By Wendy Richards <email@example.com>
Submitted: March 2003
Summary: After Lois has to watch Clark collect his Kerth award, she decides that she needs a little treat…
I've always written Season 1 fic assuming that Lois owned the Jeep Cherokee then as well, but of course we didn't actually see it on screen until part-way through Season 2. That being so, I wondered why and how she acquired it. I mean, an SUV in a big city like Metropolis? A car that size for Lois Lane?
So that's how this fic came about. A huge thanks to Meredith Knight, who BRed at very short notice indeed and persuaded me that I should post it, and to everyone who responded to my peculiar-looking questions on the fanfic list. :)
This story is dedicated to Erin, Annette, Kathy and Pam: the Kerth Committee, as a small token of thanks for all their hard work and dedication in organising the Kerth Awards year after year. We love you, guys!! :)
~ Consolation Prize (Or, How Lois got her Jeep) ~
It had been a fantastic weekend. Clark was still recovering from the shock and delight of winning a Kerth award, and from Lois having attended as his date — his very encouraging and enthusiastic date, what was more. It had been a memorable evening, in so many ways; one he'd dream about for weeks, if not months, to come.
His shiny new Kerth was now temporarily on his nightstand, but his father was already building him a small display stand for it. Unlike Lois, he had every intention of displaying his award proudly.
Lois was a strange mass of contradictions. The Kerths obviously meant a lot to her, and she'd been devastated when she hadn't even been shortlisted. And yet she hid her awards away in a beautifully-designed display cabinet concealed in the back of a dresser, only taking them out occasionally to look at them. Was she ashamed that they meant so much to her? Did she not want other people to see that Lois Lane did put store in symbols? And yet everyone knew that the awards mattered to her…
Not that it had been important in the end; she'd got over her disappointment and had been there for him on the night. And it had been wonderful indeed. He still caught himself slipping into daydreams about it.
Like now. When he was supposed to be working!
Busy making some final notes on an investigation in progress, Clark's attention was caught by some movements over at Lois's desk. He glanced over, then checked his watch and raised an eyebrow.
"Is something wrong, Lois? An emergency somewhere?" he enquired, amused.
The thought that she just might be pulling a solo investigation did cross his mind, but he dismissed it; he knew that part of her was still chagrined that she hadn't been shortlisted for the Kerths, but he also knew that she'd been delighted in the end when he'd won. She'd even told him, as he'd walked her home from the ceremony two nights ago, that since she hadn't been in competition herself, she wouldn't have wanted anyone but himself to win.
She looked across at him, rolling her eyes. "Does there have to be?"
"Well, it looks like you're leaving."
"So?" She resumed packing her belongings into her capacious briefcase.
"Lois, it's only 5:30!" Clark pointed out, exaggerating his amazement. "There must be something wrong — you never leave work this early!"
"Well, I do today." She turned and smiled triumphantly at him. "I have an appointment."
Clark pounced. "Aha! So you admit this isn't normal for you, then?"
"You're not going to give up, are you?" Lois rolled her eyes and came over to his desk. "If I let you come, will you shut up?"
"Where are you going?" he asked, surprised. It clearly wasn't anything too personal, or she wouldn't have invited him to come along. And this wasn't an invitation he had any intention of refusing.
"You'll see." She grinned. "Coming or not?"
Clark stood. "How could I refuse such a persuasive invitation?"
He followed her out of the newsroom and the building; out on the street, he gave his partner an expectant look. "Where to now?"
She smiled enigmatically. "The subway."
The *subway*? At this time of the evening? Lois *never* took the subway during rush-hour. What on earth was she up to? Obviously this appointment was important to her; there was no way that she'd do this otherwise.
She was behaving as if taking the subway in rush-hour was nothing special, he noted. Okay, so she was being mysterious. That was fine. He could hold out a *lot* longer than she could in this sort of game, and Lois knew it. "Fine — lead the way."
Down inside the subway, he bought two fixed-price tickets without asking their destination, and then gestured for her to lead the way to the trains. Noticing that she chose the westbound train, he declined to comment; but his thought process was working overtime. Just what was she up to?
"Car-shopping," she announced, once they were strap-hanging inside a packed carriage. Obviously his lack of curiosity had got to her, he thought with an inward grin.
"I'm going car-shopping," she informed him.
"You're buying a *car*?"
"Yeah." Her tone said, loud and clear, 'why not?'
"In Metropolis?" Lois had never — well, except for a few brief weeks in the early summer, a time they were both trying to forget — owned a car. She'd said enough on the subject of city traffic to make it very clear why she wasn't interested. So why was she changing her mind?
She shrugged. "I decided I wanted one."
The train halted at another station and more passengers crowded on; the noise level and their cramped surroundings made any further conversation impossible. In the intervening gap in their discussion, Clark tried to imagine Lois as a driver. He couldn't envisage her doing that activity any differently to her normal style at everything else: skilful, definitely, but aggressive, demanding, insistent that others give way to her. The thought of Lois let loose on the roads of Metropolis was enough to make him pale.
Three stops later, Lois forced her way to the door and stepped out onto the platform; Clark hurried to keep up with her. Clark glanced at the station name; they were a little way out of the centre of Metropolis, but not yet in the suburbs. And, as far as he remembered, there were a few car dealerships in the area.
"So, what changed your mind?" he asked as he fell into step beside her on the sidewalk.
Lois shrugged. "I guess I was just getting fed up with taking cabs all the time. I mean, have you noticed how difficult it is to get a cab in the city now? There must be some great big traffic jam somewhere in the city made up entirely of taxicabs driving around in circles so they can avoid passengers. They act like they're doing us a favour instead of the other way around. And have you noticed how much fares have gone up lately?"
Clark grinned at Lois's tirade. "Okay, so you want to get independently mobile. Fair enough."
"Yeah. And…" She hesitated, then continued awkwardly. "You know I had a car for a while in the summer. And I kind of got used to the freedom of being able to get where I wanted to go, when I wanted."
Oh, Clark remembered that car all right. A brand-new Mercedes convertible, all cream leather and polished walnut interiors. He'd refused to travel in it, knowing who'd paid for it. He'd never actually asked what had happened to it; after Lois's wedding day, which had also been the day of Luthor's death, he'd simply never seen it again. He wondered now whether it had been claimed by Luthor's many creditors.
"I got rid of it," she said stiffly after a moment. "I didn't want anything he'd given me, so I got rid of all of it. I sold it all."
"Sold it?" Clark queried, surprised.
"It was all mine," she said, sounding a little defensive. "The car was in my name, the jewellery… I know the lawyers took my… the engagement ring, but I figured that was okay since I'd have given it back anyway."
"Sorry?" Puzzled, Clark looked enquiringly at her.
"Well, you know, when the woman ends the engagement, she's supposed to give the ring back." Lois gestured semi- impatiently.
"You… ended the engagement?"
"Yes," she said curtly. Then, after a moment, she elaborated. "I said no. At the altar. I said I couldn't marry him. Anyway, I'd have given him the ring back after that, so it was no big deal when the lawyers said it was part of the estate. I didn't want it anyway."
She'd said no to marrying Luthor! Very late in the day… but she had said no. Amazed, delighted, Clark wondered why. But he knew that Lex Luthor was still a very sensitive subject where his partner was concerned, so he didn't ask. If she wanted him to know, she'd tell him in her own time; he knew her well enough to be sure of that.
And even telling him this much was a considerable advance for Lois; she'd been very withdrawn on the subject of Luthor since her wedding day. He'd let her know, right from the start, that he was there for her if and when she wanted to talk, and otherwise he'd slipped back into his role as undemanding friend. And, slowly but surely, they'd rebuilt their friendship.
"So you're using the money to buy a new car, then?" he asked. He could certainly understand her not wanting to hold onto anything which would remind her of Luthor, or what he knew she saw as her own foolishness in being taken in by him.
To his surprise, she shuddered. "No way!" A moment later, she added, "I gave the money away. I donated it to the pension funds of his legitimate companies — I don't know if you knew, but those funds had been drained almost dry. People who'd worked for LexCorp and Luthor Communications for years — decades, even — were left with nothing! The LNN people are okay — the new owners undertook to rebuild the pension fund, but because LexCorp and LComm went into liquidation…"
Quietly, Clark said, "That was very thoughtful." It was; and far more thoughtful than the thousands of Luthor creditors who'd come crawling out of the woodwork in the days since the ex-billionaire's death had been.
Lois shrugged. "I wanted the people who really have a claim on Luthor's money to have it. And anyway, I resent that you thought I'd actually use his money! I don't want a penny from him!"
Clark touched her arm in gentle apology. "I'm sorry. I should have known." And he should have. After all, he'd seen the way she'd reacted any time Luthor's name had been mentioned over the past few months. She was getting better, but he knew that it still hurt, in so many ways.
"It doesn't matter," she said quickly. But Clark knew that it did, even if she didn't want to talk about it. "Anyway, I have savings. And they're offering me a good deal on finance."
"Okay, so tell me: what kind of car are you looking for? A convertible?"
"In New Troy? Are you kidding? Sure, it was nice in the summer, but try driving one of those in the snow! No, I want something that's going to be practical in all seasons and that I can use for investigations."
They'd walked past the Ford dealership, and Clark was expecting Lois to cross at the intersection and head for the Chevrolet or Honda sales sites. But instead she led the way into the Jeep dealership.
An SUV? He should probably have guessed; Lois was never exactly one to compromise. And, he realised, she was probably trying to find something as different from that Luthor-donated convertible as she could find. An ordinary saloon wouldn't cut it.
Lois made her way straight to the sales desk and, within seconds, was joined by a very deferential member of staff; Clark found himself wondering if on a previous visit Lois had complained about dilatory service.
"Ms Lane? The Grand Cherokee is ready for you to test- drive," the employee told her. "If you'll follow me…?"
"A Grand Cherokee?" Clark murmured as they exited the building again.
She shrugged. "I like them."
"Sure, but isn't it a bit… well, big?"
"What? Are you saying that women should only drive sub- compacts or something? That they're not capable of controlling anything bigger than an Escort? You couldn't even drive a source around in that — they only have two doors! You know," she added, getting into her stride, "that's something I really hate about the image of the car industry. They only ever advertise compacts and sub- compacts for women drivers. Anything else — large saloons, convertibles, SUVs, trucks — they're all made out to be cars for men. Oh, except for vans, of course," she added derisively. "The suburban soccer mom in her Plymouth. Sure, women can drive big cars when it's a van! Huh!" she spat.
"Lois!" Clark exclaimed, catching hold of her arm. "You know that's not what I meant!"
"So what's the big deal with a Grand Cherokee?"
"Lois, *I* wouldn't buy a Grand Cherokee for myself!" Clark shook his head in exasperated amusement. "It's too big; it's a gas-guzzler! And as for trying to park it in the city… It's too impractical."
"Yeah? Well, it's going to be great in the snow and ice — you know the road-holding on Jeeps is about the best around. And it's got some terrific features. Plus it's high enough that I can see over most traffic; it's going to be great for surveillance work. I can keep a lot of stuff in the glove box that I have to carry around with me at the moment -" She gestured at her stuffed briefcase. "And I like it."
Clark laughed. "Well, it's your car!"
"Glad you realise it, partner!" she said, patting his chest. "Okay, there it is. Let's go."
The salesman was standing beside a gleaming silver Grand Cherokee. Clark could see that it was brand-new; the plastic sheeting hadn't even been removed from the seats, and the interior smelled of new car. It was definitely high off the ground. He knew that Lois sometimes got frustrated at her lack of height compared to his; there were times when they were on a stake-out, standing around somewhere, when she had to ask him for a running commentary if her view was blocked by something. Lois was above average height for a woman, but even so he had a six-inch advantage on her.
At Lois's urging, he slid into the passenger seat, and noticed as he did so that the milometer was showing zero.
"This has never even been driven!" he exclaimed to Lois, who was fastening her seatbelt in the driver's seat.
"And so it shouldn't have!" she retorted. "This is my car. I ordered it a month ago."
"You've already bought it? Then why are you test-driving it?"
She shrugged before starting the engine. "To check that it's running properly. I told them I wanted to drive it before signing the agreement and taking it away — right, Dale?"
"Right, Ms Lane," the salesman, who had been relegated to the back seat, agreed obediently. Clark smothered a smile.
He had to admit that the Cherokee was nice. Very nice, in fact. And Lois handled it well; better than he'd expected. Okay, she did blare the horn at someone who took just one second too long to move at an intersection after the light turned green, and admittedly a few hundred yards later she cut another driver off… but other than that she was a model of safe, sensible driving. Well, as long as he didn't count the fact that she exceeded the speed limit by about ten miles an hour, and that her braking was less smooth and gentle than it was abrupt and sudden. But she was completely in control of the car at all times, confident and sure in her manoeuvres.
After about twenty minutes, she pulled into the kerb and turned to Clark.
"You want to take a turn?"
"Uh, sure!" he said instantly, then checked himself. "But you're the one buying the car…"
"And you're going to be driving it, at least some of the time," she pointed out. "If we're going to use it for work…"
That was high praise. Lois was very territorial about her own possessions, frequently giving other Planet staff thunderous looks if she found them so much as taking a call at her desk. And the last time one peripatetic staff-member had borrowed her computer while she'd been out doing an interview, the hapless individual had been fortunate to escape with his hands still attached to his wrists.
So the idea that she would allow him to drive her new car, which was clearly going to be her pride and joy, amazed him. "Thanks!" he said, before swinging down and heading around to the driver's seat.
"Just don't crash it!" she warned him with a glare.
"So, it's all yours, then," Clark observed as they exited the sales office, Lois's copy of the paperwork clutched in her hand.
"Yeah." She grinned. "It feels good."
"You know, if we're going to be using this for investigations and surveillance, I'm not sure that silver is the best colour…" he commented idly. "I mean, it's not exactly unobtrusive."
"It's better than yellow or red!" she pointed out.
"True. So, do I get a ride home?"
"If you invite me in for pizza and a movie…"
Clark shrugged, trying not to show how pleased he was at the idea. "Sure! Who's buying?"
"You're kidding! You owe me, after what you put me through on Saturday night!"
He laughed. "Hey, you enjoyed it!"
Lois punched him in the arm. "Yeah, watching you get all embarrassed was fun all right," she teased. "But just wait until next year! You'll have serious competition then!"
Clark wrapped his arm loosely around her shoulders. "Next year, partner, the only way I want to see my name appearing on the Kerth nominations list is if yours is right there with it."
She smiled at him. "Actually, I kind of like that idea too." They'd reached the Cherokee, and she patted the front with her hand. "Anyway, this is a pretty great consolation prize."
"Really?" Clark grinned. "So I needn't bother with that ficus tree I was going to buy you, then?"
"Just get in the car, Kent!"
Lois was getting impatient, waiting for her morning cup of coffee. She'd seen Clark return to the newsroom some minutes ago, and he'd disappeared. He'd *said* he was going out to get her something, which usually meant that there were none of her favourites left in the newsroom doughnut collection and he'd gone to find something she'd like instead.
But where was he?
She looked around once more, but there was still no sign of him. So she sighed and returned to the article she was proof-reading before sending to the subs. And then suddenly, out of the corner of her eye, she saw him coming towards her.
In his hand, he held… not the usual mug of coffee and mid-morning snack, but a small, flat package. A package which had obviously been gift-wrapped by Clark himself, and not by a salesperson; the wrapping was somewhat… inexpert.
"Clark?" she said questioningly. "Where's my coffee?"
He rolled his eyes in a manner she was very familiar with; it was a long-standing game between them that he would pretend to be irritated, while she would pretend to be even more demanding.
He shrugged. "Guess I forgot."
He came closer, then perched on the edge of her desk, facing her. "Yeah. I forgot."
"So what was more important than getting my coffee? *And* my doughnut?"
"Oh, I don't know. I guess I just thought that this might do instead." And he placed the flat package on the desk in front of her.
Lois looked at it, frowning, then at Clark. "What's this?"
"Why don't you open it and find out?"
"Oh, you know I hate surprises!" she exclaimed, swiping at his thigh with the back of her hand.
He caught her hand; squeezed it briefly. "Once you open it, you won't have to wonder what it is any more," he teased, eyes dancing.
Clark had bought her a present. But why? It wasn't her birthday — that was still a couple of weeks away. And he'd already promised to take her out for dinner, to a restaurant of her choosing. So what was this all about?
She picked up the package. There was nothing to hint at its contents; it was slim, flat and solid. Heavier than she'd expected, and the weight combined with its lack of height meant that it couldn't possibly be chocolate.
She looked up at Clark again, demanding silently that he explain. He grinned, shaking his head. "Just open it, Lois! I was nice to you — I could've held onto it and made you guess."
He could have. And she wouldn't put it past him, either. With a delighted smile, she ripped into the brightly- coloured paper. And out tumbled a laminated metal object, together with a small packet of screws and other fixings.
"Clark?" She stared at him, puzzled.
"Turn it over," he suggested, obviously amused.
She did. And saw that it was a number-plate — in fact, a vanity plate. The initials L L were fixed to it, above the New Troy lettering.
"Clark! You got me my very own plate!" she exclaimed, delighted.
He grinned again. "Well, I thought you should have one. The front of the Jeep was looking pretty bare."
Lois looked down at the plate again. "This is wonderful! I love it!"
"I'm glad." His hand covered hers briefly. "I'll fit it for you later, if you like."
Lois was glad that he'd suggested that — and if it fell off, she could blame him! "Great! Thanks, Clark. You're a terrific friend."
"Yeah, well…" He looked away, clearly embarrassed. "Anyway… The only thing is, you're not exactly going to be inconspicuous on assignments, are you, with LL on the Jeep? Maybe something more anonymous might be better."
She understood what he was suggesting: that he wouldn't be hurt if she didn't put in on the Jeep, but instead kept it in her apartment or somewhere.
"You're kidding!" she said instantly. "Clark, this is perfect. This is *me*. And anyway, you gave it to me. So it's special."
His expression showed how pleased he was at that. "I'm glad you like it."
"I love it." On impulse, she leaned up and towards him, planting a kiss on his cheek. "And I love the giver, too. You're the best, Clark!"
"And so are you," he said softly, before getting to his feet. "Now, you said something about wanting coffee?"
(c) Wendy Richards 2003