By Janet Owens (aka TicAndToc) < firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: May 2006
Summary: In the course of running what she thought was just a little errand, Lois gets some unexpected — and unwelcome — information. Now she has to tell Clark. (Bonus epilogue included!)
This is another one of those one-line ideas that have been sitting on my desktop (love those virtual post-it notes!) for months.
My most sincere thanks go to LabRat, who BR'd this for me. Her comments helped me improve the story.
Disclaimer: None of the characters belong to me and no copyright infringement is intended. This story was written for fun, not for profit.
Clark Kent smiled as he watched his fiancee, Lois Lane, striding purposefully along the sidewalk toward him. Swinging one leg idly as he perched on the edge of the concrete support anchoring one of the legs of the Daily Planet building's most famous feature, he marveled at the sight of the normally oblivious Metropolitans moving unconsciously out of her path.
She was such a little thing, but she had presence enough for several people, even when she was merely striding along a sidewalk.
*Mostly* merely moving along the sidewalk.
Extending his hearing, he caught the tailend of what appeared to be a muttered monologue directed at the transgressions of a collective "they" who were otherwise not identified.
"… outrageous! They'd better have every 'i' dotted and 't' crossed… or else I'll… No, *we'll*…"
Smile broadening, Clark straightened up and moved forward as she approached. She glanced up and saw him at the same moment, and he was suddenly on the receiving end of a smile so brilliant and beautiful he almost floated up off the sidewalk.
"Hey, gorgeous," she said, stopping in front of him. Bending down, he kissed the tip of her nose before replying.
"Hello, beautiful," he said, punctuating his greeting with a more lingering kiss on her upraised lips. "Errands all run?"
She snorted as they turned and moved under the ringed planet and through the big glass doors into the Daily Planet lobby. "Hah. Glen made it seem like they wanted us there immediately or the deal would fall through." She snorted again, reminding him of a small bird with its feathers ruffled. The Angry Bluebird — wasn't there a photograph by some well-known wildlife photographer called something similar? The Mad Bluebird? The Disgruntled Bluebird?
"So then I get to his office, and I have to sit there for *thirty minutes* in the lobby, which doesn't have internet access. So I can't even kill time by logging into the Planet's website and working on one of our stories." By now, they'd reached the elevator, and Lois stabbed at the 'up' button as if it had had a hand in the frustrating delay. Barely pausing to draw a breath, she continued, "So I get in there finally and drop off the blasted papers, only to be told that 'Oh, our apologies, we already have a copy of these, Ms. Lane.' Like I hadn't already told them that."
Clark tugged her gently against his side in a half hug as she stopped talking long enough to take a deep breath. She snuggled into him, tipping her head up and smiling at him, and he dropped a quick kiss onto her mouth.
"So anyway," she continued, staying tucked against him, "then they discover that it's the *insurance* papers they just *have* to have *right away* and could I just run over and get them… And so off I go, and they have *no* idea how lucky they are that I just went away like a good little prospective homeowner…"
Clark laughed, tightening his arm around her for a moment before letting her go as the elevator doors opened. Stepping into the empty car, Lois laughed too, shaking her head.
"So I go over to Frank's office with the idea that, hey, I'll zip in and get the papers and take them back to that *annoying* woman at Glen's office, no problem, right? But no, I had to wait *again* while they looked for our file, which *of course* would be the *only* file missing just when I wanted it quickly…"
She strode out of the elevator as the doors slid open to reveal the bustling newsroom, tossing over her shoulder, "Meet me in the conference room, okay, Clark? Is our stuff still in there? I need to stop at the restroom first."
"Yes, Lois," he replied, and she made for the hallway at the back of the newsroom with that same distinctive, purposeful air which she brought to almost everything she did. Smiling, he headed for the conference room, where their research for two good-sized stories currently in progress did, indeed, reside.
He suspected that there might soon be three stories in progress, if his own little disgruntled bluebird decided that today's encounter with the real estate office warranted an investigation of some kind. While she knew that many — most — of the daily frustrations of dealing with various bureaucracies didn't result in a sensational exposure piece on the front page of the Daily Planet, she insisted that, as she put it, "sometimes just savoring the *idea* of a good Lane and Kent investigation is all the revenge I need."
His disgruntled bluebird arrived in the conference room, continuing her story as if there had been no interruption. "Finally, Frank's office had the papers ready, but he said we weren't completely finished with the whole homeowners' insurance thing."
"I thought we had that all taken care of," Clark said, surprised. "We filled out those applications and the home security survey, and all we were supposed to do was write the check and leave with the documents."
"Yeah, well, that's what I thought, too. But no, Frank tells me we haven't got all the coverage we're *supposed* to have. So I asked him what else we could possibly need — I mean, *honestly*!" She dropped into a chair and Clark moved to take the one beside her.
"Was the guy rude?" he asked.
"Oh, no, not at all," she replied. "You know Frank — just the opposite, in fact. He doesn't know a stranger."
"Did he quote some outrageous rates?"
"No, nothing like that, Clark… It's this mandatory extra insurance we have to buy in order to own property in Metropolis, insurance that nobody remembered to tell us about."
"What kind of extra insurance? Flood insurance? But we both agreed that we ought to have that…"
"No —" Lois said. "And yes, that was already added to the policy, when we first decided to buy a place of our own."
"Quake insurance? I've heard some people are convinced that the next big quake will be in New York, of all places," Clark continued. "Although that's a bit farfetched, I think, out here on the east coast…"
"Oh, I don't know… I seem to recall a rather… focused earthquake late one night during one of our initial joint investigations, Kent," Lois teased. "It was awfully convenient, since it distracted the bad guys that were about to walk in on us in that office we were investigating…"
As he laughed, she continued, "But no, not quake insurance. The flood insurance *is* mandatory, but we also have to buy Super insurance." She frowned as she pronounced the phrase.
Clark blinked. "Super insurance?" he asked. "What's that?"
His disgruntled bluebird ruffled her feathers even more as she elaborated, "Superman insurance. Super insurance. Frank said it's a law that there has to be a Superman clause in all property owners' policies."
"Uh…" Clark began. "What exactly…"
"Frank says every property has to be insured against 'unavoidable damage to property as a result of a Superman rescue… or other Super activity' and —"
"What?" Clark asked incredulously. "Seriously?"
"Yeah — he says the clause generally carries low premiums, since statistics show that the chance of a Superman rescue is quite low when total population is taken into consideration, and only a small percentage of the rescues result in any significant property damage. The highest premiums on Super insurance are in Metropolis — supposedly they're lower in the rest of the USA. So it's going to add at least an extra hundred dollars or so onto our policy," she added in disgust.
"Apparently, the city passed an ordinance last year after those explosions Luthor set off when he was testing you," Lois continued. "Frank said that since Metropolis seems to be closest to wherever Superman goes in between rescues… You know," she added thoughtfully, "I think sometimes they think you just sit on a cloud or something, waiting until you're needed… Anyway, the city decided that the potential for property damage is high enough here in Metropolis to make Super insurance mandatory for all property owners. And there's apparently talk in city hall of mandating Super insurance for all renters' insurance policies, too."
Clark frowned. "Lois, you know sometimes I can't help causing damage of some sort when I'm trying to help someone," he said in a low voice. "But —"
She held up a hand to stop him, and said softly, "Clark. We've talked about this. Sometimes you have no choice. That's why the Superman Foundation helps people with repairs if they can't afford it."
"Then why *require* extra insurance?" he persisted.
"That's easy. Why is flood insurance extra? Why don't most policies cover earthquakes, nuclear accidents, or acts of war?" She smiled at him. "Money, Clark — nobody wants to pay it out if they don't have to. So they pick and choose what they'll cover. If a policy excludes 'forces of nature,' why not exclude Super activity too? The city doesn't want to pick up the tab, either, though, so they mandated special insurance to make sure somebody else pays for it."
"Even so…" Clark still looked troubled. "Because of me, people will have to pay more for insurance than they used to, and…"
"Clark. Stop it." Lois tugged on his tie until he obligingly bent down, then kissed him sweetly. Pulling back before things got out of hand, she continued, "Some things you can't fix. This is one of them."
"It's kind of ironic, isn't it?" she concluded, as Clark shook his head ruefully. "Nobody knows it… except me," she slipped in smugly, and leaned up to plant another quick kiss on his lips, "but even Superman has to buy Super insurance… Against, well, himself."
Clark laughed. She was right. He — they — were paying money to insure that their home wouldn't be destroyed by him, and there wasn't any way to get out of it. *He* knew, as did Lois, that he could fix — in record time — anything that might come up in the normal course of home ownership, but they couldn't very well tell anyone else that. < Although, statistically speaking, their house might actually be at a higher risk of Super damage, considering that Lois Lane, top investigative reporter in the city and taker of risks extraordinaire, lived there. >
He stifled the inner voice. He'd certainly better not volunteer *that* little thought in the presence of any of the city's lawmakers, lest they take him seriously and mandate some more extra insurance.
"Let's leave this for tonight, honey," he suggested. "If the law says we're going to have to pay extra for this Super insurance, we'll just have to pay it. But now I feel like we're paying enough up front that we actually *already* own part of the house," he added with a smile, "and since Glen already said we could stop in and wander around anytime, let's go over to the house."
Lois laughed. "I don't know if any real estate agent would agree with that sort of… flawed logic," she said, rising to her feet. "But you're right. Glen said the owner doesn't mind. Let's stop at my place first, so I can change clothes. Then you can," she made the little hand-and-fingers wiggle that she used when she was referring to his flying, "you know, and get us a picnic. What do you say?"
"I think you're brilliant," he replied, also rising to his feet, "and beautiful, and sweet, and a *fantastic* investigative reporter —" She laughed up at him as he included the last bit. "And accomplished, and sexy —" His voice had dropped to a husky whisper that sent shivers over her skin. With each adjective, he'd moved closer to her, until she was in his arms. Bending his head, he kissed her gently, then more fiercely as she moaned softly and responded with enthusiasm.
After several delightful minutes, he raised his head, then shook it gently at her as she began to catch her breath again. Breathing just as quickly, he murmured, "You, my love, are definitely habit-forming — a habit I'm delighted to have, I might add. And distracting. Very distracting," he added mock-reprovingly as she giggled and stretched up for another quick but potent kiss.
"Let's go, then," she said with a smile. "We can try out our new balcony — aka your landing strip." As he raised an eyebrow, she added, "Hey, they do that at airports, so why can't *I* have my own private picnic area where I can watch take-offs and landings?"
Laughing, they gathered up the various stacks of research and tucked it into briefcases, then exited the conference room and headed toward the elevators. No one paid any attention to them as they entered the stairwell, and a very short time later Superman and Lois landed gently in her living room.
The following morning, Clark set a fresh cup of coffee on Lois's desk, where she was preparing to do the final editing for the first of the two stories-in-progress they wanted to wrap up in time for the evening edition.
"Thanks, Clark," she said, reaching for the cup and, trusting that he'd discreetly cooled it to a safe temperature, drank.
"You know," she began once half the coffee had disappeared, "I thought I'd heard it all from Frank yesterday. But here's a little extra tidbit — you'll just love this one — I found it when I did a rate search for Super insurance this morning."
Clark raised an eyebrow questioningly, and she smiled as she continued, "Apparently there's an enterprising guy — his site was one of the search hits — who is trying to sell 'personal Super insurance' to the… general populace."
Worried, Clark began,"But Superman hasn't…" He lowered his voice. "I mean, *I* haven't hurt anyone, as least, I don't think so — remember that guy that claimed I gave him whiplash when I stopped that mugging last year?" At Lois's nod, he continued, "He was the latest to try to sue Superman, but the city dismissed the suit as frivolous and slapped him with that fine. And I heard that the New Troy Bar Association is making noises about slapping the guy's lawyer — the guy they call the 'Superman Chaser' — with another sanction. So why —"
"Clark, it's not that," Lois assured him. "I didn't see anything like that at all — this isn't aimed at people Superman actually rescues. Get this — this guy's billing it as "insurance against damage if you're caught by Superman when you'd rather not have been caught at all."
"Here, look," she continued, as he continued to look more worried than amused, and shifted slightly to rest her shoulder companionably against his arm as he braced it on the arm of her chair and leaned forward to look at the website.
The site was an awkward, crowded mix of animated graphics, poor color contrast — "I'm not sure a lot of people can read his text on this background," Clark commented — and misspelled words with haphazard punctuation. But the website's owner was, indeed, offering to insure prospective policyholders against any sort of Super reprisal incurred in the pursuit of illegal activities.
"How on earth could selling this sort of… uh, product… be financially beneficial to this guy?" Clark asked. "And how on earth would he deliver it? He can't very well walk into a court room and announce, 'Sorry, your honor, there's no case here because this individual is insured against this sort of thing.' Somehow, I don't think that would work."
Lois laughed. "Somehow, I don't think whoever this is has thought that through," she replied.
He smiled back at her. "Think it'll catch on?"
"Well, if it does, I'm thinking the police will have a field day with the list of policyholders," she said. "It'd kind of be like a… waiting list for jail, huh?"
Laughing, Clark agreed with her. As she exited the website, he mused, "I wonder if Superman should mention this site to Bill Henderson? If it's real — not just somebody's satirical take on the whole Super insurance… uh, field —"
"I e-mailed him the link," Lois replied, bringing her e-mail program to the front of her computer desktop, and began to laugh again.
"What?" Clark asked, as she laughed even harder.
Helplessly waving her hand at her computer screen, Lois leaned back to allow him to read what turned out to be Henderson's reply, as laconic in print as it would have been in person.
< What's next, > his reply read, < Lois Lane insurance for everyone you investigate? >
"Hmmm, he may have a point, there, Lois," Clark said, laughing. "Trouble does seem to follow you around like it's hoping you'll take it home and feed it."
Catching her breath, Lois slapped his arm playfully and said, "C'mon,Clark. Let's get back to work on those stories. Personal-Super-Insurance-Man can wait. Let's go demonstrate why he ought to be offering Lane-and-Kent insurance to anybody foolish enough to consider breaking the law."
Closing her web browser and e-mail programs, she pulled up the first of their stories while he hooked a foot in the leg of her visitor's chair, dragging it closer, and sat down beside her. Within a few moments, both of them were absorbed in wresting their information into a workable story.
If there *had* been such a thing as Lane-and-Kent insurance, the targets of their investigation would shortly be regretting their failure to sign up for it.
Sheldon "Shelly" Wright looked out his front window when he heard the yells. There was a crowd gathering in front of his store, but he doubted it was because he had tomato soup on sale, three cans for two bucks. He picked up the phone.
Time to call for help.
After giving the dispatcher the pertinent information, Shelly hung up the phone. Pushing the snack-size bags of candy he'd been pricing out of the way, he laid his price-gun on the counter and moved closer to the window to watch.
It was another Superman thing. Some dumb clunk had decided — foolishly — to try to mug little old Mrs. Heppel as she left Shelly's store with her bag of groceries.
Little old Mrs. Heppel might be little and old, but the lady had a healthy set of lungs. She'd obviously called loudly for help, and help had dropped out of the sky.
As Shelly watched approvingly, Superman hoisted the ne'er-do-well bodily off the ground, gave him a stern look, and then glancing around for a moment, strode forward with him toward the sidewalk in front of the store. The gathering crowd parted to let them through.
Reaching the little patio area in front of the store where Shelly had put a few small tables and chairs, Superman stopped and wrenched the top railing from one section of the the cast iron fence. Bending it as if it were a bread tie, he wrapped it around the villain, securing him to the lamp post that stood opposite the store's front door.
Little old Mrs. Heppel had followed Superman and the captured mugger, and as Superman stepped back from the lamp post, she moved forward. Standing in front of the would-be mugger, she shook a stern finger up at him and appeared to be delivering a lecture. Superman stood nearby, arms folded in the classic pose, but Shelly thought he looked more amused than stern.
As the police arrived and took charge, Mrs. Heppel turned to Superman and patted one folded arm. Shelly couldn't hear what she was saying, of course, but she was probably offering to bake him some cookies. Mrs. Heppel's cookies were legend throughout the neighborhood.
With a smile, Superman rose into the air, and the police began shooing the onlookers away.
Shelly turned back to the counter. This was the first time he'd seen a Superman rescue up close; it had been impressive.
Picking up the price-gun, he got back to work. He'd have to have the fence replaced — he'd call around for estimates when he finished pricing the candy. And he'd have to call his insurance man, too. Oh well, at least it wouldn't come out of his own pocket.
Good thing he had that Super insurance.
THE END (Again)
Author's note — Many airports did have roadside picnic or viewing areas where you could sit and watch planes take off and land. I don't know if it's true elsewhere, but here in Indianapolis those parks have been closed and blocked off — probably another effect of the events of 9-11.
Also — the phrase "doesn't know a stranger" may be unfamiliar to some readers. It appears to be an Americanism, and it means friendly to a fault — the individual is very social, to the point of arm-around-the-shoulders friendly with everyone, regardless of whether he or she knows them.