Claiming One's Own
David J. Duncan
Notes: Xena belongs to StudiosUSA and Renaissance Studios. Smallville belongs to DC and the WB. Miranda, Deirdre, and the Faerie Empress are my characters. Please send comments to
Introduction [Amazon Village 85 AD]
Gabrielle, Bard-Queen of the Amazons, writes...
They say all good things must come to an end. For our young friends from Smallville, their "graduation" marked one such turning point. Soon they would leave for college and start the next phase of their lives.
Even so, a very large threat arises to threaten everything. A common enemy has returned, forcing Xena and David to travel to Smallville sooner than planned. How will this adversary change things? Worse, what will the Child remember from this?
Chapter 1 [Faerie Lands]
In a realm hidden from our own by thick mists and an energy barrier, the Faerie Empress watched the events unfolding on Earth through her mystical portal.
Soon we will have to intervene. As soon as Deirdre arrives, we can proceed.
As if on cue, the mists congealed in the far corner, forming a doorway. Through it, Deirdre Dubois, a priestess of Althanor, stepped into the room. She bowed and asked, "Mother, you called?"
"Yes, Deirdre, I have a task for you," the elf-queen instructed. "This is very secret. Nobody is to know, not even your aunt. Understand?"
"Yes, I do," the priestess agreed. "What is so dire, may I respectfully ask?"
The Empress nodded. "What do you know about your cousin, Miranda?"
Deirdre sighed deeply, "Only that Papa still mourns her. She's been missing for twelve years."
"Fourteen of your years, to be precise. She's been found after all of this time. She's in Smallville, Kansas with your young friends, Clark Kent and Lana Lang. When you met her friends, I sensed her aura and tracked her there."
"That's marvelous! Mother, please let me tell Papa," Deirdre requested.
The Empress shook her head. "Not yet. Her kidnapper is still there, as well. And it is the Child who will face him."
"The Child? Why?" Deirdre wondered.
"Miranda's kidnapper tricked him on that dark day, disappearing with her right before his eyes. I would not deny the Child his rightful vengeance. Besides, her friends are under his protection now, as are their neighbors. Yodoshi, the demon lord who haunts their steps, shall soon learn the error of his ways," the Empress told her follower, her eyes flaring angrily. "Too many years were robbed from you all."
"What do we do then? How do we get the Child there without Papa?"
"Leave that to me. You, my Dear, are to head for Smallville. Protect them even as they go through their gathering, but stay concealed. Under no circumstances are they to engage the demon, especially not Clark Kent. His secret is to remain hidden for now. Do you understand me?"
The priestess bowed. "It will be my pleasure to assist my friends, Milady." With that, she disappeared back into the mists.
For a long time afterwards, the Faerie Empress gazed into her view portal, observing the events surrounding Miranda's kidnapping.
At least, I was able to guide her to Smallville, allowing her friends to keep her heart pure. Now on the eve of the Revelation, the Scum of the Underworld reveals himself and threatens everything. Curse you, Yodoshi. You force our hand. Now the Child will learn what happened before I wanted him too. As I made him forget, now I will make him remember.
Prepare yourself, O' Cruel One. As you threaten the young ones, the Talon will hear the banshee scream once again. The Dark Avenger comes, and he's looking for you.
Waving her hand, she disappeared from view.
Chapter 2 [Graduation Day-Smallville, Kansas]
As was the case every year, the third Sunday in June sent Smallville into an eager frenzy. Shop owners dressed their storefronts up extra nice. Up and down Main Street, the high school band paraded in formation, playing their instruments. On the hill overlooking the town, a pancake breakfast allowed everyone to enjoy themselves.
Clark stood in the loft, tying his tie. After four years of putting up with metal shop, history, art, and the everyday routine, he and his friends were finally graduating from high school. He stared out across his parents' field and mused, "It's unbelievable. Where did the time go?"
"Hey, everything's got to end sometime," Pete Ross replied, bouncing up the stairs in his graduation robes. Seeing the other's expression, he inquired, "How are you doing, guy?"
"Just glad to be getting out of here," the farm boy informed his friend.
"Yeah. No Reynolds and lots of Lana. I imagine you're psyched by that thought," Pete assumed.
Clark nodded. That is a thought. He smiled warmly, putting on his blazer and slipping on his robes.
"He better be," Lana's voice teased as she climbed the stairs. She wore her white robes and a matching mortarboard rested on top of her feathered dark brown hair. She grinned nervously. "How do I look?"
"Like a million bucks," Clark complimented, walking over and kissing her.
"Thanks, Clark. Sorry I'm late. I wanted to visit my parents' grave and give them my regards," she noted. "Besides, this is the beginning, you know." Her eyes shone into his as she kissed him again.
Clark smiled even wider after that. Please let that be true. A lifetime with you, Lana. I would give almost anything for that.
Pete agreed, "Absolutely. And you two deserve it. By the way, that was a great idea to let Miranda celebrate her emancipation with us. I never liked her step dad anyhow."
Clark frowned. Hansei Arighatto had given him the creeps since they were kids. Somehow, the man seemed cold and dark, almost like the descriptions of demons that they had all heard
about in church services. Still, he didn't want to badmouth the man. "I think he knows about me."
"What?" Lana asked incredulously. "How could he?"
"He was always able to look through someone with those intense eyes. Sometimes, I could feel someone in my head, especially when he's around. If he knows, we're in trouble," Clark continued, the nervousness evident on his face.
Lana stared out the loft door. Bad enough he beats Miri. Now he'll try to ruin things for everyone.
"Too bad there ain't anyone who can take him on if he goes demon man on us," Pete supposed.
"Our professor could, Pete," Clark stated, remembering the attack on the university from only two weeks earlier.
The question is, could everyone here take his alter ego?
"You mean the history geek from Arizona?" the jock doubted. "Come on, Clark. Yeah right."
She shook her head at them. "Trust me, Pete, there's more to that man than meets the eye." She trembled a bit, remembering the incident at Genomex.
Pete scrutinized them. "What's up about this guy that has you both so on edge?"
Clark sighed. "He's really explosive. If you were to give Byron psychic powers and put him in a dark mood, you'd have the Professor."
"And you want to go there?" Pete asked in disbelief.
She shook her head. "Pete, he's not that bad, and neither is his Child persona unless they're pushed. I hate to say this, but I would love to watch him lay into Miranda's step dad and teach that man a thing or two about abuse."
"My parents swear they know him," Clark told them.
"Maybe they met in Metropolis?" Pete suggested.
"Maybe. We can ask him when he comes in August. Meantime, we need to be careful in case Mr. Arighatto shows up tonight," Clark advised. "Come on, we're just going to make it!"
"Aren't you forgetting something?" she asked him, picking up his mortarboard. "Hold still." She positioned it on his head. "There! You look official!" She kissed him again. "For luck." Taking his hand, she led him toward her truck. With Pete following, she drove out of the driveway, heading for the ceremony and their transition.
Once they were out of sight, a pillar of mist appeared in the loft, allowing Deirdre to appear. She surveyed the farmland and sighed.
You'd best be careful what you wish for, Lana. You may just get what you asked
for. Making sure that everything was in order, she disappeared from view, heading for the ceremony as well.
Chapter 3 [Smallville High School]
Chloe Sullivan walked about in her robes and mortarboard, snapping pictures with her digital camera. Checking her watch, she winced. "Gee, guys, you do like cutting it close. Where are you?"
"A very good question, Miss Sullivan," Principal Reynolds chimed in.
She turned to see the well-built African-American man looking at her curiously. "I'm sure they'll be here any minute."
"I had hoped that Mr. Kent would show up early for his graduation at least," he commented.
"They'll be here in a minute," Miranda promised, walking over to them. "Lana just called me." Seeing Clark, Pete, and Lana rush over, she gibed, "Better late than never, guys."
"We still have ten minutes," Clark replied breathlessly. "Say, Principal Reynolds, could we ask a favor of you? Could you take a group picture of us?"
The elder man smiled and nodded. "Very well, Mr. Kent. It would be a pleasure." Taking the camera from Chloe, he motioned the graduates into position. "Ready?"
"You too, Miri," Lana urged, grabbing her friend by the arm.
"But...but...oh all right," she relented, joining them.
The principal snapped the picture and handed the camera back to Chloe. "There you are. Now I need you all to get to your places. The ceremony will be starting soon."
Miranda turned and saw her stepfather standing across the street. "No," she gasped.
"What?" Clark and Lana asked her. Then they saw the tall slender Oriental man staring at them.
For his part, Clark returned the stare with a steely gaze of his own. Nothing was going to happen here. Secret or not.
Hansei Arighatto smiled coldly, as if daring him to make a move.
"Come on, Clark," Lana insisted. "You can't make a scene here."
"All right. But this isn't finished," he retorted, going with her. Damn. He does know.
"Watch yourself, Miranda." Looking again, he saw that Arighatto had disappeared.
How did he do that?
"I will," Miranda promised, looking around as if she felt something or someone else there.
Somehow, I feel safe even if he's there. She took a deep breath, thinking of the previous week's emancipation hearing.
I hope it went through. I can't deal with him anymore.
An hour later, the mortarboards flew in the air as the Class of 2004 had their diplomas. Along with their headgear, applause rained down on them. The classmates embraced each other enthusiastically, exulting in their feat. Then they met their parents and
"Good job, all of you," Jonathan Kent congratulated his son, Lana, Chloe, and Pete.
"Absolutely," Martha Kent added, hugging each of them in turn.
"That goes for me too," Gabe Sullivan chimed in, embracing his daughter.
"And me," Nell Potter, Lana's aunt, said, giving Lana a kiss.
Lex Luthor sauntered over, hands in his pockets and the Smirk very prominent on his face. He had wanted to give them a minute before breaking in on this moment. "You all were great. Congratulations. I'm proud of you all. There's a private affair going on at the Talon for our parents and us. You all are invited. Miranda's over there getting everything ready."
"Thank you, Lex," Jonathan told him.
"My pleasure, Mr. Kent," the billionaire replied, giving the older man a smile.
"Well for that, but also for helping Miranda with the emancipation. That was quite a thing you did," the farmer expressed.
"She's a good person, kind of like a young man I knew a long time ago," Lex noted. "See you there."
Clark scratched his head. What was that all about?
That remark even got Martha and Jonathan thinking about the past, wondering if the history professor from Arizona was the same young man they had met so long before.
"Come on," Lana urged, trying to get them to forget about the remark and move on.
From her place in the mists, Deirdre frowned. Their tormentor had made his appearance. Soon he would make his move. Worse still, Miranda had sensed her presence even in the mists. Recalling the Faerie Empress' words, she knew where he would be next. The Talon.
What is this place that could cause Papa so much pain? With that, she disappeared from view, heading for her next destination.
The Faerie Empress speaks...
Deirdre does her task well. She's already seen Yodoshi stalking the young ones and keeps watch. Soon however, she will have to intervene directly.
Of greater interest, Miranda's own special talents are more powerful than anticipated. Even without special training, she can peer through the veil. Very impressive indeed. If there was any doubt about her being a Dubois, it's gone now.
As for the trial to come, it is time to seek out friends to assist the young ones and their parents at this time. One will come from the past. The other from this time. They need to intervene to keep the Secret and protect the future. Even if it means another secret is exposed in the process.
[Amazon Village c. 85 AD]
Xena sat in the midst of yet another council meeting with a frown. Despite her best attempts to remain interested, at the four-hour mark, even she lost patience and sighed.
Noting her friend's discomfort, Gabrielle wondered, "Is everything all right, Xena?"
"Yeah. Sorry, Gabrielle, I need a break," the Warrior Princess replied.
"I think we could all use one," Eve, former Messenger of Eli and Amazon Princess, concurred. "If the Queen so wishes."
"I do," the Bard-Queen agreed.
"And it is well timed indeed," a disembodied female voice announced. Within a few seconds' time, the Faerie Empress materialized in their midst. "Please excuse me, Queen Gabrielle, I come on an urgent matter needing Xena's help."
She wouldn't just pop in unless something really screwy is going on. "What's going on?" Xena wondered with concern, folding her arms across her chest.
"Your instincts serve you well, Xena," the Empress complimented. "Tonight, an old enemy returns to threaten your young friends from Smallville. You may remember this adversary, half-demon and half-man, from the slopes of Fuji."
"What?" Varia, the former Amazon Queen, challenged. "What is this?"
"Mother, what is she talking about?" Eve inquired, seeing the ashen looks on both Xena's and Gabrielle's faces.
Xena scowled. "She's talkin' about Yodoshi. The bastard's returned." She remembered the fight all right. She also remembered how forty years earlier she had helped Akemi, Yodoshi's daughter, to murder him.
Gabrielle shook her head. "Xena, we've been through this already. You're not responsible for those people."
"I know that!" the councilor spat. "But he killed Akemi. What's he doing in Smallville?"
"He's using it as a base," the Faerie Empress explained. "To observe an alien's progress and to conceal a lost little girl."
Eve interjected, "Clark Kent! Our visitor from a couple of weeks ago! Remember when he told his friend about losing his planet?"
Xena looked at the rest of the council. "So who's the little girl lost?"
"One he kidnapped from a twentieth century market. One familiar to David Dubois and to Cybelle. The one David still hopes to find," the visitor cryptically continued.
Gabrielle stared at the elf-queen in shock. "His niece, Miranda! You know where she is?"
"Indeed. She's in Smallville as well. I'll send Xena there on one condition. David, Angela, and Francesca are not to know of this situation yet. I promise you that they shall know soon. Do I have your word?"
The three chief Amazons looked at each other and their companions. Just as with the secret concerning Deirdre's transformation, there would be a price to be paid when the word did get out, but they needed to get there and help out. There was no choice.
"You have our word," Gabrielle assured, speaking for the others.
"Thank you, Queen Gabrielle. I assure you that Xena will not face Yodoshi alone. We go to secure the Child's assistance as
well," the Faerie Empress noted.
So soon after the Pit and the garbage with Eckhart and his father? "Are ya sure that's a wise idea?" Xena wondered.
"Would you deny the Child his revenge, Xena? He has faced Yodoshi before and despite being wounded, more than held his own. No, for taking Miranda and for endangering those under his watch, Yodoshi will face the Child on this night," the Empress continued, her tone dripping with anger.
"We'll be ready to back you up, Mother," Eve assured her.
For a second, Gabrielle shared a glance with her best friend and sister-in-arms. Their last encounter with Yodoshi had nearly killed them both.
I can't lose her.
Knowing what the Queen was thinking, the Warrior Princess assured her, "Don't worry. I'm coming back. Besides, the Child and Clark will be more than able to help out."
The Empress waved her hands, teleporting them away and leaving the Amazons wondering about what would happen next.
Meanwhile, Dave sat in his office, working on his latest book manuscript. With his classes finished for the summer, he could devote his full attention to it.
That'll make the publisher happy at least. Then he sensed something unusual in the air. Extending his enhanced senses about the room, he discovered an unusually high energy level. "Who's there?"
"Relax, David, it's me," the Faerie Empress replied appearing before him. "Tonight, I have business with the Child."
Even as he bowed out of respect for her, he protested, "The Child? With all due respect, I don't want any trouble."
"He goes to safeguard that which is dear to you against one with whom you are both familiar. Relax," she explained, bathing the room with a soft crimson light. "You feel the change happening. Don't resist it. Everything will be fine."
He nodded and allowed his personalities to flip-flop, relinquishing control to his alter ego.
The Child glared at her. "Yeah? What's up?"
She considered her next words carefully. I want to get him to help us, but not send him flying into an uncontrollable rage. Seeing Yodoshi, especially in the Talon, will be hard for him as it is.
"One who wronged you has gone after Clark and Lana. You remember them?"
"Course Ah do!" he snapped tersely. "Awright, who gits whupped?"
"He's called Yodoshi," Xena added, stepping into view from the mists. "We figured you'd wanna help kick his ass, especially if the kids were in trouble. Let's go!"
He growled, "Quit talkin' awready! Ah wanna whup Yodie-Boy's ass!" With that, he jumped into the mists, disappearing from view.
Before they followed, the Faerie Empress warned Xena. "Prepare yourself, Xena. The Child is about to learn something about himself and David that will enrage him still further."
"What?" the warrior growled. "What is it?"
"An incident with his father occurred in the place where we're going," the elf-queen told her.
"And you're sendin' us there? Of all the crazy things!" Xena countered. Seeing the anger in the other being's eyes, she shook her head. "Look, this is suicidal, especially if he's faced Yodoshi before! Even worse, Miranda, Clark, Lana, and a piece of his past are there too! You should have told us. Too late now." After another icy glare, she chased him into the mists.
The Empress sighed. Some things can't be helped, Xena. In this case, the Greater Good needs to be served. With that, she disappeared from the office, leaving no trace of any of them.
Chapter 5 [The Talon]
As Lex, the four graduates, and their families headed for the café, Miranda checked all of the decorations, making sure that everything was ready for the celebration.
Cake's ready, coffee's going. I guess we're set.
Suddenly, she felt a familiar chill. Not him again. She wheeled around to face the door onto Main Street.
Standing there, her stepfather observed everything. "What? A party and I wasn't invited, Miranda?" he snickered darkly.
"Get out!" she directed. "This is a private party!"
"I'm your father!" he yelled at her.
"No, you're not! Bad enough my friends think you're a monster when you're like this. If they knew the truth, they'd really have a cow," she countered.
"You little freak!" he bellowed. Somehow, he levitated and flew at her, ramming her into the flower display. "I'll teach you respect!" Focusing, he made his hand and arm burst into a long fiery whip that he used to burn her with.
"Argh!" she cried in pain. Even with the tears coming to her eyes, she managed a kick in his midsection, which made him stumble. "Stay away from me!"
Then a crash could be heard from the front door. Both people looked to see
Nancy Adams, Smallville's sheriff, step through the door with her gun drawn and a cocky attitude in her eye. "Hands up! I saw you over by the high school stalking the kids! You're under arrest!"
He laughed, "Really?" He took a deep breath and blew an icy blast in her direction, freezing the sheriff in a block of ice.
Miranda gaped. He's learned to control his powers in his human state. My God, we're in for it.
He chuckled, "Is that fear I see in your eyes, Miranda? Good. That's a start."
Outside, the main part of the party convoy arrived at the Talon. Unfortunately, Nell had to return to Metropolis immediately. In addition, Judge Ross and her husband couldn't make it either. That left Lex, Clark, Lana, Pete, Chloe, Gabe, and the Kents.
"Too bad that Nell couldn't make it," Lana sighed in disappointment.
Martha frowned, knowing that Nell's priorities were out of order yet again. "Lana, that's too bad, but maybe, we can be like family tonight?"
The former cheerleader smiled and gave Clark's hand a squeeze. "Thanks, Mrs. Kent. I really appreciate that."
"It's our pleasure," Jonathan agreed.
At that moment, they saw Sheriff Adams' car in the alley.
"What is she doing here?" Lex wondered.
"Maybe she's getting a free coffee from Miranda?" Chloe supposed.
Clark squinted, analyzing the café with his x-ray vision. He saw a man advancing on a woman. Worse, he saw someone stuck in place. "Umm, I think something's wrong here, guys."
"What is it, Clark?" his father asked.
"I think Miranda's in trouble," Clark asserted, charging into the café.
"Clark, wait!" Lana advised, rushing after him. Didn't we just go through this?
Lex and the others followed as well. Inside the Talon, they found Sheriff Adams on ice. Behind the counter, Miranda watched her attacker.
Arighatto snickered, "More pathetic souls? Really now...."
"Stop it, Arighatto!" Lex ordered. "I'm telling you to leave."
The Oriental man sniggered derisively. "So the spoiled rich boy thinks he can just order me to leave? Really now! On matters pertaining to my daughter, you stay out of it!"
"She's not your daughter!" Chloe snapped.
Shaking his head, Arighatto dismissed the reporter, saying to Gabe, "Can't you keep your brat's mouth shut, Sullivan?"
"Wait a minute! I can speak for myself!" Chloe snapped, hazel sparks flaring in her eyes. "You have no right to do that!"
"Chloe, stop!" Pete directed, grabbing her from behind.
"Let go!" she protested.
"What an embrace!" Arighatto laughed, exhaling another frozen burst and trapping the two teenagers in a block of ice.
"Chloe! Pete!" Miranda exclaimed.
"What are you?" Lex asked.
"Something older than you can imagine," the intruder hissed. "I have a secret, but so don't we all?" He looked directly at Clark and grinned wickedly. "I'll tell my secret if you tell us yours, Boy."
Jonathan and Martha stared anxiously at each other. Somehow, he knew about Clark.
"What secret is that?" Lex demanded.
"You heard him, Boy," Arighatto taunted Clark. "Do tell. You're the only one with a chance against me. Are you going to stop pretending and face me like a man?"
Lana stared at him. Clark was right. Still, how can he do this?
Arighatto snarled angrily, "If you don't tell, maybe I might pick on your little brunette bitch!"
Clark tensed, balling his hands into fists and setting his jaw. For that last remark, he felt the urge to rearrange the smug intruder's face.
"Don't, Clark," Jonathan told him.
"Sorry, Dad," Clark disagreed. "We don't have a choice."
Arighatto grinned, anticipating a great fight.
"There's always a choice, Clark," a female voice pointed out.
Everyone turned to see the mists forming in the corner of the room.
"What the?" Martha inquired.
"The cavalry's just arrived," Clark assumed, backing off.
From the mists, Deirdre strode into the room. Upon the Faerie Empress' instructions, she broke her cover and engaged the situation.
The others will be here momentarily. "Why don't you ask me? Of course, there's no guarantee I'll answer." She shot him a wicked grin.
"Now they're sending little girls against me?" Arighatto insulted.
"Oh she's more than a little girl," Lana replied, more to the Kents and Gabe than to the intruder.
The attacker tried another cold burst on her.
Deirdre took a deep breath and chanted in an ancient Celtic tongue. Around her, the cold dissipated into nothingness. "You'll need to do better than that," she declared, her eyes turning a faint shade of yellow. "Leave now, Demon."
"Demon, am I?" Arighatto demanded. "You know what I am, Little Girl? Then run home to your father. That is if he wouldn't be afraid to face me."
The priestess laughed in his face. "You have no idea of what you're facing either. But everyone else in this room does!" She crossed the room. "You want information? Fine. Here's a story. There was another child abused who stood his ground in front of this theater and nearly died for it. He should have died. Instead, the trauma split him in two. The victim is now the avenger. And he and a friend come for you!"
Martha and Jonathan stared at Deirdre aghast, knowing exactly who she was speaking about.
"Pretty story," Arighatto chortled. "I knew a man-child once. The one I ripped Miranda away from."
Miri gaped at him. "What?"
"Tell her, Little Girl," he taunted.
Deirdre scowled but didn't react otherwise. Instead, she ran her hand across the plaque by the door. "Tell me about the two heroes who are named on the plaque. They are here." She glanced at Lex and then around the area, feeling the presences of Xena and the Child inside of the café.
The others looked around fearing another threat.
"What?" Arighatto challenged. Then he heard a familiar whirring noise pierce the air. "That sound! No!" Feeling something bite into his arm, he turned to the balcony to see
the chakram flying toward it and a shadowy figure catch it. "YOU!"
"Yeah, me! AYAYAYAYA! SHEEEYA!" Xena retorted, flipping down to the main level and drawing her sword without missing a beat. "Cut the crap and show them who you really are!"
"You barely beat me before!" he growled. "But very well." He focused, changing his form into a bulkier version of himself. His face turned crimson. His hair grew and tied itself in a knot on top of his head. He wore a Japanese military outfit from the first century AD and held a katana in his hand. "Hello, Xena! Where's your little blonde friend with the tattoo?" Yodoshi asked, relishing the others' reactions.
"She's busy dealing with real threats. Don't worry, I brought ya another old buddy of yers," the warrior rebutted. Over her shoulder, she asked, "Are you all okay?"
"Our friends are frozen, Xena, but otherwise, we're okay," Clark told her.
"Stay out of the way, Clark. We can take care of this one," the warrior growled.
"Be careful!" Lana advised.
Xena gave her a confident smile before facing her adversary again.
"We? I only see you," Yodoshi challenged. "Tell the coward to come out."
From the back room, a noise emanated almost like a low gurgling growl.
"Now what?" Gabe asked fearfully.
"Trust me. Stay clear," Clark advised.
"Oh, he's ready and waitin' fer ya," Xena informed her enemy.
"Come out then, Coward!" Yodoshi challenged to the back.
Clark and Lana both winced, guessing the other fighter's identity.
Almost instantly, a loud piercing cry let them all know who it was, sending everyone into their stock of nightmares. For Lex, it was his first visit to the Talon, as well as Janet Dubois' funeral. Clark recalled the GSA's attack on the university. Lana saw her near-death experience inside of Genomex. But for the grownups, they remembered the events related to saving the Talon two decades earlier.
Miranda gaped, hearing the scream from her distant memory and her misadventure in the Pit of Darkness.
No! It can't be! Tears of hope and fear dribbled down her cheeks.
But they all remembered the banshee scream and suspected the source.
Yodoshi growled, "You didn't bring him here! Curse you!"
Xena shrugged. "I'm not gonna deny a friend a shot at your sorry ass." Executing a quick flip, she slammed him with a nasty spin kick, slamming the demon-lord across the room.
At that moment, the Child stepped out into the main room and glared at the scene. "Ah know this place! This is Picture Place!" Underneath his shirt, the dagger shard lodged in his left shoulder began to glow. "What the?" He gripped his head, feeling a rush of memories as he too remembered what had happened here long before. Most of all, he remembered his father beating him again. "ARRRGGGH!" he screamed in pain, allowing it to fuel his rage.
"Are you done yet?" Yodoshi spat, rising to his feet again and clearly amused at the other's pain.
"Nah. Ah'm just gettin' warmed up!" the Dark One hissed, turning toward his opponent and seeing him for the first time. "Ah don't believe it! Painty Face!"
"Yes, Accursed One, we meet again," the demon lord announced, raising his katana. "This time, I'll kill you!"
The Child screamed again. "Shuddup, Jackass! Where's she? WHERE'S MIRI-MA?"
Remembering that Miranda had mentioned her uncle's pet name to her, Lana stared dumbfounded at the Dark One.
It can't be. He's her uncle?
Miranda called out to him, "Uncle!"
The Child saw the girl behind the counter and recognized her immediately. "Short Stuff?"
"Yeah," she agreed, wiping away her tears. "You came for me."
"Ah never forgot ya, Kid," he retorted, looking her over.
She managed a warm smile for him despite her fear. "Be careful."
"Ah will! Did he do that to ya?" the Dark One queried. Seeing her nod, his face grew darker and he wheeled on his opponent. "Ah've had 'nough! Now ya're gonna pay!"
Yodoshi turned his arm and hand back into the fiery whip and lashed his enemy with little effect. "How?"
"Ya'll made a big mistake attackin' me here! This here's where Ah was born!" the Child answered sinisterly, reaching for the ceiling. From the air, energy flowed into his hands, making them glow dark black. "Ya like playin' with fire, Boy? Try some of this!" He fired double plumes of black fire at Yodoshi, badly burning the latter.
The demon-lord screamed, recoiling in pain from the attack. "This is impossible!"
"Ah walked through the Pit 'gain," the Child hissed, burning him again and again.
Eventually, the attacker fell before this repeated attack, collapsing to the floor under the weight of the frenzied bursts.
"I think you can stop now," Xena asserted, stepping in between the Dark One and his fallen adversary.
"Ah hell!" the Child growled but did as she asked.
"You can't kill, remember? Besides we need to think of the kids," the warrior reminded him.
"Nuts," the Child snarled, shaking his head.
Given this opening, Yodoshi managed to recover and disappeared in a flash.
"Crap! He's gone!" the Child added tersely. "Ah hadda listen to ya'll!"
"He'll be back," the warrior assured him. "And we'll be ready for him." Seeing Miranda across the room, she directed, "I'll check on these folks. I think you have someone to talk to." After he had crossed the room, she looked at the sheriff, Pete, and Chloe. "The ice is melting so they should be okay. After we leave, you might wanna chip them out, Clark."
"Right," he concurred.
Lex scrambled to his feet and assessed the situation. Other than a few tables being knocked over and some broken flowerpots, everything was still in one piece. "Xena, right?"
"Yeah. Who wants to know?" she countered, inspecting the Kents and Gabe to make sure they were okay.
"I'm Lex Luthor, a friend of Clark and Lana's. I take it you helped break her out of that facility?" he asked.
Xena gave him a suspicious look, arching her right eyebrow at him. "Yeah, I did. Not many people know about that," she admitted. "She's quite the person and so is Clark."
"Thank you for saying that," Martha expressed.
"No problem. They're great kids," she assured the three dazed parents.
"And what about Dubois? Is it safe to have them down in Arizona with him?" Gabe wondered.
"Mr. Sullivan, please! He's fine!" Lana protested.
"You call that fine?" Jonathan argued.
"No, I call it saving your hides," Xena countered grimly. "And reclaiming someone lost." She stared at the counter area.
Miranda choked back sobs of happiness. Her tormentor was gone. Better still, her uncle was there...well sort of there anyhow. "Uncle?"
"Yeah," he replied, hugging her. "Big Bro an' Ah are here."
"I've missed you," she told him.
"Big Bro never stopped lookin' for ya," he declared.
"Really?" she inquired, feeling a sense of warmth from that comment.
He nodded. "Ah've got mah eye on ya, Squirt."
She grinned and kissed his cheek. "You know for his dark side, you're a softie."
He growled. "Hey, Ah've got me a rep to pr'tect."
"Okay," she stated, wiping her tears away. "And thank you for coming back for me."
"It ain't a problem," he assured her. Then seeing the Faerie Empress appear, he added, "Yeah what?"
"It's time to leave," the elf-queen pointed out. "They won't remember any of this."
"Wait a minute! Hey, Boy!" the Dark One yelled at Clark.
The Kryptonian gulped nervously. "Yes?"
The Child glared at him purposefully. " 'Lax. Ah ain't gonna hurt ya. Ah got a job fer ya." He pointed to Lana and then to Miranda. "Watch 'em both. Ah'm countin' on ya! And, Lexie Boy?"
"Yes?" the billionaire inquired.
"Help 'im," the Child continued. "Ah want nothin' to happen to none of ya'll! If ya'll need me, give Big Bro a call."
Miranda sobbed. "I can't lose you now after just finding you! Please don't go!"
The Child shook his head, frowning. Ah can't believe this shit! Damn it! This is gonna hurt Big Bro an' the Little Woman big time. "Ah won't be far 'way, Sweets. Clark will watch ya 'til Ah return fer ya."
"You promise?" she asked desperately through her tears.
"Try keepin' me 'way now," the Child continued sincerely. "Oh, Martha and Jon-a-than, thanks fer yer help back then. We apprec'ate it."
Martha nodded. "You're welcome." While she wasn't sure about his overall way of thinking, she could see the caring in the Dark One's eyes.
He's still the same person he was twenty-three years ago.
Xena bowed her head, wishing she could tell Angie about this situation. She stared at the Empress, wondering why the latter needed to play this game with them.
You better keep to your word.
"It has to be done now," the elf-queen told them.
"What do you mean?" Jonathan insisted.
She waved her hand, filling the room with a gentle orange glow. "Sleep, all of you. When you awaken, you will remember nothing of this confrontation or the reunion." After everyone dropped asleep, she urged to her trio of allies. "Go now. I'll arrange things here."
"Ah hate this! We just found 'er!" the Child spat, pointing at Miranda.
"And I will allow you to stay close by, in a manner of speaking. It's another new ability for you," the Faerie Empress told him. "It's time."
He stole over to Miranda's slumbering form and kissed her on the cheek. "It won't be much longer, Short Stuff. 'Member, Big Bro loves ya." With that, he looked around at his birthplace again and jumped into the mists, vanishing from sight.
Xena followed closely behind eager to get back to the Amazons.
Deirdre inquired, "Are we set, Mother?"
"We are," the Empress replied, casting a melting spell on the ice, freeing the prisoners within it. Another spell straightened up the tables and fixed the broken flowerpots. "Come." Waving her hands, they vanished, leaving no trace behind.
[Fifteen Minutes Later]
Clark stirred and opened his eyes. He rubbed his forehead, wondering why he had a pounding headache.
What the hell? He looked around. Everything inside of the restaurant seemed to be in order. However, he saw his parents, friends, and the sheriff still sleeping on the floor.
"Mom? Dad?" he asked anxiously.
Martha stirred first. "Clark? What happened?"
"I don't know. Why did we all fall asleep?" Clark wondered.
"Beats me, Son," Jonathan replied, wincing a bit. "Go check on Lana. I've got your mother."
Clark nodded and rushed over to his girlfriend's side. "Lana?"
"Clark?" she murmured as her eyes fluttered open. "Oh, Clark!" She hugged him tightly. "I just had the strangest nightmare!"
"About your Professor?" Lex asked. "Yeah, I had one too."
"How can that be, Lex?" Clark inquired.
If he knew, he'd freak out. "Let's just say Dave Dubois and I are old friends from way back. You are making the right decision, you two. Let's just leave it at that," the billionaire stated. "Umm, why don't you all take off before the sheriff wakes up and decides to stick something on you? I can take care of things here. Pete and the Sullivans will be okay."
"Are you sure, Lex?" Jonathan asked.
"Yeah. Go on," Lex urged, seeing the sheriff starting to stir.
"Thanks," the farmer added, guiding his wife, son, and Lana out the front door.
Lex shook his head as he scanned the area. This is really weird. Everything's a little too perfect.
With that, he started to check on the others.
[Later that night]
The Faerie Empress nodded as she watched events unfolding. "Everything's back on course."
"Is it?" Deirdre asked. "You caused Papa and Miri more pain in the process."
"And I am sorry for that, Deirdre. However, it was necessary as you all will soon see," the Empress replied. "Trust me, my Dear, it won't be much longer before they find each other again."
"And what of the others? They still see everything as a dream," Deirdre protested. "Already, they question what they saw."
"Let them. Given the special nature of the young ones, I suspected as much. Deirdre, in two of your months' time, they will start their life's journey. Clark Kent and his friends must be ready for that. Your father must be ready to lead them on that path. The Greater Good demands this be so."
The priestess nodded, albeit less than satisfied with the explanation. "Well, Aunt Cybelle needs me. May I go?"
The Empress agreed, "Yes. Thank you for your aid, Deirdre. I appreciate it."
Anything for my friends and my fellow sisters. With that, Deirdre vanished into the mists heading for Althanor and a well-deserved rest.
Xena stepped into the queen's hut looking for her best friend. The trip on top of the meeting from Hell had made for a really long day. She immediately saw the bard scribbling down something on a scroll. "Hey, Gabrielle."
"Xena!" Gabrielle exclaimed with a look of relief. Dropping the scroll, she rushed over and hugged her friend. "You're back!"
"Yeah. Why wouldn't I be?" Xena wondered, arching her eyebrow. "Can you get Eve?"
"Absolutely," Gabrielle agreed, reaching out the door and ringing the bell that was there. "So...was Miranda there?"
"Oh yeah. He asked for ya, by the way," Xena recounted with a smirk on her face.
The queen frowned. "Well, that warms my heart. And our young friends, are they safe?"
"They are. Yodoshi tried to pick a fight with Clark, but Deirdre had it under control by the time we got there," the Warrior Princess reported, lying down on her hammock.
"And the Child? How did he react?" Gabrielle inquired, the worry clearly drawn on his face.
Xena sighed and shook her head. "There were some buried memories from that place, Gabrielle. His father beat him there." She shook her head. "Gabrielle, he emerged there after that episode."
"And David doesn't know, does he?"
"Nope and we can't tell him either," the councilor replied. "The Faerie Empress said that everything would be revealed soon. Frankly, I think this whole thing
"She does like her games, doesn't she?" Eve asked, frowning as she entered the room. "Sorry, I overheard."
"After this, she'd better be careful. She's playing a dangerous game with David," Xena noted, grimacing at the thought of a dark temperamental explosion.
How would we handle that?
Dave woke up with a start in his office. "What the?" he muttered, rubbing his head. Looking at the clock, he saw it was 11:00 PM.
Damn. Angie's going to be worried. He groaned, glancing at the pile of unfinished work in front of him.
So much for getting stuff done this afternoon. Still I wish I could remember what happened. I couldn't have slept that long, could I?
As he peeked at everything, his eye ran across the picture of him and Miranda. It had been taken just before her disappearance. For some reason, he felt the loss more sharply than ever. He wiped away his tears, even as he felt another emotional tremor buffet him
Now I know something's up. Maybe I should sleep on it. Still, no matter how long it takes, Sunshine, I'll find you. Having renewed his vow, he left everything there. For some reason, he hurried home to his family, wanting to make sure that everything was all right and worrying about the nagging feeling inside of him.
[Smallville, Kent Farm]
Clark and Lana stared out the window of the loft, gazing at the stars. While they had expected their graduation day to be a little strange, the couple never expected to find themselves blacked out on the Talon's floor. Worse, the duo found they had shared the same nightmare during that time.
He shook his head. "I can't believe this happened. My parents are freaked out."
She replied, "Yeah, I can imagine they are. What do you think happened?"
He took a deep breath. "I think Miranda's stepfather had something to do with it."
"That man's a menace, all right. Still, I hope that she's going to be okay," she expressed, embracing him.
"Miranda's strong. She'll make it. Besides, for some reason, I feel like I need to watch out for her," he assured her.
"You always watch out for us anyhow, Clark," she commented, fighting her nerves. Then from out of the corner of her eye, she saw something dark with red eyes watching them. "Clark, we're not alone up here."
"What?" he asked nervously, looking around, "Lana, there's nothing up here."
Looking around, she saw that whatever it was had vanished. Now I'm getting that feeling from the Talon again. Somehow that was the Child. But how? She shook her head.
First, I have the visions of Xena in Genomex, and now that mirage. What's happening to me?
"Are you okay?" he queried, clearly worrying about her.
She forced her nerves down, putting a smile on her face for his benefit. "I am. Sorry, it's been quite an evening."
He looked around anxiously, not taking any chances one way or the other. Somehow, they would make it through the six weeks before they started school in Arizona.
In the house, Martha paced anxiously. As with the others, she didn't know what had happened in the Talon. However, the nightmare left her unnerved to say the least.
"Martha, it was a nightmare," Jonathan protested.
"Was it, Jonathan? Why would we dream about David Dubois now? After all of these years, why now?" she pointed out.
The farmer shook his head as he flipped through the album from their first year of marriage. There, in the midst of the memories, sat one picture. "Look at this, Martha."
She came over to join him and saw the picture. "That's him, all right." She looked at her husband. "You think he remembers the promise he made to us?"
"Maybe. We can ask him when he comes in August. Meantime, let's try to relax, all right?" he requested.
She nodded, following him upstairs. He's right. Still, why did we think of him now?
Lex sat behind the desk in his study, wondering about the dream as well. In front of him sat the photo his Mom had taken from the Talon's rededication in 1982. There, he and Dave posed by that same plaque.
Even then, we knew he might have problems. Dave, I'll do everything to make sure Clark and Lana go with you. They need your guidance. Besides, there's the promise you made so long ago.
Recalling the dream experience, he felt his eyes water and his memories bite at him, burning at his resolve. Even though it was a nightmare, the banshee scream still echoed across time and space. The standoff in front of the Talon was scary enough for a seven year old. On top of that, he remembered the standoff at Janet Dubois' funeral between ghostly tormentor and the former victim now avenger-watching a cloud of ash billowing across the cemetery and the teenager holding the broken piece of an urn. He recalled how Dave turned on the intruder, driving her away. Later, he heard that the young man had trapped the spirit on his father's estate.
Mom, you reminded me not to be scared of him, but to pity him. He stalked over to the mantle where the medal from that terrible day so long ago hung by its ribbon.
Dream or not, you reached out to us tonight, Dave. I should have known you'd be here for us even after such a long absence. If you need a friend, I'm here for you. I promised Mother I would be that to you. For that vow and for what you did for my friends, you have my support.
Pouring himself a brandy, he sat in front of the fireplace and looked into the flames, desperately trying to put his thoughts in order.
Miranda continued to toss and turn on her bed. Her stepfather had done something to them all, making them black out.
He should have killed us all. Why didn't he? Then she remembered the two heroes.
The man who fought him. He's the man from the Pit-from the nightmares. Why can't I remember who he is? She scratched her head, trying to grasp their defender's identity.
Uncle? Who is that? And if he's family, why didn't he stay? Doesn't he love me? With that, she broke down and started crying.
Meanwhile the Child's image-self watched from the shadows, standing guard against the dangers of the night. Watching this scene, he cursed the Empress' gambit yet again. For once, this pain bothered even him as a tear rolled from his blood red eye.
This stinks! Ah love ya, Short Stuff. What good is this crap if Ah can't tell 'er that Big Bro.'s cryin' for her right now too. An' Ah can't do nothin'! Damn it!
Needing a break from this situation, he vanished from the room.
The Child's image appeared in the midst of the cool darkness, looking around him. While he didn't know why, he knew someone needed to talk with him. "Awright! Where are ya'll? Ah don't have all damn night!" he bellowed angrily. Seeing a light in the distance, he followed it to
a particular place. "Lang," he muttered. "What's this?"
"You know," a female voice indicated.
The Child watched as two figures of light appeared over the site. He recognized them immediately. "Yer La...na's folks, ain't ya?"
Laura nodded, giving the visitor a hopeful smile. "We are. And you've returned to fulfill the Promise?"
"That's Big Bro's thing. Ah just break things and pr'tect mah friends," the Dark One clarified.
Lewis disagreed, "You did more than that in the Talon tonight. You stood your ground and protected Lana and her friends. For that, we're grateful. Help David to guide our daughter and her friends."
"Course! Them kids are under mah pr'tection!"
She nodded. "And they will need that protection. You may not believe this, but you will be a pillar for your other half and the students you both meet. David will call on you. Please work with him. And for protecting Lana and Clark, you have our gratitude always. When you return with Big Brother, bring him here so that we might speak with him and tell him the same thing."
"Ya got it!" the Child agreed, vanishing back into the night.
Lewis looked at his angelic wife. "Do you think he can do it?"
Laura replied, "He has to. Besides, only he can give Lana the college experience she and Clark need now. Her special nature is only starting to come to the surface. Come. Our time is up here." With that, they vanished, leaving the cemetery empty and questions hanging in the air unanswered.
Little did anyone suspect the exact nature of the answers that would come later that summer.
THE END (for now)
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