"What made this happen, Lois? What happened that you..." he gestured at her immaculately colored hair, the contacts that obscured the true color of her eyes, "did that?"
She smiled, a sad, weary smile and for a second he saw the teenaged girl he'd met in a high school newspaper office in the middle of nowhere. For a second he saw the girl buried inside the woman. The truth behind the carefully maintained lie.
Her gaze went to the figure sitting at the desk on the newsroom floor and he was forgotten as a little more of the woman behind the facade slipped out. Perry briefly wondered what it was that led his two star reporters to hide behind disguises. Lois behind her colored contacts and hair, Clark behind coke-bottle glasses that he didn't need...
It had taken him longer with Lois than with Clark. Longer to realize the truth. To see the signs. He hadn't had as much experience with Chloe Sullivan as he'd had with Clark Kent during his brief stopover in Smallville. Had only seen hints of the person she was becoming. The quicksilver mind, strong-willed personality, the mischievous streak that showed up as a twinkle in her eyes and a playful twist of her lips.
The woman that had taken the Daily Planet by storm two years before had borne little resemblance to that talented young girl. She was caustic where Chloe had been refreshingly sarcastic, unrelenting where Chloe had been determined, and harder than anything he'd seen in Chloe.
But signs emerged. Her teasing banter with Jimmy Olsen, a frighteningly gentle side that came out only when she dealt with the young man. They shared an easy camaraderie that was extremely uncharacteristic of the woman Lois Lane had shown herself to be. She would say and do things for Jimmy that no one else in the Daily Planet, not even her editor, could ever hope to coax from her.
Then Kent showed up and, for just a moment, he'd seen real fear in the eyes of the woman who feared no one. Not even Lex Luthor himself. He'd battled with her to take the young man on as a partner. She'd yelled, cursed, argued, and threatened to quit. Steadfast in her refusal to work with him. Lois Lane was stubborn in the very extreme sense of the word but it seemed Clark Kent could be just as much so.
It was his determination to work with the legendary reporter, not to mention Jimmy's fast friendship with him, that had finally worn Lois down. But she kept her distance. Kept him at as far a length as she could manage while still maintaining an actual working relationship with him. Perry'd seen it in her attitude, her writing, her entire approach to her work. Lois became even more determined to 'Take No Prisoners' than she'd ever been before. She went after Lex Luthor with a vengeance, despite knowing her partner had been friends with the billionaire. It was as if she was hellbent on throwing up every obstacle to Clark Kent's friendship that she could and targeting Luthor was the most effective way to do so.
That was the final piece to the puzzle for Perry White. He might have been out of the field but the skills he'd honed as an investigative journalist had gone no where. They remained as sharp as they'd ever been and all had taken to figure it out was to call Lois by the wrong name in conversation. Discussing a story with her privately, he'd casually called her 'Chloe' and she had answered before realizing just what name he'd used.
And now, with the chips down and his evidence complied, he needed only ask one question.
"It's simple, Perry," Lois said quietly, her voice made husky by vocal training. "I made a deal with the devil and then..." She turned her gaze back to him, sorrowful but determined, "I broke it."
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