There will come a time in your life when you think back to this moment and marvel at how one decision can lead to a spiral of unbelievable events. Even in a world where alien life has been proven, their destructive capabilities experienced first hand and the controversial rise of one of those same aliens to near God-like status to even the most vocal of naysayers, your life has continued on without much fanfare. Not that you’ve complained. Normal is good. Normal is safe and also keeps your insurance company happy.
Since the day you were born, the world has continued to evolve with only your miniscule involvement to ripple out among the lives of those around you. You’ll continue going through the motions until you draw your last breath, while others possessed of more drive will accomplish things that you only dare to dream of, leaving a far more lasting impression than the simple gray of your headstone.
That’s what you have come to expect.
And nowhere near the inevitable truth that begins with one very lackluster day.
If Perry is affected by your empty stare he gives no notice, instead staring back with eyebrows raised, ink-pen tapping against a notepad on his desk as he waits for comprehension to set in.
It’s a fair question, one whispered from the depths of your shock stricken mind and one he answers with a slight roll of his eyes.
“Don’t be so melodramatic. That’s Lane’s department.”
“But you can’t be serious.”
“I can and I am. Because of you I have the Chief of Police breathing down my neck-,”
The hand holding the pen becomes a fist, his keyboard rattling when he slams it down nearby before pointing a finger your way. “You’re lucky I don’t have you arranging the classifieds in alphabetical order for the next six months with the headache you’ve given me. He’s your responsibility until I say otherwise. Keep him, and yourself, out of trouble, or so help me…” A momentary pause as he reigns in his foul mood. A deep breath. “As it stands, you’re on 6A duty.”
You make a choking noise before you can stop yourself. “That’s after the obituaries.”
“Consider it symbolic seeing as how your career at this fine establishment is almost just as dead. Now go.”
You open your mouth, determined to plead your case, until Perry braces both hands on his desk and begins rising from his chair. You waste no time slipping through the door the moment it’s open far enough for you to do so and shutting it with a less than gentle click behind. It’s not just your imagination when the room suddenly becomes a blur of activity, the other employees having no doubt enjoyed that little show through the half open blinds surrounding Perry’s office and now forced back to their regularly scheduled program of gossiping where you can’t hear.
Amid the renewed hustle and bustle you spy Lois talking to the new addition, her eyes flicking over his shoulder to meet yours with only brief contact, a warm smile on her face as she excuses herself. She’s grabbing up her coat and purse from the back of her chair as you take your first few hesitant steps toward your new charge and by the time you reach your own desk she has slipped through the room and out the door. Behavior not at all like her usual nosy self, especially in the case of possible future competition. Her smile had been far too relaxed toward someone she’d just met.
That line of thinking will have to wait however because the newest edition to The Daily Planet crew is turning to face you, hands crossed and gripped at the wrist and the nervous smile he aims your way has you feeling a tad bit guilty. It’s not that you have anything against him personally, you’d known him all of five minutes before Perry had summoned you into his lair of embarrassment and bad news. You remember all too well what it was like during your first day on the job, left to fetch coffee for the more seasoned journalists or darting to and fro to the demon possessed copying machine that never seemed to have any ink. For the next two years you had scratched, clawed, and sometimes groveled your way from a corner cubicle to an actual wooden desk of your very own after proving to Perry that you could actually piece together a proper article (in actual English) and make it halfway interesting.
All that time, the blood, sweat and tears (pretty much all tears to be honest except for that one goat offering to the copy machine) to finally stand among them on your own.
To now be saddled with a partner. Someone who will take half the glory of your never front (or second and sometimes not even third) page news.
Clark Kent’s smile becomes almost sheepish, head of dark hair tilting a bit in a silent gesture toward Perry’s office. “Doesn’t seem like we’ve gotten off to a good start. I’m…sorry if I’ve caused you any trouble.”
Either he’s a master at brown-nosing (possible) or he’s being sincere (likely). Either way you feel your shoulders slump under the growing weight of your guilt and the almost puppy dog-like gaze coming from his blue eyes.
“I brought it on myself apparently. Guess I should be the one apologizing since you’re stuck with me. Not a very exciting place to be compared to other options,” you say, flicking your hand toward Lois’ abandoned desk.
“Excitement tends to be overrated.”
It’s at this moment that you pause long enough to look at him, really see him. For all intents and purposes he is the very image of the term ‘guy next door’. Short black hair with longer strands that have a slight curl to them along the top, strong jaw accented by a dimpled chin, and blue eyes behind a pair of black rimmed glasses that went out of style decades ago. Even though your sudden scrutiny seems to amplify his nervousness, his smile only grows. Friendly, natural, and somehow eager. Even his clothes are a bit dated, the dark sport coat an unnecessary touch in such mild weather and beneath it hides a dark blue flannel patterned dress shirt.
Absolutely normal in every way.
If this was fifteen years ago. Or he raided his grandfather’s closet this morning.
“Well, it’s nice to finally have someone else here who feels that way. I think we’re gonna get along just fine. You can go ahead and stash your things there,” you say, motioning to the empty desk to his left. “That one’s yours. Once you’re settled in I’ll give you the grand tour, introduce you to some of the more annoying employees you’ll be bumping into pretty often.”
“Sounds great. Thanks.”
Though you move to start rummaging through your purse for your wallet, you keep your attention on Clark from the corner of your eye. He deposits a leather bound satchel into his rolling chair only to have it topple back to the floor where he retrieves it in one swoop, a lean finger pushing his glasses back up along the bridge of his nose.
You can’t help but find yourself more than a little intrigued by his apparent boyish charm. Having lived in Metropolis for most of your life you’ve grown accustomed to the attitudes and manners (lack of) that city life tends to breed, especially among the men. The majority carry themselves differently, having adopted the body language needed to stand toe-to-toe with the other men vying for the positions they want. It’s all about power plays and asserting dominance, either with actions or intelligence. Women do the same though it happens to be more subtle. More mind games, fewer pissing contests.
With journalism considered the more dog-eat-dog of the employment world, your first impression of Clark is that he doesn’t strike you as someone who has risen very far, or who even cares to. Otherwise he’d be less friendly and more mentally trying to calculate where to mark his first section of territory. He’d be more inclined to look down his nose at you and your obviously low rung on the reporter totem pole with a stiff smile and even stiffer handshake.
Much like Steve had done on his first day some three odd years ago and you still haven’t completely forgiven him for it.
Yes, punishment this might be but you could have been stuck with much worse.
“Can I ask you something?”
Clark’s question has you glancing up from your freshly made cup of coffee to the seat he takes across from you. The tour had been short and sweet with not much to see outside of the main office except for the emergency exits, bathroom and the break room where you ended up on purpose. A good decision seeing as how it’s currently empty, no eavesdropping journalists in search of gossip or whipping out twenty questions to badger the new hire. Not that you’d blame them, wrong line of work to be complaining about curiosity, just not when you have your own and don’t want anyone getting in the way.
“Sure,” you say, resuming your coffee stir.
He gestures to you and then himself, his own cup of coffee cradled by his other hand and some of the confusion eases from your features.
“Ah. No. If you were an intern then maybe. This is more a product of bad timing.”
Amusement settles into his features mixed with a bit of seriousness as well. A more than fair reaction. The fact that he isn’t stuck inside one of the entry level cubicles and had instead been given his own desk right off the bat meant that his credentials give him some level of merit, enough to satisfy Perry without needing a trial run and that speaks volumes. For him to be saddled with a babysitter has to raise a few questions, not to mention a slight blow to his ego.
You can’t help but shift in your chair, uncomfortable with the idea of actually having to explain. “Tell you what, the long version of this story you’ll have to work for. Mostly because it’s embarrassing and since we’ll be working together for a while I’d rather not lead with that. If you’re going to laugh at me or question my competence I’d rather earn it instead of handing it over on a silver platter right from the get go. Besides,” you mutter down toward your cup, “if hell has a gossipy knitting circle I guarantee it’s more discreet than this place so you’ll hear about it sooner rather than later.”
“It can’t be that bad.”
God help you but you feel a slight urge to slip him something. Not because you might be building it up to more than it actually is but because of the way he’s looking at you. There’s an openness to his expression, the kind that comes from someone used to listening to the problems of others, willing to take on their burden and shoulder the weight without judgment. Like he would sit there, a complete stranger, and point out all the reasons that it had been an understandable thing to do. A silly observation to make about someone you don’t even know but the feeling remains all the same.
And one you’re not stupid enough to act on. “It is to me,” you say with an apologetic smile. “Short version is that Perry isn’t happy with me and part of my punishment is lumping us together as a team. Knowing him it’s so that you’ll keep an eye on me. Not the other way around. So again, I apologize. This can’t be how you imagined your first day on the job.”
“Better actually,” he admits, gaze lowering to his cup where his thumb makes absent motions back and forth along the words ‘I heart Metropolis’. “Spent most of my time working freelance for papers back home. Usually one old guy smoking a cigar in a town hall basement or a shed in his backyard. Nothing quite this fancy. Or friendly,” he adds with a quick gesture to you, “so apology accepted. I’m kind of out of my element here so any wisdom you can share will be appreciated and I promise I’ll do my best not to make things hard for you.”
You shift in your seat again, this time uncomfortable for a very different reason.
Because he’s too goddamn nice and if it’s fake, if he is, then he’s smart enough to get past even your bullshit meter and you don’t like not knowing which is true. Clichéd as it might be, it’s your job to know things. No second guessing. Only facts.
“Back home sounds kind of rustic,” you state, the words a gentle prod.
“Kansas. A little farm outside of Smallville. About as rustic as it gets. You?”
“Metropolis for the most part. A lot of other cities that I was too young to remember so I guess…” Your voice trails off when movement from the hall beyond his shoulder catches your eye, the corners of your mouth dipping into a frown.
Clark is quick to catch on, following your line of sight with a glance of his own. “Something wrong?”
“Just one of those annoying fellow employees coming to fetch us,” you reply in a cool voice. “Let’s take our coffee to go, shall we? And whatever you do,” you say, lowering your voice as you stand, “just keep walking.”
Slowed by his confusion you’re already stepping through the open doorway when Clark rises with a scrape of chair legs on linoleum which makes you the first line of defense when Steve’s eyebrows go skyward.
“There you are! Helping the new guy slack off on his first day. For shame.”
To you Steve is the very definition of the skeezy reporters that tend to end up in stories of their own with accusations of sexual harassment tainting their careers. You’ve certainly met worse and calling him a womanizer would imply that he was actually good at it. A man in his late forties with a half receded hairline and a thin build, he gives himself far more credit than he deserves. Unfortunately for him none of the women here see him as a threat, least of all you, and you have no problem giving voice to that fact.
“It’s called teambuilding, Steve. You should try it some time, you know, when you’re not busy being a narcissistic ass.”
“Clark Kent, right?” he asks, ignoring your jab as he offers the new guy his hand. “Steve Lombard. Though introductions are kind of wasted since you probably won’t last a week under her.”
You hear Clark mutter a ‘nice to meet you’ though he heeds your warning and keeps following close at your heels. A very good sign. “Still longer than the few seconds I hear you last with everyone else-.”
Steve’s sudden cough is as fake as it is too late and you have to bite back a smile for winning that one. “Jesus. At least pretend to be civilized in front of the newbie. Our lover’s quarrel can wait.”
In his wildest dreams. “Perry need us for something?”
And with that your steps pick up the pace, for once eager to have work if it means getting this day over with.
I don't known Man of Steel or Superman. Just having fun.
Author's Chapter Notes:
So, my darling Tenshikyo let me know that she has been a secret Superman fan and upset by the lack of love written for him. She wants a reader who falls for Clark and not Superman. Having just seen Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, and now obsessed myself, I intend to try and help with that. As of now all other works of mine are on hold. With the possible exception of Addiction. With my lack of time and fickle mind, I'd like to write one last story to completion, an actual love story, and I want it to be this one. Cuz damn Henry Cavill is worth it. *cough* So if there are any other Superman fans out there feel free to send me good vibes to keep my muse chugging along. I'll love you forever.