Thursday, February 22, 2007
Living Without Her
Season 5, "Reckoning," and futurefic
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Clark Kent is married to a tall, beautiful brunette named Lois Lane, but he dreams about a short, snarky blonde each and every night.
He doesn’t know who she is, or why he dreams about her. He’s never seen her face in reality. But in his dreams he sees her with almost painful clarity. Every lighter gold streak in her hair, every freckle on her skin, the triangle of moles on her left cheek—all of them are incredibly, achingly familiar to him.
In the daytime, he’s happy with his life. He barely remembers his dreams, and the vaguely unhappy feeling they leave him with every morning, because he’s too practical a man to worry much about dreams. And besides, he’s far too busy to spend a lot of time on introspection. He’s a superhero who saves lives, and a reporter who works beside his wife at the greatest newspaper in the world. He has everything a man could want.
But at night, he dreams of a blonde with a wide smile and a badass attitude… and he longs for something more.
“You have to let me fix this!”
Clark knelt beside Chloe Sullivan’s body, tears burning his eyes and clogging his throat. He’d told his girlfriend, Lana Lang, his secret, asked her to marry him, and she’d been killed in a car accident less than twelve hours later. Horrified and appalled by what he’d done, he’d gone to his “father,” a Kryptonian AI named Jor-El, and begged for a chance to correct his mistake.
Jor-El had warned him that the universe tended to find a balance, but he had no choice but to try to fix his error, because it was his fault Lana was dead. At any rate, he loved Lana, and he couldn’t imagine anything worse than living without her.
Jor-El had reluctantly given him a crystal that could send him back in time. He’d gone back, and managed to save Lana’s life. He hadn’t told her his secret, hadn’t proposed, yet she’d almost died anyway. He’d had to save her by catching a bus by its rear bumper, grabbing it just before it rammed her car. He’d barely managed to slow it down enough. But he’d done it, and Lana had lived.
And while he was saving Lana, his best friend Chloe Sullivan had stepped outside the Talon for a breath of fresh air, and encountered a vicious meteor freak.
She’d been dragged off to the alley behind the coffee house… and killed.
He could barely stand to look at her body. She’d been beaten until she was a mass of bruises, raped brutally, and then her throat had been slashed. He imagined her last moments, imagined the terror and the pain she must have experienced, imagined her drowning in her own blood, and it made him want to double over and throw up.
And even worse than the vision of what she’d suffered was the knowledge that it was all his fault. If he hadn’t gone back in time…
He knew that it had been an impossible decision. He couldn’t possibly have chosen between Lana, the woman he thought he’d loved, and Chloe, his best friend, the one person on Earth he was closest to. He’d loved both of them, and neither deserved to die.
But when he’d found Chloe’s lifeless body in the alley behind the Talon, he’d fallen to his knees and wept in helpless fury and gut-wrenching grief.
He’d found the one thing that was worse than living without Lana. He depended on Chloe, and he couldn’t survive without her. He just couldn’t.
Now he knelt in his Arctic Fortress of Solitude, a great edifice of ice, Chloe’s body on a crystalline table in front of him. He’d placed her onto the flat surface like a sacrifice on an altar, then fallen to his knees like a man praying to a higher power.
“Please,” he implored. “I can’t live without her.”
Jor-El’s deep voice was solemn. “I warned you before you chose this path, Kal-El. There was only one crystal. What has been done cannot be undone.”
“There has to be something you can do.” Clark’s voice was rough with pain and tears. “Something. Anything.”
“There is nothing I can do.”
“If I could fix this, Kal-El, I would. But I cannot.” The AI hesitated a moment, then added, “I am sorry, my son.”
Clark bent his head in grief. His experiences with the AI over the years had given him little reason to trust Jor-El, but the AI had told him up front this was irreversible, so he had no choice but to accept Jor-El’s statement at face value. Chloe was dead, and there was absolutely nothing he could do about it.
Tears ran down his face, and he didn’t try to check them. Strangled sobs rose out of his throat, and he buried his face in his hands.
“I didn’t know it would hurt so much to lose her,” he choked out. “I didn’t know she meant so much to me.”
Jor-El didn’t answer right away. At last he said, “It is not surprising that you grieve so greatly, Kal-El. She was your soulmate.”
“My…?” Clark lifted his head, blinking into the dim light of the Fortress. “I thought Lana was my soulmate.”
“If you look deep into your feelings, Kal-El, you will realize that is not so. You did not grieve for the first girl the way you grieve for this one.”
Clark swallowed, feeling a rawness in his throat that echoed the pain in his heart, and recognized that Jor-El was right. He’d always thought he loved Lana, and that Chloe was merely his friend… but he’d been wrong. Chloe had meant far more to him than Lana ever had.
And now Chloe was dead.
“I can’t go on without her,” he whispered at last, voicing something he hadn’t truly understood until Jor-El’s words had clarified it for him. Chloe hadn’t just been his friend—she’d been his soulmate. She was the one he relied on, the one he turned to in times of trouble, the one that was always there for him.
He truly couldn’t live without her. He simply didn’t know how.
He lifted his head and stared at the high ceiling through eyes blurred with tears. “I can’t go on. I can’t. Please… Father. Help me.”
He’d never called the AI “father” before. Jor-El was silent for a long moment. At last he spoke.
“I cannot reverse what has happened, my son. I wish that I could. For this woman would have been your true partner, your helpmeet. She would have shared your life in a way that no other woman can.”
“So I’m destined to be alone now?” The thought didn’t hurt as much as he would have expected. He didn’t much care if he wound up with someone else or not. Without Chloe, his life stretched before him like a long, empty, lonely road.
He wanted Chloe to walk down the road with him. But Chloe was gone.
“There will be other women in your life, but none of them will mean as much to you as this one did.”
“I can’t live without her.” Clark bowed his head and swallowed back his sobs. “I can’t go on.”
“You will go on, Kal-El. Trust me.” The AI paused for a moment, as if choosing his next words carefully. “I want you to return to the caves now.”
“I can’t just leave her here.” Clark looked at the battered and broken body that had once been his best friend—his soulmate—and then looked away, nausea and tears rising together in his throat.
“Go, Kal-El. And trust me. I will do what must be done.”
Clark didn't want to leave Chloe's body behind, but he realized he couldn't stay here forever, either. He climbed wearily to his feet and trudged toward the portal that led to the underground caves in Smallville. He felt the strange sensation of instantly being translated a long distance, and then he found himself in the Kawatche caves.
He blinked in the dim light, trying to figure out what he was doing here. He thought about it a moment, and managed to dredge up a memory of talking to Jor-El. He’d been up at the Fortress of Solitude for some reason, talking to his Kryptonian father. Jor-El had told him Lana wasn’t his soulmate. Someone else was.
But he couldn’t remember who it was.
It didn’t matter right now, he decided. Lana was all right, and no one else had had to die in her place. He’d managed to fix things, managed to correct his mistake. That was all that mattered.
He left the caves and walked out into the dark Kansas night, whistling a cheerful tune.
And in an Arctic fortress of ice, a superintelligent computer worked to erase a life, obliterating every sign that a girl named Chloe Sullivan had ever existed. The AI turned the body to ash, then turned his attention to erasing her from the world. It was easy enough for the AI and its farflung extensions to alter paper and electronic records. It was equally simple to change human memories. But Kryptonian memories were more permanent, and presented more of a difficulty.
Even so, Jor-El had done his best to alter Clark’s memory as he passed through the portal, because he recognized that his son had not exaggerated when he’d said he couldn’t go on without her. As long as Kal-El remembered Chloe Sullivan, he would never move on from his grief and sorrow and loneliness. He would never accept his destiny.
Jor-El’s main purpose on this planet was to see to it that his son accepted his destiny. Therefore it was utterly imperative that Kal-El not remember Chloe Sullivan.
This Jor-El was merely a copy of the original, the first Jor-El's memories and will downloaded into a complex computer program. And yet Jor-El vividly remembered his own soulmate, a beautiful blonde named Lara Lor-Van, who had perished in the cataclysm of Krypton's violent end. He could not stop longing for her, even though she had been dead for many years, and he had often wished he could erase his own memories of her. But he was the last repository of Krypton's history, and he could not in good conscience erase Kal-El's mother from the history that Kal-El would one day study.
Yet every time he thought of his soulmate, he grieved deeply for everything he had lost. Living without her hurt terribly. The memory of her smile, of her bright intelligence, of her love for him... that memory was a pain that never faded.
He could not wish the same fate on his son.
Eradicating every memory of the girl, without damaging other memories in the process, was a complicated procedure, but Jor-El was confident he’d managed to erase every last trace of her from Kal-El’s mind. At least the conscious mind. The subconscious mind was more complex, and infinitely more difficult to tamper with.
But as long as Kal-El only remembered Chloe Sullivan in his dreams, he would be able to go on without his soulmate, to forge a life without her. He would accept his destiny.
His son would do what needed doing, and accomplish what he was born to do. And he would not grieve endlessly for what he had lost, as Jor-El grieved every day of his existence.
During the day, Clark Kent is happy with his life. He writes articles that expose evil, and when that doesn’t get the evildoers thrown into jail, he dons a spandex suit and a cape, and goes after the bad guys more directly. And his wife Lois works at his side, writing articles with him, fighting the bad guys with him, and cheering him on. He has a great life, a life no one else on Earth could possibly imagine, and during the day, he’s entirely content.
But at night, he dreams of a girl with short golden hair, a brilliant smile, and three little moles on her left cheek. A girl he doesn’t know at all, and yet a girl he knows better than anyone else in the world. He dreams of what was, and what could have been, and what should have been.
And in his dreams, he weeps for everything he’s lost.
Posted by Meg at 6:33 AM