By IRC Round Robin
Submitted August 1998
Summary: This story is a flashback to the second season episode "The Phoenix," and the night of Lois's and Clark's almost first date. In it, we explore what happens in Lois's subconscious when that really rotten Chinese dinner from Ralph's Pagoda mixes with her anxieties about her changing relationship with Clark and her concerns about the reappearance of Lex. The result is story that is funny and *way psychological*, to quote Jimmy Olsen. ;)
An IRC Roundrobin by zoomway (email@example.com); CrystalW( JCWimmer@aol.com); Eraygun (Eraygun@aol.com); Kirshnera (Kirshnera@aol.com); ChiefPam (firstname.lastname@example.org); cerise (email@example.com)
Lois was miserable. She groaned and held her stomach. "I should have known better than to order Chinese food from a place called 'Ralph's Pagoda'."
Clark turned from his observation at the window and smiled at his queasy partner. He knelt next to the sofa. "Here," he said, and lifted her head and placed a cushion underneath.
"Thanks, Clark," she said. He was such a sweetheart most of the time. Why had she fought it so long? "Some first date, huh?"
Clark laughed softly. "That's okay," he reassured her . He placed his hand on her abdomen and began to rub gently.
"I don't feel good," she groaned again. "I'm so embarrassed."
"Don't worry about it. You should turn in. You can sleep in the bedroom."
Just turning her head in the direction of the bedroom made it swim. "Uhhh, I don't think I can make it to the bedroom."
"Here," Clark said, and slipped one arm under her knees and the other under her shoulders. He lifted her gently from the sofa. "C'mon."
"Clark … " Lois tried to protest. It was a silly thing, but it was like a Superman moment, though she had never held Superman so close when he carried her.
She rested her head on his shoulder, almost feeling too weak to keep her head up. It was as though he gave her strength and sustenance just being so close to him, but all too soon the brief walk ended, and he set her down.
"There you go. Door to door service," he said cheerfully. "If you need anything … during the night … just call. I'll be right out here."
"Well … " she said.
"Well … " he replied, and it was clear the short walk to the door had meant as much in an intimate way as it had to her.
She rested her hand on his chest, prolonging the contact as long as possible, but her stomach again intruded on the moment, and she wrapped her arm around herself. "Goodnight, Clark."
She entered the bedroom and leaning against the door after she closed it, blew out a gust of pent up air. Clark Kent was really getting to her.
She crumpled down on the small bed, not bothering to change. When she closed her eyes it seemed as if the bed was spinning. Oh, this would not be a good night's sleep …
Lois winced. The sky was so bright on the marina. Funny, she hadn't remembered even walking there. At least her stomach felt better. She took a deep breath of the sea air and felt quite good.
"Clark?" She looked around, but he wasn't there. She heard footsteps running up to her and turned and saw Jimmy hurrying in her direction. She smiled; there was something ever-faithful about Jimmy.
"Hey, Lois, check it out, storm headed this way," he said, and handed her a sheet of papers.
She looked down at them, but the harder she tried to concentrate on the words, the more indistinct they became. As she read, the sky grew dark and menacing all at once. She glanced up and saw a bald Lex Luthor waving from a yacht as it passed by. No one seemed to notice or care but Lois.
"We'd better get off the pier!" Jimmy shouted, trying to be heard over the wind.
She grabbed Jimmy by his shirt collar and ran with him to Butch Kinnebrew's hideaway, the houseboat she and Clark had used to spy on Sheldon Bender. The wind was so fierce it slammed the door behind them, and as they looked out the window, they saw that a huge waterspout had formed, and was heading straight for them.
Lois tried to remember what proper procedure was for circumstances like this, but she simply didn't have time to analyze it. She clutched Jimmy's collar, feeling the soft flannel and knowing that at least she wasn't facing this alone. She tried to scream, thinking that this would be a perfect time for 'Help, Superman', but she couldn't hear herself over the roaring wind.
She watched in amazement as the funnel of water spun various other small craft into the air, and hoped frantically that this boat would be heavy enough to hold its own. Just as she thought the water spout was turning, that it might miss them, she felt the shaking begin.
Looking out the window she saw the marina leave her view. Silence descended around her as she felt the sensation of being lifted, rather like that of being in a fast-moving elevator as it launched to the top of a building. The boat twisted as it rose into the air, pinning her against the floor, and forcing her to leave her perch at the window. Clutching flannel in one hand and a table leg in the other, Lois held on for dear life.
She felt the boat rise and spin for what seemed like forever, and was relieved when she was no longer pinned to the floor. Edging to the window once more, she looked out to see boats and oars flying past. The ride seemed to go on and on, but just as suddenly as it had begun, it came to a stop. She felt the shaking of the boat begin once more, and then a distinct thud as it found its way to the ground.
She tried to remain still, checking to see that she hadn't been injured by the mad flight, but soon her curiosity got the better of her. She couldn't see much outside her window, so she began to move towards the door. She had released Jimmy's collar at some point in the flight, and a quick glance behind her assured her that he was fine, and still following behind her like a puppy dog.
She carefully eased the door open, revealing a magical land of bright colors and fanciful shapes that seemed far removed from the peaceful harbor she had been in a few moments before. She crept carefully from the grounded boat, and out onto the street … a rather odd street.
Lois took in the surroundings with awe. Shimmering buildings were in every direction, stretching along a road that appeared to be made of bricks. The golden stone that was beneath her feet was firm, so she stepped a few feet away from the boat to get a better look. She was certain that she had seen a person peeking from behind a little house, but she couldn't see him now. She walked a bit further along the street, and saw other faces.
Jimmy coughed behind her, a little bark of a sound, and drew her attention back to the boat. She noted with dismay that the boat had landed on something … or someone. Looking more closely, she saw two feet extending >from beneath the boat, feet that were encased in the most adorable ruby slippers.
Just then she heard movement behind her, and turned to see a group of tiny people approaching … and they appeared to be led by a little man who looked familiar. Stepping closer, her voice barely a whisper, she asked him, "Who are you?"
The little man puffed himself up in an attempt to appear larger.
"Who I am is not really important," he said in a voice that sounded like Alvin of those singing chipmunks. "The important questions are who are you and why have you come here?"
Lois eyed the strange little man carefully. He seemed to be in charge and he might be the only source of information available, so she decided to humor him.
Plastering on her friendliest smile she said, "Of course, I understand. I guess our sudden appearance here is a little disconcerting. I'm Lois Lane. And this is my friend Jimmy Olsen," she added as she glanced over her shoulder.
But instead of seeing Jimmy behind her there was a small dog wearing a black and white checkered flannel shirt.
That's odd, Lois thought. "Now where could he have disappeared to?" she mumbled. "Jimmy!" she called. The little dog barked as if in response.
She called again. "Jimmy!" The dog barked again. Then it dawned on her.
"Jimmy?" she asked anxiously. The dog whimpered in reply.
Lois sighed. "Something tells me we're not in Metropolis anymore."
"Metropolis? Now what in tarnation is Metropolis?" said the man. With every second, he appeared to be growing bigger. Now he was more than full sized, and wearing a strange outfit. It was a white jumpsuit covered with sequins.
The man's sideburns seemed to get bushy in confusion, the way a cat's tail puffed out when it was scared. "Now, all I want to know is, are you a good Elvis impersonator or a bad Elvis impersonator?"
"Elvis?" Lois asked. "I don't … I'm not an Elvis impersonator at all! What happened to Jimmy? And who *are* you?"
"Who *am* I? Who am *I*? Why, I'm just the greatest of all the Elvis impersonators! They call me Blue Suede, the Good Elvis Impersonator of the North. And as for Jimmy, is he your little dog?"
"No! I mean, no. Jimmy's a person, at least he was, and … I don't know what happened. Do you know anything about this at all?"
Blue Suede seemed to sympathize with Lois' obvious confusion. "Well, I know that a boat flew from the sky and landed on the Bad Elvis Impersonator of the East. And it was about time! He held all of these people in captivity, forcing them to listen to badly sung, badly played, barely recognizable Elvis tunes."
"Oh! That's … why, that's terrible!" Lois exclaimed.
"And so you can see why we're so grateful to you, Lois Lane." There was a giggle and a wave from the small crowd of people that had accompanied Blue Suede.
This was interrupted by a scream. "Ew! Get him away from me!" a young, immodestly clothed, auburn-haired girl shrieked. She was being actively pursued by Jimmy the dog. "Gross!"
"Jimmy!" Lois reprimanded. "Can't you behave yourself?" He *always* had to go after women, didn't he?
Jimmy growled lightly, but gave up on the woman. He didn't seem to have much of a chance with her anyway. Now, if he were in his regular form, he could give this town something to talk about, but it was best not to dwell on the impossible.
"Sorry about that," Lois said to the woman, who eyed her disdainfully. "You should see him when he's human. He's just as bad."
Jimmy gave an offended bark. "You are, too!" Lois replied.
The scene was suddenly engulfed in a cloud of glitter and smoke. Lois coughed, dodging a jet of flames that seemed to explode out of the ground. It was replaced by a figure. It was tall, and unaffected by the smoke.
"You dare to come here?" challenged a man's voice. "And look what you've done! You've destroyed my most trusted assistant!" His expression was pure fury, but controlled in a way that made Lois shudder. If he was powerful enough to control emotions that were that strong, who knew what else he could do?
"Ah!" he exclaimed, as if realizing something. "The shoes! They're mine!" He walked steadily to the edge of the boat, where the pair of feet encased in ruby shoes was trapped.
He bent over to recover the items, which were obviously objects of great power. But as he reached down, they disappeared!
"What have you done?" he demanded, staring straight at Blue Suede. "The shoes are *mine*!"
Blue Suede flicked a thumb over at Lois. "There they are and there they'll stay." Lois gasped and looked down at the ruby footwear now a part of her ensemble.
The bald spectre turned to Lois. "Give them back to me. They're of no use to you."
Lois folded her arms. "I happen to like the blue and red combination. Kind of clashy, but … "
The Nosferatu nightmare made a grab for them, only to recoil in pain. He snarled. "Give them back to me or I'll … "
"You'll nothin', bud," Blue Suede said. "You have no power here in Memphis-Land. So skedaddle before someone drops a houseboat on you, too."
The creature cringed a moment in expectation. "I'll go, but know this. I'll get you, Lois Lane, and your little gopher too!"
Jimmy went snapping at the nasty apparition only to dash back yelping as the villain vanished in a puff of green smoke that coalesced into a huge dollar sign.
"Well," Blue Suede belched, after downing a peanut butter and bacon sandwich. "Looks like you ticked off Wicked Lex of the West."
Lois sighed. "I do that with a lot of people. All I want is to find my way back home to Metropolis. Can anyone help me?"
One of the tiny Memphis-Land denizens stepped forward. "Well, if you've got something to eat in that basket, maybe I could give ya a clue."
Lois blinked. "Bobby?"
"Yeah, I represent the Blabbermouth Guild."
Lois suddenly noticed a wicker basket was looped over her arm. She peered under the large napkin that obscured the contents. "I have Double Fudge Crunch bars, chocolate flavored cottage cheese, something burnt beyond recognition and a wallet-size photo of Superman."
"Okay, give me a Crunch Bar, and I'll tell you how to get back home."
Lois shrugged and handed the pint-sized informant the candy. "Well?" she asked, tapping her ruby footwear.
"Ya just follow this road here. Start at the center spiral and head out. That'll take you to the Jade City, and the great and powerful Wizard can help you."
Lois looked skeptical. "I don't believe in magic."
Blue Suede smiled. "It'll always hold you back, darlin'."
A little man dressed in an orange cape stepped forward. "For the reasonable price of thirty-nine ninety-five, I could escort you to the outskirts of Memphis-Land. It's a small price to pay for being snatched from the jaws of Wicked Lex of the West."
Lois stood for a moment looking at the little man, and decided she might just be better off without him. She sighed as she looked at the path … it seemed to go on forever. While the ruby slippers were a tad shorter than her normal heels, they were still higher than she might have liked for this trip.
"Nothing ventured, nothing gained," she mumbled as she began to walk. Jimmy trotted along beside her, prancing from one side of the path to the other, eagerly running before her and then dropping behind, then finally running alongside her.
She sighed once more, and grumbled under her breath. "Youth."
She had walked for quite a distance, demolishing two Double Fudge Crunch Bars in the process, when she arrived at a sort of field. At its edge was a rather well-pecked scarecrow. She couldn't help but feel sorry for the pitiful looking figure, although she had to admit that its fashion sense was right on target. In fact, as she got closer, she realized that the scarecrow was wearing one of her favorite brown suits, complete with matching pumps.
Shaking her head in disbelief, she approached the scarecrow. It was trying with little success to lift itself from the peg that held it, using the smooth portion of the bottom of the pumps to press up on the pole giving it support. After watching its lack of success, and seeing the smooth shoes were unable to gain purchase on the equally smooth pole, Lois stepped forward.
"Use your heels," she advised the smartly dressed scarecrow. She saw the head lift, and a look of enlightenment dawn on the scarecrow's face as it dug the spiked heels into the wooden pole and lifted itself from the restraining peg.
The scarecrow landed solidly on its face, something Lois felt she had some experience dealing with, and then rose to its feet. "Thanks," the Scarecrow said in a breathless voice.
Lois looked at it … her … for a moment, deciding that she might not be bright, but at least she could learn. "How long have you been here?" she asked her.
"As long as I've been here," she replied. "How long have you been here?"
Lois shook her head, not wanting to even answer that question. Then an idea dawned on her. She really wasn't happy about making this trip with only an extremely active Jimmy to keep her company. This was even more the case with an irritating witch who could be about anywhere, and Blue Suede not close enough to offer advice.
"How would you like to walk with me for awhile?" she asked.
The Scarecrow didn't answer, but did fall into step with her as she began to walk again.
"Why were you out here?" she asked.
"To scare crows," she replied. "That's my job. I scare crows."
"But … they were all over you. They weren't very scared."
The Scarecrow stopped for a moment and looked at her, then resumed walking once more. "You're right. I'm not very smart. I couldn't think of a way to scare them. Maybe if I'd worn red instead of brown … or even yellow … "
Lois shook her head, trying to hide a smile. "Why didn't you move around?"
"Not smart enough," she replied. "I mean, if they'd worn glasses, I probably wouldn't have even known they were crows," she finally concluded.
Lois had no answer to that, and she really wasn't sure why that bothered her.
"Well," she said, "I'm going to the Jade City to see if the Wizard will get me home. Maybe the Wizard can help you out, too."
"Well, maybe he could give you a brain. You obviously have a terrific fashion sense, but you could use some intellect to go with it."
The Scarecrow nodded gravely. "That could be good," she answered.
"Well, then I guess we're off to see the Wizard," Lois said cheerfully. The Scarecrow nodded again and fell into step next to Lois and Jimmy.
Lois suddenly stopped short. "I know this is going to sound strange, but I really feel as though there should be music accompanying us."
The Scarecrow arched one of its painted on eyebrows, a gesture that Lois found more than a little disconcerting. "Really?" she said. "What kind of music?"
"Never mind," Lois replied.
They had been walking for hours (at least that's the way it felt to Lois) and unfortunately her new companion was not the best of company. She babbled incessantly, mostly about her job and her battles against the crows. As they walked, Lois found herself wishing that Clark was there.
She really missed him. If he were here they'd be playing games or discussing movies. Something fun. They seemed to always have fun when they were together. She heaved a heavy sigh.
"Is something wrong?" the Scarecrow asked.
"No … er, well, I guess I'm a little tired."
The expression on the Scarecrow's painted face saddened. "I'm sorry," she said, then looked off into the distance and gave Lois a bright smile. "I know what will help. You must be hungry. We can pick some of these apples," she said and pointed to a small group of trees.
Lois grimaced at the trees. "I don't know … my stomach was upset, but maybe roughage is the answer." She walked up to pluck an apple, only to have the tree snatch it back and swat her hand. "Ouch!"
The Scarecrow shook her head. "You keep forgetting you're not in Metropolis anymore."
"Actually," Lois said as she rubbed her hand, "that tree is just like a clerk at the Sak-N-Pak." Lois then walked up to the tree boldly. "And the apples probably have the same phony expiration stamps on them too!"
The tree, outraged, began tossing apples at Lois and the Scarecrow.
As Lois began scrounging after the apples, a metal object came into view. She knocked on it and then looked up.
"A person made out of tin," she said to the Scarecrow. "Kind of looks like it's wearing this ice blue satin dress I've had my eye on, but everyone thinks it's silver." Lois stood up and confronted the robotic person. "Are you okay?" she asked.
"Oil can." Its voice was a squeaky whisper.
"It said 'oil can'," Lois said.
"Oil can what?" the Scarecrow asked.
"Oy," Lois sighed and began looking around. "Here it is!" She retrieved the oil can and squirted a dab at the tin figure's mouth.
"Thank you," the Tin Person smiled. "I've been frozen here for so long. I was on a date, but didn't know what to do. I just sort of .. froze."
The Scarecrow folded its straw-filled arms. "So you were already rusty before you rusted."
Lois shook her head and continued oiling the Tin Person. "How could you not know what to do on a date?"
"Not that it's any of your business," the Tin Person huffed, "but I don't have a heart. The tinsmith left that out. It was great for work. No distractions, but for dating … "
"It sucked," Lois nodded.
The Scarecrow thought a moment, which was hard to do without a brain, but she was not as galactically stupid as most believed her to be. "Do you think the Wizard could help the Tin Person, too?"
Lois shrugged. "I don't see why not. Come with us to Jade City. We're asking the Wizard to get me back home, and to get a brain for the Scarecrow."
"What if the Wizard won't give me one once we get there?"
"Oh," Lois sighed. "He will. He *must*. We've come such a long way already."
"You call that long!" The voice of Wicked Lex of the West appeared from nowhere.
"What do you want?" Lois asked angrily, staring at the materializing form of Wicked Lex.
He chuckled evilly. "I want your shoes, dearie, and I will have them, too … " He began making weird hand motions, and soon was tossing a ball of fire around just a bit too casually.
"Oooh, pretty," breathed the Scarecrow, leaning forward.
"Do you like it?" Wicked Lex asked, smiling crookedly. "I might just give it to you … "
"No!" Lois protested, afraid for her brainless, flammable companion, but before she could do anything, the Tin Person stalked forward.
"I know what you're doing," she stated.
"Do you really?" Wicked Lex mused. "But don't you like it? Look how the colors shimmer … " He held the small ball of fire aloft for a moment, admiring its flickers and flares.
"You don't fool me," the Tin Person replied sturdily. "You're a bad person, and I won't let you hurt the Scarecrow."
"And what do you intend to do about it, you tin thing, you?"
"That's Tin *Woman*," she replied spunkily, and quickly squirted the remaining contents of the oil can all over Wicked Lex.
Wicked Lex was soon covered in flames. Cursing angrily, he disappeared, leaving behind his telltale green smoke.
"Well," Lois exclaimed, "I guess that fixes him."
"But the pretty flame went too," sighed the Scarecrow.
"Never mind," consoled the Tin Woman, "I'm sure we'll see prettier things as we go along."
That cheered up the Scarecrow, who liked to be cheerful anyway, and they proceeded down the lane, munching apples and chattering about the Wizard. Lois had heard that he could do *anything*.
Some time later, Lois was almost becoming bored with their progress. This darn road seemed to go forever! And while the Scarecrow and the Tin Woman were good companions, she still felt lonely. Talking to them was kinda like talking to herself. If only Clark were here …
You don't need him, she told herself sturdily. You can do it all yourself. And she nearly had herself convinced of that when the lion appeared.
All this time, they'd been passing through deeper and deeper woods, and it must have been Lois' thoughts that kept her from noticing the growing silence, so the sudden roar of the lion as it came bounding toward them was even louder.
The lion came right at the Scarecrow and boof! knocked her into a cartwheel off the side of the road! Roaring and growling, it then turned to the Tin Woman and struck at her with its claws. Her metal body just made a loud clank—and then the lion's attention was distracted by Jimmy.
He came running toward the lion, snapping and snarling, and the lion leaned down to bite at the little dog.
Without thinking, Lois ran up to the lion and biffed him right on the nose. "How dare you!"
The Lion, shocked, looked at Lois, and the expression on her face melted into a frown. "You hurt my noooooooose!" she cried, and began rubbing the offended area with her tail.
Ya know, that might have been a bad thing to do, Lois thought. Clark would say … oh stop that!
She glared at the Lion and said, "Shame on you, picking on a poor little guy—I mean dog, like that! And the Scarecrow! And Tinny here!"
"I didn't hurt anybody really … I was just tryin' to scare ya."
"Well, why in the world would you want to do that? You should be ashamed, picking on people like that! You're just … just a big bully!"
The Lion cringed away again, and Lois softened ever-so-slightly and said, "Don't worry, you big baby. Why are you such a *coward* when you're, well, a *lion*?"
"I dunno," the Cowardly Lion answered. "I just always got scared, and yelling made everybody leave me alone. I don't know what I'd do if anyone ever really fought me … "
"Well!" Lois said, "some king of the beasts you are!" At her sharp comment, the Cowardly Lion was on the verge of tears again.
Lois felt sorry, almost in spite of herself, and patted the creature on the shoulder. "Now, come on, buck up. It's not so bad … maybe …" She thought to herself, oh, why not. It's not like I haven't seen the movie. This one's got to come, too.
She took a breath and said, "Come with us to see the Wizard! We're all going together and maybe he can help you get some courage."
The Scarecrow piped up. "I'm going to get a brain!", and the Tin Woman added, "And I want a loving heart."
The Cowardly Lion looked at Lois. "Do ya mean it? Can I really? Do you think—"
"Yes, yes, and yes," Lois interrupted—with a smile to make up for her blunt words. "Let's get this show on the road!"
They walked off together, Lois and Jimmy side by side, and the three rather incomplete characters trailing after. Lois was pleased that she no longer needed to reply to the Scarecrow's incessant chatter … her new companions did that quite well … and she was able to enjoy the walk.
Wicked Lex looked into the hologram generated by a floating globe, and frowned. This was not going well. The companions had been designed to slow her down, to cause her to become swamped in her own failures and inadequacies, and yet still she walked forward. She had no hope, and yet still she trudged on, wearing the slippers that had been taken from his assistant. The slippers would be his … he would tolerate nothing else. They represented power, and all power belonged to him.
With a wave of his hand, he caused the hologram to waver. He wouldn't allow this to happen … he would stop her … and he wanted to watch it happen. He cast his spell, then relaxed into a chair with a tall, cool glass of liquid. He tugged on the black silk robe that tangled around his legs briefly, making himself more comfortable. This would be quite a show …
Lois crested the top of a hill and was stunned at the beauty before her. Poppies … a world of poppies stretched below, and just beyond that was the Jade City. She knew that there was a reason she shouldn't go down there, but at the moment she couldn't remember what it could be.
She walked into the field of flowers, Jimmy leaping about her heels, and almost immediately she began to feel tired. Within moments, she remembered why she shouldn't be here. Turning back to her companions, she saw that they had already succumbed to the power of the poppies. After a few more steps, she too lay down amongst the bed of flowers, and fell into a deep sleep …
The sky shimmered as a white-clad figure appeared above the sleeping Lois and her new friends. With a shake of his head, he asked, "Doesn't anybody work around here?"
He shimmied his hips in his trademark manner, and a thick snow began to fall on the sleeping travelers. Even as they began to rouse, his sparkling image was dissipating as though he had never been, leaving only an echo of "All Shook Up" in his wake.
Lois was the first to recover. Shaking the snow from her hair and brushing the rest off her clothes she pulled her companions to their feet.
"What happened?" the Scarecrow asked.
"I'm not sure, but I have a feeling we just received a little Blue Suede deliverance."
"What?!" the Tin Woman exclaimed crankily.
"Never mind," Lois replied. "It'll take too long to explain and we've got to get moving before you rust again."
As they approached the Jade City, Lois marveled at how much it reminded her of Metropolis. Despite its name the entire place wasn't made out of jade but some other gleaming green mineral. It looked familiar to her, and yet she couldn't quite place it.
They arrived at a grand and ornate gate capped with a globe like the one outside of the Planet. Lois smiled. This had to be the place; she was sure of it.
Scooping up Jimmy, and with the others in tow, she walked up to the large front door, and pressed the door bell. A small hatch in the door opened and a young bespectacled man with dark hair looked out, frowned at them, and then slammed the hatch shut.
"Clark!" Lois exclaimed. "That looked like Clark!"
"Clark?" the Tin Woman asked. "I know I don't have a heart, but when you said that name I'd swear I felt a pulse."
"You and me both, sister," the Scarecrow said and high-fived the Tin Woman.
"Not me." The Cowardly Lion shivered. "I only feel safe with Superman."
"Enough," Lois said, and kicked open the large door.
"Wow," the four of them said in concert.
A coachman pulled up to them. "I can take you any place in the city."
"Can you take us to see the Wizard?" The coachman looked familiar, Lois thought. Maybe if he'd been wearing glasses …
"The Wizard? I can't .. I can't … well, what the heck, hop in," he said.
He took them to a place where they could spruce up a bit. They had spent so much time together that they were like a family on vacation. They cared about each other, but right now they would pay money for separate rooms.
When they all met back near the guarded entryway to the Wizard, the Scarecrow regarded the Cowardly Lion. "Your hair looks like hell."
Lois turned on the Scarecrow. "That was a thoughtless thing to say!"
The Scarecrow shrugged and pointed to her head. "Consider the source."
They turned toward the large door at the end of the hall.
The guard, seeing their approach, held his battle-axe in front of him. "What's your business here?" he asked.
Lois looked at his face more closely.
"What?" he asked softly.
She shook her head. "Nah," she said finally. "We .. um, we want to see the Wizard."
"The Wizard!? Nobody sees the great Wizard. Even *I've* never seen him."
"Then how do you know there is one?"
The guard seemed nonplused at that logical rejoinder. "Because he … because … you know, I'm really late for an appointment!"
Lois grabbed the guard. "Oh, no, you don't! We're here to see the Wizard, and I mean *now*!"
He nodded. "Okay, Lois, I guess you can come on in."
"You know my name," she said dreamily.
The guard shrugged. "Well, everyone does," he said and pointed upward. "Wicked Lex kind of spewed it all over the sky."
Lois and her companions looked up. 'Surrender, Lois!' was written in 14 point bold sans-serif in the sky.
The Cowardly Lion waved her paws back and forth. "Oh my God, this is it!"
The Tin Woman swallowed. "The Wizard will help us. Now just ca .. calm down."
The four locked arms and walked down a long hallway. Only the clank of the Tin Woman could be heard as they entered a large room with a high vaulted ceiling.
A fearful image appeared before them, seemingly floating in midair. Fire and smoke partially obscured the visage.
"I AM THE GREAT AND POWERFUL WIZARD! WHO ARE YOU!?"
Lois looked up, mouth agape. Now this, she thought, this is not exactly what I had in mind … Finding her voice, she stepped forward with a confidence she didn't really feel.
"Hi there. Lois Lane. Got just a couple of little favors to ask of you, and we'll be out of your hair."
The head spoke. "I KNOW WHO YOU ARE. WHERE DID YOU GET THOSE SHOES?"
Okay, this is absolutely the weirdest … a huge head is commenting on my footwear. Aloud, Lois answered impatiently. "Neiman's. Look, all I want is to get home. And they" — gesturing to the Scarecrow, the Tin Woman, and the Cowardly Lion behind her, — "want a brain and a heart and some courage. How about it?"
"WHY SHOULD I HELP YOU?"
"Why not?" was Lois' snappish reply.
The head was silent for a moment. "I WILL HELP YOU. HOWEVER, YOU MUST DO SOMETHING FOR ME."
Oh great … great, Lois thought. Everybody's got an angle. What could this be?
"IT'S VERY SIMPLE. RETRIEVE THE GLOBE THAT WICKED LEX HAS STOLEN FROM ME," the head intoned.
Lois looked at him quizzically. "And just how am I supposed to do *that*?"
"THAT'S NOT MY PROBLEM. THAT'S THE DEAL."
Lois gave the head her patented 'I'm a hard-bitten investigative reporter and I don't put up with this kind of bull' glare, but to no avail. It slowly disappeared, and Lois turned to her companions.
"Well, guys … back to the drawing board."
They walked together out of the hall.
Wicked Lex of the West stared into the floating hologram and frowned, but with a speculative look in his eye. Lois hadn't surrendered yet, but on the other hand, she had emerged from the Jade City once more, and it looked like she was coming his way.
He hummed an old tune under his breath and curled his fingers around the globe possessively. Watching Lois was becoming an obsession for him. He still wanted the shoes, and he would have them, but now … now he was determined to have *her* as well.
Her companions he discounted. The scarecrow would be easy enough to manipulate. The tin woman, as it styled itself, could be overcome by force. And while the lion might put up a show of ferocity, it would crumble at the first little obstacle, he was sure.
And then Lois would be his. That would also have the very satisfying side-effect of spiting the Wizard. Wicked Lex felt a warm glow inside. A win-win situation.
"Asabi!" he called out, "do you have the hairy henchpersons ready?"
Bowing low, Asabi assured him that they were in top condition.
"Excellent." He pointed to the hologram, which showed Lois and her new-found friends entering Wicked Lex's realm. "Bring me the girl. Oh, and her little dog, too."
Lois walked forward, holding tight onto her flannel-clad bundle of fur.
"Come on, people," she said crossly, as she herded the group along. "We haven't got all day here. I have a job to get back to, you know."
"But I won't know what to do!" wailed the Scarecrow.
"And I'll be too afraid," whimpered the Cowardly Lion.
"Like I really care," the Tin Woman responded heartlessly.
"Hush," Lois scolded them all, wondering what she had done to deserve these particular companions. "I have a goal to meet here, and I'm going to meet it, with or without you. You can always turn back if you want, but then the Wizard won't help you."
They walked in a chastened silence for a little while, then the Tin Woman ventured a question. "Lois … what's so important for you to get back to?"
"Clark," she answered automatically, surprised to hear that answer come out of her mouth. "I mean … my job, you know, he's my partner, and my job is very important to me … and I'm very good at it, I'm the best reporter he's got, Perry said that, I won awards … "
She faltered under the patient, skeptical look of the Scarecrow.
"Even I can see through that," she observed mildly.
"It sounded logical to me," the Tin Woman snapped in reply.
"And besides," Lois summed up triumphantly, "I have to get back to be there for Superman. He needs me, I'm sure of it … "
"Sounds like a plan to me," agreed the Cowardly Lion.
That settled, they began debating whether Lois should go straight back to Metropolis or take a side trip to France. Lois was arguing against France (good cheese, sure, but it's full of French people) when the evil henchmen attacked.
Wicked Lex marched towards the entrance to his castle where his henchmen were returning with his prize. The grubby criminals could easily have passed for common, if not for the flight apparatus that was strapped to each of them. It had been worth the effort of having the technology of individual flight developed, he thought … even if it had been hideously expensive.
Lois was screaming expletives at the one who held her. His face was more than slightly battered, and bore several marks that had been inflicted by her nails. She had not surrendered easily. Her companions looked a bit worse for wear as they were plopped unceremoniously next to their leader.
Lois stood immediately, turning to watch the villains ascend to the sky like a pack of flying monkeys. Why was it, she thought, that the bad guys always got the cool toys?
Turning to face her captor, she fairly hissed at him, "What do you think you're doing??"
He smiled in his sinister way, and reached forward to snatch Jimmy from her hands.
After carrying him for so long, she had almost forgotten him, and was stunned when she realized he had been grabbed. "Give him back," she yelled furiously.
"I think not," Wicked Lex replied. "He stays with me," he told her, "as you will."
Lois shook her head at his arrogance. She took a slight step back, to regroup with her companions, and finally got a good look at them.
The Cowardly Lion was curled into a ball, bruised and battered, whimpering quietly to herself. The Scarecrow was attempting to pull herself together, literally, as she stuffed handfuls of straw back into her brown dress. The Tin Woman's situation was even more dire, as both arms had been yanked off by the henchmen during their capture. Vaguely she wondered if yelling for Superman would do any good, but finally decided that this was unlikely. Lois was well and truly on her own here.
Drawing herself up once more, she confronted the witch. "Look, we both know how this is going to come out, so why don't you just give me the globe so I can go home."
Wicked Lex's smile was not unexpected, but it still infuriated her. She struck out at him with a roundhouse kick, the first thing that came to mind, and sent him sailing slightly to the side, more stunned then hurt. The kick had, however, been enough to knock the globe from its place, and it hung suspended in the air.
Lois reached out towards it and was stunned when it came to her and landed in her palm with a soft plop. Wicked Lex took a moment to regain his bearings, then he dove at her in an attempt to retrieve the globe. Lois moved quickly aside and he went sprawling into a small bed of straw that had been drifting from the Scarecrow since they had been deposited there.
Slipping on the straw, Wicked Lex skidded across the entrance area, landing on his behind. Before he could attempt to stand, the Lion was upon him, clawing and scratching for all she was worth. Meanwhile, Jimmy began to jump and yip around the battle site.
Lois quickly assisted the Tin Woman to retrieve her arms, and they gathered to leave. Just as the Scarecrow tossed a handful of straw into the witch's face to blind him, the Lion was thrown away from him, and Wicked Lex rose to his feet.
He turned on the group, fury in his features, and pulled out a device. Pointing it at the fleeing group, he fired and sent a beam of red through the air and into the Scarecrow's dress. The material flamed, and the fire spread quickly to the surrounding straw.
Near panic, Lois looked around and sighted a pail of what looked like water near the door. Not questioning her luck, she grabbed the pail and hurled its contents towards the witch and the Scarecrow.
As Lois had hoped, the water doused the Scarecrow's flaming dress and the surrounding straw, but it was also having an impact on Wicked Lex. She watched with curiosity as the huge figure that had towered over her and the others began to howl in agony and then shrink. It was as though he was melting into the floor. Cursing Lois, he grabbed wildly at her and the others but they deftly moved out of his way.
Lois wanted to turn away from the scene, but it was fascinating to watch somehow, like a train wreck.
When the witch was completely dissolved there was a moment or two of silence, then the Lion spoke. "Whoa, that was pretty impressive."
The Tin Woman nodded in agreement. "Yeah, it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy."
Lois shook her head slowly and gave a small smile. She had to agree that despite her initial horror she felt some small satisfaction at seeing the villain disappear that way. She was about to reply to them when suddenly the entire castle began to shake as though a major earthquake had struck the area.
Grabbing the globe she dashed outside with the others close behind. They reached relative safety just as the entire structure collapsed like a house of cards, burying what was left of Wicked Lex of the West and his henchmen under tons of rubble.
The weary foursome, followed obediently by Jimmy, made their way back to the Jade City. The long corridor to the Wizard did not seem so menacing this time. They had vanquished evil, and now it was time to deal.
The fire and smoke reappeared as they entered the great hall. "WHY HAVE YOU RETURNED?" the frightening visage bellowed.
Lois stepped forward and placed the globe on the floor. "We brought what you asked, and Wicked Lex is dead."
"LIQUIDATED HIS ASSETS, EH? VERY RESOURCEFUL."
"Now that we've done what you asked," Lois said, not nearly as frightened as before, "we'd like some quid pro quo here."
"Uh … I'M VERY busy," the booming voice wavered. "THERE'S … this cheese convention in town … "
"But you promised!" the Scarecrow cried.
Jimmy scratched behind his ear. He was feeling a … doggie urge, and needed a place out of Lois' view.
"GO AWAY … AND COME BACK TOMORROW!" the voice said, trying to sound commanding again.
"NO!" Lois insisted.
"Yeah!" the Cowardly Lion, uncharacteristically brave, chimed in.
Jimmy saw a nice length of red curtain. It had that 'bad dog!' smell, but unfortunately his checkered shirt got caught on the hem.
As Jimmy tugged and tugged, the curtain started to pull back. A handsome man in a blue suit and red shirt was operating a set of controls behind it. When he noticed he'd been unmasked he grabbed the curtain and flung it closed. This sent Jimmy sprawling.
"PAY NO ATTENTION TO THAT MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN!" the voice said.
Lois scooped Jimmy up in her arms and pulled back the curtain. "Who are you?" she asked.
"I AM THE GREAT AND POWERFUL … " he turned dejectedly from the microphone, " … Wizard," he finished in a soft voice.
"You?! You're a liar! There's nothing worse!"
"I … I wasn't lying, exactly."
"What was it then, *exactly*? Justification, qualification, a bid for the World Federation Wrestling title?"
"A little mystery is all," the man said, in a voice that threatened to re-ignite the Scarecrow.
Lois swallowed. "I like you like this better than that Wizard thing."
"You think it's better than the fire and the brimstone?"
"I'm not knocking the fire and brimstone. It's just that this blue and red number is more … "
"More … what?" he asked, his face perilously close to hers.
"Hold it!" the Lion roared. "This is how we always get in trouble, Lois. Think about it."
Lois blinked a couple of times and straightened her shoulders. "Yes .. um. I want to go home, and you *promised.* "
The Wizard Man sighed. "I guess I did, but there's one problem."
Lois folded her arms. "Which is?"
"I don't know how to fly. The Wizard did that, and the Wizard's not here."
The Tin Woman shook her head. "No quick buzz out of this one."
"Lois," Wizard Man said, "if you were stuck here with me, would it be so bad?"
Lois, despite her anger, smiled. "No, not *so* bad."
"Lo-is," the Scarecrow warned.
"It's just that there's someone I need to get back to, and even though you're very nice, albeit a phony," she added hastily, "you're not him."
"He must be pretty special," the Wizard Man sighed.
"I never knew how much before, but yes, he's pretty special," Lois said, and as she spoke, all of her traveling companions suddenly combined into one, and merged with her. Jimmy yapped with excitement at the sight, and the Wizard Man raised his eyebrows.
"You're good. You should be the wizard."
"Well," Lois blushed, "I have my moments."
At that moment a large guitar appeared in the sky and descended, and out of it stepped Blue Suede. "I hear you need a way back home?" he asked.
"Yes! Can you help me?"
Blue Suede shrugged. "You've always had the power to go back home, Lois. Didn't I fax that to you?"
"No … I don't recall .. I … "
"Okay, it's very simple. You had to learn a lesson before you could go back, darlin'. But even if you didn't, just fake it, and the ruby footwear will get you home just the same."
Lois looked longingly at the Wizard Man. She put her arms around his neck. "I'll miss you most of all," she sobbed.
"I'll miss you too, Lois," he whispered against her hair.
She pulled back, and on impulse, kissed him. This time, as their lips met and clung, Lois was the one beginning to melt, but as the ruby heels made contact, she felt herself transporting …
"I'm here, Lois, I'm right here," a familiar soft voice spoke in the darkness.
Lois opened her eyes. "Oh Clark, I kept trying to get back!" She hugged him.
"Lois," he smiled and rubbed her back, "I think Ralph's Pagoda gave you more than an upset stomach."
She pulled back. "A dream?"
Clark nodded. "Didn't sound like a good one either."
Lois sighed with relief and laid her head against his chest. "Some of it was nice, but … " she hesitated, then decided not to be a Cowardly Lion. " … but without you there, it didn't matter how nice it was."
Clark laid his hand atop hers. "Maybe we can go back together some time," he said, encouraged by her words, but not wanting to take advantage of a dream that had obviously upset her. "Until then," he continued, "I hear the sunrise over the marina is beautiful."
Lois nuzzled her head under his chin. She was where she wanted to be. Even better, she was where she believed she belonged.