What Friends Are For

By Debby Stark (debby@swcp.com)

Summary: Lois has a girls' night out with her sister, Lucy, and two good friends. Clark Kent and Superman keep coming up as topics of discussion, to Lois' embarrassment.


Lois Lane, ace reporter for the Daily Planet, and Betty Reed, up-and-coming detective in the Metropolis Police Department, faced each other across the conference table deep somewhere in the justice building on Metropolis Government Plaza. They had been questioning each other on the record for the last half hour about the statewide string of bank robberies and its possible connection to crime rings in the city.

As they both sat back taking a breather, Betty noticed Lois's fingernail polish. "You write all day and it's not chipped?"

"And I type in it, too. It's new and really seems to be holding up."

"I'm impressed."

"I've wanted to say your hair looks, well, nicer than it did the last time we got together."

"I like this cut better, too. I looked sort of matronly in the old one."

"Well, I wouldn't have said *that*..."

"Then let's say we stop sparing with each other?"

"Okay." Lois reached forward and turned off her little tape recorder and then closed notebook. She gave Betty an "and you?" look. Betty got up and turned off the extra switch by the one that turned on the light. "I swear we're private now. There's not even any two-way glass."

"I noticed that when we came in, but I was also sure we were being taped."

They approached the topic again, this time in depth, trading guesses, hunches, and what real proof seemed to be available. Some 45 minutes later, both had a lot more to go on and promises to give credit where it was due if things panned out.

Lois glanced at the big utilitarian clock on the north wall - then looked at it again. "Oh, no, I'm late. My sister Lucy's in town this week from college and I'm supposed to meet her and my old school chum Molly back at the Planet. We're going to have pizza and... Do you want to come? I warn you, it's all going to be" she affected a exaggerated voice: "girl talk..."

"I'm not very good at that. I don't get to do much of it here..."

"Yeah, I know, a woman in a man's world, just like me. I don't *need* girl talk. You can't be any worse talking trivia than I am, so what do you say?"

She said yes. They chatted on the way to the Planet in Lois's car, and Betty followed her in when Lois entered to retrieve her sister and her friend. Lois found them in the newsroom, sitting at her desk, chatting with Clark, who (ever the out of towner) stood up as she approached. She made quick introductions, then dug through her purse, retrieved her notepad and the tape she'd made, and tossed them on Clark's desk. "This is what I got, all on the record. Just confirms what we knew."

"I figured."

"Come on, girls, let's go."

Betty eased around Lois, who was pushing her kid sister's feet off her desk, and held out her hand to Clark. "Good to see you again, Kent. Congratulation on that Kerth Award, you did a good job."

"Thanks, I appreciate that. Ah, Lois?"

"Is it about work? Can it wait until tomorrow? Good. See you."

In the elevator, Lucy poked her. "That wasn't very nice, Lois! What if he had had something important to say?"

"Then he would have told me, that's the way we work."

"It's the way *you* work," Lucy muttered.

"We're not going to talk about work, we're going to have fun tonight, right, everyone?"

"My work's fun," Molly said, "but I don't mind talking about other things."

"My work's not so much fun," Betty said, "and I don't mind leaving it behind."

Molly gave her a hug and a pat on the back.

"There, you see?" Lois said pointedly to Lucy, who gave her a narrow, skeptical look. Seeing it, Lois emphasized: "I am leaving my work behind."

They converged on Lois's apartment, decided on pizzas numbers and toppings, and phoned in the order. Lois had wine and Molly presented them with two bottles of cherry cider. They talked about what each one liked to cook and how none of them had time to do be chefs and what those silly women's magazines had to say about it. They grilled Lucy about college life and did a little reminiscing. Motherhood never came up as a topic. The pizza arrived and the topic turned to one they all agreed they could be free to be silly about.

"Talk about *men*," Lucy said between bites. "Lois says she can get Superman in here for a visit, but tomorrow's my last night and we haven't seen hide nor hair of him."

Molly, who had ordered and was digging in to the vegetarian side of one of the pizzas, said, "Clark seemed to think he could get hold of him."

Lois nearly choked. She frowned at her sister. "You told *Clark*?"

"Sure, why not? I just mentioned it when he asked what else I had planned for my stay, and he said he might be able to get in touch with him. I thought it was nice of him. It's at least as promising as what *you've* been able to do. A 500-foot-high fly over is not close enough."

"But Superman's a busy guy," Betty said.

"Yeah," Molly said. "There's a UFO group that meets at my place and they say he's promised to drop by for their next meeting if he can. If word gets out, there won't be enough room..."

"The way Lois writes to me about him, you'd think he practically lives and sleeps here--"


"but her bed's the same one she had last year and it's still in *real good shape.*"

Molly and Betty said in unison: "Oh..." and added raised and curious eyebrows.

"I never said he slept here - and stop picking on me!"

"Lois," Molly said gently. "Our jobs are as exciting as yours, but in comparison are personal lives are, well, boring. You'll have to forgive us for having fun pretending it was us instead of you..."

"Well, since you put it that way..." feeling superior never hurt her ego.

"After all, I've only seen him close once, in the war room, and that wasn't very close. Is his suit painted on? It's so... tight."

"No," Betty said. "I've seen him several times at police functions. It's some kind of fabric, but I don't think you can get it at Cloth World."

"It feels like there's a zipper up the back," Lois said.

Lucy, Molly, and Betty: "Ohhh!"

"No, no, no, nothing like that!"

"Well, what do you two do then?"

"Well... He comes over for dinner..."

"That's why there's so much candle wax on this table cloth," Lucy pointed.

"I don't have time to get it out, all right?"

"And then after dinner, what?"

"Well... sometimes I put on some music and we dance and that's really nice..."


"And then he has to go."

"Just like that? He doesn't take off his cape, kick off his boots and get comfortable?"

"He's a busy man! He has people to save! Dams to mend... damn it."

Molly reached over and covered Lois's clenched fists. "We know it's the easiest of relationships..."

"You don't know the half of it. He's always there to save the day, but I wind up crashing at Clark's place..."


"No, nothing like that, either! It's purely platonic!"

"Yeah, because otherwise she treats him like dirt."

"No, I don't!"

"And he's *so cute* and..." Lucy searched for the word. "Refreshing! You know? I told him he should try contact lenses."

Molly nodded. "He might look better without the glasses."

"He said he tried contacts once but they reacted wrong with his eyes..."

"Poor guy."

"Poor nothing!" Lois said. She looked to Betty. "What do you know about Mayson Drake?" "She's an assistant DA, she used to work for the Church organization, and she had a good case against Baby Rage's lawyer and whoever he worked for until he spontaneously combusted."

"Just proves how incompetent she is..."

"Lois, four investigators and a court recorder were injured in that fire..."

"Well, I didn't mean it *that* way, I saw the autopsy report and all the pictures..."

Lucy looked at the other two. "She meant that if this Drake woman is incompetent, then Clark can't possibly *really* be interested in her."


"Lucy! He's *not* interested in her!"

"That's not what you wrote to me. You said she practically crawled all over him the first time they met and he didn't discourage her."

"I said he looked embarrassed *and* he's polite and we were on an investigation *and* she hates Superman when everyone else respects him. Who could love a woman like that?"

Betty shrugged at Molly. "I talked to her once. She's nice enough and knows her job..."

"She should stay away from Clark, that's all..."


"I doubt he was embarrassed," Lucy said. "More likely he was starved for attention..."

"I give him plenty of attention!"

"Then what color was his tie today?"

Lois opened her mouth for a quick retort but none would come.

"I'll give you a hint: What color are dinosaurs usually thought to be?"

What with Molly and Betty looking on in fascination, she couldn't escape to the bathroom. Darn Lucy for making her point this way... "Gray."

"And the color of the vegetation the vegetarian ones ate?"


"They were T-rexes, weren't they?" Betty asked.

"Yep. Little ones running along with puffs of dust kicked up behind them. It was really cool. He said his makes them - hand paints them! Lois, at *least* you noticed the color of his suit jacket..."

But Betty shook her head. "That's too easy, I almost always see him in blue or tan. It does wonders for his eyes."

"I bet he doesn't realize it," Molly smiled.

"Guys don't," Lucy nodded with all the worldly authority of her 21 years. "We have to tell them sometimes, just enough times."

"So Clark's not been told enough by somebody he seems to care about, hmm?" Betty said.

"I can't let him get all soft and mushy, it'll affect his reporting. His mother can tell him if his clothes match. Besides, he doesn't care that much about me, we're just working partners."

"For somebody he doesn't care about, he's taken her home to meet his folks," Lucy confided to the other two. "They're all friends."

"Lois, what strikes me as odd is, has Superman done any of this? Introduced you to his folks? Let you crash at his place?"

"Taken off his cape?"

"Brought you coffee to your desk?"

"Let you bounce ideas off him?"

"Small talked with you?"

"No, she talks *at* Clark, I've seen it all week. He gets a few barbs in, but mostly he's just a quiet, considerate kind of guy..." and she sighed dreamily.

Lois sighed, too, but not the same way, and leaned on the table, chin in her hands. "All right, all right, I admit it, there's something wrong about my relationships. Superman's... super but..."

"He's always seemed to be like some kind of fantasy to me," Molly said. "I'm surprised someone hasn't written a book analyzing him as a new age phenomenon..."

"God, I hope no one does..."

"Yeah, that's why you bought that crystal that brings you strength and fortitude..."

"Is that what's hanging off your bed post?"

"Lucy! Eat! Stuff your mouth! Now!"

"I predict," Betty said, "what with my great long-term experience with a variety of men..."


"Well, my track record hasn't been much better than Lois's, but even a blind woman can see that Clark is there, he's a regular guy in good shape with all his teeth, I'll bet, and making a fairly good salary, so..."

"I do like Clark, really... he's great to pal around with... and he is attractive, I've seen him with a whole lot less clothing on - purely by accident, you understand..."

They smiled, but she could see they believed her. She had to admit that they really were sympathetic to her plight.

"Does he realize you like to pal around?" Molly asked.

"He should... I don't know..." She tried to contemplate another piece of pizza but it didn't rise up and rescue her. "Maybe I ought to figure out some way to tell him..."

"Well, it's clear to me that regardless of how you and the guy in the tights feel about each other, he could be gone as quickly as he came," and Betty snapped her fingers. "The criminal element, the smart part of it, like Lex Luthor, wherever he is now, and that Prankster nut - who I predict will escape - they're taking him into consideration of him when they make their plans. Clark, on the other hand..."

"Is there..."

"And he likes you, Lois," Lucy said. "Who knows? Maybe Superman lusts after you as much as you do him - no, listen to me. Clark's not like that. A relationship with him would be better than that, more permanent. I think he'd make a brother-in- law material."

"And lust in that kind of relation would be all right, too," Molly added.

"Well... maybe..."

As they let Lois think during a few moments of silence, Betty finished her third piece of pizza. "Talk about lust, I noticed you have some Mel Gibson movies in your tape library..."

"Do you want to watch one?" Lois asked in a little voice.

They agreed immediately, rose, gave her hugs of support, insisted on cleaning up the kitchen while she looked on ("We'll have to do this more often!" and they agreed with that, too), and then they settled in the living room to enjoy some celluloid fantasy.


"Flowers? For me?"

"Yeah, I thought you'd like them."

"Sure, I like yellow, but you didn't have to..."

"Yes, I did. I was rude to you yesterday and there's no excuse for it."

He sniffed them again appreciatively and then shrugged. "I'm used to you--"

"Then I'm going to try to get you *un*used to that from of me, understand?"

Clark took a moment to consider what he was going to say as he composed himself at his desk. "Well, I usually find myself enjoying new experiences..."

She smiled, what she knew was a calculating look on her face. Next time she and her friends got together, she told herself, she'd knock'em dead.

"Thanks, Lois, the flowers are very nice."

"You're welcome. Okay, now, back to work, we haven't got time for sentimentality this morning."

"That's more like it--"

Her eyes almost flashed at him.

"Not *completely* like it, I don't really expect the old Lois to fade away anytime soon."

"You shouldn't. Perry would fire us both without me to pulling you along."

"Yep, you're not going to fade fast..."

She decided to let him have the last word, this time.