By Erin Klingler <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: June 2005
Summary: On a slow news day, Lois and Clark are bored and desperate for something to do. Then a suggestion from Jimmy brings about an unexpected challenge. Who knew a little boredom could result in this?
Authors Note: This quick little story came to me one night when I felt the urge to write something…as long as it wasn't too involved. ;) Huge thanks go out to CC Aiken for beta-reading this for me on the spur-of-the-moment notice. I was certain it was awful, but once again she worked her magic and made it…well…not so awful. <g> CC, you are just the best. Honestly, what would I do without you? ;) She also gets credit for the clever title. Love ya, CC! Also, I'd like to thank Tricia Walpole for her amazing GE skills. Thanks, Tricia!
Feedback is welcome, publicly or privately (email@example.com). Hope you enjoy!
"I am so *bored*!" Lois looked away from the news ticker that had been scrolling the same, uninteresting headlines the entire morning. She lolled her head back against her desk chair and rolled her eyes in frustration toward the ceiling of the Daily Planet's newsroom. "What is the *deal*? Did Superman manage to arrest every criminal in the country? Absolutely nothing is going on around here! There hasn't been for days!"
Clark smiled at his partner's grumbling. Pushing back from his desk where he'd been playing a game of Solitaire on his computer, he spun his chair to face her, then leaned back and fixed her with an amused grin. "Lois, don't you think that's a good thing? The fact that there's momentarily peace in Metropolis?"
Lois sat up and fixed him with a condescending look. He'd been her partner for a little over a year, and with a lot of hard work, she'd been able to show him the ropes and set him on the path to being a good investigative journalist. Every once in a while, though, he seemed to have a lapse in common sense. Apparently, this was one of those times.
"Clark, what planet are you from? We're jour-nal-ists." She emphasized each syllable of the word. "We make our living reporting the crimes of our fellow man. Or have you forgotten?"
"No, I haven't forgotten," Clark drawled, rolling his eyes at her dramatics. "But why can't we report on the good things that are happening?"
A new deep, gruff voice broke into the conversation. "Because with a newspaper, it's either catastrophe or atrophy." Perry stopped in front of Lois's desk and looked back and forth between them, his eyes finally coming to a rest on Lois. "Lois, please tell me you have something—crime syndicate, looting and plundering…anything."
She sighed and shook her head. "Sorry, Chief. Even *I* am out of leads for meaty stories."
"Oh, boy, we're in trouble," Perry grunted. His shoulders slumping, he shoved his hands into his pockets and shuffled back toward his office, grumbling about plummeting circulation.
Jimmy suddenly appeared, dropping himself into an empty desk chair nearby and rolling himself over to Lois's desk. "You know it's bad when even Lois doesn't have a meaty story in the works. Oh, man, if you two are even half as bored as I am…"
"We are," Clark agreed, rolling his chair over to Lois's desk, too. "And look at you," he said, gesturing to Jimmy. "Even Perry is out of ridiculous little errands for you to run."
"Thankfully, yes." Jimmy turned around in the chair and rested his crossed arms along the back. "Hey, Lois, do you remember that time a couple of years ago when we had a dry spell like this one, and all the staffers resorted to an Olympics of sorts to stay sane?"
Clark's eyebrows furrowed. "Olympics? What do you mean?"
"Oh, it was great," Jimmy enthused. "We had chair races, Solitaire competitions…even arm wrestling." His eyes sparkled deviously as he turned to smile at Lois. "And if memory serves, a certain female reporter, here, made out like a bandit. She beat more than half the men in the newsroom."
Clark's eyebrows flew up his forehead in amusement. "You beat half the men in the newsroom in *arm wrestling*?"
A look of indignation marred Lois's delicate features. "And why exactly is that so hard to believe?"
A snort of laughter escaped Clark's lips before he could stop it. The look Lois gave him in response quickly silenced whatever laughter may have followed. He cleared his throat and did his best to look repentant. "Sorry, Lois, I didn't mean that you wouldn't be good at it, or—well…" He searched for the words to dig himself out of the hole he was in. Finally he shrugged. "I just didn't exactly picture you as the arm wrestling type. I would have expected you to argue that it was barbaric or something."
She smiled. "Yeah, well, it is barbaric, but it just so happens to be something I know a little about. My college roommate's boyfriend arm wrestled professionally, and he taught me a few things. It's not all about brute strength, you know; there are some other skills involved." She paused and shrugged. "Anyway, I practiced a little and got pretty good. And there was nothing I loved more than seeing the look on some cocky frat boy's face when I beat one out of a little money."
Clark laughed. "I'm sure."
Lois studied Clark for a moment, seeing the almost disguised look of skepticism in his eyes. She smiled mischievously and leaned toward him, resting her forearms on her desk. "If I didn't know any better, I'd think you were still skeptical, Clark. How about it?" Her eyes flashed in challenge. "You think you can beat me?"
Ralph happened by just then and overheard Lois's challenge. In his usual, obnoxious way, he seemed to think eavesdropping was an acceptable social device. "Beat you at what?"
Just as Lois was about to tell him to mind his own business, Jimmy answered for her. "Arm wrestling."
"Ooh! Arm wrestling!" Ralph exclaimed, fumbling for his wallet. "Count me in. I'm putting twenty bucks on Kent, here."
"Twenty bucks on Clark?" Lois was indignant, her eyes widening in disbelief. "Do I need to remind you that I beat you out of fifty bucks in our last arm wrestling challenge?"
Ralph's cheeks reddened as he blushed at the reminder. He turned and hurried away, mumbling something about how she'd merely gotten lucky that day.
Lois rolled her eyes. What a crock. She'd beaten him fair and square. And to be honest, she'd had more trouble beating Cat than she had Ralph.
She was just about to turn back to her conversation with Clark when suddenly two more staff members appeared at her desk. "Did we hear something about you challenging Clark to an arm wrestling match?"
Jimmy beat her to a reply once again. "You heard right," he told them. Then, before Lois could stop him, Jimmy stood up and lifted his arms, calling for everyone's attention. "Hey, we've got ourselves an arm wrestling challenge match over here! Who wants a piece of the action?"
"Oh, Jimmy, I don't think—" Lois began in protest.
But her words were lost in the ensuing chaos as Jimmy's announcement drew the newsroom staff to her desk like bees to honey. Cash found its way out of wallets and began to form a stack in Jimmy's hand. In a matter of moments, Jimmy was scrawling down names and dollar amounts on a piece of notebook paper.
Lois's jaw dropped in silent protest as she looked at the crowd gathering around them. She had challenged Clark, yes, but she hadn't intended to make this a public event, complete with betting! She glanced at Clark, trying to determine his reaction. His wide-eyed expression and slightly open mouth told her he was as stunned by the commotion as she was.
He seemed to have caught the look of uncertainty in her eyes because he was on his feet in an instant. "Hey, come on, guys," Clark spoke up in an effort to dissuade the growing crowd. "We're not really doing this. We were just talking, that's all."
That stilled Jimmy's actions. He looked up at Clark in surprise and the crowd around them fell silent. "You're not accepting Lois's challenge?"
"I—well—uhh…" Clark stammered off as he glanced down at her.
Lois caught the concern in his eyes. Worry, too. Feeling troubled by the warring emotions she saw lurking in her partner's gaze, she stood up and grabbed his sleeve, pulling him within whispering distance. "Clark, what's wrong? I was only teasing, you know. If this is really something you don't want to do, we don't have to."
Clark shifted on his feet, looking even more uncomfortable at her words. Then, as if realizing the crowd gathered around him was still waiting for his reply, he leaned even closer, trying to keep his next words just between the two of them. "I just don't want to hurt you or anything. I'm pretty…strong."
Clark's breathy whisper on her cheek sent an unexpected tingle down her spine. It was all she could do to concentrate on what he was saying, rather than on the delicious sensation of his hand on her arm and his face within inches of hers.
'This is your partner, Lois!' she scolded, trying to slow her pounding heart. 'What has gotten into you?' But even as she tried to dismiss her reaction to her partner's closeness, she realized this was not an isolated incident. Things had become…interesting…between them lately. She'd found herself more aware of her partner lately, aware of the little things he did for her—how he'd place his hand on the small of her back as he guided her into the elevator; the way he'd put a hand on her shoulder and give it a sympathetic squeeze when she was frustrated about something; or how he would catch her eyes from across the room and smile in a way that was meant just for her.
Thinking about it now, she realized her growing feelings for him were not one-sided. There was something building between them. She could feel it. And apparently, so could he.
Suddenly uncomfortable with the realization, she managed to get the old Lois back. She pulled back from their private moment, slipped a cocky smile on her face, and smacked him on the arm.
"Don't worry, Clark," she quipped, loud enough for everyone around them to hear. "You may be strong, but you can't hurt me. Besides, I'm going to *bury* you."
The crowd around them cheered at her challenge, and Lois laughed.
Money finished changing hands, figures were tallied, and Jimmy counted off the bills before putting a large portion of them in a pile next to Lois's computer. "This is for the winner!" he explained.
Lois watched as Clark swallowed. Hard. She frowned. She knew him well enough to know something was going on inside of him. He looked almost…panicked.
What was going on? Lois wondered as she continued to study her partner. Why would he look that way? Was he really concerned about losing—about what his co-workers might say if his partner beat him at arm wrestling? Was he worried about his ego?
Lois shook her head. That didn't seem likely. Clark seemed more secure with himself than anybody she knew. But if that wasn't the problem, what was it?
Jimmy called for silence, and a hush fell over the newsroom. Lois continued to study Clark as he swallowed hard, then lowered himself into the seat across the desk from her. Worry permeated his every movement, and for a moment, Lois felt the urge to reach over and smooth away the frown lines from around the corners of his mouth. Only the whispers from the crowd reminding her that she wasn't alone kept her from giving in to the urge.
At Jimmy's prompting, Lois propped her elbow on the desk and lifted her eyebrows at Clark—a silent order for him to give her his hand. After a moment of hesitation, he slipped his hand into hers.
A jolt of electricity shot through her at the contact. Startled by her reaction to this man sitting across from her, her gaze flickered up to his. His eyes met hers without hesitation, and she was even more startled to see that a hint of her own emotions were reflecting back at her through his gaze. The intensity of his stare seemed to penetrate her carefully constructed shield of emotions, and for a moment, she felt exposed. Vulnerable. It was a feeling she wasn't sure she welcomed.
She shook her head, trying to shake herself out of the uncomfortable mental place she was in. What was it about this man that seemed to set her nerve endings afire and cause the rhythmic beating of her heart to falter?
Before she had time to analyze that, Jimmy's voice jarred her back to reality. "Okay, you two. I don't know enough about professional arm wrestling to announce the proper rules, but I do remember some rules from when I arm wrestled with my buddies in grade school: no biting, spitting, or licking. Deal?"
Lois recoiled and scrunched up her nose. "Oh, Jimmy, that's gross!" she protested, causing Jimmy—and the crowd around them— to laugh.
"Okay, okay." He grinned. "I know you two are grown up enough not to do those things, but it was all I could think of. Just say deal and let's get on with it." When Lois and Clark both complied, Jimmy nodded in satisfaction. "Okay, then!" he called. "Let's do this thing, and may the best man—or woman—" he interjected when Lois fixed him with a glare, "win."
There was a moment of eager anticipation as the crowd around them fell silent. Lois met Clark's gaze once more in amused determination, but Clark's expression remained only apprehensive.
Leaning toward him, she whispered in a light, teasing voice, "Don't look so scared, Kent. I'll go easy on you. And just for being a good sport, when I win I'll even split the proceeds with you."
That did it. Clark let out a burst of laughter, his eyes twinkling and his expression easing back into the one of casual confidence from before. Then he leaned in toward her, his eyes bright with laughter and flashing a challenge. "Don't think you're going to get off that easy, Lane," he countered, his voice a low growl.
The sound sent a shiver of warmth through her. It was all she could do to concentrate on Jimmy's instructions calling for their ready.
Taking a deep breath and forcing herself to focus, she maneuvered her hand in Clark's grip until it was where she wanted it, then flexed and unflexed her fingers. She finally felt ready when she heard Jimmy yell, "Go!"
Instantly their hands tightened and muscles strained as both she and Clark worked to gain the upper hand. Neither of their arms moved beyond their starting position for a long minute.
The crowd whooped and hollered, calling out instructions and words of encouragement for their favorite. Somebody behind Lois exclaimed in surprise, "Man, is she strong!"
Jimmy laughed at that and called out in response, "Yeah, it's because she needs all that physical strength to scrape, claw, and fight her way out of all the bad situations she gets herself into!"
Everyone around them laughed, and even Clark smiled at that. "Is that true, Lois? Is that where you get your strength? From getting yourself out of life and death situations?"
"Shut up and quit trying to distract me," she shot back good- naturedly.
Laughter and excited exclamations rushed through the crowd as Clark seemed to gain the upper hand. But then Lois clenched her teeth and drove back, refusing to relinquish a foothold. She managed to fight her way back to center, then pushed a little past. A smile of pride lit her eyes as she locked gazes with Clark.
"What's the matter, Kent?" she taunted through clenched teeth. "Can't finish me off?"
Clark grinned and new determination flickered into his eyes. He tightened the muscles in his arm and took back her advantage almost effortlessly. At her look of surprise, he cocked an eyebrow. "Maybe I should ask you why you can't finish *me* off," he taunted back. "Come on, Lois, is this all you've got? Every time your back's been against the wall in an investigation, you manage to find a way to turn things to your advantage. It doesn't look like that's going to happen this time, though, does it?"
Renewed determination coursed through her veins, and she dug deep. Lois Lane did not lose. Surely Clark knew that by now. And this little arm wrestling challenge wasn't going to be any different. She was going to win if it was the last thing she did.
'Come on, Lois!' she urged herself on, straining her arm and shoulder muscles to gain those valuable few inches she needed. 'You can do this!'
But as hard as she strained, Clark's arm was immovable. Her partner's strength surprised her. He'd always seemed so meek and mild-mannered. This was definitely a side to him she'd never seen.
Wracking her brain for the little tips she'd learned, she tried to apply anything that might give her an edge. But everything she tried caused her to come up short.
Clark's taunting words came back to her and began to replay themselves over and over again. 'Every time your back's been against the wall in an investigation, you always find a way to turn things to your advantage.'
'Think, Lois!' she commanded herself. 'Clark's right. You always find a way to come out on top. What's it going to be this time?'
Just then Jimmy's "rules" surged to the forefront of her mind, and an idea began to form. With it, a mischievous smile worked its way onto her lips.
"You're right, Clark," she grunted, the fresh confidence surging through her giving her strength. "I always find a way to win. Sorry, partner."
She only caught a glimpse of the look of confusion that flashed across Clark's face before she put her plan into action. She sprang from her seat and leaned forward, her elbow still on the table. Then, catching him by complete surprise, she pressed a firm and unyielding kiss to Clark's unsuspecting lips. In the next instant, Clark's arm went soft, and she slammed his arm down onto the table.
The newsroom erupted with cheers and laughter at the unexpected show of emotion that had come from the usually cool and aloof Lois Lane.
Flashing a smile at Clark, who was still sitting there with a stunned expression, Lois snatched the stack of bills from the desk with an exaggerated swipe, then lifted her arms victoriously over her head.
"Lo-is! Lo-is!" came the cheers and laughing of their delighted co-workers.
She found herself laughing at her own antics, at the step she had taken to earn her victory. And in a moment of clarity, she realized that what she had considered a means to an end had been surprisingly…pleasant.
Her gaze shifted to Clark, and her heart skipped a beat when she saw him staring at her, a stunned yet surprisingly delighted expression on his face.
Before she could dwell on that, several of their co-workers had pulled Clark from his chair and were thumping him sympathetically on the back and laughing. Lois turned at the hands she felt on her own back and shoulders, and she smiled at the good-natured ribbing she took for taking such a drastic measure to win.
Suddenly a loud, booming voice sounded across the newsroom, silencing them in an instant. "Hey, hey, hey! What's going on out here?"
Lois looked over to see the crowd parting like the Red Sea before their irritated editor in chief. Her smile quickly faded at the scowl on Perry's face. When he stopped before her, his hands on his hips and his expression demanding an explanation, she fastened a look of apology on her face and cleared her throat.
"We were…uh…just getting back to work, Chief."
A murmur of "yeah"s went through the gathered crowd, and her co- workers quickly dispersed. Perry watched them go, then let his stern expression flicker from Lois to Clark, then back to Lois again. For a moment, Lois expected a scolding from their boss, but he finally dropped his hands to his side and the stern scowl on his face softened.
"Uh-huh," he murmured, then started to turn back to his office. When he came level with Clark, he stopped, his eyes narrowing as he scrutinized him.
Lois's heart skipped a beat, and she worried that he was about to blame Clark for the distraction. But then, to her surprise, Perry glanced back at her, a glimpse of understanding twinkling in his eyes. Finally he looked back at Clark and leaned in conspiratorially, his low voice barely reaching Lois's ears.
"Looks like you, uh…have a touch of lipstick right here, son." Perry lifted a hand to the corner of his own mouth, indicating the spot where the color marred Clark's otherwise masculine features. Then he gave him a wink that Lois barely caught before he turned away, his eyes mischievous.
Alone once more, it took Lois a minute to slow the pounding of her heart. When she was finally able to rally herself, she smiled sheepishly at Clark. "Looks like we barely managed to escape from his doghouse just now."
Clark laughed, relief clearly evident in his own voice, as well. "Thank goodness."
As an awkward silence settled in around them, Lois found herself thinking about her stolen kiss. She'd done it without thought, as a means to victory. But she hadn't expected the touch of their lips to fill her with warmth and hope.
Surprising herself with her boldness, she sauntered up to Clark and lifted a hand to his chest, feeling the delicious increase of his heart rate at something as simple as her touch. It empowered her in a way she'd never expected, making her realize she had as much of an effect on him as he had on her.
Leaning in, her eyes glinted with mischief as she smiled at him and lowered her voice. "Just before I…cheated," she began, hinting at her winning ploy, "I told you I was sorry for what I was about to do. But you know what? I'm not sorry a bit."
And with that, she turned and left him gaping after her as she walked away. When she finally turned the corner and was out of his sight, she stopped and pressed herself up against the wall to collect herself. She felt dazed and heady and deliciously happy, all at the same time.
"And that was just one kiss," she murmured, a smile starting at the corners of her mouth and broadening from there.
The feel of something in her hand drew her out of her blissful state. She looked down and uncurled her fingers, exposing the forgotten currency in her hand. With surprise, she realized there had to be close to a hundred dollars there.
In a moment of inspiration, she knew exactly what she should do with the money. She had told Clark she would split the winnings with him, and she would—just not the way she'd originally intended.
There was a new Italian restaurant in Metropolis she'd been dying to try. She would call and make reservations. For two.
She smiled. She and a certain partner obviously had a lot to talk about. And she considered this money a good investment in their future.