Lois (kalalanekent) wrote,

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Posting LS: Chapter Twenty-Six: Stutter Steps (Part One)

Well, again, Her Majesty has outdone herself and delivered early. Thanks ever so much, B! And tell me if your muse is slacking. We'll get that corrected! *hug*

Onward and upward!



Perry walked in early, secretly pleased at the prospect of lambasting Lane, Kent, and his nephew.  Lane and Kent had both snuck out yesterday, and even though Lois had asked to leave and Richard had called after the fact to let him know, Perry could blame them for Kent’s absenteeism and each other’s.  Nothing more delightful than the prospect of winding up three of my best reporters and turning them loose on an unprepared world.

But when he actually walked into the office, he saw a pitiful sight.  Lois was slumped over her desk, asleep in the clothes she’d worn yesterday, just one hand and a mass of wavy black hair visible.  It’s worse than I thought, Perry mused, scowling.  Usually it’s the man that gets thrown out of the house during a fight.  Well, Lois never could do anything expected.  At least he had an hour before anyone else came in.  That ought to be enough time to put things right…



Lois woke up very slowly, feeling as if her head was stuffed with cotton wool.  Her neck and back and legs ached, too, and the arm she had laid her head on was numb.  Oh, God.  Now I remember why I don’t do this anymore.  Eww, I fell asleep without brushing my teeth.  Yuck.  I’m getting old.

She lifted her head, hair tumbling into her eyes, and focused blearily on the insulated coffee cup in front of her.  Fragrant steam rose from it, smelling nothing like the over-boiled mud she usually got at work.  Eyes practically crossing, she pulled it closer and took a sip.

“Well, at least we know she’s alive,” Perry’s gruff voice said behind her as she put the cup back down.  She whirled as he continued, “Your devotion’s admirable, Lane, but you really didn’t have to sleep here to be on time for the conference.”


“And don’t try to weasel out of it, either.  Your name plate says Assistant Editor, you have to go to the meetings.  Most of them, anyway.  I ought to make you go like that, only I’m too nice.” 

Perry looked more amused than anything else, so Lois just drank her coffee and looked at him with an eyebrow raised.

He grinned.  “Olsen was kind enough to come in early and pick up your dry cleaning, so that suit Kala spewed on is here and ready for you to wear.  He also got you some coffee from that froufy little shop on the corner.  Now I’ve got him running down to the convenience store for a toothbrush and toothpaste.  Loueen’s on her way in, and I asked her to pick up whatever else you’d need.  I don’t meddle in feminine mysteries, and neither should Olsen.  Besides, Loueen’s more likely to accurately guess your bra size.  She said you’d have makeup?”

“Yeah, I have a makeup bag in my desk,” Lois muttered.  “Perry, what about the twins?  Who’s taking them to school?”

“Richard,” the editor replied.  “I called him and told him you’d slept here and he needed to take the monsters in.”

Lois winced.  “Lovely.  So how much has your nephew told you?”

“Not a damn thing, and I didn’t ask,” he retorted.  “But I think he was glad to know you were here and nowhere else.”

Ouch.  “Point made, White, now leave it.”  Lois took another swig of the coffee, glad that Starbucks knew her usual, and raked her fingers through her dark hair.  What I really want right now is a nice long bath – I missed my morning shower.  Speaking of which…  “Perry, if it’s going to be a few minutes, I’m going to go down to the gym and have a shower.  I feel grungy.”

“Knew that free membership for the executive staff would come in handy,” he muttered.  “Go on, I’ll send Loueen down there when she gets here.”

Lois got up, wincing when she stretched, and kissed Perry on the cheek as she went by.  “Thanks, Dad,” she said, and though her tone was light, her eyes were sincere.

“Yeah, like I’d admit to a daughter like you,” Perry groused, but he was smiling.  “Don’t pull this nonsense again or you’re grounded.”



Clark woke up late, having been afraid to return to sleep after that dream.  His walk to work was further delayed by a car wreck on the way; he didn’t have to change out of uniform to unobtrusively pop open a stuck car door and help the fortunately-uninjured driver out.  The young man’s alcohol-laced breath made the wreck just another statistic for the officers who were arriving as Clark ducked out of the scene.

Lois would have been amused at the number of ‘unofficial’ rescues he did, and the thought of her made him smile bittersweetly.  That dream had been so very real, and even now he wished he could exchange this life for the one he’d led in it.  Too late, Clark thought.  I have no idea what would happen if I turned back time that far, and it would be unforgivably selfish of me to do so just so I could have a second chance with Lois.  Saving her life was one thing, and I only turned back time a little while.  But more than six years…  No.  Never.

At least they had promised to be civil to each other … and he still had to get the info from Karla Smith-Bennett over to Lois.  Last Clark had heard, no one had officially picked up the Luthor/Vanderworth investigation after he left City, so that meant Lois was most likely doing it unofficially.  She never would leave a story while there was the faintest hope of getting some answers.

Mulling over the Luthor problem, Clark continued on his way to work, not particularly worried about being late.  Perry had always forgiven his occasional disappearances and tardiness as long as he finished stories on time … speaking of which, he had to wrap up the second article on the trip to Mexico



Lois let the hot water blast straight into her face, hoping it would wake her up enough for this damn conference.  She’d have to remember to refill the shampoo and conditioner bottles she carried in her makeup case…

“Hello, Lois?  It’s me, I’m here to rescue your silly butt.  Did you really spend the night here?”

The reporter grinned.  Marriage hadn’t tamed Loueen, apparently.  “In here.  Yeah, I had a few things I wanted to look up and I fell asleep at my desk.”

“Type-A overachiever,” Loueen said affectionately, tucking a strand of thick chestnut hair behind her ear.  She was right outside the shower stall now, and added, “I hope I guessed your size right … I brought panties, bra, stockings, slip, and camisole.  Everything matches – I figured it was the pinstripe.”

“Mm-hmm.  Thank you so much, Loueen.  You didn’t have to.”

“Yes I did.  That’s why you shouldn’t marry your boss; you get used to actually doing what he wants.” 

“No such worries here,” Lois replied, turning off the spray and grabbing the towel of the shower door.  “You’re the one who wanted to get hitched, not me.”

“It does have its benefits,” Loueen said lazily.  “Such as not having to fight over the ‘official office hot chick’ title anymore.  A much better wardrobe.  More money in the house.  And it has drawbacks, too, I’ll admit.  He didn’t tell me you didn’t know about the pets until we were at your house and he wanted to sneak them inside.”

“You know,” Lois muttered as she finished drying off, “one day, you’re going to be a widow because of that little trick, right?  The lizard is evil.”

“Tell me about it.  It got loose in our house and I had to chase it off the curtains with a broom.”  Lois heard Loueen chuckle, and then the younger woman said, “Everything’s right outside the door here.  I’m going to go see if Jimmy’s back with your toothbrush.  Somehow I don’t think he’d dare come in the women’s locker room even if they let him.”

The black-haired reporter grinned to herself, pulling the shopping bag into the shower stall.  No, he probably wouldn’t have, especially since he knew she was here.  Several years ago, Lois had been in the habit of quickly changing clothes in the janitorial closet, which was closer than the restrooms.  Jimmy had once walked in on her in mid-change, wearing just a bra and panties, and the young photographer had been so traumatized that he couldn’t meet her eyes for days.  That, and the life-sized picture of Perry now plastered on the closet wall, had cemented Lois’ decision to walk the extra distance to the restrooms to change from then on…  “No, Loueen, he wouldn’t.  Jimmy’s too much of a gentleman.”

“Like someone else we know,” Perry’s wife and former secretary replied.  “The two that love you the most are the two least likely to subscribe if I set up a pay-per-view webcam over that shower door.”

“Loueen!  You’re terrible!”  Lois was glad the other woman couldn’t see her blushing at the mention of Clark.

“It’s true.  Heck, the last time I saw you and Kent together was at that Christmas party, and he saw you over by the mistletoe and didn’t even try to trip you so you’d be under it or anything.  Jimmy I understand – he’d faint dead away if you kissed him, but Kent’s just too noble.  Lombard, on the other hand…”  Her brown eyes fairly gleamed with amusement.

“You mean the hand I broke three fingers of?” Lois said sweetly, glad of someone else to discuss.  “By the way, when did you start drugging your husband with illegal substances?  He rehired Grizzly Lombard!”

“Don’t blame that on me, he’s always been like that.  Something you know perfectly well,” Loueen shot back, laughing.  “Probably did it just for the fun of watching a big burly ex-quarterback hide from someone as petite as you.  All right, I’m gonna go get that toothbrush before you blame me for anything else.”

“C’mon, Loueen, everyone knows that anything that goes wrong is blamed on the last person who quit.  Namely, you.”

“Hey, Norm quit after me!” Loueen called from the doorway.

“He didn’t quit, he died!  There’s a difference!”

“Fancy you knowing that!”



Any hope Clark had of arriving unobtrusively was blown when he walked in.  Jimmy and Perry had both beaten him into work, and the editor rounded on him immediately.  Kent!  What the hell did you think you were doing yesterday, leaving early?”

Caught off guard, he could only stammer in reply.  “Didn’t … didn’t Lois tell you?  I was sick…”

“Sick of working, more like!  First Lois tells me she’s leaving early, then Richard skips out, then you just sort of drift out without a word.  Got any explanation that won’t make me laugh?”

“I had a, um, stomach virus,” Clark said, feeling much the same way he had when he and Richard were in Mexico being unexpectedly shot at.  “I did ask Lois to say something…”

“Well, I was probably too busy tearing her a new one for her spat with Superman on national TV to hear her if she did tell me,” Perry replied with a dismissive wave of his hand, not noticing the way Jimmy hustled to his desk out of Perry’s line of sight.  “Besides, Lois isn’t your boss.  You should’ve called me or Richard.  Of course, you couldn’t have reached Richard because he took the afternoon off, too!  I’m not going to put up with my best reporters playing hooky just because they don’t feel like working.  Is that understood?”

Bewildered, Clark said, “Yes, Mr. White, sir.  I, um, I’d be happy to stay late and make up the hours…”

“No, don’t start that.  Lois tried the same thing last night and fell asleep here.  She hasn’t done that since Superman left.  Dedication’s fine, but when you people start moving in, I start to worry.”

“Lois stayed here last night?”  Clark’s gaze darted to Jimmy for confirmation.  At the younger man’s silent, wide-eyed nod, he continued, “But the twins…”

“Richard took them to school,” Perry said, then did a double-take.  “Wait a minute.  You told Lois you were sick?  Thought you two weren’t speaking.  Didn’t she drive you out of City?”  He folded his arms and gave Clark a challenging glare.  Behind him, Jimmy’s eyebrows rose speculatively.

“Mr. White, I left City for my own reasons,” Clark said, beginning to get a little testy.  I’m beginning to remember why I thought this could never work.  Everyone’s always poking their nose in.  “And Lois and I are both professionals.  I happened to see her yesterday as I was leaving and asked her to pass on the message.”

“Well, that explains why I never got it,” Perry muttered.  Kent, in the future, call me.  Lois didn’t get any less vindictive while you were gone.”

“Mr. White, I don’t think you’re being fair to Lois…”

“Fine, fine.  She didn’t get any less absentminded, either.”  Perry turned away, making Jimmy quickly start rustling through the papers on his desk in an attempt to look busy, and then the rest of the employees started to arrive.  Grateful for the reprieve, Clark hurried to his desk and found the notepad on which he’d written Ms. Smith-Bennett’s contact info, and all the background information he’d been able to gather on her in such short notice.  As soon as Lois got back, it would make a nice peace offering…

Other reporters trickled in, and Clark’s keen hearing was more liability than asset as he heard them still discussing Lois’ behavior yesterday.  My God, the gossip mill never stops.  Don’t they have anything better to discuss?  They’re supposed to be journalists, why are they so excited by hearsay and supposition when the actual facts come down to so little?

Lois swept into the office with Abigail Montgomery, Caroline Biste, and several other reporters.  Clark watched her carefully, but he saw no signs of her overnight stay at the office.  Only her hair was still slightly damp, curling into a mass of raven waves in the absence of a hair dryer.  It relieved him to see that Lois didn’t seem as harried as she had been just before he left for Mexico.

Now is as good a time as ever to face her.  I just hope Perry hasn’t riled her up too much…


Tags: little secrets post

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