Jimmy and Tess
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
When I was just a little young boy,
Papa said "Son, you'll never get far,
I'll tell you the reason if you want to know,
'Cause child of mine, there isn't really very far to go."
Well baby, baby wants a gold diamond ring
Wants it more than most any old thing
Well when I get those jelly roll blues
Why I'd go and get anything in this world for you.
Same old story and I know it's been told,
Some like jelly jelly - some like gold
Many a man's done a terrible thing
Just to get baby that shiny diamond ring.
-Grateful Dead, "Dupree's Diamond Blues"
He had to get her a diamond.
Chloe Sullivan wasn't the type to complain, but Jimmy Olsen wasn't blind. He saw the way she looked at the big, tacky plastic ring on her left hand. He saw the way other people looked at it, too.
He definitely saw the way Clark Kent looked at it.
Clark was Chloe's best friend, from time immemorial, and Jimmy had always suspected there was more than a little romance between them. Last week, that had been confirmed, quite painfully, when he'd found a letter, written from Chloe to Clark years ago. I'll let you go for now, hoping that one day you'll fly back to me...
The letter was ancient history, but what worried him was that she'd carefully tucked it away, hiding it the way she'd conceal something infinitely precious. And besides, there had been so much raw emotion in it that it had scared him. As he read through it, he'd sensed a passion and a commitment he'd never felt from her himself.
But that stupid letter didn't matter, not really. Because he'd won Chloe. She'd agreed to marry him, not Clark.
Despite that, he couldn't seem to forget the stupid letter. And the scornful glances Clark kept tossing at the plastic ring really rankled.
It wasn't like CK was rich. He'd been working his mom's crappy little farm till recently, barely keeping it afloat, and a month or so ago he'd finally gotten a job at the Daily Planet, writing obits and filing and doing other crap work. He wasn't making enough to buy diamonds either.
So if he tried to steal Chloe away... well, it wouldn't be with a diamond he'd bought. Even so, Jimmy kept having this vision of Clark dropping down on one knee in front of Chloe, holding up a diamond ring, and saying something like, It belonged to my mother... and now I want you to have it. Over and over again, he imagined Chloe blinking hard, and reaching out to accept it with a tremulous smile.
Paranoia, the more logical part of his brain informed him. If Clark had ever had any intention of proposing to Chloe, he could have done it a long time ago. He wasn't going to propose to Chloe. They were just friends. And even if he did, well, Chloe wasn't going to go for Clark. She loved Jimmy, or she wouldn't have agreed to marry him.
Even so, Jimmy kept seeing the way she looked at the plastic ring on her hand. He kept hearing the words of that letter in his head.
And he worried.
He thought he had reason to worry. He hadn't failed to notice that since Chloe had come back from prison, she hadn't made love to him. Not once. There was a distance between them now, and it scared him. He was deathly afraid CK was going to exploit the problems they were having, and steal Chloe away from him.
Somehow or other, he had to get Chloe a proper engagement ring. He had to let CK know that she was his, now and forever.
He'd painstakingly visited every jewelry store in Metropolis and Smallville, and come to an inescapable conclusion: he couldn't afford the kind of ring Chloe deserved. He couldn't afford much of anything. And no one was willing to extend credit to a kid with a tiny income who hadn't even finished college yet.
He knew that he really had no business asking a girl to marry him if he couldn't even scrape up enough to buy her a shiny little rock. The truth was that the two of them were simply too damn young to get married.
But the problem was, he'd already asked her. And she'd said yes. He couldn't back out of it now.
And the more he thought about it, the more he developed the irrational conviction that if he didn't buy her a diamond ring... Clark was going to.
Okay. So he had to have a ring. Somehow, he just had to get one. Burglary was not an option-- he was nervous and jumpy by nature, so he'd make a really lousy criminal. He'd never manage to break into a store and get a ring successfully. He'd be sure to set off an alarm or leave fingerprints behind or something.
And the fact that he was even thinking about stealing, even in a casual, never-gonna-happen way, worried him. But he was that insane on the subject of Clark, especially now that he'd read that letter. He was that scared of losing the woman he loved to CK.
He haunted jewelry stores, looking at rings he couldn't possibly afford, and worried.
Fortunately, the problem solved itself for him a few days later. Tess Mercer, the acting CEO of LuthorCorp and editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet, called him into her office.
"I understand you're getting married, Mr. Olsen," she said, smiling. "Congratulations."
Jimmy smiled back. Tess was a lot nicer than Lex Luthor had been. Better to look at, too. She had long red hair and emerald green eyes, along with a body that filled out her power suits very impressively. There was a gentle warmth in her eyes, totally unlike the glacial cold in Lex's gray ones.
"Thanks," he answered.
"But your fiancee's ring..." She shook her head, looking dismayed, and Jimmy felt another flush of embarrassment at the confirmation that everyone was looking at Chloe's ring with pity and scorn. "You've been a valuable asset to this newspaper for two years now, Mr. Olsen. I wonder if we're paying you enough."
Through the embarrrassment, alarm bells went off at the back of Jimmy's mind, but he ignored them. The boss was conveniently hinting at a raise, at the exact moment when he happened to need one. That was a good thing.
The fact that the coincidence worried him was just a leftover from dealing with Lex. Lex had never done anything for anybody without expecting something in return. But Tess wasn't Lex.
Don't look a gift horse in the mouth, he thought, a little desperately. Don't.
"I haven't had a raise since I got here," he admitted.
Tess shook her head, flipping through the papers in a file-- his personnel file, Jimmy realized. The smooth, perfect skin of her forehead puckered in a slight frown.
"An oversight, I'm afraid," she said, thumbing through papers. "Due to all the turnover we've had lately, no one's had the chance to review your work. But I've spent the morning looking over your file, Mr. Olsen, and I don't mind telling you I've extremely impressed with your work. Your photography is top-notch."
Jimmy felt his cheeks turn pink. "Thank you."
"I see that you were working upstairs, but got demoted to the basement last year, due to an unfortunate misunderstanding with Mr. Luthor."
The unfortunate misunderstanding had been his clumsy attempt to strongarm Lex, but Jimmy thought it best not to say so. He nodded.
"You're too good for the basement. Much too good." She spoke decisively. "I'm moving you to the twentieth floor."
Jimmy gaped. The top floor. The top floor. He was being promoted to the real bullpen.
That meant respect. It meant the opportunity for a lot more front-page work.
And it meant a lot more money.
He was so totally going to be able to buy Chloe that diamond now. He was so happy he could barely restrain himself from dropping to the floor and kissing Tess' expensively shod feet.
"Th-thank you," he managed to stammer out.
"Don't thank me." She spoke warmly. "You deserve this, Mr. Olsen. It's really criminal that you've remained in the basement for so long, when you're capable of producing work like this."
Jimmy thought about stammering out another thank you, but decided just to keep quiet. He tried not to grin foolishly. "Is that all, Ms. Mercer?"
"I think so. Go ahead and pack up your things. There's a desk waiting upstairs for you, along with a forty percent raise in pay. Oh, and I'm going to write you a check for a bonus today, too. After struggling along at this woefully low pay level for two years, you certainly deserve one. I believe in rewarding competence, Mr. Olsen. And you are very definitely competent."
Jimmy felt like the world had suddenly shifted under his feet. Everything had changed with bewildering abruptness. All the dark clouds had blown away, and the summer sun was shining down on Jimmy Olsen. He grinned at her, and turned toward the door.
But then she spoke. "Oh, Mr. Olsen. There is one other thing."
He froze. Fear squeezed his heart. Suddenly he remembered the time he'd asked Lex for help to save Chloe, and how Lex had manipulated him in return.
Relax, he told himself. She's not Lex.
He turned back to face her, trying not to look panicked. She's not Lex, he reminded himself, a desperate mantra. She's not Lex. "Yes?"
Tess spoke casually, apparently absorbed in his file. "I have a few concerns about our newest hire. Clark Kent, the young man in the basement. You know him, don't you?"
"Well... sort of. I mean, not really. We're not like friends or anything..."
"But he's your fiancee's best friend, isn't he?"
Jimmy felt the net falling over him, metaphorically speaking. No, he thought wretchedly. This is not happening to me again. I am not going to be used this way... I'll just quit...
But he wouldn't quit, and he knew it. She knew it, too. Everyone knew he needed the money. He had to get that diamond.
I'm the girl of your dreams masquerading as your best friend...
"Yes," he answered dully. "He is."
"I've observed a lot of strange things about Mr. Kent." Tess put down the file and looked up at him, her green gaze earnest. "Things that don't add up. Things that make me suspect he's quite... unusual, if you take my meaning."
He took her meaning, all right. Tess thought Clark was a meteor freak. And Jimmy had a feeling that might just be the truth. He'd seen some odd things that had made him wonder, too.
And what LuthorCorp did to meteor freaks-- well, he'd heard enough from Chloe to know strange abilities were not something you wanted to advertise to LuthorCorp. Not unless you wanted to wind up in a lab.
"I don't think so," he answered. "He's just a regular guy."
"I think you're wrong, Mr. Olsen." Tess smiled, and suddenly she didn't look sweet and kind any more. She looked like a cobra. "I want you to put those crack journalistic instincts to work, Mr. Olsen, and find me some solid evidence on Clark Kent's abilities. I want you to put your brilliant photography skills to work, and bring me some pictures of Clark Kent doing the peculiar things he does. "
"But I'll be on the twentieth floor, and he's in the basement..."
"Don't worry, Mr. Olsen. He's your fiancee's best friend, after all, and I know he hangs around her constantly. You can use her friendship with him to watch him."
Tess spoke right over him. "Furthermore, I'll see to it that you're assigned to work with him on a regular basis. Which doesn't mean you won't work with better reporters, too, so that we can see your work gracing the front page more frequently. But never fear, you'll get plenty of opportunities to observe young Mr. Kent."
Jimmy tried, very weakly, to resist. "What if I don't want to observe him?"
"Oh, but you want to do this, Mr. Olsen. Because you're one of my best photographers. You deserve this promotion so much. And... well, it's a very good thing for your career to be working upstairs. Don't you think?"
Jimmy closed his eyes for a moment, thinking about a shiny diamond ring on Chloe's hand, gleaming as it announced triumphantly to the world, Chloe Sullivan belongs to Jimmy Olsen.
He swallowed. He knew Chloe wouldn't want him spying on Clark. Clark was her best friend.
But... well, he'd never liked Clark all that much. He liked him even less after his discovery of that frigging letter last week.
And if Clark did happen to have meteor abilities, and LuthorCorp put him into a lab... well, that'd be a real pity, all right, but it would definitely keep Clark and Chloe apart.
So really, this situation wasn't all that bad. He was getting a raise and a promotion... and he had the chance to get rid of a rival for good.
Something cold and wintry settled into his chest, driving the fear and the guilt away. He nodded. "Sure, Ms. Mercer. I'll see what I can find out."
"Very good, Mr. Olsen." She put his file aside and looked up at him. "As I said, you'll be getting a bit of a bonus today. I think you'll find it's enough to take care of a much nicer ring for your fiancee. Next time she comes in here to visit you, I want to see a diamond on her finger, not plastic."
Jimmy envisioned Chloe wearing a big diamond on her finger, a diamond that said plainly, Clark Kent is in the past, and Chloe and Jimmy belong together forever, and he smiled.
"Yes, ma'am," he said. "I'll get her a better one right away."
"Good." Tess smiled up at him. The cobra faded, and she looked as sweet as he had when he'd walked in. "Good afternoon, Mr. Olsen."
Dismissed, he turned and walked from her office. The wintry sensation that had settled into his chest didn't fade. He didn't want it to fade. He embraced it.
He thought maybe this was how Luthors felt-- all ice on the inside. No remorse, no pity, no mercy. Just ice.
He headed for the elevator, thinking over the morning's events. He had everything he'd ever wanted now, and a chance to get Clark out of Chloe's life for good.
He ought to be appalled by the thought, appalled by what he was willing to do in order to make sure he got what he wanted. But somehow... he wasn't.
Clark Kent was standing in his way. Clark Kent had always stood between him and Chloe. The letter he'd found had been a painful reminder of that.
But Clark wouldn't get between them any longer. Jimmy was taking his life into his own hands. With Tess' help, he was going to fix everything.
A little spying on Clark Kent wasn't too great a price to pay. And if Clark wound up in a lab somewhere as a result-- well, he was probably better off there, anyway.
Whistling cheerfully, Jimmy got into the elevator and let it carry him down.