Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
The music is "Come Sail Away," by Styx.
I thought that they were angels
But to my surprise
They climbed aboard their starship
And headed for the skies
Singing come sail away, come sail away
Come sail away with me...
Clark's chest was so tight he could barely force words out. He could hear Chloe's blood rushing through her veins, could feel her heart pounding violently beneath his hand, and knew that she was as freaked out as he was.
"Who are you?" he whispered at last, staring up at the beautiful blonde woman.
Her smile made him think of sunshine breaking through the clouds on a rainy day. "We are like you, Kal-El. We are Kryptonian."
"You can't be." He became aware that his voice was still very faint, as if he were a small child awed by something much greater than he was. He consciously raised his voice and spoke with more authority. "You can't be. Krypton was destroyed a long time ago."
"You were not the only Kryptonian to escape the planet's destruction." The lovely smile faded, and her eyes went dark. "Before space travel was banned by Krypton's regressive ruling council, many starships full of colonists left the planet. Some were lost to the dark reaches of space, but many of us found good planets and created homes, worlds of peace and prosperity and culture. My people have lived on such a world for a century. Now some of us travel the galaxy, seeking out Kryptonians whose worlds are not so perfect, so that we may bring them home."
The revelation that there were others like him in the galaxy, that he wasn't the Last Son of Krypton after all, shocked him to his core. He blinked at her. "You came all the way to Earth searching for Kryptonians?"
"No. We came only for you. We had heard a story, almost a legend, that one lone baby was sent to safety just as Krypton was in the process of being torn apart, and landed here, on this blue world." She smiled beatifically. "We came to find you, Kal-El."
Chloe stirred against his chest. She was incapable of being quiet very long, and Clark was actually surprised to realize she'd held her tongue this long. "He has a home here," she said, glaring up at the beautiful, angelic blonde. "He has a mother and friends who love him. Earth is his home."
"He is alien here. He is like no one else on the planet. If he leaves with us, he will be among a people who value his abilities, who understand him, who love him for what he is. He will be able to be everything he is, to grow into his potential, to use his abilities without fear or hesitation or anxiety."
A sensation of longing twisted inside his chest, so intense it was almost painful, and Clark looked up, staring at the woman and her retinue. "But if I leave this planet, I won't have those abilities, will I? Kryptonians were just like humans on Krypton, weren't they? They didn't have any special powers there."
"True. But the sun on our world is yellow, just as Earth's is. We have the same powers you do, Kal-El, and we can show you how to develop those powers to their fullest. On our world, you will not be considered freakish or strange."
Somewhere deep inside him, a little flicker of hope lit. He'd always wanted to be normal, ordinary, a regular guy. And yet he'd never really wanted to give up his powers, either. He simply wanted to be accepted for what he was-- a person with abilities that seemed perfectly normal to him.
This woman was offering him everything he'd ever wanted.
Chloe seemed to sense his thoughts, because she elbowed him in the ribs-- and promptly winced, because his ribs were pretty damn hard. He glanced down to see her scowling at him. "Clark," she hissed. "You don't know these people. You have no idea what their real motives are. You can't seriously be considering just flying off with them."
"Your friend is right," the woman said, looking tolerantly amused at Chloe's whisper. She presumably had superhearing at least as acute as Clark's. "You have no reason to trust us. But open your mind, Kal-El, and I will show you the paradise that awaits you."
He lifted his head and gazed into her eyes, and images suddenly began to flash through his mind. He saw a world of unearthly beauty-- long stretches of blue-leafed forest and sapphire fields beneath a pale green sky, turquoise oceans lapping gently at golden beaches, and cities of fragile glass spires gleaming in the light of the yellow sun. He saw people flying, running at superspeed, laughing and smiling and enjoying themselves. He saw babies, children, young adults, and somewhat older people, but no one suffering from the ravages of age and disease. Everywhere there was peace and joy and love.
Chloe wiggled against him, and the images faded. "Clark?" she whispered anxiously, looking up into his eyes. "Are you all right?"
He realized he'd fallen silent-- for a moment or an hour?-- without explanation, and he looked back down at her and gave her a reassuring squeeze. "I'm okay," he answered. "She was just showing me their world. It's beautiful, Chlo."
"Clark." Her forehead was wrinkled with anxiety. "You can't trust her. You don't know her, and you don't know what they want..."
"I do know." He spoke with absolute certainty. "She touched my mind, Chlo. She's telling the truth, showing me the truth. They just want to take me home."
Her hand lifted, and her fingers curled into the soft plaid flannel of his shirt, holding him as if she didn't want to let him go. "Their home, Clark. Not yours."
The blonde woman smiled down on them. "It can be your home, too, Kal-El. If you want it to be."
Longing hit him, harder this time. He thought of living in a place where he could float, where he could learn to fly, without having to do it under cover of darkness, without fear of being thrown into a lab and dissected if he was caught at it. The longing twisted in his chest, so intense he could hardly stand it. He thought of living among other beings like himself, in a peaceful, happy paradise, and a strange, empty feeling rolled over him in waves.
He realized he was homesick, for a home he'd never truly seen.
Chloe seemed to read his expressions, because her fingers clenched the flannel of his shirt more tightly than before. "No, Clark," she said fiercely. "You need to think about this, okay? You are not just leaving with them. I won't let you."
"Your friend is correct," the woman said. "This is a decision of great magnitude, Kal-El. Once we leave Earth's orbit, our starships will likely never pass this way again. This decision, once made, cannot be undone. Therefore we will give you seven of your world's days to make a decision."
Disappointment coiled within him. "You're going to leave?"
"We will be in orbit above your world. Fear not, Kal-El. We will return to this field once the allotted time has passed. You may give us your answer then. If you wish to leave with us, we will gladly take you home. If you prefer to remain here, we will not attempt to change your mind."
His words trailed off as the woman, and her floating retinue, suddenly disappeared. Their heartbeats disappeared as well, and Clark realized they'd been transported back into the soundproof ship somehow. He wondered if they used a transporter beam, a technological device like the one on "Star Trek," or if the ability to teleport was yet another Kryptonian power he hadn't yet discovered.
The ship rose silently into the air, its lights glowing green, and then it disappeared noiselessly into the night sky.
Clark stood staring after it for a long while. Chloe was still pressed against his chest, but he'd almost forgotten her until she wiggled against him. "Hey," she said softly. "You are not seriously thinking about leaving, are you?"
He looked down into her eyes. Chloe Sullivan meant more to him than anyone on Earth outside of his mother. But she had her own life. A job she loved, a boyfriend... a future that didn't really include him. Even though she and Jimmy had apparently had a bit of a falling out, they generally seemed pretty happy together. She didn't want Clark in any romantic way.
For the first time he admitted to himself that the knowledge really bugged him. A lot. But it was too late to do anything about it now, because she was content with Jimmy.
"There isn't much here for me anymore," he said softly.
"Clark." Her hand loosened on his shirt, then lifted to his cheek. "That is total crap, and you know it. You have friends and family here. You have a life here. You can't just leave it all to go fly off with a bunch of strangers."
"But their world..." He shut his eyes, remembering the images the golden-haired woman had shown him. "It's a paradise, Chlo, like Heaven. It's perfect. No war, no suffering, no poverty. Nothing but happiness and peace."
"What would you do there?"
He opened his eyes and looked down at her, puzzled by the question. "I guess I'd learn to use my powers," he answered. "They could teach me how to use my abilities, Chlo. I wouldn't have to worry about being caught. I wouldn't have to worry about what other people thought. I could just do what I do naturally."
"And once you learned to use your abilities," she said, looking at him intently. "What would you do then?"
"I would..." He hesitated. "I guess I'd keep on using them."
"For what?" She lifted her eyebrows. "Here on Earth, you use your abilities to save people, Clark. You always have. It's what you do. But in a world where there's nothing but peace and prosperity and happiness... there's no one to save."
He thought about the world he'd seen, the happy, healthy, laughing people, and he recognized that she was right. There was absolutely nothing to save those people from. They were all invulnerable, superstrong, and superfast, just as he was. They didn't need saving.
"Clark." Her voice was barely a murmur, and her fingers stroked his cheek very softly. "You've saved so many people here on Earth. And there are so many more that need saving."
He shut his eyes, feeling the touch of her hand against his cheek. Chloe understood him so well, understood what drove him, better than anyone else in the universe. And as usual, she was right. He couldn't leave.
Part of him still longed for the world he'd seen, the perfect paradise of people just like him. But a larger part of him didn't want to leave her, or the people he loved here. His people.
For the first time he realized how much he loved Earth and its people.
And how much he loved Chloe Sullivan.
Her arms slid around his shoulders, and he pulled her against him and wrapped his arms around her, holding her tightly.
"You can't leave," she whispered into his shoulder. "We need you here on Earth."
Read the Epilogue here.