Friday, May 12, 2006

Here Without You, Chapter 2

Clark/Chloe
Season 5, following my story "What the World Could Be," which followed "Void"
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the WB and DC Comics, not to me

For a long moment Clark couldn’t find anything to say. He stared at his mom blankly. At last, deciding she was putting him on, he grinned wryly. “Come on, Mom. Be serious.”

“I’m not kidding,” she whispered, looking at him with wide eyes. “I don’t know anyone by that name, Clark. Really.”

He swallowed. Suddenly he recalled the feeling of anxiety that had plagued him this morning, and abruptly he realized what had been bothering him. Not long after his superhearing had developed, several years ago, he’d begun hearing Chloe’s heartbeat, no matter whether she was in Metropolis or Smallville. Her heartbeat was the first thing he heard every morning and the last thing he heard before falling asleep every night.

And now...Chloe’s heartbeat was gone.

Alarm burst within him, along with guilt. If he hadn’t been in such a happy daze this morning, he might have noticed earlier. Because he could always hear her heartbeat. And if it was gone—

He pushed back the sudden panic that filled him. Chloe wasn’t dead. She couldn’t be dead. He’d seen her just last night, after all. Maybe somehow she’d gotten out of range of his superhearing. He knew he could hear her heartbeat readily enough when she was in Metropolis, but he wasn’t sure if he’d hear it if she was further away.

Why she might have gone so far away in the space of a night, when he'd thought she was just heading back to her dorm at Met U, he couldn't speculate. But it was the only explanation he could face right now. Because the idea that she was dead was too awful to contemplate.

He shoved away the fear he felt for Chloe and focused on the current problem, hoping it would help him figure out exactly what was going on here. “Mom,” he said, gently. “Chloe’s been hanging around with me for years. You’ve seen her a million times.”

Martha stared at him wordlessly. He saw anxiety deep in her eyes and realized she thought he was delusional, just like he’d been when he’d gotten that sliver of silver kryptonite in his finger.

But he knew he wasn’t delusional... and he could prove it to her, damn it.

“I’ll be right back,” he said. Turning, he supersped for his loft.

Since he spent more time in his loft than in his bedroom, he kept most of his personal items there. He dashed up the stairs and headed for the desk, intending to grab one of his many photos of Chloe. He skidded to a complete halt and stood frozen.

Every one of his photos of Chloe had disappeared.

The picture of them together in eighth grade, with the words “Your friend, Chloe” written in the corner in swoopy, girlish handwriting, was missing. The picture of the two of them at the gorge with their friend Pete Ross wasn’t there, either. No—it was there, but now it only showed him and Pete. He stared desperately around the loft, seeing pictures of Lana, pictures of Pete, pictures of his parents… but no pictures of Chloe.

Fury hit him. Either someone was playing an ugly practical joke on him, or the situation was much more serious than a mere joke. Since he couldn’t hear Chlo’s heartbeat, he was willing to bet on the latter. Maybe someone had abducted Chloe and taken her far away, and was now trying to make him think he was insane for some reason. It was the only scenario he could come up with that made any sense, although why his mother didn’t remember Chloe he couldn’t guess.

The only thing he could think of was that maybe it wasn’t Martha in the kitchen at all, but an imposter.

The thought seemed very paranoid-- because why would an imposter be standing in the kitchen, cooking his mom's banana pancakes?-- and that made him worry he was going off the deep end again, just like he had when he was infected by silver K. But he shrugged the concern aside. It was impossible for him to proceed on the assumption that he was crazy, and that everything he saw was a delusion. He had to assume that what he saw was real, or he'd truly be a candidate for Belle Reve in no time.

And it was equally impossible for him to believe that he’d somehow imagined Chloe’s existence. She’d been too much a part of his life for too many years for him to even entertain the notion that she was only a delusion.

Anyway, he felt perfectly normal. It was just that the world seemed to have gone mad around him.

He dove for the trunk where he kept most of his stuff and dug wildly through it, looking for all the notes she'd passed him in class over the years. They were gone. A cold sensation of fear settled in the pit of his stomach, and he grabbed the stack of burgundy and gold Smallville High yearbooks, leafing through them at superspeed.

Chloe's picture wasn’t in any of them.

“No,” he said. His voice sounded very loud in the stillness of the loft, yet he was hardly aware he spoke. “No. This is crazy.”

He flipped through the pages frantically, seeing all his friends’ faces, seeing the familiar inscriptions that his classmates had scrawled in his yearbooks over the years. But Chloe's smiling face was utterly absent. He turned to the pages marked “The Torch,” the student newspaper that Chloe had presided over as editor for four years. She’d practically put the thing out single-handedly some weeks, although he’d written quite a few stories for her over the years, and so had Pete.

The photos of Torch staff showed him and Pete, along with the various other students who’d come and gone over the course of four years. But no Chloe.

A sound midway between a sob and a moan, a strangled noise of confusion and horror, rose from his chest, and he flung the stack of yearbooks across the loft angrily.

“What the hell is going on here?”

He vividly remembered dancing with Chloe last night, remembered kissing her, remembered holding her in his arms as they made love. She wasn’t a delusion or a dream, damn it. They had six years of history together, and he remembered every moment they’d spent together, both as friends and as lovers.

Chloe Sullivan was the woman he loved, the woman whose soul fit his, the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his days with.

And somehow… she’d been totally erased from his life.

*****

Clark’s knees gave out, and he collapsed heavily onto the couch, staring into space. His heart pounded, and his mind churned frantically, but he struggled to calm himself down. Panicking wouldn’t help Chloe. He took deep, steadying breaths, and gradually he became able to think again.

He ran through a mental list of the facts as he currently knew them. His mother didn’t remember Chloe. Chloe seemed to have somehow been erased from all his photos, including his yearbooks. Everything he possessed that Chloe had ever given him seemed to have disappeared. And he couldn’t hear Chloe’s heartbeat.

He couldn’t come up with a logical explanation that fit the facts, no matter how hard he tried. It was as if Chloe had never existed at all. Yet he knew, he knew, she’d been in this very loft the night before.

He needed to find out if anyone else remembered Chloe. Lois Lane, he decided, was his logical next step.

Lois was Chloe’s cousin. She ran the Talon, a coffee shop in downtown Smallville, and lived in a little apartment over the shop. He couldn’t imagine that she could possibly have forgotten Chlo, no matter what strangeness had occurred, since the two girls were as close as sisters. Maybe Lois could help him figure out what was going on.

His mind made up, he jumped to his feet and ran.

Less than a second later, he came to a halt outside the Talon. He strode in, seeing the early morning coffee crowd, including quite a few faces that he recognized. But he didn’t see Lois, so he headed for the counter.

“Hi,” he said to the woman behind the counter, an unfamiliar, overly made up woman with brassy blonde hair.

She grinned at him like she saw him every day. “Clark, honey! Black coffee, right?”

He blinked. “Uh…” He was certain he’d never met her, but she was acting like she knew him pretty well. “Actually, I’m just looking for Lois.”

“Who?”

“Lois Lane. You know, the manager.”

“Clark,” she said, shaking her head at him, so that her big gold earrings jangled. “I’m the manager, honey. There’s no one named Lois working here.”

“She doesn’t live upstairs?”

The woman lifted her plucked eyebrows. “That’s my apartment.”

“Uh…” he said again. “Well. Okay, then. Sorry to bother you.”

Ignoring her curious look, he backed out of the shop and stood on the sidewalk for a minute, struggling to regain some mental equilibrium. He looked around, seeing that nothing appeared to have changed. Smallville looked the same as it always had, yet it appeared that Chloe and Lois were both… missing somehow.

He recalled that Lois had come to town because of Chloe, so it actually made sense she wasn’t here. No Chloe, no Lois. That was logical, in a weird kind of way.

But where the hell had they gone? People couldn’t just disappear like they’d been erased from a story, after all. People didn’t just vaporize into thin air, along with every proof they’d ever existed. There had to be a reasonable explanation for all this. Chloe had to be somewhere, damn it.

Suddenly he remembered something Chloe had said to him a while ago, while looking up information for a story she was writing.“Mr. Spock once said logic is the beginning of wisdom,” she’d remarked. “But if you ask me, Google searches are the true beginning of wisdom.”

Okay, then. If he couldn’t find Chloe in Kansas, he’d use the Internet to figure out where in the world she’d disappeared to. He supersped back to his loft and booted up his computer.

Moments later he’d found a listing for Chloe Sullivan. Her listed age was off by about a year, but he was pretty sure it was her, because he was able to cross-match it with Gabe Sullivan, her father’s name. Both of them seemed to be living in Metropolis, but at an address he wasn’t familiar with.

He was pretty sure she wasn’t actually in Metropolis, because if she was, he could have heard her heartbeat. But maybe Gabe would be able to give him some insight into where she was, and what was going on.

He headed for Metropolis at top speed. It only took a few seconds to get there, but he wasted half a precious minute in locating the address, because although he was fast, he wasn’t equipped with a GPS device. He zoomed up the steps and rang the doorbell, heedless of the fact that it was pretty early for anyone who wasn’t a farmer to be up. At this point he didn’t care who he annoyed. He just wanted to find Chloe.

A moment later, the door opened, and a bleary-eyed brunette peered out. “Yeah?”

At the familiar face, he almost fell over with relief. “Lois,” he said gratefully, holding out his hand to her. Lois Lane was a major pain in the ass, but she loved Chloe with all her heart, and he knew she’d be an ally in his search. “I’m looking for Chloe. You have to help me find her. Please.”

She blinked at him. “You found her.”

“She’s here?” He tilted his head, listening for her heartbeat, but didn’t hear it. “Are you sure?”

She narrowed her eyes at him in a typical Lois gesture. “Who the hell are you?”

His heart plummeted, and he stared at her. “You don’t remember me?”

“No.”

God, what on earth was happening here? Strangers knew him, while friends didn’t. It was totally bizarre. “I’m Clark,” he said. “Clark Kent. I’m, uh, a friend of Chloe’s.”

“You mean Chloe Sullivan?”

He nodded.

“Well,” she drawled, “that’s pretty damn weird. Because I don’t seem to remember you at all.” Her eyes narrowed further. “And just for your information, I’m Chloe Sullivan.”

Read Chapter 3 here.

1 comment:

unique_kiwi said...

W.

T..

F.........

Wow this story has really gripped me...i can't stop reading...not to mention squeeable...the opening chapter was so cute and Chlarkified!!