1Title: Talk of the Town

Author: Marcy (DHCgirl)

Rating: PG

Content: CLOIS

Summary: Love may be blind...but their friends aren't.

Spoilers: Post- Lucy

Disclaimer: No infringement is intended, and no profit is made.

Distribution: Prologue, Kryptonsite, DTS, My Site; anyone else, just drop me a note.

Notes: Okay - this is a standalone, but I'm posting it in two parts. The ending will be posted in a day or so – I know how you guys love cliffhangers.

Thank yous: Nadia - my awesome beta! Thanks for all your help! You're the best. Chumpy - For awesome feedback, and being trailertastic.

I know there's better things to talk about
And I believe that you're looking for some mis-romance
And I'll say that you don't know what you're talkin' 'bout
But I can see so just pass is on to someone else
And say it's just the talk of the town

- Riddlin Kids

Clark Kent looked down at the cast iron skillet, and made a face. A large bubble swelled in the middle of the mud-brown sauce, and splattered when it popped.

"Is it as bad as I think it is?" he called to his partner in culinary crime, who had retreated to the laundry room after a "mishap" with a carton of eggs.

Lois peeked over his shoulder. "Depends. Do you think it's a complete and utter disaster?" On her way back she had grabbed her second apron of the afternoon - red and white striped with 'kiss the cook' printed in black.

"Well, yeah"

"In that case... it's worse." She slung the smock around her neck and cinched it in the back. She clapped her hands together, ready for a fresh start. "So, what's next?"

Clark sighed and picked up his mom's hand written meatloaf recipe, which had survived years of standard wear and tear, but not the ham-fisted cooking attempts of team Lane and Kent. Now it wore a thick coat of milk and batter, the penned directions dripping into illegible black smudges. He lifted it up by the sheet's corner and attempted to decipher it from a different angle. An opaque liquid dripped onto the counter.

"I can't read it"

Lois snatched the paper away, an exasperated sigh escaping her lips as she did. "That's clearly...a teaspoon? Table spoon?" she asked, the confidence in her interpretation skills waning. "Well, some kind of spoon is involved." She jerked open the silverware drawer and grabbed a large wooden spoon. She gave a 'close enough' shrug and handed it over.

Clark eyed it skeptically. Even he knew this probably wasn't the best choice.

They'd been at this cooking thing for half an hour with only a large pot of grayish slop and a sink full of dishes to show for it. When his mother had asked him if he wouldn't mind getting dinner ready while she went grocery shopping, he had been ready to wriggle his way out of the responsibility. Much to his surprise, Lois had quickly sidled up beside him and offered up both of their services. Ever since she had moved in, she had been overly eager to please.

Well, everyone but him.

Clark ditched Lois' best guess for a set of actual measuring spoons. He thumbed through the ring.

"So should I just add a teaspoon?"

Lois shrugged. "You are asking the wrong girl. The only things I know how to make are spaghetti and toast."

Clark shot her a look that Lois read loud and clear. She immediately jumped on the defensive. "Some people like their toast... well done."

"Burnt," he corrected thinking back to the lightly buttered charcoal briquettes that she had tried to pass off as breakfast. He had slipped his to Shelby under the table, but even the dog had standards. Its ultimate fate had been under a heap of potting soil in his mother's Ficus plant.

Lois huffed. "I didn't hear any complaints yesterday morning."

Clark rolled his eyes and measured out a tablespoon of salt. "It's called tact, Lois. Ever heard of it?"

"Yeah I've heard of it. I'm just not a fan of its daily application"

Clark dumped the salt into the bowl, immediately wishing he had gone with the teaspoon. Beside him Lois waited for his response, foot tapping a paradiddle on the linoleum floor.

Finally, she threw her arms up. "Fine Toast is marginal. Which just further proves my point."

"That being?"

She looked down at the bowl in contempt. "We are the last two people who should not have been left in charge of dinner."

As Clark sighed, his eyes drifted over the food-splattered counter. He looked down at his watch and frowned.

"How about a little less complaining and a little more dicing?"He slid the vegetable covered cutting board in front of Lois, and placed the hilt of the knife in her palm. "I think you can handle that. Luckily carrots aren't flammable."

She eyed the blade with a smirk. "Insult me then hand me a weapon? Rookie mistake, Smallville."

Clark turned on the burner. It snapped and popped until the blue flame finally swelled up. He used the wooden spoon to stir the mushy contents of the pan. He wasn't positive, but he didn't think meatloaf was supposed to be so... watery. As it was, it looked more like an unappetizing stew. He should have never let Lois talk him into adding all that chicken stock. So measuring cups are for losers, huh? He thought bitterly.

Suddenly realizing that he had just enjoyed a rare three minutes of complete silence, he turned to Lois and found her dutifully chopping away. Her brow was furrowed in a kind of intense concentration, her tongue peeking out of the corner of her mouth. The carrots were suffering a dicey death under the speedy blade of her cleaver.

Clark winced. At that rate she was going, she was liable to lop off a finger.

Clark turned the flame down to low, opting to work on the salad instead. He grabbed a large ceramic bowl and bumped Lois out of the way with his hip. He flashed her a smile as he maneuvered the bowl up and over her and brought it down on the other side. He tore large clumps from the lettuce head and rinsed the handfuls beneath the running faucet. When the bowl was half full, he tossed in some of the other vegetables that Lois had hacked to pieces.

Satisfied with one job well done, he slid the bowl next to Lois. Using the edge of her knife, she scooped up her first pile of carrots and dropped it in. Meanwhile, Clark went to deal with their futile attempt at bread that was rising in a bowl by the oven. Or, at least, it was supposed to be. When he took off the cellophane and looked in he found a deflated, egg-y mess. He sighed deeply and reached in to knead it together.

"When will your mom be home from the store?"

"I don't know. Soon?" Clark held up his dough-caked hands and frowned. He turned to find Lois looking at them with equal repulsion. He grabbed the dishcloth that hung below the sink and wiped them clean.

"Maybe we should send up a flair." As if on cue, the pan on the stove flamed orange, causing Lois to yelp in surprise. Clark grabbed the handle and yanked it off the burner, blowing frantically.

"Although if things keep progressing, we might have smoke signals"

Clark sighed and set the pan back down. "Yeah..." He grabbed the fork from the counter and prodded the newly charred mass. "That doesn't look right, does it?"

Lois leaned back and craned her neck to see, then went back to chopping. "Somewhere, Julia Childs is turning in her grave."

"What do we do?"

Lois shrugged. A stray strand of hair had escaped the tight hold of her elastic and fallen clumsily over her eyes. She brushed it away with the back of her hand. "I don't know. Add something."

"Like what?"

Lois shrugged again. "Maybe we just need some more flour." She turned to him, revealing a white, powdery smudge on her nose.

Clark bit back a smile.

"What?"

"You have –" He motioned towards her face.

"What?" Lois scanned her bright red, sloop-neck tank. Then her jeans. "I don't see anything."

When she looked back up the flour was still there. This time Clark didn't fight the laughter that came. He could tell her patience was waning when her jaw twitched. When Lois was angry, she always bit back on her molars, a habit he'd recently begun to notice. If he was being honest with himself, he was beginning to notice a lot of things about Lois Lane.

Clark reached a finger out and waited for permission. Lois nodded and he wiped the flour from the tip of her nose.

He hadn't realized he was staring until she quickly turned away with uncharacteristic shyness, a blush heating her cheeks.

"So, about that flour..." Lois edged.

Clark snapped back. "Oh! Right." He grabbed the bag on the counter only to find it empty. "We're out."

"Nice going, Clark. What'dya do? Dump the whole thing in?"

"Well maybe if you hadn't decided to wear half of it ---"

"Oh, I'm sorry. Did you feel left out?" Lois ran her hand along the flour-drenched cutting board. It made a loud thwack as it hit him square in the chest. "There. Now we match." Her smile grew as he looked down at the white handprint in horror.

She hummed her victory tune as she went back to chopping the already over-chopped carrots.

"This is my favorite shirt!"

Lois' nose wrinkled. "Really? It shouldn't be."

She continued chopping the vegetables into an orange oblivion. Clark looked over at the bowl of salad by her arm, the wheels beginning to turn.

Clark wiped all emotion from his face as he began airily, "I know you find my fashion sense to be somewhat questionable --" He stopped when she snorted loudly. He paused just long enough to swallow the not so nice comeback that had sprung to mind. "But isn't it important to accessorize appropriately?"

Lois laughed, sharply. "Been reading your mom's Cosmo again? What does that have to do with–"

Her sentence was clipped short by a tidal wave of leafy greens. She shrieked, dropping the knife on the counter, and stumbling backwards.

Clark stood triumphantly, his guilty hand still holding the rim of the bowl.

He watched as Lois shook off the lettuce, reminding Clark of Shelby after a bath. When she began to advance on him, he put his hands up in surrender.

Lois' eyes narrowed into dangerous slits as she slowly plucked a carrot peel from her ear and dropped it on the floor beside her.

"Don't think that's not coming back to haunt you, Kent. Remember that, and live in constant fear."

He handed her some paper towels - an olive branch gesture he hoped would save his skin.

"Let's just try to finish this, okay?" He let out a small sigh of relief when Lois backed off and concentrated on de-salading herself.

"Well what are we gonna do now?" She fished another piece of carrot from her ponytail and scowled.

This time Clark had the courtesy to look guilty. "I think there might be some more flour in the pantry."

Lois spun on her heels and began towards the back hall. "I'll go get it."

Clark tagged quickly behind. "No, I'll get it."

"Clark, I said I'd get it"

Clark edged into the lead. "It's my house. I know where things are."

Lois swung around the table and cut him off at the pass. "It's a kitchen pantry, not a hedge maze. I think I'll manage."

Shoulder to shoulder they squeezed through the doorway, tumbling into the pantry together. Somehow, Lois had managed to fall in front.

She scanned the shelves for a second before her eyes zeroed in on the blue and white flour sack. She turned and smirked.

"See? And you didn't even need to draw me a map."

She went up on her toes and stretched to reach only to end up a few inches short.

Now it was Clark's turn to look smug. "Would you like some help, Lois?" he asked, sweetly.

Lois bent at the knees and leapt for the high shelf.

"No." Hop. "I'm perfectly capable." Hop. "Of reaching it myself."

"Oh yeah. It definitely looks like it."

Lois ignored him, working on a new plan. She snapped her fingers as the epiphany struck. Placing her hands on the thin ledge of the shelf above her, she propped her feet on the one just below her knees. She reached another arm up, poised like a cliffhanger on Everest.

"What are you doing?"

"What does it look like?" she asked, scaling another shelf.

"You're going to hurt yourself," Clark warned. He looked on nervously and positioned himself beneath, hands out to spot her.

She pushed him away with a foot. "Relax, Smallville. I know what I'm –"

Lois' heel slipped off the ledge, and she tumbled backwards into Clark's arms. She was panting softly, the shock sucking the air from her lungs. Clark lowered her slowly, his arms still wrapped protectively around her even after her feet had touched the ground.

"Umm... nice catch," she whispered, her face inches away from his own.

He blinked, caught off guard by the mixture of emotions - relief, gratitude, desire - that flashed in her eyes.

His hands slid down to her waist, and he eased her closer.

BANG

Lois and Clark jumped apart at the loud slam of the screen door that came from the kitchen.

"What was that?" Clark asked.

Lois peaked out of the cracked door. "Chloe's helping your mom with the groceries."

"Well then let's go–"

"Shhh," she waved her hand at him. "I just heard my name."

"Paranoid much, Lois?"

"Not paranoid. Curious"

Clark shook his head and joined her at the door, tilting his head for a better view.

Martha walked into the kitchen, arms full of groceries. Chloe was right behind her with two large brown paper bags of her own. The two stopped dead at the sight of the mess Lois and Clark had left behind.

"Whoa. What happened here?" Chloe asked. "It looks like the produce had a revolt."

Martha went to place the bags down on the counter, but then though better of it. She walked over and set them on the kitchen table instead. "I left Clark and Lois in charge of dinner and–"

"That's all the explanation I need," Chloe cut in. She handed over her bags and chuckled. "Lois could cause a nuclear meltdown making a bowl of cereal."

In the pantry, Clark laughed.

Lois swatted him in the stomach.

His smile turned sour, and he made a move for the door.

"I'm not going to spy on my mom and Chloe."

"It's not spying," Lois countered. His eyebrows flew high, prompting her further explanation. "It's simply prolonged and clandestine observation of two people with the intent to ascertain certain information that is not otherwise readily available."

A beat.

"I have no problem with spying."

Clark frowned. "Well I do." He stalked to the back of the pantry and crossed his arms.

Lois shrugged. "Suit yourself."

He watched as she cracked the door just a little wider and adjusted her line of sight. It doesn't matter what they are talking about, he thought. It's none of our business. We should respect their privacy. We should...

Clark groaned, and took his place next to Lois.

She patted his shoulder and smiled, wickedly. "Welcome to the dark side, Smallville."

Chloe had taken a seat on a stool by the counter as Martha began stacking the non-perishables into the top cabinet.

"You know Chloe I'm really glad you stopped by. I haven't talked to you since," Martha paused, solemnly. "Well, you know."

Chloe now had a mug of something. Coffee, Clark suspected. She turned it in her hands. "Yeah."

"I'm sorry."

Chloe shook her head, her choppy short hair bobbing as she did. "Don't be. Lionel Luthor is finally behind bars. And Lois is back in my life. All things considered, death was pretty good to me."

"Well, we're all glad that you're back. Especially Clark. He really missed you"

Chloe shrugged. "Well, I missed him, too. Aside from Lois, there's no one on this planet that means more to me."

Martha slowed to a stop. She turned and gave Chloe a look Clark didn't quite recognize. "So you're okay with..."

Chloe picked up on whatever she had been alluding to, and quickly nodded. "Yeah. I've finally come to realize that Clark and I are at our best when we're friends. Took me years of unrequited pining, but I finally got the big picture."

Lois turned to Clark, confused. "What are they talking about?" she whispered.

"I don't know..."

Chloe took a sip of her drink. "I guess I'm just too...blonde." The kitchen tinkled with both women's laugher.

Lois clicked her tongue, knowingly. "Ohhh. Your Lana Lang hang ups," she taunted.

Clark scowled. He grabbed the doorknob.

"Whoa, where do you think you're going?"

"Out into the kitchen," he said, coolly.

"You can't go out now, they'll think we were spying on them "

"We were," Clark hissed.

"Just wait." Lois slid herself between him and the door, blocking the way. "You owe me," she said, motioning to the carrot peels that still decorated her hair.

Clark sighed and they both turned back to the door.

Chloe shrugged. "If it can't be me, I'm glad it's her." She finished off her drink and placed the mug in the sink.

"Not that I wasn't a little surprised," she confessed. "But you can't control who you fall in love with."

Martha smiled, knowingly. "I've always found that to be true."

"Still, Clark falling for Lois? Wall of Weird worthy."

Clark stood in stunned silence. What did she just say?

Lois turned to him, wide eyed. "What did she just say?"

Suddenly the pantry felt small. Too small.