Saturday, April 29, 2006
The World Isn't Ending, Chapter 1
Season 5, an expansion and rewriting of "Solitude"
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the WB and DC Comics, not to me
Now that the world isn't ending
It's love that I'm sending to you
It isn't the love of a hero
And that's why I fear it won't do
-"Hero" by Chad Kroeger
Clark can feel Chloe shaking with cold as he carries her out of the cave and speeds toward his parents’ house. He’s wrapped his red jacket around her, but it’s not exactly designed for Arctic use, and it didn’t do much to shield her from the bitter cold up north. He can feel that her temperature is much too low. Her body shudders convulsively, and he puts on an extra burst of speed.
A second later they’re inside the warmth of the Kent farmhouse. Clark glances around, but his mom isn’t lying on the couch where he last saw her. A feeling of dread curls in him, but he decides to take care of Chloe before he looks for his parents, maybe because he doesn’t want to face the truth of what’s happened to his mom. He kneels and deposits Chloe carefully on the floor in front of the fireplace, then turns to the logs and stares at them. A second later, they burst into flame.
“I’ll be right back,” he says, putting a hand on her cheek and looking into her eyes.
She nods shakily, and he zips up the stairs to find a blanket.
He grabs a crimson blanket off his bed and runs toward the door, then slides to a halt. His mom is standing in the hallway, and all the horrible marks on her skin have healed. She looks… healthy.
His eyes go wide. “Mom?”
She smiles at him, an expression he thought he’d never see again, and his heart lifts. “I’m fine,” she says softly. “Perfectly fine. It just… went away.”
The blanket drops from his fingers, and he wraps his arms around his mother, lifting her right off the floor. She laughs a little breathlessly. “I’m all right, Clark,” she tells him, patting his hair like she used to when he was a little boy. “Everything’s all right.”
Everything is all right, and he's profoundly grateful, but he knows he’s damned lucky that it turned out that way. She has no way of knowing how bad things got, and of how close he came to not only losing her and Chloe, but letting an evil Kryptonian dictator destroy Earth. He doesn’t want to take the time to tell her about it right now, because he’s aware that Chloe is still shivering downstairs. Chloe is suffering from the cold because she saved him—saved everyone—and he can’t leave her there to shiver.
“I’m glad you’re okay,” he says softly, knowing the words are terribly inadequate to express what he's feeling. Maybe later he'll be able to tell her how much she means to him, how much he'd miss her if she were gone, but right now he's emotionally and physically exhausted, and the words just won't come. “But right now I have to take care of Chloe. She followed me up to the Fortress, and she’s freezing.”
His mother looks at him, and he sees an odd expression flicker across her face. Then she gives him a Mona Lisa smile. “That’s fine, Clark. Your father and I are… well, we’ll be upstairs for a while.”
Ugh. That’s a mental image he could do without. Yeah, he knows his father is probably really, really relieved that Mom’s okay, and he understands how people in love react when they’re relieved… but still, parents are supposed to be sexless. Aren’t they?
He nods, kisses his mother’s cheek one more time, and grabs the blanket, zooming down the stairs. Chloe is still shivering, but she looks a little less blue. He wraps the red blanket carefully around her shoulders.“I have something I have to do,” he tells her. He hates to leave her and his mother, even for a microsecond, but there’s still one last loose end of this mess to tie up. “I’ll be right back, okay?”
She nods, still too cold to speak. He feels the sudden impulse to brush his lips over her cheek, too, but he decides against it. Standing up, he dashes out of the house.
When he comes back five minutes later, Chloe looks warmer, and Shelby, the old golden retriever, is sitting next to her, watching over her. As he walks into the room, Shelby leaves his post and trots over to greet him, his fringed tail waving. Clark kneels down and rubs the dog’s ears. He thinks of how Shelby has stayed by Mom’s side the whole time she was ill, in a futile canine effort to guard her from her illness, and he looks into the dog’s dark, loyal eyes. “Good dog, Shelby,” he says softly. “Good dog.”
Shelby licks his hand, then returns to his post next to Chloe. Clark sits down on the other side of her. “Are you feeling warmer?” he asks.
“I’m never going to get warm again,” she answers, a wry smile on her lips.
He puts an arm around her and pulls her against his chest, figuring it’s the best way to warm her up. Cold, even Arctic cold, doesn’t matter much to him, and he’s perfectly warm. Her cheek feels cold against him, even through his blue t-shirt, and he wraps his arm around her shoulders and holds her close.
Slowly her shivers fade away. He doesn’t say anything, because he doesn’t know what to say. Guilt is still hanging over him in a dark cloud. He’s wretchedly aware he was gullible and stupid and allowed himself to be manipulated by the entity that called itself Professor Fine, and as a result he came terribly close to losing his mother and Chloe.
As well as the whole world.
He’s not a native of Earth, but he loves this planet he’s grown up on. The thought of it being destroyed by some deranged Kryptonian, turned into a warped, twisted imitation of Krypton, its people eradicated or made into slaves, horrifies him. He imagines his own little corner of Earth, the Kent farm, being flattened by someone who thinks humans are beneath contempt, and the thought sends a shudder through him.
Chloe lifts her head. “You okay, Clark?”
“Yeah, I’m okay,” he answers, trying to ignore the fact that her face is only inches away from his. Chloe’s his friend-- his best friend, to be sure, but nevertheless only his friend. The fact that he wants to cover her face in kisses right now is probably all due to some sort of delayed reaction to stress. “You want some tea or something?”
A hopeful gleam appears in her green-gold eyes. “Do you have any coffee?”
He has to laugh, because he should have known that was what she’d want. Chloe lives for coffee. Even in eighth grade, when he first met her, she was totally addicted to the stuff. “I think there’s a pot on the counter,” he says. Unwrapping his arm from around her, he stands up and walks over to the kitchen.
Moments later, he walks back to her and hands her a steaming mug. She cradles it in her hands and takes a big sip, looking appreciative.
He sits down next to her again. The urge to put his arm around her again and cuddle her is almost too strong to ignore. He remembers the comfortable warmth of her in the crook of his arm, the way her head pressed against his chest, and he sighs.
It’s been a horrific two days, and he could use some comforting right now. In fact, he yearns for a little human warmth to help drive away the horrible visions that are haunting him. But he reminds himself again that Chloe is his friend, and friends don’t cuddle in front of the fireplace.
She might get the wrong idea or something.
Read Chapter 2 here.
Posted by Meg at 6:48 AM