By IRC Round Robin
Submitted October 1998
Summary: Lois and Clark find their world has been turned upside-down when Mr. Mxyzptlk, fifth-dimensional master of magic, snappy dresser, and all-around pain in the posterior, returns.
An IRC Round Robin by Sharper <firstname.lastname@example.org>; SUPERcat (SUPERfan & CiceroCat) <email@example.com>; zoomway <firstname.lastname@example.org>; chrispat <email@example.com>; Eraygun <Eraygun@aol.com>; Lansbury <Lansbury1@aol.com>; Misha <firstname.lastname@example.org>; ChiefPam <email@example.com>; ChrisM <firstname.lastname@example.org> and Mackteach <Mackteach@aol.com>
[sharper] Somewhere above the smog of Metropolis, a spot appeared. It opened rapidly into something resembling a vortex. A small, determined figure shot through the opening, which closed behind him with a "pop!" and a burst of golden sparkles.
The being brushed his hands against each other, indicating a difficult job well done, and turned his face toward Metropolis. "This should be fun."
Hammering on the front door and the ragged buzz of someone leaning on the doorbell yanked Lois Lane unceremoniously from a comfortable sleep. "Get that, Clark," she mumbled, burying her face in her pillow and reaching out to shake him awake.
Her hand fell on a cold sheet, and that, more than the noise of whoever was trying to break into their townhouse, brought her wide awake. "Wha—?"
She looked around and, seeing her errant husband floating three feet above the bed, she sighed. Superman must have had a tough night to have left Clark so exhausted that he sleep-floated.
Downstairs, the cacophony continued, and she reluctantly reached for her robe, muttering, "Keep your shorts on," and pausing to brush a kiss across Clark's cheek.
She was halfway down the stairs when she heard Perry's gravelly roar. "Lois! Clark! Someone answer this damned door!" That was more than a 'I've got a story I want you to work on and your interview is in 10 minutes' voice.
She hurried to the door and, struggling with the locks, finally threw it open. "Perry! What brings you here?"
He held out a copy of the Metropolis Star, the 300 point headline screaming, "CLARK KENT IS SUPERMAN!"
[SUPERcat] Lois grabbed the paper and ran upstairs, leaving an open door and an open-mouthed editor behind.
"Clark!!! CLARK! Wake up!"
Perry, not one to miss the action, ran behind her. They entered the room about the same time.
"What? Perry? Lois, what's going on?" mumbled Clark as he reached for his glasses.
"Great shades of Elvis! It's true!!!" yelled Perry upon seeing the floating Clark.
Plop. Clark fell back to earth and the solidness of the bed beneath him.
Lois held out the newspaper and saw Clark grimace. "Who do they think they are, printing lies like this? Metropolis Star? That's birdcage lining, not news!"
"But, Lois…" Perry stuttered. "He was… floating!!! Honey, the jig is up. I knew you had a crush on Superman, but cheating on Clark??" Perry looked at her angrily. "Where's Clark? You two need to go prove this trash wrong!"
Only then did Lois realize that Clark had never changed out of his suit after the night's escapades.
"Mr. White, Lois just let me borrow her bed for the night. I was… sick, and she took care of me," Clark/Superman said, trying not to blush.
"That's right, Perry. I've been up all night making chicken soup and oolong tea."
"Is that right?" Perry asked. "So, if you've been up with Superman, where's Clark?"
[zoomway] At that moment, the Kents' radio alarm blared. "…you heard me right. Clark Kent, reporter for the Daily Planet, is Superman! It's kind of funny…" the deejay laughed, "…the Planet is the only news source in the world that didn't report the big story—"
Lois fumbled for the snooze bar.
In the sudden silence Lois, Perry and Clark shared glances for an agonizing moment. "It's one thing to want to keep a secret, Kent. I can understand that," Perry said, tossing the Star on the bed. "But icing the Planet, your own paper, out of the exclusive — well…" Perry shook his head and exited.
Clark picked up the paper. "I can't believe it," he whispered. "Everything is accurate to the smallest detail. How could that be possible?"
"Clark, only you and I could tell this story…" Lois paused a moment. "Did you come in contact with red Kryptonite and go on a… well, a blabbing spree?"
"What? No! I was in Australia fighting a fire."
Lois shrugged. "Well then, someone can read minds, because if you didn't tell, and I didn't, then who—"
The radio alarm snooze limit ended. "If I could turn back time…" began to play.
Not meaning to, Clark smashed the alarm.
"Temper, temper!" a familiar voice spoke.
"Misslekick!" Lois practically spit out the name.
The imp frowned. "That's *Mister* Missleki— Mxyzptlk!"
Clark made an angry grab for him. "You did this!" he shouted, but was left holding a baby pig.
"Nice try, Supeydupey!" the voice said, and vanished.
"Oh, God, Clark," Lois said, trying to be heard over the piglet's squealing, "I thought we got rid of him."
"We did," Clark sighed. "But it seems we didn't get rid of him permanently."
Lois touched Clark's shoulder. "The world *knows*, Clark! How do we undo this?"
Clark shook his head. "I don't know, honey, but if it's like the time before, everything goes back to normal if we can send him back," Clark said, and raised his eyebrows. "The pig!"
"It's bigger — and changed colors!"
"Actually, it changed from a Berkshire to a Poland China."
"Thank you for the farm report." Lois sighed loudly. "What are we going to do to get rid of him—" Lois glanced at the pig. "I mean get rid of Mixenmatch? Do we try to make him say his name backward again?"
"I hope not. He'll be looking for that trick, and it won't be nearly as easy this time," he said, and the pig changed again. Clark looked up at Lois. "Now it's a Yorkshire."
"Oh, God, this is out of control!" Lois put a hand to her forehead, trying to think. "I guess I should just be happy it's not a horse or a cow."
"Don't give him any ideas, honey," Clark whispered.
"Okay," Lois said, her tone indicating she'd reached a decision. "You pull up all the research I did on imps when he visited last Christmas, and I'll fix some eggs and…" She glanced at the pig. "…bacon," she whispered. "We've got to find a more permanent solution to the imp this time."
The pig squealed again and Clark smiled. "My mom always wanted one of these pot-bellied pigs."
"Sorry." He grinned and scratched the animal between the ears. "My mom thinks they're cute, and besides," he added, noting his wife's incredulous expression, "we *know* we can get rid of Mxyzptlk. It's just a matter of how."
"Oy," Lois moaned as she headed down the stairs. She paused when she saw Jimmy Olsen standing near the door.
She took a deep breath. "Hi, Jimmy."
"Hi, Mrs. *Superman*."
[chrispat] Lois gasped. She had never heard Jimmy speak in that sarcastic tone of voice before. He continued. "I thought we were friends."
"Oh, Jimmy. We *are* friends. You know that."
Before she could say more, cars and dozens of people suddenly converged on the townhouse. Flashbulbs went off and everyone shouted questions. Lois grabbed Jimmy, pulling him into the house and slamming the door.
Clark came running down the stairs. "What's going on? Oh, hi, Jimmy."
"Clark, it's like a nightmare. What are we going to do?"
Lois was shaking. Clark put his arm around her, holding her close. "We'll get through this, honey, and maybe Jimmy can help."
Jimmy glared at Clark. "Why should I help you? You betrayed the Planet and all your friends. This story could only have come from you and Lois. Who else would know all those details?"
Before they could respond, he was out the door, slamming it behind him.
[Eraygun] "Gee, he's taking this surprisingly well, don't you think, honey?" Clark said sardonically
"Clark, this is no time to be funny."
"I know, honey. I was just trying to inject a little humor into the situation."
"Clark, injecting humor into our current situation is like trying to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic after it struck the iceberg!" Lois sat down dejectedly on the living room sofa. "The world knows your secret, our closest friends feel betrayed, what looks like the entire Metropolis press corps is outside our door. I don't see how it could get much worse."
As if on cue, the phone rang.
"Clark, don't answer it!"
"You know it's probably my mother."
"Honey, calm down. If it's your mother, I'll handle her."
"Oh, really," Lois replied sarcastically.
Feeling that discretion was the better part of valor, Clark refrained from responding to Lois' comment and instead answered the phone. "Hello?"
"Hi, Mom. I guess you and Dad have seen the papers."
"Yes, and the news reports on the radio and TV."
"What's going on, son?" Jonathan's voice cut in. "We've got reporters from as far away as Chicago surrounding our place, demanding interviews! Rachel and her deputies are guarding the farmhouse!"
Martha interrupted Jonathan in turn. "Have you two lost your minds!?"
[Lansbury] "I'm sorry you've been brought into this mess." Clark glanced over at Lois as he continued, "We've been trying to figure out what happened, and I think we've come across a clue to who may have broken the story to the press."
"Who, son?" both parents asked in unison.
"I can't answer that yet, Mom and Dad. We need to check a couple of facts. But I want you both to promise me you'll do what Rachel says. And Dad," Clark stressed, "let Rachel and her deputies do their job. I want you both safe. It seems as if time is moving too fast for me to attend to all the details of this situation."
Just as he spoke the words, he heard strange sounds on the other end of the phone, like hyper chipmunks tweeting away. Clark took the phone from his ear and gave it a slight shake. "Now what?" he whispered under his breath.
Clark stood with the receiver still in mid-air as he watched Lois whizzing to him from across the room in one fluid movement. In a wink of an eye, the tweeting chipmunk sounds from the phone stopped and his speeding wife returned to normal.
"Clark, you won't believe who called this morning. A representative from Sotheby's Auction House in New York City. They want to hold an auction of your baby things. They told me we would make millions."
A puzzled Clark was brought back to reality by his mother's words. "Mom, my baby things? They can't be serious."
"I laughed in his ear and told him, 'not in this lifetime.'"
Clark looked at Lois. He placed his hand over the phone. "Honey, you all right? Something very strange just happened."
"What happened? First I was over by the window and, next thing I knew, I sped over here to you."
They looked at each other for a split-second longer, asking questions with their eyes.
"Clark, you there? We just had the strangest thing happen here."
"I know, Mom. I have to go and find out what's going on. I'll talk to you as soon as I can."
To lighten the mood of the last few minutes, Clark chuckled. "Oh, and Mom! Don't sell any of my stuff to any collectors. It took me forever to get my collection of Batman comics. I love you both. Bye." Not giving his parents a chance to reply, he hung up the phone.
Clark placed the receiver back on the hook as a loud sharp ring came from it. Lois took his arm and gestured to let the answering machine pick it up. "Hi, kids. Are you feeling the strain of people knowing? Can't really be good for the two of you."
Both Lois and Clark made a dive for the phone. Clark grabbed the receiver. "Mxy! What do you want? Why are you doing this?" Clark was greeted with only the sound of a dial tone buzzing in his ear.
"We'd better get dressed. Lord only knows what else is going to happen this morning."
"That's a good idea, honey." They both headed upstairs.
Ten minutes later, they were fully clothed and back downstairs. There was loud banging coming from the kitchen door.
"Now what?" said Lois as she pulled back the curtain. "Mother! Daddy! What a surprise."
[sharper] "I can't deal with this," Lois said. "Not until I've at least had a cup of coffee. Clark, you let 'em in." She started toward the stairs.
"Honey, where're you going? The coffee's right here."
She whirled back to face him and snapped, "I'm sending out for some!"
Clark, who was feeling no less harassed than his fleeing spouse, raked one hand through his hair and tried to wipe the grimace off his face. He opened the door a crack.
"Sam, Ellen, come in."
It was a good thing Clark really *was* Superman or he might not have been able to hold the door against the press of reporters who tried to follow the Lanes into the townhouse. Clark leaned back against the door and locked it, ignoring the frantic cries of the press outside.
"It's starting to feel like we're under siege here," Clark began.
"*Starting*? Our phone hasn't stopped ringing all morning, and Sam and I had to sneak out to the car," Ellen said. She took a breath and added, "How could you do this? It's bad enough that you kept it from us, but to then turn around and spill it without warning us!"
"Ellen," Sam warned her, and continued to Clark. "Well, I for one was relieved. It explained a lot of things that had troubled me."
Clark cocked his head inquiringly, and Sam went on, "Like how my daughter was behaving toward Superman when he— you — had that Kryptonian virus a couple of years ago."
[SUPERCat] "Actually, there are a few more times I can think of—" Sam continued.
"Wait! I hear a cry for help!" Clark interrupted. "Sorry, I gotta fly. Literally."
"I have to go, too!" Lois added. "You are *not* leaving me here alone with my parents and two hundred reporters!" she whispered to Clark.
Clark changed to Superman, scooped up Lois, and left two angry parents arguing in the townhouse.
"Alone at last!" exclaimed Clark as he and Lois reached the clouds.
"Wait a minute… there isn't really a disaster, is there?" Lois asked.
"Well… not technically, but I consider that headline, Mxyzptlk, your parents, and every reporter within five hundred miles on our doorstep, a disaster!"
Lois and Clark proceeded to mull over where to go, what to do, and how to get rid of Mxy.
<Beep, beep, beep.
"Oh, that's my beeper!" Lois exclaimed. "Perry can't possibly expect us to work today, can he?"
"Apparently, he can," answered Clark as he glanced at Lois' beeper. "Next stop, Daily Planet!"
Lois and Superman touched down on the roof of the Daily Planet. The building was mobbed by hundreds of people anxious to find out what was going on. "Good thing we flew here! The Jeep would have never made it through this mess!" Lois said.
Lois and Clark hurried off the roof and into the elevator. They managed to squeeze in a few of those elevator kisses before the doors opened on the newsroom, revealing…
[Misha] …a deck chair draped with a distinctive red cape.
Sitting in the chair, feet kicked up and resting in mid-air, sat Mxyzptlk, an unsettling grin on his face.
Clark lunged for him, but he popped out of sight. "Naughty, naughty, Supes!" Mxy's voice lingered in their ears. "I try and check up on you, and this is the thanks I get?"
The deck chair disappeared, its nameplate clattering to the floor, and Lois and Clark looked down on the suddenly hushed newsroom.
Normally full of running reporters and scurrying secretaries, the newsroom of the Daily Planet was packed wall-to-wall with the top names from the most important television stations, newspapers and news magazines. The silence only lasted the 2.7 seconds it took for the assembled reporters to realize the identity of the new arrivals. Then chaos erupted as each one tried to force a way through the packed crowd to the elevators.
Black-suited men materialized to either side of Lois and Clark. Surrounding the two, they forced their way through the crowd, propelling the dazed couple towards the Chief Editor's office.
Perry was pacing inside, Jimmy dancing in sullen attendance. Lois and Clark stumbled in, their grim escort mounting a guard outside.
Lois was the first to recover her wits. "Chief, what's—"
Perry cut her off. "I'm saving the lecture for later, kids. The government wants to talk to you. Or rather, the government wants to fight over jurisdiction over you."
The trio on Perry's couch had risen, and didn't seem very happy with him or the situation. The two men and one woman appeared to all be suffering from a lack of sleep and a distinct shortage of a sense of humor.
They glared at Perry and shot dirty looks at Jimmy, but seemed to avoid looking at each other.
"Superman… Mr. Kent?" The woman seemed at a loss.
[zoomway] "His name is *Clark*," Lois said, shrugging off the hold on her arm. "And what do you mean 'jurisdiction'? Is that like asking, 'are you a good witch or a bad witch'?"
"Actually, ma'am," a familiar deadpan voice intoned, "we just want to know if he's an American witch."
Lois folded her arms. "Special Agent Carrigan. I haven't seen you since you ignored my warning about the Prankster."
"Listen," Clark interrupted, "you have no right to treat me or my wife as prisoners."
"You're not a prisoner, Superman. We refer to this as 'protective custody.'"
"And if we don't cooperate," Lois said, "the handcuffs would be silver fashion accessories?"
"Now, hold on just a minute." Perry stepped forward. "Superman doesn't need protective custody, so as an old news-hound, my instincts tell me something else is going on here."
The female agent looked at the editor condescendingly. "Mr. White, this is government business. The only reason we have you and Mr. Olsen here is to find out how long the two of you knew Superman's identity before it was released to the press."
Clark shook his head angrily. "We never told *anyone* the secret. It's a dangerous secret and we wouldn't do that to people we care about."
"But you didn't mind putting your wife in danger, Superman?" the third agent asked.
"I figured it out!" Lois said, almost nose to nose with the agent. "He didn't *tell* me… of course, it ticked me off when I found out, and I wondered if we'd have kids flying around the house before he got around to it—"
"Lois…" Clark sighed.
Jimmy finally smiled. He realized, super-powers or not, Superman or not, they were still 'Lois and Clark'.
"Superman," the agent said, ignoring Lois' tirade, "you're listed as born in Smallville, Kansas, February 28, 1966. So are Martha and Jonathan Kent also from Krypton?"
Lois laughed. "Puh-leeze! I would expect you to ask if *my* parents were from another planet, but *not* Clark's."
"We're wasting time," the female agent said, and as she spoke, her smart, tailored black suit changed into a clown costume. The two other agents turned to look at her, only to be sprayed in the face by a huge flower pinned to her costume.
"Come on, guys!" Jimmy said and waved Lois and Clark towards the elevators.
[ChiefPam] The three of them hustled into the elevator, with Jimmy rudely evicting a Metropolis Star stringer. As the doors shut, the silence was momentarily deafening. "Well, that was weird," Lois stated.
"Oh, I dunno," Jimmy remarked. "A government agent in a clown suit, a reporter in spandex… I think those might be about the same weirdness level."
Clark half-grinned. "Yeah, maybe so. So… are you still upset?"
"Nah… well, kinda. But I guess you had your reasons, and it woulda been really strange to know, you know?"
"Oh, I know," Lois nodded. "And it wasn't even good blackmail material, because if I told anyone, well, "this* would have happened… which it did, anyway." She sighed.
With a soft ping, the elevator doors opened onto the lobby, which was teeming with the public and the reporters who hadn't been quick enough to get upstairs.
"Oh, God, I can't handle this," Lois moaned.
Clark used his super-speed to hit the "door close" and "roof level" buttons. "Sorry, Jimbo, I'm gonna have to give you a lift home, I guess."
"Oh, I never mind that, Supe— Clark," he corrected himself with a quick head-shake.
"Clark," Lois frowned suddenly, "I bet you some of those jokers took to the stairs to try to follow us. Can you check?"
Clark cocked his head to the side, listening for stampeding footsteps in the stairwell. "Yeah, they are, but I don't think they'll get there in time—"
Suddenly, reality seemed to spin, and the lights on the elevator panel flashed, racing upwards to the top level. Things returned to normal as the elevator opened onto the roof.
"Uh, Clark…" Jimmy asked shakily, "did you do that?"
Clark shook his head slowly. "I don't think so."
Lois frowned. This had happened earlier. If only she could figure out what it was, or even why it happened… She was certain this could be the key.
[ChrisM] Lois started to mention her idea to Clark, but was interrupted by the nerve-wracking sound of helicopters closing in on them. All three looked up and around, only to see several choppers converging on the Daily Planet. There was one from each of the local news stations, as well as representatives from every branch of the military.
"Clark, this is getting scary now," Lois shouted.
"And crowded, too," he replied as he grabbed both Lois and Jimmy and took off — *down* the side of the building.
Clark heard Jimmy's gasp of fright, but didn't have time to do more than send a reassuring smile in his friend's direction. He was concentrating on getting them all out of there safely. Weaving quickly in and out of alleyways and side streets and keeping to about second-story level, it wasn't long before they'd out-distanced and out-maneuvered their pursuers.
When Clark finally set down in a small residential-area park, all Jimmy could say was, "Wow, CK. That sure beats any video game I've ever played!"
Lois had to laugh, but still clung to Clark. They hadn't been able to catch their breath since Perry had banged on their door that morning.
"Okay," Clark told them, "the trees here should provide us with some cover, and no-one can see us from the street, so I hope we'll have a chance to talk things over."
He removed his jacket and laid it on the ground so Lois would have a place to sit. They settled themselves on the ground, but then just stared at one another for a few minutes. No-one seemed to be able to think of where to start. Finally, it was Lois who got things rolling again. "All right. Let's go over what we know. Mixelspit is here again—"
"What—?" Jimmy interrupted her. "What's a Mixel…?"
Lois looked at Clark, who looked back at Lois. "It's a long story, Jimmy," Clark told him, "but I'll try to sum it up for you."
After Clark's explanation, Jimmy was still looking confused, and Clark could hardly blame him. "So you see, we've got to figure out how to send this… imp… back to his own dimension."
"Well, maybe I can help you there, CK. I play lots of computer games with goblins and imps and things in them. Role-playing stuff, you know."
Lois smiled, but looked doubtful. "Thanks, Jimmy. We can try, but I'm not sure…"
"At this point," Clark asserted, "I'll try anything. Well, let's get started planning what we're going to do. I don't know how much time we'll have before—"
The air around them was suddenly filled with birds — flying upside down and all talking at once in hundreds of different languages.
"What the—?" Clark exclaimed.
[Eraygun] Then, just as quickly as it had occurred, the strange effect was over and everything was back to normal — if *anything* could be considered normal today.
"Did you just see what I saw?" Clark asked anxiously. Lois and Jimmy nodded. "Like reality was being warped or twisted every time—" Clark began.
Before he could finish the sentence, the spinning began again, and everything around them began to change color — first electric blue, then red, and then gold. The pattern repeated over and over until finally, just as suddenly as it had started, it stopped.
"Thank God," Lois said. "I was getting seasick. This has to be connected to Mxy somehow. But what's the key? Why is this happening?"
[Lansbury] Jimmy looked at both Lois and Clark. "There must be a pattern here somewhere. Let's play back each incident and see what they have in common."
For the next ten minutes they stood and discussed each strange occurrence. Finally it was Lois who saw the connection. "Don't you two get it? These strange occurrences have only happened when someone mentions the word *time*."
As if to prove her statement, both Jimmy's and Clark's jackets and shirts disappeared, and they stood before her, topless.
Lois reached over to touch her husband's bare chest but, as soon as her hand touched Clark's body, the clothes suddenly re-materialized as they had been a second before.
"What the heck just happened, CK?" Jimmy began to uncross his arms, which he had instinctively raised when his clothes had disappeared.
"Gentlemen, I think we know the keyword which controls Mxy's little trip to our dimension. Now we need to figure out how he uses it and for what purpose."
Clark and Jimmy looked at each other and back at Lois. Her eyes were locked on a faraway point, giving the illusion she was in a trance. "Ho, boy! CK, she's got that look that means she's going to have a doozy of a plan." Turning to Clark, he placed a hand on his shoulder. "It's a good thing you *are* Superman. No mere mortal male could survive her when she's like this."
"Tell me about it," Clark said to Jimmy.
"Hey, I heard that. Just for that kind of talk, I don't think I *will* tell you what I've come up with." She teasingly looked at both and gave her husband an elbow to the ribs.
"See what I have to put up with?" he said over her head to Jimmy, with a smile reaching from ear to ear.
[Mackteach] Matching Clark's smile, Lois winked at him before wrapping her arms around his waist. "And I put up with you for exactly the same reason you put up with me." She looked into his eyes, knowing that the memories of that particular "making up" were just as sweet for Clark. "Do you remember that t—"
Her question was cut off by Jimmy's cough. "Um, guys? I'm sorry to interrupt a tender moment here, but can we get back to trying to beat this Mistletoe person?"
Lois sighed and turned away from Clark's gaze and smile. "You're right, Jimmy. Okay. Here are some ideas… "
Clark and Jimmy listened.
[zoomway] "Suppose we try and overload Mxy?"
"Overload?" Clark asked, shaking his head.
"Yes. What if we say ti— the 'T' word non-stop, the three of us," Lois suggested.
"Sort of flood his circuits." Jimmy smiled. "Cool."
"What's not so 'cool'," Clark interrupted, "is that people could get hurt. So far, most of these occurrences have been harmless, but if we push him—"
Lois sighed. "Well, his fixation with the 'T' word has to be key."
Jimmy brightened. "Tell ya what, guys. I'll go home and boot up Shroud. It's kind of a lame RPG, and I had to make a boot disk for it because the EMS—"
"Jimmy," Clark said, surprised that Jimmy was a lot like Lois when he hit ramble mode. "What are you *talking* about?"
"Oh, a role-playing computer game, CK. Check it out," he beamed. "You're this monk who's banished by this evil sorcerer to Nether Realm, and to get back you have to go on this quest and find allies who—"
Lois put a hand on his shoulder. "Cut to the chase."
"It has gnomes, elves and imps," he shrugged. "And according to their website, it's all based on authentic folklore."
Lois and Clark exchanged a glance and then looked back at Jimmy. "Go for it," Clark said. "We'll call you when we find a place to… hide from the adoring public."
[Mackteach] "Right… okay… thanks, Jimmy." Lois hung up the phone in their room at the Cozy Motel. She looked at Clark sitting at the foot of the bed, watching the news reports. Her heart went out to him. He looked so distressed and forlorn.
Walking over to the bed, she sat slightly behind him, her arms going around his shoulders, her head leaning against him. She saw that the Kent farmhouse now rivaled the scene outside a major motion picture premiere. Photographers and reporters were swarming everywhere. Rachel Harris and her staff were hard-pressed to keep them off the property. She felt Clark's body rise and fall with his soft sigh of worry.
"I'm sure they're fine," she whispered.
He reached for her hand and squeezed. Pulling it off his shoulder, he pressed a soft kiss into the palm. "I know. It's just that…"
"You wish you could be there. That you could do something… anything."
Clark sighed again. He turned to look at her. "You know me so well." A gentle smile came to his lips, but Lois noticed that his eyes were still filled with worry and concern. Not just for his parents, but for everyone — herself, especially.
She gave in to the urge to kiss him, pressing her lips softly to his. "I know that we will get through this the same way we have gotten through everything else. Together." She smiled away her own worries, concentrating on giving Clark the reassurances he wanted to hear.
He turned more fully to face her, his other hand coming up to caress her face, the gesture so familiar and welcome. "Have I told you lately how much you mean to me?"
"If you mean within the last ten minutes… no, you haven't."
Clark smiled. "Let me fix that right now."
They leaned toward each other, both eager to put aside their worries for a short time.
[Misha] Their lips had barely touched when the phone blared its unwelcome siren across the motel room. Clark groaned as Lois reached for the receiver. "What *now*, Jimmy?" Lois fairly snarled.
"Well, ah, I thought you'd better know. The Chief's singing again." Jimmy sounded apologetic, and Lois bet he had a whipped-puppy look on his face.
"There'd better be a point to this, Jimmy." Lois rolled her eyes at Clark, and shifted a little closer to him. His hand traced a twisting line down her back.
"Well, it's not Elvis… he's singing the Beach Boys."
"The who?!" Lois sat up straight so fast she almost jumped off the bed. Clark's eyebrows shot up.
"No, the Beach Boys. Well, the woman who was in the clown suit said ti— the 'T' word, and then Perry jumped up on his desk and, well, he hasn't stopped yet."
"It's getting worse." The worries of the world settled on Clark's shoulders again.
"Okay, Jimmy. We'll be right there." Lois hung up the phone slowly, her eyes never leaving Clark's. His hand came up to cup her face again, and she leaned into his touch for the briefest of moments.
Then the window in the bathroom shattered, the phone rang and the pounding on the door started.
"Augh! Will it never end?" Lois' patience was nearing its frayed end.
"We're going to fix it, Lois. Believe that." Clark drew her close, and kissed her forehead, the tip of her nose, and settled on her lips.
The crisp tinkle of broken glass in the other room drew them apart, and they both smiled sadly as Clark picked her up. With a quick glance at either entrance, he whisked them out the door to the connecting room, out of the building, and back to the Daily Planet.
[sharper] This time, Clark entered the Planet city room directly, opening the windows with a puff of super-breath and sailing into the room with Lois in his arms as he had once done so long before.
She looked down at their gaping audience and smiled faintly. "Well, that's one way to avoid the helicopters on the roof and the sharks in the lobby."
A smile flickered across Clark's mouth. Despite everything, it was nice to be able to be himself publicly, hiding neither his powers nor his feelings for the woman in his arms.
The "Wow!" that went up from their audience immediately reminded him of what was so terrible about such freedom, and his features had settled into Superman's stern expression by the time he gently deposited Lois in front of Perry's office door.
A quick scan through the closed blinds told Clark that Perry was back to normal and the formerly clown-costumed government agent was waiting to take Lois, at least, into custody. Even as the reporters and TV cameramen converged on them, he scooped her up and shot into the nearest empty conference room, closed the door, and leaned against it.
"Do you think that'll hold them?" Lois asked when she got her breath back.
"No, but I just want to buy some time."
Lois spun back to face him, her eyes wide in horror at what he'd said.
Money — bills, coins, barley and salt — poured out of the ceiling, not only on Lois and Clark, but in the newsroom too, where the other reporters dove for cover.
A pot of gold suddenly appeared on the conference room table, and a mocking imp sat on it like the leprechaun he resembled.
[zoomway] "Faith and begorrah," Mxy said, pulling a clay pipe from his teeth. He smiled. "You mortals have such vivid imaginations. In the fifth dimension, we don't have them at all — but then again, in the fifth dimension, fire hydrants wet on dogs. You have it backwards here."
"That's your problem, Mxy," Lois said. "You can whip up gold and it means nothing to you. It only has value here if it's rare, but you don't know what that means, do you?"
Mxy picked up a coin and peeled it, revealing chocolate. "Actually, Lois 'know-it-all' Lane, I got this gold out of your memory. Want some?"
Clark put his arm around Lois' waist. "Why don't you just go home, Mxyzptlk? What is it you could possibly want here? You can have anything you want anyway, and so—"
"It's a *time* thing, SuperKent." Both Lois and Clark cringed when he said the 'T' word. "Don't worry. *I* can say it and not cause a problem."
"What do you mean it's a ti— t-i-m-e thing?" Lois asked, and scooped up a handful of chocolate coins.
"It doesn't exist in the fifth dimension. We don't have that magic. It's like your love for each other. I've never seen anything so powerful."
"Yes. I can't break the love spell, but this time spell is easy to break. It *is* your timepieces that make time happen, right?"
Lois laughed. "Oh boy, you are so—"
"Right!" Clark interjected quickly.
Lois looked at Clark and understood. "Yes. Clever of you to figure out that clocks and watches cause time here."
"Well, I *am* a superior being," Mxyzptlk bragged.
"And that's why weird things happen when anyone says the "T" word?"
"Exactly. I've put something of a curse on time here," he said casually. "Making people afraid of time, so they will destroy the timepieces that enslave them. "
Clark raised his eyebrows. "And why exactly did you pull the stunt of telling the world I'm Superman?"
Mxyzptlk looked at Clark and sighed. "I was miffed. You tricked me and sent me back. I wanted to destroy your love magic and thought it was connected more to Clark than Superman."
Lois shook her head. "You're an idiot," she said flatly.
"That's *Mister* idiot, honey," Clark smiled.
Mxyzptlk flew into a rage, literally. He rose above the pot of gold. "I can melt this whole dimension into a thimble!" he ranted.
"I don't think so," Clark said calmly. "There's a master timepiece that can keep you from doing anything *and* send you back home."
[ChrisM] Mxyzptlk abruptly stopped his ranting and stared at Clark. "You're making that up," he said accusingly.
"Okay," Clark agreed, then made as if to pick up Lois again. "Come on, honey, we've got work to do."
"Wait!" Mxyzptlk yelled.
Lois and Clark turned to face him. "Why should we, Mixyupit?" Lois asked.
"Because… because, if you don't, I'll do something worse. I'll give everyone two heads. I'll make them all sing '99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall'. I'll—"
"Okay!" Clark said, holding up his hands in surrender. "I don't want you to hurt my friends. What is it you want?"
"Well, what do you think I want?" He glanced at Lois. "Didn't marry him for his brains, did you?"
Mxyzptlk glared at Clark, floating closer to him and jabbing his finger forcefully towards Clark's chest. "I want you to tell me all about this 'master timepiece'."
Clark looked at Lois, his shoulders slumping. "I'm sorry, honey. I know we said we wouldn't tell him about this."
Lois reached for his hand. "I know, Clark. It's all right. You have no choice."
Mxyzptlk rubbed his hands together gleefully, laughing to himself over his defeat of Superman. "Come on… let's get going. The sooner we get to this timepiece, the sooner I can take over this world."
"All right," Clark agreed. "You follow us."
"Right behind you, Supie."
"The clock from which all other clocks take their commands is in England, but we have to make a stop first to pick up something."
Fifteen minutes later, Lois and Clark, with their unwelcome traveling companion, were on their way to Greenwich, near London (home of Greenwich Mean Time), after having stopped off at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.
Mxy was now the proud possessor of a beautiful hand-crafted pocket watch which had once been given to a former president by a foreign dignitary. Lois had explained that this watch was the talisman which would unlock the security around the master clock.
Once the three of them landed in Greenwich, Superman led the way into the building which housed "the clock."
"Now," Lois reminded Mxy, "you have to walk around this circle twice, in a clock-wise rotation, while holding the president's watch."
"Yes," Clark agreed, "and don't forget the magic words."
"Got it," Mxyzptlk said, concentrating. He started to do as they had instructed him, but then suddenly stopped. "Wait a minute — do you two think I just fell off a potato truck this morning?"
"Why, whatever do you mean?" Lois asked, just a shade too innocently.
"I bet there's something fishy going on here." He looked suspiciously around the room, at the clock face laid out in the terrazzo floor beneath their feet, and at the curious crowd which had gathered in the room.
He turned back to Lois and Superman, triumph written all over his face. "I know what it is."
He moved out into the center of the room once again, but this time in a *counter*-clockwise direction, and, skipping gleefully, recited the "magic words."
"Ti-ime is on my side… yes, it is. Ti-ime is on my side. Oh, yeah!" As soon as he'd completed two circuits, the room began to sparkle and shimmer.
Lois reached for Clark and he pulled her into a super hug.
Mxyzptlk screamed in frustration. "NO! This isn't faaaaiiir!" And then he was gone in a puff of smoke.
[Eraygun] With a grin, Clark scooped Lois up in his arms and began winging his way back to Metropolis.
"We did it!" Lois said triumphantly
"You bet we did, sweetheart. Thank heaven you remembered enough of your earlier research so that Jimmy could track down an alternative spell to send him back. 'Widdershins' — going in reverse — has been associated with spell-casting for centuries. Who knows, maybe it all started with some long-ago visit by one of Mxy's friends."
"Well, we were lucky, too. I thought we'd have to trick Mxy into revealing time's connection to all the weird stuff that was happening. Who knew he'd be such a blabbermouth?"
"What we did was still risky, though. How could you be so certain he'd do the opposite of what we said, honey?"
"I couldn't be certain, but I knew we had to take a chance. After all, that's what our life together is all about, isn't it?"
Clark grinned. "You know, that has a familiar ring to it."
[Lansbury] The closer they got to home, the foggier everything was getting. "Clark, can you find the way home?" Lois asked in a concerned voice. "I can't see anything any more, and I'm getting frightened."
Lois turned her head to hear Clark's answer, but was shocked to find he was no longer with her. She was drifting through a cloud of fog, calling Clark's name over and over.
In final desperation, she screamed with all her might, "CLARK!!"
At the sound of her voice, Clark jolted awake from a sound sleep to find Lois tossing and turning in bed, calling his name repeatedly. "Honey, wake up. You're dreaming. Come on, open your eyes. I'm here."
Lois' first conscious image was of Clark's worried face hovering over her. "Are you okay? That must have been some nightmare."
"Oh, Clark, that dream was so real. I dreamed Mxy was here again and wanted to change time."
As soon as she said the word 'time' the clock radio came on. "If I could turn back time… If I could find the way…" Cher sang.
Lois stared at the clock, and then her eyes traveled to the stack of gold coins beside it.
"Lois, it wasn't a dream. It was all too real. We were lucky we found out how to trick him this time. He left and you fell asleep on the way home. I didn't have the heart to wake you, so I put you to bed."
[Mackteach] She felt his arm tighten around her shoulder as he pulled her closer to him. She sighed contentedly, then raised her head and looked into his eyes. "You all right?"
Clark looked back at his wife, seeing the love and concern in her eyes. He brushed a stray lock of hair away from her warm brown eyes. "You're here in my arms. Why wouldn't I be all right?"
Lois shifted her position so that she could look at Clark more directly. "Don't try to fool me, Clark. I know that you were worried today." She thought back to their short respite at the Cozy Motel. "In fact, I'd venture to say that you were scared."
Clark let out a long breath. He could never fool Lois. "You're right, honey. I *was* worried… scared. Having you… my parents… Perry… Jimmy… even Sam and Ellen… in possible danger because everyone knows that I'm Superman. It's just…"
"Something you don't want to think about. I know. But sometimes you *need* to think about it."
Clark nodded, his hand reaching out to caress her face. "I know. And I do." His hand moved to the back of her neck and pulled her toward him. "But…"
Lois smiled softly. "But?"
"Not right now…" Their lips touched and, this time, they were able to indulge in the feelings and sensations that before they hadn't had time for. "Right now…" Clark murmured against her lips. Her tongue darted out to brush against his mouth.
"…and if you need to be at work, it's time to rise and shine! Here's our morning traffic report…" Lois threw a glare at the clock radio.
Catching her look, Clark chuckled. "There are some things even *we* can't change, honey."
"I know. It's just so annoying sometimes." She sighed once more and began to get out of bed. She let out a squeal of surprise as Clark pulled her back into his arms. "Clark! We're going to be late!"
"Lois. Don't you know that you're married to Superman? I can get us to the Planet faster than… well, you know."
She gazed at Clark, love making her eyes shine. "You're Superman?!?!?! Now, there's a scoop for Perry!"
"I'll give you a scoop…" He kissed her once. "We have…" He kissed her twice. "…all the time…" He kissed her three times. "…in the world."
Her eyes drifted closed as he pulled her more fully into his arms, then flew open again at the sound of the doorbell, long and insistent. She groaned and fell back, covering her head with a pillow. "Can you get that, Clark?"
Chuckling, Clark leaned over and lifted the pillow. He placed a soft kiss on her forehead before leaving the bed. "Sure thing." As quickly as possible, he zoomed down the stairs.
Adjusting his glasses, he opened the door. "Jimmy? Wha—"
"CK! I thought you and Lois were my friends…" Jimmy stood there pointing a rolled newspaper at Clark.
Clark's gaze turned wary. Uh-oh, he thought. "Lois!" he yelled up the stairs. "You'd better come down here."
As the two men waited for Lois, Jimmy shook his head. "Man, CK, I wish you had told me…"
"I mean, after all this time, you'd think that you could trust me…"
"We do, Jimmy. We trust you."
Jimmy and Clark turned to watch Lois come down the stairs. As she reached the bottom of the stairway, she pulled her robe belt tighter. "What's this all about?" She threw a quick glance at Clark.
Clark shrugged his shoulders. "I have no idea, honey."
Jimmy unrolled the newspaper. "You'd better get one, CK. Or Perry's gonna have *both* your heads on a platter. Imagine, getting scooped by the Metropolis Star." He handed the newspaper to Lois.
She took it cautiously, fully expecting to see the blaring headline from before. Reading it, she let out the breath she didn't know she had been holding. She smiled at Clark before handing him the newspaper.
Bolstered by Lois' reaction, Clark took the newspaper and read the headline out loud: "President Resigns." He looked up from the paper and grinned at Lois.
They laughed out loud and embraced as relief flooded through them both. "We did it. We really did it!"
Clark held her away for a moment and looked at his wife, his eyes full of love. "Yeah. Together."
Before they could lean together to kiss, Jimmy's slightly embarrassed cough caught their attention. Staying within each other's arms, they looked at him. "Um, guys? Did I miss something here? The Planet's just been scooped, and the two of you are laughing like it's the greatest thing in the world."
Chuckling, Clark left Lois' embrace and guided Jimmy to the front door. "Trust us, Jimmy. You don't know the half of it. Tell Perry we'll be in later." He literally pushed Jimmy out the door.
"Um… CK? Lois?" 'Bye, Jimmy…' was all he heard as the door closed on him.
He listened for a moment and heard a girlish giggle and a sudden swoosh. "Nah. Couldn't be." He shook his head and headed for the Daily Planet, whistling "Time After Time."