Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Here Without You, Chapter 8

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

The movement of the truck lulled Clark to sleep. In his dreams he stood alone in the thick, dense fog, listening hopefully for Chloe's heartbeat, or for the sound of her voice.

But he heard nothing at all.

Then someone was shaking him awake. "We're here, son," a familiar voice said.

"Dad?" Clark opened his eyes.

"Just me," his father answered with a smile. "By the way, my name is Jonathan. Jonathan Kent." He stuck out his hand in his customary friendly, open gesture, and Clark clasped it.

"I'm..." He hesitated for just a second. "Kal."

"Sorry to meet you under these circumstances, Kal." Jonathan let go of his hand, turned around, and frowned out the windshield. "Looks like a hell of a big meteor went down over there. Let's go have a look around for your boy."

Clark pushed the truck door open and got to his feet. He'd asked to borrow clean clothes, and was clad in a pair of Jonathan's jeans and a plaid flannel shirt. Since he and Jonathan were the same height, the jeans were long enough, but the shirt was a little tight through the shoulders. But at least it wasn't covered in kryptonite dust.

He stood for a moment, discovering he was unsteady, and still a little nauseated. But he'd be able to walk as long as he didn't run across any meteor fragments. He scanned the area with his x-ray vision, which he was relieved to find still working, and saw no rocks in the immediate vicinity.

He walked slowly toward the long gash in the earth, knowing what he'd find, wondering how the hell he'd explain it to Jonathan Kent. He wasn't sure how much time had elapsed, but it had to have been at least an hour. He hoped the kid hadn't wandered far away from the ship, or they might never find him.

He paused at the top of the smoking gouge slashed into the cornfield and looked down. Dismay hit him hard, and his hands curled into fists.

The ship was gone.


Clark and Jonathan wandered around the field, calling for the boy. Jonathan had looked oddly at "Kal" when he found the boy's name was Clark, since it was Martha Kent's maiden name, but apparently he'd shrugged it off as a coincidence.

Calling for "Clark" might not do too much good, since at this point in time the boy's name wasn't Clark, and he wouldn't recognize it. But Clark hoped if the kid was still there, he'd at least respond to the sound of their voices.

If the ship was gone, though, he figured the kid was gone too. He exerted his superhearing, which like his x-ray vision was still working, but didn't hear anything. Even so, they began walking around the field, looking for the boy. But ten minutes later they hadn't found him.

Clark's legs trembled beneath him. He figured it was from exertion-- and how sad was that, the strongest man in the world shaking from exhaustion after a ten minute walk? But it might be from the emotions boiling inside him, too. He was scared for the world, distressed for Chloe, and angry that he'd let himself be trapped so readily by Fine.

God, he'd screwed this up. He couldn't have screwed up any worse if he'd planned it himself. He ground his teeth together, remembering what Jor-El had said: Altering the past is fraught with peril.

Jor-El might be a pompous, xenophobic jerk, but he also knew what the hell he was talking about.

All Clark had wanted to to do was restore reality to its original state, but now the reality he remembered was totally destroyed, so far out of whack he didn't see how he could ever fix it. Not only was Chloe gone, but now his personal history had been altered as well. He wasn't sure how he could possibly make things right again.

But he had to try. There had to be a clue as to where the kid had gone. He couldn't superspeed yet, so he couldn't have gone too far... at least not on foot.

Clark stood, panting, and looked around. Beyond the field, he saw a big industrial building. "Is that the old creamed corn factory?" he asked.

"Yeah," Jonathan said. "Belongs to the Ross Brothers."

Slowly, the memories of what he knew about the day he'd arrived on Earth began to surface in Clark's brain. Lex Luthor had been here in Smallville when the meteors hit. His father, Lionel, had been buying the creamed corn factory, which would eventually become a LuthorCorp fertilizer plant. Lex had barely missed being struck by the meteors, and the radiation had caused him to be rendered permanently bald. He'd also been in shock.

Lionel Luthor had panicked, with no idea what to do or how to help his son, and Jonathan Kent had found them on the road and driven both of them to the hospital.

If Lionel had been nearby, then it was likely that the young Kal-El had been found by Lionel. It wasn't like Lionel to stop to render aid to anyone, particularly when his own son was already hurt, but surely even Lionel would stop to help a naked, lost three-year-old. Besides, if he'd spotted the ship, he would have been instantly intrigued. Injured Lex or no injured Lex, he would have stopped to check it out.

Which meant maybe, just maybe, the kid and the ship would wind up at the Luthor mansion.

How Clark could possibly get the kid back was a mystery. He had no papers to prove the kid was his, nor any papers to prove that he himself existed. All he had was a drivers license that wouldn't be valid for thirteen years.

That probably wouldn't impress the sheriff.

Even kidnapping the boy wasn't really feasible, considering how weak he was. It wasn't like he could superspeed in and out. And even if he could convince Jonathan to help him steal the kid back, what then? It was Lionel who had helped Jonathan with the shadier aspects of the adoption in the first place. Who in the world could Jonathan go to now?

Jesus, he thought tiredly. This is one hell of a mess.

His shoulders sagged, and he looked down at the ground... and saw something glinting in the freshly gashed ground. He bent over and picked it up.

"What's that?" Jonathan asked.

"Not sure," Clark said, turning over the octagonal object in his fingers. But of course he knew what it was. It was the key-- the only thing that could make the ship that had brought him to this world operational. And it gave him a tiny flicker of hope.

Once again, it was time to go talk to Jor-El.

Read Chapter 9 here.

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