By Ines <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: December 2002
Summary: As Christmas approaches, one of the top citizens of Metropolis is asked to play Santa Claus for the children. But when Superman is chosen, will things run smoothly, or will problems arise?
The following Story is my very first attempt to write fanfic, so don't expect too much. ;) There's no A-plot, it's just a little waffy Christmas story. I hope you enjoy it nevertheless.
It's set on Christmas Eve of the first season, shortly after "Witness".
A huge thank you goes to Natascha, who helped me translating this. I couldn't have done it without her. Natascha, you're the best!
The characters in this story are the property of DC Comics and/or Warner Bros. and no infringement of their or anyone else's rights is intended. The idea of the story however is mine.
Comments and constructive criticism are greatly welcome and appreciated!
"Ohh, Perry, why me?! You know exactly how much I hate this whole Christmas circus! These oh so happy faces, the nerve wrecking blinking of light displays, and the polite pretence of people I don't even like. Everybody just feels obligated to go out and buy absolutely useless, superfluous things to give away, all of which will be returned the day after Christmas anyway. Not that I ever got many of them…" Lois Lane, top investigative reporter for the Daily Planet had talked herself into full ranting mode, waving her arms wildly, and Perry White involuntarily had to take a step back.
"Lois, honey, I know Christmas isn't exactly your favourite time of year, but who else am I supposed to send? Take a look around." Perry gestured towards the bullpen, which was uncharacteristically empty.
It was the morning of Christmas Eve, and most employees had taken the day off. The few people that had come in to work were busy finishing up their last articles to submit for the Planet's Christmas edition before deadline, so they too could leave for their well-deserved holidays. Even Lois' partner, Clark Kent, had already said goodbye and was probably on his way to Smallville by now to spend Christmas with his parents.
"Of course, I could send Eduardo, but his wife won't be happy if he has to work overtime this afternoon of all days. And Jennifer, well, she has two little kids… " Perry trailed off. "You see, Lois, you are pretty much the only one left here with nobody…um…" Perry hesitated for a moment, not sure how to put it without treading on her toes.
"You mean I'm the only one who has no one waiting for me. Feel free to say it, I don't mind. After all, I'm a fully grown, independent woman and I don't care much about this sentimental fuss." Lois stubbornly set her jaw but although she tried not to let it show, Perry's words had hit a nerve. Obviously she really was the only one who would once again be alone on Christmas Eve. Oh, her mother had invited her, but Lois had declined with a flimsy excuse; she didn't believe she could survive another Christmas with her arguing parents, even if that meant she had to spend the evening alone.
"Lois, I'm really sorry, but you know that the Planet always covers the Christmas party at the orphanage. It's a nice tradition and our readers expect it from us. And besides, aren't you at least a bit curious who'll play Santa Claus this year?" Perry winked at her.
"No, not in the least, Perry! It will just be another oh so important guy who thinks way too much of his generosity and kindness, just because he dresses up once a year and hands out presents, for which he didn't even pay for himself. No, I'm really not that curious!" Lois made a face and folded her arms across her chest defensively. She really didn't care about Christmas, and that also included the tradition at the orphanage. Each year a well-known resident of Metropolis was asked to play Santa Claus for the children. And only at the end of the festivities was it revealed who was hiding under the costume. In Lois' opinion, all of it was just a show, with the only purpose to make the guy playing Santa Claus look good and to serve his desire to bask in the reputation of a philanthropist.
"Be that as it may, Lois. You will still go there this afternoon to get the story. And preferably hand it in before tonight's deadline." Realizing that Lois was about to protest again, he raised his hand. "Don't argue, Lois! And who knows, you may even enjoy it," Perry added before opening the door of his office to let Lois go.
Lois just snorted and stormed past Perry, out of the door.
Perry chuckled. He was convinced that every human being had a right to being surrounded by a little bit of festive mood and happy faces at Christmas. And if some people didn't realize that for themselves, well, then one had to help things along a bit.
"But, honey, that's wonderful! Of course, it doesn't matter to us that you will be home a little later. It's not as if you had to rely on an airplane." Martha Kent's enthusiasm couldn't be missed even on the other side of the phone line.
"Yeah, sure, Mom. I just feel a little weird, you know, with the coat and the beard, and everything… Besides, it did come as a bit of a surprise since they didn't ask me until this morning." Clark Kent was sitting on his bed, the receiver of his telephone stuck between his shoulder and his ear, while critically examining the red outfit he was holding in front of him.
"Oh dear," Martha laughed, "I would think that *you* of all people wouldn't have any problems with costumes and disguises."
"Mom! Yes, go ahead and laugh, but it still seems a bit odd to me that Superman is supposed to play Santa Claus. I mean, as Clark I wouldn't mind, but now…I practically have to disguise myself twice… and besides… I don't know, I mean Superman and Santa Claus, somehow that doesn't really fit," Clark said doubtfully while rummaging through the box he had received from the orphanage a short while earlier. Finally, he unearthed a ruffled white beard.
"Come on, Clark. Don't make such a fuss! After all, it's for a good cause, and you know exactly how delighted the kids will be. And be honest, it isn't as if you won't get joy out of it either." Martha still sounded amused about her son's discomfort. "Now why did you find out so late about this?"
"Well, you know that every year the person selected to play Santa is supposed to be a surprise, and that's why they don't ask the people until a short time before. Besides, they've probably thought that Superman doesn't have a regular schedule anyway. So there was no need to ask him any earlier." Clark shook his head lightly as he thought about how most people took Superman's availability for granted.
"The orphanage called this morning, asking me if I could send Superman over there. Now I'm sitting here with this red coat and a bushy white beard and practising my *Ho, Ho, Ho*. After all, I don't want to disappoint anyone." Clark sighed lightly, but then he laughed. "Of course, you're right, it will be fun, and I'm looking forward to meeting the children."
"There you are," Martha replied, "So we'll see you tonight and you can tell us then how it was. And who knows, we might even have turkey leftovers for our busy Santa Claus."
"I sure hope so!" Clark exclaimed in mock indignation and grinned. His mother's Christmas meal was something he been looking forward to for weeks, and she knew it very well.
A penetrating wail of a siren interrupted Clark's thoughts. "Arrgh… I've got to go, I think, Superman is needed. Take care, Mom, see you tonight," he hastily said.
"Ok, see you later, Clark. Have fun!"
Impatiently Lois leaned on the horn of her silver Jeep and swore for the umpteenth time at the unlucky drivers that had the misfortune to be stuck in traffic in front of her.
It was simply unbelievable, what nerves these people had to still be on the road that day! They were supposed to be at home, happily surrounded by their families, enjoying this lousy Christmas, not driving around outside and block her way, when she was in a hurry.
And of course, to make matters worse, it had just started to snow. That caused the traffic to move even more slowly, and Lois' mood reached zero. White Christmas, indeed! In Metropolis, snow more likely meant a slushy Christmas or a slippery Christmas, and most certainly a traffic-jammed and nerve-wrecking Christmas.
Lois shifted gears aggressively and hit the gas to cross the intersection where the light just turned red, with no regard to the pedestrians, who had to jump out of her way.
When she finally pulled her jeep into a parking space in front of the orphanage, it was already snowing in thick, heavy flakes, and Lois cuddled up in her coat while heading towards the entrance of the building.
She could hear sounds of Christmas carols and laughter coming from the inside, and, once she opened the door, the sweet scent of caramel apples and cinnamon was overwhelming. Well, she had never said *everything* had to be bad on Christmas! And since she had to be here anyway, she might as well take a look at the Christmas cookies and pastries. A consolation price so to say.
When she entered the grand hall, she paused for a moment. The room was brightly lit by candles and decorated with branches of holly, mistletoes and pines. Children's paintings of Christmas scenes hung on the walls, and on the tables there were handmade paper Santa Clauses, holding burning candles in front of them. In the middle of the room stood a big Christmas tree with red and gold ornaments glittering in the candlelight.
Lois swallowed and took a deep breath. It wasn't as if she hadn't expected the sight, she told herself. For Heaven's sake, it was Christmas and therefore to be expected that people went all out to live their sentimental ideas and to play "happy world" for the children. But that didn't mean that she had to join in or that she had to be impressed by it. No, she was only here to do her job, which she would do before returning to her apartment to spend a peaceful, relaxing evening.
'Yes, very relaxing and very alone,' an ironic voice made itself heard in the back of her mind. 'Your resentment of Christmas couldn't possibly have anything to do with the fact that you never had a nice Christmas yourself?' Lois angrily ignored these unpleasant thoughts and kept surveying the room.
Children of all ages were seated in a circle under the tree, and unmistakably, in their midst sat Santa Claus. So she really had come too late and they had already started to hand out the presents. Oh well, she couldn't have missed that much.
From where she was standing by the door, she watched how Santa Claus let the kids sit on his lap one after another and quietly talked with them. Afterwards, the children were allowed to look through the big brown linen bag next to Santa to find their present. The man seemed to take a lot of time for each child and listened to it intently.
'At least he is pretending to take his job seriously,' Lois thought dryly.
Lois jumped slightly when an elderly lady addressed her unexpectedly. The woman had gray hair, was a little stout and seemed very pleasant.
"I'm Mrs. Abbott, the principal of the orphanage. Don't you want to sit with us until the presents are done?" Mrs. Abbott pointed towards a corner of the room, where the employees were gathered together. Everybody, including the members of the press and the usual representatives of the charities that Lois recognized, seemed to have a good time by coffee and cake.
"Yes, sure," Lois agreed somewhat hesitantly and followed the older woman to the tables where the chatting adults were seated. "We are staying in the background while Santa hands out the presents. After all, we don't want to spoil the fun for the children, for now Santa is all theirs," the director explained willingly.
"Ahh, I understand. And who is it?" Lois asked a little impatiently. She was already sick of this role-play.
"Oh, Miss Lane, you don't expect me to tell you that already," Mrs. Abbott smiled teasingly.
"No, I guess not," Lois grumbled. This whole thing was definitely getting on her nerves more and more. She decided to at least examine the cookies and the cakes while she was waiting. She acknowledged the people at the tables with a quick nod and then made a beeline for the dessert buffet.
While loading a caramel apple and a piece of gingerbread onto her plate, she kept an eye on the group of children and the mysterious Santa Claus. If she could somehow find out herself just who it was, she wouldn't have to stay until the big revelation. She could go home, write up her story, and take of the rest of the day. Her stomach contracted just thinking about having to spend another two hours in this sugar-sweet Christmas atmosphere. Perry definitely owed her big time.
Lois nibbled on her apple and took a closer look at Santa. The man somehow looked familiar. His posture and his gestures seemed familiar. And that meant she had to know this Santa Claus. Deciding she had to find out right then, she put her plate down and approached the group under the tree.
At that very moment, Santa got up and the group of children dissolved. Apparently everybody had gotten his or her present and was now eager to show it proudly to the others. Santa carefully made his way through the crowd of excited children over to the adults.
He didn't seem to notice Lois until he stood in front of her. Then he looked up and seemed surprised when he found himself looking straight into her eyes. Lois held her breath as she recognized him. But that couldn't be true!
Santa Claus was Clark!
Clark carefully moved through the crowd of laughing and excitedly chatting children. He had had a lot of fun playing Santa for them, trying very hard to do his best. The kids were supposed to have a nice Christmas, and since he had been able to contribute to it, he had gladly done so.
Gratefully he thought back to his own childhood. Christmas had always been a time full of magic, wonder and anticipation for him. People seemed to come closer and the lights to shine brighter this time of year. His parents had always valued traditions and so for him Christmas had been inseparably connected with baking cookies, reading stories to each others in the evenings, with the scent of pine trees, and of course with choosing and chopping the Christmas tree together. Even today, he could still feel the magic of the season and he was happy that he could share it with these children that weren't as lucky as he had been.
Clark smirked when he thought about how long it had taken him as a child to find out about Santa Claus. Wayne Irig had played him very convincingly and awe-inspiringly. But on the other hand, it was *Clark* of all people who knew best, that a disguise above all was a matter of belief and mainly worked because of the imagination and wishes of the observer.
Clark had to smile at these thoughts. Then he realized that someone was standing in front of him. He looked up and looked directly into the eyes of his partner: Lois! What was *she* doing here?
Clark grew uncomfortable for a second. He felt silly in his costume. But then he decided it didn't matter whether he was wearing blue spandex or a red Santa costume, Lois would probably swoon over Superman anyway, he suspected.
"Clark, I can't believe it!" Lois hissed, while she put her hands on her hips, giving him a crushing look.
Clark felt an icy shiver running down his spine, but before he could reply, Lois continued her ranting, "*You* are playing Santa Claus! Why didn't you tell me about it? And couldn't you write the story yourself? Instead Perry made me show up here, and I almost bored myself to death only to find out that my so-called partner dresses up in a red coat in his spare time. Thanks, Clark, really!"
Clark tried to suppress his rising feeling of panic but it took him a while to form a clear thought. No matter what, Lois could not believe he was Clark! He had to convince her that she was wrong.
In his deepest voice possible he answered. "I'm sorry, Lois, but you are wrong. I am not Clark…"
Before he could continue, Lois interrupted him. "Ha ha! Very funny, Kent, and who exactly are you then? Santa Claus?" Lois snorted. "Do you think I'm blind? You can't fool me with a white beard and a Santa hat! Who do you think I am?"
Lois was in full ranting mode and didn't care that some of the children had turned around to look at her questioningly. "And by the way, who do they think *you* are? You are hardly one of the most 'important' people in town!"
Clark knew he had missed his chance. Lois was too sure she was talking to Clark Kent. There was no way he could now convince her otherwise. His thoughts were racing. He needed to find a way to protect his secret identity from her. Lois had to leave! She could under no circumstances stay around for the big revelation of this year's Santa Claus, or he was finished.
Of course, she would still find out later on that it was Superman, who had played Santa Claus at the orphanage this year. But Clark hoped to come up with a plan before then to explain his presence. Something like he had to substitute for Superman when there was an emergency that needed attending to. True, it would still be far-fetched but Clark was not ready to give up so easily, and in his despair he was ready to clutch at any straw that might have helped him.
He tried to suppress the panic in his voice when he replied. "You're right, Lois, I am very sorry. I didn't know about it until this morning, that's why I didn't have time to tell Perry. But of course I'll write the story, that goes without saying. I will even add your name to the byline. So you can just go now. After all, nothing important is going to happen. I wish you a merry Christmas, Lois." With this outburst, Clark led his partner toward the exit and opened the door for her.
"Hold on a second." Lois stopped suddenly and looked at Clark suspiciously. "Why do I suddenly get the feeling you are trying to get rid of me? Did I miss anything?"
"No, no, Lois, why do you think that?" Clark replied quickly and laughed in embarrassment. "I just thought that since you didn't like Christmas, you probably wouldn't want to stay here any longer, now that you know that I will write the story for us."
Lois frowned sceptically. "Just why don't I believe you? — No, actually it's quite nice here and I think I'll stay a little while longer." With these words, Lois turned around and marched back to her neglected plate in the grand hall.
Clark wanted to hurry after her, but he was stopped by Mrs. Abbott, who walked towards him with a huge smile on her face and exclaimed, "Santa Claus! There you are, we almost thought you had gotten lost. I think it's about time for the big revelation, if you don't mind. We sent the younger children on a Christmas walk since we wouldn't want to ruin their illusion for them, right?" She winked at Clark conspiringly.
He just nodded and mumbled something intelligible. He threw a dark glance toward the dessert buffet, where Lois was busy with her caramel apple, and wondered if he could pretend there was an emergency and that way avoid the revelation. But then he dismissed that thought, his disappearance would make Lois even more suspicious.
Besides, even though he had a problem revealing his secret to others, he wasn't that much of a coward to simply run away. He had a pretty bad conscience anyway about having lied to Lois like that just now, and didn't want to make matters worse. No, he would stay, and if it had to be that Lois found out about his secret identity, so be it. Basically, he trusted her to keep his secret, provided that she wouldn't act without thinking in her initial shock and rage. He had to take that risk. There was no way out.
While Mrs. Abbott led him to the little stage on the other side of the room, Clark was conscious of the fact that Lois was watching him the whole time. He stood shifting his weight from foot to foot as Mrs. Abbott positioned herself next to him on the stage and announced it was time to reveal the identity of this year's Santa Claus.
Curious, all the guests assembled in front of the stage and the remaining children sat in a semicircle up front on the floor. Mrs. Abbott waited until everyone had found a place and then cleared her throat. All conversation ceased except for the occasional whisper.
"Ladies and gentlemen, dear children! As you know, every year we have the pleasure of inviting a well-known citizen of our city to play Santa Claus for us. Some of you have been in this situation yourselves, standing up here next to me, waiting to have your beard removed." The director paused at the snickers here and there coming from the audience. She smiled and then continued. "Each year we are grateful for your support, which enables us to continue with our tradition. Thank you so much!" The audience applauded politely.
"Now, I don't want to keep you waiting any longer. I just want to tell you that this year we have a very special Santa Claus, who, without doubt, would have had no problem to really fly through the air with the reindeer sled." Mrs. Abbott turned to Clark and gave him a sign.
Clark swallowed. It was time! He kept his eyes steadily on one single person in the hall. Clark hoped that he did the right thing, and the look he gave Lois held a silent plea of trust.
Then Santa slowly started to float until he was about 3 feet above the stage.
For a moment there was stunned silence. Then people in the hall started to cheer and clap hands and the children jumped to their feet and beamed.
"Superman! It is Superman!"
Lois stood gaping among the crowd and stared at the floating figure, who gazed at her intently.
She blinked. The picture remained the same.
Santa Claus was Superman? — But that meant… *Clark* was Superman?!
Lois suddenly felt slightly dizzy and her thoughts went a mile a minute, as she tried to grasp the implication of what she had seen.
Her mild-mannered and innocent partner, the naive farmboy from Kansas, who often acted so clumsily and whom she had taught the basic journalistic skills of callousness and persistence was really Superman? This nice boy from next door, who brought her coffee in the morning and told her bad jokes, was moonlighting in tights in his spare time, saving the world? Lois sharply gasped for breath and had to get a grip on herself not to burst into disbelieving laughter.
Suddenly another thought came to her mind. He had made a fool of her! He had let her believe that he was two separate people, and probably found it funny that she, the celebrated top investigative reporter had swooned over Superman, totally clueless, while all the time he was next to her feigning to be a harmless reporter. — And which of the two was real, Clark or Superman?
Lois didn't know what to think any more, she only knew one thing. She had to get out of here and fast! She turned on her heels and hurried towards the door without noticing the astounded looks of bystanders that she was causing with her strange behavior. But just before she reached the door, she felt the touch of a hand on her arm.
Clark had watched her from the stage with a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach as Lois first stared at him in disbelief, then paled and finally turned around abruptly to escape to the door. He grimaced inwardly.
Sure, she had to be in shock to put it mildly, confused, and what was probably even worse, angry and disappointed. It had definitely not been his plan to let her find out like this, although on his list of potential candidates with whom he wanted to share his secret, her name stood pretty much on top — well to be honest, it was the only one. In a way he was relieved that it finally had happened, but it seemed, that at least at the moment, Lois wasn't able to share this feeling.
When he hurried after her, still in his Santa costume, he thought briefly about what people would make of this scene but then he pushed that thought aside. Lois was more important at the moment.
When he caught up with her just in front of the entrance and touched her arm, she startled slightly and slowly turned towards him. Clark swallowed. "Lois, I…well, you know…I want to explain it to you…"
Lois interrupted him, before he could continue. "If you will excuse me, *Superman*," she said pointedly, "I really should go now and write up my *story*. Perry probably is already waiting for it."
With that she shook off his hand and slipped through the door. The cold air hit her, and she took a moment to take deep breaths. It was already dark out and the driving snow had increased in intensity. Heavy flakes were falling, leaving behind a thick white blanket on the roofs and ground.
"Uh, Lois…please wait!" Clark stepped through the door and followed her to the parking lot. "Which story…I mean, you…you didn't mean…you are not really going to…"
With trembling fingers, Lois searched for her keys and opened the door of her car. Then she turned around. "What do you think? "
Clark hesitated for a second and then looked at her. "I…I think you'll write a story about the Christmas celebration of the orphanage…and that you probably won't write a certain other story…" Clark's voice sounded a bit insecure, but he added pleadingly, "Lois, I want to explain everything to you…"
"No, Superman…or Clark…or whoever you are, that's not necessary, I already got it. Your life is your own business, and you obviously have no desire to share it with anyone, that's okay. You haven't done so far, so why should you start now? There is no reason to do so, don't worry. Now, please leave me alone, after all I too have a private life, which is no one else's business." Lois' voice was cold, but she couldn't hide a slight tremble in it. She left Clark standing where he was, got into her jeep and slammed the door. She then started the engine as quickly as possible and shifted gears before speeding out of the parking lot.
When she turned into the street, she took one last look into her rear-view mirror towards the orphanage. There, almost invisible in the driving snow, stood a lonely figure in a red coat.
Clark's eyes followed Lois as she was driving away. He felt miserable. How had everything gone so wrong? He considered flying after her, but he knew better. She had made it clear that she didn't want to see him at the moment and on no account did he want to provoke her any further.
He knew that she was hurting, and therefore had lashed out at him. Presumably she felt that her pride as an investigative reporter was offended, when realizing that she hadn't found out his secret by herself. However, he had no doubt that she wouldn't write about it, even if she had thrown him off balance for a moment by hinting at it.
What worried Clark more, though, was how his relationship with Lois would survive the revelation. She had just begun to open up a little towards Clark. She had lowered her guard and let him catch a glimpse of her vulnerable side. Only a few days before she had taken refuge at his apartment, when Sebastian Finn had tried to kill her, and he had felt how much faith she had put in him.
But how would it be now, that she knew, that he and her idolized superhero were one and the same? Would she still recognise Clark, or would she just see him as Superman from now on?
Mrs. Abbott had come outside and looked at him questioningly: "What's the matter? The kids are waiting for you, it would be very nice…"
Clark sighted slightly.
"I'm coming," he replied and turned around to enter the house again.
Lois sat in the dark of her apartment, eating spoonfuls of chocolate chip ice cream, deep in thought.
When she had come home an hour ago, she had slammed the door so hard as if to lock out the entire world. She has been relieved that Clark hadn't stopped or followed her because she wasn't sure that she would have not started to scream or cry all of a sudden had she had to say another word to him.
Only after a long hot shower had she calmed down enough to write up the Christmas story and send it to Perry.
And that story alone.
She had never really intended to make her discovery public because she knew exactly what consequences that would have had. Nevertheless that threat seemed right at the moment, when she had desperately tried to digest the newly discovered facts without losing her cool. It had been one opportunity to keep Clark at a distance and to allow her escape from him.
The one who had slowly made his way into her heart over the past several weeks without her realizing it. The one she had taken refuge with without hesitating in her fear of Sebastian Finn. The one, who on the other hand, had not had enough faith in her to share his secret until she had finally stumbled across it herself.
Lois' initial anger about Clark's lies and deceptions had died down a while ago and made room for a bitter disappointment. Of course, she knew that she hadn't been very nice to Clark in the beginning and she could somehow even understand that because of it he hadn't been keen on telling her everything about himself. Especially not after she had been swooning over his alter ego without restraint.
Hadn't their relationship changed lately?
Hadn't she and Clark become closer?
Of course, she still admired Superman and the thought of having worked with him for almost five months made her shiver.
But her adoration of the superhero did not mean that she would have valued him less had she known that he worked and lived as a regular guy. That he had flaws and moods, that he could be happy or mad, just like everybody else.
'On the contrary,' she realized, 'That way, he becomes…*more*.'
It wasn't until now that she recognized just how little she actually knew about Superman and how much he had always stayed a distant and somewhat one-dimensional personage. She also understood that that had been Clark's intentions.
What she couldn't understand was why he hadn't trusted *her*. He should have known that he had become important to her lately and that she would have never betrayed him, but apparently he hadn't thought so.
Suddenly it occurred to her that Clark had to have known what he was doing that night. That he would have revealed himself to her when disclosing his Superman identity. Yet he had stayed and put up with it.
'Yes, but only after he hadn't been able to get rid of you,' a voice in the back of her head remarked.
Lois sighed and stood up. Her ice cream container was empty and she threw it in the trash, frustrated. She then crossed her dark living room to the window and pushed the curtains aside to look out.
It was still snowing slightly and everything was covered in a thick blanket of fresh snow, which, unusual for Metropolis, was almost untouched and white. It had to have turned even colder and hardly anyone was visible out on the streets.
Of course, it was Christmas Eve and most people were probably already sitting at home, surrounded by family, eating and celebrating. Involuntarily, Lois wondered what Clark was doing. Was he still with the children at the orphanage or was he by now on his way to Metropolis to spend Christmas with his family?
That was something else she had to get used to. Even Superman had a family, so he wouldn't be alone on Christmas Eve.
'What if he would come to me?' she asked herself and spent a moment gazing hopefully up into the night sky. But she only saw whirling snowflakes that fell from the dark clouds without interruption.
'No,' she scolded herself, 'Why should he?' He had made it clear that she wasn't really important to him. And she, for her part, had given him to understand that she wasn't keen on his company.
She was startled by a knock on her door.
Hesitantly she made her way to the door, undecided whether she should open it. Hopefully it wasn't her mother, or her neighbor. Hopefully, it was…
Lois' heart skipped a beat when she recognized the voice and she hurried to open the many locks on her door. Her thoughts raced as she tried to figure out what to say to him.
When she finally opened the door, she looked into the face of a very embarrassed looking Clark Kent.
Clark had spent another seemingly endless half hour with the children, during which he had grown more and more restless. Before starting to shift around on his chair, which would have made his distress obvious to all, he had come up with a non-existent emergency that had allowed him to leave.
He had told himself that Lois didn't want to see him. Yet, only moments after exiting the orphanage, he found himself in the air on his way to her apartment.
But before reaching his destination, he had heard cries for help. A Christmas tree had caught fire in an apartment and the flames had spread to the curtains. In the time it took him to extinguish the fire and calm the frightened family, the streets and the snowfall had quieted down.
Clark decided to walk the short distance to Lois' place. While plodding through the snow, hands buried deep in his pockets, he relived what had happened at the orphanage. He wasn't sure if it was smart to visit Lois, after all, she had made it very clear that she didn't want to speak to him.
Nevertheless, he couldn't help it. He felt the urge to see her and to assure that she was okay. Most importantly he wanted to find out if they still were friends or if the recent events had changed everything between them. Would she be disappointed that her idol turned out to have flaws? Or would she be mad at him for keeping her in the dark?
Clark didn't know, but he hoped that she could still see him as a friend and eventually maybe even as something more…
When Clark reached Lois' apartment, he stopped abruptly. Her windows were dark, and a feeling of disappointment took over. She wasn't home. Of course, in his eagerness to talk things over with Lois, he had completely forgotten that she had been invited to her mother's tonight.
Dejected, he slumped his shoulders and turned around when he noticed a movement in her window. Clark lowered his glasses to take a closer look. Upstairs, Lois was standing in the dark window of her living room, gazing into the night sky, apparently deeply in thought.
Clark's heart skipped a beat as he saw her there, and mere seconds later he was in front of her door and knocked.
At first, everything remained quiet and he began to think that she hadn't heard him. Then he made out hesitant steps on the other side of the door.
Clark really hoped she would open the door for him to give him the chance to explain everything. He could barely keep himself from looking through the door above the rim of his glasses. Relieved he heard how she opened the many looks and finally, Lois stood in the doorway to her darkened apartment.
"Lois? May I come in?" Clark looked at her questioningly and ran his fingers through his hair in a nervous gesture. He didn't know how she would react.
Lois stepped aside and allowed him to enter. She looked at him, her face unreadable. "Why did you come? If you are worried about that story…"
"No, no," Clark injected hastily. "I know that you would never write about it, I trust you."
"Oh, you trust me?" Lois sarcastically lifted an eyebrow. "Ohh, I understand! And you obviously trust me so much, you unfortunately forgot to tell me a tiny little detail about your daily life. But sure, it wasn't a big deal, so why should you bother letting dumb Lois be in the know. After all, I'm only one of the many you could have and why chose a little reporter, who can't even tell the difference between a chicken and an egg, much less between a hillbilly and an alien from outer space. "
Lois had talked herself into full ranting mode and her eyes sparked as she gave Clark her Mad Dog Lane treatment. Even though Clark had expected a similar reaction, he instinctively took a step back.
At the same time, he knew that her aggressive behavior was just her way of protecting herself. She was hurt. She was hurt and insecure and tried to hide that behind a facade of cynicism and aggression.
Clark suddenly realized how insignificant and unfounded his worry had been that Lois would no longer notice him as Clark Kent after she had found out that he was Superman as well. Of course she still did.
No, this was about something totally different, something much more important.
It was about trust.
Trust that he hadn't shown her. Trust, which she believed to have earned but which in her eyes he hadn't bestowed upon her. And so he had hurt her deeply.
On the one hand that seemed to imply that Clark Kent was important to her. But on the other hand it also meant he had a lot of things to make up to her.
"Lois, Lois, you know that that isn't true!" he exclaimed and his voice trembled a little. "You are the only one I have ever been interested in and I would never want anyone but you. Besides, I think you are a *brilliant* reporter."
Clark took a step towards her and pleaded. "Lois, I am so sorry that I didn't tell you, that I lied to you. It was dumb of me. I was…insecure but that had nothing to do with you. You would have been the only one I had ever wanted to tell. But I was afraid. Not because I didn't trust you but because I am not used to talking about it with others. Please, believe me! Please?"
Clark kept his eyes on Lois and waited nervously for a reaction.
The corner of Lois' mouth twitched. She looked at him for a moment before suddenly turning around and hurrying across the room to the window as if trying to put as much distance as possible between her and Clark. Clark didn't know what to make of it; apparently she either couldn't or wouldn't answer him.
Somewhat insecure, he watched her make her way through the dark room. Halfway across she hit the coffee table and Clark could hear her swear softly.
Suddenly he realized what he had subconsciously been aware of the whole time. She wasn't supposed to be here! Especially not in a darkened apartment! It wasn't until now that he became aware of the absurdity of the situation and without making the effort of turning on the light, he followed her through the dark room.
"Lois!" Clark moved next to her but she had turned her back to him and stared out the window onto the snow-covered street as if she was expecting to see someone there. "Why are you *here* anyway? I thought you were going to spend Christmas Eve at your mother's? She is probably asking herself where you are by now!" he wondered.
"No, she is not." Lois turned around.
"But you told me that she had invited you and that you were going to go?!" Clark looked at her helplessly.
"Yes, that's what I told you and everybody else that asked. Do you really believe I was anxious to be pitied by everyone and to hear them whisper behind my back? 'Oh, look. There comes Lois. Did you hear that she will be alone again on Christmas? Nobody can stand to be around her for that long, who's surprised'." She looked at Clark defiantly but her lower lip quivered. "Just because I'm alone for Christmas doesn't mean I am to be pitied. After all, I hate Christmas and really there is nothing to celebrate…" Lois trailed off when she noticed the tremble in her voice.
"Oh, Lois," Clark's voice was soft and he involuntarily extended his hand to lightly caress her cheek. "Why didn't you say anything?"
Lois bit her lip, and her eyes moistened suspiciously. She sniffed slightly and started to dig through her pant pocket. At last, Clark offered her his handkerchief. She accepted it and began to wipe her eyes and blow her nose, while both of them stood silent in the darkness at the window.
In the silence between them, Clark sensed that there were many things left unsaid but the storm was over and they were still friends. That made him unbelievably glad and he felt the love he felt for this extraordinary woman standing beside him fill him with a warm feeling of happiness.
"Clark?" Lois almost whispered.
"Hmm?" he asked softly.
"Do you really think…" She hesitated for a moment. "Do you really think that I am a good reporter?" She timidly threw him a glance from under her eyelashes.
"Absolutely," Clark replied, leaving no doubt. "You are the best, most intelligent and compassionate reporter I ever met. Nobody could ever compete with you."
"But I let myself be fooled by a simple pair of glasses," she exclaimed in desperation. "That doesn't exactly speak for my journalistic instinct."
"Yes, but on the other hand, a beard and a Santa hat didn't keep you from seeing through me. I didn't stand a chance." Clark winked at her.
Against her will, Lois had to giggle, and after a moment she explained. "Well, I just don't believe in Santa Claus."
"There you go, and that is the whole secret. People see someone to project their hopes and dreams on, thus creating his personality after their own wishes. We believe and see what we expect to see. It is less the disguises one wears than the imagination of the people that make a figure come to life." Clark paused to underline what he had said.
Then he continued. "For little kids, Santa is real because they associate him with certain things. That's why they don't even consider the idea that he might not be real, that he could be someone else. You, on the contrary, don't believe in Christmas and Santa Claus, therefore you had no difficulty to look past the costume."
He looked at her lovingly before going on. "You on the other hand associate, like many others, hopes and dreams with *Superman*. The people have a certain conception of *him* as well, that they transfer to him and that's what makes his disguise work. And in his case you contribute to it and you had no reason not to believe in your picture of him."
"Mmh…" Lois glanced out the window pensively while playing with the handkerchief that she was still holding in her hand.
Clark stepped closer and gently moved her aside. "May I?" He opened the window. At her astonished look, he replied, "The two of us still have plans for tonight."
With that he took a step back and spun into his Superman costume. Before Lois could get over her shock, he had taken her into his arms and flown out the window with her.
Lois could hardly believe what was happening to her. Seconds before she had stood by the window of her apartment with Clark and now she found herself high up in the night sky above Metropolis in his arms. Amazed, she looked at the city below her that, in its snowy-white dress, made an unusually clean impression.
Suddenly the silhouettes of the houses below her became fuzzy and seemed to melt into a single line of gray. Clarks flew so fast that she couldn't make out anymore where they were. Involuntarily, she clung to him a little more tightly.
"Everything okay?" he asked and took a concerned look at her face.
"Yes, I am fine," she assured him and then wanted to know. "Where are we flying to?"
He grinned a little and just said, "You'll have to wait."
Lois felt too exhausted to protest and took comfort in the thought that it couldn't take much longer until she found out. For today, her reporter instinct had been stretched enough, and she just wanted to enjoy the flight in Clark's arms. She sighed and had to smile when Clark threw her an amused look.
Lois giggled suddenly as a thought occurred to her.
"What?" Clark asked.
"Who would have thought that I would run away with Santa Claus this evening?" she teased.
"Well, you see, only few enjoy this privilege and you are one of them, even though you don't even believe in him," he joked back and winked at her.
Lois became quiet when she considered that in a way that was true. She now belonged to the few chosen ones who had the opportunity to really get to know Clark Kent. To see him when he didn't have to hide a part of him and how he could only show himself to very few people on this earth. Lois felt indeed privileged and a warm feeling spread through her. She snuggled closer to Clark.
"Are you cold?" he asked.
"Mhm, yes, a little," she lied and blushed. He shouldn't think that she was becoming obtrusive, but she was not prepared to increase the distance between them, it felt too good.
"We're almost there," he announced.
Moments later the fuzzy world that surrounded them started to show contours again. Below them were white, snow-covered fields, glittering in the bright light of the moon, and the sky above was black and full of stars. Lois held her breath.
The stars shone with such clarity and intensity she had never seen before. The snowy landscape seemed to stretch away endlessly into every direction. A deep, peaceful silence lay over the entire scene.
Finally, Lois saw where they were flying. In the middle of the white plain sat the farm of Clark's parents, almost completely snowed in. The windows were brightly lit, and the gleam of light fell onto on the snow that almost reached to the windowsill.
Clark landed in front of the door and sat Lois down gently. As he took her by the hand to walk towards the house, she held him back. "Clark, are you sure your parents won't mind? I mean Christmas is a time for family and they are certainly not expecting any guests. It would probably be better…"
"Shh, Lois, it's okay. My parents will be glad you came. And knowing my mom, I'm sure no one is going to starve." Clark grinned at her.
Lois relented and let him lead her to the door willingly. When they stood on the threshold, Clark raised his hand to knock, but then he stopped. He had a twinkle in his eyes as he turned around to her. "Lois, I think I have to kiss you now."
Surprised, she moved back a little and asked: "Why?"
Without a word, Clark pointed up and Lois raised her eyes. A mistletoe was mounted there above the door. And they both were standing directly underneath it.
"Oh…" Lois hesitated a little. "Well, if that's the case…"
Her heart was pounding as she raised her head expectantly. She felt Clark's warm and soft lips touch her softly and instinctively she responded to his kiss. Butterflies were dancing inside her, and her skin tingled where his warm breath was touching it. Without interrupting the kiss, he gently pulled her closer and she put her arms around his neck. Time stood still.
When she finally broke away from him a little breathlessly, she could see that his eyes were shining. He took her hand and knocked on the door.
While they waited, Clark whispered in her ear. "It is a good thing there are Christmas traditions. And you know, Lois, I wouldn't worry about it. I am sure that sooner or later you too will experience the magic of Christmas."
Lois looked at him and smiled.
"I think I already have," she murmured.
When Martha opened the door to usher them into the warm house, Lois was certain that this would really be an interesting and magical Christmas.
Merry Christmas to all of you!