Author's Note:        Enjoy but beware; this shall be a long story.  And I am open to any comments and suggestions (criticism is good too.  That's what makes one a good writer.  *evil laugh*  Flames will be used to roast marshmallows), as long as they're not like, "Oh, pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeasssssse get Dave and Lisa together NOW before I bite your head off and stick it up your ass."  Have an open mind, for Time will tell with this story, my children.  Time will tell…

My contact is BitchCakes@dangerous-minds.com, so drop me a line.  Also, check out my webpage at http://members.tripod.com/shorty_est_1986/index.htm.  Come on, you know you wanna!

Lose Yourself

Chapter 1

*~ Syren ~*

* ~ *

            Why is it so hard to be happy?  Family and friends used to be the basis of happiness, but nowadays, any supposed happiness could be bought like a material possession.  Reluctantly, Lisa learned that that was what she had done.  What was supposed to be an assured advance was laid out in a little place called New Hampshire.  On a whim, she had packed up and left what had been her home for who-knows how long.  True, she had followed Jimmy for a reason: he was family to her, as was everyone at the WNYX News Station.  Guiltily, she admitted to herself that the expansion in her own profits, as well as her own newspaper, had been the nail in the coffin.

            The more she thought about it, the more Lisa dwelled on the "family ties" she had with everyone.  Jimmy was like a second father, though the title of "deranged uncle" seemed more fitting.  Beth was a sister, and since Catharine left the group, they had become closer.  Joe was just beginning on the route of eccentricity, where Max was already waiting at the end of it.  In her drear life, they had become the comedic relief.  Lisa hated to be biased, but the new coworkers didn't seem to measure up, though they were over-qualified for the positions they were given. 

Last, but not least, Johnny had followed her to the new state; had supported her in her new decisions.  Despite his… qualities, he had been an adequate husband.  And for that, Lisa felt guilt-ridden, because there was something she was too proud to admit… That what she had gained in New Hampshire didn't even begin to make up for the family she had left behind…

… All one member of it.

* ~ *

Another day at the grind, and Lisa was less than thrilled.  Leaning against the side of the mere two-story building, she checked her watch, hoping to delay as long as possible before having to enter.  It had been just about two months since she and the rest of the WNYX group, save two, had settled in New Hampshire, and it was like a dream… only Lisa didn't know whether it was a nightmare or not.  Craning her neck so to see the sun rising in the distance, she came to a realization she had hoped not to.  Being the News Director wasn't all what it was cracked up to be.

            Once again checking her watch, seeing it was just barely seven, she let out a sigh and headed inside.

* ~ *

            "Good morning everyone."  Lisa's greeting seemed a bit forced, Beth noticed, but it was quickly forgotten.  Every morning was like this, for everyone.  The cheerful sarcasm, though contradictory, was missed, and the new crew wasn't pulling together.  Joe, Max and herself, she confessed, had formed a boundary between themselves and the extended staff Jimmy James had had waiting for their arrival in New Hampshire.  As he put it, they were meant to "increase the socialism productivity."  Beth laughed to herself.  She had a feeling Jimmy didn't exactly understand his own words, but he had gotten his point across.  Too bad it wasn't taken under consideration.

            The 'outsiders' were, in comparison to the old crew, what was keeping the station running.  There were three of them, two women and a man, and they seemed able to replace the 'less-advanced' of them.  Beth had to admit that out of the old WNYX crew, Lisa had seemed the most willing to at least try and make everything work.  After the first month, a mood fell over most of them, but Lisa kept at it.  She refused to let herself quit working, claiming that what she wanted most was to get the station steadily on its feet so she could take another crack at her once-failed newspaper.

            She was the only one who didn't know the regret she was trying to hide.

            "Coffee, Lisa?" Beth offered, rising out of her chair.  Lisa stumbled, reminding the secretary of a certain reporter they had left behind.  Regaining her composure, the brunette eyed her coworker.

            "Alright, what's wrong?" she inquired, brushing past her friend and heading into her rather small office.  Pouting, Beth followed, taking a seat on the news director's desk. 

"I was just offering."
Lisa laughed.  "You don't offer…  What do you want?"

Taking on a hurt expression, Beth pulled out her nail file and began her day's work.  "Nothing at all; just a break from the new people.  We've been here for an hour already, thank you very much."

Raising her arms in mock surrender and settling into her chair, Lisa grinned.  "I can't help it that Jimmy feels it appropriate to commit to country life and waking up with the farmers… and made me the boss so I can come in whenever." 

"Ha…" Beth answered sarcastically.  As if her brain had clicked on suddenly, she jumped off of Lisa's desk and clasped her hands together, letting her girlishness take over.  "Aren't you excited?  I can't wait!"

Flipping the switch to her laptop, Lisa, unenthused, rummaged through her briefcase.  "About what, Beth?  Is it important, or can we all get back to work?"  It took everything she could muster to not compare her recently acquired attitude to her predecessor's.

Her jaw dropping, Beth crossed her arms.  "Yeah, it sure is!  We have a special guest today.  Didn't anyone tell you?"

Just as her sentence finished, a loud crash echoed throughout the conjoining offices, as if someone had hastily entered and tripped over who-knows-what.

* ~ *

"Um, I don't mean to be rude, but… who the hell is that?"  The eccentric entrance had called the attention of the employees, four of which stood in disbelief.  Skipping forward, Beth pulled her friend to his feet and faced the three unsuspecting, and unwarned, newcomers.

"It is my pleasure to introduce to you, our entertainment for the next week, Matthew."  Not understanding the bit of sarcasm directed towards him, Matthew waved, an innocent grin on his face.  "This is Janet and Ryan, our new reporters, and Cecile, our co-news director with Lisa and other on-air talent."  A snort sounded at Cecile's introduction, and Matthew waved at Max from across the room.

"Good to see you, dude," Joe added, clapping the lanky man on his back.  Comically, Matthew staggered a bit, nodding through a few coughs.  "Gonna have to take you with me to the gym, huh little guy?"

Glancing awkwardly at Janet and Ryan, Cecile plastered a welcoming smile on her face.  "Well, we've heard so… little about you…"

Rubbing her temples, Lisa stared in wonder.  "Matthew, what are you doing here?"

Frowning, the man in question crossed his arms.  "Well, aren't we a pouty puss?  Dave sent me."

"He's on a mission," Beth threw in.  "He's doing a report on us for WNYX."

Keeping her anger intact, Lisa let her hands drop to her hips.  "And no one bothered to warn me…  Being the news director, I figure I have a say in what goes."  Seeing Matthew's hurt expression, she sighed in annoyance.  "I'm not saying that it's not great to see you again, Matt.  It's just that I'm a little busy…"

"Oh, no problem," Matthew countered.  "I'll just wander around and take notes.  Dave warned me about not making a big commotion about coming up here."

Lisa's eyes widened.  "What do you mean?  Are you staying up here?"

Shrugging, Matthew bit his lip.  "He wasn't really specific.  I know I'm not fired: that's crazy talk.  But he made it sound like he wanted me to stay up here for quite a while.  I'm just worried about how my cats are adjusting to the new babysitter over at Mr. James' place."

At the mention of his name, Jimmy James made his entrance beeline towards the huddle.  "We're not spreading rumors about li'l ol' me, are we?  'Cause I swear that I had nothing to do with—"

"No Jimmy, it's nothing like that," Lisa interrupted.  "So, uh, Matthew is staying with you?"

"Yesiree," he answered, straightening his Hawaiian floral shirt.  "He'll be up here for a while, apparently.  Him and them damn cats."

His hurt expression returning, Matthew plopped down on the nearest desk, immediately sliding off and knocking a wastebasket over in his descent.

"Alright people, let's get back to work," Lisa announced, shooing everyone back to their desks.  Pointing at Matthew, her eyes grew stern.  "You stay out of trouble, and I expect to see you doing what you were assigned."  Turning on her heel, she retraced her tracks toward her office, Jimmy already ahead of her.  Letting the door fall shut, she turned to face her former boss, resting in her chair with his feet propped up.

"Not making your routine phone call to WNYX today, Mr. James?" she wondered aloud, taking a seat in the extra chair in front of her desk.  Jimmy shook his head, taking his feet down and leaning forward on his elbows.  Her eyebrows knitting together, Lisa rested her chin on her palm.  "Actually, you haven't called WNYX in a while…  You finally run out of things to chat about?"

If she had been looking closely enough, Lisa could have seen how strained Jimmy's smile was.  "Oh, no, no.  Matthew's here now, and Dave's been busy, so there's no need to call.  Seems like the old station's doing pretty A-okay…"

Lisa snorted.  "With its new crew that actually does work, I figure."

"Yep, well, work can be a good thing," Jimmy mused, rising to his feet.  "I don't quite understand it.  I'll see you, little Lisa."

Shaking her head, Lisa couldn't help but grin as she took her seat back in front of her computer.  Time was finally taking its toll, and the game plan was beginning to call in all its teammates.

* ~ *

A month seemed to pass within minutes, and the new troop was beginning to warm up to the somewhat insane visitor from New York.  In fact, Matthew acted as the missing link to the new group, as if they were almost whole now.  Almost

The 'break room,' which was actually a small foyer at the head of the office that acted as Beth's secretary station, was empty, save for Cecile and Ryan.  They had stayed behind while the others went to lunch, hoping to get a few words in with the atypical reporter from the Big City.  As if on cue, Matthew entered the foyer, coat and lunchbox in hand.

"I hope you're not planning on going out for lunch today, Matt," Ryan broke the silence just as Matthew reached the door.  Looking back, he shrugged.

"I was just planning on sitting in my car," he stated, gesturing with his Ninja Turtle lunchbox.  "But if you want, I'll join you guys."  Ryan grinned, taking Beth's chair while Cecile sat on the edge of the desk.  Seeing no other option, Matthew parked himself on the floor, digging into his lunch.  "What'd you want to chat about?"

Glancing back at Ryan, Cecile cleared her throat.  "I was just curious about WNYX.  We haven't been very successful in terms of relations with your friends in the past two months we've been working here, and we thought it had something to do with your news-radio station."

Chuckling knowingly, Matthew nodded his head.  "Yeah, they left us behind.  Jimmy James up and left, so they all followed.  Dave and I stayed behind…"

"Why is that?" Ryan questioned, leaning forward on his elbows.

Taking a bite out of his PB and J sandwich, Matthew continued talking with his mouth full.  "Dave didn't want to come here.  He thought it would be a big mistake leaving.  I didn't want to abandon him, so I decided I'd work with him forever."  His eyes went starry.  "Dave's my best buddy."

"So will we ever get to meet this amazing guy?" Cecile asked, receiving an 'are you not telling me something' look from Ryan.  "I mean, uh, that is, Beth and Joe say he's so great and all…"

Frowning, Matthew broke out of his reverie.  "What about Max and Lisa?"

"Max scares us.  We try to avoid him."  Ryan and Cecile exchanged glances.  "Lisa doesn't speak all too much about him.  Whenever his name is mentioned, she changes the subject and tells us to get back to work."

"She's starting to sound like him," Matthew chuckled.  "Well anyway, I don't think Dave's up to the trip.  He hasn't been feeling too well lately."

"What's wrong with Dave?"  A worried voice called the attention of the three to the doorway, where Lisa stood, looking as if she'd tie the jacket she held into knots.

"We thought you went with the rest to lunch, Lisa," Cecile mentioned, standing.  "Did we choose a sensitive subject for you?  We apologize."

Lisa shook her head.  "No need, Cecile."  She turned her attention to Matthew.  "You were saying?"

A bit intimidated, Matthew occupied himself with repacking his lunchbox.  "Oh, oh nothing really.  He's just not at his full 100 percent at the moment.  You know, he's been sick a lot and stuff.  I've been trying to get him to take a sick day, but you know how stubborn he is.  His work-ethics and all that jazz."

Lisa smirked.  "Stubborn is an understatement.  I bet he's just had a bit too much caffeine, is all."  Her expression falling, she pulled on her jacket and nodded to the three as she took her leave.

Once the door fell shut, the three looked at each other.  "Touchy, touchy, touchy."

* ~ *

After leaving the building, Lisa found Beth waiting by her car, tapping her foot impatiently.  "You know, we only have an hour for lunch."

            "And you only eat yogurt, so why are you complaining?"

            Beth smiled innocently.  "Just want to waste more of your time, boss."

            Letting out a small laugh, Lisa ducked into the driver's seat of her white Grand Am, unlocking the door for Beth.  Starting the engine, they pulled out onto the road in search of the nearest bar.  It was awkward having to drive a car to and from work, but welcomed in contrast to the cab rides New York had habituated upon her.

            "You won't believe how ridiculous Dave is," Lisa started, trying to ignore how Beth was flipping rapidly through the radio stations.

            Finding a song of her appeasement, she began humming along with it.  "Oh, what now?"

            "The whole reason he sent Matthew up here was to get him off his back.  I was just talking with Matt, and he says that his poor ol' boss hasn't been feeling very well lately, so he gives Matthew to us to baby-sit."

             A bit taken back by Lisa attitude, the redhead looked shortly at her.  "You think it could be his blood pressure?"

            Feeling a bit ashamed for not considering what Beth conveniently remembered, Lisa bit her lip.  "Oh.  Uh, yeah.  That's probably it.  I've always said he should cut back on his coffee-intake."

            Beth smirked.  "You have?"

            "Oh, quiet," Lisa retorted.  "Still, I don't want to have to play baby-sitter every time Dave feels a bit under the weather."

            "We'll just have to enjoy it while we can," Beth answered, giggling from her own sarcasm.

* ~ *

            It was ten to one when Lisa and Beth returned to the office.  Under much deliberation, Lisa had finally given in to Beth's pleading to drive back from the pub, and Beth, ever the speed-demon, had gotten them back in record-timing.  Unable to stomach the ride much longer, Lisa had jumped out of the car and instructed her secretary to park the car in and empty area of the parking lot while she went and searched for some aspirin.

            Enjoying the calm atmosphere with only the desk lamps on, Lisa decided against flipping on the overhead lights as she looked around for any of her coworkers.  Seeing no one, she headed to her office, stopping in her tracks when she saw someone inside move.  Flustered, she dove to the side of her door, her heartbeat rising. 

            "Yeah, it's me," said the voice from inside.  Lisa let out her held-in breath at the sound of Jimmy's voice.  So he had decided to make a few phone calls after all.  As she was about to enter her office, she changed her mind, a bit curious at the man's secrecy.

            "So how goes it?" Mr. James continued, his voice a bit hushed.  Lisa couldn't help but notice how serious his voice sounded.  She couldn't remember the last time she heard him that way.  Jimmy's breath caught, and through the blinds, Lisa could see him clutch the edge of her desk, his knuckles turning white.  "Have you gotten a second opinion?  All right, all right, calm down.  I'll be making a trip down soon.  I promise not to spread the word just yet."

            As Jimmy bid farewell to the other end of the phone line, Lisa felt a knot form in her stomach.  Who could Jimmy be talking about?  And why was he so worried?

            Breaking her train of thought, Mr. James exited her office, stepping back in surprise at the sight of the brunette.  "Oh, Lisa, back already?"

            Nodding her head, Lisa ran a hand through her hair.  "Yeah, uh, lots of work to do…"

            Agreeing, Jimmy headed towards the foyer, Lisa in tow.  "Decided to make a call after all, huh?" she continued, hoping to get more information out of him.  Shrugging his shoulders, Jimmy glanced back as he opened the entrance door.

            "Just a little business to take care of.  I'll see you around."  Watching his back as he departed, Lisa's nosiness got the best of her.  Picking up the phone on Beth's desk, she punched in the Line 1 button and hit redial, fiddling with the phone's cord as she waited through the rings.  A click sounded from the opposite line, and Lisa gasped.

            "Oh, hi Mrs. Nelson…"

* ~ *