I know this is monumentally overdue and I apologise! I hit a patch of writer's block, and then school started up again, and well…you know how it is. Anyway, I've finally finished, and I have a good idea of where the next bit will be going, so it shouldn't take too long to put up. Fingers crossed!
Forgive any mistakes in this section; I passed over editing it in favour of putting it up. I've also strayed from my typical Clark and Lois POV here, so if things don't work, let me know.
Also, I'm more than happy to take suggestions for things you might want to see in the future!
At first, Steve Lombard doesn't quite know what to make of the new stringer. Clark Kent seems like a nice guy, and Lombard doesn't want to dislike him. He's a virtual nobody in the journalism world and acts like he's never done this before, which is surprising for a man his age and makes Steve a little suspicious of his background, but Perry wouldn't hire someone who isn't the real thing, so he lets it go.
The only thing that really bothers him about Kent is Lois. He doesn't know what it is about this guy—Lois doesn't take interest in stringers or interns, or almost anyone, for that matter—but she spends an awful lot of time with him. Sometimes she's helping him out, and Lombard can just tell himself she's trying to be friendly. She's been different since that alien attack. Maybe she's tuning over a new leaf. It's harder to tell himself when they're chatting, Lois perched on the edge of Kent's desk like some coy office assistant, or when they're making small talk over coffee in the break room.
He knows Kent likes Lois. Or at the very least, he notices her. Lombard is a man, and, having spent the last four years fruitlessly trying to convince Lois Lane to go out with him, he recognises the signs.
It shouldn't bother him. Lois has made it clear that she's not interested in going out with him—his attempts to ask her out are more joking wistfulness now than anything else—and there's no way Kent is her type. He's too quiet, too clumsy. Lois needs someone big. Someone charismatic, who can keep up with her temper, stubbornness, and need to be in control. Someone like Superman.
That was when Lombard really realised things were over between him and Lois. Not that they'd ever really begun. Watching her go all weak-kneed and breathless, kissing the caped alien like he was her own personal oxygen source had convinced Lombard that he could never be what she needed. He'd never inspire that passion in her.
Sometimes—particularly after it becomes clear that Kent is no longer a stringer and has occupied a more permanent position at the Planet—he wonders if he should say something. Kent might very well be misinterpreting Lois' friendliness—it's hard to tell because he's so damn quiet all the time—and he should probably know that his whole bumbling farm boy attitude—cute as it might seem to all the women—cannot compete with the caped crusader. Kent's only human after all.
A week he officially comes to join them at the City desk, Lombard realises that Kent may not be the only one noticing the fine specimen that sits across the aisle. Lois spends an awful lot of time staring at Kent when she thinks no one's watching, so much so that Lombard is surprised Kent hasn't noticed. He catches her staring at Kent's empty desk sometimes, too, a small smile playing at the corners of her lips. Lombard doesn't have to be a woman to know she's noticed him in a more than professional capacity. She's certainly never stared at anyone else's desk like that before.
Lombard can't quite figure it out. He can see why Kent would notice Lois—he'd have to be blind not to—but he can't see why Lois would notice Kent. He's practically invisible; not her type at all.
He knows something's up when she asks Perry to let them be partners. Lois Lane would rather die than share her by-line with anyone, particularly a newbie who is the embodiment of a dorky farm boy.
"Lois doesn't have a partner," he mutters to Jenny. They're standing at the photocopy machine, watching the redhead at her desk, phone clamped against her ear as she scribbles furiously on a notepad. "She works alone."
Jenny frowns slightly. She seems as surprised by this turn of events as everyone else. "Apparently, she's taking him under her wing. Showing him the ropes. She thinks he deserves a chance, even though he's so shy. I read his piece on the Friends of Metropolis benefit." She flushes. "It was good. He's really good."
Lombard snorts. Jenny's had a schoolgirl crush on Kent since he walked in to the bullpen. Of course she think he's talented. "Mentoring is one thing. Sharing her by-line is something else entirely. Don't forget, this is Lois Lane we're talking about."
"I think it's cute," Jenny says with a small smile, gathering up her photocopies and heading to Perry's office. "They make a cute couple."
"She'll eat him alive," Lombard snaps at her retreating form, not wanting to think about Lois and Kent in a romantic capacity. A small part of him still clings to the hope that one day Lois will agree to go out on a date with him. "Kent's a wallflower. Lois is an inferno."
"I wouldn't be so hasty to judge Kent if I were you." Jenny pauses at the corner, secretive smile curling on her lips. She's pretty, though he's never really been able to see it before. "I think he can handle a lot more than everyone thinks he can."
Lombard grinds his teeth. He wants Jenny to side with him, to say that Kent is just your average guy; that Lois is going to rip him to pieces and have him for dinner. What does Kent have that he doesn't? What is it about this dork that has everyone so enamoured with him. Even Perry seems to like him—as much as Perry likes anyone.
By Friday, he can't take it any longer. If he has to watch Lois Lane mooning over Clark Kent any longer, he's going to be sick. Or scream. It's high time Kent found out that, while Lois may think he's cute now—though she might very well just be toying with him; Kent really isn't her type—he's never going to be enough for her. He's seen the way she looks at Superman, and Kent will never measure up. Not even close.
Both of them are away from the office all morning, chasing down some lead or another. Lombard planned to talk to Kent first thing in the morning, but Lois ambushed him as soon as he came in, coffees in hand, saying something about a businessman downtown who can talk to them for five minutes now, and he never got the chance.
It's almost one in the afternoon before Lombard spies Kent again. He's in the break room, making himself a coffee. For once, Lois is nowhere to be seen. Lombard's an idiot if he doesn't take this chance. God only knows when it will come his way again.
"Heard you're working with Lois," Lombard says casually, pouring himself a cup of coffee even though he's not really in the mood. He doesn't want to stand there with nothing to do; then it looks like he's actually planning to talk to Kent. He wants this to seem like a spur of the moment thing. A casual, oh, you're here and I'm here so I may as well mention this in passing. "Must be quite the experience."
Kent blinks, surprised. He's always like that when anyone comes up to him; it's like he's lost in his own little world all the time. "Um, yeah. It's been interesting. I'm, uh, learning a lot."
Lombard chuckles. "She's a handful. I doubt there's a man on the planet who could tame her."
Kent gives a small smile, attention riveted on the movements of the coffee stirrer through his coffee. He's clearly uncomfortable. Further proof he's not Lois material. "I take it you've tried?"
Lombard shrugs. "I'm not her type. She's more into the...well, the otherworldly people, if you know what I mean." He winks.
Kent doesn't say anything, but his eyes widen behind his glasses. Lombard has no doubt Kent has failed to understand what he means.
"She's got a bit of a, well, hero complex," he continues.
Kent's hand freezes and Lombard knows he's touched a nerve. It's selfish of him, but he's glad. The guy deserves to know what he's getting himself into. Really, Lombard's just being kind.
"She's sort of unofficially seeing Superman," he continues casually, pouring some milk into his own coffee and stirring it.
Kent stands completely still. Lombard can barely stop himself from smirking. "R-really?" he stammers.
As jealous as he might have been ten minutes a go when he walked in here, Lombard feels bad for the guy. He knows what it's like: seeing Lois kiss Superman in the middle of the ruins of New York was like a knife to the gut. He nods regretfully. "Yeah. He's her kind of guy. I mean, you work with her. Can you really say that you're surprised?"
Slowly, Kent removes the stir stick from his coffee and drops it in the garbage. "No," he says quietly, heading to the door. "I can't say that I am."
Lombard watches him go, feeling satisfied. He knows he's never got a chance with Lois. At least now Kent knows it too.
Clark Kent is cute. Not drop-dead gorgeous—like, say, Superman or something—but he's sexy in a nerdy, farm boy kind of way. He's a perfect gentleman, always opening doors and more than willing to give up his spot in the elevator on a crowded Wednesday morning so that you don't have to climb six flights of stairs to get to your office—which she's had to do on more than one occasion and hates—and Jenny finds herself spending a lot of time thinking about what he might look like with no clothes on. Or at least no shirt on. Or what it might be like to go on a date with him—and where that date might be. She's sure that if he were to take off his glasses and gain a little bit more self-confidence, he'd give Bruce Wayne a run for his money.
And he's so nice. He's very clumsy—she's seen him spill his coffee at least twice—but he's always very apologetic, and he always has nice things to say to people. Well, he mostly keeps to himself. But if you say something to him, he'll have a conversation with you, and usually manages to compliment you during it—at least he has every time she's talked to him.
After spending a week mooning over Clark and trying to come up with excuses to spend time near him—like volunteering to do photocopies for all the reporters at the City desk for two days—it becomes painfully obvious that Clark like Lois. And it's equally obvious that Lois likes Clark. Jenny has never met a journalist more dedicated or competitive than Lois Lane. She's always at work, hunting down leads and ripping off the heads of interns who happen to get in her way. She's the only one who dares to challenge Perry outright, and the only one who can get away with it. She doesn't stare dreamily at Clark's desk or make excuses to show him around. That's Jenny's job.
Of course neither of them do anything about it. Clark is all bumbling and apologetic and awkward any time Lois is around and Lois is her usual self—though she's a little bit nicer to Clark than she is to everyone else—but everyone in the office knows there's something going on between them. Clark blushes half the time Lois is around, and Jenny has caught her on more than one occasion staring at Clark like she's trying not to jump him in front of the whole office.
She's not the only one who's noticed. Lombard is going crazy. He pretends to be cool about it, acts like he's gotten over Lois' rejection, but Jenny knows he doesn't really like Clark. Especially not after Lois ripped a strip off him in front of the whole bullpen for telling Clark about her kiss with Superman. Which, admittedly, wasn't something he should have been sharing with anyone, Clark in particular. He's been madly jealous ever since Lois and Clark became partners—yet another sign that Lois likes him—but Jenny thinks it's a good thing. Maybe now they'll figure out a way to deal with all the unresolved sexual tension that's been driving everyone crazy. It's gotten to the point that someone else will jump him if Lois doesn't.
"I don't know what he sees in her," Cat scoffs, tossing her perfect, blond hair over one shoulder. Jenny tries not to roll her eyes, turning her attention instead to the line ahead of them. They've stopped at the coffee shop in the lobby before heading back up to the office and haven't failed to notice Lois and Clark in line ahead of them, bickering good-naturedly while they wait to place their orders.
It's no secret that Cat has had her eyes on Clark since he started at the Planet, nor is it any secret that there is no love between her and Lois Lane. Everyone knows Lois is twice the journalist Cat will ever be and that Cat has twice as much sex appeal. Normally, their rivalry is a source of office amusement—there's a pool on how long it will take before they physically attack each other and half the office has placed bets—but this time Jenny knows things will be ugly. They're no longer fighting over who snags the better sources; something much more serious is a stake this time.
"She's not anything special to look at," Cat continues distastefully. "And so preoccupied with her job! Why she'll never have any time for him. He needs a real woman with her priorities in order."
Jenny rolls her eyes when she's sure Cat's back is turned. She doesn't particularly like Cat, but would never dream of saying anything—the sultry blond is too intimidating. So she just lets her carry on, biting her tongue to keep her opinions to herself.
"I wouldn't talk so loudly if I were you," Jenny cautions meekly. "You wouldn't want Perry to think you're not serious about your job." And you wouldn't want Lois to kill you, either.
Cat scoffs. "Who said anything about dedication? A woman can be dedicated to a job and to a man. The distinction is knowing which is more important: the man or the job. And it's clear which one Lois thinks is the most important."
That last comes out louder than she intended—or maybe she did intend it, Jenny isn't sure—and Lois whips around, icy glare fixed on Cat. Jenny can't help cowering a little: if there's anyone more intimidating than Cat Grant, it's Lois Lane. Not to mention Lois is sort of Jenny's journalism idol; the last thing she wants to do is piss her off. Cat, on the other hand, stands her ground, unfazed, daring Lois to do something.
For a moment, Jenny actually thinks Lois is going to tear out Cat's throat. She's not the only one: several other people in line are staring as well. Cat looks entirely too smug— Jenny would be trembling in her position.
Clark, busy placing their orders, is oblivious to the exchange. He hands the cashier a five dollar bill and turns, smiling, to say something to Lois, but freezes when he sees the scene unfolding before him.
"Lois," he says quietly, putting a hand on her elbow. He seems perfectly calm, but there's a storm brewing under the surface of those blue eyes that makes Jenny uneasy. If there was ever a chance of Cat even being friends with Clark, she just blew it.
They seem to stand there for eternity before Lois finally swings around. "We have to get working on that article," she snaps, snatching her coffee out of Clark's hand and marching off towards the elevators, leaving him to hurry along in her wake.
"Well," Cat huffs, watching them go with an affronted expression. "It's clear he doesn't know anything about priorities, either."
Jenny says nothing, but can't help thinking that Clark Kent definitely has his priorities in order. After all, anyone with eyes can see Lois and Clark are going to be the stuff of legends.
Contrary to popular belief, Perry knows about everything that goes on in his office. There's no other way to efficiently run the City section of the largest metropolitan newspaper on the East Coast. His employees might think they can sneak around, but no one can really hide anything from Perry White. At least not for any length of time.
Lane and Kent are a case in point. Everyone in the office knows they're dying to jump each other's bones, except for them. They think they can have little secret rendezvous in the break room, or use the pretence of work to spend every waking minute of their time together without anyone knowing, but everyone knows. It's not that difficult to figure out: anyone who's worked with Lane can tell from the way she looks at Kent when she thinks he can't see that she's completely fallen for him.
He begins to suspect something is going on at the benefit. For all her grumbling about being saddled with a junior journalist to cover an event far below her standards, Lois is glowing the entire evening. Every man in the room wants to be with her, and Perry can't help noticing the way Clark glares daggers at every man who does. When they take to the dance floor after dinner, there's no doubt in his mind that something is going on between them.
Any lingering doubts he might have had about the nature of their relationship are completely abolished when she asks if they can be partners. Before Clark Kent, Lois would have ripped his head off at the mere mention of sharing her by-line with someone—much less an amateur journalist. The fact that she brings it up tells him more than a hundred longing looks across the crowded office or secret meetings in the break room.
It seems like a terrible idea. Regardless of how much she may want to work with Kent, Perry knows Lois doesn't work well with others. She likes to do everything her way, and sees any kind of suggestion as a personal attack. She's had to work very hard to get where she is and isn't willing to let it go for anyone. When she first suggests it, Perry's initial reaction is to refuse, simply because he knows that whatever Lois' intentions, Kent will be eaten alive. It's just who she is.
As usual, she wears him down after a few minutes. Kent might very well be good for her; he may have nothing more to his name than an English degree from Kansas State, but he understands more about the world and the people in it than many seasoned journalists. Lois will carve a path for him, get him noticed, and he'll likely rein her in when she takes things too far. He's the only one apart from Perry himself who isn't afraid to stand up to Lois.
"I hope you know what you're doing, Perry," Lombard remarks, the morning after the announcement is made that Lois and Kent will be working together.
Perry glances at him. "I always know what I'm doing."
And he does. While it may seem like a monumentally disastrous decision—the tension has never been so high in the office, what with Lombard plotting to kill Kent and Cat waiting for her chance to swoop in and whisk him away—Perry thinks it might be one of his better ones. Lois is as determined as ever, but Kent is slowly mellowing her out; she isn't quite as aggressive as she used to be. She's gone before six most evenings, walking to the elevators in deep discussion with Kent about something related to their latest piece. They try to be discrete, but Perry knows they're going home together. He's glad; it's time Lois had something with which to occupy herself that doesn't involve work.
It goes on like this for so long that Perry is surprised to find Lois bent over a pile of papers as he leaves one Thursday evening. A glance at his watch tell him it's almost nine, well past Lois' usual departure time.
"Kent abandoned you?"
Lois jumps, pencil falling to the floor with a clatter. Her cheeks are flushed, and there's a strange, panicked glint in her eyes. "No," she mumbles hastily, bending down to pick up the fallen instrument. "He, uh, had some plans. Friends visiting or something. I was just finishing up."
Her vague answer speaks volumes. No way Lois Lane would let any partner of hers head out early when there was work to be done without grilling him for all the details first. She knows where he's gone, and for some reason, has decided not to say.
"Really? How nice."
"Yeah." Lois looks around, as if searching for a reason to excuse herself. "Well, I, uh, should be going."
Perry nods, eyebrows raised. "You should be. In fact, you should have been gone several hours ago."
Lois' cheeks flush, but he sees a flash of that familiar impudence in her eyes. "The story isn't going to write itself, Perry."
"Nor is it going to write itself if you don't get any sleep. Go home, Lane. Now."
Lois rolls her eyes, but gathers her things and hurries off. Her attempt to be aloof can't quite hide the anxiety brimming under the surface.
Perry knows there's more to Kent than he lets on. In fact, he has a very good idea of where it is Kent is disappearing to all the time, but knows better than to say anything. It's not any of his business, and if he's right, keeping Kent's secret is the least Perry can do to repay him. So long as he keeps turning in his stories on time and doesn't cause too much trouble, Perry is all too happy to turn a blind eye.
The next morning, it's as if nothing has happened. Lois is back to her usual self, marching through the office barking orders at terrified interns and glaring daggers at Cat as she makes small talk with Kent by the photocopy machine. Jenny has the good sense to sweep in and pull Cat away before the situation escalates, and Perry reminds himself that the intern is not paid nearly enough. Kent looks as he always does—quiet and neat—but that doesn't mean anything. If he really is a super-powered alien, he'd likely look just fine after a night rescuing people from a burning building, according to CNN.
He calls Kent into his office after lunch. He has no interest in what the man does in his spare time, but it is nice to have a little fun every now and then. A little bit of investigating never hurt anyone.
"So tell me, Kent, how are your friends doing?" he asks.
Kent blinks. "Pardon?"
Perry smiles patiently, watching the younger man intently. "Lane told me you were out last night with some friends who were visiting."
"Oh. Right. They're fine. Thank you." Kent looks a little perplexed, but is otherwise calm. If this man is hiding anything, Perry can't tell.
For a moment, the two men simply watch each other. Kent's frown deepens.
"Was there anything in particular you wanted to see me about?"
Perry adjusts his glasses. Kent is like a blank slate: quiet, polite, and impossible to read. "Just wanted to remind you to keep an eye on Lois. She takes her work a little too seriously, if you know what I mean."
Kent chuckles. "No kidding. I'll keep an eye out."
"And your little hobby, whatever it is, just make sure it doesn't interfere with your work."
He didn't intend to lay his card on the table like this, but he does have an office to run. Besides, Kent has a right to know he hasn't fooled everyone.
For a moment, Kent stands very still. Then he smiles.
"You won't have any trouble from me, Perry. I promise."
Perry chuckles as Kent leaves. Of all the spur-of-the-moment decisions he's ever made, hiring Clark Kent might have been the best one.