The Exquisite Corpse (A L&C Surrealist Challenge Fic)

By Various Authors <>

Rated: PG

Submitted: December 2004

Summary: Who said that fanfic has to make sense? Authors respond to the Surrealist Challenge.

This challenge fic is based on something the surrealists used to do together. They'd gather a gang of people together and play surrealist games that included writing and artistic exercises, all collaborative and all very random. They came up with all kinds of crazy/funny/dreamlike pieces. I thought it might be fun to try a Lois & Clark one on the message boards. The rules were as follows:

* For the sake of this exercise, the only 2 characters were Lois and Clark.

* Authors wrote what was "in between" two lines of dialogue I'd given them. Each part was NOT going to be a complete story. Far from it. But each author should have established a bit of a scenario and an environment (Where the characters are, what they're doing).

* Authors began and ended with the given lines of dialogue.

* Authors then emailed their parts to me.

* I assembled the parts together of everyone who participates. They became one, big crazy nonsense story! —Why?— You ask?

* Because each person's last line was somebody else's FIRST line! * So, we have several different premises, and the only link is the transitions in the dialogue!

Read on, and enjoy!

—Wanda Detroit


"That outfit…" Clark said teasingly, "it suits you."

Lois did a twirl in her latest ensemble. A tiny pleated yellow- and-maroon skirt spun out to reveal even more of her exquisite legs. A good six inches of her midriff was showcased between the crop-top and the skirt's low waistband. She wore pristine white sneakers and there was a gold ribbon tied jauntily around her head. It was a Metropolis Tigers Cheerleading uniform. Lois Lane was going undercover.

"Come on, really. What do you think?" she asked, smirking and looking a little uneasy.

Clark opened his mouth and closed it again. A million thoughts were racing through his head. 'I think you're the most beautiful thing I've ever seen; this is some kind of male fantasy realized; and please put on a coat before I do something I'll regret…' He grinned sheepishly. "I think you look great. Really, really great."

"I'm not talking about how I *look*—I'm asking you if you think we can pull this off."

"*We?* Lois, this is *all you.* You don't see *me* in a miniskirt."

"Gee, thanks, *partner,*" she scoffed. "This is the last thing I want to be doing, you know. Parading around wearing next to nothing. I just have a feeling that if I can get close enough to the team we'll really know what's going on with the Tigers. Don't forget whose big idea this was." Her tone was accusatory.

"What?" Clark shot back defensively. "Lois, I just have a suspicion they have an agreement with someone. It's like… they're being paid off to lose."

She shrugged. "Maybe they're just having a bad season."

"A bad season? Lois, they won the Super Bowl last year. They're a *good team.* I can't imagine their game changing that much." Clark had to restrain himself from telling Lois that he'd overheard the Tigers's coach purposefully telling the star player to miss a pass during a time-out, thanks to his super-hearing. "There's something fishy going on, that's all."

"And I'm going to find out. Even if I have to prance around in a miniskirt cheering like a moron to get the job done."

"Hey," said Clark, "cheerleading is a serious sport."

Lois rolled her eyes. "Yeah, right."

Who was he kidding? Clark's eyes kept roaming up and down the length of Lois's legs. "Uh, aren't you chilly, Lois? Why don't you put on your coat until we have to go?" He lifted her trench coat off his couch and draped it over her shoulders, more for the purpose of keeping his conscience in check than for keeping Lois warm. "So, have you ever actually *watched* the Tigers' Cheerleaders?"


He raised his eyebrows. "How are you doing to pull off the routines?"

Lois shrugged. She didn't seem worried; on the contrary, she seemed overly calm. "I'll fake it."

"Fake it?" Clark looked at his partner, his eyes wide. Did she know what she was getting herself into? "Lois, they don't just jump up and down and yell! You have to do back-flips. The male cheerleaders will throw you up in the air and expect you to actually land on your feet!"

She crossed her arms. "Clark, you forget I was a gymnast in high school."

"High school was a long time ago."

Lois frowned. "You think I've lost my touch? Just you wait and see."

Clark shrugged. *This* was going to be fun. He'd have to call Jimmy before the game. He knew his friend wouldn't miss this photo opportunity for the world. "Well, the game's in two hours," he announced to Lois. "You better eat something before you go. I have some steamed vegetables in the fridge."

Lois made a face and reached for the small brown bag she'd brought with her. "Steamed vegetables? Gross. I brought my own—"

Clark seized the bag from her. "Hey. No junk food. You're an athlete, remember?" He withdrew a pastry from the bag and took a bite, savoring it in front of her.

"Hey! That's *my* donut!" she declared indignantly.

"Yeah, well, I wouldn't try eating it," Clark said dryly after peering at it over the top of his glasses for a moment. "Not unless you have a desperate wish to get food poisoning. I haven't seen that many bacteria in the one place since that pool on Spencer Spencer's island!"

"What? What pool was that?"

"You know — the one you fell into and were going to drink from until I stopped you. It was a *soup* of nasty-looking bacteria; I think Spencer must have contaminated it deliberately."

"Yeah, that would fit in with his crazy scheme to get us to call for Superman by stranding us on that island — but why didn't you tell me about it at the time?"

"I wanted you to *relax*; we had all that tension between us about my powers, you were already worked up over the lack of the five-star resort that you were expecting, and I hadn't helped matters by refusing to 'scoop and carry' you out of there. Telling you that the only fresh water we'd found — until I made that 'spring' by punching through the rock — was bad would *not* have helped you calm down. I didn't tell you about the tiger, either…"

Instantly, Clark knew that he had said too much. Lois's brows shot into her hairline, her eyes went as wide as he'd ever seen them, and she began to sputter angrily in an all-too-familiar fashion:

"T— T— *Tiger?! What* tiger? You never mentioned any *tiger!*"

"Didn't I?" he replied nonchalantly (being anything but that inside, but determined — desperate? — to keep the conversation light enough to not break down into an argument). "I guess it must have slipped my mind after Spencer's goons grabbed us — and everything else that happened after that. You were asleep at the time — remember lying together on the beach?"

That did the trick, to Clark's relief: the incipient fury on Lois's face faded rapidly, replaced by a small, nostalgic smile. "Yeah, I remember… that was one of the best parts of that whole insane trip." But while the memory of lying entwined with Clark on warm tropical sand had defused her ire, Lois still wasn't going to let the subject go. "Okay, so tell me about this tiger."

"There's not much to tell. You were asleep — and looked and felt wonderful next to me, let me say — and I was reading when I heard this noise. I looked up and there's this tiger coming out of the trees. He wasn't particularly aggressive or anything, but he was a *tiger*, so I gave him a quick heat-vision hotfoot, and he turned and left. And that was that. You slept right through the whole thing — all 30 seconds of it, if that — which was exactly what I wanted, so I was happy to let things be for the moment."

He could see her start to ask the obvious question, and held up a hand. "Before you ask, yes, I did find it strange that there was a tiger there — I even wondered if we'd actually found the island from 'Swiss Family Robinson' — but I couldn't go zipping off to see where it had come from, or even follow it with my super-vision because I had the woman I love curled up next to me and I didn't want to disturb her. You resting was far more important; the tiger would still be there when you woke up, and then we could both go looking for it… if we wanted to. As it happened, of course, we were taken prisoner and any thoughts of tiger-hunting went out the window; we had other things to deal with."

Lois snorted in disgust. "That… that… *sex maniac!*" She glared at the donut that had started the topic of conversation. "Y'know, if he were still alive, I'd force-feed him that rancid donut just so he could suffer a taste of his own medicine — if you'll pardon the pun.

"However," she went on, her voice suddenly plaintive, "I'm still hungry!"

'They call her Lois "Subtlety" Lane,' Clark thought, chuckling to himself, 'But she's worth it — and gorgeous, too!'

Clark gazed at his partner. "What do you want?"

"What do I want, Clark? I want you to stop looking at me like some lost puppy dog."

Clark shook his head. Dang. He'd done it again. "Sorry, Lois, I was just lost in thought." Lame, Clark. Good excuse. Apparently Lois thought so too because she just rolled her eyes.

"Whatever, Clark. Now tell me what you found out about Wagner."

Clark sighed. "Nothing. Zip. Squat. Zilch." He watched the fire in her eyes die. "There's nothing there, Lois."

She let out a frustrated growl. "*Why* is there no news lately? Nothing! Not even a stupid robbery."

Clark bit back a smile; she'd kill him if he smiled right now. But she was so cute when she was mad. And she was still going.

"Seriously, Clark, don't the criminals in Metropolis have to keep their jobs too? What are they afraid of? Superman? I mean, all they have to do is wait until his back is turned, 'til he's busy with some other crime. Or maybe a disaster in China or something."

Clark's jaw dropped. "Lois! You *can't* be serious."

She sighed and dropped her shoulders in defeat. "No, I'm just so bored, Clark. Maybe we should call it a day."

"Yeah." He'd been having the same thought, only he was thinking they should have dinner. He was going to do it. He was going to be brave and ask. "Lois?"

"Yeah, Clark?"

"I was thinking well maybe you wanted to…"

"What, Clark?"

His smile faltered at her exasperation. "Uh…"

"Come on, Clark, out with it."

"Doyouwannamaybegoouttodinner? With me?"

Her mouth was hanging wide open and it reminded Clark of a goggling fish. But he was too nervous to laugh or even smile. And beside the point, for all he knew, she was gaping at him because he'd spoken so fast and wasn't sure what he'd said. Heck, *he* wasn't quite sure what he'd said.

Her mouth opened and closed a few times, he assumed in an attempt to speak. Yup. She'd understood him all right. Well, at least he hadn't gotten an immediate 'not in a million years, Clark.' That had to be good, right?

Her mouth finally produced a coherent sound, "Um…sure, Clark. That'd be nice."


He'd picked Callard's, his favorite restaurant, casual but elegant. She'd insisted on going home and changing first, so he had too. Now he was sitting alone at a quiet booth while Lois powdered her nose. Or whatever it was that women did in the bathroom. <Oh, Clark.> His hearing tuned into her sigh. Was she nervous? That was a good sign too, right? He was about to tune back out when he picked up on something else she was saying.

"What the heck was I thinking? I'm wearing black underwear," she whispered.

Clark closed his eyes and struggled to maintain control of himself. His breath was coming in short gasps, and he wondered if he could hold out much longer.

Lois noticed his discomfort and smiled. Turning so that her legs hung over his side of the desk, she slipped one of her shoes off and ran a stockinged foot across his ankle.

Clark shuddered.

"Why fight it, Kent?" She purred, "I'm attracted to you, and I know you're attracted to me. Do I have to draw you a diagram?"


She leaned forward, giving him a clear view down her partially opened blouse.

Clark forced himself to focus on the monitor of his computer. He swallowed. "Lois, please, stop. We can't do this."

Lois pouted. "Aw, Clarkie, why not?"

"Two reasons. One—" He held up one finger for emphasis, "—we are in the middle of the Daily Planet newsroom! I don't know about you, but I'm certainly not an exhibitionist. And two—" he held up the second finger "—you're not yourself, Lois! If we—you know—did anything, you'd regret it for the rest of my short life!"

She giggled. "Oh, don't be silly, Clark! What do you mean 'I'm not myself?' If I'm not me, then who could I be?"

"I don't know, but I think it has something to do with those perfume models who were here yesterday. There was something not quite right about that blonde…"

"What blonde?"

"You know, the one with the 'Au de Feet?'"

Lois only gave him a blank stare.

Clark took a pencil and began to sketch. "There. Does this look familiar?" he asked, holding up his drawing.

"Superman's emblem," Lois said, indifferently. "But you're still not making sense."

"Lois, what could I have to do with Superman's emblem?" Clark asked, frustrated. He couldn't believe she could be *that* blind where it concerned his double identity.

"I don't know, you came up with it, maybe?" she mocked.

He rolled his eyes. "Lois, please, I'm serious."

She stared at the drawing for a moment. "I don't know what you're trying to tell me," she insisted. "Why don't you try *saying* it?"

He looked down. "It's not easy."

"What if you wrote it down?"

Clark clapped his hands together. "All right. Let's try a different approach."

Lois stared at him distrustfully. It bothered her that Clark didn't talk clearly; it probably meant that, whatever it was that he wanted to tell her, she wouldn't like it.

"So, Lois," he began. "You know I'm a friend of Superman."


"Well, we're more than that."

"More?" she repeated. "What do you mean, more…? Oh my God!" Her eyes opened wide in shock. They were *together*!!! Eeeeew!

She turned her back to him. That was too much to handle.

Clark was troubled. He'd expected she wouldn't react nicely, but she seemed almost sick.

She fell on the couch, grabbing her stomach. All her dreams, her love fantasies about Superman, were now shattered in tiny pieces. He had chosen Clark over her. *Clark*! How could he? And how could *Clark*? And they looked *so* normal…

Clark sat beside her. "What are you thinking?" he asked, worriedly.

Lois looked up, disgusted. "How long has it been?"

"What do you mean, how long?"

"How long has… *this*… been going on?"

Okay, something was wrong here. "Lois, I think you must have misunderstood me."

Hope shone in Lois's eyes. "You mean you're not together?"

"Tog… Heck, no!!"

Lois sighed in relief.

Clark raised an eyebrow. "What if we were? Would you have minded?"

Lois crossed her arms. "That's none of your business."

Superman's eyes narrowed and he, too, crossed his arms, unconsciously imitating her, his elongated shadow etched with hers against the lush grass that flowed endlessly beyond the Eiffel Tower, beneath crisp clouds carved in the blue light of a Paris afternoon.

"But you're wearing a bowler hat, Lois."

"I know." Shrugging, she looked at him, daring him to go further.

"And you're in Paris."

"I guess so."

"But a few minutes ago you were in Metropolis."

She looked away, staring over his shoulder. "There's no way you could know that, Superman."

"I live in Metropolis, Lois."

"Live? You have a life?"

He frowned, then quickly regained his aloofness. "Of course."

"So you sleep somewhere, eat, hang out?" She paused. "Laugh?"

"Well, yeah, I mean, Lois, why are you here and why are you wearing that hat?"

"The hat is my destiny, Clark."

"What?" His eyes widened. "You just called me Clark."

Her earth dark eyes met his for a second and then shifted, losing all expression. "No, I didn't. Why would I do that? Clark's back at the Daily Planet."

"You did. You called me Clark."

Dispassionately, Lois removed the black bowler and ran the palm of her hand over the curve of its crown. "If you say so."

"I do say so." As he spoke, he stood even straighter, looming tall before her, muscled legs planted firmly apart and red cape billowing in a wind that touched only him.

"Well, then you must be Clark Kent."

He deflated. "The hat, Lois, where did you get it?"

"I've always had it, Clark. I wear it all the time." She placed it carefully back on her head, adjusting the rim so that it paralleled her dark brows.

"I've never seen it before."

"It's part of my invisible aura, Clark."


"See, you are Clark. That's why I'm here. I came to Paris to find you. It's time, Clark. It's time, Superman."

"Lois, I don't get this."

"No? You don't remember?" Her brown eyes flashed her hurt at this wound.

"Remember? Lois, do *you* remember?"


"Lex Luthor." He spoke tonelessly, his heart without hope in the Paris sunlight.

"Lex? Is that why I'm here, Clark?" Defiantly, she jerked her hand upward toward the brim of the black bowler hat, snatched it, and sent it soaring, skipping across white clouds, chased by blood stained crows.

Clark looked at Lois with concern. "Are you okay?" he asked worriedly. "I mean, this is like the third cup of coffee you've gotten me today!" he said, gesturing to the fresh cup of coffee as Lois sat it down on his desk.

"Of course I'm okay! I can do things for my friends, right?" Lois pointed out. Clark raised his eyebrows. "Well, I could if I wanted." Clark cocked his head. "Okay, okay! I need a favor. Can you feed my fish and water my plants while I go out of town this weekend?"

"Sure, Lois, but you know, I've seen your plants. They'll survive without water or coffee for a couple of days." He grinned.

Lois glared at him. "Cute, Kent. No really, I'm working on a new plant, and the book I'm reading says it needs a lot of attention for the first month or so! I'll leave it on the coffee table for you; the directions need to be followed exactly!" Clark raised his eyebrows again. "Okay, not exactly. Just take care of it, okay!" He chuckled as Lois stalked back to her desk. A couple of plants and some fish to take care of? No problem.


The next day, Lois left for her trip, and after work, Clark stopped by her apartment using the temporary key she'd given him. He stopped dead in his tracks. The living room smelled funny. Almost rotten. Clark grimaced as he searched for the smell; he didn't have to look for long. In the far corner of the room was Lois's latest possession. It looked like a big, deformed tree trunk with a stick pointing straight up. *This* was what Lois had bought?! For Gods' sakes! Who in their right mind decorated a living room this way? Excuse me, can I see something in tree stump?'

Shaking his head, Clark found the book on the coffee table entitled "Stumps and You." He sped-read it, and tossed it back on the table, fighting off laughter. Lois didn't actually expect him to sing to it, did she? Or carry on conversations? The thing already looked pretty dead to him! Nonetheless, Clark sighed and began to sing. This was going to be a long weekend.

"Henry, look at her, a prisoner of the gutter,

Condemned by every syllable she ever uttered."


Monday morning, Clark hid behind his computer typing up story notes. Lois was going to kill him. The elevator door 'dinged' open, and sure enough, his partner stalked out. Immediately her glare stopped at his desk, and she marched straight over. "Clark Kent! What did you do to my tree stump, and why is there a ficus tree sitting in my apartment?"

Clark mentally reviewed the weekend. In reality, he accidentally set it on fire with his heat vision during his rendition of Evita lyrics. However there was more than one reason to get rid of it. "The neighbors started sending hate notes, Lois! It smelled up the whole hallway, and the superintendent made me trash it! Why did you even have it in the first place?!"

"Cla-rk, the neighbors *always* send hate mail! And besides, I wasn't going to just decorate my living room with a tree stump! It was going to be a base for my future orchids once I got it under control! What do you take me for, a moron?" Clark just shrugged noncommittally; it wasn't one of the brightest projects she'd ever attempted. Lois rolled her eyes. "I can *not* believe you just did that."

Clark raised his shoulders. "What?"

"Made that move. That is so dirty. You just trapped my king!"

He chuckled. "That is what you do in chess, Lois."

"Still dirty," she pouted.

"You just don't know how to lose, do you?"

"I so do!" she exclaimed indignantly and got off the floor. "It just would've been nice if you didn't feel the need to win so fast."

"We've been playing for 25 minutes, Lois."

She ignored his comment. "So, what else do you have?"

Clark got up. "I have a deck of cards." He grabbed it off the table for visual demonstration.

"Good. Deal."

"What are we playing?"

"Crazy Eights?"


He divided the deck in two halves and lay them down on the table.

"Do you ever wish you could stay in one place, forever?"

He smiled. "Sometimes. Sometimes when I visit my parents I think, why did I leave? But then I come back and remember."

She Blushed. "I'm glad you didn't. Stay there, I mean." She smiled. "If you wouldn't have come here and become Superman, I'd probably be dead now."

"You know what's nice?"


"Being able to talk to you about Superman. A few weeks ago, I couldn't. And every time I had to make an excuse, had to lie to you, I died on the inside." He leaned across to kiss her.

"Aww. Well, you don't have to lie anymore. Or make excuses. And it's nice." She smiled.

"You know what else is nice?"


Lois approached the kitchen counter and poured herself a glass of water. "This is nice. Much nicer than where my mom took me last night. I had three guys hit on me, one pass out on me, and one offer me 'happy powder.'"

Hesitantly, Clark asked, "Lois…? Where were you last night?"

His partner peered at him over her coffee mug, frowning. "What do you mean where was I? Can't you read? I got page one."

"Right." He sank slowly into the chair across from hers, picking up the paper from her desk. "Metropolis Brewery Linked to Mob; 'Reporter Nearly Drowns in Action.'"

A delighted smile stole over her face. "Great, huh? My hunch paid off."

"You nearly drowned because of it, Lois," Clark reminded her a bit testily. He was irritable this morning, feeling just a tad…off. He squinted a little under the glare of lights in the bullpen. The suits upstairs must have upped the wattage for some reason.

"Superman was there," she answered simply, dismissing his concerns as she continued to study her headline.

"He…was?" He sat up straighter and fought to keep his partner in focus. She kept blurring and unblurring in the oddest way.

"You didn't read very far, did you?" She rattled the paper. "Or you'd know that."

"I just caught the headline," he answered slowly. "But Superman…never mentioned he was…there."

"You talked to Superman?" Her demeanor changed completely as she set her mug down with a bang. A really loud bang. "When? When did you talk to Superman? Was it this morning? And for heaven's sake why didn't you say so earlier?"

"Could you just…hold it down a little, Lois?" He winched against the daggers her words were pricking into his skull. He didn't understand it. He must be coming down with something. Though that would be a first.

"Did he tell you about the kryptonite?" She had leaned in closely, lowering her voice and casting glances around for potential eavesdroppers.

"Kryptonite?" he repeated weakly. Of course. No wonder he felt so horrible. Still, it didn't explain how he'd woken up this morning- cold and naked for the world to see right on his balcony. Thankfully, the world hadn't seen. Although he didn't want to think too hard about what the neighbors might have. He swallowed. "So, Superman was there and he saved you, despite the…kryptonite?"

She nodded vigorously, her eyes huge. "They tied us up and threw us into this really tiny crawl space. Then, they burst the kegs. And I'm not talking one or two, Clark. I mean gallons and gallons of beer pouring down on top of us, until it was over our heads!"

"What did you do if Superman was incapacitated?" he gasped, holding his head as he did so. He hadn't meant to be quite so loud.

"We drank our way out!" she finished triumphantly. "You should have seen Superman, Clark." She sat back with that dreamy smile on her face. The one he had come to recognize and hate. The one that made him feel a bit queasy. He was certainly feeling it now, a little more than usual. "There he was, without his powers, sucking that beer down like a Hoover. So much of it."

He leaned forward and rested his head on the edge of her desk.

"You ok?" she asked.

"Yeah," he said. "Just…dizzy, I think. So, Superman drank your way out?"

"I tried to help, too, but there was only so much I could drink. Once the beer was gone, we got ourselves untied and…that…uh… was…um…pretty much it."

He raised his head. Even enshrouded in fog, as his brain currently was, he recognized the Lois Lane dodge when he heard it. He studied her flushed face for just a second, trying to decide if he really wanted to know.

"So, you went to the police and wrote this up, end of story?" he finally asked.

Her facial expression answered more loudly than words. He felt the queasy feeling again, and lowered his head back down. Was he sweating? He never did that.

"Um…" Lois said. "We…he…couldn't fly. And I didn't want to go straight to the police station; I was drenched and needed to change. So he just…walked me home."

He kept his eyes riveted on his feet. He knew he had just the two, but now there was a new one in the middle that he hadn't noticed before. "And then you went to the police and Superman left?" he asked, trying not to sound too hopeful.

The silence was both peaceful and disturbing, as was her furious blush when he grew brave enough to look at her.

"Right?" he asked again.

"Right," she said feebly, chewing one corner of her lip.

"Lois," he sighed. "Just…tell me."

"This is awkward, Clark, I mean…you and I are friends, you and he are friends, him and me are friends…"

"Pronouns, Lois," he whimpered. "And please, just…what happened?"

"His inhibitions were naturally down," she said with a blissful sigh. "He'd had a lot to drink and he wasn't super, so…he just…talked a lot. Told me things about…how he really felt about me."

Suddenly laying his head on her desk wasn't enough any more. He pushed his chair back a few inches and put his head between his knees.

"Clark? You don't look so good," she said from somewhere above him, somewhere far, far away.

"Tell me," he said through gritted teeth. "What happened after he…told you…things?"

"We didn't really talk much after that." The satisfaction in her tone was unmistakable.

Maybe he could just lie down on the floor? The tiles would be cool and the room was unseasonably warm this morning. He was contemplating how he would explain doing just that, when Lois's excited whisper forced his eyes open and his head up.

"You can keep a secret, can't you Clark? If I don't tell someone…I'll die." The pleading in her voice was impossible to deny.

Resigned, he nodded. "Trust me, I'm good with secrets. Alcohol, not so much. But secrets, definitely."

"He started kissing me," she said breathlessly, "and then one thing led to another and, well…" Lois beamed. "We did it!"

Clark eyed his jubilant partner in amusement as she punched a fist in air and then reached out to take her elbow and move her out of the way of several passers-by, who glared at her in annoyance as she blocked the middle of the street outside Barney's Fish and Squish Emporium.

"Lois, it's not like we just got this week's front page scoop," he told her, easing her to the edge of the sidewalk out of harm's way. "It was only lunch."

Lois rounded on him, wide-eyed. "How can you say that? Do you know how long it's taken to beat those guys down on City Beat? Three years! Three *years*, Clark! Do you know how smug a person can get in three years?" Her satisfaction had waned now, covered by a scowl.

Clark studied her with mock sympathy. "You really hate this losing thing, don't you?" he told her with a grin. "Even if it's just a stupid bet with —"

"It's not a stupid bet!" Lois's tone suggested he'd just said the Metropolitans were a quite good team. The understatement of the year. "It's a tradition. It's important to keep up traditions, Clark," she continued, somewhat pompously, as she glanced around them and then set off purposely for the crossing. Dragging him after her by one arm, she continued her lecture as she maneuvered her way through the crush.

"Even the ones about eating as much calamari as you can without throwing up?" Clark said, bemused now, as he offered his customary litany of apologies in her wake to everyone she barged her way through or manhandled out of her way.

"It's not *what* you have to do, Clark, it's —"

"— beating the other guy at all costs," Clark finished. After eighteen months of working with her, he knew the Lois Lane Philosophy of Life 101 off by heart.

Lois nodded firmly. "Right! And — " she turned her head to grin widely at him, her earlier exuberance returning full force. "This time *finally* We…Did…It!!"

The smile hit him full in the chest like a cattle prod, making his heart quiver in response. It was impossible not to grin back, not to be affected by her child-like enthusiasm. "Yeah," he said, the grin spreading. "We did, didn't we?"

Lois laughed in delight and he caught up with her, hooking her arm through his. "So, partner of the iron stomach," he said blithely. "Where to next?"

"Well, I guess there's always work," she said, mock regretful. She darted across the street against the light, ignoring his yelp of admonishment and flipping a dismissive hand at the drivers who honked their horns at her, then disengaged herself from his sudden death-grip on her arm as she pushed through the Planet doors. "Right after I get these receipts copied and mailed down to Rob. Oh, he is just going to be *green*," she said in delight. "Oh and I need to find Jimmy," she added thoughtfully, glancing around the foyer as though the photographer might be lurking there, trying to purposefully hide from her. Not finding him, she made a beeline for the opposite end of the foyer instead. "…I need him to be there to take pictures when Rob opens that envelope!"

Clark gaped as he followed her. "Lois, you can't possibly eat those after all the squid," he said, watching as she grabbed several candy bars and paid for them.

"I'm not going to eat them, Clark. I don't eat candy," she said, then glanced down at the bars she was stuffing into her purse with a frown. "They…uh…" She was flushed now he noticed wryly as she searched for a valid reason for their presence. "Well, everyone needs an emergency ration or two," she grumbled. "All the experts say so. What if there was a power cut? What if terrorists stormed the building? An earthquake! We could be trapped here for days without food and —"

Clark patted her on the shoulder and ignored her dark look as he pressed for the elevator. "Sure, Lois. So, this work thing," he added, diverting her hastily as the look became thunderous. "Any ideas how we might go about that?"

The tactic worked. Her face became pensive as she hustled into the half-empty elevator, leaving him to follow. "Well, we need to get a comment or two from the Mayor for a start and then —"

"Getting an appointment with him isn't going to be easy, Lois. And we don't have time for —"

"Oh, who needs appointments, Clark? Appointments are for Star reporters," Lois informed him airily. "We'll get him bagged by this evening. Trust me."

Clark eyed her askance as she patted him condescendingly on the arm. That didn't sound good. It always made him nervous when she asked that. Not that he *didn't* trust her. On certain things. Some things. He trusted her with his life. He just didn't trust her to be at all reasonable when tracking down a story. He sighed. He knew the drill. By evening they'd either have a good quote they could use, a pending law suit against the Planet from an irate politician, or be in jail waiting for Perry to come bail them out.

A slow grin formed. Never knowing which it would be. That was what made working with Lois Lane exciting.

Lois was still jabbering her plans for the afternoon in his ear as the elevator slowed and the doors swished aside on their floor. He only listened with half an ear. But he retrieved his notebook from his jacket pocket and began to jot down the salient points anyway. Not that Lois's plans usually went exactly as she well planned but it was always good to have evidence of how she had planned them in the first place, so he could point out where she'd jumped off the deep end and ruined them. It made her eyes spark with that indignant fire, apart from anything else, and provoked her into furious argument. He loved that. Some of his best moments had been arguing tactics with Lois. She had such passion in her. For life, for her work, for…

…well, one day, he hoped he'd find out just how far that passion extended.

For now, however, he stood at the rail of the bullpen and stared in quiet disbelief at the chaos beneath him, all thoughts of Lois's slim body beneath his as she murmured passionately in his ear fleeing abruptly as he took in the sight. Dimly, he heard Lois move to stand beside him, hearing her startled gasp of breath. He sighed. Looked like Harry the Cat was back from his extended vacation and back in Metropolis. And — with his usual perverse sense of humour — he'd left a few calling cards. No doubt to pay them back for getting him the vacation at the pleasure of the state in the first place.


Baskets of kittens. Kittens being cuddled by cooing staff- members. Kittens being chased out of the way by irate reporters. Kittens getting into places they really shouldn't. More kittens than you can count. In the middle of the bullpen, their Editor- in-Chief looked as though he was nearing apoplexy. Harry's little jokes usually had that effect on him.

"Oh no," Clark groaned, handing Lois the notebook.

"What?" She opened the cover and read the first few lines of Clark's neat handwriting. "There's nothing wrong with letting your partner read your notes."

He tried to grab the notebook back, but Lois pulled it away. "Of course. It's just… um, nothing," he said in a falsely happy voice.

"Why don't you want me to see it? Is it something embarrassing?" She swatted Clark's hand away with the notebook. She wasn't going to give in that easily.

"I just forgot…" he let his voice trail off, hoping Lois would give him the benefit of the doubt.

What was his problem? This was Clark. He never forgot anything. Sometimes she didn't understand what went through his mind. How could he be embarrassed over his notes from 1995? She ignored his protests, and opened the notebook again. "September 24, 1995. Mayor's Press Conference," she read aloud.

"Lo-is, come on!" He wanted to rip the notebook away from her. "I gave you the wrong notebook," he tried. "I left the one you want at home."

"Nice try, Kent," she said. "This is exactly the one I want." She flipped the page and continued reading.

"Lois, don't flip the page," he pleaded. "Please. Just listen to me."

She flipped the page and saw a large doodle in the corner. "You're ashamed of doodling?" She tapped his shoulder. "Earth to Clark. Everyone doodles when they're bored."

"Well…" He shook his head. "I know. It's just… Lois, I need the notebook back."

Like she would give him the notebook after he peaked her curiosity. Yeah right. That was like an open invitation to read further. She examined the doodle more closely. "What the heck is this?"

He needed to think fast. She had found it. And he didn't want to have to explain himself. So he did the one thing he knew would change her focus and forget everything else in the world. It was a small sacrifice, but he had to do it.

"Lois," he said softly. "I love you."


Before she could say anything else, he wrapped his arms around her, and pulled her close. Then he leaned down so their heads were only inches apart. He softly brushed his nose against hers and then captured her lips with his own.

Lois gasped in surprise, overwhelmed with the intensity of his kiss, the notebook momentarily forgotten. Clark Kent sure knew how to throw a girl off track!

She moaned softly, and dropped the notebook so she could wrap her arms around him to pull him closer to her.

He grinned against her kiss when he heard the notebook hit the ground. Mission accomplished. He broke the kiss momentarily, and said, "Would you like another?"

Lois grinned. "I'll take two," she replied.

"Two?" Clark sputtered. "But… Lois…"

"Yes, Clark?" she asked, innocently.

"This is an *engagement ring* we're talking about!"

She composed her face before looking up from the catalogue. Then, languidly raising an eyebrow, she asked, "So, what's your point?"

"You can't have two!" he declared, gesticulating wildly.

"Why not?" Somehow, she managed to keep a straight face.

"It's an engagement ring, Lois! It's to show your love and faith, your pledge to get married… you can't have two!"

"But, Clark," she said, smiling sweetly, "if I'm getting the package deal, I want the full package."

He looked at her, confused, but there was a hint of trepidation in his expression, too. "Package deal?"

"You know what I'm talking about."

"I do?"

"No, that comes later. Maybe."


"Never mind."

"Uhm, right. So, what are you talking about?"

She took a deep breath. "Listen, Clark, you proposed to me, right?"

He thought about this for a second. It seemed strange, but at least it was a simple question. "Right."

"And that means you want to marry me, right?"

Something was decidedly odd. He had a feeling, though, that it was better just to go along with it for the time being. "Right."

"And if we get married, that means we share our whole lives, right?"

Since he'd started reading comic books as a boy, Clark had always wondered what it felt like to have a "Spider-sense." As the eerie tingling sensation raced up and down his spine, he decided he could stop wondering. "Right."

"So," she finished smugly, "if I'm going to be sharing my life with both of you, I think I deserve two engagement rings. Right?"

"Both of me…? You know!"

"Of course I know, Clark! After everything we've been through, after what happened this morning, how could I *not* know?"

"Well… uh…"

"There's that articulate superhero…" She was answered only by confused silence. "So, when were you planning to tell me, Clark? After the wedding? After our third anniversary? After the kids started flying around?"

"Actually, I was going to tell you tonight."


"I've been meaning to tell you. I was going to tell you today. I just… It's hard for me, Lois…"

"Hard for you? What about me? Thinking you were two people? Figuring it out? Dealing with it? Waiting for you to decide to trust me…"

"Trust you? Of course I trust you! I was just scared."

"Scared? If you trust me, what do you have to be scared about?"

He looked at her. "This," he said, with a vague wave that indicated the entire conversation.

She looked at him, saying nothing.

"Listen, I was going to tell you. I had a whole plan set up for tonight. I was going to make myself do it. Because I want to share everything with you. Really, I do."

She continued to stare silently.

"You don't believe me, do you, Lois?" he asked.

"That Superman wouldn't want to date me? Watch this!"

Lois stood away from him for a moment, and then began to spin until she was a whirl of sky blue and yellow. When she stopped, Clark's mouth hung open. Slowly a grin spread across his face. "What's this, Wonder Woman?"

"No, Clark, don't you see! Now maybe Superman will be interested in me! A long time ago when Superman was flying me home after he'd rescued me, we flew through an electrical storm. When we got home I realized I had powers like he did. I didn't know what to do. I didn't want to tell him, in case he… well, I thought he'd try to take them away from me somehow. But… well… it's been so much fun! I've got this disguise all picked out. I was going to see if I could… sort of get romantic with Superman and maybe he'd date me because I was just like him!"

"You're kidding. Why are you telling me this?"

"Because… I don't know. You're my best friend. I couldn't keep a secret like this from you. I'd still like to do it. Do you think…um…Superman would like to date me? I am invulnerable after all!"

Clark swallowed hard. Boy was he going to be in trouble now. Not only was he keeping his secret from her, but she'd just revealed a secret to match his own. Maybe he'd better tell her. But maybe not.

"What are you going to tell people when you go public and they start asking you for interviews?"

"I'm going to lie."

His eyebrows raised and a smile spread across his face. "Not too hard for you to do I don't suppose!" He remembered all of his many lies. It was ludicrous to think he stood for truth.

"I'm going to tell them I'm from Krypton. That in our society we are married at birth and that Superman is destined to be my companion."

"And what if Superman doesn't want to be your companion?"

"Claaark! Of course he'll want me. He already likes me. I can see it in his eyes. He cares about me a lot. He just doesn't want to date an earth woman. It's probably really complicated. So," she waved her arms as they walked, "he is trying to keep me at a distance, that's all."

"But are you going to still be Lois Lane to him or are you going to be someone new?"

"Someone new."

"But you said he likes Lois Lane. Do you think he'll be drawn to this new woman just because of her powers?"

"Of course, Clark. Think about it. He's all alone here on the planet. He doesn't have anyone to talk to, anywhere to call home."

Clark shoved his hands in his pockets, watched his feet and mumbled quietly, "That's what you think."

Lois's superhearing didn't miss anything. "That's what I know, Clark!"

"What if he doesn't like you Lois, I mean, not that way and all when you're… what's your name going to be?"

"I'm not sure. Could you help me with that? He said his name was Kal-el, or Kal from the house of El. I need a name like that. How about Cif from the house of, oh I don't know. Ur? An? That's good, Cif from the house of An. Or Cif-an. I like that, what about you?"

"You're not going to tell him he's got to be married to you are you? I mean, it's quite a lie and all. What about when he finds out whom you really are? He'll be really mad won't he?"

She paused, pursed her lips and looked skyward. "How will he find out?"

"Well, he recognizes and finds you because of your heartbeat."

"No way! You're kidding." Clark wondered if he'd said too much as she tuned in to his heartbeat, noting that she'd heard that sound in the background a lot. She wondered what Superman's heartbeat sounded like. "How do you know that?"

"We've talked at times about rescues and stuff. He says he always listens for heartbeats to find the victims in a rescue. That's how he can find people anywhere. He likes it, too because nobody can sneak up on him. Anyway, everyone's heartbeat sounds a bit different. They speed up and slow down depending on how people are feeling.

"Yeah?" She listened to Clark's heartbeat. It seemed to be going faster than it was a moment before.

"Yours just speeded up. Why did it do that?"

Clark shrugged, willing his heartbeat to slow down. She didn't have a clue what to look for; she wasn't going to…oh my goodness! Now when she was with Superman she'd recognize his heartbeat. Well, he'd have to take care to change it slightly. One more thing to pay attention to. Of all things. Why couldn't he just shut up?

"I don't know. Maybe I was walking too fast or something."

"Oh." She'd notice that from now on. This was so exciting. It was even better than a good story. "Just a sec." She stopped him from walking, looked around and spun back into her Lois Lane clothes.

They were less than a block away from the corner store that sold the best ice cream ever.

"This is so great, Clark. I can't wait to see Superman now. I wish I knew what his heartbeat sounded like, and then maybe I could go flying around looking for him. What do you think he's doing this time of day?"

"I dunno. Maybe he's catching his dinner in the ocean. Maybe he's flying around looking for problems. A hospital ribbon cutting, perhaps?"

"Clark!" she whacked his arm playfully.

"Oww! That hurt. Watch what you're doing Superlady!"

"Shhh. You don't want anyone to hear you do you?"


He pulled the door open for her and they walked up into the Ice Cream Emporium. "Let's just buy one big container and get two spoons." Lois suggested, eying the chocolate fudge tubs.

"Sounds good. That means we get to snack on it on the way home, right?" As soon as they were back out on the sidewalk, Clark opened the lid and ate a few large spoonfuls before Lois realized what he was doing.

"Hey, Clark, that's enough! I knew we should have gotten you your own!" Lois sighed, taking the ice cream for herself. "No fair."

Clark shrugged. "Life isn't fair, Lois. And if you wanted things to be simple, you should have picked a different profession." He helped himself to a slice of mulberry pie and led the way outside, ignoring her glare.

The sun was beating down, and the monkeys were chattering and squabbling in the trees not far away. Clark spread his towel in the shade of a coconut palm and they sat down side-by-side. Clark tried to concentrate on eating his pie neatly, but his eyes kept straying to where Lois's tongue was licking sensuously at the ice cream. She had her eyes closed and was clearly savoring every moment of the treat. Clark's mouth dried as he watched her expert movements. At length the last morsel vanished into her mouth; she licked her fingers daintily and then opened her eyes.


"Nguuhhh… Yes?"

"You have mulberry stains all down your T-shirt."

He looked down and winced. The pie had been dripping down his front, unregarded, while he'd been distracted. He crammed the rest of the pie into his mouth, grabbed a paper napkin, and dabbed ineffectually at the marks.

Lois licked her lips. "You should soak that before it dries — mulberry juice stains. Why don't you take your shirt off right away?"

"Uh — because this is a g-rated story?" He looked up, his eyes narrowing. "Anyway, when did you get to be the big laundry expert?"

She sniffed. "Okay, so I made it up. But I still think you should change — we can't exactly do discreet surveillance with you looking like you just got shot in the heart. I tell you what…" She smiled impishly. "Why don't you do that spin thing?"

Clark was dumbfounded. "What do you mean?"

"Exactly what I said," Lois replied, folding her arms across her chest. "Don't you listen? What good is superhearing if you don't bother to use it?"

"Shh!" Clark darted a pointed glance towards the bustling newsroom behind her. He grabbed one of her folded arms, thinking that it was harder to budge than steel was, and dragged her into a conference room.

"First of all," he said, trying his best to keep his voice down. "We need to set some ground rules. Like *not* mentioning anything…'super'…within earshot of reporters."

Lois's arms returned to their stiff position across her chest. "What are you worried about?" she muttered. "I'm the best reporter here and it still took me two years to figure it *out*."

"And second," Clark continued, ignoring her remark, "I heard what you said. But I want to know what you *mean*. You can't just say…say… *that*, with no explanation."

Lois stared down at her feet and used one high-heel clad toe to rub at a scuff mark on the floor. "Look, I'm sorry. I just feel like…I only know half of you. Well, I know half of you, and I know the other half of you, but I can't get the two to get together into one coherent piece. It's like I have this giant collage going instead of a straightforward picture — not that anyone can have a clear, straightforward picture of anyone else, because we're all complicated people, really, and probably don't even have a clear, straightforward picture of ourselves, let alone anyone else…but you gotta admit, your picture is even less clear and straightforward than normal."

"And so you want to go to Smallville."

Lois nodded. "Alone."

"Alone," Clark confirmed.

Lois's tough demeanor melted and she put a hand on Clark's arm. "Please, Clark. I just feel like…I need to…see what made you you. All of you. Not just the halves that I see in their little compartments, depending on which you you are being at that moment. And I think that it would help if you…weren't there."

"Weren't there."

"Yeah. I mean, face it, you're kinda distracting." She let her eyes travel the length of his body and he felt a blush creeping everywhere her gaze went.

"But I still don't get why you think you can get to know me better when I'm not around."

"It's the same as investigating someone for a story. I can't go directly to the source, at least not usually, so I have to go around it. Where they live, who they know, where they grew up. I'm used to getting to know people without them being around. I work better that way. Plus, I think your mom might be a little more open without having to worry about you eavesdropping."

"Oh, don't worry," Clark said. "She has no problem being honest, brutally honest, even when I'm actually in the room."

That got a small smile out of her. "I promise, Clark, it'll be a short trip. And you can even come out for a little while at the end or something."

"And then I'll teach you to milk a cow?"

Lois gave him a playful jab. "Yeah, right."

"What, Lois Lane doesn't believe me?" Clark asked with a tiny note of hurt in his voice.

"You want me to believe that you made all that? Let's see, there's Swiss chocolate, Indian rice, German sausages, French bread, Dutch cheese, Italian wine, Turkish meat, Russian something, that's Chinese and a lot more food from all over the world. You honestly want me to believe you made it *all*?" Lois asked incredulous.

"Well yeah!"

"Think again, buster," Lois challenged her best friend.

After a moment of thinking, Clark replied. "Okay, let's put it this way then. If I didn't make all this, then how did it come here?"

Lois looked around her. Clark's entire apartment was filled with food. Some warm, some cold, some drinks and it certainly didn't came from here. Every table, chair and otherwise empty spot was filled with food. Lovely food. Food she couldn't wait to taste. But Clark was obviously trying to tell her something.

He couldn't have made it since his kitchen didn't hold the capacity to make it all and have so many of it warm right now. He couldn't have bought it all in Metropolis, since she was sure some of this stuff wasn't even available in the city. So how had he done it?

She didn't have a single clue or idea about it. There was only one way to find it out.

"I don't know! I only know you couldn't have possibly cooked all this in *your* kitchen!" Lois blurted out as she made another round through the apartment to check out everything that was displayed for her.

"Okay, so…"

"So you tell me! You want to make a point here and I'm not getting it. So spill it!"

Clark walked towards her while munching on a piece of chocolate. "Would you believe me if I said I had it all imported?"


"Yeah, that's what I did."

The look of disbelief on Lois's face showed him she still didn't understand a single bit of it.

"Actually, I flew it all in," he added, hoping that clue would help her solve the puzzle.

"You flew?"


"But a plane isn't so fast… how can it all still be warm… what… Clark?" she suddenly looked at him, scanning his face and body while her brain was working on full power. "You flew on your own power? Like Superman?"

Clark just nodded as he didn't dare to break the eye contact he had with Lois right now. He could see in her eyes the different emotions passing that went with the revelation.

"You mean… oh God!" She clapped her hands in front of her mouth as a sudden thought popped into her head. "You have a relationship with Superman and he passed you his powers?"

"That's the worst news I've heard all day," Clark groaned.


The Authors… in order of appearance. The quotes around each author will let you know where the parts start and stop!

"That outfit…" Clark said teasingly, "it suits you."


"Hey! That's *my* donut!" she declared indignantly.


Clark gazed at his partner. "What do you want?"


"I'm wearing black underwear," she whispered.


Clark took a pencil and began to sketch. "There. Does this look familiar?" he asked, holding up his drawing.


Lois crossed her arms. "That's none of your business."


Clark looked at Lois with concern. "Are you okay?" he asked worriedly.


Lois rolled her eyes. "I can *not* believe you just did that."


Hesitantly, Clark asked, "Lois…? Where were you last night?"


Lois beamed. "We did it!"


"Oh no," Clark groaned, handing Lois the notebook.


Lois grinned. "I'll take two," she replied.


"You don't believe me, do you, Lois?" he asked.


Lois sighed, taking the ice cream for herself. "No fair."


Clark was dumbfounded. "What do you mean?"


Lois gave him a playful jab. "Yeah, right."


"That's the worst news I've heard all day," Clark groaned.