By IRC Round Robin
Submitted December 1998
Summary: It's Christmastime in Metropolis, and as Lois and Clark contemplate the possibility that their family will be expanding, they along with everyone else are preparing to celebrate the holidays. Of course since this is Metropolis we're talking about, we all know that things will be just a little off center ;).
An IRC Round Robin by Zoomway <firstname.lastname@example.org>; chrispat <email@example.com>; CrystalW <JCWimmer@aol.com>; Misha <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Eraygun <Eraygun@aol.com>; Mackteach <Mackteach@aol.com>; Lansbury <email@example.com>; SUPERfan <CKandLL4ever@juno.com>
Morning — December 23
Lois stood in the front yard of the Coates Children's Home surrounded by a throng of young expectant faces. All eyes were skyward waiting for the hero of the hour. Only in Metropolis would the children be waiting for a man in blue tights rather than one in red velvet, but either way, Superman was just as magical to them.
A large white mitten tapped Lois' shoulder. She turned and smiled. "Santa, I think you're being upstaged today."
Santa shrugged and laughed. "Even I look forward to Superman helping out the kids this time of year. You remember Danielle, Ms. Lane?"
"Oh yes, the little girl who couldn't speak," Lois said, finally recognizing *what* Santa she was speaking to. "How is she?"
"Well," he beamed. "It's been exactly one year since her adoption, and that kid who was sort of her protector, he's her big brother now." He paused as Superman began to descend with a huge red bundle. "And maybe Superman would like to know that."
"I'll be sure to tell him," Lois said, watching the elf in blue tights suddenly mobbed by children.
"It's kind of a shame," Santa mused softly, "that Superman does so much for children, but has none of his own. I have a feeling he'd be a great father."
"He will," Lois sighed. "Er … would! I meant *would* be a good father … Uh, would you like to come to the Daily Planet Christmas party tonight, Santa?" Lois asked, abruptly changing the subject. "Give the kids a treat?"
"Thank you, Ms. Lane," he said and chuckled loudly. "I'll be there with sleigh bells on!"
"Great," Lois said, and then looked quickly from left to right as children, flanking her on both sides, hustled her toward Superman. "We're short of elves," Santa winked, and put a cap on Lois' head.
Jimmy elbowed through the crowd with his camera and snapped a photo of Lois.
"Jimmy, if I see this on *any* page of the Planet, I'll delete all of your bookmarks, even the 'Cowgirls in Spurs' site."
Jimmy swallowed. "Research … it was all research," he stuttered. "I'll, uh, just get some more photos of Superman now."
Lois smiled up at Clark. "Need some help, Superman?"
"Yes, I could use some help," he said, and tried not to laugh.
"No comment about my hat?" she asked dryly.
"Uh … not right now. Superman doesn't lie and Superman doesn't want a black eye either."
An hour later, Lois and Superman stood with Santa watching the kids play with their new toys. Jimmy was still snapping photos for the Sunday edition.
Santa shook Superman's hand. "Thank you for making this a special day for the kids. Will you be at the Daily Planet later?"
Lois and Superman exchanged glances. "I'll try to make it, Santa, but you know how it is …"
Santa laughed. "Yes. A Superman's work is never done. Merry Christmas and thanks again."
Superman turned to Lois. "Would you like a lift to the Planet, Lois?"
"You mean Superman Express?" Lois asked with a smile. "Sure. Clark is probably wondering where I am. We were supposed to meet there an hour ago."
"Oh, yeah. We don't want him to get suspicious, do we?" he grinned. He swept her up in his arms and leapt into the sky, leaving Santa gazing after them with a quizzical expression on his face.
As they soared over Metropolis, Lois smacked him on the arm. "Now you've got poor Santa wondering what's going on between us."
Clark nuzzled her hair. "I know what I'd like to have going on between us now, but I think I can wait till after the party … or do we need to stop off at home to pick up anything?"
"I'd love to stop off at home, but I can't think of a thing I need besides you." She whispered the words into his ear, grateful that they were high enough that their actions were hid from observers.
He kissed her cheek gently. "Then it's off to work."
Clark delivered them safely on the roof. He changed quickly out of the Superman costume and the couple descended the stairs to the city room. They both raised their eyebrows, impressed by the Daily Planet's elaborate decorations. It was slightly more grandiose than it had been the year before, and best of all, there was no nasty little imp hiding in the background.
"I don't really mean to bother you," A voice intruded. "But I figured I needed to meet you before you two snuck off to the cloak room."
Lois stared at the well-dressed stranger, waiting impatiently for him to get to the point as he extended his hand to Clark and shook it firmly.
Clark bristled slightly at the man's touch. There was something cold about him, something slightly reptilian. "And you are?" Clark asked warily.
"Morgan Edge," the man replied as he took Lois' hand. "Very pleased to meet you, Mr. Kent, and you too Miss Lane." He glanced at Clark and winked. "Or should I call you Mrs. Kent?"
"Lane will do just fine." Lois removed her hand from his at the earliest possible moment. "So how do you know us and why are you here, Mr. Edge?"
"To the point. I like that in a reporter." Morgan leaned on the nearest divider. "I'm going to be working with Perry for a while. He needed a little personal time, and management decided I was the best man for the job." He seemed to preen just a bit at that comment. "I'm the Planet's Bureau Chief in Los Angeles."
Lois' eyebrow rose. "I see." Her views on the LA office as the dumping ground for sycophants, cronies and bad writers had been voiced at the top of her well-trained lungs many times in the past few years. Few of the staffers who had been at the Planet for more than six months had missed out on hearing her opinion.
"Linda King has told me so much about you, it's like I know you already."
"Oh, really?" Clark tried to hide his wince at Lois' tone. "You know Linda?"
Morgan grinned and winked. "We do lunch all the time. Nothing she's told me has been at all contradicted by anything I've seen."
Clark cleared his throat. "Does Linda work for the LA Bureau?"
Morgan looked up. "Oh, no. She's got far too much talent for that."
"Like this guy could tell talent if it bit him," Lois muttered behind her teeth, certain that Clark could hear every word.
Clark eased his hand up Lois' shoulder, attempting to calm her. "What is she doing?"
"Oh, this and that." Morgan teetered his hand back and forth. "Last I heard she was co-producing a splendid little drama for ABC."
"Oh, how nice for her." Lois smiled, showing enough teeth for a rabid piranha.
"Lois…" The warning tone in Clark's voice made her look up at him.
"Yes, Clark?" She was almost sorry for wanting to rip off Morgan's head verbally.
"Isn't it almost time to go and meet that source …" Clark's eyes were begging for a way out of the room. "You know … the, uh …"
"For the Christmas tree arson?" Lois grabbed onto the excuse, suddenly wanting to be as far away from Morgan Edge and the sense of the slime that collects in the bottom of old kitchen garbage cans as she could.
"I thought you'd never remember." She grabbed her purse and coat and the sleeve of Clark's jacket. "It's been nice meeting you. We'll see you around, buh-bye!" The final syllables were tossed over her shoulder as they hurried up the ramp.
Lois banged on the down button until the doors slid slowly open, and hustled Clark into the elevator with a few sneaking glances past his shoulder at Edge, still leaning against her desk. He was smiling at the new intern, Agnes.
At the ding of the doors, Lois threw herself into Clark's arms. "Eww …" She shuddered. "I don't like him, Clark."
Clark wrapped his arms tightly around her. "I know, Lois." He kissed her forehead. "I think he might be the only one in a three desk radius who didn't realize that."
She looked up at him. "Please tell me this isn't a real emergency."
Clark grinned. "I didn't want to have to call the paramedics if you'd kept talking to him … and …" He dropped his gaze to her shoulder. "I didn't really like him either.""
"Oh, Clark." Lois' smile was as bright as it was sudden. "Thank you for being so … human." She drew his head down to hers.
They were still kissing when the elevator doors opened.
Lois and Clark released their clinch at the sound of applause in the Daily Planet lobby. "Matinees Monday through Friday," the cashier at the snack stand shouted.
Clark blushed fiercely as he ushered Lois through the revolving door. "Remind me, honey, that the 'ding' means *stop*."
"I kind of like it," Lois sighed wistfully. "I always wanted to be on stage when I was a little girl."
"Well," he said, wrapping an arm around her as a chilly gust of wind caught them. "You have the talent for it."
Lois smiled wickedly. "You have talent too, but it would get the theater raided."
Clark laughed and turned away from the Jeep.
"Hey," Lois protested. "What's the big idea?"
"Well, I got a tip just before we left for the Coates Orphanage and I have someone I want to talk to. He hangs out in the park. It's not far to walk."
Lois snuggled deeper against Clark as the wind gusted again. "Who?"
"Tony "Donut" Ratzenburg."
"Charming," Lois smiled. "Never heard of him. I wish Bobby Bigmouth wasn't visiting his folks at Leavenworth."
"It's the holidays, honey. Even informants need time with their families," Clark said, and then scanned the park quickly. "There he is."
"*Him*?" Lois asked, her eyes the size of saucers. "He's a cop."
"A subway cop, but since the subway is renovating, the park hired him to look imposing."
Lois nodded. "I knew the Park Commissioner was a crook."
Clark cleared his throat. "Hi, Tony," he said and shook the 'imposing' 110-pound officer's hand.
"Clark, whaddya say?" He smiled and glanced at Lois. "And who's the talent?"
Clark beamed with pride. "This is my wife, Lois Lane, Tony."
"Hey, so Clark isn't a hermit after all! Nice to meet you, Mrs. Kent."
Lois smiled despite her lingering bad feelings over Morgan Edge. "Call me Lois, please."
"Lois. Will do," he said and turned back to Clark. "I have a feeling you aren't here to exchange gifts, not that I couldn't use some new speed-loaders and pepper mace. I dropped my canister in the station and the Bakerline Express ran over it. Cleared out the whole 95th Street station."
Clark laughed. "No, Tony, we need some inside information. "
The small man brightened. "Homicide? Drugs? Vice? Numbers rack—"
"More like the current upswing in crime," Lois interrupted. "It seems like everything from petty theft of Christmas trees to arson in random districts around the city."
Tony looked thoughtful for a moment. "You know, when you're a transit cop, you don't get a whole lot of inside info, but when you ride from station to station, you see the *real* city, not pushpins on a map in the Detectives' Division."
"And?" Clark prompted.
Tony smiled. "The districts getting torched ain't so random. They're all retail zones."
"So someone is setting fires in the retail districts to … what exactly?" Lois shrugged. "Pull a Lex Luthor and buy property at fire sale prices? Apply 'en masse' for insurance claims?"
"Well," Tony said as he repeatedly snapped and unsnapped the empty mace pouch on his Sam Brown belt. "I'm not pointing fingers, you understand, but I find it pretty amazing that not one store in the CostMart chain has been touched."
Lois and Clark turned to each other. "Mindy Church," they said in unison. Lois grabbed Tony's hand and shook it vigorously. "Thanks. You've made our day."
"You're welcome," Tony said, rescuing his hand. "You're not related to Superman, are you?" He grimaced as he massaged it gingerly.
Clark chuckled. "Thanks, Tony, and Merry Christmas. We have to run." He hurried to catch up with his wife who was halfway across the park.
"Merry Christmas, Tony," she called over her shoulder, "Nice meeting you. Clark, this time we've got her. I knew she was crooked the minute I laid eyes on her."
"Now, hold on, honey. There's no proof. It's just rumor and innuendo so far."
"Clark Kent, you are just too gullible. I never believed Joey Bermuda was smart enough to run Intergang, and he insisted Mindy set him up."
"But, honey, Mindy isn't the brightest bulb on the tree. What makes you think she could run Intergang?"
"Ha! That's just what she wants you to believe."
Clark gave up. He knew it wasn't worth arguing with Lois when she was on reporter overdrive. "Okay, okay. You want to start doing some computer research, fine. Let's go."
When they returned to the Planet, Lois was relieved to discover that "the walking oil slick," Morgan Edge, was nowhere in sight. However, the preparations for the office party were in full swing so she retreated to the conference room, taking her notes and laptop with her to begin her research. She'd made a promising start when she was interrupted by a soft rapping on the door.
"Can I talk to you for a minute, darlin'?"
"Sure, Perry," Lois beamed. "What can I do for you?"
"Well, it's about Morgan Edge."
Lois grimaced. "What about him?"
"Now, Lois, honey, don't start …"
"Start what? Perry, I—"
"Honey, I know you well enough to know you don't like the man. Hell's bells, I'm not sure I like him. "
Lois looked down and began to shuffle the papers on the conference table "I'm that obvious?"
Perry grinned and winked at her. "Only when it comes to dealing with pompous jackasses."
Now it was Lois' turn to grin.
"Normally, it wouldn't matter darlin', but there are going to be a few changes here at the Planet and Morgan's going to be a part of them. I'd hate for you or Clark to get off on the wrong foot with him."
"What kind of changes, Perry? Is something wrong? Are you leaving?"
"Now, Lois. Nothing's wrong. It's just that … well, … I'm gonna be cutting back on my work load here at the Planet. Morgan will be picking up the slack."
Lois frowned. Getting up from her seat she walked toward Perry. "Cutting back? Perry, what is it?" Her frown lessened as she saw that for one of the few times since she had known him, Perry was at a loss for words. "Perry?" she coaxed.
Clearing his throat, Perry answered. "Well, Lois … it's just that … see, Alice and I have been seeing a lot more of each other lately …"
Lois began to smile.
"And … well … aw heck, Lois … even Elvis needed quality time with Priscilla." He raised his eyes to her. "Do you understand what I'm trying to say?"
Lois' smile widened. "I think I do, Perry. You want to spend more time with Alice and try to make things work between you two."
A grin of relief came over Perry's face. "I knew you'd understand, Lois."
"I do, Perry. Clark and I felt terrible when you and Alice broke up." Her smile turned slightly wistful. "I guess we wanted you and her to be as happy as we are."
Perry took Lois' hand. "I'm sure goin' to give it a try, Lois. Y'know, I love that lady. I always have."
Lois sighed and hugged Perry. "And she's always loved you, Chief. I hope it works out." She tightened the hug for a brief moment before stepping back.
She grinned at Perry, seeing in his eyes that he was hoping for the same thing as well.
"Well, I'll leave you to your research," Perry said, "but, remember, honey, there are other things besides work. Relax a bit, get into a party mood."
Lois smiled and nodded. "I know, Perry." She gathered up her notes, and followed him out of the conference room, heading for her desk. Jimmy was depositing a pile of notes on it as she arrived. Clark joined them both, a cup of hot coffee in each hand. He gave Lois hers and sat on the edge of her desk.
"Those papers are messages from a guy who said he only wanted to talk to you." Jimmy bent to collect a couple of the small slips of paper. "He called himself Wee Willie Williams. Said it was urgent and for you to call him at this number."
Lois took them from Jimmy's hand. "Thanks, Jimmy. Did he say anything else? How many times has he called? Did you talk with him each time?" The questions came rapidly while she scanned each message. "All they say is for me to call him. He doesn't say why or what's up."
Jimmy shrugged. "I told you all I know."
"Well, I might as well see what is up." Lois dialed the number on the top message and heard the phone begin to ring on the other end. At the fifth ring she looked up into Clark's eyes and raised her eyebrows. "He's not at home."
"Give it another try, honey. Maybe you didn't let it ring long enough."
Lois redialed the number and held up a finger each time the phone rang. On the fourth ring she was surprised when someone answered.
"Hallo, Wee Willie speakin'."
"Hi, Wee Willie, this is Lois Lane. I got your messages."
"Ms. Lane. I'm glad you returned my calls. Me and my family, especially my wife, wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. If it weren't for you and that story you wrote that cleared me last spring, this is one bookie that would be celebrating the holidays behind the bars of the State pen. I just wanted to let you know that I don't forget a good deed. I owe you a big one and I pay my debts. You need anything … anytime, you just let Wee Willie know."
Lois smiled and nodded as she put down the receiver. "Well, that was a nice surprise. Not everything that happens to us is a crisis — what's this? Jimmy, when did this come?" Lois picked up a small cassette tape which had been buried under the phone messages.
Jimmy frowned and reached for the cassette tape. Turning it over in his hand, he finally shrugged his shoulders and handed it to Lois. "I don't know, Lois. I've never seen it before."
Lois looked at the tape. There was no label, no markings whatsoever on it. She looked at Jimmy. "You didn't put this on my desk?"
Jimmy shook his head. "Nope." Out of the corner of his eye he saw one of the interns walking toward the elevator. "Um, Lois? Is there anything else?"
Lois answered distractedly. "No, Jimmy … thanks." She sat down slowly, staring at the tape, mentally willing it to tell her where it came from.
With a look at Clark, Jimmy hurried toward the elevator. "Hey, Agnes! Wait up!"
Clark grinned as he watched Jimmy join Agnes to wait for the elevator. He had no doubts that Jimmy would have her phone number by the time they reached Microfilm. He just hoped that Jimmy remembered that he was still seeing Clarissa. As the elevator doors closed on Jimmy and Agnes, he shook his head.
"I can see the fireworks now, honey." He looked at Lois still staring at the tape. "Lois?"
Lois looked up, startled. "Huh?"
"I was just saying that Jimmy's about to see fireworks for Christmas if Clarissa finds out about Agnes …" His voice trailed off as he noticed that Lois wasn't listening to him. "Lois … honey? What's the matter?"
Lois focused on Clark. "Huh? Oh, nothing, Clark. Just this tape …"
Clark took the tape from her hand. "Well, why don't we just find out what's on it, shall we?" He walked toward the conference room, Lois falling into step by his side.
They returned to the conference room and closed the door. In the sudden quiet of the room, Clark turned to Lois. "I never realized how much Christmas music was piped into the newsroom."
Lois smiled. "I know. Just once though, I wish they wouldn't play Alvin and the Chipmunks so much."
Clark chuckled as he popped the tape into the cassette player. "Let's see if this is something better."
Lois sat on the edge of the conference table. "As long as it's not those dogs barking 'Jingle Bells,' I'll be happy."
They smiled as Clark pushed the PLAY button. As they listened to the tape, their smiles faded and their looks grew serious. As the tape continued, Lois reached for one of the ever-present pencils and notepads and began to jot down key words as she listened.
The one-sided telephone conversation continued, the low husky voice still decidedly feminine despite the attempt to disguise it. "uh huh … right … the best time … we'll hit them up then … when everyone's preoccupied … no, no … everything's all set … right … ok …"
Clark pushed the STOP button and looked at Lois. "Everything's all set … set for what?"
She shrugged her shoulders. "Your guess is as good as mine, honey, but … there's something sort of familiar about that voice."
Clark frowned. "Okay, it must have been left here before Wee Willie started calling …" He popped the tape out and pulling down his glasses, stared at it intently from every angle. "First we figure out who put this on your desk …"
Clark shook his head. "Nope, but …" He paused, pushing his glasses back up his nose.
"Jimmy mentioned bumping into Agnes on his way to get the phone when he first came in. I think it was a planned bump on his part, but it means she was here."
Lois and Clark exchanged a grin, then yelled out "Jimmy!" in unison.
Five minutes later Jimmy hovered outside the conference room door, shuffling a folder full of blank paper. Agnes, oblivious to his surreptitious glances, stood inside, quite happy to answer any questions that the Planet's top reporters might ask of her.
"Agnes, I found this tape on my desk today, do you know who put it there?"
"Oh, it came in a package addressed to 'Reporter', and I didn't want to put too much mess on your desk, so I threw away the package."
Lois gritted her teeth. "You what?"
"Oh, there was a note with it, too." Agnes opened the file folder she seemed to have stapled under her arm. "Here ya go." She smiled. "Did you want anything else?"
"No thank you, Agnes." Clark held open the door for her. "That was more than enough."
"'Dear … Jimmy?'" Lois read, and looked up at Clark with a question in her voice. "'Your girlfriend's going to get in a lot of hot water if people figure out that this was her. Please, stop her.'" Lois flipped the creased paper. "It's unsigned."
"What could Clarissa be doing that sounds so bad?"
Lois leveled a speculative look at Clark. "Would she tell Superman?"
Clark winced. "Honey, *please* don't make Superman talk to Clarissa."
"Aw," Lois soothed, and stroked Clark's chest "Being a superhero means being brave. She's just a *kid*."
Clark sighed and lowered his head and scuffed the toe of his shoe across the floor. "Maybe a bridge will collapse."
Lois reached under his chin and lifted his face. "Five minutes, Clark. Just try and find out what she's up to and try and convince -"
The phone interrupted, and Clark reached out mechanically and answered. "Conference room, Clark Kent. Who?" Clark asked, and then smiled, his eyes shifting to Lois. "Okay, sure, I know she'll be happy to."
"Who was that?" Lois asked as Clark put down the receiver.
"That was Clarissa, and she said she had a problem, but would *only* speak to Lois Lane."
"Honey, sometimes being an investigative reporter means being brave."
"She's just a kid — remember?"
"Clark, she's a junior eco-terrorist, an evangelistic tree-hugger … a … a …"
"A kid," he said, and handed Lois her jacket and purse. "Go get 'em, tiger."
"Fine," Lois said curtly, not noticing she had slipped her purse strap on before the jacket.
"Never let it be said that Lois Lane could be bullied by a … what the hell is wrong with my jacket!"
"Honey, you have your purse kind of tangled in with the —"
"It's fine, Clark, really. I'll just leave it this way. If my purse is hidden, it'll keep Clarissa from asking me if I know how many *vinyls* had to die to make my purse!" she said, and left with all due melodrama.
Clark drew the corners of his lips down like a horse that had been brought to a stop from a full gallop. "Ouch," he whispered. "Maybe Superman better go there after all … to protect Clarissa." He loosened his tie, and wondered what the jail served inmates on Christmas Eve.
Clarissa sat on the steps of the Metropolis Museum of Natural History. Lois opened the door to her Jeep just in time to hear a man, dressed in a guard's uniform, shout, "And *stay* out!"
Lois shook her head. "Everywhere she goes, she makes a new friend."
Lois reluctantly approached Clarissa. "Okay, what's the big problem this time?" She was trying, albeit unsuccesfully, not to snarl, but as usual, nuances were lost on Clarissa.
Clarissa jumped to her feet. "It's about time you got here. I need a ride to that Christmas tree lot by the Planet. I'm late for the demonstration."
Lois goggled at her. "That was the big emergency? You needed a ride???"
Clarissa looked unrepentant. "Well, Jimmy wouldn't take me, and I figured, as a woman, you might be more sympathetic to the fate of our poor persecuted plant relatives. You do realize that all life is descended from a common cell, and every year they chop down our poor cousins and festoon them with barbaric decorations. This year we are going to do something about it."
Lois sighed, took Clarissa's arm, and led her toward the Jeep. "Tell me more."
Lois had difficulty getting away from Clarissa to make a quick call on her cell phone. Still, despite the girl's protests that our plant friends were being exploited with each moment wasted, Lois made a quick trip into the ladies room of a gas station on the way. This caused at least three additional lectures regarding fossil fuel wastes, destruction of the ozone layer, and even misuse of disposable toilet paper, but Lois bore the grating voice in silence.
By the time they arrived at the Christmas Tree Farm, Clarissa was hoarse, and Lois was exhausted. She was relieved to see that Clark had taken her quick call to heart, and had made arrangements for the police to defuse the situation.
There were barricades up and the police were busy loading the purposely limp protestors into paddy wagons. A crowd of Christmas tree shoppers were waiting impatiently to get back into the lot, and one woman was heard complaining, "See, Irving, I told you we should have got the tree last week, but noo …"
Clarissa jumped out of the car before Lois could even turn off the engine and ran shrieking toward the nearest policeman, claws out. Before she could make contact, a red and blue blur intervened, hauling the startled cop out of range.
Deprived of her target, Clarissa overbalanced and fell face first into a puddle of slush. She struggled to her feet, spluttering with rage.
Superman walked up and faced Clarissa with his most stern glare.
"I understand you've been sharing your concerns regarding planet ecology with others," he told her. "But I'm afraid this has gotten out of hand." Crossing his arms before him, he gave her another stern expression that had wilted some of the most hardened criminals he had encountered.
"Superman," Clarissa said in a firm voice, oblivious to the authoritative stance he had assumed. "I've been meaning to talk to you as well. Are you aware that your flights might be causing damage to our atmosphere? Have there been any non-invasive studies done to determine the saftey of your superpowers?"
Taken somewhat aback, Clark found himself on the defensive. "STAR Labs has done numerous tests to ensure that my presence is not a danger to this planet, young lady," he corrected her firmly. "And speaking of dangers to the planet, ecologists are also studying the possible benefit of controlled deforestation."
Clarissa harumphed loudly, clearly not impressed by the introduction of mere facts into her passions. "I would expect this from you," she explained in a condescending voice. "I suppose you must eat meat as well."
"Actually, I don't need to eat at all, and my diet is none of your concern."
"It's a concern of every being on this planet! It's attitudes like this that cause the destruction of our world."
With a shake of his head, he signaled Inspector Henderson to walk towards the girl, who was now in full lecture mode. She was still lecturing as the officer handcuffed her for disturbing the peace and attempted assault on a police officer, and tucked her neatly into the back seat of a squad car.
Rolling his eyes, the inspector entered his own vehicle and followed the squad car back to the precinct, leaving only Superman and Lois standing there, fighting laughter.
"Thanks for the save," Lois said quietly, wiping tears of laughter from her eyes.
"Thanks for the call," he replied. "I'd planned to follow you, but Perry got hold of me. It seems that Alice is coming to the party tonight, and he didn't know what tie he should wear. He asked to borrow one from me."
Lois laughed. "I hope they can get back together," she said. "No one should ever have to be alone for Christmas."
Clark nodded his understanding. "Do you want a lift back to the Planet?"
Lois smiled, knowing Clark must be distracted. "I'd love one, but I really don't want to leave the Jeep in this part of town," she said with a trace of sarcasm.
Clark smiled in return. "And I can't drive back with you, because I never left. Looking around carefully, he put his arm around her, and walked her back to the door of the Jeep. With a final search of the area, he satisfied himself that no one was watching, and leaned down to kiss his wife, shielded by the vehicle's door.
"On your way back, why don't you drop by and see Dr.Klein?" he asked her. "It's been four days since … Well, surely he can tell something by now."
Lois nodded as he tucked her into the Jeep, and made sure her seatbelt was fastened. He let his fingertips trail over Lois' flat abdomen before he closed the Jeep's door, a wistful look on his face.
Lois started the Jeep, and turned in the direction of STAR Labs, still recalling that look, and her husband's whispered "I love you" as she pulled away.
Clark watched Lois head off down the busy street and then prepared to take off and head back to the Planet when Captain Maggie Sawyer of the Metropolis Special Crimes Unit approached him.
"You got a minute, big guy?" she said with a wry grin.
"Sure Maggie, what can I do for you?"
"Well, I wanted to thank you for helping us put the collar on the Royal Flush Gang the other night … and …"
"I've got a small favor to ask," Maggie continued, looking slightly embarrassed.
Clark gave Maggie a warm smile. "I'm at your service, Captain."
"You know Bibbo Bibbowski, who owns the Ace o'Clubs bar down in Suicide Slum?"
"Well he's been playing Santa for the kids down there for as long as I can remember."
"Bibbo? You're kidding?"
"Yeah," Maggie replied with a grin. "He really gets into it — he even uses his own money to buy gifts for them. Only this year I've heard business at the Ace o' Clubs hasn't been all that good and …"
"You wondered if I might be able to help 'Santa Bibbo' out?"
"Yeah. Particularly since he's likely to try to solve the problem himself and get in a real mess. And I'd hate to have to lock him up for Christmas."
"Just leave it to me, Maggie."
Despite the heavy Christmas traffic Lois made it over to STAR Labs in record time.
As she entered the normally silent area surrounding Dr. Klein's lab she was surprised to hear music and laughter.
Lois looked around the room and spotted Dr.Klein and Ruth Friskin laughing and dancing to the music of "Jingle Bell Rock."
"Oh! Bernie, I'm going to call you Twinkle Toes from now on," Ruth laughed as she was twirled around the open space in the middle of the lab. "I didn't know you were such a talented dancer."
"My dear, this is only one of my many talents you didn't know about until today. But, tonight I'll show you another one of my more … shall we say, creative talents."
Dr.Friskin was blushing and giggling like a young girl when both she and Dr. Klein heard Lois clear her throat.
"I hate to barge in on what looks like a private party, but I thought I might talk to you, Dr. Klein, if you have the time."
"Lois, we didn't see you standing in the doorway. Come in. I have to go anyway," Dr. Friskin said. "I have a patient coming in at two. The poor young woman was just arrested at a Christmas tree lot. She apparently thinks she's a one-woman avenger against everyone and everything that she considers a danger to the planet. I've been asked by her public defender to give her a psychological to determine her stabilty to stand trial. That is, if the owner of the Christmas tree lot wants to press charges."
Friskin gave Dr.Klein a quick kiss on the cheek. "I can't wait until tonight to see what other special talents you possess."
Klein grinned. "Until tonight, my love." Dr. Friskin left the lab glowing.
Lois moved to stand closer to the doctor. "It's been three weeks and four days, Dr. Klein. What kind of tests do you want to do?"
Pulled back to reality by her question, Klein moved to close the door of the lab. He turned to Lois and smiled. "So, we think we're pregnant, hmmmm?"
"Well, I hope I am. I'm not sure about you."
Klein laughed as he opened a cabinet door and gave Lois a beaker. "Just go into the restroom, and then I'll get some blood and tissue samples, too. This is completely unprecedented and I want all the information I can get."
"And then?" Lois asked anxiously.
"Then we wait."
Lois turned to the door and smiled in relief when it opened and in walked Clark.
Clark shook hands with Dr. Klein and looked at Lois. "How's it going?"
Lois held up the beaker. "We'll know in a while." She lightly kissed Clark before leaving the lab. "Keep your fingers crossed," she murmured.
Clark kept his eyes on her as she walked to the restroom. At the feel of Klein's hand on his shoulder, he grinned sheepishly. "I've never been so nervous in my life."
Klein nodded. "I think I understand, Clark. I'm sure that Lois is just as anxious. Would you like a —"
Klein's words were halted by the look on Clark's face. A look he had often seen on Superman's.
Clark focused off in the distance for a moment before looking at Klein. "I've gotta go … Superman's needed." He glanced in the direction Lois had walked, then turned back to Klein. "Doc …"
"I'll tell Lois," he assured Clark.
Clark nodded and hurried out of the lab, loosening his tie as he went. A second later, a whoosh was all Klein heard as Superman left STAR Labs.
Klein shook his head. "Some day, I'm going to have to ask him about that whoosh." He reached over and turned up the volume on the radio. The beginning bars of "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" came through and he started to sing along.
Lois reentered in time to see Klein tapping pencils rhythmically on the test tube rack. "Dr. Klein?"
Klein startled out of his reverie, sending the pencils flying. Lois scooped them off the floor and handed them back to him. "I have the same problem with chopsticks."
"I'm sorry," he smiled. "Sometimes the music just gets to me. You should see me with rap music."
"Well, I'm sure it's something to … look forward to," she said, and sat on a stool. "I gave the sample to your assistant. Do I just wait here for the result? I mean it won't take much longer than a home pregnancy test, will it?"
Klein frowned and pulled up a stool opposite hers. "This is going to be fairly complex, Lois," he said, his tone serious. "There were some variables I didn't account for in my initial testing of Superman and I still feel terrible about that."
Lois reached forward and touched Klein's shoulder reassuringly. "It's all right, Dr. Klein. It's not like Superman comes with an instruction manual. We know we don't fit the textbooks."
Klein smiled. "I appreciate that, Lois, but because I wasn't as thorough as I could have been, I am leaving *nothing* to chance this time. And because of that," he shrugged, "it could be hours before I can give you a definite answer on your test results."
"Hours?" Lois sighed as she grabbed her purse. "Well, I guess it's better this way. I still have a Christmas party to suff … to enjoy, so maybe not knowing for a while yet is for the best."
Klein nodded. "I'll call the moment I know anything for sure, Lois," he promised, and ushered her out of the lab to the strains of a rap version of "Sleigh Ride."
As Lois strode into the city room, her eyes were immediately drawn to the large gold box on her desk. Clark had placed the box there a few days earlier, stating that she couldn't possibly be alone with his Christmas surprise to her, and that here he would have witnesses.
She removed her coat and hung it up, then went to fill two mugs of coffee. She placed one on Clark's desk, smiled briefly, then went to shuffling through the papers Jimmy had left on her desk.
At the very least she assumed it was Jimmy that had cluttered her desk. When she had left yesterday, the desk had only held her box.
Stopping her shuffling, she looked up at the package again. She hefted its weight briefly, judging that it weighed around eight pounds. Heavy, she thought, but there was no shifting of the weight, nor was it heavier in one area than another.
She shook it briefly, but heard no noise. With a frustrated sigh, she returned the box to her desk, and got back to work.
Clark walked up behind her and leaned over to whisper in her ear, "It's killing you, isn't it?"
She glared at him over her shoulder. "You'd think I was a child that can't be trusted," she complained, even as her hand wandered to the package and began to pick at a piece of tape.
Clark gently swatted her hand away as he laughed. "Just one more day. You're waiting till Christmas Eve."
Lois turned to him in exasperation. "If you were going to make me wait until then, why did you show it to me now?"
He placed his arms around her, turning her to face him and pulling her snugly against him. "Because you are a joy to tempt. You have more childlike spirit than a room full of ten-year-olds, and it's just fun to watch."
Lois softened in his embrace, seeing the warmth in his eyes that was only for her. "You'd better be glad I love you, lunkhead. Otherwise, I'd have you arrested for cruelty."
Clark laughed, then looked at her expectantly. "So?" he asked softly.
Clark rolled his eyes. "So what did the tests say?"
Clark's face fell. "Nothing?"
"Nothing … yet. He's running so many, he said he'd have to call with the results later, but it would be just as soon as he could." The look of relief that passed over Clark's face was too much to ignore. Lois reached for his hand. "I'm sorry, Clark. I shouldn't tease about this. We both want it too much."
Clark smiled gently, leaned over and kissed her. "If it helps makes you less anxious, honey, then I forgive you."
Lois smiled against his lips. "Mmmm." As he backed away, she tugged on his tie. "I know something else that'll keep my anxiety level down." Tugging some more, she kissed him once again.
Clark closed his eyes and deepened the kiss, momentarily forgetting where they were.
A soft voice cut through their gathering haze of love. "It's nice to see that some things haven't changed around here."
Lois broke away, her eyes blinking. As they once more focused, a wide smile came over her face. "Alice!" She stood up and the two women embraced.
Alice stepped back and smiled somewhat shyly. "I know I'm a little early for the office party, but I'm a bit … nervous."
Clark grinned. "There's nothing to be nervous about, Alice." He leaned over and kissed her cheek.
Alice smiled at him. "I see that you haven't absorbed any of Lois' biting sarcasm, Clark. That's good." She winked and continued. "Of course, Perry and I always knew that you'd be able to soften her edges."
Clark put his arm around Lois. "No way, Alice. Lois is still the 'hard-bitten reporter' she's always been."
Lois smiled at Clark before looking at Alice. "That's right, Alice. It's just more fun now."
Alice's smile grew wistful. "Fun. I remember when Perry …" She stopped and looked at Lois and Clark. "But that's water under the bridge now."
Lois reached out and touched Alice's arm. "He still loves you, you know."
Alice's eyes grew bright as she patted Lois' hand. "I know, Lois. I know." She took a deep breath. "And I still love that ol' hound dog, too."
The three of them stood there silently, no one exactly sure how to get past the awkward moment. Finally, Alice cleared her throat. "Well, shall we get this party started?"
Lois smiled brightly. "Absolutely. 'Tis the season and all that."
"You two go ahead," Clark urged. "I'm gonna try and drag Perry out of his office and have him join the party."
"Just fling him over your shoulder, Clark." Alice said. "I know you're not Superman, but Perry shouldn't be much of a problem for a young man like yourself." She chuckled. "Now wouldn't that be something? Perry bodily carried out of his office."
"Why? Is Perry ill?"
Alice and Lois both turned toward the voice, and Lois' smile faded as she looked into the eyes of Morgan Edge. Gritting her teeth, she reminded herself that this was a social occasion and for Perry's and Alice's sake, she would *try* to be civil to the man.
She shook her head. "No, it's just that Perry sometimes has a hard time pulling himself away from his work. Alice White, I'd like to introduce Morgan Edge."
Edge eyed Lois for a moment, as if he were trying to determine if she were friend or foe. Then, quickly, his eyes focused on Alice. With a wide smile on his face, he took Alice's hand, holding it warmly, exuding charm.
"Ah, the lovely Alice White. I've heard so much about you."
As Morgan Edge charmed Alice, Lois and Clark exchanged glances.
They both started talking at the same time. "Excu—" "We just—"
"We were just going to say hello to Jimmy. Right, honey?" Lois asked. She gave Clark a look that spoke volumes. This particular volume was titled "101 Ways To Avoid Morgan Edge".
Clark nodded. "Right. That's just what I was going to say."
The couple headed across the room to Jimmy, pleased to have made a quick escape. Jimmy, however, seemed to be caught up in his conversation with Agnes, so Clark winked at him and took Lois to the conference room instead.
"Why don't we just avoid that little disaster. I think we're already on Clarissa's bad side."
"Oh, don't remind me!" Lois groaned.
Lois looked out the conference room windows. "Looks like this year's party will be even wilder than last year's," she commented.
Clark looked over her head. "Honey, I don't think that's possible!"
"Well," Lois said, a grin lighting up her face, "I'm sure *I* could make sure this Christmas is a lot wilder for you … if you let me open my package."
Clark thought that over for a second. "Interesting as that proposition is, I think we better get back to the party. Maybe if you're a very good girl, I might let you take a peek at your surprise later."
"Just a peek?" she pouted.
"Just a peek." He pulled her back out to the party.
"Lois! Clark! Merry Christmas!" a jovial voice rang out. Both reporters turned to see who it could be.
"Santa!" Lois smiled and embraced the 'jolly old elf' from the Coates Orphanage. About two dozen children filed in behind him, their eyes wide with wonder. The Daily Planet newsroom looked like one big playground.
"There's some snacks over on that table," Clark said and barely got the sentence out before the children stampeded in the direction he pointed.
Santa shrugged. "We really *do* feed them at the orphanage."
Lois began to laugh, but stopped in mid-chuckle as a decidedly more seedy looking version of St. Nick exited the elevator. He was surrounded by a throng of 'elves' who looked more like they'd been working in the prison laundry than Santa's toy shop.
"Oh, boy," Clark said. "I forgot all about Bibbo."
"Bibbo?" the other Santa asked.
"Yeah," Clark nodded. "I cau .. er, Superman caught them trying to boost some toys from one of the torched retail stores."
"Tis the season," Lois repeated wryly.
"Anyway, they said they were going to give the toys to the orphans, so Superman helped them make a deal with the store owner."
"That's nice," Santa said. "At least their hearts are in the right place."
"Merry Christmas!" Bibbo shouted, then belched.
"His heart's in the right place," Lois whispered. "It just happens to be pickled."
"Uh, I'll take care of him, honey," Clark said, and hastily moved toward the elevator landing.
"Hiya, sport!" Bibbo Claus said, and clamped down on Clark's hand. "You must be that buddy 'o Sooperman's he jawed about?"
"Yeah, I guess that's me. Just call me Clark."
"Sooperman's my fav'rite, ya know!"
"I know," Clark sighed, and fanned the distilled air issuing from Bibbo. "I think you and your … elves can find lots of food at the table over there. Those are the kids from the orphanage there now. I'm sure they'd love to .. see you."
"Thanks, sport!" Bibbo boomed, and slapped him on the back, setting Clark's glasses at a bit of an angle.
Clark straightened his glasses with a loud sigh as he watched the Suicide Slum denizens make their way to the buffet table.
"Sometimes maybe Superman is just a little *too* good," Lois said, finally catching up to her husband.
As they turned to head back down to the party, the elevator dinged again. The doors slid slowly open to reveal Drs. Klein and Friskin in a fervent embrace. Lois and Clark looked at each other and laughed. Lois cleared her throat and the couple jumped guiltily apart.
"Oh. Lois. Clark. Um, we're here, dear."
Dr. Friskin looked around. "So I see, Bernie." She smiled warmly at Lois and Clark. "Thank you so much for inviting us to the party. Lois, can I have a word with you?"
Lois raised her eyebrows at Clark who obligingly led Dr. Klein toward the food.
"Lois, I was called down to the local precinct to examine a newly arrested prisoner. When I arrived, I was surprised … well, maybe not surprised, to find it was that strange girl that was at your house for Thanksgiving."
Lois groaned. "Not Clarissa again?" She glanced over to where Jimmy was still deep in conversation with Agnes. "Don't tell me she's been released."
"I'm afraid so. She certainly has some strange convictions but she's not insane, and she really didn't do anything to warrant being locked up."
Lois groaned again just as the elevator let out yet another passenger.
Lois sighed with relief and gave a small smile when she saw Ralph exiting on to the newsroom floor. Swaying slightly he returned her smile and hurried down the ramp.
"Merry Christmas, Loo-isss!" he slurred as he wrapped her in a massive bear hug.
Lois extricated herself from Ralph's clutches. "Merry Christmas, Ralph," she replied flatly.
"You don't sound very cheery," Ralph pouted.
"And you've got a firm grasp of the obvious," Lois replied sharply.
Lois shook her head. Even under the best of circumstances, engaging in a battle of wits with Ralph was fighting an unarmed opponent. Under the influence of Kessel's high octane eggnog he was even more of a dim bulb than usual. She looked around the room and spotted the perfect conversation partner for him.
"Ralph," she asked sweetly, "have you met Morgan Edge?"
"Nope," Ralph hiccupped.
"Good. Come with me."
Lois started to walk with Ralph toward her quarry, but spied something out of the corner of her eye. Pushing Ralph in the general direction of Edge, she explained as she walked off.
"He's right over there next to the clam dip. He's the one *standing,* Ralph."
She watched for a quick moment to make sure that Ralph made it to Edge's side. As soon as he did, she turned her attention back in the other direction. Taking a deep breath, she headed toward Perry's office, knocked on the open door and entered.
"Now who needs to put away his work? Let's go to the party, Perry." She stood before his desk, her eyes widening at Perry's expression. "Perry?"
Clearing his throat, he began. "Now, Lois …"
"Perry, don't 'now, Lois' me. I know you're nervous about Alice. But everything will be fine." When Perry's look didn't change, Lois continued. "Did you ever stop to think that maybe *she's* just as nervous?"
At that question, Perry's eyebrow shot up. "Alice? Nervous? About what?"
Lois shook her head. "Chief, you certainly don't need me to tell you anything." She leaned forward and whispered. "There's nothing to be concerned about. You're among people who care about you and Alice."
Perry let out a long breath. "Aw, darlin' I know that. It's just …"
"Perry. I'm going to tell you something that someone once told me."
Perry looked at Lois. "Go ahead."
"It's not the years, Chief … it's the moments that count. Like right now. You love Alice, right?"
Lois smiled. "And she loves you. The rest you'll work out. Together."
Lois felt her eyes grow misty at the look of hopefulness in Perry's face. "I wish I could believe that, Lois."
"Believe it, Perry. It's the season. Magic is bound to happen."
"She's right, Chief."
Lois and Perry looked toward the door at the sound of Clark's voice.
Entering the office, he smiled, looking directly at Lois. "Anything's possible, Perry. You just have to believe." Lois returned his smile.
Perry looked at the two of them, his mind flashing back to a time when he and Alice had looked at each other like that. Suddenly it hit him. He wanted that again.
Clearing his throat, he smiled tightly. "Well, then … let's get this party rolling."
Walking toward the door, flanked by his ace reporters, Perry felt as if he could conquer the world. Or at least win back Alice.
Behind him, Lois and Clark held hands.
Lois sighed and rested her head on Clark's shoulder as Perry blended into the crowd. "I think they'll be okay."
"They will," Clark agreed and kissed the top of her head. "What about you?" he asked.
"Me? Oh .. the baby?"
"Mm hmm," he nodded. "Because I want you to know, no matter what the news is—"
"I know," she smiled. "I love you too."
"I have to admit," Clark said. "I'm kind of nervous … I can't stop thinking about it."
Lois sighed with relief and hugged him. "Thanks for saying that, Clark. I'm about to explode waiting to hear. I don't want to get my hopes up, but—"
"I know," he said softly. "Me too."
If there was a cosmic center to counter-balance sweet moments, it was located in Metropolis. The elevator opened, and Clarissa, with "P.O.W" painted on her t-shirt, entered the Daily Planet newsroom.
Agnes, happily chatting away with Jimmy 'your number's up' Olsen, casually glanced up at the 'intruder'. "She's cute," Agnes commented. "What does P.O.W mean?"
"It means 'Prisoner Of… Whoa!" Jimmy said, finally seeing Clarissa scanning the room like a chickenhawk. Jimmy's spine bristled with feathers. "I … um … I have to make a phone call!"
"Can't it wait?" Agnes pouted. "I was just starting to have some fun."
"It won't take long to call," Jimmy whispered, and crouched down. "It's only three numbers!" He ran, rather like a duck, through the crowd toward the back of the newsroom.
Clarissa strode purposefully down the ramp. "The decadence," she muttered. "The waste," she said, and grabbed a potato chip and bit it as if deserved the assault. "I hate the baked ones," she announced, continuing to spread un-cheer in her wake.
"Oh, fine," Lois sighed. "I'm glad the wet blanket part on the RSVP was taken to heart."
"Hiya, kid." Clam dip and crumbs clinging to his stringy Santa beard, Bibbo stepped into Clarissa's path. "What can Santy get ya fer Chris'mas?" he asked.
"*Santy,*" she said condescendingly, "can give me a sane world where plant life isn't murdered and then decorated with energy-wasting lights and tinsel that's toxic to enslaved house pets and .."
"It ain't nice to want so many things," Bibbo interrupted thoughtfully. "Ya gotta share. How about a nice dolly?"
Clarissa drew herself up to her full 5 feet 2 inches and stared 'Santy' in the eye. "Oh, I suppose you want to give me a Barbie doll, another sign of this decadent society." She launched into full rant while Bibbo watched attentively.
"Ya know, you're kinda cute when ya get on yer soapbox? Can ya sing? I have a openin' at my club for a torch singer. Ya could maybe get some converts."
Clarissa picked up the nearest bowl of clam dip and prepared to launch it at Bibbo.
Before she could release the bowl, another hand grabbed it. "Hey shweetheart. Whatcha doin' that for? I like that dip. I haven't seen you around here before." The person's other hand dangled some mistletoe over her head as the slurred voice went on. "How about a little shmoochie?"
Clarissa retrieved the bowl and dumped it over the grinning head of Ralph, following up with a right cross that decked him.
The rest of the party watched in fascination as Ralph staggered to his feet, still grinning. "I love you too, shweetie."
Lois turned to Clark. "Do something!"
Before Clark could move, Clarissa grabbed Ralph and kissed him. "I love you too, Ralph. Why did you dump me?"
Lois felt faint. "Ralph dumped Clarissa???"
The two star-crossed lovers clasped arms and staggered toward the elevators, talking all the way.
Jimmy peeked out from under the table and tugged on Clark's pant leg. "Is it safe to come out?"
"Well if you're worried about Clarissa, I'd say you're in the clear, Jim," Clark replied.
"Good," Jimmy said as he quickly scampered from under the table.
"However," Lois added wryly, "looks to me like your problems are just starting with Agnes."
JImmy turned just in time to see Agnes shoot him a look of pure fury and begin making her way through the crowd toward him.
"Oh man, what did I do?"
"I think you're about to find out, Jimmy."
"Maybe it would be better if we left you two alone?" Clark said hastily.
"So this is where you've been hiding," Agnes hissed as she reached Jimmy's side.
"Hiding?! … Me?! er … I wasn't hiding, er well not really…"
"Then what were you doing under that table?"
"I was, ah…looking for…for…for a contact."
"You don't wear contacts, Jimmy." Agnes tapped her foot, still waiting for a good explanation.
"Of course not!" He glanced up at Clark. "But CK needs 'em, and he was just showing me this new pair that he was thinking of trying, and one of 'em fell." He glanced at Agnes' tapping foot. "You might wanna be careful … they're pretty fragile."
Agnes jumped back, her face flaming. "Oh, I'm sorry, Mr. Kent!" She dropped to her knees and started peering closely at the tiles. "Now, were they just regular contacts, Jimmy?" She picked something up off the floor.
Clark took the piece of tape out of her hands and flicked it into a nearby garbage can. "It's ok, Agnes." He shot a warning glance at Jimmy.
Jimmy winced again and looked down. "Ah! Here it is!" He brandished something quickly, then closed his fist over it. "I'll just go rinse it off for ya, CK." He backed up a step. "I'll be right back, Agnes, I promise!"
Jimmy ducked behind the divider and headed for the men's bathroom. Agnes shook her head, a smile spreading on her face. "He's so sweet, don't you think?"
Lois grinned. "Oh yeah. He's been suggesting that Clark get contacts for a while. He's also in favor of an earring."
Agnes whirled. "An earring? On Mr. Kent?" Her gaze went to Clark's face, dropped, and was jerked upwards again. "Um … well … you know- I haven't tried the spinach dip yet. I hear it's really good." Her eyes fell again to Clark's feet, lingering along the way, then she wandered quickly away.
Clark chuckled. "I don't think she liked the earring idea."
Lois linked her arm in Clark's, grinnning. "Actually, I think she liked it a little too much."
Clark glanced down at her. "You're kidding?"
"That's one of the many things I love about you, Clark," Lois said, smiling slyly. "You have no clue how you affect the opposite sex."
"Well," Clark said huskily, "there's only one member of that organization I want to 'affect' … repeatedly."
"Ooh, Mr. Kent," Lois laughed. "You sweet-talker."
As they moved in for a kiss, a shadow passed between them. "Ah," Morgan Edge interrupted. "The love bird, etc."
"That's us," Lois said flatly. "He's 'love bird', and I'm 'et cetera'."
"Hm? Oh, a joke, very good … anyhoo," Edge continued, "I'm thinking about finally dragging this paper into the 21st century."
Clark folded his arms. "Mr. Edge, it's Christmas, and—"
"Yes, great time of year," he acknowledged. "As I was saying, we need to modernize. This is the visual communications age. Television is way up here," he held his hand out at shoulder level, "and that puts the Daily Planet down around the ankles. It's like the elastic snapped on the Fruit of the Looms, telecommunications-wise," he said, pointing to the floor.
"Mr. Edge," Lois said, straining for control. "We're the most respected newspaper in Metropolis, one of the top ten in the world, and we can't squeeze Jerry Springer on to the op-ed page."
"No, of course not, but we can put him up on our website!" Edge thundered.
Clark shook his head. "Our website?"
"All the papers have them now, Kent. They're the happening thing."
"Happening thing?" Lois asked. "Like bellbottoms?"
"All we need is someone with web savvy to—"
"And here he is now!" Clark said, grabbing Jimmy as he passed, a bit of toilet paper trailing on his heel.
"Jimmy can tell you all you want to know about the web, Mr. Edge," Clark said, making Jimmy the sacrificial lamb and leading Lois away. He'd think of a good apology gift later.
"It's a good thing you pulled me away," Lois said. "I was about to measure his inseam with my knee."
Clark laughed. "I had that feeling. Besides," he said cheerily, "I've changed my mind about making you wait. It's time for you to open your present."
"Yes!" Lois said, and snatched up the vexing box from her desk. "It's so heavy!"
Clark escorted Lois into Perry's office where she hefted the present a couple more times. "Any clues?"
"Hm," Clark thought for a moment. "How about 'leagues are forming all over Metropolis'?"
"Clark," Lois said, the tiniest 'threat' quality to her voice. "If there's a bowling ball in this box, I'm going to see how far it bounces off Superman's chest."
Clark sat down in Perry's chair, folded his arms, and smiled at her adoringly.
Lois sighed. "You know I can't resist it when you do that."
"I know," he said airily, resting his chin atop his folded arms.
Lois set the box on the desk, and began to make short work of the elegant wrapping. Her breath caught as she folded back the tissue inside.
"Oh, Clark!" she said, lifting out a small, but heavy statue. "It's 'The Kiss' by Rodin." Her finger lightly traced the intertwined lovers caught forever in a moment of passion.
"Is it?" Clark teased. "I distinctly remember telling the clerk I wanted 'Rodan', the Japanese monster movie."
Lois leaned over the desk and kissed Clark. "I love it."
"Merry Christmas, sweetheart," Clark said. His hand moved in a blur. "You missed something," he added, and pointed back at the statue.
A cameo locket had mysteriously, or not so mysteriously, appeared draped around the statue.
"Clark," she cooed as she lifted the delicate necklace. "It's beautiful!"
"Well," he said, rising from the chair. "I remember you told me you loved cameos. I thought it was about time I got you one."
"When did I tell you that?"
"Oh, about four years ago, when we first met the Prankster."
Lois threw her arms around his neck. "I think I love you more just for remembering."
"Open it," he whispered against her ear.
"Okay," she sighed, her eyes glazing a bit with emotion.
The locket folded out into three compartments. There was a photo of Clark in one, Lois in the other, and the center one was empty.
"Just in case Klein has good news," he said, and touched the center compartment. "Even if he doesn't, it's a lot of fun practicing."
Lois looked into her husband's eyes. "Take me home, Clark," she said softly. "It's time for a little private Christmas."
"Okay," he smiled and fastened the locket around her neck.
Perry and Alice entered the office just in time to see papers flying.
"Who in the Sam Hill opens a window in December?!"
Clark's hearing tuned in for a few minutes before he focused on Lois, a grin spreading across his face. Lois caught his smile and felt one beginning on her own face.
Clark chuckled softly. "Nothing. Just that our timing's pretty good."
Lois looked at Clark, puzzled. "Timing?"
"Mmm hmm. Perry and Alice walked in just as we left."
"Oh!" Lois thought for a moment. "Oh?"
Clark shook his head, still grinning. "Now what is that beautiful and slightly devious mind of yours thinking?"
Lois smile turned soft, her eyes roaming over Clark's face. "Just that I wish Perry had mistletoe up all over his office."
Clark pulled her close and kissed her lightly. "Somehow," he murmured. "I don't think Perry or Alice will need mistletoe."
Lois closed her eyes, letting the tingling from his light kiss subside. "Mmm," she purred. She opened her eyes and Clark noticed their bright shine. "I think you're right."
Clark blew a short puff of air toward the French windows releasing the catch. He landed gently and walked toward the stairs, Lois still in his arms. As he headed toward the bedroom, he planted soft kisses all over her face, talking in between each one.
"I don't … pretend to know … how much they love each other …" He paused at the bedroom, kicking it lightly open. He walked to the bed and gently placed Lois on it. Sitting beside her, his hand moved to the side of her face, gently caressing her skin.
"But if it's even half of what I feel for you …" He leaned down and brushed his lips against hers before moving to whisper in her ear.
"Then they're both very lucky people." He bent down and nuzzled at her neck.
Lois closed her eyes and let the sensations wash over her as Clark continued to plant soft kisses on her neck. She sighed, her arms coming up and around to embrace him and hold him close. Her hands combed through his soft hair, her fingernails lightly tickling him at his ears. She sighed once more and placed her hands on either side of his face, pulling him away >from her neck so she could look into his beautiful eyes.
"No luckier than we've been in finding each other," she whispered. Her voice husky with emotion, she blinked back the beginnings of tears. Her smile turned shaky as she felt Clark's fingertips gently wipe at the corners of her eyes. She giggled softly when he spoke.
In his best imitation of Perry, with love in his eyes, Clark whispered back. "Now, darlin' … you know I love you more than life itself."
They stared into each other's eyes for long moments, letting the love flow between them, no words needed, hands gently caressing skin. With infinite care and slowness, Clark leaned toward Lois, watching her eyes darken as his lips once more found hers.
Lois sighed and smiled tiredly, her eyes closed, basking in the afterglow of their lovemaking. Softly, she began to hum.
Clark raised his head. Smiling gently, he looked at her. "Wishful thinking?"
Lois stopped humming and opened her eyes. "Yeah, I guess so."
Clark kissed her softly. "We'll know soon enough, honey."
"I know. It's just the not knowing that's killing me."
Clark yawned. "Yeah. Me too." He pulled the covers up over them. "But, if it makes you feel better, you can hum that to *me*."
"Okay, but just this once." Lois snuggled closer to Clark. She smiled as he laid his head at the swell of her breast. Kissing the top of his head, she closed her eyes again and continued to hum "Rock-A-Bye-Baby" until they both drifted off to sleep.
Morning, December 24th …
"Right, Mom. I'll pick up you and Dad later today. Yeah … just in time for dinner … What? Yes, Lois is cooking …" Clark chuckled into the phone receiver. "Trust me, Mom. It'll be fine. OK. See you in a couple of hours."
Clark hung up the phone and left the kitchen. As he passed through the dining room and got closer and closer to the living room, his smile grew wider.
Leaning against the doorway, he looked at the tableau before him. There were boxes all over the room and packing material on the floor.
And in the midst of all the clutter, a sight that Clark never thought he would see. Lois, sitting and carefully unwrapping the Christmas tree ornaments his mother had sent from Smallville. A happy Lois. A smiling Lois. His hearing picked up the tune she was softly singing.
" … They know that Santa's on his way … he's loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh … and every mother's child is gonna spy … to see if reindeer really know how to fly …"
Grinning, he walked toward her, careful not to make a sound and disturb her. He stood behind Lois and looked over her shoulder at the ornament she held in her hands. It was a clumsy facsimile of a figure, painted in red and white.
Clark shook his head. He remembered when he had made that ornament in school and how proud he had been when Mom put it right in the middle of the Christmas tree. He remembered the hug she'd given him and how she smelled of cinnamon and vanilla and chocolate chip cookies.
Only a mother would keep something like that, he thought. He continued to watch as Lois gently ran her hand over the figure, her soft singing continuing.
"… although it's been said, many times, many ways … Merry Chr —"
Clark's mouth closed over hers, silencing her for a brief moment. Ending the kiss, he sat back and looked at Lois, loving the dreamy smile on her face.
"… Merry Christmas to you," he finished.
Lois continued to smile at Clark, holding up the ornament. "Third grade?"
Clark nodded. "I think so. Clay figures weren't my specialty back then."
Lois cocked her eyebrow in curiosity. "Oh? What was?"
"Snowmen. Dad and I would make a whole snow family and dress them in our clothes."
Lois chuckled. "I can just see that."
"You're in an awfully good mood," Clark commented thoughtfully, "considering what yesterday was like … and there's still Christmas dinner to get through …"
Lois considered punching him in the stomach for the amused glint in his eye, but decided it wasn't worth it. Besides, he was so adorable when he was teasing her.
Carefully setting down the ornament, Lois looked intently at Clark. "Is a master of disguise trying to kill me?"
"Any Space Rats for sale this year?"
"Are you sick with a Kryptonian virus?"
Clark smiled widely. "Not that I know of. Lois …"
"And … are we stuck in a time loop?"
He checked his watch. "Nope."
Lois grinned. "So, this year Christmas is going to be special, Clark. Magic. *You* taught me that, remember?"
He slowly nodded. "Yeah, I do."
Lois bent toward him, giving him a soft kiss. Leaning back, she cocked an eyebrow at him. "Speaking of remembering, don't you have an appointment?"
Clark checked his watch. "Oh, right! I'm supposed to set the star on top of the Christmas tree at Metro General." He looked at Lois. "It shouldn't take very long. Wanna come along?"
Lois shook her head. Looking about her, she grinned. "Nah. I'm having too much fun. You go ahead."
Clark fixed his eyes on her, a bemused look on his face.
"Nothing. You just look so … magical." He leaned toward her, kissing her again, letting his lips linger for a moment on hers.
Standing, he quickly spun into the red and blue suit and headed to the French windows. Looking at her, he winked and flew out the window. Lois stared after him for a moment before the ringing of the telephone drew her attention away from the window.
Getting up off the floor, she went to the phone. "Hello?"
An hour later, the soft click of the French windows opening signaled Clark's return. He softly landed and turned to refasten the window clasp. Quickly spinning back into regular clothes, Clark adjusted his glasses, and smiled at Lois' back. "Miss me?"
When there was no response, Clark walked toward Lois, the smile on his face wavering. "Lois? I'm back." Still no response. He stood in front of her.
"Lois?" She continued to stare at a point somewhere beyond his shoulder, not seeing him. Growing concerned, he tried again. "Lois? Honey?" He squatted by her chair, his hand reaching out to touch her face.
At his soft touch, Lois' gaze turned and focused on him. She blinked twice. "Clark." She smiled. "I didn't see you there."
Clark half-smiled. "I know. You were a million miles away, honey. Everything all right?"
"Uh huh. Dr. Klein called."
Clark's eyes widened. "He did? Did he have the test results?"
Lois brought her hand up to cover his, leaning her head into the palm. Her eyes were shining and her smile grew wider. "Y'know … a man takes on so many identities throughout his life. Look at you. To the world, you're Superman. To your parents, you're their son. To me …"
She paused, swallowing the lump that suddenly rose in her throat. "To me, you're my best friend … my partner … my husband … my soulmate …" Clark smiled at her words. Lois' eyes became even brighter. "You're all of those things, Clark. And so much more."
She took a deep breath before continuing. "You've just added another identity, honey … or should I say … Daddy."
Clark's mouth opened as Lois' words sank in. His other hand moved to gently cover her flat stomach. "You mean …?"
Lois nodded, tears of joy spilling from her eyes. "Dr. Klein confirmed it, Clark. We're going to have a baby." She reached up to run her fingertips along his jawline. "Merry Christmas."
Clark moved his hands to gently cradle her face, his thumbs drying her cheeks. "I love you, Lois," he whispered, his voice cracking with emotion. Slowly, he leaned forward, his lips tenderly meeting hers.
After a long while, they broke the kiss. Lois smiled and brushed a finger across Clark's moist cheeks. She sighed and nestled into his arms, placed his hands over her stomach, and whispered softly, "It really is."
Clark kissed her temple. Tightening his embrace, he murmured. "What?"
Lois turned in his arms. "All of this. Christmas … you … me … us … this baby. It really is a dream come true."
Clark moved his hand to brush a strand of hair away from her face. "Not a dream, Lois. It's love. It's … magic."