Manip by leothelion. Used with permission of the artist.
Season 6 and futurefic
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Story inspired by the two manips that accompany the story: the first half was inspired by leothelion's manip above, and the second half was inspired by electricmonk33's manip below.
Now as I look into your eyes
Well I wonder if it's wise
To hold you
Like I've wanted to before
I was thinking that you might
Be the one who breathes life in this heart of mine
Next time I fall in love
I'll know better what to do
Next time I fall in love
It will be with you
-"Next Time I Fall," Peter Cetera and Amy Grant
She hated falling.
Chloe Sullivan felt herself plummeting through the air, her arms waving in a wild but fruitless effort to catch something. The railings of the Daily Planet staircase flashed by her, but she couldn't grasp them, couldn't break her fall.
All she could do was plunge to her death.
Clark, she thought, and heard her own voice calling out the name. Logically, there was no point in calling for Clark. He was probably in Smallville, and couldn't possibly hear her from there. Anyway, when she and her boyfriend Jimmy Olsen had found themselves fighting for their lives, she'd already called him on her cell phone and left him a desperate voice mail asking for help. If he was available, he'd have been here by now.
But she'd called his name... just because. And now she was going to die with his name on her lips.
It occurred to her that she'd rather die saying his name than saying her own boyfriend's name. Odd, but painfully true.
Clark Kent had been her best friend since middle school, the guy she relied on in every crisis, the guy she talked to every day. Even though she was dating Jimmy, even though she was supposedly in love with Jimmy, it was Clark who was there for her, day in and day out. If she needed to talk to someone at two in the morning, it wasn't Jimmy she called. It was Clark.
The painful truth was that she'd loved Clark for a long time, almost since the very day she'd met him. But he didn't return her love, and recently she'd forced herself to pull away from him.
But she suspected that someday, she'd fall right back into love with him again.
Or at least she would have, if she hadn't been about to meet a messy and untimely demise.
She tumbled through the air, wondering if she'd feel it when she hit the marble floor beneath, or if it would be so mercifully quick she wouldn't even feel pain. She closed her eyes, knowing that she was about to be snuffed out like a candle.
And then something caught her.
She didn't even have to look to know it was Clark. It was always Clark. Somehow, he'd gotten there just in time to save her from going splat against the marble.
Because getting there just in time was what Clark did.
She opened her eyes and looked up to see him staring at her, an indecipherable expression on his face.
She stared back, seeing the man she relied on to save her, every single time. The man who'd been her best friend since middle school, the man she talked to when she needed help or laughter or a shoulder to cry on.
The man who, if she was going to be totally honest about it, was the cornerstone of her life.
In his eyes she saw a kaleidoscope of relief and concern and affection, and she was pretty sure he was thinking some of the very same things. He lowered his head toward her, just a bit, and for a giddy moment she thought he was going to kiss her.
But she suddenly remembered Jimmy had seen her fall over the railing, and was probably racing down the stairs as fast as he could possibly go.
Deliberately, she broke the intense moment between them.
"You didn't have to wait till the last second, you know," she said lightly.
Clark blinked, and then straightened a little. Taking his cue from her, he flashed a cheerful grin, as if she hadn't come within a second or two of a very unpleasant death.
"What fun would that be?" he asked.
Chloe heard footsteps echoing above, and an anxious voice calling her name. Clark smiled at her, but she thought she saw a flicker of sorrow in his eyes. And then he put her down and whooshed away.
She watched him go with the sinking feeling that she'd had something precious within her grasp... and she'd let it go.
Someday, she thought as Jimmy came racing down the last few stairs and flung his arms around her. Maybe the next time I fall.
Manip by electricmonk333. Used with permission of the artist.
They were still partners, even after all these years. Chloe wrote under the name "Lois Lane" now, but she was the same person she'd always been, devoted to exposing the truth, even when it pissed people off. Clark had gotten through college and become a journalist, too, and now they worked together in a professional capacity at the Daily Planet.
Jimmy Olsen worked with them as a photographer, but her romance with him was a thing of the far distant past. In fact, romance in general was a thing of her far distant past. She worked too many hours, drove herself too hard, to become involved with a guy. Any guy.
But no. If she was going to be honest with herself, that wasn't totally true. The truth was simply that she and Clark were so close now that she simply couldn't imagine letting herself get close to another man.
Not that she and Clark were in love. They loved each other, sure, but they weren't in love. Not in the romantic sense. Even after she'd said goodbye to Jimmy, she and Clark had never quite managed to open the last remaining door between them and start up a physical relationship. She'd never been certain enough of his feelings for her, or her feelings for him, to risk it. It was safer just to maintain their relationship at the friendship level.
But she trusted him to save her, and he always had her back. He was there whenever she needed him, and he depended on her, too. The truth was that they were far more than merely friends.
Clark Kent was still her cornerstone, even after all these years.
No other man could hope to compete with that.
It was a beautiful spring morning in Metropolis, and the air was unusually clear. She could see for miles. But right now, she wasn't enjoying the view. Tumbling through the air over Metropolis really wasn't the best way to see the city.
She'd been in a WGBS helicopter, on her way to a big story downtown, when the pilot had suddenly gone crazy, or possibly had something take over his mind. He'd forced her out of the copter, despite her frantic struggles.
Now she was falling through the clear morning air. And it was a long way down.
It made the fall she'd taken in the Daily Planet all those years ago look like a mere stumble in comparison.
She'd screamed for Clark, of course. She was still screaming, in fact, because falling from a terrifying height had that effect on her. She had dealt with a lot of scary things in her life without fear-- but falling from a helicopter and plummeting toward the city far, far below just seemed to call for screaming. So she screamed.
But Clark-- Superman-- hadn't come when she called. He was in Qurac, she remembered grimly, helping the survivors of a civil war there. There was little chance he'd hear her.
And she understood that. Really. Even Superman couldn't be everywhere at once, and sometimes he was busy saving hundreds or thousands or even millions of people. No matter how close they'd been over the years, no matter how close they'd grown as friends and partners, her life didn't outweigh the lives of all the people Superman might be saving right now.
No matter how much she and Clark meant to each other, there were times when he simply couldn't put her first. And she was very afraid this might be one of those times.
But as the grim thoughts flashed through her mind, something caught her, stopping her descent. She looked up to see a pair of worried green eyes and a head of windblown dark hair. Behind the familiar face, a crimson cape rippled in the wind.
"Hey," Clark said, keeping his tone casual despite the concern in his eyes. "I got here as fast as I could."
She wanted to match his casual tone and make a quip-- for the world's fastest guy, you're pretty darn slow, or something along similar snarky lines-- but as she looked into his anxious eyes, she just couldn't quip.
He was holding her up. Supporting her. Lifting her. Just as he always did.
Clark, she thought. My cornerstone.
Her arms were already around his neck, but she tightened them. He looked surprised, but not at all displeased, and his arms tightened around her, too.
"Chlo," he said, very softly. "I worry that one of these days, I won't be around to save you."
It could happen. They both knew it. But she also knew that he'd never failed her yet.
"I don't," she answered steadily. "You're always there for me, Clark, and I'm always there for you. That's just the way things are."
His eyes darkened. "But if I'd been a few seconds later--"
"You weren't. You never are."
He studied her face for a long moment, and she stared back at him, letting her faith in him shine from her eyes.
And then, very slowly, he lowered his head and kissed her.
It was only a light buss, a cautious, tentative brush of his lips, but it set her world on its head. She pulled back and looked at him, wondering how long he'd been watching her with that expression of stark adoration in his eyes, and why she'd never noticed.
She looked at him, and suddenly she didn't see the friend she'd always known. She saw the man she loved.
And judging from the look in his eyes, he loved her too. Not just as a friend and partner, but as a woman. She wondered how long he'd been waiting, quietly, patiently, for her to fall in love with him.
Someday, she thought, had arrived, and she'd fallen back into love with Clark Kent. Or maybe she'd never really fallen out of love to begin with.
She kissed him again. He kissed her back, and this time it was more than a timid buss. A lot more.
It didn't really matter whether she'd been in love with him all these years or not, she reflected. What mattered was that somewhere along the way, their relationship had become the most important thing in their lives. What mattered was that she finally knew how she felt about him. It didn't really matter whether she'd fallen for him in middle school, or two minutes ago.
All that mattered... was that she'd fallen.