By Jeff Brogden (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Summary: Clark talks Lois into joining him in Smallville for a 4th of July mini-vacation, where he and his parents show Lois the sights -- and even get in a bit of water skiing. Lois and Clark have "sort of" a date.
This is my second fanfic. It started out fairly small (about 3 parts) back in May, 1995. It then grew to the mammoth 7 part story you have before you now (thanks to Debby Stark!). *Lots* of thanks go out to Debby for her proof reading and brutal comments about what was going on. (Okay, okay, they were not *that* brutal... :-) She helped me greatly. I intended for this to get out before the Fourth of July, but due to lots of re-writing and procrastination, I never made it. The time frame is somewhere in the middle of season two. Lois knows she likes Clark, etc... you will get the idea. Not much of a plot... just lots of L&C. Next time, (if there is a next time), I'll try to concentrate more on the post-Lois knows type story. (finish: 06/27/95, sent out for release: 08/29/95)
The Fourth of July was coming up and Clark was looking forward to going home for a long weekend break. The only problem was getting away from work. A newspaper just didn't take off for holidays, and neither did Superman. Clark looked across the newsroom at Lois, who was busy talking on the phone, trying to get some more information on their latest story. He sighed as he thought of how much time they had spent together on the last series of articles. They had put in their share of late nights, and worked through several weekends. Lois had driven them without mercy towards the end of the last story. Clark was getting his fill of work at the Planet and as Superman.
The bright side was that Superman hadn't been needed very much lately. He had been able to spend more time with his work at the Planet. This resulted in more time with Lois. In itself, this was not bad. The sad part to him was, it was time spent working. Clark loved being with Lois, he just wished he could get some time with her away from work. He wished *he* could get some time away from work. Which brought him full circle to his problem of getting away. True, he had worked at the Planet for awhile now, and Perry would probably let him take two days off. He had planned on taking the third and the fourth off and go home to Smallville. If he left on Friday, June 30th, he would have four days to spend with his parents and enjoy himself. It had been too long since he took a break and just did something for himself. The more he thought about it, the more he looked forward to it. If he could just get up the courage to go ask Perry for the time off.
'It's not like you don't deserve the break Clark,' he said to himself. 'You have worked hard, at both reporter and Superman, you deserve - no - you *need* a break.' He looked back over his shoulder at Perry's office.
'You flew into space, head-on into a meteor and you can't get up and walk into your boss' office to ask for two days off...' Clark sighed again. 'Like the commercials say, just do it!' and with that he got up and walked over to Perry's office.
"Hey, Chief, got a second?" Clark asked.
"Sure, Clark, what's on your mind?" Perry extended his hand towards a chair, silently telling Clark to sit down.
"Well, I was wondering if I could take the third and fourth of July off. I want to go to Smallville and visit my parents, and..."
Perry raised his hand, "Consider yourself gone, Clark. You and Lois have been putting in double time on the last few articles, you deserve a break. If I could only get Lois to do the same..."
Wham! It hit him! "Chief, leave it up to me. I'll get her to take some time off," Clark beamed.
Lois was on the phone with a government employee who was being less than cooperative. Everyone had been less than cooperative in handing out the information she needed for her current article. '*Our* current article' she chided herself. 'Clark has been there the whole time on this article. Just like he was there for the last one, and the one before that.' She sighed as she pondered her feelings for Clark. She kept trying to tell herself that they were just partners, and best friends. Then the little voice in her head would perk up and say 'Yeah, right! And pigs fly. Admit it, you like him. No, you *love* him.' It was all very confusing. She was just a little afraid of getting too close to Clark. What if it didn't work out? Would they still be friends? How could they be as good of friends knowing they had attempted a romantic relationship and it had failed? She didn't want to lose Clark or his friendship.
So, instead of taking their relationship further down the romantic path, she had been keeping them both busy working on stories together. She made sure they always had a story to work on. Stories that involved lots of time together. Not exactly quality time admittedly, but at least they were together, right? The little voice said, 'Lois, the phone? The desk jockey won't wait forever...' Sometimes the little voice did a good job.
"All I need to know is, did the committee vote on the matter or didn't they..." Lois asked, deciding to start with a simple question and work her way up from there. She could barely hide the frustration in her voice.
"What do you mean you don't know? Aren't you the person who takes all the minutes during the meetings? Wait!! No!! Don't put me on hold, I don't want to be transferred... I want to... AAARRRGGHHHH!!!" Lois slammed the phone down and just glared at it. If the phone could crawl away it would have.
"What's up?" Clark asked.
Lois had been so intent on giving the phone the evil- eye that she had not noticed when Clark had walked up. The sudden realization that he was there caused her to jump a little in surprise.
"Calm down, Lois, all I said was 'what's up?'"
"Sorry, I'm just so... so... frustrated! I've spent the past hour on the phone trying to get something out of those people and all I got was transfers, 'I don't know's' and your basic headache," Lois said exasperated. "I need a break..." she mumbled to herself, as she massaged her temples.
"Exactly! That's why you're going to take the third and fourth of July off and come with me to Smallville," Clark said smiling.
"Whoa!!! Hold on there, Clark. Even if by some miracle I was to take a couple of days off, and don't think for a second I am going to, what makes you think I would go with you to the middle of nowhere?" Lois asked him flatly.
"Aaww, come on, Lois, you need the time off, just look at how on edge you are. You jumped a mile when I asked what was up. We both have been working way too much on this last set of stories. *I* need a break, and so do you." His smile faded as he looked down at her with real concern in his eyes.
'Those eyes...' Lois thought.
"And what is so bad about spending your time off with *me* in the middle of *nowhere*?" Clark leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest and fixed her with a look that challenged her to make a smart return comment.
'Hmmm... what *is* wrong with spending some time with Clark where there won't be anything to interrupt us?' The more she thought about it, the better it sounded. She had enjoyed herself the last time she went to Smallville. Clark's parents were sweet. Some time off did sound good. Being with Clark sounded even better. The little voice inside her head perked up, 'Lois! Here is this great guy asking you to spend some quality time with him! Don't screw this up!'
"Well?" Clark asked jarring her out of deep thought.
"I don't know, Clark, Perry will never give us both time off..." she tried to come up with some reason to not go, even though she really wanted to.
"No problem, Perry has already given me time off and said you could have the third and fourth off as well. I just talked to him," Clark smiled reassuringly.
Lois' mouth dropped. She didn't know whether to be mad or glad that Clark had just taken everything in his hands and decided what she was going to do. The little voice started screaming now, 'Lois! Lois! He *wants* you to go with him *real* bad. Go go go go...'
"Well, Mr. I've-Got-It-All-Planned, you have just gotten yourself a houseguest for the Fourth of July." Lois smiled up at him.
"Great! You won't regret it. We'll leave for Smallville right after work on Friday. We'll fly into Wichita and have my parents pick us up."
"OK, sounds great. Do I need to bring anything?" Lois asked.
"Oh yeah," the smile on Clark's face broadened, "...bring a swim suit."
Lois' eyebrows shot up which caused Clark to laugh out loud. He quickly turned around, walked to his desk and picked up the phone before Lois could interrogate him. He needed to call his parents and let them know about the change in plans, then he had to buy plane tickets to Wichita.
Clark couldn't believe how long the flight seemed to take. He had gotten too used to zipping around under his own power. The only thing that made it bearable was Lois. He had simply sat back for the first part of the trip and listened to her release some of her pent up stress.
"Listen to me," Lois said after about half an hour of babbling non-stop. "I have been talking the whole time without letting you get a word in." She looked over at him, only to find him smiling. "What?"
"I was just thinking how much I love it when you babble," Clark said seriously.
Lois felt a blush fall across her cheeks. "Oh - yeah right!"
"No, I'm serious," Clark looked down at his hands. "I like listening to you talk. Especially if it's about something other than work." He looked back at her, his expression becoming more serious. "We rarely get to just - talk."
It was Lois' turn to look at her hands. "Sorry. I just get so wrapped up in work sometimes..." Lois felt Clark put his hand on her arm.
"Which is why I asked you to come with me," Clark said softly. "We can forget about work. Just concentrate on being... friends."
Lois looked over at Clark. Was there more there? He seemed like he wanted to say more. Much to her disappointment, he removed his hand from her arm and went back to staring at his hands.
'I want to do more than concentrate on being friends, Clark,' Lois thought to herself. The little voice started screaming 'Tell him! Tell him!' She took a deep breath and held it for a second. "Clark..."
But as he looked up at her, her resolve melted. "... you still have not told me what I needed a swim suit for?" 'Chicken!' her little voice growled.
"You brought one, didn't you?" A worried look crossed his face.
"Yes, but I want to know why I needed it." Lois looked at him expectantly. 'Could it be he wants to check out what's under the work clothes?' Lois thought. 'Stop it, girl! You know Clark better than that... don't you?'
'Should I tell her I wanted to check out what was under the work clothes?' Clark asked himself mischievously. 'Stop it, boy!' "Well, you might look a little strange water skiing with a skirt on..." he said instead.
"Water skiing!?!?!" Lois shouted. Several people turned around to look at them. Lois lowered her voice and leaned closer to Clark. "What do you mean water skiing? I've never done that before in my life, and I'm not about to start now. If I had known sooner I wouldn't have been so eager to come out here with you..."
'Eager to come out here with me? Hmmm...' "Which is exactly why I didn't tell you sooner. Look, Lois, you'll love it, it's fun and it's not hard at all. My Dad can teach anyone to water ski. If all else fails, you can sit in the boat and laugh at me while I ski."
"Okay, I guess I can give it a shot..." Lois said reluctantly. Clark always managed to get her to do the strangest things. "Water skiing... in Kansas." Lois shook her head. "Isn't Kansas a little flat for lakes?"
Clark rolled his eyes back and laughed. "Why is it people find it so hard to believe that Kansas is more than flat? Yes, Lois, there are lakes in Kansas. Trees too. Basically, Kansas is sort of split into two geographical regions..."
Lois listened with real interest to Clark talk, wondering when had she done that last. When had they talked about something other than work? Yes, this was going to be a good vacation, she could sense it.
They spent the remainder of the flight talking casually, trading stories, and laughing, much to the enjoyment of both.
Lois and Clark exited the airplane and filtered out into the terminal with the rest of the passengers. Before they could get very far, they heard Martha's voice calling to them.
"Clark! Lois! Over here!"
Clark, being the taller of the two, spotted them first. He reached down and took Lois' right hand with his left, and gently pulled her with him. She shocked him by willingly following his lead. She usually liked to take charge and bull her way through a crowd.
Clark saw his mother whisper in his father's ear. He couldn't resist the urge to use his super-hearing to hear what she was saying, even though the noise of the airport would make it difficult.
"Just look at the two of them, Jonathan! They were meant to be together."
"Now Martha, no playing Cupid this weekend, remember?"
"From the look on their faces, I wouldn't have to work hard." Martha practically radiated joy.
Clark couldn't hold back the smile that was breaking over his face. His left hand gave a reflexive squeeze to Lois' right hand. To his utter amazement, she squeezed back! Clark didn't think he could smile any bigger, or be any happier. 'She squeezed back!' The thought kept repeating itself over and over in his head. He started to feel light footed and had to bring his joy under control before he started levitating all over the airport. 'Oh that would be smooth!'
As they broke through the crowd, Martha came running up to meet them. Clark reluctantly released Lois' hand in preparation for the hug his mother would give him.
"It's so good to see you!" Martha said as she sped past Clark and wrapped Lois in a healthy hug accompanied by lots of laughter.
Clark was feeling a bit stunned as he turned to his father, only to catch a glimpse of him breezing by as well, grabbing both Martha and Lois in a big bear hug. "Lois, you look wonderful! We're so glad you came!"
Clark cleared his throat, "Um, Don't worry about me... your only son... coming home to see you for the weekend... standing here in the middle of the airport... alone... hugless..." He put on his best hurt-puppy dog face, and hoped it was enough.
The three of them stopped and turned to look at Clark. 'Oohhh, he does that good,' Lois thought.
"Oh, now, Clark, you know we're glad to see you too," Martha said sweetly as she untangled herself from Jonathan and Lois. She gave Clark a big hug and kiss and Jonathan slapped him on the back.
"Of course we're glad to see you, son. I have lots of chores around the farm I need help with." He winked at Lois.
"Oh, come on, Dad! I came home for a break, not to be worked to death!"
"Before this gets any worse, we need to get going. We have to get these two's luggage, and get underway to Smallville," Martha started walking towards luggage pickup.
After they had retrieved their luggage, and loaded it into the car, Jonathan had latched onto Clark and had steered him into the front seat. They sat up front doing the father/son bonding thing. Lois and Martha had settled down in the back seat. As they left the Wichita city limits, the openness of the country side and lack of buildings treated Lois to a spectacular sunset. The wide open skies, splashed with various shades of blue, purple, yellow, orange, pink, and white contrasted with the never ending fields of gold and green. They passed a wheat field where there were still combines cutting winter wheat.
Martha chuckled to herself.
"Penny for your thoughts, Martha," Lois said.
"Oh, I was just thinking of when Clark was a young boy." She smiled.
Lois was curious, "Tell me about it."
Martha looked at Lois, as if asking if she was serious. Lois nodded her head. "Well, all right. I guess you haven't heard some of these stories hundreds of times like everyone else in the family. Usually I start to tell a story about Clark and everyone groans, 'Not again!'"
Having heard his name, Clark turned around to look at the two women in the back seat. "Did I hear my name back there?"
"Yes, and your mother is going to tell me all about you when you where a kid," Lois taunted.
"Aww, Mom, not again!""Oh no, not again!" Clark and Jonathan chorused from the front seat.
Martha and Lois burst out laughing. Clark just shook his head.
"Well, Lois, Clark must have been only five years old. But he thought he was at least ten. He had to help with everything. Usually he just managed to help make more work for Jonathan and me. It was about this time of the year, during harvest. Back then, we farmed a lot more land than we do now. Old man McKinnely..."
"Tom," Clark interrupted.
"Tom..." Martha shot him a warning glance, "...used to live down the road from us. They used to say he was as old as the dirt he farmed..."
"He was a saint!" Jonathan interjected. "...And he wasn't that old. Everyone could learn a thing or two from how he lived his life."
Martha gave another annoyed look at the front of the car. "When he got too old to farm his land, we leased it from him, and farmed it ourselves."
"Leased it? How do you lease land? Do you make a monthly rent payment or something?" Lois asked.
Jonathan again spoke up. "No, no. Usually what you do is make an agreement with the landowner. You plant the land up, harvest the crop, and sell it. The landowner gets a percentage of what the land makes. They can opt for a percentage of the produce, so they can sell it themselves, or a percentage of what you sell the produce for."
"*BACK* to *MY* story..." Martha insisted, "...Old man McKinnely..."
"Tom," Clark said.
"Tom!" Martha sighed. "Tom leased his land to us so we could farm it for him. Even though he couldn't get out and run a lot of the machinery, he always tried to be a part of the harvest. His biggest job was watching over Clark. For some reason, *TOM*" Martha shot Clark a glance, "...took Clark under his wing. And did that boy keep him busy!"
"I bet!" Lois laughed.
"Tom used to do the little jobs that needed to be done around harvest time. Things like making sure the workers had plenty of water to drink, bringing them lunch and supper, keeping everything gassed up and running errands into town. Throughout the whole day, there was Clark, following him around like a little puppy dog."
"I didn't look like a puppy dog," Clark objected.
"Oh, I'll say you didn't! Everyday, Clark would get up and put on the same thing. A pair of Wrangler jeans, a checkered shirt, his cowboy boots, his six-shooters, and two bandannas. One for his back pocket like his Pa and old man, er, Tom, and the other to tie around his neck. An old, beat-up cowboy hat topped it all off."
"What was the bandanna around his neck for?"
"He used to pull it up over his nose and come into the kitchen. 'Reach for the sky Ma'am' he would say! I would turn around and there he would be, bandanna covering his mouth, his six-shooters drawn. 'Hand over the cookies and I'll let you live.'" Martha started giggling so hard she had to stop talking.
"I can just see him," Lois said, fighting back her own laughter.
"Later, when I would ask him how the cookies had been, he would say, 'Cookies, what cookies?' as if something so simple as pulling the bandanna over his mouth would make him unrecognizable!" The realization of what she had said hit her and she stopped laughing. She looked up at Clark, her eyes screaming 'I'm sorry...' Clark was looked uncomfortable. She locked eyes with Jonathan in the rear-view mirror. She could see he was thinking furiously. Lois was still laughing at the mental image of Clark dressed as a little cowboy holding up his mother for cookies. Before she could realize the sudden silence, Jonathan spoke up.
"That boy would do anything for cookies, I swear..." He chuckled to cover Martha's lapse.
"Anyway, Tom and Clark would spend all day together," Martha regained her composer. "We used to have a small general store about five miles down the road from our farmhouse. We had an account there, and during harvest, Tom and Clark would go and pick up supplies. Tom always said the same thing as he left the store. 'Hang it on the hook, Ed!'"
"'Hang it on the hook'?" Lois looked confused.
"Charge it, so to speak." Martha informed her. "We always charged everything till after harvest. Once we sold our crop, we would go around town and pay off all our debts."
"Well, Clark had gotten a tricycle for Christmas, and he would have ridden that thing across the county if we let him." Martha paused, putting her hand to her mouth to hold back another giggle fit. "One day, Clark came in the house smiling as big as life, his whole face covered with chocolate. In both hands was the biggest bag of candy you have ever seen. The bag was barely an inch off the ground! Here's this five-year-old, struggling in the door with a bag of candy as big as he was. I was so shocked, I had to sit down."
"Where on earth did he get all the candy?"
Martha looked at Clark with a stern motherly look on her face. "That little stinker had ridden his tricycle the five miles down the road to the general store. He had somehow talked Ed into fetching him a little bit of every kind of candy he carried, and said loudly 'Hang it on the hook, Ed!' as he left, dragging his booty behind him." Martha was shaking her finger in mock rage at Clark, who was doing his best at looking innocent.
Lois was laughing hard now. "How on earth did he get back home?"
"To this day I don't know." Martha looked at Clark, "Care to fill me in now?"
Clark crossed his finger over his heart and gave a mock boy-scout salute, "I can never reveal that to anyone as long as I live."
"I'll bet good ol' Tom had something to do with it..." Martha said flatly.
Clark raised his hands in surrender, "I know nothing... nothing!"
"This boy would eat practically anything," Jonathan jumped into the conversation.
"I can remember when ol' Tom used to test the wheat's moisture content..." Jonathan started to say.
"Oh, man Dad, you too?" Clark slumped back in the seat.
"Hush, Clark, go on Jonathan." Lois patted Jonathan on the back, encouraging him to continue. She loved the warm fuzzy feelings she was getting out of this. 'Watch out, girl, you might get used to this...' said a little voice in the back of her mind. '...then what will you do?' She shrugged it off, told the voice to be quiet and went back to the warm fuzzies.
"Well, we would bring a load of wheat in to drop off in the wheat truck, and ol' Tom would climb up in the back and grab a handful of kernels. He would pop them in his mouth and chew on them, trying to gauge the moisture content. With wheat, you don't want it to be too wet, or it will spoil when it is in storage."
"What I didn't see," Clark said, "...was that Tom wouldn't swallow the kernels, he would spit them out after he was done."
"Oh no! I think I can see where this is headed..." Lois laughed as she put her hand on Clark's shoulder and squeezed, trying to offer some support.
"Exactly! Poor Clark climbed up there, and must have ate a whole bushel of wheat kernels. I don't think I have ever seen anyone turn green before or since," Jonathan stated. "I mean, he was green..."
"Oh was he ever..." Martha laughed. "At the time I was scared to death. All I could think was, the wheat was going to swell up in his stomach and kill him. Should have known he had a stomach made of iron."
"He was up and about by supper time, complaining about being hungry, as usual," Jonathan slapped Clark on the leg and laughed.
"Can we talk about something else besides my childhood and my stomach for the rest of the trip?" Clark pleaded.
As they pulled up to the Kent farmhouse, Lois smiled to herself. She had to admit that Clark was right. She had needed a break and this was the perfect place to get it - in the company of people she loved. Loved? She looked at Clark in the front seat. As if he could tell she was looking at him, he turned and smiled at her.
"Okay you two - it's late, and we have lots of things to do in the morning." Jonathan said. On the way home, they had given Clark a break by talking about the plans for the weekend. Saturday was to be spent working around the farm. Jonathan really did need Clark's help. Sunday they would take their time and drive up to Tuttle Creek. They would spend the rest of Sunday and Monday at the reservoir, then drive back Tuesday to Smallville and finally Wichita for the return flight back to Metropolis.
"Lois, you take Clark's room, Clark - you can sleep on the sofa," Martha instructed.
"Oh, no, I can sleep on the sofa..." Lois started to object.
"It's okay, Lois, my room is the guest room now, I'll sleep on the sofa," Clark said as he opened his car door.
"No, no, I insist, I sleep on the sofa," Lois stated.
"I tell you what, first one to the porch, sleeps on the sofa," Clark said. Before Lois could respond, he hit the electric door lock on his door, locking Lois in the back seat. He sprinted up to the porch, and had the front door open by the time Lois had managed to get her door unlocked and open.
"That's not fair, Clark! You cheated!" Lois came up out of the car at a full boil.
Martha got out of her side of the car, "Listen up you two! Lois, what kind of a hostess would I be if I let you sleep on the couch? You'll take Clark's room. Clark, there is no excuse for that stunt you pulled..."
"Oh, that's all right, Martha," Lois said softening. "Clark knows how stubborn I can be, he was just trying to look out for me..." 'Ha! Right! I'll get revenge my own way,' she thought to herself. She shot Clark a look that conveyed what she was thinking.
"Whoaaaooo! Should be an interesting vacation..." Clark said holding the door open for Lois.
Lois was laying in bed, drifting in and out of sleep. Everything had a surreal feel to it. She could hear voices, they seemed familiar. There was other noises as well. All of them were familiar yet strange. 'Where are the car horns? The traffic noise? Is that a cow?' Lois' eyes fluttered open. She remembered she was in Clark's bed at his parent's farmhouse outside of Smallville. Somehow, stating the obvious to herself seemed to wake her up more. It was light out, and there was a soft, fresh-smelling breeze blowing in the open windows. It was quiet. Sure, she could hear the cows and a dog barking. There were some birds singing, and what was that other sound? Something in the background she couldn't place. A rhythmic clicking over a steady murmur. 'Hmmm... I'll have to check on that when I get up.'
Lois inhaled deeply, smelling the Kansas countryside. She stretched her arms and legs. 'Man! This feels great,' she thought. 'No squawking alarms to jar you out of sweet slumber. Just me and Mother Nature.' She inhaled deeply again. 'Wow! What's that wonderful smell?!? Cinnamon... Coffee... someone has been baking this early in the morning?' She heard voices outside.
"Clark, bring that bail of hay over here..."
"Yes, yes, right there... thanks, son..."
Lois heard a screen door open. "Breakfast is ready you two..."
'What time is it?' Lois thought. She looked over at the clock, 8:03 am. 'Geesh. I better get moving...' She threw back the covers and walked over to the window. She could see Clark and his father throwing hay to some cows. The noise she couldn't place before turned out to be the windmill. The constant murmur was the noise the blades made as they cut through the air, and the rhythmic clicking was coming from a long pipe-looking thing going up and down in the center of the windmill. 'What the heck is that all about?' Further inspection showed that the windmill was '... a water pump! Cool! No wonder everything smells so fresh out here, no gas fumes to choke you up.'
Lois decided she should get ready for breakfast. She quickly changed into a T-shirt and a pair of jeans, brushed her hair, then headed downstairs when she heard Clark and Jonathan come in the back door. 'I can finish getting cleaned up after breakfast,' she thought.
Clark came into the kitchen and noticed only his mother was there. "Where's Lois?"
"Right here!" Lois chimed as she came into the kitchen. "Something smells wonderful..."
"Good morning, Lois!" everyone told her at once.
Clark pulled a chair out from the table for her to sit down, "How did you sleep?"
"Great. I'm a bit miffed that you didn't get me up sooner, Clark. Here you all are working away already, and I'm in there sawing logs." Lois gave Clark a playful slap on the arm.
"That's my fault," Martha confessed. "I wouldn't let them wake you up. I figured you needed the extra rest since Clark had told me how much you have been working lately." She sat a large cake pan down in the middle of the table, fresh out of the oven.
"Ohhhh, what is this? Hmmm... looks and smells delicious." Lois leaned over to get a better whiff.
"That's Mom's famous coffee cake, made with fresh ingredients from right here on the farm," Clark smiled. "The wheat is from this year's crop, the pecans are from the trees out back, though the harvest wasn't so good this year on those, and a lot of the spices are out of Mom's garden."
"The milk, and butter are from the dairy cows," Jonathan joined in, "...and the eggs are ours as well."
"Wow! I can't wait to try it. How come you didn't sleep in as well, Clark? We both have put in the same hours lately?" Lois looked over at him.
Clark sat down slowly, "Well, Dad needed some help with the hay this morning..."
"Yes, I usually keep a supply close at hand, but, ah, I didn't watch it well, and Clark had to help me get some from storage," Jonathan tried to help out.
"Plus, I'm used to getting up early." Clark reached over and started cutting the coffee cake, "How big of a piece do you want, Lois?"
"Oh, about, yea - that's good enough for now..."
Clark dished up a piece of coffee cake for everyone, and helped Martha get everyone something to drink as well.
"So - what's the plan for today?" Lois asked Clark.
"Well, Dad needs my help with lots of little repair and maintenance things around the farm. I will probably be pretty busy all day." Clark said between mouthfuls of coffee cake.
"Oh..." Lois said. 'I was hoping to get to spend some time with you' she wanted to say. Before she could do anything Martha spoke up.
"Lois, I thought we could go into town and do some shopping. There are several garage sales I would like to hit, and the Flea Market and Farmers Market always are fun to go see." She could see the disappointment in Lois' eyes.
'Well, not exactly what I had hoped for, but...' "Sure, that sounds like fun." She smiled so the others would relax a bit. Had they seen her disappointment? She looked over at Clark. He was looking rather unhappy himself. She reached over and grabbed his hand. "But then this evening, I want a personal tour of this place," Lois smiled and added, "farmboy!"
Clark's mood brightened immediately. He hated the fact that he wouldn't get to spend much time with Lois today. His father needed help rebuilding a dam for one of the ponds. All the recent rain had washed part of it away. The prospect of spending some time later with Lois would make the day bearable. "Your personal farmboy tour guide at your service!"
"Great! Now, let's try out this coffee cake..."
Martha and Lois spent most of the morning going from one garage sale to the next. Throughout the morning, Lois talked about Clark. She would ask Martha about some of his favorite things, such as what he liked to eat, what his hobbies were, what he liked to do outside of work. Two things were obvious to Martha: one - Lois liked Clark a lot more than "just friends". Two - Lois didn't really know Clark outside of work. The match-maker side of Martha flared up, 'I guess this vacation is a sort of discovery trip for Lois. I'll just have to make sure she finds what she's looking for...'
Lois was amazed at what could be found at these garage sales. There was a lot of junk, but some really good bargains if you shopped smart. Martha had been picking up lots of little kids clothing, and was even now going through a stack of toddler outfits.
"What do you need those kids clothes for, Martha? Got a secret you need to tell Clark and me?" Lois teased her.
"Heavens no!" Martha laughed. "There are a couple of families who were not so lucky this year with their crops. The rain completely destroyed them. Poor folks have little ones and not a lot of money. I'm buying these clothes for them." She held up a little overall outfit. "See this? This name-brand would cost around $15 to $20 in the store. I can pick it up here for $0.25! And look - it's never been worn, the tags are still in it." She folded the outfit back up and put it in the pile with the rest of the clothes she was going to buy.
Lois helped Martha search for bargains and soon they were getting in the car to head back out on the road. Martha grabbed the newspaper and crossed off the latest stop.
"Well, that's about it for the garage sales... Want to head into town for a quick bite to eat before we run by the Flea and Farmers Markets?" Martha asked Lois.
"Oh, no! I don't think I'll be able to eat again till supper!"
"I can't imagine why?" Martha said innocently. "... you only had three pieces of coffee cake this morning for breakfast..." Martha laughed.
"Don't remind me... It was *so* good!" Lois grabbed her stomach. "I still can't believe Clark put away five pieces before you stopped him..." she looked over at Martha, "...where on earth does he put it all?"
"Wow. Wonder how he keeps that body of his looking so nice?" Lois blushed as she realized what she had said, how she had said it and who she had said it to.
Martha just smiled, "Don't worry. I would be worried if you *didn't* notice or say something. I've always teased Clark about having a body to die for."
Lois laughed, "I bet he appreciates that!"
"Oh you should see how many shades of red *he* turns..."
Clark and Jonathan pulled up to the pond, and got out of the pickup to inspect the damaged dam. It was built from large rocks and earth. The large amount of rain, which is unusual for Kansas, had caused a large section to erode away. The water level was considerably lower than normal, and Clark could see the small number of fish in the pond struggling for what little room was left.
"Wow. Must have gotten a lot of rain around here..." Clark said as he walked over to the dam.
"Yep, a lot of people lost their crops. Wheat prices are sure to go up. You 'city' folk will feel it in your pocket book when you go to the supermarkets," Jonathan teased.
Clark paused. "You think Lois is enjoying herself, Dad?"
"I suppose, she has only been here less than a day..." Jonathan pondered. "Your mother will show her a good time."
"Yeah, I can't help but feel a little guilty about not spending time with her today." Clark started moving the large rocks into place, rebuilding the foundation of the dam. They were not overly large, but his super-strength meant he could do it by himself, and Jonathan wouldn't have to worry about injuring his back.
Jonathan stood up from where he was cleaning out the debris that had accumulated in the pond. "Tell you what, Clark. Let's get this finished up quick, go home and fix the girls some lunch. We'll call them on the cellular phone and tell them to meet us there. Then we can take Lois with us for the rest of the day. She can see the farm first hand."
"That sounds cool. But do you need anymore 'super' chores done today?" Clark stopped moving rocks, "How will I do them with Lois along?"
Jonathan shook his head, "Nope, nothing a good, strong, American farmboy couldn't handle. Just need to mend some fence, do some work on the tractor, and feed some livestock. This dam was the biggest thing."
"Great. I'll have this dam finished in no time!" Clark climbed up in the bed of the pickup, and using his super-vision, scanned the surrounding area to make sure no one would see him. Satisfied that his secret was safe, he poured on the super- speed and had the dam finished in less than five minutes.
Jonathan shook his head. "In all the years, I don't think I will ever get used to seeing you do stuff like that." He smiled at Clark, who was brushing off the dirt from his clothes. "We'll, since we have some time to kill, help me clean out all this debris - slowly..."
Lois and Martha had just finished their shopping at the Flea and Farmers Market when they heard the cellular phone ring. It was Jonathan, explaining what he and Clark had come up with for the rest of the day. They both agreed it would be a good idea to meet back at the Kent farm for lunch. Lois was pleased that she would get to spend some more time with Clark, even if she had to share him with his father. 'Remember,' she thought to herself, '*you* are the guest here. Clark was going to be coming out here anyway. You don't have the right to lay claim to *all* his time.' It was just so hard now. She felt like she was finally getting a chance to pursue her feelings for Clark, but something was still trying to keep them apart. Things were looking up, though. She was going to get to spend the rest of the day with Clark, doing everyday things. 'Everyday things if you lived in Kansas on a farm!' she laughed to herself.
When they arrived back at the farm, Clark and Jonathan did indeed have lunch ready. They had made po'boy sandwiches, potato salad, kidney bean salad, fresh cut vegetables, chips, a dill dip for the vegetables and chips, and finally a banana and apple salad for dessert.
"Geesh, you two went all out!" Lois was amazed.
As they ate, Lois told Clark about everything she had seen that morning. Her favorite part was the Farmers market, where she got to buy some wildflower honey. Lois took small helpings of each item, and ate slowly. Clark as usual took healthy helpings of everything and packed it all away as only he seemed capable of doing.
After some time Clark asked, "Is everyone done?"
"Yep" "Yes, Clark" Jonathan and Martha said together.
Clark started to reach for the remaining potato salad.
"Ahhh, no, actually I'm *not* done yet," Lois said, tossing Clark an innocent look, then winking at Martha.
"Oh, ah, sorry, Lois, here..." Clark handed her the bowl of potato salad.
"Just set it down, I'll get to it in a bit," she instructed him.
He set the bowl down and looked confused. They talked for awhile, Lois noticing how Clark kept watching her.
"Are you done now, Lois?"
"Nope, not yet."
"But you haven't touched anything on the table since I asked last time."
Lois and Martha bust out laughing. "Clark Kent," Lois said, "just how much food *can* you put away?" But before he could respond she said, "Why do you have to eat everything up?"
"So it won't go to waste..."
"You know, there is such a thing as left-overs..."
"It's not as good the second time around usually..."
"Oh please. Excuses, excuses, excuses. How do you eat all that food and keep the shape your in?"
Clark leaned over the table, swiped the bowl of kidney bean salad up and said, "Wouldn't you just *love* to know..." He leaned back and started dishing up the salad, a smug look on his face.
"Clark," Jonathan quickly said before Lois could answer, "We need to get busy finishing up those chores."
"Okay, Dad, just let me polish off this kidney bean salad. I'll meet you and Lois out by the truck."
Lois stood up, "Let me help you with the dishes, Martha..."
"Oh, no. You go on with Jonathan, I need something to keep me busy anyway."
Lois and Jonathan walked out to the old farm truck to wait for Clark. A few seconds later, Clark came strolling up.
"That was quick," Lois said. "Find room for everything in there?" She reached over and patted his stomach.
"Room to spare," Clark said as he leaned back slightly so his stomach would stick out a bit. They both laughed and Clark walked up to the truck and opened the passenger side door for Lois. "Climb in."
"So what are we going to do first, Jonathan?" Lois scooted over to the middle so Clark could climb in beside her.
"We need to repair some fence that some joy-ridding kids plowed through the other day." Jonathan climbed in the driver's side, "Lois honey, you're going to have to move your legs."
The old farm truck had a standard shift transmission. A large, twisted gear-shift handle stuck out of the floor board right in the middle, right where Lois' legs should go. If she was to sit properly, then the gear-shift would stick up right between her legs. "Oh, sorry, guess that would be a bit embarrassing huh?"
Jonathan turned a little pink, "Ah, yes, it would be a bit embarrassing, especially when I had to shift into reverse."
Lois looked at the gear-shift knob for the shift pattern. Reverse was all the way to the right and down. From her own experience with standard shift vehicles, she knew that in that position, the gear-shift would put the users hand about crotch level. She laughed out loud then swung her legs over to the right, out of the way. This made it necessary for her to sit a little closer to the passenger side of the cab. The only place to put her feet was on the passenger side of the transmission hump, which caused her legs to come into contact with Clark's legs.
"Sorry," Lois said slightly embarrassed that she was forced to make so much contact with him.
He looked down into her eyes, "That's all right. I don't mind."
'Control, girl! You're just sitting next to him and touching his legs with your legs...'
'Easy, boy, easy. Your leg is only touching her leg...'
As they began to move down the road, the rough suspension of the truck caused her to bounce right up against Clark. Lois said she was sorry and scooted back towards the center of the truck a bit more. Again, she was bounced into Clark.
'If I didn't know better, I would swear Dad is hitting all these bumps on purpose.' Clark smiled at Lois, "It's all right, Lois, don't worry." He glanced over at his father. He looked innocent enough. Lois moved back to the center of the truck again, much to Clark's disappointment.
'Darn! How long am I going to have to keep hitting all these bumps before she will sit still next to Clark,' Jonathan mused. A twinge of guilt hit him as he remembered Martha's and his agreement to not do any match-making. 'If she knew what I was doing now, she'd have my hide... Oh, there is another dip. If I can just easy the truck over there casually... YES!'
The truck jarred Lois towards Clark again, a little rougher than before. She had to put her hands out to catch her balance. One landed on Clark's chest, the other on his shoulder. She looked up at him to say she was sorry, but couldn't when she saw his smile. She grinned a tiny grin and sat back up. She started to move over again, but Clark calmly laid his hand on her knee. He didn't restrain her in any way, but the effect was the same. She couldn't move. 'His hand is on your knee!!' her little voice screamed.
'Yes, Clark! Finally, thought I was going to have to hit every bump between here and tomorrow...' Jonathan grinned to himself.
She thought she would melt. Her right leg and thigh were pressed against his left leg and thigh. Her hip was against his hip, her arm against his arm. The bouncing of the truck caused them to rub against each other constantly.
'My mind is making too much of all this...' Lois said to herself. 'For gosh sakes, it's just a ride in a pickup!' The little voice came back, 'Yes, and his body is right up against yours! His hand is *still* on your knee.'
'Clark, take your hand off her knee. Clark... Clark? Are you listening to me, Clark?' Clark ignored himself and left his hand right where it was. It had the right effect, Lois had not moved away yet. It felt nice to have her so close. Still, he wouldn't want to make her uncomfortable. He pondered what to do next. 'Should I move my hand off or leave it there?'
'What if he decided to become all gentlemanly and remove his hand?' Lois started to worry. She really didn't want that to happen. Her hand decided what to do for her, as it reached up and placed itself on top of his hand, grasping it lightly to let him know it was all right to keep it there on her knee.
The rest of the ride to the area where the fence needed mending was made in silence and was considerably smoother.
Lois laid in bed, exhausted. She had seen more and done more in one day on the farm than she normally did in a week, it seemed. She had only watched as Clark and Jonathan mended the fence. Next they had drove around, making minor repairs to other sections of the fence. She had helped dig one post hole, and her arms ached for it now. She had learned how to splice barbed-wire, how to throw hay from a moving vehicle so it wouldn't scatter in the wind, helped replace the salt blocks for the cattle, and had helped gather eggs. They had done some mechanical work on a tractor, cleaned up the barn replacing the bedding in some of the stalls, and had done some touch up painting on the farmhouse itself. Whew! Just thinking about it made her tired.
The best part of the whole day had been the time with Clark. She had gotten to be with him as a person, not a work partner. She smiled to herself as she remembered how he had looked while digging the post holes. The broad shoulders, muscular arms, and tight waist. Lois sighed deeply. They had gotten to talk a lot as well. She had used her time with him to get to know him better. He explained *everything* about what they were doing, and had taken the time to show her even the littlest of things. He had been patient and didn't laugh when she made mistakes. 'Gosh! He's like a dream come true!' she said to herself. That shocked her a little bit. That is exactly what she had thought when Superman had first come to town. Strangely, this was the first time she could remember thinking of Superman for a long time. Instead, Clark was on her mind. 'How long has this been going on?' she wondered. 'When did I quit thinking so much about Superman and start thinking about Clark?'
Lois had gone to bed early, and she now heard Martha and Jonathan saying goodnight to Clark in the hallway. "G'night Clark," Jonathan said.
"'Night, Dad. 'Night Mom."
"Goodnight, dear..." said Martha, "I'm glad you brought Lois along."
"Me too, son," Jonathan agreed.
"It's really been great, hasn't it?" Clark said. "We got to talk a lot today. Things just... feel........ right."
Martha laughed, "Son, go to sleep."
"Okay, goodnight, sleep tight..." Clark started.
"...don't let the bed bugs bite!" Martha and Jonathan finished.
Lois laughed at the expression. She sighed deeply to herself, remembering how Clark had been insistent on saying goodnight when they stayed in the honeymoon suite to cover a story. 'That was certainly an experience,' she thought. She could still remember that kiss...
Lois heard the normal noises of a house putting itself to bed, and then there was silence. She could hear the crickets, and frogs, and in the far distance a coyote. As she drifted off to sleep, she pondered over what Clark had said. Indeed, things did "just feel right..."
The next morning, the Kents all got up early again, too early for Lois. As she struggled to become a part of the living, Clark and Jonathan began packing the car. Martha started making waffles, and asked if Lois would mind setting the table.
"You look like you need something to help you wake up," Martha said.
Lois smiled, "Thanks, I'm just not used to doing all that physical stuff and then getting up so early." Lois looked over Martha's shoulder, "I thought Jonathan said he was going to cook breakfast?"
"He was, until Clark asked for waffles." Martha chuckled, "Jonathan *can't* seem to get them done just right."
"He either gets them so crispy that they shatter when you try to cut into them, or they are so under done in the middle that when he opens the waffle iron, half the waffle stays stuck to the lid and the other is left laying on the bottom." Martha shook her head, "He's a wonderful cook most of the time, but he's still a rookie at waffles."
Clark and Jonathan came in for breakfast, and Martha and Jonathan couldn't help but notice that Lois and Clark sat a little closer to each other than they had the morning before. After breakfast, Martha and Jonathan made sure everything around the farm was in top shape. Then Jonathan, who was eager to get on the road, started dropping hints that everyone should get into the car.
Lois was hoping to get to sit next to Clark; she wanted more time with him. But when she came out of the house, and found that Clark and Jonathan were already sitting together in the front seat of the car, her heart sank to her feet. Martha came out of the house, locking the door behind her, and noticed Lois' dejected look.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Lois. You'll have to forgive Jonathan. He truly misses Clark a lot, and tends to dominate Clark's time when he comes home. Sometimes I have to get angry with Jonathan so he will let me have some time with my own son!"
Lois sighed, "Oh, that's okay. I can understand. I just..."
Martha smiled and patted Lois on the back, "Come on, let's get going..."
When they got to the car, Clark jumped out and held the door open for his mother indicating she should take his place. "I was just... talking with Dad until you came out..." he explained hastily.
He held open the back door for Lois, and motioned for her to enter. That made Lois feel a whole lot better. 'At least he wants to sit by me as well...' Lois thought as she sat down.
Clark was trying to figure out how to get close to Lois without looking obvious. What he *wanted* to do was put his arm around her shoulder and pull her close. 'Still a little early for that,' he thought as he started to get in after her. To his surprise, Lois hadn't scooted all the way over to her side of the car. She had stopped just about halfway, and sat there looking innocently toward the front of the car. He lowered himself into the car. As Jonathan pulled out of the drive, Clark thought 'Oh what the heck, the worst that can happen is she will pull away...' With that he put his arm over her shoulders.
'Oh, yea!' the little voice in Lois' head went off. 'Oh, yea' she thought right back. As Clark's arm settled around her, she leaned into him ever so slightly.
According to Jonathan, they were taking the "scenic" route to Tuttle Creek. Instead of jumping on the interstates, they were taking the smaller, lesser traveled state highways. The Kansas countryside was more beautiful than Lois had remembered or expected. Contrary to the popular belief that Kansas was flat and uninteresting, Lois was taken aback by all the different scenery she saw on their trip. Along the way, Clark would comment on the different areas they drove through.
At first, they traveled through some of the flatter parts of Kansas - "wheat country" as Clark had put it. As far as the eye could see, there were wheat fields. The light golden color of the wheat contrasted with the vibrant greens and bright colors of the hundreds of wild flowers that lined the ditches. The sky looked larger than life, a solid blue canvas. Dotting some of the wheat fields, Lois could see a splash of red or green metal.
"What are those machines?" Lois said.
Clark looked to see what Lois was talking about, "Those are combines. Harvest varies from year to year. Usually the harvest falls in June for the most part. Because of the rain, it's a little late."
As they drove, they passed a convoy of trucks, pickups, campers, trucks towing combines and pickups pulling other equipment.
"Wow. That farmer must have a lot of wheat to cut to need so much equipment," Lois said in amazement.
"Actually, that was a custom cutter," Clark said, "...not a local farmer."
"A custom cutter?"
"Yeah, for them, cutting wheat is a business. They start down in Texas where the wheat harvest is early in the year. They go around, and charge farmers to cut their wheat for them. As the harvest moves north, so do the custom cutters. They go all the way up to the Dakota's."
"How long does that take?"
"Months! I worked on a custom cutting crew one year. The hours are long, and the work is dirty," Clark said. "You can make some really good money doing it though, all depends on being in the right place at the right time. Arrive too soon in an area, and you end up waiting with not much to do. Arrive too late, and other custom cutting crews ahead of you get all the work."
After a couple of hours of driving, Martha asked Jonathan to pull over at a rest stop so they could all stretch their legs. Lois climbed out of the car, and raised her hands over her head to stretch herself out. She inhaled deeply, trying to take in the smells of the wide open country.
Clark gave her a puzzled look. He sniffed the air, the wind was blowing from the south (as usual) and it carried a very distinct smell with it. "Ah, that *smell* is a feed lot, or feed yard as some people call them."
"A feed yard?" Lois looked to the south, putting her hand over her eyes to shade them from the glare of the sun. "What do they do there?"
"There are two big agriculture industries in Kansas, wheat and beef. They raise cattle in a feed yard."
"Smells horrible!" Lois pinched her nose shut. "Guess even Kansas has air pollution."
"Only this is a natural form of air pollution."
"Nothing natural about it in my book!"
Jonathan opened the car door, "Okay folks, the Kent Express now departing, next stop Tuttle Creek."
As they traveled further east and north, the countryside changed. There was more hills and trees. Large rock formations would suddenly burst forth from the ground creating bluffs. The wheat fields slowly gave way to other crops, and a larger number of livestock.
"It rains a lot more here in the eastern half of the state," Clark explained. "They grow crops that can use the rain, and the rocky terrain allows more cattle, pigs, and other livestock to be raised. The dairy industry is bigger here."
Jonathan spoke up, "I can remember going to Topeka one summer. It was *hot*, the heat waves were causing those optical illusions as the heat came off the road. I looked over to the side of the road, and thought I was going crazy. There in front of me was a pasture full of camels!" Everyone laughed. "The guy I was riding with said, 'Jonathan, please tell me you see camels too...' If I'd been quicker on my feet I would have said, 'Camels? I don't see any camels.'" Jonathan grinned, "As it was, I was so shocked, and relieved that I wasn't hallucinating, all I said was 'Yep, I see `em.'"
"Camels?" Lois said.
Martha looked back at her, "They raise all kinds of animals out here. Camels are just one of the more exotic variety."
Lois turned in her seat to face Clark, "So tell me, where are we going to be staying while we are up at Tuttle Creek? I never thought to ask before."
"Ah, Mom and Dad time-share a cabin up at the lake." Clark gestured in the air, "It sits up at the top of this bluff, on the west bank, over looking the lake. You can see for miles from up there - spectacular view."
"Can't wait to see it," Lois replied.
They arrived at the cabin around lunch time. As they drove up, Lois could see what Clark meant about the view. The cabin sat at the top of a large hill, and faced west. There were just a few trees, at the top of the bluff so she could see for what seemed like forever in all directions. The cabin had a large wrap-around porch that went across the west face of the cabin, then along the south and east sides as well. The porch widened to more of a deck on the south and east. "For suntanning on the south side since it is in the sun all day, and for eating breakfast while you watch the sunrise on the east side," Clark had informed her.
'Hmmm... suntanning. Wonder if I can get Clark to put some suntan lotion on me...'
As if he had read her mind, he rubbed his hand back and forth over her shoulders, then gripped her gently and said, "Come on, I'll show you around."
They walked around further to the east so she could look out over the lake. It reminded her more of being on the edge of a canyon than at the top of a hill. The bluff they were on dropped off sharply down to the water's edge. The lake was large, running several miles across. She could see several boats on the lake of all sizes from small sail boats to large cabin cruisers. There were several people skiing.
"When do we go skiing, Clark?"
"Well, we have to go get the boat prepped. It has been sitting for a while now." Clark pointed to the south, "Plus, it looks like a storm might blow in this afternoon. I bet it's raining within two hours."
"That quick? Those clouds look pretty far away to me."
"Believe me, with the wind Kansas has, it won't take long. Like we always say, 'If you don't like the weather, wait 10 minutes.'" he grinned.
"So you're saying we won't get to it till tomorrow then."
"I'm afraid so," Clark gave her an apologetic look. "If you want, we can go into town. I can show you around the campus."
"Oh, Manhattan, Kansas is just a few miles south of here. Kansas State University is located there," Clark said.
"Sounds like fun," Lois said, "...now let's go inside. I'm curious to see what this place looks like." She turned and started walking up to the cabin.
"You go on in, I'm going to go back around front and help unload the car," Clark said, motioning for her to go on.
Lois walked up to the cabin and peered in through a set of French doors. Martha saw her, and let her in, "Come on in and take a look around! This is our getaway resort. I'll show you around."
The cabin was "comfy" as Martha put it. There was a small kitchen just as you came in the French doors. A breakfast bar separated the kitchen from a large room that took up the other half of the cabin in both directions. This "great room" had a small fold-up table set up right in front of the kitchen, with the rest being relegated to living room duty. The room had a vaulted ceiling that showed the cabin had a loft over the kitchen. Next to the kitchen was a bathroom, and next to it was a bedroom.
Martha said, "I thought you might take the bedroom so you can have some privacy. Jonathan and I could take the loft and Clark can sleep on the hide-a-bed."
"There's a bed up in the loft?" Lois looked up, "I'd kind of like to sleep up there if that is all right with you."
Clark and Jonathan came in. "I lay claim to the loft!" Clark said.
"Lois just said she wanted the loft, Clark" Martha said.
"Oh, okay, no problem."
"No. You gave up your bed for me earlier, so I'll give up the loft for you."
"I'll let you two figure this out," Martha said, then went out the front door leaving Lois and Clark alone.
Lois and Clark stood there quietly for a second, the silence creating an awkward moment. Clark was gazing at Lois, something he never found hard to do. He became aware of what he was doing when Lois started to blush and looked down at her hands.
"Ahhh... so... you're sure you don't want the loft?" Clark broke the silence. He felt silly for gawking like a teenager.
"No... no... you take it."
"I'm going to just take my stuff up there then..." he bent over and grabbed his suitcase and duffel bag. To get up to the loft required climbing a ladder mounted next to the kitchen. Clark walked over to the ladder and looked at it, then at the stuff in his hands.
"Need some help?" Lois touched him on the arm. "I can hand things up to you."
"That sounds like a good idea." Clark sat the suitcase down and climbed halfway up the ladder. He tossed his duffel bag up into the loft, then turned to look at Lois. She handed him his suitcase, and he set it up in the loft as well. He dropped back down beside Lois, "Thanks." He turned to find that he was closer to her than he had anticipated.
They both just stood there for a second, looking into each other's eyes. Lois found her hands moving up to place themselves on Clark's chest. Her touch sent a tingle through him. He gave her a gentle kiss. She responded by leaning into him, so he kissed her again, longer this time.
Martha came in the front door, and saw the two of them kissing. 'Yes!' she thought. She started backing out of the cabin and ran into Jonathan, who had come up behind her. In the process, she stepped on his foot, causing him to yell out. By the time they recovered, Clark was leaning against the ladder to the loft, looking up at the ceiling, and Lois was six feet from him, leaning against the back of the couch.
'Damn!' Martha thought. She rarely cursed, but this seemed worthy of breaking her unwritten rule. She wanted to give Jonathan a piece of her mind, but realized he had no clue what was going on. She tried to cover her disappointment as best as she could.
Clark felt like he was going to explode. His stomach was doing topsy-turvy things and his heart was beating so hard he was sure everyone could hear it. He looked at his hands, they were shaking. 'I feel like a teenager caught making out in my parents' front room... geesh!' He stuck his hands in his pockets to hide them.
Lois wanted to scream. The lump that had started in her stomach was in her throat threatening to burst forth in the form of a nervous yell. 'It's like I got caught doing something I shouldn't. Get a grip, you were only kissing Clark.' The little voice in her head was going 'Whoo Whoo Whoo'. She looked down at her hands and found them shaking. She crossed her arms, sticking her offending hands under her arms.
Clark looked at Lois, her hands hidden under her arms. Lois looked at Clark, his hands in his pockets. They both busted out laughing.
"Did I miss something?" Jonathan said innocently.
Clark shook his head. "No, Dad. Is there anymore to unload?"
"Yeah, our luggage..."
"I'll go get it," Clark sprinted out the door.
Jonathan turned to Lois, "Where would you like your luggage?" Before she could answer, he heard a familiar whooshing sound. Clark had taken flight outside. He winced as he saw Lois' face. Had she heard it also? It looked like she had. 'I'll have to get on to him about being so careless...'
Lois had heard a very familiar sound. 'That sounded a lot like... Naaa... Clark had said something about a military base west of here and we might hear shelling and jets flying around as they played their war games. Must have been from there.'
Clark had made a quick check to make sure no one would see him, then rocket into the sky and took off as fast as he dared. He had to release some of this energy, and had flown straight up, gathering speed has he went. Before he knew it, he was close to leaving orbit. He had been careful not to damage his clothing, that would be a bit hard to explain. He turned and looked back down at the Earth floating beneath him. He thought of the brief kiss he had shared with Lois. 'Give me strength...' Feeling not so giddy anymore, he pointed himself back towards Kansas and started his decent.
Clark brought his parents' luggage into the cabin. No one was in the cabin so he took it to the bedroom. When he came back out, he heard voices out on the back deck. Jonathan had brought his binoculars with him and Lois was using them to look out across the lake.
"...and over down that way is the boat house where we keep our boat." Jonathan said as he pointed Lois in the general direction.
"Hey, Dad, when are we going to go prep the boat?" Clark looked to the south, "I think the weather is going to make a turn for the wet soon."
"Yeah, I noticed the temperature had dropped a little," Jonathan said as he looked to the south as well.
"Tell you what..." Martha said, "...after lunch, I'll drop you two off while I go get some groceries."
"How about you, Lois?" Clark asked, "...are you going to go with Mom or come with Dad and me?"
"With you of course," she smiled. "I want to see this boat Jonathan has been telling me about. I still can't believe he helped build it!"
Clark grinned as he looked at his fathers proud face. "See you have been bragging again, huh, Dad?"
"Who, me? Come on, your mother and I will unpacked the sandwiches while you two set the table."
Martha had dropped them off at the boat house and went to get some more groceries for their stay. Jonathan dug a key out of his pocket and opened the lock to the boat house. "There she is..." He walked in and pulled back the cover revealing the boat, a beautiful combination of painted and naturally finished wood.
'It sort of reminds me of the boats used in that last Indiana Jones movie,' Lois thought. "It's beautiful, Jonathan. You actually helped build this?"
"Yep. A good friend of mine runs a carpentry business back in Smallville. One winter, we saw the plans in a Popular Mechanics magazine, so we decided to build a couple." He walked around to the back of the boat and patted the engine enclosure. "She's powered by an old Lincoln V-8."
"As in out of a car?"
"Yep. I had bought this old Lincoln for $45 one year. Sort of a 'project' car. Never got very far with it. I fixed up the engine, but that was about it. We used to take the hood off of it, tie it to the back bumper and use it as a sled in the winter. Clark and Martha would climb on the over-turned hood, and I would drive around the field all day long."
"Man, I had almost forgotten about that..." Clark said.
"Anyway, when we built the boats, I just yanked the engine out of the car and used it."
Lois walked around the boat admiring the natural wood finish, the brass and chrome appointments, and the leather seats. "Don't tell me, the leather seats are made from some cows you had at one time," Lois patted the seat back and smiled up at Jonathan.
"How'd you guess? Martha took a leather tanning and tooling class, and this was her final project," he ran his hand over the seatback as well.
"You two are amazing. Guess I can see where Clark gets all his talent," she looked at Clark.
They spent the next couple of hours getting the boat ready, and making sure everything was in working order. Lois volunteered to get the gas can filled when she heard it was just a short quarter-mile walk to the gas pump. Once Clark and Jonathan were alone, Clark stopped cleaning on the boat and stood up.
"Dad, I have a favor to ask."
"Sure son, go ahead."
"Can I borrow the car tonight?"
Jonathan stood up, "The car? I suppose, why?"
Clark fumbled with his rag, "I thought about taking Lois into town to show her around the campus, and maybe take her to dinner or something."
"A date?" Jonathan smiled.
"No, not a date." Clark searched for the right words, "It's just... she wanted to go skiing today, but the weather and all," He motioned to the open door. "I told her we could go to town to kill some time and have something to do." Why didn't he want to call it a date? Was he afraid of that term? 'If Lois thought it was a date, she might not be so likely to go...' he tried to reason with himself. 'Yeah, and that kiss earlier today didn't mean a thing, you bozo!'
"You two could play Monopoly or Hearts with your mother and me," Jonathan offered, secretly smiling to himself.
"You've never seen Lois play Monopoly..." Clark sighed. "Okay, I guess it *is* a date of sorts. I kind of wanted to spend some time with her..."
"Alone, without your dottering old parents around all the time," Jonathan finished for him. "I understand."
"No! It's not like that..."
Jonathan laughed, "Clark, you are too serious. Yes - you can have the car. Go out tonight and enjoy yourself."
"Great! Thanks Dad." Clark looked outside, "I hope Lois gets back soon, it's going to rain any second now."
"She'll be fine. Here, lift up the back of the boat so I can check the propeller."
As they worked, the thunder grew louder. Within ten minutes, it was raining. Clark used his x-ray and telephoto vision to see if he could spot Lois. Sure enough, she was within a 100 yards of the boat house, trying to lug a five-gallon gas can as fast as she could. He excused himself, and ran out to help her.
"Here, let me help you with that," he said as he grabbed the can from her. "Come on!" and took off running. They came inside, and Clark dug out a beach towel from the boat so Lois and he could dry off.
"Thanks, Clark. That can was getting *heavy*, and then the rain started, uuggg!" Lois looked at him, "You didn't seem to find the can very heavy. You not only took it out of my hands, but ran nearly a 100 yards with it."
"I'm just in good shape," Clark said.
Lois looked him over, 'More like *great* shape...' "Guess you where right about the weather." She walked back over to the door to watch the rain fall. "So what will we do for the rest of the day?"
Clark walked up beside her, "I thought maybe you would like to go into Manhattan and tour K-State's campus. We could check out Aggieville and maybe get some dinner or something."
Lois' stomach started to butterfly a bit, "Like, a date?" 'Please say it's a date, please say it's a date...' her little voice started chanting. She tried to not look too expectant.
Clark became nervous, 'Does it make a difference?' "Yeah, like... a date," he nodded his head.
"I'd *love* to go."
Lois was trying desperately to fix her rain soaked hair. Granted, she wore it straight with a gentle wave a lot of the time, but the rain had made it go completely limp. "Just a little bounce please?" she said to her hair in the mirror. After they had returned to the cabin, Lois had headed straight for the bathroom. She wanted to fix her hair, touch up her make-up, and calm herself down before going to Manhattan with Clark. She had toyed with the idea of changing clothes, but Clark had said he wanted to keep it casual. Her hair started to come alive again, and she relaxed a little.
It had only taken Clark a whole five seconds to fix his hair, straighten his clothes and double check everything. Now he was pacing in the living room, waiting for Lois to come out of the bathroom.
"Clark, sit down," Martha said as she patted the couch beside her.
"I can't, I'm too nervous."
"Never would have guessed," Jonathan said. "Oh, Clark. You might want to make sure you keep your feet on the ground tonight..." he pointed at them; they were not touching the ground. He had been pacing about two inches in the air.
Clark rolled his eyes at himself, "I'll never survive. I'm going to blow it for sure..." He flopped down on the couch next to his mother.
Martha put her arms around his shoulder, "Clark, relax. Everything will be fine. Just, be yourself."
Jonathan came over, "Son, you're trying too hard."
The bathroom door opened and Lois came out. Clark jumped to his feet, "You... You look... nice, Lois," he managed to stammer out.
"Thanks. I'm ready if you are."
Martha stood up, "You two have a good time, stay out as long as you want and don't worry about us. Jonathan said he would fry some fresh fish - he's just got to catch it first."
"I'll have those fish jumping into the frying pan, you'll see."
Clark held the front door open for Lois, and then opened the passenger side door for her as well. Lois was glad it had quit raining for the moment.
Jonathan and Martha stood on the front porch watching them drive off. Martha sighed, and Jonathan put his arms around her and gave her a gentle squeeze.
"Ah, to be young and in love again..." Martha said.
"Who says you have to be young?" Jonathan said coyly.
Martha looked up at him, and he winked at her.
"You know, with the kids gone, we have the place *all* to ourselves..." Jonathan nodded back towards the cabin and squeezed Martha again.
"Mmm-hmmm" she winked back. "Plenty of time for you to catch the fish and fry them up for me." She quickly ducked under his arm and dashed inside, laughing.
"Oooohhhh, you are a cruel woman..." he shook his head as he walked down the stairs. Clark had unloaded the fishing equipment from the car before borrowing it. Jonathan bent over to pick it up when he heard a wolf-whistle.
"Don't use up too much of that youthful energy," Martha said from the front door. She smiled and walked back inside.
"Oh, you can count on it." 'Now if the fish will just cooperate...'
The drive into town had been quiet. Neither one knew exactly what to say. They worked together everyday, and had even gone out a few times as friends, but the fact that this was a date seemed to make it different. Clark saw a Sonic Drive-In.
"How about something to drink while we walk around the campus?"
"Sure, that sounds good."
Clark pulled into a stall, "Trust me to order for you?"
"Aaahh, sure, okay..."
He pushed the button on the speaker and a stereotypical garbled, static-filled voice came forth.
"Ah, yes. I'd like two medium - is medium okay, Lois? Yes, two medium cherry, vanilla-cream colas, please. To go."
Again, a static-filled voice erupted over the speaker, and Clark guessed it was telling him the price. He just shook his head, "I swear, they must have to be trained to sound so bad all the time."
"Cherry vanilla-cream?" Lois looked at Clark.
"Sure, I think you'll like it. Granted it's not chocolate..."
"Oh hush." She whacked him in the arm playfully. Clark turned the key to accessory and flipped through the stations till they found the one playing over the speakers at the drive-in. Lois noticed there were other couples parked around them, either eating or awaiting their orders. In almost every car, the woman was seated next to the man, not in the passenger seat, but next to them. Almost all the men had their arms around their companions as well. 'Hmmm... how do I get close without being blatantly obvious...' About that time the car-hop arrived with the drinks. She handed them to Clark, and Clark turned to set them on the seat next to him, but Lois took the drinks from him, scooting closer at the same time. Clark paid the car-hop and turned to smile at Lois.
"Here you go, Clark." She handed him one of the drinks, then took a sip of her own. "Hmmm. I must say, it's not as bad as I thought it would be. A little rich... but it's good."
"I thought you might like it." He reached up and started the car. He paused as he was about to put the car in reverse, and looked over at Lois.
"Are you going to sit there on the ride over to the campus?"
"I... uh, if you want me to move..."
"No! I just thought... well, you need to buckle up. I think there's a seat belt in the middle there. Here, let me hold your drink while you find it." He took the drink from her, as she fished the seat belt out and adjusted it to fit.
"Ready? Okay, here we go." Clark backed the car out and then started heading west down Bluemont Avenue. After he got into traffic, he put his drink between his legs and swung his right arm around Lois.
Things were starting to feel a little more natural. Clark reflected that he had almost moved on instinct when he put his arm around her. He didn't ponder the consequences of his actions, whether Lois would mind or not, whether she would respond. He just felt right about doing it. He had also seen how the other guys at the Sonic had had their arms around their girls. When Lois had scooted next to him, it seemed like the natural thing to do.
At the stop light at Bluemont and Manhattan Avenue, the road looked like it would dead-end. Right in front of them was a large limestone sign. Clark pointed, "There it is, Kansas State University. I'll go park in the Student Union parking lot for visitors, and we can walk around from there."
The road jogged to the south, where it turned into Anderson Avenue. "Manhattan sprung up in the hills and the roads twist and turn all over the place. They change names a lot as well," Clark explained.
Clark parked the car and opened the trunk. He rummaged around awhile before Lois' curiosity got the better of her. "What are you looking for?"
"Umbrellas. I have a feeling we'll get a few more short showers yet this afternoon." He closed the trunk, and walked over to Lois. "I'm afraid there's only one," he extended it to her, "Here, you can take it."
"We could share it when we need it..."
"All right," he smiled. He took her hand and led her towards a large building that looked like a castle. "Almost all the buildings on campus were built with limestone, or have limestone facades. There wasn't a lot of wood here originally, and the settlers used what was available. This building that looks like a castle is Nichols Hall..."
As they walked, Lois saw lots of flower beds filled to overflowing with flowers and plants of all colors. Trees of every shape and size were sprinkled around, each with a small sign designating its species and common names. Wide sidewalks wandered around, and inbetween each building. Birds and squirrels played on the lawns. Clark took her on a slow tour, going in a counter-clockwise pattern around campus. The sun kept playing hide and seek above the clouds. At one stop, Lois looked up into the sky.
"The sky is so beautiful," she said with a smile. The sky was a bright skyblue, with large puffy white clouds floating way up high. The sun was reflecting off them, causing them to appear extra white. To Lois, it seemed they were underwater, looking up at the surface and the clouds were globs of fluffy foam, all floating on the surface. "I'd love to just fly right up and take a close look at the clouds. It looks like it would be fun to just go plunging into one of them."
Clark was staring up at the sky as well, admiring it's beauty. "Yeah, it is..."
Lois looked at him with a quizzical look, "Huh?"
"Oh, ah, I said it's fun, looks like fun, the clouds... I... went flying one time with my Dad. A friend of his has a plane and he took us up." Clark pointed at the clouds, "They're bigger than they look from down here." He hoped she would look into the sky.
Lois looked back up, "I wonder how high up they are?"
Clark noticed a large dark grey cloud hovering closer overhead. "That one is going to dump some rain on us in a little bit." He undid the tie around the umbrella. They walked for a while longer, stopping to look at some modern art sculptures. Sure enough, just as they started to move on again, the cloud opened up and gave forth a light shower. They shared the umbrella, giggling as they realized that although they kept their heads dry, the umbrella wasn't large enough for two bodies.
The tour took a couple of hours, Clark telling Lois everything he could remember about the campus. The rain had come and gone and come again several times during their walk. They came around the Student Union, heading for the car, and passed the Student Publications Center. Lois picked up a Collegian, the student paper and started flipping through it.
"Clark! 'Ladyhawke' is showing at the Student Union Theater tonight. We've got to go..." Lois grabbed his arm, "Please?"
"Sure! What times do the showings start?"
"Seven and nine."
"Well, it's almost 5:30 now, we could walk down to Aggieville and grab something to eat and come back. Sound okay?"
"Sounds great. Where's Aggieville? *What* is Aggieville?"
Clark pointed to the southeast, "It's just a block or two that way. Aggieville is kind of a 'downtown' area populated by 50% bars and 50% normal shops."
"Oh, sort of a 'party haven' just off campus."
"Yeah, I guess you could call it that. Lots of partying goes on down there, that's for sure. We can walk there from here..." They began to walk south, Clark guiding the way. "What sounds good for dinner? There are ethnic places of all kinds, B-B-Q places, hamburger joints, pizza places... You name it, it's there."
"Geesh, know how to make it easy on a girl, don't you," Lois said. She sighed, grabbed his arm and hugged it, "Tell you what, surprise me."
"Hooookay. Ball back in *my* court, huh?" He smiled as she gave a innocent shrug. "All right then, hope you like spicy foods."
Clark and Lois were trying to get back to the Student Union on time after spending too much time talking at the restaurant. It was 7:00 now, and they were still about a block away.
"Come on, Lois, I think we can make it if we run..." Clark grabbed her hand and started to pull. When she didn't respond he eased up. "Feel all right?"
"I feel stuffed!" Lois shouted. "There's no way I can run. You should have warned me about the chips and salsa..."
Clark laughed. He had taken her to the small restaurant which had consistently won the Annual Aggieville Chili Cook-off Contest, the Texas Star Cafe. As part of the meal, they got all the nacho chips and salsa they could eat, and they had eaten quite a bit. He had tried to convince her to only get a cup of the XXX-chili, but she wouldn't hear of it. "A cup? Come on, Clark, I want a bowl of chili, not a cup of it." Little did she know, a cup of XXX-chili *was* what most people consider a bowl of chili. A bowl was about eight inches across and 3 inches deep. She had somehow managed to get it all down, but was now paying for it.
They stood at the stop light waiting to cross Anderson Avenue and head up to the Union. "That chili was *hot*. It's funny though, I don't feel like I am going to have heartburn or anything," Lois rubbed her stomach, "...weird."
"Actually, that's one of their claims to fame. Really spicy chili, thus the name 'XXX-chili', without the hassle of heartburn or an upset stomach later on."
The light turned green and they crossed the street. "Tell you what. If the movie has already started and they won't let us in, we can go downstairs and play some video games or do some bowling till the next show at nine."
"There's a bowling alley in the basement?"
"Cool. Video games huh? Haven't done that in awhile." Lois contemplated for a second. "That sounds better than bowling, less physical."
"They also have pool tables, and fooz-ball tables," Clark offered.
"Let's start with some video games, then move on to pool."
Lois was looking starry-eyed as they exited the Student Union and walked to the car. It was nearly 11:00, and the amber glow of the lights on campus created a warm glow. Clark had his arm around her waist as they walked side-by-side. 'Man this feels great' he thought. He opened the car door for her, then walked around to the driver's side and got in. She had already scooted over so she would be sitting next to him, and was hooking up her seat belt. He looked at her, 'She's beautiful...'
She looked up and smiled. "This has been a *great* day, Clark. I can't think of a better way to end it than watching an old favorite like that. Of course, pounding your butt into the ground at Space Invaders wasn't too bad either..."
"Hey! What about that Air Battle session we had? I seem to remember blowing your tail out of the sky quite a few times..."
Clark had a sudden inspiration, "I can think of one thing that might make it even better. Do you remember that big hill with the word 'MANHATTAN' written on it?" Lois nodded. "Well," Clark started the car, "...on top of that hill is the Bluemont Scenic Overlook. The view of the campus at night is spectacular." He backed the car up and started down Anderson Avenue, headed east.
When they got to the overlook, there were a couple of other vehicles there already. Clark turned off his headlights and slowly motored over to a parking place down towards the southwest end of the lot. He turned off the motor and opened his door, "Come on..." he said as he held out his hand, helping her slide out on his side. They walked hand in hand over to the edge of the parking lot, and slowly the amber glow of the campus street lights came into view.
"You're right... it is spectacular." The limestone buildings glowed with a life of their own, framed in light against the dark of the night. The trees on campus swayed in the gentle breeze causing the lights to twinkle. Clark walked over to the stone wall that surrounded the parking lot and sat down. Lois followed.
Clark inhaled slowly, the freshness of the air filling his lungs. He let it out, "Aaahhh, I love the way it smells after a rain. Everything is so clean and fresh." He looked out over the lights of Manhattan. "Everything is so peaceful, so quiet." He looked at Lois, her hair reflecting some of the light from below. He leaned closer and his arm brushed against hers. She looked up and leaned towards him. Their lips met and the view was forgotten.
How long they kissed, neither one knew. All they knew was it ended too abruptly.
"Aaaahhuummm..." someone cleared their throat.
Both Lois and Clark jumped.
"You two are a little old to be making out on top of 'make-out point', aren't you?" the police officer said. He held his hands clasped behind his back, and bounced slightly on his toe's as if impatient with something.
"Aahhh... we... came up for the... view," Clark pointed over his shoulder in the direction of the campus. "We wasn't... I mean we didn't mean to..."
"Uh-huh, sure. Tell you what, I know you're not the usual college kids looking for a thrill. Let's just try to keep it clean, okay?" he started to turn around and walk away.
Lois suddenly overcame her initial embarrassment, "What do you mean keep it clean!?! We were just kissing for God sakes. What business is it of yours? We're consenting adults, not underage teenagers!"
The officer stopped and turned back towards them. Clark could see the fire starting to flare a bit in Lois' eyes, "Ah, Lois, let's head home. Goodnight, officer..."
"Hhgmmhh. Goodnight," he turned back around and walked off.
Lois shot Clark an angry look, "Well we were *just* kissing..." 'Not that I didn't have *other* things on my mind... more... intimate things. I'd never do them *here* though...'
Clark stood up, "I know, Lois. They have to be careful though. A lot of women get raped at places like this if they don't patrol it."
"If he couldn't tell that I was enjoying myself then he's a bigger idiot than I gave him credit for," she stomped off in the direction of the car, the thought of being interrupted yet again starting to fuel her bad mood a bit more.
"You were enjoying yourself?" The question was meant to be said to himself, but he obviously said it aloud as Lois turned to look at him with a shy look.
"Clark, I have *never* enjoyed myself more."
Clark caught up with her and gave her a hug. "I've really enjoyed myself as well." Lois laid her head against his chest and sighed. They stood like that for a little while, just enjoying the feeling of holding each other. Clark felt Lois start to relax and he could hear her breathing get slower and deeper.
"Hey, it's late. And you'll want plenty of energy for water skiing tomorrow. Let's head home."
They arrived at the cabin just after 1:00 a.m. They tried to sneak in quietly, but ended up knocking over a lamp in the process. They laughed briefly, then said their goodnights. Lois reached up and pulled Clark down for a long kiss.
Clark gave her a kiss back, "Goodnight. Sleep tight..."
Lois laughed, "...don't let the bed bugs bite!"
Lois was dreaming sweet dreams when her nose picked up on the smell of bacon frying. She rolled over and swung her legs off the hide-a-bed. The sun was streaming in through the open French doors, and there was a slight breeze blowing. She could hear the birds singing and someone whistling. She stood up and started walking towards the kitchen, "Mmmm... that bacon smells good, Martha..." As she came around the corner, she saw it wasn't Martha after all.
"Thanks!" Clark looked up from the skillet and smiled, "Mom's outside setting the table though."
"Sorry, guess I incorrectly assumed Martha was doing the cooking." Lois walked over to Clark. He had his back to her, so she tapped him on the shoulder. When he turned his head, she gave him a quick peck on the cheek. "Good morning."
"Good morning to you as well." He turned away from the stove to look at her. "I... *really* enjoyed being with you yesterday, Lois."
Lois beamed, 'All right! Now we are getting somewhere.' "Gosh I'm glad you asked me to come along, Clark."
"I'm glad you came. Oh -- " he turned back to the bacon, flipping the pieces over one by one. "How do you like your bacon, crispy?"
"Yes, but not too much. I like it to be a little juicy as well."
"Right - crispy, juicy bacon coming up."
Lois went to the bathroom to change out of her sweats and into something a bit more presentable and clean up a bit before breakfast. Then she walked out onto the deck, "Good morning, Martha, Jonathan."
"Morning, Lois," said Jonathan.
"Good morning," Martha said. "Have a good time last night?"
"Great time, and you?" Lois looked at Martha.
Martha and Jonathan smiled at each other. Martha spoke up, "Oh, we kept ourselves - busy."
"Bacon, crispy and juicy..." Clark walked up, dishing up some onto Lois' plate. He looked up at his parents, "What are those two smiling about?" he asked Lois, who simply smiled as well.
Since there was no place private to change where the boat was kept, they decided to change at the cabin, then drive down to the boat. Martha came out and walked over to where the two men were, loading stuff into the car. They were all talking when they heard Lois walk up...
"Hey, all, I'm ready," she exclaimed.
Martha, Jonathan and Clark all looked up at Lois, and all three nearly fell over with shock. There Lois stood wearing a hot pink, two-piece bikini that just barely managed to pass for something legal, at least here in Kansas. Jonathan just stood there with his mouth open, and Clark was trying to say something, but only "Aaaaaa..." was coming out. Martha looked at Clark, then over at Jonathan. She gave them each an elbow to the stomach area to get them breathing again and said,
"Oh, my, Lois, you look... nice. However, is that what you plan on wearing while you are skiing?" Martha asked.
"Well, sure..." Lois suddenly became self conscious. "Is there a problem with what I'm wearing?"
"No!" shouted Clark, suddenly turning a little red as he realized how fast and loud he had spoken. "It's just... Mom means... she thought you might have a one-piece suit to wear..."
Martha shot Clark a stern look. "You didn't tell her what kind of suit to bring?"
"Well, no, I didn't exactly tell her we were going skiing until we were about to land in Wichita..." Clark said.
"Clark, I ought to...." Martha pursed her lips.
"Just what is the problem?" Lois said, becoming a bit annoyed.
Martha looked over at Jonathan, expecting him to explain since he was the expert skier, but he was still standing there with his mouth open. She whacked him in the arm and he jumped as if coming out of a daze.
"Oh... well... um... you see, two-piece suits have a tendency to, well... with the speed of the boat and the impact... and the forces involved... they, um, tend to sort of... come off at some point or other..." Jonathan tried to explain as best he could, making sure his eyes were on his feet or the car or something so he could talk.
"Oh, I see..." Lois stated as she gave Clark a knowing look. "Didn't want to tell me about that either, huh, Clark?"
"I... I... never thought about it... I was just glad you were going to come with me. I guess I didn't think about making sure you brought a one-piece suit. I never thought you would go out and get a bikini..." Clark stammered.
Lois had to laugh as she could see that Clark was getting as red as Jonathan, and Martha was turning red from being mad at her two men.
"Well, don't sweat it. I mean, we won't be going that fast, right? And I'm not going to fall real hard or anything, right?"
"Let's hope not," Martha said.
It only took three tries before Jonathan managed to get Lois up on her skies and going without her immediately falling down. Clark piloted the boat slowly for about the first hour, but now that Lois was getting the hang of this, she insisted she wanted to go faster.
Clark decided he wanted to do some skiing as well. He was about to jump in when he reached up for his glasses. 'Oh no! I can't ski with my glasses on, and if I take them off... my hair will get slicked back by the water... what if Lois recognizes me?'
Martha saw the thoughts cross Clark's face as if they were written in large flashing letters. "Don't worry, Clark, she'll be too busy concentrating on keeping her balance. Plus..." Martha extended her hand. She was holding a pair of water goggles, the kind like Olympic swimmer's wear. "...you can wear these," she smiled, "Have fun!"
Clark smiled back. "Thanks, Mom, you think of everything."
He joined Lois in the water and Jonathan slipped a second pair of skies into the water. Clark slipped them on then took the second rope Martha threw to him, and they were off.
Lois could tell that Clark had done this sort of thing often in the past, he was very good. He was weaving around, going outside the wake, back across, jumping, and turning. It all looked exhilarating. She was busy watching Clark when the boat turned and she lost her balance. Who would have thought that falling down on water could hurt so much!
Clark heard Lois scream and turned just in time to see her hit the water. He let go of his rope, kicked his ski's free and started swimming toward where Lois had surfaced. "Lois! Lois! Are you all right?"
"I'm fine, Clark, I just feel a little stupid about falling down. Guess I wasn't paying attent..." she stopped short, a strange look came over her face.
"Lois? Are you sure you're..."
"Stop! Don't come any closer!"
"Turn around Clark! I've lost the bottom of my swim suit!" Lois shouted, "I said turn around!"
Clark stopped short when it dawned on him what she had said. "You lost the bottoms of your suit?" he said trying not to laugh. "Want me to come over and help you look for them?" he asked innocently.
"No! I want you to wipe that silly grin off your face and turn around!"
Jonathan had brought the boat back over and shut the motor off. As Clark crawled up into the boat he said, "She lost the bottom of her suit, Dad," He put his glasses back on and grabbed a towel to dry off.
"Oh, Lois, honey, here grab onto the back of the boat while Clark and Jonathan look for them" Martha said.
Lois swam over to the back of the boat as Jonathan and Clark started to look over the sides of the boat. That was when she found the bottom of her suit: they were neatly entangled in the prop of the motor. "Oh, no! My suit got all chopped up by the boat," Lois shouted.
"Really? Let me see..." Clark said as he started towards the back of the boat.
"Stop right there, young man." Martha warned.
"What am I going to do?" Lois groaned. "I can't just stay in the water forever!"
Clark grabbed the terry-cloth jacket she had brought along, "Here, put this on."
Martha sighed, "Clark, that won't cover *anything* up. She lost the *bottom* of her suit. That's only long enough to hit her about mid thigh..." She pondered for a minute, then turned to Clark and pointed: "Take off your swim trunks."
"What?" said Lois, Clark and Jonathan in unison.
"I said take off your trunks! Go as far to the front of the boat as you can, and take your trunks off so Lois can have them. You can wear the sweats you brought along." Martha reached down and picked up a beach towel, "Jonathan, grab this corner and hold it up so Lois can't see."
"But, Mom! I mean... I'll be naked..."
Martha just leaned forward slightly, raised her eyebrows and said "Then change *fast*." She cast him a knowing look and pushed him towards the front of the boat.
Lois would have given anything to be in a position to see the front of the boat better. Clark changed remarkably fast, and Martha handed Lois his trunks. The fit wasn't the best, but at least they hid all the right parts. She climbed into the boat, and started to dry off.
"I think we've had enough for today, let's head for port, and do a little of the ah, site-seeing we *planned* on doing..." Jonathan suggested. He cranked up the motor, the prop shot little pieces of hot-pink material out the back, and away they went.
Tuttle Creek Reservoir runs north and south, and at the southern end there is a large earthen dam. To regulate the amount of water in the reservoir, there are two large "tubes" running from one side of the dam to the other. These tubes are about 30 feet in diameter each. The discharge end of the tubes is set below ground level, with large concrete containment walls directing the water away from the dam and down the river. [ASCII graphics must be viewed with a non-proportional font. Each character must take up the same amount of space. Figures are not to scale! :-) BTW: this dam and the tube area of Tuttle Creek really do exist.]
[ Figure 1. Top View of the "Tubes" discharge area. ]
. . . . | | | | =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= | | | | . . . . P A R K I N G P A R K I N G . . . . ^^ | | | | || +------------------------------+ p | +-|------|--------|------|-+ | p North a | | | c | | | a r | | | o | | | r k | | | | | | n | | | k i | | v v v | c | | | i n | | | rd | | | | | | n g | | water | ei | v v v | | g | | flow | tv | | | . | | | ei | | | . . | | | d | | | . . | | | e | | | . . | | | r | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | || | | | | || | | | | ++ | | ^ ^ | | +---sidewalk where people can look over 4ft. chain-link fence...
On top of the containment walls is a four foot high chain-link fence, with a sidewalk for visitors to walk on. People can park right next to the outlets, walk up to the chain-link fence and look down into the water as it exits the tubes.
[Figure 2. Side view of "Tubes" - looking face-on to the north.]
Dam rises up behind the "tubes" here...
/. O / . O /-/ . -\ ____ o ---.------------------------------------------ |o ___/ | \__ || . | | | || | | | | | | ||| / | +==== ===.========================================== ====+ --()-----()-- --+ | . | | | +----------------- | . | c d | | ^ | . | o i | | | | . | n v | | | | . | c i | | | | .-------+ | r d | +-------+ | | | /. \ | e e | / \ | | approx. | / . \ | t r | / \ | | 20 to | / . \ | e | / \ | | 30 feet. | + . + | | + + | | | | . | | | | | | | | | . | | | | | | v =========.======================================|<- Normal water level | | | | | | | | when tubes are not | | | | | | | | open or open a | + + | | + + | small amount. | \ / | | \ / | | \ / | | \ / | | \ / | | \ / | | +-------+ | | +-------+ | | | | |
The flow of water is changed according to how much water needs to be discharged. Usually, only one of the tubes is open at a time, and rarely all the way. Today, however, due to the recent heavy rains, both tubes were open. Thousands of gallons of water were rushing out at incredible speeds, crashing into the sides of the containment area. This caused waves of water to come crashing over the side, spraying vehicles and the spectators who always seemed to gather here. The roar and crashing sounds, mixed with the squeal of people getting soak, gave the place an edge. The whole place felt like it was charged with excitement.
They decided to stop by the "tubes", as Manhattan residents called them, before going back to the cabin to change their clothes. It was on the way back to the cabin from the boat house. Lois was dumbstruck with Mother Nature's display of power. The noise of the water, mixed with the ever changing foam rising to the surface created a hypnotic effect.
People were standing right up next to the edge, leaning over the small four foot chain link fence to look down into the boundless power show. Further down, where the water was not churning as much, people were fishing. They were casting their lines over the chain-link fence, and watching the water rise and fall while they waited for a bite. She looked out at the concrete divider that separated the two tubes. A large red sign, with white letters read:
When siren sounds, be prepared
for a rapid rise in the water level.
Lois looked over at Clark. He was standing there, looking down at the water, a slight smile on his face. "You think we'll get to see them open the tubes up anymore?" Lois said.
He looked over at her, "I don't think so, they seem to be open pretty far already. Normally the water level coming out of the tubes is around 20 to 30 feet below where we are. It's closer today, only 10 to 15 feet down, now."
Something caught Lois' eye. "Clark, I think that little girl over there is leaning a little too far over the fence."
Clark looked over and said "Yeah, I'll go ask her to step down." He started toward her.
But just before he got there, a huge wave came crashing up, catching the little girl, and lifting her straight up into the air.
"Watch out!" Lois shouted.
Clark heard Lois yell about the same time he saw the wave hit. Instantly his mind took over and kicked into high speed. It always did that when he did anything at super-speed, and it amazed him still. Everything around him seem to slow down, while he seemed to remain at "normal" speed. He didn't feel like he did things any faster, the world just seemed to slow down. And the faster he got, the slower the rest of the world changed.
First, he had to figure out how to grab the girl before she started her decent. The wave was still lifting her straight up into the air. She looked to be about eight to ten years old. She wouldn't weigh a whole lot, so he could easily grab her without having to worry about it looking unnatural. Next, he had to plan how fast he could move so it wouldn't attract attention. As he stood there thinking, the girl's center of gravity was causing her to lean out further over the water. If he didn't react soon, she was going to be too far out for him to grab. He allowed himself to slow down till he was moving almost parallel to "normal" time. Suddenly, as the wave spent its power, it released the girl from its hold and dropped her plunging towards the rushing water below.
Clark half jumped, half flew into the air, wrapping his arms around the girl, pulling her to him much like a football player reaches out and grabs the ball, cradling her to his chest for protection. 'Now I've done it. If I don't do something fast, either I go crashing into the water with her, or blow my cover by flying us both up out of here.' Clark caught a glimpse of the railing under him: his leap had brought him out and over it. He twisted in mid air, and at the last possible second, hooked his legs on the top rail. He employed a little levitation to stop his fall, allowing his legs to catch. Keeping the girl protected with his body, he crashed into the containment wall fence, his back absorbing the blow easily.
The result was he was hanging upside-down by his knees, 15 feet above thousands of gallons of rushing water, holding a young girl. He pulled the girl in closer to him to protect her from the crashing water. Waves kept coming up at him, threatening to knock him off his precarious hold. He heard screams from above, and felt someone grab his ankles. He looked up to see his father holding on to him, as though for dear life.
"I'm okay, Dad," he shouted, "just grab the girl."
He felt his foot slip in his shoe and the shoe came off in Jonathan's hand. More screams came from the people gathering around. He had to levitate a bit to keep from falling into the water as the sudden loss of his father's stabilizing grip startled him. 'This is getting worse by the second, what else can go wrong...'
Lois, seeing Clark's shoe come off, reached over the fence, grabbed the sweats around Clark's right knee, and started pulling.
"What are you doing to me? Lois! Lois! Stop pulling, my pants are coming off! Lois! I don't have anything on underneath them, remember?" Clark pleaded. 'I had to ask what could go wrong... Now, if I can just manage to keep my pants on *and* not fall into the water, everything will be all right.'
He had just about decided to give in, and fly back up, when he saw a Park Ranger with a harness and rope lean over the fence.
"Here, give me the girl..." the Ranger said.
Clark handed her up, as a second Ranger leaned over the fence and wrapped his arms around his waist. "Let me help you up..."
With the Rangers' help, the girl and Clark climbed back onto solid ground. The girl's mother quickly grabbed her and they both sobbed in each other's arms. Clark smiled and felt an incredible sense of relief flow over him. He heard his mother yell his name and turned around, expecting to see his mother come running up to him. Instead, immediately after he turned, Lois threw her arms around him, threatening to knock him down in her rush. She was shaking all over and nearly crying. She held him so tight he thought she was going to hurt herself.
"It's okay, Lois, calm down. I'm all right." But she didn't let go. Other people started gathering around, slapping him on the back, congratulating him.
"He's a hero..."
"Did you see what he did?! He just jumped over the fence and grabbed her..."
"I saw the whole thing! It's a miracle..."
"I thought they were both goners..."
"Too bad my camera was out of film!"
"He must be insane..."
The girl's mother was hugging him now, "...Thank you, oh thank you, thank you..."
He was starting to get a little uncomfortable from all the attention. "Lois, let's get out of here. This is starting to get out of hand."
She let go of him and fixed him with a stern look. "I can't believe you just did that! Do you realize what you just did!?!?" Lois grabbed his arm and bullied her way through the crowd with him in tow. Jonathan and Martha had sprinted ahead and were already getting in the car, as Lois pulled Clark over to it. "You just jumped! Jumped! If I hadn't seen it myself..."
Clark pretended to listen and appreciate her concern as he took another peek at the girl and her mother. He sighed to himself, 'It feels *great* to be able to help...'
That evening, Lois, Clark, Martha and Jonathan sat on the back porch looking out over the lake in silence. They had come back to the cabin to change after the incident at the dam, and had decided to just spend the rest of the day at the cabin. Jonathan and Clark had gone to put the boat away properly, then came back to make some home-made ice cream. Martha had grilled some "Genuine Kansas Angus Beef" on the bar-b-que. She had been marinating it in her secret sauce since morning, and they had been delicious.
The bright light from the moon reflected off the lake, and Lois sighed as she leaned back against Clark. Music was softly playing over the outdoor speakers. Jonathan and Martha were swaying slowly to the music, and Lois couldn't help but look up into Clark's eyes.
"Your parents are still very much in love, aren't they?"
Clark smiled, "Yes."
Lois looked back at the older couple, "I hope I'll be like them when I'm as old as they are..."
Clark gave her a hug, "You will be..."
The music ended and Jonathan and Martha started walking towards the cabin. "We'll go put some more music on," Martha said as they walked inside. Lois pulled out of Clark's hug, and looked up at his face framed in the moonlight.
"Why?" she said in a small voice.
This was the first time she had him alone to herself, and she wanted to grill him. "Why?" she repeated. "Why did you jump over that fence?"
Clark shrugged. "I don't know, I just did. I couldn't just let that little girl fall in and... *die*..." He looked at her, and noticed she looked like she was fighting some internal conflict. "What's wrong, Lois?"
"It's just... I see you diving through the air, catching your legs on the rail, hanging upside down..." tears started rolling down her cheeks. "What if you had fallen? What if the water had knocked you off? What if your Dad hadn't been there to grab your feet?"
"What if you had pulled my pants off..." Clark stated in serious tone, nodding as he looked at the floor.
Lois couldn't help but laugh. She threw her arms around Clark's neck, crying and laughing at the same time. "You're awful! Here I am, suffering because the man I love almost threw his life away, and you're making jokes about your pants..." The words came out in a rush before she could stop them.
Clark looked at her in surprise. 'Did I hear her say what I thought she said?' It was too much to hope for.
Lois, realizing what she had said, sat back. "Yes Clark, the man I love... I hadn't planned on telling you this way, but..."
"Lois... I love you, too."
He pulled her closer and kissed her. The first kiss was gentle. The second deeper, more passionate. "Theme from 'A Summer's Place'" began playing over the speakers. They giggled as they broke the kiss.
Clark looked back at the cabin and smiled, "Bet that's my Mom's idea..." He looked back at Lois, "Care to dance?"
"I'd *love* too..."
They stood up and faced each other. Clark wrapped his arms around Lois' waist, and Lois wrapped her arms around Clark's neck. As the French horns swelled, the couple started to slowly sway with the music, their eyes never leaving each others. They danced like that throughout the whole song, looking deep into each other's soul, saying everything without speaking anything. The song ended, but they didn't notice. The silence was broken this time by Nat King Cole's "Unforgettable." Clark pulled Lois closer until their lips met.
In the cabin, Martha and Jonathan looked out the French Doors at
the couple dancing outside. "
Jonathan kissed Martha on the back of the neck, "I think it was your 'Theme From 'A Summer's Place'' that got the ball rolling." He pulled her away from the door, "Come on, let's give them some privacy."
Martha looked up at Jonathan, "We got to witness something wonderful this weekend. Two people falling in love..."
"Like you said earlier, we didn't have to work hard..."