Lois was in a boiling fury as she backed the Mustang back onto the pavement. I knew this was a small town, but damn, dirt roads?! And no warning for the unsuspecting motorist, either. There ought to be a sign like “Caution: Pavement Ends. Surface is gravel over washboard.” Damn backward small-town country roads…
It wasn’t far to the previous turnoff, a straight shot that became Main Street. Lois had wanted to avoid it, taking the long way around, but her online map service hadn’t noted the fact that the paved road ended.
Driving into Smallville along Main Street, Lois noticed the most people seemed to be looking at her car. Must not be every day a strange vehicle comes through here, she thought at first, but then she saw Clark standing on the front porch of the general store and pulled into an empty parking spot. When she got out, she realized that the dirt road was in plain sight from here, and the foul temper that had begun to disperse on seeing Clark redoubled instead.
It didn’t help that the four old guys sitting on the front porch were all grinning hugely at her; seeing her hit the dirt must’ve been the most entertainment these folks could expect to get before The Price Is Right came on. But what really caused Lois’ smoldering temper to burst into flame was the guilty smile on Clark’s face. He’d seen her almost wipe out, and he was laughing at her! Outrage overwhelmed her shock at seeing him as Clark, but without his glasses.
“And just what the hell is so damned funny, Kent?!” Lois snarled, slamming her door hard enough to knock half the accumulated dust off the Mustang. “Is this what you country boys do for fun – take down the ‘unpaved road’ signs and watch city girls plow into the dirt at fifty miles an hour? What’s wrong, get tired of watching grass grow?”
Clark paled, glancing from side to side. Everyone who was outside and in reach of Lois’ voice had stopped to stare; he had no chance of quieting her until she’d gotten over the fright that had made her so angry, so he ducked quickly into the general store. At least they’d have fewer witnesses there…
Lois followed him, her boot heels loud enough to make it clear that she was right behind him. “Don’t you run from me, Kent, you…” she muttered, then paused.
The four guys on the porch were grinning even more broadly, and the nearest leaned toward her slightly. “Good morning, Miss,” he said, practically leering.
“Good morning,” Lois said, her tone completely changed from angry growl to sweetly polite. Oh, my dear God, who is he kidding? That’s actually worse than Perry and Loueen. And with a brief, insincere smile in return, she pushed open the door and stalked into the general store after Clark.
He had discovered, to his dismay, that the store wasn’t empty. Not even close. Five or six of the female counterparts of the old men on the front porch were inside the store, shopping and chatting. Letting Lois yell at him in here would be tantamount to express-delivering her lecture to the gossip circles. But before he could do more than turn around, Lois had already stormed up to him with her boots echoing on the wood floor. Hope of escape vanished; she had him cornered against a wooden barrel of horehound candy.
“Now you listen to me,” she snapped with her hazel eyes blazing, actually shaking her finger under his nose, and Clark knew there was no stopping her now that she had really gotten started. “I did not fly out here to the middle of B.F.E. in the middle of the frikkin’ night just to entertain the local yokels! I don’t care how funny you think it is, especially with me almost running that car into the ditch because there’s no goddamned warning on that damned road, you had better not laugh at me! After everything I’ve been through this morning, that stupid dog scaring the hell out of me, your mother snapping at me, and every slow-driving nitwit in Kansas idling along in my way, I’d suggest you have a little more sensitivity!”
“Lois,” he tried to soothe, but she steamrolled on, oblivious to the shocked stares she was getting from the older women in the store.
“Don’t interrupt me, Kent! I’ve only had one cup of coffee today, there isn’t a Starbucks for a hundred miles, your mother hates me, and now I almost totaled a goddamned rental car! And you think it’s funny! I’m starting to regret flying halfway across the country after you. It was a stupid romantic gesture to start with, and it’s blown up in my face! So don’t you dare laugh at me!”
Absolute silence reigned in the store, Lois shaking with anger, reaction, and the slightest touch of hurt. Only Clark knew her well enough to know that her present fury meant she’d been terrified when the car dropped off the pavement. And when she was that wound up, it was impossible for her to rein in her thoughts before she spoke. Everyone else just stared, round-eyed, at the Eastern woman who had just stalked up to Martha Kent’s boy and basically cussed him out.
Except for one woman, Jane Lutter. She had been the closest to Lois during her diatribe, and the look of horrified disgust on her face now spoke volumes. Jane gave a tiny little sniff of disdain, and Lois whirled to glare at her. “What the hell are you staring at, sister?” the reporter snapped.
“You are no sister of mine,” Mrs. Lutter replied icily.
Lois hadn’t been angry before; that was merely fear masquerading as rage. Now Clark saw wrath blossom in the hazel eyes he loved so well. “Amen,” Lois shot back with a savage glare that measured the older woman, and found her very much lacking.
With that said, Lois turned on her heel and stormed out again, slamming the door behind her. Clark had only a moment to glance at Mrs. Lutter and shrug helplessly before he hurried after her.
Lois was already off the porch and heading for her car when he got outside. “Lois?” he called. “Lois, wait! It’s not like that!”
“I’d run after your girl, Clark,” Mr. Ellzey said. “Think she’s gonna leave you high ‘n’ dry here.”
Indeed, Lois had reached the car without looking back, snatching the door open. As Clark rushed down the steps toward her, she got in and slammed the door shut, the ignition roaring to life.
“Lois, wait!” Clark yelled, reaching the car just as she put it into reverse. He grabbed the doorframe and leaned in the driver’s side window. “Lois, c’mon, please. I’m sorry.”
“That was not funny,” Lois growled, glaring up at him with the furious pout he remembered from the California desert, so long ago. An expression he had seen most recently on their daughter.
“No, it wasn’t,” he replied seriously. “You could’ve been hurt – if you weren’t such a skilled driver, or if I wasn’t right here. You know if you’d been in any kind of real danger I would’ve been there in an instant, and never mind the secret.”
Lois just stared at him for a long moment, but the raw anger in her eyes was beginning to melt away. There was grudging calm in her voice when she grumbled, “Remind me why I put up with you?”
“I love you,” Clark murmured. “Listen, I talked to Ma…”
“You said something to your mother?” Lois interrupted disbelievingly. Oh, God, like that’s going to help matters any, she groaned inwardly. Why don’t men ever understand that that just makes things worse? Good thing I stopped deciding I care, huh?
“Yes, and I wasn’t the only one. Ben had a few choice words for her, too,” Clark replied. “Anyway, she agreed to be civilized to you. Why don’t we go get lunch and then run up to Hartwell and catch a movie?”
Lois just stared at him in surprise. That she had not been expecting. “Are you asking me on a date?” she said incredulously. Going out to dinner was weird enough, but now I’m going to the movies with Kal-El? What the heck?
“Well, yeah,” he replied. “I mean, why not? We might as well do things the right way around this time.”
Lois snorted. “You sure you want to be seen with a hoyden like me?” Now that she was calmer, Lois began to realize just how many people had heard her outburst.
“Always,” he told her, that slow warm smile lighting up his eyes. “I don’t care what other people think of you, Lois. I know you, and I know if they let your language prejudice them against you, it’s their loss.”
His smile called up an answering grin on Lois’ face. “Get in the car, you jerk,” she said, a hint of laughter in her voice. Her mind was already leaping ahead of events; so they were going to get used to each other all over again, hmm? He was trying to show her who he really was, the kind of man who would take a woman out to a local movie theater. Even if they had two kids together, and even if he could’ve flown her anywhere in the world, he still wanted to take her on an old-fashioned date. Kal-El was far more Clark Kent than she ever expected, once you got rid of the faked clumsiness and the nerdy act.
Well, he’d better be prepared to see, once again, who the real Lois Lane was. Her lips curved up in a wicked grin as he buckled his seatbelt. “Hartwell. That’s north of here, on highway 63?”
“Mm-hmm,” he replied absently. The four guys on the porch were sniggering, which only he could hear clearly. Ellzey commented on the fact that ‘Missus Kent’s boy’ had not only managed to stop that hotheaded Eastern gal from running off without out, he’d wrangled her into a date as well! The others’ expressions of admiration were enough to make Clark blush guiltily.
“If this were a real old-fashioned date, I’d let you drive,” Lois said, backing out of the parking spot. She glanced slyly at him and added, “But I don’t think you could handle it.”
Clark leaned back comfortably in his seat, letting one arm rest along the windowsill. “I could pick it up one-handed, but you don’t trust me to drive it,” he chuckled. “Fine then, Lois. It’s quite all right. I like it when you’re in charge.”
Lois cast him a dubious glance. Did he really mean what she thought he meant? And if he did, what did he think he was doing reminding her of such things when they were in Smallville? There was nothing she could say to that remark that wouldn’t sound like a further come-on, so she changed the topic instead. “Clark, are you aware that one of the old guys out there has apparently stolen the Jolly Green Giant’s dentures?”
He laughed at the very apt description. “Yeah, that’s John Roy. He’s had those same dentures since I was about twelve – I think he got them out of the Sears catalog.”
“When? In 1932?” Lois asked incredulously. “Are they wooden? They look wooden.” She thought about for a moment, and then added with an amused snort, “Does he ever complain about splinters?”
“No, but he complains about pretty much everything else,” Clark told her. “That’s what the Geezer’s Convention does, mostly. Sit on the front porch drinking the free coffee until their wives or daughters let them back in the house. And the whole time they’re out there, they complain about their health, or the weather, or how things aren’t the way they used to be. Especially how the younger generation – and I quote – ‘ain’t worth a mouse-fart in a tornado,’ end quote.”
The thick accent he added to the quote, as well as the actual expression, made Lois laugh so hard it brought tears to her eyes. Luckily there was a stop sign ahead, and Lois paused long enough to get herself back under control. “Oh my God, Clark, don’t say anything like that when I’m driving. We’ll wind up in the ditch,” she wheezed.
At last she rubbed her eyes and drove on, a secretive little smile playing about her lips. “I guess Wade Carmichael would be one of the useless younger generation, huh?”
“Wade? He’s a good kid for all that he dresses like a hoodlum. Probably going to take over his dad’s garage when he grows up… Wait a second, how do you know Wade?”
“Oh, I met him when I was filling up this monster’s tank,” Lois replied airily. She didn’t want Clark’s mind to linger on Wade, so she didn’t comment on ‘hoodlum’ – which was almost as bad as ‘swell’ – and also ignored the fact that Wade would be grown up in a year or two, tops. “While I’m thinking about it, where the hell are your glasses? Aren’t you worried…?”
Clark chuckled. “Lois, people here remember Clark Kent as a kid. Shy, too intelligent for his own good, something of a daydreamer. No one is going to connect the boy who used to pitch in at harvest time with Superman.”
“Lois, one time when everyone left school after football practice and left me there, I ran home. I beat them even though they were riding in the quarterback’s car, and I had to finish picking up the equipment before I left. And no one ever suspected a thing.” He paused, considering, and added, “I guess Lana finally figured out how I managed that, now. But anyway, I don’t need the glasses here, so I don’t wear them.”
Lois nodded. “Personally, I like the no-glasses look. It’s just kind of odd to see you out in public without them.” They drove in comfortable silence, Lois trying to imagine Clark as a kid, and failing. After a while, she gave up, and turned to him to ask, “So, where are we going for lunch? Any good Italian places in Possum Trot?”
“That’s for me to know and you to find out,” Clark teased. “Just drive.”
Lois’ half-aggravated, half-amused sigh and eye roll were his only reply.
Ben swung back by the Kent farm after his morning chores were finished, and found Martha rather disgruntled. “What’s wrong?” he asked as soon as he saw her.
“Oh, nothing,” she said peevishly. “Just half a dozen phone calls asking if I know who my son is seeing.”
“So Ms. Lane’s met the townsfolk?”
Martha huffed. “If I was her mother, I’d run through all the soap in this county trying to wash out that mouth. She had another meltdown – in public, starting in the middle of Main Street, and then continued her deluge of profanity inside the general store. Where the five gossipiest old biddies in town heard her and made sure to pass on the fact that not only was she cussing my son, he left with her.”
“Mrs. Lutter and her bunch,” Ben said knowingly. “If you heard from Jane Lutter, Martha, you know darned well she exaggerates every single thing.”
“Not just her,” Martha growled.
Trying a different tack, Ben asked, “So what set the girl off this time?”
“That’s beside the point.”
Then he chuckled. “What did Clark do?” At Martha’s stern glare, he continued, “It could only be him, if you’re that defensive.”
“Apparently Lois made the same fool mistake half the out-of-towners do out on two-ten. And that pack of unwashed toothless old men that Silas lets hang out in his front porch rockers saw her. That lot’s worse for gossip than Jane and her crowd. It wasn’t them the girl turned the sharp side of her tongue on, though. Clark saw it happen, and I suppose she thought he was laughing at her.”
Ben chuckled. “I’ll bet you he was laughing at her. No matter how many times some leadfoot citybred fool hits that dirt road, it’s still funny. We’re just lucky no one’s ever been hurt out there; that stretch right past the pavement is so washed out it feels like four flat tires.”
Martha made a harrumphing noise as she set about getting lunch ready. Ben came to help her in the kitchen, deciding to change the subject. “Speaking of your son, he finally gave me his blessing.”
That made Martha pause and turn to him, frankly amazed. “Did he now? Well, then.”
“I’m not saying he’s had a complete change of heart,” Ben cautioned. “But he’s trying. I imagine things will be a bit easier around here from now on.”
“That’s lovely news,” Martha said, and kissed him.
He drew back slightly and looked steadily into her eyes. “Martha, it’d get a lot more tolerable if you’d just tell these kids what your real problem is.”
The startled look she turned on him spoke volumes.
The date had been an absolute success. Lunch turned out to be an unprepossessing little mom-and-pop burger place, which had amused Lois with the similarity to her first ‘date’ with Clark. However, she stopped chuckling when her bacon cheeseburger came to the table – that was a world-class gourmet burger; a thick, juicy patty topped with sizzling bacon and melted cheddar cheese, all of it on a fresh homemade bun. It was more than twice the size of the burgers sold in chain restaurants, completely outstripped them in flavor, and still cost less.
For the first time since Lois was five years old, she needed a take-home box for a burger. Which was to say nothing of the Coke floats, the handmade malts, and the crisp fries the dingy-looking little diner served beside their gargantuan burgers; Lois was slightly humbled to realize that her jibe about Possum Trot cuisine had reminded Clark of this place.
It was a much further drive to the nearest movie theater. On a weekday and during school hours, the place was practically deserted. She and Clark had the entire back half of the theater to themselves even though they wound up seeing the current highly-recommended drama. Both of them felt that the movie’s pace plodded a bit during the second hour, but that was no hardship. Much to Lois’ surprise, she thoroughly enjoyed simply cuddling up to Clark’s side with his arm around her. A few stolen kisses didn’t hurt, either. Only a few, however; down in the front was a young mother with two small children, both of whom were prone to exclaiming about whatever was onscreen at the moment.
Afterward, Lois was delightfully relaxed – but not so calm that she wasn’t up for a bit of devilment. They had to take highway 63 home, and the road was mostly deserted in the afternoon. Except for a car in the distance that was only visible when Lois topped a rise. Hmm, it’s after school hours… “Hey, Clark, what kind of car is that?” she asked innocently.
He peered at it. “Um, looks like a yellow Camaro. Going pretty fast, too – whoa!”
His outburst wasn’t unusual, considering that Lois had goosed the accelerator as soon as he confirmed her guess. That was Wade Carmichael up ahead, and this was the road he’d claimed was perfect for racing. Long, straight, mostly level, and rarely traveled, it suited Lois’ purposes as well.
“Lois, what are you doing?!” Clark yelped.
“Well, today was all about seeing who we really are under all our masks,” Lois said loudly over the wind that whipped in through her open window. She kept her eyes on the road right up until the moment she turned to him with a wicked daredevil grin. “I guess it’s time to show you that I really am the girl your mother warned you about.”
While Clark’s mouth fell open in shock, Lois shoved the gas pedal to the floor, and the Mustang’s engine bellowed. The car seemed to leap forward almost as if stung, swiftly catching up to the Camaro. Before Wade even had a chance to look in his rearview mirror and make sure the car flying up behind him wasn’t a state trooper, Lois had blown past, laughing with exhilaration. Behind her came the whoops of Wade’s friends and the roar of the Camaro’s engine as the teenagers gave chase.
“Lois, this is crazy,” Clark protested. “Okay, I believe you, you’re completely out of your mind, now slow down.”
“No way, not when I’m winning,” she replied coolly, shifting so that she straddled the center line. Wade’s car was faster, but he had to pass her first, and Lois knew a dozen ways to prevent that. “And don’t go grabbing the sissy-bar, Clark, you’ll break it. This is a rental, I don’t want to have to explain any damages.”
“If you’re that concerned, try staying within shouting distance of the speed limit,” Clark retorted. “Lois! I can’t get hurt, but you and those kids can. Slow down, for the love of all that’s holy!”
She just laughed wildly, swerving back and forth to keep Wade from trying to pass. He was getting closer by the instant, so she dropped her voice when she teased Clark. “Why, I do believe I managed to scare Superman! You don’t flinch in the face of bullets and fire and falling landmarks, but being in a car with me when I’m driving fast scares you!”
“This would scare any sane person!” he yelled back.
“That coming from a man who can fly,” Lois shot back. “Something the rest of us can’t do, so we have to find our fun where we can!”
“This is flying, Lois! It will be if you hit a bump, anyway!”
Lois stopped laughing then, looking at him sternly out of the corner of her eye. “You know what? This is me. This is who I really am, Kal-El. Think you can handle it?”
Disbelief and shock crossed Clark’s face before understanding finally dawned. And then the look he turned on her was full of fierce, blazing admiration. “I love you, you crazy woman,” he replied at last. “You’re more alive than anyone else I know.”
“I’ll take that as a ‘yes’!” Lois chuckled. Watching his expression as well as the road ahead, she had to divert some of her attention from the Camaro.
The next thing Lois knew, Wade had managed to pull alongside her, driving perilously close to the shoulder of the road. “That stock engine’ll never keep up!” he bellowed out of his own open windows, his friends cackling with excitement. “Give up before you blow a piston!”
“I told you it’s not the car, it’s the driver!” Lois yelled back, edging toward him. She knew the dimensions of any vehicle she drove to a nicety – during the police driving course, one of the exercises had been driving between two cones with less than four inches clearance to either side. So there was no way Lois would allow them to actually crash, but Wade didn’t have to know that. He yelped when he saw her sideview mirror within touching distance of his own, and floored his accelerator, trying to get around her.
Lois laughed, Clark winced, and the two cars thundered down the empty road at speeds in excess of a hundred miles an hour. It couldn’t last, but while it did, Lois forgot every last bit of stress in her life. She had no room for anxiety while she was jockeying to keep Wade from passing her.
“Lois, this is insane!” Clark yelled. He was hanging onto the handgrip on the roof, which Lois had mockingly called the sissy-bar. If Lois did something totally psychotic, he’d use it as a convenient handhold to lift the car a couple of inches and put it down somewhere safer. Of course, he’d never tried lifting a car while he was inside it, and didn’t want to start now, but if she got any closer to the Carmichael boy’s car… “C’mon, you’ve made your point! Knock it off!”
“Oh hush,” Lois teased, a wicked gleam in her eyes. “Don’t be such a girl! It’s just a friendly little race!”
“I haven’t hit him.”
“Lois!” Clark was losing patience. “That’s enough! You’re going to get someone hurt if you keep this up! And that’s our turn – oh dear God! Lois!!”
The moment he pointed out the turn, Lois hit the brakes. Wade shot past, the two guys in his backseat turning to stare. Lois didn’t have enough time to safely slow down and make the turn, so she turned the wheel to an exacting degree and let the Mustang start to slide.
Clark yelped, his hand tightening on the sissy-bar. Lois heard the faint cracking noise but dismissed it, absorbed in controlling the slide. Her rear wheels smoked as the Mustang continued to skid, the rear end slewing around. When the car was approximately perpendicular to its previous path of travel, and facing the road Lois wanted to turn down, she let off the brakes and straightened out the wheel.
The Mustang leaped forward, and Lois stuck her arm out the window to wave goodbye to Wade and his friends. Clark stared at her, hair completely disheveled with eyes as wide as saucers, ignoring the whooping and cheering from the rapidly-disappearing Camaro. It was nearly a minute before he asked with perfect incredulity, “You slid like that on purpose?!”
“Lightweight,” Lois muttered, and headed back to the farm with a broad grin plastered on her face. Whatever Martha Kent had to dish out, she was ready for it.
For a good visual on the kind of turn Lois just made:
For a good visual on the kind of turn Lois just made:
And just for fun, reread the race with either Rihanna's Shut Up And Drive or Nickelback's Animals (not kid-friendly, but the beat works very well). These were major contributors to that scene.