By Catherine <email@example.com>
Submitted: September 2004
Summary: In this Elseworld story, where Jimmy and Clark are adopted brothers, Jimmy meets up with his past. Can Clark save him before it's too late? This is the sequel to "New Beginnings."
"Jimmy, would you please, just open the envelope? Suspense isn't meant for folk our age." Jonathan Kent exclaimed, but he was smiling while he said it. Martha nodded her agreement, wringing her hands together a little.
"Just a minute, just a minute; I can hear Clark coming up the drive. Might as well wait for him." Jimmy said, running his thumb along the tip of the envelope from the Metropolis University Institute of Photography.
"If I didn't know better, I'd swear you had a little of your brother's genes in you," Martha smiled.
The moment the words left her mouth, Clark entered, just shy of using his abilities, closing the door behind him. "Did it come in?" He asked, by way of greeting.
Grinning, Jimmy held it up. He opened it with all the speed of an awards-giver at the Oscars. His keen blue eyes read over the print, reading aloud, to himself. It was all Clark could do not to use his x-ray vision for a peek. As it was now, he couldn't tell a thing. His quasi-adopted brother's face was inscrutable.
Silence reigned for nearly a full minute before Jonathan broke it, reaching out to place a hand on the boy he'd come to think of as his youngest son. "The chances were very thin, Jimmy, I'm sure there were a lot of—"
"Dear Mr. Kent," Jimmy read aloud, a smile finally starting to tug at the corners of his mouth. "We are pleased to inform you that we have chosen your photo, 'Reaping the Earth' as the first place winner in our competition. In addition to the five thousand dollar award money, we are pleased to announce that you are now eligible to a ten thousand dollar scholarship to the Metropolis University Institute of Photography." Looking slightly dumbstruck, he lowered the letter and gazed at his family. "I-I think I won."
Beaming with pride, Clark reached out and pulled Jimmy into a hug, pounding him on the back. "I knew you could do it." The Kent parents soon joined in and their laughter and words of praise echoed through the halls of the home.
Clark pulled away first. "So are you going to accept it? The scholarship?" He glanced subtly at his parents. "University is pretty expensive these days."
"Don't worry, Clark," Jonathan said. "With this scholarship money, we can definitely make it work."
"Of course I'm going to go," Jimmy said, as if the thought of not doing so had never entered his mind. His eyes widened. "There's so much to do." As he always did when he was nervous, he began ticking things off his fingers. "I mean, I've got to call everyone. I-I…I've got to pack!" He turned on his heel and bolted upstairs towards his bedroom.
The remaining Kents looked at each other, amused. "Which one of us should tell him?"
"I need to go make supper," Martha said absently. "I think his favourite is in order."
Clark smiled, "I can head to the store if you need."
Martha winked at him. "Let's just say I figured he'd win." Her eyes glimmered with a pride that was almost tangible. "It really is an amazing picture."
"Yes," Jonathan nodded, "It is. I'll help you peel the potatoes." Slipping an arm around his wife's waist, the Kent patriarchs turned and headed into the kitchen.
Clark chuckled ruefully. "I guess it's up to me then." He turned and started to head upstairs.
Jimmy had a suitcase open on his bed and was rummaging through his clothes, having already tossed his two good dress shirts and slacks into it, carefully folded. Various personal items had been tossed in, as well as a few books. But he'd paused for a moment, holding a copy of the picture that was going to change his life. It was a photo of the Kent farm, with his father and Clark slightly off centre. They'd just finished putting in the last post of the fence they were rewiring. Though it was a full- length photo, the setting sun captured the sweat glistening on their faces and the pride and pleasure in their eyes. They were totally unaware of the camera. It was a moment in life, completely frozen in time. It had also been a spur of the moment thing, just meant to be a snapshot for the family album. How could he have known it was going to take him places?
It wasn't that he was eager to leave Smallville; he loved it here, the Kents had taken him in literally off the street and given him a home. That wasn't supposed to happen in real life — that was the sort of occurrence reserved for movies of the week. Besides, Metropolis had never been overly kind to him. But maybe, maybe with a new name and a new life, he could finally make something of himself in that city.
Smiling, he brushed a non-existent bit of dust from the top of the frame and put it in the suitcase, carefully protected by a few layers worth of shirts. "I'm going to miss this place," he sighed.
"Don't start saying goodbye to the couch just yet." Clark grinned, leaning against the door jamb.
"What do you mean?"
"Jimmy, it's July. School doesn't start till September."
The few weeks that followed were a rush to get the harvest taken care of and everything packed. But soon the brothers were flying to Metropolis. Martha and Jonathan only had one car and at this time of year, they couldn't afford for the car to be gone even for a day, nor could one of them leave.
"You know," Jimmy whispered, as he settled into his chair. "This would have been much easier if we'd just taken Air Clark."
Clark laughed. "I'd have to make a few trips. This is easier."
"I wouldn't trust you with my walkman anyway, Crash." Jimmy snickered, using the nickname he'd given Clark on the day the family had discovered he could fly — but had not yet mastered landing on his feet. It was a moniker he only used when the family needed a laugh. And this time was no different, he got one out of Clark.
Once Jimmy was settled into his dorm room, the two brother had moved on to Clark's apartment, which he'd managed to get over the phone before coming to town. Clark had offered his brother the guestroom, but Jimmy, having wanted a little independence, declined.
He regretted the decision a little. "This place is wicked." He let out a low whistle, grabbing one of the lighter boxes and carrying it into the bedroom.
When he came back, Clark was wearing spandex. His eyes widened when Clark asked him what he thought. He hadn't seen the outfit his mother had made, but he knew of Clark's plans and approved wholeheartedly. "Wow. You look super, man."
"Superman," Clark grinned, glancing into the mirror he'd just set up. "I like it."
The next day, the brothers went to the Daily Planet, each with a resume in hand. They were shown to the Editor's office and each shook his hand. He read over the resumes and looked through Jimmy's portfolio, nodding occasionally. Then he looked up at them, seeing no resemblance. "Twins I see." He drawled.
The Kent brothers smiled politely, then frowned at each other when Perry got up and walked out, leaving his office door open. Jimmy shrugged and followed him. Clark did the same.
"Well we've got a full staff of reporters now, Kent, Clark." He amended, walking past the desks of bustling reporters, some on the phone, some typing, many doing both at once. "But I do like your style. It's a little soft, but it has potential. I'm gonna pair you with Lane."
Clark pretended not to notice when the people he'd just passed winced or snickered.
Perry looked over his shoulder and flashed him a toothy grin. "She'll either toughen you up or spit you out like cheap wine."
Clark nodded, beaming. But his expression sagged a little at the look on Perry's face.
"Now I'm sorry, Jimmy, but we do have a full staff of photographers. But I'm willing to take you on as a cub for now."
Jimmy looked thoroughly unimpressed. "You're joking right?"
Perry did not look accustomed to having his decisions questioned. "No."
Jimmy snorted. "Screw you."
"Excuse me?" The ambient temperature seemed to drop twenty degrees. People within hearing distance quieted down to listen.
"I said screw you. A cub? That's bull. You've seen what I can do. And I've already got a scholarship to the photography school so I'm only going to get better. Forget you. I know I could get a job with the Star as a staff photographer. And they're closer to campus. You can take your cub job and shove it." He nodded to his brother. "See you in the bylines."
Just as he'd turned around, Perry spoke, his voice low. "You've sure got a lot of guts. Do you know who I am?"
"My new boss?" Jimmy offered idly.
"You've got a week to impress me." Perry said simply, heading back into his office.
"I think that's front page material," someone called out and everyone laughed, heading back to work.
"I thought I was the only one who talked to Perry like that." A petite, dark haired woman stood up, extending her hand. "Lois Lane."
"Jimmy Kent." He was surprised Clark didn't shake her hand and glanced over at him, grinning when he realized his brother was dumbstruck. He didn't blame Clark. She was gorgeous. "He's Clark." Jimmy added ruefully, chuckling a thumb at his brother.
Things went perfectly for the brothers in the next couple weeks. Jimmy loved his classes and Superman made a huge impact by saving a group of orphans from a fire. The exclusive photos Jimmy had gotten of him of the 'Man of Steel' as Lois sometimes called him, had sufficiently impressed Perry.
Jimmy, having finished classes for the day, had come to the Planet to drop off his latest roll of film and see if his brother was up for a late lunch when Perry's office door opened.
"Lane, Kents! My office!"
The trio entered just as Perry flicked off the small television in his office, usually reserved for scanning the news. Though once in a while, he did use it for fun. "I want you two to cover the LuthorCorp press conference."
Lois' nose crinkled. "A press conference, you've got to be kidding me, Chief."
"Lex Luthor is the most prominent businessman in town. When he calls a conference, I want it covered by my best people. Now get out there and do it."
Lois sighed. Clark smiled. Jimmy beamed.
They decided to take the same car, although Lois insisted on driving.
"He called us his best people." Jimmy grinned. "Although what's with the Elvis thing? I mean the music's okay, but watching those movies?"
"What do you mean?" Clark asked.
"He turned off Love Me Tender just as we came in." Jimmy shrugged.
Lois scanned her memory, but frowned. "He did?"
"Yeah," Jimmy nodded.
Clark smiled at the look of confusion on her face. "It's something you get used to. Jimmy's never forgotten a thing."
At the conference, the three got separated, each trying to get as close as possible. Though when Jimmy realized just exactly who Lex Luthor was, he did try to back off a little. If Clark had been there, or even close enough, he would have seen his brother go pale, hear his heart start to triphammer in his chest. Jimmy had known he was being načve — after all, how many Lex Luthors could there possibly be in the world?
Thankfully, the conference was drawing to a close; Jimmy hadn't even heard what it was about. He was the only photographer who was trying to back away from the scene. For a split second, there was no one around him, he stood in the centre of a circle of photographers.
It was at that moment that he locked eyes with the one man he hated and feared. There were close to a hundred reporters and photographers in the crowd, but somehow their eyes managed to meet and lock. Lex Luthor saw him, maybe even recognized him and his brows drew together into a frown.
Snapping the photo was purely instinct — like a gunsligner shooting or an arsonist lighting the match.
The next day, he should have been pleased that his picture was chosen to be on the front page. Everyone was impressed with it, with the emotion captured on Luthor's face. Clark took him out to dinner to celebrate, but Jimmy couldn't taste the food, couldn't bask in the praise. All he could hope was that his name wasn't added to the picture.
Lex Luthor sat in his office, fingers steepled together, feet propped up on his desk. The position crinkled his suit, but he didn't particularly care. There were a hundred things he could have been doing — both legal and otherwise — but none of those had his attention.
He was thinking about the man in the crowd. It was nagging at him, tormenting his mind. He knew that face, knew those eyes from somewhere, but he simply could not place it. It was like a puzzle. Lex hated puzzles.
He buzzed his secretary and told he to get a copy of the Daily Planet. It was in his hands within a minute. He looked down at the picture of himself, the scowl. It was the scowl that hadn't left his face since he'd seen that kid. He scanned the caption.
He was pretty sure the Kent name wasn't right. it had been Ormon or something before. Olsen maybe.
"Jimmy?" He said out loud and the name brought back a flood of memories. Memories he'd wanted buried. "My how you've grown," he said softly. "Jimmy." In an instant, he recalled everything he needed to know about Jimmy. Most notably that Jimmy had to be taken care of permanently.
He hit a different number, buzzing his associate Nigel. The man standing before him in under thirty seconds. "Nigel," Lex began, tilting his head back and closing his eyes as if about to take a nap. "Here's what I need you to do."
After a week, he'd started to relax, stopped looking over his shoulder and asking for bottles of water that were sealed and not pre-opened. Truth was, he knew if he kept it up he would have to explain things to Clark and that was something he absolutely didn't want to do.
It had just been a split second after all; and it had been years ago. Lex must have forgotten it, forgotten him.
His relaxation evaporated like a puff of smoke when he opened the door to his dorm room.
Jimmy stared at the mess that was his room; it looked like a tornado had touched down inside. Clothes were strewn everywhere, drawers hung half open, his bed was rumpled and most of the clothes in his closet had been knocked down. It looked like any student's room.
But Martha had taught him better than this.
This wasn't his room anymore.
This was a message.
Jimmy shuddered and threw on an old sweatshirt over the T-shirt he was currently wearing. The sweatshirt was tattered and faded; he used mostly for work on the farm. He'd brought it because it was comfortable and good for lounging in on weekends. Now it would serve a greater purpose. Next he slipped on an old pair of jeans that Martha hadn't been able to convince him to throw out and the dirty sneakers he'd been meaning to replace. He grabbed one of the torn, lined papers strewn across his floor and took a pen from his desk. He scribbled a note to Clark.
Out of habit, he locked his door when he left and grabbed a bag of chips. He knew this was going to be his last meal for a while.
He made his way to Clark's place, knowing he wouldn't be home. It was only three and he wouldn't be done for at least three hours. He slipped the note under his brother's door, then left.
Despite not having lived in Metropolis for years, one never truly forgot one's home. He made his way back to Suicide Slum with ease. And he found himself an alley with others his age. The older people tended to want more than he was willing to give in exchange for a spot to stay. Kids this age usually just wanted you to leave them alone.
One never truly forgot how to act in one's home. Lowering his eyes, he sat down next to a puddle of liquid he didn't even want to identify.
When he opened his eyes, three boys and one girl were looming over him. He averted his eyes again. "I-I just need a place to stay." The stutter and the fear in his voice were real. "Won't be any trouble."
The punch to his face sent him sprawling into the puddle.
Clark was glad for the all night grocery store near his place — he had a feeling he would be working many late nights with Lois, though the thought made him blush a little. She was truly an amazing woman.
His eyes were drawn to the folded paper on the floor. He picked it up, then set down his groceries.
I'm sorry, but I've got to do this. I've got to disappear. Tell Mr. And Mrs. Kent that I'm sorry and that I love them.
But I've got to disappear.
The jar of olives that he'd been about to put away crashed to the ground and shattered on the marble tile of his formerly neat kitchen.
Jimmy had expected the Initiation, braced for it — but there was still no way to prepare. He lay curled up on the ground, concrete and tiny shards of broken glass digging into his cheek. It hurt to breathe, his stomach felt tight and hot. That last kick had really taken it out of him.
He understood the process; they were checking him for money or food. He hadn't been stupid enough to carry any with him. All he had to do now was recover and not get found by the cops or an ambulance — if he did, they'd assume he squealed and they'd never let him in.
All he had to do was recover quietly and keep his mouth shut and not say his name. They couldn't identify him if they didn't know his name. And if he could stick this out long enough, just maybe, they wouldn't rat him out even if they did.
By some miracle, someone tossed an empty box out of their window. It was a refrigerator box. It hit him right in the side where he'd been kicked last. But he latched on to that box with reflexes he'd forgotten he had. And he grabbed the neck of the broken bottle, jabbing it threateningly at the trio who'd approached the box. Jimmy recognized one of the guys who'd initiated him, but said nothing, curling his lip, baring his teeth into a threatening snarl. After a few moments, they backed off, disappearing into the alley as if they'd never been.
Jimmy let out a relieved breath. He looked around, finding a relatively clean, empty spot under a rooftop and set up the box. He crawled inside — it was just as claustrophobic as he remembered, but the smell was worse.
Shivering, Jimmy closed his eyes and tried not to think of Smallville.
Though she hated the circumstances, Lois couldn't help but admire the fire that had come into her partner's eyes. It had been a week and the keen determination hadn't once left his face. But sometimes when she looked, usually late at night, she could see the sadness there too. It was that sadness that compelled her to help him find Jimmy.
Every morning and every night they called the hospitals looking for anyone matching Jimmy's description. Whenever Clark left for the bathroom or if Perry called him, Lois had also begun surreptitiously checking the morgues.
The first thing they done had been to check Jimmy's room on campus. It had gone beyond college student messy. Lois knew when a room had been professionally ransacked, but neither she nor her partner could figure out what anyone could possibly have been after. The last any of Jimmy's friends had seen him was last week. He hadn't been to any classes either.
But lately, Clark had become more and more disconcerted. "I think I know where he is. But not exactly." He said finally, over a cup of coffee. They'd retired to his place for the night. The pot of stew Clark had whipped up hadn't even been turned on.
Lois stared at him as if he'd suggested that reporters had no place investigating politics. "And is there a reason we haven't gone looking for him there?"
Clark looked at her with haunted eyes. "Because I was just hoping he wouldn't have felt the need to go back there. I've been trying to rule out every other option," he would rather Jimmy have been kidnapped then go back to his old life. No, he would rather Jimmy be safe in his dorm room, studying. But this wasn't a perfect world. He forced himself out of his unpleasant thoughts. "In case you didn't know, he's not my brother. biologically speaking."
"I figured," Lois said unable to contain a smile. "He's got a bit of an edge."
Clark didn't return the smile. "But you don't know where he got it. I'll be back." With that, he walked out the door, leaving Lois puzzled and confused.
It would have been easy to fly through as Superman, search out Jimmy. But that would have been too conspicuous. Jimmy would probably see him from a mile away and sink deeper into the world in which he'd meshed himself.
Which was why he strolled the streets as Clark Kent, albeit dressed down. It wasn't quite dark yet, so the muggers were still wary — not that Clark had been stupid enough to bring his wallet with him.
He walked the streets, peering intently at all the young men about Jimmy's height, but trying not to be too obvious. He frowned when someone knocked into him without so much as excusing himself. Clark shook his head and continued on. When he heard something rattle and fall over, he looked back.
The man who'd knocked into him has pushed over a trash bin and was rifling through its contents. Clark felt his heart twist in sympathy when the person found half a sandwich with a large bite taken out. From this distance, Clark could see that it was starting to get mouldy.
"This is no way to live," Clark whispered and he hated the fact that his brother was here, somewhere, reduced to this. He hated that any human being had to resort to this kind of life, but he had to help one person at a time. And right now his focus was his brother.
Clark couldn't take his eyes off the man. Apparently the guy had forgotten he was there because he stuffed the sandwich into the pocket of his filthy jeans and stood.
Clark just saw the bottom half of his face, but it was enough. He couldn't restrain himself from calling out. "Jimmy!"
Jimmy dashed to his left, into an alley Clark had passed without even seeing. He ran into it now, his gaze darting about frantically. But he could see no one. Finally, he gave up and used his x-ray vision.
There were at least twenty teenagers huddled around, cowering in boxes or behind garbage bins, even a couple in a dumpster. But the one he was looking for was sitting calmly, looking straight at him as if he too could see through the cardboard. Clark strode over and ripped the top off the cardboard box, grabbing Jimmy by the arm and hauling him up.
Without a word, he started leading his brother out of the alley. Just before they stepped out on to the street, Clark felt someone trying to pull Jimmy back in. Glancing over his shoulder he saw four kids, three boys and a girl, snarling at him. One drew a knife. "Let 'im go. He's with us."
"I'm not going to hurt him." Clark was aghast at the idea.
The boy seemed to consider this. "If you're gonna do it, be sure to pay 'im."
Clark hadn't thought he could feel sicker; he was thankful he hadn't eaten, the implication made his stomach flip flop. "He's my brother. I'm taking him home." His heart ached at the look of yearning that filled their faces. But there was nothing he could do for them right now. He had to focus on his brother.
With difficulty, he turned his back to them, but as he walked away, he vowed that it would not be for long.
This was all too similar to an incident that had played out years before. Being dragged into a house by an older Kent. Only this time it was Metropolis, the Kent was Clark and it happened to be an apartment
What hadn't changed was the annoyance of the two men.
"Let me go," Jimmy snarled, trying to slink away, but Clark's grip was unbreakable. He didn't even notice Lois sitting there, 'til he heard the scrape of her chair against the floor. And he found he couldn't look her in the eye.
Lois was appalled. Jimmy's entire face was smudged with dirt, his clothes were ragged and torn in a few places. The shoes he wore had to be two sizes too small. But the smell had to be the worst.
No, his demeanour was far more troubling. He stared at the ground, looking as if he was trying to fade into the background; but if anything, he stuck out glaringly in the neatness that was Clark's apartment.
"Take a shower. Now." Clark's voice was like steel. Lois, who'd never heard him be anything but kind, was further taken aback. Even Jimmy didn't protest — not that it would have done much good; Clark practically dragged him into the washroom.
Lois didn't say anything until the door closed and her partner had washed his hands in the kitchen sink. "Clark, what's going on?"
"I don't know, Lois." He said tightly, not looking at her as he turned on the burner beneath a large pot he had sitting on the stove. "But he's going to tell us."
Jimmy stayed in the shower for more than an hour. He saw two kinds of shampoo — his regular kind and one for treating lice. He used the latter.
He stayed in the shower until his skin was so red it looked raw. Until the hot water ran out and his teeth chattered with cold. He felt better, but was a little dismayed the bruise on his cheek from the Initiation still hadn't faded entirely.
He brushed his teeth and shaved. It was his toothbrush and razor. Clark must have been to his room. Damn, Clark must have seen his room. He hissed out a curse, glancing speculatively at the bathroom window. It'd be a tight fit.
"Don't even think about it!" Clark's voice rang out.
He wrapped the towel under his arms, like a girl would, so Lois and Clark wouldn't see the other bruises marring his torso. The one of his face could be explained away. Without a word, he went into the guest bedroom. Sure enough, a neat pile of perfectly folded clothes awaited him. He changed into his favourite jeans and a Metropolis U sweatshirt.
He headed back downstairs. Something smelled good.
Clark and Lois were seated at the kitchen table. There was a bowl of something steaming in front of the third seat. Without a word, Jimmy sat down and began to eat. It was chicken stew. He mumbled a thank you and began to eat.
For some reason, Lois had expected Jimmy devour the bowl. But he didn't. Instead he quietly finished it. When Clark rose to get him another bowl, he met Lois' eyes and shrugged. "You get cramps if you eat too fast," he explained simply.
"Well that covers one question," Clark said once Jimmy had finished. "But I've got a couple dozen more. Starting with what the hell were you thinking?!"
Lois was surprised this night could continue to surprise her. Then again, Clark had shown himself not to be the pushover she'd anticipated. Then again, family could do that to a person.
"I had to make myself invisible." Jimmy said. "You saw my room. He did that. He did that to show he remembers me."
"Who?" Lois asked.
"Luthor?" Lois and Clark said in unison.
Jimmy nodded glumly.
"How do you know him?" Clark asked gently.
"We used to be neighbors." Jimmy laughed coldly. Lois physically shivered at the sound — it seemed more appropriate for his street urchin alter ego. "Would you believe he used to baby sit me for extra cash? Not that our parents could afford to pay much, but in those days, every dollar made a difference."
"Go on," Lois said kindly.
"It was this crappy little complex, not worth the land it was built on." Jimmy stared down into his empty bowl as if watching the scene play out all over again. "We lived next door to each other. One night, my parents went out. I think they were looking for work." He didn't mention his father and mother were barkeep and dancer respectively. "Lex was watching me. We'd been robbed a few times, so I was a pretty light sleeper.
I heard someone come in, heard voices in the kitchen. I wasn't sure what was going on, so I grabbed a bat and went to see."
"How old were you?" Lois asked, keeping her voice down, feeling compelled to do so.
"Eight. Anyway, Lex and this guy were in the kitchen. It looked like they were friends, so I decided to get a cookie instead. The guy asked Lex if everything was still a go, if he wanted to change his mind. Lex said no, that it was time to start a new life and he couldn't do that with his parents holding him down. He told the guy, Trasker, to burn the place to the ground.
I don't know how, but Lex saw me. I was real good at pretendin'," Clark chose not to correct his grammar. "So I just said I wanted a cookie, pretendin' I was real tired. But he knew the truth. I guess he figured it wouldn't matter."
"What happened?" Clark asked, though he already had a sickening feeling in his gut.
"Fire," Jimmy rasped, as though his voice was choked by smoke. "That night, when my parents came home. T-the whole place is burned to the ground. There was nothing left. Ashes. Just ashes. And twelve people. His parents. My…m-my mother."
Jimmy continued. "I guess he figured I'd died too. He never came after us. We got this crappy little dive in Suicide Slum. My dad actually got a job. But he started drinking. He hated me for living." Jimmy unconsciously touched the bruise on his cheek. "I ran when I was ten." He looked up at Clark, haunted. "You know the rest."
"Why didn't you ever tell me?" Clark asked.
"I thought it was over. I figured he figured I was dead and we'd never see each other again. Only he saw me take his picture last week. He remembers me, and he knows what I could do. My mom used to say my memory was gonna take me places. He went through my room at school, you must have seen. He didn't do it because he was looking for something, he was sendin' a message."
"You could have told me."
"You can't protect me from this, from him."
The words stung.
"That's why I have to disappear."
"I'm not going to let you." Clark said firmly. "We're going to talk to the police, tell them everything."
"What's that gonna do, Clark? He's the most powerful man in town. Are they going to believe some twenty year old story? It's better this way. Just let me go, I'll be fine." He licked his lips, his eyes hopeful. "I'll get out of town, may-maybe find a job. I'll write you, but I need to disappear."
"I won't let you," Clark said firmly. "You try this again and I'll find you."
"Which makes things considerably easier on me." Boomed Lex Luthor's voice.
Clark didn't even have the time to turn his head before someone kicked down his front door. A small grey device landed at their feet. Jimmy just made it to his feet before the device started emitting a grey gas. Lois and Jimmy immediately started gagging. Clark played along — there was obviously someone watching the apartment and they'd know something was amiss if he didn't react. He crashed to the ground at the same time they did.
It was difficult to play along when four armed people, obscured by gas masks entered his apartment. One hefted Lois over his shoulder, the other Jimmy. The remaining two had to drag Clark out, cursing at how much he weighed. They were dumped unceremoniously into a van. Even unconscious, Jimmy moaned his discomfort, sounding like a sick animal.
Clark tried to keep track of the turns they were taking, but he soon lost track. He regained his bearings as he recognized the familiar sounds of Suicide Slum — periodic gunshots, the hoarse shouts of muggers, the thudding music of the strip clubs — it was a scar on Metropolis, but an easily recognizable one.
He faked unconsciousness again when the doors of the vans opened and couldn't deny a bit of satisfaction when it took all four men to drag him up the stairs, cursing and swearing up what had to be five flights of stairs. He hoped it would give Lois and Jimmy time to recover and escape; but his hopes were dashed when the others were brought in.
This would have been the perfect time to escape and overpower the men, but they were quick to bind him, Lois and Jimmy, back to back. Their wrists were tied together, his right and Jimmy's left and so forth, leaving them in an awkward triangle. It would also be much difficult for any one person to work their way out of the restraints and free the others.
Moments later, Jimmy and Lois started to stir and Clark once again, went along with it.
Jimmy's eyes opened and slowly came into focus. Then widened when he realized Lex Luthor was kneeling right in front of him. He didn't take in anything else about his predicament — just that the man who'd haunted him most of his life was inches away from him. It was like waking from a dream to find your worst nightmare standing at the foot of your bed.
"My how you've grown, Jimmy. And you've made friends. How quaint." Lex smiled, that waxy politician's smile of his. "I would have figured you to be dead on the street by now. Though you always did have a certain fire about you. I suppose that's why I liked you."
Jimmy flinched at the word fire, but his eyes widened. "Lex, please, just let us go. I-I won't say anything, I promise. Please."
Lex shook his head, clucking like a parent to a disobedient, "No, no, no, no. I'm afraid that's quite impossible. You see, Jimmy, our rather storied past taught me a lot of things. Namely to take care of loose ends as soon as possible. And to make sure they're taken care of. You were a loose end, one that neither my associate Trasker, nor myself took care of. So I'm going to remedy that situation right now. And not without a touch of irony, I might add." Smiling a little, Lex rose to his feet, dusting some dust off his overcoat. He reached into the pocket and held up a small plastic lighter, a gaudy orange colour; the sort you could get anywhere.
It was then that Clark could smell the gasoline. It was everywhere.
"Murderer," Jimmy hissed.
Lex's smile faded
"Murderer," Jimmy sounded like an angry snake. "You killed my mother!"
Lex scowled and stepped closer, grabbing Jimmy by the hair and wrenching his head back, then leaning forward so they were scarce centimeters apart. "But it should have been you," Lex hissed. Abruptly smiling, he stood again. "Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to have dinner with the senator."
"Lex, you can't do this!" Lois croaked, slowly regaining her bearings.
"Oh, but I can, Lois." Lex drawled, without turning back. "And unfortunately, I must. It is a shame though, I was going to invite you to the senator's with me. But unfortunately, you've become a loose end."
Lex disappeared seconds later and Lois began struggling in her bonds. Clark felt more helpless than he ever had before. He couldn't break the ropes without revealing his abilities to Lois.
Seconds later, he heard the 'woosh' followed by the sight of a line of fire travelling up the stairs and into the room as if with intent. It surrounded them in a circle. Jimmy started screaming. Clark looked over — if the fire had reached his brother, he would find a way to explain things to his partner later. But it hadn't. The fire wasn't touching Jimmy. That didn't seem to matter. Jimmy's eyes were closed and he was thrashing and screaming. It almost drowned out the roar of the fire.
Jimmy screamed until the smoke started to choke him. It was only a few moments before he and Lois were unconscious. Clark broke the bonds, changing into his Superman costume at the blink of an eye. There was no time to untie them. He simply hefted the two over his shoulder, relieved at the sound of fire trucks and ambulances heading this way. Suicide Slum was not the most glamorous part of the city, but the firemen and women would not just let it burn.
Superman carried them out and personally placed each of them on gurneys. He directed them to the hospital, then gave his statement to the police.
Though he made sure his both Lois and his brother got police protection while they recovered from smoke inhalation, Clark did not once leave his brother's side. He was even afraid to sleep.
Jimmy was eager to get this over with. He didn't even want to wait until he was discharged from the hospital to give his statement. Inspector Thatcher and a woman in a dark suit personally took Jimmy's statement from his hospital bed. Jimmy, without waiting for the woman to introduce herself, agreed to be a federal witness. The woman's name turned out to be Angie Saunders, FBI.
"So, how did everything go?" Clark asked, hugging his brother tightly.
The press had been all over Lex Luthor's trial for three counts of attempted murder and twelve counts of murder. Clark had never seen Lois so positively gleeful. The trial also gave the federal authorities plenty of leeway to investigate other aspects of Lex's life. No matter how many judges or prosecutors he bought, it was clear Lex Luthor would be going to jail for a long, long time.
But the media had been banned from recording Jimmy's testimony. He was a state federal witness. Even Clark hadn't been able to see him since he'd helped his brother check out of the hospital.
Now Jimmy stood before him in the middle of the Daily Planet newsroom. Most everyone knew who he was now and Clark could tell Jimmy was embarrassed by the attention, particularly when Perry shook his hand. Clark decided to take an early lunch break and nobody objected.
It was only when they were seated and Jimmy had eaten half his double decker cheeseburger that he spoke. "You can tell Mrs. Kent I'm not going to get kicked out of school."
It had been something Martha and Jonathan had worried about, since Jimmy had missed so much of the first year. Clark had noticed his reluctance to call her 'mom' ever since everything about his family history had come clear. He suspected that would come back in time, once everything had settled for him emotionally.
Jimmy flashed him a wicked little grin. "You'd be amazed what a call from the head of the FBI can do."
Clark laughed out loud.
"I figure I'll take these courses again in the summer, so I can catch up. And a new girl's moved down the hall from me in residence. She's gorgeous." He made a face, the same one he used to make when their mother made liver and onions. "But they're taking me back only if I go see a counselor."
"That might be a good idea," Clark said, putting a hand on his brother's shoulder. "You've been through a lot…and not the past few weeks."
"Oh, you don't have to worry about me." Jimmy flashed him a crooked smile, then leaned forward conspiratorially. With a tip of his head, he gestured to the next table over, where the front page feature was about Superman saving a bus load of tourists. "You might be made of steel on the outside, but that's what I've got inside."
Clark thought of everything he knew of this blue eyed kid sitting across from him and nodded. "I don't doubt it for a minute, kiddo. Now let's get back to work."