By LLKat (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Summary: What if Lois and Clark had met years ealier — as teen-agers at a school journalism convention? And what would keep Lois from remembering?
Author's note: I wrote this fanfic after being inspired by an episode of "Who's the Boss?" where Tony and Angela realize they knew each other at summer camp when they were kids. I just stuck the premise into Lois and Clark mode, added my own flavor and voila! Instant fanfic! The original title was "What's in a Name?" but I changed it after seeing another fanfic with that title. Usual disclaimers apply. Thanks to all those who proofread, edited and commented the first go-round with this fanfic. You know who you are. Comments and criticism are welcome at the address below. Enjoy!
Sixteen-year-old Lois Lane clipped the nametag that prominently displayed her name to her collar and proceeded to the first seminar. She loved going to these journalism conventions. This particular convention was in Washington, D.C., and she had taken the free day yesterday to admire the Washington Monument and take a tour of the White House. She was only a junior in high school, but she had already won many awards in journalism, this trip being one of them. This was her third convention this year, and this time it was particularly hard because her best friend, Julie, who usually attended these conventions with her, was not there because she was at a cheerleading competition in Connecticut.
At the table five feet away, eighteen-year-old Clark Kent was speaking calmly with one of the convention directors. "But sir, my name isn't Kent Jerome, it's *Clark Kent.* There must have been some kind of mistake with my application …" Clark indicated his erroneous nametag and then showed the man his Kansas driver's license.
"Young man, it hardly matters," the director said, stifling a yawn. "You will still be receiving the same instruction as the rest of the students at this convention if your name was Darth Vader."
The man brushed him away and went on to the next person.
"Don't worry, Clark. No one's going to care what your name is. You're a great journalist, and you'll be even better once you get through this convention." Once again, Lana Lang, amateur photographer, was along to accompany Clark during the convention.
"It's just that everything seems to be going wrong during this trip," Clark commented, pushing his glasses up on his nose. He had started wearing the glasses when he started high school because he felt he didn't look enough like Jonathan and Martha Kent, his parents. It was a self-esteem thing, and Jonathan and Martha had gone along with it. They knew their son had enough to worry about, what with the incredible strength he was developing, as well as his enhanced senses and invulnerable skin.
"What do you mean, Clark?" Lana asked.
"Well, first there was the airport losing my luggage, then the mix up at the hotel with us being booked into one room, and now this."
Lana giggled. "Well, it's all taken care of. Fortunately there was that group from Metropolis that had room for one more."
"You ever been to Metropolis, Lana?" Clark asked.
Lana nodded. "Yeah, but I was like six or something. My dad took me for my birthday. It's nice. Kind of like Washington, D.C., or New York City. Everything's big and crowded. There's people everywhere. Mostly I remember things from the pictures we took there."
Clark was no longer listening as he spotted a beautiful brunette at the next table. She seemed different from the rest of the high school convention attendees. Not only was she dressed differently - she was wearing long black slacks and a conservative navy blazer while everyone else was wearing neon colors and Madonna-like lace or jeans - but she was beautiful beyond compare. Her long brown hair was swept back away from her face, and she had an aloof, confident manner that was apparent in her mannerisms, like the way she smoothed her hands over the front of her jacket and flipped the hair from her shoulder.
"Hello? Earth to Clark?" Lana waved a hand in front of Clark's eyes. "Do you see someone you recognize or something?"
Clark shook his head and focused his eyes on Lana again. "Huh? Uh, no. What were you saying?"
Lana rolled her eyes. "I was saying that since you're going to the news writing seminars and I'm going to the photojournalism seminars, we should just meet up again for lunch somewhere."
"Okay." Clark sounded indifferent, but Lana didn't seem to notice.
"Meet me at the cafe in our hotel lobby at twelve- fifteen."
"Twelve-fifteen, got it," Clark answered, his eyes wandering back to the mysterious brunette.
"Bye Kent Jerome," Lana teased to see if he was paying attention.
"Bye Lana," Clark waved insignificantly as his eyes continued to follow the brunette. To his delight, she walked into the room for the news writing seminar that he was planning to attend.
Lana rolled her eyes one more time and walked away. Clark Kent was so weird. Sometimes she wondered why she hung around him so much. She admitted to herself that she did have a sort of crush on him, but she never understood why. He was naive and innocent and too nice to people, even for a Smallville boy, born and bred. She had even taken a chance on him and asked him to the Homecoming dance that had been held that fall. Clark was a complete gentleman. He came to her house and brought her a beautiful wrist corsage to match her pretty pink dress, brought her punch, danced with her close but not too close, and afterward he didn't even try to kiss her on the lips. He walked her to her door, planted a light peck on her cheek, and waited until her door was open before driving off in his father's pickup truck.
Clark walked into the room and followed her to her chair. He took a seat one row back and two seats to the left so he could admire how pretty she was.
Lois felt like she was being watched. She turned around to her left, but all she saw was a brown-haired muscle guy wearing jeans and a striped t-shirt. She would have said that he looked like someone Joe Malloy, her current crush, would hang around with, but this guy's geeky-looking wire- frame glasses threw that theory out the window. He was probably some hick from a nowhere town. She glanced down at his shoes and saw that he was wearing old but clean Nike running shoes. He wasn't looking at her, but doodling on his notepad. Satisfied, she turned back around with a satisfied, "hmmph."
Clark had read the nametag on her jacket from the corner of his eye. "Lois Lane," it read in large capital letters. "Metropolis High School," it said in smaller type underneath.
The seminar started, and Lois produced the small hand-held tape recorder she had bought with her birthday money. She began to record and take notes simultaneously.
Meanwhile, Clark, sitting right behind her, continued to watch her and doodle on his notepad. He was glad he learned to listen and remember things while doing other things. He took in her long lashes, dark brown eyes, and the gentle manner in which she pushed a stray lock of hair out of her eyes with the eraser of her pencil. She looked so put together, yet so … lonely? Clark couldn't place it. All he knew was that he was falling in love with a girl he had only seen and not even spoken to … yet.
The speaker took a five-minute break after an hour of lecturing and pointing out slides on a projector. When the lights came back on, Lois Lane turned around quickly to confront Clark. Clark was caught off-guard.
"Take a picture, it lasts longer, Muscle Geek," Lois snapped. Although she hadn't shown it, she knew that he had been staring at her through the whole lecture. And nothing irked her more than people who showed up to journalism conventions just to scope out the girls. Or even the girls who came to the conventions to scope out guys. Like her roommate, Wilma Crowell. Wilma was the director of the Metropolis High's radio station, but she was boy-crazy. Last night as Lois tried to fall asleep she listened to Wilma yammer loudly to her friends from the next room about the cute boy from Kansas, the cute boy from Los Angeles, and goodness knew who else.
"Uh, sorry," Clark mumbled, fiddling with the spiral on his notebook.
Instantly Lois felt sorry for him. She shouldn't have been so rude. She had had a problem with that lately. She had a feeling it had something to do with her cranky mother. "I wonder if attitude is hereditary," she thought.
"Hey," Lois said to the muscle geek. "Sorry if I was rude. But I've been really on the edge during this whole trip …" She glanced at his nametag. "Kent Jerome. I'm Lois Lane." They shook hands, and Lois noticed how strong and confident his grip seemed to be, contrary to his shy exterior.
"Nice to meet you, but my name's not -" Clark began to say, but before he could finish his sentence, a voice boomed on the speakers that they were ready to continue. Lois Lane gave him a little smile and turned around to pay attention to the guest on the lectern.
The seminar ended at eleven, and when the lights came on again Lois quickly got up. She wanted some coffee; it was four hours since she had her morning java. On impulse, she turned around to face Kent Jerome the muscle geek.
"Hey, Kent." Clark quickly looked up. Lois Lane, the most beautiful girl in probably the whole world. Of course.
"Uh …" Clark quickly debated whether or not to tell her his real name. What the heck, he thought. After today, he would probably never see this beauty queen from Metropolis again. "Yeah?" he answered.
"I was going to have a cup of coffee before I went to the next seminar. Wanna come?"
Clark's heart jumped. "Okay," he stammered. What was happening to him? He never acted like this with other girls.
They ended up at a hole in the wall cafe strangely called December 3rd Cafe.
"I wonder what December 3rd means," Lois said, trying to make conversation as she ordered a coffee with no cream, extra sugar. "I bet a lot of people ask that question."
Clark shrugged. "Sorry, I don't know." He couldn't believe he couldn't say anything to this girl! He knew lots of girls from school: Lana, of course; Rachel Harris, who was the star soccer player of the Smallville Tigers and a fellow auto shop student; Gina Irig, who was like a sister to him. But for some reason this girl, this Lois Lane from Metropolis, New Troy, had a strange effect that left Clark Jerome Kent - or Kent Jerome, as she knew him - breathless.
"So where's Smallville?" Lois asked, noticing his nametag again. They sat down at a table near a window.
"Is this your first convention?"
"You write for your school paper?"
"I'm the editor."
"Wow, for a journalist, you sure do talk a lot."
Clark should have been insulted, but he liked the sarcasm Lois displayed. It was a fresh attitude from the shy farmer's daughter acts he got from Lana, Rachel, and Gina.
"You keep apologizing."
"Sorry." Clark realized what he had just done, and the two of them laughed. "You write for your school paper?"
"Yeah, I'm the editor, too. But I'm a research intern at The Daily Planet. I just got the job before Christmas."
"Wow. The Daily Planet. Big time."
"Yup," Lois said without hesitation and with a lot of pride. "One of these days I'm going to be an investigative reporter. What about you?"
Clark shrugged. "I don't know yet. I want to travel. Maybe write for a travel magazine or something."
Lois frowned. Obviously she didn't think much of travel magazines. "Where are you going to college?" she asked.
"I wanted to go to Princeton, but my mom and dad own a farm, and I want to stay and help them for awhile. I'll probably end up at Kansas State, or Midwestern State. And you?"
Lois shrugged. "I'm only a junior." She paused. "But I'll go to Metropolis University, probably. It's only the best school for journalism in New Troy. And I want to keep my job at the Planet."
"Got a girlfriend?" Lois asked.
"You sure ask a lot of questions," Clark said with an amused smile.
"I'm a reporter," she said matter-of-factly. "It's part of my nature to find out about people."
"If you're such a great reporter, then you should be able to tell a lot just by looking at me," Clark retorted.
"Okay," Lois said, taking the comment as a challenge. "I'll tell you what I know about you. By your nametag, I know you're from Smallville, Kansas. You're wearing really, really faded jeans, which means that you either work in the sun a lot or your mother washes your clothes constantly."
"A little of both," Clark said with another smile.
Lois continued, as she carefully surveyed him. "You're into some kind of sport or working out or something, because you have a firm handshake … and, you're wearing Nikes."
"Just because I'm wearing Nikes it doesn't mean I'm an athlete."
Lois' eyes narrowed. "Well, are you?"
"Well, okay, yeah. I play football for my high school."
"Told ya. I bet I can guess what position."
Clark looked at her in disbelief. "No way. If you can guess I'll …" Clark thought fast. At first he was going to suggest buying her lunch, but then he realized that would sound like he was coming on to her. He guessed by her sharp observation skills that Lois Lane picked up on things like that really quickly. "I'll buy you a Double Fudge Crunch bar," he said at last.
Lois' eyes lit up. Double Fudge Crunch bars! Her favorite! "You're on. How many guesses do I have?"
"Three," Clark said.
"Well, since you're not too tall, not too heavy- looking, I'd have to say running back."
"Nope, strike two." Clark was starting to look triumphant.
She looked at Clark sideways, her eyes narrowing. "Defensive back?"
"Lucky guess," Clark said, surprised.
Lois didn't respond. Instead, she said, "You owe me a Double Fudge Crunch bar."
The two new friends chatted for a while longer, and then realized that there were more seminars to attend.
"Which one are you attending next?" Clark asked, trying not to sound eager.
"Investigative reporting," Lois answered. "What about you?"
"Magazine writing," Clark answered, this time trying not to sound disappointed.
"Well, you still owe me that Double Fudge Crunch bar," Lois said, wondering what she was doing trying to meet up with this muscle geek again.
"Where are you staying? Maybe we can meet after dinner or something," Clark said. "So I can buy you that Double Fudge Crunch bar," he quickly added.
"At the Plaza."
"Hey, me too!" Clark said. "We can meet in the hotel lobby around eight."
Lois looked at Clark, hesitating. "Well … okay. Meanwhile, you can walk me to my seminar."
Clark happily obliged. They walked down the street towards the convention center, chatting about normal everyday things. Clark thought it was strange that he could feel so comfortable around a person he met only hours before, but he really enjoyed her company. She wasn't fluff like all the other girls he knew; Lois Lane had something to say, and she wasn't afraid to say it.
"So what's your lifelong dream?" Lois asked, as they were rounding the final corner.
"What do you mean, 'lifelong dream'?" Clark said, confused.
"I mean, my lifelong dream is to win a Pulitzer for journalism, maybe two, with another one for the novel I'm going to write, own a huge house with a ton of servants and eat Double Fudge Crunch bars and chocolate … no, Rocky Road … wait, no, chocolate ice cream … for the rest of my life."
"Oh. Well, I guess I'm really boring then. My lifelong dream is to own a moderate sized house, get married, and have kids."
Lois wrinkled her nose. "Well, I guess that's Kansas for ya."
"I don't think you'd really want to live in that huge house all by yourself anyway," Clark challenged.
"Well, I say. I think that you *will* be a great investigative reporter one day, but some tall, dark handsome stranger is going to sweep you off your feet and you're going to fall in love and marry him. I give you ten years."
"I think you've watched too many Molly Ringwald movies," Lois said in dismay. "Besides, I would never get married before I won that Pulitzer."
"If you can guess what position I play in football, I think I'm allowed to guess what kind of future you're going to have," Clark insisted, amused. "And I think if you really did fall in love, you would get married even *without* a Pulitzer."
"Kent Jerome, you know *nothing* about me," Lois snapped. They were already inside the convention center, in front of the room designated for the investigative journalism seminar.
Clark opened his mouth to correct her, but decided against it. Instead he said, "Well, just in case, in ten years I'm going to take a break from my travel reporter job to drop in on Metropolis. And then I can say, 'ha ha, Lois Lane, I was right. You *were* swept off your feet by some tall, dark, handsome stranger, and wait! I still don't see a Pulitzer on your mantle.'"
"You … are a strange one, Kent Jerome." Lois smiled cryptically before walking into the room, out of Clark's sight.
Clark sighed. Lois Lane. Lois Lane. The name just seemed to flow off his tongue. He checked his watch. If he ran as fast as he could he would only be ten minutes late for his own seminar. He took a deep breath and raced to the magazine writing seminar.
Lois spent her lunch hour in her room, listening to the tapes of the lectures she had heard and reviewing her notes while eating a tuna sandwich. The telephone rang. "Hello?" she said absently, hitting the pause button on her tape recorder.
"Princess!" a male voice boomed on the other end.
"Dad! How did you know where to find me?" Lois said, pleasantly surprised. Her parents had separated roughly four years before, with a divorce soon following. She hardly ever saw her father anymore.
"I called the house."
"You talked to *Mom*?" That surprised Lois more than the phone call.
"No, honey, I talked to Lucy. Listen, I'm actually here in Washington, D.C. for a medical convention. Would you like to meet me for a late dinner? Say, eight?"
Lois was speechless. Without hesitation she answered, "Sure, Dad!"
"I'll come and pick you up at 7:45. Plaza Hotel, room 1217, right?"
Lois gleefully hung up the phone, and suddenly remembered Kent. "Uh-oh," she thought. She picked up the phone and called the operator. "Hi, can you connect me to Kent Jerome's room, please?"
"One moment, miss," the operator's smooth voice told her. "I'm sorry, miss, looks like we don't have a guest by that name. Can you spell the last name, please?"
There was a pause, and then, "Sorry, miss. Either that guest checked out today, or he is staying under a different name. We have all our guests sign the register."
Lois hung up dejected. She came up with a wild yet (somewhat) rational idea that he was a young-looking undercover agent from the FBI, masquerading as a journalism student for some covert operation that was happening in the journalism convention. "Lois, your imagination is running away with you again," she told herself. She felt disappointed, but thought that if she hung around the lobby around 7:45 Kent might be early.
She crossed her fingers and continued to review her notes.
"So where are we having dinner tonight, Clark?" Lana asked. She was sitting at the desk in his room, feet propped up. She was flipping through a tourist guidebook. "How about the local McDonalds? Or, the four-star Carl's Jr?"
Clark laughed. "I don't care, Lana. I just have to be back by eight."
"Why, Mr. Kent Jerome! Do you have a date?" Lana said in a playful voice.
But the expression on Clark's face was unexpected. He did have a date! Lana tried not to look disappointed. "Who is she, Clark?"
"She's this girl from Metropolis," Clark answered. "I met her in my first seminar, and we had coffee together."
"Oh." Lana was hopeful. Metropolis was far from Smallville. Clark had never even been there. Fat chance he was ever going to see her again. The thought gave Lana hope. "Well, I hope you have fun," she added.
"Thanks. Now, where to for dinner?"
The two friends had dinner at an all-you-can-eat buffet sports bar. There was a football game on, and it reminded Clark of his earlier conversation with Lois. In fact, everything reminded him of Lois. The coffee Lana ordered, the black blazer that Lana wore that was similar in style to the navy one Lois had worn that morning, and even looking down at his Nike running shoes, he thought of Lois Lane, research intern at the Planet … and epitome of the female human species, at least in Clark's mind. He shook off the thought. He was starting to think like how teenage romance novels were written.
Afterward, he and Lana went to the Lincoln Memorial, not far away. They took pictures on the steps, and raced to the top. Not one thought was spent on the mysterious Lois Lane. Suddenly, Clark stopped in his tracks.
"What's wrong, Clark?" Lana asked, raising an eyebrow in concern.
"What time is it?"
Lana looked at her watch. "7:55."
"Darn! Lana, I have to go!" Clark started running toward the hotel. "I'll see you at breakfast!" he yelled back at her.
Lana shook her head and descended down the stair slowly. It was dark, but there were lots of students from the convention around. She spotted a person she knew in a group of people and walked back to the hotel with them.
Lois was dressed in a light blue dress and white pumps. She was nervous whenever she met her father. She pulled her hair up into a high ponytail and carefully applied lip gloss. She wasn't sure if she was doing it to impress her father, or because there was a chance she would find Kent Jerome, or whatever his name was, again. She was in the lobby and ready at 7:40.
"Lois!" At precisely 7:58, fashionably late as usual, Dr. Samuel Lane's voice penetrated Lois' ear. She was staring at the antique grandfather clock across the room. She spun around.
"Daddy!" She gave her father a bear hug.
"Princess!" He took her hand and led her down the escalator to the porte-cochere, where he had a car waiting. "I told you I'd come get you in your room. What were you doing waiting in the lobby all by yourself?"
Lois was looking behind her, searching the lobby for a tall muscular teenager with wire-frame glasses and Nikes. "Huh? Oh, sorry, Dad. I must've misunderstood you."
"Listen, I know a great restaurant …" Sam Lane's words blurred together, and Lois didn't understand a word he said. She kept searching up and down, right and left. No Kent Jerome.
The bellman opened the door of the limousine Sam Lane had rented. She got in, taking one last look down the street before ducking her head into the car. "Forget him," she told herself as she settled into the brown plush seat.
But not without one last look behind her.
Clark ran the six blocks to the hotel, almost out of breath as he rounded the corner. He looked at the digital clock on the bank across the street. It read 8:01. He stopped to catch his breath and caught a glimpse of a brown ponytail ducking into a black limo. With a sinking heart, he knew it was Lois Lane. And he was just one minute too late.
The next morning, Clark went early to all of the investigative seminars to look for Lois, but he couldn't find her. He asked the hotel front desk clerk for her room number, but she said Lois Lane had checked out in the middle of the night. Clark didn't feel comfortable with it, but he gave up his search. Obviously, it just wasn't meant to be.
Lois Lane had a great dinner date with her father. So great, in fact, that she accepted when he asked her to stay with him in the townhouse he had rented for the week. After dinner they had gone to a carnival just outside of the city, and then went back to the hotel to check Lois out and move all her luggage.
As Lois exited the hotel for the last time, she thought fleetingly of Kent Jerome, the muscle geek. He seemed so different from other boys her age - quiet yet confident. Passive, yet full of strength. With a shake of her head, she dismissed his image from her thoughts. "He was a liar anyway," she told herself. "He wasn't even staying here." She climbed into her father's limousine solemnly, vowing to one day forget her brief friendship with Kent Jerome.
THIRTEEN YEARS LATER
Clark Kent carried the last of his boxes into the bedroom of the new brownstone he had bought with his wife. Lois was sitting on the mattress - they were in the process of buying a new frame - opening boxes and putting things away in their new bedroom set.
"Hey, Clark, look, it's your old high school yearbook!" Lois pulled a red book with gold trim out of the box. "Looks like you haven't seen this in ages."
Clark set the pile of boxes down in the corner and sat down next to his wife. "You're right; I haven't." She opened the book gingerly and began reading dedications.
"'Dear Clark,'" she read in amusement. "'You are the best prom date a girl could have. Thanks for the memories. Have a great summer, and good luck at Midwestern State. Stay in touch. Love, Rachel Harris.'" Lois gave Clark a pointed look.
"What?" Clark said.
Lois said nothing as she perused the contents of his yearbook, made fun of his "rice bowl haircut" and participation in the "food appreciation club."
She flipped through the last few pages and came across a dedication in red ink pen in a flowy, curly hand. "'Clark Jerome Kent, I will always cherish the many moments we had together these four years in high school and even before that since preschool.'" Lois paused to pretend to stick her finger down her throat in a mock-gag. Clark slapped her hand down playfully. "'I will especially remember the night we were at the Lincoln Memorial and you took off running like a maniac, leaving me there like a fool. But I forgive you. No regrets. Love, Lana Jane Lang.'" Lois put the book down. "What were you guys doing in the middle of Washington, D.C., and why did you leave that poor girl in the dark?"
Clark put on his mysterious grin, and said, "That's for me to know and for you to *never* find out."
Lois didn't do anything for a moment, then she grinned. She put the book on the bookshelf, but not before a small square piece of paper fluttered out. She picked it up. "What's this?" Lois turned the paper over and realized it was a nametag. "'Washington D.C. Annual Journalism Convention 1983,'" she read. "Kent Jerome, Smallville High School …" Her eyes widened, memories of the convention 13 years before flooding back into her mind like a wave. "Clark!"
She turned to face her husband, who had a silly grin on his face. "What?" he said innocently.
"When were you planning on telling me about this?"
"Because, Lois. How would this sound? When I proposed to you, and you said, 'Who's asking, Clark Kent or Superman?' and then I said, 'Neither, it's Kent Jerome, the muscle geek you met in Washington, D.C. You know, I was right about my predictions about you …"
Lois looked at Clark, trying to look angry, but a smile playing at her lips. She wanted to scream at him for being dishonest with her *again*, but instead she said, "You still owe me that Double Fudge Crunch bar, Kent Jerome." She wanted to distract him from the fact that he was right so many years ago. She hated it when he was right.
"You never met me in the lobby," he said, challenging her.
"I tried to leave a message for you, but your name - your *fake* name …"
"It wasn't fake! It's really my name, but I filled my form out wrong!"
"… In any case, I didn't know your real name, so I couldn't leave a message for you that I was going to dinner with my dad."
"Well, then, can I do something to make up for it?" Clark asked. "I mean, this is 13 years of, well, lying. And you're right. I owe you a Double Fudge Crunch Bar." Clark smiled, and Lois knew she couldn't' resist.
Lois looked at him with mock dismay. "Maybe," she countered.
"Like …" Clark put his hand on Lois' thigh.
"Maybe," she said again, this time with a smile.
Clark suddenly kissed her hard on the lips, and the moment was followed by giggles and sighs as the Kents - not the Jeromes - "christened" their new bedroom.