By IRC Round Robin
Submitted September 1999
Summary: Another story in the RR Group's Unintentional Season. Lois discovers that not all the men in the Kent clan are quiet and mild-mannered when Clark's bombastic "Uncle" J.J. comes to town.
An IRC Round Robin by Misha <firstname.lastname@example.org>; zoomway <email@example.com>; chrispat <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Eraygun <Eraygun@aol.com>
Lois sighed as she approached the revolving doors that led into the lobby of the Daily Planet building. They had been a part of her life since the day she'd come to work there almost ten years ago. There were pleasant memories involving them mostly, and some more than pleasant, like those times she and Clark had shared a section designed for one. But now? Now they were out to get her, she thought, her and her incredibly expanding middle.
Clark grinned and held the glass panels still as Lois maneuvered carefully between them. He'd suggested that she go in through the regular door which was to one side, but she'd refused. She pushed and the door slowly revolved. Stepping out into the lobby, she smiled with satisfaction as he followed her through and picked up the conversation they'd been having in the jeep on the way to work.
"Okay, both sets of parents know and I called Lucy, so that just leaves the gang here to break the news to." Lois' tone was brisk. As usual, she was treating each event surrounding this pregnancy as a task to be accomplished, a hurdle to get over. It was her way of dealing with the overwhelming fact that she was going to be a mother in a very short time.
Clark pulled Lois close and pushed the button for the elevator. He was still a little dazed every time he thought about Lois carrying twins. Now that he knew what to listen for, he could hear the two hearts beating in unison, and he wondered again at how lucky they were. They had feared there would never be even one baby, and instead there were going to be two.
"I can't believe that my Mom and Dad had already guessed you were going to have twins," Clark said in amazement.
"It was good deductive reasoning on their part." Lois grinned. "Maybe they'd like to temporarily take our place as the Planet's lead investigative team while we're out on parental leave."
Clark chuckled. "Mom might get a real kick out of that."
"I know she would."
"But I have to admit I was a little disappointed that they figured it out. I really wanted to surprise them."
"I know, sweetheart, but my parents more than made up for it. At least my Dad did."
Clark nodded in agreement. "That's true. I don't think I've ever seen your father that flabbergasted before."
"Or that happy. I just wish I could say the same for Mother."
"Now, honey, she looked happy to me."
"I think stunned, shocked and in need of oxygen would be a better description, Clark. Good thing we'd already stocked up on aspirin."
As Clark shepherded Lois down the ramp and to her desk, Jimmy met them and took Lois' briefcase. The routine of getting her settled was a ritual now, and Lois no longer objected to being treated like a fragile flower that couldn't hang up her own coat or get her own juice. She smiled indulgently at both of them, and then eyed the clutch of papers on Jimmy's hand.
"What's that? The research I asked for on Mindy Church's current holdings in scientific research institutes?"
Jimmy looked a little embarrassed and held the papers out of Lois' reach.
"Ah, well, no, actually. These are the latest betting pool slips."
Clark frowned. "Betting pool? Since when are you running it? I thought that was Frank's baby."
"Baby is the right word —"
"Jimmy! What are you standing around for? I sent you down to mark-up fifteen minutes ago!" Perry walked over and glared at Jimmy, then turned the glare on the slips of paper in his hand. "What the Sam Hill is that?"
"Sorry, Chief. I was just telling CK and Lois. It's the betting pool on their baby. Date, sex, name… don't you think James Kent has a real nice ring to it?"
Clark chuckled. "And if it's a girl?"
Jimmy frowned. "Oh, well, just in case, Jamie Kent works too."
"Well…" Lois glanced up at Clark with a conspiratorial wink "…has anyone bet on the number?"
"Number? Like, more than one?" Jimmy ventured, his eyes growing round.
"Great shades of Elvis! Lois, are you having twins?" Perry shouted. He grinned with delight, and drew Lois to her feet to hug her. He released her and settled her back into her chair, then grabbed Clark in a bear hug too, pounding him on his back.
Everyone in the newsroom turned to look, and then the babble of 'What did Perry say? Lois is having twins?' rose around them, as many of the staffers headed toward Lois' desk.
Jimmy dug quickly in his pocket, and consulted a notebook. "Dang! Ricki down in Research just won a bundle!"
"Never mind the betting pool," Perry said. "Have you two decided on any names yet?"
Lois sighed. "Not really. We haven't even been able to come up with one boy's name and one girl's name. Now we have to come up with two of each!"
Clark grinned. "Hershey and Godiva are beginning to look pretty good right now," he added sheepishly.
"Great!" Jimmy interjected. "I've still got a chance to win the rest of the money in the pool." Perry looked at him repressively.
"To tell you the truth, darlin', I always thought you two might name your baby after Superman."
"Kal-El Kent?" Clark grimaced slightly as he said the name out loud.
"I think it has kind of a ring to it," Jimmy interrupted.
Lois and Clark glared in Jimmy's direction.
"Or maybe not." Jimmy backed away. "Got to get down to mark-up … see you guys later?"
Perry chuckled as Jimmy disappeared, then asked, "So what have you got for me on this story you said you wanted to do? The Mindy Church thing? I'm still not sure there's anything there, but your instincts are good, and we have the Merriwethers and Kerths to prove it." He looked pleased at the thought.
Clark started to reply, when that familiar arrested expression appeared on his face.
Lois patted his arm. "Clark, hadn't you better get going? You were supposed to meet — um, Bobby Bigmouth, weren't you?"
Clark nodded. "Yes, I was. Got to go, see you later, back as soon as I can, Chief." He was halfway across the newsroom before Perry could answer.
"We're working on it, Chief," Lois said brightly.
Perry nodded. "Well, don't work too hard, either of you. Journalism awards are great, but, well, great shades of Elvis! Twins!" He beamed at Lois. "I'm going to go call Alice right now. She'll be tickled to death at this news."
Beneath the overhanging globe, pedestrians hurried past the man who stood on the street corner looking up. A few glanced up, noted that his attention was directed upwards, and dismissed him as a tourist. A bus roared past, setting loose papers and leaves to dancing.
A second whoosh roared over the crowd, and this time, most of the crowd paused, looked up briefly, and continued. This time, though, most of them had a secret smile hovering at the corner of their mouths.
The man grinned happily around him and entered the Daily Planet building.
Lois leaned back from her computer. She placed her hands at the small of her back and groaned. Her bulging belly rippled as one of her children again protested the change in posture.
"Hey, Lois, is Clark still out with that source?" Jimmy hooked the little stool under Lois' desk and dragged it under her feet.
"Thanks Jimmy." Lois sighed and propped up her feet. "No, he's still out. Bobby wanted double chocolate eclairs, and only Clark knows where to get them." In a little bakery in Quebec, of all places, but as long as he brought her one, she'd… one of the babies kicked … they'd be happy.
"Oh. Well, this guy's coming up, he says he's Clark's uncle."
Lois frowned, but declined to lean forward. "That's funny. Both Martha and Jonathan are only children."
Jimmy shrugged. "He passed through security okay. You want me to hang around?"
"No, that's okay, Jimmy. It would take a crane to get me out of this chair anyway. I think that would be enough to foil a kidnapper."
Jimmy grinned at that and continued his trip to the copy room. Lois sighed and dragged her keyboard a little closer, tapping at the keys one-handed.
A few heavily typoed paragraphs later, she gave up and watched a portly, gray-haired man make his way across the newsroom. He paused in front of Clark's desk, then turned to her.
"I say there, Missy. Can you tell me where Clark Kent has wandered off to?"
"He'll be back fairly soon, Mr…?" Lois trailed off, fishing.
"Kent. J.J. Kent." He beamed and held his hand out to her. "I'm Clark's uncle."
Lois smiled politely and let him shake her hand as if she were delicate porcelain. "I'm Lois Lane." Her smile turned sweet. "I'm Clark's wife."
"Little Clark has a wife, and …" he peered over the desk, "seems to be starting a family."
Lois smiled. "Twins." J.J. Kent laughed and slapped his hand down loudly. "That's my little nephew. Never did anything slipshod."
"I'm surprised to find Clark has an uncle. I thought his parents didn't have any brothers or sisters."
Joe pulled a chair up from an adjoining desk and sat down with a relieved moan. "Well, I'm Jon's cousin actually, but since I was about Jon's age, Clark grew up calling me 'Uncle' Joe. Jerome Joseph Kent. Clark got my first name as his middle name."
Lois nodded. "I'm not sure if I remember Clark mentioning you, though."
Joe frowned a moment. "I guess he'd have gotten around to it sooner or later. I inspired his passion for journalism. I was with the foreign press corps during the Korean War."
Lois brightened. "Oh, really. That must have been fascinating."
"Foreign press corps?"
Lois turned at the sound of Perry's voice. "Yes, Perry, this is Clark's Uncle Joe, and he…"
Joe rose from his chair and shook Perry's hand. "Call me J.J."
"You were with the press corps in Korea?" Perry asked, even more enthusiastic than Lois.
"I was, Perry, I was. It was a hell of an experience," he said, draping an arm around Perry's shoulders.
Lois was left sitting, shaking her head, as the two older men walked away from her desk interrupting each other with war correspondence stories. Her line of sight was obscured by a double chocolate eclair. She smiled and glanced up.
"Thank you," she said, taking the eclair and receiving an upside-down kiss from Clark. "Your uncle is here."
Clark's smile straightened itself quickly. "My *uncle*? Uncle Joe?"
"Yes, he was pretty fascinating. Why haven't you ever told me about him? I mean a member of the foreign press … that's pretty impressive."
Clark loosened his tie and let out an exhausted sigh. "Honey, it *would* be impressive, if it was true."
Lois blinked. "It's not?"
"No, sorry to say. He's a great guy, honey, but the closest he got to the foreign press corps was a forged press credential that earned him probably the only wedgie delivered in the 1950s when a couple of MPs hoisted him by the trousers and threw him out of a bar in Fresno."
"Ouch," Lois said. "He sounded so … so —"
"I love him, honey. He told me some great stories as a kid, and I believed every single one of them. I even wanted to see the world because of his stories, but," Clark said, and sighed again, "he's kind of one big shortcut."
Lois took a bite of chocolate eclair and mumbled something.
"What did you say, honey?" Clark leaned over and wiped a smear of chocolate off of her chin.
Lois swallowed and sighed. "Mmmm. This is so good. Thanks for remembering to save one of these. How did you manage to hide it from Bobby?"
Clark licked the chocolate off his finger and grinned, but before he could answer, they were interrupted by the return of Perry and Uncle Joe.
"Clark," Perry boomed. "Why didn't you tell me about your uncle? He tells me he met Elvis in Memphis back in the fifties."
Clark rolled his eyes. "Um, Uncle Joe. How about you and Lois and I go out for some lunch and you can tell us what brings you to town."
J.J. winced as he clapped Clark on the shoulder and shook his hand. "Darn. I forgot how hard you are. Sure, let's go. I have this great idea I want to discuss with you. You're going to love it!"
"Now that was a marvelous lunch!" J.J. said expansively as he pushed himself back from the table. "I haven't had a meal that fine since I was at Maxim's in Paris!"
"Glad you enjoyed it," Lois' uncle replied as he appeared next to Lois carrying a dessert tray.
Lois grinned at him. "Uncle Mike, these look heavenly. Are you trying to spoil me?"
"No, I'm trying to spoil little Mike or Michelle. Or maybe that should be little Mike and little Michelle," he replied with a wink, as he set a chocolate raspberry tart in front of Lois.
"Oh, so you expect us to name *both* our children after you?"
"Darn, and I was hoping for little Jerome and little Joseph myself," J.J. put in.
"Jerome and Joseph? What if we have two girls?"
J.J. looked pensive for a few seconds. "Well, I guess one of them could be Josephine," he finally said with a grin.
Lois rolled her eyes and looked at Clark, who smiled and shrugged.
"So what is this business proposition you have for us, Uncle Joe — I mean, J.J.?"
"It's the chance of a lifetime, kids. Have you two ever thought about going into show business?"
"Uncle J.J., Lois and I are really happy where we are…"
"That's right. We don't know the first thing about acting," Lois interjected.
"I'm not talking about acting, my dear."
"Then what are you talking about?"
J.J. waved his arms expansively. "We're going to put Metropolis on the map! Bigger than Hollywood! Bigger than New York!" He winked and nudged Clark. "And all thanks to your Uncle J.J."
Lois paused with the bite of chocolate confection halfway to her mouth, and shot Clark a look of disbelief.
Clark merely shrugged. "What have you done now, Uncle J.J.?"
J.J. folded his napkin on the table and leaned forward, a gleam in his eye. "I'm the creative consultant in charge of the new Superman movie."
Lois choked on her chocolate.
Both Clark and J.J. jumped up and began pounding her on the back. She gasped weakly and reached for the water glass.
"Say, Clark, is she so easily startled?" J.J. sat again.
Clark rubbed the small of Lois' back in soothing circles and replied warily. "Not usually… What's this about a Superman movie?"
J.J. leaned back, grinning. "Remember that New Kryptonian thing a while back? When they took over Smallville and Metropolis? Well, since I was right in the middle of the whole thing, they decided that I was the best person to approach.
Clark frowned. "Weren't you in Fresno that year?"
J.J. waved away the miniscule consideration. "Bakersfield, but what's a few hundred miles."
Lois dropped her head in her hands.
"You all right there, missy?" Lois shook her head and J.J. shrugged. "Well, I know you, I know everyone in Smallville … what more could a producer want? Now, I know this is something of a shock, your old uncle getting a leg up in the world, Clark, but if you'll do me a favor and let me take a quick little poke through the Daily Planet and its files, I'll let you in on the ground floor of this little to-do."
Lois' head shot up. "Now, I don't really think that we should let you, I mean, what with source confidentiality and all, you can't…"
J.J. cut her off before she could gather a good head of steam. "Don't worry your pretty little head about it, missy. Think it over for a few days. I still need to check into my hotel tonight and check in with the writers … hash over a few details, you know."
He patted his lips with the napkin one last time, and swept away from the table.
Lois dropped her head to her hands again and groaned. "Superman movie?"
Clark resumed his massage of her back. "Yep. I'm afraid so."
"Clark how could this happen? Don't get me wrong, I'm happy the flawless Kent name has a black sheep for once, but.."
"Honey," Clark interrupted. "Do you remember Murray, Superman's agent?"
"Okay, good, you remember him. Way back before you knew the secret, or before you fell in love with me," Clark continued, "Murray kind of talked Superman into the idea of getting an option on movie rights."
Lois drummed her fingers on the table. "Superman should have told Lois Lane who he was a long time ago. She'd have fired his agent."
Clark cleared his throat. "Anyway, it was kind of a bad time for me. I mean, I was being sued by Calvin Dregg, I didn't have a lawyer, I was afraid I might need a lot of money in a hurry, and …"
"Okay," Lois said, and rubbed his arm. "I remember the time frame. It was kind of scary back then."
Clark nodded. "Yeah," he said softly. "I hate to admit it, but I also wanted to know the heat vision melting point for a certain DEA agent."
Lois smiled. "You have this lethal cuteness when you're jealous. I thought you were going to break Patrick Sullivan's hand … though considering he almost sacrificed me to Druid gods, I wouldn't have really minded much."
Clark smiled in return. "You know, honey, Hollywood couldn't really make up anything worse than what we've actually gone through. My uncle feels kind of important right now. For *real* for a change. Maybe this is the kind of boost he needs to make something of himself."
"Clark, you're not seriously considering going along with this?"
Clark took Lois' hand. "I just have this feeling he's trying to make up for some things, honey. He and my dad didn't get along, not to mention he kind of had a crush on my mom … from the stories I heard whispered that my family didn't know I could hear from the other room."
"Or the other county," Lois smiled.
"Right, and so would it hurt to just see what's going on first before we condemn the project?"
Lois sighed. "I hate it when you appeal to my sentimental side. I didn't used to have one."
Clark smiled. "Yes you did. You just hid it well," he said, and grimaced slightly. "Sometimes you hid it *really* well."
Lois let go of his hand. "I hope the children don't inherit that graphic honesty thing from you."
"Come on," he smiled and helped her from her chair. "We'll go back to the Planet and then later meet with Uncle J.J. and the movie people. I really don't think it will be as bad as you're imagining."
Lois nodded. "Uh huh, and what if they cast say … Nicolas Cage as Superman."
"Honey, they're not even that crazy in Hollywood."
Clark looked up from his computer screen and grinned at the sight of Lois leaning back in her chair and snoring gently. He got up and went over to her, bending down and kissing her forehead.
"Hey, sleepyhead, I think it's time we called it a day."
Lois jumped. "I wasn't sleeping. I was just resting my eyes."
Clark smiled and kissed her again, on the lips this time. "Sure, honey. What do you say to Italian tonight?"
Lois stared at him. "Pasta?? Clark! I look and feel like a beached whale and you want pasta??"
Clark had the grace to look slightly embarrassed. "Lois, I like pasta. That doesn't have to mean what you think it means…at least not if you don't feel like it."
Lois smiled. "I love you too, sweetheart, but…"
They both jumped as the phone on Clark's desk rang.
"Oh, hi, Mom…Why, yes. Uncle Joe did show up here…I know…Tell Dad not to worry…" He looked over at Lois and sighed. "Okay…we'll meet you at the airport in the morning…Bye, Mom…We love you too." He put down the phone and shook his head. "Dad just doesn't trust Uncle Joe. They're coming here."
Before Lois could respond, the phone rang again. Clark sighed again and picked it up. "Clark Kent…Hello, Murray. What can I do for you?"
"You want to know if I can get in touch with the *big guy* for you?" Clark repeated as he rolled his eyes. "You need to talk to him about the movie deal of the century?! I'll see if I can find him for you, Murray."
Even without supersenses Lois could hear the agent continuing to badger Clark for information about Superman's whereabouts. Finally disgusted she motioned to Clark to hand her the receiver.
"Hello, Murray? This is Lois Lane. I've got a message for you straight from the *big guy*. 'Don't call us, we'll call you'," she said abruptly and slammed the phone back on the hook.
Clark grinned and shook his head. "You do that very effectively."
"Years of practice."
Lois moved into Clark's arms and rested her head on his chest. "Can we go home now?" She yawned. "I'm a little sleepy."
Clark nodded and made a slight hand motion. "Would you like to go by Superman Express? I can come back for the car later," he whispered.
Lois smiled. "That would be wonderful."
"Your wish is my comm-"
"What is it, Jimmy?" Lois said with a slight edge to her voice.
"Have you heard the latest about the new Superman movie?"
"Take a look at this write-up in today's Entertainment section. Jimmy read the headline of the article out loud. "'Producer says new Superman movie will feature a grittier, edgier hero'."
"Grittier?" Clark repeated incredulously.
"Wait." Clark shook his head. "What do they mean by a 'grittier, edgier' Superman?"
Jimmy tapped the page. "According to this, they kind of see him as a …" Jimmy glanced down, "…beautiful freak. An outsider for the millennium. A youth cult icon that can be appreciated for his outlaw vigilante affirmations…whatever that means."
"Freak?" Clark echoed as he grabbed the paper.
"Outlaw?" Lois said, looking over Clark's shoulder.
"This is ridiculous," Clark said as he started to toss the paper.
Lois intercepted. "Some of us don't read as fast."
"How can they do this to Superman?" Clark asked and began to pace. "Edgier? Grittier? Why don't they just make a Batman movie if that's what they want."
"Probably because he has a better agent," Lois whispered.
"I'm not going along with this," Clark said firmly.
"Well, CK," Jimmy sighed. "The real question is whether Superman will go along with it."
Clark adjusted his glasses. "True … but if I know Superman…"
"And he does," Lois injected, for some reason finding the article and Clark's reaction amusing. "He won't want to see this movie made either."
Jimmy nodded thoughtfully. "I agree … do you think they could get Keanu Reeves to play me?"
Jimmy laughed. "I'm leaving. See you guys tomorrow."
"Come on, Clark. Let's continue your tantrum at home."
"I'm *not* having a tantrum."
"True," she soothed. "You didn't stomp your foot that time."
Lois stared up at the bedroom ceiling placidly as Clark continued speaking, but couldn't help thinking how she'd prefer to be on the ceiling and not talking.
"And most of all," he concluded. "Superman is *not* gritty or edgy."
"I agree, Clark. This is Lois Lane you're trying to convince. That's like trying to convince GreenPeace that killing whales is wrong. I'm on your side, Clark, and I've *always* been on Superman's side."
"I know, honey," Clark acknowledged. "If this was back before you knew I was Superman, suppose you were still…"
"The moony-eyed cheerleader?"
"Yeah," he laughed softly. "Wouldn't *she* be the one having the 'tantrum' instead of me?"
Lois smiled. "Yes. You're an amateur in the tantrum standings, Clark. She'd take that entertainment article, rip it up, set it on fire, throw it in the trash and kick over the trash can, but," she added quickly, "none of that will keep this movie from being made. I think we need to *really* talk to your uncle."
"True," Clark said. "I can't believe he stood us up tonight."
"Well," Lois sighed, "we're obviously not as glamorous as his new Hollywood colleagues."
"Then we'll have to be a little more pro-active."
"Hunt him down like a rabid dog?" Lois offered.
"For lack of a better metaphor, yes," Clark laughed, and turned off the light.
Lois tapped her foot and looked at her watch for the tenth time in as many minutes. Where the heck was Clark? He should have been back from the airport ages ago.
She glanced over at the couch where Murray and Uncle J. J. were in the midst of an animated conversation. She winced as she heard names like Nicolas Cage, Brad Pitt, and Tom Cruise pepper the conversation. At the mention of Jim Carrey, her patience snapped.
She whirled on the two. "Are you out of your minds?? This is Superman you're talking about, not some idiotic comic!"
Uncle J. J. looked hurt. "But, Lois, we need a big name to draw the fans."
Lois snorted. "And just who came up with the bright idea of Nicolas Cage?" She glared at Murray. "I've never seen anyone less like Superman."
Murray shrank back. "Hey! Don't look at me. It was the producer, Peter Johns!"
"Next you'll be telling me he wants some kind of space dog for comic relief!"
Murray gaped at Lois. "How did you know? I mean -"
Lois threw her hands up in disgust. "This just gets worse and worse. There is no way Superman is going to agree to this stupid movie."
Murray looked uncomfortable. "Well, legally speaking, he doesn't have to. He already gave up the rights."
"What??" That did it. Lois snapped. She threw back her head and screamed, "Help! Superman!"
Clark was just drawing up to the curb with his parents when he heard Lois scream. Martha and Jonathan looked at each other and shrugged as Clark disappeared in a blur of red and blue.
"Looks like we'll have to let ourselves in, Martha."
"That's all right Jonathan, because I've been wanting to talk to you alone anyway."
Jonathan sighed. "Now, Martha, don't start-"
"Jonathan, we have to talk about it."
"Talk about what? The fact that my cousin, my only living blood relative, is one of the biggest liars on the face of the earth?"
"I know J.J. has always stretched the truth a bit — " Martha began.
"Stretched it!? The man treats the truth like silly putty," Jonathan interrupted.
"I know, but he's always been well meaning, and he's never hurt anybody and he thinks the world of Clark and besides -
"And besides, he's family," Jonathan finished in a voice laced with exasperation.
"Don't remind me."
"There you are, big guy! If I'd known that all it took to get you to make an appearance was to yell for help, I would've done it myself." Murray grabbed Superman's hand and began pumping it up and down enthusiastically.
Lois rolled her eyes and plopped down on the now vacant sofa.
"I'd like you to meet a business associate of mine, and a relative of Clark and Lois. This is J.J. Kent."
At the mention of his name, Uncle J.J. grabbed Clark's other hand and began pumping it up and down as well. "It's a pleasure, no, let me say an *honor* to meet you, Superman," he said with his usual bombast. "I don't know if Clark has had a chance to explain about our little venture, so we'd like to take the opportunity to tell you what Peter Johns' production company has in mind."
Clark disentangled himself from both men and turned to Lois who shrugged and sank back on the couch.
Sighing heavily he turned back to face the two men. "I can't wait to hear about it."
"Great!" Murray said, his enthusiasm bubbling. "Picture, if you will, an opening shot that features a pristine, Kansas rice field…"
"Rice field?" Lois' voice came from the sofa.
"Or whatever they grow there," J.J. added diplomatically.
"Yeah," Murray nodded. "Then BOOM! The sleaze from New Krypton lands."
Superman, his arms folded, his expression tolerant, nodded. "Lord Nor and his followers."
"Correctamundo!" Murray chirped. "But in case there's lawsuits on New Krypton, we're renaming him Lord Nor, Knight of Darkness."
"Oh, yeah," Lois said sarcastically. "That should avoid any legal entanglements."
"They land and start destroying Littleton."
"Right. And the last farmer left alive grabs a pitchfork, and Nor takes it away, and impales Farmer Brown, holding the body over his head, defying the world to stop him, but … where is Superman?"
"He's the guy standing in front of you who should liberally apply heat vision to the script," Lois said, and placed her arms behind her head.
"Oh, that reminds me," Murray said, ignoring Lois' outburst. "We're changing your costume, Supes."
"This should be good," Lois whispered.
"Right. Not that there's anything wrong with the blue and the cape, but have you thought about a different color scheme? Maybe slate gray, metal arm bands, and black boots?"
Clark took a deep breath. Lois didn't even have to look — she could picture Clark. His lips gone thin, his arms folded high, his eyes narrowed. It was sexy in its own angry superhero-ish way.
"The costume stays as it is," he said firmly, "and Nor didn't kill off everyone in Smallville, and I've only seen a real pitchfork in Frankenstein movies."
"Big guy," Murray said. "What can I do to change your mind?"
"You can look in your 'Sincerity at a Glance' day planner … it's the chapter after 'Schmoozing'," Lois suggested helpfully. "Listen, Murray, so far this movie sounds like a travesty. I can't see being party to it as it now stands."
J.J. looked worried, and though Clark didn't want to dash his hopes, the movie *was* sounding like a nightmare.
"Well," Murray shrugged. "I can sympathize, Supes, but the rights belong to Peter Johns and Warner Brothers. You're kind of stuck with it."
Clark managed to look even angrier and Murray stepped back. "Hey, big guy, I'm sorry, but a contract's a contract."
Lois levered herself off the sofa and went over to Clark, putting her hand on his arm. "Superman, don't worry. We'll find a way to stop this outrage."
J.J. started to speak, but the Kents chose that moment to enter the living room. Martha and Jonathan froze as they took in the tableau.
"Jonathan," Martha whispered, "What's going on? I don't think I've ever seen Clark look that angry."
"How the hell should I know, Martha, but if J.J.'s here I'm sure he's in it up to his neck."
"Oh, hush. Lois, what's going on?"
Lois jumped at the sound of Martha's voice and waddled over to give them both a hug.
Clark managed to get his temper under control and pretended to hear a siren. "Sorry. I have to leave. You haven't heard the last of this, Murray. I'll talk to you both, later."
With a whoosh, he disappeared, only to reappear as Clark a moment later, carrying in his parents' luggage.
Murray pulled a blue-covered bundle of papers out of his pocket.
"Rats, I never even got a chance to give him the script." He shrugged and handed it to Lois. "If you get a chance, give this to Supes. I know he'll love it once he gets a chance to read it. It's *great* stuff, really upscale."
J.J. nodded in agreement. "Yes, it's simply wonderful! You and Clark have to convince Superman to be a real part of this. You know, act as a consultant for the film."
From the entryway to the living room, Jonathan cleared his throat.
"Jonny and Martha, is that you?" J.J. said as he bounded across the room. "Clark didn't say you were coming to town." Reaching Martha first, J.J. pulled her into a bear hug. "It's so good to see you both."
"It's good to see you too, J.J. It's been a long time, almost ten years."
J.J. extended his hand to a now scowling Jonathan who took it reluctantly. "Yes. Ten years, and Martha, you haven't changed one bit, you're just as beautiful as ever." Martha blushed slightly. "And you haven't changed either, Jonny."
"Neither have you, Joseph. Still causing trouble wherever you go," Jonathan replied acidly.
An icy silence fell over the room and Murray decided that it was time to be elsewhere.
"Well I've got to run. Like I said, have the big guy take a look at the script. He'll be impressed, it even has proposed cast members in it."
Lois rolled and unrolled the script in her hands. Her concern had shifted from the "movie from hell" to her husband. Clark wasn't really accustomed to family warfare. It was always astounding to Lois, who came from a family where an allowance could be seen as combat pay. The main reason Superman was neither "gritty" nor "edgy" is because the man who filled the costume so well had a fairly smooth upbringing, and a heart that always reflected that.
She nudged Clark. "Maybe we should step outside and get some air. Murray's cigars kind of make a latrine envious."
Clark nodded. He knew what she was doing, and loved her for it. He knew his dad and J.J. had a decade and more of "issues" to resolve between them. And Clark didn't want to be stuck in the middle taking sides.
"Come on, Martha," Lois added. "Now that I'm pregnant, I was kind of thinking of taking up knitting. Maybe you can give me some pointers."
"All right, dear," Martha said, relief in her voice. "But I'll have to learn how first."
"Okay, Jonny," J.J. said, and took a seat. "As usual, our old history clears the room faster than a bomb threat."
"Joseph… Joe," Jonathan hesitated. He wasn't an angry man by nature, and so found confrontations, no matter how well deserved, difficult. "I can live with a lot of things you've done, pretended to do, and outright lied about, but not when it hurts my son and daughter-in-law."
"Jonny, I wouldn't hurt Clark for the world. I love that boy, and his wife. She's a real spitfire. A perfect match to complement someone so mild-mannered," J.J. said, and truly seemed to mean the words. "I made a mistake a long time ago, and I can't seem to lie my way out of it, or honor myself back." He reached into his pocket and handed an envelope to Jon.
Jonathan took the envelope reluctantly. "What's this, Joe? Deed to a gold mine on Mars? Phony oil…my lord," he whispered. "It's money," he said, leafing through the bills. "Hundreds of dollars."
"Four thousand, eight hundred and sixty one dollars."
"The old tractor you said you'd go halfs on, but…"
"Left you holding the bill," J.J. said, finishing the sentence. "It took me ten years to get that amount, and whether you believe it or not, it's all legal money."
Jonathan looked down at the money and back up at J.J. "I don't know what to say, Joe… I mean… after all these years…"
"I'm really trying to change, Jon. I think I've finally grown up." He smiled wryly. "Took me long enough, didn't it?" He stuck out his hand. "And I'm not trying to pull anything on Clark or Superman. I think this movie is going to be big. I wanted Clark to have a piece of it. I always had a soft spot for him, you know."
Jonathan shook his head and then grasped J.J.'s hand. "Okay, Joe. I'll give you another chance, but you better not screw this one up."
J.J. laughed. "I won't. Now let's go find the rest of the family."
Lois wandered into the kitchen the next morning to find Jonathan, Martha and Clark deep in conversation. "Mmmm. What smells so good?"
Clark jumped up and helped Lois into a chair at the table. "Mom made blueberry muffins, honey. Wait till you taste them."
Martha set a plate in front of Lois and smiled as she watched her absently scratch her protruding stomach. "Oh my, Lois, honey, you certainly are big."
Lois grimaced. "I know. I feel like…"
"… a beached whale," Clark chimed in. He ducked as Lois swatted at him. "I've been hearing that every day for weeks," he laughed.
"So what were you all talking about before I came in?"
Clark grimaced. "We were going over the script."
"Well, I'm not sure what's worse, the plot they've constructed, or the casting," Clark replied as he shook his head slowly.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, for one thing they want to cast Pamela Anderson Lee to play Zara."
Jonathan smiled faintly. "She's a fairly good actress."
Lois rolled her eyes. "If acting is measured in cup size, she's got an Oscar coming."
"And," Clark said, oblivious to the conversation going on around him as he scanned the script. "Superman has a love affair with Ultra Woman…"
"I like that," Lois smiled.
"And with Zara."
"Peter Johns is a dead man."
"It's just a script, honey," Clark said, and continued to scan.
"Then get to page 61."
Clark flipped through the pages. "Uh…this scene with Lois and Superman?"
Clark began to read aloud, "'I'll always love you, Superman, no man can replace you in my heart, but I've decided to settle for Clark, he — ' …*settle* for Clark?"
"It's just a script, Clark."
"It gets better." Lois shrugged. "Or worse, depending on your point of view."
Clark continued to read as his eyebrows shot above his glasses. "They have me … well, 'Clark' … *accepting* the fact that you'll always love Superman. How pathetic do they think I am?"
Lois flipped a few pages. "Jimmy saves your life four times in the script, Clark. Does that answer your question?"
"Oh, my," Martha said and patted her son's shoulder. "Honey, you can't let this movie get made."
"I know, Mom, but Peter Johns and Warner Bros. have the rights … to me."
"Who made out the contract, son? There has to be one if there's 'rights' to the story."
Clark brightened. "Constance Hunter."
Lois loosened his tie. "Maybe Superman better see his lawyer."
The men and women at the table in the conference room looked up as Superman entered accompanied by an attractive well-dressed woman carrying a briefcase. A man with long gray hair down his back and no hair on the top of his head, stood and offered his hand.
"I'm Peter Johns."
Superman nodded and shook his hand. "I recognize you from the cover of Entertainment Weekly."
"Oh, really?" He smiled broadly.
"Yes, I believe the article was 'Fiascos Behind the Camera'."
Johns tugged at his tight polo collar. "Well, can't win them all."
"Apparently," Superman replied. "This is Constance Hunter, my attorney. She drew up the contract."
"Gentlemen, ladies," Hunter said as she opened her briefcase. Clark was fascinated to note that everyone at the table had their finger on the speed dial buttons of their cell phones. Constance looked at the one man at the table wearing a full suit and tie. "You must be the attorney," she said, and laid the contract in front of him.
"As you are no doubt aware," Constance stated matter of factly, "hundreds of charities around the world are dependent upon my client's good name and reputation, since they are the recipients of the proceeds from the sale of Superman merchandise." The studio attorney nodded in agreement and Constance rewarded the man with a small smile and continued. "With so much at stake, I felt that some extra protection was necessary. Your predecessor agreed with me and together we drafted special language for this contract."
The studio attorney arched one eyebrow and began reading the first page of the thick legal document.
"The clause in question can be found on page 57, clause 68(d)."
All eyes anxiously watched the studio attorney as he alternately licked his thumb and flipped pages. "Well," he said finally, "this all seems to be in order, and quite binding," and scooted the contract to Peter Johns. "I'll be back at my law office if you need me. I have a feeling you'll be working on a new picture."
"Wait… what do you mean? We have rights to Superman."
"Yes, you do. And *Superman* has veto and approval power over casting and scripts," the attorney said, and patted Johns' shoulder. "You can always hope the stories about him being immortal aren't true."
Johns swallowed. "Okay, Superman, maybe there's a few things in this script you don't like, but…"
"Mr. Johns, there is *nothing* in that script or the casting choices I like. I'm sure with a lot of work, new writers, director and producers, something might appeal to me," Superman said, and withdrew a business card from his belt.
Johns took the card. It merely had the Superman shield and the words 'House of El' embossed on its surface.
"Have your people call my people when you have a new script," Superman said, and exited with Constance Hunter.
Johns sat stunned for a moment, and then hit the intercom button. "Get me an area code for New Krypton."
Lois was enjoying the rocking motion of the old porch glider at the Kent farmhouse. A breather from Hollywood and Metropolis was very welcome. It was also nice to see J.J. and Jonathan doing some chores together. She leaned her head back against Clark's arm which curved around her shoulder.
"Clark," she said dreamily. "Do you think Hollywood would ever be interested in doing 'Lois and Clark: A romance between a hotshot reporter and a farm boy from Kansas who just happens to be Superman'?"
Clark looked at her, and they both smiled. "Nah," they said in unison.