Chaos Unspool

By Pam Jernigan <>

Rated: PG

Submitted: August 2003

Summary: In the episode "Tempus, Anyone?" we saw H. G. Wells unlock Lois's hidden memories of the events in "Tempus Fugitive" simply by saying "let the memories unspool." But what if she regained her memories before then … on a date with Dan Scardino?

Author's Note: On the fanfic message boards, CC Aiken wondered what might happen if either Lois or Clark had their memories of Tempus Fugitive accidentally triggered. This story, and its sequel "Chaos Reintegrate," was written in response to that challenge. Thanks, C.C., for the fantastic premise, and thanks, Erin, for being such a stellar G.E.


She must have had her reasons. But at the moment, Lois was hard-put to remember any of them. Why on earth had she agreed to go on a date with Dan "Please call me Daniel" Scardino? It wasn't that he was unpleasant company, exactly, and it was nice to spend time with someone who stayed with her instead of running off all the time… but something just wasn't right.

Besides the fact that she'd ended up walking through a modern art exhibit. She never would have imagined Dan as the kind of guy to adore museums.

"Lois, isn't this one amazing?"

Lois walked over to the sculpture that Dan was admiring. It looked like a bunch of coat hangers and hubcaps welded together. "It's, ah… very imaginative."

"It says here," Dan announced, reading from the card on the pedestal, "that the guy who did this was in his eighties at the time."

Senile dementia then, Lois thought snidely, but immediately took it back. It wasn't the old guy's fault that she'd let Dan talk her into this. He was obviously enjoying himself to the hilt, but there was only so much "art" she could take at a time. Pretty soon, she decided, sneaking a glance at her watch, she'd suggest they move on to dinner. Although that meant another hour or so with Dan. Maybe she'd fake a need for a bathroom break and just not come back…

She'd been hanging around with Clark too long; she was picking up his bad habits.

"Oh, now, look at the colors in this one!" Dan said, pointing to a huge painting. It went from floor to ceiling and was at least nine feet wide. And yes, Lois had to admit it was extremely colorful. It reminded her forcibly of one of Dan's more garish shirts. Or some of Clark's crazier ties. But she wasn't going to think about Clark tonight.

Oh yeah, that was why she'd agreed to this date — so she would be distracted from trying vainly to figure out what was wrong with Clark, that he left so often, or what was wrong with her, that she still wanted him.

"What do you see in it, Lois?" Dan asked, sparing her a glance before returning to an enraptured study of the painting.

"Um… well…" Lois tried to force her mind back on track, and remember some of the phrases Dan had used earlier. "It seems very… emotional." That oughtta be safe enough.

"Oh, definitely — passionate, even. It's so… tumultuous. But you can see a kind of progress in it." Dan illustrated his points with wide gestures. "It starts out chaotic on this side, and then really goes nuts in the middle, but then things calm down some by the time it gets to the other side…"

Lois supposed that could be construed as progress. Either that, or the artist couldn't figure out when to stop slopping more paint on the canvas. Aware that more conversation was expected of her, Lois asked, "What's the little card say about it?"

Dan walked a few feet away to locate the information card, mounted on a side wall. "The artist is a woman in her thirties… she calls it _Chaos Unspool_ — see, I was right about the chaos!" Dan seemed elated at his success in deciphering the artist's supposed meaning. He moved back toward the middle of the painting. "I could just stare at it for hours."

Lois could only nod, as the word "unspool" echoed in her mind. Said by someone with a British accent. A strange image flashed through her mind. She was sitting on a weird sort of… sleigh bed… with gauges and dials on it like a car. With Clark in the driver's seat. As if from far off, she heard her own voice wondering why, if Tempus (whoever that was) wanted to destroy Superman as a baby — Lois gasped at that idea — he would be heading to Smallville. And then there was a swirl of darkness and color…

The images faded, leaving her blinking. What had that been? It seemed that she and Clark were planning to do something, though she wasn't quite sure what. Something to protect Superman. But what was the nonsense about him being a baby? The only way to see Superman as a baby would be… to… travel back in time.

Time travel? That was crazy! But the part of her brain which insisted that it was true was also the part where all her best intuitive leaps came from. She'd always trusted it before.

There was a brief glimpse of a man with a mocking laugh, but it faded before she could make any sense out of it. All she knew was that she'd felt hurt and humiliated. But why?

"Lois? Lois…?" Dan's voice broke through her confused thoughts. "Are you okay? You're looking kind of… weird."

"Oh, no, I'm fine," Lois answered, before remembering that she'd wanted to get out of here. She put a hand to her head and took a step. She didn't have to fake being dizzy.

"You need to lie down," Dan announced, all traces of the art-lover once more hidden. "Let's go find the first aid station."

"Yeah, maybe." What she really wanted was peace and quiet to figure out what was happening to her. She had a hunch that a doctor wouldn't be able to help on this one. "No, I think I just need to go home. It's just a, a…" Her confused brain tried to think of the excuse she needed. "…a migraine. I get them every once in a while." People with migraines needed quiet darkness, right? That'd be perfect. "Just let me go home and sleep it off; I'll be fine."

Dan insisted on doing the driving, and for once Lois didn't fight about it. A picture of a blue car popped up… it looked like an old model. Faintly, she heard, "Come on, Lois, you haven't said a word since 1866!" 1866? That was Clark's voice, it had to be. And she could tell that she was furious at him, though she still didn't know why. Furious and hurt.

She barely noticed Dan helping her up to her apartment, as bits and pieces of pictures and sounds seemed to whiz past her, each giving her just a tantalizing second of information before escaping again.


She forced herself to concentrate. Dan was looking extremely worried. "It's okay, really," she told him with a weak smile. "I'll just go lie down. I'll be better in the morning."

Dan looked doubtful, but obeyed her obvious wish for him to leave. Once the door locked after him, something inside Lois relaxed, something she hadn't known was tensed. She dropped her purse and coat on the couch, stepped out of her shoes, and made a beeline for the bedroom.

Okay, what did she know? There was something about Clark, and Superman, and time travel — assuming she wasn't hallucinating it all. For a brief moment, she was tempted to call Dan back, in case she really was ill. He wasn't the one she wanted, though. Dan would hover and ask questions and annoy her to death. Only Clark seemed to know when to withdraw in the face of her moods, and when to tease her out of them. And if this wasn't just hallucinations, he was involved, anyway.

She reached for the phone, her fingers dialing Clark's number with little need for instruction from her brain.

**Hey, this is Clark Kent. I'm not here right now, but leave a message! I'll get back to you.**

"Clark, it's me… I'm feeling kind of… well, I'm fine, but it's a weird thing… could you call me when you get in?"

She hung up the phone. Another mystery presented itself: what was it about feeling vaguely ill and thinking of Clark that would make her think of buttermilk?

She shook her head, dismissing the question, and laid down on the bed, still in slacks and a blouse. Okay, now she could concentrate on these… memories? She caught another mental glimpse of the laughing man — this time she recognized him as Tempus. He was in a park, wearing a strange blue and silver outfit, and aiming a gun at her. Then she had a flash of fighting with him, though the background had changed to forest. Then she was facing him inside a building, a barn, maybe. He said what sounded like "you're even a breakfast cereal" but she had to be mis-remembering that part.

These were all too jumbled up to figure out. She decided to try focusing on one element, and chose the blue car in preference to Tempus. It was a blue sedan, and she was walking towards it. She heard herself talking about lying, and politicians, and renting the car. Then the scene flashed forward, and she found herself sitting inside the car, with Clark crouching down outside, his face near to hers.

"Lois, I have hated lying to you," he said, and he certainly seemed sincere, but her dream self stubbornly ignored him.

They were walking across a field. "Lois, do the words 'let it go' mean anything to you?" She'd been ready with a scathing answer but abandoned it when she saw Clark doubling over in pain. They'd left that field, searching for someone… a baby, she thought. But also Superman. Except Superman was there, placing a small spaceship back into that same field. She heard Clark's voice say, with quiet satisfaction, "The Kents have the baby."

But if the baby was Superman, and Superman was found by the Kents…


That was why she'd been so furious. The memories flowed faster as she connected more pieces, until she had a pretty good picture of what had happened. She'd lost the memory of an entire day. That was unsettling. How could she have lost so much time — and not even realized that she'd missed it?

She remembered H.G. Wells explaining that he would take them back in time to the moment before they left, and that therefore they wouldn't remember a thing. She frowned. That part sounded pretty illogical. But it seemed to have worked. It had been the day of Perry's birthday party. She'd had a nagging sense of deja vu the whole day, but hadn't been able to discover why, and had eventually dismissed it.

Now she knew. Oh, there were small gaps here and there, but she felt certain that she'd gotten all the important parts. She remembered how humiliated and betrayed she'd felt when Tempus had revealed that Clark had been lying to her, that he was Superman. She remembered slapping Clark over it. She remembered watching him with younger versions of his parents. She remembered him saying, "I've always wanted to do this in front of you" before whirling into Superman. Best of all, she remembered their kiss. They'd both been a little unsure, but once they'd touched it had been magic.

She remembered spending a few quiet hours with Clark. Her anger had faded by then, and they'd talked — really talked. They'd both had some apologies to make and some misunderstandings to clear up.

And last but not least, she understood why she'd remembered all this tonight. H.G. Wells had apparently left himself a point of re-entry into their lives — she and Clark both would recall everything when he said the phrase "let the memories unspool." No doubt he'd thought it was a safe choice, given what an unusual word 'unspool' was. But then, she thought with the beginnings of a smile, he hadn't counted on modern art!

If she'd heard the whole phrase at once, she was pretty certain she'd have remembered everything in a flood of memories. As it was, with only one word of the phrase, it had been more like a trickle, leaking through the edges of a broken wall.

A sharp knock on the door startled her. Faintly, she heard Clark's voice calling, "Lois? Are you in there? Are you okay?"

She froze, still feeling some of the anger she'd experienced on that trip. There was no doubt that Clark had been lying to her — would still be lying to her, in fact — and that she'd made a fool of herself as a result. But they'd been through all this before…


"I'm coming," she called out, swinging her legs off the bed and walking toward the front door, a tumult of emotions all vying for prominence. She opened the door to see Clark, in jeans and a loose t-shirt, looking worried.

"Are you okay, Lois?" he asked, watching her closely.

She nodded. "I'm fine. Come on in." Now that he was here, Lois knew what she felt, and what she wanted. The only question was, should she reveal her regained knowledge? Of course, she could always just say the magic words… but some small part of her wanted to keep Clark guessing just a little bit longer.

She locked and bolted the door, then turned to see Clark still standing there. She smiled and looped her arms around his neck, a move that clearly surprised him. She reached up to kiss him, and after a moment's startlement, his arms came around her and he began responding to the kiss.

When they finally pulled back, Clark looked at her quizzically. "Um… I thought you were out with Scardino tonight?"

She waved him away. "Dan is history. It would never work. He has terrible taste in art."

Clark looked hopeful. "Does that mean… you'll go out with me again?"

"I thought you'd never ask," she replied, smiling, before reaching up to kiss him again. This time, when she pulled away, it was only a few inches, their foreheads almost touching. "Clark… I should have said this a long time ago. I just didn't want to admit it to myself, and by the time I could, I was too scared." She took a deep breath. "I love you."

Clark's eyes lit up with pure joy. "You mean that?"

"Yep," she was happy to reassure him. "I think I always have, one way or another." She saw Clark's eyes grow wary, and she hastened to add, "And I definitely don't think of you as a brother!"

"Good," Clark growled in return, moving forward just a fraction to nuzzle her cheek. "I have never thought of you as a sister."

"So, you're saying…?" Lois prompted him, closing her eyes and tilting her head to the side to give him more access.

He pulled back just far enough to meet her eyes. His expression was deadly serious. "I love you, Lois Lane."

"And I love you, Clark Kent," Lois replied. It wasn't nearly as scary to say as she'd thought it would be. "Now, about you running away all the time…"

He flinched, looking guilty and scared. "Yeah, I should probably explain that. Lois, you have to know I never meant to hurt you—"

She interrupted him with a soft kiss. "It's okay, Clark. But for pete's sake, the next time you have to run off to be Superman, just say so!"