Clark and Lois have a son in this world. A real son.
Christopher Kent does not need to be told that he doesn't have a place here, in this strange new world. He doesn't belong here; he should have faded out of existence when the world turned over twice, but, deep within the Phantom Zone, he had survived.
And then he had fallen a third time, crashing to the ground, but this time, Superman didn't come for him.
Their son's name is Jon Kent, and he's eleven years old; barely older than Christopher. He's named after Clark's father, and he looks like he belongs. He has a kind face and Lois's eyes and Clark's hair. He fits into their lives in a seamless way that makes Christopher's heart ache.
He'd never really belonged with Clark and Lois anyways.
So, he stays away, watching from a distance. He never dares to get too close, especially to the farm; Clark would be able to see him and know something's wrong. Christopher is good at hiding, good at running, but he's not sure he's that good. He stays in Metropolis instead, practically a ghost, leftover from the world before.
He has fallen three times; once to Earth, once to the Phantom Zone, and once to this strange new world, where things don't feel quite right.
Clark had found him the first time, Zod had found him the second.
And the third time, it had been Booster Gold.
"Come on, kid," Booster Gold says to him, sitting on a rooftop. It's been months since he fell, since Booster found him, called him by his name, and explained what happened. "I promise, it will be fine."
"They're not them," Christopher says. It's true. He had approached Lois, in a vague stupor on the second day in this world, unsure if time had passed or if she had just... forgotten him. He hadn't quite believed what Booster said, about the world changing. It didn't... fit.
She hadn't even seen him, not really. She'd given him a smile and a pat on the head, but it wasn't... there had been no familiarity, no comfort. He was no one to her, in this strange new world.
And he hated it.
"They can be," Booster says, like he's said every time. "Just give them a chance, okay?"
Booster has tried to make him go to Lois and Clark before, but the fact is, Christopher is full Kryptonian. He has powers that Jon Kent does not have yet, and maybe never will. If Booster would use all his abilities, maybe he could make Christopher move, or go somewhere he doesn't to go, but Booster doesn't want to. Christopher knows this much; Booster doesn't want to hurt him. He wants Christopher to go to Lois and Clark on his own free will.
But this isn't his Lois, or his Clark, if indeed, the ones he'd known had ever been his. They're new, strangers to him, and there's no room for Zod's son in their lives.
He takes the food that Booster has brought, and says nothing else, just keeps his eyes on the distance, telescopic vision allowing him to watch Clark lead Jon Kent down the street, holding hands.
Booster tries to get him to at least leave Metropolis, if he won't go to Lois and Clark, but Chris doesn't want to do that either. He's visited Booster's home; there's a man named Rip and a girl named Rani, but it's not home, and so he always goes back to Metropolis.
That's where they are, so that's where he'll be.
The days turn into weeks, which turn into months, each month dragging on like he's still in the Phantom Zone. Booster visits every day; but not in order. Some days, he's older and tired. Sometimes this means he's happier, others, softly miserable in that old, quiet way that he gets.
Christopher never mentions it. He knows Booster travels in time; it's why he remembers the world that was, the way things used to be.
Christopher spends his days, staring at The Daily Planet, watching Lois and Clark move through their lives, and wondering, if it was the world where he'd come from, how things would be different. Would he be in school, or would they have let him tag along to the office? Maybe he'd be the one who ran around with Robin at nights.
There's no point speculating, but it makes him feel better, sometimes, to imagine that there is still some tiny place where he belongs.
It's one normal, boring day when he hears the screams. Clark is gone, out of town, doing something with the Justice League. Chris turns his face to the sky, and sees a plane, falling, the engines stopped, and his heart skips a beat.
People are calling for Superman, not knowing he's too far away to be any help. Supergirl isn't there either, nor are any of the others. Christopher listens, but no one is there. Lois is calling on her phone, trying to reach someone who can help. But no one is answering.
"Clark," she curses, and if Chris closes his eyes, he can pretend he's in the office with her, sitting in her chair while she calls. "Where are you?"
Clark isn't here, but Christopher is.
He wears his clothes from the Phantom Zone beneath the hoodie that Booster had given him. He throws it to the side on some sort of instinct, and then he reaches up...
He hasn't flown for so long, and if he'd had time, he'd savor it. He feels the wind buffeting him, the golden sun warm on his face, and he moves. There is nothing like flying in the whole universe.
He hears people shouting as he races over the city, up and up and up until...
The plane is heavier than anything he's ever tried to lift. Screams from the people inside the plane ricochet inside of his sensitive ears, and he throws his arms wide, encompassing as much of the nose as he can. Up, up—he tries to pull it up, to stop the fall, to control it.
He wants Clark—Clark would know what to do, would help him catch this, would put a hand on his back and tell him he's doing a good job, but he can't hear Clark at all.
Christopher is all alone in this.
He feels a tear slide down his face. His lungs burn with the effort, and he thinks his arms might fall off as he struggles to control the entire plane.
But, finally, he sets it down on the ground gently as he can, his own feet sinking to the ground, heavy as lead with exhaustion.
There's a moment of silence, before the roar begins.
He spins away from the plane, shocked, caught up in the sea of click-flash of cameras and the electronic beep of phones. Panic seizes him, and he throws his arms up to the sky and takes off, only freezing when he spots Jimmy Olson, camera in hands. He remembers Jimmy, remembers that he's Clark and Lois's friend...
And then he spots Lois, right next to him.
For a moment, he just stares at her, and he wants to cry.
But then common sense returns to him, and he flees to the skies.
Lois Lane looks at the photo.
It's not Jon, which should be a comfort. This boy is older than her son, and he isn't the stark image of Clark. He's got dark hair, yes, but it's brown, not black, and the face is all wrong. Still familiar, but not her husband or son. He's not wearing the colors that Clark wears either, and there's no symbol on his clothes of any sort, which Lois might be able to use to try to figure out who he is.
He's Kryptonian, she knows that much; there's a kind of look to them, that Lois has learned over the years. It's not just the El family, she's seen it in Zod and the others. There's something there.
Lois sits at her desk and ponders the picture that Jimmy had given her.
Perry had picked a different one for the front page. Lois has already handed in her story about it. The one Perry had picked matched the story. In it, the "Superboy's" hands are above his head, visibly straining with the effort of keeping the plane aloft. He looks strong, powerful, heroic, a smaller version of Clark in so many ways.
But this photo was snapped in the single heartbeat when he'd been hovering in the air before he'd fled, after setting the plane down. He'd paused in his retreat, and Lois could have sworn he'd been looking right at her. Jimmy had caught that moment on camera, and now Lois could see his expression perfectly.
His eyes were wide and afraid and hurt, and he looked the kind of exhausted she'd seen Jon get, when he'd used his powers too much. And most notably, there was the sheen of tears in his eyes.
She'd checked social media already; if anyone else had this photo, they haven't released it yet. It had been Jimmy's eye, and experience with heroes, which had granted him this perfect shot.
This boy is not her son, and Lois is relieved that Jon isn't out there, exposing himself like that.
But somewhere, this boy is alone.
And Lois is going to change that.
She makes some phone calls and gets lucky—a boy of his description has been squatting in an abandoned building for the past month or so. It's not too far from the Planet either, so Lois ducks out quickly enough, and takes the back ways so hopefully he won't notice her coming.
She needn't have bothered; the kid clearly wore himself out, catching a plane. He doesn't even notice her enter the room he's in. If he'd ran, she was planning on calling Clark, but he doesn't. He's just sitting on a bare mattress, staring at the ceiling.
He's wearing an oversized, battered Superman hoodie over the clothes he'd worn in the photo, and he looks abjectly miserable, his face the kind of grubby, puffy looking way that Jon gets when he's been crying.
"Hello," she says, and he leaps, quite literally, five feet into the air. "Please," she says, holding up her hands. "Don't go. My name is Lois Lane." He looks scared, but he doesn't run, just staring at her with those brown eyes, which are too big for his face in a way that looks underfed. "I won't hurt you," she promises. "What's your name?"
He opens his mouth, his eyes darting to the door behind her, but then seems to reconsider, slowly lowering himself to the ground, wrapping his arms around himself. He looks down, and whispers, "Lor-Zod."
She can't help but stare at them. "Like, General Zod?" There is a similarity that she can see, but only vaguely; the boy's miserable expression is so far from Zod's typical sneer that any real resemblance is missing.
He nods, shrinking back as if expecting her to strike at him, and she immediately is filled with the desire to go find whoever has hurt him in the past, and beat them to death with something heavy. He's just a kid.
"Is he here? Is Ursa?" She asks, because she needs to know if she needs to call Clark to get them both out of here.
He shakes his head again, and she sighs in relief. "I ran away," he says. "They don't—they aren't looking for me."
"Do you mind if I sit?" She asks. He blinks, then awkwardly shuffles aside on the mattress to make room for her.
She sits far away from him, to give him space, but carefully angles herself towards him. "That was very brave, saving that plane, Lor."
He flinches, like she's hit him, and she curses herself. "Oh! I'm sorry, do you not like that name?"
He shakes his head again.
"Do you go by anything else?"
He's refusing to look at her now, focusing on the ground. He's shaking from head to toe, and all Lois wants to do is to reach out and hug him, but she doesn't dare.
"Do you mind if I pick something out? Just so I can talk to you?"
"How does Christopher sound?" The name is random, but something about it fits, in a way that Lois doesn't quite have words for.
Apparently, he agrees, because he looks right up at her, and for a moment, she thinks she sees a smile, wide and brilliant as the sun, flashing across his face. It's gone a second later, but she knows what she saw.
"Do you like it?" She asks. "I can pick another one if you want."
"No!" He says. "I—I like it."
"Alright Christopher," she says, and the name seems to relax him. "Why don't you let me buy you a hotdog?"
He should just run away, but...
He's missed her.
It's not his Lois, he knows this, but she looks the same, smiles the same, even smells the same.
He's also really hungry.
He follows her, slightly in a daze, and takes the food. He's had these before, from his trip to Gotham. Robin had taken him out to get them.
"Are you on your own?" Lois asks softly.
He squirms. "I—the first time I left the Phantom Zone, I met some people who looked after me. But this time..." He scuffs the ground with his foot. Ketchup has fallen off his hotdog, and he smears it across the sidewalk. "I—there's someone who found, and he says they forgot me because the world changed. And things are... different."
"Different how?" Lois asks softly. She hands him a napkin.
"They've got a son now," he says. "A real son. They wouldn't want me anymore."
There's a sharp intake of breath, and her heart races.
She's kneeling in front of him now, her eyes serious, and she takes his head in her hands.
"What on Earth," she says, her voice fierce. "Did the other me say to make you think that having Jon would mean we didn't want you?"
She knows, she knows, she knows—
Chris jerks away easily, and he starts to run, vanishing down the nearest alley until no one can see him and he can fly away.
She lets him go.
He tells himself that doesn't hurt.
Clark is the one to find him, in the end.
Chris is sitting on a rooftop. He's not in Metropolis anymore. Booster hasn't visited, and he's tired and miserable and feeling sorry for himself.
So of course, Clark finds him.
"Christopher, right?" He says, and Christopher just nods, miserable. "It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm—"
"Kal-El," Christopher says.
"You can call me Clark," he says, sitting next to him. "Lois tells me you're from another world."
"Yes." It's at this point that he realizes they've switched to Kryptonese.
"And that you're our son."
Christopher shoots to his feet. "I'm Lor-Zod," he says. "I'm not—you have a son."
"I know," Clark says. "I'm not forgetting him. She says we took you in. Like Ma and Pa took me in." He says Ma and Pa in English, and the words sound strange and clunky, among the Kr Kryptonese.
Christopher remembers Jonathan and Martha. They had been very kind to him.
"I guess," he says quietly.
Clark smiles at him, and Christopher just wants to cry.
"I know I'm not the man you knew," he says softly. "But you know... Ma cooked dinner, back at Smallville. And she'd sure love to meet you."
Chris can't help but nod at that.
Kal-El stretches out an arm towards him, and Christopher shakes his head.
"It's okay," he says, slipping back into English. "I can fly on my own." He doesn't say you taught me how, but he thinks it.
"I know," Clark says. "I saw the news. But I thought we could fly together."
And so, Chris steps into the safety of Clark's outstretched cape, and the two of them fly together, up through the clouds, into the cool, safe darkness of night. And for a moment, Chris can pretend that he's still home, that this is his Clark.
And then they arrive at the farm.
"You must be Chris," Ma Kent says. Her smile is as wide as he remembers, and she sweeps him into her arms. He freezes, then relaxes. She smells like the old world. It lets him pretend, for a while longer.
"Who's this?" The voice is new and unfamiliar, out of place in this old world, and Chris jumps out of Ma Kent's arms, realizing again just how much he is intruding, how much he doesn't belong here.
It's Jon Kent, standing with his grandfather, staring at Chris with wide eyes.
Clark places a hand on Chris's shoulder, keeping him there, even if he doesn't know it. "This is Chris," he says. "He's your brother from another dimension."
Chris can't breathe; his chest is too tight, and he thinks that he might die. Of shame, of fear, of something; it's almost as bad as the time Zod tried to kill him, he thinks, wildly, preparing to flee, but Clark's hand is heavier than anything in the entire world, and he stays.
"Oh. Cool!" Jon squints at him. "How old are you?"
He shrugs. "Ten?"
"Awesome!" He punches the air. "Damian's the youngest of his siblings—he's going to be sooooo jealous!"
"Damian?" He asks, letting Clark guide him inside.
"Robin! He's my best friend."
Chris frowns. "I thought Tim was Robin."
"Tim used to be Robin," Clark says, pulling out a chair for Chris to sit in. It's next to Lois, who's sitting there, smiling widely at him. "Now he goes by Red Robin."
"Oh," Chris says. Another quirk of this world, he supposes.
Dinner is a haze. A warm, happy haze.
Chris goes to sleep that night in a spare bedroom, but Pa Kent tells him they'll get it more fixed up in the morning.
When he wakes up, Booster is there.
"So?" Booster asks, grinning at him. He looks... young. Very young.
Chris just sticks his tongue out. It feels right.
Booster laughs. "Good on you," he says. He kneels by the bed. "I meant what I said, okay? Just give them a chance. And if you need me, you know where to find me."
Just then, the door opens, and Lois looks in. "Chris, is something wrong?"
"Whoops." Booster suddenly goes very pale.
"You're the one who's been looking after him?"
"Don't you run away on me Booster Gold," Lois hisses, lunging forward. "I want answers—"
Booster disappears in a shimmer of light, and Chris stifles his laughter into his pillow as Lois's hands pass through thin air.
Maybe it's not the old world, but he thinks this might be home.