By Tank Wilson and Wendy Richards
Submitted: July 2001
Summary: Looks like Lois is not the only one after *the* superman exclusive!
Authors: Tank Wilson <TankW1@aol.com> and Wendy Richards <email@example.com>
Wendy: Regular readers of Tank's work, or eavesdroppers on his comments on the message boards, will know his opinion of Jimmy Olsen. For those who don't… well, let's just say that it's not high. <g> Recently, he's taken to debating with a couple of authors in whose stories Jimmy plays a major role and is an intelligent, able character, arguing that (a) Jimmy is too stupid to be that smart, and (b) he needs to be killed off. So I thought it might be fun to give him a story in which Jimmy was the main character (the story was actually written in Jimmy's POV), showed some initiative, became a hero… and then perhaps not a hero after all. How would our favourite Jimmy-hater deal with such a challenge? But then, I needn't have worried. Not only did Tank come through with flying colours in his own inimitable way, he also provided readers with *two* alternate endings — well, we protested loudly at the first and insisted that he write another! I suspect that this time, instead of providing Tank with a tough challenge, I actually gave him the opportunity to write about Jimmy the way he's always wanted!
Tank: I think what we have here is incontrovertible proof that Wendy is one of the most evil beings to ever invade FoLCdom. We all know her as the sweet academian who likes to write long, angsty stories with Waffy/Happy endings that would imperil a diabetic. But it is in little exercises like this one where we see her true evil nature come through. Like most perceptive individuals, I realize that Jimmy Olsen is one of the most uninteresting, useless, pathetic, and pointless supporting characters ever to disgrace the pages of fiction. In the comic books his character started out as just ridiculous, only to morph through many changes over the years each more silly than the last. In the series he fared little better, with his most interesting characteristic being the 'cute' way he always interrupted Lois and Clark whenever they decided to get amorous. Knowing full well that I've never tried to hide my feelings about Jimmy, what does Wendy do? She writes a challenge set-up that contains Jimmy as the main driving force behind the entire story! What did I tell you? Is that not the definition of evil?
After considering my options for a bit (which included not even attempting to resolve this challenge) I came up with what I thought was an elegant solution. But, alas, a couple of the gentle readers weren't happy with my first resolution. So, in the interest of placating the audience, and because I'm just a darn nice guy, I fought my natural instincts and wrote a second version of the resolution. Unfortunately, I had to stray a bit from Jimmy's true characterization and make him a somewhat competent person. Oh well, I guess that's why they call it fiction.
As with our previous collaborations, there are both US and UK spellings in this story. This is because Tank is in the US and Wendy in the UK; each writes in their own 'language' and, since the story is written in two separate halves, it is appropriate to leave each author's spelling as it is.
All rights in the characters in this story belong to DC Comics and Warner Brothers.
In the darkened newsroom, Jimmy Olsen shut down his computer for the day and sighed. It wasn't a tired or a depressed sigh; more a heavily wry one. This morning he had uncovered a major fraud which was being perpetrated by one of Metropolis's most respected dot.com companies. It was a fraud which was creaming off large amounts of money from the company's shareholders, as well as denying the company's customers value for money. In effect, the company promised a service which it did not deliver in full, charged more for that service through a series of 'hidden' costs and additional extras which shouldn't have been necessary, and then did not declare the full value of receipts from these extras, so the shareholders lost out — as did the IRS.
And Jimmy had found out what was going on. He'd been curious, in the first instance, about some of the small print on the company's website, knowing that some elements which were listed as being charged separately were things which should have been integral to the service. He'd spent a couple of hours analysing the content of the website, even getting in to look at some of the source code, and then eventually had thrown caution to the wind and hacked into the company's computers, exploiting a security loophole on their server. And ultimately he'd come up with the evidence.
But it was a big story, and so Perry had insisted that Lois and Clark should take it on. A couple of interviews later, and Jimmy's extensive notes had become a Lane and Kent scoop, with an 'acknowledgement' to James Olsen for 'research'.
Oh, Jimmy didn't deny that Lois and Clark were the best there was at their job. That wasn't the point. The point was that *he* was good too, and talented. And that this had been *his* scoop, and he should have got more credit than a note, tucked away at the bottom of the article, that no-one would read.
Maybe, he thought, as he'd wondered several times over the course of the past six months or so, it was time to look for another job. Oh, he loved working at the Daily Planet, and Perry White was his mentor and hero. Lois Lane and Clark Kent were the two contemporary reporters he admired most, and he'd learned a lot from them and from Perry. But no-one seemed to accept that he was now ready for more than a 'jack of all trades' role. He was far more than just a computer whiz-kid; more than a jobbing photographer who could be sent on the occasional assignment. And he was good for better than covering the occasional dog-show.
Yes, he thought sadly as he grabbed his leather jacket and headed for the elevator. It was time to move on.
~ Three months later ~
Jimmy finished reading through his latest story and hit 'Send' to email it to the Metropolis Star's news editor. It was a good piece of work, he thought; competent, even if not earth-shattering. Just like all his work so far, he admitted. It wasn't just that he hadn't yet managed to nail a really big story. He tried; he tried very hard, but he still hadn't managed to master that elegance of phrase which Clark Kent was so good at, nor Lois's pithy straight- to-the-point writing.
Not that there would be much room for elegance of phrasing at the Star: shorter was very definitely better here. No sentence should take up more than two lines of text, and no words requiring a reading age of higher than about twelve were permitted under the style guide. Dumbing down, indeed, Jimmy had thought in his first week at the Star.
But he was definitely in a better position here than he had been at the Planet; there was no doubt about that. At the Star, he was a staff-grade reporter — there was no expectation that he'd still be a part-time gofer or that he could be called upon at any time to sort out people's computer problems. And, although he was permitted to take photographs, some of which even found their way into the newspaper, he wasn't considered one of the paper's regular photographers and therefore wasn't sent out on routine photo-assignments. He was free to focus on investigating and writing in the city and business section. And he was doing well, having been promoted to more meaty assignments within a month of starting, and his section head seemed pleased with his work.
Leaving the Planet had been a wrench. He could still see Perry's shocked expression when he'd gone to tell the Chief; after all Perry had done for him, Jimmy simply couldn't bring himself to resign by letter. Perry had felt let down, Jimmy knew; but he'd reminded himself about his own feelings of being let down, of never being trusted to do more than junior stuff. His career ambitions had been frustrated at the paper, he'd finally managed to say to Perry.
Perry had looked taken aback at that, and had belatedly offered to assign Jimmy more reporting work. But Jimmy had taken the decision to be firm; it was too little, too late, and he needed to make the break. If he stayed at the Planet, he'd rationalised, he'd continue to be seen as the newsroom junior and would never be taken seriously as a reporter. The Star, on the other hand, had already offered him a staff job.
Lois had acted as if she thought he was letting Perry down, but Clark had taken Jimmy aside and told him quietly, and clearly with some regret, that he thought Jimmy was doing the right thing. "Not that I'm happy to see you going to a paper like the Star. I know you're a lot better than that. But Perry was never going to see what you were capable of if you stayed. There was a time when I thought he would, but it just didn't happen."
Now, Jimmy missed Clark most of all. He might have known Lois for longer, but her coolness at his departure had surprised and disappointed him; of anyone at the Planet, he'd expected that she would understand his reasons. Because of her coolness, and because the Star was such a rival to the Planet, he'd barely seen either reporter since his departure. Apart from anything else, Lois and Clark had never been part of the newspaper crowd who tended to socialise regularly at the Press Club, nor did they hang out at any of the bars frequented by reporters. When they weren't working, they spent their free time alone together. They were the happiest married couple Jimmy knew.
When he'd seen either or both of them professionally, things had been polite. Clark always had a friendly smile for Jimmy and would pause a moment to chat, but Lois was always in a hurry and tended to give Jimmy a brief, and seemingly insincere, smile.
But then, he knew, he had to accept that the Planet was his past. The Star was his future, and he was going to make a name for himself. One of these days, he would get one of those really big stories — an exclusive, when elegance of phrase really didn't matter. He would be as ruthless as necessary in getting what he wanted. And then he would get himself nominated for awards; of that he was determined. And then maybe one day Perry White would beg his pardon and admit that he'd been wrong about James Olsen.
A couple of days later, Jimmy was listening in to the police scanner to see whether there was anything of interest when he heard a report that a journalist had been kidnapped and was being held hostage in an attempt to get the Daily Planet to print an editorial in favour of some lunatic fringe group. Quite what good any newspaper printing such an editorial under duress would do anyone, Jimmy had no idea; no sensible reader would take it seriously for a moment. But that aside, the thought of a reporter, possibly one of his former colleagues, in trouble, bothered him a lot.
The report hadn't given any details about the reporter, so Jimmy quickly called the relevant precinct. There, the officer he spoke to refused to release any information whatsoever about the victim, let alone his or her identity.
So, finally, Jimmy called the Planet. He didn't want to speak to Perry, or Lois, but he tried Clark's extension. The phone rang a couple of times and then Clark's voicemail kicked in, so Jimmy hung up and tried Clark's cellphone. No answer there either.
Well, he wasn't going to call anyone else, he thought. This was still a big story, even if he didn't know who was involved. He'd found out the identity of the extremist group: a tiny neo-Nazi cabal no-one had ever heard of before. So that meant he could do some research, he thought, sitting down at his computer. These groups tended to use the Internet as their primary means of communication, setting up websites and bulletin boards, and then moving on after a few days when their service provider discovered the nature of the material being posted.
Within an hour, he'd traced the group to a number of websites, some of them 'ghost' sites which were simply mirrors of material held elsewhere, and had managed to trace some of the IP addresses. Most led to small Internet service providers who probably didn't know anything about the content of the site, but finally one link led to an independent server, whose location Jimmy was able to trace to within a mile radius. He also had a couple of names, not posted publicly on the website, but contained within what its writers had no doubt thought were very secure areas of the site. Those names, he suspected, were genuine.
A check of the voters' registration list gave him a couple of street addresses, one of which was in the area his own research had identified. He grabbed one of his cameras, a small digital one which was easily hidden, a tape-recorder and a few other items, then left the building.
Parking his convertible a few blocks away from his destination, Jimmy ensured that his accessories were well hidden before getting out and heading to the house he was looking for. This was a very run-down part of the city; many doors and windows were boarded up, and litter and other unpleasant debris was scattered on the pavements.
Studying the house carefully from a distance, Jimmy decided that his best bet was to go around the back and try to see whether he could sneak in to see what, if anything, was going on. So he ducked into an alley and then found himself in a lane which ran behind the street in question. Counting brought him to, he hoped, the correct house.
The back yard was tiny. Looking around him carefully first to check that there was no-one around, Jimmy climbed over the wall and swiftly scooted across the yard, coming to a halt in a crouch just below a window. Peering in, he noticed that the room beyond was empty but, listening carefully, he could hear voices coming from somewhere else in the house. Typical shoddy construction, he thought; the walls were clearly paper-thin.
The back door was just to the side, and he tried the handle, first ensuring that there was no-one in the passage beyond it. The door was locked, but he reached into his jacket pocket and drew out his lock-picks. A couple of seconds later, the door opened smoothly and silently, and he slipped into the house, quickly closing the door behind him.
Ducking behind the stairs, he paused and listened. The voices he'd heard were coming from a room at the front of the house, and the door leading to that room was closed. Other sounds emerged from the room as well, and he realised that the residents were watching TV — a sports event of some kind, judging by their comments and the sound of crowd reaction. That should keep them occupied, and give him cover, he decided. Looking around, he assessed his surroundings. Opposite where he was standing was another door which, he assumed, led to the room he'd looked into from the outside. There was a tiny kitchen just behind him. And there was a flight of stairs leading to the upper level.
These houses also, he thought he remembered, tended to have small basements. And the basement was probably the most logical place to store computer equipment which its users did not want anyone to discover.
He couldn't at first see any means of access to a basement; but then, when he tiptoed into the kitchen he noticed another door, which clearly didn't lead outside. This had to be it!
With a sense of excitement, he grasped the handle. The door was locked, and that made him even more sure. There was definitely something down there, if his instinct was correct. This was going to get him a big story! Even if he didn't find anything about the kidnapped Planet reporter, he was going to uncover a neo-Nazi group. And no-one else was even close. His lockpick gave him access in a couple of seconds.
The basement was in darkness, but Jimmy had come prepared for that too. On his keyring he had a penlight, and once he'd closed the door behind him he switched on the light and crept carefully down the stairs. There were computers in the basement, he saw almost immediately; the unmistakeable shapes of a couple of PCs on a desk were immediately visible. All he needed was a couple of minutes to search around in the hard drives — and he had some floppy disks and zip disks in another pocket, so he could collect all the evidence he needed.
Then he heard a low moan.
Swinging around, he saw a body lying crumpled on the floor. Turning the penlight in that direction, he could see that it was a man, dressed in a dark grey suit and with dark hair. His hands and ankles were bound. The man's build and height looked familiar…
Hurrying over, Jimmy crouched beside the captive. His suspicions were confirmed: it was Clark Kent. His breath caught.
"CK!" he hissed instantly, shaking his friend's shoulder. "CK, are you okay?"
Clark's only response was to moan again.
Now very worried, Jimmy pointed the penlight at Clark and studied him more closely. His friend seemed to be in a bad way. The lenses of his glasses were smashed and he had a couple of cuts on his face, which didn't look too serious, but his complexion was grey and he was sweating. When Jimmy shook him, Clark protested weakly, seeming to be in more pain.
"Clark, come on! We gotta get you out of here!" Jimmy muttered sharply, his interest in the computers temporarily forgotten in his concern for his friend.
In response, Clark only groaned and muttered something indistinguishable. "Hurts…" Jimmy finally managed to decipher.
"What hurts?" he asked impatiently, glancing back towards the stairs. Clark's captors could come down at any moment…
With what was clearly a great effort, Clark dragged his eyes open. "Jim…my… how…?"
"Don't worry about that now! Come on, CK, pull yourself together and tell me what hurts!"
Clark slowly dragged himself up on one elbow, wincing the whole time. "Tha… over there… Krypt…ite," he mumbled.
Jimmy swung around, then saw for the first time a green glow coming from the corner. So that was Kryptonite! He'd heard of it, of course, but never actually seen it before. He wondered briefly what a tiny group of neo-Nazis were doing with Kryptonite, but then told himself that it was clearly insurance against Superman turning up to help his friend. The real question was, he told himself, how they'd got hold of it in the first place.
But that wasn't the important issue right now. *That* was getting Clark out of here in one piece. And that wasn't going to be easy, but they would manage it. There was no way that Jimmy would leave Clark here — he didn't even want to take the risk of leaving the house and calling the police from his cellphone. If those crazies upstairs knew that their hideout had been discovered, they would more than likely kill Clark before he could be rescued.
The Kryptonite was clearly causing Clark some pain, so Jimmy needed to find a way of dealing with it. If only…
Wait a minute!
Kryptonite was hurting *Clark*?
Then… that meant…
Jimmy turned back to study his friend and former colleague, who had collapsed back on the ground. Bending, he carefully removed Clark's shattered glasses, and studied his friend's face.
CK was Superman.
It was so obvious now, now that he'd been confronted with the evidence. The two men looked so alike. And, now that he knew, they sounded alike too. And, of course, had anyone ever seen them together?
Of course, they had been seen together, he reminded himself then. After Diana Stride exposed Clark as Superman on Top Copy, and then a couple of years later after that madman John Doe claimed that Superman was Clark Kent. So, Jimmy realised soberly, Stride and Doe had been right all along. And no-one had believed them.
What a scoop this would be if someone could prove it, Jimmy mused as he wondered what he could do with the Kryptonite. Stride and Doe's problem had been that they *couldn't* prove it, and that Clark/Superman had somehow managed to find a way around the evidence.
But what if…?
What if he, Jimmy, could get some incontrovertible proof right now, when he had Clark right in front of him?
But could he really do that? To CK, who'd been his friend for so long?
But had Clark really been his friend? Had Clark, for instance, stood up for him when he'd wanted to advance his career but was being held back by Perry? Had Clark really made an effort to keep in touch with him after he'd left the Planet? The occasional phone call, or beer after work, would have been appreciated… but hadn't happened. He'd been loyal to Clark — and Lois — for so long, but how had they repaid him?
He bent over Clark again; his friend was still conscious, but only just, it seemed. Pretending to be checking for a heartbeat, Jimmy laid his hand on Clark's shirtfront and slid his hand between the buttons. Yes, there was fabric beneath, and it felt exactly like Spandex. Quickly, he opened one button and took a look.
Clark was wearing Superman's suit. He could, if he wanted, get a photo of that in a minute. But first, he really needed to do something about that Kryptonite.
He shook the Super-hero, a little roughly. "Clark, talk to me! What do I do with the Kryptonite?" At the same time, he reached into his pocket and switched on the miniature tape-recorder. Without actually realising it, he'd made his decision.
With an effort, Clark slurred, "Leadddd… need lead…"
Lead! Of course; to shield the radiation. Jimmy hesitated; he certainly didn't have any lead with him, and it was unlikely that there was anything in the room. Unless some of the old exposed piping was made of lead; that was possible in a house of this age, he thought. He could try that. He certainly needed to do something; Clark was in a lot of pain, and if all he'd heard about Kryptonite was true, it could kill Superman.
Just one thing, first…
Bending down close to Clark again, he asked, "You *are* Superman, aren't you?"
Clark's breath hissed out unevenly. "Yeah… sorry… never… told…"
It wasn't much as far as confessions went, but it was a definite admission, Jimmy thought as he hurried over to the side wall where the piping was. It would do, as long as he also got the photograph he needed — and anyway, once he was out of reach of the Kryptonite, Clark might tell him more.
Stifling any guilt he felt about what he was planning, Jimmy reminded himself that *this* could be the scoop which would win him all the awards and accolades he could ever want. Oh, sure, Clark wouldn't like it; but then, Clark wasn't the man Jimmy had believed him to be. He was Superman and, despite calling Jimmy a friend, had never told him. And so, Jimmy thought, he owed no loyalty to Clark, at least in terms of keeping his secret. And anyway, he reminded himself again, despite his support when Jimmy had quit the Planet, Clark hadn't ever argued that Perry should give Jimmy more responsibility, had he? And he'd happily seen his name go over that dot.com scoop which had been *Jimmy's* discovery.
No, he didn't owe Clark Kent anything. He'd get Clark out of here safely — of course he would! But he would make sure, first, that he had all the proof he needed to show that Clark Kent really was Superman. And then, James Olsen would be the reporter everyone would be talking about.
[Wendy writes: At this point we switch writers. Now, normally we wouldn't identify the cut-off point, but in this story you get a choice of two endings. The first is immediately below, and #2 is below that. Now read on…]
"Still no answer?"
"No." Clark Kent set the phone receiver back down into its cradle in irritation.
Lois came over and began to knead her husband's shoulders. "Well, I wouldn't think too much of it. It's only been one day since Jimmy brought you back." She laid her chin on his head. "He's probably off somewhere trying to come to grips with the *big revelation*."
Clark shrugged. "Yeah, I guess. Though he did seem to take it pretty much in stride." Clark winced as Lois dug into his back once more. "Ow, not so hard."
Lois had to laugh. "You're so tense. I take it your powers haven't quite come back yet?"
Clark grabbed Lois' hands. "No, they haven't."
Lois came around and sat on her husband's lap. "So, do you think these junior Nazis know you are Superman? I mean, they did have the kryptonite."
Clark shook his head. "I don't think so, at least not from their comments. They tossed me down the stairs of that basement, then tossed the kryptonite down afterwards, saying that it was a present for my *friend* Superman if he should decide to show his face." Clark stroked his wife's cheek with his hand. "They really weren't very bright guys. If the kryptonite hadn't incapacitated me, even mild-mannered Clark Kent could have escaped their captivity given a little time to get out of those poorly tied ropes."
Lois smiled. "Yeah, you'd think they would have noticed that old coal chute in the basement. Especially if they were going to use it as a place to hold you captive."
Clark shrugged. "These were pretty young kids. They probably didn't even know what it was. It was a lucky thing that Jimmy did come along though. In the shape I was in, I would never have been able to crawl out of there on my own."
"Yeah," Lois sighed. "I hate to think what might have been if you'd stayed there with the kryptonite much longer." Lois traced a line down Clark's jawline with her fingernail. "So where is the kryptonite now?"
"Jimmy found an old piece of lead pipe in the corner and shoved the kryptonite in it. We took it with us when we left. Once we got back to Jimmy's car, he called Henderson to come and bust my kidnappers. We gave the pipe to him." Clark noticed the look on Lois' face. "He promised he'd turn it over to Star Labs as soon as possible."
Lois frowned. "I'm not sure I'm too comfortable with that. I think I'll follow up on that tomorrow, just in the interest of our *good friend* Superman."
Clark nodded. "Yeah, that might be a good idea. Anyway, after calling you and telling you what was going on, we waited for Henderson and his men to arrive. Once they busted our little gang of Nazis they found plenty of evidence to connect them to several other hate crimes that have occurred in the last few weeks in addition to my kidnapping." Clark allowed himself a self-satisfied smile. "Those boys are going to go away for a long time."
"And then Jimmy brought you back home to me." Lois gave Clark a quick kiss. "I am a little surprised that Jimmy just dropped you off, and didn't come in with you. I would have liked to thank him for saving my husband."
This time it was Clark who frowned. "Jimmy seemed a bit preoccupied. Like you said, he'd received quite a shocking revelation a couple of hours earlier." Clark hesitated briefly before going on. "And I think he's not really too comfortable around you right now."
Lois bit her lip. "Maybe. I know I was somewhat cool, and standoffish around him after he left. But believe me, compared to what I wanted to say, I was on my best behavior."
"I'm sorry, Clark, but you know how I am about loyalty. Jimmy shocked all of us with his leaving, but most of all, he hurt Perry very badly. Oh, I know that the Chief would never say anything, or admit to his feelings, but we both know he thought of Jimmy like another son."
"I dunno, Lois, maybe it was time for Jimmy to move on. It didn't seem like Perry was ever going to give Jimmy any chance to grow, or show what he was really capable of."
Lois leaned back and looked Clark in the eyes. She shook her head. "You don't get it, do you? Clark, after all these years of working for the man, you still don't understand how Perry White works."
Clark was surprised by Lois' words. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, Perry White, editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet, never *gives* anyone anything. He respects self-reliance, solid instincts, and above all else, initiative." Lois placed her finger against Clark's lips to stop his intended protest. "Think about it, Clark. What happened that first day you came into his office looking for a job?"
Clark shrugged. "He told me he didn't have any openings for me."
Lois nodded. "That's right, so you went home and sulked about it, right… wrong!"
"Welll…" Clark shut up, seeing the look on Lois' face.
"No," Lois continued. "You overheard him ask me about that old theater piece that I was supposed to do, but hadn't. So, you went out and wrote the piece yourself — no promises — no guarantees. But what happened?"
Clark smiled. "I got hired."
Lois nodded. "You got hired. You got hired because you showed the initiative to go out and do something without being told. And you produced a great piece of work." Lois paused for a breath. "On this recent story that Jimmy dug up the lead on, that dot.com scandal. Perry assigned the story to us and…"
"And I don't think that was really fair," Clark interjected. "It was Jimmy's lead, after all."
Lois cocked a brow at Clark. "So, what did Jimmy do? Did he go into Perry's office and fight for *his* story? Did he demand to, at least, be included in on the investigation? No, he moped and sulked like a spoiled child. And when Perry had us only give him an assist acknowledgement at the end of the story, what did he do? Did he go in and complain that he should have received more credit, if not a shared byline? Once again, no. Jimmy just whined about it to his friends." Lois sighed. "When have you ever seen Jimmy stand up and fight for a principle he believed in?"
Clark's brow furrowed in thought. "Well, there was that time he told Perry he thought he deserved a raise."
Lois smiled. "And what happened?"
Clark rolled his eyes. "He got the raise."
Lois nodded triumphantly. "That's right." She stroked his cheek again with her hand. "Look, I'm not saying there haven't been times when Jimmy has asserted himself, but those times are few and far between. And truth be known, most of those times, Perry allowed him to act. But also true is that he was seldom successful on those occasions either." Lois placed her head against Clark's shoulder. "You remember that fiasco with Dr. Doodsen. Jimmy's blunder there cost you years off your life, and it could have cost you all of them."
Clark grimaced at the memory. "Lo-is, you know that wasn't Jimmy's fault."
Lois raised her brow again. "Really. Look, Clark, I'm not trying to put Jimmy down, really I'm not. He's a terrific photographer, and a whiz with computers. I've never seen anyone better at using the internet to dig up information. He's like a bloodhound *once* you given him the scent." Lois sighed again. "Jimmy's a great guy, and he was just about my only friend at the Planet till you showed up, but I just don't think he has the instincts to be a great reporter. You've read his stuff at the Star. He's not a very good writer, and he often gets his facts mixed up with his suppositions."
Clark gave Lois a squeeze. "Come on, Lois, let's be fair. You know what the editorial guidelines at the Star are like. Even you would have trouble writing good articles there."
Lois cocked her head so she could see her husband's face. "So, did he try to change those guidelines for the better? Did he corner his editor and point out the problems?" Lois shook her head. "I think not."
Clark looked deeply into the eyes of his beloved wife and released a heavy sigh. "Maybe what you say is true. Still, I think…"
The ringing of the phone interrupted the conversation. Lois twisted her body and reached for the offending appliance. She never said a word, only listened for a few moments then hung up the phone. He hand shook a bit as she did so. When she turned back toward Clark, a tear streamed down her cheek.
"That was Perry. Jimmy's been in an auto accident. He's in the hospital. Perry's there now." Lois sniffed back another tear. "Oh, Clark, it sounds like he was hurt pretty badly."
Lois slid off Clark's lap and hurried to find her bag and car keys. Clark grabbed his jacket and Lois' coat as the couple hurried out the door. Within moments the sound of the Jeep's engine firing to life could be heard, and Lois and Clark were on there way to Metropolis General.
Mason Drury sat at his desk at the Metropolis Star. Nearly forty years in the newspaper business and this was what he had to show for it. Editor-in-Chief of a second rate newspaper, owned by an idiot whose idea of news was the type you can purchase at the checkout stand in your local grocery store.
When the Olsen kid came over from the Daily Planet, Drury thought his luck might just have changed, but no. The kid was all right, but he was no Lane or Kent. Even given the stultifying guidelines the owner insisted on for their stories and articles, Olsen hadn't exactly set the Star on fire with his passion, or his prose. So far the best that could be said about Olsen was that… he wasn't bad.
Mason felt a little guilty at his thoughts considering he'd just heard the news that Olsen was in the hospital. He hoped the kid would be all right. He had noted the hospital and did plan to stop by and see how Olsen was doing once he'd finished up for the day here.
Wondering if Olsen had been working on anything before the accident, Drury used his priority password to access Olsen's computer files and punched up the latest entries on his word processor. What he saw there nearly made him spit out his teeth. Reaching into his bottom desk drawer for the bottle he kept there, he poured himself a quick shot, downed it in one gulp, and read the most amazing story he'd ever seen in all his years of journalism.
After finishing the piece on Jimmy's computer, Mason leaned back in his chair. He was sweating. Well, he thought, the kid might be in the hospital right now, but that was not going to stop him from a sure Pulitzer Prize winning story. Mason reached for the phone to the press room as he wondered if he could find those pictures that were referenced in Olsen's story.
"Clark, come on, talk to me. I know you're upset, but at least Jimmy is going to be all right."
Lois closed the door to their Hyperion Ave. brownstone as she watched her husband storm into the living room and pace around like a caged tiger.
"I can't believe it!" Clark gestured wildly in agitation. "I can't believe he wrote it up!" Clark met his wife's gaze. "What was he thinking?"
Lois came over and laid a comforting hand on Clark's arm. "He told you he had no intention of printing it. He just wrote it up."
Clark stared hard at Lois. "But, why? Why would he write it at all?"
Lois had to avert her gaze from that of her husband. "Clark, he wants to be a reporter. It *is* the biggest story he'll ever come across. Maybe he just had to see what it would look like on paper… so to speak. You understand."
Clark shook his head vehemently. "No, no I don't. You're a reporter. You never wrote up the Clark Kent is really Superman story once you found out… Lois?"
Lois blushed and looked at her feet.
"Lois?" A look of pure horror came over Clark. "You did didn't you! You wrote up the story too, didn't you?"
Lois shrugged in mock innocence. "I'm a reporter, I *had* to write the story of the century, even if I knew it could never see print."
Clark dropped his head and shook it in incomprehension. After a few moments, he met his wife's embarrassed gaze. "So, what were you planning to do with this story, and how come I never knew about it?"
Lois blushed again. "Well, I sort of had the idea of saving it until our twenty fifth anniversary, then giving it to you as a surprise." Lois tried a coy smile. "It was a pretty flattering article."
Clark rolled his eyes toward the ceiling. Lois reached over and grabbed his hand and began tugging him toward the stairs to the bedroom.
"It's late, I'm tired, and the important things are that Jimmy's going to be all right, and that he never plans to publish that story." Lois' insistent dragging began to finally get Clark to move. "Come on, let's go to bed. You'll see, everything will look better in the morning."
Shrugging in defeat, Clark allowed his beautiful wife to coax him up to their bedroom.
Lois found herself being woke up by the ringing of the front doorbell. She glanced at the clock on the nightstand. It was only six thirty! Who would be bothering them at this hour?
She looked over at Clark's side of the bed. Surprisingly the noise wasn't disturbing him, but then Lois noticed he had on his blue spandex pants. He must have been out late on some rescue and had just gotten home not too long ago. He really looked tired.
Taking pity on her exhausted spouse, Lois threw on her robe and wandered down the stairs toward the front door.
"Okay, okay, I'm coming! You can quit leaning on the danged bell!"
Lois pulled open the door to a sea of confusion. There were people all over her front steps, her front walk, and the lawn. Many were trying their best to peer into the windows, but most were crowding about the front door. A middle-aged man, who looked vaguely familiar to Lois, was in the forefront of the crush. He stuck the early edition of the Metropolis Star in her face.
"Care to comment… Mrs. Superman?" he smirked.
Lois grabbed the paper from his hand and stared at the extra bold headline in stark terror. It read: "SUPERMAN'S SECRET LIFE — Man of Steel Masquerades as Mild Mannered Reporter Clark Kent" by James Olsen.
Lois jumped back into the house and slammed the door in the startled reporter's face. She did a quick scan of the article as her breathing got quicker and shallower. Finally she crumpled the paper in her hands.
(Three months later)
Perry White sat back in his chair and sighed as he ruminated on how much things had changed in just six months. First Jimmy quit the Planet to go to that rag of a paper the Metropolis Star. Then he got in that awful car accident that came so close to costing him his life, not that it would matter to any of his friends now. No one had seen Jimmy since he got out of the hospital. Of course, that was all because of that stupid article he'd written.
Not only had Jimmy left town, in shame and embarrassment. But that 'story of the century' had cost Perry his two best reporters, and friends. Being constantly hounded by reporters and media types had made Lois and Clark's lives a living hell. It had destroyed their ability to function as investigative reporters, and after the third attempt on Lois' life by vengeance-seeking criminals, they had left Metropolis too. Perry hadn't heard from either of them since. He assumed they had gone somewhere else, and had started over under new identities. Where ever they were, Perry hoped they had regained the happiness he knew they had enjoyed before. Somehow, Perry thought, as long as they were together, they would find a way to make it.
Perry stared up at the ever present framed photo which adorned his one wall. "Well, King, it looks like it's just you and me now."
Suddenly the door to Perry's office burst open and an out of breath Ralph came stumbling in. Perry rolled his eyes heavenward and gave a silent prayer asking for strength to get him through another day. Perhaps it was time to give serious thought to retirement.
(definitely the end!)
Taking advantage of Clark's near unconsciousness, Jimmy reached down and pulled open Clark's shirt to reveal the colorful S-shield so prominently displayed on the blue spandex shirt. Using his new digital camera Jimmy took several shots. Some were close-ups of the shield, others were shots from farther back so one could see that it was indeed Clark Kent lying on the dirty basement floor with the Superman costume peeking out from beneath his white dress shirt. Jimmy had remembered to place Clark's glasses back on his face before he took the photos.
Slipping the camera back into his pocket, Jimmy went back over to the far side of the room and found a broken pipe hanging down from the ceiling. Jimmy couldn't be sure, but from the look of it, and given the obvious age of the house, he guessed that the pipe was mostly lead.
He picked up the smallish piece of green glowing crystal and shoved it into the pipe, forcing it as far back into the dull gray pipe as he could. Jimmy then pushed the pipe back into position until the two broken ends met again. He knew it wasn't a perfect join, but he hoped it would be enough protection for him to get Clar… Superman out of the place.
Jimmy knelt down in front of Clark again and rebuttoned his shirt. No sense in letting anyone else in on his big scoop if they were seen before he got Clark home. A pang of guilt coursed quickly through Jimmy's mind, but he shoved it aside. This was his ticket to the big time, and he couldn't let old feelings for former friends interfere with his one big chance.
Jimmy began to look around the place for some way to get them out of that basement that didn't require them to go back upstairs. He didn't fancy his odds, if he had to drag Clark back up the stairs and by the room where the kidnappers were entertaining themselves. He wasn't sure how much time he had, as he didn't know if the kidnappers ever periodically came down to check on their captive.
The only window in the dank basement was up next to the ceiling, and much too small for either of them to squeeze out of. It wasn't a large cellar really, but it was quite cluttered with old junk, which hampered Jimmy's investigation.
Finally, after carefully shifting some old crates out of the way Jimmy was able to get behind the old coal-fired furnace which sat rusting in the far corner of the room. Its use had been abandoned some time ago. A 1970's model gas furnace now sat in the other corner of the basement. It obviously had been providing the heat for this old house for quite some time. The previous owners probably felt it wasn't worth the time or the effort to tear out the old one. But it was what was behind that old furnace that caught Jimmy's attention.
On the floor next to the furnace was a large box. It was, after all these years, still covered in coal dust. A large metal chute connected to one end of the box. From there it led upward to a wooden door. Jimmy remembered hearing about such things. The homeowner would get a delivery of coal at the start of his heating season, but instead of trying to lug it down the stairs in sacks or some such thing, it was brought in by truck and dumped directly into the house by means of this coal chute built into the side of the house's foundation.
It was dark, but Jimmy used his penlight to check out the door to the outside. It was barred, but otherwise appeared intact. Once again he thanked the previous owners for being either too cheap, or too lazy to take out the old chute and brick up the old opening.
Jimmy came back over to Clark and tried to lift him. He couldn't believe how heavy Clark was, but then he figured that it had something to do with his being Superman, and having that dense molecular structure.
"Clark," Jimmy whispered insistently in his ear. "Can you get up? I'll help you, but I can't lift you by myself.
Clark emitted a small groan as he forced his eyes open and tried to focus on his 'savior'. "Jimmy?"
"Yeah, it's me. Come on, we've got to get out of here."
Jimmy managed to help Clark to his feet, and the two of them, looking like a couple of drunks after a night on the town, stumbled their way toward the coal chute in the back corner of the basement.
Clark had to stop to catch his breath as he surveyed the route to freedom that Jimmy had found for them. He laid his hand on the younger man's shoulder. "I have to thank you for this, Jim. If you hadn't come along when you did, I quite possibly wouldn't have survived the night. I know Lois is probably beside herself wondering where I am." Clark favored Jimmy with a wry smile. "And I don't think she'd ever forgive me if I went out and got myself killed without telling her first."
Jimmy returned the smile, then changed it to a frown as the import of what Clark was saying hit home. "I suppose Lois has known… you know, about you being Superman for some time now."
Clark shook his head as he chuckled. "Well, that's not exactly true. If you ask her, I venture to guess that Lois will say that my timing was not what it should have been." Clark saw the puzzled expression of his young friend's face. "You see, I never actually told her. She found out for herself."
Jimmy was stunned. "What, you're kidding?" Jimmy shook his head in wonder. "I'll bet she was mad."
Clark rolled his eyes. "I guess you could say that."
"How did you ever have the courage to ask her to marry you after that?"
"Wellll…" Clark looked at Jimmy sheepishly. "I didn't know she knew when I asked her."
Clark used Jimmy's shoulder to steady himself. "You see Jim, it's sort of complicated. I needed to know that Lois loved me for who I really was, Clark Kent, not some spandex-wearing disguise I use so I can help people without giving up my private life."
Jimmy's conscience was trying to make itself heard, but he pointedly ignored it. "So you didn't tell her because you wanted her to love Clark Kent instead of Superman?"
Clark shrugged. "Yeah, that's part of it, but not the whole thing. You see, Jim, it's a dangerous secret too. Not only would my life be a living hell if it was generally known that I moonlight as the Man of Steel, it would be dangerous for anyone who was perceived to be my friend. Criminals would use my parents, Lois, even you or Perry as a means to either get back at me, or use my friends and loved ones to make me do what they want."
Jimmy looked around and stared up at the stairs for a few moments. "I guess we'd better get going while we still can." He placed his hand on Clark's arm. "Once last question. These guys had kryptonite. Do you think they know you're Superman?"
Clark shook his head. "No, I don't think so. From their conversation, it was there in case my good *friend* Superman showed up to try and save me." Clark shrugged again. "I suppose I might only have been kidnapped as bait for Superman. Kind of ironic when you think about it."
Clark stared up at the steep metal chute that represented their escape route. "That's not going to be too easy in my present state."
Jimmy glanced up at the chute, then gave Clark a concerned look. He'd never seen Clark so weak. "Do you think you can make it?"
Clark smiled bravely at Jimmy. "With your help, I have no doubt that we'll be out of here in no time."
Clark and Jimmy were sitting out in the main lobby of the Metropolis Police Department when Lois came bursting through the door. She rushed over to her husband and threw her arms around him, capturing his lips in hers. Jimmy blushed, and had to look away. Suddenly he felt a small hand on his arm turn him back toward her.
It was quite apparent from the red puffiness around her eyes that Lois had been crying not too long ago. A misty sheen still curtained her eyes as she leaned over and kissed Jimmy on the cheek.
Lois smiled at him as she squeezed his arm. "Thank you for bringing Clark back to me."
"S'okay," Jimmy stammered in reply.
A beefy sergeant stuck his head out from the door that led back into the detectives' area. "Kent!" He zeroed in on Clark. "Inspector Henderson would like to talk with you now."
Clark nodded, gave his wife another hug, then followed the sergeant through the door. Lois sat on the bench. Jimmy followed suit, sitting next to her. An awkward few minutes passed in silence as the former friends sat there studiously looking at everything but each other.
"So, Jimmy," Lois said, finally breaking the silence. "How's working at the Star?"
Jimmy turned and faced Lois. Her smile was uncertain, almost timid, and it shocked Jimmy to see it. He couldn't remember the last time he'd seen Lois looking anything but confident and determined. Of course, there had been some changes in her since she got married. Jimmy had always envied Clark his relationship with Lois. In truth, he could probably say that he had always had a sort of crush on Lois. But he realized long ago, that the age and maturity difference would never allow them to be more than friends. They had always had a sort of brother and sister type of relationship. At least, until recently when he'd left the Planet and Lois, like so many others, chose to ignore him.
Jimmy stared down at his feet, took a deep breath, then turned to meet Lois's eyes. "Lois, I know."
Lois' brow furrowed in puzzlement. "Know what?"
Jimmy sighed. "Lois, there was kryptonite there." Jimmy was impressed that Lois didn't gasp, or cry out. She merely bit her lip. "Clark doesn't think the kidnappers realized who he is… but I now know."
This time it was Lois who sighed. "Then I guess I really do have to thank you for saving Clark's life."
Jimmy stared hard at Lois for several seconds but she didn't flinch. She met his gaze and waited for him to say something. "Does it bother you that I know?" Jimmy said, finally breaking the silence.
Lois frowned for a moment, as if thinking, then she shook her head. "No, no, it doesn't. I know we can trust you."
Jimmy had to turn away from Lois and looked over at the far wall. Heaving the biggest sigh of the entire night, Jimmy reached into his pocket and pulled out his new digital camera, and his recorder. He handed them over to a perplexed Lois.
"Maybe you shouldn't." Jimmy couldn't meet Lois's eyes.
Lois held the two instruments of her profession in her hands. Gradually it dawned on her what Jimmy was referring to. She realized what it was that Jimmy was telling her. She placed the camera and recorder into her bag. She reached over and took one of Jimmy's hands in her own.
"Jimmy… Jim, I know what you may have been thinking when you made the discovery. I mean, it would be the story of the century, but I think we both know you well enough to know that you would never have printed the story."
Jimmy turned his head toward Lois. "I'm not so sure about that."
Lois patted his hand in a very sisterly manner. "Well, I am."
They sat together in silence for a few more moments before Jimmy, frowning, raised the question that had been bothering him for months. "Lois, I can sort of understand your shock and surprise when I quit the Daily Planet. But why the cold shoulder after that? Why didn't you ever try to contact me? I thought we were friends."
Lois now found that she couldn't meet Jimmy's stare because of her own embarrassment. "The truth is, I'm just very good at holding a grudge." She saw that her statement was lost on Jimmy. "Jimmy, when you left the Planet I was hurt, and I felt betrayed by your leaving. As you said, I thought we were friends. You know how I feel about loyalty. And whether you want to believe it or not, you hurt Perry very badly also."
There was a slight tinge of anger in Jimmy's voice. "Somehow, considering the way I was being treated at the Planet, I find it hard to believe that anyone would miss me much. Unless, of course, they needed some *instant* research, or their pencils needed sharpening."
Lois shook her head sadly. "Jim, I don't know why you insisted on ignoring your strengths, for something you weren't ready for. You were easily one of the best photographers currently at the Planet. And your intimate knowledge of the internet and your ability with a computer made you the most valuable researcher the paper has ever had." Lois paused for a breath. "I know that we didn't express our appreciation nearly enough, but Clark and I came to really count on your expertise to help us out with our stories." Lois shrugged. "But that wasn't good enough for you. You had to be an investigative reporter; that was all you could focus on."
Jimmy's expression was angry, but puzzled. "What's wrong with that? What's wrong with wanting to be like you, or Clark?"
"Nothing, but you didn't have nearly enough experience yet."
Jimmy's tone seemed to indicate that he took offense at Lois' words. "Lois, I've worked at the Planet since I left high school. I've been there nearly as long as you have been."
Lois grabbed Jimmy's hand again. "Yes, and in that time how many stories have you written? I'm not talking about just the things that Perry has assigned you. I mean all those practice stories, the stories you wrote on spec hoping that Perry might print them, and anything else you may have done."
Jimmy looked embarrassed now. "Well, not too many of those, but I guess… counting the obituaries, maybe twenty or twenty five."
Lois nodded. "Jimmy, I wrote that many stories in my first year on my high school newspaper. I was also on my college newspaper, and I was a journalism major in college. I probably wrote nearly a thousand stories before I wrote my first piece for the Planet. I dare say, Clark went the same route, and he wrote for other small papers before coming to Metropolis." Lois squeezed Jimmy's hand. "Remember, Clark, got his job here because he overheard me telling Perry that I didn't want to do that piece on the theater closing. He didn't wait to be assigned the story. He didn't even have a job. But, Clark, went out and wrote the story anyway, and he got the job because of it."
Lois chuckled sadly. "Jim, there are two parts to being a good reporter. The investigation is the exciting part. Digging up the dirt, and going undercover to find out the *real* story really can get your blood pumping. But just as important is the need to be able to write up that story in such a manner that you can get across to the readers all the facts in a way that allows them to experience the excitement you had while investigating it in the first place." Lois drew her hand along Jimmy's cheek. "I don't mean to put you down, Jimmy, really I don't. You have great instincts, and your ability to dig up the facts that those we're investigating don't want dug up is incredible. In time, I think you could become a darned good reporter, but to improve as a writer, you have to write. You have to write a lot."
A rueful smile split his face as Jimmy shook his head back and forth. "Tell me how you really feel, Lois." He held up his hand to stop any reply she might be considering. "No, that's okay. You touched on some things I've been thinking hard about these last few weeks. At first I thought it was just the ridiculous restrictions the Star places on their reporters, but I'm beginning to realize something." Jimmy met Lois' gaze directly with a smile.
"I just don't like to write. I love being in on the action. I love it when all the hard work of the investigation bears fruit, and the bad guy is busted. But for me, that's when the story is finished. I never really thought much about the actual writing of the story. It always just seemed sort of, I don't know, anticlimactic."
Lois smiled sympathetically at her friend. "I'm sorry, Jimmy."
He shook his head. "Don't be. You've actually helped me make a decision."
Lois brightened. "Are you going to come back to the Planet? Perry really hasn't replaced your job yet."
Jimmy chuckled as he shook his head. "No, but I have been offered another job that sounds interesting." Jimmy smiled at the apparent look of curiosity on Lois' face. "You know that Cat is working as a producer at WGBS now, don't you?"
Lois rolled her eyes. "Yeah, though I wonder who she had to sleep with to get that job."
"Well, anyway, she has this idea she calls Mr. Action. It's sort of a cross between a consumer advocate and an investigative reporter. This guy would do everything from covering the latest exhibit at the Metropolis Museum, to exposing fraud." Jimmy puffed himself up a bit. "She asked me if I would like to take this on."
Lois frowned as she tried to imagine what Jimmy was describing. "Is that what you want? Would that be fulfilling enough?"
Jimmy smiled at Lois' concern. "Oh, I know that early on it would mostly be fluffy, filler stuff. But I'm sure that I can make it into something more. I can just envision myself sticking a microphone into the face of some high ranking official and asking them to explain the extra hundred thousand dollars in their bank account. Or perhaps I could expose dangerous construction practices on the latest Metropolis building project with an on air demonstration of shoddy workmanship or materials." Jimmy smiled at Lois's cocked eyebrow. "Don't you think I could do it?"
Lois pursed her lips and furrowed her brow as she tried to visualize Jimmy's scenarios. "You know, Jimmy, you just may have something there. If you think that it's something you might like to do, then I say go for it."
Both Lois and Jimmy rose as they saw Clark come back into the lobby. Apparently, Inspector Henderson was done with him and they could all go home. Lois put her arm around her husband. As they all turned to leave, Lois placed her hand on Jimmy's arm and he turned back toward her.
"Jimmy, we weren't going to say anything to you because we don't know if it will actually happen, but…" Lois took a moment to collect her thoughts. "Well, you know that the dot.com story — the one you gave us the breaking lead on, was nominated for a Kerth Award, right?"
Jimmy nodded suspiciously.
"Well," Lois continued. "Clark and I have informed the committee that should that story win — and we don't know if it will or not — but if it should, we want your name inscribed on the award also." Lois shrugged. "It's only fair. There wouldn't have even been a story if you hadn't dug up that initial information."
Jimmy shook his head in wonder. He had really been wrong about these two in recent weeks. He smiled. "Thanks, I think I'd like that."
Jimmy took the job as Mr. Action and within a couple of months was the hottest thing on local television. He was on the tube nearly every night and discovered that his new found fame had some unexpected side benefits. He was now considered one of the more eligible bachelors in all of Metropolis, and he was continually being approached by comely young women looking to become 'partnered' with the dashing Mr. Action.
Several months after taking the television job, Jimmy volunteered to test out a new rescue harness used by the Metropolis Fire Department to safely extract victims of high rise fires from the upper floors. Unfortunately, something went wrong. The safety strap broke and the harness came apart. James Olsen, Mr. Action, fell thirty stories to his death on live television.
[Tank simply couldn't bear the thought of giving Jimmy a happy ending! <sigh…!> — W.]
[But Hazel couldn't leave it at that either and added her own final final ending when commenting on the story. Reproduced here with her permission: (Archive EIC)]
Lois rewound the video of Jimmy's fatal plunge one last time and gave a sigh of heartfelt relief.
"Well done, honey," she said as she ran her hand through her short, red hair. "It's such a relief to know that your secret is finally safe."
Clark nodded and grinned. "Remind me to pay Cat her final installment in the morning."
Feedback, as always, much appreciated at either or both addresses: Tank Wilson <TankW1@aol.com> and Wendy Richards <firstname.lastname@example.org>
And a mini-poll:
Which ending did you prefer? 1 or 2 Would Ending #2 be better or worse without the epilogue? <g>