Thursday, March 13, 2008

Even the Weariest River

Clark/Chloe futurefic angst
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.

Written on the first anniversary of my soulmate's death.

We thank with brief thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be
That no man lives for ever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea.

-A.C. Swinburne

"Chloe. Wake up."

"Leave me alone, Clark."

"Please. You have to try. You have to."

"I can't." Her voice was cracked with age and exhaustion. She lay curled in their big king-sized bed, looking so small and frail it almost hurt to look at her. "I'm so tired, Clark. Just let me sleep."

"Chlo." He knew he sounded desperate, but he didn't care. He sat on the edge of the bed, careful not to jostle her, and fixed her with a pleading stare. "Please. You can heal yourself. You've done it before, plenty of times."

She opened her eyes. They'd once been clear and bright, the vivid green-gold of spring, but now they were milky and rheumy with age. He knew his own eyes were as brilliantly green as ever, and that knowledge angered him.

"There's nothing to heal," she answered, her words slow and halting. "I'm just... old."

"You can't leave me." He held onto her thin, gnarled hand as desperately as he dared. "Please, Chlo. Try to fix whatever's wrong. Just try."

"I don't want to." Her voice was a dry whisper. "I'm a hundred and forty-two years old, Clark. I've lived long past when I should have died. I don't do anything but lie in bed all day. I hurt, all the time. And I'm so tired."

He was just as old as she was, yet he looked no more than thirty. He ran a distracted hand through the hair on his head-- hair that was just as thick and dark as it had ever been-- and stared at her plaintively.

"I can't lose you," he said softly. "I can't."

Her hand squeezed his, very feebly. "You have to let me go, Clark. Sooner or later... I have to go."

"No." Anger and denial surged up inside him. "I won't let you go, Chlo. I won't ever let you go, damn it."

"No one lives forever." She spoke in a faint voice. "No one should have to."

"I have to."

He heard the bitterness in his own voice. She stroked her thumb over his palm in sympathetic understanding, and he clung to her hand like a child hanging onto a security blanket.

"Please don't leave me, Chloe. Don't go."

Her eyes had drifted shut, and there was a long silence. He thought she'd fallen asleep. But at last she spoke.

"What if I want to go, Clark?"

He stared down at the woman he'd adored for a hundred and twenty years. She was frail and slight, her hair pure white, her face a mass of wrinkles. She looked ancient, whereas he looked as young as ever.

And yet she was what he loved most in the world. She'd been a very pretty woman when she was younger, but he didn't love her for her exterior. He never had. He loved her right down to the depths of her soul, and the fact that she looked like his great-great-grandmother didn't concern him in the least.

She was everything to him. She always had been.

Despite himself, he heard her voice echoing in his head. I hurt, all the time. And I'm so tired.

He'd meant what he said. He couldn't bear to lose her. Part of him-- most of him-- wanted to prod her to heal whatever had gone wrong this time, to nag at her until she managed to marshal her dwindling strength and fix whatever the problem was.

But for the first time, he allowed himself to recognize that she had a choice here. It was her choice to decide to heal herself yet again, not his.

And she didn't want to.

"Clark." She held his hand, just as she'd done every day for the past hundred and twenty years. "Believe me. You can let me go. Everyone learns to let go, somehow."

He bent his head. A teardrop splashed onto their clasped hands.

"I don't want to," he whispered.

"I know." She squeezed with all the feeble strength in her arthritic fingers. "But you've always wanted what's best for me. And trust me. This is what's best for me."

He nodded, shutting his eyes against more tears.

"Go to sleep, Chlo," he said, struggling to keep his voice steady. "I love you."

Her hand squeezed his, one more time. "I love you, too."

She drifted into sleep, and he sat on the edge of the bed for a long time, listening to the beating of her heart, a sound that had been an integral part of his existence for over a century. He could hear the rhythm of it growing irregular, slowing, faltering, and he wanted to wake her up and pester her into fixing whatever was going wrong inside her.

But he remembered her voice: This is what's best for me.

He sat quietly, holding her hand, and didn't awaken her. Eventually, gradually, the sound of her heartbeat faded.

There was silence.

Chloe had been the center of his life for over a century. But as important as she'd been to him, she'd died quietly and unspectacularly. In the end she'd just faded out peacefully.

He supposed he should be grateful for that.

But somehow, he couldn't find it in himself to be grateful. All he felt was a terrible, bitter sorrow. Chloe had been the only woman he'd ever truly loved. She'd been his whole world. And now... his world was empty.

He thought of her words: No one lives forever. No one should have to.

Death, he thought, was a friend, not an enemy. Death was an escape from pain and exhaustion and sorrow and grief. Everyone on Earth was allowed that escape.

Everyone except him.

-The End-


Anonymous said...

Well thats sad(crying)!!!But awesome story at the same time!!!!

DeeDee said...

Aw Elly, this HURTS!!!

That being said, it's so well-written that you can imagine it happening.

Please put an angst warning at the top of the page for us pregnant women who are liable to burst inot tears at the drop of a hat!!!

Well done, Elly!


KeKe said...

Oh, Elly......**no words, cries**

Nikole said...

Wow... Elly
I cried, my tears like poured out of my eyes.
Very well done, and so heart breaking.

CT said...

I avoided this story for as long as I could, because frankly, I knew it would hurt me (knowing you were thinking of Don too), and it did just that. It cut me to my core--as all really fantastic writing should do. It was worth the read, even though I had to pay for the experience with tears.