Married, With Children

By Jude <>

Rated PG-13

Submitted August 2000

Summary: After an afternoon at the Zoo with Clark and their children, Lois is hot, tired and hungry, but fast food is not what she wants for her children. As a result, Clark learns a startling secret from Lois's past — one he finds very exciting!

This is an early episode in my exploration of the lives of Lois and Clark in the 21st Century. Feedback is solicited and gratefully received, publicly on the list or privately at the above address.

My deepest gratitude goes to Ann McBride for her excellent proofreading and editing skills.

<> enclose direct thoughts and * * enclose emphasized words.

The usual disclaimers apply and no infringement is intended on those characters copyrighted to Warner Brothers and D.C. Comics. The characters and events created by me belong to me and may not be used without my permission. ***

"Clark, I can't believe you're actually going in here!" At the end of a hot September Sunday afternoon at the Zoo with her husband, Clark Kent, and their children, Laura and Chris, Lois Lane was tired, hungry and irritable, and not working very hard at hiding it.

It *had* been a trying day. The temperature had risen much higher than had been forecast; Christopher had been particularly devilish, refusing to be held and, when deposited on the ground, darting off to some other exhibit so that he had to be fetched, usually by Lois who would be after him almost as soon as he was gone. He had relished this game until finally Clark took him by the hand and wouldn't relinquish it no matter how much he squirmed and protested, preferring to distract the boy with tales about the animals they were seeing rather than punishing him.

Recognizing that Lois' mood was worsening and hoping that, later on, they would be able to enjoy their first uninterrupted romantic evening in, as he reckoned, 9 days, 14 hours, 35 minutes and 17 seconds, Clark attempted to keep her calm as he replied patiently, "Honey, you know Christopher is still adjusting to being potty trained, and when he announces insistently that he has to go we'd better pay attention or the result will be embarrassment and tears for him and a lot of trouble for us."

Yes, she knew that all too well and was not of a mind to add to the deterioration of what had started out as a fun and pleasant outing by insisting on going on to some other place.

Eight year old Laura spoke superciliously from the back seat, "*I* adjusted right away. *I* never had any problems like Christopher."

"Yes, dear," Lois responded automatically, "we remember how well trained you were, right away. Little girls seem to catch on faster than little boys."

Laura sniffed triumphantly at Chris who jiggled and bumped within the confines of his seatbelt and reached out to grab at her in retaliation for her remark. She easily avoided his lunge and peered through his window with curiosity at the food establishment into whose parking lot they were turning.

"You can't look out my window," protested Chris. "Don't look out my window! Daddy, make Laura stop looking out my window."

"Laura, stop looking out your brother's window," Clark said as he maneuvered through the rows of cars. Lois and Clark had given up trying to keep the peace by exhorting older sister and younger brother to be patient with each other and not fight. Now they just tried to practice patience themselves while waiting for the siblings to grow out of this phase, which they had finally concluded was going to take years.

Lois continued to voice her objection to their destination. "Are you sure this is the nearest place? You know I don't allow the children to go to places like this. Couldn't you have taken him at the park?"

"Lois, these places are everywhere and they usually have clean rest rooms. In fact they should probably get a Presidential citation as the provider of America's Public Rest Rooms. If you had seen the Men's room at the park, you'd know why this is better."

She sighed in resignation. "I saw the Women's and don't even want to think about how much worse the Men's might be."

"And," Clark went on, "you said you were hungry, so we can get some food here, before taking the kids to your Mother's for the night."

"Food? Eat food *here*?"

"Yes, honey, they have food here. That's why it's called a 'fast food' place."

"Clark, they don't have food here. They have fat, salt and sugar disguised as food. You know I don't want the children to eat this stuff. You *know* how careful I am about their nutrition!"

"Relax, honey, I'm sure they have some nutritious items mixed in with the fat, salt and sugar."

By this time they had parked on the treeless, shadeless asphalt tarmac and were disembarking into the heat waves radiating from its surface. Lois flailed her way out of her bucket seat as Laura primly swung her knees around and stepped daintily to the ground. On the opposite side of the car, Clark was unbuckling Christopher from his seat belt and lifting him from the vehicle.

Lois looked at Christopher's shirt and shorts, wrinkled and covered with dirt and grass stains; at her own rumpled slacks, knees soiled from having to crawl under a vacant souvenir stand to retrieve her errant son; her sleeveless blouse, smeared with fudgicle remnants from Christopher's hands; then at Clark and Laura who both appeared as crisp and fresh as they had when they had set off on this outing shortly after lunch, and she sighed again. Laura was, indeed, her father's daughter, and Chris was definitely her son—jumping excitedly into everything regardless of the outcome, and afterward exhibiting the inevitable visible signs of the consequences.

As Clark put Christopher down, the boy exclaimed brightly, "Look, Daddy, the Goldy Narches! Can I have some F'ench f'ies again?"

Clark quickly busied himself adjusting Christopher's clothing and combing his hair so that he would not be able to look at Lois whose eyes were now upon him in glaring surprise.

"Again? Again! You've been here before and you've been feeding him French fries!" she accused.

Hurrying Christopher toward the door of the restaurant closest to the rest rooms, Clark muttered, "No, I don't think we've been *here* before."

If he had hoped to out leg Lois, thereby preventing her from hearing his reply and continuing her questions, he was doomed from the start. No one out ran Lois Lane in pursuit of the truth. She was right along side him as he crossed the blacktop. Laura trailed behind.

Although she spoke sotto voce, her intent came across loud and clear. "Clark Kent, you may not have been in this particular place, but you've been in one like it, and more than once from the way Chris is so familiar with the food. I don't understand why you would feed him this…this…garbage when you know I don't want him eating things that are bad for him."

"But Lois, we don't really know if they *are* bad for him. If he has my metabolism, he can eat anything he likes. He may not have to eat at all!"

"Well, there's no evidence to support that so far," she retorted. "He never *stops* eating. What if he has my digestive system? I don't want him to get used to eating swill and then find out he has to give it up or endanger his health." Clark sensed something deeper at work than a passionate concern for their children's diet. He had no idea what it was but he knew that if she dug her heels in on this, their plans for later could be forestalled by what, to him, was an inconsequential disagreement. He had to ameliorate the situation.

"It's true that we don't know yet what he may have inherited from you or me, but a little fast food once in a while isn't going to turn him into an addict." The frightened expression on her face in reaction to his words was another indication of a deep-seated problem. He decided to drop that particular point until he could explore it without further exacerbating what was already a touchy situation, one that could derail the 'touching' he had in mind for later.

"I don't understand why you're defending this junk! What is so important about burgers and fries?" she demanded.

"Honey," he followed up, "when guys are out together shooting some hoops or throwing a football around, they like to finish up with some All-American food. You can go for a beer and a dog, or for a burger and fries, and since Chris isn't old enough for beer, we do our bonding at a place like this." It sounded perfectly obvious and logical to him.

"Clark, Christopher is barely *three* years old. He can't shoot hoops or throw footballs around 'with the guys'. He's supposed to be out male-bonding with his father whose job is to protect him, not teach him to like junk food!"

Well, he couldn't argue with the last part, but he could still argue. "I was speaking metaphorically, Lois, and I think you're over-reacting. I'm not teaching him to like the food, just letting him try something a little different now and then."

She was not diverted. "And we already know that he's not like you in at least one way. He catches colds and gets earaches. You never got sick, even as a baby, and neither did Laura, but *he* does."

She was very protective of Christopher because of those colds. They were an indication that he might be more human than Kryptonian and therefore prey to any number of invasions by harmful substances from a dangerous world. Her fierce lioness was always on guard against any threat to her cub, and she would be especially conscious of his colds night now, because Christopher had been suffering from one, as well as an intermittent earache, for the last week. That, combined with an unusual volume of Superman emergencies was the reason their love life had been in a void.

Chris would wake up in the night, not feeling well, and wanting no one but Lois to comfort him. Well, Clark could understand that. He felt exactly the same way when he was miserable. However, Christopher, unlike most sick children, did not stay in his bed and call for his mother to come to him. Oh no, he would go looking for her; and he wouldn't knock!

He had been taught to do so, but a sick little boy doesn't always remember what he's supposed to do. And since there was no lock on their bedroom door, the few times during the week when Clark had been home in bed with his wife, thoughts of anything more than a chaste goodnight kiss were pretty much out of the question. He wanted to put a lock on the door, but Lois refused saying that she didn't want her children to come looking for her and find themselves shut out, at least not until Chris was a little older.

"Lois, you know that he will get some things from me and some from you. You get a lot of colds so he got those genes from you. That doesn't mean that he won't get my food processing ability. You're just being unreasonable about this."

As soon as he said it he wanted to grab the words and stuff them back into his mouth. What a blunder! He had issued the challenge, flung the gauntlet, spoken the phrase most likely to provoke an all-out fight: 'Lois Lane, unreasonable.' They needed a time out. Fortunately, they had entered the restaurant and were approaching the Men's room door.

"Please explain to me…" she began in that cold, controlled voice that presaged an emotionally heated attack.

But she was interrupted as Clark pushed Christopher inside the Men's room. "Later, Lois. Christopher has to go," and they disappeared behind the closing door.

"Daddy never takes me anywhere like this place," said Laura. "It isn't fair. What's so bad about French fries and why can't we eat them?"

"French fries are potatoes prepared in a very greasy way that makes them very bad for you and that's why Mommy doesn't want you to eat them," Lois replied absently as she mulled over Clark's inflammatory challenge.

"But I thought potatoes were good for you."

Returning to the moment, Lois explained, "Not when they're full of grease, Sweetheart. Regarding her daughter speculatively, she asked, "Where *does* Daddy take you when you go out together?"

"Oh, different places, museums and stuff," answered Laura noncommittally.

"No, I mean to eat. Don't you go somewhere for a snack or something?" Lois was dogging another suspicious trail but trying to appear nonchalant.

"We just go to someplace nearby where we can get things like, you know, salads and fruit and sometimes ice cream." Laura's answer was casually vague but spoken with such innocence that Lois was put off the scent. What she did not realize was that Laura, while not actually speaking a lie was intentionally misdirecting her mother's suspicions, a proclivity no doubt inherited from her father.

She was old enough to realize that Lois would not approve of her weekly trips to The Chocolate Shop with Clark who had persuaded the proprietor to create a special sundae just for them: a Twinkie Split. Similar to its counterpart, the common banana split, it began with a Twinkie split long ways. Nestled in the valley of the two halves were 3 scoops of ice cream-Chocolate Chocolate Chip, Chocolate' Mallow Peanut Butter, and Double Fudge Nut.

On top of the first was a thick layer of white chocolate sauce; on the second, hot fudge; and on the third, chunks of fresh pineapple. Overlaying all three was a generous spritz of real whipped cream. And sitting gloriously atop each mound was a chocolate covered maraschino cherry.

An ordinary human might consider eating this concoction for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but Laura, armed with her mother's love of chocolate and her father's ability to consume even the most sickening junk food, happily ate her way through one of these each week. She wasn't about to spill the facts and ruin her fun. After all, pineapple *was* fruit, and for all she knew, The Chocolate Shop had some kind of salad on its menu.

Put off for the moment, Lois said, "Come on, let's visit the Ladies' room and clean up a little; then we'll see if we can find something half-way nutritious to eat here."

When Lois and Laura came around the corner from the rest rooms, they found Clark and Christopher studying the big menu board behind the counter, the boy, hands on his hips, in miniature imitation of his father's stance.

Seeing them, Clark pointed out, "Look, honey, they have salads and chicken nuggets and chicken sandwiches. Those are nutritious."

The hopeful and placating tone in his voice would have made Lois laugh on some other occasion. But she wasn't about to be distracted from ferreting out the secret of Christopher's eating habits when he and Clark were out together.

"You think so Clark? Okay, why don't you get an assortment of what you think we ought to eat here, while we go find a table."

<Oooh…Nice… pass… Lo…is! Threw the ball right to me. Hmmm…I'd better not fumble or I'm in really big trouble.> He did *not* want this to turn into the tenth scoreless night in a row. After looking the menu over carefully, he walked to the counter to order.

Lois, Laura and Chris finally found an empty booth way in the back, around the corner on the opposite side from the entrance and near the children's indoor playroom. Chris, spotting the red, yellow and blue apparatus, yelled, "Big toys," and spurted for the door. Lois snagged him around the waist, hoisted him onto the bench and quickly sat next to him, effectively preventing his escape. Laura placed herself opposite them after carefully inspecting the seat and tabletop for messy food particles.

This prepossession with cleanliness was a recent one, part of Laura's idea of how a grown-up lady behaved, which she and her school friends were currently aspiring to emulate. Considering that, at the beginning of the summer, the eight year old had come home almost every night covered in dirt from sliding into second base at her softball team practice, Lois was certain that this was yet another phase that would quickly pass.

"Mommy," Christopher pleaded, "Big Toys! I wanna go climb and slide!"

Laura spoke up in her best adult voice. "I'll go in and watch him until Daddy comes, Mommy. I'll see that he stays out of trouble."

"Well, that's very sweet of you Laura, but it's when you *can't* see him, that he gets into trouble. Daddy will take him for a few minutes after bringing the food, if he still wants to go."

Christopher squirmed and finally stood on the seat to watch through the Plexiglas window as the other children played. "Look Mommy, you can climb up and jump off, but I can't see where you land!"

"That's just what I'm afraid of," said Lois dryly, as Clark came around the corner toward them carrying a tray of food. Lois perused the fare with a skeptical eye: chicken nuggets, breaded and deep fried, grease-grilled chicken sandwiches, shaker salads and milk. Well, at least the sandwiches had lettuce and tomato and they could scrape off some of the mayonnaise. They could take the breading off the nuggets and the milk was 1% although she would have preferred skim. The salads, while filled with nutritionally empty iceberg lettuce, also had carrots, cabbage, and tomato; and the low fat dressing was on the side so she could regulate how much went into the shaker. <Acceptable> she thought, <but just barely.>

As she expected, Christopher, upon spying the food, lost interest in the playroom and slid into his seat, reaching for his milk. Lois deftly blocked his hands, inserted a straw into the opening of the carton and placed it on the table in front of him, admonishing, "Hold tight with both hands, Christopher and drink slowly. Put it down *carefully* when you've finished." The boy muttered "Hmhm" around a mouthful of milk, and she took that to mean that he had heard and understood. *Obeying* was yet to be decided.

"Honey, you'd better let me sit next to him so you can eat your salad," said Clark.

They exchanged places after she de-breaded some nuggets and put them within the boy's reach. As she sat next to Laura, who was gingerly picking up a nugget with two fingers while spreading out the rest of her hand to avoid coming in contact with grease, Christopher said insistently, "Can't I have a hangeber 'n F'ench f'ies, Daddy?"

Lois glowered as Clark hastily replied, "Not today, Big Guy. We're gonna try something new."

"Mr. Phillips says eating hamburgers will clog your insides and give you a heart attack and you could die. He knows everything about nutrition. He says he never eats bad things. He only eats good things so he will live a long time."

This pronouncement from Laura was received with surprise by Clark who looked at Lois, eyebrows raised questioningly. "Mr. Phillips?"

"The new science specialist and male teacher du jour of the third grade girls," Lois explained.

"Ah." Clark nodded in understanding.

"Mr. Phillips is wonderful," Laura continued. "He knows all about science, although…" she paused, contemplating torn loyalties, "I don't think he knows as much as Grampa Sam…but he's still wonderful. We learned all about good food and bad food when he taught us. I don't ever want to eat bad food." Having finished her declaration, she delicately placed a naked chicken nugget in her mouth and chewed.

For the moment, both offspring were safely engaged in eating, so Lois added a tiny bit of dressing to her salad, shook vigorously, picked up her fork and tasted warily. It wasn't too bad and she was starving. She dug in as Clark inhaled a couple of grilled chicken sandwiches.

Lois was munching on a carrot, when she noticed a bearded man, two booths down, who was mid-way through eating a Big Mac, Super- Size fries and drinking a large cola. He looked in their direction and when he noticed the Kent table, he abruptly stopped chewing, stood, gathered his belongings and quickly walked away, depositing most of his food in the trash container before scurrying out the door.

"That was odd," Lois observed. "Did you see that man, Clark? When he saw us, he almost panicked in his hurry to leave. He seemed terrified. I know Chris and I are a little scruffy, but we're not that bad."

Laura was sniffling. "Tha..that was Mr. Phillips! He said he *never* eats hamburgers. But he was! And he was eating those fried potatoes and drinking cola. He was eating *bad food*!" she cried.

Putting an arm around her daughter, Lois tried to comfort her. "Oh, Sweetheart, I'm sure there's a perfectly good explanation for it."

"Sure, honey," Clark added. "Maybe he was doing some kind of experiment to see why that food is so popular."

"Do you think so?" said Laura, hopefully, tears abating.

"Of course," said Lois, a wicked gleam in her eye. "Why don't you ask him at school tomorrow."

"No, Laura," said Clark urgently. "That might not be such a good idea. He probably wants to wait until he's finished his research so he can make a report to the class, right Lois?"

"Uuhh, right! I should have thought of that. Now finish your chicken, Laura."

Looking over at Christopher, she saw a familiar sight. The boy was holding a nugget in each hand and alternating bites, while humming an almost soundless tune as he bobbed his head up and down and swayed his body from side to side to the beat of his music. His eyes were half closed and he was, except for the bites of chicken, focused entirely inward. It was his signal that he was tired and ready for sleep. Not that he wouldn't fight going to bed, but it would be a temporary battle. Ellen would be lucky to keep him awake for his bath. Bobbing and swaying to the internal music, he was all alone in a world he made for himself; a world where even Lois was not permitted.

With his last two nuggets in his hands, he stood up on the bench and began to move his feet in rhythm with the rest of his body. After looking around to be sure that he wasn't bothering anyone, Lois relaxed and enjoyed watching her son as he began to disengage from the excitement of his eventful day.

With his auburn hair, green eyes and freckles, so different from his parents' and sister's dark hair and eyes, he might have looked like someone else's little boy to a stranger; but no matter what other congenital heritage might eventually surface, Lois knew the origin of his physical appearance. When she looked at him, she saw her mother's sister, Liz, whose likeness Christopher exhibited, the two of them genetic throwbacks to their Irish forebears. Moving about on the bench, he called to mind, with his red hair, freckles and upturned nose, a small leprechaun dancing to cast a magic spell under a Gaelic moon.

Clark was watching him too, and they smiled at each other, sharing the warmth and joy of their love for their son.

Soon, three Kents had finished eating and two of them were beginning to get restless, but Lois was still working on a salad. Realizing that Christopher needed to begin his bedding down routine, Clark suggested, "Honey, why don't I run Laura and Christopher over to your Mother's; we're practically there. You can finish your salad and when I get back, we can discuss our plans for the evening."

Laura and Christopher were spending the night with Ellen while Sam was out of town. Lois and Clark, not having had an intimate night together long enough for it to be of almost obsessive interest to both of them, were hoping for an unimpeded romantic evening.

"Are you and Mommy going to have a good time tonight, Daddy?" Laura asked.

"I certainly hope so," her father breathed, looking at Lois.

"Why can't we stay and have a good time with you? Laura persisted.

"Because Gramma Ellen would be very disappointed if she couldn't see you tonight," Lois interceded. Go with Daddy, so you can see what fun things she's planned for you. Maybe she'll teach you some more about bridge."

"I didn't really understand that very well. It was kind of boring."

"Then get her to play Pokemon or Monopoly. You know how much you like those."

"Oh yes! Come on, Christopher, let's go."

Giving her mother a kiss, Laura started for the door, but Christopher was moving more slowly. "Come on, Sweet Boy," urged Lois. "Give Mommy a big hug and a good night kiss."

"Okay," and he obliged saying, "I love you, Mommy."

Calling softly after him, "I love you, too," she watched him walk away toward his sister and her heart stumbled just a little as she wondered how much longer he would feel free to show his affection so casually.

Then they were gone, depositing their trash in the containers by the door.

Laura's relationship with her Grampa Sam was a special one, that of two scientific minds embracing one another across a wide gap of years. Sam would take the little girl into his laboratory where they would closet themselves embarking upon who knew what kinds of secret activities. He would reveal exciting mysteries to her and show her how to perform simple chemical experiments. He allowed her to enter sample data into his computer and showed her how to manipulate the numbers to produce wondrous new concepts. She would be content with him for hours. Lois was mystified that her father, who had regarded his own daughters as useless girls, now seemed to find this little girl so worthy; until Clark offered the explanation that, among other reasons, he could be attempting to apologize and make up for past sins.

But Sam was out of town, and Ellen and Laura did not have a similar meeting of the minds. Ellen dearly loved her granddaughter, but was puzzled by her and did not quite know how to please her. She couldn't teach her to bake cookies or go on long rambles through the fields with her as her Gramma Martha did. Instead, they would go shopping for the latest fads; and Ellen would gladly endure interminable hours of card and board games which she loathed, even going so far as to let Laura *win*; thus, they found a common meeting ground.

With Christopher, Ellen was easy and relaxed. She laughed at his mischief and allowed him reasonably free rein as he would dash from here to there in her house and yard, constantly asking questions: "What is this? Why does that move that way? Where did this come from?" She patiently answered them all, teaching him about many new and different objects that he did not find in his own little world on Hyperion Avenue. She continued his education when they went for walks in the park nearby, explaining what the plants were and how and why they grew.

He was never allowed to be wantonly destructive, rude or bothersome to other people; and she was never careless with him, always intervening when he would make one of his frequent dashes toward the street. Observing them, Lois saw what her mother must have been like with her and Lucy when they were small, before the troubles with Sam began; and Ellen fell into the wasted life of an alcoholic.

Laura and Christopher were happy and secure when they visited the Lanes, and Lois and Clark were comfortable leaving them in capable hands.

When Clark returned from Ellen's, Lois had changed sides of the table and was sitting with her back to him, apparently still eating. As he got closer, he saw, to his surprise, that she was preoccupied with stuffing her mouth with French fries! So preoccupied, in fact, that she hadn't heard him approaching. Grinning, he leaned over and whispered, "And would you like fries with that, Miss?"

Startled, Lois jumped and French fries flew everywhere—across the table, onto the other seat, all over the floor.

She turned her face toward him revealing distress and chagrin. "O-o-o-h Cla-a-a-rk," she wailed, "I fell off the wagon! The…smell..was…just…too…tempting." Tears were traversing her cheeks and she sniffed between each word.

"What?" Clark replied disconcertedly.

"There's something about me I've never told you. I'm a French fry junkie! I can't resist them. Not just any French fries…*these*." She pointed. "They're s-o-o-o thin and crispy on the outside, and so soft and mushy on the inside…When I was in junior high school, I ballooned to 150 pounds because, and I was only five foot two then, because every afternoon after school I would devour 3 Supersize orders and wash them down with a large diet Coke. Isn't that silly? Why bother with a *diet* Coke when you're eating all those fries."

An unbelieving Clark was trying to visualize his svelte wife as a short 150-pound teen but it was not an image he could conjure into focus. Lois was still speaking; he realized that full babbling mode had set upon her. If he didn't keep up, he'd be hopelessly lost.

"And now I'm doing it again. I can't help myself. And then there's that other thing…in junior high it could have been disastrous if I'd been allowed to date, which I wasn't, and I hadn't developed yet, anyway, so boys weren't interested in me, but when I got to high school things changed and I knew I had to control myself, so I started a kind of French fries Anonymous with my best friend because she was addicted too and we stopped cold turkey and went on a diet and I haven't had these since, until just now and that's why I never want to come to these places because the odor of those fries is just irresistible, and eating them could be disastrous except that now, of course, I have you."

His face was scrunched up from trying to follow what had been said all in one breath and Clark was marveling over this feat as he attempted to console her, "Honey, it's okay. We all have our weaknesses, though I thought yours was chocolate."

"Oh, no. Chocolate is controllable. I can eat a little and then leave it alone. Not like French fries…one fry demands another and then another…"

While they were talking about chocolate, she had pulled him down onto the bench beside her and now had her arms around him kissing the side of his face and nuzzling his neck.

"Lois, honey, don't you think it's a little public here for this kind of thing? And what did you mean, 'Now you have me'?"

"Didn't I tell you?" she replied as she pressed against him, continuing her osculatory exploration. "You know that thing that pasta does to you? Well, these French fries do that to me."

His eyes opened wide with stunned comprehension. Aroused by her revelation, he tried to speak rationally and calmly. "Honey, why don't we get out of here and away from temptation? Instead of going home, how about we indulge ourselves and check in at the Cozy Motel. It's just a few blocks away."

"Oh, Sweetheart, I'd rather go home. It's not that far and…" She tilted her head to meet his lips, giving him a composure- shattering kiss. "M-m-m-m-m. I've really been looking forward to being in our bed tonight."

She found herself in the car incredibly quickly, almost faster than she could say 'Super Speed'. As he closed the car door for her, he said, " I'll be right back," and vanished.

Inside the restaurant, he placed a $50 bill on the counter and said to the fresh-faced young man behind it, "The change is yours if you can give me 10 Super Size orders of fries to go by the time I count to 30."

"They're in the bag Mister," gasped the youth 30 seconds later, and Clark was out the door with his purchase. As he left, he was whistling an old tune that the boy tried to place. It was something his grandparents used to play on that funny old record player that used a needle and played those records with grooves in them, that spun around really fast and shattered if you dropped them. They used to dance to this song, holding each other close, speaking low and laughing. It was something about being in the mood for love. <What did *that* guy know about love? He had to be in his thirties, at least!>

Fortunately no policemen were patrolling between that particular fast food restaurant and the Hyperion Avenue townhouse, or the love-starved couple might have spent the night explaining to a judge why they were in such a hurry. Clark had to be particularly watchful, because Lois was wrapped around him, distracting him by nibbling on his ear and articulating provocative sounds deep in her throat.

Scraping the curb as they screeched to a stop, they ran up the steps of their house, providing neighbors with yet another titillating glimpse at the strange behavior of the famous couple next door.

Having closed the front door behind them, he threw her over his shoulder in a firefighter's carry and whooshed upstairs to the bedroom, French fries scattering in their wake like Hansel and Gretel's crumbs.

Dropping her on the bed, he leaned over, placed a hand on each side of her and asked, "More French fries?" Her answer was to tug him down on top of her, throw her arms around him and begin kissing him in every place she could reach. ***

Later, as they lay together, smiling and holding each other, brushing occasional light kisses here and there, murmuring this and that, she began to giggle and with a quizzical look he said, "What?"

"All those French fries!" she exclaimed, as she turned on to her back. "What on earth will we do with them?"

"Well, we could freeze them, save them for when you're mad at me. Maybe I could use them another time to get you into a 'proper' mood?"

Glancing at him sideways, she said archly, "I don't think 'proper' is what you're looking for. Rolling over, half on top of him, she continued, "All I need to get into a *loving* mood," she whispered huskily, "is you."

And she proceeded to prove it.