By Nekanuq <Nekanuq@aol.com>
Submitted August 2000
Summary: Lois, it seems, can unearth trouble simply by sitting at home. But she and Clark had been needing this talk for some time. A Charity Fanzine story.
A Charity Fanzine story, first released summer 1999
Disclaimers: This story contains characters from the television series, Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, owned by Warner Brothers and DC Comics. It was originally written for inclusion in a fanzine. No personal profit has been gained from this work.
Rated PG, for a swear word or two, I think. No violence, no sex. Geez, this could be boring, huh?
Since its publication, I have made some minor adjustments, because I can never seem to be satisfied completely, but I'm done for the time being. Comments welcome at Nekanuq@aol.com.
Lois looked up from the laptop, startled, caught. Guilty.
She hit the off switch, and closed the computer, more in reflex than to cover her crime; she knew it was too late.
"Hi honey." She put her elbows on top of the laptop, holding it down so her secret wouldn't escape, and tucked her hands under her chin.
The move served more to draw attention to what she was obviously trying to hide, than to actually hide it, and Clark smiled inwardly. She was so cute when she was inept… not an aspect he glimpsed often. And not something he dared point out to her. He'd play along.
"What's that — you working on a top secret story?" He bit into an apple he'd pulled out of one of the grocery sacks he was carrying, and walked around her into the dining area, setting the groceries on the table.
"Clark! Don't set those there. Did you get my ice cream? It'll melt… we should just get everything put away." Clark looked up at her, the apple still hanging from his mouth before he finally bit through and let it drop into his palm. She moved quickly, picking up the bags and carrying them into the kitchen. Hoping to distract him.
He munched the fruit, walked over to the laptop, and opened it. "Well, if you're done working here, I need to put some finishing touches on one of my articles," he called out, unable to hide a little smirk, as he watched the screen fade in.
The kitchen door had barely followed her into the kitchen, when Lois came shooting back through it on the outswing. "Ah… oh… you better let me… I should make sure I saved it…" Maybe if she kept talking, he wouldn't notice her sudden nervousness.
"Um, Lois," Clark said, a cat batting a mouse, "it might've been better if you'd saved it before you shut the computer down, don't you think? I mean… if it was really something important to save…" With that, he looked down at the screen, at the program opening up, at the window confirming the last file opened. He looked back at his wife, his hands on his hips.
Lois stood frozen, but the cogs were spinning wildly in her head. She raised a hand towards him. "Now, I know how this looks…"
"You were reading my novel?"
"I didn't mean to… I was trying to delete a bunch of files we didn't need on there anymore, to make space for a new program, and I opened it to see what it was, and then it just pulled me in… Clark, it's wonderful…" She trailed off at the softened twinkle in his eyes. "You knew."
"Not exactly. I knew something was up the minute I came through the door… your heart rate shot up to 130… but I didn't know what… Look, I don't mind you reading it… it's nowhere near being finished, but I'd like to hear what you think."
"Oh, sure, you say that now, because I've already seen some of it… I can wait until you're really ready to have someone look at it." Lois was bursting to finish reading it.
"No, Lois, I *want* you to read it… it would mean a lot to me if you did… give me some feedback, constructive criticism… I've kind of been stuck on it for a while. Maybe you could help me get through it." He took another bite of the apple.
Lois thought a minute, wondering if it was such a good idea. What if she hated it? She'd have to be honest with him about it. If what she'd read so far was any indication, though, she'd love it. There was still something in the back of her brain niggling at her, though — the guilt of reading it when she should have respected his privacy. She made amends the best way she could think of. "All right, I'll read yours, if you read mine."
Clark was taken aback, momentarily. "What?"
"My novel… you know, the one I've been working on forever, the one I told you never to tell anyone about. That novel."
Clark shifted from one foot to the other. This was a sudden turn of events. Her romance novel? The one with Wanda Detroit and a bunch of awful metaphors that Jimmy had been reading at the Planet when Lois was kidnapped by Lex, had amnesia, and believed she was her leading character? Where she wrote about him as two separate people? Did he really want to read that? He'd have to be honest with her about it. "Lois, that's not necessary… you don't have to…"
"No, Clark, I'd like you to, really." *Why am I doing this,* she asked herself. *He's letting me off the hook, and I'm biting down harder.* "It's only fair… and if you're busy with mine, you won't be hovering over me wondering what I think about every word of yours." She grinned broadly, teasing him about one of her own worst habits.
Clark didn't see any graceful way out of it, now. He hadn't minded, he really hadn't, that Lois was reading his novel, but he found the whole situation it led to uncomfortable. He took a deep breath. "Print them out, then… I'll go put the ice cream away."
Lois sat near the front window, curled up in a chair with a sheaf of Clark's novel. Raindrops spat against the window, alternating a light patter and harder bursts, as gusty winds occasionally blew into the townhouse. A perfect day to cozy up with a good book, and she was happy to find that Clark's story was just that, transporting her around the world, and out of the dreary Metropolis spring day.
Clark had been more restive, she noticed. Several times, he'd settled down with the pages of her novel, only to jerk his head characteristically, just before he'd get up and spin into the suit for another emergency. But even when heroics weren't an issue, he seemed to be distracted, by a supposedly dripping faucet, a flickering light bulb, and numerous other home repair crises. On return from his latest mission (taking the garbage out), he picked up the manuscript and headed upstairs.
"Clark? Where are you off to now?" It wasn't so much that Lois was curious, but that his restlessness was starting to get on her nerves.
"I, um, thought I'd… maybe find some quiet… in…" he paused, not really wanting to explain.
Lois simply peered at him, cocking an eyebrow.
"The bathroom," he said finally. He accurately predicted the scrunched up face Lois made at his answer.
"Huh, that really is a guy thing, isn't it? Apparently not just Earth guys, either," she muttered.
Clark turned and looked at her from the landing. "I heard that. It worked for my dad… figured I'd give it a try." He was up the stairs in a flash, before she could make another comment.
Clark was actually comfortable, and wondered to himself why he'd never escaped to the bathroom before. *Because you've never lived with anyone before, for one,* he thought. He was determined to give his full attention to Lois' novel, and at a human pace.
"Wanda Detroit is my name. I sing for drinks down at the docks. But it wasn't always like this.
"My story begins in that capitol of big bucks, fast living, and Broadway Babies… New York City. I was doin' eight shows a week, showin' more flesh than a girl oughta…"
"Oh, boy," he sighed, but plodded on. It was around page ten that his — "Clark's" — tongue met Wanda's molars, and Clark groaned audibly. About page 25, she was kissing a volcano, in the form of Superman, disguised as "Kent," and Clark felt a twinge in the pit of his stomach, both at the gaudy prose, and how Lois had envisioned Superman when she first met him. Had he really led her on like that? Clark shifted, not so comfortable anymore. He decided speed reading might be the better course of action, and started flipping through the pages at a faster rate when there was a knock on the door, startling him into dropping the printout. "Ah, sh-oot… who is… I mean, yeah, Honey?" he said, as he picked the soggy pages out of the water.
"Clark? I hate to disturb your… sanctuary," he could fairly hear the slow-drip sarcasm in Lois' voice, "but I need a little… quality… time of my own in there. Do you mind?" It wasn't really a question.
Clark stood up, still holding soggy papers. "Sure, Lois, come on in…" he said, a little absentmindedly.
She opened the door to find Clark standing in the bathtub, calf deep in bubble bath, holding a soggy copy of her novel. She stood, mouth open for a moment, eyeing him from head to toe. "You… were in the tub? I thought… I mean…" She shook her head.
"You thought what? This is what my dad always used to do to relax." Clark shook water off the story, set it on the back of the toilet, and pulled a towel off the rack.
"Ah, never mind… How does Chinese sound for dinner?"
"Sounds great… want me to…" Clark waggled his hand. "I could get some authentic Szechwan this time…"
"Oh, no, I was just going to call up Ralph's, and we can curl up on the sofa and eat." She turned to leave. "And we can talk about our novels," she said over her shoulder. Clark stopped in mid-toweling, uneasy again, but whether due to the thought of dinner from Ralph's, or having a tete-a-tete about the stories, was a toss-up.
Clark sat back in the sofa, wanting some distance from the cartons of take-out, and let out an exasperated little groan. "Why do we do that? You'd think we would've learned the first time. Ralph isn't anywhere close to being Chinese."
"What are you complaining about? You eat bombs… Ralph's can't be worse than that." She slapped him on the thigh.
"Actually, plastique doesn't have a bad taste to it, and it's easier to digest, believe it or not. But how and why you can put this food away always amazes me."
"I don't know why," Lois said, nestling into the crook of his arm, against his chest. "It sort of makes me feel like I'm in college again, when you'd go to a party just because there was free food."
"And that's a good thing?"
"Not really." She chuckled. "I think it's the hunter-gatherer in me that says eat now, because you don't know when you'll kill another wildebeest." She tilted her head to look up at him.
Clark rested his head against hers, and spoke softly against her ear. "As God is my witness, you'll never go hungry again, Lois."
She giggled. "I hope that doesn't mean I'll see you fly in here with a water buffalo draped over your shoulders. You know, that was an amazing passage in your novel, where he's learning the ancient tribal rites… Clark? You write beautifully… have I ever told you that?"
He shifted, drawing her even closer, and wrapped his arms about her. "Maybe not in so many words, but I can tell sometimes when you like something in an article… you get this little… I dunno, kind of look… and I know I've nailed it. You don't know how hard I've tried to get that look from you as often as I could… since the moment I met you…" He brushed his lips against her temple, softly, warmly, hypnotically. "And thank you…"
She was very relaxed against him now, lulled by the warm stroke his hand played on her arm. "And I bet you don't know how often I was trying to hide that look from you, from that very first article on that old theatre they were about to tear down."
"Lois, you're the best investigative reporter there is… do you know what it means to hear you say that about my writing?"
"It means we're both the best, and together, we're even better. Does that mean you… like my novel, or did you really think it was all wet?" She had interlaced her fingers with his unoccupied hand, and was rubbing the back of it with her thumb, just when she felt the briefest tension in him, under her. Silence. She twisted her head to look at him, to see him looking down at his lap. "Clark?"
He raised his gaze to look at her, and mustered a weak smile. "It's… ah… very colorful," he offered.
Lois sat up and turned to face him directly. "Colorful? Is that it?"
"Well, you know, it's not really a guy type of story… romance novels aren't exactly up my alley…"
"Well, I figured you'd be able to look past that… I mean, not every story is my cup of tea, but I can appreciate the talent of the author. Come on, tell me what you think."
Clark had pulled himself more upright on the sofa, hitching a foot behind his knee, and leaning forward. He took a breath. Maybe she really did need to hear the truth. She was an award winning reporter with a portfolio of brilliantly written articles, after all. She was definitely able to withstand the firestorm some of her articles caused, or take Perry's critiques with a grain of salt. "Uh… okay, it's… well, where'd you come up with those metaphors? Some of those are pretty… um… out there… And, whoa, that dialogue…"
"Hey, those aren't easy to come up with, you know… they're harder than they look. And what about the dialogue?"
"Come on, Lois, do you really think your characters are believable? That you could run into this… Wanda Detroit… on the street? And since when do you know anything about Broadway dancers?"
"Clark, you know everything in there actually happened… sorta…"
"Yeah, in a funky, whacked out way… yeah… but this sounds pretty absu…"
"And just how much truth would you have preferred I put in?" Lois popped up from the sofa and stared down at Clark.
"Lois, it's… it's just weird to read about myself as two different people, in such an… unfamiliar… setting…"
"'Unfamiliar'… good word choice, Clark… you avoided strange, bizarre, surreal… it's not like our real lives are very normal. Face it, I toned a lot in this story down." She turned away from him, and looked at the rain outside.
"Yeah, we'd hate to have it confused with reality," Clark said, then muttered, "Not that there's a chance of anyone reading far enough to know…"
Lois heard it all. Her eyes narrowed to dark slits.
*Whoops,* Clark realized, too late. "Lois, honey, I just meant…"
"Don't you 'Lois, honey' me. I know what you meant. That smug, my-story-is-better, what-were-you-thinking, stick-to-what-you-know attitude. That I make things too complicated, and you're so straightforward. Yeah, right, that's why you describe that one character in your story as panther-like. Why do men always see themselves as some sleek powerful animal, that women will puddle over… you think we all find that so sexy…" Lois finally ran out of breath long enough for Clark to get a word in.
"'Panther-like?' Lois, he was a Chinese acrobat. It was a perfectly valid way to describe him."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, you describe everything so well, and I'm 'colorful' and 'out there.' I know why it's so easy for you, everything boils down to sex anyway, so you think whatever you write, it doesn't matter, we all know what you mean. Men." She huffed, and her bangs floated off her forehead.
Clark was torn between watching Lois plunge headfirst into the shallow end of her argument, and trying to follow it. "Now what is that supposed to mean? Since when is everything about sex?"
"You know, 'I'd like to take you to dinner,' translates into, 'I want to have sex with you.' 'Can I take you to a movie?'… 'I want to have sex with you.' "I'll do the dishes,'… 'I want to have sex with you.' 'Look at me, I'm a panther-like stud-muffin,'… 'I'm *sure* you'll want to have sex with me.'
"Uh, Lois, what's wrong?"
"And that has several meanings, doesn't it? 'What's wrong?'… *What's wrong?*… 'I don't see why you're making such a big deal about this,' and *What's wrong?*… 'Why are you forcing pointless, self-inflicted, psychological trauma on yourself?' and of course, *What's wrong?*… 'Sex is out of the question now, isn't it?'" Lois took a breath and said in a low, slow voice, "Nothing's wrong. Why should anything be wrong?"
"Hey, at least you know what we mean… We have to figure out when yes means yes, no means no, and maybe is a 50-50 proposition. When you apologize, it means I'm gonna be sorry. 'Nothing's wrong' means everything is, and I'm screwed for not knowing it. Please just tell me what you're upset about."
"I'm not upset."
"Translation: 'I'm angry as hell to the four winds… why do you even have to ask?' Come on, Lois, talk to me."
"Ah, the sensitive chat thing, in the hope that…"
"Yeah, yeah… that there will be sex later." Clark finished. To himself he thought, *Man, we have *got* to stop ordering from Ralph's.*
"Aha! So you… you admit it!" They were across the room from each other now; the boxes of Chinese food on the coffee table had become a demarcation line — no man's land — a demilitarized zone.
Clark shook his head. "Lois, I'm sorry… I…"
"Don't even know why, do you?"
"I thought you'd want… the truth… what I thought about your novel."
"I wanted you to see the truth."
"Ah, Honey, I did… I do… I… guess… I was just too uncomfortable thinking about it… what I did… I wish I'd had a better way…"
Lois finally slumped down onto the sofa, and put her head in her hands. "It was so much more than that, Clark. That was *me* when we first met. How I saw you, because I didn't even know you. And what else could I have thought? You perpetuated the myth, and I followed right along. I mean, you died and came back, for God's sake. I let you freeze me based on that lie. I couldn't even write about that. Not to mention almost marrying a homicidal psychopath…"
Clark sat next to her, tentatively, and reached out to touch her shoulder. "Lois…"
That was all it took, then, and she was crying, sobbing in his arms. "There were so many things, and I didn't know, and I had to figure it out somehow, and that was the only way I knew… only I didn't even know that's what I was doing, for so long… or *why*… I j-just needed you to see that…"
He held her close, neither of them aware for how long, until she subsided, and they kept rocking together, the motion soothing to both of them. "I'm sorry… you'll never know how sorry, Lois…"
Lois drew in a gulpy, ragged breath. "I know you are, Clark… it's not even about that, about making you feel guilty… it's just, I've… we…" Lois halted, and turned her face into Clark's shoulder, and steadied her breathing.
"… we've been needing to talk about this for a long time," he finished.
"Like a penguin needs herring," Lois sniffled, "like Congress needs ethics reform… like a house in Alaska needs R-32 insulation even in summer… yeah, I think we need to talk about it."
Clark chuckled a little, and touched the tip of her nose. "Okay, Wanda, where do you want to start?"
She sighed. *Where, indeed.* "How about… every conversation you had with me, as both you, and Superman?"
Clark looked up, above Lois' head, startled, caught. Guilty. "Oh, boy."