Saturday, October 27, 2007
Time in a Bottle, Chapter 1
Season 7, MHE for "Cure"
Rating: Adult. If you're under eighteen, please go elsewhere now.
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
There never seems to be enough time to do the
Things you want once you find them
I've looked around enough to know that
You're the one I want to go through time with
-Jim Croce, "Time in a Bottle"
She'd come within seconds of having her heart cut from her chest.
Clark fought to steady his breathing as he looked across the room at his best friend Chloe Sullivan, seeing the little trickle of blood on her breast. He'd just figured out where she was and had been coming to rescue her. When he'd heard her cry out in pain, he'd put on an extra burst of speed.
The truth was, his spurt of superspeed hadn't been deliberate. The sound of her voice crying out in fear and pain had simply pushed him into a higher gear, compelling him to exceed his limits-- or what he'd always believed his limits were.
He'd crashed into the room just in time to see the doctor taking a scalpel to Chloe's chest. The doctor's name was Curtis Knox, and he was apparently immortal, judging from the pictures Lex Luthor had come up with, pictures that showed Knox alive across the ages.
Clark had yanked the guy away from Chloe, thrown him across the room, and ripped off one of the leather shackles that bound Chloe to the table, but then he'd gone to his knees, gasping. He'd realized a little too late that all the jars in the room contained a rather grisly collection of human organs preserved in a liquid form of kryptonite.
Even though exposure to kryptonite usually dropped him to the floor in pain, however, he'd somehow managed to regain his feet and keep fighting as Knox attacked him with an ax.
Because Chloe's life had been at stake, and that meant surrender wasn't an option.
Using the hand he'd freed before he'd been attacked by Knox, Chloe had managed to get the rest of her shackles unfastened, then pushed the wheeled table with the jars of kryptonite back, out of range.
Instantly he'd felt better, at least physically. But a vicious blow from Knox's ax had accidentally destroyed the machine that kept Knox's beloved, a young woman named Sophia, alive. Watching Dr. Knox cry over his beloved as she died made something twist painfully inside Clark.
He could all too easily imagine himself crying over a long succession of women, exactly the same way.
Because like Dr. Knox, he was immortal.
The death of Dr. Knox's love had taken all the fight out of the older man. Clark had called John Jones, his Martian associate, and John had taken Knox off his hands, promising to find somewhere to imprison him. John had removed Knox, and Sophia's body as well.
Now Clark stood staring at Chloe from across the room, looking at the small trickle of blood on her chest, remembering her cry of pain. His chest heaved with panic as he realized how close he'd come to losing her. Again.
She'd found a cloth somewhere, and was dabbing at the cut. Suddenly the panic that had gripped him broke, and he walked toward her, wrapping his hands around her upper arms.
"Hey," he said. "Do we need to take you to the emergency room?"
"Are you kidding?" She smiled without humor. "After what happened last time I was in a hospital, I've sworn off ERs for a while."
About a month ago, she'd been declared dead and put in a morgue drawer, only to come back to life. He could understand her reluctance to put herself back into the hands of the medical professionals of Smallville Medical Center, all things considered. Even so, he caught her hand gently, stilling it.
"Let me take a look," he said. "You might need stitches."
"It'll probably heal on its own. I mean, I've come back from the dead, Clark. A little cut shouldn't be a problem for me."
"Yeah, but that was a totally different situation. It wasn't your injury that killed you. It was someone else's."
They still weren't sure how her meteor power worked, or what exactly had happened at the dam that had led to her death and subsequent resurrection. All they knew for certain was that she could apparently heal other people, at least under some circumstances, and she did possess some self-healing powers.
But he doubted those healing abilities would extend to growing a new heart.
A convulsive shudder ran through him at the memory of how close she'd come to death, but he tried to ignore it. He looked at the cut on her breast, very carefully.
"I don't think it needs stitches," he said at last.
"Told you so. It's hardly bleeding any more." She smiled up at him, but her eyes were very serious despite the smile. "You got here just in time."
"Yeah," he said, his voice hoarse. "Barely."
"It's all right, Clark. Don't start with the self-recriminations, okay? You know what they say. A miss is as good as a mile."
Whenever she used an old saying like that, it reminded him of his human father, Jonathan Kent, who had been very, very fond of aphorisms. He couldn't help smiling, just a little, despite his anxiety.
"Yeah, I guess. Exactly why was he after your heart, anyway?" He looked around the room, studying the grisly collection of organs stored in kryptonite-laced fluid, and shivered at the thought of her heart winding up in one of those jars. The image made him want to throw up.
"Believe it or not," she said, "it appears my heart has an unusually high concentration of green K particles."
"Really?" He thought about that for a moment. "I don't see how that's possible, Chlo. I mean, I can hug you. Hanging out with you doesn't hurt me. If you were literally full of green K, I couldn't get near you without falling over."
"Well, I think we're talking tiny trace amounts, too little to bother even you. But he seemed to think..." Her voice lowered. "He seemed to think it was enough to keep Sophia alive forever."
His eyebrows shot up. "Are you telling me that your heart makes you immortal?"
"I don't know." Her tone was brittle. "I've already risen from the dead once, so I guess it's possible. I can't say I'm thrilled with the idea, though."
"Why not?" He stared down at her, his eyes intense. "Chlo, I've always been afraid I was going to live forever all by myself. But if both of us are immortal--"
"First of all," she broke in, "neither of us is immortal, really. Even if my body can keep on healing itself the way it did that one time, I'm pretty sure ripping out my heart the way Knox planned to do would kill me. And you may be invulnerable to a lot of things, but enough green K can kill you, too. So neither of us is immortal. We might just be sort of... really long lived."
"Still." He was stunned by the hope that filled him at the idea that she might always be there, that he might never have to lose her. "I don't want to live alone forever, Chlo. I never have. And if you're the same way, then we can help each other cope."
"I don't want to live forever."
"Neither do I. But it might not be something either of us has any control over."
She scowled. "I just don't want to think about it right now, all right? I was almost murdered just now, Clark. All I want is to get out of Dr. Frankenstein's lab and go home."
"Okay." He put his arm around her shoulders, intending to steer her toward the door. "Let's go home."
She dropped her head against his chest, just for a moment, in a gesture of affection and gratitude and vulnerability. Suddenly something strange swelled inside him, a powerful emotion he couldn't identify. The idea of living forever no longer seemed so frightening. Not if she might live forever too.
Because he couldn't think of anyone he'd rather go through eternity with.
Which was a crazy thought, because he had a girlfriend, Lana Lang. Chloe was just his friend. His best friend, sure, but still. He had no choice in the matter, of course, but if he did have a choice to make, surely the woman he'd choose to be with for all eternity would be Lana.
He thought about that, and realized with shock that it wasn't true. After just a week of living with Lana, the honest truth was that he was a little... bored. They didn't seem to have much to say to one another, and their evenings together had become very long and very quiet, until the silences grew uncomfortably strained.
Chloe never bored him. He and Chloe could talk for hours. There were no long, awkward silences betwen them, and never had been. He realized he could imagine himself with Chloe for an eternity much more easily than he could imagine himself with Lana.
A line from an old song ran through his head: I've looked around enough to know that you're the one I want to go through time with.
The realization that given a choice between Chloe or Lana for eternity, he'd pick Chloe, shocked him to the core, and everything he'd ever thought he knew about his emotions shattered to pieces.
He'd always been certain he loved Lana. But everyone knew that you were supposed to want to go through eternity with the person you really loved.
And that meant that the person he really loved... was Chloe Sullivan.
Read Chapter 2 here.