By IRC Round Robin
Submitted January 1999
Summary: Lois and Clark have decided to ring in 1999 by attending a party aboard Franklin Stern's yacht along with the usual suspects from the Planet and a sizable chunk of Metropolis's rich and famous. But things are hardly smooth sailing when hijackers threaten not only to harm the passengers, but to destroy Superman as well.
An IRC Round Robin by Zoomway <email@example.com>; CKgroupie <NKWolke@t-online.de>; Eraygun <Eraygun@aol.com>: AMCiotola <AMCiotola@aol.com>; Misha <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Flakeydom <email@example.com>; ChrisM <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Mackteach <Mackteach@aol.com>; chrispat <email@example.com>
"Hogmanay?" Lois asked, reading from the invitation as Clark escorted her up the gangway.
"It's New Year's Eve in Scotland, honey. Gifts are given too, if I'm not mistaken."
"Mm," Lois brightened. "Get me anything?"
"Hogmanay snuck up on me this year, Lois. This kilt will have to do."
Lois looked down at Clark's kilt. "I have to hand it to Stern's new wife," she said admiringly. "You do look good … really great in a kilt."
"Don't start," Clark admonished playfully. "I feel uncomfortable enough as it is."
"Can I at least keep my makeup in your purse?"
Clark sighed and handed their invitations to the man dressed in Black Watch garb at the top of the landing. "It's a *sporran*, Lois."
"Uh huh," she smiled. "Well, I left my cute matching red 'sporran' at home, and just grabbed the makeup I keep in the jeep for emergencies."
Clark raised an eyebrow. "There are 'makeup' emergencies?"
Lois lowered her voice. "Remember that time you and I were in the back of the jeep, and we got a little carried away, and we ended up tumbling out into the rain, and —"
"Ah. *That* kind of emergency. Okay," he relented. "You can put your makeup in my sporran."
"That sounds so sexy," she cooed as she began putting items in. Unfortunately, the sporran being located at the front of the kilt, their activity attracted attention.
"You two better find a room," a gravely voice intoned.
Lois and Clark, both blushing, turned and faced their editor.
"P..Perry," Clark stuttered. "Lois needed my pur..sporran for an emergency."
"Uh huh, I don't doubt it."
Lois smiled and changed the subject. "You look rather dashing, Perry."
"Doesn't he?" Alice said, and joined the small group. "Though I kind of resent a date who has better legs than I do."
Clark smiled warmly. "It's nice to see you again, Alice."
"Thank you, Clark, and by the way," she said, turning to Lois. "I put a Hogmanay gift in Perry's sporran, but I never thought about how much more fun it would be to do while he was wearing it."
Jimmy, attracted by the laughter, joined the group. "Hey, guys … um, I thought I'd never ask this, but … is my hem straight?" he asked, and turned slowly.
Lois laughed out loud. "It's perfect, Jimmy."
He sighed and glanced at Perry and Clark. Why didn't they look as uncomfortable as he did?
"I only hope I don't stumble," he muttered under his breath. With mixed feelings he remembered that due to a 'doing-the-laundry aversion' he'd only had the choice between white boxers with red hearts on them and black briefs. He hadn't been able to decide which one would be worse and finally chose the white boxers, but now he wasn't so sure anymore. He sighed again. He wished the party was over.
Suddenly another voice intruded on the laughing company. "Ah, I see all my colleagues from the Planet have arrived before me."
The mood change was all too visible when Morgan Edge joined them. It was just a second, but it was still embarrassing how all the faces fell. He seemed not to notice, though, and was all smiles and cheesy charm as usual.
Lois sent Clark one of her 'Morgan-edge-emergency' glances and he immediately tried his best to come to her rescue.
"Honey, didn't you mention that you saw Dr. Klein over there?" Not waiting for an answer, he grabbed her sleeve in a very un-Clarkish manner and pulled her with him.
"Thank you, Clark," Lois said, trying to keep up with him on her high heels. "But, please remember, I don't have superspeed…"
Clark slowed down and gave her an apologetic smile. "Sorry, I guess I panicked. So, where are we going, anyway? Do you see Dr.Klein anywhere around?"
Lois grinned. "Oh yes, he's standing over there… and I'm afraid he's .. um… underestimated his clothing size."
Even though he had gotten used to his friend's eccentricities, Clark was somewhat taken aback by the sight of Dr. Klein in his ill-fitting Scottish regalia. While the upper part of the outfit fit very nicely, the kilt was extremely short, stopping at mid thigh rather than at the knee .
"I wonder if we should say anything?" Clark mused.
"What can we say, 'Hey, Doc, did you borrow that outfit from Ally McBeal?'"
"Then we'd better get below," Clark replied with a grin "It's kind of windy here on deck."
"Clark, I would rather be accidentally 'flashed' by Dr. Klein than be in the same room with Morgan Edge," Lois said through gritted teeth. "Promise me we can avoid him tonight."
"I'll do my best"
"Lois, Clark, over here." Dr. Friskin smiled and waved at them.
"Boy, am I glad to see you two," Dr. Klein said with relief as Lois and Clark joined him and Dr. Friskin at the entryway that led below deck.
"What's the problem, Dr. Klein?" Clark asked.
"It's this outfit."
Lois suppressed a giggle. "Oh, is something wrong with it?"
"Yes, it's way too short, the rental place made a mistake. You wouldn't happen to have a trenchcoat I could borrow?" Dr. Klein said nervously. He and Dr. Friskin fell into step behind Lois and Clark as they followed a growing throng of partygoers into the ballroom below.
"I think you look sexy, Bernie," Dr. Friskin interjected.
Dr. Klein blushed a little. "Thank you, cupcake, but I feel somewhat overexposed right now."
"Nonsense, you look wonderful.."
"I don't know …"
Before he could go on, Inspector Henderson walked by with his wife. "Lane, Kent, good to see you both here at this soiree." He eyed Dr. Klein carefully for a few moments. "Nice gams, Doc."
Doctor Klein stared back at the Inspector. "Yours aren't too bad yourself." He then leaned over. "But your hem is crooked … nice hearts, by the way."
Henderson looked flustered and mumbled something. He and his wife moved along to greet others they knew.
Clark had to laugh. He'd heard the brief exchange between the two but couldn't make out what Henderson had said before walking on. He could have sworn he'd heard something about laundry day.
"What's so funny, honey?"
Clark put his arm around Lois' waist and pulled her closer. "I'll tell you later."
The party looked as if it was in full swing. Just about everyone they knew had passed and greeted them. The only person they had not seen yet was Franklin Stern himself.
"Oh, cupcake, look! It's Lois and Clarkie!"
Clark closed his eyes as Mindy Church pranced towards them, waving her powder puff. The powder puff, on further inspection, turned out to be a small white dog, which growled at the two of them.
Amid the swirling dark plaids and black evening gowns of the other guests, Mindy cut quite a figure. A short pink and purple plaid swatch wrapped around her waist seemed to be masquerading as a pleated skirt, and her fluffy pink sweater shed almost as much fuzz as her dog. A tall, tanned, blond man who looked like he had more muscle mass in his left pinkie than in his whole forehead, seemed to be serving as her escort, judging by the matching red and purple kilt he wore.
"Oh, I'm so glad you're both here!" Mindy air-kissed both their cheeks. "You always liven up a party!" She waved her growling dog at them and sauntered off, blond hunkola trailing dutifully behind. "Oh! Morgie!" They heard her squeal fade into the crowd.
"What was that?" Lois asked dazedly.
Clark shook his head. "I don't know, and I don't want to know."
Jimmy emerged from the group in front of them. He was walking backwards and peering anxiously both ways, one hand clutched in the fabric of his kilt. He bumped into Clark and jumped like a startled cat. "Geez, CK! Don't do that!"
Lois rolled her eyes. "What is it now, Jimmy!"
Jimmy slumped against the wall. "You guys shoulda warned me!"
"What, Jimmy?" Clark was just as puzzled as Lois.
"There's this group of crazy women running around claiming they're doing kilt checks! They surround you and flip up your skirt to see what you're wearing underneath!" Jimmy paled. "There's a couple of 'em with fistfuls of bright blue ribbons."
An unholy screeching at the entrance turned everyone's heads as a piper marched through the doors serenading the Sterns onboard. As they entered they looked around the room. Catching sight of his newsroom staff in the corner, Franklin waved them over.
Perry sighed. "I was hoping to avoid having to talk to Senga-the new Mrs.Stern—until I'd had enough to drink. Then I could just nod."
Jimmy looked puzzled. "Why?"
As the group made their way to the entrance, Perry explained. "She's Scottish … that's why she insisted on this being Hogmanay and …" His voice petered out as they reached the doors. Senga was brushing droplets of water from her husband's kilt.
"Ken, it's gey dreicht oot there. Fair chuckin' it doon."
Lois, Jimmy, and Alice looked at Perry who shrugged and raised his eyes to heaven. Senga, oblivious to the bemusement of her audience, carried on.
"Fit like then?"
Lois nudged Clark and whispered 'You're the linguist. Is this a language or has she already drunk a bottle of whisky?"
Clark cleared his throat. "Chauvin' awa, Mrs. Stern," he said, and then looked at Lois. "I hope she asked how I was or I may have just agreed to meet her after the party."
Mrs. Stern smiled as if she'd met a long-lost relative. "So you bided in Aberdeen then. F'ar aboot?"
"I was only there for a few days, but I traveled around Britain with an Aberdonian so I picked up a bit of the Doric."
Alice went forward with a small tartan package and handed it to Mrs. Stern. "A Hogmanay gift."
Senga looked at Franklin. "Now I hope ya havna been putting it in their minds that they should be givin' things awa? That's no the way tae dae it. Only the firstfoot brings something to the party."
Stern looked mildly embarrassed and smoothed down the front of his kilt. "I may have mentioned it in passing."
When Senga realized that Alice was wondering what exactly to do, she patted her arm. "Ah, dinna fash yersel', hen. You can always start a new custom."
Alice glanced at Clark, who had become the group translator. He smiled reassuringly at Alice. "She says not to worry yourself about it."
Just then Jimmy let out a yell as a noisy group of women, not realizing whom he was speaking to, grabbed the back of his kilt. A chorus of 'What have we got here? Lovehearts? Not a real man, this one?' burst forth as Jimmy blushed the color of his MacGregor plaid.
A roar of "Haud yer wheesht!" startled the women into silence.
Lois whispered in Clark's ear, "I thought that's what they were doing?" She could see Clark's translation circuits going into overdrive as his memory delved for a meaning.
"Shut up!" Clark said to the miscreants, who were babbling to themselves about what the large woman in tartan could have been yelling about.
At a signal from his wife, Stern took the ribbons from the ringleader's hand.
"I have nivver seen sich a display in my life. This is a ceilidh, not a circus, and I'll thank you to mind that."
Abashed, the women slunk away and Senga turned to Clark.
"Now, young loon, I've twa things to ask of you. Will you do the honor of firstfooting us, and can I ask you if ye'll 'Strip the Willow' with me?
Clark nodded and presented his arm to her. As he led Mrs. Stern to the dance floor, Lois muttered, "The willow better be all she's stripping with him."
The ceilidh band struck up the lively tune. Senga and Clark took the floor, and were joined by three other couples: Alice and Perry, Klein and Friskin, and Lois and Franklin Stern. Pairing off square dance style, somewhat like the Virginia Reel, the men were on one side, and the women on the other. The couples faced each other with a gap between them, and changed partners throughout the dance.
Jimmy pulled a small camera from his sporran and began to snap photos. "Man," he whispered, "I wish a guy could get away with having a purse all the time."
The couples swirled and laughed, and those like Lois, Klein, and Friskin, having no idea what they were doing, seemed to have more fun just bumping into each other. Senga did a particularly grand swirl, which caused her left shoe to be victimized by inertia. It flew over the heads of other dancers and landed in a punch bowl. Ralph, ever near the punch bowl, merely shrugged, and used the shoe as a ladle.
As the dance reached a feverish peak, the night was shattered by the sound of automatic weapons fire. Jimmy cringed. "Geez, these Scots know how to party."
"Hands up!" a voice shouted.
A man pointed an Uzi at the assembled guests, forcing them back against the far wall of the ballroom. A dozen other men, similarly armed, followed the leader in. Lois grimaced as a woman screamed near her ear, then noticed it was Ralph.
"You." The first man leveled the gun at Stern. "You're the one," he said gruffly, and pulled Stern from the crowd.
"Hey!" Perry shouted, moving forward. "What in the Sam Hill—"
"Shut up, grandma," the man sneered, with a glance at the kilt, then turned back to Stern. "You're the owner of the Daily Planet? Franklin Stern?"
Stern took a deep breath. "Yes."
"Then you're just the man we're here to see," the gunman said, and pushed Stern to the floor.
"No!" Senga cried, but Lois prevented her from running forward.
The man pressed the barrel against Stern's forehead. "You're on trial for crimes against our oppressed brothers." He looked up at his accomplices. "Cuff the others!"
The other men moved through the guests handcuffing them; Lois to Clark, Alice to Perry, Friskin to Klein, Ralph to Jimmy, and Mindy to Morgan Edge. Senga was pulled over to her husband, and likewise cuffed as were Inspector Henderson and his wife. Leaving the remaining guests under guard below, the apparent leade,r along with a handful of his men, marched the seven couples back up on deck.
The rain that had fallen earlier on the Sterns' grand entrance had stopped, but the air still felt heavy with the promise of more bad weather.
Once there, Clark made a move forward.
"Not yet," Lois whispered. "Something fishy is going on here, and it's not just the smell from Hobbs bay."
Clark sighed, "I agree, but if they pull the trigger—" As if on cue, the lead man moved away from Stern. "Superman!" he shouted, and then lowering his voice, "is *also* on trial."
"That's it," Lois said softly. "It's a trap for you, Clark. I knew they were phonies."
"On trial for what?" Perry demanded.
The leader turned his gun towards Alice, and Perry moved to get in front of her. "If you care at all for the individual who is cuffed to you," the gunman addressed everyone, "you will be quiet."
He didn't wait to see how his announcement had been received, but returned his attention—and his gun's muzzle—to Franklin Stern. At a nod from him his men began to herd the seven "couples" to different places on the deck. Clark grew even more apprehensive. This would make it harder to rescue everyone.
After all were in place, the gunmen waited in silence, dividing their attention between the sky and the people they were guarding.
Lois took advantage of their divided attention to whisper to Clark. He wasn't happy with her taking such a chance, but he could hardly say anything to her. After all, he might be able to hear *her,* but she couldn't hear him.
"We need to figure …"
"… out what they …"
"… are planning for …"
Despite the danger, Clark couldn't help but admire her timing. She seemed to know just when the guard was going to look at them again.
After a minute or two of waiting for the Man of Steel to put in an appearance, the leader pushed the Sterns over towards some chairs and forced them to sit down.
Keeping the gun on them, he held out his free hand, snapping his fingers impatiently. One of the other men tossed him a cloth bag. Opening the bag, he brought out a package—lead-colored, about the size of coffee mug.
"Superman!" he called out again, then muttered, "I've got a surprise for you."
"You must be new in town or you wouldn't be so cocky, punk," Inspector Henderson drawled from the section of the deck where he and his wife were forced to kneel.
The leader turned away from the Sterns and faced Henderson, leveling his weapon directly at the inspector's head. He flashed a cold hard smile. "Cocky? I prefer to think of it as confident."
"Yeah, I bet you do. But to me you're just like any other street thug with a gun," Henderson countered. "You think it makes you a big man."
The cold smile turned to a look of righteous indignation. "My men and I are not common criminals, despite your opinion of us, Inspector. Our cause is a just one and we intend to have our voices heard!" the gang leader replied theatrically as he waved his weapon around at the hostages on the deck.
"But what does any of this have to with Superman?" Lois yelled in response as she and Clark tried to edge closer to the area of the deck where the Sterns were being detained.
"Isn't it clear? Superman is a symbol of all that oppresses us. Once we have destroyed him the world will have to listen."
The intruder's thick accent and awkward speech patterns made Lois raise an eyebrow at his last comment. "Superman symbolizes your *oppression*? Gee, sue me for thinking that truth and justice were good things!"
The gunman looked around him as a nervous titter ran through the captives. Scowling, he turned his attention once more to Lois, his gun aimed at her. He muttered something unintelligible. In spite of her rapidly beating heart, Lois didn't flinch. Clark reached for her hand, squeezing it to let her know that he was ready to protect her.
She smiled tightly at the gunman, returning Clark's hand squeeze. "What's the matter, your Universal Translator out of batteries?"
Jimmy stared at Lois, not sure if taunting him was the best way to stand up to the gunman's intimidation methods. "Um, Lois?"
Lois turned to Jimmy. "Don't worry, Jimmy. He won't shoot." She stared pointedly back at the gunman, speaking slowly so that no one would misunderstand her next words. "Not when we all happen to be friends of Superman."
The man slowly lowered his weapon, looking about him. The fear that he and his companions had first encountered when they made their appearance no longer seemed to be present. In fact, he took note of several of the men scowling at him, while the women all followed Lois' lead and stared at the intruders.
He decided to try another tactic.
Walking toward Lois, he reached out and stroked her cheek. "You have a fire in you. I like that in a woman."
"Touch her again and not even Superman will be able to save you."
The low, dangerous tone made everyone's eyes turn to Clark. Perry, Jimmy, Dr. Klein, even Inspector Henderson, all stared, their eyes wide in shock and surprise. They had never heard such a tone from Clark Kent. He had always been so … mild-mannered.
"Psst, Jimmy!" Ralph whispered.
"Remind me never to hit on Lois again."
Jimmy nodded solemnly. "Ditto, Ralph. Ditto."
The gunman walked around and stood in front of Clark. "And who are you? Her personal hero?"
"Duh!" Lois murmured under her breath.
Clark stared at the gunman, a tight smile on his face. "I'm more than that. I'm her husband."
The gunman smirked. "Ah. The dutiful husband." Without warning, he backhanded Clark across the face. Clark rolled with the punch, glad that his reflexes were what they were. Otherwise, the man would have broken both his hand and his gun.
Everyone gasped. Lois smiled to herself in satisfaction, knowing that the gunman's hand hurt more than Clark's ego.
Clark moaned in feigned pain. "I'm … all right, Lois." He straightened up and returned to staring at the gunman.
He leaned toward Clark. "I admire your bravery, truly I do. But do not believe for a moment that I am intimidated by you." He moved away, returning to where Stern and Senga were positioned.
"Bad move," Clark muttered under his breath.
"Did you hurt him?"
"Just his pride, I think. He telegraphed his punch pretty much." He felt Lois relax behind him. "Are *you* all right?" He tuned in for a moment, listening to her heartbeat returning to normal. He heard her take a deep breath, then slowly let it out.
"Yeah, I'm okay. We've got to figure out a way to stop them … *without* Superman making an appearance, if possible. Did you see that metal box?"
Clark looked at the box, now placed in the middle of the deck. "Yeah." He focused for a moment. "Lead-lined. You know what that means."
Lois nodded. "Kryptonite. So … got any ideas?"
Clark shook his head. "Not yet. They're keeping it too close, and I can't do much while I'm handcuffed to you." He smiled down at her suddenly. "Not that that's a bad thing."
Lois grinned. "Save it for later, lover. First we need to get rid of the kryptonite."
Clark nodded and scanned the scattered couples, who were rapidly becoming restless. Whispers of 'Where's Superman?' and 'Isn't he here yet?' filtered through to his ears, and he noticed Mindy and Edge maneuvering around their handcuffs to check their watches.
Glancing over at Jimmy, his eyes started to slide past Ralph when he noticed they were both shivering. Clark turned and scanned the skies, noting the clouds piling up behind the bright lights of the skyline of Metropolis.
Clark nudged Lois. "How long until midnight?"
"Still a couple of hours, why?"
"There's another storm brewing that'll hit in about half an hour. I think Superman'll be busy until then." Clark sat down on the deck and pulled Lois into his lap. "They shouldn't get impatient for at least twenty more minutes."
Lois snuggled closer into his embrace. "It's such a pity."
"There are all those staterooms downstairs, and all those beds, and I have to make do with the deck in front of an audience."
Clark coughed and glanced around, torn between blushing and laughing. The others seemed to be taking his cue and were settling down and beginning to huddle closer to one another. The armed men's glances at the sky became fewer, and they started looking toward their leader instead.
After about twenty-five minutes, he gestured to one. "Set up the video camera. We'll start Stern's trial, and we'll get to Superman as soon as he deigns to show up." He laughed, tossing the gray cylinder in his hand, and a sudden gust of wind almost blew him and his prize over the side.
Clark smiled and held Lois closer. It was so nice when Mother Nature did his job for him.
"This is ludicrous," Morgan Edge muttered.
"Tell me about it," Mindy sighed. "Any other day Superman would be scraping bubble gum off the school desks, but today .. sheesh, he can't fly down and save us from a few lousy terrorists." She rubbed the handcuff. "I broke a nail, and it's a totally bad hair day."
"Your dog wet on my socks."
"Pookie!" Mindy brightened as she scooped up the curly-haired terror. "I named him after my incarcerated husband … well .. kind of. I didn't want to name him 'Bill'—that's sort of a silly name, don't you think?"
Morgan Edge sighed, and started to scan the skies himself.
"Now begins the trial of Franklin Stern," the leader began. "A wealthy, liberal, paper tiger whose fascist rag, the Daily Planet, has oppressed —" The man stopped suddenly, as he felt a hot liquid filling his shoe.
"Pookie!" Mindy called. "Come back to Mommy!"
The gunman angrily leveled his weapon at the handle-less dust mop. One of his compatriots quickly stayed his hand and glanced at Mindy. The leader swallowed hard.
His reaction had not gone unnoticed. "Clark," Lois whispered.
"I know, honey. You'd almost think—"
"That they're afraid of Mindy?"
Clark nodded. "Exactly."
The leader composed himself quickly. "Mr. Stern, you are charged with contempt of political conscience, and apathy for the masses…"
"Honey," Clark whispered, "I can't let this go on. When this guy gets to the verdict—"
"I know," Lois nodded. "The sentence will be carried out."
"Right, and they look like the capital punishment type. Superman has to help."
"No!" Lois said, and much too loudly. She looked up to see all faces turned in her direction. "No," she restated, covering for her emotional outburst. "This is a … kangaroo court!"
"Zip it," the nearest 'terrorist' growled.
Lois shrugged. "Consider it zipped."
The leader, rather like an actor who'd been thrown the wrong line, stumbled over the next few charges, but quickly got back into his spiel.
Lois turned back to Clark. "You can't be … Superman," she said, mouthing the name.
"I have to *do* something."
"Then *do* something, just don't do it as …" She smiled as the guard glanced at them.
"Quiet," he whispered, "or be fitted for a gag."
Lois nodded innocently, and the guard turned away.
"… as … Superman," she finished, again only mouthing the words.
Clark sighed and looked around the deck. He winked at Lois and a moment later the other end of the handcuff was swinging freely. A strong breeze kicked up on the deck and every single weapon above and below deck vanished. Lois felt a tug on her handcuff, and her kilted husband was sitting back at her side.
After a moment of paralyzed shock, the gunmen all began yelling accusations at each other. Mrs. Stern jumped to her feet, dragging her husband with her and launched herself at the nearest terrorist with an ear-splitting shriek. The others all turned to watch their compadre go down under the combined weight of the Sterns. He didn't get up.
Lois scrambled to her feet, pulling Clark with her, and ran toward the lead box. Before she could reach it, the leader of the terrorists pulled himself together. Reaching the box first, he flipped up the lid, but before Clark could even wince, Lois connected a well-placed kick to the leader's nether regions. As he collapsed, groaning to the deck, she slammed the lid shut and tossed the box overboard.
She wrapped her arms around Clark as he sighed with relief. "Honey, are you all right?"
"I will be in a minute." He kissed her and then grinned. "My heroine."
Lois giggled. "Well, you can reward me later," she said. "There's still the matter of all these terrorists, and in case you hadn't noticed, we're still handcuffed."
Clark looked down at their wrists. "So we are. Do you think they would notice if we kept them?"
Lois stood on tiptoe to give him a quick peck on the nose. "Hold that thought. Now go be Superman."
Another strong breeze swept over the deck and the hostages found they were no longer handcuffed and that all the terrorists, including the ones that had stayed below, were neatly tied in a writhing bundle on the deck.
Lois pointed up. "Look. It's Superman."
Superman floated down carrying a handful of handcuffs. "Sorry I was late, folks. I'm glad to see you're all okay."
As everyone crowded around Superman, the wind picked up, causing the men to grab at their unaccustomed skirts.
"Come on everyone, let's get below," Mr. Stern yelled over the sound of the wind. "When my wife decides to celebrate Hogmanay, a little thing like a blizzard isn't going to stop her." He pointed a finger at Superman and gestured to the terrorists. "You. Get those things off my boat."
Superman blinked and replied automatically. "Yes, sir."
Stern and Senga led the others, chattering about their adventure, toward the stairs. As they disappeared a loud voice was heard proclaiming, "Ach, that Superman laddie is a sexy wee bugger. D'ye ken if he has a lassie?"
At Senga's comment, Lois came to a halt at the top of the stairs. Clark walked up to her and conscious of the fact that the captive gunmen were watching him, spoke to her with his 'superhero voice'.
"Is everything all right, Miss Lane?"
Lois glanced quickly at the bound terrorists before looking at Superman. Smiling, she winked. "Oh, I'm fine, Superman. But I think Mrs. Stern has a few … ideas … about you."
Clark gave her his 'oh, really?' look. "Oh, really?"
Lois nodded, her eyes twinkling. "Don't be surprised if she asks you about your … um, social … life."
Clark's eyes gleamed with silent laughter. "I guess I'll just have to tell her that I'm … involved."
Lois smirked, her eyebrow raising. "Involved?"
Superman grinned broadly as he walked back toward the terrorists. "Yes, Miss Lane. Very much so. Totally and irrevocably committed. She's the best part of me."
She smiled as she watched him lift off with his New Year's gift to Metropolis' finest. "She's a very lucky lady." She walked toward the railing and spoke in a normal voice, certain that he heard her. "I love you. Hurry back." Lois' smile widened as she watched him fly a little faster.
As she turned away from the railing, she placed her hand over her stomach. "And that's how Daddy helps make the world a little better, sweetie." She sighed and walked toward the stairs that led below deck. "Well, let's see what else Hogmanay is all about."
She paused in the doorway to the indoor ballroom. The guests that had been held at gunpoint mere minutes earlier were celebrating in full force inside. The noise and light spilled out into the pale moonlight that was quickly disappearing into the dark shadows of the looming clouds.
Lois pulled back into the shadows with a grimace as Ralph staggered past the doorway. He bumped into Morgan, who managed to spill his drink on Pookie instead of Mindy.
Lois glanced across the crowd to the dancing space where Perry and Alice swayed to the music. She swallowed past the lump in her throat as she recognized the look that crossed Perry's face as he hugged Alice closer to him. It was in Clark's eyes every time he looked at her.
A single, crystalline flake of snow drifted down and rested on her cheek. Lois looked up at the underside of the clouds, glowing from the bright city lights and shivered. A few more flakes drifted slowly down and she closed her eyes as each one caressed her face coldly.
The soft press of lips and the familiar warmth of Clark wrapped around her brought her back to herself. She smiled up into his eyes.
"Why didn't you go on inside?"
Lois shrugged, using it to press closer to him. "They say that whatever you're doing when the new year begins, you'll do for the rest of the year. I wanted to make sure I was with you."
Clark rocked her in his arms. "It doesn't matter where you are, because I'll be doing the same thing at midnight as I always have, and always will."
His lips dropped to her ear and his voice stilled to a whisper. "Loving you."
Lois sighed and tucked her head into his shoulder as the familiar strains of 'Auld Lang Syne' filtered out of the ballroom. "Always."