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Moments of Illusion

Title: Moments of Illusion
Fandom: Heroes/Superman
Rating/Pairing: PG, Claire/Elle implied
Spoilers: Heroes, vague through season two; DCU, none really
Summary: "Sometimes, superheroes were marked with colorful costumes and flashy logos; sometimes, there was just normal-that-wasn't." Written for liviapenn for the femme_fic ficathon, using two of the prompts: a) "I would like Heroes futurefic. For Claire: either immortal!Claire far in the future, or possibly Claire/Hiro or Claire/Elle in five or ten years? [...]" and b) "Lois gen, or Lois paired with Clark, Lex or Bruce. Any Elseworlds, or Superman AU. Any kind of Lois adventure or snapshot of her daily life, or perhaps an encounter with another DCU superhero-- Lois&Selina Kyle (or Lois/Selina) would be especially awesome." Also included in the Con*Strict 2008 zine.




"We're born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we're not alone." --Orson Welles


#

They looked perfectly normal -- a pair of girls, late twenties or early thirties, blonde, hands linked together almost unconsciously -- but Lois Lane had learned not to trust normal. Sometimes, superheroes were marked with colorful costumes and flashy logos; sometimes, there was just normal-that-wasn't. And sometimes, like now, said normal bore an expression of wariness, despite the peace offering of coffee (hot, fresh, high-quality) that Lois had bought for them.

"I just want to talk," Lois assured them.

They looked at each other without speaking, and then the older one said, "You're a reporter." It was as much an accusation, one that Lois was familiar with, as it was confirmation.

"Yes." There wasn't much point in denying it. "But this is more of a personal project." That was more or less true, and Lois had gotten good at making more-or-less sound quite believable.

Another long silent look shared between them. Lois found herself wondering if they were mind readers (hey, anything was possible), but more likely it was just the tail end of a discussion they'd had when she first contacted them. Then, some form of agreement reached, they nodded, and introduced themselves: Elle, the older one, and Claire. No last names -- Lois commented on that, idly -- and probably pseudonyms rather than real names.

Claire's expression tightened. Elle said, "Our families -- fathers -- both had ... ideologies and methodologies that we disagreed with." Her free hand was toying absently with a marble-sized ball of flickering energy.

"Plus," Claire added, "it's harder for you to identify us with just first names." She gave Lois a dazzling smile, the sort that made her look harmless and brainless and not at all the sort of person that could kill you with a thought. (Which didn't seem to be her thing, but you never could tell.)

"Fair enough," Lois said, and smiled back. "So, what exactly is it that you do?"

Neither one answered her question immediately. Instead, Elle asked, "Why do you want to know? Why are you talking to us?" Her face said, /why should we trust you?/

There were several things she could say; Lois was good at coming up with glib stories with varying levels of truth in them. It was something you had to do, really, to be a successful reporter. But she still hadn't discounted mind-reading as a possibility, and so her instincts told her that honest truth was the safer path.

"It's a personal thing," she said finally. "I have a... friend... who thinks there isn't any reason for hope." Superman had always been a persistent optimist, in the face of anything that people (Lex Luthor in particular) could throw at him, but there had been bleakness in his eyes when he'd told her that there was nothing he could do against something like the Shanti virus that was sweeping through the country.

"So you turn to us?" Elle's expression was cynical. "Hate to break it to you, but we aren't exactly hope central. And we're not likely to convince your friend either."

"It's not for him," Lois said. "It's for me. He doesn't even know. I'm just trying to find others like him." Sort of like him, at least. For all that Kryptonians and humans looked alike, she would lay good odds that these two were the latter. "So I know he's not alone."

"Everyone's alone," Elle shot back. Her hand was crackling with energy again. Both hands, Lois realized; the one Claire was still holding had the same sort of lightning flickering up both of their arms. Neither one seemed to notice.

"You two aren't."

There was another long look shared between them, filled with the sort of silent conversation that only the closest of friends and partners can have. Then Elle gave a quirky sort of smile and said again, pointedly, "Everyone's alone."

I'm not, Lois didn't say. Instead, she leaned back and repeated her earlier question: "What do you two do?"

"Save the world," Claire said, her voice sharp with bitterness. "I mean, isn't that why you tracked us down? We're special. We save the world. It's a full-time job."

"Me, I just stay home and mind the babies," Elle said, with a bland expression. "I like to juggle them; it's good exercise. Ow," she said to Claire, even though the other girl hadn't moved.

"I didn't do anything."

"You wanted to. You always do."

Lois hid a smile behind a the last of her cooling coffee. To Claire, she said, "I tracked you down because you're special, yes. I saw something of what you can do. Mind you," she added with self-deprecating humor, "I don't know exactly what that is."

Claire said, "Most people don't even notice. They're good at not seeing weird stuff. Or pretending it wasn't actually what they thought they saw."

"Yes," Lois said. She'd been guilty of that enough times herself. "Can you tell me, then, what all you can do? Or show me?"

The two exchanged looks, had another silent conversation before they spoke. Finally Elle said, "We can do a demonstration, but we want to make something clear first: you are not to put anything in print. About us, about who we are, or what we can do."

It wasn't a request so much as an order. Lois raised an eyebrow. "Sure, but if I'd just seen you on the street, you wouldn't have that guarantee." And she glanced deliberately around them; a coffee shop was not exactly a private location.

"Like I said," Claire said, "people are very good at not noticing weird stuff. You might see it. Others won't."

"And remember," Elle said. "We can track you down way more easily than you found us. You print something, we'll know about it, and we'll deal with it." She spoke mildly, and her expression was pleasant, but there was definite threat behind the words.

"I won't print anything," Lois promised. She hadn't been planning on it, either, except in the most general terms: /There are people out there with extraordinary powers. They're on our side./ Once she'd discovered that Superman wasn't the only one out there, she found she had to know more. "I'm just curious."

"Hold out your hand," Elle said. Lois did, warily, palm up; Elle touched her hand with one finger. A faint spark jumped across the point of contact, and there was a sharp zap, like static electricity, that left her hand tingling.

"That's the low-voltage version," Elle said with a grin. "This is better." She pointed her hand at Claire, and lightning flickered out, enveloping her in a near-blinding aura. The air was sharp with the smell of ozone. Elle lowered her hand, and Claire slumped back, not moving, not even breathing.

"What--" Lois said, momentarily frozen beyond thought. Her hand went to her cell phone almost immediately, preparing to call 911. Elle made a gesture in her direction; it wasn't a complete movement, but the meaning was obvious. She could kill the phone -- or, for that matter, kill Lois -- if she thought it was a threat.

A moment later, Claire coughed, sputtered, and sat up.

"There," Elle said, satisfaction in her voice and an odd smile on her face. "Now you know."

"You were dead," Lois said, staring at Claire.

"I told you no one would notice," Claire said with a wry grin. She reached for her coffee, untouched until that point, and downed it in a single long drink. When she looked back up, her expression was unreadable. "Y'know, I saw the article you wrote some years back. Why the world doesn't need Superman." Behind the words was a sort of accusation: /you think the world doesn't need people like us./

Lois felt herself flushing, but she didn't look away. "The world's changed," she said softly. "I've changed. And ... the world needs hope. With everything that's going on right now, people need something to believe in."

"We're just people, you know," Elle said.

Lois nodded. She knew she was grinning like an idiot -- she couldn't help it; it was awesome, each time she found another normal-that-wasn't. "I know. That's kind of the point. That's why I wanted to find you. And others like you. Are there others?"

"Exactly like us?" Claire hesitated.

Elle answered for her: "No. Yes. Not really."

Claire said, "There are others with... abilities. They're all different. I've known a couple like me, only they turned out not to be like me, and..." She shrugged. "We don't associate much. Mainly we just hide."

"From each other, or from outsiders?"

"Both," Elle said. "Lots of people want to hurt us, or use us, or control us, or kill us, or--" Her expression turned slightly ironic. "--use us as figureheads for hope. Or something equally ridiculous."

Touché. Lois gave them an easy smile. "And so you hide."

"Not well enough, it seems." Elle made a face. "No one ever wants to just leave us alone. Or treat us like we're normal."

"Normal is a statistical anomaly," Claire said, in a tone of voice indicating it was a frequent dialogue between them. "No one's normal."

Lois thought of the people she knew, and the people she'd met, and raised her empty coffee cup in a silent toast of agreement.

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