Lois (kalalanekent) wrote,

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Illuminated: A Tale of the Multi-verse [Part One]

Authors’ Note: This rampaging plot bunny bit us after listening to the song Illuminated by the group Hurts.    All you really need to know is that this Lois and this Clark are from different universes.  


Suddenly my eyes are open,
Everything comes into focus, oh,
We are all illuminated,
Lights are shining on our faces,
We are, we are, blinding,
We are, we are,

Suddenly my eyes are open,
Everything comes into focus, oh,
We are all illuminated,
Lights are shining on our faces,
We are, we are, blinding,
We are, we are,

            Imagine: there are hundreds, even thousands, of other dimensions, other Earths, other Supermen.  And out of all of them, he alone has been asked to do this, come to a world with no Superman and stand with a Justice League that’s almost an exact mirror of his own, fight alongside them in a battle that could end this world.  That could end him.

Of course he’ll do it.  His dimension will not dissolve into chaos without him; he leaves his world in capable hands as he travels to a new one.  The only anchor that could have held him there is long gone, and now the faint thrill of curiosity is the strongest emotion he’s felt in quite some time.

This world’s Watchtower is almost the same as the satellite he knows, but before they let him go wandering around, J’onn takes him aside for a private word.  In his own dimension he always trusted Martian Manhunter, a bond of friendship between the two outsiders who can pass for, but never quite be, human.  “Kal-El, there is something I must tell you,” J’onn says, and his expression is worried.

“Speak, then,” Kal-El replies.

“In this world, the JLA has a media liaison.  She is here, and it is inevitable that you will meet her.  She has been instrumental in coordinating this alliance and in gathering military intelligence to which we would otherwise have no legitimate access.”

The military connection is his clue, and he sucks in a breath so painful it feels like the air is kryptonite-laced.  “It’s Lois.”

“Yes,” J’onn tells him, as gently as he can.

Kal-El is lost in memories for a long moment.  Sunlight on raven hair, that saucy smile, her face softened by sleep as she lay against his shoulder on silver sheets … and his last sight of her, so pale and fragile, her fingers cold within his careful grasp.  “Lois Lane, after all these years…”

J’onn clears his throat uncomfortably.  “Lois Lane-Kent, in this world.  It will be awkward for both of you, I am afraid.  You see, this Lois is your widow…”

 Lois Lane-Kent knows about the multiverse.  There are precious few secrets that can be kept from her, here or anywhere else.  It was usually a comfort to know that in a thousand other worlds, a thousand other Loises have lived some kind of happily ever after with their Supermen.  Most of the time that makes her grief more bearable.  Sometimes it just provokes a sick, clotted mixture of rage and envy.

It’s Bruce who breaks the news to her.  “We need him,” he tells her.  “In this fight, against this foe, we need him more than ever.  And there are ways – dangerous, more dangerous than you can imagine – to cross dimensions.”

The raven-haired reporter forgets to breathe in a moment of punch-drunk disbelief.  “You brought someone else’s Superman here,” Lois says harshly.  Of course Bruce got to deliver the blow.  He knows how much this will hurt, and how Lois Lane (all the Loises in all the worlds) reacts to such pain: with anger.  If looks could kill, he’d be incinerated on the spot.  “Goddamn you, Bruce, of all the things you could do to me…”

He silences her with a gloved finger against her lips.  “It’s going to be just as hard for him, Lois.  In his world, you were the one who died.”

 They both brace themselves for the meeting, each thinking, I can get through this.  For the fate of this world, I will get through this.  But nothing, not even the most well-meant warnings, can prepare them for the shock of seeing each other again, and they both freeze, staring.

She’s so young, he thinks.  Somehow he thought the Lois of another world would look slightly different, the way some of his colleagues on this Earth have different costumes, different scars.  But no, she’s exactly the Lois he remembers, somewhere in her late twenties.  The same take-no-prisoners stride, the same determined lift to her chin, the same keen intelligence in her gaze.  Lois in the prime of her beauty and ferocity, Lois as he loved her so passionately.  Lois as he lost her.

The sight of him hurts worse than she could’ve imagined.  He’s older than he ever lived to be on this world, a touch of gray at his temples, a hint of lines around his eyes.  And his face, oh, that handsome face – so much sorrow is written there.  She fell in love with his easy smile, the smile of a man who truly believed that good would always triumph in the end, a smile that made everyone around him shake off their cynicism and see the world through his optimistic eyes, if just for a moment.  But this is a man who knows grief as she does, who has lived with its company day and night for far too long.

They stare as Bruce and J’onn make the introductions.  They shake hands numbly, almost impersonally, except for the way their eyes remain fixed on each other.  It’s a relief when they’re all called to the strategic meeting, when they have to break the magnetic lock of each other’s gazes.  The gravity of the situation helps them both to shove their personal pain aside; the world is at stake here.  Private grief must wait. 

Once all the available information is pooled and analyzed, the room goes silent as each member of the League digests the news.  The situation is worse than any of them thought.  Even with all their powers, even with Superman among them once more, tomorrow’s battle may be the last for all of them.

This is not precisely his team, he has not been their leader here for years, but it still feels natural for him to step up and encourage them.  He speaks of confidence and determination, of their dedication and the strength of their team, and as he meets each of their gazes a little of the fatalism vanishes. 

In the back of the room she bites her lip as she realizes that once again, he has brought more than his powers, more than his expertise.  The thing that Superman always brings with him, brighter than his vivid cape, is hope.  Just experiencing this for the first time in years was both balm and poison to her cynic’s heart.  Waking the past in ways that shook her to the core.  And she was finding that that was just what she’s needed in this fight.

 It’s late on the eve of battle, and she cannot sleep.  Instead she goes to one of the immense windows to look down at the Earth below.  It’s a bittersweet view; no human can look down on their home planet without a sense of awe at the scale revealed by this distance.  But for her, it also brings back memories of flying with him.

“It’s beautiful,” his voice says in her memories.  “I never tire of looking at it from up here.”  Belatedly she realizes his voice is also present in the room with her, and Lois whirls around to see him standing at the door.

She only stares to him for a silent moment.  Part of her just wants to fling herself at him, let herself believe he is her Superman come back from the grave, hold him until she can forget that he took his last breath in her arms.  Seeing him, the grief is fresh, like scraping at a barely-healed wound until blood weeps from it again. 

But she doesn’t know if she should, if he’ll let her.  How long has it been for him since he lost her?  Have his wounds healed over, leaving only scars on his heart that he wouldn’t want reopened? 

“It is beautiful,” she manages to say, and turns away nervously.  Her hands are shaking, and to steady them she pulls a cigarette from the pack in her pocket.  Slipping it between her lips, she has the lighter out, and then he is there in front of her with a gust of super-speed.

He snatches the cigarette from her mouth, crushes it savagely; tiny flakes of tobacco and paper drift from his fist, and his eyes burn with loathing.  She stares at him, wide-eyed, and in a low furious voice she’s never heard from him he tells her, “In a few years, a new and more virulent strain of flu will sweep through the world.  You’ll catch it on assignment.  You’ll be too stubborn to go to the doctor, you’ll force yourself to keep working, and you’ll eventually develop pneumonia.  No one, not even me, will know you have more than a common cold until you collapse at a press conference.  By the time you’re taken to a hospital, it will already be too late.  Your lungs will be compromised by years of smoking, and the infection will be too far along to respond to medication.  The doctors will do everything they can for you, draining the fluid from your lungs and putting you on a ventilator, but it won’t be enough.  Your lungs will stiffen and fail, you’ll die before you reach thirty, and for all of my powers all I will be able to do is watch you slip away.  So stop smoking.  Now.

[Continued in the next post. Stupid LJ and sudden post-limitations! :P]


Tags: illuminated, oneshot

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