By Alisha Knight <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: July 2008
Summary: It's the holiday season in Metropolis, and Clark's got an unmarked present on his desk. Just how crazy can a little red box make Lois?
This Christmas 2007 Ficathon story was written for Krissie. Her request is at the end of the story.
A big festive thank you to CarolM for BRing this.
Standard disclaimers apply.
There was a bite to the wind as Lois hurried into the lobby of the Daily Planet. She rubbed her gloved hands together as she waited to buy her daily dose of Double Fudge Crunch bars, trying to get the circulation back into her numbed fingers. She smiled and exchanged meaningless pleasantries with the vendor, all the time thinking to herself that the only thing cold weather was good for was preventing chocolate from melting. She hurried to the newsroom, grateful to notice the warmth returning to her body as the elevator made its way up the building, so that by the time she had reached her desk the only part of her body that still felt cold was the tip of her nose.
As she cautiously removed her coat, gloves and scarf, Lois' gaze fell automatically onto her partner's desk. Her partner's *empty* desk, she noticed in mild irritation. She glanced up at the clock. Truth be told she had been late into work, but Clark Kent had been known to turn up much later than this. She shook her head in disapproval. He was lucky he had her to pick up his slack for him, and that Perry hadn't pulled him up on his time-keeping. Other partners and editors wouldn't have been so understanding.
The ringing phone on her desk interrupted her thoughts and she settled down to work.
"Hey, Lois, guess what?"
"What?" Lois asked as she replaced the receiver and looked up into the enthusiastically grinning face of Jimmy as he leant on her desk.
"Perry's left me in charge of putting up the Christmas decorations in the newsroom *and* I get to organise the Secret Santa!"
Lois couldn't see what organising a Secret Santa needed, except for someone to take the time to write out the names of all the members of staff and put them in a hat, but Jimmy looked so happy at being in charge of something that she smiled at him fondly. Then she found her eyes drawn back to Clark's desk. "Has Clark been in yet?"
"He was in earlier," Jimmy told her distractedly, his mind still on his tasks, "but then he rushed off, as he does. I'm going to see what decorations are in the store room."
She nodded as he rushed off on his seasonal errand. As she moved her head, something on the corner of Clark's desk caught her eye. Glancing back she saw a flash of red and gold. She rolled her eyes. Trust Clark Kent to be the first employee to decorate his desk! She felt herself smile at that thought; she could almost see Clark full of the same boyish exuberance Jimmy was currently exhibiting at the mere mention of Christmas. Lois looked back at the decoration and realised that it was actually a present. It was a small box, decorated in a red and gold pattern and finished off with a glittering gold ribbon that was tied in an elaborate bow that Lois knew she could never retie if she accidentally undid it to peek in at the box's contents. There was no tag on it that she could see from where she was sat. Still, it didn't matter. It wasn't like she needed to know what was in the box; it probably wasn't for her anyway. If it had been for her, it would have been on her desk, not Clark's. So it was none of her business.
Lois turned on her computer.
In an effort to get on with her work, Lois turned away from the television screen that was showing a news report on Superman helping to clean up an oil spill. Unfortunately, instead, her mind went straight back to the box on Clark's desk. It really wasn't very big at all, so she had already ruled out it containing chocolates, books, clothes, videos, sports cars and a hundred and one other things that were too big to fit in a little box. Unless it was some sort of magic box, where the inside was bigger than the outside... but that was just plain ridiculous.
It would help if she knew who it was for. Clark had already been in, so it was possible that he had brought it with him to give to someone, but it was equally possible that someone had come along in-between Clark's disappearance and her arrival and put it on the desk *for* Clark. Lois shivered as a strange shudder rode through her body at that last thought. The trouble with small presents was that they tended to be something special. They weren't huge, grand gestures; they were full of thought and meaning. For some reason Lois didn't like the idea that it was a special present for Clark. If it was a special present, then it had to be from a special person. The nearest thing Clark had to a special person was his parents, and she was fairly certain that his parents wouldn't leave a mystery gift on his desk for him.
But that wasn't exactly true, the unwanted thought came to Lois, Clark did have a special person. Sort of. As far as that person was concerned, he did, but Lois didn't think that Clark thought of Mayson that way. Still, if Mayson had left the present, what would she have given Clark in a box that size? Cuff links? Aftershave? A key to her home? An engagement ring? Something even more intimate?
No! Lois gritted her teeth and focused on her story. This was stupid. She was letting her imagination get the better of her and all because she didn't have something to get her teeth into. It probably wasn't even from Mayson. She should just wait for Clark to get back, and then ask him casually about the present, as if she hadn't given it a second thought. Which she hadn't. Not in the slightest.
Lois sighed. Where *was* Clark, anyway?
"Where have you been?"
Clark had almost made it to his desk before being confronted by an extremely irate Lois. Her teeth were clenched and her hands were balled up into fists, causing her knuckles to turn white, but he wasn't sure if she was even conscious of her aggressive stance. "Sorry, I had... stuff... that I needed to do. Besides, I didn't think we had any big stories to work on. Unless something came up while I was away?" He watched her patiently, waiting for an explanation for her attitude. He'd only been gone a couple of hours and he'd been away on rescues for longer periods of time without incurring her wrath like this. Obviously *something* was up and knowing Lois, it could be anything.
"No," Lois took in a deep breath and forced herself to calm down. Casual, she reminded herself, stay calm and casual. "No big story. I think that's the problem."
He chuckled. "Well I didn't discover anything worth writing about, either. Guess it's just another slow news day."
"Huh." Lois watched as he sat down on his chair and started flicking through the messages that had been left on his desk. Moments past as she sucked up her courage and then blurted out, "So what's in the box?"
"This box," Lois leant across his desk and rapped gently on the top of the box, hoping to acquire some new information from the sound it made. She didn't. Maybe she should have picked it up to show him, then she would have known how heavy it was, she thought as a sad afterthought.
Clark narrowed his eyes at Lois as he took in her body language, the curiosity in her eyes, the slight racing of her heart and the edge in her voice. He tried not to smile as he realised he had just found the source of her vexation. "Oh, *that* box."
Lois smiled at him in relief, knowing that she was very close to getting the answer she wanted, "Yeah, *that* box. I was just wondering, I mean, Jimmy hasn't started on the Secret Santa yet, so it's pretty odd that there's a present on your desk."
"It's only a few days before Christmas, Lois," Clark calmly pointed out, "people are allowed to start handing out gifts."
"I know," Lois replied airily as she flounced back to her desk in her attempt to appear disinterested.
Clark leant back in his chair and smiled in amusement as he watched Lois pretend to be engrossed in her work. Her pretence lasted almost a full minute, before he heard her voice float across to him, "So who's the present for?"
"It isn't for you," he replied and was rewarded for his words with a venomous look.
"Is it for you?"
Clark laughed. "This is really frustrating you, isn't it?"
"Oh, please," Lois scoffed as she angled her chair so that she could see him without straining her neck. "I couldn't care less. *I'm* just making conversation."
"Reeaally?" He drawled.
Clark nodded and looked back at his messages. "Cold, isn't it?" he asked, purposely not watching her reaction.
"The weather," he clarified, raising his head with an expression of complete innocence on his face, "it's turned really cold. They were even talking about snow."
Lois let out a deep breath in exasperation. "What *are* you talking about?"
"Nothing. Just making conversation. Did you hear that the price of fuel's going up again?"
She let out a low growl and stood up quickly, causing her desk to wobble. "I'm getting some coffee," she announced rather too loudly, before storming away to the coffee-pot, leaving Clark at his desk, trying not to laugh.
Lois watched suspiciously as Clark returned to the newsroom, wondering where he had vanished to for the second time that day. He knew it was a slow news day; surely if he'd had a tip he could have shared it with her. Deciding that she was still annoyed with him, she purposely didn't look at him as he made his way over to her desk. Out of the corner of her eye she watched as he placed a cup of decent coffee from the cafe across the road on her desk. "Peace-offering," he said, before straightening his slightly-crooked tie as he returned to the desk with his own cup.
Clark watched as Lois reached out and took the coffee, took a sip and then deigned to speak to him. She turned her head and gave him a smile. "Thanks."
Minutes passed without further interaction as they both drank their hot drinks. After Lois deposited the empty cup in her bin, she decided to go and perch on Clark's desk. "Sorry about earlier. That box has been driving me crazy all morning."
"I noticed." He said with a grin, but his teasing was gentler than before and not intended to further rile her.
"And you don't need to tell me, I suppose you're entitled to secrets, even from your best friend. But can you just tell me if it's anything to do with Mayson?"
His eyebrows went up at her question. "Mayson? What has your imagination been conjuring... no, wait, on second thoughts, I really don't want to know."
Lois gave a small laugh. "Clark." She smiled at him with a hint of irritation.
"It has nothing to do with Mayson," he reassured her. He watched a look of relief flood her face, then her brows furrowed again and Clark could practically see her trying to figure out what else the box could be. He decided to put her out of her misery. "Or me, for that matter. It's something my Dad's ordered for my Mom. They're coming to Metropolis for their Christmas shopping, but he was worried that he wouldn't be able to sneak away to pick it up so he asked me to do it for him."
"Oh." Lois finally picked up the box and inspected it properly. "He got it gift-wrapped?"
"My Mom's the arty one -- my Dad gets in a sticky mess with the tape."
Lois pushed herself off the desk and let out a sigh. "Well, now that mystery's been solved, I guess we'd better try and find something more printable."
Clark made a face. "What, you mean that Perry won't put my Mom's Christmas present on the front page?"
She made no reply to his question and just walked over to her desk. She stared at it for a second, then let out a sound that was something between a sigh and a growl but definitely annoyed-sounding. Clark watched, slightly bemused as she grabbed her coat and bag and got tangled up in her scarf as she tried to drape it snugly round her neck.
"Going somewhere?" he asked after she had eventually, properly dressed herself in her winter coat.
Lois started to glare at him, and for a second Clark thought she was going to get her revenge and tease him as he had teased her with the box, then she relented. "I'm gonna hit the streets, try and find Bobby, see if he's got any useful information. Do you want to come?"
"Sure." Clark grabbed his coat from the back of his chair and hurried after her as she stalked her way to the elevator.
Lois shivered as they left the Planet building and started walking through the festively decorated streets of Metropolis. Clark's hand crept its way to the edge of his coat, instinctively reacting to her need for warmth by wanting to offer her his unneeded coat. It was only when it started sliding off his shoulders that he realised it would appear very strange for him to be walking around without a coat with the current temperature fighting to stay above freezing, so he shrugged it back on, slightly annoyed at being unable to warm Lois up while he remained unaffected by the cold. He overcame his irritation by giving her a slight blast with his heat vision as they passed an open door, hoping that she would think it nothing more than the store's heating leaking out into the street.
She moved so that she was walking nearer to Clark, unconsciously seeking to share his body heat. She jumped slightly as she felt his arm rest gently across her shoulders, but he dropped it back down almost immediately at her reaction. Lois smiled shyly at him, realising that his move had been nothing more than an automatic reaction to their proximity to each other. As a compromise, she entwined her arm with his, drawing herself further into the warm shelter of his body.
"Maybe we should have taken your car," he spoke softly, not wanting to spook her from her current position, but still needing to know that she was comfortable even if it was at the expense of their current closeness.
"That would have taken ages to warm up," she admitted. "Besides, we're not really going that far and this is a much quicker way to thaw out."
"Glad to be useful."
"You can be," she replied. A few flakes of snow began to fall around them. Lois held out her free hand and caught a snowflake on the sleeve of her coat. She stared at intricate and delicately structured ice crystal as it slowly melted away into the material covering her arm.
As she raised her head back up to look ahead of her, she realised that the snow was beginning to fall thicker and thicker. Shoppers hurried around, laden down with bags of presents for their friends and families as a school choir started singing carols on the corner of the street. Fairy lights and tinsel twinkled in windows and Lois couldn't deny it any longer. It was that time of year again. Christmas was back.
A man nearly collided with the pair as he exited a toy store they were passing. Lois glared at his back as he disappeared through the falling snow into the crowd without even muttering an apology. "You know, I don't really know why we're bothering. There won't be anything exciting happening now until after New Year," she complained.
"Do you want to head back?" Clark asked as he began to slow his pace in preparation to turn around and return to the Planet.
She shook her head, dislodging some of the snow that had settled on her head, "No, I'll just get fixated on that stupid box again. Let's carry on with the plan and find Bobby. Then I can complain some more when he doesn't have anything for us."
He chuckled. "Thanks for the warning."
Lois punched him lightly on the arm, to which Clark responded by merely upgrading his chuckle into a laugh. His laughter was infectious and she felt compelled to join him as they walked arm-in-arm through the snow, laughing together as the reflection of Christmas lights twinkled merrily in their eyes.
Three things I want in my fic:
1. Some snow
2. A present. (I have a mental image here of a small red and gold box with a gold bow. I have no idea where the image came
from. Nor do I know what is in the box.) 3. Lois and Clark having a peaceful moment together.
Preferred season(s) :
Two. Although, I'd settle for one or three at a push.
Three things I do not want in my fic:
1. Set in fourth season / post marriage
2. Next generation