By Elisabeth <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted February 2008
Summary: Lois examines her past and future as she rings in the new year.
Many thanks to my "research assistant," Mr. D8a, who can come up with a wide plethora of little-known facts to fill out my story. This was written in honor of LaraMoon, as a special thank you for organizing our Christmas ficathon. My gratitude also extends to the staff at the archive; you've provided us all with so many hours of entertainment. Special thanks go to my General Editor, Caroline K, who exudes patience even among authors who are slow to respond.
Lois stepped out into the cold, night air. She would gladly exchange the warmth of the party for a few moments of peace and quiet.
Normally the party beat was Cat Grant's exclusive territory, but on a night like tonight there were just too many places for the trampy journalist-wannabe to go to at the same time. Lois had always been clear about what she thought of the society pages; they were run by a bunch of mudslinging rumormongers who wouldn't know hard news if it hit them on their name-brand pants. Now, here she was, trapped in the role of a society columnist.
Lois wasn't sure how she had allowed Perry to browbeat her into this trip. All right, so she hadn't actually been forced here, but the way things had turned out were quite different than she had intended. Of course, that was the story of her life... at least it was the story of her year.
She looked out over the city lights on the not-too-distant horizon, thoughtfully remembering the wreck this last year had been.
This was the year that Grandma Lane had died, leaving Lois with a load of remorse. She hadn't been particularly close to her grandmother. How could she be as a child in a house full of crystal bells and porcelain figurines? Still, blood was thicker than water. Just knowing that Grandma lived in Metropolis left Lois the promise that she *could* have a relationship if she wanted one. Now that Grandma was gone, Lois was left with a mixture of regrets and mourning.
Grandma's passing also left her with an unexpected roommate, since Lucy needed to find a new place to stay as soon as Grandma's rent expired. Lois still wasn't sure if her sister moving in was a good or a bad thing. On the one hand, it was nice to have another person nearby at the end of a long day. On the other hand, Lucy wasn't the most thoughtful person; she tended to leave messes wherever she went, borrow Lois' clothes and toiletries without permission, and forget to pay room and board.
However, with the exception of this morning, it had been a couple of weeks since she had seen her kid sister. Lucy had taken off as soon as the semester ended.
Lois had spent Christmas alone again. Not that she minded that. It wasn't as if it were her favorite holiday. Her Christmas memories weren't very happy. Not to mention that the commercial glitz, the tinny music and the mind-numbing push that you were required to LOVE Christmas got on the nerves once or twice.
New Year's didn't hold many fond memories either. If Christmas was about the spirit of shopping, then New Year's was about the spirit of drunkenness. After Daddy left, it wasn't worth it to stay up half the night to see her mother grow more and more intoxicated and less and less kind.
Given the choice, Lois would gladly skip over November, December and January. Perhaps the bears had it right. This would be an excellent time to hibernate. It could be her own holiday tradition.
A star shot across the sky. She chewed on the inside of her cheek, trying to keep herself from wishing on a ridiculous, little shooting star. She didn't feel like being hopeful. The only thing she hoped for was that this awful year would come to a close, giving her the chance to start over.
She certainly wasn't hoping for some knight in shining armor, like the star-wishers in the movies. No matter what Lucy said, she didn't need a man in her life. Her sister's sarcasm from earlier in the day rang in her memory's ears, "You don't have dates; you have interviews." So what if she hadn't brought a date to the charity ball. It wasn't as if there was any man in her life that she felt like traveling with over the holidays. Besides, who needed dates when one had as high-quality interviews as Lois Lane had? She had won a Kerth this year, chucking an undeserving, crooked Congressman out of office at the same time. She was an unqualified success as a journalist. Having a man would only unnecessarily slow her down.
In fact, she didn't really have any wishes for that star, except maybe for a *feeling* of meaning. Obviously, her life was fulfilling and meaningful--paper subscriptions told her that much--but sometimes it didn't feel as purposeful as it really was. There were plenty of reasons to get out of bed in the morning; she just sometimes forgot what they were.
A new year would hold new energy. Perhaps she simply needed to turn to a new page on the calendar.
She glanced back through the balcony door, trying to ascertain if the host had finally decided to make his grand entrance. He was the one and only reason that Perry had finagled her into coming to the party. It would give her the opportunity to hobnob with Bruce Wayne.
She had been trying for months to line up an interview with the reclusive billionaire. It hadn't been easy, but Lois didn't take 'no' for an answer. That's why she was making so much progress, despite the fact that the man hadn't granted a single in-depth interview in his twenty years in the limelight. Just this week she had been turned down by his personal secretary. That was an accomplishment in and of itself--to be rejected by one so close meant she was only one step away from success.
It wasn't that she was so interested in Bruce Wayne. The party-going ways of a man who found wealth handed to him on a silver platter seemed pretty boring on the surface, but there was something about nailing an interview with a man who didn't give interviews that always got her juices flowing. This target was even more intriguing since he managed to stay on the fringe of the public eye while simultaneously avoiding the lens of the paparazzi. She had found very few recent pictures where a hand hadn't obstructed his face. That was all well and good for the 'honor' of his frequently-rotated love-interests, but it wouldn't help Lois to find the man in a crowd. Besides, with the rumors that had been circulating about Wayne Tech, she suspected she wasn't the only journalist out there who was giving Bruce Wayne a second thought.
She rubbed cold fingers over her arms. It was much too cold to linger in the night air, particularly as she still had work to do. She glanced once again across the cityscape as if to bid a good night to her wishing star, and then darted back into the fray.
A stout woman stuffed in burgundy taffeta mindlessly blocked the path to the main ballroom. Her laugh would have sounded like a Hollywood fake if it weren't for the empty wineglass in her hand. Lois gave up waiting for tubbo to move, finally ramming her way past.
"Salmon Roe and Crudités? Fig and Walnut Tapenade with Goat Cheese? Foie Gras with Date Puree and Pomegranate?"
Lois barely glanced at the waiter, instead sorting through the mass of bodies in the ballroom, hoping to find her mark. "Has Mr. Wayne arrived yet?" she inquired.
"I believe he has been detained."
She grabbed an hors d'oeuvre, and stuffed it into her mouth without thought. It was dry. She could have eaten trash like this at home. Heck, she could have cooked far better herself, and that wasn't saying much. In her experience, rich people didn't necessarily have refined tastes.
Lois frowned. Wayne's absence certainly threw a wrench into the operations. However, she wouldn't have risen to her level by being easily thwarted. There was more than one way to skin a cat.
She wandered down the long hallway in the mansion, hoping to find a private office that might shed some light on what kind of a man the head of Wayne Enterprises was exactly. She found a dark room and slipped inside, flipping on the switch.
Floor to ceiling mirrors covered each wall, upon which hung the largest objects d'art she had seen in a long time. She wondered what kind of art a billionaire playboy collected, hoping it wasn't sex toys or the like.
Instead, she found herself staring at a manikin dressed in chainmail with a wooden helmet to cover the faux face. He was carrying a lance. Next to him hung a shelf of clubs, axes, and mace. Behind her she found blow guns, bows and other unidentified sundry items.
"Kitchen, dining room, ballroom, arsenal..." she muttered to herself gazing at the vast collection of weapons that adorned each wall. It reminded her of a cross between a medieval torture chamber and a modern day museum. What kind of a guy would collect all of these arcane weapons by day and hold charity balls by night? It was strange, to say the least. She walked past a suit of arms and stopped at an odd-looking figure dressed in wicker and carrying a wicked looking tiki torch of a spear.
"Where's this from?" she asked the thin air.
"It's Japanese," a man calmly informed her from over her shoulder. She jumped, startled at the interloper's silent approach.
She spun her gaze from the bizarre display, carefully examining the intruder instead. He was half a head taller than she was with intense brown eyes and an easy grin. His brown hair fell in soft waves, ending in a soft curl on his forehead that just begged to be moved back into place.
Most women would find the young man attractive, but the wild beating of Lois' own heart was more likely left over from her surprise at his disquieting entrance.
"How do you know?" He was probably just taking a wild guess, hoping to pull the wool over her eyes in a misguided attempt to woo her.
"I've seen something similar at the Tokyo Museum of History and Experience." He carefully studied the figure before her. She shivered as his arm incidentally touched hers. The room must have been giving her an uncharacteristic case of heebie-jeebies. "...Although it wasn't nearly as well preserved as this one is."
Her eyes narrowed. There had to be some way of knowing if he was feeding her a load of bologna or not. Not that it mattered whether or not this guy was on the up and up. She just liked to know her standing--that was all.
"What about that one?" she challenged, gesturing to a random sword.
He studied it carefully. "Macedonian?" he hypothesized, although he didn't sound too sure of himself. "Yes," he decided lowering his glasses, despite looking much too young to need bifocals. "Definitely Macedonian."
"And you know this because of your visit to the Macedonian Center for Swords and Old Stuff?" she goaded.
He grinned at her, shyly. She wondered how many times she would have to call his bluff before he admitted to the sham.
"It has been a few years since I've been to the Balkans," he confessed, although that wasn't much of a confession since he had probably never left the city of Gotham, let alone the state of New Jersey. "However, I can tell it's Macedonian because of the inscription beneath."
She dubiously inched past to read the tiny print on the placard beneath the sword. "No way! It says it belonged to Alexander the Great." Her hand lifted of its own volition.
He quickly grasped her hand, pulling it down. "I wouldn't, if I were you. There are probably security sensors under each of these items. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if there were cameras behind these two-way mirrors."
She caught the man's eyes. Part of her job as a reporter was judging the character of men at a glance. She had to nail it on the first impression if she were to do her job well. This man was either a fantastic con man or was genuinely odd.
She changed tactics, still hoping to catch him in a mistake. "You've been to the Balkans, Japan..."
He pulled his hand from hers, tucking it into his pocket as he finished for her... "...China, Borneo, France, Thailand, Brazil, Kansas."
"Kansas." She smiled at his obvious joke. "You're quite the world traveler."
He shrugged. "Some would say so." He looked so sincere that she wanted to believe him.
She assessed his appearance carefully. It was hard to tell a high-quality tuxedo from a rental, but it was always possible that he was telling the truth. Most of the invitations for this charity shindig were undoubtedly sent to Bruce Wayne's rich friends, people certainly moneyed enough to call themselves world travelers.
Heck, this man was odd enough to be Bruce Wayne himself. She had read about both Wayne's charm and his extraordinary physique. The man in front of her was certainly attractive and easily conversant--some women found those things charming. With the suit coat hiding both waist and shoulders, it was difficult to determine whether or not he had an athletic build.
She bit her lip. Perhaps she would need to be bold to find the answers she sought. Besides, if he was Bruce Wayne he could handle boldness. He probably expected it. If he wasn't Bruce Wayne then he was probably a nobody she would never see again, and therefore it wouldn't matter.
She reached her hand inside of his jacket, tracing a line down his side with the open palm of her hand. Oh, yes. This man was appealingly well-muscled. At least, most women would find it appealing, if they were looking for a well-muscled man--which she was not.
She needed an excuse for her forward behavior, so she allowed her hand to continue its path all the way down into his pocket. She pulled his large hand out and held it in her smaller one, casually shaking it as if he had offered it to her.
His eyes were wide with surprise. Somehow, he didn't seem like a lady's man. She would have expected someone as rich as Bruce Wayne to treat her either like a gold digger or like a toy. Instead, this guy acted like a boy scout in Vegas.
It was a galactically stupid case of mistaken identity. There was no way this guy was Bruce Wayne.
She finished the handshake brusquely. "Lois Lane, Daily Planet," she introduced herself. "I've got to get back to work."
"Clark Kent, Daily Bugle," he gasped behind her. She smiled as she heard how breathless he sounded.
So, the man was a newspaperman. It figured with how well-versed and well-traveled he was. Unfortunately for Clark Kent, she ate newspapermen for breakfast--scooped them and served them on toast.
She certainly was looking forward to this New Year. One where she kept the men off balance and kept herself on her toes.
Lois edged past a couple of ladies wearing gownless evening straps on her way back into the ballroom. "There he is," one of them whispered, sounding less like a socialite and more like a junior high student.
"Are you going to make a move?" the other wondered.
"I made the last move. It's Bruce's turn now."
Lois' head shot up. Bruce Wayne must have decided to make an entrance at last. She scanned the crowd for likely suspects with brown hair, athletic builds, and probably a woman on each arm. She noticed one man who seemed to be attracting more than his fair share of attention. She watched him carefully as he circulated among guests greeting people. She made her way to that portion of the ballroom, waiting for the perfect opportunity.
A wine steward stopped to ask a question--a question that would probably only be asked of the host. "Sir, we need permission to open four more cases of champagne."
He seemed distracted as he decided. "It's almost midnight. Open five."
"Very well, sir." The wine steward handed him a form to sign before dismissing himself to the task.
She seized the moment. In her most commanding voice, she called his name. "Bruce Wayne!"
The look he gave her when he spun made the red cocktail dress worth every penny she had spent. It was exactly what she was expecting: she was a woman; therefore, she was an object to be used and tossed aside. She didn't let the small-mindedness of the man get to her. After all, she was the one who would use him and toss him aside.
"Why haven't you returned my phone calls?" she haughtily accused him.
He was like putty in her hands as he smoothly replied, "Obviously that was an oversight." He offered her a hand, which she 'reluctantly' accepted. "And who do I have the pleasure of meeting tonight?"
"Lois Lane. Daily Planet."
"I can assure you, Lois--may I call you Lois?" She nodded, making a show of slowly warming to his charms. "I promise, Lois, I will never make that mistake again."
She allowed herself to be led to the dance floor, where a waltz was just beginning. She smiled as they danced together, watching his eyes carefully and weighing her options. Obviously, the man was taken with her, but he had been around the block a few times, as well. On the one hand, he didn't look fully intoxicated by her charms; on the other hand, she might not get a second opportunity to ask for an interview.
She had to go for it, or she would never forgive herself. "I hope you don't mind my boldness--"
"What if I like bold women?" he teased. His eyes were serious. Maybe he was falling victim to her allure, just as she had planned.
She smiled warmly, inviting him to trust her. "I can understand why a man in your position is hesitant to do interviews."
"I'm so happy you see my side. The press makes assumptions about me all the time. I've had bad experiences, been misinterpreted--"
"But never by me," she hurried to remind him.
"True," he conceded.
"Anyone who is familiar with my work knows that I write factually oriented stories. You can trust me."
He appraised her carefully. "Do you always get what you want?" he quietly asked her.
She blushed, but refused to duck her head. "Usually," she conceded.
"Then relax," he instructed softly. "Let's just enjoy the dance."
An enigmatic response if she had ever heard one. Did that mean she had the interview? Or was he blowing her off with more charm than she was used to?
"May I cut in?" It was the guy from the armory. Wasn't his name Kent?
Bruce smoothly handed her over to the third wheel. "I do believe I am needed elsewhere." He turned to her to say goodnight. "I assume I'll be hearing from you again?"
"I look forward to it," she assured him. She smiled, mindlessly dancing, until her host was lost in the crowd.
The minute Bruce was out of hearing range, she let the intruder have it. "What are you doing? It took me a year to get this close!"
She was seething, livid, furious, irate as she watched her entire reason for being at this insipid party slip through her fingers. The newspaperman didn't seem to even notice. Of course, he was probably another of those mud-slinging rumormongers who wrote a gossip column, doing the bare minimum amount of work required while the real journalists pounded the pavement getting the job done.
His eyes were smoky as he pulled her tighter in his embrace. "You mean this close?"
Perhaps Lucy was right. It had obviously been far too long since she had seriously dated if her body responded to a little dance--okay, so it was a close dance--but her body responded as if a little dance were actually foreplay. She was mad; really, really mad, she reminded herself.
"You don't get it," she argued both with him and her brainless libido. "I finally had my chance, and you ruined it."
"I don't know about that," he quietly informed her, indicating with a tilt of the head that she should look over her shoulder.
She glanced behind her, only to find that she still held Bruce Wayne's interest. Perhaps she still had a shot after all.
The music came to a close, and waiters quickly circulated making sure that everyone had a glass of bubbly before the big moment came. Somewhere someone began a countdown and the partygoers quickly joined in.
"Ten! Nine! Eight! Seven!"
As if she knew what she were doing, she found herself wandering off alone. Even as she did, she noticed Bruce Wayne's eyes upon her own. He lifted a wineglass in silent salute.
"Six! Five! Four!"
She turned a bit to notice Clark Kent was watching her, as well. She noticed an intensity in his gaze that Bruce couldn't match.
"Three! Two! One!"
She turned on her heel, quickly slipping through the crowd, hoping to find sanctuary on her absconded private balcony.
"Happy New Year!"
The revelers closed in around her, clinking champagne glasses, wishing each other well and kissing merrily. There was no easy way through the mob.
In her mind's eye, she could still see the men, looking at her.
The new year had so much to look forward to: men to interview, and if she got bored with her professional accolades, maybe even to date. There were Congressmen who still needed to be chucked, stories to be scooped and Kerths to be won.
She turned back to the crowd. Clark Kent was still watching her. He raised his champagne to bring in the New Year with her, even from across the crowd.
Perhaps her wishing star had granted her more than just new energy for the New Year. Perhaps it had given her a measure of hope, as well.
She raised her glass toward his. "Happy New Year," she silently mouthed.