By Bethy <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: November 2002
Summary: Superman makes some time on Christmas day for a little boy who has a special wish.
Author's note: I'd like to thank Sarah Luddy for her wonderful beta-reading skills.
"And then we wrote letters to Santa and I axed him—"
"Asked," Katy corrected as she helped her little brother, Timmy, out of his big winter coat after school. He'd just learned how to write in the first grade and was very proud of his new skill. The approach of Christmas just magnified his excitement.
"*Asked* him to bring me Superman for Christmas," Timmy said.
"Yeah! A little one that I can take with me to protect me from bad guys. An' Santa's gonna bring it, too. I know he is." He was so excited she just hugged him and said, "Of course he is, Timmy, of course he is."
She watched him run off to wash his hands before his after- school snack and wanted to cry. Santa wasn't coming this Christmas. Santa wasn't ever coming again.
After dinner, Katy holed herself up in her room to finish her homework. It wasn't much of a room, barely big enough for a twin bed and an old hand-me-down dresser whose middle drawer wouldn't come out because the roller was broken, but it was her own. She shivered, wishing she could ask her mom to turn up the heat, but knew she couldn't.
Mommy was already worried about paying the bills; Katy wasn't about to make it harder for her. Resolutely, she turned back to her long division problems, but her mind wouldn't stop thinking about Timmy's Christmas wish and Superman.
Ever since Daddy died, money had been tight. Not that they'd had a ton before, but it was enough. Now they were poor. Dirt poor. White trash poor. But when she'd asked Mommy what white trash meant, Mommy had just gotten mad and demanded to know who said that about her. She said they were not white trash and not to believe anyone who said stuff like that about them. But they were still poor. So poor that Mommy couldn't buy any Christmas presents. Any at all. She had told Katy she'd asked the Angel Tree for presents, but not to count on much. Katy didn't mind. All she wanted for Christmas was for Mommy to be happy again.
But Timmy wouldn't understand that. And she knew that Mommy would be so hurt at Christmas when Timmy cried because he didn't get his Superman toy. 'Cause he would cry, he was too little to know not to. If only she could get it for him! But she didn't have any money. Suddenly she had an idea. Instead of a Superman doll, what if she could really get him Superman? She flipped to the back of her notebook and started writing.
She stared at the page. What should she write next? It needed to be good, or he wouldn't pay attention to it. With pain-staking care, she drafted the letter, ending with:
Very sincirely… (No, that didn't look right. She crossed it out.) Very greatfully… (It still looked wrong. She crossed it out again.)
Thank you very much,
She re-read the letter and added a P.S. before folding it exactly along the lines in even segments. She'd get an envelope from the drawer in the kitchen before she went to school tomorrow.
"Clark, you are such a softie!"
"And you aren't?" He raised his eyebrows as he spoke. She looked so tiny across the kitchen table from him with the huge mound of mail in front of her. In fact, the mail almost completely obscured her face.
"Of course not! I'm Mad Dog Lane!"
"Sure you are," he replied, playing along. "That's why you took pity on this poor oaf from Kansas, showed him the ropes, and then, once you got him trained, snatched him up, married him and went through the rigors of labor three times."
To produce three wonderful children who were fortunately spending the day at the zoo with their grandmother Lane. Answering Superman's fan mail wasn't exactly something they could do with the kids around and still preserve the secret.
"None of which you regret in the least," she said primly, crossing her arms and sitting up straighter.
"Just goes to prove you're a softie, too!" He made his case with a flourish of an arm, accidentally flinging the open letter in his hand into the sink.
"Oops." Lois just laughed.
"Anyway," he continued as he got up to retrieve the letter, "why, specifically, am I a softie?"
"C'mon, Clark. It's not like I can't see your face when you read all this fan mail. Every single nicely-worded plea touches your heart and makes you want to go out and save the world. Again."
"I'm not that bad, am I?" His expression turned contrite as he looked down at the pile of letters in front of him. There were just so many people, with such valid requests. But he couldn't help them all.
She grinned. "Yup." A pause, and she turned more serious. "But I understand. I guess I am a softie, too."
"Well, I remember our agreement. All letters I answer must be approved by you, and you have full veto power for whatever reason. I'm not going to let Superman rule our life together, and I mean that." He knew she understood how important Superman was to him, to her as well, but they'd realized early on that Superman couldn't have free rein or their relationship would be smothered. Their plan worked, for the most part, but it was still hard to say no.
He was coming back to the Planet after a rescue when he noticed a little girl, about the same age as their oldest, Marta, standing at the top of the ramp that led into the bullpen.
She stared in awe at the controlled chaos that was a newsroom. Nobody noticed her, they just moved around her as they went about their business. Clark exited the stairwell and came up behind her. "Are you lost?"
She jumped in surprise and her hand clenched even tighter around the envelope she held, crumpling it further. "N-n- no. I was looking for Clark Kent. Do you know where he is?"
Puzzled, he said, "I'm Clark Kent." What could she need him for? And how had she gotten here by herself? There were no elementary schools in this area, and Perry had forbidden any further school field trips after some third grade punk decided it would be fun to switch the levers on one of the printers, skewing hundreds of sheets before someone caught it. Maybe she was the daughter of another employee.
"Does your mom or dad work here?" he asked.
She gave him a scrunched face glance, obviously trying to figure out what that had to do with anything. "No."
"Well, how did you get here? Are you here alone?"
"I came on the bus. It was easy. Just hop on, change once at Washington Boulevard, and get off down the street from the Planet. And I could come today 'cause my mom's at work 'cause today's the day Mrs. McGuillicuddy takes care of Timmy and by the time they get home I'll be back because I just have to drop this off and then I'll leave so here you go."
Boy, this kid could almost out babble Lois! She shoved the crumpled envelope in his hand and turned for the elevator.
He reached out and snagged her shoulder before she could reach it. "Wait a second. I'll drive you home. Just let me grab my keys."
Her eyes widened in panic. "Oh, no, it's okay, I'll just take the bus, you don't have to do that, I'll be fine, I wouldn't want to make any trouble for you, and besides my mom says not to get into cars with strangers."
Great, she'd just come across town in one of the biggest cities in the country, alone, and now she was worried about getting in a car with a stranger? Whom she had approached? "Tell you what, why don't I take you in to my boss, and you can get verification from him that I'm a good guy, okay? Or would you rather have my wife take you home? I should warn you, though, she's a crazy driver."
He started walking down the ramp, still holding her hand so she'd be forced to follow.
Funny, if anyone else was doing that to a strange little girl, he'd be the first to doubt their motives, yet when it was himself, he could only think about protecting her from others and not how his actions looked. Fortunately, she didn't try to pull away or otherwise make a scene. He had no idea how he'd explain it if she had.
He slid the envelope into his inside coat pocket and stopped to grab his keys. Glancing down, he noticed that she had tears coursing down her cheeks. He knelt to be on level with her and said, "Oh, sweetie, what's wrong?"
She shuddered as she tried to get the words out. "Nuh-nuh- thing." She sniffed and roughly wiped her cheek.
An idea flew in from that unknown black hole ideas hide in and smacked Clark upside the head. "Would it be better if I got Superman?"
Her eyes got wide and she shook her head hard. "Oh, no, he's got lotsa important stuff to do." Clark hid a grin. He'd rescued cats before and little girls were certainly more important than kittens. Besides, he could see the longing in her eyes. A ride with Superman would probably make her week.
He looked up. "Lois! Could you c'mere for a minute?" Once she arrived he said, "This is my wife, Lois Lane. Lois, this is…?" He looked at her, silently asking her name.
"Katy," she whispered.
"This is Katy. Could you take her out front and wait for Superman? She came here alone and needs a ride home, but isn't allowed to get into cars with strangers."
Lois raised her eyebrows at him and gave a little smirk. Then, smiling for real, she reached down to take Katy's hand. "Come on, Katy, Superman will be here in just a minute."
She peeked over her shoulder as they walked up the ramp and mouthed, "Boyscout!"
He grinned and shrugged sheepishly before heading toward the stairs to 'find' Superman.
When he got to the roof, he heard Katy chattering to Lois. "When I grow up, I wanna be a detective, like Nancy Drew. She's my favoritest person in the world."
"I read Nancy Drew when I was your age, too," Lois replied.
Katy's eyes got wide. "Really?"
"Really. And then I would go around peeking in everybody's drawers and cabinets looking for 'clues.' But you know what?" Katy shook her head. "Reporters get to do a lot of detective work, too, just like Nancy Drew. But we get to write stories about our cases when we're done. In fact, Nancy Drew is one of the reasons I went into reporting. So I could find the bad guys and catch them, just like she did."
"That is so cool!" Katy said. "Do you think I could be a reporter? I love looking for clues and my teacher says I write pretty good, too and—" She cut herself off and gaped as Superman slowly landed in front of them.
"Are you ready to go, Katy?" Katy's jaw dropped further, if that were possible.
"Y-y-you know my name?"
Superman smiled. "Yes, Clark Kent told me."
"Cool," was all she said. He scooped her up into his arms and she giggled. Then she turned with a huge grin on her face and waved at Lois. "Bye, Ms. Lane! Thank you!"
A few days later, Clark was getting ready for work when he felt something stiff crinkle in his coat pocket. What—? Reaching in, he pulled out Katy's letter, which he had completely forgotten. Oddly enough, since she'd come looking for Clark Kent, it was addressed to Superman. She must have intended to ask him to deliver it and he'd flustered her so much that she forgot. It didn't really matter — she'd reached her goal of getting it to Superman. But why did she feel the need to hand deliver it? He guessed that didn't really matter much, either.
He opened it up to find a letter scrawled in very careful childish handwriting. He smiled upon immediately seeing that she'd crossed out her sign-off a couple times before settling on one. Yes, sincerely was a hard word to spell, especially as a kid.
Sitting on the bed, he read it.
Last year I found out that Santa was really my dad. That wasn't a big problem until this summer. My dad died in a car accident. My mom just told me that Santa wasn't going to be coming this year. The only presents we're going to get are the ones from the Angel Tree. I'm okay with that, but the problem is my little brother Timmy. He still believes in Santa and is really, really wishing for Santa to bring him a Superman toy. But he's not going to get one. So I was wondering if you could maybe come and see him on Christmas day. I know you're busy saving the world and stuff, but if you could come it would mean a lot to him.
Thank you very much,
P.S. Our address is 1975 West J. Street and Mommy won't let us get up until 8:15 on Christmas morning. So you could come any time after that.
After a letter like that, how could he *not* go? But…Lois would kill him. They'd agreed that barring huge emergencies, the ones that the emergency services couldn't handle on their own, major holidays were family time. This wasn't family time. He supposed he could just buy a Superman figure and send it anonymously. But something in him rebelled. The disappointment he'd seen in her face when he dropped her off remained with him. He had thought she would have been excited, but when he asked, she just said she was sorry her brother wasn't home to meet him. Lois was right. He was a softie. But a promise was a promise.
"Thanks, Bobby," Lois said a week later, handing the Saran- wrapped bundle of fudge through the gap between the front seats of the Jeep after he finished filling them in. "And Merry Christmas."
"Why thank-you, Lois!" He eyed the fudge and frowned. "You didn't…by any chance…have a hand in making this, did you?"
"No, Bobby." Lois rolled her eyes. Just because she'd told him, once, that she could burn water, he'd doubted her validity as a human being ever since. "Clark supervised the kids and all I did was take pictures and taste-test. And I can assure you," she said with a grin and a pat on her hip, "it's wonderful."
"Then I thank you from the bottom of my stomach." He nodded to her and Clark and then disappeared. The second the door slammed behind him, Lois turned on Clark.
"What's up with you?"
She crossed her arms and glared. "Don't give me that. You hardly said two words the whole time Bobby was here. What gives?"
Clark shifted in his seat and found a sudden fascination in a splotch of coffee on the dashboard. "Nothing."
"Baloney. C'mon, Clark, you've been obsessing for almost a week. Let me in!"
He sighed and pulled the crumpled letter from his pocket. Since reading it, he'd reserved one of the 'held for charitable causes' Superman figures at the Superman Foundation, wrapped it, and gotten a box ready to mail it. But he couldn't forget Katy's sad face when he'd dropped her off. "You remember Katy? The girl Superman flew home from the Planet about a week ago?" he added after her uncomprehending look.
"Oh, yeah. What about her?"
"Well, the reason she was there was to deliver this letter to me, for me to give it to Superman."
Lois creased her forehead. "Why did she have to come in person? Why couldn't she have just mailed it? I mean, going across the city by bus, all alone, at her age, isn't exactly the safest thing to do."
"I don't know. The only thing I can think of is that since she knows Dear Santa letters never really get delivered, she didn't trust the mail to get this to Superman. After all, nobody knows where he lives." As he talked, he played with the paper, folding it and unfolding it, redefining the creases.
Lois nodded. "I could see that. So what does it say?"
"Here." He handed her the rather mangled sheet. "Read it for yourself."
When she was done, he started speaking very quickly. "I know we've agreed holidays are for family and this doesn't count as an extreme emergency, but I just can't get her face out of my mind comma because she was so disappointed when I took her home and her brother wasn't there to meet me, Superman, I mean and I already got a toy from the Superman Foundation comma but I really don't want to just send it anonymously even though it would be the easiest thing to do and I was kinda hoping you wouldn't mind if…"
"You should go."
"I know it goes against our rule, but…you think I should go?" His mouth dropped open in surprise.
"Yes," she said calmly. "I think you should go. It obviously means a lot to you, and it's not like you'd be gone very long. And since we're going out to your parents' house this year, you've got the hour time difference on your side. You can run out while the kids are helping your dad do the chores."
Clark felt a tension, which he hadn't even realized was there, flee from his body. "Thank you, Lois. I love you." He leaned over to give her a slow kiss. When they came up for air, she let out a happy sigh. "And if you promise me more of those, I'll even 'forget' to buy the bacon for Christmas breakfast in order to give you an excuse to run an errand."
With that, he kissed her again.
Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you! Timmy hasn't let go of his Superman for the past three days. He tells everyone he sees that the *real* Superman gave it to him. He was so happy to meet you and going flying with you incredible — for both of us! And thank you for the groceries for my mom, too. She said they made the best Christmas dinner she's ever had. And thank you for the books! How did you know I liked Nancy Drew?!
Thank-you very very very very much!
Lois peered over Clark's shoulder as he read the letter. "You old softie, you."
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!
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