2: Welcome to Existence
3: Welcome to Resistance
4: Welcome to the Fallout
Clark/Perry futurefic (spoilers for "Perry")
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Shades of White, Part 1
Welcome to the planet
Welcome to existence
Everybody's watching you now
Everybody waits for you now
What happens next?
-Switchfoot, "Dare You to Move"
"Walked through any downed power lines lately, Mr. Kent?"
Seated across the desk from Perry White, executive editor of the Daily Planet, Clark Kent managed a weak smile. He knew Perry thought he was kidding. But as an alien with superpowers, Clark could walk through live electrical lines any time he wanted and feel no ill effects.
"I try to avoid those nowadays, sir," he said, smiling a little more broadly to make it seem like a joke. He'd developed a toothy, dorky smile as part of his disguise, and he used it now, fully aware that it made him look like a world-class geek. But a world-class geek was what he was trying to emulate, after all.
"Don't sir me, kid." Perry White was a small, balding guy with an amiable, round face, but he somehow managed to be the most intimidating man Clark had ever met. Back in his reporting days, he'd been referred to as Perry the Pitbull, and the name was strangely appropriate. He never let go of a story, as Clark had once discovered, much to his sorrow. "I owe you my life, and trust me, I haven't forgotten that." He looked at Clark through faded gray eyes. "I guess you're here to collect on the favor I owe you?"
Clark felt his cheeks heat a bit, and he shoved his big, dark-rimmed glasses up on his nose uncomfortably. He'd been writing for the Smallville Ledger for a while, but he really wanted to work in Metropolis, and the Daily Planet was the best newspaper in the city. Hell, it was the best newspaper in the world, and everyone knew it.
His girlfriend Chloe Sullivan, who'd worked at the Planet since she was nineteen, had encouraged him to submit his work to Perry, but he didn't particularly want to get a job because he had once saved Perry's life. He wanted to get the job based on the quality of his writing.
But he was very much worried he wasn't actually all that good.
"I, uh, I've been writing for a while," he stammered. His cheeks flushed hotter at the regression into stammering, which he hadn't had problems with since he was a teenager. Well, it could only help the geeky impression he was trying to convey. He steeled himself and held out a manila folder. "I have a bunch of my articles here."
Perry accepted the folder and began paging through the clipped articles. "I see you've been writing for the Smallville Ledger," he said.
Clark's cheeks got redder. He figured he probably looked like he had a bad sunburn by now. "It's a good paper," he said, trying not to sound as defensive as he felt.
"Yeah, it's not bad for a small town paper," Perry agreed. "Our own Chloe Sullivan got her start there." He smiled. "But you probably already knew that."
Clark nodded, watching Perry flip through the clippings. He felt like his entire future was sitting in Perry's hands, and the thought made him distinctly nervous.
Perry frowned. "You've written a lot of weird stuff, kid. I won't say tabloidy, exactly, but there's a certain oddness to some of these stories..."
"Smallville's a weird town."
Perry uttered his soft laugh. "Yeah, I still remember all those articles your girlfriend had pinned up on the wall of that high school newspaper."
Chloe hadn't been his girlfriend at the time, but they'd been close friends even then. He jumped automatically to her defense. "Those articles were all true, too."
"Some of this is hard to believe, kid. Like this one about the guy who broke through bank vaults with his teeth."
"I can get you the police reports if you like."
"I just hate to think of the dental bills," Perry muttered. "And this one-- this woman who could turn herself into pure energy. You really expect me to believe that?"
"I just reported what eyewitnesses claimed to see, sir."
"Stop with the sirs, damn it." Perry put the sheaf of papers down on his already cluttered desk, shoving aside a framed photo of Elvis, and frowned across the desk. "You seem like a really ordinary guy, kid. When you were in high school, you were writing stories on gym mats and the lunch menu. They were pretty well written for your age, but they were boring as hell. I honestly expected you to bring me a bunch of dull stories about road construction, or something. But this stuff-- well. It's... interesting."
Clark was struggling to come across as meek and mild-mannered, but he couldn't help bristling a bit at the condescension in the editor's voice. "It's also true."
"Maybe." Perry frowned. "I'm not as quick to dismiss peculiar stuff as I used to be, ever since I worked for the Xstyles cable show. I figured all that stuff was total crap, but when I started looking into it, I began to realize some of it was for real. Especially in and around Lowell County. And to be honest, some pretty weird stuff is happening here in the city, too. Stuff that in olden days I would have said was only fit for the Inquisitor. But it happens, and I can't ignore it."
Clark shifted in his chair, trying to fight back his anxiety. Perry went on, "You're a really good writer, kid. But you seem to have a nose for the peculiar. What Sullivan refers to as weirdar."
Clark winced. The last thing he wanted was for anyone to think of the words "Clark Kent" and "weird" together. But he couldn't deny that his articles tended to be a little on the strange side. Because after all, he'd been writing about Smallville. And besides, writing about road construction and town budgets just wasn't him.
Perry seemed to notice his tense expression. He smiled a little. "So I figure I'll put you on the weird beat with Sullivan. You can help her hunt down the paranormal, the strange, and the outright bizarre. Not that she needs a lot of help, really, but even though the two of you are involved, I think you might work well together."
Clark's mouth fell open. "Are you telling me you're hiring me?"
"Yep. That's exactly what I'm telling you." Perry stuck out his hand. "Welcome to the Planet, kid."
Clark couldn't prevent a huge, dorky grin from spreading over his face. But since dorky was exactly what he was going for, he didn't much mind. He pumped Perry's hand, mindful not to squeeze too hard, and then clambered to his feet, doing his best to look awkward. Clumsy. The furthest thing possible from a superpowered alien who was flying around the city with a red cape flowing behind him, saving people.
"You can start today, if you like."
Clark grinned. "I like."
"Okay. Go tell Ms. Sullivan I hired you-- I know you're dying to tell her-- and then go down to Human Resources. They'll get you taken care of."
"Okay." Clark smiled even more broadly than before. "Thanks very much, sir."
Perry leaned back in his chair and watched as the kid stumbled out of his office. There was something peculiar about the way the kid moved... almost like he was putting on an act. Perry had a really good memory for people, and he clearly recalled the kid as poised and confident and self-assured. Not aggressive, but assertive enough to stand up to a much older man in defense of his friends. He'd been a nice-looking, athletic kid, too, the kind of young man that women drooled over and other men envied. He could have easily been a movie star if he'd just been willing to trade Hicksville for Hollywood.
Yet somehow the confident, handsome kid he remembered had grown up into a nerd. A geek. A big, clumsy, unremarkable guy that no one would look twice at.
It doesn't add up, he thought, steepling his fingers and staring at the now-closed door. Then again, nothing about the kid had ever really added up. After Clark had walked through power lines and ripped the door off his car in order to save him from electrocution, Perry had done quite a bit of research, looking through police reports and the Smallville Ledger's archives. Eventually he'd come to the conclusion that Clark Kent had some pretty strange abilities.
And yet when he'd put the kid into a situation where he had to display those abilities-- the kid had turned out to be normal.
Which was bizarre, because even if he'd been hitting the sauce a little too much at that point, he wasn't stupid. He could do research and draw solid, logical conclusions. And his conclusions were rarely that far off the mark.
He still remembered Clark trying to grab him as he jumped over the edge of an overlook. Clark hadn't realized he'd tied a rope to his leg, and he'd leaped forward instinctively in an attempt to save the older man. But Perry's momentum had carried them both over, and he'd wound up clinging to Clark's legs when his rope broke. Fortunately, Clark's friends had tossed down another rope just in time.
Clark had barely had enough strength to hold onto the rope until his friends could pull them up. And he'd wound up with some really serious rope burns on his hands. His palms had been bloody, and they'd looked painful as hell.
After everything that had happened, Perry had convinced himself that he'd been wrong, and that he'd almost killed the kid. But when Clark had come to see him off at the bus stop, he'd reached out and taken Perry's hand to shake it.
And Perry had realized with a shock of surprise that the kid's hands weren't injured any more.
In less than a day, Clark's bad rope burns had totally disappeared. Perry had known in that moment that his instincts had been right. There was in fact something really strange about the kid. Something intriguing. Something newsworthy.
And yet Clark had saved him, and Perry was somehow certain that Clark had put himself at serious risk to do it.
Despite Clark's inexplicable and miraculous healing ability, he seemed like a good kid, a kid who might make the world a better place. He'd certainly changed Perry's life for the better. So Perry hadn't pried into the matter any further. He owed the kid that much, at least. He'd returned to Metropolis, gotten his old job with the Daily Planet back, and put Clark Kent out of his mind.
But now, here was Clark Kent, asking him for a job.
Perry was only human. The kid was actually a really good writer, as it happened. But even if his writing had been terrible, Perry wouldn't have been able to pass up the chance to hire the kid, so he could keep an eye on him. His reporter's instincts hadn't faded with his promotion to editor-in-chief, and where Clark Kent was concerned, they were currently on red alert.
Nothing he knew about Clark Kent added up. The way his hands had healed, the way he'd walked through power lines, the way he'd grown from a good-looking, poised boy to a nerdy, slouching man, the way he wrote articles about the paranormal for a newspaper in a small farming community-- none of it made sense.
The kid wasn't just a farmboy from Kansas. He was a mystery. And Perry had never been able to resist a mystery. He was certain that Clark Kent was hiding something. Something big.
And sooner or later... Perry intended to figure out exactly what that "something" was.
Read the sequel, Welcome to Existence.