Beta: hhertzof and Julia
Summary: It doesn't matter if there's a deadline approaching, it doesn't stop Spike and Lynda from arguing, Sam manipulating Kenny or Colin selling something he shouldn't have bought.
The newsroom of the Junior Gazette was buzzing, just as it was every morning before school. The sound of typewriters clacking was interspersed with chatter and people were typing and talking at the same time. There was a deadline approaching, although there was always a deadline. But it was easy to tell how much time was left by the ratio of chatter to typing. Since there were more people discussing the latest gossip than working this morning it meant they were still a few days away yet.
Spike made his normal grand entrance, sweeping open the door and standing there for a moment, jacket over his shoulder, as he took in the gazes of those that had turned to see what all the fuss was about. Spike, however, only had eyes for one person, and having spotted she was at her desk, he went over there and leant against it.
"Hey, did somebody change the light bulbs? It's brighter in here than usual."
Lynda rolled her eyes and had to make an effort not to look up. She was busy editing an article she wasn't happy with, as usual. Sarah had a list of all the times someone had written something Lynda liked that didn't need any changes, and it wasn't a very long list. Lynda was keen to get all her work finished before school and Spike was just a distraction.
When he shifted closer, so she could see him out of the corner of her eye she gave in and looked up, but made it a brief glance so it wouldn't seem like too much of a concession. "You haven't got your sunglasses on."
"Oh, yeah." Spike reached into his jeans pocket, found his sunglasses and put them on. He looked around and grinned.
Lynda sighed and went back to her article.
Spike's response was to throw his jacket over Lynda's head. Once Lynda had extricated herself from it, she glared at him and threw it across the newsroom. Spike reached for it and missed. "Lynda," he complained, but she ignored him so he was forced to go over to Sarah's desk, where it had landed, and Lynda finally had some peace.
Despite Tiddler being fascinated, as always, by Spike and Lynda, she still turned round automatically when she heard the door shut. Especially when it was the sort of noise someone made when they were trying not to be heard, but didn't quite manage to catch the door in time.
Unsurprisingly, it was Colin sneaking in and carrying a large box as he did so. He looked guiltily over at Tiddler, put his fingers to his lips, then went straight into his office. Curious to see what Colin was up to this time, Tiddler followed.
She opened his door just enough to peer through the gap and saw Colin standing over the now open box, frowning. She took advantage of his inattention to open the door further and slip inside. "What have you got there?" she asked.
Colin whirled round. "Oh, Tiddler. You scared the life out of me." He put a hand to his chest.
She smiled at his dramatics then leaned over to see around him into the box, but all she could make out from here was that it contained something brightly coloured.
"Tell me, Tiddler, what would you do if you had a hula hoop?" he asked, going into his salesman mode.
Keen to know what he was doing, she went along with it. "I can keep it twirling around my waist for a minute."
"And do you have one?"
She shook her head. "Not at the moment, no."
"In that case, CM Enterprises is glad to supply you with your very own hula hoop." Colin pulled one out of the box and grinned at her.
Tiddler could immediately see the problem with it. "Colin, it's square."
He held it out in front of him and widened his eyes. "Square hoops, huh? Whatever will they think of next."
She said nothing, just gave him a look that reminded him she wasn't stupid and she'd known him long enough now not to be taken in by him.
He continued anyway. "I'm offering you the chance to be the first to buy at a greatly reduced rate."
She'd heard that line before. "And what do I get out of it? Apart from a hoop I can't do anything with."
"You'll be the first to own one, of course. You'll be the envy of all your friends." He grinned at her.
Although Tiddler was sceptical, she did remember the ping craze Colin had started. "How many have you got?"
He looked a bit scared about that, so she took pity on him and besides, they did look quite interesting. She sighed. "Go on, then."
"Sarah, how did the interview go?" Lynda stood up as the girl in question made it into the newsroom.
Sarah flung her notepad onto her desk and sat down heavily. "She won't do the interview."
"What?" Lynda frowned. Sarah could always get interviews, even from people who didn't want to give them. She perched on the edge of Sarah's desk to hear what happened.
Sarah shrugged. "She just doesn't care."
"Well, why not?" Coming from Lynda this sounded more like an order than a question, but it wasn't something she was worried about at the moment. "She has to care. We need Vanessa to talk about her experiences so no one else makes the same mistake she did." No wonder Sarah was upset about not getting the interview.
"That's just it, she doesn't think it is a mistake." Sarah met Lynda's eyes, an apologetic look on her face.
Lynda didn't blame Sarah, but she was annoyed and Vanessa wasn't here to take the rap. "She's sixteen, still at school and she's going to have a baby. Of course it's a mistake."
"I know." Sarah sounded annoyed. "I told her that, but she just said she likes babies and wasn't planning to stay on and do A levels anyway."
Lynda stood up and crossed her arms. "She always was a silly little cow. Why on earth would having kids be your only ambition in life?"
"Not everyone is academic," Frazz pointed out. Frazz was supposed to be working, but he did take a very relaxed attitude to the idea, no matter what time of day. Half the time Lynda was just grateful he was awake.
Lynda gave him a look and he suddenly found he was very busy with the horoscopes.
"Maybe it feels different once you're pregnant." Sarah was still trying to apologise for Vanessa and Lynda couldn't work out why.
Lynda sagged back against Sarah's desk and gave her a disbelieving look. Maybe that was true of adults, but she knew she wouldn't feel that way if she was pregnant at sixteen.
Sarah's only response was to shrug.
Lynda still wasn't happy with the situation, though, and something had to be done about it. Before she could voice her thoughts on the matter Sam came up to her, roughs in her hands.
"Lynda, what do you think of this?"
Lynda glanced at them, then thrust the pages back into Sam's hands. It didn't take that long to decide if she liked a layout or not. Especially since she always expected not to and was rarely disappointed on that front. "We are not sensationalising it, you don't need to make the headline half the height of the page."
"It's not that big." Sam was right, but Lynda didn't care as long as Sam changed it. "And it's the words that make it sensationalist, not the layout."
Sam was too protective of her work. Why couldn't they get a head of graphics who agreed with Lynda? "Just because it's all the gossip at school at the moment doesn't mean we're treating it as gossip. Unlike the stories you tell."
"They happen to be true."
Lynda folded her arms. "Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever seen you with a boyfriend."
Sam took a step closer. "I don't make them up. You're just jealous because you can't get a guy as handsome as I can."
"I happen to be going out with Spike!"
"I rest my case." Sam grinned.
Lynda was torn - on the one hand she wanted to dispute that, otherwise she might lose this argument, but on the other she didn't want to give Spike any more ammunition than he already had. She could already see him grinning out of the corner of her eye.
Fortunately for her, Kenny stepped in between them, his hands up, forcing them both to take a step backwards. "All right, now this is not helping the situation."
That Lynda could definitely dispute, whether she had the grounds to or not. But she only managed to get as far as opening her mouth when, for once, Kenny managed to get a word in first.
"Just because you're upset with Vanessa doesn't mean you have to take it out on Sam."
Lynda didn't quite close her mouth, she was too surprised at Kenny telling her what to do.
"And Sam," Kenny continued, turning towards Sam, "just because Lynda is nasty to you, doesn't mean you have to be nasty back."
"Yes, it does." Sam folded her arms and gave Lynda a look that dared her to disagree.
"If she got her layouts right the first time I wouldn't have to be," Lynda pointed out.
"You're the one with no taste," Sam said as Kenny sighed.
"Why don't you both try being nice for once?" Kenny pointed at Lynda. "I bet you can't be nice to everyone in the newsroom for ten minutes."
"I can," she answered, since it was a challenge, although she hadn't taken time to consider what it was she was saying she could do before she opened her mouth.
"Well, go on then."
Lynda did as she was told and went back to her desk. She was sure she could do it because she had more editing to do and she could do that without talking to anyone for ten minutes. She could feel Sam's gaze on her from here and she was grateful for Kenny for taking her into the graphics room to calm her down. Although she'd forgotten about the whole thing two minutes later when she caught Frazz pretending to sleep at his desk and told him in no uncertain terms just how much she wanted to fire him.
Although Czar's was busy, it wasn't so bad that Lynda didn't think she'd be able to get her and Spike a table to themselves. Even if there hadn't been some people finishing their drinks and looking like they were about to leave, she'd noticed Kenny in the corner, who was only here with Sam, and she knew she'd be able to convince him to go elsewhere if she needed to. However, since Spike wasn't here yet, she took advantage of Vanessa being there on her own and sat down opposite her.
As she was behind a table Vanessa looked just like any other sixteen year old in Czar's drinking coke. But Lynda had seen her around school and that bump was definitely noticeable. No one was able to agree how far pregnant she was, and Vanessa wasn't saying, but Lynda didn't really care. It was the fact that she was pregnant at all that Lynda was interested in, nothing else.
"Vanessa Maychurch." Lynda smiled. Anyone else might recognise that that smile wasn't particularly friendly, but Vanessa didn't know Lynda well enough to suspect.
"Lynda Day." Vanessa had a similar smile of her own. "I had a feeling I might see you."
"If you'd given Sarah an interview or not run away at school whenever you saw me coming, maybe it wouldn't have come to this. Waiting for your boyfriend are you?" Lynda was sure she was on top of this conversation.
Vanessa shook her head. "You can send the whole Junior Gazette after me if you like, it won't make any difference."
"I'm not sending anyone else, there's just me." Lynda smiled - properly this time - hoping Vanessa might open up. She had a notebook in her pocket, just in case, but she didn't want to get it out too soon and frighten her off.
"Just because everyone's talking about me doesn't mean I have to explain myself to you."
Although Vanessa sounded hurt Lynda ignored that. She never worried about people she didn't care about. "But you must regret some part of it," she said with a frown, trying to understand what was going on here. "The baby is going to change your whole life." Which, for Lynda, was a very good reason not to have one.
"Good." Vanessa finished her coke and pushed the glass to one side. "Is that all?"
"No, it isn't." Lynda was the one in charge of this conversation and it was over when she said it was, which would be when she got all she wanted. "What about the baby's father? He's been very quiet so far. Not to mention mysterious. Who is he?"
"Oh, don't worry, you know him." Vanessa had a wicked look on her face that worried Lynda. "But he doesn't want to have anything to do with the baby. Which is fine by me." She shrugged. "He's obsessed about another girl anyway." Her eyes flicked to one side to look over Lynda's shoulder at the counter.
Much as Lynda didn't want to take the bait she looked behind her. Spike was the only person there. Vanessa had to be winding her up. "Spike?" she asked Vanessa disbelievingly.
Vanessa grinned. "I can't think why he wouldn't tell you."
Lynda could, given what she'd done to some of his previous girlfriends and she had a sinking feeling that Vanessa could be telling the truth. Spike had gone out with enough girls that he could quite easily have gone out with Vanessa too. Lynda just hadn't thought he'd got anywhere with any of them, but maybe she was wrong.
By the time Spike came over to the table with two coffees and a slice of cake, all delicately balanced, Lynda looked horrified.
"What's wrong?" Spike asked softly, a worried expression on his face.
Lynda said nothing, just grabbed her bag and stormed out.
"What was that all about?" Sam asked as Lynda walked past them on her way out of Czar's.
Kenny shrugged. "I don't know." With Lynda it could be just about anything. He'd probably hear about it soon enough, though, and since Spike was already following her he wouldn't worry about it yet. "I don't think I want to know." He went back to his coke, which he'd drunk half of already - without a straw and without spilling any.
"So why did Jenny dump you?" Sam finished her drink and folded her arms on the table.
Kenny didn't blame her for changing the subject back again, but that didn't mean it was something he wanted to talk about. "What makes you think that asking me twelve times in an evening is going to get me to tell you?"
Sam smiled. "My natural good looks and charm." Then she frowned. "Is it really twelve times?"
Kenny couldn't help smiling at that. Sam did have good looks and charm and she knew how to use them too. He was just trying hard to resist and doing quite well so far. "I don't know," he admitted. "I lost count."
"So how about thirteen times lucky?" She leant over the table and Kenny had to try hard not to look at the cleavage he could now see clearly.
He sighed. "All right." It was easier to give in otherwise he'd never hear the end of it. He'd learnt that from being friends with Lynda. He leant forward himself, keeping his eyes on her face, and lowered his voice. "She said I was too understanding."
"So she thought you were boring?" Sam interpreted.
Kenny would have disputed that, but he had a feeling she was right. "I'm not boring." He frowned. "Am I?"
Sam giggled. "No. Just very nice."
He sighed and leant back in his seat. "And there I was thinking that was a good thing." Although it wasn't something he could really change about himself easily anyway.
"It is a good thing."
"So you'd go out with someone who was nice, would you?" He'd heard some of Sam's stories. He wasn't sure how many of them were true, but none of the guys in them sounded boringly nice.
"Maybe if you asked." She leant her cheek on one hand.
Kenny was so surprised it was a minute before he realised he ought to close his mouth. "So what are you doing tomorrow night?"
Sam thought for a moment. "Nothing I couldn't cancel."
"Great. I'll pick you up at seven." That was easier than he'd thought it would be - if he'd ever thought he had a chance with Sam.
Lynda was already halfway down the road from Czar's by the time Spike shouted after her. Although when two girls passed her, attempting to roll square hoops along in front of them she stopped and frowned, and that allowed him to catch up.
"Why don't you tell me what's wrong? Maybe I can help."
Lynda sighed. She knew he wasn't just going to leave her alone, so she turned to face him and put her hands on her hips. "Oh, yes, you can help all right."
Spike put his hands out. "Just tell me what I can do."
"Talk to Vanessa. Face up to your responsibilities." At least then he'd rise a little from the low opinion she now had of him.
He frowned. "Lynda, just tell me what you're talking about."
She wasn't sure if he was misunderstanding deliberately, but she was happy to spell it out for him. "You are the baby's father. She told me."
"You would say that, wouldn't you?" Vanessa was right, Spike was obsessed with her, but that hadn't stopped him from flirting with other girls. Goodness knows what else he might have been doing when she wasn't there, especially to prove to them that he wasn't obsessed with her.
"I've never even gone out with Vanessa. And even if I had, she didn't get pregnant until after I joined the Junior Gazette."
"So? That was before I started going out with you."
Spike sighed. "I was only interested in you. All those other girlfriends I had were just to make you jealous. It was all about you. You should be happy about that." He added, "You do like the world to revolve around you."
"I do not." She folded her arms. "And I don't know what you did in your spare time. Maybe you had other girlfriends while you were waiting for me to break."
He smiled, but not a happy one. "I don't believe this. I know you're ashamed of me, I never thought you didn't trust me."
"I'm not ashamed of you." Although at this point Lynda was ready to deny anything he said about her. "Well, I wasn't before tonight."
Spike shook his head. "Whatever Vanessa told you was a lie and you know it. When you're ready to admit it, you call me." He turned round and stalked off.
Lynda frowned. "I'm not admitting to anything," she called after him, but he didn't even slow down.
Although it was getting dark it was nearly summer and not that cold yet. Kenny was walking Sam home after their trip to the cinema. Sam had chosen the film - it was a girly one, but Kenny hadn't minded. He even would have admitted it was quite good if he'd dared, but he still wasn't sure what Sam thought of him.
"So you aren't ashamed to be seen outside the newsroom with me?" he asked, remembering how many other people from school he'd recognised at the cinema.
Sam frowned. "Why should I be?"
"Well, it's just that all the other guys you've been out with have been, well, handsome." And Sam had commented on the men in the film and Kenny couldn't help but compare himself unfavourably to them.
"You are kind of cute."
"Really?" Kenny tried not to smile at that and failed badly.
"You've got that whole teddy bear thing going on."
His smile instantly vanished. "Oh, thanks."
"I do take my teddy bear to bed with me." She grinned at him and took his hand.
Kenny wasn't thinking quite that far ahead yet, but he did like the hand holding. "I'd tell you you're pretty but you already know that."
"Well, it is nice to hear it from someone else."
When she smiled at him again he laughed, and she laughed along with him. He could get used to this, he thought, but he wasn't going to get a chance to because they were already at her house.
"I had a good time tonight," Sam said, as she stopped and faced him.
"I did too." He just wished it didn't have to end.
"The date's not over yet."
He frowned, wondering how she could read his mind. "It's not?" Then he realised how bad that sounded. "I mean, that's great, but you are home now."
"I am expecting a good night kiss," she explained, grinning.
"Oh!" Kenny had been wondering before their date whether he should kiss her at all, although once he was with her he'd been able to stop worrying about it. Now he was glad she'd made the decision. He stepped forward and kissed her.
"I think I should get a cut of the profits," Tiddler said, entering Colin's office without knocking.
Colin started, but relaxed when he saw who it was. Tiddler wondered if Lynda was after the books again. "What on earth for?" he asked.
"I've made your square hoops into something everyone wants. Without me you wouldn't have sold many. In fact, I'd go as far as saying you wouldn't have sold any."
"Tiddler, what do you want?" He leaned back in his chair.
"I told you, a cut of the profits."
"Okay, what do you really want?"
She supposed she couldn't blame him. She'd never asked him for money before - asking Colin for money never tended to get any results. "All right then." She perched on the edge of his desk. "I'll settle for my money back."
"Your money back," he repeated sounding disbelieving.
"Yeah. I mean, there are lots of other things I could spend that money on."
He frowned. "So, you want a cut of the profits, but you'll settle for your money back."
"Yeah." She smiled at him in an attempt to win him round. "That sounds like a good deal to me. I mean, you'll make far more money out of it given how much you must be making on your square hoops."
She'd said the golden words and he dug into his trouser pocket. "Here you are." He slapped the coin onto the hand she held out. "But don't go telling anyone, or they'll all want a refund."
"Thanks, Colin." She smiled and left.
Back in the newsroom she went over to Frazz's desk and showed him the coin. He sighed, but pushed the two coins next to his typewriter over to her. She grinned back and skipped off happily to her own desk, having won the bet.
Kenny smiled at Sam as she came into the newsroom. Usually she would smile back, but today she ignored him and went straight into her graphics room. He frowned and looked around. No one else had noticed - they'd greeted Sam, then gone back to work.
Fortunately, the graphics room was empty, so when Kenny went in and shut the door they had the room to themselves.
Sam was sitting at her desk, pencil out, working on something. "Oh, hi, Kenny." But she only glanced up briefly.
Kenny had a feeling he knew what this was about. Sam was notorious for only going out with a guy for a day or two anyway, so he'd been half-expecting this since their date the other night. But he wanted her to tell him, though, not just ignore him, so he reached over and took the pencil from her grip.
"Well, Kenny." She turned round on her stool to face him. "I didn't know you had it in you."
He gave her a look. It was hardly the first time he'd done something that could be considered not that nice and this was hardly that mean. "I just want you to tell me you don't want to go out with me any more."
"Kenny, if you're too nice to dump me, just say so."
He frowned. "What? No, I mean I just wanted to know why you ignored me and I assumed that was why."
She smiled at him. "It's not."
He smiled back automatically, before realising he was just as confused. "So why did you ignore me?"
"I have a reputation to consider. If we're going to carry on going out together, no one must know." She took the pencil back from him and he let go easily.
"Oh, right." He couldn't help smiling at that. He liked Sam and he did want to continue going out with her. "Well, your reputation is important." He wasn't quite sure if it fitted in with people having seen them go out in the first place, but he'd been friends with Lynda long enough to learn not to worry about girls' logic. "We'd better do a better job of it than Spike and Lynda." He laughed and she laughed along with him.
"We just have to act the same as we did before."
"Yeah, that was their mistake."
The door opened before they could discuss it any more and Lynda poked her head in and said, "Kenny, come out here and do some work. Sam do you have those roughs yet?"
"I only just got here," Sam complained.
"You've got ten minutes." Lynda left, obviously expecting Kenny to follow her.
Kenny raised his eyebrows at Sam, who smiled back. It was usually easier to do what Lynda asked, so he went back out into the newsroom.
"What is it, boss?" he asked as he sat down at his desk opposite her.
"I've tried talking to Vanessa three times and I still don't have an interview. She runs away from me when she sees me in school."
Kenny couldn't blame her. Everyone was trying to run away from Lynda at the moment - she was being unusually grumpy and bossy. As far as Kenny could tell she and Spike had had an argument, but what it was about he didn't know and neither of them were telling "We're just going to have to go with the feature and forget the interview. Let people draw their own conclusions."
Lynda sighed. "Maybe Sarah can find something useful out of what Vanessa said to her."
Kenny smiled in encouragement, and Lynda got up to speak to Sarah. Kenny was still looking round when he saw Spike open the door and stand in the doorway, not making his usual grand entrance. Lynda was too busy talking to Sarah and hadn't seen him, so Kenny took the opportunity to have a word with him.
By the time Kenny got there Spike had backed out into the corridor and was leaning against the wall. "Spike, can you talk to Lynda? She's being worse than her normal self and I'm beginning to think she'll never be happy enough with this edition to get it out at all."
Spike shook his head. "I don't think I'm the best person for that job."
"Look, I know you two had an argument. Can't you just talk about it?"
"I don't know." Spike looked away towards the front door.
"Please? For me?" Kenny wasn't usually in the habit of pleading, especially with Spike, but he was getting desperate.
Spike sighed. "All right. But I'm not going in there."
Kenny smiled. "Don't worry, I'll get her to come out."
When Kenny went back inside he didn't know how he was going to do it, but decided the truth would be simplest. If that didn't work perhaps he'd try pushing her. There was always a first time for everything.
"Lynda." He caught her on the way to the graphics room and she stopped when he called her name. "Spike's out in the corridor. He wants to talk to you."
"Just talk to him. What harm can it do?"
She sighed. "All right." At least she went, so Kenny was happy with that. He'd done all he could to help and there was work he needed to get done this evening.
Lynda hesitated as the door swung shut behind her and she saw Spike leaning against the wall in the corridor. He glanced over at her, then gazed back at the floor again. Since she couldn't stay where she was without getting hit by the door she leant against the wall opposite him.
"Why don't you trust me?" He raised his head to look in her direction, but he was wearing his sunglasses so she couldn't tell if he was looking at her or not. His tone sounded like he was just as hurt as she had been when Vanessa first made the accusation.
She shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe because you haven't given me any reason to."
"So you don't believe a word a stranger says to you, except that one thing, but you believe everything I say, except that one thing." He sounded incredulous.
"I don't believe everything you say." Lynda regretted her words as soon as she said them because now really wasn't the time to be argumentative. And she could tell Spike had taken it the wrong way because he folded his arms and turned his head toward the front door. "It just sounded plausible," she said, although she knew it wasn't much of a defence.
"And everything else she said about getting pregnant sounded unlikely?" He turned back towards her again.
"Well, yes," she said in a tone that made it clear to him she thought that was obvious.
"You know, Lynda, I thought you might be able to trust me just a little. If I say there was never anything between me and Vanessa, you should believe me."
"But what if there was and you were lying?" That was always possible as far as she was concerned.
He sighed. "Why do you always have to do that?"
"I don't know. I'm not very good at this sort of thing." Although she must be improving because she admitted that to Spike. Not being able to look him in the eye made it easier, though.
He finally took his sunglasses off. "Tell me what you really think."
She took a deep breath. "I believe you. If you had got Vanessa pregnant you would have told me by now." He may have annoyed her at times, but he had always told the truth when it counted.
He gave her a small smile at that. "How about admitting you were wrong? I won't hold it against you."
Lynda shook her head, since they both knew that would never happen. "So who is Vanessa's baby's father?"
His smile widened and they were back to playing the game they always did. "You don't even have to apologise, all you have to do is admit it."
"I'm sorry. I'll never do it again."
He raised his eyebrows. "Wow, an apology from Lynda Day. I should note the date in my diary."
"You haven't got a diary."
"I must get a diary." He snapped his fingers. "How sorry are you?" he asked, pushing away from the wall.
She stepped forward to meet him in the middle of the corridor. "Very sorry."
"Sorry enough to give me the week off?"
She grinned and wrapped her arms round his neck. "As your girlfriend I would definitely give you the week off. But as your editor, I couldn't possibly."
"Well, I'll settle for a kiss."
He put his arms around her waist to pull her closer and Lynda kissed him long enough to make up for the time they'd spent apart.
"Do you know who the father is?" she couldn't help wondering afterwards.
Spike shook his head. "I wish I did. I'd tell him a thing or two about responsibility."
She grinned at him repeating her accusation, then took his hand and led him back into the newsroom. They were here to work after all and there was a deadline approaching.
Note: The square hoops idea is lovingly stolen from The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin.