Chapter 40: Together
Lois Lane set foot cautiously outside the elevator doors, letting the river of people exiting at the same time swirl around her and drift off their separate ways. She stood for a few moments in the vestibule, not quite ready to go to her desk. The main reason? She had to try to control the silly grin she could not quite wipe from her face.
In the elevator, with everyone’s nose either buried in the morning edition, or minds elsewhere, she felt free to stand in the back and watch the numbers on the display go ever higher with a besotted smile on her face. All the while she was feeling that something profound had changed in her life, that she had experienced a kind of paradigm shift which she could never explain to anyone. Well, not anyone except for her hu— her husband. A tiny thrill shot through her at the thought, and she fondly touched the wedding band hanging from a long, slender gold chain around her neck. She would wear it there, hidden below the neckline of her blouse, close to her heart, until it was appropriate to let everyone know how she felt about a certain Mr. Clark Kent.
At last, Lois took a deep breath, squared her shoulders, fixed a blank expression on her face, and took a step into the war room…
“Hey, Miss Lane!” Jimmy called out with a cheerful wave the second she came into view.
Lois smiled slightly in greeting. “Hi, Jimmy.” Nodding, she continued briskly toward her desk, but Jimmy trailed behind her like an eager toddler.
Upon reaching her desk, she lifted up a copy of the morning edition. “It’s all over the news this morning… on a virtual loop,” Jimmy commented, pointing at the headline. In bold 72-point type across the top it read, Deputy Mayor Implicated in City-Wide Construction Scandal. In smaller type, there was a sub-headline: Lex Luthor Silent Partner in Scam! A photo of a haggard-looking Mitchener, taken right after his capture by police, was juxtaposed beside one of Luthor taken after his parole hearing, smiling smugly into the camera. Jimmy continued, pointing up at the television monitors above them, “I’m surprised they don’t have you on one of those morning shows right now. I bet they were practically foaming at the mouth to interview you after your kidnapping and rescue…”
Lois glanced up as well. The news crawl at the bottom of the screen focused on the scandal and the talking heads were buzzing non-stop on the city’s morning show. “Damn sharks.” She looked down at her desk phone, which was frantically flashing the message waiting light. “Let them have their feeding frenzy. I’m not going to toss them any meat.” Inwardly, Lois cringed. She had deliberately left her cell phone off all weekend long while they stayed at the Fortress, since there wasn’t any reception up there, and her head had been so far in the clouds this morning, that she’d completely forgotten to turn it back on…
“Yeah, well, you guys sure nailed this one. Lane and Kent, in the groove again! By the way…” Jimmy added. “Where is Mr. Kent this morning?” He raised an eyebrow to punctuate his meaning, grinning widely.
She raised her eyebrow at him in return, surreptitiously fingering the ring beneath her blouse as she answered smoothly, “Just running a few errands before work. He’ll be in later.”
Jimmy waited expectantly for more information. Lois purposely let the moment run an awkward beat too long, holding his gaze with her own until he shrugged guiltily and dropped his eyes. “Well, I just wanted to congratulate you both on the story.”
“Thanks, Jimmy, I’ll pass that on to him.” Despite the front she was trying to put up, Jimmy’s enthusiasm about his co-workers’ new relationship was infectious. She found she was smiling despite herself. It was nice to have a friend in their corner.
“It’s been just like old times around here, hasn’t it?” he commented wistfully.
“Yeah,” she agreed. Just like old times, when Clark and I would run down a story until late at night… and then I would talk with his alter-ego until dawn… She chuckled softly at the irony once again. “It is like…” A movement to the left caught her eye – Richard standing in his office to get a book from the shelf. As he moved, something about his appearance conveyed an air of quiet desolation. “…old times…”
Jimmy followed her gaze to Richard’s office. “Um, I’d better get back to work.” He awkwardly patted her arm as he snuck away. “Great job.”
But she hardly registered any of that, for at the same moment, Richard caught her eyes and held them. He looked so tired, so sad… At that moment, she knew she had to speak to him, to keep their relationship somewhat friendly. And there was no better time than the present.
She walked over to his office as he sat down, tapping lightly on the doorframe. “Richard?”
“Morning, Lois.” He sighed before continuing, “When you didn’t come back to the house all weekend I wondered if you’d even make it to work today.”
She grimaced. “Sorry, we were pretty busy up North.” She flushed a little, a flash of skin on skin overtaking her memories for a moment, and she lightly brushed the band nestled between her breasts again. “Clark did stop by for some clothes… but…” She looked away, embarrassed. “Anyway, I wanted to tell you that I’ll be looking for a new place to live this week. I hope I can get my stuff out of there in the next few days. You know, my clothes, personal mementos…”
“Lois, you know you don’t have to do that,” he said quietly, eyes sad. “We’re all adults, and there is a spare bedroom. Plus, Jason…”
“I know, but I…” I want to spend as much time with my secret husband as possible, even if he has to pretend to be nothing more than a co-worker by day and a phantom in my bed at night. “I just think it would be easier on all of us if I moved out as soon as possible.”
Richard pressed his lips together. “All right. Whatever you need to do.” He turned his chair back to his computer monitor. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I—” Richard stopped mid-word, looking out into the busy newsroom.
Lois turned to see Clark walking into the room, clumsily making his way to his desk, knickknacks toppling, annoyed looks flying. Involuntarily, her hand leapt to her necklace again, and her heart fluttered wildly at the sight. He turned toward her at that moment, raising a hand in greeting, and she waved back, eyes too bright. Biting her lip and closing her eyes, she turned around before she gave herself away to the rest of the office.
“That’s it, right there,” Richard said hoarsely, startling her from her flustered attempt to get under control again.
“What?” she asked, flushing slightly.
“That look, that smile… oh, God, I would have given anything for you to have looked at me that way… even once.” The raw emotion in her ex-fiancé’s eyes almost made her take a step backward.
“No, don’t try to explain, Lois.” Richard stood and took a few steps toward her until he was on her side of the desk. “I waited… and hoped…” He gently took one of her hands. “And proposed to you, even, hoping to strengthen the bond between us.” He lifted his other hand to lightly trace the edge of her cheek. “But that one thing, that look. It was never there. Nothing I could say or do would bring it to your face.”
And before she could even react, he had quickly snagged the edge of her necklace and pulled it from her blouse into the light. Shocked at what he saw dangling from the chain, Richard did take a step back, dropping the ring back to her chest as though it were a hot coal. Lois quickly covered it with her palm and slipped it inside her neckline again, a little stunned at such an intimate invasion of her privacy.
“I… I don’t know what I expected to find there… but certainly not…” He ran a palm across his face in astonishment. “Not that.” He leaned heavily against the side of his desk, head lowered dejectedly.
Lois spoke quietly, feeling his heartbreak deeply. “I didn’t want you to find out this way…”
He looked back up, eyes red-rimmed and shiny. “But it’s true, isn’t it?”
All she could do was nod.
His voice broke. “I’ve really lost you forever, haven’t I? I mean, I knew that as soon as I saw you two together on the roof, but… I think it’s only just now sinking in.”
Lois reached a tentative hand toward his shoulder. “I’m sorry, Richard. We both are.”
Richard looked up, glancing at where Clark sat at his desk, regretful eyes on her ex-fiancé. Richard smiled sadly again, ironically. “I never really had you, though, did I?” He turned away before she could answer his rhetorical question, walking over to the window and looking out. “The two of you have this history – I won’t even pretend to understand it – and despite the fact that your mind blocked all of that trauma out, somewhere deep inside, you never stopped loving him. Even though he left, possibly never to return, some part of you must have kept holding on.” He never looked back at her as he continued in a shaking voice, “I won’t pretend to be happy about it… but it’s obvious to me you share a deep love that I had no hope of coming between. Your life with him was simply interrupted.” He took a deep breath to steady himself. “I hope you’ll finally be happy – it’s all I ever wanted for you, Lois.”
Lois searched for the right words to say, touched by Richard’s generosity and eloquence. She wanted to say something that wouldn’t be just empty sentiment, but nothing was coming to mind. “There’s someone out there, Richard. Someone who deserves you. You were there for me when he couldn’t be, and for that, I’ll always be grateful.” It was trite, but absolutely true… and it wasn’t enough. It would never be enough. Not until the right woman came along to heal the wounds she had so carelessly inflicted.
Richard looked back at her then, and gave her another heartbreaking smile. “I pray you’re right, Lois.” Then he went back to staring out of the window, lost in thought.
Lois quietly walked away, feeling the curious eyes of her co-workers on her. What had they been expecting? A fight? A tearful goodbye? In a sudden fit of pique, she glared around her, embarrassing most of them into returning to work.
But a few sets of eyes didn’t back away. Jimmy, looking sad but knowing, Perry, shaking his head in exasperated acceptance. And Clark, the only other person privy to that conversation, was giving her a look of commiseration. In a quiet voice, she asked him as she reached his desk, “Are the next few months going to be as hard as I think they are?”
He gave her a compassionate look. “Probably harder. But we’ll get through them. We have each other, now,” he answered, just as quietly. Picking up the front page with a shy grin, as if he were discussing the story with her, he went on. “With you, I’ll be able to do anything.”
She grinned back, blinking away a few late tears. “We’ll be unstoppable.” Her grin faded as her eyes fell again on the photos under the headline. Luthor seemed to sneer at her disdainfully, as if to say, Oh, yeah? What about me, you cocky bitch?
Clark saw what she had focused on, and his tone hardened with determination. “We’ll get him, too, Lois. I don’t care how many lead-lined, kryptonite-filled rooms he’s got across the face of the planet.” He took a risk in looking deeply into her eyes, and she shivered at the intensity she saw there. “We’ll catch him, and I’ll make sure he pays for everything he did – to me, to you, to our family, to the world.”
She stared back just as intensely. “I know you will.” Then in a very low voice she added, glancing behind her, “Now stop looking at me like that or we’ll blow our cover… because I’ll end up dragging your sexy bod by your ugly, old-fashioned tie into that closet over there.”
Surprised, Clark laughed boyishly, the tension broken. She gave him a little wink as she whacked him lightly on the arm with the newspaper she’d been holding. In a louder voice, for the benefit of the people at the desks around them, she asked, “So, Kent. Tell me more about those leads you turned up this weekend.”
“Oh, okay, Ms. Lane. Let me get the information out of my files…” he said with a touch of perfectly acted nervousness.
“Bring them over to my desk, okay?” She briskly walked back to her desk, murmuring very softly as she went, “And don’t keep your loving wife waiting.”
Lois sat at her desk with a second pleased grin beginning to form. Yes, things with Richard were going to be awkward for a while. Yes, it was going to be torture keeping her feelings for Clark under wraps. Yes, it was probably going to be difficult as he adjusted to life with a family, and she adjusted to his constant service to the world. But she didn’t care. Whatever it takes, we’ll deal with it. Our love has survived a memory wipe, an unexpected pregnancy and several brushes with death. We are stronger together than we ever were apart.
As she reorganized the clutter of papers in front of her and started to get ready for the day, her foot kicked her handbag, reminding her that she really should check the messages on her phone. Reaching inside, she turned on the device and placed it on her desk. By the time she had started up her computer, the phone’s LCD showed a large number of messages in her voice mail inbox. Lois groaned. Maybe I’ll wait just a little bit longer…
But as she held it up trying to muster up the courage to check the messages, the phone vibrated in her palm, ringing shrilly. She looked at the screen again: Unavailable No. “Well, I guess I have to start somewhere…” Punching the TALK button, she used her most impatient, business-like tone: “Lois Lane here.”
“Miss Lane. I’m glad to hear that you are alive and well.” She shivered as she recognized the cold voice. Lex Luthor.
“Luthor. How did you get this number, you bastard?” she asked venomously.
At that moment, Clark appeared by her desk, face full of worry. She pointed to her ear, and made a swooping motion, eyes wide. Can you hear where he is? Can you grab him?
Clark cocked his head to the side, frowning in concentration.
“Does it really matter, Miss Lane? And don’t bother getting your alien lover to trace the signal or the sound of my voice. By now, you should know that unlike some people I know, I learn from my mistakes.”
Clark shook his head at her, frowning even more deeply.
“What do you want, Luthor?” she grated out, gritting her teeth in frustration. Clark pulled a chair over to sit beside her, fists clenched.
“Oh, nothing much. I just wanted to remind you that your digging into my affairs could have some serious consequences for your family.” Her mind racing, Lois wondered if this was a declaration of vengeance, a warning, or both…
Beside her, Clark growled low in his throat, seeming to make a superhuman effort to keep himself just barely under control.
“Is that a threat?” Lois asked, voice ice-cold with anger. “Because you should know by now that I don’t respond well to threats.”
“Let’s not mince words. You know exactly what I mean by that – I won’t insult your intelligence by assuming otherwise. Just one more thing before I go…”
There was a pause, and Lois’ blood boiled as she began, “I don’t have to listen to—”
“You can pass this on to him as well… if he isn’t already listening. I wish the two of you the best of luck in your new life together.”
As Lois and Clark looked at each other in speechless horror, the line went dead.
A/N: Yes, I know that was evil. Would you expect any less from the ECQ? I’m not planning an immediate sequel, but this leaves it open-ended enough that I can. Look for more 12days_of_clois one-shots, and if you are a fan of Monk or Spider-Man, then keep me on author alert!
betty brant, mark_clark, jenna_knight, coltdancer and bistyboo1974
Lastly, please, please, please REVIEW! This is the last chapter, and if all of the people who have friended me because of this story review, I would be very pleased. *grin*
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And be sure to check out my R-rated Valentine’s Day fic, Dinner Plans, especially if you like fun and frisky Lois and Clark. I love you all, and good night.