sean_montgomery (sean_montgomery) wrote,

Underground - Chapter Five - Obstacles

While I'm conveniently sitting here (and not doing anything)...



“Absolutely not.”


“I’m not doing it. No way.”

Lucy rolled her eyes and put a hand on her hips. “Lois, you’ve been cleared by your doctor to get out of here. I know you’re rejoicing in that head of yours! Nothing gets you going like spending a few hours working. Why would you resist the opportunity to get out there and go back at it? It’s not solitary confinement!”

Lois, reclining on the bed and stubbornly staring out the window, let her eyes shift to the wheelchair in front of Lucy. The seat was facing her in all of its padded, grey-colored glory, the rims and wheels gleaming with the sunlight filtering in through the drapes. She released a small sigh. “Yes it is,” she whispered.

“For the love of--” Lucy rubbed a hand over her face. “The more that you try to convince yourself this is a bad thing, the harder this is going to be.” She tapped the wheelchair for emphasis. “How do you expect to get any work done while lying in this hospital bed?”

Lois continued to stare at the wheelchair with bitterness. “Where’s Jason?”

Subtle. He’s with Perry.”

“Where’s Perry?”

“On the moon.”

Lois’ bitter stare turned to her sister. “I’m not getting in that wheelchair, Lucy.”

God!” Lucy threw her hands up in the air and walked to the door. There was no point getting frustrated if Lois was going to be so stubborn. If she had known two days earlier that Lois was going to be released this quickly, she would have informed her sister of the wheelchair while she was drugged.

She opened the door and met resistance. On the other side, holding his hand up to the frames of his glasses and muttering painfully was Clark.

“Oh my God! I’m so sorry, Clark! I didn’t see you coming around there!” Lucy put a hand on his forearm and searched his face, checking for signs of damage. “I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

“Uh, no. No you didn’t,” Clark answered; his eyes were clenched shut while his free hand tested the cartilage in his nose. “Actually, it happens all the time. Don’t worry about it.”

“What are you doing back here? Aren’t you supposed to be at the Planet?”

“Well, I was.” Clark looked behind himself and smiled. “Perry asked me to bring Jason over to see his Mom. How is she doing?”

“Stubborn as ever.” Lucy squatted down in front of Clark’s legs. Clutching the taller man’s coattails in his hand, Jason stared back with wide eyes. “Hey, kiddo. How’re ya doin’?”

“Fine,” he answered, moving from behind Clark and opening his arms to Lucy. “Where’s Mommy?”

“She’s resting right now. I’m happy you both are here though. I’ve got to get some things signed before we leave. Can I ask you to do something for me, Clark?”

Clark adjusted his glasses and blinked back at Lucy. “Something? Ah, like a favor?”

“More like a mission. Your working partner is in there refusing to get into the wheelchair her doctor issued for her, and we can’t leave the hospital until she gets her act together and accepts the fact that she’s gonna need it. You think you can convince her?”

If adjusting his tie was a nervous gesture, the gulp that bobbed his Adam’s apple was extreme. “C-convince her? Lucy, don’t you think that’s a little dramatic? I’m sure Lois just doesn’t understand her situation.”

Lucy picked up Jason and gestured to the elevator. “She understands it all right, and I’m sure you’re the perfect person to help her see past whatever’s bothering her. I’m going to the front desk to sign those papers. Can we meet you guys down there soon?”

“Uh, sure. Soon.” Clark watched the two make their way across the hall and into the elevator, heads bent close together and talking quietly. He turned back and looked at Lois through the hospital door. She was still staring at the wheelchair.

I’m sure you’re the perfect person to help her see past whatever’s bothering her.

He frowned. I’m not. The perfect person is missing somewhere. I’m just the temporary replacement.

Opening the door brought her attention to his nervous entry. He ducked his head and waved. “Uh, hi Lois,” he said cheerfully, standing near the door and folding his hands in front of him. “How are you doing today? Feeling better?”

Regardless of his nature, she couldn’t help but smile at his genuine concern. “Yeah, I am. I’ll bet Lucy asked you to talk to me, didn’t she?”

He nearly smiled at her sharp wit. Instead he raised his eyebrows as high as they could go. “Well… uh, why would you say that?”

She observed him for a moment. Fidgeting with his tie and coat only confirmed her question. “You’re a terrible liar, Clark.”

He chuckled, ducking his head in humility and walking closer to her bedside. “Well, it wasn’t something I wanted to get into the habit of doing.” I hate doing it to you everyday. I hated doing it to you before I left, and I hate it now more than ever. He gave his attention to the wheelchair placed by her bed. Walking over to it, he ran a hand over one of the armrests. “Was this the object of the argument?”

“Lucy thinks that I need to use that thing to get around.”

“Well, it is true, isn’t it? You can’t get anywhere staying in, uh… in bed.”

She nearly chuckled when she noticed he had the grace to blush. “I can get enough done. Give me a laptop and I’ve got the world at my fingertips.”

He moved the wheelchair aside and placed a chair where it was, taking off his jacket and suit coat and hanging them over the back. “I know you Lois.” He said once he was settled. “Sitting in bed and trying to type a story won’t be enough for you. Eventually you’ll miss the buzz of the newsroom.”

“I’ve been able to live without it this far, haven’t I?”

“You’ve only been here for two days.”

“Forty-eight hours is a long time outside of the newsroom. You should be giving me credit. I honestly don’t know how you spent five years outside of it.”

Clark’s posture straightened and he pointed a finger at her. “Aha! So you do miss it!”

When she turned her glare to him, he shrunk away. “W-what I mean to say… uh, that is…” he stuttered, looking anywhere but her face. He began again, very quietly, “It just seems like you miss it. This would be a perfect opportunity for you to get back into the newsroom. I thought you’d be taking it at first offer.”

When she didn’t answer, he risked taking a glance at her. She was looking at the wheelchair again with anything but bitterness or hatred in her eyes. She looked contemplative, like she was debating whether she was going to talk about whatever was bothering her. He cleared his throat. “Lois?”

Her thoughtful expression met his compassionate eyes. “You know I’m willing to listen if you need an open ear, right? Remember what I told you a few weeks ago?”

Her smile was tender, the memory of their lunch evoking a small sigh from her. He knew it had more to do with their friendship than anything else, and his heart broke at the thought that he wasn’t able to see that smile more often. Instead he returned it with one of his own and leaned back in his seat. “What’s bothering you?”

He gave her several moments to gather her thoughts. When she spoke again her tone was quiet and thoughtful. “Have you ever noticed how the floors of the Daily Planet are flat?”

He wasn’t expecting that, but kept his mouth shut anyway.

“Everything in that building is made to accommodate all people, ramps instead of stairs, the rotating door at the entrance, that kind of thing. Most of us have no trouble walking on our own. There are others…” Her thought trailed off. “Have you ever seen an employee in a wheelchair? No one knows how they get along so well. Every time I see them I think to myself, ‘Why are you wasting your time here? Why don’t you do something that works better for you?’ Other people think the same thing. You can see it in their faces.” Her eyes looked lost for a moment, a memory he didn’t ask about taking over her for a moment. “They need to rely on people all the time. When the day is done, two workers help them out of the wheelchair and into their vehicles. When they come back the next morning, the same workers help them get back into the wheelchair.”

She turned back to him and lifted her arm, the cast’s dark blue shade bouncing off his brilliant eyes. “Having this means that I can’t use that wheelchair on my own. Using that wheelchair means… giving up something valuable to me.”

Clark didn’t need to think about what it could be. It was one of the first things he had noticed about her. “Your independence.”

“You can’t tell me you’ve worked at the Daily Planet for as long as you have and haven’t noticed it. People in wheelchairs… they’re looked at differently.” She took another look at the wheelchair. “They’re needy. People have to make way for them because they can’t get around on their own. They need… everyone.”

The pieces clicked together in his mind. “And Lois Lane doesn’t need anyone.”

The look she gave him said that she would have fought back had that fact been false. “You don’t need to put it like that.” She said.

“I’m sorry. I know that’s not true.” Jason and Richard were both proof of that. “What you’re saying is your reputation is at stake?”

“It’s everything, Clark.” Lois sighed. “Richard… Richard has been missing since early this morning.”

“I know.” Lois turned surprised eyes to him. “Uh, Perry told me this morning when he came to check on you. I had asked him if Richard knew about what happened.”

Lois fell back against the mattress and stared at the cast on her leg, painted toenails peeping out from the foot of it. “Who else knows about it?”

“I’m not sure.” He answered honestly. He took a look at the wheelchair. “It’s not solitary confinement, Lois. It’s just a wheelchair.”

She smiled. “Lucy said the same thing.”

“Well, maybe Lucy’s right.” He leaned forward and put his elbows on his knees, looking at her carefully, not wanting to tread dangerous waters with his answer. “It’s just a chance to conquer more obstacles. You know how to do that.”

“On my own.” She turned to him as fully as she could. “Have I ever told you about my dad? He’s a military man, a no nonsense kind of guy. When Mom died and I had to take care of Lucy, he told me the one thing that was going to help me grow up was to learn to deal with things on my own and not take any crap from anyone. If you see the problem, see the solution that’s being covered by it.”

Clark stopped and contemplated her answer. So that was the problem: Lois was afraid that her new status as ‘dependent’ was going to be seen as a bad thing, and that she wouldn’t be able to see past the problem for the answer. She was looking at the wheelchair again, but instead of seeing bitterness he saw how nervous she was. Hesitancy. A slight bit of helplessness.

“Sometimes,” he said slowly, looking at the wheelchair and choosing his words carefully. “We need help from others to get the obstacles out of the way… even if that means doing something we aren’t comfortable doing.”

The words were the clearest he had spoken since he walked into the room. Her sigh was almost as loud as her thudding heartbeat. “Have your soul-searching escapades made you intuitive and all-knowing?”

“Actually, my dad taught me that one. A long time ago.” He looked at her and shared her grin, blushing momentarily before standing and running his arms through the sleeves of his jacket and coat. “Uh, Lucy and Jason are waiting for us downstairs. Do you want me to find some nurses to help you into the wheelchair?”

She motioned to a button near her bedside table. “I can page them. You go ahead and get downstairs.”

He nodded and made his way to the door, catching the slight lull in her heartbeat and the small sigh that escaped her when he reached the door. “Clark?”

With a hand on the handle, he stopped and turned to her.

“Tell Lucy we argued before I reluctantly agreed, okay?”

His smile was full-blown. “Sure thing, Lois.”

The 'memory of their lunch' that Lois has here is a reference to another fic of mine, Out To Lunch. Reading it isn't necessary for this story, but I might just go ahead and post it after this one so you know what I'm talking about. I wouldn't mind if you decided to take a peek at that one (while leaving a review... out of the goodness of your heart, of course *wink*).
Tags: underground
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