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
Since he expected to be dead, it was something of a relief for Clark to open his eyes and discover he wasn't.
He remembered dying. He remembered the awful pain of the crystal stabbing into his heart, the terrible cold, and then... nothing. But he wasn't dead, unless heaven looked like his bedroom.
He was sprawled on his back in his bed, in the very same bedroom he'd lived in since he was a little boy. Confused, he blinked, sat up a bit, and looked down at his flannel shirt, the same shirt he'd borrowed from Jonathan. It was covered in blood, from the bullet wound to his shoulder and all over the chest. And there was a ripped spot in the middle where he'd stabbed himself with the crystal.
He pulled up the shirt and saw a scar on his chest, not unlike the one further down his stomach, where he'd once been stabbed by a Kryptonian dagger.
Okay. He was scarred but whole. He'd killed himself but managed to come back from the dead, which actually happened to him surprisingly often. That meant his recuperative powers were back.
Which in turn meant...
He cocked his head, listened, and heard Chloe's heartbeat.
Joy flooded over him, and he jumped to his feet. And then nearly fell over. Recuperative powers or no, he'd obviously lost a great deal of blood, so much that even his body couldn't fix the problem instantly.
His head swam dizzily, and he sat on the edge of his bed. His Kryptonian instincts demanded that he go to Chloe right now, but a quick glance in the mirror over his dresser told him that really wouldn't be a good idea. He was filthy, covered in dirt and blood and probably some dried puke, and he looked like hell. His cheekbones stood out in sharp relief and there were dark circles under his eyes. Chloe would be terrified if she saw him like this.
Anyway, he had to figure out what was going on. He headed for his desktop computer and switched it on. While it booted up, he changed into a clean t-shirt and jeans, then supersped down the hall and washed up at the sink, getting the filth off his face and hands and hair. He could definitely use a shower, but he had other things to do first.
Zooming back down the hall, he checked the computer on his desk and found that it was six a.m., and the date was two days earlier than the last day he'd lived through before going back in time. In the timeline he remembered, he'd danced with Chloe in the loft, made love to her, just last night.
He thought about that for a moment. The first time he'd lived through this, Fine had somehow altered the world overnight, and Chloe had been gone when he awakened. But Fine apparently hadn't succeeded in changing the world in this timeline, because he could still hear Chloe's heartbeat.
He blinked, confused. He'd died, caused a rip in space-time, and hopefully restored reality. It certainly looked as if he had, judging from the emails he was now rapidly clicking through. And yet, the purple crystal was nowhere to be seen, and Fine hadn't managed to use it to change reality, either. What the hell was up with that?
He decided he'd have to figure it out later. He stood up, supersped down the stairs, and went to find the woman he loved.
Superspeed was the only way to travel. In three seconds, Clark was in Metropolis, pounding on Chloe's dorm room door. It had totally slipped his mind that it was six a.m.-- which was practically afternoon for a farmer, but not for the rest of the world.
A few moments later, the door opened, and Chloe blinked at him sleepily. "Clark?"
"Chloe," he muttered, his voice hoarse. He wrapped his arms around her, not caring if Lana-- her roommate and his ex-girlfriend-- was in the room or not.
She wiggled against him, trying to shove him away."Clark. What are you doing?"
He lifted his head and looked down at her, worried. The emails he'd glanced over suggested nothing had changed, and that they were dating, but he supposed he could have been indulging in wishful thinking.
"Chloe," he said softly. "Were you in my loft last night?"
She frowned. "Of course I was, doofus. Remember? We, uh, danced."
Thank God, he thought, and bent to kiss her.She shoved him away. "Geez, Clark. Get off of me. I haven't had any coffee yet. And no offense, but you reek."
This wasn't exactly the romantic reunion he'd envisioned. Then again, it dawned on him that as far as she knew, she'd seen him just a few hours ago. He'd gone through several days of hell, but she wasn't aware of any of it.
He stepped into the room, noticing that Lana's bed was empty, although her stuff was still there. That wasn't surprising. Since Lana had unfortunately stumbled into the room while he and Chloe were making love, she'd pretty much taken to staying at her Aunt Nell's house. But that was cool, as it meant they had the place to themselves. Eager anticipation coiled inside him, and he turned to face Chloe.
She frowned, seeming to really see him for the first time. Chloe was always bleary-eyed first thing in the morning. "Clark?" she asked hesitantly. "What on earth happened to you?"
"It's a long story."
Her eyes narrowed. "You look awful. Your skin is pale, and you're emaciated."
He couldn't possibly have lost that much weight. Yeah, he hadn't eaten for three days, but "emaciated" had to be an exaggeration. He just had high cheekbones that tended to look really prominent when he lost weight.
He glanced into the mirror on the back of the door and shrugged mentally. Okay, maybe it wasn't that much of an exaggeration after all.
"Yeah, well, I haven't eaten much for a while."
"We ate last night," she said, frowning at him. "Remember? You snuck into the house about two and stole one of your mom's pies."
He sighed. "Chloe, for me 'last night' happened three nights ago."
Any other woman would have thought he was crazy, but Chloe had seen enough weird things in their time together to take his statement in stride. "Sit down before you fall over," she said, dropping into her desk chair. "And tell me what happened."
He sat down on the bed, grateful for the chance to rest. He was still kind of woozy from loss of blood, so much so that he was amazed he'd managed to sustain his superspeed all the way to Metropolis. He had a feeling it was his desperate need for Chloe that had fueled him, but he was pretty much out of fuel now.
"Do you have any food?" he asked.
Chloe dug in a drawer for her stash of chocolate and handed him a candy bar. He ripped the wrapper off and devoured it.
"Geez, you're really starved," she said, and gave him another one.
After three candy bars, he felt slightly less muddle-headed. He started telling her what had happened, and she listened alertly. He told her everything except the part about the Lois-that-wasn't. He wasn't quite sure how to tell her about that.
"Wow," she said at last. "So what happened to the crystal?"
"I don't know," he said, frowning. "I really need to find Fine and get it away from him."
"If he had it, wouldn't he have used it?"
Clark tilted his head. "Of course he has it, Chlo."
"Maybe not," she said. "You had it, and it disappeared, right?"
Well, yeah, he'd had it in that imbedded-in-the-chest kind of way. But it had disappeared somewhere between the past and the present, and he couldn't guess where it had gone.
"Yeah, but..." He tried to follow the loops of paradox in his mind. It gave him a headache. "I had it in the past. But it wasn't the same one he had. I don't see how..."
"You said you thought it worked by making space-time more fragile," she said. "But what if it was like, I don't know, a focal point? Like space-time was sort of bent around it? What if when space-time ruptured, it just disappeared right into the rupture?"
"But Fine's crystal wasn't anywhere near the rupture I caused. It was a whole year in the future."
"There is no 'Fine's crystal,'" she said impatiently. "There's only one crystal, Clark. If it disappeared into the rupture in this time, it disappeared in every time."
He sighed. "I don't know if that makes sense, Chlo. There were two of me, after all."
"Right, but you and the other Clark were totally different. The crystal's the same in every time, isn't it? Nothing happened to change it. So there's only one crystal. If yours disappeared, it would be gone in every time."
"Time travel hurts my head." He sighed. "I don't know, Chloe. Maybe you're right. I do think if Fine still had it, he would have used it last night to change things, same as he did last time. However it happened, I think somehow... it's gone."
"I think you thwarted him," she said, smiling gently.
"He'll try something else to make me release Zod," Clark said grimly. "I'm sure of it."
"I'm sure you're right. But you won this time, and you'll beat him next time, too." Her eyes went dark with anxiety. "I just can't believe you killed yourself to do it, Clark."
"I told you," he said with a sigh. "I didn't think I had a lot of choice in the matter."
She looked at him a moment longer, then stood up, walked to him, and pushed up his t-shirt. Her hand pressed gently against the scar, and heat arrowed through him. He groaned. "Chloe."
She yanked her hand back. "You can just forget about that, big boy," she told him firmly. "You're not getting any till you get a shower and some sleep."
"Chloe. Don't be cruel. I've been dying to see you. Almost literally."
"I'm doing this for your own good," she said. "You need to sleep. Eat. Then have sex. In that order."
All of a sudden his mouth dropped open in a big yawn. "Uh," he said. "I guess I am kind of tired."
"Yeah. I thought so. So lie down and sleep." Her nose wrinkled. "I'll just burn those sheets later."
"Look, it's not my fault I haven't been near a shower in three days."
"I didn't say it was your fault. Go to sleep, will you? You look awful."
He gave her his best puppy dog eyes. "Lie down with me."
She grinned. "Don't try to con me, Clark. If I lie down with you, we're not going to get any sleep."
"I can't sleep without you next to me," he said, doing his best to look pitiful.
"Fine," she answered, rolling her eyes. "I'll just hold my nose."
He stretched out on the bed, and she curled up next to him. He put his arm over her, feeling the heat of her body, drawing in her fragrance, listening to the reassuring sound of her heartbeat. It had been an awful few days, but at the feel of her body against his, a warm happiness filled him, and to his surprise, he started to drift off to sleep.
"Chloe," he said blurrily, remembering there was still one thing he hadn't told her about.
"Go to sleep, Clark."
"Inna minute." He was so tired he could barely string two words together, but he did his best. "This is gonna sound strange, but I kinda ran into Lois in the other timeline."
"An' I know this sounds weird," he said sleepily. "But I think maybe you're the real Lois Lane."
Read the sequel, Never Let Me Go (adult).
Or return to the home page here.