By Lynn Baldwin (LBALD@aol.com)
Summary: A strange villain plots to keep Christmas from Metropolis.
"Clark, I hate to do this to you son," boomed Perry White's voice over the telephone line. "I know it's Christmas Eve and you were planning to leave for Smallville tonight, but I need you and Lois down at the Planet pronto. Something big is going on."
"That's no problem, chief. I can always fly to Smallville tomorrow. I'll be there as fast as I can."
Five minutes later, Clark stepped off the elevator and into the Daily Planet newsroom. He had arrived just seconds after Lois, judging by the unmelted snowflakes still clinging to her dark hair.
"Clark!" Lois exclaimed, as she surveyed his outfit: a sleeveless sweatshirt and sweatpants. "It's freezing out there! Where's your coat?"
Clark self-consciously compared his clothing to Lois' parka, scarf, boots and earmuffs. "Uh, um, Perry said it was important. I guess I just ran out the door without thinking."
"Well, you won't do us any good if you get pneumonia, Clark," Perry said, motioning for Clark to have a seat next to Lois at the conference table. "At least you're here. I couldn't even get Jimmy out of bed."
Lois suppressed a yawn as she asked, "So what's going on?"
"Well,.." Perry answered, yawning as he reached for his fifth cup of coffee of the evening, "Look at this."
He turned the large-screen TV on via remote control.
"Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot..." a familiar voice narrated as images of Dr. Seuss's kingdom filled the screen.
"You asked us down here to watch a Christmas special?" Lois asked incredulously.
"Of course not, Lois," Perry answered gruffly. "And if I did, it would be "A Christmastime Tribute to Elvis," not this drivel."
"This is not a special," he continued. "It seems to have taken over the airwaves." He quickly switched the channels on the remote, demonstrating that "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" was on every channel. "It's been on for hours and nobody seems to know why or how. I've talked to all of my contacts at the networks and they don't know anything. I even checked with Stormin' Norman and he doesn't know anything."
"Well, chief, it's not exactly a matter of national security," Clark ventured, playing with his tortoise-shell rimmed glasses.
"I know it may not seem like much of a story, but I smell something big here. And this nose is never wrong. I wouldn't intrude on you kids' Christmas Eve if I didn't think it was important, now would I?"
"Of course not, chief," Lois answered with a yawn, bundling up in her parka, scarf and earmuffs. Clark just nodded in agreement.
"Why don't put this on, Clark," Perry suggested, motioning to a coat slung over the empty chair by Jimmy's desk, "I'm sure Jimmy won't mind." Clark did as told, squeezing his large frame into Jimmy's leather bomber jacket.
In his hurry to arrive at the Daily Planet, Clark hadn't even noticed the strange phenomenon he was now witnessing outside. Although the dark streets of Metropolis were nearly deserted, the few people who wandered all looked exhausted. And this wasn't your typical "too much Christmas shopping and eggnog" kind of tiredness - everyone was yawning like crazy! In fact, the blank stares on some of the passersby were those of sleepwalkers.
As Lois and Clark passed by an electronics store, Clark observed a small group of people standing outside of the store's glass windows. They were seemingly mesmerized by eight television screens, each one filled with the evil grin of the Grinch.
In her hurry to get wherever it was that they were headed, Lois trudged ahead through the snow, her head down against the bitter wind. Suddenly, a fast-approaching noise caught Clark's attention. He spun around to face an out-of-control taxi, careening towards the people on the sidewalk. With a quick glance at the back of Lois' head and a swooshing sound, he was in front of the car before it could harm anyone. The sight of Superman woke the driver out of a deep sleep.
"Hey, Superman, thanks. I don't know what happened. One minute I was driving along Main Street listening to "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" on the radio, the next minute you're holding my fender."
Clark nodded to the driver as he pushed the car back onto its path. He worried for a moment about how to explain his sudden absence and reappearance to Lois, but he was relieved of that problem when he spotted her a few feet away. She was lying face down on the snowy sidewalk, snoring loudly.
"Lois, Lois, wake up," Clark said, shaking her gently. Her only response was to stir slightly. Still dressed as Superman, Clark scooped her into his arms and flew up into the night.
"Help, uh, oh...Superman...what ..what happened? Where I am?" Lois asked groggily, slowing opening her eyes to find herself on the sofa in her own apartment. She saw Superman looking down at her with concern.
"I'm not really sure what happened, Lois, but everyone in Metropolis seems to be under some kind of sleep spell."
"What about..." started Lois.
"I took Clark home also," Superman answered before she could finish the question. He'd have to think of something so that Lois wasn't always asking "Where's Clark? What happened to Clark?" although the fact that she always asked made him quite happy.
Lois sat up and reached for the remote control. "Let's see if there's something about this on the news."
"His heart was two sizes too small..." Click. "two sizes too small..." Click. "sizes too small..." Click.
"It's still on all the channels," Clark said, "Maybe Perry had a point when he said that something was going on."
"How do you know what Perry said, Superman?" Lois questioned.
Clark glanced down at his red-booted feet. "Uh, Clark told me."
"I'm going to call him and see how he's doing," Lois said, turning around to pick up the phone. Before she'd gotten to the second number, Superman had disappeared out the window and into the night.
Clark picked up the phone in his apartment with one hand and reached for the television remote control with the other. "Hi, Lois. Yeah, I'm feeling a little better. How about you?"
"I ... um ...yawn ... well, yeah," Lois managed to utter. "Got any ideas?"
"Well, no," Clark started to say, before he noticed something that changed his mind. He turned up the volume on the TV and listened carefully.
"I must find some way to find some way to stop Christmas from coming," said the Grinch, followed by a much fainter background voice, "There will be no Christmas this year. Sleep, Metropolis, sleep."
"Clark? Clark?" Lois' insistent voice broke Clark's concentration. He faked a noisy yawn into the phone.
The voice of the Grinch droned on, followed again by the fainter voice, "Christmas no longer exists. Sleep, Metropolis, sleep."
"Don't fall asleep on me, Clark!" demanded Lois. "Why don't you come over and we'll see if we can't figure this thing out."
"Clark, I'm still kind of sleepy. I'll be waiting for you in bed."
"Alright," replied Clark, with an audible smirk in his voice, as visions of Lois in a negligee danced before his eyes.
"You know what I mean!" Lois said, "And hurry up!"
With a billow of his red cape, Clark was out of his apartment and flying high above the city. Using his superhearing, he honed in on the sound which was unintelligible to the rest of Metropolis. His job was made easier due to the strange silence of the city. Apparently, he was one of the few people not susceptible to the hypnotic effect of the subliminal message.
Clark had identified the transmission as coming from the riverfront district and was heading in that area when he heard an all too familiar voice from afar.
"Clark? Clark? If you're there, pick up. Where are you?" Lois slammed down the receiver without bothering to leave her name and number after the beep.
Clark realized he had to go to Lois. If left alone, she might do something rash. Besides she'd be furious if he got the story without her. After all, they were partners - even though at times it seemed more like a threesome!
Moments later, Clark knocked on Lois' door, this time more appropriately dressed in a ski jacket and boots.
"What took you so long?" Lois demanded as she opened the door for Clark. She still looked rather groggy and Clark noticed that she was wearing two different socks. He'd been around her enough in the morning to know that she wasn't at her most cheerful immediately after waking up, so he decided not to comment on her fashion faux pas.
"I did a little digging," Clark started to explain as he entered the apartment.
"Without me?" Lois screeched.
"Well, you didn't sound like you were in any shape to help," Clark replied.
Lois approached Clark and hit him teasingly on both shoulders. "It's not fair. How come you're so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed while I'm struggling to stay awake?"
"Um, well...ginseng!" he unexpectedly answered.
Clark dashed around the corner into the kitchen. In a matter of seconds he was at his apartment and back, returning with a teabag. He placed the teabag into a mug of water, then zapped it with his heat vision.
"Yeah, ginseng, it's a natural stimulant. Drink this," Clark said, handing Lois a mug of steaming tea.
"How did you..." she started to question, eyeing him curiously.
"Drink it while it's hot. We've got work to do," instructed Clark.
Moments later the two reporters were in Lois' Cherokee, heading towards the river. "So Superman told you that "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" contains a subliminal message that is putting everyone asleep?"
"That's crazy, " Lois said, thinking for a minute, "But I guess if you think about it, a lot of weird things go on around here.
Clark replied with a knowing look, "That's for sure!"
"Well, partner, let's find out who's behind this ... and why!" said Lois.
They parked the jeep a few hundred yard from the river, then got out to walk. Clark listened for a minute, then instructed, "This way."
"How do you know?" Lois asked.
"Just a hunch. C'mon, Lois, trust me," Clark pleaded as he moved towards the building he indicated. Surprisingly, Lois followed. Clark led the way to a deserted warehouse, a three-story brick building with broken windows which looked like it had seen better days. As they cautiously approached the door, Lois noted that it was barred with a sturdy-looking piece of metal. Clark stepped in front of Lois, obstructing her view, and gently pushed on the lock. It broke off in his hand.
He turned to face her, pretending to pant slightly and commented, "It must have been rusted through."
For a brief moment, Lois looked at him suspiciously. It was funny how locks just happened to be "rusted through ," doors just happened to "be left open," and fences always contained holes whenever Clark was around. But these suspicions left her mind just as quickly as they had entered as her senses heightened to focus on the task at hand.
Lois and Clark crept into the darkened building. The two voices Clark had heard on TV, the Grinch's and the subliminal message, were very strong here. Clark almost commented on this before he realized that they weren't audible to Lois. With a sweep of his X-ray vision, Clark saw that there was nobody on the first floor. Lois came to the same conclusion minutes later and motioned for Clark to follow her up a rickety wooden staircase to the second floor. They had almost reached the top when Lois misjudged the distance between the unevenly spaced stairs and started to fall. A strong hand quickly balanced her.
"Thanks Clark. Good reflexes," Lois whispered, turning around to smile at Clark.
"Shh," Clark motioned, index finger to his lips.
"Do you hear something?" Lois whispered, once they'd reached the top of the stairs.
"...but whatever the reason, his heart or his shoes..."
"Yes, " Clark answered, knowing that she was still not hearing the second voice he detected, "Christmas is stupid. Sleep, Metropolis, sleep."
"What the..." Lois started, but the words caught in her throat as a light was suddenly thrown on, illuminating a completely unexpected sight. A white-haired man, dressed in a red suit and fur-trimmed hat was seated behind a bank of audio-visual equipment. The equipment whirred and clicked as he adjusted dials and knobs, while looking up occasionally at a small TV set showing "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."
"Santa?" Clark asked.
Lois shot her partner a killer look. "Yeah, Clark, and I'm the Easter Bunny. Get real. Now who are you?" she asked, directing her question to the man. He got up from his chair, revealing that he was only four feet tall. He also revealed a rifle, which he was pointing right at them.
"No, I'm not Santa. I'm one of his elves, or at least I used to be," the man said with a straight face as he approached Lois and Clark with the gun.
"You used to be one of Santa's elves? What happened?" Clark asked in an even tone.
"Clark!" Lois screamed in dismay, "Don't tell me you believe this garbage! This man is obviously crazy!" Lois stomped her foot to illustrate her position as she stifled a yawn.
"Sir, you'll have to excuse my partner, " Clark said gently to the strange man who was still pointing the gun in their direction.
"I suppose you still believe in Santa Claus, Clark," Lois said sarcastically, interrupting Clark's comments to the elf.
"Well, yes," Clark answered, "I..."
The elf interrupted with a glare as he moved closer to Lois and Clark. "Okay, you two. I really don't care if you believe me or not. Santa didn't believe in me either; that's why I'm here." His small frame shook with anger. "He laid me off! Said I had a bad attitude! Can you believe it?"
"So you decided to ruin Christmas for Metropolis, " Clark surmised.
"By putting everyone to sleep?" finished Lois, a stunned expression on her face as she looked down at the little man in red.
"That right!" the elf answered with a cackle, "If everyone sleeps through Christmas, it'll be as though it doesn't exist. I'll show that fat, jolly Kris Kringle!"
Lois asked with a yawn, "How come you're not falling asleep?"
"What are you, a reporter or something?" asked the elf.
"Well, as a matter of fact, yes. Lois Lane, Daily Planet," Lois answered, proudly displaying her press badge.
"Well, then Ms. Lane, this will be your last interview," the elf replied, as he moved to within feet of Lois and Clark, his tiny boots echoing on the wooden floor. "I'm an elf. My molecular structure is different than yours," he continued, looking directly at Clark. Clark faked a yawn. "But that doesn't really matter now. What matters is that now that you know my secret, you can't be allowed to report it. So I'm afraid I have no other choice." He raised the rifle and prepared to shoot.
But Clark was faster. He rapidly brought his hand to his mouth as though to cover a yawn. Through the opening between his thumb and forefinger, he blew a strong blast of air. The elf toppled backwards slightly, as if he'd been punched in the stomach. Instantly, Clark was upon him and reaching for the gun.
The elf was much quicker than he appeared. With a crack, a bullet left the barrel of the gun and headed directly for Clark. Lois covered her eyes and screamed. In that instant, Clark plucked the bullet out of the air, while momentarily blinding the elf with a beam of low-intensity heat-vision.
"Clark, Clark, are you okay?" Lois shrieked. Tears of joy welled up in her eyes when she saw that he was. "I heard a shot. I must have covered my eyes. What happened?"
"He missed, " Clark responded, as he ground the bullet to a powder with his fingers, letting it slide to the floor. "Go call the police. I'll cover him," Clark said, motioning with the gun to the elf, who cowered on the floor.
"No, Clark, you call the police. I'd like to stay here and talk to Mr. Elf for a while.
"Whatever," replied Clark, handing over the gun. Although he wouldn't admit it, he admired Lois' gall - she'd just been through a terrifying experience, but she wouldn't give up the chance to get a story. Clark dashed for the stairs, then returned a minute later in a whoosh of blue and red.
"It looks like you've got everything under control here, Lois," he announced, standing with his arms crossed over the S insignia which covered his broad chest.
"Superman!" Lois exclaimed, "Yes, well, to tell you the truth, Clark did help me," she explained, surprising Clark with her willingness to share the credit.
Clark strode over, his cape flowing behind him, and gently removed the gun from Lois' hands. He bent the metal, then, using it like a handcuff, imprisoned the terrified elf against a metal post. Next, Clark approached the television equipment. The clicking and whirring came to a halt due to a blast a heat vision. The monitor went blank. Clark noted with satisfaction that the two voices he'd been hearing all evening - that of the Grinch and the subliminal one - were replaced by the normal noises of Christmas Eve throughout Metropolis.
Clark floated towards the window, then stopped in response to Lois' voice, "Wait, Superman."
He flew back to where she stood. "I just wanted to wish you Merry Christmas, Superman," Lois said with a smile as she planted a kiss on the man of steel's cheek. Clark responded in kind with a gentle kiss on Lois' cheek.
"Merry Christmas, Lois." He turned and flew out the window. Seconds later, Clark returned, accompanied by the sirens of Metropolis' finest.
Lois and Clark walked back towards the jeep. "What a way to spend Christmas Eve, huh, Lois?"
"You know, " suggested Lois with a smile at her partner and friend, "It's not over yet. How about coming back to my place and helping me decorate my Christmas tree?"
Clark refrained from making a sarcastic remark about the fact that it was the day before Christmas and Lois still had not decorated her tree. He knew that she was a procrastinator, and besides, there was no one he'd rather spend the rest of Christmas Eve with.
Clark suppressed a laugh as he looked at the pathetic little tree Lois had positioned on a table in front of her open window.
"I felt sorry for it," Lois explained, noticing Clark's look.
"You're a good man, Charlie Brown," Clark teased, gently squeezing Lois' hand.
Unexpectedly, Lois returned his squeeze, then turned to face Clark. "Clark," she said, looking directly into his chocolate brown eyes, "Tonight really made me think. For a minute there, I thought I was going to lose you. It made me realize how much I care." She reached up and gently caressed his face.
"Oh, Lois," Clark sighed, as he bent down to meet her mouth in a tender kiss.
Lois pulled back slightly. "Clark, please take your glasses off. I've never seen you without them and I'd like to."
Clark hesitated slightly, then slowly reached up for the tortoise-shell frames.
Swoosh - the curtains danced as Lois felt a familiar puff of air. She spun around to face the window, but not before Clark noticed that she looked a little disappointed, not thrilled like she usually did when faced with a fly-by visit by Superman.
Clark pushed his glasses back up onto the bridge of his nose. "Look, Lois," he said, pointing towards the window at the source of the breeze.
A large red sleigh, pulled by a team of nine reindeer, floated by the apartment building. The red-suited man seated inside cracked the reins as he shouted in a jolly voice, "Merry Christmas to all ... and to all a good night!"