Chapter 12 [Rowenshire-An hour later]
The mists collected at the side of the house, forming into a portal.
From it, the group spilled out onto the grass.
Cybelle closed it behind them, urging, "Remember what she said, let's get them and get out."
"It's quiet," Gabrielle assessed.
"Too quiet," Xena remarked, surveying the territory. This scenario reminded her of some of Alti's best ambushes from the past. "Anything, Nicholas?"
"Yes. I can sense her but can't pinpoint her position," the vampire reported.
The Child growled and motioned with his head, sliding close to the old house. In addition to the burning from the dagger shard in his shoulder, touching his old jail pissed him off all the more. Using it for cover however, he peered around the corner. "Yeah," he whispered, anticipating a good fight.
Xena followed his glance, spying the glowing field.
"Let's go," Cybelle whispered before her brother clamped down on her arm. "What now?"
"Ya'll stayin' back. Too easy," the Dark One directed.
"You thinking what I'm thinking?" the Warrior Princess asked him.
He grinned snidely. "They're waitin' fer us by the glowy field there. Ah gotta draw 'em out!"
"Are you crazy?" his sister protested low. "Then she'll know we're here."
"Yer slippin', Cybbie. Nah, she's waitin'," the Child pointed out, looking at the glowing mark on his hand. Reaching into his pocket, he palmed one of Dave's gas bombs. "Big Bro's fav'rite."
Cybelle had to crack a smile as she sparked the wick with her finger. "There you go."
"Now what?" Nick asked.
The Child's grin grew even more if that was possible. "It's Buttwhuppin' Time!" He tossed the lit bomb in the air and flung it telekinetically at the prison where it exploded.
A rain of herbal particles went everywhere, coating the entire area.
Then they heard the loud scream from behind the bubble prison.
"Yeah! Got 'em!" the Dark One cheered. "Now fer bu'ness." He stepped out into the open, screamed the banshee cry and fired a couple of psychic pulses for good measure. "Hey, Witchie Poo! Show yer pug-ugly ass!"
In response, a blast exploded about a foot to his left followed by an angry shriek.
"I'd say you got her attention, all right!" Nick told him.
"Goodie fer me!" the Dark One retorted enthusiastically. "Ya missed, Bitch!"
Then Lichtenfeld appeared about twenty feet in front of them. To say she was furious was an understatement. "Rude child! I'll teach ye!" She threw a dark fire blast at him.
It hit him square, knocking him to the ground.
And then, something unexpected happened.
The very ground itself began to feed the Child's darkness, boosting it higher and higher. As he soaked up more energy, he screamed.
"What in Tartarus?" Xena inquired.
"It seems my Child was hungry," the witch cackled.
What will we do now? Cybelle wondered, trying to think how they would control the Child now. He didn't even get beyond the upper ridge before this happened!
"G...git! Ah'll...deal w'...'er!" the Dark One asserted, as he continued to change. The inner darkness turned him jet black with a red glow and matching eyes. "GIT!"
"Come to me!" Lichtenfeld commanded. "Show yer love!"
The Child quivered with rage at everything and anything. Wordlessly, he socked her with a dark fire blast. Seeing the witch reel, he chuckled darkly. "KILL!!!"
"Miserable brat!" Lichtenfeld bellowed, preparing for another assault.
Seeing her chance, Xena grabbed her chakram. Before they left Althanor, she had the priestesses treat it with the same herbal residue as in the bomb. She flung it right at the witch.
The weapon flew straight and true, gashing the ghost's side before returning to her hand.
"Arrgh! How?" Lichtenfeld asked, wincing from the pain.
The Child sniggered at her. The hatred and malice was dripping off of every note and clearly burning in his eyes. He fired again, knocking her across the yard and out cold. "Fire...thing," he muttered. "Where?"
In response, the fire demon rose from the lower valley, bellowing its rage for its mistress' condition.
The Child glowered at the hellish thing, knowing that its torture contributed to his current state. From the ground, he soaked up still more dark energy, charging himself like a giant battery. At his max, his hands glowed dark light. Then he fired twin dark plumes, scoring direct hits on his adversary.
The demon fell back into the lower valley, hurting from that wound.
"K...kiddies," the Child urged. "De...mon back s...soon!"
"Right," Cybelle agreed, rushing over to the energy prison with Gabrielle and Nick.
As they reached the bubble, they saw Lana and Chloe's spirits trapped inside.
"Hang on, girls!" Nick assured them.
"Can you get us out?" Lana asked. "The witch'll be back in a minute!"
"We have friends watching for her," Cybelle added. She focused on the barrier. "Great Mother, help me! Gabrielle, your hand!" She chanted in Gaelic, grasping onto the Amazon queen's hand as she did so.
The barrier weakened and faded, allowing the two spirits to float forth.
"Thank you!" Chloe expressed, happy to be out of there.
"Same here," Lana agreed, as they followed their rescuers across the open field.
At the sight of the glowing Child, Chloe stopped cold. "Is that?"
Lana hesitated for just a second. Then she remembered how the Child had protected her before. "Remember me?"
"La...na," the Child acknowledged. "Y...yeah." He embraced her. "S...safe."
"Thanks to you," she responded gratefully.
"Not yet!" Cybelle corrected. "But she soon will be." Eyeing the stunned witch by the tree, she recast the containment spell, trapping their enemy once more.
"Nay!" Lichtenfeld protested groggily.
"What about her demon?" Xena asked.
"She needs to summon it. Without her, it's stuck down there," Cybelle told them. Opening the portal, she added, "Bus is leaving. Let's go!"
The group disappeared into the mists, gladly leaving the dark place behind once more.
After they left, Lichtenfeld scowled at her reversal of fortune. "Nay! How can this happen? HOW?" She shook her head. "One day, my Pretties, I'll get ye! Just you wait! I will be avenged fer this!"
Chapter 13 [Althanor, House of Healing]
A minute later, the group stepped into the House of Healing. Now that the first danger was past, they might be able to relax for a minute-after putting Lana and Chloe back in their bodies that is.
"Well done!" the Empress congratulated them. "Very efficiently done indeed!"
The Child shrugged, glowering at the Elf-Queen.
"Come," Cybelle advised, leading the group into the back room where the special cots were.
"Lex!" Chloe realized. "Is he?"
"He's in a sleeping trance. Apparently, the witch's magic is tied to whatever is going on in Smallville. When you both reenter your bodies, you too will be in that state," the Empress explained.
"You need the time to recharge your spiritual energies," Xena indicated, getting a nod from her partner in affirmation.
"That's all that I have left? Ash?" the reporter wondered.
"It'll be okay," Cybelle assured her, waving her hand and uttering a small spell. "Try it."
"Since you put it that way, I could use some sleep," Chloe indicated. "Thanks again." She flowed into the ash pile.
As this happened, the ash glowed, reforming itself into her body.
"Lana, it's your turn," Xena reminded her.
The remaining spirit wondered, "Do I need to go right now? I want to help rescue Clark."
"Git...'n...there!" the Child uttered with great effort, pointing at her body.
"You need to be in there, Lana. Being in the witch's prison drained your spirit. Besides, your body is deteriorating without your soul. Go on. We'll take care of it," Cybelle explained.
"Okay," she sighed sadly. She really wanted to help save Clark.
The Child stared at her. "Git...Cl...ark...ba...ck."
"I know you will," she agreed, giving him a smile. Then she merged with her own body, going into her own sleeping trance.
The Dark One watched as she did so. Then he kissed her brow and left quickly much to the amazement of his companions.
"I'll go and talk with him," Xena volunteered. "They're safe now, right?"
"Yes," the Empress concurred. "Unfortunately, Lana is marked and linked to the witch just as David is. Remember, until we get the boy back here, they'll remain in that trance. We need the Child to travel to Smallville."
"Yeah. I'm on it," the Warrior Princess concurred, heading out toward the lake.
After she left, the Empress asked, "Didn't I tell you not to let him fall into the lower valley? I was afraid this would happen!"
"We never got off of the upper ridge," Gabrielle pointed out.
"Then how? Cybelle, what happened?" the Empress asked concerned about this event.
The priestess gulped nervously and then recounted, "After we got there, he crept along the side of the house to get a view. Then he threw one of those herb bombs. The witch knocked him down with that dark fire of hers...."
"And?" the Empress pressed.
"And he seemed to absorb power from the ground even on the upper plateau. Milady, he took in enough energy to single-handedly deal with the witch and her demon!"
"Impossible!" the Elf Queen challenged.
"Except for Xena gashing her with her chakram, that's what happened," Nick collaborated.
"I can't believe it either," Cybelle assessed. "And you're sure about this next one? With all due respect, you know what town means to him?"
"He's the only one who can deal with the two alien interlopers, Cybelle," the Empress declared. "And he has to leave within the hour." Seeing Sarah walk in, she invited, "Come and see your friends."
"They're back!" Sarah cheered. "They seem like they're asleep."
"In a manner of speaking. Recharging is a better word for it," Cybelle explained to the dreamer. "Let's allow them to rest."
"Okay," Sarah concurred, glad to feel the warm residue of her friends' dreams around her once more. She hustled to her cot, eager to go under and watch over them in the dreamscape.
[On the shores of the Great Lake]
The Child sat on the edge of the lake, stewing in his juices. Granted, he defended his turf by snatching Lana and Chloe back from Lichtenfeld. Besides, pasting his tormentor and her pet pleased him to no end.
However, he still felt pain emanating through the mists. He felt the sadness of one who had befriended him so long before.
"M...mar...tha?" he growled.
"Who?" Xena asked, kneeling next to him. She really wanted to ask Angie about all of this stuff but the Empress had forbidden it. Great. He's in super ticked mode and we can't get her to help. Wonderful.
He took several breaths, trying to form words. "F...friend. C...clark's mo...ther."
Now I get it. "Yeah, I can see that she would be that to you. How are ya doin'?" she inquired, rubbing his shoulder for support.
He snarled. "Git 'im b...a...ck!" Then he heard her scream. "MAR...THA!!!" He screamed the banshee cry, alerting the entire settlement.
"What is it?" Cybelle asked, appearing through the mists only five seconds later.
"Git...me...there!" he directed with great effort.
"What?" the priestess asked. "Xena, what's he talking about?"
"He mentioned Clark's mother, Martha, I guess. Then something happened," the warrior told her while still trying to figure it all out for herself.
"That's where he's going all right," Cybelle agreed, opening the portal. "Come on, Bro! Let's go!"
He nodded and jumped through the mists, vanishing from view.
Behind them, Xena stared at the spot, hoping for the best. Still she couldn't help but worry. Why do I get the feeling that this is going to get really ugly before it's finished? With that, she headed toward the High Priestess' hut to await word and jump in if needed. Just call and we'll be there. Count on it.
[Pocket between space and time-slightly earlier]
Even as the Child and his companions pulled off the rescue, Jor-El and Kara continued their efforts to indoctrinate Clark. Both realized something had happened earlier, giving their victim greater strength and resistance.
How could this happen? If you hadn't distracted me! He glared at Kara.
She shook her head, not wanting to get into this argument again. There's the Earth woman who raised him. Perhaps, she'll convince him....
Kill the woman! She's served her purpose! He pointed to the glowing crack in space. Return and do it!
She sped off, disappearing through the rift and returning to Earth.
"M...mom. No..." Clark protested weakly.
You can only blame yourself, Kal-El, his father pointed out. Because of your insolence, the woman, Martha Kent, will die. Then he felt something strange, coming from Earth.
He heard the Child's scream and felt his darkness, as he blasted witch and demon out of the picture.
He felt the two Earth women undoing his ally's magic, freeing the two girls.
And, even though he couldn't see them anymore, he heard the Child promise the brown haired one. "G...git...Clark...back!"
So the witch's son comes at last! Time to finish this farce!
"She's free," his son realized, feeling slightly secure. "You...can't...kill her."
Once we kill the Creature's abomination, I'll deal with her, Kal-El. Even now, Kara does my will. It won't be long!
Mom, watch out. Clark wished, trying to stand. I've failed. I can't protect her when she needs me. Whatever this 'abomination' is, I hope he can do that.
From his despair, he heard Lana again. He will, Clark.
Lana! Stop! He knows!
So? He can't touch me now. Be strong, Clark.
Get away! Jor-El protested, breaking into the connection.
You're the monster torturing him? Lana took a deep breath then continued, That 'cousin', Kara, is about to get a nasty surprise.
I know about the witch's son! I'll break him!
You can try. It'll be your funeral. Somehow her spirit materialized for a second in the pocket, leaning over Clark to shield him.
"Lana?" Clark asked. "You shouldn't be here!"
"I've got Sarah as backup. Now shut up and kiss me," she told him, pushing her mouth onto his in a show of defiance. "I love you, Clark. He can't take that from us." Glaring at his captor, she added, "We will have him back. We're the future and you're the dead past." With that, she vanished.
The enraged father blasted his son with more heat as punishment. Still, he could sense that the tide was turning against him.
Martha hung up the phone and wandered onto the porch. For the past two days, she had dealt with one calamity after another. Neither Clark nor Jonathan had been seen during that time. Then Clark's friends had died tragically one by one. What is this? She looked up at the sky, wondering how the Almighty could allow this to happen.
In desperation, she had tracked down Virgil Swann's phone number, hoping that the reclusive scientist might know something.
However, he remained as mystified as she was. He told her about several unexplainable events occurring in New England. When she had pressed him for more information and the reason why he would bring up a seemingly non-related occurrence, he told her that the energy there matched a source that briefly manifested in Smallville after the meteor shower. "I would like to know what it is," he had told her.
Me too. The days following the meteor shower remained hazy for them all. Besides Clark's adoption, she didn't remember much else from that week. "Give me a sign," she implored to the sky.
At that moment, Kara sped to a halt right in front of her, bearing Jonathan in her arms. "Martha Kent!"
"Kara? What are you doing with my husband? Where's Clark? Tell me!" Martha demanded. "What has Jor-El done with him?"
"Jor-El is showing Kal-El his true destiny away from you! As for this traitor, he's been dealt with." Kara smirked, allowing the farmer to fall to the ground like a bag of potatoes.
"Jonathan!" she called, running to him. Looking him over, she could see the burn marks around his neck. "You monsters!"
"Monsters? A child might say that!" the Kryptonian retorted sharply, grabbing the farm wife around the neck and lifting her into the air. "I could snap your neck like a twig."
"D...do it. I won't stop looking for...my...son," Martha vowed.
Kara laughed at the Earth woman's insolence. "Oh no. I'm going to disintegrate you slowly. I want Kal-El to feel every second of your death!"
Even as she gasped for air, Martha felt a change in the wind. She saw mist, forming by the house.
"Prepare to die!" Kara told her.
Then an energy blast hit her from behind, separating her from her intended victim.
"Who would dare?" Kara inquired indignantly.
Behind her, the Child and Cybelle stood there.
"G...git Martha outta...here. Ah got...Blondie!" he asserted.
"David? David Dubois?" Martha asked, not believing what she was seeing.
"That's him," Cybelle pointed out. "I'm his sister, Cybelle. Come on."
"Where are we going?" the farm wife asked.
"Some place safe and where your husband can get help," the priestess declared. "I'll be back shortly!"
"Jus' git 'er...outta...here!" he snapped.
Cybelle nodded, making herself and the Kents vanish, taking them to Althanor.
"It's you. You're the witch's son!" Kara realized, grinning. "Jor-El will reward me for killing you!"
"Shaddup!" he hissed, blasting her again, knocking her back into the barn. "GIT UP!"
She glowered at him. Streaking at him, she delivered a vicious right cross, sending him flying across the street and into the power lines there.
"ARRGH!" he screamed, as the electric current tore through him. It took a minute before his physiology could start absorbing that energy too. Once this happened, he soaked up the electricity from the lines, casting almost a fifth of Smallville into darkness. "Ah'm...p...pissed!"
Seeing the ripped metal from the downed poles under him, he focused on the insolent woman bearing down on him.
As if they had a mind of their own, the metallic hail rose into the air and pelted her, driving her back.
He followed up with another psychic blast, stunning her for a brief second.
"Amazing!" she exclaimed, straightening her hair and frowning at her dark adversary. "But you're really starting to annoy me!" She sped over to him and grabbed his hand. "I'll deal with you." She started to send the disintegrating energies through him.
Feeling the force pulling him apart, he howled in pain. It weakened him, draining his power. In most places, this battle would have been finished.
But Smallville wasn't most places.
Not for the Child anyhow.
He managed another energy burst, separating them. He shook his hand, not understanding what she had done to make it burn. But that wasn't important. Someone else in this town had hurt his friends. Worse, he had endured more pain. And like the other tormentors, he was going to wipe that snotty grin off of her face.
Before she could get up, he telekinetically grabbed onto her and slammed her into the barn's concrete repeatedly. Then he pulled her to him and grabbed her throat. "M...mah turn!"
She screamed, feeling the dark fire scalding and freezing her simultaneously. For several minutes, she writhed under this treatment. Her strength and physiology did her little good against this assault. Finally, she slumped unconscious to the ground.
He looked toward the farmhouse and the barn. For some reason, he knew this was a safe haven-that the people there had protected him. Looking toward Heaven, he bellowed both for the agony he felt echoing from the past and his future purpose.
The townspeople, it was said, heard the banshee scream in downtown and as far away as Granville. With everything else, they wondered what it could be. They would soon find out.
Meantime, the Child grabbed onto Kara and felt for Clark's aura. Finding nothing, he bellowed in frustration.
He's close, a familiar voice told him. In front of him, a slender brown haired woman in white appeared. You've returned.
He quirked his eyebrow, trying to remember where he knew her from.
That's not important now. You will finish what you've started. Follow me.
He managed a nod before following her toward the caves. For them all, there was one more job to do.
The Child glowered at the dim lighting and the maze of passages. He felt stifled by the rock surrounding him.
When she had led him into the chamber, the spirit advised, Here. See the light?
He grunted, glad to be at their destination at last. Setting Kara down on the stone floor, he touched the crevice.
It glowed brighter, discharging energy and driving him back.
He snarled, "Boy..wa..nna...play." Grinning, he telekinetically picked his defeated adversary up and flung her at the crack.
Kara disappeared in a flash.
The spirit smiled in admiration. Even in this state, he can still think. Incredible!
He sat down, closing his open eye. "Wa...tch mah ass!" Then he lapsed into a trance.
[Pocket between space and time]
Jor-El's mind swum with Kara's failure. She couldn't even kill the woman! Why do I bother?
"I...told you. She would fail," Clark asserted.
The father-spirit thought about punishing his son for this insolence yet again.
However, a flash in the bubble's side drew their attention. The sight of the unconscious, battered, bruised and quivering Kara flying through it, skidding to a stop at Jor-El's feet definitely grabbed them.
What could do this?
Just me, a voice snickered from the darkness surrounding them.
The witch's son!
"Na'...her...kid!" the Child's image denied, appearing in front of the spirit. "Blondie...didn't learn...Ah...hadda whup 'er! Gimme Cl...ark!"
No! How dare you? Jor-El whipped a fire strand, catching the Child around the throat as he had Jonathan. Die!
"Cute," the Child retorted, grabbing onto the 'rope' and sending dark fire back up its length.
Jor-El backed away, feeling the burns on his 'hands' and glaring at the intruder. You are more than you seem. Still, I will kill you! He emitted a massive burst of heat at the Child.
The Dark One stood his ground. In this energy state, it was an easy matter for him to absorb the attack. He smirked sarcastically. "Want the boy! He's mine!" Throwing a psychic blast, he bowled the offending father spirit over. "Stay...down!" He screeched loudly for emphasis.
At this point, Cybelle popped into the pocket using the mist portal. Quietly, she stole over to Clark's side.
"Wha? Who?" Clark wondered.
"I'm a friend who's going to get you out of here," the priestess replied, pulling him toward the portal.
Stop! Jor-El commanded, seeing what was going on.
"Keep him busy!" Cybelle ordered her brother.
The Child engaged Jor-El yet again. For several minutes, the two spirit-constructs hit each other with fire, energy and pure brute force. Each one took punishment before the Child drove his enemy off.
"Git off!" he hissed. Turning, he saw that Cybelle and Clark were gone. "Stay outta 'is life! Got it! Daddies're useless anyway!" With that, he vanished from view.
Jor-El shook with rage at the intruder's insolence. This isn't over yet! If he won't come, I'll destroy that which is dear to him! With that, he vanished from the bubble.
The female spirit grew anxious as she felt the vibrations coming through the wall. Looking at the Child's sleeping form, she guessed that he had engaged Jor-El directly. Good luck, my friend, Lana and the others need Clark for the future. You need him to fulfill the Promise from long ago.
"Ah'm...back!" the Child realized, snapping his left eye open.
What happened? Is Clark all right?
"Cybbie...got im. He's...'kay," he assured her. "Jerk's pissed."
"I guess he should be," Cybelle agreed, stepping out of another portal. "Nice job in there."
He shrugged. "Ah got...help...from...'er."
I led you here. You did the rest, my friend, the spirit noted. You are the one he called 'Cybbie'?
The priestess smirked. "My name's actually Cybelle but close enough and you are?"
My name is Laura. Now do you remember me?
Cybelle looked as the Child stared incredulously at the spirit. "La...na's mom!"
Indeed. Thank you both for your assistance. We will meet again soon. With that, the spirit vanished.
"You have some friends, Bro. Come on," she urged, guiding him back through the portal and letting it close behind them.
Chapter 15 [Althanor]
Martha looked around in disbelief at the House of Healing. While she knew hospitals in both Metropolis and Smallville, she had never seen anything like this place. She worried about the sleeping patients, especially her husband and Gabe Sullivan-who remained a pile of ash at that point.
"It'll be all right," Genaria assured her. "They just need rest." She checked on Jonathan's burns, making sure they were healing properly. "Those will heal nicely."
"Really?" Martha fretted, wringing her hands. "I wish Clark were here though."
"I wouldn't count David out against anyone," the priestess replied, recalling the Child's duel against Cybelle and Ares right outside of the walls.
"Jor-El won't stop until he has Clark or kills him," the nervous mother declared.
"And David's sworn to protect the young ones. This Jor-El will not find him an easy target," Genaria noted.
"He was so close to Lana's parents and Lex's mother, Genaria. We just tried to help him. He's such a good friend but why is he so angry? It's almost like he's someone else."
"He's had great difficulty as you know, Martha," Genaria replied, concealing their friend's condition. "Tonight, the girls faced his tormentor. He and our allies rescued them but at great cost. He was...abused again, you might say."
At that moment, Cybelle stepped back into the area. "Martha, calm yourself. We have everything in hand."
Behind her, the Child stomped in, carrying a semi-conscious Clark in his arms. "Ah...told...ya." He set the teenager down on the empty 'mattress' next to Lana. "Stu...pid glow...boy!"
"Mom?" Clark asked weakly.
"I'm here, Sweetie," Martha replied, hugging him desperately and glad to have him back in her arms. "It's okay. You're safe."
"Martha, sorry but he needs to sleep," Cybelle pointed out.
Clark squeezed Lana's hand weakly, being glad that she was lying next to him and breathing. After a brief smile to his mother, he closed his eyes and fell into a deep sleep.
"He'll be fine and so will your husband," Genaria told her.
"Thank you all. I need to talk with David if I can," Martha requested.
Genaria glanced at Cybelle nervously. Seeing the latter nod, she agreed, "Follow me."
[By the Great Lake]
Xena found the Child in his usual place, meditating on things by the lake. "There ya are!"
He looked sullenly at her. "Yeah?"
"Now what's wrong? You did a good job in getting Clark outta there in one piece," she complimented.
"Thanks," he muttered. "M...Martha's scared...of...me."
She arched her brow, frowning at his words. Not for the first time did she wish she could check with Angie on these things. "You can seem that way. I know you ain't with us but she might wanna take some time."
"I would," Martha agreed, as they walked into view. "David, you left so quickly, I didn't get to thank you."
He shot her a vicious glare.
Xena put a hand on her shoulder, advising, "Don't call him that. Not when he's like this."
The farm wife's eyes went wide, recalling the whole mess at the Talon. "Then he's torn."
"That's one way of sayin' it. Martha, he cares about you," the warrior agreed.
Martha took a deep breath. "I know." She looked Xena over, trying to grasp everything that's going on. "You're a friend of his, right?"
"Yeah. I know him and his wife," Xena replied frankly. "They're a great couple."
Martha smiled. "He deserves to be with someone special. They both do."
"Angela's a great person. You should meet her some time," the warrior declared.
"I hope to," Martha concurred. "By the way, my name's Martha. And you are?" She still felt uneasy about being around the warrior but was starting to relax.
"Xena. I helped get Lana and Chloe back here," Xena replied.
"An' she did good," the Child assessed.
"I'm sorry that I was scared," Martha apologized.
"Ah...know. Ah...shoulda...stopped...it 'fore," he indicated sadly.
Grasping the meaning of his words, Martha's heart broke over the guilt he felt. "No. You got everyone back here all right."
"Na good 'nough! They're hurtin'," he countered, letting them see his tears.
Martha hugged him tightly as she did several times during the three weeks following the Talon standoff. "I know. It's okay though. You did a good job." She kissed his brow. "Thank you for giving me back my son and the kids. We owe our lives to you."
"Don' forgit...friends," he advised with effort, looking at Xena.
The warrior smirked and wiped her eye before the tear could show there. "Thanks but ya did good."
"Ah jus' didn't want anythin'...happenin' to...ya'll," he told Martha. "Ah couldn't save Auntie Lillie or the others."
"That wasn't your fault," Martha told him, feeling as if she were talking with Clark for the umpteenth time about the matter. "You protected us. I appreciate that."
"Listen to her," Xena urged.
"Ah...guess...an'..." He looked up toward the mists. "Aw now...wha?" Seeing Cybelle appear beside them, he growled, "Light boy...'gain?"
"Yes," the priestess agreed. She told the others, "Jor-El's demanding that we bring Clark back or he'll raze Smallville to the ground."
"No," Martha gasped, torn between her love of town and family. "We can't!"
"Ya won't!" he snapped. "He ain't...gettin' 'way w' it!"
"We'll both go," Xena concurred. "Cybelle, I just need to treat my sword with that ghost herb of yours."
Cybelle held a cloth out. "I figured as much. Here."
"Thanks," Xena expressed while rubbing her sword, chakram and daggers with the cloth.
"'Mon!" he insisted.
Martha hugged him again. "Don't you get yourself killed! We care about you no matter what, all right? Both of you." She looked at Xena. "And that goes for you as well, Xena. Be careful."
"We'll be careful but thanks," the warrior agreed.
"An' Ah'll...stop...'im!" he vowed.
She nodded, remembering the last promise like that.
At Cybelle's biding, the duo vanished into the mists, leaving them to wonder how things would turn out.
Chapter 16 [Smallville-Talon, Wednesday night about 8:00 PM]
[A/N: And you thought you could get away without Byron jumping in, didn't you? <g> Strap yourselves in-turbulence dead ahead.]
Sandra gazed out the front window of the Talon at the passing traffic. She admired the lights along the town's main street. This is nice. She looked around the café. Ever since Lana had left, business was down by a third. On this particular night, the restaurant was empty save for her favorite customer in the corner.
"More coffee, Byron?" she asked.
He looked up with a curious expression from the poem he was writing. "Huh? Oh, Sandra! I'm sorry." He smiled. "What can I do for you?"
She giggled. "More coffee, Mr. Moore?"
"Please," he requested. "The Muse is driving me hard tonight. Another ode."
She arched her brow, scanning the page in front of him. "It's wonderful as usual. A little melancholy though."
"I miss our friends," he lamented. "I wish Lana didn't have to go and we haven't seen Clark, Chloe or Lex."
"People move on, Byron," she told him. She squeezed his hand. "At least I have you though."
He blushed, allowing a few happy tears for himself. Since Lana had introduced them six months earlier, his moods had improved, helping him to control the Other inside of himself. "And I can't believe that you care about me. I think it's the poetry."
"Byron, the poetry's nice but it's the poet that I love," she declared. Since nobody was watching anyhow, she kissed him quickly. "That's a boost to the Muse."
He smiled at her. "Definitely. Give me a half hour and this will be complete."
"You can read it to me on the way home," she suggested. "Did your mother need anything?"
"I need to get some milk but other than that, we're fine. Thank you," he replied before going back to his work.
Jor-El appeared in the middle of the street, surveying the buildings and reassociating locations. From his previous visit, he knew that this would be a special place for his son. Concentrating, he changed his appearance and density so that he was flesh once more. He glared at some passers-by.
"Joe" the drifter had returned to town. "Kal-El!" he yelled. "Come out or I'll destroy this place!" For emphasis, he pointed at a nearby car, leveling it with an energy burst.
The townspeople scattered, running for their cars and taking off. They wanted no part of this nutcase.
Sheriff Adams, on the other hand, ran toward the rampaging alien with her gun drawn. "Freeze!"
He smirked at her. "Put that toy away, woman."
"I'm the one givin' the orders, Mister Kent! You're comin' with me," she retorted, squinting fiercely and leveling the barrel at his chest.
"You know my son? Tell me where he is!" 'Joe' ordered.
The sheriff stared at him incredulously. For the life of her, she could swear he was Clark Kent. However, that question seemed to say that he wasn't. "Quit the games, Mister Kent!"
"Bah!" He flicked his finger at her, knocking her out with another burst. "Earthers." Pointing across the street, he took out several more cars, admiring the flames shooting for the sky and setting the nearby structures ablaze. "Bring me Kal-El or else!" Seeing the Talon, he recalled the place from Clark's thoughts. "This place is special to him! I'll level it too!"
"Stay away!" Sandra warned, sticking her head out the door. Maybe she wasn't a co-owner or a manager but she was as close as they were going to get.
Joe telekinetically pulled the front door off of its hinges and advanced into the old theater, intending on disciplining her for her insolence.
Instead, he ran into a very angry fist, sending him right back outside.
"GET OUT OF HERE!" Byron bellowed at his girlfriend, staring at her through dark pools.
She nodded and hustled out the loading dock's door. "Why can't they leave him alone?"
Meantime the angry poet stalked out the door, staring at his adversary once again.
"Another one," Joe groused. "Go away, Earth creature!"
Not taking the hint, Byron delivered another punch, knocking the intruder backward.
The alien frowned. "So be it! Since you're one of my son's friends, you can die!" He made the poet levitate and smacked him into the side of the building, effectively knocking him out. "Kal-El, come out or your friend dies!"
Then a whistling sound echoed throughout the area.
"What?" Joe inquired, looking around at the source. Then he felt something scrape against his leg. That was followed by something hitting him in the back, knocking him away from Byron.
"Who?" the Dark Poet asked, seeing someone flipping down from the rooftops.
Xena landed on a nearby patch of grass. In less than a heartbeat, her chakram was back on her hip and the sword was drawn. "You're Jor-El?"
"Yeah...tha's 'im!" the Child growled, stepping into view. "He ain't...glow...in' no more!"
Joe smiled, recognizing the latter's defiant tone from their encounter in the caves. "And neither are you. I'll kill you if you don't bring me my son!" Telekinetically, he latched onto the glass front door and raised it into the air.
The Child stared at the glass, reading it. "T...Talon." As if recalling something, his eyes swung to the large neon sign above his head. As he recognized it, his eyes narrowed. "Now yer gonna pay!"
"What?" Xena asked, keeping her sword between herself and Jor-El.
"P...picture Place. He...broke it!" the Dark One snarled. "Gotta pay!"
Recalling his earlier ranting about 'Picture Place,' she stared at the theater. This is where it happened!
"Pitiful child! You would deny a father's rightful duty! How dare you?" Joe spat, firing a burst at the Child.
The Child hit the wall right in the left corner, stirring up the cottonwood dander around him.
"It's a father's duty to discipline his child!" Joe lectured.
"All right, that's enough!" she declared, delivering a kick that momentarily stunned the attacker.
"Another one?" he asked, picking up a discarded car bumper with his mind and swinging it at her.
She easily evaded it and decked him with the flat of her sword. "Like that, did ya?"
He fired and she evaded over and over again.
Meantime, the Child's mind floated backward, carried on the cottonwood dander and Joe's words. Back in time...back to this place...
Back to his birth.
In his mind's eye, he saw the mob fighting the workers amidst the snow flurries. He felt the beating from his father and his men.
Then Joe's declaration burned across his consciousness. It's a father's duty to discipline his child!
From across time, his father taunted, You like your theater so here's a front row seat!
"Fa...ther!" he growled, jumping to his feet. "HEY!"
Joe blocked Xena's next stab and knocked her back. "You again?"
"Yeah...me 'gain. The ugliest kid," the Child retorted, advancing on the two combatants.
"Ya want 'im?" she inquired.
"Git back!" He snarled menacingly. "He's mine!"
Joe zipped at him, ramming him with his shoulder and knocking him into the Talon. "Now you die, whelp!"
The Child looked around. Even though he ached from that last impact, he felt strangely at home.
Home...this was his home. And again, the memories:
[Christmas Day, 1981-flashback from Karen's account of the Talon standoff in "Lionel's Revenge"]
Dave and Karen Alvarez stood by themselves in a corner of the Talon's lobby. The Kents and her father were talking by the far end of the counter leaving the two teenagers some privacy. Over the previous two weeks, Smallville had treated them well. Mrs. Luthor had paid for his medical expenses. Their editorial counterparts at The Torch, Smallville High's paper, had let them use their office as a base for getting the White Knight out on time back in Amherst. The Annual Pageant was a treat as well. Finally, best of all, the Talon had reopened three days earlier with a weeklong re-release run of "Close Encounters."
"It's been great," she told him, holding hands with him. "Thank you for the Christmas present."
"Present?" he asked. "Oh, you mean the cup from the Antique store?"
She smiled and sighed, "No, although that is pretty cool, I must say. Actually, the poem you wrote me was even better than that."
He blushed with embarrassment. "Please...that was pathetic."
"No. It was actually pretty good. And it came from your heart, Dave. Never knock that," she disagreed. "Come here and relax. I just remembered I haven't given you your present yet." She handed him a wrapped package. "I've been hanging onto this for a while."
He undid the wrapping paper to find a copy of Dante's Divine Comedy. "An English translation, huh?" he asked. "This is great."
"To go beside the Italian one your grandfather gave you before he passed away," she declared. "Look inside the front cover."
He opened the book and written on the first page was a verse written for him-
Long have we known,
Long have we spoke
How we have grown
How we wish and hope
From afar you taught
As you these things handle
From afar I learned
What your talent brought
As hope's candle
You have wandered the Wood
Wondering if anyone hears
If anyone ever would
Let me be your Beatrice
Let me guide you through the rain
Let me grant you solace
Against your eternal pain
If this is your curse
I gladly take it on
The pain, I'll nurse
If you want
All you have to do
All you have to say
Is to make your way through
And let me show
Love's eternal flame
Merry Christmas 1982-Amherst, Mass by way of Smallville, Kansas
My Love Always,
"You really wrote this for me?" he asked, wiping the tears from his eyes. "Nobody's ever given me anything like this before."
She grinned. "There's something that goes with it. Close your eyes." After he did, she kissed him. "You matter to me, Dave. I love you." Please let him feel the same way.
He smiled. "I've got a secret."
"What?" she asked.
"I love you too," he whispered in her ear and hugged her tightly.
In back of them, there was applause.
The twosome looked to find everyone watching them. Even her father managed a smile, although he and David would be having a talk later about how he wanted him to conduct himself vis a vis this new relationship.
From the throng, their new friends, Lewis Lang and Laura Potter, came forward holding hands. "Come on, guys. The dedication's about to start."
"Great," Dave replied. Looking at his new girlfriend, he requested, "May I?"
"You may," she agreed, taking his hand and following him toward the front.
There, a piece of cloth covered a piece of the wall just inside the door. Lex stood there waiting for them along with his mother, Jackson and the Kents.
The government official raised his hand. "Everyone, I promised I'd keep this short, but sweet. This theater was built in the early 1940's and has served as a beacon for this community. Recently, you all came together to save it. I applaud you for that. I applaud you for saving your heritage and mine from the advances of modern industry. Such an attack as the one that happened here recently will never happen again thanks to the bravery of two individuals-Lex Luthor and David Dubois. Gentlemen, would you come forward and pull the cloth?"
Dave smiled at Karen and walked over to join Lex at the clothed spot. "Ready?"
The boy smirked at him and took a handful of cloth. "Ready."
Together, they pulled the covering to find a plaque marking the Talon as a historical landmark.
"Nice, isn't it? Gentlemen, our thanks," Jackson expressed, shaking both of their hands.
Karen stood beside Lewis and Laura and applauded the act. Way to go, Dave. You did it. I'm so proud of you.....
The Child forced himself back to the present. Now he understood the meaning of this place and why he couldn't let Joe-Jor-El-whoever this twit was-from destroying it.
Reaching out to the rededication plaque, he focused on it with his mind, knowing there was something there but not recognizing exactly what it was.
In response, the metal glowed brightly.
"What in Tartarus?" Xena wondered, charging through the doorway. Seeing this display, her eyes went wide. "What are you doing?"
"Jus' watch," the Dark One advised.
Then the glowing plaque shot a ray of light at him.
As the light enveloped him, he felt no pain. Rather, it succored him, making him warm and welcome.
His wounds and bruises disappeared.
Once again, he turned dark with the crimson eyes and aura. Wheeling on Joe, he spat at the other's feet before the grin returned. "Dad...dies suck!" Then he screamed the banshee cry, announcing his return.
His next blast knocked the arrogant intruder through the door and across the street.
"GIT UP, BUTTWIPE!" the Child bellowed. "Y...ya'll got a whuppin'...comin'!"
Joe returned fire a second later but stared in shock, as the blast had no effect.
Seeing Byron getting up, Xena shook her head. "Stay back, Kid. Trust me."
"Why? I want him!" the Dark Poet retorted.
She motioned with her eyes and frowned. "If there's anything left of him out there when he's finished, be my guest."
Meantime the Child had clearly gained the upper hand. Switching between telekinetic 'grab and smash' and simple burning, he toyed with his adversary, relishing every moment of the other's pain. "Ya...think yer so hot, do...ya? Mah Daddy...thought...so. He whupped me here!" He let the words hang along with Joe in the air. "Then Ah whupped 'is ass!"
Joe flew through the air, hitting the building next door. While getting up, he cringed at the glowing green dust in its foundation.
The Child snickered at the other's weakness. "Wha?" Seeing the green dust, he grinned. "Gotcha!" He rubbed his hands on the dust. While he didn't care what it was, his enemy was allergic to it or something. "C'mere!" With brutal efficiency, he punched the other over and over.
"Ya quit?" he asked.
Another right cross knocked out two teeth.
Another jab threatened to break his jaw.
"Yes." Joe slumped to the ground semi-conscious. "Kal-El...is your...responsibility."
"Huh?" the Child wondered.
"He means Clark," Xena explained. "He won't bother the kids anymore."
"Good!" the Dark One. "Stu...pid." He glared at the defeated Kryptonian. "Fool! Ya...shoulda let 'im live 'is own life!"
Behind him, Jor-El reassumed his spiritual state yet was still too weak to do anything except weep for the loss of his son.
"Aw now wha?" the Child groused.
"Give it a rest," Xena directed before kneeling at Jor-El's side. "Hey, what is it?"
You wouldn't understand, Jor-El retorted.
She looked at both former adversaries before shrugging. "You might be surprised. I'm a parent too, you know. So is he. So are Jonathan and Martha Kent. Ya might try workin' with people."
I know what's best for my son.
"Yeah? I doubt that. The only one who knows what's best for the kid is the kid himself. Look, you lost on one level but maybe you can come out ahead. Take a lesson from another father's damage."
The abomination? I feel his pain.
"His father abused him just as you did to your son," she explained. "And he's not an abomination. He is what Clark could become if you don't back off!" Her eyes flashed menacingly into his face, as she pointed at the Child.
Jor-El disappeared from the scene without another word.
She stood up and took a deep breath. "Glad that's over." She saw Byron tending to Sandra by the building's alley. "You two, all right?"
"Thanks to you both," Sandra noted.
Xena nodded and added a smile. "Thank your friend here. He bought us an extra couple of minutes."
"I was protecting my friends' sanctuary and my lady," Byron replied, trying to sound chivalric. "I wish my friends would return."
"Hold still for a minute," Xena advised, checking his wounds. "Why don't you both come with us? The folks there can help you with that leg."
"Leg?" Sandra asked, realizing that he was leaning against the building, as he tried to help her. "What did you do, Byron?"
The warrior smirked, "He broke it. Hang on, I'll be right back." She walked toward the front of the building and found the Child touching the building's façade. "Are you all right?"
"Nah. Na' when...Ah'm like this!" he stewed.
"Well at least, it's over," she declared.
He glared at her; his left eye burning into her mind. "NO IT AIN'T! IT AIN'T NEVER OVER!"
She sighed, realizing how deeply his pain ran in this place. For the previous year, she and Gabrielle had struggled with him, trying to understand how someone could be so angry, could hate and hurt so much.
Looking at the theater and feeling the vibrations, she understood. Between that old house and here, these were the places. And to face Clark's father here must have hurt him. "Hey, sorry. Look, your friends are here."
"Ah know. It hurts," he replied, calming down enough to form complete sentences.
"Come on. The kids are waiting," she urged. Leading him toward Byron and Sandra, Xena found Cybelle standing there with them.
"It's finished, I take it?" the priestess asked expectantly.
"Yeah. Ah whupped the wuss," the Child retorted tersely. "'Mon!"
Cybelle opened the portal. "Follow me, everyone."
"It's all right," Xena assured the teenagers.
Sandra took Byron's hand as they stepped through.
The Child took a last look at the Talon before disappearing himself.
Xena followed quickly.
Once everyone was gone, Cybelle shook her head. Dad, you wanted to leave your mark here. You did it, all right. Just not the way you expected. With that, she vanished, taking the portal with her.
Chapter 17 [Althanor]
Through her viewing portal, the high priestess allowed the Empress and Martha to witness the brawl occurring in Smallville. For all concerned, the sheer brutality shocked their sensibilities to say the least.
Martha stared incredulously. She knew that Jor-El was powerful but had never seen him manifested in human form. And then to witness the Child's tirade and merciless victory over his adversary unsettled her all the more.
"It's over," the Empress declared, as they saw Jor-El vanish from the scene. "The Child and Xena defeated him."
"I can't believe someone could do that to Jor-El," the farm wife declared. "I hope Byron's all right!"
"We'll find out momentarily," the high priestess stated, seeing the mists forming in the corner.
From them, Xena stepped out, supporting Byron.
Sandra followed, taking in the whole scene and gaping in the process.
Finally, the Child and Cybelle came last with the latter sealing the mists behind her.
"Mother, they did it," Cybelle reported.
"Indeed. Let's get our young guests to the House of Healing. Come," the Empress urged, leading them out of the high priestess' hut and into the healing structure. Besides I have a surprise for you all." She led them to the back and pulled back the curtain.
There, the patients sat, talking about things with Sarah. Even Gabe had made it back and enjoyed his daughter's company while Clark and Lana discussed something in earnest.
Then Lana saw the group. "There they are!" She forced herself off of the bed, embracing the Child and then Xena. "Thank you both!"
"No problem," the warrior assured her.
"Yeah," the Child concurred. "An' he helped."
"Byron?" Clark asked, as they brought the poet in. In a flash, he was at the other's side, helping him to a place. "What happened?"
"Your Dad has a wicked punch, Clark," the poet remarked, sitting down.
"I knew you'd come through," Lex complimented, rubbing the Dark One's arm. "Thanks. Seriously. You're a real friend. I owe you."
"Auntie Lillie said to watch ya. So Ah watch ya!" the Child retorted. Seeing the anxious looks on the others' faces, he asked, "Yeah wha?"
"Nothing," Chloe assured him, shooting her father and Clark a sharp look. "From what Lana and I saw back there, you went through a lot. Thank you for dealing with that for us."
"And what about Jor-El?" Jonathan asked, making his way into the area.
"He's gone," Xena noted.
"Ah'm in charge now," the Child declared.
The anxious parents looked strangely at him. "What?"
"Chill out. Ah ain't gonna take 'im or nothin'. If ya'll git in trouble, Ah'll deal w' it," the Dark One asserted. "'Sides yer givin' 'im a good place."
"Thanks. We try," the farmer replied. Martha had already warned him so he didn't call the Child by Dave's name.
"Enough about us. Are you all right?" Martha wondered.
The Child sighed. "Nah. Ah ain't never gonna be 'kay. Least though, ya'll 'kay. Yer folks woulda wanted that fer ya'll."
Clark, Lana and Lex looked at each other, fully understanding what he was getting at.
"We know that," Lana concurred. "Mom and Dad would've wanted you to be happy too."
"Lots of hurtin'," the Child noted, looking at Lex.
The billionaire nodded. "Our Dads set all of that off. Still, you're the role model."
"Especially since he saved the Talon again," Cybelle recounted.
"What?" Lana inquired, panicking.
"That guy was set on destroying it, Lana," Sandra mentioned, shuddering as she said that. "Byron and he stopped him."
"You, Mr. Moore, get free coffee for a year," Lex cracked.
"He did most of the work though," the poet declared, looking at the Child.
"Ya did yer share, Boy. Ya did good," the Dark One asserted.
"Hey, we were a team out there," Xena added. "By the way, what happened during the fight?"
"Mem'ries," the Child told them. "Ah saw it 'gain. The whole damn thing." He bowed his head.
Jonathan and Martha looked anxiously at him, hoping he wouldn't go berserk.
"An' then, Ah saw mah friends." He walked over to the Kents. "Ya'll mind?"
Martha's eyes teared up. "Not at all!" She hugged him and her husband.
"He's not so bad, guys," Lex advised. "Just don't bring our fathers near us and treat him with respect." He walked over to the man he considered to be a surrogate brother. "Can I give you one too?" Without waiting, he embraced the Child, not caring what risk if any there was in the act.
"Ah couldn't let that twit wreck Picture Place, Lexie," the Child told him.
Lex nodded, staring into the other's open eye and seeing the pain that was still there. "I know that. I don't think either of us will forget that day. Nor should we forget it."
The others solemnly looked on, trying to understand what he was getting at. Still, they knew it was of special significance given how the elders were carrying on about it.
Sarah glanced at the Dark One as well. During the fight, she had slipped into the Child's dreamscape. What she saw there frightened her almost to death. His mind is so damaged yet his heart is good. I wish he could find peace.
"And my natural father's really gone?" Clark wondered, hoping to finally get on with his life.
"After the beating he took, I'd say so," Xena concurred. "By the way, where are Gabrielle and Nicholas?"
"I sent them back to your world to guard against intrusions in your absence. Rest assured, all was well," the Empress replied. Touching Byron's leg, she pushed healing energies into it, restoring it to full health. "There. Your leg is sound again."
"Wow! How did you do that?" Byron wondered.
"Sometimes, it better not to ask those things, Byron," Sandra reminded him, kissing his cheek. "I'm glad you're in one piece again."
"And you're here with me so how can I lose?" Byron agreed.
"How indeed?" his girlfriend concurred.
Clark watched them and looked at Lana, still hoping to regain that form.
For her part, she turned, not wanting to reveal anything. What do I do now?
The Empress got their attention. "Everyone, it's time to return to your lives. It's been our pleasure to help you in this time of need. Be well and know that we're watching out for you."
The grateful Smallville contingent smiled and expressed their thanks.
"It was great meeting you," Xena told them warmly.
"You too. Thanks for everything," Chloe replied.
"Hey, Lexie, Lana, Ah need a favor," the Child requested.
The two partners looked at each other and nodded to him.
"Ah wanna say hi to yer folks. Can ya'll do it fer me?"
"You just did but I'll do that," she agreed.
"And you know Mom's watching over you," Lex chimed in.
" 'Member, Lexie, if ya start actin' like Lie-onel, Ah'll really whup ya! Ya pr'mised!"
Seeing the looks from the others, the billionaire nodded. "I remember."
"Ya better not be doin' nothin'!" the Child added.
Looking toward Clark, his cheeks flushed with embarrassment. "I won't."
"Awright," the Dark One relented. He told Clark, "Keep an eye on yer folks, 'kay?"
"Yes, sir," he agreed.
Then he looked to Lana. "Ya'll look like yer Mama, Toots."
"Really?" she inquired.
"Yeah," he declared, feeling his eyes water. "Ah still shoulda been here fer 'em."
"You did your best, I'm sure," Lana declared. "At least, you kept us safe." Turning to Sandra, she asked, "Has Miri returned?"
Xena looked at the Child upon hearing the name. Nah, it couldn't be.
His Darkness squinted, feeling something familiar but not quite placing it either.
Sandra, unaware of these signals, shook her head. "Nope. We could use her help though. We could use you as well. Lana, come back. We need you."
Clark gave her a hopeful look; his heart imploring her to listen.
She shrugged. "I need to think about it." She bit her lip, not wanting to let them know how torn she truly was.
The Empress cleared her throat. "On that note, my friends, it's time. Relax and close your eyes. Soon you'll be back in your lives. And you won't remember a thing about this whole experience either. She waved her hands and teleported them away in a flash of light.
"What happens now?" Cybelle wondered.
"Now we watch, wait and hope for the best, my Dear," the Empress replied. Let the goddess make it so.
Onto Part 4
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