By Cyad <email@example.com>
Submitted: May 2005
Summary: "Scared of taking a plane," "reporter," "love at first sight," "Daily Planet," "Metropolis" … do all of these make you instantly think "Clark Kent?? Well, think again! This is a pre-pilot fic, and an alternative to Lois and Clark's first meeting.
Behind the scenes : This is the translation of "Airport", a one hour written French fic I submitted more than a year ago. My muse struck at the most opportune moment: the middle of a very, very boring press conference. Seems I couldn't stop the flow so I wrote it all down on my note pad. Despite doing their best to hide their yawns, other journalists were in awe I could take such notes on this s*@# (the official version would be 'extremely newsworthless meeting')… if they'd only known!
Disclaimer: This story is purely fictional, but any resemblance to real events or persons wouldn't be that fortuitous. Regarding the characters of the show 'Lois & Clark, the new adventures of Superman', all the usual disclaimers apply here (DC Comics and Warner Bros, all rights reserved). If I forgot to mention someone, don't unchain the lawyers, I only write for the fun… besides, mine's a real Pittbull in court.
Thankies: to Saskia and AnnaBtg. I know, I cheated, but really, is it my fault if you girls are the best at fast BRing and golden inputs? Also thanks to the people who took time to FDK on the French version, and eventually nagged me for the English counterpart. Well done! I didn't even want to translate it in the first place! Special thanks to those who fdked in French, it's not that easy to write in another language… you'll realise that in a few seconds. Remember, you asked for this. Here you go. And thanks to Ursie, ccmalo, Annabtg, Jeff, Laura and Natascha for their tremendous and encouraging feedback on this English version. Finally, thanks also to Wendy Richards for GEing this story.
PS: some things might not sound exactly LC. The major one being that Clark's not aware of Lois's reputation before his arrival in Metropolis and his job interview with the Planet.
To the guy I gave back his name to:
*In the morning, I don't have breakfast, I think of you,
At noon, I don't have lunch, I think of you,
In the evening, I don't have dinner, I think of you,
At night, I don't sleep…I'm hungry!*
Here I am, covering the most fashionable event of all, the kind of event where you must be seen, the one for which the world's jet- set is queuing up, the one that puts New Troy but mostly Metropolis on fire once a year… quite a given for a city which could without a doubt be second named 'Frenzy'.
So what am I doing, socializing in the overrated, superficial and all-in-all short-lived world of fashion, you could ask?
I'm investigating THE political and financial scandal of these last 20 years.
Truth be told, I'll gladly leave those inconveniences to Cat. All right! In one day I interviewed enough CEOs, marketing managers and show-business stars to be fed up with interviews until the end of my life… my love life (the non-existent one), that is.
But the reason I'm here, the reason I besieged Perry's office and begged him to assign me to the Chinese ambassador new-year party…well, this reason lies elsewhere.
Before you ask, yes, you read that right, I begged Perry. Well, it wasn't exactly begging. I painted him in glowing colours a scoop- smelling headline that would relegate Lex Luthor's financial and philanthropic feats to the obituary page. All I have to do is turn this microscopic distortion of the truth into front page material. Easy… Oh god! I can't believe I've been that selfish and actually trampled all journalism ethics for a guy!
But lets get back to the Chinese new-year party. Right now, the only question that matters and obsesses me so much that I come to do such pathetic things as the one mentioned above, stands in three words:
"Where is he?"
Or rather in one word: 'he'.
I know he's already here, covering this stilted and official party. The chances are one to a billion that I'd find him in this human tide, but I couldn't help it, I had to give it a try…Pathetic, I know. I also know what your next questions will be.
"Where is who? And who is he?"
At this point I feel like I'm gonna have to launch myself into long and, not to my liking, vain explanations regarding my private life. Life that I usually prefer to keep… private, precisely!
But it would seem that I'm turning tender, that I'm losing my bite. And it's his fault all the way. Yes, it is!
You think I'm unfair?
I'm just in love.
In love with him. I met him during a weekend.
I can tell by your dubious pout that you don't believe me.
Okay, fine. It was the professional kind of weekend, so I wasn't likely to play tourist, but as I pointed out to Lucy, I do have a private life… deprived of everything on an emotional level, but private nonetheless. Which is far better than switching boyfriends faster than a speeding bullet.
On the other hand, as my private life means writing articles and investigating the most abject, violent and unimaginable things found in our society, my first personal rule -'never mix up business and pleasure'- becomes null and void. A good thing considering he is also a journalist.
In fact, I was investigating an obscure civil servant's corruption story in Mexico. Corruption orchestrated by Mex Corp holding. For further details, try yesterday's edition of the Daily Planet.
Back to him. It all started at Benito Juarez International Airport.
I arrived long before the due departure hour. This usually prevents me from stressful situations like a traffic-jammed taxi, endless queues at the luggage check-in or last-minute cancelled flight. That last one automatically generates the race for a vacant seat on a competitor company's flight. Competitor that would indeed fly me to my final destination.
Rare thing, this also gives me time to get my breath back and have a shopping break.
Yes, Lois Lane and shopping. Why is it such a shock to everyone?
Shopping as in 'robbing the nearest kiosk for the Daily Planet's last edition or for tabloids you can read without requiring as much intelligence as it takes to read the Metropolis Star. What can I say? 'Once a journalist, always a journalist'.
Plus there's this magical side you only find in airports. An atmosphere that makes you feel out of time, out of the world, securely wrapped in a bubble of excitement, dreams, hope and expectations. Expectations often linked to your anticipation of already 'being over there', of already having landed when your due plane just parked itself on the tarmac.
But I prattle and I'm forgetting the main thing: him.
I wasn't at all expecting this encounter. It's like he came out of nowhere. I just turned around to check the departure indicator for the boarding gate number and, 'poof!', I was suddenly face to face with this stranger who was obviously doing the same.
We started the conversation with the usual trite small talks while heading to the departure lounge. We were obviously on the same flight and, as I'm always nervous about taking a plane, I thought that a little company, even the momentary kind, could help me kill time without meditating on my air-safety obsessions.
Curiously, the more minutes ticked by on the digital clock, the more nervous Mr Magic seemed to grow.
Listening to him had a soothing effect on me.
The steward's boarding call completely startled him. Communicative stress or not, I was shaking like a leaf.
"It's your first time on a plane?" I asked.
"Er…you could say that, yes."
Like such an enigmatic answer would satisfy me. I can't help it. I can't totally shut off my reporter side, even in the most insignificant moments of my everyday life. I went on:
"I'm always anxious with the idea of taking a plane. Although I try to reason with myself, repeating myself that it's the safest and fastest mean of transportation, I'm not comfortable at all with the idea of…"
"…Being confined in a flying can that leaves you no alternatives if a dangerous situation occurs?" he ended.
"Yes. But mostly I like to feel that I'm in control, that I can choose my own destiny and there…"
"It's not really the case, huh?"
"No, it's not," I admitted in a whisper.
"Passport and boarding pass, please."
The ground staff member's voice abruptly cut in the silence that had stretched between us.
"Thanks. Welcome aboard and enjoy your flight," she replied after barely checking the documents I handed her.
"Enjoy your flight," I said to Mr Magic.
Imagine how surprised I was five minutes later when I realised he was my neighbour.
"Do you mind if I take the aisle seat?"
He ended his question with the most dazzling smile I've ever seen. Hardly finding back my words darn that 'megawatt smile' effect — I articulated:
"Er…no. To be honest, I prefer the window seat. I feel less locked in if I can catch a glimpse of the earth beneath. Must be my claustrophobic side."
Then, willing to bring the conversation back on a less personal ground, I moved on:
"You sure you don't want the window seat? It could help you to surmount your fear of flying?"
"Oh I like flying, just not… not on a commercial flight," he let out, suddenly uneasy.
The plane was now perfectly lined up with the runway, engines roaring, awaiting the control tower's authorisation to take off.
"You're a pilot? I mean, flying is your hobby?"
"I envy you."
"You like flying?"
"Well, more or less. Everything is so beautiful from up there. Makes you feel…"
"Exactly. Do you always finish your conversation's partners' sentences?" I joked while the plane took off, rapidly gaining altitude.
As he didn't seem to answer, I stole a glance at him. He was pallid and I had never seen an armrest being tortured so much. I guess the poor object now knows what "being distorted by fear" means.
A muffled linguistic gibberish came out:
"Clark. The name's Clark Kent."
"Clark," I said, taking his right hand in mine, "everything's gonna be all right, there's absolutely no need to panic. Listen to me, this is a patented claustrophobic speaking, Met Airlines is one of the best international flying companies. Their pilots are the most practised you could ever dream of."
"Yeah, sure," he replied, clearly unconvinced.
"They're the best in the world. They can pilot and land a plane regardless of the weather. They're even trained to handle the worst 'in flight' situations."
"How do you know all this?"
"I know it, that's all."
"Keep that for others. So?"
"Are you questioning me or do I get the special treatment?"
"Sorry. Helps me to focus on something else than my aerophobia," he apologized.
"Oh. Well, I investigated the airline before booking my flight ticket," I admitted.
"What?!?! Are you a cop?"
"Not quite. I'm a journalist. And you?"
"I'm a journalist, too."
"What were you doing in Mexico?"
"I could return the question."
"All right, then, what brings you to Metropolis?"
"I'm going home."
"I doubt that. I know every journalist in New Troy and, last time I checked, you weren't among them. Plus, no harm meant, but you look more like a country boy than a seasoned big city guy to me."
"You're right. But, before I answer your question, I'd like to know your name."
I hesitated for a moment. The only trace left of Louise Lassiter, the faked identity I used to enter Mexico, was a magnetic pass granting unlimited access to Mex Corp facilities in Cancun and Puerto Valarta. I breathed in and looked him in the eyes. Big mistake. I was literally sucked into twin chocolate oceans and found myself drowning.
I know what you're going to say. "Lois, behave! You're not that desperate!"
Have you ever tried resisting chocolate? My answer sounded like a capitulation.
"Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please. We are beginning our descent into Metropolis International Airport. We may go through some turbulences, so please go back to your seats and make sure your seatbelts are fastened."
"I'm waiting!" I shot at Clark, my patience nearly drained by this safety call. He looked drained, too. Colour drained. I could tell the crew member's speech had just triggered his plane phobia. It took him a few minutes to recall.
What? There's no politician or crook on earth I can't crack. And all of a sudden, the eyes of a stranger would break through me? No way… WOW! To top it all he's now flashing me that mockery-devoid- but-to-die-for smile of his.
Get a grip, Lois! Three deep breaths and…
"Now that you know my name, I want the answer to my question. So what brings you to Metropolis?"
"You never give up, do you? Well, I have a job interview with the Daily Planet in a week," he replied.
I discretely foot-pushed my satchel under the seat before me. The last Daily Planet edition was sticking out of it, one of my stories on the front page… the usual. Only the marketing people had decided to put my face on a 'Planet subscription' extra banner ad. Said banner was spread atop the Planet's front page. Teaser, they said. Anyway, although he never mentioned it, I think my gesture wasn't totally lost on Clark, because he lowered his glasses and paused for a millisecond before putting it back. He then cleared his throat and stared at me as if he'd just been hit by thunder. With his forehead all creased, he looked like he was about to solve some impossible riddle.
"The Planet, wow! It's the best daily newspaper in Metropolis. You must be quite an ace. What's your field?" I asked, faking disbelief.
One of my friends at Met U had told me that you could get anything from a man with a little bit of flattery. All you needed to do was play scatterbrain girl… Now that I give it a thought, all Marina managed to get from a man was a bouquet of roses after a torrid one-night stand. It took some time before the reply finally came out.
The shock hurled me forward and a deafening sound filled the cabin. We had just landed at Metropolis International Airport and the 767 headed to its assigned parking zone. I turned to Clark. His jaw was twitching and the armrests of his seat had just suffered another round of distortion… especially the right one, which could now compete with Cesar's compressions.
"Nobody's waiting for you? You're staying at the hotel?"
We'd just reached the taxi lot after getting back our luggage.
"No. I'm staying at my parents'. It's been a while since I last saw them."
"Oh," I said, heading to the nearest taxi.
"They live in…er…the suburbs," he added while opening the taxi's right rear door for me.
Judging by the tone of his voice, either he was making that up, or he wanted to surprise his folks by paying them an unexpected visit. Astoundingly, I didn't push. Well, not that much.
"You mean it's-only-a-metro-stop-away suburbs, outskirts or far- away suburbs?"
As the taxi driver loaded my luggage, he chocolated…er…looked at me for a moment before replying,
"Far away." Then, as moved by a sudden inspiration, he added "I'll be at the Chinese embassy for their new-year party. This event…"
"…Usually closes the fashion season."
"You finish my sentences now?" he noticed, clearly amused. I felt myself turn red from head to toe.
"Why would an investigative reporter, trying to get hired at one of the most prestigious national newspapers, waste time at a social event like that?"
"Which you never answer," I pointed out.
"Everyone should stay somewhat mysterious."
"I'm making a living out of unveiling mysteries. See you, then," I replied, sweeping into the taxi. "And good luck with your job interview," I added before shutting the door closed.
The prospect of a lonely taxi ride to Carter Avenue, to return to an apartment that was as cold and empty as my fridge, suddenly seemed less weighty.
So here I am, covering the most fashionable event of all. Scanning the room in a vain attempt to find him. It's like looking for a needle in a 12,000 square meters haystack. Only here, the needle is standing among six thousand others. I could really use a giant and ultra selective magnet.
Everything reminds me of him. A voice, an attitude… I even considered telepathy. In the evening, when I go back to my apartment, I often whisper his name. It reassures me and, for a precious moment, it gives me back the hope I'd lost on mankind, which, I must say, is a real miracle itself.
At night, when I'm unable to find rest, I think up scenarios that are sweeter than the last episode of Ivory Tower. More pink than Barbara Cartland's dresses or novels…I defy you to keep your sanity further than page 10.
I can see us bringing down the most dangerous organised crime networks in Metropolis. I imagine our articles on the Planet's front page, sharing a common byline: 'Lane & Kent'. I anticipate our nomination for the Kerth Awards and the Pulitzers. I picture us haunting the Planet's newsroom, delighting ourselves in eating Chinese take-out. But mostly, I dream about this moment where we would finally let our guards down. Where he would put his arms around me and, his face slowly inching to mine, he would…lightly tap me on the shoulder?!!
Tap, tap, tap.
He would insistently tap me on the shoulder?
He would insistently tap me on the shoulder and whisper my name.
I love the way he pronounces my name, as if he was taking delight in a great wine.
OK. Something's definitely not fitting. Usually, at this point of my reverie, we're already…that's no concern of yours. Plus, I never told him my first name was Lois. I should be Louise to him, right? That was when I suddenly realised I may have been daydreaming.
"Stop slapping me on the shoulder, Clark! I'm not deaf!" I let out, turning around and… freezing dead. I've been daydreaming, all right, but snapping out of it looked definitely more appealing. I still wonder how, but Mr Magic was indeed standing in front of me, live. Or so it seemed. I berated myself for giving pinching him a thought.
"Sorry, but you were lost in thought," he replied.
"I…you…you're here! I mean really here."
Did I mention that I have mastered stating the obvious?
"Still a cocktail party fan?" I went on.
"Even more since a few minutes ago."
Now, I must be peony scarlet.
"How did your interview with the Daily Planet go?" I asked, willing to keep it on a professional side.
His look darkened before lighting up with bittersweet chocolate irony.
"Well, apparently the investigative team is already at full strength. Unless Perry White persuades his star reporter to train a junior journalist like me by teaching him the ropes, that is. From what I've heard, it's not likely to happen. Lois Lane works better solo." He grinned.
<Hum…Not bad for a rookie,> I thought. Then aloud: "She could change her mind."
"You think so?"
I held his gaze for a moment. It was sparkling with the promise of too many daydreaming sessions coming true.
"I know so."