By Maria TB Mendoza <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted November 1999
Summary: Number six in the author's "Knowledge Series," Lois answers Jimmy's questions about how she found out about Clark's other identity.
Author's Note: Andrea, it took moving to another continent, but I finally finished it. To everyone who wrote and asked me about how Lois figured it out, here it is. And THANK YOU FOR WRITING ME!!!! I LOVE GETTING FAN LETTERS!!!!
Food For Thought (Knowledge #6) by Maria TB Mendoza <email@example.com>
"OK, Lois. I've been nice. I've been patient. Now I give up. Come on…please? You've got to tell me!"
Perched on the edge of Lois' desk, Jimmy Olsen tried his best "puppy dog" expression. <Come on, Lois. You want to tell me. You want to gloat about what gave him away. You want to share the little secret you've been hiding so well. Come on! Tell me!> Watching her intently, he tried to send his mental plea to her and make her want to tell him what he'd been begging to know.
"No way, Jimmy."
As she turned to pick up her coffee cup, he quickly reached for it and held it just out of her reach. "You know you're going to tell me."
Watching her try and hide her grin under a look of annoyance, he slowly moved the cup above her head. Grinning, he slowly handed it to her when she nodded. "OK, how did you figure it out?"
"Later. How about you come by my place for dinner. Clark's going to be out of town and we can get together and talk about him."
Glancing at Clark's desk where Clark was intently staring at them with a look of almost fear in his eyes, Jimmy nodded. "Sounds good."
Grinning at Clark, he stood and barely had time to take a step before Perry was ordering him to go do some research. Waving an acknowledgement to the Chief, he turned toward the hall to get the requested records.
"Since you'll be gone by the time I get back," he said quietly enough that only someone with *super* hearing could hear him. "Good luck with the peace conference. If you can talk Lois into seeing reason, you'll have no problem getting them to agree with whatever you tell them."
Chuckling at the smothered laugh he heard coming from behind him, and the inquiring voice of Lois, he turned his mind to the files he was supposed to find. <Yea, spending the day searching for a file about someone that I've never heard of. Just how I wanted to spend my day. >
Standing in the hallway outside Lois' door, Jimmy had to smile. <Who would have guessed it? Me: best friends with Superman's alter ego and one of only four humans who know about it. Yea! Lois, his parents, and I are the only ones who know the most important secret in…well…in forever.>
Knocking again, he continued to think about the changes and choices that had recently affected his life. <I got a job. I met a new reporter from Kansas. I met Superman. I became a friend of Superman's. I found out the guy from Kansas IS Superman. And now I am about to find out how the person I learned The Secret from figured it out. I wonder how she did it?> Deep in wondering what led to Lois to her discovery of Superman's alter ego, he was startled when the door was finally opened.
"Hey, Jimmy. Sorry, I was in the shower. Make yourself comfortable. Take-out is on its way, it should be here any minute. There's money on the table. If you'll pay them and put the food out, I'm gonna go and dry my hair a bit. Be back out in a sec'."
Dashing back into her room, Lois almost laughed at the shell-shocked look she'd seen on Jimmy's face. <He looked like Clark when we first started working together. Like there was no way someone could talk that fast and still manage to make sense.> As she quickly blow dried her hair and used a comb to give it *some* semblance of style, she returned to the living room just in time to take the food and let Jimmy pay the man at the door.
"Thanks for getting that. I got a call from Lana and it got me a little behind schedule." Setting the food on the table, she quickly rummaged through the fridge looking for something to drink. <I should seriously think about going to the grocery store. Maybe I can ask Clark to do it. It shouldn't take him more than a few minutes to go and get everything fresh. I can even say that it is another part of his 'you owe me for not telling me yourself' debt. He would probably agree if I phrased it just right. I definitely need to give this idea a little more thought.> Finally finding what she wanted, she turned back toward the table where Jimmy was trying to split the orders evenly. "You find that research for Perry?" she asked as she handed him a drink and joined him at the table.
"Yea. Where'd you go? I got back from the archives and you were gone."
"I had to meet with Jake Glasman's local representative."
"Isn't Glasman the guy who has all those weird car commercials with talking steering wheels and winking headlights?"
Nodding, Lois reached for another egg roll and dipped it in the hot mustard sauce. "He's one of the manufacturers whose cars are suspected of having the faulty wiring that Superman told us about." <Superman told us about it and Clark worked with me on it. He does the work of two people and I do it of one. Somehow I don't feel as inferior as I probably should.>
"You think he's doing it on purpose or is someone doing it to him?"
"We're not sure yet. Clark thinks he might be in on it, since his heartbeat apparently went up when we started questioning him, but I think it could just have been from the fact that he was afraid that that was what we would think and write about. If we did make a story saying it was his fault, his job would be as good as gone."
"Half the people in Metropolis believe that you and Clark are the personal voice of justice; they'd believe whatever you wrote even if it was made up."
Thinking about that, the sheer power that she and her partner held, Lois ate her Vermicelli Special. <Do I really have that much sway with what I write? Was I always that influential? Is it really that I am that popular? Or is it just that, now that I have Clark/Superman to protect me, I am willing to go to greater risk and thereby get bigger stories that bring greater notoriety? Is my fame due to the fact that I know Superman rather than my actual skill? NO! I was a star reporter long before I ever met Clark. He may have helped my career, but I would have done it on my own anyway.> Glad that she had solved her mental debate at the same time that she finished her dinner, she looked to see if Jimmy was done eating as well.
Staring at the person sitting across from him, Jimmy wondered even more about the oddity of his life. He remembered when he had first gotten a job at the Planet. Lois Lane, Ace Reporter, had been this unapproachable person. She used to work, work, and work a bit more. He couldn't recall her attending any of the newsroom parties that weren't mandatory or thrown in her own honor. She had always seemed like she was so busy trying to catch the next big story that she didn't have enough time do anything as unproductive as have friends or just relax and share gossip over a donut. Sure, she had been close to Perry, but he couldn't think of anyone else that he could honestly say was her friend. She had been a good reporter, all her work had certainly paid off, but she never really acted as though she was happy with it. As soon as she got one front page, she was busy trying to get another. It was as if she was afraid the public would forget her if she didn't keep her name in front of them constantly.
Then Clark became her partner. From the start, it was obvious they were good together. Lois fought it as long as she could, but even she had to admit they were a good team. But it wasn't the change in her writing that really surprised him, although the leap from good to phenomenal did not go unnoticed. What had really gotten his attention were the changes in Lois herself. Slowly, she began to lose some of her "Mad Dog" tendencies. She stopped yelling at everyone and started talking to them instead. She began to attend the company parties and relax enough to chat with people while she filled her coffee or got a snack. She, after a lot of obviously patient work by Clark, came to see that sometimes patience and a little planning could be as successful as a quick attack and hopeful prayer. Sure, she still acted rashly at times and "Mad Dog" still showed up now and then, but overall she was another person. She was now someone he could talk to without worrying that she would forget he was there or yell at him for bothering her while she was trying to work.
As he looked at the lady across from him, deep in thought and absently eating noodles and sipping ice tea, he had to smile. Somehow, under the careful ministrations of a certain alien that grew up in Kansas, the person he used to be so nervous around had become one of his closest friends. The two of them shared a secret whose only other bearers lived in another state. And, together, they were the closest friends of the strongest man alive. He and the person who was once the terror of the newsroom were bound in the protection of a friend and savior to whom they were both deeply indebted. He and Lois were now close friends where once they might not have even acknowledged each other outside of the office.
"Done?" he asked when he saw her look up at him.
"Yea," She replied as she gathered the dirty food containers in the bag they had arrived in and stuffed her paper plate in on top of them. "You finished?"
Nodding, he placed his own plate in the bag she held open for him. "Ready to tell me?" he asked in too innocent a voice. "It's not that I don't appreciate dinner, but I have waited very patiently and soon I am going to start annoying you if you don't live up to your promise."
Watching as she smiled, he went to the couch and made himself comfortable to hear her tale of discovery. "My ears are all yours," he said as she came into the living room and sat down across from him.
Looking at Jimmy sitting there watching her, Lois felt a strong desire to make up some elaborate story in which her knowledge of The Secret was due to some great investigate research or sudden inspiration. She knew that he would probably laugh himself silly when she was finished, but she had promised to tell him the complete truth and she would do so. Even if it did end with him choking with laugher and unable to look at her with a straight face for a week. <I can do this. He is my friend. He will laugh, but in time, I will laugh as well and we can all enjoy the story that led to our learning The Secret. >
Taking a sip of her tea to moisten suddenly dry lips, she started speaking. "I actually figured it out about two days before you heard us talking." Recalling the circumstances that so change her life, Lois let her mind relive them as she spoke.
"I don't care. YOU are Bobby Bigmouth. YOU are supposed to be able to tell me news that I DON'T already know." Glaring at the man sitting on the backseat of my Jeep, I quickly grab the last chocolate covered donut from his hand. "This," I declare as I hold the pastry out of his reach, "is mine. No news equals no food." So saying, I take a big bite and sigh wonderfully as the chocolate worked its usual magic.
Watching Bobby, I grin as he cast a pleading look toward Clark; it's message quite clearly, "Can't you control her?" I smile outright at Clark's replying look of, "What do YOU think?" Finishing the donut, I lick my lips and patiently look at them. I completely ignore their dual stares of admonishment.
"OK, Bobby. Do you have anything to tell us? Anybody new come to town? Anybody old return recently? Anybody branch out lately? ANYTHING?"
"Sorry, Lois. Like I told you, there is nothing going on right now. Nobody is breaking any laws that I've heard of. You guys know I'd tell you if I knew anything. There's just nothing to tell. Sorry." Casting me a last apologetic look and giving Clark a quick pat on the shoulder, Bobby quietly gets out of the car and leaves Clark and I in silence.
"What now?" Clark asks when the silence goes on a little too long and I don't stop staring at him, or at least staring in his direction.
Studying my partner, I debate on whether or not to tell him about the spaghetti sauce he has in his hair; Bobby wasn't exactly dainty when he ate and he had gotten some of it on the headrest. Before I can say anything (and I had decided to tell him after all), Clark throws open his door and gets out.
"Lois, um, I just remembered I was supposed to pick up my dry cleaning today. I'm gonna go and get it. It's just around the corner. I'll be right back." And with that one breathed explanation, he was gone.
I have finally had all I could take. I am going to follow him. <I shouldn't. I should just accept the fact that he likes to disappear at weird times and give the worst possible excuses. I should trust him and hope that he will tell me truth sooner or later.> I know these are the things I should do. But I have never been one to do what I should; I lock the doors and trail him.
He is just ahead of me, running, when he suddenly ducks into an alley. As I come to the alley, I slow down and look in carefully. It's empty. Walking into the alley, but keeping my back toward the wall, I look around. It is only a block or so deep and about five feet wide. The end is a brick wall, obviously the back of another building, and after a little checking I am convinced that it has no hidden doorways. There are only a few trash bags to clutter the ground and they are too small and scattered to hide anyone. The walls on either side of me are concrete and, again, I check for passageways and find nothing. I look down, as most people forget to do, and not so much as sewer access is visible. Lastly, I look up. There isn't even a fire escape ladder that he could have climbed. The alley is only accessible by the road I just left. It was impossible that Clark could have come in here and not still be here.
I am just about to go and check for possible hidden hinges in the corners, when my phone rings. "Lane." I say while still studying the empty alley that I know Clark entered and didn't leave. As Perry tells me about a big strike down town that I have to cover, I force myself to ignore the puzzle of my vanishing partner and turn around.
<He couldn't have just vanished.> I have never been good at listening to anyone, including myself. <Maybe I didn't go into the right alley. But I was right behind him; there is no way he could have gone anywhere else. I saw him enter that alley. I did not see him leave the alley. But he was not in the alley. Something is not right here. He could not have just vanished. Although, given our history, it is not as unlikely as most would assume.> Drinking the soda I had managed to keep from Bobby, I pay scant attention to my driving. Most of my mind is busy contemplating what could possibly have happened to Clark.
<He probably wasn't abducted since he voluntary got out of the car and entered the alley, an alley he could have seen was a dead end the moment that he turned into it. He told me his dry cleaners was just around the corner, but why would he choose a dry cleaner half way across town when there is one less than a block from his house?>
Arriving at the strike, I find picketers and police already circling each other and hoping to make an impression on the onlookers without getting anyone angry enough to leave physical impressions on them. Cautiously I make my way toward the men in suits—suits always have information if you ask just right—and try to hear what they are saying. From what I am able to make out, the picketers are more than right to protest their boss. It seemed that the company had been giving them checks that bounced and refusing to pay any overtime even though the contracts said they were supposed to get it.
Moving a little closer, I still try to remain unnoticed. After a moment, I manage to hear a little more. They are mad because, not only are in trouble for not paying what they owe, they are also working on a little "venture" with someone else and they are afraid he will pull out if they come under too much scrutiny. Suddenly looking around, as though they finally realize that they might be overheard, they turn to leave. Before they are even all the way around, a bottle shatters on the back of one of the two men's heads. As though it were an unspoken cue, bottles, picket signs and the poles supporting them, fists, and feet are flying and hitting anyone and everyone in the area. The police are trying, but the chaos is just too much for them. I am still hiding, crouched between a decorative bush and the company sign, when a man suddenly jumps the bush and lands a breath away from me. Right behind him is another man who, attacking the first, doesn't even notice me but keeps fighting right over both the bush and me. I am not sure what to do here. If I stay still, I will most likely be hit by a fist sooner or later—if not landed on—when one of them falls on top of me. If I try and move, I will be noticed and one of them might well decide I am on the wrong side, whichever side that may be, and attack me. Crawling as much into the bush as I can, careful not to make any noise or move the bush itself. Managing to look out the other side of the bush, I see that fighters surround me. People who have apparently lost all common sense and decided on a free for all fight in the middle of a riot, unarmed, in a skirt, hiding in a bush, I finally concede that I am in trouble. Holding very still, I send out my favorite mental plea when in trouble. "SUPERMAN!"
No sooner do I think of him, than I see him land across the lawn. With a whirl, the fighters are split into two groups and ushered into the waiting arms of the police. With a grin, he walks towards me. Stopping by the bush, he offers me a hand and gently helps me out without scraping and bruising myself on the many little branches and thorns that had so annoyingly been digging into me.
"Are you all right?" he asks.
"I'm fine." Trying absently to brush the leaves from my clothes, and bemoaning the death of yet another pair of nylons, I grin up at him. "Thanks for stopping by. I was worried you might miss all the fun."
Shaking his head 'no,' he reaches out and, in another blur, I find my hair and clothing free of dirt, twigs, and leaves. Plucking a last branch from its place behind my ear, he smiles. "Better?" he inquires innocently.
"Yes. Do you know who started this, I mean, who exactly threw that first bottle?"
"Yes." Turning, he motions toward a man still talking to the police. His handcuffs prove that he isn't talking by choice, but his loud voice tell that he is not letting this chance to voice his concerns go by unused. After hearing a few words of his speech, I hear enough to know that he is a "professional rioter." If you gave him the slightest hint of fault, he would whip the people into a mindless rage before they even realize they are being whipped. "Keel, over there, threw it. And, unless I am mistaken, his is also wanted in several other states for inciting other not-so-peaceful protests."
Looking closer at the man, Keel, I nod. "I think you're right. He looks a lot like a man my partner and I did a story on a few weeks ago. Desy Peel, known riot starter. Guess he wasn't smart enough to stay away from Metropolis."
"Guess not. If you'll excuse me, I have to go."
As I watch him turn to say a final farewell to the police, I feel my heart nearly stop. He has spaghetti sauce on his hair! He has spaghetti sauce exactly where Clark had it! Superman has spaghetti sauce exactly where my partner, who disappeared in an alley with no way out, had it! Standing there, I try to come up with some type of reasonable explanation. I search my mental files for any, even remotely possible, excuse for two people to have tomato sauce in identical spots in their hair.
"I tried. I tried very hard, but I just could not come up with any." Looking at Jimmy, I grinned. "I just could not accept that I had seen what I thought I had seen. But when Clark showed up a few minutes later, having supposedly seen me drive off, and then followed the police who were still streaming in, I looked closely at him. Sure enough, the spaghetti spot was still there." Taking a sip of tea, I shrugged. "That is it. I spent the rest of the day, as well as the next two, trying to convince myself that I hadn't hallucinated or made up what I thought I had seen. I finally confronted Clark about it about twenty minutes before we left to attend the Mayor's conference and that's where you heard us."
"SPAGHETTI SAUCE!!" he exclaimed. Jimmy shook his head, not sure if he should be shocked into silence or laughing out loud. "You learned The Secret because of spaghetti sauce?!"
Looking at Lois, sitting before him drinking her tea and nodding her head 'yes' as though embarrassed to admit it, he grinned. "You learned the secret he has kept since he was born by spotting a bit of spaghetti sauce in his hair?" As she continued nodding her head slowly, he started laughing. He couldn't help himself. <Superman, the great alien visitor to earth. Superman, savior of so many people in so many places. Superman, revealed to his partner by an ittsy bitsy teensy weensy bit of pasta sauce.> The idea of it was too much for him. The very notion that a bit of food led to Superman's greatest secret, a secret that effects his life and could well mean his downfall if ever discovered, was just too much for him. After staring at her and not hearing an "all right, here's the real story," he started to laugh harder.
After a moment, she laughed as well. Soon, both were laughing. Sitting there, the smell of take-out Chinese food in the air and the late day's sun shining into the room, they laughed over the complex simplicity of life. A dab of sauce, a few little drops of red, was entirely responsible for their learning The Secret. It led to their becoming closer to each other and, especially, to their alien ally.
"You are definitely something, Lois," he said as he smiled at her and raised his glass in salute.
"Huh?" she said, looking at him as though he had just lost his mind. After watching her and making sure she was not just fishing for a compliment, he tried to explain.
"If I had seen Clark with spaghetti sauce in his hair and then seen Superman with spaghetti sauce in his hair, I would have assumed some restaurant was having a big spaghetti sale. I would not have thought that Clark and Superman were the same person. I would probably have forgotten about the spaghetti sauce five seconds after Clark disappeared. I would definitely have had more on my mind than the state of Superman's hair after being trapped under a bush in the middle of a riot where there were fists and bottles going every which way. I mean, think about it. You nearly got trampled to death by two guys intent on beating each other senseless and, a few seconds later, you notice a little spot of red in a guy's hair and realize that it is identical to the spot of red in your partner's hair. Then you decide that this is more than just an odd coincidence and that it means they are really the same person. Then you convince yourself that you were not mistaken about the identical state of the stains and, knowing how you are, you probably looked over all your old cases with Clark and/or Superman and made sure that you were right. You, from something most people wouldn't even notice, figured out who Superman's secret identity was. You did what every evil genius, mad millionaire, psycho scientist, and crazy criminal have been trying to do since five seconds after Superman first saved the space shuttle and flew you into the Planet's newsroom."
As she just stared at him, he gave a bow like nod. "That, if you ever told anyone, would have to be some of the best investigative work in history. You are definitely worthy of your paycheck this week, even if Perry doesn't know about this story."
As he spoke, Lois continued staring at him as if she hadn't a clue what he was talking about. Reaching across to hold his hand right in front of her face, he waved his hand trying to get her attention.
<He can't be serious. He thinks that how I found out WAS good investigating. I thought it was dumb luck and that I was slow to take two days to figure out the truth. But, the way he said it, my dumb luck could indeed be construed as investigative. My taking two days to figure it out could be viewed as time to make sure I am correct and not just seeing connections where there is mere coincidence. Maybe the story doesn't make me sound as stupid as I thought.>
Suddenly noticing that Jimmy's hand was waving in front of her, Lois slapped it away.
"Sorry," Jimmy said as he leaned back in his chair and made himself comfortable again. "Thought you might have been taking flying lessons from Superman. 'Cause your mind was definitely in the clouds somewhere."
Grabbing a nearby throw pillow and using it for the purpose it was named, she leaned back and smiled as he valiantly tried not to drop or spill his nearly empty glass. "My mind was not in the clouds, thank you very much. I was just thinking about what you said. You should be flattered that I was so impressed with your words that I took the time to seriously consider them."
"I am sorry. Oh Great Reporter Lois, I am unworthy to even sit in your presence. I will leave you now so that your hordes of servants may enter and whisk you to your milk bath and rose-scented bed where you can dream of front page stories and award worthy investigations." Getting up, he took his glass into the kitchen. "I've really got to go," he said as he came back. "I have got to get to sleep early if I want to make it to the office on time tomorrow."
Glancing at the clock, she was shocked to see that it was nearly eleven-thirty at night. <We have been talking all evening.> Rising herself, she walked with Jimmy to the door.
"Remember, do not tell Clark what gave him away. I am going to keep that little tidbit of information hanging over his head for as long as I can."
"I think I will keep my mouth shut on this one. It is always more fun to watch you two spar than to actually be in the ring." Pulling on his jacket, he stepped into the doorway. "I really appreciate your telling me," he said honestly.
"It was no problem. I kind of enjoyed talking about it. Plus you gave a little insight into it that I didn't have before. Thanks."
Watching him walk down the hall, Lois grinned. Jimmy had been an annoying kid when they had first met. But, under the guardian guidance of a certain alien, he had matured into a bright young man with real talent that had previously been only hinted at. Turning back into her apartment and closing the door slowly, Lois wondered at the changes in her life. Because of a little spaghetti sauce, she knew a secret shared by only four others, and was closer to two of her friends. <Sometimes,> she thought with a laugh, <life can take some dangerous roads and make crazy curves; but mine, for all its wild wanderings, has led me somewhere I would not leave if I could.>
Placing her glass in the sink next to Jimmy's, she headed for bed. <Not a bad way to end a day. Having a relaxed dinner with a close friend and talking late into the night. No, this is not a bad way to end a day at all.>