Blood Is Thicker Than Fire

By Catherine Semerjian <>

Rated PG-13

Submitted September 1998

Summary: A visiting writer turns out to be someone Jimmy knew long ago, and Jimmy finds he will have to face some painful memories.

Author's note: Hi everyone, this is my second L&C fanfic and I'm working on another that's just about done. These stories won't be related to each other at all, except for the fact that Jimmy's the main character in them.

Enough Ranting, on with the show…


Journalist Lois Lane Kent walked into the Daily Planet newsroom with a bounce to her step. Lois was petite yet strong with short, dark hair and dark eyes.

Her husband, Clark Kent, was tall and well built with black hair and dark eyes. Only a few people knew of his secret identity as Superman and his Kryptonian heritage.

Jimmy Olsen walked up to them, confused about their unusually good mood. Jimmy was slightly taller than Lois was, with light brown hair and clear blue eyes.

"What's going on, guys?" He asked. Lois didn't usually crack a smile till her third cup of coffee.

"Perry didn't tell you?" Clark frowned. Perry White was their editor; he had gray hair and a heavyset build for a guy his age. He spoke with a vaguely Southern accent and was a huge Elvis fan.

As though in reply, Perry's voice sounded throughout the newsroom. "Olsen, Lane, Kent! Get in here!" He didn't sound angry, which was a relief.

As the trio stepped into his office, Perry gestured for them to sit down.

"As you know, we're having a very special guest in Metropolis tonight," he began. "Some big shot writer. There's going to be a big party tonight to welcome him to town."

"A writer?" Jimmy echoed. "Who?"

Perry consulted the fax he had received. "Ah, Paul Zachary," Perry told him.

Clark started. Jimmy's heart rate had skyrocketed so suddenly that Clark was worried the kid was going to keel over.

A glance at the kid just proved that he was pale. Only a Kryptonian would have noticed the superhuman effort that Jimmy was exerting to keep from shaking.

"Are you all right, Jimmy?" Clark interrupted Perry in mid speech. The others noticed Jimmy's extreme reaction.

"Fine," Jimmy replied, "I … I just need some air." Jimmy practically bolted out of his chair.

"What was that all about?" Lois wondered.

Clark shrugged. "I have no idea."


Jimmy closed the door of the Daily Planet behind him. He walked to his apartment, not feeling safe until he locked the door.

The photographer leaned his head against a wall. Paul was alive? It was an impossible concept. Jimmy was tempted to go over the events of that long-ago day, but decided instantly that they would be too painful to face.

Jimmy closed his eyes. He had rebuilt his life here, away from everything that had happened. Why did this have to happen now?

What if *he* was alive too? Jimmy practically shook at the thought. No, it was impossible.

Hardly aware of his own actions, Jimmy lay down and stretched himself out on his sofa.

Jimmy closed his eyes; he was asleep before he even realized he was tired.

The next time Jimmy looked at the clock it was a quarter to seven. The time had passed quicker than he expected; he had a half-hour to meet Lois and Clark.


Jimmy arrived at the banquet hall with six minutes to spare. He spotted Clark and maneuvered his way over. The younger man almost laughed at the look of boredom on his friend's face.

"Having a good time?" Jimmy ventured, startling him.

Clark shook his head. "I'm just glad we don't have to stay that long. These things can get so boring. And Mr. Zachary isn't exactly charming."

If he is who I think he is, you should get to know him, Jimmy thought, but he kept the comment to himself.

"There's Lois!" Clark exclaimed in relief. Lois was wearing a turquoise dress and her hair was curled.

"Hey," Jimmy smiled. "Where were you?"

"Hi, Jimmy," Lois smiled. "I just wanted to talk to Paul. Creepy guy; that scar doesn't do anything to improve his image, either."

This time, Jimmy managed to ignore his flight instincts and stay where he was.

Then he saw him.

Paul hadn't changed much since Jimmy had last seen him. Paul was about six feet tall, with dark brown hair and steely gray eyes. His skin was very rough, indicating he'd spent a lot of time outdoors. But his most striking feature was the scar Lois had mentioned. It started at his left temple and crisscrossed down his face to end near his chin.

Jimmy started as he realized Clark had been talking to him.

"Are you okay, Jimmy?" he asked again.

Jimmy nodded, "Yeah, I'm fine."

Oh, God, Paul was coming towards them.

Jimmy forced himself to breathe normally as Paul smiled.

"Hello, Lois," he drawled. He extended his hand to Clark. "This must be Mr. Kent. I've read most of your work, quite good."

Lois was right, Clark realized. There was something disconcerting about Paul Zachary.

Clark cleared his throat, "Ah, thanks, Mr. Zachary. This is —"

"Please call me Paul," the writer told him.

"All right, Paul. This is —" Clark gestured to Jimmy, who seemed to be trying to melt into the floor.

Paul raised a surprised eyebrow, "Hello, Jimmy. My, my, but it has been a while. How's your father?"

The Kents stared as Jimmy shrugged, not looking at Paul.

"You two know each other?" Lois asked pointedly.

Paul smiled disturbingly, "Yes, quite well. In fact, several years ago, I spent quite a bit of time with Jimmy's mother. Until her tragic death, that is."

Jimmy made a choked noise in his throat, but he couldn't talk past the lump in his throat. Without preamble, the young man left, leaving two very startled people, and one smirking writer, behind.

Paul walked away to have a word with his publisher.


The party was slowly drawing to a close. Lois and Clark bade goodbye to their friends. Clark flew them home and they sat down.

"What was that all about?" Lois asked, beating Clark to the question.

"And why do I get the feeling Jimmy knows a lot more about Mr. Zachary then he's telling us?" Clark added.

"It's not as if he's told us anything," Lois remarked wryly. "He's taken off every time Paul Zachary has been mentioned."

"And when the subject of his mother came up, I don't think I could've beaten him to the door." Clark pointed out.

Jimmy had never mentioned his mother. Lois had always suspected that Perry knew some of the story, but he never breathed a word of it.

They had met Jimmy's father, Jack, and he had turned out to be a secret agent. It seemed like the Olsens liked to keep their family tree hidden.

"It looks like Jimmy's got quite an interesting family," Lois commented.

Clark stood up. With an impossibly fast spin, he became the hero known as Superman.

"I'm going to check on him," he told his wife. "He should be home any minute now."

Lois nodded, but Superman had already flown out the window.


Jimmy, unaware of his friend's impending visit, opened his door quietly.

His survival instinct, warning him of danger, hit him before the smell of gasoline.

Jimmy gasped as white flames leapt from his floor to surround him.

Hardly even coughing, Jimmy stood, transfixed by the flames. The past would consume him before the fire would reach him.


Superman picked up speed as he heard the crackling sounds of a fire coming from Jimmy's apartment. He dove into the smoke-filled apartment.

A circle of fire had surrounded Jimmy. What surprised the Man of Steel the most was the utter resignation on Jimmy's face. It bordered on regret.

Superman blew out the fire quickly.

Taking a closer look at his friend, Superman realized that Jimmy was in shock. Quickly assessing the situation, Superman decided that Jimmy wouldn't be safe here.

"Jimmy," the Man of Steel began, "I'm going to take you to Lois and Clark's, okay?"

Superman was relieved when Jimmy gave a slight nod.

As they were flying, Superman could have sworn he heard Jimmy talking. But his voice was so low that it was hard for even the Man of Steel to discern his words.

"You shouldn't have saved me, Superman," he whispered. "I deserved it."


Clark quickly relayed the situation to Lois, who nodded. Jimmy volunteered to sleep on the couch.

Once he made sure Jimmy was asleep, Clark relayed the story of the fire at their friend's apartment to her.

"Why would he say he deserved it?" Lois wondered.

Clark shrugged helplessly, "I guess it's up to Jimmy to tell, if he ever wants to."

Clark's superhuman hearing alerted him to the thrashing and whimpering that had started to come from downstairs.

Lois recognized the look on her husband's face. "What wrong?" she whispered.

Clark mouthed the word "nightmare" before heading downstairs.


Jimmy was indeed thrashing in his sleep, his lips moving but not making any more sound. Clark could guess that, whatever inner demons he was fighting, Jimmy was giving them one hell of a fight.

Clark shook Jimmy's shoulder gently, "Jimmy, Jimmy, wake up; it's me, Clark."

The younger man's fist shot out in response. The blow connected solidly with his jaw.

Clark could tell that if he hadn't been Kryptonian, he probably would have been knocked out cold.

The feeling of his hand hitting something solid forced Jimmy from his nightmare. He sat up quietly.

Clark hadn't noticed the sheen of sweat on his friend's skin, but it was visible now.

"Are you okay, Jimmy?" Clark asked, unable to think of a better question. "I came down for a drink and I saw you —"

"I'm fine, Clark," Jimmy assured him. "Thanks for letting me stay over."

Jimmy obviously wasn't going to volunteer information, so Clark decided to use the direct approach.

"How do you know Paul Zachary?" the Man of Steel asked.

Jimmy shrugged. "He worked with my Mom."

"We guessed that," Clark told him, schooling his own patience. Jimmy needed to go at his own pace if he was going to open up.

"Mom was a writer and Paul was doing research for her. Dad was away, so he never had a damned clue about what was going on."

Clark jerked at the resentment in his friend's tone. It made him sound too much older than he was.

Jimmy didn't notice. "Paul didn't like Ryan and I; we didn't really want to be writers and he said that he didn't know why Mom put up with us."

Ryan? Clark wondered. Jimmy had never mentioned anyone named Ryan before.

"There was a fire," Jimmy stated suddenly. "I was walking home from school. Ryan was sick and Mom was writing and taking care of him. I think Paul was there, but I can't really remember." He started shaking.

"There was a big cloud of smoke. I could see it, even from the hill. I ran home, but the place was on fire. I tried to get in, but a neighbor stopped me. I got away and ran inside.

"God, Clark. It was so dark … I couldn't see anything. I tried to call out to Ryan and Mom. I heard Ryan screaming, but before I could get to him, a fireman picked me up out of the house."

Jimmy was fighting back tears. "It seemed like forever until they came out again. They told me that Mom had died; I remember the stretcher coming out with a black blanket on top. They said that they couldn't find Ryan or Paul. I think I passed out after that, because the next thing I remember was my dad. Just that look on his face — I could tell he blamed me. But I didn't do it, Clark! It wasn't my fault!"

Clark put a hand on his friend's shoulder. What a tragic thing for anyone to have to go through, he thought.

"How old were you?" the Man of Steel asked.

"Thirteen," Jimmy replied hoarsely, shaking Clark's hand off. "Social services couldn't find my dad after that, so I moved in with my aunt and uncle till I was old enough to move to Metropolis."

Jimmy opened his mouth, but frowned before he could say anything. "Wait a minute —" he whispered, thinking back a few hours.

Clark looked at him. "What is it, Jimmy?" There couldn't be more to this story.

"Janet, my landlord. I just remembered. Before I got into my apartment, she asked me why I had changed my clothes, but I hadn't. Not after leaving."


Janet Carlson stood at about five feet, six inches tall. She was in her mid forties, and she had big, violet eyes and shoulder-length, blond hair, which was tied back.

"Hey, Jan." Jimmy smiled as he, Lois, and Clark walked into his apartment to look for clues.

She grinned at him, "What's going on, handsome?" Lois noted her distinct Southern accent.

"I was just wondering about last night," the photographer began. "What happened?"

Janet thought for a moment, "You left around seven, then you came back around eight; you left about ten minutes later." She frowned, "I remember thinking it was weird that you came back and left wearing different clothes. About an hour after that, you came back and you were wearing that."

Jimmy started as he noticed he was wearing the same outfit he'd been wearing since yesterday.

"Thanks a lot," Clark smiled as he ushered Jimmy and Lois towards the elevator.

"No problem, sugah." Janet called out.


There hadn't been any damage to Jimmy's things, Lois noted as they walked into his room. Aside from a charred half circle around the door, there was hardly any damage to his place.

Jimmy shuddered and walked past it. The younger man spotted an envelope on the ground and picked it up before his friends saw it.

He caught a glimpse of the word written on the front of the envelope before he stuffed it into his jacket.

In handwriting very similar to his own was the word "Jimmy."


Paul Zachary was fuming.

"I can't believe he's alive!" the writer roared. "You had the perfect time, and opportunity, and you still screwed up!"

"So?" the other occupant of the room wondered, his voice nonchalant. "We're going to be in town for two more days, and I still have time to take care of the business you're too damned afraid of to take care of yourself."

Paul raised his hand, as though to strike the younger person, but he dropped it back to his side. "I'm a public figure. I can't have blood on my hands. But you," Paul laughed, "people don't even know you're alive!"

"Oh, I couldn't forget that," the younger one muttered dejectedly. Quickly he set to the task of preparing their arsenal for tonight.


Jimmy scanned through the letter quickly, hoping to avoid showing to Lois and Clark.

He still couldn't believe it.

He held in his hand incontrovertible evidence that at least some of his family was still alive.


"Clark, thanks for everything. But I've got to go."

The Man of Steel was flabbergasted. "What do you mean, Jimmy?"

"I've got to go," Jimmy repeated, walking away.

As though he just remembered something, Jimmy turned to face Clark again. "Promise you won't have Superman follow me. This is something I have to do alone."

"I will," Clark repeated quietly.

"Thanks, Clark. But I've got to go."

"Not without me, you're not," Superman muttered, as he took off to fly above Jimmy from a safe altitude.


James Olsen walked through the factory like a man expecting traps at every turn. No traps had been laid, but Jimmy knew Paul Zachary better than most people.

"Paul?" Jimmy called out. There was no response.

With a distinct note of hesitation in his voice, Jimmy called out again, "Ryan?"

"You should call for him," Zachary sneered, startling Jimmy from behind. "For forgiveness. You killed him, after all."

Many emotions flickered across Jimmy's face. "I didn't start the fire! I was at school!"

"You could never prove that, Jimmy," Zachary sneered. "No one saw you for a long time. For all we know, you could have set it, then left for school, leaving your mother to die!"

"Ryan was there too —" Jimmy spoke in the voice of a confused child.

"Look behind you," Zachary told him.

"Hello, Brother."


Superman was watching from the window carefully. The Man of Steel gasped at the new voice.

Jimmy hadn't told him that Ryan was his twin.


The eldest son of Jessica Olsen turned in silent shock to face his brother.

Fortunately, Ryan's face had not been damaged during the fire. His looks were the same as Jimmy's, though his expression made the features seem more gaunt somehow. He was wearing black jeans and a long black shirt.

"Long time, no see," Ryan remarked coldly, studying his brother carefully.

Jimmy was frozen. He was aware of what was happening, but he could do nothing to stop it.

"Ryan!" Paul called out. The younger twin's head turned obediently towards him. "You know what to do."

Ryan disappeared back into the shadows.

Jimmy stared at the space his brother had occupied for a long moment, before fixing his attention onto Paul.

"What are you going to do to me?" Jimmy asked, his tone not quite indifferent.

Paul smiled. The single word he uttered sent chills through him.



Superman prepared to come to his friend's aid, but then he remembered his promise. He turned back into Clark Kent, but remained watching as Paul splashed gasoline onto the stunned Jimmy.

"I can't let this happen," he murmured, gliding towards the door.


Paul smiled at Jimmy's lack of resistance.

"You know why you're not fighting, don't you?" the writer asked the younger man.

"I won't hurt my brother," Jimmy told him tonelessly.

"Perhaps that's true," Paul conceded, "but I think it's because you know you're guilty and you know it's time for you to be punished."

"Besides," Paul added, "you've hurt your brother enough already." Jimmy flinched under the words as though he'd been lashed.

Neither noticed Clark Kent slip into the factory.

"The guilty will be punished." Ryan's voice seemed to come from everywhere at once.

"Strike the match, my boy," Paul whispered excitedly. "Strike it for your mother, and for me."

"The guilty will be punished," Ryan repeated. "And you're the guilty one," he declared, turning on Paul.

Paul paled. "What are you talking about, Ryan? I took care of you for all these years. I was the father you never had!"

"Mother didn't want you," Ryan said. "You killed her. You set the fire and you watched her. Then you saw me. But not before I saw you knock her out when she made it to the door. Jimmy didn't do anything."

Jimmy's body tightened in rage. "Murderer," he whispered at Paul with such deadly calm that Clark actually felt himself shudder.

"Ryan, you don't know what you're saying." Paul began to sound desperate. "It's Jimmy's fault. He's twisted your mind." The older man paused. "If you ever loved me, do this one thing for me."

His next words were something that would have chilled anyone to the marrow of the soul.

"Burn him."


There was no response.

Jimmy was still soaked in gasoline. Paul growled in frustration, and opened the matchbook.

"Time to join your worthless whore of a mother in Hell!" Paul screamed triumphantly.

Jimmy jumped in surprise as Paul cried out suddenly and fell to the ground.

Ryan stepped out of the shadows to stand beside his twin; he discarded the now-bloody baseball bat.

"Nobody hurts my brother," he growled.


Paul Zachary was suffering from a fractured skull. He was unconscious and bleeding.

No one felt immediately inclined to help him.

The two brothers stared at the body on the ground, still in shock at the events which had just transpired. At last Jimmy awoke to their situation.

"Oh, God, what have we done?" he asked, alarmed, now that the worst of the danger had passed.

Ryan shook himself. "Come on, we better get out of here!" he said, taking Jimmy by the arm and preparing to bolt.

Behind a pile of equipment Clark made a move, ready to intervene if the boys were foolish enough to leave the scene. But he waited before jumping in, knowing Jimmy would resent his presence; Jimmy needed a chance to do the right thing first, too.

Jimmy pulled himself free. "Ryan, we can't just leave him here!"

"Are you kidding? He tried to kill you! We don't owe him a thing," Ryan responded vehemently.

"But he's dying. He'll die if we just leave him here," Jimmy answered.

"He left mom to die!" Ryan retorted angrily.

"Would mom want us to leave him here?" Jimmy replied calmly.

Anger skirted across Ryan's face, but he said nothing.

"It's your call," Jimmy told him seriously.

"Bro, I don't want to spend the rest of my life in prison for this psycho."

"Look, you won't have to. I'm sure you won't," Jimmy said, not entirely sure, but determined to do what he thought he should. "After what you've been through, man, nobody's gonna say this guy didn't have it coming. And, hey, you saved my life." He paused, uncertain as to how to continue.

"So what do we do?" Ryan asked.

"We've got to get some help. We've taken too long already. I'm gonna call for Superman," Jimmy decided.

"Superman? Man, grow up. He's just something the tabloids make up," Ryan laughed.

"Tabloids like the Planet?" countered Jimmy. "Boy, you have been locked up a while. He's real, all right. He's a friend of mine, too, here — Superman!" he said, calling out the last word as loud as he could, in the hopes that the Man of Steel was near enough to hear him, despite his earlier plea to Clark. Jimmy wanted to get help before Ryan changed his mind and decided it was best to bolt after all.

"Superman!" Jimmy called out again, even louder this time.

Clark, still in the shadows close by, spun himself back into the suit, launched himself off, and re-entered in an appropriately dramatic fashion. "Jimmy, what's happened?" he asked, managing to maintain the illusion that he had not been present.

"Superman," Ryan breathed in awe.

The Man of Steel looked from one young man to the other in feigned confusion. "Two of you?" he asked.

Jimmy and Ryan grinned at each other. "Superman, I'm Jimmy's twin brother, Ryan Olsen," Ryan said.

Jimmy jumped in and began explaining everything that had just happened, from the original fire to Paul Zachary's sudden demise. Ryan joined in, filling in the parts that Jimmy did not know already.

"I had to do something, Superman," he concluded. "I couldn't let him kill my brother."

Clark winced internally that he hadn't seen Ryan coming and prevented the final violence, but he was relieved that, in the end, the boys were safe. "No one will question that you acted in self-defense," Superman told them. "I think now it's time I got this man to a hospital. I'll be sure to notify the proper authorities as well.

"You two had better go get cleaned up someplace," he added. "You both smell like gasoline."

The boys grinned again as they watched Superman lift Paul Zachary up and fly away.


Three days later found Paul Zachary in a coma from which he wasn't expected to recover, Jimmy writing as much about the incident as he deemed acceptable, and Ryan Olsen vanished.

Clark was watching Jimmy intently. He realized that there was a lot about his friend that he didn't know. The Man of Steel could tell that the existence of Ryan Olsen was just the tip of the iceberg.

Startled gasps and yelps of surprise jolted Clark out of his reverie.

"Wow," Lois commented in surprise, "he really does look like Jimmy."

Ryan Olsen was walking down the stairs of the Daily Planet newsroom towards his brother.

Jimmy looked up and smiled sweetly, as though he'd been expecting this visit all day.

"Hey, Bro." Jimmy grinned.

"Hey," Ryan replied.

"You've turned out pretty normal for someone who's been through what you've been through," Lois commented, introducing herself.

"Paul wanted to reprogram me to hate Jimmy, then to kill him." Ryan shrugged. "For a while it worked, but then I remembered what happened and I started to sneak away from him. Going to movies, trying to make friends, you know, just trying to live as normal a life as possible when you're living with a total psychopath."

"Ryan, you were never normal," Jimmy told him.

"Who wouldn't be a little screwed up with a brother like you?" Ryan retorted sweetly.

Clark grinned; the kid's sense of humor wasn't too bad either.

"You pulled off a nice acting job," Jimmy told him. "You had me confused enough to doubt."

"I was trying to do the stuff that Kane's been doing on wrestling," Ryan replied. "It's come in extremely handy, especially lately."

"You still watch wrestling?" Lois asked.

"Who doesn't?" Ryan and Jimmy answered in unison, each raising an eyebrow.

Lois laughed at their identical reaction.

"Are you going to stay in Metropolis?" Clark asked Ryan.

The younger man shook his head. "I do have tons of catching up to do with Jimmy. But right now I want to get back to Calgary."

He grinned at his brother mischievously. "Bet I'll scare the hell out of some of our friends, eh?"

Jimmy laughed. "Ah, to be a fly on the wall for that one." He gave his brother a quick hug. "See you later."

Ryan nodded, "Yeah, I've got a plane to catch. Be back in a couple of months."

"Or until you're kicked out of every bar in town," Jimmy called out as his brother left.

Ryan turned around and made a face. "That would be you, Bro. You see, my halo's in the shop. It kept blinding people."

"He always has to get the last word in," Jimmy muttered fondly as his brother left.

Absently, he wadded up a nearby paper and tossed it at the back of his brother's head. It connected solidly.

Jimmy snickered as Ryan made another face at him. Ryan waved and left.

"You've been to Calgary?" Lois asked.

Jimmy grinned, "Trust me, Lois, C.K. Calgary's a whole story by itself."

The young man walked off with a mysterious smile on his face.

Just the tip of the iceberg, Clark reminded himself as he went back to work.