Clark, Chloe, George
Season 7, SPOILERS FOR APOCALYPSE
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
She looks happy.
It's Clark's first thought when he sees her, and the impression only grows stronger as he talks to her. She's beaming, so cheerful and carefree her smile is almost blinding.
He hasn't seen her smile like that in a long, long time.
She's the first person he came to for help when he found himself in a strange world, a world in which he apparently never existed. She's the first person he thought of coming to for help.
But then, she's always the first person he comes to when he needs help.
He found her Smallville address in a phonebook at the Kent farm, but once he got near the town, he hadn't needed the address. He'd been able to hear her heartbeat quite clearly. He'd easily located her on a street corner and asked her for help finding out if his girlfriend Lana was okay in this reality. Really, he'd almost begged her for help.
But she declined politely, telling him that she just doesn't have time to help him.
The idea that she might be too busy to help him out doesn't quite fit into reality as he knows it. Chloe always helps him. Always. In his world, even when she complains that she's too busy, that she's going to get fired, that she doesn't know how to help him this time... she always tries anyway.
But this version of her doesn't know him from Adam, because he never existed here, and she's polite but firm about it. She has a life, and that life doesn't include him. She has other things to do.
The other things seem to involve the tall, dark-haired guy standing beside her, his arm wrapped possessively around her shoulders. Clark's a little surprised it isn't Jimmy Olsen-- but no. Jimmy Olsen has never made her look this happy.
This guy, on the other hand... they look very intimate with one another, and he wonders if the two of them went to high school together, if they have the long, complex relationship he and Chloe had in his own world. She mentioned earlier that the two of them are getting married on Saturday, and that knocks Clark for almost as big a loop as the idea that she doesn't have time for him.
The guy is a police officer, judging from the t-shirt he's wearing, and his wide, bright smile matches Chloe's precisely. They look happy together, ridiculously so, and Clark is suddenly reminded of pictures he has of himself and Chloe together in high school, pictures in which they're grinning wide, idiotic, identical smiles. Pictures where they're happy together.
He and Chloe haven't smiled together like that for a long time. A year, at least. Things have been so grim, so bleak, and he just hasn't felt like smiling, and neither has she.
On some level, he's glad that in this world, without him, she's happy. But on another level, that makes him feel like crap. It almost seems he was right, and that everyone is better off without him. In this world, his dad is alive, and his parents are off on a romantic cruise. And they have a son-- a son named Clark Kent, even. Judging from the color of his hair and the shape of his nose, the kid is their biological son. The son they always wanted.
His parents are better off without him. And maybe Chloe is, too. God knows she's happier.
He really wishes he could have made her that happy.
He thinks he could have made her that happy, if he'd ever really tried. He looks at the big cop squeezing her shoulders, and Chloe lifting her hand to his, and wonders why he never tried.
He's been totally focused on Lana this year, on trying to make their on-again, off-again relationship work, but the truth is that Lana doesn't make him smile. Lana doesn't even make him happy, not really. And that's a depressing thing to think about his own girlfriend, and about a relationship he's sunk so much time and effort into, but it's the truth. And what's even worse is the realization that he doesn't make Lana smile, either.
For the first time, he wishes he'd spent more time with Chloe instead. Because he really misses that big, dazzling smile.
Pasted to a board a little distance away is a purple poster with a swan, advertising a Metropolis performance of "Lohengrin," which strikes Clark as mildly amusing. He hung around with Lex Luthor, who practically worships Richard Wagner, long enough to know that some theme or other from "Lohengrin" is the song played at most weddings.
Here comes the bride...
He looks at the tall guy standing next to Chloe. There's an American flag waving in the wind behind him, and he has a sudden vivid image of the guy as the epitome of an American hero, big and brawny and strong, cheerfully risking his life on a daily basis, saving innocents day in and day out. The kind of guy Chloe deserves.
The kind of guy he himself could have been, maybe, if he'd tried just a little harder.
It occurs to Clark that the five-sided shape on the guy's chest looks a lot like a shape he once had branded onto his own chest by an overbearing AI, a long time ago. It looks oddly like the sigil of his Kryptonian house. And for a moment, he has the very odd impression that it could be himself standing there, his arm wrapped around Chloe, her hand resting possessively on his. That could have been him, if he'd wanted it to be.
But he'd never wanted her that way.
At least, he'd never thought he had. But now, looking at that bright, happy smile, he wishes very much that he'd put it there. Well, not on this Chloe's face, but on the Chloe in his world. The Chloe who knows him, the Chloe who doesn't think of him as some random stranger on the street.
Confused by the emotions swirling inside him, he looks at her and her fiance, and dredges up a polite smile. They have places to go and things to do, and she's made it quite clear that she doesn't have time to help him. It's time for him to go.
"I'm happy for you," he tells her.
And then he turns and walks away, wishing it were true. Wishing he really felt happy for her. Wishing he didn't have these odd, conflicting feelings washing around inside him, making his chest ache and his teeth grind together.
In this world, Chloe is happy. One hundred percent, completely, utterly happy. And he ought to be pleased by that.
But the idea that Chloe is so happy in a world without him, that she's lived a happy and fulfilling life without ever knowing him at all... well, it hurts. It makes him feel irrelevant.
He wants to matter to Chloe Sullivan's existence. He wants her to need him.
He remembers words uttered by the Chloe in his own world, in a desperate, anxious tone: We need you. I need you.
But maybe she doesn't need him, after all. And if she doesn't need him... then maybe he was right, and the world doesn't, either.
Maybe it's not just his parents and Chloe. Maybe everyone is better off without him.
He breaks into a run, and leaves Smallville, and Chloe, and all his confusing feelings, behind him.