The Portal

Chapter 34 - Epilogue

Lex and Laura stepped through the portal and back into Professor Carey's lab in the Physics Building at Metropolis University. Being back in modern times, Lex suddenly felt conspicuous wearing a filthy Roman robe, a robe with numerous cuts and slashes and many bloodstains, mostly his own. In the past hour he had suffered six arrow hits, one sword thrust through the back, and too many cuts and bruises to count. Laura's robe didn't look any better.

The first thing Lex noticed was how empty the lab was. When they had passed through the portal at the start of this whole adventure the lab had at least three techs and five grad students. Now the lab had only one occupant, a dark haired girl sitting at a computer terminal with her back to them.

The second thing Lex noticed was the dark windows. They had left at about three in the afternoon, but now it was obviously night.

Lex was about to clear his throat to get the girl's attention when she called in Chloe's voice. "Hey, Lex, Laura, I will be with you in just a second."

After punching a few more keys, she swiveled her chair around, stood, and ran over to greet them; stopping about five feet away and giving Laura a single conspiratorial nod. If Lex hadn't heard her voice, he never would have recognized her. Chloe had gone for the complete Goth look: pitch black hair to the middle of her back, black lipstick and heavy eyeliner, pale white makeup, five piercings in her right eyebrow and three in her left, low-slung black jeans, and a tight cropped black tee that very obviously wasn't hiding any conservative brassiere. And for the coup de maitre, behind a pair of black horn-rim glasses she wore a pair of black & white swirl contact lenses usually only seen at Halloween. These contacts had an almost hypnotic ability of preventing your eyes from taking in the rest of her face. All in all, her appearance was almost as far as possible from the look of the old Chloe Sullivan of Smallville.

"Chloe is that really you?" asked Lex, as something about her 'look' tickled at his memory.

Chloe flashed him one of her big grins that somehow seemed completely out of place with her current look. And then it hit him.

"Your, your, my god, your Denise Webber!" Lex stammered.

Laura looked from Lex to Chloe and back. "Who?"

"About four years ago, LuthorCorp hired her as a consultant to organize the overhaul of the twenty separate computer systems the corporation was using into a single networked system. I remember one time, when I was home from college, walking in on a meeting between you and my father. You didn't have the whole Goth thing back then, but I remember the dark hair and how you wore the obviously fake violet colored contacts."

Chloe could see the wheels turning in Lex's head as he realized she probably had hooks into every computer file in the company and probably even in his private computers at the castle.

"See Lex, it is like this. I first selected Gabe to be my foster father because I was looking to live in Metropolis. So imagine my surprise when a few months after I started living with him, he got transferred to Smallville. For a few days I was angry and pissed off, but eventually I just went with the flow and ended up there.

"Well, to close the time loop, I had to ensure Gabe was transferred to Smallville so the earlier me would be in the proper place to end up going back in time. I suppose I could have just hacked the LuthorCorp computers to cause the transfer to happen, but being on the inside seemed best to make sure nothing went wrong."

Lex was busy thinking about the time and cost it would take to rework the computers from the current Mac/Unix configuration to a Windows based system to remove her influences. Suddenly, it was like Chloe could read his mind and she wasn't even touching him. Perhaps the time they had been in the mind-links back in Rome had given her a lot of insight in how his brain worked.

"Lex, how about a quick round of Final Jeopardy? And be sure your response is in the form of a question. And the answer is 'Bill Gate's High School Sweetheart'."

Lex had a perplexed look on his face like things were suddenly moving too fast. Finally, it was Laura who answered. "Ahh, who is Chloe Sullivan?"

Chloe smiled. "Close enough, although my name during that period of the 1970's was Carol Saunders."

Even though she had guessed the right answer, it was apparent from the look on her face, Laura didn't understand the significance.

"Laura, I am going to take a wild guess, but I would say Lex was just thinking about the cost of converting the LuthorCorp computers over to Windows to remove any access I might have. I just wanted to drive home that he is going to have to trust me. With perfect recall of everything that happened during the first time I lived through the last two thousand years, this time when I lived through the years all over again, I used my knowledge to ensure everything that needed to happen to close the time loop, did happen. And if I just happened to stick my fingers into most of the major technology companies along the way, well, a girl has to look out for herself."

Turning to more directly face Lex, she continued. "Lex, I have no intention of meddling with your company. Once this time loop is closed, I want to simply go back to my life in Smallville. For you this all seems to have started three weeks ago, but for me it has been almost two thousand years, two thousand long years of planning to get today's events to play out in the required sequence. Now I just want to go back to the simple life in Smallville for a while and think about things like seeing Gabe again, getting 'The Torch' out on time, dealing with the occasional meteor freak, and most of all, spending some quality time with Clark."

Chloe had several other important things on her agenda for the near future, but since they involved Lex, but not LuthorCorp, she didn't feel she was breaking her word by not mentioning them for the moment.

"I'm sure you would like to get out of those robes and back into some civilized clothes." Chloe turned and pointed to several garment bags sitting by the door out of the lab. "I have a change of clothes for you in those bags. Please put on everything you find. The restrooms are down the hallway to the right. Sorry, there isn't a shower, but at the moment we are on a fairly tight schedule."

Laura couldn't help but notice how Chloe's nipples had gotten hard at the mention of Clark's name. Obviously, she wanted a little time alone with him at his return.

"Come on, Lex." Said Laura as she grabbed his hand and headed towards the door.

The door had barely swung shut behind them when Clark staggered out of the portal and collapsed to the floor on his back. Chloe rushed over and knelt down beside him knowing he would recover his strength in just a few seconds. Stroking his forehead, she said, "Clark, I am so glad to see you."

As the incredible pain in his body slowly receded, Clark lay on the floor enjoying her caress and remembering her comments from a few seconds earlier on the far side of the portal; how for her this reunion would be happening after a two thousand year wait and how like everyone after a long separation, she might be a little hesitant about his reaction.

To allay any potential fears she might have in this regard, without even opening his eyes Clark reached up with his right hand and pulled her down into an intense, powerful kiss. Within seconds, Chloe found herself stretched out on top of Clark returning the kiss with all of the fervor two thousand years of anticipation could bestow.

After a three minute long kiss by two people who could hold their breathe almost indefinitely, Chloe finally broke the kiss and pull back a couple of inches. Before he opened his eyes, Clark asked, "So have you picked out the dress yet?"

Chloe instantly knew he was talking about the spring formal and suddenly, in some ways, it felt like the two thousand year interval had evaporated. After another quick kiss she responded, "Yeah, Clark. Remember the pale green gown I wore to the Circus Maximus? I had a replica made especially for the dance."

Clark grinned. "You don't think it is a little racy for Smallville . . ." And at that point in his response he finally opened his eyes and got his first look at the current Chloe. "Holy shit. What happened to you?"

Chloe giggled and shook her long black hair. "Do you like? I am in disguise. I am a part-time grad student. I have been working with the Professor for the past couple of years on the portal device and I couldn't risk anyone who knows Chloe accidentally recognizing me."

"Hmm, why does it suddenly feel like my girlfriend is the real-life version of that chick from 'Alias'? It would be a lot of fun seeing you with a bunch of different styles, but so far, I would have to say I still like blonde the best."

"Well, then back to blonde it will be for awhile. Which is just as well, I don't want to give Gabe or any of the other denizens of Smallville a heart attack."

Chloe had just leaned back down for another kiss when the door of the lab opened and the others returned. Lex coughed quietly to warn them of their return.

Chloe stood up and reached a hand down to help Clark to his feet. Once he was up, Clark glanced over at Lex and Laura and then down at himself. "Wow, I suddenly feel way underdressed."

His robe wasn't the disaster Lex and Laura's had been, but it was still many steps below their current attire. Lex was wearing a pair of dark gray, Italian cut slacks, a black blazer, white shirt, and a dark maroon tie. Laura was similarly dressed in conservative, quasi-business attire: a light gray skirt which extend slightly below her knees, a white blouse, and a black blazer in a similar style to Lex's.

"Chloe, I appreciate having something better to wear than that battered robe, but this seems a little dressier than is necessary for this time of night," said Lex. "Oh, by the way, exactly why did you decide to retrieve us at 3:15 AM?"

"I think you are going to have to trust me about the clothes for the moment, but I think you will be glad for my choice. Oh, and speaking of time, here," and Chloe reached into her back pocket, pulled out a watch, and handed it to Lex. "The jewelers had to work on it a long time to get it working again and I had to replace the band, but I thought you would appreciate getting it back."

Lex looked down at the watch in his hand and realized it was the antique watch made from the old coin his mother had given him shortly before her death. He had been wearing it the day they had gone through the portal and he had been forced to bury it along with all of their 21st century clothes in the woods outside of Tolosa. He had thought he would never see it again and it was the gift from his mother he most cherished.

Lex looked back at Chloe with the tiniest of sheens in his eyes and catch in his voice. "Thanks, this means a lot to me."

Chloe gave a small nod that she understood what he meant and that was why she had gone to the bother to retrieve it. Then she turned to Clark.

"Clark, I need to talk to Lex and Laura for a few minutes. There is a bag of clothes for you, too, over by the door. The restrooms are down the hallway to the right. When you are changed, I will meet you out in the hall."

Clark was curious about what she needed to discuss with the others, but he trusted her and was anxious to get back into real clothes. "Okay, see you in a couple."

After Clark had left the room, Chloe walked over and clasped Laura's hand. This was the first physical contact they had made since Lex and Laura had come through the portal. Lex watched as once again they shared the 'thousand mile stare' he had seen so often before, which always indicated they were experiencing a level of communication only the mind-link could provide.

Unlike other times where they were almost frozen like statues, this time he noticed big, fat tears starting to roll down Laura's cheeks. Just when he became concerned to the point where he was going to walk over and touch them to see if he could join the link and find out what was going on, the girls blinked and stepped apart. Both of them reached up to wipe at their faces and Lex realized tears were also forming in Chloe's eyes.

Suddenly, Chloe asked. "Are you really certain?" When Laura nodded, Chloe walked over to a desk and retrieved a small black box with a single white button on top, strangely located under a clear, protective cover like the big red 'launch all nukes' buttons in bad sci-fi movies. After handing the device to Laura, Chloe gave her a big hug before walking out of the room and carefully closing the door behind her.

Lex had no idea what was going on, but for some reason wasn't surprised when Laura said in a small voice with the tears still streaming down her face. "Lex, could you hold me for a minute?"

Lex quietly and gently wrapped his arms around her, pulling her into a tight reassuring embrace. Through the mind-link he asked, 'What's wrong? What is that box?'

Laura hadn't meant to tell him, but under the stress of what she was about to do, her thoughts leaked out through the link to Lex.

Lex was appalled when he understood what she intended to do. 'Laura, no. There has to be another way.'

'No, Lex,' she answered with a small mental shake of her head. 'We both know as long as my memories are in this 'bot system, there is no way Lana can ever come back.

'Lex, from the moment you shared your thoughts back by the river, I have understood how important Lana is to you. That's why, before I stepped through the portal I asked Chloe to find some way to purge the memory units in all of the 'bots in Lana's body. It is the only way Lana has a chance to come back. I have had a good, long seventeen thousand year ride, but this is Lana's body and she deserves the chance for the ride, too.'

'Only a chance?' asked Lex, as what Laura was saying from her perspective really sank home. To her it was the same as committing suicide to give Lana a chance to have her life back. 'What if it doesn't work and I lose both of you?' And as he said the words he realized how important Laura had become to him over the past couple of weeks. How they had shared secrets as was only possible through the mind-link. How they had fought battles together. How the time they had spent in the virtual reality version of his office or the Talon seemed like the only thing that kept him from going crazy during their prolonged stay the Roman Empire. Lex couldn't imagine going through life without Lana, but he wasn't certain if he could survive without Laura either.

'Laura, there has to be another way.'

Laura broke the mind-link and whispered in Lex's ear. "Lex, a part of me will always be in Chloe. Forgive me."

Laura turned her head until her lips were pressed against Lex's, and then she pressed the button.

Lex tried to will her to stay in the 'bot system through the power of his kiss, but felt her body give one small jerk, heard the box clatter to the floor, and knew in his heart she was gone.

Lex had only a moment to experience the shock of Laura's abrupt departure before the body in his arms suddenly thrust him away. When he opened his eyes, he saw her terror-filled eyes darting frantically around the room without any comprehension of where she was or perhaps even who she was. Slowly she backed up until she reached the wall and then sank down until her arms were wrapped tightly about her knees.

Afraid of how she might respond if he tried to approach her, Lex quietly called out. "Lana, it's me, Lex. Lex. Do you understand? You're safe now. We are back in Metropolis."

At first she gave no response, but Lex kept repeating the message over and over in his best, most soothing tones. Gradually, over the next couple of minutes he could see she was calming a little. Carefully and very slowly he started to inch his way towards her. Finally, after five minutes he was kneeling on the floor only eight inches from her.

Cautiously he reached out and rested his left hand on her right hand. "Lana, it's me. Everything is going to be alright."

He had fully expected her to jerk away again, but this time at his touch the faintest hint of recognition was visible in her eyes. "Lex," she whispered. "Is it really you?"

"Yeah, Lana, it is really me. You're safe now. We're home."

"Venta hurt me so bad, Lex. Then I watched them kill Chloe. It was so awful, the sound the spears made when they struck home," she whispered. "Then they turned to me and I felt the spear rip through my body."

"Lana, Chloe is fine. You are fine. And Venta is dead," Lex said as he moved his right hand up to stroke her hair. After only an instant's reflection he decided this probably wasn't the right time to tell her that she, well at least her body, was the one who killed Venta. "Chloe is waiting out in the hall for whenever you are ready to see her."

"Chloe is really okay? I saw her die." Suddenly she pulled her hand away from his and ran it up and down her body. "I was dead, too."

"Yeah, Lana, you died, but remember Chloe's nanobots? She was able to heal herself and you, even after you had died."

Lana's voice was slowly getting stronger and steadier. "I was really dead and Chloe brought me back?"

"Yeah, honey. She has been an endless source of surprises. Lana, do you think you can stand? I think it will help if you move around a little and then we can go see Chloe."

"Okay," was all she said, so Lex helped lift her to her feet. Once she was standing it was like she noticed him for the first time.

"Lex, where did you get the hair?" she asked as she carefully reached up to touch it, as though it was another part of the dream or nightmare she was stuck in.

Lex had to grin. Perhaps his hair was going to be a benefit after all, if it helped her to think about something besides the events in the arena. "Oh, I was hurt a little along the way, too. Chloe healed my injuries and as a side effect my baldness seems to have been cured."

Lana continued to stroke his hair for a minute before letting her hand slip down to idly caress his silk tie. "Your hair is a lot longer than a five o'clock shadow. How long has it been since, since, ahh, since I died?"

"Almost two weeks," answered Lex. He was glad to see Lana was coming around, but he wasn't sure she, or he for that matter, was ready to deal with the subject of Laura. "It was an extreme shock to your system and you are just now coming out of it."

Lana nodded, but didn't say anything. She just stood there lost in her thoughts. Lex decided it was best to keeping moving forward and not let her dwell too much on the recent past.

"Lana, do you want to go see Chloe now?"

She gave a small shrug as though she didn't really care one way or the other.

Intertwining his fingers with hers, Lex led her out into the hall where he found Chloe and Clark quietly talking. Lex was a little surprised to see Clark also was dressed in a shirt and tie, something that was extremely rare. Chloe had removed her Goth makeup and eyebrow rings and was in a dressier pair of slacks and blouse, but still was wearing the glasses and the very distracting contacts. Lex knew something formal must be about to happen, but between Laura and Lana; he hadn't been able to spare even a moment to guess what it was.

Lex decided Chloe must have clued Clark into what was happening in the lab because Clark's reaction to seeing Lana was much more subdued than when he first saw her alive after the events at the arena. Clark let Chloe led him over to where Lex and Lana were standing and it was Chloe who first pulled Lana into a hug.

"How are you doing?" Chloe asked.

Lana gave a small smile. "Okay, I guess, although everything feels almost like a dream."

"Perhaps a little fresh air would help. Let's go outside, it is a beautiful night," suggested Chloe gesturing towards the flight of stairs that led down to the main floor and the exit.

Lex was a little surprised how brusquely Chloe was trying to get them out of the building. She had mentioned earlier they were on a tight schedule, but he could not imagine why the rush was so necessary with Lana still in such a fragile state. Still, Lex had only been back for barely fifteen minutes and wasn't certain what Chloe's true situation was here. Was the Professor about to show up at any moment with a squad of mafia goons?

Chloe quickly led them outside and set off at a brisk pace across the central mall around which all of the old nineteen thirties WPA-era buildings, including the Physics building, were arrayed. After a moment Lex noticed how the uniform quasi-Greek styling reminded him of ancient Roman. At least until you noticed how the numerous electric streetlights completely lit up the fronts of the buildings, the walkways, and even some of the trees.

After they had walked about fifty yards, Lex had to find out what was going on. Back in ancient Rome, he had forced himself to take the backseat since Chloe was the expert. But here he was very much back on his home ground and it was time to understand what the situation was in case things went awry and he needed to take action.

"Chloe, why did you bring us back at three in the morning? Why are you getting us clear of the physics building in such a rush?"

Chloe looked back at the Physics building as if judging their distance and then with an almost imperceptible nod to herself, she ground to a halt.

"A couple of reasons, Lex. First, I needed to wait until after everyone on the project had cleared out for the day. Then I needed to use the portal to complete a couple of other tasks. I wanted to get them out of the way first, so I could spend the rest of my time with you guys after you came through."

"Ahh, what other tasks?" asked Clark, before Lex had a chance to ask the same question.

"Well, after you went through the portal, I spent a good portion of the next couple of years tracking down everyone else from the twenty-first century who was still back in ancient Rome. No point in leaving a bunch of scholars and archeologists stranded back there just because they happened to be caught in the middle of events between us and the Professor. After I located each group I just opened a portal for them similar to the one you used. However on this end it seemed better to bring them through first, so they would be out of the way when you came through."

"You said there were a couple of reasons," prompted Lex.

"Yeah," said Chloe as she reached into her shoulder bag. When she pulled her hand out, she was holding another small black box, not unlike the one which had wiped Laura from the 'bot memory system. "The other main reason for bring you back at this time was because the building is mostly empty, so it was easier to clear the stragglers out."

Then Chloe lifted the box, pointed it in the direction of the building, and pushed the button. Instantly, they saw, then felt, and finally heard the massive explosion that occurred on the north side of the Physics Building. It was centered on the second floor, right where the portal device was located.

They watched for several seconds as secondary explosions ripped through the night. Just as they were starting to see open flames through the shattered windows, Chloe resumed her explanation. "Way too many people know about the Professor's device. After all of the decades of planning and hard work it took to close the accidental time loop we started back in Rome, I don't want to go through that again. So the Professor's time machine had to go."

Chloe turned towards Lex. "Oh, and Lex? Since it was LuthorCorp's research into the meteor rocks that led to this whole mess, I expect LuthorCorp to split the cost with me for constructing a new Physics building."

Lex nodded numbly as he stared at the destruction Chloe had wrought. From the moment the portal doorway had opened for them back along the river, Lex had spent a lot of time thinking of all the uses he could make of a device like the portal machine. Now, with the push of a button, Chloe had taken all of that away.

As they heard sirens in the distance, it was like Chloe could once more read Lex's thoughts. "Come on, guys. I have one more surprise for you, a pleasant one this time. I think it will more than make up for the loss of the Professor's machine." Then Chloe turned and continued on across the mall in the direction they had originally been heading.

After she had set the course, Chloe slowed down until she was walking along side of Lex on the opposite side from where he had a supportive arm wrapped around Lana. After a moment she reached out and lightly touched Lex's hand.

Abruptly, and totally unexpectedly, Lex found himself back sitting in the same booth in the Talon as during the frightening trip through the rapids. Had that really been less than an hour ago, wondered Lex, as already the whole Roman adventure was taking on a surreal dream-like quality. Then he realized, also like before, Laura and Chloe were sitting across from him. Laura? Even though she might look identical to Lana, Lex instantly knew it was Laura.

"Laura, how is this possible? I mean, ahh, you're gone," said Lex in confusion.

Laura smiled. "I am mostly gone. Perhaps it would be better if you called me Obi-wan Laura. Like in the Star Wars movies. The earlier good ones. Well, good except for the stupid Ewoks. What was George thinking when he put them in. When he released the special edition versions into the theaters a few years ago, I was so hoping he would find a way to get rid of them."

Laura sheepishly shook her head. "Sorry, got a little sidetracked there. What I meant to say is I am sort of like Obi-wan in the second and third movies, no longer fully alive, yet not quite dead either. Mostly just reduced to make sage comments. Well, Obi-wan was into the sage remarks, I don't think I am quite in that same league." For a moment she scrunched up her face and then said in a voice which sounded a lot like Alec Guinness, "Nooo, Lexxxx, there iiiissss annoootherrrr!" Then she broke into a raucous laugh.

While Laura was getting herself back under control, Chloe explained. "Lex, after Laura explained what she wanted to do before she went through the portal, I spent the next two thousand years trying to find a solution that would meet her wishes without also permanently eliminating, okay killing, her. However this is the best solution I could come up with and it is not as satisfactory as I would have hoped. Right before the end, I downloaded a complete copy of her memories into my system. After spending more years than I like to admit, I found a way to partition off part of my memory system to act sort of independently. Enough anyway to keep her personality separate from mine. The downside is she can only manifest herself in this virtual reality way."

Having got herself back under control, Laura interjected. "Well, being stuck in virtual reality is still better than the oblivion I had resigned myself to. At least now there is always at least a small hope of someday being able to return to the real world."

Then turning more directly to Lex, she asked with just a hint of pleading in her tone. "Lex, could you come visit me once in a while? Chloe has said she wouldn't mind helping in this way. And I already miss talking to you so much."

Lex was so happy at Laura's survival; all he could do was nodded.

"I hate to break this up so soon," said Chloe. "But we have almost reached our destination and I need Lex back in the real world. Oh, one quick question, Lex. Have you tried a mind-link with Lana?"

Lex shook his head. "No, I thought it was best to wait. She is having a hard enough time coping for now; I didn't want to add another whole level of issues for her to deal with."

Chloe nodded. "I agree. Let's give her a little time to recover before we push too many new things at her. I just hope the little 'surprise' that's coming up will push her in the right direction, not the wrong direction."

"Chloe, just what is this 'surprise'?"

Chloe just grinned and then she dissolved away leaving just Lex and Laura sitting at the table.

"Laura, do you know what it is?"

"Yeah, fortunately Chloe shared most of her memories when we made the transfer and I can see and hear everything Chloe chooses to let me, which is most of the time. Anyway, all I'll say is 'It is something wonderful'."

Then Laura reached her hand over to touch Lex's. "Lex, I am glad for the time we had to spend together and I am glad it looks like Lana is going to be okay."

"Thanks for what you did to let Lana have her life back. If I was in your place, I don't know if I would have had the strength to do what you did."

Laura shrugged a little with embarrassment. "I spent a large portion of my life as a self-centered bitch just doing things for my own pleasure. It is nice to have confirmation I can, once and a while, do the right thing." Then sensing their time was really at an end for the present, she concluded, "Lex, please do come visit me, again."

Abruptly, Lex found himself back in his body. Before taking in his real surroundings, he pondered for a moment whether it was really cheating, if you fantasized about a girl who only existed in virtual reality AND who looked exactly like your girl friend.

When Lex did take in his surroundings, he discovered they were just reaching the entrance to the Journalism Building. Outside the front door of the building a man was loitering. With only the briefest glance, Lex recognized the look of a plain-clothes security operative. As they walked up the front steps, the man nodded to Chloe and pulled open the front door, obviously he worked for her. How many other people on campus tonight were working for her, he wondered. At least a few more to ensure no 'stragglers' were still in the physics building when the lab blew up.

They headed down a side corridor to the left until they reached the entrance to a room labeled 'Staff Lounge'. Another security guard waited outside this door. Chloe paused for a minute to straighten Lex's tie and adjust Lana's blouse. When she was satisfied the pair of them looked presentable, she turned to the guard.

"Okay, Mike, let us in."

The guard nodded, pulled out a chain of keys, and unlocked the door. Pulling the door open just a little, he nodded to Chloe and then resumed his station beside the door.

Chloe pulled the door the rest of the way open and then gestured for Lex and Lana to proceed in.

Lex felt a flutter of anticipation in his stomach as he tried to imagine what was in this room to cause Chloe and Laura to act in such an atypical manner. Taking a deep breathe, Lex stepped into the room with Lana by his side.

Three people were sitting in the room as Lex entered. An auburn haired woman in her mid-thirties sat on one couch and a younger, mid-twenties couple with matching dark hair sat together on the other coach. The three of them were just starting to stand when Lex's attention shot back to the first woman.

A hoarse "Mom?" was all that got out of Lex's mouth as he momentarily froze in shock. When a familiar smile spread across the nodding head with the suddenly tear-filled eyes, Lex knew it was her. He couldn't begin to understand how, but his mother, who had died a slow, lingering death nine years earlier, was standing in front of him looking vibrantly alive.

And then it was like he was no longer frozen in time and before he even realized he could move, he found himself racing across the room at a pace that almost seemed to match Clark's super speed. Reaching her, he swept her up into his arms and spun her around before exclaiming in a much stronger voice, "Mom!"

Lana had stopped moving shortly after crossing the threshold into the room. She took in the other occupants without any recognition until Lex raced across the room and almost shouted the word, Mom. Then she turned her attention back to the young couple hesitating across the way.

Lana had only been three years old when her parents were killed in the meteor shower that would change the lives and destinies of so many residents of Smallville. Too young to have any clear, direct memories of them, she mostly remembered their faces from the small framed photo always kept on the nightstand beside her bed. It was the image from that photo she talked to during her nocturnal visits to her parents in the cemetery. Her parents. The photo. These people were dressed exactly the same: the man in brown corduroys, blue work shirt, and a battered old Smallville High letterman jacket; the woman in a light blue dress and red sweater.

Once more an exclamation of 'Mom' from Lex reverberated around the room and then Lana's brain, long muddled by the effect of Chloe's memories in Lana's new-found 'bot system, finally cleared. In an almost childlike voice she exclaimed, "Mommy, Daddy!" In the end, her parents met her halfway and they all joined in a joyous group hug.

At the first shout of 'Mom' from Lex, Chloe and Clark stepped into the room and pulled the door closed behind them. As Chloe wrapped an arm around Clark's waist, he leaned over and quietly whispered, "Is it really them?"

Chloe looked up and behind the glasses and the contacts; he could see her eyes filling with tears. "Yeah, it really is."

"How is that possible?"

Chloe smiled, "Let's give them a couple of minutes, and I will explain for everyone."

As Clark watched a level of joy and happiness appear in Lex's face that he had never seen before, Clark leaned over and whispered in Chloe's ear. "I don't know if I have said this in a while, but baby, you rock."

After a minute of soaking in the miracle of suddenly finding his mother alive, Lex knew that to make everything perfect, he had to introduce Lana to his Mom. Never in his wildest imagination had he believed this moment would ever happen, but he had fantasized about it a lot since it had first come up in conversation with Chloe on the deck of a sailing ship outside the Ostian harbor in long ago Rome.

Taking his mother's hand, Lex led her over to where Lana was still hugging and touching and laughing and crying with her parents.


When she turned to look at him he saw his Lana was back, not just the haunted shell who had first returned back in the portal lab.

"Lana, I wanted to introduce my Mom, Lillian."

As Lex had started to talk, Lana had unconsciously slid her left hand into Lex's right.

"Mom, this is my girlfriend, Lana."

Lana politely, cautiously extended her right hand, but Lillian would have none of that and quickly pulled Lana into a tight hug and whispered into her ear. "I am so happy to meet you. I knew the instant I saw the pair of you walk through the door how right you are for each other."

When Lillian broke the embrace, Lana put her hand back in Lex's and said, "Lex, I want you to meet my Mom and Dad, Laura and Lewis."

Lewis stepped forward and pulled Lex into a bear hug. He pounded Lex so hard on the back in his excitement, Lex was almost afraid he was going to have to get Chloe to heal him.

When he finally released Lex, Laura stepped up for a quick, gentler embrace. As he stood there with his arms around her, Lex couldn't help but think for a moment about another girl named Laura. But then he focused his attention on the woman in his arms, a woman who looked more like Lana's older sister than her mom. Then he realized if she was the same age as when she died, she might be only twenty-four or twenty-five compared to Lana's sixteen. One more unique situation they would have to learn to deal with.

After an exchange of pleasantries, Lex called over for Clark and Chloe to join them. As he watched them approach and noticed how Clark looked a little uncomfortable in his suit and tie, Lex's realized the clothes were all for his own benefit. Chloe had obviously learned enough from their conversations and mind-links back in Rome to understand how he was most comfortable when he felt in control and that a suit was part of his comfort zone, too.

When they arrived, Lex made the introductions. "Mom, Mr. and Mrs. Lang, I guess you already know Chloe. The guy with her is my best friend, Clark."

As Clark shook hands with the others, Lex realized how much better his life was now than twelve hours ago by the clock on the wall. Twelve hours. To anyone who hadn't gone on the journey with them, all of this had happened in a short twelve hour interval. Clark and he were so much closer even if you excluded Clark's secret. But the secret was now out there and the trust that secret entailed. Lex knew he would do anything to protect Clark's secret and help him with the quest for his past as well. And then there was Chloe who he had barely known before this adventure and her big secret, too. After the mind-links they had shared, he knew she also fell into the category of best friend. And then Lana, the biggest, most important discovery on this trip. Real best friends and a wonderful girlfriend, it suddenly struck him how empty and unsatisfying his life had been a mere twelve hours ago.

With the introductions past and not wanting to drift into some maudlin state, Lex asked the question which had been burning inside of him since the moment he recognized his mother. "Chloe, how?"

"Actually, Lex, Laura is the one you want to thank, it was her idea."

As she made this comment Lex thought for a second he could almost see Laura looking out at him through Chloe's psychedelic eyes.

However Chloe was watching Lana and saw her look at her mom with a perplexed expression on her face.

"Lana, not your mom, another Laura that Lex and I know. She is not important right now and Lex or I can explain about her later."

Turning back to Lex, Chloe continued with a small lift of her shoulders as if to say it wasn't a big deal and she had been happy to do it. "With access to a time machine and two thousand years to come up with the optimum method, it was difficult, but not impossible."

"From a technical standpoint, your Mom was the easiest. I knew from the research I had done on you when you first arrived in Smallville the exact day she would die. So I arranged for your Mom's regular in-home nurse to be out sick that day and I took her place. Then it was just a matter of hustling you out of the room before the 'five minute window' was up. Once I had cured her body, my future self opened a portal into your Mom's bedroom and I pushed her through. Then it was just a matter of covering up the missing body. It is a sad commentary on our times, but that kind of a problem is easily handled if you throw enough money at it."

Lex suddenly understood what Chloe was saying; his Mom now had a 'bot system in her body just like his. Once Lana came to terms with her 'gifts' and learned to control them, she or Chloe could tune up any injuries in his Mom just like they had done for him over the past couple of weeks.

As Lex contemplated the long, health life his mother could now anticipate, Chloe continued her story about the rescue of their parents.

"Retrieving Lana's parents was a much more challenging proposition. They had been seen by a street full of people only an instant before the meteor hit. And after the meteor hit, no way was I going to be able to pick up all of the small pieces and put them back together in five minutes. So the only solution was to pull them out in the last, tiniest fraction of a second before the meteor hit.

"I have been very afraid of screwing up the timeline by letting someone from my old past recognize me, so this time around I have only been in Smallville one time in the last fifty years."

Here Chloe paused her story for a moment and looked up at Clark. "Clark, you don't know how hard it has been the past few years, to know I could hop in a car and be in Smallville in a couple of hours and see you. Even if 'seeing you' meant being parked in a dark car and watching you walk from the Talon to your pickup some evening."

With a shake of her head, Chloe tried to get back to her explanation. Clark was here now and all those hard, lonely days were in the past.

"Anyway, that one time I returned to Smallville was on the day of the meteor shower. No one ever pays much attention to city workers; therefore I had a whole crew of surveyors working on Main Street. Of course, our equipment was highly modified with high speed video cameras jury-rigged to atomic clocks to record the exact position of Lana's parents and the exact time of the meteor hit."

"Then it was just a matter of figuring out how to create a moving portal instead of the typical stationary ones. Once I had figured that out, it was a straight-forward task to sweep a portal across their position about eight milliseconds ahead of the meteor."

Lex shook his head at how easy she made it sound, when he knew she must have committed a major amount of time and effort on the problem. Chloe had certainly been busy in the twelve hours since they had gone downtime to Rome. Retrieving the stranded scientists. Retrieving his Mom. Retrieving Lana's parents. Rigging the lab with explosives.

"Thank you, Chloe. You can't imagine how much Lana and I appreciate what you did."

"You're welcome, Lex. Do you remember the conversation we shared in the coach just after we saw all of the crucified bodies along the road? I had a lot of time over the next few centuries to think about what you said about how people with great gifts and abilities should use them to help mankind. And I have tried to implement some of those things into my own life. Not that I could do too much that was obvious in the past without risking the timeline, but now that we are past the time-loop, I plan to be more aggressive in trying to do good things like this first step of rescuing your parents."

Lex looked at Chloe and suddenly was struck by how much she had grown since they had parted back on the other side of the portal. The old Chloe had outlived so many countless generations of friends and family members that she had in some ways divorced herself from the human race. Oh, she went through the motions of living, but even she had admitted she hadn't had children in a very long time. Whether it was connecting with Clark and his equally unique gifts, or perhaps even a little bit her discussions with himself, somewhere during their stay in Rome some missing fire in her had been rekindled. Lex was glad he wasn't the only one whose life had been changed for the better by their experience.

While Lex was lost in his thoughts, Lana asked the question that had been bothering her. "Chloe, won't bringing our parents here mess up the timeline?" After a quick apologetic look at her parents, she quietly added, "They were dead."

Chloe smiled and shook her head. "No, time doesn't care as long as you move them forward. Actually, as far as time is concerned, this isn't any different than a Walt Disney popsicle."

"Walt Disney popsicle?" Lana repeated, having no clue what a popsicle at Disneyworld had to do with bring people back from the dead.

"Surely you must remember the urban legend about Walt Disney's body being frozen after he died? Or the hundreds of other people who have had their bodies frozen hoping they could be brought back after a cure was discovered for whatever killed them? Although I always thought the unfreezing part would be more challenging than the actual curing of the illness."

At this point Lex interrupted. "Chloe, if the person was frozen within five minutes of death, do you think you could cure them?"

Chloe looked at him for a moment as she thought. "I don't know, Lex. I never thought about it before. To a certain extent I depend on quickly restarting the circulatory system to spread the 'bots through the body. If you could unfreeze the body fast enough, I might be able to get the 'bots deployed quick enough to undo the damage. Why, Lex? Do you know where Walt's body is hidden?"

"Who, me?" Grinned Lex. Then he feed back a line she had once used on him. "No, the only body I know about is Jimmy Hoffa."

Chloe laughed as she still seemed to be the only one besides Lex who got the joke.

Turning back to Lana, she said. "Sorry about getting sidetracked. Anyway if someone did figure out how to revive those people, some of whom have been 'dead' for twenty years, it would be big news for a while, but the universe wouldn't implode or anything. And it will be the same for your parents."

"So, we are just going to tell people we snatched them from death with a time machine?" asked Lana.

"Well, no, that probably wouldn't be a good idea. The time machine should probably be kept a secret for the present, just like other things need to be keep just between us." Chloe answered with a meaningful glance from Clark, to Lex, and back to Lana, clearly meaning Clark's secret and her own secret which now also involved Lana, Lex, and Lex's mother.

"Then how do we explain their sudden return?"

"Oh, I'm sure you will think of something."

"Like what?" asked Lana her concern about the question becoming more pronounced.

"I brought them here, so I have done my part. The rest is up to you and Lex." Then Chloe added in a kidding tone. "Unless you want me to return them to where I got them?"

Lana's eyes widened in alarm until Lex squeezed her hand and jumped back into the conversation. "Lana, she's just kidding. Don't worry, we'll figure something out. If necessary, we'll move somewhere no one has ever of us or our parents."

"Never heard of Lex Luthor?" gibed Lana as she calmed back down. "Where would that be, Timbuktu?"

"Well, I think with a little effort we can come up with a better solution than that." Then for a moment Lex got the famous 'evil Luthor' grin. "Besides, I want to see the expression on my father's face when Mom first walks into the room."

"Now, Lex," said Lillian in a tone that was both scolding and mischievous. "You and your father aren't still feuding after all of these years?"

Lex had a sheepish expression on his face when he gave a small shrug.

"Men, you can leave them alone for a minute. It looks like the Luthor household is in for a serious attitude adjustment."

The 'evil Luthor' grin reappeared briefly on Lex's face. No one intimidate Lionel Luthor. Not captains of industry. Not Presidents or Prime Ministers. No one except Lillian Luthor. Oh, life was going to be so interesting.

"Ah, Chloe, whatever happened to the Professor? Did he come back earlier today? Is he still a potential threat out there somewhere?" asked Clark.

"Hmm, it seems some lowly grad student assistant made a small error in the computer code controlling the destinations programmed in from the setup in Tolosa," Chloe said with a wink. "If you instructed the portal to return you to the University Lab after 4 P.M. today it instead sends you to the island you see in the opening footage of Gilligan's Island, only a thousand years ago." Chloe grinned even further. "It completely slipped my mind until you mentioned it. I hope he likes coconuts."

At this comment, all four of those present who had suffered the trials of being stranded in ancient Rome started to laugh. It felt good knowing the Professor was sharing the unpleasant feelings of being stranded with little hope of ever seeing home.

Somewhere during this conversation they had all slumped down onto the three broken down, but surprisingly comfortable couches this room had to offer. Now Chloe stood up and pulled Clark to his feet.

"Clark, I am sure Lex and Lana have a lot of catching up they wanted to do," Chloe said as she ran her hand up his impossibly strong arm. "And I have a little catching up I want to do, too."

Turning to Lex, she said. "Lex, Mike, who is waiting outside, has a limo for you. Whenever you are ready, he will run you all over to your penthouse."

After Lex nodded, Chloe turned to leave, but then stopped and turned back. "Oh, in all of the excitement I almost forgot the latest toy I wanted to give you."

She walked over to the nearest table, set down her shoulder bag, and pulled out a slim, ornate wooden box about one and a half inches thick by six inches long and four inches wide. Opening the box exposed six silver tubes about the same size and shape as a good Cuban cigar. Each of tubes was almost like a small work of art without any immediately obvious function. As part of the decorative engraving, each recipient's first name was included in a fancy floral script.

"Fresh from one of my electronic companies in the Netherlands, this is the latest in cell phone technology, all voice activated and this time the voice recognition really works. These will be hitting the street in about six months."

Lana turned hers over in her hand. "Ahh, Chloe. I would have guessed you would have gone more the 'Star Trek' communicator badge route."

"Oh, that's next year's model," responded Chloe brightly. "No, actually, the cool part about these is the display."

Chloe pulled her own out of the pocket of her slacks and demonstrated. "See this recess button turns on the voice activation system." She pressed her button and said, "Call Lex."

Immediately, Lex's phone started to vibrate. Once he answered, she showed them the other recessed button. At a touch, a thin film screen rolled out of the tube like the unrolling of a scroll until an eight inch wide by five inch tall screen appeared on which a high quality video signal of Lex appeared. Once Lex had deployed his screen, he had a matching real-time photo of Chloe.

"Of course, you can also surf the 'net with these, but I thought with all of our tangles with meteor freaks, well sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words."

Clark, being a techno-geek wannabe, asked. "It must take a lot of bandwidth for this quality of video."

"Yeah," grinned Chloe. "Fortunately, for some reason the cell phone company chose the Metropolis to Smallville corridor as their first test market."

Lex had slid the screen of his phone in and out several times and then turned it over in his hand several times. "Ahh, Chloe. A couple of questions. The screen seems to take up most of the interior space, where are the batteries? Also, I don't see where you plug in the charger."

"Well, Lex, the power system is a byproduct of some the nanotechnology research I needed as part of the design for the portal device. The nanotech battery has an energy storage density about twenty five times that of the traditional lithium batteries, so the case of the tube itself is the battery and provides significantly more power in a smaller total volume. Additionally, we came up with an inductance charging system so the phone will trickle charge any time it is near an active electrical device. If you set it next to your electric clock at night, that is sufficient to keep it charged. If you head off into the boondocks, or someplace like ancient Rome, a full charge is good for about a month of active use. Oh, and if you are outside the range of a cell tower system, they have a walkie-talkie mode with a range of about five miles."

"They certainly would have been handy back in Rome," remarked Clark.

Lex had been thinking about the earlier part of Chloe's remark. "Chloe when you say it's a byproduct of your research for the portal device, what exactly do you mean?"

"Come on, Lex. Who do you really think was responsible for development of the portal device? A professor at a university which is, at best, on the second tier for overall science schools? A professor who loved to play the horses and who barely made tenure?" And here she paused to take a big, sweeping bow. "Or his stunningly beautiful grad student who just happens to have the equivalent of about four billion Cray supercomputers in her body?"

Lex shook his head in disappointment with himself. It should have been obvious when she stayed behind back in Rome that ultimately she would be the one to develop the device.

Chloe shook her own head. "As Spock would say, 'It is fascinating how time-loops work'. If I hadn't gone back through time, I never would have believed it was possible. But knowing it was possible, I was forced to do it, so I could send myself back through it and start the whole loop over again."

Lana looked at her in surprise. Chloe had never shown much interest in science back at school. "You designed the portal device?"

Chloe shook her head. "Not by myself. More people than you can imagine were involved. Remember the Manhattan Project during World War II? Oh, that's right; none of you were alive then. Well, the Manhattan Project was the effort by the United States government to design and build an atomic bomb. Only, maybe, two hundred people knew the true goal of the project, yet at its peak the project was absorbing almost ten percent of the industrial output of the entire country.

"The portal device is at least ten times as challenging as the development of the atomic bomb. Fortunately, I had a much greater time scale in which to work than the four years they had to build the bomb. The theoretical work actually started almost one hundred and twenty years ago. My 'bot system is unmatched for pure number-crunching or looking for patterns in massive quantities of data, but for pure theory I am not much better than the average man on the street. So, it was a matter of finding the right people with brains 'wired' for theory and then point them in the right direction. In the end, five new branches of physics theory were developed by the people I got started.

"Once the theory was out of the way, new materials, power systems, and computers were needed. Lex, haven't you ever wondered why Moore's Law has followed such a smooth curve for the past forty years. I mean having processor power double exactly every eighteen months, year in and year out. It amazes me sometimes that the conspiracy nuts never caught on that there has been an outside force governing the progress all of these years."

"Wait a second, Chloe. Are you saying you are the driving force behind Moore's Law?" exclaimed Lex.

"Guilty as charged. Fortunately, since the spread of e-mail and internet science forums it has become a lot less time consuming to drop hints in the right ears to ensure the progress I needed to have the portal device ready on time."

More and more light bulbs were going off in Lex's head. "So the three million dollars a year I spend to fund the Professor. . ."

"I am afraid it was window dressing, Lex. The actual budget is hard to quantify as it is buried in R&D budgets of high tech companies all over the globe, but a rough guess would be about three hundred billion dollars a year in the past decade. Of course, the spin-off technologies have covered most of these expenses."

Lex found the economic scale involved with the project he had always assumed was almost a 'garage' operation fascinating, but he had come to know Chloe well enough to recognize from the way she was fidgeting that she really wanted to get out of here with Clark. Plus, he could tell everyone else was starting to get bored and were just indulging him out of politeness.

"Chloe, maybe you and I could continue this conversation at a later time."

Chloe shot him a grateful smile. "Yeah, that would be fine. Well, it has been about a seventy two hour day for me and I am ready to crash. How about we see you back in Smallville? Just to refresh your memories, it is late Friday night, or early Saturday morning depending on your point of view. Lana, we do still have school on Monday and there are some things you and I need to discuss before then. How about you stop over at my house Sunday evening about seven thirty?"

When Lana nodded, Chloe grabbed Clark's hand and headed for the door. At the door she paused and turned back one last time.

"Oh, and Lex? In case you have forgotten, your father is in Rome doing a deal to acquire an Italian chemical company." Chloe gave Lex a quick wink. "I am confident he won't be back to Metropolis until at least Tuesday."

Before they could make a clean getaway, Lana ran over and gave Chloe one final hug. "Chloe, thank you, thank you, thank you. This has been the best gift anyone has ever given me."

Chloe looked Lana in the eye. "Just seeing the look on your face right now has more than made up for the effort. Now, go, get to know your parents."

Then with a grin and a wave, she and Clark were gone out the door.

Clark pulled Chloe in tight as they exited the building. As Chloe pointed them in a direction away from all of the still on-going excitement by the Physics Building, Clark said. "That was a wonderful thing you did for them, Chloe. I have never seen Lex or Lana as happy as they are right now."

Chloe nodded. "Yeah, I was hoping for the best, but I think it turned out even better than I expected." Then she looked up and caught his gaze before continuing. "Clark, I wanted to do a nice big surprise for you, too, but I am afraid yours is still a 'work in progress'."

Clark ground to a halt and pulled Chloe into a tight embrace. "Tell me."

"Well, for some mysterious reason, both NORAD's and NASA's deep space tracking radars sent their output to some unknown destination on the day before and the day of the meteor shower. They are still scratching their heads how both systems could screw up simultaneously."


"Meaning I decided I had more interest in that data then they did and it was also probably safer in my hands."

Clark's heart started pounding a little faster. "Was there any useful data?"

"Yeah, I tracked the final six hours of the approach of the cloud of meteor rocks and, I presume, your ship. Although either the ship has some stealth features or the radar just didn't have sufficient resolution to distinguish your ship from the larger chunks of meteor rock.

"Anyway, when I backtracked the trajectory of the meteor rocks far enough, they intersect with a red giant star that went supernova one hundred and eighty seven years ago. So I am guessing the rocks and probably your ship originated there."

"One hundred eighty seven years? How could I have spent that long in the spaceship and still have been only three years old when it arrived on earth?"

"We don't have the technology, but if you accelerated the spaceship up to 99.999996% of the speed of light you achieve a time dilation effect where only eight hours appears to pass for someone in the ship while one hundred eighty seven years passes from the perspective of anyone on the outside. A fairly simple application of some of Einstein's earliest work. As for the meteor rocks, I assume they somehow got sucked up into whatever energy field was used to motivate the ship."

While Chloe was giving her college Physics 101 explanations, the rest of what she said hit home with Clark.

Clark's shoulders sagged as he said. "You said the star went nova. That means my people really are gone and I am alone."

To get his attention focused back on her, Chloe said sharply. "CLARK. Clark think for a moment. Lana's parents and Lex's Mom were gone too. Time Machine, remember?"

Clark's spirit lifted for a moment before crashing back to the ground. "But you just blew it up."

Chloe grinned at him. "I blew up that time machine because it was in too open an area. Plus it is inconveniently far from Smallville."

Then what she said clicked for Clark. "You have another machine!"

"Well, with a couple more months of work, I will have another working machine. The first of the fusion generators was brought online last week."

"Fusion generators? Like your own nuclear power?"

"Yeah, it is going to take some very significant power to punch open a wormhole across almost two hundred light years. Fortunately these generators are more like the next stage of advancement. Current nuclear reactors use the same atomic principles as the uranium bomb used at Hiroshima. Mine use principles more akin to hydrogen bombs, much higher energy yields and less of the annoying radiation."

"I thought they were still twenty or thirty years from a practical fusion power plant."

"Clark, fusion power is a much simpler project than the portal device. No new theory is even needed, just better engineering. It could be in general use now if the government was willing to commit to a Manhattan Project type approach."

"Chloe, the scale of the facility you are talking about sounds pretty large. Where around Smallville is it? I don't remember anything like that."

Chloe grinned. "Hmmm, I had to put it somewhere you wouldn't stumble on it and screw up the timeline. Where around Smallville have you been least likely to go since getting your X-ray vision, or even before that?"

Clark thought about it for a few seconds before responding. "Creekside Foundry. Where I fought with Greg Arkin. It has the highest concentration of the meteor rocks in the whole county."

"Bingo. Give yourself a cookie."

"But if you have been building a big facility there, someone would have noticed and talked."

"You forget Clark; I am 'plan ahead' girl. The facility was built below the foundry when it was first constructed back in the late 1880's. Everyone involved has been dead for over fifty years. We have had to bring a lot of the equipment in during the past year, but since I already knew when the 'meteor freak of the week' would have you and the sheriff's department occupied, it was pretty easy to escape notice."

"Amazing, simply amazing Chloe. I am looking forward to seeing this facility."

"It is pretty cool in an anachronistic sort of way. I mean it is about to be the most high tech scientific research facility on the planet, but on the inside the facility looks like something straight out of Jules Verne with plush red leather seating and wall coverings, dark mahogany wood, and lots of black iron and riveted truss support structures. Very Victorian, but sort of the 'mad scientist' look that I like."

Clark could almost picture Chloe captaining Jules Verne's 'Nautilus' from one of the old British movies.

"So, in two months we could be on our way to look for my parents?"

"Hmm, the portal device should be ready for some test runs by then, but we might want to start with something a little less ambitious. Plus I would like to study your ship before we go for any additional clues. I mean, if the meteor rocks are from the same place as you, why do they have such an incapacitating effect on you? They must be plentiful back in your home world, but people seemed to have prospered there enough to build your spaceship. I really want the answers to some of these questions before I risk sending anyone there. It's not like there is a big rush, your parents will still be there whether it takes us six months or five years to get ready."

Clark nodded and in his head he could accept Chloe's logic to be careful and not make any stupid mistakes. But in his heart he was just remembering how happy Lex and Lana were upon being reunited with their parents.

During their conversation they had been walking at a steady pace and now found themselves off-campus, but in an area filled with apartment buildings for students. As they walked, they met another couple heading in the opposite direction.

As they got closer and all came under the same streetlight, the other girl called out, "Hey, Lois."

Chloe responded, "Hi, Liz. Hi, Matt. I would like you to meet Clark. Clark, Liz is my roommate."

As Chloe was talking, Liz was checking Clark out. Tall, cute, dressed nice like they had just come from the theater. In the two years they had been roommates, Lois never seemed to do anything but work at the University paper and work on her doctoral thesis in some obscure branch of physics Liz never really understood. Oh, and then there were the frequent disappearances for a few days at a time, but never any men in her life, just an occasional mention of a 'Clark'.

"So, this is the mysterious Clark I have heard so much about. We heard the explosion and heard about the Physics Building on the radio. We are going to check it out; do you want to join us so we can chat?"

Chloe shook her head, but couldn't keep the big smile off her face. "It feels like it has been two thousand years since I have seen Clark and we want to be alone for awhile."

Liz got the unspoken message and grinned back. "Okay, I think I will be spending the night at Matt's. I'll see you tomorrow." Then she grabbed Matt's arm and quickly dragged him on their way.

Clark looked at the departing couple for a moment before turning back to Chloe. With a questioning tone he asked, "Lois?"

"The name I am using here, just like Coelia back in Rome. At the moment, it is unimportant."

Chloe pulled his head down for a quick kiss.

"Clark, I have been waiting for this moment for two thousand years. Please, my apartment is just up ahead."

Clark swept her up into his arms and then blurred into super speed.

The End.

Author's Note

Wow, did that ending rock or did that ending ROCK! A lot of reviewers said they liked happy endings and hey, me too. This was the most spectacular happy ending I could come up with and I hope you liked it.

If you enjoyed this story, be sure to check out the sequel 'Biological Families'.

Have a great day,