Dinner with a Friend (Knowledge #5)

By Maria TB Mendoza <gedri@hotmail.com>

Rated G

Submitted August 1999

Summary: Story number five in the author's Knowledge series, this one brings Lois, Clark and Jimmy together for a dinner where they make Clark tell all.

***

Staring vacantly at her computer, Lois Lane was deep in thought. <I should have noticed.> Busy berating herself for not having seen what was so plainly before her, Lois didn't feel anyone approach until a hand came to rest gently on her shoulder.

"Hi!"

"Sorry. My mind sort of wandered. Ready to go?" At her companion's nod, she turned off her computer and absently grabbed her purse and coat. Slowly, the two headed for the elevators.

"It'll be OK," her friend said from beside her.

"I know. I just worry sometimes." Both were silent as the elevator quietly made its way toward the garage.

Parting at the elevator's now open door, Lois turned before getting into her vehicle. "See you at Clark's place in a hour?"

"Sure, Lois. And don't worry, Superman will be fine." Smiling, she just nodded. "I know, Jimmy. I just can't wait to see Clark and make sure everything is all right."

Getting in and closing the door to her Jeep, Lois took a deep breath and tied to calm down. It had been easy not to worry about Superman since she knew nothing but Kryptonite could hurt him, but now that she knew that he was also Clark, she was about to worry herself silly. Starting the engine, she headed home.

<A big spoonful of that new Super-Duper-Double-Fudge-Brownie Ice Cream will have me back to normal in no time. And if Clark isn't back soon I am going to finish the whole gallon tub in one sitting and there is no way I am going to forgive him for making me do *that* many sit-ups and jumping jacks.> Pulling into a parking spot in front of her apartment, she absently gathered her stuff and headed for the door. <Is this what your parents feel every time you have to go and face some new disaster? I've only know who you are for a few days, and I know that this is the first *big* disaster you've had to face, but I don't think I'm ever going to *not* worry. The day started so well. No crime waves to avert. No psychopaths to fend off. No danger. Clark and I spent the day relaxing and typing stories we hadn't had a chance to finish. Jimmy got to get some charity shots at the fund raiser for the building that burned, not to mention a big hug from the little girl he saved and a standing ovation from everyone that had heard her story about the "Hero" who had saved her from the fire. Even Perry seemed to have been in a good mood as he strolled around and told Elvis stories every time he could manage to fit them into a conversation. Yes. It was a very good day, until Clark had to leave.>

Digging her keys out of her purse, she entered her apartment. Dropping her coat on the couch and her purse on the kitchen's island, she headed straight for the freezer. Pulling the door open roughly, she had the tub of ice cream out and a spoonful in her mouth before it even had time to swing back shut. <Ahh! Whoever said chocolate wasn't magical needs to try this stuff. They will definitely want to change their story.>

Floating on a haze of chocolate bliss, Lois kicked off her shoes and headed for her bedroom. Changing into more comfortable clothes, without the need to remove the spoon from her mouth, she headed back into the kitchen. Taking another spoonful of ice cream, she sat at the table and tied her tennis shoes. Fully dressed and ready to leave, she took a deep breath and just relaxed a moment to enjoy the taste of chocolate on her tongue. Feeling herself relax, she slowly got up and put the tub—and spoon—back in the freezer. With a quick glance in the mirror and a decision that she looked fine, she grabbed her purse.

<What should I get for dinner?> Since Clark was going to be tired from working, or at least they assumed he would be, Lois and Jimmy had decided to keep up their plans for dinner at his place but get local take-out instead of having him fly out for something a bit more exotic. <Pizza? No, Jimmy had had that for lunch. We had Thai yesterday. I don't want Mexican. Guess we'll go with some hamburgers; everyone likes them and you can't have them too often.>

Having made her decision, she got in the car and headed for her favorite hamburger joint. Swerving around a group of absent-minded children, she got in the drive-thru line and let her thoughts wander. <You have to be OK. I mean—You're SUPERMAN!—YOU don't get hurt. You're probably already finished saving everyone and are just hanging, or maybe floating, around making sure everything is taken care of before you come back. Yea, that's it. That has to be it.>

"OH! Yes. Two hamburgers, one with extra pickle and the other with extra ketchup; one double cheeseburger, extra everything; three large lemonades; and three extra-large French-fries. Oh, and two extra packages of spicy sauce."

<Who would have thought I'd end up here? If you'd ask me two years ago, or if you'd asked me even two months ago, if this could have happened, I would have laughed. Now, here I am buying hamburgers for Jimmy and Clark—who just happens to be Superman's alter ego!—and planning to spend the evening hearing more of Clark's life story, the unedited version.>

Paying the bill, Lois carefully balanced the two huge drinks in her two too-tiny cup holders while balancing the third between her knees. Setting the bags on the other seat, she managed to open one of them just enough to sneak a few fries while she drove. <I wonder if the French really like french-fries? Maybe I'll ask Clark, he can fly by France sometime and see if the people there really like them.>

Chuckling at the image of The-Great-and-Powerful-Superman accosting poor Frenchmen with questions about how they like french-fries, she headed slowly towards Clark's apartment. <You're probably already there waiting for us. You'll answer the door with a big grin and laugh over my worrying about you.> Finding a parking spot across from his apartment, she took a deep breath and sent a silent plea that he already be there waiting.

Knocking on the door, she waited a moment. <Guess no one was listening.> Tentatively, she opened the door and looked inside. <When you gave us these, I really didn't think I'd be using it to deliver your dinner. I can just see Jimmy and I trying to explain why we have keys to your place. "What? Oh, that's easy Perry. He gave them to us in case we ever needed to get into his house to get him a change of clothes when he couldn't come himself. Huh? Not yet. So far all I've used it for is delivering dinner." Yea, that would really go over well.>

Kicking the door shut—as her arms were busy balancing cups and bags—she made her way unsteadily toward the table. "I could really use some help here, Clark," she muttered under her breath. No sooner had the words passed her lips than she felt herself trip on a gum wrapper lying on the ground. <Just what I need: a broken nose and food stained shirt.>

"You know, Lois. You don't have to try and hurt yourself just to get my attention. I was already on my way back here."

Looking down, Lois found she was hovering a few inches above the floor and held steady by firm hands on her arms. Gently set on her feet, she was relieved of her packages.

"I got these, Lois. Why don't you just sit down and relax."

Watching Superman <I guess since you're still in the Suit; I shouldn't call you Clark.> put the drinks and bags on the table, she let her eyes check him for any injury. <You look OK except for a little tattering along the ends of your cape.>

"Are you OK? I mean, I heard that a few of the cars blew up while you were getting there but that's all they said since all the media had to get so far back and the smoke blocked everything they tried to see." <Did that sound as much like babbling as I think it did?> Forcing herself to calm down, she sat down at the table and began to slowly unpack the bags while he got out plates and extra ketchup.

"I'm fine. My cape got a little singed but that's about it. I got enough information for a good story and made arrangements for us—you and Clark—to meet with the sheriff tomorrow. They think there might have been faulty wiring in one of the cars that caused the driver to lose control. This is the fifth instance of faulty wiring in the last two weeks and they suspect a black market of "new" cars. Unfortunately, the cars have all been from different retailers and of different makes and models. I told him we'd come by and see what they have and then talk to our contacts and see if we could help. Is that alright with you?"

"Sure. That sounds fine." Quickly pulling her thoughts back from the black hole they had been in, she focused on what Superman was saying. It was just that: "Would you take that suit off?!"

"What?"

"The Suit, would you take it off?"

"Sure." In a spin of color, Clark was standing there in a pair of jeans and a T-shirt. "Better?"

"Yea. It's not that I don't like the Suit, it's just that whenever you're in it I have trouble thinking about you as Clark and not as Superman. And I don 't have burgers with Superman, I have them with Clark. And it is sort of strange to see the strongest man on earth getting paper plates from your cabinet."

"No problem, Lois."

"What?"

"What 'what'?"

"Don't give me that, Clark. What did that look mean?"

"What look?"

"What look?! The look you gave me when you said, 'No problem'. You got this look on your face when you said it. What did you mean by that look?"

"I don't know, Lois. Oops! Jimmy's here."

Watching Clark run to open the door before Jimmy had a chance to knock, she munched on a french-fry. As Jimmy followed Clark towards the table, Clark giving him a quick version of how the rescue went, she saw him give Clark the same once-over she had. Grinning, she nodded to him. <You can relax, he' s fine.> The message seemed to pass between them and they both calmed down for the first time since his earlier urgent departure from the Planet.

"You were just about to tell me what that look meant. Right, Clark?"

"What look?" Passing Jimmy his plate, she answered him.

"I asked Clark to change out of the Suit a while ago because it was a little strange to see Superman getting out paper plates. He changed, but he gave me this weird look when he did it. Now he is going to tell me what the look meant." As they both turned to look at him, Clark decided to look in the fridge for the jar of pickles his parents had brought him on there last visit.

"What's that, Lois? I didn't hear you." Dodging the flying fries that attacked him as he shut the fridge door, he just chuckled. "OK. I'll talk." Taking his seat with them at the table, he swallowed a few french-fries and began talking.

"When we first started being friends, Lois, I wanted to tell you about Superman. I couldn't, though. I was afraid that if I did, you would stop seeing me as me. I mean, Clark is a report but Superman is the story of the century. If I had told you then who I really was, you would have completely ignored the fact that I was Clark and only seen me as Superman. Just now, you actually *ask* Superman to leave and Clark to come. I was so afraid that you would do the opposite that it was just nice to hear that I was wrong."

Taking a bite her sandwich, Lois just stared at him. <I actually did that. I asked Superman to leave so that I could be with Clark.>

Eating in silence, the three friends thought about what Clark had said.

After thinking a few minutes, Jimmy looked up at them. "I think we like Clark better because we aren't really *friends* with Superman. Sure, we are his friends, but he isn't really anyone's *friend*. I mean, I can't imagine watching a basketball game with Superman, or going with him to catch a movie or anything. He's someone you talk to when you're in trouble, but he's not a 'buddy' kind of guy. You know what I mean?"

Staring at him, Lois just nodded. "That's it exactly, Jimmy. I don't mind seeing Superman rescue people and such, but it is too strange to see him watching TV and setting the table." Taking another bite of her burger, to hide the grin she got from seeing the look of pride and exhilaration on Jimmy's face from her agreeing with him, she shared a knowing look with Clark. <Were you ever like that? Did you have an idol when you first started working at a paper? What was the first thing you ever wrote that got published? What did your parents think of their alien son wanting to be a journalist for a newspaper? Did you ever use your powers when you were in school? During any of your earlier jobs? Did anyone ever get suspicious? Did you ever have to do quick talking to keep someone from find out about you?>

Realizing that she was staring, she quickly looked back at Jimmy. "That was really well said. You should ask Perry to let you try writing some time."

"No way. I'll leave the writing to you and Clark. I'm happy with just taking pictures."

"You don't want to write?"

"Not really, Clark. I can write OK, I guess, but I'm more comfortable with a camera than I am with a pen."

"I'd have thought that someone who likes computers as much as you do would love writing. You're always talking about writing new programs and games and stuff."

"Yea, but that's different. When I write programs and stuff, it's I don't know. It's just different. I can come up with a new game and write it with no problem but when I try and write a story like a real reporter, let's just say I'll stick with computers and leave the stories to you two."

Nodding, they let the matter drop and instead discussed the Fizsas story they had finished writing that morning.

***

Sprawled bonelessly on the couch, Lois watched Clark making popcorn while Jimmy, lying on the chair across from her, was seemingly asleep.

"Is he asleep?" she breathed more than said while looking at Clark. As she had known he could, he heard her perfectly.

Shaking his head 'no', he grinned and slowly put the last touches of butter and salt into the bowl before heading over.

"Jimmy." Raising a hand lazily, Jimmy took the offered bowl without opening his eyes.

Moving Lois' feet, Clark sat down next to her and handed her the bowl.

"What are we going to watch?"

"Nothing," Jimmy murmured around a mouthful of corn, his eyes still not opened.

"Then what are we going to do?"

"Easy, Clark." Moving herself to more fully face him, she smiled. "It is now time," she began in her worst TV announcer imitation, "for another visit to our favorite story, 'Clark's life before he met us'." Nudging him with her foot, she waited until he looked up from where he had buried his face in his hands. "And tonight's story will consist of how you got your first job at a newspaper, who/what idol you had, and when you decided this was what you wanted to do for a living."

Glancing at Jimmy, she saw him partially open one eye and nod that he agreed with her choice. Turning a triumphant face back to Clark, she began happily eating her popcorn and waiting for the story to begin.

Listening to her partner talk, Lois thought back to what Jimmy had said at dinner. <He's right. Even though I have always considered Superman to be my friend, and even wished he'd become far more, I could never really imagine him doing anything normal. I couldn't see him making a bed or doing dishes, or even doing laundry although I knew someone had to wash his cape when it got ash and dirt on it. I always saw him as a Hero, not really as a person. No! That's not true, I knew that there was a person under the image, I just couldn't really see him as normal person. If Clark had told me back then who he was, he was right about my not having really seen *him* anymore. Now that I know *Clark*, finding out that he is also Superman just explains a lot but it doesn't change who he is or how I react to him. I still treat him like Clark with a secret instead of how I'd have treated him then; like he was just Superman playing dress-up as Clark.> Hearing laughter from Jimmy, and seeing a look of embarrassment on Clark, Lois forced herself to focus on what was being said.

As the three of them sat there, each eating popcorn and basking in the peace of a quiet evening with friends, they all released the final dregs of anxiety they had carried. Lois and Jimmy relaxed from the nervousness brought by the disaster Superman had helped in. Clark gave a sigh of relief from the fear of how his friends would react to his first *super* feat since they had learned his secret. As laughter and talk emanated from the small apartment, passersby could tell that the occupants were enjoying a nice evening.

Across town, mothers held their children and thanked Superman for saving them. Little children hugged their mommy's and daddy's and promised to color a picture for Superman. Wives and husbands kissed and sent thanks to the man who had allowed them to be together again. Throughout Metropolis, people laughed and cried. But in the hearts of all was a word of thanks for the alien who had come to their city and made room for himself in the hearts of all.

The world may have been thankful for the feats of Superman, but for those in one little apartment, it was not the superhero for which they were grateful. For those two humans, it was the mild mannered reporter who loved junk food and had a habit of disappearing at odd moments that they were most thankful for. Superman was their hero and champion, but Clark was their friend. And true friends were far harder to come by.

THE END