By Sarah Luddy <meerkat_comments AT aslandia DOT net>
Submitted: January 2002
Summary: Lois is determined to get into the spirit of the Christmas holiday by decorating the townhouse as a surprise for Clark, but she finds a few snags along the way.
I welcome comments and criticism of any sort! Please email me.
Lois dreamed of sugarplums that night. They didn't quite dance in her head, but they were most definitely there, insistently reminding her that it was time to get into the Christmas spirit.
She woke with a start, the Christmas music in her head fading off gradually until only an echoing memory of sleigh-bells remained to remind her of her dreams.
Now why had she dreamed of Christmas? She lay awake in bed, considering for a moment. It had been years since she'd had enough Christmas spirit to dream of the holiday, to yearn for one perfect magical day when everything would be special.
Oh, yeah. Lois smiled peacefully, remembering why Christmas had suddenly become something magical and beautiful. She reached her arm across the bed, stroking his empty pillow gently. Clark.
Clark had brought the meaning of Christmas into her mind and heart. With Clark, what had formerly being an over- commercialized holiday had suddenly morphed into a day of giving and loving. Her Clark.
She rolled over in bed, lifting her head high enough to look in the direction of the bathroom door. Sure enough, she could hear the shower running. For a moment she considered joining him in the shower, but the warmth of the bed and the remnants of her dreams were too tempting to resist. Besides, it was her day off.
Lois closed her eyes and allowed images of one-horse sleighs, the moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow, red-nosed reindeer, snowmen, and candy-canes to flash through her mind in quick succession. She could almost smell Martha's famous Christmas cookies.
As she listened to the gentle rhythm of the shower, an idea began to form in Lois's head. Last year, she hadn't exactly been big on the whole Christmas thing. The Mxyzptlk affair had definitely put a strain on things, though in the end she supposed it had taught her the value of Christmas spirit. And she was pretty proud that she'd been able to break out of the loop Mxy had put the rest of the world under. She was no Superman, but she could hold her own with the Man of Steel.
Nonetheless, she hadn't really had the chance to show Clark how much he'd changed her views on Christmas. And she'd love to do something special, especially since she had such a special announcement to give him today. She'd been planning on telling him this morning, but perhaps it could wait until the evening, when her little surprise was ready.
The sound of the running water finally stopped, and Lois lifted herself onto one elbow to watch Clark's entrance into the room.
He was only wearing a towel wrapped around his waist, and when he saw her watching him, he stopped and smiled.
"Good morning, Sunshine," he said, walking over to give her a kiss. "Sleep well?"
"Beautiful dreams," she told him. "And they gave me an idea. I'm going to have a big surprise waiting for you when you get back today."
He lifted his eyebrows. "Oh, really?" he asked, lazily scanning her from head to toe.
She laughed. "Not that kind of a surprise!" she said. "But trust me, you'll like it."
He kissed her again. "I know!" he said suddenly. "Pumpkin pie!"
"No," she said. She grabbed him around the neck and tried to pull him down for one more kiss, but in a quick movement he scooped her into her arms, sans blankets.
She squealed as the cold air hit her bare skin. "Clark! Don't you have to get to work?"
"I can be late," he murmured huskily, and she lost all power to argue as they dropped back down onto the bed.
An hour later, Lois was again watching from the bed as Clark dressed himself. When he'd finished everything else, he sat on the edge of the bed to allow her to fix his tie. He was perfectly capable of tying it himself, as she well knew, but they both enjoyed this little ritual.
"You'd better get over there before Perry has your head!" Lois said, giving him a mock-push.
"Yes, ma'am," he said, saluting. "You sure you don't want to come in today? I can have you dressed in 10 seconds. Or, we could both take the day off. Those 10 seconds go either way."
Lois laughed. "Actually, I have plans for today. My surprise, remember? So, get!" She shooed him out the door, and he flew quickly towards the door, pausing only to blow her a farewell kiss.
Now, where to begin? Well, what was Christmas without a tree? She could just go to the local tree-sellers for the tree, but there was no adventure in that. And she was far too likely to pick another Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Not this year, though. This year she was going to show Clark how he'd made her love Christmas by making everything perfect. He'd get home from work to find the house glowing with Christmas. If she could only find the time!
Dressing at a speed rivaling Clark's, she grabbed her purse and shot out of the house. Not even paying attention to the crowded streets, she walked quickly to her jeep and started it up. The overnight frost had whitened the window shield, and it took two tries to start the jeep up. She grimaced, but forced herself to stay calm, remember the Christmas spirit, and not lose her temper. And strangely enough, it worked. Before she knew it, she was on her way out of town.
Some distance outside the city, the sides of the road were finally lined with trees instead of buildings. And just around a certain curve, there was a little grove of pine trees that Lois had noticed on a stakeout. Well, maybe not a stakeout. But it was always a good idea for a reporter to spy on log cabins in the woods that had strange lights in them at night, just in case. That was how she got to be a top-notch investigative reporter, by digging out the truth wherever it tried to burrow. Of course, the occasionally slip-up, such as accusing a lonely woodcutter of being the head of a drug-cartel, had to be expected. The facts couldn't always be allowed to get in the way of ferreting out the truth.
Lois parked next to the grove of trees and got out of the jeep. She walked around to the back and opened the trunk.
"Oh, shoot," she said, staring into the empty trunk of the jeep. "How could I have been so stupid to forget to bring an axe?"
Biting her lip, she looked up in the direction of the woodcutter's cottage. Would he? Well, it was worth asking.
Lois slowly trudged through the trees in the direction of the log cabin, fervently wishing she was already back home with the tree. Instead, she was stuck walking around in a cold primeval forest, dealing with a person she should probably consider apologizing to.
As she neared the cabin, she caught sight of the woodcutter, hacking away at a tree behind his house.
"Mr. Laise! Mr. Laise!" she called.
He looked up, and his eyes went wide with fear. He gave a little shriek and ran into the cabin.
Lois sighed. "Mr. Laise, please, I just want to ask you something!"
"Go away!" he yelled through the solid wood door. "Please just go away! I ain't no drug overlord, miss, I just Mr. Laise. I don't do nuthin' illegal. Please, just go 'way!"
"Mr. Laise, I'm not here to accuse you of nothing-I mean, anything. I just wanted to ask if I could borrow an axe so that I can chop down a Christmas tree."
"An axe?" he shrieked, his voice practically breaking the glass windows. "No, no, miss, I know you. Youse gonna chop me outta dis here cabin and drag me off for 'questionin.' No, ma'am, I's jess gonna stay right here in this cabin until you go 'way."
Lois rolled her eyes. "Mr. Laise, I'm not here to accuse you! All I want is a Christmas tree."
"A Christmas tree?" he said in surprise, peering suspiciously from the window.
"Yes!" she said, exasperated. "And I forgot my axe. Will you please let me borrow one?"
There was a long pause, then the window opened a crack and an axe dropped out and landed in front of her.
"Thank you, Mr. Laise!" she called as she headed back to the grove of trees.
"Now, to pick the perfect tree!" Lois said to herself. "It's gotta be so beautiful that it even impresses Clark."
Right in the center of the grove of trees stood a beauty. Seven feet tall, big and fat, needles a lovely green throughout. Lois smiled at the tree and thanked it for its existence, and the lovely pine aroma it would soon be adding to her jeep. She lifted the axe and gave a mighty swing.
Ten minutes later, Lois was staring at the nonexistent dent she'd managed to make in the tree's trunk. "What are you, petrified wood?" she asked the tree. She could have sworn it laughed at her.
"Okay, okay," she said, tossing her hands in the air. She forgot that she was holding the axe when she did so. At the sudden thunk she turned around to see the axe embedded in the door to Mr. Laise's house. She jogged to the door and pulled the axe out, ignoring the muted whimpers coming from inside.
She held a staring contest with the recalcitrant tree for a few minutes, but, it being a tree, it emerged victorious. Groaning, she went to look for a tree with a thinner trunk.
Six trees later, Lois finally found one that the axe seemed to be able to cut through. Its trunk was less than 2 inches in diameter and it only stood about 4 feet high, but she figured it was better than nothing.
She dragged the tree through the forest to her car, heaving it into her trunk. She was about to toss the axe into the trunk as well when she remembered it was borrowed.
Lois trudged back to the cabin and up to the window. It was still open a crack from when Mr. Laise had dropped out the axe, so she shoved it back in the crack and let it fall on the floor. Ignoring the cries of "ow, my foot!" she headed for the jeep and civilization.
"There," she said to herself, "I got us a Christmas tree. The rest will be easy."
The next stop on the way home was the holiday decoration store a few blocks from their townhouse, where they sold Christmas lights.
She walked into the store, and almost immediately the man behind the counter put his hands up.
"Please, Ms. Lane, we're conducting our business quite legally, I assure you," he said, his jaw twitching. "You can look through our books if you don't believe us."
"Oh, I quite believe you," she said, walking to the back of the store. She chose several strings of brightly-colored lights. Next to it was a small display of ornaments, and she carefully picked out a silver one and walked to the counter with her purchases.
"You're buying Christmas lights?" the clerk asked with surprise.
"You don't think Clark always does everything, do you?" she asked, put out.
"Oh, no, no, not at all!" he said anxiously. "Please don't write an expose on our store!"
She rolled her eyes and handed him cash for the lights, then hurried back out to her jeep. A few gentle flakes of snow were beginning to fall as she drove back to the townhouse.
Fortunately, the attic was well stocked with Christmas tree ornaments, a tree stand, wreaths, and other decorations. She dragged them all down to the ground floor and surveyed the mess with pleasure.
"It looks Christmassy already!" she said with a smile.
Carefully arranging the tree in the tree stand, she placed it in a corner. Gathering the lights, she strung them neatly around the tree and added the ornaments. When the whole affair looked perfect, she went to plug the tree in.
All of the lights in the living room suddenly went black with a fzzzt. "A tree shorted the circuit?" she muttered, puzzled. Walking over to the window, she glanced outside. All the lights on the block were out.
"Now, I did NOT do that," she said. "I hope." She sighed and went to the phone to call the power company.
"Mr. McCormick?" she asked. She listened for a moment. "No, I'm not going to write another scathing article about the power company, honest. It looks like all the lights on the block are out, and I was wondering…no, I promise I won't print a word. Can you just…Mr. McCormick!"
Fortunately, once Lois had convinced the power company that she wasn't out to get them and merely wanted to know when the lights would be back on, she received the news that it was a temporary short and would be fixed quickly.
By the time Lois had found a box of candles in a bureau drawer, the lights returned. "Just in time, too," she said, glancing at the clock. Only a few hours left 'til Clark returned, and still so much to do.
Lois returned to the box of decorations, hanging onto the last ounce of Christmas spirit with both hands. She hung a wreath on the door and wrapped greenery around the banister of the staircase. She put out every decoration until the room was full of Christmas colors and bright lights.
Sitting back, Lois admired her handiwork. Her good mood was definitely on its way back with all of the Christmas cheer around. Clark would be pleased.
Lois walked to her purse and reverently removed the silver ornament she'd bought from it. Finding the perfect spot on the tree, she hung it in a place of honor, right at the front where Clark was sure to see it.
When everything was set out, Lois hurried to hide the boxes. Everything looked perfect.
"Oh, Clark," she whispered, "you're going to love it. At least, I hope you are. I want everything to be perfect when I tell you my secret tonight."
The living room was set, but there was still something else to do. She walked into the kitchen and picked up the phone.
"Martha?" she said. "Hi, it's me. Listen, I was wondering if you'd be willing to share some of Clark's favorite Christmas cookie recipes. I'd really like to surprise him with…you will? Oh, thank you!"
She listened carefully, jotting down notes and murmuring "mmm-hmmm" every once-in-a-while. Finally, she smiled into the receiver. "Thanks, Martha. You're a lifesaver," she said. "Clark should love this."
Martha had given her what she swore were "fool-proof" recipes. Unfortunately, Lois realized as soon as she'd started that Martha hadn't counted on Lois's ability to make a fool of herself in the kitchen.
After she'd mistaken tablespoons for teaspoons twice, forgotten to make sure the top of the salt shaker was on firmly before salting the mix, and missed a crucial ingredient three times, Lois was ready to give up.
"I can't do this!" she cried, sitting down at the dining room table. She burst into tears, dropping her head into her arms. "I'm a horrible cook. I can't even make Clark's special cookies for him! How can I be such a failure?"
At the back of her mind, Lois expected to hear Clark come zooming in the window, somehow sensing her distress. But he didn't, and Lois suddenly realized that she didn't want him to.
"I've got to get this to work," she said. "I've got to."
She picked up the phone and dialed Martha.
"Martha?" She gulped back tears. "I made a mess. Could you please walk me through this, so I can make sure it goes well?"
Martha's love and sympathy for her surrogate daughter was, as always, overwhelming. With her help, Lois managed to follow the recipe painstakingly carefully, and Martha's gentle voice kept Lois smiling the entire time.
When the first batch was finally in the oven, Lois breathed a sigh of relief. "Martha, I don't know what I'd do without you," she said.
"Oh, honey, you know I'm here whenever you need me," Martha said. "I just don't understand why you're so set on making Clark these cookies."
"It's the principle of the thing," Lois said. "I just want to make his Christmas special, and I want everything to be perfect. And starting with the tree…well, it just seemed like everything was going wrong."
"Yes, but, Lois-"
Just then, the buzzer went off, and Martha helped Lois determine that the cookies were done. The second batch went in to the oven next.
While they waited for the second batch, Lois was forced to change the conversation to something more casual. She was afraid that if she spoke too long about Clark to Martha that she'd give away her secret announcement before Clark got to hear it, and that wouldn't do.
Finally, the last batch of cookies was out of the oven and cooling. Martha gave Lois careful instructions for storing the cookies, and they hung up.
Lois set the table with the Christmas tablecloth she'd found in a box of Christmas stuff. The festive red and green cloth gave the entire room a holiday air, and as a last touch she affixed a sprig of plastic mistletoe to the chandelier.
Hidden in the CD collection was an old Bing Crosby Christmas CD, and she put it into the CD player and turned it on. Glancing at the clock, she gasped and rushed upstairs to change into something appropriate.
Ten minutes later, Lois was downstairs, wearing a red dress with a green pin, her hair piled high on her head. Dangling silver Christmas earrings provided the finishing touch.
She set out the Christmas cookies on the table on bright red and green plates, and surveyed the house with a look of wonder. Had she really accomplished all this in one day? She was impressed with herself, even if she'd had to rely on Martha to manage the cookies. And any minute, Clark would be home and she could tell him her secret. She shivered with excitement.
Right on cue, she heard a whoosh, and she spun around to see Clark zoom through the window.
She smiled at him as he took in the decorations with wide eyes.
"Wow, Lois," he said, a broad smile crossing his face. "You went all out. The house looks beautiful."
Lois blushed. "Thank you," she said. "Clark, I did it for a reason. I wanted you to know that…well, come sit down." She led him into the living room, where they sat side-by- side on the couch and looked at the bright twinkling lights of the tree.
"Clark, before I met you, Christmas was just another holiday. Over-commercialized, completely lacking in any real meaning or spirit. I'd long-since lost any childish wonder I'd once felt for the holiday, and the most it meant was a day or two off work. But through you, Clark, I came to understand what the holiday is all about. You've given me Christmas. And more than that, you've given me friendship, and love, and a family, and the best life I've ever known. You've been nothing but good for me since the day we first met. And I just wanted to thank you."
He smiled at her and leaned forward to kiss her gently. She closed her eyes and lost herself in the sensation for a moment, but she finally pulled away.
"There's more," she said. "Clark, there's an ornament on the front of the tree."
He gave her a puzzled look, then stood up and walked to the tree. At the very front, the new ornament she'd bought caught his eyes. "A baby rattle?" he said, lifting an eyebrow. As the significance suddenly came to him, he gasped. "Lois, are you pregnant?"
He gave a whoop and scooped her up, spinning her around in dizzy, joyful circles. He stopped suddenly. "Is this bad for the baby?" he asked anxiously.
"I don't think so," she replied.
"Good!" he said, spinning around again.
She laughed as they both collapsed onto the couch in a heap of giggles.
"Lois," he said softly. "Can I ask you something? Without you getting mad?"
"Of course, Clark," she said.
"Um. Why did you decide to decorate for Christmas in the middle of October?"