Fading In

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Disclaimer: Nottttt mine.

Rating: T

Note: Uhmmm… One-shot, Speculative Season Nine Land. Lois is in the future. Clark is struggling. Wrote this last week, posted it because I was bored.

Dedication: For Angela.

Genres: Angst/Tragedy/Romance

Pairings: Clark/Lois; Oliver-Clark friendship

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1.

He has never understood pain until now.

And yet it is the pain that he is working so hard to hide, the pain he wants to pretend doesn't exist, the pain that won't go away. She's not here. She's not here, and it drives him crazy, and he needs her, wants her, craves her.

He has nightmares every time he falls asleep. He travels the world, and finds nothing, and when he dreams, he dreams of blood and confusion, and something he can't quite reach.

He has given up. Resistance is pointless, and so he collapses into emotion, and drags himself back to the place he's supposed to call home.

It doesn't feel like home without her.

Everyone welcomes him back, and Oliver is glad to have his help, what with the recent string of unsolved crimes, and so Clark throws himself into his work, and his eyes become dull and lifeless, and there's a deep throbbing pain inside of him that spreads throughout his whole body and eats him right up.

She is dead – she is dead, and he is supposed to drill that into his mind, and yet he can't.

Hope is in vain; hope breaks his heart and yet he clings to it, because without hope he is nothing.

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2.

He is waiting.

He is waiting for the day that she will walk back into his life, and sit down opposite him at their joined desks. When she will give him a lopsided grin, and call him one of her nicknames, and act like nothing ever happened.

He is waiting for that day.

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3.

The hope inside of him is quickly dwindling down into nothingness, and so he decides to give it one more shot.

"Oliver," he says. "I'm off for a week. I'm heading out tonight."

Oliver gives him a funny look.

"Where are you going?"

Clark lets the smallest corner of his sad mouth twitch up into a half-hearted attempt at a smile. He turns and walks to the door.

"Hey, Boy Scout! I said where are you going?"

Oliver's shouts follow him out into the hall.

--

4.

Here he is again.

What a sad, sad man he has become, walking the crumbling earth in search of a woman who is long gone. Here he is again, and here are the places he has already checked, here are the people he has already asked, and there is nothing.

She is gone without a trace, like she just tumbled off a flat world, and feel into the deep abyss of nothing.

What a sad, sad man he has become, not being able to hope.

--

5.

She is in everyone he sees.

Oliver gets him a date. Clark says,

"I'm not going on some date with some girl I've never met before."

Oliver shakes his head.

"You need to get out a little Clark. I know you're still hurting –"

He has no idea.

"-but I really think it would be good for you to have a night out with this girl. She's really sweet."

Clark shakes his head.

"No."

"Well, that's too bad, Clark, because she should be here in five minutes, and you don't have a choice."

When the girl (Suzy, a short raven-haired woman) arrives, the first thought that goes through Clark's head is that she should be taller, her hair should be a dark soft brown, and she should have been five minutes late.

She is in everyone he sees, and he will die a lonely death.

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6.

Suzy is nice enough, but she's not right.

Her lips should be a few shades darker. Her eyes should be rounder. Her smile should be crooked. Her hands should be longer and thinner. Her nose shouldn't be so pointy.

They should be eating at a small diner on the outskirts of town. She should order a burger, and steal his fries, and laugh and laugh.

She smiles at him over the rim of her wine glass, and he looks down at his menu.

Suzy is nice enough, but Suzy is not quite right.

He walks her home, and when they get to the door, she stand on tip-toe to kiss his cheek, giggles, and waves a few fingers at him when she leaves. She shouldn't have had to stand on tip-toe at all, and she should have kissed him full on the mouth and left him breathless with his mind fogged over. She should have smacked his arm lightly, and affectionately called him 'Smallville', and waved with her whole hand.

It's what Lois would have done.

--

7.

Oliver does not ask the next day.

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8.

He has not had a good night's sleep in as long as he can remember.

Time is just time, and it passes at rates he doesn't bother to notice. Sometimes he thinks he can hear her laugh, but he can't. He has not had a good night's sleep in as long as he can remember, and he wonders if he will go to his grave as an old man with insomnia. His senses have been dulled, and the emotions he has striven to rid himself of disappear.

All he can feel is pain.

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9.

He is a phantom.

And so he walks the streets lifelessly. He is what they have always wanted him to become – a mindless superhero, here to save and deliver and report. He is a phantom, and his movements are slow and sluggish, but they are there, and he is here, and so he goes on living for no particular reason. Hope has dissipated, expectation is gone, anticipation never was.

He has become a phantom, and her heartbeat is no longer there to jump-start his soul.

--

10.

He sits on his old sofa, and eats Rocky Road ice cream, and watches Die Hard.

She would have approved.

He is a crazy, crazy man, seeking the approval of a woman long dead. He sits on his old sofa, and eats Rocky Road ice cream, and watches Die Hard, and then someone knocks on his front door. His feet walk him across the room on their own accord, and his arm numbly reaches for the doorknob, which he twists, opening the door.

She is there. And she must be a mirage, must be a phantom, must be a ghost or a practical joke. She is there, though, and she gives him a little smile.

"Hey, Smallville… you're not going to believe where I've been."

Her words zap into him like a life-force, like energy, like lightning. His breathing dead stops, his heart freezes up, his throat goes dry.

"Are you alright?" she asks, stepping toward him.

She looks… different, somehow. Yet she looks entirely the way he remembers her. He reaches out a shaky arm, and experimentally brushes his hand against her cheek.

And like a switch being flipped back on, he draws in a shaky breath, and is acutely aware of how hard his heart is hammering, and he croaks out a hoarse and fragile:

"Lois?"

The smile she gives him is bright, but sad, and her sparkly eyes have taken on a tired quality.

How has he lived even a second without her?

They close the distance between each other at the same time, along the same string of thought, and he hugs her so tight her feet momentarily leave the ground. Her arms are around his neck, her face buried in the safe haven of his shirt. She clings to him like a life-line, and he holds to her like she is all he has left. Her hands lovingly stroke the back of his neck, and he breathes her in.

"Shh, it's alright now, I'm here," she mumbles against his chest.

They sink, somehow, to the ground, a tangle of arms and legs and tears, and he sobs into her hair.

He has felt a million things but none of them have felt so horrible and as wonderful as the hole in his heart being sewn back up.

--

11.

She is an invader of his senses.

They lie on the floor, facing each other, and all there is, is her. He can hear her steady heartbeat. He can see her comforting, really-there face. He can feel the softness of her hand in his. He can smell her lingering perfume. He presses soft kisses to her face, and he can taste the almost sweetness of her skin.

She is an invader of his senses, and he has never been more glad of anything in his life. She curls up against him, placing a soft kiss on his cheek, and he wraps his arms protectively and warmly around her, and waits until he wakes up from this undeniably wonderful dream.

--

12.

He does wake up.

He does wake up, and when he finds himself alone, the worst feeling goes through him. And then he smells something smoky, and hears a string of curses coming from the kitchen. He walks into the room, and finds her tossing what looks like it might have once been toast into the garbage pail. She smiles when she sees him. He burns that smile into his mind, to make sure he never, ever forgets it.

"Hey," she says. "You're up."

"Yeah," he responds. "Were you trying to cook? Because I thought we decided that was a fire hazard."

"Oh, shut up, Smallville. I am a perfectly fine cook. Your toaster just hates me."

He rolls his eyes, and she rolls hers right back. It is amazing how easily they fall right back into this pattern, how they can forget that nothing ever happened.

Only, he doesn't want to pretend that nothing ever happened. He has woken up, and he has woken up to the man he once was, but he does not want to pretend, or act. He needs her to understand. He steps towards her, and takes her face in his hands.

"I really… I really missed you, you know," he says.

She looks up at him, and so he kisses her. Because he can't think of anything else to do, any other way she could understand. His lips brush over her lips, his mouth moving softly against hers. She reaches up to run her fingers through his hair, molding her body against his.

How does she make him feel so many different things?

He pulls back reluctantly, and leans his forehead against hers.

"Let's go out for breakfast," he suggests, eyes closed, trying to regulate his breathing.

She nods a little.

"Okay," she agrees.

--

13.

They eat at a small diner on the outskirts of town. She orders a burger, and steals his fries, and laughs and laughs.

.