Friday, May 18, 2007

Ever the Same, Chapter 11

Season 5, following my story "Never Let Me Go"
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.

The future

"I don't understand," Clark said, reflecting wryly that he seemed to be saying that a lot lately. "How are the two of us supposed to fix everything?"

"The Fortress, Clark. It's the only hope we have. It's the only hope anyone has."

Clark frowned, trying to make sense of this situation, trying to remember things he'd hardly thought of for forty years. "You mentioned Fine told you all this," he said, slowly. "But Fine was trying to get me to release Zod in the Fortress. How do we know this isn't some sort of a trap?"

"We don't. But the thing is, right now Zod just isn't as big a problem as the total destruction of space-time."

He could see her point, but she hadn't given him the slightest proof that space-time was actually collapsing. As far as he could tell, everything was normal. Well, more or less normal, except for his lifemate suddenly showing up in his living room after forty years. He frowned at her, wondering if it was possible she was actually Fine. Fine was capable of shape shifting, and he'd once disguised himself as Chloe in order to trick Clark.

But no, if she were Fine, he wouldn't feel the buzzing of their EM fields whenever they touched. He was pretty sure Fine couldn't fake that convincingly. Anyway... he drew in her scent, listened to her heartbeat, using Kryptonian senses he hadn't used in four decades, and knew that this was the real Chloe, not an imitation.

"Okay," he said slowly. "So we go back to, um, reality..."

"Ground zero reality, I guess we can call it. The point in space where the explosions occurred, where this all began. Reality is kind of bent around the two of us, so once we go back into the time stream, and back to where we started, Fine says we'll be at the center of everything again. But we won't have very long. The memories..."

She broke off, wincing as if at some remembered pain, and he cocked his head. "Memories?"

"Yeah. It doesn't bother me in these splinter realities, but when I'm in normal reality, I can remember all these different timelines. Thousands of them. It's maddening. In fact, it drove me right into catatonia."

Clark frowned. "Will it have the same effect on me, do you think?"

"I don't know. Didn't you tell me once that Kryptonians are a little outside the flow of time?"

"Yeah." He sighed. "But if what you're telling me is right, time isn't the same as it used to be. If the way reality is put together has really changed, then I might not be so much outside the flow of things any more. Who the hell knows?"

"Okay. So you might be affected too." She pressed her lips together, looking like she was giving the problem serious thought. "Here's the plan, then. We get back to our own time, and you superspeed us to the cave, and we get go right through the portal, straight to the Fortress. Four seconds, max. I should be able to hold it together that long, and if you're affected, hopefully you can, too. And maybe once we're in the Fortress, Jor-El can help us cope somehow."

"Chloe..." He heaved a long sigh. "I don't even know if I can superspeed any more. I haven't done it in forty years."

Her eyes went wide. "But you love to superspeed."

"No," he said softly. "After I lost you, I felt like it was all because of my powers. So I gave them up. All of them. I haven't even used my heat vision to toast bread."

"Oh, my God, Clark." She studied him, and he thought he saw a glimmer of disappointment in her eyes. "You gave them up? Just like that? You were never tempted to use them for anything? Not even to help people?"

He looked away from the disapproval he thought he saw in her eyes. "I felt like they were more harmful than helpful," he said in a low voice. "I felt like maybe I was endangering the world by using them."

She squeezed his shoulder and spoke firmly.

"I think you were wrong."

He had the unpleasant feeling that she was right, but he didn't want to admit it. He scowled at her, changing the subject. "Why did you leave me here for forty years, anyway? Why didn't you come find me right away?"

"I came to find you as fast as I could," she answered gently. "As soon as I knew where you were and how to get here, I came for you. It took less than twenty-four hours. And Fine said I was moving at right angles to time, so I don't think it's been forty years, exactly. Either time moves faster in this little pocket universe, or time just doesn't have much meaning here."

He wanted to object. It's really been forty years, Chlo. I haven't seen you in forty years. But he didn't, because it didn't somehow seem worth arguing about. Her twenty-four hours had been his forty years. It seemed strange and bizarre, but he couldn't think of any other way to explain the fact that she was as young and beautiful as ever.

And it helped his aching heart to know she'd come for him as soon as she could. Even if she'd had to enlist Fine's help, even if they were going to have to confront a crazy, single-minded AI if they managed to save space-time... he was grateful to know she'd come for him right away. The words of the bonding ceremony rolled through his mind:

I trust you
To come to me
To find me when I am lost...

If she could manage to travel across space-time to find him, then he could certainly remember how to superspeed.

"Okay," he said, lifting his chin and squaring his shoulders. For the first time in forty years he felt there might be a purpose to his life after all. "How do we get back?"

She lifted a purple crystal, and he regarded it with a good deal of suspicion. A purple crystal had caused him extremely serious problems, once upon a time. But if it was the only way back, then they didn't have a lot of options. The old red pickup truck he drove wasn't going to take them where they needed to go, and he guessed transdimensional bus service was out of the question.

Chloe rose to her feet, as graceful as ever. He stood up too, and she wrapped an arm around his waist and pressed her cheek against his chest. His body suddenly buzzed all the way down to his feet, and he found it difficult to ignore, but he tried. Because stopping to have sex when the whole universe was in dire peril didn't seem like a good idea. After all, if time really flowed differently here, twenty minutes spent having sex might mean another decade passed by in reality.

He put his arms around her waist and held her tightly, and she lifted the crystal higher.

And just like that, the only life he'd known for forty years faded away.

Read Chapter 12 here.


meemalee said...

Wow. Just wow :-)

RichardAK said...

I feel like I should have heard the Superman trumpets blowing at the end of that chapter. This was a great set-up to a final, climactic confrontation in the Fortress.