Persistence of Vision
I don't own any of this and I have not or ever will make any money on these stories.
Lois was hunched over her keyboard, putting the final polish on her story. She paused to tuck a dark strand of hair behind her ear and called out without glancing up, "Clark, my spellchecker isn't working again. Are there two or three Os in the word jealousy?"
When there was no answer, she glanced up to see that the newsroom was relatively empty. The sunlight was slanting low through the windows. It was later than she realized. Clark Kent was no where in sight, and like usual no one seemed to notice his absence. Lois didn't usually take a conscious note of his presence, but she usually knew when he was near. Whether he was refilling her coffee cup, or knocking papers off a nearby desk, she seemed to be peripherally aware of him. To have him disappear without her even knowing that he was gone was vaguely unsettling.
It took her a moment to realize that the large floral display she had originally ignored was centered right in the middle of Clark's desk. The sweet flowery scent permeated the room, and she only now noticed it. She found herself unable to look away from the dozen red roses. She felt slightly disoriented at the incongruous sight.
Flowers for Clark?
Who had sent them? Was Clark dating someone? She didn't know why the thought seemed ludicrous somehow. It just seemed . . . wrong. She felt as if she had missed something somehow. Lois prided herself on her ability to know what was going on around her. It was one of the ways that she managed to maintain her reputation for hard hitting journalism, and not been relegated to fluff pieces. But it seemed that while she wasn't looking, someone else had taken note of her mild mannered colleague.
Lois shook her head, feeling ashamed. Clark Kent was really a very sweet guy. And whenever she looked into those soulful eyes, she felt something stir within her. He was too big to be considered a boy, but there was just something about him that reminded her of her son. He had an innocence in his way of viewing people without judgment that brought out her protective urges. She felt the need to shield both of them from the harsh realities of life.
Had Clark met someone? For a moment, she tried to picture this earnest and naïve man dating a city girl. Lois would be more worried about his virtue if it wasn't for the persistent image of him clipping his poor hapless date with his glasses when he got close enough to kiss her. She had this inanely whimsical image of him sporting a black eye just a fraction smaller than the petite blond at his side. She snorted to herself, wondering why she had pictured someone like that with Clark. Maybe because the image just seemed so preposterous.
She chuckled at the way he seemed to trip over his own feet. Now Lois could believe that Clark would fall head over heels . . . on his own pant cuff. The thought that Clark could be rushing into a romance with some stranger did worry her. It made her feel uncomfortable. Lois tried to analyze this churning in her gut, and decided it stemmed from her desire to make certain that he wasn't going to get hurt.
She was going to get to the bottom of this and make certain that Clark wasn't going to make a mistake. She knew all about mistakes. Who was this woman that was sending him flowers? As much as he exasperated her, Lois didn't think she could face a heartbroken Clark Kent. The thought made her ache inside.
He was always doing little things for her, and Lois decided that she was going to turn over a new leaf and do this one thing for him. Lois felt a sense of rightness at this decision, and she made her way toward his desk with a sense of determination and confidence.
Most everyone in the bullpen would have recognized the steely glint in Lois' eye and knew to steer clear of her, but not Jimmy. His arms were piled high with file folders, and he was holding the stack down with his chin. He didn't seem to notice that she was standing beside Clark's desk, and he said in passing, "Hey Lois. Are you doing anything special with Richard for Valentine's Day?"
Valentine's Day. She had completely forgotten. Lois couldn't pull her gaze away from the fragrant flowers on Kent's desk. She felt an odd displaced feeling, almost as if a hollow had formed somewhere in the vicinity of her stomach.
"Only if it involves weapons of mass destruction." She said too softly to be heard. At Jimmy's distracted look she said for Jimmy's benefit, "Who has time for artificially created holidays? I have a deadline to worry about." Lois said disparaging.
She could hear Jimmy chuckle as he rounded the bend toward the photocopy room. The newsroom was suddenly too quiet. The empty seats attested to the distraction of the rest of the staff and if Lois were to bet, she would guess the majority of the staff were buying last minute cards and chocolates rather than following up the leads that were the official excuse for their absence.
Was that where Clark was now? For some reason, the thought really annoyed her. She tried to recall, but couldn't remember any time that she had heard of him paired with any female. In fact, the only time she had ever heard him talking about a woman was his mother. Maybe they were his gift to her?
If anyone would buy their mother flowers on Valentine's Day it would be Clark Kent, but the facts didn't add up. Clark's mother lived on a farm in Kansas, and Lois had a feeling that if Clark in his homespun, honest way was going to acknowledge his mother with flowers, he wouldn't buy her a dozen blood-red roses. Instead, he probably had an account with a florist in Smallville where he would periodically have daisies or some such delivered to his sweet grey or was it silver haired old woman.
Lois picked up the stapler, just in case there were any witnesses and leaned in to get a closer look at the small, white card amidst the floral display. Clark's name was neatly printed on the front. Lois glanced around wondering if she could manage to look inside the card without anyone noticing her. She never could let go of a mystery, and curiosity was definitely her bane.
It was so close, and it was almost painful to resist. Lois let her hand drop deliberately. She would try to respect Clark's privacy. She remembered with gratitude all the times Clark had refrained from asking about Richard's odd behavior of late. She could see the curiosity in his eye, but he always seemed to know that she wasn't ready to talk.
Lois wanted to open up to Clark. They were friends despite the years he had disappeared to go on his "walkabout", but for some reason that she couldn't name, it had felt too personal to share with him. Lois had even tried to talk to her sister about Richard. Although Lucy had said all the right words, she could sense her sister's distraction and had refrained from saying anything.
She absentmindedly ran her finger over the desk's surface feeling the wood grain beneath the thick veneer. Clark's desk was almost painfully bare. There were no pictures of friends or family, nothing to indicate anything about the owner aside from the plaque with his name on it. She felt a pang of sadness at the thought. Why would a man who was caring enough to have part of his check sent home every payday to his mother, not have a picture of his parents on his desk? And if he were getting roses from a loved one, why did he never say anything to her? Did he feel that because she couldn't open up to him, he couldn't share such things with her?
Surely, she would be the first to know anyway. Wouldn't she see the change in Clark if he had fallen in love with some woman? Why did she care about Clark Kent's love life? Was she jealous that she had no one to send her flowers since her falling out with Richard? They had managed to keep their split off the Daily Planet radar, but it wouldn't last long. Was she so pathetic that she had to live vicariously through Clark Kent's love life? It didn't matter. For some reason, it was vital that she find out what was going on.
She gave a guilty start and gasped, "Clark."
It amazed her that as bumbling as he seemed, he still managed to approach her unaware. She mentally rolled her eyes at herself. Nice one Lane. That certainly didn't seem guilty at all. "My stapler's out of staples." She held up the stapler as if he couldn't possible understand her without visual aids.
When he continued to look at her with a gaze that seemed to see everything that she was thinking she relented just a bit, "Beautiful flowers." Maybe she was going about this all wrong. If she wanted information, why not just come right out and ask?
He didn't seem to even notice the flowers. Clark was looking at her with an intensity she rarely saw in her colleague. His hair flopped forward on his forehead, and she had to suppress the urge to comb it back with her fingers. There was something in the way he was looking at her that made her lungs constrict and the air suddenly too thick. Lois struggled to draw a breath and maintain her composure. What had come over her?
Clark's eyes seemed to almost glow with blue fire before his shoulders stooped and he nervously pushed his glasses back up his nose shattering the moment.
When Clark entered the newsroom straightening his tie, he took a quick glance around to assess the attention of his co-workers. No one was focused on his entrance, and he relaxed as he strode away from the elevator. Jimmy was making photocopies in the other room and he could hear that tell-tale subsonic whine that always occurred just before they needed to call the copier repair service. He could hear Perry on the phone in his office ordering dinner.
Lois was standing at his desk next to a dozen beautiful roses. He stumbled to a stop. His heart started pounding wildly and he glanced around the room again to make certain that nothing was amiss. Had Lois just brought him flowers? Clark felt as if the whole world tilted on its axis. She seemed incredibly focused on the red blooms; it was almost as if she were trying to get a closer look . . . trying to read the card. He closed his eyes, berating himself for his foolishness. Of course, she hadn't bought the flowers. What had he been thinking? The flowers were probably for someone else.
Lois was so engrossed, that she didn't notice his arrival. Clark took that moment to study her. He relished these rare times that he didn't have to worry about what people were thinking. He was always having to come up with reasons for his absences and trying to distract the attention of his coworkers. For just that instant, he could be himself and he relaxed, comforted by the sound of Lois' breathing.
Lois' hair swung in her face, and she absently tucked an errant strand behind one ear. The sound of her heartbeat soothed him in a way that few things could. Clark lost himself in a fleeting fantasy, indulging himself with the idea that Lois had sent him the flowers. Not that he needed such displays, but just the notion that she would want to do something like that for him, Clark Kent was a heady sensation. But that wasn't Lois Lane, and he wasn't just Clark Kent.
He stood behind waiting for her to notice that he was there before he finally said, "Lois?" He tried to keep his voice soft, but she jumped anyway.
Clark heard the way her heart accelerated and she brandished his stapler like a gun. He felt the edges of his mouth turning up in a smile.
"My stapler is out of staples." She had the most amazing eyes. How could he face down a machine gun without flinching, but one look in her eyes was enough to make him feel weak in the legs?
He couldn't hear her breathing and he realized that she was holding her breath. Her eyes dilated and he felt a moment of unreality as if he were dreaming. There was just the two of them. Then he heard something twang in the copier room and Jimmy swearing under his breath. Reality intruded and Clark pushed his glasses higher on his face and cleared his throat nervously.
"Beautiful flowers." Lois said.
"That's odd. I wonder who they're for." He said quickly, his voice higher than normal, and he didn't have to completely fake the nervousness he felt. As curious as he was about the flowers, he was still more focused on Lois' erratic heartbeat.
Lois said, "They're for you."
"No. It has to be a mistake."
"They're on your desk and it says Clark on the card." Lois' eyes widened as if she had just realized that she had just admitted to snooping, "I just happened to notice that it had your name on it."
Clark observed her with amused affection. He was more interested in her reaction to the flowers than to the identity of the sender. "Golly. No one's ever sent me flowers before."
He opened the envelope slower than necessarily silently enjoying the way Lois' heart sped up as he did so. He watched her from the corner of his eye as she tensed trying not to reveal just how curious she really was. Clark read the card and then put it into his pocket, remaining quiet and thoughtful. He pretended to forget that she was standing there almost humming with impatience.
Finally, Lois couldn't stand it anymore. "Well. Come on Smallville. Who is it from?"
Clark shrugged and said offhand, "No one really." He was mildly ashamed that he was playing this little game, but he didn't want the feeling of warmth that had spread through him at Lois's avid attention to dissipate so quickly. He pulled one of the roses from the arrangement and brought it to his nose to hide his smile.
"Cough it up. You know me. I won't stop digging until I find out the truth."
He lowered the bloom and listening to the way her heart was still beating too fast. "Why does it matter, Lois?"
"I'm a reporter. I'm curious. It's an occupational hazard." Lois said off hand.
"Your stapler works just fine, doesn't it?" Clark asked, unable to completely hide his amusement.
"Caught." Lois said with a reluctant smile as she set his stapler back on his desk.
"It's just someone I met when I was working on that article about that new restaurant down the street with all the health violations."
"The Italian one?"
"The owner was probably just trying to soften me up, so I don't file a story too harsh." Clark finally confessed. He dropped his gaze to the flowers.
"Clark." She put her hand on his sleeve. "Or maybe she just wanted to get your attention. You're a handsome, intelligent man. Any woman would be lucky to be with you."
He gaped at her, his eyebrows disappearing behind his hair, unable to form a reply through the sudden thudding of his heart.
"Glad you feel that way, Lois." Perry's voice boomed behind them and both Lois and Clark jumped away from each other as if they had been caught making out in the back of a car.
"Perry, you startled me." Lois said, accusingly.
"I'm sending the two of you on assignment to investigate the Iron Gates community homeowner association. I've been getting some unsubstantiated rumors that the homeowners are being harassed into purchasing landscaping, painting, and other various maintenance services that are chosen by the homeowner association at exorbitant premiums. I have a gut feeling that something more is going on."
Clark's astonishment at Lois's words made it difficult for him to focus on Perry's words. 'You're a handsome, intelligent man. Any woman would be lucky to be with you.' Did she really believe that?
"What do you know?" Lois was all business.
"Recognize the name, Peter Valentino?" Perry's eyes almost twinkled. He knew he had a story.
"The mob boss?" Lois asked.
"The same one. They couldn't pin any charges on him, legal technicality. It seems he's bought a bunch of land in the suburbs and decided he would do his own brand of management."
"That just one of them. I've got a lead on a couple who bought a home there, but decided that they wanted to move. They're going to let the Daily Planet rent their house for awhile before they sell, in an effort to bring this corruption to light. You two are going to go there and pretend to be the new family that's moved in. I want you to make it convincing. I have a feeling you won't have to wait long for them to start putting pressure on you."
"Wait a minute. You want me and Clark to move in together." Lois' eyes were wide, and she put her fists on her hips as if daring the Chief Editor to continue.
"I'm not asking you to run to Vegas, Lois. I'm asking you to do some undercover work and I'm teaming you up with Kent, here."
It took a moment for Perry's implications to sink in. As much as Clark might relish some time alone with Lois, it would be near to impossible to disappear as Superman under her close regard. "I don't know if that's such a good idea, Mr. White." Clark said, but no one paid any attention to him.
"I'd normally send you with Richard, but . . ." Perry's tone reinforced Clark's suspicions that all was not right between Lois and Richard.
"No! I mean, that's not necessary." Lois said just a little too quickly.
Lois' quick denial shot a ray of hope into the dark places of his heart. Lois glanced at Clark and she was so ill at ease that Clark's only thought was to spare her any discomfort. He'd manage somehow; he always did.
Perry gazed at Lois with a knowing gleam in his eye as if he had just confirmed a suspicion. "Richard's has been . . . he's unavailable. I know that I can count on you two to be professional about this. We need to get some dirt on these people, and this is the best way to do it."
"But what about Jason?" Lois sounded resigned.
"Tell him you're taking a vacation. Tell him that you've met someone new and you're seeing what it like is to live in the suburbs together. Tell him whatever you like, and if you could get him to call Clark 'Dad' that would be great . . .more believable. If you're any good at reporting you won't have to do it for too long."
Lois glared at Perry, but Clark knew that the Editor-in-Chief had won. There was no way to back out of this without admitting defeat.
"I don't know . . . ." Clark started, shifting from foot to foot. He hadn't considered Jason in the whole equation. "If it's going to make you uncomfortable at all Lois . . ."
"I can deal with my own discomfort. Thank you very much." Lois said tartly.
Clark winced and Lois avoided meeting his eyes.
Perry said in a loud voice as he walked back toward his office, "I want you to start as soon as possible. I'll email you the address. Someone has to stop Valentino. And we might as well get a page one out of it, before someone at the Star gets there first."
"Alright, but he gets to be Mr. Lane." Lois shouted at his retreating back.
Perry stuck his head out of the office to reply. "No can do, Lois. I have the documentation all doctored up, and you're going as Mr. and Mrs. Kent. Sorry Clark, but you've been gone awhile and I think too many people recognize the name Lois Lane."
Lois sighed heavily, but the edges of her mouth twitched in a smile. "That's true." Clark confirmed, "People recognize you all the time. I don't think anyone will know who I am."
Her indignation drained out of her. She looked at Clark thoughtfully, and he sat in his seat, narrowly avoiding falling backward in the process.
Clark could see the remaining tension ease away and he wondered if falling over completely would get her to smile. Jimmy approached them timidly. His face was covered with black dust.
"What is that all over you, boy?" Perry White asked, still watching them from the doorway of his office.
"Toner. I'm telling you, Chief, that photocopier has it in for me."
"What are you waiting for?" He turned to Kent and Lane. "an engraved invitation?"
"I would think that if I was going to get married, you'd at least see to that." Lois said sarcastically. "Come on before something else explodes." Lois practically dragged Clark out of his chair. Clark turned back just in time to see an amused grin on Perry's face.
This is my first Superman Returns fic, any and all mistakes are my own. I've enjoyed reading the stories out there by all the wonderful authors so much that I thought I should add one to the whole.