Pete was working as an intern in the White House when he heard.
The press secretary and an aide were walking through a corridor in the west wing briskly, heading past Pete's cubicle in the direction of the Oval Office. The aide was speaking in a hushed tone: "And then, right before it hit the ground, he caught it."
Secretary Kaufman stopped short at a water cooler, and Pete listened surreptitiously. "Caught what, Jeanne?"
Jeanne spoke as if it were obvious. "The plane."
Pete almost fell out of his chair.
"You mean to tell me that a man stopped an airplane from falling out of the sky with his bare hands?" The secretary was flustered for the first time since the re-election.
"There have been 186 eyewitnesses confirmed, sir."
Kaufman poured himself a glass of water and gulped it down quickly. "How did this mystery strongman get to the plane to begin with?"
"Well," Jeanne said, flipping through the pages on her clipboard and keeping her voice even, "sources say that he…flew."
"Oh, sweet Jesus." Kaufman poured another glass. "A regular fucking Warrior Angel. Don't tell me he was wearing a cape."
Jeanne sputtered for a moment. "Uh, sources say…"
Kaufman slammed down his cup and Jeanne stopped short. "He was wearing a goddamned cape?!"
"It's all speculation on the twenty-four-hour networks right now, sir, but the Planet had an eyewitness, and they're running with the story in the late edition." Jeanne adjusted her glasses and double-checked her notes. "They're calling him Superman."
Pete didn't wait to hear another word before he picked up the phone.
"Chloe Sullivan." She sounded breathless. The bullpen was bustling, and he could hear her keyboard clacking even over the phone.
"Chloe, it's Pete."
He heard the sound of typing stop abruptly. "Pete Ross?"
"No, Peter Peter Pumpkin-Eater. Chloe, it's me." He watched the hallway out of the corner of his eye, recognizing more and more officials and Cabinet members as they hurried toward the President's office.
Chloe sounded odd. "It's good to hear from you, Pete. What's up?"
Good old Chloe, Pete thought, still guarding everyone's secrets. "Well, long story short, I'm working at the White House now, and we just got the weirdest news."
Chloe caught his drift immediately, like he knew she would. "I should have known as soon as I heard your voice."
"Jeez, Chloe, is it really him?"
"Who else could it be?"
"He can fly now?" He had known about Clark for almost a decade – he thought he would be more jaded at this point.
Chloe sounded far away. "Yeah, it happened a few months ago." Someone on Chloe's end shouted, "Hey, Sullivan!" and she lowered her tone. "Lois wants to call him Superman."
"Of course she does." He turned on LNN idly, watching blurry footage of his ex-best friend, an image as distinct as the Loch Ness monster. "Is he really wearing a cape?"
"Sewn by the farmer's wife herself." She laughed under her breath. "It's red."
Pete joined in her laughter. "I'm surprised it's not plaid, to be honest."
Still chuckling, Chloe said, "It's nice to hear from you, Pete. Everything's off the weird scale lately. Even more than usual."
Pete smiled – that was saying something. "So what's it like breaking the story of the century at the only paper that's got it?"
"Honestly?" Chloe said. "Nerve-wracking. Clark and I planned for this when he decided to…start his career, but Lois has the story, he's coming in for a job interview tomorrow, and I have the sneaking suspicion that all hell is going to break loose."
"Well, I'm sure that would be a nice change of pace from the mundaneness of your life."
"You'd think." Chloe laughed. "And, you know, Clark's done his homework. He knows how the Planet works. We're going to let Lois write her eyewitness account of the rescue, wait for the story to blow up, and then he'll swoop in and offer an exclusive interview."
"To Lois Lane? Your cousin? Considering how long you said she lived at the farm and the weakness she seems to have for guys for hero complexes, that seems like a terrible plan."
"No, no," Chloe scoffed, laughing derisively. "Interviews are delicate and Lois can't be trusted, especially not with these secrets. So he's going to write it."
"Clark's going to interview himself?"
"Clark's going to interview Superman. Or, if for some bizarre reason Perry doesn't give him the job, I will."
"And are you going to publicize…" Pete trailed off, remembering a warm night sophomore year when a UFO in a cornfield changed his life forever. "You know, the big secret. Is that newsworthy?"
Chloe paused. "At this point, it's up to him. I think he's waiting to see how the public responds to a flying guy in a unitard first." She stopped again as people walked by her desk. "If something goes wrong, he may never tell."
Pete listened to the commotion coming from the conference room down the hall; the press had arrived. "That might be for the best, Chlo. I freaked when I found out, and I'd known him our whole lives. I'm not sure the American people can handle it."
Chloe sighed, and Pete heard the exhaustion she always tried to hide. "Well, you know Clark. His faith in humanity is pretty damn unrelenting."
Pete chuckled, keeping his voice low – Lori was in the next cubicle, after all. "Must be an alien thing."
"No," Chloe said, a smile in her voice, "I think it's just a Kent thing." A gruff voice in the background called Chloe's name, and even Pete flinched. "Listen, Pete, it's been great talking to you, but I have to go. My editor calls."
Pete smiled, glad that Chloe finally had what she'd always wanted: the inside line on weirdness and her name on the front page. "Knock 'em dead, Chlo."
"Thanks, Pete." She paused, her voice dipping in volume again. "And if you hear anything weird around the governmental water cooler? Like, bad-weird? Ominous-weird?"
"You'll be the second person I call," Pete said, "after Martha."
Chloe's voice softened. She said, "I wouldn't have it any other way," and then Pete heard a soft click as the line disconnected.
Pete remembered Clark's growth spurt distinctly. Clark was fifteen, and it seemed like he took only two weeks for him to transform from a lanky, normal-sized kid to a six-foot-tall, muscular version of Clark – one that looked dangerously like a man. After that spring, Pete grew used to Clark looming over him, all broad shoulders and long arms.
But now, Superman was striding towards Pete's cubicle; he was a veritable eyesore in blue spandex. The giant red cape trailed after him, creating its own wind. He looked vaguely like Clark on his most stoic days, but he positively towered over the Clark that Pete remembered. He seemed like he was standing up straighter, thrusting his shoulders back so severely that Pete was sure it would have been painful for a non-Kryptonian spine. His broad chest displayed the 'S' proudly, just as it had worn Jor-el's scar during that one frightening summer.
As Clark – no, Superman – passed, he left whispering, awed interns and aides in his wake. Lori, in the cubicle across from his, giggled indiscreetly into her hand. Some people reached up to feel the cape fluttering past, as if they weren't sure if he were real.
And none of it seemed to faze him. It was Clark's biggest fear – having everyone in the room know his secret – but he had been preparing for it his entire life. If Pete hadn't been able to see Clark's thick fingers twitching nervously in the cape, he would have believed that Superman was entirely fearless about meeting the President of the United States.
Seeing his friend, after so many years, in the guise of this stoic demigod made Pete miss Clark more than the distance between Smallville and Wichita had.
Jeanne was leading him tentatively down the hall. She kept glimpsing over her shoulder at him, as if she expected him to vanish at any moment.
She stopped abruptly in front of the water cooler, the same spot where she had briefed Kaufman on Superman's existence the day before. She turned on her heel and Superman paused mid-stride. His cape settled slowly behind him, as if it existed in its own ethereal gravity. Pete was grateful to have one of the best seats in the house.
"The secretary will be here shortly, mister…uh, sir." She pushed her glasses up her nose. "Perhaps you would like to meet some of our hard-working interns?"
Superman smiled down at Jeanne benevolently, and Pete was reminded suddenly of Jonathan Kent. "I would love to, Miss Turner."
He turned his towering frame towards Lori. The girl's giggles were bubbling up uncontrollably. Even Jeanne seemed disarmed by Lori's fawning. "This is Lori Lemaris," she said. Lori managed to extend a weak hand, and Superman took it gently.
"It's a pleasure, Miss Lemaris. Are you enjoying your internship?"
Lori, who had been a national debate champion in high school, said, "Uh huh."
Jeanne motioned for Superman to turn around. "And this young man is—"
"—Pete Ross," Pete said quickly.
Superman turned just in time to meet Pete's grin, and his jaw dropped unceremoniously open. Pete extended a hand, and Superman took it as he grasped for words.
"It's, um, very nice to meet you, Pete – I mean, Mr. Ross." His eyebrows had shot up to his spit-curl in a suspiciously Clark-like gesture.
Pete held Superman's hand perhaps a moment too long before dropping it. "Likewise. Sir."
Before Superman could ask Pete an inane question about being an intern, a nearby door slammed open, and Secretary Kaufman emerged from his office, looking frazzled and just a bit breathless. He was followed by a few men with cameras, and the flashing lights blinded Pete momentarily.
Kaufman rushed up to Superman aggressively. "I'm Dennis Kaufman, and Superman, it's an honor," he said, grabbing his hand with both of his own. All the vulgarity and cynicism from the previous day had vanished. "Is it all right to call you Superman?"
"That would be fine, Mr. Kaufman," Superman said, stiffer than even Clark at his politest. "And it's certainly an honor to meet you, sir."
"Nonsense. I've never saved over a hundred people's lives in one fell swoop." Kaufman chuckled, his PR charm turned all the way up. "If you'll excuse the expression."
Superman smiled tightly – Clark was quaking in his garish red boots. His hand twitched, and Pete knew that he wanted to run it through his delicately slicked-back hair.
Kaufman laughed again, putting a hand on one huge, blue arm. "Let's not keep Mr. President waiting, hm?"
Kaufman started tugging Superman down the hall. Pete knew that Clark could have stopped him easily, but the Kents had raised him too well for that – it was the President, after all. Superman shot back one quick look that Pete couldn't quite read, and then he and the secretary disappeared around the corner, toward the Oval Office.
Lori was gaping at Pete, opened-mouthed. "Jesus, Pete," she said, having finally recovered from her nervous fit. "That was Superman. He can fly."
Pete smiled, remembering a certain loft, a certain telescope, and a certain dorky farmboy. "Underneath that cape and those powers, he's just a guy, Lori. I bet, if he walked in here in jeans and a t-shirt, you wouldn't even notice him. Deep down, he's probably just like us."
Lori scoffed and indignantly turned back to her computer.
Pete elbowed through the crowd of spectators outside the White House. There were always a few posing for pictures or protesting something or other, but today it was a throng of wide-eyed men, women, and children hoping to catch a glimpse of Superman.
Pete had already had his glimpse, so he headed toward his usual lunch spot, near the newspaper vendor by the Washington Monument. He bought the Planet every day for Chloe's articles, but today had the added bonus of Lois' splashy story on Superman and his big plane rescue. He had to admit that he was morbidly curious to see how much she got right; it was like being best friends with Bigfoot.
"Young Mr. Ross!" Mahjoub greeted from inside the newsstand, holding the paper in his hands. "The Planet has been selling like mad, but I put a copy aside for you, not to worry."
The headline looked bigger than normal, with bold letters that spanned the width of the page. It read, "MYSTERIOUS HERO SAVES PLANE, LIVES," with the subtitle, "A Daily Planet exclusive by Lois Lane." The picture was just as blurry as the TV news footage had been, but it was well-edited, no doubt by Chloe's ex, Jimmy. Pete could make out the cape, the boots, the big 'S,' and the crumpled metal where Clark had grabbed the underside of a wing. Pete whistled under his breath. Even after years of watching his friend break locks and jack up tractors, he had forgotten how strong Clark really was.
He sat down under a cherry blossom to read the article, but he wasn't through the lead before he heard a shrill scream.
Pete looked up abruptly. A greasy-looking man with dirty clothes and a beard was holding a gun to a girl's head. He yelled, "I'm taking this hallowed site in the master's name!"
Pete jumped to his feet, and his Planet fell to the ground, Superman side down. "Put the gun down, sir," he said, trying to be calm and assertive at the same time. "Please? I'm sure we can work out a way for you to…take the Washington Monument without anyone getting hurt."
Looking frightened and obviously unhinged, the man cocked the gun and the girl shrieked again. A tear was dripping down her cheek. "Don't come any closer, hero, or the girl gets it."
Pete's mind was racing, and the desperation on the girl's face felt like a wound of his own. "Okay," he said, keeping his voice even. "Why don't we…RUN!"
On Pete's cue, the girl wrenched her way out of the man's grasp and she took off, stumbling toward the street. The man swung the barrel of the gun toward Pete with determination.
Pete barely had time to register what was happening before the shot rang out.
He blinked, and when he opened his eyes, all he saw was bright red. For a moment, he thought he was dead. But then he felt the cool Washington breeze and realized that his vision was being blocked by a cape that was hanging off a pair of very broad shoulders.
Of course, Pete thought, Chloe's voice echoing in his ears. Who else could it be?
Everyone in the park was still, their mouths hanging open in shock. Superman had one hand on his hip, and the other one was balled in a powerful, smoking fist. He opened it, revealing the crumpled bullet. Immediately, the shooter fell to his knees, sobbing.
Superman looked at the spectators with a lopsided grin. "I do hope someone has called the police?"
He strode forward and grabbed at the man's arm. He jerked the gun out of his hand and, in one quick motion, wrapped his hand around the barrel and squeezed. The mangled weapon fell to the ground and its clatter against the sidewalk echoed in the silence.
The girl was standing in the street, crying harder now than before. Superman walked toward her tentatively. "Are you okay, miss?" he asked benignly. "Do you need to go to the hospital?"
The girl shook her head, speechless, and plopped down onto the ground.
Superman then turned on his heel to meet Pete's eyes. Again, Pete caught the subtle glimmer of recognition, as Superman's eyebrows quirked up in surprise.
Pete, still recovering from shock of being shot at, suddenly didn't think that the Superman thing was so crazy anymore.
Superman opened his mouth again, and his voice was pitched slightly higher. "What about you, sir?" He gave Pete an exaggerated once-over. "It…looks like you need some medical attention." He wrapped a thick arm around Pete's waist, looking around at the other spectators. Police sirens were drawing closer. He smiled tightly. "Have a nice day, folks."
And before Pete could protest – tell Clark that this was his dumbest idea yet, even including the cape – his feet were lifted off the ground. An awed murmur rippled through the crowd. Pete instinctively threw his arms around Superman's neck and tried not to look down.
Secret-keeping was fine, but Pete had not bargained for flying.
When they were far enough away to be out of ear shot, Superman looked down at Pete with a glower. When he spoke, his voice wasn't the deep, important timbre that Pete had heard in the White House, but the amiable tenor that he recognized from high school.
"That was a pretty stupid thing you did, Pete."
Pete was not in the mood to be lectured at, especially not by Clark. "It's what you would have done."
Clark's brows knit together. "We're not both bulletproof."
Pete looked up. "But we're both good people."
"I didn't say it wasn't noble," Clark said, his voice dropping back down, near his hero register. "I just said it was stupid."
Pete would have crossed his arms in anger if they weren't hanging on for dear life. He scowled bitterly. "It's nice to see you, too, man."
Clark sighed ruefully, and then they were dropping out of the sky at a gentle-but-still-petrifying speed. Pete finally looked down, just for a second.
"Hey, that's my building." He looked up at Clark, mystified. "How did you know where I live?"
"Chloe gave me your address," Clark said. "I actually was going to call you while I was in town, so you know."
Pete tucked in his head as they glided in through an open window. "But Chloe neglected to tell you that I work at the White House?" He plopped down on his couch, grateful to feel the ground again, or at least his carpet.
Clark crossed his arms over his chest. "She always did have a mean streak."
Pete was glancing around – he wanted to look at anything but Clark's ridiculous get-up – when he noticed the clock on his DVD player. "Wait a minute," he said. "You're supposed to be talking with the President right now."
Clark nodded. "I was with him when I heard the gun shot."
Pete sputtered ungracefully for a moment. "You mean to tell me that you got there…"
Clark's smile looked dangerously like a smirk, but he at least had the decency to duck his head. "Lois' phrase is 'faster than a speeding bullet.'"
"Damn." Pete chuckled. "The girl is rarely apt, but she hit that one on the nose."
Clark smiled wider, and despite the tights and cape, it was all farmboy. "You know, I should probably get back to my meeting with the President of the United States."
"Yeah, yeah. But you're not getting off that easy. We need to get together at some point – catch up, and discuss about—" he waved a hand in Clark's direction "—all this."
Clark clutched at his cape self-consciously. "Name the time and place."
"Capitol Café, tomorrow, one o'clock. Be there, Clark, man."
With a laugh, Clark leapt out the window and zoomed away in a red blur.
Pete shook his head with a quiet chuckle. "Or, y'know," he said to himself, "Superman."
It was 1:12. Pete couldn't say he was surprised. For all his otherworldly powers, Clark seemed to be allergic to kryptonite, Lana Lang, and punctuality. At least now he probably had a good reason – talking to a senator, stopping another plane crash, or maybe saving a kitten from a tree.
Yeah, he'd better have a good reason.
The café door opened with a conspicuous squeak, and there was Clark – not Superman, but Clark fucking Kent. He was wearing a t-shirt under an enormous blazer, too broad even for him. His shortened hair was brushed back hastily, though a few rebel locks fell onto his forehead. He was standing with his shoulders hunched forward, erasing a few inches of his striking height.
But these were all footnotes next to the glasses. They were bulky, monstrous things, with thick black frames that overwhelmed his square face. The lenses shaded his eyes, masking the color and changing the shape.
They were a stroke of genius, so they must have been Chloe's idea.
"Pete! Hey!" Clark looked around shiftily, like he wanted to make sure his ridiculous ruse was working. They hugged awkwardly.
"Hey, congrats on the new job, man." Pete smiled when Clark's eyes widened. "I mean the Planet. I talked to Chloe yesterday."
Clark visibly relaxed. Even with the disguise, the guy still needed some acting lessons.
"My interview with Perry was just now. How did you know I got the job?"
Pete took a sip of his latte and mused that this farm kid was a budding investigative journalist. "Of course you got the job. You've always been a good writer, you're best friends with half of the reporting staff, and, as I recall, you gave Perry White the ol' Clark Kent treatment way before Superman ever hit the scene." Pete raised an eyebrow. "Plus, I'm sure your Superman interview is fantastic."
"Will be fantastic. That's what I doing when I get back to Metropolis." Clark eyes betrayed his amusement. "Superman refused to speak to the press until he talked to the President."
"Well, be nice to him." Pete leaned in when a waitress breezed by with Clark's coffee. "I hear that guy can fry you with a glance."
"I don't know, Pete," Clark said, pushing his glasses up his nose. "I think I can handle myself."
Pete leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms appraisingly. "I like this routine," he said. "Did Chloe help you with it?"
Clark's eyebrows shot up over the frames of his glasses. "Routine?"
"The bumbling, slouching neophyte. It's clever." Pete laughed. "This double life business wouldn't have worked if you'd lumbered around like you did in high school."
Clark looked not unlike a kicked puppy. "I didn't lumber."
"I seem to recall several occasions where you followed Chloe or Lana around like a bodyguard, throwing your weight around." He smirked at Clark's frown. "Don't get me wrong – that'll work great for the other gig."
"Chloe says that if I'm quiet, no one will notice that I'm tall." Tugging at the hem of his blazer, Clark sighed. "I'm not a loud guy normally, but it's not going to be easy to stay invisible."
"Well," Pete said pointedly, "considering how extraordinarily visible a certain public hero is, I don't think you'll have too much of a problem."
Clark smiled tightly, his fingers scratching idly under his sleeve. Pete caught a glimpse of the bright blue fabric beneath.
"I've got to say, also, man – I love the glasses."
Clark blushed, ducking his head, and Pete was amazed at how different this was from the confidence and poise of Superman, and even from the presence and bulk of high school Clark. He fingered the thick frames self-consciously.
"I don't know who I'm kidding," he said, scoffing. "I mean, I'm going to be working with world-class reporters, and they're not going to notice that Clark looks like Superman in a pair of Elvis Costello glasses?"
"I don't think you have to worry," Pete said. "It's more like Superman looks kind of like Clark, but taller, bigger, and more confident."
"What's the difference?"
"How could anyone possibly imagine an enormous, important hero stuttering and slouching?"
Clark offered a small smile. "That's what my mom said."
Pete snickered. "She's a smart lady. And a hell of a seamstress."
"Oh, gosh, the costume." Clark shook his head. "It's so…tight. Chloe kept demanding that Mom take it in more. I think she was getting back at me for something."
"Four years of high school spring to mind," Pete said with a smile.
Clark ran his hand through his hair, and it became even more unruly. "Please," he said, "don't remind me."
Pete laid his hands down on the table thoughtfully. "So how does it feel?" he asked.
Clark raised his eyebrows. "I think it's even chafing me a little."
"Not the costume, you dunce," he said, laughing, "although those were words that can't be unheard, so thanks for that." He dropped his voice the slightest bit. "I mean, what's it like coming out of the superhero closet?"
Clark adjusted his glasses again and exhaled slowly. Pete understood – it must have been an exhausting week for him. "To be honest, it's terrifying." he said, the burden he carried finally revealing itself. "Talking to the President yesterday was the most nerve-wracking experience of my life, and that includes the time or two I died for a while." He and Pete shared an uneasy smile. They had always glossed over the really weird stuff during their friendship, but some things in Clark's life were hard to ignore. "But at the same time, it's exhilarating. Being able to save lives without having to conceal myself – it's the most incredible experience."
"It's pretty crazy from my end, too, man," Pete said. "The flying definitely had to be experienced to be believed."
"Yeah." Clark seemed distant, even wistful. "Even after all those years of growing up and discovering my gifts, that's the one thing that still seems unreal, even to me."
"Well, didn't it just happen?"
"Yes and no. I started to practice when I moved to Metropolis, but I've been floating very occasionally since I was fifteen."
Pete frowned. "You never told me that."
"Well, it only happened subconsciously, like after really intense dreams and stuff." Clark blushed so faintly that Pete almost missed it. "And I only actually flew once, when I was brainwashed by Jor-el a few months after you moved. It never occurred to me try to control it." He looked down, picking invisible lint off his t-shirt. "It wasn't really a big deal."
Pete scoffed. Clark's concept of 'a big deal' was a little skewed.
Clark rolled his eyes and continued. "Chloe thinks that I was so burdened by keeping my secret from everyone in Smallville that I mentally blocked the ability. That I just wouldn't let myself fly until I got out of there."
Pete thought back to the boy he grew up with, the one who became more serious and withdrawn with each passing year. "She may have a point," he said. "I mean, Chloe was always smarter than both of us."
Clark's eyes narrowed. "I have a photographic memory, you know."
"Which makes her superior intelligence all the more impressive," Pete shot back with a grin. "What do you think about her theory?"
"I don't know, but let me put it this way," Clark said, letting his glasses slide down his nose ever so slightly. "I'm not afraid of heights anymore."
"Does that mean you're going to reveal the whole truth?" Pete asked slowly.
Clark pushed his glasses back up. "I don't know," he said. "I'd like to, but I'm not sure. I have to think about it."
Pete sighed. "Well, you know I've got your back either way, man, but I don't know if it's such a good idea."
Clark nodded, somber. "But you wouldn't out me, right? You'd run interference in the White House for me, if you needed to?"
"Clark, it may have been a few years since we last talked like this, but I'm still your friend." Pete leaned forward. "And considering how many times I would have been dead without a certain superhero-in-training, putting in a good word for a good man is the absolute least I could do."
Clark grinned and Pete blinked. He had forgotten how bright Clark's smile was. "Thanks, man," he said. "It really is good to see you."
"Yeah, you, too," Pete said. "And now that you're flying Superman Express, you have no excuse to not visit every once in a while."
"Deal." Clark's smile grew even wider. He looked down to read the menu, and his glasses slid down again. "Now," he said, "what's good here?"
The murmur of the press waiting in the conference room was louder and more unruly than usual, and Pete took it as a bad omen. Clark's "interview" had been published that morning, and Pete was surprised at his own anxiety. He wanted to wait until his lunch hour to read the Planet, like any other day, but the palpable fervor in the White House's atmosphere had him nervous.
Secretary Kaufman stomped around the corner, a copy of the Daily Planet crumpled in his hand. Jeanne was following with her clipboard and a pen, nearly tripping over her own feet in order to keep pace with her boss.
"I would suggest avoiding use of the word 'invasion,' sir," she said cautiously.
Kaufman reached for a glass of water and nearly spilled it onto Pete's shoes. Pete turned to his computer and pretended to work, his heart racing in anticipation.
"Well, it's going to come up, whether we like it or not," Kaufman said, spraying drops of water onto Jeanne's glasses. "If not from the Planet or the Gazette, than at least from the Inquisitor. It's what naturally follows the word 'alien.'"
"He seemed like such a nice man," Jeanne said, almost to herself. "He didn't seem like an…invader."
Pete's stomach flip-flopped, and he gave into his anticipation. He called up the Planet website, and enormous, boldfaced letters greeted him: "CAPED HERO ON EARTH TO HELP, An exclusive interview by Clark Kent." A distant photo of Superman holding a car over his head was credited to James Olsen. Pete skimmed the article and was crushed to spot words like "Arctic fortress," "meteor shower," and "Krypton."
"Clark," he muttered under his breath. "You idiot."
"And to think we put him in a room with the President," Kaufman was saying gruffly. "This is a nightmare."
"The interview says that he's the last of his kind," Jeanne said, thumbing through her notes.
Kaufman sighed wearily. "But how do we know that for sure? What does Clark Kent know about Superman, anyway?"
Jeanne shrugged. "He knows enough that Superman chose this cub reporter for the interview that every journalist in the world was scrambling for."
"But was it just because this kid was gullible enough to print his crap?"
Jeanne leaned back against Pete's desk – Pete tried not to look up as he eavesdropped – and removed her glasses, pinching the bridge of her nose. "Look. Sir. As unbelievable as this revelation is, it doesn't change the fact that, in the past three days alone, Superman has saved the lives of 150 plane travelers, a bus full of Metropolitan nuns, three college students in Paris, and a crowd at the Washington Monument, including Mr. Ross, here."
At the sound of his own name, Pete's head shot up. "What?" he said dumbly.
Jeanne turned to him as Kaufman clenched his jaw behind her. "It was all over the wire yesterday, Pete," she said to him with a small smile. "I think it's pretty neat."
"What did he do, Ross?" Kaufman asked tentatively.
"He caught a bullet that would have killed me," Pete answered quietly.
The secretary's jaw dropped open. "He caught a bullet?"
Pete nodded, knowing that Clark could do far more than that. "In his bare hand."
"In his bare hand," Kaufman repeated. He met Jeanne's eyes. "Good thing he's American."
"Good thing he's…good," Jeanne countered.
"Don't worry, sir," Pete said wryly. "He's about as American as a bald eagle eating apple pie. I think you can trust him."
"I think so, too," Jeanne said. She smiled at Pete again.
The buzz of the press was growing louder. With a glance over his shoulder toward his waiting audience, Kaufman composed himself, smoothing out his suit. "You two had better be right," he said menacingly. "Because I have a country to reassure. Come on, Jeanne, we're late."
Kaufman and Jeanne both turned on their heels and strode toward the conference room. Jeanne shot one last serene look at Pete before she disappeared around the corner.
Meanwhile, Pete turned back to his computer and opened a window to write a new email.
"Clark," he typed. "Just talked to Kaufman about the interview. Superman: 101,689 saves. Pete Ross: 1. I'm mounting a comeback. See you around. Pete."
He hit 'send' and went back to work.