Season 6, end of "Labyrinth"
Rating: Adult. If you're under eighteen, please go elsewhere now.
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Chloe sat very still for a long moment, gazing into his eyes. At last she said softly, "How did I die in your dream?"
"You were shot." Sharp-edged pain welled up inside him. Even though he knew it hadn't been real, that she was sitting right in front of him, his throat closed up, and he found it hard to continue. "Because you... you knew my secret."
"That figures. You've always worried that the people who know could be in danger." She paused and looked into his eyes a little more carefully. "Did you see me die?"
He nodded jerkily. "You were shot right in front of me. You died... you died in my arms, Chlo. And it all seemed so real."
Her hand lifted and stroked his hair in a comforting gesture. "No wonder you're freaked out, Clark. I guess I'd be freaking out if I'd seen you die and thought it was real, too."
The truth was, it had done more than freak him out. It had totally destroyed his will to fight. He couldn't find the words to tell her how badly her death had disoriented him, how distraught he'd been. He hadn't been able to think clearly. All he could see was her eyes, staring at him accusingly as she died.
And Dr. Hudson had swiftly taken advantage of his grief and guilt.
"Dr. Fine. Dr. Milton Fine. Please report to Level Three, stat."
Clark's head jerked up at the familiar name, and he stared at the speaker on the wall with real horror. Dr. Hudson continued to speak in his slow, measured voice.
"When the human mind is faced with tremendous pain," he said, "it has no choice but to defend itself. You've taken bits and pieces of your surroundings, and developed them into a fantasy, an alternate world where you could feel safe and secure. Clark..."
Clark looked up into Dr. Hudson's kindly, lined face.
"In a world in which you had no powers," Hudson said, "you chose to give yourself superpowers."
I didn't give myself anything, Clark thought frantically. I do have superpowers. I do.
But he didn't have superpowers, or he wouldn't be sitting here, helpless and straitjacketed. If he'd had superpowers, he could have saved Chloe.
But Chloe was dead. The stark truth was that he had no superpowers at all.
He looked around the room frantically, and familiar words leapt out at him. On a bookshelf he saw a volume entitled Fortress of Solitude: A Prison Memoir. On the coffee table lay a comic book, Phantom Zone. Tacked to the wall was a paper showing "Oliver Queen, Employee of the Month"-- but the face on the paper wasn't the Ollie Clark thought he remembered.
Could Ollie have really been in his imagination? Could everything he remembered really all be in his mind?
The door opened, and a short, round, African-American nurse walked in. "Good morning, Dr. Hudson," she said cheerily, handing the doctor papers to sign.
Clark stared at her nametag. It read Raya.
He remembered Raya as a tall, blonde Kryptonian woman, who'd died to save him and the Earth. That Raya hadn't been all in his head. She couldn't have been. She'd been his only link to his Kryptonian heritage, the only other true Kryptonian he'd ever met.
Maybe he'd never really met her at all. Maybe he wasn't Kryptonian at all.
Hudson's words ran through his mind. In a world in which you had no powers, you chose to give yourself superpowers.
Truly frantic now, he looked wildly around the room for some proof that he wasn't crazy. His gaze fell on a sign: Building capacity 331. A dirt smudge made the number look very like 33.1, the designation of the places where Lex Luthor was experimenting on superpowered people worldwide.
But what if there were no superpowered people anywhere in the world? What if he really was just an ordinary, everyday human? What if his only name was Clark Kent?
The nurse walked out, and the doctor walked over to his room. "This," he said, picking up a greenish chunk of rock, "is a meteor rock from Smallville."
Clark stood up so fast he knocked his chair over. He staggered backward, into the corner, and the doctor walked toward him. Clark cringed back against the wall, making small, involuntary noises of fear.
"It's all right," the doctor said gently. "It can't hurt you. It's not what you call kryptonite." He stood in front of Clark and held out the rock, so that it was only a few inches from Clark's face. "It's just a rock."
Shock cascaded through Clark. Kryptonite had always caused him agonizing pain. It was the one thing that could truly hurt him. But it must have been all in his mind, because this kryptonite didn't hurt him.
He wasn't special, or superpowered, or the last son of another planet. He was just an ordinary human who'd somehow imagined himself to be more than he was. And that meant this was the reality. He was a deluded man who'd been locked up in a mental institution since he was fifteen. This was all real.
Chloe's death was real.
And he was responsible for her death, because he'd promised to protect her, no matter what-- and he hadn't. He couldn't, because he didn't have superspeed or invulnerability or superstrength after all. He was just an ordinary human being, and he'd encouraged her delusions... and led her to her death.
My fault, he thought wretchedly. All my fault.
"Chloe." He whispered the name. "Chloe. She's really dead. Isn't she?"
The doctor looked away, his eyes filled with sorrowful sympathy. "I'm sorry, Clark." He turned away. "I'll get the treatment ready."
The doctor left the room, and Clark turned his head to the wall, then slowly sank down to the floor. He wanted to cry, to scream, to hit something, but the pain was too great.
He sat in a huddled heap on the floor and waited quietly for the doctor to take his delusions away.
"I'm sorry," Chloe whispered, stroking his hair again. He'd given her a bare-bones version of what had happened, although he'd omitted the part about her being crazy. His voice had broken a few times, despite his best efforts to keep it steady, and he'd had to blink tears away more than once. He hoped she hadn't noticed his excess of emotion, but she was a sharp-eyed reporter, and she knew him very well, so he didn't think there was much chance she'd failed to take note of his reactions.
His arms were still around her, because he just couldn't bring himself to let go of her. He didn't give a damn what her boyfriend might think. He wasn't letting her go.
She didn't seem to mind, because she leaned forward and pressed her face against his shoulder. "You went through an awful lot in thirty seconds' time."
"Longest thirty seconds of my life," he answered gruffly. His mind didn't work quite like human minds did, and he could slow his time sense if necessary, which enabled him to avoid crashing into things when in superspeed. He suspected that when the phantom had tapped into his mind, it had altered his time sense, which was why the experience had felt so endless.
"I'm sorry," she said again, her arms squeezing his ribs in a tight, reassuring hug. "So much for just hanging out and watching a movie tonight, huh?"
"No movie," he said into her hair. He definitely didn't feel like watching a movie. He'd already seen one in his head. "But I still want to hang out."
"Okay." She lifted her head and smiled at him. "I won't leave you, Clark."
He looked into her bright, lively eyes, and relief that she was alive and well rushed through him in a torrent. A plea rose to his lips: Don't ever leave me.
Somehow he managed to keep the words to himself. But he couldn't seem to control his physical response to her nearness. Her mouth was only inches away from his, and he knew he ought to move away from her, but after everything he'd been through tonight, he couldn't. He just couldn't.
He bent down and kissed her, full on the mouth.
Read Chapter 4 here.