By Catherine Bruce <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted October 2007
Summary: The cat that broke the camel's back.
Some time ago, I was driving in a sort of sleepy daze (not the best way to be doing that, I'm sure!) when a rabbit darted out in front of me. Fortunately my brakes were willing to be good that day, so I didn't hit the poor dear. However, I once again realized that one of my biggest fears was running over some critter and knowing I killed it. So, when I got to where I was going (guarding a road from traffic as all the other Army Dudes on post ran their butts off — haha!), I started to write this story.
Set immediately following the events of "Neverending Battle." I'm not sure when it is that Lois gets her car, but for the story's sake she's had it for a while.
Thanks to LaraMoon for the as-always awesome Betaness!
And if you really wanna know what happened to the critter before you start reading, go ahead and scroll to the bottom.
"I'll kill him, that's what I'll do!" An irate Lois thrummed her fingertips against her steering wheel in an angry staccato, impatiently waiting for the light to turn green. "I'll kill him and chop his body into little bits and then mail them all to different locations in *Borneo!*"
The light finally changed, though she took two seconds too long to scratch at one of the million bug bites she had received earlier, all because of *him*. The car behind her belched out a rather rude blast of the horn, causing her to reciprocate with a gesture of her own out the window as she slammed down on the gas.
Her irritation at her uppity green-jeans partner lasted for another two blocks before she deflated. "Who am I kidding? I deserved it. I deserve worse than that. I'm slime! I stole a story!" This went on for another couple blocks before she came to yet another red light. Just how many of these could one person run into, anyway?
Lois's day had not gone well at all. Heck, this whole week hadn't been her best, either. She wished she could lay the blame fully on *him*, on the *both* of them, really. They had both turned up in her life at the same time, tipping it upside down and trying to see which of them could wreak the most havoc on her life.
Curse Clark Kent.
She was better off without either one of them, anyway.
Oh, who was she kidding? Superman was one of the greatest (and hottest) things to hit Metropolis in years, maybe even ever. And Clark, while she would never admit this to anyone, let alone him, was actually proving to be a quite formidable opponent in her journalism career. Though still a bit green around the gills, she had no doubt that he would prove himself to be a worthy reporter. Maybe even a more worthy partner. Again, not that she would ever tell him this.
Logically, she knew what her problem was. Or at least a part of it, anyway. She'd been getting very little sleep lately (mainly due to fantasizing about certain brown-eyed repor- er, superheroes), and digging around in the reclamation plant because of the bogus lead her new *comrade* had graciously sent her on, left her feeling drained, sore, emotionally unbalanced, and tired beyond her normal threshold tolerance. If anything else went wrong tonight, she was afraid she was going to lose it.
That's why when she saw the scattering of fur dart across the street too late and felt the soft thump beneath her tires, she pulled over to the side of the road and began to cry.
Thankfully, it was a slow night for Superman. There had been a mugging that he'd interrupted before anything had gotten too bad and even managed to help a frightened child who had lost her parents while at a carnival earlier in the evening. Nothing really since then, and he had been able to enjoy a nice leisurely flight, taking the rare opportunity to familiarize himself even further with his new home.
He was just about to fly home to catch the final plays of the football game when he heard someone crying, not two blocks from his apartment. When he got closer, he was both relieved and worried. Relieved because the situation didn't seem to require Superman's aid, and worried because the crying came from his sort-of partner. Not really wanting to confront her as her Spandex-clad eye-candy, yet unable to just leave, he landed in a nearby ally and emerged in jogging shorts and a t-shirt.
Lois didn't notice his arrival, and he wondered for a moment if this emotional woman was the same Mad Dog he'd gotten to know over the past couple of weeks. As irritated with her as he was, he couldn't stop the sudden peculiar flutter in his stomach at this rare display.
After a moment, he jogged up to her window, trying to look appropriately winded, before he rapt softly on the glass. The change in her was immediate when she saw that it was him standing there and she hastily wiped off her face before rolling down the window, her composure nearly perfectly intact before she was done.
"Hey," he panted breathlessly. "Car trouble, Miss?"
"No, I'm fine. The car's fine. I'm fine." She leveled him with an even stare, eyes still red and puffy, almost challenging him to say something about her apparent distress. Then the dam broke again as her face crumpled and she wailed towards the steering wheel. "But the kitty I just ran over isn't!" She heaved a shuddering breath before turning back to him, eyes wide and frantic. "I've never run over an animal in my life and now I struck one down because I wasn't paying attention and I'm a Cat Killer, Clark!"
Clark's brain had entered into Panic Mode when she started to cry again, but fortunately he was able to shake out of it as she continued to rant about her newfound killer instinct. In the middle of her tirade, she swung her car door open, which he narrowly escaped collision with, and started for where she had obviously committed the atrocious crime she was accusing herself of.
Abruptly though, she turned back around and covered her eyes with both hands. "I can't even look! God, I should look because I killed it, but I can't!"
Clark was helpless against her apparent distress. He'd rather be somehow rendered powerless and flogged with a stick than see her this way.
He was such a softy.
Lois pulled her hands down slowly. "Oh no, I couldn't ask you to do that. It was my doing, I should-"
"Lois, it's no big deal." He flashed her a gentle smile. "Really."
The brief look she gave him, combined with the quick but firm hug, caused the flutters in his stomach to morph into full-fledged pterodactyl wing flaps, and he came to know one infallible truth in that instance: there probably wasn't anything he wouldn't do for this frustrating woman. Then the look was gone and she nodded before leaning against her jeep, arms folded around her midsection.
Clark took a deep breath before heading towards the scene of the crime. He had grown up on a farm, so dead animals weren't exactly new to him, but he never really enjoyed seeing an animal that had been killed for something other than food, even if it had been an accident.
He saw the pitiful creature lying on the sidewalk. At first he was confused as to how it had gotten there, but then he got closer. "I think she's alive."
"Oh great, now it's suffering! It will probably experience a slow and painful death!"
Clark lowered his glasses and ran a quick scan over the cat. Not finding any broken bones, he cautiously moved closer, trying not to frighten the poor beast. While it was true that if she were to startle the scratches wouldn't affect him, he was worried that she would injure herself on his invulnerable flesh.
Kneeling beside the cat, he carefully placed his hands on her body to feel for any injuries his x-rays didn't reveal. When he relayed his discovery of a collar to Lois, she moaned about killing someone's Fluffy.
When Clark's hand ran down her backside and tail, the cat roused from its shocked state and let out a pitiful meow, turning a dark head towards him to regard him with accusing eyes. Careful of her obviously injured tail and sore heinie, he picked her up and cradled her in his arms. Realizing she was in sympathetic company, the cat began to emit pitiful cries that seemed to say 'Woe is me, I have been injured! Pamper me!'
"Yes I know, poor baby," he crooned softly as he stroked the underside of her chin. At the attention, she began to purr loudly.
Turning around, Clark headed back for his partner's car. When he reached her, he held up his arms slightly. "She seems to be fine for the most part, aside from a sore tail."
Relief radiated off Lois in waves, but there was still a good amount of lingering guilt. "You probably shouldn't bring her near me, Clark. She'll know I almost killed her."
"Then tell her you're sorry," he suggested.
Lois raised a dubious eyebrow at him. "Excuse me?"
Clark shrugged. "It will make you feel better, if nothing else." She continued to give him a doubtful look. "Trust me."
Tentatively, Lois reached for the cat, stopping a couple of centimeters away. "I'm sorry for almost killing you, Miss Kitty." After a few seconds she gave Clark a petulant glare. "Still feeling the guilt here, Kent."
It was then that Miss Kitty decided to make amends. She bumped her moist kitty noise against the outstretched fingers, sniffing momentarily before bathing the skin with her sandpapery tongue.
Clark had never believed a person could actually melt, but Lois's reaction towards the Lick of Friendship was probably as close as a person could actually come to doing so.
"Oh Clark," she breathed out softly before running her fingers through the silky fur.
The pterodactyl soared from around his large intestine and up past his pancreas to flap around the area between his lungs. "You wanna hold her?"
Lois nodded almost shyly before holding out her hands. There was a brief confused moment during the exchange, where arms brushed against chests and there was a collective blushing incident, but soon the cat was nestled firmly in Lois's grasp. Miss Kitty purred contently as she gave Lois's upper arm a mild massage with her little kitty toes.
Overwhelmed by everything that had happened, with the cat and the story stealings and just everything in general, she started to cry again. "Oh Clark. Thank you."
Confused and a little bit alarmed, he hesitantly placed his arm on her shoulder. "Hey, it's no big deal." He wasn't exactly sure what he was supposed to say when his tough-as-nails not-so-quite-partner started crying every five minutes.
"Yes, it is. I've been so mean to you and unfair and everything but you just helped me out when you didn't need to, and I don't deserve it, and I lied about the whole lesson thing and I did something that I swore I would never do to anyone else, but I've been going crazy and I don't know why, well I do but I guess you know that as well, and-"
"Hey," Clark said softly when he was afraid she would pass out from lack of air. "I said it was no big deal. And I meant it." At his reassuring smile, she sniffled again and leaned into his shoulder, ignoring the indignant squawk as the cat had to readjust. Not one to let an opportunity pass, Clark gently wrapped an arm around her shoulders.
"Well, thanks anyway."
He chuckled softly. "How about you and I try to find this girl's owner, okay?" When she nodded against his shoulder, he gave her side a brief squeeze before letting her go. "You want me to drive? You seem pretty exhausted."
The Lois he knew and irresistibly adored was back in an instant. "*No* way, Kent. There's no *way* I'm letting you *touch* my baby." Turning on her heels, she headed for the direction of his place. "It's a short walk to your place, anyway, and we can probably get more done from there."
Clark watched her for a moment before shaking his head ruefully. That woman was an enigma, and he was kind of hoping that he would have plenty of time trying to figure her out. He quickly caught up with her fast strides, trying to keep up with her now that she was busy planning.
"We should call the vet as well, maybe get her checked out. And also try the number on her collar. Mr. Wiggles? Who names a girl cat that, anyway!"
Clark was a doomed man, and he was enjoying every moment of it.
I couldn't kill the kitty! Even in my story, I'm hesitant to kill animals. (Sure, but you have no qualms killing people!) Shut up, Inner Voice! You're not helping!