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California Cousin

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This story is No. 1 in the series "The Metropolis Files". You may wish to read the series introduction first.

Summary: In the wake of the Sunnydale cave-in, Smallville's sheriff asks Lois and Clark for a small favour. COMPLETE

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Television > Lois and Clark(Current Donor)MarcusRowlandFR15614,91134325,22221 Jan 0626 Jan 06Yes

Chapter One

This is a Buffy the Vampire Slayer / Lois and Clark crossover. For Buffy this story is set three months after the final episode, and contains major spoilers for the end of season 7 and Angel seasons 4 and 5. For Lois and Clark it's set several years after the show ended, and there are no spoilers. Clark Kent and Lois Lane are happily married and have children, both are still investigative reporters.

All characters belong to their respective creators, production companies, etc. This story may not be distributed on a profit-making basis.

California Cousin
by Marcus L. Rowland
I


"Can you two spare a few minutes?" asked Sheriff Harris, standing over Lois and Clark's table in Shaw's Malt Shop. They looked up from their sundaes, and Clark said "What can we do for you, Rachel?"

"Sorry to interrupt your vacation," said the sheriff, "but I was hoping that you could help my cousin. He's lost touch with his parents, and so has everyone else we've tried." She gestured towards an embarrassed-looking young man in an ill-fitting lumber jacket, with a patch over one eye, who was standing in the doorway.

"How did it happen?" asked Lois, getting out a notebook. The sheriff gestured to her cousin again and said "He can explain it better than I can, and I need to do a few things. Can you find your own way back to the motel, Alexander?"

"Sure."

"Take a seat," said Clark, "and tell us what happened, Mister... is it Harris?"

"Call me Xander," said the sheriff's cousin, taking a seat from an unoccupied table and sitting at theirs.

"So long as it isn't Lex," thought Clark.

"Mister Harris is my dad," Xander continued. "We're the California side of the family, I think I'm actually the sheriff's third cousin or something. I've drawn a blank with the West Coast side of the family, so I thought I'd head this way and see if anyone here had heard anything."

"How did you come to lose track of them?" asked Lois. "Did they move while you were serving overseas?"

"Serving overseas?" asked Xander.

"I assumed..." began Lois, then tapered off in confused silence.

"That I lost my eye in the army or something?" said Xander. "No, I work construction, some carpentry. This happened a few miles from home, in Sunnydale."

"Sunnydale?" repeated Clark. "The city that collapsed into caves?"

"That's the one," said Xander. "The trouble was that I wasn't close to my parents before I lost the eye. By the time I was out of hospital, a week or so before the disaster, I'm pretty sure that they'd left town like most other people. At least the house was empty and the suitcases were gone when I went round to check. But they didn't leave a note or anything."

"Didn't they visit you in hospital?" asked Lois.

"I doubt anyone would have told them I was injured, and it didn't make the papers. Look... I'm not trying to get back together with them, I just want to be sure that mom's okay." Both reporters noticed that he didn't say anything about his father.

"You must have been there pretty late," said Clark. "From the news reports I remember, the town was almost deserted when it started to collapse." He'd flown over as soon as the reports came in, but by then the crater was already half-flooded, one side open to the sea, with no sign of survivors. He'd found a few bodies, that was all.

"Call me stupid," said Xander. "Most of the people in town were having premonitions of doom and taking off on vacation, I just went on working. I was finishing off a job at the high school when the cave-in started, ended up on a bus full of injured kids, giving first aid with the street collapsing behind us."

"Wow," said Lois. "I'm surprised that you didn't get on TV news, your parents might have seen that."

"I didn't think of it soon enough. My ex-fiancee was one of the people that didn't make it out. We were beginning to get back together when the town fell apart, when it really sank in I lost interest in other things. By the time I thought of getting on TV it was old news. They'd already interviewed some of the girls from the bus, and the networks just weren't interested in me. Same for the papers, at least around Los Angeles, which is where I ended up."

"Are you sure that she's dead?" asked Lois. "Your girlfriend, I mean."

"She was one of the bodies Superman recovered. Anya Emerson. I had to identify her."

"Oh," said Clark. He couldn't put a face to the name. He wasn't sure if he should feel sorry about that, most of the bodies had been badly mutilated by falling debris.

"If we can find out a little more we might be able to get the Planet to run it as a human interest story," said Lois. "Do you have any pictures of your parents?"

"I'm afraid not," said Xander. "I lost nearly everything when the town went under. Don't even have a good picture of Anya."

"There might be charities that could help..." began Clark.

"I'm not looking for charity," said Xander. "Some friends have offered me a pretty good job. But it's going to involve a lot of foreign travel and I'd really like to get back in touch with my parents now, because I won't be easy to reach once I start work."

"What kind of work is it?" asked Lois.

"There's a British foundation that researches mythology and folklore. They're expanding, need people to do field work for them, I'd be co-ordinating that in Africa and recruiting personnel for them."

"That's an odd career move for a construction worker," said Clark.

"I got into it in my spare time when I was in high school, picked up a lot without really noticing, and the guy who runs the foundation these days liked the work I was doing and offered me the job after Sunnydale went under." Lois thought that Xander sounded defensive. Maybe he thought that the job offer was another form of charity.

"Actually," said Lois, "Getting back to charities, I was thinking more in terms of the charities being able to locate your parents. Have you tried that?"

"Yeah. No luck so far."

"How about tracing their car, or their credit cards?"

"I don't have any details. The last car I know of was a blue '97 Ford Taurus, kinda beaten up, but I can't remember the license number and I think he was planning to replace it the last time I talked to them. As for credit cards, forget it; they were always shifting from one card to another to avoid the interest."

"Let me have the names and their old address," said Clark, getting out a notebook, "There are ways to trace them."

"It's Tony and Jessica Harris... look, won't it be a load of trouble for you?" asked Xander.

"I think it'd make a good human interest story," said Lois, "especially if we can find them for you."

"Okay then. We used to live..." Clark noted down the details.

"I think that's about it," Lois said a few minutes later. "That's probably enough to trace them, if they aren't hiding out for some reason."

"Hiding out?" asked Xander.

"From the IRS, or someone else they owe money to. Or possibly for some other reason."

"I don't think there's anything like that. If anything, they're probably entitled to a pay-out from the disaster fund. I got twelve thousand and I didn't even own my apartment, but they owned their house."

"Are you sure they haven't already claimed it?"

"I asked when I got my check, and the guy in charge promised to let me know if they contacted him."

"Might be worth checking again, just in case. Give me the details." Xander pulled out his wallet, rummaged through the contents, and gave Lois the case number and contact information. As he did so Clark had a sudden thought and lowered his glasses a little to check the wallet out with X-ray vision. Behind it... He accidentally saw a little deeper than he'd intended, and scanned the rest of Xander's body, paying particular attention to his skeleton, while pretending to be deep in thought.

"Clark?" said Lois. Clark shook his head slightly and said "Sorry, just trying to think if I know anyone in California that might be able to help. Maybe someone on the LA Tribune. But I don't have the number on me, I'll have to check when we get home. Talking of which..."

"I'm sorry," said Xander, "I'm delaying you."

"We'll have to go soon," said Lois, picking up on Clark's lead, "Clark's parents are looking after the kids, and they're expecting us back in an hour or so. And we won't be able to do much to help you until we can get on line and talk to some of our contacts, so we really ought to start moving."

"Okay," said Xander. "Thanks. I really do appreciate it. I'll head back to the motel, try calling a few more relatives, see if that gets me anywhere. But I think I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel, so anything you can find would be really helpful."

Lois waited until Xander had gone, then said "What was that about? They don't expect us until six." Clark leaned closer and quietly said "I was curious about something and took a look in his wallet. While I was looking I accidentally saw more than I'd intended."

"And?"

"And he has more scars and injury marks than most of the soldiers I've met, including at least a dozen healed fractures. Some of them look old, others are comparatively recent. The eye's barely healed, and he has an abdominal stab wound that still has stitches. Quite a few others. Healed fractures in both arms, his wrist, and his left leg, and I think his ribs have been broken four or five times."

"He's lying about what he does? You think he's a soldier, or some sort of agent?"

"Some of the injuries are maybe eight or ten years old, I can tell by how well they've healed. He would have been no more than fifteen or sixteen, maybe younger."

Lois felt sickened and said "You're thinking child abuse? I got the impression that he didn't like his father much."

"Maybe. Sports injuries are another possibility, of course, but they don't look like it, unless he's been trying some very dangerous sports."

"If it was child abuse, why does he want to contact his parents?"

"I can think of quite a few scenarios. Maybe he's legitimately concerned, but what if he has some idea of revenge?"

"Or he could be a complete imposter," said Lois. "You get that after most big disasters, people who try to take on a new identity by pretending to be a survivor. He might know that the real Harris is dead, and plan to eliminate the only other people who could identify him."

"That's why I was checking his wallet," said Clark, finishing his sundae, "but most of the papers look old, and the credit cards go back a couple of years. He doesn't seem to have replaced everything three months ago. That probably rules out an imposter, unless there was enough to gain from it to justify the expense of convincingly aged forgeries, or he stole the real man's papers."

"Compensation," Lois said excitedly, following him to the door. "He might plan to put in a claim for the house as their heir, if they were safely out of the way. With them missing and no proof of death it could take years to settle the estate."

"I doubt it somehow," said Clark, climbing into the passenger seat of Lois's Jeep. "If he planned something like that why risk talking to Rachel? Or us for that matter?"

"I didn't think of that," said Lois, starting the engine. "Okay, what do you want to do?"

"Let's head back to the farm, then as soon as we're out of town Superman can fly back and watch him for a while. I'd better patrol Metropolis too, or people might wonder where I am."

"Good idea."

"Let me off here," said Clark, once they were out of sight of the town. Lois stopped the Jeep, and he looked around for a second, making sure that nobody would see him, then spun into his costume, said "I'll be back in good time for supper if nothing comes up," and took off.

"Okay," Lois said to herself, putting her mobile phone into a hands-free holder and speed-dialing the Daily Planet as she started the Jeep again. "Jimmy... yes, I know we're on vacation... no, it isn't a story yet, but it might end up that way... see what you can dig up on a guy called Alexander Harris, calls himself Xander... X.. a.. n.. d.. e.. r.. from Sunnydale California.... Yes, the cave-in. Parents Jessica and Anthony Harris, also of Sunnydale. See if there's anything in the morgue. Oh, and anything we have on the Sunnydale cave-in or the town before that happened..."

Several miles away and nearly two miles up Clark grinned to himself as he scanned Smallville, looking for Xander. They'd been vacationing for all of three days and Lois was aready desperate to find something to investigate. There probably wasn't anything to find, but that wasn't going to stop her. He spotted Xander entering a motel room, and watched with his X-ray and telescopic vision as he took his shoes off, lay on the bed, and dialled a long phone number. It began 011 44, which made it an overseas call to a number in Britain, the rest of the numbers meant nothing to him. Clark directed his hearing towards the room.

"Giles?... yeah, it's me.... no, still no luck, but my cousin here's the sheriff, she had a good idea... no, Willow already tried that. No, my cousin knows a couple of investigative reporters from Metropolis, Lane and Kent from the Daily Planet, the guys who cover Superman. They're on vacation here and I've asked them if they can help...." There was a long pause, while Xander listened. At this distance Clark couldn't pick up the other end of the conversation, and if he tried to move in closer he might lose it completely. What he already had more or less proved that Xander was who he claimed to be, but Clark had a hunch that there was more. After listening for a while Xander said "Yeah, I know it's risking publicity, but nobody seems to be putting the pieces together. It'd be a neat human interest story if they find my folks, why should anyone dig into the background, or the whole Sunnydale mess?... Yeah, I know that... Okay, yes, I'll be careful. Talk to you soon... 'Bye." Xander ended the call and started to look through the H section of the county telephone book. Clark guessed that he wasn't likely to hear anything else that he didn't already know and headed for Metropolis.

TBC
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