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Lost in Translation

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Lois lifted up another page, flipping it over for possible signs of the phone number she was looking for. "I know I wrote it down!" she said to herself. Allen Hansen's senatorial campaign had some questionable funding sources, she just knew it—and she could prove it, too, if she could find the number for the source she'd been given.

"Lois, where's that piece on Metropolis University's vice president resignation?" Perry called across the room. His head poked out of the doorway to his office.

"There's nothing to that story!" she complained loudly. "The only person who would say anything to me—off the record, too—said he just didn't get along with the rest of the administration. No scandal, nothing illegal, boring!"

"Scandals don't lurk around every corner, you know. Boring or not, it's news, which is what I'm paying you to write."

Lois sighed. "I'll have it to you by lunchtime," she called to him. She abandoned the search for the elusive phone number and pulled up her notes on the resignation before beginning to type.

She was typing the last few sentences when a hand waved in front of her face.

"It's time to eat. How's the story coming?" Clark said, glancing at the screen.

"Almost done. Where are we going?" Lois was happily taking advantage of Clark's extra abilities when it came to flying to other countries for lunch. Who wanted to settle for a deli in Metropolis when you could eat in Paris, Rome, or London just as easily?

"What are you in the mood for?" Clark asked her with a little grin.

"Oh, I don't know… What about that Greek restaurant you were telling me about the other day? Where you said you ate when you traveled there after college? I think it was Orin-something?"

"Oreino Korakovouni?" Clark asked. "The little one that's only open in the summer?"

"That's the one!"

"Sounds delicious, though we're going to have to get going soon if we want to have plenty of time to enjoy it. They don't serve things quite as fast as we do in the US, and I'd like to show you a little of the scenery afterwards," he said.

"I've got a few more sentences to write, then we can go." Lois turned her attention back to her computer screen and began to type some more. Boring or not, the story had to be written.

The flight was quick, as usual; as long as Clark held her very close (which she didn't mind in the least), Lois didn't feel the temperature of the air, or the intense effects of the wind, and it was only a matter of a few minutes for them to travel anywhere in the world. They paused for a few seconds while Clark assessed the best place to drop down, and soon they were strolling down the main lane of the rural village. Clark led Lois to a small stone structure with several tables in a yard next to it. "Let's go find the owner," said Clark. "He made me promise that if I ever got married, I'd bring my wife to meet him."

No sooner had Clark and Lois approached the tables outside than an older man with silvery hair walked through the door. He glanced at them, then grinned widely. "Clark! It's wonderful to see you again. Is this your wife, then?"

Clark grinned in response. "Yes, this is Lois." He turned to Lois. "Lois, meet Costas Pappas. He and his wife were very good to me the first summer after I graduated college. I ate a lot of their delicious food."

"And you were just as helpful!" Mr. Pappas replied. In a whisper to Lois, he said, "He helped everyone with their animals for the few weeks he was here, and fixed up the buildings that needed repair. Very nice young man! You hang on to this one," he ordered her.

Lois smiled. "I plan to," she whispered back conspiratorially.

"So what brings you here again? Are you staying for a while?" Mr. Pappas asked.

"No, we're just here to eat. You've heard about Superman, of course?"

"Oh yes, who hasn't? Strong, fast, reminds me of Clark, always helping."

Clark merely smiled at the comparison.

"He's a good friend of ours," Lois told the older man. "His wedding gift to us was promising to fly us a few times. Clark kept telling me how good your food was, so we had to come here."

"Wonderful, wonderful!" Mr. Pappas said. He turned to lead them inside, but an older woman emerged through the doorway, clearly his wife.

The woman made a surprised sound. "Clark! Poso cherome pou se vlepo! I yineka sou?"

Clark grinned at her. "Ne, apo edo i Lois," he answered. He turned to Lois before she could get too frustrated at the lack of comprehension. "This is Mr. Pappas' wife, Maria. She doesn't speak English very well, so we always spoke Greek. She's glad to see me again and wondered if you were my wife, which I confirmed, of course."

Lois' stomach chose that moment to rumble, and Mrs. Pappas let loose a flurry of Greek at her husband before vanishing back into the building.

"She reminds me that I am a poor host to keep you standing outside when there is good food awaiting you! Come in, come in!" Mr. Pappas beckoned.

Lois and Clark followed him inside, where her mouth began to water at the smells filling the room. "Mmm, that smells like gulbasi!" Clark said, sniffing the air appreciatively. "I remember how delicious that was."

"You have a good memory! We do have gulbasi, and goat soup." He turned to Lois. "Have you ever had these dishes?"

She shook her head. "I'm afraid I haven't."

"Oh, then you must! They are Greek specialties."

"Sounds great!" said Clark. "I'm sure she'll love them."

"Wonderful! I will let my wife know right away." Mr. Pappas left them at one of the few tables inside and went back into the kitchen.

"What exactly is gulbasi?" Lois asked, eyebrows raised. "And goat soup?"

Clark chuckled. "It's really quite tasty. Goat soup is made from goat meat, of course, which is actually very good. It tends to be more of a flavored broth, with some chunks of meat. Gulbasi, on the other hand, is a wrapped mixture of lamb meat, olive oil, herbs and spices, onion, peppers, garlic, and cheese. They marinade part of it and mix in the rest before filling the parchment paper and baking. It takes some time to make but is fantastic. I think you'll love it."

"Well, if you think so, I've learned to trust your judgment when it comes to new foods." Lois smiled and took his hand. A few minutes later when the first bite of gulbasi melted on her tongue, she had to agree with Clark. She could feel her waistline expanding with every mouthful, but some foods were truly worth it.

Lois savored the last bite, resting her fork on her plate. Clark had taken her to eat breakfast at a little restaurant he knew in San José, Costa Rica. He'd offered to eat some of her food, but it tasted too good, so she'd refused, slowly eating every mouthful. "Mmmm, now I know what you meant when you told me this meal would be filling and delicious. I don't think I could eat any more!" She rested an arm on her stomach, full of rice and beans, plantains, and eggs. "I'm going to have to do an extra workout tonight to make up for it."

Clark smiled.

"I'm serious! Too much eating like this and I'll be fat in no time," Lois warned him.

"Lois, you'll be beautiful no matter what amount of weight you gain," Clark said. His eyes held warmth and love.

Lois found her gaze meeting his. The way Clark looked at her took her breath away; she sometimes wondered why it had taken her so long to recognize what a good man he was. She opened her mouth to reply, but was interrupted by their waiter bringing the check.

As Clark prepared to pay, the waiter asked, "How was your meal?"

"Delicious!" Lois proclaimed.

Clark smiled as he handed over the correct amount of money. "¡Tan bueno que mi mujer no podía parar de comer!" he told the waiter, whose face quickly gained a surprised look at the fluent Spanish. "¡Gracias!" Clark added as he and Lois passed the man and headed outside.

"What did you say to him?" Lois asked.

"I told him that my wife loved the food so much that she stuffed herself enjoying every last bit of it," Clark said with a grin.

"Clark!" she exclaimed.

"He'll take it as a compliment on the food and pass it on to the chef, trust me," Clark said. "Now, let's see if we can find somewhere out of sight so we can fly back to get to work on time."

Lois drifted into thought as she followed Clark through the busy streets. The waiter had understood English just fine, but the expression on his face when Clark used his native language wasn't lost on Lois. She recalled how delighted Mrs. Pappas had been to chat with Clark in Greek. He was so very good at connecting with people. Of course, she admitted to herself, he did have some advantages. A Super-brain made languages a lot easier… but not impossible. Clark wasn't the only one who knew how to say things in other languages. She just had never had a reason to learn. She'd taken Latin in school, but the only phrase she remembered was "Cartago delenda est"; even if there was a country where people spoke Latin every day, it wasn't like "Carthage must be destroyed" was a very useful phrase. But why couldn't she learn something now? Of course, there was no point in learning a whole new language to fluency level. A phrase or two, however, something to be polite, to show she had made an effort to enter their world…

"Here we are," Clark said in a low voice. Lois followed him as he ducked behind a wall and changed into the Super suit. "Ready?"

"Always," she said, smiling at him as she wrapped her arms around his neck. Yes, she was ready. Or, rather, she would be.

Lois was not overly fond of searching the Internet for herself. She was capable of it, but had long since learned to leave her queries to Jimmy, who was far faster and had an uncanny knack for isolating just the information she needed. This time, however, she was not about to involve anyone else. Clark wouldn't understand, and Jimmy was likely to laugh. No, this would have to be up to her.

She typed in the terms and hit enter; the page promptly filled with results, to her dismay. Who knew there were so many online phrasebooks? How was she to pick one? Eeny, meeny, miny, moe?

"Lois, do you have anything on the city council's latest proposal?" Clark called from across the room. He stood next to Jimmy, who held several papers at an angle for Clark to read (probably the research she'd assigned him the day before, Lois guessed).

"I have just a few notes on my computer," she answered, her mouse hovering above the close tab button, but Clark didn't come over.

One more glance at the two men conversing, and Lois decided she'd better make her move. She quickly clicked on one of the sites and began to scroll. No time to read the introduction, where were the phrases? Aha, there. A few clicks of the mouse and she'd copied a few of them, pasting into a document. She sent it to the printer along with the notes, and surreptitiously folded the sheet of phrases to be able to fit it into her purse.

"What do you have on the proposal?" came Clark's voice from right behind her.

Lois jumped. "Clark, you scared me!"

He looked at her with a bit of confusion in his eyes.

"I was lost in thought," she explained. "Here," she said, handing him the printout of her notes, "this is all I have on it so far."

Clark took the paper from her and began to scan it.

Lois breathed a sigh of relief as he seemed not to notice her nervousness. She'd have to take a look at the phrases when he was out on patrol that evening. Wouldn't Clark be surprised when he discovered her new skill? She could hardly wait.

"Remind me why we needed to save Paris for the weekend?" Lois called to Clark from the bathroom, where she was making a few last-minute fixes to her hair. She didn't mind the extra couple of days to study the phrases, but it was the first time Clark had not gone with her request.

"Because I'd like a little extra time to show you some of the sights. And I needed to make a reservation for the restaurant I want to take you to." Clark sucked in his breath as Lois appeared. "Wow. If I didn't have a reservation I would be tempted to suggest an entirely different sort of meal for lunch." His eyes had a spark Lois recognized well after this many weeks of marriage.

She placed her hands on her hips. "Don't you dare, Clark Kent! This hairdo took enough time to put together; I'm not going to waste it."

Clark chuckled. "Don't worry—I plan to enjoy it. Ready to leave?"

Lois nodded her assent and they headed out. While Clark could—and had—flown from the window in their bedroom before, it was better all around to take off from more secluded areas. There was a parking lot for one of the grocery stores in Metropolis that happened to be near a suitable alley; at less than ten minutes' drive from their house, it was a favorite option.

The weather was beautiful the whole way over. Lois never ceased to marvel at Clark's aura, which kept every hair in place as they flew. It was better than riding in a convertible—and definitely faster. Clark had it down to about one time zone per minute.

They paused over the city for a moment. Clark tilted his head in a familiar way; Lois recognized the Superman-is-needed look. "Oh no, what is it?"

"A couple underground trains ran into each other. It's chaos down there." He looked at her with regret.

"Sounds like a job for Superman. You can leave me somewhere and come get me when you're done," she told him. "If it were aboveground I'd say take me with you, but this outfit was not made for climbing around train tracks underground, and I don't think I'd be able to see anything anyway. You can give me the details later."

Clark smiled and quickly dropped them into a small space between two buildings. "There, you can see the Notre-Dame cathedral from here. Stay nearby and I'll find you when everything's resolved." He kissed her. "Love you."

"Love you too," said Lois. Clark disappeared upwards, a sonic boom resounding a few seconds later, and she strolled out onto the street. She had never been to Paris before, and was fascinated by all of it. The architecture in particular was beautiful, ancient in a way she wondered if America ever could be.

She wandered from building to building, street by street, and suddenly realized she couldn't see the cathedral anymore. Great, now Clark's going to wonder where I went. She racked her brain and realized she actually had learned a useful French phrase for this. Now she just had to find people to use it on…

Aha! A group of young men were walking past. They weren't dressed up fancy, but didn't look like teenagers, so it was worth a try. She tried to remember the right pronunciation. First to get their attention, then to ask where the cathedral is. "Pardon," she said. It was one of the few words she remembered Claude using, and it worked. They turned to face her. "Ou est le bordel?" she asked them.

They stared for a moment, then burst into laughter. A torrent of French poured out amongst them, and there was some head-shaking before they moved on. "Hey!" she called angrily.

"What is it, Lois?" Clark had managed to come up behind her without her even noticing.

"Why were they laughing? There was no reason for them to laugh." Lois glared at their backs.

Clark touched her arm gently, and Lois fell into step with him as they walked toward the restaurant. "What happened?"

"I asked them a question in French and they just laughed at me!"

"In French? Just what did you ask them, Lois?" Clark asked, eyebrows raised.

"I only asked them where the cathedral was! That's a normal question—it deserves a normal answer. There's no reason for them to—"

"Whoa!" exclaimed Clark, holding up his hand. He stopped walking and turned to Lois. "I meant, what words in French did you say to ask them where the cathedral was?"

Lois sighed, turned to face him and slowed down her speech a little. "I asked, 'Ou est le bordel'. It was in the phrasebook—it should have been very easy to understand."

Clark stared at her for a second, then burst out laughing. "Oh yes, I'm sure it was very easy to understand!" He grinned before explaining, "Lois, do you know what the word 'bordel' means?"

She scowled. "How should I know? I don't speak French. I just memorized some phrases so I could say something on my own when we came here."

He grinned even wider. "Bordel-lo," he drew out.

Lois closed her eyes and raised her hands to cover her face. "Don't tell me I asked them for the directions to the nearest brothel?"

"Yep, Lois, you most certainly did," Clark said, chuckling.

Her face flamed with embarrassment. "Well, that explains the reaction I got," she said morosely. "And after all this work memorizing those phrases!"

"You've been memorizing a bunch of phrases just so you could say things in French?" Clark gave her a puzzled look.

"Yes!" Lois lowered her hands to look at Clark. "You're always speaking a million different languages to people, and they love hearing their language, and I wanted to be able to say something in at least one other language too." Lois sighed. "That worked out so well."

Clark lifted an arm around her shoulders and gave them a squeeze. He began to walk again, slowly. "It wasn't that bad: no one else heard, and they won't remember who you were. Besides, you didn't know!"

She kept her pace with his. Clark always did know how to help her feel better. "Yeah…"

He continued. "Anyway, I suspect something's a bit odd about that phrasebook you used. What was it called?"

Lois wrinkled her forehead. "I don't remember the full name—something about the perfect phrasebook to use everywhere you go. It was a site on the Internet."

"I've got to see this site—I can't figure out how they'd mix up 'bordel' and 'cathedral'," said Clark, shaking his head in disbelief.

"I'll show you tonight, if I can find it again."

"Sounds like a plan. Meanwhile, we still have a reservation at Auberge Nicolas Flamel, and a delicious lunch to enjoy." He smiled at her. "Though I suspect you might want to wait on trying out those phrases you learned until I have a chance to hear them. If they got 'where is the cathedral?' wrong…"

"Don't worry; I don't plan on using any of them now," she said with a sigh. She'd surprised Clark, all right, just not quite the way she'd planned…

"Which one was it?" Clark asked, leaning over the laptop.

Lois scanned the list of websites. Which one— "There, I think it was that one." She pointed at a vaguely familiar website name and clicked on it a moment later. "Yes, this is the one I looked at. I didn't have time to do more than copy the phrases into a document to print out, so I didn't get to read anything about it."

Clark started to read the introduction and then began to laugh. "The whole site is a joke!"

"What???" Lois leaned a little closer and began to read carefully, but was soon shaking her head. "You mean to tell me, everything I was trying to learn is all wrong?"

"Probably, if this is any example." He pointed at a list of phrases, the top one which read 'I must compliment you on your understanding of our language.' "The translations are all variations on 'you didn't understand anything, did you'? They're fairly insulting; at least one of them uses the equivalent of the F-word."

Lois started to giggle a little. "And that one?" Her finger rested on the screen where a line read 'I understand your language perfectly.'

Clark shook his head with a big grin. "These are pretty bad. The French one says they speak French like a Spanish cow. The Spanish one says they speak it like a drunk white man." He began to snicker. "'Parlo italiano come un cameriere di un ristorante cinese.' That's Italian for 'I speak Italian like a Chinese restaurant waiter.' 'Ik spreek Nederlands zoals een Fransman Engels.' That's Dutch for 'I speak Dutch like a Frenchman speaks English.'" He started to laugh harder. "'Wǒ shuō pǔtōnghuà xiàng hēzuì de gāolí bàngzi.' Mandarin for 'I speak Mandarin like a drunk Korean—'" he trailed off in laughter. "These are awful!"

"Less funny if someone learned them for real." She frowned.

"If you'd had the chance to read the introduction, you'd have figured that out right away. For anyone who knows the languages, though, it is quite funny."

"I suppose."

"Anyway, if you want to learn a few phrases, I'd be happy to teach you," he offered.

Lois considered the offer. Clark was a good teacher—and extraordinarily patient. "I'd like that," she said.

Clark reached for her hands and tugged her upright. "Right now, however, I can think of a much better use for languages," he said, smiling as he drew her closer.

"Oh?" Lois matched his smile.

"Jag älskar dig. That's Swedish for 'I love you'. Or 'Ek het jou lief.' Afrikaans." He kissed her.

"Mmm." Lois was starting to agree with Clark.

"Gráím thú. Irish." Another kiss. "Adoro-te. Portuguese." The kiss moved to behind her ear. "Ana behibek. Arabic." A kiss below the ear. "Volim te. Croatian."

The kisses began to trail down her neck, and she shivered with delight.

"Aš tave myliu. Lithuanian." Another kiss. "Te iubesc. Romanian."

She was starting to get impatient. The languages were lovely and all, but—

"Ninakupenda. Swahili."

Lois reached for Clark's face and silenced him with her lips, proving to him that the best language of all was the oldest.

Clark understood it perfectly.