Season 5, following my story "What the World Could Be," which followed "Void"
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the WB and DC Comics, not to me
Her voice drifted out of the fog, impossibly distant, and he looked around frantically, desperate to find her. He could hear her voice, but not her heartbeat, and that frightened him. “Chloe? Chloe, where are you?”
The fog was too thick. It rolled over the ground, dense and white. It was everywhere, and he couldn’t see her, couldn't even see a hint of her. He couldn’t see anything at all.
“Clark,” she said, and her voice was even farther away than before. “You have to help me.”
“I’m trying!” He raced toward her voice. He was still unable to see anything for the mist, but he didn't care if he stumbled over something. He didn't care what happened to him, as long as he got to her. “Chloe! Wait!”
“Clark…” Her voice faded out.
“No!” He ran faster, screaming in anguish. “No! Chloe!”
Clark woke up with a jolt. His room was dark, and he listened for a long, hopeful moment, but heard only silence. Chloe’s heartbeat hadn't miraculously been restored. It was still gone.
She was gone. He might never see her again, except in his dreams.
And damn it, he couldn’t even see her face in his dreams. He could barely hear her voice. Longing rose up in him like a spring bubbling from dry ground. He wanted to see her, to hear her, to touch her so badly that his chest ached with the need.
He had to get her back. But despite an afternoon of searching for information, he had no idea where Fine was. He'd last been spotted in Honduras, but he wasn't there now. Clark could only hope his theory was correct, and that the AI would eventually come to him.
The problem was that he and Fine seemed more or less evenly matched, so even if Fine showed himself, there was no guarantee that Clark could take him. Fine was superstrong, superfast, and had heat vision. And whereas Clark was vulnerable to the green meteor rocks called kryptonite, Fine wasn't, which gave Fine a decided advantage over him.
Fortunately, Jor-El had given him something to even the odds a bit.
He reached under his pillow to assure himself that the device he'd brought back from the Fortress of Solitude was still there. His hand closed around its smooth surface, then he released it and rolled over, staring into the darkness.
Listening to the silence.
Tears ran down his cheeks, and he didn’t bother to brush them away.
In the morning, Clark could barely get out of bed. He struggled upright, put on his clothing, and placed the device from the Fortress in his pocket. Then he staggered down the hall to the bathroom... and promptly threw up.
He sat next to the toilet for long moments, breathing hard, while the room whirled around him. He’d never thrown up before, and he didn’t like the sensation at all. He didn’t like this feeling of weakness, of dizziness, either. He wondered how humans could tolerate getting sick on such a regular basis.
At last he got himself to his feet and went down the staircase. His mom was waiting in the kitchen, an anxious look on her face.“Are you all right, Clark? You look terrible.”
He hadn’t told her anything, because he didn’t want her to worry. He didn’t want to have to tell her he was dying because his soulmate had been stolen from him. He figured if Fine showed up, and he didn’t manage to figure out how to change things, he’d tell her then. But his condition was deteriorating rapidly, and he knew from a brief glance in the bathroom mirror that he was pale and sweaty, with dark circles under his eyes, and that he was starting to look gaunt. His cheekbones were more prominent than ever, and there were decided hollows beneath them.
“I’m okay,” he said, patting her shoulder reassuringly. “Just a little sick.”
“But you never get sick.”
“I’ll be okay, Mom.”
“Do you want breakfast?” Her eyes were hopeful, and he remembered he hadn’t eaten anything in days. She’d obviously noticed. “I scrambled some eggs.”
All at once he noticed the scent of eggs and bacon in the air. It took all his strength not to throw up again on her clean kitchen floor. He clenched his jaw and swallowed.“No thanks,” he said at last, weakly. “I’m just going to get the chores done.”
He staggered outside and got to work. He couldn’t seem to make himself go into superspeed, so he had a very long morning in front of him. Even a pitchfork seemed terribly heavy. Considering he'd once been able to lift a tractor without breaking a sweat, that probably wasn't a good sign.
He threw up several times during the course of the morning, but he made himself keep working. The morning blurred away into early afternoon, and at last he lurched into the relative coolness of the barn, collapsing onto a bale of hay. Ordinarily he’d relax in his loft, but there was no freaking way he could make it up all those stairs today.
At the familiar voice, his head jerked around, and he saw her standing there in the doorway to the barn. The golden light shone around her like a halo, but there was no mistaking her blonde hair, or her slim body, or the wide smile on her face. Joy exploded within his chest.
"Chloe,” he whispered, disbelieving. He jumped to his feet, all his aches and pains disappearing, all his nausea forgotten, and ran toward her. “Chloe!”
He was only a few feet away from her when she stretched out her arm to him, and he saw a glowing green rock in her hand. His legs went out from under him, and he collapsed to the ground.
“Chlo…” he protested softly, but he knew better. Chloe wouldn’t hurt him this way.
“Chloe” walked toward him. Her body elongated and her face shifted, and suddenly he was looking up at Milton Fine.
God, he was stupid. He hadn’t been aware that Fine had shapeshifting abilities, but considering the entity was an AI, he might have guessed. He should have realized this wasn't Chloe, because intellectually he knew she wasn't coming back. But he had wanted to see her so badly, and he was so damn exhausted and miserable that his brain was hardly working.
He had to give Fine credit for manipulating him so cleverly. The AI had taken advantage of his desperation and his illness and totally outmaneuvered him.
Clark groaned, struggling to lift a hand enough to reach the device in his pocket. But it was no use. As sick as he was already, and as weak as the kryptonite made him, he couldn’t even move his arm an inch.
Fine leaned over and pressed the kryptonite against his skin. Clark jerked convulsively, feeling his skin blister where the rock touched him. Pain ripped through him, and he moaned.
“Hello, Kal-El,” Fine said. “Nice to see you again.”
Read Chapter 6 here.