By Ranica (Ranica@aol.com)
Summary: Perry's dismissal of her story dredges up a painful memory for Lois — and also summons a bad case of the hiccups.
Author's Note: I don't know WHERE this came from, but I hope it brings a smile to whoever reads it. Comments, constructive criticism and compliments are greatly welcomed and appreciated. And now …
"Whaddya mean you can't use it?" she cried. "Do you know how much time and effort I put into this?!" She crossed her arms defiantly across her chest, daring her boss to challenge her again.
The man sitting at the desk in front of her sighed heavily. He ran his fingers through his gray hair, avoiding her menacing stare. "I know that you worked hard on this, but I'm afraid that I just can't print this. The information is garbled and the sources are weak." He shifted his gaze towards the man standing next to her. "Now, Clark's story. His story is not only ready for the presses, but it's also a fine piece of work."
Clark squirmed, obviously uncomfortable with the situation.
Perry cleared his throat and finally allowed himself to look Lois in the eye. "I hope you understand—"
"Understand?!" Lois' voice was shaky as her eyes brimmed with tears that were threatening to roll down her cheeks. "Of course I understand. I work night and day on this while Clark here — he works on his story for one measly afternoon and it's ten times better than mine!" She shot her partner a murderous look and stormed out of Perry's office and building.
"Lois —" Clark started after her, but Perry stopped him.
"Let her go, Clark. She needs some time —"
"I have to, Chief."
Perry nodded and watched him sped out of his office too.
"Lois?" Clark knocked loudly on her door. "It's Clark. Can I come in?"
"No, go away!" Her voice was muffled.
Clark lowered his glasses and looked into her apartment. He saw her curled up pitifully on her couch, clutching a familiar teddy bear to her chest tightly. Her face was buried in the stuffed animal's head, but he could tell that she was crying. "Lois, I just came to see if you were all right. Please let me in." He watched as she slowly looked at the door, deciding whether or not she should let him in. "Please?"
She gave in and got up from the couch, still gripping the bear tightly. Clark quickly pushed his glasses up off the bridge of his nose as she opened the door a crack. "I'm fine," she said without much conviction. "You can go back to the Planet and do whatever you need to. Just tell Perry I'm sorry." She started to close the door again, but he stopped it with his foot.
"Can I come in?" He was worried about her. Never had he seen her look this miserable over something so trivial. She reluctantly let him in and then busied herself with all the locks. "Now can you tell me why you're so upset? Is it me? Have I done something to make you mad?"
"Have you done something to make me mad?" She looked at him incredulously. "How can you even ask me that? Of course you have!" She suddenly recognized the fact that she was still grasping his teddy bear and sighed. "No, you haven't. It's me." She walked over to the couch and resumed sulking. Clark followed her, completely baffled.
"What's you? I don't understand."
"Oh, Clark." She looked at him through tearful eyes. "I can't go through this again. I just can't —" Her voice broke off and she couldn't look at him any longer.
"Hey, come here," he said soothingly, taking her into his arms and allowing her to cry on his shoulder. "Whatever it is, it can't be that bad."
"That's just it." She pulled away from him abruptly. "It CAN be that bad. It was bad ten years ago and — HIC!" Her sentence was suspended when she hiccuped. "Oh, great," she moaned. "I hate it when this happens! There has to be some way to stop — HIC! — these."
"You know, Lois," Clark said. "Hiccups are usually caused by one's suppressing one's secrets — their true thoughts, feelings and emotions. It looks like your body is trying to tell you to spill your guts."
"Okay, Mr. Scien — HIC! — tist. If you say it, then it must be true, right?" She got up to get herself a glass of water, but he stopped her.
"I'll get some water for you. You just sit here."
"Thanks — HIC! — Clark." She sighed and accepted the glass of water that he handed to her. She gulped down a large amount of water and held her breath. They both waited to see if her hiccups would subside. After a while, her hiccups became less frequent. "I think they're — HIC! — never mind." She watched him as he took back the glass and set it on the table.
"So," he said quietly. "Are you gonna tell me what's wrong?"
"Are you sure that you —HIC! — wanna hear this, Clark?" She had trouble believing her luck. She had been obnoxious to him, and yet he was still there and intent on helping her.
"OK, but I have to — HIC! — warn you. I do have the hiccups and that can get pretty — HIC- HIC! — annoying." She couldn't help smiling a little despite her depression. "You wanna — HIC! — sit?"
Clark came around the couch and sat next to her, waiting for her story.
"I was in high school. My best — HIC! — friend, Cinda and I were working on — HIC! — this story about Reagan's reelection for the — HIC! — Metro Weekly, but we had different views — HIC! — on how to approach it. She was — HIC! — a die hard Republican who believed everything — HIC! — that Reagan said, but I thought that — HIC! — some of his ideas were a little — well, — HIC! — foolish. Needless to say, we went our — HIC! — separate ways, writing what each of us — HIC! — believed in. Mr. Thompson, our advisor, took one — HIC! — look at Cinda's story and praised it — HIC! — for being the best story he'd ever —HIC! — seen. He barely even read mine before gently telling me to take a — HIC! — hike. After our meeting with Thompson, Cinda and I had a — HIC! — terrible argument. I accused her of being a — slut." She looked timidly up at Clark, and only continued after she searched his face for disapproval of her and found none. "I accused her of — HIC! — sleeping with Mr. Thompson just so he would use her story instead — HIC! — of mine. I blamed her for my story not being — HIC! — good enough, and I even — HIC! — yelled that I wished she were — HIC! — dead. She was hurt, — HIC! — and I was angry. She ran off crying and sped away in her — HIC! — car.
"She lived around the corner — HIC! — from me, so I was driving behind her when it happened. A car whizzed in out — HIC! — of nowhere. The driver was probably drunk. Cinda swerved to miss it, and — HIC! — she collided head on into a tree. I ran to see — HIC! — if she was all right and —" Her voice broke off, she covered her face and broke into a fit of uncontrollable sobs. Clark wordlessly pulled her towards him as she continued. "There was blood everywhere. I could hardly recognize her and I knew that she was dead. I don't recall everything that happened after that, but the police came and someone took me home. She died thinking that I hated her, Clark. I was just angry, and now she never — she'll never know. It happened ten years ago, and every now and then, I still have nightmares.
Clark was stroking her hair gently as she told her about her tragedy. "But it wasn't your fault, Lois."
"I know it wasn't my fault," she sniffed. "I know that there was nothing that I could've done to prevent the accident, but the last words that I said to her, I wished that she was dead. She was my best friend in high school, my best friend ever, and she died thinking that I hated her." As hard as she tried, she couldn't stop the tears from flowing any longer. It had been a long time since she cried for her friend. "After Cinda died, I found it hard to be close to anyone again. I was afraid that if I got into the slightest argument with anybody, they would get hurt. Like Cinda did. Until you came along, I pushed everyone away. I was beginning to think that we were getting to be best friends, and that you'd always be there. Then today, when Perry said that —" She suddenly threw her arms around Clark and held him tightly. "I'm so sorry Clark. If you ever left me —
"Oh, Lois," murmured Clark. "Don't worry. I'll never leave you." He held her as tightly as he dared, not wanting to hurt her. He remained cradling her in his arms until her sobs subsided and then slowly released her. He took her face gently into his hands and looked at her tear-stained face. "I will always be here for you, you know that don't you?"
She nodded. "But why? After all that I've done to you? I treated you like a sub-human when I first met you when in reality you were my equal, and maybe even my superior. How do you put up with me, Clark?"
"I don't have to put up with you, Lois. You're my partner, and my best friend. And I — I love you," he said quietly.
"I love you, too." She smiled shyly at him and it was an awkward moment until Clark spoke again.
"Your hiccups are gone."
Lois smiled as she sat back on the couch eyeing him carefully. "I know. Guess you were right, Mr. Scientist. Now, the next time anyone gets the hiccups, I'll know why: they must be hiding some huge secret from me."
"You know, Lois. I haven't been completely honest with you about something."
Now that she felt a little better, she smiled. "Oh really? I hope it's nothing big, because I don't think right now is the best time to reveal some horrible news to me."
Clark knew she was right. She was in a fragile state. This wasn't the best time to tell her. "No, nothing big," he said cautiously.
"Well? What is it?"
"Oh, nothing. Just something about your birthday present, but I guess I'll just ask Lucy."
She surveyed him closely. "No, I don't think that's it. Are you lying to me, Kent?"
"No, I'm not. Really," he said. "It's really just about your birthday — HIC! — present." He started to turn red as her face shot him a warning.
"Clark." She gripped his arm tensely. "Tell me the truth."
He took a deep breath. "Lois, I'm —"