Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
As long as you'll be my friend at the end...
If I go crazy then will you still
Call me Superman?
If I'm alive and well, will you be
There holding my hand?
- 3 Doors Down, "Kryptonite"
She came to see him every day. Belle Reve depressed her, with its gray-painted cinderblock walls, its iron bars, and the smell of antiseptic that hung heavy in the air, inadequately concealing the odors of urine and vomit. But every day she came, and every day he looked up with a huge grin, his eyes lighting up.
"Hi, Clark," she said, walking across the room and sitting down next to him on the bed. "How are you today?"
"Fine," he said, smiling. "I fed myself breakfast this morning."
A bolt of pain shot through her heart with the force of a sword blade. He'd been here for a year, and she really ought to be used to this by now, but somehow she just couldn't reconcile this childlike man with the strong, intelligent man who'd once averted a nuclear war singlehandedly, who'd saved the world many times over. Who'd saved her many times over.
"Good for you," she said, blinking hard. "Look, I brought you something."
She held out the comic book she'd brought him. It was a story about Superior, a red-caped hero whose creator hadn't bothered to even try to conceal the fact that his hero was heavily based on the real-life Superman. Clark adored the stories, even if they were derivative, and he beamed happily.
"Cool, Chlo. Thanks. Will you read it to me?"
"Sure," she said gently. There had been a time when Clark could read the comic book in a flash, but that time had ended a year ago. He'd been exposed to silver kryptonite, an artificial form of meteor rock, courtesy of LexCorp's laboratories.
Silver K affected his mind. The first stage of silver K exposure was extreme paranoia. Then the paranoia faded, and the radiation began to strip him of much of his mental ability. And unfortunately, he'd been exposed to it long enough that the effect was apparently permanent and irreversible. The documents Chloe had found by breaking into LexCorp's labs in an attempt to find a cure supported that conclusion. What was wrong with Clark couldn't be fixed.
The doctors estimated his current mental capabilities at about the level of a five-year-old.
He couldn't read any more, but at least he could feed himself breakfast.
Blinking hard, she sat down next to him on the bed. Clark had once fought to keep her out of Belle Reve, and she'd argued long and hard with Martha Kent about sending him here. She didn't like the place, not at all. As a meteor freak herself, she was very, very lucky not to have wound up confined here, and she knew it.
But the truth was, a superpowered alien with the intellect of a five-year-old was supremely dangerous. After his mind had been regressed by the silver K, he'd destroyed five city blocks, and killed dozens of people, though he hadn't had the slightest intention of doing so. He simply had no longer possessed the mental capacity to realize that flying deliberately into buildings and making them topple would hurt people.
Chloe had been the one to put his playful rampage to an end. She'd run into downtown Metropolis, dodging falling bricks, and called him. He'd come to her, smiling broadly, without the slightest concern for the screams of pain and fear she could hear on the streets of the city. He seemed unaware of anyone else's feelings, just like an overgrown toddler. She'd asked him to come back to Smallville, and he'd followed her without question, because he trusted her.
And then Martha had had him committed to this awful place, with its cinderblock walls and its iron bars and its terrible smells.
Intellectually, she knew it was probably the best place for him. Even though Belle Reve occasionally engaged in questionable practices, they understood dangerous freaks. The doctors had designed a cell that could keep Superman confined and unable to hurt visitors or doctors. Low-level kryptonite radiation stripped him of his powers without causing him pain. And Chloe couldn't have prevented him from being committed, because she was merely Clark's best friend. It was his mother's decision to make, not hers.
But Chloe had done what she could to keep him safe. She came to see him each and every day. And she made certain the doctors understood that if anything dubious happened to any patient while Clark was an inmate here, it would be splashed all over the front page of the Daily Planet, the paper she wrote for, in a heartbeat.
Even so, she hated seeing him here. But she hated seeing innocent people killed at Clark's hands even more. And she knew that when he'd had all his mental faculties, Clark would have done absolutely anything to avoid killing people.
She didn't think he'd object to being incarcerated here, if it kept others safe.
She realized Clark was still waiting expectantly, his mouth curved in a happy smile, his pale green eyes alight with happiness. She lifted the comic book and began to read it out loud, while he practically wiggled with joy, like an oversized puppy.
As she read, she glanced at him, seeing the vacant expression in his eyes, and a tear slid from her eye and splashed onto his hand. It shimmered, glowing silver, for a moment, then rolled off his hand and onto the bed.
Five years ago, Chloe had learned she was a meteor freak. No two freaks had the same powers, and she'd discovered her ability was the power to heal people. Once she'd learned to control the ability, to use it without dying herself, she'd found her tears had incredible healing properties. A single tear of hers could heal mortal wounds, could cure damaged organs, could even occasionally bring people back from the dead.
But to her immense dismay, she'd discovered her healing powers didn't work on Kryptonians.
It was ironic, she thought. The meteors that had accompanied Clark to Earth had given her this incredible power, and yet the one single person on Earth she couldn't heal... was Clark.
But that didn't stop her from trying. Every single day, she came to Belle Reve, sat with Clark, and let a silver tear fall onto him, in the forlorn hope that someday, miraculously, she would heal him. After a year of failure, she very much doubted it would ever happen, and yet she kept trying. And she intended to keep on trying, day after day, year after year, for the rest of her life.
Because Clark would never have given up on her. He had always been her best friend, and she'd never give up on him, either. Never.
She reached out, wrapped her fingers around his hand as if he were a child, and read him the comic book, from beginning to end. He sat next to her, listened eagerly, and smiled his happy, vacant smile.
More tears slid down her cheeks as she read, but this time she wasn't trying to heal him.
This time, she was just crying.