By CC Aiken <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: October 2004
Summary: In her search for more information about Superman, Lois is not the only uninvited guest breaking into Clark's apartment. Will she learn more than she bargains for? Well…yeah, she's Lois, this is fanfic, what'd you think? A Can You Guess the Writer? challenge fic.
For LynnM's Can You Guess the Writer? Challenge [http://www.lcficmbs.com/ubb/ultimatebb.php?ubb=get_topic;f=6;t=0 00446], a group of writers were given their premise: Lois or Clark gets a pet. Our treatments were posted anonymously, and it was up to the readers to guess who had written what. This one pretty much fooled no one. (Except Sara! To whom this is still lovingly dedicated for just that reason.) And in fact was the most correctly guessed by a fairly large spread. What gave me away? Well, you tell me…<g>.
When the drenched cat on Clark Kent's doorstep hissed and spat at her, Lois Lane hissed and spat right back. There simply wasn't enough room for both of them on the small stoop outside Clark's door and Lois was tired of jockeying for position.
"If you would back off," she said between gritted teeth, pushing a heavy curtain of wet hair off her face, "I can get this open and at least one of us can get dry."
Even as the lock gave a cheery ping, and Lois was depositing her picks into her bag, she banged on the door to her partner's apartment. Just for good measure.
Still no answer. Still not home. And as glad as she was that he was gone, she couldn't imagine where he would be on a night like this one. Even the alley cats had the sense to try to come in from the pouring rain.
Though, come to think of it, she wasn't sure how much smarter Clark Kent was than a city-bred alley cat. Being from Kansas, it had to be close.
The cat perked up noticeably as she turned the doorknob.
"No way," Lois told it. "You get the stoop; I get the nice, dry apartment."
It pretended not to hear, its face avidly taking in the widening crack, as its body coiled like a spring.
"You are *not* coming in," Lois ordered. "I work alone."
And that was mostly true. For the majority of her career, as well as her life outside the Daily Planet, Lois Lane had been a solo act. Up until just a few months ago, when the Chief, the one man in her life she had come to rely on, had clearly lost his mind and paired her up with… the guy whose apartment she was currently breaking into.
The cat was standing now, brushing past where Lois stood shivering in her sodden clothes, peering through the crack in the door.
If Clark was absorbed in a television show, or just sleeping, she would have a little trouble explaining her presence in his home. She had come for one reason and one reason only.
Ever since she had learned of its existence, of Clark's role in babysitting it, she had known she would end up here in just this way. She figured she was helpless to fight the urge, so she hadn't really fought too hard. Clark wouldn't mind, anyway. His job was to protect it, but surely that didn't mean from her. Just from everyone else.
She wasn't interested in reporting on it. Or even recording evidence of it. Hadn't she left her camera at home? She just wanted to see it. She had to see it. To find out more about…Him. The man who had flown into Metropolis and straight into her heart. She needed to know him, as much as was possible, and the globe was her key.
Having decided that all was clear, she widened the crack in the door, admonishing the cat once more to shoo. She gave it a helpful nudge with her foot so it would take the hint. She missed. Her foot hit empty air, and before she could regroup, the cat had slipped through a crack she would have sworn it couldn't possibly fit through. Just like that, she was the one on the outside looking in.
"No!" She tossed all caution and stealth aside and flung the door wide. "No, no, no! If he finds you here, he'll know you didn't let yourself in."
Bored, the cat sat down in the den and began the business of licking raindrops from its fur.
Lois stomped across the room towards Clark's bathroom. "Believe me, I will deal with you later," she threatened on her way to grab a towel. After she had rubbed it vigorously through her hair, she attended to her sopping wet footprints. And to show that she wasn't completely thoughtless, she got rid of the cat's as well.
The cat watched all of this from the sofa. Lois watched the cat.
This wouldn't do. When breaking and entering it was generally unwise to bring pets along.
She eyed it. She was just going to have to lunge for it, scoop it up, dump it outside…
The cat, as though reading her mind, bared a sharp set of teeth, before turning three times and falling asleep. Or mostly asleep. It kept one eye open, tracking her.
"Fine," she breathed. "But I know nothing about you. Be thinking of your alibi."
She started with the shelves, systematically checking the spine on each book to make sure they were indeed, books and not some hollowed out safe place. The books were real. And so many and so varied, she found herself thinking of Clark a little differently. Like maybe he was somewhat smarter than an alley cat.
The storm continued to rage outside. Fat raindrops fell against the windows. She noted them as she rummaged through the window seat in Clark's bedroom.
She was down on her knees, shining her light under his bed, and noting the complete absence of dust bunnies, when the shrill ringing of the phone nearly stopped her heart. She froze, listening to Clark's friendly voice informing the caller he wasn't available. Then, the soft, lilting voice of his mother filled the room.
'Hi, honey. Hope that cruise ship fire wasn't as bad as it looked on television. Are you taking care of yourself? You looked thin…'
Thin? Cruise ship?
Lois straightened up. What the heck was Martha Kent talking about? She moved a bit closer to the den. Not necessarily to hear better; she wasn't there to eavesdrop. But there were worlds of difference between eavesdropping and overhearing. Absolutely everybody knew that.
She was inching her way along the floor when another voice broke in. It took her less than two seconds to recognize it was her partner's. And that it was coming from the room right next to her.
She was under the bed flat on her stomach before he finished his hello.
"Sorry, Mom. Just got here. You saw? Yeah, it was pretty bad, but I was in time. Hate that I missed dinner with you guys, though."
Missed dinner with the Kents? Maybe they were in town? After having taken…a cruise??
The no dust bunnies thing was weird, she thought as she examined her hiding place. Who dusted under their bed? And how? She gave the puddle that was forming underneath her a morose glance, taking a few dabs at it with the sleeve of her jacket. Too wet to do any good. He probably would never notice. By the time he got around to his obsessive dusting, she would be gone and the puddle long dry.
"Everything else? Oh, about the same, I guess. Work is good. And—"
The cat entered the room on noiseless paws. It blinked at her, settling down on its haunches to watch her. Really, why didn't it just point to her? Make a sign that said, 'Lois is Under Your Bed.' She scowled at it fiercely, hoping to scare it away.
It fell into that one-eyed sleep again.
"No, Mom, she's exactly the same. She hasn't changed."
His quick bark of laughter was warm. Nice that he and his mom were so close. She would forgive him the no dust bunnies, then.
"She is *not* in love with me, Mom. Really, you are going to have to let that theory die."
Who? Who was not in love with Clark?! And really, how dare they not be? She wasn't interested in him, herself, of course. But that was because she had…Him. Still, there was practically nothing wrong with Clark, and once she had borrowed the globe and gotten away, she would put in a good word for him to…whomever…
The cat eyed her skeptically. But what did it know? She was perfectly capable of doing nice things. Lois stuck her tongue out at it.
Clark's heavy sigh pulled at her attention, and she stopped pretending all together that she wasn't blatantly eavesdropping. He sounded kind of…sad.
"I know, Mom…No, really, I do know…Yes, he is me. I am him. There is no difference-"
Lois exchanged a puzzled look with the cat. What do you make of that? she asked it silently. Some kind of new age philosophy? All are One, or something like that?
The cat seemed to think that was as good an idea as any.
"-but still, you should see the way she looks at him. And the way she looks at me. No comparison."
Oh, poor Clark. The woman who didn't love him had eyes for someone else. She really ought to be nicer to him, Lois decided right there under his bed. Tomorrow at work, she would bring him coffee.
"Ok, ok. He *technically* is me…No, I do not have a split personality. I know exactly who I am…Look, can we not go over this again? We both end up confused."
Poor Clark. So messed up. Identity crisis. She would bring him a donut with that coffee. Maybe even the best one from the batch. Or the second best one.
"…Right, right, right…Hey, can I talk to Dad?…No, I'm not trying to change the subject…Ok, yes I am, but you won't let me."
His chuckle made Lois feel better. He sounded a bit more cheerful. More like himself.
"Hi, Dad. Sorry I missed dinner; I was looking forward to it."
Again with dinner. If the Kents were in Metropolis, though, why didn't Clark just go see them?
She glanced at her watch, straining to read its face in the dark. Good grief. 11:30. Well, wherever he had been, it was definitely past dinner time. Maybe he'd been with her. The her who didn't love him and didn't look at him the way she did…someone else. Clark was right, it was a little confusing.
And actually, she found that thought a tiny bit depressing. She checked the cat. Apparently it did, too. Its sad eyes locked with hers. 'There's someone else,' they confirmed. Perhaps overwhelmed by this new piece of knowledge, the cat moved lightly to its feet and drifted away.
"Yeah, sorry. I annoyed Mom, again. But it's like she doesn't even see the problem. And, believe me, there is a very real problem. I love Lois so much, but she doesn't even know I'm alive unless I'm wearing…Hello. Where did you come from?"
Lois? Lois! Did he say…Lois?? Was she the she? The her? The one who didn't love him? The one that he…loved?
She felt her heart start to pound. Up until this moment, she had really thought that if worst came to worst she could announce her presence- in fact, it had been on the tip of her tongue, or well, almost- and gracefully slither from her hiding place and leave. It would take some explaining, but she talked fast, and Clark tended to get lost when she did so. Something she had used to her advantage more than once.
But now? After what she had heard? She would have to live under here. Forever.
"You're not going to believe this, Dad." The wistfulness in Clark's voice was gone completely. "There's a soaking wet cat just sitting in my living room."
Oh, good grief. Stupid cat! Stupid, stupid cat!!
"Hey there." Clark's voice moved closer. "I remember you. You're from the back alley. Did I leave a window open?"
Yes, yes. That's it! You left a window open! Very careless of you, Kent.
"Hang on, Dad, let me take a look."
His footsteps were definitely closer now. Lois shrank into herself as much as she could, pressing her nose to the floor, thinking invisible thoughts.
"Well, it wasn't this window." His voice was right next to her.
She dared to open her eyes.
And what she saw was…unmistakable footwear.
Red boots. The hem of a red cape. All just inches away.
She actually heard the clunk of her thought processes closing down. Putting out the shingle, 'Gone for Lunch, Back Later,' and slamming the shop door.
Red boots walking around Clark's bedroom. Talking on the phone to Clark's parents about cruise ship fires, missed dinners, and her, Lois, who didn't give him the time of day unless he was wearing…
The machinery in her head roared to life again. All the lights came on, blindingly so.
She clamped her hand over her mouth, swallowing hard against the gush of words that wanted to spring forth. The yelling. The accusing. And, dear God… the apologizing.
She cringed. She had to get out of here. Get home. A warm bath. A glass of wine. A light snack consisting of the entire contents of her refrigerator. Then, and only then, would she let herself think any further.
"Well, I have no idea how this little one got in. Skin and bones, though. You don't think…?"
His voice had moved back into the other room. She let herself exhale slowly.
"I promise this would be the last one. I've only brought three…Oh? Really? Kittens? Ah…sorry about that. I didn't notice she was pregnant…That many?"
Lois rolled her eyes. How very Clark of Superman. Using his powers to rescue cats and take them to his parents' farm. What a story. Too bad she'd never write it.
"Um… I'm x-raying…Hold still, buddy…Ok, I can guarantee you that *he* won't be having kittens in your hayloft."
Superman and kittens and haylofts. Well, when she had come looking for the globe to learn something more about the caped hero of Metropolis, she had certainly gotten her wish.
"No more after this, I swear. And in my defense, this one came to me. Is it too late to bring it by…? Great! Tell Mom I'll be there soon. That I'd love some of that pie she mentioned yesterday…You did? The whole thing? Dad…really, we have to talk about your eating habits."
Superman and pie and his dad's eating habits. She would have two glasses of wine. The good kind.
"There is no comparison. I have a Kryptonian metabolism…I know. I know. It isn't fair, but it's just how it is…All right, I love you. See you soon."
She listened as he replaced the phone. Good. He was going. He was taking the cat to Smallville and she would be able to get away. Get away, and gouge the last fifteen minutes from her memory cells. She'd probably need Star Labs for that. Or maybe the wine would do the trick? Gin, if not.
His voice returned, as did the red boots.
"I'll tell you what I've learned, little guy, and this is just from basic down-from-tree rescues. You and your kind don't like to travel. Especially flying. And though you can't hurt me, you could certainly hurt yourself trying to sink your teeth and claws into…where is it?"
Again the boots came closer. Lois watched them warily.
"I've got the perfect box to put you in. Trust me. We'll both be happier. I'll shut you inside and two minutes later you're in a Kansas field, fattest mice you ever saw…"
Two minutes. Just two minutes. She only had to live through two minutes. Not a problem. She had been in tighter squeezes than this one. Easy.
Clark had gone quiet.
Lois listened hard. Had he left and she hadn't noticed? Usually when Superman swooped away, there was always a sound. A zoomy plane sort of sound that accompanied his exits. Sometimes he would even grip the edges of the cape, leave in a bit of a flourish.
She loved that part.
But he wouldn't do that every time, would he? When he was alone. Or carrying a cat. That would be a little silly. And, too, wouldn't the neighbors note the noise, complain about the air traffic pattern that apparently ran right through the bottom floor of their building? No, he must just float up and off like a balloon when the string slips from your fingers.
She had a vision, a brief image. She had the string and was holding Clark Superman the balloon. Then, she was letting go and watching him rise… up into the ceiling fan, chopped to little pieces.
Lois smiled a little. A girl could dream.
She watched the seconds tick by on her watch. One minute. One full minute of silence. No voices, no footfalls. No cat, either. All clear. To be safe though, she would wait one minute more. She was no rookie.
"You know, cat…" Clark's voice sounded loud, explosively so, coming out of nowhere, as it had.
How had he gotten so close without her noticing?
"…I've looked all over for that box and I can't find it. And when I say 'all over,' I mean, just that. Searched the whole place. Must have left it in Smallville."
Above her, the mattress dipped, and Lois shrank lower, eyeing the heels of his red boots.
"Looking for stuff is pretty easy for me because of the x-ray vision thing," he said matter-of-factly. "Though that doesn't mean I don't let things slip past me from time to time. Things I should notice. I was distracted, on the phone, *you* were here…so it seems I overlooked an important little detail."
Lois shifted a bit uncomfortably. She didn't know where he was going with this, or how long he might sit on the bed pouring his heart out to a cat. With Clark, there was absolutely no telling. Maybe he would never leave. He would fall in love with the cat and decide to keep it.
Where was a disaster when you needed one?
"I thought I would take you home, let you live with the country cats. A much easier life. But it occurs to me that maybe your life is here? Maybe you're someone's pet? I'd hate to be accused of pet napping. You'll understand this, cat, but I'm curious, how exactly did you get in? If the windows weren't open, maybe someone just…let you in? Your new owner, maybe? "
The cat gave a muffled meow. A series of them. It was answering. Telling on her. The fink!
What if Superman spoke feline? She wouldn't put it past him. He was fluent in…how many languages? Clark had mentioned that once, had read the Chinese fortune cookie…
"And now that I take a good look at you, you remind me of someone. Turning up where you aren't expected. Maybe a little predatory. Probably you take after your owner? The major difference being that you're here on my lap, and she's currently hiding under my bed wearing a really short skirt."
He had the nerve to laugh at the shocked squeak she couldn't smother.
"Really short," he continued. "Don't think I didn't take advantage of the view…because, well, it is my place, after all…"
She jerked the hem of her skirt down as far as she could in the cramped space.
"Nice pet, Lois," Clark said. "Does he have a name?"
She closed her eyes and let her forehead thunk against the wood floor.
"I never thought of you as the animal type, but I guess… you and I learn new things about each other every day."
When she opened her eyes, he was there. Stretched out fully, hovering an inch off the floor.
"Hi, Clark," she said weakly, brushing a fringe of wet hair out of her eyes.
"Some weather we're having, huh?" Superman answered easily. "You look like something the cat dragged in."