Genre: Sapphire and Steel
Word Count: 2039
Prompt: Has Steel played Santa yet? And maybe, Silver makes a home video (duckys_lady, How about, Steel jokingly makes a Christmas wish. Is that too vague? jantojones
duckys_lady & jantojones - I hope you both enjoy your Christmas fic. Thanks for some great prompts and, as always, my thanks to sparky955 for her beta
Santa coughed and blew his nose. “Of all the time for this to happen,” he mumbled around the thermometer in his mouth.
The doctor glanced up at his from over the top of his glasses. “Uh, huh.” He released Santa’s wrist. “You have the flu.”
“Thank you, I knew that.”
“You need to stay in bed.”
“I can’t do that. Christmas is just a week away.” He coughed.” This is my week at Macy’s. Think how disappointed the children will be if there is not Santa there to listen to them read the lists.”
“And think how delighted their mothers will be that you gave them, in addition to all your usual gifts a walloping cold that is guaranteed. The mothers of the world will hog tie you.”
“But the children, I can’t…” Santa groaned and rubbed his temples. “What am I going to do?”
“Don’t you have a favor you can call in? One of your friends who owes you big time. I mean, it’s the season for that?”
A brief vision flitted through Santa’s memory. A pair of strangers, half frozen and destined to die without his intervention. He’d brought them back to his workshop and nursed them back to health.
He wasn’t quite sure how the man felt about the whole affair until at the end just before they left, he took Santa’s hand in both of his and thanked him. He said if there was ever a time when he could repay the favor to call him.
“Perhaps there is.” He rubbed his forehead. “I just have to remember where I put his contact information. As I recall, it was rather vaporous.”
Steel looked at himself in the mirror and made a face. “Tell me again why I am doing this?” He patted his stomach, made huge with padding.
“Because you made a promise to a gentleman once and an Element never goes back on a promise.”
“I look like an idiot.”
“That’s because you don’t have the beard on yet.” Sapphire held up a long white beard and wig.
Steel took them from her and set them in place. He stared at his reflection and shook his head. “They are not helping.”
“Steel, that’s backwards.” Sapphire laughed and readjusted it. She turned him sideways. “Now, let’s hear your laugh.”
“I beg your pardon.”
“Laugh, Steel, I’m sure you can. Your belly needs to shake like a bowl full of jelly.”
He scowled at her. “I prefer not to and if I laugh too hard, the stuffing will fall out.” He pulled the hat on. “How can anyone wear all of this? And why?”
“I know you prefer not to, but the children will be expecting some good humor. The outfit is traditional.”
“Children? What do you mean?”
“Children. You know, small adults.”
“I know what they are – to what capacity are you referring?”
“They sit on your lap and tell you want they want for Christmas. You say ho, ho, ho, and send them on their way.”
“Yes, Steel, your lap.” Sapphire smiled and arranged some holly in his hat. “It’s just for a few hours every day until Santa recovers.”
“How many days?”
“Seven. He should be well enough to make his rounds on Christmas Eve.” She snapped her fingers. “It will go like that.”
He scowled at her, turned on his heels and walked out, his step heavy and reluctant, like a child being sent to bed without supper.
The door opened and closed, then Silver stepped out from behind a dressing screen. “My word, what a get up.”
“Poor Steel. He was not happy.”
“He must love you a lot.”
That rather wistful statement made Sapphire smiled. “Yes. I’m very lucky.” She spotted a big black belt and gasped. “Oh dear! Excuse me, Silver.” She raced out after Steel.
Silver smiled tightly and looked down at the small recorder he held and upon which he’d recorded the whole sorry affair. “Me, too. He will never live this down.”
Steel approached the throne and made a face, although his long white beard hid it. The stomach pad was slipping and he finally just gave up. Finding a quiet corner, he stripped the costume off and replaced it by altering his own. It was more comfortable at least.
At least there were fewer things to worry about, but it was hard to move with such a large stomach, so he reduced it a little. That done, he shoved the clothes and padding into a corner and made his way through the maze of decorations and fake snow mounds to the chair.
He settled on the cushion and had to admit that it was at least comfortable and it gave him a view of the area around him, lest a Transuranic try and surprise him.
“So you’re the replacement Santa?”
Steel managed not to jump. He looked over his shoulder at the shorter man. “Yes. Who are you?”
“I’m Norman, one of his helper elves. He thought you might need a little backup.”
“I am relieved.” Steel adjusted his position a bit. “What do I do?”
“Just listen to the kids. I will let you know if what they are asking for is a yea or a nay.”
“Santa tells me you are a smart guy. You’ll figure it out.” Norman took a few steps and then stopped to look back. “Great outfit, by the way. You really look the part.”
“Thank you.” For some reason, that meant a lot to Steel.
There was a bell and Steel looked around for the source.
“That means the store is open. Brace yourself.”
Steel watched as a young woman approached. She was holding the hand of a little girl.
“There’s Santa, Katy. See, he’s not so scary. Go up and tell him what you want for Christmas.”
Katy looked as if there were a dozen other places she wanted to be instead.
“Offer her a candy cane and tell her that it’s all right if she doesn’t want to. You’ll know anyways.”
Feeling like a fool, Steel held the candy cane out to her. “It’s fine if you don’t want to tell me --”
“Katy,” Norman whispered.
“Katy,” Steel repeated. “Santa will know what you want.”
She took the candy cane and then looked up at Steel. She suddenly threw her arms around his neck and hugged him. “I love you,” she whispered.
“I love you, too,” Steel answered automatically and then paused. What had made him say that?
The next child was a boy. He was wiggling and twisting in his mother’s grasp. She marched him up to Santa and placed him on Steel’s lap. The boy glared at his mother and then at Santa.
“And what would you like for Christmas?”
“To get out of these clothes.”
“I know the feeling.”
That made the boy pause. “Really?”
“I’d be much happier in a bathrobe and slippers, but we do what is required of us.”
“Boy, that’s the truth. This was all my mom’s idea.” He stopped wiggling.
“Then let’s make it a nice Christmas memory for her.” Steel handed him a candy cane. “What would you like to find under the tree?”
“A new train set. One with a locomotive that blows real smoke.”
Steel snuck a glance at Norman, who nodded.
“Consider it done. In exchange, try to be a bit more patient with your mother today.”
“You got it, mister. I mean, Santa.”
The boy hopped off and ran up to his mother to hug her. The woman was obviously delighted.
“You sure you haven’t done this before?” Norman asked.
“I blame the suit.”
“What would you like, Melissa?”
“A pony. A real one.”
Steel glanced over at Norman, who shook his head. This was a first and Steel felt a surge of panic. “Where do you live, Melissa?”
“Santy, you know that. In Brooklyn on the sixth floor. You go two doors down and we’re on the right.”
“Melissa, where are you going to keep the pony?”
“In the bathroom.” She leaned forward and whispered,” In case it poops.”
“Good thinking. Perhaps, though, that might not be fair to the pony. They like to run around in fields and eat grass.”
“We’re across from a park. I could take him on a walk.” She sighed. “I’m not getting one, am I?”
“It’s unlikely, I’m afraid. You don’t have the necessary room for one.”
“Then how about a puppy?”
Norman nodded at that and Steel smiled. “I think I can manage that. Take good care of the puppy and who knows? You might just get your pony someday.”
“How about you, Nick? What would you like Santa to bring you?
“A kid brother.”
Steel noticed Nick’s mother was very pregnant. “What about a sister?”
“You can’t play ball with a girl.”
“Of course you can. And she would look up to you as her big brother.”
Nick sighed. “It’s gonna be a girl, isn’t it? I knew it. Can I just get a baseball glove instead?” Steel had given up on Norman’s suggestions. He was getting more and more confident with his answers as the week went on.
“How about both?”
“If I gotta.”
Steel laughed and sent the boy on his way. He looked down at his next visitor, then travelled up the body of not a child, but a woman to see his partner standing there.
“I wanted to see you in action.” She gracefully sat down on Steel’s lap. “I think you are doing a wonderful job.”
“Thank you. I have to admit it isn’t as bad as I thought.”
“I have someone who wants to see you in the back room.”
“Of course.” Steel motioned to Norman who put up a ‘back in fifteen minutes’ sign and Sapphire slid off Steel’s lap and offered him her hand.
They walked into the back of the small display and Steel blinked. There was a man, dressed just as he was standing there. It took him a moment, then he murmured, “Santa?”
“In the flesh, as it were. The doctor has cleared me, so I’m ready to take over.”
“Oh.” Steel met the news with mixed feelings.
“What’s wrong? I would think that after a week of this, you would be ready to quit.”
“I’d… rather hoped to see the week out.” Sapphire beamed at her partner, obviously delighted. Santa, too, seemed touched.
“The children have melted even your heart, I see.”
“Some of them… their stories are very tragic. Others, very entertaining.”
“The trick is to do the best we can. Even Santa can’t cure universal evils like death and poverty.”
Norman appeared just them. “You’re on in two, Santa. Oh!” He held something out to Steel. “Here you do.”
“What is this?”
“Your paycheck. They pay pretty good here.”
Steel turned the envelope over in his hand and frowned. Then he held it out to Santa. “I have no need for money. Please use this as you will.”
Santa smiled. “I will. And just so you know, I could do with another day or so off to get the elves in order. It’s amazing how off track they can get without a firm hand.”
Steel grinned and Sapphire gasped. “You really can smile, Steel.”
“When there’s a reason.”
“And I have another one for you. You are getting your Christmas wish.”
“I haven’t made one.” Steel adjusted his hat and prepared to head back out into the throng of children.
“Those are the best kind.”
Silver shook the recorder and tried again. He’d done everything he could think of to troubleshoot the device. No matter what he tried, it wouldn’t work. “The best thing that happened around here and now no one will know.”
“No one will know what, Silver?” Jet happened to be walking by.
“I had tape of Steel dressing up as Santa Claus.”
“I’m sure you did.” Jet just smiled at the man and continued on. Silver was so prone to flights of fantasies. That was why technicians never made good agents. You just couldn’t trust them. Good thing agents had others watching their backs. Jet touched the side of her nose and was gone.
And if you've missed the others:
Five Stolen Things
Four Doting Girls
Three Gloomy Addams
Two Aged Spies
A Time Lord in a Sunnydale Crypt