Gazeera blinked drowsily. He was out of his cage, yet again, and for once it wasn't Kala's fault. Jason had gotten him a brand-new cage; actually, Clark had paid for it, but Jason picked it out. It was large enough for the size the iguana would eventually grow to be, and the door was only held shut by a flimsy latch. With reptilian persistence, Gazeera had managed to nudge the edge of the door open. Once he forced his blunt green head through, it was simple to get the rest of his body out as well.
He clung to the outside wire for several minutes, until some instinct buried deep in his lizard brain insisted that he explore his territory. The last time he'd escaped, he had ended up on the kitchen table, where Lois had placed a large bowl of salad intended for the family's lunch. Gazeera had gotten to it first, climbed into the bowl, and eaten a large portion before anyone discovered him. After that, no one else would touch the salad, so Gazeera got to eat his fill.
Perhaps some similar treat would be available now. Gazeera turned and leaped off the cage, landing heavily on Jason's bed. He stalked across it, tail dragging, and tried to climb down to the floor, succeeding only in pulling the comforter off the bed. As he headed for the open door, Captain Jack woke up. The black ferret stared out of his cage in astonishment, then grabbed the bars in his front teeth and yanked hard, rattling them loudly. There was little chance of him escaping; the last time Captain Jack got out, he'd gone down to the laundry room and curled up in the open dryer on top of some warm clothes. Lois had reached into the dryer for a pair of jeans and hadn't discovered that Jack was asleep in the left leg until she tried to put them on. Now his cage had a sturdy C-clip on the door, and he could only shake the cage bars furiously as Gazeera hurried out of the room.
The iguana's exploration was leisurely; he found a patch of sunshine in the hall and lay there for several minutes, soaking up the heat, then went underneath a table and tried to eat a dust bunny lurking there. It wasn't tasty, so he kept wandering, poking his snout against doors and occasionally clawing the baseboards in a futile attempt to climb the wall. Wild iguanas were arboreal, and to them, height meant safety from predators as well as abundant food. His ancestors' instincts told Gazeera that the floor wasn't safe; he needed height.
Eventually, he found a surface his claws could hook into, and he began to climb. In the six months Jason had had him, Gazeera had grown from a skinny little lizard with oversize feet and a ridiculously long and whippy tail, to a husky green beast whose body seemed slightly too big for his head. In another six months or so, he would develop the dewlap and jowls of an adult male iguana, bringing his body into proper proportion at last, but for now he was heavy and ungainly. His progress was slow and accompanied by the sound of cloth ripping.
Lois' eyes flickered open at some sound. It was late on Saturday afternoon, and she had fallen asleep while relaxing on the couch. As was the custom in the Lane-Kent household, the twins were away on Saturday night, and Lois and Clark had the apartment to themselves. Ah, bliss – for one day a week they didn't have to chase stories or children. Although by Sunday afternoon Lois knew she would start to miss the clamor of two six-year-olds racing through the rooms, or arguing with each other, or pretending to be Godzilla and Mothra and whacking each other over the head with sofa cushions…
Well, by tomorrow I'll miss it. Proof that parenthood makes you insane, Lois thought with a lazy smile. After they'd dropped the twins off at Nana's house this morning, she and Clark had had a leisurely lunch. He was presently in the study upstairs, and she had been reading a book before dropping off into a short nap. Might as well get some sleep now, Lois thought, the grin becoming wicked. I won't get much sleep tonight.
The faint sound of tearing fabric came again, and Lois scowled, looking around the room. Weird; she couldn't tell exactly where it was coming from, and after the ferret-in-the-dryer fiasco, Captain Jack's cage was as secure as Stryker's Island. Damn weasel; I shoulda realized those jeans were a little too heavy, but I was in a hurry. Having a ferret run up your leg and into your shirt will make you check every item of clothing for the rest of your life. She leaned over, picked up her mug of tea from the coffee table, and sipped it a few times. The sound that had woken her seemed to be gone, so Lois set the tea down and lay back down on the sofa with a little sigh of contentment.
She happened to be looking up, and her eyes widened in horror. "Oh, shit…"
Gazeera had surmounted the obstacle in front of him, and felt much safer on the back of the couch. He clung there blinking and breathing slowly in the sunlight, surveying the room from his new perch.
Then something below him moved. It was the adult female human, the one who didn't like him. She had screeched at him, kicked at him (to be fair, he'd tail-whipped her ankles first), and chased him with a vacuum cleaner on several occasions. Even a lizard had enough sense to realize that this creature meant him harm.
The human stared at Gazeera, her body tensing to move. He stared back, and panicked. As she rolled off the couch, he leaped wildly, trying to escape. Unfortunately, he leaped in the direction he was facing.
Lois dove off the couch and scrambled to her feet, banging her knee against the coffee table and cursing again. She tried to vault the table, yelling for Clark, and felt something heavy land on her back.
Something with claws that sank straight through her sweater and into her skin. Lois shrieked and jumped, reaching around her back to swat at the lizard. Gazeera started hissing angrily, flailing about trying to get loose. His claws were firmly snagged in the wool, though, so all he managed to do was rake Lois' back.
"Goddamn sonofabitch!" Lois screamed, trying again to grab the lizard and rip it off her back. "Get off me you freakin' psychotic dinosaur!"
She finally managed to grab one of Gazeera's front legs, and he promptly whipped his tail around, smacking her wrist. "Oww! Shit! Clark, help! Come get this lizard before I kill it!"
Upstairs in the study, Clark was deeply engrossed in his email. Then he heard Lois' heart suddenly speed up, following a stream of profanity that would've impressed any merchant marine. He hurried downstairs, catching enough of her indignant shouting to realize that Jason's iguana had apparently attacked her.
Clark hadn't believed that the lizard was inherently evil, as Lois insisted. Gazeera (formerly Ignatius, but even Jason had bowed to the inevitable by now) seemed a reasonably tame pet, lying along Jason's arm as the little boy scratched his chin and cooed to him. Clark had even petted the iguana, and Kala tried to keep everyone from realizing how much she adored the scaly creature. But Lois… Lois claimed Gazeera hated her and was out to get her. Clark had always assumed that her habit of yelling and swatting at the lizard with a broom was the cause of most of her iguana-inflicted injuries.
It only took a few seconds for Clark to reach Lois, but then he had to stop, dumbfounded. She had yanked her sweater halfway over her head, and from the savage hissing emanating from within the folds of fabric, Gazeera was trapped inside. His tail suddenly slipped out, and he promptly lashed it, making Lois yelp and curse again as he struck her side. Scratches marred her back, a couple of them already welling up with blood.
"For the love of God get this goddamn scaly little bastard off me!" Lois snarled, struggling with her sweater.
"Hold still," Clark told her, catching hold of the sweater. The hissing increased, and a clawed foot flailed at him, still snagged in the wool.
"Sonofabitch is in my hair," Lois complained, still trying to pry Gazeera away. "I swear, I don't know why I haven't thrown the little monster off the balcony. Ow, don't let him pull!"
"Jason would be devastated," Clark told her calmly, keeping the sweater wrapped around the iguana as he carefully untangled Lois' midnight hair from Gazeera's claws. "Honey, hold still, you're just aggravating him…"
"I'm gonna do more than aggravate him," she promised darkly. "I'm bleeding, aren't I? And that tail raises welts. Welts! I've had enough of this, that dinosaur's going to the zoo, and we'll get Jason a kitten or something. Vicious little hellspawn lizard…"
"Lois, he's just a lizard, he's not actually – hey!"
Clark had almost succeeded in getting Gazeera's front feet untangled from Lois' hair. Then, just as he was explaining that no animal can really be evil, a blunt green head darted out of the loose folds of sweater and chomped down on Clark's hand. The teeth couldn't actually break his skin, but he could feel the pressure, and the sudden attack from Jason's docile pet surprised him so much he dropped the sweater and the lizard. "He bit me!"
Lois leaped away, losing a lock of her hair in the process, and Gazeera thumped to the floor, still hissing like a teakettle. While Clark stared, stunned, the iguana began demolishing the sweater, his tail whipping through the air.
"What on earth…?" Clark started to say, but movement caught his eye. Lois had raced into the kitchen, grabbed a broom, and was coming back with it raised over her shoulder and a furious glint in her eye. "Lois, no!"
"Lemme at him," she yelled menacingly as Clark grabbed the broom and plucked it from her hands. "This is the last freakin' straw, that lizard is going down!"
Clark caught her around the waist and lifted her off the ground, holding her while she struggled to get at the iguana. "Lois, stop," he said, trying to sound soothing. "You can't kill our son's pet."
"He bit you," she roared. "He dies. I will swing that bastard by his scaly tail, right off the edge of the balcony!"
Clark's low chuckle was so far from what she expected to hear that the red haze cleared from Lois' mind slightly, and she turned to look at him. "What's so funny? And put me down!"
He set her down gently, but didn't let go; her sweater was still rolling around on the floor as Gazeera tried to escape it. "Love, he can't hurt me. Not even the real Godzilla could hurt me."
Lois looked a little embarrassed as she muttered, "It's the principle of the thing. And there is no 'real' Godzilla, it's a fake-as-hell movie monster."
Clark kissed the bridge of her nose. "Have I mentioned recently how much I adore the fact that you're protective of me?"
"Somebody's gotta look after you," was Lois' sarcastic reply. "Freakin' superhero…"
"I love you, too," he said, and kissed her again. "Now, let me catch the lizard and stuff him back in his cage. You, meet me in our bathroom. Those scratches need to be disinfected, and I doubt you can reach them yourself."
"You really do have a death wish, don't you?" Lois asked. "You want to pour hydrogen peroxide all down my back. You know I hate that stuff."
"Lois, you're worse than the twins," Clark sighed. "It only fizzes."
"Says the man who's only ever broken his skin once in his life," she glowered.
"Hush," he said, kissing her forehead again. "Go on, now."
Lois sighed heavily and headed for the door, grumbling threateningly at the iguana as she walked past. Clark sighed, shaking his head slightly, and went to retrieve Gazeera.
This, he quickly learned, was not easy when the lizard was in a foul mood. His primary concern was trying not to hurt Gazeera; if that whip-like tail hit his invulnerable arm, the tail would break instead of his skin. Likewise, Gazeera could easily hurt himself trying to bite or scratch a Kryptonian. Clark actually needed about three extra hands to immobilize the flailing, hissing iguana and pull the sweater off of him. Lois didn't help by hanging around in the doorway, glaring at the lizard and snickering whenever Clark muttered, "Darn it" or "Oh, shoot."
Finally, though, he managed to separate the ruins of Lois' sweater from the angrily hissing iguana, and carried Gazeera back to his cage. The only possible way the lizard could've escaped was out the cage door, so Clark turned the cage around to brace the side with the door against the wall. That accomplished, he went to face the only other creature in the house that might attack him: Lois.
She was in the bathroom with her shirt off – always an inspiring sight – twisting around trying to see her back in the mirror so she could assess the damage. "I can't believe the little bugger actually drew blood," Lois growled. "That's it, he's going to the pound tomorrow."
"Lois, he was probably scared," Clark said soothingly, moving past her to get the hydrogen peroxide out of the medicine cabinet.
"Scared? Scared?! He's utterly vicious, is what he is!" Lois fumed. "What on earth makes you think the scaly beast would be scared of me?!"
"Isn't everyone?" Clark asked with a sly smile, dabbing the antiseptic on a cotton ball. "C'mon, Lois, you intimidated Superman. How could a lizard be anything but terrified of you?"
"Appeals to my vanity aren't always going to work," Lois muttered. She glared at him, her wry expression quickly turning to one of distaste as he touched the cotton ball to one of her scratches. Lois made an upset noise halfway between a yelp and a snarl, finishing with, "You know I hate that stuff! The fizzing … ugh! I hate it!"
"I know," Clark said. "Just a minute more… I promise to distract you when this is done."
"It better be one helluva distraction to keep me from stuffing that godforsaken lizard down the garbage disposal," Lois hissed.
"I think I can manage that," Clark said, and kissed her shoulder.