But I'm Stronger

By Gina Blank (Blankh@cadvision.com)

Summary: Browsing through photo albums of each other, Lois and Clark reminisce about childhood experiences.


"Oh, I'm *so* bored," Clark whined.

"And it's *so* hot," Lois added, flopping back onto the couch next to her husband. She was wearing a red tank top and short white shorts—and even *that* felt too hot. Clark, on the other hand, could care less—he was in a t-shirt and shorts, and was absolutely fine. Then again, that's just who he was.

"Here," he said, turning to face Lois. Clark took a deep breath and then softly started to blow cool air on his wife.

"Mmmm…" Lois said in comfort as she closed her eyes, "Could you do that forever?" Clark stopped blowing long enough to let out a giggle, and Lois opened her eyes and leaned back against Clark's chest. "You know," Lois said thoughtfully, looking at a bunch of photo albums on the shelf, "we've never looked at each other's childhood photos."

"Yeah," Clark agreed, "we should do that sometime."

"How 'bout now?" Lois asked, sitting up.

"Okay. I don't see why not—we've got nothing better to do," Clark replied.

Lois rose and grabbed two albums off of the shelf at random, "Lane: 1970-1974 … Kent: 1971-1974," she said, reading the labels on the albums. Lois sat down next to Clark and handed him her photo album, "Here, we'll look at each other's rather than explain our own TO each other—more interesting that way," she explained.

Clark opened the first page of the book Lois had handed him and commented on Lois' first grade picture, "Oh, Lois, you were so pretty—even in the first grade."

"Thanks," Lois said, looking over to see the picture, "oh, you can't mean THAT picture! My mother dressed me that day—tried to make me look like a doll." It was true, too. The picture showed Lois in two French braids, flat bangs, in a flowery dress and white pinafore.

The couple spent the next hour gawking and cooing over photos of when they were kids. At one point, near the end of the albums, Lois stumbled upon a school photo of Clark. "Clark, this photo looks familiar. Have you shown it to me before?" she asked.

"Uhh…nope," Clark said, looking at the photo to which she was referring. When he looked back at the photo album *he* had, however, he was rather surprised. "Lois, have *you* shown me *this* photo before?" he asked in the same curious tone.

"No," she replied.

"Well, this is strange. Both of us are looking at familiar photos. Maybe we've shown each other these albums before," Clark suggested.

"No…I'm pretty sure we haven't. I dunno—maybe we met in a past life or as kids," Lois laughed jokingly.

After a moment in silence, Clark thought of something, "Hey, maybe you're right," Clark said, "I think maybe we did."

"Clark, I was joking about that," Lois told him, with her "Get Real" look.

"No, no, listen to me. I remember I was in a hotel…"


"Clark, this way, honey," Martha called to her son.

"Sorry, Mom," Clark said as he caught up with his mother, "I was just looking at the pinball machines. After we unpack, can I go and play them?"

"Sure thing, dear. Jonathan, you have some spare change that Clark can have for later, right?" Martha asked her husband.

"Uhh, yep," Jonathan replied, checking his pockets, "but we can get unpacked and settled ourselves. Here, son— have fun!" Jonathan put a handful of coins into Clark's hand.

Clark smiled, "Thanks, Dad—see ya later!" and ran down the hall towards the elevator. When he got off, the pinball machines were right across from him, and despite the fact that the room was crowded with kids, one was left—just waiting for him.

Clark put his coin in, and happily moved the ball around the scoreboard: five points, fifty points, seventy-five. He was on his second ball and about to score another fifty points when he noticed a girl standing on his left, just watching him play. Clark tensed up immediately—he hated it when he knew people were watching him do things— and couldn't concentrate on the rest of the game, thus ending it quite abruptly.

"Ha, ha! You lose—My turn!" the girl told him, and shoved herself into his side to move him out of the way.

Clark watched in awe as the girl played pinball. She was about an inch shorter than he, with long, dark brown hair that had been pulled into pigtails that hung on the side of her head.

Clark felt that they hadn't been properly introduced, and was the first to break the ice. "What's your name?" he asked her.

"Karla," she replied simply, here eyes focused on the large silver marble.

"Oh. Well, hello, Karla, I'm—"

"Darn it!" Karla suddenly cried, kicking the leg of the machine, "now look what you made me do!—I lost the ball! Ugh. Men are at fault for everything in some way or another, you know. Oh, well, I guess you just wanted your machine back, and I'm outta change anyway." Karla turned and walked into the already-open elevator. Clark said good-bye and waved to her, but she gave no sign that she had even noticed him.


"Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!" Clark cried as he ran down the hall and into their hotel room.

"What? What is it?" Martha asked, greeting him at the door.

"I met a *girl* at the pinball machine! Her name's Karla—she's so pretty!" Clark babbled, as he continued into the room. Clark stopped talking about Karla as soon as he looked out the window of the hotel, which overlooked a pool. "Hey, can we go in there?" he asked.

"Sure. Come on, get your bathing suit."

"Is Daddy gonna come?" Clark asked—he loved playing in the water with his dad. The splash fights were the best!

"No, dear. He's gone to get some things from the corner store, and then he's going to have a nap."

"Oh, okay."

Martha and Clark locked the door, and were headed towards the elevators, when Clark noticed someone at the other end of the hall. "Mom! That's *her*!"

"That's who?" Martha asked, turning to look at what Clark was referring to.

"That's Karla! Hi, Karla!" Clark called, as he waved. He let go of his mother's hand and ran up to meet her. "Are you going to the pool, too?" he asked breathlessly.

"Yeah. Don't tell me *you* are," Karla said rather disgustedly.

"Ahem…attitude," the lady next to Karla warned.

"Sorry, Mom," Karla replied innocently, "say…do you like splash fights?" Karla turned and asked Clark, with a wry smile.

"I love 'em! My dad and I have splash fights all the time!" Clark replied, glad that he had found a common interest with Karla. After a brief introduction to each other's parents, all four headed down to the pool.

Karla and Clark jumped in, and immediately started a splash fight with each other. After about ten minutes of that, both of them were hanging breathlessly against the side of the pool.

"You're pretty good," Clark breathed.

"Thanks," Karla replied, "hey what's your name, anyway?"


"Clark?!" Karla cried, "what kind of name is *that*?! That's a grown-up name! You should have a kid's name like Billy, or Matthew, or something like that."

"I like my name," Clark defended.

"Fine. How old are you?"

"I'm almost eight and a half."

"Ha! I'm turning nine in a couple of weeks—I'm older than you!"

"But I'm taller!" Clark shot back.

"I'm smarter!"

"How can you prove that?" Clark asked.

"I just am."

"Well, I'm stronger," Clark told her.

"Wanna bet?"

"Okay. Arm wrestle?"

"You're on!" Karla and Clark jumped out of the pool and sat at a table near by. "One … Two … Three … GO!" Karla shouted. Clark had to be careful not to use his super- strength that he'd so recently discovered, but he still won, fair and square.

"Ha! I win!" Clark shouted.

"Well, I'm still older."


Over the next few days, Clark and Karla did things in the hotel together—played at the pool, at the pinball machines, spied on each other's parents in the restaurant—and they slowly became friends, as much as Karla hated to admit it.

About four days after the two had met, Clark surprised Karla with something his father had brought on the trip. It was a little boat—one that you could inflate with your own breath—made just for kids. Clark usually floated in it alone, but now he wanted to show it to Karla.

"Hey, neat boat!" Karla exclaimed.

"My dad says we can take it into the pool if the lifeguard lets us," Clark told her.

"Wow! Lemme get my bathing suit on!" Karla left, and soon returned in her bathing suit—a pink, green, and blue suit with a frill around the waist.

"Okay, you grab that end, and I'll take this one," Clark ordered.

"Hey, you're not the boss!" Karla argued.

"It's *my* boat!" Clark told her. The two got into the elevator and headed down to the pool.

"Hi, Mr. Lifeguard! Look at our boat!" Karla greeted.

"It's actually *my* boat," Clark corrected, "can we use it in the pool?"

"Sure. It's not big enough to be in the way. And you're the only ones here. Go for it," the lifeguard told them. Clark and Karla lowered the boat into the water, and climbed in, sitting at opposite ends.

"Is there enough room in this boat to lie down?" Karla asked.

"I think so," Clark said, checking the length, "why?"

"I'm gonna get a sun tan," Karla told him, already starting to lie back, "you should, too. You're as white as a snowman!"

Seeing as Karla looked very relaxed when sun tanning, Clark laid back and did the same thing. "This is nice," he commented.

"Hey, kids?" the lifeguard suddenly asked.

"What?" Karla said in an annoyed tone as she sat up.

"You two gonna stay in that boat for a while?"

"Yeah," Clark told him, also sitting up.

"'Kay. I'm gonna get some lunch and bring it back here. You think you can stay here by yourself for ten minutes?

"Yeah," Karla said, in her what-do-you-think-we- are?-Idiots? tone of voice.

"Okay. But stay in the boat at least 'till I get back, okay?"

"Fine!" Karla said, losing her patience with this man. When the life guard left, the two resumed their sun tanning positions, floating serenely in the middle of the pool.

"Karla?" Clark asked after a few minutes.


"What do you wanna be when you grow up?"

"I wanna be a journalist. My mom says I'm great at getting into other peoples' business, and snooping around. What do *you* wanna be?" Karla asked.

"I think I want to travel the world, so I can meet new people and learn new things," Clark said thoughtfully.

"Wouldn't you miss your parents?" Karla asked.

"Yeah, but I'd write them and call them all the time," Clark reassured her.

"Oh." The two resumed their silence, but it was broken again by Karla about five minutes later, when she let out an ear-piercing shriek.

"What is it?" Clark asked, immediately sitting up.

"A BEE!! A BEE!! I *hate* bees!" Karla sat up, and started waving her hands around.

"Just sit still! He won't bother you if you don't bother him!" Clark told her.

"That's how I got stung the *last* time!" Karla cried. She started to stand up, frantically waving the bee away.

"No, don't stand up! You'll lose your balance!" Clark yelled. Karla didn't listen, and sure enough, she stumbled backwards into the water.

"Clark!" Karla choked.

"Karla!" Clark screamed, his voice rising an octave. He jumped out of the little boat, and dove down towards Karla, who was sinking towards the bottom. Holding his breath—which he could do for a long time—he pushed himself towards the bottom to grab his friend. From behind, Clark lifted Karla up under her arms, and soon reached the surface, where he lifted Karla onto the cement.

Karla laid lifeless on the side of the pool. Clark didn't know what to do first. When he gathered his thoughts, he raced superspeed into the hotel and up the stairs to his room. "Mom! *MOM*!!" he screamed as he burst through the door, tears starting to run down his face.

"What on Earth—" Martha exclaimed, as she saw her son's face.

"Karla! She fell out of the boat! She's not breathing! You gotta come!" Clark cried, and with that, he turned and raced back down to where Karla was lying.

"Karla? Karla, please say you can hear me!" he sobbed. He placed his hand on her chest, and could feel her heart beating. Slow, but beating. *Wait a minute!* Clark thought. *I learned about this in swimming class. If her heart's beating, but she's not breathing, I gotta…* Clark shuddered at the thought of mouth-to-mouth, but he knew he had to do it. But could he? *I'm only eight years old!* he thought. Ignoring his thoughts, Clark lowered his mouth to hers, plugged her nose, and slowly puffed three breaths into Karla's mouth.

"Oh, my goodness!" Clark heard a voice behind him, and looked up to see Karla's mother and his mother running towards him "my little girl!"

"I tried resuffication," Clark cried, "but it's not working!"

Martha knelt down beside her son, and placed her hands on his bare shoulders, "Don't give up, Clark. Try again," she said softly.

Clark lowered himself once more and repeated the process. Nothing happened. "It's not working!" he cried, wiping his eye.

"You gotta keep doing it," Martha told him. As Clark was about to repeat mouth-to-mouth for the third time, the lifeless body beneath him started coughing. Karla coughed up some water, and after her lungs were clear, she let out a cry so loud that Clark had to plug his ears.

Clark stood as Karla's mom scooped her up into her arms, holding Karla as if she was a five-year-old. Karla was crying loudly, and cried even more so when her mom mentioned going to the hospital. Clark watched as Karla's mom carried her off, Karla beating her fists on her mother's back all the way.


"Clark, stop pacing! You're driving me nuts, and you're wearing the carpet thin!" Martha told her son. But he couldn't help it. He was anxious and worried all in one, so he was not only pacing, but he was pacing at superspeed.

"When are they going to get back? Is Karla gonna *die*? I bet she hates me! Do you think she'll still be my friend?" Clark asked when he slowed down.

"Honey, I'm sure she'll be fine," Martha reassured, her voice calm.

"Can I check?" Clark asked.

"*SIGH*, all right," Martha said. She didn't usually let him "see" what others were doing, but right now she'd let him do almost *anything* if it calmed him down.

Clark turned towards the wall, and looked through the neighboring room, and the next, and the next, and the next, until he got down to the room Karla's family was staying in. He couldn't see much, since he was also looking through six or seven other rooms, but there was definitely someone in there. "She's there!" Clark said, his eyes returning to normal. "Can I go see her?"

"Clark, I think they might just want—" Martha started. But Clark was already out of the room, "—to be left alone."

Clark knocked on the door of Karla's hotel room. Her mother answered. "Is Karla there?" he asked.

"Karla?" she asked "Oh, yes. Come on in." Karla's mom opened the door wider to let Clark in, and continued what she was doing in the bathroom.

Clark spotted Karla at the opposite end of the room, colouring in a book, with a smaller version of herself—probably her little sister—looking over her shoulder. "Karla?" he asked softly.

Karla and her sister turned to look at who had entered. "Hi, Clark!" she said, her eyes twinkling.

"OooOOoohh! Karla's got a boyfriend!" Karla's sister teased.

"He's *not* my boyfriend. He's just *a* friend," Karla corrected.

"Uh-uh! He's a boy, and a friend, so he's your *boyfriend*! …Karla and—what's your name?" the miniature Karla asked.

"Clark," Clark replied slowly.

"Karla and Cla-ark sitting in a tree!—"

"Lucy, out." Karla told her sister through clenched teeth.



"First comes *love*—"


"Then comes marriage—"

"Get her out of here!"

"Then comes—HEY!" Lucy was stopped by a large hand grabbing at her upper arm.

"Then comes the mother," Karla's mom finished, as she pulled at Lucy's arm, "Come, we'll go get some ice cream."

"Ha-ha I ge-et ice cream!" Lucy teased her sister in a sing-song voice, as the door to their room closed behind them, leaving Karla and Clark alone.

"Your sister's annoying," Clark said, "no offense."

"She's *always* annoying," Karla replied, sitting down on the queen-sized hotel bed. She motioned for Clark to sit next to her.

"Aren't you hot?" Clark asked, sitting down next to Karla. She was wearing a sweatshirt and jeans, which was a lot in comparison to his t-shirt and shorts.

"No, I'm freezing. But the doctor said that'll be normal for a few days," Karla told him. "Clark?" she asked after a moment.


"How'd you do it?"

"Do what?"

"Save my life." Karla stated simply.

Clark was stunned by this sudden question. He never thought that he'd actually *saved* her *life.* "Well…" Clark started, "it's kinda disgusting. It's called mouth-to-mouth resuffication."

"Isn't that 'resUScitation?" Karla asked, the term sounding familiar.

"Maybe, whatever. But that's what I did."

"Hmm…maybe you *are* smarter than me," Karla said thoughtfully, "nah. Anyway, what you did was special, and we gotta do something special because of that."

"Like what?" Clark asked, not so sure he wanted to know.

"Get married."

"Get *married*?!" Clark shrieked.

"Not NOW, dummy!" Karla told him. Clark sighed in relief. "Look. I'm leaving in a couple hours to go back home, so we'll probably never see each other again, but—if we ever meet again as adults, we'll get married. Cuz only the best of friends save each others' lives, and only the best of friends get married."

"Okay," Clark said. The idea wasn't *so* bad.

"Pinky swear?" Karla asked, raising the baby finger on her right hand.

"What's that?" Clark asked, looking at Karla like she was from another planet.

"You don't know what a pinky swear is? Ugh. Here. Gimme your pinky," Karla grabbed Clark's baby finger, and locked it with hers, "now on three, we move our pinkies up and down twice like in a hand shake, and that makes the promise official. Okay?"


"One…two…three!" Clark and Karla shook pinkies just as Lucy and Karla's mother came through the door, carrying two extra ice cream cones. Karla's mom handed one to her daughter, and one to Clark, and both kids said their thank-yous.

"Well, Sweetie, we gotta start packing," Karla's mom told her.

"*Sigh*, okay." Karla stood up and hugged her new friend, "Bye, Clark. I'll miss you."

"Me, too. Bye…"

"So that *was* you, wasn't it?" Clark asked. Lois nodded her head slowly, "how come you never told me your *real* name?"

"Ugh!" Lois said, throwing her head back, "I *hated* the name Lois up until junior high! It sounded too grown up for me. So I told strangers my name was Karla."

"So *that's* why you tried to change *my* name!" Clark laughed.

Lois giggled, "Yeah."

"But… Lucy called you Karla…" Clark mused.

"Oh, that's because I told her I'd beat her up if she didn't!" Lois and Clark both started laughing at that remark.

"Hey, I guess that's one *more* time I've saved your life," Clark commented.

"Hey, yeah! Y'know, I can't believe I forgot about that whole incident! I guess I just *wanted* to forget about it, so I blocked it out of my memory."

"You're not mad that I brought it up, are you?" Clark asked with uncertainty.

"No. Not now, knowing how many other life-and- death situations I've been in." Lois leaned over to give her husband a kiss, but pulled back after a second or two. "Hey, you know what?"

"What?" Clark asked.

"Even though we didn't know it, we kept our promise."

"Yeah…" Clark realized, "we did. We not only met again as adults, but we got married… that's got to be the best promise I've ever kept."

"Mmm…yeah," Lois purred, "especially since I'm older!"

"But I'm taller."

"I'm smarter."

"I'm stronger."

"Oooh, you got *that* right!" and with that, Lois pulled her husband closer for a deep, long kiss.