By Eileen (Eraygun@aol.com)
Summary: As a newly married couple with a mortgage and countless unforeseen expenses, Lois and Clark have put themselves on a tight budget. But the holidays are coming, and each wants to buy the other a *perfect* Christmas present ...
Most of the characters in this story are based on the television series "Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman." It is copyrighted property of December 3rd Production, Warner Brothers and ABC. However, those of you who are readers of the comics will recognize that one character has been borrowed from them. The comics are of course owned by DC Comics a subsidiary of Time-Warner. No infringement on the rights of any of the above referenced corporate entities is intended by the author.
This is my first attempt at fanfic, so please send me comments. As keeping with fanfic tradition it is mostly B-plot, although some action scenes have managed to creep in. I have been working on this story since late October in a valiant, albeit unsuccessful, attempt to complete it before this year's "Lois and Clark" Christmas episode aired. Despite the fact that my story is radically different from the "Twas The Night Before Mxymas" there are some surprising similarities, particularly in the areas of the Lane-Kent's dinner guests and Ralph's dry cleaning problems <g>. However, these similarities are purely coincidental, unless TPTB have somehow become telepathic.
Special thanks to Georgia Walden for her proofing and editing skills, as well as her encouragement.
"It's so beautiful," Lois thought as she watched the twinkling lights of the city below from the roof of the Daily Planet building. But the lights provided only a temporary distraction as she waited for Clark to return from his meeting with the Metropolis Police Department's Special Crime Unit and her mind soon returned to the problem she had been wrestling with for the last two months--- Clark's Christmas gift. Christmas was just one week away and she hadn't bought it yet. *Not* because she didn't know to what to get him, she knew exactly what she wanted, what would be *perfect* for him, the problem was money or rather the lack of it.
Buying the house had been a major drain on their combined savings and the other expenses related to homeowning were simply more than they had calculated, even if they had the services of a *super* handyman. It was clear that the Lane-Kent household would be more than a little cash strapped until Spring unless they wanted to max out all their credit cards, not something her frugal Midwestern raised husband was willing to do. So they had devised a strict budget, and there simply wasn't any room in it for extravagant Christmas presents. Lois really didn't mind adhering to the $30 limit when it came to shopping for her parents, or Lucy, or even for Jonathan and Martha, in fact she rather enjoyed it. Trying to be creative on a limited budget made Christmas shopping more of a challenge and Lois loved a challenge. But $30 wasn't nearly enough for the special gift she had in mind for Clark.
One of Clark's most prized possessions was a baseball that he kept on his desk in their study. Lois had always assumed that it was just another one of his sports trophies until Martha explained that it was a souvenir of the 1976 World Series final game between the Kansas City Royals and the Metropolis Metrostars. Clark had attended the game with Jonathan and Jonathan's Uncle Jerry. When Steve Bradley, the Metrostars' rookie outfielder, hit the ball into the stands for the game winning, series winning home run, Clark had caught it. Later, after the game, Jonathan, Uncle Jerry and Clark had approached Bradley as he was leaving the park and Bradley had graciously signed the ball. He'd even posed for a picture with Clark, Jonathan and Uncle Jerry. It was the perfect end to a perfect day for ten year old Clark and it was also the last baseball game he ever attended with Uncle Jerry, who died in a farming accident later that year. According to Martha, Clark and Uncle Jerry had been very close, and his death had greatly saddened Clark.
After learning from Martha why this particular baseball was so special to Clark, Lois had decided that the *perfect* gift would be to have it remounted on a new base with Steve Bradley's rookie baseball card and the special photograph. After getting a copy of the photo from Martha she had spent the last two months scouring the city trying to find Bradley's 1976 rookie card. Finally, one week ago she had stumbled across a small store called Swan's Sports Collectibles which had an autographed rookie card in mint condition. Unfortunately Bradley's recent induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame had resulted in an incredible jump in the value of his autographs and other souvenirs. The card's price tag of $350 was way over their self imposed limit, but that didn't matter to Lois. She knew that she had to get it for Clark. This was their first Christmas together in *their* house and she wanted it to be *perfect*, just *perfect*.
"It will have to be *perfect*, just *perfect*. Don't you agree, Superman?" asked Captain Maggie Sawyer, head of Metro Police's SCU.
"Excuse me, Captain, what did you say?" responded Clark.
"I said the timing of our special anti-crime initiative against Intergang would have to be *perfect*. Weren't you listening, big guy?" Sawyer added jokingly. Sawyer had worked closely with Superman over the last few years and felt comfortable enough to occasionally tease him. "I'm used to *these* characters," indicating the men and woman of the SCU, "spacing out on me but you're usually more attentive. Don't tell me even *you* have visions of sugarplums dancing in your head," she grinned.
"I'm afraid so, Maggie," Clark said with chagrin as he flashed a good-natured smile. "It is that time of year." Clark had been listening attentively to Maggie Sawyer's plan, but as the planning session began to wind down his mind had drifted away from Intergang's Christmas crimewave plans to a more personal and immediate problem, getting the *perfect* Christmas gift for the most wonderful woman in the world, his wife . When the strategy session ended Clark left police headquarters and began his flight back to the Planet. As he streaked through the crisp, cold night air, Clark's thoughts returned to his current dilemma.
This would be their first Christmas as a married couple and he wanted to give her a gift that would let her know how special she was to him and how much he loved her. The problem was that thanks to the new house, he had more *will* than *wallet*. The last time things had been this tight financially was when he first moved to Metropolis and had just gotten the job with the Planet. He'd had to borrow money from his Mom and Dad just to tide him over back then, but that was *not* an option this time and neither was a loan from Lois's parents.
They'd gone on a budget and had cut back in just about every area. He couldn't remember the last time they'd had Chinese takeout, much less gone out to dinner or a movie. Thank goodness Lois liked his cooking. He'd even considered taking a *paying* part time job, but between his work at the Planet and as Superman there just weren't enough hours in the day. As part of their budget plan they had placed a spending limit on Christmas gifts, even considered dispensing with them altogether. But they both felt that it just wouldn't seem right not to give each other some small gift to celebrate the holiday and their love for one another.
Even though he had stuck (with some difficulty ) to the $30 limit when he was buying gifts for the rest of their family and friends, he'd had no luck in finding anything that was even remotely good enough for Lois in that price range. He'd thought about giving her a gag gift, a new pair of Superman pajamas, but that didn't seem right. Besides, he could think of better things for her to wear (or *not* to wear) in bed. He had been stumped until he saw *it*, the *perfect* gift in the window of Michelinie's Antiques and Notions, a little shop not far from their townhouse.
*It* was a pair of pearl and ruby earrings. Small and elegant with gold accents, they had been made at the turn of the century and were a perfect match for the pearl and ruby bracelet Lois had inherited from her great-Aunt Katherine. The bracelet was Lois's favorite piece of jewelry and Clark was sure that Lois's affection for it stemmed mostly from the fact that it had belonged to her Aunt Kate.
A feisty and independent woman, Katherine Lane had taken Lois and Lucy under her wing when Sam's and Ellen's marriage was disintegrating. She had been a confidante and a shoulder to cry on when the other adults in the girls' lives were too wrapped up in their own problems. Lois had even lived with Aunt Kate for a few months, when she moved out after her final fight with Sam. More importantly, Aunt Kate had encouraged Lois to become a writer and had even convinced her to apply for the internship at the Planet in her junior year at Metropolis University. Lois had once told him that Aunt Kate had "always been there for her" and Clark regretted that he had never had the chance to meet her since she died the year before he arrived in Metropolis. The bracelet, a Lane family heirloom, had been Aunt Kate's final gift to Lois and since the earrings were a perfect match for Aunt Kate's bracelet, Clark knew that they were the *perfect* Christmas gift. But their price tag was far from perfect. They were $450---waaaaay over the spending limit for the *entire* Lane-Kent Christmas celebration. But the cost didn't matter. Somehow, some way he'd get them for Lois.
As he neared the Daily Planet building, Clark could see her standing on the rooftop. He quickened his pace and rapidly descended into Lois's waiting arms. They kissed. Savoring the touch of her lips on his, Clark felt his awareness of the noise and confusion of the bustling city below rapidly diminish despite his super-senses. As the kiss deepened it seemed as though the rest of the world had faded away and that the entire universe contained only the two of them. Then, as he noticed the icy feel of her hands, Clark drew back from Lois's embrace.
"Lois, honey," he said, "you shouldn't have waited for me outside." There was a look of anxiety in his face that mirrored the concern in his voice. "You must be freezing."
"I'm fine, Clark," Lois said. "It's really not that cold. As a matter of fact I was getting *very warm* until you started your lecture," she added, playfully chiding him. She kissed him and quickly repositioned herself back in his arms wrapping his cape around her as she snuggled into his chest. Reveling in his warmth and in the *feel* of his arms around her, she continued, "Anyway, to be perfectly honest, I didn't come up here just to wait for you. I needed some time away from the office holiday party."
"That bad, hmm ?" Clark asked.
"No, not really," Lois responded, "but there's only so much I can take of the Elvis Christmas album."
Clark laughed. Tilting his head to listen in on the party several floors below, he turned back to Lois. "Perry must be holding the DJ hostage. *Blue Christmas* is *still* playing. Clark added hopefully, "Would you like to make a speedy departure for home via Superman Express?" It had been a long day beginning with the pre-dawn rescue of some trapped gold miners in Zimbabwe, followed by an oil tanker spill off the coast of Sweden that afternoon and finally the meeting with the SCU tonight. Right now more than anything he wanted to be home alone with his wife sitting by a nice warm fire.
"Hmm, going home sounds like a wonderful idea, but as much as I'd like to go, I'm afraid we can't," Lois said. "We're on the after party clean up crew. *You* volunteered us, remember?"
"I suppose you're right," Clark said, "but I'd better change if we're going back downstairs. I don't think Superman is on the guest list for the Planet's office party. Besides," he continued, "it's probably not a good thing for us to be seen together too often while I'm in *the suit*. Those rumors about *Superman's secret passion for you and your torrid love affair* are just beginning to die down in the tabloids."
Grimacing at the mention of the tabloids, Lois unwrapped herself from Clark's cape and stepped away . Released from her embrace, Clark quickly spun into his regular clothes, and immediately took Lois back in his arms, sighing contentedly. "So, what have I missed at the party besides Elvis?" he asked as he began nuzzling her neck.
Lois giggled. "Oh, the usual. Kesel, Byrne and Grummett from Advertising dressed up as the Three Wise Men and sang off key Christmas carols; Louise from Accounting showed up on her annual *manhunt* trying to seduce anything in pants and Ralph from Classifieds tried to catch me under the mistletoe."
At the mention of Ralph's name it was Clark's turn to grimace. He tipped Lois's face up until her eyes met his. "Honey, is that jerk bothering you again? Would you like me to have a *little* talk with him?" he asked.
"Ohh, I love it when you're jealous," Lois cooed. "But you don't have to come to my rescue this time, sweetheart. Ralph cooled off after I *accidentally* knocked the punch bowl into his lap."
Clark laughed and hugged Lois even closer. "That's my little tornado," he said. "Now we'd better get downstairs. I suppose it's about time for Mr. Stern to make his presentation of the holiday bonuses."
"Holiday bonus?! Ha! Lois snorted. "Holiday pittance is more like it! Last year they handed out $20 gift certificates. From *Cost-mart* of all places! And who knows what they'll do this year? They'll probably give us discount subscriptions to the Daily Planet!"
"Lo-is," Clark said reprovingly.
"I know, sweetheart,." Lois answered, "it's the thought that counts and it's better to give than receive, blah, blah, blah. But even *you* must wonder what they think of us when they keep giving us junk like this! All of us work so hard for the Planet, it would be nice if they showed us a little more appreciation," Lois said wistfully.
"Well, *I* appreciate what *you* do, honey," Clark said, kissing Lois on top of her head as he cradled her in his arms.
Lois, smiling warmly, kissed Clark on the cheek and said, "Why, thank you, Mr. Kent." Her smile suddenly turning coquettish, she then asked him, "Was that compliment just for my reporting skills or did you have something else in mind?"
Clark grinned as he responded. "Honey, I've told you before that I think you're brilliant and talented. The fact that you're also gorgeous and have a *great* body is a bonus... an important bonus, but still just a bonus."
Lois laughed and said "Good answer." She pulled Clark's face closer to hers so she could kiss him deeply, her body tingling in all the places his fingers touched. Suddenly, from the stairwell behind them, they both heard the familiar sound of someone clearing his throat.
They both sighed and turned to face him.
"Lois, CK, I've been looking all over for you," Jimmy said. "What are you guys doing up here? Aren't you cold?" Jimmy asked as he began shivering in the night air.
"Just looking at the city lights, Jimmy." Lois quickly responded. "How's the party going?" she asked.
"Great!" Jimmy said enthusiastically, "other than the fact that Lori from the City Life section dumped a bowl of guacamole dip on Ralph's head." He started chuckling. "Man, I'd hate to have his dry cleaning bills," he added.
Lois began giggling at the mental image of Ralph covered with green slime. Clark tried to smother a grin, but was soon chortling as well. As their laughter died away, Clark turned to Jimmy and asked "So, why were you looking for us?"
"Oh, the chief wants you two back at the party since Mr. Stern's about to hand out our holiday bonuses," Jimmy said.
"Oh joy," Lois said sardonically.
Clark gave Lois a look of mild disapproval before turning back to Jimmy and saying, "Speaking of parties, are you going to be able to come to our place for Christmas Eve dinner? You can bring a guest if you want," Clark added, hoping that Jimmy would take the hint and invite Karen, the redhead in research he'd been seeing off and on for the last few months.
"I'll be there, CK, but I don't think I'll be bringing anyone," Jimmy said a little sadly.
"Why not?" Lois asked.
"Karen changed her plans and decided to spend Christmas with some friends in Gotham City," Jimmy responded flatly. Quickly changing the subject he asked, "So, who else is going to be at dinner? Will Lucy be there? I haven't seen her since she moved back to Metropolis."
"As far as we know, she'll be there," responded Lois. "But what do you mean Karen is going to Gotham City for Christmas? You've been telling us about the special plans you two had to spend Christmas Day together for the last two weeks. What happened, did you guys have a fight?" she asked.
"Depends on what you mean by *a fight*," Jimmy answered evasively.
"Jim-my!" Lois and Clark said in chorus.
The party *finally* ended and Lois and Clark, along with Perry, Jimmy and a few others began cleaning up. As they worked at putting the Planet back into some semblance of shape for work in the morning, Lois asked Perry whether he would be able to make it to Christmas Eve dinner at the Lane- Kent's.
"Hell's Bells darlin', of course I'll be there," Perry said. "I'm just pleased you two lovebirds decided to invite me. With Jerry in Europe completing his residency and Keith spending the holidays with his fiancee's family in Los Angeles, it was going to be a *blue* Christmas for me this year."
"We're happy to have you, chief." Clark said, joining in the conversation.
"God, I envy you two," Perry said as he looked at his two star reporters standing side by side. "Just starting out, your first Christmas together." His voice faded and Perry got a faraway look in his eyes. "I'll never forget that first Christmas with Alice and the boys, right after I was promoted to assistant city editor here at the Planet," he said.
"We'd just bought our house and money was tighter than that pair of blue jeans Elvis wore in 'Jailhouse Rock'," he drawled. "Alice's folks were coming up to spend the holidays with us and she had her heart set on a new dining room table and chairs to replace the card table we'd been using ever since we got married. But there was just no way we could swing it on my salary."
"Alice told me it didn't matter, but bless her heart, I couldn't disappoint her. So," Perry continued, "I sold my prize possession, a 1959 Ford Falcon Convertible, and bought that dining room set. Even had enough left over to buy the boys the new bikes they'd wanted. Of course, I ended up either taking the bus or using Alice's old junker station wagon to get to work for a year or so until we saved up enough get a second car," Perry laughed. "But, boy, was Alice happy. I don't think she stopped smiling for a week."
"Gee, chief," Jimmy said, "that car was a classic. It would be worth a lot of money if you had it now. Don't you regret selling it, I mean after the break up and everything?"
Perry's eyes misted over. "You know, son, " he said, "funny thing is, despite everything that's happened since, if I had to do it over again, *I'd do it over again*." Perry smiled wistfully and continued. "I'll never forget the look on Alice's face when that delivery truck drove up with that new dining room set the day before Christmas, or the whoops of joy the boys let out when they found their bikes under the tree the next morning. There's no finer feeling in the world than making the people you love happy. I guess that's what Christmas is all about."
Noticing the silence in the pit area, Perry looked around and discovered that everyone in the room had been listening in on his reminiscences. Suddenly embarrassed, Perry began to bluster. "Great shades of Elvis!" he bellowed, "What do you people think this is, nap time? We've got to finish cleaning up around here or we'll have a hell of a time putting out the early edition!"
Everyone immediately went back to work, except Lois, who walked over to Perry, planted a kiss on his cheek and said, "Thank you."
"For what, darlin'?" Perry asked.
"For being a sentimental softy." Lois said as she turned and walked away.
Still a little keyed up from the office party and their stint on the clean-up detail, Lois and Clark decided to walk back to their Hyperion Avenue townhouse. Holding hands, they slowly strolled back through the city streets, admiring the Christmas displays in the various shops while they discussed the party and their friends. As they neared Centennial Park the conversation turned to Clark's meeting with the SCU.
"So what's Maggie Sawyer planning to drag you into this time?" Lois asked. "If I know her it'll be something risky. That woman takes so many chances it's amazing. She *must* be an 'adrenaline junkie'," Lois said matter of factly.
"Takes one to know one," Clark said teasingly.
Lois raised one eyebrow and looked at Clark with mock indignation. "Very funny." she said. "But you haven't answered my question. What's the SCU up to and why do they need your help? They're a pretty tough outfit."
"Well," Clark responded after looking around and lowering his voice, "ever since Joey Bermuda was locked up two different factions of Intergang have been vying to fill the power vacuum. It's been a stalemate so far, but one of Maggie's informants says that the Bruno Mannheim faction has been stockpiling weapons and is planning to launch an attack against its competition on Christmas Day."
"Sounds like it could be very bloody," Lois said.
"Exactly, and who knows how many innocent bystanders might get hurt." Clark continued, "So Maggie wants to stage a preemptive strike on Christmas Eve at the warehouse that's storing his arsenal and I'm..."
"And you're back-up," Lois said. Clark nodded his head in agreement. "Well," Lois whispered. "What time is the raid? Should we cancel our dinner party?"
"I don't think that'll be necessary, honey," said Clark. "The raid is set to take place at 11:00 and dinner is at 6:30. Jimmy, Perry, and Lucy should be gone by then. It's really a shame your parents won't be able to make it." Lois nodded in agreement. "By the way," Clark said as an afterthought, "is Lucy bringing a date?"
" I'm glad there won't be a time conflict, I'd hate to abandon our guests," Lois said, apparently ignoring Clark's question about Lucy.
"Lo-is," Clark said warily, "are you thinking of coming along on this operation?"
"You bet I am!" Lois said enthusiastically. Her voice rising in her excitement, she continued, "This is a great story, something I can really sink my teeth into instead of the usual holiday fluff!" Then, remembering their public location she lowered her voice and said, "If you think I'm going to miss a chance at an exclusive on this you're crazy!"
"Honey, it's too dangerous..." Clark began.
"Don't give me that 'it's too dangerous' stuff," Lois countered. "After all these years, I know the drill. I'll stay hidden in the background and I won't come out until after the raid is over. I'll be perfectly safe. I don't know why we're even discussing this, we both *know* I'm going to come along," she said with a sweet smile.
Realizing it was a losing battle, Clark shook his head and gave Lois a look tinged with equal parts of exasperation and admiration. "All right," he said slowly, "we'll see. But you have to promise me that you'll at least *try* to stay out of harm's way."
Lois kissed Clark lightly on the cheek and gave him her most beatific smile. "I promise," she said.
"Yeah, right," Clark responded skeptically. "Anyway," he sighed. "Before you so handily wrapped me around your little finger, we were discussing our Christmas Eve dinner plans. You never answered my question. Is Lucy bringing a date?"
I think she's bringing Derrick," Lois responded. "But I'll find out for certain when we have lunch tomorrow."
"Who's Derrick?" Clark asked.
"Oh you remember Derrick, we met him when we helped Lucy move into her apartment. He's the one with the leather pants and the nose ring," Lois said.
"Oh joy." Clark said flatly.
"Now, sweetheart," Lois said defensively, "he wasn't *that* bad."
"Honey, I don't think he said five words during the entire time we were moving Lucy. Baby Gunderson was a more sparkling conversationalist," Clark complained.
Lois laughed. "Well," she said, "it's true that most of Lucy's boyfriends have fit into the 'body by Fisher brains by Mattel' category." Clark grinned. "But he seems harmless enough," she continued. "Besides, he's a definite improvement over her last *insignificant* significant other, Johnny (Metallo) Corbin!"
Clark laughed and pulled Lois closer to him. Cradling her face in his hands he began to pepper it with small kisses. Lois murmured appreciatively and pressed even closer to him. As they embraced on the sidewalk, Clark whispered into Lois's ear, "I think we should hurry home, I feel a sudden urge to work on our newlywed *bonding*.
Lois giggled. "That sounds wonderful," she purred. "But we need to make one stop first."
"Where?" Clark asked.
"Right here." Lois answered.
Clark looked around and noticed that they were standing at the Christmas tree lot a few blocks from their home. Looking at Lois he asked, "We're buying a tree? I thought you wanted to use the artificial one your dad bought last year, to save money?"
"I know we planned to use the fake one, Clark, but it just wouldn't seem like Christmas without a real tree," Lois explained in a somewhat embarrassed fashion.
Clark lovingly looked at Lois and smiled. "Aren't you the person who once compared Christmas to Arbor Day?" he asked. Lois smiled sheepishly. "Looks like Perry isn't the only sentimental softy," he said taking her in his arms.
"Takes one to know one," Lois said teasingly, as she wrapped her arms around her husband's neck and their lips met.
The stop at the Christmas tree lot took about 20 minutes and soon Lois and Clark were on their way home. As Clark effortlessly carried the tall evergreen up the steps of their townhouse, Lois followed close behind.
"Honey, I never expected we'd have *three* Christmas trees in our house this year," Clark said with a smile as he looked back at Lois, who was carrying a small and scrawny tree that was a twin for the one she'd had for Christmas two years ago.
"I'm sorry, sweetheart, I just couldn't leave this little guy on the lot," Lois explained as they entered the house. "At least they didn't charge us much for it," she added brightly. Clark simply shook his head and grinned. "I know the perfect place for it," she continued. "We can put it on the small table in the dining room." Lois said excitedly, "I'll get the tree stands."
Removing her coat, Lois quickly returned with the two Christmas tree stands. She noticed that the trunk of the full sized tree was too large to fit in either of them. "Hmm," she said thoughtfully, "maybe I should get the saw?"
"Don't bother, hon," Clark said. As Lois watched, awe-struck, Clark used his invulnerable fingernail to deftly whittle the trunk down to the proper size. "That should do it," he declared as he stuck the tree in its stand and gently placed it next to the fish tank.
"You are amazing!" Lois said with genuine admiration.
"You're not so bad yourself," Clark said slyly as he scooped Lois up in his arms. Lois giggled as Clark began walking towards the stairs.
"We're not flying?" Lois asked, pouting just a little.
Clark stopped walking. "Sometimes things are better when they're done *slower*, the old fashioned way," Clark responded as he nuzzled Lois's neck and began walking again. Much to Lois's delight Clark continued to plant small kisses on her face and neck as he purposefully carried her towards their bedroom. However, midway up the stairs Clark stopped and cocked his head to the side in a manner that had become all too familiar to Lois in the last two years.
"What is it? What do you hear?" Lois asked anxiously.
"A police radio report of a fire in Suicide Slum," Clark answered. "It sounds really bad, a five alarmer. I'm sorry honey, but..."
Lois stopped his words with a kiss. "Don't worry." she said. "We'll have plenty of time to *bond* when you get back. Just go and be careful."
Putting Lois down , Clark quickly kissed her again, changed into *the suit* and disappeared out the living room window. Lois dashed down the stairs and across the room to the still open window in hopes of catching a glimpse of Clark streaking across the starlit sky. As she watched him fade in the distance, Lois's face was a canvas for the mixed emotions she felt. Her love for Clark and her pride in the things he could do as Superman were combined in equal measure with her concern for his safety and her disappointment that their quiet evening at home had been interrupted.
"Damn it." she thought guiltily, "why am I feeling this way? I love Clark and I knew when I married him that I'd have to share him with the rest of the world." Lois mentally paused. "But," she reflected wryly, "there are times when *you know who* can be a real *pain*."
Lois sighed and closed the window. It was getting late and she was a little tired, but she still wanted to wait up for Clark. She lit a fire in the fireplace and walked over to the couch. Picking up the remote control, Lois turned on the set just in time to hear the announcer declare:
'And now it's time for WMET's annual presentation of the Christmas classic,
*It's a Wonderful Life*'
"Easy for you to say," Lois muttered as she punched the cushions and made herself comfortable on the couch.
George Bailey (a/k/a Jimmy Stewart), was madly dashing through the snow- covered streets of Pottersville (a/k/a Bedford Falls) followed by his inept guardian angel Clarence by the time Clark returned to the townhouse. Quickly spinning into a pair of jeans and a tee shirt, he stood silently behind the couch, watching the movie until Lois, who had been dozing in front of the TV set, opened her eyes.
"Hi honey," Clark said, giving Lois a small smile.
Lois smiled sleepily in response. "Oh, good, you're back," she said as she sat up, yawned and stretched. "How was it?" she asked with concern, as she noticed the haunted look in his eyes.
"Pretty bad," Clark said flatly, as he flopped down next to Lois on the couch. Staring straight ahead into empty space he continued, "The fire was in that old rat trap apartment building on East Street. It's gone now, totally gone, and 50 families are going to be homeless this Christmas."
"That's terrible, sweetheart," Lois said. "But that's not all that's bothering you, is it?" Lois asked, cradling Clark's head in her hands and turning it so he would face her.
"No it's not," Clark said after a few moments of hesitation. "Right before I arrived, an entire floor of the building collapsed, trapping five firemen in the basement."
"Oh my God," Lois said soberly.
Clark closed his eyes, sighed and continued, "I was able to get them out, but one of them died at the scene." Lois shook her head sadly. "Another was badly burned and has serious internal injuries. The doctors aren't sure if he'll make it." As he finished his statement, Clark turned away from Lois and stared in the direction of the television set.
"Oh, Clark, I'm so sorry." Lois said, as she put her arms around him.
Clark turned back , looked at Lois and tried to smile reassuringly . "It's all right, honey, I'm fine, or at least I will be. Just being able to talk about it ..." Clark's voice trailed off and he was silent for a few moments. Then he asked wearily, "It's kinda late and it's been a long day, you want to turn in?"
"In a minute, sweetie," Lois said, "the movie's almost over and I really love the ending."
Clark shook his head and, giving Lois a tired smile, said, "*You* used to *hate* this movie. I remember my first Christmas in Metropolis when I invited you to see a big screen revival of it at the Metro Playhouse Theater, you told me it was *sentimental crap*."
"I know this is going to come as a terrible shock to you," Lois said as she played with a errant lock of Clark's hair that had fallen across his forehead, "and I certainly wouldn't want it getting out to the general public, but I was wrong about this movie. I was wrong about a lot of things that first year," she said smiling shyly.
Clark raised his eyebrows and gave Lois a look of mock consternation at her revelations. Lois grinned at him and continued. "I guess I never really took it seriously until we watched it together last Christmas. Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, all the cast are really terrific and it's so incredibly sentimental without being maudlin." Clark nodded in agreement. "But I think the most important thing is the idea that we're all connected, and that everything we do is consequential, no matter how big or small," she concluded.
The commercial break over, the movie started again. Clark sighed and leaned back on the couch. Lois settled in next to him resting her head on his shoulder. They sat together silently, holding hands and watching the film. After a few minutes, Clark turned to face Lois and gently kissed her. "I love you," he said, wrapping his arms around her and cradling her to his chest.
"I know," Lois said smiling softly as she nestled into his embrace. "I love you, too."
The next day, after spending the morning covering Clark's annual Christmas time appearances at the Coates Children's Home, the Children's Hospital and the Metro Area Food Bank, Lois drove to Metropolis University to meet Lucy for lunch. At Lucy's insistence, the two sisters went to the 'Jungle Grille', a small, dingy coffee house/restaurant right on campus.
"Isn't this place terrific, sis?" Lucy exclaimed as they were seated at a dimly lit table. "It has so much atmosphere."
"It has *something* all right, but I'm not sure I'd call it atmosphere." Lois opined as she eyed the grimy tablecloth, spotted silverware and smudged glasses on their table. "Are you sure this place passed its Health Department inspection?" she asked suspiciously.
"Oh, Lois, *chill out*." Lucy replied. "Angus and I eat here all the time and *we've* never gotten sick. At least, not after that first time," she added as quietly as possible.
"Angus!? Who's Angus!? What happened to Derrick?" Lois asked immediately. For the moment her anxiety over the cleanliness of the restaurant was suppressed by her concern for her sister, who also had her share of relationships that qualified as *federal disasters*.
"Oh, I stopped going out with Derrick ages ago, right after I met Angus," Lucy said nonchalantly.
"So, who is this Angus?" Lois reiterated. "Where did you meet him? More importantly, what do you know about him?"
"Relax, sis," Lucy said a little testily. "I'm a big girl and I can take care of myself."
"That'll be the day," Lois said sarcastically.
"Lois!" Lucy said sharply.
The two sisters glared at each other in strained silence for a few minutes until Lois decided to extend an olive branch.
"I'm sorry, Lucy, but I worry about you," Lois said, grinning self-consciously. "I guess I do come on a little too strong sometimes. Am I forgiven?" she asked.
"That's okay, Lois, apology accepted," Lucy answered with a wry smile. "I guess that's what *big* sisters are for. Anyway, to answer at least some of your questions, I've been seeing Angus for a little over a month. We met in that drama class I'm auditing. He's one of the instructors."
"Oh great," Lois said as she rolled her eyes. "Another actor."
"Angus is not just an actor!" Lucy said defensively. "He's also a writer, director, and producer, like Orson Welles, or Kenneth Branagh, or like.." Lucy paused, ".. Sylvester Stallone! He's only teaching part time until he can be discovered!"
"He sounds very talented," said Lois with a trace of sarcasm in her voice. "Well, will you and *Rocky* be coming to dinner on Christmas Eve?" she asked.
"I'll be at dinner but Angus won't be able to make it," Lucy said sadly. "He's giving a performance of the show he's written . It's a shame too because I really wanted him to meet you and Clark. I just know the three of you would hit it off," Lucy said confidently.
Ignoring Lucy's comments, Lois asked, "So he actually has a play in production. What's it about?"
"It's about a disgruntled postal worker who takes the patrons of a small coffee shop hostage on Christmas Eve. It's really terrific!" Lucy said enthusiastically.
"It doesn't sound like it's exactly full of the holiday spirit," Lois observed evenly.
"I know, that's the point!" Lucy said, slightly exasperated with her sister's apparent lack of knowledge about the *arts*. "It's very trendy, very today, very...."
"Ironic?" Lois volunteered.
"Exactly, I knew you'd understand," Lucy bubbled.
Shaking her head in bewilderment, Lois said, "Let's order."
During lunch the two sisters discussed their parents' latest attempt at reconciliation at a medical conference in Kuala Lumpur, reminisced about past Christmases, and discussed current holiday plans. As they were leaving the restaurant Lucy turned to Lois and asked matter of factly:
"So, sis, when are you planning to sell Aunt Kate's bracelet to buy Clark's present? You've only got a few more days until Christmas."
Lois's jaw dropped and she looked at Lucy incredulously. "*I* just made up my mind last night! How could you possibly know what I was planning to do?" she inquired.
"Oh, come on, Lois, I know how you think. I didn't live with you for all those years for nothing," Lucy said with a sly grin.
Both Lois and Lucy burst out laughing and hugged each other. After a few moments, Lucy's demeanor turned serious and she said, " Lois, you know I love Clark and I think it's great that you two are finally together." Lois nodded affirmatively. Lucy continued hesitantly. "Your idea for Clark's gift sounds perfect... but, Lois, this is Aunt Kate's bracelet you'd be selling. I know how much it means to you. Are you sure...?"
Lois interrupted Lucy. "Lucy, I'm sure. I've never been more sure of anything in my life. You've no idea what Clark means to me. I'd be lost without him," Lois said resolutely.
"But, Aunt Kate..." Lucy interjected.
"If Aunt Kate were still here I know she'd understand," Lois replied to her sister's unspoken question. "She always told us to follow our hearts, remember?" Lucy nodded. "Well *my heart* tells me this is the *right* thing to do," Lois said passionately. "Lucy, I'm happy, *really* happy, maybe for the first time in my life and Clark is the reason. I'd sell my bracelet a dozen times over if I thought I could make him one tenth as happy as he's made me!"
Lucy shook her head, smiled and said, "Well , I guess you really have met that *super* guy." Lois grinned and nodded affirmatively. "So," Lucy continued, "what can I do to help?"
"Just one thing," Lois replied quickly. "Don't *ever* mention this to either Mom or Dad."
"Don't worry, my lips are sealed," Lucy responded. Then, smiling slyly, she added, "But, it'll cost you. I'd like to borrow that little black dress of yours with the spaghetti straps to wear to Angus's New Year's Eve cast party."
Momentarily stunned, Lois was only able to sputter, "Lucy, that's blackmail!"
"Well sis," Lucy replied, "that's what *kid* sisters are for."
Later that same day as dusk was just beginning to fall in Smallville, Jonathan Kent trudged home through his snow- covered fields. He'd been at the Irig farm most of the afternoon helping to make some repairs to the barn as informal payment for Wayne keeping an eye on things while he and Martha were in Metropolis. If it had been left up to Jonathan, the Kents, Clark and Lois included, would be celebrating Christmas here at the farm and not in Metropolis. He'd never really liked big cities, they were too cold, too impersonal, and Metropolis was the biggest of the big. But he knew how much Clark wanted to spend this first Christmas with Lois in *their* place. Heck, he'd felt the same way that first year he and Martha were married. So he was more than willing to be a little inconvenienced, there would be plenty of opportunities in the future for the kids to spend Christmas in Smallville. Besides, last year's Christmas celebration in Metropolis couldn't exactly be considered festive, what with Clark's illness and Sam's and Ellen's strained relationship, not to mention Baby Gunderson. With Sam and Ellen out of the country, Jonathan was looking forward to a nice, quiet, normal Christmas with his wife, son and daughter-in-law. Or at least as *normal* a Christmas as possible considering the lives Clark and Lois led.
Since Clark was arriving tonight to take them to Metropolis, Jonathan knew that his first priority upon arriving home was to finish packing for the trip. As he neared the isolated farmhouse Jonathan noticed that the downstairs lights were on even though the missing pick-up told him Martha was still in town. Cautiously entering the house (a fellow can never be *too* careful, he thought) he was more than a little relieved to find Clark sitting at the kitchen table looking at the family's scrap books and photo albums.
"Oh good, son, it's you," Jonathan said as he took off his coat. "I was a little worried when I saw the lights were on and your mother wasn't here. I thought we might have some uninvited guests."
Looking up from the table, Clark smiled at his father and said, "Hi Dad. I know I'm a little ahead of schedule but the national Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Washington ended early because of bad weather, so I just flew straight here. Hope you don't mind."
"Of course I don't mind, son, it's always good to see you," Jonathan said as a broad smile covered his face. "But I'm afraid we're not quite ready. Your mother's still in town running a few errands and we haven't finished packing yet. In fact, I should hop to that right now so we can leave as soon as she gets back. I know how busy you are," Jonathan said, starting out the kitchen door and headed upstairs.
"Take your time, Dad, I was just sitting here thinking. I don't get much chance to do that this time of year. Everything seems to be so rushed." Jonathan nodded in agreement, sat down at the table next to Clark and eyed the collection of photos and newspaper clippings on the table.
"There's that picture of you and Uncle Jerry on that old tractor," Jonathan exclaimed. "You couldn't have been more than 3 years old when I took that one. Uncle Jerry always said that if he was going to turn you into a farmer he'd have to start young." Clark smiled and both men began flipping through the photo album. "And there's that picture of the three of us with Steve Bradley at the World Series game. The way Uncle Jerry's smiling you'd think he was the one who caught that ball."
Father and son sat together in silence gazing at the picture, letting the memories of that October day so many years ago wash over them. Then after a few moments Clark looked up from the picture, turned to his father and asked, "You miss him too, don't you, Dad?" "Yes, son, I do," Jonathan replied. "He was a good man. Practically raised me after my folks died and he taught me everything I know about farming." Still leafing through the album Jonathan continued, "And was he ever proud of you! From the moment we *adopted* you he just knew that you had great things ahead of you. I just wish he was here right now to see how well you've turned out and all the things you've accomplished. Not just as Superman but also as Clark Kent."
Clark looked back at the picture and said, "I think he would have really liked Lois." Jonathan nodded and replied, "I think so too, son. After all she's a lot like your mother." Clark grinned. "She is, isn't she?" he said in agreement. Then, his mood becoming more serious, Clark hesitated a little and said, "Dad, about Lois..."
Jonathan nervously interrupted. "Is something wrong with Lois? Are you two having problems? Your mother should be back soon... "
"No, Dad, everything's fine between us," Clark replied reassuringly. "It's about Lois's Christmas present. I've finally found the perfect gift and I just wanted your advice."
"That's fine, son," Jonathan said, smiling in relief. "So, what do you want to get her?" he asked.
"It's a pair of antique pearl and ruby earrings. They're a perfect match for her favorite bracelet. I just know she'll love them," Clark answered.
"Well , they sound very nice, but won't they set you back quite a bit?" Jonathan asked thoughtfully. Clark nodded his head in agreement. Jonathan continued, "I know things are a little tight for you two right now, what with the new house and all. Your mother and I have some money put away, we could ...."
"No, Dad," Clark interrupted. "I won't, I *can't* take money from you and Mom, it's just not right."
"Then what are you going to do, son?" Jonathan asked a little apprehensively.
"I've been researching about the rise in the value of sports collectibles for a possible article in the Planet's Sunday magazine," Clark said. "My Steve Bradley baseball is worth a lot of money now. If I sold it I'd have more than enough to buy Lois those earrings."
"But Clark, are you sure?" Jonathan asked solemnly. "I know how much that souvenir means to you."
"Dad, the important thing from that day wasn't the baseball, it's the memories. I'll always have those," Clark replied resolutely. "Lois deserves this present and so much more. She's so *special* to me, in so many ways. Clark paused. "It's just hard to explain..."
"I understand, son," Jonathan said smiling. "Sounds like you've pretty much made up your mind about this already."
"Yeah, I guess I have, Dad. But I suppose I wanted *both* of you to know. It seemed like the right thing to do," Clark replied as he gazed at the picture of Uncle Jerry.
Putting his arm around Clark's shoulder, Jonathan replied, "Well son, speaking for myself *and* Uncle Jerry, I'd say Lois is a pretty lucky woman."
"No, Dad, *I'm* the lucky one," Clark declared earnestly. "Now, let's go finish that packing," Clark said as he rose from the table.
"I've got a better idea, son. How about we have some pie and buttermilk and wait for your mother to get back?" Jonathan replied with a twinkle in his eye.
"Sure, Dad," Clark responded as he grinned and gave his father a hug.
As dinnertime approached on Christmas Eve, it began snowing heavily in Metropolis and on the rest of the East Coast. Clark was forced to leave again and again to take care of some weather caused emergency and Lois was extremely grateful that Jonathan and Martha were there to help keep the dinner preparations on track, since she was still a little unsure of her culinary skills. Lois was also a little concerned that some weather related problem would make Clark late for dinner. But as luck would have it, he returned from rescuing an airplane that had almost skidded into the river off an icy airport runway a few minutes before Lucy, Jimmy and Perry arrived at the townhouse. And he had just enough time to shower and change before greeting them at the door with Lois.
Despite the weather, dinner went ahead uninterrupted until just as they were about to clear the table and bring out coffee and dessert. Clark got that familiar *look* in his eyes and motioned to Lois that he needed to see her in the kitchen. Excusing themselves from the table, Lois and Clark entered the kitchen. As soon as they were out of earshot of their guests, Lois lowered her voice and asked, "What is it? Is there another airplane in trouble? Or a fire?"
"No, honey," Clark replied in equally hushed tones. "It's a message from the SCU on that special hypersonic transmitter I had Star Labs design. Apparently the raid against the Intergang arsenal is taking place right now!"
"What!" Lois exclaimed, "But it's only 8:45. I thought the raid was set for 11:00?"
"I thought so too," Clark replied . "But something must've happened that caused a change in plans. I've got to go *now* and I'd better go alone. There's no way we both can disappear." Lois nodded slowly in agreement. Stepping back from her, Clark began to do a superspeed spin into Superman, but seeing the disappointment in Lois's face he stopped and said, "I'm really sorry, honey. I know how much you wanted this story, but I promise you'll get the next SCU/Superman exclusive."
"I'd better," Lois admonished as she kissed him on the cheek. "Now go and be careful."
Clark kissed Lois on the forehead, quickly changed and streaked out the patio door, just as the door from the dining room swung open and Perry entered the kitchen. "All right, you two lovebirds. I know you're still newlyweds but this is ridiculous. What's a man got to do to get a cup of coffee around here?" he asked jovially. Then noticing that the patio door was open and that only Lois was in the room, Perry stopped and immediately asked, "Darlin, what happened to Clark?"
"He's gone," Lois replied nonchalantly as she shut the patio door.
"Gone where, sweetie?" Perry asked incredulously. "It's Christmas Eve and there's practically a blizzard going on outside!"
"He's ... he's on a story, chief," Lois said hesitantly. After a few seconds she continued, her voice gaining confidence as she quickly formulated a cover story for Clark. "We got a tip earlier today from Superman that the SCU would be staging a raid on one of Intergang's secret arsenals. The raid was supposed to be later tonight but there was a change of plans. Since we both couldn't go, we tossed a coin. Clark won and he went with Superman to get the exclusive story. Now, didn't you say you wanted coffee?" Lois asked quickly.
"Great shades of Elvis!" Perry exclaimed. "Those Intergang thugs are crazy and I'm not sure Maggie Sawyer and her SCU troopers are much better. Lois, honey, I have to admire the boy's gumption but are you sure Clark knows what he's getting into?"
"He knows, Perry," Lois said evenly. "We discussed this and he swore he'd be careful. Besides, I told Superman that I expect my husband back in one piece, and I *know* Superman wouldn't break a promise to me," she declared firmly.
"Well , I guess if Superman's looking after him, the boy's about as safe as he can be under the circumstances," Perry replied, somewhat relieved. Then as the implications of Lois's explanation struck him he blurted out, "Judas Priest! This story will be fantastic! A Special Crime Unit raid on Intergang and the Planet will have the exclusive! I've got to get hold of Carlin, the night editor! Olsen!" he yelled as he hurried out the door back into the dining area. "Get my cell- phone! Don't just sit there, we've got a story..." Perry's voice trailed off as he retreated into the next room.
Lois was only alone in the kitchen for a few moments when Lucy, Martha and Jonathan joined her. Almost immediately Lucy began to pepper Lois with questions. "We overheard Perry talking to Jimmy. What's this about Clark? Is he in any kind of danger? Is everything all right?" she asked with concern.
"Everything's fine, Lucy. Clark had to leave on an assignment, but I know he'll be all right. Superman will take good care of him," Lois replied in a slightly exasperated fashion. As she spoke she looked directly at Martha and Jonathan, silently urging them to bolster her statements.
"Oh, I'm sure he will," Martha added supportively as Jonathan nodded vigorously in agreement.
"You see, there's nothing to worry about," Lois said with a strained smile. "Clark will be home as soon as he can, so why don't the three of you grab Perry and Jimmy and go into the living room while I get the coffee and cake."
"That sounds like a wonderful idea," Jonathan said readily as he opened the door leading back into the dining area.
Lucy looked at Lois somewhat skeptically, shrugged her shoulders and said, "Well, sis, if you're not worried I guess there's no reason for me to be." She then turned and walked out the door with Jonathan following close behind.
As soon as Lucy and Jonathan had exited Martha turned to Lois and asked, "Lois, are you all right? You seemed a little upset with Lucy just now." Martha's concern for the woman she had come to view as a daughter was evident in her face and voice.
Lois gave Martha a wan smile and said, "I'm sorry Martha, it's just that I'm worried about Clark. It was this same time last year that we almost lost him to that killer virus Intergang developed, remember? I keep thinking, what if they have more of it? or Kryptonite or...." Lois's voice trailed off as she turned away from Martha for a few seconds. "I know I'm just being silly, aren't I?" Lois asked as she attempted to smile again. "I should just forget all about it and..."
"Lois you are *not* being silly," Martha interrupted. "It's natural for you to worry about someone you love. Particularly when that someone is mixed up in as many dangerous activities as Clark is. Heaven knows, I still worry about him. I think it would be unnatural for you not to worry," Martha said frankly.
"I.... I guess you're right," Lois said uncertainly.
"Of course I am, dear," Martha replied, placing her arm around Lois's shoulder. "Now tell me, have you talked to Clark?"
"Martha, I can't let Clark know that I've been feeling this way. He has to be concerned with so many of the world's problems, he doesn't need to be bothered with my doubts and fears on top of all that," Lois replied stoically.
"Sweetie, I've always felt that it was important for a husband and wife to talk about things like this, but, I can understand how you feel." Martha replied, "Still, I don't think it's a good thing to keep all these feelings bottled up inside you. It's just not healthy! So, I want you to promise me that whenever things get to be a bit too much, you'll talk to me. I'm only a phone call away and I'd love to hear from you whatever the reason."
"Thanks," Lois said giving Martha a warm smile and hugging her tight, "I've got the *best* mother-in-law in the world."
"And I've got the *best * daughter-in-law," Martha replied sincerely, "But you don't need to thank me, Lois, that's what family is for. Now let's see who wants some of that triple chocolate fudge cake... besides Jonathan."
Maggie Sawyer silently cursed as she and her SCU officers crouched behind crates and trash cans in an attempt to dodge the barrage of bullets coming from Intergang's warehouse. Staging a surprise raid was tricky under the best of circumstances and things had been far from the best when they started the attack, with high winds blowing off Hobbs Bay combining with the heavy snowfall to create near whiteout conditions. Even so the SCU's initial assault had blown off the front doors of the building, leaving a large gaping hole where the entrance used to be. But attempts to enter the building or even to get within range to lob in tear gas grenades had been met with a constant hail of automatic weapons fire that had kept them pinned down in their current positions.
Officers Janke and Stern had been seriously wounded in the initial firefight and the subzero temperatures they were experiencing were beginning to take a toll on the rest of the SCU. Even though she had called for back up, Maggie knew that the same weather conditions that had forced her to start the raid early also meant that it would be a while before anyone would be able to answer her request for help. Hunkered down against the cold, she began to assess her options when, suddenly, as if by magic, the shooting stopped. Fearing some new ploy on Intergang's part, Maggie motioned to her people to stay hidden as she slowly rose from her crouched position and peered in the direction of the warehouse entrance. Through the wind-driven snow she was able to make out a familiar red and blue clad figure effortlessly carrying out a dozen or more kicking and squirming black clad bodies, stacked one on top of the other like so many cords of wood. Dashing from cover, Maggie headed straight for Superman followed by most of the SCU, arriving at his side just as he unceremoniously dumped his unhappy passengers, who all had remnants of automatic weapons wrapped around their wrists, on the wooden landing outside the warehouse.
"Glad you could make the party, big guy," Maggie said with a wolfish grin, " I have to say you *really* know how to make an entrance."
"Well, I had to do something a *little* spectacular, Captain," Clark replied, matching Maggie's lighthearted tone. "After all I've got to live up to my reputation as a superhero." Gesturing to the warehouse, he continued, "There are about 20 more of these *gentlemen* tied up inside. If you and your officers can keep an eye on these, I'll go get them."
"We can take care of these clowns, Superman," Maggie said seriously. "Right now we could really use your help in transporting two of my people to the hospital. They've been pretty badly hurt and I doubt an ambulance will be able to make it down here anytime soon."
Clark nodded and quickly followed Maggie to the location of the injured men. Using superspeed Clark constructed a makeshift carryall which would both protect the wounded police officers from the elements and allow him to transport them simultaneously. After gently placing the men in the basket-like contraption, Clark turned back to Maggie and said, "I'll get them to Met General as fast as I can and come back and help you mop things up here." Then with a *whoosh*, he disappeared into the night sky.
Maggie quickly returned to the loading dock area. After posting guards outside she readied her weapon, turned to her people and said, "All right, let's look alive! We can't let the 'big guy' have all the fun! Let's move it!" And with a look of grim determination she sprinted into the darkened warehouse, with the rest of the SCU close behind.
After what seemed like an eternity, Maggie wearily leaned against the wall outside one of the treatment rooms in Metropolis General Hospital's Emergency Section. She waited alone, in the silent corridor, relishing a few moments solitude after the noise and confusion of the past few hours. Suddenly, she became aware of footsteps in the hallway and when she opened her eyes she saw Superman approaching her, his face smudged and his cape in tatters.
"Oh good, you're still here," Maggie said with a tired smile as he reached her side, "I was afraid that you'd left."
"No," Clark replied softly, "I was down in Intensive Care's burn unit."
"You must have been checking on that smoke eater you rescued a few days ago," Maggie responded. Clark nodded affirmatively. "How's he doing?" she asked.
"It was touch and go for a while, but the doctors think he'll be okay," Clark said, clearly relieved. "How are your people?" he asked anxiously, glancing in the direction of the examination room.
"The two you brought in earlier lost a lot of blood, but they should be fine. As far as the rest are concerned, Robinson and Gonzales have some cuts and bruises, Dan Turpin is a little singed and had the wind knocked out of him, but that's all," Maggie answered matter of factly. Seeing the look of relief on Clark's face she continued, "But, if you hadn't been there to absorb the blast from that booby trap the three of them stumbled into, it would have been a different story. And I just want to thank..."
Before Maggie could finish her sentence, Clark interrupted her. "There's no need to thank me, Maggie," he said sincerely.
"Oh yes there *is*!" Maggie said vehemently. "You work with us so much that sometimes I take for granted the spectacular things you can do. But tonight really reminded me of how totally *amazing* you are. If it hadn't been for you, a lot of Metropolis Police Department families would be having a very *un-merry* Christmas this year , and I just want to say..." Maggie paused and blinking back uncharacteristic tears, reached over and took Clark's hand. "Thank you and Merry Christmas, Superman." His eyes misting over as well, Clark placed his other hand over hers and replied, "Merry Christmas to you too, Maggie."
It was well after 1:00 a.m. by the time Clark returned home. He quietly opened the front door to the townhouse, trying not to disturb either Lois or his parents and was about to continue upstairs when he heard the sound of a familiar heartbeat coming from the living room. Standing in the darkened doorway he could see Lois asleep in an overstuffed chair that had been pulled close to the fire. As he started across the room, Clark's superhearing detected rhythmic breathing, and a quick scan of the area revealed his parents curled up together on the loveseat. Lucy and Jimmy were staked out on opposite ends of the couch with Perry sprawled between them. Chuckling softly, Clark levitated slightly off the floor and floated over to Lois, pausing for a few seconds to watch as the dying firelight cast a golden glow over her exquisite features, before he knelt down next to her chair. Crouching down he began to slowly and methodically place small gentle kisses on Lois's face, until she gradually awakened with a smile.
"You're finally home, thank goodness," Lois whispered as she wrapped her arms around Clark's neck and pulled him close for a long, deep kiss. After a few moments Lois drew back from the kiss, and seeing the questioning look in Clark's eyes, she said softly, "Maybe we should go somewhere else to talk, so we don't disturb anyone." Nodding in agreement, Clark quickly and quietly picked Lois up from the chair and floated into the kitchen.
"How did it go?" Lois asked as Clark gently lowered them to the floor. "Not bad," Clark replied, as he wrapped his arms around Lois and pulled her into a close embrace. "But," he continued with a wry smile, "Mom is going to *kill* me. I ruined another cape." Lois giggled softly. "What about the story?" she asked. "I told Perry you'd be getting an *exclusive*."
"I stopped off at the Planet on my way home and wrote it up," Clark replied, giving Lois a tender smile. "Carlin was ready and waiting, and it's the morning edition's lead story." "Good," Lois responded as she cuddled closer to Clark and rested her head on his chest. "Perry will be pleased."
For a few minutes they stood together quietly enjoying the sensations kindled by their closeness. Then Clark broke the silence. "Honey?" he said in an inquiring tone. "Hmm?" Lois murmured in response as she lifted her head from his chest and looked into his eyes. "What's with the slumber party in the living room?"
Smiling warmly, Lois cast a glance in the direction of the living room, then turned back to Clark and replied, "They were all worried about you and didn't want to leave until you got home safely."
Somewhat taken aback by this revelation, Clark was silent for a few moments. Finally he said, "Let's not wake them. The storm's gotten worse and the roads are a mess. They can go home in the morning."
"All right, but no sleeping in for you tomorrow morning," Lois teased. "You're helping with breakfast - I've never made eggs *ala Katie Banks* for a crowd before."
Clark laughed and gave Lois another deep, slow kiss. As the kiss ended he said with a mischievous grin, "Don't worry, I'm sure we'll be able to whip up a great Christmas brunch with a little *super* help." Lois giggled in response. "Speaking of Christmas, " Clark continued as he reached into his jacket pocket, "it's way past midnight. Would you like to open your present now?"
"Yes!" Lois said excitedly, her eyes bright with anticipation.
Flashing a huge grin, Clark handed Lois a small package wrapped in brightly colored paper, which Lois tore off with something akin to superspeed, revealing a small velvet covered jewelry box. Lois's eyes widened as she opened the box and saw the ruby and pearl earrings. "They're beautiful," she exclaimed with a look of wonder on her face. "Why, they're a perfect match for..."
"For your bracelet," Clark finished. "I know how much you love that bracelet and that's why I got them for you."
"But...but...but, sweetheart, they must have been so expensive," Lois stammered.
"It's doesn't matter, hon," Clark responded, grinning happily, his love for Lois practically radiating from every pore. "What matters is that you love them and that they make you happy. You do love them, don't you?" Clark asked anxiously. Lois smiled and nodded affirmatively. Clark's grin grew even wider. "I can't wait until you wear your new earrings *and* your bracelet to that party next week. You'll be the belle of Mr. Stern's New Year's Eve ball," Clark said proudly.
A single tear rolled slowly down Lois's cheek. "What's wrong, honey?" Clark asked with concern.
"Never mind, sweetheart, it's nothing," Lois replied, brushing away the tear and giving Clark a bright, loving smile. "Now, just wait here," she ordered. "I'll be right back."
Placing the jewelry box on the kitchen table, Lois quickly dashed to the next room and returned a few moments later with a large box, neatly wrapped in the same festive paper. "Since we're exchanging gifts, I think it's time you opened your present," Lois said as she handed the box to Clark.
Painstakingly peeling away the wrapping paper (much to Lois's amusement), Clark opened the box and gently lifted out a small mahogany platform which had two gold and wood frames attached on either side of a small center pedestal. As he examined the frames more carefully, Clark saw that one contained his World Series photo with his Dad, Uncle Jerry, and Steve Bradley, while the other held, to his amazement, an autographed copy of Bradley's rookie baseball card.
"So, what do you think?" Lois asked with a little trepidation.
Clark looked at Lois, slightly bewildered. "Honey, it's just wonderful. I love it," he said sincerely, "but I don't understand how you could possibly afford Bradley's rookie card. It's incredibly expensive! Why, it costs almost as much as your..." Clark paused as he suddenly realized what Lois had done. Shaking his head in astonishment, he continued, "Lois, you didn't, you couldn't..." His voice trailed away and he stared at Lois dumbfounded.
"I could and I did," Lois said proudly, her love for Clark brightly shining from her eyes. "You deserved something special for our first Christmas together and the only way I could pay for it was to use Aunt Kate's bracelet."
"But, honey..." Clark began.
"Sweetheart, it's not important, not really," Lois replied tenderly. "Like you said, what matters is that you love your gift and it makes you happy." Lois smiled and pointed to the area in the front of the platform. "You'll be able to mount your autographed baseball right there," she said, indicating the pedestal. "I can't wait to see it in its proper place. I'll go get it from the den." And with that Lois turned and started to leave the kitchen.
Clark quickly placed his gift on the table beside the earrings and grabbed Lois by the hand. Giving her a rueful grin he said, "Don't bother, hon." Lois gazed at Clark questioningly. Suddenly, her mouth dropped open as she realized what had occurred.
For a few moments Lois and Clark stood silently staring at each other, then without warning, they began to laugh hysterically, the sound echoing through the silent house for at least five minutes. Finally, as their laughter died away, Lois looked at Clark, almost on the verge of tears and said, "Oh god, Clark, I don't know whether to laugh or cry! This is so, so... ironic!...It's just not fair!...All I wanted was to get you the *perfect* gift and for our first Christmas together to be *perfect* and now it's just ru..."
Clark stopped Lois's babbling with a kiss. When the kiss finally ended, Clark quickly reached around to the nearby table, opened the box containing the earrings and placed it on the mahogany platform's center pedestal. They both stood side by side silently looking at their gifts for a moment. Then Clark took Lois back into his arms, carefully tucked her head under his chin and sighed. "Lois, darling," he said as he began gently rocking back and forth, "it's Christmas, we're together and we're surrounded by our family and friends. If that's not perfection, I don't know what is."
Lois slowly raised her head from Clark's chest, her eyes still bright with unshed tears, and brought his face close to hers. As their lips met and the sights and sounds of the world around them began to melt away, Lois knew Clark was right. It was perfect, just *perfect*.
"The magi, as you know, were wise men-- wonderfully wise men-- who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are the wisest. They are the magi."
From 'The Gift of the Magi' by O Henry