Chapter 11: Gifts
Lois looked from the clipping to his face. He was wearing a pleased but modest expression, not looking at her yet. She quickly looked down again, before he could catch her eye, her mind suddenly racing.
Vanderworth. In all the excitement surrounding the power outage, her kidnapping, the kryptonite island, and Superman’s injury… she had forgotten that the Vanderworth mansion was where it had all begun. Lois had simply assumed that Lex commandeered the ship. She hadn’t realized there was more of a connection to the Vanderworths. Luthor and Vanderworth – she shuddered when she looked again at the woman’s age – had been engaged? Her reporter’s mind was filling with questions. For how long? How did they meet while he’d been in prison? Did the two families have some sort of long-standing relationship? Had they actually gone through with the marriage?
She was secretly impressed – he had made a connection that she had missed. But a small, petty voice inside was encouraging her to play devil’s advocate. “Luthor and Vanderworth may have been engaged… but how does that automatically translate to L & V? He just got out of prison.”
“Yes… yes, he did. But look at the rest of the article.” He pointed to a particular sentence. ‘The couple began their long-distance courtship while Mr. Luthor was serving time in jail. They corresponded for some time before realizing their true feelings for each other…’ “There aren’t any details here about how long they were in contact. Don’t you think it’s possible that this had been going on for quite some time?”
Damn, he had a point there…
“You’ve got a point there, Kent,” Perry put in.
Lois grimaced at hearing her thoughts reflected. “We need proof,” she argued, probably more harshly than necessary. “It would have been nice if you hadn’t kept me in the dark before…” She left the accusation hanging on purpose. Lois pierced him with a look full of meaning. He pressed his lips together regretfully, but held her eyes, a spark of the other side of his personality glimmering there.
Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed Perry look between the two of them, slightly perplexed. The editor-in-chief harrumphed and broke the tension. “Well, it sounds like the two of you have another lead to follow up on. Kent, go check the archives for more information on the Vanderworths. Lois will join you shortly.”
“Sure, great. I’ll let… Um, nevermind. See you in a few minutes, Lois.” He nearly stumbled in his haste to get out of the office.
She waved dismissively as she left, and she turned back to Perry. “Yes?”
Perry came around the front of the desk and took the other chair. The older man glanced at his retreating form for a moment, fixed her with a level gaze, and began more quietly, “Lois.”
She looked over to where he was just sitting down at his desk. “Why are you lowering your voice, Perry? It’s not like he can hear anything.” He had the grace to freeze for a second before starting to type at his computer keyboard.
Perry wasn’t fazed by her left-field comment. “I thought you were on board with being Kent's partner on this story. Are you going to keep fighting me on this?”
“No,” she said, frowning. “I’ve just been remembering how unreliable he has always been. I feel like I’m already doing most of the work here, and we’ve only been at it for one day!”
“You never minded doing most of the work before…” Perry’s eyes twinkled as he added, “…when it meant you got most of the credit.”
“You’re right,” she smiled, a little embarrassed.
“And you may well be the finest reporter the Planet has ever known…. but… Kent is a damn fine newsman himself. He is an excellent writer, and is able to get seemingly impossible stories.”
Yeah, and now I know how he does that… She rolled her eyes.
Perry misread her expression, and added, “I don’t know what’s suddenly gotten into you, Lois…”
She shook off her feeling of ill-will. “I’m sorry, Perry. Whatever you need me to do, I’ll do it. I’m sure I can find a way to work with him.” Suddenly, Lois felt bad that she had let her feelings for him spill over into her work. She was not going to let it affect her job. “Now if you’ll excuse me… I’ll get back to work.”
Perry nodded brusquely, looking relieved that the conversation hadn’t dissolved into a shouting match – not this time, anyway. She left the office and started out of his office door.
She stopped just outside the door and took a deep breath. All right. If she was going to have to work with the man, she might as well get to it. You’ve faced worse than this, Lane. Terrorists, plane accidents, power-hungry aliens… Okay, well, so the last one wasn’t so far removed from this situation. She felt a wash of hurt and disappointment rush through her quickly – he had seemed to be the one being on Planet Earth who had always wielded his power for good. But now that she knew what he had done to her… for whatever reason…
The pain was replaced with angry determination. Sure, he kept looking at her with those hang-dog looks, trying to apologize with his eyes. But she was sure he was only sorry for keeping his identity from her, the father of her child. Not for what caused her to forget it in the first place. Grrrr.
She walked over to her desk and tried to call out to him, to get him to come over to her desk. “Hey! Let’s get to work!” Typing steadily, his face turned away from her, he didn't move out of his chair. I know you can hear me, you big, dumb, clueless alien…
She tried another tactic. “Excuse me, you over there! If we’re going to work together, let’s get to it!” Still nothing. Was he doing it on purpose, just to aggravate her?
Finally, she gave in and used his name. In a small voice, she said, “Clark. I know you can hear me.” He slowly swiveled around in his seat and looked at her earnestly. With that simple act, she was finally acknowledging the huge issue between them, and they both knew it. She continued in the same quiet voice, more fire than courtesy in her eyes, “Can you please push your stupid useless glasses up your nose and get over here?”
He smirked a little as he obeyed. He always did seem to like her acerbic sense of humor. Well, happy to oblige, ‘farm boy.’
“Lois… we need to—”
She cut him off, very business-like, not meeting his eyes. “So tell me what you’ve found out about Luthor and Vanderworth.”
There was a long pause while she shuffled some of her notes around. Let him squirm. She would not let him try to explain now, not here. It would happen on her own terms. He owed her that.
He finally began, with a sigh. Strangely enough, when he spoke, it was a mixture of the nervous, shy Clark, and the confident, strong Superman. Was this his ‘true’ voice? She pushed the thought aside, irritated, and listened to his words. “I found out that Luthor and Vanderworth were only married a short time; she died only a couple of weeks ago. But unfortunately, she signed over her entire fortune to him right beforehand. He apparently kicked out the whole family and made off with the yacht.” The disgust was clearly evident in his voice.
She could agree with him on that at least. He moved closer to her to show her a printout he had made, and his jacket sleeve brushed her arm. She tried not to leap back, but she hurriedly withdrew her arm just the same. “Well, uh, still. If she only signed over the fortune a few weeks ago, then that doesn’t jive with the company’s age. The charter I saw on the wall of the office said 2004.”
He stepped back from her, giving her space. “They were corresponding while he was in prison. Maybe the company was set up as some sort of… gift?”
“Maybe.” She lifted the ballpoint pen she had been holding for the last few minutes and tapped it against her mouth.
“Look, I know you’re upset about—” he tried again.
She wouldn’t let him change the subject. She had a question for him, anyway. “Clark,” she interrupted, showing him with a cold look that she wasn’t ready to discuss anything yet, “How in the world did you have time to find this information in the paper archives this morning?” She tilted her head and added, “And why didn’t you use the online archives?”
“Well,” he began sheepishly, “It’s actually a lot faster for me to… you know… scan the files.”
Her eyebrows lowered in puzzlement. “No, I don’t know.”
“Um. Okay.” He pointed toward her binders full of contacts. “Pick a name from one of those files. Any tidbit, really.”
So what? He could really…? She thought a moment, and suggested, “Vance Braden.”
“Second from the right, page 36,” he said without hesitation. She hefted the thick binder and counted the pages. Sure enough, it was right where he said. She looked at him in surprise, and a little grudging admiration, and he shrugged.
He geared up to try again, maybe hoping her impressed face was a good sign? “Lois, I need to…”
“Clark.” She suppressed the spark of fury that ignited as she said his name a second time. “It’s hard enough that we work at the same place. And add in that we have to work together on this story… Please. Don’t make this any harder for me than it already is.” She turned away from his sympathetic gaze, the tears springing to her eyes unbidden. Only he could affect her this way! She swallowed. “I’m not ready to talk about this yet, okay?” she finished in a quiet voice.
“Sure. I understand,” he gently assured her.
An awkward silence settled between them, and she wiped a hand surreptitiously across her eyes. She took another deep breath, turning to face him again. At that unlucky moment, she caught Richard’s eye. He had been walking toward Perry’s office. He stopped, concern etched on his features.
What a picture they must make! She must look a wreck, red-rimmed eyes, wiping tears… and Clark, shifting nervously from foot to foot as if he were the guilty party.
He was, but now was not the time to deal with everything, not yet. Will it ever be time? a small nagging voice asked her, but Richard was already walking toward them again.
“Lois? Are you okay?”
She tried to cover, desperate that he not see the change in her and Clark’s relationship. “Yeah, just had something… in my eye…” she finished lamely. That’s the way to think on your feet! she thought sarcastically.
Clark had grabbed a tissue, and was dabbing under his glasses. “I—I think I might have a touch of allergies, myself.” He was back to that high-pitched chirp of his.
“Well, okay…” Richard didn’t sound entirely convinced. “I’m heading to Perry’s office. Are we going to have lunch at our usual place?”
She looked at Clark, who suddenly looked very uncomfortable. She was now keenly aware of why he had always seemed uncomfortable in Richard’s presence.
“I’m not sure. It depends on how the investigation is going.” Suddenly a thought came to her, and she went with it. “Clark and I are going to take a field trip.”
“Well, call me if you think you’ll be able to make it, then.” Her fiancé gave her a warm kiss on the cheek before heading into Perry’s office.
Lois logged off her computer, grabbed her purse and her notepad. “Come on, Invisible Man.” She started off toward the elevators, sure he would be right behind her. She pressed the down button and said to herself, but loud enough for him to hear, “We’re going to put those special gifts of yours to good use.”
Next: Chapter 12: Uncovering the Truth