By Round Robin writers
Submitted: November 2004
Summary: On their honeymoon, Lois and Clark make a pinky swear that they will always make time for each other — and they keep that promise in some of the best places on earth. Written by Gerry Anklewicz, Artemis, Anna Botsakou, Paul Gabriel Wiener, LabRat, Carol Malo, Saskia and ML Thompson.
Written by (in alphabetical order): Gerry Anklewicz, Artemis, Anna Botsakou, Paul Gabriel Wiener, LabRat, Carol Malo, Saskia, ML Thompson
This is a fanfic based on the television show, Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. No copyright infringement is intended. We are borrowing these characters for a little fun and not for any profit.
Two quick disclaimers: I, ML Thompson, charged with assembling these wonderful stories, took a little liberty with the series in order to make it fit in with our story. Second, in the universe of Lois and Clark, the baseball season is a little longer than it is in our dimension.
Archive EIC's note. If you want to send feedback/comments to any author involved in writing this story, look for the author eddresses below, in the story text.
October 19, 1996
Lois snuggled up to Clark, sliding her leg over his as she lay her cheek against his shoulder. His arm immediately pulled her closer. The small groan that escaped his lips put a smile on her face as her hand roamed freely over his chest.
"You know, I think this is my all time favorite honeymoon."
Clark chuckled. "Oh, and you've had a lot of other honeymoons to compare it to."
"Well, not exactly. But if you judge honeymoons based on the number of times one leaves, or more accurately, neglects to leave the bedroom…"
"Neglects to leave the bed," Clark corrected.
"…well, I'd say this one has to rank up there somewhere in the top ten."
Clark gently kissed her hair. "I guess we have been a little…"
"Well, you know we have a lot of time to make up for."
"A lot of lonely nights."
"A lot of cold showers."
"But it was worth it." Lois raised her head from where it was pillowed on Clark's shoulder. "Don't you think?"
Clark smiled. "Every excruciating moment. It's been perfect."
"Perfect," Lois purred, putting her head back on Clark's chest. "Almost…"
"Almost too perfect," said Lois, the lightheartedness of only a moment before now noticeably absent from Lois' voice.
"It's just… Clark, the last two weeks have been remarkable. But face it, this isn't real life. We've been living in a cocoon. And tomorrow that all ends. What happens then? I'll tell you what happens then," she continued, when he looked as if he was about to respond. "People will start trying to kill us again for getting too close to a story. People will start trying to kill Superman again for… well, just for being Superman. Everyone will be making demands on our time. Perry will be expecting us to put in long hours. Jimmy will always have some relationship problem he needs your advice about. Our parents will be calling, expecting us to go to dinner or whatever. And even if that isn't a big problem with your parents, my mother… Well, you know how my mother can be. The point is we'll never get any time alone. Soon this entire two weeks will be nothing more than a distant memory. We'll probably never even have a chance to make love again, let alone… Eek!"
Lois' scream was a direct result of Clark suddenly rolling her over onto her back. She was about to bawl him out, she had been in the middle of making an important point, after all, when his kiss completely distracted her. She wound her fingers into his hair as a pleasant, almost mindless, feeling of pleasure coursed again through her body. But before she could become completely lost in it, Clark pulled back. She gave a small whimper of protest, attempting to pull his head back down so that she could continue kissing him. When he resisted, she finally opened her eyes.
"Lois, we'll definitely have time for this even after our honeymoon is over," said Clark.
Huh? It took Lois a moment to figure out what he was talking about. "But, Clark, even you have to admit that our lives get a little hectic at times."
"A little? Lois, a sailor trying to keep his fifteen foot boat afloat in a hurricane finds it less hectic than we do."
"See? That's what I'm talking about. How are we ever going to have time for us?"
"We'll make time."
Clark was silent as he contemplated the problem. Suddenly, his expression cleared. "Okay, how about we do this? You said it's been like we've been in a cocoon for the past two weeks."
"Well, anytime either of us needs a break, we'll just say the word 'cocoon.'"
"And then what happens?"
"I fly us somewhere private…" He leaned over and kissed her. "…exotic…" He kissed her again. "…exciting…" Another kiss. "…fun…"
"Really?" she asked. "No matter what's going on at the moment, all I have to do is say the word 'cocoon' and you'll drop everything to take me somewhere?"
"Or I say the word 'cocoon' and you drop everything."
She chewed on her lower lip as she considered his proposal. "I think you've got a deal."
They locked pinkies to seal the deal.
"Now," she said softly, "I think we've still got some honeymoon time left to use up." She reached up, tangling her hands in his hair to pull him down to her. This time, he didn't resist.
October 25, 1996
Lois had never felt better. Their own house. It was all theirs — or would be soon. They'd just signed the papers. Now as soon as escrow closed… But why, oh why couldn't it happen today? What she wanted more than anything was to go right now and 'christen' their new home. But that wasn't possible. She glanced over at Clark as they walked, hand in hand, out of the lawyer's office. A slow smile made its way across her face. Well, if they couldn't go to their new house, maybe she should try out something else.
"Yeah?" asked Clark, glancing over at her.
A small smile tugged at the corner of his mouth for a moment and then, glancing around, he led them quickly into a nearby alley. Without saying a word, he picked her up and headed into the sky.
<Saskia — The Netherlands — <email@example.com>>
Clark scanned for nearby people. The track was deserted on this beautiful fall day. After he quickly helped Lois over the ditch, he looked around breathing in the nice smells and absorbing the nature around him.
"So then where are we?" Lois wondered as she stared at the high treetops above her.
"This is the Veluwe, honey," he replied.
Her head made a sharp turn. "The Faylight."she said incredulously.
"The fay-*leww*-eh", he said carefully. "This is the biggest nature reserve in the Netherlands, located in the east. It's a bit hilly and you'll mostly find it covered with forests."
"Clark, we have forests at home. What's so special about this one?"
"Well, you just looked up at the sky through all the branches. This forest came into existence around the Ice Age." He started to walk down the road and Lois had to run a bit to catch up with him. "So it's an old forest. There are a few very special species around here, like toadstools, plants and herbs. Besides, you'll find a few old mills around here, and if I'm not mistaken, there's even an old bread factory nearby."
"A bread factory in the middle of a forest? Wow! Is that where we're headed?"
"No, honey," Clark answered as he slid his arm around her shoulders and pulled her closer. "We're just going to walk around a bit, enjoy the beautiful nature at its best and relax a bit. We've worked hard this week and we could use something calm without excitement."
Lois understood what he meant. This last week, with Veda Doodsen and her stupid obsession with being young had taken its toll on both of them. She could use some time away from it all, even if it were just a few hours.
She nodded her response before snuggling closer to Clark. Even though the sun made a watery appearance, it wasn't very warm. It was fall, and for the first time, she noticed the changing weather. Fortunately, for her, Clark had his ways to keep her warm.
As she walked on, Lois noticed the plants Clark had mentioned. Now and then, she stopped to admire things from up close, to touch it and to ask what it was. Her husband had an answer for everything.
The beauty of the nature really surprised Lois. Instead of leaves turning brownish and falling to the ground, they had colors like gold, yellow, red and brown. The color display, the fresh scents and the exercise did her well. She could feel herself getting more energetic. Her cheeks were slowly turning red from the wind.
The forest was no Metropolis, but for a little while, she appreciated its beauty.
"Look, Clark, a picnic table!" she exclaimed suddenly. "Can we sit down for a while?"
"You aren't tired yet, are you?" he asked in return. His voice sounded sincere and worried, but his eyes betrayed he was only teasing her.
"No, I'm used to a busy life, buster." To put a little force behind her words, she hit him on the chest with a flat hand.
Clark slowly rolled his eyes at her.
"You wanted us to relax, so let's relax right there." She giggled as she suddenly thought of a nice way of how she could really relax.
With raised eyebrows, Clark led the way to the bench. He sat down with a leg on both sides of it as he pulled Lois close to him again. They just sat there for a while, enjoying the fine fall silence in the forest and each other's company.
Lois was the first to break the silence. "Thanks for bringing me here, Clark." She shifted a bit so she could look at his face. "It's just what I needed."
Clark smiled at his wife. "You're welcome, honey. It's doing wonders for me as well."
Suddenly, two squirrels hopped on the table, playfully running around until one of them held still. The other one didn't notice the abrupt halt and bumped right into him.
Lois had to giggle at the sight. She'd never seen wild squirrels from that close, and definitely not ones that weren't even afraid of humans. The animals turned their heads at Lois as they heard her make noise. Curiously, they looked at her.
"Aren't they cute, Clark?"
"Yeah, they are," he softly whispered in her ear. "But I think they put up the show for some food."
"Tourists often eat here and leave food for the animals. They saw humans and probably were hoping for a nice treat besides all the food they can gather at this time of the year."
"Oh." The realization sank slowly in. "Well, do you have something to give them then?"
"Me?" Clark replied, startled.
"Yes, you! I don't have food with me, so it's up to you!"
"No, I don't. But isn't it better to not." he trailed off as the squirrels disappeared out of sight again. They probably were impatient and went off to find more food.
"Now look what you've done, buster," Lois told him with a wink.
"Why is it my fault again?" Clark asked with a mocked hurt tone of voice. Before Lois could reply, however, he lowered his mouth to capture her lips in a sweet and loving kiss.
After the kiss ended, Lois let out a happy sigh as she let her head rest on his shoulder. "It's beautiful here, Clark. Is this the only place like this?"
"No, this country has smaller forests like these, and they are all just as beautiful during this time of the year. And the surrounding countries have them as well."
"So why specifically this one?" she asked interested.
"Well, in Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and France you'll find more hills. I thought we'd take it easy today. Just a bit of walking without climbing."
"If you wish, we can go there, too, today," Clark hastened to add.
"No, that's okay. I don't think I'm up to doing some climbing."
Clark had to laugh at that comment. That was typically his wife. She was always full of energy, ready to fight the world and do whatever was necessary. However, nowadays, if she had the opportunity, she knew perfectly well how to relax and enjoy some quality time with him. Days like these were rare, and Clark fully intended to use them to the maximum.
"Good! Since there was something else I wanted you to see here. It's very rare these days, but around here, it's still around a lot and in good shape," he told her. "Especially now," he added in a seductive tone of voice.
"Let's get going, then," she murmured in his ear.
They both got up and resumed their stroll down the path. Just out of curiosity, Lois asked, "How much further is that special place of yours?"
"A ten minute walk, I guess. Why?"
"There was something I was wondering about and I'm sure you can explain it to me."
"Try me, honey."
"Okay," she replied. She put her arm around his waist to be protected by his body heat. The wind felt a lot colder, all of the sudden. "Is there any particular reason why the Netherlands is a plural country name?"
"That's what you want to know?" Clark wondered out loud.
"Yes, anything wrong with that?" Her voice betrayed the bit of offence she felt.
"Nonono," he told. Quickly, he dropped a kiss on top of her head. "It's just that my beautiful and intelligent wife usually asks questions that are much harder to explain."
That comment earned him a thwap on his arm with her free hand. "So?" she challenged him.
"Okay, but remember, it's just something I've been told. I'm not exactly an expert on Dutch history."
When Lois didn't respond, he started his story, hoping it would make sense to her. "A couple of centuries ago, this country was ruled by Spain. The northern regions came into protest against their king. They wanted freedom. For eighty years, that's what they fought for. In the end, they got that. They called themselves something like The Republic of the United Netherlands. Seven regions had joined their forces and that was the easy solution to say they were all still independent in a way."
Lois slowly nodded her head while she thought it over. "That makes sense. But it's one country now, so why still the plural name?"
"I'm not entirely sure," Clark replied as he got a thoughtful look over his face. "The name in Dutch is singular. Maybe the plural name just stuck in English. who knows."
"Ooo-kay." Lois wasn't sure that made much sense. She didn't get any time to think it over. They must have reached the place Clark had mentioned. The trees gave way to an open field. She could see many sheep on the other end of the field. The ground was covered with plants that seemed to be purple. If she wasn't mistaken, it was heather. With the trees around the field, the sight was absolutely breathtaking. A color display at its best.
"Wow," she heard herself saying.
"Isn't it just beautiful?" Clark whispered beside her.
"Yeah." She said it so softly, it was barely audible. But with a husband like hers, she didn't have to worry that he hadn't heard it.
"This place is usually not visited by people, only the sheep and their shepherd. We're. unlucky that they're actually here today."
"Hmm, did you have something in mind, Mr. Kent?" she said with a mischievous smile on her face.
"Nothing you wouldn't agree with, Mrs. Kent."
"Too bad, maybe we should try it at home then."
"I guess that's an option."
Lois released her grip on Clark and slowly walked into the open field. Before she realized what had happened, a wild boar stood before her. She stared at it, bewildered. The animal took a few steps toward her, and that was all it took for Lois to run away screaming in the opposite direction. Of course, the wild boar followed her, which only made Lois scream louder and run faster.
Clark just watched the scene unfold in front of his eyes. He had to do his best to suppress the laughter that was threatening to overcome him. He knew he'd be in trouble because he just stood there without helping; he'd only make matters worse if he started laughing now.
"Clark, do something! Help me!" she suddenly started to yell. "Hurry up!"
While he quickly scanned the area for witnesses, he only noticed animals. So he raced to his wife, grabbed her and sped into the air. When they were above cloud level, he halted. "Are you okay?" he asked worriedly.
"I am now. Couldn't you have flown to my rescue sooner? I mean, think of what he could have done to me!"
"Lois, he wouldn't have hurt you one bit. He only ran after you because you started running. It's what they do," he shrugged.
"But still, you could've gotten me out of there sooner!"
Clark knew she was about to launch into either a rant or a babble, so he stopped her before she could even start with a kiss. She responded immediately, so he just deepened the kiss. When they both came up for air again, he just said, "Let's go home," before he started their way back.
October 29, 1996
Lois felt miserable. Even watching Clark find the bullet, which could very well be the clue that got the charges against her dropped, had done nothing to lift her spirits. Spending last night in jail had been horrible. And then most of the day had been spent with Superman trying to get her out of jail. She wasn't sure she could stand another night like last night or another day like today. If only… Suddenly, her disposition lightened.
"Cocoon," she said.
"Huh?" asked Clark, turning to look at her.
Clark looked around guiltily. "Lois, now?"
"Yes, now, Clark. I just need to get out of here. Just for the night. I promise, we'll work on figuring this out tomorrow. But tonight…" She stepped up in front of him, playing gently with his tie. "Let's just go somewhere. Alone."
"We can't. Superman promised the D.A. that he'd make sure you stayed in Metropolis."
"And Superman promised me that if I said the word 'cocoon,' no matter what was going on, he'd drop everything and take me somewhere."
"Come on, Clark. What's more important to Superman? Keeping a promise to some scumbag District Attorney or keeping a promise to his wife?"
Clark looked up at the heavens, as if silently beseeching the deities to give him strength against one small, yet very determined, woman.
"Great!" said Lois, figuring that his expression meant victory.
"Fine," said Clark, taking her hand and leading her into an alley. He looked around carefully before sweeping her up in his arms and taking to the air just as the sun was beginning to set.
<Paul Gabriel Wiener — New Jersey <firstname.lastname@example.org >>
As they flew over exotic New Jersey, Clark pointed out the sights. "Over there is exit 13. It's known for the powerful smell of its refineries, which helps keep the state immigration rate down. That's a vital service, since it's already the most densely populated state in the country."
Lois laughed and smacked him playfully.
"It's true!" Clark insisted. "It does have its benefits, though. You know, a friend of mine told me about a question on the state driver's test. New Jersey, as it turns out, has one of the lowest rates of fatal car accidents in the country. Guess why."
She looked at him. "Does it? Oh. Well, it looks like a lot of people have cars, so it can't be that. Oh, I don't know. Strict traffic enforcement?"
"Nope! The official reason is that there's so much traffic that most people can't get up to fatal speeds."
She looked at him. "You're kidding!"
"No, I'm assured that it's true."
She didn't quite seem to believe him, but rather than protesting, she decided to look around more closely. The traffic on the road below them certainly seemed to be moving fast enough. She was about to point it out when something else caught her eye. It was an almost ethereal landscape, made up of a myriad of glowing lights liberally adorning a complex of gleaming towers and what looked like twisting metallic vines. "Clark, what's that?"
"There, that place with all the lights that looks like it was pulled out of a movie about some futuristic paradise."
"What? You mean the CoGen plant?"
"CoGen? What's that?"
"Cogeneration. It's a power plant that also produces steam."
"Oh. It's so… beautiful."
"You know, I never noticed that before. In the daytime, it's just an ugly industrial mess. You're right, though. At night, like this… just a field of lights… It is beautiful, and I'd never have seen it if not for you. Somehow, the whole world is more beautiful when I see it with you."
They watched it in silence, appreciating the strange wonder of the place. Below them, hundreds of people sped by, seemingly oblivious to it all. Clark hovered, Lois cradled in his arms. They were alone, and this sight was only for them. At least, that's how it seemed until a 747 roared past them from the crowded runway of Newark International Airport.
Between the roaring in their ears and the feeling of detached solitude so rudely stripped away, the moment shattered. Suddenly, they were just two people above an overcrowded highway staring at a brightly lit power plant. Clark turned south, carefully flying around the long line of planes waiting for landing clearance. They had travelled many miles before either one was ready to speak again. "Down that way is East Brunswick," Clark said after a while. "There isn't much to it, really. That there is the bowling alley, and that building is the other bowling alley. That one is called 'Midstate Bowl' because it's very close to the geographical center of the state. Oh, and that mess over there used to be the Dairy Queen, which was owned by the mayor of the town. He sold it to a bank earlier this year, though, so that's why you can only see a bunch of metal poles where the building used to be."
"What can I say? It's a much nicer place to live than it is to tour. One of the best libraries in the country, and one of the best public schools, too. Not much to see, but you can't have everything. Over there is one of the last remaining farms in the area."
Lois nodded. There didn't really seem to be anything to say. Soon, Clark moved on. They flew south again, over yet more suburbs. As far as Lois could see, most of the state consisted of suburbs. There were a couple of real cities, but mostly it seemed like suburbs. It hadn't been quite as suburban at the northern reaches of the state. At least, it hadn't been as developed. It had looked like a fairly wealthy area. Large homes with plenty of land. Now, looking south, she started to see more greenery. Rural areas, and some patches that looked like they might be park land. So, the suburban area was a wide belt. One which would, if she was properly oriented, stretch from Philadelphia to Metropolis. So, basically, most of what she was looking at consisted of the combined suburbs of two major cities from two different neighboring states. She had never realized that such an odd situation was possible.
"Take a look over there, Lois," Clark suggested, breaking into her thoughts.
"What? Where? All I see is a lake and some woods."
"Yeah. That's what I was pointing out. It's a park. A fairly big one, actually. There isn't much to it, as you can see. It's mostly for camping, boating, and hiking."
"So why are you pointing it out?"
"Because there is one reason it's very unusual."
"If you can believe it, you're looking at Turkey Swamp Park."
"Yep. Apparently, there are, or at least were, wild turkeys living there."
"So they named the whole park for them?"
"Hey, why not? Ben Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national bird…"
"That wasn't exactly his best idea."
He laughed. "No, I guess it wasn't."
"What? That's it?" asked Lois when Clark set her down again in the back alley. "I say cocoon and you take me to Jersey?"
"What happened to your fascination with the Turkey Swamp Park?"
"Come on, Clark. I need more than a flight over New Jersey tonight."
"But the D.A…"
"Did you make a pinky swear with the D.A.?"
"A pinky swear is the highest form of promise. Are you telling me that Superman, of all people, would break a pinky swear?"
Clark let out a slow breath.
Suddenly, Lois remembered something, something she'd completely forgotten about until this moment. Something that might very well win her this argument. "Clark, did you know that your Mets are playing the Blue Jays in Toronto tonight?"
"Well, yeah, but. What does that have to do with anything?"
Lois fluttered her eyelashes at him. "Tell me that a pinky swear made to your wife means more to you than a lousy promise made to a scumbag District Attorney and you'll find out."
Lois nearly stood up on her toes as she waited for his next words.
<Gerry Anklewicz — Toronto, Canada <email@example.com>>
"Wow!" Clark exclaimed as he opened the curtains of the hotel room. "We're right over the first base line!"
And he was right. The room of the Skydome Hotel Lois had brought them to had a large window which, when the curtains were open, looked directly into the stadium — sort of box seats with the bonus of a bed. He grinned at the thought of what they could do with the bed after the game was over.
He stood at the sliding glass door, his eyes following the pitcher's wind up and release. "Ster-rike!" he called. "Lois, this is terrific! Thank you so much."
"Nothing but the best for you, my love," she said coming up behind him and running her hands up his muscular back.
"How did you manage this room?"
"Anita in travel owed me and the Skydome Hotel owed her." She trailed kisses along his shoulders. "When I told her that I wanted to take you somewhere special—and she knows how you feel about the Metropolis Mets and they were playing the Blue Jays today."
"But then she knows that you skipped out on the terms of your release."
"Clark, would you relax. I made these arrangements long before these stupid murder charges." Her voice trailed off and her eyes became remote.
Clark immediately stepped in before the depression could overtake her. "You're right. Everybody knows how I feel about the Mets…" He turned his head to encourage her to move her kisses to his lips. "Almost as much as I feel about you." His attention diverted from her lips to the field below. "Look Torres is up to bat. His ERA in this half of the season has been .345."
"Mmmm," she said as she traced the muscles down his back to his waist and reached around to his muscular stomach.
"Darn. He struck out."
"I'm glad you're enjoying the game so much," she said moving her hands to ruffle his hair. "I think I'll let you watch while I unpack our bags."
He easily lifted a plush easy chair in front of the picture window. "Now I can sit down and watch the game."
Lois moved a small end table beside the easy chair and placed a bag of peanuts and a can of beer on top. "Just remember, Clark, this isn't the stadium. The shells go into the garbage can, not on the floor."
He chuckled. "Yes, double play. Way to go."
During the seventh inning stretch, Clark joined Lois who was on the bed leafing through a magazine about Toronto.
"There're some interesting places we can visit in this city…after the game, of course," she said. "There's the Distillery District which has art galleries, restaurants and live music. It's all built in old factories. Lots of theatre, shopping in upscale Yorkville…there's a science center, a planetarium. The Royal Ontario Museum has Egyptian mummies…and in the evening we can talk a walk along the harbourfront…Look Clark, they spell 'harbour' funny…"
"Lois, you're beginning to sound like a tourist brochure."
"And there are tours of the Toronto Star."
"A newspaper is a newspaper. If you've seen one, you've seen them all."
"It says here that it is one of the city's oldest newspapers."
Clark leaned closer to Lois in order to see what was written. "Listen to this: Originally it was called the Toronto Daily Star. And this writer speculates that the original publisher of the Daily Planet, Joel Shuster, who had lived in Toronto before moving to Metropolis, named the Planet after the Star."
"Sounds to me more like this Toronto Star wants to jump on the bandwagon of the Planets' stellar reputation."
Clark kissed the top of Lois's head. "Game's on again."
Clark made himself comfortable in the easy chair. Lois, feeling at a loss without her husband at her side, straddled her husband's lap and placed her head on his shoulder. There, she studied his handsome profile, running a single finger along his jaw line as if painting his features. She could hardly believe how much she loved this man. She ran her fingers slowly through his hair, enjoying this chance to explore her husband's features.
"Damn. Whitman struck out again."
Her eyes and fingers drifted down his face to his neck. She slowly traced the lines of the muscles she found there, following each one down until it disappeared inside the collar of his shirt. She noticed a vein pulse in his neck and couldn't resist leaning over and placing a light kiss on the spot. It didn't take long before she began nuzzling and nibbling at him.
Clark sat up straighter, trying to peer around Lois, but it only took a few nibbles to make him lose track of the game and search for Lois's lips. He slid his hands under her shirt and felt the warmth of her skin.
"You are so delicious, Lois."
"Mmmm," she hummed as her fingers undid the shirt buttons.
"I really do love this cocooning," he said as he removed her shirt and undid the clasp of her bra, his hands running slowly over the soft curves of her back.
"Mmmm. Great idea."
Lois let her tongue travel from Clark's neck to his jaw, to his chin, to his lips. As she began tracing his lips, he opened his mouth letting his tongue meet hers, and then he drew her into a deeper kiss.
Time stopped. All he could feel was her taste and her warmth. All he could hear was the rhythm of their breathing. It didn't matter where they were as long as they were together.
And then Clark's superhearing picked up the noise from the stadium.
The crowd was hooting and clapping. Then Clark heard one of the TV announcers say to his colleague:
"Well, Dan, I never realized that baseball could be x-rated?"
"Me neither, Bob," Dan answered laughing. "Do you suppose we've just topped Janet Jackson's nipplegate?"
"Well, we certainly will if that woman turns around."
Clark wondered what they were talking about. He looked past Lois's shoulder to the jumbotron that was facing their window. There he saw a woman's naked back, the woman straddling a man, a man's muscular arms around the woman, and the man's head was beginning to stare out behind the woman. And then he realized that he was the man, Lois was the woman, and the television cameras were pointed at them.
Lois, at the same time, felt Clark's distraction, and began to turn around to see what caught his attention, when he quickly hugged her close to him and moved at a fast, but human pace, to the curtain's chord. He pulled it quickly, and then let go of Lois.
"What was that all about?" she asked.
"Umm, we sort of became more interesting than the ballgame. We were the main attraction on the jumbotron for a short while."
"Good thing you had your glasses on," she said as she ruffled his hair some more. "Do you want to watch the end of the game?"
"What game?" Clark asked as he swept her up into his arms and carried her to the bed.
"Are you telling me that there is something else you feel more strongly about than your Mets?" Lois put her arms around Clark and began kissing him again.
Just before he lost awareness of the world around him, Clark heard the announcer say, "Well, those folks are going to remember their stay in Toronto for a long time."
November 14, 1996
Lois woke up in the middle of the night in her own room. Her own room. After the events of the past couple of weeks, she could hardly believe it. There were times when she had seriously believed she would spend the remainder of her life in a nine by six cell. And yet here she was… free as a bird. She reached over to the far side of the bed, opening her eyes when she didn't feel her husband's body.
She glanced around the room, her eyes landing on Clark who was sitting in a chair watching her sleep. She snuggled back into the covers, watching him watching her.
"Whatcha doing over there?" she asked.
"I was just thinking about how close we came to losing everything," he said softly.
"But we didn't."
"No, but…" His voice trailed off.
She let out a slow breath. "Clark, come back to bed." She moved the sheet just low enough to tempt him. She knew it was working when he sat up straighter in his chair, as if hoping that the higher elevation would help him get a better look. "Then tomorrow…" She paused. "Cocoon."
He smiled. "Cocoon?"
"Isn't that exactly what you need right now?"
He licked his lips. "Not at this exact moment. I need something else at this exact moment. But… well, yeah — tomorrow."
She let her head fall back against the pillow, watching him through her eyelashes, and slipped her hand beneath the sheets, running it slowly down her body. "Well, what do you need at this exact moment?"
He smiled, rose to his feet and walked towards the bed.
<ML Thompson — Kakabeka Falls — Ontario Canada <firstname.lastname@example.org>>
Clark glanced around to be sure no one could see before lowering them to the ground in northern Ontario, Canada. Once he set Lois down, he spun back into his Clark clothes and took her hand, leading her down the wooden planks towards the sound of rushing waters. The Niagara of the North as it was known. Kakabeka Falls.
They rounded a corner and were confronted with the sight of the falls. The setting was perfect. The wooden walkways did not detract from the unblemished nature, which still surrounded the falls. There was snow on the ground, but not enough to cause any problems for the young couple.
"If you look carefully, you can see fossils which have been exposed by the water," Clark said.
"Where?" she asked, straining to see over the railing.
Clark glanced around briefly to be sure they were alone before picking her up in his arms and flying her closer to the fossils. The mist of the water was wetting her clothes. But she didn't seem to mind as she ordered him closer to get a better look. Once he landed her on the walkway, Clark gave her a quick blast of his heat vision to dry out her clothes to ensure she didn't get a chill. Even if it was a beautiful day for Northern Ontario in November, it was still, quite obviously, winter here.
"So why did you bring me here in particular?" Lois asked. "I mean it's beautiful and everything…" She glanced again at the fast flowing water cascading over fifty meter cliffs to the rocks below. "But what's special to you about this place?"
"Uhh," Clark responded as he took her hand and they began walking along the wooden walkway along the river, heading ever closer to the falls itself. "Well, I first found this place shortly after I met you. And there's an Ojibway legend that goes with this place that has stayed with me ever since because it reminded me of you."
Lois glanced over at him. "Well, are you going to keep me in suspense or are you going to tell me the story?"
He crinkled his eyebrows. "I'm not sure I should. After all, I don't want to give you any ideas."
"Clark!" She dove at him, digging her fingers into his sides through the winter jacket as she found with unerring accuracy the places he was most ticklish.
"Uncle. Uncle," Clark responded through his laughter as he fought to get her hands away from his stomach. "I'll tell you the story."
Just then, another couple appeared ahead of them on the ramp. Trying to look grown-up, Lois and Clark linked hands and silently continued their journey until the other couple were gone.
"So what's the story?" Lois asked immediately.
"Well, it happened a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away."
"Okay. The legend of Princess Greenmantle."
"Sounds good so far."
"Wait. It gets better. Greenmantle was the daughter of a peace- loving, Ojibway cheiftain named White Bear. White Bear learned about a plot by a group of Sioux warriors to destroy his tribe. But White Bear was getting old — too old to lead his people into battle. Realizing how distressed her father was, his daughter…"
"That would be Greenmantle."
"That's right. Anyway, she devised a plan."
"Ooo, I'm liking her already."
"I thought you might. Anyway, she made her way to where the Sioux warriors were camped on the Kaministiquia River. And she walked into their camp."
"Was she an idiot?"
"She had a plan, Lois."
"Doesn't sound like a very good one so far," mumbled Lois. "I could have come up with a better plan than that."
Clark rolled his eyes. "Do you want me to continue or not?"
Lois mumbled something, which Clark deliberately chose to ignore, before agreeing that he should continue.
"As I said before I was so rudely interrupted, Princess Greenmantle wandered into the Sioux camp, deliberately pretending to be lost."
"Okay, this sounds better. She obviously has a plan."
"That's what I said, Lois."
Lois rolled her eyes. "Would you just stick to the story?"
"Fine. Well, obviously, when she walked in the Sioux took her prisoner."
"She would have expected that," Lois informed him. "She wasn't an idiot, Clark."
"Right. She did. In fact, when they realized who she was, they planned to kill her. She pretended to be frightened and began bargaining with them. She agreed that in exchange for them sparing her life, she would lead them to her father's camp."
"It's a trap, Clark. I can smell it. She has something in mind."
Lois reached over and swatted Clark, provoking a chuckle out of him.
"Okay, well they agreed — her life in exchange for taking them to her father's camp. It was too late that day to head out, so they waited until the next morning. Then they put her in a canoe. It was tied to all the other canoes. And she, together with all the Sioux warriors, headed down river towards the Ojibway camp."
"This river?" Lois asked for further clarification as she pointed to the river the falls was on.
"Suddenly, I've got a very bad feeling about this. Did she tell them about the falls?"
"Oh no. So what happened?"
"Well, by the time they rounded the bend in the river and saw the falls, it was too late. They couldn't get out of the current with all the canoes tied together. They plunged over the falls and all of them, including the princess, lost their lives."
"That's so sad."
"Yes, it is. But there is a happy ending."
"There is? Did Superman rescue her?"
Clark rolled his eyes. "Greenmantle had saved her entire tribe. And…" He stopped Lois' forward movement, pulling her in front of him and pointing towards a certain spot in the falls. "…as her reward she was granted a place in history. If you look just right, you can still see her in the mist of the falls."
Lois squinted her eyes and looked into the mist. After a moment, she smiled. She could almost see Princess Greenmantle smiling back at her. She grabbed Clark's hands, which were wrapped around her waist, and pulled them tighter.
"The falls is a monument to her — to the memory of her courageous act of self-sacrifice for her people," Clark concluded.
"That's beautiful, Clark," Lois whispered. "Thanks for bringing me here and telling me her story."
"But I could have found a way to defeat the tribe without losing my own life."
Clark laughed. "I'm sure if anyone could, Lois, it would be you."
They were interrupted by other people making their way down the ramp. "What do you say we head out?" asked Clark. "This place is never really crowed this time of year. But it might be best if we…" He made a wavy motion with his hand. "…before too many people are around who might see us."
January 10, 1997
Clark felt almost giddy. It was good having his powers back to normal after that horrendous deal with the red kryptonite. Being afraid that he was going to hurt someone, especially Lois, had taken a toll on him. But that was all behind him now. A little green kryptonite had counteracted the effects of the red.
But now he felt as if he was about ready to crawl out of his skin with all the newfound freedom. He wanted to go somewhere, do something. He wanted to be alone with Lois.
His playful attitude manifested itself when Lois stepped into the elevator. He lowered his glasses, using his x-ray vision on the posterior of her trousers.
"Excuse me? What did you just do?" asked Lois.
"Well, you are such a good poker player, I figured that'd probably be as close to a win as I get tonight."
Lois smiled playfully at her husband. "Well, you should let me know when you're going to do that. I'll put on my good lingerie."
Good lingerie. What Clark had seen during his brief excursion into voyeurism had been pretty good. As a result, he had to wonder exactly how good the good stuff was. The thought suddenly had him just a little bit… hot. He was hardly able to wait for the elevator doors to close before kissing his wife. Giving a small moan, she wound her hands into his hair, deepening the kiss.
"What do you say we go somewhere?" Clark asked, pulling back slightly.
"How about the brownstone?" Lois countered. "It's been a long day and…"
"I was thinking more like finding a beach somewhere… watching the sun rise…"
"Clark the sun has just set. Where were you thinking…"
She studied him seriously, obviously tempted.
He wiggled his eyebrows at her. "We do have all of tomorrow off."
"That's true." She hesitated. "Still, there's laundry that needs to be done. Not to mention all of the furniture that needs to be repaired as a result of the…"
"Come on, Lois. All that can wait."
She crinkled her eyebrows. "Isn't there a word you should be saying right about now? You know, a word that will make me inclined to drop everything and follow you to the ends of the earth?"
A slow smile lit up Clark's face. "Cocoon."
Lois leaned in and gave him a lingering kiss. "Now how could a girl resist an invitation like that?"
<Saskia — Bali/India <email@example.com>>
It was still quite dark when Lois and Clark landed on a deserted beach somewhere in the Indian Ocean. Soon, the sun would come up and they were going to watch that wonderful event.
For the right feeling, they would watch a sunrise first. There was nothing more romantic than watching the sun set or rise and it made them feel like they were a part of nature whenever they watched it.
"I'm still confused about all those time differences," Lois stated as they made themselves comfortable on the beach. It was mid-January, and in this area of the world, the temperature was nice, even in the early morning hours.
Clark just looked at his wife and she could read in his eyes he didn't understand her.
"We just had dinner and it was getting dark in Metropolis. Here, it's morning, a day later and the sun's coming up. It's just weird," she explained.
"It's one of the advantages of Super Express," Clark simply replied.
"Oh yeah." Lois sighed as she remembered a few of the other advantages. Their love life was quite interesting to say the least.
Clark now lay on his back and he pulled Lois close to his side. With one arm around her, she lay on her side in his embrace, while she used his chest a pillow.
In comfortable silence, they watched the sun come up out of the ocean. In the far distance, it seemed like the water was on fire as the sun slowly changed its color from red to bright yellow. The only sounds they occasionally made were a few sighs or happy moans. Clark's free hand had found its way to Lois's hair and he gently stroked the dark locks. In the mean time, Lois traced circles on his chest.
When the sun was entirely visible, Clark rolled around until he lay on top of Lois. He lowered his head as he hungrily found her mouth. Lois responded immediately and she allowed his tongue inside her mouth. As their tongues did a dance of their own, Lois let her hands roam over his shoulders and back until she reached the hem of his shirt.
Clark pulled his arms out of her hair and placed them beside her head as he shifted his weight off her and broke the contact of their mouths.
"Hey!" Lois softly protested.
"As much as I love this, especially what you had in mind, I don't think this is a good idea," he whispered seductively.
A groan was her only answer.
"I mean," he hastened to explain," it's not like I *don't* want it to happen, on the contrary. But we have other things to do, unless you want to skip the Taj Mahal."
"Well, yeah. Maybe. No! I want to see it now that we have a little time."
"In that case, are you ready to leave for our next stop?"
"Almost?" he asked.
"Yeah, it would help if I could get up," she replied between a few giggles.
"Ooh." Clark floated off her and quickly stood beside her. He reached for Lois's hands as he helped her get up. They both shook the sand off their clothes, shared another kiss, before Clark swept her off her feet into the sky.
Pretty soon, land came into view. High on a cliff over the ocean at Bali's south-west, they reached the temple of Ulu Watu. They landed on the path leading up to the temple. In the early morning hour, it was still quiet with very few people around.
As they followed the path to the top of the cliff, they could clearly hear the ocean's breakers pounding loudly against the cliff. The higher they got, the better their view became. At the end of the cliff was a house, shaped like a Christmas tree. From ninety yards high, the water below looked brilliantly blue. It was a very magnificent view.
They were well prepared for their visit. Since Clark knew it was required to be dressed appropriately in order to view the temple — most of it was closed for visitors — they had no problems entering the grounds. Lois wore a long blue skirt, a white blouse with sleeves and tasteful yet easy-to-walk-on shoes. Clark had put on a pair of dark gray pants, black shoes and a blue collared shirt. They both got a yellow sash tied around the waist before they walked on the compounds of the temple.
Once they were alone again, Lois asked what the sash was for.
"I believe it's a sign of respect for the sacred ground, especially during religious rituals."
"Is there a ritual today, then?"
"Not that I'm aware of."
They walked around for a while, viewing the beautiful area and the Hindu statues in garden.
"Why can't we visit the temple, Clark?" Lois asked after a while.
"We can't get closer to this temple. Many other temples are completely open for tourists, but here, they believe it's a danger to the religion and the people who still live here."
"Like we'd harm them," she mocked.
"Not everyone is like us, honey," Clark teased her.
"Right." She snuggled closer to Clark and he put his left arm around her shoulders to keep her close to him.
Before they could continue their walk, a loud shriek resounded in the area. Ten seconds later, a few monkeys showed themselves on the compounds.
"Erm, have I told you about these monkeys?"
"No," Lois replied as she suspiciously eyed the animals.
"They're pretty friendly as long as you don't harm them. They're also very fast, and you usually don't see them coming. But most importantly, they like to steal stuff from the visitors who have loose items on them. Like your sunglasses on top of your head," he pointed out.
Lois reached with her free arm for her glasses. Before she could grab them, they were rudely snapped away from her as a monkey landed in front of her.
"Couldn't you have warned me a bit sooner?" Lois said, somewhat irritated.
"Sorry!" Clark sounded positively guilty.
The monkey didn't wait around for them to stop talking and ran away in the direction of the trees. Lois didn't hesitate one second and ran after him. They were her good sunglasses, once a gift from Clark and they had a special meaning, so she would like to get them back. Unfortunately for her, the monkey was faster and he raced into a tree. He looked down at her from a branch, with the glasses dangling in his hands. Lois started to jump to grab them back, but she wasn't tall enough.
Clark had just followed his wife in a relaxing tempo and had only just reached her side.
"Let me, Lois, before he gets angry." Within a few seconds, he had the glasses back and held them tightly in his fist so the animal couldn't get hold of them again.
"Thanks," Lois muttered. "I think I've seen enough here."
"I can understand that. Come on, we'll go down the same path and then leave from the forest."
As they made their way back, the monkey stared at them for a bit, trying to find a way to defeat that big guy. Soon, he gave up and went off to find a new victim.
Ten minutes later, Lois and Clark were airborne again. On high speed Clark sped away over the ocean until it was impossible for any human being to spot them.
"Lois, are you okay?" he asked, concerned.
She gave him a smile. "Yeah, why wouldn't I be okay?"
"That monkey. I mean… I don't know. It's just that you never were that good with animals."
"You mean, animals can't deal with Lois Lane." She gave him a smile that said he was right.
"If you want to put it that way." Clark gave her a big smile in return. "So should we go to the Taj Mahal now?"
"Oh yes! I can't wait to see it. I'm sure it will erase the memory of that monkey."
"Otherwise I'll make sure of that, honey."
"Hold on tight then."
"Wait!" she suddenly shrieked.
"What?" Clark had no idea why Lois didn't want to go yet, so he gave her a questioning look.
"My sunglasses?" she asked with an outstretched hand.
"Aaah. Here." He dropped a kiss on her forehead before he put the glasses back on her head. The sun could hurt her eyes easily, especially with the reflection from the water below them or the clouds above.
Their flight went westward, and soon, they flew high over a clouded India. Clark had warned her that, since it was always crowded around the Taj Mahal, he had to make a very fast landing. He'd found a somewhat secluded spot, and they should be able to land and leave from there without being noticed, but it all had to happen very fast.
Luck was with them, and one swift landing later they were only a few steps away from the gate. In the far distance, Lois could already see the contours of the majestic building. Clark paid a ridiculous high price for the entrance.
Hand in hand, they explored the gardens first before they used the walkway to head to the former castle.
Lois let out a happy sigh. "It really looks just like a castle from a fairy tale."
"Maybe that's because the story around it sounds like a romantic fairy tale."
"Oh, will you tell me?" Lois pleaded.
"Sure, let's sit down there." Clark pointed to a few benches that were halfway down the walkway and from there, they had a wonderful view at the Taj Mahal.
As they both sat down, Clark started the story. "The Taj Mahal, which means Crown Palace, is an abbreviation of the former queen, Mumtaz Mahal."
"What kind of name is that?" Lois interrupted.
"It's an Indian title."
"What was her name then?"
"Will you just let me tell the story? You'll find out then."
"Oh, okay," Lois gave in.
"A normal citizen called Bano Begum won the heart of the Mughal prince Khurram. He was the third son of the Emperor. The couple in love married when the girl was just 21."
"That young?" Lois interfered again.
"Lo-is," Clark warned.
"Okay, okay, I'll be quiet."
"The married couple stayed together, during good and bad times, in luxurious palaces and in the transient tents of war camps. After nearly a decade, the prince became king of India after a bloody battle. He took on the name Shahjahan, which means King of the World. He showered his beloved wife with titles as Mumtaz Mahal, exalted of the world, and Mumtaz-ul-Zamani, exalted of the age." Clark paused for a moment before he came to the sadder part of the romantic story. "At the age of 39, the king and queen went on an expedition to the south. She died there in childbirth. The couple had fourteen children, and seven of them survived. With the death of his one and only queen, Shahjahan was devastated and inconsolable. It's been said the royal court mourned for two years. In honor of his wife, he built this palace just to hold her tomb. It was a token of his love for her."
"Wow," Lois was impressed with the story. The sort of love Clark had described sounded much like their own love: deep, forever and soul mates. "A palace just for your dead wife."
"Yeah, it's quite amazing. But that's not all of it yet."
"There's more to it?"
"Yeah. At some point near the end of his life, the king lost his throne to his eldest son. He was placed under house arrest at a fort. His only request was that he could see the Taj Mahal from his room. And that's where he died, in his room, watching the last resting place of his love. In the end, his tomb was placed beside her."
"Wow, that's just incredible." Lois stared dreamily at the palace in front of her. She could sympathize with the former king. She would be devastated without Clark in her life. She quickly shook the thought out of her mind; now was not a time to dwell on sad things, today was supposed to be a happy day. "It must have taken a long time to build the castle and the gardens," she said in an attempt to change the topic a bit.
"Indeed, it took nearly twenty years before everything was ready. And look at it now, everything is based on architectural styles. You can still see the symmetrical parts everywhere, even after centuries of ravages and neglect. It's completely made out of white marble, so you can see it from afar."
"I suspected as much, but with all the dirt and smog from these times, the white looks more gray now."
"True, especially from a close look it has lost some of its beauty."
"I still think it's breath-taking. Just to show how much you love someone, you build a beautiful thing like that. Who does things like that nowadays?" Lois told her point of view.
"I could think of someone," Clark replied mischievous.
"Besides my super husband, that is."
They both laughed at the relaxed atmosphere that surrounded them. They resumed their walk to the palace.
"Shoes here! You can't continue with your shoes!" a man's voice suddenly shouted at them.
"Oh, that's right. The last part of the route is sacred, so we have to take off our shoes," Clark explained. "You're wearing socks, aren't you?"
"Yeah, it walks easier with these shoes."
"Okay, the marble floor can be quite cold so early in the day."
They handed over their shoes and continued on in their socks. It felt a bit weird, but it was comfortable at the same time.
They walked around the entire Taj Mahal first. Past the steps and walkways, they admired the marble carvings along the walls. Only then, did they enter the palace to look at the tombs of Mumtaz and Shahjahan.
The inside was lit by natural lighting, so it was quite dark inside as the sun wasn't too high yet. Again, the walls were carved, this time with wonderful inlay work and intricate detail.
"Is it my imagination or is it smaller on the inside than the outside?" Lois voiced her suspicion.
"It's smaller here because of the thick marble walls."
"Of course, I should have known."
"Look," Clark suddenly whispered. "The tombs!"
"They actually allow people to see the real tombs?"
"No, these are fake ones. The real tombs are below, but the entrance to it is securely closed. It's over there," Clark pointed out after he had used his enhanced vision.
Pretty soon, they had seen everything and made their way back. Lois yawned as she pulled on her shoes.
"Are you tired, Lois?" Clark asked, a bit worried.
"Just a bit. It must be late in Metropolis by now."
"It's after midnight there."
"I could use some sleep," Lois replied with another yawn.
"Yeah, me too. It's been a long day.
They hurried back to their earlier landing spot, completely ignoring all the children trying to attract their attention with special Taj Mahal souvenirs. They had only eyes for each other and without problems, they soon were on their way home.
March 11, 1997
"You are the luckiest man alive," said Alt-Clark, his eyes drifting from Lois to Clark.
"I know," said Clark, glancing briefly at his wife.
"If my Lois had lived, my world would have been a better place. Especially for me."
Clark didn't even hear the remainder of the conversation as his mind remained firmly on the woman at his side. Alt-Clark was right. He was the luckiest man alive. He couldn't even imagine what his life would be like without Lois.
It seemed to take forever before the door closed, leaving him alone with Lois. Turning towards Lois, Clark pulled her to him. His hand came up and slowly traced the line of her jaw.
"Clark?" she asked.
"Cocoon," he whispered in return.
<Anna Botsakou — Athens, Greece <firstname.lastname@example.org>>
Clark held Lois tightly, as he flew to one of his favorite destinations on the Earth. A city that had him charmed for a long time, although he didn't really know why.
As they were approaching the city, he felt the charm being cast upon him again. He had seen blue skies again and it was the same sun that shone everywhere, but it all felt so different and unique here. It was as if spring had a special interest in this small country and tried its best to make it unforgettable to anyone who had the good luck of spending some time here.
They had finally arrived. The capital of Greece now lay beneath them.
"Here we are," he said, as he slowly hovered over the big city. "This is Athens. Or Athina, by its modern name."
Lois was a bit disappointed. "It doesn't look all that pretty. Although it's very big."
"Its beauty lies in other things, not its buildings. These are built with 'the more people in less space, the better' motto in mind.
"But there are beautiful regions in the city too. Look. Right beneath us is the center. This hill," he pointed somewhere near them, "is where the Acropolis was built. I'll take you there later. Over there," he pointed in front of them, "to the north, are the north suburbs. They are the most beautiful in the city, and some of them are for expensive lifestyle: Kifisia, Politia, Filothei, Psychico. See the forest?"
"Forest?" Lois was surprised. "Oh yeah, that green space."
"It's a real forest inside the city. It's called Anavryta. It once belonged to a very rich man. Now it belongs to the municipality of Marousi and the buildings have become schools: a junior high, a high school, a technical high, as they call them here, and an agricultural school. To the left are the eastern suburbs. These are the least expensive ones, and there are a lot of immigrants and gypsies there. If you notice, there are no tall buildings and there's a lot of clear space."
"Now, look to the right," Clark continued. "These are the western suburbs. Nothing special about them. They're not very Athens, though. it's like expensive country houses close to the big city. A pleasant change."
He turned them around to change the view, and continued. "Now we're facing to the South. In front and to the left are the southern suburbs. Including mostly expensive regions too, as they are so close to the sea and the beaches. The big avenue right by the sea is called 'Posidonos'. Posidon is Neptune, the ancient God of the sea. On this avenue there is a lot of night clubs and generally, this part is the best for the 'Athens by night' part."
"And to the right?" Lois asked impatiently.
"This is Pireas and its suburbs. This used to be a separate city, but that's where the port of the region is, so it attracted a lot of people. Nowadays Athens and Pireas still have different names, each one has its own mayor and are generally considered different cities. But you can't tell where one starts and the other ends, except for a few signs here and there."
Lois nodded again.
"What do you think?" Clark asked.
"Sounds interesting. Shall we begin our visit?"
"Where do you want to start from?"
"I don't know. You choose."
Clark thought for a second. "I think we should start from the Acropolis. It's the must-see of the city, plus it would be better to start from the 'past' and move to the 'future'."
Lois smiled. "Sounds great."
Clark spotted a clear space behind the Parthenon. There was no one there at the moment, so it was ideal for landing and spinning into his normal clothes.
Once he did, he realized that Lois was staring at the ancient building in shock. He smiled, amused by her reaction.
"I hadn't realized it was that big," she said, not taking her eyes off it.
"Almost fifty feet tall, if I recall correctly."
She just kept looking at it, and he decided to let her admire it. After all, he had been amazed the first time he had visited it, too. He understood her all too well.
"How old is it?" Lois suddenly asked.
"Its construction was finished in 432 B.C.."
"432 B.C.! And it's still standing!"
"Yeah. Amazing, isn't it?"
Lois nodded and turned to Clark. "This is the Parthenon, isn't it?"
"Yeah," he replied. "This was the main temple. Right there," he pointed to a temple to the right, "is Erehtheion, dedicated to Erehtheas, the king that named the city after Athena. To the front, the small temple, is the temple of Apteros Niki. This means 'wingless victory'."
"Yeah, so that it would never leave Athens."
Lois chuckled at that. "Oh my God!" she suddenly exclaimed, taking a second look at Erehtheion. "These statues are wonderful!"
"They are the 'Caryatides'," Clark provided.
Lois forgot her excitement for a moment and eyed him suspiciously. "How many times have you been here?"
"Several," he smiled. "But I know about these mostly from reading."
Pleased with his response, Lois turned to the statues, approaching to get a closer look. "Look what these people did with ancient tools, over two thousand years ago. And now that the artists have everything they need, they just sculpture nonsense."
Clark smiled in agreement. "You know, these aren't the originals."
Lois turned at him. "They're not?"
"No. They are very good imitations. The originals are in the museum, to be protected from the acid rain."
"Where is the museum?"
"Just there." He pointed to their right.
"Can we visit it?"
They entered the museum and Clark led Lois to the place where the Caryatides were kept.
"Here they are," he said. "Well, the five of them. The sixth is in the British museum."
"Long story. When Greece was under the Turks' possession, Lord Elgin from England asked for permission to take whatever he wanted from the Acropolis. They gave it to him, and he took a lot of things, including one of the Caryatides."
"Oh, yeah, I've heard about it," she said, looking at the statues. "The Greeks want them back, don't they?"
"Yes. But the British don't want to give them back."
"Who would want to give them back if they possessed them?" Lois commented, still admiring them. "I've seen them in pictures, but pictures are weak compared to seeing the real thing in all its glory."
"Wanna stay a bit more and see the rest of the exhibits?"
"No." Lois replied. "I want to see as much of Athens as possible."
"Okay, then how about visiting Plaka? It's the 'Old Town' of Athens, and there are a lot of tourist shops. We could buy some souvenirs there."
"Good idea," she agreed.
Lois and Clark enjoyed a quiet walk in Plaka for about an hour.
"Let's enter a shop," Lois said finally. "I'd like to buy something."
They found one that looked promising and went in. Lois spotted at once the miniature-Parthenons and the miniature-Caryatides.
"Oh, look! They're lovely!"
"There are a lot of things there, don't you wanna take a look first?"
"Let's buy a couple of them, please!"
Clark stared lovingly at his wife. She was the most adorable woman on Earth, and he could never deny anything to her. Besides, he'd liked these miniatures too.
"All right," he said. "How much do they cost?"
Lois turned they miniatures upside down. "They don't have a tag on."
"Oh. I'll ask the clerk."
The clerk was a man in his sixties. Clark doubted he spoke English, so he tried to remember how to ask the question in modern Greek.
'Thelo. gnorisi.' No, definitely not.
He could use ancient Greek though. He spoke it much better, and it wasn't much different than the modern form anyway.
"Voulome gnone poson timode."
"Sori, I dont spik Inglis." (*)
Clark's jaw dropped.
Lois turned around to see if Clark had already found out the prices of the miniatures, and she got him staring at the clerk in amazement.
"Clark? Is everything okay?"
Clark blinked. "I tried to ask him about these thing's price in ancient Greek, and he told me he doesn't speak English!"
Lois chuckled. "Really?"
"Yeah! This is." He was so astonished that he couldn't speak.
A young man entered the shop from another room of the building. "Can I help you?" he asked with a broad smile and a not-so- English accent.
"Sure." Clark said. "How much do these cost?"
"All these miniatures are 4.000 drachmas each. They're made of marble."
"How many do we buy, Lois?"
"One and one."
Clark turned to the young man. "Just these two, please."
"Okay." He grabbed them from Lois's hands, walked to the cashier and began wrapping them up. "Excuse my grandfather," he said while doing it. "That's all the English he knows."
"It was ancient Greek I used," Clark pointed out.
"Oh." The young man smiled.
"Seriously, sir," Clark began. "Is ancient Greek all that different from the modern? I have knowledge of both, but I don't see too many differences."
"Oh, well, the modern Greek is a." He paused for a moment, looking for the best word. ".It's the same language," he finally said, "but there have been a lot of changes over the past two thousand years. Not everyone can understand ancient Greek, especially if he's not educated."
The young man carefully put the small packages in a plastic bag. "8.000 drachmas."
Clark handed him the money and got the bag. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. Have a nice day."
The couple exited the shop, very pleased.
"Now what?" Lois asked.
Clark glanced at his watch. "It's noon. We can go have lunch if you want to, but people here usually eat at about 2 p.m."
"I can wait until then."
"Hmm. then, I have an idea."
She stared at him questioningly.
"We can go to Kifisia. A lot of people gather in its center. We can have a walk and then go to an excellent souvlatzidiko I know."
"It sells souvlaki, a traditional Greek food."
"Is it nice?"
"Yeah. It's a piece of dough, with well roasted meat or chicken, vegetables and tzatziki sauce. Tzatziki is yogurt with garlic and cucumber."
Lois grimaced. "Sounds a bit weird."
"It's delicious. And, well, you can omit the tzatziki."
"Whatever. Let's go."
Kifisia was indeed a very interesting place. People of all ages walked all around. There were lots of shops of every kind, many cars, noise. Lois thought it reminded her of Metropolis, only it had a different. shade. Cleaner, clearer. brighter. Maybe the walls were painted in lighter colors, or maybe it was the weather.
"Mama, pinao! Pote tha fame?"
"Me pire tilefono htes…"
"Prepi na perasete apenadi ke na stripsete dexia…"
Hundreds of voices all around her spoke an idiom incomprehensible to her ears, but nice and pleasant whatsoever. She found herself trying to listen to the people talking and smiling enthusiastically every time she recognized a word.
They had a long walk around the center of the suburb, with occasional pauses here and there. Then, they headed to the souvlatzidiko Clark had suggested.
They sat outside and the waiter brought them two menus. Thankfully for Lois, it was written in both Greek and English.
"What do you suggest, pork or chicken?" she asked Clark, after taking a look.
"I prefer pork, but if you like chicken better."
"No, no, pork's fine."
"Okay, pork and. what else? In your souvlaki, I mean."
"Tomato, onion, fries, tzatziki." Lois read from the menu.
"More than one?" Lois looked up in surprise.
"They're relatively small."
"No, no. one sounds enough."
The waiter came by soon.
"Tria me ap' ola," Clark ordered in modern Greek.
"Pota, anapsiktika?" the waiter asked.
"Lois, something to drink?"
"Nero, parakalo," Clark turned to the waiter.
Lois stared at Clark with a suspicious smile, until the waiter left their table.
"What?" Clark asked, when he noticed her look.
"Okay. The truth. Where did you learn Greek?"
"Ancient Greek I studied at school. That's why I speak it better."
"Here. I worked for a while for the English edition of a Greek newspaper."
"Yeah. I didn't do translations, of course, but wrote for it all the same."
"Aha. So can one really learn a foreign language by spending some time in the country?"
Clark shrugged. "I don't know. It worked for me."
A while later, their meals were served.
"So you ordered two for you?" Lois asked, looking at Clark's plate.
"Yeah. See, they're not very big."
"Yeah, but they look so. full." Lois cocked her head and tried to see inside the souvlaki. "How do you eat this thing?"
Clark chuckled. "Just grab it." He grabbed one of his souvlakis from the edge that was wrapped in paper. "And bite." He took a big bite.
"Messy," Lois commented, but followed his instructions. "Mmmm!" she added, after the first bite. "Nice!"
"I'm glad you like it. I like it a lot myself."
She swallowed. "It's strange how eating meat and vegetables and yogurt at the same time can taste good."
"That's the way Greeks eat. They like putting it all together. Another Greek food, mousakas, is like a pie with potato, eggplant, meat and cream. Another is named with the greek word for 'mixed up', because it has onion, potato, eggplant, tomato, garlic."
"Oh my God," Lois cut him, taking another bite.
"Yeah. They also eat the salad, the cheese and the appetizers at the same time as the entree."
"Not at all. When you go to a restaurant they don't serve them at the same time, but no real Greek will finish the salad before their meal come."
Lois nodded. "Maybe that's a better idea, after all. I mean, after having tried souvlaki."
After they finished their meal, they went to Kifisia park and sat on a bench.
"What's next?" Lois asked, lazy resting her head on Clark's shoulder.
"I don't know. I would like you to see Athens from above when the sun will be down, but it's many hours until then."
"Ah, Clark. There's no way we've seen everything!"
"We've seen the basics."
"Come on, are you out of ideas?"
Clark thought for a minute. "The train station is just outside the park. We could take the train and go back to the center, but not at Plaka this time. The modern one."
"All right, then."
About an hour later, they had arrived at Omonoia Square. From there they had a rather long walk, up an avenue, down another. They also visited the Old Parliament museum, where Clark taught Lois many things about Greek history, and she realized that a big part of Greece's rich history is more recent than two thousand years ago.
Last, they visited Monastiraki, a place that made quite an impression on Lois. An old part of town, kind of like Plaka, but with just shops, shops and more shops in its narrow streets, selling everything and anything. No houses at all. More people there than at Plaka, too.
They had spent a lot of time, and it was now getting dark.
"Did we miss the sunset?" Lois said, staring at the darkening sky.
"Not yet. Come on, let's go."
They found an empty alley and took off.
"Where are we going?" Lois asked.
"To Penteli Mountain."
In a matter of minutes, they landed on top of the mountain. Lois held her breath as she watched the sun hiding behind another mountain, on the other side of the lowland.
"Look," Clark said, when the sun couldn't be seen anymore. "Athens takes up the whole lowland. It even climbs to the foots of the mountains. The view is nicer from here."
"Yeah." Lois said, looking down to the big city in awe.
"Lois," he smiled, "you've seen big cities in the past."
"Oh?" she said, not paying attention to him for a second. "Oh! Yes, I have."
"Then why are you so amazed?"
"I don't know." She fell in his arms.
"Are you cold?" he asked, concerned.
"No. It's a bit chilly, but I'm fine."
He kissed her neck as he held her closer. She turned to kiss his lips, and soon they had forgotten everything else, surrendering to the overwhelming pleasure of each other's mouths.
When the kiss ended, the night had fallen for good.
"Look," Clark said. "Athens is wearing its evening gown."
"Purple…" Lois murmured.
"To iostefes asty, they called it once upon a time. The violet- crowned city."
Buildings were hardly seen anymore. Now they could see the lights, covering the lowland, reaching up to the foothills and down to the sea. Up on one of the hills of the center, the Acropolis, illuminated and looking majestic, dominated the city.
Athens, a city with a past that began more than three thousand years ago, was still there, still alive, far from perfect, but with a promising future.
"Thank you, Clark," Lois whispered. "Thank you for letting me share your experiences."
Clark didn't say anything. The good old charm was back, he thought. It had come to capture his wife's heart, as it once did with his.
He silently promised they'd come back one day.
April 13, 1997
Lois moped at her desk, unable to get Leslie Luckabee's comment out of her mind. 'Looks like Superman found himself a mate.' She knew that by her reaction, everyone must now think that she was still infatuated with Superman. And she was, of course. Only not the way they thought.
Still, was it possible that Clark wanted someone more like Vixen? After all, she had superpowers. They could, indeed, play together in a way that he never could with Lois. With her, he always had to control his powers. What if he wanted someone he could be himself with? How could she possibly live up to that?
Well, she might not be superpowered, but she could be fun, too! She could! She could even play hooky if she wanted to. Was it her fault that she'd just never wanted to?
She glanced up when the elevator dinged, her sixth sense telling her that Clark had just entered the newsroom. Without thinking it through, she acted on impulse. Rising to her feet, she met Clark as he was half way down the ramp.
"Cocoon," was the only word she said.
<Saskia — The Black Forest, Germany <email@example.com>>
If the people in East Germany paid close attention to the sky, they would have seen two figures hovering just below cloud level and one of them wore a red cape. Fortunately for those two, no one noticed them.
Lois and Clark were visiting Germany today, but before they headed to their destination, Clark wanted to show her the entire country from the air. Clark slowly flew towards the east as he told her some of the things he knew.
"Germany is one of the biggest countries of Europe and it holds a special place in history. Even nowadays, you can still see parts of that. For example, if you watch through your binoculars, you'll see buildings in a style that are a bit old and somewhat poor. The more we go to the west, the more wealth you'll see," Clark explained.
"Okay," Lois replied while carefully nodding. "And where were you taking me today again?"
"The Black Forest, an area in the south west of Germany. I don't know why, but it has a hold on me. It's beautiful there, and at this time of the year, it's also quite romantic."
"You won't hear me object to that," she said with laughter in her voice. "So let's go."
"Your wish is my command, my lady," Clark answered his wife.
He flew past the country, fast, but not too fast for Lois to be able to see the spots he pointed out. In about fifteen minutes, they reached the first trees and hills that indicated the Black Forest, and Clark stopped their flight. He wanted to give Lois a chance to admire the view as he always did. She was the only person he could share this feeling with.
Lois grabbed her binoculars again. Clark had told her to bring them along, and she now realized why. The view was breathtaking. Far into the distance, she could see hills covered with trees, displaying different sorts of green shades.
"Clark, aren't those pine trees?" she asked.
"Yes, they are. The entire forest is about 2000 years old. When the first inhabitants came, it was quite dark here. So they called it the Black Forest. Nowadays, it's much lighter and there are a few cities and many small villages. But it's still a region of incomparably unspoiled nature with its forests, mountains and meadows."
"Wow!" Lois exclaimed. "Are there things you don't know?"
Clark had to laugh at that comment. She knew he wasn't all knowing, yet she kept being surprised by all the things he did know. Like general stuff about countries, areas and cultures he had learned during his travels in his early to mid 20s.
"I often wonder how that mind of yours works," he told her. The comment earned him a well-intended slap on his chest as well as a big smile on her face.
"What else should I know about this area before we head to that city?" she questioned her husband.
"Let's see…" Clark said thoughtfully. "Most of the things I'll tell you when we are there or fly over it. But, you might like to know that this forest is known for its half-timber houses, which are often three hundred years old. They were made by craftsmen of the area who are nowadays well known around the world for their cuckoo clocks and nutcrackers. Hey, maybe we could buy one of them for our Christmas tree," Clark voiced his sudden idea aloud.
"A cuckoo clock in a tree, Clark?" Lois teased him.
He wisely decided to ignore the remark and resumed their flight.
Gradually, Lois could see the landscape beneath them change. Where she could first only make out mountains and trees, she began to see some open uplands and a few towns. The view was still gorgeous, so much different from what she'd seen in her own country so far. If she wasn't mistaken, she'd even spotted a castle once. However, Clark had flown too fast to confirm her suspicion.
Lois was so engrossed in the flight and the view, that she almost didn't notice they were slowing down and losing height.
"Hold on tight, I'm going to increase some speed and land us on a safe spot," Clark practically yelled so she could hear him above the wind rushing past her ears.
She nodded her response. Her arms around his neck tightened and she let her head rest on his shoulder. She loved this type of transportation. No queues, no delays, no turbulence… everything went just smoothly. In a few seconds, they stood on an open place on a hill among many trees and before them, a large city was waiting for exploration.
Clark steadied her and held her until he was sure her legs supported her weight again. "Welcome to Freiburg, honey."
Lois looked around her. The city was built between the hills and was surrounded by the forest. It looked very picturesque; it was as if she was staring at a painting in some museum. Only this was real. She saw the many white houses and red roofs, a church, the squares, and the people bustling through the narrow streets. She couldn't wait to walk around there. It was no Metropolis, but it looked to be just as busy right now, from where she was standing.
Clark noticed the enchantment on his wife's face and he knew he'd brought her to the right place today. Yes, they'd have a fun afternoon in the German city.
"Are you ready to start our little tour through the city, honey?"
Her broad smile said enough, so he linked his arm through hers and lead the way down into the alleyways toward the Mnsterplatz — the biggest and busiest square. They discussed the style of the buildings in comparison to Metropolis while they walked through the small streets. Even Lois admitted that it must be cozy to live in the houses there, and they seemed large enough for an entire family. The only problem they'd have would be a secret entrance for Superman. He would be very hard to hide here.
The closer they got to the square, the busier it got. People just strolled about, talked, and looked around. The weather was nice with a temperature in the high seventies. That would explain the many tourists. They could clearly hear several languages. Lois figured Clark could all place them, but to her, it all sounded like Chinese.
Finally, they stepped out of a narrow alley and a wide square opened up in front of them. Lois gasped in astonishment as she took in the charming view that was presented to them. An old Minster with a high tower and artfully chiseled stone sculptures stood in the middle of the stone cobbled square and around it was a colorful hustle-bustle of the many stands of the local market. A mouth-watering scent of hot dogs and pastries filled the air and Lois could see all kinds of fruits and vegetables, homemade pies, salami and cheese lying on the market stands for the customers to taste and buy. Other farmers presented handcrafted things made of wood or bee wax, herbs or flowers while chatting with their neighbors.
They walked slowly around the Minster to watch the buildings that were surrounding the market square. Some were quite big, others pretty small, and many of them were built with some sort of port on the front. They appeared to be in a very old style.
One building in particular caught Lois's attention. It had an archway on the front side and two small bay-turrets on each side, covered with rainbow-colored tiles. The house itself was painted in a warm red tone and the gold-painted glass windows had beautiful chiseled figures on each side. Lois asked Clark what it was. Obviously, it had to be important for some reason. "That's the Trading House," he explained. "In the Middle Ages it was the focal point of business life and even today it serves as one of the most impressive buildings in the city for celebrations and events."
Clark guided Lois past a small fountain that some kids had claimed as their playing ground and through the middle of the busy market until they stood directly in front of the Minster. "The gothic cathedral is the symbol of Freiburg. It's over 800 years old and it's still used as a church."
"Can we go in? It must be special to be inside," Lois wondered.
"It's possible, and we can even go up to the tower. Actually, I've never done that before. They say you have an amazing view from there."
"Like you need that," Lois responded. She continued with a lowered voice, "Superman can see stuff all the way from the air."
"Ah, yes, I knew there was a reason," he replied with one of his mega-watt smiles. He put his arm around Lois's waist and he guided her into the Minster.
Inside it was quite dark; the only light came through the many colorful windows that displayed scenes of the bible or portraits of ancient benefactors of the cathedral.
After they had looked around for a while, and admired the artfully ornamented pillars and sculptures, they decided to head for the tower. They climbed 208 very narrow stone steps before they reached a small platform. Clark needed a little time to catch his breath there. There was nearly no light in the tower, it was small, especially with oncoming traffic, so he'd felt a bit claustrophobic.
Lois looked at him with a worried expression. "Are you okay?"
He took a few deep breaths before he answered her. "Yeah, I'll be fine. I prefer Superman Express though," he attempted to joke.
She chose to ignore it, however. "Do you wanna go back?"
"No," he said resolutely. "We've made it this far, I'll be okay."
Lois wasn't entirely convinced, but she followed him anyway. Another 127 steps later they reached the top platform and Lois saw Clark relaxing as soon as they stepped out of the narrow stairwell into the bright sunlight. They had a magnificent view over the city, and as far as they could look, there was forest.
"The city is really intertwined with the forest, isn't it?" Lois remarked.
"Indeed, it must be nice to live here."
"Maybe… I don't know. It's no Metropolis. Look below, the town centre is pretty small, especially from up here. Don't get me wrong, I love seeing it. But I doubt there is much investigative work to do here."
Clark couldn't help it; he just had to shake his head. "It's all about work for you."
"No!" She tried to sound offended, but she couldn't hide from her husband how much she loved their teasing. "There are other important things in my life."
"Like?" he queried.
Instead of telling, she decided to show him, so she reached up and pulled his head down to hers, and planted her lips on his. He responded immediately and pulled her closer to him.
Lois and Clark exited the Minster some time later to explore more of the city. They strolled through the streets, admiring the buildings and watching the people. After a while, they reached the main street, the Kaiser-Joseph-Strasse. It was quite busy there. Pedestrians, bikes, and tramways made their way past the many stores. This was more like Metropolis with the comfortable rush. The only clear difference was the red stone cobbles instead of concrete on the street.
They made their way between the other people while looking at the different articles displayed in the store windows. Lois noticed some chocolate and swiftly walked toward it. She headed straight for her goal hurrying in front of Clark when she suddenly stumbled and nearly fell. Lois cursed when she realized, that she had stepped in one of the small streams of water running on either side of the street.
"Great, now my shoe is wet," she muttered under her breath.
Clark had reached her side again and offered to dry it for her while trying to hide his amusement.
"Sie wissen aber, dass sie jetzt einen Freiburger heiraten mssen, weil Sie ins Bchle getreten sind?"
Bewildered, Lois stared at the man who had stopped next to them and was clearly talking to her. She hadn't understood one word of what he was saying, so she turned to Clark for help.
"I think he's saying you should get married, Lois," Clark translated.
"I… what? But I'm married!" she exclaimed.
"Excuse me, sir?" Clark addressed the man. "What's going on?"
"She stepped in the Bchle, the little stream. It's our tradition that any stranger who inadvertently does that, has to marry someone from Freiburg," the guy, who was clearly a local resident, explained.
"What? But I'm already married!" Lois declared in a voice loud enough to attract some attention.
"I'm sorry, Ma'am, but that's how we do things here," the man said with a twinkle in his eyes, which Lois failed to notice.
"How can you say that! How was I supposed to know about that rule! I'm just a tourist, who doesn't even speak German. So what's this all about?" she practically yelled at the gathered public.
Clark couldn't keep his face serious anymore, and he burst out laughing. The stranger joined him immediately.
"Clark! You're supposed to be helping me!" she said angrily.
"I'm sorry, honey, it's just a joke."
"What!?!? You knew about it and didn't even warn me?"
"Ma'am, it's just a tradition. It happens all the time. If we really did that, there would be no single people in Freiburg left. Just think of it as a being initiated to Freiburg now," the man told her.
Lois just stared at him, not sure what to think of it. In the end, she just shrugged her shoulders. She had come here to have a good time, maybe later, she'd appreciate the joke.
"All right. But I still think you should warn people about this."
"It would spoil the fun for us," the man said with a wink. "Have a good time in Freiburg, you two," he added before he walked away.
Lois turned to Clark. "You knew about this?"
He nodded guiltily.
"And still you didn't tell me?"
He gave her another nod.
"Care to explain it?" she demanded as she crossed her arms in front of her chest.
"It's fun, Lois," he started, but she just rolled her eyes at him. "The same happened to me when I first visited the city. Believe me, I was just as surprised as you were."
"But you still didn't warn me."
"No, I mean, come on, Lois," he squirmed. Only then did he notice the twinkle in her eyes, indicating she was once again making fun of him.
"Just dry my shoe and we can continue on our route, Clark."
Shortly after that, they resumed their walk. With all the adventure going on, Lois had forgotten what had caused her wet shoe and the chocolate remained unseen in the shop window.
After a short stroll over the Rathausplatz where Lois admired the old and new town hall while carefully avoiding any other encounter with the Bchle that was flowing there, the two of them made their way through narrow alleyways towards the University, passing small pubs and bistros.
"Hmm, that smells good," Lois said.
"Do you want to sit down and grab a bite of food?" Clark asked.
"Sure, all this walking made me hungry," she replied excitedly.
They sat down at a bistro called the Schlappen. Clark told her it was the local dialect for "old, worn out shoe." They ordered a typical local dish: Flammewaie. Lois had no idea what it was, but Clark recommended it.
Before the food arrived, they enjoyed watching people walk by. She could pick up many languages again.
"What languages do I keep hearing, Clark?"
"You hear a lot of German, Allemanic — that's the local language — English, and French. I've also picked up some Italian, Spanish and Dutch, plus the occasional Chinese and Japanese."
"Wow, it's a really multi-cultured place then."
"Yeah, but that also has to do with the fact we're close to the border with France and Switzerland."
"Actually, not far from here, the three countries meet at the river Rhine. There's a monument there. If you want, we can go there later on."
"Excuse me. I'm sorry to disturb you, but I heard you talking about the Pylon, the monument," one of their neighbors said. "If you really want to see a place with a lot of foreigners around here, you should go to Basel, it's really not far from here."
"Thanks," Lois automatically replied before she turned a questioning look at Clark.
"We could do that. That city is only a few minutes away for us, it's impressive, and I think you'd like seeing it."
"Okay, after we're done here, we'll go see that *thing* then, whatever it is."
Their food was brought at that moment. Their "flame pie" looked like a pizza. It was a very flat, thin, and crispy pastry with crme frache spread over it. Lois had it topped with small- chopped pieces of bacon and onion and Clark's came with tomatoes, ham, and cheese.
Lois took a careful bite, and to her surprise, it wasn't as hot as she'd suspected. It tasted just like pizza, only the crme frache gave it a special taste. She wouldn't mind having more of those in the future.
When both of them were stuffed and Clark paid the bill — Lois let him pay since he'd pulled a little prank on her — they resumed their walk. According to Clark, they were nearly back to the place they'd started from.
Via the Kaiser-Joseph-Strasse, they followed the road to the south until the Martinstor, the old town gate. From there, they followed a ditch to the west. Along the road, there were still parts of the middle aged town wall left from the Middle Ages. At the end of the path, there was another gate, the Schabentor. They walked underneath it into the forest of Schlossberg, the place where they had landed a few hours earlier.
As they put some distance between them and the city, the trees gave them a perfect cover again. The air was still filled with some clouds, so they could leave without being noticed easily.
"Are you sure you also want to see the Pylon?" Clark asked.
"Yes, Clark. Take me there."
"But we've walked a lot already… aren't you too tired?" He was only trying to protect her.
"Cla-ark! Just because I don't have superpowers doesn't mean I can't walk around for longer distances. I'm used to doing a lot more. Besides, this is more like strolling. And I have to burn the calories that lunch gave me. So are we leaving yet or what?"
Quickly, he scanned the area for nearby people and found no one. It was quiet on the Schlossberg. He picked up Lois in an elegant sweep and sped into the sky. The only reference to Superman's present was the sonic boom that could be heard, but no one paid attention to it.
If they were going to Basel and the Pylon, he could fly over Weil am Rhein, too, Clark figured. He'd found that town recently on his way back from a train crash in Switzerland and the looks of the town had surprised him. Back home, he had done a little research on it. He couldn't wait to see Lois's face when she'd see the town. Although he didn't know how to explain it to her, yet.
To reach that town, they flew to the southwest.
"Grab your binoculars again, honey," Clark whispered softly in her ear.
Lois dug in her purse to retrieve them. She could definitely better see changes in the landscape now. The hills weren't so high anymore and the peaks were more rounded now. The forest made way to many open valleys. The pine trees were all gone, too, and had made place for apple and cherry trees. They had beautiful white and red colors as they blossomed in the early spring sun. People lived here, that much was obvious too her. Vineyards and meadows with sheep and cows came into her vision. The fields were all covered with yellow narcissuses, blue, yellow and white crocuses, yellow forsythias and other wild spring flowers as dandelions and violets.
Lois thought this view was even more beautiful than the mountains with the pine trees. There was more color, as the trees were blossoming in the early spring sun and the flowers completed the image.
They flew over yet another town, and Lois didn't pay much attention to it. Suddenly, Clark slowed down and made a weird move, which caused her to stare at the houses beneath her.
"Erm, Clark, correct me, if I'm wrong, but. are those *chairs* mounted on top of the houses?" Lois asked bewildered.
"Yes, quite unique, eh?" Clark had slowed his flight, so that Lois could get a better look at the houses beyond them.
"Unique? Try weird, crazy and completely nuts!" Lois exclaimed, shaking her head as they were flying over a house where a particularly ugly big red chair was mounted on top of a building.
"Yes, maybe that too," Clark admitted and grinned at her.
"I mean, it is not as if there aren't any things in this area you could use to represent your town," Lois said, "Look at the beautiful cherry trees we've flown over!"
"Or the many old vineyards this area is famous for." Clark agreed. "But for whatever reason, some guys of the city council decided they prefer to be known as the *City of Chairs*."
Lois was eying the oddly shaped chairs suspiciously: "Do you think these people actually climb on top of their roofs to sit on these things? I for one don't want to try that."
"Oh, I know, you prefer to dangle from flagpoles," Clark winked at her while Lois swatted his chest in mock indignation.
Clark took that as a sign to move on. Again, there was a shift in the landscape. This time, they followed a river. On the adjoining land, there were mainly meadows. The trees now were mostly poplars and willows. Soon, a pretty large city came into view.
"So that's Basel?" Lois asked.
"Yes, that's where the Pylon is — the meeting point of Germany, France and Switzerland."
"I still think it's weird to have so many countries on such a relatively small land."
"Trust me when I say these people like it this way."
"Oh, I don't doubt that, Clark."
"I'm now hovering above the exact spot where the three countries meet," Clark informed her.
"Where?" Lois inquired. "I don't see a thing."
"It's in the river, honey."
"Oh." She was lost in thoughts for a moment, before she continued, "How do they know the exact spot is there then?"
Clark stared at her. She had just had one of her infamous moments of illogical leaps that at some level, still made sense. Unfortunately, he didn't know the answer.
"I don't know, Lois. Should I find us a spot to land so you can admire the monument?"
"Oh yes, after what I've been told, this is something I want to see."
"Okay." Clark hovered about the port for a moment, before he noticed an alley not too far away that was entirely deserted. Without being noticed, he landed them there.
It was a short walk to the monument, which was situated on a platform in the river, and it had to be their lucky day; there were hardly any other tourists near the Pylon at that moment, so they had a perfect view when they got close.
Lois's jaw about hit the ground when she eyed the weird looking thing.
From a little distance, she would describe it as an oddly looking sculpture, which was quite similar to a rocket. The only difference was the three silver wings. Each wing pointed to one of the countries. The rocket was about 25 yards high and it was quite an eye catcher, although Lois wasn't sure it was one she liked.
"That's it?" she asked incredulous.
"That's it," he confirmed. He grabbed her hand and softly pulled her a bit so they continued walking. "Now that we're here, we should walk around it. I can visit twenty countries in a minute with super speed, I'd like to experience what it's like to just walk and do three countries within ten seconds."
"Okay, flyboy, let's take a closer look then."
As they walked around the platform and watched the Pylon more closely, Lois concluded it wasn't really her style. If she ever came across Dan Scardino again, she would tell him to come here, it was so his style if she had to go by that *thing* he'd once given her…
Even Clark wasn't really impressed. "I prefer the speed visits in one minute," he said. "At least I see more countries that way."
"I agree. This isn't as romantic as I thought it might be."
"Definitely. Are you ready to go home now?"
She nodded as she linked her arm through his. They used the same alley again.
Clark didn't worry about being seen this time. Darkness was creeping up in Europe. As they headed toward the west, land changed into deep blue pools of water and the dark sky turned into a spotless blue sky with the sun set high above them. Before too long, they were back home after a long but satisfying day in Germany.
April 24, 1997
Clark watched Lois sleeping peacefully. But he was unable to do likewise. He should have been here. But his jealousy over Leslie Luckabee making a pass at Lois had made him pout, staying out when he could have been here, with her, keeping her safe. And it had almost cost Lois her life. If he had arrived home any later… He gave his head a shake. He didn't even want to go there.
How did one go about making up for something like that? He trusted Lois. He knew she loved him. And she had forgiven him — their activities before she had drifted off to sleep proved that. Still, he couldn't seem to forgive himself.
Suddenly, he had an idea. It wouldn't make up for his stupidity, of course. But he wanted to share with her something he found very special.
She rolled over, her eyes fluttering open.
"Clark?" she asked when she noticed that he was awake.
"Cocoon," he responded.
<Artemis — Death Valley, Ca <firstname.lastname@example.org>>
Side by side, Lois and Clark stood, arms entwined around each other's waists, heads titled toward each other as they stared at the Eiffel Tower.
"Hmm, Clark it is smaller than I thought."
"You know, Lois, I believe you are right."
"In fact, it looks about half as big as I remember." Lois turned to Clark with a smirk on her face.
"So, Ms. Lane, intrepid investigative reporter that you are, do you suppose that has something to do with the fact that we are in Las Vegas, Nevada and not Paris, France?"
Lois put her free hand to her face and said in what she called her Mindy voice, "Why? Could that be the cause?"
Clark laughed and turned her and hugged her to him. "And for the record, it is a half scale model of the original in Paris, but is still 460 feet or 50 stories tall. Do you want to see the view from the top?"
"Of course, but why are we out here at 4:30 in the morning?"
"Because we have an appointment at dawn in Death Valley."
"Why does that sound like an invitation to a duel?"
"Just because you have a fertile imagination." Clark leaned in for a kiss, ignoring the sparse crowd still out and about at such an hour of the morning. "And with you it would be a duel of wits."
"The best kind. Besides I know it's only 7:30 on a Saturday morning in Metropolis. *You* just had to come here because you knew the best coffee shop that had a full breakfast at 3 a.m."
"Well, wasn't it? This town has a 24 hour 'Open' sign on it. It never sleeps. Shall we go get our transportation?"
"Why certainly, sir." Lois put her hand in his and followed him. "So where to?"
"You'll see." Clark led her to the Paris Las Vegas Hotel multi- tiered parking structure's elevator and pushed the "up" button.
"Oh, we're collecting our car?" She couldn't resist giving him another smirk.
"Ha, ha. No our ride." They entered the empty elevator and Clark pushed the button for the top level. "Speaking of that, it is a little harder here out west to pop in an out of places because there is no cover, like buildings or trees. We're going to fly as we are and just try to blend into the scenery."
"So that's why you had me wear my best 'Breaking and Entering' gear." Lois looked down at her black tennis shoes, black pants, black tank top and black windbreaker and then pointedly over at his black sweater and chinos and black shoes. He was smiling at her in the too bright light of the elevator. "Thing is, if *you* want to remain hidden, you can't smile. Your teeth are like a beacon." He grinned even broader at her comments. "And to think, we could still be in bed at home, pretending to be newlyweds!"
A look of concern flashed across his features and then he saw she was teasing. He leaned in closer and said mysteriously, "Sometimes you get both."
The elevator dinged its arrival and they exited. Clark scanned the place for the darkest corner. "I think we left the car over there."
"Yes, honey." Surveillance cameras were everywhere, especially in casinos and parking structures and they wanted to not be noticed.
Clark found a corner with less light and not many hotel windows facing it. People tended not to spend much time in the hotel window staring out in Las Vegas, but one could never know. He hugged Lois to him and whispered, "Going up."
Clark stopped and hovered, even with the top of the Eiffel Tower, but out of the bright lights illuminating it, and slowly rotated around so Lois could appreciate the view.
"Wow. This is some sight! Look at the bright lights in a long ribbon and then the darkness of the desert and mountains. What a contrast! Oh, look at the moonlight on the mountain! That is so pretty."
"That's Charleston Peak at 11,918 feet. It's the local ski area. Keep an eye on it because we are going to the left of it and we will be seeing the other side of it." With that, Clark moved her to their comfortable flying hold, making sure she could see Charleston Peak. Suddenly, Clark rotated to the right and stared into the east.
"What is it?"
"A flight of Air Force F-117's taking off from Nellis Air Force Base. I'm making sure they get up to altitude before we start. They can't fly over the city, but the sensors on the aircraft are both multi-spectral band and pretty sensitive and I want them above and ahead of us. And, " he paused again, gesturing to their left, "there's a commercial flight just taking off from McCarron International. We'll let them get on by too."
"I never realized your life was so complicated."
He gave her a smile. "Not really. It is habit now. And if I'm in the Suit, it doesn't matter. I want this trip to be just us." With that he began flying to the northwest. As had become their custom on these journeys, Clark entertained her during the leisurely flight with an explanation of the area they were flying over or to.
"Some 500 million years ago, this whole area was flat and tropical. That's because at the time the continent was near the equator. Plate tectonics later caused it to move into the Northern Hemisphere. We know it was originally a shallow sea because fossil clams, snails, sea stars, urchins, sea lilies, trilobites, and brachiopods were found in the layers or strata we'll see today. Sand and shells were deposited in this flat sea for 350 million years, leaving 20,000 feet of sediment. That stuff is under this whole area, but only in Death Valley can you see it because it was revealed by the push of the Pacific Ocean floor under the western edge of the North American plate. The up thrust of the North American plate and the sinking of the Pacific Ocean floor caused increased geologic pressures and volcanic activity. Deposits of gold, lead, silver, zinc and copper were then injected into the rising terrain. Compression forced huge blocks of rock to slide horizontally. This resulted in the so- called Basin and Range topography. Death Valley is just one of those basins. The fault lines are still there and some movements have been in excess of 50 miles."
Lois was taking this all in as she gazed at the terrain ahead of them, noting the moonlight glinting off the sere volcanic landscape. A lone road wound its way through the hills. Clusters of light indicated small communities; occasional ranches were lit by yard lights.
Seeing her interest, Clark felt inordinately pleased she enjoyed sharing this with him and continued, "From 2 million to 10,000 years ago, this area was again very wet and more or less in its present location north of the equator. There were woods of juniper, pinyon and scrub oak. Mastodons, horses, camels, sloths, antelope and some large cats roamed the area and fed on smaller mammal life. Their fossil tracks were revealed after Lake Manley dried up."
"A large lake, called Lake Manley in honor of an early pioneer to the area, once filled Death Valley to a depth of 600 feet The lake was 8 miles wide and 90 miles long. There are up to 25 horizontal water lines where the depth stabilized for a long time that shows this story. The lake totally dried up by the end of the last ice age, about 10,000 years ago. From 5,000 to 2,000 years ago the climate got wetter again and a smaller lake filled the bottom of Death Valley. Rain and water flow sculpted major portions of the Valley. And 'sculpted' is the right word. You won't believe it until you see it. The small lake eventually dried up too and left the salt crystals that cover the valley floor."
"Rainfall in a desert can cause extreme flooding because there is nothing, neither soil nor plant life, to absorb the water and it simply runs to the lowest point. There is no outlet for water here, and it simply accumulates in the Valley and then evaporates and dries up again."
"The steep sides of the Valley cause the air to rise and heat, losing its moisture, and then it sinks again, heats and rises. Essentially it is a gigantic convection oven. That is why you must always carry water, which I have brought for you, and be careful of sun exposure and heat prostration. Also, this is why we are here in April, when the average high temperature is 90 degrees and the low is 62 degrees. However, on the heights, it is cooler, as you will see."
Lois turned and looked at him. "Have you been here in August?"
"Sure. In fact I find it refreshingly dry. I get a great sun recharge here."
"Yeah, you would."
"But, interestingly enough, I'm not alone in August. European tourists flock here to feel the heat and marvel at the desert. Ever since the National Park opened all year, the summer tourist business has been amazing. They usual bus in from Las Vegas. We got here a lot faster though and we are almost there. I want you to see something." Clark landed in a deserted pre-dawn parking lot near the end of what looked like a very lonely road. Lois stood and he gestured to the moonlit view to the east.
Lois looked where he indicated. She was puzzled. "Well, I just had breakfast, so I shouldn't be thinking of food, but it looks like a hot fudge sundae. A whole mountain of hot fudge sundae. On vanilla ice cream."
Clark smiled and gave her a kiss. "Oh, I know my Lois. You are exactly right. It's a unique sight even in the west. It is a deposit of dark earth on top of very white borax -well, what becomes borax."
"It looks like it has dribbled down the sides."
"Exactly. There is a range of mountains in California called the Chocolate Mountains and these are not them. But the minute I saw these in person, I thought of a chocolate mountain. Come on, only a little further." Clark scooped her up again and flew up a barely visible mountain path. He landed on the top of the local peak a little back from the edge and set Lois down again. "Here, take my hand. Even in the moonlight, it is hard to see the right steps. I won't let you fall, I guarantee."
Lois squeezed his hand in reply and they walked hand-in-hand to the west, into the setting moon.
Lois and Clark gazed out upon Death Valley. "Ohhh, my," Lois breathed. "It's, it's, awe inspiring." They looked out into a great long gash in the world, illuminated by the moon. The vast white barren valley stretched before their eyes, a winding white river in the middle.
"Look down," advised Clark. "That's Badwater, 282 feet below sea level. We're at Dantes View, 5,475 feet above sea level. Directly across the valley is Telescope Peak, at 11,049 feet. From the bottom of this valley to the top of that peak is 13,869 feet of geology open to view. But the best is yet to come." Clark found a large rock and pulled Lois into his lap. "Watch and listen."
The silence was complete except for a small sigh of wind on the peak. In the clear sky the pink boundary between night and day slowly descended until a far snow-covered peak beyond several lines of blue was hit by the rising sun and became a beacon. Telescope Peak still in shadow before them, they could do nothing but marvel. "That's Mt. Whitney, at 14,491 feet the highest peak in the contiguous U.S. Only Denali, or Mt. McKinley in Alaska is higher at 20,320 feet."
Suddenly Telescope Peak also came in brilliant focus from the background as the daily panorama of sunrise continued. More details of the Valley became clear as the daylight line descended the far wall. "To the left, the south, are the Avawatz and Owlhead Mountains and to the right of that is Wingate Wash, used by some of the 1849 emigrants to escape Death Valley. Later it was the route of the legendary 20 mule team borax wagons. To the right are the Cottonwood Mountains on the far side and the Grapevine and Funeral Mountains on this side."
As they sat and watched in amazement, heads turning left and right as more sights were revealed, small sounds began to intrude as the day animals awoke. Small noises carried long distances in the silence. A lazy crow flew over, perched on a rock and eyed them. A lizard scooted across the sparse ground cover. A thin pale snake poked its head out of a hole and froze in position, looking like a plant and waiting for a small mouse to think the same thing and make a fatal error.
"A crow, a snake? There *is* life here."
"Oh, most definitely, Lois. Even down in Badwater, which is our next stop, there are things that live in the highly saline water, believe it or not. Speaking of that, I think it is time to go there. But first I want you to see something else here." Clark stood up and turned Lois around and pointed east again. "See. Charleston Peak in the sunlight. Three major mountain peaks in one view."
Lois turned around and then back again, as if comparing the sights. "It is really gorgeous, honey."
Clark stroked her arms and gave her a hug. He really loved the fact that she enjoyed the things he was showing her. It increased his enjoyment too. Clark then led Lois to the very edge of the outcropping. "See. Down there is Badwater." He pointed down to their right.
Lois craned her neck as far as she dared. "I see just the white stuff. No water."
"Yeah, it's tucked under the hill, sort of. You'll see. So you like roller coasters, right?"
Lois turned toward him and searched his face, trying to figure out what he was planning. "Yes, I do. But I don't see one here."
"You trust me, right?"
With that implicit permission, Clark grabbed Lois in front of himself and dove headfirst off the cliff, bobsledding without touching any surfaces down the mountain in a ravine cut deep cut into the cliff by rain . Lois let out an initial shriek, then started laughing wildly. She was breathless as they landed at the bottom.
After giving her moments to recover, Clark took her hand and they walked across the deserted road to the back of a cinder block structure by the parking lot. "Restrooms," he said and gestured to the building. Clark looked around the building and muttered, "Oh, oh." Seeing Lois's inquisitive glance, he explained. "There's only one car in the parking lot and a guy with a camera and tripod taking pictures of the reflection of the mountains in the water," he whispered. "The thing is, no one walks to Badwater, so there should be a vehicle and we don't have one. That's one of the problems I mentioned about showing up here. If it's deserted or crowded there is no problem. But just one car makes us stand out as unusual. People pay attention to those things out here because it could save someone else's life. Speaking of that, I think it's time to take off your jacket, Lois. It's about 30 degrees hotter here than where we were at Dantes Peak. The sudden change in temperature is a danger in itself."
Lois readily took off her windbreaker and tied the arms around her waist. Clark pulled his sweater over his head, revealing a black tank top. He tucked the sweater through the strap to the water bottle and let it hang. Then suddenly realizing Lois had been unusually quiet for quite a while, he unslung the water bottle, opened it and offered it to her. "Here, have some. You need to keep sipping this constantly."
"Wow, that's good and cool, " Lois said after taking a big swig. "I didn't realize how thirsty I was."
Just then a large van pulled in and a group of tourists piled out, chattering excitedly to each other. Clark grinned and pulled Lois forward. "Arrival problem solved." They strolled casually over to the sidewalk and rail around the parking lot and read the signs explaining the history of Badwater and showing a sketch of the points of interest on the opposite mountains.
Lois marveled. "Two hundred and eighty two feet below sea level!"
"You want to get a feel for how low that really is, look at the cliff."
Lois turned to where Clark was pointing and saw a large sign on the cliff face above the road that said "Sea Level." It seemed very high up.
Lois and Clark walked down the broad steps to the boardwalk resting on the salt. Signs warned them not to step off the walk to save more of the salt marsh and pickleweed that grew in the high saline areas. "Badwater got its name when a pioneer's mule wouldn't drink the water even though it was very thirsty. There's a reason miners used mules. They are very smart when it comes to their own health." Clark pointed down into the shallow water. "Soldier fly larvae and bronze water beetles live there. The Death Valley pupfish, a small transparent fish, lives in the saline water over at Amargosa Springs."
"Despite how harsh this all looks," Clark gave a sweeping gesture to the octagonal crust of the salt flats and to the valley, "more than 1000 kinds of plants live within the park boundaries. Those here on the valley floor have adapted to a desert life by a variety of means. Some have roots that go down 10 times the height of a person. Some plants have a root system that lies just below the surface but extends out in all directions. Others have leaves and stems that allow very little evaporation and loss of life-giving water. With height, moisture increases until on the high peaks there are forests of juniper, mountain mahogany, pinyon pine, limber pine, and even bristle-cone pine. In winter the peaks surrounding the valley are covered in snow. And the snow-melt does help get water into the Valley since the average rain fall is only about 1.8 inches of rain a year. There have been years when there was no rain at all. Sometimes when it comes, it evaporates before it hits the ground."
"Nonetheless, the wildlife has learned to deal with the heat and the night and day temperature extremes. Animals that live in the desert are mainly nocturnal. Once the sun sets, the temperature usually falls quickly because of the dry night air. Night is actually the time of the comings and goings of pack rats, squirrels and mice. Larger animals, such as the desert bighorn sheep, live in the cooler higher elevations. Look, Lois." Clark positioned Lois so that she was looking at a clear reflection of Dantes Peak in the still water of Badwater. "Badwater is a spring continuously fed because it is below the elevation of an ancient aquifer that covers nearly all of Utah and Nevada. This water is 2,000 years old before it comes here."
The photographer continued to take pictures as the daylight changed the mood of Telescope Peak, but the still chattering tourists were getting back into their van, ready to roar off to the next stop. "Clark, I think we'd better go too. Our cover story is leaving."
"You've got it. Next stop, Natural Bridge." They walked casually back toward the restroom building and donned their respective tops again and Clark picked up Lois and lifted off fast. The photographer, looking at the water for a good view of the east side of the Valley, caught a reflected movement out of the corner of his eye. "Wow, that's one big crow," he thought.
At Natural Bridge there were no cars and Clark felt free to land on top and then slowly fly down to the river bottom to give Lois the full effect of the rain eroded arch. Similarly, in Artist's Palette, they landed on a hilltop across from the best area of colors. Lois was really intrigued. "I never knew dirt came in so many colors," she exclaimed as she stared at the pinks, greens, purple, grays, yellows and toffee brown. There was a white plant with white balls on it growing in several places. It was like nothing she had ever seen.
They went on to Twenty Mule Team Canyon. The way Clark could fly it, it was about 20 miles shorter than the road. "Remember the Hot Fudge Sundae Mountain early this morning?"
"Keep an eye on that mountainside as we go down."
They began to descend into the very wide canyon. At first they were even with the volcanic topping and as they lowered, the mountain was worn away more, so that the ranks of hills had less topping. and then soon they had none. They landed on an empty dirt road. Clark automatically handed the water bottle to Lois. She sipped as he explained.
"This was the big deposit of borax found in 1881. It is tall, it is big and it was just laying on the ground in hills, as you see. The raw ore was hauled out of here and over to the old Harmony borax works, where it was recrystalized into hydrated sodium borate and shipped to the railhead at Mojave, California, southwest of here, through Wingate Wash. They needed to haul as much as they could the 165 miles of dirt road to Mojave, so they invented the Twenty Mule Team concept, which became famous as their logo."
"The twenty-mule teams actually consisted of eighteen mules and two horses. The 500-pound-heavier horses, called "wheelers," could handle the wagon's heavy tongue better. Five sets of double wagons freighted the borax in one trip every few months. They had a water wagon for the men, mules and horses. A pair of wagons carried a payload up to 36.5 tons. The larger steel tires, one inch thick by eight inches wide, were about 7 feet tall and 22 feet in circumference, each weighing 600 to 1000 pounds. For the return trip to Death Valley they brought much needed supplies."
Lois sauntered over to Clark from where she had been standing, admiring him in his black tank top. She put a hand on his chest. "You know, Clark, remind me never to play 'Trivial Pursuit' with you.
He captured her hand with his. "Oh, and why is that, Lois?"
"You know everything. Not that I'm not fascinated, but that *is* a lot of data."
"I enjoy being your personal tour guide. And I've been here a lot. I even helped during a flash flood here some years back. Besides," he grinned, "I read up on the internet before we came. Amazing what you can find there. Not all of it the truth, though."
Clark looked down at Lois smiling face. "Somehow, I'm getting the feeling we may be at the end of the tour for today. How about some lunch? Did all this give you an appetite after that big breakfast?"
Lois kissed him. "You know the way to my heart."
Clark lovingly stroked Lois's hair, then cupped her jaw gently. "Among other things," he teased. He kissed her again and stepped back. "O.K., jacket on."
"It's got to be ninety degrees here, " Lois protested.
"Not where we're going." Clark took the near empty water bottle and finished it off, then slung the strap on his shoulder and put on his sweater.
Clark picked up Lois and shot up fast, heading west. He landed amidst a pinyon pine forest near the sound of rushing water.
Lois looked around and inhaled the cool air. "Oh, that's wonderful! Where are we?"
"Below Telescope Peak at the head of Hanaupah Canyon. The view is less impressive in the direct light of noon, so I thought we'd have a little picnic."
"A picnic?" Lois watched as Clark went over to the base of a rock and came back with blankets and a large picnic hamper and ice chest. He opened the ice chest and reached in for a cream soda and handed it to her. Lois put it to her throat and enjoyed the coolness before opening it and gulping down the soda. "You know exactly what I like! When did you bring this here."
"While you were getting dressed this morning." He kissed her again. "And you know what I like too. By the way, no one else can get to this place unless they are a mountain goat, so we are very much alone."
"Really alone. Just like if we'd stayed home. Or maybe more so." He kissed her cold cream soda covered mouth. "Yeah, alone."
May 3, 1997
Lois sat in the dark and sipped on a glass of wine as she waited for Clark to return from his Superman rescue. He had killed her to rescue her from Lex Luthor's son. And then he'd brought her back from the dead. And, to top it all off, he'd been called away on a Superman emergency. She chuckled slightly. Their life really was weird.
She should be in bed, getting some sleep. But sleep wasn't what she needed right now.
She smiled when she heard the telltale sound of Clark spinning out of his Superman suit. She heard him ascend the steps and open their bedroom door. He looked slightly confused when he didn't see her in bed. He looked around the room before his eyes landed on her, sitting, her legs up under her, in the chair in their bedroom.
"Lois?" he asked.
"Cocoon," she said quietly.
<Artemis — Lake Tahoe/San Francisco, Ca <email@example.com>>
A person with a very powerful telescope could have seen the bright red figure on the top of Mt. Tallac overlooking Lake Tahoe, but they would not have observed the small additional figure enveloped in the red cape. Clark hugged Lois back to his chest as they watched the sun rise over the Sierra Nevada, the shadow line retreating before the assault of the new May day. As the forest was warmed by the sunlight, the aroma of pine began to ascend to the heights.
Below them, still in darkness was small, tranquil Fallen Leaf Lake. To their left and north was the vast expanse of the 10th largest lake in the world and the deepest lake in the United States. The water was so clear that even Lois could see the lake bottom near the shoreline. Clark, if he chose, could have tracked the large sport fish deep in the lake, or even perhaps the fabled "Tahoe Tessie", their version of the Loch Ness Monster. Right now he chose to nibble gently on his wife's ears, switching conscientiously from right to left and back again. It was cold up here, he reasoned, and he was keeping her ears warm. He could hear her purring softly from his ministrations.
Lois giggled. "How many have we had this year?"
"I've lost count," Clark breathed. "You warm enough?"
Lois nodded, then laid her head back on his shoulder, opening the right side of her neck and right shoulder for more attention. He obliged contentedly, then softly stroked her arms under his cape. Her hands were occupied holding it together in front. Clark slid his arms down hers and hugged her more tightly to him. It was so wonderful to feel her here with him, enjoying one of his favorite sights, the wonder magnified with the sharing.
She watched in contentment as the town of South Lake Tahoe was slowly revealed to them, a curtain rising on a new day. On Heavenly Valley, snow still gleamed on the ski runs, just now dormant for the languid summer days to come. Daylight sparkled off the cable lines running up the mountain. The town began to come alive with traffic.
"It's still early," he said softly in her ear, "and I have something I want to show you before the visitors come."
Lois let loose of the cape and turned in his arms, reaching up to his neck and head, presenting her lips for a kiss. " You're the tour director here. Whatever you want."
"And I want a *lot*," he growled before kissing her thoroughly. Lois giggled softly as he scooped her up to fly away. "First, I'm going to change into something a little less…flamboyant." He flew down the mountain to the unpopulated north end of Fallen Leaf Lake, stepped into the cover of the trees and spun into blue jeans, black T-shirt and windbreaker. He stepped back to her to see her transfixed by the perfect sight of the glass smooth lake fringed by rustic cabins and small boats reflected on the water.
"How perfect is that," Lois stated as he resumed his previous posture of hugging her back into him.
He looked out at the view too. "As perfect as the woman watching it with me. And I have something better yet to come."
Lois looked up at him, "You always do."
"Sweet talking will get you anything, my dear. Come on, there's more. For this, I want you to close your eyes until we get there."
Lois gladly obliged and snuggled her head under his chin as he scooped her up once more. It was a short flight until she felt the ground under her feet again and once more was held with her back against his chest.
"O.K. Open them."
She opened her eyes and gasped. "It's gorgeous." She was standing in small unroofed enclosure looking toward the opening of a small bay. Looking around, she saw they were on a steep island in the center of the bay. The ground on top was smooth and she stepped away from him to take in the full panorama around them. The hillside of the bay was very steep with small boat anchorages along the shore of the emerald colored water. Nestled in the trees at the head of the bay was an imposing but rugged structure.
"A castle!" Lois gasped.
Clark stepped into exaggerated tour guide mode. "It's a grand summer villa modeled on a Scandinavian castle circa 800 A.D. Vikingsholm, which is *only* accessible by boat, on foot…" Clark looked at her and winked, "or air, was built by Mrs. Lora Knight, a wealthy Chicago widow, in 1928, as a summer home. No tree was felled in construction on the site. From its completion in 1929 until 1944 she spent two months of every summer here, inviting notable friends to stay the summer with her. Servants would prepare a sumptuous afternoon tea and row them out to this little island with the tea house, where they would spend a leisurely afternoon. The tea house originally had a roof, but it was lost to the elements and never replaced. This island, called Fannette Island, is the only island in Lake Tahoe." Clark then took Lois' right hand in his left and pulled her around the little pergola, gesturing grandly with this right arm as if to present the splendor of their view to her. "This is Emerald Bay, now a state park in Lake Tahoe."
"Oh, Clark, it's wonderful." It was as if he had presented a perfect jewel to her. She turned to him and laid her hand on his chest in a familiar gesture from their first days together as partners. Enthusiastically, Lois exclaimed "This whole tour idea has been absolutely wonderful! I love seeing where you have been, what sights you enjoy, and," her voice lowered suggestively, "what things you like."
For his part, beyond sharing things he enjoyed with Lois, Clark loved seeing this side of her, childlike and enthusiastic. The hard bitten cynical reporter had left the building for the day and he loved it. The light in her eyes and her joyful expression drew him in like a moth to a flame and he kissed her very thoroughly.
"Clark, we just did that. We just left home a short time ago," Lois mock protested.
Clark broke off the kiss, grinning, "Oh, but I can never get enough of my beautiful wife. God, I *love* calling you my wife."
In reward for the comment, Lois reached up and placed both hands on the sides of his face and pulled his head down for another kiss. Suddenly her stomach let out a large growl and she began to giggle. "I think we forgot breakfast in the excitement of getting out of Metropolis."
"Never let it be said I starved my wife for anything," he winked again, "even food. How about a visit to Pancake House?"
Lois' eyes got large, "They have a Pancake House here?"
"And hotels and casinos on the Nevada side, and stores and businesses of all kind. And people who live here year round," he teased.
Lois turned and looked at the view again. "Imagine living and looking at this beauty every day."
"I *am* looking at it," Clark said as he stared directly at her.
"Oh, you, you *honeymooner*, you." She kissed him again lightly. "But don't ever quit."
"No chance of that." Clark looked around to spot any early morning, early season sightseers, and seeing no one, picked up Lois and flew back toward the town of South Lake Tahoe. Businesses were along Highway 50 for the most part, framed by tall pine trees on one side and lake on the other. He landed in the trees behind Pancake House, and Lois and Clark casually strolled hand in hand onto the parking lot and to the front door of the Pancake House.
Clark was in absolute heaven and a silly grin seemed permanently etched onto his face. He loved sitting here across from Lois, so he could watch her, in an ordinary restaurant in an ordinary town doing what ordinary, normal people do. It was his dream and Lois had fulfilled it for him. She was hungry, he noted, as he watched her tuck into a big plate of waffles enthusiastically. Traveling gave her an appetite, it seemed.
She caught him watching her. "What?"
"I just enjoy watching you enjoy your meal."
She blushed at the attention. "You seem to enjoy everything I do. I never had that before." She smiled, then gestured at his plate now empty of the three egg California omelet, hash browns and sourdough toast. "And I notice you are up to your usual standards."
"Well, traveling takes a lot out of me."
Lois just kept herself from spraying a mouthful of waffle onto her plate as she erupted in helpless giggles. He just made her feel so wonderful with everything he did and said. She *felt* like a honeymooner.
After several sips of water, when she could finally talk, she asked "So where next?"
"Well," he said mock somberly, "we will *drive* up Highway 89, the west side of the Lake, and then go on over to San Francisco. How's that?"
"That sounds great." Lois looked over Clark's shoulder through the windows to the lakeshore. "Oh, look, Clark, it's a hot air balloon."
Clark turned and looked at the multi-colored balloon rising gracefully from the beach, then turned back, a glint in his eye. "So, do you like to fly, Mrs. Kent?"
Lois' eyes twinkled with their shared secret. "Oh, I *love* it very much, Mr. Kent. Especially *on* something so colorful."
It was Clark's turn to be caught off guard and he almost choked on his coffee. He muttered softly, "I think the term is 'in' a hot air balloon, Lois, not 'on'." His eyebrow arched.
Softly, Lois replied "Oh, I think 'on' is more appropriate." Then she threw him a mischievous grin.
Clark could only shake his head at her, enjoying every second of the byplay.
They left the tip on the table and rose to leave. The tip had been substantial because the service from the young female waitress was outstanding. Somehow, Clark always got attentive service. As Lois watched Clark pay their bill at the cash register, she felt a sudden wave of pride and of possessiveness. He was hers, and he loved her. Going out like this just seemed so right for them, so ordinary. That was why these spontaneous vacations were so wonderful. They had time to themselves. She never in her life imagined she would feel this way, wanting a life over her job. Well, now she had both, with him.
Hand-in-hand Lois and Clark strolled out into the now bright morning sunshine. Lois inhaled deeply. "Smell that pine. It's wonderful."
"Yes, it is, but I thought you couldn't live without smog."
"I've smelled pine before." Lois defended herself. "At girl scout camp in the Berkshires."
"Ah, yes. Where you learned how to start a fire."
She bumped her hip against his. "It came in pretty handy on Spencer Spencer's island. You know, let's walk a little. I need to work off those calories. Unlike you."
"Well, I could suggest a more pleasant way to work off calories."
"Here? Now? You are incorrigible!"
"Yep. And proud of it. But I have a special treat waiting in San Francisco for us, so why don't we walk along the shoreline a little and then find a handy stand of trees and be on our way?"
"Sounds like a plan. At least there *are* trees to hide in. Unlike Death Valley."
"Didn't you like Death Valley?"
"Oh, it was pretty and interesting and unusual and we did…something unusual, but it was hard to find cover for take off and landing, you must admit!"
"I do admit it was a challenge."
They walked a little way and came upon a historical park. Lois, ever the fiend for information, started reading the plaques. "The Donner Party! That was here?"
"Well, up north just a ways. Donner Pass, named for the ill fated first party, became the main emigrant pass from the east to the west. It's a pretty place, you just don't want to get snowed in with no food. It's not a cheerful story."
"But it is history, Clark. A lot of history is not pleasant."
"Lois, you continue to amaze me. I thought I'd never get you out of Metropolis and here you are devouring the history of the rugged west."
"It's not *that* surprising, Clark. It's like a story, only it happened in the past. But do you know that a lot of the real stories didn't get told?"
"Well, we can go to the park and see the historical displays if you want. Donner Pass is now part of the main road from Reno to San Francisco, so it's on our way. Let's go find our 'transportation' and get on our way."
Lois paused and looked at Clark. "You know, I just had this strange thought. It almost *might* be more fun to drive. To drive the route, you know?" Lois looked apologetic, like she was afraid of hurting his feelings.
"Honey, that's really not a bad idea. It gives you more of a sense of what the pioneers saw and experienced. I've done it some, just to do it."
Clark shrugged. "I like to try different things. Anyway, the short of it is that while it's fun, it's also sometimes very long time-wise. And there are many boring places to go through to get where ever." He checked his surroundings for any evesdroppers and then said to her confidentially, "I actually picked the car up and carried it further down the road several times out here in the west just to save myself time."
Lois just stared at him in amazement. "The things I learn about you!"
Clark held out his hand. "Your chariot awaits, madam." Lois put her hand in his, they strolled into the trees and he spun into the Suit.
Once they were at a comfortable altitude, Clark resumed his tour guide duties, which he took very seriously. His fund of trivia was deep and wide and he enjoyed sharing it with Lois. "The name Tahoe comes from white man's mispronunciation of the original Indian name. Signs of Washoe Indian habitation have been dated to 10,000 years ago right here on the south shore. In 1844 as America was expanding westward, John C. Fremont discovered Carson Pass to the south of us and saw Lake Tahoe. The pass is 10,651 feet high, but you can't really see it from where we are because it's behind this whole ridge. As you remember from our little journey to Death Valley, the Sierra Nevada range, which runs from up ahead, the north end of Lake Tahoe, to Walker Pass near Lake Isabella, was a formidable barrier to people trying to get to California. So discovery of the pass was a big deal. They were trying to find a better life than they had then in the Midwest and east, and were actually fleeing to foreign countries, since California was ruled by Mexico and Oregon was British at the time."
"Imagine how history would have been different if you'd been around."
The thought startled Clark so much that he stopped in midair and looked at Lois. "I never thought of that. But people needed to strive for themselves. The same thing could have been said if the expansion happened after the Wright Brothers discovered how to build an aircraft that would fly. History is what it is, I guess." His gaze rose up over her head and he exclaimed, "Whoops!"
"The people in the balloon are waving at us." He turned them slightly so she could see.
"Do you ever wave back?"
"Sometimes, when I'm not in a hurry."
"Do we wave back now?"
"What the hey. We're on our honeymoon. Although we may have to pay the price later if they recognize you. I'll just give them a brief salute and we'll get on our way." Clark did so and they resumed their flight up the west side of Lake Tahoe.
"I wondered why you spun into the Suit."
"I think it's a good idea if I'm going to be up a long time and might be seen by aircraft. If I fly around in jeans and a T- shirt, the public might think there is another flying man around and start looking for him."
Lois smiled at him, "Another of your Rules?"
Clark got the connection. "Yeah, just like in the jail on Spencer Spencer's island. We learned a lot about each other that trip."
Lois kissed Clark's jaw after they were out of sight of the balloon. "You're a much better ride than in a hot air balloon, Clark." The she returned to admiring both the breathtaking sight of the lake itself and the magnificent homes dotting the lakeshore and clinging to the mountainside. If someone in the balloon had just taken their photograph together, they would deal with it later. Life was too short to worry about everything. "Would you *look* at those homes, Clark. Who can afford those?"
"Very rich people, I imagine, Lois. Although some of the older homes were quite cheap to build but now are worth a fortune. To continue my tour, in 1852 Tahoe was officially named Lake Bigler after John Bigler, California's third Governor, who lead a rescue party into the Sierra to save a group of emigrants."
"The Donner Party?"
Clark shook his head. "No, they were in 1847. So I guess they weren't the last group to need rescuing. By the way, California became the 31st state September 9, 1850, but the California bear flag was first raised at the gold town of Sonoma June 14, 1846. And Oregon became the 33rd state February 14, 1859."
"Dang, you're better than the Daily Planet search engine."
Clark threw her a smirk. "Well, I studied up to impress you."
"How about I ask a question. Maybe stump you?"
"Oh, yeah, Ms. Lane, intrepid reporter. Go for it."
"Well, apparently the western US map changed rapidly in a few years time. Why were all these Americans risking death to get to California?"
Clark laughed. "Give me a hard one!"
Lois quirked her eyebrow at him.
"Two words: Sutter's Mill."
"Gold!" Lois announced triumphantly.
"Yes. January 1848 at Coloma on the American River near Sacramento, not far from here. So a lot of people came to California in search of gold and they had to eat. They stocked Lake Tahoe with trout and a large fishing industry was born. Then gold was found in the Comstock Lode in 1859 at Virginia City." Clark again stopped in the air and pointed northeast. "See, beyond the mountains on the far side of the lake, the valley with houses and trees. That's Carson City down there, the state capitol of Nevada. The next set of hills is where Virginia City is located. It's now a tourist site." Clark again flew at a leisurely pace and continued. He gestured to the forest below them. "These mountains were practically denuded of trees by need for wood for bracing in the mine tunnels. The fish in Lake Tahoe fed the miners and the fish were totally depleted by 1904. Right below us is Tahoe City, a nice artists community now, but once the hub of the commercial fishing industry. And up ahead of us, to get us more into this century, is Squaw Valley, the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics."
"Clark, I'm getting a headache."
"Actually, I'm getting tired of my own voice too. How about we head for Donner Park, if you still want to see it?"
Lois followed Clark, once again in his jeans and T-shirt, around The Emigrant Trail Museum at Donner Memorial State Park. She had been impressed at the 22-foot high monument outside. It was the height of the snow drifts that terrible winter. The valley itself was very pretty with another perfect little lake. Clark was thoroughly absorbed in the displays showing the whole emigrant story. "Emigrant" was the correct word, she mused, because they were leaving their home country, the US, for foreign lands: Mexican California and British Oregon Territory. The US government had a role in this too.
Lois learned from the displays that in 1818, the United States and the United Kingdom (controlling British Canada) had established a joint claim over the Oregon Territory; the region west of the Rocky Mountains and between 42ĝ North and 54ĝ40' North (the southern boundary of Russia's Alaska territory). Joint control worked for over a decade and a half but ultimately, the parties decided that joint occupancy wasn't working well so they set about to divide Oregon. The 1844 Democratic presidential candidate James K. Polk ran on a platform of taking control over the entire Oregon Territory and used the famous campaign slogan, "Fifty-four Forty or Fight!" (after the line of latitude serving as the northern boundary of Oregon at 54ĝ40'). Polk's plan was to claim and go to war over the entire territory for the United States. But the public was more interested in getting good farmland than in fighting another war with the British. The Oregon Treaty of 1846 established the boundary at 49 degrees North latitude. The exception to the 49th parallel boundary is that it turns south in the channel separating Vancouver Island with the mainland and then turns south again through the Juan de Fuca Strait. This maritime portion of the boundary wasn't officially demarcated until 1872. During the 1840's American policy was to encourage emigration to California and the Oregon Territory. So the government offered financial incentives for those willing to undertake the trek west. The West was the final frontier of the 1850's and 60's.
Suddenly Lois became aware that Clark was getting a little too absorbed in the story. He had such empathy, he was worrying about people dead a century before he came to this planet. She needed to get him out of there. She came up behind his almost hunched shoulders and put a hand on his back. "Clark? Clark, I think I'm ready to move on, how about you?"
Clark turned to her, a look of tight intensity on his face, but his expression cleared immediately and he smiled one of his wonderful dazzling smiles. "Sounds good. What kind of food are you up to for lunch?"
"Lunch? I'm still full from breakfast! But I guess it is getting that time." She knew he didn't need to eat, but he certainly loved to, especially if it wasn't her cooking.
They walked out of the museum with hands swinging together in rhythm. "How about Mexican food? There's this nice little cantina down on the American River in Sacramento where they have this really good hot salsa."
"If it's so hot you like it, am I likely to survive it?" she grinned up at him.
"Hey, they have regular stuff too. Besides, you like Thai and that is hot. Just a different hot."
They had reached a stand of trees in the campground and Clark was looking around to make sure the coast was clear.
"So which way are we going?" Lois asked with a twinkle in her eye. Clark looked confused. "Undercover," she gestured at his current outfit, "or full colors with all flags flying?"
"For you, my lovely wife, all flags flying."
Superman landed with his wife on a small rock outcropping on an island in San Francisco Bay. He quickly spun into Clark clothes and tugged Lois up the hill with him.
"Where are we, Clark?"
Lois rounded on him, startled beyond measure. "Alcatraz? Are you kidding me? This is romantic?" She was incredulous.
"Hang on a moment and all will be clear. Crystal clear." He tugged her out from behind the ruins of the Post Exchange and Officers club and pointed. "Look at the view."
Lois inhaled sharply. Laid out before her was San Francisco, illuminated in all its glory by the westering sun. Right in front of them was Fisherman's Wharf with a large white cruise ship docked in port. The ship dwarfed the terminals along the Embarcadero.
"Come on. We'll miss the ferryboat." Clark tugged her forward and started walking rapidly through the sally port and past the 1844 howitzer canon left over from when Alcatraz was an army camp before it became a prison. Tied up at the floating dock was a Blue and Red ferryboat about to depart for Fisherman's Wharf.
Lois gave up questioning and simply followed Clark. They were just hopping on this ferryboat? But didn't such ferryboats charge to take tourists to and from the island? Lois knew Alcatraz had closed a long time ago as a prison and was now a state park, letting tourists roam past the cells of Al Capone, "Machine Gun" Kelly and "The Birdman of Alcatraz". Lois shivered at the memory of a resurrected Al Capone and what that whole incident had meant to her.
Clark guided her onto the ferryboat and they quickly made their way up the stairways to the top level and to the front. "Just look, Lois. Isn't it magnificent!"
The view was breathtaking. The boat was quickly being buttoned up by the crew for the return trip. It pulled out and shortly Lois could see from the Oakland Bay Bridge to the Golden Gate Bridge. By luck, the sky was clear and the sun was reflecting off the tall buildings downtown. She identified the Transamerica Tower by its unique shape. But she was stunned by something else. She had never known Clark to simply take — in this case a ferryboat ride — something he hadn't paid for. He was meticulous in that matter.
Clark looked over at Lois and saw something was bothering her. "What's wrong, honey?"
"Don't they charge for riding these boats?"
"Yes, they do. But since this is the only way off the Island of Alcatraz, they only take tickets coming out. You hop on any available ferryboat to leave. They're here every half hour."
Lois turned large eyes on him. "But we didn't buy tickets."
Clark saw her problem immediately. This from a woman who merrily did breaking and entering at a moment's notice for her job? His mouth quirked into a smile and he leaned closer. "Relax, Lois and enjoy." He mouthed the word "Superman" and then said aloud "has a lifetime pass. He helped a sinking ferry from the same company sometime back and it was a gift from the owner. I just didn't want to use it publicly. Besides, like I said, they don't check on the return trip."
"Oh," Lois breathed a relieved sigh and turned to enjoy the view and the ride. Clark hugged her to him because the wind was biting as they moved into high speed.
Clark pointed back to the lighthouse on top of the island. "That lighthouse was built in 1854 and is the first lighthouse on the west coast. It's been updated of course, but it is still key to the safety of the ships coming in and out of San Francisco Bay. It and the foghorn," he chuckled. "When we get to our room tonight, you'll be able to see what I mean."
"Our room? We're not going home tonight?"
"Nope. This is an overnighter. Like Las Vegas."
"Ohhh." Lois smiled appreciatively. It was a wonderful, clear afternoon and Lois relaxed and enjoyed the sights and smells of the water as they headed to Pier 43. As they followed the large crowd off the boat, Lois began to hear this loud sound. "It sounds like barking. Lots of dogs running around?"
"Nope. Seals. Want to see them?" Clark took Lois' hand in his and headed to his left toward Pier 39. They reached the rail of the pier and Clark pointed to large rafts of wood chained together on top of which was a large herd of California sea lions. Clark gestured at the massed bodies. Large brown bodies glided sleekly through the water, several very large males slept contentedly with heads up, necks back seeking the sun, smaller females slept together in large entangled masses. "These are Harbor seals, which are a class of California Sea Lion. See, they have visible ears. True seals have no visible ears. They are very friendly and intelligent and are the ones trained as entertainers in aquatic shows."
Lois inhaled sharply. "Oh, my god. What is that smell?"
Clark smiled. "Well, they live 24/7 on these floats. Basically it is the smell of seal poop."
"Oy. This is when you *don't* want smell-o-vision. Doesn't it bother you?"
Clark cocked an eyebrow at her. "I can tell it smells bad, but it doesn't bother me on the same visceral level it does you. Let's go on to Pier 39. They have restaurants…"
Lois rolled her eyes. More food?
"…an aquarium, shops, and other stuff." Hand in hand they wandered over and strolled the pier. In due time they made their way westward on Embarcadero, looking at an endless procession of shops and souvenir stands selling nearly everything imaginable that could be labeled with the name "San Francisco". The ding ding of a trolley bell announced the stop of a rail trolley along the street. Throngs of people moved all directions along the sidewalk, across the street and in and out of stores. Cars drove through. The smell of fresh cooked fish permeated the area.
Suddenly Lois stopped and pointed across the street at a store front with a loud neon sign. "Clark, look, 'Ripley's Believe It or Not.' Don't they have a wax statue of Superman in there?"
Clark turned to Lois, mouth open, about ready to protest that he, in no way, was going in to stand next to a wax replica of his alter ego. Then he saw the twinkle in Lois's eyes and his mouth stretched to a rueful grin. "You, you, minx, you!" He leaned down and whispered in her eye. "I'm going to get you for that…later."
She laughed. "Oh, I'm counting on it."
They continued to marvel at the sights as they strolled contentedly toward Hyde Street Pier and the Maritime National Historical Park and Ft. Mason beyond it. The further west they went the more the wind increased and Lois began to shiver with the cold.
Clark noticed and hugged her to him, but the wind was more than even his proximity could compensate for. "You need a coat, Lois. Let's go get our room and I'll go back for our suitcases."
Lois could do little more than nod her agreement. They turned up Hyde Street and Lois forgot the cold enough to exclaim, "Cable cars!! Here's the cable car turnaround!!"
"We get some warmer clothes and we'll ride the cable car into the city tonight."
Lois arched her brow at him, "We?"
"Alright, you. And I think I'll get something fancier than I have on for tonight. Come on, it's just a block more."
Suddenly the sidewalk turned markedly steeper. "Whoa, I'm glad I did my workout on the stair climber this week! This is steep."
Clark moved his hand lower onto her outside buttock and gave her a subtle super assist.
"Thanks," she whispered softly.
"My pleasure, I assure you. From this point on," Clark said as they reached the next cross-street, "it is much easier." They turned right on North Point and walked along the level street until they were near the western end of the block. "Here we are," Clark gestured at a gray and white classic three-story San Francisco home dating from the early 1900's.
In the window was a small discrete sign saying "Bed and Breakfast." They walked up the three steps of the stoop and entered the front door. A bell jingled as they entered. A short wiry dark-haired man rose from a desk in the converted living room and greeted them enthusiastically.
"Senor Clark! It is so good to see you again. It's been — what? — over a year since you dropped by to visit us."
"Arratsaldeon, Eztebe. Zer moduz? I'd like to present my *wife*, Lois. Lois, may I present Steve Penagarikano."
The man turned and smiled at Lois, executing a small bow over her hand in an old world gesture. "Please to meet you, Lois. And even more pleased Clark has married such a lovely woman!" He then turned back to Clark and prattled on in the melodious language they were both using fluently.
Lois could only stand by and follow the facial expressions. Whatever Steve said to Clark caused him to blush.
Clark cleared his throat. "So, Steve, is our room ready?"
"Bai. Zenbakiak bost." Steve returned to his desk and brought out a metal key with the number 5 on the tag. "Bi giltz?"
Clark shook his head. "Ez, eskerrik asko."
"Ez horregatik," replied Steve with a wink. "You know where it is."
Clark then led Lois to the top floor where they walked to room number 5. Clark let them in and went on through the room to open the drapes.
Lois entered and was immediately charmed by the room. They were on the west side of the building and the north side of the street, so the room had commanding views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.
Lois was in reporter mode, on a mission to get information. She walked up to Clark, wanting to find out what made him blush. "So, Clark. What was that language? I got lost after Senor. Well, except for the English parts, of course."
"That is Basque. A totally unique language unconnected to any other language on earth. I, er, asked if the room was ready and he asked if we wanted two keys and I said no. I always get this room if I can. I called him Monday and found out it was available this weekend."
Lois made a curt dismissive gesture, a twinkle in her eye. "No, not *that* part. The part where you wound up blushing."
Clark blushed again with the memory. "Well, Steve's sister Arantxa was always trying to set me up with her friends. Steve said she would be very sad that I was now taken."
Lois looked Clark in the eye. "Yeah, but your expression tells me there was a little more to it than you're sharing. Maybe I will torture the information from you later." Lois poked a finger into his chest, then began moving it around softly, seductively. "So are you off to get our stuff?"
When they had started their weekend journeys, the routine had been to pack a small suitcase of clothes and toiletries for Clark to pick up if they decided to stay overnight.
"Yes, but first you have to see why this room is special." Clark possessively grabbed her hand from the front of his chest and tugged her toward the north window, which turned out to be a sliding glass door. Beyond it was a small balcony of white low fencing. Clark and Lois stepped out onto the balcony.
"Wow, this view is even more spectacular outside," Lois breathed. The sounds washed up and over them. The Hyde Street Cable Car clanged its way up the hill.
"There's more." Clark showed her the spiral staircase leading to the roof.
"On the roof?"
Clark nodded assent. "Just wait. You first."
Lois climbed the staircase. "You know," she said in a normal voice, knowing that Clark could hear her, "if I lived here, I'd never need to use the gym again." She emerged onto the roof and beheld a small seemingly magical garden. "Ohh, how beautiful!"
Clark was beside her. "And even better, it is private and perfect cover for quick departures and arrivals." Gesturing to the bench in the garden, he said, "Have a seat. I'll be back in a jiffy. Which coat do you want?"
Lois told him, but then added, "Were you serious about painting the town red tonight?"
At his nod, she asked him to pick up the hang-up bag with the evening dress, coat and shoes too, then sat on the bench and watched. Her super man stepped back and spun into the Suit. "All flags flying," she murmured to herself as he whooshed out of sight.
Sitting in the little garden in a spot of sunlight, Lois was protected from the wind she had felt so chillingly near the Maritime Park and was quite comfortable. After only a few moments she felt a tickle of cool air on her neck and a voice rumbled in her ear, "I'm back."
"So soon? Get everything?"
Clark moved to sit next to her and tugged her close to him. "Of course. I left the door open, so took them straight to the closet."
"I'm enjoying the sun here. It's so pleasant. Stop and recharge a little." Lois lay back against Clark and closed her eyes.
Refreshed after their little sojourn on the roof they returned to their room. Lois walked over to the west window, attracted by the sight of a large tower and what was obviously a shopping complex. "What is this?" Somehow with the height of the garden on the roof, she had not seen it from there.
"That, my dear, is Ghiradelli Square."
"Does it have anything to do with the chocolate of the same name?
"Oh, does it ever. You ready for the tale?"
Lois plopped down on the plush bed. "Ohh, this is soft," she said admiringly. O.K., my super tour guide. Inform me."
Clark made himself comfortable on the little sofa across from the bed and began the tale. "Domenico "Domingo" Ghirardelli was born in Rapallo, Italy, that's near Genoa, in 1817, and learned about the confectionery and chocolate trade from his father by the time he was 20. Like so many of that time, he needed to leave his beloved Italy to make his fortune. The first places he set up shop were Uruguay and Peru — but tales of the California gold rush were irresistible. Doesn't this sound like a familiar theme from today?"
"In 1848, Domingo's neighbor, James Lick, packed up $25,000, a huge sum at the time, and 600 pounds of Ghirardelli chocolate and sailed for the San Francisco Bay. A year later, Domingo followed him through the Golden Gate. He set up shop in San Francisco and like many soon to be wealthy entrepreneurs, he made money by grubstaking claims in the gold fields of California. Grubstaking, you remember, oh lady from the east, is the word for providing supplies for miners to go off to the gold fields and hunt for gold. They pay you back for the supplies and give you a part of the gold. Well, Domingo was grubstaking so many miners he thought it more profitable to open a little store in the boomtown of Hornitos so they could buy more supplies from him with gold nuggets. He bought his supplies from the only general merchandise store in Stockton- a town on the water near Sacramento, remember — and brought them by wagon to Hornitos. Finally he decided to give the store a run for its money by opening his own store in Stockton and did a thriving business. Soon Domingo was operating a fleet of his own river sloops to keep the Stockton store supplied from his base supply store on Battery Street in San Francisco."
"He saw so many people pouring into San Francisco to reach the gold fields that he next decided to build a hotel. Building one of the first hotels in Old San Francisco, the Europa Hotel, was Domingo's next business. But in The Great Fire of 1851, everything Domingo owned in San Francisco was destroyed. Just four days later, another fire burned his Stockton properties to the ground. Undaunted, Domingo used his remaining resources to open a coffee shop in San Francisco, on Commercial Street, but it lost money and he sold the store."
"Domingo needed a lucky break and the confection connection supplied it. Using his old trade, he managed to rebuild and open a store on Kearny at Washington with a partner named Girard. At long last, his wife (who had remained in Peru) joined him in San Francisco and soon replaced Girard as Domingo's business partner. Soon the store's name was Mrs. Ghirardelli & Company."
"After operating stores in several locations, the store that firmly fixed Ghirardelli fame was established on Jackson Street around 1856 where it flourished for the next 40 years. From this factory, Domingo shipped chocolate products not only throughout the United States, but also to Mexico, Hawaii and British Columbia. The factory was among the largest in the western half of North America at that time. It's still standing in Jackson Square near the new ferry building and is an antique gallery now. And somehow it survived the 1906 earthquakes."
Clark got up from the sofa and strolled to the bed where Lois was lying, entranced by his tale. "Domingo's business was growing and he needed a bigger factory. He and his sons purchased an entire block of property for their headquarters in 1893. Here, on North Point Street, Domingo and his sons began a spectacular building program that extended over 11 years. Ghirardelli Square was the result. There are actually nine buildings there. In 1894 Domingo Ghirardelli died during a visit to his hometown."
Clark put his hands on the bed, then his knees, crawling toward Lois who began to giggle. Clark lowered his voice in pitch and volume, turning the pedantic words into something very sexy that belied their content. "The Broma Process was his patented method for making dry, powdered chocolate which could be easily shipped and that's what made his fortune. The buildings were used as a chocolate factory until the early 1960's when the Golden Grain Macaroni Company bought the chocolate business and move the factory across the bay to San Leandro."
Clark was now even with Lois's lips and began kissing her neck as he continued. "The buildings went up for sale in 1962 and, fearing they would be torn down, two prominent San Franciscan's bought the property and converted it into a shopping center. The huge sign saying Ghiradelli — 25 feet tall and 125 feet long — has been lit up at night since electricity came to San Francisco." For a conclusion to his tale, Clark captured Lois's lips in a deep kiss.
Lois returned the kiss in kind. When she needed to breathe, she broke off the kiss and purred. "I would say that's an electrifying delivery, my tour guide."
Clark rolled to his side, propped his head on his right hand and began making circles on Lois's stomach with his left hand. "Well, that's the story of what's outside the room, but you have missed something important on the inside."
Lois looked at him questioningly. "What do you mean, the inside?"
Clark waved his left hand around. "Of the room."
Lois was still puzzled. "I see the room."
Clark smiled and a certain glint came into his eyes. "Look at the bathroom."
Lois couldn't read his expression. So she swung her legs off the bed and made her way to the bathroom, which had clearly been a modern addition to the interior of the large bedroom. "OH MY GOD!" She could hear Clark's pleased laugh behind her. Marveling, she walked in and looked at the enormous clear glass enclosed shower with a bench. A small west-facing window lit the bathroom with a beautiful light. "You could throw a party in here!"
"Exactly my idea, Mrs. Kent. Well, a party for two, anyway."
"This is marvelous, Clark," Lois exclaimed as she sampled her sea bass. Their adventures in the shower at the B&B had sprung her appetite into high gear. They had decided on a casual restaurant on the wharf for dinner, followed by a change of clothes into evening wear at their handy room and cable car ride up Hyde Street. After it turned onto Washington Street, they could get off at Mason Street and walk the three blocks to the famed elegant Mark Hopkins Hotel. At the Top of the Mark they planned to do some dancing to soft jazz.
First they had started with a shared appetizer of fried calamari, Clark declaring that Cozzi's at the Wharf was known far and wide for its preparation of fresh calamari. Clark was now digging with gusto into a bowl of the house specialty, cioppino. He had mastered the crab legs with great ease and without flinging bits of crab all over Lois. Lois noticed that some tables were not that lucky as one of the members of the party wrestled with their crab legs. Of course, Clark could forgo the awkward metal crab crackers and simply open the crab with his fingernails.
All of a sudden many in the room began digging their cell phones out of their pockets or purses. Most were set on vibrate mode, but Clark could still hear them. Several phones simply rang. Something alerted him that this was very unusual. The bartender answered his phone and turned the bar TV to the local news. The sound was muted, but Clark turned and read the closed captioning. It was a little far for Lois to read it clearly, but certainly something big was going on. Clark could also overhear some of the cell phone conversations. Most were calling emergency personnel back to their duties.
Lois could sense something too. "What is it, Clark? What's happening?"
"There's a major fire at SBC Park that's broken out during the last inning of the ball game. People are evacuating and all the access roads are jammed now and no one is going anywhere." He gave her a cross between a pleading and an apologetic look. He whispered loud enough to hear over the chairs scraping against the floor as one or two members of a table or whole parties left their dinners. Those leaving their tables flung money down on the table to cover the dinner and rushed out of the restaurant.
"Go," Lois said simply and firmly. "You have to help. You could have heard about it on LNN at home and rushed to help. There are some things only you can do with traffic jams and fires." Clark still looked torn and Lois continued. "I'll be fine. I'll go back to the room and wait. Oh, and give me the *one* room key."
Clark pulled the key out of his pocket and put it into her hand, rising and coming over to kiss her. "I love you," he whispered. He rushed toward the restrooms at the back of the restaurant. Shortly Lois heard a sonic boom over San Francisco Bay. She looked over at her package of Ghiradelli chocolate they had picked up on the way to the restaurant and said aloud. "It's just you and me tonight, kid."
Lois calmly continued eating her dinner. No longer having anyone to talk with, she looked around the restaurant and noticed several other women and some men now alone at their tables doing the same thing. Lois reached over for Clark's cioppino. "Can't let this go to waste, either."
After paying for their dinner, Lois made her way back to their B&B, passing by the open door of the historic Buena Vista Bar and Restaurant. The patrons were almost to a person staring intently at the television. "There's Superman," one person called out. Another remarked, "Boy, it really must be bad down there to bring him out." Lois hurried on up the hill so that she could watch in private.
Opening the outside door with her key, Lois stepped into the living room. Steve came out from the kitchen, drying a skillet with a towel. In the background was the sound of the local news on TV. He simply said, "Hi, Lois. Have a good evening," and returned to the kitchen.
Lois entered her room, immediately turning on the television and searching for signs of Clark. The game had been televised up to the point it was stopped by the tragedy, so there was no lack of cameras to cover the action. And the stadium lights had remained on through the fire. Predictably, Clark's activities were the focus of many of the cameras. He was flying high, blowing freezing super breath on the flames in the grandstand. The flames seemed stubbornly resistant to his efforts, though. The announcers were doing a play by play of him, just as they had been of the game itself. Lois turned the sound down, finding the hysterical tone rather annoying. Clark had found one of the large trash dumpsters prevalent in the ballpark and ripped the lid off with one tear. He then lifted it up and flew to the bay only feet away. He carried the dumpster down into the water and emerged with it full, returning to the fire and dumping out the water. He repeated this five times before the fire department foam trucks arrived and began spraying foam. Finally the fire succumbed to the combined efforts.
The cameras switched to the traffic jam outside the stadium. The fleeing fans stuck in the jam had gotten out of their cars and were watching Superman in action, some wielding large binoculars. When Superman was high in the air, he was still bathed in sunlight from the setting sun. They observed Superman flying toward the line of traffic and then up to where the jam began. Complicating matters, several accidents had happened when the panicked drivers started to leave in haste. Those at the front of the line saw Superman begin to clear the accidents, so they returned to their cars and trucks. Once they started their vehicles, the action flowed like a river down the long lines of cars as people got back in and started up again, realizing they were going to be able to leave. Traffic slowly started to clear.
The cameras switched to covering the fire chief directing the efforts. Suddenly Superman landed beside him. Lois turned the volume up.
"Superman has just landed next to Chief Davis. We'll try to get a few words."
The reporter was beside himself with excitement. He thrust the microphone toward Clark's face, but Clark held up a hand. "Just a minute." He and the Chief faced away from the camera and conferred for a while, Clark gesturing to various areas of the park and the Chief gesturing to others. The S on the cape stood out prominently in the camera lights. Finally the two nodded at each other and they both turned to the massed reporters from all the local stations.
"Superman, Superman. How did you hear about the fire?"
Clark was in his crossed arms and planted feet Superman stance. He answered in his authoritative Superman voice. "I was watching the game on TV when it became obvious something was wrong."
A collective sound of revelation went through the group of reporters. Superman had a television and was watching a San Francisco baseball game! Was he a Giants fan? Looking at their expressions, Clark had to suppress an urge to laugh. Had he been the reporter there, he would have first asked if anyone was injured first.
That suddenly seemed to occur to one of the reporters. "Have there been any people injured?"
"There were several injuries in the various car accidents, but none fatal. I transported those victims to emergency personnel for care. As for the stadium and the fire, Chief Davis can answer that better than I can." He stepped back slightly to let the Chief take the question.
"Fortunately, I have no news of anyone being critically injured here," the Chief responded. "There were injuries in the car accidents that are being assessed by the emergency personnel. And there are some burn victims. The City of San Francisco mobilized all their emergency personnel and I wish to thank everyone for their quick response. The origin of the fire will be determined as soon as the fire is completely extinguished. Clean up crews are here now." He turned to face Superman. "I wish to publicly thank Superman for his very timely help. His quick response minimized the injuries. It would have taken us a *lot* longer to clear out the evacuating traffic without his help. And his urban water bombing technique with the dumpster was particularly effective." The Chief extended his hand and Clark took it and they shook hands.
"A front page photo if I ever saw it," Lois muttered in her room. She got up from the couch and opened the balcony door. Clark would be back soon.
Sure enough, Clark dropped the Chief's hand and began to lift off. Anxious reporters started peppering him with more questions. He stopped and turned in the air to address the reporters again. "Your emergency people are heroes too. You should thank them. I imagine some of them left their dinners to respond to the call." He gave a wave and vanished into the sky.
Lois's head turned toward the door at the sound of Clark's boots hitting the floor.
"Good interview," she said, gesturing at the TV. She got up and walked over to her husband. "How are *you* doing?"
"Pretty good. It wasn't as bad as I first feared. But I'm pretty stinky from the fire. I need to go shower."
Seeing that the evening had turned out well for him, she said coyly, "Again?"
"Later, Mrs. Kent. Why don't you get ready for dancing?"
"We're still going to the Top of the Mark?"
Clark held up one finger and spun out of the Suit. He spun into nothing and was holding the dirty Suit in front of him when he stopped.
A sound between a growl and a whimper emerged from Lois's throat.
"Later, Lois. Bet on it." Clark walked into the bathroom, tossing the dirty Suit into a corner.
Lois and Clark danced slowly to the soft strains of Cole Porter. The lights of San Francisco spread out before them. Lois was nestled into Clark's shoulder and his head lay against hers. Lois moved slowly away and looked up. "It's been quite an anniversary day today. Breakfast in Tahoe, lunch in Sacramento and dinner and dancing in San Francisco."
"Did you enjoy it?" Clark asked softly.
"Oh, yes. I want to come back here. Often."
"Your wish is my command, my lady." Clark noticed the hesitant look on Lois's face. "What is it?"
"Can I ask you something about Steve?"
Clark nodded. "Sure, anything."
"When I came back from dinner alone, he came out of the kitchen and saw me. He seemed totally unfazed that I was alone and just told me to have a nice evening. He didn't ask a single question. I thought that was unusual behavior." Lois raised her eyebrow, asking Clark the silent question, 'Does he know?'
"Well, I don't think he knows anything definite about me, but I've stayed with him off and on over the years. He's a Basque, an Amerikano and they are a very pragmatic people and accept unusual happenings without much comment. They speak one of the most ancient languages on Earth and their culture formed about 7,000 years ago. It's their drawings in the caves in the Pyrenees in Europe."
"Ah, the last tour of the day! Tell me more Clark." Lois returned her head to his shoulder and listened as his voice continued the story.
"There are genetic studies that suggest that the Scots, Irish, Welsh and Basques all derive from the same, possibly very homogeneous, population that inhabited Europe in Paleolithic times."
"An Amerikano is a Basque who has emigrated to North or South America, or one who has returned to the Basque Country to retire after a life spent in the New World. After the Spanish discovery of America, huge numbers of Basques flocked to the New World and most of them remained here.. There are many Basque-named cities and vineyards in Mexico and Chile. In the 19th century, a large number of Basques also emigrated to the western United States, where their legendary shepherding skills were in great demand. Many of these sheepherders eventually came into conflict with cattlemen in the range wars of the late 19th century. Basque sheep flocks still roam much of the Bureau of Land Management land in Eastern Kern County, California to this day. The University of Nevada at Reno is the major Basque study center in the US. It has links with the Basque Country and sends its students there.
Clark noticed Lois was nearly asleep on her feet. "Time to go back to our room, Mrs. Kent. Come on, I'll take you home."
Sleepily, Lois nodded. Home was wherever he was.
June 9, 1997
Lois sighed as she lay in Clark's arms.
"So," said Clark, looking down at his dozing wife, "what were you and my mom talking about?"
A slow smile made its way across Lois' face. "Nothing much," she said dismissively.
He reached a hand out to cup her cheek in order to turn her face so that he could look into her eyes.
"I was just telling her that I think I'm ready," Lois continued.
Lois gave a casual shrug. "To start talking seriously about having a family."
Clark rolled her over immediately, looking down into her face. "Really?" he asked, sounding a lot like a little boy who had just been told that he would be receiving a much craved toy for his birthday.
She smiled, reaching up to stroke his cheek.
"This calls for a celebration," Clark said.
"Oh, I think that can be arranged," Lois responded, tugging his head down to kiss him.
After a brief kiss, he pulled back. "I know just how to celebrate."
"So do I." Lois' voice was about an octave lower than normal.
"Cocoon," he said.
"Huh?" she asked, her hand running slowly over his chest. "I sort of was thinking about a more. private celebration."
A grin found its way onto Clark's face. "Well, I suppose we can wait until tomorrow before we go where I'm thinking of taking you." With that, he lowered his mouth to hers.
She instantly broke the kiss. "Where are you thinking of taking me?" she asked, suddenly sounding extremely interested.
"Tomorrow," said Clark, refusing to be distracted from his mission of kissing his wife.
<LabRat — Dunfermline Abby, Fife, Scotland <firstname.lastname@example.org>>
They set off early the next morning. Clark could, of course, have flown them directly to their destination for the day, but the forecast was bright and sunny and they were in no hurry, so instead he landed them discreetly outside the small local airport and picked up the rental car he'd booked for them online.
For Lois, whose images of Scotland were of the mist-shrouded, purple-heather-clad mountains of Brigadoon and Braveheart, tooling gently along in the bright sunshine, its heavy, pleasant warmth already settling against her back and shoulders, was a somewhat welcome surprise.
She said as much and Clark glanced over at her with a knowing grin.
"What?" she protested. "Oh, I am *not* that nave!" she declared in the face of his raised eyebrow, which spoke volumes to someone who knew him as intimately as she did. "I wasn't expecting to be driving through icy mists, surrounded by brooding mountains, with lone pipers and kilts and…and…"
"…haggis running loose among the heather of the glens?" Clark supplied, eyes twinkling.
Lois snorted. "You're not catching me with that old one. I know haggis isn't alive."
Clark shrugged, grin widening.
"It's a food," she declared, further cementing her point. And then, after a small pause. "It is…isn't it?"
"But, well, days like this one can't be *that* common here," she pointed out, remembering how difficult it had been to prize anything open-topped from the rental company.
"Not much call for them really," had been the bland response.
Driving at an easy pace through the narrow, winding roads, with acres of deep green and bright saffron yellow stretching on either side of them towards the horizon and the occasional glitter of sun on sea glimpsed now and then, Lois couldn't for the life of her imagine why not. The Scots didn't know what they were missing, apparently.
She settled back into her seat with a contented sigh, closing her eyes momentarily and lifting her face to the sun. And then opened them abruptly as Clark eased them to a smooth but sudden halt. She'd expected to find another car heading towards them, perhaps he was easing over to give it room to pass, but the road ahead of them was empty and, as she glanced across her shoulder, behind them too. She looked over at Clark quizzically.
"Why — ?"
He glanced at her, then pointed out over the windshield. "Sshhhhhhhh. Look."
Lois craned her neck above the dashboard, curious now. Directly in front of them a squat, drab thing, something like an oversize chicken, was standing in the middle of the road, completely oblivious to them. She frowned as it darted its head back and forward, scanning the immediate vicinity.
"What is it?" she mouthed at Clark.
"Pheasant. Look…" he said again and she turned her attention back in time to see a far more glorious creature emerge from the high grasses of the roadside. She drew in a small breath as the second, larger pheasant darted to its mate, its brilliant gold and bronze plumage glinting in the sunlight and its long feathered tail dragging along behind.
"He's a bit of a dandy," she commented and then stilled as the reason for the birds' agitation burst out of cover. Seven or eight of the cutest little bundles of dark fluff she'd ever seen.
She watched, entranced as the adults shepherded their brood across the road, then chuckled as it became clear that this was going to be an operation that required all the skill and planning of a military maneuver. As soon as the first two chicks were safely on the other side, the parents headed for the rest — completely oblivious to the fact that their original charges had dashed back to the wrong side as soon as their backs were turned. Lois laughed as she watched the harried parents shuttle to and fro, their exasperation almost a match for any human parent faced with their offsprings' malicious capriciousness as they engaged in an ever increasingly frantic roundup of their chicks, without much co-operation from their charges.
Finally, and all too soon for Lois, who could have watched them all day, the little family were all safely in place and in another second they vanished into the field beyond as though the brief interlude had never occurred and they had never existed.
Delighted, Lois looked at Clark. The magical little encounter on the country track seemed like a good omen for the day ahead. He smiled and set the car in motion again, out into the day's brightness.
"Remind me not to order pheasant for dinner," Lois said after a time.
"Here it is," Clark announced, parking the car in the wide cobbled street.
Lois looked up at the gray, imposing structure rearing against a blue sky. "A church?" she said, slightly disappointed. The faade was certainly impressive, with its square Norman architecture, towers and ornate stone crenellations, but still…she couldn't see much to get excited about in a church. Not even one as old as this one obviously was. A few pews, a pulpit…what was to see?
"Oh, much more than that," Clark assured her. He grinned at her as she got out of the car and came to stand beside him. "Dunfermline Abbey." He ducked his head as though imparting a secret as he murmured, "Burial place of Scottish kings. One of the most important royal ancient sites in the country. I think you'll be impressed," he said, straightening away from her again and putting a soft hand to the small of her back to urge her with him as he headed for the entrance gates. "Come on…"
Doubtfully, though perhaps just a *little* more intrigued than she had been, Lois followed him through the black gates and up the wide stone steps to the heavy arched double doors.
On the other side, she was admittedly surprised to find not a church but open air. A cobbled street, lined with old-fashioned gas lamps circled up to a vast stone wall at the top of a shallow hill. The empty, broken eyes of the building brooded down on them.
"This part of the palace is just a ruin," Clark said. "Up for some exploring?"
Lois shrugged gamely.
They spent a pleasant couple of hours scrambling through all the nooks and crannies that the ruins had to offer. The sun was determined to last the day, it seemed, and Lois found herself fascinated by the ancient stones they wandered in and out of. The building was just a shell, long since shorn of its glory, but these stone walls had known centuries of lives, of people, of battle and worship, love and laughter, pain and sorrow…it had soaked all of that into its pores and the weight of it lay heavy in the air and in the shadows cast by its walls. The richness of the atmosphere, spiritual and bloody, wrapped itself around her and fired up the imagination.
Finally, drawn by curiosity to the set of stone steps she found to her left, Lois left Clark trying to judge the depth of an old abandoned well in the niche formed by the westward lee of the ruins and, ducking through another archway, wandered back out into the strong sunlight beyond.
Emerging from the shadows of the ruins, she made her way up the few steps, worn by years of use, to find herself in a small open courtyard, no more than a few feet square. A velvet carpet of close-mown grass covered most of it, just a strip of clear stone a few paces wide left to surround it. It was banded on two sides by shrubs and dense woodland, enclosed in a black iron fence and around to the right, by the ruined wall, a gate opening out into the cobbled street beyond.
Lois, glad of the sun's warmth after the cooler chill within the stone walls behind her, sat for a moment on the edge of the stone wall banding the steps to catch her breath. A rustle of movement to her left turned her head and she was surprised to find she had company. Magnificent company at that. A peacock stood balanced on the iron fencing. It hopped down into the courtyard with her, strutting its way arrogantly across the green until it was only inches away. It seemed pretty tame, but she eyed it warily nonetheless as it pecked in a desultory way at the ground, ignoring her with all the air of viewing her as beneath its notice.
Lois held her breath, admiring the beautiful and vibrant plumage of the bird, its rich colors shimmering as it moved.
To her delight, as though indulging her appreciation of him, her visitor suddenly spread his magnificent tail wide, the deep golds and greens flashing brightly as he stalked around in a circle, displaying at his finest. His crest bobbed as he ducked his head, black little eyes intent on her for a moment. Then, apparently bored, he folded the tail close again and meandered casually off, looking for all the world like a bride on the way to the altar with his 'train' fully three times his size brushing the ground behind him.
Clark made his way out of the ruins and paused as he caught sight of his wife sitting on the low stone wall above him. For so long, he'd been in love with this woman and she still hadn't lost the ability to catch his breath in his throat each time he looked at her, he thought with an affectionate smile. A smile that quickly turned to something a little more intent as he took time to let his gaze wander appreciatively — and not for the first time that day — over her slender form.
His eyes slipped approvingly over the hip and buttock-hugging shorts she was wearing in that bright orange color that showed off the light tanning of those long legs very nicely indeed. The short-sleeved, open-necked cotton shirt in a paler shade of the same color did the same for her arms and the soft skin of her throat and brought out the darkness of her hair and eyes.
She turned her head, seeming to sense him there, watching her, and rewarded his study with a smile that lit up those eyes.
"Did you see him?" she asked breathlessly, rising to her feet and catching her arm through his as he came close, her eyes sparkling with pleasure. As she moved, a glint of gold flashed around her neck, catching his eye.
He nodded. "Beautiful," he agreed. He put out a finger to the gold chain around her throat, with its small Superman shield worked in red and gold enamel. A gift from him some weeks before, they were currently all the rage. The latest Superman fad. Something she could wear that wouldn't cause comment, since it seemed you couldn't find any woman these days who wasn't, and yet which had a special meaning for them alone, a secret she could hold close to her heart. He lifted his head to find her smiling softly at him, the same thoughts in her eyes, that shared secret glowing there, delighting him.
"But not as beautiful as you…" he concluded. His hand cupped her cheek before descending into her hair. Her face was so full of child-like wonder and enthusiasm that he wanted to kiss her. And, since one of the delights of marriage was that he could without having to find any particular reason for it — other than that she was adorable and beautiful and…just because — he did, tugging her close for a soft, welcome embrace. He was rewarded by the immediate melting of his wife in his arms, her soft sounds of pleasure a siren call in his ears as she sighed into the caress of his lips against her own, her body pliant against the hard muscles of his chest.
He began to think seriously of finding somewhere a lot more secluded than the historical ruins…
A piercing shriek broke the moment and she raised her head, startled, before realizing it was another of the peacocks. "Noisy little runt though," she said. "And they don't ever stop either. Have you noticed that? They just go on and on and —"
Clark laughed. "Well…" he said, "Maybe the two of you have more in common than just being beautiful — " He grunted as she slapped him against the arm, mock indignant. "I think maybe it would be wiser not to continue with this comparison…" he said, eyes holding a glint of buried laughter in them.
"Smart move, Kent," Lois agreed. She looked around the courtyard. "Okay, where now?" she said eagerly.
"We still have the Abbey itself," Clark said, indicating the gate. As she headed for it, something caught his attention on the ground at her feet and he crouched quickly to pick it up. "Wait," he said and as she turned back, questioning, held up it up before handing it over. "A souvenir."
Lois took the long tail-feather, admiring its iridescent eye and deep green and blue metallic colors for a moment before she gave him a warm smile and tucked the offering securely into the waistband of her shorts.
The scene before her was idyllic. They wove their way through the slumbering, ancient cemetery, with its granite markers and lush, verdant lawn between dappled with shade from the trees. Behind the gravestones, the vast imposing bulk of the Abbey soared, backed by brilliant blue skies and plump white clouds.
The Abbey itself was no ruin, but intact. Lois didn't know what she was expecting as she stepped through the arched wooden entrance, but as her eyes adjusted to the change in light, the bright sunlight behind her dropping suddenly into shadow, she drew in a sharp breath.
They stood in a vast cavern. A smooth flagged floor was banded by massive columns, all in a soft glowing yellow stone, which formed a broad colonnade several yards long. The length of at least a couple of football grounds, Lois considered, tipping back her head to view — high above — the sweeping arched bones of the stone ceiling above her.
Light streamed into the huge vaulted space from ranks of arched windows set into the thick stone walls on either side. Stained glass, they threw patterns of color onto the floor. As she moved closer to examine them, Lois discovered that they each commemorated a lost life. Centuries of loss. Here a soldier lost at Ypres. There a child dead of fever. Unexpectedly affected by the simple echoes of epitaphs carved into the granite of the grave markers beyond the Abbey walls, she turned away and paused.
At the end of the long avenue of stone stood an incongruously tiny arched wooden and glass-fronted door, looking for all the world like something out of the books on Narnia she had read as a child. This was a door that should shelter elves or harbor hobbits, she thought, enchanted. Peering closer, she realized that it wasn't really that small — it just looked that way proportionally, dwarfed as it was by the huge, imposing structure around it. Above it, a small lamp cast a warm yellow glow that beckoned.
"What's in there?" she asked Clark.
"Come on." He took her hand and led her towards it. She almost expected the door to creak as he pulled on the large black iron ring to open it for her to enter, but it slid open smoothly without protest.
Beyond she was surprised to find herself in possibly the smallest church she had ever seen. Long rows of pews stretched towards another of the dominating glass windows and to her left a wooden pulpit was hung with standards.
Lois was by no means a religious woman, but there was something so mystical, so timeless in the tiny little church, that she was entranced. The wood gleamed under the roof lights, the standards hung over the pulpit spoke of battles and losses, victories and triumphs so strongly that she could almost hear the cries of ancient warriors in her head. She snorted, a little ashamed of her fancies, but it was hard to shake off. This was a magical place in the truest sense of the word, she understood. The magic of centuries of men and women living and breathing out their lives. Real magic. True magic. The magic of history. Made all the stronger for the fact that this was no static museum exhibit, but a place of worship still in use, vibrant and alive, centuries on. Magic. The air was thick with the reek of it, seeping into her very soul…
When Clark put a hand to her shoulder, she started and then glanced at him sheepishly.
"Kind of gets to you, doesn't it?" he said. And she nodded as she moved off, drawn to the arched opening to the right of the narrow pews.
In the middle of the small nave, stood a small square glass case on a stand. Lois ducked down to see its contents, narrowing her eyes to avoid the glare of the sun on the glass that obscured her view, and then recoiled sharply.
"Is that…real?" she asked, looking back in some shock at the skull grinning up at her from its red, velvet cushion. Somehow, the gruesome relic seemed incongruously out of place after the serene peace of the church. She shivered, rubbing at her upper arms.
"Cold?" Clark asked solicitously.
She shook her head. "It's kind of…morbid, don't you think? I mean, everything he did for his country, being a hero, and he ends up…here…being gawked at by tourists…"
Clark considered it. "Maybe. Maybe he likes still being a part of the world better than being locked up in some dark hole in the ground though," he mused.
Lois looked doubtful. "Maybe…"
"Well, no need to worry, honey, look…'Plaster cast of skull of King Robert the Bruce,'" Clark read dutifully from the small card in the case that her indignation had prevented her from noticing till then. "The real skull was discovered by workmen repairing the flagstone beneath altar in 1818," Clark read further. "And reburied in a newly constructed tomb. In case you're wondering, I don't think you have to worry about the spider either…" he added judiciously and Lois, spotting the huge and obviously rubber addition placed in jocular counterpoint next to the skull, nudged him in the ribs for the teasing.
"You think?" she said dryly and then, somewhat embarrassed by her earlier outburst — especially as it had turned out to be superfluous, she muttered, "A plaster cast. Well…that's okay then."
She moved off, putting the case behind her. As she blinked the light from her eyes, she stopped, looking around her, awed.
The rest of the nave was an altogether more serene affair. It's semi-circular enclosure was banded by tall windows of stained glass, it's walls of pristine white marble glowed with a purity that was almost spiritual. The air was thick with history.
"The burial site of sixteen of Scotland's early kings…" Clark whispered beside her, seemingly as affected by the atmosphere as she was. "And queens…" he added, pointing skywards to the first of the commemorative windows. "Queen Margaret," he indicated the woman depicted there, her face radiant and halo-banded. "This entire Abbey was built as a memorial to her memory by her son, King David I, back in the tenth century. She was made a saint after her death. Supposedly, she was very beautiful…kind…generous…she looked out for the poor and oppressed…"
Lois became aware that he was watching her and not the window now. She turned her head to view him and he quirked a smile at her. "The Lois Lane of her day," he murmured, putting up a hand to touch her cheek briefly, his eyes soft on her.
Lois smiled back, flattered by the comparison, and then grinned impishly at him. "I'm no saint…" she said archly, proving her point by bumping her hip up against his suggestively.
Clark chuckled, slipping an arm around her waist and pulling her closer. "I'll vouch for that," he murmured, nuzzling at the side of her neck, before he drew back with a sigh.
They stayed entwined as they moved further into the tiny, bright- lit chapel and stopped before its most impressive occupant. Wonderingly, Lois laid a hand to the flawless white stone before her. A solid, rectangular block that held the life-size figure of a woman in repose. Charlotte. Descendant of Bruce and Lady to a Scottish Earl. The artist had fashioned her face as serene, beautiful and peaceful in her final rest, her long, flowing robes arranged decorously around her as she lay in eternal sleep. Above the huge memorial, a tablet of that same glowing white gave testimony to the love of a grieving husband.
"'Here pause, kind soul, whoe'er you be…and weep for her and pray for me…' Lois read quietly aloud. "He must have loved her very much," she said, through a throat curiously thickened by emotion. Feeling slightly foolish, she blinked back the tears that had misted in her eyes as she'd read the poignant memorial.
Clark drew her against his side. "The cost alone, back then, and the amount of work, the time…what it must have taken to achieve all this…" He laid his cheek against hers and she felt comforted to know he felt it too, the raw grief that exuded from every pore of the beautiful, silent stone. Of course, the more practical side of her contested, she knew that during the time that this memorial had been erected it was almost expected to outdo your neighbors with large and elaborate tombs. It was a sign of wealth and privilege, a proclamation of rank and status that no lord would have foregone, even had he hated his spouse with venom. And yet…that didn't quite explain the emotion inscribed into the tablet, each word clearly testifying to a love that had been so clearly deep and apparently timeless.
"Is he there too?" she asked Clark, suddenly anxious to know. "Is he…with her?"
"I don't think he ever was buried with her," he said dubiously. Seeing her disappointment, he reached out, lacing his fingers with hers. "But somehow I don't think you could keep those two apart. Do you?"
She shook her head, tightening her grip briefly in his and felt his arm shift, leaving its spot around her waist as his free hand spread itself against the small of her back, soothing.
The solemn air was broken sharply by a whisper of movement at the corner of her eye, the arrival of other visitors banishing the past abruptly and letting the present rush in to fill the vacuum left by its sudden withdrawal.
"What about Robert? Is he one of the sixteen?" she asked curiously. "Is he buried here?"
"Most of him," Clark told her. "Come on."
He led her through the little church and behind the pulpit. In the middle of the floor, contained within a gleaming polished wooden chamber was a huge and magnificent slab of deep red stone and etched upon its surface the representation of a knight, worked in gold, a golden inscription in Celtic runes worked into the border surrounding him.
"Bruce?" she whispered, glancing up at Clark.
He nodded. "This is his tomb. He's buried beneath it…except for his heart. That's buried in Melrose Abbey."
Lois looked at him, round eyed. "They cut out his heart?" She looked back at the imposing cover-slab. "Why?"
"You don't want to know."
Lois studied him for a small instant, clearly torn between intense curiosity and revulsion now. As ever, curiosity won out. "Yes, I do," she said gamely.
"Well…" Clark conceded as he led the way out of the church and out into the cavern's cool air again. "Bruce was buried here at Dunfermline. But his heart…was removed by one of his knights and taken with him to the Crusades…as a —"
"Kind of creepy rabbit's foot?" Lois commented with a shudder.
"Kind of," Clark agreed. "It was Bruce's last wish, made on his deathbed. He couldn't go into battle against the Moors himself, so he wanted his heart taken to the fight instead. It was pretty common practice then to remove the internal organs from the rich and famous after they died and use them as holy relics."
"A practice that might be worth reviving," Lois said with some asperity. "I could think of a few of the rich and famous I'd like to apply that one to. I might not wait till they were dead either."
Clark laughed. "Well…um…didn't do the Black Douglas any good in the end. He threw it at one of the attacking Moors, who couldn't have been that impressed since he killed him barely moments later. Or so the legend goes. I guess it was recovered from the battlefield. It was buried separately at Melrose by Robert's son."
"Well…they were gross times."
"Seems like." Lois took a deep breath. She was pensive as they passed through the high-vaulted hall. "The Black Douglas, huh?" she mused. "Was he as dark-hearted as the name suggests?"
"English mothers used to frighten their kids into behaving by using his name. Kind of like all those villains back in Metropolis use yours to frighten their minions," Clark continued deadpan as he held open the great door for her to pass through.
Lois gave him The Look. He grinned. But he'd succeeded in casting off the somber mood that had settled over them, though it was a mood that hadn't been exactly unwelcome. It was…appropriate, Lois thought, a fitting memorial to the lives of the people whose time she'd briefly shared within the hallowed walls of the Abbey and it's sanctified ground. Impossible not to be affected by it. And the atmosphere within the Abbey had been one of timeless beauty and love, of peace and tranquillity, not morbid at all in the end, despite Clark's somewhat gruesome history lessons. She smiled. Still, it was welcome too to emerge from the cool serenity of the crypt and into the bright sunlight again. The experience within the church and nave had been so intense, so overwhelming, and though she wouldn't have missed it for the world and knew that it would stay with her as a warm memory, she needed to decompress.
"So…where now?" she asked.
Clark pointed. "There's a park opposite. And the Rose Pavilion. We can get tea, lunch," he said and then, glancing at his watch, "Well, a late lunch anyway."
"Sounds good," she agreed.
They strolled through the park gates, hand in hand.
The park covered several acres, mostly dense woodland with wide paths winding their way through the tall trees. It was busier than Lois had anticipated and after the solitary explorations of the day, she almost resented the intrusion of other people into the idyllic little world that she and Clark had shared. It was a jarring note, bringing her abruptly out of a world populated with the ghosts of history and the heavy weight of centuries, and into the present.
Her attention was attracted to a small knot of children — obviously a school party — standing slightly to one side of the path. She couldn't help but smile as she saw what was holding their attention.
"Oh…" she breathed. "Aren't they adorable?" Then seeing how what seemed to her city girl eyes like a veritable multitude of red squirrels were swarming up the arms and onto the shoulders of the children in search of tidbits, perching on palms as they nibbled offerings of nuts and fruit, she added tentatively, "They won't get on me, will they?"
Clark chuckled. "Don't worry, Superman's on hand to rescue you if they attack." He winked at her as she looked up at him and she sighed.
"I've never seen them up close before," she said, intrigued despite herself, though she made sure that she stayed firmly a few paces behind Clark, pressed up against his side while trying to avoid making it look as though she was backing off. "They are cute," she conceded. "There are a lot of them," she added dubiously after a moment.
"Actually, there aren't many of them left these days," Clark said. "They've almost been wiped out by our guy."
"Our guy?" Lois looked up quizzically.
"The American Grey. It's a lot bigger than those little guys and, it has to be said, a bit of a bully. Definitely not as cute." He grinned at her. "Much more pushy." She rolled her eyes at him and the grin widened. "Once it was introduced on trading ships, it pretty much took over. But there are still a few colonies of British Reds here and there."
"Uh-huh," Lois said. "Um…can we go now?" She'd seen a lot of nature up close and personal today, but the peacocks and the pheasants had at least had the good grace to keep their distance. There was only so much nature one woman could take.
With an amused smile, Clark pulled her arm through his indulgently and moved them on. Lois released a soft breath as they left the giggling schoolchildren and chittering squirrels behind.
The Pavilion turned out to be a sheltered arbor, with some dozen wooden tables arranged prettily beneath the cascades of roses entwined around the supporting trellis that made up the structure.
Lois sighed happily, utterly content as she devoured two strawberry ice-cream frappes and a large diet Coke. The heat was less intense now as the afternoon wore slowly on and a cool, faint breeze drifted in welcome counterpoint through the arbor.
Lois found herself drowsing over the last of the strawberries and thinking wistfully of home. Part of the day's excitements had translated itself into a soft warm glow in the pit of her stomach and she wanted nothing more than to wind up a perfect day with some snuggling time with her husband in the quiet privacy of their own home. He looked positively adorable as he sat opposite her sipping tea in the companionable silence that lay between them. The plain white t-shirt he wore stretched tight against solid pecs as he reached to put down the cup and she bit softly at her lower lip, feeling that glow flare suddenly into something hot and intense low down in her belly.
He glanced up at her and his eyes softened, something in them recognizing what was in her own gaze on him and responding to it instinctively.
"Time to go?" he suggested, eyes twinkling as he reached across the table separating them and took light hold of her fingers in his.
Lois nodded and pulled her hand gently clear as she got to her feet. Leaning close, as she picked up her purse and light jacket thrown over the back of her chair, she murmured against his ear, "You remember that not being a saint thing…?"
Clark grinned up at her as she straightened, speculation in his eyes as he met the challenge and invitation in hers.
"Definitely…" he agreed, taking her hand and glancing surreptitiously around for a likely changing spot, before he drew her with him out of the arbor and into the concealing foliage of the Scottish pines.
Lois sighed, a small, contented sound in the darkness of the bedroom as she nuzzled her cheek against the neck of her sleeping husband. Her mind was full of the day. She made a mental note to suggest they go back to Scotland one day soon. There were so many other places she wanted to visit along the stretch of Fife coast. Pretty villages they'd only had time to drive through this time, tiny harbors with bright-painted fishing boats bobbing in the water, quaint little weavers' cottages, hung with baskets of flowers…countryside and seashore jostling cheek by jowl in perfect harmony. And history. Dunfermline's ancient, brooding Abbey had given her a taste for exploring more of that ancient magic and lore.
Yes…one day soon they'd go back, she told herself.
She glanced over at the crystal bud vase on the table beside the bed. In the room's shadows the deep glowing colors of the peacock's feather were dulled by the darkness.
Lois smiled and snuggled closer to the broad, warm back of her husband, memories of her perfect day in the warm Scottish sunshine lulling her gently into sleep.
July 17, 1997
Lois put one step in front of her, forcing herself to climb the steps to the brownstone. It had been, hands down, the longest month of her life. She wasn't entirely sure what had her more exhausted, the new baby which had been left on their doorstep or two sets of grandparents trying to tell her how to care for it. She knew they meant well, but sometimes…
She stopped outside the door and could hear the sounds of her mother and father, obviously disagreeing about something. It almost sounded as if they both had a different way of putting a diaper on. She let her hand rest on the doorknob as she leaned her head against the door, trying to work up the strength to go inside.
The familiar, gentle voice behind her helped ease the tension in Lois' body. Even though she didn't have the strength to lift her head from where it was resting on the door, she smiled.
"Trying to work up the nerve to go inside?" Clark asked.
"You know what I wish?"
"I wish I was skinny dipping."
Clark laughed, a deep-throated laugh that echoed through Lois' entire body.
"So do I hear the word?" he asked.
She lifted her head, turning to look at him as a smile made her way across her face. "Cocoon."
"Your wish…" He quickly glanced around, being certain no one would notice, before sweeping her into his arms and taking to the air. "…is my command."
<Carol Malo — Kingsmere, Canada <email@example.com >>
"Where are we, Clark?"
"Where you wanted to be — somewhere hidden, a very secret place, Lois." He touched her face, caressing the line of her cheekbone, then slowly traced one finger across the softness of her lower lip.
"I didn't request hidden though… did I?" she teased.
"Sure you did." He grinned. "You said skinny dipping. So therefore hidden. I'm a modest kind of guy."
They were standing at the edge of a small lake, gazing at its glassy surface shimmering in the summer moonlight and at the spiked silhouettes of tall spruces which encircled the dark water. "Perfect, this is sooo perfect."
"But, you know, Lois, it's not where I intended to bring you when we took off." He frowned for a second as though trying to understand. "For some reason, once we were in the air, all of a sudden I thought of this place, Lake Kingsmere — I flew across it this spring…"
"It's beautiful." Facing him again, she met his dark eyes with a glimmer of mischief in her own. "So what are we waiting for, Clark? You… me… no one else…" She raised her hands to the neck of her sleeveless blouse and undid the first button.
"Let me." Gently, he bent forward and brushed his lips across her mouth, and as he did, a slight breeze blew his cape against her legs. Slowly, he pulled her hands away from her blouse and, his eyes never leaving hers, he undid the next button. "God, Lois, I've missed you."
Her hands slid along his powerful arms, savouring their strength. "I missed you too…" Standing on tiptoe, she returned his kiss, tugging gently at his lower lip, enticing him. "Three days, Clark, three days and three very long nights…" She kissed him again, teasing him with her tongue. "And it's sooo hot in Metropolis…"
Now their kisses became eager explorations as his hands unfastened the last button of her blouse, and she wriggled her shoulders, letting the garment slide to the ground beside her, unneeded. His mouth never leaving hers, he quickly undid her skirt, and it too fell to the ground.
"Very adept at this, aren't you?"
"Yeah… motivation is everything, Lois."
"Now you, Superman." Her voice was low, seductive, breathless, as her hands roamed across the blue fabric of his shirt searching for the fasteners of his cape. Succeeding, she deftly released them, fascinated as the cape fell, crimson pooling on dark copse. Then she tugged at his shirt, pulling it loose from his belt, giggling at the awkwardness of pushing it up over his chest. "That spin thingy has certain advantages, ya know."
"Shall I?" He looked mischievous.
"No, no — it's just the shirt. I… uh… enjoy… the ah… uh…"
"Yeah, that." Bliss softened her sigh. "I really, really like that part… But you could help a bit, maybe take the shirt off?"
He dragged the troublesome garment upward, strong arms outstretched as he pulled it over his head, grinning. "Pleased to have been of service, Ms. Lane."
Once more, she stepped closer to him and placed her palms on the smooth skin of his bare chest, fingers playing across his solid muscles, learning them again, playing. His arms circled her waist, pulling her against him as he bent over her, his eager mouth seeking hers.
Then, suddenly, the tall grass in which they were standing rustled, pushed apart by the muzzle of a large dog, an Irish Terrier, whose pale, wiry coat reflected the golden moon. The animal looked at them for a moment and then barked sharply, commanding their attention. He trotted toward them.
Lois laughed as the dog's nose nudged her knee. "So much for being hidden, Clark." Bending, she patted the back of the dog's head. "What are you doing out so late, big guy?"
The terrier circled around her and poked at Superman's cape which lay in a careless heap on the ground.
"Hey," Lois protested, "you're getting in the way here, ya know that?"
The dog looked at her, barked, then trotted away from them, back through the grass.
"We should get a dog, Clark."
"Not tonight, Lois." He touched her cheek. "Thought we were going for a swim." He leaned toward her, grasping her shoulders in his hands.
Just as he was about to kiss her, the dog reappeared, cocked his head to one side, and once again, barked, shattering the stillness of the night.
"Yes?" Clark asked him. "You're kinda interfering here, you know."
Undeterred, the dog stood his ground, and once more nosed at the cape, growling as he tugged at it, and then, triumphant, bounded off with it, a flash of wiry, wheaten coat and crimson cape vanishing in the darkness.
"Hey, come back here!" Clark streaked after the thief, Lois close behind.
Catching up to the dog, Clark tried to reclaim the cape but the dog refused to let it go.
"Clark, I think he wants us to go with him." She looked at her husband, her eyes concerned. "Maybe, his owner's in trouble." As she spoke, the dog dropped the cape at her feet, and she reached down for it.
Trotting ahead a few paces, the dog then turned to stare at them and once more uttered that preemptory bark.
"Clark, I think we should follow him." She wrapped the cape around her body, twisting an edge between her breasts to fashion a crimson sarong.
Clark sighed wistfully as he looked at his wife's bare shoulders and the swell of her breasts above his scarlet cape, then took her hand, looking regretfully at the dog's beseeching eyes. He was a sucker for kids, adults, dogs, anything in distress. "Okay, fellah, show us the way."
"Puppy dog eyes." Lois giggled.
Wagging his tail, the dog led them away from the shore and galloped up a wooded incline, pursued by the slender dark haired woman, red cape wrapped around her, and by the tall, black haired man in blue tights, red briefs, red boots and nothing else. It took them several minutes to reach the middle of the hill. As they climbed, the dog occasionally checked back, assuring himself that the two humans were following him, his tail wagging each time he saw they that were.
As they climbed, the terrain changed: long grass and stubby brush giving way to a grassy slope which was had been freshly cut. Dark shapes jutted upward across the landscape, sheltered by maple trees.
"Clark, we must be in a park or something." Lois tripped over a rock and, glaring at the offending object, she stopped to rub her toe. "That's odd." She knelt and looked at the square cut stone, brushing her fingers across a design which had been incised on its surface. "It's an inscription, but I can't make it out. Clark, do you think we're in a graveyard?"
Her husband walked back to her and focused his x-ray vision on the inscription. "No, I don't think so — this seems to be the corner-stone of an old building — 1795, Dundee. Wonder what it's doing here."
Raising her head, Lois noticed for the first time, among the few tress which had been allowed to remain standing, a series of half constructed stone walls dotting the hillside. "Where are we, Clark?"
Before he could hazard a guess, the dog barked and, once more, the two followed, passing by fragments of ancient ruins which loomed upwards in the moonlight. As they walked among these monuments, Clark focused his x-ray vision on the inscriptions, finally stopping to touch the words carved on one limestone wall. "Lois, it says this was once part of the old British Parliament building." His voice was hushed. "And the one over there was part of the first Canadian Parliament."
"That's weird. Why would bits of those old buildings be in a remote place like this?"
"No idea." He looked around him. "Maybe the guy who lives here collects…"
"Collects walls, Clark? No one collects walls."
"Architecture, not walls, Lois," he said loftily.
"Piles of rocks, Clark."
As he was about to reply, a huge tufted owl landed atop a massive, freestanding fireplace and hooted at him, its large yellow eyes compelling the man back on his journey.
Up ahead, they saw a broad wall, its stony expanse broken by three large, Gothic windows, their pointed arches stretching for the sky. Wagging his tail, the dog broke into a run toward the wall and leaped over the stone sill of the centre window.
"Clark, the dog is jumping through the opening over there!"
The couple jogged over to the wall, then stopped and met each other's eyes. From the other side, the terrier gave them a stern look and a low growl, and they knew he was waiting for them. Shrugging helplessly, Clark scooped his wife up in his arms, and together they flew through the centre arch, landing on the other side beside the dog who'd sunk back on his haunches.
Once again the trio resumed their journey up the slope, and a few minutes later, at the top of the hill, they reached a large white clapboard house. Now, the grass gave way to formal flower beds, barely visible in the darkness, only the sweet fragrance of night blooming nicotine hinting at what was growing there. A narrow gravel path beckoned them, leading from the back of the house, around its side toward the curved driveway at the front of the house. They stood for a moment, looking at what lay before them.
"Clark, look at the cars!"
"I know, Lois. Whoever owns this house has gotta be a collector."
They stopped for a second before a black Cadillac that must have been over fifty years old. Beside it, was a smaller, sleekly curved Daimler, and beside that, a squat but serviceable Nash. Highly polished, the three cars gleamed in the moonlight.
"Wow!" Lois walked closer and touched the Daimler, running her hand along its hood. "Even the license plates are vintage. 1945."
The terrier trotted up to her and nudged her leg with his muzzle.
"You know, dog, you're one bossy animal," she said as she walked obediently beside him and up the few steps of a wide porch which sprawled across the front of the house. "So what's up?" she asked as they approached the front door. Although the screen door was closed, the solid wooden door behind it was open. "Pretty trusting people around here," Lois muttered.
The dog crouched in front of the door, watching Lois and Clark patiently, clearly waiting.
Cautiously, Lois pushed the screen door, jumping back when its hinges squeaked, then took a deep breath and crossed the threshold, aware of the dog's wagging tail brushing against her as it circled in front of her and crossed the small foyer to mount the narrow staircase. As they entered, Clark stopped and picked up a newspaper that had been left on a small table, beside an oil lamp whose flame illuminated the room's dark panelled walls.
"Lois," he whispered. "Look at the date."
"July 17, 1945." She raised her eyes to his, puzzled.
By this time the dog had reached the top of the narrow stairs, and now he turned and tilted his head toward them.
Obediently, Lois and Clark mounted the stairs, climbing past framed black and white photographs hung on the wall. Men in dark suits and women in long dresses and those broad brimmed hats that spoke of afternoon teas in summer gardens. When they reached the top of the stairs, they stopped, noticing a thin, middle-aged man standing in the mellow light of a doorway at the end of the hall.
"Yes, Mr. Prime Minister. I'll make sure that you're not disturbed. Good night, sir." Then he exited through a door at the end of the hall, walking in the opposite direction from where Lois and Clark had stopped.
Taking the man's disappearance as a cue, the trio proceeded along the darkened hallway and entered the open room. Joyfully, the dog bounded over to a moderately rotund man with thinning hair, sitting at a large walnut desk whose surface struck one of his visitors as neatly organized and the other as wildly cluttered.
"Pat, I knew you'd come." The man bent over to stroke the terrier's head before he looked up at Lois and Clark. "And you've brought him. I didn't know if it was possible to call someone from the future, but you've never let me down, old boy, and he's here. Superman is here."
He rose from his chair to greet his guests, his movement conveying a sense of energy and purpose. And also, at that moment, a sense of relief.
"I expect you're wondering why Pat has brought you here." He paused as he took in the sight of his two visitors, too polite to express his surprise at how they were dressed, the superhero bare-torsoed and Lois Lane, wide-eyed and wearing only a swath of scarlet which he suspected might be the superhero's cape. As he was about to greet her, he noticed her eyes swivel away from him toward the far wall.
"A crystal ball!" Lois walked across the dark oak floor boards to a dresser on which a blue tinged crystal ball held pride of place. "How beautiful."
"It is, isn't it? Friends in London gave it to me, but I don't use that sort of thing in the seances, you know." His voice was conspiratorial, telling them a secret. "I shall take it back to Laurier House when I return in the fall."
"We followed your dog here — we thought you might need our help."
"Most certainly, I do. I hadn't expected Pat to bring Lois Lane as well as you, Superman, but I must say it's a pleasure to meet you, Miss Lane."
He extended his hand to her. "However…" He looked at her sternly, and then at Clark. "I must have your word that you will not publish a word of what I say to-night. Your colleagues at the Journal are sitting on this information, aware that it could become a grave national crisis. The editor very properly sent Mr. Gou… um… him to me."
"Oh, you have our word — no way we'll publish any of this. Nope, not one word." Lois didn't add that, in her opinion, Perry White would roll his eyes, cough discreetly and then laugh the story out of the newsroom.
"Please, sit down." The man indicated a battered wicker rocking chair and an overstuffed armchair.
"You understand, I'm not sure what to do about this. A man has come to me with the most damnable story. He works for an embassy in town, the representative of one of our most important allies in the war. Now, as we begin to rebuild Europe, their co- operation is vital. But this man claims that his embassy has been running a spy ring — twenty-six people spying on us, on our scientists, and also on the Americans, sending information back to his government about a highly sensitive project."
"What is it that you want Superman to do?" Lois asked.
The old man looked alarmed. "Do? Good heavens, no, I don't want him to do anything. To act could prove disastrous at this time! No, no. I want his advice. What should I do with this gentleman's information?"
"Easy," Lois said. "Expose them and kick them all out of the country."
He frowned at her. "That's not what your Mr. Roosevelt said."
"Mr…Roosevelt?" Clark asked.
"Yes, I sought his advice earlier this evening, just after I talked with Mother."
"Naturally, Miss Lane." He looked at her, surprised that she didn't know this vital fact. "Mother has always been such a strong support; she's never failed me when I've been in need of wise counsel."
"Don't suppose her name is Martha?" Lois asked, wide eyed and innocent.
"If I order their deportation, then the whole thing is out in the open, we alienate our ally, and ruin any chance of their co- operation in this great task of rebuilding."
"But if you don't order an investigation…" Clark ventured.
"Then the spying continues." He paused and stared ahead. "There are secrets we have that Stalin must not know — I don't believe the man can be trusted. We risk the security of the world if these men succeed in their treacherous acts."
"Stalin?" Both Lois and Clark yelped simultaneously.
"It would be all over the world's newspapers," the old man muttered. "The alliance a shambles. Our hopes for a new peace. What should I do — reveal the plot or hide the plot?"
"So you're seeking our input?"
"Input? I'm not sure I understand that word."
"Our advice," Lois amended Clark's query.
"Yes, yes. This matter is of such grave importance that I feel it necessary to seek the advice of seven people from the other side. So I've just held a little sance. Former Prime Minister Laurier has already given me his. Mother, naturally, and your Mr. Roosevelt, and of course, dear old Pat."
The Prime Minister bent down and gently stroked the terrier's head, scratching him behind his ears. "You've always given me good advice, too, old boy, haven't you."
"And what does Pat suggest?" Lois asked.
"That I give asylum to Igor and order the Mounties to arrest all those suspected of being part of this spy ring. That I confront the ambassador and reveal all to the country."
"But…" Lois tossed out." But Mr. Roosevelt advises caution."
"Ah," Clark said. "So a revelation if necessary but not necessarily a revelation? Yeah, I can relate to that."
"Exactly! You've hit the nail on the head, Superman. Couldn't have expressed it better myself. I knew I was right to summon you."
"Yes, yes, the seance," he said dismissively. "In times of national crisis, you know. Fortunately, to-day is the 17th day of the seventh month, a lucky day, and so, if I have advice from seven people, then I know I will make the right decision. Yes, yes, I think that's right, Superman: Revelation if necessary but not necessarily revelation!"
Excitedly, he picked up a fountain pen and jotted the words on a sheet of blank paper on his desk.
"That's a decision?" Lois asked incredulously, rising from her chair so quickly that the red cape wrapped around her body inched downward.
"Yes, Miss Lane, it is."
"Makes sense to me, Lois."
"What does that statement mean, exactly?" She gesticulated wildly, then grabbed at the loosening fabric which protected her virtue.
The Prime Minister smiled at her benignly. "It means what we need it to mean, Miss Lane. It will mean what people want it to mean." He looked at his other visitor. "Thank you for answering my call, Superman. You know, it's only the departed whom I've been able to contact before, never anyone from the future. But I mustn't keep you any longer."
He turned to his dog. "Pat, you can take our visitors back, now." Pat padded across to Lois and Clark, while his master picked up the receiver of a black phone sitting on his desk.
As Lois and Clark were leaving the room, they could hear the Prime Minister speaking. "Louis, we'll move cautiously on this. Here's what I want done…"
It took Lois and Clark only a few minutes to walk the short distance from the house, back through the flower beds, down the grassy slope, and past the remains of old buildings jutting up from the hill. Then once again they were facing the stone wall with the three Gothic arches. Pat stopped and stretched up to place a paw on the window sill.
"I guess we return the way we came, Lois."
"I guess." She turned and scratched the dog behind his ears. "Ya know, Pat, you're one special fellah." Then sitting on the window sill, she pulled her knees up to her chest, then swung her legs around and slid onto the ground on the other side of the wall. She felt a gentle breeze, and then Clark was standing beside her. For a second they looked backwards but Pat had disappeared.
Turning, they stared at each other." What just happened here, Clark?"
"Lois, I have no idea."
"Did we just travel back in time?"
"I think so…"
"And just how did we do that?"
Clark grinned. "We followed the terrier."
"Clark, you don't think we were really summoned by that guy?"
"Lo-is, that guy was Mackenzie King, Canada's Prime Minister in the 1940's."
"Oh, so that's supposed to explain what just happened — it's a Canadian thing?"
He laughed. "Yes. Come on, Lois, still want that moonlight swim?" He scooped her up in his arms. "You look really good in the cape, Ms Lane." In a blur, faster than a speeding bullet truth be told, they were in the air and, a nanosecond later, standing once more on the shore of Lake Kingsmere. "But, I'm thinking you look even better without it." He lifted his finger and crooked it into the knot of fabric between Lois's breasts. But before he could undo it, obeying some unseen force, the couple turned and looked toward the hill. Mackenzie King and Pat were standing there, companionable silhouettes in the moonlight; then they vanished into the darkness.
Lois looked thoughtfully across the lake's smooth surface. "It's too spooky here, Clark — who knows what will happen if we swim in these waters. Let's go somewhere safer." Dark hair swirling and her eyes sparkling as she turned to face him, she said, "I know… let's try Loch Ness!"
* Notes for Anna Botsakou — Athens, Greece(*) L&Cizement of a joke I've heard here in Greece, and which I find extremely amusing and very realistic at the same time.(**) 'You're not going to get rid of me, Athens. I'll be back soon, believe me. And not alone anymore.
* Notes for Artemis — Lake Tahoe — Basque language and information is from the website of Larry Trask (not all Trasks are bad!) at the University of Sussex, U.K. (http://www.cogs.susx.ac.uk/users/larryt/) and from the University of Nevada at Reno.