By Caroline K. <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted November 2007
Summary: Clark has agreed to play Santa for the orphans, but why is Lois so reluctant to be his elf? A "Guess the Author" challenge response.
"I'm not doing this," Lois said for the tenth time since they'd left the Daily Planet. "You can do it if you want, but I'm not doing it."
Clark sighed and counted to ten.
"And Perry can't make us do it," she added when he didn't respond. "It's not like it's in our contracts. I'm not doing it."
"Then go back to the newsroom!" Clark snapped, his nearly legendary patience exhausted. Because he didn't particularly want to do it either, but he didn't see the point in spending the day complaining about it. "Just *forget it*, Lois, and go back to the newsroom and tell Perry you're not doing it!"
She looked outraged, and then, in a split-second moment of calculation, she arranged her face into a pout instead. "You yelled at me."
Wounded tones. She was very good at wounded tones.
Clark sighed again. He'd sighed so many times since they had left the newsroom that he thought he might be deflating. With every sigh, the air was escaping his body little by little, and if she kept it up, he'd probably lose so much air that he'd just sag to the pavement like an empty balloon.
An empty balloon wearing a business suit and glasses.
That would teach her, he thought, picturing the sorry, saggy little puddle of Clark-clothes on the sidewalk.
"I didn't mean to yell," he told her, with the absolute last scrap of his patience. "But I'd like to point out that you've been yelling at me ever since we left the office."
She sniffed. "That's different."
He thought about not taking the bait, but then he realized that this had the potential to be one of those conversations that led to make-up sex… and Lois wasn't the only one who could be calculating.
"How is it different?" He added just the slightest touch of belligerence to his tone. Just a hint, so she'd know that he was still annoyed.
"It just is. It's not the way we operate. *I* gripe, and *you* make me feel better. That's the way it's supposed to be."
"Well, what if I want to change the way we operate? What if I want to be the one to gripe a little?"
"Then you should have negotiated for that a long time ago. There was nothing in our marriage vows about you getting to gripe."
He grinned. She was completely nuts, but he adored her. "There was nothing in there about *you* getting to gripe either."
She shot him a triumphant look. "But I had a long-standing history of griping, which you knew when you entered into the marriage. If you'd wanted to gripe, you should have mentioned it. It's a legal thing. Like a preexisting condition."
"I'm pretty sure that's a medical term."
"Whatever." She waved a hand carelessly in the air, nearly knocking the hat off of a little old lady who was passing by. Clark shot the woman an apologetic glance as Lois went on. "You should have put a griping clause into your vows."
"Yeah, because that would have been really romantic. Gorgeous sunset, surrounded by friends and family on a hilltop in… Hey, does it ever bother you that we have no idea where we got married?"
It was her turn to sigh. "I try not to think about it."
"Yeah, me too." He shook his head as if to clear it, which was something he nearly always had to do when he thought about their wedding. "Anyway, wherever we were, it wasn't exactly the time to be bringing up griping privileges."
"Not really," he answered smugly. "Because in the time it's taken to discuss it, we've gotten to the costume shop." He gestured at the store window in front of them. "And you've been so busy deciding who had griping privileges that it's been at least three minutes since you griped."
"Well, I'm still not doing it." Her eyes flashed up at him and she folded her arms across her chest.
"Fine. Don't do it. You can help me pick out a Santa costume, and I'll find someone else to be my elf." He pushed open the door and a bell jangled overhead. "The new girl in advertising would be a good elf, don't you think? She seems really sweet — like she'd be good with kids."
"She makes Cat Grant look like Carol Brady," Lois groused.
"Hey, I could look up Cat!" Clark suggested innocently, as he fingered a Batman costume. "She always liked me."
"Cat liked anyone with a…"
"Lois!" He shot her a disapproving look and then added in a lower voice, "Feel how heavy this thing is. I couldn't stand it. It would make me claustrophobic."
"The Santa costume probably will, too!" she said, as if struck by inspiration. "That heavy coat… the beard… and you'll need padding. You'll hate it."
"Probably. But the children will love it, and I'm the kind of guy who's willing to make the sacrifice for a bunch of great kids who've gotten a rough start in life." He gave his wife a pointed look.
"Sheesh, Kent. You forgot to cue the violins before you said that."
He sighed again.
"Can I help you folks?" A fresh-faced blonde who didn't look more than nineteen years old came out to greet them, giving Clark an extra-wide smile.
"Yes, please," Clark said prayerfully, wanting to get the whole experience over with. "I need a Santa costume."
"Oh, you're going to be Santa!" she squealed, looking at Clark adoringly. "That's just so sweet!"
"I was just saying the same thing." Lois gave the girl a saccharine smile.
"Our Christmas section is over here." The girl took Clark's arm possessively and steered him to the back of the store. He shot Lois a desperate look, but she just rolled her eyes and trailed along behind as they threaded their way through racks of costumes. Superheroes, villains, monsters, and finally, the back corner, which was a sea of red, white, and green. One whole wall held Santa costumes and assorted accoutrements, and several free-standing racks held elf costumes, snowmen, and reindeer.
"See, here are the Santas, and this is our nicest one… feel how soft the coat is." She stroked the plush Santa suit rapturously. "It's a little more expensive," she warned him, "but really, it's worth it. Some of the other Santas have told me that the cheaper ones can chafe… you know, in places guys don't like to be chafed."
She tittered and winked at him, and he felt himself start to blush, which was stupid since he'd never chafed anywhere, ever, and wouldn't this time, either, but why wasn't his wife coming to his rescue? What had happened to teamwork, partnership… good old-fashioned jealousy?
"Er… that's okay," Clark said hastily. "I'll take that one, I guess." The Daily Planet was paying for it, after all, and Perry had told him to get whatever he wanted. "What do you think, honey?" He put just the slightest emphasis on the 'honey.' Just the slightest. His own private cry for help.
"Oh, it's definitely you, *honey*," Lois simpered. "You know how I love you in red."
Clark shot her a glare.
"Of course," she cooed, "nothing could top the way you looked in that telegraph operator costume that time…"
"Telegraph operator…?" The blond girl looked confused. "I don't think we have that one."
"Well…" Lois gave the girl a broad, conspiratorial wink. "That was back when we were newlyweds… trying new things. Trust me, he made it work for him."
"Lois!" Clark's face was flaming.
"Uh…" The poor girl seemed completely flummoxed, but she'd let go of Clark's arm, so that was progress of a sort. If he was still speaking to Lois later, which seemed unlikely, he might even thank her. "Do you know your size?" She sounded more businesslike now, probably ready to get the couple with the costume fetish out of her shop.
"Uh, no. I guess not. I've never done this before. The place I work does a little party for the kids at Coates Orphanage every year," Clark explained, wanting to sound as completely normal as possible. "Usually my boss plays Santa, but this year, he's going to be out of town."
"She doesn't need to know all of that, Clark." Lois reached up and grabbed a suit. "Here. Start trying these things on so we can get out of here. I'm starving."
"And my wife is interested in one of these elf costumes," he said, feeling that he was overdue for a little revenge. He reached behind Lois and grabbed the first elf-like thing he saw. Red and white striped tights dangled beneath a skimpy green dress with huge red buttons. "Oh, honey, this is great!" he enthused. "I think I might like you better in this than in that concubine costume you wore that time."
"Um, why don't I let you two look around a bit?" The shop girl edged away from them. "Just… take whatever time you need. The dressing room is back there." She nodded in the direction of a door and then practically ran to the front of the store.
"Nice touch," Lois told him, once the girl was gone. "Didn't think you had it in you."
He grinned. "I learned from the best."
"Well, it got rid of Blondie, so I'm not complaining. But seriously, pick a Santa suit and let's get out of here."
"I will… once you've picked your elf costume." He gave her what he hoped was a winning look and shook the hanger at her. The costume jingled merrily, which made his day. "Come on… go try this one on."
"Are you crazy?" she asked. "*That* costume isn't going to hide *this* bump." She put her hand protectively over the slight swelling of her abdomen. "There's no such thing as a pregnant elf, Clark."
"Sure there is! How else would they get more elves?"
"Who is *they*?" she demanded. "Who is it that you think is out there *breeding elves*?"
"Lois, compared to some of the things we've experienced, elf-breeding doesn't even rate as *interesting*. It'd be like… page four at best." He shook the costume at her again, mostly because he knew how much the sound of the bells would annoy her.
"I'm not being a pregnant elf!" she snapped.
"Please?" He gave her his best puppy-dog eyes. "I don't want any elf but you, Lois."
"What kind of a message would that send to the kids?" she demanded. "If I wore that, I'd be the naughty elf. The elf that's sleeping with the boss. The one who got caught in the back seat of Santa's sleigh. Is that what you want?"
He grinned. "Is this a trick question? Because you had me at 'naughty elf.'"
She cracked a smile in spite of herself. "There's a time and a place for everything, Clark, and I don't think the orphanage Christmas party is the place to act out your elf fantasies."
"I don't either," he told her more seriously. "But it's a great place for us to spend some time together celebrating Christmas with the kids. Really, Lois, why is this bothering you so much?"
"I've never liked Christmas. You know that." She was staring down at the Santa suit in her hands, and Clark reached over and tipped her chin up, making her face him.
"I don't believe you." He shook his head. "We've had great Christmases the last few years. So what is this about?"
"I just don't want to do it! Why does there have to be a reason?"
Clark put the elf costume back on the rack. "Because there is. There has to be. You're not this stubborn without a reason. So what is it? Why is spending one night with the orphans such a big deal to you? All you have to do is hand out a few gifts and entertain them a little while they're waiting to talk to Santa."
"Exactly!" she snapped. "I have to *entertain children*. When have you ever seen me do that, Clark? When have you ever seen me even willingly talk to a child? I don't talk to kids if I can help it because I never know what to say. Kids *adore* you. They look at you like you're some kind of hero even when you're not dressed as… you know." She made a little flying motion with her hand. "But they look at *me* like they're afraid I'm going to bite their little heads off or shove them into the oven. And I don't need a whole night of that right now."
"And would all of that have something to do with this?" he asked, putting his hand gently on the swell of her belly. "With the fact that next year, we'll be playing Santa for our own kid?"
"Of course not," she huffed. "Our kid won't even be able to talk next year."
"But it will the year after that." He smiled. "If it's a girl and she takes after you, we probably won't be able to get a word in edgewise."
He took the Santa suit from her and hung it on the nearest rack, and then he pulled her into his arms. "Lois, you're going to be a *great* mom," he told her, hugging her close. "You might not be a baking-cookies, stitching-samplers kind of a mom, but you're going to be the perfect mom for *our* child. And when it comes down to it, you're going to know the right things to say. Remember when you were kidnapped by Kripstly? You were locked in a room with all those frightened children, and you comforted them."
"By telling them a story about Superman," she mumbled into his chest. "So what happens when I run out of those?"
"You'll think of another one. And then another one. Trust me, honey, talking to our child is going to come naturally to you."
"Maybe," she admitted. "But that doesn't mean I'll be good with the orphans."
"Give it a try," he begged. He smiled down at her. "Be my naughty elf… please?"
She giggled, and he knew he'd won. "Will I get to sit on Santa's lap?" she asked, batting her eyes at him and lowering her voice seductively.
"Oh, yeah," he assured her. "Santa's looking forward to it…"