The Spirit of…

By Phil Atcliffe <Phillip.Atcliffe@uwe.ac.uk>

Rated G

Submitted December 2000

Summary: A development of events in the teaser of the Christmas episode "Seasons Greedings." Clark protects Danielle from the boys affected by the Space Rats, but doesn't change into the suit to do it — and invites Lois to help! First story in the Snowball Trilogy.

[DISCLAIMER: Time-Warner and various subsidiaries like DC Comics own the main characters, most of the background and a whole lot of other stuff. December 3rd Productions, ABC and/or TNT (the American versions of the latter two, that is) may also have a legal claim to certain aspects, and I'll let _them_ sort out who owns what. I'm not challenging anyone's copyrights, just borrowing it all for the fun of telling this tale, which is mine. I am not going to get anything other than that out of it, except whatever feedback I get from fellow FoLCs —PA]

***

The boy squeezed the Space Rat again, spraying himself with whatever the stuff was that it had inside it. He grimaced for a moment, but then his face broke into a smile. "Cool!" he said, and turned to run off down the street.

He drew level with the little girl and her snowman… her *stupid* snowman! How come it had all that neat stuff? A snowman didn't need gloves or a hat… but *he* did, and he wanted them.

"This is mine," he said, taking a glove from the wooden "hand" of the snowman. "And so is this…" He went around behind the snowman to take the other glove. "…and I want this…" He took the top hat from the snowman's head. "…*and* this." The last thing he filched was the woollen cap that the little girl was wearing.

She hadn't said or done anything while he stole the gloves or hat from the snowman, but taking her cap was too much; she reached out and, as firmly as someone her size could, grabbed it back.

The boy wasn't pleased by this small show of resistance. "Gimme it!" he yelled, but the little girl just stared back at him defiantly before running away.

Not far away, Lois Lane and Clark Kent were walking together along the sun-lit snow-covered streets, discussing the meaning of Christmas. Clark was all enthusiasm, but Lois, with a sizable store of bad childhood memories of this time of year, was maintaining that Christmas was just another holiday — nice, but no more so than the 4th of July or Arbor Day. Clark was trying to explain to Lois why Christmas was something *different* to any other holiday. "See, what I think makes Christmas so special is the whole spirit of…"

His voice trailed off as his super-hearing kicked in. The boy had gathered a gang of his cronies, and they were chasing the little girl. They'd cornered her by her snowman and were about to attack en masse — with snowballs, admittedly, but there was a tone of real menace in some of what he could hear.

"Spirit of what, Clark?" asked Lois, curious about his sudden abstraction in the middle of a typically endearing (though she'd never admit that to anyone), impassioned speech on the joys of… just about anything. Clark had a zest for appreciating some things that, very occasionally, she wished she could emulate, and it wasn't like him to break off half-way through an attempt to make her see things from his perspective, however misguided and na´ve that might be.

"…peace and good will…" he muttered, his voice sounding slightly grim. He looked at her for just a moment, and she could almost see the wheels turning inside his head; he was thinking hard about something, that was certain, but what?

"Excuse me for a minute, Lois," he went on. "I have a short lesson on good will to deliver. Care to join me?" He didn't wait for an answer, but sprinted down the street and around the corner.

Behind him, Lois stood and stared — but not for long. She didn't know what was going on, but he'd invited her to join him, and she was going to do just that. She took off down the street after him.

Once around the corner and out of sight of Lois, Clark spent a microsecond deciding whether to change into the suit, but decided against it. No-one was looking, so he could use his powers briefly without changing into Superman, which might be better for what he had in mind. Besides, he could hear that Lois was coming after him, so it would be good not to have to come up with another excuse for disappearing.

He turned on a little super-speed and flashed past the group of kids preparing to unleash their assault on the little girl. He kept to one side, so that when he made his entrance, so to speak, it would look as though he had come from behind the snowman.

The boys threw their snowballs, and the little girl raised her arms and scrunched up her face in distress, expecting to feel the stinging impacts… but nothing happened.

She opened her eyes to see a large figure between her and the other kids. It was a man with glasses, smiling down at her. He was wearing a dark overcoat which he had spread wide, and she vaguely realised that the snowballs must have hit him instead of her. She looked scared, thinking she was in trouble, but he knelt to meet her downcast, unhappy eyes.

"Don't worry. They won't hurt you. Neither will I. In fact, I think four to one is rather unfair, so I'm going to give you some help."

As she watched, amazed, he reached down and scooped up a handful of snow, quickly forming it into a ball. Then he rose and whirled around to throw it, all in one graceful movement. The snowball shot along the street to land squarely in the face of one of her tormentors, all of whom were watching the two of them, startled and wary.

The little girl couldn't help herself; she giggled. The man smiled down at her again. "That's one down," he said quietly. "Wanna help me get the rest?"

Her giggle became a smile, and she bent down to make a snowball herself. The man did the same, and the fight began.

What followed could best be described as a massacre. The boys did their best against the girl and her unexpected ally, but their numbers were no match for the deadly aim and rapid fire of the man in the overcoat. Before long, all of them save one — the biggest boy, the one who had started it all — were lying sprawled on the sidewalk, brushing snow from their faces and necks.

The chief bully, though spared by Clark, had been hit once or twice by his team-mate. He hadn't done much in return, seemingly dumbfounded by the rout of his troops. Now he just stood there, awaiting his fate — which was not going to be what he thought.

Lois had arrived in time to see the "battle", and she was more than a little amused to see her partner taking part in a kids' snowball fight. She wasn't surprised to see him on the side of that little girl — Clark was a soft touch for the underdog if there was ever one — but his skill and marksmanship with a snowball had impressed her. 'Must be all those Kansas winters,' she thought. 'I bet they must call him "Dead-Eye Kent" back home in Smallville.'

Then, to her surprise, he waved her over, calling out, "Lois! This *big, tough* boy here thought it would be a really good idea for him and *three* other kids to gang up on this young lady." He paused to exchange a smile with the happy little girl. "I think we took care of the others, but would you care to show a little female solidarity and deal with Mr Courage here?"

How could she resist? She quickly picked up a handful of snow. The boy, she saw, had recovered from his stupor, and would have tried for some measure of revenge… until he saw the grin on her face.

He was in *big* trouble.

He turned to run, but was too late. A perfectly-aimed snowball caught him on the side of the head, taking off his cap and sending snow down his neck and onto his back.

As he wriggled in frosty agony, staggering towards the orphanage gates in a vain attempt to avoid dislodging any more of the snow down the back of his neck, Clark was applauding his partner. "Nice shot, Lois!"

Lois, pleased as always by praise — and especially from someone whose opinion she valued — pirouetted and bowed slightly in recognition of the tribute. "Thank you, Clark," she replied, smiling. "You're pretty good yourself. We should have a contest sometime."

Clark recoiled in mock horror. "Oh, no! I'm not going up against *you* in a snowball fight! I set too much store by my own skin." But his eyes were twinkling, and he went on, "Not unless it's on my home ground…"

Lois lifted an eyebrow, but didn't reply. Clark met her gaze for just a moment before crouching down by the little girl. "You'll be okay now. Merry Christmas."

The girl didn't say anything — it was only later that Clark realised that she hadn't said anything at all, the whole time — but she threw her arms around him in a big hug. Lois watched, touched by the sight of the big man and the small girl — and remembering times when Clark had hugged *her.* Her wistfulness turned to surprise, and even a little shock, when the little girl pulled away from Clark and ran over to her, wrapping her arms around Lois' leg in equal gratitude.

Now it was Clark's turn to feel wistful, but for a different reason. Lois was still staring down at the girl, so he took the opportunity to hide the sudden upsurge of feeling that the sight of the two of them roused in him, and step over to the trio of snow-covered youngsters.

"As for *you*…" he said sternly, "I hope this has taught you not to bully other people — especially not at this time of year. And I better not hear of anyone trying to get back at that little girl, or there'll be *real* trouble.

"Oh, and you can tell your big friend that *I've* got a friend, too — Superman. He's looking forward to visiting you guys on Christmas Eve, and he'll make sure he checks on how she is… and, believe me, you don't want *him* getting mad at you!"

The kids looked thoroughly intimidated by the thought of *Superman* watching over them, and Clark didn't think they'd retaliate — but he made a mental note to check, anyway. Then they realised what he'd said about the Man of Steel coming to visit, and broke into excited chatter.

A man came out of the orphanage gates and shooed the boys inside, then came over to speak to Clark. "Thanks for helping Danielle, sir," he said in a kindly voice. "I don't know what got into those boys. They're good kids. They usually look after the other orphans; I've never known them to bully anyone before."

"No problem," Clark replied cheerfully. "Maybe they got a little carried away — what with Christmas coming and all. Don't be too hard on them."

The man laughed. "I don't think that'll be necessary — not after you and your…" He paused as Lois came over, holding Danielle by the hand. He looked from one reporter to the other, obviously trying to work out what, if any, relationship existed between the two.

Lois and Clark realised what was going on and hastened to fill him in. "Friend!" they said simultaneously — then looked at one another and laughed.

The man joined them, and Danielle smiled, although in her case, it was more in reaction to the good humour of the three grown-ups. "After you and your *friend* took care of them," the man went on. "Thank you again; not everybody would have helped a little girl like that."

Lois and Clark demurred politely and, after telling Danielle that it was nice to meet her and wishing her a Merry Christmas, went to go, but the man pulled Clark back. "Can I talk to you for a minute?" he whispered.

"Sure," Clark replied. "Lois," he called, "You go on ahead. I… want to talk to… this gentleman for a while."

"Sure, Clark," she said. "See you back at the office."

After Lois walked off, Clark looked inquiringly at the man, who murmured softly, "I heard what you said about Superman — were you serious?"

Clark grinned. "Yeah, I was serious. It was meant to be a surprise — only the Superintendent knows — but I thought telling the boys about it would keep them from trying to get back at Danielle. He's coming, all right — *and* I'll make sure he knows about her."

"Oh, that's a relief," the man sighed. "I didn't know anything about it, and it would have been awful to have to disappoint the kids."

Clark grimaced. "Well, that might still happen if there's some kind of an emergency… but I'm sure Superman will get here sometime over Christmas."

"That's great." The man turned to the little girl. "Time we went home, Danielle. Thanks again, sir."

"Any time. 'Bye, Danielle." Clark waved as the man and the little girl crossed the street to the orphanage gates, then turned and began to walk back to the Planet.

Back at the Planet, Lois was feeling depressed. Her part in Clark's impromptu rescue of Danielle had relieved a little of the frustration that she felt about not being able to join in the festivities as whole-heartedly as she wished she could, and she'd let off some more steam complaining to Jimmy about all the hype that made Christmas into more of an ordeal than a holiday.

She'd felt refreshed after that, ready to take control over Christmas and do it *her* way… and then it had all fallen flat. Her mother couldn't make it "home" this year; she couldn't even get her father on the phone; and Lucy was spending her Christmas with a new boyfriend in Venice, California. The Lane luck was running true to form; Christmas was starting to look like any other day, except that it would feature a turkey TV dinner because no-one delivered take-out that day.

Clark noticed Lois' downcast demeanour as he came into the newsroom, and it didn't take much imagination to guess what the problem was. Clark wasn't particularly surprised, knowing Lois' family, but he did feel sorry for her — and also just a little bit pleased. This was an opportunity too good to pass up.

"Hi," he said, coming over to her desk. "Your family busy over Christmas?"

She looked startled. "How did you know?"

He just smiled at her. "I know *you.* And I also know what you're going to do over Christmas: you're coming home with me, to Smallville. Then we can have that snowball… 'contest' after all — on my home ground."

"Oh… no, I couldn't—" she began to protest, but Clark would have none of it.

"Yes, you could. Come on, Lois, Mom and Dad would love to have you visit, and *I* am not going to let you stay here all by yourself. So… either you come, or I'm going to have to stay in Metropolis."

Lois didn't know what to say. She wanted to be angry with him for trying to organise her life for her, but she was touched by his concern — and, though she wouldn't admit it, perhaps not even to herself, excited by the thought of spending Christmas with Clark. And since he was determined that that was going to happen, she thought it… safer if it happened with his parents around.

'Besides,' she thought with an internal snicker, 'it'll be fun to blow him away in a snowball fight!'

With that decided, she could do nothing but agree. She began to muse over the details, like getting plane tickets to Kansas so close to Christmas, but Clark told her he had all that covered. How, she didn't know, but he told her not to worry about it… so, she didn't.

He went back to his desk, and Lois found herself with a much lighter heart. It occurred to her that maybe *this* was the spirit of Christmas that Clark had tried to tell her about earlier, and it was somehow fitting that it was to be found in someone who practised what he preached.

She would have taken that train of thought further — and other, related thoughts regarding him — but Perry came out of his office full of a potential story regarding the latest toy craze, and all she could do was think how the greed and insanity that the editor was delighted by contrasted with Clark's thoughtfulness and delight in giving.

She got up and went over to his desk to brief him on their new assignment. They grabbed their coats and headed out to do their job… but both of them were more interested in thinking about the coming holiday. Clark was happy that he'd be able to make this Christmas special for Lois, and his partner was thinking along much the same lines; she was sure that this was going to be a Christmas unlike any other, and this certainty both excited and frightened her.

For now, though, Lois was able to look out at the city as the cab sped along and feel something that she had doubted that she'd ever know again. Yes, the Christmas spirit was abroad in Metropolis, and a good-sized chunk of it had taken root in her best friend and partner — which made Lois feel like she'd been given the most important gift of all.

THE END