By Laura S. <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted September 2007
Summary: It's Secret Santa time at the Daily Planet! Lois, Jimmy and Perry have all been receiving lavish gifts, but Clark's desk remains empty, even as Christmas Eve rapidly approaches. But perhaps the best gifts are the ones that come in the most unexpected ways.
The Planet had been transformed. Completely and utterly transformed. Evergreen boughs snaked their way between the desks, twisted onto unsuspecting rails and other surfaces. Strategically placed mistletoe lent a festive air to one massive arch, and a brightly bedecked Christmas tree stood sentry over the rest of the office. Each desk had an envelope bearing its occupant's name in a typewriter's unrevealing script.
Clark Kent finally recovered from his shock at the substantial renovation his place of work had undergone and gave the entire office a bright, boyish smile. Christmas time. Finally. It was December first and the Planet staff had been amazing in their quick and beautiful transformation of the building. A light snow had fallen the previous evening, dusting the ground outside with a layer of powdered sugar. It was already beginning to melt, but it still sent a sharp zing of excitement through Clark whenever he glanced outside the Planet's big bay windows. Which he did. Frequently.
Looking over at his partner's desk, a habit that was quickly becoming tradition, he saw Lois had just arrived as well. Clark prepared a cup of coffee the way Lois always took it and made his way over, not quite shaking the residual effects of his smile.
"Morning Lois," Clark set the coffee on her desk and spread his arm wide, gesturing to the decorations. "Isn't this incredible?"
"Hi Clark," Lois grabbed the coffee and took a cautious sip. After the first warming mouthful, she took another, sighing blissfully. "Thanks for the coffee."
"No problem." He tilted his head slightly to the side. "But don't you think the office looks amazing?"
Lois glanced around, as if noticing it for the first time. "Oh yeah, the crew always does a pretty decent job." This said, she returned to booting up her computer.
"Pretty decent?" Clark asked incredulously. "It looks gorgeous."
"I suppose," Lois took another sip of her coffee and finally set it down. "It's freezing out there! This definitely hits the spot."
Clark was about to respond when a booming voice filled the office.
"All right folks! Listen up!" The office hubbub subsided slightly as the masses gave their attention to their editor-in-chief.
Perry White had a hand raised in an effort to quiet the crowd and when the office had reached an acceptable level of quiet, he spoke again.
"I know everyone has noticed the new decorations, so let's give Jenna McKinley a round of applause for her hard work." The Planet staff clapped politely and then turned their attention back to Perry. "It's time for the Daily Planet's annual Secret Santa! All right now, there's an envelope on your desk with your name on it. Inside there's someone who works in this office. You don't have to participate, but it's always a nice thought. You can buy one big gift if you'd like, but many choose to use the month of December to do some nice things for their Secret Santa. Doesn't have to be anything huge, just that little extra. Now I want everyone to make an effort this year!"
Was it Lois' imagination, or did Perry's eyes linger on her a moment longer than necessary?
"Ok… well we have a paper to get out! Open your envelopes and get working on your assignments. Paper won't print itself! Clark! In my office."
Clark gave Lois a quick grin and followed his retreating boss into his office.
With an absent wave at Perry, Lois logged onto her screen name, checked her email, and listened to her phone messages. The envelope lay untouched on her desk. She glanced over at Clark, who had since returned from Perry's office and saw him reading the paper inside and grinning widely.
For a moment she felt a pang in her heart. Whoever had been lucky enough to get Clark as his or her Secret Santa would be in for a treat. Lois expected nothing less from the man she considered to be the most kind and generous on the earth. In fact, it looked like Clark had already started scribbling a list of ideas. She bit back a laugh at this characteristic Clark behavior. He was so…well… Clarkish. It wasn't a word, but it should be. "Characterizes sweetness personified." Lois grinned slightly at her internal musings and finally picked up her envelope.
Guess she should find out who she'd have to go buy the latest bestseller for. Lois tore the top of the envelope and pulled out a piece of computer paper with a single name stamped boldly across the middle.
Lois slumped in her desk. Of all the people…! She'd have felt perfectly fine with getting Ralph or Whats-His-Name from Sports the whatever bestseller that was out, but Clark?
Clark was different. Clark was sitting there making out a list of possible things to do for his Secret Santa, most probably all considerate and well thought out, and she was debating which author to go for, Grisham or King.
Lois pushed the thought from her mind, however and sighed in resignation. Clark would understand… He was just that kind of guy. And speak of the devil… they needed to go meet with a source. She called his name and he stood immediately, flashing her a smile and holding out her coat.
Lois nodded and slipped an arm through the proffered sleeve. "Let's go."
The next morning, when Lois entered the office, the first thing she noticed was the fresh cut yellow rose sitting in a vase on her desk. She held it up gingerly, inhaling its delicate fragrance. Under the vase was an index card, printed on with an ordinary type from the computer.
*Yellow is for friendship. And a rose deserves a rose. Have a good day.*
*-Your Secret Santa*
Lois read the card and gasped. Clark… images from a not so distant memory flashed vividly across her mind. The Prankster, the beautiful yellow roses she had callously thrown coffee over, Clark saying "Those roses cost me fifty bucks." Yellow is for friendship…
God, it was just so…Clarkish! That word again. She glanced over at his desk, where he was sipping a cup of coffee, a cup he had gotten himself, she thought guiltily.
Well, getting his coffee for him would have given the game away! She argued valiantly with herself, but she couldn't ease the slight guilt coiling in her stomach as she took in the rose again.
Perry came out of his office with a furry Santa hat in one hand and a broad grin on his face. "My Secret Santa has struck!" He placed the hat on his head and gave his best impression of the Big Guy.
Lois shook her head, hiding a grin. The men in her life always turned a little mushy when it came to Christmas. She snuck another sideways glance at Clark, who was smiling at Perry and clapping him on the back.
"Nice impression, Chief."
"Well you know the King played Santa Claus a time or two… bless his soul. Does a heart good." Perry noticed the rose on Lois' desk and beamed at her. "I see your Secret Santa has been busy!"
Lois nodded and smiled at Clark. He caught her eye and grinned back.
"Have you gotten anything Clark?" Perry eyed Clark's empty desk, but Clark merely shrugged. "Not yet, but I'm not expecting anything huge! I really don't even need anything, I'm pretty happy."
If anybody else had said it, Lois thought, it would have sounded completely insincere, but she could tell Clark sincerely meant it. Boy scout. But even her inner voice couldn't dredge up much cynicism.
Over a couple desks, Jimmy Olsen unwrapped his first present, a pack of baseball games and gave a delighted laugh. He hadn't owned baseball cards in a long time. Ignoring the stack of work mounting beside him, he ripped open the casing and spent the next hour carefully examining each one, unable to keep the grin off his face.
Three days later, a neatly wrapped package lay innocuously on Lois' desk. It was wrapped in shiny silver paper and had a green satin bow on top. She eagerly tore the paper and couldn't help but laugh when she saw the VHS she pulled out.
Dr. Suess' 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas'
She hadn't seen this movie in ages, but she and Lucy used to watch it religiously on Christmas Eve. She eagerly turned it over and scanned the back. At least she'd have some company on Christmas when Clark returned to Smallville and she returned to her usual TV dinners and popcorn. She glanced guiltily up at Clark's again empty desk.
She hadn't really done anything for him… well she had allowed him to put the byline as Kent and Lane for once instead of the other way around, but that had really been because of the outcome of a bet lost a week or so ago.
The partner in question was currently leaning back in his chair, a pencil stuck behind his ear as he listened carefully to whatever the person he was speaking to was saying. Lois caught his eye and gave him a small smile, which he returned twice over, straightening and giving her a quick wave.
Lois laughed at his antics, because waves just simply weren't *done* at the Daily Planet, but somehow Clark made it work.
Jimmy picked up the manila file folder containing the information Clark had asked him to compile and taped it to the blue and red toy car he had received two days previously. After a final check to make sure the file was secure, he picked up the remote and set the car gingerly on the floor. Her fiddled with the controls and soon the car was zooming happily up to Clark's desk, running into his leg. Its rubber wheels squealed in protest at the obstacle in its path, and Clark grabbed the file, laughing.
Perry White watched the interaction under the guise of a disapproving eye, but inwardly he was beaming. Christmas was his favorite time of year and to see the two employees he regarded almost like sons enjoy themselves affected him too. He glanced at his desk, which someone had recently organized. His shelves were now all neatly labeled, the clutter gone, and a bag of cinnamon gummy bears, his absolute favorite, occupied the space on the newly polished cherry wood of his desk.
His Secret Santa had struck again.
Two weeks later, Clark's desk was still empty.
And Lois felt like a grade A heel for it. She had tried, honestly, but when she had attempted to get him coffee, he had beaten her to it, and when she went to place the Snickers bar on his desk, he had returned, whistling happily and she had to pretend she was making her way to the printers.
People were starting to whisper, as they too noticed that Clark Kent, who they had been certain had been giving so freely, was being so let down. There were general grumblings on who the scrooge could be, and Lois found herself trapped in a conversation with a female coworker who was complaining vehemently on his behalf. After she had categorized a list of his pleasing assets. When the woman had started on about Clark Kent's cute bu—, Lois had excused herself and beat a hasty retreat to the relative safety of her desk.
Besides, she was piqued that her naive partner was being so shamelessly ogled.
He was *her* partner.
And he was currently staring at her.
Lois straightened, nervously smoothing out her skirt. He was on the phone again, but instead of staring up at the ceiling, phone in hand, as was his usual habit, he had the phone resting on his shoulder. And he was staring at her, brown eyes slightly sleepy and a curious half smile on his face.
Lois tore herself away from his unfocused gaze and zeroed in on the news ticker on Yahoo! instead.
"Superman Saves Millions from Typhoon in India"
Ah yes. Clark had gotten the exclusive and typed it up this morning. Apparently Clark had been up all night, just like Superman. She started determinedly at the screen. Sleepy brown eyes were normal. She saw them all the time, on herself mostly, but on Clark too, when they've been on assignment and pulled an all nighter.
But yet they still managed to find that weak spot in her heart.
Only three days until Christmas. So far her Secret Santa had outdone himself. She had received the yellow rose, the movie, some of her favorite candy, a coupon for a free gallon of rocky road (that present had been especially well appreciated), and finally, a delicate glass reindeer to bedeck her Charlie Brown Christmas tree with. And there was more… she was sure of it. Sometimes she couldn't put her finger on exactly what, but things had been going smoothly for her, too smoothly. Almost as if someone had been anticipating her needs and actions.
Perry had been overjoyed with his stack of presents: the Santa hat, the massive cleaning job on his desk, an Elvis' Season Hits CD, some more cinnamon bears and finally a restored Elvis record, the one missing from his precious collection.
In addition to the toy car and the baseball cards, Jimmy had received a Metropolis Tigers baseball cap and a thick, high quality reporter's notebook.
And Clark Kent had not received a single gift.
But he never mentioned it, never gazed longingly at the stack on Jimmy's desk, or made seemingly off hand comments about his lack of presents. He just went through his business as normal: getting Lois a cup of coffee every morning, walking her home on icy nights, providing a sounding board for some of her off hand schemes.
Each day, when Lois returned home, she'd agonize over what to do, but she always told herself there was a tomorrow. Tomorrow she'd run over to Barnes and Noble to get that mystery book by the author he liked. After she chased this lead, she'd go sniff out his favorite candy. Later. And then it was December 23, and Secret Santa's were to be revealed on the 24rd.
And it was on that night that Lois thought of her gift.
"All right, folks!" Perry was decked out in his Santa hat, addressing the crowd yet again. "Time to fess up and admit who your Santa was. Circle up."
With a steady amount of good-natured groaning, the room dutifully circled up and Perry started.
"Okay, I admit, my Secret Santa was Robert Cayman." The shy copy boy raised his head in surprise.
"Really? That was you Mr. White? Thanks for the stuff!"
It continued in a circle. Jenny from marketing had Jimmy as a Secret Santa and Lois could already see him eyeing her appreciatively. Some things never changed.
A couple people later, it was Clark's turn. Lois smiled at him, already anticipating his words. "I was lucky enough to have my partner as my Secret Santa…"
"—enough to have our favorite editor…"
Lois didn't hear the rest of his words; her heart was pounding too fiercely in her chest. *Clark* wasn't *her Secret Santa*?! She must have spoken something to this effect because the attention in the room soon focused on her.
"No, Lois, I had Perry. You thought I was your Secret Santa?"
Lois blustered slightly, embarrassed to be wrong in front of the entire room. And did he have to look so smug? It was enough to make her almost regret the gift she had planned. Almost. All right, in fact she was looking for any excuse to drop the idea and get him that book after all. Better late than never, right?
"So who had Lois?" Perry spoke up a moment later, voicing the thought on the newsroom's mind. Lois had been watched with envy throughout the month. If Clark hadn't been the one spending such time and effort on the obviously meaningful gifts, then who had?
"Uh… I did Chief."
The room did a double take as Jimmy Olsen fessed up.
Jimmy had been the one picking out these amazing little presents?! She had to admit the "How the Grinch Stole Christmas"gift was admittedly a clear indication of Jimmy's modus operandi, but how had she been so mistaken!?
"T-thank you Jimmy," Lois stammered out, still unable to clearly voice her appreciation.
After this minor bombshell had been dropped, Perry turned on Lois next.
"So Lois, who did you have this year?"
"Oh, I had Clark."
As soon as the words had left her mouth, she regretted the cavalier way she had said it. In her excitement over the present she had planned for Christmas Eve, she had completely forgotten how she must look to the crowd. The office Scrooge, not even considerate enough to spend some time on her partner. Lois shrugged slightly and Perry moved on. Oh well, she had been the object of office gossip a few times now and the novelty had mostly worn off. She didn't care what these people thought of her. Well, she cared about Jimmy and Perry, but they'd understand her. And she cared about Clark; above all she cared about him. She looked up, hoping to catch his eye and give him a smile but she froze when she took in his face.
He looked completely normal, smiling an easy smile and laughing with the rest of the crowd. But his eyes… keen, intelligent, caring and sometimes sleepy were none of those now. They were hurt. Had she known him a bit less intimately she would have missed it altogether. In fact, she doubted even Perry or Jimmy could see past the million watt smile.
But she could.
Clark Kent hadn't cared when he hadn't received a gift, that she was still certain of. But he was devastated when it appeared that his partner hadn't cared about him enough to even extend an effort.
And when he finally met her eyes and his forced smile faded, Lois felt like the lowest life form on the planet.
He was on his way out of The Planet, having already left the newsroom. For a moment Lois wasn't sure if he would stop, but he finally turned around and met her gaze. He had avoided her all day, she was sure of it.
"Hi Lois," he said casually, his eyes still betraying him.
"Clark… Clark I know you think I'm the least human person you can probably care to name, but I need you." She spoke the last part thickly, emotion clouding her throat.
Clark's eyes immediately flashed from hurt to worry.
"Are you okay? Is something wrong?" He gently gripped her shoulders and ran a comforting hand down her back.
"I… I just need to see you tonight; can you come over around seven?"
"Of course I can, but are you sure nothing's wrong?"
Lois shifted anxiously from one foot the other, seemingly wrestling with her conscious.
"I'm sure," a beat passed and Lois seemed to come to a decision. Standing on her tip-toes, she pressed a light kiss to his cheek. "Thank you, Clark."
And in a flash of bright red coat and black scarf, she was gone.
The knock on the door sounded at exactly 6:59.
Lois nervously checked herself in the mirror one last time and did a slight twirl. She had on a burgundy Christmas dress purchased for the occasion and her hair was falling naturally, wavy rather than the ramrod straight she preferred at work.
Her nerves were shot.
It's just Clark, Lois told herself firmly. After checking to determine that yes, it was Clark, she took a deep breath and swung the door open wide.
He was dressed for the occasion, nice khaki slacks and a black sweater paired with his long black overcoat. Clark looked… good.
"You look beautiful," he said quietly. Lois started to smile, but something in his voice stopped her. It was quiet, reverent, but it bordered on sadness rather than the normal buoyant cheerfulness he usually had in abundance.
"Thank you, you don't look so bad yourself," Lois returned the compliment, trying to suppress the urge to wrap him in a hug. She held the door open wider and he stepped past her into the room.
"Hey…" His voice finally held a note of enthusiasm. "You decorated!"
Lois shrugged. "I decided I should probably spruce it up a little bit… No tree jokes!" She caught him just as he was opening his mouth and he snapped it shut, a delicious twinkle finally sparkling in his eye.
"You know me too well."
He offered her the wrapped box in his hand. "This is for you, Merry Christmas."
"I have something for you too," she replied, taking the box from his hands. "Sit tight here and I'll get it, but I also have to tell you something."
Clark nodded and sat down while Lois ducked into her room to pull out Clark's gift. She returned to find him idly flipping through the book of photographs she had tucked under the coffee-table's shelf. He was smiling at a page, when she came and sat beside him.
"Remember this?" He pointed to a picture of the two of them at the Smallville Corn Festival. Lois choked down laughter as she remembered the day.
"My God, could I have been any denser that trip? After insulting your birthplace, I called your father a cross dresser *to your mother's face* and THEN proceeded to insult both of their intelligences but implying that they didn't know what a fax machine was." Lois leaned her head back and closed her eyes in embarrassment.
"I'm surprised you've stuck with me this long."
Clark grinned and gave her hand a friendly squeeze. "You were worth it."
Their conversation lulled for a moment and Lois swallowed hard. Before Clark could remove his hand, she tightened her grip. The teasing glint in his eye mellowed somewhat, grew serious.
"I have something to tell you, Clark, it's about the Secret Santa."
Lois could almost feel him distancing, but she forced him to look her in the eye as she continued. "I know what you think, and I'm sorry for causing you that kind of pain," Lois said softly. "Believe me when I say hurting you is the last thing I'd want to do."
For the first time Clark voiced his feelings. "It doesn't bother me that you didn't go all out, I know Christmas isn't your thing," he said quietly, tucking a rogue strand of hair behind her ear. "I just thought I meant enough to you that you might leave a note or something."
His tone wasn't accusing, in fact he spoke mildly, but Lois could see the hurt as clearly as she could see the white lights twinkling on the tree behind him.
"That's what I wanted to tell you, I didn't forget… I have… I have a gift for you, and it's not just your Christmas gift, because I have that too," Lois held up the box and gave him a quick smile. "My Secret Santa gift to you, well, isn't so secret anymore, obviously. But that's not all, it… you might not want it. And that's what scares me the most."
"I can't imagine you giving me anything I wouldn't love, Lois." Clark's interest was piqued; he didn't think he had ever seen Lois quite so fidgety and nervous. "What is it?" He manfully resisted adding the endearment he privately had taken to calling her.
"Our life is built on words, Clark. Our jobs, our private correspondence… through it all, it's our words that intimately connect us," Lois swallowed hard and continued. "And so that's what I based my Secret Santa gift on, words. But some words can be empty if not spoken with the right inflection, the right amount of passion. And that's why I couldn't leave this note on your desk, or somewhere impersonal. I had to give it to you in person, if only so you could understand that they mean something to me. And it's my gift to you."
Lois reached behind her and pulled an envelope out. It was plain white, nearly identical to the ones that had contained their Secret Santa names in the first place. Clark's name was penned neatly on the front.
Unexpectedly moved by Lois's speech, though still at a loss to understanding what it was all about, Clark thumbed open the envelope, pulling out a plain sheet of computer paper, folded over twice.
He opened the paper—the words on the page were nearly as brief as that first letter. But Clark suddenly dropped the paper with a gasp, his gaze immediately locking on Lois' piercing brown one.
A moment later he had pulled her to him and they were kissing, a sweet, gentle kiss that portrayed both pent up emotion and deep and mutual love.
The paper fluttered unheeded to the ground, the simple words speaking eloquently. The couple on the couch continued to kiss, finding the solace both had sought. A breeze from the window pushed the paper up against the couch, face up. Lois' Secret Santa gift for Clark, a gift of three words and yet so much more than that.
"I love you."
Outside, it began to snow.
Merry Christmas, everyone. : )