Notes: Wow. It's been a long, crazy ride, huh? I checked back - I posted the first part on November 11, 2004. That seems obscene.
1. I really want to thank everyone who read this and encouraged me to keep going. It meant a lot.
2. Since I wrote FT in little spurts - I'm sure there are some continuity/grammar/nonsense issues. After the dust settles, I'm going to go back and overhaul the whole thing - sure things up, delete stuff, add stuff - the works. I'll post the redux as a standalone.
If Future Tense had a soundtrack, it would be:
I Am a Highway - Audioslave
24 - Jimmy Eat World
Candleburn - Dishwalla
Stay, Stay - Kay Hanley
Part 9: Exeunt
Name the monsoon
My love's a stormy afternoon
Clark switched his flashlight on. Its bulb flickered and Clark knocked it with his palm. Soon a steady stream of light illuminated the shadowy cave.
He had been able to convince Lex that what he had witnessed back at the mansion was a car jacking in progress. That Clark had been on his way to see Lex when someone had jumped into his path, causing him to swerve off the road. The man had pulled him out of the truck at gunpoint and, when Clark foolishly fought back, clocked him with the hilt of the gun.
Clark told the story with his eyes down, not fully prepared to look at the person who had saved his life - and in a few year's time would then attempt to snatch it away.
Lex called for a tow truck, and Clark thanked him. Once again his head was down.
He met up with Lois about five minutes down the road, where she had pulled off to the side and sat anxiously awaiting his arrival. When he crested the hill and hobbled into view, she jumped out of the car and wrapped him in a giant hug, tears of relief and apology watering her eyes.
She explained that after she had put the Kryptonite safely back into the lead box, she had spotted Lex leaving his house. She had no choice but to get into the car and drive off before he had a chance to see her.
She asked his forgiveness and he gave it to her. She had saved his life, after all. Twice.
When they got back to the farm Lois instructed him to go in and get cleaned up. Looking down at his mud caked clothes, Clark thought that it sounded like a good plan. She said she would meet him in an hour at the Kawatche caves where they would be able to create the exit portal that would send her back home. In the meantime she needed to have a long talk with the girl who sat on the steps of the front porch, as she had been for the past twenty minutes, waiting for their return.
Clark nodded and exited the Jeep, holding the door open for Lana as she slid into the passengers seat of her own car. He smiled nervously as she looked him over with curiosity, and a large part of him was very glad that Lois would bear the burden of explanation this one time.
The hot water felt good, but he found new places that ached as the strong jets from the shower head thrummed against him. While he ran the soapy washcloth over his body he noticed that his wounds were already beginning to heal. He put on a clean set of clothes, his second of the day, and didn't bother tossing the old ones in the laundry. Their fate was the trash can.
His parents had returned from his aunt's shortly after, blood pressures spiked and armed with questions - The most immediate being why he had lied about his aunt having called. He told them he would explain everything later, but first he had to meet Lana at the caves. He felt bad lying once again, but Lois had stressed that until she was safely back to her time, no one could know she had been there.
Clark walked over to the symbols on the wall. He traced them with his fingers, understanding each a little better. Himself. His enemy. His soulmate.
"We really dodged a bullet there, huh? Some of us more literally than others."
Lois' voice echoed in the cave as she ducked through the entrance. She had broken off a thin branch from one of the Maple trees outside, and had it gripped like an epee.
"I wanted to be the one to tell her," Clark confessed, to neither of their surprise.
"I know you did. But even you don't know the whole story."
"How did she take it?" He crammed his hands in his pockets and braced himself for the worst.
"Well. I gave her the same speech you gave me the day you finally came clean. Very affective. After all, you had been working on it for years." Lois dropped her shoulder bag to the ground and fished through it, finally pulling out the Scroll.
As if reading his mind, she added, "She'll keep it safe, Clark."
He nodded. "I figured I could trust her. But then again, I also assumed I could trust Lex."
"Well, that's an upshot of being from the future,. It takes out the guess work."
She unfolded the paper, smoothing the creases as she did. "Gonna keep a death grip on this one. It's not getting away from me again."
"Where's the other one?" Clark asked, noticing she was talking in the singular. He had seen her take Trask's scroll as well.
She smiled, cryptically. "Let's just say it's with its rightful owner."
Lois began to trace patterns into the dirt on the ground, following the scroll as a guide. "I know this whole thing has been kind of a wonderland tour for you," she began, making a long shape that resembled a backwards 'S'. "But I want you to know that you are an amazing person - a fact that you don't hear nearly enough."
Clark blushed. "Funny, I was going to say the same thing to you."
She stopped briefly to shoot him a smile. "Careful. The Kent charm has always been my kryptonite," she said with a wink.
Lois stepped back and assessed her work. It looked like a jumble of squiggly lines to Clark, or some elaborate algebra problem. Either way, it made zero sense. But Lois seemed satisfied, tossing the stick to the side and clapping the invisible dust from her hands.
As the question left his mouth, Clark could sense a shift in the atmosphere. Just like the day before when Lois was first spit out into the cave, the air began to crackle and spark. Clark turned to see the spinning gyre forming behind him. It was memorizing - like something a hypnotist would use to knock you out fast.
"Well, that's my swirly portal." Lois held her bag at her side, looking as if she were about to board a bus.
There was a pregnant pause as the two regarded each other, unsure of what to say.
"Stay," Clark blurted, finally.
Lois arched an eyebrow. "Now we both know that can't happen."
Clark smiled, sadly. "I know. I had to try, right?" he joked, half-heartedly.
Lois stepped forward. "Remember, Clark. It might be hard sometimes, but you're never alone."
Clark stared at the woman who, in a matter of days, had erased a lifetime of self-doubt, and felt the need to say something profound. He wanted to tell her that she had done more for hm than she could ever know. That she made him feel like he belonged. The assurance that despite being so far from home, he was exactly where he was supposed to be.
"Thank you. For everything." Clark frowned. It didn't seem like enough.
Lois nodded and pulled him into a quick hug. She ruffled his hair. "I'll see ya around..." she promised. And then with a sly smile, added, "Smallville."
Clark could feel the portal. It had a pull - a gravity - that tugged at his back.
"It's going to be really strange, knowing about the future. Sitting on my hands and waiting for it to happen."
Lois' smile fell. She quickly looked away. "You won't have to," she said, in a near whisper.
Her head was down as she slowly stepped back, loosening the ties on her shoulder bag. "I told you when this started, Clark. No one can know about me. No one can know the future." Her voice was hollow now. Mechanical. When she finally looked back up at him, a tear had slid down her cheek.
It made his stomach twist. "Lois, it's a little late –"
Lois reached into bag and pulled out a small ring box. When she opened it, a cobalt stone inside pulsed with light.
It hit like a haymaker.
Clark reeled backwards, overcome by dizziness. He suddenly felt as if he were on a high wire that was shaking beneath his feat. He struggled for balance.
"It's blue kryptonite," Lois explained, walking closer. "Simple exposure is relatively harmless - It's like heat exhaustion or an intense fatigue. But 4 seconds of direct contact to your skin and you won't remember any of this."
Clark stumbled. "What about Lana?" He coughed. And for a moment, thought he would vomit.
Lois shot a look towards a black wavy symbol on the cave wall. It was the one that Lana now wore on her lower back. "She's the Guardian." she said, simply.
Clark shook his head. Lois' words slipped through his consciousness like water through a sieve. What had she just said?
"You have to understand, Clark. Time is like a carefully woven fabric - one stitch informs the next. If you misstep, the design changes. The best way to ensure the future is by blissful ignorance of the things to come. I want us to work at the Daily Planet together. I want you to fool me with a pair of glasses. And I want you to fall in love with me when it's raining."
She removed the rock from its casing and working it over in her palm.
"I do love you, Clark." She was so close now, his knees began to buckle. "But I love our future more."
"Lois," Clark croaked.
She went up on her toes and laid a light kiss on his lips. "This won't hurt. I promise," she whispered. She undid the first button of his shirt and moving the fabric to one side, touched the stone to his chest.
Clark's world spun. Images flashed in his mind in rapid motion, fading to white like a Polaroid in reverse.
Darkness crept in. It snaked through his mind, and cloaked his memories.
When the kick came it was hard and sudden, the sharp rubber heel of the boot hitting Lois just below the ribs. She fell to the ground, and landed, hands first, with a head rattling thud. Impact sprung the kryptonite free from her tight hold and sent it skidding across the cave floor. .
"Hey, Miniskirt. Pick on someone your own size."
Lois froze. She knew that voice.
As her counterpart moved closer, Lois hid her face from view. She suddenly caught sight of the kryptonite, a blue beacon flashing in the darkness. She crawled towards it, snatching her purse along the way.
"What the hell is this?" She heard her younger self exclaim behind her, and knew she had finally noticed the portal. As if a gaping hole ion the universe was easy to miss.
Lois grabbed the kryptonite, and stuffed it into her bag as she made a run for it. Without turning back she hopped through the portal, silently praying that three seconds had been enough.
When Clark woke up, he was met with a strange, but not altogether unpleasant sight.
Lois Lane was straddling him.
"Hey there, Sleeping Beauty. Nice of you to join the waking world."
"Lois?" Clark rubbed his eyes. When he blinked again she was still there.
"The one and only." She grabbed his hand and pulled him to his feet. "Who was the woman?"
"I don't know." Clark rubbed the back of his head. He looked around. Where...?
Lois scoffed, loudly. "What do mean you don't know? It's sort of a policy of mine to get the first and last of someone who is trying to kick my ass."
"I mean I don't remember," he said. "A woman. Why I'm on the floor. Any of it..." He trailed off as he tried desperately to recall something, anything, that had happened in the past hour. Day. It was as if there was a giant hole where he knew memories should have been.
A migraine sat heavy on the front of his head.
"Amnesia? Again?" Lois was stunned. "Jeez, Smallville. This is becoming, like, a complex with you."
"I was down here with Lana, and then..."
He blew out a frustrated breath. "I don't know."
"Okay, well that was non-helpful." Lois scanned their surroundings, and stopped when she got to the symbols still etched in the dirt. She stared at them suspiciously. "You're not in a cult, are you, Smallville?"
He sighed. "What are you doing here?"
"Well since something has yet again control alt deleted your frontal lobe, I'll catch you up." Lois bent down and picked something up. "Hey! A flashlight. Yours?" Clark looked at it and nodded. Lois began again. " You called me last night. Do you remember that?"
"No." He didn't. "Why?"
Lois shrugged. "Honestly? I have no clue. It was 1 am and you got a yen for idle chit chat. Normally I would have chalked it up to the typical weirdness that is you..." She waited for his glare, and when it didn't come she continued, "But Chlo called me too. A couple of hours before. Equally odd conversation. I thought I better investigate. So when my last class of the day was over, I hopped in the car and drove down."
"How did you find me?"
"Your mom said you'd be here. But here's where it turns Twilight Zone. She asked me how my history project went"
Lois eyeballed him. "Clark, I'm not even in a history class."
"I don't have an explanation for you." He hadn't meant for it to take the defensive tone that it had.
Lois rolled her eyes. "There's a shocker."
There was something about her next smile that was warming. It wrapped him like a security blanket.
"Look, don't sweat it. I've learned not to expect them when it comes to this town. Besides, we don't want to overload your already fragile mind. Let's just be grateful that I got here in time. You really dodged a bullet on that one."
Something nipped at the back of his brain. Deja vu. He tried to put his finger on whatever it was - something so close but still out of his reach.
Catching his stare, Lois cocked her head. "What?"
Clark shifted uncomfortably. "I thought I remembered something."
"And?" she asked, hopefully.
She looked disappointed. "What you need is caffeine. We'll get you back to the house and I'll whip you up a batch of my special drink."
A thought struck him. "The hummingbird?" And just as quickly as it had come, it was gone again, leaving him confused.
Lois patted him of the shoulder. "See? The important stuff is coming back to you."
He became aware of his quickening pulse, his heart beating soundly against his chest. Her closeness had set something off - something deep down and visceral. His mind had no recent memory, but something else did.
He closed his eyes and concentrated on the feeling. He tried to hold on to it, but it got away, and the thick fog settled back in. When he opened them Lois was smiling, her eyes so bright and reassuring that he couldn't help but smile back.
He wasn't sure what had happened, but he was certain that she was part of it.
And that one day, he would remember how.
When they exited the cave, a strong wind whipped across Clark's face. Clouds were settling overhead and in the distance thunder growled.
He shrugged off his coat and offered it to Lois.
It looked like rain
Will Clark remember?
What is Lana's role?
Did Lois make it back?
These questions and more answered in "The Guardian"
For the trailer go to Devoted to Clois, K-site, or DTS