Clark and guest star
Early season 8
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Seated at his loft desk and filling out a college application, Clark Kent glanced up at the annoying, nasal voice that seemed to come out of nowhere. There was a brilliant flash of light, and suddenly a guy appeared, seated on the couch. He was middle-aged, with a receding hairline, and there was a snarky smile on his face that gave Clark a cold sensation in the pit of his stomach. He wore a blue and red plaid flannel shirt and jeans, an exact mirror of what Clark was wearing.
Clark rose to his feet. He was quite likely the strongest guy in the world, so he didn't have a total freakout when strangers came onto the farm, even if they did it in a really bizarre way. Still, he thought it was best to be... cautious.
"Hello," he said, carefully.
"Oh, aren't you polite." The stranger rolled his eyes. "Martha brought her son up to be so courteous. It's charming, really. Makes me want to vomit."
Clark raised his eyebrows. "You know my mom?"
"I know everything about you, Kal-El. And frankly, I'm not all that impressed."
Clark blinked, slightly alarmed by the use of his alien name. "Who told you about me?" he demanded.
"No one had to tell me. I'm omniscient."
Clark uttered a short laugh. "Yeah, right."
"I'm serious. You don't believe me? I can tell you all about how you ran away from home when you were ten, and wound up wandering lost in Metropolis for two days. Or how you cheated on an English exam your freshman year, right after your x-ray vision developed."
"I did not mean to--"
"Tell it to the judge, sonny. Oh, wait... that's me."
Clark didn't like the sound of that. He scowled down at the guy. "Who appointed you judge?"
"I did." The guy stood up. He was narrower than Clark, slender and not particularly well muscled, but almost as tall. There was an air of authority around him, despite the receding hairline, and Clark had to fight the urge to take a step back. Something deep inside told him this guy was very, very dangerous. He squared his shoulders, looking as intimidating as he could.
"Get off my farm."
"I don't think so." The guy favored him with a sneer. "You're just sitting here, moping about your former girlfriend. And considering you're the strongest man on the planet, that's really sad."
Clark glared at him. "I am not moping."
"Sure. You're not moping, and I have a full head of hair." The guy shook his head, sadly. "You could be out there saving people, or moving ahead with your life, and instead you're sitting here, frittering the time away. Something really needs to be done."
Clark sighed. "Look, I was thinking about going back to college..."
"College? Boring. Been there, done that, wound up with my head in a toilet. College is just a stepping stone. I've been watching you for a long while, sonny, and I'm getting tired of the stepping stones. Everything in your puny little human lives moves much too slowly. Booooring. I think it's time you skip right to the good stuff."
Clark frowned. "There's nothing wrong with college..."
"Yeah, except it's dull as the empty space between galaxies." The stranger moved across the loft and looked at Clark's desk. "Now, this. This is interesting. An application for the Daily Planet, huh?"
"They won't hire me," Clark said. "I checked the requirements. It takes a BA, plus three years of experience with another newspaper..."
"Experience?" The guy spun around, looking indignant. "But you're Clark Kent! The Daily Planet is your destiny!"
"Uh... right." Clark was starting to think maybe he ought to just superspeed out of his loft. This guy was beyond weird and well into scary. "It's my friend's Chloe's destiny, but me..."
"Oh, Chloe." The guy waved his hand dismissively. "She's never interested me. Too damn smart. Smart people bore me."
"So I'm guessing that you're interested in me because--"
"You're dumb as a stump. Right."
Clark felt anger boil up. "Get. Out."
"Make me, Jethro."
Annoyed, Clark zipped across the loft in superspeed, but the guy was no longer there. A white flash seared his vision. Clark turned around, blinking, to see the guy appear on the other side of the loft. He tried again, but the guy disappeared a second time.
"You can't catch me, you know." Clark turned around and found that the guy was seated on his desk, his ass planted firmly on the Daily Planet application.
Clark took a deep breath, trying to calm down. "Okay," he said. "So I can't catch you. Could you just get the hell out?"
"I don't think so. I'm interested in you, Kal-El. Your story isn't playing out quite the way I expected it to, and I'm thinking maybe it needs fixing."
Clark glared at him. "I've had enough people play God with my life, thanks."
"True. But you've never had an actual god play with it."
"Are you telling me you're a god?" Clark snorted. "I'd think a god could get rid of male pattern baldness."
"Ouch," the guy said, running a hand over his thinning hair. "Just for that snotty remark, sonny, I'm going to do the god thing, and wreak a horrible and unjust punishment on you. I'm going to pair you up with the worst woman you can possibly imagine."
"Yeah, right." Clark scowled. "Just get out."
"No, no, not yet. Just as soon as I revamp a few things. I've been following your life for years, but currently, it's really boring the hell out of me. I seriously think you need to go work at the Daily Planet..."
"I already told you, they won't hire me."
"They hired your friend Lois Lane."
"She slept with the boss. I was brought up not to do that."
"Oh, right, you're Martha Kent's sweet little boy. Too nice to sleep your way into a job. Well, I can fix that. You'll have your job, no fellatio, cunnilingus or coitus required. Just walk into Human Resources tonight and give them your application."
"It's really late. They won't even be open."
"Sure they will. I'll make sure someone's conveniently working late."
"Look, that's not the way I want to get a job, okay? I don't want you to--"
"Of course you don't. But what you want is irrelevant. I want to be amused, and right now you are sorely failing me on that score. Okay. So that's taken care of. Now Lana's got to go for good..."
"Oh, come on, you don't really love her. You were just hanging onto her because she was an artichoke, and now you're moping because she dumped you before you got a chance to dump her. True?"
"No, I really loved her--"
"Please. Anyone with eyes could see that the girl you really love is Chloe Sullivan..."
"What? No. Chloe's my friend."
"And once again you demonstrate the self-awareness of a walnut. But I expected nothing less of you. Of course you're in love with Chloe Sullivan, kid. You've been in love with her for years."
"Uh..." Clark tried to process that, and couldn't. "But I..."
"She's perfect for you, too. Too perfect. I can't watch happy romance. It bores me to tears. I hate chick flicks. And I can't even think of the last time I picked up a Harlequin novel."
"You read romances?"
"It was a long time ago," the stranger assured him. "Once upon a time, I had a romantic streak. But hanging out with humans cured me of it. Now I just like to see people suffer."
"Fabulous," Clark said with a sigh. "Look, I need Chloe, okay? Even if you really do have these powers, you can't take her away from me."
"Oh, I won't. I'll just change her personality a bit--"
"It'll be good for her. She'll get even smarter. Trust me. And because of your snotty comment about my hair, I'll be matching you up with the worst possible person."
Clark stared at him. "Are you talking about..."
"Yes!" The guy grinned widely. "Lois Lane!"
"No." Clark held out his hands in front of him. "No, no, no. If you're talking about romance..."
"Not just romance. You and she are going to work together, too! For the rest of your lives!"
"I'd rather have hot iron spikes thrust through my eyeballs."
"I know, and that's the point." The guy's grin widened, so that he looked more than a little insane. "I'm telling you, it's great being omnipotent."
Clark looked at the guy warily. Surely he was just bluffing about all this. He wasn't omnipotent, or omniscient. Gods didn't wander into remote Kansas barns and start talking about rewriting people's lives... did they?
"I'm okay with the way my life is going," he said at last, keeping it polite, just in case. "I mean, I know I haven't exactly been as proactive as I could be..."
"Because you've been all focused on Wanacakes. Who needs to save people when you have Twu Wuv?"
Clark reminded himself that he couldn't reach the guy to strangle him. "Okay, so yeah, I've been a little preoccupied. But I'm starting to try to turn things around. Like I said, I was planning on going back to college. Maybe I'll start going to the city to help people a little more..."
"Boooooring," the guy intoned. "I want to see some big changes. It's more interesting that way. I told you, go into the Planet and hand in your application, and you won't need a degree. No need to do all that boring slogging through classes when you'll get hired anyway, right?"
"Um... but I can't write well enough. I don't know enough about journalism. I mean, it's a world-class newspaper, and all I have experience writing is articles on gym mats and bleachers. That's why I need to take classes."
"You'll learn on the job! You'll have Lois to help teach you!"
Clark snorted. "Lois can't write, she can't do research, and she can't spell."
"I can fix that. I will fix that. Lois Lane is now a hard-hitting investigative reporter who writes brilliantly."
"Oh, come on. You can't just rewrite people."
"What part of omnipotent don't you understand, sonny? I can do whatever the hell I want. I can turn you into a purple slime creature from the Gamma Quadrant if I want."
"Uh... I'd really rather you didn't."
"It'd be an improvement, if you ask me. But okay, no purple slime. Let me just fix your life a little more. So... romance and work with Lois..."
"Too late. Already done. You should be grateful, kid. I once turned someone who aggravated me into an Irish setter. You're getting off easy. Okay, so meanwhile, Lana's gone for good, because she was really dragging the whole story down..."
"My life is not a story!"
"Whatever. She was boring the pants off me, and not in a good way. Every time you two stared longingly at each other in the loft, I wanted to puke. So she's gone, and Chloe's being rewritten, because you guys were just too perfect for each other, and we can't have that. Conflict is a lot more amusing than happy endings. So you can look forward to some really fun fights with Chloe in the future..."
"I don't want to fight with Chloe!"
"Arguments are good drama, sonny. Think of the audience-- which in this case means yours truly. I like to see quarrels. Falling in love with a person you hate is good for laughs, too."
Clark felt his temper beginning to fray. "I don't care how omnipotent you are," he growled. "You can't make me fall in love with anyone."
"Oh, I totally can. And I will, just because it's going to be funny to see the two of you snarling insults at each other and then kissing. Like 'Moonlighting.' Only, well, you're no Bruce Willis. And Lois is no Cybill Shepherd. Although she does have a really impressive pair of--"
"Why don't you just leave me alone?"
"Because I've gotten strangely interested in your life, kid. You should be flattered. You may be the strongest guy on the planet, but you're still just a pipsqueak in cosmic terms. And yet I'm sort of interested in how this all turns out. Not that I couldn't find out, because I'm not bound by your primitive understanding of time and space. But peeking at the ending would be cheating."
"What you're talking about doing," Clark said in his most reasonable tones, "sounds like cheating, too. If you're interested in how it all turns out, then why not watch it turn out the way it's supposed to, instead of messing with it?"
"I mess with things. That's just what I do. I piss on them and see if it makes the flavor any better."
"Oh, thank you so much for that lovely image..."
"You're welcome. Now. Let's go through the changes I've made. You're a professional journalist now, working toward your destiny with a smart, sassy reporter across the desk..."
"I'm sorry. Did you say smart?"
"I told you, I've rewritten her. She's smart now. Got an intellect you wouldn't believe."
"Yeah, right. Look, I like Lois, but I don't think she knows how to tie her shoes."
"She does now. She's heading for a Pulitzer, I'm telling you."
"A--? Hey, wait, this is starting to sound familiar..."
"Ah, finally he catches on. Yes, I'm the one who wrote up the scenario for that crazy world you found yourself in not too long ago. It wasn't Jor-El. It was me."
"But that was, like, totally nothing like the real world."
"You need to ask yourself, is the real world real?"
"That is the stupidest question I've ever heard."
"I can see why you almost flunked philosophy in high school, kiddo. Not your strong point. Okay. So yeah, that scenario didn't bear a lot of resemblance to what you think of as the real world, but you have to admit it was amusing."
"But it wasn't anything like real life. I mean, the Pulitzer thing, that's Chloe..."
"I already told you, forget about Chloe."
"But that's not fair. Chloe's worked hard to get into the Planet since she was a little kid. She's the one who deserves a Pulitzer. Lois just sits in the basement listening to Whitesnake on her iPod."
"I gotta be honest, kid, I've never understood the value you mortals put on work. Working hard isn't smart. What's the point in struggling toward a goal all your life, when you might just get hit by a Mack truck tomorrow?"
"Yeah, but Chloe..."
"Never mind about Chloe. She's not for you, not anymore. Not professionally or romantically. The two of you are too good together. The first time you kiss each other, it'll all be over and you'll be together for eternity. No conflict."
"Maybe I don't want conflict in my life."
"And you think what you want is relevant because...? I already told you, this is all about me. But of course everything is."
Great, Clark thought. He was apparently dealing not just with a god, but a god with a, well, god complex. "Look," he said, as politely as he could manage, "if you could just kind of go away and not touch anything..."
"Too late, sonny. It's all been rewritten. Lois and the Daily Planet are your destiny now. And I'm really looking forward to seeing how you cope with it all."
"I'm not going to cope. I'm going to try to figure out how to put things back the way they ought to be."
"No, you won't. Because you're part of the story, and as soon as I flash out of here, you're going to forget anything's changed. It'll all seem perfectly logical to you."
"But... Lois Lane. Intellect. Pulitzer. Come on. Seriously, do you think I'm stupid enough to believe that?"
"You're on the inside of the story. You believe what you're presented with. Otherwise you go nuts."
"Um. Okay. Assuming that's true, what's in this for you? If you've been enjoying watching my life-- which is totally creepy, by the way-- then why mess around with it?"
"Just because I like shaking up the status quo. And because it was getting boring. Sometimes things need a major rewrite. The truth is, happy people are boring people."
"I wasn't happy."
"But you were about to be. Chloe was going to come over here tonight. The two of you were going to get to talking, and then you were going to kiss her, and..."
"You're telling me you want to take that away from me? Why?"
"Kid, I'm not one of the nice gods, okay? I'm really more the Loki type."
"Yeah, but... but..."
"I won't deny the appeal of a good sex scene. But after that-- well, I told you. I'm not into Harlequins or Sleepless in Seattle these days. Real romance bores me senseless. Watching you and Lois snarl at each other for the rest of your lives sounds so much more amusing."
"It sounds like hell on earth."
"And hey, that's totally the point. Your hell is my sitcom." The guy stood up, removing his ass from the Daily Planet application, and gave his wide, insane grin. "Well, Kal-El, I gotta be going. If you ever hear laughter when you think you're alone... you're not crazy. It's just me."
"Hang on," Clark said, desperately. Just in case this guy was for real, he wanted to try to keep him talking, to see if he could get the guy to reverse any changes he might have made. "Don't go yet. Uh... what's your name?"
"I have many names, kid. Loki is one of them, actually. Anansi. Till Eulenspiegel. Brian Peterson. The Kryptonians called me Bashu. But you can call me Q."
"Q? Just Q?"
"Just Q." The guy smiled. "Not that you'll remember me, or my name. Or any of this. This is all... off the record."
Brilliant white light flashed.
Clark blinked, slightly confused. He was sure he'd been sitting at his desk... and yet now he was on the other side of the loft. Oh-kay. Weird.
He wandered back to his desk and looked at the college application he'd been filling out. Boring, he thought, not quite sure where the thought came from. A few minutes ago he'd been psyched about the thought of going back to college, but now... well, blah.
He picked up the other application, a blank one that Lois had brought him a month ago, before he got stuck in a Russian prison. It was an application for the Daily Planet.
He knew he wasn't qualified. Not even a little. But... well, what the hell. He thought it would be fun to work at the Daily Planet. Plus, Lois worked there. And Lois was, well, she was smart and hot. She irritated the shit out of him, but she was a hell of a journalist. She could probably teach him anything he needed to know. And really, who needed a degree anyway?
He sat down at the desk and began filling out the application. Suddenly he lifted his head, puzzled. The loft was empty but for him, and yet he'd thought he heard a faint, distant echo of mocking laughter.
But there was no one around.
Just my imagination, he decided, and went back to filling in the application. An odd sense of anticipation curled inside his chest. By tomorrow, maybe he'd be sitting across the desk from Lois, working at the Daily Planet.
He couldn't explain why, but he had this strange sense that working there, side by side with Lois, was his destiny.
Clark Kent and Lois Lane, partners in reporting.
It sounded great to him.
Read Off the Record 2 here.