Author's note: Hello, all! So very sorry this took so long to get out to you. It was a hard chapter to finish because I wanted to make sure the time travel issues weren't going to be too funky-weird. Also striking the emotional balance was difficult - hopefully I was able to.

So, this chapter needs a word of explanation for sure. I don't know about all of you, but S8 really, REALLY destroyed Chloe's character for me. I could not find any kind of justification for all of the things she did behind Clark's back and against his wishes in the whole Davis Bloom affair. And we're not even talking about her relationship with Jimmy. What I especially didn't like was how, after everything she did, they made her into a 'hero' with Jimmy's speech at the end. Unfortunately, Clark's character wasn't strong enough to stand on his own two feet at that point, so in a lot of ways, he followed Chloe's direction and it ended up with a lot of people dead. Which, I think, could have been avoided if Clark had been allowed to do things his way.

I also didn't like how the show never really addressed any of what she did to any real degree. Oliver did initially, but then after that, everything was dropped. And Clark barely raised an eyebrow, which was so frustrating as a viewer. Even in S9, when Chloe was still walking that fine line and dipping her toes in the gray areas Clark wouldn't approve of, they rarely had him really take her on about it. I think there were several times that the underlying lack of trust between Clark and Chloe reared its ugly head (one that comes to mind is when his first reaction to Lois being kidnapped from the hospital in Pandora was to accuse Chloe), but again it was never really discussed.

So, this chapter is a bit of indulgence to my need to have those things addressed. Now, I am fully aware that Clark would never be this harsh or 'cruel' to Chloe and I've tried my best to write Clark in a way that he doesn't say or do anything he can't come back from. I hope I succeeded, though I know that technically he's somewhat OCC here.

Also, really quick timing note. The Chloe/Clark flashback section fits in between Chloe showing up at Lois' apartment unexpectedly after having been to the morgue to identify Lois' 'body' (chapter 13) and chapter 15 when Oliver comes back to Lois' apartment to find Clark, but finds Chloe on the deck instead. Hope that helps with the timing.

Having said all of that, it's kinda an intense chapter and I would love to hear what you think. I think. :)

And if it helps you to hate me less because of this chapter, Lois and Clark's reunion is VERY close at hand! :)

Hugs,

M


Chapter 18

"Betrayed us." Lois Lane repeated, unbelieving. "To be clear, is that you 'us', me 'us' or…"

"Us as in my time, Lois." Clark finished for her. "But the tendencies, the patterns that she's embraced in my time began in yours. It's these patterns that your Clark now understands. What he is now facing."

"What do you mean? What patterns?"

"Lying, manipulating. Playing God with all of our lives." A hint of resentment filtered through his voice. "Her sense of right and wrong, Lois, it's...more wrong than right. And her loyalties can be divided. Quite easily, it seems." Clark pulled in a labored breath, his gaze shifting into a past that wasn't so distant for him. "She manages somehow to justify everything. No matter how unthinkable."

Agitated by the image Clark was painting, Lois pushed herself away from the boulder she'd been leaning against and approached him. "Ok, I'm hearing what you're saying right now, but, Clark, the Chloe you're describing is not the cousin I know."

Lips tight, Clark nodded in understanding. "I'm not surprised. None of us wanted to believe her capable of the things she's done in my time."

A frustrated, staccato sigh echoed through the Fortress. "Clark. What is it? What's happened? Just...tell me."

Wetting his lips and swallowing hard, Clark took a moment to gather his courage. Not for revealing his future to Lois. But for remembering what he left behind.

"Remember I told you that, back home, things have gone wrong?" He waited for her nod. "That was a bit of an understatement." He pulled in a breath that shook his body as he eyes dulled with pain. "You see, my Lois is, as we speak, in a coma I'm not sure she'll ever come out of. Lois...Chloe is the one who put her there."

Horrified, Lois' questions came out in a strangled whisper. "What? But why?"

"Because she learned too much. Because she got in Chloe's way."

Lois shook her head in immediate dismissal. "No, Clark, I can't...I can't believe Chloe would ever do anything to hurt me."

"Neither could I." His strong shoulders slumped in defeat as guilt overtook his expression. "It's all my fault, Lois."

"What makes you say that?"

"Because when you disappeared, I cut myself off from anyone and anything that reminded me of you. Chloe. Oliver. The Daily Planet. Being around them, being in places where you were just a ghost..." A helpless shrug. A distant gaze. "It hurt too much. So, I walked away. I rejected everything human about myself and fled to here, to the Fortress, to embrace my Kryptonian destiny. Three weeks later, you reappeared in Metropolis and..." His eyes softened with the emotions slipping through his words. "...like a siren's call, I was drawn back to myself, to my humanity. Because of you."

"But...that's a good thing, right?" Lois asked softly, trying to name the various emotions flitting through his expression.

"Oh, yes, Lois." Clark breathed a smile into existence. "Yes, it was a very good thing." The smile faded. "But for awhile, things were still rocky between me and Chloe, Oliver. Eventually, we banded together and became a team again. We did it, though, without really addressing the issues that pulled us apart. And now I realize that because of that, all of these years, I've missed all the signs that lead us to this place."

"What signs?"

Arms crossed over his chest and gaze focused on the ground at his feet, Clark began to pace. "Chloe's underlying resentment for Jimmy's death, for our happiness. Her secretive ways. The ego that led her to go behind our backs and make deals with our enemies. I readily accepted whatever excuse she gave me, because it was easier. Because I didn't want to face the truth."

Clark stopped pacing and pulled in a shaky breath before continuing. "Lois was the first to figure it out. And when she came to me with her suspicions...I'm ashamed to say, I was too distracted to really listen. To take her seriously." Lost in the memory, Clark's voice dropped to a pained whisper. "She went to find proof I would believe and that's when it happened. That's when Chloe revealed who she's become and you...she...my Lois..."

Hands clenched tight at his side, his haunted eyes drifted closed. "God, Lois, I can't lose her."

"Oh, Clark..."

Lois Lane had never been able to see Clark Kent in pain. Now was no different. The hint of tears shining in her own eyes, Lois rushed to gather him in her arms. He stood a moment, stunned, unyielding. And then, he crumbled. His arms slipped around her waist as he buried his head into the crook of her neck and clung to her like a lifeline.

And for a moment, he forgot she wasn't his Lois. Because in truth, she was. And for a moment, he forgothe was Superman. Because in truth, he wasn't.

Not without her.

His trembling whisper was full of emotion as he slowly pulled away from her. "I'm afraid, Lois. I'm so afraid that when I go home, I won't have a home to go to. That she and I...that you and he...may never get a real chance to be together."

She blinked up at him, fear slipping through her eyes. "What do you mean?"

Clark broke away from Lois, turning his back to gather his own thoughts, his own fears. When he turned back to her, he was once more composed and in control. Or as in control as he ever hoped to be, given the circumstances.

His gaze met hers as he explained. "With you here, missing for so long, your Clark doesn't have the reprieve that I had, Lois. He's further from his humanity than I ever dreamed of being. He's seeing things - actions, situations - through eyes that aren't clouded with any emotion but the loss of you."

"And because of that, he's challenging Chloe, confronting her with the truth of her actions. He's walking away from her in a way I never did. Because of your absence, Chloe knows how much you mean to him now..."

Realization dawned. "You think she'll try to keep us apart?"

Clark swallowed hard. "I don't know. Maybe. What I do know is that Chloe is at as much of a crossroads as Clark is. And they both need you, Lois. We all do. If we ever hope to have a future, we need you to repair the damage of the past..."


With squared shoulders and a heavy heart, Chloe Sullivan slowly opened the door to Lois' bedroom.

To Clark's sanctuary.

She stood in the doorway with the soft light from the living room pooling around her, gazing into the gloom beyond. She didn't see him at first. And when she did, the sight was devastating.

Part of the darkness now - taken over by it, mastered - he blended effortlessly into his surroundings. Melted wordlessly into the gentle shadows of Lois' room. Standing by the window, he gazed down at the photo in his hands, his fingers lightly caressing her image as the traitorous moon revealed his position. Showcased his beautifully tragic profile.

Upon her entrance, the door creaked.

His head tilted, an indication he was aware of her presence. Then, a defeated sigh filled the room. "Why doesn't anyone ever listen to me?"

She ignored the resonating echo of his words. If she had a shot at this…any shot at all…she had to establish her place. Her claim. "Long before she was anything to you, Clark, she wasmycousin. I loved her like a sister. I have arightto be here…just as much as you do."

"A right." Clark repeated slowly, contemplatively. His lips quirked, his voice dipped ironically. "Do you now?"

"Clark…" Chloe advanced into the room.

"The first time I saw her…" Clark interrupted, his voice lifeless. On auto pilot. "…you were dead. She barely knew me and what she did know..." A ghost of a smile touched his lips. "...was as foreign to her as fear. She didn't understand how I could even think you were still alive, but she believed anyway. And she didn't stop. She didn't hesitate to follow me, lead me, into danger just to find you."

"Clark, please…"

He ignored her attempt to stop his reminiscing. His voice tightened. "And when you went on a road trip with a serial killer, she was terrified for you. She didn't sleep, she barely ate, she was so tied into knots…"

Unwilling, or unable, to hear any more, Chloe interrupted. "Clark, why are you doing this? Why are you saying these things?"

"Because if you want to talk about rights…" Clark's head rose, his gaze drifted to the moon. The photo in his hands, pressed to his heart. "...you're way behind in the game."

The gentle blow hit Chloe.

Hard.

Her mind fought his words, wanted to argue, wanted to deny everything he was saying.

But she couldn't. Each accusation was true. Every jab, valid.

Even then, everything she'd done, she'd done for him. He needed to understand that. He needed to know. She thought he had, but now...

"Clark, I…"

"What do you want, Chloe?" He tossed the question over his shoulder like a grenade. Quick. Hard. With perfect aim. "I'm not blind, you know. Not anymore. You're not here right now because you want to feel close to Lois or because you believe there's a chance she's coming back. If that were the case, I would have seen you long before now." A ragged, defeated breath. "So, what do you want from me?

"I don't want anything, Clark."

"Of course you do. You always do. And I usually give it to you." A hint of condemnation filtered through his tone. Whether for her or himself, she couldn't tell. "But if you're here to lecture me, I gotta tell you, I just don't think I can take one more right now. Not from you."

"Lecture?"

His lips twisted into an ironic smile. "Yeah, you know. Those little pep talks you're so famous for giving. About how I'm not measuring up. Or not giving you what you need. Or how I'm incapable of making the hard choices."

"Clark, please," she pleaded. "I just want to help you."

"You can't."

"But, Clark, I'm your best friend!"

A sharp, harsh chuckle was her only answer. And it cut her to the quick.

"Clark?"

"I'm not sure what you are right now, but a friend?" Clark pulled in a deep, resigned breath and shook his head. "No, Chloe. A friend...doesn't seem...quite right, right now."

"How can you even...say that?" Flummoxed, Chloe pushed through warring emotions and tried to gather her thoughts. "After all these years, after everything we've been through together..." She couldn't stop the catch in he voice. "What I've sacrificed for you."

"Sacrifice? Is that what you call it?"

Indignation flared in her eyes and made its way to her voice. "My husband is dead because of what I was willing to do for you, Clark, so yes. Yes, I think I have sacrificed...everything."

He finally turned to face her. His eyes were two pinpoints of accusation. Of justice.

"And the woman I love is missing right now because somewhere along the line you decided that playing games and taking chances with people's lives was more important than trusting the people that trusted you."

Tears were slipping down her cheeks. She angrily wiped them away. "God, Clark, when did you become so cruel?"

"When did you become someone I couldn't trust?" He asked simply, the pain in his voice evident. He paused contemplating his next words. "I've been…so blind. Believing you. Following your lead. Doing what you think is best. If I hadn't, maybe Jimmy would be alive. If I hadn't, Lois might here today."

A harsh chuckle escaped him. "You know the irony about all of this? Oliver tried to tell me, but I wouldn't listen. I wouldn't listen because I just knew my friend Chloe, the one person I could always count on to be on my side, wouldn't lie to me. She wouldn't have feelings for a murderer. And she certainly wouldn't choose him over innocent lives."

"Choose him?" Chloe's self-righteousness fueled her defensiveness. "Clark, I told you. He came to me, begged me to help him. He said I was the only one that could keep the beast under control. I had to do what I did in order to save you…"

"You know, you keep saying that." Clark interrupted her, his lips tight and eyes full of doubt, realizations. "But if it was only about saving me, you would have told me, Chloe. We would have worked it out. We would have found a way just like we always have. Together. But instead? You turned your back on all of us. Ollie, Jimmy, me. You kept him hidden for weeks. You let me believe he was dead when, in fact, you were playing nursemaid to a monster that was ripping people apart. You lied to my face to save him. You sent me on a wild goose chase to save him. You stopped me in the Fortress…to save him."

"Clark, I told you…"

Clark's eyes flashed with anger, with confidence. "Don't tell me I couldn't have lived with myself if I'd sent him to the Phantom Zone. Because I've seen now what I can live with. And what I can't live without."

"Lois." Chloe's knowing whisper filled the room. "And me? What about me, Clark?"

Clark's unwavering gaze met hers. "I guess I can make the hard choices after all."

Brushing past her like she was nothing, Clark headed out of the bedroom and toward the door.

"Clark, wait. You need to...to know something. About Lois." Whether it was the tremor in her voice or Lois' name alone, Clark's attention was captured, if only for the moment. Chloe pressed on. "Clark, she's not coming back."

Releasing the breath he didn't realize he'd been holding, Clark tried to stop her before she got a chance to start. "Look, we've been over this..."

"I've seen her body."

Clark spun around, his eyes narrowed with suspicion. "What?"

"I just..." She struggled to keep her voice, her tears, her heart in check. "...came from the morgue. They called me to identify her body. I went down there hoping against hope, but...Clark, it's Lois."

"No." Instantly rejecting the idea, Clark's head shook in vehement denial. "I don't believe you."

"Why would I lie to you about something like that?"

"I don't know." Clark admitted before offering up the very reason for all of his doubts. "Why would you lie to me about a serial killer living in your basement?"

"Fine. You don't believe me. You don't trust me. Maybe for good reason." Chloe stood her shaky ground. "But Lois is gone, Clark, and no amount of hating me will bring her back."

"I don't hate you, Chloe." Clark stated softly. "I just don't know you anymore."

tbc...