Mxy and Match

By Tank Wilson <> and Wendy Richards <>

Rated: PG-13

Submitted: September 2000

Summary: Mxyzptlk plays a particularly cruel trick on Lois and Clark: can our favourite partnership put things right again? Another "challenge" team-up from these two popular authors. *** WARNING: Contains brief descriptions of what may appear to be two men kissing and touching. ***

Author's Notes:

Tank: After the last little challenge that Wendy and I participated in, where she went out of her way to try and force the unpleasantness of children and Jimmy Olsen on me, I thought it was time to try and paint Wendy into her own little, unpleasant corner. If you've read any of Wendy's stories (and who hasn't) you know that the woman is a hopeless romantic who thrives on emotional angst and physical love. So I thought, what more appropriate set up than a storyline that seems to give her one, but not the other. And that's what I did. Of course Wendy's solution was not only brilliant, but it was also much more tender and understanding than anything I might have come up with. Still, I think I gave her pause, at least for a couple of minutes anyway. Let's face it, the fact that she would come up with a completely different, yet logically and emotionally viable, ending than I would is what these little challenges have been all about.

Wendy: Well, Tank really thought he'd done it to me this time. But, strangely enough, for all that this inventive set-up was written by a guy who thrives on well-executed WHAMs, I didn't find the emotional side of the problem difficult to handle at all — and you may well see why, once you read the story. As for making me pause for a couple of minutes, Tank, well… I had to go into town just after I read your first part, and I had the solution worked out by the time I got there! :) Having said that, though, who else could have come up with such a dastardly plot? Tank, as those who know him from the message boards will be aware, is never short of an evil idea or two. But, for all that, his own stories all have happy endings. I wonder what that says about him…? <g>

As with our previous collaborations, there are both US and UK spellings in this story. This is because Tank is in the US and Wendy in the UK; each writes in their own 'language' and, since the story is written in two separate halves, it is appropriate to leave each author's spelling as it is.

All rights in the characters in this story belong to DC Comics and Warner Brothers. ***

Lois Lane slowly awoke to the feeling of warm wet kisses on the back of her neck, and behind her ears. A languid smile spread over her face as she lost herself in the sensation. This wasn't the first time she had been woken up this way, but each time she had, she enjoyed it more. There was a time when she'd thought she could live her life alone, that she needed no man to make her complete. She must have been insane.

She rolled inward until she was facing her delicious husband and began her own little game of planting quick, teasing kisses along his jaw line and throat. The moan that rumbled forth from the depths of his chest signaled to her that she was getting to him. She knew she had the same effect on him as he had on her. It was an amazing thing, and she thanked whatever vagaries of fate that finally allowed them to be together. It had been a tough road at times, but some things are just meant to be.

Suddenly Lois felt her husband go rigid. His attention had been diverted elsewhere. She knew right then that playtime was over. With a groan, she rolled over onto her back and stuck a pillow over her head.

Clark Kent looked down at his frustrated wife and grimaced. He hated when his 'other job' interfered with their interpersonal recreation. He swung his feet over the side of the bed, and turned his attention to the lump under the covers that refused to look at him.

"I'm sorry, honey, but Mrs. Anders' radio is saying something about an earthquake in Japan." He stood and spun into the suit. "I can't tell how bad it is, but I should go over and take a look, see if I can help out."

Clark grinned as Lois' hand slipped out from under the covers and waved.

"I'll be back as soon as I can. I'd like to finish what we started." And with a mild sonic boom, he was gone.

Lois threw the pillow from her and stared at the ceiling. "So would I," she sighed.

Lois thought that since she was awake, she might as well get up. Dragging herself out of bed, she put on her big fluffy robe and made her way down the stairs. She opened the front door and stepped out into the foyer. She could see through the window in the outer door that the morning paper had arrived, but true to form, it was much closer to the street than it was the front door.

Quickly stepping outside, the stone stair chilling the bottoms of her bare feet, she grabbed the paper and stepped back inside. Just as she was reaching for the door leading into the house itself, she experienced a sudden wave of dizziness. She stumbled slightly, but she was able to steady herself by grabbing the door knob. Shaking off the puzzling feeling, Lois entered the house… or had she?

The paper slipped, forgotten, from her hand as she gaped at the scene before her. Where her nice cozy front room should have been was, instead, a very large, featureless, white room. White walls, white floor, white ceiling, and no decoration of any kind. It was actually hard to get a feel for how big the room really was without any reference points. Dorothy, Lois thought to herself, you are definitely not in Kansas anymore.

Lois was too amazed, and confused, to be scared. She just stood there waiting for something to happen. Within a few moments she was rewarded. The room instantly became a riot of swirling colors which seemed to flow in and out of each other with no rhyme or reason. Just as suddenly they were gone, replaced by a replica of a large modern office, complete with a huge fancy desk, and a large, high backed, leather chair, currently turned away from her.

Her attention was drawn to the left, as a door, that hadn't been there a minute ago, opened and allowed a fellow to enter. Lois recognized him immediately.


He rolled his eyes. "Ms. Lane, please, it's Mxyzptlk… Mr. Mxyzptlk."

Lois wasn't sure if she should be annoyed, or scared. He was dressed in a three-piece suit. A conservative gray pin stripe, with a starched, pale blue shirt and a tie not even Clark would wear. Hardly what one might expect a fifth dimensional imp would wear, but it was definitely him. He may act rather childish at times, but his power was beyond comprehension. Normal things, like the laws of physics, didn't matter much to him. As much as if bothered her to admit it, Mr. Mxyzptlk wielded magic.

"To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?" Lois was proud that she was able to keep her voice level.

Mxyzptlk paced back and forth in front of the desk for a time before he addressed her. "I'm not real happy with you, Lois; I can call you Lois, can't I?"

"Knock yourself out."

He frowned at her, then continued. "No, not happy with you at all. And I'm especially not happy with that big blue boy scout who you hang around with." The pacing stopped. "You two spoiled my fun the last time I was here."

Lois shrugged. "What can I say? You were in the process of destroying all hope in the world. Clark and I felt that would be a bad thing to let happen." Lois glanced around her, but could see nothing unusual, aside from standing in a large corporate office instead of her living room. "Why are you back?"

"Lois, Lois, Lois, I always come back. I've visited this little world of yours many times throughout history. It's one of the few places where I can really cut loose and have some fun. Do you know how boring it is in the fifth dimension?"

"Can't say as I do, so what now? Dinosaurs overrun Metropolis, a plague of frogs, an honest politician?"

Mxy gave Lois a disgusted look. "Come on, Lois, there are some things even beyond my abilities, though I did enjoy the frogs." He resumed his pacing. "No, while I may have some knowledge of human nature, I underestimated you and blue boy. I needed to find someone who could help me out there. An ally, if you will. Someone with an intimate knowledge of the two of you." Mxyzptlk sat on the corner of the desk, a big grin on his face. "Meet my new partner."

The large leather chair swiveled around to face front. "Hello, Lois, you're looking as fetching as ever."

Lois felt the blood chill in her veins. "Luthor!"

"Oh, come now, Lois, surely you can call me Lex. After all we were engaged to be married once."

Lois' hands were shaking. "But, but, you're dead!"

Mxyzptlk waved his hand in the air, drawing Lois' attention. "Over here? Simple life and death? Not a problem." Mxyzptlk seemed to remember something. "Oh, and don't think you can worm your way out of things by getting me to say my name backwards this time. I'm on to that, and I'll be watching you two for something like that."

Lois glanced over at Lex, and noticed a strange look come across his face. She guessed he didn't know too much about his strange benefactor. "So what now, Lex, revenge?"

Lex nodded toward Mxy, and instantly a large Cuban cigar appeared between his fingers. Lex frowned at Mxyzptlk. Chagrined, the imp snapped his fingers, and the cigar lit itself.

Lex took a puff on the hand-wrapped wonder before answering. "Well, what do you think, Lois. You and Kent, or should I say Superman, are responsible for my destruction." He waved the cigar in the direction of the fifth-dimensional imp. "Not to mention, you ruined my friend's fun. Yes, I definitely think revenge is the order of the day."

Lois sighed, then took a deep breath. "I suppose that means that you'll kill me?"

"Sounds good to me." Mxyzptlk slid off the desk and began to crack his knuckles. "What should it be, slow and painful, or spectacularly showy?"

Lex leaned over and placed his hand on his impulsive ally. "No, nothing so crude as death. Where's the challenge? Where's the imagination? Where's the fun in that?" Lex leaned back into his chair. "No, if we kill Ms. Lane, then the one who really deserves our enmity gets off too easy. He will grieve, then mourn her for a while, but eventually he will get on with his life. Also, it would tick him off to the extent that he might do something untoward to us." Lex took another puff. "I think we can come up with something that will torture both of them for a long time to come."

Lex crooked his finger at Mr. Mxyzptlk. Mxyzptlk came over and leaned in close as Lex whispered something in his ear. A very large smile broke over Mxyzptlk's face as he straightened up.

Lois found her self backing away from the desk and the two grinning barracuda. Mxyzptlk snapped his fingers. Lois felt herself become dizzy again. She couldn't fight the feeling this time, she swayed on her feet, then fainted. ***

Lois suddenly snapped awake. She was lying in her own bed. She looked around wildly, but quickly calmed down once she saw she was in her own bed, in her own bedroom. What a strange dream, she thought. That will teach her to finish off the last of the cold anchovy pizza just before bed.

She noticed that Clark was gone. Unfortunately, it was not unusual for her to wake up and find her husband gone. He was probably just out somewhere making the world safe for humanity.

Lois shook her head a couple of times. Something just didn't seem right. It was like she couldn't fully wake up. She reached up to run her hand through her hair and froze. Her hair was gone! Finally getting up the nerve, she moved her hand back and forth, but was only met with a short brush-like resistance. Irrationally, she looked around her in the bed, as if she would find it lying in a pile there or something.

Her heart was pounding so hard in her chest that she thought it was going to burst. What had happened! She placed her hand against her heart in an effort to calm down. Her heart doubled its beat. Her breasts!

She fearfully slid her hand across her chest but followed no hills and valleys, no curves. They were gone too!

With a strangled cry, Lois threw herself out of bed and into the bathroom. Shedding the robe that she had just realized she wore, she stood in front of the full length mirror and stared at the horror that stared back at her. Her face was pretty much the same, but instead of her own soft helmet of dark curls, her head sported a short, trendy brush cut. Shaved sides and back, with the top clipped to about one inch. She wasn't sure given the light, since she hadn't turned on the overhead fixture, but she could swear she had the dark shadow of beard stubble on her cheeks and jaw.

With a trembling hand, she pulled her pajama top over her head. Tears began to steal from her eyes as she stood in front of the mirror, naked to the waist. Her chest was hard and muscular looking, with a thick patch of dark curling hair in the middle.

It being morning, Lois suddenly had the urge to relieve herself. Her eyes grew wide at the sensation. "Please, no, not that!"

Her hands shook like one palsied as she slid her bottoms over too slender hips, until she was fully naked in front of the mirror. It took all her willpower not to faint right then. She seemed to forget how to breathe, until a lack of oxygen forced her to take several gulps.

Finally, it all fell into place. Mxyzptlk's and Luthor's revenge. Those slimy bastards had turned her into a man!

Lois had little time to contemplate the situation any further for she was distracted by a familiar sonic boom, and the sound of someone coming in through the patio door.

"Lois, I'm back. Are you awake?"

Hurriedly, she threw her robe back on and, unable to bear the thought of facing Clark, remained huddled in the bathroom. ***

"Lois? Honey?" Entering the bedroom, Clark was surprised to find it empty. Concentrating, he realised that he could hear her heartbeat. She was in the bathroom.

He smiled; that meant she was awake, and she'd be back in a minute. While he waited, he shed his Suit and pulled on the sleep-shorts he'd been wearing before going out, then stood facing the bathroom door, waiting expectantly.

She didn't come out.

He frowned. Unwilling to invade her privacy, he restrained himself from X-raying through the door, instead calling to her. "Lois… are you okay?" But he thought it was very odd that she didn't answer him, and, now feeling somewhat anxious, he pushed the door open.

Lois wasn't there.

Instead, he saw a frightened-looking man dressed in Lois's bathrobe. He'd never seen the guy before — he'd have remembered that small, skinny guy with the spiky hair, he was sure. Taking a step forward and ensuring that his stance was threatening but not too menacing, he demanded angrily, "What have you done with my wife?"

The man stared back at him, swallowing nervously. There was something about those eyes… and that heartbeat. He'd *known* Lois was in the bathroom…

Clark knew what this apparent stranger was going to say even before the words were formed.

"Clark… Clark, I know you're not going to believe this…"

"Lois," he said, softly, stepping forward to take her hand. "You're Lois."

She stared at him, Lois's eyes looking so out of place in that scruffy masculine face. "How… how did you know? Have you seen Mx-pickle too?"

Clark frowned. Mxyzptlk? If that wretched imp was behind this… He realised that Lois was waiting for an answer, so he shook his head. "No. I… Lois, he might have changed your body, but I'd know you anywhere. Remember, I can pick out your heartbeat in a crowded room."

She was staring back at him, tears shimmering in her eyes. "Clark… he… he… I'm a man!"

He nodded, swallowing the lump in his throat. "I know, honey, but you're still Lois to me." That was true; even though he found it hard to look at the face in front of him, the spiky hair, and feel any affection at all, he *knew* this was Lois. "Remember when I was trapped in Woody Samms' body? It didn't make you love me any less, did it?"

She shook her head, allowing him to lead her back into the bedroom. Then she stopped abruptly and turned to face him. "But… Clark, this is different. I'm… male and I *hate* this body! And… you can't love me like this, you just can't!"

Reaching to cup her shoulders — which felt very different now — Clark nodded slowly. "Lois, I love *you.* It's not your body I fell in love with — though, okay, it didn't hurt that you had a great body," he teased, before continuing in a deeply sincere tone. "But it was *you,* everything that you are. Your intelligence, your loyalty, your stubbornness, your sense of humour, your immense courage… and the fact that you fell in love with an alien from another planet and made me feel like I belong here. I love you. No matter what you look like, I will always love the Lois that's inside."

She reached up a hand, as if to touch him, then her face fell and she let her hand drop. A solitary tear trickled down her face as she whispered, "Clark… I can't even touch you. We can't be together… nothing can be as it was."

Because she was trapped in a male body… He saw, very quickly, what he needed to do. He experienced a brief sense of revulsion; after all, the face he was looking at held no attraction at all for him. But, in the same way as he'd looked into the strange man's eyes and seen Lois, his subconscious recognised her now as his soul-mate. And his soul-mate desperately needed reassurance that he still loved her; reassurance which was now very easy to give. Sliding his hand up, he cupped the man's face in the gesture which was a very special caress between them, and lowered his head.

The stubbly area around the lips felt alien; the lips themselves were rough, nothing like Lois's soft, warm mouth. But that was only packaging. He ignored it, and concentrated on showing Lois, through his kiss, how much he still loved her. His arms folded around her, gently pulling her against him. Again, the body in his arms felt alien; a different shape and texture than that to which he was accustomed. Her soft curves were missing, and in their place… body parts he had no interest in.

But still, this was *Lois*…

Ending the kiss, he cradled her against him, his fingers brushing the too- short hair.

She pushed against him, visibly upset again. "Clark — you can't have wanted to do that! You must have hated it!"

"Did you hate it?" he asked her quietly.

"No… how could I? You were kissing me!"

"Likewise, sweetheart," he insisted.

"You kissed a *man,*" she retorted bitterly.

"I kissed *you,*" he reminded her. "I told you, the packaging's not important. I love *you.*"

She pulled away from him. "Yeah, but what good's that going to do you? You can't want me like this, Clark! Kissing's one thing, though I don't know how you could stand to kiss me like this, but you're not going to want to make love to me! I know you — you're not gay!" Her eyes were deep, tortured pools in the thin, scruffy face; she was close to breaking down completely, Clark knew. He had to persuade her to accept that his love for her hadn't — wouldn't — change.

"No, but I've never seen anything wrong with being gay, for those who are," he pointed out, deliberately maintaining a calm, even tone even though his inner feelings were nowhere near calm. "You know that, Lois. But that's not relevant here. This has got nothing to do with sexuality. I fell in love with *you.* Not because you were a woman, but because you're Lois. Now, you're Lois in a man's body — think that's going to make me love you any less? You said it when I was in Woody Samms' body. It's what's inside that counts. I look into your eyes, and I see you. My soul-mate."

He stepped closer to her again. "And if my soul-mate happens to be in a different body than the one I'm used to, I can live with that."

She stood stiffly, watching him, for a long moment; he could see her thoughts and emotions warring with each other. He hoped that she wasn't going to suggest something impossibly noble, like moving out and giving up her job so that he could carry on living a normal life while she started again somewhere else as… Larry Lane, or some other such alias. Despite the situation, he couldn't prevent himself smiling wryly. *He* was normally the one to make the noble gesture, not Lois.

But then, he wasn't the one whose entire life had been taken away from him by some callous whim on the part of that imp from the fifth dimension! Clenching his fists in impotent fury, he swore to exact revenge on Mxyzptlk for this. It wasn't even that the imp from hell had taken away something infinitely precious to him; what upset Clark most was seeing how this affected Lois.

Tears were now glimmering in her eyes again; she wiped them away roughly with the back of her hand, pausing to stare in apparent distaste at the dark hairs on her skin. Raising her gaze to him then, she said wryly, "I bet you wouldn't let me leave even if I offered."

"What do you think?" he asked softly. "Lois, I told you. I love you no matter what."

This time, she allowed him to take her in his arms; the body still felt incongruous, but his soul recognised its mate.

They lay together side by side for a long time; it was only after several minutes that Lois was able to tell Clark exactly what had happened. He stiffened at the mention of the second name. "Lex Luthor was there?"

"Yeah. He… he was in on the plan. This was his idea."

"Wait until I get my hands — "

Lois halted him, placing her hand on his arm. "Clark, who knows if it even was Lex? Mxy-spit seems to be able to do anything he wants. He could have created a hologram, or hypnotised me into thinking that I saw Luthor there."

"Could be." Clark fell silent again, his brain working frantically as he tried to think his way through this.

"Clark?" The still-unfamiliar harsh masculine voice was hard to reconcile with his inner recognition that he was lying beside his wife.

"Yeah, honey?" He turned, making himself look at her. She felt bad enough at being in this body, without Clark making it worse by seeming unable to look at her.

"What are we going to do? I mean, how can we explain…? It's not like we can just go into work and say, 'hey, guys, Lois decided to have a sex- change', can we? And you… I *know* you love me, Clark, but you don't want to be married to a… a man."

"I'm married to you," he reminded her.

"Yes, but you don't want to make love to me, not now," she pointed out bluntly, repeating her earlier statement.

Did he need to give her more evidence that he could accept her as she was? Holding her gaze with his own, he deliberately trailed his hand down the undeniably masculine body, not avoiding anything he might have preferred not to touch. He felt her flinch once or twice, but he refused either to stop or to drop his gaze from hers. "Lois, I love you," he repeated, then leaned over and kissed her again, with as much passion as he was capable.

She responded hungrily, her own despair channelling itself into the fingers which threaded his hair, the hand which pressed his body to hers. The robe she wore fell open, and Clark felt the shock of a hairy chest against his own hairless one, instead of the soft curves to which he was used. But this was *Lois,* he reminded himself again. And if he needed to show her that he could love her in this body… he would.

But she pushed him away. "Clark… no, you don't have to do that," she muttered, her voice shaking. "I believe you."

He stroked the too-short hair. "Lois, nothing will stop me loving you. And showing you how much I love you, too." If *she* would let him; he had a sneaking suspicion that her next offer would be to move into the guest- room.

Time to change the subject, he thought. "Like you said, we need to decide what we're going to do."

She swallowed, then nodded. "I don't know how we're going to explain this…"

"Explain what?" he demanded, sitting up to stare at her. "Come on, honey, this isn't like you! Stop being so defeatist — we're not going to have to explain anything to anyone, okay?"

The man lying next to him nodded, Lois's eyes never ceasing to stare up at him.

"We are going to find a way to put this right, to get you back in your own body," he assured her. "Come on, Lois, normally you'd be the one out there searching for a solution! Don't give up now!"

Lois sat up, tying the robe in front of her again. "I know — I guess I forgot, because this is just so *horrible*! I hate this body — the only man's body I want is yours, Clark!" She gave him a faint grin.

He grinned back at her, relieved to see the familiar humour back. "Good. Cause I'd hate to think that I needed to get a sex-change too. I mean, the surgeons might have a little difficulty using their scalpels…"

His teasing made her laugh, and although the rumbling sound was nothing like the soft giggle he loved, he was still glad to hear it.

And, in that moment, he had an idea… ***

"…so, you think you can handle it?" Clark asked Lois some time later.

She nodded. "Hey, it's got to be better than watching you… ughh, touching *that*!" she added, glancing down at his hand resting on her stomach. She knew he was touching her — she could feel it — but all she could see was Clark's hand resting on an unfamiliar, and ugly, male body.

"Well, I admit I'd prefer to have the old Lois back," he agreed. "So… ready?"

"Yeah." She scrambled off the bed and went to the wardrobe; a T-shirt of Clark's would still be too huge on her, so she found the one she wore with her running shorts. Somewhere buried in the bottom of the wardrobe were a pair of track bottoms… Dressing quickly, she watched Clark spin into T-shirt and jeans, feeling the usual twinge of envy at his speed. "Hey, at least I don't have to do my hair," she quipped. "Maybe this style has some benefits after all."

He eyed her sceptically. "Naah. If you stay like that, the first thing you're doing is growing your hair."

"Well, it looks kinda like yours did when your New Kryptonian cousins gave you that buzz-cut," she teased him.

"Didn't like it then, don't like it now," he insisted. "Come on — downstairs."

Once in the living-room, Clark sprawled on the sofa and pulled Lois down to sit on his lap, wrapping his arms around her and nuzzling her ear. After a few minutes, he raised his head.

"Hey, Mxyzptlk! We know you're there, so you might as well show yourself!"

Silence; nothing happened. Lois cast Clark an anxious glance, wondering whether this just wasn't going to work. He gave her a quick, encouraging smile.

"Come out, come out, wherever you are!" Clark called again, in a sing- song voice.

Suddenly there was a blinding flash, and the vile imp appeared, this time dressed in a clown's outfit. "Hey! It's my favourite Superman. So how did you like the surprise I left for you, Clarkie-boy?"

Lois saw Clark wince at the 'Clarkie' — she knew he hated it when people called him that. But he then smiled broadly. "Yeah, that's why I called you. We wanted to thank you."

"Thank me? For what? And if you think I'm going to fall for some trick where you make me say my name backwards…"

"Thank you for giving me the partner I always wanted," Clark interrupted. Slowly and deliberately, he lowered his lips to Lois's; she watched out of the corner of one eye as the imp stared, horrified, at the sight of Clark Kent kissing a man. A man who was really Lois Lane… but still, a man.

"You… you're gay!" Myxzptlk yelled in outrage and disbelief.

"You'd never have believed it, would you?" Clark replied, grinning. "But there you go…"

"You can't be!" the imp protested. "You married Lois Lane, and she was a woman!"

"Ah, but it's all to do with soul-mates," Clark answered smoothly and utterly convincingly. "I love Lois. Whatever body he — or she — is in. You gave me my perfect partner, though, and I'm grateful."

"Yeah, me too," Lois added, making herself smile happily. She *was* happy — wrong body or not, she was with the man she loved and who loved her.

The imp was becoming more and more frustrated by the second. "That's not what I intended! This was supposed to be revenge! Revenge for you destroying my attempt to control the world! You're not supposed to be happy!" He was practically jumping up and down in impotent fury.

Lois and Clark exchanged glances. "Good job; he didn't know what would really have given him his revenge," Lois murmured softly.

"Yeah," Clark agreed. "Then we'd have been in big trouble."

"Sure would. Still, it looks like we're safe," Lois continued. "It's not like he's going to realise, is it?"

"No," Clark whispered. "He's too stupid — he'd never figure out the one thing which would really hurt us."

Lois noticed that the imp had moved closer, clearly listening; she continued to ignore him. "It'd just never occur to him to look in that box you hid over there, would it?"

"Nope," Clark agreed. "And if he did, he wouldn't have the sense to read the note aloud. He'd never imagine that there's more magic in this world apart from his, would he?"

Lois then saw Mxyzptlk start to creep away in the direction they'd indicated, but — in order to maintain their deception — she continued to kiss and caress Clark. Suddenly there was a cry. "Got it! *Now* I'll give you two what you deserve!"

Clark seized Lois's hand and held it tightly as the two waited, barely able to breathe. In a slow voice, as if he was reciting an incantation, the imp read, "No light, only darkness. No hope, only despair. Evil shall triumph, and Klptzxy may prosper!"

A loud crash sounded, and Mxyzptlk shuddered. He raised his gaze to Lois and Clark, now incandescent with rage, but before he could say anything his body began to shimmer and lose form and definition. As he began to fade away, they could hear a faint voice crying, "I'll get you for this… get you… get…"

Lois threw her arms around Clark. They'd won! ***

The body in his arms was changing shape and definition; the hard lines were blurring, and suddenly he was holding soft curves. The stubbly chin against his cheek was suddenly soft and yielding, and the hair against his forehead was once again long and silky.

"Lois… you're back," he whispered, setting her a little away from him so he could look at her.

Her eyes shone as she stared down at herself. "I am! Oh, Clark… thank god."

"Yeah," he murmured, before kissing her again, then scooping her up into his arms to carry her upstairs. "We have some unfinished business, wife of mine," he reminded her at her squeal of surprise.

"We do indeed," she agreed.

As he lay beside her much later, trailing his hand down her beautiful body, he caught her gaze. "Lois — you did believe me, didn't you?"

"About what?"

"About loving you, whatever the 'packaging'," he reminded her.

She swallowed, then nodded. "Yeah. I do now. I think I only found it hard to believe then because *I* couldn't accept me in that body. That's why I found it so horrible watching you touch me like that." She reached over to kiss him. "But now… I love you for knowing that I needed you to reassure me that you still loved me."

"Still, and always," he assured her. "Just as long as you don't mind that I really prefer Lois to Larry."

Her soft laugh was quickly smothered by his kiss.