It takes a whole ’nother universe for Clark to realise how he really feels about Chloe.
Chloe Sullivan, Clark Kent
friendship, hurt/comfort, romanceIncarnation:
Chloe and Clark [friends], Chloe/ClarkTimeline:
Spoilers for Season 7’s Apocalypse; AU-ish
Author's Note: Written for simplytoopretty
for the secret_chlark
challenge on LiveJournal
What she requested: hurt/comfort, some angst, a promise made. Would not like anything super sweet or fluffy, character bashing of any kind, prefer Chlark not be to be an established couple
1. Chapter 1 by babydee1
2. Chapter 2 by babydee1
3. Chapter 3 by babydee1
4. Chapter 4 by babydee1
5. Chapter 5 by babydee1
Chloe Sullivan-soon-to-be-Dean paused in the act of smelling the roses – literally – and turned automatically at the sound of her name. A young man, looking particularly pleased to see her, was heading in her direction, and she stared at him questioningly as he approached.
What a hunk, she thought, a small smile playing at the corner of her lips. Sure, she was seconds away from getting a ring on her finger, but that didn’t mean window-shopping was a thing of the past.
“Chloe Sullivan – Smallville High, Class of ’05?” he supplied as he got to her, his expression pleasant and expectant.
She blinked. Whoa. A hunk that knew her full name and academic history going back quite a bit. She narrowed her eyes and studied the face of the handsome stranger whose manner was inexplicably familiar for someone she was sure she was meeting for the very first time, despite the detailed information he’d just provided.
Chloe gave up trying to place the face and shook her head. “I’m sorry, my inner database is coming up empty,” she said apologetically. “Do I know you?”
“It’s Clark; Clark Kent?” he added hopefully.
Nope, nothing. The name didn’t even tinkle distantly in her memory, let alone ring a bell.
Her errant thoughts must have shown on her face because he looked vastly disappointed.
“It’s okay,” he said with a sad smile. “I was a bit of an outsider in high school, so you may not remember me.”
Instantly, her reporter’s instincts kicked into high gear. Okay, now that little nugget of information just didn’t add up. Anyone who looked like this couldn’t possibly have gone through school with her and remained unnoticed by her. He was a definite head-turner. More than that, he was easily a dead ringer for her fiancé; exactly the type of person she’d have gone for as a youngster.
“Is there anything I can help you with?” she asked politely.
“Actually, there is,” he replied. “I’m trying to track down a mutual friend of ours. Lana Lang?”
Chloe almost snorted. Lana Lang, a mutual friend? This guy was clearly living on a different plane of existence.
“The cheerleader?” she said, her incredulity showing on her face. “To be honest we didn’t really swim in the same social pond, and I don’t remember seeing her again after graduation.”
His face fell, and she suddenly felt this inexplicable desire to give him a warm, comforting hug. Which was crazy, since he was a complete stranger to her.
“But you’re a reporter, right?” he asked. She narrowed her eyes at him as she nodded. How could be possibly know that? Her professional name was completely different from her personal one, and it had been years since she’d published anything under her given name.
“You did such a fantastic job with The Torch in High School, and I was hoping you could use some of your investigative skills to track Lana down,” he continued hopefully.
This time, she barely managed to stifle the snort. It looked like poor Lana was still susceptible to stalkers, several years on. Cute as this guy was, his urgent request to find The Lang has just lost him several brownie points with her. It turned out he was just another creep who wouldn’t leave a pretty face alone.
“I’d love to help,” she said, trying to sound sincere, “but I kind of have something I’m busy with right now.”
His shoulders slumped, and he gazed at her pleadingly through enviously thick lashes, and Chloe found her resolve not to assist him weakening. This dude had a patent-worthy with a puppy dog look, which was dangerously close to working.
“Hey, honey,” she heard a warm voice say behind her as a familiar hand dropped on her shoulder. She lifted her hand to cover his and smiled into the face of the man she loved, momentarily forgetting her beautiful stranger.
George Dean, her fiancé, nodded in the other man’s direction. “Who’s your friend?” he asked, returning her grin.
“He’s, er…” she turned towards him, having forgotten his name, and froze, completely arrested by the look in his wide eyes as he caught sight of her engagement ring. He looked…stricken, hurt; almost as though he’d caught his girlfriend cheating on him, or something.
“You’re getting married?” he whispered.
Well, duh. That was pretty much stating the obvious, but George chipped in before a snarky retort could find its way past her lips.
“We sure are. The wedding’s on Sunday,” he said, gazing down at her with a look that clearly said that Sunday couldn’t come fast enough for him.
The young man…Clark, that was it – swallowed hard and smiled brightly at them. “That’s great,” he said softly. “You deserve it.”
Okay, this guy was really beginning to weird her out. How would he know what she did or didn’t deserve in life? He seemed to be showing an inordinate amount of interest in her – or worse, he appeared to have some knowledge of her, which made her uncomfortable, to say the least.
Surreptitiously, she squeezed her fiancé’s hand, and he got the message.
“Oh – er…honey, your Dad just called, he’s waiting for us at the Tuxedo shop,” he lied blithely, and she grinned up at him, thankful as ever for his intimate understanding of her and his perfect timing.
“We’d better get going, then,” she said, wrapping her arm around George’s waist. She turned to Clark, who was looking decidedly upset at her departure.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t help you find your friend,” she said as they walked away.
“That’s okay,” he replied. “Have a lovely day on Sunday.”
She smiled at him. Psycho or no, he was absolutely gorgeous. “I’m sure I will.” Turning away from him, she started to step into the car.
“Chloe?” he blurted out, startling her. She stared at him, wondering what on earth was in the meds he was sure to be taking.
“I really am happy for you,” he added, looking a tad more sincere that he had the first time he’d congratulated them.
“Thank you,” she said, amused. She gave him a little wave and sat down beside her intended.
“Boy, that was weird,” she said, leaning over to give him a kiss.
“You tell me,” George said with a grin as he kissed her back and checked her seatbelt – he always double-checked her seatbelt – and started the engine. “Who was that guy?”
Chloe thought of the question in terms of the odd conversation she’d had with Clark, and the investigative wheels in her head just would not go to sleep. There was definitely something out of the ordinary about him…the way he appeared to know her, the way he reacted to news of her pending nuptials…
“I honestly have no idea,” she said at last.
Several hours later, Chloe lay alone in the double bed she shared with her fiancé. George, ever the hero, had volunteered a graveyard shift down at the Station, and as the caring fiancée, she supported and encouraged him to soar in his career at Metropolis PD. He was fast rising the ranks there, and was destined to be a real game-changer in the fight against crime, just as she was destined to be the finest reporter the Daily Planet had ever recruited.
Chloe smiled and cuddled the duvet to herself. She and George truly were two sides of the same coin.
Yawning, she stretched and glanced at the beside table alarm clock. The display read 2:00am. Wearily she rose, snuggled her feet into her bunny slippers and decided not to bother with a robe as she headed towards the kitchen for a cup of decaf.
She giggled to herself as she started the percolator. George always teased her about her coffee addiction, convinced she must have either caffeine or printer’s ink in her veins. The switch to decaf hadn’t been easy for her, but she was slowly starting to adjust to the so-called ‘healthier’ option.
Before long, she had a steaming mug of the fragrant beverage in her hands and she took a quick sip, warming her hands briefly on the mug before setting it down. As she did so, she felt rather than heard a presence behind her and uttered a prayer of thanks that the Precinct had been kind enough to send her man back home to her in one piece.
“What happened, did the Chief let you off early for good behaviour?” she smiled, turning to face her fiancé.
Chloe’s warm smile became a frozen mask when she came face to face with dark hair and green eyes – but not those belonging to her husband.
“Hi Chloe,” he said softly. “It’s me again.”
Her blood ran cold as she stared in dread at the now familiar face.
Oh, God. It was him.
The handsome stranger from the afternoon.
It was the middle of the night, she was barely dressed…and she had a stalker in her apartment.
To be continued….
“Oh, my God.” Chloe backed away from the very large man, her eyes wide with terror.
The man, Clark, saw her fear and raised his hands as if to calm her. “Chloe, don’t be scared -”
“Take what you want, and leave,” she said, her voice trembling. “We don’t have much, just…please…”
Clark shook his head and stepped towards her.
“No!” she screamed, holding out one hand as if to stop him and clutching herself with the other. “No, please!”
He froze, looking hurt at her defensive reaction. “Chloe, I don’t want to hurt you, I just -”
“Stay away from me,” she warned. “Take all our money, jewellery…everything. I won’t call the cops, I swear, just…don’t touch me.”
“Chloe, you don’t understand,” he said earnestly. “I need your help; you’re the only one I can turn to -”
“I already told you, I don’t know where Lana Lang is!” she screeched, and scrambled backward until her back hit the kitchen counter.
Oh, no. She’d blocked herself in, her phone was upstairs, and the only exit was…
…behind her intruder.
“Oh God, no,” she wailed, tears rolling down her face.
Clark stared aghast and hurried towards her. “Oh Chloe, please don’t cry,” he soothed, taking her arms in his hands. She flinched at his touch, and panic welled up in her as she tried vainly to push him away.
“Please don’t do this,” she pleaded, staring into his eyes. “Please…”
Clark shook his head. “Chloe, I’m not here to harm you-”
“I’m pregnant,” she blurted out in a desperately. “Twelve weeks. I can show you the pregnancy test if you don’t believe me.”
Clark gasped and glanced down at her still slender form, where just the tiniest hint of a bump was beginning to show.
She babbled on, sobbing in fear. “I don’t know if that’ll make a difference to you, but I beg you, please don’t hurt me or my baby-”
He loosened his hold on her arms. “Chloe, I understand why you’re panicking, but believe me when I say you have nothing to fear from me,” he said firmly. “I would never hurt you. Never. Now try and calm down; all this stress can’t be good for the baby.”
She looked into his eyes, seeing sincerity in their depths. “You’re not going to-?”
“No!” he exclaimed. “God, no.”
“Then why are you doing this?” she cried. “What do you want from us?”
He took a deep breath, and spoke. “I know I’m going to sound like a complete nutjob, but you always had an open mind and a knack for discovering the weird and unexplained, so I assume that hasn’t changed,” he said.
Chloe shook her head and stared at him hard, puzzlement beginning to take the place of fear. “I don’t understand,” she said at last. “What do you mean, ‘always had’? And why do you speak as though you know me?”
“Because I do know you, Chloe,” he said softly. “You’re my best friend…and you kind of sent me here.”
She stared at his as if he had gone mad.
“Can you hear yourself?” she said in disbelief. “No offence, but you sound like a crazy person!”
He shrugged. “None taken. I told you you’d think I was a nutjob.”
“Clark, I think you’re confused,” she said gently. “I have a best friend, yes, and you do look a little like him…but you’re not him. I have never seen you in my life before today.”
“Not in this life, no,” he said. “But in an alternate reality…” he trailed off, and she rolled her eyes as she heard what he was suggesting.
It was the Butterfly Effect pick-up-line. We were together forever in another universe, I gave you up for the world, I just need to make sure you’re okay, boo-hoo, boo-hoo…
She rested her hands on her hips and shook her head derisively. This was so not what she needed at two in the morning.
“Oh, I get it,” she leered sarcastically. “Let me guess; you’re going to tell me to-” she added finger quotes “-‘come with you if I want to live’ right before a cybertronic assassin bursts in, and then you’ll inform me that the baby I’m carrying is going to be the saviour of mankind,” she snarked. “Tell me, what am I gonna name him – John Connor?”
“I know it sounds like some lame science-fiction movie plot, and it seems stupid that I’m even attempting to explain this, but I’m not from the future; just an alternate reality,” he explained. “We’re the same age as we are now.”
“Oh, so you only moved across the timeline, like horizontally instead of vertically,” she said, nodding and stroking her chin with mock seriousness. “Yeah, that’s makes so much more sense. Really.”
“I swear, every word is true,” he insisted.
Chloe sighed and regarded him with genuine concern. He was loopy, that much was clear. Thankfully he didn’t appear to be violent, but he really wasn’t well. Chances were there was some handler out there frantically looking for him.
“Okay…Clark,” she said, using his name for the first time. “It’s Clark, isn’t it? I didn’t want to offend you earlier, because I didn’t want to get ravished within an inch of my life, but now that I see you’re a somewhat decent sort, I have to ask: are you off your meds, or something? Is there someone you want me to call, or…?”
To her great surprise, Clark smiled at her and shook his head. “I should have known snark would come into play sooner or later,” he grinned. “You always have a sharp retort at the ready, no matter what the situation.”
At his familial tone, Chloe stiffened and folded her arms. “Look, I’m sorry, but you really are freaking me out,” she said bluntly. “I appreciate that you don’t want to hurt me, and I know you just want someone to talk to, but it’s the middle of the night, and -”
“Your name is Chloe Ann Sullivan,” he said softly. “You were born in Metropolis General Hospital on the tenth of November, 1986, to Gabriel and Moira Sullivan. You were the third baby and first little girl to be born in Met Gen’s brand new East Wing back then, and your 1-day old photo hangs on the wall along with those of the two little boys who preceded you. You’re an only child; grew your first tooth at six months, walked at nine months, and your first word, according to your dad, was ‘why’, which you repeated often. And still do.”
Chloe stared at him in flabbergasted shock. Sure, there were some things he’d said that could have been gotten from Lowell County records…but there were others that could only have been known by someone close to the family.
“Your Mom left home when you were five,” he went on quietly. “You came downstairs one morning, and saw your Dad trying to make waffles for your breakfast.”
Chloe paled, and her legs started shaking. She’d never told anyone that, not even George.
“At first you thought she’d just walked out on you, but I assume that in this reality as well as ours, you’ve long since discovered the truth: that she was caught in Smallville’s meteor shower and developed a powerful ability from the meteor rock radiation.”
“The ability to control people’s actions and take away free will,” she said quietly.
He gave a slight nod. “Exactly. She decided to have herself committed after she inadvertently caused you to hurt your hands trying to clean ink off them. You thought you’d cut them-”
“…playing kick-ball,” she whispered, sinking into a chair before her trembling legs gave way on her.
He nodded. “Should I go on?”
She nodded in a daze.
“You and your Dad moved to Smallville in the Millennium year,” he supplied. “I’ll try to stay away from details of the two of us, because you won’t have experienced it, but I’m pretty sure you wore the same pair of Doc Marten boots throughout your freshman and sophomore year in this reality as well.”
For the first time since this crazy night began, Chloe managed to crack a genuine smile. “Oh my God. You really do know me, don’t you?”
He grinned. “Well, don’t take just my word for it,” he said, extricating his wallet from his pocket. “Here.”
She stared up at him suspiciously, and then took the proffered item from his hand and flipped it open.
Her eyes widened in surprise. Looking back at her was her own face, grinning from ear to ear with her flippy blonde locks in wild disarray. Freshman year, she realised, recognising the purple top and the army jacket she had on. In the picture, she was leaning over a desk and touching heads with a much younger version of the man in front of her.
Naturally she was sceptical. Being a true product of the Digital Age, Chloe couldn’t discount the possibility that this was all an elaborate hoax with carefully gathered information and digitally enhanced images via Photoshop. But the picture she held in her hand looked one hundred percent genuine.
Curiously she turned it around, seeing the yellowed handwriting on the reverse side.
Chloe & Clark; Lab partners for life!!! was scrawled in her own handwriting, along with a few smiley faces, her childish signature, and another one that she assumed was Clark’s.
“Unbelievable,” she whispered, tracing the photo with her fingertip.
He smiled. “I have a photo of you in that wallet from every year that I’ve known you,” he said quietly. “It’s sort of my thing.”
Chloe leafed through the pictures, everything seeming so surreal. She was seeing photos of herself, hairstyles she’d had, clothing she’d owned…and in all of them, Clark was grinning by her side.
There was some other stuff in there, too; some IOU’s in Clark’s writing that had her signature and some snarky comment on the bottom; receipts for items purchased in her name, and, most curiously, a pressed white rose petal in one sleeve.
“What was happening here?” she asked, tapping a photo of them in formal wear. She was wearing a fuschia pink dress, he was in a sharp suit, and they were smiling at each other as if they shared a secret that the rest of the world didn’t know.
“Spring Formal,” he said. “We went together. The petal was from the boutonnière you pinned on me.”
“I went with Pete Ross,” she said, smiling with nostalgia. “He was my closest friend in Smallville High before he and his family moved to Wichita.”
Clark smiled. “If you slide that picture aside just a bit…” she did as he instructed, and gasped. There was a picture of her, Clark, Pete and Lana sitting on a crumbling stone wall, grinning like little explorers.
“Wow,” she whispered.
“Oh, and your Dad let me have this one…” he dug into a corner of the wallet and pulled out a tiny, passport-sized photo of her when she was about eight or nine months old.
“Dad doesn’t give away baby pictures,” she said softly. “If he let you have this, then you and I must be really close.”
He nodded. “We are.”
After a long moment, Chloe finally spoke.
“Clark…if what you say is true, then why are you here?” she whispered. “Has something happened that’s put your reality in danger…what?”
He sighed deeply. “It’s a really long, incredibly crazy story,” he finally said, “but basically, someone is about to go back in time and kill me when I was a baby. If that happens, humanity is doomed.”
Chloe folded her arms and gave him a disbelieving look. “Okay, forgive me my derisive scepticism…”
“Forgiven and forgotten, and I wouldn’t expect anything less of you,” he quipped with a smile.
She ignored the familiarity he was projecting and went on. “Thank you. Now I come to the question: what makes you so important to the human race?”
He gave a wry smile and sat down next to her – careful, she noted, not to invade her personal space. “Funny you should say that,” he mused. “Because I happen to be an alien.”
To be continued…
On her Stranger than Fiction Richter Scale, there was no digit large enough to quantify the incredulity of what she had just listened to for the last half hour.
He’d told her all about how he’d been placed on a spaceship and sent to earth moments before his home planet of Krypton had exploded, and how the earth’s yellow sun endowed him with superhuman abilities. He’d grown up with a family on a farm in Smallville, and his parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent, had done everything to ensure that he’d had as normal an upbringing as possible.
Still, it all sounded very far-fetched, and much the product of an overactive imagination – and that was putting it delicately.
“So…Kal-El?” she echoed.
“Uh-huh. But I prefer Clark.”
“Of Krypton, you say?”
She fixed him with a suspicious, frosty glare. “Isn’t that an element on the Periodic Table?”
“It’s also a planet; or at least it was until it imploded,” he patiently explained. “As I told you earlier, that was the day my parents sent me to earth.”
“How very convenient for you,” she mused, feeling contrite when Clark looked at her with a hurt expression in his eyes. “Sorry, I forget you think all this is true.”
“It is true, Chloe. And I can prove it to you.”
“Oh, really?” she drawled, picking up her now tepid coffee and taking a cautious sip. “Don’t tell me you have your spaceship handy.”
He ignored the barb and instead nodded towards her coffee mug. “What me to reheat that for you?”
She blinked. “Excuse me?”
“Allow me.” He focused his gaze on the mug, and to her complete surprise, heatwaves began to emanate from his eyes. Within seconds, her cup was steaming hot again.
“Okay,” she finally managed when the shock began to wear off. “What the hell was that?”
“Heat vision,” he explained. “I have a host of other abilities which I don’t have time to go into right now, because the world I know and the one you live in are both in danger of being blown into oblivion – and like I said earlier, you’re the only one who can help me.”
“Me?” she gasped. “What’s any of this got to do with me?”
“I did some checking today,” he said. “You seem to be the only person who dares to tell the world the truth about Lex Luthor and what he’s capable of.”
On hearing Lex’s name, she bristled. “Lex Luthor has something to do with this?” she said, her voice hard.
“He’s in league with the person trying to kill me,” he said. “And no-one’s safe from him in this reality, either.”
“What the hell is he up to this time?” she asked, exasperated.
He swallowed. “Chloe, he plans to wipe out the entire Southern Hemisphere with a nuclear attack, and start a Third World War.”
“What?” she gasped.
He went on. “While the rest of the world is blaming the wrong countries attacking innocent nations, he’ll be picking up what’s left in the desolated areas and turning himself into the most powerful man in the world.”
“Do you have proof of all this?” she asked sharply.
Clark reached into his inside jacket pocket and handed her a sheaf of papers. “I knew you’d want to see these,” he said.
Quickly she scanned the confidential documents, seething as she verified their authenticity.
“That megalomaniacal bastard,” she swore, before rubbing her lower belly gently. “Sorry, little one,” she said sheepishly to the baby. “Back on topic: when is all this supposed to kick off?”
“We don’t have much time,” he said. “The launch coordinates go live tomorrow at noon.”
She exhaled deeply. “I see. What can I do to help?”
“The missiles are programmed to a remote detonator and are all scheduled for launch at the same time. I was hoping you might be able to override the command and initiate a shut-down sequence instead.”
Her eyes widened in dismay. “Oh, man. Clark, I’m nowhere near that kind of tech-savvy,” she replied, alarmed. “I used to be a decent enough hacker back in the day, but that was years ago.”
He sighed, and ran a hand through his hair desperately. “Could you at least try?” he pleaded. “You never know, it could be one of those things that come back to you as soon as you step back in the saddle.”
She frowned and bit her lower lip as she tended to do when she was worried.
“Computer hacking is hardly the same thing as riding a bicycle, Clark,” she answered.
He refused to give up. “Chloe, I know I’m essentially a stranger as far as you’re concerned, and I’m asking so much of you, but…” he paused, then crouched down and knelt in front of her, taking her small hands in his.
“I don’t know what’s happened to the world I live in, Chloe,” he admitted, sounding desolate. “It could be gone for all I know. And I sure as hell don’t want Lex Luthor or anyone else to send your world to hell in a handbasket as well.”
Chloe stared at their joined hands, her mind in utter turmoil. It wasn’t everyday a card-carrying alien showed up on her doorstep. It certainly wasn’t everyday that said alien told her that the fate of the world rested on her fair, dainty, unable-to-tan creamy shoulders.
“If you won’t do it for me,” Clark went on softly, “then do it for the future of your family.”
Automatically her hand went to her abdomen, and she seemed to draw strength from the life blossoming in her womb.
“Okay, I’ll do it,” she said at last. “Or at least, I’ll take a darn good shot at it. I’ll just grab my laptop, and-”
Suddenly there was a quick breeze, and Clark held out his hands. In one was her MacBook, which had been upstairs in the library. In the other was a robe that had been hanging on the bedroom door.
“Another one of my many talents,” he said with a smile.
This time, Chloe couldn’t help smiling back.
To be continued…
Chloe worked tirelessly through the night trying to crack the command codes.
Clark had been right. Once she’d started working on the algorithms, all the rust caking her knowledge of computer systems and their inner workings seemed to just buff right out.
She’d managed to discover that the missile system was using a triple-Helix installation code with 56 panels, and that each panel had to be decoded separately and independently before they could even begin to hope to shut down the master command. She explained all this to Clark as he poured her another cup of orange juice.
He seemed to be a sweet enough guy. He’d outright refused to get her any coffee, not even decaf, and she was beginning to believe that maybe, in another life, another time and another place, they really were as close as two people could be.
Several times through the night as she sat working, Clark had forgotten that she wasn’t the Chloe he knew, and would lean right over her shoulder, so close that his breath would tickle her ear and lift the hair at the side of her face. She’d fix him with a hard stare, and he’d slink away with a sheepish grin, only to reappear over her shoulder five minutes later.
“So how close are we, exactly?” she asked after she’d given him the back off glare for the third time. “I mean, in your universe, of course.”
He gave a warm smile, and his eyes lit up as if a light bulb had gone off inside him. “Closer than close. We’ve been best friends since the day Principal Kwan handpicked me to give you your orientation.”
“We hit it off just like that?” she said, genuinely interested.
He nodded. “Just like that. It was really strange, because I’d had no female friends up until then, but you and I…we just share this bond that’s been there from the very beginning.” He grinned. “It might have something to do with the fact that you gave me my first kiss, though.”
“Oh, did I?” she said, startled. “That doesn’t sound like me.”
“Well, you claimed you wanted us to kiss and get it out of the way so that we could be friends,” he said. “So far, it seems to be working.”
“Huh.” She focused her attention on the computer screen before something else struck her.
“Are we together, as a couple?” she asked suddenly.
“Er…no,” he said carefully. “We’re not.”
“And why’s that?”
He sighed. “Chloe, there’s almost a decade of history between us, and only a few hours to potentially go through it with you,” he said. “I don’t want to start something I can’t finish.”
“It’s a simple enough question, Clark: why aren’t we dating?” she asked bluntly. “If we’re as close as you say we are, if I’m the only woman really trust and share everything with…then why aren’t we together?”
He scratched his head and frowned. “It’s complicated, kind of,” he hedged.
She shrugged and continued working. “I only ask, because with everything you’ve told me about our history, you’ve pretty much described the relationship I have with my fiancé,” she explained. “We’re best friends, we tell each other everything, and we’re as close as close can be. It’s only natural that we ended up together.”
“But didn’t either of you worry that getting together might mess up your friendship?” Clark asked hesitantly.
She shook her head. “Nope. Why would it?”
He sighed. “Maybe fear of upsetting the status quo; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, that kind of thing,” he explained.
“Or maybe you just had your eye on someone else,” she deduced wisely with a smug grin.
Clark’s face reddened and he shifted uncomfortably, and Chloe knew she’d hit the jackpot.
“Let me guess: Lana Lang?” she drawled.
He flushed. “How did you know?” he asked in a small voice.
She snorted, and adopted a deep voice. “Hi Chloe, I’m Clark, we went to school together, and can you please find Lana Lang for me?” she joked.
He had the good grace to hang his head. “I guess that was pretty damning,” he admitted.
“So did you and Lana ever date?” she asked.
He made a wry face. “We dated. And we broke up, and then dated some more. And then broke up…”
“Ah, one of those relationships,” she said with an amused smile, typing away furiously. “What was the problem?”
He sighed. “I couldn’t be honest with her about who I really was.”
“But you could with me.”
He nodded and smiled. “That’s right, I was.”
“And I assume she knew that you and I had a secret that you couldn’t – or wouldn’t - share with her.”
“She always suspected we were hiding something from her, and was curious as to why we were so close, so I suppose that’s a yes, as well.”
Chloe smiled. “It’s funny,” she said. “George had a girlfriend at the time we met, but as he and I grew closer, he realised that I was the one he spent all his time with, and not her,” she said. “I was the one he was calling for hours on end, the person he was sharing his life with.”
She glanced across at him and noticed his thoughtful expression as he pondered her words.
“For what it’s worth,” Chloe went on, nodding at her computer screen, “Lana Lang is now Mrs Lana Rousseau, and she runs an art gallery in Provence. Her husband, Pierre, is a local entrepreneur. They have two little girls, and live in a villa in Southern France. They appear to be very happy.”
“It’s good to see that she’s okay,” he said, relieved. “Thanks for that.”
“Glad I could help.”
She typed on, but kept thinking about the relationship she shared with this man in another reality.
“You’re just not into me, are you?” she said suddenly.
“Huh?” he said, startled.
“Earlier, I made a comparison of our relationship in your reality with the one I have with George in this one,” she explained. “Now, if you and I are partners in almost every sense of the word - which you’ve said we are - I’m quite curious as to why you’d pass up on the chance to make something more of it.”
“I should have known you’d talk too much in this reality, too,” he grumbled.
“I’m serious, Clark. If there’s nothing to be gained from hanging out with you, why would I continue to do so?”
“Hey, what’s wrong with me?” he said defensively.
“Nothing’s wrong with you, Clark,” she said patiently. “Something must be wrong with me. The other me.”
“Nothing’s wrong with you, Chloe,” he said. “You’re the most caring, giving person I know.”
“Aaah, so that’s it.” She turned to him and stared directly into his eyes. “I’m in love with you, aren’t I?”
Clark swallowed nervously. “We’re best friends, you and I,” he began, but she shook her head.
“That wasn’t the question,” she replied. “I know myself, Clark. I would be in love with you, because you’re the perfect stand-in for the man I love here. The only difference, however, is that while I love you in this other world, you’re saving all your lurve for Lana. Correct?”
“So you’re getting the best of both worlds,” she mused. “You have this wonderful woman who you literally share your life with, and who no doubt worships the ground you walk on…and all the while, you’re lusting after the pretty girl. Amazing.”
“But you’re pretty,” he said defensively.
She shrugged nonchalantly. “I’m not the girl people cross a crowded room for, which is fine with me,” she said simply as she worked on the codes. “I’m just surprised and disappointed in myself that I let you take me for granted so much.”
“Hey, I don’t take advantage of you,” he protested.
“Of course you do, who wouldn’t?” Chloe said, her eyes gleaming. “You love Lana, but you keep me around because of what you can get from me.”
“No, that’s not how we are, Chloe!” he said firmly.
She ignored him. “Yikes. Am I that desperate and pathetic that I cling to you so fiercely, regardless?”
“I don’t have any self-confidence,” she surmised. “The other me, that is. Otherwise I’d have left you to do your dirty work long ago. Looks like I’m still waiting for you to open your eyes and see me.” She glanced at him and smiled. “But that’s never gonna happen, is it?”
“It’s not like that, Chloe,” he said, but she laughed and shrugged again.
“You don’t have to get all defensive, Clark. The Chloe you have with you isn’t me. If I could say anything to her, though, I’d tell her to be a bit stronger, and look out for Number One until the right person comes along.”
Just then, all her algorithms fell into place, and the number to unlock and reprogram the missile codes appeared on her screen.
“Got it,” she grinned, and wrote it all down on a sheet of paper which she tore off and handed to him. “Here you go. You need to find a way to key this in at the parent computer within the final 60 seconds of the countdown, or it’s all over.”
Clark heaved a sigh of relief and gave her a brilliant smile. “You’ve saved me again, Chloe,” he said. “Thank you.” And before she could stop him, he’d wrapped his arms around her in a warm hug.
She stiffened and pushed against him. “Uh…Clark? Doing it again,” she said dryly.
“Oops, my bad.” He released her and shook his head with a short laugh. “I’m sorry, I keep forgetting…”
Chloe folded her arms and stared at him questioningly. “Do you love me, Clark? The other me?” she asked directly.
His head jerked up and he stared back at her like a deer caught in the headlights. “What?”
“You heard me. Do you love Chloe? Or is she just a fantastic go-to girl and sounding board for when things go sour between you and Lana?”
He started to reply vehemently, but then his face turned serious as he really pondered on what she’d said.
“Well?” she prodded.
Finally he faced her squarely and spoke. “Chloe’s pretty much part of the fabric of who I am,” he said at last. “I can honestly say that she’s the one person I’d love to share my life with. I can’t imagine my life without her in it.”
He took a deep breath and continued. “My day isn’t complete if I haven’t seen her smile or heard her voice. I hate to see her sad, and my greatest fear is finding out that she’s in danger. Sometimes I go by the Daily Planet just to watch her work. I think she’s at her sexiest when she’s hot on the trail of a story.”
He paused again and shrugged. “So that’s how I feel about Chloe,” he concluded. “Is that love? I don’t know. But I do know that I like what we have, and would hate to lose it.”
Chloe nodded thoughtfully, and then glanced at the clock.
“It’s getting late,” she said, “and George will be home soon. You’d better get going, or my fiancé will wonder why a strange man was with his girl all night.”
“I’d hate to compromise you,” he said as he got to his feet. “Don’t worry, I’ll be so fast, no-one will see me leave.”
“All the best with the mission,” she said as she saw him to the door.
“I couldn’t have done it without you, Chloe,” he said warmly, smiling at her.
She smiled back, and then frowned and paused in the act of unlocking the door.
“Clark, can I ask you a favour?”
He nodded. “Anything. What is it?”
She took a deep breath. “I’m fortunate enough to be with someone who’s always treated me as an equal, and as such I’ve become a stronger person with him; and he with me. We’re stronger together.” She paused, and then continued. “I can see that you’re flourishing with Chloe by your side…but is she?”
Clark swallowed and stared at nothing in particular. Finally, he turned his attention back to her.
“What do you want me to do, Chloe?” he asked quietly.
“I want you to be honest with me, and with yourself,” she said gently. “If you want her…me…with you for keeps, then tell me. If it’s Lana or anybody else that you fancy…then let me go, before I become so attached to you I don’t know where you end and I begin.”
She folded her arms and continued. “I know myself, Clark. That’s just the way I am, and I’d hate for you to keep me on a string and risk damaging our friendship irreparably.
“So I guess what I’m saying is, don’t keep me around just for your benefit,” she said. “Consider my feelings, too. If I’m not what you want, then I need to move on from you…sooner rather than later.”
Clark was silent for long moments before lifting a hand and cupping her cheek.
“I promise you that I’ll be honest with you,” he whispered. “Even if it means losing you.”
Chloe smiled and nodded. “Thank you. It means a lot.”
“Listen, um…can I hug you?” he blurted out, startling her.
She took his hand away from her cheek and squeezed it gently. “I’m not the one you want to hug, Clark,” she said wisely. “Go sort this thing out; I’m sure you’ll get home safely somehow. Then you can give me as many hugs as you want.”
He smiled and stepped out into the hallway. “You always know just what to say, Chloe,” he said. He turned to leave, but then stopped and stared intently at her misdesction, and then smiled.
"Do you want to know what you're having?" he asked.
Chloe gasped and lifted a hand to her belly. "You know?" she whispered.
He nodded. "It's your call."
Chloe hated not being in the know about anything, and even though her first sonogram was scheduled for the following week, the suspense was killing her.
"Uh....okay. Pink or Blue?"
He gave her a big cheesy grin and winked. "Blue."
And with that, he sped off in a blur of red and blue, leaving her standing in her doorway with her eyes and mouth wide open.
Two seconds later, the elevator doors pinged and a weary George came round the corner.
“Hey preggers,” he greeted as he walked tiredly towards her. “What are you doing up so early?”
She grinned and wrapped her arms around him. “Excellent question, my dear. But before I tell you, I think I’ll let you have a sleep first…you’re definitely going to need it.”
To be continued…
Clark’s heart hammered rapidly against his ribs as the countdown on the dial ticked its way through the final sixty seconds.
Getting past security had been a breeze – literally – but the missile launch chamber was fitted with motion detectors and heat sensors, so he knew it wouldn’t be long until security came barging through the door. He just hoped it would take them longer than one minute to discover the intrusion, and that they wouldn’t be packing any form of meteor rock, refined or otherwise.
‘Sixty seconds to launch,” an automated female voice droned.
It was now or never. Quickly Clark started to input the code that Chloe had given him, and as he did so, alarm bells shrieked insistently in his ear.
Furiously he typed the complicated code in, swearing as he wrongly entered a digit and had to reinitiate the shutdown. Just then the doors burst open, and a swarm of armed guards flooded in. And of all things, they just happened to be carrying the one thing he feared most…
Of course. Lex had always had his suspicions about the effects of meteor rocks on people and substances, and being that he was in league with Brainiac in this reality as well as his own, it stood to reason that Lex would be reliably informed about its effect on extraterrestrial visitors of the Kryptonian persuasion.
As the soldiers neared him, he automatically began feeling the ill effects of the radiation on his system. His knees weakened, his stomach roiled and pain began to lance through his entire body. Unable to hold himself upright, he sank to the floor, reaching up a hand to the computer’s console to key in the final digits.
“Stop, or I’ll shoot!” yelled a guard as he cocked his gun and took aim.
Clark gritted his teeth and stretched up as far as he could, managing to reach the panels.
The guard made good on his word. A hail of bullets rang out in his direction and several of them struck his outstretched arm. Clark screamed in pain from both the gunshot wounds and the kryptonite radiation, wishing for the sweet release of death but determined to save the lives of Chloe, her baby and the rest of the world.
With a final burst of speed he reached up, keyed in the final letter and pressed Enter.
A deafening roar assaulted his ears as multiple gunshot wounds were fired and bullets tore into his flesh. Excruciating pain began to give way to a brilliant white light, and Clark felt like he was being sucked into a whirling vortex of shimmering cosmic energy.
It didn’t last long. In a flash, he found himself upright, and the brilliant illumination that had surrounded him disappeared as fast as it had come.
“Clark?” he heard Chloe say in front of him. “Clark! Oh, thank God you’re back!”
He held his head and steadied himself. “Chloe?” he said groggily.
“I’m so relieved,” she breathed, flinging her arms around his neck. “One minute I was pressing the octagonal disk into your hands, and the next I was standing in an empty barn. I was terrified I was never going to see you again.”
“Chloe,” he repeated raggedly, staring intently at her. “My Chloe?”
She leaned back and blinked at him. “How many Chloe’s do you have, Clark?” she asked in puzzlement.
“Oh God, it’s you,” he breathed, and yanked her hard against him. “Thank God. I thought I’d lost you.”
“You’d lost me?” she echoed, bewildered. “Clark, you’re not making any sense. I’m the one who was standing here waiting for you while you who disappeared into thin air.”
“Exactly,” he said. “I disappeared and found myself in a world that didn’t have me in it.”
“Whoa, slow down, buddy,” she said, leading him to the old red couch. “Here, sit down. Take a breather, have a rest, and then break it all down for me.”
Chloe listened patiently while he gave her a quick run-down of his experience in the alternate universe, mentioning briefly how he’d needed her help to save billions of lives.
“So, you found me, but I was about to be married?” she said, intrigued.
He nodded. “To a Metropolis crimefighting hero with dark hair and green eyes.”
Her eyed widened. “Clark, are you trying to tell me we hooked up in this other life?” she said with a giggle. “I thought you said you weren’t in that other universe.”
He shook his head. “No, it wasn’t me, it was…” suddenly it hit him. In a world in which he did not exist, Chloe had ended up with the next best thing; a man who, to put it bluntly, was essentially him in every respect.
“Who was he, Clark?” she persisted, interrupting his thoughts.
Just then, there was a glow and a hum from the steamer trunk, and Clark quickly rose and retrieved Dr Swann’s diary.
“Another message?” she asked.
“It’s Kara,” he said as she came to stand beside him. “She’s in trouble. Brainiac’s gained access to Jor-El’s quarters, he’s going to stop me from taking off.”
“Oh, no. You need to get out there now, Clark,” she urged, her eyes filled with worry. “I don’t care what this other world you saw was like, or how happy I was in it; if you aren’t there, then it’s the wrong one.”
“I’ll sort this.” He grabbed the octagonal disk from the table and slipped it in his pocket, then turned to leave.
He turned, and saw Chloe wringing her hands, her eyes alight with unshed tears.
“I just…wanted to say good luck,” she finished lamely. “Good luck, and be safe. I don’t want to lose you again, not after I just got you back.”
Clark’s heart melted as he read between the lines. How had honestly not accepted before today what was right in front of his face?
Quickly he made his way over to her, determination in every stride.
“I’ll be careful,” he promised. “And if I never see you again…” he reached out, took her in his arms and kissed her.
Chloe was startled for a second, then her arms burrowed into the hair at the back of his neck, and then they were locked in an embrace reminiscent of the one they’d shared almost exactly a year ago. He kissed her deeply, moulding her body to his as his tongue stroked hers, and his hand moved possessively over her back.
All too soon he lifted his head and looked into her startled, wondrous eyes.
“I love you,” he said earnestly. “I love you Chloe; with every cell in my body, with every heartbeat. I hope to God I make it back, so that I can show you just how much you mean to me.”
She opened her mouth to talk, but he placed a finger over her lips and shushed her.
“I have to go save the world now,” he said gently. “We’ll talk more when I get back, I promise.”
He turned and hurried down the barn stairs, feeling as though a heavy weight had been lifted from his shoulders. Just as he reached the doorway, he heard her voice from the balcony.
“I love you too, Clark,” she said tremulously, a smile on her face even as a tear rolled down her cheek. “I always have.”
He nodded and smiled. “I know.” And then he headed out of the barn with a renewed sense of purpose.
Without a doubt, he knew that this was the way things were supposed to be.
And for the first time in his life, he felt truly complete.
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