By Tic and Toc <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: March, 2006
Summary: What do you get when you mix an ex-convict and some Kryptonite with Lois Lane and Superman during a bank robbery? Not what you might expect…
The first part of this little story was barely more than a sentence and a few phrases, written on a virtual post-it note and stuck to a corner of my desktop. The second part was an idea I'd jotted down ages ago on another virtual note. Coming across the two notes, I wondered: could I combine these two ideas and make a story?
I sat down (well, actually, I was already sitting) and handed the thing over to my own version of Paul's Timmy, and this is the result.
Many, many thanks go to LabRat for her very enthusiastic comments, and her lovely quick and helpful BR work on this. More thanks go to Wendy, who also looked it over for me and once again, helped me keep my tenses straight.
Disclaimer: None of the characters belong to me and no copyright infringement is intended. This story was written for fun, not for profit.
William Patrick Hardisham III, known to his acquaintances as 'Buddy', to his mother — God rest her soul — as 'Billy', and to his ex-wife as 'you no-good, cheating S.O.B.', was having a bad day.
A very bad day.
It had started out pretty well, actually. He'd had everything planned out — Buddy Hardisham was going to pull off the biggest heist of his career, singlehandedly.
Normally he'd round up some of his acquaintances — you met all kinds of talent in jail — to help him out. But then you had to share the loot. And he'd been perfectly willing — well, grudgingly willing — to share the… profits, so to speak.
Yesterday he'd stumbled onto a gold mine.
Well, not literally. He'd been talking to some guys who knew guys, down at Lorenzo's. Sort of shopping for talent — he'd need somebody who could disable an alarm, maybe another muscle or two, and wheels.
The bar had been crowded, smoky, loud with a crowd's worth of conversation. As he'd worked his way toward the john, he'd seen an upper-class dude in the middle of an exchange with one of the sort who usually frequented Lorenzo's.
The dude looked like he'd maybe turned down the wrong street on his way home from Wall Street. Way out of place. He'd just handed a briefcase to the hood he was talking to, and he'd received something palm-sized in return.
Diamonds, maybe? Or gold?
Drugs? It hadn't looked like a drug deal, and besides, the regulars at Lorenzo's wouldn't sell drugs in the open like that — even if 'the open' was the narrow, dimly lighted hallway outside the john in a dingy southside bar.
Curiosity piqued, Buddy had melted back into the crowd until the dude turned and began to make his way to the door. Buddy followed him.
No sense in wasting what might be an opportunity to make a quick buck — especially off someone else's ill-gotten gains. What had the guy bought that was worth a briefcase of dough — that was what it had to be — but was so small you could stuff it in your pocket? Something Buddy could turn around and sell again?
If it was gold or gems, Wall Street Dude would've been taking a real chance walking out of the bar on his own. A fancy dude like that in a place like Lorenzo's? He coulda' had a whole line of muggers waiting outside like cabs at a taxi stand.
Mugging wasn't really Buddy's thing — he preferred the bigger rewards involved in holding up entire establishments, like banks. But he'd been known to mug a guy or two in his time, and he hadn't lost his edge.
The bar had an outer door that opened into a small, square hallway with a pay phone on one wall and an overflowing ashtray standing in a corner. Coming up on the fancy dude from behind as they both stepped out of the bar's inner door into the deserted hallway, Buddy had knocked him over the head with the beer bottle he still held. The man went down without a sound.
Digging swiftly through the guy's pockets, Buddy had found a wallet, a set of keys, and… a rock. A weird, green, sort of glowing rock. Tiny, almost a pebble, really.
It had to be… Buddy had pocketed it — and the wallet almost as an afterthought — and ducked out the front door. The street had been empty, as were the parked cars as far as he could tell. Good. No witnesses. Strolling casually down the street, he'd thought calm thoughts until he could duck down an alley and break into a run.
Sitting on the edge of the bed in his seedy rented room, Buddy had examined his own little gold mine.
It had to be kryptonite.
The rock was green.
It was barely as big as his pinky fingernail, but Wall Street Dude had paid a briefcase for it.
Depending on who you talked to, kryptonite either existed or it didn't. The stories whispered in the back rooms of bars, or spread from cell to cell, said it was the only thing that could hurt Superman. That some crazy government sort had almost taken the big guy out with this very stuff. That there was only a tiny bit of it in the whole entire world.
Buddy had hit gold.
He couldn't sell the thing — if the dude he'd taken it from could pay the kind of money that fit in a briefcase for it, for sure the dude had employees who could take Buddy out. If Buddy was dumb enough to advertise that he had the rock.
His mama hadn't raised no stupid boy. He might not be able to sell it, but he could use it himself. He could scrap his plans to hire some help and pull off a heist by himself. If he hit a bank early in the morning — just as it was opening — he'd only have to worry about a few employees. And probably no customers.
They'd have the vault opened up, so he could stroll in at his leisure, locking the door on his way in. Most of the First Bank of Metropolis branches had outer doors and inner doors, so he could lock the outer door without anybody in the bank seeing him.
So he could stroll in with his usual equipment — loaded gun — and isolate any employees on the scene. If he walked around the end of the counter he could get a gun on a teller before he or she could hit the silent alarm. Secure 'em — duct tape had always worked well for Buddy — and help himself to a couple of weeks of easy living. And if the big guy showed up, he'd get a little surprise.
So here he was.
Having a really bad day.
Buddy had walked in to the First Bank branch nice and early, projecting a calm and soothing "just another businessman" air as he came. He'd even worn a business suit — shoplifted from Miriam's Secondhand Clothing while its proprietor was assisting a young woman with two small and noisy rugrats — to complete his image.
He'd locked the door behind him and strolled in, glancing around casually. There was one teller behind the counter, helping the one customer. Cripes, who got up at the crack of dawn to be the first one in the door at a bank, anyway? The customer was obviously a businesswoman — smart suit and briefcase type — but she was on the small side and probably easily intimidated. The teller looked like she ought to be in high school.
The famous Hardisham luck was holding out. As he stood there watching, the branch manager came out of an office near the far end of the bank counter, and stepped behind it to say something to the young teller. Excellent! All three women conveniently bunched up for him.
What a glorious day!
Buddy slipped quickly around the end of the counter, bringing his gun up as he came. "Back up nice and slow, ladies," he said with a smile, "and keep your hands up where I can see 'em. You —" He gestured with his free hand at the businesswoman, who didn't seem particularly alarmed. "- come around the far side of the counter, hands up, and join us. Don't try anything funny."
"I wouldn't dream of it," she replied pleasantly, moving gracefully around the end of the counter as Buddy held the gun trained on the others.
Classy broad. This was going to be a cake walk. Buddy tossed the roll of duct tape to the businesswoman. "Tie the others up — hands behind their backs and then ankles. I won't hurt any of you if you cooperate."
Without fuss, she caught the tape and with a murmur too soft for him to catch, began to bind the other two women's hands behind their backs. Probably reassuring them that he was a high-class kind of crook — more a modern-day Robin Hood, except he stole from the rich and kept it.
When the teller and the manager were bound and sitting on the floor against the wall, he directed the classy dame to sit down and bind her own ankles. Just in case she had any tricks up her sleeve. Buddy wasn't a martial artist himself but he'd known a guy in prison that had talked about defensive moves and stuff.
When she had complied, Buddy bound her wrists. Maybe he'd get her name and phone number when he finished his… shopping. Ask her out. A classy broad for a classy guy.
His audience suitably restrained, Buddy pocketed the gun and got to work. Cake walk. He probably wouldn't even need to use his little gold mine, but it was there in his pocket if he needed it.
As Buddy turned to enter the vault, the businesswoman suddenly screeched, "Help! Superman, help!"
For a moment, Buddy was startled at the sheer volume of her yell. Honestly — maybe she wasn't quite his type after all. Classy or not, she was kind of a troublemaker.
Fortunately, Buddy was well-prepared for trouble.
He smiled at her, shaking his head slightly. "Now, really, why'd you go and do that?" he asked her. "I'm afraid you've caused your hero more trouble than he wants." So saying, he extracted the kryptonite from his pocket, holding it up so she could see it. Her eyes widened in surprise, and yes — apprehension.
Good. She knew what it was.
Buddy turned as a crashing sort of sound came from the bank's outer doors, and then Superman was striding in with that hero- ish look on his face. Not that Buddy had ever personally seen it before, but he'd heard stories.
Buddy held up the kryptonite, and the hero stopped in his tracks, one hand raising to his forehead above one eye. He seemed to sway slightly on his feet, and his gaze raked around the room until it came to rest back on Buddy and his kryptonite.
Face like granite, the superhero strode forward and grasped Buddy by the back of his suit collar, and shook him. Not particularly hard, but enough that Buddy, in his surprise, dropped the kryptonite. It bounced and rolled near the dame with the screech.
Before Buddy knew what was happening, he'd been secured, hands and feet, with his own duct tape and was sitting blinking on the floor. The superhero was bending over the three women, freeing them from their bonds.
"Are you okay, Lois?" he heard the superhero ask.
As in Lois Lane?
Oh, for the love of — of all the banks Buddy could have picked, he had to pick *Lois Lane's* bank?
And obviously, while kryptonite might exist, the 'only thing that can hurt Superman' part was a myth. Buddy slumped in dejection. So much for life outside prison. Metropolis subscribed to the 'three strikes' theory, and this was Buddy's third. He'd be in prison for a long time.
He'd make sure he told everyone how useless kryptonite was, though. The Wall Street dude he'd lifted it from had been stiffed big time. That was the only funny thing about this whole mess.
What a rotten day..
Lois watched in satisfaction — and wonder — as Superman efficiently bound the would-be robber hand and foot with his own duct tape. It didn't improve the tacky, wrinkled leisure suit at all.
She — and tacky-boy there — had both believed that rock was kryptonite. Obviously, he'd been misled.
She smiled at Superman as he approached her, aware of the awe with which the other two women were watching him. They'd probably never seen the superhero in the flesh before, much less had a chance to actually speak to him. That part of their story would probably get more retelling than the attempted robbery.
"Are you okay, Lois?" Superman asked her, and she assured him that she was unharmed.
"Can you get that thing out of here?" he asked her softly as he cut the tape on her wrists. "It's kryptonite."
"What?" she replied, equally softly, in surprise. "…But isn't it supposed to — is it just too small to —" She trailed off as he shook his head.
"It isn't hurting me, Lois," he replied, "but can I explain it later?" At her nod, he moved on to the other two women, who were waiting patiently to be set free.
Lois quietly picked up the small glowing rock and rose to her feet. Get rid of it, he'd requested — now, where… Her eyes lit up. "Um, I'm going to make a quick visit to the ladies' room, okay?" she said to the room in general. The branch manager nodded distractedly as she and the teller sank down into the chairs Superman had thoughtfully brought over to them.
She heard Superman's soft exhalation as she moved away from him with the small rock tucked into her fist, and wondered. He'd said it wasn't hurting him, yet that was definitely a sigh of relief.
Later — he'd said he would explain it later. She hoped later meant very shortly. Waiting patiently wasn't something she did very well.
Lois dropped the kryptonite into the toilet and flushed it. It vanished instantly, but she flushed again to hurry it on its way. It was almost as good as vaporizing it — it would be just another slime-coated stone in the sewer system, filtered out into the sludge pools with all the other debris from the city's sewers and storm drains.
Lois returned to the bank proper as the branch manager spoke into the phone, apparently arranging for the front door — unavoidably damaged by Superman's entrance — to be repaired. Sirens in the near distance attested to the fact that she'd also called the police.
Superman waited calmly, arms folded in the pose he often used when not actually rescuing someone.
With muggers and street crimes, Superman usually provided transport directly to the police station for the villains. With indoor crimes, such as bank robberies or other goods heists, he waited at the scene for the police to arrive, then handed over his charge or charges. It was a matter of courtesy — the police liked to preserve crime scenes whenever possible. The general feeling was that you could never have too much evidence. Usually, Superman offered to transport or at least direct the police to the scene of an outdoor crime.
She approached him and said very softly, "I suppose I don't need to tell you, but I flushed it."
He smiled at her, saying, "Thank you, Lois. May I stop by your apartment tonight? Maybe around 7 pm or so? I can explain everything then. I would like to tell you off the record, though."
"Seven o'clock is fine," she replied with a smile, her heart speeding up a bit in anticipation. "But you might consider letting me tell this particular story — spreading the word publicly that having kryptonite is a waste of time might not be a bad idea…"
His smile grew wider, and for a moment it reminded her of someone else — who? — but he was saying, "As usual, you're demonstrating why you've won those awards — you're thinking a few steps ahead of me. Yes, I think you're right. May we continue this discussion tonight?"
Flushed with pleasure at his compliment, she agreed, then stepped back as a uniformed police officer respectfully asked Superman for the official story.
Speaking of which — she glanced at her watch — if she hustled she could get this written up and give it to Perry before the morning meeting. Anything Superman allowed her to say about kryptonite would make a wonderful follow-up article.
She was looking forward to telling Clark about her little adventure this morning, as well. He'd enjoy hearing the story as much as she'd enjoy telling it.
She'd have to stop at a bank at lunch time, though — she'd never completed her transaction this morning, and she had more important things to do right now..
Lois smiled as she stepped back from her window, Superman following her into the room. "Would you like a drink? Coffee, maybe, or —" She trailed off, unsure if he drank cream soda or diet coke.
"No, thanks," he replied pleasantly, smiling at her. "Should we treat this as an interview, and decide what you'll mention and what you won't? Or just talk about it?"
"Let's treat it as an interview," she replied, moving to sit on her sofa and gesturing at the seating in general. "That way I can take notes and we can hash out what to mention and what not to mention at the end."
"I wanted Clark to be here," she continued as Superman sat beside her on the sofa. "After all, we're partners, and both of us have heard the kryptonite rumors. But he had something he had to do — he said he couldn't cancel it. So it's just me."
Superman seemed about to say something, then stopped as she asked, "So, anyway — *are* you okay? Really? The rumors are that kryptonite can really hurt you, Superman."
"Yes, Lois, I'm fine," he reassured her with another smile.
"They say it's the only thing that can hurt you — maybe even kill you," she persisted. "And that it makes you lose your powers."
"No, that's all just a myth," he confirmed.
"Then why would people — villains — think that it could?" she asked him. "Is it just because it comes from your planet, so they assume whatever radioactivity it has would affect you?"
"I said it doesn't *hurt* me," Superman reminded her. "It doesn't. I didn't say it can't *affect* me, though."
"Oh," she breathed. "But what does it do, then? You seemed to feel *something* when Leisure Suit Larry held it up.
Superman laughed at her description of the would-be robber, and again, he reminded her of someone for a moment. "Well, it seems like a… booster, I guess, for some of my powers. I don't know if that's the right word — it seems to make them more… *more* somehow. Maybe 'distort' is a better word."
Seeing her puzzled look, he explained, "For example, it… 'greened up' my super vision — it was like looking through green sunglasses. It distorts my hearing slightly — it's like hearing everything from inside a tin can. There's a tinny sound to everything."
Lois had stopped taking notes. "This is the stuff I'm holding back," she said, and received a grateful smile from the superhero. "Nobody really needs to know this — although, it doesn't sound like any of this would help a villain in any way — but still, maybe some idiot somewhere could manage to find a way to use the information to his or her advantage, so really, it's better if I don't mention it. What else does it do to you?" she finished, slightly out of breath.
Superman was grinning — actually grinning — at her in the same way Clark did when she got an idea and ran with it. Babble, he called it. Obviously, he and Superman must have compared notes at some time or other. She might have to have a little talk with Clark.
"It also distorts my sense of smell," Superman continued. "Although strangely, it doesn't seem to apply to you," he mused almost to himself. "Your scent seems unchanged."
Her scent? He could… smell her?
Noticing her somewhat apprehensive look, Superman hastened to reassure her. "You know, your perfume, or your skin lotion and shampoo," he said, "the same things anyone else would smell. Only I can pick them up from farther away." He smiled at her. And as she relaxed, he added, "Kryptonite seems to make things — smells — stronger, mostly. Fruit-based scents all start to smell like oranges, and things like gourmet coffee have an… earthier sort of smell Like I can smell the tree the coffee beans grew on, and the earth the tree grew in."
Superman drank gourmet coffee? An image of him waiting patiently at a Starbucks flashed through her mind.
"Anyway, my strength and invulnerability don't seem to be affected," Superman said. "Nor my ability to fly. When I was exposed for a longer period of time, I got sort of nauseous — not really bad, but kind of disconcerting. I've felt slightly dizzy, but that's barely noticeable — sort of like what you've described when your alarm yanks you abruptly out of bed some mornings…" he broke off.
How did he know that? It wasn't like he was around in the mornings — not that she could remember. She must have mentioned it to him, but she honestly couldn't recall an instance where it might have come up in conversation.
"Anyway…" he continued, almost awkwardly, "And it makes my head itchy as heck. That effect usually lasts longer than the rest." He scratched at his scalp idly, then more vigorously while he spoke, bringing both hands up and closing his eyes like a contented cat.
Lois was fascinated. She'd never seen Superman act so informal — so comfortable — like an ordinary guy. As she watched, his actions ruffled his usually slicked-back hair.
With it all tousled and falling forward on his forehead, he looked… familiar.
In fact, he looked a lot like someone she knew very well.
Someone who was going to have an *awful lot* of groveling to do in the very near future.
As he brought his hands down with an 'ahhhh… itch scratched' sort of sigh, she narrowed her gaze at him and spoke one word.