Title: Old Dog, New Tricks (Some of the People, Some of the Time remix)
Original story: M. Scott Eiland's "You Can't Fool an Old News Hound"
Acknowledgements: Thank you to my wonderful betas, roxymissrose, kdsch123, bopradar, and meadowlion! You guys rock!
Written for the Remix Redux V
I honestly don't know what it is. People never seem to think I'm paying attention. It works to my advantage a lot of the time, but it's still pretty damn annoying.
To be fair, there have been times in my life when I've been less than totally observant. There have been times when I've been drunk, for instance, or in love with some sorry scum-sucking lowlife or another. Plenty of them. It may even be I've spent most of my life either blind drunk or blinded by love.
But even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and even a gal like me sees clearly some of the time. I am a reporter, you know, and paying attention IS actually part of my job.
Considering that I lived in the man's damn house for almost three years, and the first time I ever saw him he was stark naked and out of his freakin' mind, is it so unbelievable that I can SEE that Clark Kent is Superman?
Apparently so. Apparently, it's a tricky thing to notice.
Granted, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of other people who've probably seen him naked for any length of time. I love Lana, of course, but she really is a little too self-centered to notice the perfection of anybody else's sculpted ass and torso, whether covered in garish spandex or not. Lex Luthor probably knows it all already; he'd have his own uses for knowledge like that, and he has a ton of reasons to hate Clark that could easily have spilled over to the Big Blue Boy Scout, in addition to that xenophobic Earth First stuff he spews for public consumption. Chloe? Well, see above re: blinded by love. It's a family trait, I guess, and the very first thing I ever knew about Clark Kent, years before I'd ever seen him at all, was that my poor little cuz had it bad, and probably always would.
I know when a guy's NOT right for somebody, every time. Never does anybody any good, of course. Not even me.
Where was I? Yeah, so I see a big, good-looking hunk of a man, with dark hair in careless curls, and an incredible ass barely concealed by skin-tight skivvies, FLYING above the streets of Metropolis, and I'm not supposed to be able to tell it's the same handsome, weirdness-magnet chucklehead I used to live with back in Smallville? Please.
The question I had to ask myself was what to do about it. Clark never asked me to keep any secrets for him, and he sure didn't LOOK like he cared who found out about his volunteer do-gooding. The goofball didn't even wear a mask! He was better at the undercover hero crap when we were kids. And don't think it didn't make my head ring, that dead certainty (once I saw him Super-de-doopering around) that when I kissed Green Arrow all those years ago, really I was kissing Clark.
He was pretty damn good, too. Freaky, huh?
(I wonder who's wearing the Green Arrow suit nowadays, if Clark's taken up the red-yellow-and-blue. Hmm. Could be a story there?)
I decided to keep it on the down-low, 'cause there wasn't any point in making a big deal out of it. But then a couple of things happened that changed my mind.
First of all, he started getting cute with it. We'd be out on the street, investigating, or interviewing, or chasing down some sort of spokes-drone, and he'd just vanish on me! Then he'd turn up back at the Planet, not so much as a kiss-my-ass, with a Superman-related exclusive. Yeah. And he'd do that damn coy, winsome smile when I checked him with it. "Gee, I don't know, Lois. Guess I got separated from you in the crowd. Good thing, though -- I just happened to see Superman saving that busload of nuns." Uh huh, Clark, four miles away. Right.
Maybe I'm to blame. I probably shouldn't have ever started calling him Superman. I kind of meant it as a joke, but it totally went to his head.
I tried to give him little hints, you know? "Yo, Smallville! Might want to space those exclusives out a little! People will think Supes is just showin' off for ya!" Nothing.
He also started doing this creepy double-entendre thing. For instance, once we were at a big fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders. We were stalking Luthor, of course, but the Cue Ball was on his best behavior that night -- and Clark got into a conversation with that blueblood from Gotham, whatsisname, WayneTech's owner -- Bruce Wayne. He got a few really good quotes, wrote it up into a great feature piece, but the smirking and the "Super-this, Super-that" -- from Clark! I was shocked, and ashamed of him, and a little terrified. You just never know, with billionaires, what they're going to figure out, what they're going to think they're entitled to do -- maybe even required to do. I thought Clark would have learned that lesson, from Lex and Lionel Luthor, back in the day.
Even if Wayne himself didn't take the hints and run with them, it's not as if Clark and I were the only press at that shindig. People talk, especially when that's their business. I've never claimed that I could have made a career out of Covert Ops, but ANYBODY should know to have more discretion than that.
Something had to be done; somebody had to confront him on this crap and make him behave himself. If it ever got around that Superman was really Clark Kent from Smallville, it would be only a matter of time before every bank robber and child molester in the Midwest would be kidnapping Martha Kent -- and me. If some of them were enterprising enough to VISIT the Meteor Capitol of the World and ask around, I'd be willing to bet real money that more crooks than Luthor would start sporting meteor jewelry. Crime would skyrocket, and Superman would probably die.
Was I the girl to talk some sense into him? Hell, no! There had to be somebody else.
But his mom had had a couple decades with him, and she'd decided he was grown-up enough to let out on his own while she did that state legislature thing (plus, she trusted Lionel Luthor enough to get naked and sticky with him) so her judgment was obviously impaired when it came to trust and menfolk. There wasn't much point in calling her.
Chloe had been his gal-pal Friday since junior high. If she were the one who could make him keep his feet on the ground, it would have been done by now. Besides, she seemed to avoid Metropolis these days like the plague. Maybe she knew; maybe she didn't. It seemed like there might have been trouble between them, and I didn't really want to stir it up, especially since it would probably just end up making her feel bad without helping anything.
I decided Perry was the one who could probably handle Clark, if I could get him to do it, but it'd take proof. Hell, I'm a reporter; I can do proof. I put it together like an article (since that's the only way I know how to do it), and I kept it under a computer-lock-and-key thing that Chloe had given me once. I don't usually bother; Lois Lane, Reporter is about showing stuff to the world, not keeping it to herself. But this I didn't want random hackers and people walking past my desk to be able to see.
There was kind of a lot of it once I got it all put together, and it was pretty damning. It made me feel a little sick to my stomach, furtively reading over the evidence and looking at Clark across the desk or across the room. I'm not arrogant; I knew that if I could put it together anybody could. And a lot of the people who could would want to strap him down to a table and do that whole Alien Autopsy thing, and a few of them could probably pull it off. It actually made me feel like maybe his mom had the right idea, sexing up Old Devil Luthor -- if he knew this (he had to know it -- it was right there, in plain sight) and he hadn't cut Clark up for parts yet, it had to be because he had a higher priority... Martha and Lionel had been married two years now; she had his property all tied up in blind trusts and stuff, for political purposes -- talk about having a guy's nuts in your purse...
Wow, was Lana doing the same thing? Could Lex ever want a woman more than he wanted his own personal ET for research purposes? Nah. It had to be something else for Lex. I wondered what, but looking at my story made me almost afraid to try to find out exactly.
Clark came and sat down again just as I finished printing everything out. I ignored the coffee he set on my desk for me (such a sweet boy! for an alien and an idiot) and awkwardly tried to hide the pages against my hip as I sidled over to the office. He had x-ray vision, but hopefully he wouldn't think of using it right that very second.
Keeping my eyes on Clark the whole time, I rapped tentatively at the office door. Okay, yeah, I already admitted I wouldn't ever have made it in Covert Ops, either. Clark didn't seem to be looking my way, though.
"In!" Perry called, and in I went.
"This is big, Chief," I said, and I put my story on his desk.
"Don't call me 'Chief'," he said, looking the story over. Then he started to laugh. "Drinking on the job, Lo?"
"No! Perry, I'm telling you -- I've been working on this for weeks now, and I'm sure I'm right! The signs are all there -- they look alike, they're never seen together, Clark always puts on a vanishing act when something happens --"
Perry cut me off. "I read your report, Lois -- I don't need a recap." I wished I could read minds. Maybe I should have spent more time in Smallville. "Lois, I appreciate your work, your talent, and your instinct for what makes a great story -- but you're just wrong: Clark Kent isn't Superman. Believe me -- I found out that Clark is an ordinary human being the hard way when I first met him seven years ago. Have a seat, and I'll tell you the whole sordid tale."
Well, I had to sit and listen. I'd actually heard of Perry White before I ever had the slightest interest in being a reporter; Chloe mentioned him in one or two of those long, rambling letters she used to write us when she was little, right after her mom left. Lucy never read them all the way through, and she never wrote back. I'd remembered how empty I'd felt right after our mom died, though; the subjects of those letters didn't mean a damn thing to me, but Chloe herself sure did. I always read everything she wrote, and I always wrote back, even though it was usually just picture postcards from the PX. So I'd heard about Perry's sad descent from the heights of respectable print journalism to the depths of syndicated sensationalistic TV crap, and I'd even heard a little about his quick stop in Smallville, but straight from the horse's mouth is always a whole different thing.
The old man spins a hell of a story -- he sure is in the right line of work. He talked for a good half-hour. I could tell he believed what he was telling me, but all I could think the whole time was there had to be a freak explanation, and what it could be. Sunspots, maybe? I could google it when he was done with me, or look it up on the Met U. website -- they had a good reliable meteorological page that went back for decades. Anyway, Perry was lucky he hadn't gotten killed, not just that whole stupid dam stunt, but also baiting the Luthors and drinking himself stupid (Yeah, we have a lot in common, Perry and me) and just living in Smallville without knowing what was going on. My eyes drifted over to look at Clark, out in the bullpen -- he was working diligently on a story, just like he should be. The tip of his tongue was sticking out, in concentration. It would almost have been adorable if it wasn't, well, Clark!
"I quit the tabloid show the next day and started pushing hard to get my career started again the right way -- had to go to Central City to avoid Luthor complications, but I made it back up the ladder and moved back here two years ago after the old man was no longer a problem. You know the rest." Perry was summing up.
I wrenched my attention away from that little glimpse of tongue and back where it belonged. "You're sure about this, Perry?"
"Very sure, Lois."
I shrugged uncomfortably and stood up to leave, and Perry and I both looked out at Clark for a minute.
"He's a big Boy Scout, all right -- just not the Big Blue Boy Scout," Perry chuckled. Then he added, with a false casualness of tone that raised every hair on my neck, "Lois, could you leave your report and notes? They might be good for determining who Superman really is -- shame to let a lot of good research go to waste."
He had to know. How could he not know? He had to have looked up the sunspot record, or the upper atmospheric conditions, or whatever it had been -- the guy was Perry White! As soon as we told the world about the solar-powered Superman, he had to have put it together. He'd just admitted that he'd pretty much known, seven years before!
If he knew, then he was covering. But he wasn't reining the chump in; he wasn't making him curb his tongue; he wasn't going to keep Clark from giving himself away and getting himself killed. No one was.
I didn't know what to say. I just dropped the folder on Perry's desk and left.
So that was it then. If I didn't take care of it, take care of Clark, then nobody was going to. The weight of responsibility, which had settled on my shoulders when Mama died and had finally lifted again when Lucy married that ski instructor, crushed down on me again. I couldn't sit across from the flying farmboy; I couldn't look at him. So I went down to the coffee shop and bought a cup of joe, and I started working on my plan of attack.
How do you force a guy to be careful when he's faster than a speeding bullet and able to leap tall buildings with a single bound?
Well, I'd have to keep investigating him. He'd wouldn't work very hard at hiding the evidence of his identity otherwise. I'd have to make up good alibis for him, too -- better than the lameass ones he made up for himself. I'd have to keep track of Lex -- I'd leave Lionel to Martha -- blackmail material, distraction tactics, maybe a bullet to the back of the head... No. Boy Scout. Keep it clean. I probably should see what I could get on Bruce Wayne, too, just in case, and try to snag all future chats with billionaires for myself. Chloe was in Gotham, these days. Maybe I would have to send her a letter...
It didn't matter if he ever knew I knew. It didn't matter if he ever told me. The man was my partner. I had to have his back, especially if nobody else would do it.
You owe me, Clark.