Chapter 24: Worry
As Lois watched Richard push his way through the doors leading out of the coffee shop, her head was swimming. I knew this conversation was going to be tough, but oh, my God! Now he’s going to try to convince me I’m making a mistake?
Lois had worked beside him long enough to know what that probably meant. Time spent digging into Superman’s past… into proving that he was unfit for fatherhood… What if he accidentally stumbled on the truth… and told his…?
She bolted out of her chair, leaving her cappuccino nearly untouched. She couldn’t even spare more than a passing thought that their very messy break-up had likely been noted by the other customers. She had to catch Richard!
When Lois reached the street, she saw Richard’s figure about a block or two ahead of her. Unconcerned with her dignity, she hopped out of her heels and began to jog down the street. Thank God the long, stretchy microfiber skirt she’d kept in her trunk was easy to move in!
Lois raced across the crosswalk just as the light turned, barely reaching the other side before the traffic started up again. Clark would certainly be annoyed at having to save her from something as inane as that, she mused absently. Richard was now only a few steps from the revolving doors.
“Richard!” she called out. He mustn’t have heard – or was he ignoring her? “Richard!” she tried again in her most strident reporter’s voice.
He stopped and turned, and she hurried toward him, replacing her heels along the way.
He gave her a flat look. “Yes?”
Lois gestured for him to stand with her away from the doors. She gasped to catch her breath before saying, “Please don’t say anything to Perry… about me and you-know-who.”
“Why not?” He gave her a grim smile. “Are you afraid he’ll rake you over the coals? The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who held onto the story of a lifetime?”
She huffed, irritated. “I didn’t hold onto—” Lois growled, low in her throat. “It’s just complicated, okay?”
He held her gaze, unruffled. “Exactly what I was saying. Complicated. Do you really want that for yourself? For Jason?”
“Just… please.” She tried not to beg, pride filling her voice. “If you care about us at all… don’t say anything.”
Richard shook his head gently, offended. “Lois… you know I never would have. I’m surprised you even have to ask.”
She opened her mouth to protest, but shut her mouth, a bit ashamed. She simply nodded.
It would have been silly for the two of them to avoid going up to the bullpen in the same elevator – they were both adults, after all. But even so, they stood a careful few feet apart, completely silent. He suddenly seemed like a stranger to her.
Entering the newsroom this morning with Richard felt like a complete contrast to walking into it a few afternoons ago with Clark. That day, she had been certain every eye would be drawn to them, somehow knowing their changed status after their visit to the Fortress. But no one had paid them any attention.
This morning, however, although she wished no one would notice them, it seemed everyone’s gaze was directed at the two of them. Was it the fact that Lois wasn’t striding in, talking animatedly? That Richard wasn’t laughing fondly? Could every person feel the tension that radiated off them in waves? Maybe not, but it certainly felt like it.
Richard peeled off for his office and Lois walked rapidly, eyes down, to her own desk. She was afraid that if she looked up at anyone, her careful façade of calm would crack. She wanted so badly to look at Clark’s desk, to see that goofy wave and bright smile… but she was certain the blaze of love she was now feeling would show too strongly on her face.
How was she going to handle this? Being so close to him every day and night without being able to show him outwardly how she felt? Lois had never been very demonstrative, the opposite, actually… but, even so, having to suppress her feelings was going to be torture!
Lois sat down, arranged her things and took a deep, calming breath, which then turned into a yawn. Why did I leave that cappuccino sitting there? Then she very carefully chanced a look at Clark’s desk. To see those mud-brown slacks and jacket, that wide, old-fashioned tie, those silly thick, black frames on his face – it would be a welcome sight….
…And he was nowhere to be seen. She wilted a little.
Jimmy was sitting a few desks over, flipping through shots on his computer screen. “Hey, Jimmy? Have you seen Clark around yet this morning?”
He started awkwardly at the sound of her voice and scanned the room. “Uh… no. I don’t think so. Why?”
So I can caress him with my eyes, so that I can let that cerulean gaze heal me with its power… She shivered slightly. “I want to go over our notes together with him before this morning’s meeting.” Well, they did have a meeting with Perry this morning, that much was true at least.
“Oh, well, I’m sure he’ll show up in the nick of time,” Jimmy shrugged, turning back to his work.
She glanced up at the row of television monitors. Nothing on the news reporting a Superman sighting. But of course, he performed all kinds of unreported deeds. Thank goodness. If anyone actually tried to track him all hours of the day, it would be a nightmare for him.
So it looked like she would be on her own for a little while. “Don’t forget the meeting, Clark,” she murmured both to herself and to her busy partner. She suddenly wondered – now that he didn’t have to make excuses to her for his absences, would they become more frequent? She sighed.
Rubbing her eyes tiredly, Lois searched her messy desk for the files she needed. She’d hardly gotten more than a few hours sleep what with worry over Richard’s reaction competing with vivid fantasies of Clark in those wet pajamas. Shaking her head to clear it, and blinking in an effort to focus, she began going through the notes they had collected thus far on the building construction case.
Clark had discovered that the Harris building, as well as several others recently built in Metropolis had used substandard materials in their construction. Was it true? Yes. Did they have enough data to prove there was some sort of scandal? Not really. And most of these had been contracts handled by L & V Construction. But was there any connection to Lex Luthor? None that they could find. Did Philip Mitchener, the deputy mayor, have any involvement in what his company had done? Maybe, but then he must be either an incredible liar or completely unaware.
Lois wondered if any of the people she had contacted yesterday afternoon had called and left messages at the Planet. Sadly, no. She was suddenly hit by a wave of weariness and frustration. It looked like Perry would be pulling them from the story after all. Clark’s hastily written interview with Mitchener had run in the morning edition. They had come to a dead end in their investigation, but Lois just had a gut feeling that there was something more here. Maybe she should have another go at the archives…
- - - - -
Lois found herself blindly searching through the stacks. With no help from Clark, this was a considerably more daunting task. But she vaguely remembered the last edition she had been searching was from May of 1991. As a result, she was leafing through every copy in the May file box.
Behind her, Lois heard the door open. “Lois?”
Coming through the door into the dim room was the very welcome form of Clark. She had to restrain herself from throwing herself into his arms right then and there. It was barely 10AM, and she felt like she had been run over by a city bus and then hit by a pack of motorcyclists for good measure.
He must have sensed it, because he was at her side in an instant. “Are you doing okay?”
“Now I am,” she said, and allowed herself to wrap her arms around his waist.
He stroked her hair gently. “Did you have any luck in here?”
She looked up into his soft blue eyes, frowning. “No. I think this is it. The end of the line. A brick wall.” She chuckled, “Although my head hurts like I’ve been hitting it against that brick wall all morning.”
Without speaking, he began to rub her temples. It was quite amazing, a man who could lift entire continents could control his touch so minutely. She exhaled in pleasure. It was easy to forget, in this enclosed space, that there was anyone else at all in the building.
Clark ended his massage – could he tell that her headache was fading somehow with his X-ray vision? – and began to tenderly caress her cheek. Lois closed her eyes, reveling in the sensation.
Which abruptly ceased. “Clark, don’t stop…” she complained breathlessly, and then she was unable to speak any longer as he captured her lips with his own.
Alone finally, shut away from the rest of the office, away from the eyes of innocent little boys who would not understand, they let themselves feel everything. It was not yet time to be doing this, and they both knew it, but they couldn’t help the wave of overwhelming emotion that suddenly washed over them.
Never breaking contact, Clark lifted her to sit on the wooden desk set in one wall, so that she wouldn’t have to crane her neck so much to kiss him. Lois leaned backward into the wall and pulled him toward her roughly, running her hands over his broad shoulders. He responded by pushing a powerful thigh to part her knees. The comfortable skirt she wore easily crinkled into folds to the sides, exposing her bare lower legs. One of Clark’s strong hands slipped beneath the fabric of her blouse to stroke her back…
The door suddenly opened again. A voice broke them apart, thick with shock. “Lois?” Both Lois and Clark were too stunned to speak. Richard looked even more stunned, if it was possible.
He turned to look at her partner. “Clark…?” Richard said, even more confused than before.
Then his face cleared, and his expression changed completely. “No. Superman.”
- - - - -
A hand on her shoulder startled her awake from a light doze. The papers she had been studying were scattered across her desk as if dropped from the sky. She reeled with the power of the images and feelings she had just experienced. She clutched at Clark's warm hand as though it were a lifeline, touching it to make certain it was real...
“Are you doing okay?” he asked, a perfect echo of the dream.
Lois rubbed a hand across her face in exhaustion. “Not really,” she said shakily.
Clark pulled a chair to sit next to her. She finally looked into his face. The love that he once had kept carefully hidden was now shining brightly from his eyes. Clark took both her hands and clasped them gently in his own. “When I came in, you looked so pale, and out of it… it didn’t go well, I take it.”
She gave him an ironic smile. “What do you think?” Lois squeezed his hands once and let go, even though she desperately wanted to hold them for as long as possible. But the dream she’d just had was still strong in her mind. It wouldn’t do for anyone to suspect anything more than a professional relationship between them.
He locked gazes with her, a touch of that healing she had wished for earlier warmed her deeply from within. And then—
“Lane! Kent! In my office!”
Clark chuckled in his rich baritone, “I think it’s time for our meeting.”
Lois smiled in response. There would be time to rehash all the gory details later. She grabbed the most important items off of her desk, and announced, “In we go.”
Lois gestured for him to precede her, and followed him. Just as she caught the door marked ‘Editor in Chief’ in her free hand, she happened to glance back. Richard was standing in the door of his office, brow furrowed, apparently gazing in her direction. It suddenly smoothed, and he went back to his desk. Had he been… watching them?
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A/N: I would like to dedicate this chapter to Alphie. I couldn’t help but do my own version of her lovely What Dreams Are Made Of.
Also, I think I would like to devote my author’s notes for the rest of Act III to shout-outs and recommendations. If you are a Clois shipper, and like Smallville, please check out my friend Mark C’s lighthearted story Five Card Stud. (You can find him in my favorites).
Next: Chapter 25: Duality