Chapter 5: Apology
You could love your job more than you had ever loved anything, you could unexpectedly find yourself between descriptive lines of black ink on paper, you could live for the rush of knowing that somewhere, someone bad would forever be under judgmental eyes, that someone good had gotten justice.
You could walk into work every day with a smile plastered across your face, not a goofy smile like certain among your coworkers, but one that's simultaneously predatory and completely content.
All of this could be, and in Lois's case, was true. But that didn't protect her from three hours of sleep, or nearly getting run over by a prick on the way to work, or the fact that Perry, nieces be damned, had screamed at her for being late to work in front of the newbies. The worst part was, he had every right to, she should have taken steps in the case of alarm failure.
Thus Lois had clamored into the elevator, a cloud of dark thoughts so obviously emanating from her person that Jimmy Olsen had taken one look, a pleasant "Good morning" bubbling forth from his lips, and quietly stepped off the elevator without a word at speeds she had never seen from anyone. Self-preservation could do that to a person.
Idly, she corrected her thoughts, she has seen those speeds from someone, but…He'd been busy, lately, with the League and the super villains in Metropolis had deigned to lay off for a while.
Lois promptly added that to her list of grievances, that the only way she ever saw her current interest was in the midst of crisis, and that she was smitten enough to hope for some calamity for that very reason.
She was attempting to think happy thoughts and be thankful for skin-tight spandex, just as the elevator opened and she walked out the door, idly sipping bone-tinglingly hot coffee. Or, to be completely accurate, she attempted to walk out of the elevator, and as she was doing so ran into something very large and solid that was attempting to go the exact opposite way.
The results were predictable, the coffee cup was rammed against her lips, loosening the lid adequately enough for at least three-fourths of the hot liquid to trail down the front of her white (didn't that just figure?) blouse.
Having been startled out of her reverie in a deeply unpleasant manner, she turned slowly towards the poor slob that was going to receive her bad luck ten times over, her teeth bared in something resembling a snarl.
"Oh….Sorry…Lois….I…looking…you…" Clark Kent tried to meet her eyes, failed for the briefest of seconds, and then, turning the most fascinating shade of red, began to carefully inspect the ceiling.
"I…uh…didn't see you…and" Clark continued to stammer uneasily, his face now glowing brightly enough to guide a caravan through fog. From his pocket he drew out a handkerchief and nearly began to dab at her shirt out of instinct, and then his hand halted, mere inches away from certain death. Mutely, he handed her the tiny cotton square.
For a moment, Lois was torn between amusement and anger, but anger had the head start. "Can it, Smallville," she decided on succinctness, "and watch where you're going." There. That last bit had had a sufficient amount of venom.
Briefly, she shoved him to the side, or attempted to. Then she stormed out of the elevator, and regretted the lack of doors to slam. Then she just kept walking.
Largely by means of Murphy's Law, the day had taken a swan dive after starting at rock bottom. It had been a genuinely slow news day, nothing at all was happening. Thus Lois had had to cover…a cat fashion show. She hadn't known people dressed their cats up like ballerinas or Vikings, and wouldn't have expected anyone to admit to such a habit in public. But alas…She had stood there, for a full hour, wracking her brain for any idea of how to make such an event interesting.
That part, actually, hadn't been even remotely difficult. Apparently it was a slow day for criminals, too.
"This is a hold up!" the man pulled out a gun, and aimed it at the three people in the audience… "I want your…uh…"
"Money?" One man offered helpfully.
"Yeah!" The criminal looked relieved and began to walk towards them.
"Valuables?" Inquired a thirteen-year-old girl, "Like, jewelry and stuff."
Lois sighed, heavy with the knowledge that in this city no one would even blink if the perp sprouted green tentacles. C'est la vie, and all that.
The criminal stopped for a moment, considering. This possibility had not occurred to him.
Neither, apparently, had the existence of one Man of Steel. Clark crept up behind him carefully, and knocked him unconscious with one strategically-placed blow. The man in the ski mask crumpled into his arms and, very gently, he began tying his arms together behind him.
He had to have seen her, Lois knew that. He may have lacked Bruce's paranoia gene, but he wasn't stupid, he would have scanned the obvious at least briefly to make sure no one was hurt, or armed. But, except for an incredibly apologetic and brief smile, so brief she couldn't be positive its existence had been wishful thinking, he refused to meet her eyes. Or ask how she was, or say hello… He just flushed slightly, and flew off with the would-be robber…Her dark mood grew blacker.
Her movements back at the planet, as, instead of writing an article that would actually be painful she paced around the room, could be never crossing her office.
She desperately wanted someone to blame this whole thing on, or a friend who would listen for a little while. But alas, some necessities are not afforded to the Modern Independent Woman. Lois grimaced briefly, considering this fact, but then stuck out her chin and hoisted up her shoulders. She had not made it this far to get beaten by a wretched furry creature dressed up as Cleopatra.
Lois found a sufficient opening line for her article, one that was neither outright mocking towards the entire event nor dryer than stale crackers. The words wouldn't just leap to the tips of her fingers, like they normally did, but she drug them out of her mind with that famous willpower of steel and an hour later her reward was a full thousand adequate words and some diffused anger.
Lois leaned back and yawned victoriously, stretching her arms out within the blouse that she had changed into on her way over to the show. She grinned happily, she had plainly earned a small break.
While she was mentally running through a list of possibilities, a small and meek knock echoed into her office.
"Come in," she called, though she knew of her only co-worker who would both dare to disturb her and bother knocking. She couldn't help but smirk as a still-embarrassed Clark stumbled across the threshold and kept eye-contact so vigilantly that it was, frankly, a little creepy.
"Hello, Lois." He got that much out without effort.
"Clark," She nodded in his general direction and began to "clean her nails," apparently finding much that was interesting beneath them.
Now he began to tread in dangerous waters. "About earlier…I wanted to say…That is, I really do mean…I usually don't do that…" His shoulders hunched together in an obvious wince as it became increasingly apparent that that actually had been the best defense he could muster.
His inhaled and cleared his throat and tried again, despite the lobster color that was, once again, consuming his face. Ah, humility. He supposed that a good dose couldn't hurt. "I…" He breathed again. "Sorry." Clark wished that one of his superpowers involved floors swallowing him whole at will.
"It's okay," Lois said when she decided he had sputtered piteously long enough Then, she thought for a moment. Of the many people who richly deserved her wrath, Smallville didn't even crack the top half. Perhaps…Just this once…She would give him a break? "I've had a genuinely terrible day, Smallville, and it was very…chivalrous of you to apologize. So, why don't you buy me some ice cream and both of us can attempt to forget this morning?"
It occurred to her in a vague sort of way that thirty words should never make someone that happy, but something of that sincere grin seeped into her bones and she smiled back, for a second.
He was sort of cute, she decided. Almost like a puppy that needed no excuse at all to climb into your lap and lick your face, or the across-the-street-boy who had given you your first-ever valentine. Yes, she confirmed, she liked him exactly the same way she liked puppies. Provided, of course, they left her carpet intact.
"I can just fl--I mean, drive you right over to this really great little Mom and Pop shop, or you can take your own car." He offered.
"I took the bus today," she informed him unceremoniously, and attempted to ignore that this news delighted him still further.
She looped her arm through his as they walked down the street towards the parking garage. On the way down, her heel became caught in a sidewalk crack and she went flying briefly, not the stomach-dropping flying of the very best dreams, but the imminent face-plant flying of real life.
He caught her, even though she would have sworn that he was in the precise wrong position to do so. "Easy there," he said with a smile down at her.
In that moment, something hit her as hard and undeniably as déjà vu, and she would have sworn that it had all happened before, the fall, the hold, and that smile. She stopped dead in the middle of a busy sidewalk and, ignoring the swearing and yelling of those who forced their way past her, looked Clark up and down.
Where did she know all of that from? She wracked her mind for the barest of moments, and then filed it away. It would come to her, she was sure, if she just let it be for a while. In the mean time…Rocky Road or Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough?