Monday, July 30, 2007
How You Remind Me
Manip by leothelion, used with permission of the artist.
Season 7 (some plot, dialogue and wording from the pilot episode of "Lois and Clark")
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
This is how you remind me
Of what I really am
-Nickelback, "How You Remind Me"
It was Chloe's fault, really. She'd looked up at him as he stood in front of her desk at the Daily Planet, for the fifth time that week, smiled, and said, "You know, you're here so often you might as well work here."
The idea rolled around in Clark's head. It was crazy, but it wouldn't go away. Chloe had always wanted to be a journalist, practically since the time she was a toddler. Clark, on the other hand-- well, he'd worked on the student newspaper in high school, and when people asked what his major would be in college, he'd always said "journalism." But he didn't live and breathe journalism, the way Chloe did.
He'd taken a year off college after his dad died. But when he'd finally gotten back to college this year, he'd found himself signing up for a journalism course on a whim.
And wonder of wonders, he liked it.
He'd published some articles in the school newspaper, and a few in the Smallville Ledger. After a semester, he'd gotten a little portfolio of his best work together and diffidently approached Perry White.
He'd saved Perry's life once, and Perry had told him to look him up if he ever got to Metropolis, that he owed him one. But Perry had moved up in the world since then, rising from reporter to the Planet's Editor-in-Chief. And from everything Clark had heard, he wasn't the kind of guy who'd hire a reporter who couldn't write, no matter what. The Planet meant too much to him.
Sure enough, Perry had scowled as he looked over Clark's articles.
"You've got some talent, kid," he said, thumbing through the papers. "But you also have a long way to go."
"Um..." Clark shifted in his chair, feeling awkward, because he knew perfectly well that shooting for the Daily Planet was a pipe dream. He was a sophomore in college, and he'd hardly done any professional work. He was clearly crazy to have even stepped into Perry's office. "I realize that, sir. And I'm happy to start at the bottom. I just want a job here. Any job."
"Any job," Perry said, and Clark saw a little glint of amusement in his eyes. "Okay, kid. I have a job for you, then."
Which was how Clark wound up in the file room, sorting the vast amount of paper that came through the Planet every day-- and there was a hell of a lot of paper, considering they'd gone "paper free" about five years ago-- filing it, and delivering files where they needed to go.
The good thing about his job was that he got to see Chloe every day. She'd recently been promoted out of the basement, and she was working upstairs now. He often stopped to chat with her, longer than he really should, and wound up superspeeding his way down empty halls to make up for it later.
The bad thing about his job was that he got to see Jimmy Olsen every day. Jimmy was still dating Chloe, and he'd always seen Clark as some sort of threat for some reason. He seemed greatly amused to see Clark working as a file clerk, and he didn't hesitate to let Clark know about his amusement. Seeing Jimmy sneer at him every day, knowing he was probably dissing him to Chloe behind Clark's back, irritated the crap out of him.
The truth was, being a file clerk pricked Clark's ego a little. He knew he was very likely the strongest man on Earth, capable of miraculous feats. And here he was working as a file clerk-- and getting sneered at for it.
Doing menial labor didn't really bother him, because he'd grown up on a farm, doing all sorts of dirty jobs that a lot of people would recoil from. But being sneered at for it, day after day, right in front of the girl he liked better than anyone else in the world, was really starting to grate on his nerves.
But he put up with it, because he knew he'd better get used to it. It wasn't like he could go out and save people and get recognized for it. If anyone knew what he could do, beyond his very limited circle of secretkeepers, he'd wind up in a government lab somewhere, being experimented on until the day he died-- and since he was probably immortal, that could be a hell of a long time. His abilities had to stay secret, and that meant he could never hope to be known as anything other than plain old Clark Kent.
He might as well get used to being seen as less than what he really was.
"Hey," Clark said, pausing in front of Chloe's desk. "Here are the files you needed."
Even though she was clearly in the middle of a story, she took the time to look up, as she always did for him, and flashed her wide smile. "Thanks, Clark. How are you doing today?"
"Okay," he said, and gave a self-deprecating grin. "You know, the usual excitement of life in the file room."
Her smile altered to a frown, and she turned away from her computer, swiveling in her chair to face him. "You know," she said, "you should really be working on your writing. You're too good to be just a file clerk."
He shrugged a big shoulder. "I'm still taking classes, Chlo."
"It's not the same thing, and you know it. You should keep writing stories and bringing them to Perry. He might buy some of them. He said you had talent."
"He said I had some talent," Clark corrected. "But he also said I still had a long way to go."
At the memory of those words, he felt another little prick of his ego. Maybe he hadn't always dreamed of being a journalist, the way Chloe had, but writing was the one thing he thought he was really good at, besides saving people. He really enjoyed coming up with little turns of phrase and unusual ways of using the English language. He didn't like to admit it, but Perry's words had cut into his feelings pretty deeply.
"Yes, well, you can't go anywhere at all if you won't start the journey."
"Deep, Chlo. Very deep. Did you get that off a motivational poster or what?"
"Well... yeah. But it's true." She frowned at him. "Come on, Clark, why not try? It's not like you don't have some spare time..."
"Yeah, because working here and taking a full college load and keeping a farm running takes up so little of my time."
"Oh, please." She rolled her eyes, because she of all people knew what he was capable of. "Just speed up your farm chores a bit."
"Look," he said irritably, "if I'm not good enough for the Planet yet, I'm not good enough. Okay? Cut me some slack here. It's not like I've given up entirely. I'm still writing for the Ledger."
"So next time you write a really good story for the Ledger, try handing it in to Perry first."
"But he's already said--"
"Kahn said almost the exact same thing to me when I applied here, Clark. I proved her wrong and convinced her to hire me. You have to keep trying, too. You can't just give up."
He smiled, amused and touched at her passionate determination that he live up to his potential. "Okay, Chlo," he agreed. "I'll keep trying."
A few days later he wrote a little piece on an old Metropolis theater that was scheduled to be torn down, detailing its history and the efforts of the local preservation society to save it. It occurred to him that the Ledger probably wouldn't want it anyway, since it was about a Metropolis landmark. So he diffidently handed it in to Perry.
An hour later, Perry called him into his office.
"Not bad, kid," he said, leaning back in his chair and regarding Clark thoughtfully. "Not bad at all."
Clark tried really hard not to grin like an idiot. "I'm glad you liked the story, sir."
"The story?" Perry lifted his eyebrows, that little glint of amusement in his eyes again. "Actually, the story sucked."
Clark felt his ego implode entirely. Angry, defensive words rose to his lips-- So you brought me in here just to tell me I have no future as a writer? Well, fuck that, and fuck you-- but he choked them back.
If he was ever going to be a successful journalist, he needed to get used to rejection, and he knew it. He managed to keep silent, although it wasn't easy.
Perry went on, apparently oblivious to Clark's mental struggle. "What I find impressive," he said, "is the fact that you keep trying to make a sale to the Planet, even though I put you in the file room. You've got guts, kid."
There was a hint of admiration in the older man's voice. Clark looked across at him, remembering Chloe's words: You have to keep trying. You can't just give up.
"Okay," he said. "So tell me how to rewrite this story so you'll buy it."
Read Chapter 2 here.
Posted by Meg at 10:36 PM