A/N: This is a veeeeeeeeeeeeeery late makeup SM fic for this last year's summer challenge, in which I had the following challenge: PG; Amusement Park. I own nothing but the story.
The Twelve Labors of Clark Kent
Clark was loading some wooden posts into the back of his pickup truck when Chloe pulled into the drive. Grinning, he tossed the last two poles into the bed of his truck and turned to greet his friend, wiping his hands on his pants as he did so. "Hey! I wasn't expecting you today. What's up?" he asked brightly as she walked up to him with a smile. When she handed him a cup of the Talon's best brew, his grin melted into a look of mild suspicion. "Thanks. What's this for?"
Chloe grinned, looking entirely unabashed as she admitted, "I was hoping I might be able to talk you into doing a favor for me."
"Uh huh," he replied dubiously. Taking a cautious sip of the travel mug in his hand, his eyes narrowed at his friend over the brim. "I thought as much," he said as he pulled the cup away from his lips. Arching his eyebrows at his friend, "A triple chocolate mocha latte. With a bribe like this, I have the feeling I'm not going to like this favor of yours."
Chloe chuckled, but she didn't seem to be terribly put off in the face of Clark's suspicion. "You can relax, you know; I'm not about to ask for your kidney or anything," she teased. "And, actually, while your skepticism is duly noted, it's unnecessary. My favor isn't really that bad. It just occurred to me that, what with your new job and my new job…and the fact that Lois has taken it upon herself to single-handedly show you the ropes at the Daily Planet…I realized that we haven't had much time to hang out and just enjoy ourselves. You can tell me all of your war stories about what it's like to chase down stories with Lois." At this, she paused and stared intently into Clark's face, but he didn't comment. Instead, he simply stared patiently at her, waiting for her to drop the other shoe. After a moment, Chloe sighed and continued, "So I was hoping I could talk you into taking some time off today and we could go to that new amusement park that just opened up outside of Grandville."
"That sounds really great," Clark replied honestly, though he was somewhat surprised that she'd felt the need to pull out the big guns in terms of bribery before asking him to do something he'd probably enjoy for the most part. A slight grimace crossed his face as he glanced back up at his companion. "And as much as I'd love to spend a day hanging out like we used to, I just don't know that I can. With all the hours I've been putting in at the Planet lately, I've really neglected things here on the farm. There are about a hundred things I should do today, and even with my abilities, it's probably going to take me most of the day." With an apologetic smile, he finished, "I'm sorry, Chloe, but I just don't know that I can go to the park with you today."
Chloe's eyebrows arched into her hairline, but she didn't look particularly surprised by his answer as she pushed, "Not even if I play the best friend card?"
Though Clark's apologetic look deepened, he shook his head and attempted some levity. "I'm sorry," he said in response. "But, you know what? Why don't we plan to catch some dinner and a movie this week? I'm sure there's probably a new artistic film showing in Metropolis that you can torture me by forcing me to sit through."
"All right," Chloe caved, and if Clark didn't know any better, he'd say that there was something distinctly suspicious about the ease with which she capitulated as she turned to head back to the car. "Well, I'll get out of your way," she called over her shoulder as she went. "I'm sure you have a lot to do. I'll just tell Lois you'll come with us next time?"
Clark had turned to place his cup on the hood of his truck, but he paused at Chloe's words. "Lois is going to be there?" he asked in surprise.
"Oh, didn't I mention it?" the petite blonde with a mischievous smile asked with far too much innocence as she turned back to face him. "Huh. It must have slipped my mind. Anyway, yeah, Lois is going to be there. It was her idea, actually. She thought it'd be great if the three of us could hang out for a little while today. She'll probably be really disappointed that you couldn't make it, but I guess if you're busy…"
"I'm not!" Clark blurted. Then, realizing what he said, he flushed and stammered, "I-I mean, I am. I'm really busy, actually." The corners of Chloe's lips twitched as he tried and failed to adequately recover. "But if Lois…Lois really wants to hang out with me?" he asked incredulously.
Rolling her eyes, Chloe stepped closer to him again. "Is that really so hard to believe?" she asked.
"A little bit," he admitted grudgingly. Things had been…awkward between Lois and himself lately. But they'd gotten much, much worse after a psychotic jeweler kidnapped them, thinking they were a couple, and forced them to sit through an insane lie detector test. Faced with the possibility of the jeweler electrocuting Clark, Lois had professed that she had feelings for her pretend fiancé, and for a few hours, the presumed object of her affections had seriously believed that she had told the truth. Worse still, there was a part of him that had been…happy at the prospect. Of course, she'd later told him she'd slipped the sensor off her finger before making her "confession," and though Clark had feigned relief, he'd been surprised to find that he was rather disappointed, as well.
Still, things should have returned to normal between them. Only they hadn't. Friendship with Lois used to be so easy, something he did without thinking about it. Oh, she certainly drove him insane on occasion, but still, friendship with her had come easily. Maybe other people wouldn't understand how they could be friends or why they would bother. But in a crazy way, Clark understood Lois in a way that he thought few other people could, and she seemed to understand him the same way. Their friendship just worked; they didn't spend a lot of time questioning why.
Until it stopped working, really. Oh, they were still friends, of course. But every time Clark saw Lois, he was left feeling unsure of himself, unsure of what he should do or say. She didn't seem to be faring any better, if her overly bright smiles were any indication. She also didn't tease him as much as she used to, though he'd intentionally given her plenty of openings to do so since their harrowing experience. Unlike in the past, she refused to take the bait and it was driving him crazy.
So, all things considered, it was downright odd that Lois would be so eager to spend the afternoon in his company, though he supposed she could have thought an afternoon with himself and Chloe could work wonders on dispelling the inexplicable tension that had come up between the two Daily Planet partners before it began to interfere with their professional relationship. Chloe had always acted fairly well as a buffer between her best friend and her cousin.
Seemingly ignorant of Clark's private thoughts, Chloe continued, "Lois said she was looking forward to it. Well, she said she was looking forward to seeing the look on your face if she managed to cajole you into riding the Death Drop with her. But she wanted to be there with you, and that's something, right?"
Glancing around, Clark made up his mind. He'd been telling Chloe the truth; he really did have a lot of work to do. But the idea of playing hooky to go to an amusement park with the two women who meant the most to him was proving to be irresistible, and so he grinned down at his companion. "Give me five minutes and I'll go," he said before whooshing off. Some chores could wait, but there were one or two that wouldn't keep until the next day.
Before Chloe had finished taking her next sip of coffee, he was finished. He'd mucked out the barn – a job that normally didn't take terribly long, but it was messier than usual because he'd agreed to stable a few of Ben Parker's cows while the other man's barn roof was being repaired. Still, while the job was somewhat messier than usual and had never been one that Clark found particularly pleasant, with his powers, it didn't take terribly long to complete.
He'd also agreed to her Ben's cattle from one field to an adjoining one while his neighbor oversaw the roofing project. Normally, this wouldn't have presented much of a problem to Clark, as all of his cattle had long been accustomed to their owner's particular abilities. Ben's cattle were nowhere near as nonchalant at being picked up and sped away to another field in the blink of an eye, so Clark had left more than a few extremely startled cattle behind as he raced to change clothes and return to his friend's side.
"All right, Chloe," he said, straightening out his shirt as he did so. "I'm ready to go when you are."
"Excellent!" she said as she hopped behind the wheel of her car and waited for Clark to get into the passenger seat. "Lois is going to be thrilled that you were able to join us; I just know it!"
Clark should have been clued into the fact that Chloe seemed overly confident about Lois's state of mind. That in itself should have been the first warning sign that things might not have been entirely on the up-and-up. Actually, his first clue should have been that she stressed that Lois had been the one to suggest the outing, but, unfortunately, he'd deluded himself into believing that his best friend would never, ever lie to him like that.
But lie she did. Rather shamelessly, in fact, as he came to discover not too much later – pretty much as soon as the two of them arrived at the amusement park, in fact.
They managed to find a parking spot only about three miles from the entrance (or so Chloe professed the distance to be after walking across the enormous parking lot) and made their way to the spot where Chloe and Lois had planned to meet. A couple of minutes later, they turned when they heard Lois cry out her cousin's name, and Chloe had raced forward to give Lois a hug. Given the busy schedule at the Daily Planet as of late, the Lane-Sullivan cousins hadn't seen each other much more often than Chloe and Clark had seen each other.
"This was a great idea, Chloe," Lois gushed as she strode forward. "I can't wait to…what's he doing here?" She'd just caught sight of Clark, and she stared at him in shock for a long moment before turning to fix her companion with an accusatory glare. "Chloe," she said, drawing out the word in a way that made it absolutely clear that she knew exactly where to place the blame for this little surprise.
Then, after glancing back at him, Lois grabbed her cousin's arm and whirled her around so that the two women stood with their backs to Clark, presumably to keep him from overhearing their conversation. Of course, Lois didn't know that she and Chloe could have been in an entirely different country and Clark would have heard them if he wanted to, which he certainly did at the moment. He didn't like being duped any more than Lois did, and he was curious to know what exactly the two women would say about him. "What exactly do you think you're you up to, Chloe?" Lois hissed angrily.
"Nothing," Chloe replied, but by now, Clark knew better than to be fooled by her innocent-sounding rejoinder. Apparently, Lois's expression made it clear she wasn't buying it either, because Chloe sighed. "Okay, look. The three of us haven't had much time to spend together lately, and I really wanted to see the both of you. But I know how stubborn you guys are, and I knew you wouldn't agree to this if you knew it was going to be the three of us together."
"I might have agreed to it," Lois replied defensively. This time, it was her cousin's turn to adequately convey her thoughts on the matter using only her expression because Lois conceded, "Okay, maybe not. But still. It was a low-down and dirty trick, and you know it."
"Uh huh." Chloe seemed completely unfazed by her cousin's accusation as she turned around again and headed towards Clark. However, he heard her shoot over her shoulder, "Aren't you the one who always says that all's fair in love and war?"
Lois didn't move for a moment, but when she did, her long legs quickly ate up the distance between herself and her petite companion. "You're saying this is war, right? Because there's no way you'd be saying it's lo- the other thing. Right? Chloe? Am I right?"
But Chloe didn't answer. Instead, she herded Lois forward until they were standing in front of Clark. For a moment, he considered taking her to task for tricking him, as well, but he didn't. In the end, he couldn't deny that he was secretly somewhat glad that she did convince him to come along (even if Lois was clearly less than enthusiastic at having him there), and he had no doubt that Chloe would find a way to force him to admit as much. So, rather than wasting his time (and his dignity), Clark let it go.
Instead, he decided to focus on a rather more immediate problem. "You know, it's probably going to take us all day just to get into this place," he commented, noting the huge crowds of people swarming the ticket windows.
"Not to worry," Chloe said brightly as she began to rummage through her bag. "I already bought us tickets!"
Lois, who had perked up a little at the suggestion that this little Machiavellian scheme of Chloe's might have met its fatal flaw, deflated again as her cousin whipped some slips of paper out of her bag. "Of course you did," she said in resignation. "You're like a regular Girl Scout."
Madame Machiavelli laughed. "Just because some of us never seem to be prepared for anything doesn't mean the rest of us have to follow suit," she chided as she marched towards the entrance. "Now come on, slowpokes! Let's get going! I want to check out that ride everyone's been talking ab…hold on a sec."
The chorus to "Get Me to the Church on Time" had begun to play from somewhere in the depths of Chloe's purse, and everyone stopped to give her the chance to answer her cell phone. "Hey, Jimmy!" she said brightly into the mouthpiece. Clark waited patiently – Lois markedly less so – as the conversation continued, though they could only hear one side of it. "Yeah, I'm still with Clark and Lois. We were about to go into the…Well, no. I haven't heard from…yeah. Really?" Lois began to tap her foot impatiently. "Oh, no! I'll take care of it right away!"
Slipping her phone back into her purse, Chloe frowned and said regretfully, "Sorry to have to do this to you guys, but I'm going to have to go. There's been a flower…cake!...emergency."
"A flower cake emergency?" Lois said suspiciously.
"Er…well, the…uh…the florist got the instructions for our bouquets wrong and…um…our bouquets are going to…clash with the cake! Or something. I wasn't really able to make much sense out of what Jimmy was saying," she explained lamely.
"I can sympathize," Lois muttered. "Anyway, I'll take care of it, Chloe! After all, what's the maid of honor for?" Clark scowled; she seemed all too eager to leave.
"No!" Chloe blurted. "You can't!" At her maid of honor's arched eyebrow, she flushed and explained quickly, "You can't because…I was going to have the florist prepare a…a surprise for you!"
Crossing her arms over her chest, Lois frowned down at her cousin. "A surprise," she echoed skeptically. "A flower surprise? For your wedding?"
Chloe clearly realized she was on shaky ground, but Clark didn't know how many points she should be awarded for that because only an insane person wouldn't. Feeling charitable (he had appreciated the coffee earlier), Clark decided to throw her a life raft. "Oh, come on, Chloe. You don't need to lie to us. If Jimmy's found himself at home alone and the two of you wanted to take advantage of the privacy, Lois and I would understand."
"We would?" Lois demanded.
"You would?" Chloe asked at the same time, sounding somewhat confused. Then, catching on, she cried more eagerly, "I mean, of course I know you would! I'm sorry, I shouldn't have lied about it. You're right, Clark. Jimmy's at home waiting for me, and…uh…he said he brought flowers and…uh…cake. So I can only imagine he's planning on feeding me cake in bed while he…"
"Do not need to know this!" Lois yelped, slapping her hands over her ears. "Too much information, Chloe! I live in that apartment too, you know?"
With a victorious smile, Chloe offered an exceedingly insincere apology. "Anyway, here are the tickets," she said quickly, thrusting them into Clark's hands. "And I'll see you later! I have a fiancé to get back to!"
Glaring after her cousin, Lois dropped her hands to her sides and said, "She planned this, you know."
"How can you be so sure?" Clark asked innocently, making a note that he would have to tell Chloe she could use some acting practice. Not that he was usually one to talk, but she'd made even him look good this time.
Shooting the tickets in his hand a significant look, she explained, "You mean on top of the incredibly lame excuse? She only ever had two tickets. Was she planning on sneaking you in behind her back, Smallville?"
Clark shrugged, unable to come up with a plausible excuse to help Chloe out. "Well, but it was nice of her, though. Right?" he asked.
"Uh huh," she grunted. "Nice. See you, Clark!" she chirped brightly. Turning on her heel, she began to stride quickly back towards the parking lot.
"Hey!" he called out in protest, catching up to her quickly. "You're leaving?"
"Of course I'm leaving!" she replied, not even pausing to consider the matter. "I'm not a big fan of being set up, you know."
"Well, neither am I," he retorted. "But I was planning on sticking around. Whatever Chloe's intentions were, this still looks like fun and we do have two free tickets and nothing else to do this afternoon."
"Speak for yourself! There are plenty of things I could be doing at the…Oof! Watch it!" she chided another guest at the park, who had rudely bumped into her on his way up to the gate.
Clark caught her as she staggered back a couple of steps, helping her to regain her balance, and took advantage of the moment to interject, "Right. You could be proofreading stories. How fun."
Lois pulled away from him and began to walk towards her car again. "It may not be the most glamorous of jobs, Clark, but that doesn't mean it's not still important."
She was about to begin one of her lectures about the Rules of Reporting, Clark could tell. He recognized the tone of voice. Before she could do so, he blurted, "Lois, is there a reason you don't want to spend time with me?"
That stopped her in her tracks. Staggering to a halt, she slowly turned to meet his eyes, her expression carefully schooled so that he couldn't read any of what she was thinking on her normally expressive face. "That's a ridiculous question! What would make you think that?" she asked innocently.
"You almost ran over three little kids in your eagerness to leave," he explained, gesturing to the slightly traumatized children in question, who were clutching their mother's legs and howling. "You and I haven't spent more than five minutes together outside of work lately, and whenever we do spend time together, you look like you'd rather be chewing broken glass."
"Well, I-I'm pretty sure you're imagining things Clark," she huffed, rolling her eyes at him. "Of course I'm not avoiding you or anything like that."
"Really?" he pressed. "Because ever since that jeweler kidnapped us, it really seems like you have. So I have to wonder if maybe you weren't telling the truth when you told him that you lo-"
"In your dreams!" she yelped, cutting him off. "I told you I slipped the sensor off my finger! Get over yourself, Clark! Like I would really have f-feelings for you like that. I mean, come on! You're you and I'm me, and there's just no way it would ever work out. It would be this huge disaster, all of our friends would hate us, we'd probably be fired from work…heck, we may end up killing each other. I mean, we would if we were to date ever. Which we wouldn't ever do."
He'd only been trying to get a rise out of her when he brought up the incident with the jeweler, but her eagerness to dispel any notion of the two of them dating was starting to get a little insulting. Before she could go on for another few minutes, completely souring his mood, he snarled through gritted teeth, "I get the point, Lois." Thankfully, that shut her up, but she didn't seem to be any more inclined to join him in the amusement park, so he decided it was time for a challenge. Holding up the tickets for her to see, he said, "So if you really don't have a problem hanging out with me – just the two of us, as friends – then prove it."
Lois stared at him without speaking for another few moments, and he was afraid she was going to turn him down. Finally, however, she stalked forward and snatched the ticket out of his hand. "Fine," she snapped. "Let's go have fun."
Clark sighed as he turned and followed her towards the entrance. He'd won the battle against the bull-headed Lois Lane, but winning the war would be another matter entirely. From the look she was shooting him out of the corner of her eye as he escorted her to the entrance, he could tell that she might have agreed to join him at the park, but that didn't mean she had any intention of enjoying herself.
But enjoy herself she did, and nobody seemed more surprised by that than Lois. At least, she seemed to be ready to enjoy herself as the two of them stood in line for what was already the new park's most talked about ride, "The Lion's Mouth." It was a monstrous wooden roller coaster, the longest in the world. It also looked like something of a deathtrap to Clark, but his attempts to convince Lois of this had fallen on deaf ears.
"Hey, what's that guy doing?" Lois cried, hopping up and down on her toes to look out over the crowd stretched in front of her. "He's letting her pass through? But I just saw him measure her, and there's no way she's tall enough for this ride!"
Clark, who had seen the same thing without having to hop up and down on the tips of his toes to do it (height did have its advantages), said in a tired voice, "She's less than an inch short, Lois. Can't you cut her a break?"
"No," Lois responded honestly. "Not when she's in front of me in line." At Clark's sigh, she turned to him and huffed, "I've never been very good at waiting; you know that!"
"Well, then, you're getting some much-needed practice, aren't you?" he needled her, unfazed by the force of her irritation. In his mind, the longer they waited in line, the more time they spent doing something other than taking their lives into their own hands and riding the roller coaster that looked like suicide on rails.
It took another fifteen minutes for the two of them to reach the front of the line, during which time Lois almost began to froth at the mouth in irritation and Clark put some serious thought into what he would put in his Last Will and Testament, should the ride operator give him a chance to write one before strapping him in.
"Yes!" Lois shouted as she whirled on Clark and whacked him lightly in the test with her amusement park map. "We're up next, Sma…hey, you okay?" she asked, her grin fading suddenly to be replaced by a slight frown of concern. "You don't look so good."
"I'm okay," he replied, tugging nervously at his collar. Her frown deepened as her eyebrows arched challengingly at him, so he continued sheepishly, "I'm just not that big of a fan of…you know."
With a nod, Lois threw him a sympathetic smile. "Yeah, I know." She didn't, actually, at least not entirely. She knew he was afraid of heights, but she didn't know why – and if she knew about his abilities, she probably would have laughed at the fact that he was afraid of heights at all. It wasn't like he would be hurt, no matter what height he fell from.
He supposed she would be right to find his fear of heights amusing. Sometimes he thought it was a rather stupid phobia, himself, but then he supposed that was the thing about phobias. They didn't have to be rational; fear just was what it was.
His fear of heights had originally stemmed, rather ironically enough, from a rollercoaster. It was one of his first memories, from a time after he'd begun to realize that he was different from everyone else but before he'd realized what that fully meant. For a belated birthday gift, his parents had taken the day off of the omnipresent work keeping the family farm afloat and had taken a trip to the county fair. Clark had been enthralled by the amusement park rides, and after withstanding some considerable begging, Jonathan agreed to accompany Clark on the small roller coaster that had been set up in the middle of the fairground.
Clark had squealed with joy as the ride started up, but just as the roller coaster hit its first peak, something had gone wrong. It had only been for a few seconds, but the car had shimmied and stalled out just as the car carrying the Kents crested the hill. For a few terrifying seconds as he stared at the ground so far beneath him, Clark had been convinced that he was going to fall to his death, and even the comforting weight of his father's arm around his waist hadn't completely dispelled his fear.
One day, he would discover that he was invulnerable – that even if he had fallen, he would not have been harmed in the descent. But his fear of heights had been born that day, and all the rational thinking in the world hadn't dispelled the memory of that childish phobia from his mind.
He was still trying to decide if he should tell Lois the whole story when she glanced back at the roller coaster. "You don't have to do this, you know. I can go on this one alone."
"No, it's okay," he said quickly. "I don't mind." Seeing her skeptical look, he added sheepishly, "Okay, I'm not thrilled about the idea. But I want to do this." And he truly did. Of course, it would be nice to face this fear of his and, if possible, beat it. But, more importantly, when Lois had suggested taking a ride on The Lion's Mouth, she'd looked so excited at the prospect. He couldn't let her down.
Slinging her arm through his, Lois leaned into him and smiled up into his face. "It'll be okay, Clark. You'll see. I'll be with you the whole time, and I'm not going to let anything happen to you."
Clark couldn't help it; he laughed. "I appreciate that, Lois."
"No problem, Smallville. What are friends for?" she asked, winking at him. "Now come on! It's our turn!"
He could stop a speeding train in its tracks, but even he wasn't certain if he couldn't have resisted the inexorable force that was Lois Lane on a mission. She dragged him into one of the cars closest to the front and strapped herself in next to him, and in far less time than he would have liked, the roller coaster cars began to move.
As they chugged laboriously up the first enormous peak, Clark swallowed heavily and tried to resist the impulse to check for the nearest exit. He was concentrating on sucking in shallow breaths through his nose when he felt Lois grab his hand and link her fingers through his own. When he turned to look at the woman beside him, he was struck by the tenderness in her smile. Did she really have such an expression on her face for him?
"It's okay, Clark. I'm right here with you," she murmured softly.
He shouldn't have found comfort in her words. After all, if something did go wrong, he would be far more inclined to be able to offer assistance than she. Still, there was something comforting about having her right there next to him. He was still scared, but the fear didn't seem so overwhelming, so long as he concentrated on the feel of her hand in his own.
In less than a minute, the ride was over, and Clark was both relieved and a little surprised to find that he'd not only survived the experience but he'd enjoyed it as well – at least a little bit. True, his screams had been composed of equal parts terror and excitement, but even that was a marked improvement.
As they made their way off the ride, Lois dragged Clark over to the photo booth to check out the snapshot of their car as it passed by the automatic camera installed on the ride. It took them a moment to find their picture, and when they did, Clark grimaced a bit. His expression in the photograph was hardly one of supreme confidence, and he expected Lois to tease him, now that he was back on solid ground, about what even he thought was a silly fear of heights. Instead, she snorted and glanced up at him with a bemused grin. "Well, that wasn't so bad, was it?"
"Not as much as I had thought it would be," he admitted, but he still didn't move away from the booth, at least not yet. Instead, he gazed suspiciously down at her. "So that's it?" At her quizzical expression, he pressed, "No sarcastic remark about the big strong man being afraid of a little roller coaster? Now that we're safe and sound, you're not going to ask how someone could be so scared of heights?" She had been sympathetic to him before, but he knew Lois. She was always there for her friends in time of need, but once the moment had passed, she usually reverted back to her typical sarcastic banter. Was she still being nice to him, for some reason, or had the moment of camaraderie they'd found as they'd braved the Lion's Mouth together faded? Was Lois even now putting up that wall between them again?
His fears were slightly assuaged as she asked with a laugh, "You want me to make fun of you?"
"No," he admitted with a sigh of relief. "I just am surprised you're passing up what has to be a golden opportunity to bust my chops. It's okay, you know. I don't mind a few jokes at my expense. In fact, it's kinda scaring the crap out of me that you're being so nice about it all," he teased. Leaning towards her, he grinned and murmured, "I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop."
Lois laughed in return, but then she shrugged. "Oh, don't worry. I'll make fun of you plenty by the time the day is over. But everyone's afraid of something, Smallville. It's nothing to be ashamed of."
"Oh, really?" he asked as he took her hand and helped lead her out of the throng of people swarming around them. "Even you?"
"Even me," she admitted with a nod.
Clark cast a look at her over his shoulder. "I don't believe that for a second, Lane. I've never seen you afraid of anything." Of course, he knew that she did get scared sometimes – she was just generally too stubborn to admit it. It was hard to imagine the fear of anything ever getting the better of her, however.
For a moment, she was silent, but then she muttered, "Small spaces."
"What?" he asked, turning to face her as they finally made their way to the edge of the crowd.
Blushing, Lois dropped her eyes to roughly his third button down as she muttered a little louder, "Small spaces. I'm not…I'm not good with small spaces, that's all. I don't like feeling confined. I mean, don't get me wrong; it's not that big a deal. It's not like I can't get on elevators or anything like that. I'm just…I'm not a fan of tight spaces, is all."
He supposed he should have been surprised by her admission, but when he thought about it, it actually wasn't that much of a shock. Knowing Lois as he did, he could only imagine how much a woman like her would hate to feel trapped. She was a woman who was born to buck the restrictions others would put upon her and live her life in her own way. She was too strong to break under the pressure of confinement, but she would never thrive under it the way she did when she was free.
She was clearly embarrassed by her confession, so to distract her, he asked suddenly, "So, do I get anything for having put myself through the torture of having to strap myself in to the deathtrap on wheels that you call a rollercoaster?" It wasn't his best effort, but it was the first thing he could think of.
Lois's head jerked up, and she looked at him in confusion for a moment. It didn't take long for his question to sink in, however, and when it did, she rolled her eyes up at him. "What do you want, Clark? A prize?"
"No, a kiss will do," he needled her, just wanting to see her reaction.
It wasn't quite what he'd expected. Her eyes widened in shock, and she sucked in a deep breath as she stammered, "Wh-what do you mean, a k-kiss?"
A little thrown by the expression on his face, he didn't move for a second. Then, figuring she was probably still somewhat rattled by the fact that she'd actually confessed to experiencing fear in her life (an emotion he was sure she found embarrassing), he decided to press his luck. Placing the tip of one finger on his lower lip, he leaned down and challenged, "Come on, Lois, lay one on me!"
He was rewarded with a shaky laugh, but she seemed to be back to her usual self as she snorted loudly and ribbed him by saying, "In your dreams, Smallville. That ride must have jostled your brains too much, because you should now that there's no way that I would ever willingly kiss you!" Taking a step back, she swung her fist at his bicep, intending to give him one of what Chloe had dubbed Lois's "love taps."
"Okay," he agreed, completely unperturbed by her rejection as he caught her fist before it could make contact. "I guess I'll have to take my prize myself."
He only been intending to tease her, to annoy her, to cause her to bicker with him the way she used to do. So he couldn't even begin to explain the impulse that came over him as he tugged on the fist he had trapped in his hand, wrapped his arm around her waist, and pulled her towards him so that he could press his lips against hers. Perhaps Lois hadn't been too far off the mark and the ride had jostled his brain, after all.
For a second, Clark almost deepened the kiss, making it something more. He almost forgot that he was kissing her because he wanted to annoy her, not because he had actually intended to initiate a romantic embrace. But in the end, he pulled away after only one quick, chaste kiss, though said kiss had lingered a little longer than he'd originally intended.
He pulled away with a mischievous grin and saw the wide-eyed look of shock on his partner's face. "Wh-why did you…?" she began, and Clark's breath caught in his throat when he caught her eyes. There was something there, lurking just below the surface. Or was he imagining things? Was she really looking at him like she…?
"I've gotta go," she blurted suddenly, before he could come to a decision on whether or not he was actually imagining things. "I…uh…bathroom. I've gotta go to the bathroom. Be right back."
"But I…! Er…okay," he said lamely, speaking to thin air. Lois had already turned and was plowing her way through the crowd. He was still trying to work his way through whatever had just happened when a strident voice broke into his thoughts.
"Well, well, well! Clark Kent and Lois Lane! Who would have thought?" The exultant cry came from Clark's left, and his head whipped around in surprise. Then his heart sank into his stomach.
Three woman were standing a few feet away, staring at him with something that looked like almost unholy glee. Clark didn't know any of the women particularly well, but he recognized them nonetheless. They all worked for the Daily Planet, and Clark generally tried to avoid them whenever possible.
Stefanie, Linda, and Jenny were on the gossip, fashion, and "night scene" beats at the Planet (though he could never remember which was on which – but, then again, it probably didn't matter). He hadn't had much cause to talk to Stefanie or Linda in the past, but Jenny was another matter entirely. Since the day he'd gotten the job at the paper, Jenny had pursued him rather ruthlessly, and she'd made it clear that she wasn't about to take no for an answer.
In fact, Clark had enough experience with the three women before him to know that they were the type to eat a man alive if given the chance, so he generally tried to avoid engaging with them. There was no avoiding it now, however. They had clearly seen the kiss Clark had planted on Lois (if the glare Jenny was shooting his way was any indication) and were coming in for the kill.
"So, this is what you and Lois have been up to, all of those times you run off to…'cover a story,'" Stefanie said snidely as she took a step forward.
"I think Ms. Mercer has a policy against Planet employees dating each other. Doesn't she, Jen?" Linda piped up.
"Definitely," Jenny answered, still glaring daggers at him. "But if you're really lucky, maybe she wouldn't fire you both. She might just have you reassigned. Though she has been trying to get rid of Lois for a while, hasn't she?"
Clark's eyes narrowed at the veiled threat. "Ms. Mercer isn't going to fire Lois," he scoffed. "Certainly not over a simple misunderstanding."
"A misunderstanding?" Linda asked skeptically, her eyebrows shooting into her hairline. "That's certainly one way of putting it."
"Didn't look like a misunderstanding to me," Stephanie concurred cattily.
Sharing in the joke, Jenny threw a smirk at her companions. "I guess we know now how Lois plans on getting ahead at the paper. You should probably watch out for yourself, Clark. I mean, everyone knows that Lois is a pill; we just didn't know she was easy, on top of it. You wouldn't want to get your name linked to hers, would you? It could hurt your career."
Clark saw red at these words, but he gritted his teeth and took a couple of deep breaths. He couldn't afford to lose his temper, not now. He had no doubt that the three women before him would relish in spreading gossip about Lois around the paper – happily exaggerating the brief kiss they had seen and inventing several kisses that they hadn't. Lois wasn't the type to care much if she didn't make a lot of friends at the paper, but he couldn't believe she'd be fine with the prospect of having her name smeared through the mud, either.
If Clark didn't do something to stop the gossip before it could start, there would be no way to salvage the situation later. Even if Lois didn't get fired over such unsubstantiated rumor, it would still follow her wherever she went, undoubtedly growing more sordid with each telling until the story lost all recognizable relation to the truth.
Crossing his arms over his chest, Clark stared into the eyes of the women before him until they each began to squirm uncomfortably in turn. "I would be honored to have my name liked to hers, actually. Lois is a great reporter. She doesn't have the most experience…yet…but in another few years, I have no doubt that she'll be the best reporter at the paper. She's brilliant, she's determined, and nobody works harder than her to get the story. What's more, she's a very good friend of mine. She means a lot to me, in fact, and I'm not going to let her be hurt by a punch of petty lies."
"Lies?" Jenny snarled angrily. "We know what we saw!"
"You saw two friends enjoying a day off together. That's it," he stated calmly.
Tossing her hair over her shoulder, she retorted, "Well, regardless of what you say, it doesn't change anything. The minute Tess hears about what we saw, she'll believe the worst and will fire that obnoxious partner of yours! Make no mistake about that!"
Fixing a look of intense contemplation on his face, Clark said slowly, "Well, now, that's an interesting question, isn't it? As I said, Tess isn't going to fire Lois without cause. She'd be a fool to fire her best up-and-coming reporter at all, frankly, but she's certainly not going to fire Lois over unsubstantiated gossip. And, like I said, I'm not about to let Lois be hurt by this."
The three girls closed ranks, shifting their bodies together for solidarity. "And what exactly are you going to do?"
Clark smiled broadly. "Nothing, of course!"
"Nothing?" Jenny repeated in confusion.
"I don't need to do anything. You guys aren't going to be talking about Lois and what you think you saw," he said confidently.
The three women exchanged a look and then turned back to Clark. "We're not?"
Over Linda's left shoulder, Clark saw Lois make her way back towards the group. Grinning up at her, he said as he scooted around the women before him, "Nope."
"And why wouldn't we talk about it?" Jenny snapped, halting him in his tracks.
He paused just long enough to glance back over his shoulder at the three of them. "If you try to tell everyone your suspicions in an attempt to hurt Lois, I'll simply tell them the truth – that Lois and I are nothing more than very good friends. So ask yourselves this: Who do you think everyone will believe? The three of you, or me?"
He didn't look back at them as he walked away, but he could swear that he felt the heat of their glares bore a hole between his shoulder blades. He just hoped that his gamble paid off. There was a good chance that Linda, Stefanie, and Jenny would recognize that there was strength in numbers, and that the word of three would generally overpower the protest of one. On the other hand, Clark had developed a reputation at the paper of being a bit of a "boy scout," whereas Stefanie, Linda, and Jenny all had reputations that were considerably less than sterling. In fact, they were all on fairly thin ice after a recent stunt they'd pulled had backfired in their faces and almost embroiled the paper in a messy lawsuit. There was a good chance that Tess might not be so forgiving a second time around. If the three of them gambled and lost – if they told their story and Tess believed Clark was speaking the truth – their jobs could be on the line. Would they really risk it?
If they did, he and Lois would deal with it, he decided. But for now, he wasn't going to let the three of them ruin his day with Lois. Particularly since he'd been granted so few of them recently.
"What was that about?" Lois asked as he approached, craning her neck to watch the three women as they walked away. "Hey, is that…?"
"It's nothing," he interrupted. "They were just saying hi."
Her eyes traveled to his, and she gave him a searching look. "Yeah?" she asked doubtfully.
"Absolutely," he replied confidently. "Come on. You wanna go on the Lion's Mouth again?"
Wrinking her nose, Lois looked up at the giant ride behind him and then shook her head slowly. "Nah. It was overrated. I saw some carnie games over here, and I think I'd rather kick your ass at one of those. If you're nice, I'll even win you a prize."
Biting back a laugh, Clark gave her a solemn look. "That's very kind of you, Lois."
"Oh, I know!" she returned brightly, spinning on her heel and charging through the crowd towards the ticket seller's booth. Clark trailed after her, shaking his head in bemusement. "So, where do you want to begin?" she asked as she looked around eagerly.
"Hm…how about this one?" he suggested, gesturing to a nearby booth. The huge flashing sign above the carnie's head read "Duck Hunt!" His eyes twinkling with mirth, he grinned down at her. "What do you say, Lane? I bet I can take you."
A positively wicked grin spread across her face; he'd known that this game was right up her alley, since her father had taught her how to shoot from the time she was young. "Oh, you're on! Come on, little lady," she teased, "I'll show you how it's done."
Clark laughed. "Of course you will, Lois," he responded dutifully. Of course, she didn't know that he had enhanced reflexes, courtesy of his powers, and so he wasn't the bad shot she assumed him to be. Also, since carnie games were notoriously rigged, she was probably hampered by being such a terrific shot – she was trying to aim as if she was firing a rifle with an accurately calibrated scope, which wasn't the case. At any rate, Clark not to laugh too loudly when the timer expired and the carnie informed him that he had fired more of the ridiculous-looking metal birds than she had.
"Here you go, little lady," he teased her in turn as he took the stuffed animal the carnie handed him. It was a red-tinted deer with bright yellow hooves and tiny yellow horns on the top of its head. Glancing down at it skeptically, he passed it over to Lois. "Now what was that about winning me a prize?"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," she returned. With a huff, she glowered down at the stuffed deer in her hands as if the entire thing was its fault. "You know this means war, right?"
Though it looked like she was addressing her comments to the deer, Clark was certain that he was actually the target of her challenge. "I wouldn't doubt it," he responded cheerfully, knowing it would drive her insane.
Clark didn't know how long the two of them travelled from booth to booth in friendly competition. He won most of the challenges (probably due in large part to his unfair advantage), but Lois won a fair number of them. As promised, she even won him a prize – and, of course, it would end up being an Elmer Fudd doll, he thought somewhat sourly to himself as the carnie handed it over. Behind him, Lois was howling with laughter, so it was with great dignity that Clark turned and headed towards the final booth.
They only had three tickets left, and it took two to play. So Lois, grinning widely up at him (probably still gloating over the fact she'd beaten him at the last challenge), graciously gestured for him to go ahead. It was a fishing game of sorts; Clark was handed a rod with a magnet at the end of a string, and he had to try to catch one of the magnetic apples in the kiddie pool of water in the middle of the tent. If he managed to catch an apple, the color of the apple would determine the size of his prize.
Standing behind him, Lois stretched up on her toes and scanned the wall of prizes on the far side of the tent. Then, making a thoughtful noise, she declared softly in his ear, "I've already picked out what I want. Catch one of the yellow ones for me."
Shaking his head, Clark sighed and replied with false churlishness, "You know, most women would be happy with whatever their man got them." He hadn't been thinking about the significance of his comment, but it became obvious that she wasn't thinking much more clearly herself when she gave her response.
"Yeah, but the fact that I'm more of a challenge is part of my charm. It's also one of the things you love most about me," she retorted cheerfully. They started to laugh but their chuckles faded into an awkward silence as their exchange fully sunk in. Clark had declared himself to be her man, and she hadn't refuted his comment. In fact, she'd seemed to confirm it by her words – though her comment had been teasing in nature.
Feeling completely invisible, the carnie looked on in confusion as his customers tried to manage to read the other's expression while simultaneously not looking directly in the other's direction. "Uh…I guess we should start, huh?" Clark finally blurted, desperate to end the painfulness of the moment.
"Oh, absolutely!" Lois agreed quickly, scooting to the side to put a little distance between the two of them.
Absolutely certain that his cheeks were bright red, Clark tried to focus on the game but his thoughts were on anything but fishing. He tried not to overanalyze what had just happened, but somehow, he couldn't seem to drag his thoughts onto any other subject. If it weren't for Lois's voice in his year, yelling instructions at the top of her lungs ("Left! Left! No, your OTHER left! Okay, forward! A bit more…a bit more! Gah! You missed it! Okay, pull back! Pull back!"), he doubted he would have won her any prize at all. It was only by some sort of miracle that he managed to catch a yellow apple – or any apple, for that matter – in the end.
"Yes!" Lois cried happily as she approached him again and thrust the stuffed deer he'd won her earlier into his arms. "Hold this for a sec," she said. For a moment, he thought she was coming to congratulate him or thank him or something, but instead, with her attention on the carnie, she pointed towards the back wall, "I want…that one."
Clark watched as Lois grabbed her newest prize and displayed it to Clark triumphantly. "Not bad, huh?" she crowed. He wondered if it was possible that she'd already somehow forgotten that she hadn't technically been the one to win the prize. One would also think that the prize had been won in some extreme test of endurance instead of in a amusement park game, given her attitude.
"Lois…," he began, intending to call her on her excess of enthusiasm for her newest stuffed acquisition. However, when he found he didn't really know how he'd intended on continuing that sentence, he shook his head in mild exasperation and said, "You know, that has to be the ugliest pig doll I've ever seen in my life."
Lois pursed her lips thoughtfully as she stared down at it. "I don't know. I think it's kind of cute." After a short pause, she added, "Besides, I think these are supposed to be tusks. Maybe this is a boar and not a pig. Hmmm…there's something off about the ears. You don't suppose he's supposed to be an elephant, do you?"
Clark laughed. "So we've concluded that it's a pig, a boar, or a mutant elephant. Yup. It's adorable."
He expected her to argue; he even thought she might get a little mad at his teasing of what she clearly seemed to consider her great achievement. Instead, she gave a slight lurch to her shoulders – a pale imitation of a shrug – and said softly, "I guess it isn't the cutest thing in the world, Clark, but the two of us won it together. I think that makes it pretty special. Don't you?"
His mood shifted from amused to abashed in no time flat. As his grin melted from his face, he glanced down at her in surprise. Was that really why she'd been so excited about her prize? Because it was something the two of them had done together?
It was funny, but looking at it in that light, Clark had to admit that he'd been a bit quick to judge before. Why, there really was something almost downright charming about the poarephant (as he still couldn't determine the actual animal represented in stuffed form, he figured the name worked as well as any). "I…You know, you're right, Lois. It is kinda cute, now that you mention it," he admitted.
Her face melted into a wide grin. Of course, she couldn't leave well enough alone. "See what we can do as long as you let me call the shots and do exactly what I tell you?" she joked. He snorted in response to these teasing words, but she didn't seem to care as she continued unflappably, "Anyway, it's getting pretty late. We should head home."
"Yeah, you're probably right," he agreed, shifting the deer he still held so that he could walk closer to the woman at his side. "Hey, what about that last ticket of yours? What are you going to do with it?"
Pulling the small slip of paper out of her pocket, she frowned down at it. "I don't know. I don't think there's really much you can do here with just one ticket, is there? It was only a buck; I guess I'll just throw it away."
He wasn't quite ready for the day to end. Not yet. It had been the most fun he'd had in…a very long time. So, in an effort to prolong the moment just a few minutes longer, he craned his neck to look around the area, searching for inspiration. Then, tucked away in a corner on the way to the exit, inspiration struck in the form of a sign: FORTUNE TELLING by MADAME ZELDA – one ticket. "How about that?" he asked, pointing towards the sign.
Following his gaze, Lois looked skeptically at the bright red tent in question. "I don't know, Clark," she said dubiously. "A fortune teller?"
"Why not?" he asked, making his way in that direction.
"Don't you think it's a bit…hokey?" she scoffed
Clark shrugged. "Maybe. But look at it this way – it could be fun! Anyway, there's no point in wasting the ticket."
Rolling her eyes, she muttered, "It's a buck, Clark. I think I could live with it." But she followed him anyway, so he didn't have to try to come up with a perfectly valid reason why she absolutely had to spend another five minutes at the park with him, even if it was to do something like have a fortune teller predict her future.
Outside the tent flaps, Lois paused and looked dubiously at him out of the corner of her eye. "You coming in?"
Since the entire purpose of suggesting she go into the fortune teller's tent was to prolong their time together, he wanted to say yes. However, he got the feeling she'd prefer if he stayed outside, so he reluctantly shook his head. "No, I'll stay out here." Unable to resist teasing her just a little, he smirked, "Have fun in there."
"Yeah, yeah," she griped. Then she muttered in an undertone, "I swear, if she says anything about cross-dressing pilots, I'm out of there."
"Uh…what?" he asked, almost certain that he had to have heard her wrong (though unsure exactly how that could even be possible). She didn't respond, however, as she squared her shoulders and ducked under the front flap of the tent, leaving Clark outside.
He didn't know how long she would be, so Clark looked around for a place to sit while he waited. Spotting a nearby booth, he started to make his way towards it when the phone in his pocket rang. He figured it was probably Chloe, wanting to check in on the results of her blatant matchmaking attempts, so he pulled it out and glanced at the caller ID. When he saw the name on the screen, however, he sucked in a sharp breath, his chest suddenly tight. It wasn't Chloe; it was Lana.
For a second, Clark's finger hovered over the keypad as he debated whether to take the call. She hadn't spoken to him in months, not since she'd left him behind with a videotape goodbye. It had been a coward's move, and it had effectively prevented him from having an opportunity to weigh in on their relationship and its ending. There were a hundred things that probably needed to be said between them. He'd imagined their next conversation in his head a thousand times – all of the things that he would say. But now that the moment was upon him, he hesitated.
He should pick up the phone, he knew. He had no idea why she was calling. She could be in trouble. She could want him back. She could even just want to clear the air between them. Of the dozens of reasons why she could be calling at this very moment, there were probably three or four that could be very, very good reasons why he should answer.
He knew he should answer it as his finger rested on the button to answer the call, but still he looked back over his shoulder at the tent behind him. Lois was in there. His partner. His friend. His…
If he answered this call, she would probably understand why he'd done so. But even so, he couldn't bring himself to do it. This was the most fun he could remember having in a very long time. It was also the first time in a long time that he could remember being able to get close to Lois, to tease her, to get teased by her. He didn't want to spoil that or have it end on a bad note. Even if Lana was calling for a perfectly innocuous reason, he couldn't help but feel that whatever conversation he had with her – no matter how brief – would cast a shadow on this one perfect day he'd spent with Lois.
So, his mind made up, Clark pressed the "ignore" button and slipped the phone back into his pocket. He and Lana still had things they had to say to each other. They would probably have to have a talk sometime in the near future. But not now. Not today. For today, at least, he was with Lois. For once, he wanted to enjoy a moment thinking about her future, not his past.
With that thought, Clark put all ruminations about Lana out of his mind, and so he was still smiling and in a good mood a few minutes later, when she finally walked out of the tent to join him. He'd expected her to be ready to laugh derisively at the fortune teller's words and was surprised to see a curious expression on her face instead. Though he tried to decipher if it meant good news or bad news, he finally gave up and asked, "Anything good?"
She frowned contemplatively and then said slowly, "I guess it depends. She said…" Her voice faded into silence, her frown deepening as the two of them walked side-by-side to the exit.
"She said…?" he prompted, for some reason finding himself unwilling to let it go. He had to admit he was curious. He'd figured she would laughingly shrug off all the fortune teller's words; he hadn't expected her to look like she was actually considering taking them seriously.
When she didn't immediately respond, he wondered if he should prompt her for more information or leave it alone. In the end, he didn't have to decide as she said slowly, as if picking her words very carefully, "She kept talking about a man…"
"A m-man?" he parroted, stuttering in his surprise and – dare he say it? – chagrin. "Wh-what kind of man? Like a friend? A new guy friend that you'll meet?"
This seemed to break her out of her reverie, at least for a second. Rolling her eyes at him, she snorted. "Oh, honestly, Clark. Do you think the woman gets paid to tell people about their friendships? She was talking about my love life, you dork," she chided him good-naturedly.
His stomach sinking somewhere into the ground at his feet, Clark swallowed heavily and asked, "Oh, yeah? What'd she have to say about him?" But he wasn't sure if he really wanted to hear what she had to say, frankly, and he refused to analyze why he was so reluctant to continue the conversation. At the same time, some masochistic urge deep inside kept forcing the words out of his mouth, even though every other fiber of his being wanted to change the subject.
The corners of her lips twisted into a soft, slightly hopeful, smile. "She said…a lot of things, actually. She said he was going to sweep me off of my feet and that I…but you know, it's crazy," he said, her entire tone changing abruptly. "I don't even know why I'm thinking about this. It's all absurd. There was no way she wasn't making it all up."
"Why do you say that?" he asked, thrown by her sudden change in demeanor.
With an irritable sigh, she admitted, "Because she kept talking about this guy like he was the guy. You know, the guy I've been waiting my whole life to meet. Not that I've been waiting," she corrected herself abruptly. "But anyway, the relationship she described…it sounded too good to be true. There's no way there's a guy like that waiting somewhere out there for me."
He wanted desperately to argue against her last statement, but he knew she would only shrug off his words. So instead, curious about the utter certainty behind her statement, he asked, "Why not?"
"Because, Clark, she said that this guy – this wonderful, amazing guy who I was meant to be with…she said I'd know him because he'd…he'd…Oh, god, this is embarrassing. I can't believe I let myself believe even for a second that this wasn't the most absurd thing in the world." Undistracted by her tangent, he raised his eyes expectantly at her, and so she sighed. "She said I'd know him because he'd perform the labors of Hercules for me. Pretty ridiculous, huh?" she finished with a chuckle of disbelief.
It certainly hadn't been what Clark had expected. "The labors of Hercules?" he repeated, feeling like he had to have misheard. "You mean, like…the Cretan Bull, the Hydra…those labors?"
"Yup," she confirmed with a nod. "Unless there are some other labors that I just don't know about. I mean, I know it's the theme of the park and everything, but I still can't believe she said something that absurd. Can you?"
"Oh, I don't know," he replied, his shoulders slumping in relief. "I'm just trying to think of where you'd find a hydra in this day and age. If we can find one, we can check to see if there are any single sword-wielding men nearby for you to meet."
He'd joined in the joke in the hope of making her laugh, and he succeeded. "You think that's hard. Try finding Cerberus," she returned with a chuckle.
"You've got me there," he admitted, and he didn't know when or how it happened, but he suddenly realized that he was holding Lois's hand in his own. "So, did she say anything about me?" he asked lightly.
Her eyes twinkling in amusement, she replied, "Yup. She said that as soon as I left her tent, I'd run into a guy who was destined to buy me an ice cream cone."
"Oh yeah?" he asked challengingly with a grin. "She said that?"
Lois nodded her head firmly and tried to keep a straight face as she said, "Oh, absolutely. Would I lie about something as important as this?"
He sighed loudly. "I guess not. Well, I suppose there's no fighting destiny, is there, Lane?"
"Nope," he replied as she grinned up at him in triumph. "Might as well get used to it, Kent. There's destiny working between the two of us, and it's taking the shape of a double dip cone of fudge ripple ice cream."
Clark laughed. "If you say so, Lois. If you say so."
A/N: Now that you all have finished reading, I'll say that I DO have all 12 labors in there (though some had to be...er..."stretched" quite a bit because I couldn't figure out any other way to get them in there. Or I wanted to try to be clever. You decide). If anyone is curious, here's the list of labors and how Clark conquered them for Lois:
Labor 1: The Namean Lion. Clark was scared, but he rode "The Lion's Mouth" anyway, just to make Lois happy.
Labor 2: The Lernean Hydra. Clark had to stop the three girls at the paper from gossiping about Lois. (Gossip is rather like a hydra - you can cut off one head of it, but three more will simply take its place.)
Labor 3: The Hind of Ceryneia. Clark won Lois a deer doll in a game. As the hind was described differently, depending upon the text to which I referred (some said it was red, some gold, some red and gold), I had to pick a version and go with it. If it differs from the hind any of you know, my apologies.
Labor 4: The Erymanthean Boar. I had planned something terribly clever for this at one point, but it didn't work out. Clark won the poarephant for Lois.
Labor 5: The Augean Stables. Clark rushed through his chores - including cleaning out his barn - so he could go with Lois to the park.
Labor 6: The Stymphalian Birds. Clark won the deer for Lois in the "duck shooting" contest, in which he shot the most "funny looking birds."
Labor 7: The Cretan Bull. Clark had to win LOIS over, in the beginning, by convincing her to join him at the park when she was more than ready to bail.
Labor 8: The Horses of Diomedes. Clark had to battle the three gossip-spreading women (even referred to as "man-eaters") to keep them from spreading malicious gossip and ruining Lois's career.
Labor 9: The Belt of Hippolyte. None of my "Clark steal's Lois's belt" ideas worked out. So he stole a kiss instead. (This one was stretched about as far as it could possibly go. And then some.)
Labor 10: Geryon's Cattle. As part of the chores he raced through, Clark had to relocate some very startled cows.
Labor 11: The Apples of Hesperides. Clark caught a golden apple in the fishing game at the end, winning Lois the boar prize.
Labor 12: Cerberus. Clark defeated Lana by not answering his phone when he called, choosing to enjoy his day with Lois instead. And, yes, this makes Lana Cerberus. Make of that what you will!