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Free Lunch

by Arlene Pon

The couple stepped into the restaurant.

"Look, Clark! There's Bruce Wayne and his latest bim -- uh -- girlfriend."

Clark looked over. "Wow. Nice legs."

"What?" Lois looked at him, eyes narrowed.

Oops. Did I just say that out loud?  "Um ... I said 'Nice eggs.' I hear they serve wonderful ... omelets." Clark had to control his blood pressure to keep from blushing.

"Yeah. Sure," she growled back, not buying it for a second. "Their omelets probably have more IQ points than she does." She straightened her back and made a beeline towards the couple.

"Lois, maybe we shouldn't ... " He knew she wouldn't listen, but trailed after her anyway. What that woman wouldn't do for an exclusive.

Several tables over, Bruce noticed the reporters heading his way. He groaned inwardly while giving the outward appearance of still enjoying his date. He had been looking forward to getting to know Selina Kyle's daytime persona better, and in private. He kept up his mindless chatter as Lois closed in.

"Why, Bruce Wayne! Fancy meeting you here! Clark and I were really impressed with your press conference and we wanted to --"

Clark broke in. "Say how great it was to see you again, and wish you well. C'mon, Lois." He gently took her elbow and started to lead her away. She didn't budge. Clark looked at Bruce apologetically and rolled his eyes. There were some things even Superman couldn't do.

Lois turned abruptly to Bruce's tablemate. "Hi, I'm Lois Lane. And you're ... ?"

"About to order," Bruce sighed. Oh well. "Selina Kyle, this is Lois Lane and Clark Kent from the Daily Planet."

Selina shook hands with Lois and turned to Clark. "Nice to meet you," she practically purred as she looked him over. "Very nice."

This time, Clark didn't bother to hide his blush. "Uh, a pleasure, Ms. Kyle."

"Please, call me Selina." She was still holding onto Clark's hand. Clark looked embarrassed. Lois looked annoyed. Bruce looked amused. Watching Blueboy squirm was always entertaining.

"Care to join us for lunch? Selina and I were considering the omelets."

"Oh, we couldn't possibly." Even as Lois said this, she pulled out a chair and very obviously sat down between her partner and the other woman.

"Uh, if you're sure. I mean, we wouldn't want to intrude." Clark looked pointedly at Lois. She ignored him.

"Of course we don't mind. If Brucie didn't want you here, he wouldn't have invited you. Isn't that right, Brucie?"

"Sure, Kent. Sit down. The more the merrier," Bruce lied with a bright smile. Go away! he mentally urged them. Just then, he and Clark both felt their JLA pagers go off. While the ladies were looking at the menus, Bruce activated the ringer on his cell phone.

"Oops! Excuse me." He took out his phone. "Wayne here. Oh hi, Lucius! Hold on. Please excuse me, ladies, Clark." He left the table and went to the restroom area while keeping the table in his line of sight. His eyes met Clark's. In a low tone, he continued. "Okay, I'll say emergency board meeting and you follow for a scoop." Clark slightly nodded his head toward Lois. "Don't worry about her, she won't want to follow." Clark quirked an eyebrow. "I'll take care of her." He closed the phone and returned to the table to grab his coat and suitcase.

"I am so sorry, but there's an emergency board meeting I've got to attend. Why don't you all stay and have lunch? My treat. Selina, I'm sorry to leave you, but --"

"Don't worry, Bruce. I understand. Some other time, perhaps?" She kissed him passionately when he bent down. Look at what you're going to miss, buster. Bruce almost ran out of breath.

Clark stood up. "Bruce, mind if I tag along? There might be something interesting for the Planet."

"Hey, Farmboy!" Lois broke in. "How about I go and you stay? I've got seniority, you know."

Bruce pretended to consider it. He shrugged. "Sure, why not? Clark, would you mind staying with Selina?"

"*I* certainly don't mind," Selina smiled, touching up her lipstick. That did it. Lois gritted her teeth and forced a smile to rival Selina's.

"You know what, Clark?" she said sweetly. "I'm starving, and it *would* be a shame to pass up a free meal, so you boys go on and play, and Selina and I will get acquainted, and don't you worry about us." Her cheeks were starting to hurt.

"All right, Lois. Selina, nice to have met you." Clark waited while Bruce talked to the maitre d' and then followed him out the door. They quickly ducked into an empty alley and changed. Superman flew Batman to the nearest JLA transporter. Before they left Earth, Superman stopped Batman. "Um, Batman, you've got a little . . ." He used his finger to motion around his own mouth.

Oh. Lipstick. "Thanks," the Batman mumbled as he wiped it off. He stepped into the teleporter and vanished.

"Sure," the Man of Steel smirked before he, too, vanished.

***

As the waiter walked away with the ladies' orders, Lois let her journalistic instincts take over.

"So, Selina. What do you do?" she asked casually.

"Oh, I'm in ... acquisitions. Antiques and fine art."

"And how did you meet Bruce Wayne?"

"At a party for an opening gallery. We were both interested in a piece, a jade carving of a Siberian tiger, and we just sort of hit it off." Time to turn the tables. "So are you and Clark ..." She let her question trail off.

"Are me and Clark what? Oh! *Me* and *Clark*!" The sudden personal question left her a bit flustered. "Oh, well, we really aren't, you know, *dating*, but we're kinda, you know, and, well, working together and all --" She stopped and took a calming breath. "Just coffee. And sometimes a meal. Like today. We came to Gotham for the press conference and decided to have lunch before we headed back to Metropolis. So I guess I can't really call it dating."

"But you'd like to, wouldn't you?"

"Yeah, I guess so," Lois confessed. "I mean, considering all the losers I've been out with, Clark's always been there for me. Well, most of the time," she amended.

"Listen, Lois, I'm sorry about acting up with Clark earlier. I was just teasing Bruce. I'll try not to do it again. Although, you gotta admit, Clark's cute when he blushes."

Lois had to laugh at that. "Yeah, he is. Don't tell him this, but I try to embarrass him at least twice a day just to see him do that. He's from Kansas, you know. I guess they're more naïve out there. And I'm sorry for acting so, well, catty earlier. Truce?" She held up her wineglass. It felt good to talk to another female who wasn't in her line of work. She needed a different perspective.

"Truce." Selina held hers up and clinked glasses. The ladies paused in their talking while the waiter placed their meals in front of them.

"So what's up with you and Bruce? I mean, is it serious?" Lois started in on her salad.

"This is our third time out. The first two times, he had other 'emergency' meetings he had to run off to." Selina viciously speared a lettuce leaf on her plate. "Can't the guy at least finish a meal?"

"Well, at least it's not as strange as the 'Cheese of the Month Club.'"

At this, Selina's fork stopped halfway to her mouth. "What?"

Lois rolled her eyes. "It's one of those lame excuses Clark has. When things start getting, well, interesting, he suddenly remembers there's a 'Cheese of the Month' delivery coming and he needs to rush home. Or return a video, or turn off a stove, or something. Once, he went out for coffee and it took him an hour. Said something about the quality of the beans." She waved her hand as if dismissing the subject. "Anyway, what's Bruce like? Is all that stuff I hear true? I mean, I don't read the tabloids, but being a reporter, I hear things."

Selina chuckled. "Actually, none of it's true." A thoughtful look crossed her face. "Well, maybe except about the barn animals." She laughed out loud when Lois spit out her mouthful of food. "Oh my God! That look on your face!" Selina was laughing so hard she was clutching her stomach. Several of the older patrons in the restaurant glanced at the pair and turned away, heads held high. Hmph. The younger set had no class.

When the coughing fit had passed, Lois had to laugh along. Okay, so it was at her own expense, but she was having fun and she didn't care. It was a while before both women could calm down and Selina was still wiping tears from her eyes.

She tried to resume the conversation. "All right, seriously, he's a perfect gentleman. We haven't spent as much time as I would've liked, but then again, my nights are a bit busy. I know he's got kind of a reputation for being an idiot, but he's been the CEO of his own company for how many years now? I think those old biddies like Gotham Gertie really like to play it up in the society pages just to make things juicy for the readers. He's basically a nice guy. With a lot of money." She took a sip of wine.

"You don't sound too interested in him."

"This just between the two of us, right? I like teasing Bruce, but I don't want to hurt him." Lois nodded. "I suppose I'm interested, for now. But I want someone, I don't know, stronger, more independent. You know, he told me once his butler had to dress him. I don't mean *dress* him, but pick out his clothes. Every day. Can you believe that? I think I'd like someone who could rely on himself. Someone more resourceful. Okay, maybe he was joking about the whole butler thing, but still, it makes me think about what kind of man I really want." It felt good to talk to another female who wasn't in her line of work. She needed a different perspective.

"Okay, then. If you could pick someone else, who would it be? And I mean *anybody,*" Lois challenged.

Selina started to tell her and stopped, blushing a little. "Anybody? Well then, um, Batman," she mumbled.

Lois nodded thoughtfully, not mentioning the other lady's obvious discomfiture. "Well, from what I've heard about him, he's resourceful, strong and pretty darn independent. Fits your bill to a T. And I'll bet he doesn't have a butler to dress him."

Selina relaxed and felt a bit bolder when Lois didn't outright laugh at her. "*I* wouldn't mind taking a shot at dressing him." Lois snorted. "How about you? If it couldn't be Clark, who would it be?"

"I've actually thought long and hard about that, and I've sort of figured out it's not going to happen anyway, as much as I'd like it."

"Now I'm really curious. So who? Oh, wait. Superman?" Lois nodded, looking down at her now empty plate. "Yeah, well, saving the world practically every day would tend to take a toll on a relationship. But what a body!" Selina pretended to fan herself with her napkin.

"Spandex doesn't leave much to the imagination, does it?" Lois said dreamily. "Even with that cape, you can still see quite a bit while he's flying. Did somebody just turn up the thermostat?" She needed a few sips of water to cool herself down.

"I suppose you can't really see as much with Batman, since it's usually so dark and all. And his cape actually does get in the way. But if you're lucky, you know where to look." Lois looked at her with both eyebrows raised. "Um, so I've heard. Anyway, there's just something so dark and dangerous about him."

"Into bad boys, huh? What about Bruce?"

"Curiosity. I heard so much about him that I wanted to find out myself. The thing is, like I said, he's pretty normal, just with loads of money. There's no mystery. He works in the day and parties at night. It's just so ... predictable. Well, except for those 'emergency' board meetings. So why wouldn't it work out with Superman? I've read your column and it seems like you spend a lot of time with him."

"Well, I do, but it's mostly when my life's in danger. You can hardly call being caught falling off a building 'quality time.' And hanging around Superman can attract lots of weirdos. Um, I mean, more weirdos than I usually deal with."

"What's it like to fly?" Selina had flown before, but not without a good strong cable.

"It's so ... liberating. You know it can't be possible, but there you are, in the sky, with nothing to support you except his strong arms." Selina nodded knowingly. She'd been there before with Batman during one of her exploits. Though she wasn't supposed to enjoy getting caught, there were times when she deliberately made it easy for him.

The waiter stepped up. "Would you ladies care for some dessert and coffee?"

Lois had to decline. "I can't, I'm full."

"Oh come on, Lois. Besides, remember that 'Brucie' said it was his treat."

Grins spread across both of their faces. Lois made her selection and turned back to Selina. "You're evil."

"Hey, a girl's gotta get some satisfaction." She also ordered. As the waiter left, the women watched his retreating backside speculatively.

Selina leaned forward in her chair, and spoke in a lower voice. "Who do you think has the best butt?"

Lois also leaned closer. Both answered at the same time. "Nightwing." Both women dissolved into giggles.

***

"You were too hard on him, Bruce."

"You weren't hard enough," was the terse reply. "That did not require us."

"You almost made him cry. He's new to monitor duty. Anyway, it's better to err on the side of caution." The Batman merely grunted.

Batman and Superman had returned to Earth hoping to continue their lunch dates after a false alarm. They had returned unseen to the alley and quickly transformed themselves back into their civilian personas.

As they stepped into the restaurant, they arrived just in time to see the ladies hunched over the table. "What are they talking about?" Bruce muttered.

"Ma always said that eavesdropping was rude." Clark had a far-away look in his eyes when the women starting giggling like school girls. "Dick's butt."

"What?" Too late to press for details. Selina and Lois spotted them and waved. Selina said something to Lois, which started another bout of laughter.

"What is it now?" whispered Bruce.

Clark sounded confused, wondering if he had heard correctly. "Barn animals?"

~~~


Catwoman, Lois Lane, Batman, Superman and Nightwing's butt are all copyrighted by DC Comics , are are not being used for commercial purposes. "Free Lunch" is copyrighted by Arlene Pon and used with permission. Do not reprint or republish anything off this site without permission of the author, which you can get by e-mailing me .

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