Yes, this is what derailed me from A Fellow Cape. Yes, I plan on finishing that eventually. But for now, here's this. It's only going to be 3 chapters (4 if I absolutely must spill over), but there's a possibility for follow-up stories. After I finish my other chapter fic. :) Anyway, I've been working on this, off and on, since April, so I'm glad I can finally get it out there. It's AU, in case you didn't notice. Please enjoy!
Disclaimer: I don't own Smallville, or Superman, or Lois Lane, or aliens. I may own the Daily Planet building, but keep it hush hush, alright?
The low, metallic click was surprisingly sharp against the looming quiet of uptown Metropolis. It echoed in the silence, drifting up from the darkened alley beneath her. Lois halted her efforts to jar open the window, mentally abandoning her useless lead on the Mayor's alleged concubine, and listened intently. A thump sounded below her, down one of the few alleys in Metropolis's townhouse district. Intrigued, Lois peered over the edge of the fire escape and squinted into the darkness. As her eyes adjusted, dark figures solidified in the alley below.
A half-muffled shriek ricocheted across the brick walls, and Lois nearly jumped out of her skin. Her heart began pounding wildly as she realized that the situation was, at best, a mugging and at worst . . . .
Lois's mind scrambled for a way down, ready to fight off the two hulking men that were becoming more visible by the second. It had taken her a good fifteen minutes to climb the broken ladder on the fire escape, but there had to be someway to get to those thugs. The slighter one had both arms wrapped around a thrashing, crying little girl, one hand clamped securely over her mouth. The other man was hovering menacingly over an unconscious teenager.
Anger flashed across Lois's face, and in a split second she had decided to simply vault off the platform. A mugging was one thing, but attacking two young girls in an alley? These scumbags were going down.
Then, suddenly, they were down.
Lois tripped to a stop, staring wide-eyed at the scene before her. The same men who, two seconds ago, had been terrorizing those girls were now writhing on the ground. But Lois didn't have a clue how they got there.
Then, all of a sudden, they were gone. Lois's eyes nearly popped out of her head as she stared dumbly at the two girls; the older still unconscious, the other standing on wobbly legs, stunned into silence. Lois had the brief thought that she should still do something, help them somehow, but she couldn't make herself move.
And then another towering man had arrived out of nowhere, and Lois was moving again, assessing the distance to the ground and how much it would hurt if she cushioned her fall on the pile of unassembled cardboard boxes to her left and twenty feet down.
"Are you okay?"
His voice was gentler than Lois expected—comforting—and though her mind was screaming at her to start moving, to save that poor little girl, her instincts kept her still.
The kid barely reached his hip, and he knelt down to speak to her. She took one look at the large man in front of her and burst into tears.
"Hey, hey, you're alright," he soothed, looking around for something to console her. Lois crept forward, peering over the rail, to follow his line of sight to a small, dirty teddy bear across the alley. In a blink, he was handing it to the girl.
She eyed it dubiously for only a moment before snatching it from his grasp and clutching the animal tightly against her chest.
"Are you alright?" he asked again, crouching even lower, as if by reducing his mass he might lessen the threat the girl perceived.
"S-sissy," her voice was as wobbly as her legs, and Lois had a flash of a three-year-old Lucy, crying for their mother after she was gone. The kid was going to break down at any moment.
The man glanced over to trace the contours of the unconscious teenager's frame, and in the sudden illumination of the full moon, Lois got a good look at his face. He was younger than she imagined, his features attractive and kind. Only the shadows playing across his jaw lent the least air of menace to his frame.
"Your sister's going to be fine," he assured the little girl. She sniffled, clutching the teddy bear closer. "I'm going to take her to the hospital, okay? Do you want to come?"
The words brought Lois back to herself, and though everything in her wanted to trust this man, she knew she couldn't. Lois dug through her purse for her phone, hoping the cops would have time to get there before this man took off with those children.
The man lifted the teenager with one arm, holding out the other for the dirt-streaked girl. As she climbed tentatively into his arms, Lois found her voice.
"Hey! Buddy! Drop those kids and-"
He looked up, startled, and met her eyes. Lois's finger moved reflexively, snapping a picture on her phone. Then a rush of wind rocked the alley, and Lois was left looking at an empty street.
She blinked, forcing herself from her blank stupor to dial her contact at the hospital. Her eyes were still wide when she heard the ringing stop.
"Hey, Brad-" she began hastily.
"Kinda busy right now, Lane," he deflected before she could begin.
"I just need to know if-"
"Look, two girls just showed up out of nowhere. Literally, just appeared in the middle of the E.R. They don't look too bad, but no one has a clue how they got here. You want the scoop, you're gonna have to call back, okay?"
"Sure," Lois murmured half-heartedly, hanging up the phone. Her heart rate picked up as a smile crept across her face. She clicked back to the dark photo, the thrill of a new story thrumming in her veins. There was a Good Samaritan in Metropolis, and she had the proof. Now all she needed was the story.
Her research had been surprisingly easy. Lois had expected to spend weeks sniffing out scraps of information, but one look at the Daily Planet's database and her story was half done. Fires, muggings, even stings gone south were littered with mentions of unexplainable salvation. Of course, she couldn't attribute them all to the handsome stranger, but enough details synced with her own experience to give her quite a bit to go on.
What Lois couldn't believe was just how many of these occurrences people brushed off. Accounts ranged from "I must have passed out" to "I guess there's an angel watching out for me," but not a single person had considered the possibility that a physical person had actually saved them.
Granted, superpowers were supposed to be comic book myths, but Lois had seen firsthand that that particular fiction was actually fact.
The powers that be hadn't taken these encounters quite so lightly. After sweet-talking a government techie into opening a few files, Lois had found a large-scale and largely uninformed alert on the faceless savior. The few incident reports detailed unwarranted access to high security locations and several unexplainable halts to high risk experiments. The experiments themselves were blocked out, and her little friend wouldn't let her near anyone with enough pull to see the uncorrupted file.
Lois did manage to snag a copy of the blurry photo from their security cameras, which she spent hours examining along with the computer-enhanced picture from her phone.
Another week of roaming the streets, and a bitter shop owner had dropped the name "Smallville, Kansas" as the home of all unexplained phenomena. It wasn't much, but it was also only a few hours away. Lois was on the road by noon.
"Smallville is right," she muttered as she drove into town, staring disbelievingly at the single coffee shop. "More like Nowhere'sville."
Though she was only in town for research, she pulled out her file to stare at a glossy picture, imprinting his face on her brain. Not only did he have a chiseled jaw and warm blue eyes, he was positively huge. If someone had glimpsed this guy, she was sure to find out.
Armed with the printed image, the blurry shot from the government facility, and a trove of questions, Lois dove into an empty parking space and emerged from her car, already scanning the sidewalks for potential sources. For such a down-home town, the streets were next to empty. Where could everyone be in the middle of the day?
"You look lost, Missy," a weathered voice behind her noted. The jingling of a shop bell punctuated the statement.
Lois whirled, and forced her face smoothly professional when she caught sight of him. He was wearing plaid of all things, and coveralls. And even the welcoming face didn't erase all that dirt. Still, he looked nice enough, hovering inside the door of—she snuck a peek at the flaking sign above his head—Hal's Hardware.
Wasting no time, Lois flashed her best smile and extended one hand. "Lois Lane, Daily Planet," she greeted as he slowly switched a plastic bag from his right hand to his left and, even more slowly, shook her hand. It was rough and gritty. Clearly, he'd been working.
One grey eyebrow rose, and Lois saw his eyes dim. Apparently, she wasn't the first reporter he'd come across. "Ben," he informed her simply.
"So, Ben," she paused to look around, hoping to make him more comfortable. These country yokels were all about manners. "Is Smallville always a ghost town, or is today special?"
He cleared his throat before responding, "We do have to work, Ma'am. It's not quitting time for another two hours. Later," he added, "if you're running a farm."
Lois sidled closer, eyes flickering from the storefront to his mud-streaked clothes. "Is that what you do, Ben? Run a farm?"
He nodded, eyeing her suspiciously. With a sigh, Lois dropped the act.
"Okay, here's the deal," she crossed her arms, giving him her best no-nonsense stare. "I'm looking for a runner, too, but I doubt I'll find this one on a farm. How much do you know about superpowers?"
Rather than looking surprised, as she half-expected, Ben simply nodded. "That's what I thought," he told her, a smile briefly tugging his mouth upwards. He turned to walk down the sidewalk, gesturing her to follow. "We don't see many reporters around here, but when we do they always want to know about the meteors."
"Meteors?" Lois wondered, scribbling it into her notebook.
This time, Ben did look surprised. "You haven't done your homework, have you?"
"Of course I have!" Lois scoffed. Realizing affronted remarks probably weren't the way to go, she amended, "I just had a more specific subject."
"Well, whoever your subject is, they were probably infected by the meteors. Nasty business, if you ask me."
"Care to explain?" she asked, wondering what on earth a hunk of space rock had to do with her investigation.
"They mess people up," he confided, though he spoke as though it were common knowledge. "Once the meteors hit—before your time, honey," he interjected, picking up on her confusion, "but once they hit weird things started happening. People got . . . strange. Went cuckoo. And now we've got reporters that like to visit our little town for their extra credit projects."
"Well, there's not much else here, is there, Farmer Ben?" Lois asked wryly, turning to watch two boot-clad women disappear into a flower shop. She wondered if they'd even heard of Jimmy Choo.
He shrugged. "We like it that way."
"Okay, so the meteors change people," Lois surmised, doing her best not to roll her eyes. His story sounded as far-fetched as any small town superstition, but UFO stories might be all she had to go on. She was pretty much chasing a myth herself. It wouldn't do to dismiss the farmer's stories without at least attempting to verify them. "Then what?"
"Most of 'em go crazy," he said plainly, suddenly veering into the street with barely a glance in either direction. Lois wondered briefly if being hit by a car even hurt at three mile per hour.
"Are there any others?" she asked, steering the conversation back to her original topic. "Maybe some that help? That save people?"
Ben furrowed his brows, looking her up and down. "Why do you want to know?"
"I'm a reporter," she told him, her go-to answer when someone asked a personal question. She was there to get someone else's life story, not share her own. Her father had taught her that distinction before her journalism career had even started.
The grey-haired famer pursed his lips, abruptly turning toward a beaten up truck. "A few," he admitted, swinging his bag into the bed. "But some of our down home values," he flashed her a look, as if he knew she was judging the little town and its backwards thinking, "were bound to stick."
"Have you encountered them personally?" she asked, tamping down her excitement. Nothing yet had told her he was alluding to her superhero. She couldn't help but encourage, "Maybe someone who moves faster than sound?"
His eyes warmed. "You've had a strange encounter, haven't you, Ma'am?" She pressed her lips, refusing to answer, and he grinned. "Sure. Everyone's experienced a few mysterious saves. Doesn't mean we can tell you who it is," he gave her a pointed look, "Or would if we knew."
"There must be someone somewhere in this town who may have seen something," she countered. "If people are being saved then there have to be survivors. And even if it's just hearsay, any witnesses at all would be . . . ."
But Ben was shaking his head, and Lois stopped with a huff.
She drummed her tongue inside her mouth, sifting through the questions in her head. She got the sense was losing him, and though half his stories sounded like bull, there was just enough in them to make Lois hopeful.
The farmer pulled open the door to his truck, tipping an imaginary hat. "If you're all done, why don't you head on back to the city and write up your story. Those city editors won't look too deep."
Lois blinked, affronted at the insinuation. "The Daily Planet is the number one publication in the world," she informed him hotly.
He shook his head. "And Smallville is the most forgotten town on the planet," he informed her, sliding into the cab.
"Wait!" Lois called, scrambling over to his open window to shove a photograph under his nose. If only he would admit to seeing the blurry rescuer, she'd know she was onto something. Thank goodness for that government techie; her little phone camera would never have captured the blurry streak of pixels she was hoping the farmer would recognize. "Have you seen this man?" she asked, a little breathless.
Ben blinked down at the photo, then looked up at her, bewildered.
"I saw him in Metropolis," she finally admitted, hoping it would make him trust her, at least a little.
"Clark? Sure," he said warily, thrown by the apparent shift in tack. Lois felt a little confused herself as he handed back the photo. "But I doubt he'll be able to help you. Even if he did see your superhero, he'll keep it to himself."
Lois looked down, and realized she'd handed the gentleman the wrong picture. This wasn't the mysterious streak she was hoping Ben had, at some point, seen whirlwind by. Staring up at her were the dark, strong features of the mystery hero. Suddenly her ears were roaring so loudly she barely heard the farmer finish his remark.
"The Kents always were quiet folk."
Lois watched Ben Hubbard—she'd wrangled his last name from him during the drive—disappear in his blue Chevy, leaving a cloud of dust swirling around her. The sudden lead still had her a little stunned, and the potential for this story had her nearly giddy in anticipation. If she played her cards right, she'd have a Pulitzer in her hands in no time.
Gripping her file, Lois squared her shoulders and strode past the cheery mailbox, under the hand-carved sign—"Kent Farm." Seriously, is anybody around here remotely original?—and down the long dirt driveway.
The house was warm and picturesque, and Lois felt a little intimidated as she climbed the porch steps. Would she be greeted by the scent of cookies and a little wife in a little skirt? Or was this some ancestral home, housing several generations who worked together as a loving family unit?
Both options curled her stomach; she had never understood the whole family concept. She found herself praying he was alone as she rapped hard on the door.
Lois waited impatiently for several seconds, then knocked again.
"Hello," she called, leaning sideways to peer into a window. The living room looked neat and comfortable, but currently held no bulky farmboys. "Anybody home?" she wondered loudly, doing her best to peer up the stairs.
The neighbor had been positive this Clark character would be here, but the house seemed pretty vacant to her. Shrugging, Lois jogged down the stairs and around the edge of the farmhouse.
There was no way she was touching the endless grass and fences full of cows, so she trudged toward the barn and peered inside. It was dimly lit, and her eyes started to water the second the dusty air hit them.
"Yech," Lois complained to herself, fighting back a sneeze. "Why, of all places, am I in a barn right now?"
"Looking for me, I'd guess," a deep voice drifted from a stall on her right, and Lois started. "Unless you've come to visit Krypto." With a low chuckle, he rounded the wooden wall and, at the sight of her, came to a sudden stop.
For a moment, Lois could do nothing but stare. Of course, during the ride with Farmer Ben she'd come to terms with the fact that the shadowy savior from the alley might, in fact, live on a farm. He could, possibly, even be a farm boy. Still, she wasn't quite prepared for the visual.
His wavy hair was tangled and sprinkled with hay. A streak of dust had smeared itself across his nose. His faded jeans brushed the top of dirty boots, and his white t-shirt sported specks of what she hoped was mud. His large hands were jammed into worn gloves that were nearly threadbare with use. And behind him, slung over a low beam, was a plaid shirt.
She didn't know whether she was more appalled or turned on. And that appalled her.
"You're-" he breathed, recognition scattering across his features, just as she stepped forward, regaining her usual bravado.
"Lois Lane," she introduced, sticking out a hand and—with a glance and a wrinkled nose in the direction of his dirty gloves—retracting it before he could touch her. "Daily Planet," she added, hoping he hadn't noticed.
She could almost see the knot work its way through his throat. Deliberately, he turned and leaned his pitchfork against the stall. Then he removed his gloves, finger by finger, and laid them across a bale of hay.
He was stalling. Building his defenses.
She waited until he faced her again—a feat of patience she was surprised she managed—before inquiring casually, "Clark Kent, I presume?"
"How do you know that?" he demanded, throat raspy. Lois blinked at his tone and shrugged.
"Your neighbor, Ben Hubbard. He gave me a ride from town." A thought hit her suddenly, and she frowned. "Hey, I left my car on Main Street. Think you can white tornado me into town later?"
If she'd thought he looked wary before, now he went positively rigid. "'White tornado?'" he quoted, too much scoff in his tone.
Tamping down the urge to roll her eyes—his acting skills frankly sucked—Lois felt an unexpected wave of compassion. This guy had compromised his identity to do a good deed, and here she was accosting him in his barn.
Nice one, Lane, she chastised herself. Sometimes, she let her fervor for the truth get in the way of her people skills.
She exhaled heavily, and tried again.
"Look," she said softly, moving towards him. "I saw you save those girls the other night. And I'm pretty sure you know I saw you," she interjected as he opened his mouth to argue. "I'm not here to turn you over to anybody. Because, honestly?" she took a deep breath and stopped an arm's length from him. Slowly, she raised her eyes to his and, though she didn't know why, she admitted, "I think it's kind of amazing."
He stared at her, and they were both transfixed. Impossibly, as the moments melded in their gazes, Lois felt her heart beating more rapidly. Panic flared.
You're here for a story, Lane, she reminded herself firmly. It doesn't matter if he looks like a Greek god and saves small girls on the weekends.
"You can't tell anyone," he breathed—begged—and it was so different from the soothing, controlled tone Lois had been replaying for days that she blinked. He reached out a hand, hesitated, and brushed his fingers across her shoulder, where her skin tingled pleasantly. She shrugged off the feeling, though she did nothing about his hand.
"Are you kidding?" she asked, truly surprised. "You could be famous! This story could make my-" suddenly, her career didn't seem so important, "-your-" she didn't know what it would do for him, exactly. She halted, searching for the words. "You'd be a hero," she told him earnestly. "You could help so many people."
Instead of convincing him, as she'd half-expected, her little speech had planted near panic in his eyes. His rough palm tightened on her shoulder, seeming to encase the whole space from neck to arm.
It was intimidating. It was riveting.
"You can't tell anyone," he insisted, pleading and forceful in a way that made Lois's pulse skip. "Please," he added earnestly, looking straight into her eyes.
The word hung in the air, and it wasn't until he sagged in relief that Lois realized she'd said it. She opened her mouth to take it back, to tell him she needed to write the story, he needed it written, but he breathed, "thank you," and she just couldn't do it.
Lois blinked, gathering herself. Now that her whole plan was out the window, she didn't quite know what to do with herself. They stood there, not speaking, not moving, bodies close and eyes darting, until the silence was too much for her.
"That doesn't mean I'm leaving you alone," she warned, impulsively sitting on the nearest bale of hay. The distance from him eased the thrumming tension in her muscles. It was definitely worth the pokey straw needling her ass. "I saw you singlehandedly rescue two kids from the Jack-the-Ripper tag-team—and rush the girls to the hospital—in less than two minutes," he winced as she laid it all out there, but didn't argue. "As you can imagine," Lois smiled and bit her lip, impishly letting any vestiges of professionalism disintegrate, "I have a few questions."
He considered her closely, though Lois had no idea what he was looking for. She tried not to squirm as his deep blue eyes raked over her face and settled on her eyes. After a moment he nodded his dark head, spilling wisps of hay into the air, and grabbed his pitchfork.
"Fire away," he allowed, flashing her a wry smile and spearing the sharp prongs into the bale next to her. She jumped, shot him a dirty look, and brushed off the incident as she settled back, pestering him with question after question as he finished his morning work.
So that's part one. Stay tuned for more! And please let me know what you think. Comments really keep me motivated and happy, but they also ground me as far as what the readers want. So help me help you! Haha.