Season 9 (my version)
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Summary: Jor-El tells Clark a Kryptonian legend of true love.
I know that love is seeing all the infinite in one
In the brotherhood of creatures; who the father, who the son
The vision of your goodness will sustain me through the cold
Take my hand now to remember when you find yourself alone
And the spirit fills the darkness of the heavens
It fills the endless yearning of the soul
It lives within a star too far to dream of
It lives within each part and is the whole
It's the fire and the wings that fly us home
-"The Wings That Fly Us Home," John Denver
I'll let you go for now, hoping one day you'll fly back to me. - Chloe Sullivan
Let me tell you a tale, my son, the AI said.
Clark blinked into the blue light that surrounded him. It was, he thought hazily, odd to have his father telling him stories, after all these years. Very vaguely, he remembered the same voice telling him tales in the darkness. As he flew across the galaxy as a baby, the ship had been programmed to tell him of his heritage, and it had done so. But he had been very young, and remembered nothing at all of the stories it had told him.
Zeb-Te was the last son of a proud House of Krypton, the AI said. Clark felt a vague stirring of memory at the name. He listened more intently as the AI went on.
Zeb-Te loved a woman, the most beautiful, most noble woman on the planet. She was glorious, and he adored her.
But she was scarcely aware of him. He was, as I said, the scion of a proud House. But his House had fallen on hard times, and no longer had riches or status. The many years of his House's noble history were not enough for this young woman, and he knew it.
So he strove to become worthy of her. He became a Hero.
A hero? Clark asked. Somehow he got the impression the AI meant something more than the word meant in English.
A Hero, my son. One of those who were chosen to protect the planet against attacks. Krypton was a civilized society, with virtually no crime, but there were many other worlds that wanted to take our civilization for their own. The Heroes protected us all. They were respected, even revered. And Zeb-Te became the greatest of them all, the most beloved figure of his day, the one true protector of the planet.
Clark found himself intrigued. For the first time, he understood the cultural history that had led Jor-El to send him to a distant planet, not just to survive there, but to protect it.
And somehow the story struck a chord of memory deep inside him, as if he'd heard it before. So did the girl finally notice him?
She did, Jor-El answered. She fell in love with him because he was a Hero, a famous, world-renowned figure. She loved him because of his fame, because the bards sang songs about him and the storytellers wove tales about him. And at first, Zeb-Te was very happy. But before long, he began to wish that she had loved him for himself, and not for his heroic deeds.
Clark could understand that. He'd once loved a girl who hardly seemed to notice him, and he remembered how happy he'd been when at last she saw him as more than a geeky farmboy. And more recently, he'd been pursued by a woman who seemed mostly interested in him because he'd saved her.
But there was someone else, someone who had always loved him just because...
He turned his mind resolutely from that thought, and listened.
Slowly, so slowly that he was hardly aware of it, Zeb-Te's affections turned to another woman, a woman who had been his devoted friend since they were children. She was not so beautiful as the other, nor so nobly born, and yet there was a connection between her and Zeb-Te that couldn't be denied.
So he fell in love with his best friend, Clark said. Even in the midst of the trance, he felt his cheeks heating. He'd finally figured out why the story struck a chord with him, and it wasn't because he remembered it from his childhood.
He did, Jor-El replied. He recognized her love as real and true, as unyielding as the rocks, as fierce as the winter cold, as gentle and brilliant as the moonlight. And to his surprise, he found that he loved her every bit as much as she loved him.
And so they lived happily ever after, Clark said wryly.
Alas, no, the AI answered. The beautiful girl was enraged at what she saw as Zeb-Te's betrayal, and she sneaked up on them whilst they were sleeping peacefully, and killed them both with a dagger. They died side by side, holding hands.
Clark stared into the blue light. Why are you telling me this, Jor-El? Are you all out of happy stories?
It is a tale from your heritage, the AI responded evenly. And you have not yet heard the end of the story, my son.
Okay. Tell me the ending.
On Krypton, the people once believed in reincarnation, just as many Earth cultures do. They believed that a worthy soul might live again to win what was taken from it in its first life. And so it is said that one day Zeb-Te will live again, and so will his love. He will become the one true protector of his people once again, and this time his beloved will be at his side all his life long. And the two of them will live out the long, happy life they were robbed of so long ago.
Clark mulled this over. How long ago did Zeb-Te live?
A thousand years or more, my son.
Clark thought about that. A thousand years is a long time, Jor-El. Even if Zeb-Te's soul were reincarnated, suppose he didn't recognize her, and fell in love with another woman instead? Suppose he screwed up, and she couldn't forgive him? He hesitated. Suppose... suppose she no longer loved him?
A love such as that never fades, my son. A thousand years is as nothing to it.
Clark considered that, and felt a little flame of hope begin to burn in his chest. Jor-El, he said at last. Release me.
The vivid blue light around him faded, and he shook his head, trying to rid himself of the slight disorientation that always gripped him after a training session.
"I love her," he said softly, into the dimness of the Fortress. "I've always loved her. And this is why."
Jor-El's voice sounded more remote when he actually spoke out loud. "It is but a story, my son."
"No," Clark said, very softly. "It's the truth."
"Perhaps it is," Jor-El conceded. "Truth and legends can be very difficult to untangle when one tries to extract them from the mists of time."
"It's true," Clark repeated. He couldn't have said how he knew. He only knew, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that somewhere within his spirit lived Zeb-Te.
Once upon a time, he had been a Hero. Once upon a time, he had loved and lost.
And now... now that he knew, now that he knew whom he loved, and for how very long he'd loved her, he couldn't lose her again.
"I do not claim to know what is true, my son. But if you believe this to be true, then you know what you must do."
"Yes," Clark said. "I know."
He walked to the entrance of the Fortress and stared out into the bright sunshine of an Arctic day. The long-suppressed memories of another life were beginning to make themselves known, and he wanted to talk to her about it, right now.
Metropolis was a long distance from here, even for him. He could superspeed home, or take the portal.
But there was another way.
He'd tried to fly before, and failed utterly. But something inside him had changed as the awareness of another life lived so long ago filled him. Gravity no longer had a hold on him. The only hold on him was her spirit, calling to him across the miles, across a millennium-- a deep and endless connection he'd always been aware of, yet never recognized for what it truly was.
He remembered what Jor-El had said. A love such as that never fades, my son. A thousand years is as nothing to it.
But a thousand years was, he thought, far too long for a soul to wait for its mate.
It was long past time for him to fly back to her.
He bent his knees and leapt into the sapphire sky, and flew back to his one and only love.