Season 6 (based on spoilers)
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the WB and DC Comics, not to me
Jimmy Olsen's Blues, Part 3
You don't tug on Superman's cape
You don't spit into the wind
You don't pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger
And you don't mess around with Jim
-Jim Croce, "You Don't Mess Around With Jim"
Fog shrouded the city as I walked toward the waterfront, my camera around my neck. I'd driven across Metropolis, despite the fog, because I thought I could get some good pictures of the river in the early-morning sunlight. I was starting to think it was a dumb idea, though, because I couldn't see more than two feet in front of my face. I'd figured the fog would start lifting as the sun rose into the sky, but if anything, it was thicker than ever.
The waterfront was kind of a dangerous area, and I was alert as I walked down a street of rundown apartments and abandoned stores. But there was no one else around. All of a sudden I saw something red materialize right in front of me, and I stopped, realizing it was a person, and he'd just... come out of nowhere. Yeah, it was foggy, but I swear, the guy just popped out of thin air.
I squinted through the fog and made out the revoltingly handsome features of Clark Kent.
I didn't like CK much. Yeah, he'd saved my life the other day, but he seemed to have a thing for my girlfriend, Chloe Sullivan.
Okay, so Chloe's not exactly my girlfriend. Yet. But we're heading in that direction. We've been out on two dates-- three if you count a lunch date-- and I kissed her on the cheek the other night. Ever since, I hadn't thought about anything besides kissing her... on the lips instead of the cheek.
Anyway, CK obviously had a thing for Chloe, and the problem was I thought maybe she had a thing for him, too. But he'd done something to piss her off, and the last time I'd seen them together, she'd pretty much told him to get lost.
Considering he lived in the little burg of Smallville, he'd apparently taken her literally, because he was a hell of a long way from home.
I frowned at him. "You sure get around, don't you?"
He glanced in my direction for the first time, and his eyes widened with surprise. "Jimmy?"
"Yeah." I crossed my arms and puffed out my chest, trying to look a little more intimidating. "You following me around, CK?"
He lifted an eyebrow, managing to look contemptuous and amused all at once. The supercilious bastard. "Hardly."
"And yet you keep popping up. Looking for Chloe again? I hate to tell you this, but she isn't here."
"And that's a damn good thing." He frowned, looking away from me and staring intently into the fog. For the first time I noticed there was a little box in his left hand. And on his right wrist he wore a big silver bracelet. Which was strange, because CK didn't strike me as the bling type. "Listen, Jimmy, you need to get out of here."
"I'm taking pictures of the waterfront."
"You're going home," he said firmly.
Okay, I admit it. His tone really pissed me off. Who the hell did this guy think he was, telling me to go home like I was a ten-year-old? He'd already turned away from me, like I wasn't worth arguing with, but I glared belligerently at the back of his head.
"I'm not going anywhere, CK. What's going on?"
"Look, Jimmy," he said with a sigh. "I really don't have time to..."
But he didn't get a chance to say anything else, because there was a sudden explosion, and all of a sudden a car was flying through the air, right at us.
I yelled and lunged forward, intending to knock CK out of the way, the way he'd gotten me out of the line of fire a few days ago. It didn't work quite as well as I planned. In fact, it felt pretty much like I'd run into a brick wall. I can't stand guys who spend their lives in a gym, and CK was obviously one of them. No way had he gotten that many muscles just from working on a farm.
CK spun, reached out, snagged my shirt, and tossed me aside like I didn't weigh anything at all. I slammed into a sidewalk, several feet away. Beneath me, my camera hit the pavement pretty hard, and I heard something crunch. Shit.
I rolled over, still scrambling backward. I was afraid I was going to see CK squished under the car. I might not like CK much, but that didn't mean I wanted to see him crunched like my now-defunct camera.
I should have gotten him out of the way, damn it. I'd tried, but I just wasn't big enough to move a guy that size.
I was relieved to see CK had apparently avoided the car, because he was non-squished, although the little box he'd been holding was lying on the asphalt. I could hardly see anything through the fog, but his red jacket stood out like a beacon. It looked like he was fighting someone else, a huge guy in dark clothing.
I saw a weird light flashing and realized the other guy was using some sort of weapon. It looked like lasers or something, and it almost looked like it was coming from his face, but it was really too foggy to tell for sure. Whatever it was, it knocked CK a hell of a long distance backward. He smashed into the ground and lay on his back, motionless.
Maybe the smart thing to do would have been to hide and call the cops on my cell, but by the time the cops got here, I figured CK would be dead, or at least beaten half to death. I didn't know CK too well, and I wasn't really sure what was going on here, but I did know CK and Chloe had been friends a long, long time. Based on everything she'd told me about him, I figured he was the good guy here. And he was sure as hell overmatched, because next to this enormous guy, CK looked like a ninety-pound weakling.
The massive man was stalking toward CK, who was still sprawled on the pavement, looking stunned. I looked frantically around. Like I said, it was a crappy area, and the storefront behind me had boarded-up windows, and looked like it had been that way for a long time. I yanked at one of the graffiti-covered two-by-fours, and the old rusted nails gave way easily.
I ran up behind the big guy and clobbered him over the head with my makeshift club.
Damn it. The wood must have been a lot more rotten than it looked.
The guy turned around and looked down at me. A long way down. CK was big, but this guy must have been six and a half feet tall, and almost that big across. He glared at me, and I swear, I saw his eyes glowing in the fog. I guess that was just my imagination and my nerves, but they sure looked like they were shining with a weird light.
And then something hit him from behind. CK again, I realized. Geez, Clark just wouldn't stay down. He ought to take up wrestling or something. The two of them rolled to the side, battling furiously.
And then the the huge guy staggered to his feet. He had CK by the throat and held him a foot off the ground. CK was struggling frantically, but looked pretty well beat. The guy wrenched the silver bracelet off CK's wrist and threw it away, and a weird light began to glow in the fog.
I know that sounds crazy, but I swear, there was this big eerie glowing circle. Maybe it was just someone's headlights or something, I don't know. But CK started to struggle harder, and I got the feeling he was in serious trouble.
I looked wildly around for something better to hit the guy with, and my gaze fell on the little box CK had been holding in his hand.
I picked it up. It felt pretty heavy, and I wondered what was inside it. I got the impression CK had come here looking for this guy, so maybe he'd brought a weapon or something with him.
I opened the box... and found a rock.
It was an unremarkable rock, a little like quartz, but sort of greenish gray. I couldn't imagine why CK was carrying it around with him. Maybe he was into mineralogy or something, I don't know. Anyhow, it was about the size of my fist, and I figured it was better than a rotting board.
CK was gasping and struggling for breath. I ran up behind the big guy and clubbed him over the head with the rock.
And he dropped CK and went right to his knees.
CK fell to the ground, too, wheezing like he was in real pain. I hoped the guy hadn't crushed his trachea or anything like that. The big guy managed to stagger upright, and loomed over me. Still clutching the rock, I smashed him across the face with it.
And he flew backward.
I know that sounds crazy. I mean, I'm not that big, and this guy looked like he would fit right in on Smackdown on Friday nights. But I swear to you, he went flying backward, right into the ring of light in the fog... and vanished. The ring of light blinked out, too.
I dropped the rock and fell to my knees beside CK. He was still gasping, sounding like he was struggling for every breath, and I pulled out my cell. "Hey," I said. "I'm going to call an ambulance, okay?"
"No," he whispered, his voice strained. "I'm okay. My rock... put my rock back in the box."
I looked down at the rock and noticed it was glowing. Now it was bright green, and considerably less unremarkable than I'd originally thought. What the hell was going on here? A circle of light in the fog, a glowing rock-- weird. I was starting to think Metropolis was a really strange place.
Either that, or CK was a really strange guy.
"What if your friend comes back?" I said. I didn't want to be without a weapon, no matter how pitiful it was.
"I think... I think he ran off," CK answered hoarsely. He gave me a faint shadow of a grin. "I guess you scared him."
I put the rock back in its little box and closed it, and CK lay there for a while, rubbing at his throat. After a while his breathing started to sound more normal, and he sat up.
"You sure you're okay?" I asked.
"Yeah. I'm fine." He looked at me, his eyes serious. "Thanks for saving my ass."
I shrugged. "I owed you one."
He grinned wryly and picked up the little box, then stood up. I came to my feet too, and looked up at him.
"What was that all about, CK?"
"Hard to explain."
He sighed. "A couple of weeks ago, I went out of the country for a while. When I came back, there were these people after me."
"They followed you into the country?"
"Can't you call the cops?"
"The cops can't do anything against these guys. Trust me."
I gaped at him, disbelieving. This was a farm kid from Smallville, Kansas, after all. He'd obviously managed to get himself in a hell of a lot of trouble somehow, and was in way over his head. "You're telling me the mob's after you?"
"Sort of." He shrugged, looking uncomfortable. "Let's just say I'm having some serious problems with these people."
Several pieces of the puzzle finally started to come together for me. "This is why Chloe's pissed at you," I said at last. "You blew her off, didn't you? You're trying to stay away from her and keep her safe."
He looked away from me, staring into the fog like he could see right through it somehow. "I don't want her to get hurt," he said softly. "If these people thought there was anything between us, they might use her to get to me. I can't let that happen."
"Is there anything between the two of you?"
He turned his head to look at me, and I saw raw pain in his eyes for an instant, before he concealed it behind a cold mask of indifference. "No," he said shortly. "We're just friends. She's all yours."
It was exactly what I wanted to hear, but I didn't believe a word of it. I couldn't help but respect a guy who was so determined to protect the woman he loved that he'd give her up. And given the look on his face when he talked about her, I no longer had the slightest doubt that he loved her.
But no matter how noble his motives were, he was hurting Chloe by pushing her away. I knew Chloe well enough to know she'd be perfectly willing to face danger for him, and she'd be even more furious if she figured out Clark was just trying to keep her safe.
I figured I needed to help fix this big mess. Because CK and Chloe were obviously too upset to talk to each other, so they weren't going to work it out on their own. And Chloe meant a lot to me-- but I didn't love her the way this guy did.
I wondered if I could provoke him into fighting for her.
"That's great," I said, giving him my biggest, dorkiest grin. "Because we're going out again this weekend. Glad to hear you don't have a problem with that."
He looked at me a moment longer, and for just a second, I thought he'd pound me into the sidewalk. There was a very definite flash of possessive anger in his eyes. But then it faded out, and he bent his head, suddenly looking very tired and very lonely.
"Go home, Jimmy," he said.
He turned away from me, a weary slump to his shoulders, and trudged off into the fog.
Read Part 4, A Sunny Afternoon in Metropolis, here.