By Wendy Richards <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: July 2001
Summary: Lois wasn't the only one who lost someone dear to her in the episode "That Old Gang of Mine."
This one's for Hazel, since it was inspired by her review of TOGOM and a comment she made on Ambition on the message boards: she reminded us that Jimmy was the only staff member to hug Clark on his 'resurrection' (apart from Lois), and pointed out how his grief in that episode seemed to be overlooked by everyone else.
Look out for a sequel to this soon, written by Hazel herself. :)
All rights in recognisable characters belong to DC Comics and Warner Bros.
Nobody notices me.
In the midst of a newsroom grieving, nobody notices me; and yet they all see me.
Perry asks me to find a photo he could use, in the same breath as telling me what happened. My friend is dead; before I can grieve for him, I must find a picture for his obituary.
Lois sits at his desk, crying; I have never seen her so devastated. She wears an oversized sweater — his, I think — and her eyes are red and blotchy. Yet she is still beautiful. I know he would think so. But then, he always did. She was the most beautiful thing in the world, for him.
My friend is dead. I want to cry too, but I have to find a photograph. Eyes blurred by tears can't see well, and I must do this properly for him. Finding the right photo is important…
I find one. In it, he smiles, kind of wistfully, as if he's gazing at something — or someone — beyond the camera. Lois, of course; Clark only ever looked that way when it was at her. And she never saw it… I wondered, sometimes, how she could be so dense, so unaware of his feelings for her. And sometimes I wondered if she knew and was deliberately holding him at a distance.
Because she didn't love him, and wanted to keep him as a friend. Perhaps she thought that if she told him she didn't love him, he'd walk away and find someone else to care about. Perhaps he would have… but I don't think so. Clark loved her, and his love was constant.
I force my attention back to the photo. It's a good resolution, will enlarge well and will look good next to his obituary. His suit is dark with only fine pin-stripes, which won't detract from his face. His glasses, too, aren't reflecting against the camera-lens, and I can see his eyes; dark, friendly, smiling. It's a good photo of Clark, and it's how I will remember him.
I think his parents will like it, too.
Back in the newsroom, Lois is still crying.
I prepare the paste-board without being asked; someone has to do it, and I need to see that it's done right. Perry says the story will go on the front page, so I put it all under the masthead, with Clark's picture underneath. It's a good layout, even if I wish the story was anything but this.
I swallow, choking back tears again.
"You don't check out in your twenties…"
That's what I told Perry when he told me the news; he looked away and didn't answer me. Instead, he sent me to get that picture.
I bring the pasteboard to him in his office. He barely looks at it at first, then beckons me closer to look at it again. He nods, as if it's not of any particular importance. Someone comes in; the caterers want to know what's happening about the party tomorrow night. I can't believe it when Perry says it's still on. I protest, but he disagrees.
He tells me that the Planet is more than just paper and ink; it's all the reporters who work for the paper, doing what's right for the city. And that by having the party we'll honour Clark and all he stood for.
I guess he's right, but I sure won't be in the party mood.
He waves me away, telling me to take the mock-up down to the press room. The paper must go on, I know that; but I want time to grieve…
On the other hand, maybe it's best to keep working. I glance at Lois; I suspect she'd be happier if she had something to do. Instead, she's sitting there, probably reliving every minute of what happened over and over. I've done that too, only, unlike me, Lois has the pictures to go with the mental images. I can only visualise what must have happened: Clark stepping in front of Lois — to protect her, just like he always did — that sick gangster pulling his gun, then firing. Clark staggering backwards, clutching his chest. Then falling to the ground, his life snuffed out in that instant.
In my mind, I see the look of surprise on his face.
Killed. In just one second. Because he was protecting the woman he loved.
I push from my mind the harsh thought that if Lois had not insisted on them going to that club, or if she hadn't got herself into danger, then Clark's sacrifice wouldn't have been necessary. I have no doubt that she's thinking exactly that right now. And it doesn't help…
No, it doesn't help.
If wishing could make Clark walk through those doors once more, alive and well, I have no doubt that he'd have been here half an hour ago.
But one thing I do know: if I ever encounter that *animal* Clyde Barrow, I will tear him limb from limb.
I blink away renewed tears and apply myself to my job. Then, a first-run copy in my hand, I return to the newsroom.
Lois is at her own desk now, her eyes red but no longer crying. And Perry sits beside her, on the edge of her desk, with his hand on her shoulder. They don't see me.
Perry is suffering, too; he seems to have aged ten years in the space of one night. I know he loved Clark too, in his way. Clark and Lois were like family to Perry, the way I sometimes imagine he thinks of me.
I hesitate to approach, but the Chief needs to have this copy. I catch his eye. He gives me an impatient look, as if to say 'go away'. Instead, I hold up the copy. He flinches, and waves me away again. I suppose he's right; he doesn't want Lois to see it. Although she's going to see it some time…
I leave the newspaper on the Chief's desk. It's almost three am, and the first edition, with Clark's photo on the front page, above the fold, will be hitting the streets in about an hour. Somehow, that makes his death all the more real.
I want to go home, but I can't yet. It seems to me that I just can't leave yet. There has to be something else I can do for my friend first. I could watch over Lois for him, but the Chief's doing that, and I think he's going to put her in a cab or something soon, or take her home with him. She won't be alone, for her first night without Clark watching over her as he always did. She'll have people around to comfort her in her loss.
Does she know just what she's lost? I wonder, a lump in my throat as I watch her surreptitiously. Does she know that Clark would have walked through a raging fire for her, that he would willingly have died for her? That, even if he'd known that he was inviting his own death by what he did for her tonight, he'd still have done it and been glad that she was safe?
I close my eyes and look away. How must it feel to be loved like that? I am jealous of Lois, because she just doesn't know what she had.
Oh, I didn't want Clark that way! Never! But he was my friend. He was the first person in this darned newsroom to take me seriously, to treat me as more than just a gopher. And he was never slighting or unkind in his behaviour towards me. He was my role-model.
And he is dead.
My gaze falls on his desk, just as it always is with a few of his personal belongings on the surface. The framed photo of his parents. The silly mug someone gave him as a present. His pencils; the tools of his trade. And his name-plate. Clark Kent — Daily Planet.
I wipe my eyes on my sleeve and walk over to that desk. It has to be cleared; the longer it's left, the more it stands as a reminder that we've lost one of our own in the most horrible way. I get a box and, slowly, start to empty out the personal items from the desk drawers. There are story files and notes there, but Lois will have to look at those when she's ready.
I know I should also check out his computer, that he will have had personal directories there he won't — *wouldn't* — want anyone else to see. But that can wait; no-one will be using this computer tonight. And I'll make sure that I do it before anyone else can. Clark was a guy like anyone else; who knows what he'd have had stored here? It's just one more thing I can do for him.
Lois sees me packing up Clark's things and looks angry. She's about to stand, but then she subsides and looks away again. I can imagine her thoughts — 'he's not even buried yet and they're clearing him away as if he never even existed!' — but she knows, as well as I do, that we can't make his desk a shrine in his memory. Some time soon — maybe tomorrow, maybe next week — this desk will be assigned to someone else.
In the bottom drawer, I find another photograph, a small one, in a clip-frame. I recognise when it was taken — the night Clark won his Kerth award. He's holding the award in one hand, while Lois hangs on his other arm and laughs up at him. And he… he is looking down at her, love blazing from his expression.
No wonder he keeps — kept — this hidden.
I debate with myself about whether I should give it to Lois. After all, she's in it too, and she was his partner. But then I decide that this is too private, and I think his parents deserve to have it. They probably know how he felt about Lois.
And I… In my pocket, I have a copy of that photograph I picked for the front page, a precious memory of my friend.
I take the box into Perry's office. He looks up, distracted, then nods. "Thanks, son," he says wearily. "Put it over there."
I put it down and turn to leave, but Perry speaks again. "Nights like this, I wonder why I ever got into the newspaper business," he says bleakly. I know how he feels, and want to tell him so, but he waves me away again.
Lois is gone when I come out. I don't know where, and right at this moment I'm not sure I care. I know Lois will be okay. She's hurting inside, I know, but she's got friends who care about her and who want to comfort her.
I grab my coat and walk slowly, listlessly, down to the parking garage to get my bike. It's time to go home; once I get to my place I can finally give in to the grief I couldn't let show in the newsroom. Someone had to keep going, and anyway, nobody noticed me.
And yet I have as much right to grieve as anyone else there. Clark is dead. And he was my friend too.
c Wendy Richards <email@example.com