Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Clark sped by the security guard in the hall so fast that the guy never saw him, never felt anything but a sudden rush of air. A second later they were out in the fresh air of the night, a safe distance from the LuthorCorp lab. It was a dark night, clouds covering the moon, and he wasn't too worried about being spotted. He put Chloe's body down, then placed Lois down on the grass more carefully and made sure she was still breathing.
Her breathing sounded even, with no sign of lung damage, and a quick once-over with x-ray vision told him nothing was broken.
Chloe hadn't been so lucky. She must have been flung into the wall headfirst, because her neck had been broken, and there was damage to her skull and brain. There was no point in trying CPR, or even in calling an ambulance. She was beyond help.
He bowed his head and let the tears fall freely. His shoulders shook, and raw, harsh sobs rose from his throat. Intellectually, he knew there was nothing he could have done. It had all happened too fast, and the awful noise from the crystal had rendered him incapable of moving. But he couldn't help but blame himself. If he hadn't let Chloe risk her life in the pursuit of yet another story...
And yet he knew that Chloe wouldn't have minded giving her life in an effort to expose LuthorCorp's human experimentation. Truth and justice had always been important to her. She wouldn't have minded dying for it.
He tried to find comfort in that thought, but failed. Because he just didn't know how he could go on without her. He needed her, needed her more than he needed anything. And she was gone.
"Hey." Lois' voice was rough with smoke, but she wasn't coughing much. He was pretty sure she was all right. Even so, he ought to call an ambulance and get her checked out.
The only problem was, he was just too choked up to talk right now.
Her hand fell on his shoulder. "You okay?"
He shook his head and managed to force a word out. "Chloe..."
"I'm all right," she said softly.
Anger built in him. Why the hell did she think he cared how she was? Yeah, he didn't want her to die, and he was glad she was okay-- but Chloe was dead. How self-centered could the girl be?
"She's dead," he rasped, the last word breaking.
"What?" She sounded startled, like he'd suddenly started speaking in Kryptonian or something.
"Dead." He knew the cousins had been close, and he wished he could come up with some gentler way of phrasing it, but right now he could barely string two words together. He gestured blindly toward Chloe's body, motionless on the grass.
Lois rose to her feet and walked in that direction. She knelt, staring, her eyes wide. Clark couldn't help but feel sorry for her, at the same time he felt a little anger. If she hadn't been so damn stupid as to grab a crystal, without thinking about what might happen...
But that was Lois for you. Always acting, never thinking.
"Clark," she said at last, her voice almost as choked as his. "I don't know what's going on here, but I'm not dead."
He blinked at her, confused. "Yeah, Lois," he said gently, wondering if she'd come a little unhinged somehow. "I know. You're fine."
"Clark." Her voice was very intense. "I'm not Lois."
Rage lit in his chest like a match to gasoline. "Stop it," he growled. "Just stop it. This isn't a joke or something, goddamnit. Chloe's dead."
"No." She held out a hand to him, looking wide-eyed, almost panicked. "I'm Chloe, Clark. I swear."
Confusion buzzed in his head like a swarm of bees. His brain was dulled by grief, and he couldn't understand what was going on here, why Lois was acting so weird. His girlfriend, the woman he loved, was dead, and Lois was...
All of a sudden the words she'd said sank into his brain. He frowned at her. "What do you mean?"
"I'm not..." She looked down at her hands, spreading them and studying them as if she'd never seen them before. "I don't know what's going on, but I'm not Lois. I'm Chloe."
"No. I mean, I see that I'm... dead. But that's not... me." She stared at him. "Do you remember telling me about the transference stone Lionel used to switch bodies with you, Clark? Do you think maybe that's what the Kryptonian crystal in the lab was? The same sort of stone?"
His heart began to pound rapidly. There was no possible way Lois could have known about the time he and Lionel had switched bodies. Only his parents and Chloe knew. And Lois didn't know the word "Kryptonian," either.
"Oh, my God," he whispered. "Chloe."
She gave him a tremulous smile. "You believe me."
"I..." He shook his head. "I'm not sure. No, it doesn't make sense. That stone's gone. It became part of the crystal that made my Fortress."
"Which is your forty-story igloo in the frozen north, where you rescued me when Jor-El tried to freeze me to death," she said, sounding a little more confident. "Which is when you first discovered I knew your secret, when you had to superspeed me to a hospital."
His mouth dropped open. "My God," he said again. "Chloe."
She sighed. "Clark," she said, her lips quivering. "If I'm alive, then Lois is dead."
"Yeah." He looked at Chloe's broken body, and remembered seeing colors rising from the women, a cloud of blue and a cloud of green. He tried to replay that moment in his mind. A green fog had risen from Chloe, then the colors had twirled together in the air... and when they'd subsided, it had been the blue cloud that had drifted back into her body.
In that moment, he realized, their minds had been transferred. Or maybe their souls. He wasn't sure what to call it. The scientists at LuthorCorp had described it in psychological terms, but he'd experienced it firsthand, and he remembered what it felt like. He'd been Clark Kent, the same person he'd always been... just trapped inside Lionel Luthor's body.
And now Chloe was trapped inside Lois' body, with no way of ever getting back again. Because her original body was quite dead... along with Lois.
"You remember everything," he said. "But the file I was looking at talked about total memory loss..."
She visibly pushed aside her grief, forcing herself to focus on the subject at hand. "Memory loss in the subject, Clark. This body has lost Lois' memories. But it's gained mine."
"Oh." He thought about that for a moment. "And when it mentioned complete alteration of personality..."
"Same thing, I guess. I don't have Lois' personality. Just mine. That's what the crystal does, right? It transfers your... soul... to a different body."
At the mention of the crystal, he frowned. "I still don't get it," he said. "That crystal is gone."
She tilted her head and looked at him, and even in the darkness he could see Chloe's vivid intelligence shining out through Lois' eyes. It was eerie. "Do you suppose that's the only crystal the Kryptonians ever created along those lines?"
"Well... probably not."
"We know Kryptonians have visited Earth multiple times," she said briskly, sounding so Chloe-like his heart twisted in his chest. "They've obviously left stuff behind. Lex just managed to find another transference crystal somehow. He's been obsessed with Kryptonian artifacts since he was possessed by Zod. When you have infinite resources, it's amazing what you can find."
She talked so casually about things that Lois couldn't possibly know that he found himself believing the truth, no matter how strange it was. She was Chloe.
His brain started working again. She was his first priority, and he had to protect her. "We need to call the cops," he said. "And we need to get you looked at by a doctor. You're damn lucky to be alive, Chlo. We need to make sure you stay healthy."
"Do we have to call the cops? We were sort of breaking and entering."
"Make up some sort of cover story. You're good at that. In the meantime..." He rose to his feet, wiping away the tears that still streaked his face. "I need to go back in there and figure a few things out. I'll be back, okay?"
"Okay," she said softly, rising to her feet and looking at him expectantly.
Ordinarily he would have dropped a quick kiss on her lips. He hesitated, but couldn't quite bring himself to do it. Yes, she was Chloe. He believed that. But believing it and accepting it, deep down, were two different things. She looked like Lois, and he couldn't kiss Lois when he was in love with Chloe.
He looked at her for a moment, then turned around and sped away from her.
"Where the hell is my crystal?"
Listening from the a dark corridor, Clark recognized Lex Luthor's voice. Lex was clearly pissed, and whatever underling he was yelling at sounded very intimidated.
"I'm afraid it... self-destructed, sir."
"How did that happen?"
"Apparently whoever broke in attempted to use it without activating the support field," the other man said meekly. "As expected, the device couldn't be used on human biology without the field. It exploded."
"Damn it." Lex's voice was low, and full of rage. "How the hell are we going to finish our experiments?"
"I'm afraid that's impossible, sir. Unless we find another device."
"I spent years looking for this one. And millions of dollars. The odds of ever finding another one are miniscule."
Good, Clark thought grimly. He'd heard enough to reassure himself that Lex didn't have any other crystals along these lines. That didn't mean that Lex wouldn't experiment on humans again-- but he'd never run this particular experiment again. That counted for something.
Turning, he burst into superspeed and disappeared into the night.
Read Chapter 3 here.