Hello again, people! And Merry Christmas! In honor of this wonderful holiday, I present to you Joy to the World - a collection of short stories featuring some of DC's characters in their Diamond Earth incarnations. As I've stated, there will be one chapter for each day of December, starting from today all the way to the 31st. The chapters of this story are mostly self-contained, although a few are loosely connected - and most characters will only appear in one chapter - but again, there are a few exceptions to this rule. The chapters vary in mood, tone, and length; quite a few serve as backdoor entrances for characters who have not yet made their appearance in Diamond Earth, or develop existing characters further, or provide extra background information and/or histories of said characters, etc. etc. - you get the idea. But, whatever you get from the chapters, I hope they are all sufficiently Christmassy for this season.
Now, before we begin this month-long journey, I am officially disclaiming for the whole story: Any recognizable - and even some not-so-recognizable - characters belong to DC, as do some of the plot points. They may have been modified for the Diamond Earth universe, but the person who modified them - me - is claiming no ownership of them. I do not, and have never, profited from this and am doing this for fun.
That said, we open our Christmas special with DC's golden boy: the Man of Steel himself. Enjoy!
TALES OF DIAMOND EARTH
Joy to the World
Home Is Where the Heart Is
Thus, though orphans, the children of Angel Wings are full of Christmas cheer and goodwill.
Clark read over the last sentence of the article he was doing on the Christmas celebrations at the Angel Wings Orphanage and nodded to himself, satisfied. It was a simple article, no more than 2,000 words in length – and unlike Lois' scathing exposé on Clarinn's Department Store's Christmas scam, it was unlikely to win him a Pulitzer – but it was heartfelt and sincere, with a warm tone that Clark felt truly embodied the spirit of Christmas.
Clark yawned slightly as he saved his article and waited for the computer to switch off. It was almost 7 p.m., which meant it was six o' clock back home in Smallville. He wasn't sure what Kara was doing – probably she was off with her friends somewhere – but Ma and Pa Kent would just be coming in from a day of somewhat lighter work than usual on the farm. They would enter their cozy farmhouse and wash the snow out of their clothes and boots with trickles of warm water before sitting down to a delicious homemade Martha Kent dinner of roast goose, apple pie, and a nutty vegetable dish of her own creation. Then they would cuddle by the fire and drink eggnog while watching reruns of old Christmas movies on their black-and-white TV.
Clark sighed, feeling homesick. He had not been home for Christmas in seven years. Sure, he'd visited occasionally – but never during the holiday season. The first Christmas he'd celebrated after leaving Smallville was in the 31st century with the Legion of Superheroes, and the Christmas after that was spent covering a turf war in Mexico for the Planet. The next year, he was stationed in Greenland to interview some rural Greenlander who'd spent the winter creating a gigantic Christmas theme park out of ice. Christmas 1997 was the first time he met Batman; the two had teamed up to stop a giant meteorite from hitting Earth and ruining the festivities – and in '98 he'd attended the Daily Planet's Christmas centennial celebration. He'd been offworld in '99, unconscious during Christmas Day in 2000, and last year he was too worried about Darkseid and Parallax to risk going back to Smallville.
A quick glance at his watch told Clark that he was going to be late for his dinner date with Lois if he dilly-dallied anymore, so he made his way down to the parking lot and started his car. After dropping by his apartment to change and pick up something, he drove to the restaurant and found Lois already waiting at their reserved table.
"Hey, Smallville," Lois greeted with a smile as Clark hurried in.
"Am I late?" he asked worriedly, checking the time again.
"No, I was early. I ordered for you. The steak special. You should like that." She paused to take a sip of her drink while he sat down, then asked, "Did you finish your article?"
"Yes." Clark pushed his glasses up his nose and moved his chair in. "It's not front page material like your story on Clarinn's, but it's something."
"Yes, well, you got the front page last Christmas with that piece on the Teen Titans," Lois responded. "Fair is fair." She squinted at him calculatingly. "How did you get that information, anyway? Isn't Nightwing Batman's protégé?"
"Trade secret." Clark smiled knowingly.
"I hate you."
"No, you don't. Besides, I gave you the exclusive on the founding of the Justice League, didn't I?"
"Yes, after I threatened you with a shoe for it," Lois said patiently. She arched an eyebrow. "What would Lex Luthor say if he knew the great Superman could be cowed into submission by a Prada high heel?"
"Lex doesn't know how hard you can hit someone with that shoe," Clark muttered. "I hope he's not planning anything this Christmas," he added darkly.
"He's not. I checked." Clark stared at her. "Oh, come on, Clark – he isn't quite that heartless."
"Lois, the man's tried to kill me more times than I care to count."
"All right, so he's a bastard, but he still has principles. I never would've dated him otherwise." Lois crossed her arms. "Why so cynical, anyway? Didn't you two used to be friends?"
"That was a long time ago, Lois – back in Smallville, when I was just Clark Kent and he wasn't a megalomaniac."
Their food arrived just then, so Lois couldn't make a comeback. Throughout dinner, Clark kept fiddling with something in his pocket. Lois noticed.
"Why so fidgety, Smallville?" she questioned. "Something on your mind?"
"Er, no," Clark denied. "Just trying not to…scratch an itch."
She peered at him closely, but decided not to press the issue. Clark breathed a sigh of relief.
After dinner, when the waiter came to take their order for dessert, Clark ordered lemon coconut cake – Lois' favorite, prompting a smile from her.
"Will that be all, sir?" the waiter asked.
"One more thing." Clark leaned over and whispered something in his ear, then pressed something into his hand. The waiter nodded and disappeared. Lois narrowed her eyes.
"What was that about?"
"Just a surprise." Clark refolded his napkin calmly.
"Trust me, Lois – you'll like it."
A few minutes later, the waiter returned with two glasses of red wine. Lois raised her eyebrow.
"Wine, Clark?" she questioned as the waiter went back to the kitchen to get their cake. "I never thought I'd see the day."
"It's a special occasion." Clark raised his glass, holding it midway between him and Lois.
"Yes, I suppose Christmas is 'that time of year'," Lois said shrewdly. She pretended to ignore Clark's puzzled frown as she clinked her glass against his. "Cheers, Smallville." As she sipped her wine, she carefully assessed Clark's reaction; she just knew that her reporter/superhero boyfriend was up to something.
Clark, meanwhile, took small swallows of his wine, diligently avoiding Lois' penetrating gaze.
Presently the waiter reappeared with two covered plates. He set Clark's down in front of him first, then Lois'. Then, winking at Clark, he lifted the cover on Lois' plate to reveal a luscious slice of lemon-glazed coconut cake that had a strange shiny glint.
"What on earth…" Lois began as the waiter tactfully backed away. That was when she noticed that the shiny glint was the diamond stone on the engagement ring nestled on the flowers decorating the cake. "Oh, my God." She stared up at Clark, completely shocked for once. For all her reporter instincts, she hadn't been expecting him to do this.
Nervous and excited yet calm at the same time, Clark reached over and plucked the ring from Lois' cake while she watched, stunned. He didn't get down on one knee because Lois always said that was clichéd; he simply took her left hand and held up the ring in front of her.
"Lois Lane," he began, "will you –"
"Shut up and put it on already," Lois interrupted, smiling at him.
Clark blinked. "Pardon?"
"I said you could put the ring on." She waggled her fingers to emphasize her point. "You don't need to finish the whole damn question when I'm giving you my answer already."
Clark stared at her. How was it that even though he'd planned this surprise, she still managed to catch him off guard? "Is that a yes?"
Lois sighed and rolled her eyes. "God, Smallville, you can be pretty dense sometimes, can't you?" she said fondly. She looked him in the eye. "Yes, Clark. I'm saying yes."
That was all the answer Clark needed. With a huge smile on his face, he gently slid the ring onto the fourth finger of Lois' left hand. Then he stood up and tossed some bills on the table.
"Come on," he said, still holding her hand, prompting her to rise from her seat.
"Where are we going?" she asked.
"Smallville. It's about time you met my parents."
Lois blinked. "Clark, don't be ridiculous," she protested, sitting back down. Before he had time to get hurt, she added, "We can put off the visit for twenty minutes. I'm not letting two slices of perfectly good lemon coconut cake go to waste."
Clark made a small "Oh" as he too sat down again and poked his fork into his cake. Lois clucked at him fondly, radiant with happiness despite her normal down-to-earth manner. Clark smiled as he watched her enjoy the sweetest lemon coconut cake she had ever had in her life.
Later, he would celebrate Christmas with his parents for the first time since leaving Smallville – and he would bring his fiancée with him.
A/N: Before any of you start asking, "Isn't this too soon for Clark and Lois to get engaged?", let me remind you that Diamond Earth's first story - Origins - opened about five to six years after Superman first started hero work. Therefore, by this point in time - Christmas 2002 - Clark and Lois have known each other for almost eight years - which is more than enough time for Lois to meet Superman, fall in love, discover his identity, blow up at Clark for concealing said identity, and settle into a steady relationship.
As a side note, this chapter was also a way for me to avenge the death of the Clark/Lois pairing in the New 52. When I discovered Superman/Wonder Woman was canon in 52, I was like "WTH?!" Seriously. Clark and Lois belong together - I don't care about Lana Lang or Chloe Sullivan or whoever else the media puts Superman with - for me, it's Clark and Lois all the way.
Need I even remind you that reviews are the best Christmas present you could give me? :)
TOMORROW: A Question of Fortune, featuring the debuts of two new characters to the Diamond Earth universe. Three guesses who, but don't worry if you get it wrong 'cause you'll find out tomorrow. Ta!