Notes: Part one of a WIP. Vaguely spoilery through to Season 5, no pairing as yet but there will be...
Disclaimer: Don't own, first time author, beta'd by nehellania (thank you!!), this is a damned silly fic!
Dedication: To the_mas girls, en masse!
Day 1: Paper jam
Clark stared at the copier’s screen. It flashed ‘Paper jam in Areas 5 and 7. Please replace lid and press start.’ He couldn’t find Area 7. He’d opened every door and turned every handle he could find. Even x-ray vision hadn’t helped. He sighed and promised himself that this would be the last time he trusted the autofeed function.
‘There you are!’ Lois froze in the doorway to the copier room. Her suit jacket was buttoned and her bag was slung over one shoulder, which meant...
‘The press conference? About the opening of the new Met U research institute? This ringing any bells, Smallville?’
‘Sorry Lois.’ Clark grabbed his half-completed copy from the sorter.
‘What are you doing in here anyway?’
‘Research. It’s a paper commissioned by the university a few years ago when the Board first floated the idea of a dedicated astrophysics lab. I thought you might like a copy for background reading.’ Clark paused. ‘Or wait... you’ve got me to do that for you, don’t you?’
Lois flapped a hand dismissively in his direction. ‘No, I mean why are you doing the copying? Just leave it for the photocopy boy.’
‘Since when does the Daily Planet have a photocopy boy?’
A lavender-shirted figure moved into vision behind Lois. The voice that answered Clark was low and polished. ‘Since this morning.’
Lex Luthor stood in the doorway beside Lois. Clark gaped.
‘Don’t you read your company-wide emails Clark?’ asked Lois, flashing Lex a quick smile.
An image of the delete key flickered in Clark’s memory. He realised he’d been holding Lex’s gaze too long and glanced away, hoping the rush of blood hadn’t shown on his face.
He switched his attention to Lois, who was not demonstrating nearly enough emotion about the situation. Was it a practical joke? She didn’t even look that smug. Well, no smugger than usual.
‘Lois, this is…’
‘Alex, our new saviour in all things photocopying.’ Lois interrupted, grinning. ‘Alex, this is Clark Kent, the most untidy reporter at the Planet.’ She patted Lex’s shoulder and whispered conspiratorially to him, ‘He’ll drive you crazy.’
‘Pleased to meet you.’ Lex stepped forward and extended a hand.
Clark stared at it.
‘Clark!’ Lois gaped at him from behind Lex’s shoulder and mouthed ‘Rude much!’
Clark shook Lex’s hand, staring into Lex’s grey-green eyes trying to see beneath the surface. It didn’t work. It never did. Lex gave nothing away.
As Clark let go of Lex’s hand, Lex stepped, unexpectedly, forward. He squeezed between Clark and the photocopier. Clark stepped back a moment too late to avoid their hips brushing.
‘Leave this to me, Clark,’ said Lex, bending to tug open the main door of the copier. ‘I know all its secrets.’
Clark stared down at Lex’s back. His shirt was strained tight over his shoulders, as he reached into the machinery to extract the caught paper.
‘Um… Earth to Smallville… can we go now?’ Lois was tapping her fingers against the doorframe.
Lex straightened and turned to him, smiling. ‘Don’t worry, Clark. I’ll have the report bound and on your desk by the time you get back.’
Lois grinned. ‘See?’ She grabbed Clark’s arm to drag him out of the room.
Clark followed Lois. His mind was still playing catch-up. After only a couple of strides, Lois turned back to the copier room. She poked her head round the door and Clark heard her say ‘Oh, Alex? Just put that report on my desk, would you? Thanks.’
Lois was still Lois. Not an alternate reality then, thought Clark.
Clark stared out the window in a daze as Lois drove them to the press conference. He’d given up driving himself some time ago as it created too many problems: cars abandoned on the side of the road when emergencies struck, that sort of thing. His prudence came at a high price though, as Lois’s driving skills had not improved much in the five years since she’d first come to stay with the Kent’s in Smallville.
‘Get out of the way, grandma!’ Lois hit the horn as an elderly lady tottered across an emergency crossing.
The old lady took a swipe at the front bumper with her cane.
‘What the?! Did you see that, Smallville?’
‘Huh? Oh, yeah. Well, she did have right of way…’
Lois glared. And floored the accelerator. Clark clutched at the doorframe as they shot forward. This was Lois’s way of reminding him it was his fault they were late. He was used to it.
‘So... umm... Lois, can I ask you something?’
‘What?’ She was cranky but Clark couldn’t help that, and he felt his question couldn’t wait.
‘Does Alex remind you of anyone?’
Clark pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose and waited for a response.
‘Uh no. Why? Should he?’
‘Oh I just wondered... no resemblance to anyone... kinda... famous?’
‘Clark, are you feeling ok? What’s with the weird questions?’
‘OK, forget it. Forget I asked.’ He stared out the window again as Met U’s green lawns came into view.
‘You know this article is important, right? It’s going to be a major feature in the Saturday edition. We have to nail it.’
Clark sighed. Why had he given Lois an opportunity to doubt his focus? She was unbearable now she’d found ambition. Take that back: she’d been unbearable before she found ambition.
Back at the office after the press conference, the afternoon was agony. Clark couldn’t concentrate at all. The writing staff at the Daily Planet worked in an open-plan environment and today it felt like every time Clark looked up, he caught sight of Lex’s head gliding past above the partitions as he delivered copying.
Like now, with Lex pushing a trolley full of paper right past his desk.
‘Isn’t this great?’ Jimmy plonked himself down on Clark’s desk, grinning.
Clark looked up at Jimmy and then back at Lex, who had started to unpile paper onto Jimmy’s desk, which was behind Clark’s. Clark’s heart jumped. Lex was doing Jimmy’s copying now? That was just... wrong.
‘Oh, like you’re not enjoying it too!’
Clark glanced across at Lex. He’d rolled up his shirt-sleeves and the muscles in his forearms stood out as he lifted a heavy stack of paper. What sort of photocopying did Jimmy need done anyway? He was a photographer, damn it.
Clark glared up at Jimmy who seemed to read his mind.
‘Hey. I gotta see what the competition’s up to, right?’ He slid off Clark’s desk and walked over to Lex who was depositing the last of the copied photos on Jimmy’s desk.
Jimmy grinned at him. ‘Thanks buddy!’
‘Psst!’ Lois popped her head over the partition. ‘Stop gawking at him, Smallville! You’ll give the guy a complex.’
Clark winced. He was sure Lex would have been able to hear Lois’s stage whisper.
‘Tell Jimmy that, not me,’ he muttered, as he saw Jimmy grin at Lex’s retreating back.
‘Seriously, Smallville, I thought Mrs Kent had taught you better manners.’ Lois leaned an arm on the partition. ‘You weren’t exactly polite to Alex this morning and it can’t be easy for a guy his age taking a job like this. Not everyone’s as lucky as us, you know. I mean the job market’s appalling and he probably has a family to support.’
‘At least he’s willing to take whatever he can, you know?’ Lois had written an article about the government’s recently tabled ‘employment solution’. It was one of her pet issues.
Clark decided silence was the best option. He made a face at Lois and pointedly stared at his computer screen.
With an exasperated swish of her ponytail, Lois disappeared back behind her partition.
It was the end of the day before Clark managed to find Lex alone. Lois had packed up and gone by 5:30 and Clark would usually have made for his own apartment by now. He preferred working from home, to minimise suspicion about his sudden disappearances. But it would do his reputation good to be seen working late for once. The office was more or less deserted now but Clark could still make out the whirring noise of the copier.
He got up from his desk and approached the copy room cautiously. He glanced around before entering to make sure no-one would interrupt.
Lex was standing, hands in pockets, in front of the machine. The green light reflected on his shirt as it passed and repassed over the copies.
He didn’t seem to have noticed Clark in the doorway, but Clark knew better. He took a deep breath.
‘What the hell are you doing?’
Lex turned calmly. ‘Hi Clark. Nice to see you too.’
‘What are you doing?’ Clark repeated.
‘Thirty copies of an eighty-page document, reduced to B4 size and stapled in the ...’
‘Not that!’ It came out as a sort of growl. ‘I meant what are you doing here. At my work. And why am I the only one who can see it’s you?’
He realised, as he said it, how crazy he sounded.
Lex’s mouth softened into a subtle smile. ‘I don’t know, Clark. Maybe it’s the glasses.’
‘You’re not wearing...’ Oh. His hand flew involuntarily to his face.
Clark stepped forward. ‘Don’t think I’m just going to stand by and let you do this.’
‘Do what, Clark?’ Lex raised an eyebrow. ‘I would have thought you’d like having me where you could keep an eye on me. I mean, it will make reporting on my professional life a lot simpler, won’t it?’
Clark's fists clenched. ‘When I find out how you’re doing this...’
‘You’ll what? Run to Superman? “Oh Superman! Help me! Lex has put a spell on the office and he’s changed the colour toner!”’ Lex’s eyes flashed with amusement.
‘Stop it!’ Clark slammed his fist down on the copier. It stopped. Lex stared at Clark’s fist. Clark removed it and decided now was a good time to leave. The photocopier shuddered into life again.
‘Give my love to Superman!’ Lex called after Clark as he strode from the room.
(to be continued)
Aside: looks like I've got lots to catch up on on my f'list! *wishes for a longer lunch break*