Friday, May 26, 2006

A Hundred Years, Chapter 2

Clark/Chloe future fic, angst
Spoilers for "Hourglass" but mostly set in the future
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the WB and DC Comics, not to me
The music is "100 Years," by Five for Fighting

I'm 33 for a moment
Still the man, but you see I'm a they
A kid on the way
A family on my mind

When he was thirty-three, Clark Kent watched his baby daughter being born, and it scared the hell out of him.

His wife had a death grip on his hand, clutching it so hard that if he were human, his bones would be shattering under the stress. “Take it easy, Chloe,” he told her softly, shoving his dark-framed glasses up on his nose in an unconscious, habitual gesture. “It’ll be all right.”

“Easy… for you to say,” she gritted out. “I’m in serious pain here, Clark.”

“Yeah. I kind of figured that out, sweetheart.”

He squeezed her hand gently, totally focused on her for once. Although he loved Chloe more desperately than ever, they were both workaholics, and he didn’t spend as much time with her as he liked. Chloe spent almost every waking hour writing or investigating stories—she’d worked almost literally up till the moment she went into labor-- and he himself was always busy, because he juggled two jobs. He’d worked as a reporter for the Daily Planet, alongside Chloe, since he was twenty-five. And ever since his mom had come up with the brilliant idea of him donning a costume a few years ago, he’d moonlighted as a hero.

It took up a great deal of his time, but Chloe was generous about sharing him with the world, and she encouraged him even when he found the work depressing, difficult, or unrewarding.

He wasn’t overwhelmingly fond of the gaudy costume his mom had stitched up, but he had to admit it had really captured the public’s imagination. Blue, with a red cape, it prominently displayed a Kryptonian symbol, the sigil of the House of El, in red. The sigil looked a lot like an S, and there had been weeks of feverish speculation in Metropolis as to what the S stood for. It was Chloe who’d finally dubbed him “Superman” in the paper, under her current byline, Lois Lane.

Chloe had worked for the Daily Planet since she was a teenager, but she’d run into a little trouble when the newspaper was bought by Lex Luthor a few years back. Lex had taken exception to a story on LuthorCorp she’d written and blacklisted her, and since Chloe couldn’t stop writing any more than she could stop breathing, she’d continued turning in stories under her cousin’s name. When the Planet changed hands again, and she was free to write for them once more, she’d already won a Pulitzer under her pen name, so she kept the pseudonym.

The world knew her as Lois Lane, and even most people at the Planet referred to her as Lois. But Clark had always been irritated by her cousin, who was now living out in California, and he couldn’t think of his wife as anything but Chloe Sullivan.

Chloe Sullivan Kent.

Lois Lane was merely a pseudonym, just like Superman. But tonight, Superman and Lois Lane were taking the night off. Tonight they were just Clark and Chloe Kent… having a baby.

Chloe let out a long yowl of pain, and he stroked her hair, which she’d let revert to its natural medium brown a few years ago. He liked it that color, although he’d liked the blonde fine, too. He thought she looked beautiful no matter what her hair color.

Right now she was sweaty, her skin was pale, and her hair was matted lankly against her forehead and neck. She looked very much like he did when he was around green kryptonite, and his heart went out to her. He wished he could help her, so she didn’t have to hurt so much.

But this was something he couldn’t do for her. All he could do was offer his support.

“You’re doing great,” Dr. Veil encouraged her. Clark looked away from his wife and glanced at the doctor. It went strongly against his instincts to rely on any doctor. The last time his family had been forced by circumstances to trust one, she’d sold his blood for a fortune, and almost gotten him thrown into a lab for the rest of his life. He’d decided never to trust a doctor again.

But once Chloe had gotten pregnant, they’d talked it over and realized it was impossible for them not to let a doctor in on his secret in this situation. Neither one of them had any clue what the mingling of human and Kryptonian genetics might do, either to Chloe or the baby. As paranoid as Clark was about protecting his secret, he was far more paranoid about protecting his wife. So they’d done thorough research and come up with Dr. Veil, a small, unassuming woman who provided confidential OB medical services to celebrities in a private, secure wing of Metropolis General.

It was weird to think that he was a celebrity, as far as Metropolis was concerned. In fact, his fame was rapidly spreading beyond Metropolis and expanding worldwide. Considering all he was doing was trying to help people, he was a little surprised to find himself as famous as a rock star or an NFL quarterback.

He reminded himself that Superman was famous. Clark Kent, on the other hand, was the kind of guy people hardly looked twice at. And that was okay with him.

“Is the baby okay?” Chloe asked between gasps.

“She’s doing fine,” the doctor assured her. She’d been performing regular sonograms, and fetal development seemed normal, although somewhat accelerated. Clark had been horrified when Chloe went into labor only seven months into the pregnancy, but the doctor assured them that the baby appeared full term. Her guess was that the Kryptonian gestation period was shorter than the human one. “Hang in there, Chloe. You’re almost fully dilated.”

Chloe panted hard and squeezed Clark’s hand again. “I guess… it’s too late… to change my mind now?” she whispered.

Clark looked down at the woman he loved more than anything on the face of the planet and tried to force back his fear of losing her. He didn’t doubt that Dr. Veil was more than competent, but none of them knew what could happen when two different species mated. He was terrified that something was going to happen to Chloe, terrified of what could happen to the baby, and just generally terrified.

All of a sudden Chloe’s hand clamped down on his fingers. “I feel really weird,” she said, her eyes going wide.

“Do you feel like you need to push?” the doctor asked.

“Yeah,” she said, nodding. “I do.”

“Okay, Chloe. Let me check.”

A minute later the doctor grinned at her. “You’re all dilated, Chloe. It won’t be long now. Push when I tell you to. Clark, give her a hand.”

Following the doctor’s directions, Clark raised Chloe’s head and supported her back. The doctor counted ten while Chloe pushed, her teeth bared with the effort. Then Chloe fell back limply against his arm, swearing lividly.

“You’re going to have to watch that mouth when the baby comes,” Clark told her, smiling a bit.

She glared at him. “Go to hell.”

“See, that’s exactly what I’m talking about.”

“Shut up, Clark,” the doctor said mildly. “Again, Chloe.”

“I’m too tired to push,” Chloe whined, but she obediently pushed again, hard.

“Great!” the doctor said. “Clark, I’m seeing the baby’s head. You want to look?”

Clark blinked, and the room started to spin a little. “Uh…”

“Never mind,” the doctor said hastily. “You look like you’re about to pass out, Clark. Maybe you’d better sit down.”

“No, I’m fine,” he said weakly, feeling stupid. Chloe was in pain but managing to work through it, whereas just the idea of seeing the baby born made him get dizzy.

He wasn’t a superhero at all. He was just a big wuss in a fancy costume.

“That’s my Superman,” Chloe said, her voice tired but amused. “He can leap tall buildings in a single bound, but the idea of seeing a baby born knocks him on his ass.”

“That’s pretty much any man for you,” the doctor answered with a chuckle. “Don’t worry about it, Clark. Stay where you are. You’ll see the baby soon enough. Push, Chloe.”

Chloe gave one more valiant effort, grunting and gasping. “Attagirl!” the doctor said. “She’s on her way!”

Clark couldn’t help himself. He looked down and watched as the baby slid into the doctor’s hands. She certainly wasn’t beautiful. She was covered with weird white stuff, and her little head was oddly misshapen.

But then her mouth opened and she cried, and that was a beautiful, beautiful sound.

“Chloe,” he said softly. “We have a baby.”

She leaned her head against his chest and gasped for breath.

“Thank God that’s over,” she said with feeling, and he broke out laughing.

*****

The baby was a little prettier once she was cleaned up, although she was almost as red as one of his mother’s prize tomatoes, and her head still looked kind of pointed to his eyes. Dr. Veil assured him that was all perfectly normal, and that she looked like an everyday, normal baby, although they couldn’t be sure what aspects of Kryptonian biology she might have inherited yet.

The baby’s head was covered with dark fuzz, although it was presently concealed by a little cap, and her tiny little body was swaddled in a blanket. Clark sat next to Chloe and watched the baby nursing hungrily. Watching his wife feed their baby was an incredibly lovely sight, and his throat tightened. He was grateful for the big, thick glasses he wore, which helped to conceal any moisture that might happen to be in his eyes.

They hadn’t ever discussed names for the baby, because they’d been a little too focused on the pregnancy itself. Neither had dared to mention their fears, but they had both been afraid it wouldn’t go to term. Clark had figured it might be a little easier to deal with the loss of the baby if they’d never named her, and he suspected Chloe had had the same thought.

But the baby was here now, and healthy, and she couldn’t be referred to as “Hey you” for the rest of her life.

“So,” he said at last. “I was thinking about calling her Gabriella.”

Chloe looked up, and her eyes filled with tears. She’d lost her father, Gabe--short for Gabriel, although no one ever called him that-- only two years before.“That’s a nice thought, Clark. But all the other kids will call her Gabby.”

“Well,” he said. “If she takes after you, that’ll be perfectly appropriate.”

“Jerk.” She chuckled affectionately. “I was thinking about naming her after your dad, actually.”

His adoptive dad had died back when he was eighteen, but Clark still missed him every single day. “My dad? You want to name a girl Jonathan?”

“No. I was thinking of calling her Jonni.”

“Jonni.” He tried out the name, testing it, and decided he liked it. “Jonni Gabriella Kent.”

“It’s beautiful,” she said softly.

“She deserves a beautiful name,” he answered. “She’s going to be beautiful.”

Chloe narrowed her eyes. The baby stopped nursing, and Chloe moved her a bit, cradling her protectively. “What do you mean, going to be? She already is beautiful.”

He still thought the baby was kind of funny-looking, but given the way Chloe was glaring at him, he decided it would be safer not to say so. He reached out a finger and brushed the baby’s cheek, and the baby instinctively moved her head toward his touch, her eyes shut, her mouth making little sucking motions. Something about the stubborn pout of her little lips reminded him of Chloe, and he realized with amazement that this child was half him and half Chloe… and yet all herself.

And just like that, he fell in love with his daughter.

“You’re right,” he said softly. “She is beautiful.”

*****

I'm 45 for a moment
The sea is high
And I'm heading into a crisis
Chasing the years of my life

When he was forty-five, Clark Kent’s daughter ran away, and it scared the hell out of him.

He was flying high above Metropolis, keeping his ears and eyes peeled for trouble, when he heard Chloe’s voice clearly above the clangor of the city. “Clark.”

She was far away, on the other side of the city, but he heard her with no difficulty. He never had trouble hearing her voice when she said his name. He went into superspeed and flew for their house, which was situated on ten wooded acres a fair distance outside the city limits. They’d lived in an apartment in the city for a while, but it drove him crazy, there wasn’t enough room for Jonni to run around, and besides, it was hard for him to make sure he wasn’t spotted going in through the windows wearing his cape.

That damned red cape was unfortunately quite noticeable.

He dropped to a wooded section of their property, pulled on the clothes he kept in a concealed pocket of his cape, and zipped to the house, which looked like a more modern version of the farmhouse he'd grown up in. Chloe was waiting for him in her office, where she did a lot of her writing. Her forehead was wrinkled, and she looked anxious.

“Hey,” he said, dropping a kiss on her forehead to smooth away the wrinkles. “What’s up?”

“The school called,” Chloe said. Her brown hair was streaked with silver now, and there were lines radiating from the corners of her eyes, and laugh lines bracketing her mouth. She’d also gained a little weight in the hips, and she spent almost as much time worrying about those ten pounds as she did about the politics of the free world. It amused him, although he was careful never to laugh at her about it.

He, on the other hand, still looked exactly as he had when he was twenty-five, and it was becoming a little embarrassing. He imagined it irritated her, too, although she never commented on it except jokingly. It didn't matter to him that she was aging, because she looked more beautiful to him than ever, and he loved her more than ever. But he hated the fact that he wasn't moving into middle age the way she was, and his perpetually dark hair was an annoying reminder of that fact. He was seriously considering dyeing a few gray streaks into his hair.

“Jonni forgot to do her homework again,” he guessed.

“No.” Chloe looked worried. “She never showed up for school today, Clark.”

Fear exploded in his chest, but he tried to look unconcerned. He didn’t want Chloe to panic any worse than she already was. Chloe had a tendence to massively overreact where her only child was concerned. “She probably decided to skip,” he said. “Kids do that sometimes.”

“What if someone took her?” Chloe’s lip quivered. “What if someone figured out…”

She didn’t have to finish the sentence. He’d already heard it in his own head. What if someone figured out she’s Superman’s daughter? It was his greatest fear, that someone would find out his secret and threaten his family to get leverage. That was the reason he guarded his secret so zealously, to protect the people he cared about. His mom had passed on a while ago, but he worried constantly about his wife and daughter.

“I’m sure she’s fine,” he said, carefully keeping his voice steady. “But I’ll go have a look for her, Chlo.” He wrapped his arms around her for a second and pulled her against his chest. “Take it easy,” he whispered into her hair. “Everything’s going to be fine.”

And then he bolted out the door.

He paused a few hundred feet away from the house, still on the ground, and listened intently. He couldn’t hear Jonni’s heartbeat from anywhere on the planet, the way he could hear Chloe’s, but if she was nearby, he’d hear it. Sure enough, he heard a thudding he recognized, not too far away. He decided not to bother with flying and headed toward it at his fastest run.

Less than half a second later, he came to a halt, sauntered out of the trees, and approached his daughter, who was sprawled on her back in the middle of a grassy field, staring up at the clouds.She looked up as he approached. Guilt flashed briefly across her features, but she seemed to decide to try to brazen out the situation, just like her mother would have. She stared at him without blinking, doing her best to look unconcerned. “Hey, Dad. What are you doing here?”

“Looking for you,” he said, and dropped down beside her on the grass. He lay back, crossed his arms behind his head, and looked at the clouds. “Any particular reason you decided school could be considered optional today?”

She sat up and stared at the grass, carefully avoiding his eyes. “I didn’t feel like going. It’s stupid.”

He looked at her downbent dark head thoughtfully. Her hair was as dark as his, her jaw was as square as his, and her eyes were as green as his, but that stubbornness was all from Chloe, he was certain.

“Come on, Jon,” he said gently. “What’s up?”

She finally looked at him, and to his dismay he saw that her green eyes were shining with tears. Jonni was a cheerful kid who almost never cried. The sight of her tears made him melt into a puddle. He sat up and looked at her, worried.“Something weird happened this morning,” she said, her voice breaking a little.

He swallowed, because all of a sudden it occurred to him she was twelve now, and that meant she was probably about to hit adolescence. Oh, God. Surely she wasn’t going to talk about… girl stuff… with him.

All of a sudden he really wished he’d brought Chloe along. His face flamed, but he managed to keep his voice calm. “Weird in what way?”

“Weird in a very weird way!” she snapped. She jumped to her feet and held out her hands. “Look at this!”

And a red glow began to pulse around her.

Clark stared at her, stunned. Jonni had been a very normal child up till now, so normal that he’d figured maybe the human genes predominated. But then again, maybe her body had just been waiting till adolescence to manifest any Kryptonian tendencies. Quite a few of his abilities hadn’t hit till adolescence, after all. He probably should have been expecting this, but maybe he'd been in a state of denial.

“Uh… that’s pretty cool,” he said at last.

“Cool?” She stared down at him like he was crazy, and the glow faded. “It’s bizarre, Dad! I’m a freak!”

“Calm down.” He stood up and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. “You are not a freak. You’re just… a little different, maybe. Why did this happen? Do you know?”

“Some girl shoved me at the bus stop,” she said. “Or tried to. The next thing I know, this… glow happened, and she went over backward. I didn’t hit her, Dad, I swear. It was like she ran into a wall or something.”

"So it showed up accidentally. But now you can make it appear when you want it to?"

She nodded, looking miserable. "I've kind of been... practicing with it. I sort of figured out how to make it work."

It must be a variation on his electromagnetic aura, he decided. He was invulnerable, so much so that even bullets couldn't harm him, thanks to an invisible aura that protected his body from damage. Apparently hers was more visible.

Damn, he thought, feeling a sudden spurt of sympathy for everything his own parents had gone through when he was a kid. This is going to seriously complicate matters.

He suddenly realized tears were running down her cheeks, and he put an arm around her shoulders and pulled her against him. She was already as tall as Chloe, and he figured she was going to get considerably taller. Apparently she’d inherited his height, along with many of his other physical traits.

“Take it easy, kiddo,” he said. “You’re not a freak, honest. This is part of who you are.”

“Yeah. And who I am is a freak.”

“No, Jon.” He’d always figured he might have to have this conversation with her one of these days, but he’d hoped it wouldn’t be quite this early, because he wasn’t sure he could trust a twelve-year-old with this information. But she had to know.

He vividly remembered how angry he’d been when his parents didn’t tell him he was an alien until he was fifteen. He’d just thought he was a freak, a mutant, and that had totally sucked.

He took a deep breath. “See, the thing is, Jon, it’s because you’re my daughter.”

“Huh?” She blinked up at him. “But you’re just a normal guy, Dad.”

“Not really.” He sighed. “The truth is, Jon… I’m Superman.”

She stared at him for a long moment, then started to giggle, loudly. Clark blinked, a little surprised, a little offended, as his daughter laughed so hard she had to sit back down on the grass.

“Excuse me,” he said stiffly. “I’m not kidding.”

“Dad,” she protested, still giggling. “You’re so full of crap.”

“Watch your mouth. We don’t talk that way in our house.”

“Mom does.”

Clark rolled his eyes. “Mom isn’t supposed to. Anyway, we’re getting off topic here. Quit laughing at me.”

“Can’t help it,” she said, and fell onto the grass, still laughing. Clark growled, irritated, and waited for her to stop.

At last she opened her eyes and looked at him, wiping tears away from her eyes. “I mean, come on, Dad. You’re just a regular guy. Superman is, you know, super.”

“And I’m not?” Great. His daughter admired Superman more than she admired him, and he was getting jealous of… himself. How crazy was that?

“You work for the newspaper, Dad. You’re totally boring. You still wear glasses. Nobody wears glasses anymore.”

“They’re part of my disguise,” Clark said, a little stung at hearing himself described as "totally boring." He flew over the city every day, protecting people from criminals, and his daughter thought he was boring. Damn it.

“You walk into walls without them.”

“I do not. That’s just part of the act. Look. I’ll take them off.”

He removed the glasses, and she held up her hand. “So how many fingers am I holding up?”

He rolled his eyes again. “I am not going to dignify that with an answer.”

“Because you can’t tell, can you? Come on, Dad. Quit pulling my leg. You're totally blind without those things. And Superman can see through walls. He doesn't need glasses. Everyone knows that.”

Clark sighed, remembering his own skepticism when Jonathan Kent had told him he was from outer space. He’d refused to believe until he’d seen the spacecraft he’d arrived in with his own eyes. Apparently he and his daughter were cut from the very same cloth. Doubting Thomases, the pair of them.

“Okay,” he said. “I'll prove it. Check this out.”

He turned his head and used his heat vision, and a pile of brush caught on fire. Jonni quit laughing and stared.

“Holy crap.”

“Next time you say that I’m grounding you, young lady.”

"You never ground Mom."

"You really think I'd try?"

"Nah. She'd kick your butt."

"No kidding." He went over the the sticks and put out the fire with his bare hands. She looked impressed.

Wow.”

“I’m telling the truth,” he told her. "I swear. I'm Superman."

She stared at him, her eyes wide.

“Wow, Dad. You are so much cooler than I thought.”

“Thanks," he said dryly. "I think.”

*****

“I'm telling you,” Clark said that evening, lying in bed next to his wife, “I practically had to torch the forest to get her to believe me. We're raising a cynic."

"It's the investigative reporter in her, Clark."

"Maybe. Or maybe it's just the almost-teenager in her. I guess most kids think their parents are boring. I know I did."

Chloe looked over at him, her forehead wrinkling. “I kind of wish you hadn’t told her, Clark.”

“Had to,” he said with a sigh. “I took her up to the Fortress and showed her everything, too. She deserves to know about her heritage, Chlo.”

“I guess you’re right.” She sighed too. “I just thought maybe she was going to be…”

“Normal?” He turned his head and looked at her. “Even if she had been, she still deserves to know what she is. Who she is."

"I guess you're right. But things might have been easier if she hadn't developed any special abilities."

"Maybe. Sometimes I've thought my life would be easier that way, too. But I think I like the way things have turned out. How about you? Do you ever wish I was just a normal guy, Chlo?”

She rolled over and rested her head against his chest. “No, Clark,” she said softly. “I couldn't wish that, not when you do so much good in the world. Anyway, I love you exactly the way you are." She reached up and stroked his cheek softly. "I always have... and I always will.”

Read Chapter 3 here.

2 comments:

Susana. said...

Elly, i love this story... is really sweet. Thaks a lot

blackheart_me said...

YES SHE WILL!! it's kinda sad thou it sounds to me like chloe is dying and he's still young. I'm really excited to see what's up with his daughter thou :)