By Angela Kay Walthall (angela@ranaroyale.com)

Summary: Thinking she has cracked a burglary scam, Lois interrupts Clark's Christmas preparations and persuades him to sit with her on a stakeout, in her parked car, for hours. It doesn't take long for their attention to drift away from their story and onto each other. Are they ready to start a relationship, or are there still unresolved issues with Superman?

Author's Note: The following story contains events that the author WISHES would happen to the Lois & Clark characters, not necessarily what she expects the television producers/writers to create for the television show. Constructive comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thank you. (ALL CAPS=emphasis, * *=thoughts)


Metropolis never rests. Even at night, with the Noel season at hand, people rush to and fro, trying to get in their Christmas shopping and holiday decorating after working all day. Even so, a small band of carolers takes the time to make its way from house to house, sharing the tidings of joy and peace that go with the season.

They came to a stop at a beautiful mansion on Stoneybrook Drive that looked warm and inviting, with lights on in every room and a huge wreath on the doors. The carolers began to sing loudly, opening with "Away in a Manger."

"Burke, come quick," called an elegant, silver-haired woman from the living room window. "Carolers! Aren't they lovely?"

Burke Huntley, a Metropolis councilman, joined his wife at the window. "Yes, Camille, they are. Quite lovely."

"Oh, let's join them outside. We'll watch from the porch."

"Darling, it's cold outside."

"Burke, it's Christmas! When was the last time we had carolers?"

Huntley sighed. "Okay. I'll get our coats."

The distinguished couple went outside and listened raptly to the singing, so sweet and beautiful on the night air. When the carolers finished ten minutes later, the Huntleys clapped enthusiastically, and the singers went down the street.

The Huntleys went inside and took off their coats. "I'll hang them, dear," Camille said, taking her husband's coat and heading for the closet. She opened the door and reached for a hanger. Her hand froze in mid air.

"Darling," she called in a shaky voice. "Where are my fur coats?"

"Aren't they in the closet? I thought I saw them when I got our coats to go outside," he answered as he walked to her side. "They're right here. My God, where did they go?"

"They've been stolen! Oh, Burke!" Camille quickly looked around the house. She let out an exclamation of shock. "Burke, our silver candlesticks." She ran upstairs to her bedroom. "My jewelry!"

"I don't understand! We were here the whole time," Burke said. "To be robbed right before Christmas, what is this world coming to?"


Clark Kent enjoyed living his apartment. It was big, airy and bright, just perfect for decorating lavishly with holiday cheer. Turning on the stereo, he picked a Christmas CD out of the stack and punched the buttons. The sounds of a Chinese carol wafted through the apartment. He unpacked the decorations he bought at the mall, and began to move around at superspeed.

He paused when he'd finished with the store-bought decorations and looked around with pursed lips. The decor was nice, but it was missing something. His eyes lit up when his gaze fell upon a stack of construction paper sitting idly on the shelf.

Grabbing the stack of paper, he cleared the kitchen table and went to work. Moving again at super-speed, Clark began to fold page after page, creating the most wonderful shapes of various sizes.

A knock sounded at the door. Clark came to an abrupt stop, picked up his glasses and walked to the door.

"Lois, Jimmy! Come in!" Clark smile invitingly at them both. He motioned with his hand for them to enter.

"Why on Earth are you wearing shorts?" Lois demanded as she marched in. "It's below freezing, and YOU are wearing short sleeves!" She stopped short at the sight of the decorations. She grimaced.

"What's the matter, Lois? Too many chocolate Santa figures upset your tummy?" Clark smiled charmingly. "It's not THAT cold, by the way. After all, you're wearing a sweater, but no coat."

She rolled her eyes, then threw her purse on the couch. She crossed her arms.

"Don't mind her, C.K.," Jimmy laughed. "She's never been a holiday person. Remember how at Thanksgiving we had to…"

"Jimmy," Lois growled. "Who cares?"

"And how at Halloween she locked herself…"

"Jimmy!" Lois snapped.

"Okay, okay. Geesh!" Jimmy said, under his breath. "I still think you guys should have gone as Bonnie and Clyde."

"Don't even mention Bonnie and Clyde!" groaned Lois & Clark together.

"Oh, yeah. Sorry," Jimmy said, sheepishly.

"So," Clark jumped in. "What are you guys doing here? I mean, I know Lois never takes a day off…" She glared at him. "But, you, Jimmy — why aren't you out enjoying your Saturday?"

"Well, actually, I had planned to get a little SHOPPING in…"

"You mean, cruise the mall looking for babes, don't you?" Lois cut in.

"Lois!" Clark exclaimed, giving her a look of slight disapproval. She turned away.

"She's right," Jimmy whispered, and shrugged. Clark and Jimmy smiled at each other, man-to-man.

"Anyway, like I said, I was going to do some shopping when Lois shows up at my apartment, tells me to grab my camera and drags me out into the cold." Jimmy held up his beloved camera. "She didn't even tell me where we're going."

"I told you I'd tell you when we picked up Clark," she said, pacing by the couch. "I just didn't want to tell the same story twice, that's all."

"What story," Clark and Jimmy chorused.

Lois stopped pacing suddenly. "Clark, what is that horrid sound?"

"Lois! That's not horrid! It's a Chinese Christmas carol. I picked this CD up when I was in Shanghai…"

"A Chinese CHRISTMAS carol? I thought they were Buddhists?"

"Well, a great many of the Chinese still are, sure, but some portion of the population has converted to Christianity…"

"Whatever," she interrupted. "Couldn't you play a regular Christmas carol like everyone else? Or better yet, play just regular music? We've been hearing carols since the day after Halloween!"

Clark looked at Jimmy, searching for a clue. "Uh, Lois? Is something wrong? Do you want to talk about it?"

She spun rapidly. "No! Nothing's wrong. What makes you think that's something's wrong?" Walking to the kitchen to help herself to a glass of water, she gasped when she saw the paper on the table. "Clark! How cute!" Her gaze took in the various paper shapes including doves, reindeer, wreaths, stars and strangely shaped tree ornaments. She picked a small reindeer up and stoked it in wonder. She saw the small stack of remaining paper. "Did — you make these?!"

Clark reached up and touched his glasses. He cleared his throat. "Yeah — it's another thing I picked up in Shanghai. I learned how to do oragami from some village school children. It was incredible! They are so skilled in this art, and at so young an age. I thought I'd make some of my own decorations for this Christmas."

"Christmas," Lois said disparagingly while rolling her eyes. She sank onto the couch and crossed her arms again.

Clark frowned slightly. "Lois, are you sure you're okay?"

She busied herself with tidying the coffee table. "Everything is just normal. Some people just don't enjoy the holidays, that's all. I mean, what's the big deal, anyway?"

Clark sighed. Jimmy pretended to be very interested in the coat rack.

"Lois…" Clark began.

"Really, Clark. Everything's just fine."

"Fine." He crossed to the couch and sat down next to her. "So, what's this story you have to tell us?"

"Oh yes. Well. I was down at the Planet last night when I overheard Joe, who has the police beat, telling another reporter that some strange calls were coming in down at the station.," she said. "At first, it seemed nothing out of the ordinary, but it became interesting really fast."

"And " Clark asked, motioning for her to continue.

"Well, first an elderly couple reported some items stolen from their home. Nothing too unusual about that, right? Just some jewels, candlesticks, fur coats — which they shouldn't have anyway! Serves them right! Don't they know about the animal rights movement…"

"Lois," Clark and Jimmy groaned together.

She glared at them both, placing one had on her left hip. "Well, I AM right, you know. Anyway, then another distinguished couple called in, missing some of the same items. Then another wealthy couple, then another wealthy couple."

"So, what you're saying is that we have a Robin Hood loose on the city's rich," Jimmy guessed.

"See…that's what I thought at first. I also thought 'God, this has been done before, people! If you're going to be a criminal, at least be original.' Right? I mean, remember the Invisible Man last year?"

They all nodded in agreement.

"However, when Joe began to rattle off the list of the victims, some bells went off in my head."

"Are you sure that wasn't your internal Fudge Castle alarm clock?" Jimmy smirked. Clark hid a chuckle behind his hand, pretending to adjust his glasses.

"Cute, Jimmy, " she said. "No! Get this — the list of victims?" She paused dramatically. "Each one is a City Council member!" She beamed at them, flashing her gorgeous smile.

Clark and Jimmy looked at her, then at each other. "All of them?!" Clark asked.

"Yep! Every last one of them. There were other robberies, of course, but none that matched the M.O. of these. Similar items were taken at each Council member's house…"

"Lois, wait. Was every Metropolis Council member robbed?" Clark asked.

"No. Not last night. Two of the members lucked out: Dobbin Reynolds and Amy Fullerton. Notice the connection between the two names?" Lois asked, raising an eyebrow.

Clark nodded thoughtfully.

"Uh, no. I mean, those are the two new members, but…"

"That's it, Jimmy! They are the only NON-incumbent members." Clark said.

"And they were the only members not robbed last night," Jimmy clarified.

"Right. But that doesn't mean they're off the hook," Lois said. She smiled cunningly.

"Oh, no. Lois, no!" Clark groaned. He knew her "reporter-mode" mentality.

"Clark! Come on, it will be fun!" she said, grasping his arm.

"Did you tell anyone about this connection you made?" he asked.

"Of course not! This is my — I mean, OUR — story! If no one else made the connection, then too bad for them. That's why we're the best reporters, Clark. And my reporter's instinct is screaming 'Pulitzer! Pulitzer!' right now."

Clark rolled his eyes. "It could be dangerous, Lois."

"What, oh — a stakeout?! Cool!" Jimmy exclaimed.

"Lois, Jimmy -x remember what happened the last time you two went sneaking around together? Jimmy, you were knocked out, and Lois was tied up…"

"Yeah, like you were any better!" she huffed. "You came barreling in there, only to end up tied yourself!"

"Okay, okay, Lois. The point is, that you guys could get hurt."

"You, too, C.K, right?"

"Uh, of course, I could, uh, get hurt. But…"

"Clark. Are you in or not? I think we should stake out the other two houses tonight."

"Lois, did you stop to think…" Clark began.

"This is Lois, remember, C.K.?"

Lois threw a pillow at Jimmy. Clark concealed another grin.

"As I was saying," he continued, "didn't you think that maybe since you pieced it together so quickly the police have, too? Or possibly that the crooks have figured that, since having all but two Council members robbed couldn't be a coincidence, someone's gonna look for them, so they'll lay low for a while?"

"Sure, I guess. That could be the case," Lois said. "But what if it isn't, and we miss our chance to nab the crook in the act?"

"Lois, our job isn't to 'nab the crook', but to report on the crime instead."

"I know what our job is, Clark! I have been doing it longer than you have, remember? But think — an exclusive interview, one-of-a-kind photos of the crime in progress… "

"Hey! Those would be my photos, huh?!" Jimmy jumped in, grinning.

"Besides, if you are right, what's a few hours in a parked car between friends?"


Jimmy choked on his laughter. Clark stared at Lois.

Lois realized her double-entendre too late. "I mean well, you guys know what I mean!" She flushed. "So — are you going or not?"

"I'm game!" Jimmy said.

Clark sighed. He should go, just in case Lois and Jimmy were biting off more than they can chew. "Okay."

Lois smiled, fidgeting in her excitement. "Great! Jimmy, you take Amy Fullerton's house and we'll take…"

"Wait! You mean we're going to split up?" Clark interrupted. "I don't think it's a good idea. What if something happens to Jimmy?"

"Oh, C.K., I can take care of myself! Honest," Jimmy said. "But what are you guys going to do for pictures?"

"I'll take my camera, just in case. Clark, we can't all watch the same house, just in case the other one is hit instead," she explained. "Now, we'll take Dobbin Reynolds's house. Jimmy, let's meet back at the Planet at midnight."

She jumped up and grabbed her purse. She looked back impatiently at the two men. "Well, what are you waiting for? Go change clothes, Clark. We've got an award-winning story to catch!"


Lois' silver Jeep Cherokee came to a stop on Golden Key Trail. She put the car in park and turned off the engine. Then she killed the headlights. She and Clark looked around.

"Wow, Clark. This place seems deserted!" she said. "Where is everybody?"

"I don't know, Lois." Clark did a quick recon using his super- vision. Everything looked normal. "But at least there are some other cars parked on the street so we won't stick out. Which house is Reynolds's?"

"The second one up, across the street. I didn't park directly in front of it, in case Reynolds looks out the window. And this is where having tinted windows comes in handy! No one can see us in here." She reached for her purse, searching for her binoculars.

Clark sighed. "I'm afraid to ask how many times you've done this. Obviously you're an old pro. You live for this kind of stuff."

"Don't be silly, Clark. It's actually quite boring. It seems to take forever, watching, waiting, watching, waiting…"

"Let me guess, 'but worth it in the end, when that 42 point front-page headline appears above BY LOIS LANE,'" he finished dramatically, looking out his window.

"You can laugh, but it's true," she said. "Besides, it won't be so boring with two people along. Where are those darned binoculars?!" She threw her purse to the floorboard and unbuckled her seat belt. Turning, she leaned over the seat, searching for the binoculars in the back.

"Lois, what…" Clark turned to look at her and found his nose pressed into her hip. His eyebrows rose a notch.

"Ouch! Watch it! I'm looking, aha! Here they are!" She picked them up off the floorboard, hidden underneath an old, empty chocolate donut box. "Hmm, that reminds me, we should have stopped for something to snack on. It could be a long wait."

"It's 8 o'clock now, Lois. You don't seriously mean that we're going to be here until midnight, when we meet Jimmy at the Planet."

"Of course. Provided nothing happens before then. See, that's the beauty of the whole thing." She settled back into her seat and looked at the Reynolds's house.

"What is?" he asked.

"The anticipation, the knowledge that something is going to happen, and it could be the biggest thing to ever happen to you. Know what I mean?"

Clark looked at her seriously, steadily. "Yeah, I do know what you mean," he said softly. "I know exactly what you mean."

Lois turned her head and saw his arresting expression. She recalled her own words from before, *What's a few hours in a parked car between friends*? She could only imagine — STOP IT, LANE! she told herself.

"Uh, look, Clark…"

Clark shook his head to clear it, as if coming out of a daze. "So, how are we going to amuse ourselves until something big happens?"


"Until something happens. You know, at Reynolds's house?"

"Oh! Right. I guess we could just talk, right?" she shifted restlessly. "So how 'bout 'dem Cowboys?" she laughed nervously.

Clark, who knew she couldn't care less about football, said, "Let's talk about something else. Is Lucy coming home for the Holidays?"

"No. She's staying in Paris with some other stewardesses."

"And you're going to go to your mom's house for Christmas?" Clark asked.

She avoided his gaze. "Uh no. Do you see anything happening at the house?"

"Lois, why do I get the feeling that you don't want to talk about Christmas?"

"Because it's true? Christmas is no big deal, Clark."

"How can you say that? Christmas is one of the most wonderful times of the year!"

"Really? Well, I guess that just depends on where you're coming from, Clark. For some people, it's the absolutely worst time of year. Did you know that the suicide rate increases drastically during this season?" She crossed her arms.

"This is more than just a general irritation with holiday shoppers and repeats of the same Christmas carols, isn't it?" he asked. She said nothing. "Lois, please. TALK to me. I want to help you…"

"Clark," she began plaintively.

"Lois, you can tell me. More importantly, you can TRUST me."

She just looked at him. "Okay. You want to know? Fine." She took a deep breath. "I hate the materialistic flavor of the whole thing."

"Well, yeah, I can see how advertisements and business place an emphasis on…"

"No, Clark, it isn't that. When Lucy and I were growing up, our father was never around much."

"I remember you telling me that when we did the boxing story."

"Yes, well he was always working. He'd come home long enough to make sure the house was still standing, eat dinner, and then go back to the office. He never really had time for us, and when he was forced to spend time with us, he criticized everything we did." She looked at Clark. He was waiting patiently for her to continue.

"My mother always bought the birthday and Christmas gifts, and she wrote both her and Dad's names on the cards. Dad never even knew what we got for presents, and he never really showed much interest in finding out what we gave him.

"We would get so excited when we'd give him our gifts," she continued. "I can still remember standing in front of him, handing him a gift when I was eight. He opened it, thanked me for it, and then put it on the table by the chair.

"It wasn't much, I know — I was only eight — but he never exclaimed over it, never told me how much he loved it, all the things that other dads do when their kids give them gifts, even dumb gifts. My mom would always smooth over the moment, bringing in chocolate cookies or cake, and life would just go on, I guess. But I learned…"

She paused. "Anyway, when my parents divorced, Dad was suddenly responsible for buying his own gifts for us. Only, he was usually a day late with them. Pretty soon it got to be a contest between my parents. My Dad was trying to buy our love and my Mom was trying to buy our respect.

"How is a kid supposed to deal with that?" she asked. "If I showed more enthusiasm for Dad's gifts, then Mom would be hurt. If I showed more enthusiasm for Mom's gifts, then Dad would just give up and leave," she said, looking back out the window. "'Silent Night' had an entirely different meaning at our house, because it meant that my parents were engaged in a silent war, neither speaking to the other, relying on us to fill the gaps."

Tears welled up in her eyes, but she blinked them back and sniffed a little. *You're grown up now, Lois*, she thought. She reached blindly for Clark's hand, which was resting on the seat between them. She squeezed it gently and said, "But that's just life for some kids, huh? We can't all have beautiful, snow-filled Kansas Christmases."

She looks at him with a half-smile, which died when her jaw fell open.

Clark was crying.

Instinctively she reached for his face, wiping the tears under his glasses with her thumb. "Clark! What?"

He grabbed her hand, pressed it against his cheek and closed his eyes.

"Clark, don't cry for me. I didn't. It's not worth the tears. It happens in broken families. I'm not the only person that had to go through that kind of thing."

"I'm crying for you because you won't," he stated quietly. "And you ARE worth it, Lois," he continued fiercely. "So is the eight-year- old Lois inside who is still hurting."

"Clark, please, don't cry. You'll start me crying in a minute."

"Maybe that's what you need, Lois. You need to release all that hurt and anger. You can cry in front of me, Lois. I would never make fun of you, or hurt you."

"Oh, Clark, I know that," she smiled wanly. "It's just — I've never been good at showing my emotions."

Clark smiled at that. "I don't know, you did a pretty good job with the guy who smoked in the elevator, against city law."

Still holding his face in her hands, she chuckled and placed her forehead on his. She closed her eyes and sighed. "Clark, I'm fine, really. It happened a long time ago."

Clark had a hard time concentrating. The warm breath she released floated past his lips into his mouth, where he sucked it in as if it were sweet honey. He looked down at her, so close he could count each individual long eyelash, knowing that just centimeters separated their lips. "Lois," he said, faintly.

She stilled. "Clark?" She pulled back a fraction and met his gaze.

They both froze. Clark searched her eyes and was stunned by what he saw. He leaned in just a bit, extremely hesitant to make any move that would frighten her.

But Lois showed no signs of pulling away. Instead, she moved closer, too.

Their lips met briefly, just barely touching, but both felt it was like kissing silk. Smooth, soft, it was gentle, but entirely sensual.

"Clark," she whispered, unaware that she spoke.

Their lips met again, harder this time. Clark's hand left hers to grasp the back of her head and pull her even closer. He opened his mouth over hers as his kiss became more passionate. Hot, wet and sweet, he took his time learning her.

Lois caught her breath at the sureness of the act, stunned at the sensations welling up in her body. She responded to his kisses with increasing desire. With her mouth never leaving his, she pushed her body closer to his, rose up on her knees and wrapped her arms around his neck. Her fingers burrowed into the hair at his nape.

"God, you're so — solid," she whispered, coming up for air. She took his mouth again, high on his taste. Clark's breathing quickened, and he groaned hungrily. His other hand slid down her spine, coming to a rest in the small of her back which he began to caress. Shivers of delight rushed up her spine, making her eager for the next sensation. The firm, rhythmic massaging motion of his hand on her back made her shudder, causing her to lean heavily into him, forcing him back into the door. She settled on top of him and her hand stroked his shoulder and chest. Lois then began to fumble with the buttons on his shirt, ripping one off in her haste.

The popping noise sent faint warning signals to Clark's brain. He quickly grabbed her hand, laced her fingers with his and ran the back of her hand down his cheek. She smiled against his lips at the feel of his stubble. A ferocious racket split the night air, causing jarring both people out of their daze. Stunned, both people pulled back slightly and stared into each other's eyes. Shaking, Lois jumped back quickly into her seat, her back flush against the driver's door. She looked as if she didn't quite know where she was. When realization hit, she covered her mouth with her hand. She couldn't quite meet Clark's eyes, but instead looked past him at the window.

Clark, able to read the withdrawal in her body language, looked over his shoulder. He rubbed his hand over the window, which had been steamed over by their passion.

Lois' eyes followed the movements of his hand as he wiped the window. Watching only served to remind her of how the steam got on the windows, and she had to close her eyes to fight the lingering tremors in her body.

*Thank God for the interruption*, Lois thought. She didn't know how to deal with this situation, what on Earth possessed her to…okay, she KNEW what had possessed her into kissing Clark, but she had thought that she was strong enough to hold back.

Clark didn't know whether to curse or give thanks. Lois had come dangerously close to finding out just exactly what was under those buttons on his shirt, and he knew she was FAR from ready to deal with that knowledge. At the same time, though, he experienced a deep regret that she was no longer touching him.

"What — what is it?" Lois asked, her voice still quivering. She took a deep breath to calm her frayed nerves.

"It's a dog," he said, sighing. "A German Shepherd. He's got a cat cornered in a tree."

She saw the perfect opportunity to escape the closeness of the car. "Oh! That poor little kitty!" She opened her door and jumped out.

"Lois! Where are you…"

The door slammed on his question. He opened his own door and raced Lois to the tree. He grabbed the dog by the collar, who turned and started licking his hand. Lois reached up and grabbed the cat, who hissed and swiped at Lois' hand.

"Ouch! You ungrateful wretch!" Lois exclaimed. She sucked the back of her hand as she watched the cat streak away. She turned and saw Clark playing with the dog. "Great, you get a pal for life, and I get a scratch on the hand."

Clark looked up in concern. "Are you hurt? Let me see." He reached for her hand.

"NO!" she yelled. "Uh, it's fine. Really, just a scratch." She did not want him touching her again. Or rather, she wanted that too much.

Clark tried to capture her gaze, which roamed the street scene wildly! "Oh my God!" she said. "We're supposed to be watching Dobbin Reynolds's house! Instead, we're…" She stopped suddenly, unsure of what to say.

Clark turned his head to look at the house in question. "I don't see anything suspect, Lois. It doesn't look as if anybody's even home."

"You'd think that would be the perfect time to rob a house, right? But so far, nothing," she said. "What time is it?"

He looked at his watch. "It's eleven o'clock," he said. *Time flies, etc., etc.* "We still have an hour to go. We'd better get back in the car."

Getting back in the car was the last thing she wanted to do, but they were kind of suspect standing on a stranger's lawn late at night. She walked slowly to the driver's side of the car.

Clark watched her with a wary gaze. It wasn't like Lois to be so quiet, and he hesitated to mention what happened between them. He could still smell her inviting scent, and he still reeled from the hunger she'd aroused in him. Although he knew that she wasn't ready to deal with it, he felt he couldn't let her pretend nothing had happened. He opened his own door and got in the car.

He waited until he was settled before speaking. He cleared his throat, but Lois beat him to the punch.

"Clark…" she began, then stopped She gripped the steering wheel hard in her hands. "Clark, I don't think anything's going to happen here tonight." She cringed at the unintended double meaning behind the words. "I think we should head back to the Planet and find out if Jimmy is okay." She started the car and pulled out onto the street.

Clark stared at her profile. Against his better judgment, he decided to let her postpone the inevitable. "Buckle up," he reminded her gently.

She gave a mental sigh of relief and reached for her seat belt. Fastening it into place, she turned on the radio to avoid the tension- filled silence.


Perry White was sitting at his desk, performing emergency surgery on a feature story turned in by a new reporter. At the sound of the elevator bell, he looked up, surprised.

The elevator doors lid open to reveal his two best reporters, both downcast and silent. Perry stood up, worry etching itself into his face.

"Lois, Clark, it's kinda late for the two of you to be in, isn't it? I mean, Lois, you were here all morning, and Clark, I thought you were visiting your parents."

"No, Chief, I didn't fly to Kansas. I, uh, was detained by Lois," Clark said.

"Is there something going on that I should know about?" Perry asked.

"We'll tell you all about it, Chief. But first we've got to find Jimmy," Lois said. "Oh, and is Joe here anywhere?"

"Joe went home hours ago, as would have I if I weren't so dedicated to my job. I haven't seen Jimmy all day."

Lois and Clark exchanged worried glances.

"Would someone tell me what in the blazes is goin' on?" Perry said, irritated.

"Chief, Lois found a connection in those Christmas burglaries Joe was talking about earlier."

"Yes, it seems that all the victims of the burglaries from last night are Metropolis Council members," Lois began. "More than that, they're all of the INCUMBENT members only, since Fullerton and Reynolds weren't hit."

"Great shades of Elvis!" Perry exclaimed. "Good work, Lois! But what do you think it means?"

"Well," Clark began. "We're not really sure it means much, since it's possible that the two remaining members could have been hit tonight."

"We staked out Reynolds's house tonight, and nothing happened. We're waiting to hear what Jimmy learned, since he was supposed to be watching Fullerton's house," Lois added. "He's supposed to be here at midnight."

"Okay, then, let's not panic yet," Perry advised. "He's still got ten minutes to walk through that door…"

The ding of the elevator bell interrupted his sentence.

"There he is now," Clark said, heaving a sigh of relief.

Jimmy came trudging down the steps and came to a stop by Lois' desk. "I hope you guys came up with something, because I got zilch. Man, that was boring!"

Lois and Clark both shook their heads and avoided each other's gazes. "No," Lois said, "We didn't get anything, either. "

Clark said, "We need to search city files for Council activity records."

Perry jumped in. "Are you thinking that maybe these folks took some kind of action that some joker didn't like?"

"Maybe they voted against a policy or interest group proposal," Jimmy offered.

"Exactly!" Lois and Clark said together.

"Well all right! This is the kind of teamwork that brought the Daily Planet to where it is today," Perry said, smiling hugely. "However, you can't get to those records until in the morning. So, I suggest y'all go home and get some rest so you can be there first thing in the morning."

"Someone's got to check the records, and we need to ask these victims some questions, too, and see if we can pick up any clues," Lois said.

Jimmy spoke up. "I live the closest to City Hall, so I'll run over there first thing and check the voting and activity records."

"Thanks, Jimmy," Clark said. "Lois and I will begin those interviews. We'll check in periodically to see what you've come up with, okay?"

"Sure thing, C.K." Jimmy said, smiling. "I'm outta here!" He waved and bounded up the stairs to the elevators.

They watched him leave, Lois and Perry each envying the unfailing energy of the young. "You know, I remember when I could go all over town, literally running everywhere and never feeling it," Perry said, chuckling. "Only now, these ol' bones are a bit more sensitive. But nothing gets me going like a page one exclusive, and you guys never disappoint me!"

"Thanks, Perry," Lois smiled. "Better get those ol' bones to bed before you fall asleep at your desk."

"Again," she and Clark chorused.

Perry laughed out loud. "Very funny, you two. Get on home, both of you!" He walked back to his office.

The two reporters looked at each other in silence, each hesitating to move.

"Okay," Lois began, dragging the word out. "I guess we'd better leave. Need a lift home?"

"That would be nice, thank you." *So formal*, he thought.

The two headed to Lois' car, maintaining an uneasy silence. Once on the road, Clark tried to break the ice.

"Lois, we really need to talk."

"Right. I think we should interview the Huntleys first, since they were the first too."


"report the crime and then work our way…"

"Lois!" Clark's tone was urgent. "You know what I mean. About what happened earlier in the car."

Lois sighed, her breath shuddering unevenly through her lips. "Clark — I-I-I'm just so confused," she admitted, though it was hard.

"I don't want you thinking that I took advantage of you…"

"Oh, Clark, no!" Lois exclaimed. She braked hard at a red light. She couldn't quite meet his eyes. "If anything, *I* took advantage of YOU, spilling my guts out, crying on your shoulder." She took a deep breath. "I'm embarrassed, I guess," she finished softly.

Clark turned sideways in his seat, gazing intensely at her. "Lois, I don't want you to be embarrassed," he said. "You have no REASON to be embarrassed."

"But I let my problems interfere with our working relationship, Clark," she said.

"I asked you to talk to me, Lois," he said. "You're very important to me. I want you to be happy, and obviously you're not right now."

The light changed to green and she stepped on the gas pedal. Her mind raced furiously, debating what to tell Clark. "I forgot myself, Clark," she said, blushing furiously. "I was shameless. I was all over you!"

He smiled faintly. "You were PASSIONATE, Lois, and there's no shame in that. I know. I was there with you, every single breath, touch and step of the way."

Lois briefly closed her eyes. His tone and words were an evocative reminder. "Clark. I've spend all this time thinking of us as partners and friends. JUST friends."

"I know. It's hard opening yourself up to let the boundaries of a relationship expand. But you have to let them expand, so that you can grow as a person. You never know what kinds of glorious things can come from it until you try."

"Yeah, and you never know what kinds of heartaches can come from it," she said sarcastically. "Clark, I just don't want to mess up our partnership, or lose your friendship. I was involved with a co-worker before, remember? Claude? Look how that turned out!"

"Yes, I remember. And he was a real "clod" for doing that to you," he said. "But I'm not him, Lois. I'm Clark." He took a deep breath to find the courage and wet his lips nervously. "Remember how last year I told you, well, I told you how I would have said ANYTHING to keep you from marrying Luthor and how it was unfair of me to have said what I did?"

She nodded solemnly, recalling how hopeful she had been that day, only to have those hopes dashed. *Just another reason to remain distant*, she thought.

"Well, I lied again," he said, holding his breath while waiting for her reaction.



"I don't understand. What do you mean, you lied 'again'?"

"I had my fingers crossed when I said that."

"Fingers? What?!"

Clark sighed. *It's now or never*! "What I mean is, I was lying when I said that I only said what I said to prevent you from marrying Lex." He paused. "In other words, when I told you that I was in love with you, it was really the truth."

"My God, Clark…"

"Lois, I know this is a lot to throw at you, but…" he paused again. "But it's way past time to tell you. I didn't like lying to you, but I didn't think you were ready to hear that from me then. And I'm not sure you're ready to hear it now, but I've waited long enough as it is. You see, I wanted you to care for me, in that way, because of me, not because Lex turned out to be scum."

The car came to a stop on Clinton Street. Lois left the car running.

"Lois, this is hard for me to say, because I know you're going to be mad. But remember when I was shot? You drove me home the night you found out I was still alive and I fell asleep in the car? I wasn't really asleep."

Lois clenched her hands on the steering wheel, her knuckles turning white.

"I was so glad to hear that you thought our relationship might be more than being just friends and partners. You will NEVER know how glad I was. And I realize that it was dishonest of me, but, again, I didn't want it to be some tragedy that made you admit your feelings for me. I want you to trust me enough to just come out and tell me how you feel."

Lois stared straight ahead, hands still clenched on the wheel. "Be ready at eight o'clock tomorrow morning." Her voice was monotone.

Clark looked at her worriedly. "Lois…"

"I said, I'll pick you up at eight."

Clark sighed and got out of the car. Before he shut the door, he leaned down and spoke. "Lois, you probably hate me right now, but I had to tell you the truth. Please think about everything that's happened, and everything that I said," Clark said. "Please."

He shut the door and stood on the sidewalk while she pulled away. She did it cleanly, with no squealing tires or wild curving in the road. It emphasized the control she was trying to exert over her emotions.

Unable to resist a last look, Lois glanced into the rearview mirror at Clark. He stood with his hands in his pockets, shoulders slumped gazing forlornly at her taillights. The image stayed with her the entire drive home.


Clark unlocked his door and walked into the dark apartment. Closing the door, he leaned back against it and sighed heavily. Torn, he felt both elated and worried. Elated, because he'd finally told Lois how he felt about her. Worried because Lois was unpredictable in her moods.

But then, that's part of what made her so exciting. He grinned to himself. Checking the clock on the wall, he walked to the couch and picked up the phone.

"Hello?" answered a drowsy feminine voice.


"Clark?!" Martha Kent sat up in bed, immediately switching on the light. A groan sounded from the other side of the bed in protest. She swatted at the mountain of man under the covers. "Jonathan! Get up, it's Clark!"

"Doesn't the boy know it's almost midnight here?" he grumbled. "Some of us still have to get up with the chickens."

Martha rolled her eyes at him and turned back to the phone. "Clark, honey, is something wrong?"

"Mom, I'm sorry to wake you up. I know it's late. But something happened that I need to talk about," Clark said.

"Honey, you know your father and I are always here for you," she said, to which Jonathan grumbled some more. "Any time of day or night it is, despite what your father says." She glared in his direction. "Are you okay?"

"I think so. I mean, physically, I'm okay, but emotionally…" Clark paused. "Something happened with Lois today that I don't know how to deal with."

Martha's eyes popped wide open. She covered the phone with her hand, elbowed Jonathan's ribs and whispered, "Jonathan! It's about Lois! Something happened with Lois!" She couldn't keep the excitement out of her voice. She adored Lois Lane.

Jonathan sat up and reached for the cordless phone on the night table. "Son, I'm here."

"Hi, Dad. Sorry to wake you."

"Nonsense, boy, you know that's never a problem," he said, avoiding his wife's knowing gaze. "What's this about Lois? Is she okay?"

"Oh! I didn't even think to ask if it is something bad, Clark!" Martha's voice was filled with concern.

"No, Mom, she's fine. Well, same thing: she's fine physically, but emotionally."

"Son, what's going on?" Jonathan asked.

"Did you two have a fight?"

"Martha, would you give the boy a chance to talk?"

"Mom, Dad, please." Clark begged over the wire. "Lois and I, we've reached a place in our relationship where we've both been confused."

"Clark, have you and Lois…?" she trailed off suggestively.

"Martha! That's his own business, for heaven's sake! You don't need to know that."

"I'm his mother! If he can't tell his mother, then who can he tell?"

"No! Mom, geez." Clark blushed over the line. "Look, I think we —together — crossed the line from friendship into… into…"

"Into what?" Martha and Jonathan chorused.

"That's the problem, Mom, I don't know what," Clark answered.

"Just tell us as much as you can without betraying Lois' trust. We taught you how to be a gentleman, Clark. Be discreet." Jonathan said firmly.

Clark smiled patiently. "I know you did, Dad. See, I ended up comforting Lois when she was upset, and things got a little, *just a little*, out of hand," he began, unaware that Martha was smiling and clapping her hands silently. Jonathan shushed her and motioned for her to be still.

"So what's the problem, honey? Isn't that what you wanted? For the both of you to get closer?" Martha asked.

"Well, yeah, Mom. But, this was a surprise. It didn't turn out the way I'd expected."

"It never does, honey. That's what so great about love." Martha said.

"What was it you expected, Son?"

"Ah, Dad, I don't know. The end result is that Lois is embarrassed, and I ended up telling her the truth."

"What?!?!" they said unison.

"Clark, you mean, she knows you're Superman?" Martha gasped.

"No! God, no! I wasn't even thinking about that!" Clark groaned. "Oh, no. I still have to deal with that!"

"Everyone calm down," Jonathan said. "Clark, what 'truth' did you tell her?"

"I told her how I lied about taking back what I said about my feelings, that I really did mean that I loved her that day."

"Oh, honey," Martha said sympathetically. "I bet that was hard."

"Yeah, it was," Clark admitted. "And then, I threw something else at her. I told her that I wasn't really asleep in the car that one night."

"How did she take it, Son?"

"Not very well, Dad. Not very well at all."

"Surely you expected her to be angry, Clark. She's a very feeling person, even if she tries to hide it," Jonathan said.

"The important thing is that you made the first move, Clark," Martha said. "At least you got everything — well, almost everything — out into the open. Do you know where you stand?"

"No, Lois just drove away. She didn't scream, or yell, or throw anything. Which makes me uneasy," Clark added.

"Well, you gave her a lot to think about, Son. Perhaps she just needs to sleep on it."

"Yes, Clark. You did the right thing in telling her how you feel. Now it's up to her to figure out how she feels."

"That's what I'm afraid of, Mom."


Lois didn't know what she was feeling. She trudged up the stairs to her apartment and just stared at the numerous locks on her door. Slowly, she let herself into the apartment. She closed the door and just leaned against it, closing her eyes.

She was so drained, yet she knew she wouldn't sleep. She just kept hearing Clark, telling her things she wasn't really ready to hear. At the same time, a part of her deep down admitted that she'd wanted to hear it nonetheless.

*You were passionate, Lois. There's no shame in that.*

Lois gasped as her body reacted to his voice echoing through her mind.

*I was there with you every single breath, touch and step of the way.*

She forced her eyes open and wrenched herself away from the door. She was so confused. When did they cross that line between friendship and, more? One second he was her partner, the next second he was her lover.

*Almost*, she reminded herself. *Almost her lover. Not quite. Nothing really happened.* "Yeah, right, Lane," she said to herself sarcastically. She marched to the refrigerator, angry at herself because she couldn't deny that something did happen. She opened the door to take stock of the contents.

*Lois, this is hard for me to say…*

She closed her eyes again as his voice penetrated the silence.

*I didn't want it to be some tragedy that made you admit your feelings for me.*

Oddly, she understood how he felt. Hell, she would probably have done the same thing. God, she had done the same thing in the past, keeping her feelings a secret for fear of them not being returned.

She admired Clark for being honest, which is something she wasn't sure she would have done. It had to have been hard for him to put his heart on the line, knowing that she had rejected him before.

It was proof that his feelings were strong and solid.

*You're so — solid.*

Her own words brought forth the memory of what happened between them in the car, making her shiver in response. She opened her eyes to find the refrigerator door still open. She slammed it and made her way into the bedroom. Pulling her nightgown off of her dresser, she tugged her sweater over her head and peeled off her slacks. Straightening, she caught her reflection in the mirror.

Lois had a fetish for Victoria's Secret, and she liked to pamper herself with beautiful lingerie that showed off her figure. Although she could probably do without those spontaneous trips to the Fudge Castle, she didn't think she had a bad body, even if she was a bit full-figured. Turning, she looked at her body's profile.

*Clark didn't seem to mind those extra inches.* "Shut up!" she yelled at her subconscious. But it was too late.

*Enough*! she told herself furiously. She ripped off her bra and threw it aside, pulling the nightgown over her head. She jumped into bed and turned off the light in one motion. She curled up on her side, hugging her pillow, shutting her eyes tight so the tears wouldn't fall. But they fell onto the pillow anyway.

She spent the next hour tossing and turning, her mind racing all the while. She had risked her heart before and lost. She stood to lose even more this time, because Clark was more than a potential lover. He was her best friend.

*I want you to trust me enough to just come out and tell me how you feel.*

Trust. The bottom line.

Lois yawned helplessly, her body finally giving in to exhaustion.

Her last conscious thought was that she had to make a decision.

And in the middle of her dream, she did.


Clark had just finished his morning exercise of super-speed push ups when a knock sounded on his door. The sound was faint, as if the visitor was timid, or having second thoughts about being there. Glancing at the clock, it was a full thirty minutes before Lois was scheduled to show. He put on his glasses and then opened the door.

"Lois!" he smiled in welcome, trying to read her expression to gauge her mood. "You're early."

"Uh, yeah. I'm sorry." Lois stared at his chest, which was bare.

Clark followed her gaze, realizing he had forgotten to grab his shirt before heading to the door. "Come in. I was just exercising." He opened the door wider, and she stepped inside. She practically flew down the steps to the couch, and sat tightly in a corner of it.

He shut the door and followed more slowly. He stood at the end of the couch, where he seemed to hesitate. Again, Lois cast furtive glances at his bared chest, only to look away quickly.

"Uh, excuse me," Clark said, reaching over her shoulder. She froze, and then realized that she was sitting on his shirt.

"Oh! Excuse me," she said, jumping up from the couch to stand in front of him while he put on the shirt, leaving the buttons undone. She cleared her throat and tore her eyes away from the ribbon of flesh left bare. "I know I'm early, but I think we should talk. I hate this awkwardness. This isn't us."

"I know we should talk," Clark said. "And I hate it, too." He gazed down into her face, noting the slight signs of sleeplessness under her eyes. "I know you have a right to be angry, so you can yell if you want, but…"

"You want me to try and look at it from your side," Lois finished. "Actually, I already did." She put her purse down on the cushions and clutched her hands together in front of her. "Clark, I know you may find this hard to believe, but I don't always have an answer for everything."

Clark looked discreetly at the floor.

"I mean, I may have an answer, but it's not always the right one, no matter how much I insist it is," she clarified. "I did some heavy thinking last night and …" she turned around and threw her hands in the air, exasperated. "Well, I just don't know what you see in me!"

She stood with her back to him, and she crossed her arms. "I mean, I haven't exactly been the nicest person to you, or very fair, for that matter. And I … I hurt you last year that day in the park." Her voice trailed off uncertainly.

Clark walked toward her slowly, stopping a few inches away. He brought his hands up to rest on her shoulders. She closed her eyes and savored the weight of his hands.

"Clark, this is new, this is different. This is something I don't know how to handle."

He squeezed her shoulders gently and turned her around. He was smiling softly. "Lois, I'm in the same boat," he said. "I am having the same thoughts you are. Well, almost the same thoughts. I don't want to lose you as a friend. I don't want you to feel awkward around me."

She looked up into his eyes. "I don't want to be hurt, and I don't want to hurt you, Clark. I've done enough of that already."

"I know this seems crazy, and we're both unsure, but I will promise you this: I will never hurt you intentionally, Lois." He paused. "I love you. And I always have."

"Please don't let me hurt you, Clark, please," she said earnestly.

"We just have to take it one move at a time, Lois, both of us. I don't expect you to rush into anything. We already know each other as friends and partners. Now it's time for us to get closer."

"I know," she said, meeting his gaze squarely. "I came to a decision last night, or rather this morning. It is time for something more." She took a deep breath. "I want to try, too, Clark. I want to be closer to you."

"You mean, you want us to have a romantic relationship? To be more than just friends and partners?" Clark looked encouragingly at her.

"Yes." An incredible weight was lifted of her mind at the same time a ball of nerves tightened in her stomach. "But, we shouldn't rush things."

Clark smiled hugely. "I agree, Lois. I will never make you do anything you don't want to do."

Her eyes dropped to the strip of flesh still showing though his shirt. Almost by its own will, her hand reached out and flattened against the wall of muscles. She ran her fingertips downward, trailing the washboard ridges one by one. She came to a stop above the tie of his sweat pants.

"Clark, I don't think that will be a problem," she whispered raspily. She jerked her hand away. "But I do think we should wait until this story is finished before moving on."

He chuckled. "Now THAT'S the Lois I know."

"We do still have a job to do," she stated firmly.

He released her shoulders and stepped back. "Let me change clothes, and we'll get to that first interview." He motioned to the kitchen. "Help yourself to breakfast."

She looked incredulously at his back as he walked to the bedroom. He didn't seriously expect her to be able to eat, with her emotions and stomach in knots? But then, she'd learned that Clark could eat anything at anytime, unlike normal people.

She glanced around the apartment, her gaze falling on a wooden box with oriental markings on it. She picked it up and nearly dropped it when he spoke from behind her.

"I was thinking, maybe you'd like to spend Christmas with me and my folks," he said, putting his arms in his jacket. "No pressure, Lois, no expectations, just sharing the holidays with the people closest to me." He waited for her reply.

"Your parents are flying in?"

"Oh, no, I'm, uh, flying out to Kansas." *Oops! Way to go. Now you have to get a plane ticket.* "I'm sure we can get you a ticket on the same plane."

"This close to Christmas?! Only if you believe in miracles," she said. "I don't know, Clark, wouldn't your parents prefer to have just family?"

"My mother adores you, Lois. She practically told me not to come myself if I didn't bring you. Honest." She opened her mouth to speak, but he forestalled her. "Just think about it, okay?"

She nodded. "Okay. Now, we've got a story to write."

Clark motioned for her to proceed him to the door. "You'll drive?"

She looked at him with a raise of her eyebrow. "Of course, I'LL drive!"

He smiled. "That's what I thought!"


Jimmy Olsen was not having a good day. Not only did he have to spend the day searching records, which was excitement personified, he was having a hard time convincing the people at City Hall to take him seriously.

A gray-haired matron seated behind the receptionist's desk peered over her bifocals at him. "Dearie, what did you say your name was?"

"Jimmy Olsen, ma'am. I work for the Daily Planet. I need to see…"

"The Daily Planet? My goodness, such a fine, fine organization. I remember when I was a little girl, my brother used to deliver those papers by bicycle every morning."

"That's really neat, Mrs…"

"And I do mean EVERY morning. Poor thing was only 12, the age where most boys are out playing stickball with their friends. But my Jack, now, he wasn't like the others, all right! So much responsibility for a boy his age, what with our Daddy dyin' in the war, you know. Yes, our Jack helped us through some hard times."

"I'm sure your brother is really something, Mrs. Libby. That's a great story."

"Hey! Maybe you can do one of those oh, what do you call them these days? You know, those heart-warming stories."

"Uh, feature stories?"

"That's it! My, you are a smart boy. You should do a feature story on my Jack."

Jimmy took a deep breath, praying for intervention. To his surprise, he got it.

"Mrs. Libby, have you seen the stack of files I left here on this table?" a harried male voice asked from behind Jimmy.

Jimmy turned around to see a man of medium build and height shuffling through some stacks of paper. "Oh, thank God, sir. Could you help me?" he asked the man.

The man spun around quickly, inadvertently knocking some papers off the table. He bent down to pick them up, and Jimmy leaned down to help him.

"Help you? Oh, no, I don't think so. I'm just a file clerk. Mrs. Libby is the one."

"A file clerk? That's awesome!" Jimmy exclaimed, relieved. "You're just the person I need to talk to. I'm Jimmy Olsen." He stuck his hand toward the man, who shook his hand absentmindedly.

"Harry Brigand."

"Cool name. I'm looking for the records or files on City Council activities."

"Why on earth would you want those? Not exactly entertaining reading material for a young person like you," Harry said. "No, wait, let me guess: this is something that your government professor put you up to."

"Well, actually…"

"Yeah, I remember those kinds of assignments. They'd send us out looking for reports, wanted us to do interviews you'd think we were reporters, or something! I can't stand reporters," he finished, muttering the last part under his breath.

Jimmy cringed slightly, raising one shoulder in a shrug of acknowledgment. "Uhm yeah, they can be annoying, I guess."

"Annoying?! I'd say they're downright irritating! Like that Lois Lane from the Daily Planet. I've never met a pushier person in my life! Why, she thinks she can just walk in here and demand all sorts of things, expecting us to fetch to and fro for her."

*Great*, Jimmy thought. *Guess mentioning why I want to see the files wouldn't be kosher right now.* But he did feel the need to defend Lois.

"Well, I've read her stories," Jimmy said. "She's good."

Harry snorted. "Well, she could learn a bit more about patience."

Jimmy certainly couldn't argue with that one!

"Right. Well, anyway, I need to see those files?" Jimmy asked.

"Oh, yes, follow me."


Lois and Clark were baffled. After interviewing four of the couples who had been robbed, they were no closer to finding a good solid lead than they had been last night. Each couple's story was similar, with various items being stolen, with each robbery totaling approximately thirty to forty thousand dollars. However, no one could offer any information about the culprit.

Driving back to the Planet, they stopped for take-out at Clark's favorite sandwich shop. Taking the food back to work, they found Jimmy in the conference room, looking ragged and confused.

Jimmy looked up as they entered. "Thank goodness you're here," he said, somewhat relieved. "I've been going over this for hours!"

"These are the records from City Hall?" Lois asked, picking up a sheet of paper.

"Yeah, and I have to tell you guys, I don't even know what I'm looking at half the time! I mean, I can tell you things they voted on, ordinances passed and stuff like that, but as for the politics part, yuck!" He threw down another set of papers.

"That's okay, Jimmy, thanks for getting them for us," Clark said. "Did you get to take a lunch break?" He held up the bag of sandwiches.

"Hey! That's our lunch," Lois exclaimed, grabbing for the bag.

Clark jerked it over his head, out of her reach. "Lois! Jimmy spent his entire morning helping us," he said, reprimandingly. "I think we could share our lunch with him."

"Thanks, C.K. A sandwich would be wonderful repayment for all those copies I had to make. And for dealing with Mrs. Libby and Harry Brigand."

"Ugh," Lois said, grimacing. "I can't stand that guy. He's so contrary."

Jimmy and Clark looked at each other.

"Yeah, Lois, I heard he's a big fan of yours, too," Jimmy snickered. He accepted the sandwich and bag of chips Clark passed to him.

"Well, I don't want to hear what he had to say," Lois said, primly. "Who cares what he thinks, anyway?" She unwrapped her sandwich and started going through the files. "So, did you find anything interesting?"

"Interesting, no. Unusual, yes," Jimmy said.

"Anything that might make someone want to get back at the Council members?" Lois asked.

"Here, take a look at these." He handed her a stack of files. "These are the ones that caught my eye, things that I thought might be related."

"What's in here?" Clark asked, reaching for some of the files. He flipped through the pages in one folder almost casually, using his super-vision to speed-read through them. Seeing nothing too jarring in the file, he placed it back on the table. "Nothing here."

Lois looked up quickly, still looking at the first page of her folder. "How do you know? You barely looked at it!"

He paused. "I took a speed reading course once, that…"

"Never mind," she said, rolling her eyes. She looked back at file, flipping to the next page. "Hey, here's something." She plucked out a piece of paper and handed it to Clark. "Apparently the city annexed some land in the suburbs to be used as a landfill. That couldn't have made the residents too happy."

"I'll say. Who wants a bunch of trash in their backyard?" Clark added. "Put that one in the stack of possibles. Anything else?" Again, he sped through another file. "Here. This is the file on the smoking ban they passed months ago. It's filled with letters from unhappy citizens."

Lois barely looked up from her files. "I doubt it would be connected. After all, that's old news and most of the people seemed to take it in stride."

Clark shrugged and put the file down.

Jimmy jumped in. "Hey, I saw something in there about the curfew ordinance they passed last month." He dug into a pile for the folder. "I know a lot of younger people who aren't happy with that one. There were stories goin' around about some gangs doing something."

Clark looked at Jimmy, concerned. "What kind of 'something'?" he asked.

"Well, I really think they were just talking, you know, guys blowin' off steam," Jimmy said. "Nothing specific was mentioned, though robbery wouldn't be below some of these guys."

Lois raised her eyebrow. "Well, this isn't a case of serial murders or anything, really just some burglaries. Maybe there's something there," she conceded. "But my instinct tells me that there's more."

They all knew about Lois' instinct.

"Hand me another file, Jimmy," Lois demanded, doing a double-take when she received it. "What? This is an individual liquor license request, Jimmy. Big deal. The city gets dozens of these a day."

"Oh, I don't remember getting that one," Jimmy said. "Must have grabbed that one by accident. Sorry." He grinned sheepishly.

Clark lowered his glasses while the others weren't looking. Using his X-ray vision, he read the contents of the file in question. "Wait a minute. Hand me that, please, Jimmy."

Jimmy handed it to him, and Clark opened it, pretending to read it. He skipped to the page that had caught his attention. "Look at this, Lois," he said, urgently. "This sounds serious. Apparently, this is an account of complaints made by the City Council members about a Mr. Nick Miller. He's threatened the City Council on several occasions because of the approval of a liquor license granted to a convenience store next to his deli shop."

"So, what's his problem?" Jimmy asked.

"Well it says here that Miller has openly protested that giving a liquor license to the store would bring the 'wrong' clientele into the neighborhood, running off his customers and ruining the general worth of the storefront," Clark explained.

Lois grabbed the file out his hand. "Let me see that," she demanded. "Clark! This could be it! Here's a photocopy of a letter he sent a few months after the license was granted stating that his deli was losing some business because some of his customers wouldn't come back due to the kinds of people hanging outside the store," she said. "And here's another letter dated later about the same thing, quoting a $30,000 loss over a period of six months." She flipped through the other pages.

Clark pointed to the folder. "There's also a transcript of a phone call he made to Burke Huntley when the Council refused again to revoke the license. It should be rated an R because of the language."

Lois gasped. "He's actually threatening Mr. Huntley!" she exclaimed excitedly.

"So, you guys think this guy staged the burglaries to get back the money he's lost from his business?" Jimmy asked.

"It's possible, Jimmy," Clark said. "But we better not jump to any conclusions."

Lois jumped in. "But Clark! Remember, each couple reported approximately that dollar amount as missing from their homes!" She jumped up from her chair. "Come on, let's go."

"Hold on, Lois…"

"Clark! We've got to talk to this Miller guy and see what we can find out from him."

"Lois, don't you think this is just a little too pat? I mean, why would he steal that particular amount when he knows that it could be traced back to him in a trail of paper?"

"Think about it! He's making a statement, not to mention a really awesome profit," Lois said. "Besides, a paper trail could certainly lead to him, but if there's no evidence placing him there at the robberies, or if he has an alibi, then they couldn't catch him, right?"

"So it would be the perfect crime, right?" Jimmy added.

"I don't know, Lois. And don't you find it odd that particular file happened to be in the ones Jimmy got, when he didn't even remember getting it?"

"So, Fate is helping us out a little," Lois said, reaching for her purse. "Let's go!" She stormed out of the conference room just as Perry stormed in.


"Sorry, Chief, no time to talk!" Lois laughed as she raced by. Clark followed closely.

"What the hell was that about?" Perry asked. "She's got that front-page look on her face."

"Yeah, Chief, we think we've got a break in the story about those City Council robberies," Jimmy said.

"Well, all right!" Perry yelled. "Teamwork, Jimmy, teamwork! That's what it's all about! And don't let anyone else tell you anything different. Now fill me in."

"Right, Chief," Jimmy said absentmindedly. He was still trying to remember how that file got into his pile.


Lois and Clark got out of the taxi near Miller's deli and strolled to the storefront. Lois peered into the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of Miller. There was no one in the deli, although the sign said it was open.

"Wait, Lois, wait," Clark grabbed her arm to stop her from opening the door. "Let's talk about what we're going to say."

"Clark! I'm not a rookie, and neither are you, anymore," Lois said.

"I know, but if he is the culprit, then he could be dangerous, don't you think? He did make those threats against Huntley."

"Clark," she began in that 'I-know-what-I'm-doing' tone.

"I just don't want you to get hurt," he said.

"And what about you, Clark, you could get hurt, too, but YOU still do YOUR job."

Clark sighed. "Let's — just use a little tact, okay?"

"Tact? I can be tactful. I am the epitome of tact," Lois said huffily as she opened the door to the deli. A small bell rang over the door. "Hello? Anyone here?"

A loud crash and a muffled curse sounded from the back of the shop. "Just a minute!" called a masculine voice. A moment later, a rather tall man came through the doorway.

"Welcome to our deli," he said, smiling hugely. "It's a bit late for lunch and too early for dinner, but our sandwiches are good anytime of the day."

"No, thank you," Lois began. "We've had our daily ration of sandwiches already." Clark added, "But everything looks really good."

The man looked puzzled. "Then why are you here?"

"Are you Nick Miller?" Lois asked.

A wary look came over the man's face. "Yes. What do you want?"

Lois reached into her attache case. "Are you the same Nick Miller that's been sending threatening letters to the Council members. Hey!"

The man shoved a tray of meat toward them, causing both Lois and Clark to jump out of the way. Miller ran to the back of the shop.

"Clark!" she yelled as she ran after Miller.

Clark's hand was already ripping at his tie, but he waited until she'd cleared the door before changing into Superman. He raced out the door at super-speed, rounding the corner of the building to find Miller peeling out of the alley in his car. Superman landed in front of the car, causing Miller to brake suddenly. Without looking, Miller put the car in reverse, not seeing Lois in the alley behind him. Superman grabbed the front bumper of his car, preventing the backward movement guaranteed to hit Lois. The tires squealed loudly, smoking as the rubber burned against the pavement. Lois jumped out of the way, flattening herself against the brick wall of the building. She placed a hand on her chest, watching in awe as Superman handled the force of the car.

Miller realized the futility of his action and stopped the car. Jumping out, he tried to run down the alleyway. Lois threw herself in front of him, swinging her attache case at his head and sending him sprawling against the car. Superman grabbed Miller by the arms from behind, swinging him into an upright position.

"Superman," Lois breathed, trying to catch her breath. "Thank God! How did you know?"

"Clark flagged me down out front. He said something about getting some help."

Miller shook his head to clear it. "Why'd you hit me so hard?"

Lois placed her hand on her hip, lifting the bag with her other hand. "Because you were trying to get away, obviously, and don't think I won't do it again!"

He leaned way back to avoid her flailing arm.

"Now, tell us why you ran away," Superman said.

"Because she pulled a gun on me!" Miller said frantically. "You should be getting her, not me!"

"What?!" Superman and Lois chorused. Lois spoke first. "I don't have a gun!"

Miller looked at her, puzzled. "You reached into the bag when you mentioned the letters I thought you and that guy were some more thugs they sent after me," he said.

Lois sputtered. "A thug?! I look like a thug?!"

Superman hid a smile. "Lois, calm down."

"Did you hear that?! Do I look like a thug to you? No, I do not!" she said wildly.

"Hey, lady, I didn't know what to think. I have to look out for trouble. After all, who would suspect a classy woman like you to take me out by bullet in my own shop?"

"He has a point, Lois," Superman said, releasing the man. "And you didn't identify yourself to him."

"True, but…" she gave him an odd look. "How did you know — I didn't?"

Superman opened his mouth and then closed it again. "Well, if you had, then he wouldn't have run away."

Lois nodded thoughtfully, sill looking at him. "You're right. As usual. Anyway, Miller, I'm Lois Lane, from the Daily Planet. That other man is my partner, Clark Kent." She looked around. "Where is he, anyway? There was a pay phone right outside the shop!"

Superman spoke quickly to Miller, diverting her attention. "You said you thought she and Clark were 'some more thugs' they sent after you," he began. "Does that mean you've had trouble before?"

"And who is 'they'?" Lois added.

Miller wet his lips nervously. "How do I know you are who you say you are?" Lois rolled her eyes and reached for her press pass. He jumped when she opened her bag, but settled down when she showed him her identification.

"After I sent the first letter, I got a phone call from someone who claimed they were a friend of someone on the Council, and that I'd better not make any trouble," Miller began. "I thought it was just the clown next door, who wasn't too happy with me for protesting his liquor license. After my second letter, some guys came to my store during the slow period, just like you two did, and threatened to do some physical harm to me."

"Did you get any names, descriptions?" Lois asked.

"No names. At first I was scared, because they looked big and mean. I think they were armed. Then after they left, I was so steamed. Those big politicians always think they can push around the little people! So I called that Huntley guy and gave him a piece of my mind."

"We read the transcript, Mr. Miller," Lois said. "You weren't exactly polite."

"Yeah, well, I was mad. But that was just blowing off steam."

"Did you know that almost all of the City Council members were robbed two nights ago? Each one reported a loss of approximately $30,000, which just happens to be the amount of money you claimed in lost revenues," she pointed out.

"What! I don't know anything about it!" Miller said sincerely. "Really. Besides, I didn't really lose that much money. I just wanted to get their attention. What I really did lose wouldn't be much in their eyes, but it's my living I have to worry about."

Lois looked at Superman and then back at Miller. "Can you tell us where you were when the robberies occurred?"

"Two nights ago? I was at a neighborhood store owners' meeting at the Chamber of Commerce," he said. "You can check. You could even ask the jerk next door, he was there. We got into it again about the clientele his store is attracting."

"Are you sure you don't have anything to add," she asked. "Any information you can give us?"

Miller shook his head. "Are you going to call the cops or something? I'm innocent. I swear," he stated earnestly. "Besides, I need to get back to my shop. I've probably been robbed blind myself since the register's been unattended."

Lois looked at Superman. He nodded. "I think we can let him go," he said.

"Fine. But we may have more questions later," she added.

Miller went back into the store, holding a hand to his head, which was still a bit dizzy after being hit with her bag.

"Superman, thanks for you help," she said.

"Looks like you were doing just fine on your own," he smiled.

"Well, your assistance is always welcome," she said, shyly.

"I heard about the robberies," Superman said. "It's a shame those people's holiday were tainted by this." She nodded her agreement. There was an awkward pause, made so because Lois usually found herself tongue-tied with this man. Superman was just so magnificent in presence, that she often found herself awed by him. It was hardly any secret that she harbored an infatuation for him. "Speaking of holidays," she began. "How are you spending yours? You shouldn't be alone during Christmas." She looked at him, her expression hesitant, almost expectant. Superman froze. "Is that an invitation?"

"I couldn't bear for you to be alone," she said.

His jaw tightened. "Thanks, but I do have plans."

"Oh," she said, blushing. "Yeah, actually, so do I." She forced a laugh. *God, what were you thinking?! How could you have forgotten everything that's happened with Clark? How would you have explained this to him?*

She looked around for Clark again.

Superman noticed her action and decided it was time for Clark to make an appearance. "I hear Clark, Lois," he said. "He's about to turn the corner. I'll go meet him and brief him on what happened." He sped off before she could open her mouth. A few moments later, Clark rounded the corner.

"Where have you been?" Lois demanded.

"Well, I, uh, chased down a police officer after flagging down Superman," Clark said, adjusting his glasses, trying to hide his anger. "But Superman told me that everything's fine. He's talking to the officer right now."

"Oh. Okay. Mr. Miller says he's been threatened before. He thought we were thugs!" she added indignantly.

Clark tried to smile briefly and shrugged his shoulders. "You can be rather, formidable, Lois." Before she could respond, he said, "Let's go back to the Planet. Obviously this has gotten us nowhere."

Unfortunately for Clark, he was the only one that caught his double meaning.


Lois hung up the phone dejectedly, running into another dead end. She chewed on the end of her pencil, nervously glancing towards Clark's desk. He hadn't said anything on the ride back to the Planet, and she knew something was bothering him. She didn't think it was the story.

Clark sat at his desk, pretending to read something on his computer screen. He could see Lois looking in his direction, but he didn't trust himself to look a her. He was still steaming at the fact that Lois had tried to make plans with Superman after Clark had invited her to share his plans for the holiday.

Perry came out of his office, noticing right away the tension between the two reporters. "So, what's the scoop?" he asked.

"There is no scoop, Perry," Lois said, throwing down her pencil. "Just a wild goose chase."

"Okay, so the first lead didn't work out," he said. "Just move on to the next one."

"There is no next one," she said, frowning.

"Then, you've got to review what you do know," Perry said to both of them. "Is there something else to tie in the robberies together?"

Lois looked at Clark and shrugged her shoulders. "Not really, besides the fact that the victims are City Council members."

Perry held up a finger. "And the fact that only luxury items were taken."

Lois nodded.

Clark looked thoughtful. "You know, there is something else."

Lois looked surprised. "What else?"

Clark stood up and walked to her desk, where Perry was leaning on one corner. "When we interviewed the first couple, the Huntleys, they said that the robbery had occurred while they were at home."

Lois sat up straighter in her chair. "So did the second couple!"

"And the third and the fourth, too," Clark added. "In fact — God! — why didn't we see it sooner? All of the couples said they were robbed while at home, but they had all been outside when it happened!"

"Outside? In this weather?" Perry asked.

Clark nodded. "They all stated they had been listening to carolers."

"Carolers?!" Perry raised an eyebrow. "What do you think that means?"

Lois gasped and stood up. "You think the thief is in cahoots with the carolers?"

"Boy, that sure would give the season a bad name, wouldn't it," Perry laughed.

"You know, I never did trust carolers," she stated emphatically. "Always so cheerful, singing the same songs over and over, standing out in the freezing cold to do it. And because they're idiotic enough to do it, they expect you to leave the warm comfort of your home to watch them!"

Jimmy came running down the stairs to the desks. "Guys! Get this," he said, stopping abruptly between them. "I was in the copy room when the new society writer came in, and he told us that four local orphanages have called, asking us to do a write up for them."

"Yeah, they usually call this time of year, asking for some press coverage to get readers to donate Christmas gifts for the kids," Perry began.

"No, Chief, that isn't it. It seems that some anonymous benefactor has given each of the homes a donation of — you guessed it — $30,000!" He smiled hugely.

"Great shades of Elvis!" Perry exclaimed.

"You're kidding?!" Lois asked.

"No, I'm not," Jimmy said sincerely. "They called the paper wanting us to write an article asking the person to reveal himself so they can personally thank him, or her. Apparently, this is going to not only make a wonderful Christmas for the kids, but help them through the first quarter of next year."

"It has to be connected," Lois said.

Clark spoke up. "Let's go interview the directors of those homes," he said. "Thanks Jimmy."

"Sure thing, C.K."

Perry and Jimmy watched the two of them race toward the elevators. "Good work, son. The first thing you learn in this business is to keep your eyes and ears open. Seems you've been doing just fine with that."

"Thanks, Chief. Uh, was it just me, or did those two seem a little, tense?"

"It wasn't just you, Jimmy. It's an editor's job to know his reporters, and I know those two fairly well. They've been acting kinda funny the past day or two, but I think that's something that's between the two of them. If you know what I mean."

Jimmy swung his head around to look at the Chief. "You mean…"

"I mean that it's their business, son." Perry said, with a faint twinkle in his eye.

Jimmy just smiled.


Imogene Norton had been the director of The Warm Place Children's Home for over thirty years. Her office was filled with pictures, news clippings and momentos of various children. Currently, she sat at her desk, beaming with happiness at the two reporters who stood before her.

"This is definitely a blessing," she said, smiling. "The work of a higher being, making sure those kids are taken care of for the Christmas season. Miracles do happen!"

Lois and Clark shared a look. Neither had the heart to tell her about the possible connection to the robberies.

Clark spoke first. "Mrs. Norton, do you have any idea who might have given you that money?"

"No, it was simply mailed to us here."

"Could we see the envelope, please?"

"Oh, I think I threw it away, no, here it is!" She pulled the small envelope out from under a stack. It was plain and white, with generic typed lettering on the front. Naturally, there was no return address. It gave away no clues.

Lois wandered around the office. "I noticed you have a lot of news clippings here."

"Yes, I have many of them. Each one is about one of our children. Some of them have gone on to do marvelous things! They got such a rotten start out of life, but turned out to be wonderful citizens. It's what makes our jobs worthwhile," she added.

"Do you think it may be someone who grew up here?" Lois asked.

"Maybe," Mrs. Norton said. "But every other donation we've gotten from the children we've helped has been signed with name. We've been more fortunate than most with the number of donations we get. Not all of the children go on to fame and fortune, but most try to help in any way they can."

Clark looked at the other wall of photos. One particular photo caught his eye. He used his vision to magnify the picture. "That photo there," he said, pointing to it. "That's a rather tall kid."

"Oh, no, that's not a child!" Mrs. Norton laughed. "Actually, that young man was a child that grew up in the orphanage. He used to help out some, after he moved out, but we haven't seen him lately." She smiled fondly. "He was a particularly troubled child. The other helpers here used to refer to him as their 'little thief'."

"Thief?!" Lois and Clark asked together. They shared a look.

"Why, yes, but they meant nothing malicious in it," she explained. "He was good at making things around here disappear, that's for sure. I don't think he ever meant to be evil about it. He always took little things like scissors, extra cookies, pads of paper to draw on, things like that."

She smiled faintly. "It was a classic cry for attention, and we tried to give him all the love we could. He got so good at it by the time he was a bit older. Unfortunately, he once heard one of the helpers refer to him by that nickname. When he decided to leave, he chose a last name that would remind him of that penchant, I guess so he would break the habit."

"He chose 'Thief' as a last name?" Lois asked incredulously.

"Brigand," Clark whispered.

"What?" Lois said.

"Brigand. Is that the name he chose, Mrs. Norton?"

"Why, yes. You're very good with synonyms, I guess."

Lois dropped her jaw. "Would that happen to be Harry Brigand, from City Hall?"

Mrs. Norton looked at her in surprise. "It is! Harold Brigand. Do you know him? We were so thrilled when he got a job there right out of school. He wasn't as motivated as the other kids, but he's a good worker nonetheless."

Lois and Clark looked at each other. "We've got to go," Clark said, while Lois headed for the door. "Thank you so much for your help."

"Wait! You don't think Harry's the one who gave us the money?"

"We're not sure, Mrs. Norton. We'll let you know when we know." Clark exited the office and caught up with Lois in the hallway. "Lois, slow down!"

"It's him, Clark! I know it's him!" she said excitedly. "You know, I never did like that guy! A thief, did you hear her, Clark?"

"Let's go down to City Hall and talk to this guy," Clark said. "Why do you think he did it?"

"Don't you think it's obvious? Who wouldn't like to get revenge on their boss?" she asked. "Except us, of course."

"But City Council members are not the clerk's immediate supervisors," Clark explained.

"Oh, who knows what's going through his twisted mind," Lois said.

"Lois, you're not being very sympathetic," Clark said. "Or objective. Even Mrs. Norton said he was never malicious." He raised an eyebrow at her.

"Lois bit her lip. "You're right. I'm sorry."

"Just promise me you will listen to what Brigand has to say before jumping his case," Clark asked of her.


"I mean it, Lois. After all, he may have stolen from some people, which IS wrong," he inserted before she could open her mouth. "But what did he actually do with the money?"

"Ah. He gave it to some needy orphans," Lois said.

"Exactly," Clark said.

"And who's going to crucify him for that? Maybe it's a cover for something," Lois added.

"First we've got to find out if he really is the burglar, then we've got to find out why he did it."

"And how he did it, and who's in it with him," Lois said. "I'm sure those carolers play a big role, too!"

They walked outside and flagged down a cab. After instructing the cabby to drive to City Hall, which was clear across town, the two settled into the back seat.

The cab took off at breakneck speed, unintentionally throwing Lois off balance. She slid across the seat to land hard against Clark, their bodies touching from shoulder to knee. She had reached out with her hand to catch herself, and it had landed on his thigh above the knee. Both people froze, waiting for the other to react.

Lois didn't know what to do, since Clark had been stand-offish earlier today, so at odds with the scene from this morning. Still unable to figure out what had put him in a bad mood, she could only hope that he would talk to her about it.

But the feel of his hard, muscled body warmed hers where they touched, and it was very distracting. She left her hand where it was, unconsciously squeezing the firm muscle as she thought to herself.

Clark didn't know what to do, since he was torn between anger and desire. Thrown into the equation was guilt, because he knew that Lois thought he had been COMPLETELY honest with her, which he had not. Oh, he had been honest about his feelings, yes, but he had the biggest secret of all time, one that he could not yet share with her.

But the feel of her soft body was electric where it brushed his, and it was very distracting. The squeezing of her hand sent tingles up his thigh. He looked at her hand and then covered it with his, turning it over and interlocking their fingers. She looked up at the joined hands and then up at his face. She reached up with her other hand, brushing back a stray lock of hair that had fallen onto his forehead. She traced his eyebrow down to his cheek, then curved her fingers around his jaw. It was if last night and this morning had knocked down her inhibitions when it came to touching Clark. She did it without thinking, just reveling in the warmth of his skin, and the slight raspiness of his jaw.

"Clark," she whispered, looking into his eyes. "Are you okay? I noticed that something is bothering you, and it doesn't have to do with the story."

Her words jarred him out of the slight haze of longing, bringing forth the memory of how she looked when talking to Superman. Clenching his jaw, he released her hand and opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted by the driver.

"How you folks doin' today?" the unusually cheerful cabby asked. "Two days until Christmas, folks. Got anything special planned?"

Lois fidgeted in her seat, and looked out her window. Clark turned to look out his window and said, "*I* have special plans."

Her eyes widened at the curtness of his tone. She didn't know how to interpret his statement, so she said nothing.

"Well, folks, here we are," the driver said as the car rolled to a stop. He told them the total, which Clark paid, and then wished them a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Lois smiled wanly at him, and Clark nodded and shook the man's hand.

Lois and Clark walked up the steps to City Hall, dodging people who were exiting the building. Once inside, they let their eyes adjust to the dimness and then walked to the appropriate office.

She walked to Mrs. Libby's desk, and cleared her throat.

"Oh! Lois Lane, you dear girl! You haven't been here in quite some time!"

"Hello Mrs. Libby," she said, smiling at the older woman.

"Why, who do we have here? Is this your beau?"

Clark looked at Mrs. Libby, not at Lois. "Hi, I'm Clark Kent, Lois' partner."

"Oh, you mean at the Daily Planet?"

"Yes ma'am. We're looking for a Harry Brigand."

"Have you seen him today?" Lois asked.

"I believe he's in the main file storage room," Mrs. Libby said. "He mentioned something about straightening some of the cabinets in there. Right through that doorway and to the left."

"Thank you," Clark said, holding the door open for Lois.

The walked to the main file room and stopped in the open doorway. A man was bent over a stack of boxes on the floor in the corner, and he was humming "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing".

"Well, fancy meeting you here," Lois said sarcastically.

The man spun around toward them, his face grimacing when he saw the woman reporter. "You again," he said, avoiding her gaze. "What do you want now, Ms. Lane?" Harry turned around quickly and shoved some files under a box. Clark caught the movement with his super vision.

"Sir, I'm Clark Kent, from the Daily Planet. We'd like to ask you if you know anything about the anonymous donations made to the local orphanages."

The smaller man froze. "Why would I know anything about that?"

Lois lost her patience. "Please. We know you've been robbing the City Council members, Brigand. What we don't know is why."

"Lois!" Clark admonished.

Harry wet his lips nervously, and fidgeted with his tie. "I don't know what you're talking about. What robberies?"

She stepped forward. "We pieced it together, though it took some doing after the red herring you threw in Jimmy's path. I should have been suspicious when that liquor license file showed up the stack. Remember, Clark? Jimmy didn't remember getting it? Well, Harry here just placed in the stack, figuring we'd latch on to it."

"You have no proof," he said, a tad desperately.

"You don't know what we have," Lois said smugly. "Why don't you just tell us your side of the story. We're willing to listen."

"Yeah, right. You reporters thrive on crucifying people, I've seen you do it time after time," he said sarcastically.

"Mr. Brigand," Clark began. "We really do want to hear your side of the story. Why did you commit those robberies? And why did you target the City Council members?"

Since Clark was blocking the only exit, Harry figured he couldn't run. He sighed. "Okay. You want the story? Several months ago the Council went on a frenzy of decision making, when they learned that some of them had been voted out of office."

"They wanted to get their say in, I suppose, before they had to leave," Lois said.

"Right. And what they had to say wasn't very nice," Harry added. "One of the things they voted against was an increase in the budget for the orphanages. In fact, they voted to cut expenses set aside for the homes."

"Which explains why you gave the money to them," Clark said. "But what prompted you to actually rob them?"

"Well, no one knew about it but the Council members and a few clerks, those who had to prep and deal with the files," he continued. "But the vote to cut expenses in the homes wasn't an official one."

"What?" Lois asked. "What do you mean?"

"I mean that they told the directors that they had to cut their budgets, but it went down on record that the vote for an increase went through."

"So what did they do with the money?" Clark asked.

"I didn't know anything was wrong until one day a secretary inadvertently gave me the wrong files," Harry said. "When I looked in the files, I discovered what their plan was. I discovered more than that, actually. It seems in addition to the skimming of several government institutions, the members were involved in a tax fraud scheme." Lois and Clark looked at each other, unable to believe they'd stumbled onto this.

"They were in a rush to push through a lot of decisions, so that the members who were leaving could get their cut in time," Harry said. "I didn't know what to do, without jeopardizing my job. So, I came up with the plan to take from them what they'd taken from the others."

"Do you have proof of this?" Clark asked.

"Yes, it's right here," he said, pulling out the file that he had hidden under the box earlier. "I asked to work some overtime so I could investigate further. Since I work here and have easy access to the files, no one suspected I was snooping."

"So, why did you rob the homes while the people were actually home?" Lois asked.

"Most of the Council members are very, very wealthy. They have advanced security systems that I don't know how to circumvent. I'm not a thief by profession, Ms. Lane. I just have a natural inclination for picking up items undetected. But I have to have relatively easy access to those items."

"Is that how you came up with the caroler scheme?" Clark asked.

Harry looked surprised. "Yes. I got the idea when a group of carolers came by the boarding house where I live," he continued. "The landlady virtually dragged every border out onto the porch to hear them sing. I had the fleeting thought that would be the perfect time for someone to rob us blind. The idea seemed so, ironic, that I latched onto it. So, I decided to try it," he finished.

"And then what happened?" Lois asked.

"Well, I joined the group of carolers, becoming fast friends with most of them. I told them I knew of some really ritzy homes that had been well-decorated for the holidays. They agreed to go by them, because they love to see homes dressed up pretty. It was rather too easy, actually."

"How did you carry all the stuff you stole? And how did you turn them into quick cash without it being traced?" Clark asked.

Harry looked uncomfortable. "I'd rather not say," he said, avoiding their eyes.

Lois crossed her arms belligerently.

"If I have to go to jail for this, then I'll take the total blame," Harry said. "I don't want anyone else getting in trouble. Except for those Council members."

"What you did was wrong, Brigand. You should have reported the Council to the authorities."

"What authorities? Do you know what it's like to grow up as a second-class citizen, Ms. Lane? I didn't think I had a chance to be take seriously, against the entire City Council, which has connections all over the city. I wasn't going to risk my job or my life!

"Besides," he continued. "I didn't do anyone any physical harm. I just wanted to mete out a little justice, that's all, the only way I could. I hadn't planned on any of it being found out. I had just planned on taking items that they could live without, like fur coats and stuff like that. It was more important that those kids have food and clothing for the winter."

"You were counting on that kind of understanding in case you were caught," Lois said. "Who's going to hate a guy that gave everything he stole to some orphans?"

"Of course I was, I'm not stupid. But those kids really do need help."

"We're aware of that," Clark said. "But now we have to report all of this to the police. Do you have a good lawyer?"

Harry nodded. "Yes, but I don't trust the police," he said reluctantly.

"Don't worry," Lois said. "Politicians aren't the only ones who have friends in high places. Inspector Henderson on the force will see that you're treated fairly."


After dropping off Harry into Henderson's custody, Lois and Clark went back to the Planet to wrap up their story. Perry and Jimmy listened raptly as the two reporters explained the whole thing.

"Wow," Jimmy said when they finished. "But I don't get it. Harry acted like I was a government student looking for information. How did he know I was from the Planet?"

Lois threw her pencil at him. "You had your press pass sticking out of your pocket."

"Oh," he grinned sheepishly. "Oops."

"Great work, guys! I'm proud of you," Perry said, grabbing the story as it came out of the printer. "Imagine, an exclusive story about the downfall of the City Council. What a shake-up this will cause! Now I'm going to work on this in my office. Jimmy! Run down to the Copy Room and tell them to hold the presses!"

Jimmy ran out of the newsroom, and Perry walked back to his office. Before he closed the door, he stuck his head out and spoke to Lois and Clark.

"You guys did great," he said, smiling. "You certainly deserve the time off for the holidays. Now get out of here, you two, before I have you editing the letters to Santa. Oh, and have a very Merry Christmas!"

"Thanks, Chief."

"Thanks, Perry."

Perry closed the door to his office, cutting off the sounds of the Elvis Christmas album he had playing.

Lois smiled as she swiveled back and forth in her desk chair, as she did every time they finished a major story. The feeling she got from a job well-done was infinitely satisfying. She looked over at Clark, who was looking down at his desk and tapping a pencil against it. Her own words from that morning came back to her. *But I do think we should wait until this story is finished before moving on.* She swallowed hard, willing Clark to look up.

Clark had been remembering the same words. This morning had filled him with hope, but the events of the day had cast a pall over it. Again, his emotions raged a war in his head. He was still angry over her discussion with Superman, but he couldn't forget how close she and Clark had gotten over the past twenty-four hours.

As usual, Clark decided to make the first move. He looked up. "So, Lois, what are your plans for Christmas?" He cringed to himself, for his words had sounded monotone and indifferent.

Lois looked down at her hands. Obviously, whatever had been bothering him was still an issue. He sounded curt, almost as if he'd forgotten his invitation to Kansas. "I'm, not sure, yet," she said hesitantly, looking at him from under her eyelashes.

Clark only heard the hesitation in her voice and saw red. "I take it that means you don't want to spend it with me and my family in 'Hicksville'? Or maybe you got a better offer?"


Clark stood up. "Maybe you'd rather spend it with someone else?"

"Clark, what are you talking about?" Lois looked bewildered.

He took a calming breath. "You know who I'm talking about. I overheard your conversation in the alleyway. That wasn't very honest of you, Lois."

Lois had the grace to look guilty — for a moment that is. Then she responded with her own anger. "Honest?! You want to talk honest?" she jumped up from her chair. "You're not one to talk, Mr. Clark 'I- crossed-my-fingers-and-I-was-really-awake' Kent!"

She marched up to him, hands clenched at her sides.

Clark cringed, knowing she had a point. "I told you the truth about it, Lois."

"Yeah," she said sarcastically. "You just took your time about it. You also told me that I could think about the invitation, about EVERYTHING!"

Clark sighed, his anger abating. "Lois…"

"See?! I KNEW this would happen! I knew it! I knew it! Mixing business and pleasure never works!" she spun around and grabbed her bag. "I'm going home." She stormed away to the elevators, leaving Clark standing there.


The next day was Christmas Eve. Clark retrieved his suitcase from the closet and paused mid-air when he saw the famous red, blue and yellow suits. Fingering the leg of one, he thought back to the scene in the alley, wondering if he was incorrect in his interpretation of it. Having two identities was wearing on the mind and spirit.

The phone rang, jarring him out of his thoughts.

"Hello?" he asked hopefully, praying it would be Lois.

"Clark, honey, are you ever going to get here?" Martha's voice came over the wire.

"Oh. Hi, Mom," he said dejectedly.

"Well, that's a wonderful holiday greeting! What's wrong?"

Clark sat down on the bed. "Lois won't be coming, Mom. We — had a fight."

Martha gasped, placing her hand over her mouth. "Clark, I'm so sorry. What about?"

He sighed. "Well, I think it was my fault."

"What did you do?"

He summarized the scene in the alley for her finishing with the argument at the Planet.

"I handled it all wrong, Mom. I guess I was just reacting without thinking first."

"Maybe you're just so used to Lois acting a certain way with Superman, that you saw something that wasn't really there or you just took what she said the wrong way? Maybe what happened between you startled her so much that she unconsciously sought out something familiar, which is what she feels for Superman."

"Maybe, Mom. I don't know anymore. I can't stand being jealous of myself!"

Martha chuckled sympathetically. "Oh, honey."

"The worst part, Mom, is that I know why she's attracted to both men and she doesn't. We're the same person! But I can't tell her that!"

"Are you so sure of that, honey?"

"Mom, all I know at this point is that she reached out to me as Clark because of what happened last night. She's never thought of me in those terms before — and it feels so good!"

"You can't go on much longer without telling her, Clark. If you do get closer, don't you think she's going to start noticing all the weird things you do?"

"I know, Mom. Is it so selfish of me to want to keep it this way for a while? I've waited so long for her to love me as Clark, I'm afraid that if I told her now that I'm Superman, then I'll never know who she loves more."

"At some point you're going to have to make sure she loves both men equally. It's the only way you can have lasting relationship with her, Clark."

"I can't stand the thought of her spending Christmas alone, Mom. But if I go over there, she probably won't even open the door. If I go as Superman, I may hurt Clark's chances even more." He sighed again. "I don't know what to do."

"Well, I think if being Superman is the only way you can see if she's okay, then you should go see her as Superman. Right now she needs comfort from someone because she probably feels completely alone."

"You're right, Mom. As usual."

"That's why I'm the Mom!" she said, smiling. "I love you, Clark. You'll work things out with her, I know it."

"I certainly hope so."

"We'll be waiting for you, okay? Be careful 'flying' in."

"Right. Avoid any electrical storms over Cleveland. Got it."


Lois lay draped across the bed on her stomach with her chin propped on the back of her hands. Silent tears ran down her face as she stared at the suitcase sitting in the corner of the closet. Once again, she had reacted with anger instead of facing what she had really been feeling at the time.

She couldn't imagine how Clark could have overheard her conversation with Superman, since their voices hadn't been very loud, but obviously he had. She really couldn't blame him for being angry with her as a result of it. She had even chastised herself at the time it happened.

She just didn't know what to do. She had so many feelings for both men, each of them different but the same. *That's an odd thought*, she said to herself. But it was true in a sense. For the first time, she began to compare the two men.

Both Superman and Clark were wonderful men, each of them good- hearted and honest. Each had a good conscious, were willing to help others and knew the difference between right and wrong. She didn't know why she reacted to each man differently, unless it was simply the knowledge that one has super powers and can manage feats of incredible strength. Clark did not have super powers, of course, but he fought injustice in his own way, by Lois' side, through his job at the Planet.

Superman was still a mystery to her, because she had never spent the quantity of time with him as she had with Clark. She began to wonder if she ever would. Superman was needed by millions of people. Should she expect him to commit himself to one person, when he had obligations elsewhere? Superman's job was awesome in size — saving the world on a daily basis didn't leave a whole lot of time for a personal life.

She guessed that the answer lay behind a simple question: What is it that Lois Lane wants? She didn't know the answer, but she decided it was time for her to figure it out.

Number One: Maintaining her independence. Would loving Clark take that away from her? No. He fully understood her need to be her own person, and he would never expect her to be anything else. Would loving Superman take that away from her? Possibly. Knowing that there was someone beside you who could do everything from cleaning the house to lifting a rocket into space might make her depend on him to do things that she could, but didn't want to do.

Number Two: Keeping her emotions intact. Loving Clark may be a risk to her heart, but she knew he would never hurt her, and had in fact been more supportive than any other man she'd known. Clark had held her while she cried about her past. He had held her after the huge error in judgment she'd made about Lex. He'd comforted her when she was frightened for her life. Superman could only take the time to assure that she was okay before he had to rush off to catch the bad guys.

Oh, Superman has certainly given her his share of wise advice and supportive pep talks, but there always seemed to be a part of himself holding back.

Clark gave to her completely and whole-heartedly, never minding any inconvenience she caused in his life.

Superman may have saved her every time she fell out of a window, but that was easy for him, she guessed. Clark had confronted a man who'd almost choked her to death and then had held her afterwards. He'd confronted the super clone that had tried to take advantage of her, never thinking of the damage the clone could have done to him, a mere human. And he had even taken a bullet for her which had cost him his life. It was only by some miracle that he was brought back to her.

She remembered the absolute hopelessness and desolation she had felt when she'd thought Clark was dead. The thought of never getting to see him again, never getting to hear his voice or receive one of his teasing smiles had sent horrible chills down her spine. She had mourned the fact that she'd never told him how much she meant to him and had promised every deity in existence that she would if only they'd return him to her. She had vowed to never let him go again. She'd just temporarily forgotten her own vow.

But she remembered it now, and she still felt all the emotions that had been behind it.

A familiar breeze and rushing sound of air came from the window in her room. She froze, then turned her head to look at the hero standing in the window.

"Superman," she whispered sadly.

"May I come in?" he asked, floating in the air.

She scrambled upright, standing beside the bed. "Sure." She checked to make sure her clothes were straightened.

Superman cringed slightly. "You've been crying," he said, his voice sympathetic.

"I had a fight with Clark. I said some horrible things to him."

"I'm sure he isn't totally blameless."

"No, Superman, I…" she paused, "I was unfair to him, and when he confronted me about it, I reacted in anger instead of trying to explain."

"Maybe he should have given you a chance to explain."

"No offense, but you weren't there, Superman." Lois smiled tentatively. "But you're here now, and I'm glad. I have come to a decision that I feel I should share with you."

"Lois, maybe you should take more time…"

"No, I have thought about this, and it's important that I say it now. Something has changed in my relationship with Clark. I can't say what it is, because that wouldn't be fair to Clark. I can say that it feels a bit scary, but good. It feels really good," she said.

"It's no secret that I have feelings for you, Superman," she said, blushing a bit. "And I always will. There was a time when I wanted nothing more than to be with you, to be a huge part of your life. But I've come to realize that you have a whole other life that I will never understand or be a part of. That's no one's fault, really, just a fact."

She turned and paced a few steps. "But Clark, Clark's an open book," she said fondly, never seeing the guilty expression cross the hero's face.

"Lois," Superman said, painfully. "I don't think anyone fully knows another person completely. There's always something being held back."

She looked at him again. "Some people believe that and it suits them fine. But not Clark. He tells me everything, and is always there for me. I think I was afraid of that before, since I have trouble trusting people, but Clark has proven to me that I can trust him with anything, and he'd never use it against me or try to manipulate me."

She walked a bit closer to him. "You are doing such wonderful things with your presence here in Metropolis, Superman. There is no doubt about that. But I think that — I think Metropolis needs you more than I do." She bit her lip. "So after a lot of heavy thinking, I've decided that Clark Kent is the man for me. I want to build a lasting relationship with him. I want to spend my life with him." She took a deep breath, waiting for his reaction.

Superman was stunned. He was caught between pure happiness and pure guilt. Lois could have everything she'd ever wanted if only he'd come clean about his secret. But after listening to her passionate speech, he knew that he would hurt her irreparably if he told her now.

"Lois, I understand."

"I am so, so sorry if you think I led you on in any way," she began.

"No, Lois, you didn't."

"But I just didn't know what I wanted. I do now." She smiled at him confidently. "Only now I have another problem."

"What is it?"

"God, this is going to sound horrible, but, I have to get to Kansas and I'm sure all the flights are booked. Do you think — I know it's a lot to ask after everything I just said…"

"But you want me to fly you to Kansas?" he finished for her.

"Yes. I will never ask another thing of you, Superman, but this is very, very important to me. You see, Clark invited me out there for Christmas, and then we had this fight and he's already left and…"

"Lois," he broke in, smiling. "Yes."


"Bundle up warmly, Lois, from the top of your head to the soles of your feet. It's pretty cold outside, and the wind will only make it more so."

"Oh, Superman. This is so wonderful of you. You really are, well, super." She cringed playfully. "Forgive that, please."

She raced around, throwing on a hat and coat and grabbing some clothes to throw in the bag. She walked up to him, and then paused, suddenly uncomfortable at the thought of flying in his arms. *This will be the last time*, she thought. *This last time is for me, and then I'll get on with my life with Clark*. She smiled at the thought.

He picked her up, and then flew her to where her future lay.

Martha and Jonathan Kent were waiting in the living room for their son to show up. A knock sounded at the door, and they looked at each other in surprise. Knowing that Clark would never knock — this is his home, for land's sake — they assumed it was a neighbor who needed help in the heavy snow.

Martha opened the door while Jonathan put on his coat.

"Lois! And — Superman?!" she exclaimed.

Jonathan raced to the door. "Superman?"

"Martha, Jonathan. Hi," Lois said. "I'm so sorry to just drop in like this."

Martha recovered first. "Nonsense, Lois, we know Clark invited you."

"Is, Clark here? Can I talk to him, please?"

Martha and Jonathan looked at each other and then at Superman.

Martha spoke. "Sure, honey, he's…"

"In the barn," Jonathan finished. "I'll go get him." He stepped onto the porch, where he exchanged a look with Superman.

"Lois, I'll take this." Martha said, reaching for her bag. She retreated with it.

Lois turned to look at Superman. "Thank you so much for doing this," she said. "I'll be fine. Clark's family is really wonderful." She looked at him a little regretfully. "I'm glad you're so understanding, Superman. I'll never forget this."

"This isn't good-bye, Lois," he said. "I'll be seeing you around Metropolis."

"I never meant that we couldn't be friends," Lois explained. "But I want to be fair to Clark. I've hurt him enough in the past. Tonight will be a fresh start for both of us. If he'll have me, that is, after what I said."

"I don't think you have to worry about that, Lois. Clark's pretty crazy about you." Superman reached out and ran one finger down her cheek. "I wish you all the best, Lois. I know that in the future you'll have everything you ever wanted. I just hope you'll be understanding and forgiving when Clark really needs it." He stepped back.

Lois looked at him, puzzled. "What do you mean by that?"

"Lois, come on in out of the cold!" Martha said from behind them. She shot Superman a stern look over Lois shoulder. "Clark should be here in just a minute."

"Have a Merry Christmas, Lois," Superman said, smiling. "Merry Christmas, Mrs. Kent," he added. He turned and flew away. Lois watched him go, still mulling over his last statement.

Martha put her arm around Lois' shoulders and hugged her. She led Lois into the parlor. "Lois, I'm so glad you decided to come," Martha said. "Clark told me about your fight. Are you okay?"

Lois smiled gratefully at the older woman. "Yes, Martha. Or rather, I will be when I talk to Clark."

Martha patted Lois on the arm. "I don't think you have to worry about Clark, honey. He's nuts about you!"

Lois shot her an odd look. "That's funny, Superman said the same thing."

Martha busied herself with folding a comforter on the couch. "Really? Well, Superman's always right, isn't he?"

"Yeah, I guess he is."

"Come take a look at my new sculpture. Maybe you can help me find a name for it."

She dragged Lois by the hand into her art room. Lois cringed slightly, hoping she could be tactful when asked her opinion.


Jonathan stood inside the barn with his back to the door. He was pacing in an effort to keep warm. Suddenly, a gust of wind blew in, bringing a fully-dressed Clark with it.

"Clark! Took you long enough!" Jonathan admonished.

"Sorry, Dad, I had to grab a change of clothes out of my room without being detected."

"Well, this certainly is a surprise, Lois showing up like this."

"No one's more surprised than I am, Dad. Believe me." Clark smiled.

"Does this mean things are okay between you two?"

Clark pursed his lips and blew out a breath. "I think so. She told Superman that she wants to start a life with Clark."

"Congratulations," Jonathan said. "But that still doesn't solve your dual identity problem."

"I know, Dad. I can't deal with that right now. I will, I promise, but not now."

"I understand, Son. Let's go inside."


Lois was trying to think up some nice, flattering adjectives for Martha's new sculpture when the kitchen door banged shut. Her head flew up when she heard Clark's voice talking to his father. Nervously, she wet her lips. Now that the time to tell Clark everything that she'd told Superman was here, she found herself shy.

She walked into the living room, and stood waiting by the couch. Clark walked to the doorway and saw her standing there.

Martha and Jonathan walked into the room and watched the two for a moment. "Well," Jonathan said. "We've got to run over to Wayne's house and deliver some gifts."

"You kids just make yourselves comfortable. I'll put on some music," Martha said turning on the radio. Jonathan dragged her to the door. "We'll probably be really late," she added, with a meaningful look at Clark.

"Come on, Martha, we need to get there before it snows again." With that, they left.

Clark turned his eyes back to Lois, who was still looking at the closed door. *She's so beautiful*, he thought, noticing how the firelight created a golden aura around her. He could see the shine of her hair reflect the light from the fire, and her skin looked like polished ivory. "Lois," he whispered, smiling slightly. "I can't believe you're here."

His words were encouraging, and the look in his eyes even more so. She jumped in with both feet, wanting to get her apology out of the way.

"Clark, I am so sorry…"

"Lois, I had no right…"

They both spoke at once, and both broke off at the same time.

"Let me go first," Clark said.

"NO!" she practically yelled. She remember what happened the last time he went first. "You went first last time."

Clark paused and then nodded for her to continue.

She wet her lips again. His eyes followed the movement.

"Clark, I am so sorry for fighting with you," she began. "I shouldn't have flown off the handle that way."

"I understand, Lois," he said, walking toward her. "You were right, I did promise you time to think about things, and then I had no right to…"

"No, Clark, you did. I had told you this morning that it was time for something more in our relationship. I guess I just, I just got scared." She shrugged her shoulders helplessly. "It's just so important to me, Clark, and I'm afraid I'm going to mess it up, like every other relationship I've had. I don't have the best romantic track record."

"Lois, no one's keeping track of anything. No scores, no expectations, no limits," he added, his voice lowering a bit. He touched the bob of her hair. It felt silky and thick.

She smiled at him. "I know that now," she said softly. "I really meant what I said this morning, about trying, Clark. But I do have to be honest with you."

"About what?"

She took a deep breath. "About my feelings for Superman."


"No, let me finish, Clark. I've already spoken to Superman about this, and I want to tell you. I'll always care for Superman, Clark."

"I know that, Lois."

"But I've come to realize that I want you." She placed her hand on his shirt. "You, Clark Kent, are the man I want to spend my life with. This is probably the biggest decision I've ever had to make. It isn't a decision I made lightly."

"I realize that."

"All I ask is that you be patient, Clark," she said in a rush of words.

He chuckled. "Always, Lois."

"I can be pretty hard to deal with sometimes, especially when I get certain ideas in my head," she added.

"Nah, not you," he said jokingly. He leaned down to kiss her forehead.

She smiled at him beautifully. Then she jumped as a woman's voice sounded in the room. "Who's that?"

"That's the radio. I love this song. Will you dance with me?" Clark held out his arms. She stepped into them willingly and completely. He placed one hand on her hip and entwined the fingers of the other with hers.

"I don't think we've ever had an uninterrupted dance before," she said.

"Sshh," he whispered. "Listen to the music. This is a fun song."

"Fun?!" she asked.

"Yep." He began to move in time to the beat. The music was slightly reminiscent of the '40s big band music, one of Lois' favorite eras.

(Woman Talking)

Well, HoneyBuns, it's been fun,

but I gotta run.

(Man talking)

Oh, Sweetlips, stay a little

while longer, would you?

No, it's very late, baby. I really gotta go.

But look at the weather,

you'll catch cold and

I'd never forgive myself

(Chuckling) Oh, you!

Come on, just one more nightcap?

Naw, I shouldn't…

Come on…

Noooooo — Weeeelllll…

(singing) I really can't stay

But Baby, it's cold outside!

I've got to go away

But Baby, it's cold outside!

This evening has been

Been hoping you'd drop in

Sooo very nice

I'll hold your hands, they're just like ice

My mother will start to worry

Beautiful, what's your hurry?

My father will be pacing the floor

Listen to the fireplace roar

So, really, I'd better scurry

Beautiful, please don't hurry

Well, maybe just a half a drink more

Put some records on while I pour

The neighbors might think…

But Baby, it's bad out there

Say, what's in this drink?

No cabs to be had out there

I wish I knew how…

You're eyes are like stars

to Break this spell

I'll take your hat, your hair looks swell

I ought to say "No, no, no, sir"

Mind if I move in closer?

At least I'm gonna say that I tried

What's the sense in hurting my pride?

I really can't stay…

Baby, don't hold out

(together) Ah, but it's cold outside

(talking again)

Well, I must say, this couch is veerry comfortable.

it's not a couch, Puddin' Pop. it's a loooovvve seat!

Oooh, how you talk!

Lois chuckled into Clark's shoulder as they continued to dance closely. Clark smiled at the joyous sound, rubbing his chin on top of her head. Turning his head slightly, he kissed her lightly on the ear.

Oh, Barry, I simply must go (singing)But Baby, it's cold outside!

The answer is NO! But Baby it's cold outside!

The welcome has been how lucky that you dropped in

…sooo nice and warm Look out the window, at that storm.

My sister will be suspicious Gosh your lips look delicious…

My brother will be there at the door …like waves upon a tropical shore.

My maiden aunt's mind is vicious Gosh your lips ARE delicious

Well, maybe just a cigarette more never seen such a beauty before!

(talking again)

Ah, I don't know, I really got to go home Hey, look! It's starting to snow!

Oh, you arranged that didn't you? See, now you gotta stay

I guess I won't be able to find a cab There are no cabs

And the buses, they never run in this weather The buses will never run in snow like this

Let me take your coat Yeah — tomorrow is Sunday, isn't it?

I don't have to go to work See, isn't that better?

And who knows how long it will keep snowing It'll snow for a long time, K.T.

What are you doing?!

Ooh! Well now Like that?


The music ended with some strokes of the piano keys. The radio continued on to the next song and the two continued to move to the music. Lois chuckled again. "He was naughty," she said, smiling against his shoulder.

Clark laughed, too. "Yes, he was." He pulled Lois even closer.

"But she really wanted to stay," Lois added.

"Yep." He swung her into a deep dip, gazing into her eyes the whole time. She clutched his shoulders, even though she knew he'd never drop her.

"It was her choice, ultimately," he said. "Just like it will be yours. No coercion, no seductions." He brought her out of the dip. "Your choice all the way, Lois."

She smiled, looking up at him through her lashes. "But seductions can be fun," she said coyly.

He touched his nose to hers. "As long as they're not one-sided," he added.

She raised her hands to frame his face, bringing his lips down to hers. "I don't think that will be our problem," she whispered just before taking his mouth with hers. Clark moaned softly at her boldness, the sound encouraging Lois to take the kiss further, deepening it. Their kissing became more passionate.

They began a playful kissing duel that quickened both their breathing and heartbeats as it became increasingly amorous. She slid one hand to clutch his nape and the other down his chest to rest over his heart. Pulling away to catch her breath, she moved her lips across his cheek to his ear, where her hot breath darted deliciously inside.

Sliding his lips down the long, graceful column of her neck, he stopped at the hollow of her throat. His lips then reversed their trail and made their way to her ear. "Lois," he breathed before kissing her earlobe.

She shivered in reaction, her body pushing itself closer to him and he put one hand on her back and began caressing her ear with his lips, making her tremble violently.

Lois gasped out loud, her breath catching and releasing against his neck. "Clark, more," she moaned softly. She leaned her head back and offered her lips to him again. He took her mouth in one move, sealing it with his. He then pulled away slightly. She wrapped her arms around his neck pulling him back.


"My choice, Clark," she said against his mouth, tickling his lips with her hot breath as she spoke. She looked into his eyes the whole time. "My choice. What's yours?"

Clark looked intensely into her eyes and came to a firm decision. He would stand by this decision if it killed him, but he knew that this would be best for the both of them. But he couldn't become more intimate with Lois until she knew the whole truth about him. Slowly, he leaned down and picked her up. He walked across the room to the fireplace and lowered himself to his knees. He placed her on the rug and said, "I love you, Lois. Don't be afraid, I'll never hurt you."

She smiled up at him. "I know that Clark. You're very gentle." She ran her hand over his shoulder.

"I'll always be gentle with you, Lois. I promise." He gently stroked her cheek while marveling at her beauty. The firelight was seductive, illuminating the translucence of her skin and shining on her hair.

Lois smiled seductively. "Not always, I hope!" she chuckled naughtily, kissing him on the jaw. She moved her lips down his throat as far as she could reach. She then stared up at him, running her fingers down his arm. Taking his hand in hers, she raised it to her lips and kissed his palm. She used her other hand to grasp his neck and pull him down on her. Pushing their joined hands aside, she kissed him on the lips again.

"Do you think I'm too bold?"

Clark closed his eyes on a wave of desire. "Lois, I think you're perfect." Then he bent forward and kissed her again, his mouth fusing with hers. He reached out to run a finger down her cheek to her neck and down to her shoulder. There he traced her collarbone. She closed her eyes on a shudder as she clutched the back of his head with both hands. He kissed her repeatedly, moving his lips across her face. Then he buried his face in her hair, and just held her in a close embrace.

She opened her eyes tentatively. "Clark?" she asked, her voice trembling.

"Sshh." He kissed her lips gently. "I'm here." He cradled her body against his, and tucked her head under his chin.

Lois closed her eyes, remember the wildness of her response. "Aren't we…" she trailed off, embarrassed.

Clark tucked his head to kiss her temple. "It's all right, Lois," he began.

"But I want you, Clark, I want to — be with you," she said.

He lifted her chin and stopped her words with his lips. "Me, too," he said against her mouth. "This was my pledge to you, Lois. I wanted to show you how much I love you. This is my way of showing you how important you are to me, that I'll always put your needs before my own."

Her eyes filled with tears at his words. "Oh, Clark. Clark, I love you," she said, and it was surprisingly easy. "I love you. I love you."

She wrapped her arms around his body, hugging him close. She yawned, having been exhausted by the emotions the scene had brought forth. "I love you," she muttered sleepily. He closed his eyes, and she could feel him smile against her skin. He brushed back a lock of her hair.

"There's time for that in the future," he whispered as she succumbed to sleep. *The future.* For him the future was both exhilarating and terrifying. He had made a vow to both Lois and himself that he would never hurt her, and he would die trying to keep that vow. But right now, at this point in time, he couldn't think about the future. Instead, he chose to savor the present and the feel of the woman he loved sleeping peacefully and trustingly in his arms.


Baby, It's Cold Outside (Performed by B. Manilow & K.T. Oslin. Music & Lyrics by Frank Loesser, copyright Frank Music Corp. (ASCAP)