By IRC Round Robin
Submitted July 1998
Summary: Lois tries to fulfill her civic duty … but it may be more of a trial for Lois than those she is set to judge.
An IRC Roundrobin by chrispat (firstname.lastname@example.org; Eraygun (Eraygun@aol.com); zoomway (Zoomway@aol.com); Carol-A (address not available); ChrisM (email@example.com)
Lois Lane was not a happy camper on this bright spring morning.
As she moodily sipped at her coffee, her husband tried to cheer her up. "C'mon Lois. It won't be so bad, and you'll get to see how the courts really work."
Lois slammed down her cup. "But Clark, that story we've been working on is just coming to a head. Why does it have to be now?"
"We can table the story for a week, Lois. Just think of this as research."
Lois thought about her conversation with Clark as she sat in the jury room listening to the woman who was giving instructions drone on and on. She'd already been here for two hours and hadn't even seen a courtroom. She thought she was going to die of boredom.
Finally the woman finally came to a halt and gave the prospective jurors a break.
"Now, remember to listen for your name. If you are called, report to the courtroom ASAP."
"Yeah, yeah," Lois mumbled and headed to the phone to call Clark. No sooner had she dialled than she heard the loudspeaker boom to life, listing all the jurors to be called to a particular courtroom. Sure enough, her name was called. She slammed down the phone and joined a stream of other jurors.
"I can't believe my luck!" Lois grumbled as she was herded along the corridor to a waiting courtroom. "I've got a ton of work waiting at the office, and instead I'm here. In what looks like a casting call for a low rent version of Perry Mason," she added as she eyed what she assumed to be lawyers for the case.
"Isn't this exciting!" the older woman sitting next Lois whispered. "I've never been in a courtroom before."
"Yeah, sure." Lois mumbled and nodded.
"Have you ever been in one?" the chatty woman continued.
"Once or twice." Lois replied warily.
"Oh, really? You've been on a jury before?" the large man sitting on the other side of Lois chimed in.
"No, I haven't."
"Oh then you must have been in a trial, honey." The elderly woman interrupted. "There's no need to be shy. Was it a fender bender?"
"Well, er, actually…"
"Shsssh!" The court clerk admonished. "The judge is speaking."
Lois' mind numbed as the judge proclaimed this was the voir dire stage of jury selection. She was confident, however, that she would be chosen.
Okay, so she had "issues" with Metropolis jurisprudence, and she had been on trial for her life and been framed, but still, justice prevailed. They'd certainly see her keen, discerning reporter's logic as … valuable.
The defendant's attorney looked so young. He reminded her of Clark when he first came to the Planet. His hair was so sloppy, but cute, she conceded.
"What?" Lois suddenly asked, not realizing she'd been addressed.
The young attorney cleared his throat. "I asked if you had any opinion on men accused of sexual harassment."
"Yes," she said flatly, "I have an opinion."
The attorney sighed. "You wouldn't mind sharing it with me, would you?"
Lois narrowed her eyes. "Okay," she said, drumming her fingernails on the railing. "I think a man 'accused' of sexual harassment is just that, accused, but if he's guilty, I'd recommend a smaller version of the guillotine, if you get my drift."
The attorney looked at the judge, who was hiding behind his hands. He looked back at Lois. "Have you ever been the victim of sexual harassment?"
"That depends, I married my co-worker, but he didn't harass me. Well, he kind of bugged me sometimes, but in a good way. He was kind of green … as a reporter, not a harasser, now Cat Grant, on the other hand .."
Lois was taken aback. "So, what now?" she asked the attorney.
The attorney turned back to her and sighed. "Now you return to the waiting area." Without another word, he returned his gaze to the juror seated next to Lois.
With a huff, Lois grabbed her purse and stood to stomp out of the courtroom. She secretly wished for a latch on the door so she could slam it. In quick, long strides, Lois made her way back to the waiting area. She was not enjoying this, not one bit.
Maybe I'll have time to call Clark before they call my name again, she thought suddenly. She noticed a pay phone on her left and crossed the checkerboard-tiled floor to get to it. Tucking the receiver between her ear and shoulder, she fished in her purse for some coins.
"Juror 517, please report to courtroom 3," the static-y loudspeaker requested.
"That's just great," she griped. Slamming the receiver into its cradle, she hoisted her purse further up on her shoulder, then marched back the way she'd come.
A traffic accident case awaited Lois in courtroom 3. It was a fairly simple case actually, which didn't take long to hear or decide upon … once Lois had convinced the other jurors of the error of their ways, that is.
Refreshed by that little interlude, Lois felt ready to face that first attorney again, if she should get another chance to. First, though, it was lunch time and another chance to contact Clark. She managed to find a pay phone that wasn't being used, and tried dialling the Planet.
Unfortunately, Clark wasn't there.
"I'm sorry, Lois," Jimmy told her with real regret in his voice, "the Chief sent him out on a story about an hour ago, and he hasn't gotten back yet."
"What kind of story?"
"I'm not sure … something about an accident down at the docks."
"Oh," Lois replied.
Jimmy could hear the disappointment in her voice. "Do you want me to give him a message when he gets back, Lois?"
Yes, Lois thought, how about 'Get me out of here' … or, 'I miss you' … or, 'Why aren't you there when I want to have lunch with you?'
"No," Lois replied instead, "I'm going to get something to eat and then I have to report back to the jury room to see if they need me again."
"Okay, Lois. See you later."
Yeah, Lois thought as she hung up the phone … much later.
Lois found a hot dog vendor plying his trade out in front of the courthouse, and had just sat down to eat her hot dog (mustard, no onions, in honor of her absent husband), when she heard a familiar voice behind her.
"Well, isn't this nice?"
Lois turned to see the elderly woman who had been next to her at that first case. Could this day get any better?
"I'm sorry that you got dismissed from that case, my dear. It's so exciting."
"Really?" Lois couldn't imagine what could be exciting about a sexual harassment case.
"Yes, it is," her unwelcome companion assured her. Then she leaned closer to whisper conspiratorially to Lois, "The accused is someone very important in government circles, you see. Now, isn't that exciting?"
"You don't mind if I sit next to you, do you?" the older woman asked, doing just that before Lois could respond. "Yes, this is just lovely. You and I can have a nice chat, dearie. I see you have a wedding ring on. How long have you been married?"
For a second Lois' mind went numb, then she had an idea. Jumping up and reaching for her cell phone, she said, "You know, I just remembered that I have to call my office. Will you excuse me?"
"Hurry back," chirped her new friend.
Lois smiled fixedly, but kept on walking. It didn't matter that the battery on her cell phone had run out, she had just needed a plausible excuse to get away.
Eating her hot dog as she made her way back into the courthouse, she prayed to every god she could think of that she wouldn't have to be on a jury with that woman again. It was going to be a looooong week.
Lois reported back to the jury room after lunch. Nothing seemed to be going on, but she knew that she had to stay until 4:30.
She looked for something to do. There were some ancient magazines scattered around and a TV was blaring in one corner of the room. Unfortunately it was tuned to a soap opera and when she tried to change it to LNN News, a fight nearly broke out.
She backed away as one of the male jurors held back the little old lady who was trying to kick her. "Okay, okay. Watch your stupid soap. I'll find something else to do."
She wandered around for a while and then settled morosely in front of a half finished jigsaw puzzle.
She found one piece and then another. Hey, I'm on a roll, she thought.
When the loudspeaker blared forth her name, she jumped. She had completed almost the whole puzzle and thought, One more piece, then I'll go.
Ten minutes later, the loudspeaker announced, "Lois Lane, please report to courtroom 15 NOW!"
She got up guiltily and scurried off to courtroom 15. As she entered, all eyes were on her and she slunk into her seat.
The judge looked down her nose and snarled, "Thank you for gracing us with your presence, Ms. Lane."
After being dismissed from that jury when asked her opinion of a man who would dump his wife for a younger woman, and giving it to the attorney in graphic detail, Lois went back to her puzzle. It was hard to remember where she had left off.
Suddenly the puzzle started putting itself together … at super speed. A Post-It note appeared on the puzzle, "The final piece is in the alcove."
Lois pressed her fingertips to her lips to suppress a giggle, walked down the corridor, and found herself being 'pulled' into the alcove. Suddenly her husband was wrapped around her like an arctic jacket.
"Remind me never to dump you for another woman," he said, after finally breaking a long, lingering kiss.
"Oh, you heard that."
He nodded. "St. Nick, remember?"
"Oh, Santa, to have just a half hour in your lap …"
The loudspeaker blared again. Clark's eyebrows rose and he quickly raised a warning finger when Lois showed signs of completing "Son of …" with the inevitable epithet.
Lois sighed loudly. "I'm doing an editorial on the value of replacing the jury system with computers."
Clark kissed her forehead. "Be a good girl and I'll pack a Twinkie in your lunch tomorrow."
Lois, feeling oddly depressed rather than refreshed by the 'run-in' with her husband, headed slowly for courtroom 11. Could a person feel claustrophobic in such a big place? The walls were already closing in, and she hadn't even been selected for a jury yet.
She slumped into her seat and was ready for the same-old same-old, but this trial apparently had to do with a murder, and for the first time, an attorney seemed to want her on the jury. She was well-aware of Lois' 'ordeal' as a murder suspect, and wanted Lois on the defendant's side.
Lois sat in the jury box, watching as the standard preliminary courtroom procedures took place. She actually felt herself chomping at the bit for the case to begin, something she never would have expected to happen at the outset of this jury duty thing.
After the judge got comfortable and the case was announced, the judge asked the DA to make his opening statement.
This oughtta be good, Lois thought.
"Your Honor," the DA began, then turned toward the jury box, "ladies and gentleman of the jury." He indicated the defendant, a young man with crewcut blond hair and wild, clear blue eyes. "You have sitting before you the worst example of leniency with our youth. This young man has been in trouble with the authorities since he was 16 years old, but only now, after he has killed another human being, do we see him brought to justice. This young man has a long history of violence, from pushing his so-called friends through storefront windows to bringing firearms to school. He has also impregnated a young lady, then left her before she even gave birth."
"What a jerk," Lois thought, glaring at the back of the defendant's head.
"Rather than deal with this ruffian," the DA continued, "the schools expelled him. He was given opportunities to seek education elsewhere, but rather than take those opportunities, he turned his back on them and caused more trouble. After a while, authorities sent him to the Youth Home. There, he managed to behave himself until he got out on 'good behavior.'"
The DA gestured with his index and middle fingers. "Now, only one month later, he's involved in drugs." The DA shook his head tragically. "One threat against his 'stash,' and the person who threatened it ends up dead."
By the time the prosecutor finished with his statement, Lois was ready to pull the switch on the electric chair herself, but it was now the defendant's attorney's turn.
He started out by describing his poor client's deprived childhood, and by the time he finished, the jurors were practically in tears of sympathy.
Geez, Lois thought. How are we supposed to decide this one?
The judge then gave the jury some more instructions. They were to listen carefully to the evidence and make their decision based on the evidence only. Due to some information that the bailiff had passed on to him, he had decided that this jury would be sequestered.
"What???" Lois burst out.
The judge glared. "I believe you swore to uphold the constitution and obey the court's orders for the length of this trial, Juror 517."
Lois subsided, muttering to herself. A whole week away from her job and Clark???
By this time it was four-thirty and the judge adjourned for the day. "You will be allowed to go to your homes and retrieve whatever personal belongings you need, but you are expected to report to the hotel by six o'clock. The bailiff will inform you where to report. You are not to discuss this case with anyone including each other until all the evidence has been presented."
Lois groaned. This was even worse than she had expected. How as she going to be able to stand not even talking to Clark, her soulmate and conscience, about the case?
She toyed with the idea of asking to be excused. After all, there were two alternate jurors, but her sense of duty won out. She sighed as she headed home to tell Clark that they would be apart for at least a week. This was the first time they would be apart since she had spent that miserable time in jail.
Lois picked at her dinner. Even the flickering candlelight didn't help her mood. She and Clark were eating early because she had to be at the hotel by six. She glanced down at her small suitcase and sighed.
Clark reached across the table and laid his hand atop hers.
"It's not a high profile case, honey. If the evidence and witnesses are paraded through quickly, you might be looking at a very short trial."
"But is that fair, Clark?" she said, reaching a thumb up to lock with her husband's. "Rich people, famous people, they get all kinds of attention, but this guy … well, like you said, the evidence and witnesses will be 'paraded' through, and that's how the rest of his life will be decided."
"Well," Clark said softly. "It almost happened to you too, and I think that might make you a bit more … diligent… in making your decision."
"That's another thing," Lois said thoughtfully. "Why would any DA in his right mind, not that I've come to think any have a 'right mind', let me on a jury? Wouldn't they see me as having just a *few* prejudices in a case like this?"
Clark nodded. "I wondered that too, but there's no accounting for arrogance."
Lois shrugged. "I guess. Maybe he feels his case is so good that even I couldn't disagree with it."
Clark popped part of a buttered roll into Lois' mouth. "Or it could be a goodwill gesture on the DA's part. Their office never fully recovered from your frame-up scandal."
Lois wiped the butter from the corner of her mouth. "I hope my 'Fry in Hell' editorial wasn't instrumental."
Clark laughed and shook his head. "Nah."
Lois tugged on his hand. "We only have an hour, Clark."
Clark looked up from his plate. "Time for dessert?"
Lois nodded and continued to tug; he willingly followed.
He put his arm around her and the couple began to walk up the stairs. "Just do what you always do, honey."
"No baby oil?"
"No, no, I meant with the case."
"Ah, follow my heart?"
"Exactly," he smiled, and snugged her up a bit.
"Right now my heart says 'baby oil'."
*** Superman soared high over the city. He was looking for something…anything … to take his mind off the large empty bed waiting for him in the brownstone. He hadn't gotten more than a couple of hours sleep in the three days since his wife had had to report to the hotel where she was sequestered with the other jurors.
The sun rose, bathing him in its healing rays, but that did nothing to assuage the ache in his heart. He knew Lois was okay. Their nightly phone calls had assured him of that, but he missed her with every fibre of his being.
The city was quiet. No emergency called for Superman's help, and finally he gave in to temptation.
He had discovered Lois' whereabouts with his x-ray vision, and he flew to the balcony outside her room.
Lois was roused out of sleep by a tapping noise. She looked around groggily and realized it was coming from the balcony door. She looked up and saw her husband smiling at her. Leaping out of bed, she ran to open the door and threw herself into his arms.
For several moments they were lost in the sensation of being together again. Finally Lois tore her lips away from his. "What are you doing here? Don't you know this could result in a mistrial if anyone finds us together? I don't want this separation to be for nothing."
Clark hung his head. "I'm sorry, honey, but I just couldn't stand it any more."
Lois caressed his cheek. "It's okay. I feel sorry for the rest of the jurors. They don't have someone who can bypass the elevators."
Clark grinned. "Yeah. Sometimes having superpowers comes in handy."
Lois chuckled. "I don't have to be in court for another three hours. I still can't discuss the case with you, but I can think of a few other things we can do." She grinned wickedly and pulled him in for another kiss. "Have I told you lately how sexy you look in blue spandex?"
*** Three hours later, Lois filed into the jury box with her fellow jurors. Over the last three days, they had gotten to know each other pretty well in spite of not being able to discuss the case.
As she sat down, she noticed an addition to the usual audience. Smiling back at her was her husband.
Lois, suffering a pleasant love hangover, smiled at her husband, who seemed to have wangled a spot as reporter on this case. She wondered what hyperbole he must have used with Perry to convince him it was a worthy story, and not just like the four hundred and eighty-six other murders in Metropolis this year.
As the most unspectacular murder trial in recent memory droned on, and even the defendant began to look drowsy, it was clear that more than boredom was at work. In fact, Lois noted, as she had trouble keeping her eyes open, everyone was falling asleep. Just before she succumbed to the urge, she realized she hadn't been affected by anything like this since … the Sound Man.
Soon everyone in the courtroom was unconscious, so in short order Clark was able to change into Superman unnoticed. He detected no odour or gases and no subliminal suggestions. Everyone was alive, but definitely asleep.
He scanned the courtroom and found miniature transmitters. He took them out quickly with heat vision, just as men in sonic headgear burst into the courtroom. Clark turned and folded his arms, confronting the gentlemen.
Clark sighed. "Planning on taking the defendant to freedom?"
"N..no, Superman," a nervous voice spoke from the jury box. "They're here for me. My appointment in Samara."
Clark turned to the voice. It was Dr. Camden, in a full beard, seated with his finger on a small device.
"Lenny found me. I …I've been expecting this," he said, his wild, tormented eyes fixing on phantoms only he could see. "He blames me for what happened. He blames Clark Kent and Lois Lane, so I've tried to stay close to Ms. Lane, when I can, and to Clark Kent, but he …he's very fast."
Clark lifted a hand. "Whatever that is you're holding, Dr. Camden, it makes me nervous, so if you could just —"
"I figured when Lenny made an attempt on Ms. Lane or Mr. Kent, I could be nearby, in disguise, ready to get the drop on Lenny, but he found out. He found me first."
"Lenny Stoke is in prison, Dr. Camden, and these men aren't going to hurt you," Clark said, wrapping them up rapidly with the US and New Troy flags. "Nothing that happened is your fault. You can get help."
Camden shook his head, his eyes tear-filled. "It won't stop. He'll always be there, always looking for me. I… I'm just too tired now."
"Give me the device, Derek," Clark said softly, finally remembering the troubled man's first name. "I promise I can keep Lenny from hurting you."
"S …so can I. I can end it now." So saying, Camden's thumb twitched.
Everything seemed to move in slow motion. Clark made a move for Camden just as a hand from the side slapped the device from his hand. Clark caught the device and smiled at the most beautiful juror with the best reflexes in Metropolis.
Clark stepped over to the jury box and lifted Dr. Camden out. He handed him to the guard who was groggily regaining consciousness. Another guard began escorting out the bound trio of Sound Man stooges, while the bailiff chased after the defendant, who was no dummy and had taken advantage of the chaos to make a break for freedom. His impetuous move in front of the jury got a mistrial declared, and Superman offered Ms. Lane a lift home.
Lois, clad only in Superman's cape, stretched happily on a remote beach in another hemisphere. She had become so tired of loudspeakers she'd insisted they spend some time where loudspeakers, trials, or clothing wouldn't be options.
Clark, wearing only the lower half of his costume, and no boots, dropped a bunch of bananas next to his wife and piled some driftwood together.
"I hope you don't mind if I start a fire the old-fashioned way," he said, and lit the wood ablaze with his heat vision.
Lois propped herself up on an elbow. "*That's* the old-fashioned way?"
"It is for me," he laughed.
Clark snapped a couple of stout twigs and speared a banana for each of them, handing one to Lois. She sat up, resting her bare back against his bare chest and then held the banana over the fire.
"You know," she said airily, "if it hadn't been for two solid hours of…getting reacquainted with you on the beach, there'd be some innuendo and symbolism here."
Clark draped an arm around her, his eyes fixed on the fire and his head resting against hers.
"Camden's going to be okay…well, maybe never completely okay, but he's getting treatment."
Lois leaned her head back. "It was nice of the Planet to pay for it."
"Well, after Clark Kent got such a great exclusive on Superman's heroics.."
" — and Lois' — "
Clark nodded. "Absolutely —and Lois' —, Perry made a good case for Camden to Stern." Clark kissed the top of Lois' head. "You know, I've dreamed of this, spending the night in your arms."
"Really?" Lois laughed.
"Yes. First it was Lois I dreamed of, then it was UltraWoman —"
Lois elbowed Clark in the ribs. "Did you ask me how I felt about you?"
"Actually," he said softly, "I'd like to know … how you feel about me."
"Hm," Lois said, tipping her head to the side as she continued to twirl the stick slowly over the fire. "Alive," she said after a long moment. "You made me feel joy, Clark, and without that, nobody is alive."
Clark tossed his stick away and wrapped both arms around Lois. "Thanks," he whispered against her neck. "It's nice to know I give back what you've given me."
Lois' eyes rolled back as she tossed the stick over her shoulder. "Bananas are overrated."
Lois and Clark drifted above the beach. They would spend the rest of the night at home, but the fishermen who found the skewered bananas the next morning, as well as a pair of red boots, had only an odd mystery.