Season 5, following my story "Never Let Me Go"
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
The world came into focus around them, and Clark found himself standing in the middle of a familiar Kansas landscape of corn and back roads. Chloe dropped her head against his shoulder with a little moan and pressed something into his hand. He closed his hand around it, recognizing the familiar shape and weight of it, even though four decades had passed. It was the key to the portal in the caves.
"Go, Clark," she whispered, her voice sounding strained. "Go."
Responding instinctively to the pain in her voice, he swept her up into his arms and started running. Despite all the years that had passed, he remembered the location of the Kawatche Caves clearly, and he headed in that direction at top speed.
It felt good to superspeed. Better than good-- it felt awesome. The feel of the wind in his face, blowing back his hair, the feel of his muscles working as they were meant to work, the feel of his feet hitting the ground-- he'd forgotten how much he missed this. How much he missed being himself.
He felt good. He felt young.
He looked at his own hands, holding Chloe against him, and realized with a shock that he was young. His hands looked exactly like they had forty years ago. He reached up with one hand, still cradling Chloe carefully, and discovered that his face was unlined. He suspected his hair was as dark as ever, too.
Somehow the forty years he'd lived without Chloe had been wiped away. Those years still existed in his mind, in his memories of everything he'd experienced, but the effects that entropy had left on his body had been erased entirely. Maybe Chloe had been right after all. Somehow, entropy hadn't truly existed in that sliver of reality.
He was traveling at the speed of sound, but his mind had to operate faster than humans' did, or he'd run straight through things. The trip to the underground caves allowed him a span of time to think. He could feel the effect Chloe had described, was aware of vast memories pressing down on him, but he was able to easily push it aside so it didn't bother him. He guessed that was because he was Kryptonian, with a natural, instinctive grasp of the way the universe was put together.
He focused, remembering his one true timeline, the timeline in which he and Chloe had bonded, in which he'd found her dead with a huge hole burned through her chest. That was his timeline, even if it wasn't hers, quite. He ran back through the timeline in his mind, remembering the way Fine had imprisoned them and stripped him of his powers by using red sunlight, remembering how he'd traveled through time to bring her back into existence, remembering the way she'd saved him from addiction to red kryptonite at the hands of a crime boss.
He sorted out the true memories and shoved the others to the side, finding it easier to think of them merely as dreams. His mind seemed able to do that. He came to a halt in the cave, at the great stone table that was a portal through space, and hesitated a second, looking down at Chloe.
Her eyes were shut, and she was murmuring, broken snatches of words, and he realized that even these few seconds had been too much for her. Through their bond, he could sense her confusion and pain, and he knew she was starting to drown in the memories. Unlike him, she couldn't push them aside.
He lifted the key she'd given him and placed it into the slot. Light flared, and then they were standing in the cold Arctic air of the Fortress, vast crystal walls rising all around them.
A shiver ran through Chloe's frame, and he held her closer. Damn it, he should have thought to stop and get her a parka somewhere. She'd freeze to death if they were here very long.
Although he wasn't sure freezing to death was their biggest issue. She was still mumbling incoherently, her eyes closed, and he knew she was sinking into catatonia, and possibly psychosis. He didn't know how to cope with the problem, or how to help her block out all the memories.
But he knew someone who might.
He raised his voice. "Jor-El!"
"My son." The AI's voice was as calm as ever. "It is good to see you."
"I need help." Clark tried to sound as calm as the AI, but with rather poor results. He lay Chloe's still body down on a slab of ice and spoke to the air. "Chloe's in trouble."
"I understand your concern for your lifemate, my son. But the world itself is in trouble. Everything that exists is in grave danger."
"Because space-time got shattered?"
"I see that your lifemate has explained matters to you."
"A little bit. But I don't fully understand what's going on. I've been... otherwise occupied."
"Yes, I am aware of that." The AI sounded grim. "Fine's plan was to kill your bondmate and place you into a pocket universe with an accelerated timeline, separating you from everything you loved. He intended to use your loneliness and despair to trick you into releasing Zod."
"Are you telling me he broke the space-time continuum on purpose?"
"No. I do not believe even Fine would be that ruthless. The device he used to kill your lifemate and trap you had consequences that he did not foresee. The explosion of Fine, so near the device, created a rift, cracking time in two. This rendered space-time unstable, and when your bondmate, who was dead in another reality, touched the crystal, the paradox caused an even more massive explosion, which in turn caused a complete breakdown of the fabric of space-time."
Clark stared up at the crystal ceiling, high above. His head spun. He'd found time travel to be confusing enough, but this was absolutely mind-boggling. "So how do we fix it?"
"Unfortunately, there is only one way to repair the damage. The center of the effect must be destroyed. When that is accomplished, space-time will collapse in on itself, and all the extraneous timelines will disappear."
"The center of the effect." Clark watched as a knife with glowing Kryptonian symbols etched into its metal blade rose out of the console. He'd killed himself once before to save space-time, but he didn't particularly relish the idea. Even so, he reluctantly reached out and grasped the knife by its crystal handle. "You mean... me?"
"No." Jor-El sounded very solemn. "I'm afraid not." There was a long silence, as if the AI were steeling itself for what it must say. At last it spoke again.
"You must kill your lifemate, Kal-El."
Read Chapter 13 here.