couldn't even put her defense into a full sentence. The fact of the matter was, Lois made her attraction to Superman clear from the moment she laid eyes on him. She didn't know him well at all when she decided that he would someday be hers.
Lucy wanted to cry out in glee. This game was getting fun!
Lois typed at her computer quickly and angrily. Lucy was off to who-knows-where doing god-knows-what… At that thought, Lois lifted her eyes and sought out her partner. She found him talking to Jimmy by the fax machine and found a little sigh of relief escaping her.
And that just made her mad.
Why should she be relieved that Lucy and Clark weren't in the copy room doing… *something*?
She didn't care what Lucy did or what Clark did in their spare time. Although this was not Clark's spare time. But even so. She tapped her pen on her desk nervously. She was probably just relieved because Clark was a good friend, and Lois could tell that Lucy only wanted him for one thing. His physical attributes. And that… that wasn't right. She had to protect him. He'd protect her, after all, if someone wanted her for the wrong reasons. Heck, he'd tried to do that in the past.
But… she hadn't believed him. She'd accused him of jealousy…
Well, *she* wasn't jealous. Uh-uh. No way.
"Hey, Lois," Jimmy said, walking over.
"Hi, Jimmy," she said. She looked around. "Where did Clark go?"
"No idea," Jimmy said, shrugging. "We were talking, and then he said he had to do something. But anyway, I wanted to show you this. It's going to absolutely make your day! It's great!"
He placed a manila envelope on her desk and she got excited. A story! Something she had him research panned out and a great story lay within her grasp. She knew it! She opened the folder and…
Her mouth fell open.
It was a picture of Clark and Lucy talking at his desk.
"When… when was this taken?" she asked.
"I took it yesterday," he said, beaming. "I thought they looked good together and wanted to take a picture of it. Look at them! Have you ever seen anything so great?"
Lois looked. She couldn't turn away, actually.
Lucy was smiling down at Clark, looking… *really* happy. But it was Clark who drew her attention. He was looking up at Lucy like she was… her breath caught… like she was so special to him. Precious. More than that, even…
How could that be? He barely knew her!
But there it was. Evidence. He was looking up at Lucy… and…
…Lois couldn't help but wish that someday someone would look at *her* that way.
"Superman! What are you doing here?" Lois asked, walking with a coffee back toward the Daily Planet building.
"Hi Lois. Clark said you wanted to see me?"
"Oh! Right! That… that was yesterday."
She blushed, remembering. She had just finished making her list, just come up with her brilliant plan to spring Mistletoe on him, and had told her partner to get in touch with him for her, since he always seemed to know how to find Superman. That was before said partner had gone out gallivanting with her little sister, however.
"Yeah. I'm sorry I couldn't come by yesterday. I got a little detained…"
"No, it's fine… I just hadn't… it was before…"
"Before what?" he asked.
He furrowed his eyebrows in confusion. "Lucy. Your sister?"
"Yeah. She storms into my life and every single time creates a mess! She takes my life and throws its pieces all over the living room floor! The bathroom floor. The bedroom floor. And now the newsroom floor. I can't *stand* it!"
"Well, I'm sure she has a good reason. This time anyway," he said.
Superman. Always seeing the best in everyone.
"Oh she does," Lois said, feeling downright annoyed. At Lucy. Not Superman.
"Maybe she wants to get you something nice for Christmas this year," he offered.
"Well, she's doing a fine job! I think I'd prefer for her to get me coal… again."
"Your sister got you coal for Christmas one year?"
"She has a strange sense of humor," Lois answered flatly. "And she, alone, is going to make my Christmas horrible this year," she added to herself.
But *why*? Why did any of what Lucy was doing upset her! Clark could take care of himself! Lucy could take care of herself! And she had thought the whole newsroom was crazy until… well, until she had seen that photo. She could actually believe it. What Perry said. They looked like they did have some kind of a connection. That shouldn't bother her! She wanted her best friend to be happy. She wanted her sister to be happy. If they found happiness together, shouldn't *she* be happy? Ecstatic even?!
"Well, whatever it was you needed me for, before Lucy came and did whatever it is she's doing…" he said, trailing off.
'I wanted you to kiss me!' her mind screamed. 'I had a list!' her mind added. 'There was supposed to be Mistletoe! It was going to be a perfect Christmas kiss under the mistletoe!' her mind added again.
She dropped her head. She had voices in her head! She had actually gone nuts! And with Superman bearing witness…
She wasn't feeling it. She couldn't do it. Not now anyway. She couldn't kiss him in such circumstances. Besides… last night when she had left work, buying mistletoe the one thing she was supposed to have done had been the furthest thing from her mind.
"It was nothing, Superman. But thanks for coming to see me," she said.
She didn't look right. Ever since midway through yesterday, something had been up with Lois. Clark knew it. He'd sensed it then. But her incoherent conversation with his alter ego just now confirmed it all. Something was bothering her. And now that was bothering him. He hated seeing Lois upset. And something in her eyes just now…
She was definitely, at the very least, upset.
She kept talking about Lucy. He still felt bad about making Lois think that Lucy preferred spending her time in Metropolis with someone other than her sister, who was so happy to see her. But as far as he could tell, Lucy wasn't doing anything else that would bother Lois. She was mostly bounding around the newsroom with enough energy to write an issue on her own, barely remembering to occasionally return back to earth and catch her breath.
Lois. There she was. She was just getting back, easing into her chair, sipping her coffee slowly.
He walked down the ramp, stuffed his hands in his pockets, and made his way over to her. She was his best friend. She would surely tell him what was going on.
"Nothing. Clark, leave me alone, please," she said when he asked. "I have a lot of work to do."
"But Lois, I can tell something is wrong. Can't you talk to me about it? You talk to me about everything," he started.
"I don't talk to you about everything! Don't assume you know me so well, Kent, because sometimes you have no clue!"
He was taken aback by her outburst. And… she was calling him "Kent."
Something was definitely going on. And he was starting to think she was mad at him too! What did he do? Oh…
"Lois, is this about me running off yesterday when we were talking? I really am s—"
"Why would yesterday bother me, Clark? You run off all the time. As a matter of fact, it bothers me when you don't run off." She looked up at him, her eyes finally meeting his. "Well?"
He waited. What…
She wanted him to run off? She was pushing him away big time. Much more than she ever did, even back when they barely knew each other. She was sending out clear signals and… and it hurt.
He buried it, though, and turned. He had to find Lucy and put a stop to at least one of the things that was bothering Lois.
He was talking to Lucy again! When she told him to run off, she probably should have considered he might run straight into the arms of his new love interest, Lois Lane's Kid Sister! Ugh!
"Those two really are " Ralph started.
"You finish that sentence, you finish this job. And don't think I can't get you fired," she said, her voice low, and — even she acknowledged — kind of evil-sounding.
He placed his two hands up defensively and walked away.
She looked at Clark and Lucy again. They were in the conference room. Talking. It looked serious. Perhaps they were discussing whatever it was that took them two hours to do yesterday. Whatever they'd been doing which had left her sister… glowing, she shuddered to remember.
Suddenly the conference room became blurry. Her nose felt funny. Her throat felt tight and constricted.
What was going on?!
"We can't give up now, Clark!"
"But Lucy… she's really upset. I hate doing this. She's reading it all wrong."
'That's the point, nimrod,' was what Lucy thought devilishly to herself. But out loud, she said, "It's only until tonight. She's already upset. What's a few more hours at this point? Honestly."
He sighed and put a hand through his hair. It really was sweet how upset he got when he could sense Lois's pain. This really was the guy for her sister. His care and compassion for Lois went so deep. It was all so obvious.
So why couldn't Lois see it?
"Okay, Lucy. But only because it's just for a few more hours."
"Thank you, thank you, thank you!" Lucy smiled and hugged him, hoping that Lois was watching.
Lois was watching. She watched as Lucy wrapped her arms around her partner and as her fingers rested in a sweet, almost intimate way, on his neck and jaw line. She watched as Clark held Lucy up, in that quietly strong way of his. Solid in his arms. She watched the exchange until she forced herself to look away.
But looking away from the picture before her in the conference room, she was greeted by another picture that lay on her desk.
"Jimmy!" she called out, wiping a tear quickly from her cheek.
"What's up, Lois?"
"This. Take it. Throw it away. Hang it in your apartment. Do whatever you want with it but just get it out of my sight," she said, handing him back the photo. The proof. The evidence.
The unbearable torture.
No! No. It was bearable! Sure, it was. But she had more important things to do than look at a lovey-dovey photograph while at work.
She should write a story.
"Sure thing, Lois," Jimmy said, taking the picture back. "I'm so psyched, though. This is such a great picture. Candid pictures really are the best. Catching people off-guard. And *these* two! Look at Clark, Lois! Can you see it? See? In his eyes. Can you see it, or is it just me?"
"Okay, okay," he said, walking away, still looking at the picture.
The picture was finally out of her sight, but it, for some reason, was not yet out of her mind. And Jimmy's question rolled over in her mind. Or, rather, her silent answer to the question, spoken by a voice in her head that she tried to shush and silence by pushing it back, a voice that was coming forth anyway with a stubborn very Lois Lane vengeance.
"I saw it," the voice said. Clark's eyes… "I saw it."
She did it! She did it! SHE DID IT!
And it cost seven dollars!
Lucy smiled as she looked at the present in the checkout line at the store.
She had done what she set out to do. She had gotten Lois the perfect present and it had only been seven dollars. But oh, whether it had been seven dollars or a million dollars, the present was priceless.
"Lucy, this is torture," Perry said minutes later after the door was closed. "Look at her! She's miserable. Can't you go easy on her?"
"Perry, do you have any idea what it was like growing up with her as a big sister? Do you think she *ever* went easy on me?"
Perry laughed. "Of course not. But I'm used to seeing Lois lead investigations, pull things over on other people, manipulate whoever to get a story and basically be in constant control. It's not natural to watch her go through this. You're assuming she feels this way we all are but we're abusing those feelings, if they're there. We're hurting her with them. Feelings are sensitive matters to begin with. But you take Lois Lane, who always has to act like she doesn't feel things too strongly for anyone so she won't get hurt, and you've got a much more sensitive case on your hands. She cares about Clark and she's shown that so much over the past year and a half. And now, we're making her think she's losing him. Lucy, he's her best friend. Just… go easier on her!"
"No, Perry," Lucy said indignantly, putting her hands on her hips.
His eyebrows shot up. "I used to think you were the nice sister," he said with a chuckle. "But you're just as bad as Lois. If not worse."
She smiled. "Thank you," she said, clearly taking that as a compliment. "Look, Perry, I love her so much. You've got to know that."
"I know it, Lucy. We all love her, so "
"I am not done!"
Perry sat back in his chair, looking amused. He gestured for her to continue.
"Okay, you're right about everything you said. Lois is sensitive and feels things strongly but tries to always be in control and not act on her feelings or give away too much. You are right that she's different than other people. She is. She's special. When we were growing up, she never took the time to open up about *her* feelings. She was too busy helping to raise me and keep me out of trouble and to clean up my messes and try her best to mediate between my mom and dad. When she wasn't doing that, she was working so hard at being the best; it was the only way she knew how to do things, the only way for *her* to get attention. I found that the only way I could *ever* get through to her was to show her something. Lois is so set in her own ways, she doesn't listen to anyone. Clark is probably the only person in the world that she listens to, but then when it comes to him, she doesn't listen in the one way that matters most. She doesn't listen to her heart. You have to show her, Perry! She needs to be shown! And not in a tiny, subtle way. She needs to be hit over the head with the facts, with the truth, with those feelings she has buried deep inside for her own asinine reasons. She needs to be shown in a dramatic way. She needs to have a full two-act play performed before her very eyes."
"Are you done now?" Perry asked when Lucy ran out of steam.
"Okay. You want to do a two-act play as a Christmas present to your sister and to us all for that matter, since those two are like a roller coaster most of the time be my guest. All I'm asking for is a little intermission."
"Oh, that's coming up."
"What is? What do you have planned?"
"Countdown to the party… five hours," Lucy said with a smile, sitting at the conference table and spotting some donuts from a morning meeting. Jimmy closed the door.
"Okay, Jimmy, it's time to test the sound system for this shindig," Lucy said, popping a donut hole into her mouth and smiling as Jimmy approached.
"Sound system? It's really more like a stereo. And a really small one, at that."
"Whatever. Do you have the songs I wanted?"
"A holiday mix as requested, milady."
"Yay!" she squealed.
Jimmy smiled as Lucy jumped up and grabbed the list of songs he was holding. Lucy's enthusiasm was infectious. You couldn't be around her, he mused, and not feel it too, not get excited. Besides which, it *was* all very exciting. If the plan worked, Lois and Clark might finally stop hiding their true feelings and be together already!
He looked out into the newsroom, spotting the two of them. He noted Lois's forlorn expression and just hoped she'd be able to make it to the party.
"Okay, Jimmy, did you send out that email to everyone?"
He nodded, fiddling with the stereo, trying to get it ready.
"*Everyone*?" she repeated.
He looked up, noticing the look on her face.
"No. Not those two. Don't worry. I'm not a total amateur."
She smiled in relief. "Great. Okay. Well, when will everyone begin to filter out?"
Jimmy shrugged. "They'll do it slowly so it's not obvious. Just let me know when they're out and we'll get this going."
"You know," Lucy said, sitting back. "This place is so great. I mean, what other workplace would go to such lengths to get two people that belong together, well, together?"
"Well, Lois and Clark are special," Jimmy said. "Plus news is slow." He pulled on a wire and plugged a chord in. "Plus it's days before Christmas and any non-work distraction is absolutely welcomed around here with open arms." He placed the stereo on the conference room table and put the speakers facing out into the newsroom. "Plus, I think the part of the plan where we all torture Lois is appealing to some of the people here," he laughed.
"Well, not me," Lucy said. "I feel like such a bad sister."
Jimmy stopped and turned to her. "Are you kidding? I've never seen anyone do anything like this for their sister. Lois is really lucky to have you!"
She looked at him, uncertainty and hope evident in her eyes. "You think so?"
"I know so. And so does she. And don't worry; if that isn't the foremost thought in her mind right now, it will be later."
"I hope so."
Lucy smiled, and feeling confident he'd convinced her that she was a great sister and not a bad one, Jimmy went back to his work at hand.
The plan was working. Lucy was marveling in her success. Her sister looked about ready to kill everyone in the newsroom. Lucy was just so pleased. In her wildest dreams, she could not have achieved such follow through with a goal. It just felt so perfect and so right! Everything was falling into place. She even felt a sort of unspoken understanding with the Planet staff. They seemed to know just what to do.
After excitedly passing around heart-shaped candy canes, Lucy plopped herself down on Lois's desk. She grabbed the candy cane she had especially picked out for Lois.
"Here, sis!" she said, holding it out to Lois. "Oh no! It's broken!" she cried, looking shocked and just so sad, even though it was she who had broken it. "A broken heart for your thoughts," she said after a moment, handing the broken-hearted candy cane to Lois, who absently threw it in the trash.
"You are going to throw your broken heart in the trash? Forget all about it? You know, that is so like you!" Lucy said.
But Lois just furrowed her eyebrows, staring at the computer monitor, typing away.
Jessica from Marketing caught Lucy's eye, and with a look of approval from Lucy, walked over to Lois's desk.
"Hi! It's Lucy, right?"
"Uh, yeah…" Lucy said, sounding confused.
She really should have considered acting. She even lived in California already. It was perfect *and* convenient!
"I just wanted to tell you… you and Clark Kent… wow. I have never seen such chemistry between two people. It's amazing. I hope it works out," she said.
"Oh, thank you!" Lucy said, trying to contain her excitement. Lois was right there and most likely thought the excitement was due to something else altogether. "I hope so too!"
"Well, see you around. Hi, Lois," Jessica added, before walking away.
Lois finally looked up at her. The look on her face was priceless. Then she turned the look on her sister.
"Lucy, I only have a few hours left here. And it's really busy!"
"It is? I thought news was so slow you were about to jump off the roof just to have a story."
"Yes, well, it's picking up."
Lucy tilted her head. She knew better.
"It's just distracting having you here. Don't you think you could "
"Shhh, Lois! There he is."
"There who is?" Lois asked, sounding really annoyed.
Then she saw Clark. He was talking to Ralph about something and smiling.
Lucy let out a longing sigh and just stared at him. "He really is something," she said longingly.
"Yeah," Lois agreed, sounding like she was somewhere else. Staring at Clark with a look on her face…
Lucy's breath caught and she found she had to focus really hard on suppressing the joyous feeling that completely filled her at Lois's muttered word, which she looked like she hadn't meant to say out loud at all.
"I just mean," Lois began, "that only Clark could talk to Ralph and manage a smile."
Lois busied herself with some papers on her desk, looking flustered. Intent on looking at anything but her partner.
"A killer smile," Lucy added.
She looked down at her sister and expected her to be still pretending not to notice Clark or Lucy's comments. But she was staring ahead. And then she finally said one thing, which nearly caused Lucy to fall off the edge of Lois's desk.
"I'll agree with you there. He has a wonderful smile."
And then she broke out of her trance and continued pretending. Always pretending.
It was ironic, actually, Lucy mused. As children, Lois used to always warn Lucy against the dangers of playing pretend too much.
"But Lucy, you're not *really* a doctor, are you? You shouldn't always play make believe. The world is not really like that."
Tone gentle. Message clear. Pretending was bad…
Lucy looked at Lois.
…Yet that was how she lived her life.
Jimmy arranged the next stage. People would go up to Lois's desk about every seven to ten minutes to chat, and *some*, so as to not be too obvious, would mention how lovely Lucy and Clark were as a couple.
During those "desk exchanges", as Lucy had dubbed them, Lucy, Clark and Jimmy were able to take chords of white Christmas lights and line the walls around the newsroom without Lois noticing.
Christmas was in the air! Well, it was all around, actually. Around the newsroom. Around her sister. Not that she noticed. Lucy smiled, stapling a wire in place, as she saw Lois surely fighting the urge to slap the woman currently talking her ear off.
Lois also didn't seem to notice the number of people filtering out of the newsroom. She was distracted enough. This was all working so nicely. Like some form of divine intervention was aiding Lucy in her matchmaking conquest.
Once the lights were in place, Clark went back to his desk to finish writing something.
Lucy and Jimmy smiled at each other.
"On to the next stage," Lucy whispered.
Lois had not written one single sentence the entire day. She looked at her monitor to see if her last effort to write a sentence had panned out. She realized it was about the same as all her previous efforts.
"Continuing a tradition that he started last year, Superman's presence was again welcomed with open and appreciative arms from orphans all over Metropolis I cannot believe him! How could he do that? And with my own sister! Wait… what do I care? I don't care!!!!!"
She immediately hit the backspace bar until she was back at the part of her sentence that did not reek of complete insanity.
She sighed. This had been an awful two days.
She had been so excited for Lucy to come to town, but ever since her arrival, things had spiraled out of control in her normally routine and carefully controlled existence. Things had just gotten progressively worse for her with each passing minute.
And it should not have been the case!
This whole thing with Clark… it shouldn't bother her. They were friends! They were just friends. And Lucy knew that. So it was not as if her sister was doing something bad or impeding on her territory. But… she somehow still felt that Lucy was in the wrong here. That she should have checked with Lois before pursuing Clark in this blatant manner. Why hadn't she asked Lois if it was alright? Of course it *was* alright. Right? But still. She should have checked. Lucy knew that her relationship with Clark was complicated. She knew it. Didn't she? Hadn't Lois made it clear that he wasn't just a friend and coworker? That he was her best friend and… and that there were all these complications that made their relationship constantly more and more difficult to define? Didn't Clark himself know that? Why hadn't he pulled Lois aside to explain what was going on, instead of parading it around so callously in front of her?
Why were two of the most important people in her life not even considering her feelings for one moment? Couldn't they come up for air long enough to remember her? Lois Lane? Sister. Partner. Best friend. And…
Oh. It was hopeless. She was not about to write anything today. And she wasn't even in the mood.
She wanted Christmas to be over. She wanted her sister to go back home. And she wanted things to go back to normal.
What *was* normal?
She was thinking way too much and she now had a headache.
Lois looked up to see Clark looking down at her, standing by her desk. She wanted to tell him to go away. To continue pushing him away like she always did when her heart got involved. But… he looked like such a good friend, standing there. His eyes were concerned and caring. And… he looked unsure. Unsure of himself. And he had the ability to pull at her heartstrings with those looks of his.
"Yeah?" she said, her tone more gentle than it had been for the past two days.
"I saw Superman a little while ago and he gave me a quick interview about seeing the kids at the Metropolis Orphanage. I know Perry has you writing a piece about it and I thought you might want these notes. Have some quotes to punch it up."
"Clark, I don't want your notes. Why don't you just write it?"
He sighed. "It's your story, Lois. I'm really swamped anyway with this other story Perry has me on. I have almost nothing on it and I really should focus on that. Come on. I insist."
"Clark… this wouldn't by any chance be a sort of peace treaty, would it?"
Oh, that smile…
"Lois, take it how you will. I'm just trying to help out my *partner*."
She started to smile, but she stopped herself.
His *partner*. He had put stress on the word "partner". She felt something tighten in her stomach as she thought about that. She was his partner. Oh, she'd always be his partner. But… he really stressed it, just then. Was he preparing her for his news about him and Lucy? By stressing that he and Lois were just "partners." Nothing more. Not in his mind.
"Lois? Are you alright?"
"Uh, yeah, Clark, I just…"
"Have yourself a merry little Christmas…"
She broke off as music filled the air. Her favorite Christmas carol was playing. She had always thought it was so romantic and beautiful. It reminded her of countless nights as a young girl, fantasizing about the day she would listen to that song on a snowy Christmas in the arms of a man who she loved. Who loved her…
"Where is that music coming from?" Clark asked, looking around too.
Jimmy walked up to them. "Sorry guys. Marketing was using the stereo for a presentation before and the wiring is all messed up. It's playing out into the newsroom. And I can't turn it off. Just bear with me until I get it off."
Lois and Clark looked at each other, their eyebrows raised.
… hang a shining star upon the highest bow, and have yourself a merry little Christmas now…"
The lights dimmed. Lois looked around, her mouth falling open.
The fluorescent lights were all off. But there were lights on. White Christmas lights. They were everywhere. When did someone put Christmas lights up?
"Oh, now the lights!" Jimmy said, leaning out of the conference room where he was clearly trying to fix the runaway Christmas music. "Hang on, guys. I'll fix it."
Lois looked around, realizing that the room was near empty too. Where had everyone gone?
"Clark! Dance with me! Please?" Lucy said, running over, a big smile on her face.
Lucy! Couldn't she wait until she was somewhere private before completely and unashamedly throwing herself at him?
Clark stared at her for a long moment. He actually seemed to not want to talk to her. Or dance with her anyway. But something in her look made him take a step toward her, and a moment later…
"Uh, sure. If you want."
Lucy smiled and took his hand, pulling him away from her.
Lucy was pulling Clark away from her.
Clark was getting away from her!
She was losing him.
And then they were dancing and she realized it. She'd already lost him.
To her little sister!
"Lucy, what are you doing?" Clark asked.
"I needed to talk to you," Lucy explained.
Clark looked over at Lois. She was sitting at her desk staring ahead blankly. She looked so upset. He didn't want to dance with Lucy. What he really wanted was to pull Lois into his arms and share a dance with her. Although the Daily Planet newsroom was not exactly the place he would choose to act out that fantasy.
"Couldn't we have just walked out of Lois's earshot and talked?" he asked. "Did we have to dance? Don't you think that'll make her suspicious that we're up to something? I hate to be the one to shatter your dreams about what reporters do while at work, but we don't usually dance. So most likely Lois will know that "
"Well, look around, Clark. No one is here. Since news was so ridiculously non-existent today or whatever, Perry told everyone they could go and get food and things for the party. It's now a potluck party."
"Okay. Well, that's a good idea. But I still don't understand why "
"Because. If I pulled you aside to talk, Lois would know for *sure* something was up! She would wonder what we're planning and where everyone is. Clark, she's the number one investigative reporter or something like that. She would put two and two together. I mean, the truth would be right under her nose!"
He made a face at that. He obviously thought Lois *was* brilliant. But he also knew that she could be faced with clear truths and still not put two and two together. She was sort of near sighted when it came to some things that had to do with her. The closer she was to the situation, the less clearly she saw it. He dealt with that every day. He knew, if Lucy had played things the way he had suggested, there was a chance Lois would have known that something was going on around here, but that she wouldn't have figured out that it was Lucy throwing her a surprise Christmas party. Really, who would have guessed that?
"You know, when I said I would help you out with all of this, I didn't know you'd expect me to dance. I think that is taking it all a little too "
"Ow!" Lucy exclaimed.
Clark pulled back and looked at her. She was bent over and in clear pain. She hobbled over to Lois's desk with Clark's support.
"What's the matter with you?" Lois asked.
"Charlie horse," she said.
The music got a little louder.
"Have yourself a Merry little Christmas…"
"Sorry guys! Working on it!" Jimmy yelled.
"Oh god. Ow," Lucy said, rubbing her muscle. "Okay, Lois, take my place."
"Why?" Lois asked, pushing back from her chair to fix her sister with a look he had seen all too many times in the year and a half he'd known her.
"Because, Lois, it's 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas!' It's our favorite Christmas song! It should be danced to! It's so pretty! And no one's around and the lighting is so great with those pretty white Christmas lights! If I can't dance, you have to! You just have to!"
Clark wasn't sure why he did it. But as Lois opened her mouth to surely protest, when he should have just stood by her and protested too, and stopped the insanity that was rapidly unfolding at their workplace, he held a hand out to Lois, instead, looking at her intently.
And his heart skipped a beat when she stood up and placed a hand in his.
"Only because it's my favorite song and no one's here," she said as she walked by Lucy.
It hurt a bit, that she would only want to dance with him because no one was present. But the moment she came into his arms, he didn't care at all.
How had this happened? How had she gone from having a newsroom full of gossipers in her face all day and not getting one sentence out in her only story, to having Christmas music filling the air, twinkling lights lighting the room, which was almost completely empty, and Clark… filling her arms as they moved in a slow rhythm. Such good… partners.
"Clark… I wanted to talk to you about something," she said. She wasn't sure why she decided to dance with Clark. Something in the air… everything looked so festive and the song was so romantic, she hadn't been thinking clearly
"You can talk to me about anything. What is it?"
"Well, I just wish you and Lucy wouldn't tip toe around me. I mean, I know that… *something*… is up. I guess I just wish that you had told me," she said in a rush before she lost her nerve completely.
He sighed. "I know. And I have hated not telling you, Lois. But it'll all be over soon. In a couple of hours, you'll understand."
Her heart rate sped up. She was nervous. "I will?"
They were going to tell her tonight, then? "Lois, we're in love." "Lois, we're getting married." What would they tell her? And what would she say? Oh god…
"Lois, what's wrong? You're as white as a sheet. Are you okay?"
She nodded and simply looked over his shoulder.
He was in her arms, but lost to her. She just wanted to cling to him in some way. She did not understand why any of this was bothering her so. She pulled him closer to her, placing her head against his chest.
He put a hand on her head, lacing his fingers through some strands of hair in that soft and gentle way. A way he had touched her before.
It somehow felt different now…
She could hear his heart beating.
She flashed back to a night long ago, when she had looked for that heartbeat and hadn't felt it. He'd been hurt. No… killed. And his heart… oh god… 'No!'… had stopped beating.
She tucked her head protectively into his chest, closer. Louder, the beat. He wrapped his arms tighter around her.
He was alive.
She had thought grimly, in the day she thought he was gone forever, that when Christmas came, it would be too horrible to bear without him there. Everything would be too horrible to bear without him there, but Christmas, especially, was a time where people enjoyed their friends, family and loved ones. It would have been…
He was dancing with her. Holding her. He was so alive. Warm. Comfortable. Safe.
She could not push him away because he was dating someone else. In love, even, with someone else. She just could not do it. A life without him in it was no life at all. She had learned that lesson already.
She rested a hand on his chest. Lucy was right about one thing. His chest… his muscles… he was incredibly attractive. She *was* attracted to him.
Why had she always denied that on instinct? What was the danger in admitting it? Why was it so scary to venture together into the unknown? To try…
She had lost her chances. And she'd had a few.
She really had it coming to her.
She let out a soft sigh. Everything felt so nice, just now. Being in his arms. Wrapped in his warmth and safety. The ambience was romantic and the dance partner was… there was not a better dance partner for her. Of that she was sure. It all felt so romantic and so right.
Why couldn't things stay like this forever?
Wait… did she want things to stay like *this* forever? Would that make her happy?
She looked up at him and he looked down at her.
Their eyes met.
Lucy tiptoed into the conference room.
He nodded and walked into the newsroom.
Her seven dollar gift was about to pay off.
"Hey, look, you guys! You're standing right under the mistletoe! Cool," Jimmy said.
And then he walked away, clearly thinking it was nothing important. Just stating the obvious and then off on his way. Trying to still fix the stereo, which was now playing another favorite of hers, "Baby It's Cold Outside."
Lois looked up and, sure enough, there was mistletoe a few feet above them, just hanging there all innocently.
When she looked down again, she saw that Clark was looking at her in a way she had never seen him look at her. Yet somehow that look in his eyes felt familiar.
And something in that look led her to do it. Something in that look led her to stand on her toes and claim his lips with her own in a soft, sweet kiss.
Feelings so many charged feelings exploded within her. She had never kissed him like this. Of her own free will. Not because of some story they were undercover on. And their lips fit, she realized. They fit together like his lips were destined always to kiss her lips. The kiss felt soft and tender, yet fueled with a passion that lay just under the surface in a place where they were both, clearly, still in hiding. Just beginning to come out. To explore…
And before she let herself explore too much further, for fear of what she would figure out, she pulled away and looked into his eyes, which looked darker and more dazed now.
"I'm sorry, it's just…"
She glanced up at the mistletoe.
"Tradition," she finished. "You know, Christmas, mistletoe…"
She looked down, her cheeks burning.
He squeezed her hand and she looked into his eyes. He didn't say anything.
A silent reminder that he was right there. With her. There… for her.
Lucy! She suddenly remembered her sister. She looked around. She couldn't see Lucy. Did Lucy see that kiss? Oh no. Lucy was clearly head over heels infatuated with Clark. This could cause irreparable damage between them if she witnessed it.
"What is it?"
"Lucy… where's Lucy?"
"Oh. Hey, Lois," Lucy said, walking out of the conference room, biting into one of those annoying heart-shaped candy canes.
She seemed so casual, she couldn't have seen.
But all the same…
They needed to talk.
That kiss had caused her to begin to understand a few things a little more clearly. And now she needed to talk to her little sister. Alone.
"I can't believe you ended your dance with Clark to get a coffee with me. What's up with you? You guys looked really good dancing together. Have you done that before?" Lucy asked.
"Uh, yeah, a few times. At Planet parties and whatnot," Lois said, sipping her coffee and looking around nervously.
Lucy regarded Lois carefully. "Cool," she said. Lois still wasn't looking at her. "I hope he and I can dance well together. I'm sure we'll have plenty of time to become the perfect dance partners. The perfect everything partners."
"Lucy," Lois said, her sister's name seeming to explode from her.
"Yeah, Lois, what is it?"
She really had this innocent act down. Almost too well. Hmm…
"Okay," Lois said, carefully pacing herself, Lucy could see. "A few things about this thing with you and Clark."
"Okay," Lucy said, keeping her eyes especially wide. Like she had no idea what Lois might be getting at.
"Why didn't you ask me?" Lois finally asked, her gaze fixedly on the table. "I mean, before you went after him. Why didn't you ask me about it? I'm your sister. And you only know him because he's *my*…"
…What, Lois? What is he? Lucy tried to send thought waves to Lois, but she wouldn't finish the thought she had started.
"He's your *friend*, Lois! You have made it so clear that Clark Kent is just your friend! And your work partner."
"Our relationship is not that cut and dry, Lucy. It never has been."
"Seemed pretty cut and dry to me," Lucy said, folding her arms across her chest.
"You live in California! You don't see everything!"
Now Lois was looking at her.
"Lois, I'll tell you what I have seen. I've seen you drop everything for Superman. I've *heard* you talk about him nonstop in the most nauseating way! I've seen you almost marry Lex Luthor. All this while *always* keeping Clark safely at arms' length. 'My best friend.' 'My partner.' You know? And I'm supposed to understand this behavior to mean you have to give the final approval on who Clark dates? You've never gotten his approval or expressed an interest in it for who *you* choose to date or obsess over. Not from where I'm sitting. I don't think it's fair for you to set double standards for him. Or for me, for that matter."
Lois looked down, seeming to take this in. Seeming to have no defense at Lucy's layout of the very real facts in this situation.
"You have no say over Clark. You've never shown any interest in him romantically. The only way I ever would have asked your permission before going after him, Lois, was if I thought that you had any feelings for him at *all*. And it's *beyond* clear to me that you don't. So it shouldn't be a problem. He's your friend. You don't own your friends, Lois. Or your sister. Try as you might to own and control everyone and everything in your sight."
"Why is it so clear that I don't care for Clark?" Lois asked suddenly, looking up. Looking brave. Like she just faced something inside herself. Like she realized something and stopped being so darn afraid of it.
"What?" Lucy asked, buying time, while she figured out what she wanted to say next.
"You say it's beyond clear. Why? Just because I never talked about him nonstop or threw myself at him on the newsroom floor like *some* people, why assume that I don't feel something at all?"
"Well… remember when he was…" Lucy trailed off. She had to bring this up delicately. In her memory she had never known Lois to be so fragile and broken as the moment she was about to bring up. "You called me a few months ago, Lois. And Clark had been… it was that gangster story. With Al Capone or something…"
Lois's eyes immediately filled with tears and she looked away from her sister, her breathing heavier. She put a hand gently against her mouth, clearly trying to get a hold of herself, to remind herself that Clark had survived. Come back. That he was safe inside the Daily Planet at that very moment.
Lucy barreled on. She had to. "When he came back, Lois… you didn't make a move on him. I thought that was the clearest signal of all that you didn't have feelings for him. He *died*, and you didn't declare any feelings for him when he came back. If you had *any* feelings, surely *then* you'd have "
" don't talk about things that you know nothing about! You don't know what happened! You don't know how I…"
"… how you what, Lois?"
But Lois looked down and said nothing.
"And I *saw* with my own two eyes how worried you were when Johnny kidnapped him. But again… you didn't do anything when you got him back. I would think that if you cared about him, you know, romantically, those two times you almost lost him would have driven you to some kind of move or confession or… something."
Lois stared blankly ahead.
"That was the worst day of my life. Those months ago. You know?" she said, finally looking into Lucy's eyes. "I've had my father walk out on me. I've had my heart broken a few times. Getting up the next day was always an inevitability. Going on, moving on, was something I could do. I have never…" she trailed off, controlling her breathing. "I have never," she started again, her voice quivering, "feared going on living, getting up everyday to face the world, like I did when he was gone. Never."
Lucy looked at her. She wanted to console her in a way she hadn't been able to when it had all happened. When Clark had died, she'd been in California. Too far away to be the sister she was just dying so badly to be. But she sat still, not daring to move even a little.
Because Lois needed to say this. Lois needed to once and for all free these feelings from the confines of her heart and soul. To get them out of those safe places and take a chance by admitting them. Out loud. To someone.
"Losing him did make me admit things to myself, Lucy. And, okay, I was able to admit then that he was not just a friend. It was too late. He was gone and I had never told him. I mean, you're right. But you don't know everything, Lucy. No one knows the whole story. Not even Clark."
"Maybe you could tell it to me."
Lois sighed. "I told him how upset I was when he was gone. How I would have missed him forever. For the rest of my life. I admitted to him that I thought we could possibly be more than friends. I was scared out of my mind because yes, he is the best friend I've ever had, and to lose him would be unbearable."
"But that didn't matter when you could lose him in other ways, with him not knowing."
"Exactly. I was so scared, but after that whole experience, I just had to say it to him. I had to say it." She looked at Lucy and smiled a humorless smile. "You've called me on my Superman crush and have made fun of me because of it in the past. But you have to understand. Obsessing over Superman is so much easier, Lucy. If anything ever happened and it didn't work out, my life wouldn't be *that* much different. I mean, I do think of him as a friend, but… he's not there all the time. I don't depend on him. I don't hang out with him. I don't talk about everything under the sun with him. I don't confide every last hope, dream, story, memory, mindless detail to him. I don't argue with him. We don't challenge each other or write together or watch movies together. And I'd be okay if it didn't work out. I'd be sad. But I'd be okay."
"So you're going to go through life assuming every relationship you enter into won't work out, and make sure you choose men that you don't care too much about losing to prepare for this?"
"I know it sounds stupid," Lois said, looking down.
"So you told Clark how you felt when he came back?" Lucy said, pulling the conversation back a few steps to Lois's confession. "You never told me that. And… and I can't believe that he wouldn't have said anything back. Or that you two aren't together now, then…"
Lois's cheeks visibly reddened and she rolled her eyes self- deprecatingly. "He fell asleep. He never actually heard what I said."
"A-ha," Lucy said quietly, regarding her sister closely.
"Don't 'a-ha' *me*, Lucy. You accused me of not making some grand declaration when he returned to me after I thought I'd lost him. I'm telling you that you were wrong. I did tell him!"
"And the moment you spotted an opportunity to sweep it under the rug, you took it! You felt better, perhaps, that you unleashed those feelings. But, Lois, he doesn't know any more now than he did before he was killed that night, about how you feel about him. You didn't change a damn thing! Except now maybe you can sleep better at night because you are telling yourself that you did your part and *he* fell asleep and you can blame him for the fact that the two of you are in the same exact spot you have always been in!"
"We are not!"
"We get closer everyday. And no, I don't mean that we're as close as two people can be or anything, but somehow with each day, our friendship and relationship grows and then… then *you* come in and…"
"And what, Lois? Don't say I took him from you. You never had him! You never told him or me *anything* that might make us think you felt anything for him! And your actions didn't exactly spell it out either. All your Superman talk! I'm not a mind reader. He's not a mind reader. Lois, unless you make a move, no one is going to put the time into interpreting your crazy thoughts and doing what we can only *assume* you want! Do something already!"
"Well maybe I will!" Lois shot back.
"That would be okay with you?" Lois asked, now looking thrown and confused. "I mean, I thought he was your one true love and just so yum and all of that."
"Well, he *is* yum. But my one true love? Lois… *you* are my one true sister. Can you please just do something that will make you happy? Figure out what you want and go get it? Stop waiting for life to happen to you! It's making me crazy!"
"So, you said you wanted to discuss a few things about Clark and me. The first was why I didn't ask you for permission to go after him. Check. We're done with that. What else?"
Lois's expression changed, her smile faded. She looked nervous and… troubled. "What exactly has happened between the two of you these past two days?"
She again wouldn't meet Lucy's eyes.
"Lois… why don't you ask him?"
"I'm asking you."
"I can see that. And correct me if I'm wrong, but Clark is in the dark about a lot of things where you're concerned."
Lois said nothing.
"I think it's high time you talked to him and shed some light on it all."
The party was starting soon. Whenever Lois and Lucy returned from getting a coffee together, it would start.
Clark looked around at all the people standing around, smiling, ready to surprise Lois.
Something was off. Every reporter's instinct inside of him told him that. Many of his coworkers tolerated Lois. But because of her tendency to "put them in their place", as Lois fondly referred to her occasional outbursts at them, she was not exactly their favorite person. But they were all so happy. Waiting for Lois, they had silly grins plastered across their faces.
And they all kept whispering to each other and then laughing and high-fiving one another.
Jimmy, too, was high-fiving people Clark didn't even know he knew. People from other departments, who almost never came out of their areas.
But he was not in the mood to listen in and figure it out. Something was up but he didn't exactly care. All he cared about was that dance. More specifically, that kiss.
It felt… amazing. So perfect.
They had shared a very small handful of mind-numbing kisses in the past, while on assignments. This… this had been beyond his wildest and most romantic dreams. It felt like their lips were made for each other. His heart had started beating so fast, when Jimmy had made the comment about the mistletoe, and he had been prepared to pretend it was a silly tradition, if Lois wanted him to pretend. He knew he'd be able to tell by looking into her eyes, if she was completely opposed to kissing him. A kiss without a ruse, after all, was foreign to them both, and he had no idea if she would reject it completely with an eye-roll and a friendly pat on the shoulder. But… she had looked into his eyes. And her expression was unlike any he had ever seen from her. There was something in the depths of her eyes that she never revealed, even to Superman, in that moment. She had moved just slightly. So he moved. Closed his eyes. Her heart, he could hear it… And it, too, was beating faster. In rhythm with his own. And then their lips had touched.
The kiss had touched his very soul and scorched him. It had awoken him. Before that kiss, his body had clearly just been asleep. Sleepwalking to that moment. Then waking up and coming alive. Completely alive.
Lois in his arms. He could still feel her pressed against him, still feel that sigh that had escaped her, the breath on his lips like a secret.
And then she'd pulled back.
She'd blamed it on the mistletoe.
And she'd started talking about her little sister.
How could a kiss that had felt so perfect to him have had no effect on her? If it had had an effect, surely Lucy would have been far from her mind. Surely the mistletoe would have been a godsend and not an excuse.
He just had to reconcile himself to the fact that his love for Lois Lane would always be unrequited.
At least he had that kiss, now filed away somewhere safe, so that on a cold and lonely night he could think about it and remember what it felt like to be that alive. Even if only for a moment.
"They're walking back into the building!" Jimmy told everyone, coming off the elevator and entering the newsroom once again.
"I know! Let's have him choose between us!"
Lois looked at her sister incredulously. Of all the insensitive things she had done in her life!
"You want him to choose between two sisters? You're not the tiniest bit worried about what that would do to you and me?"
Lucy smiled. "Nope."
Lois frowned. Lucy was that confident, obviously, about Clark's feelings for her. And why not? Lois had seen the picture… the way Clark had looked at Lucy in it. And… and didn't Lucy care about her relationship with her? At all?
None of this made any sense!
Lucy seemed sure that Clark would choose her, obviously. But during their talk downstairs, Lucy had been like a therapist, forcing Lois to talk about things that she normally kept hidden. She had pushed her. She had seemed a little angry at Lois for expecting… whatever she was always expecting where Clark was concerned. And while she had seemed angry, she had seemed to understand Lois's feelings, once they were revealed. And she'd called her on her complete cowardice. She had encouraged her to talk to Clark about those feelings. And before any of that, she had pushed them to dance with each other when she couldn't. And on that subject, she didn't appear to be in pain from her Charlie horse anymore. Almost as if it hadn't even been there. She knew from experience that Charlie horses could hurt for a whole day! Yet… she seemed okay. Something here was puzzling.
The last two days had been weird in many ways. Too many ways, actually.
Pretty much from the moment her sister came to town.
And now she had to talk to Clark about something she was petrified to talk about with him. And she was supposed to ask him to choose between her and Lucy? She didn't want to do that. But she didn't want to risk not telling him and losing him, either. She had no idea what kind of feelings he had for Lucy. She wasn't even sure what had happened between the two of them. But the possibilities scared her. Upset her.
But she had to know, at the same time.
And in a way, she realized, Clark would have to make some kind of choice, once she told him the truth about how she really felt about him. How she had felt about him for a long time now.
They stepped in the elevator.
She looked at Lucy and saw that she was really smiling. Beaming.
"Have you no heart?!" Lois exclaimed.
Lucy shot her a surprised look and pushed the button that would take them up to the newsroom.
And when they walked out, Lois's mouth fell open.
"Surprise!" her many coworkers called out in cheer.
She looked at Lucy, who was smiling. "What is this?"
"A surprise Christmas party!"
"What's a surprise Christmas party?" Lois asked, laughing.
Lucy shrugged cutely. "I thought it was self explanatory, yet no one here seems to understand!"
Lois smiled and walked down the ramp and began talking with people she normally didn't get to talk to. She hugged her friends, reveled in the Christmas music, which she now understood the reason for, and the decorations and pretty lights lining the room.
"You did this?" she eventually asked Lucy.
"Yeah. It was potluck, so it was well within my Christmas gift budget. Don't worry," she said.
"She worked really hard for it," Clark said, walking over, smiling at Lucy.
Something tightened in Lois's stomach as he smiled at her sister.
But then he turned and looked at *her*, and something in his expression changed… and she approved of the change. It was a good change. It was an expression she did not mind seeing on his face, so long as it was only reserved for her.
"She, like me and Jimmy and Perry and everyone, thinks you're just about the most terrific person, and wanted to do something really special for you."
Lois forced herself to stop staring at Clark for a moment, and smiled at Lucy. "And to think, I've spent the past few days pretty much just yelling at you nonstop. This… this is great, Lucy!" She hugged her. "I love you, you know."
Lucy's eyes filled up with tears. "I love you too," she said emotionally. She sniffled. "Now, I believe you have something you were supposed to do. Something you were going to talk to someone about?" she whispered.
Lois pulled back and looked at Clark, who was saying something to Jimmy.
She waited until a break in the conversation and touched his arm. "Clark?"
He looked down at her and she could see that he looked nervous. "Yeah?"
"Could we talk?"
"Hey, why don't you talk in the conference room?" Jimmy said.
Once the doors were closed, the music suddenly muffled and soft through the walls, Lois looked at him.
"I have something I want to tell you, Clark. Something I've wanted to tell you for awhile. And please don't get too comfortable; I really couldn't handle it if you fell asleep again."
His eyebrows shot up. "Again?"
"Okay, I'll stand. I doubt I'll fall asleep while standing."
"Good, sure. Okay."
She waited, but the words got caught in her throat. God, this was harder than she had ever imagined it could be. How did you tell your best friend that you're in love with him? Especially when you knew there is a distinct possibility that he could have recently fallen for you sister? How did you take everything safe and sure in your life and throw it out the window by revealing these secrets to him? How did you do it? She kept opening her mouth to start, but she didn't know how. She didn't know what to say, how to say it, where to begin. This was just so hard!
"Lois, hey," he said, standing before her now, touching her shoulders reassuringly. "It's just me. You can say anything to me."
"I can, can't I," she agreed. "But I haven't. Oh, when it comes to you, Clark, I spend all this time and energy not saying things. Not saying the things that matter most. And… and there have been opportunities for me to say everything to you. But I found reasons not to. I let myself off the hook, when I should have been brave and now… god, I'm so scared."
"I'm scared, too," he said softly.
"What are you scared of?"
"Lots of things. You, mostly."
"You're scared of me?" she asked.
He nodded, looking into her eyes, like he was baring his soul to her in his eyes. And then she understood.
"I'm scared of you, too, Clark. Of how I feel about you. Of losing you. Of the regrets I have every time a day goes by that I am a complete coward."
She looked down, steadying her breathing, looking for strength, and then after a moment, she looked back up at him.
"I have all these excuses, you see. And in those moments, when I have those opportunities, I tell myself those excuses and I get out of it. But if anything happened to you if I ever lost you again those excuses would be so weak and so thin. And they'd be the very reasons that I would hate myself forever."
"You think I haven't been weak? I've had chances to tell you everything, Lois. I took the chance once, yes. But I took it back when it wasn't reciprocated. I should have just let it be. Dealt with it. I didn't have to stand outside the Planet with my fingers crossed behind my back like a seventh grader, because my pride and my feelings had been hurt. I was weak, too, Lois. You knew how I felt for the tiniest fragment of time. And then it was over. I panicked, too. The idea of losing what we have scared me. The idea of scaring you and then losing you… it was unbearable. I had an opportunity to be honest with you and I lost it too. I am no different."
"You know, then? How I feel, I mean?" she asked.
"No. I mean you haven't told me. But everything you're saying… I'm just saying I am guilty of the same thing. Of not being honest to you and telling you everything." He sighed. "I am in love with you, Lois." He took a breath and smiled, looking free. "There, I said it. I don't know if you feel that way, too, but I said it, and I won't take it back. Not this time."
"You're in love with me?" she asked quietly.
"Since the moment I met you."
She looked away, out into the busy newsroom, hearing the Christmas music from the party just outside the room they stood in. The Christmas music that was playing because her little sister had thrown her a party. Her little sister… "But what about Lucy?" she asked, looking at him again.
"What?" He looked really confused. "What does Lucy have to do with any of this?"
"The two of you have been hugging each other, winking at each other, whispering, talking all secretively in the conference room, going out together…"
"Because we had a secret that you couldn't know about. The party?"
"The party? *This* party?"
"Yeah," he said. "I was in on it, and helping with the plans. That night we went out, we bought the lights and some decorations."
The whole thing had been a sham? Orchestrated by Lucy Lane? Lucy had been setting them up? Matchmaking? Oh god…
She looked at Clark and the old instinct came back.
She wasn't losing him to Lucy after all. She wasn't losing him at all, period. Not now. She could easily sweep this all under the carpet once more. Pretend it never happened. Put her arms on his shoulders and pull back until they were a full arm's length apart, once more.
Safe in their friendship.
No danger, no risk.
She looked into his eyes and opened her mouth, the instincts taking over. But… his eyes…
She suddenly realized where the real danger was. The far worse dangers the bigger risks in not telling him…
He looked so nervous.
Remember when he was gone. The things you wanted to say to him. He's here. He's right here. He's alive. And he's awake. He's right here…
A touch, a breath away from you. From everything…
"I have been in love with you for a really long time," she said, wiping a tear from her cheek. "I can't imagine my life without you in it. You are so a part of me, I know I would die without you. In some form. I know. But… I am so scared."
She was shaking.
He pulled her into a hug.
"It's okay. So am I. But I can promise you this, Lois. I'm not going anywhere. And if we hold onto each other, maybe we'll feel safer."
She pulled him to her as tightly as she could.
She wasn't sure how long they stayed like that. Holding each other.
She could feel his heart beating a steady, safe beat against her own. It was the most beautiful sound.
So focused she was on that sound, she hadn't even heard anyone come into the conference room.
"Hey, look, you guys. You're standing under the mistletoe, again!" Jimmy said. By the time she looked, he had already left the room.
Clark looked up at the mistletoe and laughed. "That thing sure does cover a lot of ground."
"Clark, do you get the feeling that we've been set up?" Lois asked, pulling back to look into his eyes.
He laughed. "It's beginning to feel like that."
Smiling, she looked out into the conference room at all the friendly, familiar faces of home that were celebrating. The people that had been a part of this party that was for *her*. The faces of her family.
She looked down at the large hands that were holding hers and rubbed her thumbs along the smooth skin.
"What?" he asked.
She smiled up at him. "You heard the guy. We're standing under what I have always believed to be the most wonderful Christmas tradition. Now if you don't want to, that's fine, I'll just take it to mean that I'm clearly "
But she broke off as the man she had been in love with for so long bent down and stopped her words with another wonderful kiss.
Somewhere in the back of her mind, she realized that she had gotten her Christmas wish a perfect kiss under the mistletoe after all. She'd just gotten it with someone different than she had originally imagined. And this…
This was unbelievable. Mind-blowing.
She had never had a wish come true before, but somehow, she knew that this was what it felt like. Better than what you dreamed of. Different than you'd imagined. Perfect in every way.
Lucy Lane smiled as she watched her sister and Clark kissing. They really did look so right when they kissed. How had it taken them so long to get to that point? Oh, she would never understand the mystery that was her sister. And it didn't matter anyhow. She was kissing Clark now and he finally knew how she felt about him. And she finally knew how he clearly felt about her. And they were together.
The gift of giving was a really great thing. A really great thing, indeed.
Minutes later, Lois and Clark rejoined the party, hand-in-hand. Lucy waited for her praise. Her thank-you. She should have known.
This was Lois Lane she was dealing with, after all.
"Lucy, you set me up. Us. You set us up."
"Obviously," Lucy said. "Lois, if in the future I really do fall in love with some guy… if I ever call him 'yum', shoot me, please!"
"Yum?" Clark asked. "What exactly has been going on around here?"
Lois's mouth fell open in shock. "I can't believe you! And… what about that picture? I saw it! I saw how…"
Lois looked at Clark.
"Don't look at me! I had no idea any of this was going on. What picture?" he asked.
"This one," Jimmy said, walking over.
He handed Lois a picture… the original picture.
"But… I thought…" Lois started. "He was looking at *me* that way…" she whispered, more to herself than anyone.
"Photo shop," Jimmy said, smiling, "is a beautiful thing, Lois."
"So the entire last two days have been a bunch of lies? All for nothing?"
"Oh, I wouldn't say it was all for nothing," Perry said, smiling at the two of them.
Lois opened her mouth, like she was going to argue, but closed it, like she thought better of it. With one look at Clark, arguments didn't seem to matter too much to her.
She was in love!
Oh yes, the gift of giving was a great thing!
Although, Lucy mused, after all this, Lois better have gotten her something terrific!
A sudden gust of wind blew the large newsroom window open.
"Hey, look! It's snowing!" someone yelled.
Clark wrapped an arm around Lois and she nuzzled against him willingly, like they had been together forever.
They fit in a way that Lucy had never seen two people fit before.
And to think, they went so long harboring those same feelings for each other, but were both too scared to do anything about it.
"How did you do that thing with your skin?" Lois asked, joining her sister to get eggnog a little while later.
"A matchmaker cannot reveal her secrets!"
"You were positively glowing!"
"I did have a radiant glow, yes," Lucy agreed, sipping her eggnog, a mischievous smile on her face.
"You really went all out."
"Well, you guys really were kind of a desperate situation. I mean here you were, side by side, loving each other, and neither of you had any clue the other felt that way, so you never told each other. It was bordering on Greek tragedy until I came along."
"Oh, well, thank you so much, Lucy. Where would I be without you?" Lois said.
"Oh, I don't know, concocting asinine plans to kiss some dream- man under the mistletoe, instead of the man you were really, actually, deep down dreaming of sharing that kiss with?"
Lois's mouth fell open. Her eyes got wide.
Uh oh. Lucy had seen *that* look before.
"What?" Lucy laughed.
"Lucy Lane… you better watch out!"
"And I better not cry, too, right?" Lucy said, laughing as she ran from Lois, who was hot on her heels.
As Lois ran toward her, Lucy saw it. She saw it in her eyes and she saw it in her smile. Something different, like a weight lifted and a soul freed. And all because of something *she* had done! She, Lucy Lane, had gotten her sister the perfect present.
It was all just so… yum!