Season 8, "Doomsday" and future
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Read Chapter 4 here.
Read the story from the beginning here.
He jerked his head to the side automatically, in order to save her from breaking her hand. And then he looked back at her, rubbing his cheek. It hadn't hurt, of course, but he'd long ago gotten into the habit of reacting the way a human would.
"I'm glad to see you, too," he said wryly.
Her eyes were beginning to blaze gold. "You've been gone for years, Clark. Years. And you never bothered to let me know where you were."
"I didn't know I'd been gone that long," he said, a little defensively. "It didn't feel that long. I was training, and... well, I didn't get a chance to use a cell phone, all right?"
Her eyes narrowed. "You've been training for five years?"
He glanced around, seeing that the bullpen had grown quiet. Numerous pairs of eyes were fixed on them, apparently drawn by the sight of "Lois Lane" slapping the hell out of him.
"Um," he said. "Maybe we could go somewhere a little less public?"
She inclined her head, very slightly, and turned, making her way out of the bullpen. He followed her, suddenly remembering all those times he'd come to see her in the Planet's basement, how she'd done filing or copying or other paperwork, while he followed her around, explaining whatever his latest problem was.
Nostalgia for those days, back when they'd been partners, hit him so hard his chest hurt. He called on his training, breathing slowly and steadily, trying to push the emotion away.
Out in a quiet corner of the marble-floored hallway, she turned to face him. "Okay," she said. "So you've been training for five years."
He nodded. "Jor-El wasn't quite honest with me--"
"Oh, there's a surprise."
He ignored the snark. "He told me it would take months. He failed to mention that he meant sixty-three months."
"Clark..." She stared into his eyes. "Clark. I thought... I thought you were gone for good."
"I'm back," he said softly. "I came back for..."
I came back for you were the words that rose to his mouth, but he choked them back, because they were stupid. First of all, she was married, and second, he was supposed to be avoiding human emotions.
"I'm back to protect Metropolis," he said at last.
"So," she said, a coolness in her voice he didn't like. "The Blur is back."
"I'm not the Blur. Not any more. I'm supposed to be, you know, visible. So I can be a symbol of hope for the people of the Metropolis."
"How modest of you," she drawled.
He was a little hurt, because she'd been the first one to talk about him being a symbol of hope, a long, long time ago. But maybe she'd lost a little faith in him while he'd been gone. Looking at it from her perspective, he couldn't really blame her.
"What about you?" he asked. "Why are you going by Lois' name?"
She sighed. "It's hard to explain, Clark. It's just... she just faded out. She's gone, and she's never coming back, and it was so unfair, you know?"
"Yes," he said gently. "I know."
"Well, I finished up a few of her old articles for her editor. She'd been fired, but I talked him into taking them. But then... well, he liked the job I did on them, and he offered me her old job. And I agreed to come back to the Planet on one condition-- if he'd let me use her name as a pen name."
She blinked hard, as if even after five years, the thought of Lois made her tear up. "She deserved to have her name remembered, Clark."
"Chlo," he said softly. "You deserve your name remembered, too."
"I don't know that I do," she said softly. "I lost everything back then, Clark. Lois... Jimmy... you... all the mistakes I made led to losing all of you..."
He imagined everything that had happened from her perspective, imagined how truly alone she must have felt. And suddenly he could imagine her wanting to reinvent herself, not as Chloe Sullivan, whose life had been torn apart, but as an entirely different person.
But Lois. Why Lois? The original Lois had never been his favorite person, and he couldn't quite envision himself calling her Lois. He wondered if she'd mind if he called her Chloe, just as he always had.
"Um," he said, feeling inexplicably awkward, as if she was truly a stranger, and not the same girl he'd known since middle school. "So that's about it for me, really. Sixty-three months in an ice castle. Uh... what about you?"
He didn't want to admit he'd been watching her, and knew more about her than he should. She smiled.
"I'm engaged," she said.
Engaged. Okay. Engaged was better than married, although not much. Engaged meant that he still had a chance to put things right, to...
No, he told himself firmly. You have to remain emotionally distant. You and Chloe Sullivan can't even be friends, let alone...
"Engaged," he echoed, trying to sound enthused about it and failing utterly. "Congratulations."
"And I... I have a son."
He was grateful he'd already known, because that news would have knocked him to his knees otherwise. He nodded steadily. "Really. You and your fiance...?"
"No," she answered. "This was... someone else. My son is four years old."
Four years old. He thought about when he'd left. Considering that "four years old" could mean anything from "turned four today" to "about to turn five," the child could be his...
Except he'd never made love to Chloe Sullivan, so that was a stupid, stupid thought. Of course the boy wasn't his.
"I'd love to see a photo," he said.
She hesitated. "I don't have one on me," she said.
He thought that was odd. Surely she had a picture on her cell phone, and of course she carried her cell phone around, because she was a journalist and always needed to be in contact with the world. He frowned, wondering why she didn't want him to see the kid. Sure, the boy bore something of a resemblance to him-- but she knew as well as he did that they'd never made love, so there was no chance he was going to draw the wrong conclusion.
"Okay," he said. "You have a son and a terrific job, and you're engaged. It sounds like things are going great for you."
"Yes," she said, looking at him. There was an odd mixture of defensiveness and vulnerability in her eyes. "My life is wonderful."
He tried to smile. "I'm glad," he said, and meant it. Of course he wanted her to be happy. That was all he'd ever wanted.
And yet despite his words, he felt an odd sensation, almost a pain, deep in his chest. Jealousy, maybe, or sorrow, or perhaps hurt. Yes, that was it. Despite all his efforts in learning to suppress his emotions, he felt hurt.
Hurt that she'd managed to be happy without him.
More to come...