By Catherine Bruce <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted June 2007
Summary: A bad dream after the events in the episode "That Old Gang of Mine" shows how many tubs of ice cream Lois will eat and how many cats she'll get if Clark ever *dies* dies.
Well, this story has been sitting on my harddrive for well over a year. I thought I'd have an actual plot to go with this, but apparently I don't. However, it seems to end at just the right place, so yay!
There's been more than one person who has read through this, but since it *has* been so long, the only one I remember is LaraMoon. So, if you have read this and made suggestions and whatnot, please please please let me know so that I can properly hang my head in shame and give you credit!
There seems to be an unspoken rule or law that every fic writer will eventually succumb to the temptation of writing a story regarding *That Old Gang of Mine*, whether it's a sequel or a rewrite. I caved! I needed something fluffier after my last story, and a scene from this wouldn't leave me alone until I wrote it.
And the beginning dream is how I see myself in about twenty years. Yay cats!
And oh yes, all mistakes are mine! Mine, I tell you, *miiiine!!*
Lois Lane, once among the best reporters to ever set foot inside the Daily Planet, unlocked the door to her small one-bedroom apartment. She clutched the parcel she had just pried from the frightened mailman's hands and ran to her couch, ignoring the distraught yowls that occurred when she stepped on a tail or paw. For ages she had been waiting for this package, two long months of anticipation and nervous eating to finally have it arrive.
Plopping down on the old loveseat, causing paper and feline alike to jostle with malcontent, she ripped at the brown manila packaging with a fervor that would have put any Tasmanian devil to shame. A decently sized hardbound novel with the words *Half-Naked Kansan Warrior* embossed in gold-leaf fell onto her lap when she wasn't expecting it, a sharp corner jabbing into the soft flesh of her thigh. She paid the momentary twinge of discomfort no mind as she impatiently opened to the front cover, fingers tracing over the dedication.
*To Clark Kent, my own "Half-Naked Kansan Warrior" that I realized too late. *
Almost reverently she pressed the book to her breasts, covering her heart with the italicized words centered on the fibrous paper. Finally, after so many years of searching her heart for the right words and at last getting them down, the hassle of finding a publisher and the right editor, it was published! Her book, her baby, her *life's work!*
A piece of color poking out from the open slit of the envelope caught her eye. Curious, she set down her beloved book and pulled the glossy picture from the yellow paper. When she saw it, she gasped in outrage and stood up.
It was the cover to her new book, romantically displaying the hero in his dark-haired glory, dipping the heroine deeply in his strong embrace, shirt hanging by a mere scrap of cloth from the waistband. He was perfect, just as she had demanded that the artist paint him. It was the heroine that caused her indignation. Long auburn hair cascaded down a trim and slim alabaster back. The wanton face was a generic beauty with tiny dots of blue to mark cerulean eyes. A boyish frame held up an empire-fitted gown, barely any chest to be seen.
Lois threw down the cover, indignant that her story be soiled by such filth. She paced back and forth, agitated, gravitating towards the freezer that stood in the small yet well-used kitchen. A pint of chocolate-chip double-fudge ice cream awaited her, and grabbing a clean spoon from the drainer she marched back to the living room, throwing aside the cover and scooping a generous spoonful into her mouth.
She threw herself back onto the couch again, trying to ignore the creaking wood frame, and glared at her curious roommate that had leaped onto the arm of the couch. An inquisitive moist nose poked at her hand as whiskers tickled her skin, and her anger left her. Lois touched her forehead to the cat's and sighed. "Well, Clark 22, it looks like we're all doomed to creative license."
She heaved another sigh and opened the book suddenly, worried that…
Oh no. As she feared, her story *had* been edited. The heroine was no longer a healthy brunette, but was now the overly thin redhead of the cover. And the ending, which she had worded specifically so that there was a double entendre, was now horribly rewritten to where there was none of the original meaning left.
A prickling at the back of her neck startled her, and for a moment she felt a familiar sense of overwhelming apprehension. One of the only friends she had left; a god in a blue suit she would have once been happy to try and seduce now a pale comparison to the man she lost. Superman still visited, almost weekly, but every time he did she feared that he would see something in her now that would make him stop coming. For some reason though, he never stopped his visits…
A familiar whoosh, and as she looked around her apartment she wondered how many cats she'd gotten since the last time she saw him, if he would bring her another stray he rescued from a tree. How many did she have now? Forty-one? Forty-three?
"…Forty-seven!" Lois jolted straight up. A warm hand grasped her shoulder, and at first she thought Superman had come by and she'd lapsed into unconsciousness. However, she slowly began to focus on her surroundings and realized she was not in her apartment, and there weren't so many cats around. In fact, there were none.
Confused at the lack of feline companionship, she turned towards the owner of her shoulder's captor. When she saw her partner's confused face, her own brightened for a moment before crumpling and tears stung her eyes.
Clark had been working late with his partner, trying to get their unusual story about clones and early twentieth-century gangsters written. They both had worked well into the evening, well past the time any sane nine-to-fiver would stay. Perry had offered him a good chunk of time 'off' to get accustomed to his returning from the dead, but the few hours of sleep he had managed to steal the previous night had done wonders.
Apparently his partner was not so lucky. Shortly after the last eager new employee had left, Lois had rested her head in the crook of her elbows. For the past two hours, Clark had enjoyed the rhythm and sound of her slowed breathing and pulse rate. As much as he would have loved to have allowed her to sleep until their story was finished, he had realized that there were parts that he could not write on his own. At least not without raising her suspicions. So, giving up the soothing vision of her gentle breathing and peaceful heart rate, he'd place what he had hoped to be a comforting hand on her shoulder. He didn't want her to wake too suddenly, yet he wasn't sure how to gently bring her back from whatever it was she was seeing behind her closed eyes.
So when she cried out the seemingly meaningless number and shot up as though an electric charge had coursed through her, he had started slightly. And then her face fell, and before he knew it she was crying. Not knowing what brought this about, panic shot through him and he felt helpless. A part of his brain cried out 'Fix it!' and 'Make it better!' while another part ran frantically about the room, tugging at its hair and screaming 'Run away! Run away!'
The rational side of his brain bitch-slapped this last voice. Properly subdued, it cowered behind his medulla oblongata.
Clark slowly knelt beside her chair, hands reflexively going to her upper arm and knee in an attempt to soothe. "Lois? What's wrong?" He knew, or at least had a pretty good idea of what was going on with his partner. She'd had even less sleep than he did the past several days, and she had finally allowed herself to relax and her emotions were catching up.
"Oh, Clark!" She fell against him, arms folded against his chest and clutching his jacket, face burrowing against his shoulder. "It was horrible! I was alone and you were still dead and I wasn't a reporter any more and I got a book published and it had a really bad name about half-naked warriors and I ate too much ice cream and Superman kept having to bring me stray cats he'd rescued to keep me company!"
She continued to sniffle against him. Clark's shock wore off and he brought his arms around her and rubbed her back slowly. "Hey now, it was just a dream. I'm still here, see?" Lois nodded and sniffled again but didn't move from his hold.
Clark sighed and gave her a brief hug, guilt squeezing his chest. He'd put her through hell the past several days, and while he had seen no other way but the route he had taken, he wished that there had been some way he could have consoled her. He had tried going to her as Superman, wanting to comfort her, but it had been too tempting to say 'Hey, its okay, Lois, Clark's alive because I'm him!' While it was likely that would have stopped her crying, it was also possible she would have chased him around Metropolis with a kryptonite-laced bat. So he had left a grief stricken Lois clutching a sweater that he as Clark had left at her place once, feeling very much the part of a world class puppy-kicker.
He rested his nose in the crook of her shoulder and sighed again.
Lois knew that she would be appalled by her behavior when she was more fully awake. However, at the moment it seemed like a perfectly logical reaction. After all, forty-eight hours ago, she had thought her partner to be dead. And then suddenly, barely twenty-four hours after that, he had been there and alive, and the emotional one-eighty turn her soul took left her staggered. While still deliriously happy, there was still that part of her that believed that the dream she'd just woken up from was more of a reality than this.
After a couple seconds she pulled back. His hands slid to her waist, loosely holding her to him with just enough pressure to let her know she could pull away at any time, and hers went to readjust the knot of his tie, having been pulled loose by the actions of the day. She sniffled slightly, lifting her eyes briefly up to his before returning them to the tie. "If you ever die on me like that again, Buster, I'll make Dr. Hamilton bring you back just so I can kill you myself."
He snorted softly, and Lois could feel the puff of air followed by the gentle press of his warm lips against her forehead, and she had to concentrate on keeping her lower lip from trembling again.