By Chris Carr <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted August 2000
Summary: A late evening, an angry Lois, and the truth about Clark Kent's ties…
The imperious rap on his front door brought a smile to Clark Kent's lips. Only one person knocked like that: Lois Lane, the woman of his dreams, and, if their Almost First Date was any indication, perhaps soon to be more than a dream.
Lois's knocking grew ever more insistent as Clark put on his glasses and jogged up the few steps that cut off the living area of his apartment from its entrance. Clark knew that knock; Lois was on a mission, though what could have brought her here at ten in the evening was anyone's guess.
He pulled the door open and stood back to let her pass.
Lois strode in, planted her feet firmly on the floor, six inches apart, placed her clenched fists on her hips and stared up at him belligerently. Suddenly Clark realised that this was not Lois in her I-am-hot-on-the-trail-of-a-story mode. Nor was it her Clark-I'm-being-stalked-by-a-psycopath-and-have-come-to- you-for-protection mode. No, this was Lois in her all-out-rage mode, and it was pointed at him.
This was not good, he decided, though what he had done that could possibly have provoked her this time he had no idea. As far as he was aware, he hadn't done anything to antagonise her since, oh, last Monday at 3pm when he'd made the mistake of mentioning Mayson Drake's name within her hearing.
Clark didn't bother to ask Lois what had brought her to his apartment in such high dudgeon. He knew her well enough to realise that asking wouldn't be necessary; she would tell him soon enough.
Indeed, she demanded, "Where is it? You got rid of it, didn't you?"
Clark's eyebrows crawled up his forehead. "Got rid of what, Lois?" Her questions gave him no clue as to what it was she wanted, though he shouldn't have been surprised by that. Lois in full-rant was prone to babbling, even more so than usual, and that babbling sometimes degenerated into riddles. All he could hope was that at some point in the conversation, her random thought processes would gel into some sort of sense. As she continued, however, Clark realised that that wasn't going to happen anytime soon.
"You started going gooey-eyed over Mayson — and what you see in her, I can't even begin to imagine — and you haven't worn it since. You've cast it aside like a discarded rag. Yesterday's news."
"Lois? What are you talking about?"
"I bet you don't even still have it! I bet you gave it to some thrift shop or, worse, threw it out with the garbage."
"Thrift shop? Garbage? What-"
Lois gave up her stationary stance and stalked down the steps. Then, to Clark's astonishment, she carried on stalking, straight into his bedroom. He trailed after her and watched, fascinated, as she headed directly towards his wardrobe, threw the door open, and began to rout through his tie rack. After a minute or so she straightened, turned to face him, and said, "Hah! You see! I was right! It's not here!"
Then Clark was shocked to see Lois's shoulders slump and her face crumple.
He walked up to her and reached out, wanting to take whatever the cause of her pain was away and make everything all right again. However, she spun away from him, dodged around him, and bolted back into the living room. Confused by her behaviour, Clark found himself momentarily frozen to the spot as he tried to make some sense of it.
When he emerged a couple of seconds later, Lois was sitting on the sofa, her head in her hands, crying softly.
"Lois?" said Clark gently. "What's wrong? What were you doing in there?"
Lois didn't say anything, just continued to sob.
"Come on," he said. "You can talk to me."
"You were my best friend, but now you've moved on. Pastures green, and all that?"
"Lois, I don't know what's going on here, but you *are* my best friend! Nothing can change that."
"Not even Mayson Drake?"
"Mayson? What's she got to do with all this?"
Lois shook her head.
Clark came to sit down beside her and said, "Lois, can you just start at the beginning. I want to understand what's going on here, and just now I really haven't got a clue, so…"
Lois sniffed loudly and nodded. She took at deep breath and said, "It was something that Ralph and Eduardo said. I overheard them talking by the water-cooler this afternoon. Eduardo said something like 'Jimmy sure gets through a lot of girls,' and Ralph replied, 'Yeah. Seems like its a different one every day.' Then Eduardo said, 'He seems to tire of them at the same rate as Clark tires of his old ties.' Then Ralph said, 'I wonder what he does with all his cast-offs,' and Eduardo said, 'Who, Jimmy or Clark?' and then they both started laughing and, as I was walking past, Ralph said, 'I'd watch out if I were you, Lois,' and…"
"And?" asked Clark.
"I didn't think much about it at the time," Lois said. "I mean, your ties are a standing joke at the Planet. But later, when I got home, I got to thinking…"
"And?" said Clark again.
"I gave you a tie for Christmas. And you wore it a couple of times, but I haven't seen you wear it since. And I wondered what you'd done with it. I mean, if you liked… it, you'd still have it. But you don't, do you?"
"Well, yeah, I do," said Clark.
"No, you don't," said Lois. "It's not on your tie rack. I thought…"
To his alarm, Clark saw that Lois was beginning to sniffle again.
"I thought," she said, struggling to continue, "that if you liked it… or if you liked me, because it would then have some kind of sentimental value, you'd have kept it. But you haven't."
Things were beginning to make sense to Clark at last. This wasn't just about a tie. It was also about Lois's old insecurities about relationships resurfacing as they were wont to do from time to time. "Lois," he said, injecting as much sincerity as he could into his voice, "I loved that tie. It was a great tie. And I still have it, but… Lois, I'm sorry. It was an accident, I swear."
"What was an accident?" Lois asked, her voice muffled by her hands.
Clark sighed. "You'll see. Wait here a moment. I'll be right back."
He went into his bedroom and hunkered down by his dresser. He pulled out the bottom drawer and ferreted around until his fingers connected with the object of his search. The silk was smooth under his fingers and he found himself shaking his head ruefully. What, he wondered, had been the point of keeping such a useless object.
The answer to that was easy; it had sentimental value, even if it no longer had value of any other kind.
For a moment he held it in his hands, just looking at it. Then he pulled himself to his feet once again, and retraced his steps.
Lois looked up at his return. For a moment Clark could see an uprush of joy suffuse her face as she saw that he really hadn't disposed of the tie. But then she frowned as she looked more carefully at what he was holding, or, to be more precise, the way he was holding it. The thin end of the tie was held in his left hand and the thicker end in his right, and between them lay dangling material, frayed ends and… empty air.
The tie had been ripped in two.
Lois blinked a couple of times, then she said, "What happened to it?"
"I'm sorry," said Clark again. "It's a problem I have. They keep shredding." He forbore to say that they shredded when he pulled on them too hard as he spun changed into Superman. "I usually get rid of them, but, as you said, you gave me this one. And that made it special. I couldn't bear to throw it out."
"Oh, Clark…" Lois's mouth was wobbling again, but this time with relief. "I can't believe you kept it!"
"Of course I kept it."
"So, you don't want to cast me aside."
"No, of course not!"
Then Lois launched herself at him, wrapping her arms tightly around his neck. They hugged. Cuddled. Embraced. Kissed. And generally had a good time.
It was only much later that Lois thought to ask again, "Clark… What exactly did happen to that tie?"