Season 7, based on SPOILERS
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
DO NOT READ IF YOU ARE TRYING TO REMAIN UNSPOILED FOR SEASON 7.
"I'm sorry. But Miss Sullivan is dead."
Clark Kent stared at the nurse, a numb horror creeping over him, a strange buzzing sound in his ears. "No," he said at last, deciding he must have misunderstood. "I was told she was brought here a couple of hours ago. I'm sure she's somewhere. If you'll just check--"
"I'm sorry." The nurse looked at him with sympathy. "She was dead on arrival. The doctors tried, but nothing could be done to save her."
Pain clenched in Clark's chest like a fist. He felt his throat tighten, felt tears begin to burn his eyelids, and he blinked and swallowed, trying to force back his physical reactions of shock and pain. "I... no. She's... dead?"
"Yes, I'm afraid so."
He opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He swallowed, very hard, and tried again. "Where is she now? I mean, her..." He struggled to say the word body and failed entirely.
Fortunately, the nurse understood him. "They've taken her down to the morgue," she said gently. "I really am sorry, Mr. Kent."
She turned and walked away. Clark stood there, staring at nothing, feeling his eyes burning. Not with heat vision, but with tears.
Dead, he thought, repeating the word in his mind as if thinking it might help him accept the reality of it. What had killed her? The phantom? Or something else?
He'd been off fighting a phantom, and his best friend had somehow been killed-- and he hadn't even been there to help her.
He'd once watched her die in an induced dream that had seemed all too much like reality, and the memory rose up to haunt him. He remembered seeing her bloodless, white face, and he thought of her lying just as pale and still in the morgue, in a refrigerated drawer, her skin pale and cold--
God, no. Chlo.
He couldn't think of her that way without tears welling up. She'd been his best friend ever since middle school. She'd always been so lively, the most alive person he knew, and now...
He blinked furiously, because he was still standing in the middle of the waiting room, and there were people around, and he wasn't going to stand here and break down in tears in front of a bunch of strangers. He was a guy, and he didn't cry in public, even if his best friend was lying dead in a morgue.
He couldn't seem to get the image of her cold, still body out of his mind. Despite his efforts to contain them, tears overflowed and ran down his cheeks. Pain twisted in his chest, and his shoulders jerked with the effort to keep a sob contained.
He thought of her body being placed into a coffin and buried, deep in the earth, and a strangled noise rose from his throat. He remembered seeing her in a coffin once before. She'd been buried alive, almost dead by the time he found her, and if he hadn't gotten there when he had, if he hadn't hadn't yanked the coffin out of the dirt and thrown the lid aside so she could breathe, she would have died.
And now she was dead anyway.
He bent his head, and despite his best efforts, a choked sob rose from his chest.
Startled, he jerked his head up and listened intently. He'd thought he'd heard Chloe call his name. He waited hopefully for a long moment, but heard nothing else beyond the soft chatter of the families in the waiting room.
Wishful thinking, he thought grimly. She hadn't called his name.
She'd never say his name again.
The idea of never hearing her voice again, of never seeing her face, of never picking up his cell phone and calling her just to chat, hurt terribly. Pain twisted inside him, more tightly than ever, and more tears spilled down his cheeks.
"Clark! Help me!"
He lifted his head, so shocked his heart began to thud heavily. He'd really heard something. It wasn't just wishful thinking.
He'd heard her voice.
He listened intently for a moment longer, but didn't hear anything else. But if she was really calling for him...
She'd be in the morgue.
He spun around and walked rapidly out of the waiting room, so as not to seem to disappear in front of a roomful of people. When he was alone in the blue-painted hallway, he leaped into superspeed.
Half a second later he was standing in the morgue, facing a wall of stainless steel doors. Fortunately, it was late and the place was empty. The smells of formaldehyde and antiseptic and death made his inhumanly sensitive nose twitch, but he ignored the odors and frowned intently at the doors, activating his x-ray vision. Most of the compartments contained exactly what he expected to see-- motionless corpses.
But in one of them, he saw a figure struggling frantically, pushing desperately at the walls.
"Chloe," he whispered, imagining her confined in there, in a tiny, all but airless box. Imagining her trapped alone in the dark. He could only imagine how terrified she must be. He glanced up at the security cameras and zapped them with a quick burst of heat vision, then supersped forward and yanked the drawer open.
She stared up at him, blinking in the light.
"Chloe," he whispered. More unmasculine tears ran down his face, but he didn't bother to wipe them away. He looked her over with x-ray vision, and saw nothing wrong. She was perfectly all right, as far as he could see.
She sat up, and he wrapped his arms around her, heedless of the fact that she was naked but for a sheet, and held her against his chest, very tightly.
"I knew you'd come eventually." Her voice was very small, but very confident. "I knew if I called your name, you'd save me."
"Chloe." She felt chilly against him, and he held her more tightly, trying to warm her up. "I thought-- I heard-- they told me you were dead."
"I guess I was." She shivered. "I don't know what happened, Clark. One minute I was with Lois, and the next I woke up... oh, my God. Is this a morgue?"
"Yeah," he said gruffly. "They really thought you were dead, Chlo."
"Oh, my God." She shuddered harder, then suddenly started glancing around wildly. "Oh, no. Lois. Is she here?"
"Relax, Chlo. She's fine. She called me to let me know you were here."
"No." She clutched at him, staring at him wide-eyed. "She couldn't have. She was dead, Clark. I found her at Reeves Dam, and she was dead."
He frowned, wondering if maybe she'd been hallucinating or something. "She left me a message on my voice mail telling me she'd brought you here, Chlo. She sounded fine."
She seemed to accept his reassurance, because she sighed and rested her head against his shoulder. "Okay, then. I guess she wouldn't be leaving voice mails if she was dead. But I still don't understand what happened. She was dead... and then I died? Only not really, apparently, because I'm sitting here talking to you, and even as much as I talk I don't think I'd be doing it if I were dead. I don't know what happened."
"Me either. I'm just glad you're not really dead." He looked around at the morgue, smelling the acrid odor of death, and shuddered. "Don't scare me like that again, Chlo."
She lifted her head again, looking into his eyes, and smiled wanly. "I never ask to be buried alive, Clark. I'm just lucky, I guess."
"Do not joke about it," he said fiercely. "It's not funny."
"I know. I was scared." Her voice was even softer than before. "I woke up and it was dark, and I was scared. It was just like the time I was buried in that coffin, but this time I didn't even have a glowstick, and I thought--"
Her voice broke, and suddenly he couldn't help himself. He thought of her terrified and alone, trapped in an unknown place in the darkness, uncertain as to whether anyone would hear her, or if she'd be found in time.
Her eyes were huge and vulnerable, and he couldn't stop himself from cradling her face in his hands, bending down, and kissing her.
It was a soft, gentle kiss, because somewhere beneath his relief he had the strong feeling that a morgue wasn't the most romantic or sexy place for a kiss. It was almost a platonic kiss, really. But not quite, because, well, she was naked underneath the sheet, and he wasn't so upset as to be totally oblivious to that.
Her lips moved softly against his, and he pressed his mouth against hers a little harder, and her mouth opened, yielding to him, and he--
Yanked his head away before things could go any further. He wasn't going to make love to her in a morgue, and as overwhelmed as he was with emotion, he had the uncomfortable certainty they'd wind up on one of the tables if he deepened the kiss.
They were just friends, and even if they'd been more, this wasn't the right place for that kind of thing. She was scared and upset, and hell, so was he.
And besides, she'd just died.
He looked away from her honest gaze, blinking and swallowing as he tried to get himself back under control. At last he looked back at her.
"Let's get you out of here," he said, and picked her up in his arms, wrapping her carefully in the sheet. It covered her adequately, if not really decently. But once he went into superspeed, no one was going to get a look at her anyway.
He turned toward the door. She leaned her head against his shoulder, in a gesture of trust and affection that melted his heart, and he heard her echo what she'd said before, very softly.
"I knew you'd be there to save me, Clark."
He tightened his arms around her and spoke just as softly.
"I'll always be there to save you, Chlo."