AN: Don't get me wrong guys, I'm super excited for Katie Cassidy to return to Arrow, but I'm also like, but Laurel was this amazing, awesome, strong, take-charge, kick-ass cinnamon roll, and she deserves better? So, who is good enough for our favorite Black Canary? Someone who likes strong women and has a thing for people with LL initials? Why, Clark Kent of course! But Pretty, Clark Kent isn't in the Arrowverse (or at least Earth 1), and what about Lois Lane? Well, Other Pretty, this is fanfiction and I do what I want!
I tried to keep Clark close to Tyler Hoechlin's portrayal, from the, what, three episodes he's been in? And the vague mentions we get in Supergirl on his background. But I did watch Smallville for 10 years, so some of that bleeds in, and bits from all other Superman's as well (because you can't have Superman without Batman! right?).
"Hey Laurel, your three o'clock is here, and he's cute!" Andy whispers the last bit as he leans further in her open doorway.
Laurel glances up at her secretary and then through the glass windows of her office that overlook the bullpen. There is only one man she doesn't recognize, he is wearing business casual, has a messenger bag over his shoulder and is flipping through a small notepad. His look screamed reporter. "Right, show him in," Laurel nods at her secretary and stands to greet the man. She wasn't happy when the DA insisted Laurel take this interview with an out-of-town reporter, but at the same time it would be nice to take a few minutes to not worry about HIVE and Damien Darhk.
Laurel watches as Andy catches the reporter's attention and as the man turns to follow he nearly bumps into a file clerk with her arms full. The reporter and clerk both fumble for the files and somehow the reporter catches the files averting a paperwork disaster. Laurel manages to smother her laugh as Andy shows the reporter into her office. "Ms. Lance? Clark Kent, Daily Planet. Thank you for meeting with me." Laurel is a bit taken back by his firm handshake and disarming grin. Andy was right, he is cute. Tall, lean, dark hair, white teeth, tan skin, and bright blue eyes hiding behind thick, black frames. His outfit should be a disaster, a blue and green plaid tie with a white and blue pinstripe button down shirt and grey slacks, but he is pulling off geek chic.
"Mr. Kent, welcome to Star City," Laurel greets.
"Clark, please," Clark flashes a grin again and he even waits to sit until after Laurel returns to her seat. Clark Kent: gentleman, Laurel mused as she tried to get a read on the charming reporter. Was it an act to get a story, or was it genuine?
"So what brings one of Metropolis's best and brightest to Star City? I wouldn't think you need to look for stories with your own heroic Superman flying around the city." Clark laughs, eyes sparkling behind his glasses. Laurel's heart absolutely does not skip a beat.
"Superman gets boring quick, believe me. I'm doing a series of human interest pieces on Star City to help rehabilitate the city image. Each article will focus on something positive about the city. The Rockets. Palmer Tech. Laurel Lance, rising star of the District Attorney's office."
Laurel did her best to bite back her grin. Clark Kent: charming nerd. "And why does the Daily Planet care what people think of Star City?"
"Oh it doesn't. Believe me, my editor raged for two hours at least when this assignment came down. But the Planet is owned by the same parent company as the Star City Register."
"Parent company?" Laurel asks. She vaguely remembers that the city newspaper hadn't been doing well, like almost every other local business, and some news conglomerate purchased it a few months after the Undertaking.
"Wayne Entertainment. And the Planet has a global distribution, so powers above me and my editor Perry White conspired and, well, here I am."
"Well, it's not all bad I hope."
"It's looking up," Clark grins again. That smile should be criminal.
Clark Kent has extensive research notes on her, dating from her recent victory over Damien Darhk to her past at CRNI. He asks detailed questions about her first big case: Moira Queen. But somehow they don't feel invasive. Clark manages to ask deeply personal questions about prosecuting her former boyfriend's mother and her battle against alcohol abuse but he seems like he genuinely cares about her feelings. His blue eyes are intent but kind, behind his glasses. And he has an earnestness about him that is, well, adorable. So Laurel finds her herself doing something she hasn't done since Tommy: putting herself out there.
"So how long are you in town?" She asks as Clark is wrapping up his notes and fiddling with the recording app on his phone.
"About a week, if all goes well."
"Do you want to grab coffee while you're in town? Or perhaps dinner?"
Clark looks more than a bit surprised. "Oh!"
Laurel, heart pounding, immediately starts backtracking. "Wow, that was so forward. I don't even know if you're single! I'm really out of practice at this, I haven't had time to date the past few years—"
Thankfully Clark interrupts her before she can really get going. "Laurel, um, I'd love to grab coffee, or dinner, or even a Rockets game."
"How about coffee, what are you doing now?" Laurel ventures. She has a million other things she should be doing, but finds she doesn't want to do any of it.
"Now is perfect," Clark beams.
Laurel takes him to her favorite shop just a block away from the office. Clark buys her latte and they chat at a high top about Star City and Metropolis. Clark is fond of 'The Big Peach' but he grew up in rural Kansas, Laurel has lived in the city her entire life so she listens fondly to his country boy in a big city anecdotes. Their conservation is light at first, until Clark asks about the recent election. "Any insight into the real reason Oliver Queen dropped out of the mayoral race?"
"What do you mean? He dropped out because another legitimate candidate came forward," Laurel says carefully.
"It just seems odd, his life was threatened, his fiancée seriously injured, he was ahead in the polls, won a debate and was resolute in his mission to unite the city but then a week later he drops out?"
"What are you trying to get at?" Clark Kent: disarming shark.
"Well, every other potential candidate and city official has been threatened and run out of town, but nothing for Ms. Adams. And the Mayor's squeaky clean background is a little too clean. My mother, a state senator from Smallville, Kansas whose prior careers were farmer and baker, has more skeletons in her closet than this woman. I think the dark powers of this city, the Ghosts, HIVE, Damien Darhk, or whatever, I suspect they finally found something to get Oliver Queen to back down and prop up their preferred candidate, Ruve Adams."
"Is this why you agreed to coffee?" Laurel asked, both angry and nervous how close this out-of-town reporter was to the truth.
But Clark's alarm seems genuine: "What? Oh god, that wasn't—no. I'm not, I wouldn't use you like that. I got carried away but didn't intend to turn into Lois Lane. Wow. I need new friends."
"Lois Lane? Isn't she the one always reporting on your city's Superman?"
"Uh, yeah, that's her. We write a lot of investigative pieces together, when I'm not writing on kitten rescues and she isn't swooning over the cape."
Laurel can't help but note the bitterness in his voice. "And you guys are just friends…?" She probes. Laurel has a knack for being attracted to emotionally unavailable men.
"Um, yeah, definitely. It's just… the Superman, he's just a guy trying to do the right thing that has all these helpful powers but so many people put him up on this pedestal and it makes me…"
"Jealous?" Laurel offers.
Laurel studies Clark intently while he fidgets. His sleeves are rolled up causally now, and his tie a bit looser. He tries to hunch in on himself to look smaller but Laurel, now that she is really looking at Clark Kent, thinks he might be hiding a powerful frame under his plaid tie.
"Wow, this is not going how I wanted?" Clark Kent: puppy dog. "Can we try this again? Maybe tomorrow for dinner? And I swear I'll leave my reporter hat at home."
Laurel is intrigued by Clark Kent. She nods, "Deal."
"Superman?" Thea's voice surprises Laurel, she didn't hear the younger girl walk up behind her. Laurel does her best not to jump and clears her throat. She glances at Thea and then back at the computer screen. "Why are you looking up stuff on a guy-alien-whatever, that lives on the other side of the country?"
"Oh, I was interviewed yesterday by a reporter from Metropolis. He said some things about Superman that sparked my curiosity."
"Hmm, the picture is blurry," Thea frowned as she leaned closer to the monitor.
"Yeah, there don't seem to be any good shots of his face. Most of the shots are action shots, or as he's turning away. It's almost like he knows when someone is about to take a picture." Superman has dark hair. He's around six foot and well muscled. Laurel has read enough to know that witnesses say Superman has blue eyes. Laurel only has a hunch and very circumspect evidence, but she has a cop's gut feeling, and her gut is telling her Clark Kent is hiding something big. Laurel has learned to expect the unexpected ever since Slade Wilson told her Oliver Queen was the Arrow. Plus Thea is proof that appearances can be deceiving, if a tiny Thea can take grown men without breaking a sweat, it's entirely possible nerdy Clark Kent can do the same.
Laurel's thoughts and Thea's response are interrupted by an alarm. Prison riot at Iron Heights. Damien Darhk is finally making a move. Laurel regrets that she doesn't have time to contact Clark, she hates the idea of standing him up. Even if he isn't Superman, he's still a cute, interesting guy she wouldn't mind getting to know. But Damien Darhk is more important. The mystery of Clark Kent can wait.
Clark is upset he is going to miss his dinner with Laurel Lance. It's not every day he meets someone who wants to get to know Clark Kent, and Laurel is intelligent, quick-witted and beautiful. Clark tries to subtly peek at his phone once the inmates of Iron Heights, under the leadership of Damien Darhk, aren't paying attention to their hostages.
Earlier Clark had managed to score an interview with Damien Darhk, alleging a desire to get the man's side of the story on his defense but really Clark wanted to investigate further into Darhk and HIVE (Lois would be so proud). Bruce had picked up chatter in Gotham about the international arms dealer planning something big and provided Clark the perfect cover to head to Star City to investigate. Well, Clark hadn't gotten his interview, and quickly became a hostage to keep the police at bay as Darhk started a prison riot.
Clark tries to keep himself at the front of the other hostages. He's not eager to show off how indestructible he is, but he's not going to let anyone else get hurt. Darhk has some sort of magical idol set up on a table, a black statue of a head looking of tribal origin. Apparently it's missing a piece but Darhk is confident the missing piece is about to show up. Clark keeps a wary eye on the idol, he hates magic. He has no defenses against it. His only advantage is that everyone thinks he's just a reporter.
"Hey, no looking at your phone!" one of the inmates snarls at Clark before Clark can make any attempt to get ahold of Laurel. Clark puts the phone back in his pocket and holds his hands up innocently. It's not like it would matter if he called the police, the police and remaining guards are already here, outside, and everyone is just waiting. Clark hates waiting, he's always been more of an action first, brains later kind of guy. But it's not like he can slip away and change into Superman. He rubs lightly at his shield beneath his shirt, the Kryptonian armor would only need a second to fully materialize.
Thankfully, they don't have to wait long until Star City's resident vigilantes burst into the room. Clark has no room to laugh at the Robin Hood impressions from Green Arrow and Red Arrow (also called Speedy?), he himself flies around in a red cape and occasionally hangs out with a grown man dressed as a bat. There is also a man in black with a helmet, the helmet reminds Clark of Judge Dredd or Magneto, but the man probably isn't going for a comic book look. Clark vaguely recalls the man is referenced as Spartan in Bruce's file on Star City. And there's also a woman in black, blonde hair and wielding batons, the Black Canary.
Clark respects other masked heroes' privacy, he had never peeked at Bruce before he got to know Gotham's vigilante (not that he could, he later learned the Batman cowl is lined in lead. Paranoid much?). And he doesn't mean to now, but it's involuntary as he recognizes the eyes behind the black domino mask, it all kind of melts away to reveal Laurel Lance's high cheekbones and flawless skin. She doesn't see him at first, not until Damien Darhk subdues them all with threats against a man in soldier fatigues. Clark watches her glance around the room, assessing the situation, only to pause as she looks at the hostages. Her eyes widen. Clark offers a sheepish smile. At least he isn't the only one missing their dinner.
Clark's attention is pulled back to Darhk as the soldier apparently betrays the vigilante team and Darhk gets the missing piece to the idol. Fighting ensues but Darhk uses magic to hold them captive again. Clark really doesn't like what Damien is saying about Laurel as he holds one of the Green Arrow's arrows in midair with magic. The hostages are set up behind Darhk and the idol, a bit to the left. No one pays him mind as he stands and stumbles forward, that is until he bumps the bolted to the floor table and flails a bit to knock over the idol.
"What the-?" Damien turns to face Clark, concentration no longer on Laurel.
"Oh no!" Clark goes after the idol as it teeters on the edge of the table and starts to fall. It looks like he's trying to catch it, but he gets a good grip on the black statute and as it hits the floor he uses enough force to break it. Pieces of the idol shatter and scatter across over the cement floor. Clark manages to get a small chunk into his sleeve for Bruce to research. "Um, oops?" Clark blinks innocently up at the reddening face of Damien Darhk.
"Kill him!" Damien roars.
One of the inmates comes after him with a gun stolen off a guard, Clark catches the two bullets fired at him, and trips the inmate. Clark monitors the man's fall, and when he hits the ground he taps the man's head just hard enough to knock him out. Clark pockets the squashed bullets and by the time he turns back to the room the vigilantes have the fighting under control and Green Arrow has Damien on the floor, tussed up again. It's only moments before the police and guards roll in and the masked heroes dissipate. Clark gives his statement to at least three different officers, under goes a quick exam with a paramedic and after an hour he is released.
Clark checks his phone, no new messages from Laurel, is that good or bad? He sighs and makes his way through the prison parking lot to his rental car parked in the back. Thankfully he parked far enough away that no emergency vehicles are blocking him. But unfortunately he's far enough away from the emergency vehicles to get snatched.
A black van screeches to a halt in front of Clark's car and the side door is thrown open by Black Canary. Clark lets himself be pushed into the van by a figure sneaking up behind him, and the van roars away once he's inside. Spartan is driving, and Clark is face to face with both Arrows and Black Canary. "Um, hi?" Clark waves.
"You know our identities and you're a reporter," Green Arrow growls.
Clark blinks, mind blank until he recalls Damien naming all the vigilantes. John Diggle, Oliver and Thea Queen, Laurel Lance. "Oh, right." Clark honestly hadn't been paying attention at the time, his focus had been on Laurel.
"But you also saved our butts," Red Arrow-Thea Queen- chimes in. Oliver scowls at his sister.
"Would you believe me if I say your secrets are safe with me?" Clark tries a smile, one that usually gets his mother to relent and let him have another slice of pie.
"That would be pretty super of you," Laurel speaks up. Clark frowns at Laurel's annunciation on the word super. He didn't do anything to give himself away in the prison, did he? "How did you manage to break that idol? Last time our friend had to channel the entire strength of the animal kingdom to smash it."
Clark furrows his brow in confusion. Strength of the animal kingdom? Setting whatever that meant aside, had he used an abnormal amount of strength to break the idol? He had been in a bit of a rush, he had just pushed until the thing fractured. "I grew up working on a farm and was quarterback on my high school football team?" Clark offered as an excuse. He tried another smile on Laurel, but she only cocked her head as if to say, really?
"Did farm work also make you bulletproof?" Laurel asks. Clark winces at that one, he had hoped in the ensuing chaos no one would have noticed him catch those bullets.
"Wait, is this the same reporter you mentioned earlier? While you were researching Superman?" Thea asked. Her scrutiny turned into awe and she looked Clark up and down again.
"Yup," Laurel smirked at him.
Clark's disguise of glasses has never been strong, he relies on most people not believing an alien would be pretending to be just a regular guy. Superman doesn't wear a mask because he is a mask. Superman is kind but aloof, he floats instead of stands, he doesn't show favoritism to any form of life. Superman is inhuman so that Clark can be human. People think they would recognize a super strong alien if he wore regular clothes and walked by them on the street, but they never have. Although, fooling other masked heroes hasn't shown to work thus far. First Batman, and now the Star City vigilantes.
"Superman? What?" Oliver's voice is much higher as he looks between the girls in confusion. Apparently their fearless leader hasn't caught on yet. Clark idly wonders if Oliver practices the growl. He then wonders if Bruce practices his Batman voice. Oh god. Clark tries not to grin and focus on the situation before him. This is serious. Laurel doesn't seem to be angry, or disgusted that she almost went on a date with an alien. She looks like she just figured out a difficult puzzle, cheeky satisfaction. Well, that's good, right?
"So..." Clark begins, grinning over at Laurel, "we still on for dinner?"
"So, what does one talk about on a first date when they already know the biggest secrets?" Clark asks, fiddling with his straw wrapper. They are at Big Belly Burger, Laurel needs the comfort food after the night they had and Big Belly is open late. Damien Darhk had been intent on killing her, and Laurel had a few moments where she believed she was going to die. And then Clark Kent distracted Darhk, destroyed a magical idol, and survived two close range gunshots. Laurel has never been more glad to be proven right.
"Well," Laurel studies Clark, head cocked. How is he possibly nervous? He's Superman. But Laurel remembers Clark, over coffee, uncomfortable with how people treat Superman. He's just a guy with superpowers who wants a normal life. "How about you start with growing up on a farm and playing football in high school?"
Clark's answering smile is brighter than the sun. He relaxes, probably glad Laurel isn't starting with the alien questions, but if there's one thing that's obvious it's that Clark is human, even if he wasn't born on this planet. "Right. Well, I grew up in Smallville, Kansas, a small farming community where the Friday night game was a town event. Our farm has been in the Kent Family for generations, but farming is tough, and we had some hard times when I was a teenager so me being able to do the work of a dozen farmhands was great. And we had lots of room for me to figure out... this." Clark gestures to himself.
"What did you farm?" Laurel asks.
"Our main crop was corn, but we were certified organic for a variety of produce. We also had a small cattle herd, about fifty heads."
"Is that small?" Fifty cows didn't sound small to her. But the closest she had been to a farm was a vineyard in wine country.
Clark chuckles, it sends a thrill through Laurel. "Compared to a commercial ranch or dairy farm, tiny."
"So, when did you become the star quarterback and small town hero?"
"I actually didn't play football until my senior year, but we won the state championship. My dad was pretty worried that I would accidently hurt someone but by my senior year I had a pretty good control of my strength."
And so their dinner continues, Clark casually referencing his alien abilities which are apparently powered by the yellow sun, and Laurel sharing about being the Black Canary and an assistant district attorney. Laurel even tells him about the occasional team ups with the Flash and his Central City crew without revealing identities, and Clark admits to working occasionally with Gotham's Batman. They finish their burgers and fries and Laurel is slowly sipping the last of her shake when Clark says, "Okay, this is weird."
"Weird?" Laurel asks in alarm. If anything was weird, it was how not-weird it felt, talking with Clark about vigilantes and superpowers.
"It's just... not many people know who or what I really am. And to just sit and have a conversation without lying and still feeling normal, it's really great. Thank you." Clark beams at her and Laurel melts a little inside.
"Well, after the League of Assassins and magical totems, eating Big Belly Burger with a cute alien is just another day."
"League of Assassins? Wait, did you just call me cute?" Superman blushes, and it's adorable.
Laurel grins at Clark, "This is pretty great. It's been a long time since I've done anything even resembling dating. So thank you, too." Laurel holds up her milkshake glass and Clark mirrors her with his own shake.
"To many more successful dates?"
"Cheers to that," Laurel agrees and they clink their glasses.